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

Grand Central Breakfast Find at Cipriani Le Specialità

Those hungering for a quick breakfast near Grand Central will find a fine one at Cipriani Le Specialità. Open from 7 on weekdays, the breakfast-lunch-takeout outpost of the tony Cipriani empire makes outstanding oatmeal, sweet and creamy, with berries or raisins if you like, reports Wanda_Gorgonzola.

Pastries and cappuccino are decent. So are frittatas and other egg dishes, but they’re cooked in advance, so make sure they haven’t been sitting too long. “Bring the newspaper, pull up a stool at the window, and chill,” Wanda advises.

Cipriani Le Specialità [Grand Central]
110 E. 42nd Street (between Lexington and Park avenues), Manhattan
212-557-5088
Map

Board Links: Good food around 42nd and 2nd ave-Dinner and breakfast.

Hearty Latin Lunch at Red Hook’s 327 V-B

Red Hook, Brooklyn, is two neighborhoods these days. There’s the new one trumpeted in magazines, with its gourmet groceries and restaurants. And then there’s the old industrial one, where workers can still grab a satisfying cheap lunch at places like 327 V-B Cafe Deli.

If they’re serving beef ribs at this self-described “American-Spanish-Mexican” steam-table place, get them. They’re meaty, juicy, and spicy, served in a peppery green sauce loaded with cilantro, bigmackdaddy reports. Roast pork is moist and fragrant, with nice crisp skin. Also recommended: empanadas, beef stew, and avocado or seafood salads.

Weekday lunch is the time to go. The place closes by midafternoon. It’s also open Saturdays, but the offerings are meager and seem left over from the week. This is a hole-in-the-wall, easy to miss. “I thought it was an abandoned storefront save for the neon ‘Deli’ sign in the huge, fogged-up plate-glass windows,” bigmackdaddy says. “So look for it.”

327 V-B Cafe Deli, a.k.a. Red Hook Coffee Shop [Red Hook]
327 Van Brunt Street (near Sullivan), Brooklyn
718-488-9730
Map

Board Links: Spicy Ribs on Van Brunt St.

Promising New Southern Indian in Curry Hill

Chennai Garden has branched out. Last month its owner opened another south Indian vegetarian restaurant called Tiffin Wallah, a block north of the original. The menu is nearly the same as Chennai Garden’s, though Tiffin is a bit cheaper. Dave Feldman reports luscious uttapam (rice and ground dal pancakes) with onion and green chiles, excellent dosa podi, and a delicious, fruity mango shake.

Beyond southern specialty items, the menu offers chaat (including fresh, lively bhel puri) and a selection of Gujarati and Punjabi curries. Palak paneer is well seasoned and pleasingly creamy, reports shmooperdooper. Tiffin Wallah also lays out a $6 lunch buffet that’s “head-and-shoulders better than any of the other vegetarian lunch buffet places,” says buriedpaul and, like the tiffin wallahs of India, delivers. For now, Dave gives the new place the edge over Chennai Garden: The food is comparable, prices are lower, and the owner is in the house and trying hard to please.

Around the corner on Lexington, cabbie hangout Shipa Kasturi is hitting on all cylinders. One of the few Bengali places in town, it remains a go-to spot for mach (fish), torkari (curries), dal, and mishti (sweets), says Ami bangla jani na. At this no-frills steam-table joint, around $6 buys a couple of dishes plus rice. If they have it, don’t miss lal doi (sweetened yogurt).

Tiffin Wallah [Murray Hill]
127 E. 28th Street (between Lexington and Park avenues), Manhattan
212-685-7301
Map

Chennai Garden [Murray Hill]
129 E. 27th Street (between Lexington and Park avenues), Manhattan
212-689-1999
Map

Shipa Kasturi Pavilion [Gramercy]
83 Lexington Avenue (between E. 26th and 27th streets), Manhattan
212-679-7993
Map

Board Links: Tiffin Wallah on E 28th Street —Anyone been?
Ramadan at Kasturi
Cheap Indian around 28th & Lex

Homey Mexican at El Palenque, and Other Latin Bites in Sunset Park

El Palenque doesn’t look like much, and that’s a beautiful thing. This humble eatery in Sunset Park bears out Jim Leff’s theory on southern Mexican chow. “Go for the emptiest, most dismal, unknown haunts,” he advises. “The southerners (Oaxaca, Chiapas, etc.) don’t market themselves well and lack funds to really do up their places, but cook like a dream.”

Chalupas with beef are eyebrow-raisingly good, Jim says. Others recommend tostadas, horchata, meaty pozole, and sopa de olla, a spicy red broth filled with vegetables and tender beef. Coffee is unexpectedly stellar, “better than about 95 percent of the coffee I’m forced to drink in most cafes,” declares spicynuts. The room is plain but neat, service sweet and friendly.

