Saturday, March 27, 2010

Co. pizza

after going to Steve Kaltenbach's opening, Priya and I walked a few blocks to Co., a much-talked-about pizza place we'd been hearing about for a long time. Despite the fact that it was 8:15 on a Saturday night and looked busy, they estimated only a 15-20 minute wait for us. It was a bit longer, but not by much; given Co.'s trendiness, I would've expected more (especially as Roberta's is regularly having 90-minute waits nowadays).

Beet salad with roasted pumpkin seeds, watercress, scallions, and olive oil. Delicious, but markedly overdressed! I really did enjoy the roasted pumpkin seed crunch mixed with the sweet beets, though.

Stracciatella cheese (not the gelato), crushed tomato, arugula, buffalo mozzarella. The combo of the greens and tomato gave it a really fresh taste.

Quail eggs, honshimeji mushrooms, guanciale, bechamel, buffalo mozzarella, parmesan, rosemary, and garlic. This pizza was outstanding; I didn't think I'd like the bechamel sauce, but it wasn't too much (the stracciatella/tomato pizza actually ended up being more watery), and the quail eggs could not have been more perfectly cooked.

The crust of our pizzas was also superb--some char, but not enough to taste bitter at all, just the right amount. No floppy middle, delicious flavor...arguably the best pizza crust I've ever had.

I really enjoyed Co.'s pizzas, but I'm not sure if, as whole entities, they edge out places closer to me, like Roberta's or Motorino. They definitely deserve to be argued about as a "best in the city" pizza, though. And, unfortunately, the prices are very high; my guanciale pizza cost $20 flat, which is like $6 more than a comparable pizza at Roberta's.

Dessert at Billy's Bakery:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

River Barrel (but not for long...?)

Needing a nearby neighborhood dinner one night, Priya and I walked up a block to visit River Barrel, a nondescript restaurant near our house which has always had a just-OK menu including a decent and not-too-pricey burger. Recently, River Barrel has been undergoing some big changes, though; after Greenpoint Coffeehouse closed a while back, River Barrel poached its kitchen and chef (Jonny Meyer, formerly of T.B.D.'s beer garden and Fatty Crab). Jonny had promised great things to come, and finally we were getting around to try it out.

The restaurant was virtually empty when we arrived, and so we got the chance to chat with Jonny a bit. River Barrel's menu now features several Korean-influenced dishes (a legacy of the owner, Mrs. Kim, who began to cook some of her own foods to fill in while River Barrel was between chefs... Jonny took the Korean influence and ran with it, and River Barrel--soon to be renamed "Mrs. Kim's" or something similar--has a menu that runs from bucatini carbonara to a fancy burger to bibimbop, house-made kimchee, and similar fare). We took Jonny's recommendations and ordered a Korean hot dog, Korean fried chicken, and a side of Brussels sprouts. (forgive the poor photographs--really dim light!)

First, though, Jonny sent us out an appetizer: boquerones with wasabi greens and pickled radish on crostini, with a side of daikon kimchee. It sounds decent, but somehow the pretty-good-sounding ingredients synergized into something really superior.


The Brussels sprouts were very sweet, flavored with denjang (Korean miso) and scattered with matchsticks of apple. The leaves had come apart and were deliciously crispy.

We shared an order of Korean fried chicken that was phenomenal. Jonny told us that he used vodka in the batter (on the principle, espoused by Heston Blumenthal, among others, that vodka, unlike water, doesn't cause flour to become glutinous, and, moreso, evaporates more readily) and the chicken was extremely crispy--perfectly so. Covered with a sweet sticky sauce that drew part of its umami flavor from anchovies (I think?) and over a bed of rice flavored with Thai basil, the fried chicken instantly became a local highlight for us. At $15, I thought the price was a little higher than I'd been expecting at first, but after tasting it, I don't begrudge them a dime. And $15 is easily comparable to other restaurants serving similar dishes.


I don't think I would've ordered a "Korean hot dog" (heck, I don't eat American hot dogs) but for Jonny's enthusiastic recommendation. Not really a hot dog, it's a thick lemongrass-flavored house-made sausage on a roll with house-made kimchee and a sauce formed of a mixture of ketchup and Mrs. Kim's own hot sauce.


Again, so so good, and at only $8, greatly preferable to the $12 burgers that proliferate in the city.

We heard that the awning and name might change very soon, but for now, before the new menu gets widespread, it's fantastic and quiet. Definitely will be back...repeatedly!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pies-N-Thighs

in the old days, you could go to see a band at Rock Star Bar (under the bridge getting into South Williamsburg) and step next door into the back concrete alley to have excellent fried chicken & more at Pies-N-Thighs (a soul food eatery partially owned by Stephen Tanner, of the noise band Harvey Milk). Considering Rock Star's sometimes grueling schedules (I remember when a friend's grind band made the trek up from Baltimore to play, it turned out that the show had been completely double-booked, and so they had ten bands on the bill chugging away until 3am), it was a welcome place to get a bite and spend some time outside of the drinking establishment.

but the city made some noise about the rickety smoker and a host of other zoning-type violations, and Pies-N-Thighs closed, promising to re-open. Years went by. Steve Tanner sold his stake in the business and went to work at Williamsburg's Egg (which became an amazing restaurant in its own right). Another ex-PnT chef, Carolyn Bane, sold her fried chicken out of Roberta's in Bushwick). The promise remained unfulfilled.

and then, signs of life. Bicycling to work through the Southside, I often saw a small storefront and back garden in the process of being remodeled. The word spread that Pies-N-Thighs was coming back.

last week the new PnT opened its doors. as Priya and I were going to be in the area for a show (Heks Orkest at Bruar Falls), we stopped by for dinner.

