Category Archives: Upper East Side

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.

Ethyl’s Alcohol & Food

Ethyls Alcohol & Food might be my new favorite place to hang out. Not only is the bar an awesome throwback to NYC’s dirty 70s, but the food and drink quality is top notch and really reasonably priced. You might think you’ve taken a time machine back to the 70s.

Check out the decor.

The place doubles as a gogo dancing bar late on certain nights, and there’s even a small stage for live music. They even host movie and bingo nights!

It’s the safer, cleaner, sometimes family friendly girly bar of the dirty 70s, I guess.

But the food. Man. Let’s get into it.

The fidollaburger. Five bucks.

The double – my favorite.

The stack, a double topped with an egg, guac, lettuce, tomato, onions and bacon.

The Coventry sub, a burger log topped with port wine cheese, watercress, bacon, sautéed onions and gogo sauce – all on a pretzel bread sub roll.

Wings.

Mexican cheese stuffed mole meatballs.

Disco curds.

Fried chicken sandwich.

Banana Spiders – shredded, fried plantains.

Fish tacos.

Everything is delicious and nicely cooked. I’m dead serious you can’t choose poorly from these items.

The same goes for the cocktails. We tried a bunch of them, including a negroni on tap. The newest addition to the cocktail menu is replacing the negroni though, and it’s called the Gent. Bartender Julia mixes up amazing cocktails here, like the spicy tequila and blood orange concoction called “Hot Blooded.”

Get up there and try some of the delicious shit.

ETHYL’S ALCOHOL & FOOD
1629 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Sel et Poivre

FIRST REVIEW 4/10/2014

Thanks to new friend and fellow food blogger The Restaurant Fairy, I was recently hooked up with a restaurant PR person who is in charge of setting up press dinners for restaurants that are looking to generate detailed reviews and additional news coverage to build customers or put a spotlight on a new/special menu at their establishment. I’m hoping to attend more of these types of press dinners in the future. With any luck some wealthy benefactor will discover me and fund a new career for me in the world of food writing. The goal is to become a professional diner.

Anyway, my first press dinner in this vein was at French joint Sel et Poivre. For you proud, dirty American apes out there who don’t know or care too much about other languages, that means Salt and Pepper.

The restaurant has been in business here for decades. Owners Christian and Pamela are a husband and wife duo who take turns managing the place each night. They’ve been a team here for about 8 years, and for decades prior the restaurant was run by Pamela and her mother. This year Christian and Pamela are celebrating their 25th anniversary so be ready for some special menus coming this spring/summer season.

The atmosphere is very local and homey. Walls are adorned with old black and white photos of family travels. There’s a classic, clean French bistro feel to the place, and the 65-person seating capability is intimate without being stuffy or crowded.

So how’s the service? Amazing. Waiters here aren’t just people toiling away at their job. These are men with long careers. The newest employee other than the bar staff has been there for 7 years, and veteran waiters have loyalty in the 25-30 year range. The chef has been there for that long, and the staff still manages to keep the menu interesting and new while always retaining the classics that some people have been coming back to eat for years. Impressive, and that speaks volumes about the management and quality of the joint. Christian himself is a stand-up guy. A class act. He’s funny, talkative, approachable, kind, warm, inviting and a great host. Within moments of talking with him you feel as if you’ve known him all your life.

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Located on Lex at 64th, the customers range from shoppers, to business people, to tourists. But their bread and butter are the locals, some of whom come in several times per week for specific dishes that they’ve been enjoying for generations. One family has been dining here for 4 generations. Even the landlord eats there, who has had the building property in his family since it was a cow grazing pasture in the 1600s. I’m serious.

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Okay so on to the good stuff. Note that the portion sizes in my pics are all smaller than the actual menu items (except for the desserts). Press dinner portions are typically smaller so that more stuff can be tried. Here’s what we had:

First was a celery root remoulade with red beets. There was a distinctly Mediterranean flavor in this dish, likely because of the cumin spicing. I enjoyed it. It was a cool, refreshing way to open up the taste buds.

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Next we had wild striped bass with artichoke hearts, fennel and black olive lemon oil. The fish was perfectly cooked with its crisp skin still intact. This was also very Mediterranean in its flavor profile. Light and fresh. And I must say that the artichoke was one of the best preparations I’ve ever had outside of mom’s home cooking.

