Category Archives: Press Reviews

Ichiran

I finally got around to trying the Japanese import ramen shop Ichiran. This place allows you to completely customize your bowl, where you choose the strength of the broth, the firmness of the noodle, and all of the toppings. Here’s how I ordered:

The ramen was awesome.

Deliciously rich, velvety pork broth. Perfectly cooked, firm noodles. Fork tender slices of pork loin and chashu.

The matcha pudding is really nice too, and I usually don’t like matcha very much.

So glad that this shop opened up so close to home on 49th.

ICHIRAN
152 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

Karvouna Mezze

Karvouna Mezze is the new Greek tapas (“mezze”) joint and meat house that just opened on the Bowery, headed up by the former chef from Merakia, Giuseppe Scalco.

I came in with a group of Instagramming bastards to try out some dishes and to feature our favorites on our profiles. Here’s what we tried:

Peinirli (Greek Pizza Boat)

I like the idea of this, I just wasn’t a fan of the flakey, dry dough. The fillings (bacon, herbs and cheese) were all great though.

Octopus

This was nice. As a mezze portion, this is actually pretty sizable.

Baked Eggplant

Generally I’m not a big fan of eggplant, but this was great. I really liked the presentation in a scooped-out and halved eggplant. You can even still see the stem on the top end. Great Mediterranean flavors on this; semi-Italian and semi-Middle Eastern.

Greek Salad

This was simple and delicious. A must order. Perfect and fresh.

Pork Belly

This was tender and flavorful, but I found myself going after the stewed greens underneath more than the actual pork belly. The ouzo and honey marinade was interesting though.

Lamb Ribs

These are amazing. I loved them at Merakia, and I love them here. They’re perfect as a mezze snack with three to four ribs per order. Great spice on them, expertly cooked, nice fat and tenderness levels.

Kleftiko

This was a bit of a let down. I really enjoyed the Kleftiko at Merakia, which was served like a stew in a bread bowl. Here, there was just too much bread and not enough of that stewed sauciness. It came off a bit dry, unfortunately, and the bits of lamb inside just weren’t tender enough to recall the stew format of the traditional dish.

Short Rib

This was awesome. So tender and flavorful, and sitting on a bed of braised greens and lentils. I could eat this every day.

Mixed Grill For Two

This was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the pork and sausage. It comes out on an actual grill, though you aren’t really cooking anything since it isn’t hot enough. It’s more of a show piece and meat warmer.

This is great for a group meal to share. Even the veggies on there were tasty, and it comes with some nice lemon potatoes too.

Red Velvet Halva

This was my favorite of the three desserts we tried. But don’t expect the texture and flavor of halva just because halva is in the name of the dessert. This tasted more like a gelatin or stiff mousse. Really delicious.

Baklava

A beautiful and tasty take on the classic dessert. A nice balance of sweet and savory, and it comes with a slab of rose jelly, which looks invisible in the pic above.

Chocolate Covered Digestive Cookies

This was like a chocolate covered biscotti. Interesting, but not something I would get again. I just didn’t love the flavor combination. A nice thing to have with coffee though, for those of you who are into it.

I would definitely go back here for the eggplant, ribs, mixed grill and short rib. Go give it a shot! I should also note that when we were there, the health inspector gave a surprise visit and fucked up the entire flow of the kitchen for a good hour or hour and a half. This place is brand new and the chef is very talented, so I have no problem recommending this place to others.

KARVOUNA MEZZE
241 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

Madame Vo BBQ

The talented couple behind Madame Vo recently opened this joint as a way to introduce NYC to Vietnamese BBQ, which, from what I understand, is very popular in central Vietnam.

Be aware: this is not the same as American BBQ, which we all know is characterized by slow and low smoker cooking. This involves a high-heat metal mesh grill and various cuts of meat. Fast and hot, no smokers.

Also: this isn’t Korean or Japanese BBQ. While they use a similar cooking method with the grill, the flavors, preparations and beef items are obviously entirely different.

What’s really unique about Madame Vo BBQ, and what I feel sets Vietnamese BBQ apart from other grilled meat establishments, is that the traditional “Beef 7 Ways” or “Bò 7 Món” feast in Vietnamese culture really lends itself perfectly to this style of cooking.

So what is “Beef 7 Ways?” Sounds like a dream come true, right? It is. It’s also really not that difficult to figure out from its name.

“Beef 7 Ways” in Vietnamese cuisine is generally a large format family style meal where various cuts of beef are served, obviously, in seven different ways. Almost always this will involve some thin sliced beef that’s grilled or dipped in a hotpot broth. There will also almost assuredly be a spiced ground/minced beef application, often wrapped in a betel leaf. And surely there will be a finishing dish of some form of starch with beef. But all throughout, there are “summer roll” rice wrappers on the table – along with various veggies, herbs and even fruits – for you to wrap up with the beef as you eat your way through all seven courses.

