Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hot Chocolate at City Bakery

It's certainly super-thick (so thick that it conceals after 5-10 mins into a near-pudding), and looks delicious, it tastes very mediocre. The chocolate is flat and lacks those nice complex flavor notes that define great chocolate. Disappointing.

Tulcingo del Valle

I went to Tulcingo del valle, a homey little Mexican restaurant in Hell's Kitchen on 10th ave between 46th and 47th, the other day. The place has a deli-like, home-cooked, and family-run atmosphere. You order your food at the counter, and one of the workers delivers it to one of the very few tables located in the front of the store. A refrigerator section full of drinks has third-world favorites like Maaza (a mango juice drink) and the place also carries cookies and the like that are mainly sold in Mexico.

I ordered a Chile Relleno, and I first got chips and salsa. The chips were thin, tough, and crispy: not the giant, almost fluffy restaurant-style chips you see at a lot of places, but honest-to-goodness corn tortillas boiled alive in oil. And angry about it. But tasty.

The salsa was thin and a touch spicy. I personally prefer a chunkier salsa, but this was nice and authentic, no doubt.

The chille relleno itself was a giant couple of chiles fried in a batter. The batter was tender from the sauces that was poured on, and the whole thing was spicy and tasted a little of egg in the batter. Inside the chile was of course a cheese mixture, part melted, part powdered. The rice and beans accompanying were tasty but nothing special. The relleno was clearly the star of the meal.

This is a tasty, down-to-eart Mexican restaurant. It is reasonably cheap -- I paid $11 for my chile relleno plate, and, while not particularly healthy, will certainly fill you up. Indeed, I think with moderation the plate could serve two. I like Tulcingo, and intend to return.

Stars: 4/5

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bomboloni at the Dessert Truck

They're warm, deliciously rough from sugar on the outside, and filled with light, springy dough and hot cream on the inside. Yum. Another win for the Dessert Truck on University and 8th.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lucali: Good, not Great Pizza

So I schlepped over to Carroll Gardens to have pizza with a friend at Lucali. This is a place that has gotten a lot of hype for having incredible pizza. Its main chef apparently studied Di Fara fastidiously before trying to imitate him in the artisan style -- Mark makes each pizza himself. And his devotion shows: he personally asked us whether we had enjoyed our pizza at the end of the night.

And it was good pizza. This is a thin-crust pizza, with the crust charred and crunchy. I personally enjoyed the crust quite a bit. The sauce, though, I found to be a little dim in flavor: not that it didn't have flavor, but it was a touch too sour for me. The cheese was decent but didn't have the addictive quality that the cheese, at, say, Grimaldi's has.

The restaurant itself is warmed by beautiful incadescent lamps and candles, and the service is friendly, though the wait was long -- 45 minutes. This was good pizza, but not as tasty to my palate as many others in New York (e.g. Di Fara's, Grimaldi's, or Patsy's).

Stars: 4/5

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jacques Torres Chocolate

After Grimaldi's, today, my friend and I got absolutely gluttonous and decided to check out the nearby DUMBO edition of Jacques Torres' chocolate shop. We split a Wicked hot chocolate, which is a hot chocolate with a bit of a chili pepper kick, and JT's French Kiss cookies (essentially chocolate chunk, except that the chunks are a little flatter and spread out more through the cookie).

The hot chocolate was tasty, but, to my mind: 1) too thin, and 2) not sweet enough. The chocolate itself was good. For this kind of not-as-sweet, "more civilized" version of hot chocolate, I would prefer La Maison du Chocolat. Though to both I would easily prefer the Dessert Truck's more sinfully sweet beverage of the same kind.

The chocolate chip cookies -- excuse me, french kiss -- was tasty. Large, flat, a little crispy, dense, and with a high chocolate-to-flour ratio, this is a decadent, buttery cookie that has a solid consistency. It is dark and rich. Let's call it a very good cookie, though it did not have the transcendental quality of the very best kind of cookie, in my humble opinion.

