Posts Tagged ‘Lunch’


Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I both had off from work the day after July 4 so we decided to go for a late leisurely lunch at Nougatine, the more casual restaurant attached to Jean Georges. They have a three course lunch for $26, which is a pretty good deal considering the quality of the food. Josh and I have eaten at Nougatine many times before (we’ve posted about the Nougatine menu/food here), and part of the appeal was that we could choose any two savory dishes from a long list of options. When we tried to place our order this time, however, our waitress told us that we could no longer choose any two dishes from the list, but that we had to pick one appetizer and one entree.

We were sort of shocked and confused because looking at the menu, it still said that we had a choice of two plates, and a dessert. The menu doesn’t even have headers that differentiate between “appetizers” or “entrees”, though the list is divided into two sections separated only by a space. On previous visits, we were told that the small distinction indicated which dishes were lighter and which were heartier, but we had always been allowed to choose whichever dishes we wanted. We had originally wanted one of the lighter dishes and three of the heartier dishes, but we begrudgingly changed one of our selections and continued on with our meal.

The layout of the menu

After we finalized our orders, we settled in and started munching on the bread, a plain slice of a rustic peasant loaf. It has a slight sourdough tang to it and is tasty enough though nothing really exciting.

A slice of rustic loaf

Josh and I went halfsies on our meal, starting with a pea soup and the tuna tartare. The brilliant green pea soup was garnished with little croutons, a small bit of brie, and dill, though what stood out most to us was the vibrant flavor of the fresh sweet peas. Each mouthful was a delight, and even though I’m not usually a fan of peas, I apparently love it in soup form. It was a simple dish, yet extremely satisfying.

Sweet pea soup

The tuna tartare was the appetizer we chose when had to change our order. It was prepared in the same way that we had it last year, with avocado, radish slices, and a ginger marinade. I liked that the tuna was carefully cubed, not ground or sloppily chopped into small pieces. The radishes added a nice crunch, while the avocado helped temper the slight spiciness of the dish. It’s a decent tuna tartare, though not the best we’ve ever had.

Tuna tartare with avocado, radishes, and ginger marinade

For our entrees, we selected two different kinds of fish – the red snapper and the cod. We had also wanted to try the roasted chicken with summer vegetables and a light mustard sauce, but when we had to swap for an appetizer, we thought the fish dishes looked more interesting. The cod was pan roasted and served on top of stewed tomatoes, summer squash, and wax beans. The fish was perfectly cooked and well seasoned, and the vegetables underneath were sweet and fresh. It was a seasonably appropriate dish and very well prepared.

Pan roasted cod with stewed tomatoes, summer squash, and wax beans

The red snapper was also pan roasted and perfectly cooked. It was crispy on the outside and the skin was properly seasoned. The snapper was served with broccoli rabe and a sweet garlic-lemon broth. The rabe was soft but not bitter, and the broth was rich yet bright. I preferred this dish over the cod dish, as it was a bit more elegant and refined, but both were very well done.

Pan roasted red snapper with broccoli rabe and a garlic-lemon broth

There were only two options for dessert, a chocolate cake and a white cake with strawberries and red wine sorbet. They were nearly identical to the desserts we had at the Terrace last year, and we opted for one of each. The chocolate cake was the classic Jean Georges warm molten cake served with vanilla bean ice cream. The interior is a rich, fudgey chocolate river that runs out when you cut into the cake. It’s decadent but a bit heavy, so it’s definitely a dessert you’d want to share with someone.

Warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream

I was happy to see that they vastly improved the vanilla cake from last year that accompanied the strawberries and red wine sorbet. Last year the cake was a small, dry, flat round, and this year, it was a moist sesame-citrus sponge cake that had body and flavor. Although the syrup that ran off the strawberries was a tad too sweet, I thought the sorbet had just the right amount of tartness, and was very refreshing.

