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Everything posted by Mayur

  1. (Well, I'll get to my overall impression in a moment; I've had to split up my posts due to writing these at work, on a Monday no less. Busy busy...) So after an extended tour of the Mehtani operation and a not-so-brief stop at Subzi Mandi (my favorite of three large South Asian grocery stores along Oak Tree Rd; larger, cleaner, and about 50% more variety of stock than its analogues in Flushing, JH, or Holliswood), we headed north to Jimmy Buff to meet John the hot dog historian and try an "original Italian hot dog." I'm a fan of down-and-dirty roadside places, but I have to say that Jimmy Buff stretched the definition for me in some ways. The place was, for lack of a better word, scary. If we hadn't had such a warm welcome and attention (as well as what practically amounted to an honor guard!) from the owner, John, and his friends, I'd have been a bit nervous. The place is in a prefab diner car minus the 50s Art Deco charm that implies. Quite grungy and full of seedy customers (though there were one or two well-dressed folk stopping in to grab a dog) and located on a random lot in a random back street in West Orange. The actual Italian dog (a deep-fried Italian sausage AND hot dog plus fried onions, peppers, and potatoes all doused in ketchup) wasn't really my thing, although I have to say I was...er, impressed by the size of the thing and the fact that apparently, "if you want a full meal," to quote John, you can order a double-sized version (two hot dogs PLUS two sausages plus double the onions/peppers/potatoes in a loaf the size of about 1.5 full-on sub rolls). In any event, Jimmy Buff wasn't the sort of thing I'd travel again to NJ for, but I do know plenty of road foodies or fast food aficionados who'd consider it worth the trip. It is, however, a good example of how I differentiate cities in which you really have to think about exiting the city limits (such as NY) from cities in which due to urban plan and ubiquity of cars, one thinks nothing about venturing into seedy suburban locales for a burger, taco, etc (I make a point of hitting D'Alessandro's for a cheese steak pretty much every time I'm in Philadelphia, for instance, but that's because we're driving everywhere anyway). White Manna, the last stop of our Saturday tour, evokes a similar (albeit more positive overall) response from me. Going back to the original discussion on this thread, I'd say that due to New York's intense urban concentration and the ease with which one can dispense with the need to take anything but the subway or one's own two feet to get to a bewildering variety of places, means that the appeal of roadside fast food is vastly diminished. In fact, it almost feels unnatural to hit places like Jimmy Buff or White Manna because they have such a car-culture vibe to them. It's not that they're not appealing, but rather that they feel a world away from the dining experiences we New Yorkers have come to know and love. That can be appealing to some, off-putting to others. The immediate comparison I drew was walking down to Parisi Bakery, Luzzo's, Paris Sandwich or Mei La Wah, all of which are quite close to my apartment, for their respective brands of fast food, or even popping into Momofuku Noodle Bar for some wings or pork buns. There's something very friendly about that ease and kind of scale that made hitting Jimmy Buff or even White Manna seem like a somewhat unrewarding schlep. That said, White Manna was certainly worth a one-time trip for me. I'm not a huge burger connoisseur, but the place itself is worth seeing. It's the appealing side of the road-food experience. Again, I'd have to differ with FG's original post in that I don't see a necessary or even compelling reason for a New Yorker to haul out there (mainly because it's the kind of trip that you live in NY so you never have to make it!), but it was a unique and tasty experience. The place is a dining car *with* Art Deco charm (old-school 1930 style), and an equally aged grill whence come masses of slider-style steamed-grilled, onion-and-cheese infused burgers. (IIRC, they'll be on the Food Network some time this evening in that Diners Dives... show.) Quite tasty. That said, I don't know that one would need to ever come here more than once, and again, I think that White Manna would make much more sense as an urban foodie destination in LA or Houston than in NY; it's a car culture kind of place.
