Tag Archives: union square

Barn Joo

I recently had a meal here when celebrating a friends birthday party. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I tried:

This chicken with peanuts dish was really tasty. Nicely fried morsels of dark meat.

These fried beef dumplings were better still. I could have eaten a dozen.

While I’m not a huge tofu guy, these fried cubes were pretty tasty. I’d eat them again, but definitely not over the other two apps above.

Next up, beef noodles. These were ultimately pretty middle-of-the-road. Nothing stand-out about them.

The star of the show, however, was this pork belly dish. So much nice quality belly, with some chiccharones and a great spicy bean curd dip to boot. Awesome.

The octopus was perfectly cooked and had a great crunchy texture on the outside, but there was just something about it that bugged me. It had a flavor that reminded me of the smell of dried fish food. Perhaps it was something added on top for seasoning.

Lastly, their pickles and kimchi items are superb here. Some of the best I’ve had.

I would definitely go back here again.

BARN JOO
35 Union Square W
New York, NY 10003

Chat n Chew

This local diner is in the vein of the American classic in feel, but with a bit less traditional menu items.

They have a great selection of cocktails, which are part of their happy hour menu as well.

I was impressed with the food. I tried a lot of stuff so here it goes:

Mac & Cheese

Great flavor on this and a nice blend of cheeses.

Asian Grilled Chicken Salad

Loved the sesame balsamic flavors on this.

Korean Wings

These are not batter fried in the traditional Korean style, but they are still sticky, sweet, spicy and crisp.

Fish & Chips

These are perfect. The best I’ve had, actually. The cod is juicy and flakey, and the batter is perfectly golden brown and crisp. They get hit with a dusting of curry too so the flavors are great.

Burger

This 10oz monster is great. Classic style, cheddar, LTO. Comes with fries for $15.

Crab Cake

This was nice and meaty. Also comes with fries and coleslaw.

Flatiron Steak

Lean and flavorful, this baby can be eaten with just a good sear on the outside. 6/10.

Coca-Cola Cake

Wow. They re-reduce the Coke back into a syrup and that gets mixed into a chocolate sponge and topped with crispy chocolate cookie bits, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Really nice.

Give this place a shot! I know I will be back.

CHAT N CHEW
10 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003

Camacho’s

Camacho’s is a new Mexican joint with great cocktails and a fun cantina vibe. Named after the executive chef, it features a variety of classic Mexican favorites, including tacos:

Clockwise from top: shrimp, steak, short rib, cod.

Excellent guac and chips:

Tasty Mexican corn:

A nice, filling taco salad:

Yucca fries:

The “Bad Hombre” drink, a mezcal based margarita-ish concoction that’s served in a smoke-filled glass skull:

Tons of DOTD sugar skulls on the walls:

Crazy dessert shakes:

And even a suggestive neon sign that’s all the rage on Instagram:

They play some fun music too, if this is your thing; a throwback to mid- to late-90’s rap and hip hop. I dug it, and I’ll definitely be back.

Note: I was invited in by the bar’s ownership to take some photos and do some Instagram posts in exchange for a free meal.

CAMACHO’S
118 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003

Feast

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:

First Courses

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.

Second Courses

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.

Indochine ratatouille.

I’m generally not a huge fan of ratatouille, but this had some nice robust and savory flavors.

Dessert Course

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.

FEAST
102 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

The House

Pulsd was running a flash deal for this joint so my wife picked it up. The deal gave us a bottle of wine, a shared app, two entrees and a shared dessert. Not bad for under $70.

Our app was this nice smoked duck salad. The duck was nicely cooked and the romaine lettuce was dressed just right, and garnished with walnuts, raspberries and persimmon.

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My wife picked the cassoulet for her entree. It sounded great; duck confit, wild boar sausage and lamb. However, the beans seemed to reign supreme. The meat was all shredded rather than left in chunks. It had a good smokey flavor, but the “baked beans” texture left a bit to be desired.

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I went with the Pat LaFrieda black Angus strip, for a $6 up charge.

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That’s a garlic and herb butter on top, and roasted fingerlings in the back. It wasn’t bad, but my first cut revealed a few lines of sinew that were really chewy and discouraging.

