Posts Tagged With: NYC restaurants

Betony – From Russian With Love

Betony* Terrible pictures alert, due to a combination of poor lighting and zero photography skills with poor lighting! *

You know that you spend too much time with a couple when the following happens.  You start receiving texts from them intended for each other.  Such is the case with Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer.  Examples:

From MRS HW:  “I bought bananas”.  Ahhm, OK?!?

From HW:  “Just picture everyone naked!”.  What?  Oh I see.  The wife is away presenting something in a conference.  Ok, that took me a few minutes

Thankfully, none of the texts were about us or embarrassingly kinky.  Though the last one came close.  The moment I get a “Carlos Danger” type text from HW it will be pretty much over between us.  Pretty much!

A few weeks ago we took Mr and Mrs Hummus whisperer to Betony for HW’s birthday.  Betony is the latest brainchild of Russian entrepreneur Andrey Dellos who previously owned Brasserie Pushkin in the same space.  This time he brings with him 2 Eleven Madison Park veterans.  Bryce Shuman is no stranger to the kitchen and according to his bio, an enemy of cats!  Eamon Rockey is formerly with new Michelin star Aska and EMP, and his bio is not clear where he stands in regards to cats.  Betony is now a tough ticket after recently getting 3 stars from the New York Time.  Many will kill for just one star.  And Betony most likely just missed the Michelin 2014 cut, but there’s always a 2015, I think (I dont have the Mayan calendar next to me at the moment)

I must say I was a bit in awe when we entered Betony.  A mature, sophisticated vibe that quite frankly we are not used to.  But we were comfortable.  Not only we were comfortable but the ladies bags were comfortable.  You know that you are at a high end place where your bag has its own seat.  And I dont mean this.  I’m talking about real furniture.  The menu is designed for you to spend a little, but eat very very well.  They advise you to share the first courses, and to have your own middle and main.  Sorry, not gonna fly with us.  Sharing is for caring! (Yes I’m looking at you Mrs HW) Something I learned a long long time ago.  So imagine our surprise when we ordered just 3 middle courses for the 4 of us, we all get our plates and the birthday boy is the one stuck with a beautiful empty plate.  Overall however, good, knowledgeable service and the food delivered big time

Foie Gras Bonbons wrapped in cashew – Quite good.  Though the salt from the cashews was a little too dominant, this was enjoyable.

Chickpea Panisse – Liked this one a lot.

Fried pickles – Surprisingly a bit greasy but pleasant nonetheless.

Beet amuse – A bit on the salty side surprisingly as well.  So far a bit of a salty start including the salty bread sticks which I didnt care for at all.

Gnocchi with corn – Smokey, super large, very soft and tasty.  A bit too soft for me but still enjoyed this.

Chicken liver mouse – Rich and decadent.

Marinated Sardines – Oh this one was quite good.  Lovely with that tomato “salsa”  Broke a mini streak of stinky sardines

Short Ribs – A revelation!  Best of show.  Tender and full of flavor.  It takes 3 days to make them we were told and HW was please to find out that it doesnt mean we needed to stay there for 3 days.  We were free the next day, but not the day after.

Poached lobster –  Very tasty as well, but very light (to me at least).  Great broth.

We opted to skip dessert on this night.  A fine and enjoyable meal overall.  Hard to say if I will be back partly because I’m allergic to that location, but I would like to sample that chicken and anything else Mr Shuman got up his sleeves.

Betony - Bonbons Betony - Fried veggies Betony - Amuse Betony - Pate Betony - Gnocchi Betony - Sardines Betony - Lobster Betony - short ribs

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spotted Pig Burger – Its the Fries, Stupid

Spotted Pig Burger

The Russians have a saying that loosely translates to “like sunflower seeds” which basically means “I cant stop eating this”.  In a culture obsessed with sunflowers seeds, its not unusual to see it served as an after meal snack, and if you don’t hold a bag full of seeds on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk, you risk being frowned upon.  And its not that they think sunflower seeds are really that special.  They just enjoy eating sunflower seeds, and since its not that filling they have trouble stopping sometimes.

Such is the case with the fries at the Spotted Pig.  They don’t seem that amazing as you first eat them, but you soon discover that you cant stop eating them.  The fries are shoestring cut (very thin as you can see) which I don’t normally love as I prefer them “meaty” like Belgian style.  But all the seasoning, rosemary and garlic chips make SP’s fries truly addictive.  Like eating Sunflower seeds!

The burger itself was very good.  Especially if you like burgers with Blue Cheese.  The Roquefort here is slightly overwhelming for my taste as any blue cheese would, but I still enjoyed it.  The meat was cooked well (medium rare, leaning toward rare) but I had to send the first one back after getting it practically well done.  While not quite in Minetta’s Black Label territory, a solid burger overall and I can see why its consistently ranked as one of the city’s best.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get to the Spotted Pig, the mother of all the city’s gastro-pubs.  The place was busy on Friday lunch time.  Two teachers to my right were talking about the teachers favorite subject these days, lice.  A Dutch couple to my left was very eager and excited about the meal.  And judging by some of the items they ordered they did their homework well (deviled eggs one of the specialties here).   My waitress was running around holding my bill for a few painful minutes (for me), forgetting that final crucial step of actually handing it to me.  We had a good laugh.  She was I must say, very friendly and knowledgeable.

