New York rss

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

Beyond Cheesecake at Cascon

Cascon Cheesecake wants everybody to know it’s not just about the cheesecake. As if to prove it, it has come through with superb sfingi, the Italian sweets associated with last month’s Feast of San Giuseppe. ZenFoodist, previously a faithful devotee of D’Aquila in Bayside, says Cascon has made her a believer with ethereally light cannoli cream in perfectly tender fried dough puffs. They’ll be selling them through Easter.

If you miss out on the sfingi, you can still check out Cascon’s beloved cheesecake, which lives up to its reputation. The New York–style chocolate swirl cake is sublime, raves kenito799: rich and dense yet not heavy, and not too sweet. “I see no reason to get New York cheesecake anywhere else,” he concludes.

Cascon Cheesecake [Whitestone]
704 149th Street (at 7th Avenue), Whitestone, Queens
718-767-5700
Map

Pasticceria D’Aquila [Bayside]
33-31 Francis Lewis Boulevard (between 33rd and 34th avenues), Bayside, Queens
718-886-4800
Map

Board Links: Cascon’s Sfingi di San Giuseppe
Cascon Cheesecake
Cascon Cheesecake Queens

Sausage Soup, Ginger Vodka, and Other Russian Comforts

Don’t go to the Oceanview Cafe expecting an ocean view. There isn’t one. What’s worse, says frenetica, “it’s an ugly little restaurant, not good for lingering, and the service is sullen as hell.” But the soup—ah, that’s a different story. Myasnaya solyanka is traditional, hearty, and very good, a sharply acidic, tomato-tinged clear broth loaded with chunks of sausage, olives, and other goodies. “You have to like frankfurters,” frenetica notes, “as they often appear in ‘mixed meat solyanka.’” Also not to be missed: blini with caviar.

At Anyway Cafe, ignore the menu’s Frenchified touches and go for well-done Russian standards. They lay out a great herring plate and serve delicious, light pelmeni, with higher-quality fillings than you’ll find at the Russian warhorses of Brighton Beach. Don’t miss the wonderful house-infused honey-ginger vodka (other flavors include berries, fruits, horseradish, dill, and chile).

Oceanview Cafe [Brighton Beach]
290 Brighton Beach Avenue (between Brighton Second and Third streets), Brooklyn
718-332-1900
Map

Anyway Cafe [Manhattan Beach]
111 Oriental Boulevard (at West End Avenue), Brooklyn
718-648-3906
Map

Anyway Cafe [Homecrest]
1602 Gravesend Neck Road (at E. 16th Street), Brooklyn
718-934-5988
Map

Anyway Cafe [East Village]
32 E. Second Street (between Second Avenue and Bowery), Manhattan
212-533-3412
Map

Board Links: ISO best Russian Restaurant

Latin Sandwiches, Uptown and Down

El Castillo de Madison makes one tasty Cuban sandwich, set apart from the competition by superior pernil (roast pork), jimmyjazz reports. For a delicious and filling meal, get a Cubano and a bowl of mondongo (tripe soup), which is served on weekends and Wednesdays, advises fun_seanny.

Uptown hounds agree that Mambi in Washington Heights offers another fine traditional Cuban sandwich.

The Sophie’s mini-chain—whose northward march continues with its newest location on 56th Street—also makes dependable Cubanos. They’re a lunchtime staple for JackS, but his latest favorite is Sophie’s masita: chunks of fried pork with onions and sweet potato, delivering “that sweetness-with-salt appeal, a great combination of flavors.”

El Castillo de Madison [Lower East Side]
207 Madison Street (between Rutgers and Jefferson), Manhattan
212-227-2892
Map

Mambi Restaurant [Washington Heights]
4181 Broadway (near W. 177th Street), Manhattan
212-928-9796
Map

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Civic Center]
96 Chambers Street (between Church and Broadway), Manhattan
212-608-9900
Map

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Financial District]
73 New Street (between Beaver Street and Exchange Place), Manhattan
212-809-7755
Map

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Murray Hill]
179 Madison Avenue (between E. 33rd and 34th streets), Manhattan
212-679-3500
Map

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Midtown East]
369 Lexington Avenue (between E. 41st and 40th streets), Manhattan
212-922-3576
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Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine [Midtown]
23 W. 56th Street (between 5th and 6th avenues), Manhattan
212-315-4313
Map

Board Links: Best cubano Manhattan
Masita at Sophie’s on Chambers

At Jovia, a Surprising Italian Renaissance

Jovia, given up for dead by some observers after the departure of ace chef Josh DeChellis last year, is showing strong signs of life. Recent visitors report assured, inventive Italian-leaning food from DeChellis’s successor, Eben Copple. “Our meal was nothing short of magical,” raves Peter Wells.

