Category Archives: Nolita/Soho

19 Cleveland

My wife and I went to 19 Cleveland – a newish Israeli/Tel Aviv joint – for a friend’s birthday. I’m not quite sure of the names of the dishes we had, as so many small plates came out and some aren’t necessarily on the regular menu. Everything was really good so I’m just going to do a pic dump and highlight my favorites with some extra words.

The falafel and starters were all great.

The hummus was awesome. Probably the best I’ve had other than the fave bean and olive -based one at Coco J’Adore.

I really liked this crispy kale, beets and farmers cheese dish. It reminded me of the one I loved at Le Turtle.

Incredible schnitzel. A top dish of 2019 contender for sure. Make sure you get this. It comes with a platter of greens too, to make it into a Milanese of sorts.

I also really loved this lemony and buttery pasta that came with a fried poached egg on top. DELICIOUS!

Roasted cauliflower.

Branzino.

Awesome halva ice cream on this first dessert plate (the stone great color).

That about does it. I’d definitely come back here again and I highly recommend it. Fun spot.

19 CLEVELAND
19 Cleveland Place
New York, NY 10012

Raoul’s

I’ve been meaning to try this spot for about four years now, and I finally got around to it. At least for the burger, anyway.

The Raoul’s burger debuted in 2015, and it has taken the burger world by storm ever since. This au poivre style masterpiece comes with sauce on the side, as well as a nice crispy set of French fries.

On top of the burger is some dressed spinach, sliced gherkins, red onion and a blob of triple-creamed French cheese that reminded me of a soft, velvety and mildly tangy goat cheese. The bun is a soft yet supple challah from Amy’s Bread. Perfect.

The bartender told me to cut the burger in half to make it easier to dip into the au poivre sauce, and he even cautioned me to ration some sauce for fry dipping. Wise words. However, this revealed that the cheese was relegated to one spot in the middle of the burger, and not spread evenly from edge to edge. I didn’t mind much, as this made for slightly different flavor experiences with each bite.

I loved this burger, and it’s easily in my top five at the moment. While the price tag was steep, I thought it was worth every penny.

I’ll be back for the strip steak au poivre very soon.

RAOUL’S
180 Prince St #2924
New York, NY 10012

Houseman

I saw some Instagram photos of a great looking burger from this joint, so I had to go check it out.

The Houseman burger is a double patty with melted swiss, griddled onions and mushrooms, all cooked perfectly and slapped in a toasted potato bun.

Really flavorful, and dangerously easy to crush two or three of these in one sitting. For $20 it comes with fries, and you can get a $2 beer with it as an add on. Great deal.

HOUSEMAN
508 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10013

Fish Cheeks

My wife and I came here for a friend’s birthday lunch. Here’s all the stuff we tried:

DRINKS

Watermelon Spritz: Aylesbury vodka with Aperol, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and Prosecco.

Thai Old Fashioned: Mekhong Thai spirit with Angostura, orange, kaffir lime and spiced chocolate bitters.

APPS

Calamari: fried calamari, cilantro, dried red chili, tamarind and fish sauce glaze.

Zabb Wings: fried chicken wings with chili, lime and mint.

Shrimp in 3 Crabs Sauce: lightly cured raw shrimp with lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chili and mint.

Yum Som-O: pomelo, cilantro, fried shallot, apple blossom, toasted coconut flakes, peanut and tamarind dressing.

Grilled Pork Cheeks: Compart Duroc pork cheeks served with Jeaw sauce.

Market Oysters: served with fried shallots and nam jim seafood.

ENTREES

Coconut Crab Curry: southern style curry with crab meat and sea beans.

Short Rib Massamun Curry: grass fed short rib braised for 12 hours, potatoes and peanuts.

Crab Fried Rice: crab, rice, egg, scallion, cilantro and cucumber served with nam jim seafood and prik nam pla.

Steamed Fish with Thai Herbs: whole striped bass, chili, lime, mint, cilantro, cilantro and lemongrass broth.

Seafood Pad Cha: stir fried shrimp, scallop, squid, wild ginger, green peppercorn, basil, string beans and Thai eggplant.

SIDES

String Bean & Pork Cracklings: sautéed with dried chili and garlic.

Sautéed Cabbage: with garlic and fish sauce.

Spicy Corn: with grape tomatoes and string beans.

DESSERTS

Sticky Rice & Mango:

Coconut Ice Cream:

Okay, so that would be a shitload of dishes to review individually. I can tell you honestly that every single dish I had here was incredible, and that’s even including the vegan and vegetarian dishes. My favorites were the calamari, wings, shrimp in 3 crabs sauce, pork cheeks, crab fried rice, steamed fish, seafood pad cha and beef curry.

