Sushi Nakazawa – A Transportive Experience

I talk a big game, but a lot of times – dinner is just dinner. My family is hungry and so we go out for Korean or order in pizza or I make a quick quesadilla with some fresh guacamole. We eat, we chat and laugh, and then the meal is over – we really don’t think about it beyond that.

However, every now and then, when all the stars align perfectly, I eat a dinner that is more than a meal. It’s a total experience. It’s transportive, it’s intoxicating, and it’s something that I think about for days and months to come. Occasionally, it even changes my life.

Such was my dinner at Sushi Nakazawa.

This restaurant, given four stars by Pete Wells, is the hottest restaurant to hit New York in ages. It makes NoMad look like a positive sleeper hit, that’s how hard it is to get a seat. I logged onto the website for days at exactly 12:01 am, trying to get a seat at the sushi bar, only to fail again and again. It’s easier to get a seat in the dining room, but that’s not where you want to be. You really want to be at one of those 10 seats at the sushi bar, where you get your fish mere moments after the chefs prepare it. I happened to get the seat from the kindness of a stranger on an internet forum who wanted to make my fiance’s birthday a special one. That’s right – I posted for help on an internet forum and someone actually gave me his reservation. I can’t imagine anything more kind and unselfish. HM, you are a gentleman and a scholar. I hope that I can one day repay your kindness.

Now, onto the main event.

You might recognize the head chef, Nakazawa-san from Jiro Dreams of Sushi. He is the apprentice who worked for years to make the perfect omelette,a dn when he finally made one fit to his master’s approval, he cried from frustration, joy, and gratitude. It is one of the film’s most moving parts. He is just as sweet and focused in person – not overly chatty, but if you speak a little of your rudimentary Japanese with him, he is so gracious and overjoyed at your efforts that you may feel like you just served him dinner instead of vice versa.

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Much is made of the $40 sake pairing, but take my advice and go up a level for the $80 version. It is filled with so many delicious sakes that are both tasty on their own and paired ideally with the flights of fish. One is effervescent and bubbly, the next tastes oddly medicinal until it is eaten with the aged mackerel – then it becomes woodsy and cinnamon-y. It’s truly an excellent parings with a sommelier who is helpful and knowledgeable without being a know-it-all or overly chatty. In fact, when I mentioned that I liked nigori sake, he changed the entire sushi bar’s pairing to make sure that everyone could try this creamy, coconut-y type of unfiltered sake.

Once you are seated at the sushi bar, take in the serene black and white surroundings and relax into the  comfortable padded chair.

It’s going to be a long and luxurious night.



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Salmon from Hokkaido

The first bite of the evening – the bite that made my fiance look like he had never before used his taste buds. As his lips closed around the soft salmon and the chewy, slightly warm rice, his eyelids fluttered and he had a strange look on his face.

Oh great, I have created a giant sushi snob.

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Hay smoked salmon from Hokkaido 

The same soft texture with a slightly earthier, smoky taste.

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Scallop with yuzu and sake sauce

Buttery but clean. The yuzu is slightly spicy, with a heat that keeps deceloping long afte the bite is gone.

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Giant clam seared with soy

The only misstep of the night, and not because it isn’t repreared ideally  -it is! But I do not like the crunchy texture of these large, slightly tough clams.

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Black fin sea bas from Nakasaki with daikon

Mild and clean with a light snap from the daikon

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Golden Eye snapper from Japan

One of my favorites of the night – like a less fishy albacore with the buttery texture of maguro and the light taste of white fish.

photo 3 (11) Spotted knife jaw

Sorry for the lack of notes here…I’m blaming those generous pours of sake.

photo 4 (12) Horse Mackerel

photo 1 (15) Kohara (Shad)

A strong tasting fish – ideal for someone who loves briny, deep, metallic flavors. Notice how it is scored so it is the ideal texture.

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Mackerel, aged 7 days with Japanese mustard

One of the best pieces of this fish that I have ever had. It’s scored so that it is tender, and though it has an oceanic taste it isn’t at all fishy. The Japanese mustard clears your nasal passages and wipes away any muddy residue. Beyond sensational. Worth the ticket price for this piece of fish alone.

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Florida shrimp

Seconds before I ate this, it scampered across the counter in front of me. Then, deftly and without gore, Nagasawa-san and his sous -chefs deftly killed and cleaned the shrimp, ensuring that the taste was soft and sweet.