A few blocks up the road, wleatherette reports delicious Ecuadoran food at El Tesoro, highlighted by first-rate roast baby pig with a generous amount of crackling. Also good: seafood rice or casseroles.

El Palenque Restaurant [Sunset Park]
5709 Fifth Avenue (near 57th Street), Brooklyn
718-567-8508
Map

El Tesoro Ecuatoriano Restaurant [Sunset Park]
4015 Fifth Avenue (at 40th Street), Brooklyn
718-972-3756
Map

Board Links: Sunset Park Obscure Mexican

From Fowl to Fish at Tebaya

Tebaya, the Japanese chicken-wing joint in Chelsea, has set sail. Alongside its Nagoya-style soy-and-pepper-seasoned wings, it now serves delicious grilled eel, reports eeee. $8.25 buys a whale of a portion, which comes with scallion rice, salad, and soda or green tea. Another new offering is fried oysters. No reports yet.

Tebaya [Chelsea]
144 W. 19th Street (between Sixth and Seventh avenues), Manhattan
212-924-3335
Map

Board Links: Mmm…Tebaya

Hearty Chow from Poland and Beyond at Krolewskie Jadlo

Krolewskie Jadlo serves Polish food with an eye to the rest of the continent. At his Greenpoint restaurant and its year-old branch in Maspeth, chef-owner Krzysztof Drzewiecki embraces dishes from neighboring countries, like delicious beef stroganoff served in a bread bowl.

Closer to the homeland, hounds recommend pierogi, sautéed trout in yogurt sauce, potato pancakes with smoked salmon, and white borscht (though Joe MacBu prefers the tangier version at Greenpoint’s Lomzynianka). Warm, spiced red wine makes an appealing winter warmer, and the little Polish enclave around the newer Maspeth location merits exploration for its delis and bakeries, advises Dave_G.

Elsewhere in central Queens, Bona remains a favorite for consistent, fairly priced Polish food and beer. Recommended: potato pancakes, vegetable salads, and pierogi (with mushrooms or sauerkraut).

Krolewskie Jadlo [Maspeth]
56-27 61st Street (between 56th Road and 56th Drive), Maspeth, Queens
718-386-2656
Map

Krolewskie Jadlo [Greenpoint]
694 Manhattan Avenue (between Nassau and Norman), Brooklyn
718-383-8993
Map

Lomzynianka [Greenpoint]
646 Manhattan Avenue (between Nassau and Norman), Brooklyn
718-389-9439
Map

Bona [Ridgewood]
71-24 Fresh Pond Road (near Myrtle Avenue), Ridgewood, Queens
718-386-4400
Map

Board Links: polish restaurant around ridgewood, maspeth, glendale, middle village????

May Wah Fans, Meet Wah Mei (and Other Chinatown News)

Good news for lovers of the bargain pork chop: On the site of the late, lamented May Wah, the reassuringly named Wah Mei is turning out a similar menu of under-$5 Chinese lunch plates. Under new ownership—but with some of the old cooks—Wah Mei trumps May Wah’s single pork chop option by offering several, including a “house special” chop; black pepper, garlic, and onion chops (all $4.25 over rice); and a new “Macao-style” pork chop burger ($2.50).

The big difference, however, is in the seasoning. “For the first time,” says HLing, “their pork chop tasted good to me. The chop as well as the minced meat sauce over rice were all tasty. The old May Wah’s meat did have a great aroma, but the smell didn’t translate to taste.” makistar, in dissent, prefers the old ways: “It’s not bad food, but it’s missing the to-die-for aroma. If May Wah was a 10, Wah Mei is a 7.”

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, on Chinatown’s eastern fringe, these are sad days for devotees of Happy Joy, a recent victim of rising rents. “The gentrification below Delancey continues,” laments jimmyjazz, who will miss curry chicken, beef chow fun, and spicy string beans, among other things, from the sprawling Chinese-Malaysian menu.

Another Chinatown favorite, Cantoon Garden, is alive and well and on top of its game, serving dependably delicious Cantonese food. Casseroles are smart orders here. banquo loves the one with tender lamb—loin, knuckle, neck, and other parts—plus tofu skin, Chinese cabbage, and jujubes in a thick, rich stock scented with star anise. Fish head and stewed chicken casseroles are also reliable and comforting, Brian S advises.

Other winners: corn–fish maw soup, fried chicken with garlic sauce, and lobster in XO sauce—not the most delicate version in town, says banquo, but fresh, garlicky, mildly spicy, and a deal at $20 for two lobsters. One don’t-miss seasonal special is pea shoots with two kinds of egg: thousand-year egg and lightly poached fresh egg, blended in a pleasingly salty ground-meat sauce. “I was blown away by this dish,” sighs Polecat.

