Posts filed under ‘Restaurant Review’

Eat This: Brunch at Shopsin’s

The Shopsin’s experience is one of those NYC legends that travels from person to person like a game of telephone. Kenny Shopsin is known as the “Soup Natzi of the Lower East Side,” and has been said to be brash to customers, throw food, yell at waiters (a few of which are his children), and not to answer any questions about the menu. My friend (and brunch compatriot) and I happened to be in the city, free on an early Sunday morning, and we knew that Shopsin’s would be our destination. We couldn’t stay away, too many urban legends to conquer. But we approached with caution, even though it turned out that Kenny wasn’t even there that morning. Nothing too wild happened, aside from some cursing in the kitchen, so we’ll have to have the real “Shopsin’s experience” another time.

Now, the food: The menu itself is like nothing I have ever seen. Filled with an overwhelming array of options (including the famous Mac N Cheese pancakes), it was a hard, life-altering decision, and narrowing it down took at least 10 minutes of debate. The one thing about lots of options is that there are absolutely no substitutions, an official Shopsin’s rule. The advantage to this is that it cuts down on the obnoxious NY-er stereotype but doesn’t offer much flexibility. Check out just the breakfast page of the menu:

Image of menu via Shopsins.com (click on it to enlarge)

And that’s just one page! The other page has a ton of lunch options (they have lunch trays!!!); there is no dinner here, because they are only open from 9 Am to 2 pm Wed-Sat, 10 Am to 2 pm on Sunday, and closed on Monday-Tuesday. We got there luckily right at 10:15. We only had to wait to be seated for about 5 minutes, and almost immediately after a long line queued up along the wall (make sure you wait along the wall by the glass doors or you’ll get yelled at!).

Our narrowed down options were rather healthy, but we had to have something decadent. Enter: the Slutty Cakes.

Image via microcosmk.blogspot.com

However ridiculous we sounded ordering these pancakes, it was worth it in the end. Pumpkin pancakes with peanut butter and pistachio nuts? Yes, please. How could we pass those up? Other pancake options included S’mores, Rocky Road, Brown Sugar  Banana Pecan, and Maple Glazed Raspberry Bacon. That’s not even mentioning the French Toast options (there is Bread Pudding French Toast. ‘Nuff said).

Our egg dishes were the Zebra (egg whites, veggie sausage, black beans, rice) and the Country Scramble with mozzarella, spinach, and avocado. They were our attempts to be healthy, and though they were delicious, we realized in hindsight that we should have splurged more. Granted, we couldn’t even finish all of our food, but those Slutty Cakes were almost completely devoured. Next time, I’m going for the Tiger Paws (egg and cheese sliders).

FYI: If you’ve been to Shopsin’s already, and want to recreate some of the recipes at your house (there are a ton of foodie websites that document these recreations), you can buy Kenny Shopsin’s cookbook here.

November 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

Eat This (Abroad): Breakfast in Israel

This will be my first report of many on breakfast and brunches abroad. I’m off on a 6-month journey that has already taken me to Israel, Turkey, and now India, and will take me in the future to various countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Naturally I will be eating lots of breakfasts in lots of places, and I will write about them here! Hope you like it!

A typical, simple Israeli breakfast usually consists of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, one or two kinds of cheese (often one a salty feta-like cheese), hummus, pita, and hard boiled eggs. Our first grand breakfast was at a guesthouse in northern Israel where we had a traditional Druze (Syrian-Israeli) breakfast, which was an amazing spread. You can read more about it here.

Shakshuka is often served in a cast iron pan.

Shakshuka also usually comes with some kind of pita or bread. This one came with a delicious, fluffy focacia topped with za'atar, Israel's unofficial national spice.

Another classic Israeli breakfast is a baked egg dish with tomatoes, onions, and sometimes peppers, called shakshuka. I had a delicious one at Cafe Yankale in Herzilya. In Brooklyn, you can get this yummy dish at Miriam in Park Slope.

You can have Mocha from an easy-to-drink carton...

...or the traditional, and cheaper, bag. Just bite off the corner and sip!

If you don’t want a whole meal, you can stop into any convenience store and get Israel’s version of iced coffee to go: mocha. Yotvata (a dairy kibbutz near Eilat) makes my favorite one, and you can get it in two forms: a carton or a bag. It’s a sweet mix of coffee and chocolate milk, which is made extra delicious by the absolutely amazing milk produced in Israel. If you love fresh dairy, this is your country.

Pomegranate juicer in the old city of Jerusalem

Another option for a liquid breakfast in Israel is to stop by one of the many juice stands in the country. When I was there pomegranates were in season so their juice was prominently available. Yum!

If you’re in Jerusalem and looking for a more international breakfast/brunch, Kadosh (on Shlomzion Hamalka Road) is an excellent choice. It’s got a chic, but cozy decor and the food (not just breakfast) is delicious.

