Few weeks ago, we went to one of the locations of Bocca di Bacco in Hell's Kitchen and had a great time with my nephew Valentin. So we decided to go back, but tried their other location, still in Hell's Kitchen, but closer to Times Square. I admit that the experience was not as good: they were definitely understaffed in a place that was really crowded, affecting the service there. It started with the hostess who was not very nice at first, but then apologized, to the waiter who did not even check on us (forget the bread basket and the cheese on the pasta), to the food that took forever to come, prompting us to skip dessert.
We were walking on 10th avenue when we noticed a place called El Original, a Tex-Mex restaurant adjacent to a hotel that I cannot recall the name. The place is big and I was glad we went for brunch as it looked more like a bar and I could already imagine the noise level for dinner. There were definitely not that many people for brunch, besides a group of construction workers who seemed to be regulars.
We recently decided to go to JG Melon with our friends Jen and Gary, a place that I have wanted to visit for a while. My sole goal was to try their burger that I heard was phenomenal. So, here we are on a Saturday, at 12pm, in a place that is already very crowded and remained that way all along. I should mention that, despite the number of hungry patrons waiting for a table, they did not rush us, to the contrary.
Succeeding to Lucky Burger, The Windmill and Clem's Steaks Unlimited, Gogi Grill is the second Korean restaurant after The Chicken Factory (great Korean fried chicken). Gogi Grill is a casual eatery that I would describe as the Korean Chipotle: fresh ingredients that can be served in a bowl, salad or burrito. You can either create your own or go with one of their five dishes, one of them called the kitchen sink and having all the ingredients. On one side is a counter where you can also order ice cream or crepes, but I admit that I was not in the mood for that that day...
Steakhouses are pricey, but as we say, when steakhouses do well, the economy is doing well. However you do not need to spend hundreds to have a good steak, maybe not the best you ever had, but a good one. West Side Steakhouse is a good example of that. Located close to Times Square, but on the quiet 10th avenue, often not considered as an area to look for restaurants, West Side Steakhouse serves decent steaks.
If there is one thing that makes me look forward to Winter, it is Ramen: I love that delicious noodle soup, although ramen does not refer to soup at all, but to the hand pulled noodles that are in it. There is of course cold ramen that can be appreciated during the warmer seasons, but I admit that I love the hot ones. So, my next target was Jun-Men in Chelsea. It is not a big place, but it is bigger than some of the restaurants we visited before, having a large table in the center to accommodate large parties.
We were looking for a place to eat before seeing a movie in Times Square and decided to stop by Shokudo, a japanese restaurant that opened few months ago in Hell's Kitchen. The place was not that crowded for a Saturday, but I admit that we might have been a little early...
We were looking for a dessert and checked on google to see what was around when we stumbled upon Jacques Torres on the Upper West Side. Jacques Torres is not unknown to me as I tried his chocolate many times and even went to his chocolate factory downtown many years ago, but I do not recall having tried his hot chocolate. So, it was time to change that and that was like a revelation: his hot chocolate is the best in the city! People rave about City Bakery's hot chocolate, but I admit that I do not like it. This one, at Jacques Torres is something else: it is like melted chocolate, but without being too sweet or too bitter; yes, it is a perfect balance that makes me want to have such a place next door.
It has been a while since I went to Kingside, the restaurant of Executive Chef Mac Murphy. I went there a week after they opened and I still remember their caramel pudding that was to die for (they still have it on their menu).
After our meal at Salvation Burger few weeks ago that was a bit disappointing and overpriced, we still decided to try Salvation Taco, another venture from Chef April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman. They describe Salvation Taco as a "taqueria and cantina featuring a menu influenced by international cuisines". International for sure when you see their Indonesian BBQ or Moroccan lamb taco (I was going for this one, but they did not have it the day I went...Bummer!).
I discovered Underwest Donuts thanks to my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy. This place opened in 2014 within the West Side Highway Carwash, hence the carwash donut they sell that I did not try. But we did not go to that location, rather the one they opened last December, outside of Penn Station. There, you will not get a chance to get donuts made a la minute, this place being a tiny outpost. But still, you will get freshly baked donuts.
