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Archive for the ‘soho’ Category

What: Brunch
Where: Cafe Habana
17 Prince St., New York, NY 10012

For my last meal on Earth, I would have to include the chili corn from Cafe Habana.  It is the single best corn that has ever graced my lips.  As I am writing this, I’m trying not to drool on my keyboard, and it’s almost too hard to control.  The recipe is so simple yet so jam packed of flavor molecules, that it just blows my mind.  We’re talking serious food-gasm here, people.

I’m usually not a Spanish food person early in the morning, so Spanish style breakfast foods are usually lost on me. 

cafe habana
non-descript outside but there’s always an ungodly long wait

Corn- Ingredients: chili powder, lime, and cheese
result: It’s always a bit difficult for me to eat a whole cob of corn, and the chili burns the sides of the lips, but damn it, it’s worth it!  The saltiness of the cheese, plus the mild spice of the chili, and the extra kick of lime juice is all one needs to survive.

corn
Grilled Corn Mexican Style 

corn
more corn!

yin yang
Huevos Divorciados aka Mexican style yin yang eggs

The two salsas, thankfully, were not that spicy, or I think I might have killed myself since my whole plate was drenched in the liquid.  I think I would also appreciate this if the salsa were a bit thicker.  Instead, I had the liquid juices of the two salsas and the liquid yolks – that’s a lot of liquid-y stuff, people!

ranchos
Huevos Con Chorizo

A friend who’s obsessed with huevos rancheros for brunch ordered this scrambled egg with chorizo [Mexican style] with accompanying black beans. 

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My friend JJ came to visit from Springfield, MA and I took her to brunch before a day of shopping in Soho.  My concierge friend recommended The Cupping Room, which is conveniently located on the cusp of Soho and Tribeca.  It’s a very cozy spot, with tables squished very closely together in order to accommodate the utmost amount of people.  The restaurant is split between a cafe section in the front and a main dining room in the back.  We decided to stay in the front because there was a really long line for the tables in the back, and didn’t seem much difference except the noise level increased about 5 decibels in the main dining area.  Also, all the servers and waiters hang out around the front cafe section because that’s where the kitchen and coffee bar are located. 

cupping room, outside

cupping room, coffee bar

The item that caught my attention immediately from the menu is the espresso whipped eggs and steamed, which obviously, is what I ordered.  The very first time I read the menu, I thought it was some sort of eggs with actual espresso liquid whipped into them.  I was disappointed to find out that my imagination got the best of me, and what they meant is just eggs whipped with an espresso machine.  You should’ve seen the look on my face when the waiter clarified that for me.  It was like all my hopes and dreams crashed into the abyss.  I suppose espresso flavored eggs would be really odd, but there’s a chance it could’ve tasted good… right?

So my espresso whipped eggs came out more airy than regular scrambled eggs, but it was also more watery.  Along with my eggs, I had a side of classic home fries- potatoes with peppers and onions – nothing particularly special.  I convinced my friend to get the eggs benedict, my brunch usual, since she didn’t know what to order.  She ordered it with smoked salmon, and that also came with home fries.  Her eggs benedict came drenched in hollandaise sauce that my eggs looked mild and wimpy next to them.  I didn’t try any of the eggs benedict so I can’t comment on sauce or fish, but I didn’t hear any complaints.  Sadly, my friend has a tiny appetite, and the hollandaise is a heavy sauce, so she only finished about a little more than half her food.

espresso whipped eggs

eggs benedict

I also ordered a glass of fresh orange juice, it came in the tiniest wine glass.  Where were all the high balls?  Grr!

oj
$4 OJ ! highway robbery!

The Cupping Room is a nice brunch place for those who are in the area or plan to be in the area that day.  I don’t think it’s one of those places that you need to go out of your way for.  Aside from the egg dishes, I did hear that their brioche french toast is to die for, along with the stuffed french toast – the bread is homemade- so maybe those are worth traveling from afar for.

