Sandro’s is a small Italian joint on the upper east side that serves up some really delicious and authentic dishes.
For example, I haven’t had a fried artichoke this good since I was in Rome.
And seeing things like porchetta and culatello in the sliced meats department took me right back to Trastevere.
Back in my wheelhouse, however, was this delicious carpaccio dish that came with white truffles.
We went a little nuts with the truffle:
It was awesome. But even this salad had me excited.
The simplicity of something like chicory and anchovy dressed perfectly with citrus is not really seen to often here, stateside. This was a totally unique salad for me, and I’m glad I listened carefully to the massive list of specials before ordering. I’m not kidding when I tell you they could open a second restaurant with just the menu items that the waiters and waitresses memorized as specials. There were about three or four salad specials, five or six fish specials, three or four meats, four pasta dishes, and a bunch of appetizers too. Oh and dessert as well. Absolutely insane.
But back to the meal. Pasta time:
This first pasta was my favorite – goat cheese stuffed cappelletti with a lemon cream sauce. This was insanely delicious.
Next up was sea urchin ravioli with a scallop tomato sauce.
And finally some rigatoni with meatballs and sausage in a nice tomato ragu.
But we didn’t stop there, because I had to try some veal dishes. First up – and my favorite of the entrees – was this stuffed veal chop.
Inside was thin sliced ham.
After that, a nice classic veal parm.
And then some giant broiled prawns.
I really didn’t think we’d have room for dessert, but I’m glad we tried this delicious pistachio cake with ricotta. This was probably one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.
And the finishing move of bringing lemon cookies with the check really took me back to being a kid and eating these at my grandparents’ house.
This place is a gem! I’ll definitely be back here to try more stuff. There is a LOT of menu to work through here.
This french joint just opened about two months ago with a really creative and unique menu. There were about eight starters that I wanted to try, but I ended up settling on three.
Black Garlic, Cynar & Bone Marrow Escargots
Incredible. The flavors, when combined, almost tasted like a really good balsamic. I’ve never really had snails like this before. Delicious.
Whiskey French Toast Foie Gras
This also had a cherry compote on it (on the toast in the background), along with some cocoa nibs and flake salt. So good. Really enjoyed this dish.
These massive head-on prawns were delicious. The spicy black garlic sauce really made them pop.
For the entree, we went with this 50-day dry aged cote de boeuf.
It comes with some tangy bone marrow and crispy fried onions, but what makes this stand out is the additional dry aging that they do in house. They get the meat at 28-days from Pat LaFrieda, but they age it for more time on site. I always find that this makes for a better aged flavor. 9/10.
We paired this with the schmaltz tater tots, which were fucking awesome.
We also had the purple and green asparagus, which was a special for the day. It had caviar and a fried/poached duck egg on top, along with a tangy hollandaise sauce.
For dessert, we took down this nice bread pudding.
This joint doesn’t have a full liquor license yet, but they do offer some creative amari type light cocktails, and a nice wine and beer list. I highly recommend this place. I know I’ll be going back to try the other apps that I wanted, along with some duck, chicken and pasta.
LE PETIT ROOSTER
491 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
Holy Ground is a new sacred place for me. I like to call it Tribeca’s answer to the West Village’s 4 Charles. Only here, along with a sexy set-up, you get a bit more space and a hell of a lot more smoke.
Now, don’t get all excited; you can’t smoke here. I’m talking about smoked meats. I struggled with how to categorize this joint, but I ultimately decided to call it BBQ rather than a steakhouse or traditional restaurant, because several of the meat proteins are focused on smoking and/or slow and low roasting. Even their grilled steaks are slow roasted first, to allow flavors to penetrate deep into that tender, pink flesh.
You step into this meat sanctuary on the northwest corner of Reade Street, just east of West Broadway. That’s a mouthful, but read it carefully again and let it sink in. The door is pretty nondescript, but you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see this:
A hostess will lead you through a dimly lit, winding corridor and down a set of narrow, carpeted stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs is a landing with a small but really fucking awesome bar parlor.
From there you can take in the vibe of this place, which is 100% my speed. It’s old tile. It’s dark wood. It’s deep reds. A speakeasy.
A few “rooms” are tucked away in nooks and crannies, up two steps here, around the wall there. Here’s the best seat in the house (when you look up):
Here is booth where we sat:
The four of us did some serious fucking damage. Let me get into it.
The cocktail menu is nice, but I had just tried a couple of cocktails (and a burger) earlier that evening at Manhatta, so I went with my usual: a gin martini. They are a bit on the small side, in those dainty, round, old fashioned martini glasses.
On a second trip, we tried both the red head and the odeon. Both were great. The odeon, on the right, is slammable!
The food menu is pretty meat-forward, but they do have some star quality fish and veggie items, which I will get into shortly.