Kadosh's interior is cozy and hip at the same time.

You can see part of the breakfast menu at Kadosh here. So many decisions!

I went with the Crunchy Smoked Salmon, which was truly divine. It is a nicely-baked croissant loaded with two poached eggs, smoked salmon, and their spin on a hollandaise sauce, which involves poppy seeds and anise. It came with a nice salad and my choice of drink, so I went with freshly squeezed carrot-orange juice.

Isn't she a beauty?

Here's her insides: perfectly poached eggs and loads of smoked salmon with an excellent hollandaise.

Is there anything better than fresh-squeezed juice in the morning?

After all this I was pretty full, but when I saw a halva-chocolate babka on their menu, I couldn’t resist. A few days earlier I would have had no inkling as to how yummy this cake is, but I had eaten it at a fantastic bakery/cafe called Nadav Kinuchim (Nadav Desserts) in Ramat Yishai. That halva chocolate babka was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and their other cake and bread displays were mouth-wateringly good. I pretty much can’t wait to go back there next time I’m in Israel and anywhere near it (it’s about 1/2 hour from Haifa). Here’s a bit more information. But alas, I did not have my camera with me then. But I did at Kadosh, and while their version wasn’t quite as good, it was still delicious. Many people don’t like halva, but I have grown to love it these last few years; the trick is it has to be good halva and in America that can be hard to find. But the halva in this combination isn’t so pronounced, it merely lends a sticky, crunchy texture to the chocolaty babka.

Isn't babka the best?

 

Nextup: breakfasts in Turkey!

October 31, 2011 at 8:36 am 5 comments

Eat This: Brunch at the Dutch

Readers of this blog should be pretty familiar with my love for Locanda Verde’s brunch. So when head chef Andrew Carmellini opened a new restaurant called the Dutch in Soho, I knew I had to have their brunch. And I was not disappointed.  The vibe is low-key and friendly, but with impeccable service, just like at Locanda Verde. And the food and drinks are also top-notch.

Wonderful cocktails at Andrew Carmellini’s new place, the Dutch.

My companion and I had to wait for a table (but not too long) so we sat at the bar and got a Bloody Mary ($12) and an Aperol Fizz ($13). The Bloody Mary was one of the best I’ve had; perfectly spicy but still easy to take down. And it came with a nice toothpick of pickled vegetables, including an amazing pickled okra. The Aperol Fizz was a blend of Breuckelen gin, aperol, lillet, passionfruit, tangerine, and cremant, a great variation on the typical mimosa.

Perfect fluffy cornmeal pancakes.

Once seated, we managed to resist the pastry board, something I’m not so good at while at Locanda Verde. We did get an order of the Cornmeal Pancakes ($17) though, which were amazing. Definitely contenders for best pancakes in New York City! The cornmeal didn’t keep them from being fluffy, but added a nice texture to make them unique. And they came with a delicious local blueberry compote and a nice ball of salty butter.

The softest eggs you’ll ever have, in a good way.

We also got the Soft Scrambled Eggs ($21), which come with smoked sable, trout roe, and a toasted half-bagel. It was topped with a thick dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh scallions. The scrambled eggs at Locanda Verde are some of my favorite, but these were out of this world. When they say soft, they mean soft–as in almost liquid, with a grits-like consistency. Divine. The smoked sable was fabulous and the trout roe were large and fresh. My only complaint–I wish they gave us a whole bagel instead of just a half.

If you like oysters, they have a huge raw bar. They also have a burger and sandwiches, as well as fried chicken available during brunch (that all looked delicious), if that’s more your style. Are the prices a little bit absurd? Of course. But when our bill came they charged us about $4 less for each food item, I have no idea why. So I was perfectly happy with the value, as it was definitely one of the best brunches I’ve ever had.

October 2, 2011 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

Eat This: Brunch at Untitled

During the summer, while scrambling to see the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the MET (and then waiting over 2 hours in line to see it!), DevoLT and I took advantage of being on the Upper East Side (a rarity for these two Brooklynites) and went to Danny Meyer’s newest addition to his NY dining empire, Untitled. The restaurant is located in the basement of the Whitney Art Museum, and has a very sparse feel, with giant windows pouring sunlight onto large concrete tables and benches. We found the menu to be a really unique version of exactly what they claim: “a classic Manhattan coffee shop.” Take a look at what we decided to go with:

Yogurt with dried cranberries, granola, and honey

This was a last minute addition because we were basically starving and couldn’t wait for our main dishes. No regrets; this granola was some of the best that we’ve ever had. And the yogurt was nice and creamy.

