Few weeks ago, we went to one of the locations of Bocca di Bacco in Hell's Kitchen and had a great time with my nephew Valentin. So we decided to go back, but tried their other location, still in Hell's Kitchen, but closer to Times Square. I admit that the experience was not as good: they were definitely understaffed in a place that was really crowded, affecting the service there. It started with the hostess who was not very nice at first, but then apologized, to the waiter who did not even check on us (forget the bread basket and the cheese on the pasta), to the food that took forever to come, prompting us to skip dessert.
We were walking on 10th avenue when we noticed a place called El Original, a Tex-Mex restaurant adjacent to a hotel that I cannot recall the name. The place is big and I was glad we went for brunch as it looked more like a bar and I could already imagine the noise level for dinner. There were definitely not that many people for brunch, besides a group of construction workers who seemed to be regulars.
We recently decided to go to JG Melon with our friends Jen and Gary, a place that I have wanted to visit for a while. My sole goal was to try their burger that I heard was phenomenal. So, here we are on a Saturday, at 12pm, in a place that is already very crowded and remained that way all along. I should mention that, despite the number of hungry patrons waiting for a table, they did not rush us, to the contrary.
Succeeding to Lucky Burger, The Windmill and Clem's Steaks Unlimited, Gogi Grill is the second Korean restaurant after The Chicken Factory (great Korean fried chicken). Gogi Grill is a casual eatery that I would describe as the Korean Chipotle: fresh ingredients that can be served in a bowl, salad or burrito. You can either create your own or go with one of their five dishes, one of them called the kitchen sink and having all the ingredients. On one side is a counter where you can also order ice cream or crepes, but I admit that I was not in the mood for that that day...
Steakhouses are pricey, but as we say, when steakhouses do well, the economy is doing well. However you do not need to spend hundreds to have a good steak, maybe not the best you ever had, but a good one. West Side Steakhouse is a good example of that. Located close to Times Square, but on the quiet 10th avenue, often not considered as an area to look for restaurants, West Side Steakhouse serves decent steaks.
If there is one thing that makes me look forward to Winter, it is Ramen: I love that delicious noodle soup, although ramen does not refer to soup at all, but to the hand pulled noodles that are in it. There is of course cold ramen that can be appreciated during the warmer seasons, but I admit that I love the hot ones. So, my next target was Jun-Men in Chelsea. It is not a big place, but it is bigger than some of the restaurants we visited before, having a large table in the center to accommodate large parties.
We were looking for a dessert and checked on google to see what was around when we stumbled upon Jacques Torres on the Upper West Side. Jacques Torres is not unknown to me as I tried his chocolate many times and even went to his chocolate factory downtown many years ago, but I do not recall having tried his hot chocolate. So, it was time to change that and that was like a revelation: his hot chocolate is the best in the city! People rave about City Bakery's hot chocolate, but I admit that I do not like it. This one, at Jacques Torres is something else: it is like melted chocolate, but without being too sweet or too bitter; yes, it is a perfect balance that makes me want to have such a place next door.
It has been a while since I went to Kingside, the restaurant of Executive Chef Mac Murphy. I went there a week after they opened and I still remember their caramel pudding that was to die for (they still have it on their menu).
After our meal at Salvation Burger few weeks ago that was a bit disappointing and overpriced, we still decided to try Salvation Taco, another venture from Chef April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman. They describe Salvation Taco as a "taqueria and cantina featuring a menu influenced by international cuisines". International for sure when you see their Indonesian BBQ or Moroccan lamb taco (I was going for this one, but they did not have it the day I went...Bummer!).
I discovered Underwest Donuts thanks to my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy. This place opened in 2014 within the West Side Highway Carwash, hence the carwash donut they sell that I did not try. But we did not go to that location, rather the one they opened last December, outside of Penn Station. There, you will not get a chance to get donuts made a la minute, this place being a tiny outpost. But still, you will get freshly baked donuts.
Last Friday, I was invited at Chawlas2, a charming Indian restaurant located in Gramercy. Taking its name from its founder, this chain that counts more than a 100 locations in India started in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India, more than 50 years ago, when late S. Attar Singh Chawla decided to improve a dish called "Kali Mirch Ka Chicken" or cream chicken, that they described as:
Yesterday, we were invited for dinner at Bella Luna, an Italian restaurant located on the Upper West Side, few blocks from the Museum of Natural History. In fact, we spent the freezing afternoon at the Museum before having dinner, a good way to whet our appetite. Located on the corner of 88th street, this restaurant is not totally new. The location is since January 26th of this year as they had to move from their original one, a couple of blocks away, because of a rent increase. I cannot compare the two places, but the new one is pretty amazing: high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows giving some good light to the whole place, and it has this old scenery carved on the back wall.
We were looking for a pizza place close to Union Square for a dinner with our friends Amy and Caleb and decided to reserve a table at Ribalta. You may have heard about this place, especially their hot dog pizza, The Americana, that, not only is original, but is also very good!
On a Friday night, we were looking for an Italian restaurant Midtown when we stumbled upon Lugo Cucina. Located close to Penn Station, I never noticed this place before, although passing close by many times. I never noticed for instance the two vespa in front, with the same colors as the front of that place.
I was really looking forward to going to Salvation Burger, the burger restaurant of Chef April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, owners of The Spotted Pig, the Breslin Bar & Dining Room; but my wish got crushed at some point as they had to close because of a fire in their kitchen. Several months later, here I am, arriving several minutes before they opened, allowing customers to sit but warning them that the kitchen will only open after some time.
I was recently invited to an event at Bobby Van's, the steakhouse located on Park Avenue. Well, I should say their location on Park Avenue as they have several and I only tried the one near Times Square where I had a phenomenal dinner. So, needless to say that I was looking forward to going back there. Here is what I had:
It all started with some amuse: first was a mozzarella sitting on top of a slice of tomato topped with peppers.
Last Friday, I was invited at ROKI Le Izakaya a new Japanese brasserie just opened 2 weeks ago by Keiko Ono Aoki and Executive Chef Koji Hagihara. This is a spin off of Benihana, Keiko being the wife of late founder of that famous Japanese chain, Hiroaki Aoki, known in the US as Rocky Aoki. I had the chance to meet with Keiko and Chef Koji who welcomed us in this incredible space where the main attraction is the kitchen in the middle where one can admire the Chef and his crew not only cook delicious food, but also present it in a beautiful way.