Koku

454 Main StArmonk, NY 10504 • (914) 730-0077 • kokujapanese.com

o

I am sad to have only just discovered this place right as I was moving away from a reasonable proximity, but happy to have at least had a meal there before I departed, because hot damn is it good!

The fish isn’t quite at the level of Azuma, but it is far more inventive and the setting is probably the best of any sushi joint in Northern Westchester. Hell, even the website is more blows the aesthetic doors off of the competition. Service was also great, and quite warm and friendly with a killer recommendation on a special dish consisting of a fish we had never even heard of before (and struggled feebly to pronounce), coming straight from the one and only Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Best thing we had. No surprise.

My second favorite dish was the spicy tuna tacos. Though I gotta say, the whole mexi-sushi thing is getting a bit overplayed right now to the point of annoyance, but when it’s this good, I find it hard to bitch. Okay, no I don’t. I love to bitch. But not about these tacos. They do both mexipanese prouder than Senora Tiger Mom.

A very close third, but less inventive than the other dishes we tried were the salmon skin hand rolls and the unagi. Great flavor in the eel sauce and just awesome texture and saltiness in the handrolls- as good as any I’ve ever had.

Surprisingly, however, one of the most touted dishes of all at this place was a bit of a disappointment for wifey and I. The spicy edamame is not only messy as all hell, but it’s also not very spicy, making the humiliation to worth-it ratio very unfavorable.

What is in favor is the whole package because Koku makes almost every other sushi joint in Northern Westchester look like amateur hour.

4 teeth

Advertisements

Moderne Barn

430 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 730-0001 modernebarn.com

e1a5059006f94cfecb88d214e2a27f16

In truth, I would actually give it 2.5 knives, but Ferocious Foodie don’t play that, so alas, I feel the need to round down out of sheer ferociousness, well, that and because it’s very overpriced for what it is. And what exactly is that? Mediocre, inconsistent execution of seemingly interesting preparations served up in a nice, but noisy dining room that’s perhaps a bit too large for its own good.

So, with the food being all over the map, consider this your culinary Garmin. In terms of liquid starters, I had the Pear Tree Martini, which goes down easier than you can say “I’m sorry occifer. I didn’t realize the stop sign was green.” But as for the more chewable starters, I’ve had the octopus, which is a solid good, although I can’t say it lives up to the rave reviews, especially when you can get better tentacles just right down the street at Fortina.  The broiled Bluepoint oysters with blackberry barbeque sauce, bacon and maytag blue cheese (see what I mean about the preparations sounding good?) are terrible. And whatever my wife’s,  salad was, don’t get that either. It came horribly over-dressed.

As for entrees, I’ve had the short ribs, which are just okay, better when you combine them with the bone marrow mashed potatoes- like biting into a meaty cloud with a smoky finish. The burger also hits the spot with the help of gruyere, caramelized onions and rosemary sea salt fries. But unfortunately, once again, wifey missed with the fig & prosciutto pizza which was a not so distant cousin to cardboard.

Yes, with so many hits and misses you’re bound to feel like Indiana Jones trying not to step on the wrong tile, but fortunately the light at the end of the tunnel arrives at dessert, which is where the Barn shines brightest. Both the Chocolate Hazelnut tart and the Ginger Peach Crumble were excellent! So good they almost make you want to forgive them for all of the other duds… almost.

My advice? Drinks and dessert, and you are golden!

2 teeth

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

Bacon+Jam+and+Avocado+Grilled+Cheese+Sandwich+800+3449

Greens – San Francisco, CA

As vegetarian places go, Greens is way up there for me. And a huge part of the reason behind that is this sandwich alone. It is so damn good we bought the cookbook right there on the spot, just so we could replicate it at home. It’s fontina with marinated cremini mushrooms and harissa on a bread that knows how to be the man behind the man.

Beecher’s – New York, NY

Figs, honey and cheese are like the Three Musketeers of deliciousness. And Beecher’s puts them together in proportionate perfection on a raisin walnut bread that only adds to the party. I know it sounds so stupidly simple that you could even make it home, but as I have said more times than you would probably care to hear, simplicity is the root of greatness.

