Posts Tagged With: Travel

Bouley at Home – The Sound of Silence

Bouley at Home5 hours after the meal

We went to a high school award show where about 100 students receive various awards and scholarships.  Behind me was a rather large burly fella, I think, I never actually got a good look but tried very hard.  For the first 15 minutes I was oblivious to the applause in the auditorium until I realized that the person behind me was clapping a little too hard.  At first I tried not pay attention, but things only got worse.  First came the hope, that his hands will hurt and tire eventually.  He never did.  Then came the interviews, where I asked both my neighbors, who I know, if it bothers them.  I figured maybe its just me getting old, adding yet another sound to the growing list of annoyances like bones cracking, or the bird doing the Hava Nagila-like mating call every morning.  Someone needs to either fu@%$k or kill that thing soon.  But both my neighbors agreed that the clapping was loud.

There were about 100 students getting awards that night.  Each student received two sets of applause (when he/she gets on stage, and comes out).  And some receive special awards, adding to a total of 300 applause moments during the two hour ceremony.  At some point I thought I could perhaps ease the pain by envisioning a Seinfeld episode about this.  George experiences the same thing twice with the same dude sitting behind him in two different events.  It bothered George.  He then discusses the mad clapper with Seinfeld and crew, getting blisters while trying to demonstrate.  George then spots the Mad Clapper randomly walking, then proceeds to follow him to wherever he was walking, which turns out to be his granddaughter’s kindergarten play.  He then makes sure to sit behind him clapping so hard, the blisters pop and he starts to bleed and separates his shoulder, much to the horror of some of the kids who started to cry and went to their parents.  At the end he realizes the Mad Clapper is deaf

Two hours before the meal

“David Bowie Is” at the Brooklyn Museum – Crowded!  Silent but crowded.

The Meal

It was hard to imagine while walking on 21st st that somewhere inside all of this craziness awaits tranquility.  But there it was, a spacious multi room ‘Home’ to Bouley’s latest concept.  We sat in the room on the right, which I can only describe as a large library room without the library.  There was peace and there was quiet, rarely seen or heard in NYC.  Bouley himself was my closest neighbor sharing a table with a reporter, and I couldnt hear him, or even clearly see him (I was told that was him).  There were the occasion gentle kitchen sounds and chatter from the test kitchen behind me (I think our room is called the Test Kitchen room, not Library without a Library room.  Although I sort of like the latter and I dont like to feel like I’m part of an experiment).

I wont go into much detail about the 5 course lunch except to say that it was very good.  However I liked the whole experience more than Mrs Z who expected more refined service and food for the price (after tax/tip $100 per).  The standouts came early with the outstanding Oysters, and Porcini Flan.  Three Oysters dressed with lemony mousse like “cloud”, salmon roe and caviar delivering exquisite flavors when combined.  “Porcini Flan” was a delicious earthy soup featuring Alaskan Dungeness Crab, and Black Truffle Dashi.  Mrs Z’s Eggplant Terrine, and egg, ham, polenta dish werent as exciting but very good nonetheless.  Eggs and black truffles heavily featured on the menu.  For mains we both preferred the slowly braised Beef Cheeks with Black Kale Gnocchi over the chicken.  Desserts were lite, serviceable but forgettable compared to the rest.

5 days after the meal – The doctor recommended a white noise device to combat the ringing in the ear to help me sleep.  I think he was secretly taking notes while I recited the Seinfeld episode so let this post serve as legal proof.

Bouley at Home
31 W 21st St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: 2.5 Zs (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Porcini flan, Oysters, Beef Cheeks

 

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

EV Bites – June 2018

Szechuan Mountain House - Chicken with Chili

Szechuan Mountain House

EV Bites is a new monthly feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.

Szechuan Mountain House – I’ll start with the most important one and the one worthy of its own post.  Lately we are seeing quite a few of these Queens establishments spilling out into the city and this one is possibly the most important one.  There was no need to wait for word of mouth, or reviews as it got popular from day one.  I sometimes SMH at the lines to SMH.  This is not for the faint of heart though.  The menu is loaded with “Mala” tingle triggers like the beef Slices with Enoki Mushrooms in Sour Soup, and Stir Fried Chicken with Dry Red Chili Peppers.  The only dish I didnt care for after 4 visits is the dry Shrimp with garlic.

Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe – In my constant pursue of jerk chicken perfection after Ma Peche dropped its wings from the menu, I think I found them at Miss Lilys east side little sister.  But there’s a lot more going on in this Jamaican diner, starting with the party scene (pray that its someone’s birthday that day) and the hefty and juicy jerk chicken roti

Miss Lily's 7A Cafe - Wings

Uncle Boons Sister – I almost gave up on this fast casual little sister after a curious fried Skate dish that stayed on the menu for about 5 minutes.  My facial expressions probably did it.  And you can very easily see everyone’s facial expressions in the 5 tables inside this hole in the wall.  Its not super comfortable but its quick and easy, and sometimes at 4 pm that is what you want.  Try the fiery fried chicken Laab, and the flavor packed Thai basil stir fry with fried egg

Uncle Boons Sister - Fried Chicken Salad

Superiority Burger – Lets not talk about why it took me all these years to finally try this celebrated burger, but concentrate on this:  Its fu$#ng awesome!  For someone like me who will never crave a veggie burger, I essentially need to be passing by while about to pass out in order to have this.  This little guy had a lot more going for it than any Shake Shack burger I ever had.  And today I came back for seconds and added the famous Broccoli salad and the infamous Superiority Water!

Martina – For Dessert!  East Village is loaded with amazing ice cream.  Once you are done with the pizza and the best white bean dish in NYC, try the Fior di Latte soft serve at Martina.  But you must add the toppings especially the cherries in order to make this do its magic

RIP Anthony Bourdain

 

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

Frenchette Swings and Misses

Frenchette LobsterJust like my 0-7 Fantasy Baseball team.  Thats 0 as in zero, and 7 loses during the first 7 weeks of the season.  In a league that I created and won the most championships, this is very unfamiliar territory to me.  Injuries, luck has something to do with it, and maybe just maybe thats what happened at super hot Frenchette the other day.  A minor Citibike accident on the way to work by one of the cooks, and/or bad choices on my part.  Who really knows.

But what I do know is that Frecnhette did not live up to the hype it is receiving at the moment.  Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson (Balthazar, Minetta Tavern) first solo project is the hottest and most anticipated opening of the year.  I learned a long time ago that expectations need to be in check when you go to such places.  But being a fan of Minetta Tavern and everything I’ve read prior promised a slam dunk birthday meal.

Frenchette Rabbit

Hard to judge a place after just one meal.  Especially a place that is less than two months old.  Professional critics will take their time and make multiple visits, while others like  TimeOut seem perfectly content with 3 dishes.  I had plenty of thrilling meals (Bombay Bread Bar, Faro), and less than thrilling meals (Legacy Records) as of late, but more data is needed before I write about the others.  Although after a recent Adam Pratt review of Legacy I wont be rushing back either

The place looks like a classic Brasserie.  The service was friendly but showing its very young age.  It took some time to get plates on a few occasions, and getting that welcome bread at the end of the meal led to some comic relief.  No harm done of course, but I did wish for that wonderful Arcade Bakery bread to come warm

Frenchette Chicken

The Guinea Hen Terrine shined early on.  The Razor Clams not so much.  They were fully cooked and served with crunchy fried crumbs of something that totally overpowered the clams.  I’ve seen this combination work as a cold crudo wiith less crumbs but this is not Italian.  Brouillade, scrambled eggs with escargot was one of the most interesting dishes. It takes 20 minutes of mostly nonstop stirring the butter and egg to the consistency of soupy polenta (grits).  Its delicate and delicious alright, but the egg lover in me was wishing for it to resemble what it promises, scrambled eggs.

The lobster was your average lobster according the lobster critic at the table (I concurred).  The roast chicken for two was very good but just not different or special enough.  The chicken was well cooked and the accompanied Jus helped.  But when the best part of the dish is the potato puree with Maitake side you wonder if you paid fair price ($64).  However the Stewed Rabbit was probably the biggest dud.  Served with morels (best part) and Pappardelle like pasta with light cream sauce.  The meat was mostly dry and tasteless and we just couldnt get passed the Alfredoish look and feel.  I was intrigued by the $88 Turbot, but we are off to Turbot country soon (Getaria, Spain) so I passed.  We did like both of the desserts on the menu.

