Category Archives: Nolita

Balaboosta

After having a great meal at Meme Mediterranean for lunch yesterday, I had no issue eating another round of hummus and pita at Balaboosta in Soho. This place has long been on my list but when it first opened, it was nearly impossible to find an available table at a decent hour. Inside is beautifully comfortable and sophisticated with a wood paneled ceiling, white walls, and soft lighting. And despite offering only beer and wine, the owners have invested in a beautiful bar with exposed shelving and modern, low hanging light fixtures.

beautiful bar

pizza

mezze platter

The brunch menu is very affordable – our Mediterranean platter and breakfast pizza totaled to just over $20. The mezze came with a thick, hearty hummus, roasted red peppers, and a tangy yogurt cucumber dip all to pair with the piping hot rounds of Za’atar pita, a million times more doughy and flavorful than store-bought. For about a minute I was disappointed to see the pizza made with pita – I really wanted a crispy wood fire oven crust, but after taking a bite of the zucchini, egg, feta and pita combo, I got over it. I won’t deny that it didn’t satisfy my pizza craving, but it was  still deliciously salty, fresh, simple and flavorful, just like all food native to Israel.

The service was great, the food came out fast, and I loved the warmth of the place. It’ll be a tough call between Antique Garage and Balaboosta when I’m in the neighborhood and craving fresh Mediterranean food.

Grade: A-
Location: 

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Filed under Mediterranean, Nolita, Parents in Town, Soho

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

*picture from NY Times

Today my friend Ashley (formerly introduced and pictured in Alta post) and I went on a mission to eat at Ippudo, something I’ve been trying to do since the day I moved to New York. But when she and her boyfriend called me to announce the 2.5 hour wait for a table, we all knew that today was not our day for ramen. We wandered the neighborhood, and after seeing a crowd outside of Peels and Five Points, we decided to sit at the wooden high top tables inside Il Buco Alimentari, an italian eatery that recently earned a NY Times’ three star review.

I was of course thrilled to have an opportunity to eat somewhere new and on my list, but I have to admit pasta and panini are not my meal of choice after a night of a few too many cocktails. But once we sat down and were served a bountiful basket of the soft, chewy, perfectly tearable housemade italian bread, I was sold.

Despite sighting Tara Reid in a blue trucker hat alternating between smoking a cigarette and kissing a boy (also in trucker hat) right outside our table, we were able to focus on the array of meats, bread, cheeses, and baked sweets at the counter to prevent us from losing our appetites. We started with the fresh ricotta, beautifully prepared with pea-green fava beans, fresh oil, oregano, black pepper, and anchovies, as well as the crispy artichokes, which looked like one luscious bouquet of green roses. With the soft bread, these two appetizers could have been the perfect vegetarian meal, but they only encouraged us to order more.

ricotta

amazing crispy artichokes

After seeing the fried soft shell crab sandwich special, Ash and I knew we were set to order. With layers of meaty fried crab, fresh greens and basil aioli between a soft italian hoagie, the sandwich was fit for a king. We also couldn’t resist the grilled sausage with lentils the zuppa with kale, farro, and chickpeas – both which were intensely flavorful and again, wonderful complements to the incredible bread.

crab sandwich

zuppa

sausage with lentils

Typically if I am impressed with my meal, I can’t resist seeing what’s in store for dessert. Glancing at a dessert menu like Il Buco’s, I knew there was no turning back. We shared the polenta orange cake with amaretto gelato and the chocolate budino with espresso mousse, whipped cream, and a crispy chocolate wafer. Both were to die for but I couldn’t keep my spoon out of the pudding, which was light but intensely chocolatey and subtly sweet.

best part as always

Considering the casual setting, friendly service, and minimal wait time, I can’t imagine that I won’t return here this month. The food is straight forward and simple but perfectly executed. And next time, I’ll try the pasta.

Grade: A+
Location: 53 Great Jones between Lafayette and Bowery
Website:
http://www.ilbucovineria.com

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Filed under Brunch, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, Nolita

Barmarche

Barmarche, nolita

I get the most satisfaction discovering places that not only have awesome food and ambience, but are also fairly easy to book for last minute dinner plans. This is hard to come by in New York city. Barmarche arrived as a miracle for my friend Ashley’s birthday last weekend, and I’ve since been a huge advocate for this sleeper. Not only did they accommodate 12 of us at the height of Saturday night mealtime, they seated us at a well thought-out square table as opposed to a long, awkward rectangle so commonly found in restaurants trying to conserve space. Our group, which was a diverse mix of people, could therefore communicate easily with multiple sides of the table, and we were all set up to share delicious food.  The servers, though incredibly busy, were timely with our orders and constantly checking in to take drink requests.

