Archive for March, 2010

Going Home for Easter

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I will be heading off to NJ after work tomorrow to spend the long Easter weekend with our families. My brother and sister-in-law will be driving up from NC with our nephew in tow. We’re super excited to see him! Plus my sister and her husband recently moved back to the east coast so it’ll be like a family reunion for us.

I probably won’t have time to do much posting over the weekend but no worries, we still have lots to write about. Some highlights include a food filled afternoon in Flushing and an incredible farmer’s feast at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where we even got to meet Chef Dan Barber. Please stay tuned, and have a happy Easter!

Disappointingly Bland Food at Hanci

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 by virginia

We did take up Silva on her recommendation to try the Istanbul Café, but we’ll post about that meal later. What prompted her recommendation was the meal we shared at Hanci Turkish Cuisine that left us wanting more – more seasoning that is. We went there with a group of people after some happy hour drinks at Valhalla. Josh and I suggested it because it was close by, we had enjoyed our first visit, and because it was a BYO, or so we thought.

We stopped off at a liquor store on our way over and picked up a few bottles of wine. The first thing we were told when we showed up at the restaurant with the wine was that they were no longer a BYO, and that if we wanted our wine there would be a $10 corkage fee. No thanks. None of the wines on their short list seemed very appealing, so most of us stuck with soda while Josh tried a Turkish beer. It was very light, nothing to write home about but perfectly drinkable.

Turkish beer

We decided to share a few appetizers to accompany the wonderful Turkish bread that I’ve been raving about. The bread was as good as I remembered – hot, crispy, and flavorful. We devoured baskets and baskets of this bread, and everyone agreed that it was pretty tasty.

Delicious Turkish bread

Our appetizers included the ezme, which is a dip made from chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions, with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. It’s a little spicy and very flavorful, perfect for slathering all over the wonderful Turkish bread.


We also got the piyaz, which was the white bean salad that Josh and I ordered when we got delivery from the restaurant. The salad was fresh and chock full of creamy white beans but like with our delivery, it lacked seasoning. The tangy vinaigrette helped a little, but it definitely needed more salt to perk up the flavors a bit.


Our last appetizer was the cacik, which is a dip made with yogurt and cucumbers seasoned with dill and garlic. Again, this dish lacked flavor and seasoning. It needed a lot more dill and garlic, plus salt. It tasted mostly like plain yogurt, and we ended up saving most of the bowl to use as an accompaniment with on our entrees.


Both Silva and Felipe ordered the kofte for their entrees, and they were really disappointed with the lack of spices and seasoning in the ground lamb mix. I had the lamb sis kebab and thought the lamb was perfectly cooked but also lacked seasoning. The meat itself was juicy and tender, but it was bland. We made liberal use of the salt shaker on our table.

Lamb sis kebab

Fortunately, Josh’s entrée was much better. He ordered the iskender kebab with chicken, which was served over bread cubes and a pool of yogurt and tomato sauce. The yogurt and tomato sauce provided a much-needed tang and sweetness to the otherwise bland chicken kebabs. It was an interesting dish with lots of unusual textures coming from the bread cubes that were soaking in the wonderful sauce.

Chicken iskender kebab

Overall I think everyone was a little bit disappointed with the dinner we had at Hanci. When I think Turkish food, I think of perfectly grilled meats with a wonderful array of spices. The food we had just didn’t fit the bill. Everything was cooked perfectly but nothing had been seasoned, rendering everything bland and flavorless. And without the bonus of the BYO, the only thing drawing me back to the restaurant is the bread, though I’m not sure it’s worth making the trip. Which is really too bad, because we had such a great time during our first visit. Even service fell off a notch the second time around, with our waitress slightly surly and indifferent. We’re going to expand our horizons for now and try other Turkish restaurants, even if they aren’t within walking distance from home.

Hanci Turkish Cuisine
854 10th Ave. between 56th and 57th St.
New York, NY

Documenting …well everything

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by virginia

Grant Achatz, the chef at Alinea (where Josh and I had the best meal of our lives), recently wrote a post on the restaurant’s message board regarding bloggers taking photos of their food and how it was ruining the integrity of the food and affecting the enjoyment of the meal. When I first read an excerpt of the post on Eater, in which Chef Achatz mentions a blogger taking pictures with a camera resting on a tripod, my heart started racing. “Holy crap!” I thought, “Could he be talking about me?”

Then I read further, discovering that the incident occurred a month ago, and the course described was the famous “hot potato/cold potato” dish. I breathed a sigh of relief, as that was not one of the dishes we had when we ate at Alinea, and we were there almost a year ago, not a month ago. But even so, his outrage could still be aimed at me, as I was a blogger at the time of our meal, and yes, I did use a tripod to photograph the dishes we had.

Before people start getting worked up about the use of a tripod in a restaurant, please let me explain further. We’re not talking about a gigantic tripod that needs to be set up on the ground, or a huge tabletop tripod that supports the largest of cameras. We’re not even talking about those wacky looking Gorillapods. My tripod is a “jr. flex” that maxes out at 6.5 inches in height and weighs less than 4 ounces. The legs are bendable and there is a mini ball head so that I can easily tilt the angle of my small point and shoot camera.

My mini tripod next to a 12 oz beer bottle (for size context)

The tripod screws directly into my camera, and I leave it like that for the duration of any meal. That way I don’t disrupt anyone with constantly having to screw in and unscrew the tripod. The combination of the tripod and the camera is still small enough that I keep them both on my lap, under my napkin, while we’re eating each course. The only time I whip out the camera is when I see that our dishes are about to be served. I’ll turn the camera on discreetly while it’s still on my lap, and set the auto timer for 3 seconds. The flash is always turned off.

Tripod/camera combo in action

When the dish is placed in front of me, usually I’ll just bring the camera up from my lap, rest two legs of the tripod on the edge of the table directly in front of me, quickly frame the shot, and press the shutter button. The timer ticks down 3 seconds, and the camera will take a picture. My body and the angle of my arms helps to obscure the fact that I’m taking a photo, so I don’t believe that I’m disrupting diners at other tables.

I started using the tripod because I was having a hard time taking pictures in dark restaurants, and I could never hold my hands steady enough to take a good shot. As a result, I would have to retake photos again and again until I got one that worked. The tripod solved almost all of my issues, as it provided a support against my shaky hands, and now it takes me less than 30 seconds to frame a shot and take a decent picture (or two).

I will admit that at Alinea, there were some courses that required me to rest the tripod fully on the table due to the size or shape of the serving dish. But again, we’re talking about a tiny black tripod that when the legs are spread out to balance the camera, it’s only about 4 inches off the table. As soon as I saw the servers coming over with each course, I had my camera on and ready to go. I only needed to set the camera down, angle the shot, and press the button. All of this would be done while the server was describing the course.

