The Meatball Shop

Rating:

Location: 84 Stanton Street (btw Allan & Orchard)

Price: $3-$12

I feel like The Meatball Shop & I have a long complex relationship ever since I heard about this place back in February.  Jenni had informed me about this great new meatball shop in the Lower East Side and I acknowledge its presence and told myself I’d go there VERY soon.  I knew I wanted to go there before all the blogs and media so that its not a zoo up in there.  I kept putting it off and scheduled a couple of gatherings there with some friends and it got canceled and simply just could not go there. More friends were going and telling me that its a great place and I have to definitely go…why didn’t they invite me?  At this point I was going to go on my own and sit at the bar but, the opportunity knocked to go with Sang, Joe, Young, & Theresa and I seized it.

Let me give you a warning, if you’re going with a larger party its best to go there really early or really late because we ended up waiting about an hour and a half to sit down when we arrived at 7:30.   Luckily we held back our hunger pains by taking a little walk to Vanessa’s dumplings and got some $1 dumplings and sesame bread.  Even with the long wait, standing out in the cold, & giving evil stares at people inside to finish their meals, I appreciated the cute hostess and being patient with us even though I kept bothering her about when our table would be ready. Also  conveniently they’ll take your number and call you when a table opens up.

The dining area itself isn’t that big but, has a decent sized bar, handful of two seater tables and a large communal table in the middle for large groups or to be shared with smaller parties.  After the attentive waitress explain simply how to order our meals for 5 mins we realize that this method is super efficient.  They have laminated menus with check boxes and you simply write the quantity of each of the items you want with magic marker… brilliant!

The food consists of essentially five types of meatballs (classic beef, spicy pork, chicken, vegetable, & the special) and four sauces (Tomato sauce, spicy meat, mushroom, & parm cream).  With the choices you choose the quantity of meatballs by the type of sandwich you want and the sauce…simple really.

The sliders which are $3 each probably gives you the most variety to satisfy your hunger.  I thought the best combinations were the Spicy meat w/ spicy pork and Chicken w/ parm cream.  I would go back to this place to get a large hero with those combinations.

My friend got the a la carte classic beef w/ spicy meat over spaghetti and he liked this classic combination.  We also got a side of risotto which I thought was surprisingly fantastic, a daily roasted veggies that had a sweet glaze which had a unique tasty flavor, and a steamed spinach that was fresh.

We could not pass up on the dessert since the choices are unique, and once again the matrix effect. You choose your cookie, your ice cream, and they make an ice cream sandwich out of it.  We got this ordering thing down so we got a chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream and peanut butter cookie with chocolate ice cream.  I was a big fan of the chocolate cookie with vanilla but some of us preferred the other.  Lastly, the two sandwiches seemed perfect to share for five people after a meatball meal.

After our meal we all pretty much unanimously agreed that this place is about a 4 out of 5 sporks in rating.  The beauty of this restaurant is that even though they specialize in meatballs they’ve managed to customize everything else so that you have control over size, sauce, bread, quanity, cheese, meat/vegetarian or whatever.  They have three beer sizes for heaven’s sakes!  As simple as meatball gets, they’ve manage to make this particular food special and tasty as it can get.  I’m not sure about rest of the group but, I can start a nice normal steady relationship with this place.  So, I’d definitely go back , just without the wait.

.:cL

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Filed under Dessert, Lower East Side, Sandwiches, Specialty, Under $10

Cong Ly Restaurant

Rating:

Location: 124 Hester St (btw Bowery & Chrystie)

Price: Pho $5-6

I recently had conversation with a vietnamese dude whom I met through dodgeball and our conversation went like this:

Me: So you’re Vietnamese…which Vietnamese restaurant in the city is the best?

Vietnamese dude: None

Me: oh…

Vietnamese dude: You kind of forget and get used to how bad Vietnamese food in NYC is until you go to another city and realize how good it can be.

Me: oh…

Okay so MAYBE there is a mysterious Vietnamese place out there in the outer boroughs that have an amazing pho or some random French fusion Vietnamese street food.  Who knows?  I’ll keep looking out there but, for now I went to Cong Ly and they had a solid Pho.  Its right off Bowery at a very unassuming location recommended by a friend.  The noodle and broth were great and I like that they had a Pho option with a sweet beef roll thing on the side.  The noodles were definitely higher quality than other places I’ve been to off mulberry and mott st.  Yes I still need to go to Vietnam and experience the real thing.

