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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

Bold Adventures in Chocolate with Roni-Sue

“AMAZING”—that’s how roze sums up the chocolates at Roni-Sue’s, which set up shop a couple of months ago in the Essex Street Market. For marlie202, they’re “the best I have eaten anywhere.”

Roni-Sue’s truffles are handmade and inventive. The Margarita is filled with tequila, fresh lime curd, and Key lime juice and zest, and drizzled with Key lime chocolate and sea salt. The Portly Fig is port-infused Callebaut bittersweet chocolate ganache, dipped in dark chocolate. The most popular confection is the Buttercrunch: caramelized butter toffee, dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in toasted walnut.

roze’s favorite is the Peanut Square. “Its a blend of milk and dark chocolate so you have a little bitter with sweet, then they add natural peanut butter (which I love) and then add a last swirl of white chocolate and peanut butter on the top. Holy cow- so creamy delicious and rich. One square is absolutely decadent.”

Roni-Sue’s Chocolates [Lower East Side]
In Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street (between Delancey and Rivington streets), Manhattan
212-260-0421

Board Links: Ronnie Sue’s Chocolates are Amazing
Best Chocolates

NY 2007 Top 10 Roundup

1. OUTER BOROUGHS: In Jackson Heights, Street Bites Block by Block
2. OUTER BOROUGHS: Superior Dumplings and Other Flushing Mini-Mall Finds
3. MANHATTAN: From Isabella’s Oven, a Classic Naples Pizza
4. TRISTATE REGION: Fresh Korean Discoveries from Northern New Jersey
5. MANHATTAN: At Hill Country, True Texas ’Cue
6. OUTER BOROUGHS: Grandmotherly Italian, All Over the Map, on Staten Island
7. MANHATTAN: Japan’s Ramen Rangers Take the East Village
8. OUTER BOROUGHS: Hot Off the Grill in Astoria, Stellar Balkan Sausages
9. OUTER BOROUGHS: Sfogliatelle Showdown in the Bronx and Beyond
10. OUTER BOROUGHS: Vostok–Bukharan Find in Borough Park

At Peppe’s, New Hope for Park Slope Pizza

Park Slope pizza lovers, though disappointed again and again, never give up hope. Their latest source of cheesy bliss is Peppe’s, which opened a couple of months ago in a tiny storefront on Fourth Avenue. The owners are charming Neapolitans devoted to their craft; “they’re doing it properly and you can taste the love,” writes bklyn_j, who describes an uncommonly toothsome crust and high-quality ingredients in such offerings as the Peppe (prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, Parmesan).

Another early favorite is the square grandma slice: a crisp, slightly charred crust topped with a standout sauce that’s garlicky, smooth, and made with San Marzano tomatoes. “The taste lingers on the tongue for nearly a minute after each bite,” sighs famdoc, who compares this pizza to the beloved tomato pies of Trenton, New Jersey. A stuffed slice with chicken parmigiana is divine, says offtheeatenpath: chicken, mushrooms, tomato sauce, cheese, and nice hunks of garlic, enclosed in a first-rate crust sprinkled with Parmesan and herbs.

Overall, Peppe’s is shaping up as easily one of the best pizzerias in Park Slope (which isn’t saying much, most locals agree) and also worth a visit from elsewhere in town. Pulpio ranks it ahead of Anthony’s, a few blocks away, and just slightly behind hound-endorsed Lucali’s in Carroll Gardens. famdoc goes even further. “I’m going to step out on a limb here,” he ventures, predicting that Peppe’s will in time be “one of the city’s most beloved pizza shops.”

Sawing away at famdoc’s limb, Peter Cuce dismisses the newcomer as nothing special—at least its plain slice, which he describes as a decent crust topped by nearly tasteless sauce and gluey, characterless cheese. “The best I can say about it is that it’s inoffensive.”

Peppe’s Pizza & Panini [Park Slope]
597 Fourth Avenue (at 17th Street), Brooklyn
718-788-7333

Board Link: Pepe’s P & P (Park Slope’s Best Pizza…Shhhh…)

Fresh Taco Contenders, Downtown and Uptown

Pinche Taqueria, a newcomer in Mexican-challenged SoHo, stakes a claim to authenticity. It pats out its own tortillas, butchers its own pork for al pastor, and makes salsas daily from organic ingredients.

