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

Superior Boba Tea, Bubbling Up Downtown

Bubble-tea buffs will appreciate the generous deal for regulars at Vivi, a shiny, chirpy little shop in Chinatown. After you’ve bought five drinks (and gotten your “VIP” card stamped), the sixth is free. But wait, there’s more: You then qualify for 20 percent off on every beverage from that day on. And it’s good stuff, says Lau, probably the best he’s had in the neighborhood—free of the odd chalkiness and cloying sweetness of many competitors. Warning to the cuteness-averse: Like popular boba spots in Taiwan, Lau advises, Vivi is a “super like bubbly type of place.”

In the East Village, they’re brewing better-than-average bubble tea at TKettle, a newish outpost of a big Asian chain. Pat Hammond reports delicious black tea with milk, just sweet enough, and tapioca pearls with a pleasing chew. “Their motto is ‘Healthy drinks in delicious way’!” Pat adds. “I’ll drink to that!” We hear word of excellent northern Chinese dumplings here as well; no reports yet.

Vivi Bubble Tea [Chinatown]
49 Bayard Street (at Elizabeth), Manhattan
212-566-6833

TKettle Drinks [East Village]
26 St. Marks Place (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan
212-982-9782

Board Links: Vivi Bubble Tea
TKettle Drinks, St. Marks Place

At La Orquidea, Honduran from Turf to Surf

From the sprawling pan-Latin menu at La Orquidea, one smart order is a baleada. A Honduran spin on the taco, this is a thick, freshly made wheat tortilla wrapped around beans, cheese, egg, avocado, or dried beef—or all of the above, the way Brian S got it. “The meat, egg, etc. were not mixed together; each had their own zone in the Baleada,” he reports. “And it was wonderful.”

On weekends, try sopa de caracol, a hearty Honduran soup of conch in deep yellow broth loaded with chunks of plantain, cassava, and pepper. “Redolent of the tang of the sea, rich in salty flavor,” Brian sighs, “it was everything I’ve always wanted a chowder to be—but never found until now.”

This old-school joint feeds Mott Haven locals morning to night, starting with different breakfasts for Guatemalans and Salvadorans as well as Hondurans, and wrapping up with hearty meat-heavy chow for the bar crowd. “A lot of people stop by for drinks on weekend nights,” Brian adds, “and I’d guess that the big sign warning ‘No bailar! No dancing!’ is often ignored.”

La Orquidea [Bronx]
500 E. 149th Street (near Brook Avenue), Bronx
718-585-1488

Board Link: La Orquidea—great Honduran food in the South Bronx

For Ice Cream–Lovers, Corn by the Cone

With autumn comes the last of the year’s corn—and a final chance to score fresh corn ice cream. Farm-to-table mecca Blue Hill makes a delicious one that’s “like frozen frosted flakes,” swears the breakfast-minded doona.

piccola recommends the version at Cones, the Argentine-style gelateria, which also wins praise for its toasted almond and toasted coconut flavors.

Otto, well known for its novel olive-oil gelato, also does nicely by sweet corn (“far better than the savory food,” claims boccalupo), as well as more conventional flavors like milk chocolate with chocolate chips.

For an out-of-the-ordinary mass-market snack, there’s the Korean version from Lotte, studded with dried corn kernels and squeezed into a waferlike cookie shaped like an ear of corn. Check the freezer case of stores like Hanahreum and Hanyang.

Other intriguing ice creams can be had at Bouley, which scoops up a scrumptious huckleberry and sour cream sorbet, and board favorite Il Laboratorio del Gelato, where the choices range from light and herbal (fresh mint, lemon basil) to surprising (Thai chili chocolate) to rich and satisfying (milk chocolate malt).

Asian flavors are perennial crowd-pleasers. kenito799 goes for the honey-wasabi ice cream at noodle house Soba-Ya. Sundaes & Cones offers a lineup of Eastern flavors; black sesame is one of the best, says druz99. And the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is beloved for such offerings as green tea, litchi, tangerine, and the newish peanut-and-sesame revelation called Zen Butter.

Blue Hill [Greenwich Village]
75 Washington Place (between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street), Manhattan
212-539-1776

Cones [Greenwich Village]
272 Bleecker Street (between Morton Street and Seventh Avenue), Manhattan
212-414-1795

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria [Greenwich Village]
1 Fifth Avenue (at Eighth Street), Manhattan
212-995-9559

Bouley [Tribeca]
120 W. Broadway (at Duane Street), Manhattan
212-964-2525

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

Soba-Ya [East Village]
229 E. Ninth Street (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan
212-533-6966

Sundaes & Cones [East Village]
95 E. 10th Street (between Third and Fourth avenues), Manhattan
212-979-9398

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth streets), Manhattan
212-608-4170

Board Link: Must-Try Manhattan Ice Creams?

