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Thursday, March 21, 2013

NYC Weekly Blog - 3.21.2013

In an attempt to make up for the last few weeks here is another blog post with more awesome food options.  I seem to be on an Asian kick lately...


Chop Shop
I loved this place so much I had to write about it immediately (I literally went here last night).  We shared everything mostly because we couldn't limit ourselves to one dish each.  All but one dish were top notch, top shelf dishes.  They were the Pan-fried Pork Dumpling, Pork Belly Buns, Fried Rice with Fried Egg with chinese sausage, shiitake, fresh peas, shallot, fried egg and the Sea Bass lettuce cups with pine nuts, corn, pepper, and other veggies.  We also ordered the Chicken Penang Curry with squash, cauliflower, and pepper which was also very good but not heavenly.  So let's break it down a little.

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The pork dumplings were crisp but not crunchy on the outside and bursting with juice on the inside.  Pretty sure I had some chin dribble on that one.  

The pork belly buns were soft with well seasoned pork on the inside.  Having become somewhat of a pork bun connoisseur I would say I prefer when they pull the pork first so you get an even pork to bun ratio in each bite as opposed to a "slab" of pork  but either way these were VERY good.

And then there was the Fried Rice.  It was too die for.  I was SO full and just couldn't stop eating it.  If I hadn't been on a date and trying to retain some semblance of class I probably would've taken the leftover bites home and cuddled them.

The Sea Bass lettuce cups weren't SO exciting but I liked the ingenuity behind using sea bass instead of chicken so it got points.

Oh and then there were the cocktails.  They until recently were BYOB so I'm not sure if they are just extra zealous with the bourbon or what but my drink was so strong I couldn't even sip it (probably not tragic for some).  The lady immediately noticed, came back with a Sprite, and quickly turned it into two drinks that were much more drinkable.  She didn't even charge me for the Sprite.  THAT'S what I call service.

I would recommend this place to ANYONE.  I will be back.

My friend's mom was in town this last weekend and when I heard Cuban food for dinner I hoped right on the family train to Coppelia.  It's a straight up diner but with a little Latin flava.  We had to wait about 20 minutes for a six person table on a Friday night at 8pm which was not bad at all!!!  They were also very attentive at the bar and even later at the table as well. 

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We hung out at the bar where I ordered the El Nino Michelada.  Strangely enough I don't think I've ever had a michelada so I can't make a perfect comparison but this one was slightly different as it was made with tequila and had a hibiscus rim that was salty and fiery.  The combination of the beer, lime and salt on the rim may the drink almost foamy and bubbly.  It was DELICIOUS.  This picture is terrible.  It looks way better in real life.

 For dinner we shared, again because no one could pick just one thing.  The highlight for me was definitely the guacamole which comes with dried plaintains and other "chips" besides just regular chips which was cool and the arroz con pollo with chicken breast, yellow rice, red peppers and egg which was more like a chicken fried rice.  It was fairly spicy with large chunks of grilled chicken and vegetables.  I'm also not sure what rice they used but I'm still thinking about it.

The ropa vieja with slow cooked shredded beef in tomato salsa with peppers and chiles and rice and  beans and the salmon with boniatio puree, otomatillo salad and orange-habenero sauce were also very good but again not to the level of the con pollo.

The Havana salad with kale, quesco fresco, pepitas, tomato and lemon-mustard vinagrette left much to be desired unfortunately as it came to the table very undressed and the proportion of kale to toppings was grossly in the "green."


The best part of the whole experience? The price.  This place is diner pricing for phenomenal food and I didn't even get to try half the items on the menu that some amazing like the "oxtail empanadas."  I will definitely be back for lunch since it's right down the street from work.

Pad Thai Noodle Lounge
For some reason I've just been craving Asian food lately as you can probably tell from the places listed on this week's blog posts.  Having eaten everything in Chelsea Market I desperately needed something new and having lived in L.A. I am a massive fan of Thai food.  So I did a Google search and this place was the closest one.  Let's try it out!  The place is kind of kooky which I liked and turns out they have a lunch special until 3:30pm every day where you basically get a small plate and an entree for $7-9 dollars.  AMAZING.  

