New Ramen, Mexican, Sushi, and Indian Lunch Buffet. Thats right, Indian Lunch Buffet
New Ramen, Mexican, Sushi, and Indian Lunch Buffet. Thats right, Indian Lunch Buffet
“Hi, my boyfriend and I are eloping in NYC next week and we would like some recommendations on where to eat near our hotel, but can travel anywhere pretty much. We are both HUGE Foodies and eat just about anything. But particularly we love Indian and Vietnamese. No chains please, and no Italian hehe we got plenty of those lol. Cheerio for now. Georgina”
A common food question on the message boards. Even if you are not one of those, I advise you to read the following before asking for recommendations
“No Chains” – I see this way too often. I’m sure it looks like an honest requst to many locals, but I cringe whenever I see this. Why would we recommend chains? You are asking for recommendations on where to eat in arguably the greatest food city in the world with the hope that we dont recommend Applebees. Its like telling us “kindly do you job and recommend something that doesnt suck”. It also begs the question, what is a chain anyway, but we wont get into that now. It just implies to me that the poster has no idea about the destination food scene, which is fine. That’s what this post is for.
“No Italian” – Whenever I see this, my first instinct is to recommend Italian. Italian in NYC is a complicated web of eateries ranging from NYC classic Italian to Tuscan, Sicilian, Venetian, and even Asian influenced Italian. Italian is everything and it is nothing. It took me four trips to Italy to understand what it means. There’s almost nothing in common between Roman food and canal food in Venice. We have an incredible array of chefs doing all sorts of wonderful things from great veggies, fantastic seafood, to Roman style pizzas, and Italian with an Asian twist. So, if you are sick and tired of the Italian scene in your city, its more reason to try ours. After all, that’s what Italians visiting from Italy do here. including chefs.
“Near our hotel” – Ok, I admit, I sort of like when they say that because in a city with 25,000 restaurants it gives me something to work with. But somehow, “Foodie” and “Near my hotel” just doesnt add up. While there’s a good chance that you will find some decent spots near where you are staying, why not take full advantage of the amazing dining NYC offers in other neighborhoods. Raise your hands if you are staying near Times Square. Now try East Village, West Village, Lower East Side for a totally different feel. And if you haven’t discovered Hell’s Kitchen yet, its time.
“Can travel anywhere” – No you cant! You are vastly underestimating the size of this city just like you are vastly underestimating its offerings (no chains please). I sort of forced this one in after “Near our hotel” but you get the idea. Most respondents would be quick to suggest something anywhere in Manhattan with the reasoning that the poster would not mind taking the subway to East Village but I wouldn’t be so quick. If you are playing the “can travel anywhere” card, give us something else to work with to reduce the 25,000 NYC restaurants into something more manageable.
“We love Indian and Vietnamese” – This is great, but why is it my problem ;). While people will no doubt respond with fine Indian and Vietnamese suggestions, perhaps even including myself, I would suggest to skip what you like and try something different in the city of different. Unless of course you are coming from Pocatello, Idaho with one or two competing Indian. Pizza, Ramen, burgers, and the only in NYC Maine Lobster Roll!, are just some of things NY is known for. While there’s no doubt you can find some fantastic Indian here, it may or may not be better than what you get at home (I’m looking at you Brits). And Vietnamese food just never took off here. Eating something that you can easily find at home, not named Italian, is one of the worst travel offenses
Before asking a food question one should understand the vastness. NYC is a giant melting pot of world cuisine that comes in all shapes, sizes. and price points. There are no “Musts” (another popular word) as a result. To better answer your question, do a bit of homework first to get a sense of the destination. Guidebooks, food blogs, even simple Googling will do. If you care about food that is. On the other hand of the spectrum there are those that just “eat to live” and dont really care about any of this nonsense. They ask the questions anyway, mainly out of fear that they wont find something near where they are staying. All you need to do is go out of the hotel, turn right, and the world is your oyster. Tomorrow, turn left.
Is the new Pizza and Beer. Sometimes tasty surprises come at the most unexpected times, which is why they are called tasty surprises. I’m in the process of writing about yet another “one of those meals” I had the other day but I’m just running out of time, so instead I decided to write about my day today so far (Yeepee, how exciting! I know, right?)