Melts – Armonk, NY

Similar to Beecher’s, this place is a treasure trove of grilled cheese greatness. But once you sift through all of the treasure you will come upon the Hope Diamond of grilled cheeses, The Heat. Made with home pickled jalapenos to get that perfect level of spiciness, cherry peppers, Sriracha and muenster. It will melt your heart, along with your tongue.

Beehive Restaurant

30 Old Rt 22 Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 765-0688beehive-restaurant.com

banana-macadamia-nut

Dear Yelpers,

Just because a restaurant has a big menu does not make it a four star restaurant. In fact, it’s more often than not means the exact opposite because they can’t focus on making anything great with so much to keep prepped, so nothing is ever fresh and thus nothing winds up good.

Beehive, at its best, is blah diner food with better decor and worse service. Cue the can of whoop-ass opening…

First, when we were seated for lunch, there were about a dozen or more empty tables, yet the hostess first tried to seat us next to the wait station. WTF? Then, the waiter brings me the special fish sandwich, about which nothing was special, and to make matters worse, he fails to even bring me the entire dish. I had to ask where the remaining sides were before he even realized. After eventually returning with the forgotten sides, he brought the fries without ketchup or mustard, and nor did he even bother to ask if I’d like any.

Then there’s the food. As I already stated, the fried fish sandwich was tasteless. A travesty if you ask me, because if I’m going to poison myself with deep fried food, the least it should be is worth it! And worse still, the sandwich was a recommendation by the waiter- shocker. But the saddest part of all was that the side of tarter sauce did nothing for the dish as it was as equally bland as the fish itself. Like placing mayo on top of oil.

So how about those fries? Even they were atrocious. Completely tasteless. No salt or seasoning of any kind, tasting like the crap you get at a diner along a desolate route somewhere in the sticks.

And then there’s my wife’s Chop Chop Cobb, which should be chop, chopped right off the menu. The “green goddess” dressing was far from god-like and even farther from green. Again, basically just a ramekin of mayo. I swear, in a blind taste test you wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from the tarter sauce.

So Beehive, this is going to sting… but you flat out suck.

1 tooth

Restaurant North

386 Main St. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-8686restaurantnorth.com

Restaurant North

Having never been THAT impressed with this chef’s former stomping ground Union Square Café, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I find North to also be considerably over-hyped.

And after having been there twice now, I’ve come to the conclusion that my biggest issue is that they would be much better suited as a bakery or as a casual haunt. But when held to the standards of fine dining, they simply don’t measure up. Blue Hill at Stone Barns and The Inn at Pound Ridge are both much, MUCH better. And for Italian it’s bested by both Fortina (just two blocks away) and The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry.

For me, the misses start the moment you enter the door. First with a decor that is notch or two past minimalist, trending toward unfinished. This is then followed up with a hostess who tried to seat us at the shittiest table by the bar, even though about 75% of the tables in the restaurant were empty. And this is with us having had a reservation for weeks mind you. The excuse, because one of the tables on the other half of the dining room was being reserved for a friend of the chef’s. But what about the other six open tables?!?!

After that, things improved, but never so much that they fell in line with the sterling reputation this place seems to enjoy.  This is not to say that what lies ahead was all bad, by any means, but if your are going to be a top restaurant in one of the wealthiest suburbs on the planet, you’d better be more than just “not bad.”

Not bad, however, was the story from top to bottom. Not one course the first time we went reached what I would call “excellent,” and we each had three. Yet each course lacked that little extra something that takes a dish from good to memorable. And with 6 different dishes and two proprietary cocktails, I’d say they had ample ways to impress, but failed at every one.

The only two dishes from that outing to rise above just a solid good were a pasta dish and the soft shell crabs. Both teetering on great. But sadly, not actually great.

Fortunately, while definitely ferocious, I also try to be fairocious, so I gave them a second chance before writing this review and upon revisiting it, this somewhat only served to solidified my opinions from the first experience.

That said, there were a few shining moments once again, and this time they were shining much brighter. For example, the focaccia they serve as the bread with your meal is phenomenal. It’s also an Ultimate.

