Dec 17

Flight

Note: I was invited as a guest of the establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and opinions expressed are my own.

Flight, Yorkville, gastropub, restaurant, bar, nyc

Photo courtesy of Flight

Why Come Here? Crowd pleasing menu in a cozy setting, chance to sample many items with one of their signature “flights”

Flight is a recently opened gastropub in Yorkville that draws its name from the numerous “flights” of 3-5 food items or drinks they offer. This is a great setup if you’re like me and always want to sample as much as possible. The food flights range from standards like cheese and charcuterie to sliders to the blowout “barnyard” flight of lamb, filet mignon and southern fried chicken.  Drink flights include beers, wines and whiskeys and refreshingly don’t include the usual price penalty versus ordering a single drink by the glass.

Inside, Flight represents the intersection of old and new that is Yorkville. An old school L shaped bar offers ample spots to eat or drink while watching the game on one of their big screen TVs. The cozy back dining area features a beamed ceiling, exposed brick walls and charcoal banquettes. The front is enclosed with windows that open up in warmer months to provide the airiness of outdoor seating without the bustle of a Manhattan sidewalk. Throughout you’ll find drawings of things like flying animals or flights of stairs – a subtle play on the restaurants name. This cozy setting and upcoming weekly live jazz nights are sure to make it a hot date night spot in the area.

The fare is a nice variety of American classics that is sure to please a wide crowd. In addition to the flights, there is a good selection of salads and apps like cornmeal crusted calamari and tostados for a light bite or snack at the bar. Those looking for a full meal will find no shortage of interesting options among the many pasta, meat and seafood dishes. The variety of offerings for both eating and dining make Flight a great spot for almost any occasion.

We were given a sampling of the Flight menu so portions in the pictures are generally smaller than you would likely receive. My recommendations are below:

thai curry, flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideSteamed PEI Mussels (2/4 stars) The mussels are fresh and served in a tangy and slightly spicy thai curry sauce. You’ll want an order on your table.

 

flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideSpinach + Goat Cheese Salad (2/4 stars) A light, refreshing salad with big spinach leaves and a hunk of cranberry crusted goat cheese in a tangy balsamic reduction.

 

flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideAvocado + Seafood Salad (2/4 stars) For those looking for a slightly more substantial salad, the chunks of calamari and shrimp make this a solid option.

 

flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideShrimp Crostini (2/4 stars) This cheesy, garlicky piece of toast is the perfect compliment to a jumbo shrimp.

 

flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideFilet Mignon 2.5/4 stars Tender, flavorful and perfectly cooked in a savory gravy. If you’re in the mood for steak this will not disappoint.

 

flight, yorkville, gastropub, bar, restaurant, nyc, upper east sideWarm Apple Tart 2.5/4 stars Make sure to save room for dessert. This is a classic done perfectly with nicely spiced apples and a flaky homemade pastry crust.

Flight
1479 York Avenue (78th & 79th Sts.)
New York, NY
Flight on Urbanspoon

Posted in American, Upper East Side | Leave a comment
Dec 13

Bar Bolonat

bar bolonat

Inside Bar Bolonat (courtesy Yelp!)

Why Come Here? Unique Israeli inspired small plates, date night

Right Amount for 2? 1 Large plate, 3-5 smaller plates

Bar Bolonat comes from the team behind Four-Star Falafel maker Taim and Dishelin Guide go-to spot Balaboosta. So you can imagine I’ve been angling to get in here since it opened last Spring. While it’s pedigree made tables tough to come by at first, things seem to have settled down and weeknight reservations are now available without too much notice.

Bolonat is located on a quiet corner of Hudson Street right after the Eight Avenue split and across from Abingdon Square. It’s a smallish restaurant (or average by West Village standards) that’s made even more intimate thanks to a bar that separates it into three sections each with a single row of tables. Because of this spread, it’s surprisingly quiet inside even when crowded. All this combined with dim lighting and a cozy minimalist decor adds Bolonat to the list of great Village date spots.

