All posts by Johnny Prime

Tsuta

Tsuta is the world’s first Michelin starred ramen joint.

It just opened this past Friday, so there was a line when my friend and I showed up to try it. We waited about 1.5hrs in the bitter cold, but once that ramen hit our lips, it was worth it.

I tried the spicy mala tonkotsu ramen, which had a nice tingly broth from the Szechuan peppercorns that are infused in it. All of their noodles are soba, which I was initially worried about because I generally prefer egg noodles with thick broth ramen. But these noodles were perfect, and they went well with the rich, spicy broth.

This was $20 for the regular sized bowl. It comes with one slice of chashu pork. I added the seasoned soft boiled egg for an additonal $4.

Our apps came out after the ramen, which wasn’t so bad considering the place was brand new and absolutely slammed. Some of my friends who also went complained of even worse problems. Of these, the chicken was probably the best, but I’d rather share a second bowl of ramen than get these again.

Next visit, I’ll have to try their signature bowls (shio and shoyu), which feature truffle oils.

TSUTA
22 Old Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Elgin

The Elgin is a great midtown bar with international flare to the menu. My friend Sean, the chef who developed the menu here, recently invited me in to try some of the food, and, of course, to shoot some photos for Instagram. Here’s what we had:

Curry Hill Wings

These dry-rub wings are intensely flavorful and deliciously crisp, and they come with a nice tangy yogurt-based dipping sauce.

Detroit Style Pizza

Although these are more flatbread than Detroit, they are absolutely delicious. We tried the spicy sausage pizza.

Tuna Poke Nachos

These are incredible. This was by far my favorite dish of the night. Make sure you order this when you come here!

Burrata

Very nice. Super soft and flavorful, especially with the balance of sweet and savory coming from the tomatoes, blackberries and strawberries.

Lamb Burger

This thick patty beauty was so flavorful, and with the tzatziki style sauce, it really brought home those Greek comfort food flavors.

Southern Chicken Sandwich

Bacon and pimento cheese sauce with fried chicken? YES! So good. We actually liked this better than the burger.

I definitely cant wait to come back here to try more of the menu, especially the cocktails. We were stuffed! Likely because of the beer.

THE ELGIN
64 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036

Barrio Chino

My wife and I stopped in this little joint for dinner last week, and we really enjoyed it.

We started with aguachile verde and ceviche, both of which were great, although I would have preferred some additional tortilla chips to pick up all that tasty goodness.

For our mains, we ordered enchiladas verde and lamb barbacoa. Both were excellent, but the shredded, slow roasted lamb was amazing. So much rich, earthy flavor. Again, more tortillas would have made this perfect.

We will definitely be back here again – I need better pics!

BARRIO CHINO
253 Broome St
New York, NY 10002

Leo

This joint slings some tasty sourdough pizza. I’ve always wanted to try a sourdough slice, and I was finally able to do so here at Leo.

I highly recommend this place; the slices have a distinct “freshly made at grandma’s house” kind of flavor to them.

I need to go back to try their potato slice, as well as their soft serve – apparently they’re famous for both, and I’m a huge sucker for soft serve.

My last visit was during a @NYCZoozClub food crawl. Check out the video below if you’re interested. And use code JOHNNYPRIME for $150 off your Zooz bike at www.zoozbikes.com.

LEO
123 Havemeyer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Fried Dumpling

Tucked away in a Chinatown alley near the back of NYC’s Civic Center is a little hole-in-the-wall dumpling spot that’s simply called “Fried Dumpling.” I discovered this place while frequenting joints like Wo Hop and Peking Duck House during law school, in the very early 2000’s.

I’ve been coming here for over two decades now, and although my visits are infrequent, every time I go it hits the spot. They aren’t the best dumplings you’ll eat – the dough is a little thick, and the fried crust is inconsistent – but for $5 you get about a dozen, and they’re pretty damn tasty for the price. You can choose steamed or fried. I always go with fried, because they seem to have more flavor from the griddle/flat top. A squirt of sri racha and a shake of vinegar dumpling sauce and you’re all set.

Just a note: There’s no place to sit here. It’s really just for either standing at the small shelf along the side wall, or taking your plastic clamshell to go.

My wife and I used to buy the bags of frozen dumplings they offer, so we could cook them at home ourselves. This place is a gem.