Sesame-citrus sponge cake with strawberries and red wine sorbet

Overall we both enjoyed our leisurely lunch at Nougatine, though we are still disappointed with the change in the menu structure. The food is still tasty and well prepared, and there are still lots of options to choose from, but it doesn’t seem as limitless as it used to. When we left the restaurant, we confirmed with the hostess that this was a new policy, and she said yes, because people used to be confused and would order two entrees. I don’t think it was confusing before, because our previous servers have always told us we could order whatever we liked, but I do think it is confusing now because they haven’t changed the wording or the setup of the menu. It’s kind of sad that they are now going this route, because it makes the lunch seem like less of a deal even though all things considered, it’s still quite a treat and a bargain. Regardless, I’m sure we’ll be back, perhaps during a different season because the summer dishes from this year seemed to overlap somewhat with ones that we had last year. The beauty of this three course prix fixe is that we don’t have to wait for Restaurant Week!

1 Central Park West at 60th St.
New York, NY

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 – Maze

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by virginia

While Josh and I are not huge fans of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, we have been pretty curious about the cuisine of Gordon Ramsay ever since we read a little bit about him in Marco Pierre White’s book, The Devil in the Kitchen. Although we think he plays an over-the-top character on TV, he does have an impressive resume and has worked for some very great chefs. He has multiple Michelin stars under his belt, which is a great feat, but these days, he’s more known for being a screaming tyrant. So we had no idea what to expect when we booked a table at his restaurant Maze for Restaurant Week lunch. Maze is located at The London hotel on 54th St. We couldn’t even find the Restaurant Week menu online but curiosity got the best of us and we made the reservation regardless. For those who are equally curious, here is the Restaurant Week lunch menu for Maze:

Octopus terrine with Kalamata olives, crisp potatoes, pickled shallots, sauce vierge
Asparagus veloute, braised morels, elephant garlic
Marinated fingerling potatoes, Holland leeks, poached quail’s egg, prosciutto

Main Courses
Carnaroli risotto of parsley, preserved lemon and mascarpone
Roasted chicken breast, spring morels, pickled ramps, new potatoes, asparagus, thyme jus
Pan fried halibut, butternut squash, gnocchi, brown butter vinaigrette
Dry aged strip loin 8 oz, creamed spinach, pommes anna ($10 supplement)

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, walnut praline ice cream
Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats and mandarin sorbet
Chocolate pudding, stout ice cream, pretzel, peanut butter powder

Josh and I quickly made our selections and settled in to munch on the bread they provided. We’re not sure what kind of bread it was but it was sort of like a focaccia, except chewier. Maybe it was like a thick pizza bianca? Whatever it was, it was a bit tough and flavorless, desperately needing some salt or something to give it a boost. Not even the butter helped.

Bread and butter

So our meal did not get off to the best of starts but things looked up when they delivered our appetizers. As usual, Josh and I each started off with a dish and then switched halfway through. He started out with the marinated fingerling potatoes, which was served on a thin slice of prosciutto and featured a teeny little quail’s egg that was perfectly poached with a runny yolk. The flavors of this dish were clean and each component stood out on its own. It was a simple dish but well composed.

Marinated fingerling potatoes with leeks, quail's egg, and prosciutto

Our other appetizer was the octopus terrine with Kalamata olives, crisp potatoes, and pickled shallots. Presentation- and composition-wise, both of our appetizers were very similar, but the octopus had stronger flavors that gave a nod towards Spain. There was a nice and spicy tomato sauce that came on the side, which added an acidic zing to the dish, and the octopus itself was very tender. I just wish that there was more of it, as there was only a very thin layer at the bottom.

Octopus terrine with olives, crisp potatoes, and pickled shallots

For our main courses, we selected the roasted chicken breast and the pan fried halibut. The chicken had nice crispy skin and was pretty juicy in the interior, but it was also slightly underdone. I don’t really get squeamish by slightly pink poultry, except there were a few sections that were inedible. Otherwise, it was very flavorful chicken, and the medley of vegetables underneath were fresh and seasonal. I loved the morels and wished there were more of them mixed in. It was a nice, light dish.

