Tag Archives: pork

Feast

As many of you know, I occasionally gather with various friends to devour entire carcasses of animals. We call ourselves The Carcass Club. This latest “meating” went down at a joint aptly called Feast.

A buddy of mine, NYCFoodFomo, organized this as an Instagram influencer meal. It was on the house, given that we were going to glaze Instagram’s face with our “cam-shots” from this “pork-fest.”

I used “quotes” there so that you knew I was actually making a reference to something else besides food photos…

Anyway, here’s what you get at Feast, for just $75/pp:

First Courses

Flat bread with fried egg, smoked gouda, arugula and horseradish cream.

This was nice and crispy, and the arugula is even lightly dressed, which was very nice. This dish would make for a great breakfast, actually.

Brussels sprouts with lap cheong sausage, creme fraiche, grain mustard, dried cranberry and cider vinaigrette.

The sausage really works perfectly with the sprouts. Instead of the typical bacon, this swap for lap cheong was smart, because it has a similar meaty sweetness.

Second Courses

Suckling pig with gravy.

I was shocked at how well the flavor of their 24-hour brine penetrated the flesh of this 28lb pig. The meat really took on the peppercorn flavors. And one of their secrets is to use the whey byproduct from their homemade cheese making process as a tenderizer in that brine. So awesome.

They break the pig down for you and plate it into sections: head area, shoulder area, rib area, and ass/legs area. Apologies for not getting a shot of that stuff for you. It wasn’t super pretty, but it was pretty cool to see piles of meat and a pig skull.

Chicharrones with lime.

They also give you a bowl of the crispy fried skin, which some would say is the best part of the suckling pig.

Kabocha mac n’ cheese with gruyere and toasted pumpkin seed.

The sweetness of the pumpkin in this dish threw me off a bit. Perhaps I just needed to be in the Thanksgiving holiday zone to fully appreciate this one. Nonetheless, it was tasty.

Taro fries with miso aioli.

It’s always a challenge to get taro fries good and crispy. The sauce was excellent, but the fries themselves were more like mashed potato logs. Not a bad thing: just not crispy like a French fry.

Smoked mushrooms with a soy glaze.

These were fucking incredible. The smoke added such a great woodsy flavor to an already earthy and woodsy mushroom (oyster). This was my favorite item of the night.

Indochine ratatouille.

I’m generally not a huge fan of ratatouille, but this had some nice robust and savory flavors.

Dessert Course

Chef’s seasonal selection, which, during this visit, was a caramelized apple cobbler with cold maple whipped cream and pomegranate seeds. I think there was even some diced up zucchini mixed into this unique dessert.

That about does it. I highly recommend giving this feast a go. You’ll need a minimum of eight carnivores to take it down.

FEAST
102 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Beatrice Inn

Beatrice Inn overall score: 93

Beatrice Inn is a cozy West Village chophouse that’s headed up by Chef Angie Mar, who made her bones under April Bloomfield and other big time chefs before striking out with her own meat-centric restaurant. Actually, you may recall an earlier experience I had with her food at Meatopia last year.  She was roasting wild boar that day, and it was delicious.

DSC08144

Just thinking about the fucking awesomeness of that day again gives me a chubby… If you haven’t seen it, jump out to that link above and scroll through some of the pics. It was a meat eater’s heaven.

Anyway I’ve decided to treat this review as a kind of “sneak peak,” since I know with a high degree of certainty that I will be back again in the near future to try other items, and also to make sure my wife tries what I consider to be one of the best dishes in the city (I hope the suspense is killing you).

Another caveat I will mention here: I was struggling with whether to categorize this as a steakhouse or just a standard restaurant that happens to be very meat-centric. You’d think that after rating over 100 steakhouses and 60 steaks at non-steakhouses, I’d have a better grip on this shit. But Beatrice Inn is a different kind of joint, and it threw me for a loop because it’s not just about the beef; it showcases a shitload of variety in terms of animal proteins. It may not matter to avid readers who actually pay attention to my words over the numbers, but squeezing this review into my ranking system yields an artificially low score due to the constraints of my imperfect ranking system. Another reason I decided to treat this as a steakhouse is because what Chef Angie is doing is pretty unique, and she’s kicking some serious ass in a world that’s heavily dominated by male chefs. Now, you know me: I’m not one to get all “women’s lib” when talking about female chefs, but aside from Ruth Fertel (founder of Ruth’s Chris), she’s really the only other woman that comes to mind who owns/operates a restaurant that is almost 100% meat, steak, animal carcass, etc.

Last caveat: I was dining with a large group of people when I came here, most of whom I did not know very well, so I would have felt awkward taking my time shooting photos of everything the way I normally do. No one wants to eat cold food! Next time I will make sure the photos are more numerous and better quality.