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soho park

I was eyeing Soho Park ever since I saw the green picnic table out back for what is now their beer garden. Soho Park sells basic grill and street foods with a menu consisting mainly of burgers, salads, and sandwiches in an “airy garage-garden” type setting.  Think: indoor park – that’s what the decor reminds me of.  Some of the seats are actually benches, the walls are exposed brick, and there’s the picnic table. 

soho park outside soho park inside

Soho Park is known for their variety of drinks, especially beers [they have a lot of locally brewed options], but what I found surprisingly good was the vanilla milk shake.  It tastes like vanilla bean ice cream in shake form- but better.  It was so rich, creamy, smooth, and vanilla-y.  I think it may be too overwhelming for those who aren’t huge vanilla fans like me though.  The person who made mine got it at the right consistency; not too thick that I couldn’t drink it with a straw, but it wasn’t like vanilla juice either.

vanilla shake

Usually, I would never order a burger that isn’t either turkey or veggie, but they don’t have either of those choices here.  All they serve are thin patty beef burgers.  Since I was craving for a burger, I decided to suck it up and try it regardless of the meat content.  I got the park cheddar cheese burger; it came, finely shredded iceberg lettuce, Gus’ sliced pickles, the house special sauce, and tomato on a warm potato bun.  One can also opt for a combo with fries on the side (which I’m sure you can see I did).  For a non-frequent meat eating person like me, the thin patty is sizeable for me but I can see this could be a cause for complaints.  When I first saw it, a picture of Wendy’s cheeseburger came to mind, but trust me when I say that the looks are the only thing similar – the quality here is so much better.  I did not like their overly potato-y, non crunchy fries, but I like that they used the sea salt to make them extra salty.  Also, these fries are handcut.

burger

We also ordered some homemade herbed buttermilk red onion rings with a homemade garlic aioli sauce.  The red onions are fried in a light batter that didn’t seem to coat each onion ring thoroughly.  The batter was a thin crispy layer that separated easily from the onion.  What stood out from this dish is the fact that they used red onions instead of white; it made the onion sweeter and more flavorful.  I did not taste any herbs though.  Also, the actual onion pieces still had their crispness in tact, as opposed to some oil soaked onion rings where the onion was just a string of sogginess.

onion rings

A friend of mine tried the hungarian spiced kielbasa.  It came with sweet caramelized onions, which I stole, sourdough toast points, and a smoked paprika mustard as a dipping sauce.  My palate can’t exactly tolerate any sausage-type foods so I can’t comment on this dish.  My friend did give me a thumbs up and said the level of spiciness was good for her. 

kielbasa

Several weeks later, I made a second visit to have yet another burger (gah! Could it be?  Miss Beancurd is a carnivore in the making?!) and my friend had the Caesar salad which came in a big metal tub. 

So, I’ve concluded that Soho Park offers some no frills fare in a very subdued environment.  The atmosphere reminds me of a hipster version of a dive bar- if that makes any sense.  If you’re in the neighborhood and have the munchies, or you’re done with a day of shopping and want to sit down with an ice cold beer- this is the place for you.  It’s a good alternative to the Mercer Kitchen and Zoe a few blocks away.  I do not believe that this is something one needs to travel out of their way for though. 

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The Saturday before Time Out NY’s article on the best pizza places in New York came out, I was already thinking of pizza.  It was just a mere coincidence that TONY had the same thought process.  Of course, the “best” pizza is always so relative and arbitrary.  And it’s New York- there’s almost as many pizzerias as Starbucks here!  Anyway, Eva and I compiled a list of places to go with the help of TONY.  We came up with about 8 places that were going to be in the areas we were shopping that day [we decided it’d be a good idea to walk off the calories].  Unfortunately, time didn’t permit us to visit all the places we wanted, but here’s a quick overview of our day. 

lasso

1. L’asso.  41 Kenmare St.

I’ve been here previously but wasn’t a very big fan of their slices.  I wanted to come back this time with a more critical eye and taste it all over again.  I’m sure you’ve noticed the pizza-less picture here and that’s because L’asso had a really big order to fill that day sothey didn’t have any slices avaliable, so we didn’t get to get any pizza here.