Last Friday, I was invited at Chawlas2, a charming Indian restaurant located in Gramercy. Taking its name from its founder, this chain that counts more than a 100 locations in India started in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India, more than 50 years ago, when late S. Attar Singh Chawla decided to improve a dish called "Kali Mirch Ka Chicken" or cream chicken, that they described as:
Yesterday, we were invited for dinner at Bella Luna, an Italian restaurant located on the Upper West Side, few blocks from the Museum of Natural History. In fact, we spent the freezing afternoon at the Museum before having dinner, a good way to whet our appetite. Located on the corner of 88th street, this restaurant is not totally new. The location is since January 26th of this year as they had to move from their original one, a couple of blocks away, because of a rent increase. I cannot compare the two places, but the new one is pretty amazing: high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows giving some good light to the whole place, and it has this old scenery carved on the back wall.
We were looking for a pizza place close to Union Square for a dinner with our friends Amy and Caleb and decided to reserve a table at Ribalta. You may have heard about this place, especially their hot dog pizza, The Americana, that, not only is original, but is also very good!
I never expected to find such a place at The Museum of Art and Design. This place is amazing: from its stunning modern decor from floor to ceiling, to the incredible view of Columbus Circle. Everything there was great: the service, that was on point, as well as the seasonal food of the menu.
On a Friday night, we were looking for an Italian restaurant Midtown when we stumbled upon Lugo Cucina. Located close to Penn Station, I never noticed this place before, although passing close by many times. I never noticed for instance the two vespa in front, with the same colors as the front of that place.
I was really looking forward to going to Salvation Burger, the burger restaurant of Chef April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, owners of The Spotted Pig, the Breslin Bar & Dining Room; but my wish got crushed at some point as they had to close because of a fire in their kitchen. Several months later, here I am, arriving several minutes before they opened, allowing customers to sit but warning them that the kitchen will only open after some time.
Butter: what a great name for a restaurant! Catchy, it definitely appealed to me when I was looking for a nice restaurant on a Friday night. Butter is owned by executive and celebrity Chef Alex Guarnaschelli who crafted a seasonal menu served in a stunning place where nature is predominant.
I was recently invited to an event at Bobby Van's, the steakhouse located on Park Avenue. Well, I should say their location on Park Avenue as they have several and I only tried the one near Times Square where I had a phenomenal dinner. So, needless to say that I was looking forward to going back there. Here is what I had:
It all started with some amuse: first was a mozzarella sitting on top of a slice of tomato topped with peppers.
Last Friday, I was invited at ROKI Le Izakaya a new Japanese brasserie just opened 2 weeks ago by Keiko Ono Aoki and Executive Chef Koji Hagihara. This is a spin off of Benihana, Keiko being the wife of late founder of that famous Japanese chain, Hiroaki Aoki, known in the US as Rocky Aoki. I had the chance to meet with Keiko and Chef Koji who welcomed us in this incredible space where the main attraction is the kitchen in the middle where one can admire the Chef and his crew not only cook delicious food, but also present it in a beautiful way.
I passed so many times in front of Brasserie Athenee, a French restaurant, that I was kind of looking forward to eat there. So we decided to go for brunch, on a Saturday. The place was crowded for sure and had its charm, with the banquettes and chandeliers.
Yesterday, I was invited to a Valentine's Day breakfast organized by Type 2 Creative at Sugar Sketch, a small pastry shop that combines Italian traditional flavor profiles with modern American designs. I was there thanks to my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, whose perfectly painted nails (with a heart for the occasion) can be seen on few photos.
Haru is not unknown to me: I remember the first time I went there was at their location in Gramercy with our friends Jen and Chris, before this blog even existed. I was blown away by the original meal I had, thinking at first that it was a classic Japanese place. The meal went beyond my expectations and it was probably my first step into Japanese fusion. And this week, I got to try their new location in Hell's Kitchen, that just opened a week ago, the crowd definitely getting the word of it as it was packed from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.