FISHCHEEKS
55 Bond St
New York, NY 10012

Harolds Meat + Three

Last night I tried a ton of really great American, and specifically NY/NJ, comfort food here at Harold’s Meat + Three. There’s a lot to discuss, so I might as well get right down to it.

WINGS

Brined, smoked and grilled, these are some of the best, most deeply flavorful wings I’ve ever had. They have a great charcoal, wood-fired flavor to them.

PIZZA

We sampled two wood fired flatbread pizzas. The first, an arugula, cheese and ham:

The second, egg, cheese and Taylor ham. Amazing. Off the menu, but you can ask for it at brunch time.

BURGERS & SANDWICHES

Breakfast burger with sunny side egg, taylor ham and American. This tasted like a great white castle slider mixed with a classic deli style egg sandwich.

The South Jersey Soul Crusher: five thick cut, griddled slices of Taylor ham (or pork roll, depending on which part of Jersey you’re in), on an everything bagel. Perfect hangover food.

Egg sandwich with American cheese, salt, pepper and ketchup. A classic, but on a potato bun, and with some pork roll added for good measure. So tasty.

The award winning burger. This baby is simple and delicious. Two smash patties, lots of american, pickles, and a smear of ketchup and mustard, all on a potato bun. Perfect.

BLT. Perfectly executed with Harold Moore’s smoked bacon and crispy Taylor ham bits.

Speaking of smoked bacon, we had a plate of that as well. Incredible.

CHOPS

The rib eye steak.

This is wet aged and simply grilled to a perfect medium rare. Served with an array of veggies so you feel good about yourself.

The lamb blade chop.

I love when places offer interesting and less common cuts of meat. Harold nails it with a citrus marinade, Italian herbs and crushed red pepper. A squeeze from the grilled lemon really made this do backflips on my tastebuds. Check out the perfect cook temp inside:

PASTA (sweet potato tortellini)

There’s smoked ricotta, sage and brown butter in those beauties.

TRIPE STEW

That’s garlic bread on the side there with it. Super tender, great sauce with aji panca chili.

BISCUITS

This biscuit with pork roll bits inside was incredible. Great way to start the meal (sorry I’m adding it here so late).

DESSERT

Miniature soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. My favorite kind of ice cream. I’m a simple man.

Chocolate cake with ice cream on top. Gotta have the rainbow sprinkles on the frosting too.

Not one bad bite in the bunch. I really suggest you get down here and try this place ASAP. So good, and currently still somewhat “under the radar” of people who like to line up like assholes for food. Not for long though. This place is amazing.

HAROLD’S MEAT + THREE
2 Renwick St
New York NY 10013

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

Felix

I’d been to Felix a few times for drinks in the nice weather, but I never actually sat down to eat until yesterday. I was invited in to take photos of the food and post some stuff to Instagram, so my wife and I went for dinner and tried some good French classics.

First, the foie gras terrine.

This was incredibly smooth and creamy. It was served with toasted bread and some caramelized shallots. Highly recommended, but I actually liked eating it better with the table bread than the toast.

I had to get the beef carpaccio, just because, you know, beef.

It was beautifully plated with arugula and shaved parmesan. Also really tasty, and also recommended.

My wife went with the cassoulet.

This baby was packed with a massive assortment of meats: chicken, duck, pork and two types of sausage.

Very nice.

I went with what was described on the menu as both a cote de boeuf and an aged 40oz prime rib for two. However, what came out was more like a traditional steak as opposed to roasted prime rib.

It also felt like it was a little smaller than 40oz. Perhaps maybe 32oz.

I ordered somewhere between rare and medium rare. Some parts were spot on, and others were over. But the flavor was pretty good at a solid 7/10. It also came with a nice vegetable medley of string beans, carrots, mushrooms and baby Brussels sprouts. The fries were really great too.

The three sauces that came with it were Bernaise, peppercorn and blue cheese (and a small dish of dijon for the fries). My favorites were the peppercorn and the blue cheese, but I was going into the peppercorn more because the blue cheese sauce was strong.

For dessert we tried the apple tart (tarte tatin).

This had a great texture on the outer edges of the tarte, with a soft and tasty apple inside. A nice pairing with some vanilla ice cream.

FELIX
340 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013

The French Cheese Board

I was recently invited to the French Cheese Board by Peachonomics and The Baddish Group for a cheese tasting. I ended u learning a lot about cheeses, and since we were eating all cow’s milk cheeses, I figured it was worth a write-up on here.

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I had no idea that certain cheeses were meant to be cut and eaten in specific ways depending on their shape and size. Check out these charts:

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Pretty interesting. And this chart of cow breeds shows which cheeses come from which cows:

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What I found interesting is that, much like our Beef Check-Off system here in the States, Cheeses of Europe acts as a marketing tool and advocacy arm of the cheese industry across the pond. They organized this event as a way to educate foodies in NYC about French cheeses. I’m actually looking forward to learning more about cow’s milk cheeses. Maybe one of these days I’ll organize a beef and cheese pairing event, as I’m sure certain cuts of beef or methods of preparation would pair nicely with certain cheeses.