The fare at Bar Bolonat consists of Israeli-inspired sharing plates. This means many flavor combinations you won’t find anywhere else and a menu where I was thoroughly excited to try every dish. The options are divided into three sections of increasing portion size – snacks, small plates and larger plates as our waitress informed us. Note the use of the term “larger” as nothing on the menu is particularly large or cheap, so expect to drop to drop some decent coin for a satisfying meal. Thankfully the wine list contains many interesting bottles under $55 and is well curated. Still, the prices and lack of a true knockout dish mean I probably won’t be in a rush to return but I certainly recommend giving it a go at least once.

Here’s what I had:

israeli, bar bolonat, west village, za'atarJerusalem Bagel (2/4 stars) Airy, soft, thin and shaped like a race track this is not your typical New York bagel. Which is probably why they call it a Jersualem Bagel. It’s served with za’atar and olive oil and is a tasty start to the meal, although it also kind of makes you feel like you’re paying $6 for your bread.

 

israeli, bar bolonat, west village, bombaEveryday Cauliflower 2.5/4 stars This dish is aptly named, as I wish this was the kind of cauliflower I could eat every day. The vegetable is perfect baked with the flowers browned and the rest remaining tender. The tahini and peanut “bomba” balls add some very interesting taste and texture.

 

israeli, bar bolonat, west villageZa’atar Ravioli rating-0stars This was the only miss of the night. The ravioli itself was expertly prepared but I can’t say I really tasted the eggplant or za’atar. The spinach and potato were also overly salty.

 

israeli, bar bolonat, west village,Shrimp in Yemenite Curry 2.5/4 stars The curry is similar to a Thai or Malaysian yellow variety with a healthy slug of Middle eastern spices, turmeric and cilantro. It’s definitely a taste I’ve never had before and would like to again, although if anything I found it a little too delicate.

 

israeli, bar bolonat, west village, spiced beef, bulgarHudson Street Kibbeh (3/4 stars) Described as “bulgar teardrops” you don’t really know what to expect when you order these. It sort of looks like Stonehenge and it sort of tastes like a mix between falafel and a samosa.

 

israeli, bar bolonat, west village, Minute Steak 2.5/4 stars Despite being very thiny sliced, they’re able to nicely char the spiced exterior while providing a juicy pink interior. It’s probably the boldest dish flavor-wise on the menu. It deserves a 3 for the taste alone, but it loses a half-star because it’s a smallish amount of skirt steak for $31.

Bar Bolonat
611 Hudson Street (@W 12th St.)
New York, NY
Bar Bolonat on Urbanspoon
Bar Bolonat

 

 

Posted in Middle Eastern, West Village | Leave a comment
Dec 06

Tacos Morelos

Why Come Here? Cheap, delicious and authentic tacos

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I view tacos as one of the most important food groups. With meat, veggies and cheese on a glorious corn of flour base they provide everything you need in a handheld format. Unfortunately New York’s taco carts are not a haven for this cheap eat staple with many using store bought tortillas and meat that could pass as Bazooka Joe chewing gum. However, if you know where to look great authentic tacos street tacos can be found on the cheap here.

One of your best bets is Tacos Morelos, which became my neighborhood go-to upon moving to Williamsburg (it helps that it’s open 24 hours). They also have a cart in the East Village and two brick-and-mortar locations. Morelos serves a wide range of tacos with standards like al pastor and chicken as well as the more authentic meats tongue, goat and salted beef. At $3 a pop, they’re priced for a good face stuffing. They come on two perfect homemade corn tortillas which have just the right amount of give and are never too dry. Toppings are the traditional heap of cilantro, onion, cotija cheese with a lime wedge to squeeze on at your pleasure. I also recommend adding their spicy salsas, one of which is called guacamole although it seems like more of a thick tomatillo salsa. All the meats are simmered in spices and have a great flavor. My recs are below:

tacos morelos, taco cart, east village, williamsburg, jackson heightsAl Pastor Taco (3/4 stars) My favorite taco at Morelos. The pork is tender with a flavorful spice rub and the hunks of pineapple are particularly sweet and refreshing.

tacos morelos, taco cart, east village, williamsburg, jackson heights

Enchiladas Taco 2.5/4 stars The enchiladas are also pork but marinated in different spices and hotter overall without the pineapple. I’ve got no complaints.

tacos morelos, taco cart, east village, williamsburg, jackson heightsCecina Taco (2/4 stars) The Cecina contains salted beef and these are the only guys I’ve seen offering this in NYC. The beef has a salty-stewed taste with a good kick, although sometime it can be a little tough, costing it half a star.

