When the wait at Eataly’s Pizza and Pasta dining area was 90 minutes we decided we could venture downtown to get our Batali fix at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (5th Avenue & 8th Street). This was my first trip to Otto and as soon as we stepped inside the restaurant’s ambiance impressed me. We were seated right away (Sunday around 4pm).
The server was friendly and had a ton of suggestions and really knew his way around the menu. We started with my favorite kind of antipasto – a meat platter of Prosciutto, Pancetta, Coppa, Testa & Salami. All of the meats were awesome except Testa. For those of you that don’t speak Italian Testa means Head and yes it was Head Cheese. I had a few awful experiences with Testa in the past but decided to try it again… still GROSS (for those of you who don’t know the definition of head cheese is a meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig). Out of the things I have tried I think Head Cheese/Testa is the most repulsive and I still do not like it. But hey four out of five of the meats were delicious.
For the main course we ordered two pizzas:
The Margherita D.O.P. (Tomato, Bufala Mozzarella and Basil)
Quattro Stagione (Four Seasons, tomato & mozzarella served with one-quarter of each: swiss chard, mushrooms, peppers, cotto)
Both of the pizzas came to our table piping hot. The mix of a perfectly cooked crust, great tasting sauce and delicious toppings hit the spot.
The waiter told us we couldn’t leave without trying the homemade gelato. They have about 10 flavors) we tried Salty Peanut and Vanilla. They were so creamy and had just the right amount of sweetness for the perfect post meal dessert.
There are many other dishes on the menu (most for under $10) including vegetable sides, pasta dishes, about 12 different pizzas, various cheeses. I plan on coming back multiple times to try many other dishes. Don’t get me wrong there are definitely better places to get pizza in the city but this is a trip worth making.
I have nothing bad to say about this place except if you have friends that don’t like pizza or pasta (1. you shouldn’t be friends with them) but they probably will not enjoy it.
Review: 4/5 Stars--DBlock
SEO, a traditional Japanese restaurant turns into a ramen noodle shop from the hours of 11pm – 2am everyday. I have never ate here during normal restaurant hours but the lore of a tasty bowl of ramen after a night of drinking has brought me here on more than one occasion. According to Yelp the transformation that happens makes the late night nickname Ramen Sanshiro.
SEO is located on 49th Street just West of 2nd Avenue. If you stumble in here after 11pm on any day of the week it is filled with according to NYMag “Japanese “salarimen” sporting crisp white shirts and deep, swaggering voices.” Needless to say I am the only person here after midnight that chooses to speak English.
Once you get over the awkward sense of displacement you have the choice of either Shoyu (soy flavored) Ramen or Shio (salt) Ramen. These two ramen options along with a few side dishes are the only food on the menu (they also offer Sapporo or Sake). Once you place the order it takes about five minutes for the waitress (there is typically only one) to bring you your steaming hot order.
I have only tried the Shoyu but the noodles are yellow noodles and taste really good and served el dente. The ramen bowl is served with half of a soft-boiled egg with a runny yolk (so good) and a small piece of thinly sliced pork. The broth has a really good flavor profile but is not as rich as I have had other places (probably better off for late night!). They have spice powder offered on the bar (awesome).
Again Sapporo/Ippudo are still my favorite options but you can’t beat the secret ramen at SEO for a late night post drinking meal. If you are in the neighborhood I definitely recommend it.
UPDATE: Last week I ordered from here for pickup during normal restaurant hours. I tried their “Inaniwa udon noodles” which are freshly made with ingredients imported from Akita, Japan. The claim that they stay el dente after cooked proved to be true. Embarassingly the only time I ever ate Udon prior was at Cafe Duke. This udon is different it is the same size as a Linguini and the noodles were beautifully textured. The broth was flavorful but did not live up to the “stellar” NY Mag claim. It was also an expensive dish at $13. My vote is to stick with the after hours ramen.
Midtown Late Night Ramen!
Egg cooked properly
Offers extra spice on the side
Overall Rating: 4/5 (compared to other local late night food spots)
Recommended Dish: Shoyu Ramen--DBlock
Kwik Meal is a cart on the corner of 45th and 6th Avenue that serves halal food. Mohammed Rahman famously left his post at Russian Tea Room to open Kwik Meal. He is found everyday in the cart expediting orders and making sure he keeps the line moving. To be upfront the prices here are higher than other options in the area (Chicken, Lamb & Rice combo is $8.50) however it is WELL worth it.