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Madagascar Prawns

The best tasting shrimp in the world is Madagascar shrimp. The sweetest, the lightest, the most tender. This is the way that all shrimp should taste.

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Yellowtail, aged 10 days

The ageing process is what is most interesting at Nagasawa. I always thought that the best fish was the freshest fish – that isn’t necessarily so! The best fish is sometimes the fish that has been cured, that has had time to develop its flavors and become tender. That’s certainly the case with this yellowtail, which taste deeper and fuller than its unaged counterparts.

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Bonito

Tuna. Good.

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Medium fatty tuna with spicy mustard

Slightly fattier tuna, with some of that spicy mustard to cut through its rich taste. Very good.

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Toro

Exquisite. My fiance’s favorite taste of the night. Simple – fish so fatty that it literally melts upon the heat of your tongue. Served on slightly vinegared rice. No marinades, no garnishes. Just the perfect fatty, clean, singular bite.

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Santa Barbara Uni

The queen of uni. Creamy, soft, with the mineral-y taste of foie gras. Balanced between toasty nori and the bite of the rice.

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Ikura from Japan

Briny little jewels that pop in your mouth and release the taste of the ocean. Not too fishy, with the signature tense, hard bubble that means it’s fresh.

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Anago from Japan

Not quite up to the level of Yasuda, but wonderful all the same. Meaty and rich, with just enough sweet sauce to emphasize its buttery texture and taste.

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Tamago

Perhaps the world’s most famous omelette. Fluffy and very sweet. I have heard that here are yams in here, along with shrimp…who knows? This is the best dessert on the planet – bread putting or egg custard in a fluffy slab. Ask for seconds and you will get it served on some of the expertly made rice. You can taste Nakazawa-san’s blood, sweat, and tears in this omelette. It is a revelation.

This meal is so expensive. It is hard to get a reservation and the dessert is just a sorbet. But its the best meal I have had in oh so long. It made me thing of focus, of passion, of how hard my parents worked to give me the life that I now enjoy. It made me think of my dreams and of how to achieve them. It made me think of how food is not just for filling the belly, it’s for filling the soul.

Oh, and how did it change my life?

Well, the old ball-and-chain and I are currently talking about our first trip to Japan together.

A totally life altering meal. 

Where to Gain Your Winter Weight

Welcome back to the coldest, slushiest, wintery week ever.

Get out those snowboots and turn on those sun lamps, because boy will we need them!

Or, just eat some of these foods. Because nothing makes the winter better than the enjoyment of  gaining winter weight:

Carbone

I went to this much-lauded Italian eatery courtesy of Gallo Wines. They are celebrating their Hearty Burgundy’s 50th year. This wine is rich, juicy, and tannin-y, but I liked the pinot grigiot even more. It’s light, crisp, and slightly aromatic with pears. The price point is great and I would TOTALLY buy this wine for any dinner party.

Now..to the good stuff…

Carbone is extremely cool. It’s retro to the max. Think waiters in wide lapel maroon suits, tableside Caesar salad (a little bland with the world’s best croutons), and veal Parmesan. It’s Park Side done the cool, hip way.

But while the food is good, it doesn’t measure up to the outrageous price tag.

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The Clams Fantasia are as close as I got to really seeing the point of the hype  - juicy, tender clams layered under uni and lardo. This trio is a total winner. The uni is soft and so mild – not at all metallic or fishy. It is creamy underneath that layer of glistening, melted lardo. It’s a very upscale version of clams casino – warm, porky, and savory. Yet, it is more subtle and the flavors run deerper. This is a fabulous dish.

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The garlic bread is pretty great, too. And the service is wonderful. Long story short – on someone else’s dime, this is an delicious restaurant. Otherwise, there are other Italian places to head until the menu gets cheaper or it’s easier to get a reservation.

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Kefi

Now THIS is a restaurant. Loud, crazy, late for our reservation, and too hot. BUT – they gave us a round of drinks to apologize for the late seating time, sat us at an ample table with a super efficient waiter, and served us a ton of delicious Greek food for a MORE than reasonable price. I hope to give a full review very soon in the future, but for now, stick to the ultra smoky babaganoush, the creamy, garlicky tzatziki, and whatever the grilled fish of the day is. This brook trout came swimming in a bright wine sauce, flecked with earthy oregano and parsley. It is flaky, moist, and light – delicious. With a side of buttery, tender broccoli rabe – get that stringy bitter stuff out of your mind – this is so good that you will forget that it is good for you.

