November 2, 2011
You’re not here for the atmosphere; there is none, though the BYOB policy makes up for that a bit. You’re not here you’re here for the location, a few hundred feet from the traffic heavy entrance to the Manhattan bridge. Don’t waste time with the ordinary pancake with pork and cilantro ($2, 2nd from bottom) or the spicy beef brisket hui mei ($6, bottom), fatty and not very spicy. You’re here for the big tray of chicken ($12, top 2 photos), which isn’t really a tray at all. It’s a wok, and its filled with nuggets of fatty dark meat chicken and potato floating in a pool of fragrant red chili oil redolent of star anise. This is Northern Chinese at its finest; similar to Szechuan but mainly new to New York City. Unlike most Szechuan food, the chili heat is palpable but not overpowering. The wok keeps the entire dish near scalding temperature for an unnaturally long time but the chicken remains mainly tender if not for a few pieces that require some gnawing. It’s for this very reason that I was happy to follow Serious Eats lead and order an extra side of hand pulled noodles ($1) to toss in with the chicken and chili oil. My favorite bites didn’t even include chicken, just the tender, chewy noodles glistening in chili oil. Fortunately I had my fill; the “big tray” was limitless, with enough food to feed three easily. When there was nothing but broth left in the wok, my friend Joe Block, a true Szechuan Chinese food explorer – smartphone replacing telescope – asked for a griddled wheat flour pancake to sop it up. It arrived crisp on the outside, steamy and pillowy on the inside; perfect for chili oil absorption. Like Peter Stuyvesant trading beads for Manhattan, Joe fearlessly led us to Henan Flavor and we departed stuffed for $24. What a steal.
Henan Flavor 68B Forsyth St near Hester Street New York, NY 10002 212-625-8299 Open 10am-Midnight Daily
October 31, 2011
Sweet Revenge, the West Village shop known for pairing wine with decadent cupcakes, may be in line for a community service award. One week after Grey Dog Cafe closed its original Carmine Street location and left a void in hearty neighborhood breakfast options, Sweet Revenge plays hero and debuts a new breakfast menu today. It will run weekdays from 7am-10:30am. I was in the shop Sunday for a Sweet Revenge cupcake ($3.50) – peanut butter cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter fudge frosting – and found the kitchen previewing the new breakfast menu.
Looks can be deceiving, but the red velvet waffles ($11.95 for two) will get me out of bed in the morning. Made with red velvet cupcake batter and infused with the subtle flavor of chocolate, each waffle is an airy cake, light but substantial enough to support fleur de sel (salty) caramel syrup, raspberry sauce and a decadent cream cheese-based whipped cream, all without becoming soggy.
It’s hard to put down the El Gigante Mornin’ Burrito ($10.95 plus $1 for bacon, ham or sausage) once you pick it up. A flaky, pressed tortilla encloses creamy eggs scrambled with black beans, corn, tomato, roasted potatoes, and cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese. All meat options are from Faicco’s and the bacon is smokey and thick-cut. Sides of smashed avocado with cilantro and Cholula hot sauce are welcome additions to every bite.
If you’ve read this site before, you know I value decadence. I wanted the Scotch egg ($11.95 for 2) to be poached, not hard boiled; wrapped in pork sausage, not chicken sausage; fried in panko bread crumb and black pepper batter, not baked. That being said, all flavors were in balance and I was told by the owner – upon offering my fattening suggestions for improvement – that this Scotch egg is the genuine article. The home fries, coated with rosemary and mixed with sauteed green pepper, were commendable as they arrived crispy – a rarity for home fries – without request. To her credit, Marlo Scott, the lovely, aforementioned owner, told me she was going to head over to Faicco’s and see if pork sausage may be a better option for the Scotch Egg after all. Community service at its finest.
Check out the rest of the new breakfast menu here.
