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

Mai House: Winning Upscale Vietnamese in Tribeca

Refined, upmarket Vietnamese food is winning over hounds at the newish Mai House. “A divine experience,” declares FoodieGirl007, who recommends white yam soup with rock shrimp and a knockout entree of clay pot chicken with quail eggs, lemongrass, ginger and chiles.

Flavors are fresh and well balanced; melissas816 loves the perfect curry and coconut notes in the house lacxa, a bowl of prawns and shrimp noodles in broth. (Your server may warn that this dish is spicy; it isn’t really.) Chef Michael Huynh has brought in some greatest hits from his previous gig at Bao 111 in the East Village, including barbecued quail and sticky rice studded with Chinese sausage. Other smart orders: sweet-sour-spicy whole red snapper, thin-sliced sizzling lemongrass short ribs with Vidalia onion, and a trio of ginger, cinnamon and black sesame sorbets for dessert. The few disappointing dishes tend toward blandness, like steamed black cod and shrimp spring rolls.

Cocktails are varied and interesting; one exquisite choice, says eeee, is the Buddha’s Eye (Tanqueray 10, honeydew juice, basil). The atmosphere is inviting and energized, and service is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable.

Mai House [Tribeca]
formerly Tribakery
186 Franklin St., between Hudson and Greenwich, Manhattan

Bao 111 [East Village]
111 Ave. C, between E. 7th and 8th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links: mai house
Oh my, Mai House!
Mai House Review–long

Ideal Donut: Platonic Treats in Forest Hills

The sign outside is ancient, but the doughnuts inside are astoundingly fresh. “Ideal Donut makes the lightest, tastiest doughnuts that I remember from my childhood,” swears zeus. “If you are in the area you must try them.”

Ideal Donut [Forest Hills]
64-48 108th St., at 64th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens

Board Links: Donuts I have ignored in Forest Hills

Samosa House: Superior Indian Vegetarian in Fishkill, NY

The proof might be in the pickle: Samosa House does not sound like your ordinary curry dive. Instead of the usual trio of tired chutneys, this bare-bones storefront vegetarian restaurant, open since December, offers a dazzlingly fresh house-made relish of garlic, chiles, and cilantro. Just as delicious, reports markp, were two superb curries, part of one day’s lunch special: chole (chickpeas) and alu matar (potato and peas in spicy tomato sauce). “This is food of love,” he sings, “greaseless and absolutely savory—pure Indian soul food.”

That thali-style special is an unbeatable deal: two curries, basmati rice, whole wheat chapati, a pickle and a sweet, all for $5. mark adds: “The billowy chapati and workmanlike basmati abetted me in absorbing every drop of sauce on my plate, which I would have licked clean had I not been within eyeshot of a proper Indian couple lunching alongside me.” Feather-light gulab jamun sealed the deal.

Samosa House [Dutchess County]
986 Main St., in CVS Plaza, Fishkill, NY

Board Links: Samosa House, Fishkill NY

Masterly Italian, Both Homey and Haute, at L’Orcio

The sublime Italian cooking at L’Orcio is worth a special trip to New Haven from just about anywhere, declares Jim Leff. “I’ve never before found this good an Italian restaurant (nor ANY restaurant that’s much better),” adds Jim, who has eaten at a restaurant or two.

Chef Francesco d’Amuri manages to balance soul and sophistication at his four-year-old northern Italian place. “This is lusty grandmotherish cooking with skill and subtlety,” Jim writes. “It’s comfort food and serious cuisine both.” One standout example is gnocchi al Gorgonzola, light and refined yet also lush and deeply satisfying. Another: veal medallions, very lightly breaded and sautéed in wine sauce. “The meat had personality, the sauce was deft, it all came together—the sum even better than the wonderful parts.” The kitchen’s attention to detail is evident even in the accompanying roasted potatoes: “I could visualize the chef peering into the oven with unbroken attention to catch the perfect microsecond of brownness,” says Jim.

The sleek but comfortable ambience matches the food: “not trying to impress,” he observes, “trying to please.”

