5 Best Places to Celebrate Taco Tuesday

Yes, I know that it’s Thursday, but I missed taco Tuesday…so hit up these joints tonight! You’ll definitely see me at one of them!

Oaxaca Taqueria

Small, casual, awesome tacos at a great price. Plus, the collection of hot sauces is dynamite!

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Otto’s Tacos

The homemade tortillas here are sensational, and so is the charred, meaty carne asada. Don’t miss the masa fries!

Empellon

Simply the greatest fish tacos east of the Mississippi. Light, crispy, moist, and mild. Fish fingers be gone – this fish taco is stuff of the angels. Plus, the restaurant is lovely, chic, and has killer margaritas. Order at least 2 taco plates per 2 people – sharing is rough. 

Gabriela’s

Family friendly, budget conscious, but still nice enough for a casual date. Don’t miss the LETHAL frozen margaritas or these juicy carnitas tacos

So, where will you be dining tonight?

Kura – Hidden Entrance, Unforgettable Omakase

I had an awesome sushi meal the other night.

It was pricier than I thought it might be…but it was really good. In fact, I think that it was worth the extra cost.

If you see an unmarked door on St. Mark’s, don’t pass it by.

Unmarked doors are often the best kept secrets.

20150318_182838 Kura is a small restaurant that delivers big omakase. At 3 set price points – 85, 105, or 125 dollars – your only decisions are if you want sake (you do) and how many pieces of sushi you want (even the smallest set really delivers, thanks to amuse bouches and dessert). The vibe is casual and friendly but you can see that the sushi is serious. There is just one long, blonde bar and a single table. We walked in,but make a reservation to be sure that you aren’t turned away. The chefs are kind and jovial and the music is relaxing – a great place for dinner with a friend or loved one.

Though there were some dishes I’m not featuring here, including a wonderful amuse bouche of delicate samon roe over warm rice and crisp nori and a TO DIE FOR toro hand roll at the end of the meal, here are a few highlights: 20150318_183453 Medium fatty tuna

I was surprised to start the meal with this fatty fish, but I liked it! It wasn’t too fatty or full flavored – it was just fatty enough to be indulgent without overwhelming my tastebuds.
20150318_184029 (1) Scallops

An impeccable scallop. Buttery, soft, mild. Atop crispy nori for a textural contrast and vinegary rice. A bit of sharp ginger to cleanse the palate and I was in heaven.  20150318_184331 Fluke

Cool and clean tasting with a zing of lemony, spicy yuzu underneath the fish. Delicious.  20150318_184806 Clam

The most tender clam I have ever had in the sushi arena. Usually it’s crunchy – not my fave. This is tender and smooth. It tastes gently salty and very fresh.  20150318_184901 Mackerel

Broiled mackerel atop warm sushi rice. More like eel than mackerel I have had before in sushi – meaty, rich, pleasantly oily.  20150318_185537 Eel

Excellent! No need to hide eel this succulent, soft, and buttery beneath a shellac of sugary sauce. This eel stands for itself and it’s phenomenal.  20150318_185753 Uni

My favorite sushi of the night. Simple, clean uni (must be Santa Barbara) brushed with soy and served on lukewarm rice and crispy nori. Cold, warm, salty, sweet, crunchy, soft. Beautiful synthesis of flavors and textures.  20150318_190428 Miso soup

Astounding, largely because it was unexpected. Miso soup at the end of a sushi meal is pretty common, but THIS miso soup isn’t. This miso soup tastes nothing less than gourmet. It’s gentle and deep, with an intense umami taste but nothing too salty or bitter. There are tender, sweet clams. Clouds of red miso. It’s just phenomenal and really filling.  20150318_191525 Mochi with sweet soy glaze

Less of a dessert, but hey – it’s Japanese, right? Chewy, sticky rice balls in a sweet and salty teriyaki-esque glaze.

Kura is sensational. The fish is sublime, the service is lovely, and though it’s not cheap, it’s a great splurge meal.

Unmarked doors are ALWAYS the best.

Wasabi Doesn’t Bring the Heat

My sister and I checked out Wasabi for lunch the other day.

