February 2012 | I just want to eat!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My take on the burgers at Shake Shack in New York

Everybody is talking about Shake Shack, the burger chain founded by Danny Meyer (Gramercy Tavern,  Blue Smoke) in 2004. The first experience I had was not very good: it was on a hot Summer day, two years ago. We were walking close to Madison Square Park and decided to try what was supposed to be a mouth watering burger. There was a very long line and considering how hot it was outside, my expectations were high; I manned up. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. I remember the service was very slow and the kitchen seemed overwhelmed. Then came our order: what a disappointment! The burger was not good at all! The bread was soggy and the meat tasteless. The fries were not crispy at all and had a weird taste. There was clearly something wrong!

Then, end of 2011, Shake Shack opened near Time Square. Each time I was passing by, I saw the long line of people waiting for their burgers. I still heard people claiming that this place was the best burger in New York. So, I decided to give it another chance and went yesterday. Place packed, so no surprise there considering the buzz and location. It was extremely difficult to get a seat and there was no way I  was going to eat outside: it is not a weather for this! We found a spot, but before that, had to look like vultures at tables where people finished or were finishing their meal.

I went for the Shake Stack: a cheeseburger and a mushroom burger topped with lettuce, tomatoes and the Shake Shack sauce. What you see on the photo that seems to be burnt is the mushroom burger (at first, you think there are two patties). What is interesting is that it gives some crispiness to the overall dish and is surprisingly filled with cheese. I did not fully taste the mushrooms, but I thought it was a good idea.

The meat was good, cooked perfectly (medium) and very moist. The bread was a regular bun.
Overall pretty decent.

The fries were good also: crispy and tasty, not too salted. 

I also had a vanilla milkshake: thick but not to the point where you will break your jaw trying to get the milkshake go through the straw. It was a pretty good one.

Overall it was a good burger. But it is not the best for me in the city. If you would like to know which one I prefer, check My favorite restaurants page by clicking here. Opening near Time Square was a very smart idea and I am sure it will continue to get packed and crazy there! 

Enjoy (I did)!

And remember: I Just Want To Eat! 

Shake Shack (Madison Square Park) on Urbanspoon Shake Shack (Theater District) on Urbanspoon Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
Shake Shack (UES) on Urbanspoon Shake Shack (UWS) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Great Thai Food at Thai Grill and Sushi Bar in New York

If you like Thai food and are on a budget, The Thai Grill and Sushi Bar located Midtown NY is for you! I went few times and each time the food was delicious. They have a lunch special that proposes a variety of dishes both Thai and Japanese. For sure you do not go for the atmosphere and the decor: the walls are weirdly decorated with some paint supposed to complement some artwork in a way that it looks amateurish, if not dirty. Also, the table we were sitting at, with their 70's look, overlooked some posters about labor laws.

Fortunately, the food is good! I always order a Thai Iced Tea when I eat in a Thai restaurant (mainly made of black tea and sweetened with condensed milk). It is so good and refreshing! They served it in a beer glass: it was awesome considering the gradation of colors that is kind of similar to beer.

I then went for the Penang curry that is a Thai curry supposed to be milder than other ones. Trust me it got some heat, but the tea helped cool it. It was delicious and they served a nice quantity of it (with Jasmine rice).

But before that, came a vegetarian roll. Good, not too greasy, but a bit small.

They also have bento boxes, with teriyaki (salmon, chicken...). I did not try them, but was told they were good.

Definitely a good place to go!

Enjoy (I did)!

New York Thai Grill & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant site: http://www.nythaigrillsushibar.com/

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chocolate croissant from La Tropezienne Bakery in Harlem, NYC

Last week, I had to go to work quite early for a meeting and my boss decided to treat us with croissants. Considering the time we needed to be there, he asked one of my colleagues who leaves in Harlem, to go to his bakery and grab a variety of viennoiseries. That is how we ended up with croissants, pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and brioches from La Tropezienne Bakery. The name probably comes from the Tarte Tropézienne, that is a tart of pastry cream (crème pâtissière) invented by a St. Tropez pastry Chef named Alexandre Micka in the 1950s, based on a recipe he brought from his native Poland. In 1955, he was chef on the set of the film And God Created Woman (Dir: Roger Vadim) when actress Brigitte Bardot suggested he names the cake Tarte de St Tropez. He decided to call it La Tropézienne.

I tried the pain au chocolat: it was delicious! Flaky, buttery, but not to the point where it becomes too greasy!

The brioche was also perfect. For those who do not know, the difference between Challah bread and brioche is replacing the water with milk for brioches. 

I am always happy to find good croissants / chocolate croissants around here! I heard they have good pastries: I will have to check that out some day!