ray's ray's kitchen
ray's pizza 1 ray's pizza 2

2. Ray’s.  27 Prince St.  The original.

Ray’s is split into two parts; a restaurant and a pizzeria.  Both spaces are small, but the cramped pizzeria never seemed to bother bother the customers waiting in line for pizza.  We got a slice off a brand new pie and ate it outside.  I love the stretchiness of the cheese on pizza when it first comes out of the oven and hasn’t congealed yet.  Mmm..  just thinking about it makes me drool.  The tomato sauce was more acidic than I expected, and Eva thought it balanced very well with the saltiness of the cheese.  She’s one of those who loves the combo of sweet and savory flavors in one dish.

ben's pizza ben's pizza inside
bens pizza 

3. Ben’s Pizza.  177 Spring St.

I’ve heard people rave about the Silician slices from here, but I can’t say that I appreciate those because there’s just too much breading.  The New York style I had was not the most impressive.  I would classify it as more than mediocre, and worth spending the money on, but nothing to write home about.  At least, not today’s slice.  This one was more on the bland side- no aspect of the pizza really stood out to me.  It was just a normal slice.  You can’t really go wrong with a slice from Ben’s. 

joe's pizza ben's pizza inside
joe's pizza slice joe's pizza closeup

4. Joe’s Pizza.  7 Carmine St.  Where Spiderman gets his pizza.  Open until 5am.

Whether or not it’s because of Spiderman, the line for Joe’s swiveled out the door.  I liked the tomato sauce because it wasn’t as acidic as Ray’s, and it had more flavor than Ben’s.  It tastes like very standard tomato sauce- maybe it was canned?  *shrug.  What I didn’t enjoy was that it was overheated quite a bit.  My cheese bubbled and browned in certain places, which put an end to my stretchy cheese effect.  The crust was crunchy and thin, which is essential for New York style pizza, but this time, it was overdone and a bit on the brown side.

beard papa's 

Right next door to Joe’s is a Beard Papa’s.  We decided to take a break and split a green tea cream puff (the pic was really ugly so I didn’t post it).  I wasn’t happy with the filling.  I usually go to the Beard Papa’s on Broadway & Astor, and they have a really thick creamy filling.  This batch of filling was a bit too runny in consistency and in turn, affected the cream puff’s flavor.

una napolenta

5. Una Pizza Napolentana.  349 E 12th St btwn 1st & 2nd Aves.

Apparently, at 3:30 in the afternoon, it was too early for pizza.  I didn’t know it was a sit-down place until we got there, and my guess?  They only offer dinner service.  Looks like I’ll have to come back for this one.

s'mac s'mac inside
s'mac brie  s'mac brie

Instead of venturing further uptown to finish the list, we went to S’Mac [a restaurant devoted to mac & cheese] and got ourselves some mac and cheese before we both went our separate ways.  It’s pretty pricey for mac & cheese, but they’ve got some good options, such as the brie mac & cheese that we ordered.  Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary.  You can also choose to get bread crumbs on top, which we did.  The brie made the dish really heavy, but it was so good!  I enjoyed the saltiness of the fig with the soft mac and brie together with the crunchiness of the crumbs.  Eva lighted the sweet figs balanced with the saltiness of the brie and mushrooms with the crunchiness of the crumbs.  I say, it was a good balance of textures and flavors.

I didn’t find any spectacular pizza today, but I am going to work my way uptown and to Di Fara’s in Brooklyn, which was named #1 in TONY and by a co-worker.   Mmm… there is nothing like a good thin crust New York style cheese pizza.  =)

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Arthur called me to tell me that he was taking me out to one of the BR Guest Restaurants for dinner and I could choose anyone I wanted.  I chose Fiamma Osteria  located on the cusp of TriBeCa and Soho based on its recent one Michelin star rating.  Sadly, I visited Fiamma Osteria only weeks after the head chef [and Michelin star getting] quit.  Of course, it’s not just the chef that gets a restaurant into the Michelin guide, the restaurant as a whole, including its service is taken into account.  I didn’t let the absent head chef get me too down though because I’ve heard fabulous things about his chef de cuisine who’d be taking over though. 

