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.

 

Hurricane Grill & Wings

11048 International DrOrlando, FL 32821 • (407) 988-3530 • hurricanewings.com

As if Hurricanes needed a bad name this year between Harvey & Irma, Hurricane Grill manages to soil an already grim reputation calling into question whether or not tis better to starve or to eat food that makes you nauseous?

From fish tacos that have less flavor than the chair you’re sitting on (and probably about as clean) to disturbingly chewy, rubbery chicken fingers everything about this place is unsettling to the digestive system.

But if I had to say something nice about this poor-excuse-for-a-theme-restaurant, other than the fact that we survived, it would be a shout-out for the communal array of hot sauces. I honestly like the concept. Okay, there. I said it. Now don’t go.

The Stubborn Mule

100 S Eola DrOrlando, FL 32801 • (407) 730-3400 • thestubbornmuleorlando.com
 

Something is definitely stubborn here and it’s not a mule. It’s the servers, who are apparently very stubborn about clearing plates, constantly bringing out dishes for the next course before ever clearing the previous, making the table crowded and unpleasant with all of the empty, eaten dishes. And every time we asked them to take the dishes back and clear the table first, they acted as if we had six heads. Is it just me? Honestly, you can tell me. I mean I know I’m stubborn- hell, I’m an Aires, but I think I was in the right on this one. Granted that’s a hallmark of stubbornness I suppose.

As for the food, it’s actually pretty tasty for the most part. My favorite dish being the Asian pork belly. Not light, but oh-so good. Essentially cubes of belly done General Tso style.

Other strong options are the mussels, the burger and the scallops, which are perfectly cooked and served over a bed of coconut rice with a dollop of Brussels sprout slaw on the side. The shishito peppers are also solid, but that’s a layup, to be fair.

The only miss prior to dessert were the fish tacos, served hopelessly bland and in dire need of hot sauce and salt to resuscitate them. On the upside though, at least they were salvageable, whereas the lava cake was absolute crap. So bad I think actual lava might’ve tasted better.

Don’t be fooled by the name, which is clearly trying to draft off the success of The Ravenous Pig. This place doesn’t hold a hoof to it.

Lupulo

835 6th Ave. New York, NY 1000 • (212) 290-7600 lupulonyc.com
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I’ve been to Lupolo twice now. Once for dinner and once for lunch and while neither of them changed my life, of the two I actually kinda lean more towards lunch, to be honest. The expectations are lower for that meal occasion, and I think that helps this place a lot. Because while Lupolo tries very hard to live up to the New York scene it doesn’t quite stick the landing when it comes to the caliber of cuisine.

In terms of décor, however, I find the vibe to be high energy and equally high noise level, almost reminiscent of a fish market with its nautical ropes, distressed wood and beautiful ocean blue sea tiles- mixed with a healthy dose of New York hip (pictured). In pleasant contrast, however, the servers are all Portuguese-nice. Maybe this is a stereotype I have, but one has to admit that as stereotypes go, it’s a pretty good one to have.

From dinner, the only real stand out was the mackerel spread. The octopus, red snapper cru and Iberico ham all falling into the vortex of yawn.

Whereas for lunch, the bacalhau a bras, an open face scrambled egg sandwich with salted cod flakes, potato and black olive proved much better. But I say this with a grain of salt, or more accurately, with several drops of hot sauce, because it was only with their hot sauce that I found the dish worthy of my love. So be sure to ask for it. Just also be sure to use it in moderation, because it’s muy potento.

2 teeth

Her Name is Han

17 E 31st St. New York, NY 10016 (212) 779-9990 hernameishan.com

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Even though his name is Ferocious, I was pretty much set on at least three knives before I even had my first bite. Starting with the name alone, it’s just friggin’ cool and somehow already tells you that you’re not in for you’re typical Korean culinary experience. Then, once you enter, the setting manages to keep carrying that baton, done in a rustic-chic that sort of bridges the gap between a Le Pain Quotidien and ABC Kitchen. And as I write that I’m realizing that’s quite the chasm, but go and you’ll understand.

Also, once you get a looksy at the menu, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did, you just instantly have to like the place. I mean everything looks good, so I threw a dart and partook in the spicy raw tuna bowl, which is essentially a nice twist on a bi bim bap, made with sashimi grade tuna, brown rice, poached egg, avocado, carrots, peppers, green onions and spicy sauce. Not only is it good. It’s good for you. And it’s good for your wallet, being that’ll probably set you back less than a sandwich and drink at Pret!

Looking forward to going back soon. But on the earlier side, because they don’t take reservations and they do make you wait.

