New York rss

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

For Lobster Fans, a Belgian Wonderland

Lobster-lovers must try the kreeft in de pan at Markt, urges Blumie. This is a whole lobster roasted, slit open, and served in a pan with julienned fresh vegetables and a wine-butter sauce that you’ll want to mop up with bread. At $36 this is no bargain, and the lobster weighs in on the small side at around a pound. “But it was fantastic, perhaps the best lobster dish I’ve ever had,” swears Blumie, a New Englander who knows his lobster. “Don’t order this if you’re gonna be put off by the size or the price, but otherwise I highly recommend it.”

Markt, a Belgian-style brasserie that moved to Chelsea in the spring from a roomier space in the meatpacking district, seems to be a wonderland for lobster fans (or an infamous killing field, if you’re a lobster). Also on the menu are a chilled lobster salad over chopped avocado and greens, and grilled lobster with braised greens in a cream sauce flavored with Hoegaarden witbier. Belgian standards like moules frites are on the mark and offered in several variations (including steamed in wine or Hoegaarden, or cooked in cream sauces with curry or garlic).

LeahBaila is hooked on the French toast with fruit and maple syrup, a standout on a breakfast menu that’s served from 8 to 11 daily. Naturally it also includes Belgian waffles, served with fruit, whipped cream, or just a sprinkling of sugar.

Markt [Chelsea]
676 Sixth Avenue (at W. 21st Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Great lobster dish at Markt
Destination spot for Pancakes and French Toast
Help with French Bistro for Romantic Dinner

Hound-Worthy Cheese in Bergen and Beyond

Englewood, New Jersey’s Jerry’s, a sprawling specialty food store whose focus is Italian, is also a North Jersey go-to spot for cheeses from all over. Selection is vast and turnover is high, markabauman reports. Service is helpful and mostly congenial, though one of the cheese guys is either perpetually affectless or surly bordering on mean, depending on whom you ask. But all agree he knows his cheese and is liberal with suggestions and samples. Beyond cheese, mark adds, check out the fairly priced wines, oils, pastas, and prepared foods.

Other decent options for Bergen County cheese-lovers include Maywood Market and the pricier Market Basket in Franklin Lakes. These stores, like Jerry’s, also carry a wide variety of groceries, baked goods, and prepared foods.

Just over the state line, in Nanuet, New York, is a solid hound favorite, Laraia’s Cheese. “The folks at Laraia’s know their stuff and are the opposite of snobby,” JRBlack writes. “They’re full of enthusiasm for cheese and are eager to help customers learn what they like, what pairs well with what, etc.” Hours are limited, so check before you go.

Jerry’s Gourmet Foods [Bergen County]
410 S. Dean Street (near Van Nostrand), Englewood, NJ

Maywood Market Place [Bergen County]
78 W. Pleasant Avenue (near Palmer), Maywood, NJ

Market Basket [Bergen County]
813 Franklin Lake Road (near High Mountain), Franklin Lakes, NJ

Laraia’s Cheese Company [Rockland County]
5 Seeger Drive (at Demarest Mill Road W.), Nanuet, NY

Board Link: Cheese shops in Bergen County NJ?

At Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, the Way of Sesame

To its devotees, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory’s Zen Butter is sweet enlightenment by the scoop. This newish offering is made of delicately flavored peanut butter ice cream, studded with toasted sesame seeds. “The peanut butter flavor was subtle but present. The sesame seeds were a nice textural element, and the ice cream itself was sweet and creamy,” muses GilloD. “An awesome addition to an already rockin’ lineup.”

Older favorites from that lineup include black sesame, litchi, almond cookie, mango, ginger, pumpkin pie, coconut, and taro.

Another Asian ice cream specialist, Sundaes and Cones, makes a compelling sesame flavor. “Absolutely mind-blowing,” mr_seabass raves. Even better, advises JungMann, is sesame paired with taro.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth), Manhattan

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

Board Links: Chinatown Ice Cream- Taro, Red Bean, Lychee????
Sesame Ice Cream at Sundaes and Cones

Modern Japanese, Rich and Refined, at Lan

Serious deliciousness is bursting out at Lan, a Japanese restaurant that’s gotten little hound attention. This East Village spot recently introduced eight-course tasting menus, a chef’s version and a sushi version. E Eto says both are inventive, well conceived, and a relative bargain at $58 and $68, respectively.