Roasted chicken breast with morels, ramps, asparagus, and potatoes

The pan fried halibut had a fall flavor to it, thanks to the butternut squash. The fish itself was well cooked, with a crispy exterior and meaty white flesh in the middle. The gnocchi were a bit chewy but at least they weren’t super dense. The presentation was simple but it was a hearty dish and well prepared.

Pan fried halibut with butternut squash, gnocchi, and brown butter vinaigrette

For dessert, we selected the vanilla custard and the chocolate pudding. The chocolate pudding was more like a ganache or fudge, served in a long log and had a relatively firm texture. The stout ice cream was absolutely fantastic, tasting just like a slightly sweeter Guinness in ice cream form. I will have to look into making stout ice cream for myself, because it was really good. The combination of the pudding, ice cream, and peanut butter powder worked really well together, but the pretzel had no real purpose. It was kind of stale and not very salty, so it didn’t provide a contrast to the other sweet components. Pretzel aside, this was a very good dessert.

Chocolate pudding with stout ice cream, pretzel, and peanut butter powder

The vanilla custard had nice vanilla flavor and visible specks of vanilla bean in it, but it was kind of relegated to the background because of the assertive citrus flavors in the dessert. The oranges were a bit sour but tasted better when mixed with the sweet vanilla custard; I just wished there was more of the custard. The brown sugar oats added a textural contrast to the dessert but not much flavor. It was an ok dish but not spectacular.

Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats, and mandarin sorbet

We really didn’t know what to expect going into the restaurant, but we walked out with some new respect for Gordon Ramsay. As far as Restaurant Week meals go, this was pretty good. There was a decent selection to choose from, and everything was well prepared and well presented. I liked the use of fresh vegetables in all the dishes and I walked out of there completely satisfied. While I still don’t like his antics on TV, I can look past it as long as his restaurants are producing good food. I don’t know how much involvement he has with this particular branch of Maze, but maybe if we’re ever in London we can check out one of his restaurants there.

151 West 54th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 – Aureole

Monday, July 12th, 2010 by virginia

One of my favorite highlights during the very hot summer season is summer Restaurant Week. Josh and I first discovered Restaurant Week when we were interning during the summer before our senior year of college. It was a poor college student’s dream – eating a three course meal at a fancy NYC restaurant (like the now-closed famous La Cote Basque) for less than $20 (it was $19.98 at the time). Although prices have since risen to $24.07, Restaurant Week lunches are still a bargain, for the most part. Some restaurants have pretty limited Restaurant Week menus, so I try to find the menu online before making a booking.

Restaurant Week reservations book fast so it’s important to make them as early as possible. On the day that reservations opened, I called Josh to make sure that he would make a few bookings, and he didn’t disappoint. Our winner during winter Restaurant Week this year was Aureole so I was glad he booked it again. Instead of the Bar Room though, we snagged a reservation in the main dining room, which is a bit fancier. The menu was the same, but the tables had tablecloths, and best of all, there was bread service with three different kinds of bread (the Bar Room only offered slices of baguettes).

Slices of baguette, rosemary bread, and cranberry walnut bread

In addition to baguette, we got rosemary bread and cranberry walnut bread. The baguette was as good as last year, and the rosemary bread had a nice crust and a pronounced rosemary flavor. The cranberry walnut had lots of cranberries in it, but the crust was a bit burnt and the bread was pretty dense. I was just sad that the bread guy didn’t come back after his initial pass, but that’s ok because I need to start eating less bread.

The Restaurant Week menu had three options per course so Josh and I made different selections for each and then swapped plates halfway through, per our usual practice. For the first course, we had heirloom tomato gazpacho and pan roasted shrimp. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and served with prosciutto, baby arugula, and a brunoise of summer melons. The prosciutto provided the saltiness for the dish, while the melon contrasted with sweetness. It was a light and refreshing dish, perfect on a hot summer day.

