Category Archives: Press Reviews

Sai Gon Dep

Sai Gon Dep is a new pho-focused casual joint by acclaimed former Hanoi House chef John Nguyen. He’s a master at making pho – the best I’ve had outside of Vietnam.

While Hanoi House is focused on northern style beef soup, Sai Gon Dep focuses on southern style chicken soup from the region where John was born.

Although beef soup is still served here (as well as full-on 45-day dry-aged tomahawk chops, available only on weekends – 8/10) and other protein entrees are available on the menu, the main focus is on fowl.

They even have balut, for those looking for either an authentic or Zimmern-esque experience.

At $15 a bowl, these soups are a steal. The rich, hearty poultry flavor is like nothing else I’ve had. Not even the most rich paitan broths come close, and this soup eats much lighter than those salty sweat-bomb bowls at ramen shops.

While the noodles here come with shredded meat and an egg yolk in the broth, you can order a half or whole chicken to go with it.

Pull some meat off the bones and drag it through the ginger chicken fat oil and scallion sauce that accompany the dish, and munch away at the delicious bird between slurps of noodles… or just plop it into your soup.

Honestly, the broth alone is so soul-satisfying and delicious that you might not even need the additional meat. But if you do order the extra chicken, don’t be alarmed: you may get a plate of feet and heads along with your order. Nothing goes to waste here, just like where John was born in Vietnam. The entire bird is used, and that’s why the soup tastes so fucking great.

Keep an eye out. This place opens next week. I was there for a special media preview, and I can’t wait to start eating this more regularly. The chicken pho is a top dish of the year for me.

SAI GON DEP
719 Second Ave
New York, NY 10016

I Trulli

This place slings some really nice food that mostly takes inspiration from the Puglia region of Italy. Everything is really nicely crafted, from the mains and apps to the bread basket (with ricotta and focaccia) and cocktails.

We started with the grilled octopus with fennel, and the stracciatella (fresh mozzarella with tomato, kiwi and prosciutto). Both were awesome, but the stracciatella really stole the show. Amazing balance of flavors.

Next we had a pair of pasta dishes. First was a saffron and sausage pasta called Malloreddus. These were like a cross between cavatelli and gnocchi.

The other was Cappellacci with sunchoke, crab and jalapeño. I didn’t get that much of the sunchoke or jalapeño flavors, but the pasta was perfectly cooked and the crab was fresh and delicious.

The main courses were nice. First was the pork collar milanese.

This was perfectly breaded and crisped. I actually enjoyed eating this with some of the leftover ricotta from the bread basket.

The roasted rabbit was really nice as well. It was almost like a parmesan dish, but with some potatoes as well.

For dessert, we had apple strudel, which was beautifully presented like a beggar’s purse, and pumpkin bread with flan. Both were really nice and unique, but we liked the apple strudel best.

I highly recommend this place, and I plan to go back to try the rack of lamb very soon.

I TRULLI
124 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Ristoro del Cinghiale

This week I had the opportunity to meet and dine with Dario Cecchini, the world famous Tuscan butcher from Panzano.

You may have seen him on food and travel shows. The man truly loves life, and, of course, meat.

He, alongside Montefili wines, hosted an amazing meat fest at the new Tuscan restaurant Ristoro del Cinghiale. Each course was paired with one of Montefili’s wines.

This first course was simple but delicious. That’s ricotta and “tuna” made of pork. Somehow it tasted like really great tuna. Amazing!

There was also some really flavorful salumi.

Next was a pair of pasta dishes. Gnocchi with sage and mushrooms, and garganelli with a wild boar bolognese sauce. The garganelli was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a while. Very tasty.

Next, the meats! The first dish to come out was a rack of wild boar that also included spare ribs.

The chops were absolutely incredible. Such a nice flavor. But the ribs stole the show. They were seasoned with a dry rub that included cayenne and fennel seed, which just blew me away. Best ribs ever.

And this “Bistecca Fiorentina” porterhouse was one of the most perfectly cooked steaks I’ve seen in my days of eating beef.

Here, the preparation and flavoring is all about the wood-fired oven and the herbs, the true Tuscan style.

