Category Archives: Press Reviews

Tambour Bistro & Wine Bar

Tambour Bistro and Wine Bar is a cool spot that serves up some great Mediterranean style eats in Brooklyn. They have a great deal going on: for $120 you get an appetizer, a dry-aged porterhouse steak from Romeo Brothers (Bensonhurst meat shop), a side and a dessert.

My wife and I came in to try this stuff out. Here’s what we had.

First, some nice wines. I had a Rioja and my wife had a white that I can’t pronounce.

The mussels here are incredible. Make sure you ask for a spoon to slurp up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl. There’s white wine, roasted chili peppers and herbs in that crack sauce.

This arugula salad was simple and refreshing, with kalamata olives, feta cheese, pickled shallots, English cukes and marinated baby tomatoes.

Next up was the main event: a 70-day dry-aged porterhouse, served Florentine style, with charred lemons and rosemary.

This thing was a real beauty. Perfectly cooked with that great brown Maillard crust on it.

There was a lot of earthy funk on this from the aging process, so wiping an occasional bite across the charred lemon was a great way to cut the fat and funk with a pop of brightness.

We finished every bite. I highly recommend this steak. 9/10.

On the side we had the asparagus with crumbled parmesan cheese. That’s an Italian chimichurri sauce in the back. Basil, oregano, lemon, etc. Great with the steak actually.

For dessert, we had this perfectly executed creme brûlée.

This baby was big, creamy and flavorful.

I will definitely be back here to try their bacon as well as some other cuts of steak. I suggest you give it a shot too, especially if you live in the area.

TAMBOUR BISTRO & WINE BAR
652 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Sonora Grill Prime

For our New Year’s Eve dinner in Playa del Carmen, we went to Sonora Grill Prime. They offered a set menu price fix meal. Here’s what we had:

The first items to arrive at the table was a baked bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips, and an array of dipping sauces.

And our drinks. Here is my wife’s lychee martini.

First, a pumpkin and squash soup (which was velvety smooth and really delicious) as well as a dried fruits salad with blue cheese (which was also great – I want dried fruits in all of my salads now).

For the entrees, there was a choice of roasted chicken, fish (I forget which kind) and beef. Obviously I got the beef, which was a filet mignon.

Mine was grilled and cooked nicely to medium rare, despite the waiter informing us that all of them would be cooked to medium. I guess they really wanted to streamline the process in the kitchen.

I was glad mine came out medium rare, as all of the beef here is good quality shit from the US.

My buddy’s filet, on the other hand, was taller and skinnier than mine – a completely different shape. And it was rare. He wasn’t pleased with it, but I liked mine at 8/10.

My wife tried the fish. It was “fishy” as they say, but not quite as aggressively flavored as something like a Long Island bluefish. I thought it was fine.

The dessert was bread pudding, and we all liked it.

If I am down here again, I would like to try some of their steaks from the regular menu. When I made the reservation here, I did not know they were offering a special, limited menu. I guess I should have known better, since that’s pretty much what every restaurant does in NYC.

I’ve decided to save a full 100-point review for this spot until I return. For now, I just scored the steak on its own.

SONORA GRILL PRIME
Calle 12 Nte 251
Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720
Playa del Carmen; Q.R., Mexico

Parrilla Urbana

I hit this joint with my wife and some friends when we were away in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Here’s what we had:

First, a bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips:

Next up, Mexican style roasted bone marrow. You scoop it out and eat with tortillas.

This beef tongue casserole was the star of the night for me. You could eat these with the tortillas too.

The rib eye and chicharrones with guac was really nice too.

As were the blooming onion and the shrimp.

We had a pair of salads to pass around as well. Both were excellent.

We had three main meats. Roasted chicken, filet mignon (7/10 for cook temp issues), and braised beef ribs (9/10). All were great, but I think we all liked the beef ribs and chicken the best.

On the side, we had some french fries and mac and cheese, both were excellent.

We also tried three desserts, one of which was a late addition to my best of 2018 dishes (the corn cake).

That corn cake was insane. We also had chocolate cake and flan.

Even the drinks here are awesome. I was really digging the mezcal cocktails.

As well as the straight stuff.

This was by far the best food in Playa del Carmen that we got to try. If you are ever in the area, go here.

PARRILLA URBANA
Avenida esquina Calle 32 5A
Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710
Playa del Carmen
Q.R., Mexico

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.

One very special dish you can get here, off the menu, is the roasted pig head.

It’s usually available about 75% of the time, but you have to ask your waiter if they have it. It’s slow roasted for hours, so you get that crispy pork skin on the outside, sticky sweet fat just beneath the skin, and all that tender meat on the inside. Especially the cheek.

Give it a shot. This is probably one of the best pig face dishes I’ve had, and I have definitely had more than a handful.

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.

UPDATED THOUGHTS

After coming in here for breakfast, and then a special menu Christmas dinner, I don’t think I can recommend this place anymore. That first experience up above was great, and two of the dishes I ate made my “Best of 2018” on Instagram. But those two meals afterwards were just bland and flavorless. Sad, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

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

Zio Ristorante

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

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