Tag Archives: west village

Chez Sardine: pricey, carefully portioned Japanese

Picture 5

I did it. I finally did it. Last Sunday night, inspired by the lack of crowd outside the highly coveted Chez Sardine, I unexpectedly dove right in determined to check this place off my bucket list. I sat at the sushi bar, excited by all of the interesting combinations and the miso-maple salmon head, a dish that has been praised by my friends and fellow bloggers alike. Hipster waiters in high top converse were very attentive, bringing a complimentary pickeled daikon salad to start the meal. And while the maple-wooden space is pristine and beautiful, the food just didn’t impress. While the sushi arrived so beautifully plated and sounded so intriguing (as they should for $5-$7 a tiny piece) – hamachi with chicarron and ginger, mackerel with leek and potatoes, smoked arctic char with spicy rice – they oddly lacked flavor, and were no more exciting than the several pieces I can get for this price at my local sushi spot down the street. The spicy tuna hand roll was thin and skimpy – not what I wanted on an empty stomach. I waited for the salmon head to arrive to take my breath away, but after minutes of peeling away skin and fat to get to a microscopic piece of edible meat overdosed in miso paste, I gave up. I decided to stop my order right there and head home.

miso salmon

$70 later, I was disappointed that all that I had hoped and dreamed of regarding Chez Sardine (considering this group’s other restaurants I love – Montmartre, Joseph Leonard, Fedora….) was blown to pieces. I would come back to try the buttered caviar toast, but only on someone else’s dime. Coming here hungry and with hopes to spend conservatively was torture. I’d save your sushi cravings for Momoya in Chelsea.

Grade: C+
Location: 183 West 10th Street @ West 4th street
Website

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian, Drinks & Apps, Japanese, West Village

Babbo: the special italian gem that never gets old

babbo

Ohh Babbo. I  love everything about this place. I love that it’s tucked away in a Greenwich village townhouse. I love the round table that anchors the space with cheese, wine and gorgeous fresh flowers (same flower director as Gramercy Tavern). I love the beautiful bar upfront, and I love the exposed staircase that leads to the second floor. I also love that they seat parties of 2 next to side by side in some booths. And lastly, but most importantly, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the food!

So, you all know I am a sucker for Italian food, but this I promise you is above and beyond in deliciousness. It’s not any more complex than you would expect, but the chef embraces each ingredient so carefully that you can’t help but cherish the flavor intensity. Absolutely delicious. If you can’t get a reservation (it’s still the hot commodity it always was), go early and sit at the bar.

While every dish I’ve had here has wowed me, the one that I order every time (when it’s on the menu) is the homemade mozzarella with grilled leeks on rustic Italian bread. You can’t go wrong with any of the pastas, and the incredible desserts (which in my opinion is a rarity for Italian restaurants) makes it the perfect spot for a special, celebratory occasion.

burrata special

burrata special

chickpea fritters with ricotta salata

chickpea fritters with ricotta salata

asparagus and fried pancetta tagliatelle

stinging nettle fettuccine with asparagus and fried pancetta 

simple spaghetti with bottarga

simple spaghetti with bottarga

black sea bass

wild striped bass with watercress pesto

way too much dessert

way too much dessert – the cheesecake is mind-blowing

special cookie plate

special cookie plate

Babbo is a little more on the fancier end of the spectrum of Italian restaurants, but don’t be fooled by the white table cloths and formal service – the food is pure, straight forward, Italian goodness. I can’t wait to return.

Grade: A+
Location: 110 Waverly Place btwn 6th Ave & Macdougal Street
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Erin's Favorites, Italian, West Village

Montmartre: kicking off Chelsea’s fine food expansion

a_560x375

When I pulled up to the busy thoroughfare of 8th Ave and 18th in Chelsea, I have to admit I was not excited to be there. To me, the few blocks north of my workplace represent quick service chain restaurants, pizza shops, and my cheap manicure salon -– not stand out cuisine. And while the Montmartre space itself is narrow, the bar is not very spacious (like all Joseph Leonard team restaurants), and it’s not a spot for those hard of hearing (I was yelling for most of the dinner), the food was some of the best I’ve had in a while at a new NYC restaurant.

