We went for a long walk towards West New York, looking for a place to dine when we stumbled upon PF Chang’s in West New York. I have never been to this place that I heard about in few episodes of Top Chef and was curious to try it. We got a table fairly quickly, although the place was quite crowded.
We passed in front of Irvington, located in the hotel of the same name many times, and, as we were in the area, finally decided to have dinner there. This is a big place, with a nice atmosphere, making you forget that you are in a hotel, and with an open kitchen in the back that was really busy.
It’s been a while since we wanted to try Spa Diner in downtown Hoboken, not that we thought it would be an amazing cuisine, but more for the fact that diners are typical American restaurants that are apparently slowly disappearing in big cities. Yes, when you go to a diner, unless it is an upscale version like Brooklyn Diner, you are expecting comforting and cheap food. But I admit that I was a bit disappointed with Spa Diner: they say they “go the extra smile”, when In fact the service was a bit rude and not as welcoming as their slogan says. Food wise, I did not like it much either and prefer Malibu Diner on the Uptown part of Hoboken. Here is what we had:
We were walking on Vernon Avenue in Long Island City when we saw Tamashii Blue, a Japanese restaurant serving ramen. The weather being a bit cold, we decided to dine there, looking forward to it as we did not have ramen in a while. Service was good and courteous and the appetizer delicious, but less than one hour after leaving the place, I got a massive headache that I guess was from the food, maybe MSG, I do not know. So, no, I would not go back...
You could pass in front of Scalini Fedeli in TriBeCa without even noticing a place that is worth knowing. Beautiful restaurant with a sophisticated decor that could intimidate diners looking for a casual Italian place, Scalini Fedeli serves an amazing menu crafted by Executive chef Michael Cetrulo. But know that they only serve a prix-fixe dinner that for $75 is a great deal. Here is what we had:
There are places where you know you went and had a bad experience but do not remember why. And then suddenly it comes back like a flashback. This is how I felt when we had dinner at Lola’s, a tapas restaurant in Hoboken: wait staff overwhelmed, kitchen backed up, and few vegetarian choices. And a classic Spanish dish not that good, quite dry: yes, I’ll pass on the tortilla española. Too bad because some of the food was really good there. Here is what we had:
With its open kitchen, adjacent to the bar, that also prepares food to go sold in the grocery store, this place has a nice vibe, a great service and no loud music that is something I always notice, going for dinner being for me a moment to share and not to scream.
I love La Sirène, a French restaurant located in Soho that has been opened since 2007. So, when I heard last year that its Chef and owner Didier Pawlicki opened a new location on the Upper West Side, I had it on my list, promising to go there for one dish: the cassoulet. At La Sirène, Chef Pawlicki creates its own version, the Kassulet Toulousain de la maison (homemade). The spelling is intentional: this is not exactly the classic recipe as there is no garlic sausage in it (there is indeed a sausage, but not garlic). His is made with cannellini beans, carrots, tomato, garlic duck confit, slab bacon and pork sausage all braised with duck fat, White Stock and Foie Gras Jus.
I am not sure how I should interpret the name of Bâtard, the Michelin starred restaurant that received many accolades. Bâtard is a bastard in French, with a possible interpretation that the menu crafted by Executive Chef Marcus Glocker, who has an Austrian background, is inspired by multiple European cuisines. The second interpretation is that it refers to a French rustic baguette. I’ll go for the former! Elegant but not stuffy, Bâtard is the sort of classy restaurant where you wonder if you should not have dressed up, their smart casual dress code being surprising considering the experience we had.
“Anyone can cook a hamburger, leave the vegetables to the professionals": this is the motto of Dirt Candy. a vegetarian restaurant located on the Lower East Side where Chef and owner Amanda Cohen serves an original menu where vegetables are the master pieces and not just a side. We went there after a long time blog follower read my review of Elisabeth’s Gone Raw in DC and recommended Dirt Candy for brunch.
Don’t be fooled by its name: although the name L’Adresse is French, this restaurant, located across from Bryant Park is an American bistro. And a good one I would say. We went there for dinner and had some great food, a mix of various cuisines that gave a nice menu with both vegetarian and non vegetarian choices.
If you are looking for a steakhouse that does not look like one, M Wells Steakhouse might be it. You probably wonder why you would go to Long Island City for steak, not knowing that it would take you as much time to go from Midtown to the Lower East Side than going to LIC where there are quite few gems there, Luzzo’s being one I spoke about last week.
Long Island City will never stop to surprise me. Before even the news about LIC being chosen by Amazon for one of its Headquarters, this neighborhood located few subway stops from Midtown Manhattan was up and coming, with plenty of delicious finds there. The last one is fairly new: Adda, an Indian restaurant, result of the collaboration between owner Roni Mazumdar and Executive Chef Chintan Pandya.
Luzzo’s is for me one of the top Neapolitan places in New York, a place that I discovered few years ago on a pizza tour and where I went back few times. They opened quite few locations, the last one being in Long Island City, few steps from the subway.
We went there on a Saturday evening, early, and observed the place starting to fill up, in an area where there are not that many options. Food wise, they have a wide variety of dishes, from pasta to pizza. So we tried both! Here is what we had:
I finally made it to Manhatta, one of the most talked about openings of 2018. This little gem, last project of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, is located on the 60th floor of a high rise building in the Financial District, and boast incredible views of Manhattan. Know that the entrance is on the side of the building it is located in, the staff being probably used to have people asking them where to find the restaurant and directing them at the corner of Liberty and William Streets.
Tim Ho Wan, the acclaimed Hong Kong based dim sum restaurant opened a second location in Hell’s Kitchen after 2 years in the East Village and announcing several future restaurants in the United States. There, Chef Yinghui Zhou, a 30 year dim sum veteran, is serving a menu that I found mainly catered towards non-vegetarian diners. They do have few vegetarian dishes that are properly marked on their menu, but, the day we went, several dishes were not available and most of them were vegetarian!
I love chicken, not as much as my cat, but still. So I was really looking forward to try the poulet frites at Rotisserie Georgette in the Upper East Side. This elegant place, with its partly open kitchen, where you can see the rotisserie in action, is the creation of Georgette Farkas, who worked with famous Chefs like Alain Ducasse or Daniel Boulud.
I am not sure if it was always like that or simply because they also have another restaurant few blocks away, on Washington street, that Charritos decided to go all vegetarian, proposing even vegan dishes. We never went there before as it was always packed, an hungry crowd filling their colorful dining room.
It has been a while since we went to Marseille, one of my favorite French restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen (there are not that many) and I realized that I only went there for lunch or brunch, never for dinner. So it was time to change that! We ended up there on a Friday night, the place mainly filled with theater goers considering that, starting 7:30pm, lots of patrons left…
Yesterday, I was invited by the British Columbia Seafood Festival to slurp some oysters at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, and meet international oyster shucking champion and Guinness Book World Record holder Patrick McMurray aka Shucker Paddy.
Salinas is a Spanish restaurant where Chef Bollo who grew up in Spain is serving a contemporary Spanish menu. Opened in 2011, this place is pretty nice and the dining room where we were seated seemed to cater to couples with its small tables arranged in an intimate setting. So I was excited but my excitement was short lived, the inefficiency and rudeness of the service ruining a bit the whole experience. Food wise, it was interesting and just ok. Know also that if you are vegetarian, the choices are going to be very limited. Here is what we had:
I was craving pasta and our last visit to an Italian restaurant did not satisfy my craving. So, on a Friday evening, I reserved a table at Fabio Cucina Italiana, Midtown East. Nice place, with apparently few regulars and the Chef, Chicco Asante, omnipresent in the dining room.
