Jimbo’s is a spacious neighborhood Greek bar and restaurant in Astoria, right near the Astoria Blvd subway stop. Inside there’s a nice long bar that serves up all the standard favorites, along with some Greek specialty cocktails, like Ouzo lemonade, which is a must try. From what I understand, some nights they have live music and dancing, late into the wee hours, 11pm-4am.
Large door-style windows grace the street-side of the joint, which open up nice and big on sunny days – a real treat for the tables situated along the window. We saw a rainbow after a downpour.
With a focus on fresh ingredients, Jimbo’s serves up some really nice cold spreads for snacking with pita bread at the start of your meal. We tried a trio with a salmon caviar spread, tzatziki and a potato spread.
All were excellent, but the standout was probably the caviar spread. It was fluffy, light and had a natural brine flavor from the roe. This is a great deal for $10 and the amount that you get.
Speaking of good deals, appetizer portions are massive here, so be warned! We tried the grilled octopus and grilled sausage apps, and by time we were ready to receive the entrees, we were almost at full capacity. In fact we had to take some of the sausage home!
The sausage was really excellent. It almost reminded me of blood sausage at times, but without the mealy texture that you can sometimes experience with that. It was spiced with really aromatic stuff like cumin, and had a robust and perfectly grilled earthy flavor. I would even love this chopped up a bit finer and served in a pita with tzatziki, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. Perfection. Perhaps that item would be a nice fit for the lunch menu?
Jimbo’s offers a really interesting Greek burger on a pita with melted feta, which I had ordered, but I think that is really only offered on the weekend brunch menu. So instead I was served a standard burger with fries. I added some tzatziki on top from the cold spreads to boost it up a bit, since it didn’t have cheese.
My wife had this really nice baked casserole dish with lamb and orzo called Arni Youvesti.
It comes with a dish of grated parmesan cheese for the top, which is key, because it adds the necessary salt element into the dish. My advice is to pour it all in! The lamb was cooked perfectly. It was extremely tender and the meat was high quality.
And the orzo underneath was a nice way to make this into a hearty stew. The pasta really took on the flavor of the tasty tomato sauce.
Another enticing dish on the casserole menu is Arni Kleftiko, which is lamb with potatoes, herbs and lemon in extra virgin olive oil. Unfortunately, they did not have this available when we came for dinner, but I’d definitely try that on another trip.
The dessert menu also has some great looking items. In particular, Loukoumades, which is lightly fried dough served with honey and cinnamon: Greek zeppoles. And Galaktobouriko, which is baked Greek custard cream in phyllo dough and honey syrup. They were out of Loukoumades, and we initially planned to get that and Galaktobouriko. But after our entrees, we were too stuffed to even think about dessert! Next time we will know to manage the large portions a little more carefully so that we have room for dessert and Greek coffee.
FYI: Jimbo’s served us a free meal in exchange for an honest review.
JIMBO’S RESTAURANT & BAR
3005 Astoria Blvd
Astoria, NY 11102
Savour Sichuan serves up some authentic, spicy-as-hell Chinese food in the heart of midtown.
Executive Chef Zhong Qing Wang masterfully put together about 14 dishes for a press meal, showcasing not only his skills as a chef but the difficult-to-come-by and truly authentic cuisine of China’s Sichuan province.
The Lazy Susan in the center of the table displayed an array of about a dozen styles of pepper, including pickled peppers, dried peppers, fresh peppers, pepper powders and peppercorns.
Let me get right down to business, since there are a lot of dishes to discuss here.
Cold Chicken with Sesame Sauce
This was tender, sliced white meat chicken that was served in a somewhat sweet and savory sesame sauce.
Pork Belly with Garlic Sauce (aka “meat curtains”)
These thin slices of pork belly were also served cold, but with a hot (spicy) chili oil and garlic sauce for dipping. Really nice. I took to calling it “meat curtains” because, well, that’s what it looked like, and I have a weird sense of humor. It isn’t the official name on the menu.
Szechuan Country Smoked Pork Ribs (aka “pork wheelbarrow”)
I gave this the “pork wheelbarrow” name as well, because it looks like a little ox cart filled with small pork ribs. The meat was sweet yet spicy, and also dry yet succulent. A conundrum.
