24 August 2008

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

Readers, I don't have much time as I'm mooching internet from my friend Nick and I'm absolutely exhausted after climbing Mt. Fuji & need a nap, BUT - I couldn't resist a quick post from Japan for you.

I was told by many that the Tsukiji fish market is one of THE things you do in Tokyo, and the thing you should do your second day in Japan, as you're still jet-lagged (except I wasn't, at all) and up early, and what's better than sushi caught off the ocean that morning for breakfast?

Turns out, nothing. I took a photo of the outside of the restaurant and the menu, but let's just say for ~$10 USD, I got the most ridiculously fresh tuna and salmon I will probably ever taste in my life.

Rice, raw fish and some crappy tea never tasted better at 8am.

4 Chopsticks (only because I can't find a photo of one chopstick alone to make 5, but know that it was just that good):

01 August 2008

The Famous Street Meat Cart, 53rd St. & 6th Ave

Readers, it's time again we had another guest post. Please read on and enjoy this truly genius morsel of tasty delight.

Back to the hotel, feelin’ kinda funny
We had just a little bit of spendin’ money
Too-many-brews-munchies made us look for a treat
Like an oasis in the desert we spotted ‘Street Meat’

The best in Manhattan is what I was told
So I waited in the queue feeling mighty and bold
The wait started 2:20 that July 4th early morn, so fine
At 5 minutes to 3, I was the one who was first in line

Two 6 dollar specials I cried out loudly
And watched in amazement as that chef scooped and shoveled proudly
Lamb and chicken and beef fried to perfection on his hot grill
Rice and lettuce and some pita pieces…not one spill

Like a magician, he filled up each plate
Added sauces and eating utensils and napkins, I could not wait!
That 3AM meal made me salivate and drool
So I ran with the bag to the hotel and up to the room like a fool

On the way by the hotel, I was asked by a hot young lady in blue
Where I was headed and if she could come too…
Not stopping to chat, I declined her offer and followed my feet
Up to the room - table and chair for that NYC best ‘Street Meat’!

Might I add - soooooooooo delicious. If you don't believe me, or if you don't believe that this is the "best street meat in NYC", please check out the line for the cart, with a quote that this "...cart is only there from 7p - 4am 4:30am at the latest...Some nights you can be waiting well over an hour for this plate of goodness!" (as seen below)

What? You say the photos didn't convince you? How about hearing that "...some guy stabbed someone for cutting the line a couple years back" over this incredible street meat?


Only in NYC, folks. Only in NYC.

4 forks.

22 July 2008

RIgsby's Kitchen, 698 N. High Street, Columbus, OH

When I arrived in Ohio just a few short weeks ago to meet up with my father and sister for a weekend extravaganza, where the only goal was to spend our economic stimulus checks, I would be lying if I told you that I didn't know there would be good food on that trip. But would the food be just "good", or good? As you know I'm a bit of a biased NYC restaurant snob, and I happen to believe that I live in the best city in the world (what what), that has the best and most diverse food in the world. With this in mind, I figured that at best, the restaurant that my sister and I would end up treating my dad to would maybe rank 2.5 forks, or 3 at best.

Allow me to tell you about where my skepticism stems from - upon touching down into Columbus airport, collecting my luggage, and causing the airport traffic director to yell at my dad for the (as I was informed) fifth time that night, we headed to McDonald's for a quick snack (of a snack wrap). (And later that night, had zombie dreams as a result.) Granted, it was late, and everything closes in Ohio around 4pm (just kidding), but McDonald's? Really? At least a bit of redemption occurred when my dad brought out some of his delicious home made wine.

On Friday, we shopped, we ate, we drank....and on Saturday, lather, rinse repeat. Until Saturday night.

While my dad was shopping in a *cough*interesting*cough* store, my sister and I tore off through the rain, running down High Street in the Short North arts district of Columbus to a restaurant named Rigsby's Kitchen. We finally made it, albeit slight wrecks, and sat down to enjoy a quick drink before my dad came. My drink was incredible, my sister's not so much.

Soon after my dad arrived, the festivities began. My sister sprung for the cold cucumber dill soup with smoked salmon. To be honest, I really really wanted to try a bowl, but I was too chicken (salmon? haha wow that was terrible) to order my own, so we shared. I swear, I've never tasted a cold soup that lovely, creamy and smooth. The combination of cucumber and dill is timeless, but the salmon gave it an extra kick of saltiness - amazing.

My dad ordered a simple salmon carpaccio with cucumber and onion salad, my sister the sweet meadows pork cutlet seasoned in aceto manodori and red pepper mustard, with fingerling potatoes and string beans, and myself (off my dad's recommendation), pan seared scallops with a fennel and orange salad drizzled in chive oil.

Let's start off with my father's dish - very simple, very plain, yet each component of the dish showcased not only it's own flavor, but truly brought out the essence of and best part of each other part as well. My scallops were incredible as well - perfectly seared, with the light and sweet salad along side - scallops and oranges are incredible together!

But let's not lie, what really took the cake was my sister's pork chop. Please note that when she chose it, we didn't know what aceto manodori, or the pepper mustard was (turns out just balsamic vinegar and mustard), but, being true forkers, are always up for something exotic and new. The pork chop was AMAZING. The cut of meat itself was excellent, thick and juicy, and the flavoring, spices, and apple-y taste was nothing short of incredible. I won't lie to you - I might be drooling now just a little thinking about it. The sides were also perfect to pair with the complex flavors of the pork chop.