Frenchette
241 W Broadway, TriBeCa
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Terrine, Brouillade, Chicken, Desserts

Categories: New York City, TriBeCa | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

What’s New Down Under

Legacy Records Octopus

Legacy Records

I mean Hell, not Australia.  Its been a while since I had some Hell’s Kitchen news but I’m still there at least once a week munching around prior or after a tour.  Here are some recent developments including some tweaks to the Hell’s Kitchen tour:

Legacy Records – Hell is apparently shrinking.  38th street between 10th and 11th and immediate surrounding area to the south is now being re-branded by the giant real estate firms to Hudson Yards.  Well, until I get subpoenaed by the president, I’m not adding another section to the blog.  This is Hell’s Kitchen as far as I’m concerned and will remain so for the time being.  Delicious Hospitality, the team behind downtown restaurants Charlie Bird & Pasquale Jones has opened another Italian, Legacy Records in Hud..err.. Hell’s Kitchen.  After one quick solo meal I’m not quite ready to give you the ye or niet, but I know these guys and what they are capable of.  It may be the most hidden pre theater option out there

Tehuitzingo – Reliable Taco joint and home to the best Lengua in town simply closed with no explanation.  Their other location closed months ago.  As to the reason, I only heard rumors which I’m not willing to share, but its nothing to do with food.

City Sandwich – Sort of under new management, but this is not exactly bad news (departing manager may disagree).  One of the partners is still around, with a new experienced one joining in.  Still the same great Portuguese inspired sandwiches except some weekly classics like the great Roberto are now available daily.  Still the same great bread and mini egg tarts coming from Portuguese bakeries in Newark.

City Sandwich Roberto

The Roberto

Chaan Teng – Is now Qi.  Same decor, same sex toys, and some of the same staff, but different menu.  The main chef/owner left and they needed to change

Ñaño Ecuadorian Kitchen – Ñaño continues to fire on all cylinders.  I know they are out there but this is the only Ecuadorian I know, and visit from time to time.  A staple on the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide since day one.  Try the Seco de Pollo, chicken stewed with Naranjilla (sour fruit grown in Ecuador), herbs and spices.  As the city continues to gentrify and become more corporate (See Legacy Records), we need to cherish these mom and pops that survived the storm.

Nano

Nano

Gotham West Market – This is not your ex’s GWM.  If you havent been in the last year or so, you will find a totally different and a lot healthier market today.  The fish happy Seamore’s replaced the meaty Cannibal so expect some elevated poke bowls and other raw goodness.  El Colmado space is now part El Colmado (spanish tapas) and part Whirlybird serving rotisserie chicken.  There’s now Jianbing (Beijing style crepe) by Jianbing Company.  And Waffle de Lys doing their French waffle thing.  All joining Corner Slice, Ivan Ramen, Choza and Genuine Roadside.  This is the most interesting lineup in a while

Hell’s Kitchen Tour – Its been a year and a half now since I quit my day job in order to start my own tour company.  During that time I’ve seen the East Village and Brooklyn tours morph into something I’m proud of, the original Hell’s Kitchen tour pretty much stayed the same.  Until now.  Some new developments in the area made me make some tweaks that I’m very excited about.  So while the reviews mainly focus on the other two tours, I’m here to tell you to give Hell’s Kitchen a chance!  BTW EWZ Tours is now #8 on Trip Advisor Food Tours (Out of 105).  Who said rankings on TA is meaningless!

 

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

Le Sia – The Accidental Cajun

Le Sia CrawfishSo what exactly happens when one opens a restaurant on one of the most heavily trafficked sidewalks in East Village?  Nothing really in this case.  For the same reason that visitors may not even notice one of the most beautiful churches around, the Ukrainian Catholic church.  They usually miss Streecha, the church cafeteria serving homey stuffed cabbage and pierogies.  They miss the Hebrew Actors Union, the headquarters of Yiddish actors forming the US first actors union.  And they walk right passed Le Sia, a new gem serving Beijing style street food.  They miss all that because they are on a mission to get to the Taj Mahal of New York pubs and the oldest bar (disputed by some historians but thats for another time in another life), McSorley’s.  It feels like at any given time, 90% of the tourists in East Village are inside McSorley’s, while 5% are looking for it.

