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New York’s Best Restaurants
Apr 6th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

My five-star reviews:

Rocco Steakhouse Has the Big, Fat Bacon and the Schlag
Jul 11th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The only thing better than being invited to try out a complimentary dinner at a new restaurant is being invited to try out a steakhouse. Rocco Steakhouse is the mastermind of owner Rocco Trotta, who put together a staff of big names from old school NYC steakhouses, including the man who served as the general manager at Wolfgang’s for a decade. (And Wolfgang, of course, started his steakhouse after working at Peter Luger, so you just have to love all of the entanglement within the NYC steakhouse strata.) With another well-known steakhouse on the same block, I asked GM Pete Pjetrovic why he partnered with Rocco and beverage director Jeff Kolenovic to open the space on Madison Avenue; he said he knew they could create a better steakhouse with the best ingredients, the best chef, and the best head waiter.

It seems like the neighborhood agrees. When I sat down right after work, the completely enclosed dining room was nearly empty, but by the time my thick Canadian bacon with just the right amount of char arrived, it was full of regulars. Or maybe that’s just how the waiters treat everyone who walks in the door. I heard lots of “how are the kids?” followed by handshakes and pats on the back. The staff was warm and friendly and let me annoy them for a picture where they wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders like brothers. But of course when it was time to serve the steak, they were all business.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

With tender meaty parts and fatty parts that just melt away, this is so filling I split it with my boyfriend. So this giant hunk here? Only half of what you get.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

The porterhouse for two, medium rare, from the house’s own aging box, served in sizzling butter. It was thickly crusted on the outside, beautifully pink inside, and seasoned by someone with no fear, and I mean that as the greatest compliment. At $51.95 per person, this is the most expensive porterhouse I can think of in the city, which probably explains why the room was filled with dates and business dinners alike; this is where you take someone to impress them.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Huge sides of creamed spinach and lobster mac & cheese, big enough for the family but so fresh and homemade-tasting that you won’t want to share. I especially liked the sweetness the shredded lobster pieces added, along with that crispy cheese top. The spinach was so creamy it was like a bisque, but it still had a really natural spinach flavor that balanced the richness of the steak.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

This is the thing I long to see most on a steakhouse dessert menu. If you don’t have schlag, don’t waste my time.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Here, I’ll give you a second to admire it. Go on, drink it all in. Technically, it’s whipped cream. Just, you know, whipped cream so thick it eats like a meal.

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

The creme brûlée was baked in a thick dish that gave it a better lemony custard to caramelized sugar ratio than I’m used to. The cheesecake was from Junior’s, so you can come here as a tourist and not have to go to Brooklyn for your world famous cheesecake fix!

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse NYC

Rocco Steakhouse
72 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016 ()

The NoMad Restaurant: What I Tasted, and What I Immensely Regret Not Tasting
May 13th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The little group of friends I eat all of my cow stomachs and whole suckling pigs with all love Eleven Madison Park but don’t want to necessarily drop $300 on a tasting menu on a random Wednesday night. Luckily, there’s The NoMad restaurant in the NoMad Hotel, where Chef Daniel Humm is serving the same elevated food for, you know, the same elevated prices, but at least you can only order two or three courses here if you want to save your pennies. The service was as kind and polished as you’d expect from a restaurant by this chef, the atmosphere as dark and cool as you’d expect from a hotel that’s as much known for its bar as anything. As with EMP, most of the food you get at The NoMad is a really great version of a thing you probably already like–I’ll never forget the “picnic” I had there once–but this is also the kind of place that’ll also make you like food you thought you didn’t.

