New York rss

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

Bites and Beverages, Three Ways

“Have you ever been to a place where you feel you could just sit and linger at the bar all night and be perfectly content and relaxed?” asks roze. Lately she and other hounds have found contentment and relaxation at Bar Stuzzichini, a two-month-old trattoria with an all-Italian wine list and a menu long on small plates.

You can sample any five of those small plates, or stuzzichini, for $22. Those who have say the best bets include chickpea crostini, fried artichokes, grilled prawns, arancini (fried rice balls), eggplant caponata, ricotta with saffron and honey, and supertender grilled octopus. Among the larger pastas and secondi, hounds endorse orecchiette with fresh peas; tagliatelle with pistachio, pecorino, and lemon zest; gnocchi all’amatriciana (with guanciale, tomato, onion, and chiles); and swordfish alla Trapanese, grilled and stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and topped with a Sicilian-style pesto. Wines, sold by the bottle or the quartino, are well chosen and priced, psp reports.

Some are underwhelmed. “I liked everything just fine, but nothing was particularly memorable,” shrugs Bob Martinez, who adds that the delicious exception was pleasingly peppery polpette (meatballs). zEli173 finds the popular stuzzichini combo less of a bargain than it appears, given the smallish portions, and complains that the larger plates are overpriced. He also faults the décor and vibe; far from the warmth and intimacy that would suit the rustic, shared-plates menu, the mood falls “somewhere between Bull and Bear and TGI Fridays.”

Another newish spot for bites and beverages is Casellula, where it’s all about cheese—30 or so kinds selected by fromager Tia Keenan, who chose cheeses at the Modern. They’re served alone, in flights, or in cheese-centered small dishes like St. Marcellin fondue with Parmesan crisps; brûléed Cabrales with cherries and Parma ham; and wild mushroom flatbreads with Laura Chenel chèvre from California. Cured meats and a handful of desserts, including a standout lemon tart with pistachios and goat cheese ice cream, round out the menu.

The wine list ranges from Europe to South Africa to Australia to California to Long Island (Wölffer Estate’s Merlot). A short, eclectic beer lineup emphasizes cheese-friendly Belgian and Belgian-style beers (Lindemans and Boon from Belgium, Ommegang from Cooperstown, NY) as well as craft brews such as Magic Hat from Vermont and Hitachino Nest from Japan.

“Great cheese selection, cozy space, small but varied wine list, and a very welcome addition to the neighborhood,” says adam, who faults only the prices. He cites the Pig’s Ass sandwich (ham, cheddar, and Fol Epi cheeses, pickles, chipotle aioli), tasty but tiny for $12.

In the Village, the newest outpost of the Blue Ribbon empire is packing them in—which isn’t hard when around 20 people will fill up the room. Yet hounds say Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar manages to be a relaxed, convivial place. A gracious and knowledgeable staff pours a wide selection of wines (in glasses or flights as well as bottles and splits) and serves snackish dishes and desserts.

Cheeses are a strong point; try toasts with Manchego and Mexican honey (one of the artisanal varieties sold at nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery Market). Also recommended: pâtés, well-seasoned deviled egg “shooters,” sweetbreads with mushrooms, salads (arugula and butternut squash, or smoked trout, Bibb lettuce, and potato), and bread pudding with crème anglaise. “The food is great. Service is warm, informed, casual. The room is cozy. It’s a good trip all around,” says jsmitty.

Bar Stuzzichini [Flatiron]
Formerly Komegashi Re-Construction Cuisine
928 Broadway (between 21st and 22nd streets), Manhattan
212-780-5100
Location

Casellula Cheese & Wine Café [Clinton]
401 W. 52nd Street (near Ninth Avenue), Manhattan
212-247-8137
Location

Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar [Greenwich Village]
34 Downing Street (near Bedford), Manhattan
212-691-0404
Location

Board Links: Great meal at Bar Stuzzichini
Bar Stuzzichini- mini, mini review
Bar Stuzzichini–Very Mediocre
Casellula
Blue Ribbon Wine Bar (Downing Street) Brief Review
What’s opening at 34 Downing Street?