But a quick peak inside the French sounding Le Sia, a few doors up and you see a bustling crawfish and skewers fest, packed with locals.  But that wasnt the case during the first few months.  A perfect example of a mom/pop (more like mom/friend in this case) relying almost exclusively on word of mouth which is spreading like wildfire.  And fire is what you get when ordering their seafood boils and some of the other dishes.  They did finally get some coverage from Eater, but that was already after waits started to form.

You get the sense that the folks at Le Sia have the kitchen experience but not so much restaurant managing experience, but you got to start somewhere.  Head chef and one of the owners used to work at the famed DaDong in Beijing.  The idea here is to create something common in Beijing, somewhat available in Flushing and Sunset Park, but lacking in Manhattan.  In fact I didnt even know crawfish boils were a thing in China until I passed by the Sunset Park place too many times.  The Cajun/Louisiana connection mentioned by some of the Yelpers, is purely coincidental.  And to add fuel to the fire, or maybe showing some humor they offer Chinese Jambalaya.

Le Sia - Mung Bean

And that sweet and spicy Jambalaya ladened with crawfish, peas and egg is a sharp upgrade over the common Chinese Fried Rice.  The skewers are cheap ($1.50-3) and mostly good but somewhat uniform in flavor.  Liberal use of Cumin seeds is like an homage to the shuttered Biang! nearby.  My favorites so far are the chicken wings, gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki.  They have some interesting cold dishes like Sichuan Cabbage which I’d pass in favor of the Spicy Mung Bean Jelly (Liang Fen) with one of those fermented black beans sauces you want to dip your fingers in, which I did.  This could be the dish to get here besides the crawfish.

The boiled crustaceans are sold by the pound.  Between the crawfish on one night, and crawfish and crab combo on another, the crawfish was fresher tasting and the clear winner.  You select the spice level and the sauce.  I went for the Herbal and “medium” which in this case proved spicy enough.  The crawfish comes from Louisiana at the moment, and most likely that will be the case until June when the season ends.  Then they will either get it from California or serve frozen.

Another winner one night was the butterflied garlicky eggplant side.  Some of the dishes like the standalone Enoki missed the mark.  While I normally like Enoki prepared as such, the seasoning here proved a little too strong for the delicate mushrooms.  The grilled scallop featured some tasty glass noodles but not the scallop itself.  They just got the liquor license but the beer list is a little pedestrian at the moment.

Le Sia
11 E 7th St (2nd/3rd), East Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Crawfish, Chinese Jambalaya, Spicy Mung Bean Jelly, Eggplant
Skewers: Chicken Wings, Gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki

 

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

EV Bites – Sia, Fina, Chika, and Ginger

Ginger & Lemongrass Spicy LemongrassA new transgender accounting firm in East Village?  Not exactly.  Besides I’m pretty sure the name is already taken.  EV Bites is a new monthly feature, showcasing 5 places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to Nolita and LES, and maybe even mention a name more than once.  East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator of top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisines.  A little taste of the outer boroughs in the city

Le Sia – A new Beijing style seafood and skewer destination next to tourist mecca McSorleys on East 7th.  Didnt think much of it at first after passing by so many times with my groups, but today word of mouth is spreading like wild fire.  And fire is what you can get when ordering their seafood boils.  I will have more on Le Sia soon but if you cant wait, get the Crawfish, Mung Bean Jelly, chicken wings skewers, garlic eggplant and send me a thank you note.  But wash your hands first, it can get messy here

Le Sia - Mung Bean

 

Ginger & Lemongrass (top)- Another newish spot, this one on Rivington in Lower East Side, dishing out Vietnamese and Thai inspired soups, salads and sandwiches.  Owner/chef Petra Rickman, is a Czech native who fell in love with Vietnamese food in Prague and spent significant time in Vietnam learning the craft.  This is her and Fiance Michal second location after finding success in Whitestone, Queens (Hanjan, Danji’s Hooni Kim is a fan).  In three cold weather visits so far, I had nothing but the outstanding deeply flavored soups, with the Coconut Lemongrass being my favorite so far.  You have your choice of chicken, beef and shrimp.  I’m partial to the chicken.

