eGustibus

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

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

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

5 Ninth

As you may know from an earlier post, Zac Pelacio's Fatty Crab is my *FAVORITE* restaurant in New York, so it goes with out saying I was super excited to be going to dinner at 5 Ninth, his flagship restaurant.  Situated in the Meatpacking District, the restaurant is located in a 3 story unmarked brownstone, with no sign- it's name taken from the address of the restaurant.  If you weren't looking for this place, you'd never know it was there- which makes it cool right?  You've gotta be in the know- and that makes you feel special!  Already off to a good start… unless you can't find the place, get lost and miss your reservation.  Then you feel lame, and pissed, and wonder why these stupid Brooklyn transplants couldn't have just put a fucking sign on the door like everyone else.

Compared to most of the "hip" Meatpacking Restaurants, this place is pretty casual but in a calculated, I'm better then you kind of way.  The bartender is one of those "cocktail chefs", or whatever they call them, so there is a menu of interesting mixed drinks which are one or two bucks more expensive then they would be if it was from a normal bartender (I mean he is a chef for god sake!).  The friends we were meeting had ordered one of the cocktails, which they did not like- and I gladly took off their hands, and enjoyed.  The cocktails are all pretty interesting, and at 12-14 bucks a pop are still on par for the neighborhood.

As far as attitude when we entered, it's in the Meatpacking district!  It comes with the territory.  If you don't want to be condescended to by a host, or kept waiting 20 minutes after your reservation time while somone more important gets seated ahead of you without reservations- DON'T EAT IN THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.  I've heard alot of complaints like "Would they have treated me like that if I was Robert DeNiro?"… well you're not Robert DeNiro- and if you were, you would definetely not want to kept waiting just so that some shmuck from the Upper West Side who heard that this place was "hip" could be seated at his correct reservation time. 

Now, don't get me wrong… I'm not condoning this behavior, and I will be the first one up at the front complaining that this is bullshit and we need to be seated.  But, when I do eat at one of these restaurants, I tend to give them a little more leeway then a restaurant that clearly prides itself on service.  Half the reason you go to restaurants like this is because they are considered "cool", right?  Well, there's a price to pay for cool.  You've been warned… no one's forcing you to eat there- and if it this type of thing really bothers you, I would definetely steer clear of this place- at least on a Friday or Saturday night.

Now on to the food… the most important part!  Right?  We were seated about 20 minutes after our reservation time (but before another party who had been there longer and were clearly very angry about being kept waiting- so that made us feel a little better)… and my excitement had not waned.  And therein lied the biggest problem for me.  My excitement… or as I have come to call it- the Babbo Curse.  I have come to realize that expectations play one of the largest parts in whether or not you enjoy a restaurant.  And my expectations for this place were big.  Fried pork with watermelon BIG Crab with Chili Sauce BIG .  And in that regard I was let down.  5 Ninth is refined new american with a Southeast Asian twist… Fatty Crab is twist-less.  It's more like a southest asian hammer to the skull.  That's not to say the food was not good…

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump… Continue reading

February 18, 2006 Posted by | Food: American (New), Food: Asian (New), Location: Meatpacking, Price: Expensive | Leave a comment

Babbo

It's Sarah the Wife's Birthday, and much to my surprise her choice for the special meal was Babbo.  Not surprising because of the type of food, she loves Italian food, but more because it's a Mario Batali restaurant.  See, Sarah the wife is not so much a Mario Batali fan.  I'd like to think it's because she's jealous of how much I love him (the cookbooks, the show, the desire to go to every one of his restaurants) but I know the real truth.  She doesn't trust an Italian with red hair.  Actually, come to think of it, she hates red hair on all men (Bobby Flay take notice)- so when she said Babbo, I was surprised, but excited that I wasn't going to have to wait until April to go to Babbo for my birthday dinner. 

We love Italian food, and I love Mario Batali, so I was pretty excited for this meal.  Too excited I think… and after only 3 months of eating out a nice NYC restaurants came face to face with my first disappointment.  Now I'm not going to blame it on Babbo… how could I?  It's the almighty Babbo!  4 Stars from Adam Platt, #6 on NY Magazine's 101 Best Restaurants in NYC, 1 star from Michelin, loved by everyone… well not exactly everyone.  There is a Mario Batali backlash that exists in this city- but those criticisms come from somewhere other then the food.  Too many people feel too strongly about this place being great for it to be bad.  You could have a bad experience, but it can't be a bad restaurant.  Can it?

And here's where it dawned in me.  Expectations and experience can end up being much more important then any dish you eat.  I can see why so many people in this city love Babbo.  See, Babbo is not an everyone kind of place.  Most places aren't.   It's a breath of fresh air.  After years and years of eating at the same boring Italian restaurants with the same dishes, Babbo must have been a windfall for this city.  I wasn't here for it… but it must have been super exciting.  Lamb's tongue in a salad?  Beef cheeks and squab liver is no chocolate and peanut butter (two great tastes that taste great together… anyone?).  Goose liver, lamb's brains, oxtails, sweetbreads… the list goes on and on.  I'm far from a chicken parm kind of guy, but Babbo is an offal bonanza like non I've ever seen.

Now for many, this list would be enough to keep you from going… but therein lies the genius of Babbo.  With every dish he makes you forget what it is you're eating.  I have to admit, we were not blown away by the dishes we ordered but it was a meal that made me change the way I think about eating.  And for that, I will go back, again and again.

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump… Continue reading

January 1, 2006 Posted by | Food: Italian, Location: Village, Price: Expensive, Price: Very Expensive | Leave a comment

Hell’s Kitchen

hellskitchenAfter living in L.A. for two years, I'm usually the first to complain that the Mexican food sucks in NYC.  But I love Hell's Kitchen.  I can't tell you what a great meal we had at this restaurant.  It doesn't stop me from saying Mexican Food in NYC sucks, but truthfully to call this place Mexican is sort of a disservice.  First of all it costs more then $6 (all you should ever have to spend for authentic, and delicious Mexican food).  And there are no burritos to be found on this menu… But what you do get is Mexican flavors infused with a New York chef sensibility in a hip, pretty romantic (and by that I mean dimly lit) Hell's Kitchen wrapping.

What we ate and the +/-, after the jump Continue reading

November 10, 2005 Posted by | Food: Mexican (New), Location: Hell's Kitchen, Price: Expensive, Price: Moderate | 1 Comment