Sweet Revenge LINK 62 Carmine St b/t Bedford St and Seventh Ave South New York, NY 10014 (212) 242-2240 Open Mon-Thurs 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-12:30am, Sat 11am-12:30am, Sun 11am-10pm Breakfast menu served Mon-Fri 7am-10:30am, Brunch menu served Sat-Sun 11am-3pm
October 28, 2011
The cemita is the Rolls Royce of Mexican sandwiches; no extravagance is spared. From bottom to top: black beans, mayo, meat, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, stringy Mexican white cheese, avocado, papalo – a pungent Mexican herb whose strength puts cilantro to shame – and a spread of stewed chipotle pepper, all enclosed in a soft, eggy, seeded bun. Most American sandwiches want to be it. And if you’re going to sell them, you may as well just call your business “Cemita.” No other name will do it justice. That’s exactly what Cemita’s owner Danny Lyu did for his Mexican sandwich stand at Smorgasburg, the food-only extension of Brooklyn Flea based at the Williamsburg waterfront on weekends. A plate-sized panko crusted chicken cutlet ($9, top) juts out from both ends of the towering sandwich before its all wrapped in wax paper, a necessary evil if you want to maintain any semblance of order and front-of-shirt cleanliness during eating. It’s worth arriving early for the breakfast special cemita ($5.50, above), served from 10am-11:30am; eggs, beans, cheese, chorizo, pico de gallo, and tater tots – both inside your sandwich and scattered around the tray – will make you a morning person. If there’s a Mexican deli near your house, odds are they sell cemitas too, but if you want your first experience to be the best, head over to Smorgasburg. It will be on the waterfront for just three more weekends before moving to a heated tent at One Hanson Place in Fort Greene on Nov. 19.
Cemita’s Mexican Sandwiches Link Sat & Sun 10am-5pm at Smorgasburg Link Williamsburg waterfront b/t North 6th and North 7th St at the East River, 10am-5pm
October 27, 2011
Eating on 10th Avenue near the Highline is never an easy decision. Do you go for broke on murderer’s row with Del Posto, Morimoto or Colicchio and Sons? Do you grab slices with the club kids at Artichoke? Do you pay for overpriced, overhyped American food at Cookshop? What if you just want comfort food at good prices and atmosphere without pretension. It may seem impossible – unless you’re dining at The Highliner – the new-ish restaurant in the former Empire Diner space. Staying true the diner spirit, Chef Phil Conlon, a friend who invited me for dinner at The Highliner one night last week, is offering his own menu of hearty classics; flavorful rib-sticking dishes with inventive twists and great value, with all entrees under $20.
The bone marrow and brisket burger ($16, above) with melted Swiss, caramelized onions, spicy mayo, romaine, and tomato on brioche, may be the most underrated over-the-top burger in Manhattan. All proportions are in balance; sharp Swiss, a dab of mayo and the right amount of onion pair with fresh vegetables to make the crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth burger feel almost guilt-free. The pillowy fries – crisp and addictive – quickly alleviate that.
A generous slice of pork belly, crisp edges sandwiching layers of fat and tender pork, pairs well with a Brussels sprout kimchi. I received a preview of this dish which will soon be on the menu.
You can go right now for a Nicoise salad ($15) that would make Daniel Boloud blush; slice into the battered and fried poached egg to release a river of rich yolk over slices of rare tuna and a bed of lettuce, green beans, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, and pickled pepperoncini. The spicy peppers and tart dressing bring welcome acidity.
Mac and cheese ($13) features a triumvirate of cheeses: white American for goo-factor, Swiss for cheese strings stretching plate to fork and creamy goat for flavor. A dusting of bread crumbs and a trip under the broiler unites all forces into a loose yet soul-warming sauce.
Another soon-to-appear special, oxtail black bean chili with smoked gouda and sliced fresh green jalapenos, is as satisfying as it is attractive. If you don’t have a fireplace this winter, this dish will fill the void.
If there’s room for dessert, don’t miss the Highliner bar ($8); arguably the best value in the restaurant when equated with silence-inducing richness. Crisp, airy chocolate wafer provides the base for a sinful quartet of peanut butter mousse, Nutella mousse, chocolate ganache, and candied nuts. The scoop of vanilla bean ice cream may as well be parsley when compared to its neighbor’s appeal.
