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

Surprising Sichuan Flavors at the Newest Ollie’s

At Ollie’s, of all places, they’re doing some solid Sichuan cooking. The newest outpost of the Manhattan mini-empire–known among hounds for uneven, all-over-the-map Chinese food–has a distinct regional focus, unlike its sister restaurants.

Sichuan dishes turn up here and there on the long menu, including a section labeled “New Wave Sichuan.” One satisfying choice is thin-sliced beef with diced red chiles and a strong, welcome dose of cumin, advises Striver. Another is tender lamb and light-fleshed fish in a deep-flavored broth with notes of star anise and fennel as well as chile, topped with a handful of dried peppers. Under “Traditional Sichuan Flavors,” you’ll find a decent version of water-cooked beef (“sliced beef Sichuan style” on the menu): tender meat in fiery, ruddy broth powerfully seasoned with red chile and Sichuan peppercorn.

Among the smaller dishes, Ollie’s dan dan noodles “won’t put Grand Sichuan out of business,” Striver notes, but they’re good, as are other choices, including a selection of cold spicy meats. Mung bean noodles are reminiscent of Wu Liang Ye’s, suggests small h–fresh, springy, and clean-tasting, flavored with scallion, cilantro, chile oil, and a load of crushed garlic.

While it’s an option for theatergoers, Ollie’s Sichuan (which succeeds the troubled Bistro du Vent) is somewhat out of the way and less frenetic than the 44th Street Ollie’s. “It will hopefully stay that way,” adds Striver.

Ollie’s Sichuan Restaurant [Clinton]
formerly Bistro du Vent
411 W. 42nd St., near 9th Ave., Manhattan

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Ollie’s on 42nd between 9th & 10th

Morning Masterpiece – Brooklyn Label’s Chile Colorado

If Brooklyn Label’s chile colorado is not the finest brunch dish in New York, at least it belongs in the conversation, suggests MarcInSunnysideGardens. Here’s how this newcomer in Greenpoint builds a soul-satisfying weekend morning entree:

It starts at the bottom of a capacious bowl with a foundation of polenta, “soothing and dreamy and perfect.” Then comes the chile: slow-roasted pork butt, stewed in deep-flavored, agreeably oily green chile sauce, with roasted red pepper adding a sweet vegetal touch. Atop the chile, two perfectly poached eggs. And framing the eggs, four halves of toast, each smeared with better-than-average butter. “Good heavens,” sighs Marc, “the best breakfast I’ve had in this town.”

It delivers a gentle chile kick, he adds, but mainly “that mellow braised quality that I adore but I’ve never really had at breakfast before.” It’s also quite filling, holding Marc’s admittedly large appetite at bay till dinnertime, and could easily sate two people of lesser capacity.

Other brunch choices include oatmeal, omelettes, biscuits and gravy, steak and eggs, waffles, challah French toast, and a curried tofu-potato scramble. Brooklyn Label, open since December, serves breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch, and will be open soon for dinner.

Brooklyn Label [Greenpoint]
180 Franklin St., at Java, Brooklyn

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Is Brooklyn Label’s Chili Colorado the finest breakfast offering in all of New York City?

Chocolate Souffles That Rise to the Occasion

LCB Brasserie Rachou makes a memorable chocolate souffle–light, cakey, creamy, perfectly balanced, rhapsodizes akowit.

Cafe Gray has another exceptional version, enlivened by fruit and nut accents that change with the seasons. From the current menu: pistachio, amarena cherry, and raspberry coulis. Recent combos include Grand Marnier-orange-Grenadine, burnt orange-hazelnut, and passion fruit-pineapple.

Others recommend the chocolate souffles at La Grenouille, Le Perigord, Capsouto Freres, and perennial favorite La Petite Auberge.

LCB Brasserie Rachou [Midtown]
formerly La Cote Basque
60 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan

Cafe Gray [Columbus Circle]
10 Columbus Circle, in Time Warner Center, 3rd floor, Manhattan

La Grenouille [Midtown East]
3 E. 52nd St., between 5th and Madison Aves., Manhattan

Le Perigord [Midtown East]
405 E. 52nd St., near 1st Ave., Manhattan

Capsouto Freres [West Village]
451 Washington St., at Watts, Manhattan

La Petite Auberge [Gramercy]
116 Lexington Ave., between E. 27th and 28th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links

Who makes the best Chocolate Souffle in NY?

