Posts Tagged With: NYC restaurants

Z-List Update – December 2022

First post pandemic update, and a complete overhaul really.  I reduced the number from 50 to 30, and now sorting by neighborhood.  30 is just easier for me to update and keep tabs on.  Still sticking to Brooklyn and Manhattan as these are the two boroughs tourists and I mostly frequent.  Only rule as usual is $10-100 per person.  Meaning nothing should cost over $100 or under $10 per person.  That eliminates cheap eats like pizza, and pretty much covers 99% of sit downs in NYC.  An affordable list for the people, by the people (Ok, by one person, but you get the idea). 

Additions: Dell’anima, Milu, Anton’s, Nish Nush

Removed: Too many to mention. Some closed, some lost their mojo, including sadly Momofuku Ssam. Yep, for the first time no Momofukus on the list. From three to zero.

The complete list

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Pecking House – Birds of Paradise

I feel like sharing with you something very few know about me. You may want to sit down for this one. In 36 years of living in NYC I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty. Tried once off the NJ side, saw the line and turned around. I figured since I live here I have all the time in the world to do it and she and I are not going anywhere. For the same reason it took me three years to try the Cronut. I was just passing by one day, saw no line, popped in and just bought one.

The FOMO thing just doesnt really work for me in NYC. Hype is often just that, a product of a marketing collaboration very few can afford. Maybe if I had lived in Bologna, I could see myself getting anxious to try a new Sichuan joint, and maybe miss an intimate Tortellini in Brodo filled evening. But NYC is the city of a million options, no matter the Borough. Yes dear friends, even on the island of Staten, I can now have decent Thai, Ramen, Filipino, best Sri Lankan, and maybe even the best Taquerias in NYC.

Pecking House, yet another product from an Eleven Madison Park alumni (see Milu) has spent three years as a pop-up in three boroughs before finding a permanent home in Park Slope. By that point the chili coated fried chicken already reached legendary status in NYC. A pop-up in this case doesnt mean the traditional kind. You had to add your name on a waiting list that meant waiting weeks sometimes. At some point there were close to 10,000 waiting for a crack at the bird. When your turn came you were assigned a day and time where you could pick up your order.

Pecking House

After one too many “Best Fried Chicken in NYC” calls, I’ll be lying if there wasnt any FOMO at all in this rare case. After a few years of hearing about it, I finally put my name on the list. But when my lovebird was ready I didnt make the effort to cancel all my plans for this. Over time FOMO evaporated and I forgot all about it. Even when the news of a permanent brick and mortar opening in Park Slope, I figured I’ll wait a few months and let the lines subside. But since Winter is Coming I couldnt wait too long.

It was almost disappointing when there was no line at all last Sunday, and I was able to easily snatch a table for two. Like at Milu you order up front, take a number and wait a few minutes that feel like hours for your order. The best way I can describe the chicken is this. They offer it naked (lightly seasoned, not spicy at all), Salted egg, and Chili flavor. The Chili was so satisfying, I may never try the other two, ever. It matches my taste like your old Nike shoes you still wear even though they have holes in them. Crispy without being too crispy, spicy without being too spicy, and just juicy enough.

Pecking House essentially perfected what the former colleagues at Milu do best. But that’s not all. Take the sides of a fast food place like Popeyes and see what Eleven Madison Park cooks can do with them. Most order the Dirty Fried Rice (dirty due to the rich chicken liver bits), and Mashed Potatoes with Duck Heart Gravy, rightfully so. But dont underestimate the Butter Bean Salad with an addictive sesame vinaigrette. The perfect order here for two is two two piece orders (one side each) and an extra side. Even the drinks here are elevated like the Elderflower Soda. If you enjoy putting Elderflower liquor on anything (good with bud light lime) you will enjoy this.

Pecking House
244 Flatbush Ave (Park Slope, Brooklyn)

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

House of the Red Pearl – A Hidden Dragon

I spend roughly 3% of my time at home looking for my glasses. Last time after an intense search I found them hanging on a shirt I was wearing. I spend more time looking for a particular item in the pantry or fridge. Half of the time I forget what the item was at some point, and sometimes the act is prompted by something totally unrelated. Like when I’m about to head out to rake the leaves, but open the fridge instead. You might as well take the eggs out and make a Shakshuka while you at it. “Why are you making Shakshuka, we just ate, and I asked you to rake the leaves”… “Remember when we talked about being more spontaneous?”.

