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  1. Sintra is unbelievably beautiful... you're going to have a wonderful time. My two best recommendations in the vicinity: along the estrada de Guincho, just a bit south of Guincho itself, is a place that serves what was one of my very favorite dishes in Portugal when I lived there. From an old post of mine: Mestre Zé is an upscale (but worth it) restaurant specializing in seafood. Order the cataplana de marisco, the most delicious version of this dish I have ever tasted. The dish is named after the vessel it is cooked in....a cataplana is a pan made from copper, shaped more or less like two woks hinged together. One of the "wok" sections folds over on top of the other, like a dome-shaped lid, so that it can then be fastened and put in the oven. To call Mestre Zé's cataplana de marisco a "seafood stew" would not in any way suggest its magnificence, but that's the general idea. Lobster, squid, shrimp all cooked perfectly in a sauce of tomato and onions (and one couldn't possibly leave chouriço out of such a mix!) and cream. It is one of the top 5 dishes I ever tasted in Portugal. The other is a restaurant I've been thinking about a lot lately since I'm going to Portugal in 3 weeks for the first time in several years, and this is one of the first places I intend to visit. Also from a very old post of mine here: Ginginha Transmontana (Rua de Alvide, 366, near the Largo das Fontainhas. It's a tiny place, so it's best to call ahead and reserve--214 832 655). The décor is best described as "funky", but the food is great. When you sit down, they will automatically bring you their house white wine and the house appetizer, mussels that have been steamed with white wine, onions, garlic, chouriço, and bacon. Accept them. They specialize in meats and seafood "grelhado na telha", or grilled on a roofing tile. They set up a piece of terra cotta roofing tile on a salver on which to grill filet mignon the size of a softball, lobster, squid, shrimp, fish, etc. over flaming aguardiente (brandy). When it is brought to the table, garlic butter is liberally applied, and, in the case of seafood, lemon, to douse the flames. They also do a killer chanfana (kid goat stewed with red wine, onions, chouriço). Closed Sundays. Most of my favorites in the Lisbon/Cascais/Sintra are mentioned in an old post of mine here. If you decide to check any of them out, do a little research on the internet (or ask around) before going, but I think most of the info is still valid.
  2. Pendones is NOT ugly... K was just cranky because she had a hangover... um... every time she's been there... It is called Casa Isabel now (it used to be called Casa Juanín, who is, I believe, her father, even though Isabel has always done all the cooking, at least since I've been going there) and I believe the phone number is correct. It's actually a bit more than an hour from Oviedo, south on AS-17, 5 or 6 kilometers past Campo de Caso (Pendones isn't even on a lot of maps). I tried to keep this a secret for years, to impart to only the truly worthy. But since there is now a detailed listing for it in the latest edition of the Guía Azul for Asturias, I guess word can safely be considered to be "out". Easily my favorite restaurant in Spain.
  3. Toledo is certainly a delightful city to lose ones self in for several hours, or several days! I must admit I don't think I had a proper sit-down meal there (I was only there a day and a half), but the it's a wonderful town for tapas. Do NOT miss the carcamusas, a thick stew of pork in a spicy tomato sauce. Most people seem to agree that the best carcamusas in town is at Bar Ludeña (Plaza de la Magdalena, 10). I think I ordered it in no less than 3 places I liked it so much, and it was pretty great every time. And at Ludeña you can also get a pincho de tortilla española con salsa de carcamusas (that may just very well be one definition of heaven...). And for something like a tapas crawl, where one is presented with so many choices that all look more or less appealing, a little guidance is very helpful. In this department, I cannot recommend highly enough picking up copies of Guía Azul for the regions you're going to visit once you hit the ground. They are guide books in Spanish (but the Spanish is fairly easy to decipher most of the time, even if you're not fluent) for Spaniards that like to eat. Lots of good info on hotels in all price ranges, too--in fact, a generally good source of practical information.
