Craftbar – No Wonder it’s Still Around

Sometimes, when you eat at a restaurant you just say to yourself – “oh, no wonder.”

And that’s what I said when I ate at Craftbar .

IMG_20131030_122815_658 This Tom Colicchio restaurant practically screams flatiron with its low-key, upscale atmosphere. It’s large and spacious, with a few tall communal tables and a section that can be partitioned for private parties. It is minimalist but warm, and relaxed enough for a quick lunch but chic enough for a birthday dinner. It’s elegant without being pretentious.

IMG_20131030_123037_279 Breadsticks

A simple, well done dish. Cheesy, crunchy, and just salty enough to make my mouth water for the upcoming meal.  I ate way too many.
IMG_20131030_124421_853 Pig’s head terrine

A totally fabulous terrine. Some terrines can be bouncy, gristly, or way too gamy tasting.

This is none of the above.

It’s soft and mild, with tender bits of sweet pork. It’s topped with pickled chiles that are spicy but not crazy hot, and the pickeld vegetables alongside cut right through the rich meat. It is really mild – even more so than pate – and is spreadable onto the tangy bread. It’s a fantastic rendition of a popular dish.

IMG_20131030_124426_885 Beets with yogurt and pistachios

So well done. freshly roasted beets have a different texture than canned ones – they are tender, but al dente, with a really sweet taste – almost like sugar. These are served room temperature and topped with fragrant dill, crunchy pistachios, and creamy, fatty yogurt. The dill is really the kicker here – it uplifts the hearty dish and gives it a brightness.

IMG_20131030_130757_552 Dorade with pickled eggplant, chervil, white beans, and preserved lemon

Well prepared fish. Nothing earth shattering, but very well done. Flaky, crispy skinned fish atop vinegary, pleasantly salty eggplant. The white beans are al dente and creamy at once, and the topping of chervil provides an unexpected sweet, licorice-y note. The lemon is a nice pop of acid, and the fish is a good sized portion.

So, no wonder. No wonder, Colicchio is considered to be a trendsetter. No wonder he is on Top Chef. No wonder this restaurant has enjoyed such longevity. No wonder.

Because those these items seem old hat now, they were the newest things on the block when Craftbar opened.

And they are still some of the best renditions around.

Craftbar on Urbanspoon

Mad Square Eats – Bring Your Stretchy Pants

After many years of letting this semi-annual event pass me by, I finally dragged myself to Madison Square Eats

And then I had to roll myself home.

This foodie haven consists of various restaurants, carts, and food purveyors who gather near Madison Square Park for a month each season to stuff you with all the goodies your blood pressure can handle. We went on a Tuesday night and it was relatively crowded, so leave the Saturday nights to chumps and go there early in the morning if you must make this trip a weekend one. However, that night, the crowds were manageable. We even managed to score a small table (by watching its dawdling inhabitants like hawks).

And the food. Was. Great!

Roberta’s

IMG_20131001_200837_109 First and foremost, we visited this station because, really…how could we not? Roberta’s is known for its pizza, and it really delivers. Thin, supple crust with an earthy, deep char that makes even a  vegetarian pie taste meaty and satisfying.  IMG_20131001_200827_219 I must be the only person on the planet who does not love the Bee sting – the sauce is sensational – really spicy – but the honey is just too prevalent for my tastes. I’m not a fan. The special Supe Lace pizza, above, however, is dynamite. I can’t get over the crust – its’ just masterful. The sauce is bright and so vibrant that it’s practically alive, (in a good way, not a creepy way) and the cheese is both plentiful and tasty, but really…it’s the crust that takes the cake. It’s so delicious that I am literally dreaming of it. No matter how long this line is stand on it.

And get two pies at least.

I mean, we’re not fooling around here.

IMG_20131001_194554_374

Delaney BBQ taco stand.

So delicious that I ACTUALLY almost cried. That freakin awesome.

IMG_20131001_194820_056 Their brisket is just so good. Tender, juicy, and really well seasoned – salt and pepper in every bite. It has a satisfying steak-like chew and it’s expertly  hand chopped. But the best part here are the accouterments. The soft, pliant tortilla, the acidic onions, the sharp cheese melting int he warmth and that chile sauce.

Be still, my heart.

That. Chile. SAUCE. Seriously wonderful. It isn’t hot at all, just heartily spiced with roasted chiles, cumin, and garlic. It reminds me of Taco Bell in the best way possible (is there a bad way to remind one of Tco Bell?)

