My favorite quarantine recipes Part III

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Maryland crab cakes (see next week’s blog for recipe)

Twenty-something days into a seemingly endless isolation, the only real downside to my self-imposed challenge to never repeat the same dish twice for as long as the lockdown lasts is when my semi-smart bathroom scale flashes ONE AT TIME PLEASE! Regardless, week 3 heralded a couple of old faithfuls, a few recently improveds and one or two new entrants to our “keepers” folder.

SUNDAY

We generally stick to at least one vegetarian dinner each week, and I had already planned on making a batch of my perfected-over-time Puttanesca, but the nice thing about this dish is that it can pair with way more than just pasta. In fact, after spotting a handsome pair of wild caught Chilean sea bass steaks, I decided to take a rain-check on the veg rule.

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Puttanesca on grilled Chilean sea bass

PUTTANESCA

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 chilies de arbol
  • 4 large garlic cloves thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 3 tblspn olive oil, divided
  • 2 oil packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1 tblspn fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cups crushed San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tblspn drained capers
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat chili’s, garlic, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large deep skillet over medium low. Cook,stirring occasionally until garlic is tender and light golden, about five minutes.
Add anchovies and oregano, cook, breaking up anchovies using the back of a spoon, until garlic is golden and mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes bring to a simmer over medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally until flavors all melded and sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard chilies. Stir in olives and capers and cook for another 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
Remove from heat. Add basil and remaining 1 tablespoon oil, toss to coat.

MONDAY

Most pork chop recipes include some concoction of apple or apple-derivatives. While many of them might be good, nice and fine…good, nice and fine are all four-letter words. Instead, I dare you to try this wonderfully sublime (and new to me) Ginger-scallion relish. You’ll quickly forget how to spell appel.

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Ginger-scallion relish on grilled bone-in pork chop

GINGER-SCALLION RELISH

Ingredients

  • 6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 teaspoons juice
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

Directions

Combine scallion whites, ginger, pepper, and lime zest in heatproof bowl.
Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.
Pour oil over scallion mixture. (Mixture will bubble.) Stir until well combined.
Let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
Stir in scallion greens, lime juice, and soy sauce.
Let mixture sit for 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

 

TUESDAY

Another smashing new-to-me recipe for a rather classic dish is a wonderfully garlicky, buttery Linguine in White Clam sauce that makes you forget how long it’s been since you stepped a bare foot onto a soft, sandy beach. BTW, you don’t have to use fresh clams in the shell, but I just happen to think they make this dish look that much sexier.

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Linguine with white clam sauce

LINGUINE WITH WHITE CLAM SAUCE

Ingredients

  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 2 – 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 4 or more large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 8oz chopped frozen clams (thawed)
  • (I also like to include a handful of fresh clams in their shells for garnish)
  • 1-2 bottles of clam juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese with more for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley with more for serving
  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions.

(If using fresh clams in their shell, steam them until they all open, about 7 – 10 minutes. Set aside.)

Rinse the thawed clams in a strainer and then add them to a small pot of simmering broth, water or clam juice. Cook for no more than 2 minutes, drain and set aside.
(If using tinned cooked clams, separate the clams from their juice.)

In a large saucepan heat butter and olive oil, add garlic, cook for approx 1 to 2 minutes until aromatic. Add bottled clam juice and white wine to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and allow the sauce to simmer. Add red pepper flakes.

Remove from heat and finally add the cooked (or tinned) clams to get them warm and coated in the sauce.

Drain pasta, and add back to the pot on medium-low heat. Pour the sauce mixture over the pasta, add grated cheese, salt, pepper and parsley and stir until nicely combined.
Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of additional cheese and parsley and some baguette slices to mop up the extra sauce.

WEDNESDAY

I can barely remember when “Wednesday Wings” used to be a thing. But unlike their upstate cousins from Buffalo, these Crispy Peppercorn Chicken Wings don’t require all that deep frying (–twice, if you want them extra crispy). These are baked and then broiled in the oven. The secret is in the spice mixture.

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Crispy Peppercorn Chicken Wings

CRISPY PEPPERCORN CHICKEN WINGS

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons black pepper corns
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons garam masala or Chinese five-spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 pounds chicken wings, flats and drumettes separated, patted dry with paper towels
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 lime

Directions

Crush peppercorns in a pestle and mortar or with the bottom of a saucepan in a baking sheet.
Add salt, coriander, cumin, garam masala, baking soda, and sugar to bowl with peppercorns and mix with your hands to make sure all spices are intermingled.