Don’t worry, you can rectify that with the glasses of sugary sangria that come your way.

Like I told you, gaining weight is one of the best parts of winter – so let’s make it happen, ASAP!

Carbone on Urbanspoon

Mas (la grillade) is a Lunch Worth its Weight in Oysters

Lunch at Mas (la grillade) isn’t something to be taken lightly. It takes awhile, it takes some amount of money, and it takes forethought.

Because the food here is so delectable that it will make everything else that you eat that day taste like crap.

So don’t plan an y important meals that night.

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Mas (la grillade) is a 2012 offshoot of the very popular Mas(farmhouse). The decor and atmosphere remind me very much of Union Square Cafe – elegant, light flooded, but still relaxed and casual enough to go wearing jeans (not ripped of course, and not paired with a tank top). It’s the perfect place for a special date or a lunch with long-lost friends. The banquettes are spacious and the table space is ample.

photo 1 (5)  Bread

Served piping hot from the oven. Yeasty and slightly sour. Spread it with the room temperature butter and don’t forget to spread that truffle salt around – savory and delicate aromas waft upwards as it hits the hot bread. I only ate one piece, but it took a lot of self-control.

Self control is overrated.

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Oysters with shallots and thyme

Quite simply, perfect. I love oysters in all iterations, and these are prepared beautifully. Winter oysters are the most sweet and creamy, and these gently grilled oysters are brimming with that mild, buttery, faintly salty flavor. The heat actually makes the oyster milder than it is when raw. The butter sauce complements the oyster well – it echos the richness without overwhelming it, and the shallots are sweet. The thyme is especially surprising, since it adds an earthiness that oysters don’t typically have. Served with a glass of white wine recommended by our fabulous server (really…the service here is informed, friendly, and totally adds to the experience), my only complaint is that I could eat 35 of these and still want more.

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Grilled romaine with buttermilk blue cheese dressing

I haven’t had cooked romaine in a long time, and why not? I forget how wonderful it is – really hearty and filing with a delicate smokiness that makes this so much more satisfying than a cold salad is on a freezing day. The bacon is crispy but not too smoky so it doesn’t overpower the lettuce. The tomatoes are just a half-hearted afterthought but the dressing is wonderful – more ranch than blue cheese, with cool creaminess punctuated by a few funky, salty nuggets of soft blue cheese.

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Grilled scallops with white radishes, squash puree, and broccoli rabe

The greatest scallops in recent memory. Lightly seared with a golden (NOT black) crust on both sides, but still soft enough to cut with a spoon. Buttery is the best way to describe these in both flavor and texture. Soft but not slimy, warmed all the way through, with a very lightly seasoned crust so the scallops delicate flavor shines through. The broccoli rabe is pleasantly bitter and the squash amplify’s the sweet note in the scallops. The serving is also very ample –  6 gargantuan scallops when most places give you 4 and call it a day. This is a treat for scallop lovers.

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Olive oil cake with blood oranges, lime sorbet, and lemon and vanilla curds

Oh yeah. The pastry chef knows what (s)he is doing. This cake almost has a corny, earthy taste. It’s very moist. The lemon curd is tart and creamy and the vanilla is sweet and fragrant – mix them together on your spoon and it’s like a sophisticated Creamiscle. The sorbet is like the best lime popsicle you ever had, and the entire dessert is so bright and flavorful that it jolts you out of your wintery blues.

This meal isn’t cheap, thought here is a $38 three course prix fixe for lunch. However, the meal is very special. It’s leisurely, it’s delicious, and for the quality of the food and the portion you get, the prices really are warranted. The service is a total standout – I have rarely had someone who so loved food and the restaurant hat he stood around discussing the virtues of different oysters with me and poured my mom a complimentary taste of the wine I was enjoying.

So bring your expandomatic pants and cancel your fancy dinner plans – this lunch may be the meal of your week.

Mas (la grillade) on Urbanspoon

The Greatest Hash Browns Ever at The Grey Dog Cafe

I’m just gonna keep on posting these lost reviews and recipes…after all, I think only 12 people read my blog the first year it was up, so it’s new to everyone except my mom!

