Tag Archives: Theater District

My search for the best dumplings in New York continues….

KUNG FU LITTLE STEAMED BUNS RAMEN, 811 Eighth Avenue (between 48th and 49th Street), Hell's Kitchen

For my dumpling reviews, it’s been a while since I’ve ventured much further outside one of this city’s Chinatowns. I especially did not expect to find myself in the Theater District for legitimate dumplings.

But that’s exactly where Kung Fu Ramen sits – on Eighth Avenue just a few blocks away from most of the big hotels and splashy Broadway theaters. (more…)


Category: Dumplings

My search for the best corned beef/pastrami in New York continues….

SADLY, CAFE EDISON IS NOW CLOSED.

CAFE EDISON, 228 West 47th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Theater District

I was amazed at how little Cafe Edison has changed in ten years. I used to frequent this old-school diner in the heart of Times Square quite a bit when I first moved to New York. It was near all my auditions and the hearty Eastern European Jewish food was affordable and nostalgic.

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My food adventures of late have taken me much further downtown to some of the hipper restaurant offerings and to the outer boroughs for some exciting and unexplored ethnic cuisines. But rarely do I get to eat an actual meal in the heart of Times Square. Nor would I want to, to be perfectly honest.

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My search for the best beer in New York continues….

While the NY craft beer scene continues to expand with breweries, craft beer bars, and restaurants that brew their own beer, Heartland Brewery has sort of gotten the short end of the stick. I remember visiting the original Union Square location back in 2001 and feeling like I was in a casual brewpub in suburban America. It felt like a TGI Friday’s or Applebee’s, but with better food and exciting beer. In fact, this was probably the first place I ever tried a pumpkin ale and realized that beer didn’t have to taste solely like bread and water.

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Category: Beer

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.

I’m a big fan of themes. I enjoy Christmas music (in moderation, of course) on Christmas Eve. I want to watch scary movies on Halloween. And I love making themed playlists (for example, all songs about rain or something like that). It’s not too dissimilar to my obsession with lists. Must have something to do with my ADD or OCD or one of those neurotic abbreviations.

So I love that Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s blossoming burger joint  names their concretes (custard sundaes) after whichever neighborhood the restaurant is situated in. Shake Shack started as a small stand (with long lines) in Madison Square Park and continues to expand and expand and expand. A Brooklyn location was just announced and a Shake Shack just opened in both Miami and Dubai(!)

They serve the Shark Attack concrete in Miami, the Upper West Slide on Columbus Avenue and the Pineapple Upper East Side Cake on the… well, you can probably guess where. But the only location to offer the Great White Way concrete is at one of the newer locations – in the Theater District, of course.

I know I’m in the majority when I say that I’m not a huge fan of the burgers at Shake Shack. I think they’re rather bland and reminiscent of certain national fast food chains, which they are slowly becoming. I don’t understand how and why it’s the most waited for burger in the city. I think they’re just mediocre.

But the concrete we got from Time Out’s list, the aforementioned Great White Way, was worth waiting in line for (although you can use the faster B-line for ice cream treats). It doesn’t sound like anything too inventive (unlike their daily special custard flavors, which rotate and include everything from pumpkin to concord grape to pancakes and bacon)- this is vanilla custard with marshmallow sauce and rice crispies mixed in. Obviously it’s a re-creation of that childhood favorite: the rice crispy treat.

Now I was never a huge fan of those gooey squares. They had to have enough marshmallow for me otherwise I thought they were rather dry. But here it works on a whole different level.

The marshmallow flavor is subtle enough and the creamy vanilla custard sweetens up whatever the marshmallow sauce misses. And those rice crispies are snapping, crackling, and popping in my mouth. They make for a crunchy texture that manages to hold on throughout the dessert.

I never made it to Shake Shack on my official ice cream search (mainly because they’re technically a restaurant that serves ice cream as opposed to an ice cream specialist). And I’m not sure that they’re custard is the best. The vanilla flavor is a little too sweet for me and the other options tend to hinge on the gimmicky side. But when you mix in some interesting and appropriate ingredients (like these), they seem to elevate the custard to be one of the most intense and enjoyable desserts in the city. And giving it a themed name makes it that much more appealing.

Would Shake Shack’s Great White Way Concrete make my Top 100 of the year? The liquid rice crispy treat is better than the real thing and gets an 8 out of 10 because I could (and would) eat it after every meal.