  4. Accidental double-post (f*cking dial-up connection....) and I can't figure out how to delete it altogether.
  5. It turns out I was being overly optimistic up-thread: I never made it to Floridita Tapas until this evening. I met two friends from the neighborhood there, each in their way as picky about food as I am, which makes it all the more incredible that this place was, by unanimous consensus, a smashing success. My friends got sangría, which they pronounced quite good, and I got a bottle of Rioja from their rather meagre selection of Riojas (at least on the lower end of the price spectrum, where there are plenty of possible offerings they could stock), and between us we ordered 11 tapas dishes. Among these 11 were no duds, which is already remarkable. Even more remarkable is that this is the only Spanish food I've had in New York that tastes remotely like food in Spain. But I should add that after a lot of disappointments, I gave up trying places several years ago, so there could others on which I'm not current. In no particular order, we tried: Pollo villeroy, and the shrimp version of same--perfectly done and delicious. There is a picture of the chicken version in Daniel's post above. Beef empanadas (actually, they are empanadillas)--good, crispy, fried turnovers filled with seasoned ground beef sauteed with onions and chopped olives. Buñuelos de bacalao--fried cod puffs. Nice, light, tasty little balls of deep-fried goodness. Pimientos de piquillo rellenos de bacalao--excellent rendition of the small, sweet red peppers stuffed with a mixture of codfish and potato. Chorizos sauteed with onion--undistinguished by Spanish standards, but stellar by New York City standards. Picture in Daniel's post above. Pinchos morunos--the "pork on a stick" referred to (and photographed) by Daniel above. Ours, luckily was not the least bit dry, and quite tasty. Patatas bravas and alioli--both quite good (the patatas bravas are pictured next to the "pork on a stick" above, in a pleasant but not overpowering, spicy sauce). I especially liked the alioli potatoes, no doubt because of a) the garlic, and b) the significantly higher fat content! Albóndigas--a small casserole of meatballs in a sherry sauce. Quite decent, if not spectacular... I liked the sauce better than the meatballs themselves. Pulpo a la gallega--no pulpeiros need fear for their jobs, but it's among the better octopus dishes you're likely to find around these parts. Boquerones a la vinagreta--white anchovies in a wonderfully fresh vinaigrette sauce that could have used a touch more olive oil. But that's quibbling--these were delicious. To my mind, the big winners were the villeroys and the boquerones, but my companions were also crazy about the patatas bravas, chorizos and pinchos morunos. All in all, a very satisfying feast. We spent, relatively, quite a bit of money but no one comped us any after-dinner anything... Still, we'll definitely be going back.
  6. I'll second the Pio Pio recommendation. Haven't been there yet myself, but several knowledgeable and discriminating friends say it kicks ass.
  7. Sadly, Girassol closed a year or two ago--I found out when I tried to go one evening and it was closed for business, but full of guys gutting and remodeling the place (into something obviously quite different). It if has re-opened elsewhere, I haven't heard about it (I don't think it has). Plataforma has gotten so expensive I simply cannot bring myself to go there any more. Of the Newark places, Seabra's has the consistently best quality, I've found. But the big Brasilia location on Madison is a real party--much more fun, if you're in the mood, and practically as good. The rodizio with the highest quality grilled meats that I know of in the area these days is Churrasqueira Bairrada in Mineola. It's a Portuguese, as opposed to Brazilian, restaurant, and the variety of meats is somewhat limited compared to a place like Plataforma, but what they do, they do very well... these people really understand grilled meat on a deep level. All of their meat offerings are top notch, and the picanha is the best I've had anywhere. It's super-popular and they don't take reservations so there's almost always a wait for a table, but it's worth the trouble.
  8. This all pleasantly surprising news. I live a five-minute walk from there and will definitely be trying it sometime in the coming week, obsessed with Spanish food as I am. I have been to the regular Floridita restaurant there a couple of times, which is a serviceable but absolutely undistinguished Dominican/Cuban joint, so I never dreamed a tapas place sharing the same name could be worth checking out. Thanks, Daniel! (They don't, by any chance, have orujo, do they?)
  9. Also been to Cafe con Leche a couple of times with no plans to go back. Most unforgivable of all, their cafe con leche SUCKS! If one is on the Upper West Side (depending on how one defines the neighborhood) and has to have Cuban-type food, Havana Central (Broadway at 114th St.) is not half bad. Had an excellent cubano sandwich there a few months ago. I'm still mourning the demise of La Rosita.
