I’m skeptical of restaurants that specialize in one particular item, since they tend not be very good. The Meatball Shop is a notable exception. Following the well-deserved acclaim and success of their Lower East Side restaurant, Daniel Holzman (executive chef) and Michael Chernow (general manager) have expanded into two new locations: Williamsburg and the West Village. If you’ve ever been to the original Meatball Shop, you’ll know that noise and tight seating ensured having a casual conversation was nearly impossible. Fortunately, the location in the village, only two weeks old, has the same menu in a slightly more upscale setting.
Tag Archives: Date Night
Along the 9th Ave. stretch of Hell’s Kitchen, there are more Thai restaurants than you can count on both hands. For the most part they’re mediocre, catering to the Midtown office-worker craving a reliable delivery of pad thai. For the second time, my plans to eat at Totto were hampered by the long wait. Fortunately, Pure Thai Shophouse happened to be around the corner. This is David and Vanida Bank’s fourth restaurant, intended to evoke the charm of a humble shack in Thailand serving street food. The decor alone was a refreshing escape from the trend of Thai restaurants with excessively lavish furnishings. The rustic wood planks, unevenly painted walls, and plastic stools to squat on created a boldly unpretentious atmosphere. Against the backdrop of softly-playing Thai pop music, Caritas and I perused the menu.
Elegant Italian dining on a budget may seem counter-intuitive, especially at a place owned by superstar chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria is Batali’s most casual (read: cheapest) restaurant, and is intended to capture the essence of a bustling train station, rather than a highbrow dining establishment. Despite the boycott inspired by Batali’s recent blunder comparing bankers to Hitler and Stalin, Otto was filled with clumsy tourists and lively families during lunch.
Unless you’re a foodie, you can be forgiven for walking down Ludlow without noticing Kuma Inn. It’s a not-so-secret hidden gem tucked away in the second floor of what used to be a tenement house. After a walk up the steep, graffiti-laden staircase, there’s an open kitchen where Chef King Phojanakong makes Filipino food tapas-style. King was raised with Filipino and Thai influences, and was exposed to some of the worlds greatest chefs before starting at Kuma Inn. Lori and I had reservations and were taken to a corner table under a flickering lamp. The entire restaurant was dimly lit, so forgive me for the quality of the images.
I’ve been to Mooncake Foods long enough to consider myself a regular, quite a feat given my tendency to avoid going places more than once. Mooncake Foods has technically become a small chain (3 locations), but still retains a mom-and-pop vibe. The spot I frequent most is the original SoHo location. What initially attracted me was their creative menu, which can easily be described as Asian fusion. Although they didn’t intend to be considered a diner, the furniture and no-frills decor said otherwise. What Mooncake takes pride in most, and apparent from the food, is the freshness and homemade quality of their dishes.
The last time I was at Cocoron I had one of the best meals of my life, an impressive feat given the 1-hour wait I endured. This small Japanese spot on the Lower East Side serves up soba, thin noodles made from buckwheat flour. Because of this, soba—unlike it’s cousin ramen—has a reputation for being healthy and delicate in flavoring. Lacking any sign outside, Cocoron is easy to miss despite the bright orange door and manga cartoons on the window. For a long time it was a hotspot, but the hype seems to have passed on to other establishments. For most of yesterday’s dinner, Kim and I were the only people eating there.
In my first review, I noted that their banh mi was pathetic and overpriced. However, I decided to give An Choi a second chance, mainly because their pho. I came as soon as they opened with two friends and sat in the semi-outdoor table in the front (the secret garden wasn’t open).