L’Amico

Eventi Hotel • 851 6th Ave. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 201-4065 • lamico.nyc

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The best the Evanti hotel has to offer. Forget Lupulo and Vine, L’Amico is where it’s at. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I’m bat-shit crazy like that.

Apart from the overly sweet Arnie Palmer, there really wasn’t a miss to be had, starting with the special summer appetizer, the zucchini pasta. It was, well, very light and summery. But still fresh and full of flavor.

On the heavier side, the prosciutto and artichoke sandwich with mayo and harissa is L’Awesome! Also on the heavier side, but just not quite as good, is the sopressata pizza. It holds its own, but it just wasn’t that interesting, compared to everything else.

3 teeth

Crimson

2901 Ocean Park Blvd. Ste 127 Santa Monica, CA 90405(310) 396-2400 crimsonla.com

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If you hate Tommy James and the Shondels, the University of Alabama football team and Tom Clancy novels about submarines, then your crimson ship finally came in. In the form of hummus wraps stuffed with fresh tabouleh, bursting with flavor. Dip that in a side of their tzatziki and you’re golden. But speaking of gold, their Turkish style grape leaves drizzled with a harissa yogurt are so good I think they should be made mandatory for all other restaurants to emulate. Even their Arnold Palmer was pretty decent, making this an all around great spot for a grab and go, delivery or a casual bite.

I’d elaborate more, but this one is a solid fastball down the middle. And besides, you have too much work to be sitting around reading lengthy blog posts waxing Hemmingway about a dolma anyway.

3 teeth

Spoon and Stable

211 N 1st St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 224-9850 •  spoonandstable.com

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The food scene in The Mini Apple has officially arrived. Not that there haven’t been gems here and there over years. But now the level of the game has risen so high, at so many restaurants, that I can safely say that Minneapolis can compete with almost any city I’ve ever been to.

Case in point, on a Monday friggin’ night, this place had an hour wait and not an empty seat at the bar. And for good reason. The chef, Gavin Kaysen, is James Beard winner and a former disciple of Daniel Boulud. But not only did he learn a thing or two from Danny Boy, judging from the décor, he picked up a few tricks from Jean-Georges as well, because this place is tres chic. On old horse stable from 1906 turned to gold with white brick walls, wrought iron details, a divided light wine cellar in the center of the dining room, and a long wood bar overlooking the kitchen as a unique twist on a chef’s table, which is where we sat.

Beyond having front row seats to an episode of Iron Chef, the other plus to sitting there is that you not only get recommendations from the waiter, but from the cooks as well. And to quote Quagmire “Giggity, giggity!” were they spot on with their suggestions.

The first reco being a dish we would’ve never thought to order in a million years, yet turned out to be the best of the night, the Autumn Vegetable salad. The centerpiece is an orgasmic disc of squash placed over a bed of spelt berries, pecans and figs that were marinated in red wine vinegar and cloves all pampered in a buttermilk dressing. Need to add this one to Ultimate Salad.

The other recommended starter was pretty damn great too. A bison tartar folded into a harissa aioli and topped with cilantro and radishes. Then served with socca chips as your utensil for piling on the remarkably seasoned meat.

For entrees I had to go with the lamb shank since wifey don’t play that, and while good, it was definitely the most mortal dish of the evening. Fall off the bone moist, and served with yellow eye beans, artichokes and an herb salad that was a bit junipery. The other entrée, however, was a marvel of pasta technological advancement. The Raviolo al Uovo is a single, softball-sized ravioli that contains a sunny side egg inside it! And its magnificence is only magnified by its preparation, with Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, pecorino and brown butter.

Even the side dish was wow-worthy taking an old staple like creamed spinach and making it new again with the addition of a Midwestern guilty pleasure, fried cheese curds.

And finally, the pumpkin custard dessert was an awesome seasonal finish to a meal that won’t soon be forgotten. The custard itself being just okay, but when you had with the apple cider sherbet and the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds)- look out!

Just eat here already would you! So I don’t have to keep going on and on about it. And I’m not just saying all of this because of the Willet bourbon and Amarone are making me all lovey-dovey. Although it is helping.

5 teeth

Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar

222 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10014(212) 691-1287taimfalafel.com taimmobile.com

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I’ve only eaten from their food truck, so this review is technically not for the restaurant. Which means décor and service are relatively moot unless you really have a thing for black and green food trucks. But, as far as trucks go I will admit that it’s very nice looking, I suppose. My estimation of the food, however, should hold quite nicely for both, because if they can serve up holy shitters like this off a truck, just imagine what they can do in the kitchen of a full-on restaurant!

