Why Come Here? Elevated Thai cooking with authentic flavors, lively atmosphere
Recommended for 2: 2 apps/2 entrees or 4 apps/1 entree
Having spent five weeks in Thailand, I like to consider myself a Thai aficionado of sorts. So any time a new “authentic” Thai restaurant opens up in NYC, especially one manned by cooks from Per Se, I get pretty excited. And I am happy to report that Uncle Boons did not let me down.
The decor at Uncle Boons is meant to resemble a “typical Thai house in the ’60s and ’70s.” Apparently Thais used to cover their walls in a large collection of eclectic photos and their ceilings in a series of non-matching chandeliers. Who knew, but at least it makes for some nice conversation pieces. Combined with the brick walls and dim lighting, it’s a cool space you can easily bring a date or group of friends. They only take a limited number of reservations each night, but we only waited about an hour walking in on a Friday. Luckily there are many bars nearby and the mait’re d will send you a text when your table is ready.
The food is positioned as “Thai-style drinking food.” I’m not quite sure what to make of that as I’ve yet to find any Thai food that isn’t better with some booze. I supposed some sections of the menu do lend themselves more towards drinking such as “Char Grilled Goodies” and “small plates / Thai drinking food” (ok fine). There’s also a selection of large plates with more upscale Thai dishes, many of which you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the city. Overall there are a lot of intriguing dishes and I look forward to going back to try some more. Here are my thoughts on what we had:
Mieng Kum (Betel Leaf Wrap) Ginger, lime, dried shrimp, coconut and chilies on an edible leaf. So yeah, it hits pretty much every flavor you can imagine. Which makes it a great snack to start the meal.
Sai Krok Ampai (Pork Sour Sausage) I ordered this one after having a phenomenal sour pork sausage on the streets on Chiang Mai earlier this year. While some of the same flavors were there, I found the pork a little too fatty.
7 Spring Street (Elizabeth & Bowery)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Authentic Japanese small plates and hot pots
I recently went to Jukai for a fantastic food blogger event hosted by Tabelog and Asahi Beer. I was unfamiliar with the restaurant going in, despite the fact it had been open since 1968. When I arrived, I got the feeling it was a secret intentionally kept. Jukai is tucked away in a basement on a stretch of 53rd Street filled with Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants. You could easily walk by it a hundred times without noticing it’s there, and even knowing the address I would have done the same had I not happened to notice the small lamp in a stairwell outside with a Japanese character and the word “Jukai” written in small letters. After descending the stairs and entering, you walk through a curtain into a small, dimly lit space containing a sushi bar and a few tables that looks like the type of place your cool friend would sneak you into in Tokyo.
Since it was an event, I can’t comment on the normal dining experience but I can tell you about the food. Jukai’s focus is on Japanese small plates and hot pots. The menu has some pretty interesting and unique (for New York at least) Japanese dishes, and we got to try a nice assortment. Here are some of the highlights:
Pacific Oyster The photo doesn’t capture just what a beast this thing is. It’s probably 3x the size of your typical East Coast oyster. I’m often skeptical of food this freakishly large, but the meat was tender and briny and had a nice assortment of toppings.
Shabu-Shabu This is where the hot pot comes in: thinly sliced beef freshly cooked with cabbage in a garlicky broth. The sauce was very tasty but In serving such a large group my beef got a little overdone. Might be three stars if you do it right on your table.
237 East 53rd Street (2nd & 3rd Aves)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Have your opinion of falafel changed forever, one of NYC’s best sandwiches
Years ago, I was highly skeptical that falafel had any business in a carnivore’s pita pocket. Every time I had tried the ball of spiced, mashed and fried chickpeas, I found it either too soggy, too dry and just plain lacking in flavor. Why would anyone substitute this for juicy shwarma or chicken kebab I wondered. Then a friend introduced me to Taim, and my mind was blown.
Taim is a kosher, vegetarian Israeli restaurant focusing on the falafel. The name means “tasty” in Hebrew, although that’s an understatement for how good their falafel really is. It’s one of those game changing renditions that makes it feel unfair to refer to it by the same name.
Taim’s falafel comes in three types: green (cilantro, parsley & mint, my personal favorite), red (roasted red pepper) and harissa (Tunisian spiced). The balls are made fresh – which it’s now clear is the only way to eat falafel – leaving them crunchy on the outside and moist inside. You can get them as a platter with salad, but I must highly recommend the sandwich which is perfectly topped with their spectacular hummus, tahini sauce and Israeli salad. Not matter how much you think you don’t like falafel, you need to give it a try.
