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Nikitenka's Profile

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Boquria Market: Bar Boqueria & Kiosko Universal

E Eto,
We ended up at Kiosko Universal after failing to be able to find Pinoxto - we were both so hungry (had flown in that morning) that we couldn't look anymore and were lured by two well positioned empty seats and the delectable looking food everyone was enjoying, even at 11AM on a saturday.

We had the baby squid which was grilled to perfection, tender and flavorful. Also fantastic were the large langoustines (the catalan word escapes me) which were sweet and delicate. My BF described them as the best parts of both lobstermeat and shrimp combined.

Finally, we had an order of the fresh wild mushrooms - setas, I came to find out the word - which were also grilled with leeks, garlic, and olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Really fabulous side dish.

We found the service to be more than adequate - the counter man appreciated my efforts to speak spanish (although my knowledge of catalan is nil) and so I also did some pointing as well. He was the one who recommended the langoustines as "delicioso" and was well worth the 25 euro price tag.

Paired perfectly with a dry, simple cava - it was a fantastic start to our weekend in Barcelona. I would highly recommend this place and will definitely come back!

Jan 24, 2009
Nikitenka in Spain/Portugal

Search for the Holy Grill- Prime Rib

I have been on a similar quest and find Palm's to be hands down the most fantastic prime rib I have experienced. The only problem is they tend to sell out quickly, so if I am coming in late I typically call ahead and ask them to set a nice rare one aside for me and they always oblige. I love that place.
Tried the prime rib last night at Post House and found it to be a letdown. It was rare but not very flavorful, extremely fatty and difficult to remove the fat - I felt like I was conducting surgery through the entire meal.

Sep 30, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Urgent NYC Seafood Help Needed

Ocean grill has always been a favorite. Very nice seafood at reasonable prices, great service, nice atmosphere.
We were really disappointed with Oceana - very expensive and no where near worth it.
Also Blue Water Grill in union square. It's owned by the same group as Ocean's Grill and in my opinion isn't as good but the location's better and it's an oK alternative.

Sep 29, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Worst ethnic place you've been to

Totally agree on shun lee. Our three dishes consisted of gummy boiled chicken with broccoli that had been microwaved until yellow, beef doused in msg with three slices of green pepper, and stinky sesame shrimp. Didn't drink, somehow ended up spending $250. You do realize that the majority of the Chinese population eats far better for far less!

Sep 29, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Where do you go for good octopus?

I second 15 East. Amazing!

Jul 19, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Have a res at Crispo this weekend - What should I order?

We each ordered a pasta as our main and the portions were massive.
Too bad both were inedible (carbonara was a flavorless lump of overcooked pasta and lard; orchiette came with an entire wilted, uncut head of broccoli rabe on top and was consequently very bitter).
So yes, in a way, you may want to stop for a hamburger afterwards . . . or just save your money and go somewhere else.

May 23, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

INDIAN or THAI grocery stores?

I've been to the Bangkok grocery on Mosco street. I think they have one of the better selections of Thai products in the city . . . however most of the ingredients that I was searching for (ingredients that we used in my cooking classes in Thailand) are unfortunately not availble in the states. It's run by a Thai family and they're very welcoming and helpful so if it's possible to get here I have no doubt they can get it for you . . . . the prepackaged currys I bought from them were delicious and far superior to the other premade curries I tried.

May 20, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

What's good at Alta

One of the nice things about the restaurant is that you can order as you go. I would pick 4 things that you like to start with. Almost everything comes out quickly and so you'll be able to get started and then see how it goes . . . after that order 2 things at a time until you've had your fill. The last time we went i think two of us put away about 9 or 10 plates (tee hee) but we were starving and we ordered some of the smaller dishes.

May 20, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

What's the best flavor of gelato at Ciao Bella?

It's a sorbet, but I happen to be eating their delicious blood orange at this very moment.

May 20, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Halibut Cheeks

Any suggestions for recipes / preparations?
I've never tried these before and so have no clue what I'm dealing with.

May 19, 2008
Nikitenka in Home Cooking

What's good at Alta

Our favorites: Lamb meatballs, flatbread, philly surprise (ok, so i like cream cheese), brussels sprouts.

May 17, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Any Batali Restaurant- All Expenses Paid

Babbo + pasta tasting + riserva wines.
I found del Posto pretentious and thefood underwhelming, although I didn't do the $300 extravaganza.

