Tag Archives: upper east side

Donohue’s

I’m a sucker for old restaurants, especially places that date back to the “Mad Men” days of NYC’s mod past. I’m not sure if they filmed anything from Mad Men at Donohue’s, but they should have. It is truly scenic in there, and perfect for a show like that. And that’s kinda where my excitement for this place ends.

I’m not an ageist, and I’m by no means a young whippersnapper. But I think I may have seen Don Draper and Richard Sterling at one of the tables here, struggling to throw back one last martini before their final coronary. I’m 40, and I was probably the youngest person in the joint at 7pm on a Monday.

This place just sucks in old rich people for some reason. We even saw an octogenarian couple pull up in their two-seater Mercedes sports car and park right in front before slowly shambling their way inside. I don’t begrudge that though; it must be a rough haul to hoof it down from 68th and Park to 64th and Lex at that age.

But what’s the fucking attraction? Do they swap spouses or some shit? Is there a back room where they buy and sell peoples’ souls?

Well there you have my synopsis of this review in picture form. I posted those to Instagram the night of the meal. But allow me to expand on that with a full steakhouse review:

Donohue’s overall score: 66

Flavor: 6

The filet wasn’t a nightmare, but it lacked flavor. It was likely cooked without salt and butter. Maybe this method caters to the low cholesterol, low sodium, salt substitute -using, high blood pressure -having, at-risk-for-heart-failure crowd that frequents the place. Or maybe they just don’t know what the fuck they’re doing in the kitchen as far as seasoning goes. In terms of working the broiler, it really was cooked perfectly. The crust on the outside was crispy but not charred or burnt, and there was a nice pink center from edge to edge.

I split this with a friend, though, and he said he had some chewy bits that he spit out. My half was fine in terms of texture.

We also split a burger. This thing sucked, mainly because the stale and lifeless bun needs to be replaced and the meat didn’t have a good sear on it. Otherwise I would have been fine with a simple cheese skirt and the basic toppings. The steak fries that came with it were actually great. They were golden crisp on the outside and soft like mashed potatoes inside. I was actually surprised by them, since I usually dislike steak fries.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 5

I’m not sure why this place holds itself out as a steakhouse when there are really only two cuts of beef being offered: sirloin and filet. That’s only half of the four basic steakhouse staples (assuming you count the sirloin as a strip). That said, they do offer other cuts as specials from time to time, and the menu lists the beef as prime.

Portion Size & Plating: 6

Portion sizes are a mixed bag here. My friend had a shrimp cocktail and there were just four medium-sized shrimp on it – certainly not “jumbo,” as listed on the menu. The crab cakes were small as well. The steak, however, was a good size for a filet; probably about 10 or 12oz. The same goes for the carrot cake; it was also a good portion size. Plating is very basic. Nothing fancy at all.

Price: 6

The pricing is another mixed bag. There’s something to be said about a steak joint that gives you a filet mignon, a salad, a potato and some onion rings for $40. While the majority of the side items sucked, I wouldn’t care if they just nailed the steak. A $40 price tag would still be good for that. I’d go all the time and give the sides and salads to a homeless person. The steaks and entrees are all under $40, and some are even under $30, which is great! But what makes things really odd is that so much other shit is overpriced. The small crab cakes ($19), the “jumbo” shrimp cocktail ($18), the kid’s size martini ($14)…

I’m used to feeling ripped off for getting double that amount of hooch for $18. This was some next level of rip off shit though. Maybe former Donohue’s regular Bernie Madoff is setting the pricing structure here. A seemingly good deal on entrees to get you in the door, and then a shitload of ass raping money grabs that would make Mr. Charles Ponzi himself stare in awe and envy from the beyond.

Bar: 7

Bar and atmosphere are truly the reasons to come here. I love the dim lighting, the checkerboard floor, the warm wood tones, and the “regulars welcome” kind of neighborhood feel to a short, old, unchanged stretch of bar on Lexington. Sit down. Have a drink.

Specials and Other Meats: 6

There are chalkboards in the window out front and on the wall in the back that list many of the same items that are already printed on the menu. One or two things aren’t printed, though, so keep an eye on the chalkboard if you’re looking to be disappointed by an unlisted entree here. As for other meats, they have veal, chicken and pork. Not bad, but then again this place is more like a diner than a steakhouse, so I’m not really surprised at the variety.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 6

I started with an order of crab cakes.