Mile End – Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood’s Jewish history is similar to that of Lower East Village.  Schwartz’s is Montreal’s answer to Katz’s, and Smoked Meat is their answer to Pastrami.  You can find Montreal style bagels, Smoked Meat, Matzoh ball soups and much more at Mile End in the Bowery.  But lately I’ve been enjoying their Poutine which is better than any I’ve had in Montreal in fact.  They have rotating Poutine specials like the one with Nashville hot chicken last month (pictured, should be a regular on the menu), and Duck Confit with Foie Gras this month.  But you cant go wrong with the regular Poutine with that wonderful salty Smoked Meat.  Good craft beer menu as well

Mile End Poutine

Mama Fina – Filipino food is one of the examples I use when I mention the wealth of Ethnic foods in East Village and nearby Lower East Side compared to any other Manhattan neighborhood.  Add Alphabet City newcomer Mama Fina to the local Sisig war.  Though unlike Pig & Khao, Maharlika and co, this Mama is not playing exactly fair.  Its a full onslaught of a dozen Sisig variations featured on the menu, from Pork belly to Salmon, to Pusit (squid).  Interesting that they dont offer third generation Sisigs like the pig’s face parts offered at the other joints, and you have to request for the egg yolk.  I only had the pork belly so far which I liked so much I forget to take a picture.  That nice looking, smelly Pusit is next!

Chikalicious Dessert Bar – Chika Tillman is one of the most respected pastry chefs in the city.  Ok make it the country.  How many other pastry chefs out there are also famous in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai and more.  There are 13 other Chikalicious outposts around the worls.  But the East Village institution will always be the original.  It is as packed as ever, and Chika’s smile is as infectious as its been since they opened 15 years ago.  This is where you sit at the bar, watch Chika and crew work and go “I’ll have what she’s having”, which is usually one of the most famous “Cheese Cakes” in the city” –  the Fromage Blanc Island.

Chikalicious Cheese Cake

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

Cote – Korean Meat Erotica in the Flatiron

Cote FeastWhat do you give a girl that has everything?  What do you give a city that has everything?  The answer to both is Steak!  Its hard to go wrong with steak.  But Simon Kim of the Michelin Starred Italianish Piora just upped the ante.  Instead of opening just another steakhouse or just another Korean, or Korean BBQ, he created a new concept, a Korean Steakhouse.  Elevated Korean BBQ in a modern, sexy setting in Flatiron.

Its food porn, with a slight emphasis on the latter in this case, “porn”.  It starts as soon as you walk in and settle in the bar, and kicks up a notch when you go down to the basement.  You cant help but stare at the aging steak hanging in the red lit room behind the glass while listening to the soft porn jazz in the background.  Its the meat lover red light district.  The theme continues upstairs where you are presented with the said meat by a team of sharp looking Chippendales.

The bottom line in this post (recommended dishes) is a single item: Butcher’s Feast.  Four very different cuts cooked right in front of you, accompanied by a plethora of Banchan – side dishes.  I would like to meet the people that reported leaving hungry after ordering the feast.  The waiter starts us off with the aged Ribeye that comes with its cap dangling.  The cap, the Ron Jeremy of meats, the least appetizing meat out there, which is why you rarely see it anywhere.  But its arguably the best tasting part of the cow.  Bowery Meat Company in the Bowery uses only cap to for its infamous Bowery Steak, one of the most expensive hockey puck meats in NYC.Cote Meat

The feast continues with the Hanger, followed by a well marbled Wagyu Flatiron (when in Flatiron..), and Galbi, as the “meat dessert”.  Galbi is short rib marinated with soy and sugar.  A curious but logical finisher to the meat course.  By that point of the meal, the entire family flipping those meats like the pros that we are.  Three days later, the oldest makes her first egg over easy.  A week later, our kitchen is in desperate need of a paint job.

