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

Cobble Hill Dinner Deals at Chestnut and Caffe Carciofo

More good deals in Cobble Hill, where Chestnut lays out a $25 prix fixe three-course dinner on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that “has to be one of the great bargains in Brooklyn,” suggests Steve R.. The entire menu is available (with supplements for some entrees that raise the price to $30). Many restaurants offer comparable midweek specials, Steve adds, “but Chestnut’s food is a steal at this price, where others are merely good bargains. Highly recommended, especially now that they’ve opened the outdoor area in back.”

Standout appetizers include soft shell crab tacos (with tomatillo sauce and crisp fried onions in house-made tortillas) and haystack shrimp (six sweet jumbos, wrapped in shredded potato and served with coriander pesto). Among the entrees, black sea bass, fig-stuffed pork chop (served with polenta), and tender chicken breast (with white asparagus and quinoa salad) are good bets. For dessert, try house-made ice creams or rhubarb brioche with Meyer lemon curd and strawberry sorbet.

A couple blocks away, Caffe Carciofo offers another attractive special–a $19.95 three-course dinner from the full menu, Monday through Thursday. “It’s certainly the best deal I have seen anywhere in the nabe,” says vespa, who recommends broccoli rabe crostini, grilled calamari, and wild mushroom risotto, among other things, from the mostly Tuscan menu. “Two of us had three courses each and a great Shiraz for $70.”

Chestnut [Cobble Hill]
271 Smith St., near Degraw, Brooklyn

Caffe Carciofo [Cobble Hill]
248 Court St., at Kane, Brooklyn

Board Links: Pre fixe at Carciofo

Lunch Special at Primorski

There’s a don’t-miss bargain at Primorski in Brighton Beach, which for 25 years has served up hearty Russian and Georgian chow —plus nightly floor shows and free-flowing vodka. At lunchtime, $5.98 buys an appetizer, a main course, terrific cabbage salad, and coffee or tea. It used to be a dollar cheaper—what wasn’t?—but it’s still a steal.

“This is one of the great meal deals in the city,” notes jen kalb.

Among the appetizers, mrnyc recommends kharcho (lamb and rice soup) or nice peppery Ukrainian-style beef borscht. Among the main courses, meat blintzes (filled with well-spiced, fine-ground meat) and salyanka (lamb stew with tomato and onion) are both filling and fine. For a buck or two more, get a round of fabulous house-made bread.

Primorski Restaurant [Brighton Beach]
282 Brighton Beach Ave. #B, between Brighton 2nd and 3rd Sts
Brooklyn, NY

Board Links: brighton beach: PRIMORSKI lunch special

Fabulous Tofu Dish

“It’s been a long time (probably the early 1980s) since we’ve been able to utter “Golden Dragon” and “good food” in the same sentence…” notes Chandavkl, “But thanks to a recent banquet I’ve discovered the best tofu dish I can recall eating at a Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area.”

Called fried tofu in special sauce (or something), it consists of round, silver-dollar-size slices of deep-fried tofu, tender inside, with mushrooms and vegetables in a savory light sauce with an elusive yet terrific flavor.

Golden Dragon Restaurant [Chinatown]
960 N. Broadway, Los Angeles

Board Links: Fabulous Tofu Dish At Golden Dragon (Chinatown)

Persian in Glendale

Rarely (if ever) mentioned in discussions of Glendale’s stable of Persian and Armenian restaurants is Moon Mart, a small place tucked into a mini-mall. terim swears by the deliciousness of the food—don’t be deterred by people smoking outside. Bring a group in order to try more of the tasty side dishes.

Moon Mart Kabab [East San Fernando Valley]
400 S. Glendale Ave. #A, Glendale

Board Links: persian or armenian glendale

Onion-Saving Secret

Onion cognoscenti offer a neat trick for prolonging freshness (especially with varieties that don’t usually keep so well, such as Vidalias): store them in pantyhose! Drop an onion into a pantyhose leg, and knot it off. Drop in another onion, knot, and repeat.

When you need to use an onion, just cut the hose off before the next knot. The rest stay protected! Hang your oniony pantyhose in a cool, ventilated area, and the onions will last for several months.

Bonus tip: to prevent weeping, hold a small piece of bread in your mouth as you chop (don’t chew!). Another trick is to keep a few onions at a time chilled in your crisper drawer (cold ones aren’t as gaseous).

