Tag Archives: east village

Madame Vo BBQ

The talented couple behind Madame Vo recently opened this joint as a way to introduce NYC to Vietnamese BBQ, which, from what I understand, is very popular in central Vietnam.

Be aware: this is not the same as American BBQ, which we all know is characterized by slow and low smoker cooking. This involves a high-heat metal mesh grill and various cuts of meat. Fast and hot, no smokers.

Also: this isn’t Korean or Japanese BBQ. While they use a similar cooking method with the grill, the flavors, preparations and beef items are obviously entirely different.

What’s really unique about Madame Vo BBQ, and what I feel sets Vietnamese BBQ apart from other grilled meat establishments, is that the traditional “Beef 7 Ways” or “Bò 7 Món” feast in Vietnamese culture really lends itself perfectly to this style of cooking.

So what is “Beef 7 Ways?” Sounds like a dream come true, right? It is. It’s also really not that difficult to figure out from its name.

“Beef 7 Ways” in Vietnamese cuisine is generally a large format family style meal where various cuts of beef are served, obviously, in seven different ways. Almost always this will involve some thin sliced beef that’s grilled or dipped in a hotpot broth. There will also almost assuredly be a spiced ground/minced beef application, often wrapped in a betel leaf. And surely there will be a finishing dish of some form of starch with beef. But all throughout, there are “summer roll” rice wrappers on the table – along with various veggies, herbs and even fruits – for you to wrap up with the beef as you eat your way through all seven courses.

Madame Vo has done a great job of elevating that traditional “Bò 7 Món” concept, refining it, and presenting it to New Yorkers in the familiar grill table format. Here’s how they present their version of “Beef 7 Ways:”

1st Way: Eye Round Carpaccio

This was great. I’ve always thought that eye round would be perfect for a carpaccio application. This Viet style carpaccio was so delicious. Great pops from the herbs, spices and sauce.

2nd Way: Meatballs

These are technically not beef; they’re pork. But delicious nonetheless, and still part of the seven.

3rd & 4th Ways: Ground Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaf & Thin-Sliced Short Rib with Onion

These are both grilled, and the betel leaf rolls were my favorite of the seven courses. They have a great fresh green kick to them from the grilled leaf.

5th Way: Five-Spice Beef Tongue

This was awesome. They’re cooked through and make for the perfect filling in those rice wraps with veggies and herbs.

6th Way: Dry Aged Strip Steak with Marrow Butter

That marrow butter was absolute crack. Here’s a little video of it getting smeared on.

7th Way: Oxtail Congee

I really liked this. It was a close pick for my favorite of the meal.

Madame Vo BBQ offers this “Beef 7 Ways” for just $59/pp. I think that’s a great deal considering the quality of the beef, the amount you get, and of course the deliciousness of the whole experience.

We didn’t stop there, though. We also had some amazing seafood apps (not included with the “Beef 7 Ways”).

Giant Oyster with Uni Mayo

These things were huge, and that uni mayo was really addictive.

Maine Uni with Special Fish Sauce Beurre Blanc

Beautiful, sweet and delicious.

Grilled Prawns

These were nice and big. Tasty heads too!

BBQ Quail

The tamarind sauce on this really made it unique.

Short Rib & Marrow Spring Rolls

Loved these. I could eat a dozen easily.

And because I’m like a wild animal, I wanted more beef. We shared the Pat LaFrieda dry-aged tomahawk rib eye. At $95 for about 40oz, this is a steal.

Really beautifully presented too.

I highly recommend this place. Go with a group so you can try lots of stuff. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed!

MADAME VO BBQ
104 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Hunan Slurp

I came to Hunan Slurp with a group of friends, so we were able to sample a bunch of shit. Here’s what we tried:

The “Mala Beef” noodle dish was nice. It was slow cooked shank meat that was really tender. The egg noodles were perfectly cooked.

This dish contained pork and beef, and was served with rice noodles that were similarly perfectly cooked. Also shank meat, cooked very nicely.

