Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Esora Omakase

I was recently invited to try a new Wagyu and tempura Omakase restaurant connected to J-Spec in the East Village, called Esora.

This was one of the most incredible Omakase experiences I’ve had. We started with a trio of appetizers: wagyu tartare + uni, scallop + caviar, and tofu.

All were excellent, but the wagyu tartare and uni was possibly the best bite of the night!

Next up was sashimi. More wagyu strip, as well as sea bream and blue fin tuna.

Wagyu sushi? YUP! We got a taste of both Hida and Ozaki strip here. Torched (Ozaki), and raw (Hida).

The tempura portion of the meal was so much fun, and the bites seemed to just keep coming!

Prawn heads (and bodies):

Okra:

Magochi fish:

Maitake mushroom!

Tenderloin wrapped in shiso leaf. Awesome!

Corn:

Scallop:

Squash blossom and Japanese pumpkin:

Sea Eel:

And finally, sweet potato:

We washed that down with a really tasty seafood and mushroom soup, served in a nice tea kettle with citrus (dobinmushi).

Next, we had STEAK! Wagyu strip from Hida:

…and from the Ozaki family brand:

Check this out!

I liked the Ozaki a bit better:

There was also sea bream rice with ikura:

And finally, dessert: earl grey tea panna cotta, roasted green tea, and peach compote.

I highly recommend this place. Make sure to call ahead at least 24hrs before booking. There are only seven seats at the bar with the chef, and there are a limited number of seatings each day.

ESORA OMAKASE
239 E 5th St
New York, NY 10003

Bacaro

I’m officially hooked on this place. A while back, my wife and I stopped in for a drink and an app – the fritto misto. We were already sort of full, but that pplate of mixed fried items like calamari, olives, lemon rinds, shrimp, and artichoke really made us want to go back.

Last night we finally did! We tried two more apps, meatballs and fried zucchini blossoms. Both were incredible. In fact, the meatballs are some of the best I’ve had outside of family.

The fried zucchini blossoms are stuffed with velvery smooth ricotta and served with an anchovy pesto oil. I liked swiping them in the meatball sauce though.

The pasta entrees are pretty large servings! Check out this massive bowl of gnocchi with peas and mushrooms.

The cavatelli with duck meat ragu was a massive serving too.

They had to be half a pound each. We couldn’t finish! I’ll definitely be back here to try more pastas, and perhaps one or two of the fish items from their entree menu.

BACARO
136 Division St
New York, NY 10002

Little Rebel

I came here with my wife and another couple to try out some of the menu items, as this place just recently opened about a month ago.

We tried two flavors of wings: maple waffle, and everything bagel. My favorite was the everything bagel. They even came with little blobs of creamed cheese.

The popcorn shrimp was addictive. I could easily eat 3 bowls

Massive chicken sandwich, topped with excellent quality thick cut bacon.

Both regular and truffle fries are great as well. And the burger was executed perfectly.

The pork belly was a bit too sweet from the candied orange on top, but otherwise it was very nicely cooked and tender.

They also have some really creative coctails.

Definitely give this place a shot. For bar food, this place has an elegant setting and some really high quality menu items.

LITTLE REBEL
219 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Baker & Co.

My wife and I came here with another couple for a double date. We started with the pizzette that was on special, which involved squash, figs and balsamic:

Excellent. The fried calamari was great too, and, in fact, was mixed with fried shrimp and artichoke as well.

Speaking of artichokes, this fried artichoke salad was probably the low key winner of the starters.

For my main, I had the paccheri with lamb ragu and fava beans. Delicious!

My wife’s duck with black truffle and mushrooms entree was the winner, however. I wish I took a pic.

Dessert: Vanilla panna cotta. Perfection.

I would definitely go back here for another meal. They have a dry aged burger on the menu – maybe I’ll try that!

BAKER & CO.
259 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Joe Junior

This joint came highly recommended by a food reviewer and meat expert friend of mine, Nick Solares. He has waxed eloquent about the burger here many times!

It’s deceptively simple. Nick ordered it for me: Rare, simply seasoned with just salt, and seared on the plancha, with cheese melted on both sides of the bun.

I have to say, for under $8 (sans fries), this thing rivals many of our city’s great steakhouse burgers. They’re using real quality ground beef, and they certainly know how to cook it. Rare was warm to the touch in the center, but not much bleed out or drips on the plate. Impressive.

And total steal at that price point. Go give it a shot!

JOE JUNIOR
167 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Pineapple Club

I stopped into this joint real quick to try some cocktails and their burger. The cocktails were great (no pics), and the burger was just mediocre.

It had a great crust on the patties, and the fries were battered style and super crisp, but the cheese needed a little more melt and the “special sauce” didn’t seem very present.

I would definitely go back here for some other menu items though, and absolutely for the tiki inspired cocktails. But there’s a better burger next door at NOWON if that’s what you’re looking for.

Oh and here are some avocado fries. They were tasty!

