Momofuku Nishi

gou232 8th Ave.  New York, NY 10011 • (646) 518-1919 • momofuku.com

David Chang is a master of the impossible, so it only makes sense that he would create a veggie burger that tastes imperceptibly close to its meaty alternative, hence the name Impossible Burger (pictured). It is deception on a bun. Edible hocus pocus. The patty made predominantly from soy bean, it somehow even takes on the texture of meat.

As for the burger itself, it’s only amazing that it’s vegetarian. But as a burger itself, it’s just okay, coming off more like your classic simple cheeseburger (granted the new version now has truffle mayo and gouda) that isn’t as good as other veggie burgers like the Gouchujong at Cinnamon Snail or meat burgers like the Shack Stack at Shake Shack, The Bash Burger at B&B or my personal fav, The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern.

Beyond the novelty of the burger, however, Nishi is very hit and miss. The kimchi is just okay as is the beet salad with avocado and a dusting of nuts.

The only other hit you can chew would be the pistachio bundt cake for dessert. It’s far from epic, but it’s a solid choice if you want to end things on a sweet note.

That said, if you really want a hit, do yourself a Gin & Julius to drink. It’s like an alcoholic creamsicle. It’s also like really friggin’ yum and after two or three you won’t have your mind on your money or your mind.

The Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 620-0393 thespottedpig.com

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I have to applaud Yelp for not buying into the hype hook, line and sinker just because James Beard and Michelin apparently have. That said, I still find Yelp’s 3.5 stars to be a bit overstated as well.

Let me explain by starting with the “spotted” service. Not only do they make it painfully annoying to get a table as a result of not taking reservations, they get so crowded that the wait can grow as steep as an hour and 45 minutes by 6:30pm! So right off the bat, you’re basically going into the experience with a this-better-be-fucking-worth-it mindset, which is never good for anyone. I mean, by that point the only way a restaurant is ever going to fair well is if every bite on the menu is on physiological par with an orgasm. But on the plus side, as ridiculous as the wait is, the hosts handle it well. No attitude and they text you when your table is ready so you can go off and drink at another bar until your table is ready. Which also doesn’t bode well for them, because now you’re an angry drunk waiting far longer than is reasonable, only to be seated in an overcrowded dinning room that is so warm you’d swear you were going through menopause, all for food that simply isn’t worth it (more on that later).

As for the actual waiters, they are slow in both senses of the term, getting us the deviled eggs instead of the devils on horseback and then trying to charge us twice for the devils on horseback. But what was especially annoying was the lack of attention to speed of service. After all, wouldn’t one think, “hey, these people just waited nearly two hours for their table, perhaps I should try to make them wait as little as possible from here on out.” But nooooo, not here. It was the longest burger and beer experience of my life, lasting nearly four hours.

Now for the “spotted menu,” which proved to be so disappointing, starting off with the Spotted Pig Bitter, made with bubbles so infinitesimally small that it comes off as flat. But at least it had good flavor to it. Just pales in comparison to Blue Bird Bitter if you’ve ever had it.

As for the infamous Devils on Horseback, they are definitely good, but a bit too moist through and through, if you ask me. I much prefer the contrasty version, where the crisp bacon gives way to the moist, gooey date, like at Boqueria.

The runaway surprise hit of the night was the Apple Salad. It’s just awesome, but bone simple, hence we made a dead ringer of it at home the very next day without even having to look up a recipe online. It’s comprised of Pink Lady apples cut in large chunks, fresh parsley, a bit of arugula, sharp (aged) cheddar or manchego and a dressing made with apple cider vinegar, red chili infused olive oil, Dijon, honey and red pepper flakes to taste.

The most over-hyped dish of the night was easily the burger (pictured). Hidden beneath a tower of shoestring fries in hopes of masking its inadequacies. Sure, the patty is good, but it was so boring without ketchup and mustard, relying way too heavily on the roquefort cheese to carry it to greatness, toward which it falls miserably short. Instead, I highly suggest you head to Minetta Tavern for the Black Label Burger, which actually lives up to its legend. Or the Bash burger at B&B Wine Pub, which has won the best burger in the city five years running. Or even Élan’s Duck Burger, which few know about, but blows the spots off of this pig.

And finally, there’s the Skirt Steak, which not only skirted around our order of medium rare, but came in horrendously chewy, filled with sinew to the point of almost making it off-putting had it not been for the mushrooms and kale on the plate with it.

Unless you have a bizarre foodie fetish and like the masochistic notion of waiting forever for food that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I vote that you skip the Pig and just make that apple salad at home. It really is quite something.

2 teeth

K Restaurant

1710 Edgewater Dr. Orlando, FL 32804(407) 872-2332kwinebar.com

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Having spoke lovingly about Cask & Larder and Highball & Harvest (I have a thing for ampersands), I was told K put them both to shame, so naturally it became a moral imperative for me to visit K and see if the chef could put his menu where his mouth is. And at the onset, things seemed very promising, I liked the décor inside and out. It’s located in a house with a charming wraparound porch for the outdoor seating and inside it was equally charming and warm, with just the right hint of modern.

