Category Archives: Upper East Side

Ristorante Morini

This was my fourth and final stop on the Michael White restaurant tour (not including Marea). This was a pretty big meal, so I’ll just get down to it and list everything we tried.

Chicken & Eggplant Meatballs

I admit I didn’t have high hopes for this, but it ended up being my favorite item of the night. So tasty. Really nice.

Scallop Crudo

Beautiful and light.

Carpaccio

The goat cheese on this was a nice touch.

We tried four different pasta dishes:

Tortelli

This was a squid ink dough stuffed with lobster meat inside, and garnished with cuttlefish. Using seafood is a great way to make a ravioli style dish a bit lighter. Really nice.

Garganelli

Braised lamb neck, sheep’s milk ricotta and broccoli rabe. A really hearty and flavorful pasta.

Tagliatelle

This was served with their classic Bolognese ragu, packed with delicious morsels of meat.

Fusilli

This was my favorite pasta of the night. Perfertly cooked al dente pasta with a delicious pork shoulder ragu and melted pecorino.

Lamb Chops

These had a grassy flavored green crust on the outside that gave the lamb a delicate earthy flavor.

Veal Milanese

The crispy prosciutto on top of the dressed greens here was killer, and it was the perfect way to introduce a little salt into the dish.

Porterhouse Florentine

This was cooked to a perfect medium rare. I love the charred lemon preparation here, and that filet side was super tender. 7/10.

We also tried two sides:

Mushrooms & Spinach

I loved that medley of wild mushrooms.

And of course, we also tried the White Label Burger from this location. Here, it is topped with fontina cheese, bacon, pepperoncini peppers and a tomato marmalade.

RISTORANTE MORINI
1167 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10028

Donohue’s

I’m a sucker for old restaurants, especially places that date back to the “Mad Men” days of NYC’s mod past. I’m not sure if they filmed anything from Mad Men at Donohue’s, but they should have. It is truly scenic in there, and perfect for a show like that. And that’s kinda where my excitement for this place ends.

I’m not an ageist, and I’m by no means a young whippersnapper. But I think I may have seen Don Draper and Richard Sterling at one of the tables here, struggling to throw back one last martini before their final coronary. I’m 40, and I was probably the youngest person in the joint at 7pm on a Monday.

This place just sucks in old rich people for some reason. We even saw an octogenarian couple pull up in their two-seater Mercedes sports car and park right in front before slowly shambling their way inside. I don’t begrudge that though; it must be a rough haul to hoof it down from 68th and Park to 64th and Lex at that age.

But what’s the fucking attraction? Do they swap spouses or some shit? Is there a back room where they buy and sell peoples’ souls?

Well there you have my synopsis of this review in picture form. I posted those to Instagram the night of the meal. But allow me to expand on that with a full steakhouse review:

Donohue’s overall score: 66

Flavor: 6

The filet wasn’t a nightmare, but it lacked flavor. It was likely cooked without salt and butter. Maybe this method caters to the low cholesterol, low sodium, salt substitute -using, high blood pressure -having, at-risk-for-heart-failure crowd that frequents the place. Or maybe they just don’t know what the fuck they’re doing in the kitchen as far as seasoning goes. In terms of working the broiler, it really was cooked perfectly. The crust on the outside was crispy but not charred or burnt, and there was a nice pink center from edge to edge.

I split this with a friend, though, and he said he had some chewy bits that he spit out. My half was fine in terms of texture.

We also split a burger. This thing sucked, mainly because the stale and lifeless bun needs to be replaced and the meat didn’t have a good sear on it. Otherwise I would have been fine with a simple cheese skirt and the basic toppings. The steak fries that came with it were actually great. They were golden crisp on the outside and soft like mashed potatoes inside. I was actually surprised by them, since I usually dislike steak fries.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 5

I’m not sure why this place holds itself out as a steakhouse when there are really only two cuts of beef being offered: sirloin and filet. That’s only half of the four basic steakhouse staples (assuming you count the sirloin as a strip). That said, they do offer other cuts as specials from time to time, and the menu lists the beef as prime.

Portion Size & Plating: 6

Portion sizes are a mixed bag here. My friend had a shrimp cocktail and there were just four medium-sized shrimp on it – certainly not “jumbo,” as listed on the menu. The crab cakes were small as well. The steak, however, was a good size for a filet; probably about 10 or 12oz. The same goes for the carrot cake; it was also a good portion size. Plating is very basic. Nothing fancy at all.

