Category Archives: Soho

Peasant: rustic and romantic in the heart of Soho

I loved the idea of Peasant – cozy, fireplace and pizzas in Soho – but the reality did not live up to my expectations. Saturday night, my boyfriend and I had a casual meal at the bar, and while the pizza was undeniably delicious (what cheese-laden flatbread isn’t?), the skate was swimming in garlicky oil, the broccoli raab was so chewy it was inedible, and the squid, which oddly tasted just like the fish, was rubbery and uninteresting. The food wasn’t blasphemous, it just wasn’t notably great. I do appreciate the simplicity of the menu – Peasant doesn’t aim to wow with originality and party tricks – but if a restaurant’s going for comfort food, it can’t be anything short of perfect (Barbuto knows how it’s done). I’m a sucker for inviting, low-lit, family-style restaurants so I’d likely return just to be back in the warmth on a winter’s day after shopping. Like Hearth, they craft the feeling of homeyness beautifully with complimentary bread and ricotta cheese, the right lighting, reddish tones and an open kitchen. Hopefully my second attempt at eating here won’t be as unremarkable.

IMG_1968

pizza bianca

Grade: B
Location: 194 Elizabeth Street between Spring and Prince
Website

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Filed under Italian, Romantic Date, Soho, Uncategorized

Lure Fishbar: solid seafood in adult fashion

Given my freakish seafood-obsession, I can’t comprehend why it’s taken me four years to try Soho’s well-known Lure Fish Bar – essentially my favorite type of food in my favorite New York City neighborhood. Yes, the restaurant is a little scene-y & corporate, its nautical theme is a little tired and its clientele is a tad too New York housewives, but the menu has a plethora of creative seafood options and sushi that is nothing short of tasty. The place resembles the old-timers Atlantic Grill and Blue Water Grill further uptown in that it’s fish and sushi focused in a family friendly environment, but given the address it’s a little more amenable to a weekend GNO (Girls’ Night Out).

My two girlfriends and I shared the Crispy Calamari and Tempura Shrimp to start. The calamari, served as large pieces of crisp but lightly fried mini squid with lime glaze, made me realize the impurity of the heavily breaded piles I normally down at bars. I’ve had better breaded shrimp (Koi‘s is to die for), but this rendition was still good enough to keep my fork launching across the table for more. I decided on a special for my main, mainly because of the sides: Roasted Sea Bass with gnocchi, beets, and asparagus, but unfortunately the charred gnocchi was the best part of the dish. Dessert is really the standout – it’s rare that I struggle with choosing what to order, but with almost every item incorporating ice cream in some way, I had a mini panic attack. I narrowed it down to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. Given it came with a fat chocolate dipped pretzel and peanut brittle ice cream, I was pretty much in salty sweet heaven.

crispy calamari

rock shrimp with a little too much sauce

chocolate peanut butter pie

Lure Fishbar has got it going on for its wide range of seafood, good cocktails and last but NEVER least, dessert. Think ice cream galore. Try it for your next business dinner or night out with parents.

Grade: A-
Location142 Mercer Street @ Prince Street

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Filed under American, Seafood, Soho

‘Snice

Given all the restaurants in New York city – scratch that – in my two block radius, I’ve always dreamt, but never expected, that I’d become a regular at one local place. I got excited when Cafe Gitane set up shop at the Jane Hotel, but the salads didn’t prove bountiful enough for weeknight takeout orders. When Bakehouse opened across the street, I made a pledge to make it my Cheers and hang with the bartender nightly, but I found that my stomach, travel schedule, and wallet couldn’t handle $14 cocktails even once a week. Even my favorite restaurant Barbuto, just two blocks South, presents too much of a production to get seated on any given night. Throughout all the hopes and let downs, though, there remained and still remains to be one steady, loyal food spot in a time of need. And that spot is called ‘Snice, or what my friend Sara likes to call “sneece” (it’s not, it’s pronounced s-nice as in ‘nice’), and it brings a smile to my face at least two nights a week.