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Steak was next. An aged sirloin to be exact. It was juicy and flavorful, had a nicely seasoned crust, and was cooked to a perfect medium rare.

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The beef was served with two sauces: roquefort and poivre.

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I only took a pic of one because they looked and tasted similar to me, though one was clearly more peppery. Both were drinkable, however. They went especially well with the cone of crispy and savory fries that came with the steak. Delicious.

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Next was a bit of offal! Veal kidneys with an amazing mustard sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach.

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Kidneys aren’t for everyone. This was my first time eating kidney. It was a bit mealy and chewy in parts, but the flavor was delicate and nice. The sauce did a great job of bringing out the game flavors without letting them overpower you. I ate every bite!

For dessert we had classic French creme brulee and chocolate lava cake.

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They were both very nicely executed, well-balanced, and not overly sweet. The cake came with some fresh whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, and the brulee had a nice consistency and great caramelized sugar on top.

Last, I should also note that the wine selection here is extensive. Having broadened the scope from French and California wines to include stuff from New Zealand and South America, Christian and Pamela have modernized their wine selection to stay on pace with an increasingly knowledgeable caliber of diners. This is probably because Christian is also a sommelier, so he knows what pairs well with the dishes outside of French-only wines.

I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner to try some of their other amazing menu items, like frog legs, or to try their classic French daily special dishes (Bouillabaisse Monday; Coq Au Vin Tuesday; etc).

If you like classic French food then this is a great place to go, and they also modernize and freestyle very well with some of their other dishes.

UPDATE 3/8/2017

I went back to Sel et Poivre for another press dinner. We tried a few different items this time, and I was able to meet Pamela, the other half of the dynamic duo behind their French bistro (which is now coming up on its 28th year in business).

The celery root and beets were just as good as I remembered, this time more artistically plated.

The fish soup was really fun. It comes with a plate of toasted baguette slices, roue and shredded Swiss cheese. The idea is to spread the garlicky, spicy roue onto a slice of bread and they sprinkle the shredded Swiss on top. Then, you float it in the soup and let it all melt together and combine into a velvety consistency.

It was delicious. The fish was clearly present, yet subtle and not overly powerful. I could easily slurp down a few bowls of this.

The brook trout was really nicely cooked and had great flavors from the shaved almonds and tangy white wine and lemon sauce.

It was prepared skin-on, but I felt that it could have used a bit more crisp on the skin. Perhaps because it was plated skin-down, the skin lost some of the crisp it might have developed while cooking. Otherwise this was an excellent dish.

This lamb rib was perfectly cooked. So juicy and tender, with a nice mild game flavor. The outer edges were coated with peppery spices that penetrated deep into the meat. My favorite dish of the night.

I was excited to see the steak come out (sirloin). While I had already tried it in the past, this time I was able to see the full portion size – with a beautiful pre-sliced presentation – on a bed of mustard-based peppercorn sauce.

It was a perfect medium rare execution!

This baby still had all the same qualities as the last visit, only this time there was only the one sauce and a more pronounced peppercorn crust. Further, the last time featured an aged cut, while this one was not aged, as far as I could tell.

The fries that are served with the steak were golden and crispy.

Dessert was nice. We tried some profiteroles and a berry tart.

The berry tart was gorgeous, and was easily my preferred dessert between the two.

SEL ET POIVRE
853 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10065

Via Quadronno

This joint is known for its incredible panini sandwiches and fresh Italian menu selections. I’m gonna get right down to business here, because me and a group of Instagram influencers tried a ton of items.

My favorite sandwich: La Madunina. This has prosciutto, fresh mozz, olive tapenade and tomato. Very simple but incredibly delicious.

Tentazione: prosciutto, smoked mozz, arugula, shrimp and sauce.

Americano: brie, fresh mozz, corn, arugula and tomatoes.

Bip-Bip: bresaola, goat cheese, shrimp, arugula and sauce.

Il Toast: boiled ham and melted fontina cheese.

Lo Spazzino: roast pork, arugula, provolone, red onion and capers.

They also do some open faced toast style brunch sandwiches as well. We tried the smoked salmon and crab meat, fresh mozz and tomato, and asparagus with cheese.

Speaking of asparagus, they also offer it in a salad form with lots of crab meat on top. Wow! That’s a serious portion.

And this veggie salad with tuna was so fresh and tasty.

The mussels were really nice too, served in a light but spicy tomato broth. Nicely executed.