Tacos Morelos Williamsburg Cart
Corner of N 7th Street and Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

East Village Cart
Corner of 2nd Street and Avenue A
New York, NY

East Village Store
438 East 9th Street (b/w 1st Ave & Ave A)
New York, NY
Tacos Morelos on Urbanspoon

Jackson Heights Original Store
94-13 37th Avenue (@ Elmhurst Ave.)
Jackson Heights, NY
Tacos Morelos on Urbanspoon

Posted in East Village, Mexican, Williamsburg | Leave a comment
Nov 25

Cafe Mogador

cafe mogador williamsburg garden

Back & Garden of Williamsburg Location (courtesy Cafe Mogador)

Why Come Here? Great Moroccan cuisine in a cozy atmosphere

Right Amount for 2? Mixed platter, 1-2 apps, 1 entree

When a place has been open for over thirty years and still packs the house every night, you know it’s something special. Cafe Mogador combines a sleek, dimly lit space that’s romantic enough for a first date but cool enough for a meal with friends with delicious light, original and affordable Moroccan fare. Basically it’s perfect for almost any occasion. So much so that since moving a few blocks away from their Williamsburg location, I have come here more than any other waiter service restaurant.

While the food at both locations is basically the same, the two-year-old Williamsburg outpost of “Mogs” (as only I call it) is the more attractive of the two. You enter into the main dining room and find what looks like an old farmhouse other than the long bar taking up half of it. There is wood siding and random old photos with some exposed brick as required by neighborhood ordinance. While that’s nice on its own, the true star here is the enclosed garden in back. It’s loaded up with plants, flower and couches making it one of the areas best date spots. And to top it off, tables are actually well spaced by NYC standards. The original East Village location is part underground and packed quite a bit tighter. It still enjoys a romantic and mysterious candle lit ambiance that feels like some trendy den in Marrakesh.

The menu is loaded with Mediterranean appetizer staples like hummus and tabouli, but also gets more interesting with yogurt & cardamom tandoori chicken and veal & bulgar meatballs. You could easily make a meal of apps and no one would fault you. Although if you want to get into the entrees, one of their specialty tagines is definitely the way to go. A tajine is a Moroccan clay pot meal and you can choose to put either chicken breast or a leg of lamb in one of four preparations. I’ve never gone wrong with any, although I prefer the chicken. I hear it’s quite a popular brunch spot as well.

 

hummus, tabouli, eggplan, israeli salad, cafe mogador nycMixed Platter 2.5/4 stars When you go to Cafe Mogador, you are required to start your meal with this. It includes their hummus, tabouli, tahini eggplant and arabic salad. The texture of the hummus is perfect and while I don’t usually love tabouli, I’d say this is the best I’ve had.

Yogurt & Cardamom Marinated Tandoori Chicken 2.5/4 stars This is only an appetizer which is unfortunate cause I could eat a whole meal of it. Dipped in the accompanying jalapeno and roasted red pepper chutney it’s sweet, spicy and tangy.

cafe mogador nyc, moroccanChicken Charmoulla Tagine 2.5/4 stars This is my favorite tagine combination. The charmoulla sauce is a heavy on the cilantro and very herbaceaus. The simmered chicken is very tender.

 

cafe mogador nyc, moroccan, williamsburg, east villageSpicy Carrots (2/4 stars) If you like cumin, you’ll need an order of these. The carrots are cooked to a perfect firmness and they’re not that spicy, unless you dip them in the accompanying chili paste of course.

