Tag Archives: hell’s kitchen

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

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

Ember Room: Dim Sum Brunch and Lunch

17 May

UrbanDaddy had a Perk for One Dim Sum Brunch with bottomless Bloody Marys and beer (two-hour max) at Ember Room, a new (at the time) restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen (9th Ave between 45th and 46th Streets) that had Todd English in its pedigree. Don’t mind if I do!

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The decor is eclectic pan asian, with some really nice touches like old fashioned light bulbs, bold artwork, and a beautiful dark wood all around.

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Our Dim Sum brunch came with some varied dim sum, all of which were good… but none of which were outstanding…

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We did enjoy our endless Chang beers.

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The one dim sum I especially like were the shrimp, as it had a whole, sweet shrimp tucked inside.

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We also added some korean bbq beef fried rice onto our order.  It was quite good, but the hot stone bowl wasn’t quite hot enough to char the rice in the way that Korean Restaurants in Koreatown do so well.  Also, it was supposed to be with kimchi, but since I can’t have kimchi, we went without.  It was okay… but I think they rely on the kimchi to give it flavor, so it was a wee bit bland.  It said it came with crispy shallots, which I was especially intrigued by, but they were too small to really notice.

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It was good enough that I was curious about the full menu, so I came back for lunch one day with my coworkers.

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They started with the chocolate ribs, which were slow cooked in a spiced chocolate sauce. Sadly, that sauce included chili, so I was out, but my coworkers scarfed these down.

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We got a side of sauteed chinese broccoli.  Frankly, I prefer the leafy part over the stems, but the oyster sauce on these made them very good.

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I believe this was the thai basil chicken, which was spicy thai basil minced chicken over a fried egg, served with jasmine rice.

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More korean beef fried rice. 

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And I went with the veggie burger, after a good amount of research by the waitress as to what I could, and could not, eat.  

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It came with some sort of soup which was surprisingly flavorful… but didn’t make enough of an impression for me to remember what it was.

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The veggie burger itself was impressive. Tons of flavor, nice texture, and the fried onions on top were quite delicious.  I’m not a veggie burger fan, but this was quite tasty!

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Overall, I enjoyed both meals at Ember Room, but I can’t say I’m running back to try more.  I think it’s a pretty good choice if you’re in the area or looking for a pre- or post- Broadway Theater meal. It is definitely different from the Italian that occupies most of that target market!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant

19 Apr

 In Hell’s Kitchen, there is a restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen (not to be confused with HK). It is a Mexican influenced restaurant that happens to have great grilled vegetables to satisfy my cousin’s vegan needs.  He says they are really fantastic veggies.

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I went with Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Grilled Chayote, Sweet Plantain Puree, and Salsa Verde (sans peppers).  It was incredibly well cooked and seasoned.  

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Mike chose the Grilled Tiger Shrimp with Sauteéd Vegetables, Sweet Plantain, Gucamole, and Serrano Sauce.  He said it was very enjoyable.

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I was impressed that a place I walked by about a hundred times turned out food this flavorful and fresh.  We all really enjoyed our meal and I look forward to going back, since it’s in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine

6 Apr

I live in a neighborhood that has a new building opening pretty much every week.  There has been a vacancy in the first floor of the apartment building on 10th Ave between 37th and 38th Streets for a while.  I held out hope that it would be a grocery store (the one real lacking part of this neighborhood… well… besides the bums). But a few weeks ago we noticed that whole bunch of basketball player pictures were put up in the window.  Oh well… another sporting goods store… a huge one taking up an entire city block…

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But no, it actually turned out to be a restaurant.  Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine soft opened a couple weeks ago and then had a red carpet opening last weekend.  Clyde Frazier, of NY Nicks Fame, is certainly a NY icon. Known for being a hall-of-famer, all around fan-favorite, and effusive suit wearer, he teamed up with Ark Restaurant Group to open up what might be the biggest NYC restaurant I’ve ever seen.  It is literally a full city block.  Mike checked out the menu before we left, and found out they have pavlova, which may be my most favoritist thing ever (and sorely lacking in NYC… gotta go to London to get it usually).  I was in.

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The moment you walk in, it is 100% Clyde Frazier.  Huge floor to ceiling columns bare his face (and suits).

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The walls are adorned with some of the great sports photos of his heyday. 

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Even the ceiling is designed in a school of fish motif that, on further investigation, is actually all different images of… what else? funky suits.

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The north end of the restaurant is a bar with many TVs above to watch the games.

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Right above our table was even an ode to his suit design.  With some insane patterns and boots.

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Upon heading to the bathroom, a large looming Clyde looks down upon you.