Hunting Buffalo’s Beef on Weck

“It’s not like it was,” laments houdini, “a good beef on weck in just about every corner bar.” For the uninitiated, houdini is talking about an endangered Buffalo original, a sandwich of juicy rare roast beef, sliced thin and heaped onto a kümmelweck, a hard German-style roll crusted with caraway and coarse salt. There might also be horseradish in there. There should be.

Two go-to spots for a beef on weck are Bar Bill in East Aurora and century-old Eckl’s in Orchard Park. “Both are worth the trip from downtown,” promises ridgel. “They really are best of kind.”

The popular Charlie the Butcher minichain also has its fans—and its critics. Its beef delivers the goods, most agree; so does its horseradish. But it stumbles on the all-important roll. “Charlie the Butcher doesn’t know what a kümmelweck roll is,” houdini huffs.

Two other contenders are Schwabl’s—credited by some with inventing the beef on weck, this old-timer recently changed hands—and Brennan’s Bowery Bar, which piles on the beef and spikes it with kicking horseradish, reports more is never enough.

Like the beef on weck, another Buffalo tradition, the Friday fish fry, is getting harder to find. But some good ones survive. jmoryl recommends Sterling Place Tavern, which comes up with relative rarities like pike. The wide-ranging craft beer selection includes such regional favorites as Great Lakes Brewing from Cleveland.

The venerable German-Irish hybrid Ulrich’s Tavern does first-rate fried fish—nice big pieces with crispy batter, jerryc123 reports—and offers spätzle or German potato salad on the side, plus another excellent beer lineup.

And Viking Lobster (better known for, you guessed it, lobster) also lays out a surprisingly fine fish fry, houdini confides.

Bar Bill Tavern [Erie County]
185 Main Street (near Hamlin), East Aurora, NY
716-652-7959
Location

Eckl’s Beef and Weck Restaurant [Erie County]
4936 Ellicott Road (near Chestnut Ridge), Orchard Park, NY
716-662-2262
Location

Charlie the Butcher [Erie County]
1065 Wehrle Drive (near S. Cayuga), Williamsville, NY
716-633-8330
Location

Charlie the Butcher Express [Erie County]
In the Ellicott Square Building
295 Main Street (between Swan and Division), Buffalo, NY
716-855-8646
Location

Schwabl’s Restaurant [Erie County]
789 Center Road (near Union), Buffalo, NY
716-674-9821
Location

Brennan’s Bowery Bar & Restaurant [Erie County]
4401 Transit Road (at Main), Buffalo, NY
716-633-9630
Location

Sterling Place Tavern [Erie County]
1487 Hertel Avenue (at Sterling), Buffalo, NY
716-838-2448
Location

Ulrich’s Tavern [Erie County]
674 Ellicott Street (at Virginia), Buffalo, NY
716-855-8409
Location

Viking Lobster Company [Erie County]
366 Tonawanda Street (between Austin and Hamilton), Buffalo, NY
716-873-1079
Location

Board Link: BEEF ON WECK IN BUFFALO, NY

Brunch Discovery at the Tasting Room

In many parts of New York City, brunch is the weekend pastime. And at crowded downtown destinations like Prune and Clinton Street Baking Company, it’s a contact sport, requiring quick reflexes and bold jostling for position. So kayonyc was pleasantly surprised to find a delicious brunch with no waiting at the Tasting Room in Nolita.

As it does at dinner, the restaurant offers dishes emphasizing seasonal and artisanal ingredients, in “taste” (appetizer) or “share” (entrée) portions. The 10 or so brunch choices included exceptional French toast: an inch-and-a-half-thick slice of moist brioche, topped with wild blackberries and slightly sweetened ricotta. Rich, silky fried duck eggs (other choices are chicken, pheasant, and goose) were served over kashi and accompanied by an English muffin. A good-sized piece of Red Wattle pork, nicely seasoned and cooked, came with a perfect soft-fried egg and caramelized baby leek and carrot.

Service was friendly and genuine, kayo reports, and her party of three paid around $54 including tip—not the cheapest brunch around, she notes, but in line with Clinton Street’s prices. The Tasting Room serves brunch from 11 to 3 on Saturday and Sunday.

