Tacombi

23 W 33rd St. New York, NY 10118 • (212) 967-5555 • tacombi.com

Tacombi looks and feels like a carbon copy of El Presidente about ten blocks south, in the Flatiron. Sadly, it doesn’t taste like it. Not that Tacombi is bad, but almost everything needs copious doses of hot sauce.

The best thing we had was the guac and chips. Fresh and well-seasoned with strong tortilla wedges that don’t easily break, have a slight char to them and solid depth of flavor.

Of the tacos, I’d say it was almost a three-way tie for mediocrity. The fried fish perhaps edging out a win simply due to the generous portion size. The shrimp was a very close second, and probably the most flavorful and balanced of the lot (which isn’t saying much) and bringing up the rear was the carnitas. So dry and lack-luster, Wilber would be embarrassed. Fortunately there’s an array of hot sauces on the table to make for the transgressions.

Not at lot of other players in the hood like it though, so I’ll probably give it another try come summer once the kinks are ironed out, after all, El Presidente was a little rough around the edges at the start as well.

 

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Boulton & Watt

5 Ave A New York, NY 10009(646) 490-6004boultonandwattnyc.com

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I heard about Boulton & Watt thanks to Thrillist, which is a great blog for foodies. They always seem to be listing the best new restaurant openings. Best brunches, etc… And while I don’t always agree, I still love the tips.

And speaking of not agreeing, sadly Boulton & Watt would fall into that column. Which is unfortunate, because I was practically drooling when I read their amazing menu, loaded with temptations. Unfortunately, I always seem to forget that menus are just words, and in this case, only a few dishes lived up to the expectations those words set in motion.

The first being the pickle jar we ordered, jicama with chili and lime. Such a simple, fun concept. They have tons of pickled options. Each very inventive and from our sample of one, very good.

We also really like the fried green tomato caprese. Great merger of two iconic dishes.

But perhaps the best thing of the night was the banana bread pudding in a chocolate whiskey sauce that was goo-riffic! Warm, oozing everywhere. And even though I was full, I powered through it. After all, no pain, no gain as the saying goes. Albeit that’s probably not the original intent of the colloquialism, but you have to admit, it fits quite well, unlike my jeans the next morning.

And now for the shortcomings. And by “short” I mean the short rib and bone marrow toast. I mean how do you screw this up people?! It’s a layup! Like missing the culinary broadside of a barn. Tasting like mediocre sloppy joe with the consistency of Alpo.

The curried mussel pot proved to be just eh, especially by comparison to the Belgian Beer Café in the Flatiron, which handily bests it.

And the duck carbonara was flavorless. In dire need of some heat. Either cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes, arugula- anything to give it some pepperiness. Of course I added copious amounts to make it worthy of my mouth, but to serve it in such a state is just careless.

Definitely a mixed review for certain, teetering on skip it. However, while I wouldn’t go out of my way to return, I might give it another shot if I were shopping in Nolita. It’s got a great industrial décor reminiscent of All Saints and lots of energy, a.k.a. noisy as all hell, so if you don’t like yellversation or you have a bad case of laryngitis, I’d strongly urge you to take a pass. If, on the other hand, you want a cool bar for good drinks and don’t care too much about the food, you could do a lot worse.

2 teeth

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave. New York, NY10010 • (212) 889-0905 • elevenmadisonpark.com

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I can only assume that the consistently ecstatic reviews of this place must only modify dinner, because it can’t possibly be the lunch. One of the most over-hyped under-delivered experiences I’ve ever had. The restaurant equivalent of watching the movie Seabiscuit. I was so underwhelmed, I started convincing myself that they must have a different chef for lunch than they do for dinner. Or that they forgot to serve me the same cool aid that everyone else has apparently been drinking.