Food wise, we were there for a treat, and the meal was delicious from beginning to end. Here is what we had:
There is a new Italian restaurant Uptown Hoboken, replacing Las Olas, the Asian fusion restaurant that I will always remember for its delicious wings. Yes, Apulia just opened and I was hoping to see something different considering the number of Italian places in Hoboken, the latest being Zero Otto Uno few months ago. The owners, Franco (originally from Apulia in Italy) and his nephew Frank completely gutted the place that is awkwardly in a U shape, giving more space at the entrance, with a dining room dominated by their wood fire oven. Service was courteous but the noise level was a bit too much for me, the music being too loud.
This post is a catch all for the various treats we had in DC and the last post in fact for that trip. Yes, besides the amazing food we had there, we also had cupcakes, gelato, cookies and milk...shake. Here it is:
Located in the lower level of Pinea, the restaurant of the W hotel near the White House, Root Cellar Whiskey Bar is like a hidden gem. No really, truly hidden and you definitely need to know it is there. This place boasts a large selection of whiskey from all over the world.
As Jodi loves pizza, I looked up for a place close to the National Portait Gallery in DC and stumbled upon Pi Pizzeria, à joint known for its St Louis style cornmeal crust that is said to be President Obama’s favorite pizza. Apparently, while in St Louis, campaigning for the election, President Obama asked one of his staffers to bring him pizza. That is how Pi Pizza ended up on his lap or should I say in his stomach.
I could have passed in front of Kinship without even noticing the one Michelin Star restaurant of Chef Eric Ziebold and partner Célia Laurent. Inconspicuous from the outside and undeniably delicious from the inside, it is like a secret gem that is not anymore secret considering how crowded the place was on a Sunday night. We arrived 5 minutes earlier than our reservation and they sat us in their waiting area with a fireplace that was welcome considering that for our last day in Washington DC, the temperature dropped.
If I were vegetarian I would for sure want to eat regularly at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw in DC. Well maybe I should more say, as a non-vegetarian, if I wanted a vegetarian meal, I would for sure want to eat at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw. This raw-vegan place is simply unique, elevating vegan food to fine dining like I never experienced before. And although there is no doubt that I love meat, I left this place as excited as if I just had the best steak of my life (I did in fact in Japan but it is another story).
We went to Zaytinya so long ago that we were really looking forward to having brunch at this Mediterranean tapas restaurant from Chef José Andrés. After our great experience at Jaleo, we were sure we would not be disappointed. And we were not. Meaning “olive oil” in Turkish, Zaytinya proposes a wide array of small plates with a large selection of vegetarian dishes.
Meaning “fuss” in Spanish, Jaleo is a Spanish tapas restaurant of acclaimed Chef José Andrés that I discovered few years ago on Top Chef and while dining in its other DC restaurant, Zaytinya that we also visited during our trip to the capital. Jaleo is a little jewel, with an incredible menu that can be a bit overwhelming, having many choices to pick for the vegetarians and carnivores. But do not think you can just show up on a Friday night for dinner: reservation is highly recommended.
What you need to know about me is that when I am walking in the street, my head is like a radar looking around for restaurants and I often stop to simply look at the menu, even if I already ate...What I saw when we passed next to Cata on the Lower East Side was their dining room that was open. Not the menu. That was enough for me to grab my smartphone to check the menu there as, this time, we were looking for a place for dinner. Contemporary tapas ? Why not. We had an early lunch so were fine for an early dinner and we just waited for them to open, thinking that on top of that it would be quiet.
Going to Junoon for dinner, we passed in front of Tappo and, as Jodi loves pizza, we decided to go there for lunch the next day. So here we are, on a Saturday for lunch, arriving at the moment they opened. We sat outside, enjoying the nice weather and gave our order. Then we waited, waited and waited. As they saw we started being impatient, they advised us that they gave priority to a delivery of 25 pies. Not very professional as they knew when we ordered that they had this order and should have told us that they had to take care of that, and so our pizza would be delayed. No, it was as if they were annoyed by our impatience.
If like me you love chicken wings, you need to try Anchor Bar on 57th street: this is the outpost of the original restaurant located in Buffalo, credited with the creation of the Buffalo chicken wings in the 1960s. At that time, wings were used in soups or thrown away; owner Teressa Bellissimo got the idea to deep fry them and smother them in Frank’s Red Hot sauce, serving them with blue cheese sauce. Incredibly, they were served for free at the counter, before becoming an icon of American Bar food. My first encounter with Buffalo wings was in New York when I moved here as I only tried chicken wings in Paris at...Pizza Hut!
When you think that Mighty Quinn’s started as a cart in Smorgasburg in Brooklyn and now they have two locations in the city, the latest being few steps from Times Square. The one in the East Village is always crowded but not this new one that opened several months ago but does not seem to have gotten enough attention from the BBQ crowd or the tourists...That worked for us a we going with our friends Amy and Caleb on a Thursday evening and arrived a bit early to make sure we would have a spot for the four of us.
I cannot believe I missed The Marshall for so many years, this place having been opened since 2013. It is probably because I often went for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue and started to go on 10th more and more this year, discovering true gems there. And The Marshall is one of them. Imagine: we went there for brunch on a Saturday and returned the following Tuesday to try their dinner. That is telling!
I love chicken: fried, pan seared, rotisserie, you name it. I discovered fried chicken in the US many years ago in a Southern cuisine restaurant and was blown away. Well, it has to be good: crispy with the chicken perfectly cooked and moist. The coating should also not overpower the taste of the chicken by having too much seasoning and I like when it is slightly greasy. So I was excited to try the second location of Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken that opened few months ago in Hell’s Kitchen and the cafeteria style joint lived up to my expectations.
Some consider Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint the best pizza in New York and, considering the line in front of it on a Saturday at 5pm, they are not just a few! Jodi tried to go last Tuesday with her friends but it was difficult to get a table so they ended up in a different pizza joint. So we decided to try, last Saturday, thinking that at 5pm, when they open, there would probably not be that many people, the crowd probably enjoying some happy hour elsewhere. We were wrong: we arrived at 5:05pm and there was a line outside.
I finally made it to Union Square Café, the first restaurant of acclaimed chef and entrepreneur Danny Meyer that reopened in a new location. I am glad it did as I was stunned by the news that it would close. I love the concept that Danny Meyer apparently tried to instill when opening it to make it successful: focus on customer satisfaction that is something I experienced in most of his fine dining restaurants, like Gramercy Tavern or The Modern (I still rave about this place), but also in more casual, like Marta. And I think that the non-tipping part of it is a great idea, allowing everyone in the staff to share the tip, sharing that is otherwise not permitted by law if I remember well.
I recently went to Blondie Sports on the Upper West Side with one of my colleagues, Michael, who loves chicken wings and recommended the place. I know the area, having gone to the restaurant next door, Burke & Willis, an Australian joint that serves a delicious kangaroo burger.
Blondie Sports Bar is your typical bar with one one side the bar and then a quite dark dining room with multiple screens where people can watch games. I am sure that it is crazy at that point and was glad we went on an off night.
Opened in 2016, Le Coq Rico is the outpost in New York City of the restaurant of the same name in Paris from acclaimed Chef Antoine Westermann. Originally from Alsace in the east of France, Chef Westermann maintained a 3 Michelin Star rating in his restaurant Le Buerehiesel for 31 years until asking the Michelin Guide to remove them, a quite incredible move for a Chef. The name Le Coq Rico is a play on cocorico, the French version of Cock-a-doodle-doo (yes, roosters speak French too!) and is, in the US, a tribute to American farmers and local terroir.