The restaurant's clearly in those early days; a single waitress seemed incredibly busy and she rushed around trying to serve every table in the joint. The busboy couldn't really keep up, either; we waited and waited for a table to be bused, and more tables opened up, remaining unbused, as more people came in...finally we sat down and pushed the old water glasses and chicken crumbs to the side ourselves. Another substantial wait before we got to order (but it's not like the waitress was outside having a cigarette; it was just very crowded).

I got a $10 fried chicken box, which came with a biscuit and a choice of side (collard greens). Priya got a $10 pulled-pork plate with a side of mac and cheese and an extra order of cornbread ($2). For dessert, a $4.50 slice of Key lime pie.



First, the good: the fried chicken was outstanding, both in the quality and taste of the fry and in the meaty quality of the chicken (some places are more bony than anything else). It is, essentially, the go-to place for fried chicken in that neighborhood. I also liked the sides, and the pulled pork had a fine taste and texture. The Key lime pie perhaps didn't live up to the Steve's Authentic level, but was still extremely good and worthy of fulfilling the expectations of "pies" in the restaurant's name.

There is some room for improvement, though. The cornbread seemed dry, and didn't come with butter (when we asked, we received a little bowl of rock-hard fridged butter that didn't do much to overcome the dryness). I liked the biscuit, but Priya thought it, too, was on the dry side. The biggest disappointment was probably the pulled pork plate, though. While the pork itself was very good, it was served on a flimsy roll that was already soaked completely through when the dish arrived--completely inedible as a sandwich. (If they gave you the roll on the side, like Fette Sau or many other barbecue places, that problem would be easily fixed). Also, there were no barbecue sauces of any sort (besides standard hot sauce) available with which to dress the sandwich. I like when you have a selection of mustard-based, vinegar-based, sweet, hot, etc. sauces. Lastly, I was disappointed that the mayonnaise-based coleslaw came smeared on the sandwich already. Yuck.

Also, the restaurant was very, very brightly lit. Like cafeteria-glare lit. I know PnT is not a pretentious New-Brooklyn-Cuisine-style den of guanciale-infused fried chicken, but halving the lights would have made for a more comfortable eating experience.

For a restaurant in its first few days, though, PnT really impressed me. I think they have some kinks to work out, but I would be back, and would recommend the restaurant to anyone in the area who wanted high-caliber fried chicken.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Xi'an Famous Food

Recently, a new little lunch place opened only a block or two from my work, and finally today (after it was praised by New York Magazine) Wooh and I ventured to check it out.

Xi'an Famous Food has an outpost in Flushing, but has only now made it to Manhattan's Chinatown. It has a good website with great pictures and descriptions that made me want to try eight or nine dishes immediately, and the prices were low. For $4, I got a plate of cold liang pi noodles, and for $2 more, a giant bowl of soft tofu seasoned with hot oil and spices.



I envied Wooh's choice: spicy cumin lamb noodles for $5. Upon ordering, the woman seized a strip of dough and made the noodles right there on the counter. Within five minutes we were out of the shop, and they were fantastic.



definitely going to be a regular lunch place for me! I can't wait to try the lamb spine, lamb offal, or noodle soups...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paulie Gee's pizza in Greenpoint

just opened 3 days ago...Paulie Gee's, an artisanal-style pizza place in Greenpoint! only a few months ago Priya and I were tarting up shitty slice-place pizza with lobster mushrooms and such. we were excited to try it tonight and got a $14 "Cuban" (ground sausage, mozzarella--scuse me, "fior di latte", tomato sauce, onions, basil) to take out.


verdict? pretty good--great for the area (where there is very little else)! the crust was a bit unsalty while the sausage (we think) had pockets of extreme saltiness, and Priya found a string baked into her crust, but it was a nice pizza. A bit too much blackening on some parts, but the pizza was larger and less floppy than Motorino (not better overall; I don't actually mind a bit o' flop that much).

so I think we'll be back, and I'm really looking forward to the bump in quality that is sure to come in a few months as they iron out kinks.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Branzino

once again, a delicious meal courtesy of Katie. She gave Priya a fish class at the Meat Hook/Brooklyn Kitchen for her birthday and then couldn't make it, so I was the last-minute substitution! we filleted branzino (I haven't filleted a fish since Boy Scouts), baked a whole fish packed in salt, etc...with some of the fish we brought home, we had a nice pan-fried fish dinner (with baby bok choy and rice with David Chang's ginger-scallion sauce on the side).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

dill borscht

beet borscht with dill, eggs, potatoes, rye bread. This took maybe 30 minutes to make and was very good.


a closeup of this became my new, beautifully colored blog banner.