SHAKE SHACK
691 Eighth Avenue (between 43rd and 44th Street)
Theater District
(646) 435-0135
shakeshack.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.

30. GALBI at BAPCHA

I’ve been giving Food Cart Tours now with Urban Oyster for a little over six months. And the tour has expanded since we started to include more trucks and carts. I’m still meeting new vendors every day and tasting new food. But the first contact I was able to personally make for the company was with John and Jeanie Lee at Bapcha, formerly known as the Bulgogi and Kimchi Cart.

Bapcha means “food cart” in Korean and the couple sells delicious, freshly prepared Korean food. Everything from mandu (fried dumplings) to kimchi (fermented cabbage) to galbi (beef short ribs). And when I first tried the galbi, I knew that this cart had to be part of our tour.

The short ribs are marinated in a special Korean soy sauce (that includes the secret ingredient: pear juice). It’s grilled to well past medium rare, but it maintains a tender chewiness that is reminiscent of brisket.  The taste is smoky and sweet. The fat is almost non-existent but the flavor is all there. With a squirt of hot sauce and a side of sweet korean noodles, this is a perfect lunch alternative to a burger. Or a steak sandwich. Price: $8

BAPCHA
South Side of West 49th Street (between Avenue of the Americas and 7th Avenue)
Midtown West

29. PEANUT PORRIDGE at JAMIACAN DUTCHY

SADLY, JAMAICAN DUTCHY IS NOW CLOSED.

Breakfast is served way too early for me. At Jamaican Dutchy, they start serving it at 7am and keep it going until about 11. And as of late, I’ve reverted back to my teenage days and sleep until about then. Partly it’s because I’m up all night writing blog entries.

So I’m never in midtown early enough to taste Jamaican Dutchy’s authentic breakfast foods like salt fish, callaloo, and different types of porridges. The porridges rotate depending on the day (sometimes banana porridge, sometimes hominy porridge, etc.) On Fridays, they make peanut porridge.

And one of the perks of giving these Food Cart tours is that I’ve become friends with many of the vendors and Ricky at Jamaican Dutchy has been kind enough to save me some porridge on numerous occasions. I’ve only gotten to taste the peanut porridge, but it’s pretty outrageous.

Porridge is similar to oatmeal, but less grainy and more creamy. It has pieces of peanuts and comes close to a rich peanut butter flavor with a touch of sweetness. I can’t imagine eating this for breakfast every day (because of the richness), but I imagine that’s why they alternate porridge flavors. It’s served hot in a paper cup and on a cold day on the streets of NYC, it’s just what the doctor ordered. No matter what time of day it is. Price: $4

JAMAICAN DUTCHY
West 51st Street (at 7th Avenue)
Midtown West
Follow on Twitter: @jamaicandutchy
(646) 287-5004
thejamaicandutchy.net

28. SPEKULOOS SPREAD at WAFELS & DINGES

Most of you know in addition to searching for the best food in NY, leading food cart tours, and waiting tables, I’ve also been tackling Time Out New York’s Top 100 Dishes of the year. And truth be told, their annual list is what inspired me to compile this long and rambling list of dishes.

And so many of the items I have on this countdown come from last year’s Time Out list (partly because that list made up about 1/3 of my meals last year). The new list was released in October, right when I was putting together my own Top 100. And the one item that coincidentally appeared on both their list and my list (completely coincidentally) was the Spekuloos Spread at Wafels & Dinges.

And what’s even funnier is that we both picked the sauce that they put on their fantastic Belgian-style waffles. The waffles themselves (which come in two forms – Brussels and Liege) are great, but the spread that is listed as a possible dinges (topping) is just amazing.

Spekuloos is a Dutch or Belgian holiday cookie very similar to a gingerbread. Wafels & Dinges makes it into a spreadable condiment, much like nutella or peanut butter. In fact many people on the tour think this is peanut butter at first. Or maybe a melted-down Teddy Graham. It has sweet, spicy notes of gingerbread and graham crackers. And with some whipped cream and bananas is a perfect addition to any waffle. Or buy a jar for yourself and eat it out of the jar. Like Pooh and his honey. Price: Free with purchase of a waffle, $7.95 for jar

WAFELS & DINGES
Multiple Locations
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
(866) 429-7329
wafelsanddinges.com

27. CHILLED BERRY SOUP at BISTRO TRUCK

SADLY, BISTRO TRUCK IS NOW CLOSED.

