Oh Nicky’s, You’re So Fine, You’re So Fine You Blow My Mind, Hey Nicky’s!!

Is it possible to over-praise a great sandwich?  The simultaneous comfort and excitement?  The endless possibilities?  The food that can be enjoyed solo or amongst friends? It is the great food equalizer. I mean, everyone from Queen Elizabeth to The Naked Cowboy loves a great sandwich!
Though probably not together…
I was visiting my mom downtown today and stopped in at the brand new Nicky’s Sandwiches for a bite to eat.  Nicky’s specializes in Banh Mi, that fabulous Vietnamese Sandwich.   I had heard that Nicky’s, which has a location in Chinatown, was supposed to be really delicious…and so DUH!  I was all over it like a fat kid on cake…or a banh mi
I ordered a classic Banh Mi from the very friendly cashier in the front, and a mere $5.50 later, I had a sandwich the length of my arm.  It was seriously huge-what a deal!  It was also toasted, so it was warm, and the scent of cilantro and roasted pork wafted up towards me.  I tried not to drool as I hurried to Marmie’s house.
The classic banh mi came with Pâté, Vietnamese ham, roasted ground pork, pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and mayo on a toasted baguette.  You could choose white or wheat bread…and I’m no sucker…I went for the good old white.  I ordered mine spicy, but when I inspected the sandwich before breaking in, I realized no sriracha had been put on the sandwich. BOO!  Luckily, I had my own stockpile of the spicy stuff and applied it liberally before I dug in . You know my credo-if my nose ain’t running, it ain’t fast enough!  Then I bit in….

YUM! This is a GREAT sandwich!!  The sauteed pork was crumbly, hot, and salty.  The ham was tender and sweet, and the pate…oh LORDY the pate!  I didn’t look at it cause I don’t want to know what is in it cause I LOVED it!  So soft, peppery, and just funky enough to remind me that it was liver.  That rich, minerally taste just melted into the soft, fluffy bread.  the bread!  It was yielding and tender with just the barest crackle when my teeth sunk through it to the crisp, vinegar-y carrots and cooling cucumber.  The mayonnaise was creamy, the sriracha punched it up a hit, and the cilantro added the freshest, zippiest, herby zing to the sandwich.  Bread, Meat, Mayo, Veggies.  So All American.  So all Vietnamese.  So all delicious.  Filling, cheap, exotic,  and fresh.  Can there be anything better?  Oh yeah…next week they are adding pho to the menu 🙂  Oh Nicky, you’re so fine 🙂
Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Bon Chon on John

Say THAT five times fast!

 

Bon Chon is a Korean restaurant chain that has recently opened outposts in NYC.  It specializes in fried chicken.  Korean Fried Chicken-gives KFC a whole new meaning, hey?

I crack myself up.

 

ANYWAY…Korean Fried Chicken is not like traditional American fried chicken in the south.  It is coated in a thick batter and served with waffles, but rather fried twice and dipped in a soy-garlic, slightly spicy sauce.

This Bon Chon location is casual but very nicely appointed, with dark wooden chairs and tables…

And a bar with shochu and beer along the side of the restaurant. There is a 4-8 pm happy hour deal every day of the week.  Booze AND spicy fried chicken?  Be still my HEART!

And acclaims from Esquire and the New York Times line the wall.  What more could you want?

Except the return of the tv series Avonlea.  You might want that.

Lunch specials come in small, medium, and large sizes, and you can get spicy or mild wings, drumsticks, all white meat, or chicken strips.

Once we ordered from the counter at the back, and got our cans of Diet Coke, we waited for about 10 minutes until we recieved…

Our chicken!! Don’t they look like Korean happy meals?

Once we opened the cartons, the smell of soy, chilis, and garlic wafted up towards us.

And then I took a bite.

Sticky. Sweet. Spicy.  Succulent.  Any other delicious “S” words you can think of probably apply here.  The skin was LITERALLY the most delicious chicken skin I had ever tried.  It was so crispy and well fried that there was an air pocket in between the skin and the meat. As a result from the high frying temperature, the chicken was (shockingly!) utterly greaseless!  The sauce was sweet and spicy, like the most delicious chili sauce in the world.  It was not mouth searing, just gently tingling on the lips.  The strips were coated in the same sauce minus the heat-the sauce tasted of  herbaceous ginger, salty soy, caramelized sugar, and pungent garlic.  Can they make me a perfume like that, please? The chicken itself was moist and fell easily away from the bone.