Add chicken wings and oil and toss with your hands until wings are evenly coated. Chill, uncovered for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Arrange wings on prepared sheet, spacing then apart and them let sit until they’ve lost the chill of the fridge and are as close to room temperature as possible, at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°. You’re going to bake and then broil the wings so they get extra crispy, so make sure you have one rack aset closer to the broiler

Bake wings on center rack, removing sheet halfway through and turning wings over with a pair of tongs, until browned and crisp in spots and cooked through, 30–40 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven and turn on broiler; let heat at least 5 minutes. Broil wings on top rack until browned and crisp all over and nubs on ends of drumettes are just a little charred for about a minute. Remove from oven and turn wings again.
Broil until second side looks as crisp and lightly charred as the first, also about 1 minute. Let rest about 5 minutes.

While the wings are resting, thinly slice scallions and cut lime into wedges. Arrange wings on a platter and scatter scallions over. Serve with lime wedges alongside.

THURSDAY

Just because I haven’t shared any breakfast recipes so far doesn’t mean that I don’t partake in one of the three most important meals of the day. This Oven-baked Steelcut oats has to be one of the strangest preparations of oatmeal ever. I “borrowed” the recipe from a seaside resort café where the (high, drunk or both) chef might have intended to make oatmeal cookies but threw in steelcut oats by mistake. The happy accident is a nutty, chewy, cookie-esque version of Grape nuts. Serve with plain yogurt, berries and (last week’s) Lemon curd.

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Oven-baked Steelcut Oats

OVEN-BAKED STEELCUT OATS

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Steelcut oats
  • 1 Tblspn brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbslpn melted butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir first 5 dry ingredients together and mix well.
Beat the wet ingredients and fold into the dry until well moistened.
Pour the mixture into a medium sized, greased baking dish.
Bake for 30 minutes and then using a spatula, chop it up into very small chunks and stir it around. Bake for another 15 minutes, continue to chop it up and let cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.
To serve warm, saute briefly in a skillet with a little butter. Serve with a very generous dollop of plain yogurt, blueberries and lemon curd (essential).
Or you can serve it cold with whole milk or almond milk.

 

FRIDAY

Here’s a question for you: What’s the difference is between an Austrian Wienerschnitzel and a Japanese Tonkatsu? Both involve pounded, crumbed and fried veal, pork or chicken. But because that they are both equally delicious, does anyone actually care what the difference is? The key is what you pair them with. This recipe works just as well for any of the above proteins, but the secret is in the dark-and-sassy Tonkatsu dip – plus these amazingly crispy quick-pickled cucumbers.

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Chicken Tonkatsu with Japanese pickled Cucumbers

CHICKEN TONKATSU WITH JAPANESE PICKLED CUCUMBERS

Ingredients

For the pickled Cucumbers:

  • ½ pound small Kirby cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, more for seasoning
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shiso or basil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil

For the Tonkatsu:

  • 8 thin slices chicken breast medallions
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups panko crumbs
  • ½ cup flour
  • Black pepper
  • Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

For the Tonkatsu sauce:

  • 2 Tblspn tomato sauce
  • 3 Tblspn Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tblspn Oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

Place the cucumbers in a colander set over a bowl. Toss them with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon sugar.
Mix the Tonkatsu sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside for serving.
Place one piece of chicken at a time into a Zip-lock bag. Pound the meat to 1/8-inch thickness.
Place eggs in a large shallow bowl; whisk in the Worcestershire and tomato paste. Place the panko crumbs and flour in two separate shallow bowls.
Season cutlets with salt and pepper. Dip each cutlet in the flour (tap off excess), the egg mixture (ditto), then dredge in the panko.
Heat a large pan, pour in 1/8 inch of oil and heat for 30 seconds. Working in batches, put cutlets in the pan. Immediately shake and tilt it so the oil rolls over the chicken in waves (this will give it a lighter, crisper crust). Shake the pan occasionally, until cutlets are golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip them and shake again. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined platter to drain.
Pat the cucumbers dry with paper towels. Toss with scallions, vinegar, shiso (or basil), soy sauce, sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Serve cutlets with pickled cucumbers and sauce on the side.

 

SATURDAY

A wonderfully rustic variation from serving meat ragu with pasta is to pile it on top of a mound of steaming, fresh polenta. This Beef short-rib Ragu cooks for a good 2+ hours in the oven before falling apart and yielding to mouthwatering tomato-ey, garlicky and umami flavors. Don’t forget a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan.