The pesto pasta had a great flavor and was perfectly cooked.

As did the lasagna. I’m usually very hard on lasagne, because my mom made a killer lasagna. This was fantastic. The photo doesn’t do it justice. You need to see the layering.

I also had a steak. Surprise! The meat quality was indeed good (DeBragga), and the peppercorn sauce for the top was delicious. It’s also served on a bed of broccoli rabe, and with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes.

Enough photos of that? I think so. We also had dessert. Several tart pies, a wonderful tiramisu, some gelato and sorbets, and an assortment of Italian cookies.

And we tasted several coffee and hot chocolate selections that had awesome designs in the foam.

And a drink made with Prosecco, raspberry jam and St. Germain.

Definitely give this place a try. There’s also another location about 10 streets down from this one.

VIA QUADRONNO
1228 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10128

Vaucluse

My wife picked up a nice Gilt City deal for this joint that gave us $200 to spend for something like $100. I had heard great things about the burger here, so I figured it was time to check it out now that there was a flash deal at play.

The cocktail menu is pricey at $18, but very nicely crafted.

We shared that burger (the “White Label Burger”) as an app. The patty is an aged beef blend; the cheese is fontina; and it’s topped with a tomato jam and dijonnaise.

They cook it nice and rare, so you don’t lose any of that aged funk to the heat. It’s a potent burger, and part of me still loves a classic roadside American burger better, but this is kinda like having a steak between a bun. Definitely nice.

And like any good French joint, it’s served with frites.

These were pretty good, but not quite on the level of Boucherie, which has now become my benchmark standard, to which all French fries must be compared.

We also tried the calamari stuffed with lobster and rice.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much lobster to this dish. In fact, I couldn’t really find any or taste any in the bites I had. In any case, the tomato sauce was nice, as was the cook on the squid.

My wife had some rabbit, truffle and cheese ravioli for her entree. This was a small portion size for $25, but they at least warned us ahead of time that it would be.

They were excellent. Each raviolo seemed to be partitioned, with one side having the rabbit, and the other side having the cheese.

Of course, I had steak.

This was served with some dressed watercress, but I quickly brushed that bullshit aside. I sliced it up so you could see the perfect cook temp on this prime NY strip steak.

This was actually a steak frites, so it came with more fries and a peppercorn au poivre on the side. Well, I asked for it on the side so I could get this intense shot of foodpourn.

Did you just bust? Because I did.

I ate every bite. It was a great little steak. I didn’t detect any aged flavor, and I assume they would have advertised that if it were the case. Not too bad at $44, but on par with the Jubilee rib eye steak frites that I had just the other day for $40. 8/10.

We shared a lemon tart with basil ice cream for dessert. This was really pretty, and tasted a bit like a key lime pie with the herbaceous basil ice cream on top. We liked this a lot.

Oh and I should mention that this place also brings out an amuse at the beginning, as well as petit fours at the end. I only snapped the amuse, which was a tiny popover style bread with a truffle cream filling. The dessert capper was a chocolate hazelnut bite.

VAUCLUSE
100 E 63rd St
New York, NY 10065

Maroni Hot Pots

There’s a very interesting little concept restaurant on the upper east side called Maroni Hot Pots. The joint is mainly aimed at providing delivery service, but there’s still a handful of tables set up inside the beautiful little space. So what makes this concept unique? The pot.

Many of their dishes are served (and delivered!) in really nice keepsake metal pots. Yes – you get to keep them.

I’m not sure how useful they’d be on your stove top, but they’re definitely not cheap, crappy items by any means. At the very least you can use them as planters.

Okay, but enough about the pots. We tried a lot of different items.

First up, pizza bread. This is more like a garlic bread with cheese and sauce topping as opposed to your standard NYC style pizza. A more puffy, doughy pie.

It’s served in a nice glass dish and it’s seasoned generously, topped with herbs as well. Essentially, it’s like a Sicilian pizza.

I should say now that the cheeses here are all incredible. They don’t harden after a few minutes – they stay nice and stretchy. I shot this probably 15 minutes after the pizza came out:

The fresh mozz caprese salad also exhibits stellar quality cheese, and the diced tomato, dresed with a nice balsamic, was a nice change of pace from an ordinary caprese salad.

Throw that on top of a lightly breaded chicken cutlet with some arugula, and you have their delicious chicken milanese dish.