Baby Shrimp with Red Pickled Pepper
This was a spicy dish. The sliced up green fresh peppers packed heat, but the shrimp were cooked perfectly and retained a great seafood flavor with good texture.
These were classic, with a great pop of spice from the chili oil.
Crispy Cucumber (no photos)
Very simple: just raw sliced cukes with a dipping sauce.
Fish Filets with Spicy Green Peppers
Widely hailed as one of the best dishes of the night, this large, family style platter was filled with green peppers (not too spicy) and perfectly cooked medallions of fish.
As a beef guy, you know I was liking this spicy dish made from slices of tender beef that were lightly breaded and stir fried with hot peppers and served on a bed of cooked scallions.
Yellow Millets and Pork Ribs
This tasted like a broken sticky rice type of grain with small bones of pork that had tender meat still clinging to them. Very tasty.
Szechuan Pepper Chicken/Pork and Crispy Noodles
Another favorite of the night was this dish made of tender morsels of baby pork rib (our platter didn’t have chicken but it can be made with either) and fried noodle twists. This was almost like eating a bagged corn chip type of snack. I loved it.
Okra with Garlic and Pepper
I hate to say it, but I loved the okra. Yep. I loved the veggie dish. It’s a rare thing to get okra that isn’t slimy after being cooked. This was nice and fresh, even had a little crisp to it, absolutely no slime, lots of bright flavors and a good amount of heat.
Seafood with Tofu in Spicy Sauce
This was essentially shrimp in a spicy broth with fried tofu pillows, onions and bell peppers. It was herby and fresh, and it was presented with a glowing candle beneath the bowl.
Fried Soft Shell Crab
I’ve never really been a big soft shell crab fan, but these were excellent. My experience is always that the shells aren’t really that soft. They still retain a “shrimp shell” quality to them, which I don’t want to eat. These were soft through and through, and beautifully fried with a delicious batter that was reminiscent of fried chicken.
Fresh Frog Pot with Pickled Peppers (no photos)
Although I didn’t take photos, this was a nice dish as well. I would have liked more lumps of leg meat as opposed to the other bits, but the sauce was very nice for putting on top of a bed of rice.
Brown Sugar and Steamed Sticky Rice Doughnuts
These had the texture and consistency of a rice or tapioca cake, but with a crisped outer edge and some sugar on top. Very simple and mildly sweet.
Fried Yellow Bean and Rice Ball with Black Sesame Paste
We all loved these. The sesame paste inside reminded me of the red bean breakfast and dessert pastries I sometimes get from Asian bakeries downtown, only the outside was soft and powdered instead of crispy.
Here’s a 360 shot of the table, and then the dudes all together.
If you have any interest in who everyone is, check out their Instagram accounts:
I’ll definitely be back here again, and probably soon, since I’d really like to get more than just a taste of some of the dishes that I liked most. If you like spicy Chinese food, this is the place for you!
Every so often you find a joint that blows all of your expectations for a particular dish out of the water. Zundo-ya is one of those places.
The folks at Tabelog just held a small tasting event at Zundo-ya’s first US location, nestled in the crux between Union Square and the East Village – literally right around the corner from Ippudo. While Ippudo is great, and may be the spot that’s on more peoples’ ramen radar, Zundo-ya is where all those people should actually be going instead. I’m dead serious. This is my new favorite ramen spot.
Zundo-ya has about 20 locations in Japan, but what makes them stand out here in the crowded NYC ramenscape is the concept of bowl customization. Very few places feature anything that has been truly customized by the diner outside of toppings and add-ons. Here, you can also designate how intense or rich you’d like your broth (thickness, pork fat flavor, etc) and which kind of noodle you prefer (thin, straight; thick, wavy). While many joints may occasionally allow you to swap out a noodle style from what’s listed on the menu, that first metric – broth intensity/richness – is absolutely key for true ramen aficionados.
All too often I order a bowl of tonkotsu ramen and what comes to the table is a watered down, thin, weak-flavored bowl of dish water. That’s pure crap, especially these days, when we seem to be regularly paying upwards of $15 for a bowl. That problem is solved here. Simply order your broth rich or super rich.