3 teeth

Sophie’s Cuban

28 E 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 260-8884sophiescuban.com/28e23rd

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This is not the place to go for decor. The service is usually friendly, but this isn’t the place for that either. However, if it’s Cuban fast food you’re in search of, welcome to Havana-gri la. Well, almost. The fact that they don’t nail the cubano is a bone of contention with me. But that rather major ding aside, they have two winners I highly, HIGHLY recommend. So high you’ll get altitude sickness from the height at which these dishes play.

The first is the spicy grilled chicken platter.  It’s basically a hearty version of arroz con pollo served up with a nice helping of marinated peppers and onions, yellow rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Add a little of their green hot sauce and you’ll be doing the Cha-cha-cha.

The second thing might even be better than the first. It’s called the “Pernil with a twist” (pictured), which sounds more like an exotic cocktail or a secret dive performed by Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School,” but regardless of what it sounds like, WOW is it good. It’s served on the same bread as a cubano, topped with huge chunks of roast pork, marinated onions, plantains, mayo and hot sauce. And it is a game changer.

3 teeth

 

J. Gumbo’s

61 W 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 206-8501 •  jgumbos.com

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Finally! Good, quick Cajun in the city. It’s one of my favorite cuisines and it kills me that there’s such a drought of places to get it. I assume it must not be as marketable to the Northern palate, but if we can have Ethiopian restaurants up in this bitch, I think we can do Cajun. Can I get an amen?

So, having fully tipped my hand, you can imagine that I liked it. And while it isn’t flawless, it is WAY better than Indikitch a few steps down the block, which seems to be doing business like gangbusters. But, if you like spicy, and you don’t need to have Indian per se, do like Johnnie Walker and keep walking.

I tried several different dishes, because they let you sample, and the Drunken Chicken won the Battle Royale. Granted the Jambalaya was pretty good as well, but me likey the spicy and it’s a little light on the heat. As was the Etouffée, which was the biggest disappointment of the three. Way too mild to carry the name, which means “choke” as in so hot it causes you to. It also happens to be one of my favorite dishes, so perhaps I’m a bit more critical than most. That said, their hot sauce is pretty impressive, so next time I might just order the Etouffée and get all Emeril on its ass and “kick it up a notch.”

On the value side of things, the portions are generous and come with cornbread, dessert and a drink. The cornbread is passable, but the drink options are unfortunately just the usual suspects courtesy of Coke and Pepsi.

But the biggest miss was the peach cobbler for dessert. Shoulda gone with Dave’s Cookies. The cobbler is soggy and made with canned peaches. Fortunately it’s also made with lots of butter and sugar, so the taste is okay, but consistency is a big uneasy.

Service is friendly and décor is pretty standard with the minor exception of the art on the walls. But none of that matters because what’s truly important is that we got ourselves some bona fide Cajun my friends. I guarantee.

3 teeth

Truck

391 Old Post Rd. Bedford, NY 10506 • (914) 234-8900truckrestaurant.com

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They had me at Negra Modelo on tap. And they’ve held on ever since. It’s literally one of my favorite places in Westchester and tied for the best Tex-Mex in the area. Bar Taco is the other place, but they’re twice as far from my house, so on convenience alone Truck wins by a nose.

But Truck is so much more than Negra Modelo. Even within the drink department. For example their smooth and strong, margaritas (AKA The Power Wagon), which has a special version as well, that changes seasonally. Three of the best being the cranberry, grapefruit and blood orange. They are dangerously good. As in careful driving home.

As for the food, it’s also great. A few misses, but the hits far out-weigh them. My recos of awesome: Pork Taco, the Market Veggie Taco, Oyster Taco. All three are so good it’s hard to choose, so I don’t. I get all three. Skip the Chicken and Beef. They are both bland by comparison. They specials as well, like brisket and fish, but nothing has ever risen to the prowess of my previously stated taco trifecta.

The salads are also quite good, mainly because it’s all farm to table. So everything is fresh and local, and you can really taste it in every dish. Even down to the salsa, served with warm house-made chips. So good! The guac is also good, but a touch blah for my tastes. I tend to like my guac to be more eventful. Herbs, hot peppers, grilled, smoked, etc…

Another starter to consider are the corn dogs. Served with a VERY spicy mustard that I love almost as much as wasabi. Oh, and speaking of spicy, if you likey the heaty, be sure to ask for their homemade hot sauce. It’s muy caliente!

And last but not least, for dessert, I recommend the carrot cake twinkie, the chocolate dipped macaroons or the homemade mallomar/s’more things.  Skip the Devil’s Food Cake.

Also worthy of note is the decor and vibe. It’s rustic cool. With a great energy about it. And as far as the crowd goes, it’s a bit of a chameleon. Early on, from 5 to 7, it’s great for kids. But as the night goes on, it morphs into much more of a mature scene. We’ve come for both and almost enjoy it equally as if it were two different restaurants.

Thank you Truck. You are an AWESOME addition to the area.

5 teeth