Taim currently has two locations, plus a truck. The original is in the West Village and justifiably received a 9/30 in decor from Zagat. It’s basically a food counter with seating for four so have another place to eat in mind when venturing over (the steps across the street are popular). The NoLiTa location is slightly larger seating maybe 15 and adds some wood paneling so you don’t feel like you’re eating in a commercial kitchen.
Falafel Sandwich All the ingredients from the falafel to the hummus, [tahini] to the pita itself are fantastic and in perfect portion. If you feel the need to add something, I recommend their pickles or housemade hot sauce.
222 Waverly Place (Perry & 11th Sts.)
New York, NY
Check Website for Locations
Why Come Here? Sample traditional Japanese snack foods, foodie adventure, cheap eats
As someone who actively seeks out trying any and all kinds of food, I like to think there are few delicacies I’ve yet to acquire a taste for. Corned beef and organ “meats” come to mind first, but the unusual snacks popular in Japanese Izakayas are generally pretty high on the list. To be clear, I have nothing but love for sushi, or the fancy stuff churned out at places like Soto and Kyo Ya. But a lot of the salty, doughey, bonito-flake topped “snack foods” seem down right weird to me. Perhaps it requires some sort of taste I’ve have failed to fully acquire as a result of not venturing out of the airport on my sole visit to the nation.
Otafuku, which focuses on a mere three of these snacks popular in Osaka, gives me some hope I may appreciate this cuisine some day. The place is a hole in the wall in the East Village that makes your first apartment seem palatial. It’s so small in fact, that only three customers are allowed inside at a time. Apparently the cash register has similar constraints as they were unable to break by $20 for a $9 purchase. As I mentioned, they serve three types of dishes which can only otherwise be found as sides at a handful of Japanese restaurants. They are: 1) takoyaki (a wheat ball filled with octopus and covered in a sauce and bonito flakes) 2) okonomiyaki (a cabbage pancake topped with your choice of meat and 3) a more standard soba noodle dish. While you may not fall in love at first bite, several members of the mostly Japanese crowd did exclaim it to be the city’s best takoyaki. And if you’re feeling adventurous, Combo B contains both the takoyaki and okonomiyaki at the if-I-can’t-eat-this-it’s-no-real-loss price of $9.
Here’s are my thoughts on the dishes:
Takoyaki The predominant flavors are the wheat filling (kind of like a liquidy donut) and the sauce, which is sort of a mix of soy, ginger and BBQ flavors. The diced octopus doesn’t really come through. I really enjoyed the first one or two balls but then the wheatiness started to become too much. Bring a friend to share your order with.
Okonomiyaki Think of it as the Japanese hash brown. A fried, sliced cabbage pancake comes in a gingery-soy sauce topped with bonito flakes. Topped with the tasty bbq pork, I could definitely see this as a late night snack.
Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of the The Dishelin Guide. This happens to be my 100th post. To celebrate the confluence of these monotonous occasions and thank all of you for making it possible, I have compiled a list of my 100 favorite dishes in NYC. For easier viewing, they are sorted by cuisine type. And because I love you guys, I didn’t even make it a slideshow. Enjoy!
Brick Chicken @ Marlow & Sons
Cheddar Bratwurst @ Bark Hot Dogs
Honey Chicken w/ Pickles Biscuit @ Jacob’s Pickles
Kruez Market Sausage @ Hill Country
Pastrami Sandwich @ Kutcher’s Tribeca
Sizzling Bacon @ Peter Luger’s
Steak @ Peter Luger’s
Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken @ Grand Sichuan
Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles @ Xi’an Famous Foods
Peking Duck @ Nice Green Bo
Pork & Crab Soup Buns @ Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao Restaurant
Roasted Duck Hand-Pulled Noodles @ Lanzhou Handmade Noodle
Scallion Pancake @ Nice Green Bo
Shredded Chicken @ Yunnan Kitchen
Spicy & Tingly Beef Biang-Biang Noodles @ Biang!
Spicy Crispy Beef @ Red Farm
Banana Glazed Doughnut @ Doughnut Plant
Banana Pudding @ Magnolia Bakery
Churros @ Gran Electrica
Mille Feuille @ Prima
Pumpkin Whoopie Pie @ Gramercy Tavern
Salame del Papa @ Uva
Salted Caramel Macaroons @ FPB Bakery
The S’morgrasm @ S’more Bakery
Chicken Tikka Roll @ Kati Roll Co.