Because it was Alinea though, I did take about 2 or 3 additional shots of each dish from slightly different angles (using a rest on two legs and click method). Each presentation was just so complex that I wanted to make sure that I fully captured the beauty. Still, it was all done quickly while the server was still talking, because I was as eager as everyone else to dive into the dish. Had I been told to eat a dish right away, I would have already taken my three second shot by the time I was instructed to do so, and I would have popped whatever it was into my mouth.

Was it a bit hectic for me to make sure I got all my shots in? Yes. But do I feel like it took away from my dining experience? No. We were all just so excited to eat this meal, and I was excited to have photographs of each course that I could share with my friends afterward. It was one thing for me to describe sucking down bubble gum tapioca from a test tube, it was much more effective to be able to show a picture of said test tube.

We did get to visit the kitchen at Alinea, and I took a few still photos of Chef Achatz and some of the other personnel, but not before I asked permission to do so. It never even occurred to me to take video, and that’s not something that I would do.

I think bloggers are getting a lot of flack lately because there are so many of us out there. More times than not, there’s usually someone else in a restaurant taking photos besides me. Whether it’s for their own enjoyment, or if they indeed are bloggers, I don’t know, but I think people pretty much assume now that anyone taking photos is a blogger.

As I’m relatively new the blogosphere, I don’t know what it was like when bloggers were unique creatures that spread the word about their favorite restaurants and provided free advertisement and endorsements for those restaurants. Chef Achatz does credit these people for encouraging awareness of food and dining, and for helping Alinea increase its popularity. However, I do feel that right now, there’s a lot of backlash against bloggers in regards to photo taking, or critical reviews based on one experience, etc. All of this is starting to make me feel extremely self-conscious when I’m eating a meal that I plan to post about, so I do try harder to take photos and notes more discreetly. We have since graduated to an SLR with a special lens designed for taking photos in low light environments, and I’ve had to adjust to using a larger, more conspicuous camera but I’m still trying to be unobtrusive about it.

With regards to our experience at Alinea, I don’t believe that my photo taking using my mini tripod was disruptive to other diners, both at our table and at surrounding tables. The other tables were spread pretty far apart but it was quiet enough to hear snatches of conversations, and as far as I know, no one made a comment about my photography. As for the other diners in our party, I was surrounded by people who loved food, loved the experience, and was just as eager as I was to share our account with others.

If I had been asked to stop taking pictures, or told that it was against the restaurant’s policy, I might have been annoyed but I would have immediately desisted. Josh and I generally don’t even photograph other people’s food, only our own, unless we’re specifically requested to do so by the person who ordered the dish. That way everyone else can start eating right away and we won’t disturb them when we stop to take a photo. I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s experience, nor am I taking photos just for the sake of taking them. I honestly enjoy going through all my old food photos and reminiscing about some of the meals we’ve had. If you think I have lots of pictures of food on this blog, you haven’t seen my personal Picasa albums! And the vast majority of the food photos posted there were taken well before this blog existed, back when I was just a tourist who loved to eat.

If Josh and I were rich or famous and could eat out at amazing places every night, maybe there would be less of a novelty for us to document most of our meals. Unfortunately, we’re not, so most of these meals are pretty special occasions for us and we want to remember them and be able to tell our friends about them. In addition to being the best meal that we’ve ever had, Alinea was also by far the most expensive meal we’ve ever had (and we even opted for the cheaper, shorter tasting menu). In fact, it cost almost double what we paid for our plane tickets to Chicago! As much as I wish I could eat there regularly, enough so that the amazement of the presentations wear off, that’s just not realistic, and we probably won’t be back there again for years.

But we’re also really just lovers of food in general, and we get super excited when we eat something that blows our mind. Whether that be any of the dishes at Alinea or simply awesome hand pulled noodles at a hole in the wall joint in Chinatown, we want to be able to share pictures of our experiences and make recommendations on this blog. We don’t discriminate against “lower end” food by limiting our picture taking to only fancy restaurants or places with famous chefs.

As far as picture taking in restaurant goes, I don’t think that banning photography is the answer. People should be able to take pictures of their food, and restaurants who don’t allow this are only hurting themselves in the long run. Pictures are more descriptive than words, and an endorsement of a restaurant or dish is more meaningful when you have photographic evidence to back it up. I am more likely to read a restaurant review or a food blog when there are pictures included than when it’s just text.

I think it should be ok to take photos in a restaurant if you just follow some basic rules and some common courtesy. That means no flash, no excessive photography that requires moving plates all over the table, and just generally being aware of any disruption you may be causing to surrounding people. And the last thing you want to do is ruin the integrity of your food, because ultimately, the food is what this is all about.


Sunday, March 28th, 2010 by virginia

Since Josh and I have not had much success on our quest for the best go-to delivery pizza place in our area, we decided to supplement our recently mediocre pizza meals with a trip to Lombardi’s, which is probably our favorite pizza joint in Manhattan. We slept in on a Saturday and then headed downtown to meet up with Lisa for a late lunch.

Despite the odd hour, late for lunch and too early for dinner, there was still a line to get a table. We put in our name and stood outside to wait, chatting until they called us over the convenient loudspeaker that efficiently notifies people when their tables are ready. We were seated in a small booth in the smaller room next to the main dining area. We quickly placed our order and settled down to look at some of the photographs decorating the walls while we waited for our food.

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long, as our pizzas arrived a short while later. First up was a plain small cheese pizza, topped with lovely San Marzano tomato sauce, dollops of fresh mozzarella cheese, and shredded basil.

Small pie with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil

The crust was a bit thicker than we preferred but had a nice chewiness to it. It only got a bit soggy towards the middle of the pie, where some of the liquid from the sauce had pooled. Flavor wise though the pizza was fantastic. The tomato sauce was sweet and tangy, the mozzarella flavorful and stringy, and the fresh basil just completed the whole package. I only wished that they had put a bit more mozzarella on the pie, as there were some large sections that was only covered with tomato sauce.

Puffy outer crust but thinner in the middle

The pizza is cooked in a coal oven and was nicely charred on the bottom without tasting burnt. It could have been a bit crispier but it was still a very good pie overall.

Underside shot

We also got a small white clam pie, our reason for coming to Lombardi’s. Josh had been re-reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and saw Bourdain’s recommendation. We’ve been to Lombardi’s many times before but it had never occurred to us to order the clam pizza, until now. Too bad, because we’ve been missing out this whole time!

White clam pizza

The pizza is served sans tomato sauce and cheese, and is just covered with tons of clams, garlic, and herbs. It’s served with lemon wedges to squirt over the top, and the garlicky, briny smell that emanates from the pizza is incredible.

