Bar Belly has a pretty great happy hour that features dollar oysters, among other deals. We went with two dozen of these delicious, crisp, clean oysters, some fries for $6, and, of course, drinks. I highly recommend this oyster happy hour. It goes until 7pm every night.
My wife and I popped in here for a quick lunch and to take advantage of the all day dollar oyster special.
The oysters were great. Mild, creamy, fresh and crisp. I only wish they also served them with horseradish and a cocktail sauce. The grilled calamari appetizer was great, served atop a salad of arugula with balsamic and orange supremes.
My wife had fish tacos, which were very nice (no pics), and I had the burger. This was great, though I wish I had gone with cheddar instead of Swiss (they were out of American). That little thing on top, under the pickles, is crispy cheese! That was a nice bonus.
We will definitely be going back here.
MILA’S FISH & HOOK
81 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
The space is beautiful, with a rustic, woodland feel to the dining room.
There’s also a beautiful bar with great cocktails and $1 happy hour oysters from 5-7pm (along with drink specials).
We started with a couple of raw fish dishes. Hamachi tartare and fluke crudo.
Both were awesome and pretty, but if I had to choose one to go back to repeatedly, it would be the hamachi.
Chef Ryan is becoming known for his gorgeous plating – very aesthetic. He also became known for his 50/50 burger at Charlie Palmer. It’s 50% smoked bacon and 50% brisket, with some dry-aged wagyu trim and fat in there to take it over the top.
The only down side here was the thickness of the pickled tomato slice. Half the thickness would be perfect, but that acidy pop did do a great job of cutting the buttery fatness of the rich and well-seasoned burger.
Make sure you don’t neglect the fries here with your burger. They’re amazing and possibly some of the best I’ve ever had.
All the sides were nice, in fact, from the shishitos to the carrots to the greens.
The pastas here are also excellent. We tried two: ramp garganelli with morels, and squid ink cavatelli with uni cream.
It was tough to choose a favorite between the two perfectly cooked and plated pastas, so I suggest getting both if you have room.
But the mains really shined.
First, this absolutely stunning duo of duck containing crispy sliced breast and a house made sausage.
The breast was nice but the sausage stole the show – like when Lex Steele stars in a porno flick with some ugly broad that has gross fake tits.
Of course we had to try the 45-day dry-aged Snake River Farms domestic wagyu rib eye.
This thing was incredible. It had a sexy, deep brown maillard crust on the surface and a rare cook beneath. You can still see the flecks of marbling in the flesh! It could have been cooked slightly longer, but the beef was so high quality that you could eat it like this even without the fat fully rendering out. 9/10.
Dessert was equally stunning. This choclate layer cake with pistachio ice cream was really rich and moist, like Paris Hilton in 2003.
This custard was light yet very satisfying.
And this asian style grapefruit/pomelo dessert was just the right kind of acidy and citrusy way to end the meal with a cleansed palate.
I definitely recommend this place. And if you want a seat close to the action, head to the back and pop your ass onto one of the stools that faces into the kitchen. Be warned though – it’s warm back there!
It was our last night in New Orleans and I realized we hadn’t tried any jambalaya yet. We were snacking on oysters and sipping drinks at Red Fish Grill while waiting for our next dinner reservation when I saw jambalaya on the menu. I had to get it, despite knowing I had dinner in an hour.
It was filled with shrimp, andouille and chicken, and the rice had a perfect risotto type of texture and spread to it. Aside from the fact that the shrimp weren’t de-veined and de-pooped, this was an excellent dish. Not too salty, as these can sometimes become.
As for the oysters, very good. Crisp and fresh, but not quite as good as Legacy Kitchen.
RED FISH GRILL
115 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70130
My wife and I stopped into Crave Fishbar for their daily oyster happy hour. From 5pm to 7pm (4pm-6pm on weekends) all oyster varieties are just a buck each. We each tried one of each kind (along with some other snacks and drinks):
As strange as it was, our favorites all contained the word “point” in the name.
The calamari was really nice too. A perfectly dusted and fried batter, and really tender squid inside.
But what really blew me away at this place was their red crab cavatelli. The cavatelli is home made, and is torched/crisped up so that some of the edges are actually crunchy and al dente. Here are the before and after mix shots (beautiful colors):
I highly recommend that dish. It’s pricey, but worth it. If the pasta is all you’re after, they also have another cavatelli pasta dish, without the crab.
Overall, this place is great. We will definitely be back.