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I ordered a crispy fried dumpling stuff with minced chicken, mushroom and watercress wrapped in wonton skin served with a soy dipping sauce to start and then the Pad Thai with stir fried rice noodles with tofu, egg, bean sprouts and scallions in a tamarind sauce and topped with crushed peanuts.  The dumpling were a little too fried so they were overly crunchy (I like when they are a little soft) but the pad thai was SO good.  The ingredients just tasted so fresh.  Like the spices were newly ground, the noodles newly made, etc.  It was one of the most satisfying SEVEN DOLLAR meals ever.  I will definitely be back and highly recommend this place for lunch.


Ace Hotel
I'll keep this one short since I've already written about the Ace Hotel in the past.  This time I was there on Thursday celebrating my roommate's promotion at the Lobby Bar (yes you guessed it.  In the lobby).  The guys there are pretty forward which is good or bad depending on the guy I guess!  And the drinks are pretty hit or miss.  The first one tasted like USC jungle juice (yes the Popov based alcoholic drink your fratboy boyfriend used to make in a trash can and then stirred with his upper arm).  It was called "Rush of Blood to the Head" (blood orange liqueur, hibiscus syrup, lemon zest and prosecco).  I then switched to the "Voodoo Child" (Kentucky bourbon, agave nectar, lemon juice, Whiskey aged bitters, and ginger beer) which was much better.  Maybe a little too ginger-y but refreshing with a little sparkle to it.  If you can get a couch area to sit in (first come first serve for the most part) it a great place to happy hour and people watch.


I've walked past this place countless times and it looks SO good.  I mentioned it to a friend who had people in town so she booked a table for six.  They called two hours before the reservation to confirm and she didn't hear her phone so they cancelled the reservation.  I can't begin to explain how unprofessional that is.  We showed up on time only to be told "too bad" until a manager finally said he'd find a spot for us.  We stood at the bar being elbowed left and right for 40 minutes before the "spot" was found.  So basically I sat down in a terrible mood on what was a great Saturday with very little appetite.  I would've left if I wasn't with a larger group. 

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Cata is lucky that the quail eggs benedict with chorizo and hash browns was one of the best dishes I've ever had in my life or I would never return here.  They arrive nice and hot and the gooeyness of the eggs paired with the crispness of the hash brown was delightful. The salted caramel ice cream sundae with marcona almonds, toasted marshmallow and chocolate sauce was also good but needed more marshmallow and chocolate.

I also don't remember  being terribly impressed with the service and you are seated WAY too close to the table next to you so it's like pretend family style seating when that's not what you asked for.  All-in-all it's a shame that a place with food like this is so shoddy in the way it's run.

I may return but definitely not on a weekend.


Freeman's Alley
So I've passed this place before and thought it looked cute and then separately heard great things about "Freeman's Alley" yet never put two and two together.  So I didn't even really realize that this is the place I was headed until I Googled it.  My friend took me there for my birthday dinner and I was very impressed.  We walked in without a reservation late on a Tuesday if you need ideas on when to go without waiting.  The restaurant has almost a calm, old world feel to it kind of like Gramercy Tavern.  Maybe it's the rich mahogany or the heads of hunted animals on the walls.  Either way my dad or grandfather would love this place.  The wait staff was knowledgeable and attentive and the food was well priced for the portions and the taste.

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We shared the marinated beet and citrus salad with watercress and creme fraiche dressing which was light and filling and then I finished it off with seared filet mignon with sweet and sour onions, mashed potatoes and horseradish cream.  I originally planned to order the hunter's stew because it sounded interested and appropriate for the locale but the waitress firmly insisted I get the filet.  It was perfectly cooked with juices pouring out of it.  Overall a very nice dinner.

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