Category Archives: Midtown West

Just Pho

After reading some positive reviews of this Northern style Vietnamese pho restaurant, my wife and I rushed in to try it just as soon as we had some free time.

Contrary to the name of the restaurant, they DO serve more than just pho. They also serve some spring rolls. We tried pork and crab. Both were great. Light, crispy, not too greasy, and big on flavor.

They also serve fresh coconut juice.

We ordered two different bowls of soup; combination beef, and chicken with an added poached egg. Both size medium.

My favorite of the two was the beef.

It had a nice deep beefy flavor from their 15-hour broth making process, and it was chock full of rare, thinly-sliced eye round and brisket.

The noodles were cooked perfectly and had a nice snap and bite to them – unlike so many joints downtown that overcook them into a mush that falls apart as soon as you grasp them with your chopsticks.

While the beef was my favorite, I can see myself getting this velvety, eggy chicken pho on cold winter days. Check out this video as the egg yolk gets mixed in:

 

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I highly recommend this spot. Go give it a shot.

JUST PHO
252 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001

The Playboy Club

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS CLOSED

The Playboy club in NYC actually serves up some decent grub. The joint is not what you’d think, either. It’s not a strip club or some raunchy spot. It’s more like a classy version of Hooters with a night club in back. Hostesses near the front wear bunny outfits, similar to what you might see as a “sexy Halloween” outfit on the streets of NYC. But the restaurant part of the space is pretty much devoid of that kind of eye candy. I assume they hawk for bottle service in the club and show/stage space in back.

In any case, we came here to check out the food. We started with four apps: tuna tacos, wagyu sushi, crispy fried rock shrimp and beef tartare. Of these, the wagyu sushi was probably my favorite.

For a mid-course we shared the lamb chops with pesto (a little overcooked, but delicious) and the dry aged burger with aged cheddar, black garlic aioli and bacon onion jam (topped with a slider).

We were dipping our fries into that pesto from the lamb. It was awesome.

Last up, a 34oz dry aged rib eye with spicy citrus broccoli and more fries. This was actually a delicious 8/10, and it came with a bunch of nice sauces – my favorite of which was a sweet yet savory soy garlic sauce.

We had this with sides of garlic string beans and a towering phallus of onion rings.

Safe to say we were all pleasantly surprised by the food here. I’d probably go again.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB
512 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Once again David Chang pretty much disappoints. I understand and respect that he did a lot to expose certain aspects of Asian cuisine to folks here in NYC (and beyond), but I just don’t get why so many people are riding his dick so hard. The food just isn’t that good. Maybe it’s because he, himself, is not actually cooking? Not sure. But he gets doted on like crazy from places like Eater and the NY Times.

This man is supposed to be the wizard of fried chicken. Everyone says it. But two out of three times that I’ve tried his fried chicken, the experience was highly problematic. Fuku + was great. Ma Peche was half raw and half burnt. And this time at Noodle Bar the skin and batter wasn’t crisp enough – not by a long shot.

The bird was small but I don’t mind that. I actually prefer it, as the ratio of meat to skin and batter is usually better on a smaller bird. Also this bird had great flavor within the meat. But when there is little to no texture on the outside, it’s overall a let down.

Another let down was the “pork ramen.” When I associate David Chang with pork ramen I’m thinking of a rich, thick, fatty and almost milky tonkotsu broth. Not the case here. This was thin and lacked character. The slab of pork belly was nice enough, as were the noodles and the bamboo shoot. But the broth was weak. Even with a raw egg yolk mixed in, it was thin and watery. Maybe I’m just missing the point of this dish.

On the positive side of things, the creamy lemon and pepper lobster noodle dish was excellent. It sports lots of juicy and flavorful claw meat throughout, wide and perfectly cooked snappy noodles, and a hearty citrus and pepper zing.

The rice cakes were a bit soft but very tasty. When eaten with the corn you got the texture that was needed.

One thing I will say is that the prawn dish looked incredible. We were wishing we ordered that instead of the chicken every time we saw an order come up (we sat at the kitchen bar area). For $23 the dish comes with five huge baby lobster sized head-on prawns. Lightly batter fried and then dressed up for the big ball.

That about does it. I probably won’t come back here unless my wife and I are jonesing for that lemon-pepper lobster dish and those prawns.

MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

Hudson Yards Grill

This week I tried out Hudson Yards Grill in my endeavor to eat at all the new joints in the mall over there. Here’s how it went down:

Fried Oysters

These were great. Super crispy outside, like you’d find on good fried chicken. Tender, perfectly cooked inside. Almost like they were just steamed open. Get them.

Burger

Great dry aged flavor without being overly aggressive. I ordered medium rare but it came out somewhere between medium and medium well. I didn’t mind much, since it tasted so good. But that should be noted. Great fries too.

Strip Steak: 7/10

I almost gave it an 8. But not quite. It had good flavor and was seasoned nicely,but the grilling process left it in dire need of a crust. Also it was just not a very impressive cut to begin with. I was hoping for something thicker and with a bone. The potato that came with it was medium rare – meaning it still needed to be cooked more.

Rib Eye: 6/10

This just didn’t have the character or flavor that the strip had. It was a little bland despite being seasoned well. Same lack of crust issue as the strip. It felt like this could’ve been an Applebees steak to be honest. In addition, it was accompanies by eight pathetic string beans, a nice tube of bone marrow and a horseradish cream sauce that would be better suited for a roasted prime rib as opposed to a grilled rib eye.

Coconut Cake

Fail. This was dry, heavy, and overly sweet. I had high hopes for this but it was a let down.

Drinks

Great white mezcal negroni, strawberry gin fizz and lavender margarita.

Summary

I’d definitely do drinks here again, along with a burger at the bar. Skip the mains and focus on the apps if you’re sitting for a bigger meal though. The steakhouse prices for the cuts of beef here just aren’t worth it.

HUDSON YARDS GRILL
Hudson Yards
4th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Taladwat

The folks behind Pure Thai Cook House and Feast have collaborated to create one of Thai Town’s newest joints, Taladwat.

My food buddy from Instagram, @NYCFoodFOMO, organized a few of us to go try some of their noteworthy dishes. Here’s how it went down:

I don’t remember the names of any of these dishes, but I can do a good job explaining them. The first one is a scallion omelette. This was great.

This roasted calamari was a favorite among all of us I think.

The coconut curry chicken was a little sweet for my liking, but the meat was delicious.

On the opposite end, this savory and spicy larb style ground chicken dish was awesome. My favorite of the night.

We had two types of pork. This was a pork belly in curry.

And this was stir fried with string beans. I liked this better.

This ground shrimp and shrimp paste “sausage” patty in a banana leaf was delicious. You can see the herbs mixed into it. Lots of flavor.

This braised ginger short rib dish was really tender. Definitely a go to for you meat lovers.

Soak up that sauce with this nice rice.

Then move on to dessert: pumpkin custard on sticky rice and mango sticky rice.

This place is worth trying when the sister joint Pure is jam-packed (it often is). I still prefer Pure to this, and perhaps Chai Thai and Noodies as well (for this part of town, anyway).

TALADWAT
714 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Cardoncello diVino

My wife and I discovered Cardoncello diVino this week and so far we are loving it.

First off, they have great cocktails like the smoked negroni and grande stella (tequila, mezcal, elderflower).

The table bread is a good variety of quality breads and breadsticks, served with a zucchini puree.

To start, we had a side of Cardoncello mushrooms, salmon carpaccio and sardines.

The salmon was a slight favorite over the mushrooms, but not by much. All were very good.

The pasta dishes really shine here. This paccheri with veal ragu was absolutely perfect. Cooked to a nice al dente texture and impeccably seasoned.

This crab and lemongrass tortelli dish had a fresh pea sauce that was awesome.

For one of our mains, we had shrimp with quinoa in a sambuca sauce. It may sound weird, but I assure you it was great. Only thing I’d change is to maybe swap the quinoa for something heartier like a farro risotto, made with that sauce.

The wagyu beef cheek was braised to fork tender deliciousness. It’s very easy to mow through this dish very fast.

For dessert, we had a lemon and coconut budino (rice pudding) with raspberry jelly on top, and a goat cheese and barley tart that was a teetering balance between savory and sweet.

I’m psyched to go back and try more pasta dishes, as well as take on their extra virgin olive oil tasting.

CARDONCELLO DIVINO
43 West 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Queensyard

From the makers of Bluebird London NYC (which now has a new chef, so I need to go back) comes Queensyard. This Hudson Yards joint serves up comfort food in a fancy setting with awesome views of the “Vessel” structure.

They have an impressive gin and tonic list, along with some other nice cocktails.

