Tag Archives: fish

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

Hwa Yuan

I went to Hwa Yuan with my wife and a group of friends to celebrate Lunar/Chinese New Year. We had a massive feast, but the very first bite of the meal was the clear favorite for all of us: crispy tangy beef.

This shit was like meat candy. So good that I wanted it by the bucketful.

Next up, Peking roasted duck.

Look at this fellow up close:

Our waiter sliced it up table side:

Here’s a short video of the slicing, set to American New Year music:

I also really liked this plate of sliced mountain yam with ginger, snow peas, goji berries and wood ear mushrooms. The yams tasted like giant water chestnuts.

This plate of eggplant was really tasty too, and I typically don’t love eggplant.

This dish was called “Amazing Chicken.” I really liked the sauce, but I wish the chicken had a bit more texture on it.

This was a roasted and stewed Barramundi fish.

And this bowl of ma po tofu was perfect. Just the right amount of silky texture and numbing spice with heat.

These pea sprouts were tasty too – almost like a cross between spinach and collards, simply steamed with garlic and soy.

Get your asses down to this joint and dig in. The food is really great!

HWA YUAN
42 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Compere Lapin

This is Nina Compton’s joint, from the New Orleans season of Top Chef. My wife got us a reservation here and we were all pretty excited to try it.

The cocktails here are awesome, and I’m now firmly of the belief that New Orleans is one of the best places for cocktails in the world. Their take on a mule is served in a brass rabbit, and they can only serve 14 at a time, since that’s how many brass rabbit vessels they have.

I had a Louisville Slugger, which was basically a vanilla smoked old fashioned. Delicious.

Now onto the food. First was this board of amazing biscuits with two kinds of butter (sweet and maple bacon).

We started with a nice round of small plates and apps.

Crispy Pig’s Ears

These were awesome. Great Caribbean spice flavor (Nina hails from St. Lucia), crispy outside, and a little chew inside. Just right.

Conch Croquettes

Another nod to Nina’s background, these Caribbean conch fritters were soft inside and perfectly crisp outside.

Tuna Tartare

This was so good. The spice level was nice, but the flavor and quality of the tuna was exceptional. Not to mention that it’s beautiful to look at. My favorite of the apps, and that’s a big win considering what came next.

Steak Tartare

The meat was nicely minced and served with a skim-coat of smoked beef fat. Amazing! My buddy, who is a big steak tartare aficionado, loved this. This shit was way better than the garbage we had at Dickie Brennan’s.

Now onto the main courses.

Jamaican Jerk Drum

Drum is a fish that’s local to the area. It’s white and flakey, kinda like a halibut. This had a nice crisped coating of jerk spices on the exterior, and a super tender and flakey interior. I loved it. What made this dish really pop, though, were the drops of citrus custard that dotted the plate. When you got that pungent hit of lemon curd in with a bite of all the rest, it really came together.

Seafood Scialatielli

This homemade spaetzl-like pasta was perfectly cooked and served with some high quality shrimp and clams. We really liked it.

Curry Goat

I didn’t get a photo of this, but I did get a bite of my friends dish. It was so tender and flavorful. Nina really nailed it.

Dessert: Soursop Semifreddo

Very rare to see the exotic soursop fruit on a menu stateside, so my wife and I jumped at this. It was served in a log shaped semifreddo form, with shaved celery, meringue and shaved cucumber. Really well balanced.

This was easily one of the best meals we had in New Orleans. I highly recommend this joint.

COMPERE LAPIN
The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
535 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Aburiya Kinnosuke

I met my wife for a quick lunch near her office and we came here. I had the cold Korean style ramen noodles.

It was pretty good! Refreshing on a hot summer day.

My wife had this tuna saddle, which was massive and delicious.

They offer some nice lunch specials, but I recommend getting there just before noon, because the joint gets really packed out in the lunch rush.

ABURIYA KINNOSUKE
213 E 45th St
New York, NY 10017

Korali Estiatorio

With a name that means “coral,” it’s only fitting that Korali Estiatorio, a neighborhood gem for authentic Greek food on the upper east side, features a variety of fresh seafood fit for the gods.