The differentiating factor for Kwik Meal is that they serve actual marinated lamb instead of gyro meat. The chunks of lamb are deliciously seasoned with cumin, coriander and green papaya. The chicken has a delicious crispy texture on it from the grill and is also so well seasoned. The meats are served over basmati rice with a salad (lettuce and tomato) on the side. I prefer to order the white sauce on the side because I get sick from too much dairy and my biggest complaint is that they do not offer separate to go containers for the sauces. They do accommodate the request by keeping it on one side of the container but I guess you can always forego it all together.
If you are a fan of hot sauce do not forget to ask for the green sauce. Kwik Meal’s green sauce is a jalapeño based hot sauce and they tend to be stingy with it unless you specify that you like a lot of heat. The hot sauce is not as hot as 53rd and 6th but it is unique and does add a decent amount of heat and flavor but don’t forget to ask for it because it’s not standard for them to include it.The portions at Kwik Meal are large and it typically takes me two sittings to finish it but even if I do finish it in a day I don’t get that sick feeling that you get from other street meat carts.I HIGHLY recommend Kwik Meal for any midtown folk seeking an alternative lunch option. The taste and quality of food at Kwik Meal are superior to any other street meat vendor. What’s your favorite street meat or lunch cart? Let me know in the comments.
High quality ingredients
Real chunks of Lamb
Small pieces of lettuce
No sauce containers
More expensive than other street meat options
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars (docked .5 star for expensive pricing)
Recommended Dish: Chicken & Lamb combo over rice--DBlock
I was taken to Bond Street for dinner with a group of 8 co-workers. This was my first time visiting Bond Street and I heard great things about it. Bondst is a trendy lounge/restaurant on Bond Street downtown. Expect a great people watching environment, cozy if not packed restaurant and expensive food and drinks. The overall dining experience is worth the money if you have it to spend (or if you are eating on a corporate card!).
We started with a bunch of various appetizers:
Szechuan Yellowtail Sashimi szechuan ponzu, chili oil
Toro Tartare japanese mustard, sansho pepper seasoning
Big Eye Tuna Tarts creamy ponzu, white truffle oil, micro shiso
Broiled Alaskan King Crab brown butter ponzu, roasted maitake
Spicy Crispy Shrimp yuzu calamanci vinaigrette, chipotle aioli
Seared Tuna & Foie Gras asian pear chutney, plum wine glaze, holy basil
Wagyu Tataki seared wagyu beef, truffle butter, myoga
Tuna Crispy Rice korean kochujang sauce
It was great that there was a lot of us eating because we all got to try a bunch of different apps. It is so hard to pick my favorite because they were all great and many surpassed similar dishes I have had elsewhere. The Tuna Crispy Rice & Spicy Crispy Shrimp were both better than Koi’s version’s of the dishes. The Seared Tuna & Foie Gras was so good I was mad I had to share. The Yellowtail sashimi was so fresh and delicious that people at the table who hate Yellowtail had more than one piece. I think one of my favorites was the Big Eye Tuna Tarts which was served on a thin wafer like pita. The King Crab was the my other favorite but I might be bias because crab is my all time favorite food.
For a main course I ordered the Sashimi & Sushi omakase. I don’t remember exactly which pieces were served but there was one row of sashimi and a row of sushi (the sushi was served in interesting combinations in small bowls with various toppings). The Sushi/Sashimi omakase was only $50. I would have rathered seen BondSt up the price and include all of their rarer forms of sushi/sashimi than what was offered in the order.
Everyone else’s main courses were delicious (I tried the Chilaen Sea Bass, Pan Seared Scallops and Organic Chicken) all of which were phenomonal.
I was drinking dry/dirty Ketel Martinis that were made perfectly and came out filled to the brim and ice cold, just how I like them. For dessert we ordered a bunch of dishes but my favorite was the Chocolate Meltdown. I am not a big sweets person and often times I skip dessert all together but there is something about a chocolate cake that bursts with a warm liquid chocolate middle and this was just as amazing as it sounds.
