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

At Veronica’s, West Indian for Wall Streeters

Veronica’s Kitchen is a portable affair, a lunch cart that parks just off Wall Street on weekdays. It’s also a family affair, run by Veronica Julien and her son, who dish up lusty, low-cost West Indian food for the high-finance crowd.

Here’s the deal, explains youngjung: Pick a meat from the left side of the whiteboard menu—chicken (jerk, stew, curry, barbecued, fried), fried fish, oxtail, or curry goat. Pick a couple of sides from the right—rice and peas, macaroni and cheese, white rice, fried plantains, mixed vegetables, tossed salad, green beans, candied yams, potato salad, or collard greens. A large meal is $7, a small is $5. youngjung endorses a combo that seems to be the people’s choice: fiery, moist jerk chicken, sweet fried plantains, and great mac and cheese; “check this place out it is well worth your dough,” she urges.

Veronica’s just won overdue recognition as a finalist in last month’s 2007 Vendy Awards, the Oscars of New York street food. (Translation for the hardest-core hounds: The Oscars are the Vendys of movies.)

Veronica’s Kitchen [Financial District]
Front Street (between Wall and Pine), Manhattan

Board Link: MY Favorite Vendy Awards Hopeful

This Schoolhouse Rocks

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a back-to-basics kind of place, aces the Chowhound test. Chef Tim LaBant works a short, seasonal menu of simple American dishes that hit the mark. “The attention to detail was amazing,” marvels byramgirl, “as was every bite of every plate.”

Late-summer visitors loved a chowder of local corn and littleneck clams with bacon. Beef fillet, which comes with potato purée and grilled corn salad, is rich and delicious. Pork Three Ways—grilled Berkshire pork loin, braised bacon, barbecued spiced rib—is a sumptuous pig-out, served with accompaniments that might include sweet-and-sour cipollini, sautéed mustard greens, and Parmesan polenta.

The setting is a restored 19th-century school, where there’s outdoor seating in pleasant weather—“very nice and very country,” says amanda3571. It’s also pleasant inside, where the laid-back LaBant works the room and sets a friendly, casual tone that many find irresistible. “People were chatting between tables,” observes nocaliban, “which can sometimes be distracting but here felt perfectly natural, and no different than the school kids comparing notes a hundred years ago.”

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale [Fairfield County]
34 Cannon Road, Wilton, CT

Board Links: Schoolhouse at Cannondale–Wilton, CT
Saltwater Grille & Schoolhouse at Cannondale

Muffin Mastery in Morningside Heights

Here’s the skinny on Café Fresh, courtesy of eggplantempress: “The food is ok. The service is pitiful. THE MUFFINS ARE OUTSTANDING.” Lemon, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate-banana—each is exemplary, and best of type.

The strawberry is a standout: moist, luscious cake studded with fresh berry halves and shot through with tunnels of sweet berry nectar. Lemon muffins are proudly presented—do not adjust your set—upside down; “forget muffin-top pageantry,” the empress writes, “here they’ve turned the unchallenged convention of right-side-up muffin display on its head.” And with good reason: On the bottom of each one is a thin wheel of baked lemon that has caramelized in the oven and infused the entire muffin with deep, true lemony flavor, “a nugget of gastronomic gold.”

Café Fresh [Morningside Heights]
1241 Amsterdam Avenue (near W. 121st Street), Manhattan


Rich, Rewarding Fusion at Garifuna Star

Had any good Garifuna food lately? Didn’t think so.

But Brian S has, after sniffing it out at Garifuna Star, a hopping community hangout in an under-Chowhounded corner of the South Bronx. What he found there was the soulful, seldom-discussed cuisine of the Garifuna, descendants of Africans and Amerindians who live mostly in Central America. The dish he tried, a happy marriage of Africa and the Americas, suggests that this is a cuisine—and a restaurant—well worth exploring.

For $15, Brian S enjoyed a three-part feast called machuca. On one plate was the machuca itself: a mash of boiled green plantain, much like fufu, the African cassava paste. Another plate brought a whole pan-fried red snapper. Part three was a stellar soup, rich and golden, made of coconut and spices, with four big shrimp at the bottom of the bowl—something like a Thai curry, or Brazil’s moqueca de camarao. Eat the soup by itself or dunk spoonfuls of machuca in it—either way, Brian S says, “A wonderful meal. True fusion cuisine.”

