House of Small Wonder
77 N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Attention fellow friends who love cute little non-traditional brunch places: I have found your next brunch spot. It’s just off the L train in Williamsburg. House of Small Wonder is a pseudo European cafe with Japanese influences. You all know my opinion of eggs bennies and scrambled eggs (rarely worth the trek out for brunch unless you’re Prune) and my deep love affair with Japanese brunches (see Sakamai and Shabu Tatsu). House of Small Wonder is another Japanese inspired brunch place to add to the list. Its menu consists of both “euro” items like sandwiches (e.g. fig+brie+apple sandwich, salumi arugula sandwich), croissant french toasts, and croque madames, as well as Japanese inspired dishes like Okinawan taco rice, tsukune don (meatball + rice), and sashimi zuke don (sashimi + rice).
It’s decor is also the cutest! You basically enter a little greenhouse with a REAL LIVING TREE in the center of the restaurant. Every wooden surface, faded piece of art, pot of plant, and trendy diner (see B.J. in this one) is Instagram worthy. K.C., B.J., R.Y., and I got to the restaurant before it even opened (10am on weekends) to ensure we got in without a wait.
We each started with the Lavender Latte ($5). This is one deliciously smooth, creamy, latte with a hint of lavender. It has just the right amount of sweetness to feel like a real latte and not a dessert. I give it 10 out of 10 points for warming me physically and emotionally (lots of feelings were expressed at this brunch <3). For those looking for more of a boozy brunch experience, they also offer a cocktail list with concoctions such as fizzy pear, lavender lemonade, and tipsy latte. K.C., B.Y., R.Y. – next time we do boozy?
K.C. and I both ordered the Sashimi Zuke Don ($15), which consisted of soy sauce marinated sashimi of the day, avocado, sweet mushrooms, sesame, and egg served over sushi rice. The ratio of toppings to rice was perfect. Every bite was like a perfect bite of sushi really. The quality of fish was solid (not the highest grade but also zero fishiness). The rice was great. Highly recommend. Continue reading
19 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
E.L. had her birthday dinner here recently. I was pretty stoked because I love Italian food (as you know from my delicious trip to Italy!) and had heard from a number of friends that it was worth going to.
Above average bread quality, but nothing to write home about.
J.L. ordered the Wood Fire Roasted Eggplant ($7.95) with cyprus black sea salt and peperoncino oil. The menu description says it “Melts in your mouth!” None of the other menu items had any descriptors beyond the ingredients, so I felt like this had to be a signature. Also, Wood fire roast anything and I’ll probably love it. Sadly, all of our expectations were way too high. It was mushy, bland, and the skin was really hard, almost like plastic. Not only was it unsavory, the eggplant also lacked its natural sweetness. No bueno!
I had the special, which was a Vongole. Can’t remember how much it was, but all the pasta prices ranged from $12 to $18 ish I believe. I’ve been on a vongole kick lately. As a kid, I never liked non-creamy or non-tomatoey pastas. As an adult, I now love the more subtle garlic and olive oil nuances and the not so subtly infused clam flavor. Deeeeelicious! Spaghetti was thinner than usual, and very al dente. Excuse me while I go wipe off the drool from my laptop… (it’s almost dinner time as I write this, forgive me). Continue reading
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
218 Lafayette St
(between Kenmare St & Spring St)
New York, NY 10012
We had a big dinner here to celebrate J.P.’s birthday. M.C. and J.H. organized everything and J.H. even crafted a set family-style menu ($80 each) so that we could try a bit of everything. If it weren’t for this family-style meal, I probably would have had only two things: free bread and pasta. After having tried half of their menu now, I can say that the free bread and pasta were the highlights of my meal anyway and will probably be the things I have the next time I’m there. I’m thinking of starting a “free bread” ranking… to rank the restaurants with the best free bread. If a restaurant takes the time and energy to serve you warm, delicious, buttery rosemary rolls, or in the case, airy light focaccia drenched in olive oil, you start the meal with a smiling face and happy belly. Only good things can ensue. Thoughts?
We started with the Five-Choice Crostini (normally priced at $28), which consisted of towers of crostini, also drenched in olive oil, and five different types of dip. From left to right: 1) fresh pea, fava bean, mint & crispy speck; 2) smoked trout, olives, and sour cream; 3) roasted beets, shallots, and ricotta (which the waiter made sure to pronounce as rhee-KOE-DA); 4) buffalo ricotta and nepitella pesto; 5) veal crudo and tonnato. It was nice to see that the kitchen paid such close attention to every dip. It was clear that every single one was crafted with care and meant to shine on its own. Not one was just thrown in as a filler. My favorite was the smoked trout, olives, and sour cream. It was like a tuna salad on crack. The smoked trout was so smokey in flavor and went very well with the slight tartness of the olives. Sour cream added an extra creaminess that mayo alone couldn’t provide.
We also had the Polpettine Prosciutto and Mortadella (a large Italian sausage) Meatballs baked in tomato sauce (normally priced at $10). I did not know that the meatballs were made with prosciutto and mortadella during dinner as I never saw a menu and definitely wasn’t able to distinguish the unique meats through taste. I do remember the meatballs being extremely robust. Each ball was hearty as hell and very tasty, though it could have been a bit more tender. Parisi Bakery’s meatballs still win in my book. We also had the Insalata Mista (normally priced at $12), which was a mixed green salad with spring vegetables, salumi, and parmigiano. The spring vegetables were pickled, which I happen to like a lot. However, the dressing itself was a strong vinaigrette; once combined with the pickles, seemed a bit too sour overall.
198 Mott St
(between Kenmare St & Spring St)
New York, NY 10012
If you read my last post on the Meatball Shop, you’ll know that the Meatball Shop completely changed my outlook on meatballs. Since having them, I didn’t think meatballs could get any better…each meatball type that is served at the Meatball Shop is put through a rigorous selection process and emerged as a winner. They don’t serve sandwiches and pasta with meatballs; they serve MEATBALLS with bread and pasta. Well, here is life lesson for you: it is possible to be even better than the best.
Their meatball hero is orgasmic. The bread is soft Italian bread that is chewy and dense, but fluffy at the same time. Apparently, “whenever Frank Sinatra was in town, he would send one of his daughters down in a limo to pick up four loaves” of bread from Parisi. The meatball sandwich is lined with a thin layer of mozzarella to protect the bread from the tasty marinara sauce and of course to add a bit of creaminess to this tomatoey sandwich. The meatballs are SO incredibly tender, not crumbly at all, and if you give it a little squish, will feel that they are a little springy. I’m seriously salivating just thinking about them. Be right back, need to wipe down my keyboard.
Just kidding. Totally kidding.
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.