Yes, We Have Banana Bread Pudding

The banana-espresso bread pudding at Apropos Café is crisp at the edges and improbably light throughout, with assertive banana flavor and background notes of coffee and chocolate. It is one of the best bread puddings around, declares self-described “bread pudding freak” Claire.

Apropos Café [Park Slope]
186 Fifth Avenue (near Sackett), Brooklyn
718-230-7605

Board Link: bread pudding alert

Killer Kebabs and More at Azerbaijan Grill

As its name suggests, Azerbaijan Grill knows grilled meats. Adana kebabs (ground lamb) and jujeh kebabs (chicken on the bone) are especially strong. But past reports from this friendly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spot also praise vegetable dishes such as tabuli (tart, fruit-accented bulgur salad), kashkeh badenjan (eggplant-onion-tomato stew), and turshi (Persian-style pickled vegetables).

And the appetizer sampler, depending on how you order it, can bring a glorious “fried paradise” of first-rate falafel, sanbuseh (crispy chickpea-vegetable dumplings), and sigara borek (pan-fried feta-stuffed phyllo rolls), marvels GCGuy; “great place, obscene portions,” he adds, approvingly.

Azerbaijan Grill [Nassau County]
1610 Old Country Road (near Fulton), Westbury, NY
516-228-0001

Board Link: Azerbaijan Grill–Westbury, LI

Cider Doughnuts, Farm Fresh for City Dwellers

Apple-cider doughnuts fried up fresh on the farm are a don’t-miss seasonal treat around the Northeast. But apple-cider doughnuts hawked at farmers’ markets around New York City are often a stale, sodden disappointment, vvv03 complains. “I see people walking around happily munching on them and I want to yell, you fools!”

Smart doughnut devotees look for stands run by the Orchards of Concklin. Even at markets in the city, this upstate farm comes through with fresh, addictively tasty cider doughnuts. “Trust me,” vvv03 promises, “they are the best.”

The Orchards of Concklin works farmers’ markets on Long Island through mid-November and in Manhattan and Westchester into mid-December. Check the farm’s website for the schedule.

The Orchards of Concklin [Rockland County]
2 S. Mountain Road, Pomona, NY
845-354-0369

Board Link: Apple Cider Donuts at Rock Center Farmer’s Market

Glorious Goat at a Port Chester Taqueria

A gorgeous goat taco promises further greatness on the menu at Los Paisanos, adamclyde suggests. Goatiness sings out loud and clear in big pieces of tender, long-cooked meat. Chopped onion and cilantro and thick, fiery salsa verde complete this superb authentic taco. Carnitas, though not as good, is also worth a try—richly flavorful, if not as moist and succulent as it could be.

Expect gracious but English-challenged service and one of the more divey settings on Port Chester’s diverse Latin American scene, marked only by a hand-drawn sign.

Los Paisanos [Westchester County]
118 Westchester Avenue (near E. Broadway), Port Chester, NY

Board Link: Los Paisanos in Port Chester

In Harlem, an Un-Burger for Vegetarians

If you order the Original Aaishatu’s “veggie burger,” don’t expect anything resembling a burger. Instead of a patty, you’ll be served stir-fried shredded vegetables—carrot, cabbage, onion, celery, bell pepper, potato—seasoned with curry spices, garlic, and thyme. A mellow, personable street vendor scoops a generous helping from a well-worn wok into a whole wheat pita and adds tahini, hot sauce, or soy sauce to order. It’s a heap of food ($5 for a whole pita, $3 for a half) and a nice portable option for vegetarians, says HLing.

The Original Aaishatu’s [Harlem]
Near 163 W. 125th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X), Manhattan

Board Link: vegetarian street food in Harlem

Homey Taiwanese and More in Chinese Flushing

Home-style Taiwanese chow, a rarity around New York, has turned up in a seldom-discussed quarter of Flushing. Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet cuts no corners in preparing slow-cooked casseroles like san bei ji or three-cup chicken, made with Thai basil, garlic, and thick slices of ginger. The chicken is supposed to stew for hours in sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine until it’s nicely caramelized. Most restaurants rush the process, Dave_G complains, but this place does it right, earning high scores on his “GBD (golden/brown/delicious)” scale.

Also recommended: oyster pancakes, stewed organ meats, and, TastyLlama insists, “anything with chives!” Service is sweet, the vibe authentically homey. Despite this restaurant’s virtues, hounds have had little to say about it, probably because it’s a good mile south of the heart of Chinese Flushing.

Closer to the Roosevelt-and-Main hub, Gu-Shine on 39th Avenue continues to pack in crowds of Taiwanese expats drawn by seafood, stinky tofu, and a vegetarian menu highlighted by excellent pickles and Buddhist-style mixed vegetables. And in Elmhurst, Lin’s (formerly David’s) offers a meatier, oilier take on Taiwanese; past reports praise intestine with preserved vegetable and shredded pork with bamboo shoots, among other things.

