eat. shop. love. nyc.

$24 or $37 prix-fixe lunch at David Burke Townhouse

Prior to re-joining the workforce, I’d embarked on an epic week of face stuffing which began with a whimsical three course lunch at David Burke Townhouse. It surprised and delighted me at every turn. From the glass balloons in the hallway to the speckled egg hatchling logo, I found myself smiling with each detail and discovery.

You can choose from two different three course lunch menus: one for $24 and the other for $37. Click to see the lunch menu here. The dishes marked with the speckled egg are those eligible for the $24 menu vs. your choice of any three courses (speckled egg or not) for $37 at lunch. Since I was in a decadent kind of mood AND because I desperately wanted the scallops and head-on prawns, I went with the $37 prix-fixe.

If the decor alone wasn’t enough indication of the fun that was to come, the bread and butter clinched the deal. We were served a fluffy onion/garlic popover with a carefully constructed butter swirl sticking up off a slab of what looked like pink quartz.

This is what the parfait of tuna and salmon tartar looks like in real life.

And this is a sketch of how it is constructed, potato tuile, creme fraiche, and all.

I really enjoyed the pretzel-crusted crab cake, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly pretzel-y at all. The pretzel bit of the crab cake was actually a little on the breadier side, and in the picture below, you’ll see the pretzel breadsticks surround the crab cake making it visually attractive, but functionally, the pretzels and the sesame seed crust provided texture and a nice little crunch. I liked the yellow mustard-based sauce although I didn’t care much for the sweet orange sauce, but it worked out just fine because I ate around it.

The prawns and scallops were phenomenal. This dish alone was worth every single penny of lunch. The three perfectly seared scallops and two grilled head-on (mmm… brains…) prawns were quite filling. The sauce was so rich and buttery that I forgot I was eating what was essentially a vegetable slaw.

The beef pot pie was probably the dish that delighted me the most. I keep using the word “delighted” because I can’t think of any other word more fitting. Chunks of succulent roast beef, tomatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves, and onion were nestled in a creamy ring of mashed potatoes and topped with a flaky pastry crust round freckled with miniature flecks of chive (meant to represent peas, I think) and carrot. This dish warmed the cockles of my heart.

Dessert was just okay. I think we should’ve gone with the cheesecake lollipop tree since both the strawberry shortcake and butterscotch pudding were overly sweet. I didn’t care a whit, though. I was already in a near-catatonic state of ecstasy post-app and -main.

There was so much pot pie left over that they packaged it for us to go. Overall, an excellent meal, and my favorite lunch so far in the city. Strongly recommended.

DB Townhouse also does a $35 Sunday Supper prix-fixe. Do it.

Also, they just opened David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo a few weeks ago. The website doesn’t tell you much just yet, but the hostess tells us it’s supposed to be a young, trendy spot for beautiful downtowners to meet for drinks and dinner. You know. Le hot stuff.

Eat: David Burke Townhouse (UES) 133 East 61st Street at Lexington Ave.; New York, NY 10065. (212) 813-2121. Lunch prix-fixe available weekdays only. Prix-fixe brunch menu available on weekends for $39. Sunday dinner prix-fixe $35.


Great value at Gaia Italian Cafe
March 1, 2011, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been out of town for a month, so I can’t be held responsible for being a little late to the Gaia party. A friend of mine who is a small business owner in the neighborhood was raving about Gaia, saying she had started going there 4 or 5 times a week because of it’s good food, and it’s super cheap. This little walk-down Italian cafe opened up on Houston Street between Norfolk and Suffolk to little fanfare about a month ago, and it should be much more popular than it is given the great value.

The atmosphere is fairly generic, but I literally did a double take when I saw the prices on the menu. $5 for paninis on housemade flatbread? $7 salads? $7 risotto and gnocchi? $2.50 for freshly pressed pear or orange or apple juice? Good coffee for $1.75? And everything is made to order, not sitting around and reheated. In the neighborhood, most of the coffeeshops and cafes serving paninis are charging $7 and up.

One of the most expensive menu items was the burrata cheese served with mushrooms sauteed with parsley in a white wine sauce, and that was just $11. And it was good. I would slap a baby for some good burrata, and this was it.

Gaia offers a fantastic $12 Italian Brunch deal on the weekends that includes any panini or lasagna of your choice, a fresh fruit juice, a Nutella-stuffed pastry, and a coffee. I strongly recommend the pear juice – it’s delicious!