We started with the chicken liver, which came generously spread atop a thick piece of country bread. The liver mousse was just the right texture – not too smooth, just enough roughness to make it interesting. The white asparagus salad totally reminded me of something that would come out of SPQR in SF, and came as one thick poached asparagus on top of a delicious puree topped with salty crispy ham. I’m usually skeptical to order raw fish when I’m trying to branch out, but the Hamachi here is unique in preparation and flavor – thick slices wrapped around a tartar topped with diced apple and a delicate vinaigrette.

hamachi (photo from SeriousEats.com)

hamachi (photo from SeriousEats.com)

There was a ton on the menu I would have loved to try for my main course, but I chose the smoked and roasted chicken because it sounded so intriguing with such a bare bones description. It may have been one of the most interesting chicken dishes I’ve had. And, the kitchen was even nice enough to plate a half order of the ricotta gnocchi with morels and hazelnuts that I just couldn’t resist, which ended up tasting like little clouds of heaven.

amazing ricotta gnocchi

amazing ricotta gnocchi

smoked and roasted chicken

smoked and roasted chicken

This place is very reminiscent of some of the inventive ingredient-focused restaurants that cover San Francisco (SPQR, Heirloom, Rich Table), and I absolutely love it. It could actually be one of my favorites for unique food in a familiar setting. So maybe middle of Chelsea isn’t so bad afterall. And maybe, since it’s not in the haven of wonder that is the West Village, it will be more amenable to walk-ins.

Grade: A
Location: 158 Eighth Ave., nr. W. 18th St
Website: (which I love)

Leave a comment

Filed under American, Asian, Chelsea, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites

Catch: global seafood in trendy meatpacking

catch

I spent my first years as a restaurant-goer in NYC dining where I could most easily imagine myself as a cast member of Sex in the City. Straight out of college, I wasn’t looking for cute hole-in-the-walls — I got the biggest thrill wearing heels and strutting into exclusive spaces pumping dance music, offering $15 specialty cocktails, and turning tables like clockwork. Buddakan and Stanton Social were my locations of choice. Fortunately I’ve now moved on to less trendy pastures as a more seasoned New Yorker, but every now and then I’m dragged into the high concept restaurant chains of my past.

Catch last week was one such occurrence, but it helped me remember why I like menus intended for broad audiences. I admittedly went into it with low expectations, but I left impressed with the service, the food, the drinks and the experience overall. As a seafood lover with menu anxiety (it’s difficult to narrow down to one item after eating a Google buffet for the last five years), Catch’s food selection is perfect for me. They offer a small delectable sushi rolls, a raw bar, a ton of hot specials, family style platters, or a variety of fish simply prepared for those not as adventurous. Think of this place as the steakhouse for fish. It keeps that well-known, roomy corporate feel, but maintains a relaxed, light-hearted vibe with light colored furniture, good lighting, dance music, and fun cocktails. Waiters aren’t as formal, but the service is spot on.

The highlights of the many dishes we tried were the MrC roll with tuna, tempura shrimp and ponzu butter, the soft shell crab roll, the crispiest crispy rock shrimp I’ve ever had, and the tuna tartare crispy rice cakes. These dishes aren’t necessarily unique to Catch (find similar variations at Koi, Bond Street, Nobu, etc), but they’re done exceptionally well. The showstopper visually was the crispy whole snapper that comes out deep fried with an asian style saute, positioned as if it’s about to swim away. The sauce was definitely needed to add flavor. Chinese food lovers would die over the salty cantonese lobster tails; I’m just not a fan for thick brown sauces. The overly buttered mushroom pasta was the only disappointment, but that came as no surprise given it was one of the only pasta dishes on the menu.

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

crispy shrimp

hot, buttery crispy shrimp

hamachi tartare

hamachi tartare

salmon belly carpaccio - yes we did get all of this.

salmon belly carpaccio – yes we did get all of this.

scallop dumplings

scallop dumplings

fried whole snapper

fried whole snapper

cantonese lobster - photo from Zagat.com

cantonese lobster – photo from Zagat.com

banana brulee spli

banana brulee split

Dessert at Catch and its sister restaurants are remarkable, and that goes a long way for someone like me. The strawberry shortcake with a large buttery biscuit brought me straight back to my childhood. The banana brulee split was beautifully prepared, but given the tiny scoops of ice cream and difficulty of scooping up all the ingredients off the flat dish for an ideal bite, I would have preferred a less stylized version.

