The Malt House

Located on Thompson Street, only a few blocks from my alma mater, I was immediately struck by how crowded The Malt House appeared on a chilly winter week night. From your usual hipster suspects and NYU locals to corporate parties looking to inject some spark into their after-work dinners, there were plenty of happy patrons. In a neighborhood that often finds itself divided by age, vocation, and sense of community, it was fascinating to see a place that attracted all types. Brick walls, sconces, and dark wood furniture all helped to cultivate an atmosphere that felt classy yet lived in.

Owners Darren Shore and Eoin Foyle hail from Ireland, providing an old world sense of charm alongside delicious American comfort food. The lighting is sleepy though the bustling masses of patrons mitigate any drowsiness you might feel going in. It’s a bit like living in a period piece, but everybody has smart phones and the food is more than a set piece.

The meal began with a crispy, crackly bang as we were served a towering appetizer trio of bacon-fried onion rings, fried cheese curds, and fried tempura pickles. Each was golden and breaded with a salty, crunchy outside. I couldn’t get enough of the white cheddar cheese curds, which were perfectly gooey and succulent bits of cheese. Imagine the best mozzarella sticks you’ve ever had, then marry them to your favorite tater tots! Additionally, while pickles usually send my taste buds into sour hysterics (recall that I am a supertaster), I found the Malt House’s to be tastefully sliced and refreshingly delicate in both texture and flavor.

GoldenTower

Bacon Fried Onion Rings, Fried Cheese Curds, Tempura Pickles

Chicken Wings came next, and they were very tasty. The Malt House goes the extra mile and bakes, fries, AND grills their wings. They came with a creamy Roquefort sauce (presumably to mellow out some of the spiciness), but I found them mild and tasty.

For entrees, we were equally spoiled. I tasted the Malt House Burger, the Steak Sandwich, the Lobster Mac & Cheese and the Malt House Salad.

The burger stood out with ample amounts of hickory-smoked bacon, sweet onion marmalade, and a large, baked bun actually branded with the initials of the restaurant. Its medium rare innards were very juicy and slathered with cheese. It also happens to be GIGANTIC! A devilishly delicious selection, and a good choice if you haven’t eaten all day and don’t plan on eating anything later that night!

MalthouseBurger

The Malt House Burger. Are they going to trademark it?

If the burger was the Malt House King, then I consider the Steak Sandwich to be its princess. Thin slices of steak under a canopy of gruyere and arugula made for a very dainty sandwich, light in texture but filled with rich flavor. In particular, the rich garlic aioli really brought out the fresh ingredients on the sandwich, which I would describe on the whole as buttery and savory.

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Steak Sandwich with Fries. There is a hefty layer of meat beneath all that cheese and arugula.

Made with a blend of white cheddar, parmesan, and gruyere cheeses, the Mac & Cheese can be considered another strong choice on the menu. The noodles themselves were firmly textured and the sauce was thick, but not too rich. The lobster claws on top acted as an odd, meaty garnish. Frankly, it really boiled down to classically good macaroni with some lobster plopped on top. I didn’t feel like the lobster was incorporated in the most creative way, but the ingredients were all tasty and fresh.

LobsterMacaroni

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

With ample servings of grilled chicken and a zesty balsamic vinaigrette, the Malt House Salad also presents a decidedly healthy option, though I’d probably recommend one of the meaty sandwiches over it. If you want something light, get the steak. Again, it’s a very good salad, but The Malt House is the kind of place where you’ll want to soak up those extra calories of flavor.

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Malt House Salad with Grilled Chicken

For dessert, I tried the Choco Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and the Crème Brulee. Served beneath a ruby curtain of fresh strawberries and blueberries, the Crème Brulee managed to be decadent yet refreshing, and I adored it–easily one of my favorite items on the menu!

 

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Malt House Choco Cake

BerryCremeBrulee

Creme Brûlée

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Selection of Craft Beers

Befitting its name, The Malt House has an impressive selection of craft beers and other alcoholic beverages! I recommend the Milk Stout. It’s so creamy it almost tastes like coffee.

If you’re in search of food, drink, or warmth, pay this tavern a visit!

The Malt House

206 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012

Hours: 12 PM-4 AM

Website: themalthousenyc.com

Telephone: 212 – 228 7310

 

 

Tareau: A Fountain of Fondue

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Taureau is the third of Chef Didier Pawlicki’s restaurants that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and it is definitely the most unique of the trio. Priding itself on a fondue-only menu (something that no other restaurant in Manhattan boasts), Taureau offers guests three courses of cheese, meat ( Fondue Bourguignonne), and chocolate fondue!