[since I’m behind on my blogging, I’ve decided to try to shorten my entries and curb my tendency to overwrite by making this as systematic as possible]

 fiamma
i like how “Fiamma” looks like its in flames

SPACE:  It’s definitely bigger than I imagined from looking from outside.  There is a wine cellar downstairs and I think there are private rooms there too [not sure as the doors were closed].  The pictured portion is the main dining area where Arthur and I sat.  In addition, there’s a third level upstairs.  All tables are adorned with leather seats with one arm rest [my conclusion is that it makes it easier to get out of your seat- you can slide from the side instead of having to pull your chair all the way back]. 

 fiamma inside fiamma inside
hmm.. which one do you prefer?

SERVICE:  I was pleased with the service; our waiter was pretty attentive.  I would be really mad if the service was bad because it was a Wednesday night and the restaurant wasn’t packed.  Our waiter kept coming up to check up on us and our water-level-in-cup was watched fairly close even though we ordered Pellegrino.  I would’ve been happy pouring my own water, since I didn’t have to wait for the but our guy would have none of that. 

FOOD: 

The bread basket was simple as you can see, but what surprised me was the spread they provided.  Ground up garlic with olive oil and ground pepper.  I’ve never actually had this before in a restaurant [not that I’ve never put garlic on my bread] and it was a pleasant surprise.  I know my garlic fiend of a sister would’ve definitely enjoyed it.   To me, this is a good alternative to butter and plain olive oil.

bread platter

 Out of all the dishes, I was most awed by the appetizer.  I chose the foie gras because Arthur has never tried it before.  I’ve only had the pate version myself so I knew from reading Anthony Bourdain that this should be good.  The dish is called fegato and it is a pan seared duck foie gras with baby spinach and persimmon on the side, caramelized onion sauce, marsala glaze, and pistacchio and onion rings to top things off.  When I was eating the persimmon, we couldn’t for the life of us remember the name.  We were describing the fruit to each other but we just couldn’t figure its name !  I asked the waiter and he told me it was an Italian quince and that’s a lie.  I google imaged Italian quince and it is not a persimmon.

foie gras

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that it’s truffle season and I’m absolutely obsessed.  Fiamma offers a 10 gram portion of truffle over selected dishes for $75.  Arthur tried to convince me to get it because I couldn’t stop drooling over the option but I had to decline.  It’s an awfully nice gesture, but I feel bad eating away $75 like that.   I decided instead to order the garganelli- imolese quill pasta, San Danielle prosciutto, Treviso truffle butter, and parmigiano.  I figured I could get my truffle fix this way.  When this dish came out, it reminded me of the catavelli I had at Park Avenue Cafe.  I thought the pasta was a bit thick which made it tougher than normal pasta.  The pasta had a really heavy truffle aroma and I couldn’t stop stuffing my face in the pasta.  Thevdish had a good amount of prosciutto and provided the pasta with some saltiness.  The cream sauce was light, but the highlight was definitely the truffle butter- without it, the pasta would be boring.

truffle butter pasta

 Arthur ordered the monkfish special; it was monkfish wrapped in porsciutto, a grilled shallot, and some greens and mushrooms.  I always thought the whole meat product wrapped in bacon thing was so clever.  I forget what type of sauce it came with [this always happens when I have to listen to someone recite the dishes instead of going on the website and look it up].  Everyone always says that monkfish is the “poor man’s lobster” because of it’s taste and consistency.  I have no idea what lobster tastes like but I never imagined it to taste like monkfish.  From looks alone, monkfish seems to have a tougher texture, which to me is more along the lines of mahi mahi.  The prosciutto-ed monk fish was good with the sweetness of the shallot. 

