I was recently invited into this place for a media dinner, complimentary in exchange for posting content on Instagram. Here’s what we had:
Perfect espresso martini. And I mean perfect!
Awesome pappardelle with porcini mushrooms. Pictured here is a half portion size. They split the dish even though I asked them not to.
Octopus with chic pea puree. This was on the upper side of okay, just about at the good level.
The Bad & The Ugly
Complimentary plate of cheese and meats. Meh.
Steak Tartare. This needed salt/seasoning. I also didn’t like the burrata cream on the bottom, but the sun dried tomato was a nice, unique topper. It was ugly though, and I had to add some crumbled parm from the plate above to give it a pop of flavor.
The porterhouse was overcooked, under seasoned, dry, and tasted as if it was a plate of leftovers that was re-heated in a toaster oven. If you’ve ever done that, you know exactly what I mean. It was noted as being dry-aged, but I didn’t taste it. There was little to no char on it either. 4/10.
We skipped dessert since it was starting to get late. The service was slow toward the end of the meal (busy overcooking the steak, perhaps). I kid. The restaurant did get pretty full and busy later on. The restaurant is in the back of a Hyatt hotel lobby, which is weird. I wonder if that’s where they serve the complimentary breakfast in the morning.
I probably won’t go back, but if I did, I would definitely stick to the pasta selections and the wine/cocktails.
RAMERINO ITALIAN PRIME
16 E 39th St
New York, NY 10016
My wife and I have been dying to come here ever since we saw them setting up shop at Market Line soon after we moved in. It’s a beautiful seafood bar, done up really fancy as a place you’d love to just sit and have a cocktail, but also with open view to the kitchen and prep stations for all the delicious food.
We tried a lot of shit, so let me get right into it.
Raw littleneck clams topped with crispy shallots and a fish sauce mignonette. Perfect way to open up the meal. Pair this with their pickled ginger, shochu and gin martini.
Dry aged rib eye tartare, coarse cut. So tender and flavorful! The shrimp chips make for a perfect vehicle for mouth entry, and they add a great textural crunch.
Cumin lamb belly skewers. I really loved these. If you love cumin lamb noodles at places like Xian Famous, you need to try this. It’s LAMB BACON!
Tiger prawns. You’ll want to drink the sauce! This item was the whole reason my wife wanted to go, and it really delivered. It was her favorite dish (along with the hamachi collar).
Crispy baby octopus with Thai lemongrass curry and fried Thai basil. Ask for a small bowl of rice so none of that curry goes to waste!
The grilled pork jowls were next. This was probably my favorite of the meal. It comes with a lime pepper sauce that acts like a Carolina style vinegar BBQ sauce, almost, but Asian style as lime and pepper are common in places like Vietnam and Cambodia. It cuts the fat of the jowls so perfectly I can’t even describe it properly!
Turmeric dill hamachi collar. This is so delicious and large, it’s enough to share among two people. Light, flavorful, and amazingly aromatic.
Laotian ginger pork sausage over garlic noodles. WOW! The sausage is made in house and it’s so fucking good!
We washed it all down with this watermelon and lychee slushee. So refreshing and just the right amount of natural sweetness.
I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu, especially their surf and turf!
88 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002
The Pulsd deal for Hotel Chantelle is pretty good. You get two cocktails, two apps, two entrees, and a shared dessert for $69.
The cocktails are tasty and colorful.
The apps we selected were the steak tartare and the charred octopus. Both were incredible, and I’d go back again for these any day.
The entrees, however, fell a bit short. My strip steak was definitely not a center cut, which is totally fine – they’re using it for the Pulsd deal diners. Be minfdul of connective tissue At $31 regular price, this really is a pair price though. The pepper chimi was unique, and it was cooked properly and had a nice flavor to it. 6/10.
The seafood paella was simultaneously undercooked and wet/soggy. Bad combo! The seafood itself was nice though.
For dessert, a lemon cream tart of sorts. The shell tasted like greasy tortilla and was tough to bite/chew, but the filling was awesome.
All in, not a bad meal, thanks to the saving grace of the apps. I’d come back here for apps and cocktails on the rooftop again for sure. It’s beautiful up there, and even the bar downstairs is cool. I’d skip the entrees though.
This joint has two names and serves two types of cuisine: Manchego serves tapas, and Koko serves ramen. My wife and I tried a couple of items from each menu.
