I recently ended up with my colleagues at JJ Bitting Brewing Company in Woodbridge. Interesting place indeed: big, rustic, you can see in the middle of the main dining room some of the fermenters used to make beer. Yes, as its name indicates, JJ Bitting is a brewery and I tried one of their beers, the Aldahat Amber, a medium bodied ale that was fruity and slightly bitter, exactly as they described it. I could have gone for their beer flight, but admit that I am a light weight and as it was equivalent to two beers, I passed.
I recently got invited to Ms. Yoo, opened last July, is the new venture from Chef Esther Choi who gave us the fantastic Mokbar in Chelsea Market (and now Brooklyn). Taking its name from Chef Choi's Grandmother who taught her how to cook when she was a kid, Ms Yoo is not your traditional Korean restaurant, boasting a small menu perfect to share that is very creative and unique, a fusion between Korean and American cuisines. The space is also beautiful, and you cannot miss the cast iron trellises covered with vines, that give a certain elegance to the place, far from the casual setting of Mokbar.
This week, I got invited to the soft opening of Hudson Hall, a Beer Hall and Smokehouse located few blocks from the Grove St Path station in Jersey City that is opening on September 23, 2017. This is an incredible place: when being there, you would think that you stepped into an old beer hall, when in fact the space has been completely gutted and rebuilt, with lots of attention to detail. The space is divided into three different sections: the huge dining room, with its bar that has a round shape on one extremity, allowing six people to sit facing each over; the small dining room with its incredible ceiling (called "the deli"), and the tunnel to go from one room to the other, giving a glimpse into the busy kitchen.
Last week, I was invited by Chef Nick Wang to sample his menu at Amami, a Japanese restaurant with a rustic and zen feel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I spoke a bit with Chef Wang who spoke about his passion to serve unique high quality food, using natural ingredients. In fact, Amami means "sweetness from the heavens" and the name written in Japanese calligraphy that is displayed on one of the walls of the dining room, also means harmony, representing the harmony of flavors as well as the harmony of the staff working in the restaurant like family as Chef Wang explained.
Few weeks after discovering Burger & Lobster near the Flatiron, I received an invite to try their new restaurant located few steps from Bryant Park and Times Square. I was very excited as my previous experience, posted just few days ago was great and I was looking forward to go back to try one of their items: The Beast, a burger topped with lobster, a decadent surf and turf.
It's been a while we wanted to go to Burger and Lobster, having heard about this place from our friend Tessa. So, we decided to go on a Saturday, at noon, the time they open, thinking that it was a small place that would be crowded quickly. Well, we were wrong: not only it was not that crowded, but I was surprised to discover such huge place (with red predominant to symbolize the color of the lobster) that has also a small room downstairs. Nice decor with the traps to capture lobsters and of course the fish tanks at the entrance where you can see some beautiful lobsters.
Last February, I went to Victor's Cafe to try their lunch deal that was pretty good, and was looking forward to go back for dinner. I love this place that serves some delicious food. Lunch and dinner are quite different, the quiet atmosphere being replaced by a busy, loud but still bearable one, with Cuban music in the background when it is not live music.
We recently went to Greek Town, a restaurant we did not even knew existed until we passed in front of it in a taxi on our way to Jersey City's Liberty Science Center, and we decided to check it out. We went for brunch and I admit that I wish we knew that this place, opened a year and a half earlier, was there. It is not a fancy restaurant and the decor is fairly simple, but the food was delicious and reasonably priced.
We were looking for a tapas place when we stumbled upon El Quinto Pino in Chelsea. I thought it was a small place at first, not knowing that there is a bar area and, in the back, a dining room of a good size. Menu wise, each item is made to be shared, the selection for brunch split between little tapas, sandwiches and salads, and eggs. For drinks, they mostly have coffee and tea as well as cocktails.
It's been a while since we wanted to try Cherche Midi, one of the multiple restaurants of Keith McNally, who owns Balthazar, Morandi, Minetta Tavern and Pastis. Not because of his other popular restaurants, but because we loved Pulino's the restaurant that used to be there before Cherche Midi. Unfortunately the restaurant did not work as expected and was replaced. It is a nice place, with some elements of the decor kept. A bit dark though when going for dinner...
I love Korean fried chicken: it is so crispy thanks to its double frying process, sometimes spicy and surely tasty. I admit that it has my preference from all fried chickens out there. So I was really looking forward to going to Turntable LP Bar & Karaoke in K-Town with my friend Benny. I discovered it few years ago at Turntable Chicken Jazz and put it at the same level as the popular BonChon. Interestingly, both Turntable places are like a hidden gem (beware that Turntable Chicken Jazz is currently relocating one block away from its current location): if you do not know they are there, you will miss them.