monkfish

After all this, I still wanted dessert.  Arthur sat this one out, but I eyed a trio of sorbetti.  There was concord grape, comapri-grapefruit, and apple cider.  Each sorbet came with a slice of dried fruit, ex. apple for apple cider.  They all tasted true to their real respective fruits, in fact, the apple cider tastes like it had mashed up apple in ir.  The concord grape was veryyy good; I was very pleased with its not too tarty grape flavor.  The grapefruit however, was wayy too bitter.  I can usually eat grapefruit without sugar, but the sorbet tastes kind of bitter and tasted like the rind of the grapefruit made it into the flavor of the sorbet.

sorbet dessert

The restaurant also gave us two tiny brownies- they were about the size of my thumb.  They were topped with whipped cream, raspberry and blueberry.  It was a nice gesture and it was pretty tasty.  They also gave us each two cubes of chocolate truffles to go!

brownie brownie
to give you an idea of portions

To Go or Not To Go: I wouldn’t say that this place is worth the money.  The dishes didn’t wow me off my seat but they were good all around.  They do offer items that are definitely a chance from the typical alfredo.  Eating here did made me realize that I like my foie gras seared.  The quality of the ingredients were fresh and top notch.  I would certainly come back if I wanted a break from regular Italian.  I say that if you want Italian that is definitely going to not disappoint you, then why not try this place out?  

—–

I will leave you with a little poem from Li Young Lee entitled “Persimmon”

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down the newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew on the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down,
I teach her Chinese. Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set them both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang. The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father would stay up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons, swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.

He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

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After my dinners at Morimoto and Spring Street Natural, I still wasn’t done with my birthday celebration with food.  There were still many-a more meals to go.  I figure that my birthday is the perfect excuse to be a fatty.  Even to this day, a whole week and a half since my birthday, I haven’t received all my promised birthday meals yet.  Alvin, being the sweet man that he is wants to cook me dinner and bake me cookies!  He’s devising a special menu and we’re gonna go to Chelsea market and make a day of it.  Too bad I have to wait two more weeks before he’s free for this! 

Also, Bak came back from Harrisburg aka the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania to take me to brunch.  I chose Ivo & Lulu since it’s a tiny place and I know I could never go with the regulars.  Sadly, I was stupid enough to think that they would serve lunch and dinner, but realized when we got there that they have dinner service!  Now I really have to find a way to come for dinner.  There are tons of restaurants in the Tribeca area that I haven’t gotten to try yet, mainly because for the two years or so that I worked in the area, I mainly confined myself to the Hudson Street/Nobu area.  BTW, if you guys are in that area- definitely check out Bubby’s.  It’s one of my favorite sandwich places ever.

We ended up going to Lucky Strike, because the fact that they wrote their menu on the mirrors that line the walls really drew me in.  It reminds me of how Balthazarhas their menu on the mirrors.  Yes, I’m a sucker for marketing gimmicks.  …Hmm… I just looked on the website and realized that this is actually a sister restaurant to Balthazar [seriously, I didn’t know].  This is definitely a low key version of their more popular chains.  I’ve never seen a Balthazar/Pastis like overcrowding here all the times I’ve walked by.  In fact, I think Lucky Strike has a more cozy and basic neighborhoody type vibe.  There’s a full bar in the front and in the back is the main dining room that has about roughly 15 tables for 2.  I like the skylight in the back letting in natural sunlight- especially on a Saturday afternoon.  Their brunch menu was small medley of French and American fare.  There were a few lunch and a few breakfast items, which was as much as I could ask for. 

lucky strike lucky strike

For once, I was all egg-ed out to order my typical eggs benedict.  Arthur and I actually did a lot of burger talk the night before- we were on the subject of BLT Burger for the longest time, that I now had a craving for a burger.  We were discussing BLT Burger’s soft opening a week before it was set to open and both started craving their kobe beef burger.  Do you see where this is going?  I ordered a burger, which is as atypical as a beancurd can get.  Granted, it was a veggie burger, but it was a burger nonetheless.  Hands down, the firm’s caf makes the best veggie burgers.  They’re fat and you can see actual veggies when you cut the patty in half; it’s absolutely amazing and so tasty. 

