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

Dona Maria: Mexican Bright Spot in Suffern, NY

Dona Maria, open since spring, brings something different–and welcome–to Suffern. It’s Mexican food, “but nothing like Rockland has ever seen,” reports Deven Black; “much, much better than the canned beans and reheated glop” slung by some local competitors. Expect bright, authentic flavors in inventive, slightly dressed-up dishes that really work–like seared salmon, seasoned with a dusting of chiles and herbs, or a Mexico-and-beyond cheese plate of anejo, cotija, and Manchego, among other choices. “Everything is cooked fresh,” Deven adds, “except the beans and sauces, which are made the way they should be…very slowly.”

Dona Maria Mexican Bistro [Rockland County]
41 Lafayette Ave., near Chestnut St., Suffern, NY
845-357-2139
Map

Board Links: Fiesta Garibaldi in Nyack gone

Jack the Horse – Pub Fare with Breeding in Brooklyn Heights

A couple months out of the gate, Jack the Horse Tavern is earning a following in Brooklyn Heights with refined chow and a comfortable neighborhood vibe. Some, however, find it too expensive. “The food is good, nicely prepared and presented. The space is lovely, the atmosphere very much like a country inn or tavern. This is a nice place to spend an evening with friends,” sums up Fleur. “But the prices seem a little high for what it is.”

The brief menu offers salads and other starters plus grilled and roasted meats and seafood. Early winners include salmon medallions with orange reduction; chopped chicken liver with rhubarb compote on toasted baguette; kale, chorizo, and cranberry bean soup; and herbed fries with homemade-tasting ketchup and blue cheese sauce. Some stumbles: dried-out roast pork breast and chewy, under-salted hanger steak. The well-chosen wine list tops out at $45 a bottle. Draft beers are mostly from craft brewers, including Brooklyn Brewery and Six Point.

“Overall, very good,” reports queue, “a real restaurant along the lines of the others we frequent in the neighborhood”–including Noodle Pudding and Henry’s End, and roughly between the two in price. “We will probably return often.”

Jack the Horse Tavern [Brooklyn Heights]
66 Hicks St., at Cranberry, Brooklyn
Map

Board Links: Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn Heights
JACK THE HORSE TAVERN FINALLY OPEN!

Around the World with New York Pork Chop Lovers

Esperanto, the pan-Latin place in the East Village, grills a nice pork chop and serves it with chayote and pineapple salsa. The setting is casual and fun, and often there’s live music, says Peter Cherches. Great caipirinhas and mojitos, too.

For another Latin take on the pork chop, there’s El Deportivo, a Puerto Rican joint in Hell’s Kitchen that fries up killer chuletas empanizada with crisp, garlicky breading, “so good I was gnawing the bones,” confesses Pupster. Also on the menu: grilled pork chops with gravy.

Good, hearty Southern-style smothered pork chops can be had at the Pink Tea Cup in the Village and Maroons in Chelsea, which serves them with white corn grits and sweet plantains–a nod to the Caribbean half of its menu.

In Chinatown, you’ll find excellent pork chops–surprise!–at the Excellent Pork Chop House, which serves them fried, over rice, or in soup with noodles. Good stuff and really cheap, says Greg.

Hounds also go for lemongrass-marinated grilled chops, Vietnamese style, at places like Saigon Grill. (By the way, Saigon Grill’s Upper East Side location has closed–purportedly for renovation–but there are signs that it’s gone for good now that its new Village location is open for business.)

In Brooklyn, Cobble Hill favorite Chestnut does a fabulous grilled pork chop, stuffed with fig and served atop white polenta, advises Pupster. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can order it as part of a $25 prix fixe three-course dinner, one of the better midweek bargains in town.