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Beef short-rib Ragu

BEEF SHORT-RIB RAGU

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups beef broth
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • ½ teaspoon five-spice powder
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped fine
  • 2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt

Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave 1/2 cup broth and mushrooms in covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms in fine-mesh strainer lined with coffee filter, pressing to extract all liquid; reserve liquid and chop mushrooms fine.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste, anchovies, and five-spice powder and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has darkened and fond forms on pot bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until wine is reduced and pot is almost dry, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and reserved juice, remaining 1 cup broth, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and mushrooms and bring to simmer.

Toss beef with ¾ teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Add beef to pot, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 1 hour. Uncover and continue to cook until beef is tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours longer.

Remove pot from oven; using slotted spoon, transfer beef to cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue. Using large spoon, skim off any excess fat that has risen to surface of sauce. Return beef to sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

 

Stay safe. Stay sane, but most importantly – stay at home!

 

Catching two elusive Dragons

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Mission Chinese Food, New York

It is with the utmost relief to finally indulge in two of New York’s hoopla hotspots that have been stuck on my “to-try” list for an annoying eternity. Pok Pok NY, the (at one time) Michelin-starred northern Thai import from Oregon (of all places), and San Francisco native Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food.

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Pok Pok NY

Pok Pok NY is marooned in one of the most maddeningly inaccessible neighborhoods of Brooklyn requiring a car, a driver, nerves of steel and quite possibly two forms of government ID. When Andy Ricker opened Pok Pok Wings in Manhattan a few years back, I idiotically refused to trek all the way down to the Financial District to sample his über-celebrated chicken wings, only to have to settle for a 2+ hour waiting line instead. And just when I finally overcame my chronic impatience, he went and shut the place down. Karma.

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Thrice Cooked Bacon, Mission Chinese Food

And ever since Mission Chinese Food reopened to a tsunami of public gratitude in its current location (after an unmentionably embarrassing incident involving tenants of the rodent variety), tables have been as scarce as subtlety in Las Vegas. But to make matters worse, Mr. Bowien insisted on listing his Asian-fusion moneymaker on Reserve, the most infuriatingly eye-roll-worthy app of all time (who notoriously forget to remind you of your forgotten passwords!) And furthermore, 411 and Google still offer diners a “mystery” phone number that has yet to be plugged into an actual phone. So, if you have a few millennia to kill, I dare you to call (646) 707-0281 just so you can hear a ring tone that easily lasts longer than Cher’s multi-platinum career.

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Spicy Peanut Noodles, Mission Chinese Food

Despite the fact that Mission Chinese sits on the border of Chinatown’s glut of Asian dried fish stands and hole-in-the-wall noodle shops with inverted red ducks swinging in the windows amid incessant signs offering “Take-Out” (which smell as if they should have been “taken out” ages ago), it feels more like a Quentin Tarantino movie set. Not that a gunfight massacre wouldn’t be appropriate, but more so because of the funky red velvety booths under alien-star lamps with an unstoppable hip-hop soundtrack. You might find a dragon or two punctuating the raw brick walls, but you won’t find any standard fare on the atypically short un-Chinese menu. Most of the items carry one or more “fire” symbols that are by no means decorative. Take heed. These dishes might all be genuinely delicious, but they are certainly not for the faint of palate. We inhaled the Spicy Peanut Noodles with abandon, enjoying the many wonderful layers and flavors beyond the lemon-grass and garlic. Things elevated a notch with the Thrice cooked Bacon, which entirely deserves its own Instagram account. Smoky sections of soft, barbecue-y bacon strips clinging to sticky slivers of tender rice cake medallions, darkened by the most wondrous Szechuan pepper glaze.

 

 

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Mapo Tofu, Mission Chinese Food

I could go on and on, but by the time we drenched the bracingly spectacular Mapo Tofu over a puddle of rice, it was time to summon those brave gentlemen from the 15th fire truck precinct a few doors down. There was a moment when I began to worry about my teeth melting under the searing heat from my tongue, when I realized that “hot in” usually also means “hot out”, giving me something else to look forward to in a few hours time. Turns out that one of the reliable properties of Szechuan peppercorns is their numbing effect which thankfully – I’m delighted to report – lives up to its reputation for the duration of its lifecycle.

 

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Pok Pok NY

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge has always been a daunting challenge for New Yorkers ever since its inauguration in 1883. One leaves the calm orderliness of Manhattan’s grid structure behind, only to be faced by backyards, drivers, hipsters and families with children. Quite literally a war zone. Regardless, once you’re through the worst of it and you finally pull up at Pok Pok NY, it somehow seems a bit more “cafeteria” than you expected. I know looks can be deceiving, but the quirky paper-doyly festooned aluminum bar, and the sensibly laminated Hawaiian-print table cloths with unbreakable prison-ware dishes redefines casual – even for me. But when our disarmingly engaging waitress brought a far-too-small bowl of House-roasted Red Peanuts with chilies and lime leaves, my table manners deserted me. Was I breaking a hunger strike or something? Were these the first peanuts I’d ever eaten? Was I always this ambidextrous? It was all a bit of a scrumptious blur that ended far too quickly.

