Category: Eats

MoKo overload

Thursday, April 17th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Family

Subtitle: Food I did not eat (but wish I did).

At the risk of covering David Chang more ardently even than the staff of New York magazine (who have name-checked the award-winning chef in the magazine or on the Grub Street blog every 1-5 days since March 4 — twice on March 6, days before Ko’s online reservation system even went live), I’m putting up these last few photos of the Momofuku Ko tasting menu.

J took these photos after the Ko reservation gods smiled upon me yet again one fine Thursday morning, and we were able to get him and his wife in for dinner the week before her milestone birthday. (And yes, it was just good fortune, and not Craigslist. That, and a timely telephone conversation with SYB.)

So a few things have changed on the Ko menu since SC and I were at the restaurant two weeks earlier. For starters, Times reviewer Frank Bruni finally got in, after his well-publicized difficulties in securing one of the dozen seats. (Critic Gael Greene, too, though that’s a somewhat more complicated story. Also soopling.) It seems that the chefs are now making more of an effort to vary the menus for parties of two. At J and J’s dinner, one was served this bright pea soup with grilled crawfish tails and trumpet mushrooms, while the other had our grilled pork belly, oysters and kimchi consommé:

And instead of our wonderful seared scallop dish, J and J had deep fried soft-shell crabs — newly in season. Difficult to say which of us got the better end of things on that score. (The smoked egg with caviar, shaved foie gras and deep fried short rib crowd pleasers appear to remain unchanged.)

J and J split on dessert, too: one McDonald’s-inspired deep fried apple pie (with that luscious sour cream ice cream) and this Cereal Milk Panna Cotta, with crushed corn flakes, brittle chocolate and avocado purée, which SC and I had noticed set in front of other diners during our visit.

How many more changes need to be made to this menu before I can justify a return visit?

Catching up on Ko: three stars and a “promise of unwavering transcendence” from Bruni, a rave from Tyan Sutton of Bloomberg, Time Out‘s take and a brief moment in the spotlight, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal‘s Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.

Here’s Savory Tidbits’ Momofuku Superlative Matrix — a compilation of the critical commentary on Ko in one handy spreadsheet.

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Just Green Bo

Thursday, April 17th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

We set out this afternoon to investigate the mystery of Nice Green Bo to find the restaurant virtually unchanged from when it went by the name of New Green Bo.

The reason for the update then? After a decade in business, the owner changed the “New” to “Nice” to pay tribute to all the “nice customers” the place has hosted over the years. And in fact, it seems that the printed menus, emblazoned simply with “Green Bo Restaurant“, will be usable through any adjective changes to come.

The Department of Health is already conducting its inspections under the new official name, granting Nice Green Bo a low pass on April 4, 2008: 24 violation points, just under the 27-point threshold. Well, a pass is a pass, right?

We had the vegetables with Shanghai-style rice cakes, or nian gao — stir-fried cross sections of chewy, white, glutinous rice flour logs. Not to be confused with the Cantonese-style nin go, which is a sweet, steamed (and occasionally pan-fried), sticky, glutinous rice pudding, often served during Lunar New Year to usher in future success: “nin” for “year” and “go” for “high”.

Elsewhere on Bayard Street: Farewell, Mei Lai Wah Coffee House. My favorite roast pork bun place was eulogized by Eric Asimov of The Times after it closed for good last month.

Or did it? Stay tuned…

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Greenpoint brunching

Sunday, April 13th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

Manhattan Avenue may be Greenpoint’s main thoroughfare, but parallel Franklin Street is a better indicator of the neighborhood’s rapid gentrification with its quaint collection of eateries, coffee shops, bars, boutiques, record store, and bookstore.

Brooklyn Label opened in January 2007 on the ground floor of the historic Astral Apartments on the corner of Franklin and Java — appropriate, given how seriously the place takes its coffee. The cafe was a Time Out Reader’s Choice nominee for the “Best Brunch” Eat Out Award in 2007, earning raves for chef Cody Utzman’s brunch menu, which includes dishes like the Chile Colorado (stewed pork chili verde with soft cheesy polenta, two poached eggs, roasted pepper and toast). Despite the accolades, Brooklyn Label’s first year seems to have been rather tumultuous: disgruntled reports of rising menu prices and management issues, culminating on February 1 with Chef Utman resigning his position as founder/head chef/owner, citing “un-reconcilable [sic] differences with Financial business partners.”

This was our first visit, though, so we can’t compare the pre- and post-Utman eras. (Brooklyn Label’s new head chef is Ed Bode, formerly of Williamsburg’s Union Picnic.) I do like the laid-back feel of this place, and I will say that the dramas don’t appear to have dampened the spot’s popularity: we waited over half an hour for a table at the not-exactly-prime hour of 3PM. By that time most places in my neighborhood are winding down Sunday brunch service, but it seems that hipsters run on a later schedule.

The Huevos Rancheros — one fried corn tortilla, Spanish-style rice, homemade frijoles negros, and a true chili ranchero sauce topped with two fried eggs and garnished with authentic Mexican crema, guacamole, pico de gallo and limes. I almost didn’t finish this entire platter. Almost. (Well, I had a little help.)

And although it seemed ridiculous to stop for more food after such a brunch, we were determined to scratch off another item from our Greenpoint [To] Hit List: the Franklin Corner Store, an unassuming corner deli which was highlighted by Robert Sietsema for serving his favorite Cuban sandwich in the city. I’d always been partial to the cubanos at Sucelt in the West Village, but since it closed last Christmas Eve after 31 years in business, I had yet to find a suitable replacement. This may be it. Be warned, though: the men here approach their sandwich-making like an art. There’s just no rushing the meticulous stacking of ham, pork roast, pickles and white cheeses. Even without pressing – we were saving our sandwiches for dinner later and thought it best to do the final toasting on our own – it was a twenty minute affair. But worth every minute.

Midtown Manhattan as viewed from Greenpoint’s Commercial Street:

May 2008 marks the 17th Annual Bike Month NYC. Just in time, the NYC Department of City Planning released a new New York City Cycling Map — particularly useful (not just to bikers) for its indication of one-way street directions. Cycling maps are available for download on the Department website, or in print free of charge at the NYC Department of City Planning Bookstore (22 Reade Street), in bicycle shops, libraries and schools, and through the NYC Call Center at 311. Over a million maps will have been printed and distributed since the first edition in 1997.

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