Owner Gregori Politis hails from Lefkada, in the Ionian Sea. After 20 years in the hospitality business, he now brings the authentic recipes of his childhood to the masses of NYC. Chef Peter Tsaglis headed up prominent New York City kitchens. Peter focuses on seafood, and has a passion for amazing ingredients and flavors. His upbringing and travels across the Greek islands influenced his style of traditional cooking blended with modern and contemporary fare.

The interior was designed with Mykanos in mind, a seaside town on an island of the same name, which is known for its bright white architecture.

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The bar is stocked with Greek spirits and wines from rare varietals that are uncommon here in the states, like Assyrtiko and Agiogitiko.

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With Greek music playing on the sound system and the invigorating scent of fresh seafood in the air, you really do feel like you are being transported to the Greek Isles.

Okay so let me get to the food… We started with some tzatziki and pita bread. The yogurt this joint uses is so thick, rich and awesome. This had just the right amount of spices and flavorings added, so that our mouths were spared of garlic overload. I really enjoyed this.

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In honor of the joint’s focus on seafood, we did not delve into any meats. I know: blasphemy for me! Perhaps next time I will go hard into the lamb dishes, though.

For our meze courses we had grilled octopus and stuffed calamari. The grilled octopus was so tender and perfectly cooked. It came on a bean puree and was seasoned gently with olive oil and lemon, and sprinkled with capers. Really delicious, and probably one of the better octopus dishes I’ve had in a while. And it was a good sized portion, with about two large tentacles chopped up on the plate.

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I couldn’t resist ordering the stuffed calamari.

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When I was a kid, my family would do the traditional Italian fish dinner for Christmas. My grandparents were the main drivers of that meal, and I would help my grandfather clean all the shrimp, scungili and squid for prep. But my grandma would take the time to make stuffed calamari. She would take the cleaned squid tubes, fill them with a cheese, breadcrumb and meat stuffing, and literally stitch the ends closed with a needle and black thread. Then they went into a skillet for browning on all sides before getting plopped into a low simmering tomato sauce that was filled with crab legs and other shellfish. Before serving, she would pull out the black thread and the calamari would stay pinched closed, holding in the delicious stuffing. It really was a painstaking and amazing effort, and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Until now, until Korali.

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This Greek version is stuffed with spinach and feta, but still served in a tomato sauce. Rather than a traditional stewed style Italian red sauce, this one contained mainly sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. It was a really exciting profile of flavors, and this was hands-down my favorite dish of the night. I highly recommend this!

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For our entree, we ordered a whole grilled fish for two that was on special: “pink snapper” from the Mediterranean Sea.

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The skin was crisp and savory, and the meat was tender, flaky and cooked nicely. It was simply dressed with olive oil, lemon and Greek seasonings, and then topped with capers.

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We cleaned this baby off entirely, even busting into the face to get some of that delicious and succulent cheek meat.

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This fish for two also came with two sides. We picked garlic sauteed spinach and Greek fries. The fries were crisp and had a nice herb and garlic flavor.

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The spinach was sauteed just right, retaining that great “green” flavor without over-wilting the leaves. Also, the garlic was again not overpowering and added just the right amount of flavor to the dish. These guys know what they’re doing in the kitchen!

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For dessert, we got to try an assortment of three items: Greek yogurt with honey and berries, baklava and semolina custard in phyllo (Galactoboureco). By far my favorite of the three was that delicious, thick and creamy yogurt again. This sweet version was the perfect way to bookend the meal after starting with the savory tzatziki version at the beginning of the meal.

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But the baklava was the best my wife and I have had. Usually this dessert is soaked with honey, and that just kills the texture and flavor of the nuts, making everything too sweet and soft. Not here at Korali! These had a cookie-like crunch to them, and I found myself smearing some of the yogurt onto them to make it a double whammy dessert. So damn good!

Overall this was a really great meal, light and satisfying. This is a great place for the UES neighborhood. I don’t live nearby, but I would definitely go back in a heartbeat.

One thing that really got my attention about this place is that you can pre-order a whole roasted goat every Friday, which is locally sourced from upstate. I will definitely be back for this with my crew from The Carcass Club.