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It’s a cool, easy concept – pre-wrapped sushi, miso soup, katsu, and other assorted Japanese-y dishes that you put together to make your own inexpensive lunch or dinner. It’s very minimalist and modern without being cold – IKEA would do well here, and so would your co-workers.

Unfortunately, there was a weird, fishy smell to the place which turned us off trying any of the sushi.

20150312_112831 Vegetarian gyoza

Surprisingly delicious. I haven’t ever had room temperature dumplings, but these are surprisingly delicious! Served atop baby greens and drizzled with a sweet and spicy glaze, these are crispy and stuffed with soft vegetables, toothsome soybeans, and a healthy dollop of spice. The gyoza are crispy outside and because they are both room temperature and vegetarian, they are refreshing – not often a word hat I associate with gyoza!

20150312_112932 Chicken katsu

Nothing revelatory, but fine. A little dry, a little undersalted, but I love katsu of any sort. I actually also love cold friend chicken, so this pseudo-warm stuff works for me. The dipping sauce is a little too sweet for my liking, but the chicken is tender and tasty enough to enjoy all on its own.

20150312_112334 I had high hopes that Wasabi would be the cheap sushi holy grail, but it really isn’t. It’s cheap, clean, and serviceable, but not much more.

It’s okay that I ate lightly, though, because I’m headed to New Orleans this weekend. LORDY, please help me maintain some cholesterol stasis there.

Adrienne’s Pizzabar and Tastemade!

Well, everyone, it’s time that you knew about some really great pizza downtown.

But instead of writing about it…why don’t I show it to you?

I’m working with Tastemade now – it’s a free app that’s all about creating these cool “appisodes” of your dining experiences – and it’s crazy easy and fun to do! Drop me a line in the comments if you are interested in learning about it.

And…in the meanwhile…GET YOURSELF DOWNTOWN TO ADRIENNE’S. Like, stat.

Meat Hook Sandwiches at Culture Espresso Raise the Sandwich Bar

I found some amazing sandwiches.

I mean, I didn’t find them – Culture Espresso found them.

And Midtown Lunch publicized them.

But then…THEN I found them.

Or at least I ate them

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The Meat Hook is known for excellent meat and kick ass sandwiches in Brooklyn. And now, at one tiny coffee shop in NYC, you can get them for lunch.

But you had better get there early because they sell out, there is a line, or both but the time that lunch rush is underway.

20150309_115315 Roast beef with cheese and hash browns

Oh yes. YES. Though the beef is a little browner than I prefer, it’s INCREDIBLY tender and well butchered It’s all soft, juicy meat with no tendons or strange fatty parts. Some crispy hash browns are whimsical and delicious – who doesn’t love potatoes in a sandwich!? The cheese is important here – it adds a sharpness, a creamy soft texture, and compliments the crisp lettuce. A swath of spicy horseradish mayonnaise completes this traditional, really delicious sandwich.


20150309_115251 Vegan sandwich

SHOCK O’ MY LIFE! How does somewhere called The Meat Hook school every single place on the planet on how to make an animal and animal product free sandwich? This is extraordinarily good. I know what’s not in it, but I don’t know what is. All I know is the taste and the texture. Crunchy, soft, snappy, silky. Creamy, tangy, spicy, fragrant. Eggplant and beets for sure. Maybe walnuts? Sprouts? PERFECT bread that soaks up the punchy vinaigrette but doesn’t disintegrate at all. This absolutely DANCES on my tongue. Yes, I’m being a little hyperbolic.

But not that much.

This kicks falafel’s ass. This is so much better than cheese-free pizza. I would never crave a burger if I could eat this every day.

And if I was in midtown every day, I would wait on-line for these sandwiches. I would leave work early. I would even ask for one more week of winter to disguise my overeating under heavy jackets.

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But these are some outstanding sandwiches.

Chalk Point Kitchen – Great Food…If You Can Wait for It

In case you don’t remember, let me refresh you on a few points:

1. I hate doing anything athletic.

2. I love reality television.

3. I DO NOT LIKE WAITING FOR BRUNCH

That’s specifically why I said yes to brunch at Chalk Point Kitchen. Because the took reservations. Because the menu looked great.

