Posts Tagged With: Travel

Pinch Chinese – Soho Gets her Groove Back

Pinch Chinese Crab in Chinese RestaurantIt feels somewhat odd for such a place to open smack in the middle of Soho these days, due to…

  1. I haven’t written about anything new in Soho in years (back to back posts now)
  2. Lately I try to avoid the area as much as I can.
  3. When I bike through it these days, I find myself pedaling a little faster.
  4. Its normally packed with people, beautiful people
  5. So why do I pedal faster
  6. I dont know.  Maybe to impress them?

As the wise Yogi once said… “Its so crowded, nobody goes there anymore”.  Have you been to Soho lately?  Spring and Price are giving Times Square a run for its money.  I wonder whats the rent like these days.  On the flip side, I was picking up visitors from Sixty Soho on back to back mornings for a Brooklyn Tour, and I couldnt believe how charming and quiet that area can be in the morning.  I heard cab drivers singing and birds making mating calls (or is it the other way around).  Even Dominique Ansel had no no queue!  It was as shocking as your spouse telling you out of the blue, “I didnt know the Bee Gees were all male”.Pince Chinese

Pinch Chinese is sticking out of Prince Street like a zebra in a nudist colony.  There’s nothing like it in the area, serving solid elevated Chinese in a comfortable setting.  One of the partners is a veteran of the famed Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung, known for their soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao).  Inside, once you look passed the seriously focused crew behind the glass, its quirkiness galore.  From the menu, quoting Yelp reviewers, to the bathroom, warning employees about the consequences of not washing hands.  A lot of effort into the decor.  We ate…

Seafood/Pork Dumplings – Smaller than your average soup dumplings, but more concentrated and potent.  Wife was wishing for bigger (what else is new) but I thought they carries enough spark.  Something I would definitely order again

House Special Shrimp – Fine!  No issues with the perfectly cooked tiger shrimp and sauce, just nothing new and exciting flavor wise.

Niman Ranch Cumin Ribs – “tender, fall-off-the-bone – jocelyn on yelp” menu description is spot on.  But to me its all about the dressing of these babies that made us eat the leftovers with a spoon.  One of those rare awkward “Are you done with that” moments.  And it just goes to show you how flavorful Chinese Cumin lamb or pork can be without the numbing heatPinch Chinese Ribs

Dan Dan Noodles – Yet more pinches of brilliance.  And more Niman Ranch pork, with heat this time, and hints of star anise.  Its a peanuty sauce a la Han Dynasty.

Snow Crab in Chinese Restaurant – A dish of the year nominee.  Something Jocelyn and all her Yelp colleagues missed out on (I didnt see any mentions of it when I ate there).  Glass noodles with heaps of crab, dressed with an outrageously delicious fermented bean sauce with chilies and scallions.  The crab was plentiful and delicious, but it almost plays second fiddle to the noodles with sauce.  I would even order this without the crab

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce – Exactly what it says.  A regular, but solid, Chinese style eggplant in garlic sauce

Pinch Chinese
177 Prince St (Sullivan/Thompson), Soho
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Seafood/Pork Dumplings, Cumin Ribs, Dan Dan Noodles, Snow Crab in Chinese RestaurantPinch Chinese Soup DumplingsPinch Chinese ShrimpPinch Chinese Dan Dan NoodlesPinch Chinese Eggplant

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chef’s Club Counter – Rotating Nasty

Chefs Club Counter Duck RiceThey recycle their own sluts!  I’m not quite sure what it means, but that is according to a sign inside.  Either they employ people with extremely low standards or they are referring to their Eggslut sandwich, which is excellent.  Either way, to my knowledge they are the first slut recyclers in the industry.

