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Category: Reviews

Celebrating July 4th, Cannibal style

My friend and I came here on a last minute 4th of July decision. And what a great decision it was! They were having a special all-you-can-eat-and-drink hot dogs, burgers, bronx pale ale beer, and white wine for $30. The food was all made to order so it always came out hot and fresh. And don’t think they were lousy hot dogs or burgers either; the hot dogs were the exact same ones they serve regularly on their menu. The tasty all beef hot dogs were made in-house and had a great snap to their casing. The toppings of beef heart and beef chili with a sprinkle of white onions and mustard really elevated the hot dogs to another level. These were some of the best hot dogs that I’ve ever had.

As for the burgers, they were cooked medium with your standard lettuce, tomato, onion, and ketchup. Solid, but not as delicious or creative as the “Cannibal Dogs” as they call them.

Impressed with the food, we decided to also order their merguez sausage, which did not disappoint either. The sausage was just spicy enough to give it a noticeable kick, while the other herbs and spices mixed in really added depth and flavor to the sausage. The tomato, eggplant, and chickpea sauce balanced out the sausage and provided a nice base to the overall dish.

Cannibal, while small in terms of space, provides a very chill and casual atmosphere, whether you sit inside or out back where they have another seating area. They have an impressive selection of bottled beers that the knowledge staff can help you pick out depending on what you’re in the mood for. The only downside for me is that their portions are on the smaller side. This is an absolutely great place to have a drink and snack, but be prepared to spend a bit more if you’re hungry. I look forward to my next visit, as I’m already eyeing the braised pork belly, bone marrow, and slow roasted half pig’s head. Who’s in?

 

http://thecannibalnyc.com/

O-M-G-ase

Omakase at it’s best. That’s the best way of describing Sasabune. With no menu, you go by their “Trust Me” motto and eat whatever is served that day because, simply put, that’s the best. To go along with our meal, we ordered a dry sake with lots of floral notes. Delicious as well. Overall, the meal at Sasabune alone was worth the trip to Los Angeles. I would be very interested in trying out the other Sasabune locations in Hawaii and New York to see how they match up against LA. It’s hard to say much about the sushi except that it was awesome, so I’ll just leave you with some pictures and comments.

Spanish mackerel. Each piece was tender and not at all fishy in taste.


Pen shell clam. This was surprisingly not chewy and had more of a substantial bite and texture to it.


Bonito in sweet sauce.

Tuna and toro (fatty tuna). These were super tender and even better with the warm rice.

Halibut and New Zealand red snapper. No soy sauce on the halibut, but yes with the snapper.

Oysters and clam: New Zealand (left), Cherrystone (middle), Shiraku (right). The New Zealand oyster was baked, the Cherrystone clam was paired with mushrooms , and the Japanese Shiraku had a really fresh texture to it that tasted just like you had just pulled it right out of the ocean.

Japanese hamachi yellowtail and Scottish salmon. The hamachi had a little citrus twist to it.


Smoked oyster and amaebi from Santa Barbara. No soy sauce for the oyster as it already had unagi sauce, which gave it a smokey sweet flavor. The amaebi (sweet shrimp) was the largest that I had ever come across. It was still creamy and buttery in taste, with an almost silky texture.

Fried amaebi. Who doesn’t like fried shrimp?!

Giant clam from Santa Barbara and orange clam from Boston. The giant clam had a stronger chewier texture to it, while the orange clam had a citrusy lemony garnish.


Uni from the waters between San Diego and San Catalina and ikara. The uni was creamy and, no joke, just melted in your mouth it was so delicious and sweet. The ikara was fresh as mouthful burst with sweet and  salty juices, not like the typical over-salty imitation ones.

Unagi (eel) from Japan. The texture was so soft and warm that it was like a small bundle of joy sprinkled with sesame.


Finally, a meaty and sweet blue crab roll.

If I were to leave you with something, it would be 3 simple steps to achieve happiness:
Step 1. Walk into Sasabune
Step 2. Sit down at the bar
Step 3. Start eating some of the best and freshest sushi, personally handed directly to you by the chef, as he prepares your next dish right in front of you.

