Having eaten a whole suckling pig at Chef April Bloomfield’s The Breslin a couple of years ago, I was excited to see what she could do with one of my comfort foods: tacos. What made Salvation Taco even more appealing to me is that it’s on 39th Street, just south of my boyfriend’s apartment, in this part of the Murray Hill neighborhood that’s mostly filled with highrises and Irish pubs meant to attract the after-work crowd.
(It was ridiculously dark in the restaurant, so please excuse my heavily-lightened pictures.)
I’ve secretly loved the totally-Americanized horchatas I’ve had with pounds of sugar and cinnamon mixed in, but this one tasted much more grown up with the coffee and spice-ful Fernet. You’d, uh, never know it by the vessel it was served in, though. It should be noted that my friend Kim‘s drink came in a totally normal glass, so I’m 100% sure they were trying to shame me for ordering a frozen drink at 6 p.m.
The textures of the pork belly and pineapple were so similar that I couldn’t tell which I was picking up in the near-dark of the restaurant, but I did love the pork-fruit combination and the spicy finish. This was the sort of thing I think of when I think of Chef Bloomfield: perfect meats and a flavor punch. I just needed something crunchy thrown in.
From left to right: Moroccan lamb on naan, al pastor, skirt steak with pecan and chipotle, roasted cauliflower with curried crema, fried striped bass with Mayan mayo.
They were all flavorful and delicious, but the fish taco was the major standout, and I say this as someone who is almost 100% against the idea of fish mucking up my tacos. The mayo was just the right amount of spicy, and there was just enough citrus, and the fish was breaded just enough to give it some crunch without masking the flavor, and those pickled onions were the perfect accompaniment. On my next visit, I’d order five of these. And nothing else.
If I’m being honest, the burnt sugar ice cream was terrible. Truly, truly bitter and inedible. My perfectly classy dining partner and I were practically wiping it off of our tongues with napkins. BUT. When eaten with the pumpkin ice cream, it became like a caramelized sugar crust to a pumpkin creme brulee. I understand why they sell them as a set; they just need to come with a warning.
Salvation Taco fits into the neighborhood perfectly. It’s using excellent ingredients prepared properly for the well-fed business type, but it also has ping-pong, a trendy lounge area, and plenty of pretty tourists stopping by from the attached hotel, Pod 39. It was loud and crowded, but that’s what I expect from a restaurant trying to pass itself off as a cheap taco joint. The only problem for me–and for everyone else, from what I’ve read–is that this isn’t actually a cheap taco joint. The tacos are incredibly small; two bites, and they’re finished. I ate only three because I am a lady, but you can bet I went home after this $50 meal and ordered some questionable-meat tacos from the local Chinese/Mexican place for a fifth of the price. They didn’t compare to that fish taco, though.
When we’re not enjoying gut-busting tasting menus, I keep my figure girlish with a low-carb diet, while my boyfriend eats low-calorie to remain a bronzed glamorboy. And since we don’t cook, much of our evenings together are spent laboring over what to order for dinner. I want burgers on English muffins; he wants sushi. I want steak; he wants salad. I want comfort food; he wants adventure. It’s not fun. But luckily, his adventure-seeking led him one evening to find on our favourite delivery app, Seamless, a brand new restaurant called 7 Green and Grain.
I’ll admit that I basically had to be forced to order from the place. It seemed too light, too healthy, not at all comforting. In the end, it was exactly light enough, so delicious I forgot how healthy it was, and as comforting as a bowl of pasta. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious.
You start with one of their “Be the Chef” meals, a create-your-own-entree sort of thing where you select from proteins like cage-free chipotle chicken, char-grilled chile lime shrimp, turkey meatballs, and General Tso’s tofu. Next, you choose a base grain like couscous, wild rice, or quinoa. Then, you add what they call a “tasty texture”–stuff like roasted corn and edamame, hot pepper and onion relish, or dried fruit and nut chutney. You also get a side vegetable like steamed kale, golden beets, or caramelized cauliflower, and then you top it off with a dressing like ginger soy, yogurt mint, or miso peanut.
Here, I had the turkey meatballs with quinoa, hot pepper and onion relish, caramelized cauliflower, and the yogurt mint garlic dressing. It doesn’t look like much when it arrives, but once you stir it all together, it becomes this saucy, spicy, vegetal, meaty mix that’s interesting but comforting, hearty but not so dense that you’ll need a nap when you finish it. I have quite the appetite, but this always satisfies me and actually leaves me feeling good about what I’ve eaten.
