Posts Tagged With: Werkstatt

Five Gems in Brooklyn

Kashkar lagmanAs the great Manhattan rent squeeze continues, Brooklyn’s dining scene is getting more and more interesting.  Years ago, you would never hear of notable places opening in neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuyvesant Heights. or any neighborhood with Stuy in it.  Brooklyn is getting the same media coverage as Manhattan these days.  Couple that with the ethnic food wonderland in the less gentrified areas of Brooklyn.  Here are five very diverse spots I’ve been enjoying lately.  A small sample showcasing what Brooklyn is all about these days.

Hometown BBQ – If I have to pick one destination in Brooklyn, or a reason to leave Manhattan, Hometown is it.  I wasnt sold at first, but boy oh boy I am now.  This is pure, legendary, finger licking stuff.  The brisket is perhaps their pride and joy, but the spare ribs are second to none.  The Italian sausage with smoked provolone and peppers is awesome.  And while other BBQ joints treat chicken like second class citizens, here they marinade it with Oaxacan spices for two days, grill it over wood, and dress it with salsa verde.  The result is a juicy triumph.

Claro – The Gowanus area is not exactly the first neighborhood I think about when it comes to food in Brooklyn, but as I said above, things are changing all over.  Claro is where you go for authentic Oaxacan flavors.  Its small, almost always fully booked, but we manage to get seats at the bar even in the busiest times.  The menu is loaded with essentially enlarged taco-like stuff on dough (pretty sure “stuff on dough” is a foodie term).  Like the toasty Tostada-like Memelas which come either loaded with juicy pork rib or wild mushrooms.  And then you have the sensational Mole Negro, where you’ll be pulling that shortrib in subsequent dreams.Claro Sabina Memela

Kashkar Cafe –  Although the city of “Kashgar” is technically in China, it makes more sense for “Kashkar” to be in Russian Brighton Beach instead of a Chinatown.  I’ve written plenty about this Uyghur/Uzbek before, and I dont include places so out of the way on the Z-List unless I have a very good reason. Off the beaten path takes on a new meaning here, but I do hear more and more people speaking English inside, as its becoming more popular.  Try the Geiro Lagman (hand pulled noodles), Juvova dumplings, any of the kebabs, and Langsai salad along with their bread and you’ll see why its worth the schlep.Kashkar Cafe

Tacos Matamoros – If you think this pick makes this list look suddenly super random, you are correct.  Thats sort of the point.  And even though, there’s a Mexican place already mentioned on the list, they couldnt be more different.  In fact this what really highlights what Brooklyn is all about, and the difference today between the gentrified halves of the borough.  A meal here will cost you about 1/5 of the bill at Claro.  Although on my Brooklyn tour we concentrate on the Chinatown portion of Sunset Park, I’ve been spending some time at Matamoros as of late.  And while the tacos are good and cheap, I prefer just about everything else here, especially the Tamales, and egg dishes (Huevos Rancheros, Huevos con Chorizo)Tacos Matamoros- eggs and chorizo

Werkstatt – I’ve written plenty about this eclectic gem in… ok, I still dont know what neighborhood they are in..  Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, NoDi (North of Ditmas Park which I totally just made up).  It doesnt matter.  It looks, feels and acts like a neighborhood gem, making a lot of area customers happy.  Its technically Austrian/German.  And while you cant go wrong with the fine pretzel, schnitzels, and goulash, there’s really no cuisine the owner/chef cant do.  Thai, Italian, Thai Italian.  I just look at the specials board and pick whatever sounds good.  On a recent visit I had a perfectly cooked Skate with brown butter and capers.