On this quick visit, I tried four items:

1) Fried Chicken Sandwich

This beauty was really tasty. It had a great crunch and the meat was juicy and flavorful. Nice pickles on top as well. I liked it a lot. But I would love it even more with a spicier sauce.

2) Dry Aged Burger

Make sure you add the cheese and crispy bacon when you order. This baby is delicious, and almost tastes like an elevated but refined Big Mac.

3) Mac & Cheese

This definitely eats more like a nice pasta dish than what comes to mind when someone says “mac & cheese.” The addition of shaved aged cheese and mushrooms really makes this an earthy dish worth ordering again.

4) Sticky Toffee Pudding

This spiced and sauced bread pudding came with a spiced ginger ice cream and “Rocky Road” crumble. It is definitely interesting and different, and at some points leans on the savory side.

I’ll definitely be back here for another, larger meal. I’d like to try some steaks!

QUEENSYARD
20 Hudson Yards
4th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Belcampo

By now most of you who keep up with this blog or my Instagram account have seen some shit about Belcampo Meat Camp. Well, they have a restaurant in Hudson Yards and I finally got to try it out. Here’s how it breaks down:

Lamb “Bone Broth”

This stuff is spectacular. It almost tastes like an au jus or a gravy. Such deep, rich flavors with no gamey shit happening. This is also perfect for dipping bread, roast beef sandwiches, or whatever.

Eye Round Carpaccio

This is incredible. Probably my favorite carpaccio at the moment. It’s just so tender and flavorful. Hit it with some extra virgin olive oil and you’re all set.

Beef Tartare

This raw application is another winner. Excellent flavors, really great. If you prefer tartare to carpaccio, then get this.

Belcampo Burger

This was my favorite of the three burgers we tried. It has a slight aged flavor to it, but the cheese coverage, toppings and bun were all great to boot. In the pic above, it’s in front.

Lamb Burger

In the pic above, the lamb burger is in back. The move here is to take an occasional bite of this after dunking it into the lamb broth. Really tasty.

The Century Burger

This 100-day dry aged burger really brings the funk. It’s thick and meaty, and unabashed in it’s protein-forwardness.

Double Fast Burger

This is my favorite of all the burgers, and it is the most humble of them all. Two dry-aged patties, American cheese, and thinly sliced pickle on a potato bun. Absolutely awesome.

Rib Eyes

We tried both the boneless and cowboy rib eye steaks. Both were great, perfectly cooked, and came with aged funk to them. 8/10.

The “Porkerhouse”

The pork porterhouse was my favorite chop of the night. So tender, so juicy, and such a great fresh flavor to it. I can eat this regularly. I remember being very impressed with this at Meat Camp too.

Lamb Chops

These were awesome. Really nice rich red meat flavor with no game whatsoever. Perfectly cooked to medium rare.

Cookies & Cake

Wow. I didn’t except such deliciousness from such simplicity. The huge, warm, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies were my favorite of the two, but that chocolate cake was rich and moist.

Cocktails

I should also mention the great cocktails here. The duck fat washed rye drink called Midnight Cruiser was killer, with orange oil and bitters.

But the barrel rested Copalli rum cocktail called Out Past Curfew stole the show. Rum, bourbon, sherry, creme de cacao, cocoa nib vermouth and toasted pecan bitters.

Definitely give this place a shot. Everything was delicious and I can’t wait to go back.

BELCAMPO
500 West 33rd St
4th Floor
New York, NY 10001

La Lena

I went to La Leña in Hudson Yards’ “Little Spain” specifically to try a cut of steak from an 8-10yr old Holstein dairy cow from Mindful Meats in California.

This “Vaca Vieja” style steak is common in Spain and other parts of Europe, so I was psyched to try it. The beef was very lean, and also dry-aged, making it ripe for a quick cook. However, the restaurant spent nearly an hour cooking it in their fantastic open flame style kitchen. They ruined it.

We ordered medium rare but it came out to us somewhere between medium and medium well.

Ultimately it was a very uneven fire, with some parts in the center being properly medium rare, but with way too much thick grey-banding on the exterior.

Amateurish, and likely fired by a cook who was unfamiliar with open flame cooking. The result was a grainy textured eating experience. Not much in the way of flavor either. I had hoped for more uniqueness, having heard that dairy cows can develop great marbling with robust flavors when they get up there in age. 5/10.

At $120 for 24oz this was a complete rip off. Not only that, but when we informed the waiter of the improper cook, he simply said thanks and that he would let the chef know. No offer of a new steak. No money off the bill. Not even a free dessert or drink.