Madame Vo has done a great job of elevating that traditional “Bò 7 Món” concept, refining it, and presenting it to New Yorkers in the familiar grill table format. Here’s how they present their version of “Beef 7 Ways:”

1st Way: Eye Round Carpaccio

This was great. I’ve always thought that eye round would be perfect for a carpaccio application. This Viet style carpaccio was so delicious. Great pops from the herbs, spices and sauce.

2nd Way: Meatballs

These are technically not beef; they’re pork. But delicious nonetheless, and still part of the seven.

3rd & 4th Ways: Ground Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaf & Thin-Sliced Short Rib with Onion

These are both grilled, and the betel leaf rolls were my favorite of the seven courses. They have a great fresh green kick to them from the grilled leaf.

5th Way: Five-Spice Beef Tongue

This was awesome. They’re cooked through and make for the perfect filling in those rice wraps with veggies and herbs.

6th Way: Dry Aged Strip Steak with Marrow Butter

That marrow butter was absolute crack. Here’s a little video of it getting smeared on.

7th Way: Oxtail Congee

I really liked this. It was a close pick for my favorite of the meal.

Madame Vo BBQ offers this “Beef 7 Ways” for just $59/pp. I think that’s a great deal considering the quality of the beef, the amount you get, and of course the deliciousness of the whole experience.

We didn’t stop there, though. We also had some amazing seafood apps (not included with the “Beef 7 Ways”).

Giant Oyster with Uni Mayo

These things were huge, and that uni mayo was really addictive.

Maine Uni with Special Fish Sauce Beurre Blanc

Beautiful, sweet and delicious.

Grilled Prawns

These were nice and big. Tasty heads too!

BBQ Quail

The tamarind sauce on this really made it unique.

Short Rib & Marrow Spring Rolls

Loved these. I could eat a dozen easily.

And because I’m like a wild animal, I wanted more beef. We shared the Pat LaFrieda dry-aged tomahawk rib eye. At $95 for about 40oz, this is a steal.

Really beautifully presented too.

I highly recommend this place. Go with a group so you can try lots of stuff. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed!

MADAME VO BBQ
104 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

Wolfgang’s overall score: 85

This place has been on my list of must-do steakhouses since the list began. I’m a little ashamed that I hadn’t gone until just last night. I don’t know what the fuck took me so long to get my ass over here, but, in any case, it finally happened. Here’s what I thought:

Flavor: 8

My wife and I tried two steaks. First, we shared the bone-in rib eye.

We both remarked that this was cooked perfectly the whole way through, with a great crust all around.

There was just a bit of seasoning missing. Perhaps just a little more salt would have bumped this up a bit. 7/10.

The second steak we tried was the porterhouse.

This baby was good. The filet side was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the strip side was full of powerful dry-aged funk. The filet side had less character than the strip side, and the strip side had more tooth to each bite.

Served in the Luger style, the Wolfgang’s porterhouse comes out broiled on the top of the steak only, with the bottom being in contact with the sizzling hot plate. While they were judicious on the use of butter (not too much, thankfully), I do prefer my steaks broiled or seared on both sides. In any case, this was a really good rendition of that style, and it was cooked expertly to medium rare throughout. 8/10.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8

You’ve got porterhouse, strip, filet and rib eye here. The basics. All of the beef comes from the midwest and is aged in-house, and it’s all USDA prime grade.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions here are in line with what you might expect at all the major midtown steakhouses, and the plating is standard as well. Nothing fancy.

Price: 8

The prices here vary from the $50-$60 range per person, which has become pretty much standard for the area. Not bad when you consider that they are nailing the cook temps here, and putting out some good grub.

Bar: 10

This bar is iconic. The arched ceiling throughout the restaurant really gives you the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time, to the old days of dank, dimly lit taverns. I was actually shocked to learn that they only opened in 2004. I was almost expecting something like the 1920’s.

The cocktails are great too. We tried “The Black Manhattan” and a standard gin martini. Both expertly made.

Specials and Other Meats: 7

There were no specials read to us, but then again we were pretty much dead set on what we were going to order anyway. That may have signaled to the waiter that he didn’t need to get into it with us. In any case, the only other meat available here is lamb. Fuck that other nonsense anyway. I respect that. Unfortunately, though, for scoring purposes, that means I have to take some points.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

We started with a round of littleneck clams and oysters on the half shell. Both were tasty and fresh, cleanly shucked and void of debris and odors. The clams come eight to an order, which is nice. The oysters, six.

We also had a slab of their bacon.

I’m happy to report that this blows away Luger’s bacon, which is always fucking burnt. This was nice and thick, rendered well, crisp and meaty.

On the side, we had two types of spinach: sautéed and creamed. The creamed spinach is my favorite style – “creamless” creamed spinach. So velvety and buttery. That was the better of the two, but both are definitely up to snuff.