The Tasting Room Restaurant [Nolita]
264 Elizabeth Street (between Houston and Prince), Manhattan
212-358-7831
Location

The Tasting Room Wine Bar and Café [East Village]
72 E. First Street (between First and Second avenues), Manhattan
212-358-7831
Location

Board Link: Yay! Finally an alternative to Prune and Clinton St Brunches!

A Divine Soup from Taiwan, and Other Chinese Finds

True Taiwanese chow—much hungered after by New York hounds, but rarely found—has surfaced in homey, authentic form at Excellent Pork Chop House. HLing says this Chinatown hole in the wall recently began making an herb-scented restorative called Four Gods Soup. It’s a long-brewed, light-flavored broth full of tender slices of pork stomach, enriched and flavored by lotus seed, dried mountain potato, barley and other grains, and a dash of rice wine.

“Fantastic!” HLing declares, “even better than what I had in Taiwan at one of the night market places. It is a very calming tonic, great in the winter but good any time you feel you need to calm your nerves.” But, she adds, it is not for everyone: Its slight medicinal bitterness may put off those unaccustomed to Chinese herbal soups. It’s $5 a serving, and for an extra buck you can get a side of cai fan, Taiwanese-style rice mixed with pickled vegetables and ground pork. Four Gods Soup is not on the menu; just point to the colorful Chinese sign at the counter or ask for “Si4 Shen2 Zhu1 Du3 Tang1.”

This restaurant has earned mixed marks over the years—even its namesake pork chops are not universally beloved—but right now it appears to be on a roll. Lau says the place is enjoying a renaissance that has gotten the attention of Chinese locals: “I’ve been going there for a long time. This was far and away the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. People kept coming in, almost all Chinese, mostly Mandarin speaking.” Highlights of his recent satisfying meal included dried tofu with marinated seaweed, refreshing cold cucumber in garlic sauce, and big, tasty steamed wonton, served in hot oil and topped with chopped garlic and cilantro (“very Taiwanese-tasting, similar to things I’ve had at street stands”).

In other Chinese news, hounds are racing the calendar in search of soft-shell crabs, whose season is almost over. At Phoenix Garden, the crabs are salt-and-pepper-fried and garnished with sliced garlic. Plump and juicy, these are the best soft-shells Peter Cherches has enjoyed since the memorable version at Chinatown’s late, much-missed Sun Golden Island.

Yeah Shanghai Deluxe also has them, but they’re listed only in Chinese among the blackboard specials. “This made my day,” exults batterypark, who describes a large platter of scrumptious, deep-fried crabs, served over a bed of lettuce, scallion, garlic, and peppers. “My plan,” he resolves, “is to slowly eat my way through the blackboard specials.”

Finally, let us set down our chopsticks and observe a moment of silence for two recent Cantonese casualties, one old and one new: Nice Restaurant on East Broadway, a banquet destination for decades, and Dragon Palace on Centre Street, whose dim sum won some hound love during its run of less than two years.

Excellent Pork Chop House [Chinatown]
3 Doyers Street (between Pell and Bowery), Manhattan
212-791-7007
Location

Phoenix Garden [Turtle Bay]
242 E. 40th Street (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan
212-983-6666
Location

Yeah Shanghai Deluxe [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth), Manhattan
212-566-4884
Location

Board Links: The best Taiwanese 疇�算�疑岑汀壅阬授珍兩� ̄汕嗽�, now at Excellent Pork Chop House!
Softshell crabs at Yeah Shanghai Deluxe–Not on the English language menu, but really great
Phoenix Garden has soft shell crabs
Dim Sum or not to Dim Sum–that is the question?
What Happened to Dragon Palace (Dim Sum)?

Crêpes à la Bretonne at Café Triskell

Breton-style crêpes are the specialty at Café Triskell, and they’re great, says nebby. Good bets among the savory options include tomato, caramelized onion, and the Bénodet (mushrooms, Swiss cheese, herb butter).

No reports yet on the dessert crêpes, which range from the simple (butter and sugar) to the lavish (poached pears, house-made chocolate sauce, toasted almonds, whipped cream). Quiches, salads, soups, and croque monsieurs and other sandwiches round out the menu. This tiny spot, which seats just 16, was opened a couple of months ago by a French pastry chef, Philippe Fallait, in the space once occupied by Lil’ Bistro 33.

