New York rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

A Perfect Cupcake in the Hudson Valley

It is the perfect cupcake, proclaims pitu. At the Old Chatham Country Store, $2.50 buys a masterpiece in pleated paper: moist chocolate cake, topped with buttery chocolate frosting, and crowned with half an Oreo. Other combinations include chocolate cake with white frosting and white cake under a summer storm of shredded coconut.

This restored small-town landmark also serves breakfast and lunch and sells sweets from Ithaca Fine Chocolates, cheeses from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, and other fancy foods from local producers.

Old Chatham Country Store [Columbia County]
639 Albany Turnpike Road (at Route 13), Old Chatham, NY

Board Link: A perfect cupcake in Old Chatham NY

At Chennai, a Bounteous South Indian Harvest

Solid southern Indian standards—and fresh, varied vegetable entrées—have quickly grabbed hounds’ attention at Chennai on the Upper East Side. Dave Feldman says this three-month-old vegetarian restaurant is a clear cut above the average uptown Indian joint and even holds its own against Chennai Garden (no relation), Tiffin Wallah, Saravanaas, and other top southern Indian places in Manhattan.

The entrées include outstanding vegetable chettinad, the peppery, dry-cooked southern dish, with a liberal handful of curry leaves. Chef Narayan Swami is from Chennai, hence the restaurant’s name, but the menu ranges far beyond the south. Dilite reports delicious, unusually light broccoli-mushroom jalfrezi—”really impressive, and not just by Upper East Side standards.” Other choices include dal palak (yellow lentils with spinach), Marwari jeera aloo (potatoes with cumin), Desi Chinese-style “Manchurian” cauliflower or vegetable balls, cabbage tadka (sautéed in mild spices), and a version of the Punjabi specialty sarso ka saag made with broccoli rabe. “[T]his is a menu worth exploring,” Dave notes.

Among the southern specialties, utthapams (lentil-rice pancakes) are crisp and tasty, and dosas are pleasingly sour. Those dosas are especially good stuffed with onions or paneer and mushroom. The accompanying sambar and coconut chutney are nothing special, however. Sides and condiments show uncommon attention to detail. Lemon rice (with mustard seeds and curry leaves) is excellent. Complimentary pappadams arrive with accompaniments far better than the “usual unholy trinity” of cilantro and tamarind chutneys and “blood-red onions,” Dave reports. And if you ask, they’ll grind out fresh dosa podi, the spicy southern seasoning, even though it’s not on the menu.

Prices are gentle, topping out at $8, and delivery is quick and efficient. “I’m glad to have this place in my neighborhood, something different from the other Indian restaurants around,” says lucybobo.

Chennai [Upper East Side]
1663 First Avenue (near E. 86th Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Chennai —Terrific Southern Indian on the UES
New Chennai Garden—UES

Satisfying Senegalese at Clinton Hill’s Joloff

Joloff, one of New York’s oldest Senegalese restaurants, continues to deliver the goods, bigjeff reports. His thoroughly satisfying recent dinner was highlighted by exemplary mafe yap: delicious lamb, stewed until falling off the bone, in rich peanut sauce. Perfectly cooked shrimp and okra came over subtly seasoned joloff rice, with a tomato base and grains reminiscent of Vietnamese broken rice.

Vegetarian choices are numerous, though vegetables in peanut sauce were disappointingly meager—just carrot, potato, and onion. Although jeff didn’t try it, you’re likely to see many others ordering the house favorite, tiebou jeun, the Senegalese standard of fish, rice, and vegetables in a rich, ruddy sauce. Save room for moist, tasty carrot cake, and check out the house-made drinks; ginger beer and the Joloff Cocktail (sorrel and ginger) are standouts.

Expect a homey vibe, low prices (no dish is more than $11), and an amiable host with a sly sense of humor. “[U]pon seeing our completely demolished plates,” jeff writes, “he told us he’d speak with the chef about the ‘poor’ quality of the food that night.”

Joloff Restaurant [Clinton Hill]
930 Fulton Street (at St. James), Brooklyn

Board Link: joloff–excellent . . . well . . .

Loretta’s Nails the Eggplant Parm Hero

The eggplant parmigiana hero at Loretta’s Pizza is simple and satisfying, just the way Cheese Boy likes it. Peeled, sliced eggplant, coated with house-made breadcrumbs, is fried and layered in a hero roll. On top is a ladleful of garlicky, fresh-tasting tomato sauce and a generous covering of Parmesan. When you order, ask them to toast the bread. “It tastes so much better that way,” Cheese Boy observes.

