Barcelona

971 Farmington AveWest Hartford, CT 06107 • (860) 218-2100 • barcelonawinebar.com

If the Bar Taco next door is anywhere near as good as the one in Westport, CT, then I’m not sure why you would go here unless, like the one in Westport, the wait for a table is just way too crazy long.

Okay, I lied. For brunch, there is one other reason I can think of, the DIY Bloody Mary table. Just pick your vodka (Tito’s), then choose your base mix. Sriracha, Horseradish, Chipotle or Black Pepper. Then load that baby up with virtually anything your heart desires. Bacon, cornichon, olives, celery, bell peppers, papadew peppers, marinated mushrooms, pearl onions, cauliflower, cheese, pickles… this could take a while. Seriously. The table is that bountiful.

But apart from the Bloody Mary’s and a couple other dishes, it’s a bit of a letdown. The sangria is so watery it doesn’t even pack the punch of grape juice. The meatballs owe an apology to the cow that died in vain.

Equally disappointing was the lamb chop with romesco and arugula. First they served it raw. Then they served it eh.

The pulpo (octopus) with smoked paprika is just okay, but if you know me and how much I like octopus, for me to be so tepid can only mean one thing, skip it.

Also located in the okay corral are the mixed greens with manchego & pistachios, the Brussels sprouts, the broccolini and much to my chagrin, the veggie paella loaded with eggplant, sprouts, peppers, asparagus and disappointment.

The winners, while sparse, could add up to a decent meal, though, if you played your cards (and ordered) right. For example I found the Mushrooms a la Plancha to be pretty darn tasty. Made with crimini, shitake and button. The Patatas Brava where also bravo, zazzed up with salsa brava and a garlic aioli. And since I’ve never met a charcuterie and cheese board I didn’t like, let’s throw that in too.

But if you’re like me and good isn’t good enough, your options dwindle further still, to only two dishes. The jamon and manchego croquettes and the chorizo with sweet and sour figs in a balsamic glaze. The latter being the best thing of the lot. And as you can see, we tried a LOT.

Advertisements

Pizzeria C’e

Türkbükü Mah. Gaffur Kaynar Cad.88 Sok. No: 11/A 48400 Bodrum, TK • +90 252 3776066pizzeriace.com

408cd315d89e8904b3d465bb87805ec4

Never more does one have to trek all the way from Turkbuku into Bodrum for a decent slice. And while I’m not exactly sure they are as good as Vespa, they are a hell of a lot more convenient. That’s assuming you can get a table, of course, because it’s cok kucuk (Turkish for “very small”). Granted that’s also part of its charm. And the good news is that if you can’t get a table, you can always do take out.

Part of what makes the pies as good as they are is that the husband and wife who own the place took a trip to Italy specifically to learn how to make kick ass pizza! And I can’t think of a better reason to go to Italy, so props on the mission accomplished.

Of the three pizzas we tried, the sausage with chili peppers was the clear winner, getting a hefty boost from the heat delivered by those home grown chili’s. Look out though, because it’s WAY hotter than the typical red pepper flakes you get at your other pie places.

In second I would score the margherita. You really taste the freshness of all the ingredients from the crust to the sauce to the cheese and even the garden basil leafs on top. It’s not anything that would ever rival New York, but it has some game.

In last for me would be the pear and gorganzola white pie. The miss really coming from the lack of sweetness in the pears, which is supposed to cut the stank savoriness of the cheese. But it faintly shows up and leaves you with a clump of blue cheese on a crust, more or less.

Other things worth mention are the arugula salad with dried cranberries and walnuts and manchego. It was good, but more so as an accompaniment. Would never suggest it as a main event.

Also the bottle of cabernet we shared was quite good and decently priced, granted at three lira to the dollar, virtually every restaurant in Turkey is a bargain these days. I guess while military coups aren’t great for tourism and the economy, they do bode well for foodies. #silverlining

3 teeth

Cosme

35 E 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 913-9659 cosmenyc.com

COSME_duck.0

Zagat’s? You don’t need no stinking Zagat’s. Cause I got the skinny right here. And while it’s true, the hype definitely runs high on this place, Cosme still manages to put the “can” in gourmand-worthy Mexican cuisine.

