Neat

6 Wilton Rd. Westport, CT 06880(203) 557-8955 neatwestport.com

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Breakfast all day? All right! Damn, I love Westport. And as if I needed yet another reason to want to move there, they go ahead and open yet another great restaurant. Cute to the core and serving up the best chai latte I’ve ever had. More foamy than Cujo’s mouth, yet still piping hot and spiced to the brim with cinnamon, fennel, star anise, peppercorn, nutmeg and cloves. So good. As is their fresh squeezed OJ, enough so to make even a Florida boy like me happy.

Of the breakfast fare my favorite thing on the menu was the ciabatta BLT, which is also a nice go-to if you should want a more lunch-y option. The other dish I was digging was the trio of Egg soufflés, granted I would just go with three of the sundried tomato and burrata. Trust me. Skip the plain. And while the bacon would seem like it would be worth it, it’s not. If you want bacon then get the BLT.

The waffles are also solid if you’re craving something sweet. And if “kosher” is your thang, then the pretzel bagel with pastrami salmon has you covered. That said, I did find it to be a wannabe Pastrami Russ from Russ & Daughters, and while it’s definitely good, it falls very short of its mentor. Mostly because the bagel is pretty sub par. What is on par is the net, net. Worthy of a strong four.

4 teeth

 

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The Lobster Press

2 Penn Plz New York, NY 10121(646) 776-3700 thelobsterpress.com

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Are you sitting down? If not, I’ll wait… Okay, here it goes. There is a really great place to eat in Penn Station. All right, stop laughing. I’m trying to be serious here. It’s called The Pennsy and it is quite literally the answer to my foodie prayers, single-handedly making me happy to be close to Penn Station, which is no small feat.

So what is the Pennsy? The Pennsy is a high end food court dressed with a modern, industrial vibe and loaded with some pretty kick ass options ranging from Batali grilled cheese sammies, to Cinnamon Snail (which you already know how I feel about), to a Marc Forgione lobster hut.

Now, if you haven’t already read my review of Marc Forgione, you should go do that so that you can appreciate the unbridled joy that I am about to spew effusively.

The very same magical chili sauce you’ll find in Marc’s transcendent lobster appetizer at his signature restaurant is transformed into a dipping jus for a hot pressed lobster and cheese sandwich served on a blissfully crunchy ciabatta. Oh. Daddy. Yes!

Then wash that puppy down with some spicy Maine Root Ginger Ale and- Fuck it. I just heart the Pennsy. ‘Nuff said.

3 teeth

The Picnic Basket

 65 W 37th St. New York, NY10018 • (212) 382-262 • thepicnicbasketnyc.com
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The name is about the only thing charming about this place, so don’t be fooled. It’s nothing more than a galley lined with a few tables on each side that funnel you towards a counter flanked by refrigerator cases and menu boards. So not the place you want to come to for a sit down lunch if you as me. Grab ‘n go is the way to go.

To drink I had the green pear tea and lemonade because as we all know by now I dig on the AP (Arnold Palmer).

As for the sandwiches, I think I preferred the houlumi over the French Goat Cheese, mostly due to the bread. The houlumi being served on a warm, toasty, crunchy ciabatta. Whereas the goat is on a fresh baguette, which has its charms, but in a knife fight against ciabatta, it loses that battle nine times out of ten.

The ingredients on both sammies, however, fails to impress, especially when you have over-achievers like Untamed and No. 7 just blocks away. So, not sure why this place boasts the crowd or reviews that does, but I’m also baffled that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, so what the hell do I know?

2 teeth

Rocky’s

235 Saw Mill River Rd. Millwood, NY 10546 • (914) 941-2165rockysdeli.net

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Word on the street is that Rocky’s just hauled in a nod from the folks at Best of Westchester (that street being Rt.133), so it goes without saying that I needed to scoot my opinionated bones on over there to order up some sammies.