428 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
One Sunday afternoon my wife and I went on a hunt for oysters in the neighborhood. The first place we went to was closed for renovations (they usually have dollar oysters), but we always wanted to try this place ever since we saw it first open.
They had oysters, so we got our fix. Three east coast and three west coast, times two, so we could each try one of each variety.
They were all great and really fresh. The cost goes down as you order more, so this plate of a dozen came out to $3 each, or $36. A bit high considering we were starting off with the idea of paying $1 per oyster, but we were happy with the quality. A few of the varietals normally cost upwards of $4 a piece. We both liked the Kumamoto style the best.
Next up was their seafood pizza.
This elongated beauty of a pie was a bit pricey at $20, but also very tasty. I don’t mind paying up a bit if the quality is good. The only critique here is that the pie could have used some shaved parmesan cheese to finish at the end, and perhaps a sprinkling of some crispy prosciutto.
BLUE SEAFOOD & PIZZA
856 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019
I recently teamed up with @LetsDutch to organize a large format meal and promote the awesome service that they provide for their users. In case you missed it last time, I’ll explain a little bit about what Let’s Dutch is again.
Have you ever wanted to partake in a group experience but had trouble rallying your friends to join? Well, now you don’t have to miss out on that event. Let’s Dutch allows you to host or join in group events, curate a guest list and securely pay for things ahead of time. It can be used on anything from super luxurious vacations to simple discounted group rate experiences around town.
You’re essentially crowdfunding your fun, sharing the experience and splitting the cost.
The cool part is that you get to know people with similar interests. For example, in the two large format dinners I’ve done through Let’s Dutch, I’ve cultivated at least a half a dozen friendships.
So for this “meating” of the Carcass Club, we had a beast feast with some pork shoulder at Momofuku Ssam Bar. This is known as their large format Bo Ssam feast, which feeds 6-10 people. Let’s Dutch President Vincent Paradiso and I stacked the seats with four or five Instagram influencers, and then held a sweepstakes giveaway for the remaining seats.
Here’s how the meal went down.
We started with the famous pork belly buns. These were fantastic. Super tender, highly flavorful.
Then the Bo Ssam items started coming out. First the lettuce wraps and Korean sauces.
Then the oysters, which are meant to be placed into the lettuce wraps along with the pork and sauces.
And finally, the massive hunk of pork shoulder.
Pictures don’t really do this thing justice. To get the scale of it, you should really see it as it is being pulled apart with tongs.
The meat was tender and delicious, especially the fattier parts that held in a lot of juiciness.
We also had some nice mushroom soup with lotus root. This was absolutely delicious, and might have actually been my favorite part of the meal.
And then some dessert: green tea creme brulee with miso and blueberry crust.
And toffee cake with brown sugar ice cream.
The toffee cake was the big winner as far as desserts go. Great meal, great people, great service. I highly recommend both the large format feasts at Momofuku AND the Let’s Dutch service.
NOTE: THIS PLACE HAS MOVED AND I HAVE AN UPDATED REVIEW: CLICK HERE.
My wife and I were recently invited to Nai, a Spanish tapas bar in the east village, for a press dinner.
This place slings classic Spanish tapas that hail from Galicia, but they also serve some high-end molecular gastronomy as well as fine dining cuisine. But at first glance, the inside might not make you think about fine dining. By no means do I mean to suggest that the decor is not good. On the contrary. It’s set up like a warm, inviting and cozy tavern. Very low key. There’s lots of custom dark wood fixtures and furniture, and even some artwork on the walls.
On the food and service angle, though, this place is nothing short of 5-star dining. What you’re getting here is high quality fine dining in a cozy, rustic setting, with beautiful plating and stellar service, all at an affordable price. The 40 different tapas on the menu range from $6 to $15 a piece. I mean, shit… they even offer a prix fixe deal for 12 or more guests: 10 dishes and unlimited open bar for 2.5 hours at just $45. That’s unheard of!
The wine list is 95% Spanish, and all the beer on tap and in bottles are also Spanish, with the exception of one Ommegang farmhouse saison (one of my favorites, which was served with our first courses). I tasted this refreshing wheat beer:
In April or May, Nai will expand its space into an upstairs second floor, which will have an open view test kitchen and a more experimental menu. In addition, the wine list will become 100% Spanish, with a much larger selection.
They offer happy hour specials, a live flamenco band and flamenco dancing on Thursdays and Saturdays, and six different flavors of sangria, including mango and blueberry. Pitchers of sangria are just $22 during happy hour and all night Monday through Wednesday.