Egg whites and spinach omelet with chicken sausage, potatoes, and toast

This is what I got and it was basically perfect. The sausage was the most flavorful chicken sausage I’ve ever had (and I only eat chicken sausage, so I can’t compare to other types). In fact, everything was so flavorful that I would probably have a hard time not ordering this again. It was the ideal amount of food, too: I didn’t leave over-stuffed, just completely satisfied.

Pastrami and Swiss Omelet

Pastrami and Swiss Omelet

DevoLT’s had the pastrami and Swiss omelet. The pastrami was nice and smoky and well complemented by the Swiss. The eggs were soft and fluffy. The rye bread accompanying it went perfectly with the dish. Oh, and the home fries were awesome.

DevoLT actually went back for lunch another time and got a sandwich from their special grilled cheese section. You can choose your cheese (American, cheddar, or aged Gouda) and bread (pullman, whole wheat, or parma loaf), and add on roasted tomatoes, avocados, mushroom, bacon, ham, or turkey. She got the cheddar on wheat with roasted tomatoes and avocado and it was delicious. Definitely one of the best grilled cheeses in the city: not too greasy, but still very buttery; cheese melted to perfection; and yummy add-ons that didn’t overwhelm.

There were so many tasty things on the menu that it took us a long time to narrow it down. I’d love to go back there for lunch or dinner; I’m sure that their matzoh ball soup is to die for, and they had several salads and sandwiches that made our mouths water. We had to struggle to resist getting a piece of pie, especially because they have selections from Four and Twenty Blackbirds there. The kicker: it’s all very affordable, which was a surprise because I normally associate brunching on the UES with a pocket drain. This was a thoroughly delicious experience.

September 23, 2011 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

Eat This (Before They Close!): Brunch at M. Wells

M. Wells is a restaurant in Long Island City, Queens cooking Quebecoise-style food and run by a Montreal husband-and-wife team that opened in an old diner last August to rave reviews. After a year they have announced they will be closing the diner to reopen in a new location and format. We’d been dying to get there since last year and we finally squeezed in a visit last weekend. Such was our devotion that we waited an hour and a half in the pouring rain to get seated in the tiny diner, but with good friends in tow we were perfectly happy, especially after we grabbed some coffee, iced-tea, and biscuits from the counter inside.

Tray of bisciuts at the counter

Oh, and by the way, that biscuit may have been the best I’ve had–especially since it was not even served warm and it was still amazing! It was fluffy and dense at the same time, with no need for extra butter, or anything really–I ate it bare and loved it.

Patrons at the counter of M.Wells

Old seltzer bottles and other diner-y things at M.Wells

After we finally got seated in a small booth we took in the kitschy surroundings and examined the menu, quickly affirming that there was a lot of meat, mostly pork. Since JudyJams and I both don’t partake in the pig variety, and JJ is basically vegetarian, our options were somewhat limited. I guess those Canadians like their pork! But, we pulled through and everything we had was delicious.

Pass the pepper!

Naturally, we started with a round of Bloody Marys. These were good, but not great. I added pepper to mine, which helped, but it was my least favorite thing we had at the restaurant.

The Seafood Cobbler had spots of pink from the inclusion of beets

As a lover of lox, I was super excited to order the Gravlax Pie, having heard many great things about it, but unfortunately they were sold out (it was pretty late in the day by the time we sat down), so I substituted with the Seafood Cobbler, which was being made with Pollack that day. When I was told it came with beets I was somewhat skeptical, but it turned out to be a great combination. The fish and beets were accompanied by potatoes as well, all mixed together in a delicious cream sauce, and topped with two biscuit halves covered in yummy melted cheddar cheese. (Yes, that means I ate another biscuit…!) I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it because it was a bit heavy, but it was so tasty I couldn’t put my fork down.

Super-thick gazpacho

Spanish Tortilla, M. Wells-style

JudyJams ordered the Gazpacho, which was thickened with bread and had a lovely herb oil on top. It was quite flavorful, but we had clearly ordered too much because it went unfinished. It certainly was not the light, summery gazpacho you might be craving on a hot summer day. She also had the Tortilla, which is nothing like the potato and egg ones they serve in Spain, although it had the same basic ingredients. For starters, it was served hot and fresh from a skillet, and was round in shape (instead of a slice). It was more like a yummy, eggy latka than a Spanish tortilla and it was quite delectable. It’s served with thick slices of country bread from Balthazar.

Beef Tartare with poached egg and salad

Our friend Tobey ordered the Beef Tartare, which was divine. The meat was incredibly fresh and tender and almost tasted like tuna it was so creamy. It was decadent and delicious, served with a perfectly poached egg on top and salad on the side. Nothing like some good runny yolk on some amazing raw beef!

One hell of a sandwich!