I went all-in, with the Zenbunose ramen, which is a tonkotsu ramen with all of the available toppings.
I ordered this thing super rich, and with thick wavy noodles.
While $18 is a bit steep for ramen, I feel this bowl is truly satisfying and fulfilling. It comes with an extra helping of super tender roasted and caramelized chashu pork, a full and deliciously cured soft boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, garlic chips, dried seaweed and a blob of spicy paste. The base level version of this, without all the extras, is just $13. That’s not bad at all.
The broth was thick, almost to the level of a velvety chowder or cream-based soup in texture. The fat and salt content wasn’t overwhelming, but it was most certainly present, which is exactly what I want from my ramen. This stuff’ll make you sweat, and it’ll make your heart rate spike, but it is so worth it. The noodles were perfectly cooked and had a good stretch/snap to them as well.
I cooled off with these two excellent Kagua beers. One was darker, less filtered and had a slightly hoppy flavor (the red label), while the other was light, easy to drink and a little less cloudy (white label).
Not only is the ramen great, but this joint also serves up some fantastic sides and salads. This first one comes with bits of pork and cured egg on the edge of the bowl. Really nice touch, and a smart use of ingredients that overlap with the contents of the ramen.
The spicy fried shrimp salad was highly addictive too. The shrimp were nicely cooked with a light and crunchy batter.
And take a look at these buns! These are the very delicious spicy ra-yu pork belly buns, but they also offer a sweeter teriyaki style as well (also good). I’m usually not psyched about bun items in general, but these were pretty good because there was enough meat stuffed inside to balance out the bun with a good ratio.
The stand out starter for me, though, was the karaage; crispy fried chicken. This chicken is so tender that it’ll make you want to stab someone. And what happens when you dip these babies into the little blob of spicy mayo and dry seasonings that come with an order or karaage? Nothing short of an intense flavor explosion in your pie-hole of a mouth.
We even tried a little bit of dessert. This was ice cream with a soft mochi-like rice cake. The ice cream tasted like a really good Carvel soft serve vanilla, which is high compliments since that is my favorite thing on the planet for dessert.
I’m really excited about this place. And so is Tabelog. And Zundo-ya is excited that us blogger fools are excited as well; so much so that they’re giving out free gyoza (fried dumplings) to anyone who comes in between now and August 15th, 2016 and mentions “Tabelog” when ordering. Do it. I know I’ll definitely be back, especially given the fact that, unlike so many other NYC ramen joints, this place actually has elbow room and a comfortable amount of dining space.
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.
Taureau is a French fondue joint down in SoHo that’s owned and operated by the same badass chef dude, Didier, who runs neighboring La Sirene and cross-town East Village gem Le Village.
My wife and I were invited here to round out a trio of press dinners for Didier’s restaurants.
The atmosphere here is cozy, with dim, warm lighting. Taureau derives its name, logo and decor concepts from the Taurus zodiac sign. It’s an earth sign specifically, and everything served and used for decor is of the earth (no fish on the menu, lots of natural objects for decor, dark wood and earth tones for the seating and tables, etc).
The concept of fondue is pretty simple: melted cheeses, hot oils, mulled wines and melted chocolates, in which various meats, veggies, fruits, breads and other items are dunked and dipped prior to eating. It’s not complicated or messed with here at Taureau. As with his traditional French bistro La Sirene, Didier has kept his fondue concept restaurant straightforward, and I believe it’s the only fondue gig in town.
The fondue experience is inherently communal. No guys: there’s no LSD, cult leaders, hippies or outdoor multi-day music festivals. I only mean “communal” as in everyone is using the same cooking vessel. As such this lends itself to be a good place to go both with a group of friends, or even for an intimate date. After you share cooking vessels, you can share a bed together. And with music like Barry White playing during the meal, the mood for such behavior is subconsciously set. One caution I will give you is this: be prepared to come away with a scent of cooking oil on your clothing. Didier has some good air circulation in the restaurant, so it wasn’t as thick as I expected. However sometimes the fondue pots can smoke up a little bit, and the oil smells can cling to your fabrics – JUST the oil smells though; the cheese and chocolate smells don’t cling. So even though Barry White may have lubricated your libido while you were indulging in chocolate covered strawberries with your lover, you both may come away with a “fast food employee” smell on your persons that could ruin the mood. I suppose you can simply double down on the sexy and eat topless if you want; then there will be no smell on your clothing. However, while it’s perfectly legal to go topless in NYC, it may be frowned upon by the restaurant and its diners, and if you drip hot oil, liquefied cheese or melted chocolate on your nipples, you may regret the topless dining decision very quickly (unless, of course, you’re into that weird shit).