Nai means “mother” in Gallego, which is meaningful because Chef Ruben has garnered all of the traditional tapas recipes from his mother (also a chef and restaurateur), and in turn, his mother’s mother. He’s added his own touch since studying under famous Spanish chefs from Europe, picking up newer, more modern and more technical styles. There are 15 tapas that he considers to be core items, which are always available on the menu. The other 25 items change seasonally.
Having grown up in his mother’s restaurants in Spain, Ruben is comfortable in, and passionate with, his craft. He’s always striving for more, to be better, to take his food to the next level, and he’s constantly shooting for perfection. This passion is reflected in his food, as what I tasted at this meal was truly some of the best tapas I’ve ever had.
Essentially we had a multi-course fine dining experience here, with wine pairings for each. I’ll take you through each course below.
This first bite was a hint of that molecular gastronomy style of high-tech cheffery. It looks like an olive, but it is essentially a small edible water balloon filled with liquefied olive. A great way to open up the taste buds.
Next up was a platter of thinly sliced jamon and a bowl of marinated REAL olives. Very simple, very beautiful, and very delicious.
Those two courses paired with the Ommegang farmhouse saison.
These mini-airbags were like a crispy yet soft pastry filled with creamy manchego cheese foam. It was cool and savory. I immediately exclaimed that I could pop these for hours. Very deadly.
There was also this delicious plate of bluepoint oysters with a lemon foam as garnish. These go for $14 per half dozen. Not bad! They’re bright, crisp, creamy and fresh.
Those bites were paired with cava that was mixed with lemon, orange rind and fresh mint. Watch as David Martinez, co-owner, wine director and general manager, swirls it up before pouring:
The next course was one of two favorites for me; a delicious sea bass wrapped in thin-sliced crispy toast and then topped with asparagus that was wrapped in prosciutto. What a perfect bite here! Soft, crunchy, savory, juicy and light.
In fact that’s something that runs through all the courses here: lightness. Nothing felt heavy or burdensome to eat, which is a feat given the ham-heavy offerings available here.
Shrimp in garlic sauce was next. The sauce on these babies was amazing. We sopped it up with some bread after devouring all the perfectly cooked shrimp in the skillet.
This next dish is crab meat wrapped in avocado and then topped with crisped ham sprinkles. It was a lot like a sushi roll, though I felt that it needed a touch of finishing salt. The crispy ham on top didn’t quite have that savory salt-punch that I expected. In any event, this was a light, fresh and creamy-textured dish.
Those fish items were paired with an albarino single grape wine that was crisp and refreshing.
This palate cleanser was watermelon infused with sangria and topped with mint leaf.
The next dish was smoked chicken with Asian bbq glaze. The chicken is pre-smoked with hickory wood, then cooked sous vide style for hours, then glazed and skewered. The presentation is great with this dish. Watch as David lifts the cloche and wafts the smoke:
The chicken was tender and soft, and the glaze was key for adding that salty, spicy-sweet kick.
We also had these fried croquettes that were filled with ham. They had a potato and cheese flavor and feel, with a crisp cornmeal texture on the outside.
This pork belly was super soft, and was served with a carrot puree and toasted pecans. It reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner!
These bites were paired with a three-grape red wine blend of cabernet, temperanillo and monestrell grapes. Super smooth.
Here comes my other favorite of the night: spicy basque chorizo, with manchego cheese and piquillo pepper on toast, topped with a fried quail egg. This is upscale breakfast at its finest! It had spice, smoke, fat, and ooey-gooeyness. The texture was dynamic.
The final savory course was this short rib platter. It came with fire roasted shishito peppers and diced potatoes in a cheese sauce. Very hearty but not heavy. It was a Spanish tapas nod to great American BBQ, if I had to fit it into a pre-conceived food notion.
These were paired with crianza red wine from an area south of Rioja, made with a temperanillo grape called “tinto fino.”
For dessert we had a small stick of pear flavored cotton candy. It was fun, and actually tasted like a mix of pear and sour apple.
Finally, there was this incredible chocolate filled churro. The outside was crisp and light, and the inside was soft and fluffy. It was filled with a melty chocolate and nutella mixture that was decadent.
Dessert was paired with a nice sweet white moscatel dessert wine.
This place is amazing. I will definitely be back for happy hour, sangria night and flamenco night. I think my next party or event will probably be here too. There’s amazing food, amazing service and everything is really fairly priced.
A good thing to know for those with diet restrictions: Chef Ruben whipped up this vegetarian menu with only 30 minutes notice regarding one of the press meal invitees. I tasted a few things from this menu, and they were all delicious.