The setting is more trendy than dressy, but tastefully done in a timeless way. My only gripe is that the barstools are so high you practically have to do a Fosbury Flop to get on top of them. Service was pretty darn bueno as well, although you can tell they have a tinge of New York tude at the host stand. Granted after one or two El Ninjas, their gin and mezcal cocktail, you hardly notice and are mostly worried about falling from the dizzying heights of your barstool.

At the table, things are more or less tapas-style with a twist, the first of which was the uni tostada with bone marrow. And yes it’s as good as it sounds. In fact, if God was a tostada, he would probably be this one.

Another excellent starter is the crispy octopus served over a bed of hazelnut mole and accented with pickled potatoes and watercress. It’s not quite an Ultimate, but just about as close as you can get.

Our vegetarian option of the night, the mushroom and squash barbacoa, was also good, but not quite at the same level as everything else, tasting more or less like a solid market veggie taco when all was said and done.

And as the main event, we had to go with the storied Duck Carnitas (pictured), which as the name implies is done like a giant pork roast with moisty goodness seeping out of every corner. Then, they top it with onions and radishes and serve it up with soft tacos and salsa verde. Sadly, as good as it was, I’m not sure it’s quite worth its steep price tag, though. And while I can appreciate the inventive twist of treating duck like pork, I’ve actually seen it a lot lately and done even better at places like Cask & Larder in Orlando. Whereas this one was in dire need of the hot sauce before giving it my stamp of approval.

For dessert we forwent the other “must get” meringue and opted for the manchego cheesecake served crumbled up in a bowl over a pineapple drizzle, topped with popcorn. Not the exclamation point I was hoping for, I gotta say. And that’s true about Cosme on the whole. As hard as this place is to get into, and as hyped as it has been, I have to concur with Yelp on this one and say that 3.5 stars is pretty spot on. But since I don’t do halves, as we know, it comes down to which way am I rounding… up or down? Well, they don’t call me ferocious for the nothin’…

3 teeth

The Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 620-0393 thespottedpig.com

the-spotted-pig-nyc-chargrilled-burger-fries-610x360

I have to applaud Yelp for not buying into the hype hook, line and sinker just because James Beard and Michelin apparently have. That said, I still find Yelp’s 3.5 stars to be a bit overstated as well.

Let me explain by starting with the “spotted” service. Not only do they make it painfully annoying to get a table as a result of not taking reservations, they get so crowded that the wait can grow as steep as an hour and 45 minutes by 6:30pm! So right off the bat, you’re basically going into the experience with a this-better-be-fucking-worth-it mindset, which is never good for anyone. I mean, by that point the only way a restaurant is ever going to fair well is if every bite on the menu is on physiological par with an orgasm. But on the plus side, as ridiculous as the wait is, the hosts handle it well. No attitude and they text you when your table is ready so you can go off and drink at another bar until your table is ready. Which also doesn’t bode well for them, because now you’re an angry drunk waiting far longer than is reasonable, only to be seated in an overcrowded dinning room that is so warm you’d swear you were going through menopause, all for food that simply isn’t worth it (more on that later).

As for the actual waiters, they are slow in both senses of the term, getting us the deviled eggs instead of the devils on horseback and then trying to charge us twice for the devils on horseback. But what was especially annoying was the lack of attention to speed of service. After all, wouldn’t one think, “hey, these people just waited nearly two hours for their table, perhaps I should try to make them wait as little as possible from here on out.” But nooooo, not here. It was the longest burger and beer experience of my life, lasting nearly four hours.

Now for the “spotted menu,” which proved to be so disappointing, starting off with the Spotted Pig Bitter, made with bubbles so infinitesimally small that it comes off as flat. But at least it had good flavor to it. Just pales in comparison to Blue Bird Bitter if you’ve ever had it.

