Chouchou: A Romantic French-Moroccan Rendezvous

Hidden behind a sultry, unmarked storefront, Chouchou is easy to miss, but impossible to forget. No sign or lights mark the way to this secret corner.

Gaining its name from a French phrase that acts as a term of endearment, best likened to “darling,” the restaurant has plenty of critical praise and positive press despite its unassuming façade.

I can honestly say that Chouchou a place I would never have found if I had not been invited to a private tasting dinner.

Its Moroccan menu primarily offers two sets of either meat or vegetables: tagine and couscous. It looks very limited, but between the execution and the parade of familiar Mediterranean appetizers, it’s a charming and engaging journey. Executive Chef Meryem Michra is talented at all the classics, but also has plenty of twists in store.

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Hummus, baba ganoush, pita, and shakshuka all make an appearance here. I found them simple yet well executed in the standard fashion.

The most exciting of the appetizers were large deviled eggs filled with paprika and other spices. Mostly known as being a European appetizer, Chouchou’s version has plenty of personality. They were creamy and smooth with a lightly peppery yet satisfyingly umami flavor that contrasted with their cool temperature. They served us three halves that I would have gladly devoured all by myself. When a fellow diner admitted they were allergic to yolks, their portion found a most happy home in my gullet.

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Amongst the entrees, I was most impressed with the chicken and lamb tagines.

The chicken tagine was pleasing in both appearance and flavor. Its golden skin was streaked with crimson. Chef Meryem told me she bastes it with herbs then cooks it in the olive sauce before baking the flavor into it again. The result ends up being moist morsels of mainly dark meat encased in a crispy cocoon of skin.

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If it weren’t for the bones, I would have thought the lamb was more liquid than solid. It slid off that easily. Served with plump apricots and prunes sweet as candy, it was a savory, refreshing oasis devoid of gamey toughness or bitterness.

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For dessert, we enjoyed some tiny almond cookies and other assorted pastries. With hints of aromatic spices between each breaded bite, I felt a bit like I was carried on a desert wind.

I would like to give special mention to the green tea, which was poured in the traditional, flashy Moroccan fashion—from a great height. It acted as the perfect palette cleanser between courses and very much both woke me up and welcomed me with invigorating doses of sugar. It was so lively and refreshing I opted to skip out on the wine in favor of more of that sweet, sweet tea.

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Between the meat, the tea, and those luscious deviled eggs, Chouchou is definitely a restaurant I hope to revisit. For now, it will remain in the shadows, but seldom does a secret spot like this stay that way for long.

Chouchou

Address: 215 East 4th Street (Between Avenues A & B)

Website: http://www.chouchounyc.com

Phone: (646) 869-1423

Hours:  5:30 PM-12:00 AM Midnight from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

Ponty: A French Bistro with African Roots

As Spring bathes us in warmth and light and a desire to walk, I find myself increasingly able and willing to leave my home downtown and traverse the streets above 14th. Located in the Gramercy area on 19th and 3rd, Ponty Bistro is an excellent reason to do just that.

Owing its namesake to an avenue in Senegal (a country in West Africa), Ponty was dreamed up by cousins and culinary duo Cisse and Chekh, who have cooked together since their formative years. Trained in the classical French tradition of cooking, the two aimed to imbue their dishes with their African roots through the addition of certain fruits, vegetables, spices, and other creative accents. After several years of success, the two expanded to a Harlem location with Chekh overseeing management and executive chef duties uptown.

Chef Cisse and his cousin, Chef Chekh

Chef Cisse and his cousin, Chef Chekh

Chef Cisse was actually a contestant on Season 3 of the Food Network reality show Chopped, and a finalist. His high placement in the competition is a testament to his creativity, improvisational skills, and ability to work well under pressure. On his home turf and free of TV’s limitations, Cisse’s artistry is even more evident!

We started off with a small taste of the Lobster Bisque in a tea cup. Despite only being a sample portion, there was plenty of lobster. Garnished with red caviar, it left a dazzling impression on me. Despite a saffron color and aroma, Chef Cisse tells me he whipped up the decadent, silky bisque with a simple blend of onions, celery, and carrots–known in more refined circles as a mirepoix. I feel that this one is a must order if you enjoy seafood. Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

Next we had the artichoke and green bean salad. Dressed up with parmesan cheese and truffle vinaigrette, the greens were quite easy for me to devour. If you’re expecting something super healthy for your salad, you’ll probably find the huge amount of parmesan off putting, but it’s a deceptively light extravagance that rolls off the palette nicely.