Some taco-starved downtowners are sold. Texas native mashpee says Pinche scratches the itch with tender, flavorful carnitas and “mind alteringly tender” carne asada, among other things; “one of the better meals that I’ve had in recent memory. ... Soho is not exactly a chowhound’s paradise, but I think that Pinche is worth the trip.”

Mandymac endorses the tortillas—rustic, rough-hewn, “the kind you simply do not see in NYC”—but finds the meats and beans lacking in flavor compared with those at established favorites like Tehuitzingo. “I wanted to feel this place more than I did.”

On the Upper East Side, the modest fast-food joint Burger One has veered south of the border and now offers tacos and tortas. They’re surprisingly delicious, reports Fat and Happy Food Slut, who is happier (and perhaps fatter) since the menu changed. “Let’s be clear, the cecina, carnitas, beef and chicken tacos and tortas aren’t in the Sunnyside/Woodside league, but given the desert-like conditions for cheap quick relatively authentic and undeniably tasty Mexican on the UES, this is a find.”

Tacos are $2.45 apiece—an uptown price tag—but loaded with a humongous north-of-the-border portion of meat. The green salsa is fresh and fiery, Foodboy says, and the burgers look good, too.

Pinche Taqueria [Nolita]
227 Mott Street (between Spring and Prince streets), Manhattan
212-625-0090

Burger One [Upper East Side]
1150 Lexington Avenue (between E. 79th and 80th streets), Manhattan
212-737-0095

Board Links: Pinche Taqueria
New Top Taco on the Upper East Side

Promising Mexican in Sleepy Hollow

Westchester hounds who know their Mexican food say there’s something right and true going on at Que Chula es Puebla.

This slightly dressed-up restaurant—part of what appears to be a cluster of newish Mexican spots in Sleepy Hollow—has a way with chicken. Standouts include chicken in enchiladas, with vegetables in tequila sauce, and steamed in parchment with a guajillo-pasilla sauce. Other winners are guacamole (made at tableside), pork tamales, and a well-balanced ceviche.

The menu is more varied than most, and prices are gentle (entrées mostly in the teens, with only a couple of seafood rice dishes topping $20). Service is friendly, the setting comfortable and inviting. “While it’s not a ’luxe’ restaurant,” Westjanie writes, “it does have tablecloths, etc., and is clearly not intended as a workmen’s lunch place. ... All of us are eager to go back.”

Que Chula es Puebla (formerly Cancun) [Westchester County]
180 Valley Street (between Chestnut and Depeyster streets), Sleepy Hollow, NY
914-332-0072

Board Link: Mexican Find in Sleepy Hollow

Sweet Treats on Wheels

New Yorkers are accustomed to grabbing food from trucks, but they don’t expect to find chocolate bread pudding with crème anglaise. Enter the DessertTruck, which peddles fancy sweets crafted by a fellow who once made pastries at the tony Le Cirque. streamwise, who tried that bread pudding, pronounces it awesome.

Molten chocolate cake, filled with liquid ganache, is flavored with sea salt, roasted pistachios, and olive oil—a surprising and delicious combination, financialdistrictresident reports. Other choices include pumpkin custard, baked apple in puff pastry, bombolini filled with vanilla cream, and caramelized banana and Nutella sandwiched in a warm waffle. These high-end desserts come at a low-end price, each just $5.

A nice winter warmer, $3 a cup, is hot chocolate made with Valrhona and Guittard—not quite the equal of the popular brew at Jacques Torres, says maxine, but rich, creamy, and very good.

The DessertTruck can be found Tuesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. at Eighth Street and University Place in Greenwich Village.

DessertTruck [Greenwich Village]
E. Eighth Street and University Place, Manhattan

Board Links: New Gourmet dessert truck????
Best hot chocolate in the city?

Feathers Fly, and Turkey Dinner Is Served

Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of one, or maybe just a downwind whiff. They’re New York City’s live poultry shops, catering to immigrants from Asia and Latin America, and they dot the urban landscape, mostly in outlying parts of town.

Joe MacBu, shopping for a holiday feast, heard the call of the live turkey at Bismillah in Queens—and didn’t heed it, at first. But a pang of chowish conscience and a check of Bismillah’s recent state inspection results (it passed) brought him around: “The inner hound in me demanded that I get over my insecurities and not settle for yet another cold turkey.”

To cut to the chase, this bird was extraordinarily delectable and would never be mistaken for your supermarket Butterball. For $32.50, it weighed in at 16 pounds live, or 12 1/2 pounds cleaned and dressed. After chilling for a spell in a well-seasoned brine, then air-drying in preparation for its turn in the oven, it roasted evenly at 425 degrees and came out clad in gorgeous bronze skin. The meat was moist, somewhat chewy, powerfully flavored, agreeably gamy in the legs; “it was the turkiest turkey I’ve ever had,” Joe marvels.

