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

Dumplings for Breakfast

What better breakfast is there, asks Poot, than a bowl of delicate dumplings in tart broth? Breakfast dumplings at Out the Door are pretty much the best you’ll find this side of Yonghe, the famed center of Chinese soy milk. Dumpling wrappers are made from rice flour–they’re translucent, thick and pleasingly chewy. Vegetarian steamed dumplings are also fantastic. Morton the Mousse recommends crispy duck, and rare beef salad.

Out the Door is actually the takeout window for the Slanted Door. While most love this pair of Vietnamese restaurants, Gary Soup finds both sterile and overpriced.

Out the Door [Embarcadero]
Ferry Building Marketplace, One Ferry Building, shop #5, San Francisco

Slanted Door [Embarcadero]
1 Ferry Building #270, San Francisco

Board Links: I love Out the Door

El Farolito Report

El Farolito often gets props as a good, down-home Mexican joint, and Seth Chadwick gives us the dish on a recent meal. The restaurant: clean and roomy, decorated with Mexican art. The menu: comprehensive.

Cheese quesadilla is a great way to start: Hungry-Man size, stuffed with cheese, it’s grilled till deep golden brown. It’s fantastic with their salsa.

Cheese enchilada has tender, fresh corn tortillas, more great cheese and a sauce with a nicely smoky aftertaste.

Tender, tasty carne asada comes with charred onions and sliced jalapenos.

Machaca and eggs is a soothing combo, the eggs soft-scrambled and the shredded beef nice and moist. The beef gets a kick from jalapenos, but could use a bit more of other seasonings. It comes with lovely, lardy beans and OK rice.

A pork tamal proves to be a letdown: more masa than meat.

A meal for two, including drinks (one a forgettable melon margarita) is about $33. Cheese quesadilla is $2.75, cheese enchilada $2.75, carne asada $7.50, and pork tamal $3.

El Farolito [North OC]
201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia

Board Links: Road Trip Review: El Farolito–Placentia, CA

Barbone: Promising Enoteca in the East Village

Encouraging first reports on Barbone, a month-old Italian restaurant and wine bar in the East Village: Chef John Baron, an alumnus of Babbo and Lupa, shows a sure hand with pastas, like uncommonly light carbonara, seafood tagliatelle in tangy tomato sauce, and chicken liver ravioli in balsamic-brown butter sauce. Appealing seasonal dishes include lightly breaded asparagus fries with tangy pancetta aioli and a refreshing, sweet/tart watermelon salad with red onions, caper berries, and toasted ricotta.

Even in a neighborhood chockablock with Italian restaurants, Barbone should hold its own, suggests jonasblank, who says it stacks up well against Max, Supper, and Il Bagatto, to name a few. Prices are gentle–starters under $10, pastas around $10 to $15, entrees mostly in the teens–and the all-Italian wine list includes several bottles under $30 and many under $40. Service is friendly and attentive, the interior dark, intimate and refined, and the back garden area large and inviting.

Enoteca Barbone [East Village]
formerly Joey’s
186 Ave. B, between E. 11th and 12th Sts, Manhattan

Board Links: Enoteca Barbone–first look
Enoteca Barbone–E Village

Standout Pastrami at Snyder’s Deli in Hartford

At Snyder’s Deli in Hartford, one smart order is pastrami. “Very credible,” judges FoodieJim, “on par with all but the best of the best in New York City.”

Snyder’s Deli [Hartford County]
137 Sisson Ave., between West Blvd. and Warrenton Ave., Hartford

Board Links: Hartford Deli

Konak: Turkish Find on Long Island

Excellent doner and kebabs and superior, made-to-order lahmacun (meat-topped flat bread) are must-orders at Konak in Farmingville. “Incredibly high-quality stuff,” raves cnut. This storefront grocery and restaurant is a hangout for Turkish laborers–some settle in at one of the half-dozen or so tables, others just duck in for a quick glass of tea and a pastry.

Angora, a few miles east, also has very good Turkish chow, including unbeatable kadaif, the shredded-wheat-like pastry, says Jim Leff. Also recommended: iskendar kebab, burek, pistachio nuts, and superb French fries.

Konak [Suffolk County]
773 Horseblock Rd., between Abner Dr. and Oriole Pl., Farmingville, NY

Angora Food Market [Suffolk County]
2690 Rte 112 (Medford Rd.), south of the LIE, Medford, NY

Board Links: Konak Turkish: Farmingville, Long Island

Via Emilia Pulls Up Stakes and Other NY News

Italian favorite Via Emilia closed a few months back, chased from its cozy old Park Avenue space by real estate development. Now it has reopened nearby and is serving its comforting Emilia-Romagna chow in a modern new room that may leave longtime regulars disoriented–until they tuck into their lasagna, gnocco fritto or spaghetti Bolognese.

In other news, Penzeys has opened its Grand Central location, replacing the popular Adriana’s Caravan. The spice chain’s first New York shop carries most of the catalog selection, minus some smaller sizes, reports Chorus Girl. Adriana’s, whose slogan boldly promises “every ingredient for every recipe you’ve ever read,” continues to sell its wares online and by mail as its owner searches for a new brick-and-mortar home.

On the Upper East Side, quirky neighborhood spot Ian–whose eclectic and surprisingly successful dishes combined flavors of the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Pacific–has closed after a three-year run.