But one starter they have become known for is their million dollar potato chip. A thick cut, fried potato crisp, topped with fresh cream and caviar. Very tasty.

And it’s not often that you see baked clam dishes use high quality little necks or cockles like they do here. Most baked clam dishes use giant bait clams, with minced up meat inside. No thanks. These were whole clams, nicely breaded and stuffed, and then baked to perfection.

Okay now for the pasta dishes. We tried a bunch. I’ll start with my favorite, the penne a la vodka.

What I liked about this sauce was that it was more buttery than typical vodka sauces I’ve had in the past. The pasta was cooked perfectly in this dish too.

Their cacio e pepe is nice, but having just come back from a trip to Italy, I was a bit too spoiled to truly appreciate the dish. Cacio e pepe in Rome is just insane. Nothing quite comes close. I did, however, get a bunch of nice pics. As you can see, they used a penne pasta here as well.

One specialty they’re known for here is their cognac sauce. They hit their tomato sauce with some cognac, burn it off, and simmer it down. What they’re left with is a nicely sweetened sauce. They serve that with rigatoni and a generous glob of ricotta for mixing into the sauce. Amazing. This dish has even been featured on local news stations. I highly recommend it.

Last pasta dish: spaghetti and meatballs. This classic tasted great.

And while nothing beats mom’s homemade meatballs, these were pretty tasty. We had an order sans spaghetti as well.

Like any Italian meal, there’s always more. We also tried their chicken parm and gagootz (zucchini) parm. The last time I heard that word was probably when my grandfather was featured in the news for growing the biggest one in Long Island history out of his backyard garden, which, at one point, was more like a small farm.

Here’s a shot of my grandfather’s massive gagootz (not the actual prize winning squash, however; that one was like 15ft, and we are still trying to locate the photo).

FYI, the word “gagootz” is a dialected, faster way of saying the word “cucuzza” in Italian, which is a kind of squash. The word “gagootz” is typically used by Italians to refer to all types of squash, though, including zucchini, as is done here at Maroni Hot Pots.

In any case, both parms were excellent, and both essentially looked the same, so I’m just using one picture to showcase them. Can you guess which one this is?

The beatles are all over this joint, by the way, and the music is a great mix of classic rock. Anyway, I really enjoyed the gagootz parm. I’m not an eggplant fan, so swapping that out for zucchini is a great idea. The skin is much more pleasing, and the texture of the vegetable’s flesh itself is firmer and more snappy.

I was so full at that point that I put my camera away, thinking we were done… but Italians… Bless our hearts, and stomachs…

So dessert came out. Chocolate mousse with a toasted marshmallow topper, cannoli and tiramisu. All excellent. Here’s a nice shot of them, taken by my wife:

A photo posted by Katherine (@thecakedealer) on

The Maroni family also owns a high-end, multi-course “tasting menu” style restaurant in Northport, Long Island. I’ve heard amazing things about this place, and, from what I understand, a reservation has to be made a month in advance because it is so well received. I plan to visit soon with my cousins. Stay alert for updates!

MARONI HOT POTS
307 E. 77TH St
New York, NY 10075

Little Frog

Little Frog is a new French bistro that just opened up a few months ago on East 86th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. I came here with a bunch of food enthusiasts and bloggers for a press dinner. Here’s what we tried:

House Bread:

This flatbread comes nicely packaged and warm inside of a paper bag with the Little Frog logo stamped on it.

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Lamb Meatballs:

It may not strike you as a particularly French item, but lamb meatballs here are served with a dollop of labneh (a Lebanese style of cream cheese) and a host of Mediterranean spices, paying tribute to the old French colonies in North Africa, no doubt.

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It’s tough to compete with Mom’s homemade meatballs, but these were tasty nonetheless.

Duck Liver Foie Gras:

Beautiful and delicious. Super smooth texture, nice and velvety. If you like this sort of thing, please get it. This was my favorite app.

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Pork Belly:

Can’t go wrong here. The thick slices of tender, braised bacon sit on a bed of delicious lentils. This is a winner, so I shot it twice.

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Grilled Octopus:

I’ve had more tender tentacle in my day, but that doesn’t mean that this was tough by any means. The dressing was perfect and the flavors really popped.

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Salmon Tartare:

This is served with lemon sabayon and capers, but it sits on a bed of crispy quinoa that really adds an awesome textural element to the dish. It stands out as a really great app.