veggie burger

My veggie burger came with a slice of provolone cheese on an english muffin ( I seriously don’t know what’s up with sandwiches on english muffins lately) and a side of fries.  This patty was such a disappointment because it reminded me of one those that you get in the frozen section at the local supermarket.  I can’t even reiterate what it tasted like or what I thought was in the patty… on a second thought, it’s weird I didn’t question its contents earlier.  It was light colored and looked like a soy patty, which I’m almost certain it wasn’t.  The actual patty also didn’t have much distinct individual flavor.  It was just filling for my ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and tomatoes.  So aside from the unmemorable veggie patty experience, there were the fries.  They were normal enough; not crispy enough for a crunchy fry whore like myself but at the same time, not soggy enough for me to refuse.

brioche toast

I had Bak order the brioche french toast (a) because it’s not challah, (b) brioche is my favorite bread (challah being second), (c) because it sounded yummy.  The order of french toast came with fresh fruit, ie. banana, grapes, and honeydew.  The honeydew was surprisingly sweet and tasty for the end of October.  French toast in brioche isn’t really different than in challah from what I could tell; maybe it’s the batter that makes them taste the same?  Anyhow, this french toast wasn’t as fluffy or as fat as I originally anticipated it to be.  I’ve seen people smush french toast to the grill so it’d cook faster, and it seems that that practice was exercised here.  I remember the cooks at my college used to do that to speed things up.  The restaurant wasn’t exactly packed so I’m surprised this tactic was used.

Whether or not Lucky Strike lived up to my standards is irrelevant since we devoured everything without complaint.  In fact, I think I ate more than Bak.  I think the Pennsylvania suburbs shrank his appetite.  Sadness.

 ….  That night, I went out to Petite Abeille, which is the same place I had brunchwith Irene and Eva a few months back.  I chose this place mainly because it is spacious.  I knew it would accommodate our group of 15 with no trouble.  Most of the restaurants I like to eat at are tiny, so it took me a while to think of this place.  Anyways, Petite Abeille serves Belgian fare, which I’m not entirely familiar with- even after I’ve eaten here.  I mean I drink Stella and Lambec’s, but that’s as Belgian as I usually go.  My french teacher in the 7th grade was Belgian though, but that means absolutely nothing here.

petite abeille bread basket
inside the restaurant  //  reserved- just for us (the table, not the bread)

I ordered the vol au vent friteswith the description of: chicken stew with bacon, onion, mushrooms served in a puff pastry.  I took this to be a chicken pot pie of sorts- something I absolutely adore cuz I mean, come on, it’s like having a bit of dessert in your main course!  Well, this wasn’t exactly chicken pot pie, it was more a square shaped ashtray with the chicken and other stuff stuffed inside and a cream sauce trying to drown everything.  The puff pastry was fluffy due to its hundreds of layers, and it was the highlight of my dish.  The rest of it was bland, even the cream sauce, which I expected to give my chicken flavor.  It was hard to believe I had two bland items in one day.  I kept thinking that some hot sauce would really kick my dish up a notch, but refrained from asking.  I’m all for natural flavors, but this dish had no flavors.  I don’t know where they escaped to!   

chicken stew puff pastry
 Jen ordered the macaroni jambon fromage au gratin(gratinated ham and cheese macaroni) which gave us all serious flashbacks to Jupiter, Florida and the Food Shack.  I think we could all swear on our own lives that we’ve never had better mac and cheese than at the Food Shack.  We could subsist on that and burritos from Anna’s Tacqueria in Cambridge for the rest of our lives and be happy people.  It wasn’t so much the taste of this dish that reminded us of Florida, but the presentation.  The big humungo bowl of what seems to be never ending cheesy goodness is just too foodgasmic.  I liked how this dish wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy, but the inside were a mixture of cheese and cream, that I found to be too creamy.  By not too cheesy, I meant a forkful of the cheese on top and the noodles, which were soft and more rigatoni than macaroni.