Artichoke Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Artichoke Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Our first main course was the Saint Jaque du Che –  A Seared Sea Scallop with roasted beets and asparagus in orange marmalade sauce–a dish that seemed so colorful and creative, it might have been something crafted on Chopped! Like a splash of fruity sorbet, the citrus sauce cleansed the palette, allowing for even greater appreciation of the crispy and savory seafood. This dish exemplifies what sets Ponty aside from other bistros as it takes a French seafood staple and mixes it up with a kaleidoscope of fruit, color, and flavor from Africa. I was thrilled to taste one of these, though normally you get five per order.

This was definitely my favorite thing on the menu, and if a guy named Otter says the scallops are good, you know they are good!

Saint Jacque du Chef - Pan Seared Scallop

Saint Jacque du Chef – Pan Seared Scallop

The second main course was the Poulet Tagine (chicken cooked in an earthenware pot), the most African of the dishes that night. On a bed of sweet and filling couscous and served alongside celery, carrots, and onions, it was a spicy, hearty dish, and Cisse’s take on North African cuisine and curry. If aromatic spices and desert heat make you drool, this is definitely the dish for you.

Poulet Tagine

Poulet Tagine

The final main course was the L’onglet A Echalotte, a tender slab of hanger steak in a bordelaise (my sources tell me red wine and onion with bone marrow) sauce. It was an all-around charming and tasty French steak. The accompanying Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and sautéed greens also rounded out the rest of the dish nicely. Perfect for anybody craving standard French bistro faire or just a really juicy steak in a sweet wine sauce! Chef Cisse took that Bordeaux wine and glazed it into a pool of deep red velvet.

L'onglet A Echalotte

Anyone who watched Chef Cisse’s Chopped episode will know that the panel of judges was most blown away by his desserts, and I was impressed with the two he brought out for our table : A Creme Brûlée and a Tiramisu! Adorned with ripe strawberries, the desserts showed off Cisse’s talents as a pastry chef. The Tiramisu in particular was divine for me as it remained light and summery with only the tiniest trace of liqueur beneath the fresh clouds of cream.

Creme Brûlée and Tiramisu

Creme Brûlée and Tiramisu

In terms of drink offerings, there is a variety of global wines and other beverages, though it is Ponty’s unique martinis that seem to be the most popular with tropical accents like Lychee and Hibiscus!

Lychee Martini. As sweet as it sounds!

Lychee Martini. As sweet as it sounds!

Ponty Bistro is an excellent choice in a neighborhood known more for its luxury housing at the moment than its restaurant offerings. Whether you’re looking to pick up something Senegalese or fancy a more familiar French dish, it’s certainly deserving of a visit!

Ponty Bistro

Address: 218 3rd Avenue (Between 18th and 19th)

Website: http://www.pontybistro.com

Phone Number: (212) 777 1616

Hours: Lunch is from 11 AM to 4 PM from Mondays to Fridays, Dinner is every day from 4:30 PM to 11:30 PM, Brunch is 10 AM to 4 PM on weekends. Happy Hour is 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM and offers 2-for-1 Martinis.

Sticks and Stones and Soup From Bones: Brothfest Recap

On a rainy, muggy Saturday, a crowd of NYC’s most enlightened eaters (or should I say slurpers?) journeyed to South Street Seaport for the Battle of the Broths, determined to find the one in seven that would warm their bones and their souls. Planned as a collaboration between FAME by Alex Mitow and Greg T. Spielberg’s Imagination in Space with additional backing from Yelp and the Howard Hughes Corporation, the event appears to have been a soupy success. The famous Katz’s Delicatessen offered a classic chicken-matzoh broth dating from the restaurant’s earlier days in 1888. It was a smooth, simplistic throwback with little artifice that carried a great deal of salty and umami flavor.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz's current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz’s current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

Using their Magic Bullet (only like my favorite as-seen-on-TV product), Belle Reve whipped up a Blackened Butter Bone Broth splashed with a shot of Wild Turkey bourbon. It was intensely creamy and decadent with a harsh, smoky aftertaste, and one of my favorites.