Nomad Restaurant NYC

Nomad Restaurant NYC
bread service

Like at Eleven Madison Park, our onion bread was replaced at least three times to ensure we always had a warm loaf.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
crudite

One of our friends is a friend of the house at EMP and The NoMad, so we got a couple of gifts from the kitchen that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to try. This display of raw vegetables on ice was beautiful if a little hilarious at $14, but we decided they’re charging for the little bowl of chive cream in the center, which was better than any ranch dip.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
radishes

Another gift, these little radishes were dipped in butter and fleur de sel that formed a little shell around them, like a bowl of ice cream with some Magic Shell poured on top. Except, you know, with way more fat and salt.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
charcuterie

This is what I wanted to order for my starter, but I was told that I HAD to try the fruits de mer on my first visit. With all of the meats and mustards and pates on this board, though, there’s no way I’m passing this up next time.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
fruits de mer

But also, to be fair, you have to get the fruits de mer on your first visit. I thought it was going to be a couple of oysters, a few clams, some cocktail sauce, the same thing a hundred restaurants in the city are serving. But that was stupid. Of course this was a ~special~ fruits de mer platter with heavily manipulated sea meats. There was uni with a gelee that made it a dish for appreciating textures, a hamachi with horseradish, and a scallop with an overpowering yuzu flavor, which I think we can agree is one of the best flavors on Earth. There was a spicy lobster salad served in the claw with tarragon, and my favorite, a crab mousse with pieces of shredded crab and basil in the center. I liked this so much I can’t imagine not ordering it every time.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
strawberry

Salad with hazelnuts, cucumber, and basil.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
rigatoni

With chicken liver, caramelized onions, and sage. This is for the person (me) who secretly thinks liver is too iron-y, because the meat is blended into the sauce so nicely that it just makes it rich and earthy, not specifically liver-y. The pasta itself was very al dente, maybe too al dente for some, so bring a noodle from home done to your exact specifications to give to the kitchen if you’re particular.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
broccoli

Roasted with lard, parmesan, and lemon.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
roast chicken for two

I once had the duck for two at Eleven Madison Park and said, “Whatever they’re charging for this thing, it’s worth it.” I guess now I know they’re charging $89 for it, and it’s still worth it. First, of course, they bring the chicken out to show it to you in its roasting pot, partly because they’re about to give you a veeeeery small amount of food and want you to know that they really did cook a whole chicken for you no matter what ends up on the plate. (What you don’t see on the plate gets used in the sauce.)

Nomad Restaurant NYC

The breast is the main attraction here, thanks to the foie gras and black truffle that’s mixed with brioche to form a stuffing for the chicken skin. The skin is so crisp that it flakes off, but the meat is still tender and rich thanks to the protection of that stuffing. The grilled ramps were so sweet, while the ramp puree was more mild.

Nomad Restaurant NYC

A little crock of the dark meat is served with ramps, leeks, and potato écrasé. It seems like such a small amount of food, but with all of the creaminess and crunchiness, it’s so rich that you’ll wish you’d stopped earlier about halfway through. We didn’t stop there, of course, and also got the optional growler of Brooklyn Brewery’s Brown Ale on the side just to make it more of a calorie splurge.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
blue prawn

Nomad Restaurant NYC
duck

Nomad Restaurant NYC
milk & honey

The dessert the restaurant is most known for. Honey oat shortbread, brittle, and milk foam meringue gave this different levels of crunchiness, and I was a huge fan of its saltiness. And who knew that milk ice cream could be so good? All ice cream is milk ice cream!

Nomad Restaurant NYC
carrot cake

Carrot cake with walnuts, cream cheese, and pineapple sorbet.

Nomad Restaurant NYC
coffee

Saw this granita with crema and vanilla ice cream, didn’t taste it, biggest life regret.

The NoMad
1170 Broadway
New York, NY 10001 (map)

Industry 1332 is All About That Avocado
May 10th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I get restaurants offering me free meals every now and then, and having no soul like I do, I’m usually wont to take them up on that offer. But Industry 1332 tried a different approach: they just asked me to come in. I was talking about empanadas on Twitter, as usual, and their social media person started up a conversation with me. There was absolutely no reason for me to visit a random Latin restaurant in the middle of Bushwick, but it did have great reviews, and their tweets to me were cute and personal, just pushy enough to interest me without turning me off. So I made a reservation for four on a random weeknight and took the G train with my boyfriend to an L stop I’ve never been to before. It was just seedy-seeming enough to be exciting to a couple from the family-friendly part of Brooklyn as we hurried down the dark street beside the building, which seemed to be surrounded mostly by warehouses. Inside, they had used some of that industrial feeling in their design, with exposed brick and beams. Our friends Jon and Lara like to order ALL THE THINGS, so we tasted a good bit of the menu, and the menu sure was good.

