Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Haru

My wife and I stopped in here on a weekend to try their happy hour menu.

We started with some drinks:

And then moved on to the food. Wings, shishito peppers, and four rolls: Haru wasabi, phoenix, Hell’s Kitchen, and spicy Titanic.

Everything was great, and we will definitely be back here again. The total bill for everything was just over $60. Not bad.

HARU SUSHI
859 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Anchor Bar

The other day while walking around our neighborhood, my wife and I noticed that Anchor Bar had opened. For those who don’t know, Anchor Bar up in Buffalo is supposed to be the place that created what we now know as “Buffalo Wings.” The Buffalo location has become quite the tourist trap, so I am told, and people like to bicker about which place is better: Anchor Bar or Duff’s.

Well, I’ve been to neither. But I have been to some pretty fantastic wings places here, like Bonnie’s Grill and International Wings Factory (my two favorites – Bonnie’s for traditional Buffalo style, and IWF for the vast array of amazing flavors and dry rubs). Some people tell me that Dan & John’s is great too.

Anyway, we decided to give Anchor Bar a try. We ordered three styles: Hot (top), Suicidal (middle) and Habanero Dry Rub (bottom).

I’m not sure if they’re weakening the spice levels for the pussies out there, but hot was more like a mild or medium to me.

I expected suicidal to destroy me. Instead it was just a more earthy and granular flavor that had the same level of heat as the hot flavor.

The habanero dry rub was the weakest in spice of the three, and at times it felt like the flavors didn’t penetrate into the meat. They were nice and crunchy though.

Overall the wings were good. Above average for sure. I still think I like Bonnie’s and IWF better, but this is a pretty solid spot and very convenient.

My favorite thing that we ate was the beef on weck. I hope you people realize how fucking difficult it was to fool autocorrect from making that say “beef on deck.” Fucking annoying bullshit. The sandwich was good here, particularly the bread (I’ve had better roast beef).

Weck is a special kind of roll that also hails from the Buffalo area, typically topped with thick grain salt and other seeds and spices. The roast beef is sliced thin and served hot on the sandwich, typically with nothing but horseradish. I sliced up the pickle spear that came with the sandwich and put that on there as well. And it may be blasphemous, but I’ve always thought this sandwich would kick serious ass with some melted cheddar on top.

The great thing about this item at Anchor Bar is that for $16 you can get the sandwich and five wings – the best of both Buffalo specialties in one meal. Give that a shot if you go.

ANCHOR BAR
327 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019

Fish Cheeks

My wife and I came here for a friend’s birthday lunch. Here’s all the stuff we tried:

DRINKS

Watermelon Spritz: Aylesbury vodka with Aperol, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and Prosecco.

Thai Old Fashioned: Mekhong Thai spirit with Angostura, orange, kaffir lime and spiced chocolate bitters.

APPS

Calamari: fried calamari, cilantro, dried red chili, tamarind and fish sauce glaze.

Zabb Wings: fried chicken wings with chili, lime and mint.

Shrimp in 3 Crabs Sauce: lightly cured raw shrimp with lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chili and mint.

Yum Som-O: pomelo, cilantro, fried shallot, apple blossom, toasted coconut flakes, peanut and tamarind dressing.

Grilled Pork Cheeks: Compart Duroc pork cheeks served with Jeaw sauce.

Market Oysters: served with fried shallots and nam jim seafood.

ENTREES

Coconut Crab Curry: southern style curry with crab meat and sea beans.

Short Rib Massamun Curry: grass fed short rib braised for 12 hours, potatoes and peanuts.

Crab Fried Rice: crab, rice, egg, scallion, cilantro and cucumber served with nam jim seafood and prik nam pla.

Steamed Fish with Thai Herbs: whole striped bass, chili, lime, mint, cilantro, cilantro and lemongrass broth.

Seafood Pad Cha: stir fried shrimp, scallop, squid, wild ginger, green peppercorn, basil, string beans and Thai eggplant.

SIDES

String Bean & Pork Cracklings: sautéed with dried chili and garlic.

Sautéed Cabbage: with garlic and fish sauce.

Spicy Corn: with grape tomatoes and string beans.