As for the infamous Devils on Horseback, they are definitely good, but a bit too moist through and through, if you ask me. I much prefer the contrasty version, where the crisp bacon gives way to the moist, gooey date, like at Boqueria.

The runaway surprise hit of the night was the Apple Salad. It’s just awesome, but bone simple, hence we made a dead ringer of it at home the very next day without even having to look up a recipe online. It’s comprised of Pink Lady apples cut in large chunks, fresh parsley, a bit of arugula, sharp (aged) cheddar or manchego and a dressing made with apple cider vinegar, red chili infused olive oil, Dijon, honey and red pepper flakes to taste.

The most over-hyped dish of the night was easily the burger (pictured). Hidden beneath a tower of shoestring fries in hopes of masking its inadequacies. Sure, the patty is good, but it was so boring without ketchup and mustard, relying way too heavily on the roquefort cheese to carry it to greatness, toward which it falls miserably short. Instead, I highly suggest you head to Minetta Tavern for the Black Label Burger, which actually lives up to its legend. Or the Bash burger at B&B Wine Pub, which has won the best burger in the city five years running. Or even Élan’s Duck Burger, which few know about, but blows the spots off of this pig.

And finally, there’s the Skirt Steak, which not only skirted around our order of medium rare, but came in horrendously chewy, filled with sinew to the point of almost making it off-putting had it not been for the mushrooms and kale on the plate with it.

Unless you have a bizarre foodie fetish and like the masochistic notion of waiting forever for food that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I vote that you skip the Pig and just make that apple salad at home. It really is quite something.

2 teeth

Little Drunken Chef

36 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8800

23DINEWE2sub-articleLarge

Well, the fact that the chef is a self-proclaimed drunk explains a lot. And considering this place got four stars on Yelp, I’d say the chef isn’t the only one who’s plastered, because you’d have to be shit-faced to think this place was even worth three, much less two. And yet both times we have tried to go here there has been a 45 and 20-minute wait respectively. The second time we powered through it with a few drinks at the bar, which also had a wait to be seated. We haven’t had this hard a time getting a table in Westchester since Bedford 234, but at least that meal proved worth it.

So back to the bar, where we were eventually able to squeeze in and get the only highlights of the night, the drinks. Figures when you take into account where you are. The two drinks we had were the sake cucumber concoction and the Drunken Manhattan, which is far less inventive than the sake (my reco), tasting like your run of the mill Manhattan, but served in a martini glass as opposed to a lowball. Oooooh!

Then miracle of miracles happened, our table was ready in under 20 minutes. And lucky us, we scored a drunken, jovial waiter who went on to swoon about roughly 75% of the menu, which is always a worrisome sign, made only more worrisome by the fact that not one single recommendation was even just okay, much less good. I think he was just ecstatic to have a job and someone to talk to.

Starting with the Tossed Goat Salad, the kale is overdressed, the Drunken Goat (that’s the actual name of the cheese, which is available at any Whole Foods, but aptly chosen for its name) is shaved so thin you can’t even taste it and the chunks of peach aren’t even ripe! On the plus side, at least they didn’t screw up the candied pecans. But the rest of the salad should definitely be “tossed.”

Next came the jamon and manchego croquettes four ways. And sadly 75% of them sucked about five different ways by my count. The only one rising to an “eh” was the chutney, but I suppose that’s to be expected since Indian is the closest in to the chef’s comfort zone.

As the night progressed, the losers kept coming and I’m not just referring to the clientele lined up outside still waiting for a table. I’m also talking about the pulled pork buns, served with a hint of chimichurri. Not with actual chimichurri, mind you. Just a hint. That hint being in the description on the menu, yet nowhere to be found in the dish itself.

And for an entrée, I highly recommend the paella for none. I tried the Paella for one and it might very well be the worst form of Spanish torture since the Inquisition. Overcooked rice, overcooked chicken, overcooked scallops, overcooked mussels and a sprig of chorizo- granted I’m not entirely sure it was honestly chorizo, but it was definitely a sausage of some kind.

