Category Archives: Spanish

Andanada

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

Tabelog hosted another press dinner with a collection of about 30 NYC food bloggers, influential instagrammers and publication writers. This time the event kicked off at Andanada, a Spanish tapas joint on the upper west side.

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Michelin rated chef Manuel Berganza popped off a string of really tasty bites in this multi-course tapas tasting in a rustic yet upscale setting that elevates tavern food to the fine-dining  level.

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Since there’s a lot to talk about, I’m just going to get right down to business and tell you what we ate. Read on:

First was this shot of warm butternut squash cream. It was velvety smooth, but I think it could have used just a small hit of salt.

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This cleverly displayed flower pot of purple endive was a nice fresh snack. Endive is traditionally served before or after meals to aid in digestion. It was served with a blue cheese spread.

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Next was this little manchego cheese stuffed “puff” airbag of flatbread that included a little hit of quince fruit jam as well. Beautiful presentation and a delicious bite!

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Table bread consists of a very nice foccacia style bread (but without the annoying herbs and oily toppings). This was addicting!

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This next item was one of my favorites of the night. It was a soft boiled quail egg served on a fried potato nest with chicken liver pate. SO DELICIOUS! The crunch of the potato nest, the ooze of the egg yolk and the richness of the pate made for a really dynamic bite.

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These little guys are creamy mushroom duxelle croquettes with a marinated mushroom cap on top. They burst with flavor!

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These are potatoes. My guess is something like fingerling, since the shape is small and round. They’re fried to a crisp and then served with three sauces: a garlic aioli, a spicy sauce and a sweet sauce. I preferred the aioli (also went nicely on the bread), but I think the potatoes could have benefited from a hit of salt right after they came out of the fryer.

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Next was fried (but not heavily breaded) calamari with eggplant mousse. The calamari was incredibly tender and perfectly cooked. The eggplant I could skip, because I am generally not a fan of eggplant, but I did like the texture of the mousse much better than the flesh of the actual vegetable itself.

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My other favorite dish was this octopus terrine, which was served over whipped potato foam and broccoli rabe puree. SO TENDER. This went fast and seemed to be a favorite with everyone else as well. I considered asking for a second plate.

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These fried artichokes don’t look glamorous, but they taste great. They were crispy outside, soft inside and nicely accented with shaved manchego cheese and a cream sauce.

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Another great item was the salmon tartare potato salad. In addition to the raw diced salmon on top, there was peas, salmon roe, hard boiled egg and (obviously) potato within. Very interesting take on traditional salmon tartare.

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A Spanish classic is “albondigas,” or meatballs. These were accompanied by pickled celery, carrot puree and trinxat: a mashed potato item typically married with cabbage and pork.

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Another big crowd pleaser, and staple Spanish classic, is paella. This seafood paella was our final savory course. It had a great crispy texture to the rice, from sticking to the bottom of the pan while cooking. It came with clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and fish. Very nicely executed.

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The first dessert I tasted was this caramelized egg yolk flan with citrus gel, green apples and dried meringue. The texture was super smooth and creamy. If you’re a fan of custards, you’ll love this.

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The other dessert was my favorite of the two: almond cake with raspberries and olive oil gelato. This was perfect for me. It wasn’t too sweet to the point of being overpowering, and the cake was moist without being too dense. The gelato was a great accent to a great cake. I highly recommend this if you’re undecided on dessert.

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To sum up, I haven’t been to that many tapas places. Maybe half a dozen over the course of my adulthood? Maybe ten? While I am no expert, I think this comes in on the upper end of the few that I’ve tried to date. This joint is located near my apartment as well, so I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

Nai Tapas Bar

My wife and I were recently invited to Nai, a Spanish tapas bar in the east village, for a press dinner.

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This place slings classic Spanish tapas that hail from Galicia, but they also serve some high-end molecular gastronomy as well as fine dining cuisine. But at first glance, the inside might not make you think about fine dining. By no means do I mean to suggest that the decor is not good. On the contrary. It’s set up like a warm, inviting and cozy tavern. Very low key. There’s lots of custom dark wood fixtures and furniture, and even some artwork on the walls.

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On the food and service angle, though, this place is nothing short of 5-star dining. What you’re getting here is high quality fine dining in a cozy, rustic setting, with beautiful plating and stellar service, all at an affordable price. The 40 different tapas on the menu range from $6 to $15 a piece. I mean, shit… they even offer a prix fixe deal for 12 or more guests: 10 dishes and unlimited open bar for 2.5 hours at just $45. That’s unheard of!

The wine list is 95% Spanish, and all the beer on tap and in bottles are also Spanish, with the exception of one Ommegang farmhouse saison (one of my favorites, which was served with our first courses). I tasted this refreshing wheat beer:

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In April or May, Nai will expand its space into an upstairs second floor, which will have an open view test kitchen and a more experimental menu. In addition, the wine list will become 100% Spanish, with a much larger selection.

