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.
Mannino’s is a local Italian joint near my parents’ house on Long Island. It’s gotten a lot of buzz in the last few years, and the food is pretty great. I’ve been there several times, but this time I decided to document the meal.
We started with octopus salad:
Stuffed and fried zucchini blossoms:
And an order of fried calamari:
The fried calamari was a bit on the small side in terms of portion size, but if you’re taking it down all by yourself, then it’s probably just the right amount. The squid was fried to a nice crisp, but still tender on the inside.
The zucchini blossoms were stuffed with ricotta and were a little more dense than I expected, but still tasty nonetheless. I wished there was four in the order, since we had a table of four. We made it work, however.
The octopus salad was good. The squid was tender, and the acid from the citrus cut nicely across the dish.
For my entree, I had pork parmesan. I’ve been dying to dig into some of the incredible looking bone-in chicken parm dishes I’ve been seeing lately in NYC, so this pork version was the perfect way to get my fix.
The meat was incredibly tender, pounded flat and fried up to a crisp. Good cheese coverage and melt, and the sauce was delicious. Great dish.
My wife had the beef braciola. This is beef that’s pounded flat and rolled up with cheeses, pine nuts, cured meats and raisins. Really nicely executed.
Get over to Mannino’s if you live in the area and haven’t been there yet. And keep an eye out for their tomahawk steak for two; they have it on special some nights.
1575 New York 27A (Montauk Highway)
Oakdale, NY 11769
I’ve been meaning to check out Death Avenue because I was always intrigued by the name. Death Avenue was the notorious nickname given to 10th Avenue due to all of the railway deaths that occurred there in the old days, when trains ran vertically up and down the avenue to service the warehouse and meat packing districts.
In any event, the joint is Greek-inspired, but also had some classic American staples like burgers and BBQ.
The cocktail list is excellent.
I tried the Banana Bourbon, which was light and smooth, and definitely banana-infused. My wife tried the Mastiha Mint (Mastiha is a kind of tree – its sap or extract is used in the drink). It was refreshing like a mojito.
We started with fried pickles. Pretty basic. The dips were interesting: a BBQ cause, tzatziki and some kind of hollandaise-isa sauce. The pickles were tasty, but the batter slipped off too easily.
My wife ordered the 8 Hour Octopus app as her entree. This was pricey at about $26, but it was tasty and somewhat substantial enough to eat as an entree if needed.
I had the Feta Burger. This was stacked way too tall, but overall it was a decent enough burger to satisfy my cravings. The oregano fries that came with it were great.
I’d say this was a great place to have a few drinks and snacks, but I’d skip making a whole meal out of it.
Not really a big deal, but I figured I would mention that just for the fuck of it.
My wife and I noticed this joint while walking around the ‘hood, and since we are always interested in trying new noodle joints, we figured we would give it a shot.
We started with an order of fried octopus balls – not ‘pus testicles, but, rather, fried spheres with a creamy octopus-based filling.
These were excellent. Super tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Hot though, so careful when you pop these balls into your mouth.
I’ve been on a Japanese fried chicken kick lately, so the next thing we tried was their fried chicken appetizer. For just $6.50 this was a great deal. Lots of good, juicy, tender thigh meat with an excellent golden crisp batter on the outside.
The way to go here is ordering their combination platters. My wife got this combo deal that came with soba noodles, sashimi, tempura and some other nice bits.
You can choose hot or cold soba (she picked hot), and small, medium or large orders are all the same price (S=100g; M=200g; and L=300g). Pictured above is a large.
I ordered a combo that came with soba noodles and a chicken and egg rice dish.
I, too, ordered large and hot.
I think, though, the noodles weren’t the star of the show here, as odd as that seems. All the stuff AROUND the noodles was better. Maybe because we picked hot/soup style? Perhaps the best way to go is cold noodles or tsukemen style (you dip the noodles into concentrated and flavored broth/sauce).
One last pair of things to mention: the desserts. My wife’s combo came with a scoop of ice cream. They were out of black sesame so she picked green tea. It was good but not quite sweet enough for my tastes. I generally dislike all things green tea, so take that assessment with a grain of salt.