If the steak was aged, I couldn’t sense it. But the tenderloin was incredibly tender, and the strip side was delicious. Again, perfectly cooked – great grilled crust and pinkness from end to end. 9/10.

Now that’s what I call a high protein plate! There was also some spinach and crispy potatoes, as you can see. I really shouldn’t gloss over those potatoes – they were so fucking good!

Dessert was a delicious slice of pecorino cheese topped with black truffle.

I’ll be going back here in the next week or so to try more of their menu; perhaps the half pig head and the sweetbreads parmesan. I think it goes without saying that I highly recommend this place. Their chef seems to be really nailing the spirit of Tuscany. He definitely did Dario proud.

On a second trip here, my wife and I had the tripe and polenta, as well as the sweetbreads parm to start:

This tripe was incredible. Easily a top dish of the year.

Next up, we tried the pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Wildly delicious sauce and meat, and the pasta was perfectly cooked.

The wild boar mixed grill was nice too. It comes with belly, sausage and those delicious ribs.

On the side we had some wild mushrooms. Also really great, and I love the wildness of every dish.

For dessert we had a chestnut tart/pie, and rosemary doughnuts. Both were really tasty. I fucking love this place.

RISTORO DEL CINGHIALE
122 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Brooklyn Chophouse

Brooklyn Chophouse overall score: 81

From the crew that brought you Jade Sixty comes Brooklyn Chophouse, located in FiDi (not Brooklyn) and executing a very similar, if not the same, menu as Jade Sixty (Asian starters and entrees, fusion items, and good old American style chops).

Flavor: 6

We had the dry-aged (50-60 days) porterhouse for two.

This had minor dry aged flavor along the edges of some pieces. It was slightly overcooked from medium rare in some parts, but none of that stopped me from devouring it – and the temperature issue is somewhat expected with such a thick cut (2″ at least). The crust was excellent, as you can see.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

You have a nice range of steakhouse selections here, all dry-aged and prime from Pat LaFrieda’s operation.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are on par with steakhouse country in midtown and other places downtown. There are some bargains to look out for, which I will get into below.

Price: 8

We had a comped meal here in exchange for posting pics on Instagram, but the pricing is fair for what you are getting. Think of this place like any other steakhouse, but with some nice Asian items to boot. Speaking of, the $55 Peking Duck is a great deal (more on that below).

Bar: 9

I really loved the bar and lounge area here. They’re also mixing up some great cocktails, like the smoked boulevardier:

The Brooklyn old fashioned is killer too:

Specials and Other Meats: 9

There are lots of other items in terms of specials and other meats. But the main non-beef dish to look for here is the Peking duck. Here is a video of the slicing and presentation:

Make sure you take the remainder of that 7lb duck carcass home and make soup with it. One of the best Peking duck dishes I’ve had, ever. Awesome deal for just $55.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7

We tried a bunch of stuff here. Let me get right down to it.

Bacon – nice sweet maple flavor to it.

Pastrami dumplings – these are fun and delicious.

French onion soup dumplings – the skin was a bit too thick on these, and the filling was overly cheesy in some, and overly oniony in others. I think they can benefit from a more even distribution into each sack.

Bacon cheeseburger shumai – absolutely awesome. Get these! I can easily put down three orders of these without batting an eye.

Chocolate cake – dry and we weren’t fans of the frosting.  A bit greasy, like they used shortening rather than buttercream.

The apple wontons were fun though. Mine didn’t have too much apple inside, but I just filled them with the vanilla ice cream instead.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s a lot of great seafood on the menu, as you might expect from an Asian themed place. I didn’t try any but my next visit will be to try the salt and pepper lobster dish.

Service: 9

Really friendly and knowledgeable staff, timely with everything.

Ambiance: 9

They nailed the ambiance here. It has a great vibe inside, especially the lounge and bar area. The elevated main dining room and private dining spaces are elegant but not stuffy.

BROOKLYN CHOPHOUSE
150 Nassau St
New York, NY 10038

La Pecora Bianca

My buddy from the Gotham Burger Social Club and I came in here with the intention to split a burger and a pasta dish, but things escalated quickly into a pretty big lunch.

