I was recently invited at Garam Masala, an Indian restaurant located in Ridgewood, Queens. Its owner, Saiful Islam, who previously managed Tandoori Masala in Bushwick and Mahal Kita in Williamsburg wanted to open his own place, catering to a crowd hungry for Indian flavors, but as he says, flavorful does not mean spicy and he and his team ensures diners get the right level of heat.
I discovered Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream few years ago, while watching a TV show, Unique Sweets, that unfortunately does not run anymore. It was in 2015 and the flagship parlor on the Lower East Side was like going to heaven. But a crowded heaven unfortunately and I admit that I have a limit to my patience when it comes to food, especially in hot weather...So we were excited when we saw that Nicholas Morgenstern decided to open a second, larger location on West Houston. Although also packed, it is usually fine to go there and have some of the incredible flavors they are proposing: burnt honey vanilla (great in a milk shake, it …
When we went to 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen, it was it because Chef and founder Anthony Carron partnered with two NBA players, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. No, actually we just found it on Opentable.com and thought it would be a good idea to try this place, the concept (cooking food on an open flame) being quite interesting, especially after our dinner at The Marshal in Hell’s Kitchen last year where they really embrace this way of cooking.
When Shaka Bowl opened a little over a year ago, I did not know what to think: Poké seems a bit of a trend that may not last as long as ramen. For me, I may crave ramen that I find comforting in the winter time (no hot soup in the summer please), but never craved Poké, even if I love raw fish. Go figure. So it took us time before going to Shaka Bowl, and I admit that it is the tacos they offer that persuaded us to go on a Sunday. And we did not go just once.
We were in Williamsburg for a street art exhibit called Beyond The Streets and so, decided to find a place after seeing the amazing work from the artists. Looking for a place, we stumbled upon Patisserie Tomoko. It was interesting to find such place there, a bit of the beaten path, serving French and American dessert with a Japanese touch, creation of Chef Tomoko who I admit has an impressive resume, having worked at Le Bernardin, Bouley and The Russian Tea Room.
Seafood or steak restaurant? When you go to Ocean Prime, you might be a bit confused. This place is not unknown to me as I went there few times, often for lunch or a drink, their bar being quite busy in the evening. This time, it was Jodi who wanted to go as she wanted to try a dessert I have been talking about for quite some time. So here we are on a Friday evening. As we did not have any reservation, they put us on one of the side tables in the mezzanine, overlooking the dining room: it was a bit dark, but I was quite happy as the noise level was much lower than on the main floor.
We were walking around in Williamsburg, looking for a brunch place before going to a street art show called Beyond The Streets that was amazing by the way, when we saw Shelter Pizza, a restaurant recognizable from the outside by its vibrant American flag. We hesitated between going there or the nearby Smorgasburg, and decided to give it a try. Entering there is like stepping in another world: this big place is like a lodge in the middle of nowhere: Native American artifacts, animal fur on seats...Warm and cozy, with fireplaces that we surely did not need that day.
There are places that are just confusing: I would have passed in front of Fournos Theophilos, I am not sure I would have stepped in when looking for a dinner place, if not just out of curiosity. Not that it looks dirty or anything, but just because the fast casual feel of this Greek joint hides a restaurant upstairs that we simply found on Opentable. For sure you are not going to Fournos Theophilos for the atmosphere, but I admit that the food was good, maybe not the level of Uncle Nick’s or Greek Town in Hoboken, but still, good. Here is what we had:
Named after Nice (Nizza in Italian), a city in the French Riviera, Nizza is an Italian restaurant located in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s been a while we talked about going there for dinner, Jodi having gone there few times with her friends and me just trying the brunch few years back. That day, the place was crowded and loud, especially before 7:30pm, as filled with lots of theater goers, but also the table of four behind us loud enough to have been heard all the way on Mars.
There are few restaurants in Times Square that are little gem and Inakaya is surely one of them and there is one thing I always recommend that is to eat at the counter. There, you not only observe what is going on in the kitchen, watching the staff grilling meat, seafood or vegetables, you get the little show which is how they bring some of the dishes to your table, by simply putting them on a long paddle and handing over the dish to you from afar.