The speck panini with pickled vegetables and cheese was phenomenal, and the prosciutto brie and chicken pesto paninis were also very tasty. There is no reason these sandwiches should be $5. I think owner Gaia Bagnasacco is undercharging for everything on her menu by at least a couple dollars. I don’t know how long these very low prices will last, so you should definitely check it out now.

Eat: Gaia Italian Cafe (LES) 251 Houston Street at Norfolk. (646) 350-3977.

Solid breakfast sandwich at Zaitzeff
January 28, 2011, 11:01 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Zaitzeff is best known for its juicy Kobe beef burgers, but what you probably didn’t know is that they have a really delicious egg and cheese breakfast sandwich that is $4.75. It’s made with organic eggs and melted cheddar cheese, and you can request tomatoes, avocado, or bacon. I just requested Tabasco.


The bacon here is not nearly as delicious as the bacon at Frankie’s/Cafe Pedlar at 17 Clinton St. just on the other side of Houston, but the eggs are cooked much better than at Frankie’s (just cooked, not overcooked), and I like the Portuguese bun better than an English muffin or biscuit any day. On a street where you have several excellent breakfast sandwich options (Clinton St. Baking Co., Frankie’s/Cafe Pedlar), Zaitzeff is definitely one to try.

Eat: Zaitzeff (EV/LES) 18 Ave. B at 2nd St. Sun – Thu, 12 pm to 11:30 pm; Fri & Sat, 12 pm to 1:00 am. There are also locations in Financial District and Midtown.

Taiwanese Hanukkah brunch

Brunch mashup at its best. This Sunday (12/5/10), we had a small but intimate Taiwanese Hanukkah brunch at Julie and Kelvin’s. How can a brunch be both Taiwanese and Jewish, you may ask. Are there any Taiwanese Jews? I cannot answer the latter, but I will tell you how our brunch with an identity crisis came to be.

Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at Rendezfoods Hotpot dinner

Julie: Kelvin and I watched “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network and they mentioned the bagel and lox from Russ & Daughters. Is it good?
Me: Is it GOOD?!? Does the pope love Jesus?!?*
Julie: Where is it again?
Me: Near my apartment. It’s in LES on Houston at Allen. We should do a brunch for Hanukkah! In the spirit of open-mindedness and celebration. (Any excuse to party/eat.) Isn’t it coming up?
Sara: Hanukkah starts next week.
Mel: Sweet. We’ll bring bagels from Atlas (they’re H&H and they are more delicious than the ones at R&D) and we’ll pick up lox from R&D.
Julie: Yeah! We can do it at my place. I’ll make Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
*moment of confusion and silence as we contemplate the Jewishness of beef noodle soup*
Mel & Sara: We love noodle soup. Done!

*Slight paraphrasing in recalling this conversation may have occurred.

We were on a mission to prove Michael Psilakis right: Russ & Daughters rocks (we didn’t get the Gaspe Nova, however, and it still rocked).

The table settings at brunch were impeccable, as always. Baby blue and tan polka dots! Julie is the hostess with the mostest. Look – she even has the bellinis on a serving tray.

The Russ & Daughters spread (like my plating?): two types of lox (Norwegian shown here was saltier and smokier than the Scottish on the other platter), quartered sesame and poppyseed bagels, thinly sliced red onions, grape tomatoes, lemon wedges.

Also from Russ & Daughters: ramekins of the whitefish and smoked salmon salad/spread, plain tofu cream cheese (a blessing for the lactose intolerant – and still divinely creamy), whitefish roe, and capers.

Julie made us bellinis with pureed peach and champagne, garnished with orange peel and strawberry quarters! It’s this kind of attention to detail that elevates a cocktail from the everyday to a special occasion. You know. For Hanukkah.

The perfect bite: lox, tofu cream cheese, red onion, whitefish roe, capers, and half of a grape tomato, finished with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon.

I thought Sara and I may have gotten too much food for four people from Russ & Daughters, but we were wrong. We had grossly underestimated our collective ability to eat, and we polished everything off, knowing full well that the Taiwanese portion of our Hanukkah brunch would soon be underway.

Julie made a Taiwanese beef noodle soup she had been meaning to try, and it was phenomenal. Not too sweet, not tart (I don’t like tomato in beef soups as it tends to get too sour for my tastes), with just a touch of salt so all of the warm, beefy anise flavor shone through. Again, attention to detail is one of Julie’s fortes – she garnished the soup with pre-blanched baby bok choy!