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Not only does the French Cheese Board sell cheese, but it also acts as an art gallery and food lab as well, where students can intern and learn about cheese.

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We tried a bunch of really diverse cheeses. My two favorites were the Brillat Savarin and Pont I Eveque. Both were softer and creamier than Brie.

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They served us some nice wines that went with the cheeses, and even put together some plated cheese hors d’oeuvres.

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I definitely recommend hitting this spot to try out some cheeses. The prices are very reasonable.

THE FRENCH CHEESE BOARD
41 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Hida Beef

Hida is a region in Japan, located in the northern part of Gifu prefecture on Honshu island. That’s west of Tokyo, but not quite as far as Kyoto or Osaka. While I’ve never been there, I can tell it’s a place that I’d definitely want to visit.

Hida is known for it’s outstanding beef (Hida-gyu), which is derived from a black-haired Japanese breed of cattle. Laws are such that, to quality as the Hida brand, the cattle has to have been raised in Gifu prefecture for at least 14 months. The beef is characterized by intense, beautiful, web-like marbling with a buttery, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. The flavor is both rich and delicate at the same time. It can be likened to the top percentiles of wagyu beef, rivaling kobe and matsusaka in quality, with marbling grades of A/B 3, 4, and 5.

I was invited to a Hida beef tasting event at EN Japanese Brasserie, one of the seven restaurants in the area that will be serving Hida beef on their menus. The other six are Brushstroke, Hakubai, Hasaki, Sakagura, Shabu-Tatsu and the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first time that Hida beef is available here in the States, so if you’re a meat aficionado like me, you should definitely hit one of these places and give it a try. This stuff is expensive though, so make an occasion out of it.

I tried the beef in four different preparations: (1) sliced raw, nigiri sushi style, and then kissed with the scorching flame of a blowtorch; (2) seared edges, a tatami trio, with three different kinds of salt; (3) “Hoba-miso” style, stone grilled with miso sauce; and (4) chopped raw, tartare or ceviche style, with citrus and uni. Despite all the marbling, the meat doesn’t come off tasting very fatty, like some highly marbled cuts do. It didn’t leave a coating of waxy or fatty residue on my palate like certain cured salamis with high fat content. And it didn’t cause the flavors of whatever I ate next to change or taste different due to that fat, which is sometimes the case with aged beef and cured salami. In short, it was really a very pleasing experience.

I’ll start with my favorite preparations: (2) and (3). The tataki trio was essentially three slices of Hida beef (strip loin), each dressed with a different salt element: yuzu soy sauce, sea salt and a special red salt that had hints of spice to it. All three were great, but I think I liked the classic sea salt topper the best.

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The hot stone grilled preparation, Hoba-miso, was the only one in which the beef was cooked through. This dish is local to Hida. The sliced beef is placed on Hoba (a big Magnolia leaf) with miso and scallions, which then sits directly on the surface of the hot stone. As you can see, the before and after photos of this method indicate that this beef can be thoroughly enjoyed fully cooked if you’re one of those puss-bags who is afraid to eat raw or under-cooked meat.

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Fully cooking the beef did not take anything away from the meat. You still get that buttery smooth texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor characteristics. In fact, the leaf and miso bring nice flavor accents to the beef that compliment it well. This, too, was a strip loin cut of beef, and it was presented to eat on grilled sticky rice patties.

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Here’s the chef, Abe Hiroki, who was grilling these delicious morsels to absolute beef-paradise perfection:

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The torched nigiri style reminded me slightly of spam musubi, for the sole reason that it was a warm meat item served atop sushi rice. Here, you can get a real, unadulterated taste of the beef in all its marbled glory. It truly is spectacular.

I’ve been eating aged beef for so long that something this pure and clean really blew me away. This was strip loin as well.

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This was the sushi master behind these perfect pieces of nigiri:

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Finally, this tartare or ceviche style came dressed with a citrus yuzu sauce and was topped with uni (raw sea urchin). Absolutely stunning and decadent. The reason I am interchanging tartare with ceviche is that, typically, ceviche involves fish and citrus, while tartare features meat and egg yolk. Since this dish had elements of both but not all, I figured I’d split the baby. Tarviche? Why not. Also strip loin.

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The event also showcased some nice sake selections with flavors ranging from dry to sweet, traditional to aromatic and fruity.

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In fact, the event began with a “breaking the mirror” ceremony on the casks of sake, as well as a sake toast.

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The governor of Gifu was even in attendance, introducing the beef, the region and the customs to the audience.