Their dinner positively killed. The first hint of deliciousness: an awesome new soup—a creamy yet not heavy celery root purée with mussels, anchored by an ale base, deepened by a swirl of balsamic, and lifted and refreshed by mint.

Two heavenly pastas followed: house-made pappardelle with black olives and mushrooms, and bucatini all’amatriciana in a rich, meaty, truffle-scented sauce of braised veal cheek. Then, two near-perfect secondi: short rib perfectly braised in red wine sauce, served over luxurious polenta, and tender, chill-banishing venison in blazing crimson beet sauce, served over root vegetables and broccoli rabe.

Before dessert, a revelatory palate cleanser: house-made quince paste under a scoop of tangerine gelato and a crush of pistachios, with an unexpected but welcome herbal note from parsley. Finally: light, refreshing torta di limon, accented with fried sage, candied lemon wheels, and sugared walnuts. And a masterpiece in chocolate, budino di cioccolata, with a deep smoky note from Lagavulin scotch. “Stupid delicious,” Peter sighs.

Service was cheerful and warm, even for a couple of walk-ins seated in the bar area, and this fabulous dinner for two totaled just $143—little more than half the bill for a recent splurge at Brooklyn’s River Cafe, and 10 times the experience, adds Peter.

Jovia [Upper East Side]
135 E. 62nd Street (between Park and Lexington avenues), Manhattan
212-752-6000
Map

Board Links: Burke and Wells Return: Double Review, River Cafe (Brooklyn), Jovia

Yunnan Discovery in Sunset Park’s Chinatown

A noodle joint in Sunset Park’s Chinatown is introducing New York hounds to the robustly seasoned food of Yunnan. The specialty at Yunnan Flavour Snack Shop, run by an engaging couple from Kunming, is rice noodles in spicy, meaty broths. The noodles are extraordinary—tender, springy, pulled by hand, “the best f*ing rice noodles ever,” declares noooodles. Their broth is beautifully deep—rich, nuanced, and full of chiles, scallions, and preserved vegetables. Options include beef stew, pork stew, spicy meat sauce, and “crispy meat sauce,” a rustic brew featuring sliced intestine and something akin to cracklings.

Off the menu but recommended: cold rice noodles (ask for liang mi xian). On the menu but skippable: wheat noodles (bottom left corner of the board); they aren’t made in house, and even the owners will steer you away from them. Beyond noodles, check out lovely hot and sour dumplings, made with good thin wrappers and served in tasty red broth scattered with chives, suggests mary shaposhnik.

That the unfamiliar food of an isolated southwestern province should turn up first in Sunset Park, rather than the city’s larger Chinese neighborhoods, comes as no surprise to jen kalb. “Every time I’m in this Chinatown I see new places springing up,” she observes. “Not all the places are following a formula. Though mostly very simple, like this one, they seem to be offering different stuff.”

But more familiar stuff is also grabbing hound attention along the Eighth Avenue strip. Lanzhou-style wheat noodles—which you could practically trip over these days in the eastern quarter of Manhattan’s Chinatown—have recently arrived in Sunset Park. Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle offers a bare-bones menu of noodles in assorted soups (beef, tendon, oxtail, lamb, pork, duck, etc.). There’s also a vegetarian option—greens and fried egg—and it rocks, says Regina_George.

A few blocks north, Ding Hao Noodle House serves a similar lineup of hand-pulled noodles in exceptionally good broth, reports redgirl, who had a bowl of them with great pork-chive dumplings. The Lanzhou noodles are part of a more ambitious menu comprising rice noodles and casseroles with a choice of soup bases and meats, seafood, and vegetables to toss into the pot. Ding Hao may, like many of Manhattan’s Lanzhou noodle shops, have a Fujianese connection, suggested by a small section of the menu devoted to fish balls and other Fuzhou snacks.

