Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grimaldi's Pizzeria - 19 Old Fulton Street Brooklyn, New York Under the Brooklyn Bridge Phone - (718) 858-4300

This little pizzeria by the Brooklyn Bridge has a reputation for serving one of the best pizzas in New York. The coal fired brick oven and the fresh ingredients they use certainly makes their pizza stand out above the rest. Once you take a bite of their pizza, you'll experience the sharp, intense flavor of their tomato sauce and contrasting textures of their thin, crispy, chewy crust.

Grimaldi's has been around for decades, and people from all over have been flocking there to enjoy what they have to offer. Every time I go, the wait is at least half an hour. The feeling you have when you're dining at Grimaldi's can be frustrating if you're a first time diner. The combination of waiting on that long line and the fact that you're starving by the time you sit down can certainly exacerbate your experience there. The service isn't exactly the greatest and the place is so cramped, you might knock over a few glasses as you make your way to your table. But let's face it, that hasn't stop people from going back.

I've tried deep dish pizza at Chicago and the pizza in New York is still the best. Maybe I'm biased because being a New Yorker, nothing beats thin crust pizza. The only complaint I have to make is that Grimaldi's pizza gets cold and soggy if you don't eat it right away. So eat up fast as soon as it gets to your table.

Just a heads up, they serve whole pies only and don't take any credit cards. They have locations all over the US, but definitely try the original right by the Brooklyn Bridge so you can enjoy the view there at night right by the water.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Cheap $15-$25 PP

Main Course: Pizza Pies

Service: poor


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca - 110 Waverly Pl (between Mac Dougal St & W Washington Sq) New York, NY 10011 (212) 777-0303

There's only one word to describe the food in this place, and that word is "amazing." I love great Italian cuisine and trust me, this place will not leave you disappointed.

Located near Washington Square Park, you'll find that reservations are hard to come by for this Italian restaurant. It took several attempts before I finally got a table at this place. And mind you, reservations needs to be made a month beforehand. The wait is definitely worth it, because you'll get the chance to peruse through the menu filled with Mario Batali's ingenious creations and get a taste of his delectable dishes.

The grilled octopus is a great starter; it's grilled nicely and has a delicate smokey taste. It's accompanied with a refreshing vinaigrette and that hint of limoncello gave it a nice finish. For the main course, I ordered the beef cheek ravioli and black spaghetti. The beef is very tender and perfectly al dente. For those who don't know, in Italian it means "firm to the bite." The sauce is rich and flavorful and the black truffle shavings are sprinkled generously on the plate. The black spaghetti with rock shrimp is cooked in a very buttery sauce. The spaghetti, which is black from squid ink had a salty, briny taste; it definitely has the flavors and tastes of the ocean.

I wanted to try the pasta tasting menu, which is suppose to be outstanding, but it required the entire participation of the entire table. Not everyone in my party wanted to try it, so I suppose it will have to wait until next time.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Expensive $50-$75 PP

Appetizer: Grilled Octopus

Main Course: Beef cheek ravioli

Service: good


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brother Jimmy's BBQ - 116 E 16th st New York, NY 10003 (212) 673-6465

Brother Jimmy's is not a bad place to hang out to grab a couple of beers after work. If you're going there to eat you'll notice that people can get real loud and rowdy by the bar when there is a game going on. That's because this place feels very much like a sports bar since it's got giant, flat screen TVs all around the restaurant with different sports channels on.

The menu here features some well-known southern dishes and the dish that caught my eye was the fried green tomatoes. This traditional food that supposedly originated from the South is something that I've heard about but never had before. It was highly recommended by the server so I had to give it a try. But I really wasn't overly impressed with the dish. The green tomatoes had a tart, piquant taste to it, which I liked but the problem lies with the batter. The batter of the fried green tomato is typically made with cornmeal and fried with bacon fat to give it some flavor, but this tasted like they've used some store bought breadcrumbs that's gone stale from sitting on the shelf too long.