Razzano – One-Stop Italian Takeout in Glen Cove

Razzano is an Italian haven surrounded by chain eatery hell. “The best I’ve seen in any Long Island Italian neighborhood,” says island product dw438, a fan of its house-made sausages, mozzarella (both fresh-made in the store and imported from Italy), and goliath meatball parm heroes that take two days to eat. “And the smell,” dw adds, “so fresh, the cheeses and the meats and all the other stuff. A can’t-miss classic.”

Abigail endorses Razzano’s octopus salad, fresh and not-too-cheesy risotto ball, and standout sausage-and-pepper hero (get the mix of spicy and mild sausage). Others go for silky smooth prosciutto–boasting concentrated but not overbearing flavor, says TongoRad–and an olive salad highlighted by slightly sweet, slightly nutty red olives.

Razzano Imported Food Specialties [Nassau County]
286 Glen St., between Pearsall and Elm Aves., Glen Cove, NY

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Outstanding Italian Salumeria —Razzanos in Glen Cove

Yuzu from Lunch to Cocktails to Dinner to Dessert

American chefs long ago embraced yuzu, but few have fallen for it like Jean-Georges Vongerichten. At Perry Street, lovers of the fragrant Japanese citrus fruit can order a lunch that features a bluefin tuna burger with yuzu pickles, white chocolate mousse with yuzu sorbet and basil oil, and house-made yuzu-cherry soda. Nightfly did just that, and loved it: “It was a yuzu hat trick!”

Closer to its roots, yuzu turns up at some of the city’s better sushi bars, where its natural affinity for seafood makes it a beautiful match. Look for madai, a Japanese variety of snapper, topped with sea salt and a drizzle of yuzu juice. No shoyu required, notes oonth.

The fresh fruit itself is briefly available here in winter, and it isn’t cheap–hounds have spotted yuzu for $1.50 to $3 apiece at Japanese markets such as Sunrise Mart, Katagiri, and Mitsuwa in New Jersey. These stores also carry yuzu kosho, a sprightly, chutney-like condiment from Kyushu made of yuzu zest, chile pepper, and sea salt. Such simple ingredients yield surprisingly complex flavor, observes Silverjay. Tabetai yo likes to sprinkle it on Japanese-style chicken wings in place of the more common shichimi togarashi (seven-spice chile mix).

There isn’t a citrus fruit on earth that can’t be squeezed into a cocktail, and yuzu is no exception. Morimoto mixes some terrific ones; Nightfly recommends the Thunder Lightning, made with shochu, ginger beer, and fresh yuzu juice. Hedeh showcases the fruit in Asian-inflected takes on the margarita and the Cosmopolitan. Teetotalers can drink their yuzu infused in tea, like the alluring version brewed at Panya Bakery.

And for dessert, the fancy Japanese confectioner Minamoto Kitchoan makes jewel-like, deeply flavorful sweets from sugar-preserved yuzu peel, says kerokaoru.

Perry Street [Greenwich Village]
176 Perry St., at West St., Manhattan

Sunrise Mart [East Village]
4 Stuyvesant St. #2, near 3rd Ave., Manhattan

Sunrise Mart [Soho]
494 Broome St., near W. Broadway, Manhattan

Katagiri [Midtown East]
224 E. 59th St. #1, between 3rd and 2nd Aves., Manhattan

Mitsuwa Supermarket [Bergen County]
at Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ

Morimoto [West Village]
88 10th Ave., between W. 15th and 16th Sts., Manhattan

Hedeh [East Village]
57 Great Jones St., between Bowery and Lafayette, Manhattan

Panya Bakery [East Village]
10 Stuyvesant St., between 3rd and 2nd Aves., Manhattan

Minamoto Kitchoan [Midtown]
608 5th Ave., at 49th St., Manhattan

Minamoto Kitchoan [Bergen County]
at Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ

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Sayonara, Honmura An; and Other News

Honmura An, a serene Soho destination for fresh house-made soba, is history. The second-floor oasis on Mercer Street closed on February 17, ending a 15-year run. Its owner, Koichi Kobari, will return to Japan to pitch in at his family’s original Honmura An shops in Tokyo.

Among Manhattan’s surviving soba spots, most hounds give the edge to SobaKoh, a relative newcomer in the East Village; nearby Sobaya can still turn out a tasty bowl of noodles, but some report signs of slippage.