A diverse menu of elevated yet affordable crowd pleasers plus breakfast all night? The Empire Diner may be gone, but thanks to Chef Conlon, its soul is not lost.
The Highliner Link 210 Tenth Ave at 22nd Street New York, NY 10011 (212) 206-6206 Open 8:30am-11pm Sun-Mon, 8:30am-12am Tues-Wed, 8:30am-2am Thurs-Sat.
October 26, 2011
French macarons have been getting a lot of attention lately. With a new shop opening weekly, it seems like they’re becoming the next cupcake craze, and quite frankly, I’m concerned. As a Jew and a coconut lover, I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person spelling “macaroons” with two o’s and expecting them to be made of sweet, chewy coconut. To my great relief, I discovered this great Food Curated video about Danny Macaroons, a one-man macaroon operation that is coconut at its core. I found Danny himself at The Grub Street Food Fest last weekend, seated confidently behind a table of falsely diminutive mountains of coconut; what he knew and what I found out is that these macaroons pack a punch. They would crush their French competitors in a fight. The banana, chocolate and hazelnut macaroon is knee-weakening, the comforting flavor of ripe banana surprisingly strong for a vessel so small. The salted caramel macaroon delivers the knockout, a burnt ring of crispy-chewy caramel encircling the macaroon’s base, a ring of pleasure that would make even Trojan jealous. Take that Frenchies.
Danny Macaroons Link See website for sales locations or order online firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (260) MAC-TIME (622-8463)
October 24, 2011
Earl’s Beer and Cheese has food that would make both Spicoli and Sifton swoon. Kimchi, fried pork belly, a fried egg, and shredded New York State cheddar on grilled Grandaisy sourdough ($8, above). Potato chips, Calabro mozzarella, dill pickles, and miso mayo on a toasted Thomas’ English muffin ($6, below).
Asian gnocchi and beef ($8, below) featuring griddled Korean rice cakes, perfectly chewy and crisp, ground beef and chili garlic sauce, scallions, shredded cheddar, and potato sticks, all in a cast iron cauldron.
Order the bread pudding ($8, below) quickly, it goes fast. On a busy Saturday night it also took a while to appear, but it’s worth the wait; a fuzzy crown of maple cotton candy crowns caramelized chunks of Grandaisy brioche soaking in a pool of sweet cream and cubes of Granny Smith apple like a French toast soup.
The combinations of flavors and ingredients leave you shaking your head in disbelief – how does it taste so good and how did they come up with this? Chef Corey Cova went from a cramped US Navy submarine kitchen to Momofuku Ssam Bar before arriving at the closet-sized Earl’s, a path to success as unlikely as that of the menu.
Earl’s Beer and Cheese Link 1259 Park Ave b/t 97th and 98th Street New York, NY 10029 (212) 289-1581 Open Mon-Wed 4pm-12am, Thurs 11am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-12am, Kitchen closes 11pm nightly
October 24, 2011
How long have you been talking about eating in Brooklyn? A train to Williamsburg or Carroll Gardens is easy. You really want to impress your foodie friends? Hop on the B or Q train to the Sheepshead Bay stop Thursday and check out twenty local restaurants at A Taste of Sheepshead Bay. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. That’s at most $1.75 per restaurant, well worth the cost of being able to roll your eyes the next time someone tries to impress with their Brooklyn knowledge. They don’t know anything about the “real” Brooklyn.
October 21, 2011
Bacon, egg and cheese; the old reliable of breakfast sandwiches. It’s always good but rarely exciting. You wouldn’t think removing the bacon from the triumvirate would change that but when you’re replacing it with a fried potato pancake and swapping out the standard Kaiser roll for fresh-baked challah, breakfast starts to look a little brighter. I created this sandwich at B & H Vegetarian, a coffee shop that’s an East Village relic, narrow with a long counter, a few spare tables and quick, friendly service. Order a challah, egg and cheese sandwich ($3.25) – bread is toasted upon request – and an order of potato pancakes ($6 for three). Open the sandwich, place the potato pancake inside, close, and eat. The potato pancakes – light, crisp and served with sour cream – are better than Veselka’s. Invite some friends along so they don’t go to waste.
