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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A little more than a year ago, Sara Jenkins added lasagna to her miniature menu at Porchetta on East 7th Street.  It was an odd addition to the protein-filled 'restaurant', but was fabulously flavorful and foreshadowed things to come.  Since, she has opened her Roman-inspired pasta ristorante down the same street and wins not only with the innovative pasta dishes, but also takes reservations.  In case you haven't heard, reservations are coveted these days in the "No Reservation Generation" (Adam Platt).

Olive oil poached baby octopus with celery, chickpeas, lemon and olives.  Light oil and fresh ingredients as well as a fair amount of tentacle-y octopus.  Very Roman and superb! 

Savory whipped bacalau spread with toasted, oiled bread and actually more appealing to stateside diners due to the fact it was not salty to the extreme.

Anelloni with salsiccia e rape.  This is exactly what makes Jenkins a creative chef in a city of thousands of Italian chefs.. She chooses the ring-shaped pasta which has a ridge on the outsides that seals the sauce in the pasta alongside spicy lamb sausage, mustard greens and breadcrumbs.  An incredible textural contrast.

The Eggplant Parmesan I didn't care for.  The tasteless eggplant was swimming in a soupy bechamel sauce, although it was hidden under a thin layer of piping hot cheese.

Hence, why Porsena is regarded as the 'pasta restaurant' and rustic cooking at its finest.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bahari Estiatorio

Crossing the bridge to Astoria provides you with a plethora of Greek restaurants, but does not guarantee them to all be fantastic dining experiences.  Bahari is an exception AND it is half a block from the subway.  The restaurant has the typical 'Greek feel' with its white-washed walls, wooden chairs and fishing nets/rope/gear, but nothing unique in terms of decor.

Krya Pikilia platter of traditional spreads:
Taramosalata (roe mixed with mashed potatoes) usually has a distinctive roe taste, but this one had none.
Tzatziki (yogurt and cucumbers) used a high quality yogurt that was a bit firmer and held the cucumber well.
Skordalia (garlic) was another spread that should have a very strong jolt garlic taste and aftertaste.  This was lost in the puree.
Melintzanosalata (eggplant) was a whipped eggplant spread with nice proportions of lemon and garlic.
Tyrokafteri (peppers) was far-and-away the best dip.  The combination of red peppers, yogurt, lemon and garlic was well-balanced by feta.

Here's the deal with the 'appetizer' of moussaka.  The ingredients were all fresh, but there was a noticeable separation in each layer of potato, eggplant, ground beef and bechamel sauce.  The sauce shouldn't just fall off the top....

Baby lamb chops cooked well, but far from perfection and underseasoned.

Whole dorade was simply grilled with oil, lemon, salt and served with okra that was stewed.  I'm not sure it was supposed to have that texture, but was cooked in a light tomato sauce.

These peas were cooked down with oil, spinach, carrots and potatoes.  The real zinger of the dish was how well the vegetables were complimented by the dill and lemon.  This is such a simple dish to make at home!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Get. here. now. before many more Manhattanites uncover this East Village gem. 

Nai is now home to the now defunct tapas bar, Xunta.  Xunta was inexpensive and a neighborhood joint, and the food was always appetizing, but never superior in the world of tapas.  Nai's wide range of tapas are comparable to Spain's with their perfectly sized, mouthwatering portions.  If only my stomach was as big as my eyeballs.

Albondiguillas Estofadas - stewed, tender meatballs in a brandy sauce (great for dipping bread)

I love the presentation of the goat cheese balls sandwiched between bread, tomato and serrano.  Quite honestly, the bread could be lost all together.  These are fantastic!

Patatas Bravas are a traditional menu item, but these were served in the most non-traditional way.  I much prefer the potatoes to be crispy and drizzled with cream/mayo and hot sauce.  These were completely saturated in a hot sauce that wasn't particularly hot. 

Unfortunately, I forgot (after the first bottle of white wine) to snap photos of the salt-cod croquettes.  I devoured these whipped finger foods in under a minute!  The chorizo a la placha were also gone in under a minute.  The very tiny plates here are dangerouso!

As you are gorging on these little plates of heaven, wonderfully talented Flamenco dancers are stomping at Nai on Thursday and Saturday nights at 8:30pm.  You could only have a better experience in Spain itself!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


When I saw sabich on the chalkboard menu, I started to grin.  So few places in New York have sabich, so I was excited to try their version.  Unfortunately, it didn't meet any expectations I had.

The pita was too thick then the egg was quartered!!! and mixed in with the Israeli salad.  That wasn't even the bad part.  There was a salty/chewy piece of eggplant and all was blanketed in an exorbitant amount of amba (mango curry sauce).  This sauce is one of my very favorite things in the world, but this amba was pureed instead of liquefied.  It was too 'fruity' for this type of sandwich.

I will be returning, but not for sabich (the honors still go to Taim).  The plain Israeli salad looked fresh and delicious as well as the chicken kebab platter!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lovin' Cup Cafe

The Drunk Brunch for $15 is a mighty good deal at The Lovin' Cup Cafe in Williamsburg. Options aren't exactly high-end, but tasty enough especially with three drinks.  Plus, tater tots make great hangover food. 

Make sure you ask for your mimosa with just a splash of OJ, otherwise you'll be having three glasses of orange juice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Fork in the Road: Masraff's (Houston, TX)

Dining at Masraff's on Post Oak is significantly different from the old, rustic free-standing Masraff's, but not in terms of cuisine (which is still top notch).  It is now somewhat a Vegas dining experience with its colorful lighting fixtures and super contemporary furniture, but has great energy nonetheless.
Not often do I find glitzy restaurants serving large portions also falling into the 'high-quality' category, but this is where the Masraff father/son duo succeed.

I begin with the Boston Wedge Salad with English Cucumber Relish, feta and aged balsamic.  Quite a refreshing salad and was not too filling. 

Baby spinach, creamed goat cheese, onion confit, walnuts tossed with garlic vinaigrette.

Loved their take on Caprese with Kumato tomatoes.  Kumatos are a little less acidic and balanced nicely with the mozzarella.

Rich avocado soup with lump crab meat.

Normally, I have a severe aversion to tuna tartare.  Chopped up tuna mixed with avocado has never excited me, but this tuna tartare was divine.  Every tatare dish has now been ruined because this one is simply amazing.  Not only is the quality of fish superb, but the presentation beautifully created with wakami goma, campari tomato and tobiko vinaigrette.

Perfectly seared lump crab cake, beurre blanc, red wine reduction, and saffron aioli. 

An unfortunate dry Nova Scotia halibut, butternut squash, baby carrots, charred green cauliflower, yellow beet and tobiko vinaigrette.

Filet Mignon al a Plancha, fingerling potatoes, baby green beans, smoked bacon and mushroom ragout.  Deliciouso!

This special fish loaded with crab meat and shrimp atop of farro, a well-received accompaniment, and spinach was a nice combination.  This is definitely enough for two (though maybe not in Texas).

Passion fruit, lemon and strawberry sorbet terrine.  Creamy, tart and sweet!

I was super excited for this dessert.  The peach creme brulee.  What was supposed to be Texas peach creme brulee, was actually brulee in peaches and not executed very well, sadly enough.  The peaches were very hard and not sweet at all.