Our party shared many tasty appetizers: popcorn shrimp, guacamole, bruschetta, and my favorite, almond stuffed dates with crispy bacon and blue cheese. The mix of sweet and salty and crispy and soft was so perfect that we had to request another two orders to sustain our unstoppable craving.

caramelized bacon wrapped dates

crispy popcorn shrimp

While we overloaded on appetizers, we still had room for the overwhelming main course options, all reasonably priced. Barmarche is known for its “taquitos”, which are essentially tacos on slightly smaller tortillas. The fried bass taquitos were a vibrant, fresh twist on heavy Mexican food, and the shrimp risotto was creamy, hot, and filling. My branzino was incredibly crispy, and the perfectly light, pre-night out meal to pair with my spicy margherita.

bass taquitos

perfectly cooked branzino

truffled shrimp risotto

Barmarche is the perfect prequel for a night on the town. Conveniently located in the center of Soho, the Lower East Side and Nolita, it is positioned closely to a wide array of bars, and with its wide range of international food and cocktails, it’s a fit for all sorts of crowds. I wouldn’t say the food is breath-taking, but it’s thorough, creative, and well-rounded. Highly recommended for group dinners (especially for a younger, yet sophisticated crowd) – in fact, I hope to have my birthday there in May!

Grade: A-

Location: 14 Spring Street @ Elizabeth

Website: http://www.barmarche.com

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Filed under American, Brunch, Californian Cuisine, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Nolita, Soho

Chinatown Brasserie

After watching Giada sing praises about the dumplings at Chinatown Brasserie in her Weekend Get-Away show on Food Network, I put the Noho restaurant at the top of my must-try list. Unfortunately, my craving for Chinese food only comes around once a blue moon (or along with every incurable hang-over), but when it arrives, I rarely have the energy to trek to Chinatown where the real stuff is found. After my meal at Chinatown brasserie this weekend, I think I’ve found the perfect lazy woman’s substitute.

The restaurant has the stature and dim lighting of other well-known swanky spots like Buddakan or Beauty and Essex, but the decor, waitstaff uniforms, and furniture are a mix of French and Chinese by design. Though the place looks fancy, the menu has pretty wide coverage of the typical Chinese staples that I grew up on, such as crispy Peking duck with all the fixings. But to cure my empty stomach, we ordered a variety of dim sum and traditional mains. The most memorable dumpling was the Shanghai Soup Dumplings, which, as my friend instructed me, are consumed by biting the top, sucking out all the hot soup incapsulated in the skin, and then eating the remainder whole. The broth was rich, flavorful, and creamy, and it helped me slow down the process of eating as many dumplings as fast as I could.

shrimp and pork dumplings on left; shanghai dumplings on right

sauteed sea bass

I absolutely loved the mushu shiitake, which I expected to be bland. The heartiness of the mushrooms and saucey vegetables totally disguised the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of meat in the dish. Served traditionally with plum sauce and thin rice pancakes, it brought me back to my weekly Chinese food take-out night with my parents that I used to dread like the plague. Now that I’ve had a long enough break from practically the only food delivery option in San Francisco, I can appreciate the irreplaceable, satiating quality of hot, comforting chinese food.

The glass noodle salad was a refreshing yet somewhat boring break from the grease of the rest. Plain glass noodles stacked on top of a hodge podge of mixed greens and random vegetables was a welcome palette cleanser, but nothing exciting.

There’s no mystery behind Chinatown Brasserie. The food is over-priced, and you can definitely find better Chinese food if you go the extra mile and navigate the overwhelming land of Chinatown. But if you want traditional Chinese food in a traditionally posh New York setting, there’s no better place than this restaurant.

Grade: A-

Location: 380 Lafayette Street @ Great Jones Street

Website: http://www.chinatownbrasserie.com

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Filed under Asian, Chinese, Nolita

Bond Street Sushi

Hello! I have been very out of commission lately with an overwhelming amount of work, but I couldn’t resist updating everyone on the incredible Japanese meal I had at Bond Street last night. My friend and I got the personal attention of the very animated sushi chefs by sitting at the bar, which provided a much more friendly setting than the swanky dining area.

