Schmaltz it up at Sammy’s!

You wanna know what my childhood was like?

How I ate and my family get togethers resembled?

Then head on down to Chrystie street.

pix 030 Walk right into Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House(reservations required) and help yourself to a crunchy, mild new pickles sitting on the table. They are the best -they come from Guss’s, which used to be right down the street. Now that fabled pickle place is in Brooklyn, but they still make the juiciest pickled tomatoes, garlickiest dills, and best half sour pickles in town.

pix 031 Have some rye bread, too if you want…

pix 033 topped, of course, with schmaltz. Liquid chicken fat. Sitting on the table like olive oil.

pix 034 It’s surprisingly light, with a rich, fried-chicken taste.

Yes, I just called chicken fat light.

And compared to the rest of the meal, it really is.
pix 032 Don’t think that the rest of the meal is going to get any more refined. This is a mashup of a bar mitzvah, your grandma’s dining room, and the resort from Dirty Dancing. There are friendly but busy servers, bottles of vodka that come frozen in ice, and Danni Luv in the corner, playing everything from New York, New York to very dirty versions of Frank Sinatra Songs. D

Oh, and you are expected to get up and dance the hora. It will happen.

pix 043 Chciken liver with all the fixings

So very good and homey. Minerally, very rich chicken liver loaded with juicy fried onions, crisp shards of radish, and enough schmaltz to make the mixture positively silky. It’s definitely very liver-y tasting, but if you like chicken liver, this is the most classic Jewish interpretation on the planet. I wouldn’t dream of leaving here without ordering it.

pix 044 Karnatzlack

Dracula, take cover. These ultra garlicky sausages are made of beef, veal, and enough of the strong stuff to knock you on your back. They are juicy and meaty, with a coarse grind and a heavy dose of black pepper. The texture is a little too rustic for me, but others who like rough, country sausages will love this.

pix 046 Latkes

They look like the frozen crap that you find in cardboard boxes at the supermarket.

They taste like dense hash browned potatoes, loaded with sweet onion flavor and a light, thin, crispy crust. It is creamy and rich and crunchy and perfectly salty. Load it up with some sweet fried onions. It’s different from the latkes I make, but at least as delicious.

pix 048 Roumanian steak

The proudest Romanian export since Nadia Comaneci. This skirt steak comes hanging over both sides of the plate, doused in a garlicky, peppery, salty marinade. It is highly seasoned and incredibly tasty. The meat is fatty, though, and rare enough to statnd up to the seasonings – not bloody, but very moist and pink all the way through. I defy you to stop eating before you are sick to your stomach.

It’s just what you want when Dani up front starts asking which diners are shiksas.

pix 049 If you order the ribeye, just eat it off the bone like my Grandpa does, and leave the carcasses in a pile on the plate.

pix 053 Egg creams

Not my favorite dessert (because, really, who needs carbonated chocolate milk), but when the server brings you an entire carton of whole milk, an old fashioned seltzer bottle, and a brand new bottle of U-Bet chocolate syrup (the best chocolate syrup ion the planet)…well, you have to get a sip.

pix 054 Plus, you can always fortify dessert with the warm, buttery, chocolatey rugalech on offer.

pix 035 Sammy’s is a trip. It’s gonna cost you $50 per person without alcohol, there aren’t any nice bottles of wine on offer, and you may get bullied into singing, karaoke style, Hava Nagila. You pay for the privilege of eating homestyle Eastern European Jewish food in an atmosphere that is fun enough for your friends and familiar enough for Great Aunt Esther. It’s the place of all of my family reunions and some of my most fun party dinners.

To me, it’s home.

Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Pizza a Casa is Pizza School for Dummies Like Me!

This post is going to be a 2 parter…

The first part is about a place you need to go to learn about how to make pizza.

Pizza a  Casa is a G-dsend for people like me who just can’t, despite public claims they make on their blogs, seem to be able to pull it together to make a good yeast bread.

Or, in this case, pizza crust.

Mark Bello has created a pizza school for the yeast challenged  They partnered with Sam Adams to teach us how to make pizza dough with beer, but more on the recipe later.