Each option is its own rich tribute to France’s deliciously gooey culinary tradition, but I recommend ordering all three with a friend or date for the full experience. Chef Didier allows people to order fondue for two, pricing individual fondues by pot while also offering a three-course prix fixe that runs between $42 and $52 per person.

Chef Didier spent many years honing his cheese fondue concoctions, painstakingly testing and tasting different combinations. Of the cheese fondues, I got to try the Devil’s Whiff, the Old Swiss, and the Perigord.
Comprised of pepper jack cheese and crisp red wine, the Devil’s Whiff managed to pull my tastebuds in as much as it kicked me awake at every turn. It made for a spicy and invigorating first course. The fiery notes of the cheese mixture invigorated my palette while preventing me from succumbing to the heaviness I normally get when I gorge on cheese. Certainly the best option for those who are looking for some heat on a cold winter’s day!
Devil'sWhiff

The Devil’s Whiff

The Old Swiss with 180-Day Aged Swiss was everything you might ever want from a classic cheese fondue. It was hearty and pungent in the most refined way possible with little hints of tart beneath a symphony of savory. This blend is certain to be a crowdpleaser amongst diners with different tastes–this is cheese fondue in its purest, most celebrated form with little in the way of embellishment, but much in the way of traditionally, cheesy goodness. Definitely my favorite of the cheese fondues! Sometimes I like having my expectations perfectly satisfied without anything extra added!
OldSwiss

The Old Swiss

 

Lastly, I tasted the Perigord with Parmesian, White American Cheese, Truffle Oil, and Didier’s signature slices of real black truffle. I really enjoyed this cheese as well as the bits of truffle, but I found my senses bedazzled beyond understanding when I tried it. A small taste was all I needed to appreciate its rich complexity. Perhaps I was worn out from the first two cheese courses, but I found that a tiny bit of this cheese and its powerful blast of earthy flavor went a long way. If the Devil’s Whiff was full of little punches and kicks, the Perigord could best be described as an hour-long, full body massage for your tastebuds.
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The Perigord

Next, we had the meat fondue, where we dropped raw slices of filet mignon, pork, and chicken onto sizzling oil. All three meats were very tasty when cooked properly, but I definitely favored the tender fillet mignon because I could cook it in as fast as 15-seconds (pair it with the truffle sauce Didier offers on the side for something luxurious). There is something magical about laying a cold bit of steak down and pulling up a morsel of medium rare goodness in seconds!
MeatSlabs
The chicken and pork were also very good, but as each bite could take close to a minute to cook all the way through, I found myself stressing over every scrumptious bite of them.
If you’re as clumsy as I am, you’ll have to make sure to grip onto the meat very tightly, otherwise you’ll run the risk of it sticking to the cauldron and being overcooked. I had to be more careful with the meats than the cheeses, but I greatly enjoyed them nonetheless.
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Lastly was the decadent chocolate fondue for dessert. I got to try the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate with a colorful  bouquet of fruits, cookies, and marshmallows.
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Rather shamefully, I found myself guzzling the milk chocolate like a schoolboy in a Roald Dahl novel. It swaddled the sweet treats perfectly in a creamy blanket with a silky texture that enveloped each grape or strawberry in a cocoon of cacao that was just saccharine enough to leave me wanting more. In contrast, I found the dark chocolate was just too rich and bitter. I left dessert wondering if I have the palette of a six-year-old–albeit a very refined and well-mannered six-year-old.
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Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Taureau is unlike Chef Didier’s other establishments, and is not BYOB. However, it has a fine selection of French wines to choose from.
Mark my words readers, I had an absolutely delightful time at Taureau, and I can’t wait to bring my next date here (assuming I get one)! This is sure to be a hot spot for Valentine’s Day and the next batch of cold weather coming in!
Taureau
Address: 558 Broome St, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 228-2222
Hours: 5 PM-10 PM on Sundays-Thursdays, 5 PM-11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
**Accepts Cash, American Express, and Bitcoin Only

10 Below: I Roll with this Ice Cream

Have you had the pleasure of trying the ice cream at 10 Below yet? Chances are you’ve passed by the Mott Street establishment numerous times on your way through Chinatown, but it’s also likely that you were scared off by the $7 price, or the insanely long lines! Throughout the fall and summer, 10 Below has attracted tourists and foodies alike, many of whom are willing to wait over an hour or more for a taste of the creamery’s Thai-inspired ice cream rolls!