I wolfed it down.

Trust me, you will, too.

IMG_20131001_194127_394

Vinh Dog at AsiaDog

IMG_20131001_194154_190 This banh mi style dog is da BOMB mi.

Yes, I went there. It’s my blog, so I can do stuff like that.

Anyway, AsiaDog is really great! The hot dogs are juicy and not too salty, with an audible “snap” as you bite into them. The buns are well buttered ant toasted, adding to the taste and texture of the dish instead of just being a supporting player. At first, the cold, crisp vegetables are a little odd, temperature wise, next to the dog, but by the third bite, you will be hooked. They could have a heavier hadn with the pate but a little squirt of sriracha and mustard helps bring the umami flavor home. I would totally go back to Asia Dog and highly recommend it!They were also extremely fast in delivering your food.

I didn’t’ even get to half  of the eats that I tasted or half of the food that was offered! Brig some cash and bring some stretchy pants – and don’t wait as long as I did to get to Mad Square Eats!



 

Barn Joo – A Fantastic Korean Happy Hour

The flatiron district is really lucky. It has awesome cocktails, upscale Italian, and now a totally tasty Korean gastropub with an awesome happy hour.

Come on, share the love, downtown!

Barn Joo is a casual, cook Korean influenced pub that is just awesome. It is large and modern-industrial with a long table up front, a private lounge in back, and even karaoke…

that’s right, kimchi AND karaoke. Why isn’t this place mobbed every single night, again? I would come here on a date, with friends, or by myself for the happy hour.

And it really is an awesome happy hour.

photo_1 (6) Fried Oysters

What a simple name for a complex dish! Delicately friend oysters, are battered then fried until JUST cooked, so they are briny and sweet inside their whispery thin coating. They are served atop a sweet, sour, viscous sauce that is so addictive I could have eaten it whole. Don’t forget a swipe of kimchi mayo that emphasizes the crunch of the batter with its creamy texture. These are the perfect bar food – tasty, eaten by hand, and fried (though not at all heavy).

photo_2 (7) Chicken meatballs

I thought I knew meatballs. Oh how wrong I was. These meatballs, made with chewy Korean rice cakes, have a totally unique texture. They are crispy and nutty without and pleasantly toothsome within – they are tender but don’t fall apart. They are heavily spiced with aromatics like ginger and coriander that make the rice cake’s natural, earthy flavor stand out. The dipping sauce was, to may tastes, way too sweet, but mys sister loves it, so if you have a major sweet tooth, you might be a fan, too.  photo_3 (6)

Roasted Mushrooms

The sleeper hit of the menu. Roasted mushrooms I have had, but roasted mushrooms like these? Never. Assorted mushrooms – some soft, some hearty, some delicate, some fiercely woodsy…these are exceptional. They are roasted with soy, butter, and a touch of garlic. And they are…addictive. They satisfy my craving for meat completely. And that salty butter sauce…yeah, that is liquid gold.
photo_4 (3)
BJ Burger

One of the best burgers I have had since Corner Bistro. It’s heavily grilled with a thick, charred crust and a beautifully pink, juicy center. It’s topped with melty cheddar cheese and a myriad of toppings. A sharp scallion slaw, that wonderful kimchi mayo, and minty perilla leaves. The grilled kimchi is inspired -ti turns the pungent, salty kimchi into sweet, slightly crispy, caramelized cabbage topping. Its’ aon a squishy bun and served aside a plethora of thick, fresh cut fries.

The best part of this review is that most of these dishes are on the happy hour menu! They are under $10 each and can be enjoyed with beer , wine, or cocktails.

The service is exemplary, the price is right, and the food is awesome. Sitting at the bar with a burger and the fun bar staff is a great way to spend the night.

Aww, flatiron…some hoods have all the luck!

Arepas, Tartare, and Aweseome Gelato

I have eaten a ton of great food lately – here are some of my favorite gems!

IMG_20130812_140327_739 Arepa from Palenque

When I hear arepa, I think of those floppy, thick cornbread discs filled with rubbery cheese – you know, the kind you find at street fairs. This arepa truck, quite frankly, spun my head right round, right round. The food truck offers all sorts of Colombian food, and the arepa is Columbia’s greatest contributions to the food world. This one is corn (though you can have it made out of yuca, brown rice, or other options), and is topped with incredibly moist, tender Angus beef. Served with mozzarella-like queso de hebra, chipotle mayo, salsa fresca, and spicy cilantro pesto, it is a really filling lunch. For only $8, you can’t really do much better than this. Spicy, crispy, juicy, and awesome.