Clam slice up close

The clam pieces are big and flavorful, though some can be a bit chewy. They’re the perfect match for the almost equally as big garlic cloves, which are soft and sweet but pack a good punch. And because there is no sauce or cheese on the pie, the crust remained dry and developed a nice crispiness to it that was lacking from the plain cheese pie we had.

Underside shot

Between the three of us, we did manage to polish off both of the small pies (we had four slices each!). It actually wasn’t that hard – the pizza was just that good! If you haven’t been to Lombardi’s, I highly recommend making the trip to Spring Street. It’s a NYC landmark and boasts of being the very first pizzeria in the U.S. Don’t be deterred if there is a long line, it goes pretty fast as service is really efficient. This is classic NYC pizza at it’s best, and each pie is carefully crafted with quality ingredients. Don’t miss out!

32 Spring St. at Mott St.
New York, NY

Meatless Fridays – Minar and Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart

Saturday, March 27th, 2010 by virginia

Although I haven’t given up anything in particular for Lent, I have been good about abstaining from meat on Fridays. Surprisingly it’s quite tough for me not to eat meat, especially when I see other people eating it, and also because I’m not the biggest fan of fish at this moment. I do, however, love fried foods, including fried fish. On my favorite blog, Midtown Lunch, I read about a streetcart that serves a cheap, filling, and tasty fried fish sandwich, and knew that I had to try it out.


My first attempt was on a snowy Friday, which turned out to be a mistake as the cart was nowhere to be found. Neither was my back-up cart, Moshe’s Falafel. Instead, Josh and I headed to Minar where I had my first completely vegetarian Indian meal. While he went for the meat lunch special and filled up on keema and coriander chicken, I had to go for the veg lunch special and navigated through the meatless offerings with some help from the woman behind the counter.

I ended up with a container of rice topped with lentils, saag paneer, and a potato pea curry. The saag paneer was the only dish I’ve tried before, and it was as good as always. It’s a thick spinach curry mixed with pieces of Indian cheese that has the same texture as firm tofu. It’s kind of like a spiced (but not spicy) cream spinach and is very flavorful and filling. The lentils were also hearty, but a bit bland. They were cooked in a very light sauce and didn’t have much seasoning. I did welcome the protein though. My least favorite was the potato pea curry, because I only got like three pieces of potato, and the rest was peas in a super watery gravy that didn’t have much flavor.

Lentils to the left, potato pea curry on top, saag paneer to the right

To help bolster my meal, I added a piece of fluffy, fresh baked naan for $1 more. The naan was warm, nicely puffy, and had pleasingly chewy. At $1, it’s a true bargain and a great addition to any meal you get at Minar.

Fluffy naan

The lunch special also came with a foil packet filled with lettuce and raw onion, and a small container of raita. The raita is cucumber yogurt sauce that is great over most of the curries, especially the ones containing lamb.

Raita, lettuce, and onion

My container of vegetarian offerings did manage to satisfy my hunger, but not my craving for meat. What can I say; I’m a true carnivore. I did like the saag paneer though, and would definitely order that again. The lentils were ok, but I really didn’t enjoy the potato and pea curry. It was definitely a filling meal though, and all for less than $10. Not bad. I do like the meat offerings at Minar better though, so next time I’ll have to go when it’s not a Friday during Lent. The lunch specials are pretty good deals and you’ll get a lot of food. There are lots of options to choose from so I’m sure you’ll find a combination that works best for you.

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen

My second attempt to get the fried whiting sandwich was a success, and boy, was I happy with what I got. Based on Midtown Lunch’s recommendations, I opted for the fried whiting on a hero. The sandwich was massive and featured two thick fried whiting filets on a toasted hero, covered in lettuce, tomato, and mayo. I couldn’t believe the size of this sandwich, and it was only $3.50!!

The fried whiting sandwich on a hero is eight inches long!

The fried whiting was delicious – still hot, nicely breaded, flaky, and not too fishy. Most people I know are too skeptical to order food from a streetcart, and probably would never order fish from a cart. But I’m telling you, they’re missing out! This sandwich was better than any Filet o’ Fish, for sure. It was meaty, freshly fried, and just hit the spot.

Sandwich innards - packed with fried whiting, lettuce, tomato, mayo

I also got a side order of French fries for $1.50. They were packed into a Styrofoam container so they got a bit steamed on my way back to my office, but for streetcart fries they were pretty good. They were the thinner cut fries that I like, lightly salted, and topped with ketchup per my request.

Thin cut french fries

Overall I absolutely loved Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart. My fried whiting sandwich was better than I expected it to be and completely satisfying. I would gladly skip meat for this sandwich, and I would eat it on non-Fridays as well. There are other options at the cart as well, including chicken and bulgogi platters with lo mein, but I’ll probably stick with the fried fish sandwich. Please trust me and get over any streetcart food fears – it’s worth a taste! And the cart’s motto is also great:

Food IS love!

Minar (multiple locations)
138 West 46th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart
46th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY


Thursday, March 25th, 2010 by virginia

Josh celebrated his birthday recently, which is always a traumatic experience for him (but next year will be even worse I bet!), so to ease his pain his parents took all of us out to a nice dinner at Craftbar. We ended up at Craftbar for the same reason that we went to Wallsé for his dad’s birthday, namely that most upper scale restaurants don’t take parties that are larger than eight people. Why this is the case, I still don’t know. It’s quite annoying though, because we tend to be a party of nine, and just missing the cut off is really very frustrating, and means that our choice for restaurants is very limited.

Nevertheless, Craftbar was able to seat us at a prime dinnertime, and after eating at Craftsteak in Las Vegas, I was eager to taste more of Tom Colicchio’s Craft empire. Josh and I were the first to arrive at the restaurant, surprisingly, so we settled at the bar to wait for the rest of our group. Josh ordered a scotch while I selected a pear cider from Sweden. The cider had a lower alcohol content and was nicely sweet and fruity. It went down like soda, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

Pretty good pear cider

After half of our group arrived, we moved over to the table they reserved for us, a long rectangular one near the center of the back area, giving us a great view of the restaurant. The décor was a bit industrious, with metal catwalks framing the front part of the restaurant, and very tall ceilings, giving the space a lofty feel. Josh and I actually liked the feel of the restaurant a lot, as it was spacious and modern with clean lines, refined but not stuffy.

The adults in our party were running late and they told us to order some appetizers while we waited. We chatted for a while until hunger drove us to look at the menu, which featured a wide variety of appetizers and entrees, as well as a section titled “Small Plates.” We decided to order a few dishes from this section, and then settled down to munch on some breadsticks our waitress provided.

Crunchy rosemary breadsticks

The breadsticks were super long, almost a foot and half, and very tasty. They were relatively thick and on the harder side but very crunchy, and were flavored with rosemary and salt. We happily snacked on these while we waited for our small plates and the adults to arrive.