Another thing worthy of note is the muffin they give you after the meal to take home. Moist, heavily seeded for a nice contrast in textures, and heavily awesome. So, it would appear that they bookend you well, between incredibly delicious baked goods, but if you just look past the bready smoke and mirrors, mediocrity was once again abound.

For example, the swordfish entree while perfectly cooked was woefully blah. Their hazelnut encrusted variation of a Scotch egg was equally lacking in flavor, begging for some salt to bring out the flavor of the egg. And the “Super Awesome” chocolate chip cookie is “super overrated.” It’s the same typical half baked cookie in a skillet you’d expect to find at Applebee’s with a very mediocre scoop of vanilla on top. You want a truly “super awesome” chocolate chip cookie, head to Sherry B’s in Chappaqua and get the one with walnuts (even if you’re allergic, it’s worth it). Or if you’re in the city, there’s none better than the one at City Bakery.

Another inflated dish is the burger. And while it’s definitely more impressive than the aforementioned dishes, with its creamed kale topper, it also falls WAY short of places like Minetta Tavern, Father’s Office and Burger & Barrel, to which I’ve heard it compared. Blasphemy!

Back on the upside, because I like to end things on a positive note (not really, but I will), the mushroom flatbread was surprisingly good, well balanced between the heartiness of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the goat cheese and the fresh pepperiness of the greens.

And finally, the suckling pig. Definitely not the looker of the bunch. In fact, once shredded amongst the bed of spaetzle it looked more like a cat got a hold of a stuffed animal and ripped it to bits. But the taste was excellent. Accented with a nice touch of heat.

But even with the stronger showing my second time around, it’s still WAY too hit and miss to be playing at the level they claim to be. Especially when they pull shit like pawning us off on the busboy to take our dessert order. Classy North. Very classy.

2 teeth

 

Mariani Gardens Café

Mariani Gardens • 45 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 273-3083 • marianigardens.com/about_cafe.asp

about_cafeimg1

The location is a touch odd, in the midst of a nursery and outdoor furniture store, but somehow it works, probably because it’s a VERY high end nursery and outdoor furniture store, and thus the setting, while casual, is very nice.

The high end-ness bites both ways, however, as the prices are even higher end, and I’m not just talking about the furniture.

For lunch, for four people, no appetizers, no dessert, no sides, and only three drinks (non-alcoholic) it was about $75. And we’re talking salads and hotdog/burger. No lobster salad. Just vegetables. No foie gras or veal burger (it was veggie). Drinks were nothing special either. No fresh squeezed juices or smoothies. Just Diet Coke and lemonades.

So, the big question is, was it worth the ridiculous price? Not even close! Everything was as mediocre as it gets. The best of the lot was the beet salad with goat cheese, but that’s not saying much. The worst of the lot was the French lentil salad with “spicy” walnuts. I’m not sure what passes as spicy these days, but whatever it is, they forgot to put it on those walnuts. At least the portions were big, but what good is it if those portions taste like balsa wood?

Now I can only imagine the place is trying to compensate for the rent. Or the fact that the only people buying plants and furniture from them are the .0001%. But I don’t think I should be the one subsidizing their lifestyle. Either up your game or I will be taking my business elsewhere from now on. For example right up the street, Melts crushes this place. Or Fortina. Hell, I’d rather grab a sandwich from the deli in DeCicco’s.

Sorry to be so harsh Mariani, but as a nursery, you of all places should know, you reap what you sow.

2 teeth

 

Melts

144 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 219-5995meltsny.com

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.27.10 AM

Melts is on fire. Only three weeks old and this baby is already walking. And by walking I mean kicking- of the ass variety. The brain child of two brothers who obviously loves themselves a good melt, they manage to pack a very tight menu with so many damn good sounding options I  didn’t know which two to split with the wife so I asked one of the owners. He recommended The Heat and The Wisconsin Patty Melt.

He was right. Both were excellent, but apples and oranges apart. The Heat, aptly named, was spot on. Taking it right to that threshold where flavor spicy ends and painful spicy begins, but without crossing it. So what’s in it? Well, first they pickle their own jalapenos specifically so they can control the aforementioned spice. Then there’s cherry peppers and Sriracha mayo- oh and cheese, of course. Munster to be precise.