Esperanto [East Village]
145 Ave, C, at 9th St., Manhattan
212-505-6559
Map

El Deportivo [Clinton]
701 9th Ave., at W. 48th St., Manhattan
212-757-6869
Map

Pink Tea Cup [Greenwich Village]
42 Grove St., between Bleecker and Bedford, Manhattan
Map

Maroons Restaurant [Chelsea]
244 W. 16th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan
Map

Excellent Pork Chop House [Chinatown]
3 Doyers St., between Pell and Bowery, Manhattan
212-765-7575
Map

Saigon Grill [Greenwich Village]
91 University Pl., between E. 11th and 12th Sts., Manhattan
212-982-3691
Map

Saigon Grill [Upper West Side]
620 Amsterdam Ave., at 90th St., Manhattan
212-875-9072
Map

Saigon Grill [Upper East Side]
1700 2nd Ave., at 88th St., Manhattan
212-996-4600
Map

Chestnut [Cobble Hill]
271 Smith St., near Degraw, Brooklyn
Map

Board Links: Pork ChopsUES Saigon Grill Closed for “Renovations”?!

Soup Dumplings and More in Flushing’s Chinatown

Nan Shan Xiao Long Bao, leading from strength, touts its soup dumplings right in its name. Those who have tried them aren’t disappointed. Soup is plentiful, filling tasty, and skins thin and delicate, says HLing.

This Flushing newcomer specializes in Shanghai and northern Chinese breakfast and snack fare. Wheat flour pastries like shaobing (sesame cakes) and red bean pancakes are standouts–light and flaky outside, flavorful and tender inside. ZenFoodist reports outstanding turnip buns, pan-fried rice cakes, Shanghai-style thick wheat noodles, and steamed vegetable dumplings with pungent mustard greens. Sweet douhua (soft tofu) boasts nice soy fragrance and superior texture–meltingly soft, yet it holds its shape, observes HLing. She faults only a sweet and overly “polite” quality in some of the dumpling fillings.

Also on the menu: soy milk and youtiao (crullers); drunken chicken, smoked fish, spicy beef and tripe, and other cold plates; chicken, pork rib, and hot-and-sour soups; and chef’s specialties including fish head casserole and braised fish tail. Look for a red awning with “Nan Shan (or Nanxiang) Xiao Long Bao” in Chinese and “Noodle House” in English.

A couple blocks south, PeteDelfino recommends White Bear, an eight-seat hole-in-the-wall whose Chinese sign promises Shanghai and Shandong bites. Fresh-made wonton are great, in soup or with hot sauce. Assorted dumplings and rice plates, rice cake or bean curd dishes, and noodles (with pork, brown sauce beef, preserved vegetable, etc.) round out the menu.

Nan Shan Crab Soup Bun, a.k.a. Noodle House [Flushing]
38-12 Prince St., between 38th and 39th Aves., Flushing, Queens
718-321-3838
Map

White Bear [Flushing]
135-02 Roosevelt Ave. #5, entrance on Prince St. between Roosevelt and 40th Rd., Flushing, Queens
718-961-2322
Map (approximate)

Board Links: Noodle House–Nanxiang Xiaolong Bao in Flushing
New York City restaurants serving top notch dim sum.
NanXiang XiaoLongBao, Canton Gourmet, Pho, Green Papaya, Mekong and Octopus Man
New Flushing Place….Nan Shan Crab Soup Bun

Coffee Break: Aroma Wafts into Soho, and Other News

The Israeli coffee chain Aroma has planted its flag in Soho, and early reports from its first U.S. location are encouraging. “Real coffee beautifully presented,” sums up Blumie, who enjoyed a nearly flawless cappuccino. “So beautiful I didn’t want to drink it. But most people do not go to a coffee bar to look, so I had to. It was wonderful.”

Salads are delicious and huge, says alwm. No reports yet on the dozen or so sandwiches, a lineup heavy on vegetarian choices like mozzarella-tomato, avocado-onion, feta-olive, and the Oriental (eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, egg, tahini). This bright, sleek shop, open 24/7, also serves a heaping $8.50 “Power Breakfast”–two eggs, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, toast and cream cheese.

Other java hounds have Think Coffee on their minds. This Village newcomer, open since spring, is serious about its ingredients–organic, fair-trade, shade-grown beans, milk from an organic Hudson Valley dairy, etc. Iced coffee, cold-brewed over four or five hours, is exceptional, says bml. And the expansive, comfortable space is “one of the biggest and coolest shops I’ve seen in New York,” says billyeats.