The place looks like any one of a thousand just like it in the city, long counter on one side, stuffed to the gills with rolls, wedges & ciabattas, backed by a task force of sandwich soldiers armed with cooktop skillets the size of sofas and bins upon bins of prepped ingredients. And on the other side you’ll find a wall of fridges loaded with every imaginable beverage one could ever hope to wash down a hoagie with.

Unfortunately, this faithful homage to city sandwich shops is so faithful that the sandwiches are nothing special. I guess people are just wistfully lining up out of sentimentality for the days when they used to live in the city. So therein lies the good news, you no longer have to drive an hour into the city to get your fix. But a reality check is definitely in order, because the sandwiches are far from the “best” in Westchester.

To get all specific on your ass, almost every sandwich requires that you add something to it, because they are too bland as is. For example The Untouchable desperately needed to touch some tomatoes or coleslaw or roasted red peppers- anything to give it moisture! Plus, the chicken cutlet is so thin it tastes like nothing more than its breading. Then there’s the actual bread. And together they overpower the grilled prosciutto, mozz and balsamic.

The Whaler, while better than The Untouchable, was also just okay, mainly due, once again, to a meek portion of fish so thin you could floss with it (not exactly what I would call “whale-like”), breaded and fried, along with hash browns and tripling down on the theme, a fried egg. There’s also American cheese, but what it needed most was ketchup or hot sauce to make it interesting enough to finish both halves.

The Chip Chip was easily the best of the three, with chipotle chicken, chipotle mayo, smoked gouda, bacon and avocado all on ciabatta. It had some nice kick, but if spicy sandwiches are your thang, then you owe it to yourself to head on over to Armonk and get The Heat at Melts. It beats the Chip Chip out of Rocky’s.

2 teeth

Upland

345 Park Ave S. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 686-1006uplandnyc.com

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Once upon a time this place used to be called Manzanilla, a terrific restaurant that for some reason caught the venom of the New York Times food critic, and had to close its doors less than a year after a brutal and undeserving one star review. Which brings me to my next point- Manza-who? Just one bite of Upland’s porchetta and egg sandwich and I completely forgot all about what’s its face. Served up with a nice helping of hot peppers and placed on a wonderful mini ciabatta- it’s yabba dabba delicious!

But if the sandwich was hog heaven, the Eggs in Hell (pictured) can only be described as hedonistic. Fried and floating in a spicy marinara sauce that is bread-sopping bodacious. Such an inventive twist on huevos rancheros I almost find it hard to categorize it as such.

On the less inventive front, the pancakes are also quite good, but not quite as interesting as the other dishes. And lastly, the citrus salad with olive oil and bitter chocolate shavings was a little too simple for my tastes. Not that it wasn’t good, but it was a little too simple for even me, and I like simple. Just not so simple that I could make it at home, just as well, in less than five minutes. It is nice and refreshing though, especially next to the heavier plates.

Such a great meal I can’t wait to come back for lunch and dinner, because everything else on the menu looked pretty ridic as well. So glad this new tenet is as good as the old. Guess this space just has good restaurant juju?

4 teeth

Organique

110 E 23rd St. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 674-2229organiqueonline.com

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I’ve only ordered from here, so this review excludes service and decor.

So as for the food, what I got was just okay, not great. Grilled veggies on ciabatta with herbed goat cheese, minestrone soup and the oatmeal cookies. The best of the 3 was definitely the sandwich, which, as I already suggested, wasn’t exactly life altering. It was passable sustenance.  The ciabatta being a little too doughy- missing that crunchy outer shell.

And as for the soup, it was rather bland. As was the cookie. Both the kinds of things you fear when you order from a place that prides itself on healthy eating. But the thing about healthy is that it’s also simple. And when something is simple, it’s all about the ingredients. No sauces to hide behind. No mayo or deep frying. So, if you want healthy AND flavor I suggest walking a few blocks over to Terri, Sweetgreen or Blue Dog. All three are better. And there are several others too. Yes, so many magnifique options in the area, to ever venture back to Organique.

2 teeth

Bombay Sandwich Co.

