Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Pig Bleecker

This joint offers some of the most unique and delicious dishes I’ve come across in a while. I went with a group of food Instagrammers to help the restaurant get some pics out to the masses, so we were able to sample a lot of stuff.

First off, the cocktails are really creative.

If you like apertif type drinks, try the Greyfriar or the Donna Reed. I generally shy away from them due to the bitter element, but these were extremely tasty and have me re-thinking the entire class. My favorites, though: Old Smokey, I’m on Fire and Deacon Blues.

Take a look at the food menu.

Everything looks/sounds good because everything IS good. I’m serious. Every item we tried was not only good but often times outstanding. I seriously think this is my new favorite restaurant.

Okay on to the goods. I apologize in advance for some of the pics that I didn’t bother editing. I was primarily concerned with getting just a few to look great for Instagram, in particular the steak, burger and fried chicken dishes.

These little corn bread wafers are a nice change from standard table bread in a basket.

SNACKS

The Pecan Candied Bacon is served in a mason jar. They reminded me of the stuff my wife makes, only without the spicy element.

The Deviled Steak & Eggs is essentially a deviled egg with steak tartare under the whipped yolk. Excellent bites.

STARTERS

If there’s only one thing Chef Matt Abdoo should have as his legacy, it’s his ability to make incredible sauces. These BBQ Chicken Lollipops feature one of those amazing sauces. They are fantastic.

Grandma Val’s Meatballs are really great. Again, that sauce is killer.

This next dish of fried cod cheeks was not on the menu, but they might have been one of my favorite dishes of the night. I could easily eat bucket-loads of these. Nice light and puffy batter, simply garnished with pickled peppers and scallions. Awesome.

I’m usually not a fan of cooked oysters, but the Grilled Oysters here definitely changed my mind.

MAINS

Brisket Ravioli with black truffle butter? Yup. They even shaved a bunch on top, table-side.

Beautiful.

We shared the Bleecker Burger, which is probably now one of my new favorites. It’s in the style of a Big Mac; double patty, special sauce (yeah – it’s an incredible sauce). Nearly flawless in execution. As a friend pointed out, it just needs an element of crisp, whether from the patty or a leaf of iceberg. The house pickles are perfect.

The Linguine Cacio e Pepe and Lasagne dishes were both nicely executed as well, but I didn’t get a shot of either, unfortunately.

FOR THE TABLE

Let me start with the amazing Smoked & Fried Chicken. This is a whole chicken, and it’s expertly breaded and perfectly fried.

I enjoyed this more than Ando and Ma Peche, which seem to be the top of the pack for many fried chicken aficionados. Again, the sauces that come with this are amazing, but the waffles with whipped sweet and salted butter were the real show stoppers. I’ve never had a waffle that tasted so good.

Here comes the big daddy: the Tomahawk Chop with Smoked Beef Rib. Essentially, steak and brisket.

This is an aged Pat Lafrieda cut that has been lightly smoked before being properly finished off as a steak. It’s served with smoked cap and brisket, and another amazing steak sauce.

This steak tastes like a delicious hybrid between BBQ and traditional steakhouse fare.

It’s smokey and sweet, but also earthy and savory. It really blew me away. 10/10.

SIDES

The Mac & Cheese is really tasty, and topped with a cheese powder that will take you back to your childhood.

These Hand Cut French Fries are more like flattened and squashed baked potatoes. Very good, and not the same as the shoestring style fries that come with the burger.

The Utica Greens are made with escarole, which I love to see on menus. I didn’t get a pic, but this really popped from the smokey bacon and cherry peppers.

Finally, we tried the Anson Mills Grits, which I also liked very much.

DESSERT

Mason Jar Oreo Cheesecake. Velvety and delicious.

Mango Sorbet with Yogurt Chips & Fresh Mango. So bright and flavorful.

Karen’s Key Lime Pie. Perfect rendition of this classic.

Brownie Hot Fudge Sundae with Virginia Peanuts. Decadent.

Buckeye Milkshake (like a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream shake). This is something special. Not only is it gorgeous, but it is filling, yummy and satisfying.

They were all awesome, and overall this was an amazing meal. I can’t wait to go back and try their 155 Steak, a Teres Major/Shoulder Tender cut, so keep an eye out for updates.

PIG BLEECKER
155 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012

Meatball Shop

The Meatball Shop just opened up a new location on 9th Avenue at 53rd Street. The space is pretty cool, and it even has a bar attached called “Sidepiece,” where they feature all of their great cocktails and more food items.

My favorite cocktail there is a tequila and mezcal based drink called “the girl with the nice pear.”

My buddy brought me with him to shoot some photos for Instagram influencing purposes, so we were able to try a bunch of stuff. We started with the buffalo chicken meatballs, which were really great.

Next, this truly one of a kind tomato soup that is served with grilled cheese balls. This is only available for a limited time and only at the Hell’s Kitchen location, so get on it while you can.

This dish was awesome: pork meatballs in pesto on a bed of spaghetti. I really liked the texture and flavors here.

Meatball Shop also does something called “smash” sandwiches. Basically they flatten a pair of meatballs, cover them with melted cheese and dress with sauce before putting it all on a nice sandwich bun. This one here is made with chicken meatballs and topped with their classic tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. We added an egg on top because we rule.

A post shared by Johnny Prime (@johnnyprimecc) on

We didn’t stop there. Dessert consisted of a chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwich. Simple and delicious.

But my favorite was the brown sugar ice cream banana brulee split.

Amazing meal. I’m sold on this place for sure.