They offer happy hour specials, a live flamenco band and flamenco dancing on Thursdays and Saturdays, and six different flavors of sangria, including mango and blueberry. Pitchers of sangria are just $22 during happy hour and all night Monday through Wednesday.

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Nai means “mother” in Gallego, which is meaningful because Chef Ruben has garnered all of the traditional tapas recipes from his mother (also a chef and restaurateur), and in turn, his mother’s mother. He’s added his own touch since studying under famous Spanish chefs from Europe, picking up newer, more modern and more technical styles. There are 15 tapas that he considers to be core items, which are always available on the menu. The other 25 items change seasonally.

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Having grown up in his mother’s restaurants in Spain, Ruben is comfortable in, and passionate with, his craft. He’s always striving for more, to be better, to take his food to the next level, and he’s constantly shooting for perfection. This passion is reflected in his food, as what I tasted at this meal was truly some of the best tapas I’ve ever had.

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Essentially we had a multi-course fine dining experience here, with wine pairings for each. I’ll take you through each course below.

This first bite was a hint of that molecular gastronomy style of high-tech cheffery. It looks like an olive, but it is essentially a small edible water balloon filled with liquefied olive. A great way to open up the taste buds.

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Next up was a platter of thinly sliced jamon and a bowl of marinated REAL olives. Very simple, very beautiful, and very delicious.

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Those two courses paired with the Ommegang farmhouse saison.

These mini-airbags were like a crispy yet soft pastry filled with creamy manchego cheese foam. It was cool and savory. I immediately exclaimed that I could pop these for hours. Very deadly.

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There was also this delicious plate of bluepoint oysters with a lemon foam as garnish. These go for $14 per half dozen. Not bad! They’re bright, crisp, creamy and fresh.

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Those bites were paired with cava that was mixed with lemon, orange rind and fresh mint. Watch as David Martinez, co-owner, wine director and general manager, swirls it up before pouring:

The next course was one of two favorites for me; a delicious sea bass wrapped in thin-sliced crispy toast and then topped with asparagus that was wrapped in prosciutto. What a perfect bite here! Soft, crunchy, savory, juicy and light.

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In fact that’s something that runs through all the courses here: lightness. Nothing felt heavy or burdensome to eat, which is a feat given the ham-heavy offerings available here.

Shrimp in garlic sauce was next. The sauce on these babies was amazing. We sopped it up with some bread after devouring all the perfectly cooked shrimp in the skillet.

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This next dish is crab meat wrapped in avocado and then topped with crisped ham sprinkles. It was a lot like a sushi roll, though I felt that it needed a touch of finishing salt. The crispy ham on top didn’t quite have that savory salt-punch that I expected. In any event, this was a light, fresh and creamy-textured dish.

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Those fish items were paired with an albarino single grape wine that was crisp and refreshing.

This palate cleanser was watermelon infused with sangria and topped with mint leaf.

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The next dish was smoked chicken with Asian bbq glaze. The chicken is pre-smoked with hickory wood, then cooked sous vide style for hours, then glazed and skewered. The presentation is great with this dish. Watch as David lifts the cloche and wafts the smoke:

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The chicken was tender and soft, and the glaze was key for adding that salty, spicy-sweet kick.

We also had these fried croquettes that were filled with ham. They had a potato and cheese flavor and feel, with a crisp cornmeal texture on the outside.

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This pork belly was super soft, and was served with a carrot puree and toasted pecans. It reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner!

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These bites were paired with a three-grape red wine blend of cabernet, temperanillo and monestrell grapes. Super smooth.

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Here comes my other favorite of the night: spicy basque chorizo, with manchego cheese and piquillo pepper on toast, topped with a fried quail egg. This is upscale breakfast at its finest! It had spice, smoke, fat, and ooey-gooeyness. The texture was dynamic.

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The final savory course was this short rib platter. It came with fire roasted shishito peppers and diced potatoes in a cheese sauce. Very hearty but not heavy. It was a Spanish tapas nod to great American BBQ, if I had to fit it into a pre-conceived food notion.

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These were paired with crianza red wine from an area south of Rioja, made with a temperanillo grape called “tinto fino.”

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For dessert we had a small stick of pear flavored cotton candy. It was fun, and actually tasted like a mix of pear and sour apple.

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Finally, there was this incredible chocolate filled churro. The outside was crisp and light, and the inside was soft and fluffy. It was filled with a melty chocolate and nutella mixture that was decadent.

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Dessert was paired with a nice sweet white moscatel dessert wine.

