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

New Central Vietnamese at Ngu Binh

Ngu Binh is a new Vietnamese restaurant that appears to be focusing on central Vietnamese food, like the kind of stuff they serve in Hue, rather than Saigon or Hanoi. This place is only a few weeks old, and they’re still sorting out the menu, but hounds say it’s promising. zippo is charmed by the delicate bahn nam, little tiny dishes filled with a layer of soft, custardy rice cake, topped with chopped shrimp, chives, and croutons ($4.75). Ruth Lafler likes the thin, lacey crust of the bahn xeo ($6.45), with its distinct coconut flavor, but thinks the filling-to-pancake ratio is off. And Melanie Wong finds the bun bo hue much more delicate (“a better word might be ‘watery’”) than versions she’s used to. Those seeking the funky, fishy flavors and unctuous textures of hardcore Vietnamese food may be disappointed. However, all the hounds who have tried it plan on going back. Catch a late breakfast–they open at 8:30 a.m.


Ngu Binh (Dac Biet Bun Bo Hue) [Tenderloin]
formerly Hung Ky
337 Jones St., between Ellis and Eddy, San Francisco
415-346-3100
Locater

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Ngu Binh–new Vietnamese @337 Jones, SF

Chico’s: Carolina ‘Cue and More in Guilderland, NY

Chico’s shows its barbecue chops in Carolina-style pulled pork: tasty and smoky with ample bark, reports jkent. It’s first-rate ‘cue, especially for the Northeast, and surprisingly true to Carolina tradition, says bbqfan. He faults only the thick, sweet sauce, a substitute for the thin, vinegary one served down south.

But Chico’s barbecue ranges beyond Carolina, including solid “St. Louis-style” ribs and smoked, fried chicken wings. Most meats come in platters or in ample sandwiches made on excellent rolls. Service is casual, friendly, and efficient.


Chico’s BBQ and Restaurant [Albany County]
2490 Western Ave. (Rte. 20), near Rte. 146, Guilderland, NY
518-456-0940
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Chico’s BBQ–Guilderland NY

At Peanut Butter and Co., Elvis Lives

The king of the sandwiches at Peanut Butter and Co. is the Elvis: a grilled number stuffed with bananas, honey and, of course, peanut butter. Bacon is optional–but not for billyeats, who insists on it: “It is an awesome sandwich with the bacon–as it should be eaten. Really decadent and delicious.”

billyboy goes for the Seinfeld (peanut butter, honey and cinnamon on a toasted bagel), The Heat Is On (spicy peanut butter, grilled chicken, pineapple jam), and the aforementioned Elvis with bacon. “I don’t think the drugs are what did him in!” he adds.

Dissenters dismiss this place as a one-trick pony (two tricks, if you count jelly). “It’s good for peanut butter and jelly, but there’s limits to how good that can be,” carps icejew, who also observes that everything on the menu will make you thirsty, and drinks are expensive.


Peanut Butter and Co. [Greenwich Village]
240 Sullivan St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan
212-677-3995
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Peanut Butter & Co.

Top-Notch Tavern Burger at Tierney’s in Montclair, NJ

Tierney’s Tavern turns out a surprisingly excellent hamburger, possibly one of the best in New Jersey, swears tamerlanenj. It’s nicely griddled, agreeably greasy and juicy, and the bacon version is loaded with crispy pork.


Tierney’s Tavern [Essex County]
136-138 Valley Rd., between Claremont Ave. and Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ
973-744-9785
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A Burger at Tierney’s, Montclair

Israelis One-Up the Greeks on Yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, you’ll probably love the Israeli yogurt at Elat Market. It’s even creamier, and a bit more sour than regular plain yogurt, says arkestra. It comes in fat-free, 1.5% and 3% fat versions. Look for “Danone,” from the Strauss dairy at Elat, an Israeli supermarket. A 6-7 oz container costs almost $2.


Elat Market [Midtown]
8730 W. Pico Blvd., at Robertson, Los Angeles
310-659-7070
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Get your Israeli groceries

Your Own Personal Guacamole Mixmaster

Los Gueros is a bargain delight that offers a fantastic tableside guacamole, says The Oracle.

Their guac has the right amount of everything, and the flavors blend harmoniously. Since it’s made in front of you, you can get it customized (i.e., more or less jalapeno or onion or something). Chips, unfortunately, are sometimes overcooked.