In addition, Korali now offers a prix-fix lunch deal Wednesday through Friday, as well as brunch on weekends, with a choice of starter, entree and dessert.

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

KORALI ESTIATORIO
1662 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10128

Beautique

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED

As usual my bargain hunter wife found a nice Gilt City deal for a three course meal for two here at Beautique.

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It included two drinks per person, which is unusually generous.

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Apparently the place turns into a sugar daddy lounge after like 9pm, where young girls try to score rich older men (according to reviews I’ve seen online). We went at 6pm, so there wasn’t too much of that going on at that time.

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I wasn’t expecting much given that lounge atmosphere. As it turned out, the food was pretty great. So let’s get down to business.

I started with a red an yellow beet salad. Beets are all the rage these days. They were a little more stiff here than at other places, and cut into rustic chunks rather than thinner slices. But they retained a more natural flavor as a result. They were dressed with pistachio nuts, yogurt, lemon and rosemary.

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My wife ordered the Beautique salad, which was radicchio, pear, gorgonzola and walnuts. This was a bit bitter for my taste, but the ingredients were all fresh, crisp and high quality.

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For my entree, I had the hanger steak. This was super tender and cooked to a perfect medium rare. I was expecting some chew to this but every bite was extremely soft and had a good char on the outside. This would be 10 out of 10 if it weren’t for a slight lack of salt on that crust. But otherwise this was incredible.

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It was served with a peppery gravy and on top of a bed of sweet corn and mushrooms.

My wife went with the branzino. This was plated beautifully.

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As you can see, the skin was crisp and well seasoned. The meat was cooked just right, and it was served on top of some potatoes, tomatoes, baby leeks and artichoke in a rosemary sauce.

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For dessert, we had cheesecake with oreo ice cream. The ice cream was awesome. It was super flavorful and almost fudgey, but without being overly sweet. The cheesecake had a nice thick, but not heavy, consistency, however the cracker crust was too hard to get through with a fork. It may have been a peanut brittle type of thing, because it didn’t taste like graham cracker.

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Overall this was a great deal, especial given the fact that my wife paid much less than the asking price due to coupons and other shit like that. If it is still available by time you read this, I recommend trying it out.

UPDATE 9/16/16

My wife and I went back with another Gilt City deal to try a few different menu items and see how well this joint has been holding up. I think we went with better choices the first time around, because this time wasn’t as good as we remembered.

We started with the duck wonton tacos. The sauce on them tasted like McDonald’s BBQ sauce. Nothing wrong with that except that it seemed to clash with the asian toppings. Also there was a strange flavor that reminded me of the scent of wet dog.

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The other app was tune tartare. This was a bit lacking in flavor and a bit small and uninspired in the presentation.

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For my entree, I went with the burger. The menu said there were brandied onions on it, but I didn’t find any. The tomato was cut way too thick, but the bacon was nice and crisp. Also the cheese didn’t taste like gruyere either, as mentioned on the menu. It was cooked perfectly, however, the the rosemary fries were awesome.

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My wife had the roasted chicken. This, too, was a bit small. Luckily it wasn’t dry and the skin on it was deliciously crisp and well seasoned.

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Beautique really shined with the desserts, which took forever to come out because the place was starting to get jammed. First was cheesecake with oreo ice cream (same as last time) with strawberry and mango sauce.

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Next was chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel popcorn. I usually dislike lava cake, but this was really soft like a brownie, and the fudgey melty stuff inside was tasty.

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BEAUTIQUE
8 W. 58th St.
New York, NY 10019

Hurricane Hole

This is a joint product/service and restaurant review. My buddies and I booked a small charter fishing trip off of Key West. For four hours it cost about $800 all-in (with tip and everything). While this is super expensive, it is worth every penny if you happen to be able to keep and eat everything that you catch.

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We started off catching all the bait we would use on the trip. Captain Brad threw out his net and picked up minnows and shiners. Then we went out about five miles for some yellow fin snapper and yellow jackets. One of my buddies even got a mackerel at this spot. I had a shark hooked at one point, but the fucker bit through the line and took my bait.

After a bit, we went to a second location off the shore where we picked up some bonita and tuna.

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Over all we had a really successful day. I caught the most fish, while my buddy got the biggest (a 15lb tuna).