So let’s (finally) get down to business…

Flavor: 9
This flavor score is an average score between ONLY the two cuts of beef that we tried; the 60-day dry aged cote de boeuf, and the 20-day dry aged wagyu hanger steak. It does not include the other items we tried, like the duck and pork shoulder, which I discuss below in the “other meats” section. Once I return to try more beef items, this score is likely to shift upward, since I saved one item that I really want to sink my teeth into for when I return with my wife (the 127-day whisky dry aged tomahawk rib eye, as seen on The Meat Show).

But anyway, back to the delicious shit we actually did try.

First the cote de boeuf:

dsc02680

This was served with roasted garlic, marrow, blistered blackberries, charred prawn butter and thyme. It had a really unique woody, smoky, charred flavor to it that grew on me as I continued eating. I had never really tasting anything like it before. It was well-rested and cooked to a beautiful medium rare with minimal grey-banding and hardly any myoglobin “bleed out.”

dsc02694

Since we shared this with a table of seven, we asked the kitchen to slice it up, which they gladly did for us.

dsc02700

While there wasn’t much spinalis dorsi (fat cap) on this cut, I didn’t really expect it due to the long dry-aging time. Remember: dry-aging beef causes it to lose nearly 30% of its weight, and then you have to trim the bark off, which, unfortunately, sometimes happens at the sacrifice of some cap meat.

The real star of our beef entrees was this 20-day dry aged wagyu hanger steak. It seems that this was the table favorite for the beef.

dsc02666

Dedicating less time to aging this cut is smart, since the hanger itself isn’t very big to begin with; any longer and you may risk having to trim off too much bark. Also, with a cut like hanger, which is normally pretty well-marbled to begin with, you are really doubling down on the intensification of flavor that you get from the dry aging process. The result for this cut is amazing. It’s one of the best hanger steaks I’ve had. It was super tender and juicy, and perfectly cooked. The beef flavor really stands out here as well, since it was wisely prepared in a more simple manner, with shallot butter and thyme. After all, they don’t call this cut the “butcher’s steak” without good reason!

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 7
Take this number with a grain of salt, as it skews low due to the limitations of my review categories. Beatrice doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly into the “steakhouse” genre, but since they offer so many wonderful animal proteins, I had to include it as one. While Beatrice only offers one traditional steakhouse cut (rib eye, in two forms) and one “other cut” (hanger steak), they really knock the shit out of the “quality” aspect to this section as well as the “other meats” category below. Most of the beef, from what I understand, comes from Pat LaFrieda, who is a standard bearer for high quality beef, especially in the Northeast. No filet. No strip. No porterhouse. I probably wouldn’t order those anyway, given all the other goodies that grace the menu here.

Portion Size & Plating: 10
Portions are generous and plating is beautiful without getting into the pretense of tweezers and excessive plate-wiping. It’s exactly what you want from a nice meal of this type.

Price: 9
I think our table enjoyed a bit of a discount since one of the people we were with is best friends with the chef. In any case, given the pricey location of the restaurant and the high quality of the menu items, it’s only natural that this place can be expensive. Luckily there are lots of “for two” or “for the table” items available that can be shared to defray costs. And the hands-down best item I tried (see “other meats” below) is a mere $27 entree. So there’s really something for every budget here. Even the high rollers can enjoy truffle- and duck egg-topped burgers for $90, or a whisky dry-aged steak that’s about $600 for a 50oz tomahawk.

Bar: 10
This joint was jumping even as we were leaving after 11pm on a Wednesday. The bar is ground floor level and feels like a speakeasy. There are some seats in a lounge type spot by the windows, and a warm fireplace at the end of the bar. In fact there are fireplaces all over this joint! I love it. The cocktail menu is really special too, with lots of unique takes on old classics.

dsc07237

I recommend the smoked Manhattan, which fills the room with a really woody aroma every time someone orders it. If you want something more refreshing and crisp, try the Big Poppa, made with truffled gin, citrus and egg whites.

Specials and Other Meats: 10
There aren’t enough points available to award here. Only 10? Here’s a list of the other meats on the menu: applewood smoked rabbit for two, milk braised pork shoulder, lamb wellington for two, chicken for two to four people, roast duck flambe for two to four people, beef cheek, braised oxtail, and whatever other specials the chef is working on in the kitchen that day or week. It’s fucking amazing.

We tried the roast duck flambe. Here’s how it comes to the table:

It had a really nice smoked flavor and is served with cherry jus, fingerlings and lyonnaise.

dsc02645

Once the presentation is made with the flames, they take it away and chop it up for easy consuming.

The absolute best item we tried, and what I submit to be one of the best pork dishes I’ve ever had, is the milk braised pork shoulder with jasmine rice soubise, hen of the woods mushrooms and sage.

dsc07011

Chef Angie has been making this dish since she was 15yrs old, so by now it has been perfected to perfection, or whatever status is even more perfect than perfect. It was bright, savory, juicy and soul-satisfying. You really need to get it when you come here, and I’m really fucking sorry that I didn’t shoot it.