If you have a special occasion coming up or are able to choose a meal on a corporate card I highly recommend Bond Street. I will definitely return.
Delicious tasting food (I did not try one thing I didn’t like)
Strong/well made drinks
The omakase should have been better.
Expensive (five dollar signs expensive)
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars (cost is not factored in)--DBlock
There are few simple pleasures I enjoy more in life than a perfectly cooked egg. There are always so many debates over the different ways to cook eggs and how to perfect them (i.e. soft/hard-boiled, over easy, over medium, poached, etc). If I’m at a diner I’m ordering my eggs over easy and getting pissed when they’re not runny enough. If I’m at a four or five-star restaurant and there is a dish on the menu served with an egg, I’m ordering it.
There is a Le Pain Quotidien literally downstairs from my apartment and it took living here for about a year for me to step foot into the place. It always looked like an over-priced French coffee shop to me. The menu chalkboard never had anything appealing and I just over looked that they had breakfast. It took for my brother to wake me early one morning and tell me we were going there for breakfast for me to enter the place.
I ordered a Belgian waffle (served with fresh fruit), a Belgian hot chocolate and a soft-boiled egg with bread. I definitely did not need to order both the waffle and the egg and will probably never order the waffle again. Don’t get me wrong there was nothing wrong with the waffle – it actually was good. It is more so everything that was PERFECT about the egg that will make this may mainstay choice when visiting.
The hot chocolate is a bowl (yes they serve it in a bowl with no handles instead of a cup) of steaming milk (or soy milk in my case) served with a side of dark chocolate syrup. This is awesome because it allows you to prepare to your own chocolate satisfaction. They give you more than enough chocolate syrup and it’s really tasty.
The egg is served still in its shell in a tiny egg dish with a side of many different kinds of bread. The shell is not easy to crack open and peel off and to keep the egg inside the dish but once it’s cracked open it is one hell of a reward. The egg is soft-boiled and spread-able over the sides of bread or they also serve bread cut into strips incase you are more of a dunking person. Their bread is delicious and mixed with the egg, it’s a perfect breakfast combo!
Although these are the only three things on the menu I have tried (I can’t go here without ordering the soft-boiled egg) I have returned multiple times. This is the only place in NYC I have gone solo to breakfast, the egg is THAT good.
Le Pain Quotidien is a chain so chances are there is one that’s convenient for everyone
Perfectly cooked eggs
Great Coffee & Hot Chocolate
Mix of smaller & community style tables
I can’t speak to their lunch or other dishes
No breakfast meats
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
Recommended Dish: Coffee/Hot Chocolate & Soft Boiled Egg--DBlock
For the last several years I did not believe there was a finer place in Manhattan to get halal food than the original Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. I have visited this famous cart for about four years and frequency has depended on proximity of the cart to my daily travels. Back when I worked at World Wide Plaza (49th and 8th) we would hit up chicken and rice about once/month. If we went out in midtown there was rarely a night that didn’t end waiting in line for a platter of lettuce, yellow rice, chicken and that amazing white and red sauce with a few pieces of pita to combat the heat. I even found myself one Halloween dressed as a sheep behind Spiderman waiting for chicken over rice.
It has been about a year since I visited the Halal Guys and walked away with the famous yellow bag and delicious platter. This week we went to see Rain: A Beatles Tribute on Broadway and once the show ended I left hungry and was in a few block radius of my beloved stand. I decided it was time.
Chicken and Rice is typically a decision that seems so awesome at the time but leaves you feeling regretfully ill within the next hour (especially if you finish the large amount of food these guys shovel into their famous round tin foil containers). This night, after a long hiatus, I was up for the challenge. I walked to the cart, no wait, took my food and brought it across town to my apartment. The sauces were packed on the side as requested and since it had been so long I went with a mix of some sort of Gyro meat and chicken.
I should mention that I changed jobs and now work on 40th and Broadway so Kwik Meal has been my choice of street meat for the last year strictly due to location. Anyway back to The Halal Guys. Wow… what a disappointment. The chicken was extremely dry and flavorless and so was the meat. The rice still had a good flavor and the sauces were still what made these guys famous. The overall taste and satisfaction did not nearly match what I remember. I think that these guys have let the hype go to their heads and have let their quality decline dramatically. Or maybe Kwik Meal was just always better (look for a Kwik Meal review coming soon).