Whether I order in (usually) or sit alone with my laptop in the chalk-board laden, wooden, Berkeley style space, I always find the food is exactly what I need on a low key, fuss-free night. I could very well make their salads by making a trip to the grocery store, but why would I do that when it would be twice the cost, three times the hassle, and 100 times less Manhattan? 90% of the time I place an order for the quinoa salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, black beans, corn, tortilla strips, avocado, and a creamy, vegan avocado dressing. That’s right, this place is vegan, but it also has cheese and butter if you do some stealthy requesting. On more adventurous nights, I’ll order the bueno burrito with black beans, avocado, and salsa, the vegan meatball sub with tomato sauce and cheese, or another all time favorite – the curry cauliflower wrap with chick peas, mango chutney, and brown rice. Literally everything I’ve had there is inventive, flavorful, no frills, cheap, and more importantly, super filling without that brick-in-stomach miserable feeling. Last night I ordered a side salad of chick peas alongside my cauliflower wrap, and asked myself why on earth I haven’t blogged about the restaurant that’s received the majority of my food budget in the past three years. Well, here it is. I love ‘Snice. You’re not coming here or calling them for the friendliest service (though their delivery men tend to be young urban cuties) – they’re vegan and they can see right through your no-meat facade down to the very chicken you ate that day. And, they may not be that consistent – cherry tomatoes sometimes become sliced tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all. But I don’t care. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

curry cauliflower wrap with side salad (only when you eat in)

quinoa salad – my love

Grade: B+ but I still go there constantly
Location: Multiple, I visit the one on 8th Ave and Jane.
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Filed under Soho, Vegetarian / Vegan, West Village

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

Felix

Soho is the reason I fell in love with New York so many years ago. The shops, the cobble stone streets, the feeling of continually shining sun, Dean and Deluca…the list of why I feel giddy every time I’m in this neighborhood goes on and on. Sadly, though, after getting to know the area intimately, I’ve concluded that the good brunch spots aren’t as prevalent as one would expect for such a shopping-dense area. Lord knows that I get hungriest after two hours of trying on clothing, but every weekend, I confront the same debate – where to rid of my hunger pangs and evaluate my bad purchasing decisions?

Generally, I fall back on Antique Garage, Cafeteria, or Balthazar – all awesome spots. But when you want to bask in the sun, there aren’t many options aside from Dos Caminos. Well this weekend, my sister shined light on a placed called Felix for my birthday brunch treat, and it was actually pretty solid. Somewhat of a rough-around-the edges Lucky Strike or Balthazar, it serves the purpose of offering a varied menu of food you would want whether you’re craving American or French brunch. Great outdoor tables for two in the shining sun, off the craziness of Broadway, and efficient service. They also take reservations, which helps to avoid the crazy brunch wait lines in this city.

omelette – fries were a little rubbery

After investigating other tables’ orders, we decided to share the salade chevre chaud and a mushroom and spinach omelette. The omelette comes with both fries and salad – something I appreciate greatly, and the chevre was plentiful, crispy, salty, and perfect on top of a crusty piece of baguette. Though the salad was a little over-dressed, and the fries weren’t impressive, overall the food and service was solid, and I was as happy as I could be on a warm day with half of our bodies in the sun.

salad chevre chaud

Adding Felix to my list of open-air reprieve-spots in Soho after intense shopping. Don’t come expecting stellar cuisine, but come knowing you’ll have your stomachs filled and a good dose of relaxation in the sun.

Grade: B
Location: 340 West Broadway @ Grand Street
Website: www.felixnyc.com

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Filed under Brunch, Soho

Blue Ribbon Sushi

 

I’ve neglected the blog these past two weeks and I really have no better excuse than to say that I’ve been busy with work and a social life, like any normal person. That’s not to say I haven’t visited a ton of great restaurants worth reporting. Quite the opposite. The standout of the bunch, however, is Blue Ribbon Sushi, which was so breathtakingly delicious that it triggered me to see the movie chronicling a man in Tokyo who’s been improving his sushi making skills for 75 years, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

hamachi collar

Blue Ribbon is tucked away on Sullivan Street in Soho. It’s intimate. It’s special. You really feel like you’re embarking on a spiritual sushi experience when entering the low-ceiling, cozy space, which hosts just a few tables and a tiny sushi bar as the work space for multiple sushi chefs. The menu is filled with an overwhelming number of both hot and cold food, so to make the ordering process easier, strategize on what you want before our actual investigation. The green salad is colder, fresher, crunchier, and more flavorful than any other ginger-dressed Japanese starter salad I’ve had. The Hamachi Kama, broiled yellowtail collar, was rich, perfectly seasoned and meaty. The fried oyster roll was living proof that fried seafood can be nourishing and refreshing. And as for the sashimi…you never really realize how much bad sushi you’re tasting until you eat stuff like this – how can a piece of fish have so much intense flavor with absolutely nothing on it? It was perfect.

