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Chef Z's Profile

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3 Months in Miami...where must I go?

I'm a NYC transplant down in Miami for three months working at a restaurant, I live by FIU and work in Coral Gables but am more than willing to travel both to see the city and eat great food. Like at any resto, I work long hours so late night haunts with interesting food are a plus. I've searched on the boards but I don't want just Table 8 type places, I want your favorite local spots around Miami. Places that will make me feel like I've actually gotten to KNOW the city. So, suggestions?!! Thanks, I look forward to getting to know this town!

May 28, 2007
Chef Z in Florida

Interesting appetizers for a Backus Cab?

Thanks guys! I went with some basic skewered cubes of grilled lamb. Delish. I might also report the backus (2002) was truly fantastic. And we had to open one more bottle... I can't wait to see what it's like in the next few years!!

May 18, 2007
Chef Z in Wine

Interesting appetizers for a Backus Cab?

I was given 6 bottles of Backus cab a while back and have a special occasion coming up I'd like to open a bottle for. Thing is, with four people, I'd like to really be able to savor the glass, so we're thinking to have the bottle with a few small appetizers that can accentuate the flavors of the wine while letting us focus more on the drink than the food. Any suggestions of a great, "small plate" type dish (or a few) to go with a wonderful cab? Thanks in advance!!

May 17, 2007
Chef Z in Wine

Mahou anyone?

I fell in love with this beer in Spain and have been craving it ever since I came back. I found it in Florida a few months ago and most recently Sala on Bowery and Great Jones has started serving it (imported directly though..) I've also seen it mysteriously show up at a party, so somebody is selling it retail. has anyone seen this for sale? Please let me know where! thanks!

May 17, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

Cafe Falai - Open?

I've been twice this past week for breakfast/brunch. The food and coffee is delicious and I actually quite like the decor (although I will warn that the all white theme can hurt the eyes if you're nursing a hangover...) But - has anyone else noticed the haphazard service? Is it just me? Both times the place was practically empty (maybe 5 two-person tables max) and I waited the longest I can ever remember waiting for a cup of coffee. Trying to get the waiter's attention proved surprisingly difficult given the size of the restaurant. Is it just me?

May 07, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

Kuma Inn Quick Review

This is the first review I've written so pardon the lack of detail! Kuma is a thai-filipino tapas (small plate) restaurant on the second floor (walk up of course) of a LES apartment building. After making reservations they called back to tell me they were currently reapplying for their liquor license so they were BYOB for the time being. I was actually pretty disappointed since I had read so much about their sake selection and know very little about the drink myself. Anyways, the four of us arrived for an early dinner and were greeted by the chef and three cooks as soon as we entered. For those of you who have never been there, Kuma seems like a converted 1 bedroom apartment; the kitchen (where a small living room would be) is basically open behind a tall bar as you walk past it to the tables (aka the large bedroom).
As for the food: We ordered two specials, one a plate of spicy chicken wings, the other shrimp shumai. Off the menu we got the edamame with thai basil lime oil, drunken spicy shrimp, tamarind glazed atlantic salmon, pan roasted scallops, fried pork belly, chinese sausage, sauteed tofu with thai basil and wood ears, sauteed market greens, coconut rice, thai sticky rice and white rice. I'm listing these off only so you all know that four hungry people were filled to bursting by an order this size (some have said the plates are too small, I thought they were reasonable in size). I'll try to avoid writing too much here! The deep fried pork belly was deliciously crispy and very flavorful. Heart attack, yes, but I'll risk it. The chinese sausage, as most would say, is delicious and worthy of perhaps a double order. All of their seafood was cooked perfectly in my opinion though I would say I thought the scallops were particularly outstanding, perhaps because they were dressed very lightly letting their natural sweetness stand out. The tofu was good, not exceptional. I would highly reccomend the market vegetables (I believe ours was baby bok choy simply prepared). The contrast of so many flavorful dishes with the occasional simple, clean bite of a green vegetable was gratifying (especially after some deep fried pork belly). One note I would make is that they bring out the dishes in no particular order; by the time I got the shumai my tongue was already deadened a bit by spice so I missed some of the finer shrimp flavors. You might want to request some of the lighter flavors first..
We finished off the meal with their panna cotta (incredible) and fried plantains, which were quite good but not as interesting a flavor in my opinion. Instead of sake we had a white sancerre which was tasty but I think I would have liked a pinot grigio better with the dishes. Perhaps someone more knowlegeable than myself would have a better drink selection?
Overall I had a very enjoyable experience. I did not find it too noisy at all despite being crowded when we left and the service was gracious (we had four white wine glasses at our very soon after the bottle appeared out of my bag). Each plate may not knock me off my chair (or bench as the case may be) but it was a wonderful dining experience, and the second floor, tiny location definitely adds to the charm. Finally, the bill was about 35pp including tax, tip, and sticker price of wine (I know, that probably helped). Mom and Dad were duly impressed, I think, and I would definitely go back. Well I hope this is helpful to at least one person, it was certainly fun writing it and remembering all the flavors! thanks!