Price: 6

The pricing is another mixed bag. There’s something to be said about a steak joint that gives you a filet mignon, a salad, a potato and some onion rings for $40. While the majority of the side items sucked, I wouldn’t care if they just nailed the steak. A $40 price tag would still be good for that. I’d go all the time and give the sides and salads to a homeless person. The steaks and entrees are all under $40, and some are even under $30, which is great! But what makes things really odd is that so much other shit is overpriced. The small crab cakes ($19), the “jumbo” shrimp cocktail ($18), the kid’s size martini ($14)…

I’m used to feeling ripped off for getting double that amount of hooch for $18. This was some next level of rip off shit though. Maybe former Donohue’s regular Bernie Madoff is setting the pricing structure here. A seemingly good deal on entrees to get you in the door, and then a shitload of ass raping money grabs that would make Mr. Charles Ponzi himself stare in awe and envy from the beyond.

Bar: 7

Bar and atmosphere are truly the reasons to come here. I love the dim lighting, the checkerboard floor, the warm wood tones, and the “regulars welcome” kind of neighborhood feel to a short, old, unchanged stretch of bar on Lexington. Sit down. Have a drink.

Specials and Other Meats: 6

There are chalkboards in the window out front and on the wall in the back that list many of the same items that are already printed on the menu. One or two things aren’t printed, though, so keep an eye on the chalkboard if you’re looking to be disappointed by an unlisted entree here. As for other meats, they have veal, chicken and pork. Not bad, but then again this place is more like a diner than a steakhouse, so I’m not really surprised at the variety.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 6

I started with an order of crab cakes.

I joked that these were like frozen food aisle items, but they really weren’t that bad. These little guys had a good crispy fried crust on the outside, and the inside was all crab meat, for the most part.

The steaks came with a green veggie, three onion rings and your choice of potato. I picked a salad and mashed potatoes. The potatoes may as well have been made from a powdered box mix; bland and somewhat dry. The salad was an afterthought; the kind you might get at a roadside diner on a transparent, filigreed, faux-glass plastic plate with your meatloaf. The onion rings were fine, however.

As I mentioned above, the fries were pretty solid, and the carrot cake was good. But it wasn’t great. It was indeed the best part of the meal, but in no way did this dessert hold a candle to something like the amazing carrot cake dessert at Ocean Prime. One of my buddies asked if they made the dessert in house, and the answer was a resounding no.

Seafood Selection: 7

There are several fish entrees to choose from here. More fish entrees than beef entrees, I think. My buddy had scallops, which were broiled with lemon and white wine (no butter). I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in here. Or maybe the menu is catered to their palettes. Has to be. That and the nostalgia of reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950.

Service: 8

Our waitress forgot to bring us menus for about ten minutes and didn’t tell us about any specials, but that’s not really a big deal. Other than that, there were no problems. She remembered all the beers they had when my buddy asked, and she didn’t need to write anything down for our order. She was nice and pleasant, and she deftly swapped our forks and knives out between apps and entrees.

Ambiance: 9

I truly love the ambiance here. I think it could use some sprucing up though. I’m not talking about a remodel or anything like that, but something to clean it up and make it even more appealing as an old classic. The prices have gone up and the lease is locked for another 10 years, so they can afford to do something if they want to.

In summary, I’m glad I came here, especially since my friends paid for my meal as a birthday gift. I probably wouldn’t go back for a full meal, but I’d definitely stop in to take in the scenery on occasion, and maybe have an order of fries at the bar. Probably a beer, too, since those weren’t painfully overpriced like the martinis.

To try to answer my own question about why so many old rich people go to Donohue’s: I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in. Or maybe the cooks just cater to the palettes of their regulars. There’s nothing official or printed about no salt and no butter. It was just very evident. So that, plus the nostalgia of old folks reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950. As for the wealthy aspect? No idea. Must be the neighborhood.

DONOHUE’S STEAKHOUSE
845 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10065

PQR Pizza

When my wife and I were in Italy, we went bonkers for Bonci Pizzarium near the Vatican, and we’ve been craving it ever since. A brand new pizza joint on the upper east side, PQR, brought me right back there.

I have to say this is one of my new favorite spots in the city. Roman style pizza just works on so many levels. If you’ve never had it before, this is an exemplary representation. The dough/crust is perfectly crisp yet puffy and airy, and they’re generous with their high quality toppings.

Get the spicy soppressata with grape tomato and the sliced potato with truffle sauce. You’ll thank me later.

Spicy Soppressata:

Sliced Potato & Truffle:

Sliced Potato & Porchetta:

Traditional Mozz & Tomato Sauce:

PQR
1631 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

San Matteo Pizza

San Matteo is a Neapolitan style pizzeria and restaurant on the Upper East Side. Neapolitan style pizza is characterized by a puffy and doughy crust with, generally, pure and simple ingredients on top. See below:

This style of pizza isn’t crispy with a crunchy bottom like NYC style pizza, but I assure you that it’s still awesome. That was the Margherita Regina pie, $18. After eating this delicious stuff, I was surprised that I had room for dessert: profiteroles.