Pan roasted shrimp with summer melons, prosciutto, and baby arugula

Our other appetizer was the tomato gazpacho, which was a brilliant red color and topped with diced avocado and garlic croutons. The gazpacho was also very light, not too sweet, and had a good amount of acidity. The creaminess of the avocado cut through the tanginess of the soup, and the garlic croutons added a nice little crunch. It was very simple in preparation and presentation, but still very tasty, and I think it’s something that I’d like to replicate at home.

Heirloom tomato gazpacho with diced avocado and garlic croutons

For our main course, we selected the Chatham Bay cod and marinated flatiron steak. The steak was cooked to medium rare as requested, though it was slightly tough, perhaps just because of the cut of meat. It was served with baby bok choy, coconut rice, scallions, and a chile garlic dressing. There were also flakes of toasted coconut scattered over the dish. It was an unusual combination with steak, and because I’m not a huge fan of coconut, it wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t bad, just not really my cup of tea.

Flatiron steak with baby bok choy, coconut rice, scallions, and a chile garlic dressing

The cod was served in a broth with baby leeks, summer corn, potatoes, and little neck clams. The fish itself was very nicely cooked, with crispy skin and the perfect amount of seasoning. The broth had a delicate and subtle flavor, and the little kernals of corn were sweet and fresh. Josh and I both liked this dish a lot.

Chatham Bay cod with baby leeks, summer corn, potatoes, and little neck clam broth

For dessert, we had the carrot cake and the rocky road vacherin. The vacherin was chocolate meringues that were light and crispy. They were served with a smooth chocolate ice cream, soft and creamy marshmallows, brownie bites, black cherry syrup, and toasted almond slivers. The individual components were tasty, and all put together and it was a super rich dessert. It wasn’t as whimsical as the caramel popcorn ice cream dessert from the winter Restaurant Week menu, but it was still playful.

Rocky road vacherin with chocolate ice cream, =marshmallows, brownie bites, black cherry syrup, and toasted almond

I’m not the biggest fan of carrot cake but I thought this version was fantastic. It was light and moist and not overly spiced, something I don’t like in other carrot cakes. It came with a cream cheese mousse that fluffy and not too rich, but didn’t taste heavily of cream cheese. There were also pickled red grapes scattered about, though they didn’t taste very pickled. Still, they were sweet and juicy and a good textural contrast to the soft cake and mousse.

Carrot cake with cream cheese mousse and pickled red grapes

We were pretty full at this point but they brought a plate of mini cookies at the end of the meal, and I couldn’t resist. My favorite was the biscotti, and there was a thin chocolate chip cookie that was tasty as well.

Plate of mini cookies

Overall we thought the winter Restaurant Week menu at Aureole was slightly better than the summer menu, but it was still a terrific Restaurant Week meal and ranks as one of the better ones that we’ve had. The only dish that I didn’t like was the steak, but everything was well prepared and seasonably appropriate. The cod was a real standout, and the carrot cake was a surprise winner. There was really no difference in service between the main dining and the Bar Room, so if there is an opening in either (they’re listed separately on Open Table), I highly recommend making a reservation.

135 West 42nd St. between 6th Ave. and Broadway
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

More Tasty Lunch Specials from Yum Yum Bangkok

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by virginia

It has been a while since Rodney and I had one of our weekday lunches at Yum Yum Bangkok. It’s a pretty far hike from our offices and the weather has been pretty lousy lately. One day, however, we decided to suck it up and make the trek over to 9th Ave., as we couldn’t resist the great lunch specials and tasty Thai food.

As I mentioned in my first post about Yum Yum Bangkok, the lunch special is basically any entree from the menu, which ranges from approximately $6.50 to $8, and comes with your choice of two appetizers from a decently broad list. I decided to try some new appetizers this time around, instead of my usual spring rolls and soup. Rodney and I both opted to start with a Thai salad, which was a pile of iceberg lettuce, some shredded carrot, and one slice each of cucumber and tomato. The salad was topped with a sweet peanut dressing, and it was perfectly fine but nothing special. I think the salads are pre-made and refrigerated though, as they came out almost immediately and were ice cold. But even so, the vegetables were still pretty fresh and crisp.