I have to be honest here: I had been to a fondue joint out on Long Island once and I didn’t like it very much. It felt over-priced and the food was underwhelming. But here, I knew I was in good hands with Didier. Everything I have ever tasted from his kitchens was high quality and really delicious. As such I was excited to dive in.
Okay so, basically, you choose your price point and fondue accompaniments (very reasonably priced, ranging from $43/pp to $52/pp), and soon the food starts to come out as the fondue pots heat up on built-in electric heaters that are embedded in the tables. They serve wine too, so you can pair your cheese fondue with white, and then transition over to red for the meats:
The first course is a salad along with some croutons, which is unlimited if you choose to gorge yourself:
The salad is mixed greens, lightly but evenly dressed. The croutons are for your cheese fondue course that comes out with this. We tried four different cheese concoctions. The first was a nutmeg-infused cheese, which smelled like fall:
Then a combination of various Swiss cheeses:
And a cauldron of Monterey jack and cheddar cheese:
But my favorite was this earthy truffle perigord cheese:
It went perfectly with our side items for dipping, which consisted of broccoli, chorizo, fennel sausage, and portobello mushrooms:
In particular, the mushrooms with the truffle cheese was an incredible “double-down” on the earthy flavor notes. And the chorizo went really nicely with the nutmeg cheese. The spice of the sausage was off-set and balanced by that touch of sweetness from the cheese. We kept diving in, dipping food, and dodging and ducking from any errant drips of melty cheese as we reached over and across each other. Dodge, dip, dive, duck and dodge. Just like the five D’s of dodgeball, from the Dodgeball movie:
Some drip-catching plates could have been helpful, I suppose, and I guess we could add a 6th D for the dodgeball reference, for Didier. He has truly created some really amazing cheese combinations, and that truffle cheese was the big star of the show for the evening. I just kept going at it, even when all that was left to dip was the broccoli!
After about 15 hits of truffle cheese, I thought I might be full, but then the meat course came out. Our cheese fondue pots were swapped for four new pots: red wine, vegetable oil, olive oil and peanut oil. The idea here is to dunk your meat in for varying amounts of time (depending how thoroughly cooked you want it), and then add a little sauce to it before eating. The sauces included a dijon cream, truffle red wine reduction, peppercorn gravy, gorgonzola cream and Hollandaise.
The sauces paired in unique ways depending on which meat you chose, and which fondue pot you used for cooking the meat. The meats are all marinated and pre-sliced, by the way, for maximum tenderness. Our meat selections were as follows:
Pork (cook for 45 seconds):
Chicken (cook for 45 seconds):
Filet Mignon (medium rare 15 seconds):
Hanger Steak (medium rare 15 seconds):
My favorite pairings were (1) hanger steak cooked in olive oil and topped with the truffle red wine reduction sauce; (2) filet mignon cooked in red wine and topped with the gorgonzola sauce; (3) pork cooked in red wine and topped with the peppercorn gravy; and (4) chicken cooked in peanut oil and topped with the dijon cream sauce. Really good shit.
Dessert, as you can imagine, involved copious quantities of melted chocolate. We tried both the milk and dark chocolate varieties:
We were served a plate of sliced fruit and dessert breads for dipping. Bananas, pineapples, apples, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, banana bread, white chocolate bread and even marshmallows were all involved.
You can mix and match to your heart’s desire. I was actually surprised to find that I liked kiwi with milk chocolate. Pretty interesting.
But you can’t really beat the simplicity of a chocolate covered banana or marshmallow:
That about covers it for this really fun fondue night. If you’re up for something unique and different for dinner, this is definitely the way to go. When you go, tell Didier that Johnny Prime sends his regards.