Loretta’s Pizza and Heros [Bronx]
3276 Layton Avenue (at Dean), Bronx

Board Link: Best Eggplant Parm Hero

Old-School Pizza, Fresh and Hot, in Jamaica

Like many New Yorkers, corgi pines for the classic pizza slice of his youth—and almost never finds it. Most neighborhood pizzerias nowadays reheat wedges hacked from bready, badly made pies that were swamped in canned tomato sauce, embalmed in plastic cheese, run through the oven long ago, and left to congeal behind glass.

This wasn’t always so. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, he recalls, the sauce was tangy and most likely made in-house, the cheese was piping hot and agreeably gooey, and most places still baked their pizzas one at a time, ensuring that slices were served fresh out of the oven.

Margherita Pizza in Jamaica is an admirable throwback, a 41-year-old establishment whose elderly owners come to work at 4 every morning to make dough and sauce from scratch, corgi reports. Each pie goes into the oven just as the previous one is sold. The resulting slices are rocket-hot and delicious, made with pride and love. “If you feel at all nostalgic for a truly good New York slice,” he suggests, “you should definitely check it out.”

Margherita Pizza [Jamaica]
163-04 Jamaica Avenue (at 163rd Street), Jamaica, Queens

Board Links: An old-school New York slice in Jamaica

For Lobster Fans, a Belgian Wonderland

Lobster-lovers must try the kreeft in de pan at Markt, urges Blumie. This is a whole lobster roasted, slit open, and served in a pan with julienned fresh vegetables and a wine-butter sauce that you’ll want to mop up with bread. At $36 this is no bargain, and the lobster weighs in on the small side at around a pound. “But it was fantastic, perhaps the best lobster dish I’ve ever had,” swears Blumie, a New Englander who knows his lobster. “Don’t order this if you’re gonna be put off by the size or the price, but otherwise I highly recommend it.”

Markt, a Belgian-style brasserie that moved to Chelsea in the spring from a roomier space in the meatpacking district, seems to be a wonderland for lobster fans (or an infamous killing field, if you’re a lobster). Also on the menu are a chilled lobster salad over chopped avocado and greens, and grilled lobster with braised greens in a cream sauce flavored with Hoegaarden witbier. Belgian standards like moules frites are on the mark and offered in several variations (including steamed in wine or Hoegaarden, or cooked in cream sauces with curry or garlic).

LeahBaila is hooked on the French toast with fruit and maple syrup, a standout on a breakfast menu that’s served from 8 to 11 daily. Naturally it also includes Belgian waffles, served with fruit, whipped cream, or just a sprinkling of sugar.

Markt [Chelsea]
676 Sixth Avenue (at W. 21st Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Great lobster dish at Markt
Destination spot for Pancakes and French Toast
Help with French Bistro for Romantic Dinner

Hound-Worthy Cheese in Bergen and Beyond

Englewood, New Jersey’s Jerry’s, a sprawling specialty food store whose focus is Italian, is also a North Jersey go-to spot for cheeses from all over. Selection is vast and turnover is high, markabauman reports. Service is helpful and mostly congenial, though one of the cheese guys is either perpetually affectless or surly bordering on mean, depending on whom you ask. But all agree he knows his cheese and is liberal with suggestions and samples. Beyond cheese, mark adds, check out the fairly priced wines, oils, pastas, and prepared foods.

Other decent options for Bergen County cheese-lovers include Maywood Market and the pricier Market Basket in Franklin Lakes. These stores, like Jerry’s, also carry a wide variety of groceries, baked goods, and prepared foods.

Just over the state line, in Nanuet, New York, is a solid hound favorite, Laraia’s Cheese. “The folks at Laraia’s know their stuff and are the opposite of snobby,” JRBlack writes. “They’re full of enthusiasm for cheese and are eager to help customers learn what they like, what pairs well with what, etc.” Hours are limited, so check before you go.

Jerry’s Gourmet Foods [Bergen County]
410 S. Dean Street (near Van Nostrand), Englewood, NJ

Maywood Market Place [Bergen County]
78 W. Pleasant Avenue (near Palmer), Maywood, NJ

Market Basket [Bergen County]
813 Franklin Lake Road (near High Mountain), Franklin Lakes, NJ

Laraia’s Cheese Company [Rockland County]
5 Seeger Drive (at Demarest Mill Road W.), Nanuet, NY

Board Link: Cheese shops in Bergen County NJ?

At Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, the Way of Sesame

To its devotees, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory’s Zen Butter is sweet enlightenment by the scoop. This newish offering is made of delicately flavored peanut butter ice cream, studded with toasted sesame seeds. “The peanut butter flavor was subtle but present. The sesame seeds were a nice textural element, and the ice cream itself was sweet and creamy,” muses GilloD. “An awesome addition to an already rockin’ lineup.”

Older favorites from that lineup include black sesame, litchi, almond cookie, mango, ginger, pumpkin pie, coconut, and taro.

