McSorley’s Old Ale House

15 E 7th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 473-9148 • mcsorleysnewyork.com
mcsorleys-ale-house

While she doesn’t look like much from the outside (pictured), lurking beneath it’s semi-disheveled black and green exterior is one of the best bars in the entire country. This is not opinion. It’s fact. Sort of like how it’s fact that Kanye West is a douche bag.

So what makes McSorley’s so special? Well, for starters it’s the oldest bar in New York City, dating all the way back to 1854. I defy anyone to name another bar in the States  that is this old that still has its cool. And while “cool” may be subjective to some, particularly women (who weren’t even allowed in the bar until 1970- I shit you not… And didn’t even have a woman’s bathroom until 1987- I double shit you not), one still has to show a healthy respect for a bar that has managed such enduring success serving only two drinks, an excellent house-crafted ale and a dark ale. No other beers. No liquor. No cocktails or shots.

Still not impressed, well, that only makes you about half as difficult as McSorley’s, because they also have quite a few rules to further complicate your buzz…

Rule 1: You can only buy beers in even numbers. Perhaps the greatest marketing scheme of all time.

Rule 2: You can only sit down at one of the tables in the back if you order food. Unfortunately the food doesn’t live up to the ale, but at least it’s an excuse to sit down after pounding beers in twos.

Rule 3: “Be good or be gone.” As stated by a sign, if you get too boisterous you are likely to find yourself kicked to the curb.

And yet with all of these rules, with no flat screens, no hard stuff, no themes or gimmicks, no promotions and with saw dust on the floor being their idea of feng shui, over 150 years later the place is still packed. Cheers McSorley’s.

5 teeth

Luke’s Lobster

93 E 7th St. New York, NY 10009(212) 387-8487lukeslobster.com

lunch-13

I’ve been hearing for a few years now that Luke’s is one of the best lobster rolls in the city, so I finally managed to drag my ferocious ass on over there and grab a roll. Well, that and a lobster grilled cheese, because why not?

Now I must concur that the force is definitely strong with Luke’s. I like the more understated seasoning. Light vinegar, touch of herbs- perhaps even infused into the vinegar itself. But its subtlety makes it hard to truly go bonkers over. I mean, yes, I applaud the restraint to not drown the poor thing in mayo or butter. And yes, the lobster shines through for certain, but I just crave that little, extra somethin’ somethin’. Like take Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Connecticut Roll, served warm with butter (no drowning) and paprika. Sorry Luke, it’s a game of inches and unfortunately you fall a couple short of Ultimate status.

The other thing holding Luke’s back is the grilled cheese. It’s just okay. Nothing that will rock your world, but definitely better than your average grill, because let’s be honest, there’s lobster in them there parts! But the decision to serve this up without any zazzle or spin only proves to me that while you most certainly have skillz, Luke, you’re not a Jedi yet.

3 teeth

 

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

207 2nd Ave. New York, NY 10003(212) 254-3500momofuku.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While I didn’t actually eat AT Ssäm, I did eat FROM there, thanks to a little site called trycaviar.com. For those of you who know seamless.com or grubhub.com, it’s basically the same thing only instead of trying to offer a ton places they focus on quality vs. quantity. Which means you can order delivery from some pretty awesome places… like Momofuku Ssam Bar. So, here’s what we ordered:

We went with three mains and three sides and shared everything. Of the mains the only miss was the pork shoulder wrap. It was bland by comparison to it’s brother from another mother, the lamb wrap. It was moister and much more flavorful than the pork. But both seemed to be adorned by the same Korean/Thai accouterments (I know it’s supposed to be Korean, but the use of peanut feels more Thai).

The other main was also pretty special. Apparently a dish so popular Momofuku serves it at more than one of their restaurants. It’s made with sausage and rice cakes and it’s packing some serious heat (pictured). Highly recommend.

And since we’re talking highs, the spicy potatoes are a must. Best I’ve ever had. Blows away the typical small plate you tend to find at every tapas restaurant from LA to Madrid.

The broccoli is also good, but compared to the potatoes they are at least two flights down from Heaven. And same goes for the bean salad granted it might be three flights down.