Anywho, I didnt have to spend much time looking for the House of the Red Pearl because I knew exactly where it is. But unless you cheat, you can have an especially frustrating scavenger hunt looking for it in the new Tin Building by Jean-Georges. Since no one can pronounce or spell his last name, we simply refer to him as Jean-Georges, or JG. For the same reason it is easy to forget that Cedric of EWZ fave Wayan and Perry St. is JG’s son.

There used to be a time when a food hall would open in NYC, people paid attention. Nowadays, with more than 30 halls and food courts scattered all over town (Source: EWZ Research) you forget about it the day after opening. But Tin Building in South Street Seaport is worthy of a detour. I used to visit SSS when I was younger, but for the past 20 years or so, it has become a place we regrettably have to pass while biking to another place. But with the rejuvenated Pier 17, the openings of Momofuku Ssam, The Fulton (also by JG) and other notables, you may want to include SSS on your Brooklyn Bridge or Staten Island Ferry day. I wont go into detail describing Tin Building, except to say that the percentage of items I wanted to taste or purchase here is quite high. Its an elegant, and extremely thoughtful food hall.

If you thought that entering a Minetta Tavern takes you back to the Gilded Age, wait until you open the curtains of House of the Red Pearl. An old fashioned, yet modern Cantonese speakeasy. A movie set really, with some comparing to something you may see in a Bond flick, though for some reason Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came to mind. No reservations can be made yet, and I hope it stays that way. The building just started opening on Wednesdays after a soft opening so closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for now.

Much of the motivation behind the menu came from Jean-George’s time spent in Hong Kong. Wontons or Dumplings in Chinese restaurants rarely excite (unless of the soup variety). The Pork & Shrimp Wontons here did. Perfectly balanced, with just enough heat. Eggplant, cooked down to the consistency of Enoki Mushrooms, with beautiful scallion-garlic notes to match. Currently not on the menu but most definitely should be. Flavors reminiscent of Danji’s sick tofu. On a return visit there was zero question whether I’ll order the Bacon Fried Rice again. In fact it was the main reason for the return visit. One of the more complex fried rice dishes you’ll find in the city.

The hope is that they dont dumb down the menu over time as it gets its share of tourists. And that the larger dishes improve just enough to be on par with the small. The Stir Fried Lamb, seasoned well, but not quite the best Cumin Lamb version in NYC as Eater’s Sietsema states. Not enough cowbell. Mala Chicken, the spiciest item on the menu, wont exactly “Mala” your mouth and will probably get some heat for that from the die-hards, but its agreeable nonetheless and I would still order it again. The roasted monkfish was perfectly fried, though the accompanied sauce was a bit too pungent for the fish. We devoured it of course.

The mains will satisfy most, but not as flawless as the smaller dishes, and one particular dessert. Mango Sago Pudding is an especially proper finisher, and quite the looker as well to match the space. The House of the Red Pearl is unique, fun, and features an ingredient driven menu full of hits. Go!

House of the Red Pearl
96 South St, South Street Seaport
Recommended Dishes: Wontons, Fried Rice, Eggplant, Mala Chicken, Mango Sago Pudding

Categories: FiDi, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Milu – The New Age of NYC Fast Food

One block away from Milu, in Madison Square Park, you will find the original Shake Shack. Twenty years ago, Shake Shack transitioned from a hot dog cart to a kiosk selling burgers and shakes. And before you knew it, FOMO and long lines started to disrupt the local squirrel population. Today Shake Shack has 360 locations worldwide, including one 5 minutes away from my house. The chicken sandwich ranks up there, and the Smoke Shack, featuring the signature quality beef with applewood-smoked bacon, cherry peppers, and Shack Sauce is perhaps the finest fast food burger we have today.

But while Shake Shack revolutionized America’s burger culture, the original shack neighbor Milu may be in the early innings of reinventing American fast food as we know it. Its a tough task considering our obsession with the familiar. But if anyone can do it, its probably fine dining veterans and students of taste, Milu’s co-founders. The trio has an extensive combined resume, including stints at another famous neighbor, Eleven Madison Park.

We essentially have an Eleven Madison Park and Shake Sack love child. I dont have the slightest idea if the co-founders have any ambitions beyond this, although by all indication ambition isnt exactly lacking here. To open a Chinese fast food operation that is far from traditional Chinese food, and far from traditional fast food in an ultra competitive environment requires some major chutzpah. Even if they dont open another location, I’m rooting for these guys as there’s nothing quite like Milu out there.