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And as if we weren’t already on Frazier overload, he showed up in the flesh to take pictures and meet and greet diners.

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In the most amazing tiger print suit with matching boots.  I had to pose for a picture if only to be able to show you, dear readers, just how amazing this suit is.  (Turns out, he’s a really nice guy who spent the whole night talking to each and every table)

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The kitchen is huge and open-format in the main dining room.  There are a few dozen TVs to watch (what else?) games, but I read that they will display artwork when the games aren’t on.

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There are nice, elegant touches to the restaurant that elevate it above the sports bar I thought it would be.  It’s an identity crisis for sure, but one that somehow just makes sense.  It was downright enjoyable to feast your eyes on all the crazy decorations.

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I ordered a Clyde style drink (The “Stumbling & Bumbling”) made with patron silver tequila, patron citronge tequila, fresh strawberries, and basil muddled with sugar.  It was served in a lovely, big glass and they were not bashful with the alcohol.  I was pretty much drunk half-way through.  Fantastic.

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The menu was as eclectic as the man (see full menu in the slideshow at the end).  It featured some standard southern favorites along with Asian inspired dishes and hearty Jewish comfort food.

So we started with the duck liver with duck cracklings and toast.

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This was liver the old fashioned way.  Liver the way grandma made.  

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Mike got… of course… the hamburger. It was Clyde’s signature 10 ounce burger with cheddar, apple smoke bacon, and caramelized onions. It came with homemade chips and a crisp pickle.  I thought this burger was surprisingly excellent. The caramelized onions were top notch and the burger was perfectly cooked and juicy.

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I went with the root vegetable salad, that came with goat cheese vinaigrette.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly was taken by surprise by how damn good this was.  Vegetables cooked to perfection (soft but still full of flavor) in a goat cheese style sauce with pumpkin seeds (I think) and delicate seasonings and oils.  It was refined.  It was delicate. It was delicious. 

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We went on to check out dessert and noticed that one of our favorite local dessert wines was listed, Duck Walk Blueberry Port. Yum!

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And, of course, the pavlova!  It was served with passion fruit soup, Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit.  The meringue was crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. I didn’t love the inclusion of Greek yogurt (I guess I’m a sucker for classic style… with whipped cream) but I was impressed that the meringue was so delicately and well cooked.  Not the best pavlova I’ve ever had, but it satisfied the need for the time being. And I am quite a harsh judge when it comes to pavlova.

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Overall, I was totally impressed and surprised by this place. I was expecting it to ride on its celebrity fame and just be, well, average.  Even the sheer size of it made me think “this place can’t possibly be good.” But it was.  It was actually damn near great. I look forward to going back to try some of their heartier entrees, and their rotisserie chicken looked especially appealing.  I’m curious how good their steaks are, and I can’t wait to find out.  I’m glad they are right down the street. I have a feeling I will be returning often.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

 

Their menus were all covered in funky patterns to match Clyde’s funky outfits, but their cocktail menu looked like a basketball.  Nice touch.  Below is a gallery that shows the full menu (including drinks and desserts) as it stands as of April 6, 2012.

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Tabata Ramen

22 Nov

I have a soft spot for ramen.  After years of looking at it as an unfortunate staple of my college diet, I realized that the dried version was like comparing homemade, sharp cheddar macaroni and cheese with bread crumb topping to Easy Mac.  While I had flirted with ramen in the past, I fell head-over-heels for ramen when I went to Ippudo.  I dream about that ramen.  But it’s a fair distance away and usually has a wait (unless you know the secret), so when a new ramen place opened up close to my office, I decided to give it a try.

Tabata Ramen is on 9th Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets. They have a number of ramen options, including soy, salt, port, etc.  I went with a pork broth and got it with the egg and pork belly.  It was tasty, but it was no Ippudo.  In fact, I think Ippudo has spoiled me for the rest of my life.

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There was a veggie option with tofu

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And spicy options, which got an enthusiastic thumbs up from  my coworker.

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And if you’re not into ramen at all, you can get various meats over rice.

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Overall, this was fine, but it wasn’t awesome. I also find myself chugging down water for the next few hours after eating here.  It didn’t taste overly salty (or fake) but my body was definitely lacking in hydration both times I ate here.

I’m not going to go out of my way to eat hear again… might as well save my ramen cravings for the king.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

Sergimmo Salumeria

22 Aug

I have been singing the praises of my neighborhood for a while, saying that it was “up and coming.”  Thankfully, that turned out to be true.  The area between what is classically known as Chelsea and the northern area that is Hell’s Kitchen (affectionately named “Hellsea” by some) has not exactly been a great supply of food.  Penn Station and Port Authority don’t scream “Eat Here!”  But in the last 2 years (and mostly in the last 6 months), 9th Avenue between 34th and 42nd Streets may actually be going somewhere.