We started with an Aperol spritz, still desperately clinging to the last tendrils of summer.

We went with the gramigna pasta (short n’ curlies). This is made from the einkorn noble grain.

It was served with grumbled sweet Italian sausage, red pepper flakes and broccolini. I loved this! So much better than the popular broccoli rabe and orecchiette versions that you see a lot lately. Here’s a shot of it after a light parmesan cheese snowfall.

We also had a side of eggplant parmesan to go with it. I typically despise the skin on cooked eggplant, but this was a unique preparation in which the skin on the ends of the eggplant acted like cups or little bowls for the cheese and sauce. Delicious.

Here’s that beautiful burger:

It’s two patties made of short rib and brisket, then topped with fontina cheese, crispy pancetta, pickled pepperoncini and calabrian aioli. The bun is outstanding here. It eats like a soft, pillowy ciabatta roll. Perfect for an Italian style burger. It also comes with crispy smushed and fried rosemary potatoes.

I highly recommend this burger. It’s right up there with Ai Fiori and San Matteo as my top three favorite Italian style burgers.

Last up is the hanger steak.

This was a nice and simple preparation. Nothing too complicated. Great flavor, super tender. I only wish it had a better char on the crust and some more seasoning. 7/10.

Great spot. I will definitely be back for more pasta and that burger.

LA PECORA BIANCA
950 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10022

*Note there is another location in NoMad as well.

Bluebird London NYC

This joint just opened so I came in to check it out. They are an import from London, as the name suggests, and they are doing some really nice stuff.

First up, they have some great cocktails. Their Vesper martini, Bluebird race car cocktails (their namesake) and Thai Paloma were standout.

They do a beautiful gin & tonic too. I had several of these on the night of their grand opening party:

I tried three apps: The smoked salmon, the gin cured salmon, and the steak tartare.

Smoked Salmon: Very good quality salmon, nice and light – I can see this being a big favorite at brunch time with some toast and a mimosa.

Gin Cured Salmon: Truly inspired. Delicious. The gin really alters the flavor and texture (in a very good way). Served with pickled veggies and some mustard seeds.

Steak Tartare: Awesome. I actually found myself taking some of the cream from the smoked salmon dish and mixing it in with a bite of steak tartare here and there. It was a delicious combo!

Burger: This was so good. I loved the “Big Mac” style sauce on it. Everything really came together nicely. I am generally a big proponent of potato buns, but this brioche held up nicely since it was fresh.

Beef Wellington: The best version I’ve ever had. This is one of my top dishes of 2018 for sure. Perfect in every way. I’ve never had Beef Wellington so big, bold and beautifully executed. There are actually two more slices of this not pictured. I pulled them off the plate so you could see the cook temp better. Serves two for $85 – one of the best deals you will find for this level of cuisine. 10/10.

Sticky Toffee Pudding w/Pepper Ice Cream: Very unique. I really liked the contrast of flavors between the ice cream and the pudding. I think this would round out nicely with some citrus zest or perhaps a wedge/supreme of grapefruit or clementine. Really fun!

I will definitely be back here for sure. There are a few other steaks I’d like to try, and the space is just so beautiful that it makes you want to keep coming back for more. Look out soon for their brunch and afternoon tea services as well.

BLUEBIRD LONDON NYC
10 Columbus Circle
Third floor
New York, NY 10019

Zio Ristorante

I came to Zio to help promote their Meatball Monday special, where you get three meatball sliders for $10.

My favorites are the lamb with ricotta, veal with mozzarella, and chicken with fontina. But you really cant go wrong with the spicy chorizo or even the veggie pesto sliders.

I also tried their lamb ragu pappardelle, which was really nice. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the pasta was perfectly al dente.

I also tried the chicken parm. This was breast meat, and the cheese is home made mozzarella. Nice crisp on this.

Looking forward to going back to trh their veal chop.

ZIO RISTORANTE
17 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011

Chat n Chew

This local diner is in the vein of the American classic in feel, but with a bit less traditional menu items.

They have a great selection of cocktails, which are part of their happy hour menu as well.