Spotted Pig

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

Back to Khe-Yo for the Khe-Yosk

Get it?  Khe.. Yosk.  Its a play on… oh never mind.  Its Khe-Yo week on Eating With Ziggy.  Sort of like fashion Week but with less fashion and more eating.  By the way last week I came out of my office and noticed an unusual looking crowd walking on 54th, most likely coming out of pier 94.  And I realized right away that its Fashion Week.  Thank god I was wearing my fashionable 10 year old red Calvin Klein shirt that day.  It has a few small holes here and there but they are not that evident.

photo (48)Anyway, a few days ago I told you about Khe-Yo and today I met Hummus Whisperer for lunch in the brand new Khe-Yosk offering delicious Banh Mi sandwiches for lunch only.  Banh Mi is the Vietnamese version of the Po’boy.  Essentially an airy baguette with some sort of meat and veggies.  Here you got 2 kinds.  Beer Lao Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with pickled carrots and other veggies was a delicious combination.  Although I was wishing for a bit more pork belly (duh!) this one had plenty of flavor.  The Jurgielewicz Duck salad in Khe-Yo is quickly becoming their best dish for dinner.  For lunch same duck is featured as a Confit with baby arugula, red and yellow peppers and something called bang bang sauce.  I didnt know the Vietnamese were big Tarantino fans.  The meat was more evident here and all the ingredients worked beautifully together.  The baguettes here are top notch and the counter guy didnt want to disclose the source.  He probably didnt know.  Both sandwiches had pleasant, mild lingering, heat.

photo (50) photo (49)

Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Khe-Yo – Your Laotian Fix

Khe-YoDear Readers, it is official.  Tribeca is now a culinary hotspot.  A few Years ago I wouldnt touch the area with a 10 foot pole (mainly because of the difficulties involved) but now I found the area refreshing.  I can now have a great Falafel in Nish Nush, amazing Korean in Jungsik, and now Khe-Yo.  Just like Jungsik, the first modern Korean to hit NYC, Khe-Yo is the first place purely devoted to Lao cuisine.  But Lao cooking has been around here for a while now.  In my best Troy McClure voice…

“Hi, I’m Troy McClure!  You may remember this Laos dish from movies such as Yum Yum, An Officer and a Thai Dish, Yum Yum 3, Eat Drink Man Woman Tranny”

What I’m trying to say is Lao dishes like Larb and the spicy papaya salad can be found in many Thai restaurants all over town.  But in Marc Forgione’s Khe-Yo things get a bit more inventive. I visited Khe-Yo about a month a ago, 2 days after it opened and since then Khe-Yo has gained a lot of media attention.  Marc now has places in both Duane and Reade streets! Ok, it sounded much more meaningful in my head.  Executive chef is Laos born Soulayphet Schwader (AKA better call Saul!)who will occasionally come out to serve the main course himself

They start you off with a bang here. Sticky rice comes with 2 fantastic condiments and a prolonged explanation on how to best enjoy the sticky rice.  Eating with your fingers.  Dip it in the Heirloom puree or the addictively sick spicy Jeow made with 4 different Thai chili, cilantro, fish sauce and garlic.  I was dipping everything in that thing including car keys

I love small menus.  This one only has 5 apps, 5 entrees, and a few salads.  Crunchy coconut rice with spicy kaffir lime Sausage was good and original.  I just wished there was a bit more sausage.  Jurgielewicz Duck salad was even better.  Nicely done, freshly butchered (24 hour) duck along with lightly fried crunchy duck tongue, lemongrass, nice palm sugar vinegar, and jalapeno skins to balance things out.  Nice start

Berkshire Spare Ribs were just ok.  A bit fatty for my taste and on the salty side.  But I liked the accompanied cold long beans salad.  Pork Jowl Red Curry was more like it.  Like a super delicious mild pork stew with tasty grilled shiitake mushrooms and baby eggplant on the side.

Dessert menu consists of coconut rice pudding with sliced peach and cashew bits which was fine, and a pricey but promising native cocktail ($13).  A fine meal overall.  I would love to come back and explore the rest of the menu, like the whole black bass and the chicken.  Marc Forgione told me since they opened 2 days ago 15 Lao natives told him how thrilled they were with this place.  They also recently opened “Khe-Yosk” for lunch.  Get it?  Khe..yosk.  Its a Banh Mi Sandwich takeout place, and I hope to to try it next week

Khe-Yo Sticky Rice Khe-Yo Coconut Rice Khe-Yo Duck Salad Khe-Yo ribs Khe-Yo Pork Jowl Khe-Yo shiitake Khe-Yo Pudding

Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HKSG – The Update

Hell Food5.7 pounds (and counting) and 3 months later it is time to update this beast.  But first a word from our sponsors… oops we have none.  But, I do want to say a few words about this list because it became more popular than the original intent.

This list is not for everyone.  If you are looking for the prototypical pre-theatre dinner where you are nicely dressed, most of these options are not for you.  This list is all about the food, mostly on the casual, cheap side, and mostly really its about what Hell’s Kitchen does best – ethnic food.  If you want to eat at a “Nice” place than I suggest picking a different area.  If you are looking for that special pre-theatre meal and really care about the food than I would suggest looking at places that are not in the area but not too far.  i.e. Betony, Marea, NoMad, The Modern.  You are already spending $300 for a show, surely you can afford a $5 cab fare to add.  Although after a nice long meal, I rather take a nice long walk.

