BBQ Chicken

25 W 32nd StNew York, NY 10001 • (212) 967-8093 • bbqktownnyc.com

Welcome to the Korean Pret of fried chicken. A confusing, and yet surprisingly accurate description made only more confusing by the name, because there’s very little barbecue to speak of. That said, there is chicken in virtually every imaginable sauce you could want, fried, jerk, barbecue (naturally), grilled, thai, coconut, general tso, sesame, honey, spicy. It’s like Forrest Gump talking about shrimp. All pre-made for a quick grab-n-go mission (hence my Pret comparison) or there is a pretty extensive amount of seating if you want to sit and take in the rather nonexistent decor. It’s also very reasonably priced by Manhattan standards, making it one of the only options for lunch in the area under $20.

But here’s the thing, the bowls are all pretty damn yummy. Some served up with rice and potatoes. Others with rice and veggies like their bibimbap. And some are just piled high with poultry. But all of them are surprisingly good. They have other things as well, but chicken is clearly their bailiwick. Oh, and best of all, they have beer! Take that Pret!

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Mama Shelter Restaurant

 Hüseyin Ağa Mah., İstiklal Cad. No:50 D:54, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey • +90 212 252 0200 • www.mamashelter.com/en/istanbul/restaurants/rooftop

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Right off the main drag a.k.a. Istiklal, there is a hotel by the name of Mama Shelter, created by the master himself, Philippe Starck. And while this isn’t what I would call his crowning achievement compared to the likes of the Delano, the Royalton and the Mondrian, it most certainly checks the cool box, drawing heavy influences from the same bag of tricks he used to design the Modrian in LA. The lobby is very white on white and the rooftop bar and dining area is complete with the same kind of sprawling city view, as well as beds and giant, over-sized planters. Granted he goes a great deal more colorful at Mama Shelter.

But sadly the cool décor goes straight to the heads of the wait staff who seem busier perfecting their aloof struts back and forth across the rooftop as opposed to taking care of customers. That said, should you manage to flag one down, brace yourself, because there’s more bad news, the menu is a bit hit and miss.

My first gripe being the iced tea. Not only is it not fresh brewed, it’s Lipton. Served in a can. Which I suppose should earn them a few marks for transparency. On the cloudier side of things, however, would be the preparation of the salmon cakes which are more like deep-fried fritters served with a slaw that is actually peanut based as opposed to vinegar or mustard, giving the dish a decidedly Thai net, net. And the net of that net was gross. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement even for me, because it wasn’t vomitous, but it really wasn’t good either.

And just when all hope was lost, Mama showed us her moxie with a delightful quinoa salad, made refreshing with chunks of watermelon and made complex and flavorful with bits of smoked circassian cheese. It was simple yet inventive and single handedly saved the life of our server who I was about to throw off the roof.

Perhaps Mama just needs to spend more time with her kids and get the house back in order?

2 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

Arun’s Thai Restaurant

4156 N. Kedzie Ave. Chicago, IL 60618(773) 539-1909arunsthai.com

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5 knives for presentation. However, the service suffers because of it. Somewhat understandable when you see the presentations, after all, it must take some 30 minutes each to put together, carving carrots into butterflies and fowl, but it really ruins the flow of a tasting menu when you have to wait 30 to 40 minutes between each course. I ate there years ago and if they had a few more courses in the tasting I’d probably still be there! I also have to say that while the food was very good, it didn’t necessarily live up to the hype. For significantly less money I could have just as satisfying a Thai meal at Star of Siam (also in Chicago) in a fraction of the time. Hell, I could have 6 meals at Star, back to back, in a fraction of the time.

3 teeth

 

Larb Ubol

480 9th Ave. New York, NY 10018 • (212) 564-1822 • larbubol.com

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I hate people on Yelp who tank a place, giving it one star for something that is not truly indicative of the place as a whole, so I will fight the urge to do so myself.

First, the decor. There is actually a bit of a cheapness to the way it’s decorated. I know they were going for quaint or charming, but they don’t pull it off. It feels like a college kid decorated it in a colorful, minimalist style, in between bouts of pot smoking.

As far as service goes, it was definitely good, but with one major flaw. They asked how spicy I wanted the Sum Tom on a scale of 1 to 5. Five being the hottest. So, being that I LOVE spicy (E.G. when I get guac made at my table I ask for habaneros instead of jalapenos) I asked for 3. So one would think that this would fall on the med-high end of spicy. Not high. And not “I hate my mouth and want to hurt it.”

Well, let me tell you that 3 is SO spicy I could barely eat it, needing mounds of rice just to get halfway through. Which begs the question, who is eating level 5? Is that like melt your face off Raiders of the Lost Ark style-hot?! Their scale needs a serious re-think because this is literally the first time in my life I’ve ever had a dish too spicy for me to eat. And I’ve had loads of Thai, Indian, Mexican- you name it.

Fortunately the server tried to help as much as she could, offering complimentary rice and Thai Iced tea. And it’s hard for me to fault her for the kitchen’s bizarre scale.

So all that said, what I did taste, in that split second before my mouth melted off was quite good. But if I ever go back I’m asking for a 1 and sriracha on the side.

3 teeth