Thats not to say you should expect big flavors that are in line with finer dining, and you can cancel your ressies at nearby Upland. Thats to say for $10-15 you can get a well crafted bowl of expertly cooked protein, rice and greens, usually Watercrest salad, or cucumber salad. Some may balk at the amount of protein, and abundance of veggies, but thats part of the idea. Make it tasty, cheap, and healthy(er). Another big benefit is the space. Fast food often involves rubbing elbows, noise, long lines, and pretending that you are comfortable eating in the park while telling every other stranger that the Hoisin sauce was on your shirt before. At Milu its as comfortable as it gets. Although at peak lunch time you may experience a full house, and a line.

After trying about half of the bowls, I settled on the Chili Crisp Chicken. Its not terribly spicy, and it helps to be familiar with Sichuan sodium levels. The Sichuan Cauliflower with the Seaweed salad is outstanding as well, and so is the Brisket. They used to offer a Sichuan fried chicken on Saturdays that was plenty hot, and ultra, dentist approved crispy, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. You also have access to free water, a big indication that they value comfort/needs over $$$.

On occasion you do get a taste of Milu’s growing pains. Last time, my Mandarin Duck’s crispy skin was far from it, and while the meat was tender alright, there wasnt much of it underneath the skin. The terrific marinated cucumbers, and duck fat rice however helped curb the disappointment. Even at well oiled machine Shake Shack, you can get a bad burger sometimes.

But there’s more. Milu also offer products that will upgrade your pantry in a meaningful way. Chili oils, Soy, Hoisin, their own seasoning, and dumpling sauces. I probably purchased around half of them and pour their seasoning on just about everything I cook. Although they make their own Chili Crisp, perhaps the most notable (and expensive) item they sell is the Fly By Jing Chili Crisp. The added Umami with this Chili Crisp will transform your eggs and pastas into something as complex as figuring out Bronski Beat lyrics. I’m still trying after all those years.

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upland – Make American Great Again

Notice the all important extra letter. This is not a political post. Quite the opposite actually. Its a celebration of our great uniter, American cuisine. Whatever that means. Since USA is relatively young compared to the rest of the world, its a bit complicated to define, even though you have enough examples of it (burgers, pastrami, bagels…). The label is often used more as a default when you cant call it anything else, except Italian in some cases. But we often categorize restaurants simply based on the origin of the owner/chef, as is the case with Upland.

Upland menu is as American or Italian as it gets in NYC, but it bills itself as Californian. Chef Justin Smillie who since left to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, named it after his hometown in California. Maybe its my software engineering background, as I like things to be orderly for search purposes among other reasons in this case, but is it really necessary to break down the American tag into states? I can only imagine the poor Google or Yelp engineers trying to figure out the impact of adding a new category or subcategory. Upland is the only restaurant in NYC currently labeled as such. Does the signature burger, a creative riff on In-N-Out has something to do with it? Is it the grilled peaches?

Perhaps its the seasonality. Though we do have a label for upmarket seasonal American: “New American”. An Italian visiting NYC for the first time, will feel more at home at the pizza and pasta dominated Upland than a Californian. Sometimes restaurateurs try to be cute, and differentiate themselves in a crowded field, but more often than not, its best to keep it simple. Be bold, but be proud. Its American. This is not a rant by the way, but an observation. Its a celebration, remember?

Upland is a bright star in the Philly based Starr group’s huge portfolio that includes names like Buddakan, Pastis, and of course, the shiniest of the stars, Jackass Burrito. Upland got everything going for it. A prime Flatiron location. A deep American and Italian greatest hits menu. A striking, high ceiling, trendy looking space. And unlike many of its peers, it survived the pandemic. Its the type of place you can bring a date, new coworker, or host a 70th birthday celebration. On a recent visit, we witnessed suits, and gym attire.

Whether you come for Brunch, lunch or dinner you will face a very full menu. Though for some reason the much hyped Burger is not available for dinner. The Pizza is exactly what you’d expect from a place like this, except in the case of Breakfast pizza at least you get double the listed ingredients. In addition to bacon, cheddar, egg you get Broccoli, Sausage, Onions and more. It worked just fine for us, but could be misleading for others.

The Shakshuka-like “Eggs in Hell” had a nice flavor but missing something like sausages, or potatoes. The reason that shakshuka works on its own is that you usually get a nice fluffy pita and the eggs are more prevalent. While a dining companion was not looking I borrowed one of her breakfast sausages that made a big difference. Desperate times, desperate measures. This is the only miss from the two recent visits.

In some ways Upland reminds me of Via Carota. A jack of all trades, master of all. Solid pizzas, solid pastas, solid everything else. I couldnt fault anything with the Pappardelle with spicy sausages. And the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe were the best I’ve had in NYC since, well, Via Carota. Maybe even better since not quite as salty.