B & H Vegetarian 127 2nd Avenue b/t 7th Street and St. Mark’s Place NY, NY 10003 Open 7am-11pm Daily 212-505-8065
October 20, 2011
It’s not necessarily the best in Manhattan or the best in Chinatown. I don’t want to spark another comment section controversy as I did with soup dumplings. What Mei Li Wah Bakery does offer is my favorite baked pork bun. They seem perpetually fresh; I’m always handed the last bun on the tray and it’s always warm, airy and filled with a healthy amount of tender, sweet roast pork. Its egg wash makes it a traif challah roll; it would be a perfect security blanket for a defecting kosher eater. The familiar flavor of challah combined with the sinful decadence of swine. Rabbis beware.
Mei Li Wah Bakery 64 Bayard Street b/t Mott St and Elizabeth St New York, NY 10013 (212) 966-7866
October 18, 2011
You would think the title of this post says it all. But in order to fully appreciate the greatness that is Jo’s Disco fries ($10 full order, $4 smaller side order), you have to understand the bacon gravy. The bacon flavor is so palpable, you’re left combing through strands of nutty, melted Gruyere looking for a slice of crispy pork. You won’t find it; the genius of the bacon gravy is that the smokey pork flavor is so deeply infused into the broth it’s more bacon than bacon. This is achieved through a process that can only be described as “moan-inducing,” because after you hear each step, you moan at the pure decadence of it all. Render down bacon and add red wine. Reduce. Add cream and chicken stock. Reduce. Put through a food mill and then through a chinoise (a fine mesh sieve). Reduce. Toss with crispy, skin-on shoestring fries and your choice of melted cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, bleu, or goat). The result is beyond moan-inducing, it’s profanity-inducing, simply because proper English doesn’t offer words to describe this level of taste bud overload.
Jo’s Link 264 Elizabeth St near Houston St New York, NY 10012 (212) 966-9640 Open Seven Days Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am, Sun 5pm-12am, Brunch: Sat-Sun 11am-4pm, Happy Hour: Daily 5pm-8pm, Late Night Menu: Fri-Sat 12am-1am
October 17, 2011
Joe’s Shanghai (above) and Red Farm (below).
In my RedFarm post last week, I called chef Joe Ng’s steamed pork and crab soup dumpling the best in Manhattan. Stacy, a commenter on the post, asked how RedFarm’s version compares to Joe’s Shanghai, which many consider the finest steamed soup dumpling on the island. After a Thursday night trip to Joe’s Pell Street location at the height of dinner time – the same day and time I ate at RedFarm – the verdict is in: RedFarm’s steamed pork and crab soup dumplings (4 for $10) are far superior to Joe’s Shanghai (8 for $7.60). It’s no surprise considering one is the product of an artist, the other, of a factory. Chef Ng’s soup dumplings featured a broth layered with flavor inside a perfectly steamed skin, delicate without rupturing upon removal from the steam basket. The Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings arrived hastily, with several already ruptured; gummy, oversteamed skins wading in a pool of pork and crab broth. My final dumpling was fully intact, but the result was lackluster; the room temperature broth mildly fishy and a little funky. Upon finishing this final bite and taking one last sip of Tsingtao, my friend and I were asked to leave and make room for more patrons. It’s obvious that Joe’s Shanghai is more concerned with turning tables than maintaining their reputation. Forget the fact that Joe’s Shanghai offers better value, leave it for the tourists and go find Chef Ng at RedFarm in the West Village. Tell him NYC Food Guy sent you.