 

cafe mogador nyc, moroccan, williamsburg, east villageBlackened Zahatar Chicken (2/4 stars) You get a breast and a thigh, blackened with some very tasty Moroccon spices. Served with a little salad and crushed home-fry style potatoes, it’s a steal for $18.

Meatballs (1.5/4 stars) Cooked in a light, cardamom flavored broth these were tasty little balls. They were a little hearty for a hot July evening, but I may try them again now that the weather has cooled.

 

cafe mogador nyc, moroccan, williamsburg, east villageRoasted Haloumi Cheese (1.5/4 stars) Served with a kebab of roasted veggies and z’atar bread, this actually ended up tasting more like an Italian flatbread than anything else. It’s a good combination of flavors albeit nothing special. The roasted tomato is the highlight.

Cafe Mogador Williamsburg
133 Wythe Avenue (N 7th & 8th Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY
Café Mogador on Urbanspoon

Cafe Mogador
101 Saint Marks Place (1st & Ave A.)
New York, NY
Café Mogador on Urbanspoon

Posted in East Village, Middle Eastern, Williamsburg | 1 Comment
Nov 18

Casa Noble Tequila at The French Cheese Board

Note: I was invited as a guest for a complimentary tasting event. This was not in exchange for a positive review and opinions expressed are my own.

That cheese and alcohol go well together comes as a surprise to no one. In fact I could probably live on these two alone, although granted not for very long. While wine & cheese was once considered the ultimate pairing, the recent trend has been to try to combine it with other types of booze. I am a fan of this. Recently I’ve been to pairings of cheese with beer, sake and now tequila. I’ve yet to be disappointed.

My most recent event was hosted by the French Cheese Board and Casa Noble and therefore consisted of pairing French cheeses with the Noble’s tequila. Now there are two categories of tequila: the kind you have poured down your throat in Mexico and the kind you sip or make a non-sweet cocktail with. Casa Noble is clearly the latter and is one of the best tequilas I’ve ever tasted. As far as sipping tequilas go, it will be my first choice going forward. The cheeses were also excellent, and paired very nicely with Mexico’s finest. My thoughts on the pairings are below:

tequila and cheese pairing, the french cheese board

Casa Noble Crystal & Mimolette: Think of the mimolette as the French version of Edam, or basically a more mild aged gouda. If you like that style, you’ll love this cheese. The Crystal Casa Noble was the smoothest blanco tequila I’ve tasted. It had some nice citrus and salty notes that really hit their stride when paired with the mimolette.

tequila and cheese pairing, the french cheese boardCasa Noble & Epoisses: Epoisses is a semi-soft that’s pungent without overpowering making it pretty approachable. The reposado was unusually sweet with hints of vanilla and caramel. It’s absolutely a tequila made for sipping.

tequila and cheese pairing, the french cheese boardCasa Noble Anejo & Fourme d’Ambert: The Fourme is a crumbly, creamy well-balanced blue. The anejo picks up a a deep and unique flavor from three years of aging in french white oak. With hints of butterscotch, hazezlnut and honey it’s as complex as a good whiskey.

If you want to learn about making French cheeses or just want to try and buy some at a discounted price, the French Cheese Board is hosting a free public event this Friday (11/21) from 11-7. Check it out.

The French Cheese Board
26 West 39th (5th & 6th Aves)
New York, NY

Posted in Events | Leave a comment
Nov 14

Re.Union

reunion williamsburg cafe

Seating Area (Courtesy of Re.Union)

Why Come Here? Laid back, uncrowded Williamsburg cafe with solid light Mediterranean fare

Williamsburg has been overrun with cafes in the past decade, but somehow Re.Union manages to feel different. The space is bright and airy owing to it’s corner location which allows for two walls of floor to ceiling windows. It’s located on a developing stretch of Union Avenue that’s not far off the L train yet feels like miles from the bustle of Bedford Avenue. Throw in a unpretentious vibe you overall get a less crowded, more laid back experience than most of the cafes further west.