One welcome addition is Sergimmo Salumeria.  There is currently one in Queens, but they also just opened one on 9th Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets.  It’s a small place, but they did an amazing job decorating it and making it very welcoming.

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I had heard that this place was already generating lines out the door, and seeing as though I had never heard of it , it was time to try.

 They have some very classic Italian packaged goods, and I had to try the Espresso Coffee Soda.  It was not what I was expecting, and had some redeeming qualities, but I don’t know if I will go out of my way to drink this again.

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I decided to try Il VIP which included prosciutto di parma, fresh mozzarella, arugula, E.V. Olive oil, and fig spread.  It is VERY expensive at $14… until you get it.  Half this sandwich left me so full I could hardly walk back to the office.  (And the second half made an AMAZING addition to an omelet the next day.)

The bread had the outside crunch and inside give and fluffiness that you dream about in bread.  The prosciutto and mozzarella were unbelievably fresh and I loved the fig jam (though I wish there were a bit more of it… but I am a fig jam fan so I may be in the minority on that preference).  The arugula was also a great bitter crunch for it.  A fantastic sandwich overall.

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We also tried 2 different kinds of risotto balls, one meat and one vegetable, as well as a sampling of olives.

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The balls were lightly fried, creamy on the inside, and had good flavor.  I actually would have preferred them with a bit of sauce, but they were still good.

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The one problem with having a line out the door is that it’s hard to keep the AC pumping enough to keep diners… and sandwiches… cool. By the time I finished my first half, my second half was starting to pool onto the serving board.  

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We went back a second time and got an assortment of other goodies.

I tried the Bresalola e Arugula saald with arugula, bresaola, and shaved parmigiano drizzled with lemon dressing and E.V. olive oil.  It was absolutely delicious and fresh.

Someone ordered the chicken salad with grilled chicken, arugula, sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, and corn with lemon dressing and E.V. olive Oil.

The special that day was pork shoulder with balsamic, arugula, and cheese.

Someone else ordered the Di Fracesca Panini, which was a fried cutlet, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, and artichokes.

Overall, everything we have had here has been very tasty.  It’s a wee bit on the expensive side, but they have big portions and fresh food.  It is a novel menu for this neighborhood and I’m glad to have this in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

The West End Grill – Hell’s Kitchen

14 Jul

 

We try to try new places in Hell’s Kitchen when they come up, so we were excited to check out West End Grill (on 8th Ave between 48th and 49th Streets). 

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It had a good modern bar look and feel.

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And it was SO new that I couldn’t help but notice that even the garbage cans in the bathrooms were spotless.

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We told the waitress of my peppers allergy (yes… this is foreshadowing of what is to come) and were assured that the lobster tacos would be just fine.

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But as soon as Iopened it, I saw little dark green pieces… so we asked her to ask the chef about peppers. She came back and said it was fine. So I showed her the pieces of peppers, she went back into the kitchen, then proudly came out to tell us “Oh! That’s just a jalapeno! You’re fine!”  

Well hello, idiot, what is jalapenos last name?

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Soo…. it was on to the short rib spring rolls we went.  THESE were outstanding.  Rich, well cooked short rib in a crunchy spring roll shell.  Delicious. 

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Then our meals came out… Mike got a burger and fries… which was… fine.

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I got a steak with crunchy onions and mashed sweet potatoes.  Hmmm… this steak was bland, overcooked, under-seasoned, and theome. onions on top had almost no flavor.  The sweet potatoes tasted like mashed sweet potatoes… which is fine if you’re cooking at home and all… but we were not at home.

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Overall, this place was hardly worth writing about.  It was almost entirely average, which obviously clueless waitresses, and some damn good short rib spring rolls.

If you’re in the area, and want a good nosh, get the spring rolls… maybe a beer.  Don’t bother with the rest.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

 

 

“Off the Menu” Part 2: Q&A with Chef Bill Seleno

8 Jul

I could have talked to Bill for hours about his history and passion.  We took a few minutes after discussing his history (posted Wednesday) for some quick fire questions (and some goofing off in the kitchen for the camera, where he showed off how he cooks his one of my favorite dishes at Albert Hall Tavern, the mussels with black garlic and charred rosemary).

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(Chef Bill, on the left, goofing off with a trusted
coworker who he worked with years before)

What inspires you about food? 