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Beets & Kale:

This salad was simple and tasty. Far be it from me, the meat guy, to praise a salad, but this hit the spot after dipping into some of the more meaty apps earlier.

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Okay now onward to the entrees. We started with this incredible duck flambe.

This is one of the better duck dishes I’ve had. The meat was super tender and tasty, and the skin remained crisp and flavorful, with all fat rendered out nicely.

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The steak au poivre is a top sirloin cut that’s smothered with peppercorns and then topped with gravy. Ours was cooked to about medium, but it still remained very juicy from the gravy. Also, the tenderness of the cut surprised me; I’m usually apprehensive about top sirloin, but this was good stuff. 7/10.

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The Coq Au Vin was a bit dry at the outer edges, but the tenderness and juiciness of the inner meat made up for it in spades.

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A few of us claimed that this was the best entree of the night, though the others were ready to throw down in a pitched battle to defend the duck.

If you’re still hungry, get the ice cream sundae for multiple diners. It comes served in a massive bowl, complete with a lit sparkler shooting out the top. I took this shot after the sparkler was removed:

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LITTLE FROG
322 E 86th Street
New York, NY 10028

Korali Estiatorio

With a name that means “coral,” it’s only fitting that Korali Estiatorio, a neighborhood gem for authentic Greek food on the upper east side, features a variety of fresh seafood fit for the gods.

Owner Gregori Politis hails from Lefkada, in the Ionian Sea. After 20 years in the hospitality business, he now brings the authentic recipes of his childhood to the masses of NYC. Chef Peter Tsaglis headed up prominent New York City kitchens. Peter focuses on seafood, and has a passion for amazing ingredients and flavors. His upbringing and travels across the Greek islands influenced his style of traditional cooking blended with modern and contemporary fare.

The interior was designed with Mykanos in mind, a seaside town on an island of the same name, which is known for its bright white architecture.

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The bar is stocked with Greek spirits and wines from rare varietals that are uncommon here in the states, like Assyrtiko and Agiogitiko.

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With Greek music playing on the sound system and the invigorating scent of fresh seafood in the air, you really do feel like you are being transported to the Greek Isles.

Okay so let me get to the food… We started with some tzatziki and pita bread. The yogurt this joint uses is so thick, rich and awesome. This had just the right amount of spices and flavorings added, so that our mouths were spared of garlic overload. I really enjoyed this.

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In honor of the joint’s focus on seafood, we did not delve into any meats. I know: blasphemy for me! Perhaps next time I will go hard into the lamb dishes, though.

For our meze courses we had grilled octopus and stuffed calamari. The grilled octopus was so tender and perfectly cooked. It came on a bean puree and was seasoned gently with olive oil and lemon, and sprinkled with capers. Really delicious, and probably one of the better octopus dishes I’ve had in a while. And it was a good sized portion, with about two large tentacles chopped up on the plate.

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I couldn’t resist ordering the stuffed calamari.

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When I was a kid, my family would do the traditional Italian fish dinner for Christmas. My grandparents were the main drivers of that meal, and I would help my grandfather clean all the shrimp, scungili and squid for prep. But my grandma would take the time to make stuffed calamari. She would take the cleaned squid tubes, fill them with a cheese, breadcrumb and meat stuffing, and literally stitch the ends closed with a needle and black thread. Then they went into a skillet for browning on all sides before getting plopped into a low simmering tomato sauce that was filled with crab legs and other shellfish. Before serving, she would pull out the black thread and the calamari would stay pinched closed, holding in the delicious stuffing. It really was a painstaking and amazing effort, and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Until now, until Korali.

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This Greek version is stuffed with spinach and feta, but still served in a tomato sauce. Rather than a traditional stewed style Italian red sauce, this one contained mainly sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. It was a really exciting profile of flavors, and this was hands-down my favorite dish of the night. I highly recommend this!

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For our entree, we ordered a whole grilled fish for two that was on special: “pink snapper” from the Mediterranean Sea.

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The skin was crisp and savory, and the meat was tender, flaky and cooked nicely. It was simply dressed with olive oil, lemon and Greek seasonings, and then topped with capers.

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We cleaned this baby off entirely, even busting into the face to get some of that delicious and succulent cheek meat.

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This fish for two also came with two sides. We picked garlic sauteed spinach and Greek fries. The fries were crisp and had a nice herb and garlic flavor.