  2. So, comments here from the peanut gallery... Full of vim and vigor, we set out on a fine Saturday morning to conquer a selection of NJ's finest foodie offerings... (...well, no. The vim and vigor was less in evidence than the bleary hung-over "it's 11am already?" of an average NY Saturday morning, but we were still good to go!) In the FG-mobile were the Guy himself, me, raji, his g/f (I'm not going to try her name because I'll mangle the spelling, so raji, it's your job!), and that mellowest of pups Momo, who endured our general eccentricities with great aplomb; actually, I've rarely see a pet, child, or wage-earning adult who was quite such an easygoing companion on a road trip. So, first stop was Edison, Oak Tree Road, and thence Moksha, the South Indian component of the mighty Mehtani restaurant empire (which includes 7 restaurants plus a ginormous catering operation). For those of you who haven't been to Edison, just being there arguably proves one of FG's ancillary points (one I'll come back to a few times in this post): The environment alone can justify a trip like this from the Asian foodie's perspective. For those of you who haven't been, Edison, or rather the Edison-Iselin-Metropark triangle in question, basically looks like a standard '70s-80s constructed suburb whose population all died of a plague and were magically replaced overnight by Indians. The Applebee's still looks like an Applebee's and the Pizza Hut like a pizza hut, only now the former is a fancy sit-down Mughlai restaurant and the latter a drive-through chaatkhara. Moksha, along with (deep breath here) Moghul, Mithaas, and Mirage, the Mehtani's North Indian, sweet/chaat, and on-site catering operations, respectively, is located in a standard suburban shopping mall, complete with giant parking lots, multiple levels, the whole shebang. Other than FG and a couple pulling out of the dry cleaners', not a single European face was in evidence. (Including Momo, we were running a 75% Asian-white ratio in the van. ) I've eaten the Mehtanis' food, but pretty much only the North Indian stuff (courtesy of their flagship restaurant, Moghul) and sweets via takeout; as my family is South Indian, we tend to eat our native cuisine(s) at home or, if we go out, to stick to vegetarian restaurants (like Saravanaas in Manhattan, or Sai Bhavan or Dosa Hutt in Flushing, etc.). Moksha's buffet was a strong selection of dishes with a relatively idiosyncratic regional mix (some Chettinad, some Iyengar, some straight-up Tamil) and a *really* exceptional selection of chutneys and pickles. (The GM, Danashekhar, explained that the condiments are all house-made individually for the different restaurant operations, which given that we're talking four entirely different styles of cuisine is really a heroically ambitious task.) In brief, Moksha and its related parts turned out to be my favorite experience of the day, for several reasons. IMO, the food was on a level with places like Chola (raji for more on this), with some dishes (the masala vadai, which was in an unusual Madurai style, the kootu, and the poriyal) rising to the level of places like Tamarind or Surya back under Raji Jallepalli: That is to say, easily comparable with top-end stuff in Chennai, Kodi, etc. Moreover, this was a $15 buffet-style lunch, as FG mentioned, whereas you would need the full sit-down dinner action to generate comparable cuisine from the places I mentioned. Finally, the chutneys and pickles really were a step beyond in ambition and execution (with the exceptions, IMO, of the chutneys at Saraavanas and Dosa Hutt, both of which make really amazing house-made chutneys and melakai podi). Perhaps what was even more interesting, however, was the insight that being in these places gave to suburban and immigrant aspiration and its consequences and quirks. We were led on a grand tour by the GM, who showed us the enormous kitchens, battery of staff, and front-end facilities, which are built on a kind of clean, upscale design with some basic stabs at fashionability, but in general a sense of suburban prosperity and attempt to steer pretty wide of the opulent decor of midtown places like Ada, Chola, Bay Leaf, etc. as well as the grungy lack of decor of the Queens places. The Mehtani catering operation serves 70,000 people a year, and you can tell! This is big business that is part and parcel of immigrants reveling in their new home's prosperity. It's a different kind of aesthetic entirely from that of Indian cuisine in a denser urban center; rather than providing immigrants with a taste of home (the Flushing Main St/Kissena/JH places), or catering to diners outside the community (Bay Leaf, Chola, Shaan, etc.), these places are aiming for a crowd that feels comfortably assimilated at the same time as it is strongly embedded in a homogeneous community. They are thus adding the same "western" touches that you see at restaurants in India (the sweet shop, Mithaas, serves panini and looks like a large Starbucks; prices at all the establishments are not gentle; etc) at the same time as they're doing everything at a very authentic level from a culinary perspective, in part because the clientele couldn't imagine anything else.
  3. I wasn't suggesting that these might be a problem due to lack of bar eating, but rather remoteness. The restaurant hop implies something doable for a number of stops, and both Perry Street and (to a lesser extent) Barbuto are a bit westerly compared to the other options.
  4. Nathan's recommendations are quite good. Add to them: +Hearth for a glass of wine and a pasta or app. I have a hard time imagining "hopping" through Hill Country, but hey. Might also recommend Gramercy Tavern front room for an app or actually even a main, and 15 East for sushi. Um, yeah, except that I'd skip centro, barbuto, and perry street (I think the latter two are hard to do for "hopping" and I'm not that big a fan of centro) and hit Bobo and Sumile instead. Yeah, though if I got a seat at the bar at Babbo, I'd probably just engage in a full-on feast. Might as well throw in the kitchen counter at Beacon while you're doing this, although being able to handle anything else + robuchon is going to be a big hit to the wallet.
  5. If anything, I tend to cut back on the cocktails every once in a while in order to clear up my palate for better enjoyment of wine. But no, I haven't found a real difference in drinking patterns. That said, I've been drinking hard alcohol and/or cocktails (as well as wine and a very occasional beer) since I began drinking ~16 years ago, so maybe it's just not that different.