DESSERTS

Sticky Rice & Mango:

Coconut Ice Cream:

Okay, so that would be a shitload of dishes to review individually. I can tell you honestly that every single dish I had here was incredible, and that’s even including the vegan and vegetarian dishes. My favorites were the calamari, wings, shrimp in 3 crabs sauce, pork cheeks, crab fried rice, steamed fish, seafood pad cha and beef curry.

FISHCHEEKS
55 Bond St
New York, NY 10012

Banzarbar

Banzarbar is a tiny speakeasy on the second floor of Freeman’s.

Behind a sliding wood door lives a dark, cozy bar with a handful of small tables. The food menu is slim. A handful of apps, an entrée or two, and a small tasting menu. The specialty cocktails are truly special. My wife and I tried three:

Shackleton’s Urn: old tom gin, navy strength gin, Jamaican rum, green chili, aperol, passion fruit, cinnamon, peach and lime. This one comes to the table on fire.

Arctic Willow: whiskey, tangerine-hibiscus tea, oloroso sherry, cherry, almond, ginger and lemon.

Tour Through Khari: tequila, mescal, vermouth, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger and lemon. This one is dusted with flammable spices and ignited before your eyes at the table.

All were excellent, really well balanced and both beautifully and uniquely presented.

We decided to forego the tasting menu. We ordered four appetizers:

A half dozen oysters, braised pork belly, baby street corn and 40-day dry-aged beef. As you can see from the photo, the beef app is a bit pathetic for the $22 price tag. Four measly slices. While it was tasty, I liked the pork belly the best, and felt that it was a much fairer value at $15. The oysters and corn were both delicious despite being a bit overpriced as well.

We had The Kraken for our meal. This is a whole tempura fried octopus, accompanied by a yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, pickled and pickled red onion.

This is easily one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. This joint is owned by the same folks as Le Turtle, just around the corner. They, too, have an incredible octopus dish, so it’s no surprise that they nailed it here as well.

The flesh was tender but meaty. The batter was crisp and well-seasoned. It was truly amazing. I highly recommend this dish, but a pro tip: make an early reservation if you plan to order this. There are only a few available each night, and they sell out very fast.

The staff was really kind. They brought us out two complimentary small drinks, and a plate of three dessert chocolate bon bons as well.

My wife and I plan to go back to try the tasting menu soon, so stay tuned for more on this spot.

BANZARBAR
Freeman Alley
New York, NY 10002

Scampi

My buddy from Gotham Burger Social Club organized a kickass meal here at Scampi because he loved the place so much and wanted us to all try the greatness of PJ Calapa’s cooking.

We started with a round of seafood apps:

Razor Clams

These were my favorite. They were dressed with fennel, chives and prosciutto, and they were minced up with Manila clams and placed back into the shell. You could just shoot them rather than having to pry them from the shell and eat them in one big sloppy bite.

Fluke

This was a really nice, crisp and fresh crudo dish with tomatoes, castelvetrano olives and lime. Simple but perfect.

Mackerel

Mackerel is one of my least favorite fish to eat, but this preparation was nice – even with the eggplant in there, which I also usually dislike. Pine nuts, basil and tomato really brought his together.

Endive

While this wasn’t technically a seafood item, it contained anchovy in the “bagna cauda” dressing. The parmesan, fried capers and breadcrumbs gave it a really nice texture.

Next up was a selection of four pasta dishes:

Lumache

This had Manila clams, filone and tarragon pesto. This was a great, light clam sauce dish with perfectly cooked “large semi-elbows.”

Mafaldini Scampi

Long skinny lasagna style ribbon pasta with shrimp, parsley, buttre and lemon. Classic and so good.

Campanelle

Show stopper! The trumpet pasta was served in a buttery half-red sauce with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and parmesan. It was perfect in every way.

Mezzaluna

Half-moon shaped ravioli filled with braised pork in a pomodoro sauce with pecorino. Really nicely executed.

Now on to the main entrée, the 60-day dry-aged tomahawk:

This beauty is only $135 for 42oz, but it’s limited availability, first come first serve, so you will need to ask them if they have any left if you want to try it (it isn’t on the regular menu). Pat LaFrieda, Creekstone Farms.

Chef PJ’s cooking technique is very involved on this beast. It sees constant movement and several methods of cooking, from the pan to the broiler to a butter bath. This is a 9/10.