The Grey Dog Cafe is a review that is definitely worth revisiting. The location I frequented is sadly closed now, but this delightful mini chain has several other Manhattan locations, all equally well priced and tasty 

 The vibe in this location was eclectic and charming,  with small tables everywhere and large pictures featuring dogs. It’s the sort of home your odd Aunt Effie might have-filled with charming little oddities. Aah Aunt Effie…imaginary relatives are always the most charming, don’t you think?

You order at the counter from the large blackboard menu full of delicious sounding sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, and entrees, and then wait for your food to be delivered to your table. 

Look at this cool bookshelf – it’s the ideal place to have a relaxing solo lunch! Reading about eating while actually eating…that is one of life’s deepest pleasures.

Brie, sausage, and vegetable omelette

Simple and perfect. The omelette is gently cooked so the eggs are fluffy and creamy, not rubbery.  There are ribbons of melted brie, juicy hunks of sausage, and crisp veggies.  When the butter melts in luscious pools on the warm sourdough toast, there isn’t much more in this world that you need. Except these…


Hash browns

  Tiny shards of potato intermingled with sweet onions. They are fried within an inch of becoming charred, so the mixture is deeply browned but not burnt; like those tiny crispy bits of fries at the bottom of your french fry carton at a drive through mixed with the best fried onion strings in the world.  

 Carrot ginger soup with peanuts and chili oil

A showstopper.  Thin but powerful, like a ninja of the soup world.  At first bite, it is sweet, vegetal, and blazes with steam.  Then the softer nuances creep in-the crunch of the peanuts, the slight heat of the chili, the zip of the ginger.   With a few squirts of hot sauce to bump up the heat and salt quotient, it is perfect for a peckish gal like me.  

The Grey Dog Cafe is often just what the doctor ordered.  It is not haute cuisine or famous for the world’s biggest burger or anything like that.  It isn’t even worth a trip out of your way.  It is just full of fresh, delicious food in a laid back atmosphere. It has a great staff, fair prices, and a full bar to boot!  I could see people relaxing here with a book, a magazine, or a good friend. 

And, of course, about 3 plates of those hash browns.

 

The Grey Dog's Coffee on Urbanspoon

My Best Friend’s Wedding – A Scottish Feast

My Best Friend’s Wedding isn’t just a movie anymore.

It’s actually one of my favorite memories.

My best friend in the world recently married the love of his life. There were kilts. There were tuxedos. There were bagpipes and tears and about a thousand iphone photos.

There couldn’t be a lovelier pair of grooms.

And the reception introduced me to a restaurant I absolutely must try again.

Highlands is a modern Scottish gastropub in the West Village. The menu items and cocktails we had are usually on the menu at some point or another, and are indicative of the type of food that is served here.

That is, to say, hearty and tasty.

The restaurant itself is chic and old fashioned at the same time. It’s so  cute it might as well be in Brooklyn. This is a fantastic date spot.

pix 080 French 75 with cucumber gin, prosecco, lemon juice, and sugar

A classic cocktail made new with the addition of cucumber. Light, bubbly, and crisp, with just a touch of sweetness and the faint juniper taste of the gin.  The lemon juice makes the drink pop at the finish. This is as good as many drinks I have had at craft cocktail bars.
pix 083 Cullen Skink

This smoked haddock chowder packs a punch. It has the consistency of great New England clam chowder but with a smokier, saltier taste. Velvety and savory, with tender potato and soft pieces of haddock. This is for someone who really loves seafood, but if you are fan of smoked whitefish you might just love this soup. I certainly did.
pix 084 Oysters with mignonette

Simple but superb. Fresh, creamy Massachusetts oysters topped with a savory bacon and shallot mignonette sauce. The salty, acidic flavors make the sweet side of the oyster shine. These could not be fresher or more perfectly shucked. I would absolutely come here for a dozen or two of these with a french 75.  Outstanding.

pix 085 Mini beef and pork pies

I mean, are you kidding me!? These are cute, portable, and totally tasty. Flaky, buttery puff pastry surrounding savory beef and potato or juicy, slighlty sweet pork and sweet potato. These aren’t greasy or salty, they are just like what you would make if you had endless time and pastry talent. I ate about 4 of these and could have eaten more.

Fabulous food, lovely atmosphere, what looks like fair prices…what’s not to like? Even if this wasn’t my best friend’s wedding, I would like Highlands. But it will always be the place where my best friends celebrated their love.

So I guess I’ll always love it.