Now I know I get dramatic sometimes and take things to extremes, but to have had to wait 20 minutes for this performance should be punishable by death. I’d rather wait in line at the DMV! Seriously. And the worst part is that I had to actually pay for the mistreatment of my mouth! But what’s crazy about all of this is that I have actually been a long time fan of the “Little” franchise, going back to its humble beginnings as just a Kebab Station. Then a Spice Market. That said, I’ve noticed that the further they step away from their bailiwick, the more the seams start to show, because Crepe Street is a bit of a pass, especially compared to places like Good Food in Briarcliff. But never has anything been as bad as this place, which if allowed, I would like to rename “Little Big Mistake.”

1 tooth

Manolo Tapas

4165 Broadway New York, NY 10033(212) 923-9100 • manolotapas.net
 
 restaurante-manolo-tapas

I ate here right before going to an Adele concert across the street, and maybe it was the fact that I ate there right before going to an Adele concert that made everything seemingly taste better, but the food really did seem quite good.

We had a wide variety of tapas and just about everything was worth ordering again. The sangria, the serrano ham & manchego plate as well as the crab cake were all fantastic. The olives, potatoes and octopus were also solid. In fact, the only miss were the lamb stuffed piquillos, which was unfortunate because I had high hopes after all of the other successes, but the lamb was a little too mushy, more like sloppy joe, which cheapened the takeaway of the dish.

Service, decor and price were all great as well, adding to the draw. So, should you ever be in the same hood for a concert at the United Palace Theater, I would definitely recommend Manolo as part of your pregame, it’s a strong three knives.

3 teeth

Maison Kayser

921 Broadway New York, NY 10010(212) 979-1600 maisonkayserusa.com

Maison-Kayser

I’m not sure what it is about this chain, but I really want to like it more than I do. And I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve eaten there for breakfast once, lunch twice, even from their prepared foods and bakery. But everything falls just short for me.

Worse still is that it’s sort of like a lesser version of it’s fellow Parisian transplant next door neighbor, Le Pain Quotidien, only with white tiles instead of wood, waiters dressed like mimes (without the face paint) and no communal tables, which I’ll file under the plus column. So how they’ve managed to expand as they have is beyond me.

Of all the things I’ve had there, there are only two worth ordering. The nicoise salad holds its own pretty nicely and the pre-prepared Iberico sandwich with manchego, Iberico ham, mission figs and mustard is pretty solid as far as pre-made sammies go. MUCH better than the tragically recommended saucisson (Le Rosette). Not sure what the peeps over at Thrillist were smoking when they wrote up that one, but I can assure it was potent and laced. It’s basically cured sausage and cornichon on a baguette with a little butter. Nothing more. And I mean nothing. It’s almost like something you would throw together in a post-apocalyptic fallout shelter because these ingredients were all you had standing between you and starvation. And the pre-made Israeli couscous and wheat berry salads aren’t much better, lacking more flavor than melba toast. The plain kind. Without anything on it.

In the middle of the road, their truffled egg and asparagus tartine for breaky/brunch is neither here nor there nor anything I would ever order again… and neither is the fig, honey and goat cheese tartine on the lunch menu, because not only was it a big snore, it’s also no longer on the menu. Guess I wasn’t the only one. And that’s my issue with MK as a whole, serving up food you would never even think twice about again in your life, unless you had a cantankerous food blog where you reviewed restaurants and wanted to write a warning to people that the food sounds much better than it is. Wow, that was meta.

2 teeth

Village Social

251 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1255 villagesocialkb.com

10

Once upon a time we discovered Village Social as a plan B, because our plan A had a 30 min wait and we had a three year old in tow. But what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. So much so that it has often become a plan A ever since. This place is a true jack of all trades, as they manage to do a number of things very well in a host of different cuisines.

Plus, the service is always friendly and accommodating which is another major win. The prices are reasonable- win/win. And the decor is as cool as anything you’d find in the city, so win/win/win. Granted, I know it’s located in a mini strip mall, but once you’re inside you’d never know it.

