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
It was our last night in New Orleans and I realized we hadn’t tried any jambalaya yet. We were snacking on oysters and sipping drinks at Red Fish Grill while waiting for our next dinner reservation when I saw jambalaya on the menu. I had to get it, despite knowing I had dinner in an hour.
It was filled with shrimp, andouille and chicken, and the rice had a perfect risotto type of texture and spread to it. Aside from the fact that the shrimp weren’t de-veined and de-pooped, this was an excellent dish. Not too salty, as these can sometimes become.
As for the oysters, very good. Crisp and fresh, but not quite as good as Legacy Kitchen.
RED FISH GRILL
115 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70130
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
This post will serve as a triple hit review of the Fresh Direct food delivery service, Tipsy’s boozy ice cream and Saveur Select wines.
My wife and some of our food friends were planning to do a Labor Day seafood boil on the rooftop of our building. It turns out, a few of the ladies managed to get the entire thing sponsored by the three companies above, provided that we post a few pics on Instagram.
Fresh Direct gave us a $500 credit to use towards their incredibly high quality seafood. We broke this out into two main items: a huge seafood boil, and a colossal chilled seafood tower.
There was so much fucking food! Lobster, king crab legs, blue claw crabs, steamer clams, little neck clams, three varieties of oysters, jumbo shrimp, scallops, multi-colored potatoes, kielbasa and corn. My wife and I were always big fans of Fresh Direct but this seafood really hammers home the word FRESH in their name. The lobsters were delivered LIVE! And everything tasted incredible, which is obviously the most important factor.
Saveur provided us with four bottles of crisp Gewürztraminer wine. This white German variety of wine was just the kind of refreshment we needed with this meal. We even poured some over fruit to make a white sangria.
Tipsy hooked us up with six different pints of ice cream for dessert.
The flavors were incredible: spiked hazelnut coffee, raspberry limoncello sorbet, cake batter vodka martini, dark chocolate whisky salted caramel, mango margarita sorbet and vanilla bean bourbon.
We even scooped some into a few glasses of champagne for good measure. Why not?
This joint offers a legitimately awesome Chinese food experience in the heart of Chinatown. The owner contacted me for a press meal, and I was quick to jump at it.
The interior is very bright, pretty, spacious and clean. The dining room was a cool and comfortable, with plenty of elbow room.
My wife and I turned over all control of our meal to our waiter, Griffin, after we poured ourselves some oolong tea.
Griffin asked a few questions, like “do you like spicy foods,” and “do you have any food allergies.” Yes, and no. “We are willing to try anything.” He was happy about that, as he was planning to feature some of their more signature dishes for us. And then we were off…
The first thing that came out was this plate of thinly sliced conch with spicy chili sauce.
The conch was cooked perfectly. It was tender enough to make you think you were eating chow fun noodles, but it still had snap to it, like you might associate with nicely cooked squid. My wife referred to this dish as “protein noodles.” I thought that was pretty clever, so we did a “lift” photo for all of you Instagram whores out there.
And the spicy chili oil with lemongrass was the perfect sauce to deliver all of this deliciousness. I can’t wait to go back and order more of this. $12.95.
Next up were these pan fried mini pork buns. Say what? Steamed pork buns that are also fried? Yup. Take a look:
They’re steamed first, and then one side is pan fried to give it a nice flat and golden brown crisp. I’ve never seen this before.
Inside was tender and lemongrass-spiced pork meat with scallions.
They were great. The bun was soft but not sticky and gummy, and the pan fried side gave them a nice texture mix that kept my taste buds interested from the first bite to the last. $5.95.
We tried four entrees! The first, and our most favorite, was the braised whole tilapia in spicy chili broth with peppercorns.
It may LOOK like a nightmare of spices for you heat pussies out there, but I assure you, this broth is drinkable. I love spicy foods, and I can handle a lot of heat, but my opinion is that this dish is accessible to all in terms of spice levels, so long as you don’t actually eat the dried red chilies. The peppercorns within are very herbal and only slightly numbing, like a milder version of the kind you might encounter in spicy hot pot. This was so addicting that we brought home whatever was left of this dish so that we could have at that broth again and again. It almost had a Thai tom yum flavor, but without the lemongrass.
But back to the actual fish: the meat was extremely tender and flavorful. Braised means it is fall-apart tender, and with some fresh cilantro on top, you feel like you are eating so fresh and healthy. Tilapia is a light fish to begin with, so this was a very good entree to start with. $24.95.
We even got some of the cheek meat out of the head. Mmm.
Next up was sauteed frog with spicy peppers.
The frog itself was mainly leg meat, with some occasional other parts mixed in, but chopped up coarsely so you had to be deft with not swallowing any bones. I found that eating in the front of my mouth, with my front teeth, was the trick to maneuvering the bones with ease. The meat was awesome. If you haven’t had frog, to me it tastes like a cross between tender chicken and a scallop, both in texture and flavor.
This was the spiciest dish of the day, too, as the chopped dried red chilies added a nice kick in the balls for heat. The green peppers aren’t that spicy but they have a great aroma and flavor. I even tasted traditional black pepper in there as well. $22.95.
The next dish was salt and pepper jumbo shrimp. These were presented butterflied, but with the shells and heads still on, on a bed of lettuce, peppers, sliced garlic and scallions.
While a few were slightly overcooked, the salt and pepper batter was delicious and crunchy. We dipped these into the sauce that came with the frog dish as well, for a little more spice. $21.95.
We treated the fourth entree as a side, since it came out alongside our fish dish. This was sauteed pumpkin with celery and artichoke.
The pumpkin was tender and slightly sweet, which went well with the fresh braised celery flavor. The artichoke added a bit of starchiness to the dish, so if you are not a meat eater, this will be nice and filling for you, and unique to boot. Not bad for vegetarian! $14.95.
We will definitely be back here, again and again. For a long time my wife and I were hunting for a good Chinese and spicy Szechuan joint in the area. This place will give us our fix, every time. When you come here, I highly recommend the pan fried mini pork buns, the braised whole fish and the sliced conch dishes. All three were amazing. I realize that frog is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we really enjoyed it. If you are up for trying something different, then go for it because I recommend that as well. They also serve dim sum, so if that’s your thing, I suggest doing that as well. Oh, and upstairs is a karaoke joint. So you can go up and sing your ass off after dinner.
Tutti Matti opened up in January. They’re slinging some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Their pizza is Amalfi Coast style, which is cooked a little longer than Neopolitan style.
The crust is light, airy and crisp, yet it still has a doughy quality to it, so it isn’t stiff.
This crust makes for a great calzone too:
Our friends at The Creative Shake and Eaters Drinkers invited us here for a press meal, where we were able to sample a bunch of pizza as well as some of their regional Italian cuisine. Of course a really nice selection of Italian inspired cocktails were flowing.
This pasta dish is made with spicy nduja and tuna. You wouldn’t think the two go together well, but it was tasty.
I regret that I didn’t get a chance to sample the lasagna, but it looked and smelled delicious.
Fried seafood, very light and crisp, and served with a zucchini cream sauce that was incredible!
My favorite of the non-pizza items were these lamb chops. They were perfectly cooked, well seasoned and beautifully plated.
Last of the savory items was this chicken cutlet that was pounded flat, breaded, fried and topped with arugula, tomato and balsamic vinegar. Very simple and tasty – plus I thought it was kinda shaped like the Millennium Falcon.
For dessert, we all destroyed this delicious Nutella pizza:
This place has two chefs: a pizza chef, and a cuisine chef. I only spoke to the latter, Luigi, who served up the lamb that I loved so much. I was glad to have the opportunity to tell him just how awesome those chops were.
This place is just one stop into Long Island City on the 7 or E trains. I will definitely be back for more of that pizza and lamb in the future. In addition, they have the following weekly specials: 20% off lunch from noon to 3pm during the week; gnocchi night on Monday ($17 all you can eat); pizza night on Tuesday ($16 unlimited slices); ladies night on Wednesday (first glass of wine $13, rest of the night is free from 5pm to close); Thursday through Sunday $1 oysters 5pm to close; and Happy Hour all week from 4pm-7pm with $7 wine and $5 beer. Pretty amazing!
FINALLY got a chance to come back here and sample some more pizza and other dishes. The pizza still holds up as one of the best in town, easily. We tried four different pizzas:
I think that last one was my favorite, but it was really tough to choose a best of the four.
We also samples some pasta dishes. First was this buccatini. Very simple and nicely executed:
Next was linguine with clams. Stunning presentation and very nice, mild flavors. Not too heavy with the garlic and oil.
Last, baked gnocci. While these were heavy, they had a lot of flavor.
Of course I had to get the lamb chops again since I loved them so much last time.
Only this time we also threw some rib eye into the mix! This 32oz offering for two was only $64. Not bad, however I felt that it was a bit over cooked on the edges (it was a thick cut) and slightly under seasoned. It just needed a hit of salt and pepper. 6/10.
Since we came in with a pack of about 15 food bloggers, they threw in a piece of tiramisu on the house for us. Very nice, and with good coffee flavor!
47-30 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11101
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
My wife found a happy hour deal for this place down in Key West: half price drinks and shellfish from 4:30 to 6:30.
We made it by about 6:00pm and put in a shitload of the available shellfish items. Everything was really good!
Mahi mahi fish dip:
Peel and eat shrimp:
And, of course, frozen drinks!
The stone crabs are NOT on the happy hour deal, but we did try a few colossal and medium sized claws. Fucking amazing, and it comes with a really nice mustard-horseradish dipping sauce that works well with french fries.
When we were leaving we saw this cool Christmas tree made from crab and lobster traps. Very cool!