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A +/- Look at NYC Food

Chinatown Brasserie

A lot has been made about whether or not this place is “good” or “bad”, “worth the price” or not.  But these are all silly arguments, because in the end- it all depends on the diner.  Can you get a cheaper meal in Chinatown?  Of course you can.  You can get a cheaper chinese meal on almost every street corner in New York City… and some of them might have General Tso’s Chicken that tastes better then the one at Chinatown Brasserie- but that doesn’t mean it deserves to dismissed outright.  If you want to have a fancy meal out, at a destination restaurant- and you want the food to be straight up Chinese, well then, Chinatown Brasserie would be the perfect place for you.  If you are a Dim Sum nut looking for an authentic (and cheap) Chinese food experience, then steer clear of this place.

I’m a huge fan of Chinese food.  I love Dim Sum, and have eaten at Dim Sum in many Chinatowns (including NYC, San Francisco, Boston & Los Angeles).  When I lived in Boston we practically lived at a place called China Pearl every Saturday for a year.  My girlfriend indulged me (and it’s one of the reasons we’re married today!).  I also love cheap Chinese food.  The take out kind, and the kind you find at crappy buffets.  I like it all.  In my mind, Chinese food is already perfect… not a lot of room for improvement- so with that in mind, I went into my meal at Chinatown Brasserie, expecting exactly what I got.  Decent Chinese food, in an upscale setting that would appeal to any eater… something I can’t say about any of the places I’ve been in Chinatown.  And for that… you pay a price.

Shrimp & Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings ($9)

How could you not want to eat a dumpling that has eyes?  All the Dim Sum we ordered was very tasty.  My personal favorite were the Shrimp and Chinese Chive Dumplings… but that’s because I’m partial to chive dumplings.

Shrimp & Chinese Chive Dumplings ($8)

Roast Pork Bun ($8)

It says Roast Pork Bun on the menu, but I think that’s a typo… you get three.  And they were very good.  One of the people I was with had never had a steamed pork bun, and he enjoyed it.

Shanghai Style Soup Dumplings ($10)

If you never had a soup dumplings, they’re exactly what they sound like.  Dumplings that are filled with soup.  They should be eaten with a big spoon, so that when you take a bite, the soup fills the spoon rather then your lap.  They may not be the cheapest or best soup dumplings in Manhattan- but they’re very good, and none of the people I was with had ever had soup dumplings before, and they were pretty much everyone’s favorites.

Chicken & Garlic Rolls ($8)

It is very difficult to improve immensely on the concept of a spring roll.  Most things you fry taste good.  These were fine… nothing extraordinary.

Entree food porn and the +/- after the jump… Continue reading

July 23, 2006 Posted by | Food: Chinese, Location: East Village, Price: Expensive, Price: Moderate | 18 Comments

Sullivan St. Bakery… and Bar?

A little while back Jim Lahey sold his interest in the Sullivan St. Bakery in Soho to focus his attention on the branch in Hell’s Kitchen (47th between 10th and 11th).  It’s where everything is made (and transported around the city)- PLUS there’s a small counter where those of us unlucky enough to live West of 10th Avenue, can pick up their delicious pizza, bread and now sandwiches to-go.  The sandwiches were introduced a few months ago replacing a lot of the baked sweets.

Well it looks like the real change is coming now… Walking by the Sullivan St. Bakery today, I saw a public notice in the window… an application for a liquor license.  Apparently they are going to be breaking down a wall and turning the whole front of the operation into a place for more then just take-out bread and pizza.  Right now the right side and left side are seperated by a wall, with the left side used to store the bread before it’s loaded onto the delivery trucks to make it’s way around the city.

Who knows how long it will take… but it will certainly be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.  I’m sure the amazing pizzas they have will be delicious with a nice microbrew, or glass of wine.  After yesterday’s NY Post Hooker article, it seems like there’s some folks in the neighborhood who could use a little drink!

A funny side note… there was a cooking camp for kids getting a tour of the bakery while I was there, and I got to snap this photo.  Looks like Mario Batali fans might skew a little younger then we thought!

Sullivan Street Bakery, 533 W. 47th St. (btw. 10th & 11th), 212-265-5580

July 11, 2006 Posted by | Food: Bakery, Location: Hell's Kitchen, Price: Cheap Eats, Price: Inexpensive | 4 Comments

Vanessa’s Dumplings

Before heading to Trader Joe’s I stopped in to Vanessa’s Dumplings for a little lunch the other day…  Only a block away, it’s a great, cheap stop in the East Village if you’re looking for some dumplings.  YOu can get a four or five pieces order of dumplings for $1.99, or and 8 pieces order for $3.49 to $4.49 depending on the type of dumpling. 

I went for the four piece Chive and Pork Dumplings (show below).  They might not have been the best dumpling I’ve ever had… but for the price they are a great option if you’re in that neighborhood.