Well, fortunately you don’t have to imagine, because I’m about to tell you. For starters let’s give it up to the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had, no contest. I’ve downed about a hundred of these over the last couple of years and I’m poised to down another hundred without batting an eye, it’s that good. Worth-standing-in-line-for good. So what makes it the messiah of fried chickpeas? First I’d say it’s because these aren’t merely your run of the mill falafels. Be sure to ask for the special falafel of the day and you’ll be taste budazzled by kalamata olive falafels, roasted red pepper falafels, harissa falafels and spinach too. But the awesome doesn’t stop there. These little overachievers go above and beyond, packing their pitas with a cornucopia of goodies that make this thing the size of your head, yet good as all get out.

And if by chance a head-sized falafel sandwich doesn’t sound filling enough for you, I also highly recommend their fries, served with an insanely addictive saffron aioli. So good you won’t know whether to eat it, snort it or shoot it into a vein.

Then, for a tasty beverage to wash it all down with, you can either go smoothie, or in my case, I favor the pomegranate, honey iced tea. Mainly because the other stuff is so damn filling that I couldn’t possibly cram a smoothie down my gullet as well, but also because the iced tea is really great.

So there it is. A falafel food truck worth chasing down like a kid to an ice cream truck.

5 teeth

Glasserie

95 Commercial St. New York, NY 11222(718) 389-0640glasserienyc.com

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Being that it is currently a James Beard nominee, this was way up on my list of Brooklyn bites, so when the chance arose to dine here on an expense account, I was in Ferocious heaven.

Regrettably, heavenly is not exactly how I would describe the aroma upon entering. Rather the word dishwater comes to mind. Such a turn off right out of the gate to be hit by a wall of wafting stank from the kitchen opposite the foyer. Not great planning on that one. Nor on the chairs, which make you feel like you’re auditioning for the shrinking role in Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately the rest of the setting is nice, with its exposed brick, charming divided-light windows and mid-century touches, mixed with a little rustic industrialism.

In terms of food, I really appreciated the inventive fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Not that there isn’t already an inherent overlap between the two, but the way the chef blended those elements was truly original.

Not wasting any time, our painfully hip waitress delivered a series of wows, the biggest and Ultimatest being the flatbread with labneh. Served piping hot, so much so that no one could even tear it apart for the first several minutes. And the labneh (yogurt) is unbelievably thick and creamy, filled with a lagoon of wonderful olive oil and harissa. The grilled bread was also good, but next to the flat, it was Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

I also loved the mixed nuts with leblebi. The latter are dried, crunchy chickpeas that are popular during cocktail hour in Turkey. The olives were also nice. Home marinated I’m guessing, because the stems were still on many of them.

After that the courses started hitting the table fast and furious, with a lot of hits, but unfortunately a few misses as well. The hits for me would be the lamb sweetbreads, done grilled as opposed to fried, which I really liked. Feels like a more faithful preparation. The rabbit tacos were also quite nice, served in what I believe was a jicama taco shell. The stuffed cabbage was such a blast from my past that I almost had to love it. And it did Bubby proud, granted a much more inventive spin, made with hanger steak inside, as well as couscous.

In the middle of the field I would put the chicken entree, the leaves and leaves salad, the Syrian cheese plate (pictured) and the Brussels sprouts. All are good, but the fact that sprouts are on every friggin’ menu these days is growing a bit played. And while I appreciate the brown bag serving vessel, I can’t get past the “me too” factor. It’s like kale and Brussels sprouts are being mandated by some sort of foodie mafia overlord.

Bringing up the rear would be the cauliflower and the hanger steak. The former for being way too basic to the point where you could make as good or better at home, and the latter because it was undercooked and chewy, without enough flavor to make the jaw work worthwhile.

In terms of cocktails, they all sounded better than they tasted and the Arak, while served up on a silver platter, literally, is as basic as it gets at its core. The only inventive twist being an actual twist- and a shot grapefruit juice to mix in with your ice, water and anise booze. For a better Arak cocktail try the Hana at Balaboosta.

During dessert things went a little off the rails. The cookie assortment was easily the best. The ice creams went 1 for 3, pistachio being the only one anybody touched. The cardamom and tahini both melted in the bowl like a lonely Wicked Witch of the North. And the chocolate mousse was so bad it shat the bed, or should I say the diaper, which is what it looked like once you opened the bag, like a diaper with shit in it. Not sure what they were thinking on this one, or more than likely it was a lack thinking that lead to this abomination of presentation, but unless you want to test the fortitude of your constitution, I’d take a pass.