I also thought our waiter was excellent. Knowledgeable and passionate about every dish, not bashful with the recommendations and as an added bonus, he was studying for his level two sommelier exam so he was Johnny on the spot with the suggestions on vino. In fact, he didn’t stop there either, bringing out a few extra freebie pairings along the way, to help some of the dishes shine. And help shining they most certainly needed, because not one single dish was amazing and many were underwhelming.

Starting with the better half, I would recommend the K filet, cooked spot on medium rare and perched on a tasty brick of au gratin. But truth be told, the au gratin really made the dish, so a bit of a backhanded compliment on this one.

The heirloom tomato salad was farm fresh and mighty all righty. The beet salad was also nice, but both salads are very common dishes and neither were inventive, so I’m not about to climb a mountain to espouse their praises.

Next up, the deviled eggs were very good, done with a clever recreation of bacon bits, but having just had the best deviled eggs in my life less than a year ago at a place called Libertine in Indianapolis, I found it hard to swoon too much over these.

And last but not least, the pork chop. Just barely making it across the mid-line, it was two inches thick in a preparation that made it flavorful, with sweet potatoes at its side and a red cabbage slaw on top. Sadly, its own flavor was a bit lost due to the fact that it was a hair overcooked and therefore on the dry side.

Now for the rejects, and some of these are going to come as a shock to the K faithful. The shrimp and grits, while served in a nice barbeque sauce with some good kick, actually wound up backfiring in my opinion, because it overpowered everything in the dish. The shrimp were two small to hold up and the meager portion of grits didn’t do much better. As a result, the dish tasted more like a bowl of spicy barbeque sauce with chunks. Maybe they were going for a variation on etouffee? Well, they choked. Get it? Etouffee means “to choke.” …At least I amuse myself.

Speaking of choking, the crab salad over fired green tomatoes (pictured) was so far beneath the one at Highball & Harvest I think K should have to stop serving it out of principle. And whoever dared to compare the two dishes- I’m not going to point fingers or call anyone out by name (my mother), should be absolutely mortified.

And while we’re busy taking things off the menu, let’s also nix the mahi, which was overcooked and absolute crap. But even worse was the gnocci, tasting like a bowl of mush drowning in a sea of over-preparation.

Now the smart money might guess that we cut our losses at this point and passed on dessert, but never let it be said that I always do the smart thing. Besides, this is for posterity and a sacrifice I was willing to make for you, my followers.

Of the three we tried, the French toast bread pudding was the clear winner. The peanut butter cake would be a distant second, partly because it deserves it, but also because I’m not the hugest fan of peanut butter in the dessert form. Not sure why, but I’m sure it’ll come out one day in therapy. And last, and actually least, the budino was lame-o.

A tough call between two and three knives, but I’m going with a rare lean toward the positive, mostly because of the service. That said, K is definitely more of a C in my book.

3 teeth

Lalibela

37 S Moger Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1343 • lalibelamountkisco.com

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I can count the number of Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to on one hand. And part of that is a reflection on me, I suppose. But the balance of blame, to be fair, should be on Ethiopians. After all, it’s not like they have a ton of options out there to choose from. I’m not saying they need to catch up to Italy or anything, but let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

So, why don’t I eat at the ones I have been to more often? Well, to be honest, I can’t say I LOVE the cuisine itself. It always comes up short for me. And while I certainly enjoy the cultural novelty and ritual with the huge, dramatic plates and using bread as a utensil, it’s still not enough to distract me from the inadequacies of the food itself.

But strangely enough, my issues with Ethiopian cuisine of the past was very different this time around. Usually my gripe is that every dish tastes exactly the same. Just a hodgepodge of spices and sauce with some sort of indiscernible meat floating within.

This time, it was nothing of the sort. At Lalibela I could quite clearly taste the differences between each dish, but ironically I found myself missing all of those spices. I know, I just can’t be happy, right? I’m like a bad client. But is it so much to ask that I be able to taste the meat within in my dish and have a little heat? Apparently.

Nonetheless, Lalibela did have its moments. Surprisingly the avocado salad was the runaway success. Highly recommend. Worth 4 or 5 knives on its own. I also loved the roasted beet salad that came as a side accompaniment with our main dishes. Very tasty. And third for me would be the misir dat (alicha) – “alicha” means the non-spicy version and “misir” means lentils. We got it because we were expecting our two meat dishes to be much hotter.

The two meat dishes, a.k.a. losers, were a grounded meat and jalapeno dish- and yes, it wasn’t spicy… And their signature chicken dish with drumsticks and a hard boiled egg. Also not very spicy.

So it would seem that perhaps vegetarian dishes are the Lalibela’s bailiwick. Good to know for next time. Either that or we ask the kitchen to make the other stuff spicier. Always a dangerous game of semantics.

Décor is very charming with its brightly color walls adorned with beautiful photography of the Ethiopian people.

And staff, while friendly, is a touch on the slow side. But I’ll forgive them because they gave a very solid recommendation on the beer. St. George is a very refreshing Ethiopian lager that pairs nicely with the food… and would pair even nicer if the food was spicier. Okay, horse officially beaten to death. Check!

3 teeth

Mariani Gardens Café

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

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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