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The restaurant itself is beautiful, and I look forward to coming back to try some more of this amazing beef. Every preparation was 10/10 for flavor, and I highly recommend it.

EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
435 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014

Bo Caphe

Vietnamese food is a tough nut to crack in NYC. Most of it sucks here, and the few places that people rave about just don’t really do it for me. I’ve been to places where they get one dish right, but fail on others. They have a great sandwich, but the soup in bland. You can literally go to almost any other city in America and find better Vietnamese food than you can in NYC, which baffles the living shit out of me. New York is the best at everything, so why not Vietnamese food? Who knows. The answer eludes me. Maybe the Vietnamese community just isn’t big enough here, or there aren’t enough courageous Vietnamese chefs that are willing to stretch their neck out and take a financial risk in the highly competitive and quick-to-closure NYC restaurant scene.

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Goddess Kali: house sake, sparkling wine, chia seeds, hibiscus, lemon and pineapple.

In any case, Bo Caphe isn’t like those lame joints that attempt to offer traditional Vietnamese food and then fail to deliver because there is not one single Vietnamese person on staff who would know how to make the dishes. Bo Caphe is embracing the non-traditional by proudly offering fusion dishes that you can get excited about, like the Bao Burger with taro chips.

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The burger had a nice char on the outside, with what seemed like diced onions mixed into the grind. It was juicy, and the steamed bun was the perfect Asian version of a soft and pliable yet strong potato bun. The addition of cilantro and green pepper sauce made it pop. The taro chips were a nice touch as well. They were thin, crisp, well seasoned and only occasionally greasy.

Being a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant is nothing too outside the box, since binding the two cultures makes sense from a historical/colonial perspective. But Bo Caphe dives a bit further into French territory by offering a few selections that feature cheese, something largely not featured in Vietnamese cuisine, let alone Asian cuisine generally. Both the spring roll menu and bun menu featured cheese. The spring roll item, Vach Kiri, which literally translates to “laughing cow,” is a fried rice paper wrapper that’s filled with cheese and quinoa.

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The fried chicken bun had some goat cheese. I enjoyed it, as it added a different texture and flavor combination to compliment the pickled carrots and daikon on top, but I can see how this might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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The braised beef bun, on the other hand, was pretty straight forward and delicious. No cheese that I could taste. And while I was eating this one I remarked that I was surprised the Bao Burger didn’t feature any cheese. Of all places to have it, that seems like the most proper fit for cheese in Asian cuisine.

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The noodles here were fantastic. We tried two styles: one was cooked lemongrass beef, and the other was raw diced salmon. The salmon dish was reminiscent of a poke bowl but with noodles and fish sauce for dressing rather than soy-based sauces. It was refreshing and tasty.

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The lemongrass beef was my favorite of the two. The beef was really tender and packed with great lemongrass flavor and aromas.

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Both noodle dishes were topped with peanuts, shredded carrot and cucumber, fresh mint and a veggie spring roll.

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The next two dishes we tried run the gamut from traditional Vietnamese to traditional French. No real fusion here; two dishes in the style of two different countries. The first, of course, is pho.

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This aromatic, comforting soup is not bad for NYC pho, but my wife and I are just spoiled by the soups we had up in the mountains of SaPa in Vietnam. Nothing can compare. In any case, if you need a fix, this is not a bad bowl. The noodles are slightly different than the usual flat style (these are square spaghetti shaped, like “alla chitarra”), but the aromas are great and they use cilantro, which is what we saw in Vietnam fairly often. If you dress this bowl up with some hoisin and sriracha, you should be good.

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The second dish is a marinated skirt steak with salad.

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The steak was largely French-inspired, even down to the mustard seed sauce (which I liked very much). The steak was a bit over-cooked for my liking, but it packed a lot of flavor and was charred nicely on the outside. I’d order it again, for sure. 7/10.

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The watercress salad featured some nice ripe avocados, tomatoes and red onions.

The dessert menu has some interesting selections. First was a molten chocolate lava cake with coconut. The lava wasn’t very melty, but the sauce that came with it was delicious. The coconut here was similar to the inside of a mounds chocolate candy bar.

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This black sesame ice cream was more like a cream ice of shave ice texture and flavor; light, refreshing, icy rather than creamy. It was delicious, especially with the toasted sesame seeds on top.

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This next dessert was an interesting take on the avocado shakes that I love to get from Vietnamese restaurants. This was a chocolate avocado mousse. You could taste equally the avocado and the chocolate, which was a flavor combination that I never thought or expected to like. It was great!

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The only down side was that they didn’t have the spicy pineapple, sumac and mint salad dessert item. I was really looking forward to trying that out. Also just FYI: I was invited to this joint as an “influencer” – basically free food in exchange for pics and an honest review. So there it is.

BO CAPHE
222 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012