May 17, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

any reasonably priced spots in union sq?

I second Tisserie. Excellent quiche and very tasty sandwiches. You can get a nice high quality meal for $10 and they have a place to sit upstairs. Also good for a quick takeout and eat at home.

May 17, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Crispo - Awful food. What happened?

Time for my two cents. I had been meaning to try Crispo since I moved into the neighborhood and have been reading some serious raves on this site. I was a little put off by this thread seeing as how more than a few people lately haven't been thrilled with the food. I decided to see for myself and took the BF (the resident expert, having lived in italy for a year) last night.

I wasn't even so bothered that we were seated in the bar area at 8PM. It was loud, crowded, and there was a girl who kept bumping her rear end into our bottle of brunello for the first hour or so, but we were close enough to each other that we could talk without screaming and I sort of chalked it up to the atmosphere of the place and the fact that it was prime time on a friday night.

Which brings me to the food: I don't get it. Here is what we ordered:

Calamari and Zucchini fritti: This came out piping hot and was lightly battered and properly fried. Sounds like a simple accomplishment but a lot of places in the city screw up fried appetizers. The underlying zucchini however was flavorless and the bland and watery marinara sauce they served with it looked like it came from a jar and really brought the dish down a notch. B-

Bone Marrow Appetizer: Thanks to those on this board who recommended it. We waited probably 35 minutes for this but it was the high point of the meal. Extremely large portion for $15 (you get 2 large bones each sliced in half). It looks very cool and tasted delicious on rustic toasts with the sweet onions they served it with. That said, the BF did point out that "they basically sliced a bone in half, sprinkled it with garlic and breadcrumbs, and put it in the oven". Fair point, but I don't penalize for simplicity when well executed. A-

Spaghetti Carbonara: I love carbonara but was a little leary of having poached eggwhites in my pasta so the minute this came to the table I drained my egg yolk and set the white to the side. This dish was a real miss. When the waitress had said that the dish included pancetta, I had assumed that it would be cooked / rendered down to the crisp, delightful pancetta bits that are traditionally folded in to the pasta. What I got was thick chunks of fat, room temperature, with almost no meat to speak of. As a result, there was not a lot of flavor to the sauce other then the overly rich yolks + pancetta lard. The pasta was a bit gummy (possibly from having soaked up all of the above) and I ended up barely eating half of it before giving up. I know this is a rich dish but come on. C

Orrechiete with broccoli rabe and sausage: This dish was ludicrous in its preparation. The kitchen had literally peeled the casing off a sausage, cooked it in the pan, and thrown it into the bowl effectively whole along with whole stalks of broccoli rabe. Literally all of the sausage meat was still attached when they brought it to our table. The BF spent the first 5 minutes breaking the ingredients down into something that could be ingested with a fork, and once it was, it wasn't that nice, possibly because the pasta hadn't had a chance to absorb any of the flavor of the condiment. There was way too much broccoli rabe for the portion size, resulting in a bitter liquid collecting on the bottom of the bowl. I can do this dish much better in my sleep. D+

After an OK start with the appetizers we were thoroughly disappointed with our mains. Combine that with iffy service at best and people bumping into our table with their rear ends all night and I ended the night shrugging apologetically to the disgruntled BF and saying, "Sorry about that, I had heard this place was supposed to be good."

May 17, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

One if by land two if by sea

We had guests in from out of town who had heard great things (likely from an earlier era) and were quite keen to try the place. We hadn't the heart to steer them elsewhere and agreed to go with them. We happened to go when they were doing a special five course $55 tasting menu affiliated with some Zagats promo and I must say I was quite pleasantly surprised. Based on the comments I had read here I was expecting the worst. They had just finished a rennovation and we were seated on the ground floor towards the back next to a window with a beautiful view into the backyard. I had never eaten there before so I can't speak to whether the rennovation was an improvement

I agree that service was inconsistent (the sommelier was out to lunch, we poured our own wine and had to ask a few times for water) but not much worse then you find in a lot of manhattan restaurants. The kitchen paced the courses well and there were several that I thought were really delicious, including an apple cheddar soup, a perfectly cooked shrimp appetizer, and a very interesting take on beef wellington. Each piece came cooked en croute in its own pastry with a rich but delicious foie gras sabayon. What I loved was that when I cut into it my beef was rare and tender, just the way I like it. It was the first time I'd had wellington that wasn't dry and overdone by my standards.