The complete guide is here…

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2013/06/27/the-hells-kitchen-survival-guide/

Here’s whats being added to the guide…

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  I cant quite explain how I missed it all those years.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  Check out the simple spaghetti, and the flavor rich gnocchi.  Owners from Sardinia, chef from day 1 from Sicily, good looking all Italian wait staff means I fit right in.

Thai – Larb Ubol.  My favorite is still Pure overall but this new kid on the block is quickly gaining traction.  Larb Ubol is an offshoot of Zabb Elee in the East Village, specializing in authentic Isan cooking.  Like Pure, some of these dishes not for the faint of heart.  Even more so here actually.  If you want your typical American Thai dishes this is not the place.  Go to something like Kare Thai on 10th or Wondee Siam 2 instead.  In Larb Ubol what you get is complex flavors like you never experienced before (unless you did!).  Try the Pad Ped Moo Crob – Crispy pork, thai eggplant, basil, peppercorn, ginger, and spicy curry paste

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience but quite a different one, starting with all the yelling in Japanese every time a new guest arrives, leaves, a dish on its way, or a guest going to the bathroom. I have no idea what they are yelling but its fun, and after a few minutes you start to yell as well.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice add the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Chicken Over Rice Guy – 11th and 51st (Northwest corner).  Every neighborhood has a favorite chicken over rice guy.  This one is mine.  Try the chicken over rice!

Tried a few other new places like Nook…  Feh!

Randon tidbits on existing places…

Szechuan Gourmet 56 – I had my first terrible meal here, followed by an excellent meal.  Keeping it on the list for now but inconsistency will not fly

Gazala’s Place – I’m not big of the Bourekas overall, but the cheese and sun dried tomato Bourekas here is the bomb.  The bomb I tell ya

Sullivan Street Bakery – Quickly becoming one of my favorite breakfast places in the area.   Discovering all kinds of bread goodies lately

Guelaguetza – Spicy chicken burrito is now officially my favorite Burrito in the area.  Readers, its official!

The Complete Guide…

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2013/06/27/the-hells-kitchen-survival-guide/

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Citibike Confessions 2 – Battle of the Bridges

photo (49)“We are going shopping”, the most beautiful words for a man to hear since “I do”.  “We” – as in just us, without You”.  Here’s how I took advantage.  A Labor Dy trip report if you will…

Picked up Mr Hummus Whisperer and parked the car by the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side.  Picked up a Citibike and rode the Bridge over to the other side.  Unlike the day before where we walked the bridge after (and before) visiting the Smorgasburg in Dumbo (will try to write a separate post) the bridge in the morning was fairly quiet.

“Cruised” Lafayette and dropped the bikes by Houston.  Wanted to try La Colombe Coffee after watching the guy on the travel channel exploring the world for coffee beans but it was closed.  I was surprised to learn how many places are closed on Mondays in NYC.  Like being in Milan in August.  Too hot for coffee anyway.  We made our way to Russ and Daughters, picked our bagels and went to a nearby park where an elderly Asian couple were doing an exercise I haven’t seen before:  Bouncing a basketball.  Buttery Lox, cream cheese, tomato, onions, on a fresh crispy bagel never tasted this good.  R&D, one of many Lower East Side institutions is touristy for good reason.   We were without the wits of our women which means without napkins but we somehow managed with minimum stain action.photo (50)

We proceeded to pick up the Citibikes nearby again and rode to Delancey and Williamsburg bridge.  We crossed over to Brooklyn and just biked around Kent Ave without a plan whatsoever.  None of this was planned BTW.  Feeling hungry again we decided to park and just walk to Egg for another round of breakfast.  But the line was too big so we just went to Verb Café nearby on Bedford and had ice coffee with our takeout Bialys from R&D.  Ok, the R&D mention again reminds me that I need to go back to work.. Ok I’m back.. where was I… Oh ye.  Verb Café  – Ive been there before.  If you ever need a reminder that you are in Williamsburg you head to this café and the mini mall attached to it

We picked up the bikes again and rode the Williamsburg bridge back.  An unfortunate incident occurred where a bra-less woman riding a bike was accidentally flashing more than the laws allowed.  Unfortunate for her.   Anyway, we had a good laugh and continued riding by the East River toward midtown.  Nice views of the manhattan skyline open up at some point with the river a few feet away.  This is a nice section to bike on.  We U-turned on 30th and turned on 20th toward the flatiron area.  Just rode around aimlessly until it was time for you know..eat.

We dropped the bikes in the East Village.  A trip like this is incomplete without eating something in the East Village.  Opted to go to Maharlika but we got distracted by a little piggy and shared a Porchetta sandwich in Porchetta.  In here they do it differently than in Italy.  They get whole loins with the skin and all, season, roll it, and roast it for 7 hours.  The result is one fatty, garlicky, porky goodness.  Fantastic sandwich.  Highly recommend Porchetta.photo (51)

Time for a cleanser.  Liquiteria is thee place in town according to my juice obsessed friend.   I’ve been there before and ordered the same thing again, the Grasshopper – a great blend of apple, pear, pineapple, wheatgrass, mint, old cellphones, or god knows what else they put in there.  All freshly squeezed, naturally sweet and very refreshing.  A little pricey but you pay for quality

Too full for Maharlika we pick up the bikes yet again and head to Tribeca.  Dropped the bikes by Whole Foods and spent some quality R&R time (Relieve and Read) in Barnes and Nobles.  This branch has my favorite travel section.  We are in Tribeca which means we have to go to Nish Nush.  Shared a Masabacha which is essentially hummus with Tahini, some other sauce, chickpeas and boiled egg.  Added some Falafel balls as well to this party.  Since I introduced HW to this place a month ago he’s been here 6 times.  He was so excited he stained himself again right next to the R&D stain.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the best falafel in the city.photo (52)