Lest all this makes your forget where you are, there are many Brooklyn-esque elements to keep you grounded. The largest of these is a wall cabinet filled with vintage artifacts like old scales, a domed bird cage and tub of Dutch Boy Potato chips. The bathroom is also worth a visit to see the walls covered old school looking blue-and-white wall paper with images Brooklyn icons like the Coney Island Cyclone and Biggies.

The food is a cut above your typical coffee shops and blends cafe fare with Mediterranean cuisine, a nod to the owners Israeli heritage. So expect to find quinoa, Israeli salads and shakshuka as well as some less common offerings like the beet & vodka cured salmon and balsamic blueberry reduction over goat cheese sandwiches. They also serve up local favorites like coffee from Stumptown (including cold brew on tap), Balthazar pastries and Dough doughnuts. It’s a perfect place to hang out grab a light meal with friends or on your own.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

Reunion, cafe, williamsburg, union avenue

Beet & Vodka Cured Salmon Sandwich (2/4 stars) Probably the most interesting item on the menu, it comes topped with sour cream, scallion and cherry tomato juice. It’s cool and a little sweet making it a light, refreshing meal.

Eggplant sandwich, vegetarian, Reunion, cafe, williamsburg, union avenue

The Balkan (2/4 stars) Think of this a Mediterranean platter in sandwich form. It’s got grilled eggplant, feta, tomato, onion, arugula and tahini. It’s perfect for when you kinda want a salad but also kinda want a sandwich.

Reunion, cafe, williamsburg, union avenue

Kale Salad (2/4 stars) A misleading name given it’s primarily quinoa, but it’s delicious nevertheless. I’m a big fan on the avocado that’s hidden in the quinoa and pleasantly surprises you every second or third bite. The citrus dressing has a mustardy component that works surprisingly well. Feel free to add chicken to make it more substantial.

Reunion, cafe, williamsburg, union avenue, tomato jam

Fancy Grilled Cheese (1.5/4 stars) I’m conflicted on this one. On the one hand, the bacon is perfectly cooked and I like the sweet addition of tomato jam. But on the other hand, the one I had was a little too greasy for my liking. Hopefully that can be corrected in time.

Re.Union
544 Union Avenue (Withers & Frosts Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY
ReUnion on Urbanspoon

Posted in Cafe, Williamsburg | 1 Comment
Nov 11

Umami Burger

Why Come Here? Some of NYCs best burgers & fries

Right Amount for 2? 2 burgers, 1-2 orders of truffle fries (probably 2)

Umami Burger, West Village, NYC

The Original with Truffle Fries and Beer

Umami Burger is an LA-based chain known for bringing umami (aka the “fifth taste”) flavor to burgers. Since landing their first New York location earlier this year, it’s been a surprisingly polarizing place with most people loving it but a few well known critics bringing the hate. Then again, you didn’t really expect an Angeleno to walk in here without feeling some heat, did you?

Personally I’m a fan of everything about the place. It comes in right in the sweet spot between trendy and fast food. On the trendy side, they some weird decorations that feel sorta old-school LA including neon lights, Japanese newspaper art and swirling lamps. They also a nice rotating selection of craft beer. But take away all the fanciness and you could believe you’re in McDonald’s or Five Guys, save for the waiter service. A perfect blend of cool, fast and casual.

Then there are the burgers, which are certainly not fast-foody. The meat is ground in-house and uses a proprietary blend of two types of steak. And assuming your order the recommended medium-rare, you get a pink interior and crumbling patty that’s reminiscent of something hot off a backyard grill. To me, it’s everything a burger should be. The patty is then placed on a Portugese bun that’s received an umami infusion and slathered with Umami Master Sauce, adding a sweet tanginess. The unusual toppings include the likes of parmesan crisps, truffle butter and bacon lardons. The result is a solid contender for the best burger in town.

West Village, NYC, best burger, truffle

The Royale

The Classic (3.5/4 stars) As I mentioned, the meat is delicious. Here it comes topped with roasted tomatoes, a parmesan crisp, shitaake mushrooms and cramelized onions which magically combine to create a unique flavor combination that enhances without overpowering the burger.