Café Triskell [Astoria]
Formerly Lil’ Bistro 33
33-04 36th Avenue (at 33rd Street), Astoria, Queens
718-472-0612
Location

Board Link: Putting together a date in Astoria

A Masterpiece in Maple

If Good N Plenty to Go is baking maple cookies, you must get one. allenbank loves everything about them—their optimal four- or five-inch size, their perfect sprinkling of walnuts, the way their intense sweet maple frosting is balanced by a not-too-sweet, soft, caky cookie. “It is in my opinion the best baked good (at least in my top three) in town,” allen declares. They’re $1.95 apiece, and they go fast.

Good N Plenty to Go [Clinton]
410 W. 43rd Street (between Ninth and Tenth avenues), Manhattan
212-268-4385
Location

Board Link: Maple ice cream and desserts

A Fish Taco Discovery in Albany

Albany’s Bros Tacos has a little San Diego thing going on in its fish tacos. Battered fried fish, shredded cabbage, onions, cilantro, crema, and red salsa are folded into a pair of house-made tortillas. “Killer,” raves JWW, who says flavors are fresh and clean. Besides the “Baja” version, there’s one with grilled fish, crema, and pico de gallo. Other fillings at this mostly takeout shop include carne asada, grilled or barbecued chicken, shrimp, marinated pork, ground beef, and black beans with avocado.

Some complain of underseasoned rice and beans, an excessive tortilla-to-filling ratio, and sloppily wrapped burritos that tend to fall apart.

Bros Tacos [Albany County]
319 Ontario Street (at Morris), Albany, NY
518-935-1098
Location

Board Link: Bros Tacos in Albany

Around Queens, Some South American Discoveries

The moribund lunchtime scene near Calvary Cemetery is showing signs of life. At Tropical II on Greenpoint Avenue, hungry locals crowd in for satisfying Ecuadoran chow, made with care, 2slices reports.

Beef soup is a standout: deliciously fatty meat on the bone in fresh, light broth with carrots, onions, cabbage, yuca, and a good handful of cilantro. Seco de chivo is a stew loaded with uncommonly tender hunks of goat, served with yellow rice. Maduros (fried sweet plantains) are just about perfect—soft and brown with crispy bits at the ends. House-made aji sauce is fresh, herbal, and bracing. A stewed beef specialty is a tough, smallish piece of meat, redeemed by excellent peppery sauce. To drink, try fresh papaya juice served with slices of lime. The large illustrated menu also includes a long list of seafood dishes, including several ceviches and a tempting-looking tripe stew.

In Jackson Heights, there’s a promising sighting of Bolivian chow, not something you find on every corner around here. Club Kabu, the latest occupant of a hard-luck space where at least two other Bolivian restaurants have come and gone, offers decent versions of dishes from the country’s Andean highlands, Dolcevicci reports. Chicken and beef salteñas, the empanadalike pastries, are juicy and delicious and boast nicely made masa shells, though some might prefer more meat inside. There’s also a creditable sopa de mani (meat and peanut soup) and sturdy entrées like picante surtido (beef tongue and chicken in chile sauce) and chorrillana platters (meat in tomato-onion sauce with rice, fried potatoes, and fried egg).

A couple of misfires: Humintas (tamalelike steamed corn cakes) are tasty but made with cornmeal, not the customary fresh ground corn, and the expected cheesy filling is meager. Khallo cochabambino, an appetizer of hominy, green chiles, cheese, onion, and tomato, is disappointingly bland. Some find the restaurant an uncomfortable fit with the cavernous, upscale room, which doubles as a dance club—a problem the owners intend to solve by converting it to a full-time nightclub and moving the restaurant to another space up Northern Boulevard.

Another hound-endorsed Bolivian spot, Mi Bolivia in Sunnyside, has given way to the cryptically named International Restaurant, but recent reports say it’s still Bolivian and still worth a visit. Salteñas, especially the ones with chicken, are stellar—so good that Passadumkeg regularly lugs dozens of them back home to Maine after visiting family in Jersey. He also recommends chicharron, sopa de mani, and a Paceña beer or two. Go on Sunday afternoons, when Bolivian expats traditionally dine out.