48 W 27th St. New York, NY 10001(646) 781-9756bombaysandwichco.com

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The globalization of food has to be the greatest thing to happen since the industrial revolution. It has changed everything from accessibility to diversity to the creation of hybrid cuisines, which brings me to the Indian sandwich. Indigenous to nowhere, but awesome nonetheless. Case in point, Bombay Sandwich Company.

The Chana Masala (pictured) borrows from its namesake, the traditional New Delhi dish, and puts that glory to work between two slices of ciabatta that could even make MIA go OMG.

Another sandwich reincarnation is the grilled cheese with honey and fennel. It’s so inventive, yet simple, and different from anything else out there. Plus, it packs a nice amount of heat to keep your longings for vindaloo at bay.

Another great sammy of the spice is the Veggie Mash Up. A vegan among vegetarian options that holds its own by combining beets, cabbage, carrots and a few other things into a, you guessed it, mash.

Even their quinoa salad was fantastic. And once again with twist on the norm using chutney of all things. It played such a nice contrast to the lemony dressing, the earthy grain and the leafy kale. So simple, but I’ve never seen it done before and never would’ve even thought to do it. But now I’m about to go all Hindu on my lettuce from here on out.

Though gush as I may, Bombay is not infallible. Skip the sweet potato and kale wrap. It’s just so-so. And the Organic Tofu Masala sandwich was the worst of the lot. However, with the hit ratio above, I’d say just about any sandwich shop in the city would envy that performance.

4 teeth

Norman’s

4012 Central Florida Pkwy Orlando, FL 32837(407) 393-4333 • normans.com

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Oh Yelpers, I find it laughable that you compare the service here to the likes of the French Laundry. I have been to both and it’s like comparing Michael Jordan to some guy who owns a basketball. The sommelier , while good, was an apprentice as opposed to a master. The waitress and back servers made several mistakes including taking away a plate while my friend was still chewing and leaving a newly presented dish go unexplained. I think you’re letting the fact that it’s in a Ritz Carlton fool you. Now I’m not deducting a knife or anything for this, but I am calling bullshit on the “impeccable” service.

And as for the romantic décor, it isn’t. It’s nice. But you can’t help but notice you are in an expansive hotel wing.

But don’t think this is another bash session on Yelpers, after all, they got a few things right. For example, the Yucca stuffed shrimp with habanero was very good. I expected a little more heat from the dish, but it’s still definitely worth ordering. Another great recommendation was the pork belly served with an artichoke puree, brussel sprouts and a sherry reduction. Best thing we ordered. And finally the key lime cheesecake was another solid call from the Yelping contingent.

But here’s what they missed:

The ciabatta bread is insanely good, tasting more like a beignet than ciabatta to me, but no complaints there. Just try to control yourself or you’ll never make it to dessert. I know, I sound like your mother.

Another miss is the consensus of praise for the fried green tomatoes. I’m guessing most of these people have never had the dish before because it’s typically savory and even a touch tart. Whereas Norman’s serves it in a tempura batter with a tomato jam on top that turns the dish decidedly sweet, which isn’t to say it was bad, but when you order an iconic dish, your mouth starts to prepare itself for a certain set of expected flavors, so to zag so drastically from it just didn’t work for me.

And the biggest infraction of the night was the chicken. So overcooked and dry it was humiliating… for the chicken. To have died in vain for such poor performance is a poultry tragedy. And while the preparation surrounding it was nice, it was brought down by its headliner.

The second biggest miss came right on the heels of the chicken, with the Havana Banana dessert. And normally I’m bananas about bananas, but this dish is so unworthy of the hype I almost want to hunt down the Yelpers who touted it and pull out their tongues because they obviously aren’t using them properly.

Funny enough, however, the free dessert that comes with your check was the best of the lot. The dark chocolate, hazelnut truffles are incredible. Great way to end a good meal. And while I am only giving it three knives, it’s definitely better than Primo across the way, which I also gave three knives. So consider this an honorary three and a half.

3 teeth