We also had some nice sides with this steak:

Spring Onion

These roasted onions were plated with gorgonzola, aged balsamic and crispy shallots.

Asparagus

Simply grilled but then topped with cured, grated egg yolk, toasted almonds and tarragon. Even the veggies get creative techniques applied to them.

Roasted Potato

These came with shaved fennel and castelvetrano olives in a light lemon dressing.

For dessert, we tried three items:

Cannoli

These were some of the best I’ve ever had. Very classic treatment with chocolate chips and ricotta cream.

Torta

This was an olive oil cake with mascarpone, berries, almonds and strawberry swirl gelato.

Cassata

Semifreddo, dried apricot, pistachio, chocolate and almonds.

I highly recommend trying this place out. Everything I tasted was great – not one dish fell short or disappointed.

SCAMPI
30 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

DeBragga Meats, Certified Angus Beef and Blackbarn Restaurant

Please enjoy this triple whammy write-up about DeBragga Meats, Certified Angus Beef and Blackbarn Restaurant.

DEBRAGGA MEATS

DeBragga Meats, originally named the Brooklyn Hotel Supply Company, was founded by Joseph DeBragga, Emil Guenther and James Heilman in the early 1920s. In the mid 1930s, the company moved to Washington Street’s “meat packing” district of Manhattan. In 1948, the company was incorporated under its present name, DeBragga & Spitler, by Farmar DeBragga (Joseph’s son) and Paul Spitler.

In 1954, Marc Sarrazin joined the firm. Marc trained as a butcher at his family’s hotel and restaurant in the Charollais region of France, which is known for producing some of that country’s finest beef. The joy that Marc took in his work, selling New York’s top restaurants the finest cuts of meat, was evident in the strong relationships the company developed under his sales leadership.

In 1973, Marc Sarrazin became President of DeBragga, and the company became known as one of the finest meat purveyors in the entire industry, working directly with the best restaurants and hotels throughout the New York metro region and the Caribbean. Marc retired in 1992, and stepped aside to welcome his son, Marc John Sarrazin, as President of DeBragga & Spitler. Marc John’s two sons Eric and Peter represent the third generation of a business that traces its roots back nearly 100 years.

About eight years ago, the Whitney museum purchased DeBragga’s Washington Street lease, and DeBragga moved to a 25,000 square foot facility in Jersey City, which operates six days per week (there are no butchers cutting on Saturdays – only packing and shipping).

Today, DeBragga works with large packers like Nebraska Beef and Greater Omaha. DeBragga are purveyors of boxed beef, not wholesalers. The Certified Angus Beef brand is the entry level quality here. There is no choice quality, and there is no commodity pork or chicken. Half of their supply is hormone and antibiotic free. They sell 120,000 pounds of protein a week, and they have 100,000 pounds (roughly 4200 pieces, or a million dollars worth) of inventory in their three dry aging rooms. Take a look:

DeBragga’s customers are less steakhouse oriented, though they do supply Strip House and Gallagher’s. Their major customers are high end restaurants. Jean George, Tom Colicchio, Daniel Boulud and others use DeBragga for their proteins. Blackbarn (below) gets everything from DeBragga. They even started an e-commerce business to sell and ship directly to people at their homes.

CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF

DeBragga became one of the first distributors of the Certified Angus Beef brand in the early 1980s, just shortly after the Certified Angus Beef brand began (1978).

In the late 1970s, the ability to get a great steak at home or even at a restaurant was hit or miss. The CAB founders wanted to set a standard for what would be considered a premium beef product. They found the best Angus ranchers and meat scientists to help them, and together they created 10 exacting quality specifications to determine what gets accepted into the program. Marbling, of course, is one of those key specifications. Four decades later, their vision to be the best of the best still remains.

BLACKBARN RESTAURANT

All the beef in this delicious meal was Certified Angus Beef from DeBragga Meats. Chef John Doherty of Blackbarn Restaurant has been using CAB from DeBragga from the start of his career, which goes back to the early 1980’s, when he cooked for President Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even rock gods Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.