MEATBALL SHOP
798 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

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

Crispin’s

My wife and I grabbed a Groupon for this place that scored us a bottle of wine, a shared app, two entrees and two desserts.

When we stepped into this joint it felt like we had stepped into a wine bar meat shop in Rome. The warm wood decor was inviting and cozy, and starting our meal with some red wine and salumi just brought us right back to our Italy vacation.

There were no offensive limits to what we could choose from the wine and app selections, by the way. And the meats were high quality and consisted of salami, prosciutto, mortadella and brasaeola. This was my favorite item of the night.

Our entrees were both good, but my wife’s lamb shank was the winner between the two. We were limited in our selection to items that were listed for $24 or less.

Interesting though – instead of a bed of orzo, as is traditional, this featured as bed of roughly mashed potatoes. They were tasty.

I had a pork chop. It was pretty big at 16oz, T-bone style.

It was nicely cooked and tender.

For dessert we did a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, and panna cotta. The panna cotta was great. Super smooth, light and flavorful.

Overall this is a good deal and I recommend picking up the Groupon if they’re still offering it.

CRISPIN’S
764 10th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Tulsi

A food buddy of mine set up a press/influencer meal at this midtown east Indian joint. I have somewhat of a deficit when it comes to Indian restaurant reviews on this site, so I was excited to try this place. I had heard good things from friends, and they were recently awarded a Michelin star.

We started with a bunch of apps.

The chicken tikka was my favorite of these babies. The meat was super tender inside and crispy/charred on the outside.

Chaat.

Paneer cheese.

Of course the amazing naan.

Their garlic naan was awesome, and went very nicely with the coconut shrimp curry.

In fact all of the curries I tried were pretty great here.

I also tried a goat biryani, which was probably the best biryani I’ve ever had. It was spicy! And the goat was super tender (just be aware of bones throughout).

My favorite dish of the night, however, was this halibut dish.

The fish was cooked really nicely, had great texture and a crisp outside, while remaining flakey and tender inside.

So beautiful too.

The lamb chops were incredibly tender as well. I really liked the spice profile on them. Aggressive, but really earthy. I didn’t get a shot of the inside, but they were cooked to a perfect medium rare to rare temperature. And like I said, so freaking tender. I actually cut them with a butter knife.

Dessert was interesting. My favorite was their rendition of cheesecake. Super creamy!

And I also liked these yogurt cream “cannoli”-like shells:

But everything else I tried was beautiful and tasty.

TULSI
211 E 46th St
New York, NY 10017

Flame

Flame is a pretty large hibachi joint on the upper west side. I was recently invited in for a hibachi meal with a bunch of lunatic foodies.

They put on a great show here, I must say.

We started off with a pair of shrimp.

Then some fried rice and veggies.

And then the steaks came out!

Very simply prepared, and nicely cooked.

As far as hibachi goes, this is one of the best I’ve experienced. But that’s not where the action stops. They also serve a variety of nice dumplings, sushi and other seafood.

Everything was great; especially that miso octopus tentacle. I highly recommend this joint. There’s a lot of space, really beautiful tables and decor, and even some really nice mixed cocktails.

FLAME
100 W 82nd St
New York, NY 10024

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.

sel et poivre 020

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.

sel et poivre 003

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.

sel et poivre 008 fixed color

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.

sel et poivre 011

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.

sel et poivre 012

sel et poivre 015

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

sel et poivre 014

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.

sel et poivre 013

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

sel et poivre 016

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.

sel et poivre 017

sel et poivre 018

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

Philip Marie

I picked up a Groupon for this place because they were offering a steak dinner for two with wine for a fairly low price. It doesn’t take much to get me motivated to try another steak, so this was a no-brainer purchase for me.

Let’s get down to business. The Groupon got us the following, in addition to two glasses of wine:

Chopped Salad for Two: This was a BLT salad and probably one of the top salads I’ve eaten in a while. Obviously it contained bacon, lettuce and tomato, but it also had a great pop from pickles and the right kind of dressing that made you think you were actually eating a BLT without the bread.

Crostini for Two: Mushroom and cheese, and salmon with goat cheese. Both of these were really good, fresh and crisp with great pops of flavor. Unfortunately I focused my lens on the uglier of the two. The salmon one was very pretty.

24oz Steak with Grilled Veggies and Mashed Potatoes for Two: The rib eye was cut into two portions rather than served family style and pre-sliced, which was a bad move. As you can see from the pics below, one side was all cap with a little eye (top) and the other side was all eye with a little cap (bottom).

In any event, it was served beautifully on a hot skillet. The grilling method meant less seared edges, but at least they hit medium rare nicely; pretty much dead on.

There was some gristle and inedible fat, but not an overwhelming amount. It could have used a bit more seasoning as well. 6/10.

As for the veggie sides; I felt that they skimped on the broccoli. We each had 1 small head, and it was a shame because the broccoli was actually tasty and not a throw-away. The mashed potatoes were a little on the dry side but not intolerable.

To sum it up, this was a decent deal. I probably wouldn’t do it again, but I’m not bummed that I purchased it. I think it runs about $80, but if you’re considering getting it, make sure you have a good coupon code to knock back the cost a bit.

PHILIP MARIE
569 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014

White Bear

My buddy and I stopped into White Bear after a Charcuterie event in Flushing to try some dumplings / wontons in hot chili oil. The funny part is that the woman working there just brought out the plate of dumplings before we even ordered.

But I guess it kind of makes sense: Every white person that was in before and after us within the 20 minute span of time we were there ordered the same thing. She knew.

For $6 you get an order of 12. They were very tasty and well made.

WHITE BEAR
135-02 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY 11354