fried oyster roll (upon request)

fried oyster roll (upon request)

I love this place. And, the wines by the glass are great and hefty. Expect to wait for a table but it’s 100% worth it.

Grade: A
Location: 119 Sullivan btwn Prince and Spring
Website: 
http://www.blueribbonrestaurants.com/rests_sushi_man_main

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Filed under Japanese, Soho

Torrisi Italian Specialties

Due to pure fullness, it’s a struggle to recount my meals so soon after eating them, but I have too much to catch up on to afford another missed write-up. Tonight, I FINALLY sat down for the 7 course meal at Torrisi Italian’s Specialties, an experience highly praised by Sam Sifton, Frank Bruni, and the dozens of critically acclaimed food writers in the city. Torrisi now takes reservations, so about a month back I booked a table for 2 at the only time (ever) available: 5:45pm. I was lucky to get anything later than 5:30.

In anticipation of my early bird special meal, I monitored my lunch carefully and stopped all snacking by 2pm ET. As a result, I arrived hungry and ready for a glass of wine with my fellow food-lover friend (ok, any friend of mine is a food lover, admittedly or not) and a feast. Unfortunately, Torrisi only has two white wines by the glass – one very sweet, and one incredibly dry, but my waiter was kind enough to open a vintage bottle of chardonnay at my request for something a little bolder. Service remained attentive throughout the night.

As you may know, guests are served whatever the chef has decided to prepare for the night, with a main course choice of meat or fish. I of course chose fish. The start of the meal was my favorite – homemade mozzarella with Da Vero olive oil, salt, and tomato-garlic bread. Then came a mediocre fennel salad drenched in rich olive oil with amaretti cookie crumble. The grilled octopus with black olive wasn’t remarkable either, but was well seasoned and seared to a crisp. Meat lovers would have raved over the liver and onions course, a small scoop of liver mousse with homemade pretzel bread, but I was more concerned with finishing the warm, milky cheese.

bread & mozz

The gemelli pasta with dirty duck ragu was delicious. I rarely gravitate toward duck, but this was subtly rich and flavorful, and the noodles had just enough bite to stand up to the intensity of the tomato-less ragu sauce.

The fish was described as a roasted skate with fulton chowder, but arrived as a small, simply seared filet with mussels and squid in a bath of light tomato sauce poured by our waiter. It was, like all the food, simple and tasty, but nothing extraordinary.

I happened to love the dessert course – a plate of small cookies ranging from ricotta cannoli to an never before seen “beet strudel.” They were all, in typical italian fashion, not too sweet nor rich. After taking little bites of the little cookies, Emily threatened to punch me in the face if I didn’t eat the whole thing, so I was forced to consume my entire half of the cookie plate while she left two untouched.

I’m not sure if I am more satisfied with the meal at Torrisi or the fact that I finally accomplished my goal of completing its highly acclaimed dining experience. Either way, this place became viral not necessarily for the inspiring food (which it is, don’t get me wrong), but more so for the creative, no-choice menu concept and frankly, the homemade mozzarella. I don’t think I’ll be rushing back there when there are far better italian restaurants without a three hour wait in my neighborhood

Grade: B
Location: 250 Mulberry Street @ Spring Street
Website: 
http://www.piginahat.com

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Filed under Italian, Soho

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

Antique Garage

Despite being a shopping mecca, New York’s Soho area surprisingly lacks the variety of brunch spots I would expect for such a weekend destination. As a result, I tend to resort to my trusty favorite: Antique Garage. This mediterranean restaurant, housed in a converted garage filled with antique furniture, ornate art and mirrors and a beautiful bar, is one of my favorite spots to drink a bellini and munch on mezes after a long day of shopping. To complement the old fashioned aesthetic, there is often live jazz musicians dressed in ’20s garb who lure you right back into the era of Great Gatsby. In the summer, when the garage door is pulled back, it becomes the ideal place for breathing the fresh city air, daydreaming, and people watching.

