Category Archives: Chelsea

Scampi

My buddy from Gotham Burger Social Club organized a kickass meal here at Scampi because he loved the place so much and wanted us to all try the greatness of PJ Calapa’s cooking.

We started with a round of seafood apps:

Razor Clams

These were my favorite. They were dressed with fennel, chives and prosciutto, and they were minced up with Manila clams and placed back into the shell. You could just shoot them rather than having to pry them from the shell and eat them in one big sloppy bite.

Fluke

This was a really nice, crisp and fresh crudo dish with tomatoes, castelvetrano olives and lime. Simple but perfect.

Mackerel

Mackerel is one of my least favorite fish to eat, but this preparation was nice – even with the eggplant in there, which I also usually dislike. Pine nuts, basil and tomato really brought his together.

Endive

While this wasn’t technically a seafood item, it contained anchovy in the “bagna cauda” dressing. The parmesan, fried capers and breadcrumbs gave it a really nice texture.

Next up was a selection of four pasta dishes:

Lumache

This had Manila clams, filone and tarragon pesto. This was a great, light clam sauce dish with perfectly cooked “large semi-elbows.”

Mafaldini Scampi

Long skinny lasagna style ribbon pasta with shrimp, parsley, buttre and lemon. Classic and so good.

Campanelle

Show stopper! The trumpet pasta was served in a buttery half-red sauce with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and parmesan. It was perfect in every way.

Mezzaluna

Half-moon shaped ravioli filled with braised pork in a pomodoro sauce with pecorino. Really nicely executed.

Now on to the main entrée, the 60-day dry-aged tomahawk:

This beauty is only $135 for 42oz, but it’s limited availability, first come first serve, so you will need to ask them if they have any left if you want to try it (it isn’t on the regular menu). Pat LaFrieda, Creekstone Farms.

Chef PJ’s cooking technique is very involved on this beast. It sees constant movement and several methods of cooking, from the pan to the broiler to a butter bath. This is a 9/10.

We also had some nice sides with this steak:

Spring Onion

These roasted onions were plated with gorgonzola, aged balsamic and crispy shallots.

Asparagus

Simply grilled but then topped with cured, grated egg yolk, toasted almonds and tarragon. Even the veggies get creative techniques applied to them.

Roasted Potato

These came with shaved fennel and castelvetrano olives in a light lemon dressing.

For dessert, we tried three items:

Cannoli

These were some of the best I’ve ever had. Very classic treatment with chocolate chips and ricotta cream.

Torta

This was an olive oil cake with mascarpone, berries, almonds and strawberry swirl gelato.

Cassata

Semifreddo, dried apricot, pistachio, chocolate and almonds.

I highly recommend trying this place out. Everything I tasted was great – not one dish fell short or disappointed.

SCAMPI
30 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

Maxwell’s Chophouse

Maxwell’s Chophouse overall score: 88*

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED!

I came here with a group of friends to tackle their dry-aged  six-bone standing prime rib roast. Watch this:

If their regular steak selections are anything like that monster, I think this could end up being one of the best steak joints in town. Read on.

Flavor: 9

These guys dry age everything on site, and this roast was aged for two months (61 days). The edges had a great earthy, nutty and mushroomy flavor to them from that aging process.

And as you can see below, the center was cooked perfectly.

Unfortunately, on a second visit, the prime rib wasn’t as good. Still had great flavor, but the texture was a bit off for some reason. 8/10.

I did try their porterhouse as well. This baby was tender all over, and had a nice crust. It was cooked just right at medium rare too. 9/10.

I even tried something very special and unique as well. A 500-day dry aged strip steak.

This was wild. It’s not on the menu, and it was something the chef was doing experimentally. It had a super aged flavor that was almost like meat fuel or butane. I liked trying it, but I’m not sure I would go all in on something like this often. Too aggressive for me.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

In addition to the four major steakhouse cuts, they also offer that prime rib as a regular menu item, king or queen cut. Everything is graded at prime and dry-aged on site. I also like the fact that they proudly state that the animals are raised on corn, which helps develop all that tasty marbling.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions are all pretty good here from what I can tell. The sides are big enough to share with two people, for sure.