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

FAME by Alex Mitow had the  “Sake to Me,” a concoction of Kobe Beef broth dressed up with lemongrass, herbs, dry sake, and chive oil. The ingredients were fresh and well-chosen, and they all noticeably popped, but I found this elixir too over-the-top for my appreciation. Baz Bagel prepared its own variation of a chicken matzoh ball soup that was salted nicely and came with an adorable baby matzoh. It was definitely the most recognizable broth in the bunch, and a safe choice. Bone Deep and Harmony gave out both beef and chicken broths, allowing visitors to choose their own spices and condiments to customize their cup. I tried mixing in some chimichurri, but turned out to be a poor judge of how much to mix in. Spur Tree brought in its “Fish Tea,” a fish-based broth with garlic, scallions, and even a little bit of tropical fruit. It managed to be fiery and sweet at the same time with very delectable bits of boneless fish that melded swimmingly with the broth. There were even some crispy wonton chips  for a crunch with my slurp.

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

Caracas Arepa Bar had a traditional Venezuelan San Cocho  with beef shanks on the bone. The heat and the spice were overpowering in contrast to the tender morsels of beef. It wasn’t really my cup of broth, but the beef was absolutely delicious and it slid right off.   Sancocho Spur Tree’s “Fish Tea” ended up scoring the most votes (including mine), followed by Belle Reve (my second choice), who was just four shy. I seldom think of my tastes as conventional, but my picks apparently were the consensus.

Spur Tree was the winner!

Spur Tree was the winner!

Between cups, there was plenty of beer, clothing boutiques, and live music provided by gypsy band Sylvana Joyce and the Moment and DJs Andrew Andrew. Alex Mitow even took the stage at one point to spin a few playlists of his own as DJ Mouthlove.

Oddly enough, I didn't hear any Bowling For Soup

Oddly enough, I didn’t hear any Bowling For Soup

With this year’s weather remaining as hostile and chilly as ever, it doesn’t look like the bone broth trend is ready to simmer down just yet (and neither is Shailene Woodley). Broth Fest was a fun way to fan the flames of this fad, and I’m excited to see what’s up next. Hopefully Spring!

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Leo Gugu. Photo by James Miille.

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Alotta McGriddles. Photo by James Miille.

Le Village: Liberty, Equality, Uh Gluten-Free?!

The mere thought of French food conjures up decadent dreams of heavy cream, warm pastry, and juicy duck confit for me, so naturally, I was surprised at the sound of a restaurant that achieves all this and more. Le Village is a French restaurant nestled within the East village that specializes in vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes while still catering to customers who appreciate hearty meat dishes. While there isn’t a selection of wine or drinks here, the restaurant is BYOB with no additional fee (limit one bottle of wine per two guests), a rarity for the area.

Le Village’s store front is tiny and unassuming, almost blending in with the rest of the quiet block. I’ll admit I almost missed it while walking down the street, but once inside, I found a culinary experience I enjoyed immensely.

Le Village’s owner, Chef Didier Pawlicki, served us a dazzling array of options with several French classics, some original creations, and even a few surprise courses.

In addition to Le Village, Chef Didier also runs two other French restaurants,  La Sirene and Taureau.

In addition to Le Village, Chef Didier also runs two other French restaurants, La Sirene and Taureau.

The French Onion Soup was a bubbling molten cauldron of Swiss cheese over a light vegetable broth. The cheese formed a beautiful golden-brown dome that bubbled over the soup itself. Despite the deluge of cheese, I did not find the dish too salty as the slightly sweet flavor of the onion broth balanced things wonderfully. In terms of texture and flavor, it was one of the best french onion soups I’ve ever tried, and a tremendous portion for an appetizer. Chef Didier also offers a gluten free version that swaps out the bread in the middle.

French Onion Soup (0cb)

French Onion Soup

Next, Chef Didier brought us a surprise course of Foie Gras au Torchon. It was a classically smooth and creamy pate complimented with sweet jam and honey over bread. At first the bread seemed a little fragile, but combined with the spread, it made for a rich, flavorful bite that literally melted in my mouth–a treat I won’t hesitate to order again.

Foie Gras Au Torchon

Foie Gras Au Torchon

The Beet Carpaccio Salad was a welcome vegan reprieve after its luxurious predecessors. I’ve never been very fond of beets, finding their sweetness unsettling in a vegetable. Yet dressed up with red wine-infused raisins and crunchy almonds, the course was a lot more tasty than I had expected.

