Posts Tagged With: West Village dining

Berber Street Food – By Mother of Dragons

Berber Stree Food - Berber FeastNow that I got your attention…

The story is all too familiar, but the outcome in this case has a GOT type twist.  Girl starts working as a waitress at some of our higher ends.  She then graduates from the French Culinary Institute, before working at names like Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Daniel.  She then leaves to travel around the world to collect more inspiration before opening her first establishment.  The girl becomes chef.

But the big twist in this story is in the type of establishment.  Every time I sit in one of the four tables at tiny Berber Street Food in West Village, I wonder if there’s another place remotely like it in NYC.  “Afro-fusion” is one way to describe it, but in order to understand what it means one needs to have a few meals here and meet Diana.  She is as fierce, and confident as they come, with unrivaled talent and passion to boot.  As the New Yorker put it, Diana “has the West Village wrapped around her finger”

Berber Stree Food

This is not the case where I was blown away by the first bite.  The Jerk wings had this  familiar and pleasant fruity tone, but not quite as sharp or spicy as the Caribbean style jerk I’m accustomed to.  Dont get me wrong here.  I smothered these babies, licked every finger, and didnt wash my hands that afternoon, or evening.  I just wasnt in a rush to come back, but oh so glad I did.

The love affair started with visit #2 when I had a bowl of rice, Black Eye Peas, seasonal green beans, and jerk chicken that came in a stew-like form this time.  It had this addictive sweetness, and spicy enough to leave a nice tingle.  Although if you want more spice, the intense Habanero sauce that accommodates the dish (if not, ask) will do.  Enjoy it with the terrific homemade Ginger Lemongrass juice.  Although on another visit the scent of the Morrocan mint tea next to me was hypnotizing.

But the dish to get here might be the Djolof Fried Rice with chicken.  It may just rival the best Biryani you ever had and then some.  The same chicken is used as a wrap in the Shawarma sandwich.  Plenty of Middle Eastern dishes here due to the North Adrican connection.  There’s also Koftas, Moorish Kebabs, and her own falafel interpretation on the menu.  Diana is like Einat Admony reborn in a way.

Berber Stree Food - Pudding


Every time I come here I see the team grow a little bit.  Yesterday the cook (not Diana) felt especially generous with the “Berber Feast”, slowly roasted chopped leg of lamb that is marinated for a few days with Harissa and cumin.  You get more Harissa on the side, along with other spreads, a couple of nifty salads, and couscous.  A taste of a Berber (North Africa ethnic group.  Diana’s father side) wedding feast where they serve whole pigs as such.  This has potential as a house specialty.  On another day Diana was experimenting with an off menu North African pudding that tasted like something you may get at one of her old employers, like Per Se.

Half a block away, visitors from around the world, flock to Joe’s for its above average NY slice (I get mine at Sacco and elsewhere).  While at Berber, you’ll find returning locals including students going for the cheap bowls and sandwiches to go.  Berber is slowly becoming a little local hangout, where Diana knows everyone and you end up making new friends.  This is possibly the best thing to pop in West Village in years.Berber Stree Food - Wings

Berber Stree Food - Chicken BowlBerber Stree Food - Djolof Fried Rice


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Jeju’s Six Courser May be the Best Deal in Town

Ok, so now that I got your attention I will tell you the truth.  Jeju Noodle Bar’s deal is most likely not the best deal in town.  Not even close.  There’s a guy in Sunset park’s Chinatown that makes delicious steamed rice noodles for a buck fifty.  You can get an entire meal at the new Momofuku Bang Bar for less then six.  There’s a 2-for-1 groin massage plus flu shot special every other Friday in Brighton Beach.  Its New York City.  There are hundreds of great deals out there.

But Jeju’s Six Courser is unlike anything I’ve had in NYC, and something I would like to repeat.  Like very soon.  The set menu was introduced about three months ago, just in time for me to rediscover this gem in West Village.  the set menu is unconventional and the perfect fit for our sharing style.  Instead of being your average tasting menu that features small dishes, some not on the menu, it showcases the menu highlights at a lower price when combined.  It costs $45 per person.