Time to pick up the bikes again and cross the Brooklyn Bridge back to the car.  Now its raining which means I finally look cool on those bikes.  I tried the one hand move before and nope.. need it to rain.  The bridge is much busier now even with the rain and those darn pedestrians are all over the bike lanes.  Of course I was also all over the bike lanes when I was a pedestrian the day before

We dropped the bikes for the last time and started to head home.  But hey, we are already here, next to a place I wanted to visit for a while now, so whats the rush.  The only one who has the balls to open a pizza joint next to Grimaldi’s is.. well.. Grimaldi.  The place is called Juliana’s and the Margherita pie was absolute perfection.  I’m not gonna go into the details of the story and controversy here but the gist of it was that Grimaldi’s sold the Grimaldi name rights years ago and now he’s back.. right next door.  So when you come to Brooklyn to stand on the hour long line to Grimaldi’s just keep in mind that the place next door with no lines has probably better pizza – I think it does.    And for the sake of the neighborhood locals who finally got their pizza back this is the last time I will mention this.

And that’s how I spent my Labor Day.photo (53)

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

Malai Marke – Shiva latest + German Draft Beer = Success!

I will make this one short and sweet and spare you the usual nonsense.  East Village is kicking butt lately.  What else is new.  Already perhaps the best foodie neighborhood in NYC which makes it one of the best in North America, things are only getting more and more exciting, and deserving of a run-on sentence.  Its almost like something new pops up in the East Village on a daily basis.

The title refers to Shiva Natarajan, not what you do when your goldfish dies (sit shiva).  Malai Marke is the latest from Natarajan, the king of Indian food in NYC.  Shiva owns more restaurants than I own boxer shorts and briefs combined (note:  I know what you thinking and its really none of your business.  Its between me, my wife and my briefs.  I should have more briefs but mrs Z keeps throwing out all my “air conditioned” ones whenever she packs for vacation).  While Shiva virtually owns Curry Hill including Chote Nawab and about 4 eateries on one block, his presence on “Curry row” is now firmly established with Malai Marke.

I’ve already been to Malai Marke twice now, sampling all sorts of complex deliciousness…

Garlic Naan fresh from the oven as good as it gets.  German draft beer, major bonus.

Kurkuri Bindi – Okra.  Fried and dry which was a surprise. I was expecting a saucy okra but  it was still very good.  Reminded me of one of those spicy Indian nut snacks.

Bindi Sasuralwali – I much preferred this Okra – “okra you would eat at your in-laws house.” as it says on the menu just like in Chote Nawab. If anyone here can introduce me to someone who’s parents can cook like this I might need to reconsider my status. My in-laws don’t even know what Okra is.

Chicken Xacuti – Outstanding!  Had it twice already.  Mild but subtle, with roasted coconut, peanut, and poppy seeds

Lamb Madras – One of the better Madras dishes I’ve had.  Tender lamb and the dish overall was fairly similar to the Xacuti

Tand Mix Grill – Another must for me.  Great chicken tikka, Tandoor, unique lamb kebabs with just enough heat

Lamb Chettinad – So good. Thicker and heavier than the others but in a good way.  Again I expected more heat but was pleasantly surprised with just the right amount.

Chicken Tikka Masala – something I eat often but never in places like these even tho I’m always sure it would be much better. This was no exception.  Creamy and perfectly buttery, tho I sort of liked it more as an occasional bite vs eating it continuously if it makes sense.

Chicken Rizzala – Green nutty korma almost dessert like compared to all the other dishes.  Korma is another dish we eat often at home and this was like eating it for the first time.

As with pretty much any Indian restaurant I would not bother with dessert.  East Village has too many great choices like Chikalicious, Big Gay Ice Cream, Sundaes and Cones

Add another one to your East Village list people.  and excuse the horrific Iphone pictures please

Malai Marke - Tikka masala Malai Marke- Garlic Naan Malai Marke - Chili Chicken Malai Marke - Bindi

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nish Nush – Ach Ya!

Nish Nush - Falafel A little Borat/Bruno humor there

So the other day something weird happened at night that never happened before.  No, not what you think.  And shame on you.  What happened was I was awaken by Mrs Z’s stomach making all kinds of weird noises.  I spent about 10 minutes lying there listening to this processing symphony with a certain amount of fear that she’ll wake up with some sort of ailment.  The night before we had an incredible meal at a place where 2 Yelpers got sick recently and I couldn’t help but worry.  (That place is not Nish Nush).  Unlike snoring, there’s really nothing much you can do in this case.  I mean, imagine this conversation..

Her:  “What?”

Me:  “Ahhm, your stomach is making noises”

Her:  “And..what exactly can I do about that?”

Me:   “Ahem, can you.. like.. go downstairs and have a turkey sandwich or something”

Her:  Speechless

Me:  “I love you”

Her:  “Fuck You!”

See what I mean?  But thankfully Mrs Z woke up fine the next day and everything turned out fine.  False alarm.  What does it have to do with Nish Nush?  Good question Timmy.  Nish Nush is sort of a symbol that we are eating out a little bit too much lately, and as I was listening to Amadeus Belly I was wondering if I’m going too far.  The place is an hour drive from my house and I already visited it twice in one week.