Pondicherri Dosa @ NY Dosas
Black Tagliatelle @ Babbo
Ricotta Gnocchi @ Fedora
Tagliatelle @ The NoMad
Polpi In Purgatorio @ Peasant
Beef w/ Uni Sushi @ Chez Sardine
Cyu Toro Tar Tare @ Soto
Pressed Tasmanian Salmon Trout Sushi @ Kyo Ya
Steamed Lobster w/ Uni Mousse @ Soto
Yellowtail Jalapeno @ Nobu
Galbi Gui @ Hahm Ji Bach
Hawaiian Bread Buns w/ Filipino Pork Sausage @ Talde
Korean Fried Chicken @ Talde
Brussels Sprouts Tacos @ Empellon Cocina
Carnitas Tacos @ Cascabel Taqueria
Guacamole @ Fonda
Queso Fundido w/ Red & Green Chorizo @ Empellon Taqueria
Roasted Carrots @ Empellon Cocina
Short Rib Taocs @ ABC Cocina
Tamale @ Anejo
Crispy Cauliflower @ Balaboosta
Falafel Sandwich @ Taim
Hummus Fava @ Hummus Place
Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak @ Balaboosta
New American (or whatever we’re calling non-ethnic modern fine dining)
Beef @ The NoMad
Black Heirloom Carrots @ Acme
Breakfast Pancakes @ Chez Sardine
Cornmeal Crusted Skate @ ABC Kitchen
Crisp Kale Salad @ Battersby
Crisped Duck Leg @ Fedora
Crystal Valley Chicken @ Battersby
Duck @ Eleven Madison Park
Farro Salad @ ABC Kitchen
Frozen Foie Gras @ Momofuku Ko
House Cured Salmon @ Upstate
Saba Glazed Duck @ Perla
Scallops w/ Cauliflower & Celery Root @ Allswell
Seared Foie Gras Dumplings @ Annisa
Cardamom & Vanilla Snapper @ Acme
Tuna on Foie Gras Baguette @ Le Bernardin
Whiskey Bread @ Gwynette Street
Ziti w/ Kale, Squash @ Walnuts @ Allswell
Brussels Sprouts Pizza @ Motorino
Burrata Pie @ Keste
Pizza Pie @ Lucali’s
Regular Pie @ Di Fara Pizza
Sicilian Slice @ Joe’s Pizza
Spectacle 261 @ Paulie Gees
The Bee Sting @ Roberta’s
Whole Wheat Pizza w/ ricotta, dates, prosciutto and radicchio @ ABC Kitchen
Bacon Cheeseburger @ The Little Owl
Breakfast Club Sandwich @ Café Cluny
Coconut Tiger Shrimp @ Num Pang
Italian Sub @ Faicco’s Pork Store
La Surena Arepa @ Caracas Arepa Bar
Lobster Roll @ Luke’s Lobster
Meatball Parm @ Parm
Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon Bagel @ Murray’s Bagels
Pão De Queijo Lamb Sliders @ Comodo
Rare Classic Burger @ Rare Bar
Rocket Pig Sandwich @ Rocket Pig
Short Rib @ Food Freaks Grilled Cheese
Spicy Pork Meatball Hero @ The Meatball Shop
The Godfather Part II @ No. 7 Sub
The St. Luke @ Being Better Underground
Tuna Melt @ Murray’s Cheese
Zucchini Parm @ No. 7 Sub
Arroz a la Plancha @ Tertulia
Arroz Con Pollo @ ABC Cocina
Trout w/ Jamon Serrano & Garlic Vinegarette @ Txikito
Fried Pork & Crispy Oyster Salad @ Kin Shop
Khao Soi @ Pig & Khao
Muu Kham Waan @ Pok Pok NY
Neua Nam Tok @ Pok Pok NY
Red Curry Duck Breast @ Kin Shop
Pho Tai @ Sao Mai
Why come here? Modern, affordable Italian in the West Village
Right Amount for 2? 1 Appetizer and/or salad, a pasta and an entree
According to MenuPages, there are 113 Italian restaurants in the West Village although it often feels like there could be that many on Seventh Avenue alone. Most of them serve some mix of mediocre fried calamari, doughy pizza and standard red sauce pastas and are reserved for B&T groups looking to make same-day party of eight reservation in “The Village.” So I’ll excuse your yawns when you heard Pagani opened on the corner of 7th & Bleecker. But this newcomer brings a much needed upgrade to the strip and should move to the top of your list for a lively, causal meal in the area.
Brought to you by Massimo Lusardi of Uva fame, Pagani brings the trendy casual vibe you search for in the West Village, yet is somehow missing from the surrounding moderately priced Italians. The blonde wood and smokey tiled bar area is fairly large and open, making it pleasant place to enjoy one of their delicious artisan cocktails while waiting to be seated. The waitstaff is young and playful, shunning the tired formal, old-school Italian service model. The main dining area is fairly small and intimate, with a semi-private area in back in case you’re rolling deep.