Stars: 4/5

Grimaldi's: Some Great New York Pizza

Today is the 2nd time I've been to the famous Grimaldi's pizzeria. I got there by way of trying to make it first to Di Fara's, which was closed, and then to Franny's, which was also closed (I thought I had called ahead but I made a mistake), and then to L&B Spumoni, which for some weird reason Google Maps placed in downtown Brooklyn instead of in Bay Ridge. Finally my starved friend and I landed on the hospitable foothills of the Brooklyn Bridge and begged Father Grimaldi for mercy. And it was given us.

The pizza in this packed place is superb, my 2nd favorite after Di Fara's. We were lucky and did not face a line, perhaps because we arrived late. The place is super-cramped, but the prices are reasonable and the pizza is fantastic. We ordered a large, well-done pie with half mushrooms and peppers. The only problem with the pizza was that, as even Di Fara's slices are sometimes wont to be, a little soggy near the front edge of the slices. Other than that, though, the slices are simply addictive. The dough is fresh, chewy, warm, and slightly sweet. The sauce is sparingly ladled onto the dough, but the simple sweetness of the tomatoes peeks through, and whatever spice combination they use is just about perfection. The buffalo mozzarella has real flavor, unlike the mozzarella at many places, and the peppers and mushrooms were super-fresh and spoke of summer abundance and ripeness. They clearly were sauteed or cooked properly before being laid onto this pizza.

This is some great New York food. Just fantastic.

Stars: 5/5

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shake Shack: Perfect as Ever

Went to Shake Shack yesterday for "brunch." This famous burger joint in Madison Square Park was nearly line-less, and it took me but a few minutes to get my shroomburger (a deep-fried mushroom treated as a burger), fries, and a concrete (frozen custard sundae) with caramel and pieces of apple pie in it. Everything was just wonderful. The shroomburger is easily the best "veggie burger" I've ever tasted, by a mile. The crisp outside reveals a melty interior, like they had somehow gotten the mushroom inside to talk to a movie star it had a crush on. The fries were crisp, but somehow had a substantiality and heft that a lot of crisp fries lack. The only downside was the shape, which reminded me way too much of cafeteria fries (they were of the thick rectangular stype with wedges pressed in). The concrete was divine: SS's frozen custard is certainly excellent and soft, and the caramel and pie took it to another level...

This is another amazing Danny Meyer place. I love all his restaurants: Tabla, Eleven Madison Park, and Shake Shack.

Stars: 5/5

Moustache: Pretty decent Middle Eastern food

Went to Moustache last night, a small middle eastern restaurant at 10th between 1st and Ave A. It has fairly sparse decor, and reasonably good but not great food. We ordered hummus and pita, a "pitza" with roasted red bell peppers, tomato, onion, parseley, chili and fresh mozzarella and a falafel plate. The hummus was good but it didn't have the depth that the hummus at a place like Hummus Place has. The fresh pita they served with it, though, was delicious, and went all too fast. The pitza was tasty, fresh, tangy, and fairly healthy for a pizza-like dish. The falafel was good, too, but the accompanying condiments were mainly a standard salad. Nothing like what you would get in a good falafel sandwich (maybe we should have ordered that instead of the plate). Anyway, decent food at a reasonable price.

Stars: 3/5

Friday, January 18, 2008

Disastrous Dinner at Salaam Bombay

Had dinner this evening at Salaam Bombay, a Tribeca establishment at the corner of Reade and Greenwich. The restaurant tries to be exotic and enticing, with embroidered cloth hanging from the ceilings and oddly elegant Indian music chiming through the air. It had a strange tackiness throughout, though -- its bathrooms featured beautiful washbasins but a grungy bottle of soap; the ceilings had the cloth but behind them were lots of fire sprinklers not too well hidden. And, unfortunately, the restaurant's service was lax and its food really bad.

Let me start quickly with the service. The server asked me if I knew what I wanted within about 2 minutes of my having gotten the menu. When I asked him for another minute, he essentially hovered within 5 feet of my table for that minute. Admittedly, this was at 10:15 and there were few other patrons, but still. This was intrusive. When dishes came, there was no explanation -- not even an "enjoy." They were simply served silenly. This might be some people's interpretation of super-refined service, but it isn't mine.