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House-roasted Red peanuts with chilies and lime leaves, Pok Pok NY

Then things shifted down to a lower gear when the rather unmemorable minced duck and mint salad (Laap Pet Isaan) showed up with a plate of freshly plucked Thai herbs. And my entire dining party unanimous classified the tender chunks of Burmese pork belly curry, (Kaeng Hang Leh) in a nondescript broth as “nothing special”.

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Laap Pet Isaan, Mission Chinese Food

The Kai Yaang Tuua, turned out to be a spectacularly ordinary roast chicken (with both feet attached, and stuffed with an irritatingly thorny lemongrass and garlic stuffing) which were it not for the two dipping sauces, might have been even less popular.

 

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Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, Pok Pok NY

But as expected, Ike’s Vietnamese Wings are still the smash hit that once turned a kitchen into a goldmine. This legendary chorus line of 6 auburn fish-sauce-marinated chicken shoulders, tossed in the most mouthwateringly sugary, smoky, sticky, garlicky, peanutty, peppery caramelized glaze with a subtle heat, came just inches from touching my soul. I’m talking about a finger-licking, mood-altering delight that makes the thought of another risk-to-life-and-limb journey to the far side of the East River entirely repeatable.

https://www.missionchinesefood.com/nyc/

https://pokpokny.com/

 

My Top 38 Restaurants in New York City

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After much begging, pleading, mooing and meowing, I finally succumbed to share a list of my personal favorite food haunts in New York City. And because not all meals are created equal – nor are all palates or pockets, I took the liberty of dividing the list into 7 convenient categories to help you retrace my foodie foodsteps. But before you proceed to cut-and-paste, there’s a caveat we need to be clear on:

While none of my restaurant or meal recommendations mentioned here are “one-dish-wonders”, I cannot accept any liability for sub-par experiences due to off-nights, falling standards, menu omissions, inflated hype or chef dismissals. The food was amazing when I ate there! Just sayin’.

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Le Bernadin “Egg”

In the new year, the only thing higher than legend-busting rents (au revoir Union Square Café, Barbuto, Costata etc.), will be the highest minimum wage for restaurant workers in the city’s history. So if someone else is footing the bill, let’s label the first category as EXPENSE ACCOUNT EXCESS.

Daniel $$$+

An immaculate, flawless and unforgettable experience. The service, the presentation, the food itself and (as sincerely as only he can muster) the traditional table-side greeting by Chef Boulud himself.

Eleven Madison Park $$$+

Daniel Humm finds the right balance between shi-shi molecular gastronomy curiosities and one of the best meals in the city today. Not your average cup of tea, so make sure your party can handle Carrot foam and Carrot Tartare.

 Le Bernadin $$$+

Also clutching his 3 Michelin stars, chef Eric Ripert is the consummate host and venerable architect of so many dishes that have inspired the careers of two generations of toques. His legendary “Egg” – while no longer on the menu is a must-have.

 

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Svizzerina (bun-less burger) from Via Carota

The next group of restaurants are literally mood-altering locations, that the mere thought of eating there instantly puts a smile on my face. These are my ALL-TIME FAVORITES

Upland $$

Great space, great vibe and the menu is replete with hit-makers, but the Duck Wings are to die for.

Via Carota $

Very vibey face-brick room decked out with antique shnick-shnack as a typical West Village backdrop for some sensational and affordable dishes like the Svizzerina bun-less burger.

Buvette $

I absolutely adore this little French bistro with Barbie-doll-sized tables, stools and dishes. Jodi Williams cranks out the most astoundingly delicious French mini plates. Great for brunch.

Momofuku Ssam $

Some might say this is David Chang’s ATM, but the guy puts an unbeatable Korean spin on anything he touches. Fun, friendly and flavorful. Great for lunch. Steamed pork buns were pretty much invented here. Spicy Pork Sausage rice cakes are also sensational.

The Musket Room $$

Only in New York can a big, beafy, tattoo-shmeared New Zealander use Kickstarter to open a chef’s favorite haunt with the most delicate and robust flavors. Berkshire Pork done two-ways, Southland Lamb done two-ways and the Passion fruit Pavlova are outstanding. (See earlier review)

Estela $$

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about this unpretentious hit-maker. Even the Obama’s have to stop in every time they’re in town. Beef Tartare with Sunchokes, Mussels escabeche, Burrata with salsa-verde, Lamb ribs and Rib eye. (See earlier review)

Marc Forgione $$

Dark, moody and filled with regulars. The Bell & Evans Chicken under a brick for 2 in this TriBeCa landmark is legendary.