Sunset Park also has a newish Cantonese destination, a second-floor seafood and dim sum palace called Pacificana. bigmackdaddy reports fresh, hot, flavorful dim sum highlighted by chicken feet, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, strong jasmine tea, and shrimp dumplings stuffed with chunks of shrimp. Beyond dim sum, hounds have enjoyed soy sauce duck tongues, Kowloon squid with soy sauce, and Dungeness crab steamed with garlic and sticky rice.

Yunnan Flavour Snack Shop [Sunset Park]
775A 49th Street (at Eighth Avenue), Brooklyn
718-633-3090
Map

Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle [Sunset Park]
5924 Eighth Avenue #3 (entrance on 60th Street), Brooklyn
718-492-7568
Map

Ding Hao Noodle House [Sunset Park]
773 52nd Street (between Eighth and Seventh avenues), Brooklyn
718-853-8861
Map

Pacificana Restaurant [Sunset Park]
formerly Ocean Palace
813 55th Street (at Eighth Avenue, second floor), Brooklyn
718-871-2880
Map

Board Links: Yunnan Noodles
Terrific Hand Pulled Noodles in Sunset Park
pacificana restaurant in sunset park…
Brooklyn’s Chinatown help please!
SP: Ding Hao Noodle House

Tuna High and Low

Tuna two ways, both killer:

Eleven Madison Park’s confit of big eye tuna: A ubiquitous dish, but the inspired addition here is celery and pickled Asian pear—a happy complement in taste and texture, says DoctortedNYC, and a welcome departure from too-often overpowering citrus dressings. “Best I’ve ever had,” adds the Doc, who has tried rival versions all over town.

Sable’s smoked tuna salad: A sweet, smoky, pimento-enlivened cousin to ordinary tuna salads. “Wow! It’ll leave an impression!” promises skeetereats. “Definitely worth a trip even if you don’t live anywhere near there.”

Eleven Madison Park [Gramercy]
11 Madison Avenue, at E. 24th Street, Manhattan
212-889-0905
Map

Sable’s Smoked Fish [Upper East Side]
1489 2nd Avenue, between E. 77th and 78th Streets, Manhattan
212-249-6177
Map

Board Links: Eleven Madison Park Review or Where’s Mario
A foodie MUST: Sable’s Smoked Tuna Salad

Vostok – Bukharan Find in Borough Park

You’d be hard pressed to find better lamb chops than the plump, tender Bukharan-style kebabs at Vostok, says Peter Cherches. Listed on the menu as “lamb rib steak,” they’re a highlight at this previously little-discussed place in Borough Park—and a steal at $5 for a skewer of two chops. Lyulya kebabs, made from spiced chopped meat, are almost as good.

Vostok also does well by other standards of this Central Asian cuisine, including manty (steamed meat dumplings), samsa (baked meat pies), plov (pilaf), and lagman (noodles and meat in tangy, star anise-scented soup). The mixed pickle plate is heavy-handed, overly vinegary and skippable, Peter warns.

“I don’t know how Vostok compares to the Rego Park Bukharan restaurants,” he adds, “but it’s good and cheap, somewhat better than Taam-Tov, which I liked, and much better than Cafe Kashkar, which I didn’t.”

One of the best of the bunch in Rego Park is Arzu, a go-to spot for lagman and other Central Asian chow, including many Uzbek and Uighur specialties that can’t be found elsewhere. Another smart order here is meaty, substantial Russian-style potato salad. “Most amazing,” marvels welle. Note that you have to order it in advance for a minimum of six people.

Vostok [Borough Park]
5507 13th Avenue, at 55th Street, Brooklyn
718-437-2596
Map

Taam-Tov [Diamond District]
46 W. 47th Street, 4th floor, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Manhattan
212-768-8001
Map

Cafe Kashkar [Brighton Beach]
1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, near Brighton 14th St., Brooklyn
718-743-3832
Map

Cafe Arzu [Rego Park]
101-05 Queens Boulevard, at 67th Road, Rego Park, Queens
718-830-3335
Map

Board Links: Vostok: Brooklyn Bukharian
Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach

Korean-Style Fried Chicken Spreads Its Wings

The Korean fried chicken phenomenon, which emerged on New York hound radar last year, turns out to have legs. Also, killer wings.

