Top 5 Dishes of 2013

image

I railed against them in the past. Fought tooth and nail to avoid their formulaic and simplistic approach. Always seemed too easy, the Top Ten lists, the ‘best of’s’ and all that. But easy as they are - they too are useful. At best, they are about discovery. Uncovering something special which may have, for one reason or another, passed us by. So, let’s take a moment and celebrate a few dishes deserving of the sort of year-end praise you thought was finally in your rear view. Let’s get into it…..

Classic Shio Ramen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop
(pictured above)

By now you have most likely heard the tale of Ivan Orkin, the native New Yorker who majored in Japanese at the University of Colorado, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and in 2003 moved to Tokyo and opened up a successful ramen shop. No easy feat to say the least. Fortunately, he returned home and his world famous creations can be found at the Gotham West Market within Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop. His secret - the double soup approach, utilizing two separate broths (chicken and dashi stock) and toasted rye noodles - his own formulation (part udon, part bread, part rye). The man has a gift, and we are all fortunate we don’t have to travel 6,737 miles to experience it!

image

Shrimp Tacos, Otto’s Tacos

It’s no secret that New York’s taco game is - how do I put this nicely? - lacking. I know it, you know it, and Otto Cedeno (owner) and Joe LoNigro (chef) know it. Inspired by L.A. taquerias, Otto’s Tacos is a beacon of light on a dark and stormy night. And the crowning achievement here is the shrimp tacos. Tender, succulent shrimp coated in a salty spice mix, topped with a crema sauce, raw white onions, and chopped cilantro, and served upon a classic corn-masa taco. What’s more, each one will cost you a mere $3.50 a pop!

Read More

Malkmus + Milk Bar

"In honor of their forthcoming LP, Wig Out At Jagbags, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and Momofuku Milk Bar are joining forces to bring you a limited time soft serve flavor inspired by the song “Cinnamon And Lesbians”. The special flavor will be available at one of Milk Bar’s New York store locations for a very limited time starting on January 7 release date.”

A Dynasty

image

It isn’t often that the City of New York is accepting imports from the City of Brotherly Love. No, with our neighbors to the South we tend to maintain our trade embargo at every turn imaginable (musicians a hearty exception! - What up Quest!). I mean - what do they have that we don’t? What can we learn from the self proclaimed 6th borough? We are the big brother - and little brother should just know their roll. Yet, with the arrival of Philadelphia’s famed Han Dynasty, New Yorkers rife with culinary hubris realized right quick, that we can still learn a thing or two….

Having a slew of acquaintances and loved ones from the Philadelphia area I have been familiar with Han Dynasty for some time. Much like New Yorkers, Philadelphians are not afraid to spread the word when the possess something of great quality. Residents of both our fine cities have never been described as shy, or humble, or even quiet. So, word spread rapidly - and then fortunately so did the Han Dynasty franchise. Up until recently Philadelphia has housed five outlets of the popular Sichuan restaurant, and there is also one in South Jersey (Cherry Hill). And now New Yorkers have one to call all their own (90 3rd Ave). There is a practical reason for this sort of expansion and positive word of mouth, and the reason being - Han Dynasty is the real deal.

The ­proprietor of this fine restaurant chain (originally, I intended to avoid the word chain and its negative connotations - but, spades being spades….), Han Chiang, grew up near Philadelphia, although his mother is Taiwanese and his father is from Sichuan. It took no time at all for Han Dynasty to become a beloved hometown franchise, amassing an ardent cult following. And, much of this buzz resonated around one very simple, yet incredibly delicious dish - the often-hyped Dan Dan noodles. These slippery noodles are tossed in house-made chili oil (more on that later!), sesame paste, minced pork, and pickled Sichuan vegetables. They are all that and then some, and it it would be a crime to dine at a Han Dynasty without indulging.

Two other appetizers that should hit leadoff in your dining experience are the Wontons in chili-oil, and the Cold Pork Belly in garlic sauce. The Wontons provide an opportune moment to intimately acquaint yourself with Han Dynasty’s incomparable chili oil (again - more on that later!) as they are doused generously, and pillowy soft ta boot. And as for the cold pork belly, these paper-thin slices of succulent joy are soaked in chili-oil, revealing layers of smoke, sweetness, and zest. Serving them cold is a stroke of genius, as they act as a blissful moment of cooling sweet relief during an otherwise fiery meal.

It is not unfair to say that the entrees at Han Dynasty are somewhat regulated to the back seat, as the appetizers and noodle dishes reign supreme up front. This is more a testament to the grandeur of the starters, not a denunciation of what is to follow. If feeling brave when ordering the main course, and you possess a palette that favors the piquant, have your meat of choice served “Dry Pot Style,” meaning served in a sizzling mini wok and cooked in a spicy hot-pot sauce with black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns. It’s fiery and delicious. Entrees served “Cumin Style” or “Double Cooked Style” are also profoundly flavored and well worth your time.