I was resistant to believe that Midtown Lunch’s Street Meat Palooza 2 ranked The Halal Guys at third place and Kwik Meal was at the top spot. After a few months of doing my taste test and digesting both the halal food and the rankings I’m willing to admit (as usual) Midtown Lunch is spot on.
Hottest Hot Sauce I have EVER had
Tasty White Sauce
Unique Yellow Rice
Find another place in midtown that you can get this amount of food for $5
Bland/usually stale Pita
Large bland pieces of lettuce
No flavor on Gyro meat or Chicken
Review: 3/5 Stars--DBlock
A few weeks back a bunch of my friends and I decided it was time for a holiday dinner. Out of all the different places to choose from in NYC someone suggested San Marzano Brick Oven Pizza, in the Lower East Side (Clinton Street), because they offer an AYCE/D special for $40/person for 2 hours. Obviously I am a fan of AYCE/D dinners so to the LES we went.
We were seated immediately and they did not make us wait for the entire party to give us a table. The restaurant was empty for a Thursday night and they started by bringing out various appetizers including:
Antipasto platter with olives, roasted red peppers, prosciutto, speck, salami, grape tomatoes and freshly baked bread.
Meatballs (baked to order in mushroom marinara sauce, served with fresh bread)
Brussels Sprouts (with pancetta, Fuji apples and pecorino Romano)
Fresh Mozzarella with Basil & Tomato
We were able to order a second round of everything we liked (which was everything) and they were generously refilling our wine glasses (choice of beer, house white and house red). Once we had our appetizer fill they brought out two pizzas:
Fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, extra virgin olive oil
Fontina, goat cheese, caramelized onions, shitake and button mushrooms, roasted garlic, thyme, white truffle oil
We ordered another round of each and they came out within about five minutes. The pizzas were very good had a great flavor (good tasting sauce), not necessarily a crispy crust but that pliable type of brick oven crust with a smoky taste. The cheese was high quality and although I did not try the Caprino my friends raved about it (when does truffle oil ever go wrong?).
I highly recommend this place for affordable group outings/dinners. It’s not the type of place you go to get hammered (not sake bombing style) but it was great that we didn’t have to settle the check at the end of the meal and we were all well fed. I will definitely be back for the next group special occasion.
Great homemade bread
Brussels Sprouts & all appetizers are as good as they sound on the menu
Really good/quick/fresh to order pizzas
To get the most out of the $40 deal I recommend bringing at least 6 people
Far walk to the subway
Reservations Required for special
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (if going with a group I’d raise this to a 4/5 stars)
Recommended Dish: Antipasto & Margherita Pizza--DBlock
I first went here a few months back when this place and the sister location (Totto Ramen) first opened. Back then it still wasn’t the best ramen I have had in NY but I really liked that they had two different scales to truly customize your order of ramen. The first was for the richness of the broth and the second was for how you wanted your noodles cooked. At Hide Chan there are about 8-10 different ramen dishes to choose from but these additional options made me feel like my choice was made especially for me. The first time I went I ordered the richest broth, which was a bit too garlicky and fatty, but I thought the next level down would be perfect.
Unfortunately on my latest trip to Hide Chan I discovered that they no longer have the scales for noodle firmness and broth richness. This was one clear advantage over any other ramen place. The broth was much more watery than a few months ago. The pork was ok but it is better at several other places including SEO & Ippudo.
There is no spice powder as I have seen in other ramen houses but there is a can of fresh red pickled ginger strips and sesame seeds.
I ordered the Hakata Spicy Ramen, which had a full flavored broth, but I would have liked the option to add more spice and richness. I added a boiled egg to the order and was not a big fan of how they cooked the egg. I was expecting an addition that could be added in and stirred into the dish but this was literally a hard-boiled egg floating in my ramen.
There aren’t many other ramen options in Midtown East so I am giving this an extra half star since it is convenient to many offices and my apartment.
Different ramen choices
Less expensive than Ippudo
Place seems to be going downhill
Lack of spiciness in spicy ramen
Pork is so-so and small pieces
Egg was not cooked to my liking
Additions are all $1+
Rating: 3 Stars
Anyone have any favorite Ramen spots I should check out this winter? Let me know in the comments.--DBlock