New York rss

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

Il Brigante — Promising Italian Near the Seaport

Il Brigante is a welcome bright light in the unpromising quarter around South Street Seaport. bokkyo says this newish trattoria raises the bar for the neighborhood with thin-crust wood-oven pizzas, including an exemplary margherita—tomato sauce, basil, and fior di latte mozzarella on a standout crust, “not too crunchy nor chewy, just that someplace in between that made me wolf it down.” Also recommended: mussels in white wine sauce, super fresh and cooked to a turn. “It’s rare I have a meal this satisfying,” bokkyo adds. “I do believe Il Brigante is here to stay!”

Il Brigante [South Street Seaport]
214 Front St., near Beekman, Manhattan

Board Links: il brigante–raising the bar in South St Seaport/Financial District

The Way of Tea at Gramstand

Tea—hot and cold, old-school and new—is the main event at Gramstand. jenny O is hooked on Mocha Grey Latte, a milky-chocolatey Earl Grey variation, and the bracing, herbaceous Eucalyptus Well. Also recommended: Citrus Berry, a refreshing cold beverage sweetened with Korean citrus honey, and the eye-catching Hibiscus Pear, which gradually turns from yellow to red thanks to a hibiscus leaf steeped in the sweet, fruity brew.

More traditional choices include Dragon Well green tea, Shou Mei white, and the signature Gramstandard, a Sri Lankan black tea with hints of mango and magnolia. No reports yet on the food—they serve sandwiches, pastries, and other bites.

Gramstand, which started out on Irving Place, moved in January to its current, larger space on Avenue A. It’s a warm and welcoming hangout, says westpointisland. If the tea isn’t stimulating enough, diversions include free wi-fi and Lego sets.

Gramstand [East Village]
214 Ave. A, between E. 13th and 14th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links: Gramstand

Fresh Favorites at Chinatown Bakeries

As Manhattan’s ever-shifting Chinatown creeps north and east, it leaves a trail of bao and buns. A current hound favorite is one of the neighborhood’s newer bakeries, Double Crispy on Grand Street. houdipuffy passes on the pastry counter in back and homes in on the goods displayed on the west side of the shop—especially the raisin and lemon twist roll.

On East Broadway, Sun Light Bakery has fed the recent obsessions of christinag123. Vanilla sponge cake rolls, roast pork buns, and ham-and-cheese buns. Nice apple buns, too, plus a wide selection of tapioca teas and fresh juices. To christina, Sun Light outshines the neighboring Golden Carriage. But Sweatshirt Guy (who’s also a Golden Carriage guy) puts in a word for custard buns and exceptionally good coffee at this mini-chain outlet.

A few blocks west, Greg reports exceptional roast pork buns—without onions or lumps of fat, if that’s your preference—at King Wah. (Also recommended here: raisin bread, butter bread, and impossibly light sponge cake.) Another worthy pork bun lurks behind the counter at the recently renovated Canal Seafood Restaurant. Both steamed and baked varieties are good, boasting a tasty and not overly sweet filling, says bigjeff. Lucky King is the current steamed-bun hangout of wleatherette. And two perennial favorites for pork buns, the dinerish Chatham Restaurant and Mei Lai Wah, continue to deliver the goods, aided by high traffic that ensures freshness.

Some longtime hound hangouts remain competitive, including Golden Dragon Boat and Dragon Land. At the latter, check out fried sesame balls, vegetable-filled puff pastries, and red bean-filled bolo bao (look for the crumbly, egg-glazed “pineapple” topping). May May, long celebrated for its zong zi (seasoned sticky rice with meat and vegetables in banana leaf), also serves up amazingly good lotus seed pie, says Peter Cherches, as well as sweet, restorative lemon-ginger cider.

Among the local bakery empires, Foodaholic finds Fay Da the most consistent. Look for irresistible rice balls—in mango, coconut, taro, or green tea-red bean flavors—near the register, urges NancyC. bluehensfan has a soft spot for the Switzerland bun, a braided sweet bread iced in zigzags and swirls.

Tai Pan also has its partisans, including lutkie, who favors its buns and hot, sweet tea. SunnysideUp is partial to the triple-decker tea sandwiches: ham, tomato and sliced egg with light, sweet mayonnaise on white bread—”very British but somehow very Chinatown.”