As for specifics among the varying dishes we’ve had over the years I’d have to give the biggest shout outs to two specials. The first was a burger dressed in a miso marinade with spicy serrano ham and manchego- the combination of flavors was brilliant together. The regular “on menu” 251 burger is good too, but by comparison, let’s just say I wish they’d make that special burger full time.

The other killer special was a carrot cake so wonderful it quite handily holds the title of Ultimate. And I fancy myself a bit of a carrot cake connoisseur (without credentials). In fact I loved it so much that I keep begging them to bring it back. So far, it’s slow going, but if you help me get it on the permanent menu, I promise to share.

The third best gem of the Village is actually on the menu, hallelujah! The scallops. They’re always perfectly cooked and fantastic. Then I’d probably recommend one of the pizzas or the black kale salad.

The short rib grilled cheese is also pretty good, but compared to the sammies at Melts in Armonk, it’s more of a one note deal. A good note, but not quite as interesting.

Another dessert worth getting is the ice cream. It’s SoCo, so no kudos to VS, other then for the good judgement in sourcing, but good nonetheless. I personally recommend the coconut chocolate brownie.

Oh, and speaking of smart sourcing, Alagash White on tap is always a crowd-pleaser. And so are some of their organic wines by the glass. Much better than the usual mediocrity that so often finds its way onto by-the-glass lists.

After that, the drop off gets pretty steep. Lots of hit and miss. Otherwise I’d easily hand them a hearty four knives, but if they promise to bring back that carrot cake and/or the special burger, I promise to up it

3 teeth

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

11 West 31 St. New York, NY 10001(212) 714-2992http://www.ayzanyc.com

img-4

This place actually IS something to sneeze at. And what’s so shocking to me is that it was actually doing quite a bit of business. Now I can only assume that most of it was spill over from the adjacent hotel and thus filled with tourists who don’t know any better, or at least thinking that makes me feel better, because if this is actually being kept open by the business of my fellow New Yorkers, I find that a bit depressing.

First of all, the décor is nothing special and pretty much what you’d expect from a hotel wine bar, granted being able to sit outside after the winter we just had shouldn’t be taken for granted I suppose.

As for service, it was fine, but the food was afflicted with a horrible case of mediocrity. The angry chicken lollipops, for example, were far from angry. In fact, the only thing angry about them was me for ordering them. We’re talking zero spice. False advertising alert!

The other big miss was the truffle pizza that tasted like the frozen soggy crap you’d buy out of a vending machine at a bus station in the middle of the night while traveling cross-county through South Dakota.

There was one dish that managed to rise above, however. It was the prosciutto, manchego and fig tartine. Now, I’m not entirely certain that it was actually good or if it just stood out amidst the comparative losers, but either way, suffice it to say that this is not the place you want at that top of your wishlist.

1 tooth

Maca

Hidalgo s/nBetween Boulevard Marina & Emiliano Zapata, Cabo San Lucas 23456, Mexico • 52 624 1434143
 maca-restaurant

The place was woefully empty when we went, which had us very nervous at first. But, being the only table in the place ensured that we had excellent service. Every waiter and even the owner tended to our every need.

But that is only a fraction of why the score is so high. The décor is also beautifully and thoughtfully done. Tasteful, clean, contemporary meets rustic. The wood doors alone are worth mention. So are the bathrooms. Every detail was thought through on this place. Which only made it even more upsetting that they were empty.

So now you have to be thinking, “okay, so the food had to suck.” But that’s what’s so crazy. It was EXCELLENTE! The Tapas was fantastic. From the shrimp to the octopus to the Manchego and Serrano Ham.

And as for entrees, the duck with cranberry relish was phenomenal. The only miss of the night was the paella. Very bland.

Even both desserts were perfection. One was a chocolate mousse. The other was a cinnamon dusted cream tart-like thing with ice cream. Not sure exactly what it was, but I devoured it before ever learning to pronounce it.

I HIGHLY recommend this place. My favorite meal in Mexico. Please give them business, as it would be a crime for this place to disappear with so many other lack luster places in town, that are packed with tourists eating the same old Mexican slop that you find at 98% of the restaurants there.

5 teeth