Tag Archives: long island city

Oro

I was recently invited to Oro by the owners to try out some of the classic and modern Italian fare that they serve at their spacious, beautifully appointed Long Island City restaurant.

Oro means “gold” in Italian, and the food equivalent of gold is just what they’re serving you here, especially when you indulge in some of the highlights that I mention here in this review.

First off, there’s an excellent cocktail menu. I went with a blueberry and bourbon drink that was really nicely executed. My wife went with a selection from their Moscow Mule menu. Also excellent.

The waiter will bring out some fresh house made bread next. It’s toasty warm and served with a dish of EVOO and vinegar.

We started with two nice, fresh and delicate apps: scallop crudo with crispy prosciutto in a grapefruit sauce, and charred octopus. Both were perfect. The scallop crudo was really fresh, light and crisp. I wish we ordered two!

The octopus has a great flavor and still kept a slight firmness without being too soft or too chewy – a sweet spot middle ground. There was a good spice kick to it as well.

We shared the duck bolognese pappardelle pasta (which was good, but just needed a bit more salt):

And the 28oz tomahawk ribeye:

That blob you see is an herb butter, which added a green-tasting freshness to each bite.

The meat itself hails from Snake River Farms, which is not only a purveyor of fine standard meats, but also American Wagyu. The owners of Oro are friends with the people at Snake River, so you know the cuts will be of high quality.

The cut itself was cooked a slight bit over from what I would have preferred, being more towards medium than medium rare.

But no matter. The flavor was still good, and the fat cap was delicious. Not to mention that at a price of $52, you’re saving big money and you’re just one stop into Queens from midtown Manhattan. At a place like Cut downtown, that Snake River Farms steak is going to run you almost $100. Crazy discount here. And this can be shared with a second diner, so even better. 7/10.

The steak selection here is pretty impressive. As soon as next week, as a matter of fact, there will be even more of a “butcher’s block” selection here, which will include a 36oz porterhouse as well as what’s already on the menu (filet, strip, tomahawk, and pork chops).

On the side we had some arancini, or fried rice balls, which were fun and tasty.

We also had the sweet potato creme brulee. I didn’t think I’d like it when we were told about it by the waiter. As such, we didn’t order it. But the waiter brought it out for us to try anyhow. It turned out to be my favorite item of the night!

It was sweet without going overboard, and the brulee crunch and marshmallow topping was just thrilling. I even remarked that if you plop a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it, it would make for a perfect dessert. Do yourself a favor and get this when you come here. It is unbelievable.

For our proper desserts, we tried the fig panna cotta and nutella bread pudding with homemade fluff. Both were incredible, but I give the edge to the panna cotta. So silky, smooth and light, but packing a big flavor punch.

ORO
41-17 Crescent St
Long Island City, NY 11101

Tutti Matti

Tutti Matti opened up in January. They’re slinging some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Their pizza is Amalfi Coast style, which is cooked a little longer than Neopolitan style.

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The crust is light, airy and crisp, yet it still has a doughy quality to it, so it isn’t stiff.

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This crust makes for a great calzone too:

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Our friends at The Creative Shake and Eaters Drinkers invited us here for a press meal, where we were able to sample a bunch of pizza as well as some of their regional Italian cuisine. Of course a really nice selection of Italian inspired cocktails were flowing.

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This pasta dish is made with spicy nduja and tuna. You wouldn’t think the two go together well, but it was tasty.

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I regret that I didn’t get a chance to sample the lasagna, but it looked and smelled delicious.

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Fried seafood, very light and crisp, and served with a zucchini cream sauce that was incredible!

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My favorite of the non-pizza items were these lamb chops. They were perfectly cooked, well seasoned and beautifully plated.

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Last of the savory items was this chicken cutlet that was pounded flat, breaded, fried and topped with arugula, tomato and balsamic vinegar. Very simple and tasty – plus I thought it was kinda shaped like the Millennium Falcon.

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For dessert, we all destroyed this delicious Nutella pizza:

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This place has two chefs: a pizza chef, and a cuisine chef. I only spoke to the latter, Luigi, who served up the lamb that I loved so much. I was glad to have the opportunity to tell him just how awesome those chops were.

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This place is just one stop into Long Island City on the 7 or E trains. I will definitely be back for more of that pizza and lamb in the future. In addition, they have the following weekly specials: 20% off lunch from noon to 3pm during the week; gnocchi night on Monday ($17 all you can eat); pizza night on Tuesday ($16 unlimited slices); ladies night on Wednesday (first glass of wine $13, rest of the night is free from 5pm to close); Thursday through Sunday $1 oysters 5pm to close; and Happy Hour all week from 4pm-7pm with $7 wine and $5 beer. Pretty amazing!

