Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Manting

My buddy Jeff from @foodmento organized a bunch of influencers to check this place out. I was instantly interested, since Jeff always seems to help me discover new and awesome places (like Pao de Queijo, among others).

Manting is a Chinese dry hot pot joint. What is that? Well, if you’re familiar with hot pot, then just remove the bubbling pot of broth and replace the cooking method with stir fry.

Hot pot is one of the most fun and delicious dining experiences, but hot broth doesn’t necessarily jive with the warmer weather. Dry hot pot is a nice solution to remove some of the temperature heat, if you can take the spice heat.

I can take the spice. Manting is known for having really spicy dry pot (obviously you can order it mild or without spice as well). They will likely caution you against ordering extra spicy or even medium spicy. And even if you manage to get them to give you spicy or medium, it may still be mild if you’re a spice freak like me. I think they’re worried about blowing people’s mouths up, because the word on the street is that this joint is too hot to handle.

The deliciousness of the food is unparalleled. Here’s how it works: you work your way down a row of veggies and fungi, telling the chef which items you want in your bowl and how much. Then you get to pick the meats and/or seafood. You pay by the pound, unlike some places which charge by ingredient.

I filled my bowl with string beans, bok choy, mushrooms, lotus root, tofu skin, okra and bean sprouts before hitting some lamb, beef and fish from the protein section. Here’s the finished product, topped with cilantro and spiced up to medium.

If the dry pot thing isn’t your bag, there is a full menu of other Chinese dishes available for you as well. Here’s a pair of shots of a really nice looking seafood soup:

I’ll definitely be back here again, especially since it’s so close to work.

MANTING
150 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

Felix

I’d been to Felix a few times for drinks in the nice weather, but I never actually sat down to eat until yesterday. I was invited in to take photos of the food and post some stuff to Instagram, so my wife and I went for dinner and tried some good French classics.

First, the foie gras terrine.

This was incredibly smooth and creamy. It was served with toasted bread and some caramelized shallots. Highly recommended, but I actually liked eating it better with the table bread than the toast.

I had to get the beef carpaccio, just because, you know, beef.

It was beautifully plated with arugula and shaved parmesan. Also really tasty, and also recommended.

My wife went with the cassoulet.

This baby was packed with a massive assortment of meats: chicken, duck, pork and two types of sausage.

Very nice.

I went with what was described on the menu as both a cote de boeuf and an aged 40oz prime rib for two. However, what came out was more like a traditional steak as opposed to roasted prime rib.

It also felt like it was a little smaller than 40oz. Perhaps maybe 32oz.

I ordered somewhere between rare and medium rare. Some parts were spot on, and others were over. But the flavor was pretty good at a solid 7/10. It also came with a nice vegetable medley of string beans, carrots, mushrooms and baby Brussels sprouts. The fries were really great too.

The three sauces that came with it were Bernaise, peppercorn and blue cheese (and a small dish of dijon for the fries). My favorites were the peppercorn and the blue cheese, but I was going into the peppercorn more because the blue cheese sauce was strong.

For dessert we tried the apple tart (tarte tatin).

This had a great texture on the outer edges of the tarte, with a soft and tasty apple inside. A nice pairing with some vanilla ice cream.

FELIX
340 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013

Tessa

TESSA is a modern Mediterranean tavern on the upper west side that blends southern French and Italian cuisines. Their opening in April 2014 was the culmination of a years-long journey by first-time restaurateur, Larry Bellone, and long-time restaurateur, Will Tracy. The joint is named after Larry’s daughter. Will has been involved in the restaurant business for over 30 years.

Executive Chef Eric Cope has been at the helm since the beginning. Before his position here, Eric worked for the Rancho Bernardo Inn in his hometown of San Diego. The Pastry Chef is Yarisis Jacobo, and the Sous Chef is Ray Martinez.

The industrial and rustic interior design is absolutely stunning, and you can see the immaculate kitchen through the massive windows downstairs if you use the spotless-clean bathrooms.

The bar is really beautiful too, and the cocktail list is inventive. I tried three drinks (Kilt & Dagger, 349 and UWS Manhattan), and they were all delicious.

But let me get to the food, because that’s what you really care about the most, right? We started with three apps.

