KYU, Miami – review

IMG_9736With astonishing gentrification projects from Brickell and Edgewater to the Design district, and the artsy-fartsy concrete canvasses dotted around Wynwood, there is much more to Miami than the faded bling and gangster-glam of South Beach. But Miami’s recent renaissance isn’t limited to architecture and the arts. The city’s food scene has also exploded into a culinary destination for chefs and foodies alike.

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KYU, Miami

Cuisines range from Latin-Caribbean delights at Michael Schwartz’s Amara at Paraisa to his fresh upmarket flagship Michael’s Genuine, to the authentic Greek-Turkish hideaway at Mandolin, but the most staggeringly impressive entry is the brainchild of Zuma alums Michael Lewis and Steven Haigh who opened a wood-fired Asian-inspired grill called KYU (pronounced “cue”, as in Barbecue). In deference to the neighboring Wynwood walls’ rural murals, a 20-foot vertical garden of mosses and ivy’s aptly contrasts the raw industrial concrete and dark welded steel interior. As you pry open the doors you’ll notice two things – first, the smell of smoky Florida oak wafting over the wooden high-tops affording great views of the high-action open kitchen at one end, and the high-drama artisanal bar at other – both vying for attention. Second, you can’t help noticing the friendly, unpretentious and rather jocular vibe that builds on the concept of a neighborhood joint that doesn’t want to take itself too seriously. But there are no happenstances when you’ve been voted Florida’s best restaurant by Time Magazine, or nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best New Restaurant. No, my friends, this is one very carefully curated and perfected experience from host to toast.

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KYU, Miami

The food and service are a fair fight for top billing, that by the end of the night we weren’t sure whether to wrap up and take home some of the leftovers, or a couple of the waiters instead.

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Whole roasted Cauliflower, KYU Miami

The menu is a lengthy tumble of Korean, Japanese and American flame-grilled treats of all sizes. Despite the pervasive veil of “simplicity” with “no more than a couple of ingredients per dish”, like the much-photographed and utterly scrumptious Whole Roasted Cauliflower with dollops of creamy goat cheese to add some funk to the already magnificent shishito herb vinaigrette, or the heavenly refreshing Avocado Salad with lemon, crispy ginger matchsticks and house-made feta, it is the abundance of intricate preparations that has earned chef Lewis his unique signature, which is everything but simple.

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Korean Fried Chicken, KYU, Miami

As the dishes grow in size, they seem to grow in flavor too, with the Korean Fried Chicken as one of many show-stoppers. Prior to frying, the chicken is first marinated and then smoked, before being dipped into a wonderfully hot and sour gochujang chili sauce. Even the Smoked Duck Burnt ends aren’t just cold-smoked for 30 minutes either, they are then flame-finished on the wood fire with a sprinkling of salt and Japanese shichimi peppers. And if you listen carefully, you can just hear the dish that still calls my name: Crispy Baby-back ribs Yakiniku. The Jenga arrangement of ribs are first smoked, then braised, and then finally fried before being tossed in a deliciously sticky sweet and savory sauce that very mysteriously relocated itself everywhere from chin to nose.

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Crispy Baby-back ribs Yakiniku, KYU, Miami

And to round things out, the chef’s mother’s simple dessert is a great final act. Four layers of delectable Coconut Cake interrupted with a tart cream cheese filling which offsets the sweetness, yet pairs flawlessly with a serving of house-made coconut ice-cream.

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Mom’s Coconut cake, KYU, Miami (and yes, it was my birthday!)

For decades, chefs have tried to demystify the notion of what “simple” or “approachable” food is. And when you peer under the hood of the kitchen, it’s not always as easy as A-B-C. That’s because it might have been K-Y-U all along.

https://www.kyurestaurants.com/

 

Eating my way through Charleston

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Breakfast biscuits, Poogan’s Porch

Since its inception, Charleston, South Carolina has been called many things. Originally  “Charles Town” or “Chuck town” in honor of King Charles II, and more recently the “Holy City” thanks to the proliferation of almost every denomination of church steeple, but I prefer to think of it as “Charmtown” – the city of warmth, charm, hospitality and phenomenal southern cooking.  Because a large part of the myrtle tree lined cobbled streets lie several feet on the wrong side of sea level, many local menus refer to their recipes as “low country” cuisine – which incorporates soul food concoctions of local grains, greens, poultry and seafood – not to mention a nirvana for any barbecue pit-master.

