I finally made it over to Ernesto’s! I’m happy this place is really close to home. Check out my Ride & Review video HERE first, and then read on below.
Firstly, the cocktails here are excellent! A bit pricey at $18, but worth it for the skill and flavors.
We tried a bunch of starters. Everything was excellent, but the stand-outs were the croquettes, the squid, the anchovies and the tripe.
They didn’t have the txuleta (vaca vieja) special on this trip, so we went with the rabbit rice and the blood sausage. Both were great, but we preferred the blood sausage out of the two. It was light and refreshing, which was a complete surprise to us. Blood sausage is usually so heavy!
For dessert we had flan and Basque style cheesecake. Between the two, the cheesecake was the winner.
I will definitely be back here to try the steak when they have it on special again.
I took my wife to Ume for her birthday. This place serves an Omakase set of 12 pieces for $73.
Everything is really delicious, but my favorite three bites were the red snapper (center, with broccoli florette), the fatty tuna belly, (bottom center, with truffle) and the quail egg with crispy fish skin (center right).
We also grabbed this “literally everything don” bowl, which was better than the actual omakase (and more killing) for just $60.
Really enjoyed that.
A few negative things to note here: the enclosed outdoor garden area is too cold for winter dining. They leave the door open between the inside area and the garden, so even if you’re sitting inside, you’re going to be cold. To make matters worse, they double down on that chill factor with their “no shoes” concept (my toes were icy). Sitting on the floor isn’t too comfortable either but I’m not really gonna complain about that. I didn’t mind it so much.
A $7 cubano sandwich stuffed to the gills with pernil, a $4 banana shake, a juicy-ass half roast chicken and an ungodly amount of yellow rice? You can’t go wrong at El Castillo de Jagua. This second location, which is right near our new place, offers some amazing food at amazing prices.
The Cuban was probably our favorite. Definitely could benefit from extra pickles and extra ham, but at $7 bucks with perfectly toasted and pressed bread, lots of pernil, and little grease, we were thrilled.
Speaking of, the pernil entree itself was juicy and MASSIVE in terms of serving size.
The roast half chicken comes with exquisitely crispy skin that somehow still remains juicy as well.
The fried pork meat was a blast. It reminded me of Chinese boneless spare ribs, but less sticky sweetness and more of crispy savoriness.
The main dishes come with copious amounts of rice. We picked yellow instead of white. Beans came with the mains as well (not pictured individually, but see the last photo for the serving size to the left of my hand).
The fried plantains had just enough sweetness to make them almost dessert-like.
Speaking of desserts, we were impressed with both the banana and sour sop shakes.
I can NOT wait to explore this menu some more!
EL CASTILLO DE JAGUA
521 Grand St A
New York, NY 10002
My wife and I tried Dhamaka last night, using a gift certificate that our friends gave us as a housewarming.
We started with some of their delicious cocktails, and then moved right into some meaty apps. The first thing that came out was my favorite item of the meal – lamb ribs!
These had such awesome flavor and tenderness. The mint chutney that came with it is something they should sell by the jar!
Next up, smoked goat belly. This was cleverly presented in a tiny barrel smoker:
It was a bit too aggressive on the salt level, but over all we loved it. It was similar to some kofta / meatball skewer dishes that we’ve had.
These prawns were a little bit overcooked, as they were difficult to pull from the shell. They were spicy and really tasty, however. Especially the heads.
Our first main was the stewed mutton dish. They smush an entire bulb of roasted garlic into this, paper and all, so be prepared for dragon breath as well as picking garlic paper out of your bites of food! The dragon breath wasn’t so bad actually, but I wish they somehow removed the paper first.
Our other main was this delicious chicken and rice dish.
The chicken is bone-in, so the meat remains really juicy and tender. The ]rice reminded me of a really tasty, elevated rice-a-roni! Love that stuff.
That about covers it. We will definitely be eating here again!
Pure Thai Cookhouse is probably the best Thai restaurant in what I like to refer to as “Thai Town;” the stretch of Thai restaurants from the 40s through the 50s in Hell’s Kitchen.
