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

Vegan Recipes

32 delicious, meat-free, healthy dishes for you to choose from. BROWSE...

Underground and Famous

Wolvesmouth Underground Dinners are a new-ish way to dine: secret locations, mailing lists, and the like. They are only underground in the relative sense, since the dinners are all over the blogs and Chef Craig Thornton has been on Last Call with Carson Daly, pimping his Underground Dinners. And the location is secret only in the sense that you have to sign up for his mailing list ahead of time to be told the "secret." But still, we take what excitement we can in our hollow modern lives, eh?

Anyway: Get on the mailing list, and you'll get an e-mail about the next underground location that will host a large, multicourse, world-eclectic dinner, tilted a little toward the sweet side of the palate.

pleasurepalate got to enjoy the punch-y, sweet pleasure of squash, maple syrup, and sweetbreads. Other delights included perfectly seared scallops with earthy chanterelle mushrooms over riced potatoes, sautéed in brown butter.

Also lovely: ocean trout, lingonberry, and crème fraîche over pumpernickel. "I loved how the ocean trout was browned to perfection and yet, the fish was still moist," says pleasurepalate. "The lingonberry's fresh tartness and the pumpkernickel's slight tangy-crunch also added punches of flavor to the mild fish."

There are touches of the molecular new, like a nuevo version of s'mores: toasted marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker pudding, salted chocolate, and smoked pop rocks. It had the essence of a s'more, says pleasurepalate, right down to the feeling of crackling embers in the smoked pop rocks.

The last quirk? There are no prices, only a blank envelope and a Pay What You Can Afford Policy. It worked for Radiohead, and hopefully it will work for Wolvesmouth.

Discuss: REVIEW w/ Pics: The Big Bad Wolvesmouth Underground Dining Experience

Fresh Sausages in Hollywood

There's a new sausage-maker in town: Grindhaus, purveyor of a few well-focused fresh sausages and pickled vegetables (beets, green beans, carrots, cabbage), all of which can be picked up and taken home from the small Hollywood Boulevard shop.

Those sausages are some of the most succulent lil mikey has ever seen. "They were very soft to the touch, obviously made hours earlier, and since they’re also made from freshly ground meat, it’s just a different sausage than what I’m used to." They cook up juicy and fragrant. "And the texture as you bite into them was like the touch," says lil mikey. "Fresh, and loose… not a solid piece like a Dodger dog." The lamb merguez actually tastes distinctly of lamb, instead of pure spicing.

Grindhaus [Hollywood]
5634 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-462-6328

Discuss: Grindhaus Opens Today – Fresh Sausages in Hollywood

Salsa Flights and Upscale Mexican

Mas Malo is a welcome addition to the downtown food scene, says aching. It's a casual version of upscale Mexican, and it's considerably more satisfying than the original version of Malo from years back.

Salsa junkies should start with the salsa flight—habanero, serrano, pico de gallo, chile negro, and tomatillo. "At $14, it seemed pricey for something that usually is free, but the salsas were excellent and the portions generous," says aching. You can, if you like, order the chips "chewy": half fried, so they're crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Cheese enchiladas are really delicious, says aching. "It was not your ordinary Jack—it had a slight bitterness to it, like a triple-creme or a brie." Al pastor tacos are tender and flavorful.

"In a city filled with authentic (and cheap!) Mexican food, a more upscale and gringo-friendly version is probably a tough sell. However, I for one feel that Mas Malo is a VERY welcome addition to the neighborhood, and I think it has a lot of potential for success," says aching.

Mas Malo [Downtown]
515 W. Seventh Street, Los Angeles
213-985-4322

Discuss: First Impressions: Mas Malo

Overheard on the Los Angeles Board

"I wouldn't go to Cube for the burger. ... I go to Cube for the fantastic, unpretentious, friendly, informative wine, cheese, and charcuterie service. Their wines by the glass are great and they are passionate about them; the cheese is treated right (NOT KEPT STRANGLED IN TWO LAYERS OF PLASTIC WRAP) and varied, and the charcuterie is top-notch." – Das Ubergeek

"The blood sausage at Bistro LQ is amazing. The texture was, for lack of a better word, silky. It is no hyberbole when I say it's the best I've ever had." – Porthos

"Unbelievable lunch buffet with different dishes each day—last time I was there there were 23 different dishes plus salads, naan, and several desserts. The place was filled with locals attesting to the quality of the food." – ZoeZ on Little India's Northern Indian joint, The India Restaurant

Is SriPraPhai Overrated?

It’s a thread title that several years ago would have started quite the hound hubbub, but these days seems to crop up more and more: "Sripraphai overrated." Both driggs and missmasala insist that they only still go to the once-beloved Queens Thai restaurant because their children like it, with the latter complaining that she can never abandon it because “it's one of the only decent Thai places with a vegetarian menu for my vegetarian daughter (tho the fact that they added a veg menu was in itself a bad sign, and a little fish sauce never hurt her, anyway).”

The virtues of fish sauce aside, it’s sounding like several Thai-food-loving hounds are slowly migrating to the well-reviewed Ayada, in Elmhurst, and avoiding Sri’s two locations. Queens residents and Thai aficionados, what do you think? Has SriPraPhai gone downhill?