Matt Barrett formerly of Babbo delivers a menu that may not set the foodie world ablaze, but contains a nice selection of well executed dishes. Between the pastas, salads, fish and meat even the friend who can never “find anything she can eat” will be satisfied. Of the six items across the menu everything was solid with prices coming in at a reasonable $15-22 for entrees. The wine list also contains a refreshingly large selection of wines under $50, instead of the token one or two typically found nearby. My top picks are below:
Ravioli Cacciatore The chef’s play on chicken cacciatore contains perfectly cooked chicken and pasta in a tangy, meaty sauce. It’s a on the smaller side, but perfect if your saving energy to go out afterwards.
289 Bleecker Street (@ 7th Ave)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Top notch bagels and lox
New York is associated with many iconic dishes: pizza, cheesecake, fried chicken & waffles. But perhaps no food is more quintessentially New York than the bagel. Yet while few would dispute that New York is its King, finding a really good bagel here remains no easy task. Thankfully for those of us in the West Village / Chelsea area, there’s Murray’s.
Aesthetically, Murray’s looks like just about every other New York bagel shop / deli. A long counter with the big board of meats and cream cheeses behind it and in front a few tiny tables and chairs with no decor whatsoever. But what goes on behind that counter is pure food magic. They make the bagel that’s everything a bagel should be: crispy on the outside, chewy without being tough within. Toasting such a work or art is not only not necessary, it’s not an option. So please don’t embarrass yourself by asking.
Equally impressive are the sheer number of offerings. Murray’s has about 20 types of bagel, including my personal favorite: the elusive whole wheat everything. Then there’s the collection of smoked fish, another New York icon. Murray’s brings in the best from throughout the city and has a selection of over 10 styles of smoked salmon alone. While it’s fun to sample the different varieties from around the world (particularly when you order from here every weekend), my favorite for a bagel remains the standard mildly smoked Eastern Nova Scotia variety. The dill Scandinavian and peppery Pastrami serve as top change of pace options.
I’m not going to get too far into dish recommendations as everything is meant to customized and you won’t be disappointed with any of the bagels, cream cheeses or salmon. However, for those who like to be told what to do, my go to order is below:
Why Come Here? Some of the city’s best Latin American inspired food and cocktails
Right Amount for 2: 6 dishes, preferably at least 1 from each section
Regular readers of this blog may remember that ABC Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. You also may have noticed that I have a thing for Latin American food. So when the team behind ABC Kitchen opened a Latin American inspired restaurant, you can imagine my excitement. It was warranted.
Those of you who speak a little Spanish have probably realized ABC Cocina translates to… ABC Kitchen. Muy Creativo. But fortunately, the creative energies not wasted on the name have gone into the food. The menu is set up tapas style with a surprisingly large number of offerings for a restaurant of this ilk. The sections covers everything you could imagine in Latin American cooking: salads, ceviches, croquettes, tacos, grilled items and rice dishes. Getting all these down is bound to be a challenge even for a team consisting of two of the cities top Chefs. It’s also perhaps why initial reviews in July found the food hit-or-miss. However, it seems like things have now come together as all ten dishes we ordered were thoroughly enjoyable. Also, bravo for spacing the courses perfectly. There were neither long waits nor more than two dishes on our table at a time. How to Serve Small Plates by ABC Cocina should be required reading for all tapas restaurateurs.
The decor is, well, not authentico Latino Americana. Like ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina is located within the ABC Home store and most items can be purchased inside. This leads to an eclectic mix of items throughout the restaurant, although between the neon blue lighting and central chandelier resembling giant bubbles, I couldn’t help but hear “Under the Sea” in the back of my head while waiting for our table. So if you’re planning on living in an underwater dome to avoid paying NYC rents, at least you know ABC Home has you covered, which is nice.
A note on reservations: they are hard to come by. However, there are a lot of tables for walk-ins and they were quoting fairly reasonable 1-1:15 waits last Friday night. We could have been seated within 30 minutes if (ahem) someone in our party had been on time, but we stretched it to the full 1:15 after that. This did unfortunately include the “they’re paying right now” spiel followed by another 20 minutes of waiting that happens way too often in this city. At least you can enjoy some amazing cocktails in the while you wait. Toss back a few basil jalapeno margs and the time flies by.