Fortunately the adults came just as the appetizers were delivered, so everyone got to taste all the dishes. The portion sizes were pretty small (hence the name “small plates”), but we just cut everything into smaller pieces so that each person got a piece. The first thing we tried were pecorino risotto balls served on top of a spicy tomato sauce. The balls were deliciously crispy on the outside and creamy and starchy in the middle. The tomato sauce wasn’t very spicy but added a nice tanginess that cut through the creaminess of the risotto.

Risotto balls with spicy tomato sauce

The second small plate we had was sausage stuffed sage leaves served with lemon aioli. We could definitely taste the sage but the sausage was mostly salty and not very flavorful. The little logs were quite dense and chewy, and although I liked the lemon aioli, this was my least favorite of the small plates.

Sausage stuffed sage leaves with lemon aioli

Lastly we had the salt cod croquettes served with piquillo peppers and capers. The croquettes were perfectly fried and the flavor of the dish brought me back to Spain, evoking memories of the countless tapas I ate while we were there. The cod had a nice subtly fishy taste that paired perfectly with the sweet red peppers, while the capers added saltiness and brininess to the dish.

Cod croquettes with piquillo peppers and capers

We were too busy catching up and talking so there was a while before we placed our dinner order, but our waitress was very patient with us and didn’t try to rush as at all during the meal. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to eat because the menu had so many options that I wanted to try. For my appetizer, I ended up getting the veal sweetbreads with rutabaga and sweet onion chutney. I love sweetbreads. To me, it tastes like a very mild liver, and is very rich and creamy. Craftbar’s version was really well cooked, with a crispy, salty outer crust and a velvety interior. The crust may have been a tad too salty, but when I ate the sweetbread together with the rutabaga and the onion chutney, the sweetness of those components really cut through the saltiness and richness. It was a very good dish, I only wish that the portion was larger, as it was really just a small piece of sweetbread on the plate.

Veal sweetbreads with rutabaga and sweet onion chutney

Josh selected the pecorino fondue with acacia honey, hazelnuts, and pepperoncini. I didn’t peg that as a dish he would order but he never ceases to surprise me. The fondue was cheesy and gooey, as it should be, and the saltiness of the cheese was set off by the honey and hazelnuts. The nuts were really a very interesting addition, giving both a sweet and savory crunch to the dish. There also seemed to be a lot of garlic flavor in the fondue, and although it was greasier than I preferred, it did go really well with when dipped into with the accompanying bread. It was a unique and tasty appetizer, though if ordered again it would probably be best shared with multiple people, as the dish was pretty heavy and rich.

Pecorino fondue with acacia honey, hazelnuts, and pepperoncini

Other appetizers at the table included the field mushroom bruschetta with fontina cheese, the white anchovy bruschetta with soft-cooked egg and braised leek, and the baby beets with goat cheese and candied kumquats. I didn’t get to taste everything but heard rave reviews all around, so the meal was definitely off to a great start.

For his main course, Josh had the pekin duck confit with duck egg, savoy cabbage, chestnut, and yellow foot chanterelles. The duck egg was really cool, as it was breaded and fried but still soft boiled, with a nice runny yolk. The duck itself was moist, though the skin could have been a bit crispier. Unfortunately, the cabbage mixture underneath was a tad on the salty side, which detracted a bit from the overall dish.

Pekin duck confit ith duck egg, savoy cabbage, chestnut, and yellow foot chanterelles

I ended up ordering the porchetta served with black trumpet mushrooms and polenta. To be honest, I had no idea what porchetta was, aside from the fact that it’s made from pork. I had read about a sandwich shop named Porchetta, which served chunks of roasted fatty pork with super crispy skin on ciabatta rolls, so I thought it would be something similar. What I got wasn’t what I was expecting, but after dinner I looked up porchetta in Wikipedia and got a definition that was more in line with what I received. According to Wikipedia, this is how porchetta is prepared: “The body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood.”

The slice of porchetta I received definitely had many layers, but unfortunately, most of it was fat. I really had a hard time cutting through it and separating the meat from the fat, and what meat there was ended up being tough and chewy. There was also sausage stuffed in the center of the slice, but it was pretty salty and uninteresting. Plus I was sad that there was no crispy skin to be found anywhere. While the polenta was pretty good, creamy with a nice grittiness, the black trumpet mushrooms on the dish were almost inedible, as they were just way too salty. I was quite disappointed with my dish.

Porchetta with black trumpet mushrooms and polenta

I abandoned my entrée halfway through in favor of Alice’s cavatelli Bolognese. She wasn’t hungry so she generously gave me most of her dish, which I thought was absolutely fantastic. The cavatelli were nicely chewy and the Bolognese sauce was dense and meaty. The entire dish was covered with crispy browned breadcrumbs, which added a great crunchy quality. It was almost like eating a really meaty mac and cheese, minus the cheese. The sauce was well seasoned and the variety of textures in the dish just made my mouth really happy (not to sound like the ditzy actresses on the original Iron Chef, but that’s just how it made me feel). It was such a comforting and homey dish, and I loved every bite of it.

Other dishes on the table included mussels cooked in white wine with garlic and parsley, a scallop, celery, pancetta, and smoked orange puree dish, the skate wing with fingerling potato and sauce gribiche, the pan-fried chicken with tuscan kale and Jerusalem artichoke, and the veal ricotta meatballs. The mussels were classically prepared and very fresh, with no sand to be found anywhere, which is always a plus. Josh tasted and liked both the scallop dish and the pan-fried chicken. The meatballs, however, were a paltry portion (three balls and no pasta), and they were tough and overly salty. The skate wing was deemed to be too salty as well, a theme that seemed to be running through half our dishes.

I know I complain when a dish is under seasoned, but at least it’s usually still palatable and salvageable with a few shakes from the saltshaker. When a dish is too salty, however, it’s hard to recover from that and the only fix is to send it back, but that’s not always the best solution either. Several of the dishes we had were on the higher end of being borderline inedible, but we didn’t feel it was worth the hassle of sending things back since it was already a long meal to begin with. But whoever was cooking in the kitchen that night was definitely a bit too heavy handed with the salt.

Moving onto dessert, Josh had the meyer lemon panna cotta with citrus fruit and ginger snap cookie. The panna cotta was fantastic – rich, creamy, and lemony. The texture was smooth and velvety on the tongue, and the flavor was refreshing and spot on. And because it was his birthday, there was also a candle in the dessert, a nice touch.

Meyer lemon panna cotta with citrus fruit and ginger snap cookie

I was slightly less thrilled with my olive oil cake with orange-cardamom ice cream, pear, and spiced walnuts. The cake was more like a muffin, and denser than I had hoped. I did taste the olive oil flavor though, which I liked (especially since I’m such a fan of olive oil gelato), but I found the dessert kind of uninteresting despite some of the exotic ingredients. It was a perfectly fine dish, but nothing really popped or stood out in my mind.