The food, meanwhile, was really the epitome of over-Americanized stuff. The dahi puri (small crisp very-thin fried flour puffs filled with a combination of lentils, yogurt, and mint sauce) was sour and had an odd spice profile that did NOT sing on my tastebuds. I also made the mistake of ordering a vegetarian thali for my entree -- a mixed plate containing several vegetable items, rice, dessert, and that came with poori bread.

Every single item on the plate, each presented in a separate little bowl, was bad. A lentil cake included as an appetizer was simply very boring. The okra and the "korma" that was a kind of sweet-spicy soup were undersalted and bland. The malai kofta (vegetable dumplings) was sweet and the dumpling tasted a little stale. The eggplant was tough and did not taste good. The lentils were mushy and lacking in flavor. The carrots and peas on the rice were undercooked, as was the rice itself. The pooris (supposed to be large puffy fried bread) were flat, undercooked, and tasteless. Even the dessert -- the dessert! -- was somehow mismanaged, and tasted sour.

How a restaurant created so many failures amazes me, but I think this is their idea of what Americans liked. Plus, on a different note, everyone looked unhappy at this place, starting with what seemed to be the female proprietress or head manager. Everyone looked dour and beat. I wonder if that had anything to do with the quality of the food.

Anyway, avoid this place like the plague.

Stars: 1/5

Caracas Arepa Bar: Fun, Tasty, and Cramped

Caracas Arepa Bar is one of the restaurant incarnations of the stereotypical Manhattan apartment: it's a closet, but it's charming and it's in a great location. CAB is a Venezeulan restaurant located in the East Village, and when we got there it was packed with a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings, snacking on delicious looking and smelling latin food of all shapes and sizes. A couple of waiters in colorful, bohemian attire (e.g. giant sneakers with different colored laces) managed the crowds. Tables are stacked about as close together as you can get while still being stacked horizontally instead of vertically. The place sports a metallic ceiling, one wall with a mural of a peasant girl, and another with a tiny shrine to the Virgin Mary and what seems like important historical Venezuelan historical figures.
The menu features lots of interesting items of Venezeulan cuisine, with a heavy focus on South American staples: plaintains, corn, different kinds of cheeses. My vegetarian palate found plenty of choice.
We ended up ordering some "yoyos" - deep fried balls of sweet plaintain limned on the inside with a mild white cheese. They looked entertainingly dark and mysterious, and were served with an equally mysterious dark sauce that could have been soy sauce, but was actually a sweet, molasses-based concoction.
I also ordered a cheese arepa, and, in a stunning display of boring choice, also ordered an empanada version of the same thing. The arepa was essentially a corn tortilla pocket filled on the inside with this cheese. It disappointed me slightly that neither the cheese nor the tortilla was not hot, but this might have been intentional. In any case, the cheese was very flavorful and almost a little too juicy: as I bit into it, squirts of cheese-juice shot out of the sandwich and onto my face, the table, or anywhere else it would be annoying for it to go. The tortilla itself was hearty and fresh too.
The empanada, which was just a deep-fried arepa, was also satisfying, although less so. Maybe it's because I'm used to flour-based empanadas, but the corn just seemed a touch too chewy and heavy for my taste. I still liked it, but it just didn't seem quite as wonderful as the arepa. I love melted cheese, but even the melted cheese didn't taste as good as it should have, somehow. I think the arepa was clearly the superior dish.
Dessert was a thick chocolate mousse with cookies layered in between. The chocolate itself was rich and delightful, but the cookies in between were a little disappointing. They should have added crunch and texture, but they became soggy in the mousse and added little or nothing.
Overall, this is a beautiful, charming little restaurant with excellent food and prices. You should be prepared for a wait, but that, like the lack of space, is part of the charm.

Stars: 4/5

Felidia's: Great Food Marred By Rudeness

My friends and I went to Felidia's recently for lunch. It's got a kind of cozy, if slightly stuffy atmosphere: yellow walls, warm red lamps.

Appetizer bread was decent and served with three varieties of a chickpea dip, of which the pesto was the best.