One thing I really enjoy is when chefs use truly unique or ridiculously high quality ingredients in their food, yielding an incredible dish of such simplicity, yet complexity. I try to class it up with some truffle oil every now and again when I cook, but it's just not the same. I feel that the same thing applies for drinks too - the weirder the ingredient you put in your drinks, the better it becomes. Who ever thought of combining Henderick's gin, cilantro, muddling cucumber and splashing some tonic? An alcoholic who wanted to be healthy and eat a salad, I suppose, but damn is it tasty.

In any event, although my dad might disagree, I made the wrong choice in not ordering the pork chop. But please don't be sad - this story has a much happier ending.

After we had finished, we figured we might as well peruse the dessert menu - and I found the dessert of my dreams. It's the kind of dish you know is going to be absolutely incredible before the first bite hits your mouth.

Allow me to introduce you to the butterscotch budino - a light, airy butterscotch pudding with crème fraîche & fleur de sel.

How could combining butterscotch, whipped cream, and sea salt that is mined in limited quantities from Brittany, France ever steer you wrong? How could it not be absolutely ridiculously incredible? How could it be so incredible that I just might dream about it every night?

Readers, I've grown up with Jello brand butterscotch pudding with some redi-whip out of the can my whole life, and let me tell you, I've had my mom SHIP me butterscotch pudding because I've been unable to find it in stores here. Mom, no knocks on you, but this far surpassed any of that. The combination of sweet and salt was to die for, especially with the slight crunch that the salt gave. My only regret is that we have no photo to show for it.

Because of this meal....I'll never look down on dessert again.

5 Forks.

30 June 2008

Yama, 49 Irving Place (at E. 17th St)

Greetings fellow Forkers, I'm sorry it's been so long...between moving, various trips, and work taking over my life, it's been a little hectic here - but I hope you'll excuse the brief hiatus for a few super entries coming up....

A few days ago, work was getting me down so Dave suggested we go to "the best sushi place in New York." How could you possibly quanitfy that, especially considering we have greats like Nobu and Ninja? We went to Yama, a little sushi joint right across from Gramercy Park, which seats a maximum of maybe 100 people, and someone on a recent trip (I now forget where), told me he frequents often with his son who lives a few blocks away. This fellow traveler also stated that Yama is "the best sushi in New York."

Despite having eaten 6" of a chicken terriyaki Subway $5 sub for lunch, and the other 6" of it around 6pm, I found a wave of hunger hitting me as we walked into Yama. We walked in and placed our names to be seated. The host said it would be "about 15 minutes." We were seated about 45 minutes later (and I thought I had a hard time managing expectations), and while I normally would have complained (Dave may argue that I did a little), I felt as though I was treated with a Broadway style show before being seated. Watching the sushi chefs artists work was near magical - I feel as though they were cutting pieces of tuna, salmon, eel that were flown in THAT morning like they were butter. LIKE BUTTA.

Wow. I knew I'd be in for a treat as my jaw hung on the floor watching them work.

After we were seated, we were recommended an appetizer special by the guys sitting at the table next to us, after they harassed Dave for a while, asking if he was Hawaiian. I don't quite remember the name, but it was salmon, tuna, a whitefish and scallion wrapped up in a sticky rice paper and sweet peanut dipping sauce. It was unreal how fresh the fish was, and how I couldn't get it into my mouth fast enough. I love my Vietnamese spring rolls, but frankly...this outdid them by 10fold. I'm not sure how I'll ever be able to go back.

Soon after, our sushi arrived and I thought we'd never be able to finish it. Dave got an extra piece of both scallop and wasabi-infused flying fish roe, and we shared the I Like Eel special roll, Tuna Naruto, and the Salmon roll.

Let me just start with the bad - the Salmon roll was nothing special at all. It was a small piece of salmon (albeit extremely fresh and tasty) in a huge roll, and almost drowned out with the rice and avocado. Dave would probably disagree but the I Like Eel roll was probably my second favorite (I've kind of strayed away from eel in my past sushi ventures, I think of myself a little bit like the prodigal child....I need to stray before I come back to truly enjoy and become fulfilled by the eel again), but was good because instead of seaweed, they wrapped the roll in cucumber.

I didn't try the scallop, but Dave said that it was the best piece on the plate. I tried some of the flying fish roe which was actually wasabi-infused (it was green instead of red), and fellow forkers - let me tell you something, I don't even like flying fish roe, the consistency is weird and I don't like that popping on my tounge, and the thought of eating fish eggs creeps me out a little, but wow. This was something completely different.

And these are all fine, well and good, but let's get something straight. The naurto (I had to be taught when we sat down because I had no idea what it was) was by far the best on the plate. It is a "no-rice" roll with just fish wrapped in seaweed. Normally, I would be skeptical as sometimes the fish isn't the freshest, and you need the rice to counter balance the fish - you know, an "everything in moderation" type of thing. But wow. as previously mentioned, this fish was "double o-c" (out of control) tasty and fresh. The naruto ambled over my tastebuds, smoother than a New Yorker dodging tourists at 34th St. The combination of the tuna, salmon, a white fish of some sort was absolutely incredible. I might have made Dave sleep on the couch for taking the last piece (just kidding!) , but wow. To die for.

My recommendation: Don't get anything but the naruto, don't be turned off by the waitstaff's rudeness, and expect to wait a while for a table.