That said, I was intrigued by the idea of a green tea tira misu, so I had to order it.
It was amazing. The green tea wasn’t bitter – it was sweet. And when we combined the tira misu with the whipped cream and sweet red beans in one bite, the flavors were outstanding. I highly recommend this for dessert.
SOBA NOODLE AZUMA
251 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019
So what makes this burger so good? Perhaps it’s the iberico jam, the black garlic sauce, or the aged cheddar cheese sauce. Maybe it’s the perfectly cooked patty, or the roasted grape tomatoes on top. Whatever it is, it’s the perfect union of flavors. And, I mean, come on… look at this fucking thing.
Everything about it just works.
My readers know me, though: I always want a crunch element, and that’s the only thing that was missing in my eyes. But this is nearly perfect, and definitely has a spot on my top five list for restaurant burgers.
Interesting quirk: the burger comes with roasted Brussels sprouts rather than French fries. I didn’t see any fries on the menu, but they’re not very popular in Italian cuisine anyway. Perhaps some fried polenta would satisfy the starch pairing/craving for this burger though. In any case, this burger kicks a whole lot of ass.
But the burger isn’t the only thing that kicks ass at Suprema. Check out this menu and see what items cause your undies to bulge.
We tried a bunch of shit when we went, in order to help promote for the restaurant. Cheers to that.
Realistically though, ever since Gotham Burger Social Club posted their review, the restaurant has seen a big influx of customers. They’re doing just great without my pictures. But here we go…
This had a great green olive tapenade and more of those delicious roasted grape tomatoes. The octo itself was super tender, crispy, meaty. On the bottom is a pair of black crispy fried polenta squares. Perhaps they’re colored with squid or octo ink, or maybe even the black garlic that we saw in the burger. Either way – tasty.
Crab & Uni Fettuccine
This was my least favorite of the night. But since it was still a good dish, that’s not a knock in the slightest. For my taste, it was a bit fishy (likely from the warm uni) and lacked a bit of salt. The crab was excellent, however, and the pasta was perfectly cooked.
Braised pork, bechamel sauce and ricotta are layered into this shit, and everything is baked into individual cast iron dish-pans. The very bottom was a bit watery and didn’t “set” properly, but that’s nothing a few minutes of waiting will cure before diving in. We savaged the fuck out of this very quickly. Excellent dish.
These are pretty great, and I’m a harsh critic when it comes to meatballs. It’s tough to beat mom’s. Firm, but not hard. Tender, but not mushy. Rich with flavor and properly cooked. A little bit of crusty sesame Italian bread to sop up the delicious sauce here, and you Paisans out there are all set.
Most people like me would cringe at the idea of ordering chicken at a restaurant when there is clearly a pork or beef option available, as well as shitloads of salumi. But I, and those like me, would be missing out at Suprema if we ignored the chicken. This shit was fantastic. It’s brined for many hours, so the flavor penetrates deep to the bone. Not only is the flavor good, but the meat is juicy and tender – like Kim Kardashian’s ass cheeks, only less fatty. The skin is rubbed with a spice mix and roasted to a delicious crisp. Even the tit meat is on point, and not even one bite was dry. This fucking dish is mint.
This joint reminds me a lot of the salumeria spots in Italy that I loved so much. I’m sure I will be here a lot in the weeks to come, taking advantage of the delicious Summer cocktails they mix up, and enjoying the open air but shaded tables along 7th avenue in the West Village.
In summary, get the fuck over to this place as quickly as you can. Go. Don’t be an asshole.
305 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
Antique Bar & Bakery is a new joint in Hoboken. I know what you’re thinking: Fuck Jersey! But for real, everything at this place is absolutely amazing. And I can’t in good conscience fuck with Jerz: I’m from Long Island, and everyone knows that LI, NJ and Staten Island are all retarded cousins from the same demented family.
Anyway, when you walk in, you feel like you’ve entered someone’s home. It has an old school feel to it. There are a few nice nooks for seating, and a great bar with really nicely fashioned cocktails.
