Tag Archives: chelsea

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

Excellent Dumpling House (23rd)

This joint was PACKED on a Friday evening when my wife and I came in for a quick bite. There’s another joint named Excellent Dumpling House in Chinatown. It has yet to be determined whether this is owned by the same folks.

Anyway, I was fighting off a cold, so I ordered a bowl of chicken dumpling noodle soup. It was pretty great, especially with some of their spicy chili oil.

I also tasted some of my wife’s soup dumplings, which were.. shall I say… excellent? Ha! Maybe. I mean they were constructed properly, cooked nicely… no ripping… But perhaps I haven’t had enough XLBs to really say what is excellent or just above average.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
165 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011

The Ainsworth

My wife paid a little under $50 for a Gilt City flash deal that got us two drinks each, an app to share, two entrees and a side to share at The Ainsworth. Pretty great deal if you ask me.

We started with these crab tacos. These are $21 regular price, so I thought that was a bit high considering that these are small and the plate comes with four pieces. Do these look like they’re worth $5.25 each (before tax and tip)? I don’t think so.

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They were tasty – good crunch on the shell, though I wasn’t sure if the crab meat was actual lump crab or some kind of crab substitute. Either way, I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for them.

For a nominal upcharge ($12), I went with the 20oz bone-in, 28-day dry-aged rib eye.

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This was spectacular. The aged flavor really popped for just a 28-day stint in the aging box. I could taste the nutty and funky qualities with ease. While it was grilled instead of seared, didn’t have much of a spinalis (fat cap), and there was a bit of hard gristle in the meat, the cook temperature was a perfect medium rare and the flavor in the eye was excellent. 8/10.

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As you can see, the steak was topped with some crispy fried shallots. Nice touch!

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At $42, this is a great deal, especially considering that the flavors of this thing can easily rival some of the best steakhouses in town. I guess it was just a bummer that I got a cut with little fat cap and a few bites of gristle.

My wife went with the famous mac and cheese burger.

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That’s a fried mac and cheese patty on the bottom, a cheeseburger patty on top of that, and then mac and cheese on top of the burger.

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While that is all totally unnecessary and probably only done for Instagram fodder, it was indeed a fun item to eat. Here’s a little animated image for you to ogle:

It didn’t taste that special to me, but it sure did make for some handsome photos.

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French fries came with that burger, as if there wasn’t enough to fill you up with the burger itself.

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These could use some work. Some were a little bit un-crisped and heavy, but otherwise decent.

On the side, we shared the asparagus with a fried egg on top. Both the asparagus and the egg were cooked perfectly and had good flavor. Look – it was either this or more fries, so give me a break.

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THE AINSWORTH
122 W 26th St
New York, NY 10001

New York Burger Co.

This place slings a decent fast food style burger, but the bacon was rubbery on both my and my wife’s burgers, and the fries were soggy and dense. Stick to the basics here and you should be fine. Don’t waste money on the extras. And it’s still not on the level with places like Smashburger, Shake Shack or Lucky’s Famous.

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The good thing is that my wife paid about $10 for $30 worth of food and drink here through a flash deal. So all in, this was not too bad.

NEW YORK BURGER CO
678 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10010

Thai Select

Kate, the owner of Thai Select, invited me and my wife into the restaurant for a press meal to sample, and yammer about, some of their delicious menu selections.

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I nearly got killed by three people going about 40mph on bicycles getting that shot, so please take the time to appreciate it more than usual. It was partially my fault, as I wasn’t watching where I was walking, but whatever. Bicycles still suck.

Anyway this joint is located in the heart of what I am now calling Thai Town in NYC. That’s 9th avenue from the 30s through the 50s. There are TONS of Thai joints on that stretch, and competition is pretty fucking fierce! There are lots of good places to dine here, and also lots of shitty ones as well. You need to know which is which, and that’s what I’m here for.

Thai Select is one of the good ones. In fact, it’s probably one of the best. The inside is decorated with a lounge-like atmosphere, with exposed brick, a long bench seat with two-top tables going along the entirety of the wall.

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There’s a bar on the opposite end that goes about a third of the length of the entire restaurant. There’s even a back area that is elevated, almost like a stage, for larger groups.

Chef Toni explained that on Friday and Saturday nights it gets pretty jammed. This was a Monday at 6pm, so we had some elbow room to eat, at least for a little while. It did get to nearly full capacity by time we left at around 7:30pm, which is a good sign.

