Tag Archives: 9th ave

Zoob Zib

28 Dec

Within the past year, we noticed that a new Thai Noodle Bar had opened down the street on 9th Avenue between 35th and 36th. We walked by it as we walked to and from the movie theater, or the High Line, or basically anywhere downtown on the west side. We always mentioned that we should try it, but it took us until a cold December night to pop in.

Zoob Zib is from the owners of Aura Thai restaurant (we live in the “Thai Town” section of southern Hell’s Kitchen, and I find that of the hundreds of Thai restaurants to choose from in a 5 block radius, there is very little that sets them apart, so I cannot tell you if Aura is one of the good ones or one of the mediocre ones).      

The interior is actually quite nice, with the old halogen lights and mason jars turned into chandeliers.  Yup, it’s totally cliche right now, but I love that style.

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We started our first visit (yes… there have already been multiple) with a duck roll appetizer. It was roasted duck, scallion, cucumbers and hoisin sauce wrapped in a tortilla pancake. It was all nicely flavored and balanced and the fresh cucumbers and scallions were really nice.

 

On our second adventure, we tried the scallion pancakes. I’m not sure why they called them pancakes, especially since they stood them up in little triangles, but they were nice and crispy. I think they were lacking in flavor a bit, but I couldn’t eat the sauce (due to peppers). That probably would have balanced it better.

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I also took the second set of pictures with my brand new camera. I have had my old camera for nearly 3 years, and while it suited my purposes, it is old enough that the zoom stopped working and the lens would stick. So it was time for a new one.  My sister did some research to help me narrow down the options and I went to B&H Camera to try them out.  Turns out, a lot has improved in 3 years! I wound up very happily leaving with the Fujifilm FX1 after testing it in low light, up close situations. This was taken in extreme low light, and it’s a point and shoot, yet it still got clarity and depth of focus. YAY! (First round pics taken midday by a bright window with my iPhone 5).

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In the first round, Mike tried the Bah Mee Moo Daeng from the Specialty Noodles section, which was roast pork, minced pork, golden fish ball, fried chicken and shrimp wonton, half sliced egg and egg noodles.  He enjoyed it, and I thought it had a really nice lemongrass flavor.

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But mine was awesome.  I got the Crispy Rard Nah which came with sautéed gravy. sautéed chinese broccoli in gravy over crispy egg noodles or chow fun noodles. (I got mine with egg noodles).  Our waitress warned that the noodles were fried first to be crispy, but then were put in the sauce so didn’t come out as such.  What I really didn’t expect was that the “gravy” would actually be more like soup. But OHHH was it delicious.  Very umami in flavor.  I really enjoyed it.

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So when we went back a few weeks later, both Mike and I got that dish.  Mike got his with duck and including peppers.

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And I decided to try the chow fun (thick noodles) version which came with Chinese broccoli only (different vegetables from the egg noodles version). It was very good, but I preferred the other vegetables (though the thick noodles were really great).

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I also have to pat myself on the back for my next decision, which was to get an add on of pork cracklings and a pah-lo egg.  These were absolutely fantastic additions to the soupy dish.  The cracklings added salty, crispyness and they were not at all stale (something that I was starting to assume just came with the territory of pork cracklings).  And the egg is mildly sweet (in a good way) and was delicious in the gravy. 

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We were so pleasantly surprised by our meal(s) here.  I haven’t had “noodles” like this before, and have stuck to the Pad See Ew and Pad Thai dishes at most Thai restaurants.  But these dishes were really superior and were just perfect on a cold, snowy December night.  Total comfort food, even though it was totally foreign.  And the portions were very large with lots and lots of meat in each bowl. Very glad to have this place within walking distance!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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New Kid on the Block: Better Being 940

9 Dec

We live in a weird neighborhood. It’s stereotypically “up and coming” with a fine mixture of luxury apartment buildings, Starbucks, new restaurants, and homeless people. We even have a needle drop right next to a luxury hotel being built!  Gotta love NYC.

