18 9th Ave
(between 13th St & Little W 12th St)
New York, NY 10014
Sorry I’ve disappeared! I tend to do this every year around this time because I’ve learned to stretch my vacation days like I stretch my belly around the holidays. But ladies and gents, we still have a couple weeks before Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years land on our faces, and these are the weeks to spend with your New York family before you join your real family.
L.N. recently introduced me to The Chester, a new a new American restaurant/bar he is overseeing that opened on the first floor of the Gansevoort. The chef is now Stephen Yen, previously of Catch. Next time you are deciding on a place for drinks, make it The Chester, because if you’re anything like me, you expect quality after-school snacks with that glass of wine.
We started with Tuna Tartare with olive salad and crostini ($16). The Chester is definitely on the pricier side, but the portions are ginormous for an upscale place. You can comfortably share this appetizer between four people ($4 each, not bad), and you each would get at least two to three large spoonfuls of tuna. The tuna was light, fresh, and dressed in a flavorful olive salad. Definitely trumps beer nuts any day.
I insisted on the flatbread, because I love all things bread. We had the Prosciutto Flatbread with prosciutto de parma, arugula, fontina, and truffle oil ($16). The flatbread was also huge, enough to feed four hungry adults. It was just the two of us there, so I took lots of yummy leftovers home. This classic prosciutto flatbread was on the greasier side, which of course was delicious (prosciutto and arugula are like peanut butter and jelly), but made it very filling. If you’re planning to have dinner after drinks, I would suggest getting just one food item. The Chester is like an Italian grandmother, she loves to fill you up. Continue reading
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St
(between 4th St & Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014
There are so many great places to eat in NYC that sometimes I forget to return to my favorites. Pearl Oyster Bar is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC for a number of reasons:
- I love seafood. Especially oysters, grilled fish, and lobster rolls, all things Pearl makes ridiculously well.
- Pearl is unpretentious.
- Something about the space, lighting, and simple furniture sucks me into a vacuum where I forget where I am and how long I’ve been eating.
- Pearl makes the best blueberry pie.
The fourth reason is the reason you must eat at Pearl in the summer months between June and August. Any other time, you are more likely to end up with some kind of strawberry-rhubarb or cherry-something pie. I find their non-blueberry pies to be underwhelming, often too sweet for my taste. Their blueberry pie tastes way less syrupy and more like the actual fruit. Imagine grabbing a large handful of fresh summer blueberries, the kind that is fat and bulbous, bursting with flavor, and eating it all in one monstrous bite.
LAW and I went at the very end of August because I realized I had not had Pearl’s blueberry pie yet and freaked out a little bit. I was excited the entire week for our Pearl meal. On the day of, I reminded LAW at least five times about going that evening. Come 7 or 8PM, I found that he was still working on something he needed to get out by 3AM. All of a sudden I became grumpy and extremely sad that we may not end up making it to Pearl and that I would have to wait an entire year for blueberry pie. LAW must have saw the desperation in my eyes and immediately understood the urgency. He carved out two hours for me as we raced to Pearl on our bikes. The stars aligned at this point. Normally, the wait would have been at least 30 to 45 minutes. There was still a line but there were miraculously two free seats at the bar that no one wanted. Continue reading
61 Grove St
(between S 7th Ave & Sheridan Sq)
New York, NY 10014
We celebrated T.C.’s birthday at this small Japanese restaurant in the West Village. It has a maximum capacity of about 25 people. The seats and tables are all wooden. There is a gigantic red lantern in the middle of the restaurant. People are engaged in animated conversations but the noise level is a consistent soft humming.
We shared the Seaweed Salad ($5) with yuzu ponzu dressing. Nothing special here. Just a nice, light salad to start the meal.
We then shared the Grilled Pork Tonsoku ($7) with scallion and ponzu sauce, which was like the Ratatouille moment when critic Ego, at the end of the film, has a bite of the ratatouille for the first time. He experiences this crazy flashback to his childhood when his mother made him the homiest, tastiest ratatouille. Pork tonsoku is pork feet, something my grandmother always prepared for my mom and something my mom always prepared for me. The Hakata Tonton version is delicious. It has a very rich, chewy texture (think tendon meets fat…) and the exterior is perfectly grilled so it is slightly charred and crisp. I am thinking about going back and just ordering one of these for myself with a bowl of rice.