But Chef’s Club Counter is known for other “firsts”.  To explain the concept, I’ll go with the longer but more efficient approach.  Think about the many times that you bought your spouse a popular cookbook only for the spouse to take almost no advantage of it.  One and done meal!  Too many ingredients, pictures not in color, too many words, etc etc.  Ok, lets pretend that it did happen.  I know many out there have a certain passion for cooking, but for the rest of us, its really just a passion for eating.  Think of Chef’s Club Counter as a cookbook, in the midst of its first chapter, with more to come.  Where the cooking is done for you (for a fee)

Chefs Club Counter BurgerUnlike big brother Chef’s Club where you got a fuller assortment of famous chef’s recipes including guest appearances, the counter is all about a few rotating recipes available for lunch and breakfast.  Every three months or so they will change entirely.  So anything you eat now, say goodbye to it immediately, or take a few more months to enjoy.  While they are preparing your slut, the rest of the team is hard at work trying to figure out its replacement.  All enjoyed in a very comfortable, cafeteria like fast food setting.  Order at the cashier, and wait for it.

At the moment they are featuring the infamous Eggslut which deserves all the hype it generated when CCC opened.  Its a hit in LalaLand, and even in Vegas at the Cosmopolitan (Best food hotel in Vegas – Keeps attracting the best of the best).  How great can a little $8 egg sandwich be you ask?  Well, it starts with an especially light Kaiser roll. Fluffiest scramble you will ever get, gently aided by sriracha mayo with oniony hints and melted cheddar.  Its the perfect egg sandwich.

A fast-casual room demands a fast-casual burger, and the Jean George burger here doesnt disappoint.  Similar to the one at the Mercer Kitchen nearby, it features melted cheese, Russian dressing, avocado and fried onions.  McDonalds style fries could have used a little less salt, and some pepper perhaps.  But in today’s NYC, I’m just grateful to get fries.

But the most interesting thing on the menu at the moment may be the Duck Rice by George Mendes.  This is similar to the signature Arroz de Pato dish I had at Aldea many years ago.  Aldea is so forgotten I had to check now if its still in business.  Duck Rice is like a nicely executed duck paella, featuring three differently textured Duck preparations with olives.  There’s added tartness from cirtus purée spread all over the plate for you to use as you please.

Go!  Before they recycle those sluts.EggslutChefs Club CounterRecycle Those Sluts

 

Categories: New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Falafel in Manhattan

Taim falafelWe are well into Falafel season in New York City (April – March).  I will make this one nice and painless, almost W42st pick-5 style.  When I want a good Falafel these are the only places I consider.  They are fairly spread out, so helps with your sightseeing, quick bite needs.  I cant think of a better, more affordable snack in town other than a well crafted Falafel.  For most of you EWZ old timers, other than one place perhaps (Ba’al) this wont offer anything new.

Nish Nush – Any Falafel discussion should start and end with the Nish Nushes (or Nish Nishe).  Two of them now, though I still prefer the original Tribeca location over FiDi.  Pitas at FiDi didnt do it for me last time.  The regular “Classic” over the other flavors (Tribeca, FiDi) any time.

Taim – Pronounced Ta-eem, as in “Delicious” in Hebrew.  Its indeed delicious, but not exactly a NYC secret.  I have to admit, I changed the wording in the first paragraph to “Consider” from “Frequent” since I dont really frequent Taim as much as I used to.  The Nolita location crowds makes me slightly noxious when I pass by.  But the falafel platter here, with 9 gorgeous schweddy balls, fresh salads, and pita with Za’atar seasoning, is divine.  (West Village, Nolita)

Taim

Taim

Gazala’s – Although not exactly a recent discovery, I feel like the falafel here is.  I’ve had it before, but lately cant get enough of it.  I dont know if its the type of oil they use, but it just tastes fresher.  Nice golden scrips on the outside, perfectly seasoned and herbed on the inside.  This is not a sandwich recommendation per se.  You get the plate with paper thin pita (ask for it) and hummus that is another must order (Hell’s Kitchen)

Ba’al Cafe and Falafel – Tucked away in the quieter parts of Soho, Ba’al is the definition of hole in the wall.  There’s nothing fancy here but a simple solid Falafel sandwich.  My secret weapon (Soho)

Azuri – This is a pick for those looking for a little bit more excitement to their falafel experience.  And by excitement I mean something more akin to riding a scary roller-coaster.  You not only get a beautifully crafted falafel sandwich in a thick whole wheat pita, but you get to deal with Ezra the Falafel Nazi.  (Hell’s Kitchen)

Mamouns – Just kidding.