  6. Huh; interesting! Thanks for the illuminating response!
  7. Yes, and you want to be dining in Jean-Georges for lunch, *not* Nougatine. Make sure to specify that you want the main dining room.
  8. My question was assuming a frozen mixing glass. I just was wondering how removing a drink from a frozen glass filled with ice to a frozen glass with *no* ice would lower its temperature, given that both the glass and the ice are sucking heat from the liquid in the former situation, and only the glass is doing so in the latter. But interesting!
  9. Now *that's* interesting, Toby. So a cocktail can be rendered *colder* by straining into a frozen glass? Guess that's hard to measure (by the time you've removed the ice to check drink temp before straining into frozen glass, it's probably already warmed up). So, interestingly enough, my Apricot Bonnie Prince is actually not as good at 25 F. (Just did it with room-temp spirits stirred in frozen mixing glass with cracked ice, let stand 10 sec, strained into frozen cocktail glass. End temp 25 F, 27 F before letting stand.) I guess the temperature bands can be important in this context.
  10. I'll make sure to call ahead next time I come to Chicago and specify which ingredients I'd like stuck in the freezer/fridge... Seriously, I'm really quite happy with the service temperature and balance of cocktails at my favorite local establishments! It's just realizing how fiddling with the temperature can change a drink. (As a converse, there's no way that I can match Brian's shaking technique at D&Co, or the hardness/size of the big ice at M&H, so it sort of all evens out...)
  11. If you're mixing drinks, I'm there! Bottles of Stagg and absinthe in tow...
  12. Tonight was a random riff on the Bonnie Prince Cocktail, using R&W Apricot instead of the Drambuie and Cocchi Aperitivo Americano instead of Lillet, and adding bitters. 2 oz gin (Hendrick's) 1 oz Cocchi Aperitivo Americano 1/2 oz R&W Apricot dash of Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters Measure all ingredients into (frozen) mixing glass and stir with cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. No garnish. Given the entire drink-temperature thread, I figured I'd go with something slightly out of the norm, so I froze the gin, refrigerated the Cocchi and Apricot, and added a teaspoon of (extremely cold fridge-temp) water right before straining. Turned out perfectly. Not at all appropriate for bar service, but heck, I don't even bother thinking about drink recipes at my favorite cocktail bars any more, so this is purely a home exercise!
  13. Just measured my latest cocktail (in the "Drinks!" thread) using an instant-read. 22 F, after being stirred with cracked ice. As an experiment, I used freezer-chilled gin and refrigerated Cocchi Aperitivo Americano and diluted with fridge-temp water instead using room-temperature spirits and allowing to sit. To be honest, I wish all drinks were served at this temperature, but it's highly impractical to demand in the bar-service context.
  14. No, but PDT in New York has a new "high roller" menu featuring a Last Word that uses the VEP! [Edited for clarity.]
  15. Would you take a second opinion? I'm a huge fan of the Prunier, and it has become my go-to orange liqueur ever since I picked up a 375ml at LeNell's. Similar flavor notes to GM, but ratcheted way down on the sweetness and has a bit more of the slightly bitter post-tannic quality I've noted in some cognacs.
  16. Ooh! Toloache is a great choice!
  17. Becco would run about $55 including wine, tax and tip, if you were ordering a primo, secondo, dessert, and 2 glasses. The pasta blowout only costs $22, though, so you could easily get out of there (skipping dessert, who needs it?) for about $40. If you're interested in going a little lighter than Becco food-wise, sticking in the same neighborhood for a reasonable budget, I'd recommend Casellula (52nd St between 9th and 10th Avenue), hands-down. Excellent wines, cheeses, charcuterie, and some tasty (rich) mains. If you're more than one person and into sharing, I'd consider the very good Taboon, on 52nd St and 10th Avenue, for Mediterranean-North African food. (I say sharing because the apps are wonderful, but LARGE.) Esca's out of your budget territory, so I'd forget that (even though I happen to like it a lot). Are you restricted by neighborhood at all?