The cool spectacle of watching someone literally turn a dollop of milk into ice cream before your very eyes is a draw that seems to yank crowds by their smart phones (think cool sculpting, but with ice cream instead of your abs), but even when that novelty wears off, there’s something special about the ice cream here. It’s light on the tongue and fresh! Strawberry Ice Cream just tastes better when the ripe, juicy berries were mashed mere moments before your first bite!

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IceCreamRolls

Additionally, 10 Below features an almost limitless toppings policy–I say almost limitless because there’s so much ice cream in one cup, you’ll run the risk of overflowing if you go too crazy with the fresh fruit, whipped cream, and cookies they offer!

 

StrawberryShawty

Strawberry Shawty with Strawberries, Graham Crackers, Raspberries, and Whipped Cream!

As winter approaches the winding lines have died down tremendously. You can now get your ice cream here in as short a span of time as ten minutes! I’m sitting here on a Monday at 12 PM, and there are no soul-sucking, selfie-crazed sightseers in sight! I recommend you hightail it here ASAP. Seriously, I’m kind of hoping for lines now because otherwise, I just might eat all the ice cream!

 

10 Below Ice Cream

Address: 10 Mott Street, New York, NY.

Hours: 11-10 PM on Sundays-Thursdays,  11am – 11:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Website: http://www.10belowicecream.com/

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Zing’s Awesome Rice is Pretty Awesome

After another zany night of Improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade East Village Theatre, I found myself stumbling through the Lower East Side on my winding trek home with a ravenous appetite. The area has some food offerings into the wee hours of the night, but cheap pizza or tacos or bar snacks just don’t put a smile on my face these days. Luckily, I came across Zing’s Awesome Rice on Ludlow Street, and after enjoying every visit, I can definitely recommend this specialty “seared rice” eatery!

Zing's

The owner, Zing Bai left her hectic job as an attorney to pursue a more flavorful dream. Her seared rice isn’t only an original twist on classic Chinese fried rice, it is also a more health-conscious option!

ZingBai

Rice is such a ubiquitous food staple, yet before Zing’s Awesome Rice, I had yet to see much attention or care paid to it. Zing painstakingly tested over 20 different rice varieties before settling on sushi white rice (you can really tell in the texture), brown rice, and purple rice.

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Not stopping there, she also claims to marinate and season each grain of rice like a steakhouse does with their steaks. By searing the rice as opposed to frying it, Zing avoids burning the rice or making it too greasy. The result is rice that has a nice crunchy texture on the outside that still maintains some nutritional value as its core.

 

SearedRice

Continuing to stay on the healthy side, Zing also makes sure each seared rice dish comes in a 1:1:2 of rice to meat to veggie to ensure balanced nutrition, and to limit calories to roughly 600 per plate. She also only sears her rice in olive oil for its heart-healthy characteristics. Lastly, she never salts any of the ingredients she uses, choosing to rely on the natural flavors of spices and meats.

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Cute Menus!

 

I’ve tasted the Chicken Seared Rice, the Sausage Seared Rice, and the Surprise Seared Rice, which turned out to be a very nice fish. Of these, the Chicken and Fish stood out to me the most. The ingredients were just so light and fresh. It was just as filling and tasty as any fried rice, but it didn’t leave me feeling dehydrated and bloated. The chicken was especially flavorful. Zing marinates it the night before in a little bit of sugar and vinegar, resulting in juicy boneless bites with subtle notes of sweet and savory that mingle quite nicely together.

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Chicken Seared Rice

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Fish Seared Rice (Purple)

Lastly, the shop has true New York City hours, staying open on Sundays-Thursdays until 3 AM and Friday and Saturday until 5 AM. “I have friends who get out of work no earlier than 12 AM,” Zing says, “New York is a night-owl city, so I cater to that side of it!” I, for one, cannot even begin to express my happiness at knowing that I can get this delicious rice at almost all hours of the night.

Whether I’m performing comedy, studying late for an exam (ha, I don’t really do that, but you understand my point), or just famished after a night on the town, I’m happy to add Zing’s Awesome Rice to my list of favorite places. Zing’s Awesome Rice IS Awesome–—Sear-iously!