UPDATE 6/15/16

FINALLY got a chance to come back here and sample some more pizza and other dishes. The pizza still holds up as one of the best in town, easily. We tried four different pizzas:

Campagnola (tomato, prosciutto, arugula, parmesan)

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Black truffle!!!

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Radicchio and sausage.

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Broccoli rabe and sausage.

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I think that last one was my favorite, but it was really tough to choose a best of the four.

We also samples some pasta dishes. First was this buccatini. Very simple and nicely executed:

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Next was linguine with clams. Stunning presentation and very nice, mild flavors. Not too heavy with the garlic and oil.

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Last, baked gnocci. While these were heavy, they had a lot of flavor.

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Of course I had to get the lamb chops again since I loved them so much last time.

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Only this time we also threw some rib eye into the mix! This 32oz offering for two was only $64. Not bad, however I felt that it was a bit over cooked on the edges (it was a thick cut) and slightly under seasoned. It just needed a hit of salt and pepper. 6/10.

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Since we came in with a pack of about 15 food bloggers, they threw in a piece of tiramisu on the house for us. Very nice, and with good coffee flavor!

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TUTTI MATTI
47-30 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11101

Rockaway Brewery, Meat Hook & Stagg Jam & Marmalade

I recently went to a release event for Rockaway Brewery’s newest beer, “Meat in the Middle,” with the man behind The Dishelin Guide.

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“Meat in the Middle” (4.8% abv) is a rauchbier that’s brewed with slow-smoked NY State barley. What makes it special and “meaty” is that it’s smoked with cherry wood at Brooklyn specialty butcher and sandwich shop, The Meat Hook.

The beer itself is pretty good. You get a hint of that smoke in there, with a malt-forward beer flavor. Very nice. I tried it in a flight of some other goodies. In this photo, it’s all the way on the left:

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The porters and dark beers here are really fantastic:

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After working up a little buzz, we hopped on one of the brewery tours and picked up some additional info about the brew process:

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By then we were hungry, so we ventured upstairs to try some of the sausages that The Meat Hook was selling.

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We tried both the Long Dong Bud and the Beet & Onion sausages.

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Check out the color on the Beet & Onion. Incredible! It was really nice, and topped with a kale kimchi type of slaw that really made the flavors pop.

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Long Dong Bud was topped with some shredded cheese, and a pineapple relish. It definitely had more of a traditional German type flavor profile, other than the relish.

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We were torn on which we liked best. I went one way (Long Dong Bud), and Jay went the other (Beet & Onion). In any event, if you can get over to The Meat Hook and try these, I highly recommend them.

Ben Turley, a butcher from The Meat Hook, gave us a demo of how he breaks down a “rear quarter” of a cow – a beef shank (a back leg).

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As he explained what he was doing, he trimmed off various specialty cuts within, like the oyster steak and merlot steak.

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Here’s a shot of the oyster steak:

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And some various other items like portions of the top round and eye of round.

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He parted out the femur bone, too.

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The coolest thing about this was that they were just slicing up parts of the lean beef sections and passing it around to eat raw, with just a little bit of salt on top. Awesome!

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One of the thicker cuts benefited from just a quick, hot sear:

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So this day was basically a dream come true. Good beer, Good food and a dead cow. And Ben basically has my dream job.

On my way out, I picked up a jar of this really crazy banana jam too, from Stagg Jam & Marmalade.

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They had a table set up where you could try all four of their jams on crackers. This bacon jam has a hint of citrus and vanilla that really explodes with flavor.

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ROCKAWAY BREWERY
46-01 5th St.
Long Island City, NY 11101

THE MEAT HOOK
100 Frost St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

S Prime Steakhouse

S Prime overall score: 88

My wife found a Groupon deal for this joint: $50 gets you $100. They had a nice menu, and now that we’re in the city again, the trip to Queens to check the place out was no worse than heading downtown after work. Nice easy subway ride on the R train.

Flavor: 9
I had the 60-day dry aged signature rib eye, of course. It was fucking great. Some of the fat wasn’t as soft and jelly-ish as I like, so that’s why I took a point (I had some scraps left). Otherwise this place is spot on, perfectly cooked, perfect temperature, no bleed out, nicely rested, juicy as a pair of titties in an early 90’s rap video.

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Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
All the beef is dry aged in house, and prime. I was impressed with the beef here, and there was a great selection to choose from.

Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions here are pretty big. As you can see from the images, you get a good deal of shit for your buck here. Plating is elegant and refined but not over the top fancy. At 28oz, the rib eye is a nice manly size, though it did feel a bit smaller than 28oz when it came out. Typically that is the weight before cooking and sometimes even before aging, so there is expected weight loss during those processes.