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Shrimp & Grits, Husk

There are several “must-try’s” on every newcomer’s list to the city: Shrimp and Grits (a gritty porridge dotted with cooked shrimp bathing in some form of roux; Pimento Cheese (a pimply pale paté of soft cheese, pickled pimentos and mayonnaise often dolloped over fried green tomatoes); Barbecue (pork, beef, catfish and poultry – usually open-pit-smoked with vinegar-forward rubs and sauces); She-crab Soup (a creamy chowder from the legs and claws of female crabs) and Fried Chicken (no explanation required!).

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F.I.G.

Food establishments are as casual as they are abundant, and every Charlestonian (from Uber drivers to baggage handlers) will recommend their favorite, but securing a table (one of the few still using white cloths) at Mike Lata’s F.I.G. (Food is Good, est. 2003) is still tougher than a hamster sandwich. The kitchen at this all-time favorite local bistro in Ansonborough is run by executive chef and James Beard Award winner Jason Stanhope, who should be thanked for averting local riots by loyally reprising several menu standards.

 

 

Top of the list has to be his velvety smooth, rich and incomparably wondrous Chicken Liver Paté, served with shards of toasted brioche, a bracing Dijon and a pile of sour pickles. Next would be a cluster of impossibly fluffy Ricotta Gnocchi with the most delectable lamb Bolognaise that could easily summon 100 angels (from wherever it is that angels need to be summoned from.) We had also hoped to sample the much-blogged-about Tomato Tarte Tatin, only to be firmly but politely corrected by our dapper apron-clad waiter, that everyone knew it would be three more weeks before tomatoes were at their most flavorful. (Did I mention that this town runs on locally sourced, available ingredients?) So, we opted for one of the highly requested seafood dishes – the Fish Stew Provençal, which beautifully merges French and Southern cooking styles into one heavenly pot of mussels, local white shrimp, squid, fish and Carolina Gold rice.

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Shrimp & Grits, Poogan’s Porch

Poogan’s Porch is an enchanting, family-run establishment set inside a double-story house with a generous porch, where you can people-watch the iPhone bungling tourists go by, while enjoying the Best Shrimp and Grits in 2016. Their secret? They add cheddar to the grits to give it a tangy creaminess, and their roux is a Tasso ham gravy with sausages and peppers.

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The Grocery

You will, without doubt, stumble upon former vegetarian chef Kevin Johnson’s The Grocery on several Charleston Top 10 lists (and via many a personal recommendation too) mostly because of his reliance on the freshest local farm produce. The daily menu is dictated by whatever appeared on the back of the truck that morning, but rest assured, the sublimely spicy Roasted Carrots in Harissa is a staple. The curiously wide space (formerly a furniture showroom) comprises a series of incongruous areas with and without views of the elaborate and high-octane kitchen. We wolfed down the house-made Charcuterie Platter, and savored an amazing mustard and au jus Glazed Duck leg confit with German potato salad and a sharp turnip kraut.

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Glazed Duck leg Confit, The Grocery

You could easily spend a year sampling every take on Fried Chicken in town without repetition, but faced with a time budget, we opted for the lonely pink cinder block box surrounded by a cluster of weeds on the side of a road just north of town called Martha Lou’s Kitchen.

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Martha Lou’s Kitchen

Thrillst® just embraced it onto their America’s 31 Best Fried Chicken spots list, and you won’t get any arguments from me. True to the adage that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – this windowless room hasn’t seen much in the way of upgrades over its thirty-year history.

