Monday, April 29, 2013

Brunch in Harlem: Red Rooster

When I told people that I was moving to Harlem, a fair amount of them immediately asked, "Tell me where you, how close are you to Red Rooster?"

I wouldn't use Red Rooster as a gauge for life in Harlem, but it is a huge draw for Manhattanites to venture up north on the 2/3 line for some Southernesque eats.  The restaurant is one of Marcus Samuelson's haunts, Top Chef winner / Iron Chef contender, if you care about any of that (who cares about any of that, right? Morimoto is the only Iron Chef that matters!).

Tour buses have been dropping loads of tourists in Harlem every weekend of late.  A bus goes to Sylvia's.  Another goes to Londel's.  It's a weird, particularly white scene at these spots.

We came to Red Rooster early (~11:30a) to beat the crowd, nabbed outdoor seats on the nicest day to hit NYC all spring and sipped on creamy lattes while listening to a soulful lady croon jazz table to table.

An order of $4 cornbread with bits of yellow corn was served with whipped butter and tomato jam.  The cornbread was on the dry side, and benefited from a heavy pour of tomato sauce across the top.  I'd skip this though - Amy Ruth's cornbread is much tastier and complimentary !

An order of the Yard Bird was quite a looker of a plate with two pieces of dark meat, mashed potatoes and housemade hot sauce.

The skin was one of the prettiest shades of crimson I'd ever seen - completely speckled with spices like cumin and paprika.

The chicken, brined in buttermilk, was juicy, the skin thin, crisp and spiced with the flavors of the Middle East.  The unique take on fried chicken was fun, and coupled with the lady crooner (singing Old McDonald to a two year old for everyone to hear), and the warm spring day, it was a nice little brunch.  That hot sauce is some good stuff.

The scene is lively, the outdoor seating clutch for people watching along Lenox, but I'm still a little unconvinced on the food for now !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: If you're looking for an ethnic twist on fried chicken, Red Rooster serves up a powerful piece of poultry, but I can't see myself seeking this dish again anytime soon!

310 Lenox Ave
New York, NY
Red Rooster on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dine in Brooklyn 2013 - Italian @ PT

Man, I went back to Williamsburg last weekend, after a month hiatus, and I can only say that I am not sure how I lived in that hipster haven for so long.  I can't say that I miss the scene all that much (or at all), but the restaurants were good.

PT was a recent discovery, a cozy basement restaurant serving up homey Italian cuisine.

Check out this crazy bread basket with crunchy crostini, flaky sheets, and soft sourdough bread.  So much to choose from and so little time.  I like that.

The calamari, dusted with paprika, were crispy, lightly battered rings served with warm marinara sauce.  Decent, but boy I missed the tentacle pieces.  I am such a tentacleface.  I would eat a whole bowl of tentacles if they let me.

Tanuja ordered spaghetti, which came heaped in a bowl, crowned with fresh tomato sauce and basil.

She cleaned this plate up easy and joked with the waiter, "You don't even have to wash it!" but his face clearly indicated that he was still going to wash it.

I ordered the lasagna alla bolognese, made with layers of bechamel sauce that the waiter insisted made this lasagna a lot lighter than the norm, and hence you can eat more.  I always like the sound of that.

The serving was fat and thick, but the dish did go down easy - delectable burnt edges, chewy noodles, and flavorful little layers of meat sauce and bechamel.  I did not clean up my plate as easy (but sure enjoyed having it for lunch the next day!).

To top it all of, this tiramisu sundaesque confection was borderline amazing.  Espresso soaked ladyfingers mashed with the creamiest marscapone filling.  Guh. So good.

I liked this meal ! She did too !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: There's a few Italian places in Williamsburg, but PT is a notch above the rest.  The service is weird (is it friendly or is it snarky?  Who knows!), but the food tastes pretty fine!

331 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY
PT Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 26, 2013

Terrific Korean Fried Chicken at Mono + Mono & Dessert Club Chickalicious

Mono + Mono, I love you.  I love that cool, cool ambience with those old-school records lining the walls, and those lovely jazz notes floating in the background.

I love your pork jeon.  I had no idea that it would be little silver dollar-sized pork and onion-like sausages that had the most addictive soy-based marinade.  (I could eat dozens, but I usually only eat one because I know how to share, but not necessarily because I want to.)

I like your sesame leaf jeon a little bit less,

though the little sesame leaf wrapping is sooo adorable,

but the juicy pink beef interior is a little bit disconcerting.

But the main reason I truly love you is your fried chicken (naturally).