I joked that these were like frozen food aisle items, but they really weren’t that bad. These little guys had a good crispy fried crust on the outside, and the inside was all crab meat, for the most part.

The steaks came with a green veggie, three onion rings and your choice of potato. I picked a salad and mashed potatoes. The potatoes may as well have been made from a powdered box mix; bland and somewhat dry. The salad was an afterthought; the kind you might get at a roadside diner on a transparent, filigreed, faux-glass plastic plate with your meatloaf. The onion rings were fine, however.

As I mentioned above, the fries were pretty solid, and the carrot cake was good. But it wasn’t great. It was indeed the best part of the meal, but in no way did this dessert hold a candle to something like the amazing carrot cake dessert at Ocean Prime. One of my buddies asked if they made the dessert in house, and the answer was a resounding no.

Seafood Selection: 7

There are several fish entrees to choose from here. More fish entrees than beef entrees, I think. My buddy had scallops, which were broiled with lemon and white wine (no butter). I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in here. Or maybe the menu is catered to their palettes. Has to be. That and the nostalgia of reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950.

Service: 8

Our waitress forgot to bring us menus for about ten minutes and didn’t tell us about any specials, but that’s not really a big deal. Other than that, there were no problems. She remembered all the beers they had when my buddy asked, and she didn’t need to write anything down for our order. She was nice and pleasant, and she deftly swapped our forks and knives out between apps and entrees.

Ambiance: 9

I truly love the ambiance here. I think it could use some sprucing up though. I’m not talking about a remodel or anything like that, but something to clean it up and make it even more appealing as an old classic. The prices have gone up and the lease is locked for another 10 years, so they can afford to do something if they want to.

In summary, I’m glad I came here, especially since my friends paid for my meal as a birthday gift. I probably wouldn’t go back for a full meal, but I’d definitely stop in to take in the scenery on occasion, and maybe have an order of fries at the bar. Probably a beer, too, since those weren’t painfully overpriced like the martinis.

To try to answer my own question about why so many old rich people go to Donohue’s: I think the low sodium, no butter thing is what draws the elderly in. Or maybe the cooks just cater to the palettes of their regulars. There’s nothing official or printed about no salt and no butter. It was just very evident. So that, plus the nostalgia of old folks reliving their youth in a neighborhood place that’s still open since 1950. As for the wealthy aspect? No idea. Must be the neighborhood.

DONOHUE’S STEAKHOUSE
845 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10065

PQR Pizza

When my wife and I were in Italy, we went bonkers for Bonci Pizzarium near the Vatican, and we’ve been craving it ever since. A brand new pizza joint on the upper east side, PQR, brought me right back there.

I have to say this is one of my new favorite spots in the city. Roman style pizza just works on so many levels. If you’ve never had it before, this is an exemplary representation. The dough/crust is perfectly crisp yet puffy and airy, and they’re generous with their high quality toppings.

Get the spicy soppressata with grape tomato and the sliced potato with truffle sauce. You’ll thank me later.

Spicy Soppressata:

Sliced Potato & Truffle:

Sliced Potato & Porchetta:

Traditional Mozz & Tomato Sauce:

PQR
1631 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

San Matteo Pizza

San Matteo is a Neapolitan style pizzeria and restaurant on the Upper East Side. Neapolitan style pizza is characterized by a puffy and doughy crust with, generally, pure and simple ingredients on top. See below:

This style of pizza isn’t crispy with a crunchy bottom like NYC style pizza, but I assure you that it’s still awesome. That was the Margherita Regina pie, $18. After eating this delicious stuff, I was surprised that I had room for dessert: profiteroles.

UPDATE 6/2/18

On a second visit, I came in to test a new burger that the owner Fabio was formulating for a competition (Burger Bash). The thing was amazing. Piedmontese beef in a 70/30 lean/fat ratio, topped with Blue Moon beer caramelized onions, radicchio, and lots of gooey and funky taleggio cheese. It was all housed in a freshly baked ciabatta bun, right from the pizza oven.

We also enjoyed numerous Aperol spritzes at the bar.