When Matt & Meera closed few months ago, I was heartbroken: I loved this place and we tried most of their menu, my favorite being the wings, the lamb kati roll, the dal tadka and the old Delhi butter chicken. But, to my surprise, it was just a revamp of the restaurant and Chef Hari Nayak came back with Soul Curry, an innovative Indian restaurant that definitely stands out. New decor and new menu, we already went twice since they opened less than 3 weeks ago and trust me: we will be back! I love the decor with the beautiful painting that dominates the dining room and the exposed brick that gives a nice warmth to this place.
We recently went to Greenwich Steakhouse, where Chef Victor Chavez, an alumni of Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, serves various cuts in a modern setting far from your classic Steakhouse. I admit that I am not that impressed by the Smith & Wollensky reference as I never liked that place, having tried it few times for lunch or dinner: poor service and just ok overpriced food coming into mind. But hey, it does not mean that the same would reflect at Greenwich Steakhouse. In fact, the service was courteous and efficient. As far as the food was concerned, it unfortunately did not deliver for me: the steak was not what I expected and the dessert not good. At least I got a good cocktail, The Johnny Prime, made with vanilla infused whiskey, cynar, ruby, port, and mole butters. I should mention that this cocktail is named after a fellow blogger whose blog is mainly about steaks (check it out here).
As we got married on a 8th, we always go out that day and so I decided to find a pizza place as Jodi loves pizza. That is how we ended up at PN Wood Fired Pizza in Chelsea. This is not your classic pizza place: I guess they call themselves the “black Sheep” or Pecore Nere (PN) in Italian because they make pizza a bit differently. They put pride in saying that they do not break the rules, they make them. Considering how good the food was, I have no problem with that!
Corner Bistro, the famous so called “bohemian” pub has a new location in Long Island City. It was not our first target there, going for some Vietnamese food, but, when we saw it, we could not resist. Opened in 1961 in the West Village, this place serves an amazing burger that some have named the best in New York. Yes, it is good for sure: the 8oz patty is tasty and juicy, sitting on a slice of onion that will enhance a bit the flavor of the meat, and squeezed between two pieces of a potato bun that seem too small to hold everything (especially when you put ketchup on it), making the experience delightfully messy.
I finally made it to Stingray Lounge in Hoboken: I waited for Jodi to have plan for dinner to go, not because I did not want to go with her, but more because of you are vegetarian, this is not really the right place for you. Unless you like cheese...I am sure though that if you ask nicely, the chef will prepare a salad or something you can eat so you do not spend your evening staring at your partner or friends enjoying their seafood.
Fusion food is always interesting, not just when people experiment but more when it is part of a culture. So I was curious to try Calle Daõ, a Cuban-Chinese restaurant located close to Bryant Park. It was not my first meal of this sort, having dined in the past few times at La Caridad on the Upper West Side, a much more casual place. I liked the food there, that I found quite creative, but the dimmed lights and loud music spoiled a bit the meal. So if like me you like to see your food and a quieter setting, I suggest you either go for lunch (hopefully quieter) or sit close to the door, on the few tables next to the windows...
Serving an all-you-can-eat vegetarian menu inspired from Gujarati cuisine, Vatan is the kind of restaurants that a non-vegetarian person like me would rave about: the food that they serve there is so good and full of flavor that you will forget you are having a vegetarian dinner. I love the concept: for $34 you get a full meal: an appetizer thali (slightly spicy), an entree thali (you can choose between mild, medium and hot) with its sides and desserts. As it is all you can eat, they ask you if you'd like more but trust me: it is so filling that you will not order as much as you think!
The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City is a great place to learn: it has an amazing setup and their planetarium is awesome. So we were excited when I got an invite for their evening event, LSC After Dark, that takes place every third Thursdays of the month: Grossology - The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body, where you can climb in various parts of the human body (you can see the inside of the nose) or play games that reveal the secrets of boogers, vomit, odors, and more. Yes, it is gross but at the end of the day, it is what we are and be honest: this type of stuff makes people laugh..I have to say it was entertaining as well as educational and I enjoyed it!
Boasting 13 locations across the US, Hot’n Juicy Crawfish serves seafood creole and Cajun style. Yes, seafood and mainly seafood. If you do not like it or are allergic, unless you are ready to eat corn, rice and potatoes, this place is not for you. But if you like crab, crawfish, shrimp or lobster, it is a fun experience. Notice the way I put it and understand that when I say a “fun experience” it means that I personally would not go often there, prices being high considering what ends up in your belly once you eliminate the shells that make up most of the weight of the food you order.
I love diners: they represent something I associated with the US during my childhood as I watched a lot of American series where there would be a scene at a booth, as characters were enjoying milkshakes (introduced in France by MacDonald’s and Ben & Jerry’s) or burgers (well also introduced by fast food chains although when a kid I did not like ground meat and always settled for a filet’o fish...). So I was excited to try Big Daddy’s Diner near Union Square: the neon and walls covered with American TV series names, singers, etc, giving a particular feel to the place.
After our incredible meal at Daniel, the eponymous restaurant of acclaimed Chef Daniel Boulud, we were looking forward to dining at Café Boulud, located at The Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side. Boasting one Michelin Star, Café Boulud celebrates 20 years of existence in what used to be Daniel’s original location and is a nod to the Chef’s family run restaurant in Lyon (just so you know, Lyon is considered the capital of French gastronomy, although I am sure some people would disagree). The menu, prepared by Chef Aaron Bludorn, is very interesting, declined in four sections:
Last Tuesday, I was invited at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem for the launch of the Bazodee line of sauces, a set of Caribbean sauces from Mavis Foods, LLC. I love the story of this company: it all started with Ms. Mavis Davis, the daughter of a family of 12 children who has been cooking since she was 13 years old, complaining about the family not cooking and losing the legacy of the Caribbean and Venezuelan dishes carried from one generation to the other. That is how Bazodee, that means crazy, head over heels in love in Trinidad and Tobago, started.
I recently went to Ikinari Steak, the Japanese chain with few locations in New York where steaks are cut to order and customers are supposed to eat standing. For the latter, if you go to the location midtown, you will be properly seated. However, it is true that they cut the meat to order, with limited choices: ribeye, filet, sirloin and a cut I never heard about called wild steak that the waitress was not able to explain.
With a name signifying “passion”, there is added pressure for Junoon to deliver elegant contemporary Indian cuisine. Since opening in 2010, Junoon has been awarded a Michelin Star. Yes, 7 years: not a small accomplishment for a cuisine that is sometimes misunderstood. It has been a while since we wanted to go, but the list of restaurants on my list being what it is, it was often postponed: I regret it. The food crafted by Executive Chef Akshay Bardhwaj being superb, creative and beautifully plated. It is served in a nice atmosphere where the only negative is the light: it is so dimmed you cannot eat with your eyes.
Last Sunday, I ventured to Rego Park were I was invited to try a kosher Uzbeki and Middle Eastern restaurant: U Yuri Fergana. It means “Yuri from Fergana”, Fergana being the city from Uzbekistan from where Yuri Moshev and his wife Myra are from. Myra is the chef: she has been cooking since she is 15 back there and serves some of her grandmother’s recipes for the pleasure of their patrons. You would ask me probably what makes this place so unique, the city having many Uzbeki restaurants? Well, Yuri and Myra own their own livestock that they raise organically. At least they know where the meat comes from.
Back in May, I got an opportunity to dine at Nusr-Et Steakhouse, the restaurant from Chef Nusret Gökçe aka Saltbae, a social media sensation known from the way he cuts meat and even more famous, his signature move when putting salt. I knew he was there thanks to Instagram, and, as I was having lunch with a colleague, I proposed to go there for their lunch special where, for $27 you get a burger with fries, a soda and a slice of baklava. And of course, I got to witness the Chef do his show at the table next to us.