Price: 8

This place is on par with the steak joints in midtown, but the rack of ribs comes in at $80pp and includes sides. That’s a good deal.

Bar: 10

This place has a great long marble bar with elegant surroundings. I would definitely hang here. They mix up a nice martini too, and have an interesting signature cocktail list.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There weren’t any specials read to us (we had pre-ordered this monster in advance), but the prime rib rack is pretty damn special itself. As far as other meats go, you basically only have lamb or chicken. I can respect that though: focus on the beef!

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried a number of items during this feast. I’ll list them all and discuss.

Bone Marrow: 7/10

This had good flavor but there just wasn’t enough of it. The grilled lemons were a nice touch though, and the bread was delicious.

Bacon: 10/10

This is top notch shit from Nueskes. Easily on par with Angus Club or Tuscany Steakhouse, and very close to a top five bacon app.

Mashed Potatoes: 8/10

I’m rarely impressed with mashed potatoes after growing up eating my mom’s, which were butter- and mozzarella- laden trays of pure heaven. But they were smooth and buttery. Very nice.

Mushrooms & Spinach: 9/10

Both simple and delicious. I would get these again for sure.

Chocolate Cake: 9/10

This thing is enormous and can easily feed a table of four for the $25 price tag. In fact, this fed seven people (though we also shared another dessert as well).

Butterscotch Creme Brûlée: 8/10

Wow. Super rich, very sweet, but really fucking tasty. Share this otherwise you might overload on decadence. Below is a shot of the dessert platter that came out on my second visit, to share among 10 people.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s salmon, three-pound lobsters and big eye tuna on the seafood entree menu. I like how this and the chops menu are streamlined and slim, but that means fewer options for you picky assholes out there.

Service: 10

Impeccable. Everyone is attentive, really friendly and knowledgable. The bread basket here is quite interesting, and contains cheese baked flatbreads, chocolate and strawberry muffins, olive bread and other stuff. Very nice.

Ambiance: 9

This place is gorgeous inside. The floor space isn’t gigantic, but the ceiling height is. That really gives the joint a grand and spectacular feel.

There’s also a private dining room, which is where we ate:

I will definitely be back to try some seafood and their porterhouse.

MAXWELL’S CHOPHOUSE
1184 Broadway
New York, NY 10001

Excellent Dumpling House (23rd)

This joint was PACKED on a Friday evening when my wife and I came in for a quick bite. There’s another joint named Excellent Dumpling House in Chinatown. It has yet to be determined whether this is owned by the same folks.

Anyway, I was fighting off a cold, so I ordered a bowl of chicken dumpling noodle soup. It was pretty great, especially with some of their spicy chili oil.

I also tasted some of my wife’s soup dumplings, which were.. shall I say… excellent? Ha! Maybe. I mean they were constructed properly, cooked nicely… no ripping… But perhaps I haven’t had enough XLBs to really say what is excellent or just above average.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
165 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011

Death Avenue

I’ve been meaning to check out Death Avenue because I was always intrigued by the name. Death Avenue was the notorious nickname given to 10th Avenue due to all of the railway deaths that occurred there in the old days, when trains ran vertically up and down the avenue to service the warehouse and meat packing districts.

In any event, the joint is Greek-inspired, but also had some classic American staples like burgers and BBQ.

The cocktail list is excellent.

I tried the Banana Bourbon, which was light and smooth, and definitely banana-infused. My wife tried the Mastiha Mint (Mastiha is a kind of tree – its sap or extract is used in the drink). It was refreshing like a mojito.

We started with fried pickles. Pretty basic. The dips were interesting: a BBQ cause, tzatziki and some kind of hollandaise-isa sauce. The pickles were tasty, but the batter slipped off too easily.

My wife ordered the 8 Hour Octopus app as her entree. This was pricey at about $26, but it was tasty and somewhat substantial enough to eat as an entree if needed.

I had the Feta Burger. This was stacked way too tall, but overall it was a decent enough burger to satisfy my cravings. The oregano fries that came with it were great.

I’d say this was a great place to have a few drinks and snacks, but I’d skip making a whole meal out of it.