The best home cooking takes time, so expect a wait. You can also expect a happy, hungry crowd—part families spending time out, part guys enjoying a drink and the TV. But don’t expect to see a sign outside that says Garifuna Star. The awning still bears the name of the previous restaurant in this space.

Garifuna Star (formerly Lanichugu Garifuna) [Bronx]
640 Prospect Avenue (at E. 152nd Street), Bronx

Board Link: Garifuna Star—World’s rarest cuisine comes to South Bronx

A Lobster Shack Finds Its Sea Legs

After a rough shakedown cruise, Ed’s Lobster Bar has gotten under way nicely. Word on this New England–style seafood shack, deeply divided when it opened in March, has turned strongly positive. The signature lobster rolls are “exactly what we hoped they’d be,” says pellegrino31, “overflowing with chunks of lobster only barely dressed with mayo.” Hounds praise the pleasing citrus note in the filling, the buttery roll that enfolds the roll, and the crisp fries that come alongside.

For a lighter alternative, lchang recommends a salad of lobster meat over greens, green beans, tomatoes, and avocado. Other winners are roast Montauk bluefish, mussels in Dijon cream sauce, linguine with white clam sauce, deftly fried oysters or Ipswich clams, and a devastatingly rich crab dip. Service is personable and efficient, the mood friendly and unrushed despite heavy weekend crowds.

Ed’s is shaping up as a leading contender among the city’s casual fish houses. For sam1, it bests Village veterans Pearl Oyster Bar (where Ed’s chef-owner was once sous-chef) and Mary’s Fish Camp. mr_seabass still prefers Pearl but ranks Ed’s a close second, ahead of Mermaid Inn and Black Pearl.

Ed’s Lobster Bar [SoHo]
222 Lafayette Street (between Spring and Broome), Manhattan

Board Links: Very pleasant surprise at Ed’s Lobster Bar
Ed’s Lobster Bar crab dip
Review–Ed’s Lobster Bar
Ed’s Lobster Bar
Ed’s lobster roll?

Samsa with a Smile in Rego Park

Hearty, meaty Bukharian is what’s cooking at Zhemchuzhina, Rego Park’s newest spot for this sturdy chow from Central Asia. “Everything was outstanding,” declares hreisig, who strongly recommends samsa, the tandoor-baked meat pastries that are a cousin to India’s samosa. Grilled sweetbreads and lamb rib kebabs are delicious and satisfying, as are cold noodles with bits of roast beef and lots of coriander seed.

Countering the richness of the meat dishes are a sprightly cabbage salad and a tomato-onion dish, both seasoned with a light, spicy dressing. extrajos, who endorses the borscht and beef noodle stew, much prefers Zhemchuzhina to Salut, just a block away on this stretch of 108th Street dubbed “Bukharian Broadway.”

In contrast to the sullen Soviet-era vibe typical of many Central Asian restaurants, the staff at Zhemchuzhina (“Pearl”) is friendly and attentive. Its predecessor in this space, Shalom, also delivered service “head and shoulders above places like Salute and Arzu,” recalls Polecat. He suggests that Shalom’s staff may have been kept on when the restaurant changed hands.

For Joe MacBu, friendliness goes only so far. He appreciates the accommodating service and satisfying chebureks (fried savory pies) but complains of dryish lulya (ground lamb) kebabs, manti (dumplings) stuffed with gristly meat, and undersalted lamb-barley soup. Over all, Joe concludes, Salut, Cheburechnaya, and Tandoori Bukharian Bakery are better bets.

Zhemchuzhina (formerly Shalom) [Rego Park]
64-47 108th Street (near 64th Road), Rego Park, Queens

Board Link: Salute vs. Cheburechnaya?

Last-Call Grilled Chicken in the East Village

Follow that taxi: There’s a good chance it’s bound for Big Arc Chicken, an Egyptian grill that feeds not only cabbies but also bar-goers and other nighthawks until 4 a.m. The signature chicken, flattened and grilled to an appealing char, is cheap and dependably good (except when it’s dried out by regrilling).