The soup was served with cilantro, scallions, and pickled cabbage as sides for guests to add to taste. Yum!

Julie also pickled some cucumbers by immersing them in salt to release water and salt the cucumber, rinsing, then adding rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame seed oil, and I forget what else. So crunchy and refreshing, a great accompaniment to the noodle soup.

For dessert, Kelvin contributed Dunkin’ Donuts.

Life is good.

Happy Hanukkah! (How do you say that in Mandarin?)

Eat: Russ & Daughters (LES) 179 East Houston St. at Allen St.. New York, NY 10002. (212) 475-4880. Takeout only. Jewish holiday catering and special menus available. Another recommended combo: whitefish spread and wasabi flying fish roe.

Brunch & 5 courses of pig at ‘inoteca
October 17, 2010, 11:01 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It can be tough to grab a seat at always-bustling ‘inoteca on the Lower East Side. The constant bustle is understandable. The small plates are tasty, and ‘inoteca offers a vast selection of wine, featuring over 600 selections by the bottle and 25 by the glass or half carafe from the many wine-making regions of Italy.

One trick for scoring a table is to go for brunch instead of trying to elbow your way in at dinnertime. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am until 4:00pm, which is earlier than most LES restaurants which open at 11 or noon. Click here for the menu (scroll down for brunch under Prima Colazione).

My brunch go-to is the truffled egg toast ($9), which is essentially a fancy bird in a nest – just better bread with better cheese and a richer, truffle-oil laced egg served with bits of asparagus. Asparagus, eggs, and parmesan cheese are a combination sent from the heavens. You just can’t go wrong. Add truffle oil and some crusty bread and the combination is elevated to something otherworldly.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit heartier, go with the egg bollito (beef) or egg porchetta (pork). It’s an open-faced egg and meat sandwich, but the meat is so well seasoned and one whiff of the herbs will get you salivating.

If you’re in the mood for lighter fare, there’s also the warm farro with roasted fruit. Yum! And of course, it’s breakfast, so why shouldn’t you have a mimosa or some prosecco to wash it all down?

If you’ve got your heart set on dinner, you can take your chances with trying to fanagle a table sans reservation, or you can sign up for one the upcoming pig-centric dinners. Starting in October, the ‘ino restaurant group will be hosting a five-course dinner highlighting the choicest cuts of their Raven and Boar Farm pig prepared according to various Italian regional cooking styles. The first dinner is Tuscan-themed and takes place tomorrow at corsino, ‘inoteca will host an Emilia-Romagna themed dinner in November, and the third and final dinner will be Alto-Adige-themed at ‘inoteca e liquori bar in December.

  • corsino: Monday, October 18th, 8:00pm, Toscana
  • ‘inoteca: Monday, November 15th, 8:00pm, Emilia-Romagna
  • ‘inoteca e liquori bar: Monday, December 13th, 8:00pm, Alto-Adige

Tickets include the five-course dinner, wines paired with each course, tax and gratuity. The price is $160 per person. Additionally, if you’ve got money to blow and you love Italian cooking and more importantly, pork, then a ticket to all three dinners can be yours for the discounted price of $400.

Eat: ‘inoteca (LES) 98 Rivington at Ludlow, New York, NY 10002. (212) 614-0473

Downtown NYC walk, shop & eat circuit

[tweetmeme]Some girlfriends are coming in from out of town and they are staying with another mutual friend in Union Square. I have plans to ride my bike to Brooklyn with other friends after brunching with them, so I wrote up an e-mail with suggestions of where to go and what to eat given that their home base is Union Square. What emerged was what I think is a great rough itinerary for a weekend day when all you want to do is eat, shop, and fall in love with NYC. My perfect Saturday (or Sunday – or any day you don’t have to work, I guess):

I’ve taken the liberty of drawing a walkable downtown Manhattan shopping map for you (with words). We can start with brunch in the East Village, the earlier the better bc then we won’t have to wait for hours. I would like to go to Cafe Orlin at 10 am so we can get in before the 11 am brunch rush, or we can do Cafe Mogador if you want slightly more ethnic (Moroccan and Mediterranean), but if they’re too busy, Paprika can be our backup backup. After brunch, I’ll be leaving you, but here are a few suggestions:

Recommended shopping (that you can’t get in DC)