Salmon Tartare

This was nice and fresh. It had a middle-eastern flavor profile, especially when eaten with the soft naan-like scallion pita bread with which it was served. The pomegranate, cucumber, pearl onion, black sesame and saffron aioli really worked well together.

Octopus

This a la plancha style octopus was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It was really nice! It’s served with marble potato salad, fried capers, black garlic puree and aged balsamic. This was my favorite of the apps.

Mussels

These “drunken” Hollander mussels were beautiful. The broth boasts tequila, tomato, garlic, kafir lime leaf, dried guajillo and cilantro. Super aromatic and tasty.

Next up we tried a duo of appetizer-sized pasta dishes (half of what you’d get for a full order). I must say, the app sizes were generous!

Duck Spaghetti

This was really good, and was offered as a special for the night. Duck sausage and duck confit lent a great savory component to the dish, complementing the fresh greenery of peas and fried basil.

Lobster Rye Trumpet

This beautiful rye pasta dish was topped with a generous amount of lobster for an appetizer portion. This was the better pasta of the two, for me. It was tossed with chanterelle mushrooms, celery root, chorizo, buerre blanc and chives.

We shared two entrees.

Long Island Duck

First, and actually my favorite between the two, was the duck. The breast was rendered perfectly, leaving just a layer of crisp skin above the tender, expertly cooked meat. This was served with a spiced honey sauce, a few crispy duck confit ravioli, baby carrots, cipollini onions and tarragon. The sweet and savory contrast to this dish was so amazing. I’d go back for this in a heart beat.

Cote de Boeuf

This beauty is pre-sliced and 32oz on the bone. Take a closer look at the meat though.

A little closer…

There you go! It’s a 45 day dry-aged DeBragga rib eye that carries a great earthy and funky flavor. The crust on this thing was excellent, and perfectly seasoned. It comes with roasted garlic, crispy fried shallots and  roasted bone marrow. 8/10.

This was a great steak, but I was really torn between ordering this or the other two beef options that were on the menu: a hanger steak frites and a 45-day dry aged strip steak. Next time.

We also tried the fries and shaved Brussels on the side. Both were great, but I only snapped the fries.

In the background, you can also see some grilled romaine lettuce which came with the steak (along with a nice reduction-style steak sauce, and the sun dried tomato chimichurri that usually accompanies the steak frites).

To finish off the meal, we tried two desserts.

Bomboloni

I’m usually not a fan of ordering doughnuts at a restaurant. I always end up liking doughnuts from specialty shops better. But these ones were incredible. It was tough to choose a favorite between the two styles (vanilla cream vs glazed). Both were incredible, and came with a hazelnut anglaise dipping sauce.

Coconut Cheesecake Sundae

Yes, you read that right. It’s coconut sorbet with malted vanilla sauce, diced mango and macadamia crunch. Really inventive, refreshing and exotic.

Is that everything? I think it is. But I want more. I highly recommend this place. The quality of the food and attentiveness of service is top notch. You won’t be disappointed.

TESSA
349 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Pat LaFrieda Meat Counter

I’ve been fixing to get to this spot in The Pennsy for a while, and I finally had the opportunity last weekend. I organized a bunch of Instagram food savages to come in and shoot pics, sample the menu and promote the LaFrieda brand, which I have come to love so much.

First up, the roast beef sandwich:

This baby is served cold cut style, with bleu cheese, horseradish aioli, pickled red onions and watercress on a toasted semolina roll.

It’s very difficult to choose a favorite among so many selections here. It really depends on what mood you’re in.

Next was the black Angus steak sandwich.

That’s sliced filet mignon with melted Monterey Jack cheese, caramelized onions, baby spinach and au jus on a toasted ciabatta roll. Awesome.

Grandpa’s meatball sandwich is pretty tight.

Tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella on a pressed ciabatta roll. Simple and delicious.

This fucker was intensely flavorful.

Slow roasted pork with broccoli rabe and melted provolone on a ciabatta roll. So juicy!

“World’s Greatest Hot Dog” is a bold claim for a menu item to make, but LaFrieda really delivers with this.

This baby is actually two hot dogs with honey mustard, caramelized onions and hot peppers.

As you can see, the dogs are split and grilled, which is a big win for me. I love that preparation.

And finally, the short rib platter.

