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

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

Forget Patty, Here’s Susiecakes

Calling itself an “all-American home-style bake shop,” Susiecakes has finally opened its doors in Brentwood. First impression: Locals are looking forward to eating their way through the menu. A major feature is their special frosting-filled cupcakes–bocarw reports that orange creamsicle cupcake is rich and creamy, and the orange flavor stands up and asserts itself. Mocha cupcake is also intensely flavored.

Banana pudding is the best in town, raves Lipps, who also loved the moon pie and coconut cupcake. (The menu lists whoopee pie, but not moon pie.) Butterscotch-toffee pudding is delicious, though maybe not for purists.

There’s also a variety of traditional layer cakes, ice box cakes, cheesecakes, pies, and cookies.

Susiecakes [Wealthy Westlands]
11708 San Vicente, at Barrington, Los Angeles
310-442-2253 (CAKE)
Map

Board Links: SUSIE CAKES IS OPEN
Susie Cakes in Brentwood open

Chino’s Hidden Gem

“Owen’s Bistro is the first, real, professional, grown-up restaurant we have found in Chino, and is a standout of the Inland Empire,” declares ChinoWayne, whose stomping grounds are notably lacking in good restaurants.

You can start with the likes of spinach salad with goat cheese and pine nuts, or mixed field greens with wasabi dressing, and tuna tartare in a fried wonton “cup.” The flavors here tend to be subtle to a fault, though–the wasabi is pretty much undetectable.

Rack of lamb is impressively presented, charred outside and perfectly medium rare, tender and juicy inside. A truffle oil-infused pan sauce lies under the meat. Vegetables are done really well here, cooked till crisp-tender and no more. The rack comes with French green beans and risotto, while beef filet comes with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Portions aren’t huge–you won’t be stuffed, but you’ll be satisfied.

Service is helpful and professional. The wife of chef James Kelly, Denise, runs the front of the house and puts folks at ease. The restaurant is in a century-old brick building in the heart of Chino’s original downtown, which the city has made efforts to redevelop in the last few years.

Three-course dinner for two runs $135 before tip.

Owens American Bistro [Inland of LA]
5210 D St., at 6th St., Chino
909-628-0452
Map

Board Links: Owen’s Bistro: The Hidden Gem Of Chino (Photos)

Brand New Source for Fine Shanghai Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai Delight is brand spankin’ new restaurant, just opened in June. There’s a huge menu, but the highlight of hhc’s initial foray was xiao long bao, a.k.a. juicy soup dumplings. They are listed merely as “dumplings”; one order comes with eight good-sized dumplings, filled with pork and soupiness, with a nicely thin wrapper. They are very juicy, and very tasty.

The other items he tried–fish filet in spicy red sauce, curry chicken lunch special–were only OK. Many other patrons seemed to be getting noodle soup dishes. The menu includes Shanghai chicken, lion’s head meatball in claypot, Shanghai noodles, and seafood. Supposedly their Shanghai wontons are very good.

Get there early for lunch. It’s packed by 11:50 a.m. on weekdays.

Cash only, open from 10:30 a.m.

Shanghai Delight [South Bay]
218 Barber Ct., in Milpitas Square, Milpitas
408-434-6888
Map

Board Links: Shanghai Delight, Milpitas Grand Opening, good xlb

Grass Fed Lamb, $5 a Pound

Queen of Sheba has excellent grass-fed halal lamb, for the unheard of price of $4.99 a pound. Meatball took some home, rubbed it in spices and seared it, and found it utterly delicious–very full of flavor, to the point some folks might deem gamy.

Queen Of Sheba [Van Ness Corridor]
1100 Sutter St., near Pho Kien Giang, San Francisco
415-567-4322
Map

Board Links: Delicious grass-fed lamb at Queen of Sheba market.

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