This noodle soup was the spiciest on the menu, a pepper beef dish, which was really intense and flavorful. I wish this also contained the shank cut beef, as the stuff in this dish wasn’t as tender as the above dishes.

This next dish was cold “Hunan Charcuterie.” It contained bits of pig ear and tripe, among other nice off-cuts. This was my favorite dish of the day, and easily a contender for top dishes of 2019.

The smoked sausage plate was nice, but I wish it had more crisped texture to it.

This eggplant with “thousand year egg” filling was delicious. I’m generally not a big fan of eggplant, but I loved this. A must try here.

The beef skewer dish had a great cumin aroma, but ultimately the majority of the beef in the dish was chewy and tough. Pass on this one.

Most of the dishes were pretty spicy, so these sweet riblets were a great way to cool down and cut the heat.

We also tried stewed fish noodles, and a potato and duck egg dish (both not pictured) which were also very nice. But the last item I have here for you is winter melon, served warm and savory with ground pork. Very interesting.

Give this place a shot. I liked it.

HUNAN SLURP
112 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009

Chouchou

Chouchou (pronounced “shoe-shoe”) is a relatively new (eight months old) Moroccon restaurant in Alphabet City. The name is a French term of endearment; a word that you might use to refer to your spouse, like “babe,” “doll face,” or “sweet tits.” Actually I think it translates more easily to “little love” or something. But I wanted to use the word “tits” there somehow, because I talk about breasts quite a bit in this review.

In any case, the restaurant is cozy inside, and decorated in such a way that it transports you to the middle east. With cavernous archways on the ceiling and faux-ancient stone walls, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped off the streets of NYC and into a quaint, rustic and romantic dining space in Morocco. Even the sweet mint tea that they serve in small glass cups smacks of authenticity.

The place boasts a very impressive wine menu, which can be seen via PDF HERE. They also have a small selection of really deliciously described craft beers.

The first thing that struck me about this joint, aside from the amazing decor, was the simplicity and focus of the food menu. There are a handful of couscous dishes and a handful of tagine dishes, utilizing largely the same set of proteins: chicken, lamb chops, kefta (seasoned meatballs), merguez (spicy lamb sausage), lobster, a veggie option, etc.

I came to learn that this is how Moroccans traditionally eat: a basic array of starters; some sort of meat item, either with couscous or slow cooked in a tagine; and simple desserts. I like it.

Each entree comes with a collection of starters or mezes included in the price.

Warm pita bread with baba ganoush, hummus, shakshuka, and harissa-spiced almonds, to be precise. Of these, my favorite was the hummus (left of the pita).

While I don’t believe the tagine dishes are actually cooked in tagines (health department and fire codes likely prevent this in NYC), they are presented in beautiful decorative tagines.

I tried the savory lemon and olive chicken tagine, as well as the sweeter prune and lamb tagine. Both were great. The chicken tagine came with a generous half chicken, bone-in. The skin was crisp, and the meat was tender and juicy – with the exception of the breast meat, which was slightly dry in parts. It happens.

I think if tagine cooking were happening in NYC, dry knockers would be a less likely outcome. Tented, closed-vessel cooking preserves juiciness and airborne vapors, while oven cooking involves a dry heat. That being the case, perhaps a Dutch oven technique would be better for these dishes.

While I enjoyed the savory flavors of the chicken tagine better than the sweet-ish flavors of the lamb tagine, I liked the juiciness and succulence of the lamb better. It was almost like a braise, perfectly cooked to fall-off-the-bone tenderness. No dryness whatsoever.

The couscous dishes come with a beautiful plate of couscous, your desired choice of protein, and a bowl of stew juice that contains potatoes, beef, lamb and peppers.

I tried the mixed protein option, called “royal.” This came with chicken, lamb chop, kefta and merguez.

All of the meats were good and juicy, again with the exception of the chicken being a bit dry in the jugs. But when you mix the meats together with the stew juice and couscous, there’s not much to worry about in terms of dry mammaries. It was delicious.

Desserts here are made in house, and consist of a variety of traditional Moroccan pastries and cookies. I was only able to try two – an almond pastry and an orange flavored cookie – but both were excellent.