In Chinatown, which just celebrated the Lunar New Year, it’s in with the Pig but out with the budget pork chop. May Wah Fast Food, whose soy-braised chicken legs and juicy pork chops were dependable under-$5 staples for the downtown lunch crowd, shut its doors when its owner retired. “For years I have relied on their lunch box delivery for rib-sticking home cooking,” eulogizes vicki_vale, “and they will be sorely missed.”

The only encouraging news here is an unconfirmed report that May Wah will be succeeded by a Hong Kong-style joint with a similar menu. But the proof will be in the pork chop. For now, the one existing local alternative is Chinatown’s Excellent Pork Chop House. Hounds who have eaten there agree that it’s a distant second.

There also may be bad news for lovers of Philadelphia-style sandwiches. Tony Luke’s, the two-year-old Hell’s Kitchen outpost of a Philly eatery, has become a saloon and sandwich shop called Shorty’s. The owner is the same–though he’s severed his ties with Tony Luke’s–and the menu hasn’t changed much. But our first report suggests that Shorty’s comes up short. guttergourmet says the roast pork special (formerly dubbed the roast pork Italian) contains the same ingredients as before–pork, provolone, broccoli rabe–but the cheese is now tasteless, the bread a limp, soggy mess, and the broccoli rabe has no garlic. “I almost cried,” he confesses.

Honmura An [Soho]
170 Mercer St., between Houston and Prince, Manhattan

SobaKoh [East Village]
309 E. 5th St., between 2nd and 1st Aves., Manhattan

Sobaya [East Village]
229 E. 9th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan

May Wah Fast Food [Chinatown]
190 Hester St., between Baxter and Mulberry, Manhattan

Excellent Pork Chop House [Chinatown]
3 Doyers St., between Pell and Bowery, Manhattan

Shorty’s Saloon [Clinton]
formerly Tony Luke’s Old Philly Style Sandwiches
576 9th Ave., between W. 41st and 42nd Sts., Manhattan

Board Links

Honmura An Shall I go?
Soba Koh–Review
Last chance for May Wah pork chop rice–Closing Feb 17th
Tony Luke’s RIP
Nice lunch on West 14th Street

Back to Baking at Monteleone; and Other News

It’s been a long time coming, but Carroll Gardens’ Monteleone bakery is finally back in business. F. Monteleone and Cammareri Brothers–a joint venture uniting two beloved Brooklyn bakeries–opened in early February, more than a year after the deal was announced.

Early word is Monteleone’s famous cheesecake is as good as ever, and its lard bread is peppery, rich, and rustic. Longtime devotees look forward to sampling other signature specialties, like biscotti, sfingi, and miniature pastries. In the meantime, the handsomely renovated shop is turning heads. “I love how they kept the old-fashioned flavor of the bakery,” writes monicagtz. “No more Dunkin’ Donuts, please, in the hood. We need more of this!”

In other news, Il Vesuvio, an unusually ambitious pizzeria in Bayside, has spun off a larger restaurant in Whitestone. First reports from two-month-old Vesuvio are highly promising. Pastas, a specialty at the original, are good bets at the new place as well; hounds single out fresh pappardelle with duck ragu and fettuccine with shrimp and crab. Also recommended: beef carpaccio, grilled calamari and shrimp, and expertly cooked pork chops. “There are so many Italian places around,” notes ptkchow, “it’s nice to actually find one worth returning to.”

Elsewhere in Queens, there may be hope for Thai-challenged Astoria. The undistinguished Ubol’s Kitchen has been taken over by the owners of Arunee in Jackson Heights. An early report describes an uneven meal with one unforgettable highlight: a fresh, fiery version of pad kee mao (drunken noodles). PAL, who finds the original Arunee decent and authentic, predicts, “It’s bound to be a huge improvement over Ubol’s.”

In Park Slope, the Chip Shop empire has retrenched. The owner has shuttered the neighboring Curry Shop, four-year-old purveyor of British-style Indian chow, to focus on such core specialties as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pies. ”’Tis a pity,” laments elecsheep9. “Where else could you get curry over chips?”

From Korean Flushing, two updates: Mani Mani, a rollicking pub that served killer fried chicken, has gone under. A few blocks west, the homey takeout shop Four Seasons has changed hands and re-emerged as Big Mama. Panchan (side dishes), kimchi pajun (scallion pancakes), and dok boki (rice cakes) in spicy sauce are simple and first-rate, reports ZenFoodist. And “Big Mama,” it turns out, is a sweet, diminutive woman, “not big in stature, but with a BIG heart.”