Despite the hiccups in food, I left hoping to plan my next work event or dad’s visit to town at Catch. It’s a crowd-pleasing special occasion restaurant that sets you up well for a night out – there’s not surprisingly a club upstairs, and it’s situated smack dab in the center of the Meatpacking.

Grade: A-
Location: 21 9th Ave above Sephora, entrance on 13th street. Also one in Miami.
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Meatpacking, Parents in Town, Seafood, Sex & The City Swank, West Village

Rockmeisha Izakaya: trusty hole in the wall Japanese

rockmeisha

I’ve been bed ridden with what I’ve self-diagnosed as bronchitis for the last 5 days, so my cravings have narrowed to hot liquids and ice cream. That’s not to say that I want to eat every meal in my cave-like apartment, though – after three days of being cooped up in a blanket, I’ve been desperate for New York civilization, and I refused to stay in on a Saturday night for my throat-soothing meal. I needed to feel the sense of adventure. I wanted to go somewhere new. I scoured the internet for nearby ramen places, and knowing that most would be crowded at 8pm, I took a risk  and selected one with a few reviews and one promising write-up: Rockmeisha in the West Village. It was time for a crazy Saturday!

This place is a hole in the wall. Look up at the ceiling and you may start worrying that an exposed pipe will come crashing down on you. There’s minimal decor, music from a juke box playing below audible volume level, a horribly jenky type-written menu and far too many waitstaff for the few tables squeezed together. But amidst the oddities, there is a promising list of unique Japanese food that looked good enough to shift my desire for just soup to a desire for soup and much more. I ordered the house grilled chicken wings, the mushroom tofu slab, and a big, hot bowl of pork ramen to get what I came here for. I loved everything. The chicken wings were served charred with generous pieces of tender, miso-marinated meat on the bone. The thick, breaded slap of silky tofu that lay on a bed of luscious sake gravy, hearty wild mushrooms and garlicky green onions was absolutely divine on top of purple rice. The ramen broth was rich, earthy, and steaming with pork essence – the perfect base for the thin, long noodles, which while over-cooked. were slurp-worthy and delicious.

chicken wings

chicken wings

tofu

tofu steak

ramen

ramen

Rockmeisha is living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover. The waitstaff may be awkward, the place itself may need a serious makeover, but the food is 100% solid. A dark mysterious sushi bar is the perfect setting for a meal out with illness. There’s much more on the menu I want to try (fried chicken, miso brussel sprouts, fried squid), so I’ll be back in a heartbeat. And, if you’re up for it, you can walk just a block for a Big Gay Ice Cream Truck cone – if a sick person can muster up the energy post-meal, you can too! 

Salty Pimp Cone

Salty Pimp Cone – my happy place

Grade: A-
Location: 11 Barrow Street btwn West 4th and 7th Ave
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable Date, Japanese, West Village

Buvette: tiny plates in a tiny space; grand experience

buvette

It make sense that the website URL of this French “gastrotheque” is “ilovebuvette.com,” because I’ve probably said that aloud a dozen times since it opened. In the last week, I was lucky to have two engagements that required no more than small plates and delicious wine, and I was reminded why Buvette is always the perfect place for this type of occasion. It’s not that the food is life-changing – there are definitely stand-outs, like the hot cast iron pot of Coq au Vin, or the thick country bread covered in heaps of stracchino cheese and plump sun-dried tomatoes – but its attentive, unparalleled design is all-consuming. Every detail works together to create a world of rustic French elegance, like the mini card-stock menus engraved like gorgeous wedding invitations, the limited cocktail list, the miniature forks, the delicate round water glasses, the silver trays adorning the ceiling, the wooden bar stools, the tin cans of oil, the tart tatin covered with aggressive scoops of whipped cream sliding down the side and the French servers bustling behind the bar. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, except I’ve been teleported to Paris in another era.

buvette

buvette

photo from ilovebuvette.com

photo from ilovebuvette.com

cassoulet

coq au vin

Things get hectic here,  but it’s worth the experience and the servers have their routine down. If you can manage tight quarters and miniaturized utensils (in other words, you’re not claustrophobic or particularly big and tall), then I highly recommend you visit Buvette for your next “sit-at-the-bar” meal.

