Fire Belly

Madison Eats • 1107 Broadway New York, NY • (917) 727-2169 • https://www.facebook.com/SLKBBQ

11096571_906187806100352_6644600168041415373_n

I wish I loved the tacos as much as the name. Granted, one could argue that a “fire belly” isn’t exactly what you want after eating, because we all know the next stop and that train, and there are few things on this Earth worse than a fire bung hole. So now that you’ve thoroughly lost your appetite, let me tell you all about what you will miss.

I opted for the taco trifecta, my name, not theirs, comprised of bulgogi (beef), crispy spicy shrimp and veggie. All served on a soft tortilla and all topped with a vital kimchi kick. The best of the three for me was the shrimp. Good heat. The batter-fried prep kept the shrimp nice and moist and the shrimp were also pretty decent in size. Not that krill crap you tend to get in shrimp salads and popcorn shrimp orders.

Second up would be the veggie taco. Nice flavors poking through, but to be fair, you really only taste the kimchi. And lastly, the biggest miss of the trio, the bulgogi. Such a shame too because of all three tacos this was the one I was most excited about. Reason being, way back when I was a kid, I used to help out busing tables at a pan-asian restaurant. I was very friendly with the family who owned it and at the end of my shifts the owner would always make me my favorite dish… bulgogi. Well, this is no bulgogi. More like something else that starts with bull. It was dried out, chewy sinew.

So 2-1 is the score, which would probably put us at a three knifer under normal circumstances, but when you compare it to the likes of something like Korilla, I have a hard time going over two.

2 teeth

Kona Island Sushi Bar

Polynesian Dr. Bay Lake, FL 32836

8319d1397674223-sushi-takes-center-stage-kona-cafe-disney-s-polynesian-resort-kii8329333

This is everything you fear when you think about Disney hotel restaurants. A cheap touristy vibe surrounds you from the walls to the people to the plates. Almost as if the Hawaiian Punch dude from long ago got sick and died, but just before passing away, he vomited up this place.

Sure, there are a few things that were good, like the pot stickers and the duck entrée. But apart from those, everything else fell somewhere between mediocre and pretty darn bad.

From blah to worse were the Chinese noodles, the crab cakes, the pork and the apple crumble. The dessert was even a recommendation by our server, but was so bad we literally only had three bites between three people.

On the plus side, the signature cocktail comes with a glowing cube inside that is programmable to different colors. I highly recommend for the kids. We got two and they were in heaven playing at the table as if they were light sabers.

1 tooth

Ace Eat Serve

501 E 17th Ave. Denver, CO 80203(303) 800-7705 • acedenver.com

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 1.30.15 PM

The crispy brussel sprouts with shishito peppers are reason enough to come here alone. I know every restaurant and their grandmother is doing sprouts right now (and kale salads), but this is a nice, spicy twist, as opposed to sweet, like so many others.

The other thing I liked was the sesame seared salmon served over noodles. A special, but a solid one.

The only miss for me was the dessert. But I dug everything else about the place. Service was friendly and attentive. Decor is cool and fun. Especially if you like ping-pong, which I do… and thus the namesake for the joint. Plus, they have a huge outdoor seating area, which probably swayed me a little because it was 78 degrees and sunny that day. Practically worth a star unto itself after such a long, bitter winter.

4 teeth

Pearl & Ash

220 Bowery, New York, NY 10012(212) 837-2370 • pearlandash.com

octopus, sunflower seed, shiso

Here it is. The review that started it all:

I think this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am finally going to start my own food blog, when I find the time (summer), so that I can right all of the yelping wrongs. To give this place 3.5 stars is simply a travesty. I mean, if this isn’t 5 stars, what does a place have to do? Chew your food for you?! And with so many shit places out there getting 4 stars on Yelp, it basically renders the site useless to me, because they are SO wrong, SO often now.

But I don’t like to just drop bombs and leave. I’m a substantiation guy. So here is why the 138 person consensus is wrong and I am right…

The décor alone is stunning. Clean, contemporary, artful and romantic. All within a very small space that doesn’t feel like it. And while the décor would seem to imply that the place is snooty, it is far from it, perhaps due in large part to the staff, who keep things very light and casual. But not to the point of unprofessional. Our waiter was excellent. On point with recommendations, attentive and friendly.

And not to be outdone by the décor, the food is excellent. The octopus alone is worth a one-pager, done with a sauce derivative of the kind used on spareribs in Chinese restaurants. Perhaps the best octopus I’ve ever had. The scallop ceviche with corn nuts is a culinary clinic on textures and flavors and how to truly get the most out of your mouth’s potential. And the banana dessert was the sweet equal to the scallops- just as complex with its masterful blend of flavors and textures- including parsley. Yes, parsley.

So that covers the immortal side of the coin. The rest, slipped to a mere “excellent/ great.” For example, the pork meatballs. Absolutely delicious, but Little Owl might have them beat. Not a bad standard to be held up to mind you. The Cauliflower with shishito peppers while also very good, doesn’t hold a candle to Tamarind and Ilili’s. But again, high praise to even be compared.

Last but not least, the only two I wouldn’t get again- but not because they were bad, but because they just weren’t SO good that I HAVE to get them again, were the lamb belly and the potatoes.

Oh, and I almost forgot the booze! The wine list is impeccable and the cocktails aren’t too shabby either. We had two of the Murder on the Ebullient Express, made with white port. So good. So refreshing.

I just can’t say enough about this place. Such a treat. And what makes it especially wonderful is the pan-Asian thread you can see brought into every detail and dish within the restaurant- and yet it pays strong homage to so many other cuisines.

Well done Pearl & Ash. In my book, you deserve a recount. Either that or Yelp deserves a rethink.

5 teeth