Chat’n Chew is not unknown to me as I went there many years ago, before they closed, back in 2014, and reopened few months ago where City Crab Shack used to be. I remember that at the time, I was not that impressed by this place that serves comfort food, having wings and Mac & cheese that I thought were subpar (yes, I usually remember what I ate in restaurants, even if years ago, but may not remember your name...). So we decided to check it out after an exhibit organized by the New York Academy of Art, where Jodi had 4 paintings. It was not our first choice to be honest, but the few restaurants we entered in on that Tuesday evening were way too loud, blasting music.
Gabriel Kreuther, the eponymous restaurant from Jean-Georges and The Modern Alum Chef is another example of how fine dining continues to thrive in New York. There, Executive Chef Kreuther and his team craft a luxurious menu with the Chef’s Alsatian influence. The prix-fixe menu offers mouth watering dishes where you can choose between 4, 6 or 9 courses. We chose the former that was enough, especially when considering the amuse that were served or the three variety of breads that accompanied the meal, a different kind after each course:
We have known Luca Brasi’s in Hoboken for many years but only ordered there and never went to their restaurant, until our lunch on July 4th. We wanted to try a new location on Washington street that serves sandwiches but it was closed for the holiday. So we looked around and as we wanted sandwiches, we ended up at Luca Brasi’s. This small Italian place takes its name from the fictional character of The Godfather. So, no wonder why they decorated the place with black and white photos of gangsters, fictional or not and, funny enough, they have a Luca Brasi sandwich made with tuna, a nod to the movie where the enforcer is killed and thrown into a body of water, “sleeping with the fishes”.
We often crave Italian food and were looking for a nice place for a Friday night, looking at the list of Michelin star restaurants in the city. That is how we ended up at La Sirena. When reserving the table, I chose the dining room instead of the bar room: it was a bit of a mistake in a way. Yes it was quiet, but I thought that the bar room had more character, the dining room being a bit...boring.
Last Sunday, we went with our friends Jen and Gary to see the David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and Jodi was tasked to find a brunch place. Her pick: The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights, where Chef Saul Bolton of SAUL Restaurant in the Brooklyn Museum, Red Gravy in Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Bangers serves an interesting menu in a very relaxed atmosphere. And the food there was phenomenal! In fact, it has been a while I did not have such good brunch and I am talking about brunch in its literal sense, not a meal during brunch time that has nothing to do with what a brunch should be.
It might be easier to find somebody in Grand Central Terminal than finding Agern, a Michelin Star restaurant serving seasonal Danish cuisine. If I would not have found a directory in Vanderbilt Hall, I think I would have ended up calling them to ask for directions, Google Maps being useless once you enter in the beautiful train station that is Grand Central.
I admit that our initial plan was not to go to Juniper Bar for brunch last Saturday, but, after I saw a photo of their burger on instagram, we switched plan. The photo showed a big piece of brie on top of a patty: so mouth watering that I could not wait. So, on our way, we looked at their website, to make sure there were vegetarian options for Jodi and, on their menu, saw "The burger", an 8 oz Pat LaFrieda short rib blend burger where you could add cheese like American, goat, cheddar, pepper jack, fontina or camembert, or an organic fried egg or even bacon. At that point, I thought that it was a mistake: camembert and brie are two different French cheeses, but brie has cream in it, giving it a higher fat content.
The Uptown part of Hoboken can be challenging for restaurants and when Charrito's Uptown closed, we were wondering how long the space would be vacant and then what type of restaurant would open there. And then came Tosti, a breakfast and brunch place. Nice decor, much brighter than the very dimmer Charrito's, it has a relaxed atmosphere.
On one of the days, my sister proposed to go with my mom to Lyon, also known as the capitale of gastronomy in France, where many great chefs either started or made their own career, the most famous of all being Chef Paul Bocuse who unfortunately passed last year. So, not surprising, this icon of the French culinary world has a food hall named after him. This is where we started our visit. It was a week day so not all stalls were opened, but we got to salivate in front of lots of them: cheese, wine, cookies, pastries, chocolate, fish, foie gras and various animal pieces (some only French people would eat) were laid out in front of our hungry eyes.
It is not the first time we dined at Les Jardins de Sainte Cécile, a restaurant located in the old convent of Sainte-Cécile in Grenoble. This is a nice place that combines both the old from the convent with a modern feel.
Although I love French food, not just because I grew up with it, I admit that there is one item that I rarely order when going to France and it is red meat. I find the meat in the US much better, tastier and tender, and I am not even talking about the meat from Japan or Argentina that is fantastic. So, as I was visiting my family in Grenoble, I remembered that last year, there was a Steakhouse under construction and was hoping to try it. Unfortunately, it was not there, replaced by something else. I was so disappointed.
When visiting my family in France, there is always something bothering me more than anything else: restaurants’ hours. A lot of them are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and in fact, few where we wanted to go to were unfortunately closed. But thanks to the internet, we found few options and this is how we ended up at La Ferme a Dédé close to the train station. We knew this place as we tried one of their restaurants a couple of years ago and I was raving about their farm raised chicken with morel sauce.
Located in a small street near the center of Grenoble, La Factory Gangi is an Italian restaurant where you would go for the atmosphere more than the food. Don’t get me wrong, the food, that also includes French dishes and is not what you would expect in a classic Italian place, is decent, with good prices, but it is more the sens of hospitality that stood out. And you could tell that regulars are going there to enjoy a good time.
When going to France, there are few things that i always want to eat and crepes are no exception. This specialty from Bretagne are so good! And you have an infinity of options for their fillings: the classic ham and cheese, smoked salmon with crème fraîche or less classic, a beef patty, like a variation on a burger.
We were recently at Le Singe, formerly known as Le Singe Vert in Chelsea, to meet Jodi's cousin Rebecca for brunch. It has been a while that I had that place on my radar and it was a good opportunity to try it. The dining room definitely had the feel of a French brasserie, as did the menu. We started our meal by sharing their French toast casserole, that is a crème brulée flavored baked French toast with caramelized apples, topped with crème fraîche. We added some maple sugar and that was perfect: delicious, it was caramelized on top, the best part in fact.
Located few steps from the High Line, Cookshop is a trendy place for sure and it is not that easy to get a table there. So, the best time, if you can is during the week, for lunch: much quieter, although people start showing up at 12:30pm.
There is a new Italian restaurant in Hoboken: Zero Otto Uno, located where Mamoun's Falafel used to be before moving a few blocks away. And I admit that it is a very nice addition to the city. We went there for lunch and dinner and each time had great meals with a nice service.
Ali Baba is a Middle Eastern restaurant located on Washington street in Hoboken. This place has been there for so many years. We often ordered but it has been a while since we had dinner there and, one day, we went as I really wanted to try their couscous. This is where we heard about Barbes, a Moroccan and French place that opened several weeks ago few blocks from there, that has an amazing food, especially the tagines and couscous.
When we went to Rouge Tomate Chelsea, I did not know what to expect. On one hand, I remembered a dinner that I found ok and quite pricey at the time they were Uptown (they closed in 2014); on the other hand, I was intrigued by their Michelin Star. So we decided to give it a try on a Friday night. The place was nice, with its open kitchen in the main dining room, exposed brick and reclaimed wood, as a testimony to the commitment of sustainability of the owners.
When we booked our table at Nix for Memorial Day, I not only did not know what to expect, but also did not know where the name of the restaurant came from, until they gave us the check and a post card with Nix vs. Hedden was attached to it. This is an interesting case that made its way to the Supreme Court: Nix v. Hedden, was a decision by the Supreme Court in 1893 that, under U.S. customs regulations, tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable and not as a fruit. The Washington Post gave last year an interesting insight on this case:
Two weeks ago, we decided to try Surf Tacos in Hoboken, NJ. This place replaced the fantastic Taco Truck that unfortunately closed last year, the brick and mortar restaurant not being as successful as the trucks. So the stakes were high, any place serving tacos in that location being for sure compared to its predecessor.