And I wanted to like this place, I really did. But course after course after blasé course they just kept making it impossible for me. Granted, I know lunch is never the main event at places such as these, but to be a top restaurant in NYC, I’m sorry, if you’re doors open, you need to bring your A game. Otherwise, stay closed for lunch, which would be my strong recommendation.

Worse still, the food wasn’t the only thing that was a let down. Service was slow and inaccurate, messing up my dessert order, bringing me something I hadn’t even asked for. Then, after an even longer wait, they brought out the correct one, yet all three desserts were lack luster. I’m sorry, but with such a steep price tag and with so many other fantastic options in the Flatiron/Union Sq. area, this would fall near the very bottom of my list.

2 teeth

Bo’s

6 W 24th St. New York, NY 10010(212) 234-2373bosrestaurant.com

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Such a great addition to the area. However, an unfortunate street to be located on for certain. But, assuming you can both literally and figuratively make it past the mounds of Eataly’s garbage to enter Bo’s, you will feel immediately transported to something that feels like it belongs in Soho or The Village.

Beyond decor, service was also excellent and the food was quite good as well. Not stellar. But very respectable.

First, the cocktails, of which we had three. The Antebellum, The B-Stupid and whatever wifey had. Can’t remember the name. Probably because the B-Stupid was working. Anyhoo, they were all a solid good, but no game changers.

As for the gator, while many seem to rave about it, I would like to remind them that if you bread and deep fry virtually anything it’s bound to be good. Hell, you could fry human fingers and I’d probably chew them to the bone. That said, they were good. But “amazing” is a bit of a stretch.

As for the entrees, the strip steak was also a solid good. But the Red Fish, now we’re talkin’. Such an artful mix of flavors and textures. Loved every last bite. HIGHLY recommend.

Then, last but not least, the winner of the night, the Pumpkin Beignets with maple ice cream- off the charts! I felt like the food critic in Ratatoulli being brought back to my childhood. Except he was from France as opposed to the South. And I grew up in Florida, which is technically not the REAL South. Oh, and I’m not a food critic. Just some schmuck with opinions who likes to eat.

4 teeth

Tamarind

41-43 E 22nd St. Ste 43 New York, NY 10010(212) 674-7400tamarind22.com

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Tamarind has more game than Vishnu has arms. In fact, Tamarind is easily my favorite Indian restaurant in the city, if not the world. And yes, I’ve been to India. Granted only Mumbai, and I’m sure I only just scratched the surface, but one can’t eat in every restaurant in the world now can they?

So, back to Tamarind’s sheer awesomeness on every level. First and foremost I’d like to give a shout out to the décor. Unlike so many other Indian eateries, Tamarind doesn’t feel the need to play into a “themed” atmosphere. It’s actually quite contemporary and quite beautiful.

And, like in most Indian restaurants the service is warm and friendly, as well as accommodating. I know it’s a stereotype, but at least it’s a good one.

But Tamarind isn’t all show. When it comes to the plate, they truly take Indian food to another level. Virtually everything I’ve ever had there is perfection. But here are a few of my favorites:

The Lobster Masala is excellent. A lighter option than the chicken version and so much more unusual for typical Indian menus.

Another fav is an off-menu ask. Get them to make you the special cauliflower. It’s fried using a ketchup based sauce and it is the best thing cauliflower has ever done in its life.

And last but not least, the garlic nan. Now, they used to not have this on the menu either, but they made it better than anyone else, including the places that actually do have it on their menus.

Beyond that, there are scores of other dishes that are great, from vindaloo to korma to saag paneer. And all of it you can ask to be spiced specifically to your liking. As I said, very accommodating.

So skip Little India and do yourself a solid by booking Tamarind.

5 teeth

Eataly

200 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 229-2560 • eataly.com

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I see a lot of people struggling with their expectations for this place, hence the lower than normal reviews on Yelp for a Batali restaurant. That said, this isn’t a restaurant. It is more of a “market,” or as I like to call it, an Italian gourmet food bazaar. And personally, I think it’s the best thing Batali has ever done. By a wide margin. And I’ve eaten at 6 of his restaurants prior to this (Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Tarry Lodge, Mozza & Mozza Pizzeria).