So we are back at Barbés, the Moroccan-French restaurant located uptown Hoboken. But this time, I wanted to try their French dishes, the past times having indulged in their couscous and tagines that are very good. After this visit, I remain convinced that this is the spot for moroccan cuisine, less for French. Take the confit de canard for instance: good, not salty, but the skin was charred. For sure, a crispy skin is a must have with a duck confit, but they pushed it a bit far. The steak au poivre, a nice piece of sirloin smothered in a nice peppercorn sauce was also decent…
We were looking for a brunch place in Chelsea when we saw Mexicue, a Mexican BBQ place that started as a food truck many years ago and spawn into a popular restaurant with three locations in the city. I love this place but admit that dinner can be a bit overcrowded and noisy. But this was our first time in their spacious Chelsea location and I was glad it was on out path: the food there is really good and you may not elect to choose from their brunch menu that is limited and does not offer some of the succulent dishes they offer on their regular menu. For instance, I love the fact that they offer tacos by the piece, allowing you to try several of them and making your own combination.
We had Cecconi’s in Dumbo on our radar for a while. Each time we went to that area, we saw this place full with sometimes a line at the door. Little we knew that this Italian restaurant had locations in many places like West Hollywood, Miami, Istanbul, Barcelona, Berlin and London. I did not imagine before eating there that it was so huge, but the best is their waterfront seating that offers stunning views of Manhattan and the Manhattan bridge.
Located on the Lower East Side, I admit that Minnie’s was not our first choice for brunch, but the place we wanted to try was packed, so we walked around and found this place that had a nice atmosphere, quite relaxed, bright, with a decor that probably shocks prude customers (check out the pillows in the photo below).
Our last stop on Jodi’s birthday was Don Antonio, a pizza joint located midtown from the owner of Kesté Pizza & Vino, Roberto Caporuscio, that serves fried pizza. Yes, you read it well: fried pizza. But do not imagine something gross: this is a bit crispy and delicious, while being very slightly greasy. Not that all their pizza is like that, but usually, when we go there or talk about this place, this is what we get:
After our lunch at Joe’s Ginger, Jodi wanted cake for her birthday. So, after checking few places like Harbs and Baked, we ended up at Billy’s Bakery in TriBeCa. I love this place: when you enter, you get that fantastic smell that makes you want to try everything they are making in the back kitchen.
Hesitating between the beautiful cupcakes they have and a slice of cake, Jodi finally went for the latter and chose the crowd pleaser with vanilla frosting that was a moist cake with chocolate in the center.
On my side, I did not hesitate and picked the banana cream pie that is amazing: creamy with lots of slices of banana, a good way to get your daily serving of fruit.
If you do not know Billy’s Bakery, check it out: they have great cupcakes and cakes. I definitely recommend it.
Enjoy (I did)!
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Billy’s Bakery - 75 Franklin Street, New York 10013
For her birthday, Jodi had two requests: pizza and Chinese food at Joe’s Ginger, the sister restaurant of Joe’s Shanghai, few doors away. Not that it has been a while since she went there as it is her go to restaurant when she craves Chinese cuisine, her last visit being in April when her friend Pam came to visit: she simply likes it and enjoys the vegetarian dishes they offer, with their classic scallion pancakes that are always a treat: hot, crispy and slightly greasy, they are very comforting.
Habanero Blues is back! After changing the concept to American Hall, a beer hall serving classic American dishes, the Reisenbach brothers decided to bring back the Mexican cuisine in this huge and amazing space, keeping the arcade room in the colorful downstairs area. I admit that I was looking forward to having dinner there, some of the items served there being delicious and not often offered on menus, like the Esquites en Vaso, a Mexico City street style corn made with chipotle aioli, cotija cheese and cayenne pepper. Unfortunately, it was not anymore offered, but we could enjoy their classic guacamole that is quite good: well seasoned with chunks of avocado as I like it (who likes a soupy guacamole?).
Since it opened, Hudson Yards has been the focus of many articles and Instagram posts, whether about the views, The Vessel or the restaurants. Often crowded, the mall there has many places to eat, from reasonable to expensive. On the latter, Estiatorio Milos sits on an upper floor (you have to climb some beautiful stairs from the bar to the dining room), with stunning views worth seeing at sun down.