It was difficult to keep track of the accompanied sides in this one.  The egg souffle was a particular winner, along with the funky preserved Korean Perilla Leaves.  And I could happily dip my car keys in that spicy Ssamjang sauce if they let me, once we are done with the meat.  Then came the stews, the lettuce, the rice, and the question…  Did I really need to order that Kimchi Wagyu “Paella”.  A fine $28 dish that can easily lose itself in the shuffle, and not all that necessary if you get the Feast.  The feast ends with soft serve which I estimated will please 98.4% of patrons

Simon created something trendy and cool that even the trendy and cool haters can appreciate.  I suppose some traditional steak lovers may find fault with the execution.  And I suppose Korean BBQ aficionados may find issues with the delivery or pricing.  But for the rest of us, this is culinary entertainment at its finest.

Cote
16 W 22nd St (5/6), Flatiron
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butcher’s FeastCote Meat room

Cote

Eater

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Provo – Food for Thought 2018

Conch Shack Snapper

Even when we plan not to go to Provo, we go to Provo.  Even when we plan not to order the steak at Le Bouchon, we order the steak.  These magnetic forces are powerful and magical, even when the weather isnt cooperating.  I lost count, but its around 16 trips now to our second adopted home of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.  Here’s the latest food recap.  Note:  I know there are a lot of followers out there waiting for this, but keep in mind…  This is a vacation first, a job second.  As much as I try to find new places, recent history suggests I should stick to the proven to avoid unnecessary vacation crankiness.  Especially on a short 5 nighter…

Da Conch Shack

Sunday is apparently Funday at the shack.  To me a beach shack like this loses some of the magic when its so packed, people are lining up for a table.  But I cant fault a place for being popular especially now that its next door neighbor closed and relocated (Kalooki’s).  We used to have a love hate relationship with the shack but now its just Love.  Jerk wings came lukewarm this time but still packed with that nice jerky flavor.  That sauce!  Whole Snapper was a mistake (we ordered a grilled Grouper) but we decided to say nothing once we saw it, and enjoyed it.  Red conch chowder still da bomb!

Delicious Dishes Takeout

Delicious Dishes

Possibly my favorite new discovery of this trip.  Just myself, Mrs Z and a goat, Billy, in a Curried form on the balcony of our 5th floor ocean front at the Seven Stars. Oh and there was also a plate of tender Oxtail, but that goat was pure joy.  Delicious Dishes is mostly a takeout place extremely popular with locals.  There are two locations, one of which near the hub.  From Seven Stars when you reach Leeward hwy, turn left, and it’s right there on the right side.  It’s inside a mini market with a couple of tables if you want to stay in.  It’s mostly prepared food that’s not looking very appetizing, but they keep things nice and juicy.

Le Bouchon

One of the usual suspects, and one of two musts for dinner on every trip.  Quite the contrast to the established Provence (See bottom).  Unpretentious French bistro cooking with Caribbean flair.  The most underrated items here I feel are the soups.  Black bean and conch chowder. The chowder packs plenty of heat and they still got the Hutzpah to add this Harissa salsa thingy (foody term) on the side in case you require more heat.  Salmon gravlux was outstanding.  If you enjoy good lux, get this.  Biggest discovery early on however was the “conch ceviche” which is sliced more like Carpaccio style, giving it a nice garlicky bite.

The steak is the same old tender awesomeness.  The “Strawberry Grouper” is firmer than Nassau Grouper, almost lobster like.  They serve it with garlicky butter to loosen it up, and its delicious.  Other places just call it “grouper” on the menu, but here they elect to call it by the full nameLe Bouchon Conch

 

Seven

We are in the extreme minority of Seven Stars guests who almost never eat at the resort other than breakfast (which keeps improving. Buffet is like an egg lover wet dream these days).  With kids I prefer to skip the finer dining and I’m just not the resort dining type. But this time we came without kids and after a little hiatus we returned to Seven.

Edwin the executive chef suggested the tasting menu and that’s what we had.  Some minor hiccups here and there but a very enjoyable meal throughout with plenty of hints of brilliance, some even Michelin worthy.  The scallops and the two-way tuna were the standouts.  I would come back just for these.

