Num Pang

21 E 12th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 255-3271 numpangnyc.com

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I’ve been going to Num Pang since they were one location in Union Square. And back then they definitely owned every last drop of these four knives. But since they’ve expanded all over the city, they have unfortunately lost a step. Granted it’s a small, baby step, but a step nonetheless.

Some of the enduring wows are the 5 spice pork belly and the hoisin meatballs. But with special sandwiches like the grilled peaches & bacon, duck, grilled salmon and meatloaf they keep things interesting.

Honorable mentions are in order for the tiger shrimp, the peppercorn catfish and brisket, which would’ve gotten more love if it wasn’t served so dry. But virtually every sandwich here rocks with its spicy, messy goodness seeping from the sides. Just don’t forget to grab some Sriracha.

On the non-sandwich front their hot & sour chicken soup is killer and their blood orange lemonade is a great accompaniment to any of the above.

Such a great option when you’re sick of the same old sandwiches, but still want a sandwich. One with a little Vietnamese/Cambodian Banh mi action.

4 teeth

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Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave. New York, NY10010 • (212) 889-0905 • elevenmadisonpark.com

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I can only assume that the consistently ecstatic reviews of this place must only modify dinner, because it can’t possibly be the lunch. One of the most over-hyped under-delivered experiences I’ve ever had. The restaurant equivalent of watching the movie Seabiscuit. I was so underwhelmed, I started convincing myself that they must have a different chef for lunch than they do for dinner. Or that they forgot to serve me the same cool aid that everyone else has apparently been drinking.

And I wanted to like this place, I really did. But course after course after blasé course they just kept making it impossible for me. Granted, I know lunch is never the main event at places such as these, but to be a top restaurant in NYC, I’m sorry, if you’re doors open, you need to bring your A game. Otherwise, stay closed for lunch, which would be my strong recommendation.

Worse still, the food wasn’t the only thing that was a let down. Service was slow and inaccurate, messing up my dessert order, bringing me something I hadn’t even asked for. Then, after an even longer wait, they brought out the correct one, yet all three desserts were lack luster. I’m sorry, but with such a steep price tag and with so many other fantastic options in the Flatiron/Union Sq. area, this would fall near the very bottom of my list.

2 teeth

Tamarind

41-43 E 22nd St. Ste 43 New York, NY 10010(212) 674-7400tamarind22.com

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Tamarind has more game than Vishnu has arms. In fact, Tamarind is easily my favorite Indian restaurant in the city, if not the world. And yes, I’ve been to India. Granted only Mumbai, and I’m sure I only just scratched the surface, but one can’t eat in every restaurant in the world now can they?

So, back to Tamarind’s sheer awesomeness on every level. First and foremost I’d like to give a shout out to the décor. Unlike so many other Indian eateries, Tamarind doesn’t feel the need to play into a “themed” atmosphere. It’s actually quite contemporary and quite beautiful.

And, like in most Indian restaurants the service is warm and friendly, as well as accommodating. I know it’s a stereotype, but at least it’s a good one.

But Tamarind isn’t all show. When it comes to the plate, they truly take Indian food to another level. Virtually everything I’ve ever had there is perfection. But here are a few of my favorites:

The Lobster Masala is excellent. A lighter option than the chicken version and so much more unusual for typical Indian menus.

Another fav is an off-menu ask. Get them to make you the special cauliflower. It’s fried using a ketchup based sauce and it is the best thing cauliflower has ever done in its life.

And last but not least, the garlic nan. Now, they used to not have this on the menu either, but they made it better than anyone else, including the places that actually do have it on their menus.

Beyond that, there are scores of other dishes that are great, from vindaloo to korma to saag paneer. And all of it you can ask to be spiced specifically to your liking. As I said, very accommodating.

So skip Little India and do yourself a solid by booking Tamarind.

5 teeth

The Gander

15 W 18th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 229-9500 • thegandernyc.com

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The restaurant has the dubious distinction of being the product of two former failures combine. The space is in the gravesite of the restaurant formerly known as Alison 18 (RIP) and some of the key players behind it are from Manzanilla (RIP) which was a wonderful restaurant that caught a kiss of death one star review from the NY Times. Such a crime, because their reviews are about as accurate as Yelp half the time. Manzanilla was a gem that shined far brighter than scores of other places in the city that boast an embarrassment of adulation, undeservedly so if you ask me. Babbo, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park and Union Sq. Café are among the first to come to mind.

So as a result of my deep love for Manzanilla, I was REALLY pulling for these guys to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and send a big “Fuck You” to the sycophant at the Times.

Well, sadly I did not get my way. The Gander, while it has its moments, is no Manzanilla. The décor, is appointed nicely here and there, but feels a bit barren and cavernous somehow in the main dining room. As though they aren’t quite done decorating just yet.

The service was also a bit sloppy. One of the bus boys spilled oil on my sport coat and tried to slink away as though he didn’t notice. So definitely off to a bad start comparatively to the past. The service at Manzanilla was excellent and the décor was beautiful. So now I shifted all of my hopes toward the food, which had been getting rave reviews from people at work.

Well, I have since fired those people. KIDDING! But the food was very hit and miss. Not a total disaster. There were some highlights. The fist being my blood orange tea cocktail. Another being the Sea Trout Tartar, beautifully presented, loaded with brightness and acidity. But the runaway success of the night was the suckling pig, prepared in a very traditional Mediterranean sauce of herbed olive oil and lemon. So good.

The angel food cake dessert wasn’t bad either, but it shouldn’t exactly make the highlights list, or the lowlights for that matter. It really falls somewhere in the middle.

Now for the lowlights. I personally would skip the much touted Buffalo sweet breads. They taste like fried batter with Buffalo sauce. You get absolutely nothing of the gland itself, so what’s the point? I mean even with Buffalo wings you at least get the chicken meat!

Another highly acclaimed miss was the Brisket Tots. Their issue was dryness. And truth be told, not very flavorful either. The only saving grace for the dish are these tiny shaved coins of apple when eaten together with a tot, brings the much needed moisture back to the dish, making them in fact worthy. The problem is that the apple to tot ratio is not is not a favorable one.

And last but not least, my biggest gripe of the night, the Brown Butter Ravioli. This dish is SO small it is laughable that of all the pastas on the menu this is the only one that isn’t offered as an app portion. Only as a main. But I defy anyone to tell me that this is an entrée. Literally comprised of three underwhelming dumplings for 14 dollars. It’s basically 5 dollars a bite! You’d think it had truffles or something. So overpriced and underwhelming. They should be embarrassed to serve a dish like that, that’s how bad it was for the money.

Sorry Gander. I wanted to love you so bad. Hopefully third time’s a charm.

2 teeth