Enjoy (I did)!

La Tropezienne Bakery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mediocre Italian food at Intermezzo in Chelsea!

Yesterday, we went for a Birthday Dinner (Happy Birthday Pete!), with a bunch of friends, at Intermezzo in Chelsea. I was really looking forward for great company and of course great food. It started well: nice restaurant with a very stylish and not overdone decor. I loved the nice black and white pictures picturing scenes of people eating pasta, some of them representing famous Italian actors like Marcello Mastroianni and Gina Lollobrigida. 
They also had nice chandeliers and a big mirror overseeing the entire dinning room. In term of atmosphere, it was quiet, but I heard that during brunch time, it can get crazy with music and all you can drink booze. 
The service was nice but a bit slow. It seems they went under new management in November 2011, so I am not sure if the slowness of service is because they are still tweaking the kitchen.

At the beginning, they left a bread basket with some olive oil on the table and kept bringing the bread throughout the evening, that is always nice. The focaccia was very good and the olive oil had some garlic and I guess some pepper because it had some kick. 

Then, for appetizer, I got the Polpo that is Portuguese octopus, potatoes, string beans, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and red vinegar. I love octopus, but was a bit disappointed: it was perfectly cooked but had a fishy taste (did they re-froze it???). The only think I really liked was the fried potatoes. I think I should have ordered the Mozzarella in Carozza (Crispy Mozzarella and bread, fried zucchini, tomato and basil) that is fried mozzarella. I tried it and it was pretty good! The zucchini were cut like pasta and I loved the crispiness and saltiness of it!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Knish at Yonah Schimmel's Knishery in NYC!

The first time I had a knish was at Katz's deli few years ago and I did not like it: too dry...Then few weeks ago, we were walking around with my wife's friend Janine and her son Dylan, when we passed by Yonah Schimmel's store. They really wanted to have some, but as we wanted to get donuts at the Doughnut Plant and already had a hot cocoa from the bald guy, it would have been too much before dinner...All the knishes at the window were yummy and I kept the address in mind for another time. 

Then, going to Katz's this Sunday, we passed by and decided to buy some for dinner. The owner was there and told another client that you can freeze them and then heat them in the oven, no microwave for sure. When you enter into the store, you are immediately submerged by the smell of potatoes. Knishes are originally from Ukraine, with the word knish derived from the Ukrainian "knysh" that means "a kind of bun". It is made of a filling covered with dough that is either backed, fried or grilled. There are different varieties that you can find at the store: potato, mushroom, spinach, cabbage...They have been doing knishes since 1810 out of a push car and opened the place in 1910. Today, it is still a family business!

You can either take some knishes to go or you can eat them in the seating area located in the back. 

We went for the classic one: the potato knish.
They are big, close to the size of a baseball. Also, when I lifted the bag, I was surprised: it was kind of heavy.

We popped the knishes in our toaster for few minutes and ate them with yellow mustard and mayo. 

The inside of the knish was not dry at all and, although heavy, I really enjoyed it! I guess these were baked. The crust was deliciously crispy. For sure, I am a fan now. I just wish they had smaller sizes so I could try several of them!

If you never tried a knish, Yonah Schimmel is the place to go!

Enjoy (I did)!

Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonah_Shimmel

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Choc-O-Pain! Finally a French Bakery in Hoboken, NJ!!!

Updated on February 26th 2012 (see at the end of this post).

It has been a long time my wife and I were talking about the need for a nice French bakery in Hoboken. And finally, it opened! Beginning of 2012, Cho-O-Pain opened!

For sure, the location is off Washington street, the main street of Hoboken and hopefully, there will be enough buzz so they attract many people to try their breads, viennoiseries (croissants, chocolate croissants, brioches, etc...).

The place is not that small and you can either order to go or to eat there. The service was very nice and polite and I was please to talk to some fellow French people!
They have plenty of breads, even some epis ones! Luckily, they had some samples and what I tried was pretty good and authentic. They also sell sandwiches like the traditional ham and cheese!

Of course, they had quiches and pizza (French ones)! They also serve croque monsieur, that I am sure are good.

On our side, we tried first the brioche: although it looked burnt on the top, it was delicious! Buttery, but not too much.

Then, we tried the lemon tart (tarte au citron) with meringue on top. This was awesome! Although I would have preferred a more buttery crust (a pate sablee would have been perfect). The meringue was addictive. Definitely a great pastry.
I definitely have to try the breads, pizza, quiches and sandwiches from Choc-O-Pain! In fact I have to try everything! I am so excited that a French bakery opened finally in Hoboken! Bonne chance!