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Other cuts were better, as you’ll see below. but overall there was just too much chewy bits for my liking. Strips always have that one side with a hard line of gristle too. This was no exception. Flavor was nice, but it could have used a bit more seasoning and searing. 6/10.

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For dessert we went with a cheese plate that included five different styles. All were good.

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THE HOUSE
121 East 17th Street
New York, NY 10003

Tortaria

Type 2 Creative and Be Fat Be Happy threw an awesome holiday bash at Tortaria to help promote the restaurant. But it ended up being the sort of unofficial holiday gathering for all of us foodporn slingers on Instagram.

Everyone slapped on hats and ugly sweaters to crank up the “festive” levels. This one, worn by @StuffBenEats, was by far the clear winner:

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And he was even sporting some nice Mexican corn there, which looked like yellow Christmas trees covered with cheese-snow.

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Here’s my sweater, in an awesome guac photo that Ben took:

A photo posted by Ben Hon (@stuffbeneats) on

The guacamole here is tight, speaking of. Lots of flavor, and good restaurant quality chips and salsa to go with.

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And the pitchers of margaritas? Slammable!

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A few interesting new menu items were trotted out for us; the tortas (sandwiches). This one is made with thinly sliced fried eggplant, and topped with chipotle sauce, bacon and avocado. Really nice.

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The one I was drawn to most, however, was this short rib torta:

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This, too, is topped with avocado. There’s also lettuce, fried onion and jalapeno peppers on there as well.

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And of course, tacos!

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I’ll definitely be back here. This is a great place to just get blasted and eat your face off. Nothing pretentious about it!

TORTARIA
94 University Pl
New York, NY 10003

Bocca

For less than $79, my wife and I scored this Groupon deal for Bocca, which gave us $120 to spend. In reality we probably paid about $68 for the Groupon, since we almost never buy them unless there is an additional discount code.

Anyway this Italian joint had some pretty interesting items on the menu. Here’s what we ordered:

Salmon Crudo

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This shit was really fresh and clean. It was a great way to start this incredible meal.

Grilled Octopus Crostini with Chorizo, Kalamata Olives and Chic Peas

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The octopus was perfectly cooked, and when I took a bite with a little bit of everything together, the flavors really exploded. Such an awesome Mediterranean dish.

Strozzapreti with Nduja

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This was amazing. If you don’t know what nduja is, its a spicy, fatty and spreadable sausage product that lots of people eat with bread in southern Italy. Here, however, the geniuses rendered it down  with tomatoes into a  decadent sauce. Highly recommended.

Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti alla Chitarra in Pepper and Cheese Sauce)

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This was prepared table-side, and was absolutely delicious.

It’s a really simple dish, but sometimes that’s all you need for a winning food item. It’s no wonder this dish is all the rage in NYC.

Hanger Steak with Mushrooms

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This fucker was awesome. Seriously. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the selection of wild mushrooms (I think Hen of the Woods and Porcini) really brought out the earthy flavors of the beef, which happened to be black angus from Creekstone Farm. 9/10.

Another thing worth mentioning is this great beer they serve.

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This is right in my wheelhouse, since it’s an unfiltered, super bubbly Belgian farmhouse wheat beer.

BOCCA
39E 19th Street
New York, NY, 10003

Ponty Bistro

My wife and I were invited to this joint on 3rd Avenue and 19th Street for a press dinner.

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“Ponty” is named for a major avenue in Senegal, the country from which chef and owner Cisse originally hails.

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Cisse is a French-trained chef, but he has integrated African and global flavors into his dishes to make for an interesting and modern fusion restaurant.

The ambiance here is very bistro, with classic seating, high ceilings and tile floors. But the pale yellow walls are decorated with African wood sculptures to play on the fusion aspect of the place, and African, Latin and other world music plays in the sound system.

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It’s been open since November of 2008. Since then Cisse has enticed a large list of regulars to keep coming back in. We saw him greet several tables of diners by name, always friendly and inviting. He’s expanding too: His cousin runs the larger Harlem location that just opened in August of 2014.