So a strong 3 knives for Ssam and a weak 5 for trycaviar.com, because while it is definitely awesome it is also pretty friggin’ slow. Meals take, on average, over an hour for delivery. So if you’re famished, trysomethingelse.com.

3 teeth

Jewel Bako

239 E 5th St. New York, NY 10003 • (212) 979-1012jewelbakosushi.com

 jewel-bako-east-village

If the name sorta sounds like “Jewel Box” it’s with good reason, the décor is intended to look like one. And from the picture you can see it’s almost as though you are sitting inside a jewelry case, perhaps as one of the jewels, which is how we were treated by our waiter.

Unfortunately, though, I really wish the jewels were on our plate, handled as a little more “precious,” because while it is certainly good, it just doesn’t live up to its price tag. For me, in general, most super high end/expensive sushi joints tend to disappoint. In fact, there is really only one that doesn’t, Nobu. Granted I have yet to eat at Masa, but I heard it’s not worth it either, so I’m not about to rush to another $200+ a person meal just to confirm what I already know. That said, I do find Bako to be a worthy trip over the likes of Megu, Bond St. and Koi.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Caviar

10_donleekopic_lg

Momofuku Ko – New York, NY

Once upon a time this would’ve been a two-way tie with Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA (RIP), but since it has closed its doors Momofuku Ko is the last man standing.

So, how do you take something like caviar and make it the caviar of caviar? Well, like Cyrus, Momofuku has figured out two very important pairings. The first is a brother from another mother, a chicken egg. In this case, soft boiled. There is something about the egg to egg combo that takes fish roe to the highest plains of Nirvana imaginable.

The other key is warm, fresh baked bread. But Ko forgoes the blini in favor of a homemade sourdough, which they serve with their very own transcendent radish butter. And once the coupled eggs sit atop this bread and butter dais, prepare to see the back of your skull, because your eyes are about to roll over in ecstasy.

The Ultimate Fried Chicken

abckitchen_csa-041

ABC Kitchen – New York, NY

The South has nothing on this bird (pictured). Prepared in such a way that seems more derivative of fish and chips, the chicken winds up coming out like a juicy, poultry breaded bag of bliss. The other thing that winds up happening is you make everyone else at the table jealous they didn’t order the chicken.

 

Maharlika – New York, NY

Prior to Maharlika I really didn’t get the whole chicken and waffles thing. And yes, I tried it, so don’t get all Green Eggs and Ham on me. And what’s weird about it is that I love both dishes independently, just not together. Well, maybe that’s because no one else was doing it right. So leave it to a Filipino restaurant to show me how Southern cooking is supposed to be. Go figure. Gotta love New York though. So what’s so great about ‘em? I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I mean the fact that the waffles are purple is aesthetically unique, but I doubt that’s the reason. Moistness is, however a huge part of it. The waffle wasn’t dry, which is my usual gripe with this dish. The other plus was sweetness, again, a miss with so many other posers. I mean on a philosophical level, isn’t the purpose of this dish the contrast of savory and sweet? Well, Maharlika gets it. And now so do I.

Graffiti

224 E 10th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 677-0695 • graffitinyc.com

panel_622x299-eggplant

Apart from the inflated rating, I like Graffiti. More “Modern Indian Tapas” than “New American Cuisine” though. It’s tiny inside and spilling over with eclectic keepsakes crammed onto just about every square inch of wall space, which some might find quaint and others claustrophobic. Basically what you’d expect from the East Village.

The staff is friendly, even though they kicked us out for lingering after dinner. Not cool, but with such a tiny dining room and communal tables, I guess it’s to be expected.

As for the food and drink, I enjoyed the lychee martinis, but they were far from “amazing,” per other reviews. Granted, they did go well with the food and I ended up having two, so maybe they were amazing?

For dinner, we stuck to the Yelp consensus and ordered the mango paneer, which was good, the hummus pizza, which was just eh, the pork buns, which were also good, but beware of pits in the chutney, you could break a tooth- seriously.  And the far and away stand out of the night, which seems to get mixed reviews strangely enough, was the duck portobello. So nice we ordered it twice.