BECAUSE THEY TOOK RESERVATIONS.

What, may I ask, was the point of that reservation if we weren’t seated for 45 minutes?

If it weren’t for the bar downstairs, I would have ACTUALLY been angry. Luckily, booze did a lot to mollify my hangry nature.

20150307_144837 Chalk Point Kitchen looks like pinterest exploded. It’s cute, it’s chic, it’s chalkboard and gingham napkins and mismatched china. It’s kale-tinis, it’s farm-fresh eggs, it’s avocado toast. It’s a place to see and be seen and ALSO eat well.
20150307_140619 Start with a mimosa and then make your way down the menu.  20150307_142045 Blueberry muffins

Were they really so soft, crumbly, fresh, moist and delicious? Or was I just way too tipsy from lack of food and almost an hour late seating? I may never know, but I would get these again in a heartbeat. They aren’t too dense nor too cottony. Just sweet enough to whet your appetite without overloading you with sugar. Great with the house made marmalade.  20150307_142307 Avocado toast

Good but not the best in town. Buttery avocado, some lightly dressed greens, and pleasantly sour, toasted bread. But it could use some extra spice or a hit of tang.

20150307_142312 Ricotta and pea toast

Okay, this is great. I don’t know where they got their peas, but these scream spring. They are soft and juicy with a sweet, super vegetal flavor. The shoots are earthy and the snippets of chives are sharp and garlicky against the cloud-like ricotta. This is a must get.  20150307_143652 Roasted carrots with truffles and feta

The dish to end all brunch dishes. Meaty, crispy, soft. Sweet, spicy, vibrant. Cheesy, truffle-y, herbal. I wouldn’t even get this with the egg, as recommended. The carrots are so delicately and completely flavored that the egg would dull the flavors. The headiness of the truffles highlight the carrot’s sweetness. Get this and get 2 orders – that’s how great it is.

Actually, it’s so great that I would get it again. That’s right, I would return. The service is excellent, the food is tasty, and the vibe was really fun for a celebratory lunch. Next time, I’ll just come with a granola bar in my purse and the knowledge that it may be awhile before I chow down.

Buvette Doesn’t Ring my Breakfast Bell

I have wanted to try Buvette for a long time. I have heard that it’s so Parisian. That the food is wonderful. That the space is cramped but comfortable. That it’s SO SO AMAZING.

Let’s see how it measures up.

First, the pros:

20150228_090414 1. Adorable.

This place is super cute – great for a breakfast with your love, a coffee at the bar, or an indulgent lunch all on your own. 
20150228_091838 2. The food

Downright delicious. Fresh, seasonal, well portioned. You get up feeling satiated but not stuffed. You can try several dishes, because you don’t feel overloaded with sodium or carbs. The beets are excellent – sweet, earthy, and toothsome against the tangy, cool yogurt.  20150228_091848 Avocado toast

A special that day, and clearly my favorite dish in my current rotation. This is a thick, nutty piece of brown bread topped with buttery avocado, a swath of vegetal celery yogurt, and more than a few pepper flakes. The radishes and dressed watercress, highlighting the fruity olive oil and the avocado. Certainly recommended.  20150228_092005 Bloody Mary

Delicious! Well balanced, none too alcoholic, freshly grated horseradish, and good enough to stand on its .own without any insane garnishes 20150228_093937 3. The service.

Excellent – friendly, prompt, professional.

Now, for the sad part – the cons:

1. Cramped.

I knew this going in and didn’t mind at all, but you won’t want to come here with more than 4 people MAX. I couldn’t imagine being comfortable with more than 2 people, honestly.

2. No reservations.

One of my biggest pet peeves. I hate showing up to a place  starving and then having to wait 45 minutes to get seated. I also hate having to wake up super early to beat the crowds because…dude…it’s the weekend. Luckily, we arrived right at opening time and had no wait, but this is a major downer in my book.

3. Expensive.

Like, way way expensive. This little meal was STUPIDLY pricey. I actually wouldn’t come back because the cost is – in my opinion – over the top.

Buvette is adorable, the food is delicious, and the service is great. But no reservations and lots of $$$ translates to me heading elsewhere for my Saturday morning avocado toast.