We spotted Il Falco few months ago, while going to LIC Market in Long Island City. And, as we were planning to have dinner in that same area, we decided to try it. Interesting place: quite dark, you will hear the waiters speak Italian, in a setting that makes you think you are in an old school Italian restaurant.
Continuing my quest to try all the Michelin Star restaurants in New York City, I was intrigued by Casa Enrique, a Mexican place located in Long Island City. Some may ask how come Long Island City, also called LIC, can be considered part of NYC: know that some of its neighborhoods are located in Brooklyn, a borough of NYC. At least, besides stuffing my face with a Mexican meal, I learned something...Anyway, Casa Enrique, the restaurant of Executive Chef Cosme Aguilar can show off one star, already a good accomplishment. What is interesting, is that there seems to be a gap between a one and two stars: you will find lots of casual restaurants like Casa Enrique in the one star category, but certainly not in the two stars section where Daniel, The Modern or Marea share the fame.
I recently went to Canada and flew for the first time out of LaGuardia airport. Not such a good idea considering how messy this airport is with all that construction, but I admit that I was impressed by the digital experience they offer to the passenger, especially in their food court. Each table was equipped with an iPad where you could select your order and then check out, so it would be taken into account by the kitchen. Of course, you had to be careful to close the tab because otherwise the next person sitting at your spot could enjoy a nice meal thanks to you.
Meaning “The Center of the world”, Gaonnuri is a Korean restaurant located on the 39th floor of an office building, offering breathtaking views of Manhattan. This is definitely unique in Korea Town and, to get a seat next to a window, you apparently need to book a table a month in advance with a special request. We did not and got seated in one of the comfortable booths.
Jodi was recently in Chicago for a show where one of her paintings was selected for, but, unfortunately I had to travel for work and could not go with her. I not only regretted not being present for the event itself, but also not being able to explore the food scene in the windy city, especially the deep dish pizza Chicago is known for. I admit that the only place where I tried these pizza was at Pizza Uno, so we wanted to see if there was another place in New York. That is how we found Emmett's a small joint with a rustic and warm feel located downtown.
After the service issue and the so so meal we had at Rosa Mexicanos for Jodi's birthday, I surprised her by reserving a table over the week end at Empellon Midtown, the latest venture of chef and founder Alex Stupak, who gave us the wonderful Empellon Taqueria where we went a couple of times, enjoying both the brunch and dinner. The place opened few month ago in a setting that is a bit more spectacular, more upscale than its sister restaurant, and so, it has a different vibe and crowd.
For her birthday, Jodi wanted to eat Mexican food, but only in a restaurant that makes guacamole. You may find it obvious that a Mexican restaurant would serve guacamole as an appetizer, but in fact, one of my colleagues suggested a place few months ago, but we did not go simply because there was no guacamole. So she picked Rosa Mexicano, the popular elegant Mexican chain where I had dinner few weeks ago. The food was good, but I admit that the poor service wrecked a bit the evening. You know, I like to spend some time with my wife sharing a meal, but it has to be on my own terms.
Opened last February, Ruumy's Tavern is the last venture of restauranteur Mike Kocak who also owns Akdeniz, a Mediterranean restaurant located Midtown West (Ruumy is the nickname of one of his relatives). There, Executive Chef Matthew Sadownick, who worked at Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, crafted an interesting menu that he calls comfort food, made of small dishes as well as large ones. This is the interesting thing: we had a debate with the Chef and my fellow bloggers who were present at the dinner about what comfort food is as they disagreed with the concept.
Jodi and I were supposed to see the open studio of Peter Drake, an amazing painter who is also the dean of the New York Academy of Art where Jodi studied. So we decided to find a place in Dumbo where the studio is and stumbled upon Atrium, a restaurant that serves seasonal dishes.
We were walking around while waiting for our reservation for brunch at Talde in Jersey City, few blocks from the Grove St path train, when we stumbled upon Torico, an homemade ice cream parlor. It did not take long for us to decide to go back there after lunch for dessert, the weather being perfect for it.
For my birthday, I proposed to go to Butcher & Banker, a Steakhouse that opened several months ago that I really wanted to try. Located in the New Yorker Hotel, few blocks from Penn Station and The Madison Square Garden, it used to House the Manufacturers Trust Company and they smartly kept the vault, transforming it into a dining room. I like the place because it has its charm and is not your typical steakhouse. No dark colors or leather, but lots of red, and, in the main dining room, an amazing chandelier. But, what you cannot miss are the two black and white portraits that have a strange presence in the room.
Few years ago, we went to Talde, the eponymous restaurant of Top Chef alum Dale Talde, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I totally forgot that he opened a second location in Jersey City and we simply stumbled upon it while going to a brunch place. Well, we decided to change plans, persuaded that we would have a great experience there. And we were not disappointed. This is a big place and we were definitely early, the restaurant being empty, quiet so we could enjoy our brunch. But when we passed by a bit later, it was quite busy.
I finally made it to Nusr-Et Steakhouse, the NYC outpost of Chef Nusret Gökçe aka Saltbae, a social media sensation known from the way he cuts meat (he is a trained butcher) and put salt on dishes, falling on his forearm. When it opened several weeks ago, the reviews were not that good: expensive (they do not even serve tap water!) and not good, with some sanitary concerns that could have violated the health code (you should not touch the meat with your bare hands once cooked; Salbae is now wearing gloves). But I admit that, when I went, I found the food excellent, although still expensive, and the evening quite entertaining, each dish being kind of a show.
A couple of weeks ago, we went close to South Street Seaport to an art exhibit called Art on Paper. After that , we wanted to have dinner in the Financial District, remembering our experience with our friends at Adrienne's Pizza Bar, when we noticed a bunch of restaurants we wanted to try. For sure the atmosphere of Stone street was different this time as there were no tables outside and besides a couple of drunk people going from one bar to another, it was very quiet. We were looking for a place when we stumbled upon Vintry, a Wine and Whisky bar, that seemed welcoming.
On a Saturday, we were supposed to have lunch at Mi Nidito, a Mexican restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. After booking a table on Openable.com, I received a text from the owner who told me that they were not open for lunch and proposed to go to Mamasita, its sister restaurant located on 10th avenue, a couple of blocks away, that serves the exact same menu. We were craving Mexican food, so we accepted. Mamasita is a casual place that offers an impressive number of margaritas. But, it was not something I was looking for for lunch, having things to do in the afternoon...We started off our meal with guacamole. It was good, fresh and not spicy, as requested.
We were walking on 10th on a Saturday, going uptown to a Mexican restaurant we wanted to try for lunch, when we stumbled upon Method, a Japanese restaurant I never noticed before, although it has been opened for a year and we passed in front of it so many times. So, we decided to go back that day for dinner, after some time spent in the City. We showed up at 5:30pm, when they opened, and were surprised when they asked us if we had a reservation as we were the first to arrive and the restaurant was empty. Well, it was empty for maybe 30 minutes and the totally packed. After trying their food, I understood why: it was simply magnificent!
We passed in front of Tacuba so many times that we thought we should finally try it. And we did twice within a week, one time for brunch and the other one for dinner, brunch having a much quieter atmosphere. So you can imagine that it was a good experience...