Grade: A-
Location: 42 Grove Street btwn Bleecker and Bedford 
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable Date, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites, French, Romantic Date, West Village

Landbrot: the God of gooey gouda pretzel pockets

landbrot

Have you ever heard of a pretzel pocket? I hadn’t, but the concept of melting cheese inside a pretzel is sheer genius, and I’m ashamed that I was remis to think of it before trying it last week. It was the hectic night of Super Bowl – the 49ers were losing, the Mercedes Superdome power was out, and there were ten trays of delicious food (including an assortment of Parm sandwiches) around calling out my name. Amidst the chaos and distractions, I needed something simple and comforting to munch, and that’s when I reached for the glistening, golden brown Landbrot pretzel pocket. And then I couldn’t stop – as the game progressed I pulled apart piece after piece of the pillowy, buttery pretzel dough until my stomach felt like I had consumed a brick.

undeniably cheesy

undeniably cheesy*

Over-consumption aside, this is an urgent must-try for any bread and cheese lover. I often say that my favorite foods involve these two staples (quesadillas, pizza, brie on baguette…), and I’ve just added another to the list – I’m lucky this place is close enough for unbeatable cravings, but just the right distance away to help me to resist when I don’t feel like walking.

Landbrot’s serves a wide variety German salads, sandwiches, cakes, and desserts, and the space itself is modern, bright with natural light, and decked out with displays of copious amounts of German bread and pretzels for sale.

Grade: A+
Location: 137 7th Ave btwn Charles and West 10th
Website
Photo from Girl Eats City

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable Date, Bread Basket Breakdown, Fun Group Dinner, German, West Village

Morandi: the consummate bustling brasserie-style Italian meal

2532849192_b14a7f234c

Keith McNally has his formula down right. No matter what the cuisine, his restaurants are jam-packed, lively, loud, wide open and all operated like well-oiled machines. His reservation line is centralized, his hosts are professionals at gauging wait times, and menus, drinks, bread baskets, and food comes out like clockwork. If you’re working here, there’s no room for friendly chit chat. It’s “here are the specials, I’ll be back, okay what would you like, is everything okay, here are the dessert menus, would you like anything else, here is the check,” and “thank you for dining with us.”

So, it may not be the most personal or intimate experience – his places are not for the volume sensitive – but damn his food is always straight forward and spot on. Last night at Morandi, after copious amounts of bread and olive oil, I enjoyed every (over-priced) dish that I tasted. The crispy fried artichokes, mozzarella with speck and figs, apple fennel salad with sheep’s milk cheese, broccoli rabe bruschetta, fettucine with shrimp, kale and squash, apple crepes with ice cream and the cookie plate were all hits. The standout however, was something sent out by the chef – hot, utterly crisp wedges of fried polenta with a ceramic dish of baccala covered in black truffles. Now, baccala never sounds good to me – salt cod mushed together with oil and a few other things – but this had huge flakes of fish and tasted like heaven atop the sensually smooth triangles of polenta. Buttery, salty, divine.

inside view (from Timeout NY)

inside view (from Timeout NY)

IMG_2031

fried artichokes

perfectly soft mozzarella with figues and speck

perfectly soft mozzarella with figues and speck

IMG_2035

bruscetta, salad, and wine in a basket (my favorite)

broccoli rabe close up

IMG_2037

decadent fried polenta with chunky baccala and truffles
IMG_2036

fettuccine – slightly overcooked noodles but subtly buttery and delicious

apple crepes with mascarpone ice cream

apple crepes with mascarpone ice cream

IMG_2038

absolutely unnecessary cookie plate, but dainty and tasty nonetheless

Prices are high for an Italian restaurant ($30+ entrees), but come for the energy, the unquestionably solid food, the variety, and the feeling of being alive (unless you ate as much as I did and have to hail a cab for a 3 block walk).