We always get excited about new restaurants opening up in the area (except when there are 4 Irish pubs opening within 3 blocks of each other in the same month… strange).  On his walk home, Mike mentioned there was a new brunch place on 9th Avenue and 40th Street, so last weekend, we went to check it out.

Better Being 940 had just opened its doors this week, but not really. The official opening is tomorrow, December 10th at 8am (with an “awesome assortment of baked goods, a yummy egg sandwich and complimentary Stumptown coffee”).  Besides having a name that I cannot possibly seem to remember, had all the makings for a place I wanted to love.

A fun  menu of things I wanted to try…

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With some of it written on a giant chalk board behind the register.

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And a quirky interior…

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Everyone behind the counter looked at us with the same glance as if to say “I put my heart into this joint so I hope you’re enjoy it!” Everyone that is, except our waiter. Who was confused by things like “water” and “allergy.” I’m not sure if he was nervous, new to the English language, or just confused in general, but we just scratched our heads and kept on trucking.

Mike ordered the meatloaf sandwich (which was supposed to come with fries or a salad… neither of which it did). The sandwich was just “ehh.”  Average with the arugula making it a bit too peppery.

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I ordered the very interesting sounding Souflancake. (“It’s not a souffle. It’s not a pancake. It’s both!”)

It came topped with “seasonal fruit” (berries in November)?

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I really, really, really wanted to like this.  But I couldn’t. It didn’t have the fluffiness of a souffle nor the breadiness of a pancake. It really just tasted like an egg omelet with fruit on top. And I just cannot wrap my head around eggs with fruit.

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We asked our very confused waiter about the bacon we ordered, and he said it was on its way.

Within moments, we smelled that great smell of bacon just starting to cook.

It was actually quite tasty, but VERY greasy. It could have used a pat down before being plated.

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Just as I was resigning myself to not like this place, despite its potential, a woman who must be an owner came out and offered us peanut butter rice krispie treats on the house. I used to make something similar with my mom as a kid, so the nostalgia was really enjoyable.

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As we were heading out, the same woman came up to us to ask how we liked it. I was very honest with her about the soufflancake, but her earnestness just made me feel so bad that I didn’t like it. I WANTED to like it.  This place has everything I love.  And I have hopes that once they get out these early kinks and test some recipes, they will have something great.

I hope I hope I hope!

For now, I will review it only on what we had, with a strong desire that next time we go back, it will be awesome.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Grand Opening: Tavola

30 Sep

We lived around the corner from a pretty infamous place: Manganaro’s. There were 2 restaurants: Manganaro’s Hero Boy and (the late) Manganaro’s Grosseria.  They were side by side and the grocery displayed a sign very specifically stating that they had no affiliation with Hero Boy next door.  It was a very long family feud and the restaurants had both been there for over a hundred years. Anthony Bourdain had famously lived in an apartment above these restaurants before he made it big. He even featured them on a show a few years back.

I ate there once, and they had a group of Italian ladies fighting and cursing pretty constantly in the background, while cranking out awesome old fashioned Italian food that they served on floppy paper plates.  

But then, they closed. After all those years.

A new restaurant quickly started going in, and last week, the NY Times featured this new restaurant, Tavola, in an article.  Tavola opened on Friday (or thereabouts) and we went for a late night dinner.

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The menu is full of the classics.

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And they kept many pieces of the Grosseria as it was, giving it a bit of flashback to days gone by.

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They kept the old ceilings.

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And the very pretty old sky light in the back.

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They built a brand new oven that was quite beautiful.

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And they are doing their pizzas in this wood burning oven.

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It is a good mix of new and old, and it was instantly comfortable.  Even though it just opened, by keeping a lot of the old design, it felt somehow as if this place had been there forever.

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When we entered, it was pretty full and service was buzzing.  There was some confusion and we waited a bit too long for things like bread, water, and the check, but it was obvious that there were just small kinks that needed to be ironed out.

We started with hearty bread.  It was well flavored and good and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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We had the arugula and fire roasted artichoke salad.  This was good, with a very nice dressing. I wanted more flavor and more quantity of artichokes, but overall it was a nice starter.