Zing’s Awesome Rice

Address: 122 Ludlow St, between Delancey & Rivington

Website: http://www.zingsawesomerice.com/

Phone Number: (347) 857-7668

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Byblos: A Lebanese Labor of Love

In 1990, Chef Sabeh Kouchou and his wife Sonia opened Byblos, where they served happy customers for about twenty years in Murray Hill. Unfortunately, in 2010 a fire decimated their original restaurant location. Taking time to regroup, Sabeh and Sonia revived and relocated, bringing Byblos to Midtown in 2012.

Chef Sabeh

Chef Sabeh

Byblos’ name comes from a Lebanese resort town on the coast that in turn shares an etymology root with the word Bible. It’s a name that conveys history and tradition, all the more fitting when one considers Sabeh’s use of his own family’s recipes. Sabeh and Sonia are both natives of Lebanon, though New York is where they met and where have made a home for themselves.
ByblosExterior
Byblos’ interior doesn’t try to live up to its Lebanese namesake. You’ll find know coast-inspired decorations or nautical imagery adorning the white walls here, though a few plants and red lighting go far in making an unpretentious oasis-like space.  The restaurant is also unbelievably spacious. I’d imagine that even at maximum capacity, it wouldn’t feel too crowded. Making use of this wide, open space, Byblos features live music and belly dancers on Saturdays!
InsideByblos
Before Byblos, I’d never experienced Lebanese cuisine before. I found plenty of Mediterranean staples here alongside other treats. Lebanese cuisine focuses heavily on Meze (think Mediterranean style snacks/ tapas).
Out of all the meze, the Hummus impressed me the most, which surprised me as it is a dish that I encounter often, and one I do not typically enjoy. Byblos’ hummus is wonderfully light and creamy with a smooth texture that floats off the palette. Despite lacking the chunkiness I normally expect, it manages to be full of savory of the chickpeas mingling with the tang of lemon and nuttiness of the tahini. If you’re craving a little bit more firmness, you’ll enjoy the roasted chickpeas that garnish the top of the spread.
The Hummus--Order this one!

The Hummus–Order this one!

Of the spreads, I also sampled the baba ghanouj and the muhammara. The baba ghanouj is heartier and heavier in flavor than the hummus as it utilizes charcoal-grilled eggplant as its core while the muhammara’s red peppers conjured some VERY strong, spicy notes.
Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

Muhammara

Muhammara

Caked with herbs, the Zataar Pies were bites of flat bread that just exploded with zestiness. There was so much thyme, that I felt like I was literally grazing on an herb garden with a warm veil of olive oil around each slice grounding the storm of spices. Despite the wide array of powerful flavors, I found myself popping slice after invigorating slice into my mouth.
Zataar Pies

Zataar Pies

I also tried the stuffed grape leaves, which were filled with more chickpeas, spices, and rice. They were soft yet full and quite sour. Another dish to wake you up lest you fall into a meze-induced coma!
Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves

The last meze I tasted was the Fattoush Salad topped with grilled chicken. It was just an all-around, delicious and satisfying salad. The chicken was charred and juicy and there was plenty of it. Sweet citrus dressing and crunchy pita bits made for a varied range of flavors and textures. This salad could easily be served as a main dish and leave a party stuffed!
Fattoush Salad with Grilled Chicken

Fattoush Salad with Grilled Chicken

For the first main course, Sabeh served Kibee with Laban, Ground Lamb Meatball in Hot Yogurt Sauce. The meatball was a perfect dollop of spiced and marinated lamb with the yogurt sauce elevating the dish to new heights of decadence.  I never thought a yogurt-based dish could achieve such a warm, velvety Alfredo-like texture. Definitely worth an order!
Kibee with Laban

Kibee with Laban

The second main course consisted of a mixed grill of beef and lamb. The meats are juicy and dressed up rather nicely, and they come on a bed of veggies with rice on a very large platter.
Grilled Meat

Grilled Meat

For dessert we had the classic baklava and the Byblos “cheesecake,” which was literally a cake of baked cheese. Both were crunchy, flaky, savory, and drizzled with a lovely mixture of honey and rosewater. The cheesecake reminded me of a sweeter, more syrupy version of Greek Saganaki.
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Lebanese “Cheesecake”

Baklava

Baklava

Byblos is a great spot to dive into Lebanese cuisine–something that too many New Yorkers never experience or taste. Additionally, Sabeh and his team offer catering and delivery services, and a bar stocked with rare Lebanese wines!
 Byblos
Address: 80 Madison Avenue Between 28th and 29th
Phone Number: 212 687 0808
Hours: 11:30-3:00 PM for Lunch and 3:00 PM to 11 PM for Dinner.
Live Music on Belly Dancing on Saturday nights from 9:30 PM to 1:00 AM.

