Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Subtle Tea

I had an ice tea at Subtle Tea the other day. Subtle Tea is located at Madison just north of 30th. It has a large array of teas, and I got to taste for free one of their chai lattes. You can add things to their lattes, and I sampled one to which they had added peanut butter. Fantastic.

I had a chocolate chai, which was refreshing and kind of addictive.

Stars: 4/5


I went to WD-50 the other night. In short, the mains were strange but interesting. Nothing I would go back for, except perhaps my eggs florentine (everyone else had the eggs benedict) which had two perfectly gelatinous yolks with a piece of crisped spinach sticking out of it. They went very well indeed with the fried hollandaise sauce sitting in neat cubes near them. The textures were interesting, and the tastes interacted really well together in my mouth.

The desserts were really stealing the show here, though. From the jasmine custard dessert with a sublime banana sorbet and pockets of caramel touched with earl gray powder to chocolate "packets" that look like ketchup packets, to be eaten with yuzu ice cream cubes, the desserts matched form with substance, and looked interesting and tasted great.

Stars: 3/5 for the main courses, 5/5 for the desserts

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Macondo is a spot in the lower-east side that I would describe as island-hip. Filled with finished-unfinished wood tables, concrete floors, transparent-filament bulbs enclosed in large glass globes, and open to the street, the pan-Latin upscale eatery evokes a feeling of staying at an island resort, but a design-savvy one.

Service was cheerful and reasonably prompt. The backless stools, though, are not best suited for comfort. Maybe they wanted to encourage a little intensity.

As far as the food, it's a tapas style system, and that goes for their excellent drinks (all of one of which I tried). Their cocktail list is inventive and extensive, and I had an avocado mezcal drink that tasted like a really well-balanced margarita, with a center of heavy soft slush.

For food, we had several items. Vegetarian arepas filled with spinach, goat cheese, onions, and tomatoes were served not in the sandwich version you might expect at the Caracas arepas bar, but instead as thick slices of arepa on a bed of salad. These were good but a little bready. Cheese croquettes were decent but came a little lukewarm. A mixed green "Quisqueya" salad with asparagus, almonds, and mixed greens was also good but nothing special. Perhaps the best entrees were the patatas bravas, which came nicely cooked in hearty cuts and with a tasty chili sauce (though they could have been a little more generous with the sauce) and the "Setas" vegetarian flatbread, with onions, mushrooms, membrillo, cheese, and pistachio. I enjoyed the dark nuttiness and complexity of the flatbread.

Overall, the food here was above average, and the cocktail I had was excellent, but you would really come here for the excellent atmosphere and an interesting menu that gives you access to a lot of Latin cuisine (including Spanish cuisine) in a small place.

Stars: 4/5

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sacco slices of pizza

Sacco is a slice joint in Midtown West, on 9th ave. just north of 54th. It serves delicious slices particularly notable for the high stretchiness of the dough, the tastiness of the cheese, and the delicious-lookingness of the appearance. I did like the sauce too, but I felt it might have been a little bit too dark in taste, and so it reminded me just a little bit too much of Prego spaghetti sauce.

Stars: 4/5

Monday, July 14, 2008

Prune for Brunch

I had the famous brunch at Prune the other day. Since I went on a Saturday, it was not too crowded, and I got a seat (albeit at the bar) immediately.

Prune is a fairly-ordinary looking place, though not without charm. I ordered a glass of "almond milk," a substance derived from blending water with crushed almonds. It was mild and pleasant. I ordered stewed chickpeas with poached eggs for my main course. The chickpeas, made with tomatoes, were overall good but a little too vinegary for my taste. Also, I thought the portions overall a little small.

While I enjoyed brunch at Prune, it did not strike me as particularly special.

Stars: 3/5

La Esquina Cafe

La Esquina has been a trendy club in Soho for a while now. I ate recently at the attached cafe, which is less trendy, but also does not require reservations. I simply had their chile relleno, which is filled with little cheese and a lot of pumpkin. It's fine, but nothing special. The rice and beans served along with it could have been more exciting as well.

Stars: 3/5

Totonno's Coney Island

The Totonno's on Coney Island is considered one of the truly great old-school Manhattan pizzerias, and for historical value is in the same league as Di Fara's, Grimaldi's, and Patsy's in East Harlam (notwithstanding that this Patsy's pizza is above-average but not great).

Totonno's is located on Neptune Ave., a few streets away from the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island boardwalk, in a very spartan old-fashioned pizza restaurant. Decor is not emphasized.

We got a large pizza, half-plain and and half with peppers and onions. The basic consistency of the dough is satisfyingly chewy. The cheese was a little non-descript in flavor for my taste, but it was still good. The tomato sauce was mild but pleasant. This is a pizza that goes down easy and can stand eating over and over again. This is not an intensely pleasurable, decadent experience. It's more like a laid-back friend whose company at lunchtime is consistently enjoyable.

Stars: 4/5

The Chocolate Room

The Chocolate Room is an incredible chocolate-centered dessert cafe which serves cakes, cookies, ice cream, shakes, hot chocolate, and the like in a sleek if somewhat cramped Cobble Hill space (this is their second location; their first is in Park Slope). We started with a Valrhona chocolat sorbet, which was soft, served just at the right temperature, and had beautiful floral chocolate notes.

I tasted a small, thick, round, soft chocolate walnut cookie, which was moist and tasty. For a main course, we had a brownie sundae, probably the best of its type I have ever had. The brownie, which was warm and light, seemed an ethereal expression of chocolate that melded perfectly with the denser hot fudge beneath it, the cool refreshing vanilla ice cream above it, and the crowning, luscious whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top. All five layers together were a transporting sonata, a meditation on chocolate, cream, eggs, texture, and temperature that was transcendent.