Some salumi:

An incredible porchetta and arugula sandwich:

Eggplant parm:

And of course more pizza:

This one had guanciale on it:

Fabio even made us a nice risotto dish with fresh porcini mushrooms, mixed up right in a cheese wheel:

I really love this place – such amazing Italian food.

SAN MATTEO PIZZERIA E CUCINA
1559 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Chimichurri Grill (East)

I was invited to Chimichurri Grill East by the restaurant’s PR specialist to try a special five course tasting menu (with wine pairings and dessert), and to write a review. Let me get right to it!

The restaurant is an elegant, modern and fine dining Argentinian steak house. This is somewhat of a rarity here in the city, as most Argentinian places that I know are more on the pub atmosphere end, and don’t serve actual Argentinian proteins. Argentinian beef is something that people clamor for, so it’s good to know that this place serves the real deal.

Moreover, Chef Carlos Darquea uses family recipes to create the dishes he loves and grew up with. Everything is authentic and from the heart.

His wife Alicia is the wine director, and together they own a sister restaurant, called Chimichurri Grill West (a theater district mainstay for nearly 20 years), which serves the exact same menu but in a different atmosphere.

Here’s what we had:

Course 1: Sweetbreads (Heart)

This was really nice. These veal heart sweetbreads are sliced and grilled, served with a red pepper, parsley and garlic sauce, and featured on a slice of crispy purple potato. Very pretty and delicious. This was similar to something like foie gras.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 2: Beef Tongue Stew

I really loved this warm, hearty and delicious dish. It was reminiscent of homemade beef barley soup. The tongue was diced into small cubes and braised to tender perfection.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 3: Grilled Romaine Salad

The feta, buttermilk and dill dressing makes for a nice creamy compliment with the grilled greens. And the crispy bacon lardon is just perfect.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

We had a scoop of homemade passion fruit sorbet to cleanse the palate. Very nice!

Course 4: Pasta with Seafood

This house made pasta is served with a chardonnay and basil sauce that gets added to a roux and the various seafood juices that Chef Carlos extracts from the seafood used to make the dish; clams, calamari, prawns, mussels and halibut.

Note: this is a smaller portion than what is served if you order from the menu.

Course 5: Grass Fed Argentinian Rib Eye

This was great. It’s wet aged for 32 days as it travels from Argentina to the US. Chef Carlos finishes this Black Angus steak directly on wood charcoal to develop a great crust on the outside of the meat. It’s even plated with some charcoal, and when you pop the rosemary on top, it smokes and gives off a great aroma.

It was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It had a huge outer cap and a lean eye, likely due to the grass fed nature of the beef.

You’re in for a really nice bite when you combine the caramelized vidalia onions and sauces that come to the table with this dish.

The steak (which was a full sized portion, FYI) also came with French fries. These were perfectly crisp and deliciously seasoned.

Dessert: Dulce de Leche Creme Brulee

Wow. What a great dessert! So flavorful, smooth and unexpected. A great Latin twist on the classic French custard.

That about covers it! I really can’t wait to go back and try some more cuts of steak. The menu here is new/fresh, exciting, and completely outside the box.

They even have nice happy hour specials from 4-8pm, and a great express lunch menu for all you midtown power lunchers. Get on it!

UPDATE: 12/22/17

On a subsequent visit, I tried a few more delectable items.

La Suprema Burger

Veal sweet breads and caramelized onions on top of a 6oz grass finished filet patty. Very nice. The sweetbreads almost act like a cheese, adding that creaminess and fat content to the lean beef.

Clams with Chorizo

Perfection. Just order these and you’ll thank me later.

Bife Con Fritas

Strip steak, perfectly cooked, with those delicious fries. Can’t go wrong with this bad boy. I liked this better than the rib eye, and at just $42 for 12oz, you’re saving some cash in the process.

Special Off Menu Bone-In Rib Eye

Similar to the boneless cut I tried during the multi-course tasting, this lean rib eye backed a great flavor with a robust char from the on-coals cooking process.

CHIMICHURRI GRILL EAST
133 E 61st St
New York, NY 10065

Sel et Poivre

FIRST REVIEW 4/10/2014

Thanks to new friend and fellow food blogger The Restaurant Fairy, I was recently hooked up with a restaurant PR person who is in charge of setting up press dinners for restaurants that are looking to generate detailed reviews and additional news coverage to build customers or put a spotlight on a new/special menu at their establishment. I’m hoping to attend more of these types of press dinners in the future. With any luck some wealthy benefactor will discover me and fund a new career for me in the world of food writing. The goal is to become a professional diner.