French-Canadian Fries

Lindserella went with the Sausage and Egg sandwich, which was on a homemade English muffin (a recipe for our own version of this feat to come soon!) with homemade mayo, Vermont cheddar, and pickled jalapenos. She said it was delish, of course, and left not a crumb. We also got French fries for the table, which were perfectly fried and lip-smacking good.

Maple Pie, no whipped or iced cream necessary

Even though we were stuffed, our waitress convinced us to get a slice of the Maple Pie and we were not sorry. The crust was crumbly and browned and super-yummy, while the filling was a nice fluffy version of a pecan pie filling, but with intense maple flavor. Pure maple syrup was drizzled on top to complete the effect and it worked–we polished it off in no time.

Being that it’s August 22, I suggest you get your butt over to Queens asap to go to M.Wells–you only have until the end of the month! While I’m sure the husband-and-wife owners/chefs’ next venture will be amazing, it’s definitely going to be a new concept, so don’t delay!

M. Wells, Long Island City, Queens

August 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Eat This: Brunch at Five Leaves

Brooklyn hip at Five Leaves

Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn originally gained fame as the restaurant that actor Heath Ledger (RIP) had invested in before his death, but it soon was clearly standing on the merit of its excellent food, drinks, and atmosphere. Known for its effortlessly cool vibe as much as its pancakes, we knew we had to check it out. There is usually a wait on the weekends, but it’s worth it.

Holy moly those are some fluffy pancakes!

Action shot...pour that syrup!

Now about those pancakes. They are divine. They’re of the ricotta variety, and are served with honeycomb butter and a heap of fresh fruit, including what seemed like 2 whole bananas and tons of blueberries and strawberries. The pancakes themselves are light and fluffy, but packed with flavor. Totally worth the $12.

Breakfast sandwich goodness

Also of note is the Fresh Sage Scrambled Organic Eggs (a more reasonable $7), which are actually served sandwich style, on soft crusted bread and topped with aged cheddar. There is a delicious spicy tomato jam on the side that you will soon be slathering all over the fluffy eggs.

Mountain of kale

If you’re looking for something a little healthier, the salads are pretty fabulous too. The Radicchio & Watercress is chock full of greens, plus yummy roasted acorn squash, feta, and red onions. The Chopped Black Kale salad is for the true kale lover. It is literally a mountain of thinly-chopped kale, topped with a spicy anchovy dressing, thin shreds of smoky gouda (great combo with the kale!), and hazelnuts.

Bruleéd Grapefruit: A Work of Art

It's amazing what you can with some ginger and mint, isn't it?

Finally, remaining on the healthier side of things, finish with a Bruleéd Grapefruit served with house pickled ginger and fresh mint or the Fruit Salad, which is overflowing with fresh and sweet fruits, depending on what’s in season. Ours had bananas, berries, apples, and grapes.

August 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Eat This: Brunch at Fonda in Park Slope

Park Slope abounds with brunch options, but the options are severely lacking in the Mexican department. And good Mexican options? In my opinion, there is only one: Fonda. Thankfully, it is not only good, but great. Not only is the decor and atmosphere interesting and lovely, but there is rarely a wait–a huge plus in NYC. And, believe it or not, there is a garden patio in the back. Chef Robert Santibañez grew up in Mexico City and recently released his cookbook, Truly Mexican, in April.You’ll often find him walking around and talking to customers, and perhaps offering free coffee as he did to us.

Not that I’m an expert on Mexican food, but this stuff tastes truly authentic, making proper use of the chiles and spices available. Brunch, which is very reasonably priced (most items are $10) and includes a mimosa (choice of hibiscus, guava, or mango–yes, they are as good as they sound!), is filling and delicious.

Guava and mango mimosas, complimentary with all brunch entrees at Fonda

Unable to resist, I had the Chilaquiles Rojos with scrambled eggs (you can also get them with shredded chicken or grilled skirt steak). Chilaquiles, if you’ve never had them, are homemade tortilla chips drenched in a sauce–it can be mole, verde, or rojo. Fonda only offers the rojo version, a roasted tomoato-habanero sauce, but it is spicy and yummy in all the right ways and comes topped with crema and queso fresco–as most things should in a Mexican restaurant. The dish was so large I couldn’t finish it–not something that happens to me at brunch too often! Did I mention it was $10??

Chilaquiles Rojas with scrambled eggs

My brunchmate had the Huevos Divorciados ($10), another classic Mexican breakfast dish. It is two sunny side up eggs divided by two sauces, salsa verde and ranchera, with bacon, queso fresco, and crema, and it came with a side of rice and black beans. So much food! The flavors were complex and bursting with the right amount of spice. All too often Mexican food in NYC is way too bland. But not here!

Huevos Diorciados at Fonda

Fonda's black beans are robust and flavorful.

 Fonda
434 7th Avenue
between 14th and 15th St.
Park Slope, Brooklyn
(718) 369-3144

May 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm 1 comment

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