There are very few starters as satisfying as a nice Stracciatella with honey and grilled peaches. The combination here works so well, making the added Shishito peppers (both turned out spicy) unnecessary. The Duck Wings is a trend setter. I started seeing them more and more since Upland opened. The skin is crispy, well seasoned, while the dark flesh easily falls apart. You know its good as soon as you start operating.

But the best dish on the menu might be surprisingly the cod, and that may not have anything to do with the cod. The flaky fish, while mildly discolored, is expertly cooked. But the mixture of Fregula (Californian for Israeli Couscous), calamari and bits of chorizo really elevate the dish.

Extra brownie points for serving delicious fluffy bread with butter without charge. Refreshing to see these days. Solid drinks, nice atmosphere. In super competitive Flatiron, Upland is still a solid choice for American (with subtle Idaho hints). Its a Go!

Upland
345 Park Ave S (26th), Flatiron
Recommended Dishes: Pappardelle, Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, Duck Wings, Stracciatella, Cod, Budino

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Underrated Italian

Dell’anima Tajarin

In NYC of course. This is not a Puglia blog yet as the last three posts suggest, although much more on Puglia coming soon. I’ve been living in NYC for 36 years now, and I dont remember a more exciting time for Italian dining. Even though The prices are moving in the opposite direction. A full meal at a mid price, full service restaurant now averages $175 for two (source: EWZ Stats), up from $150 not too long ago. But the competitive environment has never seen levels like these before. A glut of new Italian immigrants has turned the Italian scene upside down where Italian/Italian is the new American/Italian especially in Manhattan and north Brooklyn. Cacio e Pepe is the new Chicken Alfredo, and Neapolitan pizza joints are opening at faster pace than NY style it seems. Its a pizza revolution of sorts, although a complete pizza transition wont happen in my lifetime.

The title of this post is oxymoronic in a way since there are literally 100’s of underrated Italian in NYC today. But I’ll focus on five places that are much easier to reserve (unlike Don Angie, Lilia, Ci Siamo, Rezdora, and so many), and may bring you similar levels of joy.

Dell’anima (Hell’s Kitchen) – The easiest pick of the bunch. Best Italian in Hell’s Kitchen historically has been a mystery, just like the glut of Thai restaurants in HK. Mercato held that claim for some time IMO, but ever since Dell’anima moved to Gotham West Market (conquered really as there’s not much left there these days. Even Ivan Ramen is no more) it established itself as the one to beat. While tourists continue to flock to places like Becco for the quantity, locals line up chef Andrew’s counter for the quality. I dont recall ever having a less than stellar dish here. You cant go wrong with menu staples like Tajarin Alla Carbonara, and Pollo al Diavolo, but I wouldnt hesitate ordering new additions and specials. The location, and being inside a food hall of course has something to do with the underrated tag.

Pollo al Diavolo

Ulivo (NoMad) – Talking about Mercato, long time readers should not be surprised to see it’s little sister here. With that said, somehow Ulivo managed to outgrow it’s sister, and establish itself as a solid choice in an extremely competitive area. That’s partly due to the talents of Sardinian born Emanuel Concas who figured out the right formula after years at Mercato and six years now at Ulivo. What you get is top notch ingredients, solid pizza, and a plethora of fresh pasta dishes, their bread and butter. You’ll find some hard to find Sardinian and Sicilian autocorrect specialties like Malloreddus with sausage ragu, and the simple but outstanding Busiate with almonds, fresh tomato, basil and garlic. No Secondis here. Instead, order another drink from the award winning bartender.

Busiate

Faro (Bushwick) – This is another no brainer. A Michelin star recipient (yay Michelin!) only to lose it a few years later (oh who cares about Michelin!). Faro is being too modest when it bills itself as a simple neighborhood Italian. Neighborhood Italian dont do Cappelletti stuffed with sweet corn purée, topped with a slow cooked short rib ragu. I could have just ended the previous sentence after Cappelletti. This is one example of a rotating, masterfully executed seasonal pastas. I believe only the Bucatini with confit chicken has been on the menu longer than a year. And they ought to bring the sick Gnocchi Alla Romana back. Its more of a destination Italian. The problem with Faro is the most likely reason its on this list. Its kind of Faro, as in deep in the heart of Bushwick. But Bushwick, thanks to the growing list of mega clubs like Avant Gardner is slowly becoming a nightlife mecca.