I ended up ordering a beet salad with goat cheese that turned out to be beautifully laid out and delicious. Pieces of apple complemented the beet perfectly, and the spread on a wide square plate was highly artistic and colorful.

My main course was a pear-and-cheese ravioli that I had eaten once before and which was also excellent. Fruit and cheese accented each other just as well in the delicate ravioli skin as they did in the beet salad. Gourmet but also simple and addictive, this was the best kind of high-end pasta.

My dessert was a small scoop of almond gelato wedged between two meringue cookies, on a bed of crepes filled with a lemony pastry cream. Also excellent. The cookies were soft and melted in my mouth. The gelato was aromatic and full-bodied. Pieces of candied fruit in the gelato added extra texture, crunch, and taste.

The food was great. What was not so great was the service. For one thing, when I asked about vegetarian options, the waiter seemed to be singularly unhelpful. I had to extract information about each of the entrees I was interested in myself (it felt like pulling teeth), and he suggested no flexibility or accommodation in any of the dishes I asked about that had meat. Neither did he voluntarily point to other dishes that I might be interested in, or try to paint any of the vegetarian dishes as particularly appealing (the vegetables and polenta: "just vegetables spread flat"). He simply wasn't very helpful -- it showed in his attitude.

Then, when the check came, and the four of us wanted to split the check three ways by what we had ordered (three of us had ordered a $29.50 prix-fixe, and I had ordered a la carte at a higher price), the captain on duty simply refused. "We can't do that." It obviously was not beyond their capabilities -- he was simply being rude or lazy or both.

It also bothered me -- though this was as much my fault as anyone's -- that they had charged me $50 for my three courses, and yet the combination of plates I had gotten: appetizer, main course, and dessert mirrored what someone with the prix-fixe would have gotten. My 1st and 2nd course were both "first course" options on the prix-fixe. I feel like the waiter could have suggested my getting an extra 1st course option as a 2nd course. But he didn't. Yes, I realize this was not his "obligation." But it would have generated a lot of goodwill.

The rude and unhelpful service makes this a restaurant I will not go to again on my dime.

Stars: 3/5

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wonderful brunch at Stanton Social

Had brunch at Stanton Social this past Sunday. The restaurant itself had a 30-minute wait, so my friend and I sat at the upstairs bar instead. I've been to SS, a trendy, modern restaurant/bar/lounge, at night. It has excellent mixed drinks and a lively atmosphere. At brunch time, it is far more relaxed and comfortable. Perfect for catching up from a last night filled with excess...

The brunch menu itself has great variety, with dishes like an apple-and-brie quesadilla and an egg bruschetta dish. I went for a huevos rancheros dish, which ended up look like three elegantly-presented soft tacos filled with eggs, cheese, black bean spread, and salsa. It was taty though not transcendent. My friend ate the beautiful-looking, if a little small, bruschetta entree. We also ordered doughnuts (really brown doughnut holes), which came out piping fresh and hot, and were rolled in white sugar and served with a caramel dipping sauce. Delicious. I also ordered a refreshing pomegranate-peach bellini.

Service was fine but our server was a little overworked. Prices are pretty reasonable, with entrees costing in the $10 range. It's an easy choice to come here again.

Stars: 4/5

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Quick Reviews: Ruben's Empanadas; Almond Croissants from Rive-Gauche; Tollhouse Blondies from Mother Fortune; La Maison Hot Chocolate

Ruben's Empanadas: tried a vegetarian chili empanada from this little institution in the East Village. The empanada shell was dry and thick and the filling inside tasted like it could have been frozen food heated up (doesn't mean it's inedible, just at a pretty low level). Not very good.

I tried the next two items from a Dean and Deluca store:

Almond croissants from rive-gauche: doesn't taste much like a croissant should. No shatter effect, too chewy, not enough flakiness. But the almond filling is delicious.

Tollhouse blondies from Mother Fortune: this is more like a big square chunk of poundcake (flavored butterscotch maybe?) and with chocolate chips dotted through it. Good, I guess. Not really a blondie.

I also tried the hot chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat. This is a very civilized drink. I like the midlness, the purity of its chocolate flavor. But it isn't sweet enough, or thick enough for my taste. Very good for what it is, but not really my cup of chocolate.