 

http://trustmesushi.com/

Farm to City Table Fresh

Blue Hill is truly a gem not only in Greenwich Village, but in all of New York City. They exemplify the farm to table concept better than any other restaurant in the area, and for good reason. All ingredients are sourced fresh and locally so that diners can really experience and taste the difference. Inside the restaurant, you can also find a great atmosphere. It’s not very loud, so everyone can hear what’s being said at the table; but at the same time, you can hear the subtle background noise of other conversations, and they all seem to be saying one thing –  how good the food is.

Blue Hill gave me a great impression right off the bat. Our waitress was very attentive and knowledgeable about each and every detail pertaining to the menu. The bread they served was terrific. It was slightly warm with a crunchy thin crust on the outside and a small chew still on the inside.

Our amuse bouches started with beat burgers garnished with caper leaves.

Next, we had some lightly salted kale chips with a nice crispy texture that still retained a strong taste of kale. The presentation of the kale standing tall on a wooden slab was nice too.

To finish off our amuse bouches, we had a small platter of charcuterie consisting of salami (first picture above) and pork shoulder coppa (second picture above).

To accompany our bread and amuse bouches, we were also given special housemade butter (top), lardo (middle top), and fennel salt (middle bottom), in addition to the normal butter (bottom) served at the table. Our favorite was the really rich and flavorful lardo.

For our first course, we had this morning’s poached farm egg with asparagus marmalade, bio char red onion and greenhouse greens. The egg was undeniably fresh in taste, as the yolk slowly oozed out of it’s egg white casing when cut into. On the lighter side, the dish was a nice start to the rest of the meal. This course was paired with a crisp minerally wine from northern Italy.

Next, the second course was a purple potato and ricotta gnocchi with shitake mushrooms, hazelnuts and stone barns coppa. The colorful presentation really complimented the earthy and nutty taste of the dish. This was paired with a nice crisp white wine, also from Italy, that brought out the earthy notes even more.

The third course was a Hudson Valley duck with Charleston gold rice, asparagus and lamb’s quarters. The duck was seasoned well and cooked perfectly so that each bite was tender and juicy. A medium-bodied red wine blend of Grenache and Syrah from France was paired perfectly with the duck. It brought all the components together well and had a great clean finish to top everything off.

The fourth course was a strawberry and red wine soup with pink peppercorn sorbet. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the flavors in this dish, but the spiciness from the peppercorn really cut into everything else and stole the show, adding another interesting dimension.

The  fifth and last course was a steamed goat cheesecake with poached rhubarb and yogurt sorbet. Each deconstructed component of this dish was amazingly delicious. The soft creamy texture of the cheesecake married perfectly with the crunchy fresh granola. A sweet moscato from Italy balanced well with all the components of the dish.

We finished our meal with a couple chocolate bites, a blood orange truffle and a honey chocolate. The truffle had a nice hint of orange flavor that balanced the chocolate. Needless to say, on the opposite side of the spectrum though, the honey chocolate was incredibly sweet.

Overall, Blue Hill meets its expectations as one of the best restaurants in New York City and deserves its Michelin star award. Not only is all the food fresh and delicious, you can really feel the effort that goes into each plate, starting from the ingredients to the cooking and finally to the presentation. Service is excellent throughout the meal, making the dining experience even more enjoyable. I simply cannot wait for my next meal at Blue Hill, or maybe even Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

 

http://www.bluehillfarm.com/food/blue-hill-new-york

A Star-studded 100th Anniversary

The moment I read about Benoit’s special, one-night-only, 100th Anniversary Dinner, my hand immediately shot for the phone and my fingers dialed the number for reservations.  Between the three guest chefs, Michael Anthony, Michael White, and April Bloomfield, they are a 2012 James Beard Winner and share a total of six Michelin stars. When was the last time someone had the opportunity to eat a single dinner prepared by some of the best chefs in NYC? Of course, by the time I called, it was too late and there were no available spots. I put my name down on the waiting list as the only alternative, never expecting to hear back.