It's perfect.  It comes in two flavors - hot & spicy (and oh ! what a lovely level of spice !) and soy garlic (a lovely mix of sweet and savory). A large combo platter is my most favorite order in the world.  The chicken is twice fried to make the skin particularly thin and crispy, and the whole thing is a beautiful spectacle that brings tears to my eyes (and that's not because the chicken wings are spicy).

And that's all you should mainly order.  Jeon and fried chicken.  Repeat. And then do it again.  Oh, sweet happiness!

I did go ahead and try some other dishes for your sake though !
The bulgogi mung bean pancake was interesting, but I don't think I'd order it again.  Definitely beany with a touch of mung. Just kidding.  Quite the blandcake ! Ha !

Garlic seafood fried rice was a nice little dish, with chunks of fresh seafood, a nest of fried green onions, and sticks of asparagus.

Fries are thick cut and not quite memorable.  You should order the soft shell crab buns instead (not pictured) because they have like 25 spices on it (who knew you could fit that many spices on a soft shell crab?), and it's fun to see how those crabs barely fit in that bun, or in your mouth, but it's fun to try all the same.

After your lips are stinging and singing from the tastiest Korean fried chicken to hit East Village, mosey on over to Dessert Club Chikalicious for their tasty strawberry shortcake sundaes, thick and tasty soft serve, and more.

At the clerk's recommendation, I tried this multilayered mayhem of chestnut cake, almond paste, meringue, whipped cream and chestnut icing.  Not too sweet, this nutty thing, with crazy textures in every layer, was a hit among the group.

I kind of fell in love with the Michelle Obama though - salted caramel, soft serve with a dash of espresso.  It's a sultry little affogato that's un-fogatable.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Mono + Mono and Dessert Club Chikalicious just might be my favorite food pairing in some time.  I am pretty sure angels sing every time I crunch my teeth into one of those gloriously golden glazed wings.  Okay, maybe that's just the crispy skin ringing in my ears, but boy is it a heavenly feeling !

116 E 4th St New York, NY 10003
Mono+Mono on Urbanspoon

204 E 10th St New York, 10003
Dessert Club, ChikaLicious on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chelsea Vietnamese at Co Ba

I know, guys.  I keep trying.  Good Vietnamese in Manhattan - it's my golden goose !

Inside tips led me to Co Ba in Chelsea.  A nondescript red awning along 18th St and 9th Ave, the place is pretty minimalist, but warm, with a series of conical straw hats lined along the wall to emit some true Vietnamese ambience.

Shared a bowl of beef pho as an appetizer.  Actually pretty tasty if it wasn't so salty.  If they just diluted it with maybe a half cup of hot water, this pho might be on point ! Fixins are a bit sparse too, so hopefully you're not too into that classic bean sprout-basil action.

For lunch, the menu is a bit limited, but a fun option is the banh uot thit nuong, featuring chunks of chewy rice noodles ("housemade rice ravioli") topped with crispy onions, grilled pork, and Vietnamese ham / sausage.  Drizzled with some chili-lime sauce, it makes a fun, light and surprisingly filling dish.

I've been craving some vermicelli noodles of late, so I ordered the bun ga nuong, the classic vermicelli bowl with marinated chicken breast, greens, fat, salty peanuts and chili-lime sauce.  The noodles were a touch musty, but otherwise, this dish hit the spot.  I gotta start making this at home.  I can see myself eating this all summer long.

The price point of Co Ba is a notch above Chinatown, as you'd expect, but it's worth a visit in the area if you're looking for some light, fairly solid Vietnamese fare.  I still want to go back and try their thit kho (caramelized, braised pork belly).  You could actually get a banh mi thit kho during lunch, and man, my mind was a bit blown thinking about it.

Next time!

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Not worth going out of your way for, but an okay option if you're in the area.  Order a glass of their kumquat limeade for a refreshing way to wash down that Vietnamese cuisine!

Co Ba
110 9th Ave
New York, NY
Co Ba on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Date Night in Harlem: Jado + Lido

Moving is a complete pain, but boy is living in a new neighborhood exciting !  And we're already off to a good start with initial explorations !

Jado is a charming sushi spot off of Frederick Douglass and 114th.  They have fun little appetizers, loads of neat roll options, and the added bonus of providing awkward date encounter-type entertainment !

While we eavesdropped on the strangest pairing next to us, we noshed on:

Fried oysters with panko crust.  Plump. Crunchy. Awesome.

A trio of rice balls - tuna-mango, salmon avocado, and crab asian pear.  

Look at this one !  There's some ham in there !

The tuna mango was the best.  Spicy, sweet and crispy - all the best textures and flavors in a fun, bundled bite!