My boyfriend and I agree that the turkey meatballs are the thing to get. They’re really well-seasoned–when you cut them open, onions and herbs stare back–and I like the way you can crumble them into the grain (or healthy low-carb seed, in the case of quinoa) and make sure every bite has meat in it. We also agree that the hot peppers and onions are the #1 Tasty Texture, because they’re finely chopped, mix in easily, and ensure that the grain won’t be bland. When you mix the spicy peppers with the cool mint yogurt dressing, it’s a delight.
Our second or third time ordering, my boyfriend decided to branch out and got the chicken with quinoa and kale. The chicken is flavorful without being too spicy and isn’t dried out at all. For me, the kale is pretty boring and needs salt, but he seems to be able to forgive that because it’s so healthy.
The vegetable bean chili is great when dumped all over the grain like a sauce, but it doesn’t cut it as a stand-alone dish. It’s almost entirely beans, and doesn’t have any of the deep, rich, developed flavor you expect from chili. They should probably call it a bean soup so you expect the brightness and thinness of the broth.
• Steamed vegetables are pretty awful when you know sauteed vegetables exist.
• The dinner portion is $13 to $17, which is waaaaay too expensive for what mostly amounts to grain or seeds. The lunch portion is much more reasonable at $9 but is also smaller.
• The number of choices in each category is bound to please nearly every palate.
• It’s healthy.
• It’s complex and delicious.
Even if you’ve never visited NYC, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Dylan’s Candy Bar. It’s been featured on a couple of episodes of “Project Runway”, for one, and your mom friends have no doubt chattered away at you during soccer practice about how you just have to ride the ferris wheel at Toys”R”Us and then go to Dylan’s and let the kids fill up a bag with gummy brains, jujubes, and clodhoppers for a mere $12.99 a pound.
Going to Dylan’s is, in a word, hellish. The store is packed–both with candy and with kids–at all times, and the crowd is backed up to the door and blocking the stairs and singing along to the candy-themed music at the top of their lungs. But it’s also, in a word, amaaaaazing. Picture three floors, packed with the newest candy and also the impossible-to-find stuff from your parents’ childhoods. There’s a cafe serving cakes and milkshakes upstairs, a corral of bulk candy that takes up most of the main floor, and a bottom floor filled not only with packaged candy and homemade chocolates and fudge but also candy-related pillows, pajamas, rain boots, and more.
There are giant gummy bears and Swedish fish behind the cash registers, humongous lollipops sticking out from everywhere, and transparent staircases embedded with candy spelling out cheesy sayings. For someone who requested that her boyfriend recreate the candy room from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for her for her last birthday, it’s pretty much my idea of heaven.
And really, the $12.99 per pound for bulk candy isn’t so bad. That’s basically what all candy stores in NYC charge, except they label their bins $3.99/¼ pound so you think you’re getting a deal. Dylan’s just says, “Yeah, our candy costs $12.99 a pound. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?” And the answer is “nothing”, because not only does Dylan’s have the most candy, it also has the best candy. Never have I ever had fresher circus peanuts than at Dylan’s.
On our visit this weekend, my boyfriend and I picked up a couple of bags of our bulk favourites for Halloween movie season (and then immediately devoured all of it in a 24-hour period) and these:
A s’mores Rice Krispies treat with graham cracker and chocolate between the layers. It was the softest, most marshmallowiest Rice Krispies treat I’ve ever had. It was also too big to fit into my mouth.
Creme brulee candy corn and blueberry cobbler candy corn. My boyfriend read about the blueberry candy corn just a few months ago while we were Googling the exact flavor of candy corn. It’s supposedly only available in Eastern Canada, so I immediately Facebooked every Eastern Canadian I know (one) and asked her to be on the lookout for me, secretly knowing that I’d spend the rest of my life blueberry-candy-corn-less. AND THEN I FOUND IT AT DYLAN’S.
The creme brulee tastes like vanilla frosting, and the blueberry cobbler really does taste like blueberries. The original candy corn flavor is still my favourite, but oh, the novelty.
Cadbury Screme Eggs. Finally Cadbury figured out that like Peeps, there’s a market for Creme Egg ridiculousness all year long. Screme Eggs taste just like Creme Eggs but have a green yolk instead of yellow. Finding these made me feel so stupid about the chocolate Cadbury Creme Eggs I’ve been hoarding in my freezer since Easter, and my BFF and I are now anxiously awaiting the Christmas and Valentine’s Day ones.