Anyway, my first press dinner in this vein was at French joint Sel et Poivre. For you proud, dirty American apes out there who don’t know or care too much about other languages, that means Salt and Pepper.

The restaurant has been in business here for decades. Owners Christian and Pamela are a husband and wife duo who take turns managing the place each night. They’ve been a team here for about 8 years, and for decades prior the restaurant was run by Pamela and her mother. This year Christian and Pamela are celebrating their 25th anniversary so be ready for some special menus coming this spring/summer season.

The atmosphere is very local and homey. Walls are adorned with old black and white photos of family travels. There’s a classic, clean French bistro feel to the place, and the 65-person seating capability is intimate without being stuffy or crowded.

So how’s the service? Amazing. Waiters here aren’t just people toiling away at their job. These are men with long careers. The newest employee other than the bar staff has been there for 7 years, and veteran waiters have loyalty in the 25-30 year range. The chef has been there for that long, and the staff still manages to keep the menu interesting and new while always retaining the classics that some people have been coming back to eat for years. Impressive, and that speaks volumes about the management and quality of the joint. Christian himself is a stand-up guy. A class act. He’s funny, talkative, approachable, kind, warm, inviting and a great host. Within moments of talking with him you feel as if you’ve known him all your life.

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Located on Lex at 64th, the customers range from shoppers, to business people, to tourists. But their bread and butter are the locals, some of whom come in several times per week for specific dishes that they’ve been enjoying for generations. One family has been dining here for 4 generations. Even the landlord eats there, who has had the building property in his family since it was a cow grazing pasture in the 1600s. I’m serious.

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Okay so on to the good stuff. Note that the portion sizes in my pics are all smaller than the actual menu items (except for the desserts). Press dinner portions are typically smaller so that more stuff can be tried. Here’s what we had:

First was a celery root remoulade with red beets. There was a distinctly Mediterranean flavor in this dish, likely because of the cumin spicing. I enjoyed it. It was a cool, refreshing way to open up the taste buds.

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Next we had wild striped bass with artichoke hearts, fennel and black olive lemon oil. The fish was perfectly cooked with its crisp skin still intact. This was also very Mediterranean in its flavor profile. Light and fresh. And I must say that the artichoke was one of the best preparations I’ve ever had outside of mom’s home cooking.

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Steak was next. An aged sirloin to be exact. It was juicy and flavorful, had a nicely seasoned crust, and was cooked to a perfect medium rare.

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The beef was served with two sauces: roquefort and poivre.

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I only took a pic of one because they looked and tasted similar to me, though one was clearly more peppery. Both were drinkable, however. They went especially well with the cone of crispy and savory fries that came with the steak. Delicious.

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Next was a bit of offal! Veal kidneys with an amazing mustard sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach.

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Kidneys aren’t for everyone. This was my first time eating kidney. It was a bit mealy and chewy in parts, but the flavor was delicate and nice. The sauce did a great job of bringing out the game flavors without letting them overpower you. I ate every bite!

For dessert we had classic French creme brulee and chocolate lava cake.

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They were both very nicely executed, well-balanced, and not overly sweet. The cake came with some fresh whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, and the brulee had a nice consistency and great caramelized sugar on top.

Last, I should also note that the wine selection here is extensive. Having broadened the scope from French and California wines to include stuff from New Zealand and South America, Christian and Pamela have modernized their wine selection to stay on pace with an increasingly knowledgeable caliber of diners. This is probably because Christian is also a sommelier, so he knows what pairs well with the dishes outside of French-only wines.

I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner to try some of their other amazing menu items, like frog legs, or to try their classic French daily special dishes (Bouillabaisse Monday; Coq Au Vin Tuesday; etc).

If you like classic French food then this is a great place to go, and they also modernize and freestyle very well with some of their other dishes.

UPDATE 3/8/2017

I went back to Sel et Poivre for another press dinner. We tried a few different items this time, and I was able to meet Pamela, the other half of the dynamic duo behind their French bistro (which is now coming up on its 28th year in business).

The celery root and beets were just as good as I remembered, this time more artistically plated.