Beet Carpaccio Salad

Beet Carpaccio Salad

Royan’s Ravioles a la Creme followed, the menu aptly describing them as “sensual.” Little fluffy pillows filled with Comte cheese (think Gruyere but stronger and sweeter) and herbs drenched in surprisingly light heavy cream and garnished with an earthy slice of black truffle, they embodied everything I adore about French cuisine, though I had never tried French ravioli before.

Royan's Ravioles a la Creme

Royan’s Ravioles a la Creme

My inner child has always despised Brussels Sprouts, but Chef Didier’s unique take on Brussels Sprouts pleasantly shocked me. Fried and glazed in balsamic vinegar to the point of caramelization and tossed with ripe strawberries, they tasted like morsels of candy rather than veggies, and I happily devoured them–definitely the first time I have ever done that with Brussels Sprouts.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

For our first main course, we sampled The Coq Au Vin, a traditional stew of chicken, red wine, bacon, mushrooms, and potatoes. The braised meat came off the bone cleanly, moist and tender soaking up the dark brown gravy. One of Le Village’s few dedicated meat dishes, it guarantees that carnivores won’t be left out.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin

The following main course was a vegan Cassoulet, a thick stew comprised of beans, potatoes, and a trio of mushrooms (Shiitake, Oyster, Portobello). The Portobello was smoked, almost giving it the texture and flavor of meat. Definitely a worthy alternative to the Coq Au Vin for vegetarians!

Cassoulet

Cassoulet

Continuing the trend of alternating vegan and non vegan dishes, we tasted the Gnocchi Parisian au Gratin, another creamy pasta dish with truffles. Slathered in a Mornay sauce and covered in swiss cheese, the gnocchi was like heavier the ravioli’s bulkier older sibling. Chef Didier has dubbed it “The French Mac and Cheese.”

Gnocchi Parisian au Gratin

Gnocchi Parisian au Gratin

Our last main was the Choux-Fleur Roti, a roast head of cauliflower served with sautéed greens and sweet potato over quinoa. By then I was close to stuffed so I took a small nibble of the cauliflower (which was gigantic). I really appreciated the quinoa which came with a zesty sauce of pureed red pepper.

Choux-Fleur Roti

Choux-Fleur Roti

For dessert, Chef Didier ambushed us with four homemade sweets: Banana Brûlée, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Ice cream, Apple Tart with Ice Cream, and Coconut Sorbet topped with Prunes. Of these, I enjoyed the Banana Brûlée the most. It added a sweeter, tropical twist to one of my favorite French desserts.

Banana Brûlée

Banana Brûlée

Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream and Whipped Cream

Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream and Whipped Cream

Apple Tart with Ice Cream

Apple Tart with Ice Cream

Coconut Sorbet with Prunes

Coconut Sorbet with Prunes

Ever since going to Europe, my cravings for French food have been intense, and at Le Village, I’ll happily gorge myself downtown with the peace of mind that what I’m eating is delicious, yet a little bit more healthy than other bistros.

Hours: Le Village is open from 5-10 PM on Sundays Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and 5-10:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Address: 127 East 7th Street, New York, NY

Website:  http://levillagenyc.com

Telephone: : 1-212-539-0231

Take off with Flight!

Braving the harsh January cold, I attended a press dinner at Flight, a fairly new gastropub on the Upper East Side. After my last four months in London, I wasn’t sure if pub food was something I was wanting, but Flight’s eclectic menu alleviated that concern. Named after its various meat, seafood, and beverage sampler “flights”, Flight is an interesting and welcome addition to a neighborhood not particularly known for its dining options.

The restaurant’s atmosphere is much classier than your average pub with hanging lights and pictures of winged creatures and machines in keeping with the theme. Patrons have several seating options, including a full-service bar and a dedicated dining area, though it is the glass enclosed sidewalk café that will catch most diners’ attention.

FlightCafe

There are so many restaurants out there that think a dash of soy sauce or a hint of ginger makes a dish Asian, but Flight really utilizes its eastern culinary inspirations in a meaningful way. Hailing from India, Chef Golam has decades of experience with both Indian and Thai dishes that really shine!