The octopus was awesome. Perfectly cooked, nicely seasoned.
The calamari was meh. A little dried out.
The ramen was pretty good. Not among the top tier, but good enough that if I was ever in the area again, I’d go back to try the tonkotsu. The main reason I tried their spicy chicken miso ramen was because the menu said their tonkotsu was also chicken based broth, but with char siu pork in it. I was confused, and didn’t feel like asking questions since the service was crazy slow (they were slammed).
The salmon ramen was light. It was a shio style chicken based broth.
MANCHEGO / KOKO RAMEN
375 Marlborough Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11226
My wife took me to this joint for a belated Valentine’s Day date. This spot has some great seafood. We tried a lot of it, so I’ll get moving.
First, their bread service is incredible. I didn’t take a great picture of it, but the focaccia and sourdough are perfect. They bring it out with a dish of whipped butter mixed with some seriously high quality olive oil.
We started the meal with some fresh uni. This was a bit steep at $38, but it was so damn delicious, seasoned simply with some flake salt.
The stone crab claws were probably the low point of the meal. It was difficult to extract the meat (didn’t come out in good sized chunks), and over all it was just average in terms of flavor. For $25 a pop, we would have spent that $50 on more langoustines or carabineros (you’ll see that ahead).
The octopus with gigante beans was a good dish, but not excellent like some of the others. I would pass on this next time and focus more on the other seafood options.
Here’s one of those excellent dishes now: grilled langoustines.
These were perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. Make sure you save some bread so you can scoop out the succulent brains and eat them together like a makeshift lobster roll.
The carabineros shrimp were our favorite part of the meal. These giant, head-on shrimp from Spain are so deeply flavorful that it’s almost hard to explain. That dark red flesh is packed with natural fatty juices too. You’ll want to wipe some bread into that shit as well.
For our mains, we had Japanese snapper and a Niman Ranch rib eye. Both were served as composed dishes with sides of vegetables, and both were cooked really nicely. The steak was a solid 8/10.
For dessert, 16-layer lemon cake. So good with that blood orange sherbet swirl.
I definitely plan to go here again. They have beef tataki and lamb belly pasta on the menu that I need to try, but the daily seafood specials will be difficult to pass up again, I’m sure of it. Go give this place a shot.
Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:
Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)
You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.
TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)
We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.
XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)
This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.
The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:
But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.
We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.
The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.
The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.
Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.
The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!
The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.
In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.
LOMO ALTO (BCN)
I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.
This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.
They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.
Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.
We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.
The croquettes were nice as well.
The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:
This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.
The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.
This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).
VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)
This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.
The door handle is even a mussel.
We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.
We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.
We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.
This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.
At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.
It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.
One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.
This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.
We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.
This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.
When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.
These pine nut clusters were great as well.
If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.
We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.
This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.
Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.
My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:
Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.
We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.
This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.
The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.
The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.
These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.
The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.
I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.
BAR NESTOR (SS)
This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).
It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.
Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.
Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.
Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.
The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.
Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.
What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.
We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.
Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).
This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.
I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.
Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.
The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.
But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.
The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.
Petit fours for the finish:
I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.
Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.
Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.
Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.
DINNER AT HOME (BCN)
One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!
We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.
…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…
The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:
This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!
For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.
This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.
What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.
HOJA SANTA (BCN)
Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.
Here’s what we had:
Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.
Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.
Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.
Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.
Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.
Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.
Check out how tender this meat was!
One of my lamb rib tacos:
The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.
Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.
And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.
I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.
RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR
These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.
Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!
Karvouna Mezze is the new Greek tapas (“mezze”) joint and meat house that just opened on the Bowery, headed up by the former chef from Merakia, Giuseppe Scalco.
I came in with a group of Instagramming bastards to try out some dishes and to feature our favorites on our profiles. Here’s what we tried:
Peinirli (Greek Pizza Boat)
I like the idea of this, I just wasn’t a fan of the flakey, dry dough. The fillings (bacon, herbs and cheese) were all great though.
This was nice. As a mezze portion, this is actually pretty sizable.
Generally I’m not a big fan of eggplant, but this was great. I really liked the presentation in a scooped-out and halved eggplant. You can even still see the stem on the top end. Great Mediterranean flavors on this; semi-Italian and semi-Middle Eastern.
This was simple and delicious. A must order. Perfect and fresh.
This was tender and flavorful, but I found myself going after the stewed greens underneath more than the actual pork belly. The ouzo and honey marinade was interesting though.
