Posts Tagged ‘Midtown West’

Pure Thai Cookhouse

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 by virginia

Josh and I ate at Pure Thai a little while ago, when it was called Shophouse rather than Cookhouse, but the menu looks the same despite the name change. We were there for lunch, when the portions are slightly smaller but the prices are cheaper as well. I loved the decor of the restaurant, which reminded me of the food stalls in Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan. It was pretty rustic, with plain tables and low, backless stools. There were assorted condiments on the table so that you could adjust the spiciness and sourness of your dishes accordingly.

We shared a few appetizers from the “snacks” section to start. First was crispy tofu, which we can never resist at Thai restaurants. It wasn’t a huge portion but there were five large pieces of tofu, freshly fried, with crispy outsides and soft, slightly chewy insides. There was a dipping sauce on the side with chopped peanuts, tamarind, and chili sauce mixed together. The sauce was slightly sweet, slightly sour, and paired nicely with the plain, crispy tofu.

Crispy tofu with peanut and tamarind-chili gastrique

Our other appetizer was the steamed fresh roll stuffed with crab meat, pork sausage, cucumber, and smoked tofu. The wrapper was soft and chewy and could barely contain all the ingredients inside. I tried to bite a piece in half and it sort of fell apart, but the flavors melded together pretty well. There were lots of different textures going on, and the sausage was the predominant flavor. There a tamarind reduction underneath the roll that provided some sweetness and moisture to the dish.

Steamed fresh roll with crab meat, pork sausage, cucumber, and smoked tofu

For our entrees, we split two noodle dishes, since we had heard that the restaurant was famous for its noodles. First was their signature dish, the ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles. The thin egg noodles are handmade and have a wonderfully springy texture to them. They’re firm but not overly so, with a nice chewiness that I found pleasing to eat. The noodles are topped with roasted pork, lump crab meat, yu choy (a green leafy vegetable), and scallion. The roast pork was similar to Chinese style roast pork found in fried rice, with pink edges and a slight sweetness to them. The pork was slightly dry but flavorful. The crab meat wasn’t abundant in the bowl of noodles, but the dish was deliciously savory. I don’t know if there was a sauce or what, but it was like a big bowl of umami, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles

Everything all mixed together

Our second dish was the pad kee moa, which has replaced pad thai as our standard for testing out new Thai restaurants. The kee moa on the menu features calamari, but we substituted chicken instead. The dish features flat wide noodles with tomato, baby bok choy, snow peas, chili puree, and thai basil. The dish is also known as “drunken noodles” or “spicy basil noodles”. The noodles have a slight kick to them but aren’t too spicy, and basil is the flavor that I find most predominant. Pure Thai’s version was pretty good flavor-wise, but I thought the noodles were a bit too soft for my liking.

Pad kee moa with chicken

Overall Josh and I both really liked Pure Thai. The food seemed more authentic to us in terms of flavor, and they are willing to adjust the spiciness of the dishes upon request. The menu isn’t very extensive but they have some of the more standard Thai dishes available, as well as a choice of protein. We loved the flavors and textures of the ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles. It was my favorite dish of the meal, hands down, but there are lots of other things on the menu that we didn’t get to try. Pure Thai isn’t the standard hell’s kitchen Thai restaurant, which definitely makes it worth checking out.

Pure Thai Cookhouse
766 9th Ave. between 51st and 52nd
New York, NY


Thursday, October 27th, 2011 by virginia

For my birthday, Jess and Jack got me tickets to see a Times Talk featuring Eric Ripert and Jennifer Carroll. It was part of the NYC Wine and Food Festival, and Josh and I were excited to see one of our favorite chefs in person. We absolutely love Le Bernardin, and I have a not-so-secret crush on Chef Ripert.