Industry 1332 NYC

Industry 1332 NYC
ceviche

I was trying to stick to my low-carb diet that night, so I was bowled over by the fact that this didn’t arrive with any chips. Most restaurants are like, “Here, fill up on these greasy things so you don’t notice we only gave you three spoonfuls of fish.” Industry 1332 was like, “Here, we made this giant bowl of fish for you and didn’t want to hinder the flavor with some dumb chips.” I don’t want to talk in superlatives, but let’s just say that this was an incredibly complex ceviche and is certainly the one I’ll hold up as my standard-bearer in the future. It was fluke marinated in citrus with onions, peppers, mango, cilantro, and fresh avocado. Sweet, sour, and spicy. The mango was sliced almost like a noodle to give the bowl some heft, and the avocado was this amazing creamy mousse that also popped up in some other dishes, because the restaurant must have realized it’s the bomb.

Industry 1332 NYC
tirado de atún

Fresh ahi tuna cubes marinated in a ginger ponzu sauce with an avocado mousse. Looks like watermelon, tastes like the ocean! Again with that avocado, because it should be on everything this restaurant serves.

Industry 1332 NYC
arepitas

Mini corn cakes topped with shredded braised beef, avocado, smoked gouda cheese and mushroom aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
baja fish tacos

Tempura fried sole filet, in a corn tortilla topped with pico de gallo and yellow aji aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
empanadas de la casa

Pastry turnovers served with a chipotle aioli in beef, chicken, or vegetable.

Industry 1332 NYC
lomo saltado

Sautéed ginger marinated beef, tri-colored fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, green papaya slaw served with basmati rice.

Industry 1332 NYC
pechuga rellena

Chicken breast stuffed with manchego cheese, chorizo, roasted pepper sofrito and a cilantro pesto basmati rice. When you’re on a low-carb diet, meat stuffed in meat with a bunch of cheese is your dream. This was all of the flavors of Mexican pizza without any of the carb face the next day.

Industry 1332 NYC
pan seared tuna

Sesame ahi tuna, served with roasted vegetables and a mango sriracha chutney. Tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Industry 1332 NYC
churros

Fried pastry dough rolled in cinnamon sugar served with dulce de leche crème sauce. Tasted better than it looked, my dinner guests told me, although I’m never going to complain about a heaping mound of whipped cream no matter its appearance.

Industry 1332 NYC

What we initially heard was that the neighborhood was a little upset about Industry 1332 being there, evidently because it’s too “nice” and will attract too many people to one of the still-cheap-ish parts of Bushwick. But now all of the Yelp reviews are by people who live down the street and love it. I’m gonna say it’s all thanks to that avocado mousse.

Industry 1332
1332 Halsey Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map)

First Look at Beetle House, the Tim-Burton-Themed NYC Bar
May 3rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

When I found out that Beetle House, a Tim-Burton-themed bar and restaurant, was opening in the East Village, I immediately texted my best friend in Ohio and asked if that was catalyst enough to make her buy a plane ticket to come visit me. She said, “That sounds terrifying, actually.” So I made reservations right away with my other friends. Not to spite her exactly but because I was still sure it was going to be great. During the first week of soft opening, I was hearing about a man dressed as Beetlejuice leading semi-annoying renditions of “Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)” and a background soundtrack comprised entirely of Danny Elfman songs. I told my boyfriend that it didn’t matter if the cocktails were expensive and the food sucked, because this was obviously just a novelty bar meant to pull in tourists for one night at a time. These are the same owners of the Will-Ferrell-themed bar, Stay Classy New York, after all. They surely aren’t meant to be taken seriously.

Beetle House NYC

Since Beetle House was still in previews when we went (and will be until May 6th), it was cash only, by reservation only, and serving a limited menu. The menu was pretty cheeky, though, with its disclaimer about their meat supply being innocent New Yorkers and its items like Edward Burger Hands, Charlie Corn Bucket, and Eggs Skellington.