Two days before the night of the dinner, I received the most surprising phone call. Benoit had open spots for its special Anniversary Dinner! I could not believe my luck in securing once-in-a-lifetime reservations to such a remarkable dinner.

We started off our dinner with a small plate of light cheese puff pastries. The bite-sized pastries had a soft slightly flaky outside and an airy inside that reminded me of finger food at a bar.

The first dish of the tasting was from Alain Ducasse and Philippe Bertineau, a duck foie gras terrine with toasted parisienne brioche. The terrine was soft, creamy, and only had a little foie gras flavor to it. I would’ve liked the brioche to be toasted more so that it was crunchier to contrast in texture with the terrine. A sweet jam could also be added but the dish just wasn’t as exciting or tasty as we had hoped.

Michael Anthony (props to him for just winning the James Beard award) presented a colorful spring vegetable “pot-au-feu.” The overall presentation with the fleur de sel was very nice and reminded me of a blooming vegetable garden. It tasted very light and refreshing, almost like having a bottle of crisp spring water after being parched. A duck consommé also added a small taste of savory flavor to the dish.

Michael White’s olive oil poached east coast halibut was next on our list. The firm and flaky fish was cooked well on top of the brodetto di crostacei, consisting of clams, shrimp, and octopus. Initially, the dish was a bit salty but the side of  spinach added a taste of freshness to balance it out. I also have to point out that the white wine pairing was spot-on as it elevated the flavors of the fish and dish as a whole.

Our last main course was a larded filet of beef with crispy bone marrow from April Bloomfield. A bit excessive? Nahhhh. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night because of the tender filet with strips of delicious fatty lard hidden inside. To make things better, the crispy bone marrow was bursting with flavor that just melted into your mouth with each bite. The vegetable stuffed lumaconi was a nice attempt to be healthier and balance out the absurd richness from the filet and bone marrow. But if you were ordering this dish at a restaurant, I’d say the vegetables would be optional, you knew what you were getting yourself into. Well done April Bloomfield.

Our final course was a nougat glace dessert from Alain Ducasse and Jerome Husson. There was intense passion fruit flavor on the dish itself and as the top layer of the cake as a sorbet. The nougat middle layer had a creamy taste on top of a final layer of pistachio ice cream. Both layers added nutty flavors and texture to the dessert.

For such a highly anticipated dinner, it was no surprise that the atmosphere was very busy. As a result though, service suffered a little, but there were no big mishaps during our meal. The standout courses were definitely the halibut and filet; and we would order them again if given the chance. It was quite the experience to dine on food from such prestigious chefs. Congratulations on 100 years, Benoit!

 

http://www.benoitny.com/bistro/

This Little Piggy went to Brunch

This past weekend, one of my good friends was back in NYC; and needless to say, the food in LA just wasn’t cutting it for him. As a result, our weekend was planned around his favorite places to eat in the city.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the wait at The Spotted Pig was about an hour for a party of 5. This was expected as they don’t take reservations. Inside, we were greeted with a bustling but warm and casual atmosphere. The entire restaurant has a nice West Village/English pub vibe with its modest wooden decor. All sorts of pig-themed pictures and paintings are strewn across the walls just in case you’ve forgotten where you’ve wandered into.

We started out with two orders of the chicken liver toast. I’ll note that it’s almost become a ritual for me to start out my meals here with this dish. The bread is toasted ever so slightly that the outside crust is crunchy, yet the inside is still a bit chewy. Then a heaping pile of rich and creamy chicken liver is spread on top. Visible chunks of liver also add another layer of bursting flavor to the dish. Absolutely delicious.

I’ve been loyal to the burger the last four times at The Spotted Pig. And being one of my favorite burgers in the city, it was quite the predicament to go with something else, but I felt like I needed to venture out and try the rest of the menu. The deep fried poached eggs with chorizo stew caught my eye as an interesting dish when I looked over the menu for alternatives. A colorful plate of expertly fried (and) poached eggs sat on top of a chorizo stew made my Saturday afternoon even brighter. Sunny yellow yolk poured out of the eggs as I cut into them, adding even more color to the dish. The eggs complimented the salty, sugary, and vinegary stew well while the savory chorizo provided that extra hint of spiciness to bring all the flavors of the dish together.