They offer happy hour from 4pm to 7pm, and allow you to take advantage of those deals from your table. $4 beers is a pretty great deal, for one, but there are others as well. We started by sipping on this cocktail made with citron vodka, canton, fresh ginger and lime called the Springter. It was incredibly refreshing and bright.

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Chef Toni sat with us and explained some of the new endeavors that Thai Select is undertaking. One is a new healthy menu, where everything is gluten free, no MSG and no saturated fats, and which highlights the health benefits of various Thai herbs and ingredients.

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The offerings on this portion of the menu roll out officially next month, and they actually look really good, even the vegetarian stuff!

Chef Toni has been in the restaurant biz for about seven and a half years, and is already juggling two other joints nearby in Thai Town, in addition to this one.

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He’s created a menu that is accessible and familiar to people of all cultures, whether it is American, Indian or Latin, in addition to classic Thai dishes and flavor profiles. Everything is made in house from scratch, all the way down to the dumpling wrappers. Toni’s expertise shines in the food. Everything we tasted was really excellent, so let’s get into it:

We started with this bowl of moo dad deaw, or “pork poppers.” This is small bits of pork jerky that are crispy on the outside and served with a spicy, “fire sauce” that reminded me very much of the sauces made in Vietnam for eating with fried foods. It’s like a sri racha, but more orange colored and slightly sweet, as opposed to all spicy.

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I couldn’t eat these things fast enough. I ripped through that bowl like nothing. I could eat buckets of this shit. PLEASE – if you like meat snacks of any kind – do yourself a favor and order this when you go. You won’t be disappointed. If this was sold in bags, I’d be stockpiling for armageddon.

Next we tried the peanut dumplings.

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These are stuffed with sweet turnip and ground peanut, and served with a sweet soy sauce.

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The wrapper had the texture of a really nicely executed dim sum dumpling, but it held up to cutting without falling apart. Really tasty and healthy to boot.

Toni also brought out one of their better selling appetizer items, the crab rangoon.

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These are hand made deep fried wanton wrappers filled with whipped cream cheese and crab meat. They were very creamy and soft inside, but crisp on the outside, and came with a light duck sauce for dipping. While I’m generally not a fan of cream cheese with any sort of meat, these were definitely addicting.

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The entree I chose was a Bangkok spice pork stir fry wok dish.

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It came with fresh peppers (spicy green chili and sweet red bell alike), green beans and onions. And a nice little cone of rice:

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This was a really tasty dish. It had the kick that I expect from good Thai food, but without going over the top to blow out my palette.

My wife had what I think was the winning dish of the night. She ordered the pineapple curry duck.

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This robust, spicy-yet-sweet curry is one of the best I’ve had. The duck was placed on top, skin side up, to keep all that delicious fried skin good and crispy throughout. This is actually smoked duck from Canada, so there is less chewy fat under the skin than normal.

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There is no waste when you eat this – none at all. No bones, no messy picking up and chewing or gnawing through cartilage or fat, and no sticky smelly fingers afterward. It was awesome. And that curry. MAN! Toni should jar it and sell it at grocery stores. It was garnished with red bell peppers, tomato, green beans, fresh basil leaves, bamboo shoots and chunks of pineapple. Killer dish. No wonder why it is another one of their top sellers.

For dessert we had the fried bananas with coconut ice cream, which was drizzled with honey and chocolate syrup, and sprinkled with toasted and untoasted sesame seeds.

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The ice cream was good and flavorful without being too sweet, as were the fried banana egg rolls. We washed this down with some ginger tea and Thai iced tea, which was nicely adorned with a straw-wrapper rose:

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I love that chai tea flavor with sweet milk. It reminds me of the smell of fresh pipe tobacco for some reason.

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That about wraps it up. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed eating. Check this place out when you’re in the area and tell them I sent you.

THAI SELECT
472 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10018

CoBa

My wife and I went to this Chelsea location with a Groupon deal. While the food doesn’t really look pretty, we both agreed that it was good. We started with lemongrass crusted fried tofu. The texture was similar to a silken tofu style that you might find in a miso soup, but a bit more structured.

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We also had a duck salad. I was hoping the duck would be more crispy. It felt at times that the bits of duck were chewy or overcooked, but the salad was a nice crisp cabbage base that was dressed with a sour fish sauce.