Bill: “Flavor combinations. It’s like chemistry… architecture comes into play to balance using mathematics: Burnt lemons for citrus plus buttery lettuce plus fatty prosciutto and duck cracklings and artichokes… it lingers on the palate.  It should be like a roller coaster ride, always up and down, wondering what’s in the next bite. It’s important to play with flavors… smell is a flashback and the palette is the longest memory.  Burning wood reminds me of my Grandma in Germany. You never taste the same tomato twice, so you need to change the method to change the flavor to get it right. The staff finds it tough because there are no recipes.”

(On the topic of staff, Bill is looking for people who are as passionate about Albert Hall he is about the place… but is having problems finding and keeping good staff at the restaurant right now.  I would have to agree with him on that one, with the staff sometimes being quite lackluster, but Bill mentioned that he has some good people coming in soon, so I’m hopeful… update: huge improvements in waitstaff these past few weeks!)

What is your favorite dish to cook?

“Seafood.  Skate is my favorite fish.  You can do so much with it and it holds up to flavors well.  But most people don’t know it so it doesn’t sell.  It depends on my mood, but there are days I want nothing but burgers.”


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(Prepping the mussels)

Least favorite?

“Paella.  I don’t get it.  And I once tried to make a cardamom-crusted filet.  Turns out cardamom is really bad on food.”

Favorite to eat?

“Duck confit with blood sausage and beans…pub cassoulette (‘a perfect foil’)…. Branzino whole, because the flavors of the meat stay in the meat… fish and chips (‘fried love’)… comfort food in the summer… fried homemade thin pasta with tomato and squid ink…”  (It was obvious he could have gone on and on…)

Hardest thing ever made?

“Baking… I still haven’t finished the German Chocolate Cake.  And Paella.  Never again.”

 

Biggest kitchen mistake?

“Vegetable moussaka and Guastovino’s.  There were 5 different vegetables, all roasted and seared with a tilt skillet.  We would do it by the ton, put a lid on it and put it into the walk-in.  It would take half a day to sear the vegetables.  I went to the walk-in and when I went to open the lid, there was a layer of mold on top.  I wasted an entire day on vegetables.”


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(Charring the rosemary… UNDER the pan directly in the fire)

Worst night cooking?

“Valentine’s Day at Summit Restaurant.  We were booked solid and had a galley kitchen with a single in and out.  It was my first busy night and we were serving a prix fixe.  My sous chef got wasted (“he fell off the wagon”) and was sitting across the street with a paper bag in his hand.  It was a complex menu that could not be done by one person.  It was the one and only night I wanted to cry and I still get the chills thinking about it.  But the good days far outweigh the bad.”

Favorite memory?

“My daughter was on the line with me during her 1st year of life.  She grew up in the restaurant.  I have so many awesome memories of having her there with me.”

What kitchen tool can you not live without?

“Tongs.  They are extension of my hands in the kitchen.  I’m a big ol’ hot beast without them”

What is the most underrated food?

“Skate.  Nobody orders it so I have to eat it so it doesn’t go bad.”

Overrated?

“Filet mignon.  Why eat something with no marbling when you can eat something like a braised short rib?  It’s wedding food.”

If you weren’t a chef, what would you do?

“It has been years since I thought about that…  I couldn’t sit behind a desk. I have too much energy.  Probably carpentry.  It’s creative and hands on and has an end result.  Or design… design and build houses. I like going from concept to execution.”


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(The finished mussels)

What is your opinion on celebrity chefs?

“They have a mystique.  Many were talented chefs before they were celebrities.  But you can make a celebrity chef out of anyone with a good publicist.  But it has made the standards and baseline for a good chef go up.  The staff has a better idea of what happens in the kitchen and it pushes chefs to be better.”

Do you have advice for someone looking to be a chef?

“Take 6 months off from earning money and find the most different construction job you can find, do it for no money… then consider being a chef.  At first, it’s working your ass off, cutting yourself, getting yelled at, not getting paid.  It’s like golf.  There is a lot of anger but then one good shot keeps you coming back.  Come hang out in my kitchen.  Train in a real kitchen and work for free to see what it’s really like.”

What is something that customers don’t know that they should about restaurants?

“The truth about the amount of work that goes into it.  On the Food Network, they see it quick. It all fits into 30 minutes.  They don’t see that I’m here from 7:30am until 1:30am every day.”

Favorite curse word?

“Shit”

Favorite type of meat?

“Lamb”

Where do you eat in NYC?

“Blue Ribbon… The Alley… The Spotted Pig… Minetta… Employees Only… The Frying Pan” (he loves the Frying Pan and has his staff meetings on the top deck)

Best Food City (besides NYC)?

“New Orleans… maybe Chicago”

Favorite smell?

“Bacon… bread is runner up”

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

“On a beach. Cooking and relaxing.”

Last meal?

“Surf and turf”

For my full review of the food at Albert Hall Tavern, see the full post here.