Via Emilia [Gramercy]
47 E. 21st St., west of Park Ave., Manhattan

Penzeys Spices [Grand Central Terminal]
formerly Adriana’s Caravan
110 E. 42nd St., at Lexington Ave., in Grand Central Market, Manhattan

Adriana’s Caravan

Ian [Upper East Side]
322 E. 86th St., betw. 1st and 2nd Aves, Manhattan

Board Links: Our Experience at Ian: Bizarre but Fantastic!
Via Emilia is open and BYOB
Penzey’s counter in Grand Central

Whozu? Yuzu!

Yuzu juice has just become something of a mysterious holy grail for chowhounds. liu tried some at Sushi Zo in Los Angeles (where it seems to only come with omakase meals), and raved mightily, and we’ve been trying to figure out exactly what she had…and where we can all find more!

Whatever it was, this juice is heavenly, with a great balance of sweet and tart. Liu may have sampled a pure juice, or, we suspect, a blend with pressed juice from the rind (where most of the flavor is).

You may be able to find yuzu fruit at Japanese markets, in the refrigerator case, though you’ll pay dearly (we’ve seen prices as high as $3-5 for just one fruit). You may also be able to find little 3.5-oz bottles of the juice for $12-$20. The bottled juice is really for cooking (it lends a broader, deeper flavor in any situation calling for lemon) rather than for drinking, though.

We await more details and sightings.

Board Links:Does anyone know about YUZU JUICE?

Fresh Pani Puri at Chat Patta

Pani puri is one of the great pleasures of life. It’s the epitome of mouth drama. You pick up a little fried, hollow crispy bit of bread, crack a hole in the top, and drop in various fillings–stuff like potatoes and chickpeas in tamarind sauce. Then you fill the fried bread with pani water–a cool, minty, thin liquid. Put the whole thing in your mouth–quickly, please–and bite. And there ensues a crunchy, minty, cool explosion and subsequent flood of flavor.

Pani puri at Chat Patta is unlike other pani puri, says Melanie Wong. They’re made one at a time, to order. And they’re absolutely fresh, without any of the old, stale taste you get at your typical joint. The puri shells are so thin they’re transparent, yet they manage to retain all the pani water.

And there’s more. Chat Patta is, in general, Melanie’s favorite outpost for Indian snack foods. Their choley bhature ($5.50) is her favorite version, an outstanding tasting watery broth filled with choley–spiced garbanzo beans. The secret? They use more black cardamom and roast the pods longer than most. The broth has a dark, inky color, and a deeper, more complex taste than any other choley bhature she’s had. Mix chaat ($4) offers a little of everything.–meaty garbanzos, super-fresh sev, onions, and cilantro. Pav bhaji ($5.50) are fantastic. There is great life in their uneven textures and blended vegetable flavors.

Samosas are a buck apiece, and are outstanding. The crust has an interesting pebbly, crumbly texture–so much better than the usual leaden, tough-crusted blobs. They’re served dangerously hot, right out of the fryer.

Desserts? Falooda ($3.50) is made with pistachio ice cream, basil seeds, sweet syrup, and noodles. Their version rocks. Gulab jamun ($1.50) are fried to order and come out blazing hot, topped with a very light syrup of uncommon delicacy. The gulabs are well browned and amazingly tender, with just a bit of chewiness. These are now her favorite gulab jamun in town, edging out former favorite Ajanta.

Fruity mango lassi is frothy and wonderful. Mango shake with ice cream is less good.

The ladies behind the counter are sweet, loving, and they will occasionally take a look at you and inform you that what you really need to sooth your tired soul is aloo puri. And they will be right.

The Chat Patta branch inside the Dana Bazar is standing room only. Order your pani puri one at a time from the counter and gobble them while standing between stacks of dried foods. At the Ardenwood location, you actually get to sit down. And they’ve got longer hours. But the two locations are identically priced and identically spiced.

Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
34751 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont

Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
in Dana Bazar
5113 Mowry Ave., Fremont

Ajanta Restaurant [East Bay]
1888 Solano Ave., Berkeley

Board Links: Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont–Fresh Pani Puri

Dispatch from Greensland

The special appetizer salad at Max, raves cvc, sports a green goddess dressing that rivals Chez Panisse’s. It comes on a simple combination of butter lettuce, cucumber, avocado, orange, and tomato, topped with fried scallions. It’s a retro flavor (capers, anchovy, cilantro, tarragon and mayo…or maybe sour cream) that can still surprise. Cost: $8.50.

Max Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks

Board Links: A sublime salad

Just a Really Great Slab of Pig

A few hounds name Nick’s Cafe as the place to find the best ham in the city. Says petradish, “It’s not country ham, but a nicely prepared slab of pig with a slight chew (not limp or rubbery), salty and meaty, substantial, hint of clove in there somewhere, maybe. Like someone baked a nice ham for dinner and served you breakfast the next morning along with some good eggs.”

The salsa is also really popular, and the home fries are better than the hash browns.

The main drawback here is that there’s only one cook (who can’t multitask), one waitress (Myrna) and about 20 counter seats, so it can take a while to get served. A tip from Myrna: Put in your order by phone, and it should be ready by the time you arrive. Of course, this depends on where you live.

Nick’s Cafe [Chinatown]
1300 N. Spring St., Los Angeles

Board Links: Nick’s Cafe–Best Ham?