PINEAPPLE CLUB
509 E 6th St
New York, NY 10009

Cervos

My wife and I finally tried this spot. It’s been getting very popular lately in the food scene, mainly because of the crispy shrimp heads seen here:

They paired nicely with the house hot sauce.

They’re delicious! But so are the other items they offer, like the mussels escabeche:

The fried skate wing:

And the piri piri chicken with french fries:

Fries were perfect, chicken was juicy! Great cocktails as well.

We’ll definitely be back to try the Manila clams and a few other items that looked tasty.

CERVOS
43 Canal St
New York, NY 10002

The Ten Bells

This nice wine bar in the Lower East Side has an awesome happy hour deal that includes $18 carafes of red, white or rose along with dollar oysters in three varieties, every day from open until 7pm. On weekends they open at 3pm so my wife and I popped in to try a bunch of stuff. We were the first ones at the bar. This is what one side of it looks like:

The wine was delicious.

And so was this tomato flavored brandy:

For bites, we did two dozen oysters (eight of each variety, all nicely cleaned and fresh);

Steak tartare (this was really nicely prepared – one of the better tartares I’ve had);

And boquerones/anchovies.

Everything was great, and I can’t wait to go back for more.

THE TEN BELLS
247 Broome St
New York, NY 10002

Brooklyn Roots Italian

One of the great things to come out of the pandemic is Brooklyn Roots. Chef Thomas Perrone struck out on his own despite all of the fears and warnings. It started out as pick up and delivery only, but now he’s running a full-fledged old school Italian restaurant in the heart of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The atmosphere, the food, the smells… it’ll take you back. Nearly everything on the menu is under $30, and the portion sizes are triple what you see at other Italian joints. And this isn’t a typical red-sauce joint where you leave thinking that you could’ve made the food at home. This stuff is all done with top notch cooking technique, and high quality ingredients.

My wife and I went big, because we knew we wanted to try everything we could and bring a bunch of stuff home for the weekend. We started with the octopus and fried zucchini to start.

The zucchini was light, fried to a perfect golden crisp, and served with a bright marinara dipping sauce. The octopus was perfectly tender, and served in an amazing pesto. Definitely get these items when you go.

For the pasta dishes, we tried the “Matty Guns” special, who happens to be an actual person – he was there in the restaurant when we went. Baked rigatoni in a vodka sauce, topped with ricotta, melted mozzarella and basil. But lurking under the broiled cheese is a delicious collection of meats: sweet and hot Italian sausage, and meatballs. Amazing. Again – at $29 the portion size can feed two people for two days.

The next pasta was the linguine with corn and shrimp.

This was markedly lighter, but great for a summer pasta dish. Tons of great flavor coming in from the light tomato and garlic wine sauce.

For our entrees, we went with chicken and veal. For the chicken, we did the scarpariello preparation, with sausage, vinegar cherry peppers and potatoes. This took me back to when my mom used to make a similar dish with pork chops.

We did the veal parm. I was tempted to do milanese, but maybe next time.

This was such a great deal. Two cutlets fried to a perfect crisp and covered with sauce and cheese. Just awesome.

ENHANCE! Incredible.

We came with a huge appetite and still had no room for dessert – and we took home tons of leftovers. But from the looks of people around us, the dessert was great. I can’t wait to go back and try more.

BROOKLYN ROOTS ITALIAN
4601 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11220

Francie

The newly Michelin-starred Francie in Brooklyn was a mix of both great and “meh” dishes. I’m honestly a bit shocked that they received a star, but one or two items that we tried were truly top notch.

We started with the sourdough bread and lard, the duck mortadella, and a duck sausage that was on special for the night.

The duck sausage was the winner of these, but I must also point out that the lard that came with the bread was killer. They should be selling it by the jar. It had a nice hint of lemon to it that cut the fatness just right.

We also tried the barigoule (braised artichoke, fried chicken, mushrooms, egg yolk). This was really unique and tasty, and I’m glad we tried it.

We tried four pasta dishes. Of these, the rigatoni with green garlic and fennel pollen sausage was the best, followed by the tortelli with suckling pig and cracklings (despite the second being slightly too salty). The cavatelli was good for a more veggie friendly option, but the lobster ravioli was a bit of a let down to several of us.

For the mains, we ordered two entrees for two: the rib steak and the dry aged duck crown.

Both were beautifully cooked and presented.

But the duck was the star of the show. Perfectly crisped skin atop a layer of buttery soft rendered fat, with juicy, succulent, pink duck flesh beneath. Big win.

The steak was just meh. There was something sweet going on that didn’t sit well with me – I believe it was a molasses glaze. I still ate a shitload of it, but for the price point of $175 I would never order it again. It was too small in addition to having a confusing flavor profile, especially with the weird maple hollandaise that it came with. 6/10.

Over all, I highly recommend coming here for the duck apps, the rigatoni and tortelli pasta dishes, and the duck crown. Skip on the rest. For drinks, they do make very nice cocktails, but they’re pricey.

FRANCIE
34 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11249