Olive oil cake with orange-cardamom ice cream, pear, and spiced walnuts

Overall we thought that Craftbar hit some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows. We loved the small plates we had, except for the sage/sausage rolls, and all of our appetizers were really well prepared and very tasty. The entrees, however, were very hit or miss. I loved the cavatelli Bolognese but was quite disappointed with my porchetta order, and a lot of people received dishes that they thought were too salty. It was a packed restaurant for a Sunday night, which may have contributed to the inconsistencies in the preparations. Service was good though, as our waitress was efficient and attentive. The prices are pretty reasonable, with small plates ranging from $6-$9, appetizers ranging from $9-$14, and entrees from $17-$26. It seems like a good place to share a few smaller dishes with some friends and have some nice wine or cocktails. There are also cheeses, charcuterie, and sandwiches on the menu. We liked the décor of the restaurant and the overall feel, with a casual yet upscale vibe, and I think we would probably come back here again.

900 Broadway at 20th St.
New York

Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 by virginia

When Josh and I first moved to our current apartment, the first neighborhood restaurant we tried was Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine on 9th Ave. We ordered way too much food and all of it was really good, but for whatever reason we never made our way back there. Fortunately it’s a favorite of our Aussie mate Kate, so one night we went to dinner there with Josh’s parents and her parents, as well as a few of their family friends. We were seated in a large square booth all the way in the back of the restaurant, kind of tucked away from the rest of the dining room. It was a nice, cozy spot, and the food didn’t disappoint.

We started off with an appetizer of mixed dips that included tzatziki, tarama, melitzanosalata and scordalia. The tzatziki is a yogurt, cucumber, and garlic dip, the tarama is a fish roe dip, melitzanosalata is an eggplant dip, and scordalia is a potato and garlic dip. All of them are very flavorful and refreshing, perfect for dipping into with the soft, fluffy, grilled pita bread. I liked the garlickyness of the tzatziki and scordalia, and the slight smokiness of the melitzanosalata. Josh still isn’t a fan of tarama, but I enjoyed its saltiness and brininess.

Tzatziki (bottom right), scordalia (bottom left), melitzanosalata (top left), and tarama (top right)

We also shared a two large Greek salads, which was plenty for our group of 11. The salads were piled into huge bowls and featured crisp lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives, cucumbers, pepperoncini, and some fantastic feta cheese. The cheese was tangy, creamy, and not overly salty, kind of like a mild goat cheese. The dressing was light and vinegary, a perfect complement. The salad was really very tasty and refreshing.

Greek salad

For our entrees, Josh and I shared the lamb kebobs and the elliniki compania, which featured gyro, pork souvlaki, salad, rice, pita, and tzatziki sauce. The gyro was wonderful, with crispy browned bits on the outside and wonderfully spiced meat on the inside. The pork souvlaki was cooked perfectly and was well seasoned. We made mini sandwiches with the accompanying pita bread and tzatziki sauce. The portion was very generous and I liked having the variety from the gyro and the pork.

Elliniki compania - pork souvlaki and gyro combination

The lamb kebobs were cooked to medium rare as requested but wasn’t quite as flavorful as the souvlaki or gyro. Still, the meat was very tender, and I liked the accompanying grilled vegetables (onions, tomatoes, and peppers) and rice pilaf.

Lamb kebobs with grilled vegetables and rice

We were all too full for dessert so instead I had a frappe, which was rich and frothy and served in a Shock Top beer glass. The frappe wasn’t too bitter, though I did end up adding a bit of sugar to sweeten it up a little, and it had a nice strong coffee flavor to it.

Frothy frappe

Overall we were all pretty pleased with the food we had at Uncle Nick’s, and I plan on going back there more often now that we’ll probably renew the lease on our apartment. The food is classically Greek and very well prepared. All the meats we had were tender and perfectly cooked, and the dips and salads were fresh and flavorful. Service was fine and the place has a nice casual yet upbeat vibe to it, similar to some of the tavernas we went to when we honeymooned in Greece. Portions are generous and prices are reasonable, so you really can’t ask for much more. Plus they’re watching out for Manhattan’s sewage systems, as evidenced by this sign I saw in the bathroom:

All kidding aside, the food is good and the atmosphere is festive. Nothing is fussy or over done; everything is simple and straightforward, and you’ll definitely walk out full, satisfied, and happy. There’s an ouzeria next door as well owned by the same people, which features small plates and Greek tapas. Hopefully we’ll check that out soon and report back!

Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine
747 9th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.
New York, NY

“Obsessed” with Food Porn

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I finally got around to watching the “Obsessed” episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations. We DVRed it when it aired but I’ve been avoiding watching it because I had read that he comes down hard on food bloggers. Being a food blogger myself, I was afraid that he would say something that would make me really dislike him, which I didn’t want to happen because we’re fans and enjoy reading his books. I also didn’t want to hear anything that would make me second-guess my choice to become a food blogger.

When we finally did sit down and watch the episode, I was surprised that the episode really didn’t focus all that much on food blogging, and Bourdain didn’t bash bloggers as much as I thought he did when I first read some articles describing the episode. One of the bloggers he intereviewed was Jason Perlow, a founder of the eGullet website who now has his own blog that I read called Off the Broiler.

I first found Off the Broiler when I was looking for restaurant recommendations in NJ. Since Josh and I spend a lot of time shuttling back and forth between the city and NJ, I’m always on the lookout for restaurants to try when we’re home with our parents. The blog features many restaurants that are close to where our parents live, and I’ve found it to be a good resource.

In the No Reservations episode, Bourdain meets up with Jason Perlow at White Manna in Hackensack, a burger stand that Josh and I love. Due to health issues, however, Jason is no longer allowed to eat burgers, and instead snacked on a Greek salad while Bourdain devoured two doubles right in front of him. Dude’s got willpower! I would never be able to sit inside White Manna, where the smell of cooking beef and caramelized onions permeates everywhere in the tiny shop, and not have a burger. That would be like torture for me.

Even now during Lent, when I abstain from meat on Fridays, I refuse to go to any restaurant that would tempt me to eat meat. I rigidly dictate exactly where I’m willing to go, and even bars are off limits because I’d be too tempted to eat a burger. I always try to persuade Josh to order something with fish, because if he’s eating meat, I get food envy and become very cranky.