But half the fun was hunting it down. It was a true Chowhound adventure, which began with a nighttime foray to a warehouse quarter of Woodside, home to the Bangladeshi-owned Bismillah Live Poultry. Led past tall stacks of cages populated by chickens, Joe chose his turkey out of a flock of around 30, and off it went in a shopping cart to be slaughtered, scalded in hot water, and plucked by the staff. Fifteen minutes later it emerged in a bag, warm to the touch, its fat tail sticking out. Next stop was home, where, Joe writes, “My cat went nuts.”

The turkey’s head remained proudly attached. “I had visions of how cool it would be to present it at dinner with the head on … then thought better of it. Perhaps next year, to more adventurous guests.”

Bismillah Live Poultry [Woodside]
37-15 55th Street (near 37th Avenue), Woodside, Queens
718-205-7200

Board Link: Help! Turkey from the live poultry places?

At Market Table, a Rewarding Harvest

Fresh seasonal food, simply prepared, is the irresistible formula at Little Owl, which quickly became one of the toughest tables in town. Now it’s drawing crowds at sister restaurant Market Table. One difference is that the three-month-old newcomer, befitting its name, has a retail market of local foodstuff. Another is its menu, which leans less Mediterranean and more American than the Owl’s.

Folks love the Maryland crab cake, tucked into a burgerlike sandwich with nicely seasoned fries. Braised lamb shank, meltingly tender, is served in rosemary jus with greens and potato gratin. A superb pan-roasted chicken, not unlike Little Owl’s, comes with sweet potato salad and hazelnut vinaigrette. Sides and starters also hit the mark: Hounds recommend bacon-wrapped diver scallops, gnocchi with short ribs and a Parmesan broth, and a deconstructed eggplant parmigiana appetizer (“no layers, just the eggplant parm essence,” djk reports).

Beyond what’s on the plate, many dig the cramped charm and informal setting, where diners rub shoulders and chat with the chefs and owners. Even those who normally keep their distance from this kind of crowded, well-publicized restaurant have surrendered; “while the popularity of this place and little owl is a bit suspect,” writes sam1, “you just cant deny that these guys know what theyre doing.”

Market Table [Greenwich Village]
54 Carmine Street (at Bedford Street), Manhattan
212-255-2100

Board Links: Market Table–a review
dinner on cornelia street….

For Flagel Fans, a Flat-Out Winner

Part of the “more” at Bagels and More is the flagel—the bagel’s thinner, flatter cousin. These flagels are the best around, declares michele cindy. Light and crisp outside, not at all doughy inside, they’re great fresh from the oven or even after sitting around awhile (even better than the creditable version at Ronnie’s Hot Bagel, just over the state line in Norwood, NJ). Try the “everything” model with scallion cream cheese. Flagels aren’t always available, so call ahead.

Bagels and More [Rockland County]
In Tappan Plaza shopping center
29 Route 303, Tappan, NY
845-365-0266

Board Link: The Best Flagels–Tappan NY

Permutations in Pumpkin

From autumn well into the new year, menus all over New York City boast pumpkin this and pumpkin that—and often the star ingredient winds up stuffed inside dough.

Becco (not always a Chowhound favorite) does do right by pumpkin in ravioli, which turns up as a seasonal special. One recent knockout, Will4Food reports, was made with cocoa-flavored pasta and served in delicious brown-butter sauce. Another came in a haunting coconut sauce, says PhishFoodie. Cucina di Pesce takes a different, richer tack, pairing pumpkin ravioli with a sumptuous pesto cream sauce.

Smart shoppers can easily throw this dish together at home. Fairway Market’s house-made pumpkin ravioli are fresh and tasty. Serve them in a quick, simple sage butter and crush some walnuts over the top, aefitz suggests.

For a Slavic variation on the theme, kathryn recommends Veselka, the Ukrainian diner where pumpkin sometimes turns up in the rotation of pierogi fillings.

In Chinatown, Cantonese favorite Amazing 66 turns the idea inside out in a tour de force “casserole” of beef short ribs, long stewed inside a hollowed-out pumpkin. This blowout banquet dish must be ordered ahead, Brian S advises. It’s off the menu but is fondly remembered by regulars at the late Danny Ng, where Amazing 66 got its chef; just ask and the people there will take care of you.