Sure, the place is chaotic and noisy. But if you leave your preconceived notions back at your apartment and go with an open mind, you will see that chefs can be creative in other ways besides what’s on your plate.

That said, the food is excellent, and I have fully completed the rounds, eating at all seven (La Pizza, La Pasta, Verdure, Pesce, Manzo, La Piazza & Birreria) of the restaurants within Eataly, plus the sandwich counters, the fresh pasta counter, cheese case, patisserie, gelato shop and bakery. And this place never ceases to amaze. I mean just think about how difficult it must be to serve this kind of quality at that kind of scale- it’s a feat unlike any other and they pull it off day in and day out. I literally defy anyone to name a place that compares on both scale and quality. It just doesn’t happen. Because normally big means bad. So hats off to Eataly for being a delicious anomaly.

But most of all, I applaud Eataly for not making this place feel like a gimmick or theme restaurant. Granted, the name is quite tragic, but nobody’s perfect.

P.S. A few tips: 1) If you don’t know which olive oil to pick in the section toward the left rear corner, just lean over the aisle and ask someone coming out of  Manzo’s kitchen (their top of the line meat restaurant) which oil they are currently using. They are always kind to point it out, and it’s WAY better than what you’d get at O & CO, but for half the price. 2) Pawlet in the cheese case is incredible. As are many of their cheeses, including the taleggio, fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and grana. If you get the ricotta, I highly recommend the almond honey (antipasta case right side of main hall) and a loaf of rustica from the bakery. 3) At the stand up restaurant in the center, do NOT get the fish sandwich written up in New York Magazine. I have no idea what that critic was thinking, but it is literally the ONLY thing I have ever hated at Eataly and Ive easily eaten here over 50 times.

5 teeth

The Gander

15 W 18th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 229-9500 • thegandernyc.com

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The restaurant has the dubious distinction of being the product of two former failures combine. The space is in the gravesite of the restaurant formerly known as Alison 18 (RIP) and some of the key players behind it are from Manzanilla (RIP) which was a wonderful restaurant that caught a kiss of death one star review from the NY Times. Such a crime, because their reviews are about as accurate as Yelp half the time. Manzanilla was a gem that shined far brighter than scores of other places in the city that boast an embarrassment of adulation, undeservedly so if you ask me. Babbo, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park and Union Sq. Café are among the first to come to mind.

So as a result of my deep love for Manzanilla, I was REALLY pulling for these guys to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and send a big “Fuck You” to the sycophant at the Times.

Well, sadly I did not get my way. The Gander, while it has its moments, is no Manzanilla. The décor, is appointed nicely here and there, but feels a bit barren and cavernous somehow in the main dining room. As though they aren’t quite done decorating just yet.

The service was also a bit sloppy. One of the bus boys spilled oil on my sport coat and tried to slink away as though he didn’t notice. So definitely off to a bad start comparatively to the past. The service at Manzanilla was excellent and the décor was beautiful. So now I shifted all of my hopes toward the food, which had been getting rave reviews from people at work.

Well, I have since fired those people. KIDDING! But the food was very hit and miss. Not a total disaster. There were some highlights. The fist being my blood orange tea cocktail. Another being the Sea Trout Tartar, beautifully presented, loaded with brightness and acidity. But the runaway success of the night was the suckling pig, prepared in a very traditional Mediterranean sauce of herbed olive oil and lemon. So good.

The angel food cake dessert wasn’t bad either, but it shouldn’t exactly make the highlights list, or the lowlights for that matter. It really falls somewhere in the middle.

Now for the lowlights. I personally would skip the much touted Buffalo sweet breads. They taste like fried batter with Buffalo sauce. You get absolutely nothing of the gland itself, so what’s the point? I mean even with Buffalo wings you at least get the chicken meat!