In the back room, you’re basically IN the kitchen, which is really fun to experience. The skylight overhead illuminates the room with a nice, pleasing natural light.
The back wall boasts an insane coal oven that cranks up to over 1000 degrees, and then to the left of that, there’s a cooler area (about 500 degrees).
On the side wall is all your normal kitchen gadgetry like a gas oven, burners, sinks, expediting station, etc.
Okay but enough about that – let me get to the food. Chef Paul Gerard is doing amazing things here. Everything has a sense of familiarity, but also a sense of “newness.” He’s accumulated aspects of Soul Food, Cajun/Creole, Italian, American and French cuisines and balled them up into a delicious, enveloping and immersive experience: especially when you sit in the back near the kitchen (a must-do if you’re anything like me).
We started with a snack of blistered shishito peppers and pickled watermelon. The peppers go into the hot coal oven and finish up really quickly – like within a minute. It’s pretty neat because you can feel the capsaicin in the air once they get cranking. If you sit close like we did, you may sneeze or cough a bit. That’s how IN the kitchen you are. So cool. It makes you feel like you’re part of the staff.
Raw Fennel Salad with Burnt Orange Marmalade: All the burnt items are done right in their crazy oven. They add a great natural bitterness to the food (and cocktails), which cuts the fat and sweetness of any complimentary ingredients. This salad was awesome: crisp, fresh and satisfying.
Hot Oil Shrimp: Incredible dish. Really nice heat from the peppers, and the shrimp retain a lot of shell flavor from being blasted in the oven. Perfectly cooked.
Rice Balls: I mean, these guys even managed to make rice balls interesting, new and fun. The outside is really crisp and the inside is soft and gooey from the provolone fondue. You need to try them.
Fresh Mozzarella: This shit is made to order, right there at the prep counter. You can watch the guy stretch and pull until its ready. It’s topped with some cracked pepper and a few cherry tomatoes. Eat this quickly while it’s still warm, otherwise it can firm up a bit and lose its softness.
Burger: The only slight I will make about this entire meal is that the burger was a bit overcooked for our liking. But the flavor was off the hinges, even though our burger was medium-well. It gets some dry aged fat (carved right off the steaks), some chuck and some flank in the grind – made in house, obviously.
It’s topped with shredded cheese, spicy fries and pickled chili peppers. Despite the shape of the burger being spherical, it really was formed well: Loosely packed and not overworked; hollowed out top bun so it isn’t too tall and unwieldy. This burger has real potential to be one of the best around. I need to come back and try it again, and make sure the temp is pink through the center. Don’t shy away from ordering it just because mine was a bit over.
Whole Octopus: This is a special menu item, which you can order as a half or whole portion. The octopus is treated in a similar way as the shrimp, but it is tossed in an olive puttanesca sauce that really blew me away. It was cooked very nicely too: snappy to the tooth, but not chewy. Great char flavor from the oven.
Whole Fish: This was black bass, and it was really damn delicious. When you cook seafood hot and fast, you retain all that great juiciness in the flesh, so that nothing ever dries out. That’s what happens with the fish here. You can’t go wrong.
Whole Chicken: Absurdly delicious, and I’m not even really a chicken man. This is plenty big to feed the table.
Dirty Rib Eye: I was amazed. I watched as Chef Paul went through the entire process, and I even got some good video.
First, he broke down a 28-day dry aged rack of ribs that the restaurant got from DeBragga Meats. Antique Bar & Bakery has its own shelf in the DeBragga dry-aging room.
The steaks are allowed to come up to room temperature so that they cook better.
Once they’re ready, they’re coated with coarse salt, slapped on a cast iron skillet, and then popped into that ripping-hot coal oven for about five minutes. This hell-fire licks every square inch of surface area on the meat, giving it a great outer crust.
The steak is then pulled out of the crazy oven, placed onto a bed of herbs, hit with some drawn butter, and then finished in the other oven until the center comes up to the proper temperature.
Finally, it rests for a while before being sliced and plated – sometimes up to 20 minutes. While resting, it gets brushed with more herbs, so you really get that great herb flavor with each bite.