He cooked up a feast to celebrate CAB’s 40th year, and it was incredible. Here is everything:

Rib Eye Carpaccio with Shaved Foie Gras

Bone Marrow with Manilla Clams

Rib Cap Ravioli with Truffle Cream

Spinach Salad with Beef Bacon

Braised Short Rib Stuffed Rigatoni

Dry Aged Strip Loin Roast with Veggies

Tallow Biscuits with Berries & Cream

BLACKBARN RESTAURANT
19 E 26th St
New York, NY 10010

Le Turtle

I went to Le Turtle with a group of Instagram food lunatic friends to try some of their iconic dishes. This ended up being one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. Let me get right down to it.

We started with the following:

Dry aged beef carpaccio with Hokkaido uni and pickled ramp bottoms. Just the right amount of surf with your turf. Great pop from the pickled ramps.

Sliced avocado and radish with avocado mousse, mango curd and mixed grains. Beautiful, light, refreshing and satisfying.

Fresh cheese and beets with apricot kernel oil, toasted sunflower seeds and a maple emulsion. This was fucking fantastic. Get it.

Tagliatelle carbonara with guanciale, pecorino and egg yolk emulsion. Really nice take on the classic pasta dish.

Halibut and tomato with brussels sprouts, calabrian chili and arugula. Perfectly cooked, light and flakey.

Fried octopus with crisped rice, ramp chimichurri sauce and togarashi and arbol chili peppers. One of the very best octopus dishes I’ve ever had. It gets braised for hours before a light batter fry. And the ramp chimichurri is incredible.

Sasso Poulet. This is the best whole chicken dish I’ve eaten. The birds are brined for days and then hung, to allow the skin to cook more crispy. The bird comes out on a plate of burning hay for display purposes, filling the dining room with an amazing aroma.

Then it comes back disarticulated and ready to eat. I particularly liked munching on the feet.

This comes with crispy fingerlings, chicken liver mousse and pickled shishito peppers. At $69 this is a steal, and can easily feed two people.

90 day dry aged Pat LaFrieda cote de boeuf. This comes out to the table for viewing uncut like this, before resting:

And then after resting it comes back ready to serve for two (or more) looking like this:

This would be a 10/10 if there was a bit more char and crisp on the outside. It’s a bit more like a roast. But the flavor is perfect. Not too funky that it fucks up your taste buds. Perfectly cooked. And the fat and trim is diced up and fried, which is a brilliant way to reduce waste and make everyone smile with more tasty bits to eat. 9/10. You can pass on using the molasses sauce that comes with it though.

There was also and Japanese yam dish that came out at this time. I wasn’t a big fan, but it was absolutely stunning.

There was also a simple but tasty salad of greens citrus and blue cheese. Good way to cut the richness of the steak.

Dessert was equally as impressive as the savory courses, and they were all unique, which is rare these days.

Hazelnut financier with blood orange creme anglaise and cranberry dust.

Chocolate sorbet with milk crumbs, sea salt and olive oil.

Forbidden rice pudding with vanilla chai ice cream, rye sand and coconut snow.

I highly recommend this place. Go while ramps are still in season though, because this is one place that actually made me respect that produce. Until now I didn’t get the infatuation with ramps. I’ll be back again very soon. In fact, I’m going tomorrow with my wife.

LE TURTLE
177 Chrystie St
New York, NY 10002

Brasserie Seoul

Brasserie Seoul is a Brooklyn French restaurant where Chef Park is using Korean ingredients to execute his dishes.

I hesitate to call this ppace fusion, since the menu is decidedly French. However I suppose the heavy use of Korean ingredients takes it comfortably into that category.

I came in with two other Instagrammers to shoot some photos of their popular dishes. Here’s what we had:

FIRST ROUND

Foie Gras Amuse: cherry puree and grilled grapes on brioche.

Oysters with Pork Belly: five spice pork belly and chopped kimchi dressing both east and west coast varietals.

Wagyu Beef Tartare: wasabi oil and Korean pear with pinenuts and quail egg.

That was really good. Probably my favorite dish of the night.

SECOND ROUND

Seafood Pancake: bay scallops, shrimp, squid and scallions with a ginger soy aioli.

Truffle Tteok & Cheese: rice cakes with three-cheese bechemel, white truffle oil, panko and gochugaru (a red pepper flake blend).

THIRD ROUND

Cod: jajang puree (black beans), gochugaru carrot reduction, wilted baby kale, and roasted sunchoke.

Kimchi Bouillabaisse: mussels, pollack, shrimp, baby octopus, fried tofu, rice cakes and cabbage kimchi.