For my side I got the kimchi coleslaw.  It was basically your everyday, mayonnaise based coleslaw with a little kimchi marinade poured in.  I was disappointed with it-I was looking forward to a super garlicky, vinegar based slaw.  But I still ate it.  Because-need I remind you?  I am a pig

Fries.  Medium thickness, freshly fried, salty and crispy, these babies were a NATURAL match for the chicken.  Fried and Fried…it sounds like the beginning of a love sonnet…

This is what our tray looked like at the end of the meal.

Gee, ya think we liked it?

Well, we LOVED it!  We both got the small meals, and with one side each and 3 drumsticks or 6 chicken tenders, plus a soda each, the total was under $18.  The restaurant was nice enough to go to with friends, and casual enough that we could sit there sopping wet and not feel out of place!  The staff was quick and courteous, the price was right, and the food was SENSATIONAL. I can’t WAIT to go back for the happy hour special, and this time…I’m getting the large!

Bonchon Chicken on Urbanspoon

SHO Shaun Hergatt Lounge Review

There is just NOTHING like a really SWANKY gals night out. One where you get all dressed up, indulge in way too many cocktails, and feel like you are part of Sex and The City So when I got a 2 for 1 cocktail offer from Tasting Table to go to the newly opened bar at the Pearl Bar, part of the incredibly fancy and well regarded SHO restaurant downtown-I knew I was hitting this spot with some lady friends!






Located in the Setai hotel, you walk through a quiet and elegant lobby, into some elevators, and emerge on the second floor






Please excuse the blurry top photo and instead focus on how beautiful this space is.  SHO is an eclectic restaurant, with French and Pan Asian influences, and the Asian sensibility is definitely showcased in the decor.  Sharp lines and taupe fabric lining the walls melded with deep burgandys and shiny black laquered tables.  There were high ceilings, lots of space between tables, and tabletop candles bathed the room in their soft light.  I was feeling in the mood and i hadn’t even had a drink yet!




As I sat down on a very comfortable bar chair (with a BACK, thank you very much!), two extremely fun and knowledgeable bartenders gave me a menu and a glass of water, without my asking for either.


*These bartenders were ROCKSTARS! They were patient, witty, very helpful in choosing cocktails, and most of all, NOT SNOBBY!  We were there for a special deal, they were not going to make a mint off of us, yet they treated us like we were QUEENS.  This speaks volumes to how the restaurant is run, and the exquisite service is not to be overlooked as a key selling point in this totally stellar bar*




I got the Shiso Fix-Citadelle Gin, rasberries, lemon, and shiso.  Shiso is an herb that tastes like a slightly more savory mint. The rasberries were fresh and not muddled till juice, just left till there were some large, sweet, pulpy pieces.  The lemon was tart but not bitter, and the shiso sharp and refreshing. Add some smooth top shelf gin in there-and by some, I mean enough to get a little buzz going-and there is just nothing wrong with this gorgeous cocktail!




Lauren, one of my harem for the night, ordered the Queen’s Park Swizzle, made with Cruzan White Rum, Lime, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.  


YUM!!!! Please get this drink if you like rum!! The rum here is smooth, sweet, almost creamy liquid that recieves just the tiniest edge of tartness with the lime. The bitters just add enough of a deep, complex edge to make you swirl the drink around in your mouth and taste savory, sweet, light, rich, bitter, and refreshing all at once. This drink was a WINNER!


By this time, Ann and Kate arrived, and we asked if we could be moved to a table in the bar area. As if they were trained on an olympic seed skating crew, the bartenders and table runners, who seemed to appear out of thin air, ushered us to a spacious and elegant booth.  We all felt like Cinderella.



Ann and Kate, who made up the remainder of our evening’s entourage ordered the Delores Del Rio, made with Milagro Tequila, pineapple, homemade grenadine, Green Chartreuse, Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe, and lime.  Both girls loved this drink, although I must be honest-I did not taste any since I was already in love with my second cocktail of choice



This is the Lower East Side,consisting of Old Overholt Rye, Carraway, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Bitter Truth Celery Bitters, and a slice of cucumber.  One of our OUTSTANDING bartenders Sean had told me about this drink earlier at the bar.  He said it was a twist on an old fashioned, and that the rye, carraway, and celery bitters made it the cokctail equivilant to a pastrami sandwich!  Well, then I started waxing poetic about Katz’s Deli, and Sean and I had a brief but impassioned discussion about pastrami…mmmm…pastrami…



When we moved to our table, Sean sent me over the Lower East Side so I could see for myself what it was like.  Now, I will be honest, when I first took a sip, my eyes bugged out a little .  Rye is STRONG!  