Review: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

L'atelier is a mediocre restaurant, and bad for its price. It's located in the Four Seasons hotel, and clearly tries hard to be contemporaneous and hip: overhead lights pieced together as squares whose sides are triangle-ended rectangular towers; large blackish gray plates with stripes down part of them; translucent red glasses; pickled vegetables swimming in large jars fronting an open kitchen. I sat at the counter, which looks right into the kitchen. I asked if they could accommodate vegetarians (I had called ahead and they had assured me they could), and they pointed me to their single appetizer (a slow-roasted vegetable & buffalo mozzarella dish) and entree (spaghetti, parmesan, and poached egg w/optional black truffles). I asked if the chef could make anything different, and the answer came back no.

The bread basket was decent, consisting of baguettes, rolls, and olive focaccio. The baguette was a little too tough. The slow-roasted vegetable dish was also fine, though nothing special (though I liked the flavor of the tomato confit). The spaghetti dish was not particularly memorable. I'm certainly glad I didn't opt for black truffles, which would have upped the price of the dish from $35 to a somewhat absurd $160.

Service was fine, though the server did not seem to make much effort to even attempt to get me the special dish I requested nor was he particularly put-out when he couldn't. So mark one off for that.

Nothing to see here, folks. I won't be going back.

Stars: 2/5

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Quick re-review of Kyotofu

I went to Kyotofu for a second time last night with friends. I found the desserts pretty much as excellent as the last time, though since I ordered the tasting menu again for my friends' benefit, I didn't really experience anything new. The only difference was that the jewel-like pear sorbet was gone, replaced with a cranberry sorbet that was sadly not as good. I also really liked a green tea chocolate they served as a petit-four. It was dense, rich, and married the tea and chocolate flavors together nicely, creating something greater than its parts.

Here's my first review of Kyotofu (initially posted on Chowhound):

Kyotofu is a small boutique venue whose savory dishes -- based on my choices, anyway -- must be ignored. Their desserts, though, are sublime. I first made the mistake of trying their tofu stuffed with flavored rice and their squash soup. The first was served lukewarm. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it didn't seme to taste very good this way. The tofu skin was ok but not particularly good, and the rice within was bland. The same was doubly true of the squash soup, which had a dully sweet flavor which made me wonder whether I was just too American to get the Japanese palate.

The desserts proved me way off. I got the prix-fixe dessert tasting. The first course was "sweet tofu": beautiful deep brown sugar sauce over a small cup of tofu the consistency of a well-done flan. The second course was a trio of desserts. The first was a sake cheesecake whose slight sourness complemented the sweet smooth tofu cream on top, and, together with the ripple of plum sauce dotted next to it, tasted a lot like peanut butter and jelly (in a good way!). The second was a soy pecan parfait, which, not surprisingly, reminded me of butter pecan, and it had a wonderful wholesome nutty flavor and texture. A drizzle of deep bittersweet caramel on the side accompanied it. Finally, a small miso chocolate cake sat silently next to milk and dark chocolate sauce finishes. It had a velvety-smooth mouthfeel, a lot like warm brownie dough.

The final dessert course was a exquisite pear sorbet that was dense and jeweled and very special. Its two accompaniments were a small lemon jello-like thing which had a nice tartess and a dense green pea chocolate.

The waitress gave me a final petits-four in the form of a small chocolate cupcake. Tiny and moist, it was a delicious end to a fantastic dessert experience.