In the end I had to give them credit for pleasantly exceeding my (albeit managed) expectations. I am not sure that the normal menu with fewer courses would warrant the price tag that they charge but could see myself returning to the bar area and ordering one of those wellingtons on a cold day.

May 13, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Lunch near Grand Central?

Great idea . . . I love Grand Central Oyster bar. I am a big oyster fan and no one has a fresher or more broad variety. Their lobster pan roast, while rich, is always a real treat. And their menu is pretty extensive so most people can find something they like. The atmosphere I think it a lot of fun, kind of a time capsule of a bygone new york era.

May 13, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Lunch near Grand Central?

Palm Too does a surprisingly good and well priced "businessman's lunch", if you're in the mood for steak. It's usually not terribly crowded and there's no music so you can actually have a conversation. I've turned a few people on to this and everyone has come back saying, "I didn't think you could eat that well in NYC for 20 bucks!

If steakhouse is not your thing I would try DJango on 46th and Lex - it's a little bit more trendy and upscale but the food is solid for midtown lunch. They have a nice prix fixe that is reasonably priced and will get you out quickly if you give them your time constraints.

May 12, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Craftbar?

Both of the above posters are correct on the service, which I forgot to mention. It's a bit hit or miss. Most of the servers are friendly but some are a bit slower then others and if you come on a busy night it might take you some time to get your servers attention.

May 09, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Where to watch the hockey game tonight?

That really is the million dollar question. As a hockey fan in NYC I've always struggled to find a place where I can watch the game in a non-sports bar environment, i.e. where there is a fun vibe, nice food and people are friendly.... (my apartment notwithstanding). Particularly hard to find places that show the game and aren't a stone's through from MSG (and that crowd).

I have heard of a place called Kelly's which has only been around for a year or so. I haven't visited but am told its a good time despite limited food menu (they actually let you bring your own, or order in from neighboring restaurants!).

Anyway they're in the east vill so better location overall and they also advertise some affinity towards the Sabres which warms my heart.

http://www.kellysnyc.com/

Now that you've gotten me thinking about it i might just check it out tonight!

May 09, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Craftbar?

I'm a huge fan. My boyfriend and I are in our 20s and live in the neighborhood and we regard this place as one of our standbys. The atmosphere is fun and casual and it's relatively easy to get a reservation with a few days notice (or on weekends, if you go at non peak times you can pretty easily get a walk in table).

In terms of food I would recommend . . . . for apps and small snacks,
Bruschettas of the day (especially when its mushroom)
Pecorino fondue with acacia honey and hazelnuts (this is one of my fav dishes anythere)
Octopus Salad
Mussels
Fried sage leaves stuffed with sausage

Mains:
Veal ricotta meatballs (they'll serve them with a side of spaghetti)
Hangar steak (excellent)
Homemade goat cheese ravioli (had this last weekend, it was divine)
Short Ribs

Anyway hope you get a chance to try it out!

May 09, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Union Square Cafe - What a mixed bag! (long review)

Having lived in Union Square for over a year I kept getting chastized for never having tried USC. So last night I was walking by on my way home and decided on a whim to see if I could get a table. It was 7:45PM on a Thursday and so I was not expecting any luck, but the hostess very graciously said she could seat my friend and me at the bar for dinner in about 20 minutes. We decided to give it a try. No sooner had we ordered our drink then a table freed up – apparently there had been a no show – and we were seated in the front room at around 8PM. The timing is important here as you’ll see.

Since this was a celebratory dinner of sorts we started out with some cocktails. My friend said his dirty martini was flawlessly mixed and my blood orange wallbanger was delicious. At that point we apparently fell into some sort of alternate dimension where our server was unable to see us and completely forgot about our existence. We sat with menus closed for over 20 minutes, begging him with our eyes to come and talk to us each time he neared, but no dice.

Finally my friend actually had to stick his arm out in front of him as he passed and say, “Please, we would like to order and have a few questions for you” for him to notice us. He seemed surprised that we were there. Once we had ordered the food we opened up the wine list and my friend began, “So I was thinking of ordering an Italian red and we were wondering if you could help us choose between . . .” at which point our server turned on his heel and left us mid sentence. We were very turned off at this point and rather then drop a few bills on a big bad Tuscan we settled with a more basic, and cheaper, primitivo. I figured if the restaurant doesn’t want to sell me a good wine with my meal, I’ll not pay for one.