Thai salad with peanut dressing

I also opted for the steamed dumplings, which came two to the order. The dumplings were similar to Chinese shumai, and featured ground chicken and shrimp in a steamed yellow wrapper. They tasted ok, but texturally, they were kind of mushy.

Steamed dumplings

Rodney stuck with the spring rolls, which I liked better. I think I’ll stick with those the next time. Freshly fried and super crispy, with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, these are pretty hard to beat.

Crispy Thai spring rolls

For my main course, I also deviated from my usual chicken pad thai and went with chicken pad kie mao, which are flat wide noodles stir fried with chicken, broccoli, peppers, onions, and lots of Thai basil. It’s a very flavorful, savory dish, perfect for anyone who likes basil. The slightly licorice flavor permeates throughout, and though it’s slightly greasy, the noodles are perfectly cooked, not too mushy, and the vegetables provide a pleasing crunchy contrast. Just watch out for some of the peppers, as I bit into one thinking it was a bell pepper but it turned out to be super spicy. I’m sure they’d adjust the spice accordingly upon request. I would definitely get this dish again.

Chicken basil noodles (pad kie mao)

Rodney had the chicken pad priew whan, which was chicken in a sweet and sour sauce with onions, tomatoes, and pineapple chunks. It was a dish that reminded me of General Tso’s chicken, but fresher tasting. The sauce wasn’t too sweet or cloying, and the dish was tasty spooned over the accompanying white rice. The chunks of pineapple were a nice touch, and Rodney seemed to enjoy it a lot.

Chicken in sweet and sour sauce (pad priew whan)

As usual, Rodney couldn’t resist a scoop of green tea ice cream, still just $1 as the “summer special.” It might be freezing outside but he always has room for ice cream.

Green tea ice cream

Yum Yum Bangkok is still one of my favorite lunch places, and you really can’t beat the lunch special deal. We always eat tons of food and never spend more than $10 each, including tax and tip. The food is tasty and service is quick and attentive. It’s always packed whenever we go but we never have to wait for a table, so even though it’s a far walk from our office, we can still usually get in and out in less than an hour. I would definitely still recommend this place to anyone looking to get away from work for a bit and have a nice reasonably priced sit down lunch.

Yum Yum Bangkok
650 9th Ave. between 45th and 46th St.
New York, NY

Carnegie Deli

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I have kind of been apartment hunting on and off for the last three years. At one point we were really into it, going to several open houses each weekend. Our search has tapered off in the last few months but we saw an interesting listing in Midtown and decided to check it out during lunch on a weekday. The apartment was a bust so to make ourselves feel better, we decided to grab lunch at the famed Carnegie Deli nearby and drown our sorrows in a mountain of corned beef and pastrami.

Neither of us had been to the Carnegie Deli before, nor have we ventured to any of the other landmark NYC delis like Katz’s or the 2nd Avenue Deli, but we’re no strangers to deli fare. We were seated in the back room and noshed on some pickles while we looked around at all the pictures on the walls of the famous people who have dined at the Carnegie Deli.

Just a small sample of all the pictures hanging on the walls

Josh and I both preferred the half sour pickles, as they had a crunchier texture and a fresher flavor. The sour pickles were pretty limp and overly acidic, tasting like they had been hanging out in the brine for far too long.

Pickles to nosh on

We decided to halfsies on a corned beef sandwich and a pastrami sandwich, knowing full well that we wouldn’t be able to finish either portions. The size of the sandwiches definitely didn’t disappoint, as each was almost four inches high and spilling meat out onto the plate. I thought the corned beef was a bit too lean, however, resulting in a dry, almost crumbly texture. A generous schmear of mustard fixed that though, and we also asked for more bread to make more manageable sandwich portions for ourselves.

Corned beef sandwich

The pastrami we got was a much fattier cut and more tender as a result. It definitely had a smokier flavor than the corned beef, though I thought both were pretty comparable in terms of seasoning.