Part 1 is here. Part 3 (the highlight) to come
Water and Israel were the theme in Central Park on this day (June 1st). Israel supporters swarmed the park after the annual Israeli Day Parade to commemorate Israel’s independence. Coincidentally, water is the theme in the Israeli holiday Shavuot which followed this day. Wrong day to be a tourist in Israel where kids flock the streets with water guns and water balloons. Perhaps the spritzer above us at Rosi’s was just practicing? (read part 1)
We started at the usual magical spot, where we sang Strawberry Fields Forever. Well, I sang, while the kids sang “stop”. One of the parks gems for sure. We then moved to the always striking Bethesda Fountain, until we settled at the Boathouse to stand on line for a boat. Playing tourists in our own town. It took about 40 minutes, which turned agonizing to the couple in front of us who realized they didnt have the $35 cash to rent a boat ($20 of that refundable)
The boats were fun, although most likely built during biblical times. I developed a child labor technique called OOM-PAH (patent pending). Shouting “OOM-PAH” meant they both row to the drum-like beat, “OOM” means just the right child, “PAH” means left. The faster the chant, the faster the row. It worked for us in that we got back in time (1 hour) and no baby turtles were hurt in the process. One mother turtle got almost killed, but she was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
After that we looked for a table at the boathouse for a drink but no luck. So we trekked a little further to the other boat rental spot where you rent a remote control to navigate your assigned sailboat. Had some fun with that, climbed Alice in Wonderland (I think I may have killed something else – another turtle), Belvedere Castle, and headed toward dinner.
The first part of the “Walk in the Park” trilogy. Not just any park – Central Park. It was one of those great food days you can only have in NYC. And in some parts of Jersey, Central Connecticut and Israel. First stop is a visit to this guy’s place which included great food, an assassination attempt, and saving a tourist from bankruptcy and potentially messy divorce.
Cesare Casella who always smells of fresh Rosemary for some reason is quickly becoming a NYC culinary force to be reckoned with. Not surprising from someone who took his parent’s restaurant outside of Lucca (one of the most magical cities we ever visited) and transformed it into a Michelin star celebrity magnet. Now, two restaurants hugging Central Park from both sides are owned by Cesare and his partner Parmacotto, a cured meat producer from Parma.
Salumeria Rosi is not your average NYC Italian restaurant like a Maialino or a Mercato. Its a Salumeria, where you can sample some top quality cured meats, pastas and other small plates consisting of high grade ingredients not normally available at a Trattoria near you. Leave it to the guy with the fresh Rosemary in his shirt pocket…(hmm, that may explain the question above)
Caprese Salad – Fresh, refreshing. Everything you expect from a Caprese
Salumi Board – As good as it gets in NYC (and we’ve had our share). All my favorites minus Finnocchiona were featured on this board, so beautiful that it deserves 2 pictures. Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella from Bologna, Both sweet and spicy Soppressata, Coppa (like Prosciutto but from shoulder), Cotto (Cooked ham), and the red little things peeping out in the middle are Cacciatorino, small spicy hunter sausage. We returned later on to buy more of these goodies for the kids school lunches.
Assassination Attempt – Midway through the meal we got splashed with water (I hope it was water) coming from the building on top of us (we were sitting outside btw). It happened so quick that we didn’t know what hit us at first. But it wasn’t too bad and more importantly NO SALUMI WERE HARMED in the process. Although the kids were wondering if I wrote something bad about someone who lives in this building. Pretty sure this was coincidental
Rule of thumb still stands. Want solid Indian in the city of New York, just visit any of Shiva’s establishments. That’s Shiva Natarajan if you scoring at home, or if you’re alone. Adding Kokum to the Arsenal that includes Chote Nawab and Malai Marke. Kokum, named after a fruit used as a spice in South India cooking represents the cuisine of Kerala among other South Indian regions. A refreshing addition to North Indian heavy (read Heavy as in rich) NYC.
When you first walk inside Kokum, it feels like second hour of lights fixture shopping time with the wife in Chinatown. You start feeling dehydrated, dizzy while hallucinations and impure thoughts about Indian and Chinese food start kicking in. If this is what Shiva went through to get funky lights fixtures, than I feel for you brother. Women Schwomen you know what I’m saying!