We started with three apps and an entree to begin. I will tell you up front that we ordered nearly half of the menu, and nothing was bad. But the first thing to come out were these tremendous head-on, grilled red prawns.
They were damn delicious; one of my favorite dishes of the night. The heads hold a lot of juice, so when you pop them off, you may want some bread nearby if you aren’t going to slurp it all directly down your gullet like I did.
Next up was a plate of wings. These are smoked and char grilled, so they carry a fuckton of flavor. A great starter or bar snack.
We also grabbed the radicchio salad, which was one of my favorite items of the night. No shit. These veggies were perfect. I managed to get a shot before it was all gone, but my pic doesn’t do the dish justice. I will be returning soon to get it again.
The return shot:
We shared the beef rib as an appetizer. This is an impressive dish.
You’ll notice that sauce and color across several of the BBQ style dishes here. It has a mustard base with a little smokey and hot kick to it. Absolutely delicious. It’s like a cross of Carolina and Cajun style sauces. Very unique, like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.
The beef itself is slow smoked; tender, but still texturally intact. It isn’t some sloppy, soft, boiled, braised bullshit. This is the real deal. 9/10. And we learned that all the meats they use come from Dartagnan foods, which is a very high end purveyor of top notch proteins and gourmet ingredients.
On a second trip, my wife and I had the pork belly appetizer.
This is easily one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. The crackling is crisp, and that fermented chili sauce is killer. They only have a few of these per night, so go early if you want to try it. It is incredible!
Round two was the big show. This is where we crushed it. We couldn’t really narrow down our selections, so we just ordered everything – even the fish. We each had a different favorite too, which was pretty cool, and usually means that everything is great.
First, the wagyu brisket. This is the half-pound portion size for $21.
Again slow roasted and smoked, topped with that same delicious sauce. This is by far the best brisket I’ve ever eaten. 10/10
Next up, the Kurobuta pork shoulder. This is the individual portion size for $32.
This was so juicy. Extremely tender, and again that sauce really pushed it along into greatness. 8/10.
You may be thinking, “Well, shit, why don’t they come up with some more variety in the sauces on these things?”
My answer is this: most people aren’t ordering every major protein on the menu when they come here. Most likely just one person at the table is getting a dish that has the sauce on it. And most BBQ joints have the same sauce on the table for you to slather onto your meat anyway. No one is complaining there about variety, are they? I say it’s fine. The sauce is delicious, and it works with those three BBQ dishes (pork shoulder, beef brisket, beef rib).
Our next protein was the king’s cut prime rib with smoked herb jus.
This baby was cooked dead on to medium rare even though it was smoked for hours first. That is a feat in itself, but it still managed to stay juicy and tender. Bravo. 9/10.
Take a look at how thick it is too, and the size of the cap. This easily feeds two people who have normal appetites, possibly three.
Last but not least in the world of meat was the grilled wagyu rib eye. This “Thousand Dollar Steak,” as it’s called on the menu, is 30-days dry aged and served with a demi-glaze and onion puree.
It, too, is smoked before being grilled. This went a little over, but it was no matter because it was still incredibly tender and flavorful. The sauce reminded me of a really concentrated onion gravy like mom used to make. It had a spectacular cap too. 8/10.
But wait… there’s more! Whole branzino.
This was char-grilled to perfection and served with a nice bright tartar sauce and lemon. One of my buddies said it was just like his mom used to make, and he loved it. This was one of my favorites of the night as well.
On a second trip, I tried both the ribs and the chicken. Both were served in a different sauce than the beef items above. They were different from one another, but both were on the sweeter side. I generally dislike sweet in my entrees, but this was mild and just right, not over the top. The chicken had an almost maple flavor to it.
The half order of ribs is enough for one. There were eight good-sized ribs on the plate.
For sides, we tried the broccoli, collared greens and mac and cheese.
The mac was the most superior of the three for me, and it was wildly tasty when we dragged those thick rigatoni pasta tubes through that delicious BBQ sauce.
I’m not sure how we managed, but we tried a few desserts as well.
This was a strawberry shortcake, and it was served uniquely in a glass, almost upside down, if you will, with the graham cracker crumble as a topping rather than a crust.
A classic ice cream sundae in a mug. Vanilla and chocolate ice cream, toffee sauce, vanilla crumbs and whipped cream.
This is the Black & Blonde:
The base is a bed of toasted meringue, and on top are some toasted hazelnuts, a white chocolate bar and salted caramel.
This is one of my new favorite places to eat. Not only is the environment great, but the food and service are top notch as well. This place is going to start getting packed out, so make your reservations ASAP. I’m going back again very soon, and again and again as often as I can.
This burger is pretty damn tasty!
Dry aged patty, aged white cheddar, special sauce and pickles on a toasted English muffin. Comes with awesomely crisp herb fries. During happy hour on weekdays from 5-7pm you can get the burger, fries and a beer for $20. Great deal!
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