The pizza school itself  on the Lower East Side  is very small with a long counter in the middle where you sit, drink a beer, and learn how to make pizza.

Bello measures out all of the ingredients for you, so all you have to do is concentrate on the technique.

He is patient, funny, and totally hands on. He walks around to each of the 20 or so students in the class, making sure that each one understands how the dough should look smooth, how it should feel rather dense by the time that you are done needing, and making sure that everyone who wants to has a glass of wine or beer.

He explains why it’s important to use finely granulated salt (so it melts better) and how to slide your pizza off your peel onto the stone (the secret is semolina flour). He lets you know that your home oven can produce a wonderful pizza and that your supermarket carries every ingredient you need – no need to invest in olive oil so expensive that it makes you take out a second mortgage on your home.

Best of all…he teaches you how to make some totally delicious pizzas.

Like one topped with ricotta, parley, and crab (he uses canned crab meat and it tastes incredible).  Very light and non fishy). The ricotta puffs up and creates this lightly salty, very creamy topping on a wonderfully tender pizza crust.

Then there is one topped with spicy red pepper and mozzarella paste – kind of like an Italian pimento cheese. The secret here is some Sriracha in the pesto. Topping it with pepperoni brings out the even saltier, spicier tones, and makes those high notes sing.

Or one topped with raw bell pepper, red onion, and basil on a mozzarella and tomato sauce pie. Simple, vegetal, and totally delightful.

Though I took the class for free, I would pay for it again . In fact, I am thinking about taking it again soon. After all, the pizza I made at home did turn out pretty darned well thanks to this class…

To Be Continued…

*Disclaimer – I did not pay for this class. I was not required to write about my experience and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

Mandarin Court – Small Scale Dim Sum in Chinatown

Aaah, dim sum. That wonderful New York City tradition of schlepping down to Chinatown with $20, waiting in line for 15 minutes, being seated in a huge banquet hall, then stuffing yourself silly with fried, steamed, and boiled dumplings passed on silver steaming carts.

Or, as we members of the tribe call it, Christmas Day.

We celebrated Christmas early this year with a little trip to Chinatown. We tried out Mandarin Court, as a member of our party remembered it fondly frm years past. This small dining room is dingy but clean,with many individual tables (unheard of in much of Chinatown’s dim sum parlors), a large menu, and a small enough crowd to ensure that you rare served quickly and often. After starting with the obligatory tea, we really got down to business.

Spring Rolls

The best in town, no question. Piping hot with exceedingly crisp wrappers outside a vegetarian filling, crunchy and caramelized at the same time. Ask for some duck sauce on the side to remind you that yes, you are in the Chinatown of your parents’ youth.

Char Siu Bao

A favorite with kids or dim sum newbies. Soft, sticky rice flour outside sweet bbq pork. The char siu bao here are a bit one-dimensional for my taste – soft and sweet, without any sour or toothsome notes to break up the monotony. However, for our dim sum version, these were a major highlight.

Spare Ribs

Yes they are bony and yes there is cartilage and yes you may have a globule or 2 of chewy fat. But, wow…if you can get past that, these are great. Simple and sublime nuggets of pork, steamed until it is tender and juicy. Served in a slightly salty broth with bits of hot pepper and scallions, this is on the lighter side of dim sum fare, savory without being heavy.

Yep, I just described pork as light. Welcome to dim sum, kids.

Pork Puffs

Crispy and puffy without, yielding to a chewy, purposefully doughy wrapper. The pork inside is moist and flavored with aromatics like ginger, and the result is something unexpected and extremely tasty.

Turnip Cake

This first time order for me is now a bona fide addiction. This sticky, chewy cake with bits of sweet roasted pork and salty crisply fried vegetable is just awesome. Salty, pleasantly chewy, and decidedly filling, this is the mashed potatoes of the dim sum world. It is comforting, it goes great with meat, and it will put you into a food coma immediately following the meal.

Shrimp Rice Rolls

Some of the best in Chinatown. Clean and pristine tasting shrimp, vaguely salty, enveloped in thin rice noodles, slippery and squishy. Served in a bath of soy sauce and vinegar, these are savory, tart, and the definition of umami. Also try the rolls filled with beef.