We started off with the mussels. Chef Golam immediately demonstrated his flair for reinventing standard pub grub with this dish as he served it in a curry sauce. The mussels themselves were succulent and flavorful with the curry forming a fiery broth that warmed me up and sustained me for the rest of the meal, drawing me out of my winter hibernation. Golam even garnished the mussels with butternut squash, leveling out the heat with a little bit of sweetness.

Mussels in Thai Curry Sauce

Mussels in Thai Curry Sauce

Next, we were served a taste of the Thai meatball, made with a blend turkey and beef and served in a sweet chili sauce. It was a tender, delicious appetizer that cleansed the palette nicely. The dish was further accented with crispy fried onions for a little extra crunch and a great deal of flavor with a hint of lemongrass.

That Meat Ball

That Meat Ball

The fish and chips were solid and fairly standard. I found the chips a little too salted, but the fish, which was flaky and battered without an excess of grease was more enjoyable than any incarnation of the dish I had tasted in London.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

My favorite dish by far was the Shepherd’s pie. Like the fish and chips, there wasn’t anything distinctly Thai added to it, but it was flawless in execution and a perfectly done pub staple. The vegetables were sautéed and flavorful with ample pieces of meat and a light, savory gravy beneath a bubbling, breaded dome. It was a take on the dish that could almost be likened to a classic bread-crumbed macaroni and cheese.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Flight Shepherd's Pie Interior

Shepherd’s Pie Interior

For our last main course, Chef Golam presented us with his Thai Style Coconut Curry Chicken, served with mushrooms, herbs, and basmati rice. It utilized a similar peppery base to the mussels though not nearly as spicy—most likely a product of the coconut and something I very much enjoyed given my sensitive taste buds.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

Dessert came with the Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream in Chocolate Sauce, an enjoyable dessert prepared in-house. After so many hearty meat and seafood courses, the last thing I had been expecting was a homemade pastry treat from Golam.

Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Homemade Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

In terms of drink offerings, Dermot Kelly, the restaurant’s owner and beverage director has cultivated an extensive selection of international wines, spirits, cocktails, and craft beers. He also promises to bring in live jazz music to entertain diners in the immediate future.

Happy Hour Comes with $5 on any Bar Appetizer, Select Draft Beers, House Wines, and Well Drinks!

Happy Hour Comes with $5 on any Bar Appetizer, Select Draft Beers, House Wines, and Well Drinks!

In all honesty, I’m not in the area too often, but the next time I find myself looking for a meal in the Upper East, Flight will definitely be somewhere I’m thrilled to revisit. Comfort food is rarely found in such a classy venue and never in the presence of fun Thai flavors!

Flight

Address: 1479 York Avenue (Between 78th & 79th Streets)

Website: www.flightnewyorkcity.com

Phone Number: (212) 988-5153

Hours

  • Lunch from 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM from Mondays to Fridays.
  • Dinner from 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM from Sundays through Wednesdays. 3:30 PM to 1:00 AM on Thursdays through Saturdays.
  • Brunch from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Happy Hour is 4 PM to 7 PM from Monday to Friday, 10 PM to 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Yuji Ramen: The Little Test Kitchen That Could

A Little Rant

Ramen, like sushi, is a Japanese dish that has nestled itself into America’s eating consciousness, though this isn’t always a positive thing. Ask a typical American college student what they think of ramen and you might get a groan or a chuckle and maybe a story about “that one week I couldn’t leave my dorm” or an anecdote about the dangers of a high sodium diet. Like several actors’ careers (I’m looking at you Adam Sandler), ramen appears to get by due to its ease of preparation, availability, and overall infamy–people are willing to overlook just how cheap and terrible for their life it might because it’s a familiar, reliable poison. However, I digress. Most of these grievances are reserved for the microwave and instant variants of ramen. Put simply, there is good, gourmet ramen out there, just not at most grocery stores. . . Whole Foods on the Bowery, however, is a game changer!

Revolutionary Ramen

Located in the form of a counter on the second floor of an ordinary-looking Whole Foods, Yuji Ramen is an extraordinary eatery that takes one’s assumptions about ramen and flambes them into sweet, delicious oblivion. Starting off as a Smorgasburg vendor then a Whole Foods-sponsored pop up shop, Yuji’s popularity has earned it a permanent placement upstairs and a large, loyal following. After eating countless bowl upon bowl of noodle-filled Nirvana, I have to say this positive reception is completely deserved.

