The CHOW Blog rss

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

Lunetta: Italian Bites and a Boerum Hill Makeover

The inventive Japanese food at Boerum Hill’s Taku delighted Chowhounds but played to an often-empty house—so the owners rewrote the script. Exit Taku, enter Lunetta, an Italian place offering inexpensive small plates starting at $3 and entrees in the $11 to $15 range, heavy on rustic, slow-cooked fare.

Chef and co-owner Adam Shepard remains in the house, but instead of Berkshire pork ramen he’s making satisfying orecchiette with sausage, among other things. Winning small dishes include roasted beets with rosemary, meatballs in deep, creamy sauce, cheese and cured meat plates, and bruschette with toppings such as mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and ricotta with lemon. For dessert, consider gelati—a recent trio of mascarpone, toasted almond, and chocolate hazelnut was rich and delicious. Service is friendly, though some report shaky timing and other opening-month missteps.

The Smith Street crowd is warming to the new format. “The place was PACKED,” Nehna reports after a satisfying Friday dinner. “I’m glad to see the new venture getting off to such a good start, as much as it saddens me that I never once saw Taku that busy. I guess the neighborhood got what it wanted.”

Lunetta [Boerum Hill]
formerly Taku
116 Smith St., between Pacific and Dean, Brooklyn

Board Links
Taku to Manhattan; chef opens La Lunetta
Lunetta on Smith
la lunetta impressions

Le Petit Prince: A Little Bit of Paris in Astoria

Le Petit Prince, a new French bakery in Astoria, turns out a beautiful croissant–buttery, flaky, and rich, with just the right density in the soft midbelly, reports Rufo. Apple tarts, pain au chocolat, and irresistible little mini-cakes–soft, nutty, and perfectly moist–have also caught hounds’ attention. Another encouraging sign: friendly service by an actual French person behind the counter. “It is a nice change from the Greek bakeries,” says kellyc96.

Le Petit Prince [Astoria]
33-09 Broadway, between 33rd and 34th Sts., Astoria, Queens

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Le Petit Prince- New Bakery in Astoria

Tasty Pan-Asian Tapas

Why aren’t more people talking about Yatai, wonders Dave and Stuff after two knockout meals there. The “Asian tapas bar” certainly has an eclectic menu, with gado gado, “monsoon ceviche,” sushi rolls, and Korean tuna sashimi.

But oysters on the half shell are simple–just a dash of soy and citrus–and perfect. Shiitake mushroom, stuffed with spicy tuna and topped with pickled onions, is excellent. Albacore sashimi is fresh and delicious, a great match for the crispy onions that come with it. DIY charcoal-grilled ribeye is the most expensive thing on the menu at $17, and worth it.

Desserts are made in-house, and include a fine pumpkin flan.

Four beers, 4-5 plates, and dessert for two comes to about $72.

Yatai Asian Tapas [West Hollywood]
8535 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

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Yatai Asian Tapas in Hollywood

Rocking the Sea Spiders

The new San Gabriel Valley supermarket 168 is having a crazy deal on Dungeness crab: $2.99/lb, $3.99/lb for the giant ones, reports africanizedkiller, and the crowds are out in force for the deal.

It’s worth keeping an eye on Shun Fat supermarket, says monku–they sometimes have them for $1.99/lb.

168 Supermarket [San Gabriel Valley]
1421 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Shun Fat Supermarket [San Gabriel Valley]
421 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park

Board Links
Live from 168 in Alhambra: it’s Dungeness (2.99/lb)

Spicy Popcorn

If you enjoy your popcorn with a kick, here are a few ways to do it:

Use some hot chili oil as part of the oil for popping your popcorn, or mix Creole seasoning into the oil.

Stir Tabasco or hot smoked Spanish paprika into melted butter and toss with popped corn. jbyoga likes a combo of curry powder, sriracha sauce, and salt. If you make microwave popcorn, toss it with garlic powder and cayenne, recommends MeowMixx.

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Spicy popcorn


Who doesn’t have an old fondue set tucked away in the back of a cupboard? With winter approaching, it’s time to haul that sucker out and have a fondue party.

For a lot of folks, fondue means one thing: melted cheese (often Gruyere and Emmental), combined with white wine, kirsch, and spices. You spear crusty bites of bread on special long-handled forks, and dip them into the cheese, for a communal meal. At the bottom of the pot, the cheese will form a delicious crust; the crust the best part, says Candy.

Fondue bourguignonne is raw beef cooked in a in hot oil in pot a fondue pot, speared on the end of those long-handles forks.

A dessert fondue can be made from melted chocolate, with fruit, marshmallows, or a sturdy chunk of cake for dipping.

The older fondue pots require sterno to keep the ingredients hot. Durm says the little cans of sterno are getting hard to find. But there are now exciting new electric fondue sets.

Here’s one that could double as a little deep fryer.

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Fondue Set?

Tomatoes of a Different Color

There’s a new hybrid tomato waiting in the wings; it’s an eggplant color, sort of purple. It’s not yet in the markets, but should be available in the next few years.

See them here.

The dark pigment is said to contain the same phytochemical as blueberries, an excellent antioxidant. Rainey says that, in general, the darker the tomato, the more fabulous the flavor.

Board Links
Purple Tomato’s?

Withstand Bland

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Get That Paprika Out of My Maki

The International Herald-Tribune’s Asia-Pacific edition reports that Japanese officials plan to crack down on restaurants abroad that besmirch the Japanese name by selling “inauthentic” fare. A panel of food experts was appointed last week and charged with creating a certification system for sushi sellers and tempura emporia overseas, though it’s unclear at this point when—not to mention how—the government will start enforcing the new rules.

Lauren of the food blog In a Fancy Glass, who lives in Tokyo, calls the move “an act of true hypocrisy.” Why?

Because Japan is FULL of fake or Japanified Italian, French and American restaurants as well as any other cuisine you can name. Food “Adjusted” for Japanese taste.

Perhaps the Japanese government looks at these fake-o places as evidence of the decline of food culture, too: Last year it enacted the Basic Law on Shokuiku, which aims to spread “food education” (shokuiku) to the masses by calling on farmers, food purveyors, schools, workplaces, and parents to “induce people to develop greater appreciation for and understanding of their diets.” The law was enacted in response to food and health issues, including:

[A] lack of proper concern for food; an increase in irregular and nutritionally unbalanced meals; a rise in obesity and lifestyle-related diseases; an excessive desire for being slim especially among young females; outbreak of a series of incidents related to food safety; over-dependency on food from abroad; and, loss of traditional food culture in a globalization movement. Some might criticize that eating is such a personal thing that government shouldn’t regulate by a law. However, Japanese situation over food has already reached to a crisis point, and that a law had to be enacted in order to address these issues.

What do you think—is the new certification idea an important move to preserve the reputation of sushi, or just a way for the government to give a leg up to Japanese companies pimping soy sauce and nori? How important is it to let traditional cuisine evolve?