My last visit was during a @NYCZoozClub food crawl. Check out the video below if you’re interested. And use code JOHNNYPRIME for $150 off your Zooz bike at www.zoozbikes.com.

 

FRIED DUMPLING
106 Mosco Street
New York, NY 10013

Yoon Haeundae Galbi

This KBBQ joint in K-Town is great. Their beef heavy menu has an impressive list of selections, including wagyu, beef belly and dry aged prime beef. This little video pretty much sums up the experience.

I’m still full almost a day later. Highlights were the wagyu (pictured below), and the fried chicken.

YOON HAEUNDAE GALBI
8 W 36th Street
New York, NY 10018

The 10 Best Fictional Restaurants

Throughout my life I’ve seen some great TV shows and movies, and lots of these productions feature fictional restaurants that make my mouth water. Here’s a collection of my top 10 fictional favorites, in no particular order, some new, some old. Enjoy!

The Original Beef of Chicagoland (The Bear)

The hit new show The Bear on Hulu just mainstreamed Chicago’s wildly popular and incredibly delicious Italian Beef Sandwich. The Windy City’s dairy-free brother to the City of Brotherly Love’s “Philly Cheese” is comprised of thin sliced/shaved steak, typically rib eye, and is adorned with Italian giardiniera, or pickled veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc). Accompanying that is usually a hot cup of beef drippings for dipping, au jus style like you might expect with a French Dip.

You can’t eat at The Original Beef of Chicagoland, but you can certainly eat where they film the show, at least the exterior shots anyway, at Mr. Beef. I’ve been there and it’s damn delicious.

Gusteau’s (Ratatouille)

The restaurant from Ratatouille might be headed up by a sewer dwelling, flea infested, disease ridden rat, but that vermin’s velvety veloute looks absolutely incredible. The animated new(ish) classic from Disney and Pixar makes me crave a delicious Parisian meal like the ones Remy cooked up at Gusteau’s.

Paradise (Big Night)

The feast at Paradise in Big Night looked like heaven on earth. The entire film leads up to a massive blowout meal, meant to be a final hoorah for a struggling restaurant owned and operated by two immigrant brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub). The meal features a divine collection of extravagant courses, finished off with the timpano – a huge layered and baked show stopper, and an infamously difficult to make Italian entree.

Mafia Meals

While Clemenza’s recipe for meat sauce in The Godfather, or New Vesuvio and Satriale’s Pork Store in the Sopranos, might wet your appetite for a nice hearty red sauce meal with your loud obnoxious cousins from Bensonhurst, the real reel meal that seals the deal for me is at the makeshift prison restaurant from Goodfellas. The whole gang is doing time, but they manage to eat like kings anyway. Paulie’s garlic slicing system… Vinnie’s “three small onions” in the sauce… I’d wack someone for that meal.

Dorsia (American Psycho)

We don’t know much about this hard to get rez from American Psycho, but we do know that Patrick Bateman covets the place. Word is it used to be a real place in the vacuous open floor buildings between Flatiron and Chelsea in Manhattan’s midtown south. Whatever it is they serve there, it must be pretty good, because the joint is placed on a higher rung than all the other delicious, trendy and socialite-attracting restaurants on the American Psycho restaurant ladder. Maybe Paul Allen can get us a table since it’s clear that Bateman can’t.

Rick’s Cafe Americain (Casablanca)

This iconic spot from Casablanca is home to so many famous lines from cinematic history that it just has to be on this list. Located in Morocco during WWII, it was frequented by expats and nationals from all over the war torn region. A place to kick back, forget about the horrors of global calamity, and sip on some gin cocktails while listening to jazz. I’m in. Even if the food sucks. In 2004 a restaurant by the same name opened in Casablanca to pay tribute to the film. I’ve never been, but I’d like to give it a shot.

Jack Rabbit Slim’s (Pulp Fiction)

The prospect of a five dollar milkshake was absurdly expensive when Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction came out in 1994, but now it isn’t too far off the mark for the average pricing. The cosplay and old Hollywood cinema -themed restaurant definitely had the feel of a classed up diner, of sorts. The booths were old cars! But a dance floor in the middle of the joint and an emcee hosting a nightly dance competition is enough for me to want to go at least once.