IMG_7871

Hemingway’s

Another regular rotation stop for the fish and chips and fish tacos.  This was our first meal ever in Provo over 10 years ago when we stayed at the Sands, so it holds a special place.  Whenever I eat fish and chips in NYC I start to quietly weep.  If anyone asks whats wrong, I say I’m allergic to fish.  And chips.

Flamingo’s

Regular rotation stop for the views, legendary Curried Grouper and the underrated jerk chicken. The place was packed and everyone around us was eating burgers.  Instead of adding more haute and the trending, I would love to see more places like this open on the island

Caicos Cafe

A smashed iPod?  Redundant Lucy?  What’s the expression for “beyond broken record”. I’m tired of recommending this place.  Even on a 5 day trip, we have to dine here twice.  The only dish I didn’t care for so much this time was the mixed seafood ceviche.  Nothing really wrong with it, just missing some of that originality found in other dishes.  Like that Octopus!  You can’t find better texture/flavor combination than this.  It comes with this chickpea mash, a few tahini and lemon drizzles away from becoming a delicious hummus.  Lobster Fra Diavolo was the same old awesomeness.

On both nights they had fresh Grouper and of course we had to order it on both nights.  You cant get this in NYC.  Simply dusted with magic dust and grilled to flaky perfection.  Great crab cake special which we enjoyed in the past.  And yet another new pasta, a green Troccoli, “Chitara” where chef Massimo uses his “guitar” pasta instrument to make Troccoli which is like spaghetti on steroids.  He tops it with this rich ragu of Lamb shank and cheese.  I keep recommending Caicos Cafe to seafood lovers especially, but the meat dishes here never disappoint.  Last time they removed the ribs from the menu there was an airport strike.

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

Chinson’s

Like a dark horse coming out of nowhere in the last round, “No View Chinson” (thats the horse’s name) becoming our favorite overall lunch place in Provo.  While all our faves got their classics that we order each time (see Flamingo’s, Hemmingways) , Chinson’s may be the most well rounded of them all.  In the past we enjoyed the curried goat, oxtail, pulled pork and more. This time solid Jerk chicken as usual but the big discovery this time was the steamed Grouper in parchment paper.  Huge, super tender flaky goodness with just the right gentle spicing.  So big we couldn’t finish it.  Get this!

Provence

If Provo would have a Hot or Buzz list like in NYC and many other cities, it would be an especially sad list of one. Provence is the hottest most talked about restaurant on the island at the moment.  We had a taste of Eric Vernice’s cooking when he was at the Beach House about 6 years ago.  Provence is oddly casual, considering how expensive it is.  Its Coyaba expensive, without the service and any sort of setting to match.  Perhaps unless you are lucky to sit at the counter facing the chef.

We weren’t so lucky.  Even with reservations we sat at the bakery next door facing a shelf of one small truffle cream and the lone toilet.  Zero ambiance turned negative when a group of 4 people sat right next to us and someone forgot to tell them that there are other people in the room, some of which sitting right next to them.  Service is a little confused. “We have lobster”, “we don’t have lobster”, “WE FOUND LOBSTER”, “wait, it’s lamb”, “no, it’s def lobster”.  They gave us every clue to change the order to something else but we didn’t.

Another thing about “French” Provence that made me think of The Emperor’s New Clothes is that it’s kinda sorta Italian(ish).  Fresh pastas section dominate the menu and the wall is covered by various places in Italy.  During our more memorable moments when we were not directing traffic to the bathroom we stared at the wall playing “where have we been”.

But I have a tendency to quickly forgive and forget if the food is good. Gnocchi with lobster had distinct lobster flavor but sort of one-note and under-seasoned. Similar issue plagued the dish labeled “octopus”.  It came with very little octopus, sliced and lukewarm with white beans, chorizo and shrimp.  It kinda reminded me of the salads I make at home with canned beans.  But the dish looked gorgeous!

The lamb and lobster were the saving grace in a way but you would need to put me and my cans of beans in the kitchen to screw these up. The lobster was average for TCI which is not really a bad thing.  It came with a nice artichoke mousse with whole peppercorns which was a nice touch and stole the show.  Lamb was perfectly cooked and came with a piece of lamb shoulder sitting in a cup of bulgar.  These are also fairly sizable dishes for “French cooking”.