We also tried the game pie, which contains wild boar, lamb, venison, pearl onions and fingerlings inside. But the suet crust is something I’ve never experienced before. It’s essentially a pie crust made with rendered beef fat, so it’s crispy and meaty, harder than a normal pie crust and a shitload more satisfying to eat. It should also be noted that the entire pie is formed around a marrow bone for good measure. Because why the fuck not? I didn’t snap a pic of this but a friend of mine who went there recently got a great shot. My description begs for an image, so I’m sharing her pic here:

A photo posted by Jean Lee (@jeaniusnyc) on

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
I apologize for only shooting the fries and tartare, but I’ll get on it next time. Everything we tried was amazing. We started with the chicken liver pate.

dsc07245

It was smooth and creamy, served with a blackberry sauce and whole grain mustard that were the perfect pairing for the pate when spread onto delicious toasty bread.

The lamb tartare was really nicely executed. It was mild and had none of that gamey flavor that you might expect. Dotted with blueberries, it had just the right amount of acidic pop to it.

dsc02640

The truffle fries were cooked to a perfect golden crisp, and went well with our aged beef selections.

dsc02649

For dessert we shared an apple “croissant” (for lack of knowing the exact term) that was topped with vanilla ice cream and a foie gras caramel.

dsc07300

It was really amazing. The croissant was crispy but soft, warm and delicately “appled.” I was really tempted to get their famous bone marrow creme brulee as well. Next time!

Seafood Selection: 8
Beatrice Inn offers halibut and branzino by way of the sea, which we didn’t try on the first trip (see update below). But we did start with some west coast oysters that were crisp, creamy and fresh. They came with a really interesting horseradish sauce that had a kick of spice to it, perhaps the same kind of smoked spice flavors you get in something like nduja or chorizo. It was wild. Anyway, while that was technically an appetizer, I figured I would talk about it here since I didn’t try any seafood entrees.

Service: 10
Top notch, really great service here. Everyone is dressed in classy, old-fashioned attire, like you’d expect at a legit steakhouse. Water glasses are filled promptly, the food comes out at the right pace and temperature, and waiters/waitresses are attentive and know their shit forwards and backwards.

Ambiance: 10
I described the bar area up above, but the rest of the joint is just as impressive. There are two rooms off the bar. One is a large dining room and one is a semi-private elevated area with a massive fireplace and a skylight. You feel like you’re in an inn or old fashioned town home, but laid back and comfortable as opposed to stuffy.

I highly recommend trying this place ASAP. It’s been a hot, trendy spot for a while now, but I can certify that it’s with good reason. It’s not pretentious like other places that trend hard in the food scene, and the food is “fuck you” delicious – every damn bite of it.

UPDATE 12/27/16

I went back twice since the review above. One the first visit, we kept it simple and got a burger. It was great, but I think it needed a crunch element to make it really pop. The 45-day dry aging process really does impart a great flavor to the meat, and the use of a mild brie for the cheese is genius.

dsc06971-fixed

dsc06995

On the third visit (yes, I like this place a lot), we tried a nice variety of new shit. To start, we went with these deep-fried dates that were stuffed with cured ham. Really fun and delicious.

dsc07241

We shared a few entrees as well. First, the branzino en croute. So nicely cooked. For one diner, this was the favorite item of the meal.

dsc07248

Yes, its a fish cooked inside a bread crust. So good.

Next was this braised rabbit for two. This was enough for three or four, for sure. The meat is so plentiful on this, which surprised the shit out of me.

dsc07259

We also went with the 30-day dry aged rib eye, since I wasn’t super stoked about the 60-day last time. This was perfect.

dsc07271

dsc07289

I only took a point off because it was a bit on the thin side. But the texture, flavor and cook temp were all remarkable.

We also had this roasted squash on the side. It had a sweet flavor profile, so I was wishing we added a scoop of ice cream to this and ate it for dessert.

dsc07266

We did enjoy the bone marrow creme brûlée for dessert, however, it was a bit light in terms of the portion size. I’d say that you get about two or three tablespoons worth of custard inside the marrow. I wanted at least double or triple that amount for the price we paid.

dsc07302

In the end, I took a point back for price (dropping from 10 to 9), and gave a point back for flavor (rising from 8 to 9).