Few days after going to The Chinese Club, I was invited at Laut, a South East Asian restaurant near Union Square, opened many years ago by the same owners, Stacey and Salil Mehta. Laut is not unknown to me, as I went there few years ago, after hearing about that place that was the first Malaysian restaurant to get a Michelin Star in New York. We went when they opened at 1pm on Sunday and there was not that many people, until maybe half an hour later when the restaurant got crowded.
When being invited at The Chinese Club in Williamsburg, I had no idea about the history coming with this place. Stacey Lo, co-owner with her husband of this place that opened in March 2016, is the Granddaughter of Lo Fung Foo, the founder of the original Chinese Club, a restaurant in Darjeeling, India, established in 1914 (hence the reference on the facade), that catered to Chinese expatriates.
I love Mexican-Japanese fusion since I tried it at the regretted Taka Taka in TriBeCa. And when Las Olas opened in hoboken several years ago, I was really happy. We went several times there, but I realized that I never posted about it. Las Olas is a pretty popular spot Uptown Hoboken, offering deals all week long like the Monday's half price appetizer or the Thursday's unlimited chicken wings. Quite good deals, indeed considering how good their food is.
We've heard so many things about the little India in Jersey City, that we decided to check it out. We ate at Vaibhav, but it was not our first choice. No, we were supposed to eat at Vatan with a reservation at 12pm, but, after waiting close to 15 minutes in front of a closed door, we decided to go somewhere else. Don't be mistaken though: Vatan has nothing to do with the elegant Indian place in the city that I still need to discover.
Sometimes it is nice to do touristy things and as I told Jodi that in my last trip to India I went to The Hard Rock Café in Gurgaon, we decided to visit their location in Times Square that we've never been too. We went on a Saturday, not too late to avoid the crowd and got seated fairly quickly, keeping a tour of the restaurant for later as we did not want to miss the tons of memorabilia they have from iconic stars like Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones to name a few. There's definitely a fun atmosphere there whether you like rock or not.
We were looking for a place to have an early lunch close to the IFC Center where we were going to see the documentary "City of Ghosts" about the improvised journalists of Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (eye opening by the way), when we found White Oak Tavern on Waverly Place. Nice place, fairly big with a bar in a sort of U shape in the middle with an impressive collection of alcohol, especially whiskey. I love the rustic feel of the place that gives the impression you stepped back in time, with old objects and photos on the shelves.
It's been a while since I had Cajun and creole food, the only restaurant I knew in Manhattan being closed unfortunately, as I wanted to explore more of this cuisine after a wonderful trip in New Orleans few years ago (yes, I still rave about the beignets at Café du Monde). I did find a couple of food trucks but was never thrilled by the experience. Until I got invited at The Gumbos Bros, a small and charming place in Brooklyn that opened in December 2016, meeting with my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy. There, I got to try quite a lot of specialties and made up my recommended meal: fried green tomatoes (perfectly non ripe tomatoes deep fried), a po'boy (I cannot decide between the catfish and their best seller made with shrimp), and the banana pudding (I had to go and missed the beignets).
It's been a while since we went to The Hoboken Gourmet Company, always discouraged by the wait in that small place that truly has a neighborhood feel. But the 4th of July came and allowed us to dine there for brunch. The issue with going to a restaurant on that day is often they are short staffed (they did a good job anyway and apologized for the lack of attention that we apparently got - did not really notice) or the shortage of ingredients (the Chef left the place saying "I need sourdough" and coming back minutes later with a back from a fine grocery store close by).
One night, we decided to go to a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen with our friends Ciara and David, when we stumbled upon Yum Yum Too, the sister restaurant of Yum Yum, a Thai place located a block away, that I often saw in commercials at the movie theater few years ago. The place was quiet, although full. We started off by trying few drinks. David had a cocktail that I admit I cannot name, but remember had a nice cantaloupe taste...and color. On my side, I went for my usual Thai iced tea that was perfect.
Last year, I finally made it to Delmonico, the famous steakhouse located in the Financial District and was curious to see what Delmonico's Kitchen would have to offer. It is quite a large place with a bar area at the entrance, a dining room next to it and a private party room behind the wine racks, all of them having different light settings.
512 Washington Street has like a curse: every restaurant that tried to open there closed few months ago. But then came Charrito's, a Mexican restaurant with already two successful locations in Hoboken. We went there for brunch and dinner and had a great time in both occasions. Although there are not that many vegetarian options, their food is delicious, especially their guacamole that is made table side and is a must have. The place is nice, big and colorful, with a dining room in the back.