The Scoop on Polpo Gelato

The summer before senior year of high school is always an auspicious period of time. Most kids spend the season scrambling to find a job–probably at an ice cream parlor if they’re lucky, but instead of leaving his fate in the hands of others, Laguardia High School Senior Harrison Geller planned something bigger and sweeter in beginning his own gelato pop-up.

After honing his craft in Italy, Harrison was determined to demonstrate what he had learned overseas. Named Polpo after the Italian word for Octopus in homage to the eight flavors Harrison offers, the frozen treat store is a welcome visitor to the Lower East Side’s dwindling summer days.

Harrison Unveiling a new Sorbet

Harrison Unveiling a new Sorbet

Aside from its youthful staff (comprised by none other than Geller’s friends and classmates) Polpo Gelato can boast a level of artisanship rarely seen in the industry today. All of its flavors and offerings are made by hand and from scratch without the aid of a machine–an impressive and meticulous feat!

I sampled several of Polpo’s flavors and enjoyed the Ricotta Gelato (which was cheesy and fluffy and unlike any other gelato I’ve ever had) and the Raspberry Sorbet (which pairs nicely with the incredibly tart Lemon Sorbet).

Sadly, Polpo Gelato is only running for a limited period of time. Remember, Harrison and co. still have a busy year ahead of them uptown after all.  The weather will be sticky and muggy in the next two weeks, so do pay them a visit if you’re in the area!

Thanks Polpo Gelato!

Thanks, Polpo Gelato!

365 Days in 365 Ways: James Miille’s Life in the Rabbit Hole Photography Show

What have you accomplished in a year of your life? It’s something that a lot of us don’t (or try not to) think about, and a daunting question for any artist, but photographer James Miille has 365 conceptual portraits to show. Running at the Gallery 151 Annex (199 Mott Street) until this Tuesday, June 23rd, Life in the Rabbit Hole is Mr. Miile’s first solo gallery photo show. With the help of FAME by Alex Mitow, Imagination in Space, and Arte Collective, a spectacle of the senses has been born.

I first had the pleasure of meeting James as a fellow member of the NYU Men’s Glee Club in 2013. Since then, I’ve watched his work blossom throughout the Manhattan area. From scenic glimpses into fantasy realms to personal metamorphosis to haunting nightmares, James’ work touches upon a wide range of eclectic and colorful themes. One even flew straight out of a Roald Dahl novel!

In “Extra Butter,” a moviegoing couple finds themselves frantically drawn within the action flick they’re watching. In “Personal Bubble,” the portrait’s shy heroine literally floats through her own comfort zone. In “Metro,” a hapless damsel is magnetically drawn towards the beacon of light emanating from a speeding train. In “Immerse,” a painter’s imagination floods his reality!

Extra Butter By James Miille

Extra Butter by James Miille

Personal Bubble by James Miille

Personal Bubble by James Miille

Metro By James Miille

Metro By James Miille

Immerse by James Miille

Immerse by James Miille

Expect a lot of puns, some wackiness, and a great deal of charm amidst a maelstrom of cityscapes, nature-inspired locations, and personal crises. Beyond the stunning visuals exists a seemingly limitless potential for emotional poignance. James’ images are much, much more than the magic of Photoshop wrought upon unsuspecting models. In many regards, James is just as much of a director or a painter or a choreographer as he is a photographer. Indeed, some of his best pictures are his self-portraits. You really get the sense he won’t make anyone do anything he wouldn’t gladly do himself, and in a world where most of us are content to slap an Instagram filter on a mere duck face, that kind of passion is captivating. 

Illumination by James Miille

Illumination by James Miille

Something is About to Happen by James Miille

Something is About to Happen by James Miille

Surreality by James Miille

Surreality by James Miille

I’ve even had the pleasure of featuring in a photo or two for James’ project. 

Dream Mist by James Miille

Dream Mist by James Miille (Don’t I look dapper?)

Making things still more interesting, on both Saturday and Sunday from 2-5 PM, Inside the Rabbit Hole will also be featuring some tasty snacks and Californian wine pairings (some of them are actually paired with the photos for maximum artistic flavor immersion).