Dry chicken hooters aside, I would definitely come back here again, and I highly recommend this place for a romantic date night. And again only parts of the chicken (boobs) were dry. The rest was perfect.

NOTE: A public relations professional invited me and a group of food writers to Chouchou to taste the food and review the place.

CHOUCHOU
215 E. 4th St.
New York, NY 10009

Hanoi House

My wife and I went to Hanoi House with some friends. I wasn’t expecting such a great showing of Vietnamese food, as NYC is notoriously not that great for the cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised.

We started with a beef tongue sandwich that we split among the four of us. I didn’t shoot it, but man was it delicious. The tongue was braised and super tender, and dressed with chili, lime, cilantro, and a coconut curry type sauce. Just the right balance of savory, spicy and sweet. A must order.

We also shared an order of summer rolls, which were filled with shrimp, pork, herbs, and crispy egg roll skin (all inside the soft rice paper wrap). These were the best I’ve had in NYC (I also failed to get a photo of these – apologies).

The pho was fantastic. The broth was more robust and murky than other places I’ve been. While many pho bowl slingers strive for a clear, almost consomme-like broth, this place embraced the opposite. I could taste the herbs and spices that simmered for hours.

I added the marrow and braised oxtail into the mix, which upped the cost by $8, but it was totally worth it. This is currently my favorite bowl in NYC. Hands down.

My wife ordered this beautiful and delicious lobster noodle dish, which also had some pork roll in the mix as well. The noodles were perfectly cooked, and the portion size was generous, especially considering it was a good sized lobster.

I highly recommend this place for anyone looking to get their Vietnamese food fix.

HANOI HOUSE
119 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009

Shabu Tatsu

Shabu Tatsu is a Japanese shabu shabu (hot pot) and yakiniku (grilling) restaurant in the East Village. They offer up a variety of really great thinly sliced meats to sear up on the butter-basted skillet, or dip into their kombu and vegetable broth for a quick cook.

Some friends of mine brought me along on their dinner where they were meant to feature Kirin beer with the food, in hopes to promote Japanese cuisine and tourism with an Instagram contest. Here’s what we had:

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Their mixed platter of meats for grilling contained beef tongue, liver, short rib, and rib eye, as well as pork.

The beef tongue was probably my favorite. These babies cook up quick since they’re thin, so you just want to get a good sear on them for color and flavor.

We also grilled off some wagyu rib eye. This stuff was so highly marbled and decadent.

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For the hot pot portion of the meal, we had some nice thinly sliced beef rib eye and pork loin.

I still prefer Chinese hot pot over this style, because the broth flavors are more robust and powerful. This broth was mainly water with a small kombu leaf in it, and then you load up some veggies in there as well. It’s still really good, just a preference for me.

The best part of the meal, however, was the starter course! We tried three apps: grilled squid, braised pork belly and dumplings.

The pork belly was incredible. It was cooked in a thick citrus sauce and had a great kick from the spicy mustard on top. I highly recommend that dish.

SHABU TATSU
216 E 10th St #St1
New York, NY 10003

Ikinari Steak

Formerly the location of Prime & Beyond, Ikinari switches up this dedicated steak spot from Korean to Japanese, only this joint lowers the price tag “big league” and creates a casual, standing-only environment.

What a great bargain for good quality meat! All of their beef is choice grade from Aurora Packing in Illinois, and wet-aged at least 40 days. Most importantly, the beef is cooked properly and treated with respect. But what’s surprising is that, for a “fast food” style joint, this place can actually compete with mom and pop restaurants (and even some big name steakhouses) on quality and flavor, for sure. And definitely on price.

Here’s how it works: You pay 8-11 cents per gram, telling the butchers exactly how thick you want your cut of steak. They offer filet, sirloin and rib eye.

Naturally, I had a proper sized steak cut from each:

I’m fat. Here’s what my bill would have looked like, had this not been a press/media event:

There are a variety of sauces and condiments to use for both your salads/sides and steaks. I was prone to keep hitting the wasabi.