Highlands on Urbanspoon

Swine – Home to the Foie Gras and Jam-Wich

One of my girlfriends recently went to a restaurant that she said reminded her so much of me that I had to eat there, and fast.

That’s why it’s important to have good friends who really know you.

Swine is a west village restaurant specializing in all things barnyard. Yes, there is lots of pork, but also expect chicken, duck, beef, and anything else that flies, runs, or swims.

There are a few veggies on the menu too, but (luckily) most of them are drizzled in pork fat.

The restaurant is small ad dark, with a pinball machine at the entrance and a long bar. The vibe is great for a few drinks or for an intimate dinner with friends.

Duck fat cashews

Dining alone, I would never have ordered these, because I find cashews overly fatty and a little unctuous for my tastes. However, these totally changed my perception of cashews. Served warm and heavy dusted in a spice mixture, they are zesty, smoky, and redolent with Asian style spices. The duck fat gives the nuts a meat, grounded taste that somehow takes away their inherent greasiness.

Fat combating fat…it’s the way of the future, friends.

FG and J sandwich

Foie gras and strawberry balsamic jelly. If there is a more perfect sandwich in the world, I certainly haven’t found it. The first bite is a little sweet, but as you keep eating, the foie asserts itself. It is creamy and room temperature, melting in between the charred toasts. The jam is sweet enough to stand up to the wonderfully rich foie. This sandwich had us all licking our meaty, jammy fingers. This was a standout of the meal and in the neighborhood. It’s absolutely exemplary and at $18 a splurge, but a worthwhile one.

Bone marrow and brisket burger with potato wedges

A first rate ”cheffy” burger. Moist and thick, loosely packed and loaded with earthy, beefy flavor. The bun is substantial enough to stand up to its juices and the onions are sweet and soft. The potato wedges are also excellent – well seasoned and crisp on the outside while very fluffy within.

All that said…this burger is pricey for what it is. It’s high quality and well portioned, but just a wee bit overpriced, considering that it’s merely tasty and not totally craveworthy.

 

Braised chicken with garlic, peas, bacon, and mashed potaotes

Just like you wish your mama made. Dark meat chicken braised until it is totally tender but not at all mushy or stringy. The potatoes are smooth and buttery with a savory, bacon dotted gravy floating atop. The lardons are crunchy and salty and the peas and a welcome burst of sweetness. This bowl is elevated baby food, and I mean that as a compliment – the flavors are simple, direct, and focus on the ingredients. No fancy, high end products necessary. Just wonderful chicken, creamy potatoes, and the warmth of roasted garlic. This is something I can’t wait to reproduce at home, albeit with a tad less salt.

Swine is a very tasty restaurant. The food is a bit salty and the prices are a bit high, but the wine and cocktail list is wonderful and fairly priced. It’s better for a drink and a few bites than a full meal, but the FG and J sandwich is worth the trip alone.

 People always talk about how important it is to have friends when you are going through hard times. But sometimes it’s just as important to have friends when you are hungry for dinner. They should know just where to send you!

Swine on Urbanspoon

Aria Raises the (Wine) Bar

Wine bars are plentiful in NYC, but great wine bars are hard to find. So often, there is a large selection of wine, but it is exorbitantly priced or only the usual suspects. Perhaps the atmosphere is lovely but the service is snooty or the food is subpar. Worst of all, sometimes everything is great but there is just no place to sit.
Aria avoids all of these pitfalls and goes above and beyond in every respect. As a bullet point list:

- The atmosphere is ethereal and dreamy, but not too cutesy. A long farmhouse table in the center of the restaurant hosts many diners and the bar seats patrons on both sides, doubling the number of people who can sit. If you arrive with only half of your party, you will be promptly seated and offered drink service, and–as a major plus—this place takes reservations. The few cozy tables to the sides are ideal for a first date.

-The wine list is varied, well priced, and focused, but not solely, on Italian varietals. There is often an herbal, light albarino from Spain that won’t break the bank, and the house prosecco is sweet and bubbly, an ideal aperitif. Though the wine is served in tumblers, the effect is charming, not lazy.
-The food, an area where so many wine bars fail, is where Aria excels.

The bread that comes to the table is crusty and charred, with a tangy interior.

The pappardelle with veal Bolognese is toothsome and hearty, with a mild veal ragu that is lush and fragrant.

The mussels are sweet and tender, served in a garlicky white wine broth.