A rich, complex dish that comes midway through one of the set dinners is a good illustration of Chef Takanori Akiyama’s take on modern Japanese food. A wedge of foie gras, infused with miso then grilled, is poised atop a layer of ground, miso-seasoned duck. Both are served over a round of daikon, simmered in the traditional way with dashi, soy, and mirin. “It worked well,” E Eto reckons, though he allows that some will find it too busy. “The miso marinade gave the foie gras a pleasantly sour finish, and the duck paste provided a sweet element to go with the sweet daikon.”

Another highlight of the chef’s menu is Kobe beef, gently simmered shabu-shabu style, then arrayed in a salad of baby arugula and other greens with sesame dressing. Duck pâté, flavored with miso, gets a lift from sansho pepper, whose citrus note plays nicely off the earthiness of the liver. A comforting chawan mushi (steamed egg custard) is put over the top by foie gras and duck scallion sauce. At times, the chef seems to be trying too hard: Miso-marinated broiled black cod, a Japanese standard, sits in white miso foam that really isn’t needed, though it does add sweetness and miso intensity.

Japanese expats know Lan as a meat specialist—Akiyama put in a stint on the grill before being elevated to executive chef—but it also comes up with first-rate seafood. The sushi tasting menu includes a sashimi course, which on E Eto’s visit comprised excellent o-toro from Spain, botan-ebi (large sweet prawn), and snapperlike ma-dai. Later in this dinner comes assorted nigiri sushi, which might include relative rarities like ma-saba (Japanese mackerel) and Hokkaido bafun-uni (a variety of sea urchin). In between, there’s a sunomono course; E Eto enjoyed a refreshing rendition made with zuwaigani (snow crab) sashimi, with cucumber and jellied vinegar.

Both tasting menus wind down with tart, sweet yuzu sorbet, followed by a soufflélike molten chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, decent but disappointingly pedestrian. Finally: matcha-flavored French-style macaroons, thick with green tea flavor yet without the bitterness, “a great finale to a very good meal.”

Lan [East Village]
56 Third Avenue (between E. 10th and 11th streets), Manhattan

Board Link: New Tasting Menus at Lan

Eye-Opening Frozen Yogurt at Öko

“I just love frozen yogurt, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d never eaten any until now,” declares redgirl, whose world was forever changed by the Greek-style stuff from Öko. “It was transcendent, the best frozen yogurt in Brooklyn right now.”

Like LA import Pinkberry, Öko eschews the gums and stabilizers that lend artificial creaminess to some competitors. It also holds the sugar to a minimum, allowing actual yogurt-y sourness to come to the fore. “Addictive—nicely rich and tart, and not too sweet,” reports pitu. “Not like cheesy fro-yo Tasti D-Lite places.”

Not cheap, either, at nearly $4 for six ounces before toppings. redgirl says she justifies the expense by ordering a couple of flavors (it comes in plain, berry, or Key lime), crowning it with plenty of berries and walnuts, and making it a light lunch. Other toppings include coconut, dried apricot, and dark chocolate pieces. The Park Slope shop—others are reportedly in the works—also serves decent coffee and organic specialty teas.

Not everyone has fallen for Öko. “It was pretty good. But sadly, it is no Pinkberry,” writes alicemunro. “Pinkberry is lighter and doesn’t leave an aftertaste.”

Speaking of Pinkberry, the empire from the coast is preparing to open its fifth Manhattan shop, in a potentially lucrative space near the Columbia campus. “Ooh,” frets haleyjen, “I live right there … that could be deadly!”

Öko [Park Slope]
152 Fifth Avenue (near Douglass), Brooklyn

Pinkberry [Morningside Heights]
To open at 2873 Broadway (between W. 111th and 112th streets), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Herald Square]
7 W. 32nd Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Chelsea]
170 Eighth Avenue (between W. 18th and 19th streets), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Nolita]
41 Spring Street (between Mulberry and Mott), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Upper East Side]
1577 Second Avenue (near E. 82nd Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Anyone know where OKO is?
ohhhhh..OKO!!! yowser
Pinkberry Comes to Columbia Main Campus

Simple Summer Pleasures at Malatesta

Malatesta, a West Village favorite year-round, is even more appealing these days—partly for its outdoor tables with views of the Hudson, but especially for its spaghetti alla chitarra. This near-universal hound pick is simple summer perfection: faultlessly cooked pasta with chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. “Absolutely their best pasta dish,” declares vvvindaloo.

