Category Archives: New York Restaurants
If there is one food that I crave above all others, it is mussels. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, encompassing a broad range of flavors; from coconut curry Thai to classic French white wine garlic. There are mornings that I literally wake up and have a hankering for a steaming pot of mussels. Not cheerios….mussels.
Needless to say, if mussels are on the menu at a restaurant, I’m usually ordering them. And I have suffered dearly for this habitude, because lets face it, there are certain restaurants (i.e. Irish pubs) where you should NOT be ordering the shell fish. I know the bacon cheese burger is the safer bet, but I have no self-control and inevitably end up eating the mussels…..for better, for worse.
This weekend though, I had the opportunity to go to Flex Mussels, which is renowned in NYC for their fantastic pots of ornate and unique mussels…23 different types in all! You can imagine how difficult it was to choose only a couple to share with my friends and fellow diners, Sam & Sara. In fact, a third party observer would have thought this was one of the most difficult decisions of my life the way that I carefully weighed out each option, debating whether to go with the tried and true classics or branch out and go for the exotic.
Finally, after a quick pep talk with our server, we arrived at a game plan. We would order three different pots of mussels to share among the table along with some truffle fries. First we got an order of the Dijon Mussels made with dijon mustard, white wine, creme fraiche, and parsley ($19.50). These were by far my favorite of the three, and I made that known by locating the pot directly in front of me and my big fat fork. The broth was so good, I would consider it drinkable. The mustard brought forth a tangy and acidic flavor that was carefully balanced by the creaminess of the creme fraiche. And the chopped parsley was fresh and earthy.
Next we enjoyed the Fra Diavolo mussels made with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic ($19.50). Sam insisted that we order this classic, and although I thought they were good, I probably would not order them when at Flex again. Instead, I would opt for a more complex broth when at the Mecca of mussels, and save the run-of-the-mill spicy red sauce for the amateurs. I will admit that the large chunks of crushed tomatoes were delightful on the fresh baked bread provided for dipping and dunking!
Lastly, we recieved our order of the South Pacific Mussels, which were made with kaffir lime, cilantro, white wine, and lemongrass. I tried persuading Sam and Sara to order the Thai mussels instead, which were very similar to the South Pacific in flavor, but with the added richness of curried coconut milk. Unfortunately though, it was two against one and we ended up going with the lighter broth. I wasn’t crazy about these because the broth was too almost too light. There was nothing sticking to the the meat of the mussel. I hoarded the remaining dijon mussels while my eating companions picked at their mistake.
Last but not least, I must review the truffle french fries which were served with a creamy aioli dipping sauce. They were really delicious and made a perfect accompaniment to dip in the mussel broth (especially the dijon….did I mention it was drinkable?).
I am looking forward to my next dinner at Flex and I will definitely be trying the Thai Mussels along with the Mediterranean which has shrimp, kalamata olives, fennel, lemon, anise, and oregano ($22.50)
Ohh and I almost forgot to mention the wine/cocktail selection, which is pretty reasonable for NY fine dining. My friends and I shared a bottle of the Vincent Dampt Chablis for only $54. The selection of wines was also fairly extensive, which is somewhat expected at a mussel-centric restaurant. I mean, what goes better with mussels than wine?!
…..besides crusty bread, of course!
100 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10010
What sets Bhatti apart from the millions of other Indian restaurants in Curry Hill?
It’s BYOB with NO CORKAGE FEE!!!
I went for dinner with my girlfriends last night and had a fabulous meal. It’s the perfect spot for twenty-something-year-olds that are just getting their start in the Big City–it feels modern and fancy, but it’s budget friendly, and the food is truly delicious. I will certainly be back….again, and again, and again!
[ Note: Order the Bhatti grill specialties rather than the curried sauce dishes. You can get Chicken Murgh Masala and Chana Masala anywhere in Curry Hill, but finding succulent and juicy grilled meats is a little more difficult. So order from the Bhatti when eating at Bhatti! ]
When eating Indian food, I always recommend ordering a bunch of plates to share amongst the table because the food is heavy by nature. The flavors and textures can also get repetitive if you order just one item for yourself. I mean, after 3 or 4 forkfuls of creamed spinach, you start to crave something with a little more substance! So we did a family-style Indian feast last night, and here are the highlights:
To start the meal, we ordered one Vegetarian Kebab Sampler and one Meat Kebab Sampler. I was far more impressed with the selection of grilled meats from the Bhatti, but then again I am a carnivorous foodie! Highlights from the meat appetizer platter included:
Bhatti Ki Chaamp, a succulent lamb chop marinated in traditional Indian spices and then grilled to perfection. Dip it in the spicy cilantro-mint chutney, and swoon….
