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

Russian Food, and Sticks to Beat Comrades With

Russian Gourmet just opened up about a week ago, and it's well worth a visit, says mikester. There are all sorts of Russian items: juices, sodas, truly delicious chocolates, teas, and butters. There's also a range of frozen dumplings, including pelmeni, and Russian cheese and charcuterie.

There's a cold case, too, with a wide variety of very reasonably priced caviar. Some of it's only $6 for a good-sized tin. There are even bags of branches, for beating your fellow comrades with at the sauna, says mikester. Elena, the lady in charge, is very welcoming and gracious, happy to answer questions.

There's a small lunch menu, and a few tables and chairs. No Chowhounds have yet tried it though. So go! Try!

Russian Gourmet [Orange County]
22722 Lambert Street, 
Suite 1701, Lake Forest
949-278-0235

Discuss: Russian Gourmet, Lake Forest

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"By that time, all of the other vendors had huge lines and at this point we didn't see the situation improving at all, especially when we could see 1000+ people in the GA line still waiting to get in." - mke2lax, on the insane crowds at the first annual LA Street Food Festival

"Croissants are flaky and have the real butter flavor... it's not margarine."
- lil mikey, on his new favorite bakery, Hygge

"Lent is upon us and many Church Ladies across the southland are preforming a service for the Flock who must abstain from meat, among other things, for the Lenten season."
- Mattapoisett in LA, on the start of Friday Fish Fry season in LA's churches

Meet the Chubby Chinese Girl

What if food bloggers rewrote all of Midtown's lunch menus? The result might be a welcome upgrade, if the new Chubby Chinese Girl sandwich at Cer Té is any indication. Named for its omnivorous, contest-winning inventor, it features soy- and citrus-marinated roasted duck seasoned with hoisin and a gentle hit of Sriracha, topped with pickled cucumber and radish, lettuce, and cilantro, all tucked into a grilled baguette. Call it "the love child of Peking duck and banh mi," as she puts it.

"Extremely tasty, nicely spicy, great bread," sums up mlle_mustard. chompchomp rates it just B-plus—“good, not amazing"—but adds that "by Midtown sandwich standards, it's a real triumph."

The Chubby Chinese Girl (expect funny looks from others in line when you order, advises carcrash) is on Cer Té's menu at least through this month and possibly beyond, if it catches on. The early response suggests it's a keeper.

Cer Té [Midtown]
20 W. 55th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Manhattan
212-397-2020

Discuss: Anyone tried Cer Te's Peking-Duckish Midtown Sandwich Winner?

Vietnamese News in the Bronx

Something's up on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, where Pho Saigon No. 1 has settled into the space once occupied by World of Taste, a Chowhound destination for Vietnamese soups and noodles. You'd hope for first-rate pho there, but Joe MacBu found the broth one-dimensional and clove-heavy. However, he loved thit heo gia cay, a stew of roasted pork belly and mushrooms in a rich, complex broth funkified by fermented shrimp paste. Add heat and zing, if you like, with chile paste and pickled chiles. Joe's advice: Pass on the pho and order instead from the handwritten menu.

As for the old World of Taste, its owner and cooks decamped last year to open a new place across the street called Com Tam Ninh Kieu. Its pho is the best Joe's had in New York, distinguished by the broth, "beefy, complex and appropriately spiced." As the restaurant's name implies, though, its specialty is com tam, or broken rice. This is good too, or at least acceptable to Joe's discerning Vietnamese friend from California. The rice itself is solid, but the accompaniments inconsistent: tasty pork skin, grilled pork chop, and shrimp cake; stale, dry egg-pork cake.

Pho Saigon No. 1 [Bronx]
2614 Jerome Avenue (near 193rd Street), Bronx
646-807-6702

Com Tam Ninh Kieu [Bronx]
2641 Jerome Avenue (between Kingsbridge Road and 192nd Street), Bronx
718-365-2680

Discuss: Vietnamese restaurant shake-up on Jerome Ave

Tamales Join the Momofuku Mix

Momofuku Noodle Bar—busting out of its narrow niche of ramen, pork buns, fried chicken, and flavors of Korea, Japan, and various other locales—is now making tamales.

They′re rich with pork fat ("extra unctuous and delicious," says hungrycomposer), and fillings are typically Momofuku-esque: pork and kimchee, cheese and jalapeño, Chinese sausage and spinach. "I lived in Southern California for years and pine for good tamales," hungrycomposer adds. "These may not be authentic, but I think the pork and kimchee tamale is by far the best in the neighborhood."