Cappelletti

Popina (Columbia Street Waterfront District) – It was fun seeing Popina grow over the years, and somehow remain true to itself. On my first visit. I expected the short menu to change and expand at some point to accommodate the masses, but thankfully it never did. Chris Mcdade’s stints with places like Maialino and Marta, his southern roots, and unconditional love for anchovies help create a fun, concentrated menu. Items rotate frequently but if they ever remove the signature spicy Chicken Milanese, expect local strikes. On a recent visit one particular Monkfish dish really showcased the tiny kitchen’s range. The team is opening Gus’s Chop House in nearby Carroll Gardens, sort of a gastropub.

Monkfish

Song’E Napule (Greenwich Village) – You can skim through 120 best pizza in NYC lists and you wont find anyone singing the praises of Song’E Napule. You will need to look at an Italian publication like Gambero Rosso which we probably should be doing anyway when it comes to pizza. The name has nothing to do with singing. It just means “from Napoli” in Neapolitan dialect. But if you are a fan of the Neapolitan style you’ll be belting out romantic tunes to your neighbor, Napoli great Diego Maradona on the wall. Legit oven, proper ingredients, and a capable pizzaiolo results in light and airy awesomeness. As genuine as it gets in NYC.

Categories: Brooklyn, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Louro – Another Fun Option For the Village People

Louro - House Made Tortellini

November 17, 2014 Update:

Another fantastic meal at Louro a few nights ago.  The place hasn’t skipped a beat since it opened two years ago.  Sometimes you get caught up with all the sexy new openings and forgetting about the current neighborhood spots that continue to hit on all cylinders.  The place is packed every night seems like, with the ultra talented chef Santos still doing his thing.  In addition to the constantly rotating seasonal menus, Santos continues his Supper Club tradition with the popular Monday night theme dinners like “Lobster night”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Breaking Bald” for those villagers suffering from Frontal Baldness.  Ok, not really, but tonight they do have “White Man does Szechuan” which looks very interesting.

We tried a variety of items again including some of the old favorites, and on this night new favorites emerged.  Like the tremendously flavorful Kimchi Fried Rice (below) which comes sizzling hot loaded with calamari, mussels, shrimp, clams, and egg juice poured table side for you to mix in.  Plenty of pleasant heat and plenty of joy with this one.  More great flavors came out of a simple Lobster soup from its clean, well balanced broth.  And then came the Venison (below).  Two medallions expertly cooked, rare, just slightly seared on the outside.  Because venison is so tender and lean, cooking this more will result in eating two hockey pucks.  It came with some pasta (looked like Cavatelli) as part of a groovy smoked onion jus.  Only the why-so-bitter Broccoli Rabe stood in the way of perfection.

The chicken last time caused me to start seeing other chickens!  On other menus that is.  While this time the chicken was still juicy, tender, very nicely sauced and veggied (Yummy Yam and nicely cooked Brussels Sprouts), it was missing that perfectly crisped skin.  Still a very solid dish overall.  The Monkfish delicate tomato sauce and rice was replaced by a wintery bean cassoulet, and the Octopus Bolognese is still the same old hearty, rich Octopus Bolognese.  One of the staples on the menu along with the Piri Piri Shrimp

This is just about the most eclectic, fun, constantly changing menu I know.  Each dish is well crafted with great tasting sauces and veggies, and the missing “Sides” column almost feels refreshing, as you get plenty of “Sides” with each dish.  Choosing what to order from this menu is as complicated as choosing the manliest umbrella on a rainy day.  Do I go with the white circles, colorful polka dots, or black with pink piggies.  Why cant we have a black umbrella like normal families

Louro Kimchi Fried RiceLouro Venison

April 8th, 2013 Post:

My house smells of fish!  It smells of fish for the past week now. And get this..  we haven’t cooked any fish in the past 2 weeks and so don’t have the slightest idea where the smell is coming from.  Wish it would smell of curry or cumin instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fish, but I don’t want my house to smell like it.  Same goes for chicken soup.  When Mrs Ziggy starts making it early in the morning its as if a guest just came in, said hello, threw up, and immediately left without cleaning his mess.

What does it have to do with Louro?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m not even gonna make a clever transition with this like “we had to escape the house and go eat at Louro” because its not really true.  I’ve been planning this meal ever since I saw the Best Dishes of 2012 thread on Chowhound.  I just had to try that much talked about gnocchi dish since my family sort of became gnocchi junkies over the past few years.

5 month old Louro by David Santos is another great addition to the West Village dining scene.  At first glance inside I was a little surprised at the upscale diner look.  Booth tables right by a long bar.  It gets less diner-ish in the back however.  The food is sort of Portuguese, Italian, American and as usual we tried quite a few items.  Here’s a great, good and ugly breakdown.

