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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Catch of the Day: Lobster Sashimi at Ushiwaka Maru

When it’s man vs. lobster at Ushiwaka Maru, bet on the man. Sushi chef Hideo-san is undefeated, having ripped apart countless live crustaceans with his bare hands. The prize: sweet, sumptuous and obviously fresh lobster sashimi. Scope out the tank; if there’s lobster in there, it’s on the menu.

Others recommend Bond Street or Blue Ribbon Sushi for lobster sashimi.


Ushiwaka Maru [Greenwich Village]
136 W. Houston St., between MacDougal and Sullivan, Manhattan
212-228-4181
Locater

Bond Street [East Village]
6 Bond St., between Broadway and Lafayette St., Manhattan
212-777-2500
Locater

Blue Ribbon Sushi [Soho]
119 Sullivan St., between Prince and Spring, Manhattan
212-343-0404
Locater

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Lobster Sashimi
Bond Street Question

Napa and Co.: Seasonal Bounty in Stamford, CT

Stamford hounds are buzzing about Napa and Co., an ambitious food emporium that brings something new and welcome to town. “Stamford finally has a ‘destination,’” exults Fairfield Foodie, who recounts a spectacular dinner highlighted by foie gras with apple, braised short ribs, sirloin with chanterelles, and a knockout custard for dessert.

Chef Bill Taibe, who gained a following at the now-closed Relish in South Norwalk, offers an upscale, weekly-changing American menu with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. “Phenomenal. The food is New York caliber,” raves iheartoffal, who faults only a few opening-month service miscues. The wine list is deep and Napa-centric, as you’d expect, but also includes numerous Old World choices. Lunch sounds as promising as dinner. tdchow loves the Napa Burger, made of wagyu beef–$17, but “you get what you pay for.”

In addition to the restaurant (formally known as the Kitchen at Napa and Co.), there’s a takeout shop called the Pantry, a wine store, and a catering operation. The Pantry’s menu of salads, appetizers, cooked entrees, and more includes a very good Cuban pressed sandwich, Johnleah reports.


Napa and Co. [Fairfield County]
75 Broad St., in Courtyard by Marriott, Stamford, CT
203-353-3319
Locater

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Napa & Co. in Stamford
Napa & Co. in Stamford

Killer Empanadas at Jackson Heights’ Chivito D’Oro

Grilled meats are the main event at El Chivito D’Oro, but the empanadas also rock. The ones stuffed with ground beef or spinach are fabulous, says jason carey. (The chicken filling, on the other hand, can be dry.)

MKS admires their optimal size and flavorful baked pastry–and gives them the edge over the smaller fried empanadas at another hound favorite, Empanadas del Parque.


El Chivito D’Oro [Jackson Heights]
84-02 37th Ave., at 84th St., Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-0600
Locater

Empanadas del Parque [Corona]
56-27 Van Doren St., at 108th St., Corona, Queens
718-592-7288
Map

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fantastic empanadas.. Jackson hts.

Fried Rice Surprise at Spicy and Tasty

Spicy and Tasty is a perennial hound favorite for lusty Sichuan dishes like cold noodles with chile sauce and pork in fresh hot pepper. So rose water wasn’t expecting much when someone at her table ordered the wimpy-sounding scallion-and-egg fried rice. Turns out it kills: full of fluffy scrambled egg, bright green from pureed green onion. “It was earthy and scalliony and surprisingly good,” rose water admits.


Spicy and Tasty [Flushing]
39-07 Prince St. #1H, between 39th and Roosevelt Aves., Flushing, Queens
718-359-1601
Locater

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NY Times Awards Spicy & Tasty 2 Stars

Los Feliz Goes Hot and Cold: Yai’s Spicy Thai and Pinkberry Fro-Yo

Yai, a Thai restaurant that’s sibling to the well-liked Yai (and Yai Noodles) in Thai Town, has finally opened after months of sitting empty (is rent free or what?). Chowpatty went to check it out and found the food pretty much the same as at the original Yai, if a little greasy. A big plus compared to Thai Town–super-easy parking.

Just up the street, a new Pinkberry has opened in Los Feliz Village. Great for cooling off after some spicy Thai.


Yai [Los Feliz]
1627 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles
323-644-1076
Locater

Yai [Thai Town]
5757 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-462-0292
Locater

Yai Noodle [Thai Town]
5401 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-960-0138
Locater

Pinkberry [Los Feliz]
1726 N. Vermont Ave., between Prospect and Kingswell, Los Angeles
323-661-0411
Map

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Yai Thai pushes eastward
Los Feliz gets its very own Pinkberry

Armando Isn’t the Only One With Fantastic Salumi

Fra’Mani salumi is nothing short of extraordinary, says Barham Turner–the aroma, the mouthfeel, the rich flavor. Recently featured on KCRW’s Good Food, Fra’Mani is a salumi company started by Bay Area chef Paul Bertolli, formerly of Chez Panisse and Oliveto.