BEATRICE INN
285 W 12th St
New York, NY 10014

The Tang

The Tang is a great little noodle bar on 1st Avenue at 7th Street. I was invited here for a PR event showcasing some of their current and forthcoming dishes. Everything I tasted was really fucking good, and, in fact, the noodle quality is probably the best I’ve had in town so far. They’re strong, thick, have a really nice texture and snap to them, and they’re really nicely flavored in all the dishes I tried.

dsc01098-1091-fixed

dsc01099-fixed

dsc01113-fixed

dsc01115-fixed

dsc01128-fixed

dsc01136-fixed

dsc01151-fixed

dsc01152

dsc01160

dsc01175-fixed

dsc01176-fixed

dsc01149-fixed

dsc01106-fixed

dsc01105

The meats in all of these noodle dishes are outstanding, by the way. One had braised pork belly, one had sliced beef, and the other had ground meats.

dsc01103-fixed

dsc01212-fixed

dsc01203-fixed

dsc01209-fixed

Some of the soup noodle bowls are excellent too.

dsc01178-fixed

dsc01206-fixed

dsc01198-fixed

But this place is more than just noodles. One standout item was the sliced beef short rib. These babies are packed with a ton of flavor, and cooked so perfectly. You don’t see short rib presented like this too often, like a real cut of steak on a plate, so I am featuring it here for my steak reviews as well. Short rib can be fatty, and that’s why it is usually either grilled hard with tons of sauce, or braised. But here, it was leaner and notably excellent at medium rare temps, because it was cooked sous vide style for 20 hours. 8/10.

dsc01192-fixed

This place is really my speed, especially given this large format pork knuckle/shank dish that will be rolling out on the menu soon. It’s super soft and tender.

dsc01239

dsc01223-fixed

dsc01224-fixed

dsc01235-fixed

I also tried a sesame tofu dish, a salad with soft boiled egg, and some sliced, rolled chicken with chili oil.

dsc01052-fixed-crop

dsc01052-fixed

dsc01033-fixed

dsc01038-fixed

dsc01046-fixed

THE TANG
120 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009

DBGB Whole Beast Feast: Pig

Many of you know that I’ve talked about Tabelog in the past, a Japanese food review website that recently launched here in the US. They approached me about helping them to attract new users to the website, so I co-planned and co-hosted a whole beast feast with them at DBGB, where we and a crew of hungry food writers and photographers tore into a delicious suckling pig like a bunch of ravenous carnivores!

DSC07968

DSC08007

This pig, which is sort of like a giant pinwheel or sausage full of various pork cuts, feeds up to 12 guests and comes with salad, grilled flatbread, veggies, pork rinds and Baked Alaska for dessert.

DSC07941

DSC07949

DSC08009

DSC08051

DSC08053

At $575, this is a pretty good value, and you can throw in unlimited select beers and wine for just $30 more per person.

DSC07940

DSC07939

DSC08047

DSC08067

The pig is plated really beautifully when it comes out to the table.

DSC08011

DSC08004

From those shots you can really see the “pinwheel” or sausage thing that I was talking about. It isn’t just a roast pig like you might see at a Flip joint. The meat was really tasty, and consists of all parts of the animal, just packaged and presented in a different way from a standard pig roast. The only downside, for me, was that the skin was not crispy. That’s the best part about roasting pigs!

In any case, I got a bunch of incredible shots of this handsome bastard’s face.

DSC07975

DSC07979

DSC08017 crop

DSC07988

DSC08021

DSC08017

I even managed to convince some of the dinner guests to pose with the pig’s head. Here’s Doug:

DSC08038

Jesse (@scrumphsus):

DSC08033

DSC08035

Jeremy (@NYCFoodFOMO):

DSC08040

Jay (@TheDishelinGuide):

DSC08039

And Yuka (@TabelogUS):

DSC08042

My boy Ben (@StuffBenEats) was a bit shy and didn’t pose with the pig. Oh well. Next time. I certainly posed with it! This shot was taken by Jay from The Dishelin Guide:

DBGB Jay Zygmunt

And here’s a shot of me getting ready to dig into the nasty bits like the brain, the face meat and the nose, taken by Jesse of Scrumphsus:

DBGB Jesse Hsu

If you’ve got a big group and you’re into this kind of “Carcass Club” dining like I am, then I think you should add this to your list of potentials. It isn’t the best roast pig that I’ve had, but it certainly was pretty tasty and made for a fun night.

DBGB
299 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

Parm

My wife and I stopped in here on a Friday night for a quick meal at the bar. We heard great things but never had a chance to try before.

We ordered three items: meatballs, fried calamari with shishito peppers, and the Randy Levine sandwich, which came with fries.

First, let’s start with the weirdly named item: the Randy Levine. It’s a sandwich made of pork belly, plum sauce, Chinese mustard, half-sour pickles and garlic bread. It’s named after something that the president of the Yankees had once eaten in the Catskills.

DSC04212

Unfortunately the “slow cooked” pork belly was a bit too chewy. I attribute that to fat content that was not cooked long enough at low temperatures to get good and soft. Also the glaze on it tasted a bit bitter and burnt. Bummer.

The fries that came with it, however, were excellent. They’re called “Italian fries” because they’re tossed with herbs and parmesan cheese, I suspect. Nicely cooked and crisp, golden brown.

