Sotto 13’s pork pie pizza topped with head cheese.
Last November I had the privilege of being taught how to make turducken by Ed Cotton, the executive chef of Sotto 13. “Come back some time; I’d love to feed you,” he told me after our lesson and frankenbird photo shoot. A couple of weeks ago I finally took him up on that offer.
The meal began with that week’s special pizza, pork pie. Provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage are topped with pork shank meat. Once the pie comes out of the oven it’s blnaketed with housemade coppa di testa and lashed with mustard vinaigrette. It’s like a subtler, more sophisticated version of an Italian combo sandwich. Cotton changes out the pizzas regularly and recent iterations have included beef carpaccio with creamy kale, wild mushrooms and fontina and this week’s special: spicy lamb sausage pizza with n’duja, ricotta, and mint. (more…)
At heart—and stomach—I am a glutton, but I’m no fan of all you can eat buffets. That’s because I often reach the point of diminishing returns and indiscriminate eating simultaneously. Over the years though there has been one AYCE concept I can get behind. That’s the Brazilian rodizio/churrascaria, a carnivorous carnival wherein one is served various delectable meats carved off skewers by roving waiters. Each diner is given a chip, green on one side to signal, “Bring on the meat,” and red on the other to signal, “No, thanks.”
When Texas de Brazil—a national chain of Brazilian churrascaria steakhouses—opened in New York City I was intrigued. I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when someone from the company reached out to invite me and a guest to a meat fest. So I put on my fat pants and made the arduous trek to the Upper East Side. (more…)
Juni’s veal and sweetbreads with quinoa and forest mushrooms.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
Ever since I first tasted sweetbreads I’ve been a big fan. Whenever I see the veal thymus—aka sweetbreads—on a menu I order it. Rarely do I ever eat it with actual veal though. So I was glad to have dined at Juni last week where Shaun Hergatt has a veal and sweetbreads dish as part of his tasting menu.
Hergatt, who grew up on a cattle farm in Australia, counts himself a sweetbreads fan. Like the rest of Juni’s menu the veal and sweetbreads dish changes with the seasons. Currently, it’s in the winter incarnation. That means quinoa and several types of mushrooms. (more…)
“What happened to the duck?” my mother would say when the platter with meat and skin—mostly skin—and the accompanying pancakes was brought out. “It must have flown by.”
Moments before the entire carcass had been wheeled through the dining room on a trolley with great ceremony. This included striking a gong. Sometimes I like to think that the gong was my father’s idea, but I know it was the restaurant’s way of saying that the dish, even with its apparent bait and switch, was something special to be served with fanfare.
At the suburban Chinese restaurant in Levittown we frequented during my boyhood the delicacy had to be ordered several days in advance. As an adult I’ve had few stellar experiences with Peking duck. Much as I love the $1 “Peking duck” bun window in Flushing, the fowl secret is that, tasty as it is, it’s not really Peking duck. I am happy to report though that the Peking duck dinner I had recently at Decoy, the newish offshoot of Eddie Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s wildly popular Redfarm, was spectacular. (more…)
Norwegian skrei cod as prepared by the crew at Bo’s.
When I first heard of skrei I thought it rhymed with drei, and couldn’t stop saying “eins, zwei, drei,” over and over again. Once I got that out of my system I paid a visit to Todd Mitgang’s restaurant Bo’s to try this prized Norwegian cod. I learned two things: 1) It is pronounced “skree” and 2) It is absolutely delicious: pristine, white and flaky. Mitgang and executive chef Alex Priani first tried skrei at a tasting held by the Norwegian Seafood Council at the French Culinary Institute. Rather than avail themselves of an array of ingredients the two chefs prepared the fish with little more than olive oil and sea salt to let its flavor shine through. (more…)
Noodles topped with a trio of fish roe sing with the flavors of Japan.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
Last night I found myself wandering around the Lower East Side with a restless appetite. I considered eating at Wylie Dufresne’s new spot Alder then realized I was nowhere near it. Perhaps a bowl of Japanese bacon and egg mazemen noodles at the new Smorgasburg outpost inside Whole Foods. Alas they were closed. So I headed over to my favorite spot in the hood, Mission Chinese, for Danny Bowien’s mouth-blasting, palate-tingling take on Chinese food.