The Patty Melt on the other hand is basically a burger in disguise, who are we kidding. That said, it’s one bitchin’ burger with smoked Wisconsin cheddar, apple wood bacon, BBQ sauce and crispy fried onions. One of the best burgers- er, melts in the area.

But speaking of superlatives, let’s take a moment to reflect on the tater tots. Yes, this newcomer just dropped an Ultimate like it was nothin’ but a thang. So deceptively simple, yet so unique at the same time. Crispy on the outside, almost creamy-mashed-potato-like on the inside and sprinkled with salty parmesan. So good we devoured them before they even had a chance to cool down from mouth-burning-hot.

The only misses for me, and by that I just mean “eh,” would be the desserts. The kids obviously horked them down, but to the more discerning palate the Rice Crispy Treat, chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and the sugar cookie don’t hold a candle to the rest of the show.

As for décor, it’s in a charming little house just off the main drag in Armonk. And as you step inside, you are instantly hit with even more charm. From the cheese grater light fixtures to the do-it-yourself old-fashioned icebox in the corner for some refreshing Arnold Palmers, you just can’t help love the cheese whiz out of this place.

And what’s especially nice, is that the owners are nice. Two great guys with a great concept on their hands. I sincerely hope they soar. And that I can still get a table.

P.S. Upon return I tried the namesake “Melts” and it is very close third of awesome. Whereas the Philly Cheesesteak, while good, is a distant fourth. Planning to go back several more times, so stay tuned for the rest.

4 teeth

Fortina

17 Maple Ave. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-0900fortinapizza.com

fortina

Fortina has a great vibe about it, especially in the Summer with its large outdoor seating area. And even the inside is so open that it’s basically like sitting outside as well. Unfortunately you aren’t overlooking much, unless parking lots and strip malls do it for you.

On the inside, it has some nice touches as well, including a well stocked bar. And service was very friendly and attentive, which is good when you have two small children in tow. They were a little slow the second time around, but compensated generously by comping both our glasses of wine as well as two desserts. Class act.

To start we’ve had the arugula salad with toasted pistachios and parmesan, which was good, but nothing you can’t make at home. As is the bibb lettuce with avocado.

The farfalle pasta with peas and mint was very good. Bright with lemon and perfectly al dente. In fact, the second time we went we had a different pasta and it too was impeccably prepared. These guys nail there pasta as well as anywhere I’ve eaten.

The only miss for me, and the entire reason we went, was the pizza. So many pies on the menu sounded great that we ultimately asked for a reco from our waitress, going with the second most popular, the funghi with bone marrow and black truffles. Like I said, sounds awesome, right? Well, I actually found it quite bland. Granted once you put red pepper flakes on it, and eat it with the salad, it helps bring it back from the dead, but I most certainly won’t get it when I return. And I will definitely return, because the crust is solid and everything else we had showed has some serious chops. But to those who call it the best pizza in Weschester, I would ask that they try The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry, Polpettina in Eastchester or Frankie & Fanucci’s in Mamaroneck and then let’s talk.

*Okay, crow eating time. I may be ferocious, but I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. Well, not that I was wrong about the funghi per se, just wrong to judge the place by one pie. Upon returning, both the Margherita pizza and the Tenderoni were excellent. The former simply being a dimension of incredibly fresh tomatoes and basil. The latter being the result, most likely, of emulating one of my favorite pies on Earth, Roberta’s Bee Sting. Spicy soppressata, honey and chili oil.

But let’s get back to those serious chops. Especially when it comes to dessert. We shared two the first time; the ciocolata with amaretto cookies and the affagato with espresso poured over it. Both were delish. But I don’t think you can fully appreciate how monumental it is for me to say such a thing until you’ve had a little deeper insight into the Ferocious Foodie. I actually hate the taste of coffee. It is in fact the ONLY thing in the world of food I don’t consume. And it’s pretty categorical. I don’t like it as ice cream, in desserts like tiramisu, as sweet drinks like Cappuccino. With a fox in a box. You name it. That is until now. Yes, after 44 years of hating everything I’ve ever tried that has to do with coffee, an espresso smothered dessert finally showed me the light. So praised be Fortina! I can see!

P.S. Their bread pudding is damn tasty too!

P.P.S. Having been back now over a dozen times a few other shout outs worthy of note would be the Bisteca (rib eye), the Totes Ma Goats pizza and the sweet corn polenta. Three of my favorite things on the menu and the rib eye is probably the best steak I’ve had since the French Laundry, and that’s some insanely high praise right there.

4 teeth

David Chen

85 Old Mount Kisco Rd. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-6767 • davidchens.com

david-chen-chinese-restaurant

Remember about 30 to 40 years ago when most Chinese restaurants were decorated like a Disney theme park? So much so, that if you saw one today and the owners weren’t actually Chinese, you’d probably accuse them of playing into racist stereotypes. Well, that’s David Chen- the dated part, not the racist part.

The place literally feels like it crawled back out of the 80’s. It also feels like they haven’t updated a single thing since. The table we were seated at was literally falling apart, sagging like the back of an old horse. The glasses, while not technically dirty, were so old, they were permanently fogged from being in a dishwasher 10 million times. Even the fish in the tanks look pre-historic.

But let’s try to look past all of this for just a second and focus on the food. While nothing was out and out bad, per se, it was very old school Chinese (shocker). Very oily lo mein. Over-cooked and under-meated crispy orange beef that would’ve had the old lady from the Wendy’s commercials of yore rolling in her grave. And shumai the size of baseballs. The only thing that rose above a snarky dig was the seafood pot, loaded with a variety of fresh shellfish. Granted I can’t say I loved that either because the sauce was just okay.

And as for service, even that was a little iffy. Beyond the language barrier, which naturally has its issues, we were served entrees before appetizers and everything came out SO quickly it gave you the unnerving feeling that it had been sitting in vats dating back to their grand opening. And as we dug in, we noticed we actually DIDN’T have the obligatory chopsticks that you’d expect to find in a place like this. We also didn’t seem to have knives either. So not sure which cultural norm they were trying to appeal to on this one, so I’ll just chalk it up to a poor table setting.

But before I leave you on a down note, as you hopefully know by now, I like to offer solutions. And fortunately this one is VERY nearby. Less than 2 minutes. Rice is FAR superior in every way. The food is cleaner, fresher and flat out better. With contemporary twists on classic dishes as well as décor. Service is better too. The only nit there is location. It’s in an inward facing strip mall. But whatevs. I’d rather have good food. From this century.

2 teeth

 

Rice: Modern Chinese Cuisine

111 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504 (914) 273-3880ricearmonk.com

l

Most of the reviews on this place are pretty useless thus far, so I will try to make mine a little more utilitarian.

First off, the decor is fine. Not what I would call “serene” as some suggest and not “horrible” either. It’s pretty basic, with a slight nod toward modernity. Nothing you would ever swoon over. And nothing worth commenting on. So I’ll stop commenting on it now.

The service is fine. Not unfriendly. Not creepy. No eavesdropping either. Again, nothing worthy of note in either direction so again, I scratch my head at other reviewers.

The food, however, IS worthy of note. It was quite good actually. The lo mein was done very well. Most places tend to make it too oily. The orange crispy beef was also better than most, layered with some nice heat and even a touch of herbs to give it a complexity you seldom see in this dish.

The dim sum, was also pretty good- the kids gobbled them up, but what little I tasted was a solid good.

The only true drawback to this place worth mentioning is the location. It’s in a sad strip mall down a hallway that doesn’t face the street, so it’s empty as a result. As is the Italian place across the hall. And the lack of energy/life that this creates makes for a rather unattractive experience overall. But, compare to David Chen, it’s like eating at North. I mean, at least you don’t feel like you’re eating at the Chinese Pavilion in Epcot.

Also, it is worth noting that it’s the best Chinese we’ve found in Westchester so far. So it has that going for it too. But because of its locale, I fear it’ll be gone in a year.

3 teeth