The fish soup was really fun. It comes with a plate of toasted baguette slices, roue and shredded Swiss cheese. The idea is to spread the garlicky, spicy roue onto a slice of bread and they sprinkle the shredded Swiss on top. Then, you float it in the soup and let it all melt together and combine into a velvety consistency.

It was delicious. The fish was clearly present, yet subtle and not overly powerful. I could easily slurp down a few bowls of this.

The brook trout was really nicely cooked and had great flavors from the shaved almonds and tangy white wine and lemon sauce.

It was prepared skin-on, but I felt that it could have used a bit more crisp on the skin. Perhaps because it was plated skin-down, the skin lost some of the crisp it might have developed while cooking. Otherwise this was an excellent dish.

This lamb rib was perfectly cooked. So juicy and tender, with a nice mild game flavor. The outer edges were coated with peppery spices that penetrated deep into the meat. My favorite dish of the night.

I was excited to see the steak come out (sirloin). While I had already tried it in the past, this time I was able to see the full portion size – with a beautiful pre-sliced presentation – on a bed of mustard-based peppercorn sauce.

It was a perfect medium rare execution!

This baby still had all the same qualities as the last visit, only this time there was only the one sauce and a more pronounced peppercorn crust. Further, the last time featured an aged cut, while this one was not aged, as far as I could tell.

The fries that are served with the steak were golden and crispy.

Dessert was nice. We tried some profiteroles and a berry tart.

The berry tart was gorgeous, and was easily my preferred dessert between the two.

SEL ET POIVRE
853 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10065

Little Frog

Little Frog is a new French bistro that just opened up a few months ago on East 86th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. I came here with a bunch of food enthusiasts and bloggers for a press dinner. Here’s what we tried:

House Bread:

This flatbread comes nicely packaged and warm inside of a paper bag with the Little Frog logo stamped on it.

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Lamb Meatballs:

It may not strike you as a particularly French item, but lamb meatballs here are served with a dollop of labneh (a Lebanese style of cream cheese) and a host of Mediterranean spices, paying tribute to the old French colonies in North Africa, no doubt.

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It’s tough to compete with Mom’s homemade meatballs, but these were tasty nonetheless.

Duck Liver Foie Gras:

Beautiful and delicious. Super smooth texture, nice and velvety. If you like this sort of thing, please get it. This was my favorite app.

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Pork Belly:

Can’t go wrong here. The thick slices of tender, braised bacon sit on a bed of delicious lentils. This is a winner, so I shot it twice.

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Grilled Octopus:

I’ve had more tender tentacle in my day, but that doesn’t mean that this was tough by any means. The dressing was perfect and the flavors really popped.

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Salmon Tartare:

This is served with lemon sabayon and capers, but it sits on a bed of crispy quinoa that really adds an awesome textural element to the dish. It stands out as a really great app.

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Beets & Kale:

This salad was simple and tasty. Far be it from me, the meat guy, to praise a salad, but this hit the spot after dipping into some of the more meaty apps earlier.

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Okay now onward to the entrees. We started with this incredible duck flambe.

This is one of the better duck dishes I’ve had. The meat was super tender and tasty, and the skin remained crisp and flavorful, with all fat rendered out nicely.

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The steak au poivre is a top sirloin cut that’s smothered with peppercorns and then topped with gravy. Ours was cooked to about medium, but it still remained very juicy from the gravy. Also, the tenderness of the cut surprised me; I’m usually apprehensive about top sirloin, but this was good stuff. 7/10.

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The Coq Au Vin was a bit dry at the outer edges, but the tenderness and juiciness of the inner meat made up for it in spades.

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A few of us claimed that this was the best entree of the night, though the others were ready to throw down in a pitched battle to defend the duck.

If you’re still hungry, get the ice cream sundae for multiple diners. It comes served in a massive bowl, complete with a lit sparkler shooting out the top. I took this shot after the sparkler was removed:

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UPDATE 9/28/17

Filet Mignon: 9/10

Froggy Burger: So good!

Salmon Tartare: great crunch and texture from the crispy quinoa.

LITTLE FROG
322 E 86th Street
New York, NY 10028

Korali Estiatorio

With a name that means “coral,” it’s only fitting that Korali Estiatorio, a neighborhood gem for authentic Greek food on the upper east side, features a variety of fresh seafood fit for the gods.