Ponty offers a variety of prix fixe lunches and dinners for very reasonable prices ($19-$25). Although they only have one African wine on the menu, the list does include some very nice wines from around the globe.

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They do have a nice African lager though: Tusker. I’ve had this before, so I knew I’d be pleased with it.

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In addition to the various prix fixe menus, they also offer half price martinis and daily specials.

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From the look of the menu, it seemed like martinis were sort of their specialty. So my wife and I tried the bissap (hibiscus), fresh ginger and “French” martinis (pineapple and fruit based – not sure why). I think my favorite was the ginger martini. It had a nice fresh spice-bite to it (on the left below).

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The full menu is a pretty impressive (there is a steak presence!), and when you start to read it you’ll think to yourself, “Holy shit, there is a LOT of stuff on here, and the flavors are definitely not just French or African,” and you’ll be absolutely correct.

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Chef Cisse was a very early contestant and finalist on the Food Network show “Chopped,” which pits four chef contestants against a “mystery basket” filled with the most random and strange ingredients you can possibly think of.  The idea is to test the mettle of the chefs to see if they can still make good dishes with unplanned ingredients. Given this, one can easily understand why the menu is so diverse: The man is extremely versatile. He can cook ANYTHING, and he can cook it really fucking well. And that level of quality extends across the entire menu. He is incredibly consistent.

This joint was PACKED for a Tuesday. I noticed that there was only one waiter for eight or nine tables of guests. Some of the nearby diners were actually getting restless with slow service near the end of their meals. Even my martini order was forgotten for a while, and I was at the press dinner table! It must be tough to know when it will be busy for a place like this; you don’t want to be overstaffed, because then, as a business, you’re wasting money. You can’t really fault them for it, but one more waiter would have solved the problem for sure without breaking the bank too much. And with take-out and delivery orders coming in too (there were lots of bags going out the door), Cisse must have been swamped back in the kitchen, working his ass off. Hats off to his work ethic.

Okay let me get to the fucking food already. Presentation here is clean and simple, with a slightly refined elegance. Each dish you’ll see is very different from the last. The menu is very global – not just French and African. Essentially it is modern global food that’s inspired by French and African cuisine flavors and techniques. I can say confidently that portion sizes on the regular menu are quite large, based on seeing what other people ordered nearby.

Here’s the list of what we had (ignore the address info on top):

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These first two items are not on the regular menu. They were specials listed on the board outside (pictured above).

First was a rich, filling, and velvety-smooth lobster bisque with caviar. Onion, celery and carrots were minced into this roux-like soup base with perfectly cooked lobster meat.  You could smell the aromatic truffle and cracked pepper when you leaned over the bowl, but their flavors were not overpowering at all. Mine came five minutes later that the rest of the group, so I got more than the others (yes!).

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Next was the green bean and artichoke salad, which was topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and dressed with a light truffle vinaigrette. Again there was smart and restrained use of the truffle; aromatic but not overpowering. This was a very light and fresh salad, and, surprisingly, my favorite dish of the night.

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This scallop dish with beets and asparagus was really interesting. By the way: beets are back! I hated them as a kid. One of my sisters always loved them though. I never understood why. Now I’m seeing them everywhere, on so many menus around the city. Chefs are nailing them now, preparing them in such great and innovative ways, as Cisse did. So now I’m in for beets! The asparagus was tasty as well here. But the star of the plate, the scallop, was cooked absolutely perfectly. It was caramelized on the outside with a nice savory and sweet glaze that made it meaty and satisfying. The sauce you see is an orange marmalade that tasted like a creamsicle. Very different on a dish like this. But it made for a good mix of sweet and savory. I didn’t think beets or an orange creamsicle sauce would work with scallops, but I found myself really liking this dish. Definitely fusion and not classic. The regular sized portion comes with five scallops, by the way.

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This tagine (middle eastern and north African cooking vessel) chicken dish had a nice curry smell with a bold spicy flavor. The chicken was soft; nicely executed. It was plated with couscous. The mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion combo) showed up again here. It is classically French, but the rest of the dish is decidedly north African. The couscous was really good with the curry sauce. It had yellow raisins nestled within, to balance out the spicy curry with some pops of sweetness. The couscous also featured corn, peppers, carrots and zucchini as well – all finely diced.

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This hanger steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was really tender, too. I was a little concerned that we weren’t given steak knives for this course, but it turns out the butter knife was just fine. It was THAT tender. Needless to say, this meat man was pleased. All aspects of this dish were done-up exactly how they should be prepared, and all things tasted exactly how they should taste. A classic wine sauce, sautéed spinach and creamy mashed potato. We returned here to a more classic approach to the dish, as opposed to a fusion or African inspiration. These are tried and true accompaniments to this delicious piece of beef, and Cisse nailed the execution. Sorry the spinach is hiding behind the beef in these photos. I was excited to dig in!

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For dessert we tried the tiramisu and creme brulee. There was a good amount of orange zest to add a citrus flavor to the creme brulee. This took me back to the earlier “orange marmalade” creamsicle sauce that came with the scallop dish. Orange zest + creamy egg custard = creamsicle for dessert. The custard was nicely handled. It was creamy, smooth and not eggy. There was a good texture and nice crisp on the sugar without going too bitter.

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The tiramisu was soft and smooth. There was a nice hint of coffee as well. The ricotta was light, and the cake was not too boozy. I preferred this to the creme brulee. Really nice.

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I’m glad to see that Ponty is expanding into Harlem. I’d like to get up there and try that location out, and I hope some of you readers will try one or both places as well.

PONTY BISTRO
218 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10003

Eataly

Here’s a shameless photo-dump of some mouth watering scenery at Eataly, Flatiron’s legendary Italian food market. I suggest coming here for a long day. Get lunch, walk around, taste shit, walk around some more, taste more shit, and then sit for dinner. Enjoy the food porn, you bastards.

Front signage:

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Hallway: like a department store for food.

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Desserts:

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Signage for what looks like a great roasted meats sandwich joint:

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CHEESE!

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Nice looking seafood:

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“Meat: restaurant:

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Shellfish:

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Eaters:

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 Of course I managed to find the meat counter:

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 Pasta shelves. There are rows and rows of aisles like this.

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Expensive fois gras:

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Bread bakery:

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Pizza:

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Pete’s Tavern

Pete’s is the oldest continuously operating establishment in NYC. It opened in 1864 and has not closed or switched locations since.

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What’s cool here is that the old cashier’s cage is still right there at the end of the bar. It used to be that the cashier would sit in the cage with the money/register to be protected from being robbed.

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They even have this funny old sign for how to live on $15 a week:

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The bartender Phil was awesome too; really friendly guy, easy to talk with, outgoing and generally just made the place a great spot to hang out. I hadn’t ever been in here before (shame on me), but he suggested coming back around Christmas time when the lights are up at the bar. Definitely. Thanks Phil!

Anyway we saw this burger on the menu and figured it had to be tried for our second burger of the night:

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It turned out to be a bit of a let down. The meat was excellent, as to be expected, but there was not enough cheese. Also the tomato was sliced too thick – almost as thick as the burger patty. The waffle fries were done perfectly though.

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A friend of mine met up with me and my buddy here while we were eating before he met with some broad for a date. He was hungry too, so he ordered the regular burger and we all shared:

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This was much better eating: definitely better than the huntsman burger.  Although my buddy was a little cranked about a pricing discrepancy (bar menu on the wall that he ordered from did not match the printed menu that he was charged from), and the burger was cooked a little under how he wanted it (I would have been fine with that temp – look at it – it looks perfect!), it was indeed a good burger. I think I would take the Old Town burger over this one though, but it was close.

In sum, this was an amazing bar to hang out in. It’s an absolutely amazing piece of NYC history, and it will definitely stay that way with staff like Phil at the bar, who make the place even better.

If burgers ain’t your thing, then try one of their extremely fair-priced brunch deals that range from $12-$15 for three courses, or maybe their delicious corned beef sandwich:

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PETE’S TAVERN
129 E. 18th St.
New York, NY 10003