That finished up the "meal," but there is so much more I want to try there. Perhaps the hot chocolate made with Guittard and bourbon vanilla, or the milkshakes, or the tantalizing-looking chocolate cake. But it is without a doubt that this place rocks.

Stars: 5/5

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I was excited to try Alloro, the new green-clad Italian restaurant in the Upper East Side, because I love Cacio e Pepe, its older sibling in the East Village, so much. Alloro is currently hidden behind a little construction, but forgiven that flaw, I was greeted with a snazzy green interior, replete with ruined-decadence chandeliers. The chairs are green, the floor is green, the walls are green. Even the proprietress's necklace is green.

This snazzy interior held a lot of great food. The bread was quite reminiscent of CeP. It's a little tough and heavy on the crust, while the interior softness seems all too insubstantial. It's kind of addictive. It came with a nice sundried tomato dipping sauce, nice and oily.

For appetizers, we ordered an spinach salad with toasted almonds and an immaculate balsamic vinegar. We also had an eggplant Parmesan, "traditional and revisited." This interesting dish consisted on one side of an eggplant Parmesan complete with heavy red sauce, eggplant tenderly cooked and the cheesiness just right. On the other side, a delectably chewy fried mozzarella was topped with a creamed eggplant a little suggestive of a baba ganouj, but somehow fluffier. It was topped by a small delicious Parmesan cracker.

Second courses consisted of a fusilli and a cannelloni. The chewy and fresh fusilli came in an arugula pesto that hit just the right notes of bitter and salty, and lay under a cloud of parmesan emulsion. The cannelloni (supposedly crispy, but actually unfortunately not so crispy) ensconced ricotta and mozzarella and lay in red sauce. Both dishes were moderately creative, in ways that enhanced rather than detracted from the flavor and texture of their dishes.

Dessert was a watermelon ice topped with a white chocolate mousse, and a bavarian cream. The mousse had a consistency a little bit like mascarpone, interrupted with chunks of white chocolate. The bavarian cream was colored dark and flavored of blueberries. It sat in a little pool of stark red wild berries and a berry sauce, and was topped with a lemon liqueur foam. Both desserts hit the mark really well.

The service was reasonable, and the price is right. Overall, the dinner was superb. In terms of craveability, my most important criterion, this is my favorite Italian in New York City right now.

Stars: 5/5

Friday, July 4, 2008


Alidoro Soho is a venerable sandwich shop whose ownership changed last year. It's a small place, with no frills, ordering at the counter, no utensils, no plates, and no glasses of water(only bottles).

It serves up craftsman-quality Italian sandiwches, each with its own name. They are all served cold, and tend to have three or four ingredients: often a cheese and/or meat, a couple of vegetables, and possibly some dressing.

I ordered a Valentino sandwich on white bread, which comes with smoked mozzarella, artichokes, sweet red peppers, and arugula. I added m bel paese cheese (a mild creamy cheese) and dressing, which is a variety of a balsalmic dressing.

The sandwich was excellent. It was prepared with care, and every ingredient tasted fresh and of high quality. The bread was properly crusty and delectable. The cheese was smoked and delicious. The red peppers were delicate and, yes, sweet, and the artichokes were fresh and marinated to a texture that yielded but not too quickly. The dressing was good, too, but perhaps a just a little much in the context of the other ingredients. That's my fault, though, since I added it onto the recipe.

Perhaps my only fault with the sandwiches is that while they are perfect for what they are, they really are awfully simple and perhaps a little lacking in spice. Also, they seemed a little small and not so filling.

All in all, though, an excellent shop.

Stars: 4/5


Batch is a West Village bakery started by the pastry chef, Pichet Ong, who started P*ong, the restaurant next door to Batch. P*ong specializes in integrating sweet flavors into otherwise-savory dishes.

Batch is a more straight sweet affair. I ordered a few different things. A chocolate chip cookie was crispy on the outside, but a too dry on the inside. A vietnamese coffee cake, made with condensed milk vietnamese coffee, was similarly a little too dry. A strawberry rice pudding was mild and aromatic but not sweet enough. A ginger cookie was unimpressive.

The dessert I really enjoyed and the clear standout of the group was the carrot salted caramel cupcake. Here the frosting was deliciously dense and multi-layered in flavor, while the cake's drier carrot-nature added a nice contrast.

Batch is not bad, but other than the cupcake I tried, it is nothing special.

Stars: 3/5

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Quick impressions: Sfoglia, Aquavit revisited, apizz

Sfoglia: Tasty but fairly forgettable Italian food served in a small, memorable rustic setting. I liked it, but not immensely, and was not pleased by the price. Stars: 3/5

Aquavit revisited: As excellent as ever. The goat cheese salad and salsify noodles are standouts, as was the rhubarb tasting, complete with spoon made out of rhubarb. The ambience is a stark and transporting Scandinavian and the service is attentive. Stars: 5/5

apizz: This lower-east side joint is recommended by so many Chowhounds for a reason. A sweet open kitchen constitutes the heart of the room, and the whole thing speaks elegant yet casual. A truffle oil flatbread pizza was delectable and the best dish we ate, and my mushroom risotto was excellent as well (though perhaps not as good as my friend's sage butter and pumpkin ravioli). I also loved the bread served with a wonderful marinara. A spinach salad was good but could have used more variety in texture. Stars: 5/5