Quite simply Nish Nush (“snack” in Hebrew) serves the best Falafel in NYC at the moment.  Their classic “Green” Falafel is not really green but picture perfect blend of brown and green herbs, mostly brown which I prefer.  Along with the perfectly crispy exterior its the closest I’ve had to Falafel in Israel.  Although I used to live in Israel as a kid, my best Falafel came last year when I returned as an adult (stop laughing Mrs Z!).  Falafel here is made to order which makes a big difference.  Pitas are baked in house which is another big plus, and are served warm.  There’s free Hummus inside the Falafel sandwich, which is sort of a sad plus.  Hummus should always be free, like wifi.  So many charge extra for Hummus these days.

But thats not all Nish Nush serves of course.   They have a pretty large menu in fact for a place like this.  All sorts of Hummus specialties, the Hummus Whisperer a former? contributor to this blog swears by their Masabacha, Hummus with warm chickpeas, boiled eggs, and spices.  Hummus is made fresh daily and second only to Gazala’s Place for my taste.  The Falafel Platter puts other Falafel platters to shame and I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  They also got Sabich on the menu and get this, they even spell Schug correctly.

Move over Taim! Just a little bit

Nish Nush

88 Reade St, New York, NY 10013

Nish Nush Platter Nish Nush Falafel Nish Nush

Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sakagura – Tale From a Crypt

SakaguraTaking a short break from Italy blogging.

You think you know someone.  I’ve known my friends Igor and Natasha since the high school days.  At least I thought I did.  Staring somewhat confused at an office building looking for an entrance to Sakagura, Igor turns to an Asian couple standing near us and asks them where is the entrance.. in Japanese.  “They said its 2 blocks down” “how can it be 2 blocks away if Google Maps tells me we are standing right in front of the building.” I answer.  “And is it my imagination or did you just ask for directions in Japanese in New York City.”

SakaguraTurns out I needed this to be spelled out to me.  Go inside the unassuming office building, go down to the basement and Voila!.. Sakagura, one of the cities most popular Izakayas, aka Sake bar, aka Japanese tapas bar, aka an oasis for Russian middle aged men who somehow picked up some Japanese from coworkers and waited many years to showcase their new found skills to their friends.  A quick sprint to the desk by Igor to inform the confused girl that we are here and we get comfortably settled in a nice booth.  Décor takes me back to the Tokyo underground dining days.  Meaning, the images Ive seen on the Internet

We agreed that I’ll take care of the food ordering while Igor handles the Sake menu.  Both quite challenging but I came prepared. But when Igor started talking Japanese to the Sake Sommelier, the shocked fellow had the kind of expression as if he was just asked if his daughter is 18, twice.  But we somehow managed and before you knew it the food started flowing.  More on Igor later but lets do a quick run down on dishes I (we) liked and disliked.  Other than a few clunkers this was a great meal

Sakagura - DessertLiked:

Gomaae – Spinach with sesame sauce.  Nice and pleasant to start things off.  Aromatic and heavy seasame presence in a good way

Onsen Tamago:  Fantastic soup with soft boiled egg, uni and salmon roe.  I’m not a huge fan of uni but this was quite good, along with the rest of the soup.

Maguro Tartar – Tuna tartar with all sorts of fish roe and caviar.  Best and most expensive ($16) dish of the night

Sakagura - FlukeHirame Ponzu – Buttery, very tasty Fluke Sashimi with this acidy grated radish salad I couldnt get enough of.

Buta Kakuni – Melt in your mouth yummy stewed pork belly.  Perfect fat/meat ratio 

Tori Tsukune – fairly nice but basic Chicken meatballs with terriyaki sauce.  Not all of us enjoyed this one

Chawanmushi – Egg Custard Ponzu soup with chicken and shrimp and something resembling a mini Easter egg

SakaguraGindara Yuan Yaki – Not Yaki at all.  very nice and sweet black cod

Sremeika Yaki – Grilled Japanese squid with garlic sauce.  Was growing on me more and more as I was eating it

Saikoro Steak – diced steak with great sauce.  One of the best dishes of the night

Desserts – we sampled 3.  Very nice coffee jelly, a savory seasonal Mango pudding, but the big winner was the crème Brule with black sesame.  holy smokes that was good

Sakagura - rice ballsDisliked

Sanma Onigiri – rice balls with shiitake, radished and veggies wrapped in whole baked Mackarel.  This had a strong fishy odor and taste.  I’ve had mackerel many times but not quite like this

Snow Crab with steamed rice.  Quite dry and surprisingly fishy as well.  Kept trying it to no avail

Overall a fantastic but pricey meal.  Sakagura (“Saki Storage”) is far from your typical Japanese sushi joint.  Fine service, cool décor, and “cool” clientele that will satisfy the Anthony Weiners and Carlos Dangers of the world.  And as we were leaving…

Mrs Z:  I should probably go to the bathroom before the long drive

Igor:  Its right there on your right.  If you cant find it just ask someone “Toire wa dokoda”.  With a slight and sudden head nod after the last word like in those samurai movies

Me:  But Igor, we are in NYC and they all speak English here.  Why would a white girl… ok never mind.  “Tolet wa dokota” got it.Sakagura - Tuna Tartar

Sakagura - Steak Sakagura - Squid Sakagura - Cod Sakagura - Chicken Sakagura - Soup Sakagura - Spinach