The talk was during the afternoon at the Times Center on 41st St. so Josh and I decided to get a late lunch on our way over. We couldn’t really decide on where we wanted to eat, but Josh mentioned that he was craving croque monsieur – specifically the croque monsieur from L’Express. Since we were nowhere near L’Express, I suggested we check out Marseille, which was on the way and is owned by the same people. I was hoping that the croque monsieur would be similar since we both loved the version at L’Express.

Turns out that Marseille didn’t offer croque monsieur, but they did have croque madame, which is basically the same thing, with the addition of a fried egg on top. We decided to share that and a chicken sandwich. While we waited for our food, they brought us a basket of breads and muffins to munch on. There was slices of marble rye, a crusty roll with raisins, and mini muffins that tasted a bit like carrot cake – I enjoyed the variety.

Assorted breads and muffins

The croque madame arrived and looked extremely promising. There was a thick layer of cheese on the outside that was nicely browned, and the fried egg on top looked like it was perfectly runny. While the egg was actually cooked well, when we cut into the sandwich, we could see immediately that it was pretty different from the L’Express version. For one thing, there was no cheese in the middle of the sandwich, only ham. All of the cheese was on the outside, and what looked deceptively brown and bubbly was actually lukewarm and kind of congealed. The bread itself was soggy, not crispy, and there was mustard in the sandwich that was unevenly distributed. Some bites were all mustard flavor, and other bites had none. We were both pretty disappointed.

Croque madame

The chicken sandwich fared slightly better in terms of execution, but we also found it a bit disappointing. It featured grilled chicken breast, roasted peppers, arugula, bacon and aioli on a brioche roll. The combination looked good on paper but it was kind of boring in flavor. The chicken was tender but bland, the roasted peppers almost non-existent, and not even the bacon could help boost the flavor. Plus it was actually a pretty small sandwich and didn’t do much to satisfy us.

Grilled chicken sandwich with roasted peppers, arugula, and bacon

Both of the sandwiches came with small salads on the side, just a simple mix of greens and halved cherry tomatoes. The salad that came with the chicken sandwich was pretty bad – there was no dressing on it, plus the lettuce was sandy. I don’t know what happened there since the salad that came with the croque madam was fine. We were also disappointed that the sandwiches didn’t come with fries as they did at L’Express. We added a side order, which was a good call because they were hot and crispy and probably the highlight of our meal.

French fries

Overall we were both disappointed with Marseille, especially since we enjoyed L’Express and Nizza so much. I guess the same owners doesn’t necessarily mean the same chef/recipes. The restaurant itself is nice, with an upscale bistro feel to it, but the food was pretty lackluster for us, and kind of pricey to boot. The sandwiches at L’Express were much better, both in flavor and execution, plus they came with fries in addition to the salad. I don’t really see us going back to Marseille unless we’re in a pinch, but there are tons of restaurants in the area along 9th Ave. that serve much tastier fare.

As for the Times Talk, Chef Ripert was delightful to listen to, and very easy to relate to as well. He has a great sense of humor that you wouldn’t really expect from such an esteemed chef. As for Chef Carroll, we were fans of her from Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars, but she didn’t add too much value to the talk. She did provide some color commentary and anecdotes, but the real highlight for us was definitely Chef Ripert. He is clearly very passionate about food and takes great pride in the dishes that he puts out in his restaurant. His passion is infectious, and I hope that I will always strive for the same kind of perfection, both in my own cooking and in my life.

630 9th Ave. at West 44th St.
New York, NY

Re-visiting Fat Sal’s Pizza

Saturday, June 11th, 2011 by virginia

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written about delivery pizza. Anyone remember our quest to find the best delivery pizza in our neighborhood? So that quest kind of stalled out, mostly because we never did end up finding a go-to place. We did settle between two options, La Traviata on West 68th St. and LJ Pizza on 10th Ave. La Traviata seems like a higher quality pie but the crust is a bit thicker than we’d like. LJ’s sauce is a bit too sweet but they have great sandwiches and are a bit cheaper as well. Either way, nothing really stood out as the best delivery pizza in our area, and believe me, we’ve pretty much exhausted our options at this point.

