Tag Archives: August

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

Last year, Time Out’s list took me to The Vanderbilt, a gastropub in Propsect Heights, to try the golden pickled egg. But while dining there, we decided to try some of their other offerings, including the lamb ribs. I love lamb and I love ribs (pork), so it sounded like a match made in heaven. I was wrong. They were greasy, fatty, and lacked much meat.

After talking to a chef at my previous restaurant (I was a server – it wasn’t my restaurant) about the experience, he said you should never order lamb ribs. He said they are so fatty that they’re difficult to work with and you never get much meat out of the situation. I tend to concur. Who wants to eat all fat? Except Jack Sprat’s wife, of course. She only eats fat.

So I was a little concerned when I saw that the new TONY list featured another dish we’re used to seeing in pork form and here it was as lamb. The Grilled Lamb Belly from West Village neighborhood spot August.

I’ve been to August before for brunch many years ago and really enjoyed the service and the ambiance (there’s a cute back room that feels like an outside garden), although nothing seemed to stand-out foodwise. But I remember it was all good enough to be excited to return years later.

It was just the lamb belly that worried me. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of pork belly. I appreciate it when it’s done well, but by definition, it’s going to have a layer of fat. The key is to get the top layer of fat so crispy that you forget about it and just enjoy the flavors. For instance, I love duck confit because it’s crispy and the texture feels like all meat. Forget the fact that the thing is literally cooked in fat!!!

The lamb belly was served in a cask-iron skillet with a bone protruding from the side and actually resembled a large rib. See, I tend not to think about the cuts of meat as being connected. It just doesn’t occur to me that the belly and the ribs were conjoined at one point. But of course, they are. I mean, put your hands on your belly and what do you feel?  A whole cage full of ribs right above it!  Hopefully not lamb ribs though.

The first few bites were rather uneventful. It had a deep gamey lamb flavor (duh!) but I felt like it was missing some brightness or acidity. After a few bites, my concerns were assuaged. This was quite delicious. It was covered in black sesame seeds which really helped bring out the crispy texture of the fat. And underneath the belly was a zingy tzatziki sauce that rooted the dish in Mediterranean cuisine. A sprig of dill (my favorite herb) garnished on top kept the dish from feeling too heavy.

This was a really well-prepared and focused dish. It was still a bit fatty, although I never found it greasy and accepted that this is the way lamb belly has to be. And I wouldn’t be surprised if lamb becomes the next pork. It has a deeper, gamier flavor and definitely something new for us fickle New Yorkers. Let’s just hope lamb feet doesn’t become the next pig trotter.

Would August’s Grilled Lamb Belly make my Top 100 of the year? I was pleased at how much I enjoyed the flavors and textures. It gets a 7 out of 10 for being a tasty appetizer and for showing me that lamb doesn’t have to be all about fat.

AUGUST
359 Bleecker Street (between 10th Street and Charles Street)
West Village
(212) 929-8727
augustny.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

65. THE COMPLETO at SAN ANTONIO BAKERY #2

A Chilean hot dog is not something you come across every day. Unless of course you live in Chile.

But here in New York, I believe there are only a handful of places that have a Completo on the menu (probably because there are only a handful of Chilean restaurants in the entire city).

I’m lucky enough to live close to a really good one: San Antonio Bakery #2 in Astoria is an unassuming little restaurant that serves great sandwiches, pastries, and Completos. And they don’t have a menu so you have to pretty much know what you want.

The Completo (which translates to “complete”) is a grilled hot dog topped with the Chilean works: fresh tomatoes, onions, guacamole, and mayonnaise. It’s all balanced on top of a fresh toasted bun. The rich creamy textures play really well off the smoky snap of the wiener.

It’s a hot dog like you’ve never had and one you won’t taste too often in this country. Unless, like me, you know where to find them. Price: $2.50

SAN ANTONIO BAKERY #2
3620 Astoria Boulevard (between 37th and 36th Street)
Astoria, Queens
(718) 777-8733
panaderiachilena.com

64. GREEK FRIES at SOUVLAKI GR

I don’t think I have to convince anybody about the joys of french fries. Even vegetarians are on board.