170 Bedford Ave
(between 8th St & 7th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
I hope you’ve been here already by now. There really is no excuse. It’s cheap. It’s hip. It’s healthy and unhealthy as you want it to be. I’ve blogged about The Meatball Shop before, but my old camera didn’t do it justice. If you’re looking to spend less than $15 for delicious, unpretentious, hearty food, The Meatball Shop should be on the top of your list.
The menu is sort of confusing if it’s your first time. There are five types of meatballs (beef, spicy pork, chicken, veggie, and special-of-the-day), six sauces (tomato, spicy meat, mushroom, parm. cream, pesto, and special-of-the-day), and essentially four ways to eat them:
- Plain with sauce and bread (four meatballs per serving, $7)
- As sliders (one meatball per slider, $3)
- In a sandwich of some sort (two to three meatballs per serving, $9-$10)
- Over a bed of whatever vegetables the chef feels like giving you (three meatballs per serving $10)
There are also sides that you can pair your balls with, such as spaghetti, roasted greens, risotto, etc. These sides can go under your balls of next to your balls. You can mix and match as you like. That’s pretty much it. Continue reading
EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson St
(between Leroy St & St Lukes Pl)
New York, NY 10014
EN Japanese Brasserie is one of the first Japanese restaurants I had heard of when I moved to NYC. It is one of those places “everyone” has been to and deems to be a good place. I had never been because there have been so many cuter, smaller Japanese restaurants in NYC that always make the cut over EN. After a very long week at work, LAW and I finally made last minute reservations for a late dinner at EN. Our table wasn’t ready so I immediately got a drink to force myself to relax (is this how I know I’m getting old?). I had the Ginger Cocktail ($13), which was a mixture of homemade ginger ale, rice shochu “Shiro,” lime juice, and soda. The drink was very light, too light for my purposes, but pleasant. The homemade ginger ale was soothing and gentle. The lime juice added just a little acidity to the ginger and rice shochu. The drink was so light to begin with that they really needed to use one of those gigantic ice cubes because the mini crushed ice cubes they used diluted the drink too quickly.
We ordered the EN Kaiseki ($65), which is the smaller of the two prix fixe menus offered. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner. The meal is meant to be balanced and seasonal.
The kaiseki starts with an O-Banzai, a chef’s selection of three small Kyoto-style appetizers. We had the Hijiki (hijiki seaweed and soy bean simmered in shoyu), Zenmai Piri-Kara (royal fern sprouts in a spicy shichimi togarashi) and Kinoko Kiriboshi Daikon Ohitashi (assorted Japanese mushrooms & sun dried daikon radish with yuzu). All three were chilled, delicious, and balanced. The hijiki seaweed was sweet and tasted slightly of miso. Unlike the typical green, flat, and crunchy seaweed salad you find, hijiki is cylindrical and chewy (super QQ!). Delicious. The zenmai piri-kara was my least favorite only because I tend to not like mushy things – the royal fern sprouts were quite mushy. My favorite was the kinoko kiriboshi daikon ohitashi. The assorted Japanese mushrooms were bulbous little buds and tremendously fragrant. I had never had sun dried daikon before. It tastes less bitter than fresh daikon. The yuzu was so light, slightly sweet, and slightly citrusy. I can imagine the sauce tasting great with a nice fillet of fish…
The next course was the Chef’s Sashimi Selection. Bear in mind that photos are only of one portion. We didn’t have to share (more for us!). The chef’s selection wasn’t exactly much of a selection because it included just the basics: salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. I love the basics so it wasn’t a problem. The sashimi was overall decent quality but since I have been going to Kura so often lately, very little can compare.
Saikyo Miso Marinated Grilled Black Cod was next. It tasted similar to the Robataya one that I love but was a smaller fillet and less fatty. Flavor was perfect but was lacking the crispy fatty skin that I also love. Continue reading
228 W 10th St
(between Bleecker St & Hudson St)
New York, NY 10014
I have yet to find an Italian restaurant that I love in NYC. I miss the North End in Boston, where the Italian restaurants serve up delicious pastas in the most unpretentious ways. The waiters and waitresses are sarcastic and on the verge of being rude but with good Italian humor. The restaurants are cozy and small, always packed with just a table or two too many. The food is served in large family style portions. Pasta is not called “rustic” but is just labeled ”homemade” – really the same thing. Flavors are bold and chefs are not afraid to use large pieces of garlic. Prices are also reasonable. That’s a big one. Paying more than $20 for a non-seafood pasta just seems a bit odd to me. Well, with that being said, I’ve been on my search nonetheless. Last week we tried L’Artusi, a pretty well-known Italian restaurant in the city that we had not gone to yet. LAW and I were in the mood for pasta and fish and L’Artusi had just that.
We started with the Roasted Mushrooms with pancetta, fried egg, and ricotta salata ($17). This is the priciest appetizer on the menu but is also their most well-known. Almost every review I’ve come across about L’Artusi mentioned the roasted mushrooms as being amazing. And it really was quite good. The mushrooms had an amazing chewy texture, but more importantly, an AMAZING smokey flavor. The egg served as a nice creamifier as it added a bit of moisture to the mushrooms. Ricotta salata (ricotta that has been pressed, salted, and dried) was very light, which was great because when I first saw the dish, I was intimidated by the volume of cheese piled onto the shrooms. Luckily, they served little purpose other than adding a bit of saltiness. There were also little slices of roasted garlic and some kind of pickles, both adding a bit of sharpness to the dish. Yum. Though not $17 kind of yum. It’s really difficult to mess up mushrooms, eggs, and garlic and though the dish was good, it didn’t blow my mind.
This is the Orecchiette with sausage, salami, and pecorino ($18), rated one of the 12 most epic New York City pastas to eat before you die by Eater. The orecchiette pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, with a slight bit of elasticity when chewed. Sweet Italian sausage was good, though was nothing special. I loved the tinge of bitterness and the slight crisp texture the radicchio offered, it really complemented the sweetness of the sausage and the creaminess of the cheese. If it were up to me, I would’ve added a little more chili flakes to kick up the heat. Otherwise, it was a solid pasta dish. I, again, wasn’t overwhelmed by how awesome it was, but was happy with it. Continue reading
131 Sullivan St
(between Prince St & Houston St)
New York, NY 10012
After a loooooooooong day yesterday, I met up with M.B. at about 10pm for a quick bite. I hadn’t had dinner but only wanted something light (busy days… they either make me ravenous or the opposite). She suggested The Dutch, a trendy modern American restaurant in the West Village that is particularly known for their late night dining. If you read their “about me” page and watch the video, you get the sense that this is a real food kind of place, a place that probably serves large portions and is about simple, good tasting food.
YUP, THAT’S THEM. SO, WHAT’S GOOD HERE ANYWAY?
We cook things that make us happy, like a seasonal green market salad; a deluxe steak with a tower of shellfish; tasty sandwiches; flavorful curry or chili; homey fried chicken and fresh pie or something altogether surprising and new. You should really check out the menus.
DO YOU BUY LOCAL?
MAKE YOUR OWN HOT SAUCE?
SOUNDS INTERESTING. WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT? IS IT DUTCH FOOD?
It’s American food.