The Royale (3/4 stars) Covered in short rib, garlic aioli and truffle cheese this is the ultimate savory bomb. While the short rib is meaty and succulent, the beef-on-beef got to be a little much about half way through. Still delicious, but I may just go for the normal truffle burger next time.

Truffle Fries (3/4 stars) These are basically a perfected version of McDonalds-style thin crisp spears, which in my book is the way fries are meant to be made.* Topped with a mind blowing umami cheese sauce, these are the only ones in this city where I consistently finish my order. It comes with a trio of tasty sauces, the best of which is the jalapeno.

*That, or curly.

Umami Burger
432 Sixth Avenue (9th & 10th Streets)
New York, NY
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
&
225 Liberty Street (West & South End)
New York, NY
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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Posted in burger, Financial District, West Village | 1 Comment
Oct 31

Empellon Al Pastor

best tacos east village, alex stupakWhy Come Here? Fantastic quick & cheap tacos, amazing al Pastor

Right Amount for 2? 6-8 tacos

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably aware of my love for Alex Stupak and his first two Mexican efforts, Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Cocina. Both serve up some of my favorite tacos in the city, but also require a sit-down meal and prices upwards of $7 per taco. It’s all good from time to time, but generally I need my taco cravings quenched quickly and cheaply. And that’s where the newly opened Empellon Al Pastor comes in.

Al Pastor looks like a taqueria painted by the guys who paint chicken buses in Central America. There’s some crazy colorful graffiti on the walls and a giant ceiling mural of a goat shepherding his flock of cash.  Ordering is done at a counter, where you receive a number on a stick. Then comes the main challenge of Al Pastor: securing a table before the runner brings you your tacos. This isn’t made easier by the fact they came out in five minutes even on a busy Friday night. But considering you can be in-and-out in less than 20, standing isn’t a terrible option.

Drinks are ordered separately at a bar near the entrance. I’ve been impressed with the cocktails at the other Empellons and this one appear to have a nice selection of beers, ciders, micheladas and mezcal cocktails. I say appears because I couldn’t even get my order in before the tacos arrived. So you’ll want to make this your first stop if you intend on having a cold one. Soft drinks can be ordered along with your food.

As for the menu, it consists of five tacos, some sides and a giant short rib platter in case that’s not enough for you. All the tacos cost $4 and are served on corn tortillas. I prefer the flour served at the other restaurants, but ultimately I have no complaints about their thicker, maize-based brethren served here. I tried all five tacos currently featured on the menu on two visits. My thoughts are below:

Empellon Al Pastor, best taco East Village, Alex Stupak

Al Pastor Taco (3.5/4 stars) This is already one of my favorite tacos in the city. The charred, chili rubbed thin strips of pork are meaty and spicy. The pineapple slices balance them out without overdoing the sweetness.

Empellon Al Pastor, best taco East Village, Alex Stupak

Steak Taco 2.5/4 stars Much like the excellent steak tacos at his other restaurants, the key here is the high quality of beef used. The caramelized onions give this an enjoyable steak sandwich quality.

Empellon Al Pastor, best taco East Village, Alex StupakChicken Taco 2.5/4 stars The chicken is stewed, making it basically fall apart in your mouth. The addition of chiptole salsa makes it a winner in my book.

Empellon Al Pastor, best taco East Village, Alex StupakPotato & Chorizo Taco (2/4 stars) The potato and spicy chorizo are both solid on their own. But somehow every time a bite included a hunk of spud, it overpowered everything else. It’s still enjoyable but getting it to blend together better will take it to the next level.

Empellon Al Pastor, best taco East Village, Alex StupakMushroom Taco (1.5/4 stars) This is probably the only one I won’t order again. The mushrooms were on the rubbery side and packed a powerful punch of earthiness with nothing to balance it out. The awesomeness of the salsa and tortilla save it from a lower rating.