Apr 29, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

Birthday dinner at EMP - 4 course or tasting?

If you've got four hours it makes for an amazing birthday celebration!

Jan 27, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

Orsay for Restaurant Week...suggestions?

Well we couldn't get into where I wanted to go but my friends insisted on finding some place to take advantage of the "deal" (which in my opinion is entirely dependent on the restaurant) so this is where we could get a table that would work for all of us. any suggestions or comments? Anything, really, would be appreciated. I don't know much about this place. Thanks!!

Jan 12, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

Best Wine Shop in nyc?

I'm a big fan of Astor and have always found the staff helpful, but I have to say recently I've been going to Wine Therapy on (I think) Elizabeth between Spring and Prince. If not there, close at least. Last time I was there I proclaimed myself too much of a spanish-wine lover who needed to broaden my horizons. After an hour conversation with the woman on staff (yes, I had some free time that day) I left with two great bottles of French red, one of which I'm enjoying a glass of right now. The owner's wife has a salon next door and they live above the two shops. For old-school style you can't get much better than this.

Jan 12, 2007
Chef Z in Manhattan

best ice cream?

There's a great place on 10 st. between 3rd and 4th aves called Sundaes and Cones. It opened up this past summer. I'm wondering if it's related to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory because they have a lot of asian flavors. Either way, great, rich ice cream. Last time I was there I got something called (I think) an ice cream float: a shake made of one flavor with two more scoops of another flavor in it. I split it, but damn that was good.

Dec 11, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Indian in the E. 50's (Ada, Chola, Amma, Dawat, Mint, et al)?

I was at Dawat a few months ago and wasn't particularly impressed. I admit that most of the time when I want Indian I go to Brick Lane or somewhere on 6th ave since it's closer to me, so I guess I can't say I'm particularly experienced. I thought the food was better prepared/presented and had a better flavor, but not all THAT much better. I would be interested to hear other's opinions who have more experience than me. Thoughts?

Dec 10, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Cong Ly- other than pho?

Definitely get a plate of spring rolls and eat them with the Thai basil, lettuce and sauce. Absolutely delicious. I was just there a week ago and, yes, the pho is still good! Enjoy!

Dec 02, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Hungry In Greenwich, CT !

I live in NYC but came out to see the folks last night and we ate at Telluride on Bedford st. in Stamford. The food was well prepared, interesting and flavorful although I have a few minor quibbles with the staff. Perhaps a little expensive for what it is ($25 for pasta and wild boar sausage seemed a little much) I thought I'd mention it because I saw on my way out that Sundays (like Barcelona in Greenwich) are 50% all wines. If you enjoy wine, this can significantly lower your tab...

A question for Vietnamese food fans...

abs, thanks so much! That's exactly what I was talking about! I guess I may just have to get to Houston sometime soon...

Nov 25, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

A question for Vietnamese food fans...

I believe more crepe-like, but I could double check

Nov 25, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

A question for Vietnamese food fans...

My friend was recently telling me that when he was home in Texas one of his old friends took him to a place to get a Vietnamese dish that he said he has only been able to find at the restaurant in Texas and in LA. We're now looking for it in NYC and I was hoping all you chowhounders could help out. From the way it has been described, the dish is basically rice vermicelli served with various types of meat on top in addition to little tortilla-like pancakes. On the side is mint, lettuce and a light, flavorful dipping sauce. The idea is you create little sandwich wraps and dip them in the sauce (along with a spicy sauce). I may be betraying my extreme lack of knowledge regarding Vietnamese cuisine, perhaps this is a very common dish at restaurants, but I don't know what it's called. Please help!! Thanks in advance!

Nov 24, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Lucy's Latin Kitchen

I went for Restaurant Week during the summer months and had a wonderful meal. I can't remember specifically what I had (it's not that the dishes are that creative but very well prepared and of high quality). The service was great, the wine list is heavily Spanish (which I love) and I personally enjoyed the ambiance. I also have to say I was happily surprised at the quality of the Tempranillo they had as the "restaurant week" wine. I can't comment on the value of the restaurant with normal prices but as long as it's not too outrageous I would definitely go back.