Most people might doubt that a ramen-based restaurant could succeed in catering to different clients and tastes, but Yuji offers customers two radically different types of ramen.

The “Daily Shoyu” is your typical meat broth-based ramen but comes with the added twist of being different just about every day. Using fresh cuts of meat from the Whole Foods butcher, Yuji ensures a uniquely delicious experience every day of the week. From blue fish to tuna to mussels to pork to turkey, the shoyu is a favorite for carnivores and a delight on a cold winter day.

Daily Shoyu with Blue and Lamb

Daily Shoyu with Bluefish and Lamb

The second type of ramen is the “mazeman” a newer variant that is made without broth and cooked by an open flame. Using a profusion of savory oils, fresh ingredients that alternate between crunchy and gooey, and perfectly firm and textured noodles, Yuji’s mazeman is a refined kind of ramen that one might liken to an al-dente pasta dish. Instead of your standard pork or chicken, Yuji brings customers original and dazzling concoctions like Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg with Kale or Salmon and Cheese. Spicy Tuna and Uni Miso (Sea Urchin) also have their own mazeman on the menu. For vegetarians, there’s also a Miso Roasted Vegetable mazeman, though I admit I have never sampled it because of my love for the meat and seafood selections.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

At roughly $9 a pop, Yuji’s prices are reasonable for an up and coming business, and certainly for the quality of the ramen you get. I typically find that one Shoyu leaves me stuffed. However, when it comes to the mazeman, I usually try to make room for two–they’re just THAT yummy. For $12 you can get the combo with cold barley tea and pickled vegetables on the side. Starting this year, Yuji is offering a small selection of desserts.  Additionally, every month, Yuji offers a full seven-course Omakase (Chef’s Choice) Dinner. I plan on sampling it and presenting my findings later this year.

If you like creamy things, meat or fish, or noodles of any kind, then I highly recommend you give Yuji a visit soon–you’ll probably run into me sometime!

Yuji Ramen

Address: 95 E. Houston Street, 2nd floor. 

Phone Number: 212-420-1320, extension. 281

Website: http://yujiramen.com

Open all week from 11 AM to 9:30 PM.

Artistic Rendering of Yuji's Mazeman Selection

Artistic Rendering of Yuji’s Mazeman Selection

The Five Reasons I LOVE Cold Fried Chicken

Now this is something that I’ve wanted to share with people for awhile. Let me tell you first that I totally love fried chicken and indulge in a plate of fresh fried goodness when I can. This post is NOT about hating on hot fried chicken. It is about one’s options when presented with leftover chicken and I am merely writing about some of the merits of enjoying it chilled rather than reheated or nuked.

1. You don’t have to worry about burning your mouth.
Now this one might be kind of obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sunk my teeth into some hot, delicious morsel only to horribly singe my taste buds and lose my appreciation for the rest of the meal. Dead taste buds remain numb when it comes to their function but still manage to feel pain and will stay sore for at least a couple of days. While the tongue is a fast regenerator, cold fried chicken allows you to take some of the danger out of your home dining experience.

Some things are best  served cold! Credit to Claudia and PJ Potgieser  http://www.dutchduowildlife.nl

Some things are best served cold!
Credit to Claudia and PJ Potgieser
http://www.dutchduowildlife.nl

2. You don’t have to go through the trouble of putting it into a microwave oven.
While many households do carry a way to heat their food, there are some that just don’t have microwaves for whatever reason. For the dorm-inhabiting college student, a microwave oven isn’t always a guarantee. Or, a microwave is available but its communal nature prevents the eater from satisfying their late-night munchies. Regardless, cold fried chicken eliminates the need for that extra step or appliance (assuming you have a refrigerator). Don’t get me started on why you shouldn’t use an oven. And you STILL won’t have to worry about burning your tongue OR your fingers!

It's not as bad as it sounds!

It’s not as bad as it sounds!

3. Cold chicken stays crunchy like Nature intended
Unlike revenge, fried chicken is a dish that can be served cold but still maintain its delicious integrity. Let’s face it, there’s no way to save everything when it comes to leftover fried chicken, but sacrificing temperature for texture and flavor isn’t a bad way to go. Even fresh fried chicken can disappoint when the skin peels off the meat too readily, and reheated chicken suffers the problem to an even greater extent, only it comes with the added flaw of being saggy and tasteless. Like a crisp autumn day or a persistent ex, cold fried chicken will cling to your every sense and refuse to let go!