Board Links: Onions in pantyhose, Vidalia chocolate cake & other tips

Carnitas in Your Kitchen

A taqueria lives or dies on its carnitas. They must be nice and crispy outside, moist inside, sufficiently fatty, and full of flavor. The intrepid hound asks: can I make incredible carnitas at home? You bet!

adamclyde suggests a simple method. He uses pork shoulder (cut in 3-inch chunks), the peel of an orange, and lots of fresh lard (enough to barely cover the pork). He cooks on a very low simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until very tender, then cranks up the heat, watching closely. As soon the meat browns, remove to paper towels, salt, and break into chunks to serve.

gordon wing riffs on various carnitas recipes using boneless country-style pork ribs: he cooks them down with water, orange juice, salt and pepper, cumin, a bit of paprika, and some chipotle hot sauce (they give up enough fat that he doesn’t feel need for lard). Once very tender, he browns in a hot wok.

Several chowhounds swear by an Epicurious recipe using boneless country-style pork ribs and orange juice…plus, of all things, brandy. “I thought this sounded odd, but they were by far the best carnitas I’ve ever eaten,” raves FlyerFan.

Board Links: carnitas–thanks for the inspiration! (pic)
Carnitas…anybody have a good recipe?

Brazilian Snacks, All the Time! And Cashew Juice!

Most of the time, Sabor Brazil is a combination grocery store and coffee house, with fresh Brazilian juices, snacks, and bakery items. The cafe part is cheery and sunny.

The fresh caju (pronounced ‘ka-ZHOO’) juice is some of the best juice rworange has ever had in her entire chow-focused life. It is all tart and tangy, something like pineapple juice without the fruitiness or acidity. Tons of other juices, too, including acai (palm berry), acerola (wild cherry), and abacaxi (brazilian pineapple). Cocao juice is white, with a unique taste–buttery, tart, and tangy. It tastes a little like lychees, and a little like passion-fruit. You can also get cocoa with cream–cocoa juice blended with milk and sugar. This results in a very different beverage–frothy, a little pulpy, and quite good.

Great snacks, too, like coxinha–a croquette shaped like a chicken thigh. This is basically a hunk of plain stewed chicken, wrapped in potato, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep-fried. The dough has a mochi-like texture, a nice contrast to the crisp breadcrumb crust. Theirs is a very nice coxinha, but the coxhina at Sunstream may have a slight edge.

The best two snacks are disco and empadeo goiano. Disco is a meat patty covered with flavored bread crumbs and deep-fried. It tastes like a really good Italian meatball. Empadeo goiano is Brazilian chicken pot pie. It has a nice brown crust, which looks like brioche, but turns out to be a delicious, thick layer of cheese. Inside, there’s shredded stewed chicken, mixed with green olives, diced potatoes, corn niblets, and spices.

Chicken enroladino is pie crust with a soft chicken filling (really soft–as in mashed potato soft) and bits of corn. It comes in two sizes; one’s a big turnover, and the other is basically a mini-muffin.

Pao de queijo are little walnut-sized cheese bread. These are good (though, again, Sunstream’s version might be a little better). Take ‘em home and heat ‘em up. Quibe (a mix of minced meat, mint, and couscous fried in oil) is good, as is rizole de milho–yet another deep-fried, breadcrumb-covered snack, this one filled with creamy cheese, corn nibblets, and some sort of chopped green herb.

There’s also a Brazilian marketplace with coffee, condiments, guava fig newtons, and a freezer case full of frozen Brazilian fruits.

But here’s the big news (and we thank you for your patience). This place also throws dinners once a month, on Sundays. The next one is in July. There is no dinner this month because, well, soccer.

But back to fried snacks once more if we may. The best coxinha of all may be the ones at Nino’s Pizzeria’s, which come in regular and cream cheese versions (the cream cheese is mixed into the dough). They’re served with jalapeno-spiked ranch dipping sauce. It’s peppy.

See a great web page (with photos) of Brazilian salgadinhos (all these crunchy savory snacks) at:

Sabor Brazil [East Bay]
4820 Bissell Ave., at San Pablo, Richmond

Sunstream Cafe [Richmond]
2884 Geary Blvd, San Francisco

Nino’s Pizzeria & Brazilian Restaurant [East Bay]
1916 Martin Luther King JR Way, Berkeley

Board Links: Brazilian snacks & cocoa juice at Sabor Brazil & Nino’s Pizzeria
Bay Area Brazilian Markets & Brazilian Easter Eggs


There’s darn good sushi at Kitsho, says Porthos. It loses some points for rice quality and for the commercial wasabi-from-a-tube, but compensates with extremely fresh and delicious fish, and a nice selection of imported fishes.