Update February 26th 2012:
So we went back for brunch today to Choc-O-Pain. I was very excited to try something different.
When we arrived, it was packed! I explored a bit the restaurant: first, the main floor is where the kitchen is. You can see what is going on there by looking through a glass. You can order to go or to stay. If you stay, you can either sit in one of the tables or at the communal table, or go upstairs where there are few tables and seats. The entire place, especially upstairs has a very rustic feel. 

We went for the ham & cheese sandwich: I thought I was in France! The bread was so good, so crispy. A perfect baguette!
Then we had the Tarte aux poireaux (leeks tart): I did not have this for years and loved it.
We finished with a fantastic Tarte aux poires (pear tart). It was made with almond paste and was sublimely buttery.

I have to say that it was great! Same quality as what you would find in a good boulangerie (bakery) in France. So if you do not have the luxury to travel, go there for a bit of France!

Enjoy (I did)!
And remember: I just want to eat!
Choc-O-Pain on Urbanspoon
Restaurant Information

* Restaurant Name
Choc O Pain
* Overall
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
New Jersey / French
* Street Address
157 1st St., Hoboken, NJ 07030
* Phone
(201) 710-5175

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Katz's deli in NYC: I do not know what Meg Ryan had, but I did not get what she had!

Katz's deli is an institution in NYC. There is not one tourist guide that would not recommend this place. We went there last Sunday and it was crazy! Especially after two tourist buses arrived...

This place was opened in 1888 by a Russian emigrant and had, since then, been serving the standard dishes you would find in a deli. They survived hard times like the depression or World Wars. In fact, during World War II. they encouraged the parents to send a salami to their sons (the famous "Send a salami to your boy in the army" that you will see on their T-shirts). Today, you can still send a salami to soldiers.

Katz's deli has been the location of many movies:
  • The most famous filmed there being When Harry met Sally with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. If you sit at the same table they were, you will see a sign that says: "Where Harry met Sally...hope you have what she had!". 
  • Donnie Brasco with Johnny Depp, in the scene where he is meeting with a FBI agent.
  • We own the night with Joaquim Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg. In this movie, the place was supposed to be the Belmont Diner in Queens.
Other movies were shot there and you can find some videos on Youtube. But, when you look at it, you would think it is a nice and quiet place: it is not the case at all! This place is a mad house and you would not go there for a romantic dinner for sure!

Found on Yelp!
At the entrance, they will give you a ticket: do not lose it! If you do, they will charge you a minimum of $50. The restaurant introduced this fee several years ago to prevent people from either saying they lost the ticket to pay less and to force them to look after it. The ticket will be used by the staff to account for the food you ordered. You have two options:
  • Table service, where a rude wait staff will serve you (thanks for throwing the pickles on the table!).
  • Cafeteria, where you will queue up and go to the different counters to order your food and then will try (desperately) to find a table to sit (some tables are for table service only).

We got a seat at a table with another couple, but they left two empty seats between us. The space between tables was so narrow that it was a whole exercise to get seated. The waitress throw some pickles on the table, before asking for our order. I have to say that the pickles were pretty good (I love this deli tradition). I tried for the first time a pickled tomato and loved it!

We ordered: Matzoh all soup, potato pancakes and a Pastrami Reuben. The food was very slow to come. In fact it came one after the other; that is fine when you are sharing, but not when you order for yourself. At least, while waiting, you can look around at the hundreds of photos of celebrities who came to the restaurant (next to our table were photos of some cast members of The Sopranos).

Then came the Matzoh ball soup. The Matzoh ball was good, but I did not like the broth. It had a too strong taste and kind of greasy.

Several minutes later, we got our potato pancakes. They were good, but greasy too! Also, they do not give you that much of apple sauce, that I guarantee you is not homemade (otherwise, they should fire the chef). 

Then, came the Pastrami sandwich. Yes, sandwich. Not the reuben I ordered. At that point, I was thinking: "Forget it! if you tell the rude waitress that she screwed up, it will take forever for your reuben to come, considering the time it took for your sandwich to be prepared!". So I ate it, but could not finish it. The meat was way too greasy. I know that you cannot expect a Pastrami sandwich not to be greasy, but it was too much. Too much fat and the meat was not as tender as what I had in other restaurants. Surprisingly, I did not finish it. Yes, read again: I did not finish it. That is exceptional if you know me!
We then left the restaurant, disappointed by the experience. The only good surprise was that the cashier was polite...By the way, it was cash only and the waitress of course did not forget to mention that the tip had to remain on the table...

I think this restaurant is overrated! The food was not as good as the food they serve at Junior's or the 2nd Avenue deli, with a better service on top of that and better prices (imagine that: $2.85 for a can of soda???). If people visit and ask me where to go to get a taste of a good deli, I would certainly not recommend Katz's! ]

I did not enjoy (I didn't)!