Another inventive Asian spin on pumpkin can be found at Aki on West 4th, which constructs an elaborate “napoleon” of mashed eel, pumpkin, fried tofu, and ginger.

In homey contrast, SobaKoh serves a special of kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, in a humble yet elegant preparation: simmered in soy-flavored broth. It’s a common dish, done uncommonly well. Too many other restaurants undercook it, complains Lau.

Mexican cooks get to the very heart of the pumpkin, dispensing with the flesh and grinding the seeds with tomatillos in the classic pipian mole. A couple of hound-endorsed versions are served at Tulcingo del Valle and Festival Mexicano.

Two other worthy bites are pumpkin–goat cheese croquetas at tapas joint Casa Mono and a fennel-roasted pumpkin salad at the newish Back Forty.

Naturally, pumpkin plays well in sweet dishes as well as savory ones.

Alongside the usual pork-and-chive snacks, Dumpling Man offers a treat dubbed the Sweetie Pie, filled with pumpkin, goji berries, raisins, honey, and condensed milk. kathyyl has just one word for it: “Woohoo!”

rose water loves the pumpkin muffins at Sarabeth’s, crowned with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. Cheesecake specialist Eileen’s does a scrumptious pumpkin variety that departs from the classic dense New York style, nas9211 reports. Even non–doughnut lover nycskigal concedes that Doughnut Plant’s pumpkin doughnuts are amazingly good.

And no matter how frigid the weather, it’s never too cold for a nice pumpkin sorbet. kathryn swears by the version at Il Laboratorio del Gelato.

It has come to our attention, as weird as this sounds, that pumpkin can also be baked inside a pie. Chowhound favorites include those from Buttercup Bake Shop, Little Pie Company, Mitchel London Foods, Two Little Red Hens, and the above-mentioned Sarabeth’s.

Becco [Theater District]
355 W. 46th Street (between Eighth and Ninth avenues), Manhattan
212-397-7597

Cucina di Pesce [East Village]
87 E. Fourth Street (between Second Avenue and Bowery), Manhattan
212-260-6800

Fairway Market [Upper West Side]
2127 Broadway (between W. 74th and 75th streets), Manhattan
212-595-1888

Veselka [East Village]
144 Second Avenue (at E. Ninth Street), Manhattan
212-228-9682

Amazing 66 [Chinatown]
66 Mott Street (between Bayard and Canal streets), Manhattan
212-334-0099

Aki on West 4th [Greenwich Village]
181 W. Fourth Street (near Jones Street), Manhattan
212-989-5440

SobaKoh [East Village]
309 E. Fifth Street (between Second and First avenues), Manhattan
212-254-2244

Tulcingo del Valle [Clinton]
665 10th Avenue (between W. 46th and 47th streets), Manhattan
212-262-5510

Festival Mexicano [Lower East Side]
120 Rivington Street (between Essex and Norfolk streets), Manhattan
212-995-0154

Casa Mono [Gramercy]
52 Irving Place (near E. 17th Street), Manhattan
212-253-2773

Back Forty [East Village]
190 Avenue B (at E. 12th Street), Manhattan
212-388-1990

Dumpling Man [East Village]
100 St. Marks Place (between First Avenue and Avenue A), Manhattan
212-505-2121

Sarabeth’s Bakery [Chelsea]
In Chelsea Market
75 Ninth Avenue (between W. 15th and 16th streets), Manhattan
212-989-2424

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake [SoHo]
17 Cleveland Place (near Kenmare Street), Manhattan
212-966-5585

Doughnut Plant [Lower East Side]
379 Grand Street (between Clinton and Suffolk streets), Manhattan
212-505-3700

Il Laboratorio del Gelato [Lower East Side]
95 Orchard Street (between Broome and Delancey streets), Manhattan
212-343-9922

Buttercup Bake Shop [Midtown East]
973 Second Avenue (between E. 51st and 52nd streets), Manhattan
212-350-4144

Little Pie Company [Clinton]
424 W. 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th avenues), Manhattan
212-736-4780

Mitchel London Foods [Upper East Side]
22 E. 65th Street (between Madison and Fifth avenues), Manhattan
212-737-2850

Two Little Red Hens [Upper East Side]
1652 Second Avenue (between E. 85th and 86th streets), Manhattan
212-452-0476

Board Links: Everything Pumpkin
Pepian Sauce
pumpkin pie?