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

Veggie Burgers That Even Carnivores Crave

One mark of an outstanding vegetable burger is that carnivores will actually scarf it down happily. Hillstone, the overachieving chain eatery that used to be Houston's, passes that test with a hound-acclaimed veggie burger seasoned with Worcestershire and topped with melted jack.

Vegetarian restaurant Quantum Leap has a spicy version that pleases the meat-eating MinhLikesFood. And the burger joint Stand makes a veggie burger from quinoa, mushrooms, and zucchini that's actually better than its above-average beef burger, uwsister says.

At Five Napkin Burger, the secret ingredient is beets. OK, it's not a closely held secret; LNG212's server spilled it when asked. "Be forewarned: it's huge and it's messy," LNG212 adds.

SouthWest NY also has a way with veggie burgers, and it leans Latin. The black bean patty comes between two arepalike corn cakes. fm1963 suggests adding sautéed mushrooms and a side of maduros or corn pudding.

Some other hound-endorsed veg burgers can be had at Film Center Cafe and Zaitzeff, both enriched with avocado; Dojo, whose soy burger comes in a whole-wheat pita; and Shake Shack, a destination for conventional burgers, whose portobello 'shroom burger is a deep-fried, cheese-stuffed thing of beauty.

Hillstone [Flatiron]
378 Park Avenue South (at E. 27th Street), Manhattan
212-689-1090

Quantum Leap [East Village]
203 First Avenue (between E. 12th and 13th streets), Manhattan
212-673-9848

Stand [East Village]
24 E. 12th Street (between Fifth Avenue and University Place), Manhattan
212-488-5900

Five Napkin Burger [Hell's Kitchen]
630 Ninth Avenue (between W. 44th and 45th streets), Manhattan
212-757-2277

SouthWest NY [Battery Park City]
225 Liberty Street (in 2 World Financial Center), Manhattan
212-945-0528

Film Center Cafe [Hell's Kitchen]
635 Ninth Avenue (between W. 44th and 45th streets), Manhattan
212-262-2525

Zaitzeff [Financial District]
72 Nassau Street (at John Street), Manhattan
212-571-7272

Dojo [East Village]
14 W. Fourth Street (between Broadway and Lafayette Street), Manhattan
212-505-8934

Shake Shack [Flatiron]
In Madison Square Park (near Madison Avenue and E. 23rd Street), Manhattan
212-889-6600

Discuss: best vegetable burger in manhattan.....

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Hits were the butter poached oysters, so silky, sweet, plump little oysters with a splash of caviar for a little hit of saltiness. ... Sea urchin fondue texturally reminded me of egg drop soup but it was divine, sweet and creamy. It was ordered twice and both times, the bread was broken out to mop up the last bits out of the bowl." - bdachow on Colicchio & Sons

"I'd been sick and was in need of this dish's somewhat restorative and herbal properties. A very full-flavored broth - I caught traces of cinnamon and fennel in there - was topped off by some fatty and tender slabs of pork leading the way, excellent fresh mushrooms, greens and fried tofu skins. This is, thus far, my favorite rendition of this dish in NYC." - Polecat on bah kut teh at New Curry Leaves

"Forgot how good Rocco's black and white cookie with orange glaze is--had one tonight, so fresh and soft--loved it ... it's definitely a departure from your classic ... and the orange kind of gives a citrusy zing against the sweetness of the vanilla and choc." - janie on Rocco's Pastry Shop

Taco Bell’s Low Blow

USA Today reported late last week one of the most frightening new stories in our brave new era of industrial food. No, it's not about Monsanto crushing independent farmers under their big corporate thumb. No, it's not about Frankenstein-like hamburgers assembled from numerous cows from around the world. It's the new $2 Taco Bell combo meal.

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The Kebab King of Rego Park

The best Central Asian kebabs no one's talked about lately come off the grill at Tandoori Bukharian Bakery in Rego Park. They're moist, powerfully seasoned, and better than anything at the other Bukharian kebab houses of "Regostan"—including the usual suspects Cafe Arzu and Cheburechnaya, Greg promises.