It’s the dream of every street food junkie to have all the carts and trucks in one location. And in many ways, the Vendy Awards brings that dream to reality each year. They’re hosted by the Street Vendors Project and with the price of admission, you get to sample the food of all the nominees.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend with Urban Oyster and can tell you I can’t wait until next year. I had some amazing food that day, but one dish in particular really blew my mind and surpassed all expectations. It was an unassuming little sample of the Chilled Berry Soup from the Bistro Truck.

Bistro Truck is usually parked in the Flatiron District and I’ve had some of their Mediterranean food in the past. But I had never tried their soup. The chilled berry soup (which is currently not available in the cold weather) was such a refreshing treat at the Vendy Awards. It was a thick, yet smooth blend of berries and spices. It’s slightly sweet, but savory enough to be a great appetizer. And a swirl of yogurt or two held the whole thing together. There was so much food at the event and I had to resist taking another cup to ensure I had room to sample everything. But you can be sure I will be returning to the truck come next summer when I pray the soup will be available once again.

BISTRO TRUCK
Fifth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Street)
Flatiron District
(800) 290-4924
Follow on Twitter: @bistrotruck
bistrotruck.com

Photo Courtesy of: foodie-call.com

26. TILAPIA WITH GREEN CHILI SAUCE at KWIK MEAL

I would have never thought to order fish from a cart. I think of Halal Carts and the things that come to mind are chicken, lamb, falafel, and rice. With a few sauces thrown in for good measure.

Well, Muhammed Rahman of Kwik Meal (and formerly a sous chef at the Russian Tea Room) likes to keep the culinary surprises coming. We visit Kwik Meal on the tour and sample his fantastic falafel. But I figured I should be as well-versed in his menu as possible. So I came early one day to try his fish.

It’s grilled to order (they even ask you for a temperature on the salmon) and it tastes unlike any fish I’ve ever had. It’s been marinated in a mix of Bengali spices and is topped with Muhammed’s special green chili sauce. Basmati rice (with lots of Indian spices), fresh mixed vegetables (from mushrooms to snap peas), and a white sauce (yogurt based) add to the perfect composition of the dish. I can’t remember when I’ve ever had tilapia this flavorful and tender. It inspired me to buy some myself and try to cook it. But I just don’t have the same magic as Muhammed, so I’ll stick to his preparations from now on. Price: $8.50

KWIK MEAL
West 45th Street (at Sixth Avenue)
Midtown West
kwikmeal.net

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.

35. TORO TARTARE at MORIMOTO

I was taken to Morimoto for my birthday this past year. And it wouldn’t have been a successful birthday dinner if nothing made my Top 100. The meal was really delicious and it was a wonderful night. But when I think back to the tasting menu, one dish in particular stands out in my mind.

Early on, we were served what looked like a mini-washboard. Except instead of dirty clothes, there was the beautifully presented Toro Tartare, a perfectly shaped layer of chopped raw bluefin tuna meat. The fish was garnished with a touch of ostera caviar but the real excitement happened below the silky fish. Six garnishes (including creme fraiche, nori paste, wasabi, avocado cream, and crispy rice cracker bits) were compartmentalized and the chef invites you to mix and match flavors and textures. As if these DIY textures and flavors weren’t enough with the fresh meaty fish, there was also a bowl of dashi soy sauce to bring that extra clean umami experience to life.

With a dish like this, what more can a birthday boy ask for? Maybe an extra birthday each year? Price: $28 (a la carte)

MORIMOTO
88 Tenth Avenue (between West 15th and West 16th Street)
Meatpacking District
(212) 989-8883
morimotonyc.com

34. TAKOYAKI at OTAFUKU

They’re very strange to look at, the smell is a bit off putting, and the thought of them is unappetizing. But I tell you, these octopus balls are delicious.

Anybody who’s hung out long and hard enough in the East Village knows the tiny take-out window of Otafuku, which specializes in late night Japanese street food. There’s nowhere to sit and there’s often a line.

The thing to order here are the takoyaki, known as octopus balls. And relax, they’re not the testicles of the eight-legged creatures (do they even have testicles?), but rather a savory donut with sweet, smoky, spicy Japanese flavors. And inside, you get the hidden pearl: a chewy rich piece of octopus meat.