But as the large ice cube melted and the whisky settled into the aromatic celery and savory caraway flavors, I grew to LOVE this odd little drink.  Totally masculine and not at ALL somehting I would ever order, it was deep, pungent, savory, and vegetal tasting.  The whisky became more mellow as it sat with the ice, and went from intimidatingly strong to smooth and easily drinkable.  The celery bitters made the heavy alcohol light, and the vermouth gave the whole thing a slightly sweet finish!  The more i drank it, the more i realized how GREAT it would be with a pastrami sandwich.  May I suggest that Pearl Bar add a mini pastrami sandwich to its’ food offerings?? 😀  Anyway-if you want to go out on a limb, and try something that will help your tastebuds think outside their comfort zone, get this wonderful and inventive drink!


Speaking of food…you didn’t think we weren’t going to order anything did you?  The first food item we recieved was part of the Tasting Table deal…SERIOUSLY, join Tasting Table.  The deals are awesome!



This is 24 Hour Pressed Gravlax with Pommes Dauphine and Wasabi Mayonnaise (The menu says creme fraiche, but our server said it was the mayo, and that’s what it tasted like).

Have you ever felt seduced by your food?  Because that’s how we all felt after putting these little pieces of pure SEX into our greedy mouths!



The potatoes were  hot, perfectly fried puffs of airy mashed potatoes. They were rich with butter and disappeared in the mouth all too soon.  The salmon, lushly rosy and fringed with sprigs of dill, was cut into sensual, thick strips that filled the mouth with the rich, fatty, oily, salty, elusive taste that only truly wonderful salmon brings.  The mayonnaise on top was sweet and creamy sauce mixed with just a touch of the nostril flaring horseradish heat that is wasabi.  The mouthful was hot, cool, salty, creamy, spicy, salty, and smooth all at once.  Instead of cupcakes, these are what I wish I had had at my sixth birthday.




Since the cocktails were taking their toll on us, we also ordered a cheese plate.  This plate included-but was not limited to-a goat cheese, a semi hard sheeps milk cheese washed in champagne, a mild blue, and-my personal favorite-Brillat Savarin.  Brillat Savarin makes all other cheeses look like Velveeta.  It is a triple creme cheese that is not melty or waxy-merely creamy.  Like taking a mouthful of cream.  Like Brie on steriods.  Like my one TRUE LOVE.



The blue cheese was milder than I like, but the goat cheese was wonderfully understated, with just a touch of grassy undertones.  I occasionally find goat cheese unpleasantly grassy tasting, but this was just wonderful!  The cheese plate came with candied hazelnuts, honeycomb, and an apricot pate de fruit (basically a fancy gumdrop) for accompaniments.  There were also warm slices of cranberry nut toast.  There MAY have almost been a fistfight over the last piece of toast






This was taken after the fistfight.  Clearly, Kate still holds grudges she didn’t win.


The Pearl Bar was an OUTSTANDING experience.  From the moment we walked in to the time that we(reluctantly!)  left, we were treated to an elegant yet unstuffy evening.  The servers were unobtrusive, the bartenders delightful, the food scrumptious, and the drinks inventive.  This is not a cheap destination-the cocktails run $15 each-but in this case, you get what you pay for.  Thanks to the Tasting Table offer, I was introduced to somewhere bound to become one of my favorite spots.  I will be sure to return-but this time, I will be sure to smuggle in a pastrami sandwich to eat with my Lower East Side cocktail!


Les Halles Brunch

Saturday in New York means two things:

1)nursing the hangover from having too many of these:

2)having a delicious brunch, hopefully from somewhere like this:

Ah yes, Les Halles.  Famous for being associated with the celbrity chef, writer, television host, and former chain smoker, Anthony Bourdain.

 He wrote this book called Kitchen Confidential in 2000, and totally kicked off the bad ass chef tour de force that Gordon Ramsey and others would later join.  Bourdain exposed the drug use, foul language, and questionable freshness/cleanliness practices going on in kitchens at the time.  To this DAY I don’t order sushi on a Sunday or a Monday.  The book is kinda raunchy, VERY funny, and simultaneously grosses you out and makes you hungry.  Kinda like eating a fast food meal in your car at 3:00 in the afternoon

So GOOD yet so bad for you!

