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

Catch of the Day: Senegalese ‘Paella’ at La Marmite

La Marmite does a super job with the Senegalese fish specialty thiebou djenne–as good as any version around town. It’s a heaping plate of goodness, says Polecat: garlicky fish, rice, and huge chunks of carrot, yucca, and other vegetables, with an authentic sheen from palm oil and a unique green hot sauce served on the side. The difference here is the fish, more tender–and more of it–than you’ll get at other restaurants.

This paella-inspired dish (pronounced “cheb-boo jenn,” or just “cheb”) is on the lunch menu, which gives way to a lineup of grilled meats at dinnertime–though you might still be able to get it later in the day if they haven’t run out.

La Marmite will soon open a second location on 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) between 133rd and 134th streets, Uptownflavor reports.

La Marmite Restaurant [Harlem]
2264 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), at 121st St., Manhattan

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La Marmite in Harlem

Tinto Fino: Spanish Wine Source for New Yorkers

Diners at Tia Pol, the popular tapas joint in Chelsea, kept asking owner Mani Dawes where they could buy the wines poured at the restaurant. And she couldn’t think of any place in New York. So in October she opened Tinto Fino, the city’s first store devoted exclusively to Spanish wine and sherry.

This tiny shop, organized by region, offers around 150 choices and counting, says RichardA. The selection is broad, including the familiar Tempranillo-based wines as well as less familiar varietals such as Bobal and Mencia. Among the sherries, Spoony Bard is partial to La Cigarrera and La Gitana, both a beautiful match for Spanish food.

In addition to the wines, hounds love the vibe and appreciate the helpful owner, who is often in the house. “She is very personable and obviously quite knowledgeable,” RichardA reports. “She possesses a true passion about Spanish wine, a trait I always seek in wine store owners.”

Tinto Fino [East Village]
85 1st Ave., between E. 5th and 6th Sts., Manhattan

Tia Pol [Chelsea]
205 10th Ave., between W. 22nd and 23rd Sts., Manhattan

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Tinto Fino—New York
Tia Pol First Date

Han Shin Pocha: Seoul-Style Pub and Grill in Flushing

As Korean pubs go, Han Shin Pocha is about as authentic as they come. Known as Goo Gong Tan to Koreans, this drinking and eating hangout is part of the often-overlooked Korean enclave in Flushing’s Murray Hill neighborhood, east of downtown and a few blocks off the bustling Northern Boulevard strip. E Eto recounts a terrific meal highlighted by the house specialty, charcoal-grilled shellfish. Here’s what his group enjoyed:

- Modeum jogae (assorted clam grill): This is a big heap of regular clams, razor clams, turban (sea snails), chopped seasoned scallops, chopped clams, oysters, and enoki mushrooms–all fresh and delicious–served with udon noodles in seafood broth. Eat the shellfish as soon as they expire and open up on your tableside grill, with a dash of garlicky, vinegary orange sauce if you like, and try not to lose the juices. Save the noodles for last; by the time you’ve put away the shellfish, the noodles will be soft and the tasty broth, containing bits of squid and crab, will be boiling. surly calls this dish “hard-core, down-and-dirty Korean comfort food,” difficult to find in mainstream restaurants even in Korea.

- Sauteed baby octopus and pork belly in red sauce: Spicy, hearty, and accompanied by shiso-like ggae-nyeep (sesame leaf) and slices of chile and raw garlic.

- Goon mandoo (fried dumplings): An exemplary version, filled with pork, chive, garlic, and clear noodles, and pan-fried to perfect crispness.

- Pajun (scallion pancake): Nice and crispy and uncommonly light–and brought to E Eto’s table on the house.

- Jwee-poh (dried fish or squid): Softened on the grill, cut into strips with scissors, this is a common pub bite, great with drinks, served with hot sauce or mayonnaise for dipping.

Other smart orders include gan jang soo yook (soy sauce pork belly), marinated and preboiled, then finished on the grill; al jjigae (fish roe stew); and oh-jing-uh soondae (steamed squid stuffed with sliced blood sausage). Drinks–which flow freely here–include beer, soju, and more unusual offerings like sweet Korean raspberry wine.