Other random gemsFOB Filipino, Lilia, Nargis Cafe, Popina, Olmsted, Sofreh, Ugly Baby, Hummus Market, Traif, Fei Long Supermarket food court

Werkstatt Pretzel

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Z-List Update – 2018

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

2nd ave Deli Pastrami

This is it.  The most important update to date to the legendary, ultra exclusive (according to Harvard) Z-List.  This is a list of 50 of my favorite restaurants in New York City.  If it looks rather random to some, good.  That’s the point.  Its simply my way of answering “what should we eat while in NYC” to 99% of those asking.  All under $100 per person (hence 99%).  The 2018 update features more Italian, Asian, Jewish, and Jews doing Asian:

In:

Pig and Khao, Fiaschetteria “Pistoia”, Ugly Baby, Werkstatt, Faro, Cote, Bombay Bread Bar, Ducks Eatery, 2nd Ave Deli.  Congratulations to the winners!

Out:

Bruno pizza – Not much has changed here as far as I know.  Just like other options more.

Blue Ribbon Sushi – I still like to bring large groups here, but prefer other options overall.

Root and Bone – During a recent meal the signature chicken paled in comparison to its former glory.

Pok Pok – Just cant bring myself to go these days especially since Ugly Baby opened not too far.  A plethora of negative reviews as of late dont help

Distilled – A meh meal last time.  Go to Ducks Eatery for the American stuff

Roberta’s – This (along with pok Pok and Root and Bone) might be the shocker here.  Still love the pizza.  But after a recent meal, you get the sense the pizza is the only reason for the schlep.  Faro is the better choice in the hood

Malai marke – Replacing this Indian with Bombay Bread Bar.

Gotham West Market – Many of the vendors changed over the past year.  It may be even better today.  But its a food court and shouldnt really be on the list

Click here for the complete list

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Pistoia

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Top 10 Dishes of 2016

Lilia Malfadini“Strange” is the first word that comes to mind.  Its been a strange and sad year in pop culture, politics, and even love life.  And by love life I mean food, not the other stuff which is fine thank you, and knock on.. ahem… wood.  But that’s another post for another day, that I imagine wont be a free one.  During 2016 we traveled a little more than usual, and so the best dishes came from overseas, especially Italy.  We also didnt quite have our share of the usual haute fine dining last year, as I continue to discover more and more exciting cheap options in all 5 boroughs.  But we did have our fair share of exciting eats, which made the selection difficult as usual.

Porgy at Ssam Bar

Its quite the site when this Long Island Sound beauty arrives in all her glory.  Head and teeth and all, without the main bone that was surgically removed.  The fish is dressed with the momofuku signature ginger scallion sauce.  One bite, and you can tell this is not your average grilled Branzino.  Another bite and its an entire Havah Nagilla rendition in your mouth.  By the 5th inning, you remember to try the accompanied lettuce and tortillas to make fish wraps.  You experiment by adding some pickled bean sprouts, cabbage, and creme fraiche, and you are suddenly the world’s greatest fish taco maker.  The fish comes with all these goodies in “Ssam” style.Ssam Bar Porgy

Octopus at Timna

The usual challenge with these lists is going back to the earlier moths to see if anything stood out.  This one did.  Some of the best octopus I’ve had in a while in a year filled with glorious octopus (Avlee, Cull and Pistol, just to name a few).  Nir Mesika from ZiZi Limona fame tenderizes, sous vide style, the heck out of this thing (I’m guessing by the size and bite, it was enjoying the coast of Portugal a few days prior).  Then he finishes it on an open flame like the Bedouin do 200 kilometers south of Mesika’s hometown in Israel.  All that smoky goodness, served with black eggplant puree, pickled cabbage and hummus, tells your brain just one thing.  Taim!Timna Octopus

Mafaldine at Lilia

Just about every other Best List out there this year features Lilia’s striking Agnolotti, which is fantastic dont get me wrong.  I would order it again and just about every other thing I ate (If I can get another reservation one of these days.  It’s simpler to score a shopping date with Ivanka Trump).  But my nod goes to the the ‘imperfect’ Mafaldine or Malfadini that looked and tasted pretty perfect to me.  Take your average Cacio e Pepe, change the pasta to something with more texture, sharper cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, and pink peppercorns, and you essentially got Cacio e Pepe on crack.  Top picture

Hummus at Dizengoff 

I spent much of 2016 biking to/from Chelsea Market, and wrestling with tourists.  Guess who won?  This guy!  And much of these visits I spent at Dizengoff including two days after they opened when I met the great Michael Solomonov (turns out we have a lot in common, other than fame).  Its not just about the hummus and its perfect silky smooth texture and taste, and its hard to get excited about a Hummuseria to begin with.  But its much about the whole package.  The insanely delicious hot off the oven pita on steroids. (Calling it pita almost sounds insulting), the pickles, the homemade S’hug and the rotating seasonal toppings that make this place so magnetic.Dizengoff Hummus

Chicken Wings Skewers at Biang!