So the ultimate question is…are the noodles more important, or the broth, or the other misc thing that go into a Pho (cilantro, lime, tripe, beef, etc)??

.:cL

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Filed under CHEAP!, Chinatown, noodles, Vietnamese

Boqueria

Rating:

Location: 53 West 19th Street (btw 5th & 6th Ave)

Price: $7-$19 per dish

I feel like Spanish tapas is one of those food where I just don’t really know what to expect.  In NYC where every Spanish tapas restaurant is trying to do something different or special with each of their little dishes, there isn’t much consistency…maybe the only consistent thing is the paella.  So without much choice or say about a dinner spot, I ended up at Boqueria over on 19th street. First off, what is it about 19th street, I mean all the Tapas/Spanish spots?  There is Sala 19 right next door, you got Pipa a block down & you have Socarrat a couple of blocks down the other direction…I guess no reason.  I’ve only been to Sala 19 before which, was reasonably solid place & Boqueria reminded me or a smaller, more lit, quieter, & slightly cheaper version of Sala 19.  Bonus was that despite the restaurant being very crowded, we got a large 4 person round table right away & our servers were quite attentive & kind.  Everything started off decently well  and as we started eating I thought the small dishes at Boqueria were excellent.

The patatas bravas, a pseudo Spanish hash browns drizzled with a delicious sauce was great as well as the croquetas cremosa, a cream puff with mushrooms and a flavorful cream inside.  The two items off the special menu which we got (pictured below) had well cooked meat and very fresh ingredients which we were all impressed by.

At the beginning of the meal we put in a order for Paella de Mariscos and were were going to top off our stomachs with this large dish made perfectly for 4 people.  Unfortunately we were sorely disappointed with this dish b/c the rice didn’t seem well cooked and the dish wasn’t piping hot.  The flavor wasn’t quite there either considering all the seafood & spices they had in there.

The redeeming factor was that the waitress had told us they were trying out a new recipe for this paella dish and it was in it “experimental” stage & so when we expressed our thoughts on their flavorless “experimental” paella, they gave us ½ off the price of the paella.  I’ll take that considering we still killed off the entire dish of the paella to fill us up.

I think this is really a great place to go for wine or sangria and get a couple of tapas dishes with a friend or with a group to share.  The flatiron location on 19th  makes this spot not TOO crowded & the interior environment is great for conversation…and if your conversation gets boring you can always stare at the array of cured meats hanging on the walls to keep you entertained.

.:cL

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Filed under Flatiron, Spanish, Tapas/Small Plates, Uncategorized

Saravanaa Bhavan

Rating:

Location: 81 Lexingtion Ave. (at 26th st.)

Price: $5 – $17 ( Most dosas are $7 to $10.25)

I don’t get too many chances to hit up Vegetarian restaurants in the city,  mainly because there seems to this stigma that Vegetarian = Bad tasting food? Not filling? Bland?  So, at a moment recently when I couldn’t eat meat, I took the opportunity to explore the Indian Vegetarian scene briefly with a friend of mine.  Oddly enough, for our first stop ‘Curry in a Hurry’ was CLOSED due to some inspection notice…its strange because I’ve NEVER seen that place closed but I’m glad that the rat gods gave us a simple sign to stay away.  We decided to swing by Saravanaa Bhavan, a place I’ve walked by plenty of times and read about in NYmag recently.

The funny things is that as soon as we opened the menu it felt like we were reading a menu written in Hindi or something because we didn’t know the difference between a thalis or a mysore bonda nor rest of the Indian vegetarian menu.  We figured getting dosas was a safe bet and I went with the onion & mashed potato dosa (mashed potato = filling).  I liked all the little sauces & chutney that came out to dip in and I liked the rice…but, friend wasn’t so keen on the rice nor the overall taste of the dosa.

I think he was just bitter that the food wasn’t filling him up.  Most of the dishes seemed to come out with the same sauces and all the dosas seemed to vary in size quite a bit.  I’m glad I got a chance to go but, I think I’m going to have to step it up and find a REALLY good hearty vegan/vegetarian restaurant to convince my hungry friends to go.