Sticky Rice with Roasted Pork

One of our very few homages to non-dumpling dim sum items. Good, but not memorable sticky rice. Sweet, meaty with roast pork, studded with vegetables. A bit dry and lacking true taste beyond saltiness. Next time, I would just get another order of turnip cakes.

And there will be a next time. While Mandarin Court may not have the biggest dim sum offerings, the place is clean, the servers speak impeccable English, and the food is just what you want on a blustery winter’s day.

Can’t wait for Christmas Day to roll around to go back for more.

Rice to Riches – Rice Pudding Masters

Is it better to do a lot of things sorta well or just one thing really, really well?

If you don’t know the answer to this, you really need to read some Aesop’s fables. 

Rice to Riches takes this old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” to heart and is truly a master of rice pudding.

Around since the early 2000s, Rice to Riches does rice pudding. Plain rice pudding – sure, if yu are a boring old fart. But what you really want is one of their famous flavored rice puddings, mixed with everything from roasted nuts to cheesecake bites to Nutella. Also, get it topped with whipped cream, candy, or anything else under the sun.

Honestly, if you eat the plain rice pudding, don’t even talk to me.

Order at the long counter, then go to one of the 3 booths or stand at the tall table to enjoy your dish. I always get at least a medium sized portion so I can try 2 flavors at once. While you order, enjoy signs like these:

The vibe here is sassy. No wonder I feel at home. 

Pecan Pie and Rocky Road

Sugary pecans, toasted and rich, floating in a cinnamon laced rice pudding. The pudding itself is creamy and thick, studded with soft grains of rice, appearing tender/firm next to the pecans. This is an elegant, subtle rice pudding. In contrast, the rocky road version is a harlot – gaudy, out there, and too much…and, also, totally delicious. Dark chocolate pudding , with sweet and bitter notes, tossed with   fluffy, sticky marshmallows and crunchy peanuts.

This is good rice pudding.

It isn’t cheap, and it’s a schlep to get here from the west side, but it is a very fun eatery and a tasty one.

If you are dairy free, you won’t like it here, but if you like rice pudding, you actually can’t do any better than this pudding palace.

Cemita’s NYC at Whole Foods

One of the best things about living in Manhattan is how easy it is to hop on a subway and in half an hour be in any borough of the city, eating fabulous food.

One of the worst things about living in Manhattan is being me. I’m lazy. If it takes more than 15 minutes to get there, I will probably just order in Chinese.

Like I said, I am really über lazy.

That’s why when I found out that Smorgasburg was doing a pop up at Whole Foods Bowery, I was all about it. A chance to try some of the vendors at Brooklyn’s famous weekly food fair without having to cross the river? Amazing.

This month features Cemita’s, run by Southern Californian native Danny Lyu, features the huge sandwiches which are its namesake, as specialty of Puebla, Mexico. Ten layers of tasty goodness fill these dishes, and tacos and fresh chips also available.

The space in Whole Foods is upstairs, with a few seats and a counter where you order. You see the meats being grilled, avocados being sliced, and sandwiches being assembled right in front of you. The open kitchen is totally pristine and the smells coming out of there are amazing – smoky, spicy, incredibly fragrant…if you aren’t hungry now, it’s just because you aren’t reading.

Chicken Tinga Cemita

Here are the ingredients in this:

And here is what it looks like:

And here is what it tastes like:

bread – fluffy, light, strong enough tos tand up to the fillings but soft enough to be easily bit.

black bean spread – smoky, hearty, fragrant with oregano

mayo – creamy

chicken tinga – unbelievable slow roasted pulled chicken. Spicy, garlicky, acidic form tomatoes and so juicy. Soft but not mushy, juicy, and tender. Like carnitas with the light, clean taste of chicken. Outstanding.