  18. I like Alta best for price performance, format, and diversity of options, but agree that Tia Pol (and eQP) beats all of those hollow for quality. As to other meals: I skipped the Pig largely because I find it ridiculously and uncivilizedly crowded at any sane dining hour. Mary's or Pearl are great calls IMO as well. Also, I left out some of the vast array of non-Western casual dining places. Yakitori Totto and Aburiya Kinnosuke are my favorite picks for cooked sarariman-style Japanese fare, although there are about an infinity of others depending on your favorite specialty Japanese cuisine. Saraavanas is wonderful for South Indian food, Bread Bar at Tabla pretty great for North Indian (it's billed as fusion, but IME is closer to what you'll eat in Bombay or Delhi than anything outside of Queens or Edison NJ in this neck of the woods). I'm a fan of Shanghai Cafe, New Green Bo, or Yeah Shanghai for Shanghainese food, and Ping's, Oriental Garden, or Fuleen for Cantonese seafood. New York Noodle Town has great roasted duck and pork dishes (though less than great noodles, oddly enough). Dim Sum Go Go is my current favorite for dim sum lunch/brunch; the upscale Chinatown Brasserie has probably the best in Manhattan, but is more expensive (about $8 per dish as opposed to DSGG's $2.50). Cru is really excellent, and a good call for a mix of adventurous and traditional cuisine. I'd also say that Eleven Madison Park is arguably in the same tier as Daniel and LB, formality-wise; some would put the cuisine on the same level as well.
  19. Typically, I'm used to seeing an aviation with the usual drink proportions (2 oz. gin, 1/2 oz. lemon juice, about a teaspoon of maraschino) and then a barspoon of violette floated on top. But yeah, it's typically in addition to, rather than replacing, the maraschino.
  20. Booking either LB or Daniel will be easier than the other 4-stars (Per Se, Masa, and Jean-Georges), so probably not too bad on 3-4 weeks notice. If I were you, though, I might consider some of NYC's more distinctive restaurants. WD-50 definitely qualifies there, but LB and Daniel are, IMO, a bit old hat. If you have lunch available, I would *definitely* reserve at Jean-Georges or Perry Street, since both of those have insane lunch bargains (Perry St is a bargain at brunch); at JG, you're getting a full-on 4-star experience for less than USD 100 a head, and that's if you go generously on the wine. Adding to the high-end list, I'd also see about going to Sushi Yasuda and/or Tailor. The former is perhaps NYC's premier example of a fine sushiya, and the latter is an excellent modern gastronomic restaurant (plus they have interesting cocktails). I might also try to hit (for more casual places) Lupa, Momofuku Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar, Fatty Crab or 5 Ninth, Upstairs at Bouley, Tia Pol and El Quinto Pino (which are far better tapas places than Boqueria, IMHO) and Alta. Others will have different lists. [EDIT: It also depends on where you're visiting from. If you're coming from Europe, you should put NY's best sushi places (Yasuda, Shimizu, 15 East, Ushi Wakamaru, Kuruma) on the short list. If you're coming from elsewhere in the country and haven't hit the French Laundry, you may want to consider Per Se.] As to a steak: I prefer Peter Luger, *despite* the fact that it's no longer as good as it used to be (meaning that it's, like, a 3* steak as opposed to a 3*+++ steak! ). Wolfgang's (which essentially does the Peter Luger porterhouse plus a number of other great options) is a good choice in Manhattan. Otherwise, opinions on that topic can be divided. New York has a lot of good steak, so there are innumerable choices. Robert's (the place you mentioned) is actually quite good, but probably a bit too... er, distracting on the service side.
  21. Hm. I always thought of the Negroni as a pre-dinner drink; bracing and appetite-stimulating. Sort of like finishing a meal with a dollop of sorbet. But YMMV.
  22. Mayur

    Perry Street

    They have high chairs. As to being "toddler-friendly": PS is one of the few NY restaurants I've seen that does brunch and *doesn't* feature a large infant population. However, service is impeccable, and there are enough distinct areas at which you can be seated that you can probably not feel too out of place.
  23. I'm not don or john, but I believe that new menu's coming any day now, right? Had one the other day; we went by on the night before NYE (g/f's cousins are in town, both emerging foodies and drinkies, so I felt like I had to take them here) and Jim showed us a great time. Yeah. Jim was hanging coats, working the door, running behind the bar to mix (a Ramos, no less) and chatting around the room. It's rare to see someone with that level of energy and enthusiasm in *any* position!
  24. It's part of the new (temporary) opening hours, and they may go back to 7pm; it's not clear. Given the constant crush at D&Co and the fact that it's almost always just two bartenders and two waitresses (plus a doorman and barback), I have the feeling that they don't want to make the shifts *too* long. I too like the idea of a 6pm permanent opening time, but then 7 allows one to stop in at PDT for a civilized early drink before heading to D&Co, so is it really something to worry about?
  25. Or tequila, to keep it in the family! My own perspective on this is different syrups for different purposes. I'd never use cane syrup in a Ramos or an Intro to Aperol, for instance. Likewise, I like demerara syrup with dark spirits, but regular old white-sugar syrup (although I use fancy organic refined cane sugar stuff) for most gin-based cocktails. I'd love to stock more flavored syrups, but just don't have the room for anything except grapefruit (which I use in a *lot* of drinks) right now.
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