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

Sweet Harvest in Brooklyn

Baked treats made with seasonal fruit are smart orders at Park Slope’s Trois Pommes Patisserie. One early favorite is the strawberry-rhubarb crumb tart. Another is the blueberry muffin, moist and not too sweet, boasting a crunchy topping and optimal berry-to-cake ratio.

Opened a month ago by Emily Isaac, a former pastry chef at Union Square Cafe, this cozy shop also bakes excellent brownies and smallish but superior scones, delicately crisp on the outside and light and soft on the inside. “What I’ve had so far is pretty excellent, and the people working there are nice as pie,” writes pitu. They make ice cream, too; cbking is high on the creamy, satisfying caramel crunch.

mandmbklyn is blown away by the chocolate cupcake filled with mocha cream. “It looked like a huge homemade Yankee Doodle, and was so much better than Magnolia or Sweet Melissa,” she writes, adding that it’s the size of two ordinary cupcakes and well worth the steep $4 price. Not everyone agrees. “$4 for a cupcake?” sputters famdoc. “Have we not taken this too far?”

Elsewhere in the Slope, the original Two Little Red Hens has renamed itself Ladybird Bakery. The two-store partnership has dissolved, and the hens have gone their separate ways. (The second location, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, still answers to Two Little Red Hens.) This is fine with Brooklyn hounds, who boast that their local shop always had the better baker and cake decorator of the two. Their favorite treat is the Brooklyn Blackout Cake: dark chocolate cake filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with chocolate fudge. “Amazing!” swoons theannerska.

In Boerum Hill, Betty Bakery has won an unlikely convert in funkymonkey. An avowed “down-home baked-goods kind of girl from the ooey, gooey, sticky school,” she’s entranced of late with Betty’s elegant peanut butter sesame cookies: “They’re flat little discs with a vague peanut-ness and lots of sesame flavor from the ton of sesame seeds crammed into each ethereally crumbly biscuit. It’s a wonderful combination of flavors, executed particularly well.”

Trois Pommes Patisserie [Park Slope]
260 Fifth Avenue (between Garfield and Carroll), Brooklyn

Ladybird Bakery [Park Slope]
Formerly Two Little Red Hens
1112 Eighth Avenue (at 11th Street), Brooklyn

Two Little Red Hens [Upper East Side]
1652 Second Avenue (between E. 85th and 86th streets), Manhattan

Betty Bakery [Boerum Hill]
448 Atlantic Avenue (between Nevins and Bond), Brooklyn

Board Links: Delicious Cupcake at Trois Pommes
Blackout Chocolat cake–where can I find it?
Two Little Red Hens becomes: Ladybird Bakery
Excellent Cookie Alert @ Brooklyn’s Betty
Betty Bakery Cupcakes

Midtown Lunch Tips

As street vendors go, the Jamaican Dutchy is impressively wired. Hounds who lunch around 51st Street and Seventh Avenue can spot it by its satellite dish and plasma screen. Just why a food cart needs either is a mystery, but early reports suggest that the fancy hardware is backed up by fresh, robust chow.

“Really good, and a refreshing change from the normal Midtown lunch,” says john, who finds its jerk chicken spicy and well cooked. Curry chicken, flavorful but low-burn, comes with sautéed sweet plantains and well-seasoned rice and peas, Puddle reports. The ambitious rotating menu also offers oxtail, curry goat, and several fish dishes—which may or may not actually be available. Service is not quite up to speed, and the wait can be long. Don’t go too late in the day.

On 56th Street a few blocks north—and a world away from Koreatown—a mostly-takeout spot called Pro Bagel serves decent premade kalbi (barbecued beef short rib), bibim bap (with or without meat), and other tasty Korean food alongside the more common sandwiches, wraps, and boxed sushi. “This is not up to the K-town greats,” acknowledges mr_seabass, “but it is a superb quick lunch.” Here, too, they tend to run out of food, so it’s wise to arrive early—”but not that early that they sell out before I can get mine!” he adds.

In the Diamond District, four floors above 47th Street, El Rincon del Sabor dishes up generous portions of hearty chow from Ecuador. maria_nyc is partial to rabo guisado (stewed oxtail), available on Wednesdays. Also on the daily-changing menu: sancocho (meat soups); shrimp ceviche; grilled pork or beefsteak; tallarin con pollo (pasta with chicken); fried trout, tilapia, and other fish; beef, chicken, lamb, or tongue stews; and more, all served with rice, beans, and salad.