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This place is amazing. I will definitely be back for happy hour, sangria night and flamenco night. I think my next party or event will probably be here too. There’s amazing food, amazing service and everything is really fairly priced.

A good thing to know for those with diet restrictions: Chef Ruben whipped up this vegetarian menu with only 30 minutes notice regarding one of the press meal invitees. I tasted a few things from this menu, and they were all delicious.

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NAI TAPAS BAR
174 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10009

El Colmado Butchery

My wife and I strolled into this joint after reading about some of the stuff they had going on. We had already just eaten lunch, so we only dabbled into some snack items. However, it is worth writing up because they offer a lot of really awesome deals and humble items for such an overpriced and pretentious area of the city (Meatpacking). When we walked up at about 4pm, there was actually a bouncer from Brass Monkey preventing people in line from blocking the El Colmado door. That’s a bit early to be queueing up on a Saturday…

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Check it out. We tried the “bone broth,” which technically should be called a stock since it is made from bones and not just meat. Since this item is becoming a big food trend lately, I really hope that people learn the lingo and stop calling it a “bone broth.” If bones are used, it’s a fuckin’ stock.

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It was pretty tasty. A bit salty, perhaps over-reduced or too concentrated, but the flavors were reminiscent of pho because of some of the spices used, like clove or perhaps cinnamon.

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Next we had a pair of smoked deviled eggs. I thought it was okay, but my wife wasn’t a fan of the texture and consistency. These were $2 a piece (pictured below are two pieces, one full egg – $4).

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The coolest part of eating here was that our seats at the counter were placed in front of the glass case of butcher style offerings. Take a look at what we were sitting above:

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The counter top has all sorts of savory candies in jars too, like jerky and olives:

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I certainly need to get back down here when I have a bigger appetite.

EL COLMADO BUTCHERY IS CLOSED

Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna

UPDATE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED!

I was recently invited to a press dinner at Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna in midtown. This place has an Italian- and Spanish-inspired menu that showcases high quality ingredients and expert preparation. Owner Manuel Moreno has two Da Marcella restaurants. The original taverna is in Greenwich Village, is small, and has a very comforting, mom & pop neighborhood feel with very affordable prices ($10 pastas). It’s been open for two years. The goal since the midtown opening in November is to recreate that atmosphere, despite the challenges of the area being less of a neighborhood.

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Manuel also endeavored to bring his Spanish heritage to light as well in the midtown location, as he is half Italian (mom’s side) and half Spanish (dad’s side).

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The downtown menu is fully Italian, but the midtown menu shows off some tapas, paella and other Spanish staples. All recipes were handed down from his grandmother to his mother (the restaurants’ namesake), so you know you are getting something authentic when you eat at his restaurants.

Our host for the evening was Ernesto, who is manager but also the wine expert. The downtown wine menu is Italian, but the midtown wine list is thoroughly Mediterranean, with choices from Spain and Greece a well as Italy. There are 18 wines by the glass, nine of which change frequently.

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As you can see from the tasting menu, he picked some really great wines to pair with each dish, all of which seemed to get increasingly better as the meal went on.

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So we started with the marinated octopus with caperberries, and Scottish salmon tartare with avocado. Both were absolutely amazing. The octopus was hands down the most tender I have ever eaten. The only thing that would have made it better is if it were grilled to give it a little char. The tartare was perfectly balanced between acidic, savory and even sweet. The wine paired here was a nice dry but floral white from Riax Baixas in the north part of Spain. I enjoyed it, and I typically don’t really like whites all that much.

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Next were the veal and pork mini-meatballs and a plate of burrata with prosciutto and truffle sauce. The truffle sauce was just the right amount of earthiness to bring out the other flavors and make them all pop. And the meatballs, well, they were soft and flavorful. It’s always tough to impress me with meatballs because I am spoiled by having good Italian mom and grandma meatballs, but these were excellent. The wine here was a really nice light Chainti. Well paired.

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The tagliatelle pasta was perfect. Fresh made, al dente, properly sauced, and really delicious. The bolognese sauce is highly complex without being heavy, which in itself is a feat. It contains 18 ingredients, a few of which are meats. They really make grandma proud here, as this is clearly a signature item at the restaurant. With the pasta we had a Cabernet-Montepulciano wine, which was my favorite of the night. Robust and flavorful, but not heavy or too acidic.

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Next we had the seafood and chicken paella, which contained chicken (of course), clams, mussels, calamari, string beans and peas. I haven’t had many paellas in my day, as I tend to like Asian rice dishes better for the crisp texture, but this was pretty damned good. I was amazed at how they got each separate ingredient to be perfectly cooked. For example, I imagine they have to throw in the calamari at a different time than the clams, and at a different time than the chicken, string beans, etc. Each component was just right, so that must be a real challenge. The wine for this and the beef course (next) was a rich Temperanillo. Full bodied, well aged; a no bullshit kind of wine. Probably quite costly too had we been paying customers.