DSC04202

The meatballs were great, and I’m a stickler for these fucks. Nothing beats mom’s meatballs. Since these came off as the soft, long-cooked stewed kind, I did find it odd that the center looked medium rare. That had me concerned about whether they used veal or pork in the mix. In any case, no tummy aches from raw meat, and the flavors were great – even the red sauce. It was light and flavorful. Still though: the best way to make a meatball is to fry them in a pan first, get a crispy coating on the outside that locks in the juices, and then slow cook in the sauce on low for a while.

DSC04208

The star of the meal for my wife (for me it was the meatballs) was the fried calamari with shishito peppers. They had a great crispy crust, a good ratio of rings to tentacles, and the peppers offered a great pop of flavor to mix things up.

DSC04211

All in the bill came to $85 with tax and tip, which also included a beer and a glass of wine. A bit pricey, but at least three of the four items we ate were tasty.

PARM
235 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023

Excellent Dumpling House

Day two of jury duty gave me the opportunity to finally try Excellent Dumpling House, a small joint just below Canal on Lafayette that slings some decent cheap grub.

EDH sign

I grabbed three items to fuel my sense of civic duty.

1) fried pork dumplings.
These were crispy and light. I gobbled them up pretty quickly and was waiting for my next dish. I have to say, I was impressed with these and I had very low expectations going into it.

EDH dumpling

2) bbq duck egg roll
This was just mediocre. I was expecting a more dry experience as opposed to a highly sauced inside. That’s fine. It was just a little bland and slightly heavier on the vegetables as opposed to the duck.

EDH eggroll

3) steamed shrimp and crab dumplings
These were excellent. A full, good quality and perfectly cooked shrimp was inside each, along with some crab meat mash. The sauce it came with was like a spicy cream sauce. Not a fan of that. But the dumplings themselves were great. The skin didn’t rip too much, yet it wasn’t too thick and gummy.

EDH shrimp

These three items came to $17.50 with tax and tip included.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
111 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10013

Pollo Tropical

When I’m away from NYC, I love trying new fast food joints that I can’t find back home. In Florida, I kept seeing these Pollo Tropical joints all over the place, so I had to try it.

20160116_110350

The menu is pretty simple – chicken or pork, rice bowls, platters and sandwiches. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff.

First was the guava BBQ pulled pork sandwich, which reminded me of luau pork or achiote pork. The BBQ sauce was good – sweet and tangy with a unique fruity flavor. The chicken sandwich was pretty basic – nothing special there: grilled chicken, cheese and some fixings on a potato bun. The rice bowl we tried was the same pork meat as the sandwich, but on a bed of yellow rice with black beans, onions, and corn. This was the best value, in my opinion. You got a lot of food for the money.

pixlr-01

Each sandwich item came with a side. We had fried yucca, and corn soufflé – both were excellent, and easily addicting snack foods.

20160116_131805

20160116_132059

They even serve beer from the Bahamas. Sweet!

20160116_131017

But the thing that really sets Pollo Tropical apart from other joints is the sauce selection, all free to grab as much as you want, to mix and make concoctions of your own, etc. They have things like guava BBQ sauce (as well as regular BBQ sauce), curry mustard sauce (amazing – I know it sounds bad, but trust me), garlic cilantro cream sauce (awesome for the beef selections, if available in that particular restaurant – and it has a hint of lime), pineapple rum (thing “tropical duck sauce”), spicy poyo poyo sauce (great kick from habanero peppers), Pollo Tropical hot sauce, and fresh salsa. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.

In short, I dig this place. If there was one in NYC, I’d be hitting it pretty often.

Mentoku

This joint just opened up a month ago on 9th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets.

DSC09367

DSC09368

Some things that caught my eye were that they served Hakata style ramen, which I am generally a fan of (thick, pork bone soup), and they also offer a matcha ramen, which sounded really unique. My wife and I tried them both.

First the green tea matcha ramen:

DSC09379

My wife got the lunch special deal for $12, which comes with a side of flavored rice (or extra noodles). This is the wasabi rice, with dried bonito flakes:

DSC09380

Watch them wiggle!!!

Anyway back to the ramen. This was very light (vegetarian), but it had an interesting, savory green tea flavor to it.

DSC09371

Very good for those looking to get a ramen fix but cut the calories in the process. It came topped with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, scallions and what I think was some kind of bready, fried tofu cake.

DSC09378

The flat, straight noodles were excellent. That goes for both bowls, too. However the Hakata style ramen was a bit too thin for my liking, despite the mushrooms being nice.

DSC09369

You choose bamboo shoots or mushrooms, for some reason. To get both is extra, like the egg.

DSC09370

Egg was perfect, but the pork was just one slice and very chewy. Bummer there.

DSC09375

There was still one other ramen bowl that I wanted to try, with a yuzu paste involved, so I’ll be back, for sure. I just don’t think this broth is thick enough for my Hakata, tonkotsu fix.

MENTOKU
744 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Thai Select

Kate, the owner of Thai Select, invited me and my wife into the restaurant for a press meal to sample, and yammer about, some of their delicious menu selections.