inside

Though I would love to eat everything on the menu, I tend to always stick to my favorites. Today, my friend Mer and I decided to split the mesclun salad with chicken kebab and the meze platter after a relaxed stroll in the area. With a sampling of hummus, tzatsiki, greek salad, babaganoush, borek, chicken salad, and fresh cucumber and tomato slices, the meze platter is my heaven on a plate. The best item on the plate is the borek, which are crispy, melt-in-your-mouth phyllo wrapped feta rolls. And with the hot, fresh slices of pita bread, all of the dips can become quite the meal.

Salad with chicken

mixed meze platter

As always, my meal at Antique Garage was a crowd pleaser.

Grade: A+

Location: 41 Mercer Street near Grand Street

Website: http://www.antiquegaragesoho.com

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Soho

The Dutch

outside the dutch

After much anticipation, I finally paid a visit to Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde’s new hot spot, the Dutch. With reservations nearly impossible to find, I took a chance and walked in unprepared. Fortunately, despite the overbearing noise and packed bar, at 6:30pm a table for two was relatively easy to come by. After a few drinks and sampling 5 different dishes, I profess with regret that I’m just not that impressed. The Dutch is housed in a beautiful, window-lined space surrounding a grandiose bar, and its food is solid and obviously professionally prepared, but it seems to blend in with New York’s dozens of other (yet delicious) American-classics-with-a-twist restaurants (think Cookshop, Market Table, 100 Acres, Craft…). They’re indistinguishable. I won’t be disappointed if the opportunity to re-visit arises, but I won’t be rushing back.

With a bar of its stature, I would expect a larger selection of specialty cocktails, but it came down to either the one gin or the one vodka selection after eliminating all of non-clear alcohol options. I decided on the Aviation Royale, which was a mix of gin, maraschino, lemon, and a bubbly wine. Though the waitress described it as “exceptionally dry,” it was actually quite sweet and tart. Definitely an interesting concoction, but too much going on for my preference.

Aviation Royale and Eastside Manhattan

I do give props to the Dutch for having such a robust complimentary bread, something very important to me. All tables are served a hefty portion of warm, homemade cornbread served with whipped butter. I could have made a breakfast, lunch, and dinner out of this thing and it was so delicious that I had to cut myself off to save room for dinner. For appetizers, I, as always, went for the buratta and heirloom tomato salad and one mini oyster sandwich. The buratta was perfectly room temperature and creamy, but clashed with the sweet cornbread. I love buratta but I prefer to eat it with grilled bread, so I was disappointed by the fact that it wasn’t an option.

corn bread

burrata salad

The little fried oyster sandwich brought me straight back to New Orleans with its oversized, crispy fried oyster and subtle dill sauce. At $5 a pop, this crunchy oyster overload is a steal.

tiny oyster slider

For our main dishes we selected a wide range of seafood: the ruby red shrimp with fried green tomatoes and the black cod with smoked mushrooms. Even though the waitress warned us about the smokiness of the fish broth, we ordered the cod stubbornly, not realizing the vastness of the smokiness spectrum. Desperately searching for something to WOW me, I ordered the scallops with corn and bacon, which were perfectly cooked but a typical, boring rendition of the scallop and corn combination. Regardless, the waitress kindly took our fish off the bill without us even alluding to dissatisfaction – an exceptional service move in a city with little patience for discontent.

shrimp atop crispy, juicy fried green tomatoes

smoky black cod

scallops

So, I think I ate enough to give a fair assessment that while The Dutch has solid and hearty food, a professionally trained staff and an obviously well organized operation, it doesn’t have enough to keep it at the top of my list. I think I’ll continue my visits to Barbuto or Extra Virgin instead if a hankering for glorified American classics arises.

Grade: B+

Location: 131 Sullivan Street at Prince Street

Website: http://www.thedutchnyc.com

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Seafood, Soho