Stars: 5/5

My 2006 impressions of New York Restaurants

I jotted down quick impressions of restaurants from my stay in New York for a few months last year. I don't still agree with all of these, but I'm putting them down here for record-keeping purposes. I note below where I've changed my mind:

-Grimaldi’s (excellent pizza)
-Brooklyn Ice Cream factory (very nice ice cream)
-Banjara (decent Indian food… a little Americanized… definitely not great) [update: I now think this is one of the best N. Indian restaurants in the city]
-Kati rolls on Macdougal and Bleecker (excellent Indian sandwiches on naan-type bread)
-Indian Bread Co. (ok indian-type sandwiches…Kati is better)
-Utsav (excellent standard Indian food)
-Jewel of India (excellent standard Indian food)
-Good (had this for brunch) – decent, even nice ,brunch, but corn tortilla chips were a little soggy under sauce and pancakes were dry
-Mama Mexico – liked it, pretty good, pretty good portions; great guacamole; otherwise, not exceptional
-Le Petit Abeille – ok waffles, ok omelette. just ok for brunch.
-Tamarind – decent, elegant, artistic Indian food. But lotus root dumplings were too sweet for my taste. also quite expensive.
-Two Little Red Hens: Brooklyn blackout cake is quite tasty, but nothing all that mindblowing
-Jacques Torres chocolate: frozen hot chocolate was quite chocolatey and flavorful but not sweet enough. Chocolate chip cookie was good but chocolate stung a little too much for my taste
-Murray’s bagels: really good
-H&H bagels: quite good, but I think Murray’s are better [update: H&H is definitely too soft and fluffy for my taste.]
-Sukhadia’s: nice chaat, not great though
-Dimple food: also good chaat, but not as good as Sukhadia’s [update: The owners of Vatan now own Dimple, and they're using it to host Vatan's menu while V is renovated. D-as-V is a fantastic Indian restaurant, possibly my favorite in the city.]
-Il Mulino: good food, but they screwed up my eggplant parmesan, intentionally requested vegetarian, and stuffed it with crabmeat and shrimp and didn’t seem to apologize for it
-Mexicana Mama: fabulous mexican food; particularly delicious salsa
-L’Impero: good italian, but just not all that memorable
-Del Posto: excellent italian, but a little iffy for the vegetarians (they got me a wonderful split-pea ravioli, but the mushroom risotto was in chicken broth, and there just weren’t enough veg. entrees
-Diwan: decent Indian food
-Devi: too creative upscale; kind of bland. Eh.
-Felidia’s: very nice Italian (delicious slightly-sweet pear ravioli); somewhat limited veg. options
-Ray Bari’s pizza: nice pizza. nothing super-special, but quite tasty
-Holy Basil – decent kind-of-gourmet thai, small portions
-El Maguey y La Tuna – nice “mexican” mexican, little limited on the veg. options i believe.
-Cones: superb gelato on Bleecker [Update: am a little less enamoured of Cones now, though it's still very good]
-Mr. Softee: fun frozen custard from the truck. fun and wonderful texture. not SUPER-flavorful. makes you feel like a kid.
-Zum Schneider: decent German food
-Spice: decent thai food, not great
-Deborah: quite tasty brunch; I had mexican nacho/omelette thingy… not spectacular but quite tasty
-Sarabeth’s: excellent brunch… scones and muffins are superb
-The Modern: decent upscale food for vegetarians. beautiful setting and service
-Sunburst Espresso Cafe: excellent ambience, nice omelettes, decent waffles, overall nice coffee shop
-Zen Palate: very mediocre vegetarian chinese food. Avoid.
-Pure Food and Wine: excellent raw food, but… it’s raw food. special, but not too often
-Di Fara’s: superb pizza, drizzled with olive oil and cheese and fresh from the oven… worth the trip to Brooklyn
-Je Bon Noodle house: decent chinese/pan asian food; a bit bland
-Australian Homemade Ice Cream: very good ice cream. dense, though not that sweet
-Clinton St. bakery – brilliant breakfast—lovely buttermilk biscuit egg sandwich, tasty potatoes, and a wonderful brioche french toast. light and airy but delicious
-Otto: beautiful ambiance and nice service, GREAT gelato and desserts, interesting and reasonably good, but not great, pizza (I had one with fried egg on it)
-Aquavit: interesting goat cheese dessert, nice vegetarian tasting menu generally
-Divine Bar: excellent late night crostini with Elliott Davis!
-Solo: kosher american food; decent but not great
-Le Carne: kosher american food; bad for vegetarians
-Per Se: awesome, of course
-Thalassa: very nice greek food; though short on vegetarian options
-Gramercy Tavern – tasty, and vegetarian was good but a little cliche (truffle emulsions, anyone? I know that sounds extraordinarily haughty ;-).)
-Levain Bakery: tried the chocolate chip cookie. not so impressed. decent but not extraordinary. -River Cafe: nice views and ambience, but simply non-existent food for vegetarians
-Avra: a wonderful, memorable brunch. I had the scrambled eggs and the beautiful "greek toast" with vanilla and honey
-Una pizza napoletana: a beautiful authentic naples pizza. A bit expensive.
-Pommes Frittes: good french fries, especially for late night snacking after a night on the town. wide choice of sauces.