It’s clear what steers the ship at Han Dynasty, as the homemade chili-oil is the reason for the splendor of Han Dynasty’s finer dishes. They make it from scratch at each restaurant, by first blanching the chile peppers to release their wondrous flavor before adding the oil to complement the tangy heat. It is generously applied to all the Han Dynasty favorites, an impressive display of versatility and flavor. It’s what separates Han Dynasty. It’s the difference-maker.

Han Dynasty serves flat-out authentic Sichuan cooking, and is certainly worthy addition to the New York dining scene. It is incredibly refreshing to experience a meal that lives up to the generous hype bestowed upon it. The type of meal I couldn’t get out of my head the next day. The next week even. I just wanted to dig right back in. And I assure you…I will.

Woah!

time-gods-of-food.jpg

Hits newsstands November 18th (That’s David Chang, Alex Atala, and Rene Redzepi gracing the cover for those wondering.). Here’s a closer look: http://time100.time.com/2013/11/07/coming-to-you-from-a-restaurant-far-away/

Unrivaled

image

Just take a moment and soak up that mess of a plate pictured above. That sloppy, golden brown and yellow gorgeous chaotic mash-up. To the untrained eye it may look more like a Pollack than a plate of food. Or more likely, it looks like something that once was a plate of food - and has been regurgitated with finesse, neatly back into its original platter.

But those in the know, the ones that have taken the pilgrimage out to John Brown’s Smokehouse in Queens, know that what we behold above is far greater than its disheveled appearance may suggest. No, what we have here is one of the finest servings of corn”bread” you will happen upon.

With as many similarities to corn pudding as corn bread, whole corn kernels, creamed corn and sour cream conspire to spawn the moistest cornbread I have sunk my teeth into. It’s cornbread that requires a spoon, and it’s as unkempt as cornbread will come - and all the better for it!

John Browns Smokehouse, one of the finest BBQ restaurants in all the boroughs (10-43 44th Dr. at 11th St.), is located just minutes from the beautiful waterfront of Long Island City. And this is key as - your going to need to walk this off some…..

Incomprable

image

I don’t know when it all began. When I dig deep into my memory banks, and think back to those days of yore - I am pretty sure I detested deviled eggs as a kid. Even just the sight of them. But something changed, and I cannot pinpoint when my pallet ripened to the degree in which I didn’t simply enjoy “eggs mimosa,” but I began to consider them something of a delicacy.

Soon, my affinity for deviled eggs was such that I would never pass on an opportunity. If it was on the menu - it was on the table. It wasn’t long before I was able to use a restaurant’s capacity in whipping up these delectable, soft beauties as a measuring stick to their abilities. And, the more creative -without compromising the integrity of the intended architecture - the better!

And, safe to say, nobody does deviled eggs like Resto (111 E. 29th)….

The good folks at Christian Pappa's Franco-Belgian eatery broke the mold - and rebuilt it upon a three-days-in-the-making crispy pork toast. This is how it's done: Pig jowl is braised overnight before being ground up and mixed with shallots, onions, garlic and herbs. It’s then pressed into a tray, frozen, cut into squares, breaded and fried. Finally, a sliver of hard-boiled egg white, a tablespoon of perfectly spiced yolk mixture and a sprinkling of charred scallion top it off. It is then served three at a time on a wooden block. It's stunning, a game changer, and the best deviled egg in town, for my money.

Feedie - A Way To Give back

It’s good to know I am not alone. I see so many of you doing it all the time, at literally every restaurant I choose to dine in. Look, we can’t help it. If chefs didn’t want us to take photos of their food they wouldn’t make it so unbelievably aesthetically beautiful, right? I mean, it’s there fault for being so talented, not ours for being overwhelmed by their gifts. Anyways, I don’t plan to slowing my roll anytime soon. AND, now we have the ultimate excuse for our behavior…..

Read More

The Gender Issue

"These are the covers of Lucky Peach 8: The Gender Issue.

Betwixt these two covers we fumble with issues of gender like unsure 8th graders cautiously groping each other in the sparkle of a disco ball as a slow jam plays at the school dance. Ben Shewry talks about being a dad. Alice Waters talks about being a chef. Bourdain drops some lovely fiction. A lady named Poochie uses a lot of strong language. Sequential hermaphroditism is discussed.

You can buy it from us here. You should probably subscribe so that you don’t miss any future issues, right? Do that here.”

Smorgasburg DUMBO

The trifecta…..

Mighty Quinn’s Brisket Sandwich.

Read More

Introducing…..

…The Ramen Burger

This beauty, the brainchild of Keizo Shimamoto, who moved to New York City after managing Bassanova Ramen in Tokyo, is inspiring a Cronut-like frenzy.

Shimamoto cooks up a hamburger patty, tops it with a secret soy sauce-based “special sauce,” scallions, and arugula, and then slips it between two “buns” made from ramen noodles pan-fried in sesame oil. It is currently only being sold at Smorgasburg in Willy-B, and the lines are not to be trifled with. Good luck getting your hands on one of these puppies…..