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Nish Nush

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Gazala’s

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

Not Your Grandpa’s N’eat

N'eat Short RibIts fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop.  While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem.  A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such.  An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal.  “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.

Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz.  I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned.   The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle.  Whats wrong with this place!?!  What do the village people know that I dont.  You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days.  Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder.  Thats what she said.  I mean my dining companion.  She said that.  And she’s right.

N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining.  The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it.  80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered.  Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”.  When the waiter said  “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”.  Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”.  A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm.  While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago.  So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to…  Ok, I’m trying here.

“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter.  Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck.  The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment.  Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar.  Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.

Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam.  Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal.  While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture.  Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor.  Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice.  While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig.  By far the spiciest tartar I ever hadN'eat Duck heart Tartare

Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies.  It was good, but rather forgettable.  Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided.  The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick.  It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter.  Combining the two gave the best results.

N’eat is borderline Nyet.  Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning.  I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all.  Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business.  Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.

N’eat
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short ribN'eat Sunchokes

N'eat Arctic Char

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

W42st May Issue – Best Places for Soup

IMG_5904A slight variation to my usual best soups of Hell’s Kitchen post.  This month its part of the food issue on W42st.  Mooncake Foods and their sick Wonton soup is sadly no more, so needed to replace it with Pam which made the list twice in a row.  The only news here to veteran readers is the inclusion of Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles.  Try saying it just once.  As usual you will find Ziggy’s EatList at the small Zine inside the magazine distributed all over the neighborhood.  This month’s issue matched my couch perfectly so we may keep it as furniture for a little longer this time.

Pam Real Thai – I’ve had so many Oxtail soups here that I had forgotten how good the other soups are, like the explosive Khao Soi. The most underrated Thai in NYC

Ippudo – Judging by the flavors of the new sesame based Ramen lineup, these guys dont follow the latest Ramen trends. They set them. Waits may be long, but for good reason

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles – Try saying it 10 times, while chewing on their nostril clearing Mala (chili oil) Noodles. The newest quicky on 9th

Totto Ramen – 51st street is the new 52nd street. Apparently the secret of the new location is out judging by the lines. The chicken broth here, especially the Spicy Ramen stupendously good

Pure Thai Cookhouse – Now that Chipotle ditched their Shophouse Asian Kitchen franchise, Pure can change its name back to Pure Thai Shophouse. The soups here are generally great, but I’m partial to the Sukhothai

Chong Quing Xiao Mian

Chong Quing Xiao Mian Noodles

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

Best Things We Ate in Denver

IMG_5801Bagel at the Delta Terminal JFK before departure.  Ok, it wasnt the bagel, nor it was even in Denver.   But while standing in line for the bagels, and then waiting for the bagels to come out, the entire time (around 30-40 minutes or so) I was talking to Jeremy Roenick who stood on line behind me.  Only the very few of you know about my other obsessions, one of which is Hockey (Or Ice Hockey for some of you foreigners).  Turns out he is a big foodie and we actually discussed very little Hockey.  We talked about food tours, his food adventures in NYC, Turks and Caicos, my food tours, and a bunch of other stuff.  I didnt even mind one bit that they forgot about my order the entire time.  Well until he got his at least and left, then I got furious

Tagliatelle with Meat Ragu at Chow Morso (Avanti Food Hall) – They call this Italian Street Food here, but its really not.  Its more along the lines of ragus and fresh pastas you will get in the fine restaurants of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.  In the case of their “Bolognese”, you get a flavor packed, minimal tomato, proper meat ragu.IMG_5720

Pabellon Arepa at Quiero (Avanti Food Hall).  Denver’s food truck scene I’m told is a little deeper than NYC’s, and one of the better known trucks is the elusive Quiero serving legit Venezuelan Arepas.  While we didnt have them from the truck, we were able to sample some at one of their premier, busiest food halls, Avanti.  The Arepas have just the right amount of outer crisp, filled with succulent combinations.  We were partial to the juicy PabellonIMG_5716