These are amazing. I loved them at Merakia, and I love them here. They’re perfect as a mezze snack with three to four ribs per order. Great spice on them, expertly cooked, nice fat and tenderness levels.
This was a bit of a let down. I really enjoyed the Kleftiko at Merakia, which was served like a stew in a bread bowl. Here, there was just too much bread and not enough of that stewed sauciness. It came off a bit dry, unfortunately, and the bits of lamb inside just weren’t tender enough to recall the stew format of the traditional dish.
This was awesome. So tender and flavorful, and sitting on a bed of braised greens and lentils. I could eat this every day.
Mixed Grill For Two
This was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the pork and sausage. It comes out on an actual grill, though you aren’t really cooking anything since it isn’t hot enough. It’s more of a show piece and meat warmer.
This is great for a group meal to share. Even the veggies on there were tasty, and it comes with some nice lemon potatoes too.
Red Velvet Halva
This was my favorite of the three desserts we tried. But don’t expect the texture and flavor of halva just because halva is in the name of the dessert. This tasted more like a gelatin or stiff mousse. Really delicious.
A beautiful and tasty take on the classic dessert. A nice balance of sweet and savory, and it comes with a slab of rose jelly, which looks invisible in the pic above.
Chocolate Covered Digestive Cookies
This was like a chocolate covered biscotti. Interesting, but not something I would get again. I just didn’t love the flavor combination. A nice thing to have with coffee though, for those of you who are into it.
I would definitely go back here for the eggplant, ribs, mixed grill and short rib. Go give it a shot! I should also note that when we were there, the health inspector gave a surprise visit and fucked up the entire flow of the kitchen for a good hour or hour and a half. This place is brand new and the chef is very talented, so I have no problem recommending this place to others.
I recently had a meal here when celebrating a friends birthday party. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I tried:
This chicken with peanuts dish was really tasty. Nicely fried morsels of dark meat.
These fried beef dumplings were better still. I could have eaten a dozen.
While I’m not a huge tofu guy, these fried cubes were pretty tasty. I’d eat them again, but definitely not over the other two apps above.
Next up, beef noodles. These were ultimately pretty middle-of-the-road. Nothing stand-out about them.
The star of the show, however, was this pork belly dish. So much nice quality belly, with some chiccharones and a great spicy bean curd dip to boot. Awesome.
The octopus was perfectly cooked and had a great crunchy texture on the outside, but there was just something about it that bugged me. It had a flavor that reminded me of the smell of dried fish food. Perhaps it was something added on top for seasoning.
Lastly, their pickles and kimchi items are superb here. Some of the best I’ve had.
Banzarbar is a tiny speakeasy on the second floor of Freeman’s.
Behind a sliding wood door lives a dark, cozy bar with a handful of small tables. The food menu is slim. A handful of apps, an entrée or two, and a small tasting menu. The specialty cocktails are truly special. My wife and I tried three:
Shackleton’s Urn: old tom gin, navy strength gin, Jamaican rum, green chili, aperol, passion fruit, cinnamon, peach and lime. This one comes to the table on fire.
Tour Through Khari: tequila, mescal, vermouth, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger and lemon. This one is dusted with flammable spices and ignited before your eyes at the table.
All were excellent, really well balanced and both beautifully and uniquely presented.
We decided to forego the tasting menu. We ordered four appetizers:
A half dozen oysters, braised pork belly, baby street corn and 40-day dry-aged beef. As you can see from the photo, the beef app is a bit pathetic for the $22 price tag. Four measly slices. While it was tasty, I liked the pork belly the best, and felt that it was a much fairer value at $15. The oysters and corn were both delicious despite being a bit overpriced as well.
We had The Kraken for our meal. This is a whole tempura fried octopus, accompanied by a yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, pickled and pickled red onion.
This is easily one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. This joint is owned by the same folks as Le Turtle, just around the corner. They, too, have an incredible octopus dish, so it’s no surprise that they nailed it here as well.
The flesh was tender but meaty. The batter was crisp and well-seasoned. It was truly amazing. I highly recommend this dish, but a pro tip: make an early reservation if you plan to order this. There are only a few available each night, and they sell out very fast.
The staff was really kind. They brought us out two complimentary small drinks, and a plate of three dessert chocolate bon bons as well.
My wife and I plan to go back to try the tasting menu soon, so stay tuned for more on this spot.