As I waited on line I weighed my spice-fueled options: kung pao lamb pastrami, thrice-cooked bacon, Chonqing chicken wings? When I took a seat in the dining room something delightfully odd happened. I was handed a slip of paper with the evening’s specials, two of which were Japanese. The first, cold tsukemen noodles ($16) with trout roe and sea urchin in bacon consommé sounded quite lovely. Turning back to the main menu I noticed beef heart and Hokkaido scallop sashimi ($13). I immediately ordered both, but felt quite strange. Was I really going to dine on Japanese fare at MCF with nary a hint of lip tingling Sichuan peppercorn? Apparently so. (more…)
Why opt for one type of smoked fish on your bagel when you can have three.
I didn’t grow up with the Jewish appetizer platter in my household. Every now and then though the old man would get some sable or lox, and I developed a taste for smoked fish. Occasionally I will get a sable and cream cheese sandwich at one of the local bagelries in my neighborhood. When I’m feeling especially decadent I’ll head to Russ & Daughters on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The 99-year-old temple of appetizing makes a little forshpayz they call the meshugge ($20.75). It consists of a trifecta of smoked fish—sturgeon, sable, and salmon on a bagel or bialy—with cream cheese. This decadent bagel sandwich is worth every penny. Call me crazy, but I’ve a feeling I’ll be visiting R&D some time in the very near future.
Andy Ricker’s phat Thai is served on a banana leaf.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
Spaghetti and meatballs is a dish I never order in a diner, because it is always terrible. Same goes for pad Thai, not that I’ve ever seen it served in a diner. It’s just that I’ve never had a good version of the dish so I never order it. Or at least I never did until I paid a visit to Pok Pok Phat Thai. Andy Ricker’s Lower East Side noodle house changed my opinion of the dish. In the phat Thai thamadaa ($8), rice noodles are fried in pork fat with tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried shrimp, dried tofu, egg, garlic chives, bean sprouts, and chili powder. Thai spicy does not exist at this noodle joint. Per a sign on the wall “all dishes are prepared so that the seasoning can be adjusted to your taste (prung roht). Please use the condiments khruang prung…” And use them I did doctoring up the flat noodles with fish sauce and ground chili. Slurping the pork fat slicked fry-up as a mix of Thai covers of 1970s hits, including “25or 6 to 4” and “Boogie Nights”played was pure bliss.
Behold, the chicharron fongo at Albert’s Mofongo House.
Mofongo and I have a love-hate relationship. When the Puerto Rican specialty of mashed fried plantains seasoned with garlic and often shot through with chicharron is bad it’s really, really bad. A dense stomach spackle that leaves me questioning why I ordered it in the first place.
When mofongo is good, it’s still dense, but quite delicious. Such is the case with the chicharron fongo ($12.95) at Albert’s Mofongo House in Inwood. It is garlicky beyond belief and shot through with bits of chicharron. Not enough chicharron in the mofongo? Don’t worry Albert’s got you covered. There’s a pile of cracklingly delicious chunks of pork on the plate. The sidecar of broth is a nice touch too.
As befits a place with such a name there are 31 varieties of mofongo, including chivo fongo ($13.95) and Viagra fongo ($32.95). I’m not so sure I’m ready to spring for the Viagra variety, but the goat one sounds good.
Albert’s Mofongo house 4762 Broadway, Inwood, 212-567-3052
When it first opened back in 2003 Sake Bar Hagi was a gem of an underground izakaya. It was almost exclusively the province of Japanese office workers. That was before humble food scribes like myself and bigger names like Peter Meehan and Anthony Bourdain blew the cover of what was once Times Squares’ best kept secret sake bar. The specials always featured two or three edible oddities like the noxious homestyle squid guts and the surprisingly tasty pickled firefly squid. These days it’s still attracts a certain breed of extreme eater. As Justin Warner of Brooklyn’s Do or Dine once put it, “You don’t go to Hagi because you’re really into Japanese food; you go to Hagi because they have some really weird shit on the menu.”
These days there’s less weird stuff on the specials board at Hagi and more gaijin in the seats. One thing that hasn’t changed is a $7.50 dish that goes by the name “sweet fatty pork.” I had some there the other night after seeing Django at the AMC in Times Square. It was as good as it was a decade ago when I first started hanging out at Hagi with my pal William C. Wallis who would always order it by the Japanese name tontoro. I have never been sure whether the cut used is neck or cheek, but it is sweet, fatty and possessed of a rich porkiness. A squeeze of the accompanying lemon wedge and some green onions round out the flavors perfectly. William is the man behind the lovely chopsticks and marrow photo treatment that appears on the C+M banner. He remains as good a friend as ever just as Hagi remains as a good place to hang out as ever, even if the food isn’t quite as odd as it once was.
Sake Bar Hagi, 152 West 49th St., Manhattan, 212-764-854