Salumi runs about $25 a pound. It’s available at Artisan Cheese Gallery, the Cheese Store of Silver Lake, Robins Nest, and Whole Foods.


Artisan Cheese Gallery [East San Fernando Valley]
12023 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
818-505-0207
Locater

Cheese Store of Silver Lake [Silverlake]
3926 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
323-644-7511
Locater

Robins Nest Market [Beaches]
68 N. Venice Blvd., Venice
310-821-7281
Locater

Whole Foods [Areawide]

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This salumi knocked my socks off

Sun-Dried Tomatoes by the Bagful

Sun-dried tomatoes sold in bags are most often rehydrated in boiling water before using. You can use them right after rehydrating, or you can pack them in a jar, with some herbs and peppercorns if you like, and cover them with olive oil to store. They add a deep tomato flavor to foods, no matter what the season. They’re a great addition to omelettes and frittatas, pizza, pasta, salads, and tomato-based sauces. If you store them in oil, you can use the flavorful oil in these dishes, as well.

carswell uses them in pesto rosso, a chunky puree of equal amounts of sun-dried tomatoes and pitted black olives with fresh thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic, crushed chiles, and olive oil. He spreads it on toasted country bread, or cod before roasting, and uses it as a sauce for spaghetti with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

Chopped or julienned without being rehydrated, sun-dried tomatoes make a fine ingredient in quiches and risottos (they may soak up a bit of extra stock in risotto). adamclyde likes them chopped finely in pasta salads, and sasha1 eats high-quality sun-dried tomatoes out of the bag as you would dried fruit.

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much-maligned sundried tomatoes

Varieties of radishes

Radishes have a lovely crunch; it’s especially nice to mix up spicy radishes with mild radishes. Farmers’ markets will often have a number of different ones to choose from:

The daikon is a large Asian radish, with a sweet and mild flavor.

The French breakfast radish is also mild and will be along in the springtime. Eat them French-style, Das Ubergeek suggests, “with a sliver cut out of the top, a bit of sweet butter smashed in the cut, and a teeny sprinkling of sea salt.” They’re equally nice thinly sliced onto a well-buttered baguette, and seasoned with a shake of good salt.

They’re also very easy to grow. All you need is a few flower pots and some potting soil; the plants don’t require much depth. Sow some seeds, water, and wait. If they sprout up too close together, thin the plants out, and add those shoots to a salad.

Info on growing your own.

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Radishes

Ultrapasteurized Cream

Virtually all the cream you buy in the supermarket has been ultrapasteurized, a heating process that extends the life of the product. Ultrapasteurized cream will keep for several weeks unopened. Some folks find this factor a convenience.

Plain pasteurized cream is fresher and more perishable. Use plain pasteurized cream for whipping, if you can get it; ultra takes a lot longer to whip. Small dairies and some organic sources sell the plain pasteurized. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry it, too.

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Dontcha hate ultrapasteurized cream and half & half?

Twilight of the Grouper

The St. Petersburg Times (of Florida, not Russia) is reporting that “17 of 24 Tampa Bay area restaurants tested last year by the Florida Attorney General’s Office advertised grouper on menus but served some other fish.”

The most entertaining snippet of the piece:

WingHouse serves a ‘grouper teammate’ sandwich that is swai, another Asian catfish.

Director of purchasing Christopher M. Jones said he has been on the job only a few weeks and was not party to conversations with the state but said WingHouse would follow the law.

Customers know that ‘grouper teammate’ is not really a grouper, he said. ‘It’s all a fun joke.’

Hilarious! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

A criminal investigation is under way, and the implications of GrouperGate are all pretty much terrifying.

1. If you go into a restaurant and order a particular kind of fish, there’s a chance the restaurant is conning you. Moreover, there’s a chance that the restaurant’s actually been conned by its supplier, and therefore will present you with the wrong fish without even knowing it.

2. People—customers and restaurateurs—can’t tell one kind of fish from another. Have we all lost our collective tastebuds? Or does it just not make much of a difference what we’re eating anymore?

3. There are not enough damned grouper to go around. Lump that in with the seemingly endless list of different overfished seafood species, and we’re clearly facing a seafood problem of epic proportions. And by “seafood problem,” I mean “aquatic ecosystem problem.” Because that sounds a little less gluttonously narrow-minded.