Kokum’s menu requires a stint at Ye(Shiva) University, before arrival. Its not only large, but it will make your head spin. There must have been 30 items at least that I wanted to try including some familiar items from Shiva’s other establishments. As a result, flavors were a little more familiar than I was expecting but in a very very good way.
Tropical Kerala – Perhaps the first ever cocktail at an Indian establishment I really liked. Get this.
Kumily Chicken Fry – Well done. Good depth and not too dry. Similar to Chili Chicken at Malai Marke and perhaps your neighborhood Szechuan
Mysore Masala Dosa – You gotta get a Dosa crepe here. This one was stuffed with spiced potatoes and onions. Terrific accompanied chutneys ranged from mild to hot. This thing is huge
Red Pumpkin Thoran – Good, nicely balanced, but should have ordered the bindi (okra) we enjoyed so much in Shivas other establishments
Kori Gassi – We liked this a lot at Chote Nawab so had to get it again.
Chettinad Kulambu – I’ve been on a Chettinad high lately as my go to lunch choice. This is probably the best Chettinad I’ve had
No Naan here. Got some spongy Appam rice crepes, like Sri Lankan Hoppers. Appalam, lentil pancakes I would skip. Great Paripu Podi Rice
106 Lexington Ave
Recommended Dishes: All of the above
Some changes to the Hell’s Kitchen Bodega scene prompts me to make quick changes to the guide.
A bodega, for those who dont know, is a Mexican deli or mini market that often serves food (tacos, burritos, etc) as well. Its sort of a NYC thing, and a good way to experience authentic Mexican in a city not exactly known for it
Hell’s Kitchen theses days is suddenly packed with all sorts of exiting Mexican in different price points. That includes some of the best bodegas in town. Unfortunately, one of my favorites Guelaguetza now appears to be closed, and I wish David and his family all the best. I already miss munching on their terrific burritos while watching Dora the Explorer with their kids. And it was the good stuff, with Diego around.
But thats no reason to cancel your holiday if you ask me. Lately I’ve been on the hunt for some good tacos (midlife crisis Stage IV) all over the area and the undisputed winner is Tehuitzingo. Their tacos are so good they are now multiplying, opening yet another Taqueria on 9th and 41st while at the same time renovating the original to look more like a Mexican disco than a bodega. Try the Al Pastor taco, roasted marinated pork.
Readers, meet Narcissa, the cow resident at the Locusts farm on the Hudson. Narcissa’s hobbies include walking by the river, grass, and Turkish prison movies. Unlike Rob Lowe whose looks killed his career, Narcissa killer looks keep her at the top of the food chain, or pretty close to it. The new restaurant at The Standard in East Village is named after her. An honor you just don’t see these days. We are talking about the full name, not just the first letter the way soooo many babies are named these days. I mean if you gonna name your baby after your great aunt Ethel, Emma is not gonna cut it. And who decided it has to be the first letter anyway.
Narcissa, just like the cow, is a stunner. Two spacious, comfortable, nicely laid out rooms. Perhaps a little too attractive to accept the initial offering of the seats next to the busy reception area, while the rest of the row was entirely empty. The couple seated right after us questioned the move as well, but elected to stay. I never understood the logic behind this practice, but no harm done. A very interesting cocktail list with the least imaginative names: “Roll in the Hay”, “So Pretty”. Or fairly imaginative depending on how you look at it. Started with a spicy offering (forgot the name) but much preferred the latter herby and refreshing “Gentleman’s Framer”.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Narcissa is all about Farm to Table. Unlike other Farm to Tables that could be easily called American or American (new), the veggies here truly shine. Juts about every menu you see these days has that one veggie main, usually the first dish, that is normally lonelier than that single sock in your sock drawer you keep just in case its partner by pure miracle comes back one day. That lone dish in Narcissa is the star of the menu, the Carrots Wellington.
Lets start with the apps. Two well cooked Short Rib pieces with pastrami spices, buttermilk and radish salad with a nice amount of mustard presence. The pastrami wasnt evident much, but the dish enjoyable nonetheless. The sweet “meaty” Crisped Beets with bulgur salad, apples, and creamed horseradish was similar in some ways to the short rib dish. Just a nice combination of textures and flavors. I never ever order beets anything as I don’t particularly care for them but this was really nice.