I was impressed with the food. I tried a lot of stuff so here it goes:

Mac & Cheese

Great flavor on this and a nice blend of cheeses.

Asian Grilled Chicken Salad

Loved the sesame balsamic flavors on this.

Korean Wings

These are not batter fried in the traditional Korean style, but they are still sticky, sweet, spicy and crisp.

Fish & Chips

These are perfect. The best I’ve had, actually. The cod is juicy and flakey, and the batter is perfectly golden brown and crisp. They get hit with a dusting of curry too so the flavors are great.

Burger

This 10oz monster is great. Classic style, cheddar, LTO. Comes with fries for $15.

Crab Cake

This was nice and meaty. Also comes with fries and coleslaw.

Flatiron Steak

Lean and flavorful, this baby can be eaten with just a good sear on the outside. 6/10.

Coca-Cola Cake

Wow. They re-reduce the Coke back into a syrup and that gets mixed into a chocolate sponge and topped with crispy chocolate cookie bits, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Really nice.

Give this place a shot! I know I will be back.

CHAT N CHEW
10 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

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

Bistro Pierre Lapin

Dining at Bistro Pierre Lapin was probably one of the best French culinary experiences I’ve ever had. Everything I ate was either good or bordering incredible. The meal began with a “slice” of pate, a plate of butter, olives and herb truffle goat cheese, and a basket of small French baguettes that were really hard to stay away from, even though I knew I was about to indulge in a massive and decadent French feast. This may be the best table bread in the city.

Next up was a foie gras mousse, which was silky smooth and one of my favorite bites of the night.

These little guys are pig’s ear pinwheels stuffed with spicy sausage. Really nice.

This head cheese incorporated a boiled egg in the middle. The flavor and texture on this was incredible. This is a must try.

The deviled eggs were great, getting a great pop of texture and flavor from the bacon and pickle additions.

This is a bunch of pig head meat that was deep fried into a delicious patty. Awesome.

This was probably the most unique preparation of escargots I’ve ever seen. They were served with a sunny side up egg, peas, fava beans and a garlic-butter sauce.

The frog’s legs here are the best I’ve ever had, and was one of my favorite dishes of the night. If you have never eaten frog’s legs before, get them here so that you are forever spoiled.

They offer two styles of burger here. The first is a simply grilled burger with foie gras on top, sandwiched between two slices of Texas toast.

They also have an American style burger here as well, with the traditional fixings.

I preferred the American burger over the Texas toast burger, but both were very tasty.

Speaking of toast, this preparation of cognac flambe mushrooms on brioche toast was delicious. I could see this going over really well with the NYC brunch crowd.

These tortelloni are stuffed with rabbit and served with sweet peas in a carbonara sauce (you can see the yolk).

One of the best dishes I tried here was this “Shake N Bake” style breaded pork chop, served with an au poivre sauce. There’s a great story associated with this dish that goes back to when Chef Harold Moore’s mother used to cook pork chops at home. Apparently she used to overcook regular pork chops, but when she followed the instructions on the box for “Shake N Bake,” they came out perfectly every time. So Harold came up with his own breadcrumb mixture here, and the dish is a tribute to his mother’s Shake N Bake dinners at home.

The chicken for two is a great way to go if you’re looking to share:

But I would recommend the leg of lamb if you are going with a group:

This beauty is deboned, stuffed with herbs and spices, rolled back onto the bone, covered with sauce and roasted for hours.

The result is a prime-rib like texture and some dangerously tender and delicious meat. You have to request this a day in advance, and it will feed four to six people with ease.

As for sides. I tried both the clarified butter fries and the truffle fries. Both were excellent, but I think I preferred the truffle fries.

Both the potato gratin and the potato puree were delicious. Between those, I prefer the gratin.

The broccoli was pretty good too. That brown plate at the bottom is actually foie gras stuffing for the roast chicken dish. That stuff is crack.

I will definitely be back here to try more dishes from the entrée menu, and most certainly the artichoke salad. And don’t forget to try one of their tasty and beautiful cocktails. This is their French margarita:

BISTRO PIERRE LAPIN
99 Bank Street
New York, NY 10014