We ordered a few rolls, like the mango spicy tuna, the spider roll that came with slices of granny apple, and the Poseidon with tuna, salmon, hamachi, crab and scallop !

The rolls were perfectly sized, with the right balance of sushi rice and fresh fish.

Our favorite was definitely the mango spicy tuna - the sesame seed studded exterior completely sealed the deal for us. 

For dessert, we nabbed a window seat at Lido, and ordered a brownie sundae (with hazelnut and marscapone ice creams),

and warm crepe with salted caramel and rum custard.  This dessert was amazingly light, the crepe just filled with creamy air.  The brownie was just okay (the hazelnut ice cream was the best thing about it with itty bitty bits of hazelnuts in the scoop).

Overall, the duo make a lovely night in Harlem.  I can't wait to explore more at these two restaurants and others !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: So excited for good sushi in Harlem at Jado ! The mango tuna roll and rice balls are a  must !  And Lido's outdoor seating makes it so irresistible for those warm summer nights.

2118 Frederick Douglass
New York, NY

2168 Federick Douglass
New York, NY
Lido on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Boil is made with crack; that's all there is to it.

Hi, friends.
It's been three weeks ! During those three weeks, I have moved to Harlem (expect new neighborhood eats!), built a fair amount of IKEA furniture, and visited The Boil three times.

I love The Boil.  I am obsessed with The Boil.  All I want to do is:

1. Go to The Boil.
2. Open the front door.
3. Breathe in all of that thick, spicy, buttery air.
4. Plant my face in a combo bag and eat my way out.

With all of the restaurants that New York has to offer, sometimes it is easy to forget what New York doesn't have, and that was a solid Cajun seafood spot...until now.

Here's the rundown of how it works:

1. Get bibbed.


2. Enjoy life wearing a bib.

3. Order starters (if you want).  There's lots to pick from including BBQ shrimp, fried catfish, lobster spring rolls and more.  

We tried the crab vermicelli salad.  More like coleslaw with lump crab and no vermicelli.  Whatever it is, it's actually quite fresh and tasty.

Not pictured, but things I've tried on subsequent visits include: oyster sliders (three to an order, quite large, and a good, solid appetizer) and lobster spring rolls (two to an order, and not quite worth $18).

4. Order seafood combo bags for a little bit more bang for your buck.  Types of seafood include king crab legs, dungeness crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, and crawfish. I like the crawfish + shrimp combo as a staple.  The shrimp are jumbo and quite awesome.  I would also recommend the lobster - perfectly cooked and succulent.  I cannot wait to try the crab next!

You also pick the sauce that your seafood is cooked in and the level of spice.  The signature is "The Boil," and it is truly a delectable marvel.  Loads of minced fresh garlic, and if you get it spicy, it's borderline nose-drippy, but completely great.

These pictures do no justice, but will give you the gist of the gloriousness that will come in a clear plastic bag.

Then it's time to get those lovely hands dirty and start shuckinnnnnn'.  Helpful "how to peel crawfish" placards are available for newbies.

5. Order extra sides.  I'd recommend more sausage, if anything, because that andouille sausage sopped up in that sauce is gaddamn ridiculous.

Cajun fries were meh - a bit sad looking.

Bread were basically little slider rolls, toasted up and garlic buttered.  Pretty tasty, but a good French loaf would do better to soak up all the juices (and you will want to soak it up, or at least stick a straw in it to drink).

Though combo bags (bags with over 2 lbs) come with one corn, one potato and some sausage, depending on your love for those sides, it's advisable to order more.

These do taste great by themselves, but they taste even better if you ask the waitress to have them add the sides to your seafood bag.  The waitress will act confused, but she will do it, and you will love yourself and her later for it.

6. Just enjoy life.  There's nothing more satisfying than being surrounded by friends in the silence of shared happiness and shucked seafood.


7. Go home and plan your next visit.

The Boil is one of my favorite meals in the city, but unfortunately it is experiencing some New York-stype popularity pains.  You gotta get there at 5p (when they open) or come around 11p (they are open to 2a), or just be prepared to wait multiple hours.  Another option is to somehow gather your 14 best buds because that's the minimum amount for a reservation now.  Eep!

But, it's completely worth it.
God, I can't wait to go again.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: I've gone to The Boil three times in three weeks, and I still cannot get enough. I want to breathe it.  I want to bathe in it. I want to stick it in my arm.  It's not healthy.  It's ruining my life. I love it.

The Boil
139 Chrystie
New York, NY
the Boil on Urbanspoon