Grade: A
Location: 211 Waverly Place
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, West Village

The Marrow: Herold’s take on elevated Eastern European

marrow

For some reason I’m turned off by words like “bratwurst” and “pickled herring” when I’m perusing a menu. It’s not that I don’t love German food (though never in my life will I eat herring again), I’m just a sucker for the standard mozzarella or crostini options that make my eyes light up when I find them. Fortunately, Herold Dieterle’s new restaurant in the West Village does a great job of marrying the best of both worlds – a little pasta or vitello tonato here, a little cold sausage and pretzel dumpling soup there. In fact, the menu is so diverse that some might interpret it as a restaurant identity crisis.  But if it’s ever difficult to understand the dominant cuisine of a place, just analyze the bread, and here, mini pretzel rolls with mustard make it clear that while there are a number of italian touches, German food reigns supreme.

IMG_2021

pretzel roll – could have been slightly softer.

Marrow 75

Marrow 75 (photo from SeriousEats)

For such a new restaurant, the service was noticeably remarkable throughout – I couldn’t believe I was permitted to sit at the table before my boyfriend arrived and that I was able to taste so many wines before selecting.  I started out by sipping a stiff Marrow 75 cocktail with gin, sage, lemon, and sparkling wine, and was soon tipsy enough to order with absolutely no inhibitions – meaning, we got a lot of food. We started with an amazingly fresh, lightly acidic dungeness crab salad, baccala gnudi with pine nuts and raisins, and a skillet braised cuttlefish with guanciale and white wine. The refreshing crab salad balanced out the hearty buttery-ness of the cuttle fish and gnudi, but all three dishes were beautifully plated and well-seasoned. The soft, melt in your moth fish-ricotta dumplings were my favorite – and while I generally don’t like fruit in my savory food, the plump sweet raisins totally complemented the subtle seafood flavors in the dish.

Then came round 2. The stone bass “vitello tonato” was beautifully cooked – tender white fish, crisp white skin, and a luscious veal-tuna sauce on the base of the plate. We also made an adventurous choice of the $30 roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, which essentially looked like a massive shrub with a bounty of other vegetables, but tasted as good as a mass of hearty, crispy and juicy mushroom could. I think if I ate the entire thing I would have exploded – who knew mushrooms could be so rich? The cotechino with lentils
was meaty, salty and dense – an interesting take on sausage and lentils but apparently an italian tradition. We ended the meal with a decadent portion of chocolate budino, which was served with whipped mascarpone cream and a salty hazelnut brittle that I took it upon myself to use as a spoon.

baccala gnudi

baccala gnudi

cuttlefish

cuttlefish

cotechino - photo from SeriousEats

cotechino – photo from SeriousEats

The food had a few things in common: all very savory and flavorful (only 1 or 2 of the dishes were a tad too salty), never before seen (in my life time), and all very delicious. But while food is generally why we go out to restaurants, ambience is a huge factor in my love for a place as well. The space here fits the food – daring wall paper, bold colors, warm lighting – but let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy to be seated in the long narrow expanse that leads to the bathroom. Unfortunately the massive windows look onto a deserted street and add a coldness to an otherwise charming, intimate space. Either way, the food is enough to bring me back, but it’s easy to rack up a bill here so it’ll likely be for a special occasion.

Grade: A-
Location: 99 Bank Street @ Greenwich Street
Website 

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, German, Italian, West Village

Baoguette / Phosure: my takeout choice of late

When it’s close to 20 degrees outside, there’s not much else I crave but a steaming bowl of noodle soup, which is why I’m now ordering Baoguette’s chicken pho on a weekly basis. Sunday night rolls around and sure enough my tasters for earthy beef broth with rice noodles and flavorful dark meat chicken kick in before I’ve even had the chance to browse for something new on Seamless web. Baoguette delivers in record time even on the coldest nights and they even take the time to separate all the fixings in individual containers – awesome so I can microwave the broth without destroying the noodles and bean sprouts. It’s the little things that count when there are over 100 places to choose from for delivery each night. In the age of inundation, being sure about one thing like your noodle choice is all that you need.

pho with beef

pho with beef

There are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants offering soup downtown, but I’ve never had a bowl with as generous a serving of tender chicken as Baoguette. I wouldn’t recommend eating onsite – the spot is tiny and sandwiched between no-name restaurants (and my old apartment) on sketchy Christopher street – but a large, deep soup bowl is a must for serving at home. Ask for extra hot sauce if you’re a true fan of spice.

Grade: A
Location: multiple; I order from 102 Christopher Street btwn Bleecker and Bedford
Website
*photo from Flickr

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable Date, Asian, Vietnamese, West Village