So while the performance most certainly ended on a foul note, the earlier winners were enough to carry it over the mid-line.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

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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.

Greens

Fort Mason Bldg. A San Francisco, CA 94123(415) 771-6222greensrestaurant.com

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It’s not the easiest place to find in the world, but seldom do the best things in life come easy, and Greens is easily one of the best vegetarian eateries on God’s green Earth. So, now that I’ve fully conjugated the word “easy” and slid a blasphemous pun in there for good measure, let me top things off with a twist on a dated phrase – Yes, Greens is all that and a bucket of chicken, without the chicken. From the earth-sourced decor with tables that look more like trees to the stunning view of the bay and Golden Gate beyond, you can see that this place takes the whole au naturale thing pretty serious, not that you have to dine in the nude or anything, although an intriguing restaurant concept for certain.

Speaking of intrigue, it is astounding how quickly this place will make you forget all about meat. Just one bite of their grilled cheese sammy with cremini mushrooms, harissa and fontina and you will understand why the Earth is worth saving, apart from the obvious reasons like living here and mankind ceasing to exist.

The side of couscous salad with peppers and raisins had the spicy-sweet thing going on and only served to make things even more irresistible. Their other salads are fantastic as well. In fact, we were so impressed by Greens we purchased their cookbook on the spot. Not something we often do, which should speak volumes about this place. But please don’t go based on the food mentioned above. The menu is always changing, but in such capable hands, I doubt you’ll go wrong. And if you do, it’s probably your fault.

4 teeth

Recette

328 W 12th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 414-3000recettenyc.com

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I have been wanting to try this place for a while now, but after hearing that it is the sister restaurant to The Gander, my eagerness waned. Perhaps a blessing in disguise though, because low expectations are always easier to hurdle, and Recette most certainly sailed over them.

The space is intimate, which is sort of the restaurant version of “cozy” in NYC apartment listings, meaning “small.” But it’s walled with beautiful divided light windows, so it feels more open. As for the décor itself, apart from the windows it’s not very memorable.

The service and meal however, left quite the impression. Our waiter managing to strike that perfect balance between attentive, professional and down to earth.

Unfortunately the wine list was quite the opposite of down to earth, priced in a much higher stratosphere with only a very small handful of options below a C-note. Luckily the one I chose was not too crazy and not too shabby, a 2006 Barolo priced right on the threshold.

Things began with the bone marrow toast, complemented by trout roe to give it a nice burst of saltiness amidst the richiness. And while it was good, it also felt reminiscent of so many dishes at The Gander. Good, but not quite great.

But as regret started to seep in, that’s when the tide turned, and my use of an oceanic term was purposeful, because the next two dishes not only came from the sea, they are both Ultimates. The first being the best sashimi I’ve ever had. Incredibly fresh red snapper adorned with oyster crisps and chili peppers packing more heat than Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. The other Ultimate came in the form of the most ridiculously creamy langoustines I’ve ever had. So buttery soft, they were practically worth starting a new religion over. And you really didn’t need any of the surrounding elements, like the pork croquette and the flan. They were life-changing-awesome all by themselves.

After that, came the spaghetti with sweet shrimp and sea urchin, which was also good, but was doomed from the get-go. First because it’s been touted as one of the best pasta dishes in the city, and it’s not. And second, because after the previous two dishes, it was an impossible act to follow.

And closing out the “small plates” was the pork belly. Now, I’m not sure if they were going after irony here, but this was easily the biggest portion of pork belly I’ve ever been served in my life. It was the size of a brick and could handily serve four ravenous wolves. And while that may sound awesome, truth be told it was a bit too massive making the harissa to belly ratio a bit anemic. Fortunately the maple glaze carried it, but nailed it was not.

Sadly, things continued on the downward spiral through dessert. The highly recommended s’more, while good, fell a chasm short of the ones at Marc Forgione and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. And the apple upside down cake should remain that way, face down in shame. Had two bites and done. The best of the lot was actually the free dessert that came with the check, a devil’s food cookie with a hint of chili. My advice, forgo the desserts and put that money into the wine.

So a very accurate Yelp rating for once, 3.5 stars. But since I don’t do halves, I’m going 4 knives. After all, they did have two Ultimates.

4 teeth

 

Rintintin

14 Spring St. New York, NY 10012(646) 666-0114rintintinnyc.com

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While the name is likely to evoke imagery of a German Shepherd, there is nothing German, nor Shepard-like about the restaurant. And being that I was a fan of Bon Marche, I was sad to see that it had been replaced. Well, I was sad until I tried the food, which is even better than its predecessor.  I’m guessing the space must’ve left some good juju for this newbie, because the good vibes were abundant from top to bottom.