Almost every table around us ordered at least one burger and ours was no exception. Each juicy patty was cooked perfectly to requested temperature and came with a gigantic pile of salted shoestring fries on the side. The roquefort cheese added an entirely new twist to the typical burger flavor, in a good way. Combined with a perfectly toasted brioche bun, everything worked together so well that almost no words were uttered during the consumption of the burgers.  Only the sound of chewing and the occasional gulp broke the happy silence. If that weren’t enough, I’m pretty sure their shoestring fries were fried with fresh rosemary and garlic to give them such addicting flavor and aroma.

The Spotted Pig is not only a solid choice for dinner, but also for brunch. Great food and great ambiance easily make this a favorite spot for any occasion. I highly recommend the burger and will be back soon to fill the void that was created in my stomach by not getting it this time around. Cheers!

 

http://thespottedpig.com/

O_O

O-M-G

I cannot believe I managed to get reservations to Benoit’s 100th Anniversary Dinner. Words cannot describe how excited I am to eat a dinner prepared by some of the most talented chefs in New York City. Below is the blurb from their website:

*****
For one night only, on May 3rd, New York chef talents and 2012 James Beard Awards Finalist Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern), Michael White (Osteria Morini, Marea, Ai Fiori), and April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, John Dory), join ours truly Chef Philippe Bertineau and Chef-Creator Alain Ducasse, to prepare a unique and festive five-course menu to commemorate Benoit’s 100th Anniversary. Twenty-five percent of proceeds will be donated to Robin Hood Foundation.
*****

Try and tell me your jaw’s not on the ground. Go ahead. Just try…
(future review to come)

 

http://www.benoitny.com/bistro/#/news/

The Pinnacle of Seafood

The first time I ate at Marea, I could not stop thinking about when my next meal there would be. I had only been for lunch, but what an impression it made on me. For the next 6 months, I repeatedly dropped hint after hint to all my friends about a possible outing, but to no avail. However, I recently got the chance when a friend visited and seemed just as excited as I was after hearing so much about it. It seemed only logical to follow up one Michael White restaurant (Ai Fiori) with yet another, not to mention both within the same week.

Marea offers an a la carte menu, a four-course prix fixe, and tasting menus of 6 and 8 courses. Of course, we decided to pull out all the stops and go all out on this particular night. If you’re only in NYC once a year, you almost have to get the 8-course chef’s tasting menu WITH wine pairings. There are things in life you look back on and regret doing, and then there are things you look back on and regret not doing. This would be one of those things you’d regret not doing.

We were able to secure a last minute, day-of, reservation at 8:45pm on Sunday evening. I sat in the main dining room on my first visit, but this time we were led to a smaller area just past the end of the bar. The main dining room has a much fancier feel to it, while the separate bar area has a more casual feel to it. I’m actually glad we were seated in the more casual area because I did not want to disturb the other diners with our conversations and laughter, which got increasingly louder as the night progressed and more wine was consumed.

To tickle our appetites, we chose to go with their housemade olive focaccia bread. Sadly, not many places put enough effort into their bread, but it really shows when you do. The focaccia was one of the best that I’ve had; it was soft, chewy, salty, and full of flavor. Our amuse bouche was a piece of fresh crudo and caviar. The presentation was lovely and bursting with vibrant colors. With this one bite, I knew the meal we were about to eat was going to be something special.

The next bite I had almost made me want to cry it was so good. A rich yet immensely tasty sea urchin, lardo, and sea salt combination set atop a lighted toasted piece of bread just melted in my mouth, perfectly complimented with a glass of champagne that wasn’t too dry.

A trio of crudo consisting of mackerel and two others followed as part one of our first course (I believe wahoo was one, but I’m not sure of the last). The mackerel was very fresh and did not have the typical strong fishy taste to it. The second piece was excellent with a slight hint of chili oil, parsley, and fruit notes from the apple. Lastly, the third piece was a bit chewier and was topped with some lemon to give it a citrusy zest.