Samsas are awesome baked pastries, cousins of the Indian samosa, the size of a fist and stuffed with savory ground meat. Steamed dumplings are equally hefty and filled with meat or minced potato. Salads are tasty and, like everything else here, robustly seasoned. And it's all pretty cheap: Greg's group of four got more than enough food for around $50. Service is better than the norm, he adds: "Less gruff than at Arzu and capable enough with English to get the order mostly correct."

Tandoori Bukharian Bakery [Rego Park]
99-04 63rd Road (at 99th Street), Rego Park, Queens
718-897-1071

Discuss: Tandoori Bukharian Bakery in Rego Park

Curry in a Loaf, South African Style

Looks aren't everything. The namesake dish at Bunny Chow, a South African–style bread bowl filled with curry, is a homely thing, big o says. But it's also a wonderful thing, heartily seasoned and "really, really tasty." It's made with chicken, lamb, or shrimp.

Shrimp peri peri, pan-roasted in the shell with herbs and a potent dose of chile, is also delicious. So are the fries, known here as slap chips: big wedges of potato, crispy outside and fluffy inside, served with a yogurt, feta, and cucumber dip. Malva pudding is a fine way to finish up, a cakelike, slightly fruity sweet served warm.

Traffic was notably sparse during big o's visit, and the space was being shopped earlier this year, so you might want to try it sooner rather than later.

Bunny Chow [Lower East Side]
74 Orchard Street (between Grand and Broome streets), Manhattan
212-260-5317

Discuss: Review -- Bunny Chow, LES

Inside Onstad’s Testicle Test Kitchen

Cartoonist Chris Onstad is more than a hilarious dude who can throw down animal-based humor content with the finest of writers—he's also a serious food lover who once characterized Christopher Kimball as "this goofy, 8-foot-tall nerd.... I describe him as a Yankee Wookie."
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You Say Macaron, They Say Silvana

The namesake pastry at House of Silvanas is the Filipino answer to the macaron: two cashew-meringue wafers sandwiching a layer of buttercream, all coated with cookie crumbs. Since the buttercream filling wouldn't hold up at room temperature, silvanas are always eaten frozen, or nearly so. There are seven flavors: buko-pandan (coconut and panda leaf), ube, mocha, and mango are the best, says pilinut, in that order. Even frozen, the buttercream is pleasantly light and creamy against the crunchiness of the cookies, says hhc.

"The sans rival is pretty good, too," adds pilinut, "just plain old buttercream sandwiched between thin, crisp layers of meringue, and sprinkled with nuts."

House of Silvanas [Peninsula]
2055 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City
650-878-8700

Discuss: House of Silvanas (Filipino bakery w/ Silvanas), Daly City w/ pics

Obsidian Arrowheads Key to Restaurant Success?

New York chef Anita Lo is hedging her bets against any more restaurant-related bad luck with feng shui, reports Sumathi Reddy in the Wall Street Journal. Last July, her restaurant Annisa burnt down. In January, she got a feng shui expert to go over it for the rebuild.

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Pizza con Carnitas?

If you tried to think of all the places you'd go to get a pizza, Mi Rancho Mexican Market probably wouldn't make the list. But no joke, the thin-crust pizza is really good, says yimster.

Most pizzas are $10 and made to order, with the dough hand-tossed, the sauce house-made, and the basil fresh. But of course there are also toppings you'd never get at Pizza My Heart or New York Pizza (where the chef used to work); request chorizo, carnitas, or anything else that takes your fancy from the Mexican place next door.

Mi Rancho Market [Peninsula]
137 Roosevelt Avenue, Redwood City
650-780-9410

Discuss: Great Pizza in a Mexican Market, Mi Rancho in Redwood City

Pork in the Mail

An envelope arrived in the mail the other day. It contained meat. Cured meat, unrefrigerated, sliced paper-thin and sealed in plastic packages, with a nice handwritten note from Scott Buer of Bolzano Artisan Meats saying that it was shelf-stable until opened.

I don't know when it was sent; I don't know when it arrived (my mailbox goes neglected for days at a time). It had sat at unknown temperatures for an unknown period of time in its peregrinations from Wisconsin. It was meat.

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