El Jefe (Chef)

Jon Favreau tapped into our comfort food sweet spot in his film “Chef,” where he struck out on his own with a food truck that ended up bringing him closer to his family. The famous elevated grilled cheese sandwich and myriad of other delicious looking selections will make you raid the fridge while watching. The success of the movie kicked off a TV series, The Chef Show, and based on what I’ve seen, Jon can actually cook! He’s got the chops to make El Jefe become a reality if he ever wanted to.

Paul Bunyan’s Cupboard (The Great Outdoors)

Who can forget the classic 1980s comedy scene from The Great Outdoors, where John Candy is trying to win a free meal by taking on the massive steak known as “The Old 96’er?” He’s all the way down to the end when the chef comes over and says, “He ain’t done yet.” He needs to eat all the fat and gristle too! I’m not sure that I could do it, but I would definitely love to eat at that place.

The Olympia Cafe (Saturday Night Live)

The famous SNL skit from the late 1970’s featuring a curt diner staff that offers only cheeseburgers, Pepsi (no Coke), and chips (no fries) is loosely based on the Chicago outfit known as The Billygoat Tavern.

While the famous skit was only featured in just six episodes of SNL, it made quite the impact on American pop culture. The best part is that the spirit lives on forever at The Billygoat Tavern in Chicago. The burgers there are pretty great!

 

BONUS HALLOWEEN MEAL!!!

Hannibal Lecter’s House

Just in time for Halloween! While Doctor Hannibal Lecter is known for eating humans, the TV series starring Mads Mikkelsen is more like a food show than a horror. Beautifully shot, and clearly food styled by professionals, Hannibal will make your mouth water while also making your skin crawl. A very strange combo indeed. But I’d love to be invited to a dinner party with the deranged doctor, so long as I or some other human were not on the menu.

Back to the Roots Mushroom Kits

My wife and I have been on a big mushroom kick lately. Not the magical kinds, though. The food kinds!

I ordered a few of these Back to the Roots grow kits from Amazon and we have been really happy with the results so far. In just a few days they went from little pins to huge, beautiful oyster mushrooms!

We mixed with some other mushrooms and made pasta with them.

We can’t wait to try the gold and pink varieties. This company also has micro greens and other fun stuff to grow at home.

NYC’s Top 10 “Old School” Style Italian Joints

A friend of mine asked me about Emilio’s Ballato the other day, and I realized I should probably have a list of “old school” style, red sauce -heavy, Italian comfort food spots in the city. Especially given how we lost some great ones due to COVID-19, like Forlini and Crispo.

I should note, I’m largely ignoring the panoply of mediocre tourist trap restaurants in Little Italy. Yes, there are some old classics there, but the one’s listed below are in another league, in my opinion.

So here we go. These are my favorites, in no particular order.

1. EMILIO’S BALLATO

This celebrity magnet of a restaurant is one of the best spots to score some old school, red sauce, New York Italian food. Aside from their awesome pastas, they also put serious work into their parms and antipasti. Pictured below is the spicy vodka sauce, prosciutto and peas -topped bone-in veal parm, which is commonly offered as a special and even called an “off menu” item to those in the know.

2. CARBONE

A list of old school Italian joints wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Carbone. When you walk in this joint, you feel like you might witness a mob hit! Not in a scary way – because you feel like family when you’re here (take THAT Olive Garden!) – but in a cinematic way. Everything just looks the part, from the black and white tiled floors to the decor on the walls. This place is special, and my favorite items here are the trio of baked clams and their famous spicy rigatoni alla vodka.

3. SANDRO’S

We almost lost this joint to COVID-19. It closed, and everyone was pissed off and upset. But they re-opened in a new location, and I’m so psyched to get back in there to try everything. This joint slings some of the best pasta I’ve had, and all of the good the Italian chefs in town know that this is the place to go when you want a delicious, comforting meal outside of your own kitchen.

4. SAN MATTEO

Right up there in the same neighborhood as Sandro’s is San Matteo, a noted two-time NYCWFF Burger Bash winner, of all things. While primarily organized as a Neapolitan style pizza joint, San Matteo actually serves up some of the most crave-worthy Italian food that I can think of. I regularly need my fix of this place. Everything from their apps to their aged steaks are fantastic. Pizza should be your snack when you go here. Save room for the mains, like their pork milanese!

