Buon Italia, Txikito, and Hakata Tonton

I go out to eat a lot – at restaurants, at food trucks, and at street fairs. Though most of the food I eat is pretty tasty, some of it is really exceptional, and that’s the food we are talking about today – 3 recent bites that are so phenomenal that they deserve a post all their own!

Buon Italia Bruschetta Caprese

I have long loved this Chelsea Market store for its wonderful Italian imports. If it’s Italian, you can find it here. From truffled cheeses to Nutella the size of an Olsen twin, to homemade porchetta, everything Italian is either imported or house made here. I have come here many times for artisanal pasta, rich cream, and imported olives, but I have rarely stopped at the small counter just outside the store, selling prepared food. A recent lunchtime visit proved that I have been a moron, yet again. This is the best bruschetta I have had since I was a child in California. One bite of this brought me back to the first time I ever tasted the Italian delicacy. The bread is toasted but not thick crusted, so it can be easily bitten and its surface is saturated with sweet tomato juices. Overtly garlicky, strewn with floral basil and very light, clean olive oil. Salted enough to bring out the tomatoes’ juices, then finished with three slices of mozzarella so creamy that they could practically be burrata. This isn’t a particularly big or inexpensive bite, but it is so perfect that it is worth every calorie and every cent.

Albondigas at Txikito

This tiny Basque-style tapas (which are called pinxtos) restaurant is hardly a sleeper hit, but it has taken me way too long to get here. Along with the cinnamon and apple tinged sangria, the don’t miss dish here is the albondigas. These little lamb meatballs are juicy and soft. They are crisp and caramelized on the outside and robustly lamb-y on the inside. Served in a broth made with white wine, garlic, and chiffonades of sharp mint, the dish is at once bright and deep. I could easily make a meal of this alone, with a side of bread. That is the only issue I have with this dish – stop being stingy with the bread, folks! Give a gal a piece!


Hakata Tonton Pork Belly

When I ran headfirst into a ramen festival on the Upper West Side, I was reminded again how much I love this city. Where else can you head out for pancakes and eggs and find yourself walking amidst ramen, gyoza, obanyaki, and other Japanese delicacies?! Even at 10:30 AM, I knew what my first bite would be. Hakata Tonton is famous for making all things pork – ear, belly, shanks…if it comes from the pig, it’s at Hakata Tonton, and it is delicious. These freshly grilled pork skewers proved that the restaurant deserves its excellent reputation.

The smoky and crisp meat is tender, contrasting with bouncy ribbons of pure, opalescent fat. If you don’t like the texture of fat, this isn’t  for you, but I love it.  Slathered with a tangy-sweet Japanese BBQ sauce and a smattering of sesame seeds, I could have eaten this entire skewer then had another.

 But, as you see, there are just so many delicious bites in NYC – I always like to save some room for the next serendipitous dish.

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  1. OMG…Hakata TonTon…must have…*drool*