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju is like the Cote (Korean BBQ) of Korean noodle joints.  I’m sure many balk at the idea of a Ramen like noodle bar in a fancier environment, but the concept is not much different than that of a Momofuku Noodle Bar.  At the helm is a man with an impressive resume.  If we would play Fantasy Michelin Stars (and we should) he would have been a first round pick.  Its almost like Jeju’s brand new Michelin star is an afterthought at this point.  But the recent change to get rid of reservations altogether made Jeju more approachable (are you reading Missy Robbins?).   The current set menu:

Roasted Mushrooms – The best compliment I can give to a mushroom dish is that Mrs Z, a Mushroom hater, coming from a long line of mushroom haters, ate and liked this.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Mushrooms

Jeju Chicken Wings – Simple yet your typical (in a good way) expensive light battered fried chicken with a dip you want to dip your car keys in.  But you cant.  Because its keyless entry now.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Chicken

Toro Ssam Bap – This was incredible.  Layers of fatty tuna, scrambled eggs and Tobiko (fish roe) rice.  Nori on the side to help you make the sickest spicy tuna rolls you’ll ever have.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Tuna

Prime Ribeye Ssam – Anything over 4 courses in NYC usually means a “tasting menu” where the meat course consists of a few slices of high end beef.  Here you have 12 oz of perfectly cooked sliced ribeye (they dont ask you how you want it cooked – a good thing).  You can eat it as is or dip in their own nutty Romesco sauce which they should bottle and give away as party favors at the end of the night.  It should go well with scrambled eggs.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Rib EyeGochu Ramyun – There are so many Ramen variations in the city that its hard to understand the difference between Korean Ramyun and Japanese Ramen.  This pork broth carried some serious depth, and is essentially like the best Tonkotsu you will ever eat.

Jeju Noodle Bar - Ramyun

Dessert Course – Your choice of Ice cream or Sorbet.  We had both, like together at some point.  While forgettable compared to the rest of the meal, this was a solid finisher.  This is a GO!

Jeju Noodle Bar
679 Greenwich St (Christopher), West Village
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: 6 course menu

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Bar Bolonat – Shiksa Approved

Bar Bolonat - Malabi

December 26, 2014 Update:

Took yet another shiksa to Bar Bolonat the other day and had another fun meal.  Plenty of empty tables on a Friday night at 8 pm but by the time we left the place was packed.  Are we eating later now like in Europe?  I didn’t get the memo.  Einat Admony’s pink scooter wasnt there again, and I’m yet to meet this NYC legend.  Yes, to me her accomplishments here are inline with some of the famous chefs in NYC.  Although there were some misses on this particular night, there were plenty of hits, some of which I added to the recommended list below.

Sunchoke Latkes – Hannukah special.  Tasted much better than they looked (they looked like Latkes!).  Nice falafely flavor

Delicata Squash – Good.  Essentially a hefty meaty sweet squash lightly dressed with some Tahini and a few pieces of brittle adding more sweetness and crunch.  Contrary to how the media praises the veg dishes, I don’t see them as the strong points here.  Timeout named the Everyday Cauliflower one of the best dishes of the year, but I thought it was just ok and not nearly as good as Balaboosta’s version

Octopus – Just ok. Came with a couple of purees, roasted peppers, and something called “Squid Ink Cracker” which was like a tasteless rice cake.  The octopus itself was a bit too tender, as in undercooked and missing that nice octopus bite (octobite!)

Bar Bolonat - Creme BruleeZabzi Tagine – Still great but lost some of its “Taginess”.  Short rib instead of beef cheek this time (I prefer the cheeks).  Came with a closed lid.  I was hoping to impress this particular Shiksa with the incredible aromas I remember from last time that would drive her mishegas.  But this time as soon as the lid went up, we got bupkes.  None of that crazy good herby action I smelled before.  Still, a solid plate overall and something I would order again

Hudson Street Kibbeh – This was a fantastic dish and possibly the best Kibbeh I ever had.  Three x-large egg shaped pieces with preserved lemon sauce.  The meat was perfectly seasoned and the crust had a nice crunch.

Falafel Encrusted Grouper – I wasn’t sure about this one.  Love my falafels and groupers but not necessarily together.  Turned out to be a great surprise.  The falafel crust was just strong (or weak) enough to compliment the delicate fish which was perfectly cooked.  Loved the accompanied beans in this white Chermoula seasoned sauce which absorbed much of the fish.  Perhaps my new favorite dish here

Halva Crème Brulee – As good as before.  Admony’s desserts are some of the best in the business.