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Captain Brad filleted about half of our catch, which came out to roughly 14lbs.

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That’s a lot of fish! We could have packed it on ice and shipped it home, but we figured we may as well gorge on it and give the rest for chum and whoever else wanted the meat. We probably caught over $1000 worth of fish.

The restaurant at the dock will cook up all your food for $12 per person, and you get sides to go with it. We fed our whole gang of eight people with tons to spare.

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They did some fried snapper, tuna tataki, blackened tuna and buffalo mackerel. Everything was really good.

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The conch fritters here were pretty good too, which we ordered in addition to the fish feast.

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Cafe O’Lei

Cafe O’Lei

Then it was time for lunch at Cafe O’Lei. This joint is nice inside. It’s on the second floor of a strip mall type group of storefronts right near S&Q’s. There’s a big bar in the center of the restaurant, and some interesting paintings by local artists on the walls:

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Here, I really wanted to try either the prime rib or the roast pork entrees, but they are only offered at dinner time. Instead, I had my first official burger of the trip. It was cooked almost correctly – slightly over medium – but the large helping of ooey-gooey cheddar cheese really took this burger up a notch.

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My wife and I shared a pair of crab cakes. These were sweet, using snow crab meat, fruit and avocado in the preparation. Very nice. Meaty and crispy.

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My wife had the Mahi Mahi fish and chips, which were expertly batter-fried to a light, golden crisp. The fries here were top notch, by the way. Really nicely done.

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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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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.

empire diner drinks

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.

empire diner fish chips

Cured and Smoked Salmon

Let me take a few moments to explain why I love this shit so much: Salmon that has been fucked with in some way (whether smoked or cured) is one of the few fish items that has an almost meaty persona. When you start sucking down slices of that beautifully bright colored shit, you almost feel like you’re eating raw beef. The texture of it, the chilled temperature, the addition of some capers, onion or a little olive oil… it’s difficult not to see the similarity to something like beef carpaccio. Just imagine this picture being a red color instead of pinkish-orange:

salmon

One thing I’ve come across in my chowing of this delicious stuff is that it is called by many names. Lox, cold-smoked salmon, Gravlax, etc… and then there is almost invariably a location element, which is sometimes just a way to add descriptive and fresh sounding words to a menu item: Nova Scotia, Scottish, Wild Alaskan, etc. What does it all mean? Check out the essentials below:

Lox: In the days of old, this was strictly sourced from salmon belly only, though now other parts of the fish are used. It is either brined or salt-cured, usually for a few weeks, but it is not smoked or cooked in any way. This would be the purist’s pick.

Gravlax: This shit is the Scandinavian version of lox. Dill, peppers, sugar, juniper berries, horseradish and even liquors like brandy or aquavit are used while curing to accent the flavor. It is not smoked, and it is often pressed while it cures, to eliminate moisture.

Nova Lox: This lox is cold-smoked after brining/curing, and, as the name obviously suggests, it hails from Nova Scotia. That being said, the words “Nova Lox” are increasingly being used to specify the curing process as opposed to being a strict geographical marker. Fuck that. Words have meaning, people. Let’s not get too crazy.

Cold-Smoked Salmon: Essentially it is Nova Lox that comes from a place other than Nova Scotia. Any part of the fish can be used (not just the belly), and “cold” is somewhat of a misnomer, as the temperature is typically about 80 degrees while it is exposed to smoke

Hot-Smoked Salmon: This is essentially BBQ’d salmon. The salmon gets completely cooked through. Like poached or grilled salmon would, the meat will flake apart. It has a smoky flavor but a more firm, dry texture.

So now you’re armed with the lingo, and you’re no longer a Nova Lox Novice: You’re a cold-smoked pro, and you know what to expect from your salmon. Which do you prefer?

What do I like? Pretty much all of it except for hot-smoked. I generally don’t like my salmon to be cooked, unless it’s on crispy skin. My ideal preparation would have all the spices and flavors from the Scandanavian Gravlax preparation, but it would also be cold-smoked to add a little more manliness. Fuck yeah… and with some capers, red onions and a little bit of olive oil or truffle oil on top…