The Tandoori Murgh, boneless chicken cubes marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and spices, was hands down the star of the platter. In fact, I decided to order another portion to accompany my dinner!
The Raunaq-e-seekh, which is a traditional seekh of lamb mince, flavored with herbs and spices with a colorful gard.
My favorite Vegetarian appetizer was the Bhatti Paneer Tikka, which is spiced cubes of soft cottage cheese, marinated in yogurt and spices, grilled to perfection and served with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
For dinner we shared the Saag Paneer, which is a rich dish of creamed spinach and spices, studded with fresh cottage cheese. Put this over a little bit of the long grain rice, or soak it up with some fresh Garlic Naan, and you will be in heaven. The Garlic Naan at Bhatti is a-m-a-z-i-n-g by the way. It is served freshly baked with just the right amount of ghee and garlic.
I requested that we order my go-to Indian entree, and my friends indulged me by allowing me to get the Chicken Murgh Tikka Masala, which is marinated boneless chicken cubes, grilled, and then stewed in a creamy tomato sauce. I order this dish all time, and thought that Bhatti served a very tasty version of this classic Indian entree.
I also could not resist ordering the Chana Masala, which is a dish of curried chickpeas, stewed in a creamy tomato sauce with onions. It was incredibly rich, but so are most oil-laden curry pots in Indian restaurants.
And, lastly, we shared an order of the Lamb Rogan Josh, which was probably my least favorite of the curry dishes. The combination of the heavy meat with the indulgent sauce really through me over the top after having grazed on so many other rich dishes.
Overall, I would recommend ordering
Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing a child enter Disney World for the first time? You watch their face light up with joy, their little legs propelling them forward as quickly as possible, their eyes wide with excitement. Well add some intense hand gurning, and thats what I look like each time I enter Eataly Italian market. It is a Mecca for foodies–a specialty food market on steroids, with restaurants and cafes scattered throughout.
You can stand around high tables in the salumeria, enjoying a glass of wine expertly paired to compliment an assortment of specialty cheeses, or you can enjoy nibbling on a freshly baked focaccia as you wait for your table at La Pizza & Pasta. And Lord knows you’ll have plenty of time to wash down several espressos at Cafe Vergnano, if you’re trying to get a table at the new rooftop birreria–the line to go up is longer than airport security at JFK. No, I’m not joking.
Sure, the market is expensive (and indeed touristy, as several other bloggers have observed), but it is undoubtedly worth the visit. Take it for what it is: an expensive dining experience in an avant-garde food theater. And on that note, I shall walk you through my Eataly experience this past weekend, beginning in the Salumeria with a nice glass of red wine (Italian, of course!).
After adapting to the circus like environment of Eataly, my friends and I gathered around a hightop table in the salumeria and ordered a platter sampling the selection of cured meats and cheeses. The cheese assortment included: a creamy ricotta, a strong parmigiano regiano, a pungent taleggio, a sweet gorgonzola, and a cacio de Roma. My personal favorites were the taleggio and the ricotta, which paired beautifully with the fresh fig and orange segments accompanying the plate. The meats we tried included: delicious mortadella cubes, 14-month aged prosciutto de Parma, and sweet & spicy coppa and sopressata. The prosciutto de parma was hands down the highlight of the plate–delicate and salty.
Next we headed over to La Pizza, where Neapolitan natives are firing up the kind of pizza that God would make if he were having dinner guests. And the gold-tiled ovens certainly add to the ethereal effect:
I decided to go all out and order the most expensive pizza on the menu, which would be the Fru Fru Pizza coming in at a total cost of $22 (a price that you can somehow justify after the first bite!). For indecisive people, like myself, who can’t chose just one pizza on the menu, the Fru Fru offers a small sampling of three different topping combinations: (1) dollops of sweet ricotta cheese with cooked ham (no sauce); (2) aged mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce; and (3) delicious Parma ham with arugula and parmigiano reggiano shavings. It looks like this:
My favorite of the three, you ask? Probably the ricotta and ham because of the contrasting salty and sweet flavors (but the pizza crust is really the star of this dish!).
Two of my friends ordered the Quattro Formaggi with a mixture of gorgonzola, pecorino romano, mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano cheeses. This is supposed to be served as a white pizza, but one of my friends also ordered it with tomato sauce and it was none-the-less delicious. You can feast your eyes on the white one:
And then of course someone at the table had to be a plain Jane and order the classic Margarita Pizza with tomato sauce, slices of fresh mozzarella, basil, and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil. I know there is something to be appreciated about the flavor of a few quality ingredients, but I like to live a little with my pizza toppings!! Like everything else at Le Pizza and Pasta though, it was amazing!