.:cL

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Filed under Indian, Murray Hill, Vegetarian

Defonte’s

(Defonte’s of Brooklyn)

Rating:

Location: 261 3rd Avenue (21st & 3rd Ave.)

Price: $8.95-$12

As my time winds down in my neighborhood of Gramercy on 21st st., I’m going to miss some of the local spots.  On the “bustling block” of 21st street in the midst of the police precinct and the SVA school, Defonte’s of Brooklyn is the highlight of the block & was my go to place when I needed something good & filling.  They opened the Manhattan outpost of the famous Red Hook Brooklyn sandwich shop in 2009 after years of talks about doing so.  With years and years of experience, Defonte’s have managed to perfect the art of filling a hero bread with meat and goodies.

First off, I know that the sandwiches are a bit expensive but, I managed to make 2 meals out of most of the sandwiches that I’ve bought therefore, making each ½ sandwich a reasonable price.  Secondly, just go eat one…here are three of the sandwiches that I’ve most enjoyed:

I love that service is VERY prompt and all the ingredients they use are very fresh.  The Hero bread is always crisp, tasty, and nicely soft on the inside.  For those vegetarians out there, they also make a fried eggplant sandwich which is fantastic alternative to those who can’t brave the mountain of meat they put on the other sandwiches.  So, a nice lineup of sandwiches & with that, I bid farewell to Defonte’s of Brooklyn in Gramercy and say hello to Defontes Sandwich shop in Red Hook.

.:cL

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Filed under Deli, Gramercy, Sandwiches

Tong Sam Gyup Gui Restaurant (N.Y. D.D.M. Migliore Restaurant)

Rating:

Location: 162-23 Depot Rd. Queens, NY (nr Broadway stop on LIRR)

Price: $17 for one serving of pork belly

Sometimes I think to myself that if Flushing, Queens didn’t have so many good Korean restaurants out there, I would never really step foot into the borough of Queens.  That maybe the case but, since I have an itch for GOOD Korean food on a regular basis, I have make my pilgrimage at least once a month (oh yeah…forgot I have family out there).  One of my pilgrimages always include the best place in NYC (as far as I know so far) for Korean style Pork Belly (Sam Gyup Sal) at Tong Sam Gyup Gui.  The restaurant might be hard to find for non-koreans because the name of the restaurant is written in Korean but has a bizarre English name (N.Y. D.D.M. Migliore Restaurant) which seems to have no logical relation to the Korean name.  In addition, as if the restaurant couldn’t get any more oddly authentic, the entire menu is written in Korean and the Mexican waitress there speaks Korean.

With all this “Korean” ambiance in the air it’s hard not to enjoy the thick slabs of juicy Pork Belly on the giant grills.  They pretty much bring all the pork belly, kimchee, and bean sprouts out together and everything goes on the grill to form a perfect pork feast.  The flavors of the ingredients come together very well and once you’re done with the meat, they bring out the bibimbap (mixed rice w vegetables) to grill on the very same grill the meat was cooked.  The flavors and juices of the meat get infused into the bibimbap mix and make for almost a perfect ending to a great porky Korean meal.

.:cL

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Filed under Korean, Queens - Flushing

Motorino

Rating:

Location: 349 East 12th Street (btw 1st & 2nd ave)

Price: Margherita Pizza $14

This is one of those moments where I have to say…DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.  For some reason I’m getting all hot and bothered by the fact that Motorino is getting so much hype from the media.  None of my friends that have tried Motorino in Williamsburg or the new East Village location have said anything that great about it.  Me and a friend tried the staple Margherita pizza and wasn’t wowed by the pizza and we started thinking about a few other place that do a much better pizza.  The crust had great consistency and sauce was fairly standard I felt and with the few basil leaves it made a solid pizza but NOT amazing.

Despite these opinions, this Neapolitan style wood burning brick oven pizza joint has been named on a new list by Rachel Ray’s magazine as the best pizza on the east coast.  I REALLY have to go try Great Lake Pizza in Chicago which is another final 4 pizza in Rachel’s list.  Actually, I think I’m just craving just a simple Chicago style spinach deep dish pizza from Lou Malnatis…forget all this pizza HYPE!

.:cL

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Filed under East Village, pizza