Ever since I discovered the magic of Biang, it has become the dining equivalent of Netflix binge watching.  I cant get enough of it.  The entire menu and its noodle lineup is fantastic, but its all these skewers that you cant find in the Xi’an Famous near you that I’m most attracted.  No one that I know prepares Lamb, Enoki Mushrooms and Cauliflower quite like this.  But its those perfectly seasoned whole wings that are so big they need to occupy two skewers that I need to have each time, sometimes with a tour group (usually on East Village tours on Fridays).  I just love a good wing.  And every morsel of this thing just makes me want to run around the room with scissors, naked.  Yes I’m seeing someone about that.biang-wings

Clams Grand Lisboa/Toasted Noodles at Nishi

Two incarnations, two names, one triumph.  Some of the original dish names got simplified over time for those unfamiliar with what Ceci or Grand Lisboa got to do with anything.  But there’s nothing simple about the entire Nishi noodle lineup (I’ve had all of them just in the past week).  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top toasted Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein noodles is an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple cider that give it this sweet something, like no Chow Mein you’ve had before.  And clams with oregano is like a match made in Fukuland.  Fukuland is my heaven.  You are on a beautiful beach, fed something unique every hour by heavily tattooed bearded men, and heavily tattooed bearded women.Nishi Grand Lisboa Clams

Pretzel at Werkstatt

Yes a pretzel somehow sneaked itself into a best of list.  Pretzels are something I usually only eat when I’m about to pass out from hunger, but for this one I drive all the way to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn to have it.  It the best pretzel in NYC!  Well, that’s what its called on the menu.  So make sure to order the right one, otherwise you may wind up with just an “Adequate Neighborhood Pretzel”.  And did I mention that it comes with its own Lipitor!  Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused spread that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to fully enjoy.  Forget the mustard and spread this beast with the Lipitor.  And if the pretzel will make you thirsty, they have a cure for that too.Werkstatt Pretzel

Eggplant at Atoboy

Its the year of the simplified dish names;  “Lettuce”, “Corn”, “Fish”, “Noodles”.  I see it on menus all over, and in some cases (like Nishi) menus actually change entirely to that.  Is it a fad, or we just getting dumber.  Dont really mind or care.  But in some cases, the ingredient doesnt tell the whole story, or even close.  The “Eggplant“ at this new playful Korean inspired in NoMad, on first glance looks like a Babaganoush gone horribly wrong.  But the makeup of the dish and the result is a lot more revealing.  You got layers of smoky eggplant, Dungeness Crab and Tomato Jelly, all easily combined in a spoonful of pure ecstasy.  And yeah, reach for the spoon for dishes like this.  They are not there for just soupsatoboy-eggplant

Fish Inihaw at FOB

Sometimes the best meals come from unexpected places.  The homey Filipino in Carrol Gardens surely delivered in more homey way than one.  Some if not all the recipes came from the chef’s parents.  And when mom and pop didnt quite agree on something, they included both versions on the menu (the two chicken dishes).  But the fish here was my favorite, and there was nothing particularly outrageous about it.  The day’s fresh fish (Pacific Flounder in our case) simply grilled in banana leaf, and topped with an extremely complimentary tomatoee Adobo.  We’ve had quite a few such dishes last year, including in Michelin Star La Vara a few blocks from FOB, but this one left the biggest mark.fob-fish