The vibe is much like a Japanese izakaya–worn but warm and comfortable–and non-Koreans might find the place intimidating. If possible, go with someone who speaks the language. surly says Goo Gong Tan is modeled on Korea’s po jang ma cha, little dives that operate out of basements and tents: “The menu offerings, the Korean pop music, the graffiti all over the walls, the utter lack of restraint in drinking and eating, the camaraderie, the lack of English spoken, the absence of gringos, the uncomfortable seats–this is truly what it’s like to eat and drink in Korea.”

Han Shin Pocha, a.k.a. Goo Gong Tan [Flushing]
40-03 149th Pl., near Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, Queens

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Han Shin Pocha, Flushing

Butai: Underappreciated Japanese Grill in Gramercy

Butai is not what it appears. Belying its modern, bilevel space, it specializes in traditional robata-style grilled dishes. “We loved it. They are cranking out really good Japanese bar food with very few missteps,” marvels kenito799.

In addition to grilled stuff, the menu offers hot and cold appetizers, sushi and sashimi, and a couple of noodle dishes. Except for a few fusiony sushi rolls, they play it fairly straight. kenito wonders if that’s one reason business appears to be light at this sister restaurant to Hapon and Maxie in Midtown: “It doesn’t seem to be getting the appreciation it deserves. Maybe it’s not westernized enough for that neighborhood.”

Upstairs is the serene main dining room; downstairs is the bar and a small counter that looks into the kitchen, affording a view of cooks working the grill. Service is friendly and attentive, and ambience is cozy, comfortable, and chic without being pretentious, says cinnamon lover.

Some recommended dishes (many from the specials menu):

- Kushiyaki (grilled skewers): In the same league as city front-runner Totto, says kenito. All excellent: chicken thigh, wing, skin, gizzard and hip, skirt steak, squid tentacles, kabocha, duck with scallion, pork belly with ponzu, bacon-wrapped shishito peppers. Skewers are $2 to $5–and half price on Monday nights.

- Grilled whole saury from Japan ($15): A good-sized (11-inch) fish, cooked so the skin is crispy and the flesh succulent. You can eat all the bones except for the spine, and the delicious liver is left in place.

- Grilled short rib: Meaty bones are served alongside juicy rare slices. Grilled meats can be ordered in entree or “tapas” portions; even the $13 tapas portion is pretty big.

- Tempura of shiso-wrapped chicken with green tea salt ($7): Four large, tasty pieces with lots of crispy shiso leaf.

- Chawan mushi ($6): The traditional steamed savory custard, packed with good stuff, including two big gingko nuts and a shrimp with real flavor.

- Agedashi tofu ($6): Commendable texture, well-balanced flavors, and sufficient seasoning.

- Sashimi: kenito reports perfect yellowtail “toro” ($4) and mackerel ($2.50), and deeply flavorful uni ($4), but says toro was a bit off. Wasabi is fresh.

- Desserts: Lily bulb soup is flavorful but heavy on the red bean paste. Black sesame pudding is drizzled with caramel; the pudding is not too sweet, so the caramel complements it nicely.

Butai Restaurant [Gramercy]
115 E. 18th St., between Park Ave. S. and Irving Pl., Manhattan

Yakitori Totto [Clinton]
251 W. 55th St., 2nd floor, between 8th Ave. and Broadway, Manhattan

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Butai-A Great Find!

Favela Grill: Fresh, Satisfying Brazilian Chow in Astoria

At Favela Grill, a promising new Brazilian place in Astoria, don’t overlook the weekday specials. A good one is bacalhau (salt cod) stewed with potatoes, olives and onions, which might turn up on Fridays, Brian S reports. The specials, served with rice and exceptionally tasty beans, are $10 or, before 3 p.m., $7 for a smaller portion.

Favela, which replaces a churrascaria called Girasol, offers some grilled meats, but its menu leans more toward roasts, stews, and sautes. One smart order is moist, flavorful carne de sol (sun-cured beef) with onions and manioc fries. For starters, try light, fresh-tasting empanadas–fillings include bacalhau, meat, and tuna with peppers. Overall, it’s simple, sturdy, comforting chow, some of it a tad short on flavor, says quentinC. “The food is not mind-blowing,” he adds, “but it’s fresh, down-to-earth and well prepared.”

A few blocks south, a veteran Brazilian buffet and churrascaria has settled into a satisfying groove. “You must try Brasilianville”, insists smudgy, a fan of its unique, tasty buffet dishes, solid grilled meats, and bargain prices. junglekitte says a recent buffet spread featured impeccably fresh pasta, potato salad, beets, green beans, chicken in cream sauce, and stupendous corn pudding, among other things–all for $8. “Everything I tried was top-notch. I felt like I was back in Brazil.” As with any buffet, timing is critical. Look for fresh batches of chow sometime after 8 p.m., when hungry regulars start to fill the room.