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The spinach was sauteed just right, retaining that great “green” flavor without over-wilting the leaves. Also, the garlic was again not overpowering and added just the right amount of flavor to the dish. These guys know what they’re doing in the kitchen!

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For dessert, we got to try an assortment of three items: Greek yogurt with honey and berries, baklava and semolina custard in phyllo (Galactoboureco). By far my favorite of the three was that delicious, thick and creamy yogurt again. This sweet version was the perfect way to bookend the meal after starting with the savory tzatziki version at the beginning of the meal.

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But the baklava was the best my wife and I have had. Usually this dessert is soaked with honey, and that just kills the texture and flavor of the nuts, making everything too sweet and soft. Not here at Korali! These had a cookie-like crunch to them, and I found myself smearing some of the yogurt onto them to make it a double whammy dessert. So damn good!

Overall this was a really great meal, light and satisfying. This is a great place for the UES neighborhood. I don’t live nearby, but I would definitely go back in a heartbeat.

One thing that really got my attention about this place is that you can pre-order a whole roasted goat every Friday, which is locally sourced from upstate. I will definitely be back for this with my crew from The Carcass Club.

In addition, Korali now offers a prix-fix lunch deal Wednesday through Friday, as well as brunch on weekends, with a choice of starter, entree and dessert.

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

KORALI ESTIATORIO
1662 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10128

Jones Wood Foundry

JWF is a dynamite place on the upper east side that serves up some really nice traditional British style pub fare. I’m talking everything from scotch eggs, to bangers and mash, to bubble and squeak, to toads in the holes (get your minds out of the gutter).

Me and two “mates” of mine (see how I used the language of the Brits there?) popped in for a quick look-around, and to try the burger. Here’s what we stumbled upon.

A beautifully renovated lower level:

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A warm, friendly bar atmosphere:

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And a fantastic fucking burger:

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I’ll definitely be back up this way to try out some of their other menu items. But let me tell you: this burger comes in as one of the best I’ve had in the city so far. Really juicy. Bun could use a slight upgrade, but otherwise this shit is legit.

SECOND TRIP UPDATE – 8/1/16

The bun certainly got an upgrade in quality, but  unfortunately the burger itself was a bit overcooked. It was a bit more like medium well than medium rare.

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Fries were pretty great.

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JONES WOOD FOUNDRY
401 E. 76th St.
New York, NY 10021

Bangkok Cuisine

Is it just me, or is Thai food in NYC starting to all blend together into an incoherent, blurry amalgam of “sweet coconut this,” or “spicy curry that?” I live right near what I like to call “Thai Town,” a strip of dozens of Thai restaurants that run up 9th avenue from the upper 30’s to the upper 50’s in Hell’s Kitchen. One or two joints stand out there as being different and good, but largely it’s all the same Americanized, overly sweet, unbalanced bullshit but with a different name slapped on the facade outside. The interiors even start to look and feel the same. Dim lighting, bamboo everywhere, and a subtle yet obnoxious house music beat relentlessly thumping in the back of your brain for the entirety of the meal. I know you’ve experienced this, and no matter how much X you drop beforehand, it just won’t work while you’re trying to fucking eat. Is this the perception of Thai culture and cuisine that we have here in America, to which Thai restaurants feel they must cater in order to draw in customers? If so, we need to change it, ASAP.

Stepping into Bangkok Cuisine on the upper east side was a refreshing change from that cookie-cutter Thai experience.

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The space is bright, elegant and classy, with a gorgeous emerald Buddha as the centerpiece and focal point of the restaurant. It almost has a museum-esque quality to it, with high luxury style marble under foot and ornate chandeliers over head.

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Hap, son of the chef and owner, invited me in for a press meal. He runs the joint and takes pride in the decor choices he made when designing the restaurant a year ago. He did a great job. I knew just from the decor alone that I was about to get into something very different and unique here when it came to the actual food.

This place is a perfect spot for a date, but it also has appeal to everyday neighborhood diners who want a great meal in a beautiful setting. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are very fair as well. During lunch hours (even on weekends) you can score a three course meal for just $9 or $10. That’s pretty much unheard of these days.

The bar is nice too, with cocktails inspired by Thai spice and herb flavors, and fresh exotic fruits.

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Okay so let me get to the food. Hap suggested we try some of their best and most popular items, to get a good feel for his dad’s cooking style and the diversity of the menu.