lettuce – insignificant

tomato – juicy, sweet, totally refreshing

pickled onion – sharp, tangy, strong, cutting thought he mayonnaise and cheese

cheese – oaxacan cheese – squeaky and firm, like cheese curds. Bland, but a welcoming blandness in the sea of spices

avocado – creamy, buttery, delicious as ever

papalo – a mexican and South American herb that is fresh and pungent. Somewhere between lemon, basil, and mint, this stuff is incredibly potent – the aroma smacks you in the face the minute that you even look at a cemita, standing out from the warm chicken and the yeasty bread. While it might be overkill alone, as part of the multilayered sandwich, it adds a fresh herbal note that brightens what could be a very heavy dish.

chipotle crema – smooth, smoky, a little spicy

Portabella Tacos with Lettuce, Sour Cream, and Salsas

Never, EVER have I had more satisfying mushrooms. Totally beefy, savory, charred and juicy…this was umami to the “nth” degree. Served in supple corn tortillas with crispy veggies, cool, sour cream, and 2 salsas (a garlicky red one and  tangy, spicy green one), this could almost make a vegetarian out of me.

The prices here aren’t cheap – a cemita will set you back about $10, including tax. But the servings are huge, and you could easily split a cemita and an order of chips with a friend and feel full for the whole afternoon. Sandwiches come quickly, the food is tasty, and…best of all…

You don’t have to go out of borough to get it, for the next month at least.

Smorgasburg at Whole Foods – making me embrace my laziness.

*Disclaimer: I did not pay for my meal. I was not required to write about the food, and the opinions expressed here are my own and unbiased.*

Spring Natural Kitchen, Sarabeth’s, and Veselka Bowery

Every now and then, these posts make a showing on the blog – just bits and pieces of restaurants that I have visited around the city that deserve some acclaim.

Spring Natural Kitchen Turkey Burger

The UWS rendition of this SoHo restaurant is a bustling, casual eatery that is nice enough for dinner with the parents but relaxed enough for a solo drink at the bar. The seasonal and natural menu features one of the best turkey burgers in the city. Thick and very juicy, it has a phenomenal texture. It must have breadcrumbs in the patty, because it is soft and pleasantly tender, like a wonderful meatball in a meatball sub. The spices are robust, with herbs like oregano bringing out the meaty flavors of the turkey. Served with fresh shoestring fries and tart homemade Russian dressing, this is one burger that really doesn’t have me missing beef. As an added bonus, the prices are very reasonable.

Sarabeth’s Potato Waffle

Sarabeth’s will always have a huge wait for brunch on the weekends. Pick straws, get one of your party to go 45 minutes early to put your name on the list, and by the time you get there, your name will be called. When there, you would do well to order the potato waffle with sour cream, apple compote, and chicken-apple sausage. The waffle has a crispy exterior and a fluffy inside that is like a knish – mashed potatoes within a waffle! When dipped in some sour cream, this is one delightful brunch. Paired with the sweet and savory sausage, it is a pricey but delicious indulgence. Go here with your parents or your kids – it’s a great family place.

Veselka Bowery Pierogies

This new incarnation of the classic Veselka Diner is definitely tonier, with a large loft-like feel in an airy space. There is also a slightly more upscale menu, including a fabulous beet and dill martini, but the old favorites remain. Come here for the pierogies – get them pan fried on a bed of sweet caramelized onions. Filled with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, tender pot roast, or creamy goat cheese, these are the Ukrainian answer to gyoza. Crunchy on the outside, steaming warm on the inside. Smother them in sour cream and gobble them up. At about $10 for an order, it is a tasty bargain in a hip setting.

Now the only problem will be how to fit in all the food you clearly have to try.

It’s a tough job, but I know you are up to the challenge.

La Montanara – Deep Fried Pizza

Pizza in NYC can be had in almost any fashion – traditional thin crust, locavore influenced with spring vegetables, even vegan and gluten free. But never had I EVER tried deep-fried pizza until last week.

Fried pizza is dough that has been dropped in the fryer for 30 seconds, then topped and baked for additional time until the dough is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

Fried meets cheese? This is a love story of epic proportions.

La Montanara, opened by the people who run the popular Forcella, is a tiny restaurant that only serves a few items, all of which are fried. Fried pizza, fried risotto balls, and fried desserts are all on the menu. Order at the counter, then wait at your table until your number is called.