That’s also the name of my imaginary band.

montmartre 002 Steak tartare at Montmartre

Gabriel Stulman’s Chelsea bistro isn’t  cheap, but it does have tasty, inventive twists on Parisian bistro classics. Take this steak tartare. Hand chopped beef in a very mild dressing with tangy mustard and briny capers. The beef isn’t’ too mushy nor too chewy. The egg yolk is rich and the shallots are just sharp enough. Smear the beef on the airy toasted baguette, and it’s the raw burger of your dreams. Best of all is the lettuce alongside. Yes, I said that the lettuce outlines the beef. The long romaine leaves are dressed in a warm garlicky oil that softens the lettuce and totally elevates the meal. They are crispy, incredibly savory, and when eaten with the beef, brings out the rich, mineral notes. I would come here for the oysters and sweet/salty mustard-dusted fries, but would stay for the tartare.

pix 002 Ferreroand Pistachio Gelato at Fresco

What can I say? This place just makes perfect gelato – yes, I said perfect. There aren’t any awesome toppings or wacky flavors(except for the awesomely tangy/sweet goat cheese flavor). Just thick, dense gelato with intense flavors. It’s the most perfect pistachio gelato that I have ever tasted – deep and nutty and buttery and rich. The chocolate hazelnut flavor is sweet and velvety, like frozen Nutella. It’s uber creamy and rich, with a velvety texture and a taste that is so vibrant that you won’t even want any toppings. It’s a schlep from where I live, but the flavor is so divine that I still say it’s worth the trek.

Millesime – A Brasserie Blast from the Past

One of the hidden reviews that didn’t get transferred when my blog moved. Let’s give it another look, shall we?

Millesime has been called many things. A sleeper hit. The restaurant with the best Caesar Salad in NYC. But the restaurant that will make you reconsider crabcakes as the finest fish cakes in the world? It has never been called that.

 Until now.

Millesime, in the Carlton hotel, is a beautiful, Disney-fied version of a grand French brasserie. It specializes in traditional seafood, including a huge selection of fresh oysters. It’s large and spacious, with a magnificent domed ceiling. It’s a great date spot.

Oysters

You can’t go wrong with oysters here. The selection changes daily and whether you like large, briny ones or small, creamy ones, you will find fresh, impeccably shucked specimens here.

And the red wine and shallot butter served alongside is a total revelation. Who would ever pair red wine with oysters? But blending that deep, earthy red wine and some sweet shallots into that creamy butter, then pairing it with the hearty bread and a salty oyster is an amazing combination of deep and light, earth and sea. It is really a standout of the meal.

Smoked herring salad and warm fingerling potatoes

Another winner! The mild, smoky fillets of herring have an almost bacon-esque quality with a silky smooth texture. None of that odd fishiness that lesser herring sometimes has. The oil in which it is submerged is lemony and rich enough to spoon over the creamy, perfectly cooked potatoes. A truly perfect dish.

 The Caesar salad

Grilled romaine lettuce, topped with nutty Parmesan cheese and then dressed in a garlicky, limey dressing. The smoked cod is so thinly sliced that it is almost unnoticeable. This is tasty, yes, but the best Caesar salad? Hardly. It is a novelty item more than anything else – delicious, but not memorable, in my mind at least.

 Pike quenelles Jean-Louis Dumonet style

This is the best fish cake I have had in my life – crabcakes, be damned! A slightly crisp top gives way to a warm, velvety, pillowy interior that tastes like the world’s best hot crab dip. It is sweet and rich, languishing in this creamy, liquor-y, shellfish-flavored sauce that is so good that my dining companions and I started unabashedly spooning it into our mouths! It is truly and totally delicious, and I could have this for my meal and call it a day.

Chocolate mousse bar with tangerine sorbet

A perfect finish – smooth, deep, almost bitter chocolate tempered by sweet, tangy, bright sorbet. If the sorbet was just a touch hard, no one noticed or cared.

And why should we? This is a fantastic dining experience. Beautiful dining room, relaxed atmosphere, and a waiter who let us gab at the table for a good 3 hours without pressuring us to order a drink.

 And that’s why this review got reposted..because it’s such a winner that I really have to head back!