Momofuku Noodle Bar [East Village]
171 First Avenue (at E. 11th Street), Manhattan
212-777-7773

Discuss: Momofuku Tamales

Trueburger Reinvents the Bun

Owned by chefs whose résumés include stints at Absinthe, Delfina, and Jardinière, Trueburger is clearly aiming high with its hamburgers. And while hounds think the beef is, uh, nice ("Not juicy but the meat seemed freshly ground," says singleguychef), higher praise is reserved for the bun, which the blog Tasting Table reports is a half-baked challah bun that's custom-made for Trueburger by the Bread Workshop in Berkeley. "The bun was substantial and rich, nicely toasted," says 10foot5, who observes that it seems like the same bread is used for the croutons in the Caesar salad.

There's a good veggie burger made in-house of portobello mushrooms with mozzarella. "I'd call it almost a fritter, and quite tasty. The mushrooms are sliced, rather than chopped," says myriamg.

But let's not be too harsh on the beef burger, which JasmineG describes as: "Nice sized burger, very juicy, good meaty flavor, good quality condiments, and vegetables on top (especially the pickles, which tasted either housemade or specialty)." Plus there's a nice touch of aioli, and perfectly crisped and salted fries on the side.

Trueburger [East Bay]
146 Grand Avenue, Oakland
510-208-5678

Discuss: Trueburger (Oakland) – any reports yet?

Overheard on the New York Boards

"Stop in early at the bar and get some of their house made potato chips with deep fried herbs. But save room for their phenomenal bread basket with citrus-infused olive oil, mascarpone butter, and eggplant caponata spread. And my favorite pasta so far is the spaghetti pomodoro." - kathryn, on Scarpetta

"[T]he sausage was crrrrraaaazy! It was a black, garlic-fortified blood tube run through with long noodles. ... The next day I fried them up in a non-stick skillet until they got crispy on both sides. Perfection. Crispy yet moist with a garlic blast in your mouth." - Glendale is hungry, on the soondae (Korean blood sausage) at Kyedong

"I absolutely take issue with any restaurant that doesn't serve french fries with sandwiches and burgers ... It's just not right. This is America after all, no?" - StheJ, on The General Greene

New Digs for Vik’s Chaat

Berkeley favorite Vik's Chaat House has finally—FINALLY—opened in its new location. "Everything is newer, cleaner, brighter, nicer and more functionally laid out," in both the restaurant and the market, says BernalKC. "Most importantly, the cholle batura [deep-fried flatbread with spicy chickpeas] are just as massive and steamy and wonderful as they were before."



Although the menu is largely unchanged (there are a few more combo options), abstractpoet loved a special of chicken rogan josh, a tender and flavorful curry. Masala dosa addict TopoTail thinks Vik's version "is better than Udupi Palace's, though perhaps it's just the coconut chutney that's better. Vik's also serves what is hands down the best mango lassi I have ever tasted, and I've ordered it in plenty of places."

And adrienne156 says, "The lamb samosas, when not too liquidy, are probably the best things at Vik's, imho."

Vik's Chaat House [East Bay]

2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley
510-644-4412

Discuss: Viks ... now at their new location

Chicago Classics at Roy’s Chicago Doggery

Roy's Chicago Doggery has all the makings for the Chi-town classic: Vienna beef dogs, sport peppers, celery salt, neon-green relish, and a poppy-seed roll. But Roy's doesn't stop there. One special, the Oh No You Didn't Dog, is topped with sweet potato mustard and blue cheese coleslaw; the Buffalo Dog comes with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and celery salt. There's even a whiteboard where customers can suggest their own crazy combos.

The traditional Italian beef sandwich is superior, packed with thinly sliced beef, says rworange. Make sure to get it "wet," dipped in flavorful beef juices. The giardiniera, or pickled vegetable relish, "was so good I scooped from the juice the last bits that had escaped while chowing was in progress."

Also on the menu: the Maxwell Street Polish dog, with a trip through the deep-fryer if you like, says Melanie Wong. It's a salty, oily, satisfying beauty, dressed with caramelized onions, peppers, and spicy brown mustard.

Roy's Chicago Doggery [Sonoma County]
84 Corona Road, Petaluma
707-774-1574




Discuss:
 Petaluma: Roy's Chicago Doggery – The best lunch counter in the Bay Area that is serious fun … Italian beef and the “"Oh No You Didn't Dog"
Deep-fried Maxwell Street Polish Dog @ Roy’s Chicago Doggery in Petaluma

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