Going to Sel et Poivre (salt and pepper in French) is so refreshing: there, you get not only to taste some great French cuisine, but the dining room is worked on by Chef Christian Schienle who prepares classic French bistro dishes, some of them with a refined flair. What amuses me is that Chef Schienle (that you can see on the photo above paying for parking) is not French, but succeeds to serve delicious dishes. To the point that I went twice this week: on Tuesday for a blog dinner and on Friday, simply because I wanted to try one of their specials only served that day: cassoulet.
Victor's Café is a great Cuban restaurant located Midtown. But know that this place proposes an elegant version of Cuban cuisine, more elevated than what you would have in places like La Caridad on the Upper West Side or La Isla in Hoboken. I could not resist to try their lunch prix-fix that offers, for $29, a three course meal that was quite good. Before the food came, they brought some plantains that are always a crowd pleaser.
Yesterday evening, I was invited at ORO, an Italian restaurant that opened last August in Long Island City, conveniently located five minutes from the Queensboro Plaza subway stop. I was really surprised when I entered this place as I did not expect a place so spacious, modern and elegant, but with a casual feel.
There are two places I love for Restaurant Week Midtown: Circo and China Grill. This year, I went twice to China Grill for their Restaurant Week offer that is a very good deal. You get an appetizer, an entree, a side for two and a dessert for $29 and can add a bottle of wine for an additional $40. What I like about it is the choices that are not only limited, but also can be found on their regular menu. The first time I went, I did not have my camera unfortunately, but the second time, I did. So this is what I had that time:
I was looking for a French restaurant Midtown and found Gaby, a place attached to the Sofitel Hotel, few steps from Bryant Park. Interesting place with its Art Deco decor, but with still the feel that it is the restaurant of a hotel.
It has probably been 11 years since I went to Brooklyn Diner and was really surprised to see it pop up on OpenTable. When I lived in the city, I use to go there for their large hotdog, one of the biggest, if not the biggest in New York, measuring 15 inches. This place is still there, with its big cakes at the entrance, one slice being too much for just one person for sure. I like the decor, that makes this place a tad more elegant than your regular diner. And you know that I love diners, as for me they are reminiscent of Americana.
Jodi and I wanted to eat Korean food and ended up at Osamil in Koreatown. The name of this modern restaurant comes from their address, 5 west 31st street. 5- Oh, 3- Sam, 1-il. We went on a Friday evening and it was quite busy, its warm dining room being filled with hungry customers. I like the space: it is a mix between a modern and rustic decor, with an open kitchen in the back.
I was looking for a sake bar when I stumbled upon Sake Bar Hagi 46, the outpost of Sake Bar Hagi near Times Square. We got seated in the back of the restaurant where a large party was enjoying some food and probably too much drinking, making the noise level close to unbearable...So, needless to say that, although we enjoyed our meal there, we did not take our time to appreciate it fully and, as soon as we payed the bill, guess what? The large party left!!! I had only one fear: that they followed us!
Taking its name from a village in the Town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York, Sagaponack is a restaurant located few steps from the Flatiron. I ended up there one day after finding that they serve a surf and turf burger, a dish I never heard of before. So I went one day for lunch.
We were really excited to have dinner at Zora's Cafe, a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen that serves soul food. We passed so many times in front of this 20 seat tiny place that I got curious. It started well, with a homemade lemonade that was delicious: not too sweet and with a perfect tartness.
We were back to Long Island City, looking for a place to have lunch and found Café Triskell, a French crêperie coming straight from Brittany from where the owner, Philippe Fallait is from. And I have to say that it felt like a little corner of France, miles away.
I was recently invited at Numero 28 Pizzeria in the East Village. I already know this pizza place as I went to their original location on 28 Carmine St, location that gave its name to the place. Little did I know that they had that many locations, including Miami and London! We were there for lunch and the place was quiet until later, prompting me to think that we were really early...I liked the atmosphere that is rustic and warm, with the staff speaking Italian to add to the ambiance.
I was recently invited for a dinner at Cafe Istanbul, a restaurant on Steinway in Astoria that serves Mediterranean, Egyptian and Turkish cuisine. Opened over two months ago, this place is the dream come true of Mumbai native, Sonny, who spent 18 months creating this place, making it comfortable and very open.
