Qi

675 8th Ave. New York, NY 10036(212) 247-8991qirestaurant.com

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For the area it’s a refreshing change of pace from the touristy hell that is Times Square. With its vibe and décor the place exudes a cool similar to that of Peep down in Soho, but without the voyeuristic bathroom. That said, the food is not quite as good as Peep, but it’s still good. And the prices, like Peep, are VERY reasonable- especially when you get the lunch special. So reasonable, with a drink, an app and pad thai, the bill came to $10. You can’t even get a sandwich and a soda in this city for less than $10. And that’s without chips!

I didn’t notice the bad service, however, mentioned by hordes of others. I also didn’t think anything was so good it was worth more than 3 stars… So, guess what I’m giving it…

3 teeth

Baked by Melissa

Everywhere in New York City that there isn’t already a Starbucks or a Chase
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When Melissa first hit the scene at her hole-in-the-wall location in Soho, I thought, “hey, what a great idea!” Tiny, bite-sized cupcakes, because sometimes all we want is a little hit of sweet. Not a gut bomb of sugary commitment.

Now, while the rest of this review might sound like the bitter rantings of someone who should’ve invested when they had the chance, that’s honestly the most I can admit about her cupcakes. Because while her business model is genius, her cupcakes- not so much.

Usually dry, they basically taste like shrunken down versions of Crumbs, which I’m also not a fan of. It’s like someone one day decided that cupcakes weren’t desert-y enough being just cake with frosting on top, so they decided to cram a bunch of other desserts in ’em, making them so friggin’ sweet you’ll practically be begging for an insulin shot, even if you’re not a diabetic.

I much prefer the likes of Buttercup, Magnolia and Terri for my cakes of the cupping kind.

2 teeth

 
 

Mas Farmhouse

39 Downing St. New York, NY 10014(212) 255-1790masfarmhouse.com

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Mas is the new Blue Hill. Granted it’s not so new anymore, but by comparison it’s new-ish. But what I mean by the comparison is that it is farm to table done flawlessly. The decor is cozy, yet stylish and contemporary. The two dining areas are both small and quaint – in a way that makes you feel special. As does the service, which can only be compared to the likes of a Thomas Keller restaurant, yet warmer and more human.  Plus, they are incredibly accommodating without even a whiff of pretense.

As for the food, well, I gave it five knives didn’t I? It’s fantastic. I can tell you all about it, but unfortunately all that would do is make you jealous since the Chef’s tasting menu is in constant flux on a day to day basis, depending on what looked good at the market that morning.

I highly recommend it though. Just put yourself in the hands of the chef and let him work his magic. Naturally they will ask if you have any allergies or things you flat out don’t like – or love, as the case may be- and they will do the rest.

Also, a shout out to the sommelier. I got the wine pairing along with the tasting, and it was truly a work of art. Every sip in perfect harmony with the dish – like culinary soul mates.

Verdict: Top 10 in the city.

5 teeth

Peep

177 Prince St. New York, NY 10012(212) 254-7337 •  peepsoho.net

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While shopping in Soho, we stumbled upon this place by accident and man am I glad we did. What a find! First of all, the decor is very cool. Sleek, modern and little something special for those who visit the bathroom. Well, special if you’ve ever been curious about exhibitionism.

Service is nice and fast. And the food- I swear, I can’t think of a better thai restaurant in the city. Seriously. If you know one, please do tell. Because Qi, Pongsri, Larb Ubol and Jai et Thai have nothing on this place. Everything was excellent from the appetizers to the entrees to the classics like Pad Thai.

But here is the kick. Guess how much it was for three people to have lunch? With Three apps and three entrees? Are you sitting down?

$27 including tax! In New York City! In Soho!

Okay, now pick yourself up off of the floor and go.  What do you have to lose (except maybe modesty, if you venture to the bathroom)?

4 teeth

Jack’s Wife Freda

224 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10012(212) 510-8550jackswifefreda.com

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If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, than Jack’s Wife Freda just might be the most important restaurant in NYC. Okay, so that’s a colossal abuse of the colloquialism, but it’s fair to say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better breakfast. Not taking anything away from Cookshop or Clinton Street Bakery. I love them both. But Clinton is impossible to get into and one can only eat at Cookshop so many times before one gets CFS (Cookshop Fatigue Syndrome).

Not that Jack’s is easy to get into either, but if you go right when it opens at 9am, you’ll stroll right in to this quaint, little, noisy-ass breakfast bonanza of originality. Things like rosewater waffles and Shakshuka (an Israeli egg dish pictured above) fill out a menu of variant classics with eccentric twists.

The only nit is service. They aren’t as bad as everyone says, but sterling they’re not. I’m guessing they are too busy rehearsing their lines for an upcoming audition to be bothered with the spilled creamer on your crotch.

4 teeth

Balaboosta

214 Mulberry St. New York, NY 10012(212) 966-7366balaboostanyc.com

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Having been a HUGE fan of the Taiim Falafel truck for years, I finally made my way to Balaboosta and it did not disappoint.

First, I love the décor. Nothing fancy or lavish, but done in a way so as to hint to its name. Balaboosta means “homemaker” and there are accents in the dining room to suggest just that- that you are in someone’s home. The shelves speckled with knickknacks and books and wine. Or over the kitchen pass through, jars of pasta and beans as though you were in someone’s kitchen. All done tastefully, not gimmicky.

