Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

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

Don Angie

I went to Don Angie with a group of friends, so we tried almost half of the menu. I tried two cocktails; the Uncle Jimmy (Islay scotch, amaretto, bitters and lemon) and the Pinky Ring (bourbon, carpano, galliano and campari). Both were really nice.

We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread for the table.

This was delicious, especially when eaten simultaneously with their chrysanthemum salad, which is probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Easily one of the best dishes of the year (a salad!) – so good, we ordered a second.

The tonnato vitello was really nice and refreshing, made with spicy veal tartare and tuna carpaccio.

For pasta dishes, we first tried a special Sardinian dumpling in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with shaved white truffle.

Next up, caramelle.

These candy packages were a nice mix of sweet and savory. Beautiful too.

We also had their famous lasagne pinwheels. Also beautiful. And with such a thin noodle, they are actually light and delicious.

But the star of the show was the giant garganelli in broken meatball ragu. This was fucking incredible.

It reminded me of my grandma’s Sunday sauce, only with better quality homemade pasta. I crave this daily, and it is at the top of my list for best dishes I tried this year. We also ordered a second one of these since it was so incredible.

We also had the charred octopus. This was a small portion to share among six people, but it was indeed tasty.

The veal “da pepi” was like a Milanese chop. Very tasty and crisp.

Let down of the meal goes to the prime rib braciole.

It was somehow a bit dry, under cooked in parts (the center), and stringy in others (the outer edges). Bummer. I was really looking forward to this. The stuffing tasted like my dad’s stuffed cherry peppers, which was nice. 5/10.

We also had some sides: potatoes and polenta.

For dessert, we tried a bit of everything. The sgroppino was bright and acidic, the fior di latte mochi was unique and tasty, the tiramisu was perfect, and the honey zeppole were nice little versions of the fried belly bombs I loved as a kid.

This place is worth the struggle for a reservation. Get the salad, the garganelli, and the lasagne. You’ll be happy.

DON ANGIE
103 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10014

Covina

My wife and I went to Covina with another couple and tried a bunch of things from the menu. Check it out:

First, huge and great selections of cocktails. Definitely imbibe when you go here.

We started with the pork belly, which was nicely braised and tender.

The shrimp and polenta was a perfectly cooked and really tasty dish.

This pappardelle pasta was slightly overcooked for my liking, but the pork and veal “white bolognese” was incredible.

Next up, pizza! We did both the spicy honey pie and the fontina with Brussels spouts pie.

The spicy honey pie was miles ahead of the competition. I could eat three.

We also tried their famous Big Mac style burger.

The bun was a little hard, perhaps heading towards dry or stale, but the burger itself was masterful. I really enjoyed it.

On the side we had truffle fries and charred broccolini. Both were good, although there was really no char to the broccolini.

For dessert, we did the bread pudding and the pumpkin mousse. Here, the mousse was better. It was awesome!

COVINA
127 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Wu’s Wonton King

My wife and I came here with a big group of foodie friends for a pre-Thanksgiving blowout. We ate a shitload of dishes, but the stars of the show were these two:

That’s right: a crispy skin suckling pig, and a 9lb king crab. Here’s some video of that pig being carved up for us, table side:

Those buns were amazing but the pork meat itself was the best I’ve ever had in terms of suckling pig. The flavors penetrated deep into the flesh of the meat. And if one pork dish wasn’t enough, we also fried this one as well:

The crab was prepared three ways: steamed, fried and in a steamed egg porridge:

We ate two kinds of clams:

We even ordered a steak. This was no good though. I tried one slice of this breaded t-bone and it was too tough for me to even finish half. 2/10. I left two points on the table because the sauce was interesting at least, and the broccoli was good with it.

All the other dishes were excellent though, including this chicken:

And this fluke:

Yes, we did eat some greenery:

And of course wontons, as per the name of the restaurant, in soup form:

There was even dessert that we somehow managed to eat: mango flan/jelly and a warm pumpkin soup that was reminiscent of Indian desserts:

I definitely recommend this joint. This was the best large format pig I’ve had to date. It runs $168 and you need to order a day or two in advance. It would probably feed five or six people if you ate just that and some veggies on the side. As for the crab? Skip it. It was delicious as fuck, but that shit runs $50 a pound.

WU’S WONTON KING
165 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Tim Ho Wan

Michelin star winning dim sum joint Tim Ho Wan opened up a second NYC location in Hell’s Kitchen last week, and my wife and I gave it a shot for her sister’s birthday. I found the experience to be pretty standard, to be honest. They’re known for their pork buns, which are very good by all objective measures, but not really my thing. Too sweet. Here’s a photo dump of all the stuff we had. My favorites were the fried milk sticks (dessert) and the rice roll wraps.

TIM HO WAN
610 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036

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.

RISTORO DEL CINGHIALE
122 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Pomona

This spot took over the space that was formerly Beautique. Chef and partner Michael Vignola, who used to be the head chef for the Strip House restaurants, has created an amazing menu here. My buddy and I tried a lot of stuff, so I’ll get right to it.

Foie Gras Sliders:

Incredibly tender and decadent, cut nicely with some acid from the apple slaw.

Mackerel & Potato Tartare:

The hazelnut, creme fraiche and jalapeno sauce really made this pop. This was so delicious.

Nduja Baked Little Neck Clams:

This is a perfect marriage of the classic seafood and pork flavor combo, with a slight boost of heat from the nduja. Great starter!

Truffled Chicken Dogs:

Probably one of the best upscale riffs on a hot dog that you’ll have. I didn’t get much truffle flavor and there was no brioche bun as the menu suggested, but the texture and porcini mustard were nice.

Duck Burger:

Jurgielewicz farms duck burger patty made of ground breast, confit of leg, foie, and fresh duck liver all seasoned with l’orange spices. Seared and rested in a rich duck jus. Duck skin mayo, grapefruit jam and killer fries. This place is no joke!

Seared Miyazaki A5 Wagyu:

AMAZING! This was dry-aged for 20 days and also cooked in dry-aged beef fat. This is some of the best beef I’ve ever had. 10/10.

Duo of Deviled Rib Eye:

This unique duo packs a powerful smoky and dry-aged punch! It features smoked deckle (bottom) and grilled eye (top), each rubbed with chili, herbs and spices, and served with black garlic bone marrow. This should be on your “must try” list! Chef Michael really nailed this. 10/10.

Creamed Escarole:

I love the use of escarole here in place of spinach. Escarole is such an under-appreciated green. This is a good “creamed spinach” dish for your steak entree. I think more butter and a bit less cream/cheese would make this pop a little more. Or perhaps I’d just like to see a sauteed version with some cannellini beans in the mix to remind me of growing up in an Italian household.

Ripped Sunchokes:

I love sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes. They’re like an awesome cross between a potato and an artichoke. These were smashed and fried, and then seasoned with shredded pecorino cheese and rosemary. Great side dish.

Goose Fat Tater Tots:

These are so crisp and flavorful. This should be your go-to potato dish here. Awesome.

Chocolate Mousse:

This has a nice texture to it, almost like cheesecake but light and fluffy. Great espresso ice cream to go with it too.

I highly recommend this place. Everything here was very good to outstanding. I can’t wait to try more of the menu and supplement this review over time.

POMONA
8 West 58th St
New York, NY 10019

Jimmy’s Diner

This is a great addition to your fried food rotation. I walked by Jimmy’s Diner before a filming gig and had to try the joint based on looks alone.

Turned out to be a great choice. This “Lucky Schmidt” sandwich was awesome. Fried chicken fingers, melted swiss, bacon, jalapenos, chipotle mayo and pickles on a potato bun. Great crispy fries too. Go give it a shot!

JIMMY’S DINER
577 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Patavini

Patavini is a shop that’s dedicated entirely to gnocchi. My wife and I stopped in to try some and we were blown away.

My favorites were the mortadella and pistachio stuffed, and the tomato and mozzarella stuffed. You can buy this stuff to go by the pound (or by the quarter pound, as little or as much as you want), or you can have them cook them for you and dress them up with their house made sauces, which are all pretty good.

They even have sweet/dessert flavored gnocchi, and a sweet sauce so you can have pasta for dessert. We tried both the tira misu and the cannoli flavors. Give this place a shot!

PATAVINI
1794 Broadway
New York, NY 10019