The Ikinari sauce is thicker and sweeter, while the hot steak sauce has a little bit of spice and is a thinner liquid. Both are soy based.

The onion and pepper dressings went nicely with the radish salad. This was a small size:

So after choosing your cuts, the guys cook it up for you and you wait for them to bring it over to your standing/eating area.

Very casual! The steaks then come out sizzling on a cast iron plate with corn and onions.

Here are some more shots of that sirloin:

They serve the steaks rare, so that you can continue to cook it to your desired temperature directly on the hot skillet. I pretty much left mine as-is.

Here’s the filet:

Freaking HUGE for just $27.

And cooked perfectly inside.

My rib eye was cut a bit on a diagonal, and thinner than the other two, but no matter. It was excellent, and since I ate all of these steaks myself, like a real man, I didn’t mind so much.

The filet was tops, with rib eye close behind (if not tied), and sirloin next. If I had to put numbers on them, they’d all be in the upper 70th percentile for flavor, especially if you add some of the earthy sauces into the mix.

When you think about how much steakhouses are charging for on-par and sometimes lower flavor scores than these, it makes you question the entire steak scene!

Another thing worth mentioning: the pepper garlic rice was wildly tasty! It even had bits of steak thrown into it, and it also comes out on a sizzling cast iron plate.

Mix it all up and then let it sit and sizzle, so that a good, tasty crisp develops on the bottom of that rice.

Essentially, this place is everything that you wish Tad’s could be. You go into a place like Tad’s (do you even go in?) with high hopes and a hunger for steaks while you’re on the go. But, without question, it fails you, every time. The meat sucks, and  it’s cooked like garbage.

Ikinari won’t let you down. I’ve eaten hundreds and hundreds of steaks in this great city, and I can tell you that this is a fantastic value, striking a bizarre but fascinating and attractive balance between steakhouse quality and budget dining. Give it a shot! Just don’t go there when your feet ache, because, as I said earlier, STANDING ONLY!

IKINARI STEAK
90 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003

The Tang

The Tang is a great little noodle bar on 1st Avenue at 7th Street. I was invited here for a PR event showcasing some of their current and forthcoming dishes. Everything I tasted was really fucking good, and, in fact, the noodle quality is probably the best I’ve had in town so far. They’re strong, thick, have a really nice texture and snap to them, and they’re really nicely flavored in all the dishes I tried.

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The meats in all of these noodle dishes are outstanding, by the way. One had braised pork belly, one had sliced beef, and the other had ground meats.

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Some of the soup noodle bowls are excellent too.

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But this place is more than just noodles. One standout item was the sliced beef short rib. These babies are packed with a ton of flavor, and cooked so perfectly. You don’t see short rib presented like this too often, like a real cut of steak on a plate, so I am featuring it here for my steak reviews as well. Short rib can be fatty, and that’s why it is usually either grilled hard with tons of sauce, or braised. But here, it was leaner and notably excellent at medium rare temps, because it was cooked sous vide style for 20 hours. 8/10.

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This place is really my speed, especially given this large format pork knuckle/shank dish that will be rolling out on the menu soon. It’s super soft and tender.

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I also tried a sesame tofu dish, a salad with soft boiled egg, and some sliced, rolled chicken with chili oil.

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THE TANG
120 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009

Bocca

For less than $79, my wife and I scored this Groupon deal for Bocca, which gave us $120 to spend. In reality we probably paid about $68 for the Groupon, since we almost never buy them unless there is an additional discount code.

Anyway this Italian joint had some pretty interesting items on the menu. Here’s what we ordered:

Salmon Crudo

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This shit was really fresh and clean. It was a great way to start this incredible meal.

Grilled Octopus Crostini with Chorizo, Kalamata Olives and Chic Peas

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The octopus was perfectly cooked, and when I took a bite with a little bit of everything together, the flavors really exploded. Such an awesome Mediterranean dish.