But besides some fancy sauces or frying the things in duck fat (I just lost the vegetarians, I know), I didn’t think there was a whole lot of room for improvement. That was until I tasted the Greek Fries from the Vendy Award winning (for Rookie of the Year) Souvlaki GR Truck.

They’re usually parked in the Chelsea area and besides really succulent and tender pork and chicken pitas, they make these unbelievable and surprising french fries. The fries are warm and crispy and then loaded with oregano, salt, pepper, and crumbled feta cheese. I’ve seen Belgian frites, British chips, and of course, the French Fries we’ve made our own. But this new Greek version is a welcome addition to the fried potato world. Price: $4.

SOUVLAKI GR
In the Vicinity of: 21st Street and 6th Avenue
Chelsea
Follow on twitter: @souvlakitruck
souvlakigr.com

63. BACON DOUGHNUTS at TRAIF

Free food is hard to resist for me. But the one thing I will consistently turn down are doughnuts. I’ve been (heart)burned one too many times with the fried fritters. So I avoid them unless they’re made fresh on a farm or featured prominently on a fancy restaurant’s dessert menu. Or if they have some unusual flavor.

And that’s why I just had to try the Bacon Doughnuts at Traif, the proudly non-kosher gastropub in Williamsburg. Lots of people are still squeamish over the idea of bacon in dessert. In my mind, it works the same way as it does at breakfast. Bacon, pancakes, maple syrup, whipped cream. These are perfect flavor combinations.

Traif takes it one flavor further by topping it with coffee ice cream. The doughnuts are light and fluffy, dusted with fresh bacon bits, and drizzled with ducle de leche. The sweet, salty, and greasy flavors are so perfect, I’d be happy having them at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

And so they make my Top 100 for not only being seriously delicious, but also because they were so fresh and light that I felt no pain while digesting them. Why are these never the free doughnuts on offer at morning meetings? Price: $6

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

62. TARTE FLAMBEE at AUGUST

Having worked at The Modern for many years, I feel like I’ve had the ultimate tarte flambee. Chef Gabriel Kreuther is from Alsace (where the pizza-like dish originated) and it’s so light, crispy, and full of deep comforting flavors.

I’ve had a few others and none come close to what I consider to be the ultimate version. So I was hesitant when I saw one on the menu at likable neighborhood spot August. How could it possibly compete with the one that’s near and dear to my heart?

Immediately I felt it was too thick with big chunks of bacon (as opposed to the thin smoked slices) and globs of onions. This was all wrong!

But as I took a few bites, I discovered it was totally different than The Modern’s and in its own way, just as successful.

The crust was actually quite light and crispy with a strong smoky flavor coming from the bacon, a bit of sweetness from the caramelized onions, and a nice bite from the creme fraiche. It’s exactly how I’d describe the one at The Modern (although I’d say that one is more refined) without being the exact same dish. It’s an example of how different chefs can interpret one dish and they end up completely different yet both turn out right. Price: $14

AUGUST
359 Bleecker Street (between 10th Street and Charles Street)
West Village
(212) 929-8727
augustny.com

61. LAMB BURGER at THE BRESLIN

The search for the best burger in New York will happen for me one of these days. This is a city that takes its burgers very seriously. But truth be told, I’m sort of tired of the same old beef burger. Sure, you can put interesting toppings on it and use different cuts of meat. And that’s all well and good, but I’m always searching for surprising flavors and for the most part, a burger’s a burger.

Then I tasted the lamb burger at The Breslin, inside the Ace Hotel. It exploded with flavor. April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig fame – which also has a killer burger) uses lamb meat, which is not the newest of flavors for me. But I’ve never had a lamb burger that has retained that salty, gamey flavor while bursting with the meat juices accustomed to a juicy beef burger. This was a revelation.

It was served on a firm, yet soft bun, cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice smoky char on the outside. Even though the price tag is more than I like to spend on a burger ($17) at a bar (even a glorified bar like this one), it was well worth it. Price: $17

THE BRESLIN
20 West 29th Street (between 5th Avenue and Broadway)
inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

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