Categories: Midtown East, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

Hell FoodUpdated: January 29th, 2020

Although the emphasis was on the “Hell” part initially, as in the only place potentially hotter than hell, Hell’s Kitchen today boasts some of the city’s most incredible array of kitchens.  It wasnt always the case (hence the title) and there are plenty of naysayers out there that still live in that past.  But the neighborhood is rapidly changing, and despite gentrification, 9th avenue and around is a food lover paradise.  Its a beautiful mishmash of world cuisine, with Thai, Mexican, Ramen, and Korean dominating these days, pretty much in that order.  After working in the area for 20 years, and running food tours during the last four, I’ve written a guide with a map to help you out…

Food Tours of Hell’s Kitchen, East Village and Brooklyn

Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen

Best Tacos in Hell’s Kitchen

Top Pre-Theater Options

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Food Halls

Gotham West Market –  Perhaps the coolest thing ever to open in Hell’s Kitchen.  In a city suddenly flooded with all sorts of food halls, this is one of the more intimate, and less visited ones.  Main reason being the tourist free zone of 11th and 45th, making it more of a neighborhood stop.  Only about 9 high quality vendors, and a bicycle shop.  Ramen, Italian, Seafood, pizza, great ice cream and more.

Middle Eastern

Middle Eastern – Gazala’s Place.  Fabulous Druze cooking.  Some of the best Hummus in town (I’ve spent plenty of time in Israel including the druze village where Gazala Habibi came from).  The place is slightly larger a hers and hers closet (in my house at least.  I count my blessings to have 2 shelves left for myself).  The Bourekas with goat cheese and sun dried tomato is always solid.

Gourmet Middle Eastern – Taboon.  One of the most successful, long running hidden gems in the area.  A fine “Middleterranean” menu created by Israeli chef Efi Nahon.  Try any of their bread specialties baked in their Taboon oven, and the Silan (below), one of my favorites desserts in the city.Taboon Silan

Doner Kebab/Turkish – Turco.   This is perhaps the closest thing we have to the Berlin style Doner Kebab (Turkish immigrants in Germany made it the most popular fast food snack since the invention of the Speckpfannkuchen and Zwiebelkuchen).  The main culprit is that thick, crispy tasty pita bread that holds its own.  I slightly prefer the chicken over the lamb but you should try both.

Asian

Momofuku – Bang Bar.  Leave it to David Chang to make lines fun, and for a $5 snack no less.  Oddly situated in the Columbus Shops at the Warner Center, its worth the short trek for the spicy pork “U”.  And for a price of a Halal cart lunch its… I’m saying it… a Bang for your buck.  Get it?  Because its called Bang.

Sushi – Uogashi.  Perhaps the Holy Grail in Sushi deprived Hell’s Kitchen.  An East Village import that shuttered in EV after a building fire in 2018.  The space housed a different sushi place which explains why it took me 6 months to find it.  From the freshness of the fish (Uogashi means fish market) to the quality of the rice, its not only the best in HK today but some of the best Sushi I’ve had in NYC.

Korean – Danji.  One of the more reliable old guards, and best Korean in Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Hooni Kim can flat out cook.  He travels to Korea multiple times a year to gather inspiration.  Best Tofu dish in town.  And you will be hard pressed to find better chicken wings and sliders in the area.  Michelin people agreed (initially ta least), rewarding it a star soon after opening.danji-big-korean-breakfastRamen – E.A.K.  Cant decide between Chicken or Pork based broth?  Why not try a blend of both.  Its the first successful infiltration of IEKEI (pronounced EAK) style Ramen in  NYC, albeit on tourist heavy restaurant row (46th) for some reason.  So far I’ve enjoyed the Oh So Hot with spicy Miso so much that I’m having trouble ordering anything else.  Skip the boring $3 extra appetizers they offer for lunch.

Ramen – Totto Ramen.  Shoe box setting and potential long waits adds to the charm at the original.  Just write your name on the board outside (Not Seymore Butts – already done) and wait.  Order the spicy Ramen, add the egg and you are all set.  Newer, bigger Totto located a block away 464 West 51st.  Less wait if any than the original

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto and others making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience, but a little different.  Its bustling, noisy, energetic, and that’s just the wait inside and out.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Japanese – Blue Ribbon Sushi.  Not all chains are created equally.  This is far from Applebee’s.  And depending on who you ask, and the day of the week, this is not exactly in Hell’s Kitchen but close enough (Yelp thinks that it is).  Its located in the SIXTY Hotel on Columbus Circle (on 58th st).  Whether you are a sushi lover is irrelevant in this case.  Good fried chicken, steaks, and the sick oxtail fried rice alone is worth the price of admission.  And other goodies such as the excellent Ika Shoga (sautéed squid), and Kanpachi Usuzukuri (amberjack sushimi) worth detouring.

Thai – Pure Thai Cookhouse.  Not your average NYC Thai food among a plethora of all kinds of great Thai on 9th.  No drunken noodles, no red curry, no green curry and not even purple curry on the menu.  What you do get is something a bit more authentic with all sorts of complex flavors and extra heat.  Read the post for what to order.  Try the ribs, Pork with curry paste, Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles, and the pumpkin or Mango custard with coconut sticky rice off the board (may not be on the menu)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Thai – Taladwat.  The new kid on the Thai block is a possibly the most important opening in Hell in the last few years.  Thats because its the latest from David Bank and his wife, the owners of Pure Thai Cookhouse, and its three times bigger.  The menu focuses on 20 or so small plates covering a wide array of protein.  You have the option of getting two for $16 for lunch (a bit more for dinner).  So far the Crabmeat Tom Turmeric is the winner

Thai – Pam Real Thai.  I was hesitant to add this one for too long, partly due to having two Thai places on the list already.  But.. a) Many EWZ readers have already been to Pure and/or Larb Ubol, b) The Oxtail Soup, and c) Just about everything else I’ve had here is pretty darn good.  Setting redefines minimalistic, and the place could use some refreshing, but I dont go there for the decor.  Try the Pad Kra Prow (w/shrimp), Pad Prik Khing, Khao Soi, best Kee Mao Seafood in the hood, and the Oxtail Soup which is just about my favorite soup on the planet.