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For me, the star of the meal was this clay pot pork belly stew with potato, tofu and egg. Sometimes these can get too salty, but this was just right. The broth was nice with rice as well.

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Last, we tried a noodle dish that ended up being similar to banh cuon, even though it was called something completely different on the menu. It had grilled pork, bologna style ham, cucumbers, bean sprouts, cilantro and flat, wide noodles. It was dressed in fish sauce. The meats were excellent and the noodles were perfectly cooked:

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COBA
110 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10011

Empire Diner

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS NOW  UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP

Chef Amanda Freitag’s upscale diner (which I like to refer to as a “finer”) really delivers some solid menu items. My wife and I popped in for lunch when it was crowded and took a comfortable seat at the large, old fashioned art-deco inspired bar area.

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empire diner eat

We started with some cocktails. I had a jalapeño bloody Mary, and my wife had a riff on the Pimm’s Cup cocktail. Both were masterfully mixed. Look at the size of the basil floating in my wife’s drink! It was a mutant leaf.

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Our meal came out a bit backwards, as the pop tarts arrived first, and we sort of assumed they were more of a dessert item. I guess they are there for the brunch menu. They were filled with apricot jam and had a nice, light texture to the strudel-style dough pocket. Very nice, and actually kind of filling for only $6 a pair.

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I had the burger. This is a top contender. It comes garnished with red onion, cheddar cheese, pickles and a Big Mac style special sauce. Really tasty, and the gooey cheese is enough to solve any problems in the event your patty comes out cooked too much. At first, I thought mine was a little beyond medium, but it was fine once I got into the center a bit more. The bun is brioche style, but it isn’t flaky or weak. I prefer a potato bun, but this was fine.

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This is a great buy at $13, because you get the salt and pepper fries in a pretty good portion size on the side as well. And let me just say: these fries were fucking amazing.

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My wife ordered the fish and chips. The portion size was pretty large, although her plate came with less fries than my burger plate. The fish was a large single piece that was enveloped in a really nice batter. My wife referred to it as “fish Wellington.” The fish itself was a cod; nice and flaky, and perfectly cooked.

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Chelsea Market

Below are a couple of photos from Chelsea Market. Eventually I will give some more info about what’s to be eaten here. For now, other than these two photos, I can really only provide you with a link to my review of the famous Mokbar ramen joint that is located here.

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Montmartre

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSING IN MARCH OF 2016!!!

A waiter named Jeremy over at Capital Grille (midtown west) recommended this place when we got to chatting about the city’s best burgers. He certainly knew his food shit, so I was excited to finally get here to try the burger. The same owners are involved with Bar Sardine, which also slings an excellent burger, so I knew I’d be in good hands at the very least.

Jeremy’s suggestion was a good one! This baby, although slapped between two buttery pieces of sourdough toast (as opposed to on a proper bun), was packed with great flavor. The meat is dry aged beef, and it was seared to a perfect temperature: pink center, good crust all around to lock in the juices, and well seasoned. Above and beneath the patty is a bernaise cheese spinach and pickled onions, respectively. Loved every bite. The bernaise cheese brought a little funk to the party (with a nice nod to steakhouse “creamed spinach,” I might add), and the pickled onion was a great twist on the much needed acid. The fried were natural cut, nice and crispy, and well seasoned with herbs and sea salt. Take a look at this shit:

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 UPDATE AS OF 8/25/15

My wife and I stopped in for a quick dinner after a Tabelog event nearby. We kept it pretty basic. First was a nice snack of fresh radishes with country bread, whipped butter and salt flakes. The radishes were actually pretty spicy and had a great pop to them.

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My wife had the mussels. Many of them were pretty small inside the shell. I don’t like them too big, but I also don’t like them too small. The broth had some fresh herb notes to it, like maybe tarragon. I’ve had better mussels elsewhere, but that’s not to say that these were bad by any means.

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I ordered the hanger steak frites. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare and had a good sear on the outside. The sauce with it was garlicky and gave it pop. The texture of the meat was slightly off. It reminded me of some of the odd meats my wife and I used to get in Mexico from the resorts. Almost like it was over tenderized using an MSG type of product. I’m sure that’s not what was done here, but it just had that feel to it. Otherwise I liked it. I’d say its about a 7 out of 10, possibly an 8.

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MONTMARTRE
158 8th Ave.
New York, NY 10011