We were looking for a seafood restaurant Midtown and decided to go to Blue Fin, the restaurant of the posh W Hotel in Times Square. I admit that we were not sure what to expect as many restaurants in that area care more about foot traffic than returning satisfied customers. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised!
We were in Bushwick, Brooklyn for a media event and then looking for a place to eat. Our first choice was Roberta's a popular pizza joint that was unfortunately packed, having an hour wait that we did not even consider. Our backup plan was Momo Sushi Shack with large communal tables and I did not have too many regrets that our first choice did not work. Overall, the food at Momo, consisting in the large majority of small plates with a wide range of Japanese specialties, was good, but they were short in staff that day and the food took a bit of time to come.
My friends have been talking about B Side Pizzabar so many times that we decided to go after I came back from a trip from France. This place, located in Hell's Kitchen, has a nice rustic decor, quite warm. Quite minimalist as is the menu that Chef Jason Neroni crafted, that features some quite creative pizza cooked in their authentic Pavesi wood-burning oven.
I love lobster rolls and always mention the fact that French people are always surprised to hear that such a delicacy that is lobster can be served in a sandwich! But when they try, they get hooked. I did for sure. I remember the first time I tried it: it was at the food truck festival in South Street Seaport. After eating the food from food trucks, here it was: the Red Hook Lobster Pound. I remember the big chunks of lobster simply cooked in butter, the almighty crustacean being the star of the dish. Since then, I tried quite a few, but Mary's Fish Camp was missing from my list.
I recently received some bottles of Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce. Little I knew that this company has been created by Dexter Holland, the lead singer of The Offspring, a multi-platinum American Punk Rock band. I still remember some of their songs that were really popular when I lived in France. Apparently, Interestingly, the adventure started as gifts to friends:
Known for its burger, but also pizza, Emily opened recently in the West Village after feeding an hungry crowd in Brooklyn. I was really looking forward to trying that place and we got an early reservation there. Well, maybe too early and we were the first ones to arrive for dinner, diners arriving a bit later, especially families with kids. The place is of a nice size with lots of light thanks to its large windows.
We were set to eat at a Pizza place in Hell's Kitchen when, on our way, we stumbled upon Yonekichi, a tiny restaurant that opened last November, which serves rice burgers. I admit that I would have never noticed this place if it was not from the sign outside.
Back in May, we celebrated Jodi's birthday at Habanero Blues, a Mexican restaurant located Midtown Manhattan. There, we had a great time and very good food, certainly thinking about going back. Little we knew that one of the owners, Willy Reichenbach would invite me few months after for a meal there. Willy is a great guy, with lots of energy and passionate about the restaurant and ensuring his patrons have a great time. He gave me a few bits of interesting info about the place:
Going to Brooklyn is always an adventure especially with the trains, but I was looking forward to trying Alice's Arbor where I was invited. Located in Clinton Hill, this is a cute place, with a rustic and warm feel. Wood is omnipresent there and I love the use of old doors as backs for banquets.
I went to The Great Kabab Factory two years ago and forgot that this all you can eat place serves a phenomenal amount of food, to the point that, to my regret, I skipped dessert...Located in a hotel, the Radisson Blu (formerly Park Plaza), this is a nice place, with the dining room overlooking the kitchen that I only photographed at the end, busy talking to my colleagues explaining why the photo shows an empty room.
Each time I go to Delhi, I end up at Bukhara, the world famous restaurant. Don't be fooled by restaurant using that name: they are not part of the brand created by ITC and they try to use the notoriety of this fantastic establishment. I love this place that is a bit touristy but still serves some amazing food prepared in the kitchen that you can observe from the dining room (the first time I went there, I even got a tour of the kitchen).
During my last trip to India, i was really curious about the influence of the West on food, not that it is a new topic as chains like McDonald's or KFC have been present there for a long time, adapting their menu like, in any country where they invest, but with the added rule of not serving beef, cows being considered a sacred animal. I went to a mall in Noida as well as a tech center in Gurgaon, the Cyber Hub, where there were lots of chains that we know, reminding me a bit of Singapore.
Le Relais de Venise, the outpost of the French restaurant that simply serves steak frites smothered in a secret sauce that one believes has chicken liver in it, has opened a new location in Soho. A big place with the same feel and decor. Not French but Italian, with big paintings representing life in Venice. No, you are not mistaken: I said Italian. I love the story of Le Relais de Venise. It all started in 1959, when a winemaker named Paul Gineste de Saurs decided to buy an Italian restaurant in Paris with the intention to use it to showcase the wine produced by his family, Château de Saurs, wine still proposed at the restaurant.
