Tag Archives: Motorino
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.
90. HUITLACOCHE QUESADILLA at TEHUITZINGO
I’m always curious to see how Mexican restaurants translate or explain huitlacoche. I’ve heard it refered to as black corn, corn smut, and Mexican truffles. But Tehuitzingo’s translation is probably the most appetizing I’ve seen: corn mushroom.
And this stuff is just that, it’s a fungus that grows on corn. For some reason, it’s more expensive and more highly prized than the unvarnished yellow stuff. And I’ll tell you, it makes for a delicious addition to a spicy, cheesy quesadilla.
The version at Tehuitzingo (which is my favorite hidden Mexican spot located at the back of an unassuming bodega) is exemplary. It’s got just the right amount of flavor and texture to make a balanced snack, but doesn’t overwhelm the experience of the huitlacoche itself. You get a smoky earthy funk on the palate and an interesting soft pop as you bite into each black piece.
They can call it whatever they want, but I’ll still be back for a quick, cheap snack whenever I’m in the neighborhood. And you should too. Price: $3.50
|TEHUITZINGO DELI AND GROCERY|
|695 Tenth Avenue (between 47th and 48th Street)
89. BRUSSELS SPROUT & PANCETTA PIZZA at MOTORINO
I’ve been very vocal about my devotion to Kesté when it comes to neo-Neapolitan pizzerias. I find their dough and toppings to be the most delectable and authentic (not that I’ve ever been to Naples!)
Motorino might get more publicity and hype and while I’ve enjoyed them, I just don’t think they compete with Kesté.
Except when we’re talking about the Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Pizza, which seems to get better and better upon each visit. The sprouts are fresh and distributed well. The ham is salty enough with a meaty, earthy flavor that was balanced with the creamy richness of the fior di latte mozzarella. And the dough is charred, chewy, and heavenly.
It’s the kind of pizza I’d expect to find at Kesté. Except I got to give points to Motorino for this one. Price: $16 ($14 at Brooklyn location)
|349 East 12th Street (between 2nd and 1st Avenue)
|319 Graham Avenue (between Ainslie Street and Devoe Street)
88. CARROTS at BLUE HILL
Ok, now I’m doing it. This dish is something you can get at Blue Hill for free… if you order one of their tasting menus. I know it’s annoying, except you’ll get a great meal and get to taste the most amazing raw vegetables you’ve probably ever had.
For those of you that don’t know, Dan Barber’s Blue Hill gets all their ingredients from their own farm in Tarrytown, NY (there’s also an acclaimed restaurant attached, Stone Barns) or from one of the other nearby Hudson Valley farms. Talk about sustainabilty.
The carrots are served poked on a series of metal prongs as an amuse bouche (called Vegetables on a Fence). And they’re nothing fancy. No special sauce or foam. Just raw carrots with maybe a hint of sea salt.
And they taste amazingly sweet and earthy. This is where simplicity really proves itself. We’ve all had carrots so many times before but never really paid attention to where they come from or the depth of flavor they contain. It’s much easier when they’re this fresh, local, and beautifully presented. Included with prix-fixe
|75 Washington Place (between Avenue of the Americas and Washington Square West)
Photo courtesy of: pinkpignyc.com
87. SESAME PANCAKE WITH VEGETABLES at VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE
Even though the shape is closer to a slice of pizza, the sesame pancake sandwich at Vanessa’s is a bit reminiscent of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. However, it reminds me more of a NY bagel. I think it could have something to do with the litany of sesame seeds and the richness of the perfectly tender dough. But it’s lighter and cheaper than any bagel sandwich you’ll ever find. And features the cleaner, sweet flavors of the aforementioned banh mi.
The vegetable option starts at $1.50 (it’s even half that for just the bread) and reaches $2.25 if you choose the peking duck filling. All the sandwiches come with carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro, but in my mind these perfect little snacks don’t need anything else. Tucked inside the sesame pancake and brushed with a bit of sweet brown sauce, the vegetables are fresh, crunchy, and bursting with flavor. Not to mention colorful.
Sure, you could get roasted pork, beef, duck, or even tuna salad in that beautiful, warm pocket. But for a quick, flavorful snack, the vegetables are perfect and couldn’t be more affordable. And even though I try to compare it to other NY dishes, this is in a league all its own. Price: $1.50
|VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE|
|118 Eldridge Street (between Grand and Broome Street)
86. YUCA FRIES at PINCHE TAQUERIA
I came to Pinche Taqueria because the Village Voice had raved about their fish tacos. It’s a step up in ambience from the Mexican delis/taquerias of the city but somewhere below the dark, crowded margarita party dens of the West Village. The casual fast-food vibe with part exposed brick and part nostalgic cheesy pink panelling, makes for a great neighborhood location.
And the Mexican food is affordable and tasty enough. It’ll do in a pinche (get it?), but it’s far from the most flavorful Mexican food I’ve had in the city. The fish tacos were light and crispy, but the al pastor tacos were a bit on the bland side and had a slightly off texture. But I’d be willing to give them a second chance, if to just have another opportunity to indulge in the side of yuca fries.
The one thing I’d come back for again and again here are the amazingly addictive yuca fries. They were served in a ridiculously large order and I had to really stop myself from finishing the whole platter. The fries were thin and had a greasy crunch that melted away to a starchy, delicate, salty finish. The cilantro mayo and jalapeño ketchup were the perfect dipping sauce.
The tacos seem to take center stage here and the fries are listed as a side. I understand that’s how you order such things, but I’d rather make this my meal any day and put the tacos on the side. Price: $4.50
|227 Mott Street (between Prince and Spring Street)
|333 Lafayette Street (between Bleecker and Houston Street)
Photo courtesy of: justcooknyc.blogspot.com
I am so close to completing this list that any little screw-up or mishap makes me really nervous. Before we went to Motorino, the hip, over-hyped pizza shop, I checked their menus online. Time Out said that the Octopus Conserva was only available at the East Village location. However, upon inspection, I learned that the dish has either been changed or is now called Warm Spicy Octopus & Potato. And the other, original Motorino location in Williamsburg, serves a dish called Octopus Salad (with potatoes, celery, onions, and olive oil). So what to do? Are these dishes the same and are either the Conserva mentioned on TONY’s list?
After two phone calls, I tentatively settled on the East Village spot since that’s where Time Out wrote about initially. Although they’ve made some misprints in the past, I put my trust in them by embarking on this journey and so I should follow where they lead. And the guy on the phone told me it was the same dish. I sure as hell hope so.
I had been here once before during my pizza search, but never tried the Brooklyn location. Hence part of my neuroses about which spot to hit this night.
I like Motorino’s hip and modern vibe, but slightly prefer Kesté’s doughy Neapolitan pies. But I wasn’t here for the pizza, even though that’s the recepient of most of Motorino’s accolades. Time Out’s recognition of the octopus conserva is unusual and a nice respite from pizza. Although, how could I come here and not order at least one pizza?
I was looking forward to the much publicized ramp pie, but I guess we just missed the season because they didn’t have it on the menu any longer. They did have their famous Brussels Sprout pie which I remembered from my last visit. I think it may have been even better the second time around. The dough was charred and chewy, but soft with some rich creamy cheesy flavors balanced with an earthy bite from the smoky pancetta.
But onto the main attraction (which was actually an appetizer). The octopus conserva was a great appetizer and I understand why TONY chose it. I’m not usually a fan of potato in salads, but these were just soft enough and blended in with the rest of the ingredients. I’m not sure the octopus had been pickled (like TONY mentioned), but they were perfectly charred and tender. The chili oil, capers, parsley, and lemon all brightened up the dish and made it a winner.
Whether this was what TONY wanted me to eat or not, I’ve discovered that besides pizza, Motorino knows how to make some awesome cephalopods. Now if only they’d put that on the pizza…
Would Motorino’s Octopus Conserva make my Top 100 of the year? Probably. The flavors and textures worked beautifully together creating a completely satisfying prelude to the more famous pizzas, earning a 9 out of 10.
You can imagine whenever a coal-burning pizzeria closes, many budding NY pizzaioli are hoping to take over the lease and get their hands on a grandfathered coal oven. Wood ovens are a different story – they’re legal and available aplenty – but it is still nice when you can rent a space with oven and all – especially when that oven is the topic of much praise.
That’s what happened to Mathieu Palombino when he took over the space of Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village. The former pizza place was fast becoming the unanimous favorite of pizza lovers throughout the city. I was a little slow with this current pizza journey and therefore missed trying Anthony Mangieri’s creations. Word on the street was that he got tired of dealing with the East Village lifestyle and he just got up and moved out west. He’s supposed to be opening a pizzeria in San Francisco sometime soon.
So out went Una Pizza Napolitana and in came the latest incarnation of Williamsburg favorite, Motorino. It has not been open at this new location long, but it is already a hit and seems to get more favorable reviews than its big sister.
I went on a weekday lunch when they offer a great lunch special – your choice of a personal pizza and salad or ice cream for 10 bucks. Not too shabby.
We ordered the margherita and the seasonal brussels sprout and speck pizza. The salad was pretty standard with packaged field greens and a vinaigrette.
The pizza smelled great. I took in the fumes of fresh baked bread and cooked ham and green vegetables. The smell was almost too good to eat, but what’s smell without a little taste?
My brussels sprout pie was amazing. The sprouts were fresh and distributed well. The speck was salty enough with a meaty, earthy flavor that was balanced with the creamy richness of the fior di latte mozzarella. The textures were also varied and interesting.
The margherita was not as successful. The sauce was sort of wet and uneven, which made the pizza a bit soggy. I understand that Neapolitan pies have a tendency to be soggy in the middle, but it’s not my thing. I think it loses some flavor and brightness when that happens. I could tell this tomato sauce was well made and had a nice subtle citrus quality, but I just wish there was more of it for me to taste.
The dough was a stand-out. The cornicione (the end of the crust) was huge with a fluffy, airy quality. The crust also had a very nice char and a woody flavor.
Maybe the magic is in the oven. Palombino did inherit one of the most highly regarded kitchen appliances in the city. But regardless, he bakes a good pie and uses interesting, complimentary ingredients. Now if only those were things you can acquire when signing a lease.