Most people would be throwing in the napkin by now, but not me! Sufficiently pregammed with my pizza appetizer, I decided to order a plate of Tagliatelli al Ragu di Manzo, which is a hearty (and rich) braised short rib ragu over homemade pasta. The pasta is cooked to perfection–just tough enough to stick to your tooth a little (the definition of Al dente). And the braised meat is so tender that it falls apart at the mere prodding of your fork. The dish is quite heavy given the nature of the sauce and the weight of the pasta, but it is every bit savory and delicious. I would highly recommend this pasta (as long as you have already tried the pizza!).
So until next time, Eataly, Arrivederci!!!
I was preparing to photograph my lunch today (a couple of delicious chicken quesadillas), when my phone alerted me that I had “insufficient memory space” to store the images. Considering that I upload and delete my photos as I write reviews, this notification means that I am seriously behind on blogging (too much eatting, not enough writing!). I was forced to go through my collection of food photos and decide which images looked the most decadent, deleting the others that were not up to par. This sounds like an easy task, but choosing which images to part with was a painstaking process. Needless to say, my quesadillas were cold by the time I finally finished. In order to make space for future reviews, I will be backtracking a bit and intermittenly posting some articles on New York grub.
The first review is from one of my favorite lunch/brunch spots in NYC–The Corner Shop Cafe. Their menu is an eclectic mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and eggs but these often simple dishes are far from the ordinary here. The Corner Shop Cafe has mastered the art of delivering the classics with a whole new twist, taking them to another level. For example, their PB & Banana Grilled Sandwich which comes on cranberry raisin bread dipped in french toast batter, served with honey and minted berries ($9). Clearly, this is not your mom’s PB & J!
Some how I fought the temptation of ordering this mastermind creation (along with the Creme Brûlée Dipped French Toast ($11)), and instead opted for a lighter lunch of Steamed Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce with parsley, peas, and tomatoes ($12). Let me tell you, these mussels were fan-freaking-tastic! The mussels themselves were plump and fresh, and the sauce was out of this world. The herb parmesan crostini soaking in the bowl was also a very nice touch and made the meal more satisfying.
My friend Sam ordered Brie & Basil Panini with aged tried cheese, oven roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto on a toasted ciabatta roll ($13). Again, a very common menu item, but executed perfectly. The ingredients were all very fresh, from the salty to prosciutto to the flakey bread, and the side salad was dressed perfectly with a nice light vinaigrette.
My other friend Ariana went all out and ordered the Truffled Poached Eggs on Toast Platter with two organic poached eggs atop grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with truffle oil served with grilled ciabatta bread ($10). A little bit of food jealous crept up on me when this plate was brought to the table. You know when you second guess your meal decision and get grumpy because another person’s food at the table looks better. Ariana was kind enough to fed me forkfuls every now and then though, so it lowered my post-order dissonance. Everything on the plate was fantastic and for the menial price of $10, it tastes even better!
We also all shared a bowl a Cream of Tomato Soup ($7), which paired great with my herb parmesan crostini. I highly recommend this soup because they only use enough cream to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. You can see by the color of the broth that the cream isn’t too overdone or heavy. It begs for grill cheese dipping!
Also, the prices on the drinks were very reasonable. We had a couple of Mimosas and a round of Chardonnay for about $10 each. I am looking forward to going back to the Corner Shop Cafe as soon as I return to the states!
I am sure that even those of you who haven’t been to New York, have at least heard of Dylan’s Candy Bar. It is famous for it’s extravagant candy displays, it’s excessive selection of all things sugary, and it’s outrageous, wallet-depleting prices. Dylan’s marks up a candy bar the same way that a nightclub marks up alcohol—200% being the minimum. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t gone to check it out. In fact, I couldn’t wait to go on my very first trip to New York because of all the hype surrounding it. But once I walked in, I felt the same overwhelming/dizzying/nauseating feeling that I got the very first time I walked into Forever 21. I mean it is 3 floors of candy that climb from ground to ceiling…the only thing that this place is missing is Augustus Gloop! But once I overcame the initial shock of it all, I began to notice many problems with the store (other than the obscene prices and massive crowds). You see, all of the candies are self-serve and conveniently located within the arm’s reach of a 4 year old. 4 years olds pick their nose, therefore, they should not also be allowed to pick their candies from a communal bucket with their hands. Of course there were metal tongs supplied at each candy station, but this did not stop countless adults and small children from using their grubby little fingers…can you say bacteria haven?!? Yuck!