We were walking on 33rd, behind Penn Station, when Jodi pointed out Lobster Craft a restaurant that specializes in ...lobster...and follows the success of a food truck operated by Captain Mike, a coast guard captain and licensed lobster fisherman.
Being part of the food bloggers community is a great thing as you meet great people who enjoy good food, whether in a fancy restaurant or in a casual place. It is thanks to a blogger friend if mine, Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, that I discovered Oppa, a great Korean place in the new Gansevoort Market.
I recently received a coupon to try Tres Carnes, a fast casual tex-mex restaurant with few locations in the city. We went to the Flatiron one and I admit that I was surprised as to how good it was, definitely better than the other restaurants in the same segment. It is not only due to the freshness of the ingredients, but also because of the slow cooked BBQ meat they serve. It is not a big place for sure, but we had no problem finding seats at the large table in the center of the dining room.
I was really looking forward for our dinner at Gazala's Place in Hell's Kitchen, sometimes craving Middle Eastern cuisine. We found it walking one afternoon on 9th Avenue, seeing the owner, Gazala Halabi making some pita at the window.
Gazala's is quite a small place so don't be surprised to have your back on your neighbor's chair. For the time we arrived to the time we left, the flow of patrons continue to arrive and go, probably having the same cravings as we did.
As were were close to Grand Central Terminal and were not that thrilled about the choices in the food court there, we decided to go to Pershing Square, a restaurant that reminded me of a brasserie because of its decor. It was definitely beautiful, with lots of light thanks to the large windows.
Last Saturday, we went to Bonnie's Grill in Brooklyn, a restaurant that describes itself as a "hardcore burger and wings establishment". So I could not not go to this small place that has its charm, to try...burgers and wings.
I was recently invited at Bettola, an Italian restaurant located on the Upper West Side with a fantastic background story. This place is under new management since May of this year and I would say a colorful management. It all started in a ski trip where co-owner Giga Leszay met a rockstar turned Chef Vlado Kolenic. Yes, you heard well: rockstar turned Chef. Vlado was the lead singer of Taktici, a popular band in former Czechoslovakia that defected from the iron curtain at the end of the 70s. This is an incredible story that you can find here, on this short video. When Giga saw an opportunity to take over the ownership of Bettola, she did not hesitate and reached out to Vlado, as she needed a new Chef.
It has been a while since we wanted to try Honeygrow, a casual dining place that serves locally sourced high quality ingredients. So we made it and I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. First, I like the minimalist decor, very naturalistic and zen, with the light colored wood and the black and white photos.
After meeting Chef Hooni Kim at a cooking class (DeGustibus event at Macy's), and a great dinner at Hanjan, his restaurant near the Flatiron, Jodi, Malini (aka The Restaurant Fairy) and I decided to go for lunch at Danji. Why lunch? Less crowded and good light. The reservation was at the time they opened so I admit that I was glad to be able to take few photos before patrons arrive.
Few days after meeting Chef Hooni Kim in a cooking class at De Gustibus Cooking School in Macy's, Jodi, Cindy from Chubby Chinese Girl Eats and her husband Derrick, and I decided to go to Hanjan, one of the Chef's restaurant located few minutes from the Flatiron.
I love ramen and New York is a perfect city to try different ones, having so many places proposing that delicious Japanese dish. And my favorite moment to eat that soup is now, as I like it hot and was never really impressed by cold versions of it. This recipe requires a bit of work, but it is worth it!
Hell's Kitchen is definitely not the area where I would expect to see such an elegant restaurant as Chaan Teng. This place opened very recently, replacing a New Orleans based restaurant we passed by so many times but never dared to go in. Well I am glad because Chaan Teng is unique in a way, serving Chinese dishes, but with the Chef's own spin. And, if you are familiar with the restaurant scene in New York, you might know this Chef: Pichet Ong, who has an impressive resume, working at the regretted Spice Market as well as 66, also closed, another Jean-Georges Vongerichten's eatery. Do not see a sign there, I am sure this place, with its vibrant and elegant decor, will be successful.