Provence Octopus

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Miss Ada – Its All in the Name

Miss Ada Labne Mousse

Food is the new high tech.  Israel, the size of New Jersey continues the sabra assault, sending our way talent and cauliflower in a furious rate.  From Nur, to Timna, to the Einat Admony empire, to Miss Ada a newish Israeli in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  Buzzy Israeli joints are opening in a furious rate all over Manhattan and Brooklyn these days.  Good news?  Not entirely.  While I’m loving all these options, I would sub about half of them for a high quality sprawling casual place serving the simple stuff (Shawarma, falafel, Kibeh).  A place like Itzik Hagadol in LA, where I can take my extended family on a whim.  “Pita Off the Corner” in Brooklyn is close to that, but its way too fast-casual and low grade.  With so many high caliber, mid range $75 per person places popping up in Brooklyn the last few years, you just have to wonder.  Is Brooklyn the new Manhattan?

But the plan here was not to start with another anti gentrification rant, but talk about the awesomeness of Miss Ada.  Sometimes I start writing and just go where the wind blows.  But then I close the windows and get back on track.  Now its a gentle draft from the living room setting the stage for a much gentler post.  Miss Ada has been on my radar for about a year now.  Thats what happens when you open in Fort Greene.  I live in NYC, and visit Italy more often than that part of Brooklyn, even though I’m in Brooklyn 3 times a week.

Miss Ada

Miss Ada’s perfume of choice is Amba.  As soon as you enter, you smell this mango condiment engineered primarily for Shawarmas, but here used liberally in many dishes.  A curly Miss Ada looking like a typical Sabra pictured everywhere from the business cards to the menu.  So who exactly is this Miss Ada you may ask?  She’s a decoy!  Its a play on words.  Combine the words together and you have Missada which means restaurant in Hebrew.  This is Tomer Belchman first Missada after stints with Bar Bolonat, Gramercy Tavern and pork legend Maialino.  Ironic somewhat considering three hours prior to the meal, I was eating the best white beans in town at Nick Anderer’s (Maialino, Marta, king of Roman pastas, pizza, and beans) newest Martina, followed by an unexpected dessert: Beans with a spicy pork shoulder ragu, leftover from a sexy bean photo shoot at Martina

The menu is sectioned in a way that makes you order more than you can handle.  Like straight out of restaurant business school.  The whipped Ricotta is silky smooth addictive sweetness.  A little bit of honey and brown butter goes a long way.  Hummus Masabacha is essentially hummus with deconstructed hummus and other goodies.  We took a chance with the chicken liver and caramelized onions which worked and wasnt as oniony as it looked for onion sensitive Mrs Z.  The Short Rib (We ordered the Kofta, but got the rib.  Write it down people ;)) was nicely charred from the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside.  Like a true Sabra!  Came with Amba on the side.

Miss Ada Hummus

Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchoke) are in season, and the soup always gets our attention.  This one is as good as it gets.  Spicy, complex, with pine nuts and crunchy apple bits.  And by law, Israeli places must feature Za’atar spices on the menu or on pitas I believe the law states.  Here you have both, including a well cooked salmon coated with that gentle Za’ataness.  Add Labne, charred shallots and Japanese eggplant and you got a St  Patty’s parade in your belly.  Labne Mousse for dessert is another winner.  While others use Granita to shock and overwhelm, here the Pomegranate Sumac Granita is carefully put on top of the delicate Labne with poached pear bits mixed in.  Nice use of fruits and veggies throughout the menu.

Miss Ada
184 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Whipped Ricotta, Salmon, Sunchoke soup, Labne Mousse

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TCI – Food Itinerary Update

IMG_7871Missed me?  Me too.  I was on another assignment in the Turks and Caicos trying to gain some well deserved poundage (7 to be exact).  Only registered one bad meal on this one, but that is a doozy of a story.  Will write a full report soon, but meanwhile put your second favorite Ziggy in the background and read the latest on how to eat like a local in Provo…

How to Gain 7 Pounds in 7 Days

 

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