Yama gets 4 forks out of 5:

18 May 2008

Le Souk, 47 Avenue B (between 3rd & 4th St)

Le Souk (a Haiku)

North African food
How delicious and tasty
Why did we go to Cuba Cafe when we could have had this?

Ok, so it's not a Haiku, but seriously...we were down between Cuba Cafe and Le Souk originally, and decided to go there first. What a grave, grave mistake.

Anyways, Dave, Dave and I arrived at Le Souk about 7p on a warm Saturday evening. Upon walking in, we were ID'd at the door (weird...) and amidst some chaos by the waitstaff (there were probably about 20 employees wandering around), were seated in an empty restaurant.

After perusing the menu, we decided on some crusted shrimp with a "cole-slaw"-esque salad and the mezze plate for appetizers, and for the main course, I got the Dajage Bastilla, Chan got the duck confit, and DVH got lamb chops. (Please excuse the vagueness of the meals in this entry; the 2008 menu is not posted online and I can't quite remember everything we had.)

Our appetizers soon arrived, and if they were to shed light on how the rest of the dining experience would be, hot damn. The shrimp were incredibly seasoned, with a sort of flake on them, and when combined in a bite with the cole-slaw mixture (it had apple in it, not sure what else, didn't really taste like cole-slaw, just looked like it)....wow. I could have eaten a plate of those for dinner and been content. The mezze plate was awesome as well - an assortment of middle eastern spreads on vine leaves. Dave and Dave used the bread to dip into the spreads, however my thought was - why dilute the spreads with bread? Just eat them on the vine leaves. Incroyáble.

Soon after those disappeared, our main dishes arrived. I thought I had chosen well - with my traditional chicken pie made of thin layers of fillo pastry marinated in moroccan spices, raisins and sliced almonds, but nay, Dave's duck confit was by far the best plate at the table. My dish arrived as a square pastry, dusted with cinnamon and sugar. While tasty, and very filling (who knew dough could fill you up?), I felt like I was eating dessert. Meh.

The duck confit on the other hand....wow. We might have discovered heaven on a plate with this one. It was perfectly cooked, and came with a side of some sweet potatoes over greens. DVH claims his meal was the best (the lamb chops), and they were good, don't get me wrong - but the duck confit was superior by far.

I always complain that I never chose the best dish at restaurants where we dine. This is definitely one of those cases (but the tables will soon be turned, have you no fear my good readers). I can't fault Le Souk though, all of the dishes were incredible, and we walked out completely full and satisfied.

Lastly, the décor was very slick too - a very Moroccan feel and excellent music as well. By the time we left, the wedding party (explanation for all the waitstaff) had arrived, filling the back room, all of the tables for us normal diners were also filled, and Le Souk was about to go on a wait. I can definitely understand why.

Le Souk gets 4 / 5 forks.

14 May 2008

An update from a ‘less-than-critical’ critic....

An update from a guest writer, the author's very own father!!!!

City Crab (235 Park Ave S at 19th St)

On the evening of Good Friday, 2008, Katie and Terise and I decided to hit the City Crab restaurant for some good Catholic non-meat eats. By the way, dinner was a precursor for an evening spent visiting Manhattan’s finest Belgian Ale haunts. Another religious thing you see, because the monks do make all those rich Belgians and what better way to be anointed and holy.

We were seated upstairs by a large window (at the author’s request which was met with much disdain from his NYC classy daughter – Katie was quick to point out that the hostess seats you where she wishes due to server station control – forget about the diner’s preference) overlooking 30th Street. Our waiter was a virtual encyclopedia of pertinent menu information. We pondered our culinary course of action over glasses of a wonderful Malbec...yummy with a basket of breads and unusually tasty crackers with herbed butter.

The meals selected were crab cakes, trout and a ‘something-crusted’ tuna cooked rare - forgive the author, his memory is slippery as oysters on the half shell. The tuna was as good as a Roger Clemens strikeout. Breathtaking and so very tasty. We shared meal morsels and agreed that our selections were very good indeed. Terise’s crab cakes were a bit underdone though and she could not complete her assault on those french fries you see in her meal photo. The Malbec was gone too quickly and you may wonder why a red with this Catholic meal...well, think Communion wine please, remember it was Good Friday.

Off to discovery what the Belgian monks are up to!

3 and 1/2 rating forks.

Dinosaur (646 W 131st St at Riverside Dr.)

This was an “I would have waited another hour to eat smoked, tender pork here” restaurant! The experience was a Saturday night excursion into wood smoked barbecue decadence. Our 7:30 reservations turned into two hoppy beers and 8:30 seating. A fun Smuttynose IPA draft beer wait. In attendance were Terise, Katie, the author and two friends of Katie, David and Logan. Interestingly enough, as Terise and I launched our trip back to Cleveburg we spotted this along the train route – notice the signage in the lower middle of the picture!

After lengthy discussions and angst about what to order, the three of us ordered the same thing; with side dish variations...a delightful combination entitled appropriately – Tres Hombres...three different pork portions for the three of us. The only differences being in the salad, simmered greens, Cajun corn, or fries for the accompanying sides. David and Logan, being veterans of the Dinosaur were much more conservative in the selections.

