Helsinki is a BBQ joint and live music performance venue in Hudson, NY. My wife and I stopped in on our last night in town to try the food.
The space is beautiful; a reclaimed warehouse of some kind, totally refitted in a modern but old fashioned kind of way.
The upstairs is an event space for things like weddings.
There’s even a beautiful outdoor space that’s reminiscent of a walking garden path.
Anyway, the menu was really enticing.
Even the sides looked nice.
I had a couple of cocktails, one being a smokey and spicy mescal drink, and the other being a refreshing bourbon smash.
For a starter, we had the baked oysters with pimento cheese. Really fucking good. Highly recommended.
For our entree, we split a BBQ trio platter, which came with lean sliced brisket, Texas links, and ribs.
I really liked the links the best. The ribs were excellent though, and had a nice natural spice to them. The brisket was dry, unfortunately. I get that they are lean cuts, but they should still be juicy.
On the side we had cornbread, spaghetti squash and cherries.
Here’s a shot of my wife explaining the different sauces to me, since I missed what the waitress said while I was outside shooting pictures of the food.
Here she is again, patiently waiting for me to stop taking pictures of the sauces.
The white one, an Alabama style sauce, was my favorite. You definitely need to hit this joint when you’re in town. It’s one of three places I highly recommend here in Hudson.
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:
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.
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.
I’m generally not a huge fan of ratatouille, but this had some nice robust and savory flavors.
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.
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.
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…
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:
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.”
Since we shared this with a table of seven, we asked the kitchen to slice it up, which they gladly did for us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The truffle fries were cooked to a perfect golden crisp, and went well with our aged beef selections.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Some of the soup noodle bowls are excellent too.
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.
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.
I also tried a sesame tofu dish, a salad with soft boiled egg, and some sliced, rolled chicken with chili oil.
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!
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.
At $575, this is a pretty good value, and you can throw in unlimited select beers and wine for just $30 more per person.
The pig is plated really beautifully when it comes out to the table.
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.
I even managed to convince some of the dinner guests to pose with the pig’s head. Here’s Doug:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These three items came to $17.50 with tax and tip included.
EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
111 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10013
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.
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.
Each sandwich item came with a side. We had fried yucca, and corn soufflé – both were excellent, and easily addicting snack foods.
They even serve beer from the Bahamas. Sweet!
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.
This joint just opened up a month ago on 9th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets.
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:
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:
Watch them wiggle!!!
Anyway back to the ramen. This was very light (vegetarian), but it had an interesting, savory green tea flavor to it.
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.
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.
You choose bamboo shoots or mushrooms, for some reason. To get both is extra, like the egg.
Egg was perfect, but the pork was just one slice and very chewy. Bummer there.
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.