Kinmedai (extremely rare in the Bay Area) is very fresh and rich, and your order arrives with two cuts (the one from the belly is particularly excellent). Shimaaji is amazing, even richer and silkier than the kinmedai. Aji is soft and oily, though not as fine as the shimaaji–excellent, as far as aji goes.

Toro is labelled “o-toro,” but is probably closer to chu-toro in quality–too much red meat, not enough fat.

Omakase here is mindblowing once the chef learns your taste, says KK. He’ll open your eyes and mouth to all sorts of new experiences. And there are always surprises–various preparations, and special fishes hidden away out of sight.

Howard, the chef, is well-known for his cooked dishes, too. He’s especially good at soy bean products. He makes tofu in-house; try the three bean appetizer–cold tofu with green, black, and soy beans. There’s great miso, with broth finer than any you can find at Bay Area ramen shops. And Howard’s natto is the best–try natto toro maki, or any other natto preparation you can think of. And he’s got the best selection of shiromi in the neighborhood. There’s smooth and sweet grouper; delicate, wonderful moi. Nowhere else can you get hirame no konbu jime (kelp miranted hirame).

Also great: maguro zuike, and tamgo yaki. Ask for a fresh batch of tamgo yaki to get the juiciest cut. Their tamgo yaki is the second best in town, right after Sawa Sushi’s. There’s a good selection of sake, too.

Not so good: anago and ankimono. If you want good ankimono, go to Ino Sushi.

The cost is around $5-$6 per order of nigiri. Cuts are quite generous–to the point where Porthos feels nigiri almost overbalances towards fish. Of course, this is not something most people will find problematic…

Kitsho [South Bay]
19541 Richwood Dr., Cupertino

Sawa Sushi [South Bay]
1042 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

Ino Sushi [Japantown]
22 Peace Plaza #510, San Francisco

Board Links: Sushi Alert: Kitsho in Cupertino

Lively Greek Flavors, Far From Classic, at Parea

Greek newcomer Parea offers some appetizing-sounding entrees, but it may take you a while to get that far into the menu. Hounds are stuck on its inventive mezethes, like crispy pork with beets and pistachios, and goat dumplings with manouri cheese and mint. Also nice: pickled octopus with beans and tomato; sausage kalamaki with orange peel, yogurt, and chile (which “delivers a really gratifying smack of heat,” reports Deb Van D); and ceviche-like spinalos of tuna or yellowtail, with sprightly accents from olive, almond, fennel, and blood orange. “Very innovative, delicious, kind of sparkling food,” sums up djk.

The menu, developed by Cleveland chef Michael Symon, also includes a section of don’t-miss house-cured meats, highlighted by venison and lamb with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and saffron. Among the entrees, reports djk, are pan-roasted skate wing (with pickled cauliflower and blood orange) and halibut with fava beans and green peas in lemon broth, subtle and full of flavors of spring. Recommended desserts: blood orange tart with chocolate ice cream, and rhubarb-stuffed pastry with sesame ice cream.

The small plates are indeed small, advises Deb Van D, “but at $7 per you feel you can add in without toppling the budget.” The space is smart, airy and comfortable, she adds, and service is warm and helpful.

Parea [Flatiron]
36 E 20th St., near Park Ave. S., Manhattan

Board Links: Parea, anyone?
Parea, nice
Low Key Wine Bar / Small Plates
your first PAREA preview

Veggie Burgers without the “Faux”

There are veggie burgers that try to mimic meat, and there are ones that taste like exactly what they are: vegetables (and grain)! Here are some recommendations for finding the latter.

The entire Gardenburger line (there are many varieties) is 1. really tasty and 2. true to its vegetable roots.

Dr. Praeger’s Burgers, sold at Trader Joe’s, have a wide following.

Trader Joe’s Indian-seasoned Nirvana patties are very nice.

Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patties have a nice blend of veggies and a good mouth-feel.

Sunshine Burgers have a clean, unique taste, reports Val Ann C. Their main ingredients include ground sunflower seeds and brown rice.

Vegelicious Veggie Burgers are great, raves jilli42. Look for their “Santa Fe.”

Bobfrmia likes Veggie Patch Bistro Burgers, made from wild mushrooms and rice; they’re sold at Costco.

Also recommended: Annie’s California burgers.

Board Link: Un-meaty veggie burgers?