Little Owl $$

With more dishes on anyone’s favorites list than any other kitchen of its size (and too many to mention here), this simple room of 20 or so seats is tough to get into, but well worth the wait.

Narcissa $$

Ask for a table on the kitchen side, so you can see the army of Veg-forward chefs put the final touches on the 5-hour Rotisserie-crisped Beets, or Carrots Wellington or Barley Risotto with Baby Clams. (See earlier review)

 

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Braised Halibut with Pink Peppercorn Sauce from The Clocktower

Creating a unique and unforgettable menu in tough enough, but when the location itself is dripping with drama and atmosphere, you have to be at a place that is COOL, HIP & HAPPENIN’

The Nomad $$$

Daniel Humm does it again. Each of the four lavishly gawdy rooms feels like you’ve just stepped onto the set of “La Traviata.” Don’t miss the incomparable (and pricey) Foie gras, black truffle and brioche stuffed Roast Chicken served two ways.

The Clocktower $$$

Wow! Talk about making a statement! UK native and Michelin winner Jason Atherton has created a deliciously sexy space with a whole host of unstoppable dishes like the Dressed crab with uni and apples or the Hand chopped Steak Tartare au poivre or the Braised Halibut with pink peppercorn sauce as well as a collection of knockout signature cocktails.

Betony $$

The funny thing about Manhattan’s midtown is that even though it is the central focus of business and tourism, you can sometimes count blog-worthy restaurants on one claw. Bryce Shuman however serves up picture perfect dishes in an intricately carved space that feels like you just climbed into a plush picture frame. The chef’s tasting menu is an experience. (See earlier review)

Beauty & Essex $

I love bringing out-of-towners here. It’s impossibly irreverent, ridiculously popular and surprisingly satisfying. The door on the far side of a pawn shop opens into a sumptuous and heady lounge where you can barrage yourself with a litany of tapas plates including the Roasted Bone Marrow on toast, Grilled cheese and Tomato Soup dumplings and the Lobster Tacos.

 Untitled at the Whitney $$

The Whitney Museum’s recently unveiled, clean-lined, glassy architectural new digs is also home to Danny Meyer’s latest jewel in the crown which has become as popular and eye-catching as some of the artworks upstairs. What it lacks in views, it surpluses in modern dishes. Try the Roasted and Fried Chicken and the Lamb Meatballs with peanut sauce.

 

Jerk Chicken WIngs at Ma Peche

Even with 20,000 restaurants to choose from, New York still manages to squeeze out a newcomer every other day. But there are a handful of locales that for years and years have set unwavering standards without compromise, that constantly deliver on being SOLIDLY RELIABLE

Perry Street $

Jean-George protégé (and descendant) Cedric Vongerichten still packs them into this über-modern, airy space right on the Hudson river. The Perry Street Fried Chicken is remarkable.

Locanda Verde $$

The perpetually-popular Anthony Carmelini and Robert De Niro partner shop is one of the best bets in TriBeCa. The Sheep’s Milk Ricotta is one of a kind, not to mention the Duck Arrosto and the all-time favorite Paccheri with Sunday night ragu. (See earlier review)

Ma Peche $$

David Chang’s midtown Korean dim-sum palace looks a bit like an army med-evac tent, but when those little Dim-sum carts come rolling past bearing Jerk Chicken Wings, Roasted rice-cakes or the Habanero Fried Chicken, you remind yourself not to judge a book by its cover. (See earlier review)

Marea $$$+

The epicenter of Michael White’s Altamarea group anchors Central Park at this standout Italian-seafood showpiece. It’s a bit posh, but the food is very real. The Fusilli covered in red wine braised octopus and bone marrow is what it’s all about.

Dell’ Anima $

It’s intimate, packed with regulars and at times rather smokey, thanks to the all-in-one kitchen-dining room. The daily specials are always amazing, but the Bruschettas are legendary.

ABC Kitchen $$

Of all the all-natural locovore palaces in town, this one set the bar early and high. Jean-George’s spacious room continues to draw a crowd for dishes as varied as the days of the week.

Hudson Clearwater $

There are a bunch of cute, atmospheric bistros in the West Village, but few of them are as unpretentious as this one. Small menu, exceptional service, great food. I love the Grilled grass-fed Hanger Steak or the Pan-seared local fish of the day.