The Jamaican Dutchy street cart [Midtown West]
W. 51st Street and Seventh Avenue (northeast corner), Manhattan

Pro Bagel [Midtown]
62 W. 56th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Manhattan

El Rincon del Sabor [Diamond District]
74 W. 47th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Fourth Floor, Manhattan

Board Links: Jamaican Food Cart at 51st and 7th–how is it?
The Jamaican Dutchy
Excellent Korean take out–56th/6th Ave
East Midtown—please save me from another Oriental Noodle lunch!

Fabulous Fried Calamari, Bronx to Billyburg

Louis Seafood, a Throgs Neck landmark that turns 60 this year, does fried calamari with an uncommonly light hand. No thick breading, no semolina, no cornmeal—just the barest dusting of flour. “This makes them very light, almost puffy,” observes Cheese Boy. “They might look unappealingly pale at first, but don’t be fooled. The taste is fantastic.”

In Brooklyn, there’s another first-rate version at Baci & Abbracci: fat rings and tentacles in ultrathin batter, perfectly cooked and served with lemons and a light pesto dip, noodles reports.

This year-old restaurant has won over even skeptical, often-disappointed Williamsburg hounds with simple, assured northern Italian cooking. Some recent hits: tilapia cooked in cherry tomatoes; house-made pappardelle with lamb ragù; beet and goat cheese gnocchi with arugula in cheese sauce; grilled scallops, calamari, and shrimp (served with white bean salad); and a knockout starter of blanched prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, laid over melted Taleggio and run briefly under the broiler. “A true gem,” corvin declares. “I am seriously considering giving Williamsburg more benefit and less doubt.”

Louis Seafood Restaurant [Bronx]
3478 E. Tremont Avenue (near Otis), Bronx

Baci & Abbracci [Williamsburg]
204 Grand Street (between Bedford and Driggs), Brooklyn

Board Links: In search of real fried calamari
Hugs, Kisses, and Surprises from Williamsburg
Best Fried Clams/Calamari in Brooklyn?

One Bacon Chocolate Bar, Hold the Eggs

Many hounds believe the addition of bacon is guaranteed to improve any food. But even chocolate? Well, sure. The upscale confectioner Vosges makes a candy bar of milk chocolate that’s seasoned with alder-smoked salt and studded with bits of applewood bacon. It’s a winner, promises OCEllen—crispy, sweet, gently smoky, and worth the not-so-gentle price tag of $7 for a three-ounce bar.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat [SoHo]
132 Spring Street (between Wooster and Greene), Manhattan

Board Links: Vosges Chocolate w/ Applewood Bacon

Roadside Pierogi and More in Ulster County

You’re on the road and you’ve been in the car too long and the only thing that’ll make life better is good fresh pierogi. If you happen to be on U.S. Route 209 in Ulster County, you’re in luck. Helena Specialty Foods—a roadside operation that mostly supplies restaurants but also feeds anyone who turns up at the back door—makes great ones, daisy899 reports. There’s also house-cured kielbasa and more; the offerings change often, so call ahead.

Helena Specialty Foods [Ulster County]
5754A U.S. Route 209, Kerhonkson, NY

Board Links: pierogi

In the Bronx, Southeast Asian Stirrings

The growing Southeast Asian presence in the Bronx, tracked for years by hungry hounds, has not brought the anticipated edible bounty—at least so far. But recent reports point to a nascent ethnic chow scene, including nice grandmotherly Vietnamese cooking at a tiny market and eatery called Phung Hung.

jdf describes a filling, satisfying bowl of pho tai (rare beef noodle soup) highlighted by rich, flavorful broth. Banh mi—meatball, grilled pork, or ham and ground pork—are fresh, well balanced, and generously spiked with cilantro and chile. Other good bets: shrimp summer rolls, grilled lemongrass chicken over rice, banana-rice sweets, Vietnamese coffee, and tart house-made lemonade. “I never suspected I could get a banh mi by the Grand Concourse,” writes nerdgoggles, who suggests you take your sandwich to nearby Poe Park and top it off with an icy dessert from one of the cart vendors.

This is a cozy, friendly joint with just four tables and limited amounts of food, so don’t go too late; you’ll find the best selection between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. A sign on the door indicates the business is up for sale, but DaveCook says not to worry; the owner wants to remain in charge of the cooking (which is done mostly by his elderly mother-in-law) while turning over the business end of things to someone else.

Phung Hung is part of the Southeast Asian enclave that has sprung up in the Fordham and Bedford Park neighborhoods. Across the street, Dave adds, Phnom Penh-Nha Trang Market offers a decent selection of Thai desserts, but no cooked foods. Like Battambang Market on Valentine Avenue, it is Cambodian-owned but offers a mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Chinese products.