Pastrami sandwich

We also got a side of French fries, which were boasted as being cholesterol free. They were fat crinkle cut fries, similar to Nathan’s, and were surprisingly crispy on the outside and very potato-y on the inside. I typically don’t like thicker cut fries but these were perfectly cooked and not at all greasy.

Crinkle cut french fries

Despite our best efforts, we had tons of leftovers. Our waitress gave us sheets of waxed paper and bags so that we could pack up the rest of our sandwiches. Even though we had stuffed ourselves silly, we still ended up an entire half of the pastrami sandwich, plus 1/3 of the other half, as well as half of the corned beef sandwich.

We ended up eating the pastrami for dinner that night, cooking it up with scrambled eggs and eating it on toasted bagels. Even that was almost too much food, but I liked how the fattiness of the pastrami allowed it to hold up well during the cooking process, and its saltiness matched well with the eggs.

Pastrami and egg scramble on a toasted bagel

Overall Josh and I both enjoyed our impromptu lunch at Carnegie Deli, and the fact that we didn’t have to worry about what to eat for dinner later that night. At first glance, $15 for a sandwich might seem ridiculous, but when you think about it, it’s really at least two sandwiches, even for the heartiest eater. That means it’s actually not that bad price-wise, especially for Midtown. While the corned beef and pastrami weren’t the best that I’ve ever had, they were still pretty tasty. Besides, part of the appeal is going for the ambiance – to look at all the pictures on the walls and try to pick out your favorite stars, and to interact with the surly, no-nonsense waitresses. Even though some might dismiss it as touristy, when you’re there, you can’t help but feel like you’re experiencing a part of NYC history. Just make sure to bring cash (no credit cards), and to ask for extra bread to deconstruct your sandwich, unless you can figure out a way to detach your jaw!

Carnegie Deli
854 7th Ave. at 55th St.
New York, NY


Sunday, January 31st, 2010 by virginia

Poor Josh has really been on the road a lot lately, traveling for work. The day after we got home from San Francisco, he was on an early morning train to Baltimore. After spending one night there, he took the early morning train back from Baltimore and had about two hours to pack before heading to the airport on his way to Colorado. Because he knows how much all the traveling takes on toll on me (hey, it’s hard when you’re husband is away all the time and gets to go to new places and try new foods!), he made sure to grab a quick lunch with me during his two hour window.

We ended up at Social, a bar/restaurant on 8th Ave. that wasn’t too crowded, as we wanted a quiet place where we could sit and talk. There was a special lunch menu that had sandwiches and burgers listed for $7.45 but we opted to split a few things from the regular menu instead. Since it was chilly outside and I was craving comfort food, we got an order of macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese

It was described on the menu as being covered in a three cheese truffled mornay sauce, but neither of tasted any truffle at all, not even a hint of truffle oil. And even though it had a nicely browned and crispy top, it was more creamy than cheesy, without any of the gooey-ness or stringy-ness that I wanted from the mac and cheese. Flavor-wise it wasn’t bad but it was just too creamy overall.

Creamy mac and cheese innards

We also split an order of sliders, which were really four mini burgers topped with American cheese. They came with lettuce, tomato, and pickles on the side, which were cut into smaller pieces so that they fit the sliders perfectly. I thought that was a nice touch, and very convenient. It also came a pile of fries, which were battered and crispy.

Sliders with fries

We had asked for the sliders to be cooked medium rare but they were closer to medium. I guess it’s hard to cook these to order. At least they weren’t dried out, and had a good amount of seasoning to them.

Autopsy shot

Overall we both enjoyed our quick lunch at Social. It’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the Midtown lunch crowd that it was quiet and we were able to chat and have a relaxed meal. The food is standard bar fare but it was tasty enough and reasonably priced. While we probably wouldn’t get the mac and cheese again, we did like the sliders, and there were lots of sandwiches on the lunch menu that I would go back and try. It’s not too far from my office and is better than some of the other sit down options that we have closer to the heart of Midtown. The bar is multiple levels, and there are lots of flat screen TVs hanging up everywhere, so I think it would also be a good place to hang out after work for happy hour, or on weekends to watch sports.