Another Asian ice cream specialist, Sundaes and Cones, makes a compelling sesame flavor. “Absolutely mind-blowing,” mr_seabass raves. Even better, advises JungMann, is sesame paired with taro.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth), Manhattan

Sundaes and Cones [East Village]
95 E. 10th Street (between Third and Fourth avenues), Manhattan

Board Links: Chinatown Ice Cream- Taro, Red Bean, Lychee????
Sesame Ice Cream at Sundaes and Cones

Modern Japanese, Rich and Refined, at Lan

Serious deliciousness is bursting out at Lan, a Japanese restaurant that’s gotten little hound attention. This East Village spot recently introduced eight-course tasting menus, a chef’s version and a sushi version. E Eto says both are inventive, well conceived, and a relative bargain at $58 and $68, respectively.

A rich, complex dish that comes midway through one of the set dinners is a good illustration of Chef Takanori Akiyama’s take on modern Japanese food. A wedge of foie gras, infused with miso then grilled, is poised atop a layer of ground, miso-seasoned duck. Both are served over a round of daikon, simmered in the traditional way with dashi, soy, and mirin. “It worked well,” E Eto reckons, though he allows that some will find it too busy. “The miso marinade gave the foie gras a pleasantly sour finish, and the duck paste provided a sweet element to go with the sweet daikon.”

Another highlight of the chef’s menu is Kobe beef, gently simmered shabu-shabu style, then arrayed in a salad of baby arugula and other greens with sesame dressing. Duck pâté, flavored with miso, gets a lift from sansho pepper, whose citrus note plays nicely off the earthiness of the liver. A comforting chawan mushi (steamed egg custard) is put over the top by foie gras and duck scallion sauce. At times, the chef seems to be trying too hard: Miso-marinated broiled black cod, a Japanese standard, sits in white miso foam that really isn’t needed, though it does add sweetness and miso intensity.

Japanese expats know Lan as a meat specialist—Akiyama put in a stint on the grill before being elevated to executive chef—but it also comes up with first-rate seafood. The sushi tasting menu includes a sashimi course, which on E Eto’s visit comprised excellent o-toro from Spain, botan-ebi (large sweet prawn), and snapperlike ma-dai. Later in this dinner comes assorted nigiri sushi, which might include relative rarities like ma-saba (Japanese mackerel) and Hokkaido bafun-uni (a variety of sea urchin). In between, there’s a sunomono course; E Eto enjoyed a refreshing rendition made with zuwaigani (snow crab) sashimi, with cucumber and jellied vinegar.

Both tasting menus wind down with tart, sweet yuzu sorbet, followed by a soufflélike molten chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, decent but disappointingly pedestrian. Finally: matcha-flavored French-style macaroons, thick with green tea flavor yet without the bitterness, “a great finale to a very good meal.”

Lan [East Village]
56 Third Avenue (between E. 10th and 11th streets), Manhattan

Board Link: New Tasting Menus at Lan

Eye-Opening Frozen Yogurt at Öko

“I just love frozen yogurt, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d never eaten any until now,” declares redgirl, whose world was forever changed by the Greek-style stuff from Öko. “It was transcendent, the best frozen yogurt in Brooklyn right now.”

Like LA import Pinkberry, Öko eschews the gums and stabilizers that lend artificial creaminess to some competitors. It also holds the sugar to a minimum, allowing actual yogurt-y sourness to come to the fore. “Addictive—nicely rich and tart, and not too sweet,” reports pitu. “Not like cheesy fro-yo Tasti D-Lite places.”

Not cheap, either, at nearly $4 for six ounces before toppings. redgirl says she justifies the expense by ordering a couple of flavors (it comes in plain, berry, or Key lime), crowning it with plenty of berries and walnuts, and making it a light lunch. Other toppings include coconut, dried apricot, and dark chocolate pieces. The Park Slope shop—others are reportedly in the works—also serves decent coffee and organic specialty teas.

Not everyone has fallen for Öko. “It was pretty good. But sadly, it is no Pinkberry,” writes alicemunro. “Pinkberry is lighter and doesn’t leave an aftertaste.”

Speaking of Pinkberry, the empire from the coast is preparing to open its fifth Manhattan shop, in a potentially lucrative space near the Columbia campus. “Ooh,” frets haleyjen, “I live right there … that could be deadly!”

Öko [Park Slope]
152 Fifth Avenue (near Douglass), Brooklyn

Pinkberry [Morningside Heights]
To open at 2873 Broadway (between W. 111th and 112th streets), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Herald Square]
7 W. 32nd Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Chelsea]
170 Eighth Avenue (between W. 18th and 19th streets), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Nolita]
41 Spring Street (between Mulberry and Mott), Manhattan

Pinkberry [Upper East Side]
1577 Second Avenue (near E. 82nd Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Anyone know where OKO is?
ohhhhh..OKO!!! yowser
Pinkberry Comes to Columbia Main Campus