Finally, up in Fishkill, the newer branch of Umami Cafe has closed and given way to Jackalope, a Texas-style barbecue joint under the same ownership. The original Umami Cafe in Croton, which turns out hound-endorsed fusion food, remains in business.

F. Monteleone and Cammareri Brothers Bakery and Cafe [Carroll Gardens]
formerly Frank Monteleone’s Pastry Shop
355 Court St., between Union and President, Brooklyn

Cammareri Brothers Bakery [Bensonhurst]
1660 Bath Ave., between Bay 14th St. and 17th Ave., Brooklyn

Vesuvio [Whitestone]
formerly Mezza Luna
12-02 149th St., at 12th Ave., Whitestone, Queens

Il Vesuvio [Bayside]
39-34 Bell Blvd., near Broadway, Bayside, Queens

Arunee Thai Cuisine [Astoria]
former Ubol’s Kitchen
24-42 Steinway St., near 25th Ave., Astoria, Queens

Arunee Thai Cuisine [Jackson Heights]
37-68 79th St., between 37th and Roosevelt Aves., Jackson Heights, Queens

The Chip Shop [Park Slope]
383 5th Ave., at 6th St., Brooklyn

Mani Mani [Flushing]
163-24 Northern Blvd., between 163rd and 164th Sts., Flushing, Queens

Big Mama [Flushing]
formerly Four Seasons Catering
157-22 Northern Blvd., between 157th and 158th Sts., Flushing, Queens

Jackalope BBQ [Dutchess County]
formerly Umami Cafe
717 Rte. 9, near Main St. (Rte. 52), Fishkill, NY

Umami Cafe [Westchester County]
325 S. Riverside Ave., near Oneida Ave., Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Board Links

Monteleone & Cammareri is open
Vesuvio in Whitestone
Slope Chipshop?
Ubol’s is now Arunee
New Korean Bon Chon Chicken Restaurant on Northern
Korean places in Queens
Umami Fishkill

Chili and Other Cincinnati Eats at Edward’s

Cincinnati expats in serious need of Skyline chili can tuck into a steaming three-way once a month in Tribeca. On its popular Cincinnati Nights, Edward’s feeds crowds of hungry Queen City types Skyline, plus LaRosa’s pizza, Graeter’s ice cream, and Montgomery Inn ribs (with Saratoga chips, of course).

The chili comes in the traditional styles: three-way (over spaghetti, topped with shredded cheddar), four- or five-way (three-way plus beans, chopped onion, or both), or Coney (ladled over a hot dog and buried in cheddar). “If you’ve got a craving, it does the trick,” says tewald, who adds that the high-quality frank in Edward’s Coney is an upgrade over those of his Cincy memories.

The next Cincinnati Night is March 19. Call for a reservation, and
don’t go too late–they tend to run out of Graeter’s beloved black
raspberry chip.

Edward’s [Tribeca]
136 W. Broadway, between Thomas and Duane Sts., Manhattan

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Cinncy Chili

The Japanese Sweet Potato Lady of Edgewater, NJ

At the Mitsuwa mini-mall, whose Japanese supermarket and food court draw packs of hounds, the chow action starts in the parking lot. There, on the sidewalk outside the Sanseido bookstore, a vendor hawks a classic Japanese street bite: yaki imo, or grilled sweet potatoes.

She offers two kinds, one with yellow flesh and one with purple, wrapped in foil and cooked right on the grill. surly finds both varieties sweet, delicious, and irresistibly soft on the inside. They’re $5 a pound, which amounts to two average-sized potatoes. The sweet potato lady sets up shop on weekends and deals her hot spuds from around 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sweet potato vendor [Bergen County]
outside Sanseido bookstore at Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ

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japanese sweet potato lady at mitsuwa

Championship-Caliber Chili at Righteous Urban Barbecue

Righteous Urban Barbecue is well known for its smoky ribs, brisket, and other meats, but its chili gets little mention. It deserves better, insists Benjamin68. It’s rich, satisfying, and loaded with meat, including RUB’s famous burnt ends, the twice-cooked fatty end of the brisket. “It was deeply savory and I slept oh-so-well,” Ben adds.

Righteous Urban Barbecue, a.k.a. RUB [Chelsea]
208 W. 23rd St., near 7th Ave., Manhattan

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R.U.B.’s chili vs. Dinner at Per Se–On a cold night, it’s no contest