FOURTH ROUND

Duck Trio: fried duck confit, breast, crispy skin and foie. More like duck four ways I guess. Blood orange gastrique with cherry puree and candied ginger.

Wagyu NY Strip Steak: black garlic, Korean sea salt, green chili puree and citrus cho ganjang (vinegar soy sauce). 7/10. This was a bit leaner than I expected from wagyu. The flavor was nice, but I’ve had much better prime strips at half the price (this will run you $80).

This steak came with roasted fingerling potatoes:

This place is pretty good. I’m not sure I’d hoof it all the way out to Brooklyn for a second visit, but the tartare, seafood pancake, tteok & cheese and duck dishes were all fantastic.

BRASSERIE SEOUL
300 Schermerhorn St
Brooklyn, NY 11217

The Lobster Club

The Lobster Club is the newest venture by Major Food Group (The Grill, Parm, Carbone, The Pool, etc). What attracted me to this joint was their chili oil-, cumin- and Szechuan peppercorn- spiced tomahawk rib eye. You may recall my Szechuan strip steak recipe, where I used a similar flavor profile. Let me just admit up front that mine wasn’t as good as theirs, despite mine looking prettier and my crispy rice being fantastic.

Anyway, let me get to the meal already.

I started at the bar with a great cocktail called the Umeshu Highball: Japanese whisky, aged umeshu and sparkling water.

At the table, my wife had the Jasmine Blossom: Bourbon, plum sake, plum eau-de-vie and sherry. Garnished with a big slice of fresh ginger.

At dessert, we shared the Banana Goto: Japanese whisky, espresso, cacao and banana whipped cream. This went perfectly with our dessert, as you will see later.

The cocktails were all awesome, and I would definitely come back for a drink at the bar, for sure.

Our first course was sushi. This is an entree but we shared it as an appetizer. At $68 this is pretty hefty, but the quality was indeed top notch.

We shared the Sansho Octopus dish next. This was pricey at $28 for a single large tentacle, but it was pretty tasty, and served with some Asian style pickled radish and cucumber slices, as well as what reminded me of a chimichurri sauce on top.

Before the steak came out, they brought out this cool platter of sauces for the steak. None of them were really necessary, given the richness of the steak and the aggressiveness of the flavors, but a few of them went well. Namely, the confit garlic and the chili sauce.

The steak itself was a haymaker knockout punch of flavor. This shit is aggressive, spicy and there’s a LOT of it. You should take my 10/10 score of this with a warning: I happen to LOVE these flavors. The steak reminded me of the tingly beef noodles or the spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xian Famous. That is not everyone’s cup of tea! If you just want dry-aged beef, then go with the porterhouse here. This baby is minimally aged and it packs a wallop of interesting flavor.

The quality was great. Very tender, great cap size, edible fat. It was also cooked perfectly. If you want unique, then go for it. It’s $195 for 46oz (including the bone), and, as I said, it’s aggressively spiced. You may want to split it with three others rather than two just to give your taste buds a break.

The steak also comes with a pair of sides: blistered shishito peppers and grilled king mushrooms (my favorite kind). These were both excellent.

For dessert, we shared the Japanese Iced Coffee Kakigori. This is essentially coffee and cream flavored shave ice. A mountain of it, at that. It paired perfectly with the third cocktail I mentioned up top.

Overall this was a really good meal, but it was expensive. I probably wouldn’t go back, but I’m glad I did go. I needed to try that steak!

THE LOBSTER CLUB
98 E. 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

Hillstone

My wife and I tried this place today on the recommendation of a friend of mine who spoke highly of the prime rib.

I give this a solid 8/10. For $46 you also get two sides with it, and the slab of roasty, beefy goodness is very well portioned.

It had a nice cap, good flavor both on the crust and throughout, and they serve it with a great seasoning salt (tasted like a sweet but spicy old bay salt), horseradish cream sauce, and gravy in a tea kettle.

The item that stole the show for me though was this grilled artichoke appetizer that our really nice and helpful waitress Marissa recommended.

The halves were perfectly seasoned, steamed, grilled, and then hit with some finishing salt. Absolutely awesome.

They serve some good crafted cocktails, and the bar is impressive as well.

Not a bad lunch!

HILLSTONE
153 E 53rd St
New York, NY 10022