The three meats were brisket – melt in your mouth good, ribs – melt in your mouth good, and pulled pork, which was, surprisingly enough – melt in your mouth good. Sadly one of the hombres was defeated by her entrée...she just had to score a take-it-home doggie bag (the next day’s breakfast). Was it a smaller tummy or perhaps the Dumpling Man seared dumplings that she enjoyed just a few hours before dinner? Speaking of appetizers check this out - where have you had an appetizer sampler that included ‘better-than-Mom’s deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes?

Not to surrender to the night we decided to treat ourselves to a bit more fun by ordering a mud pie / chocolate, peanut-buttery creamy concoction that was really very rich and good and filled us to the eyebrows. A fun, great and filling experience at a fun place.

4 rating forks.

21 April 2008

Cuba Cafe, 200 Eighth Ave (between 20th and 21st St.)

To celebrate the successful (?) launch of uRadiate, the website startup that Dave has been working so hard on, we found it nothing short of appropriate to go out for a dinner in Chelsea.

We found Cuba Cafe with it's wild, upbeat Spanish music pouring out onto 8th Ave with the front windows open and patrons munching on plantains, sharing empanadas and casually sipping mojitos. We spoke with the waiter and decided to wait an additional 30 minutes to snag a window seat, as it's been one of the first real spring days in New York, and who doesn't love eating (semi) outside?

Unbeknownst to us - that was the only good decision we made that night.

Upon perusing the menu, my order choice was made easily - Atun, the seared yellowfin tuna, marinated with guava, soy sauce and rum, served with a side of chorizo mashed potatoes. This dish alone is what made Cuba Cafe into the runnings for where to go out to eat, but was also half responsible for Cuba Cafe's demise. Dave ordered the marinated grilled pork tenderloin laced with rioja demi and garlic mojo served with onions and tostones. We also got the chorizo appetizer, and a coconut mojito.

The coconut mojito was AWESOME - really sweet, coconut-y, not very rum-y but hey, who's counting - it tastes good. The chorizo arrived soon thereafter and was okay - MUCH better than the sausage we got at Bone Lick - it had a good flavor but wasn't as spicy and crazy as the menu had depicted.

Our meals arrived, and looked incredible. I took the first bite of my tuna, and it was AWESOME - I felt like I was eating a pile of salt on my plate, sprinkled with tuna. (You all know that I love salt, to an unhealthy degree.) By the second bite, I could feel my arteries closing with every molecule of NaCl that hit my mouth. By the third bite, I was wondering if it would be worth my while to run to the bathroom and wash the tuna off from all of the salt it was doused in. Dave expressed this sentiment perfectly when he said, ". . . even chinese restaurants dont pour soysauce on everything."

I guess soy sauce isn't really Cuban, but it sounded really good, right? The chorizo infused mashed potatoes, on the same token were way over-salted, but very very tasty.

Dave's porkchops were equally terrible, but for different reasons. Dave described it perfectly when he said that ". . . it tasted as though the pork chops had been shipped, defrosted, were refrozen and then sat out on the counter for the night before they were cooked and plated." The sauce on them was tasteless and terrible - the only good part about his dish was the rice and beans, which I don't even like - but I had to eat SOMETHING to wash the salt out of my mouth.

We became increasingly dissatisfied as the meal progressed, and at the end just wanted to get the hell out of there. The music was now too loud, our server was nowhere to be found, the people next to us were obnoxious, and there was no more booze. We got the tab, only to find that they charged EXTRA for the coconut in the mojito (not designated on the menu). Way to pinch pennies, seriously. If anything, you're SAVING money by putting less alcohol (or a less potent alcohol) in. Nice.

Cuba Cafe, maybe you should change your menu entries to the following:

Chorizo 8.95
Mediocre Sausage sautéed with tastlessness and the worst vegetable ever

Atun 21.95
Pan seared yellowfin tuna, infused with salt, NaCl, das salz, le sel & de sal.

Chuletas 18.95
3 days old-style pork chops covered in weaksauce with a side of disgusting and terrible

Cuba Cafe gets a .5 fork rating:

17 April 2008

Gradisca, 126 West 13th Street (between 6th and 7th Ave)

Wow, can you believe it's been almost a month since our last tragedy at Bone Lick in Chelsea. I was anxiously (but also patiently) awaiting George's week-long update from when he and T were in town. I received it today, but frankly...it's not up to the Fork qualifications. We're going to have to work with the amateurs over here to spice it up and give it the true flavor, the ZEST of what the Flying Fork embodies.

While you all bite your nails in anticipation of this monster, mother-of-all posts, I give you Gradisca - just barely enough to whet your appetite.

Gradisca has been one of the restaurants in my card deck of restaurants that keeps coming up as a place I want to try, but every time gets denied - either for the location, menu, cuisine, etc. (Dad and I denied it in favor of Cafe Loup, which is right across the street from Gradisca.)

So, it came up last night as I presented the options for restaurants that I picked to David as he basically kicked my ass in chess while not even thinking. After a short, brutal game, Gradisca wasn't too long of a walk, I was getting cold as the sun was setting, and it was Italian, which is a great cuisine if you have no idea what you want, or aren't that hungry.

We pondered the menu outside for a minute or two, and decided to check it out, despite being relatively expensive. Upon walking in, my mind, heart and soul were immediately warmed by the three candles on each table, diners leaning in casually and closely over bottles of wine and delicious looking pastas, and our host and waiter being extremely Italian (calling me bella several times throughout the meal). So classy.