795 8th Ave. between 48th and 49th St.
New York, NY

Streetcart Confusion

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by virginia

According to Midtown Lunch, my favorite streetcart, the Famous 53rd St. Halal Guys, bought the Shendy’s cart that’s located on the NW corner of 52nd and 6th. That gave them their third location, in addition to their established spot on the SE corner of 53rd and 6th and their second location on the SE corner of 53rd and 7th. Great news not only because it’s a block closer to my office, but also because no one seems to know about this particular branch.

Josh wanted to pick up a quick lunch so I clued him in to the new location, and off we went. I was a bit thrown when I saw that the cart was still displaying the Shendy’s sign and menu, but a quick glance at the cart guy’s sweatshirt and the notorious yellow bags reassured me that we were at the right place. There was no line at all and we had our food in two minutes flat. We looked up the street at the regular 53rd and 6th spot and saw people lined up waiting for their food. We joked around with the cart guy about this “secret” location, and he promised that it was the same food.

The distinctive yellow bags

I took my bounty back to my desk and sure enough, it was the same tasty chicken and lamb over rice, covered in white sauce and a little bit of the super spicy hot sauce. There’s a little iceberg and tomato salad on the side, and a few wedges of fluffy pita bread on top. It’s a ton of food for just $5, and one order lasts me for three lunches. How can you beat that?

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

When I left work late that evening at 7:30 pm, I walked down 6th Ave. and passed the former Shendy’s cart, which had moved further up 6th Ave., in between 52nd and 53rd St. Again, there was no line whatsoever, while half a block up the line for the same exact food was already 20 deep.

Now this is where it gets really confusing. Back when the Famous Halal Guys only had one cart, they parked it on the SE corner of 53rd and 6th during lunchtime, and at night they would move it across the street to the SW corner. Then some other streetcart that was parked on the SW corner during the day started wearing similar yellow sweatshirts but were unaffiliated and serving up different food. Finally Zach from Midtown Lunch set the record straight, and all was well.

A few weeks ago, however, we were at a birthday party for one of Josh’s cousins at Johnny Utahs. Having skipped dinner, we left a bit early (before everyone jumped on the bull, unfortunately), and went to pick up some food at the Famous Halal Guys cart. We got to the SE corner of 53rd and 6th and were about to cross the street when we realized that the same daytime cart was there that night. The line was about 15 deep but moving quickly, since there were actually two carts parked next to each other (one was only doing cooking while the cart next to it handled the orders). We got our food and crossed 6th Ave. and saw the same yellow sweatshirts and yellow bags catering to a line that was about 30 deep.

So my question is, why is there such disparity between the lines at the different carts? As far as I can tell, they’re serving the same exact food. Even if you’re not an avid Midtown Lunch reader like I am, it’s not hard to pick out the distinctive yellow sweatshirts that say Famous 53rd St. Halal Guys on the back, and the even more distinctive yellow bags that no other carts use. These carts are all a block apart, and within sight of each other. A lot of people must have passed the “new” cart on their way to the regular cart, why haven’t they noticed it yet?

And supposing that people simply just haven’t seen the new cart for whatever reason, why doesn’t anyone who works at the other cart let people know there’s the same food a block away, which would cut the line in half? Maybe there are some cart politics that I don’t know about. Whatever the case is, I’m kind of glad that the word hasn’t spread, and so I can pick up the tasty chicken and lamb over rice combo whenever I want without having to wait.

I know that people can be a bit queasy about buying food off a cart in NYC but I’ve eaten at plenty of carts and have never gotten sick. The food is fresh, tasty, and cheap, and if you don’t believe me, ask the other 20 people who are waiting in line for their food.