UPDATE 6/2/18

On a second visit, I came in to test a new burger that the owner Fabio was formulating for a competition (Burger Bash). The thing was amazing. Piedmontese beef in a 70/30 lean/fat ratio, topped with Blue Moon beer caramelized onions, radicchio, and lots of gooey and funky taleggio cheese. It was all housed in a freshly baked ciabatta bun, right from the pizza oven.

We also enjoyed numerous Aperol spritzes at the bar.

Some salumi:

An incredible porchetta and arugula sandwich:

Eggplant parm:

And of course more pizza:

This one had guanciale on it:

Fabio even made us a nice risotto dish with fresh porcini mushrooms, mixed up right in a cheese wheel:

I really love this place – such amazing Italian food.

SAN MATTEO PIZZERIA E CUCINA
1559 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Jade Sixty

UPDATE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED!

I was recently invited into Jade Sixty to try some food and share photos on Instagram. Here’s how it went down:

We started with the following:

Pastrami Dumplings
Jade Chicken Sticks
Peking Duck Tacos

I didn’t do the ordering, but I would have wanted to try two of those anyway. The Peking Duck Tacos were my favorite of the three.

The duck was delicious and had quality crispy skin on it, and the fried wonton taco shell was a welcome textural pop.

I liked the Pastrami Dumplings best next.

They had a flavorful hit of that juicy pastrami meat inside with a nice crispy brown on the outside of the dumpling. Perhaps Russian dressing or spicy mustard would be a more fitting dip instead of traditional dumpling sauce.

Last of the apps: the Jade Chicken Skewers.

These were thin strips of chicken that were coated in some kind of light breading. Good to snack on for sure, but I probably would have tried the soup dumplings if choosing the dishes myself.

For our entree we had a rib eye.

This had a great dry aged flavor to it (45-60 days), and it was perfectly cooked to medium rare. In some parts it could have benefitted from a bit more crust on the edges, and overall it needed just a bit of salt or seasoning. Otherwise, though, I loved it and we finished every bite. 8/10.

For our sides we had crispy eggplant with sweet and spicy chili sauce, as well as vegetable fried rice.

The eggplant was expertly fried and had a unique texture to it that was both airy and watery at the same time.

My wife and I generally aren’t huge fans of eggplant, so we were kinda bummed when that is what came out for our tasting. However, I found myself going back for more. It was oddly addicting.

The fried rice was served in a cool metal bucket.

It was a very basic veggie and soy sauce mix, and suffered slightly from a lack of crisp. I was hoping for a bit more from this, as it is an Asian steakhouse, but it did make excellent leftovers with some strips of turkey meat.

For dessert we had their famous fried apple wontons and a scoop of mint chip ice cream.

Both were very good on their own, but didn’t necessarily pair well together as an “a la mode” kind of dessert.

I apologize for the truncated review, but I am definitely interested in going back to try more things. The menu is really unique and interesting, and I think this spot would make for a fun group dinner where everyone can try a variety of items. I provided some rough estimates below, but note that this is tentative, since I didn’t have the opportunity to choose my own food. Stay tuned!

Jade Sixty Total Score: 84

Flavor: 8
Choice of Cuts & Quality: 9
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Price: 8
Bar: 8
Specials & Other Meats: 9
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
Seafood Selection: 9
Service: 9
Ambiance: 8

Jade Sixty took over the location from Blu on Park. Much of the space remained the same, with the exception of additional dining seats near the bar/lounge and basic aesthetic and decor choices.

JADE SIXTY
116 E 60th St
New York, NY 10022

Chimichurri Grill (East)

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED

I was invited to Chimichurri Grill East by the restaurant’s PR specialist to try a special five course tasting menu (with wine pairings and dessert), and to write a review. Let me get right to it!

The restaurant is an elegant, modern and fine dining Argentinian steak house. This is somewhat of a rarity here in the city, as most Argentinian places that I know are more on the pub atmosphere end, and don’t serve actual Argentinian proteins. Argentinian beef is something that people clamor for, so it’s good to know that this place serves the real deal.

Moreover, Chef Carlos Darquea uses family recipes to create the dishes he loves and grew up with. Everything is authentic and from the heart.

His wife Alicia is the wine director, and together they own a sister restaurant, called Chimichurri Grill West (a theater district mainstay for nearly 20 years), which serves the exact same menu but in a different atmosphere.