The Great:

Piri Piri Shrimp – Really enjoyed them.  Not as good as Aldea’s preparation and similar dishes we’ve enjoyed in Portugal but cooked and seasoned very well nonetheless.  Not too spicy so the kids were able to enjoy as well.  Love anything Piri Piri

Louro - Piri Piri ShrimpOctopus Bolognese – So good.  All about the sauce.  Tiny bits of octopus and goose pancetta?  (sort of a Pancetta goose blend I suppose).  Anything would taste great with that sauce including car keys.  Thankfully the waitress convinced us to get more bread.

Monkfish – Delicate, perfectly textured and absolutely delicious. And with that light Portuguese tomato sauce and rice, YUMMO! I couldn’t stop eating it. Until I tasted…

Louro - Monkfish

Roast Chicken – Wow! I did not want to order it.  But wife and kids wanted to try and I’m glad I lost that argument.  I suppose I forgot that the Portuguese can crank out some delicious chickens.  Comes with a nice rye berry risotto and spinach, but that chicken was very flavorful and that skin was so perfectly crisped I could eat just that.Louro - Roast Chicken

The good:

Seafood fritters –  Enjoyed them.  Not bad at all.  Like those seafood beignets you get in New Orleans

Louro - Seafood fritters

House Made Tortellini (top) – Pleasant, light, filled with Nettles among other things.  Not very memorable but tasted good.

Striped Bass –  A popular dish here normally with a snapper instead.  Bok Choy, shiitake, coconut ginger broth. Very pleasant dish and well done.  Thank you baby Jesus for sending me a family that doesnt eat mushroomsLouro - Striped Bass

The Ugly:

Gnocchi Romana – Ahhh, the irony.  As often is the case the first thing I wanted to try was the least favorite.  I dont think its the same dish the chowhounders were raving about.  The cream sauce just tasted like a regular cream sauce to us (they call it permesan foam) and the gnocchi was semolina but had the texture of tiny breakfast potato cubes.  I just kept trying it just to see what I was missing until me and the kids finished the plate.

The menu OCD chef keeps changing the menu and it did not match the menu on their site at all.  Overall a very good meal and something to keep in mind when visiting the village. The wife much preferred the food here over future Michelin star Aska the day before.  Check out Louro readers.  Both of yous

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Osteria Morini – From The One Who Knocks

Osteria Morini CalamariUpdate 9/30/14:

Another fantastic meal at one of my favorite Italian trattorias in NYC.  While the entire city is still recovering from their brunch or stands in line to see the new Central Perk, we enjoy our traditional early Sunday meal at a half full restaurant.

Breaded Grilled Calamari as good as before, except that I’ve enjoyed the little salad with the yogurt a little bit more this time.  Used the bread to “Scarpetta” the heck out of this thing.  When in Emilia you eat the Salumi which is top notch here.  Mortadella from Bologna, not upstate NY as you find in other places.    Funky aged Prosciutto di Parma, and even funkier Felino Salame.  I will be passing by the town of Felino where that Salame is made in the ER in about a month time.  Wait until Mrs Ziggy finds out that we have an hour drive for lunch that day

Osteria Morini Salumi

Had another great round of the fabulous Cappelletti and Stracci as the middle course.  The Stracci with mushrooms especially is addictive.  Its wide ribbon pasta that takes a lot of that braised mushroom juice with a little bit tomato, garlic, and rosemary oil.  I wouldn’t mind eating just those mushrooms as its own dish.  Tagliatelle Ragu is as good as Tagliatelle Ragu Bolognese can get in NYC.  The freshness of the pasta is very evident.  The only thing we didn’t care for was their deconstructed oversalted Porchetta.  Cauliflower and Escarole Gratin side dish was fine.  No dessert, 2 glasses of wine, 2 kids, one wife, $210 after tip

Osteria Morini Stracci

Original 9/24/13 Post:

Its the last Breaking Bad reference this month I promise you readers.  I have no doubt that when I will look at this post a year from now I may either not understand the title, or feel too embarrassed about it.  I already feel that way when I look at my old posts.  At the very least some posts trigger a “What was I thinking” like this one.  Did I really take that picture just so I can have a picture.  Whatever!  Sometimes, the content correlates with the mood at the time.  And when I read them with a different frame of mind I cant help but wonder.

I not only have trouble keeping up with NYC restaurant scene, I have trouble keeping up with the Kardashians, and Michael White, who is opening new places left and right seems like.  I already wrote about Costata where I met the man, and Marea has long been my favorite.  While I still haven’t made it to Ai Fiori, I finally made it to Osteria Morini today (yes with the hummus whisperer yet again).  I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this one, but boy was it good.