Price: 8
The prices here are pretty high for Queens, but the quality offsets that damage. Also, with their long-running Groupon deal, there is really no excuse not to come try this place out. Don’t let the pricey steaks deter you. Our bill for two came to $228 (not including the oysters and 2 drinks at the bar), minus $100 for the Groupon. Not bad.

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Bar: 10
There’s an absolutely awesome happy hour deal here. Dollar oysters and half price drinks and bar bites. The bar is big too, and it was already pretty full at 6:00pm when I arrived. They even have extra seating at high tables nearby, and a narrow bar along the windows. By time we were finishing our meal, the place was packed. Seems like a good scene. Anyway, we ordered up a few drinks and a dozen oysters before sitting for dinner. Total steal! Also worth noting here: HUGE wine selection, and beautiful displays of wine, for those of you who are wine freaks.

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Specials and Other Meats: 9
The other meats offered here are chicken, veal, and lamb. A very solid showing. They even have a cajun rub that they offer on their steaks, which is interesting. Our waiter also told us about some specials that were not on the menu, like a stuffed broiled lobster (my wife almost got it), and a berry cobbler dessert.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with the agave braised pork belly, which was huge and delicious. The outer skin was perfectly crispy too.

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Then we dove into a trio of tartares: tuna, scallop, and beef. All were good, but we liked the tuna the best:

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On the side we had parmesan herb fries, which were tasty but could have benefitted from a bit more crispiness.

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The fries went really well with the steak sauce, which was finally a refreshing step away from heavy tomato based sauces that other steak joints push on you:

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We also tried the creamed spinach. Our waiter talked us away from sautéed spinach and toward this dish because it had a nice bread crumb crumble on top. I wasn’t crazy about it. The texture of the spinach was a little too watery for my taste. Kinda wish we had stuck with the sautéed spinach order instead, but it’s all good.

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For dessert we split a slice of key lime pie. This was the only item that I thought was over priced. It was a bit small for $10, and we’ve had better key lime pie elsewhere.

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Seafood Selection: 9
There’s a great selection of seafood items. Aside from minimum 2-pound lobbies, they also rock a whole roasted branzino, salmon, tuna, and scallop entrees. And you can’t really beat dollar oysters at happy hour. We also tried the tuna and scallop tartare apps too, which were really good. My wife’s entree was a broiled lobster, which she loved. I only took a point here because one or two of the oysters were sub-par, but at a dollar a pop, who cares?

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Service: 9
When we sat down, the restaurant was largely empty, but we were put at a small table right next to another couple. That kinda stinks. I guess we could have asked for a different spot, but I don’t like being an annoying customer. Other than that, service was excellent, our waiter was perfect, and the manager was really polite and even waited on us when we were sitting at the bar along the windows before dinner. Oh yeah – the bread. There was a nice selection to choose from: pumpernickel, pretzel, seven grain, and more. The only issue is they were not warm and toasty, but the soft, whipped butter was delicious.

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They also brought out some nice, warm manchego cheese with honey drizzled over the top as a little snack. Very nice.

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Ambiance: 7
The space is very “Queens,” if that makes any sense. It was clearly a garage or some sort of wide open space that was converted into a restaurant. That’s great! I liked the lighting, the seating, the layout, etc. It had a nice upstairs and a beautiful stairway leading up. I think there was just a slight clash between modern and traditional that didn’t fit the space, and it also felt like it could be a club, despite the awesome 80’s music they had playing (nice!). Otherwise it is beautiful inside, and the bathrooms and kitchen are super clean. I know this next thing is a little nit-picky, but our table was massively wobbly. We had to shove a wad of doily underneath to balance it out a little better. We’ve had a string of bad wobbles lately at recent restaurants, so I figured I’d mention it here just because.

S PRIME
35-15 36th St.
Long Island City, NY 11106

M. Wells Steakhouse

M. Wells Steakhouse overall score: 91

My wife and I came here with the good people from Tabelog to see what the big hype was all about. I was drooling at the images of the bone-in burger made to look like a tomahawk rib chop. I figured that a place this creative with the presentation would hopefully have some quality food to match.

Flavor: 10
What superb meat! Really nicely cooked for such a massive hunk of meat. We had the Wagyu rib eye to share among three people, along with the bone-in burger for good measure (for my wife). This beef definitely comes in as one of the best steaks I have ever had. The pictures speak volumes – take a look below. The burger was one of the best I’ve ever had; and the rib eye was expertly seasoned, it had a great char/crisp on the outer edges, and it was perfectly medium rare from end to end. I couldn’t believe this was achieved on such a huge, thick slab of meat. I didn’t think I would like it slathered with a saucy cheese, but it actually worked to accent the flavor.