Besides chicken, Big Arc offers a lavish spread of kebabs, sausage, fish, and other meats on the grill. And beyond the grill, look for meat or vegetable stews and curries. bigjeff recommends spicy stewed vegetables and rich, robust braised beef; “the cooks really take pride in what they are serving and don’t insult the customer with bad food,” he adds.

Big Arc Chicken [East Village]
223 First Avenue (between E. 13th and 14th streets), Manhattan

Board Link: Big Arc chicken? opinions?

Attention Shoppers … Must-Try Gyros

In a sad corner of Clifton Park Center, a courtly but unsmiling gentleman cooks up burgers and other shopping-mall fare—plus glorious gyro sandwiches that boast abundant, flavorful meat and thick, garlicky tzatziki. “We’ve always felt badly for him,” says fisher. “Keeping that kind of business going in a dying mall food court has to be hard.”

She and her husband, departing from their usual double order of gyros, splurged on a carry-out minifeast of excellent gyros, souvlaki, and Greek salad with extra tzatziki and grilled pita—and finally coaxed a smile out of the proprietor. “Maybe I imagined it,” she adds, “but I think he was happy to find folks who like his greek selections instead of the burgers.”

Grill and Sub [Saratoga County]
In Clifton Park Center food court
22 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park, NY

Board Link: A Tale of Two Gyros–Albany/Saratoga

The Way of Hwe, and Other Korean Tips

When most Chowhounds think raw fish, they think Japanese sashimi. They should think again. Koreans call it hwe, and its seasonings and side dishes set it a world apart from the Japanese version.

The typical hwe feast starts with an order for the table, which should be at least three or four diners and preferably more, Linda advises. That’s because alongside a boatload of raw seafood comes a fleet of sides that might include katsu (meat cutlets), fried battered seafood, spicy seafood naeng myun (buckwheat noodles), the usual array of panchan, and—finally—a spicy seafood jigae (stew), sometimes made from the bones of the fish you’ve just eaten raw. The hwe is served with sesame or perilla leaves and a choice of accompaniments such as raw garlic and chiles, chojang (soy-vinegar sauce), and chogochujang (hot-sour bean sauce). Season and wrap the fish as you would Korean grilled meats.

And don’t fret over the bill. For $20 or $25 a head you can enjoy a blowout spread. Hwe restaurants deliver “good bang for your buck,” Linda notes. Her favorite fishing grounds are in Flushing: Cheong Hae Jin, Pado, and East, where the standard platter is likely to include sea urchin, sea cucumber, and other relative exotica: “my father, who is from the seaside in south korea, relishes this place b/c it reminds him of eating things he freshly plucked off from under the rocks.”

A bit farther afield is Samdado, perhaps not worth a special trip, but a dependable seafood option if you’re in the area. And the area, right off the LIE around Springfield Boulevard, is worth checking out. Among the chowish attractions of this small but lively Korean enclave are the newish Q Mart supermarket; Paul’s Meat, a butcher shop with nice-looking prepared foods; barbecue house Bi Won (no hound reports yet); and Joong Ha Ryu, a Korean-Chinese restaurant where Polecat has found a decent version of ja jang myun (noodles in bean sauce).

Naturally this neighborhood also has its own Korean fried-chicken house, and it’s a good one. Kyochon—the Korean chain credited with inspiring Bon Chon, Bon Bon, Boom Boom and the other chicken joints around town—opened here a month ago (it also has shops in Flushing and Bayside). Those who have tried Kyochon say the mother hen rules the roost. “It’s just as good as BonChon if not better. ... The original is awesome,” nhkteainc declares.

Like its competitors, Kyochon offers chicken seasoned with soy-garlic sauce (“Original”) or chile sauce (“Hot”). And when they say hot, they mean hot. ammel_99, who tried the spicy one, reports that her lips burned for hours afterward—but she’s not complaining. Indeed, she adds, Kyochon is way better than another local contender, Unidentified Flying Chicken in Woodside. lucyis loves the noisily crisp, seemingly greaseless chicken, great peppery fries, and well-chosen pickled radish and shredded cabbage accompaniments.