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Martha Lou’s Kitchen

Label-free, sticky, hot-sauce bottles pin down the hand-scribbled menus, which would otherwise be strewn across the 7 floral, vinyl-covered tables. The only sounds above the whirring of dueling electric fans are the enthusiastic shrieks of anticipation from the crowd of persistent regulars waiting patiently in line. The silverware is plastic, the dishware is Styrofoam and the linen is dispensed from a roll. But the chicken is…to…die…for.

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Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Mac ‘n Cheese and Cornbread, Martha Lou’s Kitchen

Cooked, served and cleared by two feisty sisters who offer you a choice 3 sides (some of the best collard greens, mac ‘n cheese and corn bread in town) to go along with their moist, tender, golden and candy-apple-crisp portions of dark or white meat. The salty-peppery batter is just thick enough not to pull away from the chicken, and when all is said and done, neither plate nor fingers yield a trace of oil. Be warned though – the Sweet Tea is sweeter than a honey-bee’s butt.

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Rodney Scott’s Barbecue

There’s another crowd standing in line just a few blocks away at Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Mr. Scott brought his James Beard Award winning “whole hog” technique to town after a very successful run in Hemingway, SC. Alongside the airy red, white and blue dining room is a not-so-airy pit room where hogs, chickens and large sections of beef are slowly and meticulously smoked.

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Spare Ribs, Rodney Scott’s Barbecue

The service is counter-style, and the food arrives in little red baskets lined with butcher paper to soak up the oozy, yummy, vinegary, sweet-and-spicy sauce. Popular favorites are the Pulled Pork Sandwich with a generous helping of lean strands of smoked pork between a soft, white bun, and the amazing dry rub, melt-in-your-mouth Spare Ribs that yield their dark, rich and woody flavors from years of crafting and perfecting.

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Husk

Sean Brock is probably the most notorious chef to draw attention to Charleston’s food scene. After a career under the influence of toques from multiple styles, the “Mind of a chef” starring, James Beard and Daytime Emmy Award winning southern boy opened the now legendary Husk in 2010. Set in a charming 1890’s house on Queen street with a fancy Bourbon barroom next door, Brock dedicated the menu to his strict devotion to southern produce: “If it ain’t southern,” he used to quip, “it ain’t coming in the door.”

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Pimento Cheese Bruscetta, Husk

He elevates Shrimp and Grits with a medley of cheeses for extra creaminess, and douses it in a mind-blowing tomato and shellfish broth. By now everyone has heard of his utterly amazing Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wraps.

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Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wraps, Husk

In reality they are a fresh leaf of butter lettuce clutching a few crispy, crackly twigs of what our waiter described as: “if bacon and pork belly had a baby,” with soft pickled cucumbers, onion slices and a spot of Togarashi sauce for some heat. But nothing can beat the pure, simple joy of his classic Cheeseburger.

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Cheeseburger, Husk

A pair of chuck, bacon and brisket patties held together by a slice of melted American cheese, a swipe of secret sauce, a sprinkle of shaved onion and 3 or 4 pickles crammed into a golden, squishy sesame bun. Uncomplicated. Unfussy. Unbelievable.

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McCrady’s

But don’t think for a hot and sticky southern second that Sean Brock can’t do fussy. Just take a seat at the U-shaped counter at his revamped McCrady’s for a serious, focused and flavor-intense degustation experience. The gold pressed-steel ceilings and exposed brick walls help warm the 18-seat dining throne at the edge of an all-induction, sous-vide kitchen with no open flames. A diverse group of line chefs labor theatrically and animatedly with tweezers, needles and miniature tongs to surgically assemble, prep and plate thirteen of the most beautiful micro-portions of amazingly fussy food. The two and a quarter hour savory thrill ride is rather like a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, with daring surprises, immaculate choreography and a story arc that builds slowly with several culinary high points, before a series of sweet endings gently lower you back down to earth. The grey seersucker-vested waiters provide all the jokes, anecdotes, punctuations and explanations, but no-one will reveal what’s coming up next.

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Royal red shrimp and Savoy Cabbage, McCrady’s

Part of the suspense includes Brock’s highly curated musical “soundtrack” to accompany each course, with selections from The Wild Club and Massive Attack, (which at times makes hearing the dish descriptions a tad challenging for these old ears) but it’s all part of the uncompromising “dinner party” experience that Chef Sean was after.