I also decided to try the Sesame Pancake Sandwich with roast pork… a sandwich made from chopped roast pork, lettuce, carrots and cilantro all stuffed between two pieces of this fluffy scallion bread/pancake kind of thing.  It was very tasty… but also pretty greasy.  Definetely a bargain at $2.99.

They also have frozen dumplings in packs of 30… a great option if you are every throwing a party.  $7.00 to $11.00 depending on the dumpling.

THE + (what people who like this place would say)

  • Super good dumplings in the East Village
  • Quick and easy and really cheap
  • Great lunch option if you work in the area

THE – (what people who don’t like this place would say)

  • There are much better and cheaper dumplings to be had in NYC (most them in Chinatown)
  • Too Greasy
  • Decor is really dingy

Vanessa’s Dumplings, 220 E. 14th St. btw. 2nd & 3rd Ave., 212-529-1329

July 11, 2006 Posted by | Food: Dumplings, Location: East Village, Price: Cheap Eats | 1 Comment

Telepan: Summer Menu

I’m not a huge brunch person. But half way through the Coddled Eggs dish at Telepan on Sunday night- I thought… if brunch eggs were like this- I could be converted. Had a really delicious dinner at Telepan the other night, Bill (JUdson Grille) Telepan’s greenmarket restaurant on the Upper West Side. And you might say the secret ingredient was eggs. 2 of the five dishes we ordered had some type of egg topping it. If you like eggs for dinner, or on your salad, this is the place to go. Not just good for eggs, it’s also got one of the best prix fix menu deals for a restaurant of this calibur in the city. For $55 you can choose one item off each of the four sections of the menu (Appetizers, Mid Courses, Entrees, and Dessert). For $65 you can add a cheese course to that. I remember reading when they first opened, you could just choose four items off any section… I’m sure leading to the four entree fat man meal. They’ve since changed the menu to address that problem, but allow you to supplement a different course for an extra charge.

I have to say, usually when I look at a menu, a few things jump out at me, and ordering is not too difficult (especially since my wife and I share everything). But this was the closest we came to a fight… There was not a single thing on the menu that didn’t look good- and it was difficult to decide what to get, and how much of it. In the end we choose 5 dishes (3 as a part of the prix fix, and an extra mid course and extra entree). A lot of food, but I can’t think of one dish I would have been willing to give up.

The meal began with an amuse bouche of three items. A pastry puff filled with cheese (how could that be bad???), a crostini topped with mushrooms and beans (also good), and a chilled carrot soup topped with olive oil, which was really delicious- and reminded you that the meal you were about to eat is one made with really fresh ingredients. The menu at Telepan changes based on the seasons and what the best available ingredients are- so don’t expect the menu to be exactly the same when you go.

What we ate, and the porn- after the jump…. Continue reading

July 5, 2006 Posted by | Food: American (New), Food: Greenmarket, Location: Upper West Side, Price: Expensive, Price: Very Expensive | Leave a comment

Wish List: Knife + Fork

Knife + Fork was supposed to come off the wish list last night, but I was sick so we had to cancel our reservations… sort of.  That is I left a message on their machine, letting them know we weren’t coming- but I’m not totally sure if they got it.  I started calling in the early afternoon- once I knew I wasn’t going to feel well enough to make it, but got the machine every time.  It didn’t seem weird at first, because I had to leave my name and number on the machine to get a reservation in the first place… but by 6:30pm, with nobody answering the phone- I was forced to leave a voicemail to cancel my 7:30 reservation.  I felt really bad… but then again- nobody was answering the phone all day!

Does anybody know what the deal is with this place? 

When Knife + Fork first opened, it flew under the radar, and the reviews seemed really stellar.  It also seemed like the diners were getting a personal one man show from Chef Damien Brassel, in a hidden jem of a restaurant that had managed a truly “soft” opening.

Then came the write ups in the mainstream media, praising the great menu, delicious food, and unbelievably cheap tasting menu ($45 for 6 courses). A two week wait for a reservation was the result- and now, the bad reviews are starting to pop up on places like Menupages & CitySearch.  Complaints about everything from the service, to the cursing chef, the lack of air conditioning, the portion size, and how undercooked many of the dishes on the tasting menu were.

Is it possible with the rise in popularity, this “one man show” is finding it harder and harder to make amazing food when the restaurant is full?  Has anyone been there lately?  I still really want to check it out.  The menu looks great, and I love little places like this- if the food doesn’t suck now that the place is full.  My initial thought is maybe it’s better to go on a weeknight, when it is dead- rather then a busy weekend night?  If you’ve been please comment…

One thing’s for sure… they need to hire somone to answer the phone!

Knife + Fork, 108 E. 4th St. btw. 1st & 2nd Ave., 212-228-4885 (good luck!)

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****ADDITION**** Made on 6/26/06

Another negative review posted on Chowhound!

June 25, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment