Tag Archives: Szechuan

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2017…

This year was another crazy ride. And while politics and breaking news stories often drifted into my anxious psyche, food still played an important role. And this year was full of surprising dishes that were nourishing, pleasurable, and a much-needed distraction. Here now are the top 10 dishes – the list includes an exciting mix of hearty classics like burgers and lasagna, along with some brilliant vegetable concoctions.

NUMBER 10: SPICY FISH STEW at HAO NOODLE AND TEA BY MADAM ZHU

When a dish comes out of the kitchen glowing red and spiked with peppercorns, I’m expecting some heat. The only thing that hinted at the spice level for this clear green fish soup was the name “spicy” and the two pepper symbols on the menu. This fish stew had a unique floral, numbing spice and was one of the most exciting dishes I’ve tasted at a Chinese restaurant – ever. Price: $25

HAO NOODLE AND TEA BY MADAM ZHU
401 Sixth Avenue (between Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue)
Greenwich Village
(212) 633-8900
madamzhu.com

NUMBER 9: SURPRISE TRIP at THE UP & UP

I float toward cocktails that are unusual and surprising and the Surprise Trip is certainly that. It’s a gin based tipple with a syrup made from black trumpet mushrooms and a slew of “corns”. Szechuan peppercorn, pink peppercorn, black peppercorn, and unicorn (an herbal plum liqueur). It had a rich earthy flavor from the mushroom with a bracing spice throughout The gin was incredibly smooth as it played with all the other flavors (earthy, sweet, bracing, complex). It doesn’t get more (pleasantly) surprising. Price: $15

THE UP & UP
116 Macdougal Street (between Bleecker Street and Minetta Lane),
Greenwich Village
(212) 260-3000
upandupnyc.com

NUMBER 8: THE EDITH at ORCHARD GROCER

It’s pretty ballsy to hawk a bagel with vegan cream cheese and carrot lox in the Lower East Side. Despite the changing demographics of the neighborhood, the breakfast sandwich is still associated with the historic Jewish immigrants that once lived here. Yet the familiar combination works beautifully even when no seafood or dairy is involved. A soft chewy bagel is the vessel for cream cheese made out of cashew and smoked salmon made out of thinly sliced, cured, and smoked carrots. The masterminds behind this vegan deli would have made bubbe and zayde proud.  Price: $8

ORCHARD GROCER
78 Orchard Street (between Broome and Grand Street)
Lower East Side
(646) 757-9910
orchardgrocer.com

NUMBER 7: MAITAKE MUSHROOMS at FIFTY

Mushrooms don’t need much and Chef Luis Jaramillo from the somewhat under-the-radar modern American restaurant Fifty seems to know that. The meaty earth candy was nestled under some watercress and above a rich aromatic celery root-truffle puree. The only other addition was sweet sliced grapes that acted as a foil to all the earthy richness on the plate. But it was the chef’s deft hand with the mushrooms themselves that left a lasting impression. Each bite was crisp and tender leaving a lasting woodsy buttery flavor on my lips. Price: $16

FIFTY
50 Commerce Street (between Barrow and Bedford Street),
West Village
(212) 524-4104
fiftyrestaurantnyc.com

NUMBER 6: BANANA & WALNUT BREAD at TWO HANDS

This Banana & Walnut Bread was a bit of a sensation when Two Hands first opened and I totally see why. The bread itself was both impossibly moist and nicely crisped around the edges. On its own, it would have been perfect. But they go even further by schmearing a frosted espresso-laced mascarpone, garnishing it with toasted bits of buckwheat, and drizzling honey on top. This went from being perfect to off the charts. Price $8

TWO HANDS RESTAURANT & BAR
251 Church Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street),
Tribeca
twohandsnyc.com

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

When a dish comes out of the kitchen glowing red and spiked with peppercorns, I’m expecting some heat. The only thing that hinted at the spice level for this clear green fish soup was the name “spicy” and the two pepper symbols on the menu. It was a unique floral, numbing spice and was one of the most exciting dishes I’ve tasted at a Chinese restaurant.

Price: $25

HAO NOODLE AND TEA BY MADAM ZHU
401 Sixth Avenue (between Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue)
Greenwich Village
(212) 633-8900
madamzhu.com

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

MÁLÀ PROJECT, 122 First Avenue (between East 7th Street and St. Marks Place), East Village

The issue of spice can get a bit frustrating at restaurants where spice reigns supreme. I suppose some people might end up with a dish that burns their mouth off and then others might be expecting lots of fire and then end up with less than a spark.

So when the waitress at MáLà Project asked how spicy I wanted my order, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I wanted it the way that they make it best. This was a Szechuan restaurant and I know that means the heat is a big part of the cuisine.

My options were Non-Spicy, Mild Spicy, Spicy, and Super Spicy. I didn’t want either extreme, but I was confused as to whether mild spicy was a “mild spicy” for timid Americans or for Szechuan eaters who just wanted to take it easier than usual.

In the end I went with Spicy, and surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as spicy as I had expected. But I still got to taste how full-flavored and numbingly bold the food at this establishment can be.

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Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

CAFÉ CHINA, 13 Est 37th Street (between Fifth and Madison Avenue), Midtown EastThanks to the response from my recent Christmas video, I got a request to make dumplings for Christmas Eve this year. That’s right, this year we didn’t go out for Chinese food, I cooked it.

I can give myself a big pat on the back because those dumplings came out spectacularly. It was a lot of work (I even made the dough from scratch) and not something that I’ll be making weekly. But for when I’m craving pork dumplings and am feeling too lazy (that’s most of the time), I can rely on the quality of dumpling choices around the city, like the mouth numbing version at Café China.

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On Christmas Eve, there’s only one thing for a good Jewish boy to do. Go find some amazing Chinese food. This year at Café China, I find more than just a plate of noodles. I find a very familiar face.

Special thanks:

midtownlunch.com
cafechinanyc.com
ultraclay.com


Category: Dumplings, Video

For the fourth year in a row, I present the 100 most exciting dishes I’ve consumed during my food adventures around the five boroughs. Look for another five dishes every few days.

Whether you slurp them, chew them, or bite them, whether they’re filled with cheese, floating in a soup, or tossed with a sauce, pasta is certainly a universal food. They appear in just about every cuisine in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors. This year, these three noodle dishes won my heart.
NUMBER 60: TABATA RAMEN at TABATA NOODLE

Tabata Ramen at TABATA RAMEN

Lately New York has experienced ramen joints that are really stretching the imagination of what we understand as ramen. We’ve long surpassed the days of college ramen with horrifying flavor packets and now ramen is moving away from the traditional Japanese flavors. Tabata Noodle in Midtown specializes in ramen noodles with a Burmese touch (thanks to the heritage of the owner and most of his staff). Nowhere is that more obvious than in the coconut milk based namesake ramen. The Tabata has a milky broth that is thickened with soybean powder and a hint of spicy curry. Floating inside are springy noodles that soak up every last flavor of the slightly sweet, tropical broth, along with spicy chicken, the usual hard boiled egg, tangy red onions, and a kick of fresh cilantro. Unlike any ramen dish I’ve stumbled upon before. Price: $10

TABATA NOODLE
540 Ninth Avenue (between West 40th and West 41st Street),
Hell’s Kitchen

(212) 290-7691
tabataramen.com

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