I should also note that with the end of the year looming I’m seeing some of these dishes included in various best of the year lists.  Namely, the Jerusalem Bagel, Halva Crème Brulee and Cauliflower dish.  And this is just the beginning of the lists seasonBar Bolonat - Artichoke

Original May 14, 2014 post:

Something peculiar happened to me yesterday that worries me a little.  It could be nothing, something, or an eating lowlight of sorts not sure.  A wardrobe malfunction after another great meal at Ma Peche.  A rather important button disappeared from one of the only shirts I have that makes me look healthy.  Not just any button.  A designer button made in a Mongolian orphanage.  For about an hour on the bus I looked like something like this.  There was nothing in the way, nothing I could do to control or contain that gut but cover it with my hands as best I could.  A sign perhaps, like a timely Metamucil commercial that I should start watching how much what I eat.  “You are what you eat” is what they keep saying (They=Dr. Oz) and according to the laws of digestion, the gut in question was loaded with Korean, American, Italian, Modern Israeli and chocolate covered pomegranates from Costco (serious awesomeness) among other delicacies.  Yes, it was one of those weekends.

The first word that came to mind when I arrived at Einat Admony’s Bar Bolonat is guts.  The pink scooter was not there which means perhaps that Einat doesn’t give a couscous about the all important critic stage after an opening.  Ok, after missing her in Balaboosta and Taim over the years I just cant get a break.  All I want to do is tell her how awesome she is, and complain about the way they spell S’chug at Taim (wtf is “S’rug”) thats all.  The good news is that the Schug (Yemenite hot sauce/spread) spelling makes more sense at Bar Bolonat.  The better news is that the meal was very good.Bar Bolonat - Jerusalem Bagel

As in Balaboosta and just about every new place these days, its large, small, smaller plate format.  We ordered 6 dishes + 2 desserts for the 2 of us and it felt that it was the right amount of food.  Plates started rolling out at a furious pace at first.  We got the first 4 dishes fairly quickly including some at the same time (we were there no more than 20 mins I think)  And I had to ask them to slow down a bit which they did.

The Jerusalem Bagel with Za-atar spices on the side was light and fresh.  I always say that if you see bread on the menu, get it, and I continue to follow the rule.  But I cant help but be less enthusiastic about this rule of thumb now that every new place follows this trend.  It almost feels refreshing these days when you get free bread, like the focaccia with various dips/salads we got at Enoteca Maria (the rotating Italian Babushka place) the other nightBar Bolonat - Zabzi Tagine

A fine baby artichoke dish, coated with a good amount of pistachios and spices.  As good as baby artichoke can taste for me.  The “Everyday Cauliflower” was on the dry side with very little tahini at the bottom and tasted more like.. well… everyday cauliflower.  Maybe that’s the point, but a slight nod to the Balaboosta version.  The star of the show by far was the Zabzi Tagine.  Incredibly aromatic and flavor packed beef cheeks and homemade couscous.  The beef cheeks made me forget about the super tender beef cheek dish I had in Sylvain in New Orleans recently

Four plump, expertly cooked Shrimp with Yemenite Curry and just a touch of that spicy S’chug was quite delectable.  A similar dish she offered at Balaboosta as a special.  Fresh Pasta with ricotta was simple, and quite delicious.  If there’s one thing I like more than simple fresh pasta, is simple fresh pasta with a bit of a kick.

No Chocolate Falafel on the dessert menu last night (probably a good thing) but enjoyed a nice Malabi, (the Israeli Panna Cotta), and an ever better Halva Creme Brulee.  Like the Silan at Taboon its all about the shredded Halva taking this one to the next level.  Check out Bar Bolonat everyone, and bring your Shiksas

Bar Bolonat
611 Hudson St
Recommended Dishes: Jerusalem Bagel, Zabzi Tagine, Shrimp with Yemenite Curry, Fresh Pasta, Hudson Street Kibbeh, Grouper, Halva Creme Brulee

Bar Bolonat - Cauliflower Bar Bolonat - Shrimp Bar Bolonat - Pasta

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