Part two of our first course was a plate of very refreshing oysters. The dish included 2 sauces, one shallot and one vinegar. The shallot sauce had good shallot flavor, yet was light enough that it did not distract from the true taste of the oysters. This dish was paired well with a dry white wine.

Next was a delicious and generous serving of nova scotia lobster with burrata and basil seeds that paired perfectly with a clean crisp rose. The lobster was fresh, sweet, and well-cooked sitting on top of soft and creamy burrata cheese that was  especially tasty. This was a perfect spring dish with all the colors on the plate from the lush green basil seeds to the rich red lobster. (Note: the picture was taken halfway through inhaling the dish…oops)

The course that followed was amberjack atop some fennel with pine nut cream and a side of chanterelles paired with a buttery white wine. The fish was firm and juicy, and with all the vegetables together, the dish as a whole was on the lighter side. Nothing was bad about this dish, but nothing about it was amazing either. It was probably my least memorable dish of the night, and only because everything else was so good…sigh.

The crispy frog leg and slow poached egg dish that greeted us next was something special indeed. I never had an egg so fresh and so poached perfectly that the yolk just oozed out almost in slow motion as I broke its soft casing. It was the best poached egg that I’ve ever had. The frog leg was seasoned well and had just the right amount of coating on it while the inside was still moist and tender. This dish was paired with a sweeter white wine.

Knowing Michael White and his pasta reputation, I was excited to try whatever pastas were placed in front us. And despite my lofty expectations, I was not disappointed. The light and fluffy gnochetti with ruby shrimp had just the right subtle hint of chilies in the sauce. Additionally, the gnochetti still had a bit of chewiness to it that added more to the texture. This was paired with a red wine (sorry, I started losing track of the characteristics of the wine at this dish).

I was excited that our next dish was the famous fusilli with octopus braised in red wine and bone marrow. Just as rich and decadent as it was the first time I had it, this pasta is not some run-of-the-mill creation. Each component can stand alone and hold its own, but together, they form a dish that exemplifies a chef’s creativity and dedication to deliciousness. Of course, the pasta was cooked perfectly, the octopus was tender and flavorful, and who doesn’t like bone marrow? Seriously. Finally, the bread crumbs sprinkled on top were just the ‘icing’ this dish needed. No surprise that this dish was paired with a red wine.

Talking about extremes, we come to the dry aged steak. According to the menu, Marea’s bistecca is dry aged 50 days. It’s worth noting that most of the best steakhouses don’t even age their beef half that long! Each piece of my medium-rare steak was tender and full with flavor. To add onto the ridiculousness, there was even bone marrow on the very same plate. Everything on the plate was so delicious that I stuffed my face even though I was starting to reach my stomach capacity. The only slightly negative comment for this dish was that my friend’s steaks were more on the medium side, while mine were a perfect medium-rare. This dish was paired with an absolutely delicious full-bodied complex red wine with a very nice finish (I remember because it was so good).

To cap off our memorable night, we were presented with a trio of desserts.

Directly facing us was a soft carrot sponge with good carrot flavor. The carrot ginger sorbet on top of the mascapone had a very nice hint of carrot that wasn’t overpowering. But the coolest part of this dessert by far, was the crisp carrot twist, even this had carrot flavor that you could taste, not to mention the incredible crispy texture that it added to the dish.

Another reason Marea holds a special place in my heart is because of their bomboloni. I was never much of the dessert person, but after trying them on my first visit, I could not keep these lightly fried, sugar-coated doughnuts out of my dreams. They have a great crispy texture on the outside with a soft, warm, and moist inside. Because they are not too sweet, they go very well with the dark chocolate and espresso gelato. And to top it off, an espresso crumble adds yet another dimension of texture and flavor to an already amazing dish.

The last dessert was good too, but not nearly as memorable as the others so I won’t go into it.

