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Friday, November 18, 2011


When you want typical Korean food, you head to 32nd street.  When you want atypical Korean food, and more specifically, Korean tapas!!!!, you head to Midtown West.  Danji is a narrow, dimly lit tapas bar with communal seating up front and small tables towards the back.  I was wondering just how good the food would be after waiting 45 minutes and the answer is......well worth the wait.

Starter: Trio of Kimchi
The dish was good, but not impressive and kimchi should be good, if not great, at Korean restaurants.

Spicy yellowtail Sashimi with jalapeno and sweet & spicy chili pepper sauce.  The yellowtail melted in your mouth.  Sushi-grade quality of 15 East.

Spicy Pork Belly Sliders marinated with a hot chili pepper paste made from red chilies and fermented soybeans and scallions.  Luckily, I got both to myself.  Delicious!

Braised short ribs were dynamite.  You could cut through the meat with a fork...'beef that falls off the bone'

Skirt steak served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.  Not typically a fan of skirt steak, but this was cooked beautifully. 

Danji was a wonderful experience, particularly for a Midtown restaurant, although I did find the pricing a little high for tapas dishes.  Luckily, I was full.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Fork in the Road: Apeadeiro (Cascais, Portugal)

Outside the buzzing metropolis of Lisbon is Cascais, just one of many suburban areas surrounding the capital.  It is the furthest point on the train and the ride is a lovely stretch of coast.  The early morning weather is temps and not a cloud in the sky and once I arrive, I sit on the beach, next to the fisherman's dock.
Cascais is an old fishing town and remains so, although not as bustling as it once was.  During the early to mid-morning hours, you can catch a glimpse of the fisherman docking the tiny boats and unloading their daily catch.
After two hours on the beach, I decide it is lunchtime and head to the neighborhood behind the main beach and marina.  Avenida Vasco da Gama it is a quaint street of fisherman living in modest apartments and homes near the sea.  This restaurant gem is known for grilled fish and piri-piri (the national hot pepper) shrimp.  I decided to get grilled sea bass served with steamed vegetables and a side of sauteed mushrooms.  I turn to the tables around me and see all the locals ranging from businessmen to families have ordered grilled sardines.  Immediately I regret my decision, but then the whole, grilled fish is placed in front of me and I am no longer upset. 

The fish are grilled with salt and nothing else.  Simple.  Classic and wonderful.  My favorite meal in Portugal.  I've have grilled fish before, but never so fresh.  I've also had steamed vegetables before, but never like this.  These, of course, were steamed with salt water to bring out more flavor.

If I am ever in Lisbon again, I will be heading to Cascais for this meal again.  Maybe even with a side of sardines!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Fork in the Road: Cafe de Rala (Evora, Portugal)

There are pastelarias (pastry shops), then there is A pastry in Evora.  Evora is a small Medieval town the lies in the Alentejo region of Portugal (2 hours by bus) and the center of town is completely surrounded by a wall.  Inside that wall is Cafe da Rala.  The owner, herself, serves both the pastries and coffee to the local customers. 

The house speciality and shining star of this cafe is Pao de Rala.  It is a confectionery sin made of white pumpkin candy wrapped in almond paste encased in thin bread.  Do not pass up if you are in the area!  Other recommendation:  Chicken empanada

                              Here's a photo (top middle) of what it looks like before consumption :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Fork in the Road: Lisbon, Portugal

Cafe no Chiado:
Beautifully situated and decorated, next to the San Luis de Teatro, with a design of mid-century modern wood and Gothic stones. The walls are library-like with real books as well as wall lithographs with books stacked and floating all around. As expected, there is an after theatre crowd as well as the famous Tram 28 passing the front of the restaurant, yet somehow it isn't a tourist trap.
I try to keep the pao (bread) consumption to a minimum, but it proves to be difficult. This bread has a trio of butter, olive spread and what else? A bacalau spread. Instead of ordering a cod dish, I decide upon arroz con pato (duck with rice Portuguese style). I'm delighted to see it is served with a green salad, barely dressed. The duck is tender, cooked in bacon fat, but the Portuguese style rice was hard on top, soft underneath. The composition was nice, although I was not blown away. I was blown away by the chocolate mousse. It is fluffy and rich with dark chocolate chips that I eat gladly with eat bite. It was quite possibly the best chocolate mousse, or dessert for that matter, that I've ever had!

Typically, restaurants located in the largely tourist areas are mediocre, and then there’s Bonjardim.  Their specialty is spit-fired roasted chicken and it is succulent.  There’s only one other chicken I like better (ahem, Mr. Waxman).  It is served as a half or whole and is best with fritas (fries) and the best side salad I had in Portugal.
Travessa de Santo Antão 11 Lisbon +213 427 424

Kaffee Haus:
I just had to have a salad one evening, so I hit an Austrian café in the Chiado.  Just mixed greens, pine nuts and a terrine of cheese.  Light, high cheese quality and a killer vinaigrette.  No English menus.
Rua Anchieta 3 Lisbon

Café de Sao Bento:
Quiet, like a private club, with dark red and mahogany walls and red velvet chairs, where Parliament members come to dine.  The Portuguese steak arrives piping hot and as the waiter suggested medium-well. Much to my surprise, it isn’t chewy, but tender and red through the middle.  He says, ‘It’s not Argentinean meat, but it’s good’.  I beg to differ!  This beef cooked in olive oil, garlic; laurel (of the bay leaf family) has very interesting flavor.

The cheesecake….made in house.  I have my doubts. I mean, I’m a New Yorker!  Home of Italian Americans and traveler of Italy.  It arrives.  It IS made in house unlike American ricotta cheesecake where it is difficult to tell the ricotta from the sugar.  This is tasty, fluffy ricotta.  Impressive.
Rua de São Bento 212  1200 Lisbon
(Many thanks to Antonio of Cafe de Sao Bento for providing photos for this piece)