Calamari breaded, “cheesed” and lightly fried was some of the best calamari Ive had in a while.  Served with a yogurt sauce and a nice salad.  Fantastic starter.

Prosciutto and Mortadella Meatballs – Cant get much more flavorful than this.  Melt in your mouth tender goodness.  Well donOsteria Morini - Cappellettie!

Stracci (wide ribbon pasta) with wild mushrooms and Rosemary Oil – Delicious!  Mr White sure loves his Rosemarys.  Ive seen this pasta on some “Top 100 pastas in NYC” list.  You may think this is not saying much, but in NYC it does.  Its an honor to be nominated.

Cappelletti (above)- Basically ricotta ravioli with prosciutto and hints of truffles – Outstanding.  Airy sweet and savory ravioli, reminiscent of a similar dish at Giovanni Rana.

This is Emilia Romagna cooking at a high level.  The only other place I know that does ER well is Da Andrea but something tells me without setting foot in ER (planning next year) that Osteria Morini stays a bit truer to the region .  Here White pays homage to his mentor Gianluigi Morini owner of the famed San Domenico near Bologna.  This is the source of Mr White’s inspiration

Mr White is a trend setter.  He Is The One Who Knocks!

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette St
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Meatballs, Calamari, Salumi (choose 3 or 5), Stracci, Cappelletti, Tagliatelle with Ragu

Osteria Morini Taglietelle Osteria Morini Porchetta

 

Osteria Morini meetballOsteria Morini

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maialino – When in NYC do as the Romans do

**** Terrible old post with terrible Iphone pictures replaced by a slightly less terrible post with more terrible Iphone pictures.  I didnt take my camera to this one since I wasnt planning to make a post *******Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Just the other day I was giving a food tour of Hell’s Kitchen to a young couple from the Philippines, and the subject of this blog came up.  I told them something I realized lately, that this is the weirdest blog they will ever encounter as its all about eating in 3 peculiarly different places:  NYC, Italy, and Turks And Caicos, a place they were not even familiar with.  “Its in the Caribbean” normally follows (Although technically its part of the Atlantic Ocean really).  But when my wife is often busy at work with older customers and does not have the time for 20 questions she prefers to just follow with “Turkey” instead.  Its not that I had any sort of plan when I started blogging, but now over a year later I find myself trying to please 3 different audiences somehow.

In a strange way Union Square Hospitality’s Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel connects all 3 subjects together, at least in my mind.  With TCI becoming increasingly Roman, I finally had my first Carbonara there (In Via Veneto).  In NYC, I now have all sorts of Roman options including Lupa, and even Eataly where you can get a decent Cacio e pepe.  But when I asked on Chowhound recently where do Italians eat in NYC, I was not surprised that the answer is A) a lot of what we call Italian food, and B) Maialino, according to one distinguished Roman and Food Author Maureen Fant.

For me to come back to the same place twice in one year is almost unheard of.  But I just had to impress my Aussie friend Tanya and had to play it safe.  The only thing I dislike about Maialino is the bar area.  Its always packed with beautiful single people.  So whenever I have to pass by it quickly to my seat in the back, it always serves as a gruesome reminder that I never had much of a single life.  @NickAnderer, any chance you could give me some back door access next time.  Anyway, another exceptional meal at one of New York’s exceptional Italian establishments.

Salumi Misti – You can select 3.  We’ve chosen Finocchiona, Prosciutto di Parma, and Mortadella.  All very good with the Finocchiona (salami with fennel) being my favorite.

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe – Beautifully simple, simply beautiful.  Along with the carbonara perhaps my favorite pasta here.  Perfectly creamy, peppery, and addictive.  Having it sit there among the other pastas is like visiting the bunny ranch after trying out all the bunnies, and constantly picking you favorite.  Sorry you had to read this Tanya, Mrs Ziggy, ex girlfriends.

Tortelli – Wow this was good.  Little explosive mini pillows stuffed with pork and chicken liver drizzled with tasty balsamic oil and almonds.  Poignant, surprising flavor.  Not the type of surprise like Brian Boitano announcing he’s gay.  Really surprising.

Spaghetti with lobster – Delicious!  Not quite as sharp as the Lobster Fra Diavola I just had at my favorite restaurant in the Caribbean, Caicos Cafe led by a San Domenico veteran, but delicious nonetheless.