Nov 21, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Zoe in Soho

Just came from dinner with family at Zoe on Prince btw Broadway and Mercer. I hadn't seen anything new about it before going, although I do remember reading the lamb was good...and it was. I had a spinach salad to start which was quite good, not too overdressed nor too much cheese (Idiazabal, similar to Manchego, thinly sliced). For the main course I had venison chops which were simply prepared but delicious. The others I was with had duck, lamb and steak, all of which were very good. We also had a great bottle of Maramonte Syrage. Just wanted to compare notes with anyone who had been. What did you think? Seems to me food was solidly prepared with high quality ingredients, the wine wasn't too expensive and the atmosphere/service was great (although I'll admit we ate on the early side so the waiters were standing around, easily available to us). Any thoughts would be interesting.

Nov 19, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

best sandwiches in lower manhattan?

Despana (apologies as well for the lack of a tilde) is great, but I feel obligated to warn anyone against getting too excited for a bocadillo de tortilla because they don't have it! I was so excited to get one and was surprised that, of all bocadillos, they didn't have one of tortilla. Aside from jamon y queso that was the most common type I had in Madrid. No other complaints though, GREAT FOOD!

Nov 15, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Where do the starving artists eat in Manhattan?

If you're near St. Marks you might as well try Kenka (sp?) It's almost directly across from Dojo. It's downstairs and you'll notice a cotton candy machine when you enter. Cheap? Yes. Great food? it's edible. So why do I recommend it? one dollar pints of Sapporo beer, all day every day. I currently am a college student and just moved from living next door. It was a great way to start out a weekend night.

Nov 03, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

Trader Joes Private Label Wines by Country?

Heina, we seem to have similar tastes. I love Finca Solana for a basic Rioja. I typically have some of it on hand, but since I'm very spain-centric in my drinking habits, I'm trying to branch out. Any other recs? I drink a lot of their Malbec's as well.

Oct 20, 2006
Chef Z in Wine

Trader Joes Private Label Wines by Country?

I searched and didn't find anything on these (although I might have missed something). The TJ Wine store in Union Square here in NYC has recently had Trader Joe wine (akin to two buck chuck) except specified by grape country of origin. In other words, they have a "Chilean" TJ wine with grapes all grown in Chile (I believe it's a blend of grapes, but I didn't check). Just wondering if other people have seen them and tried them. Are they any better quality then two buck chuck? Thanks

Oct 19, 2006
Chef Z in Wine

How have your tastebuds changed?

It was only since I really started to try and appreciate food more (actually thinking when I eat instead of putting it in and swallowing) that my tastebuds have really changed. General sweet flavors don't do for me what they used to. I like complexity now. I've occasionally cought myself eating a spoonful of plain, stoneground dijon mustard, the flavors are so intense and varied! The only thing I can say I don't like are orejas (pig ears, spanish style). not my thing...

Oct 09, 2006
Chef Z in General Topics

Best Tapas - NYC?

I've been to both Casa Mono and Xunta, great places. I'd also suggest Sala on the Bowery at (I think) Great Jones. Tues-thurs are half price tapas. Last summer, just back from a year in Madrid, I went once a week. Four of us would eat a huge meal for $30. Not super traditional but pretty damn good.

Oct 06, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

21st Birthday Dinner!

Hey Roze, thanks! I forgot to put general location: I guess I would prefer anywhere from LES general area to the mid 20's. But, if the place is truly great, I'll travel anywhere. Thanks again!

Oct 04, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan

21st Birthday Dinner!

I've been living in the city for a while now but am finally turning the oficial 21 at the end of October! Thinking about where my dinner should be, I figure who better to ask than a group of obsessive Manahattan foodies?! I could give my own thoughts/suggestions but I don't want to the results! So here's the info:
There will be four of us eating, preferably around (or less than) $100-150 per person, including wine. I would prefer something fairly market driven with interesting flavors (the kind of inventive menus that make you jealous you didn't think of them first!) In addition, my only other request is that the wine list be reasonable. I love good wine (through smell only, of course, being under age) but won't spend $100/bottle. Thanks so much!
p.s.- do any of you know how far in advance I need to make a reservation for good nyc restaurants in general? Will they already accept reservations for the end of the month?

Oct 03, 2006
Chef Z in Manhattan