Monday, October 27, 2014

Brunch at Locanda Verde

Locanda Verde is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. After visiting several times and posting about it last year, today's brunch made me want to talk about the restaurant again. It's that good.

The sheep's milk ricotta and fire-roasted garlic chicken are amazing, but definitely consider visiting for brunch (and getting the pancakes!) as well. Prices are a little high (most brunch dishes run between $17 to $24), but I believe there's pretty good value. I should probably admit that I do tend to love hotels and hotel restaurants though (namely Cafe Gitane in the West Village, Cafe Too at Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, and Next2 Cafe at Shangri-La Bangkok.

Locanda Verde accepts reservations, but since it was a last minute decision to drop by, we did have to wait around half an hour for a table of two (arrived at around 10:30am).

The heated little waiting area. A much-needed shelter from the wind today. Loved the fall decorations.

A section of the bright dining room

Complimentary olive foccacia
If only there were more green olives in this bread! So good.

Sheep's milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, $15
The most sublime ricotta ever. Fluffy, lightly salted, sweet, and topped with the herbs. Amazing.

Lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry and meyer lemon curd, $17
 These pancakes. OMG. They are as superb as the ones at Five Points (which sadly just renovated and re-opened as an Italian restaurant!), light, slightly grainy in texture, with blueberry flavors as strong as the lemon ones. 

Hazelnut-crusted French toast with citrus and mint, $18
A pretty French toast dish that was decent, but not spectacular. The citrus was a nice complement to the sweetness though.

Bloody mary della casa with Italian hot peppers, mortadella, $14
The only time going early to brunch works against you, is if you're trying to order an alcoholic beverage before noon on a Sunday! Completely forgot about this NY State law, so we ended up ordering one drink after finishing up with our food at noon. 
This bloody mary had the right spiciness to it, but was otherwise unimpressive. It was too thick and tasted like pure tomato juice.

377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3797

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Omakase at Kura in the East Village

Although Kura has recently increased the price offerings for the three choices of omakase, the value is still very much there. We opted for 19 courses for $130 per person, and I was so incredibly full at the end that I decided next time I'm ordering a smaller omakase!

Kura is very small, with a 12-seat omakase bar and one separate table for four. Go as a pair to sit at the bar; it's always a nice experience to watch the chef slice each fish and place the sushi on a plate in front of you. There are two chefs here, or perhaps one chef and one apprentice? Either way, it was a lot of fun to watch them work, and every piece was delicious.

Kura accepts reservations, and we were lucky to get one just one week in advance (with one option of a 6pm seating). Omakase offerings are $85 for 13 pieces, $105 for 16 pieces, and $130 for 19 pieces.

There's no sign at the entrance, so I wasn't even sure we were at the right place

Simple and clean

Chef Norihiro Ishizuka. Funny guy

Sushi chef number 2, who prepared most of our sushi that night

Marinated tuna with Japanese yam
A nice and mild start to the meal. This white yam is nothing like the yam I've ever tasted-- it isn't sweet, and has a yogurt-like texture

Stuffed squid with rice

Toro, medium fatty tuna

I loved how delicate and transparent this fish looked 

One of my favorites of the meal, beautifully flavored and served atop rice and seaweed

Mild and fine. Ready for the next piece

Flame salmon
Omg this flame salmon... So fresh and flavorful, with some parts raw, and some cooked. Amazing 

Cherry blossom shrimp
I've never had a sushi with these mini shrimps, and it's so cute! They were very cold (in a good way) and slightly crispy

Giant clam
Slightly sweet and hard

Miso soup with clams
A very strong clam flavor in this soup, which I absolutely loved. I would return just for this soup.

Another favorite! So tasty with an excellent charred flavor

Orange crab

So good

Sea eel flakes
(here is an action shot of the torching)
A tad sweet, and instantly melts in the mouth

Pacific saury
A strong tasting fish

Hard clam
Too chewy for my liking

Waited all night for this one, and was very satisfied with it

Charred swordfish
Surprisingly soft texture


Japan squid

Fatty tuna
Hands down my favorite of the meal. So fatty, soft, and wonderful

Tuna hand roll

Cold, sweet, and a perfect last piece (well actually the bf then ordered an extra uni and fatty tuna)

Honey pistachio ice cream
Delicious! The bf ordered this and of course I enjoyed it more than my choice below (that always happens)

Mochi with sweet soy glaze
Very dense and sticky mochi balls

130 St Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-1010
*No website, closed Sunday 

Kura on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dinner at Spiegel Restaurant

NYC is an expensive place to live, and since I dine out so often, I'm always on the hunt for reasonably priced restaurants to help make life more affordable here. After my dinner at Spiegel, I'm happy to report that this restaurant/bar is the perfect spot for a casual dinner with friends.

The owner Shmulik Avital and the executive chef Dario Tapia come from Westville and Maison Kayser respectively. The menus do seem similar in the vast vegetable and side plate options, as well as terrific salads and entrees for very reasonable prices. The appetizers are around $8, salads $10, and seafood/meat entrees are $14 to $18.

A large bar and wraparound floor to ceiling windows in the restaurant. A great spot for people watching!

Below are my favorites from the meal:

Stuffed Mushrooms with cream cheese, smoked salmon, $8
So tasty-- this would be a perfect game-watching appetizer

The inside of the stuffed mushroom

Grilled salmon with potatoes, $18
Perfectly tender and flaky. This is what I'm ordering when I return for my next visit

Veal schnitzel plate with jasmine rice, tahini, chopped cucumber and tomato, $15
The slightly spicy seasoning on the veal was delicious! 

Also, unfortunately my pictures of the baked feta in Moroccan tomato sauce and Couscous dishes were too blurry to post, but I have to mention them because they were both amazing. Order them! 

26 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-2894

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Spiegel on Urbanspoon

*This meal was complimentary, hosted by the restaurant as part of a press dinner.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seafood at Pub 199

After our fun afternoon of apple picking, we decided to make a detour and head over to Pub 199 for a seafood dinner before heading back to the city. As a result, when trying to get back to Manhattan afterwards, we were stuck in the worst evening traffic on the Jersey turnpike. All worth it though...

Pub 199 is an inexpensive seafood/steakhouse/sports bar filled with wild game heads and fish on the walls. The whole vibe feels a little weird, but once you see how cheap and fresh the seafood is, it really doesn't matter where you are.

There's a one drink minimum per person, but that can be sodas, beer, etc. I got a $3 root beer. Yum.

Service isn't great, and it's very hard to flag someone down, but that's easy to get over when you're paying prices as low as these.

The first dining room upon entering.

The large main dining room. There's also a sports bar great for watching games on any of the 10+ televisions.

View from where we sat at the back of the dining room.

Lobster with baked potato (or french fries), $15
Yes, $15. So incredibly fresh and meaty, and I may or may not have asked for a second helping of melted butter. Nothing pairs as well with steamed lobster than butter!

Lobster with baked potato/fries and clams, $22.95
I never really order clams, but found myself packing away almost half of these that my bf ordered. What can I say, he's always better at ordering. Delicious.

Not pictured here, but one of my friends got NY strip steak for $13, and another friend ordered a steak sandwich for $4.75. These prices! Just so low... 

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Pub 199 on Urbanspoon

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