Soho House

29 9th Ave. New York, NY 10014 (212) 627-3647 sohohouseny.com

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Although I’m not a member, I’ve been to the New York Soho House several times now (as well as Chicago) and while it is MUCH bigger and more modern than the Norwood, I find the attempts I read online to distinguish them from one another to be a fools errand, because if you ask me, I find them to be VERY similar in terms of vibe. Both are styled in a way that pays homage to a simpler time (pictured), while somehow contrasting that with a modern sense of urgency to be as cool and connected as possible.

This is not to say that I am above the scene, au contraire. In fact, I kinda love it. And if one must join a club of such upward standing, at least it is FAR cooler than some of those stuffier, crustier joints in midtown. Not to mention shockingly affordable, I have to say.

Service has always been very good every time I go, from the bartenders to the wait staff, and although the hosts can be a bit self-important, for the most part even they have been tolerable.

As for the food, I have dined her almost every way imaginable from a simple dinner for four at the restaurant to a huge private dinner with tables the size of aircraft carriers to a cocktail event with passed hors’d’oeuvres. And while all encounters have netted out somewhere between good and decent, I will give you a few of the highlights to keep an eye out for should you happen to find yourself rubbing elbows with the muckety mucks.

Of all the nibbles I’ve partaken over the course of my visits, these are the three worth standing by the kitchen for- First and foremost being the spicy crab cakes, which pack some nice kick for such little suckers. The sliders are also pretty money, and always perfectly cooked, seemingly a challenge for most sliders, being so small, they tend to come out overdone at virtually 90% of the places that serve them. So mad props to Soho on this one. But perhaps the best thing of all was a lentil salad served in a bib lettuce wrap. I know it sounds hard to believe amidst the company of lobster, short ribs and sliders, but I stand by my word. Taste and believe.

A few notches down from those would be the flank steak and fries, the charred broccoli, the short ribs with horseradish cream (mainly because they were a touch dry- flavor was good though), the crostinis, the lobster roll and the Swedish meatballs. And truth be told, the only flat out miss for me is the arancini. The risotto is just way too dry.

So with three winners, one loser and a gaggle of belly fillers, I think it’s safe to net the house out at a strong three. Never stayed in the hotel though, so don’t yell at me if I’m missing the best or worst part of the place. I’m just a the food guy, remember?

3 teeth

 

 

 

 

 

Almayass

24 E 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 473-3100almayassnyc.com

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Attention all Ilili lovers, there’s another game in town. And what’s especially nice about this game is that it’s easier to play. In case my obtuse analogy isn’t tracking, what I mean to say is that it’s way easier to get a table, especially at lunch.

But settle you will not. Almayass is not just an alternative. It’s very much a destination in its own right. From the moment you enter, you are immediately taken by the elegant décor which is much warmer than Ilili,, blending more classic elements with contemporary, and accented with wonderful works of art.

Another plus is that the staff is much more pleasant and much less snooty than at Ilili, which is nice if you don’t want a side of attitude with your fattoush, speaking of which, it was very good.

In fact, most everything was good. A few misses. A few homeruns. And lots in between. Among the homers would be the Soujuk Almayass. Best thing I’ve ever had with this Middle Eastern sausage. It’s painfully simple really, just a slice of sausage sitting on a crostini with a sunny side quail egg on top. But holy Lebanon was it good! Chased with a little arak (Lebanese anise liquor) and I was all like “Ilili who?”

Another dish that was surprisingly better than any I’d ever had before was the mantee. It’s the same thing as the Turkish dish “manti, which are tiny ravioli filled with meat, covered in yogurt. What made it so special, however, was how crisp it was on the outside, and so most and creamy on the inside. And we all know what a softy I am for contrasting textures.

Three other dishes that were also very strong were the kebab made with filet mignon, the baba ganoush served with pomegranate seeds and the lentil soup. Granted my review of the soup is only hearsay, and by that I mean “MMMMMMMMM!!!” from across the table.

In the middle of the road was the pita bread, tzatziki and hummus. And bringing up the rear, the three biggest misses for me were the olives, the tabouleh salad and the sarma.

The olives because they were served pitted, which I can only assume was due to the fact that they’re afraid of getting sued by someone for cracking a tooth on a pit, because no self-respecting restaurant from the region would ever serve olives pitted otherwise.

The tabouleh because it was very leafy and dry. I like mine more moist and hearty.

And last but- well actually least, the sarma. Among the worst stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had. Such a shame too, because this place was so close to five knives, but I’m afraid they fell shy by one.

4 teeth

Bistro Rollin

142 Fifth Ave. Pelham, NY 10803 • (914) 633-0780bistrorollin.com

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After butchering the pronunciation of this place for the last five years, we finally decided to pay it a visit, and I am so glad we did, because I had heard mixed reviews and that it was overrated. But we went with expectations in check and it did not disappoint.

For starters we had the Oysters Rollin, which were quite good, and the stuffed zucchini flowers, which were excellent. Each dressed with a subtle hit of flavor from its accouterments . The oysters, with their refreshing citrus jus. And the flowers with their nice pop of heat.

We also did the pork pate, which was also pretty nice. Served with cornichon, stone ground mustard and crostinis.

After that, we each had our entrees, and I personally went with the waiter’s reco, the duck. And it was terrific. Perfectly cooked. Served over a bed of soft polenta and caramelized baby onions for sweetness.

My friend had the moulles frites- but opted for the curry version- also quite stellar.

My wife had the filet, which was the only thing that was just “eh.”

Then came dessert. We ordered two for the table. The tart tatin and the profiteroles. Both were good, but the hero was the ice cream served atop the apple tart. So creamy  the cow must’ve been an overachiever . As for the desserts themselves, they both could’ve stood to be a little flakier. But good nonetheless.

Paul also recommended a wonderful wine to drink it all down with. Which we did. And service in general was not only good, but very friendly.

Glad I finally went. It’s the only other French Bistro in Westchester- the other being Red Hat, that I’ve liked. And while Red Hat might win on décor/setting, I think Rollin has the edge on the food.

4 teeth

Frankies 457

457 Court St. Brooklyn, NY 11231Phone number (718) 403-0033frankiesspuntino.com

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The knives are almost entirely for the Blue Crab pasta which was actually worth 5 knives. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal brought it down for me- with the exception of the sparkling rosé, but that’s not something they actually make, so I can only give so many kudos there.

As for the meatballs, while good, I think they pale by comparison to the balls at Ciano and Little Owl.

The crostinis, of which we had several were also just okay. The speck and ricotta being the best of the lot. Followed by the mushroom. The honey ricotta crostini at Eatery 112 Minneapolis puts these to shame.

But dessert was where things really went off the rails. The ricotta cheesecake was a complete waste of calories and did a grave disservice to every other cheesecake in existence that shares its name. It was so dry and flavorless I literally only had a single bite.

But WOW, was that pasta good. So was the service. And the decor, simple and somewhat quaint. Nothing too worthy of note. Granted we didn’t eat in the barn, which I hear is nice.

So, 457… I give you a 3… in knives. Not out of 10. That would be too harsh even for me.

3 teeth