Another highly acclaimed miss was the Brisket Tots. Their issue was dryness. And truth be told, not very flavorful either. The only saving grace for the dish are these tiny shaved coins of apple when eaten together with a tot, brings the much needed moisture back to the dish, making them in fact worthy. The problem is that the apple to tot ratio is not is not a favorable one.

And last but not least, my biggest gripe of the night, the Brown Butter Ravioli. This dish is SO small it is laughable that of all the pastas on the menu this is the only one that isn’t offered as an app portion. Only as a main. But I defy anyone to tell me that this is an entrée. Literally comprised of three underwhelming dumplings for 14 dollars. It’s basically 5 dollars a bite! You’d think it had truffles or something. So overpriced and underwhelming. They should be embarrassed to serve a dish like that, that’s how bad it was for the money.

Sorry Gander. I wanted to love you so bad. Hopefully third time’s a charm.

2 teeth

Tres Carnes

688 6th Ave. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 989-8737trescarnes.com

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During the week the line is around the block so I had never tried it before. But during the weekends it’s apparently much easier to get in and get out. So, I took advantage. And now I know why there’s a line around the block all the time.

First, the smell alone when you walk in is so damn good I’d swear I was Pavlov’s dog in another life. And once I saw brisket on the menu- fuggetaboutit!

And by that I mean, it’s UN-forgettable. Easily the best burrito I’ve ever had. And I was a bit worried, because I was like a kid in candy store, putting virtually every ingredient they had into this thing- the street-cart corn, the smoky guac and the chipotle squash. But the preparations of everything are so complex and masterfully layered with depths of flavor that I can’t even begin to describe, other than to say it was like burrito poetry in my mouth.

The pork shoulder is also money. Skip the chicken. But no matter what you choose, it still puts that other fast burrito place to shame. Chipotle you are officially on notice. If you want to keep up with Tres Carnes I suggest you actually go back to the start.

5 teeth

NoMad Restaurant

1170 Broadway New York, NY 10001 • (347) 472-5660 • thenomadhotel.com

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While the Flatiron already runneth over with great restaurants, it just got more flooded. NoMad is absolutely sensational. From the décor with its incredible skylight to the service to the drinks to the food. This place didn’t miss a single beat.

For drinks I had the La Piña, and if you like spicy cocktails like I do, this one is a winner. Looks very cool too. My friend ordered the basil lemon drink (can’t recall the name), which was also quite solid. Bright and refreshing.

For appetizers, I had the egg with pancetta and corn. So creamy and savory, which is perfect for sopping up the sauce with their amazing fresh baked bread.

Also as an app, my friend ordered the cauliflower with almonds, grapes and manchego. Such a surprise winner. The carmelization of the cauliflower creates a wonderful sweetness that is accented by the grapes, yet contrasted by texture. Then, there’s the creamy saltiness of the cheese, which is both equaled and contrasted by the almonds. This dish is masterful.

Then came the entrees. I won this round with the tagliatelle. Bone simple, but simply brilliant. The acidity from the lemon, the cracked black pepper and the freshness of the crab. Not to mention the buttery, silkiness of the pasta. Absolute perfection.

As for the other entrée, the Butternut Squash, it was good. But not great. Granted, it truly relied on being the sum of its parts. For example, any bite without the green apple was just eh. Too much of one note. It really needed the balance of bitter to sweet to make it memorable. Although, to be fair, the dish is supposed to come with sausage instead of mushrooms, but because my friend is a veggie we had to suffer 😉

And last but not least, dessert. Perhaps the least impressive course of the meal, but that’s still high praise. The dessert cart is astounding (granted, presentation across the board was stellar). We had what is basically a croissant soaked in simple sugar to create a hard outer shell, then served that to us with a fig compote.

What else can I say? I’m mad about NoMad.

5 teeth