  10. Ha... I always thought of them as "buttery". They always tasted to me like they were fried in a good amount of butter--nice and crispy around the edges.
  11. Based on banquo's post above, I went looking for Yangpyung Seoul Haejangguk this evening--a nice hearty, spicy stew was exactly what I was craving. I couldn't find it. A little internet searching upon my return home turned up the information that it has indeed closed and is now a, by most reports, mediocre Korean-Chinese joint called Beijing. So instead I settled for for jjajangmyun and fried mandoo at Hyo Dang Gak, another Korean-Chinese restaurant, except this one is excellent. I must say it's nice not to have to go to a far-flung Queens neighborhood to enjoy jjajangmyun with hand-pulled noodles and a first rate sauce served on the side. Not exactly what I was craving, but a very good meal, as have all meals been that I've had there.
  12. I second Pan's opinion of the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. Teresa's used to have the best cheese blintzes of any of the East Village eastern European joints (I think at one point I had tried 'em all). Here's hoping they live on at the Brooklyn Heights location! I hadn't been to Teresa's for several years, mostly because at some point I decided that, if I was going to make the trek all the way down to the East Village, I preferred the food at Christine's: great soups, especially the white borscht, and a kick-ass chicken cutlet that you can hear them pounding by hand in the kitchen minutes after oredering it. (I still miss Leshko's, too.)
  13. Well, banquo, it sounds as if we must have been there at the same time last night! Which reminds me of the one other tiny issue I have with SG, which is that it closes a bit early. Most nights they close at 10, but at SG that means they close the door and stop seating people at 9:30. I often eat on the late side after a long day, and I dislike the feeling that I'm preventing the kitchen and wait staff from going home. I have some friends (friends that know what they're talking about) that rave about Little Pepper. Gotta get there soon. I also need to get back Szechuan Gourmet soon--they have posted on the wall what appears to be a seasonal special that sounds too tantalizing to leave untried any longer: braised goat meat casserole. Michael said it was very good (AFTER I had ordered last night...) and he now has my complete trust in that department! Edited to add: Not half an hour after posting the above, some friends decided they wanted to go there tonight. Who was I to refuse? This gave me the opportunity the braised goat casserole. While delicious, this dish is certainly not for everyone. Essentially chunks of goat (with bone) braised with root vegetables in a mildly spicy broth. Lovely flavors, and the general consensus of the table was that it was a hit. Still, some may have problems with the texture of the meat. Some of the goat chunks were somewhat... "rubbery" is too strong a word... perhaps "resilient" is a better choice. While not exactly off-putting, I'm afraid I shall always prefer my goat roasted. By unanimous table-consensus, the big winner of the evening was the Braised Whole Bass with Spicy Hot Chili and Scallion. The scrupulously fresh fish was perfectly cooked, and bathed in the most delightful sauce of red chilis, garlic, ginger and scallion, with some pickled red chili peppers for garnish. The dish is spicy, but not as over-the-top as it sounds, or even looks when it arrives. It's sensational--in a completely different way as good or better than the stir-fried chicken with roasted chili and green chili. These were accompanied by the most expertly prepared pea shoots with garlic I've ever had. In other news, this evening's winner in the "newly-sampled appetizer" category was Szechuan Pork Dumpling with Roasted Chili Soy.