mac n cheese cheese noodles

Petite Abeille’s best offering is probably their mussels.  I guess I should’ve known that since they advertise a beer and mussels special on Monday nights.  The exact details escape me, but you can check it on their website.  Ian got the grand-mere [grandma!] mussels.  I have no idea why they would be grand mother mussels, because it comes in a creamy bacon and beer concoction- wouldn’t that be more grandpa-ish?  Anyways, this sauce was so good, I wanted to slurp it up out of the pot.  There was a good balance of bacon and beer flavors with a smoothness at the end, but it didn’t taste like you were drinking beer straight up- it was more the aroma than anything.  Each serving comes with 2lbs of mussels [which isn’t much after you eliminate the shells, but still a good portion], so it was a nice hefty pot and thankfully I sat right across from Ian- so it was easy for me to steal the mussels.  The mussels were probably the most redeeming dish to the restaurant’s dinner menu.  This only means one thing- I’ll have to hit up that beer and mussel special someday.

mussels

 One last note before all you people scurry off with your lives… Jen also ordered a beef tartare dish.  I tried to find the dish on the online menu and either I overlooked it or it’s not there b/c I couldn’t find it.  I was trying to find the exact description for you guys.  What I wanted to say was that when the server brought the dish over to our table, I’m quite sure I had a pretty appalled look on my face.  The tartare has been pated to look like raw ground beef someone forgot to throw onto the grill, with some fake grill marks.  I didn’t know what to make of this dish.  Beef tartare is an actual beef dish I would willingly eat, but I wasn’t so sure what to think when I saw this.  I mean, yes, it’s a clever way to present a dish, but the idea of it being so closely related to an actual burger just got to me.  I am probably just making too much of it – but that’s what you get from a girl who’s nicknamed Miss Beancurd.  So my foodiness got to me and I dug my fork in and it’s not so bad if you like mushy beef with a ton of scallions.  There was an astounding amount of scallions crammed into this patty.  I can stand a few here or there, but I thought this was overkill since it was all I could taste.

beef tartar

Okay, one more note.  It’s a small one and it’s about their fries.  So… I didn’t like them.  I guess that’s not a big surprise, right?  They’re not skinny and crunchy.  In fact, just by looks alone, they remind me of the fries from Wendy’s.  These fries are perfect for those of you who like big fat soggy potato-y tasting fries. 

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I guess you can just call me a picky eater.

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I initailly had no idea that Spring Street Natural used only organic ingredients in their food; although, the name “natural” should’ve been a big hint.  I’ve walked by this place many times during my weekly trips to Soho, but I’ve never eaten here.  I usually just go across the street for some of Eileen’s Cheesecake instead.  =X  I am glad I got to try this out though.  My overall impression of this place is torn between “semi- impressed” and “disappointed.”  Their dishes are very inconsistent.  Some dishes really had me try to tackle others for bites, but others I wasn’t happy with the chefsmanship (haha witty, eh?) of.  The space itself was small and cramped, and in being cramped, they manage to serve a lot more people.  When you get in, directly to your left is a full bar, which I was surprised existed because of the area and large amounts of people.  I bet it is hard to get around the bar area.  To the right of the bar is the main dining area, the tables were really squished together so it was hard for us to maneuver. 

spring street natural  spring st natural
outside // inside

Here’s the bread basket!  I wasn’t a fan of the bread basket.  I’m more partial to the oats and not the wheats, which seemed to comprise most of this basket.

bread basket

I wanted two different appetizers so I got Arthur and Jen to share them with me.  Umm, can you say .. fatty?  I wanted the spinach salad and the grilled squid.  The salad was very simple, it came with spinach greens (duh), grapes, dried mango, feta cheese, onions, and the real key to this salad, which was the vinaigrette.  I’m not sure what kind of vinaigrette it was though and that makes me really sad.  It was sweet but not too sweet and the flavor was new to my palate.  I can’t remember what dressing it was, but undoubtedly it is one of the best dressing I’ve ever had.  Arthur and Jen agree.  The grilled calamari was nothing special, in fact, the ends of the tendons were burnt.  I didn’t appreciate how they only gave us a few measily tendons and left out the other pieces.  The white beans/salsa-ish medley didn’t really go with the squid, and it was bland on its own.  The regular fried calamari was much better.  