First off, the decor is much more open. The space is still small and charming, with nice touches like giant palm leaf arrangements and cymbals as lighting fixtures. And the service, while being a one man show from bartender to host, and waiter in between, managed to outdo many who only have a third of the task.

For drinks we did the cucumber gimlet made with arak (anis arabic booze), which was very refreshing almost like the cucumber water you would get in a spa, only with alcohol in it. And the other cocktail was the spicy cucumber margarita. It was also good, but not as impressive as one would hope, granted I’m part dragon when it comes to my tolerance for heat.

For an appetizer we split a burrata special served with a colorful spectrum of heirloom tomatoes, garlic roasted eggplant and proscuitto. If you should be so lucky as to see it offered when you go, I highly recommend. The garlicky eggplant and the salty dried ham make the dish something special. Ask for extra bread as well. It’s a thin focaccia perfect for sopping up the oil and balsamic remnants. But try to show some restraint, because there is much ahead worth saving room for.

The best of which is the burger. An eclectic mix of flavors from its pita bread bun and harissa topping to a queso fresco option (which I recommend), cayenne aioli and ketchup. It was crazy messy and just as crazy good. As were the crinkled potatoes they serve them with.

Another winner was the quinoa salad with avocado and lemon. It’s light and refreshing, but nothing you can’t find at a Le Pain Quotidien.

The only miss we had was the chicken cilantro soup. It was woefully bland both in terms of salt and spice. Even after adding copious amounts of both it was still only just okay.

And now for the closer… The churros are churrmendous! Both in size and execution. Crispy on the outside, soft and nummy, nummy on the inside. Served with a caramel dipping sauce and vanilla ice cream, both of which need to be used in tandem in order to achieve the maximum effect. And by maximum effect I mean on your belt holes, because by the time you leave here you will be on the very last one.

4 teeth

The Libertine

38 E Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204(317) 631-3333libertineindy.com
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Ya gotta love low expectations. They never cease to amaze. Sure, call my skepticism snobbery, I’ll admit it. But c’mon, it’s Indianapolis. It’s not exactly runneth over with culinary cred. However, cred is definitely something Libertine doeth haveth.

From the moment you set foot in the bar-ish restaurant, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Or Indianapolis. Same diff. A bit on the narrow side, but made up for in spades with healthy does of cool. Feels like a mod version of something out of Sweeney Todd, granted that could’ve been partly due to our server’s attire.

Speaking of service, that was one of my major nits. First, she missed placing not one, but two different orders and then, to make matters worse, she brought a dish that we didn’t even ask for. Which would’ve been fine if it were awesome, but sadly it failed on my other major nit- too many over-cooked dishes. Three to be precise: the burger (which we didn’t order), the brisket and the parpadelle. The flavors in all, however, where very nice, they just need to learn when to take it off the heat.

Wait a second. This review isn’t going as intended. I actually loved this place. So, as Chris Martin would say, go back to the start, with the cocktail… The Rose Anonymous. Well, Rose is about to get famous, because it deserves nothing but accolades and exclamation points. Made with 4 Roses Bourbon, rosemary, lemon and ginger beer. It’s drinks like these that make cabs a necessity.

Then, right on the heels of my cocktail came the trio of bacon- pork, jowl and lamb. Accompanied with harissa, sweet apple and cherry mustard. Definitive proof that three is a magic number.

Keeping pace, were the heavenly deviled eggs. Groan away, but just make sure you get them, because they are ultimate worthy. Topped with whitefish and two types of caviar. Which equals three types of awesome.

And like the Beatles, the hits just keep coming. The lamb ribs were so moist a saucy it was ridic! If my tongue could marry these ribs I would be happy attend that wedding.

Even the Scotch egg was mighty fine. Done with a slightly thicker crust than usual, but it held up nonetheless. Crispy on the outside, gooey and yolky on the innards. And yummy-ass-yummy all over.

On the mortal side, the bok choy was also very good. Refreshing amidst the see of decadence on the table, with it’s bright hit of vinegar.

The mussels were also good, but compared to the waves of bliss before them, it was hard to get out of my chair for yet another standing ovation.

And naturally there were a few misses as well. The toast with chorizo is a big blah. And both desserts (there were only two options) were very unsatisfying. A beer, not of the root variety, float and a shortcake with blueberry compote. Both were so lacking that it both literally and figuratively left a bad taste in my mouth after such an awesome meal. A crime almost punishable by three knives- but considering how many hits there were, I’m squeaking out four… but barely.

4 teeth