Jack’s in the Village also goes the organic, fair-trade, shade-grown route, and uses a unique stir-brewing contraption to produce uncommonly smooth coffee, says billyeats. They pull a great espresso, too.

In Chelsea, coffee lovers left homeless by the closure of neighborhood fixture Big Cup have discovered a new hangout in Java Boy, which may be the city’s only coffeehouse with a disco ball. Open since September in the front room of View Bar, it serves espresso drinks, smoothies, panini, and scones, muffins, and other baked treats. Brewed coffee is strong, deep-flavored and terrific on ice, says dimples.

Finally, an unexpected bright spot in Midtown: ING Direct Cafe, which brews first-rate coffee from Peet’s beans. “I would have never guessed that a place run by a bank could make a quality cup,” writes DirtyMartini, “but this one is a cut above the typical Starbucks and overpriced deli options in the area.”

Aroma Espresso Bar [Soho]
145 Greene St. (entrance at Greene and Houston, SW. corner), Manhattan
212-533-1094
Map

Think Coffee [Greenwich Village]
248 Mercer St., between W. 3rd and 4th Sts., Manhattan
212-228-6226
Map

Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee [Greenwich Village]
138 W. 10th St., between Waverly Pl. and Greenwich Ave., Manhattan
Map

Java Boy [Chelsea]
232 8th Ave., near W. 22nd St., in View Bar, Manhattan
Map

ING Direct Cafe [Midtown East]
45 E. 49th St., between Madison and Park Aves., Manhattan
Map

Board Links: Lunch in Soho?
Fantastic coffee
Aroma Coffee Bar

The Farm on Adderley: Field to Table in Ditmas Park

Locally raised food, simply and skillfully prepared, is winning early raves at the Farm on Adderley, which seems to be just what Ditmas Park was hungering for. “This is a fantastic addition to the neighborhood,” says Poindexter, and a more grown-up counterpart to the mostly well-regarded Picket Fence.

Chef Tom Kearney, who helped turn a dive bar into an actual restaurant at Williamsburg’s Sweetwater, is in charge of the ever-changing farm-to-table American menu. Some standouts: a salad of Bibb lettuce, peas, and buttermilk dressing; chilled wild shrimp with vinegared cucumber and avocado; moist, tasty roast chicken over quinoa with farmer cheese; and cold asparagus soup, “held together nicely with a still-warm poached egg floating in the middle, like a happy kid in the cool green H2O of a favorite swimming hole,” recalls Poindexter. For dessert, look for peach-blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream or milk chocolate mousse with salted cream (“the combination of smooth chocolate, cream, and salt is heaven,” sighs rebecca2180).

Beyond what’s on the plate, hounds are enjoying the cozy front lounge, the inviting garden, the overall experience. “The space and the energy of the place are fabulous!” marvels bkfoodie. “The owners are friendly, and it’s obvious they put a lot of detailed care into this warm and upscale venture.”

The Farm on Adderley [Flatbush]
1108 Cortelyou Rd., between Stratford and Westminster Rds., Brooklyn
Map

Picket Fence [Flatbush]
1310 Cortelyou Rd., between Argyle and Rugby, Brooklyn
718-282-6661
Map

Board Links: The Farm, Ditmas Park
new restaurant on cortelyou?
The Farm at Adderley on Cortelyou
I bought The Farm on Adderley, Ditmas Park

Chatham Square: Cantonese Newcomer in New York Chinatown

Chinatown’s Chatham Square Restaurant appears to be off to a strong start. Early reports on this seafood and dim sum house praise steamed carp, Cantonese-style Dungeness crab, oyster casserole, shrimp in lobster sauce, and clams in black bean sauce, among other things. Blue crabs with ginger and scallion are fine, says SomeRandomIdiot, but the “Cantonese-style” version (enriched with egg and bits of meat) is better.

Among the dim sum offerings, wu gok (fried taro balls) are among the best around, says bokkyo. Also nice: tripe, har gow, shu mai, pan-fried dumplings, and a flatter, pancakey taro snack. The name of this newish restaurant invites confusion–note that it is not connected with Chatham Restaurant, the bustling, diner-like joint that turns out great bao and other bites a few doors away.