None of these specialty items seem to be available on the Dylan’s website, so please let me know if I can pick some up and ship them to you in Ohio or Louisiana or wherever. For a mere $15.99 per pound plus shipping.
If you want to buy me a cupcake (hint), make it one from Crumbs Bake Shop. Yes, it’s a chain. No, it’s not as fresh-from-the-oven as Magnolia Bakery. Yes, each one contains half your daily recommended caloric intake. That’s sort of the point. When I eat a cupcake, I want it to be an event.
Or just, you know, a Saturday afternoon when I’ve already eaten half of a baguette slathered with cheese and honey, dumplings, pizza, and Cadbury Eggs. Don’t judge.
My boyfriend can’t resist caramel, so he chose the dulce de leche with chocolate cake filled with caramel cream cheese frosting, covered in caramel cream cheese frosting, and zigzagged with caramel and chocolate. It did not disappoint.
I chose the Elvis for the peanut butter chips. I always get the Baba Booey for the peanut butter chips, even though I secretly prefer white cake to chocolate a million times over. So when I saw a cupcake with peanut butter chips AND white cake, it was
It’s soft banana cake injected with banana cream, frosted with peanut butter and banana buttercream, and rolled in peanut butter chips.
Peanut. Butter. Chips.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my only visit to Sushi Yasuda, widely regarded as one of the best sushi restaurants in NYC. I was still in my twenty-four-year phase of not liking fish then and had really gone out on a limb there by ordering a tuna roll.
Since then, my boyfriend has mentioned going back approximately four hundred times. Usually I’d have no problem accompanying him and ordering the very safest items on the menu, but the problem was that he wanted to try the chef’s omakase, where you have no say in what you’re served. Which, from the reviews I’d read, involved everything from scallop roe to giant clam to eel. My boyfriend promised he’d eat anything I couldn’t, though, knowing I’d try my best not to be squeamish, and we made a reservation to sit at the counter in front of the chef preparing our sushi. You know, so I’d be really embarrassed if I couldn’t eat something he gave to me.
The chef would place one or two pieces of nigiri sushi for each of us on a wooden tray with a small pile of ginger to act as a palate cleanser. No soy sauce nor wasabi was offered, as the restaurant is known for adding exactly the right amount to its rice as each piece is formed. We used our fingers to pick them up, which was pretty exciting to a couple of Westerners who have been specifically taught not to eat with our hands, and aside from one minor (okay, humongous) slip up on my part, it was an easy, not-at-all scary first omakase experience.
Smoky, fresh, and vinegary.
I was going to say that I’d love to know how an uncooked sea creature become crispy, but I probably don’t actually want to know. It was definitely a shock and a bit of a delight to bite into something that looked soft and pliable and to find that it had a crunch.
This is where the major slip-up occurred, but I’ll have to write about it in a separate post to save your appetite.
Ironically, the eel had been one of the items I was most hesitant about before dining at Yasuda, and it’s the thing I walked away craving the most. Partly because it felt like a novelty next to all of the uncooked fish and partly because it’s just a really meaty, sweet bite. The charred flavor contrasted the sugary sauce so nicely in a contest between richness and brightness.
We weren’t quite satisfied yet and requested another round of eel; our chef informed us he had five different kinds!
Compared to other restaurants as a whole, Yasuda could never be 5-donut material for me. Inherently, the dishes are less interesting than those at a new American or French restaurant, and the flavors are so mild that it was hard for me to talk about them much beyond their differing textures. I really loved the simplicity of the meal but desperately needed that eel to break up the monotony of raw fish after raw fish. Because each dish was so similar, the meal just flew by, and it’s hard for me to believe I had 20-odd pieces of sushi.
But in terms of sushi-eating, Sushi Yasuda was an unmatched experience for me: the freshest fish, prepared perfectly, and eaten the moment it left the “kitchen”. The decor was simple and elegant and the service quietly excellent, with our tea being replaced at regular intervals to ensure it was always warm. I loved having access to the chef, and even with all of my fish-related wimpiness, I enjoyed everything he chose for us. I think the omakase was a novelty for me, but with Yasuda’s extensive menu and non-inhibitive cost, I can imagine many more nights there in our future.
5 donuts: transcendent experiences
4.5 donuts: extremely awesome meals
3.5 donuts: good eats
2.5 donuts: food I could have made
1 donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs
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• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
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• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)