Strozzapreti with Nduja

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This was amazing. If you don’t know what nduja is, its a spicy, fatty and spreadable sausage product that lots of people eat with bread in southern Italy. Here, however, the geniuses rendered it down  with tomatoes into a  decadent sauce. Highly recommended.

Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti alla Chitarra in Pepper and Cheese Sauce)

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This was prepared table-side, and was absolutely delicious.

It’s a really simple dish, but sometimes that’s all you need for a winning food item. It’s no wonder this dish is all the rage in NYC.

Hanger Steak with Mushrooms

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This fucker was awesome. Seriously. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the selection of wild mushrooms (I think Hen of the Woods and Porcini) really brought out the earthy flavors of the beef, which happened to be black angus from Creekstone Farm. 9/10.

Another thing worth mentioning is this great beer they serve.

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This is right in my wheelhouse, since it’s an unfiltered, super bubbly Belgian farmhouse wheat beer.

BOCCA
39E 19th Street
New York, NY, 10003

DBGB Whole Beast Feast: Pig

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

Many of you know that I’ve talked about Tabelog in the past, a Japanese food review website that recently launched here in the US. They approached me about helping them to attract new users to the website, so I co-planned and co-hosted a whole beast feast with them at DBGB, where we and a crew of hungry food writers and photographers tore into a delicious suckling pig like a bunch of ravenous carnivores!

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This pig, which is sort of like a giant pinwheel or sausage full of various pork cuts, feeds up to 12 guests and comes with salad, grilled flatbread, veggies, pork rinds and Baked Alaska for dessert.

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At $575, this is a pretty good value, and you can throw in unlimited select beers and wine for just $30 more per person.

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The pig is plated really beautifully when it comes out to the table.

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From those shots you can really see the “pinwheel” or sausage thing that I was talking about. It isn’t just a roast pig like you might see at a Flip joint. The meat was really tasty, and consists of all parts of the animal, just packaged and presented in a different way from a standard pig roast. The only downside, for me, was that the skin was not crispy. That’s the best part about roasting pigs!

In any case, I got a bunch of incredible shots of this handsome bastard’s face.

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I even managed to convince some of the dinner guests to pose with the pig’s head. Here’s Doug:

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Jesse (@scrumphsus):

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Jeremy (@NYCFoodFOMO):

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Jay (@TheDishelinGuide):

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And Yuka (@TabelogUS):

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My boy Ben (@StuffBenEats) was a bit shy and didn’t pose with the pig. Oh well. Next time. I certainly posed with it! This shot was taken by Jay from The Dishelin Guide:

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And here’s a shot of me getting ready to dig into the nasty bits like the brain, the face meat and the nose, taken by Jesse of Scrumphsus:

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If you’ve got a big group and you’re into this kind of “Carcass Club” dining like I am, then I think you should add this to your list of potentials. It isn’t the best roast pig that I’ve had, but it certainly was pretty tasty and made for a fun night.

DBGB
299 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

Brindle Room

My buddies and I came in here for a quick dinner on a Sunday evening. I had heard great things about both the burger and the duck confit poutine, so I had to give them each a try.

First the poutine:

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At $20 this is a bit pricey, but probably big enough to share with another person and not have to order much else to get full. We split it four ways and each had an entree. That was perfect. While the fries do get a little soggy in this pot, that’s to be expected when covering them with confit duck, cheddar cheese curds and duck gravy. The dish had great flavor, and one of my friends who only ate duck once before and had a bad experience is now a changed man.

The burger, I am told, is crafted with rib eye fat cap. It’s a simple arrangement of American cheese, caramelized onions and pickles. My kind of burger. This is a damn good representation of how I like my burgers, however I just wish the bun was a bit softer and more supple. Potato buns rule.

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I had some more fries with this, only sans cheddar cheese curds, gravy and duck. They were nicely fried and well seasoned, with a crispy natural cut to them. Well played.

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That about does it. Another burger added to the list of hundreds that have found their way into my mouth, down my gullet, through my digestive tract, out my ass, and into the NYC sewage system.

BRINDLE ROOM
277 E 10th St
New York, NY 10009