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Uni and Cucumber ice-cream, McCrady’s

Each dish is revealed in a unique way, in its own unique vessel, accompanied by a uniquely carved wooden rest that houses each unique piece of articulated cutlery. The menu updates regularly based on seasonality, fresh produce availability (noticing a theme yet?) and tons of experimentation. Some of the recent highlights included an ice-cream made from Uni; a delicious Ossabow Pork Pie (that was truly the size of a licorice all-sort); a sous-vide Royal red shrimp and Savoy cabbage mousseline splashed with Kimchi butter and topped with Osetra caviar; a marvelous risotto made from Nostrale Rice (aka Charleston ice-cream) with puffed cereal and a foamy egg custard; pan-seared Mahi Mahi covered by a thatch of thinly sliced white asparagus and New Zealand finger limes, served under a splash of chamomile and spring onion tea; and a Banana Caramel with coconut gelato and black lime zest.

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McCrady’s

With only so many meals a day, the larger question is where didn’t I get to eat? That list would have to include notables like The Glass Onion, Chez Nous, Xiao Bao Biscuit, Bertha’s Kitchen, Charleston Grill, 167 Raw, Zero, Stella’s, Lewis Barbecue and The Ordinary. Looks like I’ll be back in “Charmtown” real soon. Y’all take care now!

https://eatatfig.com/

https://www.poogansporch.com/

http://marthalouskitchen.com/

http://www.rodneyscottsbbq.com/

http://huskrestaurant.com/sean-brock-2/

http://mccradysrestaurant.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

 

 

Somtum Der review

All too often when eastern kitchens open up in western countries, a “dilution” occurs, making foreign food more palatable for local palates. And none seem to suffer this translation more so than south east Asian cuisine. But from time to time a courageous team will open an uncompromisingly authentic bistro that will either lure the locals in or frighten them all away. Such is the case with Somtum Der, a replica of one of Bangkok’s most celebrated restaurants – right in the heart of the East Village. The majority of the menu offers genuine Isan (northern Thai) street cart food, which might be lighter on sugar – but way heavier on chilies – than most other Thai joints around town. The no-frills, pine bench-and-board dining room gets its name from the most famous of all Isan dishes – “Somtum” (Papaya Salad), while “Der” means warm invitation (or perhaps more fittingly – we dare you!).

Spicy Papaya Salad - Somtum Der

Spicy Papaya Salad

The $13 or less, full-color, photographic menu condenses the ordering process substantially, as what you see is precisely what you get. And what you get arrives in a relentless air raid of plates, baskets and dipping jars.

Deep-fried Chicken Thigh - Somtum Der

Deep-fried Chicken Thigh

Working clockwise from where I sat, there was the wondrously crunchy Deep-Fried Chicken Thigh with a blond dusting of indulgently fried garlic served with a lime, chili and fish sauce dip.

Deep-fried, sun-dried Pork - Somtum Der

Deep-fried, sun-dried Pork

Right next to it were the most unbelievably moreish strips of Deep-Fried, Sun-Dried Pork with a tangy, salty, vinegary and slightly fruity hot sauce. Also within arm’s reach: a tight carousel of briny, savory, fresh Shrimp Sashimi with a green chili sauce. I don’t think I’ve ever bitten into shrimp so raw that I was concerned it might bite me back!

Shrimp Sashimi with Green Chili sauce - Somtum Der

Shrimp Sashimi with Green Chili sauce

The sausage-shaped cones of Grilled Sticky Rice were a great way to either neutralize the palate for thirty seconds, or dip and splash into the armada of sauces across the table. The only dish the waiter insisted we try was the Spicy Duck Salad with mint and chilies, which turned out to be a sharp and sweet interlude before the House Special Grilled Marinated Beef.Each finger-long strip was dusted with a coating of warm, crunchy spices that elevated the tender beef to a deeply flavorful and complex umami taste – before being dunked into yet another bracingly sharp fish sauce bath.