Annisa $$

Anita Lo’s little shop that could – always does. Very intricate dishes, brimming with flavor and imagination that span the globe like the Seared Foie Gras with Soup dumplings and Jicama or the Duo of Rabbit.

 

 

Husk Meringue - Cosme

Cosme’s Husk Meringue

In the NYC melting pot, it’s not surprising that chef’s from all over the globe abide by the adage: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it in Singapore, Vegas, London, Shanghai and Beverly Hills” Here are my current favorite authentic INTERNATIONAL KNOCKOUTS

Cosme $$$

It was no surprise that Enrique Olvera’s first foray in the US would be a sell-out hit, but I doubt even he realized just how nuts we would all be over his hyper-authentic, gourmet Mexican cuisine. If you’re feeling generous, splurge on the Duck Carnitas, and the (beyond incredible) smashed Husk Meringue. (See earlier review)

ABC Cucina $

On the north side of the block from ABC Kitchen, Jean-George points his magic compass towards the Iberian coastline for a super-sophisticated tapas bar with much curb appeal. I adore the Chipotle Chicken Tacos and the best Patatas Bravas in town. (See earlier review)

Bar Jamon $$

Just around the corner from Casa Mono, Mario Batali & friends’ incredibly authentic Spanish bistro is one of my favorite (and alas not so secret) mini wine bars in the city. Specializing in a broad range of known (and not so well known) Spanish wines, they also hand-carve a delectable Jamon Iberico along with any number of other traditional favorites.

El quinto Piño $

There are a curious number of adorable little Spanish bistros in Chelsea, that range from tragic to traditional. This is one of my favorite spots that is super simple, but the food is full of flavor without the fuss. Everyone loves the Uni Panini or the Bocadillo de Calamar. (See earlier review)

Babu Ji $

Curiously enough Jesse Singh’s authentic Indian cooking is attributed to his Grandmother who hailed from Bombay, but his business is a replica of his hugely successful curry shop in Melbourne, Australia. It’s nothing more than a jumble of a room in Alphabet City with a “serve yourself” beer fridge in the corner, but the food is beyond inspired. I recommend the Chef’s Tasting Menu which highlights with vegetable filled puff-pastry balls called Pani Puri, a Lamb Raan, Butter Chicken and end off with Kulfi ice-cream bars flavored with cardamom and honey.

Haldi $

Of the forty or so Indian restaurants that comprise “Curry Hill”, Haldi is the reigning champion. The menu boasts just enough traditional Calcutta fare, while leaving room for a plethora of gourmet dishes never before seen on South Lexington Avenue menus. The Chicken Tikka Masala is legendary, while the Creamy Shrimp with carom seeds is stunningly surprising.

Bar Bolonat $

Ainat Admony’s modern Israeli-Arab menu is chock full of mega hits. Whatever you do, bring an appetite for the Jerusalem Bagel that you dip into oil and Za’atar spices and the equally delicious teardrop-shaped Hudson Street Kibbeh or the Shrimp in Yemenite curry, but leave room for the Fried Baklava Ice cream which melts out and mixes in the pistachio syrup. (See earlier review)

Han Dynasty $

Searing hot success story from Philly, the Szechuan peppercorn-heavy menu won’t disappoint. The Dan-Dan Noodles are a must, and if you can stand the heat, you have to try the mouth-numbing Dry Pepper Chicken Wings. (See earlier review)

Tuome $

A micro-bistro with Asian influences from an accountant turned chef. Try the Egg – which is panko fried with pickles, or the Pig which is a checkerboard of delicious pork morsels, or the duck-fat infused Rice. (See earlier review)

Carbone $$

The Torrisi Food group’s masterful red-sauce restaurant is close enough to Little Italy without feeling like a carbon copy of any other Italian restaurant in the city – and there are hundreds! Order the Caesar salad and the Veal Parm or go home. (See earlier review)

Marta $$

If you love thin-crust pizza, then you will adore Marta almost as much as me. Nick Anderer (via Danny Meyer)’s double pizza ovens seem to hold up the roof in the open-plan lobby of the Martha Washington hotel. The pesto flavored Arancini appetizer and the Potate alla Carbonara pizza are my favorite orders. (See earlier review)

Khe-Yo $

Intimate, dark and full of atmosphere. Chef Schwader (Marc Forgione protégé) shows off his Laotian prowess. If you like flavor forward, you’re in for a treat. The Sesame Beef Jerkey, Chili Prawns and Berkshire Pork ribs are a must, and don’t be shy to re-order the Sticky Rice. One helping is just not enough. (See earlier review)

Wallse $$

Kurt Gutenbrunner has a network of Austrian bistros all over town, but the best Wiener Schnitzel in the city has to be had at Wallse. If you want to savor the best in Viennese coffee bars, try his Café Zabarsky inside the Neue Gallerie for a Große Braune and a slice of Sachertorte.