Wah Mei Pork Chop Fast Food [Chinatown]
Formerly May Wah Fast Food
190 Hester Street (between Baxter and Mulberry), Manhattan
212-925-6428
Map

Cantoon Garden [Chinatown]
22 Elizabeth Street (between Canal and Bayard), Manhattan
212-964-2229
Map

Board Links: Last chance for May Wah pork chop rice–Closing Feb 17th
Happy Joy to close
Cantoon Garden—review

At Cobble Hill’s Hibino, Fresh Japanese Flavors

The sushi at Hibino is perfectly fine, but for something out of the ordinary, check out the Kyoto-style small plates called obanzai. They’re the specialty at this Cobble Hill spot, opened in late March by two alumni of Manhattan’s Sushi Samba.

An early crowd-pleaser: cleanly fried croquettes featuring eel and shiso in creamy, risottolike rice. Other recent choices from the daily-changing menu include spring vegetable oshitashi, braised tuna in ginger-soy broth, and smoked salmon ceviche with apple and shiso dressing. House-made tofu and other soy foods might turn up in obanzai—like delicious yuba-wrapped shrimp—or in the also daily-changing miso soups.

Sushi and sashimi feature uncommonly fresh and well-cut fish. Eel is especially nice, reports Nehna. Also recommended: rich, tasty spicy tuna rolls and the filling, kitchen-sink futomaki, loaded with fresh seafood, egg, and other stuff (though some find the competing flavors muddled).

Hibino reminds some locals of Taku, a short-lived hound hangout whose unconventional Japanese menu drew disappointingly sparse crowds on nearby Smith Street. “I hope they can pull off a nontraditional Japanese menu in an area where a similar endeavor failed,” writes lambretta76.

Hibino [Cobble Hill]
Formerly Jam for Bread
333 Henry Street (at Pacific), Brooklyn
718-260-8052
Map

Board Links: Hibino–Henry St @ Pacific

Baked Treats Around Jackson Heights

Tiny, crunchy, sugar-dusted pastry twists, filled with a dab of jelly, are a hound-worthy treat at Monika, a grandmotherly Polish deli in Jackson Heights. “Really good,” says Jim Leff. “They had a flavor I’ve never experienced before in this nabe … it made me disoriented for a minute until I could regroup and identify it. It was butter.” In the refrigerator case, look for soups, bigos (pork-sauerkraut stew), and other prepared foods from Brooklyn’s dependable Old Poland.

A block east, Aqui Colombia makes fine alfajores (caramel-filled cookies) in the yellow, crumbly style, not the lardy, shortbready style. For the latter, Jim recommends neighborhood Peruvian restaurants like Don Alex.

The nearby Aires del Sur bakes first-rate Argentine-style empanadas and sweets. Special pastries, especially anything with dulce de leche, are a good bet, ladymurasaki advises.

Monika Polish Meat and Deli [Jackson Heights]
80-10 37th Avenue (near 80th Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-899-3867
Map

Aqui Colombia Antojitos Bakery and Enterprises [Jackson Heights]
81-08 37th Avenue (at 81st Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-651-6565
Map

Don Alex [Jackson Heights]
95-04 37th Avenue (at 95th Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-5187
Map

Aires del Sur [Jackson Heights]
77-07 37th Avenue (between 77th and 78th streets), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-507-6539
Map

Board Links: market watch: Jackson Heights
NYT Real Estate Section Article: Author Moves to Jackson Heights for the Food

Sweetness and Soy at Kyotofu

Kyotofu transforms Japanese staples and seasonings into elegantly wrought sweets. There’s delicate, gingery rice porridge. These folks really love their soy products: There’s soy magicked into every form of sweet. There’s dense, warm chocolate with rich miso filling; sublime black-sesame tofu; subtley nutty tofu cheesecake with a bit of peppery sansho.

It’s all fantastic and unique, says kathryn, who loves the attention to detail evident in the well-chosen accompaniments on each plate, e.g., candied ginger, sour cherries, a seven-spice tuile. She recommends the $15 dessert kaiseki, which showcases much of the menu. It comprises an opening sweet, a sampler of three or four desserts, and petits fours—usually sweet, soft cookies made from okara, the soy bran left over after tofu is made.

Kyotofu, whose New York shop is the first stateside outpost of a chain from Kyoto, also offers a strong sake selection plus original cocktails like the Shibuya martini: shochu, guava, and muddled ginger. In addition, there’s a short menu of savory dishes, mostly ignored by sweet-toothed hounds. But the tofu-chicken meatballs are quite good, jsgjewels says.

Kyotofu [Clinton]
705 Ninth Avenue (between W. 48th and 49th streets), Manhattan
212-974-6012
Map

Board Links: kyotofu wait time
Desserts and Appetizers in W. 40s/50s?
Kyotofu