If you’re craving upscale Cantonese, not down-home Taiwanese, consider Ocean Jewels. Brian S describes a series of unique and splendid banquet-style dishes from this Flushing favorite, which seems to be in top form. Don’t be put off by the menu description “steamed fish pieces with peculiar flavor.” This dish is a knockout: pieces of sea bass artfully arranged over remarkably fresh-tasting preserved vegetables (dried plum, various shoots, tree ear fungus)—“a traditional dish refined and reinterpreted by a master chef,” Brian S writes. Another winner, deftly balancing rich and gamy flavors, is succulent braised duck, ringed by green vegetable stems and topped with assorted mushrooms and a layer of shredded dry scallop. In a third standout dish, steamed medallions of tofu come with flavorful shredded beef, lightly marinated greens, and a bit of intensely meaty consommé.

E Eto reports a stellar dish of Dungeness crab, wrapped in lotus leaf with sticky rice, garlic, and other aromatics, then steamed. The result is wonderful crab but even better rice, especially when it’s mixed with the tomalley. Also recommended: fish maw soup, delicate “barbecued” beef flavored with fennel pollen and a light soy-based sauce, and an exemplary roast chicken topped with fried garlic and scallions.

There’s humbler but equally irresistible Chinese food at Tian Jin, a modest takeout spot around the corner from Ocean Jewels. wadawada, seduced by the smoky aroma wafting from this tiny shop, has discovered scrumptious fresh-killed chickens, seasoned with soy and five-spice and smoked to a beautiful bronze. They even hold their own against memories of a similar smoked bird from Kin’s Kitchen in Hong Kong. “Unlike a lot of breads that smell better than they taste, this chicken is as good as its aroma!” wadawada promises.

Ready for dessert? ZenFoodist loves the French-by-way-of-Hong-Kong cakes at Sun Mary, which she ranks well ahead of Flushing’s other Asian bakeries. Mango mousse cake is ethereally light, with just the right amount of sweetness. The Champs-Élysées showcases surprisingly good dark chocolate. Other worthy treats are ground tea cake, blueberry yogurt cake, pineapple shortcake, and honey sponge roll cake.

Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet [Flushing]
59-14 Main Street (between 59th and 60th avenues), Flushing, Queens
718-886-8788

Gu-Shine Taiwanese Restaurant, a.k.a. Gu Xiang [Flushing]
135-40 39th Avenue (between Main and Prince), Flushing, Queens
718-939-5468

Lin’s Taiwanese Gourmet [Elmhurst]
84-02 Broadway (near St. James), Elmhurst, Queens
718-429-4818

Ocean Jewels Restaurant [Flushing]
133-30 39th Avenue (between College Point and Prince), Flushing, Queens
718-359-8600

Tian Jin [Flushing]
135-02 Roosevelt Avenue (entrance on Prince between Roosevelt and 40th Road), Flushing, Queens
718-353-4854

Sun Mary Bakery [Flushing]
133-57 41st Road (between Main and College Point), Flushing, Queens
718-460-8800
Location

Board Links: Taiwanese Help Please
Ocean Jewels rules!
Tea-Smoked Chicken -Yum!
Flushing’s Sun Mary Bakery

Back to the Farm at the Green Table

True to its name, the Green Table tosses a mean salad. sea97horse swoons over faultless cucumbers, tomatoes, and greens, plus eye-catching carrots and radishes in many colors—”all gush-worthily full of flavor.”

But this is no vegan sanctuary. This four-year-old farm-to-table spot in Chelsea Market also makes hound-endorsed chicken pot pie (a signature dish at the adjacent Cleaver Co., owned by the same folks) and a simple but decadent grilled cheese sandwich, which might feature raw-milk cheddar with herb butter and mango chutney. The emphasis is on local food, much of it organic. The seasonal, often-changing menu might offer eggs from Tello’s Green Farm in Dutchess County, vegetables from Satur Farms on Long Island’s North Fork, or cheese from Vermont’s Neighborly Farms.

“I really, really like this place,” declares cimui. “Everything on the menu is noticeably fresher and more flavorful than at other places.”

Sustainable doesn’t mean Spartan. Recent dessert specials included rich, port-poached figs over ice cream, and a buttery, creamy, astonishingly light blueberry clafouti, rose water reports. Among the beverage options are a lovely elderflower-kir cocktail, martinis made with organic gin, and a small but choice selection of craft beers, including organic brews from England’s Samuel Smith and Wolaver’s in Vermont.

The Green Table [Chelsea]
In Chelsea Market
75 Ninth Avenue (between W. 15th and 16th streets), Manhattan
212-741-6623

Board Link: The Green Table