This wine bar goes above and beyond the call of duty – it is a wine bar, a full bar, a restaurant, and an ideal meeting place. The price is right, the service is attentive but not pushy, and the atmosphere is elegant without being uptight. It really raises the (wine) bar in NYC. 

Aria Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Bites and Sips Around the City

There is just one burning question every New Yorker needs to know (now that we know that Dan was Gossip Girl):

What are the tastiest snacks, bites, and drinks around town, and where can you get them?

Read on, hungry city dweller:

Hummus Plate at Le Pain Quotidien

Ah yes, this upscale coffee shop/bakery does more than just great breakfasts. Order the hummus plate and you will be surprised at how tasty it is. The hummus is thick and lemony, slick with fruity olive oil. The kalamata olives atop are juicy and soft, the perfect salty counterpart to the hummus.Also on the plate is garlicky, almost velvety babaganoush and quinoa tabouleh that is earthy, herby, and chock full of juicy tomatoes and diced onions. The sour wheat, crusty white, and sweet raisin breads served alongside complete the dish. This is enough for a very satisfying lunch or a shared snack plate among 3 friends. It’s amazing how well this Belgian place does a middle eastern plate.

Foccacia de Recco at Rosemary’s

This locavore west village restaurant is a little too pricey for what you get, but there is one thing worth trying here. The foccacia filled with milky, creamy stracchino cheese is among the best breads in the city. Your order arrives piping hot, slick with slightly spicy olive oil and topped with grains of coarse sea salt. When you tear a chunk off the bread, the first scent that hits you is the rosemary, deep and woodsy. Then, the tantalizing smells of yeast and spicy olive oil hits your nostrils. The taste is as good as the aroma. The bread is pliant and soft, with a thin crust, punctuated by sharp rosemary needles. The inside is filled with that mild, creamy cheese, so soft that it makes mozzarella look hard and pungent. This is like grilled cheese on steroids, and it’s worth a visit to the restaurant to try this.

Any cocktail at The Dutch

I have been here several times, and each time have ordered a different cocktail. Every single one has been exemplary – well balanced, interesting but but not different just to be weird, nuanced and also pronounced in all the right places. The bartenders are knowledgeable but not snobby, and have no problem recommending something that you will like. The bar is small but comfortable and the vibe is extremely laid back. Of course, also order something to eat, but this is a great place to get a little tipsy before dinner.

Beef Carpaccio with Truffle Oil at Slightly Oliver

I know I have talked about this place before, but it deserves more mention because I just love it. The cocktails, the  faux-British vibe, and the tasty small plates make this a real gem on the Upper West Side. This carpaccio, made with tender slices of beef and dressed with a peppery arugula salad with a tiny fried quail egg and toast, is a perfect appetizer or even light meal. The addition of truffle oil just elevates it. Mushrooms and beef are always a win, especially when the beef is filet mignon and the mushrooms are truffles.

#winning

Taim – How Have I Not Tried This Amazing Falafel Before Now!?

Ugh…this is just like that humiliating Shake Shack experience. Why did it take me so long to get to Taim?! I love falafel. I love casual places. I love to eat…why didn’t I go here sooner?!

Just like when I realized what I had been missing with Shake Shack …the embarrassment may never leave me.

Taim is a tiny storefront in the West Village. Really small…only a few seats at the window, and even those are cramped and tiny. It’s best to get takeout or, on a nice day, eat outside. It is possible to sit comfortably if

But however tiny and cash only this place may be, it’s worth it.

The falafel is outstanding.

Falafel Sampler

An uber popular choice that lets you try the three flavors of falafel offered here. Be sure to dip the balls in the creamy tahini, a middle eastern sesame paste that is somewhere between peanut sauce, tzatziki, and heaven.

Green: with parsley, cilantro, and mint. This traditional falafel is special mostly because of its texture – dense and moist, with a very thick, crackly crust. The taste is classic middle eastern, fragrant with the parsley and mint. The hit of cilantro adds a welcome, sharp flavor.

Harissa: mixed with Tunisian spices. This is my favorite flavor. It has the same marvelous texture as the green but with the added slight heat of harissa, one of my all time favorite hot condiments. The paste is fiery but earthy at the same time, akin to a less smoky chipotle. The harissa falafel elevates the chickpeas, adding fire and salt. It isn’t super hot, just a bit spicy for those of us who like to mix it up.