  14. At the risk of inviting ridicule for answering my own post, I feel compelled to report on another excellent meal here this evening. Since I was solo this time (New York is much less fun these days since, in the space of a couple of years, almost all of my close friends have either moved away or become socially unavailable for various reasons), I was only able to try two new dishes. Fortunately, I had the good sense to let Michael, the manager mentioned in the above post, choose for me. He chose well. The starter was sliced pork belly with chili-garlic sauce. Comparison with GSI@50th's version is inevitable, especially since I ordered it there so often that the waiter would usually ask me if I wanted it as I was sitting down (and tonight it was Michael's idea, not mine!). It's quite interesting to me that the two versions, although composed of the same ingredients, were totally different in their final effect. GSI used to slice the pork belly very thinly, carefully arrange it in one layer on the plate and dress it with an almost jam-like sauce of pureed garlic, chilis, and soy sauce. SG's approach is much more robust: thick slices of pork belly piled high, with a coarser sauce made with obviously hand-minced garlic between every layer. The whole character is infinitely more "rustic", and, I think, finally more successful. My entree was a chicken dish that I truthfully would never have ordered if Michael hadn't suggested it--in part, because it is not listed on the menu in quite the same version as I was given. Alas, SG does not do the "freshly-killed" chicken dishes that GSI did, but that is the only quibble I could possibly have with this place so far. Notwithstanding, this was the most spectacular chicken dish I've had in ages. It's something of a cross between what is sometimes offered as "dry-sauteed" chicken and Chong Qing chicken, but with an extra dimension or two of flavor. Chunks of boneless chicken--which makes it quite a bit simpler to eat than Chong Qing chicken--sauteed with a lot of dried red chili peppers, chunks of garlic, ginger, scallion, chopped spicy green peppers, and a liberal dose of Szechuan peppercorn. This description feels inadequate somehow... all I can say is the dish is more than the just the sum of its parts. It was utterly delicious, and it somehow got better as I continued to eat it. If you want to try it though, you'll need to ask for the No. 48 Stir Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili, but cross-reference it with L27 on the lunch menu, Stir Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili and Green Chili. Those green chilis make a real difference. I'll probably continue to add reports of newly-tried dishes until it no longer amuses me, but this place is every bit as, if not more, worthy of discussion in these parts as Grand Sichuan.
  15. Since the untimely demise of the 9th Ave./51st St. Grand Sichuan, there has been a void in my restaurant repertoire. The Grand Sichuan at 24th St. is okay, but given the ridiculous crowds, and service that ranges from haphazard to downright surly, it's not really viable as a regular haunt. The one on St. Marks was looking promising for a while, but a couple of totally lackluster meals recently put the idea of trekking down to such an inconvenient (from Columbia U. area at least) and irritating neighborhood (give me back the East Village of 20 years ago, please!) firmly into the "not worth the trouble" category. A friend happened to walk by Szechuan Gourmet a couple of weeks ago and mentioned it to me, saying "it looked right". And after two dinners there in three days, I can state unequivocally that his instinct was correct. So far, every dish I have ordered there has been at least as good as, or, more often, better than, the versions at the 9th/51st GSI. I look forward to eating my way through the rest of Szechuan Gourmet's menu as soon as possible! The very first dish I ordered here was one of my favorites at GSI (before they took it off the menu a year or so before they closed), the diced rabbit with peanuts in spicy sauce cold appetizer. SG's is simply sensational. Their sliced beef tendon/roasted chili vinaigrette is also excellent, as is the cold hand-sliced chicken in chil-sesame sauce (Wu Liang Ye on W. 48 St. still takes the prize for their version of this dish). SG.s Ma Po Tofu is the best I've had anywhere. So is, interestingly, their Young Chow Fried Rice. The bits of cured pork included in SG's version put it in a category all its own. The "shredded beef with spicy Asian green chili leeks" was interesting and delicious--I've never had a dish quite like it before. And one of our party this evening wanted something not particularly fiery and more in line with her idea of "comfort food", so ordered General Tso's chicken. Let me tell you, if you have to have something like this, this is the way it should be prepared. Just the right amount of light battering, perfectly fried, in a sauce that had actual subtlety. I went in for just a taste, and found myself sneaking another, then another... it was, in fact, the biggest surprise of the meal. I have to say I'm a little surprised this place doesn't get talked about more. jogoode mentioned it in a thread about GSI a while back, but I wasn't able to find any other mention of it here on eGullet. Granted, its neighborhood is not exactly a "dining destination"--W. 39th, between 5th and 6th Aves. And this evening, I was pleased to renew an old acquaintance: the manager used to be one of the managers at the W. 48th St. Wu Liang Ye, although I hadn't seen him there in at least a couple of years. He told us that in the intervening time he did something stupid: "Went to Florida to open a Chinese restaurant. But everyone down there only wanted to order sweet and sour pork!" Szechuan Gourmet 21 W. 39th St. (bet. 5th & 6th Aves.) 212-921-0233 (There's a copy of their menu here: Menu Pages - Szechuan Gourmet)
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