The highlight as mentioned was the middle course of Carrots Wellington. Should have ordered it as the main course and the Barley Risotto as the middle as originally planned, but commitment issues prevailed (Its a carrot dish!). The sweet, tender carrots did a great job replacing the beef in those pastries, and the accompanied veggies especially the earthy Bluefoot mushrooms elevated this thing to the next level. The carrot dish to beat perhaps (over Pioras) in NYC
The two mains were far less thrilling however. The duck breast was lacquered, undercooked (for my taste) on the rare side, covered by a thick fatty layer, with cranberry sauce. Just didn’t care for the overall texture and flavor. The best part was the gingered butternut squash on the side with spiced cranberries. Should have ordered the much better looking lamb loin. We expected much more from the “whole” Branzino, filleted and topped with a salad that included fennel and onions that were somewhat off-putting to Mrs Ziggy. Dried up fairly quickly by the time I got to it. A rarity for us as we prefer the simpler way we grill them at home, with the bones and skin and all, lemon and olive oil. Carrot fries tempura style side was the saving grace of the mains. Just get all the carrot dishes here.
Desserts were stellar. Just about the best carrot cake (what else) you will ever eat, and an even better runny creamy chocolate tart with toasted bananas and espresso ice cream. Yummo!
A few important bathroom tips in a place called “The Standard”. Remembering how you got there may not be enough. Pay attention to the tiny red light on the door. Turn the lock all the way.. again (learned the hard way – sorry strange lady).
A fine meal overall. Narcissa is not for everyone (I must get the Cialis commercials out of my head). But if you want to experience something different, especially root vegetables that come to life in ways you never had before, check it out
21 Cooper Square
Recommended Dishes: Short Ribs, Crisped Beets, Carrot Wellington, Carrot cake, Chocolate tart
Dear readers, it is with extreme pleasure and slight gastro discomfort that I welcome you to the first installment of Best Dishes in Hell, where we feature 5 dishes to target in this little foodie heaven I like to call Hell’s Kitchen. Each of these bites is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and put all your troubles behind. Or not!
Bourekas at Gazala’s Place – Bourekas, or Bourek is something I ate often as a child, but not really by choice. I hated it! So if I list a Bourekas in this space, it can only mean that this is not your ordinary Bourekas. Your choices are normally Feta with spinach or Feta with sun-dried tomatoes. I prefer the latter. One bite of that beast to feel that explosive, rich, flaky goodness and you’ll understand why. And did I mention that it comes with a side of my favorite Hummus in the city.
Egg Bowl at Little Chef – The winter version below, while the regular version is pictured on top. Health food that I would gladly go out of my way for, but luckily I dont need to as I work 12.3 minutes from Gotham West Market (I timed it). The current version features porky cranberry beans, salsa rojas (roasted red salsa), and just about the sickest breadcrumbs on the planet. Same breadcrumbs featured in the non-wintery bowl which includes fresh greens and assorted roasted veggies like broccoli and potatoes. Glorious stuff my friends
Sausage Pizza at Capizzi – Avid readers of EWZ already know that there’s no reason to cross bridges and tunnels for pizza. However, very few places in the city (Manhattan) have that homey pizza parlor feel that is very common in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Capizzi tucked away in “Downtown Hell’s Kitchen” got it and more. This pie is a sausage fest of deep flavors made from fresh ingredients cooked in a wood fired oven. Not quite NY style pizza, and not quite Naples style, but very NYC
Akamaru Modern at Ippudo – A recent article by the NYT reaffirms the belief that Hell’s Kitchen is a ramen force to be reckon with. And in the middle of this ramen revolution is this super popular Ippudo branch. Start with their terrific smooth pork buns and move on to the Akamaru, a complex porky broth and just about as addictive as Ramen gets in NYC
Canotto at Sullivan Street Bakery – Love at first bite. Sometimes its slightly off, but for the most part its pastry perfection. Brioche filled with mascarpone, berries, topped with crumbs and some salt. What I love about this is that every bite is different. On one bite you taste chewy, cheesy, salty, next is crunchy, fruity, and so on
Ever since god invented the CitiBike, I’ve been spending more time chowing in ultra touristy Chelsea Market. A pleasant 15 minute ride there, and a strenuous 25 minute ride back on a
gassy full stomach. Navigating through the tourists at the market during lunch time should be an Olympic event. The Chelsea Slalom. Opening the door without letting an entire large polish group in and losing your family as a result somehow requires an online course. With that said, unlike most touristy spots in NYC (e.g. Little Italy, Times Square, Restaurant Row) there’s good food to be had here.