Here’s what we had:

Course 1: Sweetbreads (Heart)

This was really nice. These veal heart sweetbreads are sliced and grilled, served with a red pepper, parsley and garlic sauce, and featured on a slice of crispy purple potato. Very pretty and delicious. This was similar to something like foie gras.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 2: Beef Tongue Stew

I really loved this warm, hearty and delicious dish. It was reminiscent of homemade beef barley soup. The tongue was diced into small cubes and braised to tender perfection.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 3: Grilled Romaine Salad

The feta, buttermilk and dill dressing makes for a nice creamy compliment with the grilled greens. And the crispy bacon lardon is just perfect.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

We had a scoop of homemade passion fruit sorbet to cleanse the palate. Very nice!

Course 4: Pasta with Seafood

This house made pasta is served with a chardonnay and basil sauce that gets added to a roux and the various seafood juices that Chef Carlos extracts from the seafood used to make the dish; clams, calamari, prawns, mussels and halibut.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 5: Grass Fed Argentinian Rib Eye

This was great. It’s wet aged for 32 days as it travels from Argentina to the US. Chef Carlos finishes this Black Angus steak directly on wood charcoal to develop a great crust on the outside of the meat. It’s even plated with some charcoal, and when you pop the rosemary on top, it smokes and gives off a great aroma.

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It had a huge outer cap and a lean eye, likely due to the grass fed nature of the beef.

You’re in for a really nice bite when you combine the caramelized vidalia onions and sauces that come to the table with this dish.

The steak (which was a full sized portion, FYI) also came with French fries. These were perfectly crisp and deliciously seasoned.

Dessert: Dulce de Leche Creme Brulee

Wow. What a great dessert! So flavorful, smooth and unexpected. A great Latin twist on the classic French custard.

That about covers it! I really can’t wait to go back and try some more cuts of steak. The menu here is new/fresh, exciting, and completely outside the box.

They even have nice happy hour specials from 4-8pm, and a great express lunch menu for all you midtown power lunchers. Get on it!

UPDATE: 12/22/17

On a subsequent visit, I tried a few more delectable items.

La Suprema Burger

Veal sweet breads and caramelized onions on top of a 6oz grass finished filet patty. Very nice. The sweetbreads almost act like a cheese, adding that creaminess and fat content to the lean beef.

Clams with Chorizo

Perfection. Just order these and you’ll thank me later.

Bife Con Fritas

Strip steak, perfectly cooked, with those delicious fries. Can’t go wrong with this bad boy. I liked this better than the rib eye, and at just $42 for 12oz, you’re saving some cash in the process.

Special Off Menu Bone-In Rib Eye

Similar to the boneless cut I tried during the multi-course tasting, this lean rib eye backed a great flavor with a robust char from the on-coals cooking process.

CHIMICHURRI GRILL EAST
133 E 61st St
New York, NY 10065

Imli Urban Indian

I was recently invited into Imli to try out some of the restaurant’s popular menu items and write a review. My wife and I came here early in the dinner service on a Wednesday, and there was already a good amount of people not only sitting for a meal, but also hanging out at the joint’s beautiful bar and in their outdoor enclosed garden space.

We started off with a pair of interesting cocktails: The Kachumber Cooler (Hendricks Gin, St. Germain, lychee juice, cucumber), and the Desi Daaru (Old Monk, Thumbs Up, coriander, chaat, tabasco). Both were really great and unique.

Bhal is brought out to each table before the meal. This is a savory street style snack made from puffed rice, shreds of fried chic pea, onions, spices, tamarind sauce and chutney. This stuff was absolutely addicting!

This becoming known for its cross-over cuisine and tapas style bites, so we tried a bunch of those first. First were the grilled tandoori chicken wings.

These babies rocked! They’re marinated in Indian spices and then cooked until super tender. They had a great char on them from the grill, and the sauces pack both heat and cooling elements.

Next up was the spiced lamb scotch egg.

The egg was perfectly cooked, and the minced lamb around the outside was reminiscent of the grilled skewers of minced lamb that you commonly see at Indian restaurants (seekh kabob). I really liked this dish.

Our next bite was less of a cross-over food item: cauliflower tikki.

This is a variation on the popular aloo tikki. Rather than potatoes and onions, it’s made with cauliflower.

After being amply fed for the snack portion of the meal, we decided to split a chicken tikka pizza for our main course.

This is not only a great idea, but a really tasty one as well. Recently my wife and I ate some naan at an Indian joint near our apartment, and I was commenting how I think naan in general is a perfect vehicle for something like pizza. I was really excited to see it on the menu here.

Speaking of naan, this joint offers a huge variety of naan options, all of which look delicious.