The balls (6 for $5) are cooked to order in a special cast iron grill pan. You can watch them make it (if there’s room in the shop) and then watch them top the order with all these foreign ingredients. First goes the brown sweet malty sauce, then the kewpie (Japanese mayo), follow that by green seaweed powder, and finally the strangest of all: the bonito flakes.

Bonito flakes are dried, thinly sliced mackerel flakes that when added to hot food, slither and flap as if there’s still a possible escape. The mackerel is long gone and doesn’t even resemble fish (aside from the taste), but the flakes most definitely seem alive.

When you bite into the balls, the soft dough gives way to an explosion of gooey rich filling. The flavors come alive as you struggle with the heat and finally find your way to that perfectly boiled octopus.

The whole thing can be frightening for the uninitiated, but I assure you when you taste the rich flavors and experience the unusual texture sensations, you’ll be hooked. In fact, I could go for another set of octopus balls right now. Price: $5

OTAFUKU
236 East 9th Street (between 2nd Avenue and Stuyvesant Street)
East Village
(212) 353-8503

33. TONGUE EXPERIENCE at TAKASHI

Takashi is so clean and sterile looking for a place that specializes in grilled cow guts. But this new Japanese-Korean BBQ joint in the West Village may be one of my new favorite restaurants (regardless of the violence that occurs to bring their food to the table).

We went on Halloween this year, which seemed very fitting, and decided to order a dish that was a little frightening, but not too creepy. And the Tongue Experience seemed just right.

Three parts of the tongue (the tip, the sinew, and chopped tongue) are marinated in a tangy garlic lemon sauce and served raw. Then it’s up to you to grill it yourself to the perfect temperature. Some of the tongue (sinew) ended up being a little chewy. But that was part of the fun and the flavors all rubbed off on my tongue (sorry if that’s a bit off-color).

The meat was fresh and flavorful, the textures were varied and unique, and the experience of grilling the tongue yourself was, well, an experience. An experience so delicious that I might even be tempted to try a stomach chamber or intestine next time. And with food this delicious, there most definitely will be a next time. Price: $22

TAKASHI
456 Hudson Street (between Morton Street and Barrow Street)
West Village
(212) 414-2929
takashinyc.com

32. WASABI DUMPLINGS at SAKE BAR HAGI

Hagi is a total find, but since I started going there it’s been found and now there’s always a long wait for a table (or even a seat at the bar).

It’s a classic Japanese izakaya (pub with food) and is perfect for restaurant people who need to eat good cheap food (and cheap pitchers of Sapporo) after their shifts. And that’s how I first discovered the semi-hidden spot.

And once I tasted their wasabi dumplings, I was totally hooked and would wait in any line necessary.

You only get four little dumplings, stuffed with pork and chives, but they certainly pack a punch. If the name alone doesn’t warn you of the oncoming heat, the bright green color of the wrapper certainly will. The dough must be infused or rubbed with wasabi to give it that color. And once you bite into it, you discover you have tastebuds in your sinuses (you don’t really). But the heat subsides rather quickly once you get past that initial jolt and it gives way to rich wasabi and pork flavors.

If only they sold these for five for a dollar like most dumpling houses in Chinatown. My sinuses might start working overtime. Price: $4.50

SAKE BAR HAGI
152 West 49th Street (between 7th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas)
Theater District
(212) 764-8549

 

31. WAKAME BUTTER at CORTON

Corton is a French restaurant. A high-end French restaurant. And their complimentary butter is inspired by recipes from Brittany called beurre aux algues. But the word wakame is Japanese. So there must have been an influence at some point.

The wakame butter was one of two butter options. I felt bad that we didn’t pay much attention to the sweet cream butter, but the wakame butter was so unique and complex that I had to eat as much of it as possible. The butter comes from Vermont Cheese and Butter Company, but chef Paul Liebrandt livens it up with the addition of wakame. So what is wakame already? Here we go: it’s seaweed. This is seaweed butter.

I know it sounds weird, but the butter was incredible. The seaweed added some brininess, a vegetal quality, and more salt notes. The butter itself was rich and perfectly creamy with a touch of sweetness. Together these flavors played out in harmony on the palate. I’ve never been so excited by pure butter in my life.  And that (and the fact that Corton is generally out of my price range) is probably a good thing for my arteries. Complimentary with $85 prix-fixe

CORTON
239 West Broadway (between Beach Street and Moore Street)
Tribeca
(212) 219-2777
cortonnyc.com

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