Be aware that this is not fast food – it is made to order and comes out as it is ready. Grab a few friends and wait the 15 minutes until your number is called. The results are worth it.

Salame Piccante

The first bite of this is so bizarre it made me laugh out loud. The first taste is of pizza – the trio of homemade mozzarella, bright tomato sauce and zesty pepperoni. However, that taste quickly takes a background to the taste of the dough – crisp outside and pliant inside, with a faintly sweet taste. For all the world, it tastes like a freshly fried yeast doughnut! But, somehow…it works. Like maple covered bacon or cheese and apple pie, the taste melds sweet and salty, dessert and entree. The toppings are all first rate, and though the sauce is a bit sweet, it works well with the dough’s pillowy texture and slightly sugary taste.

Tartufo

This pie, topped with delicate ham and fragrant truffle oil, is a more earthy, woodsy pizza. Served with that same creamy mozzarella, it showcases the dough in another, equally unique way.

La Montanara is very inexpensive and very unusual. Don’t go there for a date, but for a quick bite with a friend or alone, this place can’t be beat. The pizzas are small enough to be a snack but hearty enough to be a light meal. And it’s fried, people.

Like I said…an epic love story.

La Montanara on Urbanspoon

Yerba Buena’s Bueno Brunch

When I first started this blog, I went to Yerba Buena Perry for restaurant week. Though my meal was outstanding, I haven’t been back since – nothing personal, just too many restaurants in NYC, too little time.

When some girlfriends invited me to brunch at Yerba Buena’s Lower East Side branch, I was anxious to check it out. First things first: this place is tiny. There is a downstairs room, but the upstairs in miniscule. Not cramped, but it is very cozy, while somehow remaining hip. However, the excellent waitstaff does everything it can to make your stay comfortable, from removing your coats to giving you and extra table for all of your dishes.
 
Sangria
If you, like me, avoid sangria because it is a weak, sweet drink that gives you no buzz and a massive hangover, then this is the sangria for you. Really, it’s the anti-sangria. I am sure from the orange aroma that there is some Grand Marnier in there, and from my buzz that there are other liquors, too. There are herbal, cinnamon-y notes throughout the drink, and it is grounded by the earthy red wine. 
Guacamole
Portion? Small. Taste? Outstanding. Very citrusy, without too many mix-ins to distract from the buttery richness of the avocado. Tart from limes and hit with the perfect amount of salt to bring out the avocado’s inherent sweetness. Served with a sprinkling of cheese and thick tortilla chips, this was a delicious, albeit pricey, appetizer.

Huevos Rancheros 
Let’s break this down:
Eggs – cooked perfectly, with thick, runny yolks and creamy, just-gelled whites
Tortilla – thick and crisp, adding crunch and gently absorbing the flavors from the eggs, salsa, and beans.
Queso Fresco – mild, melty, delightfully stringy.
Black beans – NOT the stuff from the can. Cooked al dente, with the perfect amount of chew. Sweet with onions, hearty with cumin and other spices, earthy and incredibly meaty. A worthy counterpart to the richness of the eggs.
Salsa – Unbelievable. So good I actually wiped my finger around the dish to sop up every last bite. At first, it is mild and sweet. Then it is savory with garlic. Finally, there is the unmistakable high, fruity, spicy note of the cascable chiles that leaves the tongue tingling and the lips slightly burning. I could happily eat this as soup every day of my life.
Crema, Jalapeno Relish – excellent soothing and fiery accompaniments, respectively.
Once again, Yerba Buena impresses. Chef Julian Medina is obviously devoted to producing nuanced, high-end versions of well known Latin American and Mexican dishes. The prices are a bit high, but considering the quality of the food and service, and that you can order bottomless drinks (for an hour) for just $13, it is a worth a visit.
For me, it was actually worth two visits. And I can’t give any compliment higher than that.
Yerba Buena on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Pastrami – In a Class of its Own