Millesime on Urbanspoon

Cannibal – All Meat, All the Time

I am a huge fan of Resto, and have wanted to try its sister restaurant Cannibal for a long time.

I mean, it’s named Cannibal…how ballsy is that? For the tongue in cheek name alone, I wanted to dine here. Plus, this butcher shop-cum-restaurant ages its own beef and offers delicacies like lamb tartare, beef hearts, and pig’s heads…it sounded right up my alley!

Cannibal doesn’t take reservations for parties of fewer than six, so be prepared to wait if you come here on a weekend. The long, narrow restaurant is mostly bar space. However, the outside patio is enclosed and heated, and dining at one of the long, rustic picnic tables is a great option. It’s great for a couple of friends grabbing a quick bite, or a group of buddies who want to eat every part of the pig. The vibe is very cool and Brooklyn-esque…if you don’t know what I mean by that, watch an episode of Portlandia.

The thing to drink here is beer – the list is positively gargantuan, as evidenced by the long cases of beer lining the restaurant walls. There is a full bar and a small by-the-glass wine list, but come on, live a little…get a beer, ale, porter, or stout. Go for the large format, light and easy-to-drink Higgs de Bosson or a refreshing beer Negroni from the short but excellent beer cocktail list.

Note: Please excuse the poor photos, but the food was as great as the lighting was bad!

Brussels sprout salad with egg, red onion, and pine nuts

A crisp, bright salad that was necessary with all of our meaty choices. The sprouts are in a mixture of shreds and whole leaves, dressed in a fragrant olive oil vinaigrette. The pine nuts are rich and crunchy next to the grassy sprouts, and those red onions add a little zip. The final touch is a very gently boiled egg that has JUST barely solidified, so it is creamy and not crumbly. This simple salad is well composed, designed to complement the meat on the menu yet also stand on its own. 

Beef 

My favorite dish of the night. Made in house, it is cured in Sriracha, Worcestershire, sugar, and other ingredients. Then it is dried until pleasantly chewy but still juicy and far softer than most commercial jerky. It has an inherent beefy, robust taste that is accentuated by spicy, salty, and sweet notes. It is vibrant and complex in flavor – I really can’t say enough about this jerky. It’s a standout in every way.

Ham plate

An excellent sampling of hard to find hams. The long board is piled generously with salty Virginia ham, paper-thin whisps of deeply savory Benson County ham, and – my favorite – the thickly shaved prosciutto. I don’t know when I have had such good prosciutto. One member of our party remarked “wow… this really tastes raw…and I mean that in a good way.” The meat tastes fresh, soft and succulent; more smoky than salty and more sweet than either. The fat melts on the tongue the way that only Iberian ham usually does, and the slightly thicker cut makes it very satisfying. The accompanying buttery biscuit and honey are delightful as well.

We also had a wonderful Mediterranean accented lamb tartare and some tasty garlicky cauliflower. The service could not be better – really, the entire staff from host to server went out of its way to recommend items, see how we were doing, and kibbitz with us during the meal. That being said, Cannibal is a little expensive for what it is. Expect to pay at least $30 per person for a meal here, and you will leave satisfied but in no way bursting from the portions. However, if you want to try some really well prepared meats and are feeling flush, this is worth a visit.

 And when you go, get some of that jerky…then give it to me.

The Cannibal on Urbanspoon

Favorite Dishes at Favorite Restaurants

I love visiting new restaurants – that’s why this city is such a blessing to me. There is always a new restaurant to try, a new cuisine to taste, and a myriad of price ranges for whether I am feeling like wearing heels or flip flops.

However…

There is something to be said about returning to old faithful. Seeing servers who know you and going through the menu until you have tried nearly every dish listed.  Here are a few of my favorite dishes at restaurants that I can’t help but frequent all the time (or wish I did, anyway!).

Ranchero Scramble at The Smith

This restaurant really has it all, at all of its 3 locations. Fair prices, fabulous cocktails, an bustling atmosphere, and really great food. It has something for everyone and I have come here for girls night, brunch with the family, and dates – it really lends itself well to all sorts of occasions. If you are there for breakfast or brunch, I heartily recommend the Ranchero Scramble. These eggs come in a huge, fluffy pile, so light that they practically float away.  They are served atop a crispy tortilla with onion and garlic flecked black beans and a smoky, rich salsa. Topped with a blanket of cheddar cheese and half of a buttery avocado, this is hangover food at its finest. Just be sure to schedule a nap after brunch, because you will be in a major food coma.