Chatham Square Restaurant [Chinatown]
6 Chatham Sq., between Mott and Doyers Sts., Manhattan,
212-587-8800
Map

Chatham Restaurant [Chinatown]
9 Chatham Sq., between Mott and Doyers Sts., Manhattan
212-267-0220
Map

Board Links: Cantonese in Chinatown, had to let you know

J’S Beef in Linden, NJ

J’s Beef assembles and serves an authentic Chicago hot dog: a garlicky beef frank, steamed and tucked into a seeded bun, then finished off with chopped onion, very green relish, sport peppers, dill pickle, yellow mustard, and celery salt. It’s the real deal and seems to hit all the right vegetal notes for fans of the style, reports hotdoglover (who, like many Easterners, is “not crazy about a dog with all that stuff on it”). The “J” in J’s is Jack, the owner, a Chicago expat who has Vienna Beef franks and most of the condiments shipped in from his old burg.

He makes a creditable Italian beef sandwich, too–tender, flavorful, filling, and a great deal at under $5, says georgeb. If you order it “wet” (with the bread dipped in the meat juices), ask for a fork–the roll will almost fall apart in your hands. J’s also serves brisket and pulled pork smoked over mesquite–not bad, says georgeb, “but for my money, the Italian beef will keep me coming back again and again, even though I am more than 100 miles away.”

J’s Beef [Union County]
902 W. St. Georges Ave. (Rte. 27), between University Terr. and Stiles St., Linden, NJ
908-587-0105
Map

Board Links: Chicago style dogs..Linden NJ

Superior Scones, from Soho to the Upper West Side

Alice’s Tea Cup has some of the best scones in town, a daily-changing selection that might include blueberry, buttermilk, peach, vanilla-cinnamon, and banana-butterscotch (among some recent choices). If you get them to go, be sure to ask for the little containers of clotted cream and fruit preserves. “Really, really good and fresh,” sighs dippedberry–who unlike many other hounds is no fan of the soups, salads, and sandwiches that round out the light menu.

Nuray recommends Once Upon a Tart, especially for its fresh berry and cheddar-dill scones.

Two other favorites: Dean and Deluca–try the chocolate chip, urges erin–and Balthazar.

Alice’s Tea Cup [Upper West Side]
102 W. 73rd St., near Columbus Ave., Manhattan, NY
212-799-3006
Map

Alice’s Tea Cup II [Upper East Side]
156 E. 64th St., near Lexington Ave., Manhattan, NY
212-486-9200
Map

Once Upon a Tart [Soho]
135 Sullivan St., between Prince and Houston, Manhattan, NY
212-387-8869
Map

Dean and Deluca [Citywide]
multiple locations

Balthazar [Soho]
80 Spring St., at Crosby St., Manhattan, NY
212-965-1785
Map

Board Links: Scones

In New York, Store-Bought Paratha That Cures All Ills

Here’s a cure for the jaded palate: surprisingly fresh-tasting handmade parathas, packaged by Corona’s Delicious Foods. For howler, who’d been feeling vaguely out of sorts, these stuffed Indian flatbreads were just what the doctor ordered. “I could walk. I could SEE,” he testifies. “Go now and get yourself some.”

Active ingredients–besides wheat flour, corn oil, and a good measure of spice–include aloo (potato), mooli (radish), or gobi (cauliflower), among others. Warm them on a skillet till slightly crisp, and eat them with yogurt, Indian pickle, dal, or kachumbar (a relish of tomato, onion, cilantro, chile, and lime juice). Or just by themselves.

howler’s restorative came from a Patel Brothers store in Floral Park. Delicious Foods’ paratha has also been sighted at the Subzi Mandi stores and, in Manhattan’s Curry Hill, at Little India Store.

Delicious Foods [Corona]
112-02 Roosevelt Ave., at 112th St., Corona, Queens
718-446-9352
Map

Patel Brothers [Citywide]
multiple locations

Subzi Mandi [Citywide]
multiple locations

Little India Store [Murray Hill]
128 E. 28th St., between Lexington and Park Aves., Manhattan
212-683-1691
Map

Board Links: parathas!