Meanwhile, the other chicken houses are not standing still. Bon Chon’s newest location, on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, appears to be in championship form, turning out chicken even crispier than its Flushing shop, Polecat reports. And ZenFoodist puts in a word for Flushing’s Very Well Chicken, whose wine-marinated fried chicken is a strong favorite among her Korean friends.

Cheong Hae Jin [Flushing]
160-20 Northern Boulevard (between 160th and 161st streets), Flushing, Queens

Pado [Flushing]
161-23 Crocheron Avenue (near Northern), Flushing, Queens

East Seafood Restaurant [Flushing]
150-60 Northern Boulevard (at Murray), Flushing, Queens

Samdado House [Oakland Gardens]
221-02A Horace Harding Expressway S. (at Springfield), Oakland Gardens, Queens


Q Mart Asian Gourmet [Oakland Gardens]
221-16 Horace Harding Expressway S. (between Springfield Boulevard and 224th Street), Oakland Gardens, Queens

Paul’s Meat, a.k.a. Han Kook Meat [Oakland Gardens]
61-23 Springfield Boulevard (between Horace Harding Expressway S. and 64th Avenue), Oakland Gardens, Queens

Bi Won [Oakland Gardens]
61-58 Springfield Boulevard (between Horace Harding Expressway S. and 64th Avenue), Oakland Gardens, Queens

Joong Ha Ryu [Oakland Gardens]
221-34 Horace Harding Expressway S. (between Springfield Boulevard and 224th Street), Oakland Gardens, Queens

Kyochon Chicken [Oakland Gardens]
Formerly Koryodang Bakery
61-02 Springfield Boulevard (at Horace Harding Expressway S.), Oakland Gardens, Queens

Kyochon Chicken [Flushing]
156-50 Northern Boulevard (near 157th Street), Flushing, Queens

Kyochon Chicken [Bayside]
43-30 Corporal Kennedy Street (between 43rd Avenue and Northern Boulevard), Bayside, Queens

Bon Chon Chicken [Bayside]
45-37B Bell Boulevard (between 45th Road and 45th Drive), Bayside, Queens

Very Well Chicken [Flushing]
41-22 162nd Street (near Northern), Flushing, Queens

Board Links: queens sushi
Indian Oasis
Chic Chick
KyoChon Chicken on Northern Blvd
Korean Chicken Barrage

Robust Italian Flavors at a Village Hot Spot

If you snag a seat at Centro Vinoteca—not an easy thing—turn first to the menu of small bites called piccolini. It sounds as if it’s hard to go wrong at this two-month-old Village spot, where robust flavors in simple combinations are drawing crowds.

Standouts among the piccolini include truffled deviled eggs, eggplant cakes with ricotta, arancini (fried rice and cheese balls), prosciutto-wrapped grissini (breadsticks), Gorgonzola dip with grapes and walnuts, and rock shrimp sautéed with white wine and garlic. Good bets among the slightly larger antipasti include Dancing Ewe Farm ricotta sformato and a cracker-thin grilled pizzetta with spicy house-made sausage, Stracchino, and arugula.

More substantial primi and secondi from Chef Anne Burrell (Savoy, Felidia) also satisfy. Hounds recommend lamb Bolognese with crispy gnocchi, spaghetti with olive oil–poached tuna (with tomato, fennel, and bottarga), and pancetta-and-rosemary-crusted baby chicken. Fish dishes excel; two winners are seared red snapper (with cauliflower ragu, olives, caperberries, parsley salad) and crispy skate in acqua pazza (with scallops, calamari, rock shrimp, fregola, fennel salad).

As a vinoteca, Centro does not disappoint. The wine list is deep, all-Italian, and reasonably priced, says food10011. Service is attentive and smooth—a pleasant surprise at a restaurant that has been jammed practically since its opening. “This is clearly a hot place with a fun buzz,” notes jcooper.

Centro Vinoteca [West Village]
74 Seventh Avenue S. (at Barrow), Manhattan

Board Links: Centro Vinoteca -7th & Barrow
Last Night at Centro Vinoteca–good but…
Centro Vinoteca?