Basically the sky was our limit and we ordered everything that passed by and looked delicious. In the interest of time, I am going to preface the entry by saying every item was absolutely delicious. The mixed green salad was refreshing and flavorful, the ahi tuna pizza was smothered in amazing truffle flavor, and the addictive fried rock shrimp arrived caramelized and crispy. We also ordered the special crab legs with miso butter, which offered generous amounts of flakey, buttery crab meat. My favorite was the classic tuna on crispy rice – the pan fried block of rice complemented the soft spicy tuna immaculately. Labeled as a “roll,” it’s easy to miss this one, but definitely a must have.

After two intensely strong cucumber-gin martinis (their specialty cocktails are all subtly sweet and delicious), I was pretty much ready to float out of the restaurant, but the food was unforgettable enough to give me Japanese food cravings the very next day. While it’s not the cheapest sushi restaurant in the area, it’s definitely the best!

green salad

tuna pizza

fried rock shrimp

crispy tuna

eggplant

crab with miso

Grade: A+

Location: 6 Bond Street at Lafayette (go up stairs for entrance)

Website: http://www.bondrestaurant.com

 

 

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Japanese, Nolita, Parents in Town, Seafood, Sex & The City Swank

Ed’s Lobster Bar

Outside Ed's

When my cousin suggested Ed’s Lobster Bar for dinner tonight, I have to admit I wasn’t that thrilled. I never like planning in advance to go to a restaurant with a specific food agenda in mind – a burger place, or a ramen place, for example – because who knows what I’ll feel like eating at that moment? I looked at the Ed’s Lobster Bar menu online, though, and being the seafood lover I am I knew I wouldn’t have trouble finding something I liked. So glad I overcame my fear!

view of the narrow bar

Ed’s doesn’t take reservations, so my sister and I showed up at 6pm on the dot to avoid the crowd. Though there were only a few people seated, our stone-cold faced waiter showed no excitement about relenting and allowing us to sit while waiting for cousin Lisa. In an attempt to generate a smile on his face, we ordered prosecco and clam chowder after downing a few bags of oyster crackers.

The clam chowder, which the waiter proudly claimed as flour-free, came out piping hot. While slightly thinner and creamier than the classic San Francisco chowder (a la Boudin), it was incredibly flavorful, rich, and well seasoned with subtle chunks of bacon, chive, and onion. The only thing missing was the operative ingredient: large pieces of clam. Instead, it was served with just one large unshelled clam. Regardless, the soup was so addictive that I could hardly allow my spoon to rest between bites.

scrumptious clam chowder

Right after our clam chowder, we were given an awesome amuse bouche of lobster risotto – quite a welcome surprise for a casual little seafood house.

risotto amuse bouche

I had no choice but to order a lobster roll after seeing at least 5 of them fly by my view, and it was just as incredible as it looked. In fact, it was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. Huge chunks of delicately dressed lobster meat nestled in a decadently soft buttered roll created the perfectly compact, refreshing sandwich. It brought me right back to the Cape Cod summers I never had but always imagined. And while some lobster rolls can suffer from fishiness or the overpowering disgustingness of mayonaise, Ed’s Lobster Roll tasted impeccably fresh and had the perfect ratio of lobster to dressing. Just another reminder of how incredible lobster really is, any time of the year.

perfect lobster roll

I got my lobster roll with a side of salad, but after tasting a handful of my sister’s fries, I couldn’t keep my hands away from them – thick cut, perfectly salted and hot, these fries totally lived up to the quality of this roll.

All of our food was fantastic, but toward the end of our meal we got final validation of the restaurant’s worth when Pee Wee Herman arrived, cocktail in hand. Like a respectful gen Y-er should, our waiter’s whole disposition changed upon seeing PeeWee’s face, and he waited on him hand and food like a servant to a king. Too bad everyone around us were too engrossed in their lobster-themed food to really care that such a legend had arrived.

what I would have ordered had I not been so full

If not to see PeeWee again, I will absolutely return to Ed’s Lobster Roll when I’m looking for a casual environment with predictably delicious food. And next time – I will DEFINITELY get the lobster roll in dessert form. If you find a chance to come, just don’t expect to get any reaction out of the gray haired, lanky waiter when outwardly praising the food.