 

 

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Fried Chicken Sandwich with Fu-ket Peanut sauce and slaw by Fuku

My expectations have no relationship to the size of a dish. Even a between-meal munchie or an informal, inexpensive supper needs to be the best there is. Here are some that offer QUICK, CHEAP & CHEERFUL

FukuFried chicken sandwich

Bianca – A cash only, no reservations, super inexpensive treat. Lasagne to end all Lasagnes.

Mile End – Canadian style Smoked Beef Sandwich bar with a delicious Poutine

Smith and Mills – Little plates and cocktails in a former carriage house

Salvation Taco – Gourmet tacos

Umami Burger – (See earlier review)

 

 

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Chef’s menu platter from Babu Ji

And finally because there are only three meals a day, many of which I choose to cook myself, I find myself collecting an ever-growing STILL “TO-TRY” LIST

Batârd

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fair

Contra

Dominic Ansel Kitchen

Little Park

Lupulo

Mission Chinese Food

Oiji

Russ & Daughters Café

Sadelle’s

Sushi Nakazawa

Salvation Burger

Santina

Semilla

Shuko

Hudson Street Kibbeh - Bar Bolonat

Hudson Street Kibbeh from Bar Bolonat

http://www.danielnyc.com

http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com

http://www.le-bernadin.com

http://www.uplandnyc.com

http://www.viacarota.com

http://www.ilovebuvette.com

https://reservations.momofuku.com/login

http://www.themusketroom.com

http://www.estelanyc.com

http://www.marcforgione.com

http://www.thelittleowlnyc.com

http://www.narcissarestaurant.com

http://www.thenomadhotel.com

http://www.theclocktowernyc.com

http://www.betony-nyc.com

http://www.beautyandessex.com

http://www.untitledatthewhitney.com

http://www.perrystrestaurant.com

http://www.locandaverdenyc.com

http://www.marea-nyc.com

http://www.dellanima.com

https://www.abchome.com/eat/abc-kitchen/

http://www.hudsonclearwater.com

http://www.annisarestaurant.com

http://www.cosmenyc.com

http://www.casamononyc.com

http://www.elquintopinonyc.com

http://www.babujinyc.com

http://www.haldinyc.com

http://www.barbolonatny.com

http://handynasty.net/east-village/

http://www.tuomenyc.com

http://www.carbonenewyork.com

http://www.martamanhattan.com

http://www.kheyo.com

http://www.kg-ny.com/wallse

 

 

Yunnan Kitchen review

Yunnan Kitchen

Yunnan Kitchen

When chefs leave restaurants, the impact to a kitchen is far greater than say when a captain leaves his ship. Ships aren’t really expected to do much more than shlepp passengers (who prefer to travel in hordes, unpack only once and who are quite comfortable with their first impression of a foreign destination being the port) without fuss, plague or delay. Restaurant kitchens on the other hand have hungry, expectant, impatient, picky and frequently critical diners to feed, a reputation to uphold – all while serving countless renditions of the same dish monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, minutely without a single fluctuation. Chefs can’t cut corners. They aren’t allowed to improvise or compromise because they are ultimately the first and last reason any diner recommends, revisits or pans a restaurant. So when Doron Wong took over the leadership from Travis Post at Yunnan Kitchen in the Lower East Side over a year ago, he created a fresh and affordable menu with sharable dishes offering a spectrum of Yunnan province flavors – from aromatic petals to gasket-blowing peppers that are part of the reason there is still a pervasive line outside the door.

 

Ma La Chiciken Wings - Yunnan Kitchen

Ma La Chicken Wings

If New York has flower, theater, diamond and garment districts, then the Lower East Side is the uncontested eclectic food district. Yunnan Kitchen’s rustic space with Clinton-Street-de-rigueur exposed-brick, pressed-steel ceilings and dim lighting is pretty much the final outpost in a row of distinctive and original establishments, where reservations are seldom offered.

Wong has a few signature cocktails that debut many of the spices and aromas that are about to color and define the rest of the evening. The first appearance (of the seemingly abundant) Sichuan peppercorns is added to a sweat-inducing grapefruit, chili, tequila Rita. The next most reached-for ingredient in the house is Chrysanthemum, which becomes the cornerstone for an aromatic, sweet ‘n sour Daiquiri with splashes of citrus and St. Germain.