Just a block or so away, wleatherette has sniffed out pure porky pleasure at the Colombian butcher shop Las Camelias: lechona, or whole roast pig, stuffed with chunks of pork and pork belly, peas, and bright yellow rice. It’s splendid, savory, and pleasingly salty. The butcher will carve you a hunk to order; be sure to get a nice piece of crackling on top. Another good bet here: fat, herb-flecked Colombian chorizo, superb when grilled.

Tropical II [Sunnyside]
36-10 Greenpoint Avenue (at Hunters Point), Sunnyside, Queens
718-392-2734
Map

Club Kabu [Jackson Heights]
85-09 Northern Boulevard (near 85th Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-429-0321
Map

International Restaurant [Sunnyside]
Formerly Mi Bolivia
44-10 48th Avenue (between 44th and 45th streets), Sunnyside, Queens
718-784-4968
Map

Las Camelias Carniceria [Sunnyside]
44-14 Greenpoint Avenue (between 44th and 45th streets), Sunnyside, Queens
718-786-4219
Map

Board Links: Tropical II: Ecuadorian in LIC on Greenpoint ave
Bolivian Andean Cuisine
Woodside/Sunnyside suggestions?
lechona at las camelias, sunnyside

Naked Shrimp

Off the menu—but on hound radar, thanks to HLing—is one killer shrimp dish at Fishers of Men II. Just ask for “Butt Naked Shrimp.” Tossed into the fryer without batter, they come out “pop in your mouth” juicy, HLing promises. “I hadn’t tasted such delicious shrimp anywhere for a long, long time.” (On the menu are two other takes on fried shrimp, with plain or seasoned batter.)

Also recommended: fish sandwiches, made not with prefab fish sticks but with actual whiting fillets, seasoned with “just the right salty zing,” lightly battered, and fried up crisp and light. Among other things, Fishers also serves coleslaw, collard greens, and grits (all day long, not just for breakfast).

The third location of a fish-frying minichain, Fishers of Men II replaced a Papaya King hot dog joint but kept the old sign and the old menu, which it continues to offer. Expect decent, if not world-changing, all-beef dogs plus smoked sausages, Cajun fries, and tropical drinks like papaya smoothies.

Fishers of Men II [Harlem]
Formerly Papaya King
121 W. 125th Street (between Lenox and Seventh Avenue), Manhattan
212-678-4268
Map

Fishers of Men [Harlem]
32 E. 130th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Madison), Manhattan
212-828-4447
Map

Famous Fish [Harlem]
684 St. Nicholas Avenue (at W. 145th Street), Manhattan
212-491-8323
Map

Board Link: mystery frankfurter place in Harlem

Rebound at Rani Mahal

Westchester hounds are taking a fresh look at Rani Mahal, whose Indian chow once won mixed marks. Recent reports suggest that the place has hit its stride. The mostly northern menu includes tender, delicately seasoned chicken or seekh (minced lamb) kebabs and chicken tikka sagwala in excellent spinach sauce. The same chicken tikka turns up minced and stuffed into a knockout naan. The lunch buffet, which some had found disappointingly sparse, is a satisfying and impressive spread, says rothchild. If you want the spicing cranked up, they’ll oblige, as in delicious lamb rogan josh, Shawn reports. “It’s nice to have a good Indian restaurant in the area,” she adds.

In other South Asian news, change is afoot at Westchester Groceries, a little market in Thornwood that also sells prepared foods. The food counter, if not the whole store, has changed hands and is now called Khan’s Indian Kitchen—but hounds say the chow is as good as ever. Look for fresh-baked naan, juicy and flavorful chicken tikka and tandoori fish, and tender goat garam masala, served as whole rib chops, not the common hacked-up version treacherously studded with shards of bone.

Beyond the food, you’ll find a slightly spiffed-up dining space and a setup better suited to English-speaking diners, including a new, easy-to-read menu.

Rani Mahal [Westchester County]
327 Mamaroneck Avenue (near Palmer), Mamaroneck, NY
914-835-9066
Map

Khan’s Indian Kitchen [Westchester County]
In Westchester Groceries
546 Commerce Street (between Hancock and Garfield), Thornwood, NY
914-747-0445
Map

Board Links: Best Indian Food in Lower Westchester
Dinner at Rani Mahal- Mamaroneck
Unbelievable Indian find in Westchester