Grade: A

Location: 222 Lafayette Street at Spring

Wesbsite: http://www.lobsterbarnyc.com/

*some pictures from Google images

 

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Filed under American, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Nolita, Seafood, Soho

Rubirosa

cut out review

Had it not been for Sonia, Rubirosa would have fizzled in my mind like the various nondescript spots I ignore en route to bigger and better prospects (like Torrisi Italian Specialties). But when she grabbed my arm and moaned about their incredible vodka sauce pizza upon passing it last weekend, I knew it had to be something special. Coincidentally enough, just days later I came across a Serious Eats article marking Rubirosa as Nolita’s “best bets for pizza right now.” All signs urged me to suggest it as a meeting place for a much anticipated reunion with my college friend Ashley.

Front of Rubirosa

At first glance, one could mistake Rubirosa for a cheesy overpriced tourist trap, similar to the front runners on Bleecker between 6th and 5th avenue. The menu alone however is good indication that there’s history and love behind the delicious, red sauce italian food. Inside, a  narrow bar lines the side of a few high top tables, which leads to a handful of regular dining tables in the back. Low lighting, good music, and the smell of mozzarella cheese make it ideal for any laid back occasion.

The complimentary bread was just the unremarkable quality I would expected at a pizza restaurant, but was served immediately before ordering, which I really appreciate as someone with low blood sugar. After studying the large medley of bruschetta (at $2.50 a piece), we decided to share the meatball bruschetta, which came with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and the rubirosa salad with arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons, and mozzarella. The bruschetta was excellent, and tasted identical to the ridiculous Dino’s meatball subs I once ate as pre-schooler in San Francisco. Fresh, gooey cheese with toasted olive oiled bread, complimented with a massive meatball only properly edible with a knife and fork. The salad was light, simply dressed, and straight forward, and the croutons were hearty and well seasoned.

Rubirosa salad

Meatball Bruschetta

We also ordered an escarole bruschetta, but when our waiter arrived with a side of escarole instead, we came to the sudden conclusion that words had been lost in American to Australian translation. Though he blamed it on my miscommunication, he was kind enough to leave us with the vegetable sides and take the items off our bill.

For our main course, we split a small pizza, which was far larger than what I’m used to eating at frilly pizza spots like Pulino’s or Otto. Despite utterly thin crust, the pizza fed us well with layers of sauce, mozzarella, peas, and prosciutto. Each slice sturdily held up its toppings and was stable enough to eat with our hands. My (requested) vodka sauce tasted great on the side, and the subtle creaminess balanced out the saltiness of the cheese quite well – I would definitely go for the vodka sauce pizza next time around. Overall, though, the pizza was hearty, flavorful, and wonderfully wood-oven charred. And the one up Rubirosa has on other wood oven pizzas is their 10:1 topping to crust ratio, as opposed to that of Pulino’s, for example, whose surface area is massively overwhelmed by unexciting crust.

prosciutto pizza

Another pizza to taste...next time

I would undoubtedly return to Rubirosa to try yet another one of their delicious pizza combinations. Each table I could spy on had something totally unique but enticing, so it would pay to come with a group to have the chance to taste a variety. At just $40 for the two of us, Ashley and I left extremely satisfied in terms of not only our appetite, but with the feeling that we definitely got our money’s worth.

Grade: A-

Location: 235 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 (b/n Prince and Spring Streets

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/RubirosaNYC

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Filed under Affordable Date, Cheap Eat, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, Nolita, Pizza

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

I’ve already blogged about DBGB Kitchen and Bar, so I won’t bore you with a full review of my meal last night. In fact, I ordered the same dish -the salmon with gnocchi – as I did the first time I visited, and it was perfectly seared and delicious as I had remembered. And this time, we tasted the guanciale flat bread which was creamy, crispy, and delicious. But the reason I am writing today is to boast about the storm of desserts my table tasted – each totally rich and insanely delicious. For a table of 6, we thought, why not be conservative and share desserts? So what did we do? We decided to ordered 5 desserts for the table, with one being a dessert for two. Whoops!

Between the profiteroles, the blueberry cake, the baked Alaska, and the two peanut butter sundaes, my favorite, hands down was the peanut butter sundae, served with brownie bits and fresh whipped cream. Creamy peanut butter ice cream…nothing beats it!

More of a sight to be seen than a dessert to be eaten, the Baked Alaska was a crowd pleaser as it was lit in flames at the table, then served to us in perfectly cut slices. I’ve never had Baked Alaska, so I wanted to see what this novelty was all about. The verdict: I much prefer ice cream in scoop form and would rather my cake be accompanied by chocolate or vanilla, as opposed to pink and green sherbert. However, I must admit it’s a fun idea for a crowd.