Then there’s the service, which we also loved. Our waiter was great with the recommendations, friendly and attentive.

And most importantly, the food. By far the best thing we had was the ceviche served with mint, hot peppers and pistachios. Such a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. In second place, a three-way tie. The Hana cocktail made with arack is VERY nice, especially for those who like Turkish Raki (which we do). Another hit was the short rib empañada which is moist and marinated with a yogurt sauce inside. And the last member of the tie, the banana bread pudding with frozen yogurt for dessert. I am a sucker for bread pudding and bananas so admittedly I was an easy target on this one.

Bringing up the rear would be the salad with artichokes, which was good, but it is just a salad. The crispy cauliflower which is also good, but it’s quite large and not as good as the reviews crack it up to be. If you truly want a dish like this to rock your world ask for the off menu version at Tamarind. Or the cauliflower version that Illili makes when B-sprouts are out of season.

Oh, and the rib eye skewers, which were cooked perfectly, I will concede, but a touch boring by comparison to everything else.

But putting all the small nits aside, Balaboosta deserves mad mazels- especially on that ceviche.

4 teeth

The Musket Room

265 Elizabeth St. New York, NY 10012(212) 219-0764 musketroom.com

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On our way to dinner at Pearl & Ash, we stumbled upon this seemingly new place and made a mental note for the future. We were immediately impressed by the décor as well as the menu. But looks can be deceiving, right?

Wrong! Well, sometimes right, but in this case wrong. Musket Room lives up to its looks and might even exceed them. Although that’s quite a statement, because every detail in this place is thoughtfully considered. The water glasses are sleek and unusually beautiful. As is the silverware and the table they all rest on. The exposed brick and natural, old world elements almost make you feel as if you have stepped back into time, that or into a contemporary Nordic haunt, for a bite to eat.

The service was also excellent. Solid recommendations, attentive, knowledgeable and best of all, friendly. Not a snooty bone in the place. Even though they have every right to be, because this isn’t a casual nibble. This is fine dining in every sense of the word. From the chef’s tastings to the platings to the choreographed delivery of courses.

But let’s get to the food since that’s all you really care about. To start with, the bread is marvelous. Fresh baked rolls with a hard, buttery, golden brown exterior and soft fluffy insides that spring to life with their REAL homemade, green salted butter. Such a rare treat in the States to have real butter. Most everything else outside of France tastes like nothing.

For appetizers the salmon with mandarin oranges was very good, but the real gem was the waiter’s recommendation, the cold-smoked scallops. Brought to the table under a metal dome, it is revealed in a magical puff of frost. A beautiful crescent of scallops, pickled cucumbers, black garlic, sea beans and pear. Such a wonderful mix of flavors between the smokiness of the scallops and the refreshing sweetness of the pear and cukes. Best thing of the night.

For entrees, here was the only misstep. Both were just okay. The cod being the weaker of the two. A touch bland and not particularly memorable.

The steak entrée, on the other hand, while good, was nothing compared to the apps the preceded it. Nowhere near as inventive and the “cheese pie” just didn’t translate from ear to mouth very well.

But redemption soon followed with two winners for dessert. The chocolate torte was rich and dreamy and while I could go on more about it, I actually thought it was quite handily upstaged by the strawberry and Camembert mousse with pineapple sorbet, rhubarb and granola. Friggin’ yum!

So, welcome Musket Room. You’ve done New Zealand proud. Not to mention Soho.

4 teeth

Burger and Barrel

25 W Houston St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 334-7320 • burgerandbarrel.com

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If you poked your head in this place knowing nothing about it, you’d probably think twice or just walk right past it, because from the outside looking in, it looks like any other pub in the country. But looks are hella deceiving because housed within its four walls lies sheer, unadulterated awesomeness.

First, let’s start with what made them famous, the Bash Burger. Perfectly sized so as not to be a gut bomb, then topped with bacon jam, caramelized onions, pickles, American cheese and some sort of special sauce all worthy of Food and Wine Magazine’s best burger some 4 or 5 times now since 2009.

But burgers are not the only note this minstrel can play. Because before handing me what would easily be in my top 5 burgers in NYC, they handed be the best damn Bloody Mary I’ve ever laid lips on. The Bloody Maria is not your normal bloody lass, however. She’s made with jalapenos as opposed to horseradish, and let me just say, “Dios mio!” That’s one spicy bitch!

The other star worthy of an amen would be the French toast sticks. The good news is that they are literally perfect for the kids. The bad news is that they are so good you’ll probably wolf them down yourself, leaving your kids crying and in tears. No? Just me? Well, that’s because you haven’t tried them yet. Once you get a taste of those crispy, soaked through sticks, topped with that incredible berry compote, you’ll be shunned as a father just like me.

And speaking of shunned, there were two misses, sad to say. The first being the B&B Bubbly. A Proseco drink with fruit that didn’t quite manage to taste as inventive as its description. The other miss being the baked eggs, guilty of a similar crime. I’d skip both and try something else. Word on the street is that the fried chicken is pretty ridonkulous as well. Guess I’ll find out when I return, which can’t be soon enough.

4 teeth