Phung Hung Market [Bronx]
2614 Jerome Avenue (at E. 193rd Street), Bronx

Phnom Penh-Nha Trang Market [Bronx]
2639 Jerome Avenue (at E. 193rd Street), Bronx

Battambang Market [Bronx]
2654 Valentine Avenue (near E. Kingsbridge Road), Bronx

Board Links: Bronx recs: Up for a (cheap) adventure?
Bronx Cambodian?

Two New Thai Contenders Uptown

Two newish Thai restaurants have grabbed hounds’ attention on the notoriously Asian-challenged Upper West Side.

Charm Thai, open since March, sets itself apart from the pack with fresh flavors, assured cooking, and some Western touches. “Someone knows how to make sauces at this restaurant,” observes dewdropin, who’s impressed by the French-style tangerine reduction that accompanies crisp roast duck. Duck seems to be a smart order here. Another choice, tamarind duck, is a stunner, says cimui—juicy on the inside, skin roasted to a lovely crisp, and topped with another deftly turned sauce, neither too sweet nor too sour. The same care and skill is evident in crisp, seemingly greaseless fried foods, like vegetable spring rolls and kung sala (fried shrimp-chicken roll).

Chile heat is slightly muted, but unlike many other Thai restaurants, Charm appears to be holding the sweetness in check. Standards like pad thai and pad kee mao (drunken noodles) are uncommonly well executed, loaded with fresh vegetables and cooked to a turn. No reports yet on the menu’s fusiony forays, such as baked clams with garlic and bacon, crab pancakes with creamy garlic sauce, and broiled salmon with Thai herbs and Marsala. Prices are gentle, and the décor quirky and cool.

Less than a mile north, two-month-old Thai Market is drawing crowds with fresh flavors, attractively priced lunch specials, and lively Bangkok-modern décor—though some find the seasoning pallid, a familiar Upper West Side complaint.

“Flavors were clearly articulated, well balanced, and wonderfully fresh,” says cimui, who has cut a good-size swath through the menu. One standout is pla meok ping (grilled squid with marinated roasted chile), boasting lovely texture and a surprising burst of smoky flavor that “hit all the taste buds at once.” Crisp-sautéed radish cake is a spicier spin on the dim sum standard, with chile-infused brown sauce and welcome textural counterpoint from bean sprouts and Chinese chives. Also recommended: crab fried rice, gai rad preeg (chicken with chiles and garlic), and sautéed marinated skirt steak (with hot, vinegary jeaw sauce on the side).

Others, however, complain that the flavors are fatally dumbed down. While decent for the neighborhood and “a bit sprightlier than mediocre Thai,” Thai Market is “no Sripraphai, no Zabb, not even quite a Wondee,” concludes mary shaposhnik, drawing the inevitable comparisons to hound favorites around town. Among the misfires, she adds, were comforting but one-dimensional khao soi (curry noodles) and a nouvelle-style yum neua (beef salad), salty and sweet but devoid of tartness, herbal lift, or chile heat.

Charm Thai [Upper West Side]
722 Amsterdam Avenue (between W. 95th and 96th streets), Manhattan

Thai Market [Upper West Side]
960 Amsterdam Avenue (between W. 107th and 108th streets), Manhattan

Board Links: Charm Thai
Charm Thai Rocks the House
Thai Market Review
New Thai Restaurant Near Columbia

Latin-Style Meat at Carniceria

Meat, South American style, is what’s for dinner at Carniceria. This month-old steakhouse with Nuevo Latino accents has replaced the promising but short-lived Porchetta, which imploded in discord between owner and chef.

Grass-fed rib-eye, simply grilled, is amazingly good, says bhill—though some may find that the kitchen errs on the well-done side. A richly satisfying boneless pork chop comes pan-fried and served over herbed fries and under two runny fried eggs. Other good bets for carnivores include sweetbreads, fillet asado, and grilled fresh chorizo or morcilla (blood sausage). Beyond red meat, choices are octopus, ceviche, gnocchi with Cabrales, and grilled salmon with lobster mashed potatoes, among others.

Chef Alex Garcia (Novo, Calle Ocho) adds Nuevo stylings, like a goat cheese foam alongside his beet salad, tomato escabèche, and rosemary-Malbec sauce that accompany pleasingly light oxtail empanadas. Cocktails are tasty, festive, and oversized; Nehna recommends the watermelon Mojito or blood orange margarita.