4. It’s fast and easy to transport

Unless you have a KFC Go Cup! I mean if you have a KFC Go Cup on you right now, what are you doing here?

Unless you have a KFC Go Cup! I mean if you have a KFC Go Cup on you right now, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

Whether you’re heading to the beach for a picnic or looking for something to throw into a cool salad before your day begins, cold fried chicken turns yesterday’s leftovers into a speedy and proactive answer to tomorrow’s schedule! Nobody in their right mind would reheat their chicken only to take it outside and expose it to the elements.

5. It’s like a metaphor. Don’t read this if you haven’t finished The Great Gatsby yet!

In Chapter 7 of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, antagonist Tom Buchanan and his wife Daisy reignite their flawed and largely dispassionate marriage over a plate of cold fried chicken. Now for some people this might not mean anything. Baz Luhrmann didn’t even see fit to keep it in the movie (just one of several blunders in his career). However, for the discerning student of literature, this dish means so much more. As a form of comfort food traditionally associated with the American South, the cold fried chicken represents the triumph of money over freedom. It’s a metaphor for the sheer power of old money and possibly corruption itself. Daisy and Tom can afford more expensive food, but they choose to eat cheaper fare on their own terms, and in the end, they don’t even touch it.

It's also likely that Carey Mulligan isn't even allowed to think about fried chicken!

It’s also likely that Carey Mulligan isn’t even allowed to think about fried chicken!

So the next time you’re chowing down on fried chicken and you’re worried that it won’t keep well, keep in mind what I’ve told you before you leave a pile of bones!

SO MUCH WASTED CRUNCH :(

SO MUCH WASTED CRUNCH 😦

Masq Makes Mardi Gras a Manhattan Occasion

New Orleans might be almost 1500 miles away from Manhattan, but husband and wife duo George and Nora Chaprastian change reality into a Mardi Gras parade at Masq, a New American and New Orleans-inspired restaurant that livens up Midtown East. Named after the lively masquerades associated with Louisiana’s capital, Masq whisks diners away from the hustle and bustle of its Manhattan location. With a dazzling array of colorful Christmas lights, beautifully haunting Italian masks, and luxurious vintage furniture, it really brings the ball to its diners.

Executive Chef Marc Getzelman directs Masq’s food and pastries as well as its wine, always making sure to complement each of his dishes with an appropriate drink. We were treated to a feast of New American appetizers and New Orleans classics, each crafted with meticulous precision and impeccable style like the rest of Masq’s dining experience.

The Macaroni and Cheese Croquettes with Bacon and Jalapeno were an all-around great way to start our meal. I found the tangerine-hued remoulade sauce quite courteous. It added a moderate amount of tanginess that did not interfere with the more delicate flavors in the macaroni and cheese. With a pescatarian diner in our presence, Chef Marc was more than happy to accommodate our table with a bacon-free version.

Mac 'N' Cheese Croquette with Bacon, Cheddar, and Jalapeño. Served with Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Mac ‘N’ Cheese Croquette with Bacon, Cheddar, and Jalapeño. Served with Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Our second bite came in the form of the Prosciutto Fig Flatbread–a highlight of the evening for me as it managed to be light, savory, sweet, and filling all at once. Hefty portions of prosciutto, swirls of sweet goat cheese, and summery arugula leaves enhanced the thin, crunchy slices. In terms of texture and flavor, I found it to be a perfectly balanced treat and won’t hesitate to order it again. Chef Marc mentioned to us that flatbread has always been a part of Masq’s repertoire, but that the prosciutto-decked variant started off as a special that ascended to the main menu based on popular demand. I wholeheartedly support that motion. Chef Marc and the Chaprastians reassured us that they are always open to customer feedback and that the evolution of the menu is part of what makes Masq a great restaurant.

Prosciutto Fig Flatbread with Goat Cheese and Arugula

Prosciutto Fig Flatbread with Goat Cheese and Arugula

The third and final appetizer was the Asian Marinated Salmon. Normally I find myself a tad skeptical of things labelled “Asian” on any menu, but Masq’s Honey Garlic Soy Sauce assuaged my doubts and has my approval. The addition of honey to a well-executed soy garlic sauce created a new innovation in sweet and sour for this salmon. Perfectly marinated to a dark crisp on the outside and served over a bed of fresh greens, Masq’s salmon dresses to impress.