I also quickly became frustrated by the obnoxious selection of candies and chocolates. I don’t need cocoa scented bath salts, or edible panties, or a chocolate spa (whatever that is), I just want to get my favorite sweets and get the heck out! Thus, I was very relieved to discover the Economy Candy Store on this most recent trip to NY. Almost everything at Economy Candy is in some sort of packaging and there are employees (wearing plastic loves, might I add) to help you get the items that are not wrapped. Therefore, you can eat your food without wondering about all the millions of hands that have touched it before your lips!
Economy Candy is significantly smaller than Dylan’s Candy Store, but it appears far less crowded because it is not a tourist destination and there aren’t as many screaming children running around (big plus!). But just because they have less square-footage, doesn’t mean that they have less brands/kinds of candy available (there just aren’t Hershey’s pillows or monogrammed chocolate bars). They carry all of the old-school names in candy though such as, Bazooka, Pop-Rocks, Sugar-Daddy Caramel Lollipops, Razzles, Fizzies, and even hard to find candies such as, Bubble-Gum Cigarettes, English Chocolates, Lemon-Heads, and White-Chocolate Kit-Katz (didn’t know that those they existed? Well, they do in Europe, and Economy candy is nice enough to import them and bring them to you!). The best part about Economy Candy though, comes when you arrive at the register. Unlike Dylan’s Candy Bar, you won’t go into cardiac arrest when you are told your total…you can survive the purchase and take your chances with diabetes after eating all of your affordable goodies!
I purchased a ½ pound bag composed of mixed Dark Chocolate Cherry Cordials, Dark Cherry Coated Orange Peels, Chocolate Coated Espresso Beans, and Cocoa Dusted Almonds. I loved all of the candies with the exception of the cherry cordials, which I expected to be chocolate covered cherries, but turned out to be something entirely different that I still cannot figure out. I also purchased a box of Bazooka Gum, Dried Apple Rings (yes, they even have healthy snacks!), Chocolate Coated Marzipan, and an assortment of flavored Gummy Bears. All of this was under $15 dollars. I actually found myself buying extra just to meet the credit card minimum!!
Dylan’s is a place to see at least once, but this is the place to actually buy your favorite candies, whether they are child-hood favorites or modern day delicacies. Take a stroll off the beaten path and find you’re way to the Economy Candy Store!
For my birthday, my roommate Ariana got me the book “The Definitive Guide to the Stuff White People Like.” Not only is the book hilarious (as you may have judged by the title), it is also astoundingly accurate. It’s kind of disappointing though because all of the things that I thought made me unique, just so happen to be characteristic of the entire Caucasian population. My uniqueness is really the taste of millions…sad face.
One of the chapters in the book discusses the white person’s love for expensive sandwiches, and I for one, am guilty as charged. The book states,
“What do white people like to do for lunch? The answer: eat expensive sandwiches. If you need to find a cache of white people, get yourself to a sandwich shop. Generally, these places aren’t open for dinner, have a panini press, and are famous for their bread. There are always vegan options. This type of restaurant is best for business and friendship situations, because it does not carry the romantic connotations that sushi and breakfast do. These sandwiches generally start around $8.99. Remember, that whenever a white person wants to go to a sandwich shop you are looking at at least a $15 outlay after tip and drink. Also note: White people will wait up to 40 minutes for a good sandwich.”
This being said, one of my first lunches in New York was a Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich from Num Pang Sandwich Shop (Ohh, and the book also states the white persons love for all things pertaining to New York—living in it, talking about it, visiting it, ect..,—how much more unoriginal can I get?). Num Pang serves up fresh Cambodian cuisine from a small, walk-up ordering window located on 21 East 12th Street between 5th and University. The sandwich wasn’t really expensive (only cost $6.75) but I did wait about 25-30 minutes to get it, so it can be classified as a typical “white person” sandwich experience. The Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich comes with Cucumber, Pickled Carrots, Cilantro, Chinese and Thai Eggplant Spread, and Soy Milk Chili-Mayo baked on bread made by Parisi Bakery. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the spreads packed a ton of flavor. I don’t normally like cilantro, but in this case, I LOVED it!!
As you can see by the photo, the sandwich is about the size of your hand (unless you have really big hands, then that’s another story), and it is stacked high, so open wide. Ohh, and do yourself a favor and don’t forget to grab some napkins, because the spicy mayo is delicious in your mouth but not so pretty on your blouse.