Chelsea Market is a little misunderstood. Since this is by far New York’s most famous “Market”, many avid tourists come here expecting a market similar to the Boqueria in Barcelona or Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem. Chelsea Market is nothing like it. Its indoors, not really ingredient heavy, but more a of a collection of unique restaurants and food purveyors. And just like Eataly, Chelsea Market requires some exploring in order to get it, and avoid disappointment.
Adobada Tacos at Los Tacos #1 – The more I eat those little porky things the more I like them. Tacos on the small side when you compare to what you get at a NYC bodega, but they are well marinated and deadly. I often see tourists and locals fill the tacos with salsa and all the other free goodies available on the counter, ever so slowly killing the flavors. Let the meat do the talking guys.
Pastrami Sandwich at Dickson’s – These guys, who look mostly like Boston Bruins enforcers, dont mess around with their meats. Top quality stuff is sourced directly from a few hand picked local farms, enabling Dickson’s to produce tasty sausages, hot dogs (great dogs here) and this pastrami sandwich with Apricot Chutney. This is not your average pastrami. Bright, peppery, well marbled, fatty in all the right places. Like slow dancing with your mother in law.
Cappelletti al Prosciutto at Giovanni Rana – Fresh pasta galore at this Verona import. After trying an array of pastas here (including a surprisingly flavorless Carbonara) I would stick to what they do best; Ravioli/Tortellini, and the rest of the ravioli familia. The “little hat” shaped Cappelletti is packed with flavorful, salty, porky goodness
Chirashi Bowl at Lobster Place – Tourists flock to LP for the lobster, not realizing the tremendous sushi strength here. One of the best ways to sample the fresh seafood at LP is via the Chirashi, a rice bowl topped with chef selected fresh raw goodness. Other than the somewhat soggy octopus this thing simply rocked. As long as you dont mind splurging the full $24 for the full bowl if sitting at the counter
Peppercorn Catfish at Num Pang. Love me some good fish sandwich. Something you cant easily find in NYC. This is a fine combination of flaky catfish with mild pleasant heat, fresh veggies, and crispy baguette-like bread adding to a mighty fine Vietnamese Banh Mi resemblance
Uni Tagliatelle at Cull and Pistol. Squid ink pasta to me is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you going to get. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. This one works big time. The richness, and sweetness of the uni sauce puts the Tagliatelle into another dimension. And while the cherry tomatoes, and squid are just there to look pretty, they don’t hurt. Even my oldest (13) who swore against squid ink pastas when she tried it in Venice, enjoyed this one.
Lobster. When I first decided to do a blog post about the Chelsea Market, I said to myself. “Ziggy, be unique. Give them something more than what those Asian tourists are coming for”. But who am I kidding. Nothing says NYC more to me than this only in NYC thing. The Maine Lobster Roll! You can get it at the Lobster Place, or its sister Cull and Pistol with the most addictive, perfectly cut and seasoned fries. Or, do it Asian tourist style – grab a table and share an entire one.
Mighty Mushroom Roll at Beyond Sushi. Dont say I’m not thinking of you Mr and Mrs health nut. For something that is less than zero calories (you lose while you chew and lose some more while you fight a polish tourist for a sit at the steps) this is pretty darn good. And its not just the truffle essence that puts this thing on the list, its also the Enoki, Shiitake, Tofu, Micro Arugula, Shiitake Teriyake sauce… err who am i kidding, its mainly the truffle essence. The same essence I blame for not taking a picture.
Chocolate Chip Cookie with Caramel at Liddabit – This is simply an awesome cookie! Dont believe me? I once brought the cookie to my cookie obsessed/snob co-worker Lou…
“So, how do you like it?”
“This is a good cookie!”
See? What sets it a part for me is not so much the caramel, but the liberal use of dark chocolate chunks all around.
Nocciola delle Langhe at L’Arte del Gelato – Pure awesomeness. If there’s better gelato in the city, I didn’t have it yet. If you always wandered about the difference between ice cream and gelato, this is a good place to see the difference.