Famous Halal Cart (multiple locations)
NW Corner of 52nd St. and 6th Ave. (formerly the Shendy’s Cart)
New York, NY

Disappointing Chaat at Indus Express

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by virginia

Josh was running an errand near my office so we decided to meet up for a quick lunch, as I was desperately eager to take a break from work. We ended up Indus Express due to its proximity to my office, and because it would be fast since we both had a lot to do back at work.

We went with our usual order of a naan sandwich and a chaat. This time we opted for the basil chicken tikka naan roll. They definitely stuff a lot of filling into the naan but the flavors are a bit muddled. I couldn’t detect much basil taste, just a lot of different spices. We asked for the sandwich to be spicy hot, and it definitely delivered in that regard. My sinuses were cleared after eating that sandwich. The order came with a small pile of french fries (regular straight fries with some random bits of curly fries – weird!) and a sad little side salad that we pretty much ignored.

Basil chicken tikka naan roll

Basil chicken tikka naan roll

For our chaat, we debated between alu chaat and chicken chaat. Josh was lobbying for the chicken, which was described on the menu as boneless pieces of broiled chicken and sounded kind of boring to me. I pushed for the alu chaat, which listed spiced potatoes and chickpeas in the description. I thought the spiced potatoes would be seasoned like the filling of a samosa, or the kind that dosas are wrapped around. I won the debate but boy, was I in for a huge disappointment. The potatoes were basically boiled and unseasoned, and very unpleasant. Biting into a piece of plain waxy boiled potato, barely cooked through, is not appetizing at all. Which is too bad because the standard chaat toppings of mango, tomato, cucumber, onion, and the yogurt and tamarind sauces are really good. They just weren’t enough to hide the bland boringness of plain boiled potato chunks. Ugh. I definitely won’t order this again, and I should have deferred to Josh and gotten the chicken chaat instead. Plain broiled chicken is WAY tastier than plain boiled potato.

Disappointing alu chaat with bland, almost raw potatoes

Disappointing alu chaat with bland, almost raw potatoes

Overall this was not the greatest trip to Indus Express, though it’s not somewhere that we go often. There’s much better Indian food in the area but this is always an option when we’re looking for something super quick. We were in and out of there in 20 minutes, and I was soon back at my desk slaving away again.

Indus Express
48 West 48th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY

Revisiting Margon

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 by virginia

I was a bit disappointed with my last visit to Margon but like I said in my review, I know their Cuban sandwiches can be inconsistent depending on how busy they are. So when Josh told me he was meeting up with his cousin at the restaurant for lunch, I invited myself along because I was eager to give them a chance to redeem themselves.

This was my first time actually eating in the restaurant but luckily they weren’t super full so we were able to snag a table. We started out with an order of tostones while we were waiting for the sandwiches to be prepared. These did come topped with mojo this time, much to my relief and delight. And they were better than usual because we were eating them fresh at the restaurant instead of carrying them out in a tinfoil container where they tend to get cold and soggy. These tostones were still warm, a little bit crunchy on the outside, and doused with the deliciously tangy and garlicky mojo. Yum!

Tostones topped with mojo

Tostones topped with mojo

After we worked our way through half of the tostones, Josh went back to the sandwich counter to pick up our Cubans. At first glance these sandwiches just looked so much better than the ones I got last time. The bread was pressed flat and had toasted marks on top, and the melted cheese was oozing out.

Crispy and hot pressed Cuban sandwich

Crispy and hot pressed Cuban sandwich

The verdict? Perfection. The bread was crispy on the outside and the sandwich was still warm enough to burn my tongue a little. The flavors of the meat, cheese, garlic, and pickles just all work so well together. The sandwich guy asked Josh if he wanted hot sauce on the sandwich, to which Josh replied yes, but I didn’t taste any hot sauce. Not a problem, I didn’t miss anything. The sandwich was absolutely wonderful as is.

Autopsy shot

Autopsy shot

I don’t know if eating at the restaurant was the difference, but maybe now we’ll start eating in more often rather than taking it out! I hope every trip I make to Margon will be as good as it was on this day.

36 West 46th St. between 6
th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY