Regional (in brief)
Every time I walk to the gym, I stroll past Regional and assess that the restaurant space itself looks cozy and the menu looks decent. I then stop to puzzle why it always seems to be empty.
Well, I haven’t solved the mystery (yet), but I can now say that I’ve eaten there, and it was a solid meal, albeit an unremarkable one. Here’s what we got:
Arugala salad: This was a mix of super ripe tomatos surrounding a heaping pile of arugala, liberally (but not too liberally) doused with balsamic vinaigrette. Salty and delicious.
Marinated eggplant & squash in tomato sauce: There was nothing crazy or earth-shattering about this dish, but it was really good nonetheless. Slightly sweet and the eggplant was perfectly cooked.
Wide noodles in rabbit stew: Meaty and not overwrought. Could have used more spice, but all in all, was very respectable for a $15 dish with rabbit and fresh pasta. I’d have it again.

Regional (in brief)

Every time I walk to the gym, I stroll past Regional and assess that the restaurant space itself looks cozy and the menu looks decent. I then stop to puzzle why it always seems to be empty.

Well, I haven’t solved the mystery (yet), but I can now say that I’ve eaten there, and it was a solid meal, albeit an unremarkable one. Here’s what we got:

Arugala salad: This was a mix of super ripe tomatos surrounding a heaping pile of arugala, liberally (but not too liberally) doused with balsamic vinaigrette. Salty and delicious.

Marinated eggplant & squash in tomato sauce: There was nothing crazy or earth-shattering about this dish, but it was really good nonetheless. Slightly sweet and the eggplant was perfectly cooked.

Wide noodles in rabbit stew: Meaty and not overwrought. Could have used more spice, but all in all, was very respectable for a $15 dish with rabbit and fresh pasta. I’d have it again.

Land (in brief)

You know, I never really got into Thai food. It’s not that I don’t like it, or that I never had access to it - it’s just never my choice. That’s probably why I hadn’t been to Land on the Upper West Side yet. The mood hadn’t struck.

But then my favorite Texan dropped in for a visit and said she was craving Thai. So we went - and you know what? It was pretty damn delicious. We got the wok vegetable medley with tofu and the green curry with chicken. The medley was good, but the curry was the (clear) standout. We asked for medium spicy and I still don’t understand how they did this, but when I put it in my mouth the spice hit, and then all of a sudden the aftertaste was smooth - the spiciness fading away as if it was erased. Unreal. I basically lapped up the sauce from the bowl.

Boqueria Flatiron (in brief)

It seems like ages since I posted my last restaurant review. Probably because it has been. Lame, I know. But here’s to getting back in the game with a brief on Boqueria Flatiron, a small but inviting space that feels very warm - in fact, a little too warm for my AC-minded taste - though the food, at times, makes up for it. Here’s what I got:

Croquetas Cremosas:  Creamy croquettes; three each of mushroom and Serrano ham. The ham ones were decent; the mushroom ones hit it out of the park. Have to give a lot of the credit to the rich mayo sauce they were served with…delicious.

Buñuelos de Bacalao: Salt-cod and potato fritters, with citrus allioli. Wanted them to be good, but that wasn’t enough. The salt was overwhelming and the texture was very one-note. We didn’t finish these.

Txipirones: Some baby squid a la plancha mixed with frisée, romesco vinaigrette, tomato confit, crispy scallions. The squid was delicious - and I enjoyed the overall dish, though the amount of dressing was a little aggressive.

Sausage: One of the specials was pork sausage served over white beans. You know, I usually love dishes like this, but this particular one fell flat. It was far too bland, and was the least spiced version of pork I’ve had in a long while.

Westville Chelsea (in brief)

I’ve been meaning to drop by one of Westville’s three locations and after an impromptu trip there with LG there for Saturday brunch, I can now say I (finally) understand why people fawn over it.

The masterminds behind Westville market it as a restaurant that lets the food speak for itself - using fresh, high quality ingredients in simple tasty ways. I’d say that’s accurate. I got a veggie burger that kicked ass - I’m giving it a solid 8 out of 10 (apparently the New York Times agrees). LG got a chicken gyro that was equally as delicious. And the prices (for New York) are super reasonable.

So, you should probably go there sometime soon. Try to spot me. I’ll probably be in the corner, curled up with several plates in front of me, dead set on becoming a regular.

Social Eatz (in review)

Let’s start with the obvious. Social Eatz looks like a dump from the outside. It’s located on a particularly uninteresting side street in east midtown. The brown-orange-yellow sign hangs off-kilter out front. The outer walls are made out of cement.

I’ve walked by it many times and am a huge fan of Angelo Sosa, the chef, owner and previous Top Chef contestant, but the place’s appearance has kept me at bay for awhile. Well, that, and an unsuccessful attempt to go during work hours a few months back. Typical.

But I finally decided to take the plunge with QA and AP last week, and am happy I did. The outer eyesore gave way to a cozy, casual restaurant boasting somewhat abstract art and a fun Asian-inspired menu. As per usual with this eating crew, we ordered a bunch of dishes for the table and pounced on each as soon as they hit the table. Here’s the rundown of what we got:

BBQ Mushroom Buns: Mushrooms and shallots wrapped in soft, pillowy buns. Delicious. We devoured these. 

Spring Chicken w/ Coriander Yogurt: Okay dish - the chicken was nothing to write home about, but the coriander yogurt dip was pretty tasty. And by pretty tasty, I mean we may have scraped every drop off the plate.

Korean Fried Chicken w/ Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce: Good, solid fried chicken. Moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, seasoned well. I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese, but I didn’t hate the sauce.

Bibimbop Burger: If you go to Social Eatz and don’t order this, you have made a huge mistake. Make way for a juicy, fatty, succulent burger topped with pickled veggies and a slow cooked egg. This is the kind of thing heart attacks are made of. And I am fully endorsing it anyway.

Malaysian Coconut Rice Pilaf: Not a standout, but a nice palette cleanser between all of the other heavy-handed dishes.

Strawberry Short Cake Jar: Pretty good. The jar presentation made it even better - I have a weakness for mason jars.

Chocolate Cake: This was a little over-the-top chocolatey for my taste, but QA and AP made this do a vanishing act within minutes, so I assume this is a hit for true dessert lovers.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta: This was topped with what we thought was blueberries - but when we started eating them, they were hard, so we assumed they were unripe (I may have spit mine into my napkin). Then we asked the waitress and she told us some of them were tapioca pearls. Couldn’t you have told us that before? On the upside, I never have really understood panna cotta - and this made me finally understand. It was light and sweet, a perfect end to the meal - minus the whole spitting out thing of course.

Agave (in review)

Where do I start? I’d love to start with the food, or the reason I stumbled in to Agave on that Saturday night, but where I need to begin is with the lighting. More specifically, the lighting directly above me at dinner. You see, I was having trouble making out the words on the menu, and looked up to find that the overhead light had been ripped out of the ceiling, leaving a gaping hole above my head. Horrifying.

So admittedly, it was hard to get past that. But I’ll go through the food anyway, because it wasn’t half bad:

Hand Hacked Hass Avocado Guacamole: This was as good of guacamole as I’ve had in a restaurant. Fresh and chunky, it quickly disappeared off our table.

Corn Crusted Calamari Cracklins: Man, I’ve been having some good calamari lately. This kept with the trend. Nothing earth-shattering, but then again, it’s a dish not meant to shatter any expectations. The chipotle sauce served with it was delicious.

Chile-Bronzed Salmon Salad: I’ve never been more confused when a plate has been dropped in front of me. The dish had two large pieces of salmon and lots of red & yellow tomatos - there was no lettuce. It in no way resembled a salad. So while this was decent, I very much felt like I didn’t get what I ordered.

Tertulia (in review)

Let’s be straight. Tertulia has gotten a lot of hype since opening last fall (you can refer to some of that hype here and here). So with all that good press, it wasn’t surprising JR and I quickly settled on eating there for her visit. It was really a no-brainer.

We got there early on a Sunday, around 6 pm, and still were both somewhat shocked to get a table right away. Oh, the things that shock you after dealing with the New York restaurant scene for awhile. Anyways, Tertulia has the whole, nice-but-casual atmosphere going for it, with brick walls and somewhat muted colors. We sat towards the back, which features a semi-open kitchen with a huge blackboard hanging up with the specials and wines - this gave it almost a market feel, though I can’t pin down exactly why.

Hungry, as always, but indecisive (also an always-thing) we ordered our food in waves. Here’s the rundown of what we got:

Pan Con Tomate: Toasted bread rubbed with tomato. There’s no reason with that description this should have been as good as it was. Seriously delicious.

Ensalada de Remolachas: Beet salad, cañarejal cheese, grapefruit, mustard greens and pistachio. Full disclosure, this was not the best beet salad I’ve ever had, but I’ve had A LOT of beet salads. I thought the cheese and pistachios gave it a nice twist, though JR did not share my feelings about the cheese. More for me.

Coles de Bruselas: Smoky, meaty, crispy, and yet somehow light, with brussels sprouts and pork belly. Tertulia chef, tell me your secrets. I want to make these at home.

Chipirones Rellenas: The menu says this is baby squid stuffed with black rice, Merguez sausage and roasted peppers. My mouth said it was risotto. Warm and rich, with the faint taste of squid, this was another favorite.

Mussels Special: Mussels, with a fennel jam, on toast. JR and I had actually decided on the clam special, until our waiter told us they were out of it - so we went with these. I liked the flavors of the dish, though the mussels were a little gritty texture-wise.

Orrija Caramelizada:  Caramelized “Spanish toast” and hazelnut ice cream. Not what we expected, but decent. Huge portion, burnt on the outside. Tasted like French toast. I love the taste of burnt French toast, so I ate the outside, and JR focused on the softer inside. We’re a pretty great eating team. Didn’t completely finish the toast, but the hazelnut ice cream disappeared quickly despite our full bellies. One of the many reasons we decided to walk most of the way home.

The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.
Marilyn Hagerty, from her very real review of the Olive Garden in the Grand Forks Herald (via richardschang)

Blossom (in review)

Nestled on 9th, between 21st and 22nd, a quaint row house turned upscale vegetarian restaurant “Blossom" sits pretty - complete with a front door that I had to lean heavily into to gain entry.

The first floor of this veggie-friendly haven is nice enough, but you get the full effect when walking up the old, creaky wooden stairs to an equally cozy second floor. At prime time on a weekday night, it was charmingly quiet, minus the lady next to us slurping up the soup of the day - a spicy lentil (I could hardly fault her bad manners; it smelled unbelievable).

After seriously considering the soup, I settled on the Wild Mushroom Tart with a beet puree and figs. The mushrooms were cupped in a light, fried potato shell shaped like a bowl. Each bite had a warm, earthy flavor with just enough crunch, and a fruity finish from the sweet red-purple components on the plate.

It was a dish good enough to rival the vegetarian fare at David Bann in Edinburgh, which is high praise in my book. I’ll be back.

Perilla (I’ll be dreaming about those pickles…)

Admittedly, I’m a little late wrapping up my restaurant week adventures, but I was disappointed in my last stop at Perilla, and I didn’t want to be. 

Perilla is Harold Dieterle’s first restaurant in the west village. As a long time Top Chef fan, I’ve been wanting to go to Perilla since Harold opened it up in 2007…even though I’ve heard better things about his second restaurant, Kin Shop.

Anyways, the place is cute - romantic, with intimate lighting and a warm feel. RP and I were starving while waiting for SA, so we ordered a small plate off the regular menu to start - the beer-battered pickles with lemon aioli. The pickles were lightly fried, but still moist when broken open, and the sweet-ish aioli balanced the saltiness of the dish perfectly. Off of this plate, RP and I were convinced we were about to have an epic meal.

Unfortunately, little did we know we were about to have a very typical restaurant week dinner. You know the ones I’m talking about, where you can tell the regular menu food is good, but the RW food is dumbed down, or cheaper, or completely unbalanced.

Once SA arrived, and we ordered, I started out with the mussels in a cream sauce with ham. It was perfectly fine, but nothing too memorable. I followed with homemade tagliatelle with tofu and vegetables in a butter-based sauce. The pasta was beautiful, but the dish overall felt heavy and one-note. Not a winner in the slightest.

For the dessert we all got the house sorbet tasting  (boring, I know). But there was this apple cinnamon one that actually tasted like cake. It was pretty amazing. Out of the other two sorbets, one was forgettable, and the other was terrible. So terrible we all made faces when tasting it.

Conclusion: I’d go back to Perilla for drinks and small plates (after all, I HAVE to have those pickles again), but not for dinner. 

The Water Club (is restaurant week supposed to taste this good?)

My first restaurant week dinner was last week at The Water Club. I had heard it was pretty, but I didn’t have super high expectations. Therefore, I ended up being a little blown away. The restaurant is beautiful, and the view is the icing on the cake (okay, I think I just vomited reading that cliche, but it was). Pretty sure it’s the most romantic place I’ve ever ate at - so much so, that as soon as I walked in, I immediately wished I was I wasn’t with work friends.

Beyond that, the food was among of the best restaurant week food I’ve had. On par with David Burke Fishtail and Boston’s Sibling Rivalry. I started with the maple glazed shrimp with squash ravioli, which was slightly sweet, in a good way. For my main dish, I had the caramelized sea scallops with grilled cauliflower, capers and clementines. Think this came with some sort of pea puree too. Whatever it was, it was delicious.

The dessert was kind of heavy, but that’s what I expected out of something called a chocolate & hazelnut swiss roll.

Sprig (I wanted it to be good…)

Headed to Sprig in east midtown with MM on a Groupon whim. I’m just going to cut to the chase - it was disappointing. The funny thing is if we just got entrees, I probably would have thought it was decent, but we got to sample a good deal of the menu with the Groupon. Here’s the run down…

Crostini: We had the a mix of three - Asparagus, Pecorino & Truffle Oil, Fresh Goat Cheese & Sweet Onion and Zucchini Pesto with Truffle. Nothing was particularly memorable, except for the asparagus one, which literally had halved pieces of asparagus on it. Let’s just say it was super awkward to eat.

Tasting Dishes: For this course, we got the California Burrata and the Mushroom Carpaccio. The carpaccio was pretty terrible - one of the blander things I’ve had land on my table in a while. The burrata was good quality, but the rest of the plate/portion size made no sense - it was gigantic.

Entrees: Here’s where the meal got better - Pan Roasted Wild Salmon with Tuscan White Beans, Sage, Pancetta Spinach & Cherry Tomatoes and Roasted Halibut with Leeks, Carrots, Celery Root, Pearl Onion & light Tomato Broth. Both needed more spice, but were good. Not worth their regular $28 price tags though…

I’d recommend skipping this one.

Ward III (in brief)

I don’t usually eat at the bar as a rule - a rule that I haven’t broken except for a few times at random overcrowded sushi spots, teeming with lines that boast a 45-minute wait. But for Ward III, the bar seemed like the place to be - so when Q and I met there, we settled in on a couple of stools with no regrets for the comfier tables in back.

I had heard pretty good things about the food so we ordered the smoked gouda and caramelized onion quesadilla and the BLAT (their version of a BLT). Unfortunately, all of it tasted a little off to me - the quesadilla desperately needed tomatoes or a tomato-based sauce to round it out, and the BLAT was overwhelming in size and nothing to write home about.

But, after all, the place is known for their cocktails, and I sipped very happily on the Tortuga all night (Pampero Ron Añejo rum, ginger, muddled lemon, lime, orange, cinnamon, topped with candied ginger; served in a rocks glass over ice). It was delicious, and more than that, the bartender was friendly and the kind that conveniently starts conversations with you while your friend is in the bathroom so you don’t have to awkwardly bury yourself into your phone. Not that I ever do that.

Rocking Horse Cafe (eh, I’ve had better)

Are there great, semi-affordable restaurants in Chelsea? I feel like I keep striking out…first Momoya (not worth the money), then Soccarat (the paella was just okay) and now Rocking Horse Cafe

Pegged as an upscale, modern Mexican joint, the one thing I will give this place is it draws a cool crowd. Lots of 20/30 somethings in thick-rimmed glasses and plaid, knocking back a few margaritas on a Sunday night. What I won’t give it is two thumbs up. Sure, the guacamole was decent, but the main courses were a little puzzling. I ordered a veggie burrito and it was basically two full wraps, cut in half, standing up on a plate. It didn’t really taste like a burrito, and the proportions were astronomical. I only ate one half, and I’m known for finishing my plate. My sister, JB, ordered fish (I’m completely blanking on which type and it appears they have now pulled this dish from their menu) with garlic mashed potatoes. It was an okay dish in conception, but the fish was slightly overcooked, and though the mashed potatoes were delicious, that wasn’t enough to save the overall meal.

Shockingly, we then got dessert. Not so shockingly, it wasn’t memorable except for a battle royale over what flavor each sorbet was. That happened.