L’Orcio [New Haven County]
806 State St., New Haven

Board Links: L’Orcio in New Haven: Best Italian Restaurant I Know

Le Petit Marche: Crowd-Pleasing Bistro in Brooklyn Heights

Nicely executed bistro standards—and, let’s face it, weak neighborhood competition—have made Le Petit Marche an instant hit in Brooklyn Heights. “It has been crowded every time I walk by. Amazing how word gets around so fast about what is good and what isn’t,” observes Fleur, who sums up its appeal: “good, solid, bourgeois cuisine, well prepared and nicely presented, at fair prices.”

Salads are fresh, tasty, and large; good choices include frisée with lardons, beets with caramelized goat cheese, and a mustardy Lyonnaise (potatoes, green beans, bacon). Recommended entrees: tender lamb shank in rich wine sauce, pan-roasted chicken (with wild mushrooms and cauliflower gratin), and steak frites, accurately cooked to order with a pleasing char, served with decent fries. For dessert, a standout tarte tatin comes with house-made cinnamon gelato.

The wine list is weak and surprisingly short on French selections. Service is gracious and professional, and most enjoy the comfortable, charming setting (though Psychobabble says enough already with the Edith Piaf).

Le Petit Marche [Brooklyn Heights]
46 Henry St., between Cranberry and Middagh, Brooklyn

Le Petit Marche in Brooklyn Heights

The Stoned Crow: New Burger Contender in the Village

At the Stoned Crow, the main attractions have been beer and pool, not chow. But that’s changed with the arrival of a cook from Corner Bistro, home of one of New York’s best-loved hamburgers.

The Crow now serves a great burger, says Sweatshirt Guy. It’s a half-pound of tasty, juicy meat on a better-than-average sesame bun. First-rate fries and wings, too. Mini-burgers, tucked into sliced-up hot dog buns and served by the basket, are flavorful but can be overcooked, cautions Bob Martinez. Try to get them cooked to order. The new cook is from Puebla, and he’s added tacos to the menu; no reports yet.

The Stoned Crow [Greenwich Village]
85 Washington Pl., between 6th Ave. and MacDougal St., Manhattan

Corner Bistro [Greenwich Village]
331 W. 4th St., at 8th Ave., Manhattan

Board Links: Cook from Corner Bistro now at Stoned Crow–Burger Alert!

Hot Chocolate Around Brooklyn

Verandah Place Deli starts with Valrhona chocolate and froths it up with whole milk. The resulting hot chocolate is thick, delicious, not too sweet, and not paralyzingly rich, like some other versions around town, reports dixieday2. A small serving, around the size of an average cup of coffee, is just $1.50. In summer, there’s terrific iced chocolate, says dimples. Take a cup next door to Cobble Hill Park, grab a bench, and kick back.

Jacques Torres pours two of Brooklyn’s best hot chocolates—both its regular and the spicy variety dubbed Wicked, enlivened with cinnamon, allspice, and ground ancho and chipotle chiles. “The best I’ve found,” declares brooklyn1966, on the pricey side at $2.50 but well worth it. Torres’ brew, as delicious as it is, pushes the richness envelope for some. bhill finds it “sinfully amazing to the point that it can almost be too intense.”

Carroll Gardens favorite D’Amico has excellent Italian–style hot chocolate, but pay close attention when you order. There are two dispensers, warns Matt M.: one that constantly whips up real hot chocolate and another that spits out run-of-the-mill stuff.

In Park Slope, Cocoa Bar makes superior hot chocolate, especially fine with mint. Offbalance gives it the edge over the pretty good version at the Chocolate Room.

Verandah Place Deli, a.k.a. Delicatessen [Cobble Hill]
264 Clinton St., between Warren and Congress Sts., Brooklyn

Jacques Torres Chocolate [DUMBO]
66 Water St., between Dock and Main Sts., Brooklyn

Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven [West Village]
350 Hudson St., at King, Manhattan

D’Amico Foods [Carroll Gardens]
309 Court St., between Degraw and Sackett, Brooklyn

Cocoa Bar [Park Slope]
228 7th Ave., between 3rd and 4th Sts., Brooklyn

The Chocolate Room [Park Slope]
86 5th Ave., between Warren St. and St. Mark’s Pl., Brooklyn

Board Links: the best hot chocolate in brooklyn

A Slice of the Past at Gustosa

The old-fashioned slice at Gustosa Pizza is a ticket back to a sweet and sunny past for hounds of a certain age—hounds like Jim Leff, who confesses to a fondness for “circa 1972 shopping mall pizza.” Gustosa, he adds, is “like a time machine, a mausoleum of extinct pizza stylings.” Its Sicilian slice is the neighborhood’s best, and occasional specials like the Caprese are also worth a sniff, says david sprague, who loves the sweet-spicy balance in the sauce.