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Our last savory course was the wine-braised beef short rib with creamy polenta. This was awesome. The meat was a bit salty, but when you took a bite with the polenta (which was amazing on its own too) it really balanced it out nicely. I was a happy meat man when eating this. So tender, soft and flavorful.

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For dessert we had a sampling of three items: pannacotta, tiramisu, and ricotta cheese cake. Owner Manuel is a baker by trade, so all desserts are made in house if not brought in from his personal Long Island City bakery called the Bakery of New York. The pannacotta was my favorite here. It was perfectly textured – creamy yet firm. It had herb notes of sage or tarragon as well. Very inventive. The tiramisu was very nice as well, but the consensus of others at the table was that the cheese cake was the big winner. Not too heavy, really nice flavors.

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To sum it up; I really enjoyed the meal here, and I plan to go back soon, especially since it’s so close to my office. I’d also love to get down to the original location in the village to try out some of their very affordable and highly rated pastas (if I can get a table – the place is now generating big lines from what I understand, because there is a lot of demand).

Gotham West Market

Hell’s Kitchen NYC is really starting to put meaning into the KITCHEN aspect of the neighborhood’s name. Not only have many great restaurants popped up recently, but now there are half a dozen ramen shops, several awesome burger joints, and even a smattering of small niche joints serving things like like Korean fried chicken or Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. The most recent thing on my radar is Gotham West Market. It’s basically an upscale food court featuring a bunch of really nice pop-up restaurants, a gourmet food market, and even a store selling kitchen items, cooking gear, and baking supplies.

I first came here to try the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop.
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My wife and I tried the Shio and Shoyu styles. They were both good, but they contained green onion cut in such a way that it became overbearing and difficult to pluck off of the noodles. I like a standard cross cut to my scallions. This “long ways” cut sucks. The soup base was good, on the other hand, and the rye noodles were delicious.
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My wife went back two times without me and tried most of the other spots in there, like The Cannibal, El Colmado, Little Chef, The Brooklyn Kitchen, Genuine Roadside, and Court Street Grocers Sandwich Shop. Poke around her Instagram feed to see some of her escapades. Or simply hit up the #gwmarket tag on there. Here are a couple of collages of her pics:

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So today we went in for lunch, which was my wife’s 4th time going in 3 weeks, since I have been dying to try some of the stuff I’ve seen on Instagram from El Colmado and The Cannibal. I’ll take these fuckers down one at a time for you below.

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We sat down to a nice beer and a Bloody Mary to start. The Bloody came with some pickled items on top – a beet, a cucumber, and a pepper.
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We ordered three items here. The first was an octopus terrine, garnished with some pickled fennel and dill. This was so amazing, especially after having such a shitty plate of octopus two nights earlier at a local Long Island restaurant that completely fucked the octo up, turning it into rubber. THIS, on the other hand, was a masterpiece. Soft, tender, juicy, and nicely dressed – just like a prom date. One of the best octo preparations I’ve ever tasted.
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Next up was the pig head terrine. Essentially a head cheese of sorts. It was really tender and flavorful, and it even had some capers jammed in there too for a nice bite of brine. They served it with some crispy bread, lemon butter, and herbs. Delicious.
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Last was the lamb tartare. You can see below that it’s sitting on top of the little mustard smear that mixed well with the flavorful meat. In the back were the little planks of lettuce upon which we spread the tartare before shoving into our mouths.
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EL COLMADO
I was excited to have some shaved-by-hand cured piggy, so we started with an order of sliced Serrano ham. Not too salty, very soft and delicious. I expected nothing less in terms of quality when it comes to Chef Seamus Mullen, of The Next Iron Chef fame.
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In keeping with the theme from The Cannibal, we doubled down on octopus and lamb items. First is the lamb meatballs. Succulent, juicy, and rich with lamby goodness.
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The octopus here was grilled to perfection and served with some vinegary fingerling potatoes. Very nice tasting, and beautifully plated I might add. Needless to say, all memory of terrible octopus from the local Long Island place has been erased. This was superb.
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Well – not all memory is erased. We still need to remember that is WAS bad, and that we will never go back there again. Ahh, El Colmado & The Cannibal – you made my day. Two of the finest places I’ve been to in a long time.

So anyway, we finished up at El Colmado with a nice saffron flan for dessert. Perfect texture, and great flavor.

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So what’s the moral of this story? GO TO GOTHAM WEST MARKET ASAP!

And if you like burgers, then check out my Genuine Roadside review.

There’s something there for everyone. I snapped a shitload of pics from all over in there – I’ll leave you with that:

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GOTHAM WEST MARKET
600 11th Ave.
New York, NY 10036