When you are a blogger and get an invitation from PRs and restaurants, it is always tricky as one would wonder how objective you would be. I always follow certain rules: always disclose that I was invited, be honest about the food (if I do not like it, I will write it), never talk about the service as they know that you are coming for a review and for sure will give you extra attention. People sometimes ask me: if you get invited and do not like the food at all, what do you do? Frankly, I would not post as a courtesy to the person who invited me. Benares is an interesting case though: I went two years ago and did not like it.
For Bastille Day, we decided to celebrate in a French restaurant and chose La Gamelle, a place we passed in front of quite a few times. Nice place with live music, it definitely has a Parisian feel and not just because of the French music or French speaking staff.
It has been so long since I wanted to go to Sik Gaek in Woodside to try their live octopus, but I needed to find adventurous people to come with me to have a fun experience as Jodi categorically and understandably refused to come with me. So, I went on a Friday night with two of my colleagues, Abe and Fabien. I was not sure what to expect besides a crowded restaurant: not crowded when we showed up at approx. 6:45pm, but then, it filled up with quite a lot of people there to enjoy Korean food.
I love donuts and, as we were in Philly, we decided to try their famous Federal Donuts, a place that, outside of Philadelphia, only made it so far to Miami. We went for breakfast and, as we entered, our nose got filled with a delicious smell of fried dough.
I am a fan of Chef Anthony Pino who I got the chance to meet recently at Porter Collins, his new restaurant in Uptown Hoboken. I simply love his restaurants, including Bin 14 where we went quite a few times for brunch. So I was excited when I got invited for dinner at Anthony David's, his very first restaurant in the mile square city. It is not as big as Porter Collins, but has its charm and benefits from quite a number of seats outside, and from a large private room that I only saw from outside, a party taking place when we went.
I was really happy to find a Del Frisco's Double Eagle in Philadelphia. I know the steakhouse in New York where I went a few times and was never disappointed, and was looking forward to see if the one in Philly would deliver showing some consistency.
For our 10 year anniversary, we went to Philadelphia and picked Aqimero, the restaurant from acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval. Located in the Ritz Carlton, this place is beautiful and big. There are two areas: the lounge when you enter immediately in the hotel, and the restaurant on the left side, with its kitchen in the back where you can see the magic happen.
July is not only National Ice Cream Month, but it is also National Beer Month. So, Our Name Is Farm, a digital media and event production firm had a great idea to merge them together and asked Tipsy Scoop, the boozy ice cream parlor, to come up with some creation for Lantern Hall, the largest beer hall of Bushwick, Brooklyn that consults with them. Bars always fall short when it comes to dessert, so it is a very interesting way to fill the gap.
I have never been to the Liberty Science Center (aka LSC) in Jersey City and was excited when they invited me for an evening called LSC After Dark: Electric BBQ, an all adult event with booze, food, a DJ and an electric show to conclude the evening. This was a media preview of their event on July 20th. Interesting concept: although lots of adults love science, this kind of place is often associated with kids and the Liberty Science Center decided to create specific events for adults the third Thursday of each month. I think their first one was called LSC After Dark: sexy science party that was probably not as X-rated as the name may suggest, and more recently, LSC After Dark: nerd prom and wearable fashion show.
For our 10 year anniversary, we decided to go to Philadelphia, before a big trip that we are planning as a true celebration at the end of the year. I like Philly: food wise, it has lots to offer besides the usual cheesesteak that is undeniably associated to this city. As we arrived in the afternoon by train, I looked for a restaurant close to our hotel, keeping the option of a cheesesteak for later, our dinner being already steak. Looking on OpenTable, we found Estia, a Greek restaurant located near the city center.
When I went to Porter Collins several weeks ago, I had a fantastic dinner and was planning on going back there to try their brunch, when I received an invite from their PR. So, we just went yesterday and got the chance to see Chef Anthony Pino that I was looking forward to finally meeting, having dined at his other restaurants, Bin 14 and Anthony David's, multiple times. During our discussion, he explained that he decided to become a Chef at 10 years old, wanting to save his family from bad food: well, I am sure that his family is grateful now! I asked him why he decided to open another restaurant in Hoboken instead of New York and his answer defines well his character: he wants to stay close to his family as they are important to him.
I recently received, for just $1, some wine from Blason Louis, a French Wine seller that teamed up with more than a dozen winemakers in France and is reaching out to bloggers. But it is not a bottle that I received: no, it was four flacons in a box, that I admit looked pretty sleek. These tubes full of wine are great, especially if, like me, you do not drink enough wine to open a bottle, thinking that it would go to waste fairly quickly, turning into something that would only be good as a cooking ingredient. Restaurants offer wine by the glass, but at home, the choice is limited: you can find half bottles, but, usually, they will be located close to the cashier, like a pariah.