But going back to the No Reservations episode, despite the fact that Jason abstains from eating a burger, he still whips out his camera to take pictures of Bourdain’s burgers and is immediately rebuked for doing so. This is when I started to take issue with Bourdain’s stance, and this is what many other bloggers have complained about as well. Bourdain basically equates taking pictures of food with keeping a diary during sex. Well with that mentality, if food bloggers are writers of pornographic novels, then Bourdain is a porn star, and a huge one at that. His entire show is based on someone following him around with a video camera, taking money shots of food being prepared and presented, and focuses in on him consuming the food and making noises about how good it is. No one watches this show to hear him speak; they watch it for the food.

Would my dining experiences be better and more relaxed if I didn’t take pictures? Sure, but I think our blog would suffer greatly without pictures. It’s not enough for me to comment on how lovely a dish is; it’s more convincing if I can show you a beautiful picture of the dish as well. But I don’t have a production team following me around everywhere taking video and stills of everything I eat, nor do I have someone paying me to travel around the world and eat. But if anyone is offering that, we would definitely take them up on it! In the meantime, however, we’re on our own to document our meals and share our experiences with our readers.

Am I obsessed with blogging? Yes and no. I love having this blog and writing posts for it, but I also know when I need to step back and take a break. I don’t blog for the sake of blogging, putting up random and meaningless posts just so I’ll have something published each day. I do put a lot of thought and work into the pieces that I write. I also don’t blog about or take pictures of every single meal that we have. Is it nice to be able to have a meal and not worry about taking pictures and notes on everything? Of course. But if I know an experience is going to be special, and something that I would want to share with everyone, then it’s also a pleasure to be able to document it and know that I’m going to have something of substance to write about, with supporting evidence.

All of the bloggers Bourdain interviewed mentioned something about food filling in something that is lacking in their lives. And I find that true for myself as well. Food is a way for me to escape the stresses of every day life, as is this blog. When I’ve had a bad day at work, I immediately think about what I can eat or cook that will cheer me up. I find methodically chopping vegetables into tiny pieces to be very soothing, and a juicy, well-seasoned burger with crispy fries, washed down with a cold, flavorful beer is my ultimate comfort food. That is why I’m not ready or willing to make food a career choice. Why turn something that I love into something that could be potentially stressful?

But as for taking pictures of food, we will continue to do so. This is a practice I started long before Two Fat Bellies, to document some of the exotic food we eat when we go on vacation, and it’s something that I’ll keep doing long after. Most people dining with us know they’ll have to wait and extra minute or two before diving into their food, but it’s a just a minor inconvenience that they graciously abide by. I don’t think taking pictures of food detracts in any way from my enjoyment of it, and the pictures only enhance my ability to convey my experiences.


Sunday, March 21st, 2010 by virginia

What can I say about Daniel? The hype is real. We went there not knowing what to expect, and we walked out completely satisfied and elated. It was definitely one of the best meals of our lives so far.

When Josh and I first discussed how we wanted to celebrate our 12th anniversary as a couple, we decided that we would forgo presents this year and splurge on a decadent meal instead. Daniel has been on the top of our must-eat list for a while now, as Josh’s parents and his sister have all raved about it. We originally made a 7:30 reservation on the night of our anniversary but when I read about a pre-theater dinner deal the restaurant was running, which features a $105 three course meal including wine pairings for reservations between 5:30 and 6 pm (Mondays-Thursdays), we changed our reservation to 5:45. It was early, yes, but considering a three course meal normally costs $105 without wine pairings (which are an additional $60 per person), it seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.

As the date loomed, however, I began feeling apprehensive that the special pre-theater menu would be too limited, and that I would be disappointed by the offerings. The description on Daniel’s website only says that the menu features new favorites and classic Daniel dishes, but doesn’t say how many choices are in each course. I asked Josh to call up the restaurant and find out what was on the menu, because if it only included lower-end, boring choices, then I wanted to switch our reservation to a more normal time and order from the regular menu instead. With a huge snowstorm arriving the day of our anniversary, I was pretty sure the restaurant would be getting cancellations so they probably would have been able to accommodate us at a more decent hour.

When Josh called, the woman who answered the phone told him that there were four options for each course, and that she would find out what those choices were and call him back. When she did call back, she said that she was mistaken, that the pre-theater menu was the same as the regular menu, and we would be able to choose from all dishes. Upon hearing this we were both thrilled and more excited than ever.

Per my usual habit, I went online beforehand and looked at the menu, plotting what I would order that evening. When I left work the evening of our reservation, the snow was falling hard and several inches had already accumulated on the sidewalks. It was a bit of a hike to the restaurant from the subway, especially with all the snow and slush, so I was a bit flustered when I arrived at the restaurant. I checked my coat and umbrella in the front, and found Josh waiting for me at the bar in the lounge with a drink. He had ordered a scotch, which had a really cool big ball of ice in it (so that the ice melts more slowly and doesn’t dilute the drink) and was served with some crunchy olive twists. Shortly thereafter, we were escorted to our table in the dining room.

Glass of scotch with a large ball of ice

Because it was so early, and probably also because of the weather, we were the only diners in the restaurant when we were first seated. I was still flustered from rushing over to the restaurant from work, and being seated in the completely empty, quiet dining room with a dozen servers milling about also unnerved me a bit. We were seated at a lovely table for two on the far right side of the room, facing the rest of the dining room. It reminded me of our sweetheart table at our wedding, which made me feel like I was on display. I think most of it was just me feeling insecure, and that’s something I need to learn to get over. The room actually filled up pretty quickly, and it wasn’t bad after that as the noise level grew with people chatting. We enjoyed being able to people-watch from the sidelines.

The first thing we noticed when we sat down was a stool in between our chairs, presumably to hold my purse. It was a classy touch, although we ended up putting our camera there instead of my purse. The second thing we noticed was that when we were given our menus, the pre-theater menu was in fact a limited menu, and not the full menu like the person on the phone told Josh. We expressed our disappointment and confusion to the lovely young woman who was serving us, and she told us that the person who answered the phone must have been new because the pre-theater menu is always a more limited menu.

We were a bit annoyed by the miscommunication but once we looked over the pre-theater options, we still decided to order from that particular menu. Both of the entrees that I had been eyeing when I read the menu online were included, as was my choice for dessert. The appetizers only included one dish that I really wanted to order, but we figured that it wasn’t worth ordering from the regular menu over one appetizer. We got over our disappointment, made our selections, and settled down to enjoy our meal.

As we waited for our first course, Josh showed me the new lens he bought for our SLR, sort of an anniversary present for the both of us despite the fact that we had both agreed on no presents. I didn’t mind though, as it was a lens specially designed for taking pictures in low light settings. It was perfect for the restaurant, as the lighting was very dim and we wouldn’t dream of using flash at Daniel (though there was a table next to us where someone did take a few pictures with flash, and it wasn’t too annoying because the tables at the restaurant are really spread far apart so you never feel cramped). It took us a while to figure out the right settings to use for the best pictures but we were pretty happy with the results, and I think it’s a huge improvement from our previous dark restaurant photos.