DEATH AVENUE
315 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Bullfrog & Baum Burger Crawl

My wife and I were invited on a really cool burger crawl hosted by one of NYC’s most influential restaurant public relations firms, Bullfrog & Baum. The crawl was to celebrate National Burger Day.

On the crawl, we visited five of the joints they represent and tried nine different burgers over the course of eight hours. We were with a group of about ten people, so we were able to split and share the burgers at each place (nine burgers is a bit much for one person, even if you stretch it over eight hours).

Stop 1: Porter House Bar & Grill

We tried three different burgers here, starting off like champs.

Burger 1: I had eaten the Bar Burger before, and it still holds up as one of the greats. In fact I liked it the best of all nine from the crawl. It’s a simple double patty with American cheese on a potato bun, with jalapenos. The best way.

Burger 2: They just debuted this Pat LaFrieda truffle burger blend and threw it onto a bun with braised short rib, red onion jam, melted Fontina cheese and even more shaved black truffles. Amazing, and probably in my top three for the day.

Burger 3: The Dry Aged burger is a beef lover’s dream. You really get that earthy, dry-aged beef flavor in every bite.

Stop 2: The Vine

The American Burger at The Vine is a great tribute to an old fashioned diner burger, but elevated in quality and flavor. I really enjoyed this one. Maybe one more slice of cheese would take it into top three favorites status.

Stop 3: Boucherie

I’ve had this baby before and reviewed it, so no need rehash too much. Great LaFrieda dry-aged blend. A wallop of intense flavor.

Stop 4: Black Tap SoHo

We tried two here. Only the strong survive!

Burger 1: Black Tap’s American Burger was excellent. So simple and delicious, perfectly cooked. American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo (on top in photo below).

Burger 2: The Greg Norman had already impressed me in the past. It was just as wonderful again. You’d think the wagyu beef would be overpowered by the blue cheese, but it just intensified the savory crust on the patty. Lovely. It’s on the bottom in the photo above.

Stop 5: Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

At our final stop, we tried two different burgers. And both were spectacularly crafted.

Burger 1: The Fed is a nice crisp patty topped with stilton cheese, thick cut bacon and pickles. The bun is an onion poppy roll that really works to enhance the flavors. What a great burger!

Burger 2: The Bar Burger here has no cheese, but it’s got an amazing crispy sear on the patty. It’s topped with a creamy whipped herb butter and pickles, and sits on an English muffin. Really simple and incredibly delicious. This one took me by surprise!

Such a crazy day! Not one bad burger in the bunch. In fact, all were pretty damn great. It was tough to choose favorites.

PORTER HOUSE BAR & GRILL
10 Columbus Cir
New York, NY 10019

THE VINE
851 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001

BOUCHERIE
99 7th Ave S
New York, NY 10014

BLACK TAP SOHO
529 Broome St
New York, NY 10013

BLUE RIBBON FEDERAL GRILL
84 William St
New York, NY 10038

Forbidden Donuts

You know me: I’m not really an ice cream and donuts kind of guy. But DECADENT and SAVORY donuts?!?!!! Now you have my attention!

“Forbidden Donuts” has created a secret menu of seven deadly sinful donuts that will be shared with faithful sinners every Sunday at Bowery Kitchen Supplies in Chelsea Market from 11am to 4pm.

Limited quantities are available, so get there bright and early.

Menu and pricing are below. My favorite is the Smoked Salmon.

Caviar w/ Vodka Jelly $ 18
caviar cream

Smoked Salmon & Roe $8
smoked salmon tarama

Foie Gras & Chocolate Glazed $15
Foie gras mousse

Lobster “Roll” $10

Matcha Green Tea $5
crispy artichokes

Cauliflower Peanut Butter $5
crispy ginger

Kimchi $5
sweet & sour sriracha glazed

FORBIDDEN DONUTS (POP-UP)
Chelsea Market
Bowery Kitchen Supply
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011

The Ainsworth

My wife paid a little under $50 for a Gilt City flash deal that got us two drinks each, an app to share, two entrees and a side to share at The Ainsworth. Pretty great deal if you ask me.

We started with these crab tacos. These are $21 regular price, so I thought that was a bit high considering that these are small and the plate comes with four pieces. Do these look like they’re worth $5.25 each (before tax and tip)? I don’t think so.