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snacks at Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC!

Saturday was a perfect day for a walk. Of course, walking burns calories, so you need to replenish your system with a snack (hehe). Hence the visit to Momofuku Milk Bar in the East Village...
Momofuku is a group of restaurants (Momofuku noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssiam...) owned by Chef David Chang. In Japanese, it could be translated to "Lucky peach", but Chef David Chang once mentioned that it was in honor of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the instant ramen.

There are several locations for the Milk Bar. The one in the East Village is small and I was not surprised to see a big line waiting to get their treats! They propose different items: Milk Shakes, pies, cookies...but not your regular ones. For instance, the special of the day was a deep fried apple pie that my arteries would have surely appreciated.

I went for the cereal milk milkshake: I love milkshakes. Surprisingly, one of the best milkshakes are at...McDonald's! So I tried this one: it was thick for sure and tasted like the milk that is remaining in your bowl after you have eaten all your corn flakes. I thought there would be a bit of crunchiness, but it was not the case. It was just ok for me. I think it would have been better with chocolate cereals! Everything is better with chocolate!

Then I tried the cookie: I chose the corn flakes, chocolate chips and marshmallow cookie. I liked it! It was very chewy with a nice layering of taste of the three main ingredients. However, the chocolate chips were small.

I then finished with the cake bites. We picked Birthday cake (that is in fact a birthday truffle). It was very good. Although I had in mind the cake bites we got in the Public Market in Milwaukee. Maybe it is the lack of chocolate to cover the cake. Still, I would have that again!

If I were in the area and if I was hungry, I would probably go back for the cookies and cake bites, but I do not think I would go back just for this place. It was good, but clearly it did not wow me like Spot Dessert Bar did!

Enjoy (I did)!

Momofuku Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bagel on the Hudson in Hoboken - Great Bagels!

I love a good bagel with either cream cheese and lox or tuna salad. Finding a good bagel place is not that easy. In New York, my favorite is H&H bagels. In Hoboken, it is Bagel on the Hudson. It is a small place that makes awesome bagels! 
My favorite bagels are the plain and the everything (topped with a poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, onion and salt mixture - photo below).

They of course have other standard bagels like egg, whole wheat or salt.

If you do not have anything to put on your bagel, they sell lox, cream cheese or tuna salad. All of good quality.

This is definitely a great place for bagels!

Enjoy (I did)!

Bagel on the Hudson on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Awesome BBQ at Brother Jimmy's BBQ in NYC

Chain restaurants are not always great: average quality of food and bland. So I did not expect much when I went to Brother Jimmy's BBQ Midtown, after seeing an horror movie (I was hungry for meat; mmh...can it be related???).
The restaurant had two floors: bar in the bottom (hence checking my ID) and the restaurant upstairs, quieter. Definitely, you do not go there for a romantic dinner: it is a bar like feel. Anyway, I prefer that they focus on the food, not the decor!!!

As I love meat, I went for the Jimmy's pig pick that is your selection of four choices between:
- Ribs: either Northern, Southern or Dry rub style,
- Pulled pork,
- Brisket,
- BBQ chicken or pulled chicken.

I went for:
  • The Northern style ribs that are smoked and then grilled with Brother Jimmy's original BBQ sauce. It was delicious: the meat was tender and had a very nice smokiness.
  • The dry rub ribs: smoked with Brother Jimmy's signature rub that tastes like a country sausage. It was just ok for me: it definitely tasted like sausage, but it was too dry. I added some BBQ sauce that was on the table. I should have gone with the Southern style!
  • The BBQ chicken: nicely cooked and moist. Loved it.
  • The brisket: it was smoked for up to 12 hours; I am happy I did not wait that long! It was very good. The meat was lean and nicely smoked.
They serve the plate with hush puppies (cornmeal deep fried meatball) and cole slaw. I like the slaw that was a good thing to eat from time to time between the meat, but did not like the hush puppies that were too dry.

The plate was huge and overall pretty good. It was a lot of food and there was no place for any dessert!

I was also able to try the cheeseburger: good and juicy. The meat had some taste!

And the Mac and Cheese (with the cheeseburger, you pick a side): not the best but pretty decent. It was not dry but a bit more cheese would have been great.

For those who like to drink, they also have some giant fishbowls full of alcohol! Could be a good way to forget that you will eat that big plate you ordered or that you will have to pay for dinner to apologize for the poor attitude you have when you are...drunk...

A the end of the dinner, I was stuffed! Brother Jimmy's BBQ is definitely a good place to go for BBQ.

Enjoy (I did)!

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon
Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon
Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Brother Jimmy's BBQ on Urbanspoon