I am sure some of you may wonder what I was doing dining in Times Square considering that lots of restaurants there only care about foot traffic and less about returning customers, catering to a crowd made of tourists and theater goers who do not know that Hell's Kitchen even exists. And after that sad experience few weeks ago at Da Marino, one would think that I would not try again. Well, I did as I had nice surprise in the past and was thinking that maybe this one would be added to my list of unknown gems in that area. The food was overall good and prices reasonable, but the service really needs some improvement:
Located few steps from Central Park in the 1 Hotel Central Park, Jams, the restaurant of Celebrity Chef Jonathan Waxman is a little gem. I am always a bit apprehensive when going to a restaurant attached to a hotel, but at Jams, I was blown away. With its open kitchen in the back where the magic happens, the beautiful decor with its exposed brick and reclaimed oak, as well as the large windows, Jams serves an interesting menu made of seasonal dishes, some made to share.
Lotus Blue Dongtian Kitchen and Bar is not unknown to me as we knew their location in TriBeCa that was definitely more spectacular than this new one near Union Square. This restaurant serves Chinese cuisine, Yunan inspired, with a bunch of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. I started the meal by ordering a cocktail and chose the Toki Old Fashioned, made with Suntory Whiskey Toki, a splash of grapefruit and bitters. It was very good, delightfully tart.
After we went to Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken for brunch few weeks ago, we were really looking forward to trying their dinner menu. We had a reservation at 7pm with Opentable.com, but were told that seating would be between 7pm and 8pm and that we could sit at the bar. We arrived 15 minutes earlier (it was a Friday) and got indeed seated at the bar, although I noticed some empty tables behind us. And guess what: 10 minutes after and a cocktail down my throat, we sat to one of these same tables. I could not not think that it was a way to make people order drinks...Anyway, we were really wise to go early as, at 7:30pm, the place was packed, with tons of people waiting in the bar area and no table available.
Located in Princeton University’s new Arts and Transit neighborhood and across from The McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, Cargot Brasserie is a French inspired restaurant that opened in July 2017. We got invited there last week for lunch, an occasion to go to Princeton not just for that, but also to visit one of our friends, Livia.
The last place we tried at Urbanspace Vanderbilt was La Palapa, a mexican restaurant that is not unknown to us as we went few times to their East Village location (great French toast for brunch!). Perfect for a quick bite, it was not the best tacos though...Here is what I tried:
Guacamole and chips: good but this is a tiny portion that they give! There is a larger portion but it is not worth the $15 they ask for. Otherwise, the guacamole, not made to order, was good.
No need to go to Brooklyn anymore to have a delicious taste of Roberta's: their outpost at Urbanspace Vanderbilt is superb! Yes, the pizzas are small and a bit pricey, but they are worth it. These small neapolitan pizzas serve one person, allowing people to share a bunch. I love the crust that is crispy on the outside and deliciously charred and they offer a nice selection that can satisfy vegetarian and non-vegetarian patrons. For instance, we tried:
Mr Bing, located in Urbanspace Vanderbilt, serves jianbing, traditional Northern Chinese crepes, a street food that the founder, Brian Goldberg, tried while studying Chinese in Beijing in 1998. The way the crepes or bings are made is with mung bean, rice and wheat flour crepe coated with egg, sesame seeds, scallions, hoisin sauce, crispy chili paste, cilantro, and crunchy wontons. Then, you can pick the filling. Jodi ordered the classic vegetarian bing that is the crepe with no filling.
I love fried chicken, a dish I never had in France if it was not at...KFC in Paris! Yes, fried chicken is not something that you would find in classic French cooking, and I think it is too bad as I love it! So, I was really looking forward to try Delaney Chicken at Urbanspace Vanderbilt. Their menu is simple: chicken, chicken and chicken, offering three types of sandwiches.
I love food halls as they offer some food diversity, perfect if people have different tastes and usually not too pricey. We discovered last year Urbanspace Vanderbilt, a food hall located few steps from Grand Central, that hosts 20 different vendors, from Japanese ramen (Ippudo), lobster rolls (Luke's Lobster), to burgers and shakes (Hard Times Sundaes). We went for the latter, trying not just the burgers, but also their old fashioned egg cream, an item that screams Americana, that was quite good.
Finally! Choc-O-Pain, the French bakery located Downtown Hoboken just opened an Uptown location, replacing Ganache in the Hudson Tea Building. It is a good move as the north part of the city is missing some places like this, Brod finally withdrawing their project to open in the Maxwell Place building, close to La Isla.
Choc-O-Pain Uptown is quite big, with a lot of light thanks to the large windows, with even a small room where people with kids can enjoy some time there.
For Valentine's Day, we decided to go back to Boucherie, but we discovered that they just opened, a couple of days before, a new location near Union Square, on Park Avenue South. I admit that we are always a bit reticent to go out that day because a lot of restaurants are packed (kitchen overwhelmed and short in staff) or propose an overpriced prix-fixe. But, considering the meal we had the week before in their West Village location, we thought it would be worth trying.
We recently discovered Boucherie, butcher shop in French, a restaurant in the West Village that is conveniently located close to the Christopher Street subway stop. With its brasserie feel, this place is quite big, with two dining rooms that boast a nice decor made of old commercials and photos, and white tiles to give that butcher shop feel.
When I booked a table at Da Marino on Opentable, I did not realize I passed many times in front of this place, where every time, there was somebody outside the restaurant haranguing the crowd to persuade them to come have a meal there, something that I always thought was unnecessary if a place is good. Well, too late: we already had a reservation and I was set on having spaghetti alle vongole, one of my favorite Italian dishes, as well as a tiramisu (yes, I most of the time know what I will be eating as we always scrutinize the menu before going).
We recently discovered a great place in Long Island City called The Baroness. Located few steps from Queensborro Plaza, it is a burger bar that serves fantastic burgers! Well, fortunately for them as this is their main purpose, but no, really, their burgers are so good that we went twice in a week. They have close to 20 different beef burgers made with Pat Lafrieda meat, that they cook medium rare and bring with a knife planted into them adding a bit of drama to the presentation. But, if you do not like beef, you can have lamb, chicken, ahi tuna or a vegetarian patty (that is house made), but with a much limited choice, all on the menus that are presented in old record sleeves.
I love Qi, a Thai restaurant serving a modern fair that relocated from Times Square to Hell's Kitchen, at the location where Chef Pichet Ong opened Chaan Teng, an eclectic Chinese restaurant end of 2016, that unfortunately closed. It is unfortunate as Chaan Teng was pretty good, but at least, it gives Qi a better chance to attract customers, the restaurant in Times Square being beautiful, but not the best location, with people also wondering if it was a lounge considering the feel it had. In Hell's kitchen, there is no doubt, even with the music playing, that they are serving food.
We were looking for a restaurant on a Friday when we stumbled upon The Little Beet Table, a place located few steps from the Flatiron that focusses on local ingredients, mostly vegetarian, with only few non-vegetarian dishes. Their menu is interesting as the plates show some creativity: it is not an after thought and, for a carnivore like me, quite satisfying. Here are the dishes we tried:
The last time I went to Mont Blanc 52, it was called Maria's Mont Blanc and was located in the Theater District: same owners but different location as they lost their lease. The one on 52nd has less exposure to foot traffic, but equally good and welcoming. We went there for dinner, eager to try this time their cheese fondue. I admit that I was surprised about the price, as, for $54 of two, it seems a bit overpriced, and did not expect having a salad and some fried potatoes (called rosti) that then explained the price.
One of my colleagues, Abe, has been talking about Basta Pasta for a while and so, Jodi and I decided to go there for dinner. Little did I know that this place first opened in Tokyo, back in 1985, with the concept of having an open kitchen so diners could enjoy a sort of cooking show, offering entertainment as well as good food. Five years later, they opened their Chelsea location, where Chef Takada crafted a creative menu inspired from classic Italian dishes.
So right now is Restaurant Week until February 9th. I have to say that I am on a fence when it comes to Restaurant Week: it is a great event, but not all restaurants are embracing the principle that is for diners to discover restaurants and, in a way, want to come back to try their regular menu. No, some restauranteurs simply lower the quality of their food: too bad. But I have to say that Ruth's Chris is not like that: first of all, they have a delicious lunch menu that they serve all year long, crafting a menu for restaurant week is not too far fetched.