Miso Cherry ice cream at Oddfellows

Say it with me.  Miiiiso Cherry….  Say it like you mean it.  2016 is the year I took a break from gelato and rediscovered the joys of ice cream, but with a scientific twist.  I imagine these odd fellas in a Breaking Bad like lab in a Williamsburg warehouse experimenting on willing humans.  I cant think of any ice cream out there that had such an affect on me.  The Miso flavor is very evident here, and it works big time.  Since I had it, I’ve been bringing tours here on a regular basis, only to see Miso Cherry missing in action.  But no worries, they promise.  Its coming back very soon.oddfellows-miso-cherry-ice-cream

 

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Werkstatt – Ich Habe Gut Geschlafen

Werkstatt PretzelI slept well that night.  Like a baby caressed by his mother’s bosoms while sucking on a Jack Daniels soaked pacifier.  It was that kind of night after that kind of evening at Werkstatt.  A gamble of sorts, bringing my entire family to a place I’ve never been before for a family celebration.  A high percentage gamble considering the Austrian fare, though in reality all that was required was a Schnitzel, and a fan.  Comfort food on Coney Island Ave is not so new to us (see Nargis Cafe), but comfort Austrian cuisine, boasting a former 4 NYT stars chef is like having a Michelin Star restaurant in the Staten Island mall.

Werkstatt BeerSo why did it take 9 months for me to get to Werkstatt?  Because its the lone Google Star in an area that I rarely visit.  Ditmas Park is like Family Guy.  I never seek it, but when I bump into it, I stick around and delight in its offerings.  Though something tells me I will be back sooner than later.  Not so much for the other places in Ditmas Park, but this particular one.  Where the German beer just keeps flowing, and the pretzels keep coming.  Well, one pretzel really, which comes with its own Lipitor.

Or is it “Liptauer”, a buttery, cheesy, peppery, paprika infused mixture that requires a German born pretzel the size of half a pretzel cart to enjoy.  Forget the mustard, dip this beast in the Lipitor.  That pretzel was pretzel perfection, and it was making me thirsty!  A silky smooth, light Belgian Witbier (white beer), a perfect match to the humid day.  The smoky pan fried Brussels Sprouts with lemon habanero aioli was more like a side dish but a required order nonetheless considering how satisfying.  But the winner early on was a sauteed Calamari and Kielbasa blend, a gorgeous combination I’ve never seen before.

Werkstatt CalamariEveryone was more than satisfied with their Chicken and Wiener (pork) Schnitzels including my buds from the one bite.  A fine, juicy, homemade Bratwurst came with sauerkraut and potatoes.  And an exceptionally tender slices of goulash-like beef shoulder with bread dumplings that took me straight to Salzburg.  This was a special, which in Werkstatt require paying attention, or you may miss the world famous Viennese Sacher Torte.

As much as I love my sweets, chocolate cakes rarely excite, and the one here (Sacher) wasnt an exception (nor in Vienna).  But if there’s anything the Austrians are good at, is desserts, and boy oh boy there were good at Werkstatt.  The crepes, the nutty Linzer, the creamy hazelnut torte, they just kept coming, and wowing.

This was also an especially fun evening for Thomas Ferlesch and family (wife and daughter).  Not only visited by a world famous blogger, but also by Mimi Sheraton, a former influential NYT ciritic who handed the then young Ferlesch 4 stars back in 1981 when he worked for Vienna ’79 (UES).  A happy, sentimental Ferlesch was running around all over the homey multi room place like a 24 year old again.  Or perhaps he’s always like that, who knows.  The best compliment I can give any such place is that if I would have had this meal in the cuisine country of origin, it would still be considered a good meal.  Something I can not say with the vast majority of the places we go to.  Go!

Werkstatt
509 Coney Island Ave
$$$
Recommended Dishes: Pretzel, calamari, Brussels Sprouts, Beef shoulder (special), Goulash, Sausage Dessert

Werkstatt Brussels SproutsWerkstatt beef shoulder Werkstatt Spatzle Werkstatt Schnitzel Werkstatt Sausage Werkstatt Dessert Werkstatt Werkstatt Out

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