Weekday Mimosas at The Standard Grill

Weekday mimosas. 

Who doesn’t love ’em?

However, they can be SHOCKINGLY difficult to find in NYC. It’s like people only like to drink on the weekends.

Pffffft.

That’s how I feel about people who don’t believe in a little weekday indulgence. 

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Luckily, the servers at The Standard Grill feel the same way. That’s why they will bring you a mimosa with freshly squeezed orange juice and fizzy sparkling wine, even though it’s not on the menu. It’s so tasty that I didn’t even snap a photo until I was already halfway done – this is a fabulous mimosa. Not too sweet, not too watery, and not too stingy with the good stuff!

20150227_094418 Located inside The Standard hotel, The Standard Grill is almost unspeakably hip. It’s all tweed and plaid uniforms, models sipping espresso, and dark paneled dining rooms. However, there is also a casual, sunny front room that is perfect for a relaxing breakfast with friends. It’s spacious and well designed – I wouldn’t hesitate to come here with a crowd.

20150227_103210 Egg scramble with Gruyere and herbs on toast

THIS is how egg whites should taste

Soft and creamy – perhaps they lack the richness of whole eggs, but the texture need not be that of a rubber bouncy ball. The cheese provides both tang and a little fat, and the herbs are fresh, sweet, savory, and sharp by turn. Served atop thickly cut sourdough toast and adorned with bright, lightly dressed greens – this is a breakfast that is both virtuous and delicious. It’s so simple but it’s so often butchered by lesser restaurants.

20150227_103201 Mushroom omelette

My girlfriend got a goat cheese and mushroom omelette and was extremely pleased. On another note, the bread here is fantastic – hers is a seven grain. Thick, wheaty, a little sweet, and studded with nuts and seeds. Fabulous. 

20150227_094527 The Standard Grill is an AWESOME place for a chic, but not snobby or uncomfortable, meal. The prices were a little high, but it’s commensurate with the neighborhood, and the service was so attentive and sweet that I would come here before I return to other places nearby.

Plus, those weekday mimosas. YES.

Colicchio and Sons Delivers on Black Saturday: Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day rocked.

Not because of cards, jewelry, or even candy.

It was dinner.

Dinner was on POINT.

Colicchio and Sons has been on my list forever, but we didn’t get around to eating there till last weekend. For Valentine’s Day. Black Saturday. Ugh. How fair is it to judge a restaurant by its most difficult, busiest, overpriced day of the year?

Even with those prejudices, Colicchio and Sons still delivered.

The restaurant is high ceilinged and beautiful – chic and trendy with a grown up, elegant feel. A perfect date night.

20150214_190600 The Collins

Tomato infused gin, mint syrup, and lemon. Tasty but not amazing. It lacks that earthy, sweet tomatoey taste and the mint syrup is too sugary-sticky for my taste. I wouldn’t rush to get this again – it sounded so promising but failed to deliver.  20150214_192053 Parker house rolls

Warm, soft, and slick with butter and salt. Even better, after we ate 2, they were replaced with an entire new, hot pan. Excellent service on this front. I ate 2 and should have eaten more.
20150214_192104 Crab and cannellini bean fonduta

The warm crab dip of my dreams. Rich, buttery, and creamy. Hunks of sweet crab and soft cannellini bans. Garlicky, salty, and magnificent. This plus the Parker house rolls is quite the combo.
20150214_192849 Egg with caviar and garlic chips

Another winner – light but rich. This is the perfect way to start a meal. The tastebuds are awakened, the senses are aroused, and there are a million textures going on. Soft, crunchy, popping, smooth, salty, eggy, savory…this had it going ON. What’s more, no one could eat more than a few spoonfuls of this, so the serving size.
20150214_192918 Oh yeah. Egg on egg. Just the way I like it.  20150214_193712 Hamachi with citrus and yuzu-ginger emulsion

Wonderful. The hamachi is excellently butchered – entirely smooth and buttery with no unsightly or sinewy pieces. The citrus is vibrant and juicy and that ginger emulsion is cool and spicy – the combination of flavors and execution of this dish is pitch perfect.

(need I say that it was aca-awesome?)