Owner Gregori Politis hails from Lefkada, in the Ionian Sea. After 20 years in the hospitality business, he now brings the authentic recipes of his childhood to the masses of NYC. Chef Peter Tsaglis headed up prominent New York City kitchens. Peter focuses on seafood, and has a passion for amazing ingredients and flavors. His upbringing and travels across the Greek islands influenced his style of traditional cooking blended with modern and contemporary fare.

The interior was designed with Mykanos in mind, a seaside town on an island of the same name, which is known for its bright white architecture.

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The bar is stocked with Greek spirits and wines from rare varietals that are uncommon here in the states, like Assyrtiko and Agiogitiko.

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With Greek music playing on the sound system and the invigorating scent of fresh seafood in the air, you really do feel like you are being transported to the Greek Isles.

Okay so let me get to the food… We started with some tzatziki and pita bread. The yogurt this joint uses is so thick, rich and awesome. This had just the right amount of spices and flavorings added, so that our mouths were spared of garlic overload. I really enjoyed this.

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In honor of the joint’s focus on seafood, we did not delve into any meats. I know: blasphemy for me! Perhaps next time I will go hard into the lamb dishes, though.

For our meze courses we had grilled octopus and stuffed calamari. The grilled octopus was so tender and perfectly cooked. It came on a bean puree and was seasoned gently with olive oil and lemon, and sprinkled with capers. Really delicious, and probably one of the better octopus dishes I’ve had in a while. And it was a good sized portion, with about two large tentacles chopped up on the plate.

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I couldn’t resist ordering the stuffed calamari.

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When I was a kid, my family would do the traditional Italian fish dinner for Christmas. My grandparents were the main drivers of that meal, and I would help my grandfather clean all the shrimp, scungili and squid for prep. But my grandma would take the time to make stuffed calamari. She would take the cleaned squid tubes, fill them with a cheese, breadcrumb and meat stuffing, and literally stitch the ends closed with a needle and black thread. Then they went into a skillet for browning on all sides before getting plopped into a low simmering tomato sauce that was filled with crab legs and other shellfish. Before serving, she would pull out the black thread and the calamari would stay pinched closed, holding in the delicious stuffing. It really was a painstaking and amazing effort, and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Until now, until Korali.

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This Greek version is stuffed with spinach and feta, but still served in a tomato sauce. Rather than a traditional stewed style Italian red sauce, this one contained mainly sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. It was a really exciting profile of flavors, and this was hands-down my favorite dish of the night. I highly recommend this!

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For our entree, we ordered a whole grilled fish for two that was on special: “pink snapper” from the Mediterranean Sea.

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The skin was crisp and savory, and the meat was tender, flaky and cooked nicely. It was simply dressed with olive oil, lemon and Greek seasonings, and then topped with capers.

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We cleaned this baby off entirely, even busting into the face to get some of that delicious and succulent cheek meat.

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This fish for two also came with two sides. We picked garlic sauteed spinach and Greek fries. The fries were crisp and had a nice herb and garlic flavor.

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The spinach was sauteed just right, retaining that great “green” flavor without over-wilting the leaves. Also, the garlic was again not overpowering and added just the right amount of flavor to the dish. These guys know what they’re doing in the kitchen!

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For dessert, we got to try an assortment of three items: Greek yogurt with honey and berries, baklava and semolina custard in phyllo (Galactoboureco). By far my favorite of the three was that delicious, thick and creamy yogurt again. This sweet version was the perfect way to bookend the meal after starting with the savory tzatziki version at the beginning of the meal.

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But the baklava was the best my wife and I have had. Usually this dessert is soaked with honey, and that just kills the texture and flavor of the nuts, making everything too sweet and soft. Not here at Korali! These had a cookie-like crunch to them, and I found myself smearing some of the yogurt onto them to make it a double whammy dessert. So damn good!

Overall this was a really great meal, light and satisfying. This is a great place for the UES neighborhood. I don’t live nearby, but I would definitely go back in a heartbeat.

One thing that really got my attention about this place is that you can pre-order a whole roasted goat every Friday, which is locally sourced from upstate. I will definitely be back for this with my crew from The Carcass Club.

In addition, Korali now offers a prix-fix lunch deal Wednesday through Friday, as well as brunch on weekends, with a choice of starter, entree and dessert.