For dessert, we shared a slice of pecan pie with schlag. Very nice. Hot and sweet. The schlag was a good balance to the pie. Without it, it would’ve been too sweet.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s sea bass, salmon, tuna and lobster on the menu. These seem to be industry standard in the steakhouse world. Occasionally you see swordfish, or some shrimp scampi preparations from time to time.

Service: 10

The servers here are all awesome, and everyone – the bartenders, the hostesses, the managers – is really looking out for you. I loved it. Classic style on the wait staff, bowties and all.

Ambiance: 10

As I mentioned above in the bar area, this place is absolutely iconic. The arched ceilings can cause the room to get pretty loud when the place is crowded though, so make sure you expect that going in. I didn’t mind it at all. It felt welcoming.

WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE
4 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016

Robert’s Steakhouse

Robert’s Steakhouse overall score: 84

YES! This is the steakhouse inside the gentlemen’s club called “The Executive Club,” formerly of Penthouse fame. For many years I had heard – all bullshitting aside – that this really was a great steak joint. Adam Perry Lang is rumored to have designed and built the aging room that’s there on site. So how did it fare under my intense scrutiny? Very well, actually. See below:

Flavor: 9

I tried both the porterhouse for two and rib eye for two. The porterhouse was a 9/10, and is probably in the running for one of the best porterhouses I’ve had for 2019.

The rib eye, 8/10.

Both had great aged flavor and were cooked almost perfectly, but the porterhouse just came out on top in terms of that aged goodness. Also, I felt like the rib eye was a bit small as being marketed “for two.”

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

I’ve heard that the beef here is from Master Purveyors in the Bronx, though they did not confirm. Those guys have been very consistent in terms of quality, from my experience. The dry-aging is done on site here in a proprietary aging room, but they did not reveal how long they age the meat. No matter, though, because that flavor was definitely present and pleasant. Next time I go, I’d like to do a tour of the aging room. Prime quality all the way here, and the basics are all covered in terms of the cuts.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Portions are fair. As noted above I thought the rib eye for two was a little small, but otherwise they were fine. The plating is upgraded a bit from the standard basic steakhouse style, with some flare for the apps and sides.

Price: 8

My meal was free, as this was a press event, but the prices were pretty fair for steakhouse fare. I was expecting a heavy uncharge being in a strip club, but that was not the case at all. There may be some price holding as, from what I understand, this joint may be a members only kind of place. I have to check up on that though. Don’t hold me to it…

Bar: 7

I was only privy to the bar upstairs by the Robert’s dining area, which was a small seven or eight foot stretch without any actual bar stool seating. Mainly this seemed like a place to either stand and drink while waiting to be accosted by a dancer, or just a staging place where the bartenders can mix up drinks to later be distribute via waitresses to the various tables. In any case, they did mix a good martini, and if eye candy is what you’re after at a bar, then what better place is there to be than a strip club?

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There weren’t any specials that I was aware of, but then again this was a press meal with a somewhat set menu. As far as other meats go, they offer veal, chicken and lamb. One thing I did enjoy, oddly enough, was the rigatoni pasta with fresh ricotta and tomato sauce. Not sure if that’s a special or just another type of entree, but it was tasty and had a good level of spice to it.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

We tried a bunch of items, some of which I didn’t shoot (like the creamed spinach, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes). First was the hamachi crudo. I liked this.

Next up, tuna tartare with quail egg. This was delicious as well.

The shrimp salad was bland and somewhat flavorless. Pass on this one.

However, the shrimp cocktail was incredible. These gigantic shrimp were meaty, perfectly cooked and robust with that great shellfish flavor. Get this.

The crab cake fell into the world of averages. Not bad, not great. It was crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, however, which are two big and important characteristics of a crab cake.

We skipped dessert since we were full, so I can’t comment on that.

Seafood Selection: 8

There’s a bunch on the menu here (tuna, salmon, sea bass, lobster), and from what I tried of it in the appetizers section, I think they would do a good job with mains.

Service: 10

The service here is great. All of the staff is very attentive and they explained the menu and beef cuts correctly, even to the extent that they discussed the dry-aging processes. The chef is also really great and visited with us throughout the meal. He bounces back and forth between the NYC location and Atlantic City, however, so I hope he leaves the kitchen in trusted hands when he isn’t around.

Ambiance: 8

While the “surroundings” are indeed pleasing to any heterosexual male, the “restaurant” itself isn’t quite separated from the club other than the fact that it’s upstairs. There are still girls walking around looking to cash in with dances, and I suppose if you wanted you could see the main stage and pole from anywhere up there. That’s not a complaint – just an observation that this place is different than a standard steakhouse or restaurant due to the nature of it being literally inside and not separated from the strip club.

ROBERT’S STEAKHOUSE
The Executive Club
603 w. 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

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