SriPraPhai [Woodside]
64-13 39th Avenue, Queens
718-899-9599

Ayada [Elmhurst]
77-08 Woodside Avenue, Queens
718-424-4844

Discuss: Sripraphai overrated

Single Italian-Seeking Female, Midtown

San Franciscan redchair is flying into town and is on the hunt for great midtown Italian with a slight hitch: She wants to dine solo at the bar and “not feel weird.”

Sounds like many fellow hounds are likewise fans of dining alone, with noodles. Plenty have chimed in with over a dozen recommendations, from Babbo to Scarpetta. If you think they’re missing the boat—any fans of the Eataly pasta bar out there?—send her in a different direction. (As fans of dining at the bar ourselves, we suggest keeping in mind the comfort of the seats, the distance between them, and the attentiveness of the bar waitstaff.)

Babbo [Greenwich Village]
110 Waverly Place, Manhattan
212-777-0303

Scarpetta [West Village]
355 W. 14th Street, Manhattan
212-691-0555

Eataly [Flatiron]
200 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
212-229-2560

Discuss: SF Woman Dining Alone, Dinner Rec Midtown

Luke’s Lobster Rolls on Atlantic Avenue

Good news for those of us for whom there is no such thing as “lobster roll season": Luke’s Lobster is now selling rolls at the Sunday afternoon Foodshed farmers' market on Atlantic Avenue, we noted yesterday while walking by. The cranky crustacean is still a splurge at $15 per roll, but a rep insists it’s identical to the roll sold across the river at the East Village and UES locations, with the same lightly mayo-ed bread, lemon butter, and signature spices.

Luke’s will be serving these on the second floor of the indoor market through the end of January, when they’ll “take a look” at how they’re doing and decide whether to carry on. This river crossing will no doubt add fuel to the ongoing Chowhound Best Lobster Rolls in NYC thread, particularly in Brooklyn, since Red Hook Lobster Pound is now an easy bike ride—though a chilly one—away.

Foodshed Market [Boerum Hill]
388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn 
No phone available

Luke’s Lobster [East Village]
93 E. Seventh Street, Manhattan
212-387-8487

Red Hook Lobster Pound [Red Hook]
284 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn
646-326-7650

Discuss: Best Lobster Rolls in NYC

Revelatory Pizza, California Style

"Not New York. Not Neapolitan. California," Jim Leff declares. The alpha hound is describing the surprisingly wonderful Zpizza in the Village. But as a survivor of years of Chowhound pizza wars, he's also taking on purists who refuse to admit decent pizza can come from a chain operation that promises "healthy" food and offers choices like Thai, Santa Fe, and "Berkeley Vegan."

"Lots of California-ish precious-sounding toppings," Jim notes, "but with a flair for balance and some pain taken in sourcing ... especially at the price, which is super fair." The ’shroom pie, for example, features unexpectedly good mushrooms and sweet, carefully cooked onions. That vegan option has crumbled veggie burger, zucchini, mushroom, peppers, and an unidentified cheese substitute ("luscious on its own terms," Jim says, "though it would disappoint if you were hoping for something cheesy"). Intriguing-looking "Rustica" pies—on crisp, oblong crusts—include pear-Gorgonzola, Moroccan (feta, roasted eggplant, caramelized onion), and curry chicken with yam. "The problem with raving about pizza," Jim adds, "is that there are so many parameters and everyone has their own idiosyncratic preferences, so if you recommend oranges, and somebody prefers apples, there's no way they're going to like it. But if you can open up and NOT look for tons of cheesy-gooey goodness, or for a delicate, subtle, Neapolitan experience ... I think you'll agree that this is a surprisingly good place."

At least some New Yorkers may be buying in. Another location of Zpizza is in the works in the East Village.

Zpizza [Greenwich Village]
298 Bleecker Street (between Seventh Avenue South and Grove Street), Manhattan
212-206-7433

Discuss: zpizza (on Bleecker)

Mixing Korean and Chinese at Minzhongle

The hybrid cuisine created by Koreans who resettled in China's Jilin Province surfaced last summer at Ri Fu in Flushing. Now comes word of Minzhongle, another restaurant that covers similar territory just a few blocks away.

Joey Deckle, who has thoroughly explored the place for Edible Queens, says one don't-miss dish is crispy duck legs, or xiang son ya tui, salt-baked and served with seasoned salt. It's "truly superb," he promises, "crispy, fatty, and above all ducky!" He also recommends tea tree mushrooms (gan guo cha shu gu), stir-fried with ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and chiles, and "Fried Popcorn with Egg Yolk Sauce" (dan huang yu mi): corn kernels and pine nuts in sweet batter. Alongside the regional specialties are more familiar Korean dishes like bibimbap and soft bean curd stew.

Be sure to check the picture menu on the wall as well as the printed menu, which is trilingual (English, Chinese, Korean) but may not be complete. Minzhongle has a prominent sign on the street but still isn't the easiest place to find. Just go straight back past Kung Fu Tea, a phone-repair shop, and a clothing store, and you're in Yilin.

Minzhongle [Flushing]
37-14 Main Street (between 37th and 38th avenues), Flushing, Queens
718-539-2788

Discuss: Minzhongle: Another Korean-Chinese Spot in Flushing