Now I get to the bright spot. Our appetizers, when they came 40 minutes later, were two of the best dishes I’ve had in a restaurant in a long time, probably since I visited Italy. I had the homemade tagliatelle with duck ragu. The pasta was perfect in every way – thickness, flavor and most important texture. It had that slight roughness on the surface that trapped just the right amount of sauce. The ragout itself was much more finely ground then the traditional chunkier ragouts I usually see but it worked marvelously. My friend’s caramelized onion risotto was an example of how a dish can really distill and showcase a simple flavor – in this case the sweet tangyness of onions – into something incredibly satisfying and even soothing. Despite the overall tone of this review, I must stress that both of these dishes were really top notch, and I would love to get my hands on their pasta guy because he has a real talent

We waited almost another hour for our mains. Though we were conversing and enjoying ourselves, that is really pushing it in my opinion. Finally they came out – duck confit for my friend and hangar steak for me . . . . except, my steak did not look or taste at all like a hangar steak, which is one of my favorite cuts. While it appeared to be rare (which is the temp I ordered it) it felt cooked through, and didn’t have any of the nice flavor and texture I associate with hangar steak. Rather, it was uniform consistency and quite bland. The only flavor I detected was a hint of bacon on the outside . . . maybe it had shared a grill surface? Extremely disappointing. The giant heap of mashed potatoes that accompanied it were equally bland, and seemed like they hadn't even been salted. Not even a token vegetable to speak of, which apparently we are meant to order separately, which I would have known if my server and I were on speaking terms. I mostly grazed on my friend’s duck confit which was crispy and flavorful, if a little rich for my taste. By the time our waiter showed up about 10 minutes later to say “By the way, sorry that took so long”, midstride mind you, I had had enough of him and we had determined we were too tired to wait around for desert.

Conclusion: Overall, the experience was not worth the pricetag or the time investment. I feel like you can do better in the neighborhood and certainly be treated better. A few truly excellent dishes were marred by glacial and negligent service, and I still don’t know what the hell cut of meat I was served. I would say it is definitely worth a visit to sit at the bar and have a few drinks and graze on those magnificent appetizers and pasta dishes. The bartenders seem to know what they’re doing and it’s a lot harder for them to disappear for long stretches of time.

Anyone else have a recent experience at USC to share, either positive or negative? I'd be interested to hear if others have had similar experiences. I would also like some more favorite dish recommendations as I think I might have to go back soon for more of that risotto and tagliatelle!

May 09, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Alta - good for large group?

I also had my birthday there with about 10 people. We had a round table in the corner on the second floor which is perfect. Everyone loved the food, we got many pitchers of their rum sangria, and it was a successful event!
Just make sure to book in advance as the place seems to be getting more and more popular.

Apr 27, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Decent restaurants by the Beacon Theatre (Bway/74th)

Cassis has always been enjoyable. 70th and Columbus. Traditional french brasserie fare and no reservations required.

Apr 27, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Cozy, Romantic INDIAN Restaurant for First Date

I second tamarind. Had a fantastic meal there recently. Extremely flavorful dishes, well executed and very nice atmosphere. Be sure to make a reservation as it was difficult for us to get a table though.

Apr 27, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Nightmare at Bouley

Wow. I certainly empathize with your experience. What a nightmare, particularly when you are out with a group and the awkwardness of leaving hungry at 11PM might compel most to just quietly suffer through shameful service. Good for you for putting your foot down and for not tipping.

I am however going to say one thing in Bouley's defense. I have never eaten there for dinner, and maybe that's where the disconnect lies - different service manager during the day? But the place is a favorite with my parents for their reasonably priced brunch, and I have been taking them there several times a year for about seven or eight years now. They're out of towners, love food, but my mother can be exceptionally picky and difficult to please. She has had her share of walk-outs in other restaurants, some more justified than others. But at Bouley the servers have repeatedly, consistently bent over backwards to make her happy, so much so that I found it even a bit hard to believe myself. Never once have we left with anything other than rave reviews about the food and service. The few times that a dish was not up to par, it was whisked away instantaneously and replaced with something better. The lunchtime servers had always been the epitome of professional, kind, unobtrusive service and the pacing on the courses always seemed to be just right.