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Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
You have a good set of choices here. There was a chateau briand, two types of Wagyu rib eye, and some regular type cuts. All top notch in terms of quality. This place is definitely not short-changing anyone on the beef.

Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions were all pretty good with the exception of the geoduck and uni appetizers. Those felt a bit too small for the prices. The rib eye we shared clocked in at 55oz; massive. The burger was definitely large enough to satisfy any burger craving too.

Price: 9
We had lots to drink and eat (three apps, a side, a steak, a burger, a dessert, four coffees, two bottles of wine, a cocktail, and a beer), yet our bill was only $450. Not too shabby for four people!

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Bar: 8
The bar is pretty cool here, and it has a nice, interesting cocktail menu. I sipped on a “cow’s kiss” – which was like a spicy martini with a skewer of pickled veal tongue as garnish. Pretty nice. The bar itself is nicely decorated, however I don’t think I would find myself trekking out to LIC for a drink unless I was specifically going here for dinner.

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We were also treated to a nice after dinner drink of sweet, house made maple bourbon/whiskey. It was perfect with our dessert.

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Specials and Other Meats: 9
There is a lot to choose from here, in the event you don’t want to man-up and eat a real steak. I don’t think the waiter read us any special menu items that I recall, but there’s enough goodness on the menu to satisfy any cravings for something unique. We asked a ton of questions about items we didn’t end up ordering.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We tried a nice array of items here. First I will start with the apps. We had the geoduck, which came sliced thin and served with radish and pickled green stuff. It tasted like the sea, strongly so, but heavily laden with the taste of pickle. This was my first time trying the phallic food, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m not necessarily a fan of this preparation, but I can respect the simplicity of it, and the sea-borne flavors.

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Next was the uni appetizer. Essentially two sea urchins served atop a custard made from lobster broth. It was really interesting, but again not particularly my cup of tea.  Also very fishy (not that there is anything wrong with it – just potent).

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The third and final app was a Korean breakfast plate, which came with roasted, soft, fatty bacon; sweet potatoes; a link of blood sausage; kimchi with a fried egg on top; and friend shrimp dumplings (think breaded, deep fried fish balls). This was a great platter. The bacon was superb. Very soft, yet very smoky; somewhere between regular bacon and roasted belly.  The blood sausage was in the style of English or Scottish food – hearty and robust, slightly grainy or mealy, but packed with flavor. The rest was as you would expect.

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On the side, we had the sunchokes and raisins. It was delicious, but topped with bonito flakes that gave it a jarring fishy taste. I wasn’t crazy about that, but it did make you feel like you were eating some sort of meaty seafood dish rather than the light, artichoke-meets-cauliflower flavor you expect from a sunchoke.

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For dessert we had the chocolate charcuterie, which was essentially a “sausage” log of fudge with spiced caramel inside, beside two small loaves of banana bread, served with a custard spread and a berry compote. Delicious! And a very clever presentation. Only suggestion here: make the truss string easier to disrobe from around the chocolate sausage log.

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Seafood Selection: 9
There’s fresh fish swimming around in the large marble tub sink just behind the counter in the kitchen. If fresh seafood is what you want, then this seems like the place to get it, as it is literally swimming in the kitchen. They have the standard shellfish and raw bar items that you expect from good steak joints. But they also have a great selection of not-so-common seafood items; shit you don’t normally see on steakhouse menus (like the geoduck and uni, for example). Props on that!

Service: 10
Our waiter, Michael, was really fantastic when it came to describing all the great menu items we had questions about. The “wine captain” made some really nice suggestions to pair with our courses as well, although both bottles left a significant amount of sediment in my glass (one of which I couldn’t finish). Perhaps it would be worth while to set a decanter or filtered pouring apparatus down beside the table for when bottles like these are ordered.

OH YEAH! Table breads were nice – one was a hot roll with butter, and the other was a pretzel bun served with dijon mustard. They came in a little bread sack.

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Ambiance: 9
I must say, they did a great job decorating this old garage. The high ceilings give way to beautiful old skylights, and the new-modern steakhouse/slaughterhouse decor lends itself to a great look and vibe inside. The open concept kitchen really makes you feel like you are getting a personal experience with the chef and kitchen staff. The only downside is the small dining space and the lack of large, spacious booths. Otherwise, this place is great and did a wonderful job with the space. I imagine they will have outdoor seating on the patio once the weather gets nice too.

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Just a quick note here – we had a celebrity sighting while dining: the highly polarizing squeaky wheel known as Michael Moore, of Bush-bashing, anti-gun, pro-Cuba fame. Here he is, looming over my shoulder while waiting for his table, like a large Thanksgiving Day parade float, donning his characteristic baseball cap and cantankerous mug.

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M. WELLS STEAKHOUSE
43-15 Crescent St.
Long Island City, NY 11101