East Village – walk down East 9th St. (very close to brunch) between Second Avenue and Avenue A to find a sweet collection of boutiques, clothing and otherwise. I like Cadillac’s Castle for jewelry and I picked up a gently used Alexander Wang dress there for $88. I like Think Closet as well and I think they’re having a sale, and there’s Roni and so many other stores on that stretch that are so cute but I don’t remember all their names. A great area to spend a few hours shopping. If you’re hungry after, head over to E 7th St between 1st and Ave A where there’s Luke’s Lobster for a lobster roll, Porchetta for a slow roasted pork sandwich, and Butter Lane for the most amazing FRENCH (not the American) vanilla buttercream on vanilla cupcake that you have ever had – seriously, the frosting is so good I want to rub it all over my body. I rarely feel this way about vanilla. One block up on St. Mark’s is Crif Dogs for a deep fried hot dog – I like the Chihuahua – or Xi’An Famous Foods for a lamb burger and some hand-pulled noodles. So many choices, so little time…

If you want a quick break from shopping and eating, swing by Tompkins Square Park on Ave A and 7th/9th. Usually there are musicians or sometimes concerts and festivals. You can just hang out on the green for a bit and rest your feet if you like, or just cruise on through.

From East Village, you can make your way down south to LES past Houston, stop by Szeki on Rivington (she’s a doll!), Honey in the Rough, Pixie Market, Miks, Yumi Kim (sale section in back of the store), Foley & Corinna… If you want jewelry there’s also Hillary Flowers on Clinton St. By this point, you’ll probably be ready for a snack. I would recommend swinging by Baohaus to try the pork belly or beef brisket bao, or just get a Straight Frush between the three of you to share. If you are in the mood for sweets, go to Sugar Sweet Sunshine for a $1.50 cupcake and some bomb-ass banana pudding. Or swing by Meatball Shop for a $4 homemade ice cream cookie sandwich – ginger snap cookie with vanilla ice cream is the best.

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Bo ssam at Mandu DC

David Chang has a lock on the big feast format of Korean dining, and bless him for all of his family-style Korean fried chicken and bo ssam (pork shoulder/butt lettuce wraps) dinners at Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momofuku Ssam Bar.

But what about those of us who can’t find 6 to 10 like-minded diners? What then? Should we be denied our bo ssam?

Enter: Mandu DC. See how amazing this bo ssam platter looks? They use pork belly and chill it so that the meat is firm to the touch but fork tender, and the fat (largely trimmed) has a pleasant coolness and easy chewiness. The bo ssam platter comes with lettuce leaves (sangchu) for wrapping, spicy pickled daikon radish for a zesty crunchy topping, and ssamjang (wrap dip) for sweetness, spice, and a little funk (from the fermented bean). It’s a truly refreshing summer meal, especially when eaten outdoors on Mandu’s cute little patio.

On the corner of 18th and S in Northwest DC, just off-center from the craziness that is Adams Morgan, Mandu is a lovely gem of a Korean restaurant, perhaps the only of its kind within the city limits. The food here has a home-cooked feel, but with attention to presentation, ambiance, and all of the other things you don’t usually find at Korean restaurants in the States. Sure, there’s great Korean food to be had in Annandale, but then you’d have to find your way out to Virginia, and you wouldn’t even get to have an aloetini! Aloe juice + aloe pulp + soju = delicious x drunk. You do the math.

On weekends, Mandu has an $11.00 Korean Brunch Plate with gimbap (Korean rice & seaweed rolls – like sushi rolls without any fish), Korean omelet, chive pancakes, Korean-style hash browns, and a choice of marinated beef, chicken, pork or vegetables and tofu, all with a side of fruit. They have $4.00 Sojutinis and $4.00 Soju Bloody Marys to boot!

The Mandu Bloody Mary is made with soju, Clamato, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, sriracha, and a cucumber kimchi garnish. It is not for the spice averse, but it will cure your hangover. I felt AWESOME after drinking mine!

Not to be missed at Mandu: the mandu (dumplings) – 6 pieces for $5, the bo ssam – $13 for the platter shown above, the dak jjim (sweet and spicy chicken simmered with potatoes & onions, served with rice), aloetini, Mandu Bloody Mary.

And it gets better… there’s a happy hour! Daily 4-7pm: $4.00 Sojutinis, $4.00 liquor drinks, $2.00 beers, $3.00 mandu (dumplings).

Eat: Mandu (Adams Morgan, NW Washington DC) 1805 18th St. at S St., Washington, D.C. NW (202) 558-1540. Follow mandudc on Twitter.