First were the chicken lettuce wraps, with minced curried chicken, carrots, celery, shredded beet and cashews.

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These were super light and healthy; a great way to start the meal without going heavy. The curried chicken was a nice change-up from what I usually expect in a lettuce wrap. It was almost like a Thai or Indian taco, if you will. The beets added a nice contrast of color with that pop of red, and the iceberg lettuce added a great textural element of crunch to the tender minced chicken.

Next were the BBQ pork skewers. These were my absolute favorite of the starters.

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They were sweet, spicy, sticky and super tender. The spice/sweet balance struck here was right on the money, and the sticky and tangy sauce on top really fueled my addiction to these. With fresh cut herbs sprinkled over the top of these warm skewers, the air all around the table was filled with some incredible, mouth watering aromas. When you come here, these are absolutely a must-order.

Hap also brought out a small sample size of two other popular apps for us. First was the Thai crepe, a thin, wide, flat, homemade steamed rice noodle wrapped around chicken, shallots and peanuts.

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This is similar in form to Vietnamese banh cuon, which my wife and I love. The flavors here are a bit different though, as they are sweet rather than tangy, and more peanut-forward than the Vietnamese dish. These are nice and light, and very healthy.

The second sampler app was the five-star Thai dumplings. These may look like Chinese dumplings, but they taste very different.

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They have Thai-spiced chicken and shrimp inside, and are served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce.

We tried three entrees from the special chef’s tasting portion of the menu, all at Hap’s suggestion and based on popularity and his personal preferences.

The first was this stuffed salmon with panang curry.

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First off, this was absolutely stunning to look at.  It’s pan-roasted salmon with crab meat and shrimp stuffing, green beans, bok choy, peppers, carrots and onions in a thick and rich panang curry sauce. The sauce here, again, displays Bangkok Cuisine’s amazing ability to properly balance sweet and spicy. One could easily just spoon the curry up and eat it like a thick soup. And the salmon itself was cooked to perfection, with what was essentially a really good shrimp and crab cake added in the mix. It’s no wonder that this is one of their signature and most popular dishes. Absolutely delicious.

Our second entree was volcano duck.

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This is a crispy, boneless half duck served atop tempura carrots and celery, and topped with a fluffy egg and homemade chili flake sauce (pad pong karee). Just to beautify the plate even more, there are a pair of fried lotus root slices on top. The dish consists of traditional Thai ingredients that have been treated in non-traditional ways. For example, the duck is prepped and cooked in a notably French style, with butter under the skin to get a certain level of crisp before finishing, as opposed to just frying the fucker to holy hell. I haven’t seen or tasted anything like it here in the city. The duck itself was amazing. Tender, flavorful and with super crispy skin. And the fluffy egg on top lent a flavorful soft texture to offset the crisp of the duck.

The final entree was a true test of Thai food mettle: Pad Thai.

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But this is no ordinary Pad Thai. This is seafood tom yum inspired Pad Thai. The sautéed rice noodles are adorned with shrimp, squid, scallops, mussels, eggs, peanuts, carrots, bell peppers, scallions and bean sprouts, all deftly tossed with just the right coating of a hot and sour lemongrass “tom yum soup” flavored sauce. Again; a very unique take on a classic Thai dish. It reminded me of the way this noodle dish my wife and I had in Hoi An, Vietnam captured the characteristic flavors of pho in a sauce for a non-soupy noodle dish.

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Each bite of seafood was cooked just right. All tender, and nothing overcooked, whatsoever. What really got me, though, was the perfectly dressed noodles. Lots of times Pad Thai comes to you all watery and soupy. I hate that! This had just the right amount of sauce coating the noodles, and that helped make the noodles slightly sticky, so that all the spices and accompaniments clung to the noodles just so. This made it easy to pick up with chopsticks and stuff down my throat. If Pad Thai is your go-to dish when eating Thai, you won’t be disappointed with this. It brilliantly marries two very popular Thai dishes (Pad Thai and Tom Yum), executed perfectly.

Unfortunately at this point we were too full for dessert. But I will definitely be back to try the whole fried snapper, lamb chops and drunken noodles, for sure. They looked great on the menu.

I highly recommend this place, and even if you’re not regularly spending time on Manhattan’s upper east side, it’s certainly worth a trip up to the neighborhood.

BANGKOK CUISINE
1586 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028