For the main dish, I ordered the blackened catfish Po' Boy. Now this dish, I liked. The fish tasted really fresh and it was seasoned nicely with a mixture of Cajun spices. It came on a warm, toasted bun and the Cajun mayo on this sandwich really sealed the deal! Overall, it was flavorful and very good. Brother Jimmy's is known for its ribs and I wouldn't come here without ordering some. The sauce on the Northern style ribs was tangy and the fall-of-the-bone meat was very tender and good.

Brother Jimmy's has seven different locations all around Manhattan, but the one I've gone to was in Union Square. Be prepared to loosen your belt buckle if you're heading over there to eat.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Cheap $25-$50 PP

Main Course: Northern Style Ribs, Blackened Catfish Po' Boy

Service: Excellent


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Xiao Ye - 198 Orchard St, New York NY10002 (Btwn Houston & Stanton St) (212) 777-7733

After reading about this new Taiwanese place from Time Out New York (my go to bible of all new restaurants and events), I was really psyched and looking forward to trying this place out. When I went online to look at their menu, I was a little taken aback by their prices. But in their defense, I figured they needed to keep the prices high to pay the rent by any means. Besides, I felt compelled to show some support to my fellow Taiwanese people.

It took me a while to find this place because the directions on Google maps was completely off. Just when I was about to give up looking, I decided to give it one last try and looked up their number and call them. It turns out that they're not located on Houston street but on Orchard street, between Houston and Stanton. This needs to get fixed asap!

Although this is suppose to be a Taiwanese restaurant, it didn't offer many of the traditional Taiwanese dishes you would normally see. Appetizers such as stinky tofu and chicken roll weren't even on the menu at all. What was offered on the menu was definitely interesting to say the least, they've taken some well-known dishes like Zha Jian Mien, and called it, "Princeton Review Bean Paste Noodles." They've got plenty of other unconventional names for their foods such as, "Obey your parents noodles, Trade my daughter for fried chicken, and Robster Rice," names that only ABCs (American Born Chinese) would understand and not feel offended by it.

I get their humor and it's definitely an interesting spin with what they've done with the menu, but my impression of this place was that this restaurant caters primarily to non-Chinese patrons. I understand that they don't feel the need to keep their prices low to stay competitive because they're located in lower east Manhattan and not Chinatown. But Chinatown is literally 5 blocks away. The prices and the limited items on the menu would be enough to deter Chinese people, but for me that was not even the case. I've noticed that this Chinese restaurant does not have any Chinese workers. I hate to compare this to other Chinese restaurants in Flushing and Chinatown, especially since Xiao Ye is trying hard to set itself apart, but I'm used to having cheap, good food as well as fast service. This place has got white people working in the back cooking Chinese food. Are you kidding me? They must have still been trying to figure out how to prepare my meal, because it sure took them a long time. I ordered the Beef Noodle Soup and Princeton Review Bean Paste Noodles and the noodles were overcooked and tasted bland. It was nothing out of the ordinary, except that the portions were small and I'm paying double the price. My advice would be to hire a real, professional Chinese chef!

I know it's a new restaurant and they've just opened this year in June but it needs a lot of improvement. They really need to bring their A game to the table if they want to stay in the game. The quality and taste of the food really needs to improve. Maybe I'm being critical because being a Taiwanese and a fan of Taiwan's night market, I was hoping for more. Or maybe my expectations were too high. Either way, all I have to say for Xiao Ye is that it's got a lot of style but no substance.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: No

Price: Expensive for Chinese tapas styled food $25-$50 PP

Service: Slow


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sake Bar Hagi - 152 W 49th St (between 7th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas) New York, NY 10019 (212) 764-8549

This place is an absolute favorite of mine. Sake Bar Hagi has got a lot of the traditional Japanese street food on their menu such as yakitori and tako yaki and they have an extensive selection of cheap sake too. Their food is reasonably priced for a place that is located in the theater district. Although it's in a touristy area, there's nothing touristy about it. You won't find many tourists eating here as you would at the Olive Garden or Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. They're actually a little tricky to find. It's in an underground location with a tiny little sign outside which makes the whereabouts of this place seemingly more lucrative to whoever finds it.

Sake Bar Hagi has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's show a few years back and this is the place where Japanese chefs go to eat on their day off. Before they got all the attention and spotlight on the show, this place was primarily known by the Japanese or by word of mouth. Now with the sudden surge in popularity, it usually takes about an hour or two to get a table. And as you would normally find in any restaurant, the more popular they get, the crappier their service is. They're slow, they take forever to bring you water, but when the food comes, you'll be willing to overlook all of that.