To wrap it all up, Marea has two Michelin stars for good reason and I was able to experience why on this memorable night. Food is not only impeccable and delicious, but presented creatively in a variety of ways in its dishes. Service is very professional and attentive throughout the meal. Water glasses are never empty even with all the wine, which they don’t skimp on either despite it being a tasting. Portions may seem small, but after all the courses, it is a substantial amount of food for 3 hours. Lastly, as a parting gift, the females get a small gift box with a muffin inside to take home as well (this particular muffin was a citrusy chocolate chip one). I will be back to Marea time and time again, as long as my wallet allows me to. Until next time…

 

http://marea-nyc.com/

Staircase to a Star

Located on the second floor of the Setai Hotel on Fifth Ave, the Michelin-starred Ai Fiori sits at the top of a polished marble spiral staircase. As you reach the top, there’s a nice bar and lounge area with a modern feel to it. The hardwood-floored dining room is quiet and spacious, with windows stretched across one side overlooking the street. In terms of noise level, it’s nice to actually have a conversation with everyone at your table and not be disturbed by the ramblings of other patrons or waiters walking by, something not too common in New York City.

Speaking of waiters, service was top-notch the entire evening. This has the potential to be the standard to which I start comparing all other restaurants to. Our waitress was very knowledgeable regarding the menu and was able to give recommendations according to our personal preferences. It felt like she genuinely cared and wanted us to have a great time. We did not give the sommelier an easy job either, but he was able to pick out a decent Pinot Noir to pair with our fish and lamb within our given price range. Glasses were never empty throughout the meal, whether it be water or wine. But the real “cherry on top” was when one of our friends had to leave before our meal was actually over. Not only was she able to pay early for her portion of the bill, our waitress even sent her dessert back into the kitchen so they could pack it up to go. If that’s not good service, then I don’t know what is.

Now, onto the crux of it all. We decided to forego the tasting menu and just stick with the prix fixe. To start off, our amuse bouche was a chilled fennel soup served in a shot glass with tiny balls of lemon gelatin. The lemon added a nice citrus note to the soup, which had good fennel flavor to it.

For the first course, I ordered the sweetbreads; and to be honest, I had mixed feelings about the dish. My initial thought after the first bite was of popcorn chicken since the coating was on the hard and slightly thicker side. The proportion of coating to sweetbreads in that first bite was not very flattering. But as I ate on, the sweetbreads had a soft and tender texture that went well with the pancetta and truffle sauce. I think more truffle flavor (and less coating) could have elevated the dish, so even though it wasn’t bad, I’ve had better as far as sweetbreads go.
The crudo looked fantastic when it was set down, portion size was good and all the pieces were topped with sturgeon caviar. The saltiness of the caviar was nice with the fish, but I wished the fish was more melt-in-your-mouth. My favorite of our first courses, however, was the lobster soup. A buttery and creamy soup with hints of black truffle and immense lobster flavor were poured over fresh chunks of lobster. I could drink that all day.

The traditional second course of pasta or risotto followed, but Michael White’s pastas taste like nothing traditional. The Trofie Nero pasta was simply delicious in every way. Perfectly al dente and slightly chewy, each bite of pasta and seafood had an added texture with the breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not ordering a pasta at a Michael White restaurant and decided to mix things up with the risotto. Never again. The risotto was way too salty and slightly overcooked in consistency. A very prominent sage aroma went well with the duck and mushrooms, but the dish just could not be rescued.

When my third course arrived, I had to fight the urge to pick up the two glorious racks of lamb, one in each hand, and devour the meat from the bones with my teeth. They were cooked to a nice medium rare and tender throughout. The dish had good flavor with the fresh peas and goat cheese panisse.
My friend ordered a fish that was cooked well. The meat was firm, but a little flat in flavor so not really that impressive. The duck and foie gras dish was tasty, but sadly inconsistent. Some parts were tender and juicy while others  were tough. The friend who ordered the guinea hen really enjoyed it, so it must have been decent though I didn’t try it myself. Overall, as good as everything tasted, nothing was so spectacular that I’d go for a second serving of.