20150214_195536 Squid ink campanelle with whipped lardo and piment d’espelette

The best dish of the night. I was shocked at how fantastic this was – better than any NYC pasta in recent memory. Squid ink occasionally has a bitter or “off” taste to me. This was so subtle. The pasta itself, obviously house made, with a toothsome, chewy bite. The sauce is soft and light, with the unmistakable taste of sweet and earthy pork. the piment d’espelette is spicy but not overpowering, and the sprinkle of breadcrumbs is just perfect – crunchy and sharp against the lush sauce and thick pasta. Colicchio and Sons does pasta RIGHT. 
20150214_195706 Agnolotti with black truffle

Less inspired than the campanelle but no less delicious. Pillows of soft, buttery pasta laden with cream and the heady scent of black truffles. I mean, this is just damned delicious.  20150214_201624 Sea bream with bok choy, coriander blooms, and spiced beets

By this time, I was filled to the brim, but I powered through. The sea bream is fantastic – seared with a crispy skin and moist, flaky meat. The beets are an unexpected and delicious twist on sea bream. They provide a minerally, super earthy counterpart to the fish – soft but not mushy and sweet/fragrant with the coriander blooms. I wish I could have eaten more of this!

20150214_203446 Coconut doughnuts

GOOOOOOD!!!! Macadamia nuts, passion fruit sorbet, and some sort of cherry gastrique. Like the pineapple upside down cake I always wanted, but with coconut. Coconut>pineapple. It’s simple math.  20150214_203452 Lovely mignardises, including an awesome passion fruit chocolate.  20150214_204634 Treasure chest 20150215_144524 Filled with tasty chocolate red velvet bar. For breakfast. Because Colicchio and Sons just gets me.

This was a fabulous Valentine’s Day meal. The food was wonderful, the surroundings are lovely, and the service was a little slow, but for Valentine’s Day, fantastic. I can’t wait to come back on a normal day and try more of the pasta.

Valentines Day 2015 – you win.

Zuma – Bring the Black Card and Expect Fabulous Food

I have been to Zuma in London and Hong Kong, so I knew what to expect.

Basically:

1)Wear your trendiest duds.

2) Have a reservation.

3) Leave your cash at home, just bring your credit card and prepare to pay a LOT.

4) The vibe is sexy. The drinks are really well made. And the food is mother-freakin’ fabulous. This is the perfect place for a blow out birthday meal or bachelor/bachelorette experience.

20150209_191953 Old fashioned

Whistle Pig bourbon and an entire shaved iceberg in the glass. I don’t even like old fashioneds and this was excellent. Side note – they need to stock their bar with all of the booze that’s on the menu. The one murky spot in otherwise awesome night.  20150209_195543 Soft shell crab

Where the hell do they get soft shell carb so great in the off season?  Creamy, crunchy, and buttery with the slightly salty taste of the sea. Flash fried and greaseless, well salted and served with a tangy yuzu dipping sauce.  20150209_202229 Wasabi scallion scallop sashimi

Light, soft, velvety and punctuated with sharp scallions and a tiny hit of wasabi. One tasty sashimi dish.  20150209_202647 Negitoro maki

Excellent, though for the price, I would get another fusion dish, like the excellent miso black cod. This is really great, don’t get me wrong – I just prefer to do my sushi eating at the bar. I know, I know – I’m snobby and I like it that way.
20150209_204303 Ginger-ponzu asparagus

Oh yeah, this was the night’s sleeper hit! Who would have thought that some simple, char-grilled asparagus could be so satisfying?! Meaty, fresh, crispy, and topped with a tangy-sour-sweet sauce that was so good that we ended up drizzling it all over everything else at the table.
20150209_211208 Steak

A HUGE portion and a really satisfying steak. Grilled to a succulent medium – totally pink with no bloody red or overdone gray. Cut into bite sized pieces and served in a sweet teriyaki marinade. This really satisfies those red meat cravings.

Zuma is super pricey but also super beautiful with great service and an interesting, utterly crave-worthy menu. Think Morimoto with a location that’s more convenient to uptown with a sexier, darker decor. I would come here again as soon as I could either apply for another credit card or at least justify the expense.

How does tomorrow sound?