Before our first course, we were given an amuse bouche platter that had bite-size servings of squash prepared three ways. From right to left, there was a bite of squash with Iberico ham, in the middle was a kabocha squash puree, and on the left was squash served with a piece of sable. The flavor of squash was definitely center stage in each bite, and everything tasted clean and fresh.

Amuse bouche #1 - tastings of three different squash preparations

While we were savoring each bite of the squash preparations, we were brought yet another amuse, this time a geoduck ceviche that was served in clear shot glasses. The geoduck was tender and flavorful, with a nice and tangy acidic bite to it. These amuse bouches definitely left us wanting more food.

Amuse bouche #2 - Geoduck ceviche

Next came a server with a huge bread basket offering around a dozen different choices. I wanted to try them all but didn’t want to seem like a total pig so we each got two at a time. Over the course of the evening we ended up trying mini french baguettes, a garlic focaccia, an olive roll, a sourdough roll, a multigrain roll, and raisin walnut bread, but the best one of all was the butter roll, which I still think about constantly. It was basically a roll with the crust of a crispy baguette and the insides of a buttery, flaky croissant. It was rich yet light and delicate at the same time. We both got seconds of this roll as it was just simply divine.

Garlic focaccia and a mini french baguette

In preparation for our first course, our first wine pairing arrived, a light chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. It wasn’t too buttery and ended up going well with both of our appetizers. As was our usual custom, Josh and I each started with a dish and then swapped plates halfway through. I ended up with the meyer lemon royale with sea urchin, North Star caviar, Barron Point oysters, finger lime, and tapioca vinaigrette. Wow! This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening, and it was a melange of colors and flavors. For my first bite, I tried to get a little bit of everything and there was just so much going on that every chew yielded a different flavor. Then I ate each component individually, and that brought out more subtle nuances to the dish. The oysters were small but bursting with flavor, the sea urchin was rich and fresh, the caviar was salty and briney, and the vinaigrette with little chewy tapioca balls was just genius.

Meyer lemon royale with sea urchin, North Star caviar, Barron Point oysters, finger lime, and tapioca vinaigrette

Our other appetizer was the watercress veloute with Nantucket bay scallops, Iberico ham, black trumpet custard, and port reduction. The veloute turned out to be a velvety soup that was creamy but not rich. The watercress flavor was not too bitter, and it was slightly peppery. There were also round mushroom-shaped objects in the soup that we couldn’t identify (perhaps that was the black trumpet custard?) but they melted in our mouths in a weird and delightful way. The scallops were served on the side and the ham and port reduction added a nice richness, but the scallops were a bit cold. We weren’t sure if that was intentional but I think they might have tasted better had they been hotter. We weren’t quite as excited with this appetizer (this was our concession order) as we were with the meyer lemon royale sea urchin dish, but it was still very well prepared and tasty.

Watercress veloute with Nantucket bay scallops, Iberico ham, black trumpet custard, and port reduction

After they cleared away our appetizer plates and wine glasses, our main server came to tell us that because of the menu mix-up, they were giving us an extra course to make up for the confusion. This was unexpected but very welcome, and a very thoughtful way to correct a mistake. In addition to the extra course, they also gave us an extra wine pairing to match, an excellent premier cru white burgundy. The dish came from the full dinner menu and was kataifi crusted rock lobster with broccoli mousseline, ricotta salata, lemon-pine nut gremolata, and sweet harissa sauce. Kataifi is kind of a shredded phyllo dough and added a nice textural contrast to the tender and sweet lobster meat. The broccoli mousseline was creamy and flavorful, and the gremolata added a nice zip. The ricotta salata was presented as tiny cubes that we kind of didn’t notice, but we loved the sweet harissa sauce that wasn’t very spicy. It was a beautifully presented and flavorful dish that we really enjoyed and were glad that we had the opportunity to taste.

Kataifi crusted rock lobster with broccoli mousseline, ricotta salata, lemon-pine nut gremolata, and sweet harissa sauce

After the lovely bonus course, we continued through the rest of our meal. The wine pairing was a syrah from Rhone that was a perfect match for both of our entrees. The first was black sea bass with syrah sauce, accompanied by leek royale and pommes lyonnaise. This is a classic Daniel dish, and apparently caused some controversy when he paired a red wine sauce with a delicate white fish. The fish was presented as two skin-on filets, perfect for sharing. The fish was perfectly cooked except for the skin, which was oddly rubbery and chewy. Josh actually couldn’t even cut through the skin with the fish knife and ended up peeling the whole thing off in one piece. Weird. But the syrah sauce was fantastic, as were the sides. The leek royale was fluffy and flavorful, and the pommes lyonnaise, which was thinly sliced potatoes rolled up and nicely browned, were out of this world.

Black sea bass with syrah sauce, accompanied by leek royale and pommes lyonnaise

Our other entree was Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin with braised radicchio tardivo, confit fennel, crispy polenta, and sicilian olives. The lamb was incredible, with a beautiful crust and juicy, pink, and tender on the inside. It had a lovely gamey flavor and I couldn’t get enough of it. The fennel was delicate with a subtle flavor, and the polenta was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It was just a wonderful dish overall – earthy, rich, and deliciously flavorful.

Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin with braised radicchio tardivo, confit fennel, crispy polenta, and sicilian olives

When it came time for dessert, we were brought the regular menu dessert list rather than the limited pre-theater menu dessert list. We inquired about that and were told that we could order whatever desserts we wanted, which was another nice gesture. We did end up picking things that were listed on the pre-theater menu but we appreciated the thought, plus they gave us wine pairings that matched each of our desserts rather than the moscato that is listed on the menu. Dessert was one course where we didn’t swap, though we did taste each other’s dishes. I ordered the warm guanaja chocolate coulant, another classic Daniel dish. I was intrigued by it because it was described as having liquid caramel and fleur de sel, a combination that I greatly enjoy. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste much of either in the dish, and it ended up being like every other molten chocolate cake that I’ve eaten. The accompanying milk sorbet was refreshing but a bit bland. This dessert really didn’t stand out to me at all.

Warm Guanaja chocolate coulant, liquid caramel, fleur de sel, milk sorbet

Josh selected the coconut lemongrass soup with mango-thai basil gelee, poached pineapple, and coconut rum sorbet. It also sounded like an interesting combination on paper but failed to impress as well. It reminded both of us of a fruity pina colada, nothing really that different or exotic.