DSC08951

I nearly got killed by three people going about 40mph on bicycles getting that shot, so please take the time to appreciate it more than usual. It was partially my fault, as I wasn’t watching where I was walking, but whatever. Bicycles still suck.

Anyway this joint is located in the heart of what I am now calling Thai Town in NYC. That’s 9th avenue from the 30s through the 50s. There are TONS of Thai joints on that stretch, and competition is pretty fucking fierce! There are lots of good places to dine here, and also lots of shitty ones as well. You need to know which is which, and that’s what I’m here for.

Thai Select is one of the good ones. In fact, it’s probably one of the best. The inside is decorated with a lounge-like atmosphere, with exposed brick, a long bench seat with two-top tables going along the entirety of the wall.

DSC08953

There’s a bar on the opposite end that goes about a third of the length of the entire restaurant. There’s even a back area that is elevated, almost like a stage, for larger groups.

Chef Toni explained that on Friday and Saturday nights it gets pretty jammed. This was a Monday at 6pm, so we had some elbow room to eat, at least for a little while. It did get to nearly full capacity by time we left at around 7:30pm, which is a good sign.

They offer happy hour from 4pm to 7pm, and allow you to take advantage of those deals from your table. $4 beers is a pretty great deal, for one, but there are others as well. We started by sipping on this cocktail made with citron vodka, canton, fresh ginger and lime called the Springter. It was incredibly refreshing and bright.

DSC08958

Chef Toni sat with us and explained some of the new endeavors that Thai Select is undertaking. One is a new healthy menu, where everything is gluten free, no MSG and no saturated fats, and which highlights the health benefits of various Thai herbs and ingredients.

DSC08956

DSC08957

The offerings on this portion of the menu roll out officially next month, and they actually look really good, even the vegetarian stuff!

Chef Toni has been in the restaurant biz for about seven and a half years, and is already juggling two other joints nearby in Thai Town, in addition to this one.

DSC08955

He’s created a menu that is accessible and familiar to people of all cultures, whether it is American, Indian or Latin, in addition to classic Thai dishes and flavor profiles. Everything is made in house from scratch, all the way down to the dumpling wrappers. Toni’s expertise shines in the food. Everything we tasted was really excellent, so let’s get into it:

We started with this bowl of moo dad deaw, or “pork poppers.” This is small bits of pork jerky that are crispy on the outside and served with a spicy, “fire sauce” that reminded me very much of the sauces made in Vietnam for eating with fried foods. It’s like a sri racha, but more orange colored and slightly sweet, as opposed to all spicy.

DSC08961

I couldn’t eat these things fast enough. I ripped through that bowl like nothing. I could eat buckets of this shit. PLEASE – if you like meat snacks of any kind – do yourself a favor and order this when you go. You won’t be disappointed. If this was sold in bags, I’d be stockpiling for armageddon.

Next we tried the peanut dumplings.

DSC08963

These are stuffed with sweet turnip and ground peanut, and served with a sweet soy sauce.

DSC08964

The wrapper had the texture of a really nicely executed dim sum dumpling, but it held up to cutting without falling apart. Really tasty and healthy to boot.

Toni also brought out one of their better selling appetizer items, the crab rangoon.

DSC08978

These are hand made deep fried wanton wrappers filled with whipped cream cheese and crab meat. They were very creamy and soft inside, but crisp on the outside, and came with a light duck sauce for dipping. While I’m generally not a fan of cream cheese with any sort of meat, these were definitely addicting.

DSC08984

The entree I chose was a Bangkok spice pork stir fry wok dish.

DSC08973

It came with fresh peppers (spicy green chili and sweet red bell alike), green beans and onions. And a nice little cone of rice:

DSC08968

This was a really tasty dish. It had the kick that I expect from good Thai food, but without going over the top to blow out my palette.

My wife had what I think was the winning dish of the night. She ordered the pineapple curry duck.

DSC08969

This robust, spicy-yet-sweet curry is one of the best I’ve had. The duck was placed on top, skin side up, to keep all that delicious fried skin good and crispy throughout. This is actually smoked duck from Canada, so there is less chewy fat under the skin than normal.

DSC08976

There is no waste when you eat this – none at all. No bones, no messy picking up and chewing or gnawing through cartilage or fat, and no sticky smelly fingers afterward. It was awesome. And that curry. MAN! Toni should jar it and sell it at grocery stores. It was garnished with red bell peppers, tomato, green beans, fresh basil leaves, bamboo shoots and chunks of pineapple. Killer dish. No wonder why it is another one of their top sellers.

For dessert we had the fried bananas with coconut ice cream, which was drizzled with honey and chocolate syrup, and sprinkled with toasted and untoasted sesame seeds.

DSC08989

The ice cream was good and flavorful without being too sweet, as were the fried banana egg rolls. We washed this down with some ginger tea and Thai iced tea, which was nicely adorned with a straw-wrapper rose:

DSC08996

I love that chai tea flavor with sweet milk. It reminds me of the smell of fresh pipe tobacco for some reason.

DSC08990

That about wraps it up. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed eating. Check this place out when you’re in the area and tell them I sent you.

THAI SELECT
472 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10018

The Pines

Last month when I was at Meatopia I had the pleasure of meeting John Poiarkoff, the genius chef behind the wheels of steel at The Pines in Brooklyn.

DSC08698

DSC09563

In our inevitable conversation about meat and steak, I discovered that his carnivorous endeavors at the restaurant were not only out of the ordinary and interesting, but exemplified that rare love of beef possessed only by a true connoisseur.

For example, he explained how the blade steak (aka Denver cut, part of the chuck) on the menu was prepared sous vide style. It bathes for several hours in a sealed bag, allowing the tentacle-like marbling to render down, making the steak super tender before it gets seared off in a pan for a nice outer crisp.

He also mentioned that he had some rib eyes in an outdoor walk-in that he converted into a dry-aging room. When he said how long they were in there, 106 days, I nearly lost my shit. I kindly asked him again. “How long did you say?” 106 days!

He went on to say that they would soon be breaking the rack down into portioned cuts and serving them as special menu items. Needless to say, I was all over it. I made sure to follow The Pines on Instagram and to keep my eye out for any news about that steak. Sure enough, just a few weeks later I saw the post announcing that they were going to be serving those rib eyes. The very next day my wife and I headed over.

To my excitement, the menu was chock full of delicious looking meat goodies. We sipped on a pair of nice cocktails while we wrestled with what to order.

On the left is The Pines, a rye drink with douglas fir (burnt/smoked pine needles for a really nice woodsy, aromatic nose) and yuzu; on the right is the Air & Sea, a gin drink with dulse, lemon and violet.

DSC08619

We ended up going for three entrees instead of the traditional apps, sides and entrees routine. But before our first item came out, John sent over an order of duck rillettes. This is aged duck served terrine style with a pastrami sandwich theme: dill sauce (it tasted like pickles), a cabbage kraut, mustard and crunchy puffed rye grains.

DSC08629

This inventive dish threw us for a tasty loop, and it set the tone for what was one of the most fun, innovative and delicious meals we’ve had in a long time.

John paired the duck with this really smooth, clean sake:

DSC08643

Oh and there was this nice little amuse of carrot soup/puree with sage oil. It had a spicy and smoky kick to it.

DSC08625

Our first entree was pork jowl. If you’ve never had this, it is essentially bacon from the face of a pig. It’s cured, smoked cheek meat. If you know anything about the cheek meat of an animal, you know that it is some of the most tender and sought after bits of goodness you can find. This tasted like really awesome smoked bacon. It was savory yet slightly sweet, and sat on a pumpkin and cabbage pancake that was somewhat reminiscent of corn bread.

DSC08631

I could very happily eat that shit every morning for breakfast, though I may be tempted to throw a fried egg on top – you know – because breakfast is the perfect time to eat like a savage barbarian. Anyway this dish wasn’t heavy or greasy like you might expect from bacon. The curing and smoking helps in that respect.

Our first steak dish came out next. After hearing about that blade steak, I couldn’t pass it up.

DSC08652

John mixed the normal blade steak plate up a bit and served it with some roasted broccoli, braised oxtail and cheesy potato puree.

DSC08655

As you can see, there’s even a bit of shaved horseradish over the top to punch up the salt and tie the meat in with the potato. Really nice.

DSC08653

This steak is incredibly good. John has taken a lesser known, less desirable and rarely featured cut and showcased it in a way that will have you searching for it in every restaurant. It’s easily 10/10 for flavor. It was so juicy and tender inside. Perfectly cooked, as you can see, and the sear on the outside locked in all that flavor. It was super crispy on the outside without any part of the inside getting cooked beyond medium rare. Just awesome!

John paired this with a unique and unexpected rose, which had some tartness to it. The cool thing about The Pines is that, if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about the food you’re eating and the stuff you’re drinking. John gets to know all the people who provide his source material. The vintner of this wine, for example, or the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat and produce. He gets to know their stories, and he shares it with diners for a more rich, engaging experience. I dig and appreciate that, and it’s exactly what I was talking about on here recently – that I want to see more of it.

DSC08644

I should probably mention here that The Pines sources all of its beef from Happy Valley Meat Co., which is based out of Central PA. Both John and his sous chef Neel Patil (the creative force behind the duck rillettes dish, featured above) are extremely modest in that they attribute so much credit for the success of their menu to those farmers. While much credit is indeed deserved by the farmers, it is very easy to fuck up good meat if you don’t know what you’re doing. John and Neel clearly deserve as much credit as the farmers, because they knocked the beef dishes out of the park!