What I usually like to start with is their yakitori set, grilled yellow tail collar and tako yaki. Their ramen is really good too. But I like to indulge on dessert and I almost always order the green tea ice cream with red bean filled cake. It is soooo good here. They make the red bean cake themselves so it's guaranteed to be fresh.

This restaurant is worth checking out if you're willing to wait and put up with their service.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Cheap $25-$50 PP

Appetizer: Yakitori, Tako yaki, grilled yellow tail collar

Main Course: Ramen

Dessert: Green tea ice cream with red bean cake

Service: Slow

Website: None

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Robataya NY - 231 E 9th St (between Stuyvesant St & 2nd Ave) New York, NY 10003 (212) 979-9674

As soon as you walked into this restaurant, you will notice to the right are two chefs sitting behind a seafood bar preparing and serving food to customers on a long wooden paddle. Since the bar itself is big and not everything is within reach, it's entertaining to watch them jump over the bar to select the ingredients they need to prepare the dishes with. Once they have gathered all the ingredients, they start cooking it over a charcoal grill, yakitori-style. On the menu, Robataya claims that they use premium mineral rich sea salt, called Suzu salt, imported from Japan to season all their food. Customers sitting patiently around the bar will grab their food and drinks from the paddle once it's ready. This technique, called robata, is a type of Japanese cooking style that is not something you see everyday.

The menu offers a wide array of meats, seafood, and vegetables for you to choose from to throw onto the grill. If you are not in the mood for their yakitori, you can order other dishes such as rice or udon. The Kamameshi, a rice dish cooked in an earthenware pot, was not bad. You can select what you want in your Kamameshi: salmon and salmon roe, snow crab, or chicken burdock. I liked the salmon and salmon roe I ordered because they give you a lot of salmon and it tasted really fresh. But make sure you order ahead of time, it takes them about a half an hour to prepare.

However, if you go to Robataya, you should not miss out on their charcoal grilled robata dishes. This is what they are known for. Customers will sometimes wait a little longer just to get a seat around the seafood bar to go through the full experience of robata. The only problem is that the portions are small, it's similar to tapas style dishes. So if you go on an empty stomach, the amount of food you order can add up really fast and it can get really expensive. Two people can run up a tab of over $100 easily, without even ordering drinks.

What I've heard is that their lunch special is really good. You can order any set of lunch you like and it comes with salad, appetizer, soup and rice. It even opens on Saturday and Sunday for lunch too.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Expensive $30-$50 PP

Main Course: Free Range Chicken, Aussie Kobe Beef, Asparagus w/Salt, Kamameshi

Service: Superb


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sripraphai Thai Restaurant - 6413 39th Avenue Woodside, NY 11377-2846 (718) 899-9599

Sripraphai has gained popularity over the past few years for having the most authentic and affordable Thai cuisine in Queens. A restaurant like Sripraphai may seem out of place being that it's located in a manufacturing neighborhood in Woodside, but its location doesn't deter people from paying regular pilgrimage to it. Sripraphai usually draws a big crowd during the weekends so expect to wait outside the restaurant among other hungry patrons waiting for their numbers to be called.

The good news is that they opened up a second restaurant on Hillside Avenue in Long Island. Not as convenient to get to if you don't drive but probably less of a wait for a table.

People are always asking me for recommendations on what to order since I've eaten here on numerous occasions whenever I'm craving for Thai. I always start out with their sweet sausage salad with cucumber, onions and lime juice and it always tastes amazing; the flavor is indescribable. It's almost as if this dish is frolicking with the taste buds in your mouth. It has a combination of the sweet and savory taste of the sausages and the refreshing and citrusy taste of the onions, cucumbers and lime juice.

People who don't normally eat at Thai restaurants usually tend to stick with what they know, such as Pad Thai as their main entree. The Drunken Noodles and the Pad See Ew are both very good alternatives. Both dishes are prepared by sauteing the noodles with vegetables and a choice of meat, but they look and taste completely different. What I miss the most is their fried tilapia topped with tamarind sauce. They stopped making this dish a while ago and I never found out why that is. If they ever bring this dish back, I'll go back every week just for it.