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We then tried the wild boar and veal meatballs, with fresh mint and pine nuts. These had a very nice flavor and the mint was a nice compliment.

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Then we had the lasagna with veal meat sauce.  I really loved this dish. The noodles were thicker and really held up to the layers.  The sauce was great and this tasted like everything you want from classic Italian.

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Overall, everything we had was very good and very hearty.  I can see this becoming a really nice, local place to eat on a cold night. As they iron out some of the service issues and get cranking, I can see them doing a very good business here in the section just south of Hell’s Kitchen.

The neighborhood is really growing with tons of new restaurants and building, and I’m glad to have Tavola as part of that growth.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Working My Way Through the Albert Hall Tavern Menu- UPDATED 7/4/11

4 Jul

UPDATE:  Chef Bill is no longer steering the stove at Albert Hall Tavern.  It was a big loss!

 

Having a restaurant I like that has good beer and good people around the corner is a JOY.  And I’m not going to lie… FourSquare tells me I have been there 8 times.  That’s pretty impressive for only having been open for a month now! (UPDATE: I am now far past the 20 visits mark, and it has been open since January 2011.  UPDATE TWO: 36 visits as of 7/4/11)

They now have a full menu (slightly different from what is posted on MenuPages, but close) and I have had the luxury of trying many things on it.  So here is a run-down of my hits and misses:

Spinach Artichoke Dip: I really like this dip.  It has great flavor without being too greasy or heavy.   I kind of enjoyed the little sprinkle of crunch that the homemade potato chips added to this the first time we had it (it has since come without).  Had I not tried it that way originally, I probably wouldn’t think anything were missing.

Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (would be 7.5 with the chips)

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Roasted Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: The cauliflower soup alone would be delicious, but the stilton cheese brings it to a whole new level.

Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New England Clam Chowder: It looks so unassuming…

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But look at that clam!  This was delicious and there was no skimping on the good stuff.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Bibb Lettuce: This comes with braised artichokes, duck prosciutto and lemon vinaigrette with duck cracklings.

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Those cracklings are worth every bite and every penny.   I do wish it had some sort of soft cheese to compliment all that duck.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 ouf of 10

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Pork Belly Tonnato: I LOVE pork belly.  I do wish, however, that our waitress had forewarned us that this was cold.  It turns out that I DO NOT like cold pork belly.  I couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating cold pork.  I wanted this to be melty fat and crispy skin, but it fell flat for me.  Not a fan.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

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As for the entrees…

Macaroni and Cheese: Plain ol’ mac and cheese with lots of cheesy goodness… like your momma makes it.   If you like it classic (which I do) and packed with cheese flavor (which I also do), this is WORTH IT.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Gnocchi: This comes with raisins, fennel, and crisp lamb sweetbreads in a smoked leek fondue.  Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say I’m a fan, but once in a while they are delicious.  In this dish they worked, but I’m not sure if this is what I’d be running back for.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Skillet Burger:  I liked this burger.  It came with a Jack Daniels (I think) dipping sauce which was awesome on the fries (which I’m pretty sure are made with duck fat and truffel).  I would have preferred if the bun was a little more delicious, but the meat had nice char and was cooked well.  I always find it hard to judge a burger, but this was above average.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (for the burger) and 8.5 out of 10 (for the fries)

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Fish and Chips: I would say that serving fish and chips on brown paper is dangerous because it shows grease, however, this fish was lightly fried and not at all greasy.  I wish the fries were a bit crisper, but I thought this was pretty enjoyable.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Branzino: This came with lemon and garlic sauce.  It didn’t mention that it was a whole fish on the menu.  It was tasty, though the sauce was a bit strong for my tastes.  I LOVE Branzino and this was simple and delicious and let those great flavors show.

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But it did come with a head (much to the dismay of my eating companion that evening).

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And then the big problem…. WAY too many bones.  Every single bite left me carefully chewing and reaching into my mouth to take bones out.  I don’t mind a little work, but this was WAY too excessive and left me enjoying my fish a lot less than I should have. (UPDATE: Chef Bill tells me he now serves this with many less bones.  Will have to try the new version soon.)