Double Crispy Bakery [Chinatown]
230 Grand St., between Bowery and Elizabeth St., Manhattan

Sun Light Bakery [Chinatown]
160 E. Broadway, near Rutgers St., Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
162 E. Broadway, at Rutgers St., Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
79 Chrystie St., between Hester and Grand, Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
15 Catherine St., between E. Broadway and Henry, Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
153 Centre St., between Canal and Walker, Manhattan

King Wah Bakery [Chinatown]
25 E. Broadway, between Catherine and Market Sts., Manhattan

Canal Seafood Restaurant [Chinatown]
266 Canal St., between Lafayette St. and Broadway, Manhattan

Lucky King Bakery [Chinatown]
280 Grand St., between Eldridge and Forsythe, Manhattan

Chatham Restaurant [Chinatown]
9 Chatham Sq., between E. Broadway and Doyers St., Manhattan

Mei Lai Wah Coffee House [Chinatown]
64 Bayard St., between Elizabeth and Mott, Manhattan

Golden Dragon Boat Cafe and Bakery [Chinatown]
111 Bowery, between Hester and Grand Sts., Manhattan

Dragon Land Bakery [Chinatown]
125 Walker St., at Baxter, Manhattan

May May Gourmet Chinese Bakery [Chinatown]
35 Pell St., between Mott and Doyers, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
83 Mott St., at Canal, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
191 Centre St., between Howard and Canal, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
82 Elizabeth St., between Grand and Hester, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
135-16 Roosevelt Ave., between Prince and Main Sts., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
4160 Main St., between Sanford and Maple Aves., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
3711 Main St., between 37th and 38th Aves., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Elmhurst]
8612 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
formerly Le Petit Pain
4615 Kissena Blvd., near Holly Ave., Flushing, Queens

Tai Pan Bakery [Chinatown]
194 Canal St., between Mott and Mulberry, Manhattan

Tai Pan Bakery [Flushing]
3725 Main St., between 37th and 38th Aves., Flushing, Queens

Tai Pan Bakery [Flushing]
4205B Main St., between Maple and Franklin Aves., Flushing, Queens

Board Links: Favorite Chinatown bakery?
Best Baked Pork Buns?

Detroiters Rejoice: Vernors Ginger Ale in Manhattan

Michiganders love their Vernors ginger ale, but they can’t get it in New York City. Not through the usual channels, anyway; it isn’t directly distributed here. Yet “Detroit’s Drink” turns up once in a while when retailers or restaurateurs (often Midwestern expats) bring it in on their own. Ex-Detroiter praeburn recently happened upon it at Kitchen/Market, the Mexican-and-beyond gourmet grocer in Chelsea. “Please go,” praeburn urges, “and buy enough to encourage them to keep carrying it–but please leave me a couple of cans.”

So what’s the big deal about Vernors? Fans find it more gingery—and more gently carbonated—than Canada Dry or Schweppes (whose parent company now owns the Vernors brand). To melon, it’s not as gingery as straight ginger beer, but “unique and delicious, with kind of a peppery vanilla dimension. I never drink soda unless there’s Vernors around.”

Kitchen/Market [Chelsea]
218 8th Ave., at W. 21st St., Manhattan

Board Links: Vernors Ginger Ale

Tomato Pie Worthy of Song

Come for the pie, stay for the floor show. Alfred Rossino, proprietor of Alfred’s Tomato Pie, turns out beautiful thin-crust pizzas by hand, all the while singing along to recordings of Sinatra, opera, or doowop. Billed as Roman style, his pies (no slices here) are exceptionally light and crisp, topped with fresh plum tomatoes and a scant sprinkling of shredded cheese. dan f. thinks they belong in the same conversation with top pizzas from Trenton (De Lorenzo) to Brooklyn (the storied DiFara) to New Haven.

Alfred’s pie, which draws crowds on weekends, is notable for its expert engineering, among other things: “How does he get crust that thin and that crisp with enough tensile strength to hold up the ingredients?” dan f. marvels. “Cheese is minimal; it’s mostly about the sauce and the crust.” Besides the basic tomato and cheese, recommended toppings include sausage, Vidalia onion, clams (red or white), and a distinctive cheeseless creation of tomato, garlic, anchovy and olive oil.

Alfred’s Tomato Pie [Camden County]
9 S. Black Horse Pike, at Church St., Blackwood, NJ

Board Links: Clam Pizza in NJ
Driving Baltimore to NYC tonight—looking for a casual but delicious place on the way

Blue Dog Revisited – Unsung Deliciousness in Chelsea

Blue Dog Cafe, a charming breakfast and lunch spot in a neighborhood not exactly overflowing with great eats, is unaccountably overlooked, argues Blumie. Two recent winners among the sandwiches: tuna and vegetables on seven-grain, and turkey, brie and pear on baguette. Also on the menu: muffins, scones and other baked goods, salads (including substantial rice and pasta choices), and soups (recent offerings: split pea, carrot-ginger, chicken with pasta and broccoli).