If you must go here, stick to the pork until these guys learn how to cook a steak. My wife said the pork tasting menu was good. Also,  nice gin and tonic:

LA LEÑA
10 Hudson Yards
New York NY, 10001

West Side Steakhouse

West Side Steakhouse overall score: 79

A few weeks back some friends and I were discussing steakhouses, and one friend randomly mentioned this spot – a spot which I have been meaning to try for years now, but never got around to it. Same for him – always wanted to try, but never did. None of us had particularly high expectations going into this, as it’s a small spot with bargain-friendly pricing in a traditionally bargain-friendly area. My buddy and I were both shocked that we both actually wanted to try it, so a few of us got our schedules in order and made it happen, almost purely for research purposes. Here’s what went down:

Flavor: 8

We had the rib eye and the porterhouse for two. Both could have benefitted from some seasoning, but overall everything was cooked perfectly to medium rare and tender all over. They definitely cook with butter, which you can smell and taste, but it isn’t overpowering like some places. The steaks were also well-rested before they were served, with little to no bleed out.

We also tried their burger. I forgot to dress it up with the lettuce and tomato that comes on the side, but this 10oz beefy patty was cooked perfectly to medium rare and the bun help up nicely to both the cheddar and the burger juices. Like the steaks, it just needed salt.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

All the major cuts are well represented here, and the beef is Certified Angus Beef, from Performance Foodservice. There was no dry-aged flavor coming through, so, if I had to guess, they are doing wet aging.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions here are pretty big. The porterhouse clocks in at 45oz, the boneless strip and filet mignon are 12oz, and the rib eye is 16oz. They even offer a smaller t-bone (20oz) and a petite filet (8oz), which comes with three jumbo shrimp. Plating is pretty basic. Nothing too fancy. White plate, watercress garnish.

Price: 9

The prices here are awesome. That giant porterhouse for two is just $79. The rib eye is $40. We ordered so much shit and felt like we got away with murder. For what you get here, this place is a great deal.

Bar: 6

The cozy five-seat, elbow-shaped bar may be small, but it sees a lot of action. It’s stocked with a really great rum and scotch selection. Upon seeing the nice rums they had, I decided to order a rum old fashioned for my first cocktail. I was not disappointed.

They mix a nice martini to boot. I noticed that several people ate their dinner at the bar, either solo or with their companions, throughout the evening.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

There’s pork, duck, chicken and lamb. No veal, but this is a great spread for a small spot. I almost never see good pork at steak joints these days, so I had to try some. We went with the braised pork shank as a mid-course, and it was cooked perfectly tender. The risotto was a little soupy, and tasted like chicken stock a bit, but I would definitely order that again in a heartbeat.

In addition to the pork shank they also offer a rack of ribs and center cut chops. I asked about specials but only recalled that the soup of the day was a split pea with bacon.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7

We had the fries, the sautéed mushrooms and the creamed spinach as far as sides are concerned. All were pretty good, with the creamed spinach being the standout of the three. The fries needed salt (like the burger and steaks), but they had a great crisp on the outside.

For dessert, we had the cheesecake, which was rich and creamy. They don’t make the desserts in house, but I don’t mind if the stuff they serve is tasty.

See the seafood section below for notes on the app that we tried.

Seafood Selection: 7

There’s bass, salmon and rainbow trout on the entree menu here, as well as shrimp, scallops, calamari, crab cakes and mussels on the app side. We tried the bacon wrapped scallops app and they were pretty good. I was shocked that the bacon was crisp all the way around – no rubbery spots – and the scallop was still cooked properly. They just had the flavor of something that was pre-made and frozen.

Service: 9

Our waiter was great. I don’t think he was used to seeing such heavy orders from a small group of three, so we kind of shocked him. He was great though, knew his meat and made good recommendations.

Bread here is a basket of basic dinner rolls with pre-packaged butter. The rolls are served nice and warm.

Ambiance: 7

A steakhouse with outdoor seating in NYC is a hard thing to come by. This place has it.

The interior is basic for the type of structure that it’s in – just a stretch of seating along one side of the room, with the bar and kitchen entry doors on the other.I’m glad I finally came here. Now I know I can go back when I want a good bargain with a nice mom and pop neighborhood feel. It reminded me a lot of Murtha’s back home, only better.

WEST SIDE STEAKHOUSE
597 10th Ave
New York, NY 10036