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They were tasty – good crunch on the shell, though I wasn’t sure if the crab meat was actual lump crab or some kind of crab substitute. Either way, I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for them.

For a nominal upcharge ($12), I went with the 20oz bone-in, 28-day dry-aged rib eye.

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This was spectacular. The aged flavor really popped for just a 28-day stint in the aging box. I could taste the nutty and funky qualities with ease. While it was grilled instead of seared, didn’t have much of a spinalis (fat cap), and there was a bit of hard gristle in the meat, the cook temperature was a perfect medium rare and the flavor in the eye was excellent. 8/10.

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As you can see, the steak was topped with some crispy fried shallots. Nice touch!

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At $42, this is a great deal, especially considering that the flavors of this thing can easily rival some of the best steakhouses in town. I guess it was just a bummer that I got a cut with little fat cap and a few bites of gristle.

My wife went with the famous mac and cheese burger.

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That’s a fried mac and cheese patty on the bottom, a cheeseburger patty on top of that, and then mac and cheese on top of the burger.

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While that is all totally unnecessary and probably only done for Instagram fodder, it was indeed a fun item to eat. Here’s a little animated image for you to ogle:

It didn’t taste that special to me, but it sure did make for some handsome photos.

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French fries came with that burger, as if there wasn’t enough to fill you up with the burger itself.

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These could use some work. Some were a little bit un-crisped and heavy, but otherwise decent.

On the side, we shared the asparagus with a fried egg on top. Both the asparagus and the egg were cooked perfectly and had good flavor. Look – it was either this or more fries, so give me a break.

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THE AINSWORTH
122 W 26th St
New York, NY 10001

New York Burger Co.

This place slings a decent fast food style burger, but the bacon was rubbery on both my and my wife’s burgers, and the fries were soggy and dense. Stick to the basics here and you should be fine. Don’t waste money on the extras. And it’s still not on the level with places like Smashburger, Shake Shack or Lucky’s Famous.

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The good thing is that my wife paid about $10 for $30 worth of food and drink here through a flash deal. So all in, this was not too bad.

NEW YORK BURGER CO
678 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10010

CoBa

My wife and I went to this Chelsea location with a Groupon deal. While the food doesn’t really look pretty, we both agreed that it was good. We started with lemongrass crusted fried tofu. The texture was similar to a silken tofu style that you might find in a miso soup, but a bit more structured.

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We also had a duck salad. I was hoping the duck would be more crispy. It felt at times that the bits of duck were chewy or overcooked, but the salad was a nice crisp cabbage base that was dressed with a sour fish sauce.

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For me, the star of the meal was this clay pot pork belly stew with potato, tofu and egg. Sometimes these can get too salty, but this was just right. The broth was nice with rice as well.

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Last, we tried a noodle dish that ended up being similar to banh cuon, even though it was called something completely different on the menu. It had grilled pork, bologna style ham, cucumbers, bean sprouts, cilantro and flat, wide noodles. It was dressed in fish sauce. The meats were excellent and the noodles were perfectly cooked:

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COBA
110 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10011

Burgers & Cupcakes

NOTE: This place is now closed.

This joint ran a Groupon special that got you two burgers, an order of tries, and two cupcakes for $15. Not bad.

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I went there with “Chicken Sandwich Sam,” a buddy of mine who insists on getting grilled chicken sandwiches on many occasions when we are going out for cheeseburgers. His looked good, but mine looked better:

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That’s beef, baby. With American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. While the bun was small, the burger packed a good amount of flavor. It was fired up correctly to medium and had a good crisp to the patty edges.

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The fries were natural cut steak fries. Not too doughy or greasy, with a nice crisp given the style (these usually aren’t as crispy for some reason). Course salt was a nice touch:

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For my cupcake, I went with marble cake (chocolate and vanilla) topped with a peanut butter frosting. The cake was dry, but the peanut butter frosting was nice, even if it was only just a smear of Jiffy. Not even close to Cake Dealer quality, but the place makes for an interesting concept.

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BURGERS & CUPCAKES
458 9th Ave
New York, NY 10018