Coconut lemongrass soup with mango-thai basil gelee, poached pineapple, and coconut rum sorbet

In honor of our anniversary, they brought us an extra dessert with a candle in it and “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on the plate. Again, another very nice gesture and just highlights the level of service at the restaurant. The dessert was a spiced poached pear with hot chocolate sauce, almond frangipane, and earl grey ice cream. The chocolate sauce was neat because there was a thin disc of chocolate on top of the frangipane, which they poured hot chocolate over and the disc melted over the dessert. It was a cool effect, but the dessert itself wasn’t one of my favorites. It was a strange mix of flavors and slightly bitter – not exactly my cup of tea.

Spiced poached pear with hot chocolate sauce, almond frangipane, and earl grey ice cream

Fortunately our meal did not end there. We were also presented with a basket of tiny madeleines, served warm and fresh from the oven. They had a nice crispy chewiness to them, with a delicate citrus flavor. Even though I was very full at this point, I couldn’t stop popping these delicious little bites into my mouth.

Lovely little madeleines

Another dessert plate followed, a small platter of petit fours. We were stuffed but we continued on, taking a bite of each one. To be honest, I don’t really remember what was what, only that every one was tasty. The macaron was delicate and crackly, as it should be, and there was a pistachio one that we both really liked.

Assortment of petit fours

And just when we thought the meal was over, they set down empty plates in front of us. We weren’t sure what was going on, but then someone came by with a tray of chocolates, asking us which ones we would like to taste. We were near capacity at this point so we asked for suggestions on the best pieces, and the server told us that we should try all of them, so who were we to argue? Luckily there were only four kinds, though each one was very rich and intense. The four flavors were Grand Marnier, toasted sesame, dark chocolate, and praline. The toasted sesame was really interesting, with a nice nutty, savory flavor, and the praline was my favorite, a classic sweet crunchy bite to finish off our meal.

Grand Marnier, toasted sesame, dark, and praline chocolates

Overall Josh and I really enjoyed our dinner at Daniel, and I think we would rate it as the second best meal we’ve ever had, behind Alinea. But comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Daniel serves very classic and well prepared dishes, while Alinea’s offerings were unique and strange but very exciting. The service at Daniel was impeccable though, everything you would expect from a three star Michelin restaurant. All of our servers were polite, gracious, and attentive. Our food was always carefully presented and explained with a lot of detail, something that we appreciated.

We were wary at first after the pre-theater menu snafu, but they more than made up for it during the meal. I had also been hesitant about ordering from a limited menu, but we walked out feeling like we had fully experienced Daniel, and the cheaper price was just a bonus on top of a magnificent meal. Although desserts weren’t quite up to par in our opinion, the amuse bouches and all the little extras, like the madeleines and petit fours, were lovely touches that helped cap off a great evening. I would absolutely recommend going for the pre-theater special if cost is a concern. You’ll still have a terrific meal, the same level of great service, and experience all the miniscule details that make this restaurant truly special. We didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything, and we’d happily go back there in a heartbeat, either for the pre-theater meal or a splurge on the regular menu. We definitely believe that the restaurant deserves all the accolades it receives.

60 East 65th St. between Madison and Park Ave.
New York, NY

Pizza Plus

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by virginia

The latest delivery place on our pizza quest was Pizza Plus on 9th Ave. They left some delivery menus in the mail room of our apartment building and it looked like they had a lot of different options so we decided to give it a shot. We actually liked our pizza order so much the first time that we ordered from them again later in the week. Both times we placed an order online through their website, which also included 20% off coupon codes – that’s always a plus. The first time we ordered, our food arrived in a decent amount of time and the cheese pizza looked pretty promising.

Cheese pizza

The crust was thin and there was good cheese coverage on the slice. The cheese was flecked with oregano, giving it a bit more flavor and a fresher taste. The sauce wasn’t overly sweet or overpowering.

Lots of seasoning and herbs in the sauce and on the cheese

The crust was nicely browned and somewhat crispy, though the pizza was slightly cold when it arrived so it was a bit chewier than I would have preferred. Overall it wasn’t too bad, but it would have been much better had it been served hot.

Underside shot

We also got an order of garlic knots, which were big and puffy but didn’t have enough garlic flavor or seasoning. They were quite bland and very uninteresting.

Bland garlic knots

Deviating from the norm, we got an order of buffalo wings. I wasn’t expecting too much out of buffalo wings from a pizza place, but these weren’t terrible. They were decently meaty and covered in a vinegary hot sauce. Again, these would have been better had they been served hot, as they would up being chewy rather than crispy.

Buffalo wings

Last but not least, we got an order of french fries. These were on the thicker end of the fry spectrum but they were fried to a well done, so they weren’t too soft or soggy in the middle. They weren’t too greasy, and for delivery fries, they weren’t bad.

Decent french fries

Overall we were pretty pleased with our first order from Pizza Plus, so we decided to give them another shot in the same week, hoping that we had finally found our go-to delivery pizza place. Again we ordered online, but this time, our food took forever to come. After waiting for almost an hour, we decided to call them up and see what was going on, as they’re not located too far from our apartment. They told us that the delivery had left already, so we waited a bit more.

After another while, we got a phone call from the delivery man saying that he couldn’t find our apartment, and that he was on 58th St. and 6th Ave. Umm, that is nowhere near our apartment. We live pretty much a straight shot down 9th Ave. from where Pizza Plus is located. How in the world did the delivery guy end up on 6th Ave.?? This time it wasn’t my fault, as we had definitely put in the right address.

Needless to say, when our pizza finally showed up, it was ice cold. If I thought the pizza wasn’t hot enough the first time, the second time it might as well have been sitting in the fridge for a few hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love cold pizza as much as the next person, but I like hot pizza better. And when I order a fresh pizza from somewhere, I expect it to be served hot.

Cold and stiff pizza

The crust was hard, and the cheese had congealed into one solid mass. We ended up putting slices into the oven to reheat, which only meant that our dinner was delayed even more.

Cold and congealed cheese on top

The chicken parm hero we ordered was also stone cold, and into the oven it went as well. Even after reheating, it was pretty bad. The chicken had been chopped into smaller pieces, and they were hard and dry. The cheese on top was clumpy, and it just wasn’t a good sandwich overall.

Disappointingly bad chicken parm hero

The fries were the same kind as the first time, but they also needed reheating in the oven as they were ice cold and hard.

Cold fries

We were extremely unhappy the second time around, as we just couldn’t understand how they messed up our order. We don’t live so far from the restaurant, and they should have looked up our address if they weren’t sure where it was, even though they found us just fine the first time. How the delivery man ended up on 6th Ave. is just mind boggling to me. They ruined our dinner and didn’t even attempt to make amends in any way. That’s just service I can’t condone, and sadly, I don’t think we’ll be ordering from them again. Even though the pizza had such potential, it’s never delivered to us hot, and at that point, it’s just not worth it. And so, the quest continues.

Pizza Plus
642 9th Ave. at 45th St.
New York, NY