So now comes the big boy – the 106-day, dry-aged rib eye. John explained that the process for these is as follows: First it hits a hot grill for a little smoke and sear, and those lovely grill marks. Then it gets a nice warm sous vide bath. Last, it hits a hot pan to lock in all the juices and get a crispy sear. Thrice cooked rib eye! Here’s a shot of John holding our cut before it hits the pan:

DSC08656

And here it is after the pan, resting, but before serving. Just look at that gorgeous sear!!!

DSC08660

While we waited for it to be sliced and plated, John rolled out another pairing for us.

DSC08657

This wine was truly incredible. He poured us a taste from two different bottles: one that was just opened 30 minutes prior, an another that was already opened for two days.

DSC08658

The difference was astounding. The freshly opened wine was really nice and flavorful, full bodied and robust without being overpowering. It had a nice round, smooth finish. The wine that was opened for two days had all the same characteristics, but the after taste was of dry aged beef or truffled charcuterie. It was incredible! I kept going at it. It was like having a delicious meat snack with each sip, and it reminded me of the awesome Trufa Seca sausage I had with my latest Carnivore Club box. It paired perfectly with the steak.

Anyway then the masterpiece came out:

DSC08664

It was plated with grilled Japanese mushrooms, bone marrow, potatoes that were pretty much confit style, and this awesome kimchi cabbage that was finished with rendered beef fat:

DSC08673

This right here is the best steak I’ve ever eaten at a non-steakhouse, and I can tell you it seriously rivals the best steakhouses as well – it may even be better than all of them.

DSC08676

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how incredible this thing was, and I don’t know if it can really compare to anything I’ve had at a steakhouse other than the long bone wagyu rib eye at Del Frisco’s. This thing is really in that kind of league. And look at how perfectly executed this thing is:

DSC08671

It was so tender and flavorful. Every bite was a “wow,” and the cap was fucking INSANE! I’ve never had anything like it before. I was expecting a lot of game and funk with this meat, but it was just the right subtle amount of “blue cheese” flavor. It came out most when I smeared some marrow onto the slices of eye meat. And the fat around the cap was even softer and more delicious than the marrow.

I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to fit dessert into our guts as well. Probably because what we saw on the menu was new and unique. We had to try something.

DSC08694

We went back and forth between two and ultimately left it in John’s hands. He came out with both; the chocolate cake, and the miso butterscotch pudding.

The chocolate cake was mildly sweet because it was expertly cut by the cashew and sage ice cream. The pomegranate balanced the whole thing with a nice acidic and tart zing.

DSC08690

The miso butterscotch pudding is definitely something for the more adventurous dessert person. I seemed to focus my attention more on the celery ice cream than the pudding at first, but that pudding was so freaking good. The ice cream was like a palette cleanser, and the pudding was creamy and velvety – almost like a liquified peanut butter in texture – extremely innovative.

DSC08680

With dessert, we sipped on a trio of amaro selections, as well as a bitter lemon soda digestif that was made in house. Of these, our favorite was the Brovo #1 (center). It had a spicy cinnamon flavor that was easy to drink. And, as is true with the other stuff above, you can learn all about the people who make these spirits as you dine, because John and his staff are happy to share that information with you if you’re interested, like we were.

DSC08679

DSC08678

Want to hear something really amazing? This is the kitchen:

DSC08700

So small, yet so powerful. It is run like a well-oiled machine by incredibly skilled mechanics, pumping out what is absolutely some the finest food in NYC.

Please do yourselves a favor and go here. They may even give you a quick tour of the aging room out back if you ask nicely. Take a look at the ducks and steaks aging away! I think those ducks are at two weeks, and the steak is something like 86 days.

DSC08696

DSC08697

DSC09580

I went back with a crew of food bloggers and instagrammers for a nice meal around the holidays.

DSC09577

DSC09534

DSC09506

Here’s a photogasm of everything we ate, which included a duo of rib eyes – one aged for 35 days and another aged for over 80 days.

DSC09466

DSC09470

Molasses gingerbread cookies stuffed with fois gras and pistachios:

DSC09471

DSC09473

Kale salad with toasted barley:

DSC09480

Grilled radicchio salad:

DSC09484

Roasted broccoli with shaved horseradish:

DSC09491

Fettuccine with mussels and chilies in a Parmesan cream sauce:

DSC09498

DSC09509

Presentation of beef!!!

DSC09520

DSC09518

DSC09513

DSC09517

Post slicing:

DSC09521

DSC09550

DSC09541

DSC09537

DSC09546

Gnawing on the bone is always fun:

DSC09561

DSC09560

Dessert 1: bread pudding.

DSC09565

Dessert 2: herbaceous chocolate ganache.

DSC09573

We even drank some Japanese whisky from a bone marrow slide!

DSC09478

DSC09552

DSC09554

Chef John even got in on the action. Marrow luges rule!!!

DSC09555

THE PINES
284 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215