As a fellow artist, an NYU student, and a friend, I look forward to seeing James continue to prosper on his photography journey.

Don't ask me what Instagram filter I used for this :)

Don’t ask me what Instagram filter I used for this 🙂

Life in the Rabbit Hole runs from June 18th to June 23rd @ 199 Mott Street.

For more photography and more James Miille, go to https://www.facebook.com/irisism.photo?fref=ts or follow @JamesMiille on Instagram!

La Sirène: Magical, Classical French Food

Like a secret cove its namesake might dwell within, La Sirène is somewhat hidden on the far western end of Broome Street, close to the Holland Tunnel (make sure to keep to the path on the right, lest you get stuck on the wrong end of the traffic barricade). Comprised of two elegant, nautically-themed dining rooms that each seat no more than twenty, La Sirene has a comfortable, casual atmosphere that belies the sheer strength of its menu. Surviving Soho for eight years and counting is no small task for any restaurant.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of Chef Didier’s newer restaurant, Le Village. While the menu shares a couple items with Le Village, La Sirène undoubtedly brings a more regal and expensive flair to its cuisine while still . In place of the numerous gluten-free and vegetarian options available at Didier’s East Village venue, I found an all-star selection of meat and seafood dishes including Hangar Steak, Rabbit Stew to Lamb in Truffle Jus, Seared Rohan Duck Breast, and Seafood Linguine. The Coq Au Vin and Parisian Gnocchi of Le Village also make an appearance here (you can refer to my previous review if you’re curious about those, though I’ll tell you that I enjoyed them both). La Sirène’s Cassoulet is starkly different from the vegetarian version at Le Village, featuring bacon, duck confit, pork sausage, and foie gras jus.

Of the appetizers, I sampled the Poires Roti Au Bleu Fondant, the Roasted Pear with Melted Blue Cheese and the Tartelette de Chèvre Frais – Baked Goat Cheese Tart.

The pear was warm and filled with gooey cheese that flowed nicely on the palette. While remaining subtly sweet, it was warmer and heartier than any other fruit dish I’ve had recently.

Roasted Fresh Whole Pear with Melted Galbani Blue Cheese

Roasted Fresh Whole Pear with Melted Galbani Blue Cheese

Dressed in shallots, truffles, grape and “a veil” of Swiss that Didier swears was aged for over 180 days, the goat cheese tart was absurdly decadent for an appetizer with a smooth, velvety texture and a blizzard of yummy, salty cheeses amidst a tailwind of tart. Definitely not for the light of heart or high of cholesterol.

Baked Goat Cheese Tart

Baked Goat Cheese Tart

With every entree, Chef Didier serves a plate of four complementary vegetables that vary by season and availability. I must say, like someone out of a fairytale, Chef Didier practically spins his carrots into a puree of gold.

Complementary Vegetable Plate with Every Entree

Complementary Vegetable Plate with Every Entree

For my entree, I made sure to order the Tournedos Rossini, which Didier describes as a “popular signature.” Allegedly crafted by some of France’s finest chefs for the pleasure of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (which chef varies by source, though the name Rossini has always been attached), Tournedos Rossini is a luxury dish that speaks to a fabled culinary tradition that many fear will fade in the coming generations.

The dish is a trifecta of gourmet treasures, combining a perfect pan-fried filet mignon with a slab of seared foie gras on top, garnished and further intensified with slices of black truffle. It is important to clarify that the mere presence of any one of these constituent ingredients indicates an ascended level of culinary class, but all three together truly meld together into something enchanting to behold.

Tournedos Rossini

Tournedos Rossini – Filet Mignon with Foie Gras and Truffles

The filet mignon was meticulously fried with the inside of the meat a lovely, rosy medium-rare. A petit, delicate cut, the tenderloin managed to be incredibly filling. All in all, the cut of beef was so tender, I might have inhaled the entire slab in one bite if not for its heavy, powerful flavor. A sturdy base in both structure and flavor, this steak commanded both respect and recognition, though it still blended harmoniously with the richness of its elegant accomplices.

The Foie Gras was nutty, sweet, and succulent enough for me to remember that it arrives in other incarnations than spreadable pate. Didier’s Foie Gras managed to be dainty in pan-seared crispiness while managing to retain a hearty juiciness–its texture and flavor carried life and vigor I hadn’t previously associated with the delicacy. More creamy than any stick of butter and more thick and savory than any stuffing, it enhanced the meat in every conceivable way.