The place is always jam packed with waits for tables at lunch and dinner time, and we even had to wait 10 minutes to get seated at the odd 2pm time frame (they don’t take reservations). That said, if you decide to come here, be prepared to wait. Also be prepared to sit at a small table, likely on a small stool, and way too close to other diners, as if you were actually eating street food in Thailand. Usually a seating situation like that pisses me off, but I didn’t mind so much at this place.
We started with these crab and chicken dumplings that were on special for $10. They were really nice.
Next up was the Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles.
This dish was excellent. The pork itself was so tender and juicy. We were both expecting something dry and tough. The crab was a good portion of quality meat, and the sauce was a delicate balance of sweet and spicy.
I ordered the turmeric beef as my main dish. This came with rice, and it was very tender and flavorful. It looks mega spicy, but it was more like a medium.
My wife ordered the jungle curry, which didn’t seem like a curry dish at all. Our expectation was a saucy dish with a bowl of rice on the side. This came out more like a fried rice dish. Not saucy, but it had really great flavors. We liked this better than the beef.
I definitely recommend this place. Just be ready for a wait and some small seats!
PURE THAI COOKHOUSE
766 9th Ave #2
New York, NY 10019
A few months ago I had this wild idea that I would like a steak with an aggressively spicy Chinese flavor profile of chili oil, Szechuan peppercorns, cumin and garlic. Then suddenly I saw a menu item pop up at the Lobster Club with a strikingly similar list of ingredients, and the steakhouse Blu on Park is closing, making way for an Asian steakhouse which, perhaps, will feature something similar. Without wanting to wait for the new restaurant, and without having to drop bank and fight for a table at Lobster Club, I struck out to make my own, to turn my dream into reality.
I started out with one of my Piedmontese strip steaks because (1) they’re not dry aged, so I’m not competing with any other flavors, and (2) they’re cheap enough so that if I fucked it up, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it.
So what the fuck did I do?
Marinate the shit with chili oil, garlic oil, minced garlic, Szechuan peppercorns, Szechuan pepper oil, cumin, Chinese five spice and sesame oil.
After a few hours (or a few days if you want the flavors to really penetrate the meat), and after allowing your meat to get up to room temperature, dry off your steak with paper towels and season it all over with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, a touch of Chinese five spice and cumin (those last two ingredient are potent, so a little goes a long way). If you have fresh chilies, cut up a few and toss those in as well.
Pour the marinate into a pan and start bringing the fucking heat. Once the pan is screaming hot (but not smoking up the joint), toss that steak in. Now throw in some duck fat (or butter if you don’t have duck fat, but tracking down some duck fat is 100% worth it to bring home all the flavors).
Once the steak sticks to the bottom of the pan, tip the pan and spoon the liquids over the top of the steak as the bottom side cooks up to a nice brown crust. After three minutes of this, flip and repeat. Once finished, remove the steak and let it rest before slicing. Here’s a video of the process:
Now throw a pint of leftover rice from your Chinese take out into the pan. You know – the box of shit that’s been in the back of your fridge all week. Mix all the oil and duck fat into the rice, and spread the rice out across the pan. LEAVE IT. Let it get crispy as fuck on the bottom without burning.
Once that’s done, plate the rice, slice up your steak, and top your rice with the steak. I did a fancy slicing technique for presentation, but you don’t have to get all crazy with it.
That’s about it. Enjoy, assholes! Oh and pro-tip: you can remove the peppercorns before frying up the rice. I didn’t do this because I like the numbing quality to them.
This review is for take-out from The Halal Guys’ new brick and mortar location, down near 14th Street and 2nd Avenue.
I ordered the chicken and rice on the advice of my expert friend. He was going to tell me to get the mixed (lamb and chicken), but told me to keep it real on this first visit. His suggestion was great. The smell was amazing in the cab ride home, and with a midnight buzz going, I was salivating and eager to dive into this bitch.
The chicken was flavorful and spicy, the lettuce was cool and crisp, and the rice was supple and textured. The sauces were both great, though I wasn’t a fan of the hot sauce as much as the white sauce. Perfect late night grub. I’ll definitely brave the lines in midtown during work, now that I know this place serves up some legit food.