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (this probably would have been a 7 or 7.5 if not for the bone problem)

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Citrus and Thyme Roasted Half Chicken:  This was VERY citrusy, and the blood orange was a lovely touch.  It was quite moist but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding.  I wish the skin were crispier, but the sauce was interesting and delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Shank Special:  Why this isn’t on the regular menu… I do not know.  HANDS DOWN the best entree we had here (though the steak the first time around was REALLY good).  It was so tender, great sauce, hearty portion, and the mashed potatoes were FANTASTIC.   This should be a menu staple.  It’s just too good to risk not being there.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Now onto dessert!

Hard Cider and Fig Baked Custard: This was yummy but very mild in flavor.  I don’t know if I’d go back to this, but I’m glad I tried it.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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Black Walnut Brownie: Classic style brownie.  Crispy on the outside, dense on the inside.  Tasty, especially with strawberries.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Cherry Pie: This was everyone’s favorite dessert.  The crust was well flaked, inside well balanced between sweet and tart, and I would go back for more of this in a heartbeat!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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I had previous blogged about the tuna tartare, mussels, duck & fig rillette, the ribeye steak, and the roasted veggies.  Here is a quick recap so it’s all in one place.

Tuna Tartare:  Delicious but WAY too peppery (and a little heavy on the capers).  Distracted from the delicate flavors of the tuna and quail egg.  A narrow miss of what would have been a great dish. Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Steamed Mussels: AMAZING.  This is the #1 dish to order when you are there.  The black garlic and charred rosemary in the sauce means that if anyone tries to take that bowl away before you get a chance to soak it all up with crusty bread, cut off their hand.  Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Duck & Fig Rillette: I appreciated how good this was, but I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of favorites.  The fig and duck were perfect compliments, but the more I eat it, the more I realized I’m just not a rillette/pate kinda gal.  Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Ribeye Steak: The steak itself had great char and was delicious, however, what really made this dish stand out was the 3 sauces you could dip into.  The au poivre sauce was especially delicious. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Barrel Roasted Winter Vegetables: I’m not sure what magic barrel they used, but it brought out all the great flavors of these veggies. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I have also tried the bone marrow, which is really delicious served with beets and deviled beef.  Highly recommended.  Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

So what would my perfect meal be at Albert Hall Tavern from the items I have tried?  Mussels, Cauliflower Soup, Bibb Salad, and the Lamb Shank.

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UPDATE:

I have since tried many more dishes on the menu.  Here are some highlights:

Suckling Pig: This was cooked to perfection.  Crispy skin, fantastic mashed potatoes, and those vegetables were something special!  Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Shepherd’s Pie: This was packed with flavor and the mashed potatoes on the top were very well crisped and flavored.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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The inside was a treat that was certainly based in tradition but with bumped up flavor.  Delicious! And very filling.

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Scallops:  These came with braised endive celery root puree and tomato citrus vinaigrette.  I LOVED the puree and was very glad to have a semi-healthy side where most people would normally have served buttery potatoes.  The scallops were juicy, flavorful, and seared very well.  I’ve had this dish 2 times since.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Bangers and Mash: This is a very new item on the menu and we actually had the first plate served.  (Go us!)  It was sensational.  The caramelized shallots on top and the sauce were fantastic.  And the bangers (English Sausage) were so filled with flavor and so fresh that we couldn’t stop talking about them.  The potatoes were great (and I don’t even like mashed potatoes!)  I would add this to the ideal menu here.  One of my faves!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Potato and Leek Tart: This wound up being much BIGGER than we anticipated.  The flavors were great and the greens on top made it taste fresh.  A very nice vegetarian option.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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And Chef Bill informed me that he had been making tweaks to the dessert menu.  His tweaks have all put dessert in the right direction.  Everything I have tasted recently has been a huge improvement over the desserts prior (which were fine, but average).  In fact, we enjoyed the new tiramisu so much, that this is all that was left of it… 

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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(Hopefully I’ll have a new picture to replace that with soon)