The truffles hit me both immediately in the dish’s aroma and in the after-taste of the sauce as a lingering note. One might worry that their earthy explosion of pure umami might obliterate the senses, but these truffles were as courteous as they were refined. At no point did I feel that their presence overpowered the other parts of the dish. The port wine sauce rounded out the experience with a hint of sweetness to even out the savory.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I fell utterly, Otter Lee in love with the Tournedos Rossini. It felt like a passionate, extravagant love affair with the full force of France’s culinary tradition. This dish took me by the tongue and whispered sweet, sweet promises in my ear.  “You matter. You deserve this. I love you. I love you. I Iove you!”

At $36 it’s the most expensive item on the menu, but a small price to pay for pure decadence on a plate.

And just like that, my love was gone.

And just like that, my love was gone.

La Sirène also offers a variety of desserts like Homemade Ice Cream, Sorbet, Dark Chocolate Lava Cake, and some BIG Profiteroles (seriously, they’re like a castle of chocolate). As I am a lover of sweet, summery things, my favorite was the Tartlet aux Fraises, a simple yet potent tart of ripe strawberries and some truly fine pastry cream.

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Tart

Sorbet Trio - Raspberry, Coconut, and Mango

Sorbet Trio – Raspberry, Coconut, and Mango

BIG Profiteroles

BIG Profiteroles

La Sirène allows its patrons to bring their own wine with a $10 corkage fee, but has recently gained its alcoholic beverage license and started offering wine of its own.

I’d call La Sirène an excellent place to bring friends, family, or dates, though I can promise that I will seriously never share any of my Tournedos Rossini with any of you. It’s absolutely divine, so by all means get your own 🙂

photo by Lucy Komisar

photo by Lucy Komisar

La Sirène

Address: 558 Broome Street (Between 6th Avenue and Varrick)

Hours: Dinner only.  5 PM to 11 PM on Sundays-Thursdays. 5 PM to 12 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Phone Number: (212) – 925 – 3061

Website: http://www.lasirenenyc.com.

Have a Ball at Balzem!

On a rollicking block populated by numerous restaurants and little shops between Spring and Kenmare, Balzem’s dark and glassy storefront seems to cast a shadow over Nolita, a neighborhood that sometimes feels like it’s becoming too trendy for its own good. Upon stepping inside, one finds the restaurant’s atmosphere starkly different from anything in the area as deep orange lighting from chandeliers and the rugged charm of Balzem’s brick walls set a moody, dusky scene.

Drawing upon classic Mediterranean dishes (some family recipes) and an eclectic selection of tapas and mezzes, Chef Balahan Bobus has carved a unique niche in a competitive section of Manhattan, and I was enormously satisfied with what I sampled of the menu at the press dinner—11 dishes in total!

The chicken orzo soup was a sparkling broth of red and gold and that drew its hues and flavors from both tomato and lemon in a swirl of tang and salt with fresh slices of light chicken breast.

Chicken Orzo Soup - Made from a family recipe

Chicken Orzo Soup – Made from a family recipe

Secondly, I tried the Prosciutto Wraps with Burrata. Combining two of my favorite Italian delicacies I was not surprised to fall in love with the dish, which stuffed an avalanche of gooey goodness within the cured and salted slices, which were sprinkled with a splash of sweet balsamic. This was definitely my favorite of the tapas on the menu!

Prosciutto Wraps with Burrata

Prosciutto Wraps with Burrata

Our third tapa was the  Bronzing Ceviche (Raw European Seabass), served over arugula and dill. The sliced fish had the texture of cooked and tender meat and until Chef Balahan explained what I was eating, I am almost embarrassed to write that I mistook it for a chilled chicken dish—a pleasant one at that.

Branzini Ceviche

Branzini Ceviche

Next, we enjoyed two grilled and spicy seafood courses in the Shrimp and Octopus. I found the shrimp a tad too spicy though it was very well-cooked and complemented the salad nicely. Of the two, I found I enjoyed the octopus more. It was charred with a smokey aftertaste with the insides remaining moist and delicate.