I recently went to Yakiniku Futago, few blocks from Union Square and I was blown away: the food there is superb and there is a nice and relaxed atmosphere, all the ingredients for a great evening. The decor is beautiful, elegant and zen, with a noise level that was perfect considering that I like to enjoy a good conversation with a meal.
We wanted to have a burger or maybe I should write I wanted to have a burger, and decided to go to check out Kings of Kobe, a place I found on instagram. This place is an odd to Americana, serving burgers and hotdogs made with all natural American wagyu beef. So I was expecting quality burgers, as going for both a burger and a hotdog would have been too much considering the size of the hotdogs they serve.
It took me some time to post about my brunch at Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken, but there are places like that that you cannot forget and I admit that their menu was quite interesting and the experience good, to the point that I am still looking forward to going back for dinner.
Alright, this post is a bit overdue, but I admit that the experience at Ice and Vice was quite memorable, their ice cream being quite original, with flavors like hibiscus, rose and Swedish fish fluff for their seasonal red ice cream, or cucumber, lemon-verbena, ginger basil-seed for their green ice cream. I have seen so many people posting photos on Instagram that we decided to go there, close to Chinatown, and I admit that, although very creative, it does not measure up to Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream, that is a fantastic place. Here is what we tried:
Few weeks ago, we decided to try Del Frisco's Grille at Rockefeller Plaza. Not that this place was totally unknown to us as we tried their location in Hoboken and I admit that at the time, I liked the brunch, but less the dinner. When we arrived, the place was packed and we were glad to be seated in the back of the dining room, a space that was less noisy and had a bit more light.
When people think about Hell's Kitchen, they think about 9th avenue, disregarding the great places that are on 10th. Ok, there are not as many there, but you can really find good quality food. One example is Mémé Mediterranean, a place that proposes Mediterranean tapas with a large Moroccan influence. In fact, mémé is an old word for grandma, the work mamie being used more often. Brothers Alon and Jacob Cohen decided to call it Mémé as an homage to their mother, called this way by their children and cousins.
You probably think this post is déjà vu as I already described twice my experience at Chimichurri Grill, once in their Midtown East location where I was invited for a blog dinner, another one when I went to their restaurant in Hell's Kitchen with some friends. I have been talking so much about this Argentinian Steakhouse that Jodi absolutely wanted to go there; so I booked a table on Opentable for a Friday night and here we were, at Chimichurri Grill East, in their beautiful dining room.
Kame Ramen was not our first target, not really sure where we would go, but looking for some comfort food as the temperature was cold. As we were walking on Park Avenue, we noticed this place that seem to have a nice atmosphere.
I passed so many times in front of Alpha Fusion, mistakenly not noticing a place that serves some fantastic pan Asian cuisine: Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese mainly and more intriguing, a wide choice of vegetarian dishes. There, I spoke a bit with Chef Henry Yang who I met few months ago in Brooklyn. Owner of Alpha Fusion, that he opened 10 years ago, Chef Yang is passionate about his food: we talked about his upbringing when he came at age 16 in the US from China, and how he learned to make Japanese cuisine.
On a Saturday, after seeing The Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman in Times Square, we decided to eat in Hell's Kitchen with in mind an Asian cuisine. We stumbled upon Ajisai, a place we passed in front of many times, but that seemed to be always packed. We got lucky this time as only one booth was available for the three of us, my nephew being with us.
We were looking for a place to go to have dinner with Jodi's cousin Rebecca, when we stumbled upon Hao Noodle & Tea by Madam Zhu's Kitchen. I had that place on my list, so I was glad to find it. Unfortunately, it was full and the only seats possible were at one of their large tables, in the middle of the amazing dining room that was dominated by interesting chandeliers. Yes, this place was packed and, after trying the food, I understood why.
I was really looking forward to try Indikitch, a fast casual chain serving Indian food that has been popping up across the city. So, on a Wednesday evening, we went there with Jodi and my nephew Valentin, in their Flatiron location. The place was not that crowded, quite spacious, with seats on the second floor. You could tell that lots of people went there before by just looking at the garbage cans that were overflowing, preventing people from throwing their trash and leaving it on tables. Or maybe the staff was too busy...
We were looking for an Italian place on a Saturday evening when we stumbled upon Lattanzi, an Italian restaurant located in the Theater District, right next to Becco, the popular place opened by Lidia and Joe Bastianich. I admit that I was not sure what to expect, some of the places near Times Square being total let downs, and was really surprised about the quality of the food and the nice experience we had.
We were walking on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, when we noticed MP Taverna, a fairly big place serving Greek cuisine. Little we knew that this is one of the many restaurants of Chef Michael Psilakis and that we would have a great brunch there. The restaurant, with its rustic decor dominated by large windows, was not that crowded, allowing us to enjoy a quiet meal.
I was having dinner with friends this week and they asked me if I knew of a place to go. Without hesitation, I chose Chimichurri Grill West in Hell's Kitchen, considering the fantastic feast, prepared by Chef Carlos Darquea, I had the week before at Chimichurri Grill East where I was invited for a blogger/influencer dinner. So yes, my expectations were high and I was not disappointed.
Lots of people are surprised to hear that you can get lunch and dinner at Ladurée, this place being known around the world for its macarons, that I admit are addictive. I was one of them. Well, until a friend of mine went there and told me about his meal, proposing to arrange a reservation as a knows the manager. So, we ended up at their location in Soho last Saturday. We entered in the restaurant and it was like stepping in a French salon de thé.
This week, I was invited to Paname, a French restaurant located Midtown East that I visited few years ago, in another blogger dinner. The place did not change, dominated by its Art Nouveau paintings and mirrors, that give a certain feel to the place.
This week I was invited to Chimichurri Grill East, the outpost of Chimichurri Grill West, located in Hell's Kitchen, opened more than 18 years ago by Chef Carlos Darquea and his wife Alicia Rodriguez, who is the General Manager and Wine Director. There, I had a great time with my fellow bloggers / influencers, tasting an amazing menu that I did not expect and enjoying the company of Chef Carlos who spoke about each dish and wine (yes, each dish was paired with a wine chosen by Alicia and it was not small glasses...).
Ramen-Ya Samurai Edition is the second location of Ramen-Ya, a place I discovered a couple of years ago. Bigger than its sister restaurant, the Samurai Edition, the food there was delicious and quite comforting, especially in cold temperatures.
We recently went to LIC Market, a seasonal restaurant located in Long Island City. It was right after the first day of open studio event in Jodi's building where she showed some amazing work. I really like this place, not only because of the delicious food, but also because it has this neighborhood feel: yes, the kind of place you would want near you. With its rustic decor and a covered patio in the back, LIC Market prints its menu on a daily basis, offering a large number of dishes that are perfect for sharing.
Alright: I admit that when I reserved a table at Davio’s, I knew it was an Italian Steakhouse but thought it was another spot that I saw previously, wandering around...Well, that was a happy mistake: Davio’s is a great spot if you want a delicious steak in a nice setting. The service, although a bit slow was good and at least I could see my food...I also appreciated the noise level that allowed us to have a nice conversation; well, until the table next to us came...I mean you just needed one loud guy to spoil a bit the whole thing: it drives me crazy!
Our friend Ciara's brother was visiting so they proposed to go to Vatan, a well known Indian restaurant in Murray Hill that serves an all-you-can-eat vegetarian menu. I had Vatan on my list for a long time and it did not take too much time for us to accept such a nice invite.