This friendly, midpriced trattoria gets high marks across the board for rustic, authentic Italian. Salads are a highlight; try the Caprese, grilled portobello, or orange, arugula, and Parmesan. Also recommended: grilled calamari, veal meatballs in tomato sauce, spinach gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce, rosemary-and-garlic-scented grilled lamb chops, and panna cotta for dessert. “I love Malatesta and find it more similar to dining in Italy than most Italian places here in the city,” sums up billyeats. “Its laid-back style, casual but attractive atmosphere, and fresh, simple dishes just hit the mark.”

A step down in price and atmosphere, yet equally satisfying on its own terms, is the Pepe Rosso minichain, allenbank reminds us. The Sullivan Street original—best of the Pepes, in his book—dishes up some of the city’s tastiest home-style pasta “at prices to make you do a double-take.” allen’s favorites include penne with spinach and ricotta ($6.95) and garlicky penne with tomato and basil ($5.95). “And where else,” he asks, “can you get a nice-sized plastic cup of easily drinkable wine (red or white) for $4.50?”

In other Italian news, SoHo’s Ravioli Store has closed its doors. But a sign in the window promises that its pastas—filled with beets, squash, spinach and artichoke, and wild mushroom and truffles, among other things—will still be made wholesale and sold in other stores. Check the website (not yet updated at press time) for further info.

For an old-school alternative a few blocks north, sing me a bar recommends the venerable Raffetto’s, which has been rolling out dependably good spinach-ricotta ravioli and other fresh pastas for more than a century.

Malatesta Trattoria [West Village]
649 Washington Street (at Christopher), Manhattan

Pepe Rosso to Go [SoHo]
149 Sullivan Street (between Houston and Prince), Manhattan

Caffe Pepe Rosso [Grand Central]
In the Grand Central Terminal Dining Concourse
101 E. 42nd Street (at Park Avenue), Manhattan

Raffetto’s [Greenwich Village]
144 W. Houston Street (between MacDougal and Sullivan), Manhattan

Board Links: malatesta trattoria
Malatesta…I almost forgot!
Here’s the real dope–TOMORROW IS D-DAY
The Ravioli Store

In the Bronx, Fabulous Vietnamese Chicken Soup

For those keeping track of the multiplying Southeast Asian chow options in the Bronx, here’s something to look forward to. Phung Hung, a grocery store that also served great, homey Vietnamese food, has unfortunately closed for renovations—but its owner swears it’ll reopen in September as an actual restaurant.

When it does, rose water advises, check out its chicken soup: a light, delicate, fragrant, chicken-y and lemony broth, with tender shreds of chicken, scallions, and loads of fresh cilantro. It comes with lime, jalapeño, mint, lettuce, and mung bean sprouts, a big satisfying bowl for $5. Past reports praise shrimp summer rolls, grilled lemongrass chicken over rice, banana-rice sweets, and house-made lemonade, among other things.

Phung Hung Market [Bronx]
2614 Jerome Avenue (at E. 193rd Street), Bronx

Board Link: Bronx recs: Up for a (cheap) adventure?

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

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

Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar [Greenwich Village]
34 Downing Street (near Bedford), Manhattan

Board Links: Great meal at Bar Stuzzichini
Bar Stuzzichini- mini, mini review
Bar Stuzzichini–Very Mediocre
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

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

Charlie the Butcher [Erie County]
1065 Wehrle Drive (near S. Cayuga), Williamsville, NY

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

Schwabl’s Restaurant [Erie County]
789 Center Road (near Union), Buffalo, NY

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

Sterling Place Tavern [Erie County]
1487 Hertel Avenue (at Sterling), Buffalo, NY

Ulrich’s Tavern [Erie County]
674 Ellicott Street (at Virginia), Buffalo, NY

Viking Lobster Company [Erie County]
366 Tonawanda Street (between Austin and Hamilton), 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

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

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