This is slow roasted and maple glazed, served with greens and a celery root slaw.

For $15 this has to be one of the best buys in NYC for a steak.

This stuff is fork tender too. I was barely able to pick this up without it falling apart – that’s how soft it is!

Do yourself a favor and get this right away. 9/10.

My wife had the genius idea to pop all the items from the soft rib platter onto one of the LaFrieda homemade potato chips.

Pretty incredible! And wash it all down with fresh lemonade or iced tea from the taps.

PAT LAFRIEDA MEAT COUNTER
The Pennsy
2 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121

Esperanto

Esperanto is a fun, brightly colored Brazilian and South American food joint on 9th and C.

The open and inviting bar boasts a nice selection of unique cocktails, like the mazcalita, made with mescal, lime juice and ginger (right).

There’s even some hard to find Brazilian beers available, like Xingu and Itaipava.

For just $2 you can get these all served michelada style (with lime and tomato juice, which I love).

The first thing that Chef Cesar brought to the table was this really nice country style bread with their house made dipping oil, which is also available for sale by the bottle.

It’s infused with peppercorn, garlic, fennel, red pepper and herbs. It is absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be going back to buy a bottle of this delicious potion.

My wife and I started with two apps. First was the fried goat cheese salad with cashew pesto.

This was really awesome. I’m usually not a huge fan of goat cheese, but this was so smooth and creamy inside. It was a great contrast to the crisp outside. And that pesto? Green gold!

This next app is far and away the best preparation of mussels that I’ve ever eaten. They’re roasted in a half shell and baked with garlic, paprika, butter and parmesan cheese.

Similar to escargot, this dish really packed a wallop of flavor, especially when you hit it with some of the fresh lime and cilantro. The parmesan turns into a really nice, crust over the top, adding another textural element of crunch.

It’s funny, too, because I was just explaining escargot to someone the other day who had never eaten them. I described it as being like mussels, but baked with butter, garlic and herbs as opposed to steamed in a pot.

We tried two entrees. First was the moqueca, a traditional South American stew made with coconut milk, ginger, cashews and spices.

We chose shrimp as the main protein, but you can also choose snapper or a mix of snapper and shrimp. This dish reminded us of a Thai or Indian curry dish, but less spicy. However, the “fixins” will set that distinction aside some, as this dish comes with a jar of pickled hot peppers and farofa (cassava meal starch, for thickening the stew is desired). Add one or both to your desired levels of spice and/or thickness.

We also tried the Argentinian style grilled hanger steak.

This comes with homemade guacamole and chimichurri sauce, a side of rice, and a side of stewed black beans.

The steak comes out pre-sliced and cooked to a nice medium rare. When you slather the sauce and guac onto a slice of steak, you’re entering a blissful and exciting meat eating experience. The flavors really pop!

For dessert we tried two items; the homemade coconut flan and the chocolate lava cake. I’m usually not a fan of lava cake, mostly because it is never executed correctly and the middle firms up too much. That wasn’t the case here. The inside was warm and ooey-gooey, and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cool down after each mouth-warming bite.

The coconut flan was awesome! It had a really nice firm, custardy texture. It had threads of fresh coconut mixed into the custard too, to offer an additional pop of coconut flavor with each bite.

This was a great meal, and I look forward to going back. Esperanto has daily happy hour specials, and nightly entertainment like bands and DJs. It’s really a great place. They even have a fresh juice bar off to the side of the restaurant.

Give this place a shot!

ESPERANTO
145 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009

Cantina Rooftop

Cantina rooftop just opened for the season. This fun Mexican joint is located on a glass-enclosed rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen. The spacious dining room is bright, there’s a comfortable lounge section for evenings, and there’s even some outdoor seating as well.

My wife was invited in by the restaurant and was asked to bring some other food people with her to help get the word out about this place. Let me get right down to it.

First off, they have some really tasty cocktails, and good happy hour specials from 5pm-7pm.

Pictured here are the Teporocho (martini glass), which is easily one of the best cocktails I’ve had recently, and the Chingon.

We started with a sampling of their three guacamoles. All three were great, but their Ranchero guac with chili paste was the best.

The huitlacoche and Oaxaca cheese empanadas were fantastic. I highly recommend these when you get here. Each order comes with three empanadas for $10.

Next up was the mixed seafood ceviche. I’m usually not a fan of the red cocktail sauce style ceviches (I usually like just thin liquid citrus and maybe some white wine), but this one really worked. Check out the awesome glass used to serve them:

As far as tacos go, my favorite between the three that we tried were the chorizo tacos, but both the spicy tuna and the pork tacos were also pretty great. Each taco plate comes with three tacos, and the prices range from $10-$14. Not bad at all! I’m happy that this is somewhat close to our apartment. I’ll be hitting these often.

The big star of the evening was the Ajillo shrimp. These were just packed with amazing flavor. Garlic, tequila, chilis and lime juice. This is what you order!

Beautifully plated too.

Last up was the mixed grilled meats platter called the Rooftop Molcajete. Grilled cactus, roasted jalapeno, chorizo, chicken, steak and grilled queso fresco come nicely arranged in a bowl with a side of tortillas for making your own tacos.

We were too stuffed for dessert, but this is a really fun place with excellent service, and I’m looking forward to going back.

CANTINA ROOFTOP
605 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036

Saiguette

This little take-out joint slings a pretty decent banh mi. I haven’t tried their Vietnamese food yet, but I can at least give a run down of their “classic” sub. I put the word “classic” in quotes, because there really isn’t much pate, head cheese or other items that would make this a classic viet sandwich. Perhaps they gave me the roast pork shoulder by mistake? Not sure. It could just be that they’re using different ingredients from the other shops.

SAIGUETTE
935 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10025

Charrua

I came to Charrua with a crew of food influencers to sample some of the menu offerings during their weekend brunch, and take photos for Instagram. Here’s a smattering of what we tried:

Best of the meal goes to the sausages: mild chorizo and blood. The blood sausage was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Empanadas

This chivito (sandwich) was called “El Canadiense.”

It contained filet mignon, bacon, mozzarella, ham, hard-boiled egg, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers, olives, lettuce, tomato and mayo, served with homemade fries. It was good!

The steak was overcooked, but it still had some good flavor despite being gray almost entirely through the center. 5/10.

I also tasted some of the grilled skirt steak on a mixed platter. This was also overcooked, but as badly as the hanger steak. The texture, however, wasn’t quite as nice as the hanger. 4/10.

In short: sausage – excellent; sandwich – good; steak; order it rare.

CHARRUA
131 Essex St
New York, NY 10002

Forbidden Donuts

You know me: I’m not really an ice cream and donuts kind of guy. But DECADENT and SAVORY donuts?!?!!! Now you have my attention!

“Forbidden Donuts” has created a secret menu of seven deadly sinful donuts that will be shared with faithful sinners every Sunday at Bowery Kitchen Supplies in Chelsea Market from 11am to 4pm.

Limited quantities are available, so get there bright and early.

Menu and pricing are below. My favorite is the Smoked Salmon.

Caviar w/ Vodka Jelly $ 18
caviar cream

Smoked Salmon & Roe $8
smoked salmon tarama

Foie Gras & Chocolate Glazed $15
Foie gras mousse

Lobster “Roll” $10

Matcha Green Tea $5
crispy artichokes

Cauliflower Peanut Butter $5
crispy ginger

Kimchi $5
sweet & sour sriracha glazed

FORBIDDEN DONUTS (POP-UP)
Chelsea Market
Bowery Kitchen Supply
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011

The Fat Monk

The Fat Monk has one of the most incredibly ambitious and delicious looking menus I’ve ever seen. Just about every item sounds unique and awesome, and I pretty much got to try them all.

Chef Rob McCue, who has been honing his art for 25 years, elevates American comfort food by using only the finest ingredients sourced via his close relationships with local artisans. He achieves the unexpected through molecular gastronomy, a style of cooking that you don’t often associate with American comfort cuisine.

And the unexpected delights are not limited to the food here, either. The cocktails are equally as exciting. Cory Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, put together an amazing cocktail menu.

We tried a whole bunch, but the standouts for me were the “Emma Stone’s a Ginger” (bourbon, peach, Lapsang Souchong tea, molasses, ginger beer, cookie “snack back”), “Say a Dirty Word” (barrel aged gin, vodka, house dirty brine, white pepper, chili oil, Boursin cheese stuffed olives), and “Paul Bunyan’s Flask” (rye, pine infused maple, Oloroso sherry, Bergamot bitters, apple wood smoke) cocktails. In fact, that’s the order in which I would recommend drinking them, the Emma to start the meal, the Dirty with your main course, and the Flask – which is a treat to see being served – with dessert.

Their PR person contacted me, and we arranged to bring in a crew of savage meat eating wackos to get down on all the tasty shit and post some pics of their joint on Instagram. So here’s what we had:

STARTERS

Oyster Escargot: Yeah – I know. Making you think a little, right? Oysters served with a parsley and pernod crust. Lovely.

Kale Caesar: Ours was more arugula and mixed greens than kale, which I was actually happy about. Kale is a bit woody for my liking. All that said, I didn’t even eat any salad. I had my sights set on tons of other delicious stuff.

Crispy Duck Wings: Crisp on the outside, super tender and fall-off-the-bone on the inside. Really amazing Thai/Viet flavor combo too from the sweet and tangy fish sauce glaze and scallions.

Double Cut Slab Bacon: This delicious shit tasted like spiral ham, but more bacony, if that makes any sense.

Deviled Eggs: That’s a “chicken-fried” oyster on top. The balance of textures here is what really sets this deviled egg apart from all the rest. It was a nice crisp against a velvety smooth egg.

Dungeness Crab Tater Tots: If these were around when I was a kid, I may have never found French fries. They’re like part carb cake, part tot. Really genius.

Shells & Cheese: Really nicely executed adult mac and cheese right here. Smoked bacon and fontina cheese make it decadent, but it’s not too rich to the point where you don’t want to touch your main courses after.

Scotch Egg: Perfection. Just really nicely done. Crispy outside, perfect slightly yolky egg inside. Again, great texture contrast.

Foie Gras Bratwurst: The ultimate mash-up of cheap eats and decadent eats, this is a bratwurst served in a hot dog style potato bun with foie gras, crispy onions and truffle mustard on top. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Delicious.

ENTREES

Schweinshaxe: Good luck trying to pronounce that shit, but I think it kinda sounds like you’re saying “swine shank” with your hand in your mouth, which makes sense considering what this is. Successfully speaking the name of this item is one thing, but I know you’ll succeed wildly at eating it. It’s a pork shank with a crispy-as-fuck skin on the outside and juicy-as-fuck meat on the inside. It’s served with spaetzle and cabbage.

Not a Ramen: This is an American fusion version of ramen. The broth is a beef bone consomme, and it’s served with a soft duck egg, a hunk of tender short rib, marrow and egg noodles. Obscenely good.

Duck Burger: This is actually quite lean, so if you’re trying to be mindful of fat intake, this might be the way to go for you. It still had a robust duck essence without being overly gamey. It’s topped with melted Emmenthaler cheese and shallot confit, and served with house cut fries.

Monk Burger:  This was my favorite between the two burgers; a house blend patty topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, shaved red onion and house pickles, served with smoked ketchup and fries.

Fried Chicken Sandwich: I actually didn’t get to try this, but take a look at that amazing batter on the chicken! The chicken itself is breast meat, but it has been pickle-brined. Very inventive!

Bone In Rib Eye: Here we go! This baby was cooked to a perfect medium rare through both the eye and the cap. It also had a pretty decent char-crust on the outside. It was seasoned nicely with flake salt and pepper, and served with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and seared exotic mushrooms (my guess is Hen of the Woods). 8/10.

SIDES

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: The bacon in this was thick cut style, and the smokey, sweet, meat flavor really permeated into the sprouts. Nice execution.

Seared Exotic Mushrooms: These also came with the steak, and were absolutely delicious. Earthy and savory.

House Cut Fries: The fries are pretty great! Usually I see thick fries like this and I’m immediately turned off. These were perfectly fried to a beautiful golden crisp, however, and nicely seasoned.

Also worth mentioning here is the homemade Irish Soda Bread that comes to the table at the beginning of the meal. Really good stuff.

You see how much shit I tried here?!?!? Well, I actually want to go back and try even more stuff. As I said, the menu is bonkers. Give this place a try. You won’t be disappointed.

THE FAT MONK
949 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10025