Dessert was the biggest disappointment though. The warm strawberries with almonds and pepper ice cream was SO underwhelming. I have no idea why people rave about it. It’s like they’ve never had strawberries with ice cream before? And as for the chocolate hazelnut dessert, it was equally blah.

So long story short, glad I went, but I doubt I’ll go back. Especially with such uncomfortable seating. If you have a bad back like I do, be warned!

3 teeth

Maharlika

111 1st Ave. New York, NY 10003(646) 392-7880maharlikanyc.com

l-1

While I definitely like places like this, a little more down and dirty, away from all the pomp and circumstance of what it means to be fine dining in NYC (which I also love, don’t get me wrong), I found the decor a little too down and a little too dirty. In fact, decor is such an afterthought here, I literally don’t think they thought about it at all. And by sitting us between the bus station and the kitchen, even though we had a reservation, certainly didn’t help. So that explains the docking of one star.

As for the other star, service was fine, so it wasn’t that. It was actually the food. Which pains me to say it, because I also loved it. I think one of the other reviewers had the same criticism, that while ALL of the dishes are filled with terrific flavors, they simply need to up their game on how to cook some of the meat. For example, the spare ribs were a touch dry and the short rib was very dry too. Meanwhile, the oxtail was as moist as can be, more like the short ribs should have been.

As for some of the other dishes, the special shrimp starter was the weakest of everything. No flavor comparatively to other dishes. The pork belly, while good, and an interesting blend of textures, was VERY difficult to eat, because you practically needed a power saw to slice into it. This was perhaps an inflamed issue, because we literally had to ask for knives at the table three times.

Spam fries with banana ketchup were good, but what is the level of difficulty here? You’ve got fatty reconstituted meat battered and deep fried and dipped in sweet ketchup.

Desserts were passable, one being coconut flan, which I’m not a fan of categorically. The other being the Mango cheesecake, which I liked, because the hint of mango gave a lightness to an otherwise heavy dessert. But outstanding it wasn’t.

So, why the three knives then, after all of this bitching and moaning? Because I saved the best for last. The eggplant side dish is just awesome. As is the fried chicken and waffles (pictured)- best I’ve ever had. So perfectly cooked I could honestly go back just for that (okay, and the eggplant).

3 teeth

The Ultimate Schnitzel

chicken-schnitzel

The Rumpus Room – Milwaukee, WI

Truth be told, I tend to find the high water mark for schnitzel rather low. I mean, even great schnitzel is only just “good” by comparison to so many other dishes I’d rather have. But that was until I ate at the Rumpus Room. They showed me the light. And this is how they did it.

First, they start with a pork-based schnitzel as opposed to veal, which I don’t think made the difference and if anything added to the level of difficulty, because veal usually trumps pork in my book. But I do believe it is local, hormone/antibiotic free pork, which does make a difference.

Then, they obviously bread and fry the thing, but the breading they use seems to be pretty standard as schnitzels go. What isn’t standard is how moist it turns out. And how they top it, with a mound of spicy arugula, a local aged gouda and a farm fresh, sunny-side egg, all culminating in a perfect storm of schnitzel bliss.

Edi & The Wolf – New York, NY

What makes this schnitzel sing isn’t the schnitzel itself, it’s the accoutrements that surround it. A sweet lingonberry jam, a refreshing cucumber slaw and a creamy, mustardy potato salad that when paired with a bite of the heritage pig schnitzel or any sub-combination thereof, you are met with a complexity of flavors often woefully absent from the realm of schnitzel.

Edi & The Wolf

102 Ave C New York, NY 10009 • (212) 598-1040 ediandthewolf.com

edi

Probably the second best Schnitzel I’ve ever had. Mostly because of its accompaniments. The jam, the cucumber slaw and potato salad are all on point. The spaetzle, on the other hand, was rather bland comparatively. That said, one of the non-German dishes was very strong. The snapper was delish- almost like something you’d expect to be served at Nobu.

And last but not least, the decor- the true star of Edi. It’s Edward Scissorhands meets barn chic. Very creepy cool. For example, the flower arrangement at our table was in an old boot.

Definitely worth the change of pace.

3 teeth