Enchilada with chicken, mushrooms, and spinach in a flour tortilla comes with half green and half red sauce, a side of rice and salad. The enchilada is as huge as a burrito, stuffed with tender chicken chunks and flavorful, juicy mushrooms. Not much spinach in evidence, though. Rice is decent, but salty.

It’s a small space, with red, white and green booths, banda music playing on the speakers and specials handwritten on a board at the entrance. They have some great deals, like 99-cent Corona/Pacifico on Mondays, kids eat free on Tuesdays, 99-cent margaritas on Wednesdays, and 99-cent pina coladas on Thursdays.

The owner also has a hole-in-the-wall sports bar just down the street, adds RoxyGirl. Everyone’s really friendly, and they make mean carne asada tacos you can eat while playing pool.

Get a coupon for free tableside guacamole.


Los Gueros Mexican Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
313 W. Huntington Dr., at Magnolia, Monrovia
626-358-0200
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Great tableside guac

Taming Out-of-Control Pepper

The secret to taming an over-peppered soup or sauce, says nelly k, is lemon juice. You may need to add a bit of sugar to counteract the lemon’s tartness. AngelaDay tried this tip out on too-peppery gravy and says it works. ChiliDude recommends adding a bit of canned corn, if the dish is appropriate, saying its sweetness contrasts with the pepper (works well with dishes with too much chile, too).

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Help!!!! Added too much pepper

Out-of-This-World Chewy Brownies

“My search for the perfect chewy brownie finally ended,” says wyf4lyf, when she made Nick Malgieri’s Supernatural Brownies. All agree the name is no exaggeration: wyf4lyf notes they’ve got the wonderful shiny, crinkly top that “makes a brownie a brownie,” and plenty rich. Val calls them dense and sinful, and says they fill the house with a delicious odor of chocolate. Non Cognomina thinks the brown sugar in the recipe might be the secret to their chewiness.

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The perfect chewy brownie

Chowhound Investigative Reporting

Check out this brilliant report on Noka Chocolate by Scott.

The short version: Scott checked out Noka Chocolates, a chocolatier selling chocolates at exorbitant prices. We’re talking $309 to $2080 a pound for simple molded chocolates. After some direct phone calls to Noka, Scott figured out that they don’t even make chocolate from the bean. They refused to tell him who they bought their chocolate from. When he contacted twenty other major chocolatiers, all divulged the source of their chocolate. Noka was the only holdout.

After some creative spreadsheeting, Scott figured out that the only exact match for Noka’s range of single origin chocolate was Bonnat. He followed this up with a blind taste test of Noka’s single origin chocolates against a group of other single origin chocolates–a clear match to Bonnat, for every origin.

And Bonnat’s chocolate is priced $33 a pound retail in the U.S.

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Noka Chocolate

Wine With Sushi?

Most sushi eaters are going to go with beer or sake. (The single best thing for sushi is Asahi Super Dry beer, says Steve K.) But if you want to pair with wine, go for something nice and clear. Go for light and non-oaked, says jcanncuk, and go for minerally whites over sweet ones. Ninety-nine percent of chardonnay is oaked and heavy, so avoid it. Try pinot grigio, dry or off-dry reisling, or sauvignon blanc. Some Alsacian whites, like pinot blanc, are nice, as are blends like Gentil Hugel and Alsace ONE.

The definitive approach isBruce Gutlove’s discussion. However, says carswell, the Gutlove aproach depends on pairing a wine to each type of fish, and if you’re having a whole spread of different types, as most of us do, then you’ll need four or five bottles at a time. Which probably won’t happen. The fall-back, one-size-fits-all approach: bubblies and high-acid white wines with a touch of residual sugar, like off-dry Vouvray, or German dry reisling.

Bill Hunt likes Groth Napa Sauvignon Blanc for sushi–it’s fruit-forward enough to stand up to wasabi and seems almost sweet when you’ve got some soy in your mouth.

tpapa2 goes for a nice Loire white, like Sancerre.

LisaC recommends Kerner, a grape from Alto Adige. It’s lemony, minerally, and tastes like a superior Riesling without the sugar. It’s perfect for sushi.

And the rebels go for Burgundy, especially a Cotes de Nuits. The acidity goes well with sushi rice, and it hits nicely against rich, fatty fish like tuna or salmon. And the minerality of a Burgandy goes nicely with sea flavors, says hreisig.

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wine with sushi?