Alright here’s the video. I made you suffer through reading all of that first before linking it, because I’m a dick.
The herbs really make it. In fact, they have herbs drying and hanging all over the back room. It was pretty cool, and reminded me of my dad’s garage, which always seems to be decorated with dangling peppers and herbs from his garden.
Needless to say, this steak is an easy 10/10 for flavor. It’s really unbelievable. I suggest you get out there immediately to try it.
Hard Herb Hanger: Perfectly cooked, great crisp on the outside, and wonderful flavors from the herb roasting process in the ovens. This is a great option for those who aren’t willing to go big with the rib eye but still want to eat beef. Just $23? Awesome. 8/10. We actually had this come out alongside our desserts and we still devoured it instantly. Haha!
All entrees can be consumed with a variety of available sauces. We tried them all, but I really liked the herb puree and puttanesca the best. As for the steaks? No sauce needed. There’s so much flavor on those babies already.
Okay let me address some of the fantastic sides we tried.
Charred Kale with Pickled Chilis: Really nice acidic punch. This is similar to something like collared greens in Soul Food cuisine, only with a new twist.
Blackened Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts: Awesome. This is my new favorite beet dish. And if you’re one of those weird bastards that doesn’t eat meat, then this is the way to go for you. Very satisfying, satiating and fulfilling.
Fava Beans: Holy shit! Traditional French styling here with butter and shallots, and finished with mint, but so great. I kept going back for more of these green delights. Probably because they’re served with Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette, a raw cow’s milk cheese.
Fingerling Potatoes: As I said above, Chef Paul is making things in a new way here. These babies are roasted with dried, aged, shaved Bottarga fish flakes (similar to what you might see being used to make dashi broth, but more specific). It might not sound that appetizing, but it adds such an amazing earthy flavor to the potatoes. Trust me. And with a topping of cheese and that awesome crisp from the hot oven, this side is not to be skipped.
Now on to the desserts. We tried a few, and all of them were excellent, just like every-fucking-thing else in this meal.
Lady Ashton’s Dirty Chocolate Cake: Served family style in a large cast iron skillet, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten. I’m not huge on chocolate either, but I loved this.
Frozen Cannoli: This is essentially a cannoli in sundae form. Incredibly tasty, and equally beautiful.
Dandy’s Decadent Cookie (with sweet milk ice cream): This baby is baked to order, and it is a massive, soft, delicious cookie with ice cream on top. This is my kind of dessert.
Burnt Lemon & Marshmallow Pie: I have a weakness for this type of stuff. It was a great twist on lemon meringue pie.
TCB Sundae: This is based on the Elvis sandwich. Burnt banana bread, caramelized banana, peanut butter ice cream, candied slab bacon, milk chocolate covered potato chips, and all of it draped in gold! Just like Elvis would want it baby! Chef Paul rocks harder than Elvis, if you ask me.
Holy shit. Is that everything? I’m dying to go back here. Get your ass out to Hoboken ASAP. You will thank me.
This place just keeps getting better. Not only was the Dry Rib Eye even more heart-stoping than last time, but this time there was a new burger being offered. Check it out:
That’s right – he takes a whole 40oz rib eye and grinds it up right there for you. This makes four burgers and is off off menu, so make sure you call and ask for it ahead of time with a group.
That’s a dry-aged rib eye with aged cheddar cheese sauce, fresh herbs, garlic puree, chilies, pickles and a house made bread. The fries are cooked in beef tallow. Awesome. This is my new favorite steakhouse style burger. Nothing comes close.
We also tried some pasta dishes:
Excellent hot oil shrimp:
Pork cheek parm! Beef cheek is also available sometimes as a special, and with an egg on top for the brunch special.
And these ribs, called “Buried Bones” – there bad boys are wrapped in banana leaves with spices and buried under hot embers from that monster oven. Slow cooked for 8hrs they are insanely tender. The best ribs I’ve ever had.
And just for shits and gigs, lets look at that steak progression again:
ANTIQUE BAR & BAKERY
122 Willow Ave
Hoboken, NJ 07030
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.