Red: mixed with roasted red peppers. This tasted a lot like the original green falafel, but with less of that fresh taste of cilantro. the red peppers were not noticeable in the taste of the falafel and this was probably my least favorite. That said, it is still heads and tails above most other falafels in town.

Falafel Platter

The way to go if you eat in – if you are going to walk as you eat, go for the more user friendly sandwich. This comes with a selection of those wonderful falafel balls, fresh Israeli salad, a wonderfully lemony tabbouleh, and a few pieces of the most tender, fluffy za’atar dusted pita bread on the planet. No exaggeration, it is the best pita bread I have had in ages…it’s enough to make me realize why Israel is called the holy land.

Be sure to help yourself to some of the sauces served alongside, including the oily, garlic laden s’rug (like chimichurri) and the addictive spicy-sweet mango sauce called amba.

Fried Eggplant

It’s oily. It’s messy. It’s soft and slick and might be too much for some people.

Some people who have no tastebuds.

This overload of creamy, fatty, eggplanty-goodness put the meal over the top. Be sure to get an order.

The food here is incredibly cheap, especially for the quality. Everything is made fresh to order, the staff is courteous and extremely adept, and the food is really, really good. They have a food truck. They have a restaurant. They even have another sit down restaurant that has now made it to the top of my list. There is no reason that you can’t go get some of that falafel this week, right?

Take it from me…to wait one more day before you try Taim is one day too long.

Kingswood – Not Living up to its Potential

There are a ton of small plates restaurants in NYC. It’s a market that is heavily saturated, and in order to stand out from the crowd or even last, you had better be pretty damn great at what you do. At the very least, the food should be delicious, the service should be efficient, and the prices should be commensurate with the experience.

Let’s see how Kingswood measures up, shall we?

This west village restaurant is dark and eccentric, sort of a Narnia-meets-Anthropologie feel. Think long wooden tables, a happening bar scene, and a cozy, but not cramped, feel. Perfect for a double date, dinner with a friend, or a quick drink at the bar.

Roasted Quail over fregola sarde with spinach

An auspicious start the meal. The quail is roasted until it has some lightly charred spots on the skin but the meat is still very juicy and woodsy, slightly pink in the center. Quail, like duck, can and should be eaten cooked medium at most. This quail, a cross between duck and pork to my tastes, is earthy, pleasantly musky, and very rich. The bones crunch pleasantly beneath the teeth, and some can even be eaten along with the supple meat. The fregola sarde, toasty and plump, are filled with the garlicky, meaty juices from the quail meat, interspersed with ribbons of fresh spinach. A wholly satisfying dish.

Smoked Trout Dip with Treviso and Baguette

Another great appetizer. The dip is smoky and mild, with no fishiness. It really tastes more meaty than fishy, with just the slightest salinity that lifts the dish from being too creamy and smoky. The treviso, dressed lightly so it is crisp and vinegary, cuts through the somewhat heavy dip. Served with tiny crostini, this is a knockout appetizer, though perhaps a bit expensive for the portion size.

Pork fritter with fried egg over frisee

Another tasty, though somewhat misguided dish. The fritter, crisp without and tender within, is a hearty porcine treat that desperately needed something other than a rich, gooey egg yolk to temper it. The yolk added some moisture, but also dulled down the already subtle taste of the pork. Some sort of vinegary, chile-tinged sauce would have really catapulted this dish from good to great. The portion size was also quite meager.

Steak Tartare

The biggest miss of the night. The meat is sloppily cut and a bit mushy. The feel of it is very wet, exacerbated by the quivering raw quail egg yolk on top – usually inviting and here way over the top. The seasonings are obscured and so is the taste of the meat. This is very disappointing, and too small to boot.

Kingswood…I wanted to love you. Most of your food was quite good. But it was also served in very small portions, especially given the price point – I actually had a post meal slice of pizza to quell my hunger. The service was also totally bizarre. The food was paced oddly – sometimes there were piles of empty dishes on the table, sometimes we were waiting for what seemed like years on end for our next dishes, and more than once, a wrong dish was delivered to our table. The staff was quite nice but totally haphazard and it created a rather disjointed dining experience, rather than a relaxing, smooth one. I can’t fully recommend this place – even though the quail was downright wonderful. However, with some work on the service and a readjustment of either the prices or the portions, I would be happy to give this place another shot. I definitely think that it has potential.