Chinese – Gourmet Szechuan 56.  By far the best Chinese in the area.  Like Pure Thai, Spice level significantly higher.  Loving the Shredded Beef w/ Asian Spicy Green Chili especially. Update Jan 30, 2020:  Now Rong Cheng House.  Still Szechuan(ish) but havent tried the new space

Chinese – Le Sia.  Its one of those rare situations where I add a place to the guide before my first visit.  I’m well too familiar with Le Sia in East Village and what these guys are capable of.  Expect fiery Chinese style crawfish/crab boils, BBQ skewers, and the type of authenticity the neighborhood isnt used to.  The most important Chinese opening in Hell’s Kitchen in a long time.Le Sia Crawfish

Chinese/Dumplings – Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen.  A little piece of Chinatown on the border of Hell’s Kitchen, steps away from Times Square.  Contrary to what the name suggests, this place isnt known for its ramen, but for its soup dumplings. The place is tiny, and at peak hours there could be a line but it moves quickly.  Communal tables add to the fun, but try not to squirt that dumpling soup juice on your neighbor.  Unless its a Broadway actor

Indian

Indian – Saar Indian Bistro – My little Indian rule of thumb – pay special attention to the latest from Indian master Hemant Mathur (Malai Marke, Chote Nawab and many more).  The dude just knows how to cook and how to hire them.  He finally opened one in the Kitchen in 2018, making Saar instantly the most important Indian in the area, and very different than the rest.  Its a nice bridge between a curry house and gourmet Indian.  Try the Chicken kebabs, Cauliflower Latkes, Butter Chicken, and Pepper chicken

Italian

Dell’anima – Italian is the one thing that is lacking in the area even though there are now three of them on this list.  That makes this West Village import at Gotham West Market one of the most important openings of 2019.  Try the signature Tajarin Carbonara, and the chicken

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian (from south Italy, not south Staten Island) dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette (below) with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  A cozy Trattoria, with an all Italian staff.  Check out the simple spaghetti, the meaty gnocchi, Sardinian specialties, and look for any specials like the excellent Cavatelli

Mercato Trenette

Italian – Il Melograno.  A lot of mediocre Italian in the area.  This is not one of them.  No frills, small, cheap(er) Trattoria sitting in a location where its almost impossible to survive unless you are doing something right.  Owner from Brescia, no stranger to Northern Italian cooking.  Try the Pappardelle with sausage and truffle oil.  In the warmer months locals flock to their sidewalk wine bar Il Baretto on 11th.

American

Wine and Cheese bar – Casellula. Great wine and.. you guessed it.. Pork Ass sandwiches. No joke!  Small, not the prettiest bar but the food more than makes up for it.  Just leave it to them to make you a cheese and meat assortment with some vino and enjoy those asses

Bar/Gastropub – Shorty’s.  Calling this a Gastropub may be a stretch, but you do come here for the Philly Cheesesteak.  I’ve had it in Philadelphia, and I can assure you that this is the real deal.  Same bread (arrives daily from “Le Bus” in Philly and finish baked in house), same steaks, same Whiz, same style, same everything.  Owner apparently was part owner of the great Tony Luke’s in Philly.  If you never had one, you are in for a messy treat.

Burger – Farm to Burger.  Good burger places come and go here.  Ans this very hidden gem in the Aliz hotel just came.  I’ve only tried one burger here so far and it was good enough to earn the crown.  The not as sweet as it sounds Honey Bee might be the best burger in the kitchen.

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  One of the most exciting additions to the neighborhood in recent years.  They have a relationship with 14 local farms whose ingredients fill much of the seasonal menu.  Just about everything they do, they do well.  From the terrific french loaf, to the meatloaf and roast chicken, to the ice cream sundae. Ditch the diner and go to this neighborhood spot to experience American cuisine at its finestThe Marshal - Meatloaf

Pizza

NY Slice – Sacco.  An old timer.  No 99 cent slices here (more like $2.50), but a NY slice as good as it gets

Slices – Corner Slice.  Gotham West Market now serves delicious airy Sicilian squares by dough wizards backed by Ivan Ramen

Neapolitan Pizza – Don Antonio.  Opened by two Naples veterans who know a thing or 3 about pizza.  One of them also owns the popular Keste in the village.  Try the slightly fried Montanara that no one else does, and my fave Diavola boasting the best sopressata in town.

Pies – Capizzi.  A solid alternative to the Don Antonio, John’s craziness and perhaps the closest thing to a pizza parlor you can only find in the outer boroughs.  The ingredients speak for themselves, like the bright, fresh tomato sauce and the extra meaty pepperoni and sausagesCapizzi

Latin

Empanadas – Empanada Mama.  Empanadas are like little patties, and should be on everyone’s area walking tour.  Try the spicy chicken, the meaty Brazil, and before you try the Viagra make sure there’s ample space between you and the person in front of you.  Hmmm, this sounded much funnier in my head.