Empellon Al Pastor
132 Saint Marks Place (@ Ave A)
New York, NY
Empellòn Al Pasor on Urbanspoon

Posted in East Village, Mexican | Leave a comment
Oct 28

Cherry Izakaya

Why Come Here? Cool vibe, inventive American-friendly Izakaya fare, date night, dinner with friends

Right Amount for 2? Six small platescherry izakaya, williamsburg, japanese

Cherry Izakaya is a swanky newish spot from the team behind Bond St. and Cherry at the Dream Hotel. It’s located smack in the middle of the hottest part of Williamsburg, on N 8th Street between Bedford and Berry. Normally, this level of coolness doesn’t translate to the kind of dining experience I seek out. But Cherry offers up a creative and all-around solid small plates menu and cocktail list that make it a great for starting a night out in the ‘burg or a casual date night meal.

While the signage for Cherry is easy to miss, the large window looking into a wooden and gold circled bar is not. This first floor bar is a sexy spot to grab a drink from the impressive cocktail menu or one of their sakes, available by the “can” which is really a poptop glass (see above). Up a flight of stairs on the mezzanine lies the main dining area which feels like something that would be in whatever the Williamsburg of Tokyo is. Think lots of dark wood, dim lighting and wall paper that combines Imperial Japan with anime. Hidden up another half flight of stairs up is a closed off lofted dining area for those still unwilling to be spotted dining in Brooklyn.

The food is Izakaya style, which is basically to say Japanese tapas. However, don’t expect a traditional Izakaya with Octopus balls, fermented fish or other dishes that require a few years in the Land of the Rising Sun to “appreciate.” The menu at Cherry is built to suit the American palate, but it does so with creative fusion dishes instead of by dumbing down the classics. The gyoza (dumpling) section was excellent and you should be sure to order a couple dishes from here. Ditto for the Zensai (hot & cold small plates). The skewers, salads, ramen and larger plates all had some strong sounding offerings as well. Basically there’s something to please anyone who remotely enjoys Japanese food.

Also noteworthy was the pacing of the meal, which was absolutely perfect. Dishes came out one at a time with no overly long waits in between. Sadly I can’t even remember the last time that happened with small plates in New York.

Here’s what we tried:

Dumplings, sour cherry, cherry izakaya, williamsburg, japaneseFoie Gras Short Rib Gyoza (3/4 stars) This is the must order dish at Cherry. All the gyozas here are phenomenal with light, slightly crispy skins. But the rich flavor inside matched with the sake glaze and sour cherries makes this one the winner.

White Truffle, ponzu cream, cherry izakaya, williamsburg, japaneseTuna Tarts 2.5/4 stars White truffle oil is pretty much guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. Sprinkled on two thinly sliced pieces of raw tuna on a thin wafer spread with creamy ponzu, it doesn’t disappoint.

cherry izakaya, williamsburg, japaneseTuna Crispy Rice (2/4 stars) The top layer is kind of a tuna tartar mixed with chili mayo and topped with a jalapeno. I enjoyed the texture of it over the crispy rice, which reminded me of a non-sweet rice crispy treat.

mushroom, dumplings, cherry izakaya, williamsburg, japaneseShiitake Confit Gyoza (2/4 stars) Like I said, the gyoza wrappers here are top notch. The shiitake confit comes with some onion chili puree, but the mushroom flavor definitely dominates this one.

Seared Salmon Belly, Uni, Big Eye Tuna, cherry izakaya, williamsburg, japaneseSushi (2/4 stars) Cherry may not be a top tier sushi place, but all their fish is fresh, enjoyable and probably at least as good as your favorite delivery spot. We tried the Big Eye Tuna, Seared Salmon Belly, Uni and a Yellowtail roll. All good, but I’d be most likely to order the roll again.