“I’m amazed how good it is for a place that gets such little play on this board,” adds Blumie, who also describes a stellar peanut butter-chocolate croissant–scrumptious filling inside light, flaky, crispy pastry.

Blue Dog Cafe [Chelsea]
101 W. 25th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan

Board Links: Blue Dog Cafe

Old-School Fountain Burger in Valley Stream, L.I.

It’s easy to overlook a place like Mitchell’s, a fixture since 1938 on Rockaway Avenue in Valley Stream. butterchicken2nan dropped in for the first time in years and settled in with a hamburger. His verdict: “Absolutely slammin”—a sturdy six-ouncer on a bun built to hold it without falling apart, served with crunchy, tasty fries. Variations include a pizza burger (with mozzarella and marinara), the Valley Stream (mushrooms and onions), and the Five Towns (bacon and blue cheese). “Funny how something great can be right under your nose,” he adds.

If you’re thinking dessert, Mitchell’s makes its own ice cream, as it has since it first opened. But byrd recommends a stroll down the street to Itgen’s, whose butter pecan and mocha chip ice creams and luscious hot fudge have made a deep impression on chowhounds.

Mitchell’s Restaurant [Nassau County]
191 Rockaway Ave., between Valley Stream Blvd. and Jamaica Ave., Valley Stream, NY

Mitchell’s Restaurant [Nassau County]
2756 Long Beach Rd., between Tilrose and Harrison Aves., Oceanside, NY

Walt Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour [Nassau County]
211 Rockaway Ave., between Jamaica and Hawthorne Aves., Valley Stream, NY

Board Links: Mitchell’s burgers–Valley Stream oasis

Mai House: Winning Upscale Vietnamese in Tribeca

Refined, upmarket Vietnamese food is winning over hounds at the newish Mai House. “A divine experience,” declares FoodieGirl007, who recommends white yam soup with rock shrimp and a knockout entree of clay pot chicken with quail eggs, lemongrass, ginger and chiles.

Flavors are fresh and well balanced; melissas816 loves the perfect curry and coconut notes in the house lacxa, a bowl of prawns and shrimp noodles in broth. (Your server may warn that this dish is spicy; it isn’t really.) Chef Michael Huynh has brought in some greatest hits from his previous gig at Bao 111 in the East Village, including barbecued quail and sticky rice studded with Chinese sausage. Other smart orders: sweet-sour-spicy whole red snapper, thin-sliced sizzling lemongrass short ribs with Vidalia onion, and a trio of ginger, cinnamon and black sesame sorbets for dessert. The few disappointing dishes tend toward blandness, like steamed black cod and shrimp spring rolls.

Cocktails are varied and interesting; one exquisite choice, says eeee, is the Buddha’s Eye (Tanqueray 10, honeydew juice, basil). The atmosphere is inviting and energized, and service is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable.

Mai House [Tribeca]
formerly Tribakery
186 Franklin St., between Hudson and Greenwich, Manhattan

Bao 111 [East Village]
111 Ave. C, between E. 7th and 8th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links: mai house
Oh my, Mai House!
Mai House Review–long

Ideal Donut: Platonic Treats in Forest Hills

The sign outside is ancient, but the doughnuts inside are astoundingly fresh. “Ideal Donut makes the lightest, tastiest doughnuts that I remember from my childhood,” swears zeus. “If you are in the area you must try them.”

Ideal Donut [Forest Hills]
64-48 108th St., at 64th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens

Board Links: Donuts I have ignored in Forest Hills

Samosa House: Superior Indian Vegetarian in Fishkill, NY

The proof might be in the pickle: Samosa House does not sound like your ordinary curry dive. Instead of the usual trio of tired chutneys, this bare-bones storefront vegetarian restaurant, open since December, offers a dazzlingly fresh house-made relish of garlic, chiles, and cilantro. Just as delicious, reports markp, were two superb curries, part of one day’s lunch special: chole (chickpeas) and alu matar (potato and peas in spicy tomato sauce). “This is food of love,” he sings, “greaseless and absolutely savory—pure Indian soul food.”

That thali-style special is an unbeatable deal: two curries, basmati rice, whole wheat chapati, a pickle and a sweet, all for $5. mark adds: “The billowy chapati and workmanlike basmati abetted me in absorbing every drop of sauce on my plate, which I would have licked clean had I not been within eyeshot of a proper Indian couple lunching alongside me.” Feather-light gulab jamun sealed the deal.

Samosa House [Dutchess County]
986 Main St., in CVS Plaza, Fishkill, NY

Board Links: Samosa House, Fishkill NY