Sometimes you want to get a bunch of dishes to try everything at a restaurant. Sometimes you want to get a tasting menu so the chef can show off his/her technique. And sometimes, you go to a place where there is really just one thing to order, and to add too many supplements to it would just be slapping a masterpiece in the face. 
Katz’s is that place.
Made popular to the masses by When Harry Met Sally to New Yorkers by their grandparents, Katz’s Delicatessen is an institution. Operated since 1888, this Jewish-style deli is open 24 hours a day on the weekend, operates via a ticket system (take a ticket when you come in and order at counters, then pay at the end), and is so casual you could come in wearing pajamas and nobody would bat an eye. Katz’s serves deli staples like omelettes, grilled cheese, and fries, and for all I know, those things are great! I wouldn’t know because I haven’t ever ordered them. 
Because I have respect for places of worship.
I mean Katz’s. 
Is there a difference?
Stuffed Derma (a.k.a. Kishke)
Ignore the naysayers – this isn’t made with intestines like in the old days. This is just stuffing made the fatty, garlicky, Jewish way. Matzo meal, herbs and spices, mixed together into a highly spiced, savory, carby indulgence. And schmaltz. Plenty of glistening, orange tinged schmaltz gives the kishke a luxurious mouthfeel – velvety, smooth, and thick. It really is the world’s best stuffing. Dipped in plenty of thick chicken gravy, it wants for nothing. 
Dill and New Pickles
The dill pickles are crunchy and sour, but the new pickles are the really special thing. Firm and cold, they burst in the mouth with a vegetal, clean flavor, more like a cucumber than a pickle. It just has a vague hint of brine – a perfect accompaniment to the main attraction. 
 Pastrami on Rye with Extra Mustard
When you order this at the counter, the man slicing it will give you a few pieces on a plate. No need to ask for the sample – it will just be there. The first bite you take of the pastrami, steam rising off of it, pepper and grease clinging to your fingers, is the best. That first taste is of pepper and garlic. The hearty flavor of the beef. The texture – it really chews like steak. 
Placed between slices of soft, fragrant rye bread and liberally sauced with spicy mustard, it hits many points on the palate: spicy, meaty, aromatic, and salty. I mean, it really is salty – it doesn’t taste salty at the time, but you will be gulping water all night. 
It will be worth it. 
Katz’s is stupidly expensive  -this meal cost about $30. The place can be crowded, the atmosphere is more brusque than romantic, and absolutely everything here will give you heartburn. 
And blocked arteries. 
And joy. 
No tasting menu in the world can compete.
Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Fatta Cuckoo: The Best Restaurant You’ve Never Heard Of

Restaurants like Fatta Cuckoo are why I am in love with NYC. A tiny restaurant, only big enough for a few stools and tables, offering haute Southern food at incredibly reasonable prices. I hadn’t ever heard of it, and still wouldn’t if it weren’t for my social media guru friend and dining partner-in-crime who both invited me there for a tasting. That is because the chef refuses to spend any money or time on advertising that could better be spent on the food itself. Chef Chris Mitchell, of The Breslin and The Meatball Shop, is making his stamp on the New York food scene by staying true to his beliefs: fresh food, local vendors, and the Southerm flavors of his youth mixed with the sophistication of his classical training. He spent time with us during the meal and explained every dish, talking about how each element worked and what inspired him. Though I can’t imagine that he does this for every diner, his love and commitment to making each dish a wonderful experience must surely be on every plate.

The restaurant is, as aforementioned, diminutive, but the causal space manages to feel comfortable and hip. Be aware that none of the seats have backs, so this may not be ideal for someone who needs a lot of room or back support during the meal. But, if they can suck it up, your friends will be in for an very special gustatory experience.