Meats are dependably good. Brian S reports a scrumptious, 13-ounce portion of wine-marinated entrana (skirt steak), done extra-rare to order, for just $5.80. “On a good day at La Portena or Esquina Criolla you could do better–for three times the price,” he notes.

Favela Grill [Astoria]
33-18 28th Ave., near 35th St., Astoria, Queens

Brasilianville Cafe and Grill [Long Island City]
43-12 34th Ave., between 43rd and 44th Sts., Long Island City, Queens

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Favela review
Favela in Astoria?
Great food at Brasilianville Cafe and Grill

Chinatown Update: Amazing 66 and Other Cantonese Tips

Amazing 66, a Cantonese newcomer in Chinatown, is already drawing crowds with clean, clear flavors and inventive preparations. Braised and steamed dishes are smart picks, advises Brian S. “Braised duck with eight precious” is a generous portion of boneless duck breast topped with squid, shrimp, scallops, pork, chicken, pea pods, carrots, and mushrooms, and served with rich, ducky broth. Frog, deftly stir-fried with lily bulbs then steamed with rice, is a deservedly popular order, reports designerboy01. He senses a sure hand in the kitchen and an interest in introducing New Yorkers to less familiar dishes.

Other hits from Amazing 66’s first month in business: lobster over pan-fried noodles, baby bok choy with garlic, crisp chicken with pickled cabbage, five-spice-scented braised duck with brown mushrooms, spoon-tender beefsteak in a rich garlicky casserole, and steamed chicken with ham, broccoli, and mushroom in velvety, intensely chicken-y sauce. Portions are large, at least for now–steamed sliced salmon in black bean sauce is actually two huge salmon steaks, served in a deep bowl with dark savory broth. And you just might receive an order of soup on the house.

Rare miscues include overly chewy pork belly with squid and occasional overcooking and under-seasoning. Stick to Cantonese dishes; Miss Needle warns of leaden soup dumplings, disappointingly short on soup.

Three blocks north, a past Cantonese favorite appears to be on its game. 213 Grand Street Gourmet, which at first glance is a barbecued-meat house with a steam table, also has full English and Chinese menus. Two casseroles from the Chinese menu stand out, says Brian S: meaty chicken and mushrooms in rich brown broth, and fried fish with roast pork, mushrooms, and bean curd–both fresh and generously portioned. Past reports praise 213 Grand’s lo mein, chow fun, roast pork, and dim sum.

On Lafayette, next to the hit-or-miss Excellent Dumpling House, humble lunch spot New Wing Wong has re-emerged as humble lunch spot Wing Huang. Locals crowd in from morning till early evening for solid, cheap soup noodles, congees, barbecued meats, and rice plates. Duck gizzards over rice are an off-menu highlight, advises Pan.

Amazing 66 Restaurant [Chinatown]

formerly Eastern Villa

66 Mott St., between Bayard and Canal, Manhattan


213 Grand Street Gourmet [Chinatown]

213 Grand St., between Mott and Elizabeth, Manhattan



Wing Huang [Chinatown]

formerly New Wing Wong

111 Lafayette St., between Canal and Walker, Manhattan



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Amazing 66 —new in Chinatown
213 Grand Street Gourmet Restaurant —Chinatown

European Union: Robust Gastropub Chow in East Village

European Union won the war–a long and rancorous campaign to secure its liquor license. Now the East Village gastropub is winning hearts and minds with well-chosen beers and wines and a pan-European menu of hearty, drink-friendly chow by executive chef Sara Ochs (formerly of Esca), served in a cool industrial space. “I have been consistently impressed with almost everything on the menu,” admits jonasblank, a once-skeptical neighbor.

Recommended: wild mushroom pasta, grilled bavette steak (with artichoke gratin), romaine salad with crispy shallots and lemon, fish (hake, skate, shrimp, squid) and chips, Catalan-style lamb “cassoulet” (with white beans and garlic sausage).

The don’t-miss dessert is chocolate absinthe cake, but you also won’t go wrong with linzer-filled doughnuts or cannele de Bordeaux with chamomile cream. And Jill confesses that her normally civilized circle of friends went fork to fork over goat’s milk cheesecake with honey-roasted figs.