As I mentioned, everything I tried was worth ordering and if there was no more to the menu, I would still happily come back often (although my wallet would be less happy). Since there are so many other dishes, I’ve narrowed down the list below to the ones I consider the must orders for first time diners:
Short Rib Tacos Big hunks of moist, juicy short rib in a spicy habanero relish with some crunchy onions on top in a delicious corn tortilla. We made the mistake of only ordering 2 for the three of us. Don’t make that mistake.
Arroz con Pollo It sounds so simple you’re tempted to avoid it, but fortunately our waitress steered us in the right direction. The cracklings and lemon zest go along with perfectly cooked rice make this one extremely satisfying dish.
Beef Tenderloin “Burnt Ends” Nothing like your typical Texas BBQ Burnt Ends, these are rare pieces of meat that have picked up a nice char from their short time on the grill. The tangy, spicy chimichurri is the perfect complement.
38 East 19th Street (Park & B’way)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Fresh, organic and local salads with all the fixin’s
With 19 locations in DC, Boston, Philly and now New York, Sweetgreen is a bonafide chain. And normally I wouldn’t take the time to support a chain. But Sweetgreen is different and I’m officially obsessed. Judging by the 20+ minute waits for a salad at lunch, I’m not the only one (Pro Tip: order online 1/2 hr ahead of time to skip the line). So why all the excitement you may ask?
Think of Sweetgreen as the Chipotle of salads. In some ways, it even kind of looks like a Chiptole. But now multiply that by 100, and you’ll begin to understand why people are flocking to this place. All the ingredients are fresh, organic and locally sourced (there’s even a board the tells you which farm they came from). The number of options is mind blowing. Anything you could ever think of putting in a salad is there, and so are many things you never considered. There’s even throw in some fresh seasonal fruits – peaches in August and now Watermelon and heirloom tomato for September. Personally, I feel strongly the kale, warm grains (a mix of quinoa and farro) and spicy broccoli belong in every salad, preferably topped with either truffle oil or carrot chili and of course sriracha (did they build this place for me?). Most of the custom salads are under $10 and if you download their slick app, you can not only pay on your phone in about 0.5 seconds, you also get your 11th salad gratis. You’ll never settle for Chop’d again.
While many will choose the build your own salad option, I usually find that to be too much thought for my lunch break and go with one of their Signature Salads. Should you feel the same, here’s what I recommend:
1168 Broadway (27th & 28th Sts.)
New York, NY
Why Come Here? Inventive & delicious sandwiches, solid vegetarian offerings
If I told you to think up a “Hipster Sandwich Shop,” it’s unlikely your vision would differ much from No. 7 Sub. A tiny space old industrial space with practically no seating and a monochrome color scheme. Servers with beards, tatts and ironic t-shirts. Sandwiches that could be called “ironic” takes on classics, like a Zucchini Parm with no marinara sauce or The Godfather Part II (an “italian sandwich” with Chorizo and Thai Basil). It’s even located in the Ace Hotel, arguably the first hotel made by and for hipsters.
But if hipsters aren’t your thing, don’t let that turn you off to No. 7 sub as they’re still friendly “mainstreamers”. And they sling some of the city’s best and most inventive sandwiches. All of them are made to order and served on crusty french bread. The nine sandwich menu – which includes 4 vegetarian offerings – is diverse enough to make it pretty much the only sandwich place I hit up during the week. And having tried nearly everything, I can say I’m a huge fan across the board, particularly of their decision to put potato chips on many of their sandwiches. My favorites are listed in order below, and you can find all my reviews on my DishEnvy page.
The Godfather Part II What mad genius decided to combine salami, chorizo, jalapenos and sweet potatoes? It hits on all the favor centers, but it’s also a beast of a sandwich to put down. I also say I’ll save some for later, but I never do.
Zucchini Parm Despite it’s name, this sandwich has little in common with the traditional as there’s no parm or marinara sauce. The zucchini is only lightly fried so you can actually taste it, and the pickled jalapenos give it a solid kick. Surprisingly, it actually a fairly light sandwich suitable for everyday consumption.
Cold Balsamic Chicken I love balsamic, I love avocado and I love potato chips. Put them together and you’ve got a light, go-to sandwich, particularly in summer.
Turkey Meatloaf Most meatloaf sandwiches have jaw unhinging hunks of loaf spattered on them. This turkey meatloaf , however is an appropriate size for a human to eat for lunch. It’s nicely seasoned and the cilantro is a refreshing touch, although I wouldn’t mind a little more of the marinara sauce.
No. 7 Sub
1188 Broadway (28th & 29th Sts.)
New York, NY
Pro Tip: Since seating is non-existent, take it to the Ace Hotel lobby around the corner or Madison Square Park if it’s nice.