The broad measuring-tape-sized Spicy Pulled-pork cold noodles, snake around morsels of barbecued pork and cherry tomatoes, which are dressed in chili oil with a more subtle infusion of Chrysanthemum giving them an unexpectedly fragrant – yet spicy perfume.

Mushroom Rice Cakes - Yunnan Kitchen

Mushroom Rice Cakes

Notwithstanding the addition of flecks of ham and the odd chili, the Stir Fried Mushrooms felt a little rubbery to me, with perhaps too much restraint in the flavor department to warrant a position on the very cautiously selected 16-item menu, but the Mushroom Rice Cakes are fabulous. Diagonal slithers of a dense yet remarkably light rice cake, are warmed with the smokiness of fermented chilies in a thick, rich and hearty brown sauce.

Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao - Yunnan Kitchen

Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao

The addition of Yunnan spices to the soft and perfectly juicy Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao is yet another brilliant example of distinctive simplicity.

The all-time favorite Ma La Chicken Wings (with shoulders attached) are an absolute knockout. As you bite through the dry crunch of the ochre skin, waves of warmth begin to envelope your senses from your lips to your nose to your toes, as the unrelenting heat of the Sichuan peppercorns serves up the first punch, followed by a surprising left hook from the Numbing Spices. I managed two rounds before tapping-out.

Ma La Chcolate Crémeaux - Yunnan Kitchen

Ma La Chcolate Crémeaux

The only real disappointment was the Ma La Chocolate Crémeux. The fact that Asian desserts have never found a fan base in the US is nothing new or surprising, but because there was only one lonely option on the menu I felt compelled to give it a try. The doughy train-wreck of a biscuit that tried to commit suicide on uncooked cumin, flanks a scoop of Sichuan pepper-infused Valrhona Chocolate Mousse with curiously sticky marshmallow triangles, feels out-of-character and heavy-handed to have emerged from this kitchen. (Maybe chef Wong can sneak in something simple from one of his neighbors up the street. Just sayin’.)

http://yunnankitchen.com/reservations.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Ma Peche review

Ma Peche - Scallop crudo

Scallop crudo

If New York City ever said its prayers before bedtime, it should include in its blessings that David Chang decided to move here from Vienna, Virgina, and that he didn’t choose any other US city to set up shop as one of the most celebrated and deservedly accoladed Korean-American gastronomic virtuosi of our time. His enormously popular East Village conclave of bars and restaurants, (which are all vertical adaptations and extensions of one another) are platforms for spotlighting his take on American influenced Southeast Asian street food. The philosophy behind serving fast-food that actually takes hours to prepare, is by no means taken for granted by his adoring fan-base, who would quite happily donate a tenth of their lives by standing in line in all sorts of inclement weather to sample his life-altering and award-winning cooking. At his midtown establishment Ma Peche, located within the rather hoity-toity Chambers hotel, Chang forces prospective diners to march right through his Momofuku Milk Bar (the ultimate willpower test to grab/not grab a slice of his now world-famous, butter-laden Crack-Pie) before descending into a windowless box-shaped room with colorless stretched fabric sails, covering identically colorless walls – more reminiscent of a pop-up med-evac tent on the front lines than a haven for impending culinary indulgence…but then the dim sum carts of international treats begin to arrive table side, and all is instantly forgiven.

Ma Peche - Lobster Rice

Lobster Rice

The ever-so-gently torched chunks of Scallop Crudo were resting in a refreshingly simple but delightful bath of yuzu lemon and olive oil when they pulled up beside me. The creamy risotto-like Lobster Rice accompanied by the robust, deeply layered and aromatic brown-sugary-cinnamony-clove flavored Jerk Chicken Wings could quite possibly jolt the earth off of its axis.

Ma Peche - Jerk Chicken WIngs

Jerk Chicken WIngs

 

 

The following cart delivered the delectable shredded Lamb Noodles, served over a thick lamb and onion roux with lemony cabbage and chili jam. And just when things couldn’t possibly get any better, the crispy, salty and impossibly delicious Roasted Rice Cakes with Spicy Pork (my all-time favorite item appreciatively borrowed from his Momofuku Ssam Bar menu) was on final approach.

Ma Peche - Roasted Rice Cakes

Roasted Rice Cakes

The biggest hit from the handful of á la Carte options was the addiction-inducing, shatter-crisp yet buttermilk-moist Fried Chicken, which easily steals the honors from anyone else brave enough (or silly enough) to enter the category.

This isn’t just a meal, people. It’s a sacred New York experience!

http://momofuku.com/new-york/ma-peche/reservations/

Ma Peche - Lamb Noodles

Lamb Noodles