You are not the first person I've heard describe disappointing food and a different ethos during dinner service, and that's just really unfortunate. Rightfully you won't be returning there anytime soon, but I would encourage people who were interested in trying Bouley and might be put off by these stories to try them for brunch - you'll be spending a lot less and hopefully your experience will be consistent with mine over the years. Maybe they need to promote the daytime FOH manager!

Apr 07, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Otto's just for dessert

I think that you wont have a problem at 5:30 on a sunday - for dessert or for a full dinner either. The restaurant is usually not that crowded at that point, and you can likely sit down at a table in the dining room where you'll be more comfortable... Walk in, ask for a table for 4, and then when you sit down let your waiter know that you're just there for some snacks. The menu is more informal and designed specifically to encourage people who just want to come in for an appetizer, or just a cheese plate, a dessert etc.

I think otto does an excellent job with their desserts - frankly better that at mario's other restaurants. Favorites are any of the gelatos, esp hazlenut, ricotta or goat cheese (very interesting), olive oil and pistachio. The only one I didn't enjoy was the carmel which tasted salty and burnt, although some might enjoy if they like very intense caramel flavor.

The Black and White is a perennial favorite. Whenever i order this while out with a group it disappears instantaneously. The coppas are also consistently good too, I second the olive oil but check to see what they have during any particular week - i think they change them up based on the seasons. Their affogato, while a bit plain jane, is also very well executed and satisfying if you're in the mood for espresso.

I would also recommend if you want some variety to try a cheese plate (you can get 3, 5 or 7.) Recommend a goat, a gorgonzola and a hard cheese. The cheeses themselves are very tasty but my favorite part are the "condiments" that come with - a sour cherry compote type of thing, an apricot marmelade and a HEAVENLY truffled honey. Try the honey with any of the cheeses and you'll be wowed. Need to get my hands on some of that. Enjoy!

Apr 07, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Devi or Tamarind?

Went to Tamarind for the first time last night on the recommendation of several friends and I thought the meal was excellent. My friend who is a regular at the place and Indian did all the ordering for us so it is possible we got the benefit of his familiarity with the menu. Each dish we tried was well executed, flavorful with interesting ingredients and some nice heat. Particularly enjoyable were the goat and the halibut dishes. Only criticism was that the Chicken tikka was a bit dry. The garlic naan was fresh and flavorful as well. We drank a Napa Syrah recommended by our waiter which paired surisingly well with the food (I wouldn't have thought of that particular combination myself.

All in all we're eager to go back and would recommend it as more than a step above some of the other indian places we've tried (albeit with commensuratelly steeper prices). Have not tried Devi though so unfortunately cannot offer a comparison. Please let us know what you decide and how it turns out!

It was also nice to come away from the table without that heavy, food coma sluggishness that greasy food sometimes causes.

Apr 05, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Foie Gras

Those French Kisses were absolutely divine. Soaking things in armagnac is a technique I wish more kitchens would employ! (Petrossian does a fantastic steak tartare that is doused in armagnac). RIP D'artagnan.
We will definitely give Gascogne a shot!

Apr 05, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Foie Gras

Your posting brings back fond memories of the sadly shuttered D'Artagnan in midtown east. Specialized in foie gras (in pretty much every preparation conceivable) as well as southwestern french fare, which I particularly enjoy for its richness and simplicity. Sounds like you would have loved it.

D'Artagnan continues to be more or less *the* distributor of foie gras and other french delicacies to east coast restaurants and I know that their stuff is available at NYC supermarkets if you care to tackle at home. I would be curious if anyone on the board a) remembers the restaurant and b) has succeeded in finding any other places to get a similar foie gras fix.

Apr 02, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan

Any dogs on my list of places to eat?

I'll throw in a vote for Greengrass - fab smoked salmon and very nice whitefish salad as well. If you're not about lines I would avoid that place on the weekend as it can sometimes be packed. Also be prepared for the dated (albeit in a charming sort of way) decor.
Again if you're committed to Grimaldi's, you might want to try going at non peak times as that too often can have a wait.
Blue Ribbon Bakery is great. If you're in the mood I would also recommend Blue Ribbon Sushi . . . their prices are reasonable for the quality and you don't have to go all out there to get a nice sampling of their fish, esp with three people sharing a few things.
I actually enjoy Rocking Horse as a neighborhood place. The food is hit or miss but they do some very nice margaritas and it's a nice place to chill out and have a drink before going out.

Apr 02, 2008
Nikitenka in Manhattan