Sripraphai has finally added a dessert section to their menu. It also comes with pictures too. Yay! Before they changed their menu, people used to have to walk to the refrigerator by the main entrance to figure out what they wanted for dessert, it also didn't help that the labels on the desserts were all in Thai.

For dessert, definitely get the lychee sorbet topped with lychee. I'm not sure why they put "lychee meat" on the menu. It can be a total turn-off for people who don't even know what lychee is.

The only thing foodies should know about Sripraphai is that it's closed on Wednesdays and they accept cash only. And if they ask you how spicy you want your food to be, go with mild. The chilies that other cuisines uses are unmatched with the chilies that Thai cuisine uses. I made the mistake of ordering the Jungle Curry dish spicy and my whole mouth went numb. If you want to be able to taste your food, I would stick with mild.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Cheap $20-$30 PP

Appetizer: Sweet Sausage Salad

Main Course: Drunken Noodles, Pad See Ew

Dessert: Lychee Sorbet

Service: Satisfactory


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ippudo NY - 65 4th Ave (between 9th St & 10th St) New York, NY 10003 (212) 388-0088

If you're planning on going to Ippudo after 6pm, expect at least a two hours wait for a table. Don't bother trying to make a reservation ahead of time, they don't take any. So if you're really looking forward to this place, make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes and get ready to throw back a few orders of beer and sake, because it's gonna be a while.

Why people are willing to wait hours to pay $14 for a bowl of ramen when the average price is $10 is beyond me. In terms of both broth and texture of the noodles, their ramen does not exceed the standard characteristics of what ramen should be. Ippudo has the traditional pork, egg, and bamboo shoots in their shoyu ramen. It's fair to say that most ramen places consists of the same ingredients. The distinction of a good bowl of ramen should be their broth and noodles. The broth should be flavorful and the noodles fresh. How other ramen places such as Rai Rai Ken and Setagaya stand up to Ippudo is debatable. It seems like everyone has their own favorite ramen place to go to. Other than the fact that Ippudo offers refill on noodles for an extra $2, I just don't see what it is that makes this place stand out.

Some of the best and most renowned ramen places I've been to was in Tokyo. I must admit I haven't tried Fujimaki's reputed and infamous ramen for $100 USD yet, but don't count on it because I don't plan to.

To say Ippudo is overrated sounds cliched but the exposure they're getting seems undeserved. The value that you get for the price that you're paying just isn't worth it. And it looks like the attention that they're getting is going straight to their heads. Has a hostess ever rolled her eyes at you when you asked to see their menu? It seems like that's the kind of attitude you'll be receiving at any over-hyped, non-Michelin rated restaurant. Don't buy into the hype. Take your money and go spend it elsewhere.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: No
Price: Expensive $20-$30 PP

Main Course: Shoyu ramen

Service: Satisfactory


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pio Pio - 8413 Northern Blvd Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (718) 426-1010

Pio Pio has recently changed it's location to a more spacious locale across the street on Northern Boulevard. Through their enormous glass windows, you can certainly see that the move hasn't affect their business at all. The restaurant still attracts a large group of devoted patrons who are ready and eager to satisfy their fix on Pio Pio's famed rotisserie chicken. As soon as you walk through the door, the aroma of their roasted chicken immediately gets a hold of you and somehow you feel a lot hungrier than you did before.

There is usually a long line of people waiting by the door, but it doesn't take that long for them to sit you down. You can always call ahead to make a reservation if you don't like to wait and it's usually recommended if you're going with a large group.

For appetizer I like to start with their mixed seafood ceviche. They put together the right amount of lemon juice and seasonings that makes this dish quite palatable. However the size of their dish has gotten significantly smaller since the last time I ordered it. I wonder if they're cutting back due to renovation costs.