Not everyone is won over. mandmbklyn reports an overdressed salad, underflavored fried anchovies, and an overcooked skirt steak: “Overall, it was a disappointment. I wish we’d gone to one of the Argentinian places in Manhattan instead!”

Carniceria [Carroll Gardens]
Formerly Porchetta
241 Smith Street (near Douglass), Brooklyn

Board Links: Carniceria on Smith St

Gourmet Groceries and More in Tarrytown

Tarrytown’s current hound hangout is Mint Premium Foods, a cozy, crowded shop that stocks top-shelf cheeses, chocolates, cured meats, olives, breads, and other edibles.

Prepared foods are first rate; best of all is the knockout octopus salad. Also recommended: rotisserie chicken, curry chicken, wheat berry salad, and glazed apricots. pinkyswore’s recent snack-time obsession is Valrhona hot chocolate with olive oil flatbread. And brew hounds appreciate the wide selection of Belgian (and Belgian-style) beers, including Unibroue’s end-times-worthy La Fin du Monde.

Moroccan chef-owner Hassan Jarane, a congenial fellow generous with free samples, has his eye on bigger things: a restaurant up near the Kykuit estate in Sleepy Hollow, which he hopes to open by late summer.

Mint Premium Foods [Westchester County]
18 Main Street (between Broadway and Washington), Tarrytown, NY

Board Links: Mint Premium Foods in Tarrytown

The Baba Ghanoush Beat

Brooklyn hounds have been talking baba ghanoush. Damascus Bakery, an Atlantic Avenue go-to spot for breads and pastries, also sells a delicious, deeply smoky version of that Middle Eastern eggplant spread, gnosh reports. It goes beautifully with Damascus’s standout sesame pita. Also available, sometimes, is first-rate muhammara (red pepper–nut purée), but the person who makes it isn’t always around.

Which is how it goes with locally made prepared foods, unfortunately. The tip about Damascus comes at a good time, since the hound-endorsed baba once sold down the block at Sahadi’s—made by the one-time chef at a local restaurant—is now nowhere to be found, despite general wailing from customers. “Woe = Me,” laments longtime devotee Jim Leff.

Yet there’s also good news just up the street for lovers of Middle Eastern chow. Syrian favorite Waterfalls seems to be in top form. “I could eat there every week,” sighs bkgirl, “the food is so good.” She loves the vegetarian platter, a sampler of 8 to 10 dishes, including great hummus, chickpeas, and spicy potatoes, as well as another hound-worthy baba ghanoush. “We are tempted to try the meat platter,” she adds, “but the vegetarian options are just too good to pass up.” Also recommended: grape leaves, lentil soup, shrimp kebabs, bulgur-stuffed cabbage, spinach-cheese pies, moist and tasty chicken shawarma, and the deceptively simple carrots with parsley.

In Williamsburg, two-year-old Najeeb’s is also in a groove these days. This warm, cozy spot does first-rate Palestinian home cooking, including superior falafel, thick bean soups, and za’atar-flavored pies. Among the beverages, try cardamom coffee or rose water–mint lemonade. “A tremendous little restaurant,” declares ratatosk. If you can get the hospitable owner, Najeeb Shaheen, to talk about his music—which isn’t hard to do—you may be treated to an impromptu performance on the oud, the lutelike Arab instrument, which he not only plays but also makes.

And for dessert, check out Mazzat in Carroll Gardens. Savory dishes like Alexandria-style grilled fish are on the mark. But the baklava, made from a recipe that owner Gamal Bakhoum got from his Egyptian mother, is a show-stopper, loaded with pistachios and lightly sweetened with sugar syrup, not honey. “The last time I had very good baklava was in Turkey two years ago. Gamal’s rocked this,” bklynkat reports.

Damascus Bakery [Brooklyn Heights]
195 Atlantic Avenue (between Clinton and Court), Brooklyn

Sahadi’s [Brooklyn Heights]
187 Atlantic Avenue (between Clinton and Court), Brooklyn

Waterfalls Cafe [Cobble Hill]
144 Atlantic Avenue (between Henry and Clinton), Brooklyn

Najeeb’s [Williamsburg]
374 Graham Avenue (between Skillman and Conselyea), Brooklyn

Mazzat Mediterranean Kitchen [Carroll Gardens]
208 Columbia Street (between Sackett and Union), Brooklyn

Board Links: No more smokey baba gounoush at Sahadi’s!
Waterfalls on Atlantic Ave
najeeb: best falafel ever
Baklava on Columbia Street