But anyway, the pizza was topped with chicken tikka masala, diced tomato, sliced of bell pepper and minced red onion. Really tasty. Perhaps just a drizzle of a cooling yogurt sauce across the top as a finishing touch would really put this dish over the top.

Last but not least, we tried some Indian cardamom and ginger tea, along with Indian style ice cream (kulfi).

This was flavored with fennel seed, condensed milk and paan/betel nut leaves, and was a really refreshing way to end the meal.

I’m looking forward to coming back here again. Namely, I want to try the coconut and green chili clams, and some of the beef and lamb dishes. They do a really great job here, and I see a bright future for this joint. It’s only been open for two months and it’s already generating a big buzz in the neighborhood.

IMLI URBAN INDIAN FOOD
1136 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10065

Glaser’s Bake Shop

As you all know, my wife is The Cake Dealer. Whenever we see a bake shop, she gets interested. We were on our way to lunch when we stumbled upon what I can only imagine is a NYC landmark bake shop called Glaser’s. It just looked old school from the outside. Sure enough, when we approached, we saw that they were about to celebrate their 115th anniversary.

After lunch, we went back in to check out some of their products.

For about $9 we took home a nice assortment of tasty shit.

Those are cookie sandwiches on the top left. Bottom left was my favorite: the raspberry crumb cake. The lemon danish was excellent and the black and white cookie is a Seinfeld classic.

Here’s to the next 115 years, Glaser’s. What a cool place with really nice stuff.

GLASER’S BAKE SHOP
1670 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10128

International Wings Factory

These are some of the most creatively flavored wings I’ve ever tried!

Not only are the sauces and flavors great, but the chef will cook them to your desired level of crispiness as well; tender, extra crisp, or extra extra crisp.

I think my favorite wing flavor is the tandoori dry rub with a close second going to the lemon dry rub.

We also tried American Gold, which was a surprisingly good mustard-based sauce:

Black pepper teriyaki:

Vietnamese mango chili:

And traditional buffalo:

Every one of them was excellent. You really can’t go wrong.

Even the variety of dipping sauces is staggering, and also all good.

The red onion rings were killer, as were the buffalo cheese fries with bacon, jalapeños and scallions.

And the glazed burger?!?? BRILLIANT! You can have a different burger experience every time you eat here by selecting a different wing flavor to glaze the burger with each time.

So fun. I can’t wait to go back. Best wings I’ve ever had in my life.

INTERNATIONAL WINGS FACTORY
1762 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10128

Stinky Cheese Week

FREE DESSERT ALERT!!!

Stinky Cheese Week is actually a thing! To celebrate, L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace (and all restaurants within the ownership’s group) are offering a special menu of selections that feature various stinky cheeses.

Okay so I said something about free dessert up above… Well, here is the explanation: I was invited in to try some food in order to let my readers know all about Stinky Cheese Week. If you go into one of their restaurants and mention the words “say cheese” and my blog or instagram account, they will comp you with a free dessert! The participating restaurants are Cafe D’Alsace, Le Monde, L’Express, Nice Matin, French Roast (both uptown and downtown) and Marseille.

Below are my reviews for both L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace.

L’EXPRESS
249 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

My wife and I shared the raclette cheese and salumi platter as an app. This was pretty great. The cheese was stretchy and warm, and the meats were good quality.

I had the rib eye steak frites for my entree. The fries were nice and crisp, and the steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare.

While the steak was thinly cut, this isn’t a bad deal for just $29. The cap was tender and there wasn’t much gristle on it. The roquefort cheese and onion sauce really kicked this thing up a notch too.

My wife had the stinky cheese plate for her entree. Some of these fuckers were really funky!

And for dessert, a stinky cheese panna cotta that had a jam topping. This would have been perfect on a bagel, as the panna cotta was thick and had a texture and flavor similar to cream cheese.

CAFE D’ALSACE
1695 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10128

I started with a glass of mint tea. This was a really nice way to start a cheese-centric meal.

A buddy and I shared the frisee salad with bacon and egg. Very nicely done, and I was impressed with the addition of pork rinds.

For my entree, I went with the hanger steak frites, of course.

It was topped with a melted morbier cheese, caramelized onions and a red wine sauce.

I liked this steak more than the rib eye from L’Express. It had a great texture and thickness to it, and it was cooked perfectly with a nice crust on the outside as well.

The fries were great! Very crisp and nicely seasoned.

My buddy ordered the duck l’orange. It was pretty good but the steak was definitely the winning dish for the entrees.

For dessert, we shared an apple tart with vanilla ice cream. Not only was this beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend ordering this.