After chatting with the super friendly (not even just by NYC standards) owner who was doubling as our server and finding out it was she who’d developed the cocktail menu, my friends and I ordered all of the available drinks to start:

Beetle House NYC
Alice’s Cup of Tea, Barnabas Collins

Alice’s Cup of Tea was their take on a Long Island iced tea and just as strong but with heavy notes of peach that made it perfect for summer. The Barnabas Collins was the whiskey cocktail, not so sweet despite the brown sugar thanks to two kinds of bitters.

Beetle House NYC
Beetlejuice

Tequila, blackberry, and lime made this really refreshing and easy to drink. All of the cocktails were very strong but well-balanced, so I could’ve had several of these but really only needed one to get to a good place.

Beetle House NYC
Jack Skellington

Our table agreed that this one was just weird. Bacardi rum, creme de coconut, lime juice, crushed ice, and orange zest. There was no reason it tasted so funny to us, except that we weren’t on a banana-shaped raft off the coast of a tropical island.

Beetle House NYC
Edward Burger Hands

A bison burger with bacon, pepperjack cheese, quail egg, sriracha cream, avocado, and tomato on a honey garlic bun. The table next to ours got a much better-looking one, but don’t let the mess on the plate dissuade you. My friend the burger snob was impressed that it was actually cooked medium-rare and loved that the quail egg was broken on the side for dipping. The menu didn’t mention that the burger came with a side of garlic whipped mash, which made the $16 price tag make sense.

Beetle House NYC
Victor Van Pork

Smoked BBQ pulled pork, jalapeño jelly, sweet slaw, and pickled egg on a honey garlic bun. It’s a summer picnic in a sandwich, with all of the spicy and smoky you’d expect.

Beetle House NYC
Love It Meat Pie

After reading the description of this–cornbread, sauteed chicken, romano garlic cream, peas, carrots, peppers, onions, and jalapeño jelly–I thought it sounded like a kind of chicken pot pie. But our server told me that it was “just everything in a bowl”. Not exactly crystal clear, but I asked my boyfriend to order it anyway so I could see. It turned out to be the best thing I tasted that night (and, you know, I tasted everything). It really was just all of the ingredients in a bowl together, with the cornbread absorbing all of the flavors rather than just sitting on top, as in a pot pie. I’m not sure what kind of magic they throw in there with everything, but it had the flavors of a bowl of Thai curry. Except with way more stuff and way less broth, which is sort of the dream.

Beetle House NYC
Cheshire Mac

I ordered this because I had to know what $24 mac & cheese looked like. It was seven cheeses (seven!), garlic and sea salt breadcrumbs, and sweet stewed tomatoes. It was a massive plate that took all four of us to finish, and it was just . . . special. Even without meat, I wasn’t sad to have spent $24 on it. (That said, I’d sure rather spend $18 on it if this became a regular place for me.) I loved the crunch of the breadcrumbs that added just the right amount of buttery sweetness to the pasta, and then the tomato sauce just put it over the top in terms of comfort food.

Beetle House NYC
cherry cheesecake

They had run out of the Wonka Bar Chocolate Cake with actual chocolate bars between the layers of cake, so we opted for the cherry cheesecake instead, which was not a mistake. One of the owners’ moms makes all of the dessert, and we could taste it. This version had big sour cream flavor and a thick, buttery graham cracker crust. It was $12, which was a bit of a surprise to us when we got the bill, but it was a good-sized slice, and YOLO.

Beetle House NYC

A lot of the initial Yelp reviews dock stars because this place is so small, which I find adorable. Is this your first day in NYC, Yelpers? Yeah, restaurants are small here.