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

KORALI ESTIATORIO
1662 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10128

Jones Wood Foundry

JWF is a dynamite place on the upper east side that serves up some really nice traditional British style pub fare. I’m talking everything from scotch eggs, to bangers and mash, to bubble and squeak, to toads in the holes (get your minds out of the gutter).

Me and two “mates” of mine (see how I used the language of the Brits there?) popped in for a quick look-around, and to try the burger. Here’s what we stumbled upon.

A beautifully renovated lower level:

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A warm, friendly bar atmosphere:

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And a fantastic fucking burger:

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I’ll definitely be back up this way to try out some of their other menu items. But let me tell you: this burger comes in as one of the best I’ve had in the city so far. Really juicy. Bun could use a slight upgrade, but otherwise this shit is legit.

SECOND TRIP UPDATE – 8/1/16

The bun certainly got an upgrade in quality, but  unfortunately the burger itself was a bit overcooked. It was a bit more like medium well than medium rare.

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Fries were pretty great.

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JONES WOOD FOUNDRY
401 E. 76th St.
New York, NY 10021

Bangkok Cuisine

Is it just me, or is Thai food in NYC starting to all blend together into an incoherent, blurry amalgam of “sweet coconut this,” or “spicy curry that?” I live right near what I like to call “Thai Town,” a strip of dozens of Thai restaurants that run up 9th avenue from the upper 30’s to the upper 50’s in Hell’s Kitchen. One or two joints stand out there as being different and good, but largely it’s all the same Americanized, overly sweet, unbalanced bullshit but with a different name slapped on the facade outside. The interiors even start to look and feel the same. Dim lighting, bamboo everywhere, and a subtle yet obnoxious house music beat relentlessly thumping in the back of your brain for the entirety of the meal. I know you’ve experienced this, and no matter how much X you drop beforehand, it just won’t work while you’re trying to fucking eat. Is this the perception of Thai culture and cuisine that we have here in America, to which Thai restaurants feel they must cater in order to draw in customers? If so, we need to change it, ASAP.

Stepping into Bangkok Cuisine on the upper east side was a refreshing change from that cookie-cutter Thai experience.

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The space is bright, elegant and classy, with a gorgeous emerald Buddha as the centerpiece and focal point of the restaurant. It almost has a museum-esque quality to it, with high luxury style marble under foot and ornate chandeliers over head.

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Hap, son of the chef and owner, invited me in for a press meal. He runs the joint and takes pride in the decor choices he made when designing the restaurant a year ago. He did a great job. I knew just from the decor alone that I was about to get into something very different and unique here when it came to the actual food.

This place is a perfect spot for a date, but it also has appeal to everyday neighborhood diners who want a great meal in a beautiful setting. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are very fair as well. During lunch hours (even on weekends) you can score a three course meal for just $9 or $10. That’s pretty much unheard of these days.

The bar is nice too, with cocktails inspired by Thai spice and herb flavors, and fresh exotic fruits.

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Okay so let me get to the food. Hap suggested we try some of their best and most popular items, to get a good feel for his dad’s cooking style and the diversity of the menu.

First were the chicken lettuce wraps, with minced curried chicken, carrots, celery, shredded beet and cashews.

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These were super light and healthy; a great way to start the meal without going heavy. The curried chicken was a nice change-up from what I usually expect in a lettuce wrap. It was almost like a Thai or Indian taco, if you will. The beets added a nice contrast of color with that pop of red, and the iceberg lettuce added a great textural element of crunch to the tender minced chicken.

Next were the BBQ pork skewers. These were my absolute favorite of the starters.

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They were sweet, spicy, sticky and super tender. The spice/sweet balance struck here was right on the money, and the sticky and tangy sauce on top really fueled my addiction to these. With fresh cut herbs sprinkled over the top of these warm skewers, the air all around the table was filled with some incredible, mouth watering aromas. When you come here, these are absolutely a must-order.

Hap also brought out a small sample size of two other popular apps for us. First was the Thai crepe, a thin, wide, flat, homemade steamed rice noodle wrapped around chicken, shallots and peanuts.

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This is similar in form to Vietnamese banh cuon, which my wife and I love. The flavors here are a bit different though, as they are sweet rather than tangy, and more peanut-forward than the Vietnamese dish. These are nice and light, and very healthy.