Bon Bon Chicken, a downtown newcomer, follows the proven formula: high-quality chicken cooked to order in a two-stage process that produces a crisp, delicate crust, with seasoning options that include chile and soy-garlic. The bare-bones menu requires just three decisions: type (wings, strips, or wings and drumsticks), flavor (spicy or mild), and size (small, medium, or large, priced from $7 to $19). “Piping hot, golden, crispy and DELICIOUS!” raves cheftamara, who went with the spicy style. Alongside comes cooling but unexceptional cole slaw and a sort of sad roll. “But who cares when the chicken is so awesome?” she adds.

Meanwhile, the popular Bon Chon chain, having already colonized Flushing’s Northern Boulevard, has taken Manhattan. Its Koreatown shop, which occupies a cool, clublike upstairs space on Fifth Avenue, fries up crispy, tasty chicken as late as 4 a.m. ESNY reports tender, juicy meat sheathed in tight, crackly skin with a thin lacquer of sauce. Bon Chon, like most of its competitors, cooks to order. The Manhattan location has been unusually slow in its opening weeks; customers report waits as long as 40 minutes.

In Queens, the whimsically named Unidentified Flying Chicken has touched down in Jackson Heights, offering similarly dependable chicken (sauces are soy-garlic and sweet-spicy) and sides that include sweet potato fries. The mood is warm and publike, and should become even more so once the liquor license comes through. UFC’s chicken is quite good, just a notch below Flushing’s Bon Chon, says surly, who suggests that Boom Boom Chicken, a former Bon Chon outlet in Fort Lee, New Jersey, might be the best in the region. No details on Boom Boom, but its menu looks much like Bon Chon’s.

In Woodside, there’s another Korean chicken option, not cooked to order but tasty and reasonably fresh if your timing is right. Among the prepared foods at the Han Ah Reum supermarket is fried chicken in crunchy, oniony batter, reports welle. “The minute I bit a piece from it, I knew I had found another addiction—it was soo good!” Just $4 for 10 pieces—and a buck more for a container of sesame-chile-scallion soy sauce.

Bon Bon Chicken [Civic Center]
98 Chambers Street, between Church and Broadway, Manhattan
212-227-2375
Map

Bon Chon Chicken [Midtown]
314 Fifth Avenue, between 32nd and 31st Streets, 2nd floor, Manhattan
212-221-2222
Map

Bon Chon Chicken [Flushing]
157-18 Northern Boulevard, between 157th and 158th Streets, Flushing, Queens
718-321-3818
Map

Unidentified Flying Chicken [Jackson Heights]
71-22 Roosevelt Avenue, near 72nd Street, Jackson Heights, Queens
718-205-6662
Map

Boom Boom Chicken [Bergen County]
formerly Bon Chon Chicken
553 Main Street, near Jones Road, Fort Lee, NJ
201-592-9700
Map

Han Ah Reum [Woodside]
59-18 Woodside Ave., at 60th St., Woodside, Queens
718-446-0759
Map

Board Links: BonBon Chicken–Korean Fried Chicken
korean fried chicken
Korean Fried Chicken
Lunch at UFC
UFO/UFC on Roosevelt
Unidentified Flying Chicken–JH

World-Class Wieners in East Hanover, NJ, and Other Hot Dog News

The foot-long at Jimmy Buff’s in East Hanover, NJ, is “the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten,” proclaims hotdoglover. This praise comes from a lifelong wiener wonk who has put away thousands of dogs up and down the Eastern Seaboard and can rattle off the size and provenance of the franks, precisely how they were cooked, and quite possibly the names, birth order, and astrological signs of the pigs and steers that went into them. This guy knows his hot dogs.

Jimmy Buff’s, he reports, uses a five-to-a-pound all-beef frank from Newark’s excellent Best Provision Co. They saute it in oil, finish it off on a charcoal grill, and slip it into a toasted bun with a smear of top-notch deli mustard. The resulting hot dog rocks: gorgeous char marks, satisfying snap, beautiful spicing. “I was just blown away,” marvels hotdoglover. He ranks it ahead of the venerable, recently relocated Syd’s in Springfield, whose foot-long features the same frank grilled over gas, not charcoal.

Also on the menu are a creditable eight-to-a-pound pushcart-style entry and a swaggering Jersey Shore-style quarter-pounder. And—not surprisingly—a superb version of the Italian hot dog, a Jersey original invented some 70 years ago in Newark by James Racioppi, a.k.a. Jimmy Buff, whose descendants now own the mini-chain that takes his name. The East Hanover shop, newest of the four, makes an exemplary Italian starring a fried all-beef Best Provision frank on chewy, locally baked pizza bread, topped with plentiful, freshly fried peppers and potatoes.