See what I mean? Continue reading
280 Bleecker St
(between Jones St & Commerce St)
New York, NY 10014
At the recent Rosa Mexicano Blogger Tasting Event, I met someone who was obsessed with Fish. He compared it to one of my favorite restaurants of ALL TIME, Pearl Oyster Bar, and said that he even preferred Fish because it was more gritty and shack-like. I’ve tried almost all of Pearl Oyster Bar’s competitors, primarily for lobster rolls, and so had to try Fish. I already knew that it wouldn’t be as good as Pearl because I am loyal and Pearl is the best, but could it be nearly as good? Continue reading
41 Greenwich Ave
(between Charles St & Perry St)
New York, NY 10014
I recently went to this little tapas place in the West Village to meet up with some old friends. Another friend picked the place so I did my research and found that it was rated pretty well – hence, I agreed to go (ha, no but seriously, I don’t like paying for bad food). Of course I scoured the Internet for all the best things to order prior to coming and ordered those exact things: pitcher of sangria, bacon wrapped dates, meatballs, and croquettes. Sangria, as pictured above, was a $27 pitcher of immensely watered down red wine with fruits (mainly apples) that felt like they had just been put in recently. Also, notice the concentric circles on the wedge of apple in my glass? I vehemently tried to ignore it while sipping my
water wine but I couldn’t help but meet its gaze every sip… I really should’ve just removed it, huh.
These are the Datiles con Bacon, aka, dates wrapped in bacon. For $8, we got 4 mushy dates with probably one slice of bacon cut into quarters. It wasn’t bad, because nothing can be that bad when bacon is involved. I was just sad that it didn’t compare to my favorite bacon wrapped dates tapas in Boston at Toro where the dates are slightly crisp on the outside and much more sweet, filled with Marcona almonds and Cabrales blue cheese. La Bota’s version is much simpler and more expensive.
I read that these meatballs were great and as many of you know, I do love my meatballs (see Meatball Shop, Parisi Bakery, and Banh Mi Saigon). They apparently come in a mushroom sauce but as you can see, the sauce seems more like a tomato based sauce with some other vegetables in it (including a few slices of mushrooms). For $9, I would expect something much more intricate. The balls were small, dry, and very tough. At least the sauce had enough salt to give the bland meatballs a little flavor. Continue reading
64 Greenwich Ave
(between 7th Ave & 11th St)
New York, NY 10011
(also 2 other locations in Lower East Side and Williamsburg)
I was never particularly fond of meatballs before living in NYC. Meatballs always reminded me of dry and limp cafeteria spaghetti – not exactly something I would seek out. But after moving to NYC, I found that the Meatball Shop was the talk of the town. As a very open-minded eater, I was eager to change my mind about meatballs and checked out the Meatball Shop as soon as I could. The first time I went, we waited 2 hours for a table… don’t worry, this was before they had opened any other locations. I’ve been to all three locations now and will say that the original Lower East Side one has been lacking in quality since the opening of the other two locations… not sure why. The West Village and Williamsburg locations are great and much bigger.
Okay I know, I should really start with a meatball photo but one of my favorite things about the Meatball Shop is their market salads. They switch it up… every week maybe? The one pictured above is probably my favorite: butter lettuce, almonds, radicchio, sunchoke, clementines, and sherry vinaigrette. If you think about each ingredient… they are all very intensely flavored and so the combination could either go really wrong, or so so right. The butter lettuce was soooo tender and leafy! I now know why they are called butter lettuce because in their prime state, they really feel like they melt in your mouth… like butter. Almonds are always a welcomed addition to anything… it gave the salad a great crunch and nutty context. Radicchio is slightly bitter and almost a little spicy sometimes. I actually barely tasted them in this salad but I’m sure they added to the complexity of the salad. This was my first time having sunchoke and wow, was it amazing. Sunchokes are knobbly and funny looking… kind of like twisted ginger roots. They were boiled or maybe blanched just so that they had the consistency of a very chewy potato. They were slightly creamy… and had slight sweet and nutty undertones. They went very well with the almonds and butter lettuce. The clementines were the sweetest I’ve had (nothing like those awful sour and dry ones you find in most supermarkets) and the sherry vinaigrette just bonded all the flavors together. I. LOVE. THIS. SALAD.
Here is a close-up of a classic beef ball with spicy meat sauce. See how juicy and tender it looks on the inside? You have the option of picking the type of ball you want and the type of sauce (see menu photo on top). Having tried all of the balls and almost in every ball-sauce combination possible, I find that the classic beef ball and spicy meat sauce is my favorite.