Desserts were decent all around. The rum cake was tasty, yet not too sweet, with nice textures from all the components on the dish.
Ai Fiori has some great courses here and there, just as long as you pick the right ones. The highs are very high, but the lows, well let’s just agree to stay clear from those. They also have an extensive wine list, focusing obviously more around Italian wines. Overall, with solid food and exceptional service, I would definitely return to try the rest of the menu, especially the pastas that eluded me this time around.

 

http://www.aifiorinyc.com/

Behind the curtain

Like almost all the other supposed hidden-gems in NYC…there will be a line to get in. On a Saturday afternoon at 2:30pm, we still waited half an hour. Expect to wait even longer during peak times and don’t be surprised if you can’t find seating because there are very few available.

To be honest though, burgers made to order and perfectly cooked to temperature do take time…and are worth the wait I might add. Your only choices here are a hamburger or cheeseburger, with your desired condiments. Keeping things plain and simple, I like that. I ordered a cheeseburger, medium-rare, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and ketchup. And that’s exactly what I got. A juicy meat patty with the right proportion of toppings, sandwiched between a normal potato bun. That disappeared a minute later…

Not to nit-pick, but my friend and I felt that the meat lacked that extra oomph in flavor. The french fries, albeit fresh, also lacked the slightest sprinkle of salt. In terms of a solid, tasty, and well-cooked burger, Burger Joint ranks among the top fast-food burger spots in NYC and lives up to the hype. However, pound for pound, I’d still prefer to go with a good Shake Shack burger. Not to mention Burger Joint is cash only too.

[04.23.2012]
I’ll reiterate some of what I said from my previous visit and keep it simple. Burger Joint has the best consistently cooked meat out there in the category of fast food burgers. After a few tender and very juicy bites, you’ll wonder where your burger disappeared to. Answer: your belly. But once again, as good as the meat quality is, it still needs more flavor. That’s the only flaw in an otherwise perfect fast food burger.

For my second visit, we came around 8pm on a Monday night. The not-too-ridiculous line moved quickly and our orders came out fast. We were lucky enough to secure a booth to enjoy our pitcher of beer and fries. When we were done scarfing down our meal, a low rumble told us our hunger had not subsided. Luckily, the line had dwindled down to just a couple deep. Unable to pass up the opportunity, we decided to go for round 2. The medium rare cheeseburger was just as good and consistent as the previous ones, but the fries were not as fresh. Can’t have everything I guess. All in all, Burger Joint killed it again.

 

http://www.parkermeridien.com/eat4.php

Novita? Yes-vita

If you’re in the mood for a solid italian option, go for Novita. Walk a few steps down and you’ll find the dining room behind a curtain. The restaurant is on the small side so expect to be cramped. Dimly lit in the evenings, it gives off a slightly romantic feel to the atmosphere. However, the noise level can get pretty energetic because of the small space, so I personally wouldn’t take a date here.

We decided to skip the appetizers on this particular night and just dive right into the pastas. The tomato sauce for the orecchiete with spicy sausage and broccoli rabe was a new twist to the classic that worked well, adding a nice subtle spiciness that wasn’t overpowering. The pasta was cooked al dente, but the sausage was overcooked and a bit tough. From my small bites of the other pastas, they were all cooked well and had good flavors. I thought the tagliolini with lobster was quite colorful with the asparagus adding some nice earthy green to the dish. My friend who ordered the spaghetti with clams dish had a decent heap of tiny empty clam shells by the end. And my other friend thought the best pasta of the night was the pappardelle with lamb ragu.

Dessert consisted of cheesecake, tiramisu, and chocolate tart. The chocolate tart was nothing special, but my oh my, the other two were simply delicious. Both the cheesecake and tiramisu were soft, creamy, and dreamy. Unfortunately, service throughout our meal was very slow. We had to flag down the waiter numerous times to order wine, entrees, dessert, and to refill our water. On the plus side though, their wine list has a good number of bottles under $100, so alcohol doesn’t have to break the bank. This was my second visit and I’ll be back, but I really wish they’d up their service.

 

http://novitanyc.com/

*title credit to Melissa Horowitz