5. BROOKLYN ROOTS

Relative newcomer to the “old school” scene is Brooklyn Roots. This place is the only spot I picked that’s outside of Manhattan. I know I’ll get some shit for that, since there are lots of amazing places out in Queens and Brooklyn that garner a lot of love for this cuisine. But Chef Tommy is really dialed into the food that I grew up eating. Check out his “Matty Guns” pasta dish. It’s basically a baked red sauce and mozz rigatoni dish that has every kind of meat you can imagine. Incredible portion sizes and wildly affordable prices can be found here. You can’t beat it.

6. ARTHUR & SONS

Another new “old school” style joint is Arthur & Sons. This place is red sauce to the core, and it has quickly become one of the hardest places to score a table. Everything with red in it is a hit here. The Parms, the meatballs, the subs, the pasta sauce… They even use cans of tomatoes as planters in the dining room. This is definitely the place to carb-load before a big competitive sporting event.

7. DON ANGIE

This joint is the only Italian restaurant to actually inspire me to go home and cook one of their recipes. Their “Broken Meatball Ragu” is absolute perfection, and it reminds me of Sunday visits to my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. I immediately went home and made it myself the following weekend. They use giant garganelli pasta for the dish, the perfect big floppy noodle for sopping up massive amounts of sauce. Also noteworthy here is the chrysanthemum salad and the lasagna, pictured below.

8. OSTERIA MORINI

This place was famously known as the home of $9 Monday night pasta dishes. I’m sure the price has gone up since I enjoyed that special, but it would be worth every penny even at double the price. This place is part of the Altamarea restaurant group (Marea, Ai Fiore, etc.), but it is markedly obvious that it is meant to be their rustic, home cooking style restaurant. They do great burgers and aged steaks here as well.

9. IL CORSO

My friend turned me on to this place just recently. I was blown away to learn that his wife’s cousin owns the joint. They’re from Capri. Let me just tell you: Their lemon cream pistachio paccheri is probably one of the best pasta dishes in town. It’s an absolutely delicious combination of flavors. I could eat this every day, with a side of their fried zucchini and fried castelvetrano olives.

10. IL TINELLO

The owners behind Tuscany Steakhouse also own Il Tinello, which recently just opened a second location on the east side. The move here is to get the trio of pastas as a sampler dish, of sorts. We ordered it as an appetizer because I needed to try some of the meat-focused items from the mains menu. They do a really nice veal rib chop here, if you feel like eating something more meaty.

That’s all I’ve got for you right now. Maybe I’ll update this if I ever get out to those old and somewhat infamous joints in Queens and Brooklyn. But other notable mentions here for old school style Italian food would be Isle of Capri, Becco, Patsy’s, Scarpetta, Marc Forgione, Ornella Trattoria and Parm.

Oh yeah – and it’s always SAUCE. Gravy is BROWN!

Il Tinello East

My buddy Benny from Greenwich Steakhouse opened up a second location of the Italian joint Il Tinello. Benny is second from the right in this picture, next to me. Ask for him when you go, and tell him I sent you!

The menu and ambiance here are a little different from the original location. It feels like a more lively restaurant with a younger crowd. It was packed both at the bar and at the tables on a Wednesday night.

The bartender AJ has a nine year pedigree at Benjamin Prime, and he mixes up some excellent cocktails. Ask him about his mezcal negroni and “new fashioned” drinks.

Don’t skip on this meat martini waterfall thing. Great selection of olives, cheeses and peppers to go with the hand cut prosciutto.

Table bread service comes with an eggplant and tomato dip, and nice freshly made bruschetta.

We started with the special oysters Rockefeller, which were awesome. Nice crispy pancetta on top!

We followed these with baked clams oreganata and beef carpaccio.

For a mid course, we tried three pastas. The favorite of the table was probably this orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. Just like mom makes.

These crab ravioli on special were incredible as well. They had a nice robust, clean crab flavor. Not too heavy with a light creamy pesto sauce.

The tagliolini with seafood is PACKED with chopped scallops, mussels, and shrimp. Great stuff.

For our mains, we tried two veal dishes. The first was a delicious glazed rib chop.

So tender and perfectly cooked to medium rare inside.

We also had the bone-in veal parm that was on special.

This was massive! Definitely something to share with your date.

For dessert, we tried the creme brulee, Italian cheesecake, tira misu and panna cotta. I think my favorite was either the tira misu or the panna cotta.

Great meal with a great old friend. I’m happy for the success of his new venture here at Il Tinello. I’ll definitely be back again soon!

IL TINELLO EAST
244 E 46th St
New York, NY 10017