Joe’s Shanghai 9 Pell Street b/t Doyers Street and Bowery Link Open 11am-11pm Daily (212) 233-8888
RedFarm Link 529 Hudson Street near Charles Street, New York, NY 10014 Open Daily 5:30pm-Midnight (212) 792-9700
October 14, 2011
You wouldn’t know I was having a really satisfying meal by watching me. First you’d see a look of incredulity come over my face – eyes wide then quickly narrow – as I examine my first bite with a mix of suspicion and awe. After tasting, you might wonder why I’m shaking my head in what looks like disagreement, eyes closed and directed at my plate; or why I’m groaning slightly and exhaling through pursed lips like I pulled a muscle. You wouldn’t know, until you hear a barely audible “wow,” that my mind and body are registering a life-changing experience; food has this power over me. You would have witnessed all of this had you joined me for a plate of the Mei Shan Beef ($14) at three-week old Hot Kitchen. Wispy curls of beef are fried and then sauteed, the edges crispy, the meat tender with a slight chew. The surface of each piece dotted with crushed Sichuan peppercorns and star anise, each bite more lip-numbing and fragrant than the last. One of the most praised dishes at RedFarm, the buzziest Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, is the “Spicy Crispy Beef.” Hot Kitchen’s Mei Shan Beef is the self-assured adult version, secure in its boldness. Ma Po tofu ($11), the barometer of a Szechuan chef’s dexterity, rises above mere staple, its cubes of tofu floating on a shallow lake of fire that would melt Nirvana’s Meat Puppets cover. For the rest of Hot Kitchen’s greatest hits, stick to what’s marked (by hand) on the menu in the restaurant.
Hot Kitchen Link 104 2nd Ave b/t 6th & 7th Street 212.228.3090
October 11, 2011
All great sandwich makers hold a certain truth to be self-evident: success depends on ingredients and construction. Each layer of the sandwich must be fresh and placed in accordance with how it complements the next closest ingredient. Perfection in simplicity and creativity are equally hard to achieve but supremely valued when accomplished. Court Street Grocers is barely a year old, but their sandwiches reflect years of wisdom. The Delight ($10) achieves perfection by contrasting texture and flavor; toasted Orwasher’s pumpernickel, tender house corned short rib and melted muenster cheese provide a solid foundation for a sweet and tart salad of Gus’ full sour pickle chips and house made coleslaw and thousand island dressing. The thoughtful preparation is mirrored in CSG’s sourcing of local baked goods and regional food products (check out this impressive page), making it a general store that’s anything but general.
Court Street Grocers Link 485 Court Street at Nelson Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 718-722-7229 Open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sunday 8am-7pm
October 10, 2011
In his best-selling book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell writes that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice in order to be called a world-class expert in anything. It’s no wonder Gladwell sauntered into Red Farm for dinner late Thursday night; chef Joe Ng and partner Ed Schoenfeld must have well over 10,000 hours of practice preparing and eating Chinese food. Hopefully Gladwell didn’t miss out on my two favorite bites: the Kowloon filet mignon tarts ($8.50 for two) and the steamed pork and crab soup dumplings ($10 for 4). A piece of tender grilled beef glistens atop asparagus and a miso-filled tart, taunting you to eat it all in one bite. You’ll be wise to take only a small bite of the soup dumpling, one just big enough to slurp the soup from its delicate encasement. The intense flavor of the pork and crab is best experienced slowly, a spoonful of tart black vinegar beneath. 10,000 hours? It only took me one hour to realize the best soup dumplings in Manhattan are in the West Village.
RedFarm Link 529 Hudson Street near Charles Street, New York, NY 10014 Open Daily 5:30pm-Midnight (212) 792-9700
October 6, 2011
Sure, fresh fruit and vegetables are great. But let’s be honest, the best thing to come out of the recent farmer’s market surge are the fresh-baked desserts. Take the cinnamon and sugar-coated apple cider donuts from Prospect Hill Orchards. I can’t walk by without purchasing at least six of these ($4); they’re fresh, delicate yet dense and small enough to eat two or three without feeling guilty. The small apple pies (price TBD) are also excellent, especially if you reheat it and pair it with vanilla ice cream. You can find these fresh-baked treats Thursday and Saturday only at the Tucker Square farmer’s market at Columbus Avenue and 66th street.
Tucker Greenmarket Link Columbus Avenue at 66th Street, New York, NY 10023 Open Thursdays and Saturdays, year-round 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Prospect Hill Orchards Link