Beetle House NYC

Beetle House NYC

In the end, I left Beetle House feeling like it was nothing I expected it to be and just what I want a good East Village bar to be. There was no costumed Beetlejuice (they tell me he’ll be there on the weekends, along with side show acts, magicians, and zombies). There was no Danny Elfman music. There wasn’t really a whole lot of Tim Burton, truth be told. It was actually, as their website says, “a bar and restaurant in the East Village of NYC with an atmosphere and menu inspired by all things dark and lovely”. I would’ve thought the Beetlejuice guy was kitschy and fun to take pictures of, but I wouldn’t have wanted him there pretending to levitate every time I wanted to casually drink a This is Halloween! cocktail with pumpkin liqueur, cinnamon liqueur, apple liqueur, apple cider, ginger beer, and lime. And hearing the Danny Elfman score for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure would have been charming, but listening to The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division was way cooler. It seems like the owners are making this a neighborhood bar during the week and a novelty bar for the weekend. Unfortunately the prices don’t make it the kind of place you can go every night, but I’m hoping they’ll work that out after the soft opening.

Beetle House
308 East 6th Street
New York, NY 10003 map

Emmy Squared, Detroit-Style Pizza in Williamsburg
Apr 27th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

To me, the Clinton Hill pizzeria Emily is famous because my neighbor and her husband own it. My boyfriend and I started going there because they offered everyone in our building a free dessert, and there aren’t many places I wouldn’t go for a free s’mores calzone. We kept going to Emily because it turned out the pizza was really the epitome of what great NY wood-fired pizza can be, with an airy, crisp crust that wasn’t hard and overly chewy. And then all of NYC went there, too, not only for the funky pizza concoctions (like the Colony with pickled chilis and honey) but for the award-winning burger that the Internet couldn’t stop talking about. Now there’s Emmy Squared in Williamsburg, an offshoot offering Detroit-style pizza because it wasn’t enough for Matt Hyland to just be a master of NY pies.

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared
crispy cheddar curds

These things must be triple-battered, for all of the crunchy stuff that falls off of them onto the plate as you pull them apart. Growing up in Ohio, we asked for “extra crispy stuff” or “more crunchies” at Long John Silver’s to get a little pile of fried batter on the side of our hush puppies. These are the adult version of that. Dip those little nuggets of cheese into your spicy “sammy” sauce or tomato sauce, and don’t forget the crispies.

Emmy Squared
The Emmy — mozzarella, banana peppers, onions, ranch, side of tomato sauce for dipping

Emmy Squared
Glorious thick crust, loads of toppings, I love you.

Emmy Squared
Art.

Emmy Squared
Angel Pie — mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms, Truffleist mushroom cream

Emmy Squared
Roni Supreme — sauce, mozzarella, lots of pepperoni, calabrian chiles

When I was a kid in Ohio (and truthfully, up until about five years ago), Pizza Hut was my favorite pizza. The popular pizzas in Ohio–Donatos, Massey’s, every mom and pop shop in my little town–had the Midwestern cracker crust, but if my pizza wasn’t piled on an inch of bread, I wasn’t interested. Emmy Squared takes the idea of that pan pizza and makes it so your stomach won’t explode. It has that same crust that rises up along the side of the baking pan, but here, the cheese spills over the side and fries up crispy to give the crust a crunch and a buttery-ness that you can’t get with wood-fired pizza. And the dough at Emmy Squared isn’t a brick that expands in your stomach; it’s a light, airy thing just weighty enough to support the loads of toppings.

I ordered the Roni Supreme to harken back to those days when we used to use the crispy curled-edge pepperoni of Ohio pizzas as bowls for other toppings. It wasn’t for the faint of heart, with clumps of chile seeds to make your eyes water. My boyfriend’s mom got the Angel Pie, because mushrooms are a hot commodity back in her native Poland, where every member of the household is a fungus-picking expert in the forest. We all loved the texture of the ricotta and the sauce replacement of truffle cream. But our favorite was The Emmy, which we added sausage to like hedonists. But of course it was going to be our favorite, because it had all of the best things in life: banana peppers, red onions, and RANCH. Homemade ranch, with extra herbs in it to make it green. I didn’t even know there was a way to make regular ranch better. I couldn’t stop exclaiming about how this was my new favorite pizza. And it wasn’t just the Moscow Mules talking.

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared

Remember GreenBox from an episode of “Shark Tank“? Emmy Squared uses them! How environmentally responsible and convenient!

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared
364 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map)

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