Oysters at West Side Atlantic Grill

Atlantic Grill has a couple of locations, but the one by Lincoln Center is my favorite. Though I love the simply grilled fish, the crisp and pungent Caesar salad, and the wonderful homemade desserts, there is only one dish to order for an appetizer here. The oysters. The oysters are always fantastic – expensive, to be sure, but it’s Lincoln Center…the stuff in this area is pricey. They are small, deep, and creamy or large, flat, and briny, scouted from the east and West coast and changed daily according to supply.  They are served with a wonderful sweet and spicy Thai vinaigrette as well as the traditional horseradish, cocktail sauce, and mignonette. The oysters are satisfying and decadent, but not too rich if you are starting a long meal. Bring your credit card and bring high expectations. 

Make-your-own-paella at Socarrat Paella Bar

This is still my favorite paella in the city. I love the crispy layer on bottom  the salty, sticky layer on top, and the wonderful variety of ingredients  What isn’t advertised is that you can basically customize the paella in any way you want. If you don’t like seafood, remove it entirely from your order. Want to add rabbit or mushrooms? Add an extra $5 per person per ingredient, and your dream paella is yours. This is fantastic when dining with people who are kosher, who have intolerance to certain veggies, or who are just plain picky. It also proves that the paella really is made to order – as if you couldn’t taste it, you now know it for sure.

Kabocha Squash Toast at ABC Kitchen

Oh, ABC Kitchen.  You never lose your sparkle, do you? Still the darling of the NYC dining scene 2 years after its James Beard Award win for best new restaurant, it keeps innovating its menu, providing return guests with new and tasty menu options. For one of the tastiest, look to the squash toast. The sqaush is roasted, then pureed with apple cider vinegar and salt. It tops creamy ricotta cheese and sour peasant bread. The result is so extraordinary that you really have to go try it. Creamy and crunchy and sour and sweet and rich and light and salty and bright…this is so delicious that words don’t do it justice. 

I’m so lucky to go try new restaurants all the time. I love this city, ever changing and always vibrant. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go get another order of that squash toast.

Sometimes, I just prefer Old Faithful.

Artisanal – For the Love of Cheese

I take cheese very seriously.

If you don’t, just stop reading now.

If you DO…well then, you will want to make your way to Artisanal for dinner, as I did. This Terrance Brennan restaurant, an NYC stalwart for years, is the city’s most famous cheese emporium. The restaurant worships cheese. There are cheese tasting menus, cheese fondues, and even an entire room filled with the stinky stuff, where you can eat amongst the dairy.

If that doesn’t sound romantic to you, then again, please just stop reading now.

Artisanal looks like a huge bustling Parisian brasserie – a bit less authentic than Balthazar, but just as bustling. It is ideal for an upscale dinner with a group of friends, but since it gets so loud, it isn’t the best choice for a first date.

Lady Mary with Lillet Blanc, Citrus, Basil, and Champagne

It is rare that a restaurant makes a cocktail so extraordinary that I sit up and take notice. This is such a rarity. Lillet Blanc is an aperitif, a fortified white wine that is sweet and citrusy. It balances well with the peppery basil and tart lemon. The final touch of crisp champagne makes this bright cocktail both potent and eminently drinkable. This tastes like punch but after just one, you will be pretty buzzed.

Luckily, the restaurant serves plenty of dishes to soak up that booze.

Bread

Each meal here starts with crusty, tangy sourdough bread. There is a nutty whole wheat version as well, and both go well with the sweet, unsalted butter.

Steak Tartare

This starter is a classic bistro dish. Cubes of tender, robust beef, mix with egg yolk, capers, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in this satisfying, if somewhat bland rendition. I prefer my tartare to be mixed tableside, extra spicy, but this is at least made with extremely fresh, coarsely ground beef. It is especially tasty when spread on warm toast, creating a carnivorous open faced sandwich. The frites that come alongside are exemplary. Piping hot, incredibly crispy, and not too salty – they really taste of potato. Order the truffle mayonnaise alongside for dipping purposes. The mayonnaise is rich and creamy, and the truffles are heady, deep, and incredibly savory. I started dipping my spoon into the serving vessel and eating the mayo plain.

No, I’m not embarrassed.

Fondue

When you come here, you eat fondue. There are 3 fondues to choose from – 2 standard choices, and one rotating fondue du jour. The one we tried, the fondue du jour, was made with leeks and Gruyère cheese. The fondue comes to your table with hunks of bread, and you of course have to purchase some add ons. The fondue arrives to the table in a pot on a burner, so it stays liquid and warm the whole time. The first thing about this fondue was the aroma. It smelled like that mouth-watering scent of onions bubbling away in butter, mixing with the light, high note of white wine. Dipping a chunk of bread in the fondue made the cheese stretch from the pot to my plate in a ribbon. The taste was…perfection. Nutty, salty, gooey, creamy. Studded with sweet bits of browned and caramelized leeks.

The bread is tasty enough, but when you add in juicy nuggets of garlicky kielbasa, sweet apples, and tiny, tart cornichons, the meal takes on a wholly different level of greatness. The tastes are so varied and customizable – the pot finished all too quickly.

Profiteroles

If you are eating French, you might as well do it all the way – am I right or am I right?

The profiteroles here are topped tableside with warm, viscous chocolate sauce that hits the perfect note between bitter, milky, and sweet. The ice cream is smooth and fragrant with vanilla, and the dough is crisp and light, crunching ever so slightly between the teeth. The best dessert on the menu, and possibly the best rendition in town of this dish.

Artisanal is a very special place. Not just because the prices are upscale but not obscene. Not just because the service is efficient and knowledgeable but not pushy. Not even because the food and drinks are spot on in preparation and execution. It is because this restaurant specializes in the ultimate communal experience. What fosters conversation more than eating together and sharing a meal like this? Dipping into bread basket together, laughing as cheese strings refuse to break, arguing over which fondue to get…this is what eating is about. It is about sharing an experience with another person. Artisanal is tailor-made for that kind of experience.

And if you love cheese as I do, it is tailor-made for you.

Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Periyali – Elegant Greek Seafood

Where did I first hear about Periyali? Was it on Chowhound? Egullet? Serious Eats?
Somehow, was in my (never ending)mental index of restaurants to try, and last week, its number came up.

As I descended the steps of a Flatiron area building, I entered into a large, elegant dining room. Graced with billowing fabric, wall hangings evoking the sea, and whitewashed furniture, the mood was undeniably Greek and inevitably charming. Almost as charming as our server, who, upon discussing the menu with us, snatched it out of our hands and proceeded to do all the ordering for us. Shrinking violets may not do well here…this server was a hoot and a half, and he really appreciates a table that likes to banter and loves to eat. 

Sampler Plate with Taramosalata, Melitzanosalata, Tzatziki Salad, Fava Kremidaki,Spanakopita, Tiropita, and Kolokithokeftedes
Taramosalata – whipped cod roe dip. It sounds freaky, and often it is – fishy, and iodine-y, and gross. This is none of those things. Whipped with creamy feta cheese until it is light as air and just vaguely briny. Not at all fishy, just fresh and salty, like the sea air.
Melitzanosalata – grilled eggplant puree. Velvety, earthy, and garlicky. An eggplant lover’s dream.
Tzatziki Salad – cucumber and dill dip. Creamy with yogurt, herbal, and a welcoming mild component of the flavor-packed plate.
Fava Kremidaki – pureed yellow split peas with red onion, lemon and olive oil. A cross between hummus and lentil soup. Hearty, pleasantly grainy, lightened with bright lemon and fruity olive oil. Delicious with the crispy pita wedges.
Spanakopita – feta and spinach pie. Flaky dough surrounding molten, sharp cheese and spinach.
Tiropita – cheese pie. Slightly sweet and creamy on the inside. The Greek version of blintzes.
Kolokithokeftedes – zucchini  fritter. As light and flavorful as latkes, with the natural sweetness of zucchini. Delightful when dunked in the tzatziki.

*note that this isn’t on the menu. Our server suggested he put together an appetizer plate for us, and I feel confident that if you were to ask for a house-selected appetizer plate, you would get a similarly excellent selection.*


Keftedakia Saltsa
These Greek meatballs stewed in tomato sauce were the best meatballs I have had since Alta. So subtle and intricate – the meat is tender and the spices were incredibly varied. I tasted cinnamon, fennel, garlic, and I don’t know what else in there. Sweet, savory, aromatic, slightly sour…these are addictive.

Oktapodi Sharas
Charcoal grilled, red wine marinated octopus that we were assured was the restaurant’s specialty. And it is. The octopus is incredibly tender – it really cuts like a piece of swordfish, barely needing a knife. The taste is not at all seafood-y. It is meaty and light, like a piece of pork tenderloin. It has a slightly charred exterior surrounding its meaty interior, and the light lemony butter sauce served over it brings a layer of acidity to the dish.

Desserts
Walnut Cake, Orange Cake and Greek Cookies were all very tasty, but really…go straight for the orange cake. The other things are good, but this is unbelievable. It tastes like it is made with cornmeal, and has the light, pliant texture of angel food cake. It is soaked in a viscous, vibrant syrup made of honey and oranges that transports you straight to summer. Sweet, light, and a perfect way to end a pretty perfect Greek meal. 

Periyali is a delight. Fantastic service, delicious food, and with a 3 course dinner prix fixe of $35 (which I did not try), what’s not to love? The portions are ample and the octopus is especially amazing (though I can’t wait to try the moussaka next time,which the table next to us tried – it smelled positively intoxicating).
With a restaurant this great, does it really matter who told me about it?
Just remember who’s telling YOU about it.
Periyali on Urbanspoon

Resto – Fantastic Belgian Gastropub in Flatiron

Resto is a Belgian influenced gastropub in Flatiron that is known for its extensive beer selection, full-beast feasts, and delicious, meat-centric menu. 
As a meat-centric kinda gal, hitting this restaurant up for lunch was a no brainer.

The restaurant is small, but has plenty of room between tables. The dining room is casual but from the well dressed clientele to the small floral arrangements on the tables, this place screams understated upscale. And it also screams serious foodie.

Bitterballen

These fried meatballs were nothing short of revelatory – small, tender balls of rich beef and melty, stretchy cheese encased in a crunchy shell. The sharp mustard aioli cut through the fattiness of the meatball, and the counter-play between crunchy and soft, rich and bracing, warm and cool was absolutely miraculous.

If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t think I can help you.

Olive Oil Poached Wild King Salmon with Gribiche and Chives

If you have ever had salmon salad…this is nothing like it. That would be like comparing a Pinto to a Ducati. The salmon, gently poached until JUST cooked through, was broken into large, delicate flakes before being mixed with an herbed mayonnaise. Tarragon and dill were definitely in there, plus a few more I couldn’t place. The salmon spread was almost like rillettes – almost silken in texture and rich in taste. It contrasted with the hearty, sour rye bread on which it was placed.

Cripsy Pig’s Ear Salad with Frisee, Lardons, and a Poached Egg

This was a Salade Lyonnaise on steroids. Crunchy, curly, slightly bitter frisee paired with crispy, meaty hunks of salty bacon and a perfectly poached egg, with creamy whites and a velvety, buttery yolk. The bright vinaigrette cut straight through all the animal fats of the dish, and the pig’s ears were quite good – crisp on the edges and slightly chewy within, with the hearty, deep, almost primal taste of pork.

This was a fatty, bright, texture filled dish and one that I would not hesitate to order again.

Grilled Cheese with Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere, Bacon, and Pork Belly

This was fat on bread. No other way to put it. Sharp cheddar, nutty Gruyere, salty bacon, and luscious, melty, tender pork belly. If any of those things sound bad to you, just stop reading my blog. You aren’t going to like it. This sandwich, served on airy slices of pullman bread, was very rich, but also well balanced by the use of the sharp cheddar and serving it with a lightly dressed salad.

This is enough food to put you into a pork-induced coma, so be aware that this isn’t a great choice for lunch if you have to go to work later.

Frites with All Sauces

Piping hot, lightly salted, with crispy golden outsides and fluffy-creamy interiors.

Served with a myriad of dipping sauces, they were all delicious, from the curry tinged Lime Pickle to the sweet onion topped Aioli to the spicy Sriracha mayonnaise…this was only $7, and was enough for 3 people, easily. These fries are unmissable, and so are the dipping sauces!

Be prepared that if there is a large party there, like there was when we lunched, you will need to order quickly and in full. Otherwise the waitstaff can get a little frenzied and you may have to flag someone down by shooting off a flare.

Besides that very minor detail, lunch at Resto was perfect – really. The prices are extremely reasonable, the atmosphere is great for a casual lunch or dinner, and the food is just fantastic. The menu looks so simple, but everything is produced with incredible talent and attention to detail. From the ethereal but hearty bitterballen to the porky goodness of the pig’s ear salad to the truly awesome frites, this meal was spot on. 

Next up: Who wants to join me at Resto for a whole roasted lamb?!
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