 Sweet Potato Hush Puppies with Chili Lime Aioli
All summer Chef Mitchell prepared dish with sweet corn, but when corn went out of season, he refused to buy frozen or subpar corn. His solution was to use a sweet potato in the batter instead of the corn. Tiny brunoised sweet potatoes, creamy and soft, melted into slightly sweet cornmeal batter. The result was a light hush puppy, crispy on the outside and  fluffy on the inside. The fritter could have been a dessert with powdered sugar, but the zesty chili lime aioli brought the dish to a savory place. The fact that the vegetables were brunoised shows Mitchells’ commitment to quality – it takes FOREVER to brunoise vegetables, but that is the only way to make sure that there is texture to the potatoes and that they are all cooked through evenly. No one saw the tiny, even dices of sweet potato, but the perfect way that the croquettes were fried were the result of that attention to detail. This sweet and savory starter was just the beginning of a sensational meal.
Black Bean Soup with Roasted Poblano Crema and Crispy Tortillas
Any dish that is remotely Mexican piques my interest, and this black bean soup was the best I have had in recent memory. The soup was hearty but not heavy, with a slow burning spice that made it perfect for the wintry night. The poblano crema was creamy and smoky without being too spicy, and the crispy tortillas…well, when is anything crispy not delicious, right? I could have eaten a bowl of this, easily. Or two.
 Burrata and Fried Egg over Roasted Tomato Sauce with Chile Oil
The flavors here were all wonderful – milky burrata, rich egg yolk, spicy chile oil, and deeply earthy roasted tomato sauce. Though I would have preferred the tomato sauce to be hot instead of room temperature, the combination of flavors was so rich and totally comforting that it won me over. The chile oil was especially important in keeping this dish bright and interesting.
 Lobster Ravioli with Marechiara Sauce with Lemon Zest and Chives
This was my second favorite dish of the night. The homemade ravioli was tender and thin, but with a bit of chew that contrasted with the sweet lobster and fresh chive filling. The natural salinity of the lobster was complimented by the spicy tomato sauce and that incredibly fresh, vibrant lemon oil. The lemon oil was a total shocker – it made the tomatoes sweeter, the lobster richer, and really electrified the whole dish.
 Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage and Butternut Seed Oil
I’ll be frank: this dish blew my mind. I have had butternut squash risotto, and this had all the qualities of a good one – creamy rice, sweet squash, a touch of woodsy sage. But the butternut squash seed oil knocked this out of ordinary territory right into the hall of fame. It tasted reminiscent of both peanut butter and tahini – deep, nutty, meaty. A little went a long way towards giving the dish depth. I plan to make this at home and experiment with other roasted nut oils – it was a major eye opener.
 Three Chile Rubbed Pork over Sweet Potato Mash with Roasted Pasilla Chile Sauce
THIS was the dish of the night. Maybe the dish of the month. This is undoubtedly the best pork loin that I have ever eaten, mostly because it was cooked perfectly – medium rare. Not at all red, but rosy throughout, so it retained the inherent sweetness and tenderness of the pork. This was almost as succulent as pork belly, but without any of the salt or smoke. It was purely sweet, pure pork flavor, surrounded by a zesty, peppery spice rub and lacquered in a smoky roasted chile sauce. This was not hot at all, just spiced – someone who doesn’t like incendiary food could certainly enjoy this. The mash, creamy and sweet, were another example of how Mitchell loves to use what is in season. The sweet potatoes absorbed the pork’s many juices and that wonderful roasted chile sauce.
 Braised Short Ribs over Sweet Potatoes
Want to see what perfection looks like?
This. This is what a perfectly cooked short rib looks like. Melting off the bone, with booming beefy flavor within and a sweet/salty BBQ glaze without. Roasted sweet potatoes, with their mineral-y skin on sopping up all the luscious bovine juices. This is a standard on the menu, and the regular portion is Flinstone sized, replete with a giant bone. I can’t make better short ribs than this.
You have no idea how much it pains me to admit that.
Dessert Sampler with Coconut Cake, Key Lime Pie, Cheesecake, Lemon Pistachio Cake, and Tortoni
Well, this was a great way to end a gut busting meal – with four slices of delicious cake and a sweet, almondy ice cream. The lemon pistachio cake was particularly wonderful – dense, moist, and more rich than sweet.

Fatta Cuckoo is a hell of a spot. The food is seasonal, locally sourced, and outrageously delicious. The portions are huge. The prices are fair. Perhaps most importantly, the chef is a guy whose establishment you want to patronize. He so loves food, he loves feeding people, and he loves doing it in a responsible, seasonal way.

And all that is why Fatta Cuckoo is the best restaurant you have never heard of. Until now.
Fatta Cuckoo on Urbanspoon*Note: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*