Oxtail – Roman style, slow cooked with tomato sauce.  Tender, falling off the fork, absolutely scrumptious piece of meat you just want to attack.  But we couldnt.  We were stuffed.  Just stared at it thinking how in the world I’m passing on this thing, reminiscing on the great oxtail we had at Cesare al Casaletto.  Nick, thanks for correcting my pronunciation of Cesare al Casaletto at the Bonci/Parla event at Paulie Gee’s

In the past we also enjoyed the terrific Carbonara (better than the ones I had in Rome), octopus app with beans, Pappardelle, and a fine Garganelli al Sugo di Coniglio (yum).  We skipped dessert this time but enjoyed the bread pudding over the more popular (I think) olive oil cake last time.  Check out Maialino boys and girls

Maialino Salumi Maialino - Tortelli Maialino Spaghetti Lobster Maialino - Spaghetti lobster Maialino Oxtail

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cata – LES is More

Cata - QuailTo find my next dining destination, I turned to a little site I like to call Eating With Ziggy.  While browsing the site I noticed the following 3 things:  I haven’t eaten anything in the Lower East Side for a while; I haven’t eaten tapas in a while; My fonts are terrible; and my tagline “Eating Well Spelling Poorly” makes no sense whatsoever since I use a spell checker.  Ok, that was 4 things.  It was 3 when I started writing the sentence I promise you that.  So I figured its time to eat something in the Lower East Side, and make it tapas.  And as to the terrible fonts?  Well, that’s your problem!  I don’t read the stuff, just write them.

Although I have a list of new restaurants to try that’s almost as big as my Netflix cue (one of those words I hate spelling properly, like “tho”), I tend to sometimes ignore the list and look elsewhere for much added excitement.  This time I looked at the newly released Michelin Bib Gourmands.  Or “Baby Michelin Stars” if you will, given for quality cheap(er) eats.  And I noticed a place that somehow slipped through my radar, Cata.  Coupled that with an endorsement from Kathryn off Chowhound and off we went.

While taking a closer look I noticed Cata was Alta’s sister, a place we enjoyed in the past.  And like many of my friends and coworkers, Cata owners are big fans of 4 letter words looks like.  I suggest Nada for the next one (private joke for my Providenciales friends)

An array of Gin and tonic drinks is one of the specialties here…  I liked the Kaffir Lime one.  While Mrs Ziggy would not even look at the rest of the menu once she sees her Aperol Spritz.  She gets up and does the Macarena from excitement – starting to get embarrassing, for her.  The food menu is much better organized than Alta which is one giant list.

So is Cata short for Catalonia or Catastrophe?   Lets see..

Baked Cana Cebra – Goat cheese with honey.  Quite good.  Perhaps not as good as Alta version with lavender infused honey but quite good

Deviled Eggs with fried oysters – Very tasty, if not a tad on the salty side.

Quail Egg Bendecits with chorizo, hash browns (top picture) –  Another nice dish.  Pretty to look at too.  Wife much preferred this over the deviled but the opposite was true for me.  So far so delicious

Mushrooms with shallots, red wine – I got to have my mushrooms (especially since she doesn’t eat them) and this did not disappoint.

Tuscan Kale – With Parmigian thin “crisps”.  Simply grilled and tasty.  Wife liked this one especially

Long Island Razor Clams – Cant pass on fresh razor clams.  The one must coming in.  Simple, “Meaty”, a tad chewy and absolutely delicious overall

Gambas al Ajillo – One of the best dishes of the night.  4 jumbo perfectly cooked shrimp.  I prefer this dish more garlicky but this was tasty nonetheless.  I still haven’t found something similar to the Gambas al Ajillo that we had in Ramiro in Lisbon if anyone familiar.  Where readers?  Where can I have these beauties?

Jamon Iberico Bellota – I asked if they can bring a little sampler instead of the $27 full plate of it and they did for I believe $10.  This tasted just fine to me.  Not something I would order again.  This is some of the finest Jamon Iberico on the planet, made from pigs eating only acorns (Bellota) as their last meals on earth.  Coincidentally, this was my wish as well

Skirt Steak – Good, a little uninspiring but good.  This is perhaps a good time to complain that it was a little hard to read that menu with dimmed lighting as I initially didn’t see the “Add: Organic farm egg $2”.  I would definitely add the egg here.

Charcuteir Board – lard toasts were fine,  jamon Serrano we didn’t get due to the Bulotta, Chorizo we didn’t care for – not much flavor.  The best part of the board by far were the Almonds.  Perhaps this is the only miss of the evening

Torrija – Excellent!  Like the crème brule and bread pudding had a baby. A beautiful, delicious baby.

Terrific meal overall

Cata - Devils Cata - Charcuterie Cata - Jamon Cata - Steak Cata - Kale Cata - Baked Cata - shrimp Cata - Razor Clams

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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