For hotdoglover’s money, it runs neck and neck with the Italian dog at Tommy’s, a perennial favorite. Tommy’s is hardly coasting on its reputation, he adds. At its original Elizabeth shop and its newish North Brunswick branch, it has retooled with eight-to-a-pound franks (an upgrade from 10-to-a-pound), heaps on more peppers than ever, and continues to fry up the best and tastiest potatoes around.

Other Italian hot dog contenders are Jersey Joe’s in Port Monmouth, Dickie Dee’s in Newark, Joe-Joe’s in Toms River, and World’s First Italian Hot Dogs in Newark (which stands on the site of the original Jimmy Buff’s). Another past favorite has slipped, regrettably. Charlie’s Famous in Kenilworth now freezes its bread, switches back and forth between meat suppliers, and sometimes turns out charred potatoes, hotdoglover sadly reports. “A shame,” he laments, “since this used to be Jersey’s premier Italian hot dog.”

Jimmy Buff’s [Morris County]
354 River Road (Rte. 10 W.), in Castle Ridge Plaza shopping center, East Hanover, NJ
973-463-0099
Map

Jimmy Buff’s [Essex County]
60 Washington Street, near Whittlesey Avenue, West Orange, NJ
973-325-9897
Map

Jimmy Buff’s [Essex County]
4 Elmwood Avenue, at Springfield Avenue, Irvington, NJ
973-375-9883
Map

Jimmy Buff’s [Union County]
2581 U.S. Hwy. 22, near Glenside Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ
908-233-2833
Map

Syd’s [Union County]
at Tony’s Place, 234 Morris Avenue, Springfield, NJ
973-564-8001
Map

Tommy’s South [Middlesex County]
2320 U.S. Hwy. 130, North Brunswick, NJ
732-951-1977
Map

Tommy’s Italian Sausage [Union County]
900 2nd Avenue, at South Street, Elizabeth, NJ
908-351-9831
Map

Jersey Joe’s [Monmouth County]
712 Port Monmouth Road, west of Wilson Avenue, Port Monmouth, NJ
732-787-5779
Map

Dickie Dee’s [Essex County]
380 Bloomfield Avenue, between North Sixth and Seventh Streets, Newark, NJ
973-483-9396
Map

Joe-Joe’s Italian Hot Dogs [Ocean County]
2039 Rte. 37 E., near Coolidge Avenue, Toms River, NJ
732-270-9720
Map

World’s First Italian Hot Dogs [Essex County]
202 14th Avenue, at South Ninth Street, Newark, NJ
973-621-9468
Map

Charlie’s Famous Hot Dogs [Union County]
18 S. Michigan Avenue, between Kingston Avenue and Kenilworth Boulevard, Kenilworth, NJ
908-241-2627
Map

Board Links: Jimmy Buff’s, East Hanover, N.J.
‘Newark Style’ Italian Hot Dogs?

Whole Wheat Pizza Discoveries in Carroll Gardens

If you enjoy whole wheat pizza—but not the virtuous vibe that can come with it—V & R may be your kind of place. Its whole wheat pie boasts a traditional thin crust—deceptively heavy, owing to the whole grain—and satisfying whole wheat nuttiness. “No hippie-dippy broccoli pies or other nonsense,” declares ben61820. “Just a basic good, classic pie–but with whole wheat goodness.”

bigmackdaddy endorses V & R’s whole wheat slice but recommends balancing its natural heft with extra sauce and ample toppings (he suggests eggplant, chicken, and meatball). Also good here: meatballs parmigiana, a celebration of plain and simple meatiness.

Elsewhere in Carroll Gardens, Caserta Vecchia also makes great whole wheat pizza, bklynkat reports. It’s an option on any of its freshly topped, Neapolitan-style individual pies.

V & R Pizzeria and Restaurant [Carroll Gardens]
512 Court Street, near Nelson, Brooklyn
718-875-5938
Map

Caserta Vecchia [Carroll Gardens]
221 Smith Street, between Butler and Baltic, Brooklyn
718-624-7549
Map

Board Links: Carroll Gardens whole wheat pizza find!!!