Thanks DBGB for leading me into sugar oblivion last night, and leaving me with a food hang over early this morning!

Dessert Grade: A for sundae, B for Baked Alaska
Address: 299 Bowery at East Houston
Website: http://www.danielnyc.com/dbgb

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, Nolita, Private Party

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

DBGB Kitchen and Bar, the mecca of sausage, burgers, beer, and men, was an absolute blast. I may have had a tainted experience, as I was seated in the private room with windows open to the kitchen, but the food was excellent, and the restaurant shares New York’s upbeat energy in a classy, modern setting.

I was fortunate enough to dine at DBGB for a work event, and even more fortunate to have been able to taste a ton of dishes (I was with generous eaters, and our menu consisted of many courses). To start, we were served a unique array of fruits de mer, ranging from raw oysters and clams, to narrow shells I could hardly recognize. The plateau was definitely impressive, but only awe-inspiring to the die hard, adventurous seafood fans.

The next course was only minimally tamer: the sausage tasting. I’ve always said I love sausage, but I think I’ve been imagining Aidell’s chicken apple sausage, or the Morning Star breakfast links when considering my sausage opinion. But this sausage was unlike anything I’ve tasted, some intriguing in a good way, others in a this-is-too-undecipherable-to-like bad way. The taste of the lamb sausage was a bit too reminiscent of the smell of a sheep farm, but I honestly think some people enjoy that intense gamey flavor. My favorite was the Pork & Cheddar Link; the “Beaujolaise” served with lentils was also enjoyable. Though none of the sausages thrilled me, I can imagine the tasting would have been like heaven to some of the true sausage fans I know. Still, I respect the originality of the idea – I’ve never seen a restaurant with such a diverse menu specialize in such a wide variety of sausages.
I chose the salad as my appetizer knowing that I would be noshing on everything anyone would let me try – I really wanted to give this place a justified review. Surprisingly, the chop-chop salad reigned supreme – crisp, light, and chilled, with avocado, watermelon, and a subtly creamy dressing, it was delicious and interesting.
I also had a chance to taste their amazingly fresh Maine Peeky Toe Crab Salad, which included edamame, snow peas, and pickled rhubarb that gave it an awesomly crunchy texture. Would definitely order that next time around.

For my main course, I opted for the seared salmon with gnocchi, which I thought was incredible. I am a huge salmon fan, and this was perfectly cooked – just slightly pink in the middle, and the ricotta gnocchi just melted in my mouth. I also snagged a few bites of my friend’s yankee burger (a classic burger), which was delicious and moist, though a bit hard to eat. To mix my food consumption even more, I tried my other friend’s house made tagliolini with tomato sauce and sheep’s milk ricotta – honestly, this could have come straigh from nonna’s kitchen. This just proved to me that DBGB can play the part for the meat lover, the seafood fan, and the vegetarian – both a specialist and a generalist, and definitely a success!
Dessert was even worthy of a review. I ordered the chocolate chocolate sundae – which consisted of 3 huge scoops of chocolate ice cream, chocolate truffles, mini cookies, a massive amount of whipped cream, and caramel sauce. Talk about heart attack, but what a refreshing sight in a city of tablespoon-sized ice cream servings and miniaturized desserts. And, it tasted incredible – talk about chocolate overload (in a good way!) I also tasted a chocolate brownie-like cake with fruit. Many people love this, but I thought it needed some whipped cream or some ice cream to sweeten up the bitterness of the chocolate. So, a crowd pleaser to some, but nothing I would personally order.

Though I wasn’t necessarily wowed but DBGB’s specialty items, the sausages, I loved almost everything else I tasted, and really fell in love with the restaurant’s atmosphere. Perfect for a night where you want to keep the energy up, see a lot of interesting, sophisticated, and important people, and have a wide variety of high quality choices to eat. The menu has something for everyone, and the service is polished, accommodating, and efficient. And, most importantly, the cocktail list is wonderful – I failed to mention that the DBGB tea with vodka was a little too easy to go down – it was smooth, not too sweet, and tasty.
I would definitely recommend DBGB to anyone looking for a fun place with delicious food, and I plan to bring my parents there when they visit in October!
Grade: A
Website: http://www.danielnyc.com
Address: 299 Bowery at First Street

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Nolita, Parents in Town, Private Party