So a few weeks ago, we got a very interesting email from a person saying he was the owner of Fat Sal’s and that he only recently read our original post from August 2009 where we got a pizza delivery that looked like this:

Our first impression of Fat Sal's pizza

Obviously, we were horrified by the state in which our pizza arrived. There had been a mix up with our address on the order, so given the circumstances, we decided to give Fat Sal’s another chance. The pizza arrived a bit disheveled, but nothing like the first time. Still, we weren’t really impressed with the pizza, and decided to write the place off as a lost cause.

So coming back to the email that we got from the owner, he said he wanted to apologize and correct the bad impression that we had even though it was a delay of a year and eight months since our original post. He also offered us a free dinner and hoped that we would be happy with the way the food arrived, as well as the quality. Needless to say, Josh and I were pretty shocked to receive such an email, especially after such a long time since those posts. We were impressed that the owner still saw the need to write us an apology, and his offer of a free dinner was very generous.

While we decided against taking him up on his offer, we did decide to give Fat Sal’s one last shot, to see if the pizza had improved since our last order. We placed the order online, making sure to put in the correct address this time, but we didn’t give any indication of who we were or reference the owner’s letter. The pizza arrived pretty promptly, and we popped open the box eagerly to see how the it looked. To my shock, as I flung open the top, a slice of pizza went flying through the air and landed on the floor. I grabbed the slice (5 second rule!) and quickly replaced it, all the while laughing hysterically. Apparently the box had been accidentally closed on the slice so that the lid was stuck to the cheese. If I had opened the box a bit slower, the slice would have just fallen back into the box, but because I had opened it so exuberantly, the momentum caused the slice to fling into the air. It really wasn’t a big deal, but given the circumstances and our past history with Fat Sal’s, it was pretty funny.

Where the slice stuck to the box

Once I replaced the slice, the pizza looked pretty good. The crust was thin and properly browned. There looked like a good ratio of cheese and sauce, and the pizza was still hot, which is always important.

A slight pie mishap but no harm done

The pizza was pretty good, better than I remembered. The crust was thinner and crispier, but still had a nice chew. The cheese was not too thick and the sauce had a zippy tang to it.


Slice up close

The bottom of the crust had a nice char but wasn’t overcooked. I like a good amount of browning but I hate it when there are black spots that just taste burnt. This was a nice balance and made the crust delicately crispy rather than crunchy.


Underside shot

We also got a meatball hero, which I was a big fan of the last time we ordered. On the ordering website, I forgot to select the “parm” option so it came without cheese, but the meatballs were still flavorful and pretty tender. The red sauce on top was great, not too sweet with just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the meat. The bread was toasted so it was crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside.

Meatball hero

Lastly, we got an order of garlic knots. They were a bit chewy and slightly cold but were covered in lots of tasty garlic. Popping them in the oven to reheat briefly really improved their texture.

Garlic knots

Overall we were actually pretty pleased with our order from Fat Sal’s. We could see that it had improved in quality since the last time we ordered, back in December 2009, and the food arrived pretty quickly. There was a slight mishap with the slice stuck to the box but nothing major like the first time we got a pizza from there. The food is very reasonably priced, on par with most of the pizza places around here, and we found a $3 off coupon on their website that we were able to print out and use without any issues. I’d definitely consider Fat Sal’s the next time we have a pizza craving. Kudos to the owner for sending us that email because if we hadn’t heard from him, we probably wouldn’t have ordered from there ever again, and we wouldn’t have known their food had improved. In the end, we were glad that we decided to give the place another shot.

Fat Sal’s Pizza (multiple locations)
730 1oth Ave. at 50th St.
New York, NY

Thai Basil

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 by virginia

In our neck of the woods, there is no lack of Thai restaurants. It seems like there is a Thai restaurant on every block in Hell’s Kitchen. We’ve been partial to Wondee Siam II but I always like to try out different places. Thai Basil is a tiny place that I’ve walked past many times and we decided to try it out with Mike and Melissa one evening. I was a bit worried when I saw the “C” health rating on the door but no one had any major reservations about it, so in we went.

The restaurant was empty except for one other table, which wasn’t really a good sign either. Nevertheless, we pressed on. The menu is pretty straightforward with typical Thai fare. We decided to start out with a few appetizers to share. The curry puffs were filled with ground chicken and potato. The crust was warm and flaky but the filling didn’t have much flavor – they definitely needed a heavier hand with the curry powder. They came with a cucumber sauce for dipping that I thought was a bit unusual, but the crunchy cucumber was actually a nice complement.

Curry puffs

We also split an order of fried tofu. The tofu was nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It came with a chili sauce topped with lots of peanuts on the side, which tasted good but was kind of hard to dip into. The chili sauce had a really thick texture to it that didn’t stick well on the tofu. Still, I thought it was a pretty decent rendition of fried tofu, though the portion was a bit small.

Fried tofu

Melissa and I both ordered the pad kee mao, which is flat wide noodles sauteed with onion, bell peppers, and basil. It was a dish that Melissa introduced us to last year and is now one of our favorites. Thai Basil’s version was super flavorful and very spicy – I think it was the best pad kee mao that I’ve had so far. I loved the complexity of the spices, and while it was hot enough to make me sweat a bit, it wasn’t an overpowering burn. I couldn’t stop eating it even when I was full, and ended up cleaning my plate.

Pad kee mao with chicken

Josh ordered the massaman curry with beef. It was mixed with coconut milk, potato, onion, avocado, and cashew nut. The curry was also very flavorful and had a nice, slow burn to it. I found the avocado to be a weird but interesting addition to the dish; its creaminess helped tone down the spice a bit. I actually really enjoyed the massaman curry a lot, and it’s definitely something I would order again.

Massaman curry with beef

Overall I was pretty impressed with the food at Thai Basil. Melissa, who is from Malaysia and is definitely well versed in Thai food, thought the flavors were more authentic than at Wondee. I really liked all the spices in the entrees we ordered, though if you don’t like spicy foods, I’d suggest asking them to tone it down a bit. As with most Thai restaurants in this neighborhood, prices are extremely reasonable. I’m not sure why this place gets a low health rating (and I don’t really want to know) but I didn’t see anything out of place in the dining room. I would definitely go back, and I’m glad that we have another go-to Thai restaurant in the neighborhood.

Thai Basil
860 9th Ave. between 55th and 56th St.
New York, NY

Ralph’s Ristorante Italiano

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 by virginia

Ralph’s is another neighborhood restaurant that I’ve walked past many times and never got around to trying. One Saturday night we were looking for a new Italian restaurant to eat at with Josh’s family and we decided to check out Ralph’s. We looked at the menu and it looked like they served a lot of classic red sauce Italian dishes at pretty reasonable prices so we decided to give it a shot.

While we were looking at the menu trying to decide what to order, the bread guy came around and gave each of us a slice of warm rustic peasant bread. It had a nice crispy crust and a slight sourdough tang to it.

Slice of rustic Italian bread

Josh and I decided to split a caesar salad and crostini di mozzarella to start. The romaine in the caesar salad was nice and fresh, and it was tossed with just the right amount of creamy dressing. There was lots of parmesan, which I love, but it was still light and refreshing, not too rich or heavy.

Caesar salad

The crostini di mozzarella was fried wedges of breaded mozzarella cheese. Each wedge was pretty large so it was a generous portion. The cheese perfectly melted in the middle, with a gooey, chewy texture that I had been craving. The accompanying tomato sauce was slightly spicy, giving it a nice kick but wasn’t overwhelming in heat.

Crostini di mozzarella

I usually get chicken parmesan whenever we try out a new Italian restaurant but I wasn’t in the mood for it. Instead I tried my other standard dish, pasta with bolognese sauce. The pasta was rigatoni with lots of ridges, which helped the meaty sauce cling to it better. The bolognese had a rich, deep flavor, and even though the portion wasn’t super big, I had trouble getting through half the bowl. I thought it was really tasty, however, and took home the leftovers for lunch.

Rigatoni bolognese

Josh got the veal saltimbocca alla romana, which was veal covered with spinach and mozzarella in a brown sauce. I know that doesn’t sound appetizing, but it didn’t look that great either. The veal was nicely cooked but the dish lacked flavor and seasoning. It was surprisingly bland, and definitely needed more salt and acid to perk it up. Josh was pretty disappointed with his dish, as was his dad, who ordered the same thing.

Veal saltimbocca alla romana

Josh’s veal dish came with a side of pasta, which was spaghetti with marinara sauce. The spaghetti was al dente and the sauce was sweet and tangy.

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

Overall we were pleasantly surprised by both the food and ambiance at Ralph’s. The outside of the restaurant isn’t much to look at but the inside was surprisingly warm and cozy, with an understated decor. Food-wise, the red sauce is definitely the way to go. The only disappointing dish of the evening was the veal saltimbocca but all of the pasta dishes we had were really flavorful and well prepared. Josh’s mom ended up ordering the chicken parm so I did get to taste it and thought it was a pretty good version. Prices are very reasonable, portions pretty generous, and I definitely think it’s a viable option for our traditional Sunday night dinners with the family.

Ralph’s Ristorante Italiano
862 9th Ave. at 56th St.
New York, NY


Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by virginia

Kashkaval is a Mediterranean cheese market and wine bar that I had been meaning to try since we moved into our neighborhood but we never got around to it. We passed it all the time though and it always looked busy. One weeknight Josh and I were meeting our friends Shiraz and Nicole for an early dinner so I suggested Kashkaval, hoping that we’d be able to just walk in. Luckily they had one table available that wasn’t reserved until 9:30 pm so we had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat.

The front of the restaurant is the cheese market, and they sell assorted breads, meats, salads, and dips as well. The dining area is in the back and it’s quite cozy, with exposed brick walls and lots of wine bottles on display. Tables are packed in and close together but fortunately the table we got was actually a large booth tucked in the corner so we had plenty of space for the four of us.

We ordered a bottle of wine to share, an Argentinean malbec. It was one of the cheaper options on the menu but was perfectly drinkable. We decided to share a large sampler platter of cold Mediterranean tapas, which allowed us to choose up to six of the appetizers/dips/salads that were on the tapas list. We selected the spicy walnut pepper spread, stuffed grape leaves, baba ganoush, red pepper spread, lentil salad, and beet skordalia. It was hard to choose because there were so many options that looked appealing.

Stuffed grape leaves, lentil salad, baba ganoush, red pepper spread, beet skordalia, spicy walnut pepper spread

My favorite items on the platter were the stuffed grape leaves, which were soft and flavorful, the baba ganoush, which had a nice smokey eggplant flavor, and the spicy walnut pepper spread, which was an interesting spicy/tangy/nutty combination. The red pepper spread was pretty tasty as well, but the beet skordalia didn’t have enough beet or garlic flavor (I think I prefer potato skordalia), and the lentil salad was slightly bland. The menu said the large platter would serve 3-5 people, which is about right. They bring you baskets of of whole wheat pita bread to dip and spread with, and the carbs help to fill you up.

Whole wheat pita bread

Since this restaurant was also a cheese market, we definitely wanted to try out one of the cheese fondues. The special fondue of the day, made with Danish fontina and raclette, was our first choice but unfortunately they had run out of it. We settled instead for the kashkaval fondue, figuring that if the restaurant is named after this particular type of cheese, it must be pretty good. We decided to get an order for two instead of four, since we had ordered that large sampler platter. The fondue came with cubes of baguette for dipping.

Dipping pieces of baguette into kashkaval cheese fondue

The kashkaval cheese had a nice nutty flavor to it and a great, elastic stringy texture that made it fun to dip into. We were able swirl lots of cheese around each piece of baguette, which was a good thing. The fondue was slightly greasy, though I’m not sure if it was the cheese or the olive oil they mixed into it. It did soak into the bread but that just gave it a nice buttery flavor. Towards the end, however, the cheese definitely seized up and became super hard so we sadly had to stop dipping and leave behind a fair amount at the bottom of the pot.

Overall I really liked the food and the atmosphere at Kashkaval. It did have a wine bar kind of vibe to it but was still low key, which I prefer. Tables were pretty tight together but it wasn’t overly loud; we were able to carry on a conversation fairly easily. There were a lot of choices with regard to tapas and cheese/meat platters but there weren’t too many main entrees available. I didn’t mind though because we just shared a bunch of stuff, which meant that we got to try a lot of different things. Prices are pretty reasonable, with the large sampler platter costing $18 and the fondue was $24 ($12 per serving). With wine, plus tax and tip, it came out to about $25 per person, which isn’t too bad. I definitely plan on going back so that I can try more items from the tapas list!

856 9th Ave. between 55th and 56th St.
New York, NY

BYO Brunch at Nook

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 by virginia

I’ve written about Nook twice already, first about brunch and then about dinner, but it’s such a great little place that I couldn’t resist writing about it a third time. We went for a late brunch one weekend with our bottle of champagne in tow and got some of their tasty freshly squeezed orange juice to make mimosas. Josh was in the mood for something sweet to start, so we split an order of Nutella on a baguette with strawberries and bananas. It’s such a simple combination, but oh so delicious. The strawberries were juicy and sweet, and they went perfectly with our champagne.

Baguettes spread with Nutella and topped with strawberries and bananas

For our entrees, Josh and I split two sandwiches, the turkey sandwich and the croque monsieur. We ordered the croque monsieur last time as well, but it’s such a great sandwich that we can’t resist ordering it time and time again. It’s not the typical Parisian style of sandwich, with ham, gruyere, and bechamel. Rather, it’s a ham, cheddar, and tomato sandwich on thick, buttered bread that’s grilled until the cheese is melted. It’s salty and gooey, though the tomato helps cut the richness a bit. The sandwich comes with a big pile of rosemary fries and a small mixed greens salad.

Croque monsieur autopsy shot, and fries

The turkey sandwich was smoked turkey, tomato, cucumbers, and a spicy beet relish on a baguette. The turkey was sliced thickly and moist, while the spicy beet relish was actually horseradish with beets, the kind that Josh’s family serves with gefilte fish. I thought the cucumber was an unusual addition to the sandwich, but it added a nice crunch. The sandwich also came with a big pile of rosemary fries.

Turkey sandwich autopsy shot, with fries

The brunch at Nook is definitely one of my favorites. The restaurant is just very low key, and service is super friendly. It’s not the typical brunch scene, but the food is good and it’s a cozy place to chat. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of champagne (or two!), and I’m sure that you’ll have a great experience as well.

746 9th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.
New York, NY


Sunday, June 27th, 2010 by virginia

In honor of my last year as a 20-something year old, a large group of us met up for a boozy brunch at Vintage. I’ve walked past the bar/restaurant many times before but had never gone in, but one Saturday I noticed that they offered all you can drink brunch for an additional $8 on top of a brunch entree, which is quite the bargain. It included unlimited mimosas, bellinis, and bloody marys, with no restrictions on time or switching between drinks.

Josh and I arrived first (shocking!) and staked out tables in the front near the bar. There are also lounge areas in the back with couches and low tables, as well as an outdoor garden, but we figured regular tables were more conducive to eating. We started out with a round of bloody marys while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

Spicy bloody mary

The bloody marys were pretty tasty, with lots of horseradish that made it nice and spicy. There was a strong celery flavor as well, and it was perfectly seasoned, with just the right amount of vodka. I ended up having a few of these before moving on to my next batch of drinks. Most everyone else stuck with mimosas, which were slightly heavy on the orange juice but didn’t really skimp in the champagne department either.

Table full of mimosas

The brunch menu is pretty extensive at Vintage, with various egg/omelet options, french toast, burgers, and sandwiches. Josh had classic eggs benedict with the hollandaise sauce on the side. The eggs were well poached and still runny, and it was a perfectly adequate rendition of eggs benedict. The hash browns though were really good. They were made from shredded potatoes, nicely seasoned, and crispy on the outside. Yum!

Eggs benedict with shredded hash browns

I opted for the chicken sandwich with avocado, hardboiled egg, bacon, and mayo. The chicken was tender and not dried out, and the avocado added a nice creaminess to the sandwich. The bacon was extra to add on but provided a crunchy saltiness that balanced out the flavors and textures. The sandwich came with a big pile of shoestring fries that were hot, thin, and crispy. This place really knows how to cook potatoes!

Chicken sandwich with bacon, egg, and avocado, plus shoestring fries

In addition to the bloody marys and mimosas, I also tried the bellinis. They were made with peach juice and champagne and were refreshing, though a tad sweet. I could definitely taste the peach and it was nice and bubbly.

Peach bellini

I really liked the brunch we had at Vintage and thought it was a good deal, especially for all you can drink brunch. Most entrees ranged from $8-$10, and the unlimited drinks were only an additional $8. Our waiter was super friendly and not stingy with the drinks, topping off everyone’s drinks before they even got half empty. It wasn’t crowded at all so it was quiet enough to hear each other talk. I really liked the laid back atmosphere and the great service. We’ve since gone there for after work drinks, and they have an extensive martini list with over 200 concoctions. Everything we had was tasty and appropriately strong, and I’m sure we’ll be going back there more often from now on.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who came out! I had a blast!

753 9th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.
New York, NY

Re-Visiting 9th Avenue Pizzeria (aka the Pizza Quest Comes Full Circle)

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 by virginia

Our pizza quest has been stalled due to some lackluster pizza that we’ve had recently. When our last craving hit, we ended up coming full circle by ordering from the first place on our quest, 9th Avenue Pizzeria. We got our usual order of a cheese pizza and a chicken parm hero, plus we decided to mix things up a bit by getting a pepperoni calzone.

Extra large cheese pizza

The pizza was exactly as I remembered, with a super thin crust that was a bit uneven on the edges. There was a good cheese to sauce ratio, and I liked that the cheese covered the whole pie, right up to the crust.

Thin crust, good cheese to sauce ratio

The crust was decently crispy with a nicely browned bottom, though it got a bit soggy towards the middle. Flavor-wise it’s a bit on the bland side but I thought it was still a solid pie overall.

Underside shot

The pepperoni calzone was filled with mozzarella, ricotta, and tons of pepperoni.

Pepperoni calzone

It had a nice crispy crust and was actually quite good, except they didn’t give us any sauce to eat it with, which I found a bit weird. As a result, all the heavy cheese and salty pepperoni got a bit too much to handle, and really needed the sweet tangy tomato sauce to help cut through the richness. Next time I’ll be sure to ask for some sauce on the side.

Calzone innards

Everything was great until we got to the chicken parm hero, which looked a bit deflated when we unwrapped the package. I guess the reason is because they make their own bread, but it ended up being a bit dense and flat, kind of like a soggy, heavy, pizza dough.

Flat and limp chicken parm hero

There also isn’t a whole lot of chicken and cheese inside, which make the dense bread even more noticeable. It wasn’t terrible, but I’ve definitely had much better chicken parm heroes elsewhere. I think it’s only $5 though for a decently long sandwich, which isn’t too bad, but you kind of get what you pay for.

Chicken parm autopsy shot

Chicken parm hero aside, we were pretty pleased with our order from 9th Avenue Pizzeria so we decided to order from there again the next time I had another irresistible urge for pizza. This time, instead of getting a pepperoni calzone, we opted for a pepperoni pizza. It arrived looking slightly disheveled but they definitely did not skimp on the pepperoni.

Extra large pepperoni pizza

The pizza was definitely greasier thanks to the pepperoni but the crust was surprisingly crispier, even in the center. I loved the saltiness that the pepperoni added, and really, who doesn’t love pepperoni grease? When it really gets to be too much though I just blot it off with a paper towel, but the flavor remains.

Lots of tasty pepperoni (and grease)

I wanted to give the homemade bread another shot so we got a meatball parm hero. Big mistake. The bread was still dense and flat, the cheese was unmelted, there was hardly any sauce, and the meatballs were pretty awful. They tasted old and stale, were super dense, and not the least bit appealing.

Sad, sad meatball parm hero

Overall I still have pretty mixed feelings about 9th Avenue Pizzeria. The pizza is pretty good, but not amazing. Josh and I disagree on the crust, which he prefers to be thinner, but I think when it’s too thin it becomes too brittle, especially around the edges. The crust also lacks depth of flavor, though the cheese and sauce are both tasty. I liked the calzone but I hated the heroes, especially the meatball parm. The bread definitely makes the sandwich suffer, and the fillings aren’t so great either. Since we typically order a hero whenever we get pizza, this really poses a problem. I’m not ready to quit on our pizza quest, especially since we just renewed our lease so I have plenty more time to find our go-to place. But who knows, maybe we’ll end up right back where we started once again.

9th Avenue Pizzeria
791 9th Ave. between 52nd and 53rd St.
New York, NY

Birthday Dinner at Yum Yum

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 by virginia

As Josh’s birthday fell on a Friday during Lent this year, we picked a Thai restaurant for dinner after having a few happy hour drinks at Bourbon Street. Thai food is easily adaptable to seafood for me, and then I don’t get jealous that I’m missing out on eating meat. We ended up at Yum Yum Bangkok, home of one of my favorite lunch specials, which is right around the corner from the bar.

We were a pretty large party but they managed to squeeze us in by combining a bunch of tables in the back. Service was efficient and fast as usual, and we were chowing down in no time. Josh and I shared a fried tofu appetizer and some summer rolls to start. The tofu was a bit too soggy for my liking, rendering it more chewy than crispy. It was served with a sweet and tangy peanut sauce, and while I liked the flavors of the dish, I was disappointed with how the tofu turned out.

Fried tofu

The summer rolls were softened rice paper wrapped around lettuce, mint, rice vermicelli, and shrimp. There was a hoisin-peanut sauce that came on the side for dipping, but the rolls had obviously been pre-prepared and placed in the refrigerator all day. The rice paper was ice cold and stiff, making them a bit hard to eat. Again, while the flavors were all there (I especially enjoyed the fresh mint), the texture of the rolls made them a bit disappointing.

Slightly stiff summer rolls

Fortunately our order of shrimp pad thai held up to my expectations. The noodles were served piping hot and still had a nice chewiness to them. The flavors were appropriately sweet and sour, and the crushed peanuts and fresh bean sprouts added a nice crunch to the dish. There were lots of shrimp mixed throughout and they were all perfectly cooked.

Shrimp pad thai

Our other entrée was the mango striped bass, which was a filet topped with mango, lime juice, chili, and cashew nuts. The fish wasn’t very crispy but I liked the sourness of the shredded green mango pieces on top. I just wish the dish had a touch more acid and heat, but it was a nice twist from the usual Thai dishes we always get.

Mango striped bass

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with some of the food we had at Yum Yum Bangkok but it might be attributed to the size of our party, as they were rushing to get everyone’s food out quickly and at the same time. The issues I had were with execution, not with the flavors. I don’t think the food there is the most authentic tasting that I’ve had in the city, but it’s reliable and still pretty tasty. Prices are very reasonable, even at dinnertime. I still prefer their lunch specials though!

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