We sat down and I felt a little under dressed (jeans and a polo), but it didn't matter as we were treated with amazing service from our waiter. We decided on the pappardelle con ragu di agnello tagliato al coltello (fresh egg pappardelle sautéed with hand-ground lamb ragu), and maltagliati di pasta fresca in crema di tartufo nero (handmade “badly cut” egg pasta in a black truffle cream sauce).

The bread came and was mediocre at best - nothing special or out of the ordinary. Our pastas arrived soon thereafter and I could probably count the number of noodles in my bowl at about twelve - it was that small. $20 for this!? Are you crazy?! I saw Dave immediately dive into his truffle sauce pasta, and the next time I looked up, he was about 2/3 of the way done. (Interesting because he wasn't hungry when we walked in...)

After allowing the smell to slowly permeate my nostrils for a minute or two, I tried mine. The lamb was so tender, so tasty, and the sauce - oh my god. A perfect blend of herbs and spices - this isn't your classic Ragu or Newman's here. It perfectly complemented the homemade pasta, which is a flavor, consistency and texture I feel only existed on that night, at that moment. Maybe they hand-made it in the kitchen. Maybe when we ordered, they had a bullet train that came over from Italy to deliver our food in a special temperature controlled car. Please allow me to say, I have not tasted Italian that good since Mom and I were in Italy two years ago.

And David's truffle pasta? Well, let's start by saying that when they said truffle cream sauce, they didn't mean "cream sauce with some flecks of truffle", nay, they meant truffles pureed INTO a cream sauce. There was absolutely no skimping on the sauce of any kind. I don't even LIKE mushrooms but I definitely just inhaled the pasta and sauce on my fork for a good two minutes before I took my first bite. And the bite held up perfectly to every single expectation I had.

I forced myself to eat slowly, almost a bite a minute to really savor, and enjoy these flavors I know I will probably never taste again.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we ordered a chocolate soufflé that disappeared within the minute it was put down. So rich, with the perfect hint of dark chocolaty bitterness complimenting the vanilla cream that flooded the edges of the bowl.

Maybe I died last night. Maybe Gradisca was heaven. Maybe I fell from heaven this morning. Do I really care? Nope, it was all worth it.

Gradisca gets 4/5 forks, only because the portion sizes were just so damn small.

18 March 2008

Bone Lick, 75 Greenwich Ave (btwn 7th Ave S & Bank St)

The first summer I came to New York, I was invited by Dave and Miranda to join them at Dinosaur BBQ on the west side underneath Riverside Drive bridge.

We had the most amazing experience - a pitcher of beer, delicious shrimp appetizer, brisket was awesome, ribs were great...and of course, west Harlem is such a cool area.

Hoping to replicate this experience with Dave and Logan (who currently lives in that area), I suggested and made plans with both of them to re-visit last Friday night.

Somewhere along the line, DVH and Michio and Brad were invited (not that I'm complaining), and due to Dinosaur being on a two hour wait (!!!), we needed a plan. That plan involved lots of standing on a street corner, smoking (for everyone BUT me), and Blackberrying for a potential dinner spot. Bone Lick seemed to be the best recommendation, within walking distance, and well...Bone Lick? It's kind of weird to say, like who actually has ever admitted to licking a bone? It almost sounds taboo.

I was skeptical, but upon walking in, we were immediately seated with menus. As we peruse, we discussed the pulled pork butt that feeds 10. No price, no description...our waiter finally comes over and, in the middle of our question, he walks away without even saying "excuse me" or "hang on for a minute." He walks away, goes to another table, runs a plate back to the kitchen, takes an order from another table and comes back. We ask AGAIN and he says he doesn't know, and runs into the kitchen to ask.

What the fork? ADD? Doesn't care about our tip on a party of six? He comes back and says it's unavailable, and takes 4 drink orders and runs away as I'm in the middle of asking for a Georgia peach margarita. Runs away.


Needless to say, the service was terrible. Except for the busboy who, when Logan spilled his iced coffee, had a rag on the spill as the drink was tipping over before it hit the table. The timing was incredible, and honestly, I think we might have entered the Matrix at that moment.

Anyways, we started with three appetizers (which usually I'm against, because it spoils your meal and is unnecessary) but frankly, I'm glad we did because the portions for the main course were microscopic. We got the vidalia onion rings, bayou fried oysters and Texas link sausage. I hate onions, so I can't speak for the onion rings, and I don't really like oysters so I can't speak for those either, but the "Texas link sausage" was sliced up Oscar Meyer kielbasa. As in, the same shit I have in my freezer right now, pre-cooked and ready to just heat up and eat. And, the portion wasn't even a whole piece of kielbasa.

What is this, Poland? If I want kielbasa, I'll go to forking Veselka, not a Texas BBQ restaurant.

Oh, wait, I nearly forgot to mention - it took THIRTY FORKING MINUTES for our appetizers to arrive.

We wolfed down the appetizers which were, as mentioned, mediocre at best, and sat around for about another 20 minutes with our dirty dishes in front of us. Our food finally arrived and we had no room to put the new plates - genius, nay brilliant, from a serving perspective.

First let's talk about the sides - each dish came with one. The mac and cheese was decent, but could have been better. The collared greens and ham hocks was quite tasty, and my brown sugared yams were absolutely incredible - reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner at mom's house. (We would mash yams so they were smooth and creamy, and bake them with marshmallows on top. My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner!)

As for the main courses, let's just say the portions of the food looked like they were portions off the kid's menu. No seriously, I ate my brisket in about 4 bites. Dave's pulled pork was about 1/3 fat (which is awesome for me, I love that part) but for the average restaurant-goer who doesn't like to consume heart attack for dinner, I can see how it'd be frustrating. My brisket was also a little fatty, but moist and not overcooked. However, while the meat was moist, it had hardly any flavor - we ran out of BBQ sauce halfway through dinner and our waiter never took the hint to refill it, with both bottles sitting EMPTY on the edge of our table. So much for "slow cooked with cherry, apple and hickory woods." More like "slow cooked in terrible with a dash of I want my money back."

I had to order ANOTHER one of their ridiculously strong margaritas to get over the pain from this meal.

At least the company was good.

Bone Lick gets 1/5 forks, because the margaritas were delicious.

05 March 2008

Novecento Bistro, 343 W Broadway (between Grand St. and Broom St.)

After what has been culminating to a stressful 2+ weeks at work, I narrowed my selection of where to go to eat to about 10 (!) of my restaurant cards, most being Italian or French. Upon many vetoes from Dave, we went for an Argentinian (or so we thought)(dun dun DUN!!) establishment called Novecento.

Usually when I choose locations to dine, I'll pull up the menu on menupages - and if there is something unique on the menu that piques my interest, the restaurant will go into the "possibilities" pile.

In this case, it was the following dishes: fresh grouper over spicy black beans, mango salsa, pico de gallo & avocado AND sesame crusted pan seared tuna, shitake, bok choy, peppers, ginger soy glaze. (I haven't been feeling too hot in the past bit, so fish sounded appealing as a healthy, smaller dish alternative.)

As I rolled up to Novecento Bistro, 40 minutes late, it became apparant that maybe I had not chosen so wisely.

Décor & Ambiance: Confused, wanna-be European and dark with candle lights. (But wait, I thought it was supposed to be Argentinean?) White table clothes with paper overtop and cloth napkins. Loud trance-y / house music. Italian hangings on the wall. Name of restaurant employs French word, "bistro." This could definitely have potential in the summer with the great vibes spilling out onto West Broadway when they open the giant windows in front. All in all, not bad - but what are they going for? South America? Italian? French? Antarctican? NYC? It feels swank and upscale but...pick a theme and run with it. Congruency, people.

Service: Hostess was fine, and the waitress was friendly and pretty - however after she offered us some Pellegrino and we declined, the quality of service went down drastically. (We were the ones confused, because we ordered wine (thanks for introducing me to the delicious Malbec varieties, Dad!), appetizer, main courses!)

Das Essen: Confused again. (If you can't tell, this is the theme of the night.) First of all, I didn't even see those fish dishes that brought me to Novecento on the menu. Secondly, look at the menu. All of the dishes are thinly disguised mostly typical Italian food with Spanish names. Let's look at the appetizers, for example - quesadilla (Mexican), empanada (variety of Spanish speaking countries), mussels steamed in white wine and garlic (called Mejillones on the menu, which is a city in Peru, noting that this is normally a dish seen in Belgian and French restaurants), beef carpaccio (Venitian) and caprese salad (Italian)? Sounds like someone's going through an identity crisis. Pastas were paired with typical red and vodka sauces. Salads were typical, and the main entrees included steak, burgers, and a variety of toppings.

And the dessert menu? Don't even get me started. I found no uniqueness, no craziness, no creativeness on there. Unless you think créme brulée is unique, but hell we used to serve that at Nova (and that's saying something).

Regardless, Dave and I were hungry and sitting down, we frankly didn't care (and as I said before, I wanted Italian so I was okay with it). I got a glass of the Malbec red (quite tasty), and we ordered the beef carpaccio, spaghetti capri (fresh mozzarella, diced tomatoes, plum tomato sauce and fresh basil) and the ensalada nocecento (grilled skirt steak, french fries, baby mixed greens, avocado, dijon vinaigrette).

The carpaccio was very tasty, but how could you not like filet mignon, arugula, Parmesan cheese and avacado? My pasta was great too - how can anything with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella be bad? However what really took the cake was Dave's salad. It was steak with greens and avocado and dressing, on top of FRIES (or in this case frites? Papas fritas?). What?!

What was incredible is how the fries soaked up all the juices from everything in the salad. The only thing that might have made it better is cucumber. But either way, wow. Who would have ever thought of putting fries at the bottom of a salad? It's almost as ridiculous as the concept of a taco salad (taco in a bag anyone?), the Big and Cheesy, or carrot cake. Except it's actually good.

Anyways, Novecento gets 2 4/7 spoons out of 5. Spoons?

11 February 2008

The Flying Saucer / Reata, Fort Worth, TX


Double feature I say?!?


This is going to be a rather long post, so you might want to grab your favorite beverage (some Great Lakes perhaps? mmmm), maybe some popcorn and chips, and settle back into your comfy desk chair before you continue reading.



Act I: The Flying Saucer, 111 E. Fourth St @ Commerce, Fort Worth, TX

I was in Texas this past weekend, and after a long day of shopping for cowboy hats, Rob and I decided to walk around downtown Fort Worth to check out some shopping, watch the sunset, and generally just spend a swank Saturday night. We ended up at the Flying Saucer Beer Emporium after a stellar recommendation by one of his coworkers. We amble in for a drink, and immediately head for the rooftop tables so that my UV deprived skin can take in some soleil and some 70 degree temperature. There are no open tables, and we notice a man sitting alone - we ask if we can share his table, and he says no problem.

While attempting to decide on a beer, he steps in with a very unique recommendation - why not try a beer brewed in an abbey across the street from his house in Belgium? (What?! He's from Belgium!!) So of course, we can't resist trying the Westmalle Triple, a blonde ale. So smooth and complex were the flavors, so high the alcohol content, so great the company....I almost didn't notice when 5 MORE PEOPLE sat down at our table.

Turns out the meeting was random; I'm not sure how much I believe that. Tom and Katty had just recently moved from Belgium to Texas, Wilfried is from Belgium and traveling on business, and the other two guests were from Texas originally. Talk moved from SEO to their company (they manufacture playing cards) to Belgian beer to traveling to their board game that is being release in the US in a few months - Key Largo (I recommend checking it out, Katty was at dinner with us)...one Westmalle and one Duvel later, I came back from the restroom with the bill taken care of (whoa!) and an invite for Rob and I to join them for dinner.

Invite some random college-age kids for dinner with some swank, high-class Belgian and Texan 30+year olds?! No way. No WAY. NO FORKING WAY.


Did we go? What happened to the guys harassing the waitress across the roof from us? Why can't I find Westmalle here in New York? Where did the sun go? Why don't they serve Great Lakes? Where did they want to go to eat?

All of these questions (and more!) answered in Act 2.....stay tuned....or go get a refill of whatever you're masticating at the current moment.


15 minute intermission.........


ACT II: Reata, 310 Houston St., Fort Worth, TX

Due to the only things having been eaten that day being some Disaronno-infused French toast, and some Swedish meatballs at Ikea (oh my God, so tasty, so scrumptious), my delicious ales caused what we refer to as "rapid onset", a condition that occurred many times after working late nights at Nova and hitting the 'Stretch after. (You don't eat anything, and then you have a drink or two and they slam yo' ass to the ground.) I somehow found my way downstairs and outside and on the walk over, contemplated what other intelligent conversation I could make all the while being careful not to slur my words. We walked for about 2 blocks, and came to Reata, fine Texan dining. We had a private room, all grabbed seats and perused the menu. A Zinfandel was ordered, everyone ordered appetizers but me (stupid, always follow the crowd), and main courses as well. While the rest of the members dined and wined on their salads and soups, I ate some of the jalapeño cornbread muffins...not bad, but could have been a bit spicier. What I was anxious for was my pan seared pepper-crusted tenderloin with port wine sauce, with mashed potatoes and a side of corn. (Come on, I'm from the Midwest Rob...give me some slack.)

Dinner finally arrived, and two waiters come around the table with flashlights and ask us to cut into our steaks to ensure they are at the proper temperature. Perfection was tasted when I cut into that first bite of Texan beef....as I chewed and the meat hit all of my taste receptors in my tongue, I swear I was on the fast escalator up to heaven as it got better the more I ate. The corn was more of a mix with peppers in it, which complemented perfectly the mashed potatoes. Oh my God. This has to be one of the better steak and potatoes dinner I've had in a while (and probably the only one I've had in a while).

When I handed my plate to the waiter, there was nothing left on it. No really, not even remnants of the port wine sauce, as I had used the remnants of my potatoes and corn morsels to soak up every last drip.

Then, everyone insisted on ordering dessert. Dessert?! As stated previously, I'm not really a dessert person, but I was coerced into sharing a dessert with Rob, the chocolate bread pudding tamale served with dulce de leche ice cream.

To describe? Heavenly.

The check came, and credit cards came out of wallets...our hosts paid for the meal in full. Incredible. We thanked profusely for the night's festivities, and walked away with business cards and contact infos for everyone that had attended.

Incredible. For the entire experience, I give a full 5 forks (!).

03 February 2008

Gold St., 2 Gold St. (Between Platt St and Maiden Lane)

After working late on a move at one of my company's sites, Friday found myself and two of my friends (both named David) in all of it's splendor at what seems to be ordained as a Friday night tradition down on Wall Street, where the bars are empty and the service is great.

We started off at the Irish Punt, an Irish pub where Dion provides us with excellent pours, deliciously mixed drinks and great stories of working in a bar where most of it's patrons make more money than I'll ever see in three lifetimes. After the Punt, we moved on to a small Thai karaoke bar a few blocks away, which much to my dismay, allowed smoking inside the establishment (and where most of the patrons were obnoxious). On the other hand, I felt like I was right at home when I saw a mouse scurry across an open doorway. (Did I tell you? We caught three baby mice on Thursday night behind our stove with a sticky trap. Awesome.)

Once everyone had agreed to party all night and stay out until Dim Sum in Chinatown the next morning, we realized we had to refuel and recoup, and Gold St. seemed like the only logical choice (being one of the only things open down in the Financial District after market hours). I was immediately energized by DJ Dan who was spinning and excited by the prospect of a diner with a bar. We sat down, and were given the Late Night Menu.

Our choices included the Stone St. Omlette, Spinach and Artichoke dip, and Disco fries.

I didn't try any of the omlette, but I tried the spinach and artichoke dip and I'm sorry to say but the most exciting part of the dish was when a drunk chick from a few tables away walked over and asked us if she could try some on her way out. Other than that, frankly I thought our dip at Nova, my old stomping / bartending ground was far superior, as often times patrons would take pity on my impoverished student exterior and allow me the last bite or two of their dish. (Which definitely beat gnawing on mostly-eaten T-bones off plates that I collected while bussing down tables. Just kidding, I never did that. I also never dug out of the trash we used to scrape into for half-eaten hamburgers. I swear.)

The Disco fries, on the other hand were a completely different story. While in Niagra, I didn't get around to eating these delicious morsels of perfectly fried potato, double dipped into both beef gravy and fondue'd brie. I don't even LIKE brie, nor was I hungry and I found myself with the strange urge to pick up the little plates and lick off the remaining dip once we had cashed the fries.

So tasty. So Jersey-ish. So exquisite.

I might have had a dream about them last night as well, already going through withdrawal and shaking like an addict would like being hooked after first shot of coke. Er....

Unfortunately, we were driven out of Gold St not by an abundance of patrons, nay because the music was just TOO FORKING LOUD. We could barely hear ourselves think, let alone talk and when I woke up the next morning, my ears were still ringing. Not only that, the music selection was mediocre at best.

Gold St gets 1.5 / 5 forks, which in essence could be translated into the DISCO FRIES get all the credit for this place. And I hear you can get them at any diner in NYC anyways. No no no - thank YOU, New Jersey.

24 January 2008

Penang, 41 Elizabeth St. (between Canal and Hester)

I apologize for my lack of posting over the past week, even though I'm sure none of you are really that heartbroken. I was going to enter a teaser post in about my TGIFriday's experience at Pittsburgh airport, but work got busy and frankly, I'm trying to be upscale here people. Seriously.

I've been to Penang with a group of friends before, and I don't remember much, except showing up late (and not much about the food). I think I was kind of miffed that all the prices were $10+ and it was all weird asian food that wasn't your classic American Chinese faire, so I got dumplings or something boring like that.

I stopped by after work on Tuesday to get over this prior experience and truly begin living again, and the establishment was near deserted. Maybe three tables were occupied, and I forgot how cool the decor was. Again, out with fellow foodie David and we split a few dishes: Roti Canai, fried wontons, coconut fried rice and dried curry chicken.

The Roti Canai was really good - it was this thinner-and-flakier-than-naan piece of bread with this delicious coconut curry sauce. Tasty. The fried wontons were fried dumplings...although the sweet and sour sauce that went with them was very nice! The dried curry chicken was just okay (it kind of upset my stomach). The coconut fried rice was pretty good, although they falsely advertised and said that there were beans in it, when there were no beans and onions instead. Lame-o. However, the dish did come with shrimp, and might I tangent for just a moment, I HATE it when restaurants do not devein their shrimp. It's so gross to be eating a shrimp, and seeing that little black vein running along their back that you know is filled with waste product. Gross gross gross. Ew ew ew.

After this par meal, I decided life would not be complete without some dessert. More specifically, the mango with sticky rice. I like mango, and I like sticky rice. How could I go wrong?

It's more possible than not that I could, as at first, the waiter said "Oh, I don't think we have anymore left, but I'll check." He went away, and then poked his head out of the refrigerated case after grabbing a 5"x2" rectangle of white saying "We do! I'll have it right for you." I stared in disbelief as he put it in the microwave. What?!


You can't be serious.

But he was.

Thanks to modern technology, minutes later he served up some sticky rice with mango slices. And I want you to know I finished every last grain it was so good.

Penang gets 2.5 rating forks out of 5:

Menu found here.

17 January 2008

Zen Burger, 465 Lexington (Between E. 45th and E. 46th St.)

So I guess I'm already breaking my rule of only posting about restaurants I go to dinner to (or was it really a rule in the first place? Maybe implied...hrm.), but I was convinced by my co-worker Rob to post about this place.

Zen Burger recently opened as an all-vegetarian joint. There is no meat in it's products, just made from good ol' veggies and soy. Everything on their menu is vegetarian-friendly, down to their ZenBacon and ZenBeef.

Personally I didn't feel too "zen" walking in there - in fact, the decor was harsh with it's white and orange detail, and despite looking in "Employees only" entrances and broom closets, I did not find my rock garden or quiet waterfall to meditate upon. However I did find a calming fountain (of soda - haha I almost had you!) and two large calming containers of iced tea (a rarity to find in NYC - unsweetened iced tea, that is).

But back to the lack of zen. Zen Burger was swamped when Rob and I entered, and even moreso when we left. In our span of waiting 10 minutes for our orders (not bad for the turnover) I saw two people had their orders get misplaced. I wondered why they got so mad...again, not very Zen of them. Instead of getting angry while I waited for my special order, I cleared my mind, practiced some yoga and contemplated the meaning of life.

Rob ordered the ZenBeef Burger meal, and I bought the ZenSouthwest Burger meal - so we each got a veggie burger with the standard suite of toppings, and Rob's with "Special ZenSauce" and mine with "ZenChipotle Sauce". Upon bringing our food back to our company's cafeteria (about a 5 minute walk), we began to devour our food, but much to my un-zenlike dismay, my burger was cold. Not even lukewarm, and neither was Rob's. I was very surprised with the amount of turnover that the store was going through; and mine was a special order! Neither of us received our sides of ZenSauce that the menu promises, making me very unhappy with my fries and having to opt for ketsup instead.

However as mediocre as the food was, Rob was right when he said that ZenBurger was good tasting, and a reasonable price for lunch (~$7 for a meal) in Midtown East.

Zen Burger gets 2/5 rating forks:

Website located here: http://www.zenburger.com/
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