Upon discussing desserts, Chef Bill very kindly brought out a brand new dessert for us to try, on the house, that wasn’t on the menu. Passion Fruit Custard.  This was sensational.  The custard itself was great, but both my dinner guest and I RAVED about how the whipped cream was perfect.   Yum!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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7/4/11 UPDATE:
Brunch- French Toast with Lemon Marscapone: This was very well cooked and the fresh fruit on the side was a great touch.  I like when my french toast has a bit of crips on the outside and then a fully saturated, but not soggy, inside.  This was exactly that.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Brunch- Full English Breakfast:  This was a FULL plate with fried eggs, bacon, blood sausage, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and toast.  The grilled tomato was shockingly good, and it’s hard to beat blood sausage.  This is a hearty, good meal.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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“David’s” Chicken Liver Mousse: This came with cornichons and country bread and whole grain mustard.  I’m sure this scared a lot of people off, but live mousse topped with salty fat, spread on crunchy bread… yeah, in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.  And it doesn’t get much better than this version.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Golden Watermelon: This was a pickled, yellow watermelon with goat cheese and bin the summer.  asil oil.  This was so light and refreshing.  Very nice if you want a small bite for summer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Roast:  This came with a mint basil sauce over asparagus.  It was bursting with flavor and the sauce on top was a perfect compliment for the lamb.  I can’t say it’s what I expected from a “roast” but it was delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Scallop Crudo: New to the menu for summer, the scallop crudo with meyer lemon and herbs is refreshing, delicious, and as fresh as can be.  Yum.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Hamachi Crudo: One day they were out of scallop crudo, but they had hamachi crudo.  This was even more summary, topped with beautiful, edible flowers and the perfect amount of citrus.  Double Yum!

Total Nom Points: 7 .5 out of 10

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Soft Shell Crab: These very lightly fried softshell crabs are on top of jicama and carrot salad (shredded and mixed with a mild sauce of mustard, ketchup, and vinegar… which tasted MUCH better than it sounded) and wrapped in fresh cucumber.  This mixed so well together, with the bite of the salad (and slight spice) nicely complimenting the rich textures of the soft shell crab and then slightly cooled and refreshed by the cucumber.  Fantastic.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Oysters:  I would be remiss if I never mentioned the oysters.  We get these often and they are always fresh with great flavor.  One of my alltime favorite summer bites.

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Roasted Peaches: A new dessert on the menu. these peaches are perfectly roasted with an amarreto sauce and marscapone.  Delicately sweet and the roasting perfectly pulled out the flavor in the peaches.  We really enjoyed this.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Market Cafe

26 Jun

Right around the corner is a brightly lit place called Market Cafe (9th Ave between 37th and 38th) that looks slightly out of place below the Port Authority area.  Hopefully, for those of us in the neighborhood, places like this will continue to pop up and take over some of the abandoned and not-so-desirable store fronts in the neighborhood.  Don’t get me wrong, I love authentic, old New York, however, this area is still a bit more run down and loaded with the homeless population to be counted as a “desirable neighborhood” to live in.  I have never exactly been one to flock to the hot neighborhoods, however, and much prefer these “up and commers.” 

Anyway… Market has been a place we have been meaning to try since moving in, but it took us about 6 months to get there with dad and Maggie.  I started with sangria… which wasn’t great, but thirst quenching at least.

Maggie went with the salad… which I cannot remember.

Mike went with… shocker… the burger.  He was a good boy and got veggies instead of fries. Bravo Mike!  He liked it.

Dad chose the grilled shrimp with stewed lentils and and parsley oil.  The shrimp were delicious.  Mmmm char.

I chose the (“crisped”) roast garlic chicken with creamed potatoes, spinach, and roast garlic sauce.  It was nice and juicy, but I expected it to be crispier since it did say it was crispy in the description.  The garlic sauce was perfectly sweet.  Quite enjoyable.

Overall, Market is a nice part of the neighborhood and while not outstanding, it seems like an easy, reliable place to grab a meal.  Entrees are a little on the pricey side for a place that is a bit off the grid, but it matches the effort that the place is trying to make by being modern in the neighborhood.  All entrees were less than $20, but even the burger was $14.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10