European Union [East Village]
235 E. 4th St., between Aves. A and B, Manhattan

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European Union (E.U.)–Report

Bonita Branches Out; and Other New York News

The owners of Williamsburg’s Bonita have just opened a second restaurant in Fort Greene, where most hounds are happy to have it. Pozole is a highlight, hearty and flavorful. Other early favorites include albondigas, guacamole, adobo pork (a special), tequila-soused tres leches cake, and steak tacos and chicken enchiladas with fresh house-made tortillas. The tequila lineup is deep and worth a shot. Some complain of pallid seasoning, but the kitchen still seems to be tweaking.

Meanwhile, another Brooklyn Mexican spot has closed. El Huipil in Red Hook will be missed for its moles and other homey chow from Mexico’s Guerrero state. Its owners are reportedly leaving town for North Carolina.

In Queens, the Manhattan Vietnamese restaurant Thai Son (see also ChowNews #236) has opened a second location in Elmhurst, replacing the departed Pho Binh. Early reports suggest it’s a rough shakedown for the new kitchen, but they’ve been open less than a month, so stay tuned.

Long Island City’s Lil’ Bistro 33, which has won a following with a deft blend of Asian ingredients and French technique, is temporarily closed. It’s moving to new, larger digs in Astoria.

And Cobble Hill’s similarly named Little Bistro, whose own brand of East-West fusion never quite caught on, has gone out of business.

Bonita Restaurant [Fort Greene]
formerly Cino’s
243 DeKalb Ave., between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves., Brooklyn

Bonita Restaurant [Williamsburg]
338 Bedford Ave., near S. 4th St., Brooklyn

El Huipil [Red Hook]
116A Sullivan St., between Van Brunt and Conover, Brooklyn

Thai Son [Elmhurst]
formerly Pho Binh
40-10 74th St., near Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens

Thai Son [Chinatown]
89 Baxter St., between Walker and Bayard, Manhattan

Lil’ Bistro 33 [Astoria]
19-33 Ditmars Blvd., near 19th St., Astoria, Queens

Little Bistro [Cobble Hill]
158 Court St., between Amity and Pacific, Brooklyn

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Bonita in Ft. Greene
Bonita in Ft. Greene
Help! Quick meal in Redhook
Authentic Mexican at El Huipil
Thai Son Vietnamese Cuisine Jackson Heights
Little Bistro closed?

At MarkJoseph, a Seafood Tower Minus the Ice

MarkJoseph Steakhouse has a different take on the seafood tower. Rather than going raw and cold, theirs is cooked. It includes fried clams, calamari, lobster tail, shrimp, and mussels, and it’s great, swears wingman.

For a more conventional version, many hounds turn to Balthazar (see also ChowNews #206, #210, #236, #238, #239). Its plateau de fruits de mer gets a lift from standout sauces, including mignonette and a tomatoey tarragon one, says MMRuth.

Others swear by raw bar favorite Aquagrill for its plateau or plateau Royale (oysters, clams, shrimp, periwinkles, mussels, lobster, more).

Orsay and L’Absinthe also erect hound-endorsed seafood towers.

MarkJoseph Steakhouse [South Street Seaport]

261 Water St., near Peck Slip, Manhattan



Balthazar [Soho]

80 Spring St., at Crosby, Manhattan



Aquagrill [Soho]

210 Spring St., at 6th Ave., Manhattan



Orsay Restaurant [Upper East Side]

1057 Lexington Ave., at E. 75th St., Manhattan



L’Absinthe [Upper East Side]

227 E. 67th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan



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Best Seafood Tower?

Pollos El Paisa: Stellar Chicken in Westbury, L.I.

As the name would suggest, Pollos El Paisa is all about the chicken. Colombian-style rotisserie birds are the don’t-miss order. For a taste of the rest of the menu, the bandeja paisa (mountain platter) includes the chicken plus fried pork belly, grilled skirt steak, fried egg, plantains, avocado, rice, beans, and an arepa. Highly recommended, says halokiti, who loves just about everything here except the salty seafood paella.

Also on the menu: fish soup, stewed beef tongue, grilled beef steak or pork loin, garlicky camarones al ajillo and other shrimp dishes, and more. “This place is great–a very good value and very good food!” raves Gastronomos.

Pollos El Paisa [Nassau County]

989 Old Country Rd., between Brooklyn Ave. and State St., Westbury, NY



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Westbury Chicken