Ecuadorian – Nano.  This hole in the wall on 10th has some serious “nona” action going for it.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce, among all kinds of other surprises

Peruvian – Inti.  10th ave is the new 9th ave.  Can someone go here please? Anyone?  Bueller?  Its always empty during lunch for some reason and it would be a real shame if it closes.  A Pio Pio alumni with a twist.  And the twist being empty ceviche.  Great looking and tasting Ceviche Mixto (below), Fresh fish chunks, shrimp, octopus and calamari with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper.  Add sweet potatoes for much needed contrast and the traditional baby corn and you got yourself a winner.  Or try the always reliable Rotisserie chicken

Inti Ceviche

Peruvian/Large Groups – Pio Pio.   Ok, I give up.  Pio Pio is a chain.  In fact I think the official name for this one is Pio Pio 8, or something like that.  It’s also not the best Peruvian in the area (Inti gets my vote), and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But whenever I’m asked the question I loath the most by my employer.  A last minute place for a large group that is not only affordable but will make everyone happy, this is the first place that comes to mind.  Good drinks, rotisserie chickens, and much more.

Dominican – Lali.    Read this while listening to this.  Ready? Lets go.  Home cooking cant get any more homey than this.  Small, Diner-ish, Reggaeton music blasting in the background to help you chew and move, and the two lovely nonnas serving including Mrs Lali herself.  You get what’s available today which will normally include some sort of stew, chicken, or ribs.  Go for the braised chicken if available, or the beef stew, with rice and beans of course.  Breakfast and lunch only.

Mexican – Tulcingo Del Valle.  With all the fancy Mexican popping in the area during the last decade, this 20 year old Pueblan still feels like the last of the neighborhood bodegas.  No shortcuts, fresh or bust approach is the reason people keep coming back.  Its a very full and challenging menu but the tacos, especially best in the hood Al Pastor, are always solid.  Veggie Publan specialties like Chile Relleno and Mole Poblano are fantastic, and dont leave without trying the flan.

Mexican – Alan’s Kitchen Mexican Cuisine.  This one is a tentative addition as its new and I’ve only been once, but the Carnitas here are Mission-esque (Mission District is a Mexican paradise of sorts in SF).  The tacos are so good I hear Los Tacos nearby are changing their name to #2.

Mexican – Tacuba.  I realize that there’s a better chance seeing Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar than seeing tourists (without guides) in one of those last remaining bodegas/hole in the walls deeper in the area.  This is the latest from Julian Medina of Toloache fame. And everything I’ve tried so far from the octopus sandwich for lunch to the Carnitas for dinner suggests GO!

Misc

Ethiopian – Meske.  This is a fun place for groups.  Just order a bunch of plates and watch them create the plate of dreams.  Use the spongy Injera bread below to scoop up all those goodies.  Queen of Sheba practically next door also worth consideringMeske

Diners.  Westway Diner for a classic NY diner

Bakeries/Cafes/Sandwiches

Sandwiches – City Sandwich.  Sorry I have to use that “one of the city’s best” again.  From Naples to Lisbon to the huge Portuguese community in Jersey, comes some of the best bread in the area, with some of the most unusual ingredients like blood pudding, sandwiches worthy of a run-on sentence.  Just try to study the huge menu ahead of time so you dont feel pressured or confused once there.  I like some of the egg sandwiches (egg based sandwiches got its own section) like Bench Girl, and of course the only on Tuesday, porky Roberto

Café/BakeryBibble & Sip.  One of the new kids on the wrong side of the block.  Technically just outside of HK but deliciousness sees no borders!  A place where you can unwind and BS all you want (it says so right on their logo).  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Earl Grey Panna Cotta (notice a theme?), Matcha Cream puffs, scones, the morning egg sliders and all sorts of rotating daily goodies.

Bakery – Sullivan Street Bakery.  Talking about no brainers. Another “One of the best in town” and the source to many top restaurant’s bread baskets like Scarpetta and Maialino.  Try some of the bread, the spectacular Canottos (the sweet ones), Bombolonis (donuts on crack), and the chocolate almond croissants.  Many love their pizzas but its the other stuff that makes me go there almost weekly these daysSullivan Street Bakery

Café – Rex.  The new kid on the block and by kid I mean Rex, the hardest working baker in HK.  And only 3 years old!  Ok, not really, he’s 4 now!  Ok, not really again, his father helps out a little but still.  Great coffee, scones, and muffins like the Morning Glory.

Bagels – Pick-A-Bagel.  Ess got nothing on these guys.  This is by far my favorite bagel place in the area, and trust me I’ve looked.  A good place to try the walnut raisin spread but I normally go for a simple bagel with butter.  Muffins are great in size and taste, and the only place that has Ziggy’s fave banana nut.  Its a great concept:  You say “Bagel” and they pick one for you.  🙄

Cupcakes – Huascar & Co. Bakeshop.  Cupcake wars champion and one of the nicest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Pies – Little Pie Company.  While everyone is obsessing with cheesecakes, those in the know come here for the insane Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie.

Fresh From Hell.  Quite a few healthy places surprisingly closed the past few years like Mooncake Foods despite being popular.  But tiny takeout FFH is a solid new alternative with fine sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread, and the best split pea soup this side of wherever they make the best split pea soup.

Fresh from Hell

 

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

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