Cherry Izakaya
138 N 8th Street (Bedford & Berry Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY
Cherry Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Posted in Japanese, Williamsburg | Leave a comment
Oct 22

Gansevoort Market

Gans Market, Meatpacking District, NYCThe age of the New York gourmet food hall is officially here and I’m embracing it with open arms. No more arguing with your friend who wants sushi or a lobster roll when you want barbecue. No more splitting bills with that guy who always just “throws in a $20.” No more planning ahead a group meal. The food hall represents the culmination of every of modern casual gourmet dining is about. And I’m all for it. So expect a lot more of these reviews in the months ahead.

Gansevoort Market opened last week in the Meatpacking District in a space that was, in fact, a market some 200 years ago. Time truly is a flat circle. The market is currently sporting around 15 vendors and offers a legitimate reason to come to Meatpacking during the day (or at all). A few of the restaurants have their own seating, but most eating is done in a small communal area to the back. It has a bit of a haunted feeling (perfect for the season) with distressed brick walls and twisted vines growing around wooden picnic tables. The skylight overhead completes the feeling you’ve entered some sort of enchanted foodie forest.

In order to see what the market has to offer, I decided to spend a morning and afternoon eating my way through it. It was pretty crowded on a weekday so I imagine sitting on weekends could be a challenge. Here’s what I tried:

The Bruffin Café

Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYC

Bruffins of the World

Who says donuts and croissants are the only breakfast foods that can be crossbred? The “bruffin” mixes the humble muffin with more daring brioche. The result leans much more on the brioche side with the only “muffin-like” part being the flavored top. So maybe a better name would be the “briochin.” Surprinsgly they’re not limited to or even focused on breakfast food. Most muffins are on the savory side with each named for the country it represents (for example, the Greek contains spiced beef, feta cheese, spinach, and kalamata olives). As it was still breakfast time, I tried the Canadian (1.5/4 stars), which has bits of bacon inside and maple syrup drizzled on top. I found the brioche a little overpowering, but some of the other ones might hold up better.

Yiaourti Greek Yogurt

Parfait, Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYC

This is a make-your-own Greek yogurt parfait station that I expect will be a popular breakfast spot for the area (assuming anyone get up in time for breakfast here). Given my breakfast most mornings consists of Fage and granola, this one was right up my alley. The yogurt has the thickness of Fage, but a much creamier texture. This is probably due to the 9% fat content, so I won’t be replacing my 0% Fage with it on a daily basis. But as a treat let’s be honest, fat tastes good. You get six ounces with one topping for six dollars, fifty cents per additional topping. These include the standards like granola, nuts and berries along with some flavored honeys. I topped mine with granola, strawberries and sour cherry honey and I give the whole deal (2/4 stars).

Pig Guy

Pig Guys, Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYCAs you may remember from my annual trip to the BBQ festival, I love me some ‘cue. And while I’ve learned to enjoy brisket, my childhood trips to North Carolina have made me pulled pork man. Pig Guy is serving up both, along with chorizo and and smoked chicken. As a pig guy myself, I naturally with the pulled pork. It’s slathered on two pieces of Texas Toast to soak up all the sauce. It needs it, because unfortunately while there was plenty of the tasty tangy sweet sauce, there was far too little pork mixed in with it. Hopefully they can remedy this as things get going because this sandwich has potential. For now though, it gets (1.5/4 stars).

Sushi Dojo Express Sushi Dojo on Urbanspoon

Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYC

The original Sushi Dojo is an East Village hot spot among connoisseurs looking for reasonably priced cuts of fish. As far as I know, this little counter is their first foray into something smaller. At Gansevoort Market, you get the choice to order a la carte at the sushi counter (if you can snag a seat) or choose one of their “Grab & Go” Bento Boxes. I had Box “B” which include chef’s choice of 8 pieces of sushi 2.5/4 stars The fish was very fresh and about as good as I’ve had from a takeout counter.

Sushi Dojo Express, Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYC

Other Noteworthy Restaurants in Gansevoort Market:

Tacombi Tacos
Ed’ Lobster Bar
Donostia (Tapas)
Luzzo’s Pizza
Crepe Sucre

Ganvsevoort Market, Meatpacking, NYC

The Dining Forest

Gansevoort Market
52 Gansevoort Street (Greenwich & Washington Sts.)
New York, NY

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