The Matador Combo is great for a group of 4-5 people. The combo comes with fries and sausages (salchipapas), rice and beans, fried plantains (tostones), and avocado salad. I've never been a fan of their tostones because it always comes out dry and rather bland but their chicken never fails to deliver. For the most part, the Pio chicken is tender and juicy and their blend of Peruvian seasonings and spices is what separates this place from all the other Peruvian restaurants around the neighborhood. And everyone can agree with me that it's the spicy green chili sauce that takes their chicken to a whole 'nother level.

Their new location on Northern Boulevard has a nice and trendy feel to it. They have a large bar right by the entrance, trust me, you won't miss it. I wasn't even sure if they had a bar at their old place. The restaurant is still very loud and crowded and they still play the "Happy Birthday" song in Spanish every five minutes. They really need to start checking people's licenses, if you ask me. It's hard to have a regular conversation when you're there with company. You have to shout so the person sitting in front of you can hear you. So I really wouldn't recommend this place as a great "date" place.

They have several locations in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx but the one I go to is in Jackson Heights because it's ten minutes from where I live.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Reasonable $25-$35 PP

Appetizer: Mixed Seafood Ceviche
Main Course: Pio Chicken

Service: Satisfactory


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sushi Village - 3250 Francis Lewis Blvd. Bayside, NY 11358 (718) 886-4733

You really have to be a sushi lover to appreciate what this restaurant has to offer. It's an all you can eat Japanese buffet restaurant that doesn't require you to get out of your seat at all. As soon as you sit down, your server will bring you a menu that lists a variety of sushi, special rolls and other dishes you can choose from. All you have to do is mark down on a sheet of paper what you want and they'll bring it to you as soon as your food is ready. Their menu has an extensive list of all the Japanese food you can think of; teriyaki, sashimi, udon, tempura, and best of all, fried ice cream. This place has got the works! The only thing that I can think of that's missing from their menu is ramen noodles. But then again after eating all that sushi, you won't have room for anything else.

Located right on the corner of Francis Lewis Boulevard and 191st street, the restaurant has a parking lot for its customers so you don't need to worry about finding parking. However it's rather small, so if you go during the weekend, it can get full really fast. Compared to other buffet restaurants like Harvest and Minado, Sushi Village offers a wider array of sushi to choose from. But don't expect to find snow crab legs and Peking duck on the menu. This is the place to go for sushi, if sushi is what you're craving for.

The restaurant has a nice and welcoming atmosphere. It's reasonably priced, the service is good, and most importantly, their sushi is fresh. If you're planning on ordering special rolls, I recommend the lobster roll. Make sure you come hungry so you have enough room for dessert.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Reasonable $20-$25 PP

Appetizer: Shrimp Tempura
Main Course: Lobster Roll
Dessert: Fried Ice Cream

Service: Satisfactory


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

STK NYC - 26 Little w 12th Street New York, NY 10014-1303 (212) 488-2110

At first glance, the outside of this restaurant seems low-key and understated. If you don't pay careful attention to the address of this place, you just might miss it. Hidden in the heart of the trendy Meatpacking District is this pricey yet delectable steakhouse. It's got a contemporary atmosphere, with a swanky vibe; and the service is superb. The staff is friendly, attentive, and readily available to serve you. The place is filled with people in their 20's and 30's looking for a place to see and be seen. It's a great "date" place too, but it does get loud and crowded at night, especially during weekends.

For appetizers, what I recommend people to start out with is the Lil' Big Macs. Trust me, they're not your average Big Macs that you'd normally order at a McDonald's. They certainly don't taste like one either. These little burgers are so sinfully good. For the main course, go with the 24 oz. porterhouse. It's actually big enough for you to share with another person. What's unusual about this place is that they charge you extra for toppings on your steak. Go with the peppercorn crust if you can handle a little kick with your steak. As for the side dish, go with the mixed mushrooms. I'm a big fan of shrooms and believe me, you can't go wrong with this dish. Now for dessert, I strongly recommend you get the STK funny bone. It's a chocolate cake topped with peanut butter and caramelized bananas with chocolate ice cream on the side. This dessert is so good, you won't regret ordering it. For those who are on a diet, I suggest you loosen up a little; you only live once. :)

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes
Price: Expensive $100-$150 PP

Appetizer: Lil' Big Macs
Main Course: Porterhouse with Peppercorn crust
Dessert: STK funnybone

Service: Superb