Brgr milkshake review

In my newly-minted quest for the perfect milkshake, I had the black-and-white at Brgr, recommended by New York Magazine as the best milkshake in the city. On my first few sips, I was indeed taken aback by the sweetness and mistook it for goodness. But after drinking a little more, I realized that while the flavors were there and it was a good milkshake, it was not a great milkshake. It was too thin and milky. It took the "milk" in milkshake a little too literally. Nor was the chocolate syrup anything special. A good milkshake, but ultimately forgettable.

Stars: 3/5

Taim Review

Taim is a small falafel-focused shop at the corner of Perry and Waverly in the West Village. The place is tiny, with a mere couple of counters and stools which serve as the seating area. In the kitchen, meanwhile, a busy crew runs around generating their specialty menu of falafel dishes, salads, and smoothies.

I ordered the standard green falafel on pita with everything, along with a strawberry raspberry smoothie with basil. The latter was refreshing but a bit on the bland side. The sandwich, though, was something else. Fresh, warm, toasty pita held together a generous, heavy, toss-together of small falafel balls, yogurt sauces, hummus, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and probably some other ingredients I didn't observe.

The falafel balls themselves were tender, and, on the inside, were just a touch molten, as if one were biting into slightly undercooked batter. This was a good thing, though: it gave the falafel a smooth, velvety mouthfeel. The flavor was a touch spicy and aromatic. Together with the sauces and the pickles, this was a delicious, addictive, fresh, and hearty sandwich. I would definitely go back.

Stars: 4/5

Monday, January 7, 2008

Reviews: Hummus Place, The Smith

Hummus Place is a little shop specializing in, well, Hummus, and has two locations: one in the East Village, and another in the Village proper. I jsut had a snack here of the hummus with phool (a fava bean) mixture, and it was warm and fresh, and slightly garlicky, and the fava bean mixture had jsut the right amount of tender strength to make it wonderful. Probably the best hummus I've ever had.

Stars: 5/5

The Smith: had a wonderful brunch here, except for a few snafus. The place has tiled walls and floor, wooden ceiling, lamps hump on hooks or attached on structures made of pipes. Reminded me vaguely of a ship. I ordered huevos rancheros, and my friend ordered a vegetarian sandwich with roasted vegetables and gruyere. We also started and shared a tomato soap. The tomato soap was delicious, and looked delicious too, with a thick, fleshy cheese topping covering the bowl in a way that reminded me of french onion soup. The soup itself was, well, tomatoey and chunky, but in a good, hearty, fresh, comfort-foody way.

The entrees took quite a while to come out, but the service was very friendly throughout, and to compensate for the extra wait time, we got a complimentary french toast with banana slices and syrup. All was forgiven, because this french toast, based off of hugely thick slices of brioche, was crusty, light, warm, fluffy, and had just enough density to lend it gravitas while at the same time melting in your mouth. The toast itself was not too sweet yet it seemed plenty sweet enough (though of course syrup helps with that). Excellent.

The sandwich was good too, except that they left the gruyere off half of it. The bread itself was tasty though. The french fries were decent but not great. They had wilted a bit, perhaps suggesting they had been left out a little too long... The huevos rancheros were quite tasty (if not as good at the ones at Shopsin's). The eggs and tortillas were fine, but the chipotle salsa was a little stingily sauced on, and was a touch dry anyway.

Overall, this was a really nice brunch place, and I'm eager to come back and try other meals. It's got a fun, young vibe to it, too, and they don't charge a fortune.

Stars: 4/5