The second sampler app was the five-star Thai dumplings. These may look like Chinese dumplings, but they taste very different.

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They have Thai-spiced chicken and shrimp inside, and are served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce.

We tried three entrees from the special chef’s tasting portion of the menu, all at Hap’s suggestion and based on popularity and his personal preferences.

The first was this stuffed salmon with panang curry.

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First off, this was absolutely stunning to look at.  It’s pan-roasted salmon with crab meat and shrimp stuffing, green beans, bok choy, peppers, carrots and onions in a thick and rich panang curry sauce. The sauce here, again, displays Bangkok Cuisine’s amazing ability to properly balance sweet and spicy. One could easily just spoon the curry up and eat it like a thick soup. And the salmon itself was cooked to perfection, with what was essentially a really good shrimp and crab cake added in the mix. It’s no wonder that this is one of their signature and most popular dishes. Absolutely delicious.

Our second entree was volcano duck.

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This is a crispy, boneless half duck served atop tempura carrots and celery, and topped with a fluffy egg and homemade chili flake sauce (pad pong karee). Just to beautify the plate even more, there are a pair of fried lotus root slices on top. The dish consists of traditional Thai ingredients that have been treated in non-traditional ways. For example, the duck is prepped and cooked in a notably French style, with butter under the skin to get a certain level of crisp before finishing, as opposed to just frying the fucker to holy hell. I haven’t seen or tasted anything like it here in the city. The duck itself was amazing. Tender, flavorful and with super crispy skin. And the fluffy egg on top lent a flavorful soft texture to offset the crisp of the duck.

The final entree was a true test of Thai food mettle: Pad Thai.

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But this is no ordinary Pad Thai. This is seafood tom yum inspired Pad Thai. The sautéed rice noodles are adorned with shrimp, squid, scallops, mussels, eggs, peanuts, carrots, bell peppers, scallions and bean sprouts, all deftly tossed with just the right coating of a hot and sour lemongrass “tom yum soup” flavored sauce. Again; a very unique take on a classic Thai dish. It reminded me of the way this noodle dish my wife and I had in Hoi An, Vietnam captured the characteristic flavors of pho in a sauce for a non-soupy noodle dish.

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Each bite of seafood was cooked just right. All tender, and nothing overcooked, whatsoever. What really got me, though, was the perfectly dressed noodles. Lots of times Pad Thai comes to you all watery and soupy. I hate that! This had just the right amount of sauce coating the noodles, and that helped make the noodles slightly sticky, so that all the spices and accompaniments clung to the noodles just so. This made it easy to pick up with chopsticks and stuff down my throat. If Pad Thai is your go-to dish when eating Thai, you won’t be disappointed with this. It brilliantly marries two very popular Thai dishes (Pad Thai and Tom Yum), executed perfectly.

Unfortunately at this point we were too full for dessert. But I will definitely be back to try the whole fried snapper, lamb chops and drunken noodles, for sure. They looked great on the menu.

I highly recommend this place, and even if you’re not regularly spending time on Manhattan’s upper east side, it’s certainly worth a trip up to the neighborhood.

BANGKOK CUISINE
1586 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole restaurants hold a special place in my heart. I met my wife for the first time at the east 80s location when she was working there as a waitress.

The original Jackson Hole location is a pretty cool little joint on the ground floor of a nice brownstone building on 64th Street between 3rd and Lex.

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When you first come down the stairs you are greeted with the cashier, the kitchen, and a few bar stool type seats, like you might see at an old diner.

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Around the corner is the dining room, which seems to have retained all the charm it had upon opening nearly 45 years ago.

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Upon sitting down, you get a nice bowl of half sour pickles. Fucking damn good.

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I ordered an American cheeseburger.

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It stacks up nice with lettuce, tomato and pickle:

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The burgers here are generous 7oz patties, cooked to a nice medium on the flat top griddle. The bread could use some improvement, but otherwise this was a great burger.

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The fries were steak fries style, but they were cooked to a great crispy golden brown. I typically hate steak fries, but these were excellent.

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Wash that delicious shit down with a coffee flavored milk shake, and you’re all set:

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My wife ordered a breakfast plate of two eggs over easy with sausage and toast:

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JACKSON HOLE
232 E. 64th St.
New York, NY 10065