salad grilled squid

Caled and Jon ordered the crispy calamari, which came with two dipping sauces.  The first seems like a thousand island type sauce and the other was a spicy vinaigrette.  The calamari was lightly battered and fried on the outside and  gave way to a soft non chewy middle.  The calamari was bland alone and I did miss the marinara sauce because I wasn’t too pleased with the flavors of their dipping sauces, but the spicy one was better in my opinion.  It helped give the calamari a needed kick.

calamari

The reason I wanted to come to Spring Street Natural is because organic means seasonal seasonal and fresh.  I like how their menu caters to the different seasons since certain seasons yield certain specialty items, like fall and pumpkin respectively.  I saw that they are featuring a pumpkin ravioli dish and I was sold.  I didn’t even bother to look at the rest of the menu to see if it would satisfy the palates of my friends.  The pumpkin ravioli came with smoked duck, zucchini, and toasted hazelnuts in brown butter.  Doesn’t that sound good or is it just me?  I mean, the hazelnuts are an odd touch but I like hazelnut, so I figure why not?  Unfortunately for me, I was really disappointed with my entree.  The ravioli did not taste like pumpkin- it wasted like straight up almond paste.  I love almond flavoring but I don’t know what it was doing here, especially since nowhere in the description did the word “almond” appear.  I’m positive it wasn’t hazelnut- it was almond.  The hazelnut was just sprinkled around the top; the almond taste was inside the ravioli.  It was soo strong and sweet that it ruined the ravioli for me.  The only thing that saved the ravioli was the duck.  The savory taste of the duck helped to balance out some of the almond.  If the ravioli stuffing recipe for this dish is remade, this dish can possibly be saved.  Right now though, it’s going on my no-no list.

pumpkin ravioli

Arthur got the  pan seared duck breast “drizzled with pomegranate molasses, pinenuts and figs; served with scalloped sweet potatoes and apples and sauteed Tuscan kale.”  There was a good portion of duck for his dish so I stole a couple of pieces to eat with my ravioli.  The duck tasted like typical duck; there was nothing special about the duck itself.  It was cooked to a good degree so it wasn’t rubbery and it’s natural juices were still in tact somewhat.  This was one of those sweet and savory dishes.  The duck and the kale are savory, but everything else is sweet.  I didn’t get to try the flavors together so I don’t know how they taste.  Hopefully, they balance out.  Arthur’s one of those people who likes to eat in layers rather than combining the layers, so I don’t think he’d be much help either.  Looks like you’ll have to try this one out and assess for yourself.

duck


We all agreed the best entree out of all of us (there are a few others that I didn’t show because I didn’t taste them), is the roasted atlantic salmon with “fresh garden salsa, basil mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini.”  The zucchini was over grilled even though the one in the picture looks like it bears perfect grill marks; the other side shows something completely different.  The salmon and the mashed potatoes were so good though.  I have no remarks on the salsa but the basil mashed potatoes were creamy and light and not overly basily.  It’s the only basil mashed potatoes I’ve ever had in New York, but I’ve had it in Vegas before and found it too thick and basily.  This was seriously whipped to perfection.  After trying the previous dishes, I was surprised how good the salmon tasted alone.  It was so tender and the sauce fromt he salsa just seeps into the pores of the fish!  As a testament to how good this dish was, everyone was ignoring their own dish and digging their forks into this plate.  Then… Caled started to threaten all of us that he’d stab us with his knife if we continued… so we had to distract him while stealing.  =X

salmon

After fooding, we went bowling in Jersey, which I haven’t done in years!  I kicked ass the first round, but then Daniel warmed up and kicked my ass the second round.  Moreover, we were bowling sober… kinda.  We went to Gatsby’s a block away from Spring Street Natural for a few drinks before heading into Jersey.  I guess it wasn’t a total liquor-less night.  Then again, it never usually is with the boys.

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