Grilled sticky-rice - Somtum Der

Grilled sticky-rice

As brave as we had been in trying to keep the chili intensity at bay, nothing could extinguish the 5-alarm fire from the signature Spicy Papaya Salad (of which there are 8 varieties, and up to 4 levels of sinus-clearing heat). Within seconds of munching through the sublime textures of julienned fruit, chopped nuts and lime, we were a silent chorus of gaping mouths like beached sea bass, waving uselessly at our teeth – the universally understood sign for “Great Scott and little fishes! I think my tongue is melting!”

http://www.somtumdernewyork.com/reservation.html

http://somtumder.com/home_ny.html

Son of a Gun, Los Angeles review

Son of a Gun

Don’t judge a fish by its scales! To the West 3rd Street passerby, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s summery seafood joint Son of a Gun resembles a casual but whimsical, south-Florida fish shack, with its sun-faded pastel shades as the canvass to a large, nautical pawn-shop collection of beachy tchotchkes. But once the dishes emerge, it becomes soberingly obvious that there’s nothing laid-back about the food.  Here Shook and Dotolo have created an equally popular, full-flavored, scales-and-shells equivalent to Animal, their immensely successful carnivore paradise less than a mile away.

The comprehensive sharing menu is grouped by critter category rather than courses, and the bright and cheerful, color-splashed plates arrive with hurricane speed, but never seemed to deluge the table.

Son of a Gun - Hamachi

Hamachi

In the what appears to be the land of 101 vinaigrettes, the Hamachi crudo (raw fish) is splashed with a wonderfully sour dressing and prodded with sweetness from the doll-sized apple dice.

Son of a Gun - Lemonfish Poke

Lemonfish Poke

The superb Lemonfish Poke and radishes enjoy quite a different vinegary bath as they hide under a nest of the most exotically crispy sunchoke chips. Sunchoke chips? Finally someone brave enough to do something with sunchokes other than purée or au-gratin.

Uni & Burrata might very well be the names of my unborn children, but I can’t say that the fresh sea urchin and cream-centered mozzarella played very nicely in the sandbox together. Even the addition of yuzu lemon and button mushrooms couldn’t seem to entice them to get along. But the Jamaican jerk spiced Scottish Salmon with a sweet vinaigrette, chilies and cherries was like raiding a pirate ship with all sorts of treasures from The Carribbean to the coast of Spain and beyond. But enough about the crudo!

Son of a Gun - Peel n Eat Shrimp

Peel n Eat Shrimp

I could have made an entire meal of the Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp spiked with cajun spices and a citrusy mustard dipping sauce, were it not for the Hamachi Collar, a large, triangular section of fish from just behind the head and gills. In strict accordance with the adage that everything tastes better when cooked on the bone, Shook and Dotolo finish this especially flavorful fish cheek with yet another vibrant vinaigrette and fresh herbs.

Son of a Gun - Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chicken Sandwich

Normally one wouldn’t dare order chicken at a seafood restaurant, but that’s not the word on this street. On most of the dozen or so tables (ours included), stood at least one 9-inch tall gobbeliciously crispy, Sriracha aioli Fried Chicken Sandwich, stuffed with a zesty, citrusy, peppery, pickley coleslaw. A monumental challenge to bite into (given that a temporary jaw dislocation was out of the question), many of the slaw shreds escaped from between the fingers, landing on the plate (for subsequent re-consumption) or landing on the trousers right next to the napkin (for subsequent dry cleaning), but a highly satisfying ordeal nonetheless.

Son of a Gun - White Peaches

White Peaches

The menu winds down with a bright and seasonal choice of salads and sides like the popular Shishito Peppers smothered in Bottarga (cured fish roe) aioli and fresh basil or the wonderfully refreshing White Peach salad with mint and chili.

Desserts are equally summery with sorbets, gelato sandwiches and an impossibly delicious Banana Bread with coffee ice-cream and salty candied pecans.

It certainly appears that everything this dynamic duo touches, turns to caviar. I anxiously await the opening of their next act, Jon and Vinny’s on Fairfax this fall.

http://www.sonofagunrestaurant.com/reserve/

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