This place is the definition of a hole in the wall, and remember that it only accepts cash!! Although there is some limited seating upstairs, I chose to eat outdoors a la curbside—very al fresco!
Please, please, please make your way over to Num Pang and try their delicious food!! It is absolutely awesome, so do not let yourself be intimidated by the thought of trying Cambodian food—you will not be disappointed. In addition to the roasted cauliflower sandwich, I also hear that their Pork Belly Sandwich and Skirt Steak Sandwich are very good. I can’t wait for my next trip to New York to try more of their food!
I have postponed writing this blog post for quite some time now—almost a year, in fact—because I know what I have to say about one of “America’s most loved bakeries” will probably not be received well among the general public. However, in my defense, I have given it multiple chances of redemption. I’ve gone over five different times and tried multiple menu items, but yet I always find myself disappointed. Sure the little bakery is spectacular to look at, and everything is frosted and sprinkled to perfection, but the product itself isn’t that great (in my opinion, of course…I don’t want to upset any of the devout followers of Magnolia Bakery’s sweet-tooth subculture!).
Magnolia Bakery opened its doors in 1996, and is often dubbed as the creator of the “cupcake craze” that took America by storm in the late 1990’s. Dessert suddenly evolved into a statement piece, and people were demanding bite-sized, “trendy cupcakes.” Being a foodie and a baker myself, I was super anxious to try the so called “Grand Daddy of all Cupcakes.” On my first visit, I ordered the German Chocolate Cupcake and the Red Velvet Cupcake, as well as a Double Fudge Brownie. The red velvet cupcake was dry, the German chocolate cupcake was painfully sweet, and the double fudge brownie was mildly redemptive and good in comparison to the rest. I actually threw away the two cupcakes after a couple of bites…wasn’t worth the calories!
I attributed the terrible cupcakes to the time of day (it was night when I went, so maybe they weren’t freshly baked), the off-chance that there was a substitute baker, and the possibility that my taste buds were off. I didn’t want to believe that they were normally that bad, and so I went again…four more times!
I have tried several cupcakes, bars, pies, brownies, and cakes and the cake is always dry, the icing is always too sweet, and the Magic Cookie Bar is always the only thing that I enjoy from my purchase. So if you do go to Magnolia, I recommend that you order a magic cookie bar as a plan B in addition to whatever else you decide to try! The Magic Cookie Bar is divine combination of graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and condensed milk. Other than that dessert, I am very under whelmed by Magnolia Bakery and think it is overrated.
After lunch at Brasserie 360, Jen and I continued to shop for a few more hours until our tipsy bubbly feeling turned into a headache/hangover. We had one of two options: (1) find advil and get on the next train home, or (2) keep on drinking. Obviously, being 21-year-olds we chose the latter option and posted up at the bar at Rue 57. I wanted a fun drink, but nothing on the drink menu was enticing me so I asked the bar tender to make me her specialty. She whipped up one of the greatest and freshest Pims Cups that I have ever tasted. The citrus from the fruit and the earthiness of the herbs was incredible. I would go back to Rue 57 for this drink alone. After 3 of these, Jen and I were ready to eat….again! Alcohol is just a vicious cycle of eating and drinking.
So we walked, or stumbled shall I say, out of Rue 57 until we came across an Italian restaurant called Pazza Notte. To start, we ordered an appetizer of Fried Calamari with Marinara Sauce. It was delicious, as you expect any fried food to be! The marinara sauce was exceptionally good and a little spicy! They also brought out another sauce that was cream or mayo-based, which had a nice spice to it as well. We also ordered a side of Truffle Herb Parmesan Fries, which were out of this world good! They were served with ketchup and another mayo-based Cajun flavored dipping sauce.
For my main dish, I ordered the Risotto Di Funghi, which is wild mushroom risotto with white truffle oil and parmesan cheese. This dish is noted as the “owner’s favorite” and it sounds divine, but I was very disappointed. I found that the risotto was too mushy and entirely too oily. It actually made my mouth feel dirty after the first bite, and so I sent it back and continued snacking on the truffle fries instead!
Jennifer ordered her usual Linguini Al Frutti Di Mare, which is shrimp, mussels, calamari, scallops, and clams in a white sauce served over freshly-made pasta (photographed at top). She thought it was amazing and had no complaints, although I did not try the dish myself.
The one redeeming factor for Pazza Notte was the drink special—two for one martinis! Jen and I chose to sip on the Blood Orange Maritinis for the remainder of the evening and they were delicious! However, I am a foodie and not an alcoholic, so I probably won’t be going back to Pazza Notte anytime soon. I can get drinks at a bar—I expect good food at a restaurant.