Anyway, after he became a big success, he opened up the first of his Les Halles restaurants, named after the famous open air market that serviced Paris for many years.  He is no longer affiliated with the restaurant, but it still operates with the same menu, and (presumably)the same standard of cooking.   It is now a mini chain serving delicious and reliable bistro fare.

 

As we walked into the John Street location, we noticed it was hot.  Reeeeallly hot.  This location has no air.  Luckily, it has about 20,000 fans that keep the air from being too still.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still so hot I secretly started siphoning ice cubes out of my water to put in my bra.  But the management was trying, at least.

The restaurant is surprisingly large for a New York City space, with a medium size front room opening up into a long and narrow second dining space (where we ate), and upstairs seating area, and a small room in the back for private affairs.

 

We were seated at a spacious circular table, and before our orders were even taken, this beauty was dropped off.

BREAD.  LOVE IT!  There was a nutty whole wheat bread that was a little too fluffy and textureless for my taste, and a PERFECT baguette.  This is almost as good as what you would have in Paris.  Crusty but not crunchy exterior. Tangy but not sour insides.  Perfect hole structure.   Excellent foundation for LAYERS of sweet unsalted butter.  Yeah this carbolicious start promised great things to follow!

The attentive and speedy waiter soon brought my dad’s appetizer:

Betterave rôtie au fromage de chèvre (Roasted red beets topped with goat cheese).  Though I didn’t try this, my sister and dad both swooned over it!  They said there were some lightly sauteed shallots in with the sugary beets, and that the goat cheese on top was earthy and creamy (ok, ok, they didn’t use those EXACT words, but i am telling you, that’s what my dad meant when he said “yeah, it’s great!”).  I have had this appetizer before at Les Halles, and while I don’t think it is particularly a revelation  on beet preparation, beets and goat cheese were just made to go together, and this is an excellent execution.

I got the Salade de poulet grillé (Grilled chicken salad with arugula, parmasean cheese, and basil oil).  Boring and seemingly a waste of a lunch out?  Sure!  Delicious, light, and perfectly prepared?  You bet your life it was!  The chicken was 3 white meate fillets, grilled until just perfectly cooked, juicy, and redolent of woodsy and earthy rosemary.  The tomatoes were also roasted with thyme, rosemary, and marjoram that made the them take on a richer more savory taste than plain tomatoes tend to have.  With these deep flavors, the fresh, slightly bitter arugula dressed in lightly fragrant basil infused olive oil and lemon was perfect.  Not all foods must be new or thrilling.  Some can just be perfectly rendered dishes that fulfill your body and your spirit,and that is totally what this was.

 

Sandwich de Poulet, frites (Roasted chicken sandwich with herbed mayonnaise and French fries).  Most of the brunch party ordered this, and that’s because I told them to, because this sandwich would turn a PETA member into a meat eater.  It’s that outstanding.

This is what I order almost every time I come here.  Roasted white and dark meat, yielding delicious juices onto supple yet crusty baguette.  Freshly made mayonnaise dotted with parsley, tarragon, and other fresh and zesty herbs. Meaty roasted tomatoes dripping sweet seeds onto the delicate balance of meat, mayo, and bread.  This is simply the BEST CHICKEN SANDWICH I HAVE EVER HAD OUTSIDE MY OWN KITCHEN.  Or maybe even in my own kitchen…damn it.  The homemade mayo is really what puts it over the top.  It’s just gently lush with a yellow appearince and a lemony, herby taste that hits all the tastebuds.  The sandwich is served warm and tastes like heaven.  Just get it already.

With it is a fresh but nondistinguished side salad and some truly FAB fries. Those tender little sticks of potato were creamy and fluffy inside, crunchy and golden outside. They were liberally salted-just how i like them-and to dip them into some tart ketchup, then feel the salty, oily, earthy potato slide down your gullet is one of life’s true pleasures.  These are some ASS KICKING fries.  And they made me feel better about wasting a whole meal on salad. Eating a salad means I must eat fries as well.

The meal was around $75 for 5 people ordering entrees, with one appetizer and a large bottle of sparkling water.  It is moderately priced, well prepared food in an elegant and servicable dining space.  It is not as exotic as the food Anthony Bourdain eats on his tv show “No Reservations”

…but it is at LEAST as delicious!

Les Halles Downtown on Urbanspoon