Asian Marinated Salmon -  Served in Honey Garlic Soy Sauce with Mixed Greens

Asian Marinated Salmon – Served in Honey Garlic Soy Sauce with Mixed Greens

Each of the New American appetizers impressed me. I would’ve been happy to eat a meal solely composed of the Flatbread and the Salmon. They were the kind of dishes that embody a summer picnic for me—a welcome respite from a cold winter evening. However, it was the Louisiana-style cuisine that really warmed my palette that night with jazzy seafood entrees that definitely warrant a taste whether you’ve been to New Orleans or not.

Served on a sweet Hawaiian roll, Masq’s Shrimp Po’ Boy tastes decidedly rich despite its namesake—a welcome change! Succulent yet crunchy shrimp dusted off with pure chili powder on the most luscious of buns made for a winning sandwich. With the powder on the side, I could happily adjust the amount of kick in the sandwich to my liking.

Shrimp Po' Boy on Sweet Hawaiian Roll with Coleslaw

Shrimp Po’ Boy on Sweet Hawaiian Roll with Coleslaw

Masq gave us a classic Jambalaya for its final course.  Now, Jambalaya is one of the first dishes that comes to mind when one thinks of Cajun food. A rice, seafood, and meat dish punctuated with plenty of punch, I’ve come to think of it as the spicy, younger sister of Paella, the dish’s Spanish predecessor and a personal favorite. As a supertaster, I found myself a little hesitant to try the Jambalaya at first. True to tradition, the rice dish brought an intense, fiery flavor that emanated primarily from the peppery Andouille sausage. However, Masq presented a more nuanced incarnation, cooling their Jambalaya’s heat with the addition of fresh, cool goat cheese that balanced out the overall spiciness of the dish and provided a rich, creamy counterpoint. These little tweaks really allow Masq to stand out from their competition as it very much retains the authenticity of Louisiana’s cuisine without steamrolling the experience onto less spice-savvy diners.

Masq's Jambalaya consists of Cajun Spiced Chicken, Andouille Sausage, Shrimp, and Goat Cheese. Make sure to mix the goat cheese!

Masq’s Jambalaya consists of Cajun Spiced Chicken, Andouille Sausage, Shrimp, and Goat Cheese. Make sure to mix that goat cheese!

For dessert, we were treated to Sabayon, a deliquescent egg custard topped with fresh whipped cream and a quartet of berries. Elegantly served in a champagne glass, the Sabayon gave us a soothing and refreshing finish to a sizzling dinner with strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry adding vivid colors and aromas to an already fluffy dessert. Once more, I enjoyed a sweet taste of summer!

Sabayon with Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, Blueberry (not pictured here), and Whipped Cream

Sabayon with Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, Blueberry (not pictured here), and Whipped Cream

Aside from its delectable food offerings, Masq has a lovely horseshoe shaped bar with full service and a massive assortment of wine and liquor selections. However, for me, Masq’s main attraction lies in its private party lounge. The Red Room is simply a work of opulence with red velvet curtains and furniture, Persian rugs, fanciful sconces, and beautifully-crafted vintage decor. Whether you’re looking for a reasonably priced bite to eat, a break from your regular Manhattan routine, or a space for your next party, Masq has something for every New Yorker or out of towner looking for an authentic dining experience.

From 8 to 11 pm on Thursday nights, Masq brings in live music to enhance the party vibe.  When the season comes, Chef Marc also promises crawfish on the menu.

From 8 to 11 pm on Thursday nights, Masq brings in live music to enhance the party vibe. When the season comes, Chef Marc also promises crawfish on the menu.

The Red Room seats 45 and makes an ideal location for your next party!

The Red Room seats 45 and makes an ideal location for your next party!

Masq

Address: 306 East 49th Street (Between First & Second Avenues)

New York, NY 100017

Website: www.masqny.com

Phone: (212) 644-8294

Hours

Lunch: 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday to Friday.

Dinner:  4:00 PM  to 10:00 PM, Monday to Wednesday. 4:00 PM  to 1:00 AM, Thursday to Saturday.

Happy Hour runs from 4 PM to 8 PM from Monday to Friday  (1/2-price on specialty cocktails and select global wines by the glass).

Closed on Sundays.

Masq’s Lunch Menu

Masq’s Dinner Menu