Crevette Grille - Grilled Shrimp

Crevette Grille – Grilled Shrimp

Pulpo - Spanish-style Octopus

Pulpo – Spanish-style Octopus

The last of the tapas was the zucchini pancake which tasted like an Graeco-Italian Latke. If you’re a vegetarian or just love something crispy and just bursting with the strong flavors of fresh herbs, then I wholeheartedly recommend this one. Each pancake was covered in a light spoonful of cream infused with dill, feta, and scallions.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

For the main, we were offered Grilled Brochette (Rib Eye Skewers served with Pita). It was a substantial portion with plenty of juicy, grilled beef. I didn’t really eat much of the pita, but by that point my belly was close to bursting. It might seem like a less exciting choice than the tapas, but it’s a solid and filling one. I usually find meat of this nature to be too dry or greasy, and was pleasantly surprised to find it neither which way.

Grilled Brochette - Rib Eye on Skewers with Pita

Grilled Brochette – Rib Eye on Skewers with Pita

The meat was served alongside a trio of side dishes: Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, Potatoes Au Gratin, and Sauteed Spinach. Of these I adored the Macaroni and Cheese the most. It was breaded perfectly with just the right pinch of spices and copious amounts of cheese—everything you could want out of a side dish and a worthy incarnation of the American comfort staple.

Potato Au Gratin with Truffle Oil

Potato Au Gratin with Truffle Oil

Sauteed Spinach

Sauteed Spinach

Truffled Macaroni and Cheese

Truffled Macaroni and Cheese

By the time dessert came around, I felt so full, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go on—just kidding! From the Tiramisu to the Napoleon to the Chocolate Mousse, Balzem had its bases covered for sweets. I was particularly impressed with the Napoleon, which was baked in the French style with layers of creamy cake and raspberry syrup. Each dessert was garnished with a ripe strawberry.

French Napoleon

French Napoleon

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Be sure to ask Chef Balahan for his recommendations on wine pairings. He knows good matches for every stage of the meal (special distinction must go to the fragrant Cotes de Provence Rose that accompanied the Prosciutto Wraps). From 5 to 7 PM, he’s offering a happy hour with such joys as $6 glasses of wine and $5 tapas.

Balzem features an extensive list of Mediterranean wines as well as specialty and themed cocktails. There is also a full-service bar.

Balzem features an extensive list of Mediterranean wines as well as specialty and themed cocktails. There is also a full-service bar.

The next time I’m with my friends in Nolita, I’ll be sure to direct them to Balzem, though I’m not really sure if I’ll be particularly charitable when it comes to sharing my tapas.

Balzem

Address: 202 Mott Street (Between Spring and Kenmare)

Website: http://www.balzem.com

Phone Number: (646) 837 7033

Lunch: 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Mondays to Fridays

Dinner: 5:00 PM to 12 Midnight All Week

Brunch: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays

Big Bites at Kimchi Smoke Barbecue

If you’re hungry and anywhere near the Bowery today or tomorrow (Tuesday February 3rd and Wednesday February 4th) between 4 and 10 PM, you HAVE to give Robert Cho’s Kimchi Smoke Barbecue pop-up a taste! Located on 10 Kenmare street, Kimchi Smoke is offering meaty delicacies that qualify as both decadent and ginormous, and from what I’ve sampled of the menu, I can say it’s a must-try!

Kimchi Smoke Logo

The “Big as Godzilla Kalbi” certainly lives up to its name. For $30, you get a delicious slab of meat large enough to feed a small family (I thought it was a hunk of mastodon or something when I first saw it-) that doesn’t sacrifice any flavor. Prepare for a smoky, spicy, charcoal-grilled rampage on your tastebuds!

I'm not kidding. This thing is bigger than my head and I have a really big head!

I’m not kidding. This thing is bigger than my head and I have a really big head!

I also adored the Chonut, a new addition to the menu that I find easy to love yet difficult to describe. Eggs, bacon, and cheese on powdered sugar brioche suggest a breakfast sandwich, but a hearty helping of brisket makes this an epic sandwich for any occasion–a veritable explosion of gooey, umami flavors with the slightest hint of sweet.

This is what you get if dinner and breakfast had a passionate, beautiful love affair at a Korean barbecue

This is what you get if dinner and breakfast had a passionate, beautiful love affair at a Korean barbecue

Robert Cho operates his own pop-ups and food trucks around the New York-New Jersey, and I look forward to seeing what else his culinary imagination concocts. I hear he does a fried chicken ramen…. and my devoted readers know just how much I love fried chicken and ramen!

Thanks Chef Robert!

Thanks Chef Robert!

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/kimchismoke