Creole Shrimp Omelette at Four Friends Kitchen.  There’s all sorts of surprisingly good Southern, NOLA style food in Denver, and we hit on some of them.  This staple in sleepy Stapleton is popular with families partly due to their early brunch hours.  This omelette featuring sautéed Gulf Shrimp, spicy tomato sauce, and filled with creamy pilmeto cheese was spot on.IMG_5724

Kids Meal at Steuben’s – If I only knew.  I dont know if this will read like a compliment or not, but here it goes.  Kids Meal, the burger in this case, comes with Edamame, carrots, cucumbers, an assortment of fresh berries, and french fries.  Adults get a lousy burger.  I would gladly sub mine and the fried chicken for this culinary ecstasy

Agnolotti at Acorn – I’ve had plenty of Agnolotti under my belt, and I got the pounds to prove it.  My doctors say my body mass includes 15% muscle, 10% Halvah, and 7% Agnolotti.  Outside of the occasional Agnolotti del Plin, it very rarely wows, but usually serves as a nice comfort food.  This one with its various textures and flavors from the truffled pecorino, pine nuts, and morels opened my eyes.IMG_5740

Chicken Fried Eggs at Sassafras American Eatery (top picture)- “Accidentally Croele” is a proper tagline for this Denver trip.  We munched on more NOLA stuff here, at least for breakfast, that we ever did in NYC.  Sassafras Bloody Mary lineup alone will send you straight to the nearest fancy hat store to prepare for your French Quarter visits.  But this brilliantly executed egg dish was invented in Denver.  They are lightly coated with flour and bread crumbs, and fried, fried chicken style.  With a little bit of seasoning (minor quibble), its brilliant.  Its worth ordering for the accompanying Buffalo hash alone.

Little Man Ice Cream – Big flavors coming out of this little guy in a giant Milk Jar.  The Banana Pudding was love at first lick.IMG_5825IMG_5808

Categories: Denver | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pam Real Thai – Severely Underrated, Still

Pam Real Thai Kha SoiIts a tale of two Thais.  Pure Thai Cookhouse, a jam packed frat party at pretty much any time of the day, sometimes even just outside.  Pam Real Thai, eerily quiet even at peak times sometimes.  Pure has a limited, concentrated menu for Thai standards, while Pam has a megillah that includes all the color of the rainbow curries and other American Thai.  Pure is where I bring visitors to experience the vibe and some regional specialties you wont find anywhere else, while Pam is terribly unattractive and uninviting.  So why do I keep going to Pam Real Thai.

Well, for starters, for some of the same reasons mentioned above.  I dont want to wrestle tourists and locals for a table.  As local as Pure is, the number of tourists that go there nowadays increased dramatically.  I usually dont have much of a problem if I go solo as I can often get a seat on the counter facing the wall, but that means I get a seat by the counter facing the wall!  At Pam not only I get a full table, but I sometimes get an entire section all too myself.  I can spread my legs in all directions including Sharon Stone style and no one will bat an eye.  I can listen to a conversation from across the room (95% theater industry related.  Boy do they like to curse).  I can hear a lung collapse and call 911 before its too late.  At Pure I get to listen to Mandarin or French by the folks sitting  pretty much on my lap, while the rest is white noise mixed in with the bizarre but catchy Thai disco. Pam Real Thai Pad Ped

And then there’s the food.  Pam Real’s food can be, well.. unreal sometimes.  I’ve written much about its Oxtail soup, which inspired me to finally bring my wife and kids for a meal the other day.  That pleasant vinegary heat, and all those chunks of Oxtail which increased over the years means you gotta work it, and may even sweat a little.  But its just so damn good.  Same goes for their outrageous Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry-like noodle soup packed with chili oil and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles.  On a cold winter day especially, the soups work like magic, while in the summer they can cure summertime sadness (worth repeating because its true).

