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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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NYC Weekly Blog - 3.20.2013

Sorry it's been so long (AGAIN) - Work has been crazy.  But I've got lots of goodies and this time they aren't all just food!


I showed up at Intermezzo for their infamous Saturday brunch.  I had no idea what that meant.  What it meant was walking into a restaurant where a transvestite in drag was yelling at all the birthday guests to do a dance off.  Ok, not what I was expecting, but... HELL YEAH!  And you would never know from how nice the restaurant looks in pictures online!

Photo Credit: Intermezzo Website

The rest of the brunch was absolutely nuts with people dancing on tables, cheering and singing.  And to top it all off it wasn't that expensive considering the copious amounts of alcohol we downed.  Oh, and I should mention that the pancakes with strawberries and bacon were some of the best I've ever had.  I probably don't need to go back here since there are tons of places I need to see first but if someone wanted a birthday party suggestion I highly recommend!


Bob White Counter
This place is Southern in its soul and the fried chicken platter reflects it.  Just enough bread, just enough chicken.  The mac n' cheese was perfectly burnt on top and the fried okra, which I'd never had before, was incredible.  Everything was just so juicy!  The only thing that needed a little help were the biscuits which were a little too dry.  I would totally eat here again!  It's a great East Village brunch option.

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Another place that I found while running around the East Village and I liked the looks of it from the outside.  It only has a handful of tables which makes it feel intimate although maybe slightly crunched for a date which is why I was there.  It was also REALLY hot inside because they wouldn't leave the door open (apparently it is a health hazard).

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We shared a bunch of small plates (it's like Japanese/Italian fusion which was really interesting) but the only one that really sticks out in my mind were the berkshire pork buns.  They were juicy and filled with pork.  I think I ate the whole thing in one bite (I know so classy on a first date).  Everything else was good but not necessarily memorable so I didn't really bother to write them up.  I don't need to go back but I would still recommend it as a great place to catch up with maybe one friend (due to size of the place). 

Russian Turkish Baths
So a quick misdirection from food...but I've been trying to do new things in NYC outside of stuffing my face and running the street (and/or stumbling down them) so my friend and I decided to try out the Russian Turkish bath in the East Village on 10th St.  I'm VERY open to new experiences like letting fish eat my feet, chowing down on guinea pig and jumping off very tall bridges, but I have to say when you first walk into this place it's a little disconcerting.

But once you start to wander from room to room you start to kind of get into it (everyone is in bathsuits ps).  You realize that the people all kind of know each other like you've walked into this secret club of hot yogis (HOT yogis).  My favorite room was the "Game of Thrones" room (the Russian Sauna on the website).  It's filled with over 20,000 lbs. of rock which are cooked overnight. When it gets unbearable there is a little "sink" filled with ice cold water that you can pail on top of yourself.  SO COLD yet AMAZING.  I also recommend dousing the towel they give you and wrapping it around your head and body wet.  It will dry in seconds.

Photo Credit: Russian Bath Website

I had a little trouble with the heat but after visiting the baths I went for a 3 mile run that it was nothing.  I felt more energized than I have in forever.  I want a monthly membership.

In Vino
Okay so I love WineBar on 2nd Ave and 4th Street so I hate to admit that I cheated on them but I was just really jonesing for something new that wasn't as expensive as Terroir.  A friend of mine used to work at In Vino and said it was exactly what I was looking for.  I walked by In Vino saying to my friend "THAT looks like a cute place" only to have her say, "Isn't that the place we are going?!"  Whoops!  Must be a winner!  We sat at the bar and had a great time chatting with the bartender while eating cheese and meats and drinking wine.  He even gave me a little taste of some Amarone stashed in the back (mmm my favorite).  It was affordable, adorable and exactly the perfect place to a romantic date or a catch up with a close friend.  I will definitely be back.

 Photo Credit: In Vino Website


Holy hell, I stopped in at this place while realistically waiting for the line at Houston Hall next door to die down and please believe this place made a name for itself.  The Sunset Park sliders with slow-roasted Berkshire pork shoulder, smoked ham, gruyere, Pickle Guys half-sour pickles and spicy mayo are top three sliders I've ever had.  And the place was chill, dark and a great places to hang with the boys... or girls.  I'll be back.

 Photo Credit: Brooklyneer Website

Houston Hall
Uh oh... I see myself getting into a lot of trouble here.  The bouncer and multiple waitresses already recognize me and it's only been open a few months!!  This place is an old autobody shop turned beerhall that is dead Mon-Wed and CRAZY on the weekends especially for the day drinking hours.  The trick with the line is if there is one, go next door to the Brooklyneer and check back because it is very arbitrary and can go from 30 people in line to none in a matter of seconds.  Trust.  Don't give up.  It. is. worth it.


On one random occasion I actually ordered food here (horror?) and it was sooo good.  The fig jam, goat cheese and cured ham bruschetta was crisp, salty AND sweet.  I don't remember which grilled cheese we had but it too was delicious.  I can't believe this place is so much fun to party at AND has good food.  WINNING.


Hudson Clearwater
This place was recently added to my list only because I'd heard rave reviews.  Honestly, from the pictures I'd seen I wasn't THAT impressed but my friend wanted to meet there for drinks so I showed up.  The bar is tricky to find which I guess adds appeal.  It's on the corner of Hudson and Morton if you go by the address but it's a fake entrance.  Instead you need to walk along the north side of Morton to a little green garden door that leads into a patio and then into the restaurant.  Okay I started to be intrigued by the adorable patio and was fairly impressed by the comfy yet romantic interior.

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I sat at the bar where the handsome bartender made me a deliciously refreshing, Upstate Rose, made with Applejack, Rye, Apple Cider, Lime, House-made and Pomegranate Grenadine.  After that I tried the Hudson Mule which was equally as good but tarter and lighter (bison-grass vodka, ginger beer, lime, and candied ginger).

The cocktails made me fairly hungry so I was forced to order the pan roasted quail with fennel, fernet cherries and pickled mustard seeds which is one of the best meals I have ever had.  Small but flavorful.  Those cherries were BOMB.

"Dinner" ended with the honeycrisp apple tarte tatin with sea salt caramel and chantilly cream which was good but a little bland even if it did smell amazing coming out of the kitchen.

I think my review says it all when upon leaving I told the bartender I'd be booking my birthday dinner here.

Coincidentally I went back for my birthday and it was JUST as good.  I had the herb-roasted beets, crème fraîche, toasted pumpkin seeds, and micro basil to start and the grilled hanger steak with thyme, potato-cauliflower gratin, kale and chimichurri.  Both were very good although the quail still reins supreme.


 I will be back.