So I was looking for a new fried chicken place to try and ended up at Sticky's Finger Joint, a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, located close to The Port Authority Bus Terminal. I knew about this place since its inception as I saw them on the Food Network back in 2012, on a TV show with Bobby Flay, where the owners had three days to open and had to go through the hoops of opening a restaurant, a task not that simple. This is not they first location and I believe they settled on 9th Avenue a year or two ago. I like the decor that is very colorful, with the wall painted like street art.
Located few steps from Union Square, Al Vicoletto is an Italian eatery and gourmet market. I like the vibe of the place that has a certain energy and a European feel.
At the beginning of the meal, they gave us some bread, as well as a small sandwich bites made with focaccia bread, peck and cheese: a great way to start, although, so delicious that I stopped eating it as I was expecting to have a feast...
When it comes to elegance and gourmet food, Petrossian comes into my mind. The famous caviar purveyor has, for a long time, showcased some products that go beyond the treasured fish eggs. And this time, they invited me as well as other press / bloggers to discover some amazing products for the season coming. At the same time, I got the pleasure to see again Executive Chef Richard Farnabe that I met few months ago during an amazing tasting at the restaurant.
One evening last week, I was invited to a workshop by KitchenAid, with Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel and Robin and Jeffrey Selden from Marcia Selden Catering. I went there with my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, so now you will know that I am not wearing any nail polish and that it is her hand that you will see on the photos, holding some of the delicious bites we got to sample.
Located at the corner of 93rd and 3rd on the Upper East Side, Korali Estiatorio went beyond my expectations. I love Greek food and was definitely not disappointed after going to a tasting I was invited to. This beautiful restaurant that gets its name from "Coral", to honor the seafood of the Mediterranean sea, is the jewel opened a year ago by Gregori Politis (formerly of Yefsi Estiatorio), a 20-year veteran in the hospitality industry who wanted to bring the authentic recipes from his childhood in Greece to NYC.
The Old Homestead Steakhouse is not unknown to me, as I ate there few years ago, but skipped it since I started this blog, except for sliders as they offered a very good deal for lunch at the time. But it was way too long and we really wanted to go back to the oldest steakhouse in New York, serving carnivores since 1968! This place did not change and I was glad that they sat us on one of the corners, in a round table with a banquette, that had a good light. This latest detail was not only noticed because of the photos I was going to take, but also because, often, steakhouses are dim.
We were on the Lower East Side and were looking for a place to have lunch when we stumbled upon Cho-Ko, a small ramen joint. The weather was perfect for ramen, so I was looking forward to it. It is a small place and I was surprised it was empty, although we arrived five minutes after their opening time. But it remained empty until we left...
Last week, I was invited at Bustan, a restaurant located on the Upper West Side, that serves Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. I was not able to meet with Bustan's new partner and Executive Chef Raphael Hasid, but chatted a bit with his Chef de Cuisine, Christopher Burgess, who brings more than 30 years of experience in the industry, having worked even with Michael White or Anthony Bourdain. He explained to me that they are using a taboon to cook most of the food in their tiny kitchen, a taboon being a wood fire oven with a temperature of 800 degrees and a rotating center so the food cooks evenly.
We were at the Flux Factory in Long Island City for the New York Academy of Art Alumni exhibit where Jodi participated with a beautiful painting (see her work at www.jodigerbi.com), and we decided to eat in that area after the show. I just needed Google Map to find Beija Flor (Hummingbird in portuguese), a Brazilian restaurant that serves some delicious food. At first, I was worried that there would be live music as I wanted to have a quiet dinner, being able to hear each other and thankfully, there was not and the noise level was pretty nice.
Sometimes, I should just stick to the original plan...It all started with wanting to eat ramen at Jun-Men in Chelsea. But the weather was pretty good for November and, as we walked passed Stage Door Deli, we changed our mind, reserving ramen for a colder day. I was excited for sure, thinking about the Reuben I would inhale in few minutes.
Located on the 8th floor of Macy's, hidden like a priceless gem is the De Gustibus Cooking school. I mean, even some employees of the store did not know it was there and it took me a couple of inquiries to find my way to what would be a wonderful evening, where my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, brought me along, generously sharing the experience with me and Cindy, from the food blog Chubby Chinese Girl.