I was craving Italian food and decided to go to Bocca di Bacco in Hell’s Kitchen, a restaurant I had on my list for a while. I admit that that I did not know what to expect and had a wonderful time with my wife Jodi and my nephew Valentin.
I recently went to an event at Capital Grille in the Chrysler Center, near Grand Central and admit that I was blown away. Usually, when you go to a luncheon or dinner like this, you get a prix-fixe, like that time, and the food is good but not outstanding, similar to what you often get when eating in a place for Restaurant Week. In fact, I tested one of my favorite steakhouses few years ago for Restaurant Week and was so disappointed: the meat served was definitely of a lower quality. So, my expectations for The Capital Grille were low.
We were in Long Island City to check out Jodi’s new studio when we stumbled upon John Brown Smokehouse, a restaurant serving Kansas City style barbecue. In fact when you arrive in the vicinity of this place, you start smelling the smoker that is probably functioning all the time, a smell getting even stronger as you enter in the restaurant. I admit that I was expecting a much smaller place, not realizing that they also have a terrace in the back.
We recently went to Riverhead for a wedding and ended up eating at Bistro 72, a restaurant a serving farm to table menu located in the Indigo Hotel. First I should mention that the access is better by car than walking...I know: we made the mistake on our way, as true New Yorkers, but not on the way back to the hotel! Secondly, as soon as you enter the restaurant, you get the feel that it is in a hotel, from the decor to the atmosphere. But you know what, the food there was quite good!
It has been so long since I have been to Tagine, a Moroccan restaurant located closed to the heart of Times Square. So, as we were looking for a place to eat on Columbus Day, and craving a good couscous (the dish, not just the semolina), we booked a table.
We wanted to eat a pizza with my nephew Valentin and decided to go back to Don Giovanni in Hell’s Kitchen. The last time we went there was last December and had some good pizza, so, why not going back? The place was not crowded and, this time, the weather permitting, we decided to eat outside.
Located in the posh Bryant Park Hotel, Koi is not unknown to me, having discovered that place in another location few years ago for Restaurant Week. But the place in Bryant Park blew me away: beautiful, modern and with a lounge-y feel, it has a very cool atmosphere, without being scene-y.
Located a few steps from Penn Station and The Madison Square Garden, The Statler Grill is one of these steakhouses that has some history. As they wrote on their website:
"The Statler Grill harkens back to the golden age of the big band era, and is named after Ellsworth Statler, who ran the Hotel Pennsylvania from 1919 to 1954, when musicians such as Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie and Glenn Miller played at the Café Rouge, the hotel’s main dining room".
More casual than the Great Kabab Factory in the Radisson Blu, Noida, is Pirates of Grill at The Mall of India. Same concept there: an all you can eat joint serving delicious kebabs that are just...the appetizers! Yes, you need to remember that part because there is so much food that when people hint about the entrees, you are wondering what they are talking about, lamenting about the fact that you should have worn stretch pants...
Soda Bottle Opener Wala is a fantastic Irani Cafe located in The Mall of India, in Noida. It was recommended by one of my colleagues and I have to admit that I was not sure what to expect. The food there was amazing: different, tasty and delicious, in a relaxed atmosphere.
Located on the second floor of the Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, Soi 7 is a pub and brewery that serves Asian fare. Yes, it is a brewery and you can see the beer fermenters from the dining room that definitely have a nice pub feel, as well as a rooftop where the most surprising part is the boxing ring, not used for the purpose of kicking the bottom of the customers who try to leave without paying, but as entertainment.
I cannot imagine what it is to have a peanut allergy and not being sure how food is made when you are traveling. One of my colleagues has one and eating in India can be challenging, a lot of dishes containing some sort of nuts. So, he was glad to find Jamie’s Pizzeria at The Ambience Mall in Gurgaon near Delhi. He talked so much about this place that I decided to try it. Little did I know that it was a restaurant from celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver. Located on the third floor of this giant mall (7 miles of stores), this is a nice little place where they cook pizza on a stone.
Dons Bogam is not unknown to me as I discovered this place 4 years ago, looking for a restaurant for lunch on Christmas Day, before seeing The Hobbit. So, I was excited when I got invited to their new location Dons Bogam Black, also located Midtown. I guess the "Black" from the name is similar to what you get with an American Express Black card: upscale Korean food, but fortunately without outrageous prices that would make you wish you had that coveted credit card...
We were looking for a brunch place near Herald Square on OpenTable and reserved a table at an Italian restaurant called L'Amico, realizing only when we were there that we knew this place. Well kind of: we passed so many times In front of it, thinking that we should go check it out one day. I did not know at the time or more did not pay attention to their sign, that this is another restaurant of French Chef Laurent Tourondel who gave us BLT Prime or BLT Steak. This is a nice place, with an elegant rustic feel.
Few weeks ago, we discovered a small Thai place near the MeatPacking District called Pad Thai Noodle Lounge, a restaurant with a nice decor and definitely a lounge-y feel with its dimmed lights and music. With its nice decor, it boasts an interesting menu where classic curry are present, as well as a nice selection of noodles that you would probably find in any other Thai places, except that they are highlighted not only on the menu it also in the name of the restaurant.
After we went to Le Relais de Venise for lunch (great steak frites there), we decided to have some frozen yogurt at Culture An American Yogurt Company in the West Village. This small joint manufactures its own yogurt and frozen yogurt, with no preservatives or additives, right in the back where you can see the large tanks. And when they are making yogurt, the light is on...
It's been a while since we went to Green Rock Tap & Grill, one of the first restaurants we tried in Hoboken, raving about their burgers made with English muffins rather than buns. It a cool place, like your old-school bar where dark wood is omnipresent. Conveniently located few steps from the path train, we just needed to find a day when no game would be playing, enjoying the quiet time of a place that can become crazy.
I recently discovered Osteria Al Doge, a restaurant serving Venetian fare near Times Square. I am always a bit wary when eating in that area, lots of restaurants counting more on foot traffic than really returning customers; but, at Osteria Al Doge, not only was the food good, but the service was on point.
Recently, we went to Williamsburg to see the exhibit of one of Jodi's friends, Marco, and, as usual, I was in charge of finding a spot to eat. I had two in mind, a primary choice, Pies'n Thighs, and a backup, The Rabbithole. The former was full with a long line in front of the door, line that I was not ready to face. That's how we ended up at The Rabbithole, and I have to say that I am pretty happy about that!
It's been a while since I went to Empire Steakhouse and definitely never been to their new location attached to the Hilton Hotel Midtown. I went there on a Thursday for dinner, eager to eat some good steak that is aged for a month. I love steak (my favorite cut being the ribeye) and was expecting the kind of meal that makes you regret not wearing stretch pants...
It's been a while since I wanted to try Estiatorio Milos, the upscale restaurant of Executive Chef Costas Spiliadis, that has locations not only in New York, but also Montreal, Miami, Las Vegas or Athens. And I was not disappointed by this place specialized in fresh seafood. I could say that it is a beautiful place, but it would be in reference only of their downstairs dining room as they were undergoing renovations and their main dining room was therefore closed.
Every year seems to bring its new ice cream sensation, as if people get bored with classic ice creams and are looking for something spectacular. Move over Blacktap Burger (that I did not like, preferring Birch in Hoboken) or Eggloo (still part of the craze though): Taiyaki is the new thing. Named after the fish shaped cakes that replace the traditional cone, Taiyaki served some interesting combination, the star being the cake, but also they soft served ice cream that they make in small batches to preserve the quality.
We were looking for a nice brunch place with my brother and nephew close to their hotel Midtown and settled for The Smith, the trendy American Bistro that has fed hungry crowds since 2007. I love their philosophy translated in their name and described on their website:
Smith [smiTH] noun 1. A maker skilled in creating something. Cooksmith, Barsmith, Blacksmith, Locksmith