Other practitioners of this throwback style are Sal and Carmine’s in Manhattan and Attilio’s in New Brunswick—neither a universal hound favorite, Jim acknowledges. Gustosa, too, has its detractors. “Terrible,” grumbles christocc. “Too much cheese, sweetened sauce, oily, and the worst part, a too-thick, gummy crust.”

joekarten offers up another contender for best slice in the neighborhood: Catinella’s Pizza Corner.

Gustosa Pizza [Jackson Heights]
77-09 37th Ave., near 77th St., Jackson Heights, Queens

Sal’s and Carmine’s Pizza [Upper West Side]
2671 Broadway, near W. 102nd St., Manhattan

Attilio’s Pizza and Restaurant [Middlesex County]
875 U.S. Hwy. 1, near Milltown Rd., North Brunswick, NJ

Catinella’s Pizza Corner [Jackson Heights]
95-02 37th Ave., at 95th St., Jackson Heights, Queens

Board Links: NYT Real Estate Section Article: Author Moves to Jackson Heights for the Food
Queens Pizza Crawl Findings

If It’s Sunday, This Must Be Parihuela

Clued-in hounds have long known that Peruvian is the smart order at Flor de Mayo, the “Spanish-Chinese” place on Amsterdam. They also know that this location has the edge over its uptown cousin on Broadway. But the best dishes here–less familiar than the popular ceviches, saltados, and roast chicken–may have escaped the notice of many, as they’re not on the menu. So Dave Feldman shares a week’s worth of Peruvian deliciousness from the blackboard specials:

Monday: arroz verde con pollo (Peruvian-style cilantro rice and chicken).

Tuesday: estofado de res (beef stew with carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes).

Wednesday: pollo al horno con tomillo (chicken breast baked in wine and Peruvian spices, and topped with mushroom gravy).

Thursday: adobo de puerco (essentially a Peruvian take on the Filipino pork dish).

Friday: chupe de camaron (shrimp soup) or escabeche de pescado (broiled filet of sole topped with onions in sweet, mildly spicy sauce).

Saturday: seco de cabrito (Peruvian-style lamb stew, braised with cilantro and spices).

Sunday: parihuela (traditional seafood chowder) or carne de res estofado “goulash” (another variation on beef stew).

The best bets, for Dave’s money, are Thursday’s adobo, Friday’s shrimp soup and escabeche, and Sunday’s parihuela. (That’s not to say the other choices are bad; he just hasn’t tried everything yet.) Most run from $8 to $11 (the seco de cabrito is $13.45), and portions are big. All are served with rice and yuca. In addition to these entrees, other occasional off-menu specials, especially spicy soups, are worth a try.

Flor de Mayo [Upper West Side]
484 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 83rd and 84th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links

Peruvian Specials at Flor de Mayo

Excellent Paratha at Jackson Heights’ Desi Biryani

The Bangladeshi chow at Desi Biryani is hit or miss, most say, but one monster hit is its Mughlai paratha. This griddled, stuffed flatbread–made with vegetables or meat–comes out light, crisp, and fresh-tasting. It even surpasses the version at board favorite Spicy Mina, swears JulesNYC, who hastens to add that Spicy Mina is better at everything else.

Jim Leff says Desi Biryani has a better-than-average chef whose work is regrettably undermined by the service setup. “The problem with this place is the same as at all the other Bangladeshi restaurants in the area,” he observes. “They do a steam table without steam, where stuff sits all day at room temperature, and they nuke to rewarm.”

Desi Biryani [Jackson Heights]
formerly Grameen
75-18 37th Ave., between 75th and 76th Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens

Spicy Mina [Woodside]
64-23 Broadway, at 65th St., Woodside, Queens

Board Links

tasty dish to try at Desi Biryani in Jackson Heights