I wish I could keep score of the goodies and badies (food blogger lingo) I’ve had here over the years.   The big complaint from me is that its a very full menu. Steamed Thai Dumplings here can be as good as cheap Thai dumplings or Shumai can get.  Pad Ped (red curry paste, bamboo shoot, basil, and bell pepper) with your choice of meat or seafood is always solid.  I go for the seafood mix (shrimp and squid) when I feel particularly naughty.  Same goes for the rest of the sauteed lineup like Crispy Pork With Basil, Pad Prik Khing (curry paste, long bean and lime leaves).  For the most part these guys are not shy with their spices.  There used to be a time when my go-to Thai dish was Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) everywhere and Pam’s seafood Kee Mao was head and shoulders above everyone else in this Thai rich hood.  The generously crabby and excellent crab fried rice is another must get when you are sharing.Pam Real Thai Whole Fish

Crispy fried whole fish is one of those things I rarely order at Thai restaurants because its usually almost purposely overcooked, albeit liberally spiced and herbed.  Here you can have your Red Snapper or another fresh fish a number of ways.  I dont recall the name we tried, but it was smothered with a mild sweetish chili sauce, almost like a mild red Yemeni S’chug.  While we enjoyed it I dont know if I would spend another $28 on it again. The irony here is that I prefer “Thai Style Fish” at menus in non Thai restaurants, like Cull and Pistol.

Pam Real is a solid go.  Dont worry about looks and reviews (very full menu + delivery = reviews all over the place).  With Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen especially looks can be deceiving.   If you want beautiful chandeliers, go to Room Service.  For good honest food, go to Pam.

Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Oxtail Soup, Khao Soi, Thai dumplings, Pad Ped, Pad Prik Khing, Crispy Pork, Pad Kee Mao, Crab Fried RicePam Real Thai Crab Frid RicePam Real Oxtail Soup

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Tour Around the World in HK

Meske

Meske

This month’s theme on W42st is travel.  This is just a small sample of countries you can visit while in Hell’s Kitchen, which you can find in the magazine mini zine.  Bring your passports.

Nano (Ecuador).  Abel and co. redefining ‘hole in the wall’ while dishing out all sorts of hearty traditional Ecuadorian specialties.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup

Meske (Ethiopia).  Our “Little Ethiopia” is very little, with only two restaurants right next to each other.  Here you get dirty and use the spongy Injera bread to scoop up all the goodies on it

Pam Real Thai (Thailand) –  Tucked just a bit outside of Thai mecca 9th is perhaps the best of them all (along with Pure Thai).  The Oxtail soup can cure summertime sadness.

Gazala’s (Israel Druze) – The only Druze dining in NYC.  I cant get enough of the Hummus here because the guests I bring never leave me much

City Sandwich (Portugal) – These are Portuguese inspired sandwiches served with a smile.  The best Pastel de Nata (egg tarts) in town, called here Pastel de Crema

Gazala's Moshakal

Gazala’s

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where to Eat Roman in NYC

Trapizzino wineI once asked a chef in Piedmont where he likes to eat when he goes to NYC.  Maialino, he said.  But dont you want to eat some Sushi, Thai, or Uzbek, something perhaps hard to get back at home, I asked.  Good Roman food is hard to get here too, he said.  Perhaps for the same reason you see Italians flock to Eataly here.  It took me a few trips to Italy to understand what Italians have been telling me all along.  There’s really no such thing as Italian food.

When in Rome, eat like Romans.  When in NYC, eat the world.  The world includes Rome last time I checked.  And Roman cuisine is one of the great wonders of the world.  It is precise, simple, rustic, and can be absolutely addictive when done right.  If you spent any time in Rome you would be rotating between Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, Amatriciana, Gricia pastas and thin crust roman pizza, and then spend 6 months trying to find it back home.  Much easier to do so in NYC these days

Maialino – This is the first place that comes to mind.  Head chef Nick Anderer spent some time in Rome studying the art and getting all inspired for all of us.  While its not strictly Roman, it may be the only place that does all four classic pastas (all 4 for lunch, minus the Gricia for dinner), and does it well.Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Marta – Staying with the Anderer theme.  While there were already restaurants out here serving Roman style pizzas, Anderer made people like me notice them.  These are the round matzoh-like cracker thin pies that are generally available only in the evening in Rome (after 7:30).  So if you missed it on your cruise day trip, do not despair.  Just go to Marta and get the Patate Carbonara, arguably NY’s best white pie

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Trapizzino – They are back baby.  The Roman snack made its debut first 5 years ago in Madison Square Eats by a team properly named, Broken English.  That debut lasted roughly 5 minutes seemed like.  But last week a roomy brick and mortar called by the snack namesake opened in Lower East Side.  Trapizzino are like smallish triangle pizza pita pockets stuffed with various ragus and combinations.  I enjoyed my Oxtail ragu last week, and come to think of it, the Oxtail ragu I had 5 years ago (I’m starting to suspect I really like Oxtail).  They also sell Suppli, the Roman Arancini.

Trapizzino Oxtail

Sullivan Street Bakery – This is the closest thing we have to a Roman bakery.  The only thing its missing is the foot traffic, and hence the constant flow of fresh pizza al taglio (sliced square pizza).  Its tucked deep inside Hell’s Kitchen, and other than the occasional tour group (there he goes again with the self promotion, so annoying), foot traffic is minimal.  But there’s a healthy wholesale business due to the outrageously good bread, and pastries like Bambolini (donuts) and Canottos that keeps those pesky tour guides and locals coming.

Sullivan Street Bakery

Lilia – This is not exactly Roman, and you may say not Roman at all.  But I came out of there feeling like I’ve eaten some of the best Roman inspired food I’ve ever had.  Problem is its now way too popular for a return trip, one of the toughest tables in town today.  But if you are one of the lucky ones, a must try is the Cacio e Pepe like Mafaldine, ribbons infused with Parmigiano Reggiano and pink peppercorns.  And cacio e pepe fritelle which are fritters filled with pecorino and black pepper.

Others – Lupa, Emporio (Roman inspired trattoria/pizza), Via Carota (for the very legit Cacio e Pepe), Barbuto (some of the city’s most notable Carbonaras), Morandi

Lilia Malfadini

Trapizzino

Trapizzino

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Provo – Food for Thought 2017

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Thai Orchid Duck

On my first night in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos a couple of months ago I had a Provo nightmare.  It started fine, with me walking on the beach with people that I didnt come here with.  All sorts of random people, like my high school music teacher.  But things turned at some point, to the point where I was awoken with a little sweat slowly dripping down my forehead.  On our little walk, we lost track of time, and I missed breakfast time!  Which also meant I missed Seven Stars’ new omelette station.  Yes, the Provo nightmare is a little more subdued than regular nightmares we have at home.  During a dream last night, my oldest fell from the roof of Madison Square Garden on a sled.  Long story!

But lets get straight to eating.  The biggest takeaway from the last trip is that we should start limiting trying new places.  As much as I try to find some new spots for you and me, this is just not working.  The old guys just keep chugging along, while new places, and especially resort places keep pretending and delivering odd experiences.  There’s one exception however.

Caicos Cafe – Nothing new here.  Our usual first and last stop.  But I start to get the sense that these guys wont be around here for too long.  Wahoo Carpaccio is the same sea butter awesomeness self.  Got two grilled calamaris this time to avoid World War Z.  The lobster Fra Diavola didn’t do it for me this time around. Just missing some of that old pop.  But the old Oriechiette with pork sausage ragu is back with a vengeance, showing very nice depth.  The Octopus starter here is a slap your sister wowster!  Brilliantly cooked on top of this delicious “I can’t believe this is not hummus” chickpea mousse.  Black Tagliolini continues to be a must, and the steak and ribs are very underrated here.IMG_5066

Solana – In NYC, during my Hell’s Kitchen walks, I show visitors the various Thai restaurants and how to tell between the good and not so good.  A big clue is in the looks department.  The ones that look like dingy dives are far better than those with sexy looking rooms with expensive chandeliers.  Such is the case in some cases with Provo, and especially with Solana taking the place of EWZ fave Seaside.  A marked improvement in the looks dept, with dumbed-down food. The blackened fish sandwich is the same Swai as before but not blackened enough, hence blander.  An “award winning” Conch salad paled in comparison to Seaside’s Peruvian conch salad.  Fried Calamari plate looked gorgeous, but a quality and quantity fail.  This is owned by the Vix group people, and I just dont think they care about ingredients nearly as much as looks.

Flamingo’s – The only news here is that they now accept CC.  In other news, the Curried Grouper is still the same melt in your mouth flaky goodness.  An island classic that requires some research (like reading this blog) to know about it.  This time we also did some dirty dancing with a fine jerk chicken and passable ribs.  But you come here for lunch for the grouper and rum punch.IMG_5086

Le Bouchon – Nothing to see here, move a long.  Another great meal at good ol’ reliable LB.  They keep experimenting (on me sometimes), stretching that menu, and stretching that sidewalk to the point that no one can see the board anymore.  Soups are still great.  Escargot is still perfection.  Octopus Carpaccio is outrageous (but not cheap).  The steps to produce it read like IKEA instructions.  Au poivre still rules the island Games of Steak.  And on this night a nice crispy snapper with buttery Beurre Blanc sauce.

Simone’s – The strong exception as far as new places go.  We tried it for lunch last time and liked it enough to come back for dinner.  Its the resort area Three Queens if you will, but still a small schlep from the hub to La Vista Azul resort.  Simone, formerly with Sharkbites, is a sweetheart, and treats family like customer!  Oh wait, I think I got it backwards.  The “Conch Ceviche”, now that Seaside is gone, perhaps the Conch Salad to beat.  A beefy fresh Wahoo, like a thick and juicy, flavor packed Swordfish.  Local fishermen dine here both times we were here.Simone's Conch Salad

Thai Orchid – If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Thai food.  So it may sound odd that this is my first time trying Thai Orchid in Provo, but really it shouldnt be. Crispy Duck was exactly what I expected. Crispy, understandably dry, but quite good especially once you add some chili sauce. A lot of nice flavorful crackling action. The Snapper Choo Chee was pretty good too. It’s a thicker, dryer red curry.  With a fresher Caicos Snapper it would have been a chooooo chooooo! instead of choo chee.  Ok, I try.

Chinson’s – Goat curry fix, Check.  Spiciest goat curry out there, which is surprising considering how sweet their Chinese fried rice is and other dishes.  Jerk chicken was on point. But the best thing surprisingly was a pulled pork sandwich. Heaps of juicy pork with a sweetish and sour sauce.  Note to self, again… you dont like ginger beer!  Chinson is now on the regular rotation, graduating perhaps into dinner nextIMG_5181

Cocovan – A new addition to the Coco Bistro family, an Airstream parked in the CB parking lot operating only at dinner time. Perhaps a play on words on Coq au vin.  Love CB, but didnt love, nor quite frankly got Cocovan.  The Shrimp tacos were meh.  Didn’t taste much shrimp, nor blackened, nor “coconut hummus”.  Duck tacos were more like it if not a little dry.  Sweet and sour Caicos lobster tasted like fine rock shrimp tempura.  Lamb lollipops tasted like an average, slightly overcooked baby lamb chops you get at your nearest kebab house with an $8 per lollipop price tag.  20 mins, $120 later with some of us still hungry, now what do you do.  It felt like an overpriced resort lunch with familiar flavors to me, but I have no doubt this will be popular.  I would rather go to something local like Caravel.  Or perhaps a niche player, serving fresh fish tacos, or high quality burgers.

Hemingway’s – If there’s one place that feels like home.  Our first meal on the island over 10 years ago, and nothing changed.  That includes the women running the front who see our girls grow and hairline shrink.  We come here for lunch and order just two things, fish tacos and fish and chipsIMG_5208

Pavilion – First visit to the newish (2 years?) fine dining at the Somerset, in the old O’soleil (aka O’SoSmall?) place.  Hits and misses throughout, and essentially a one and done deal for us.  Good conch spring rolls.  Tasty Poke style tuna cubes sitting on top of avocado that was not fresh, with even less fresh banana chips on the side. C’mon, at a place like this you can’t serve this.  Well cooked, supersized lobster was the star of show, beating the snapper.  Grouper, a major fail.  Crispy battered into a mushy, oversized fish and chip gone horribly wrong.  Ambiance of a typical hotel restaurant.

Sweet T’s – Fried chicken stop on the way to the airport.  Best value on the island

Stay hungry my friends!

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