August 9, 2011
January in a Gigantic Nutshell: Roberta's, Big Wong King, Best Pizza, Papaye, Bo Ky, The Commodore, and J.G. Melon
Ohhhh, hi there. I know it's been a while. :( I didn't mean to ignore you! But I've had a string of jam-packed weekends over the last few weeks. There was the Serious Eats Sandwich Festival one weekend, followed by moving to a new apartment the subsequent weekend (I'm in Greenwood Heights in Brooklyn now...or where Park Slope ends and Sunset Park begins...anyone else in this neighborhood?), followed by a three-day weekend trip to Virginia. And now I'm here. Phlegmier than usual, but here.
Why write about meals I've eaten recently when I could write about meals I ate eight months ago? The latter is surely much easier and relevant and sensible and no it's not I'm lying.
But I'll do it anyway because, aside from what I ate during my trip to Virginia last weekend, I haven't been eating much recently. I mean, nothing worth noting. Proof: Today I ate beef chow fun for lunch. House later, I ate the leftovers for dinner.
...Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's revisit some meals from January.
Tasting Menu at Roberta's
On a scale of one to ten, my palate's level of sophistication is around a four, while Chuck's of ChuckEats is somewhere in the 20s. So when he generously invited me to eat an unadvertised tasting menu by chef Carlo Mirarchi at Roberta's—a restaurant that debuted primarily as a pizzeria in 2008, but has since grown far beyond pizza to include gardens, a bakery, and fine dining-level fare featuring locally grown, high-quality ingredients in a most non-fine dining setting (hey, it's Bushwick)—I thought 1) Damn, the food must really really really damn good if Chuck wants to go there, and 2) My level four palate is probably not worthy and Chuck will wonder why he invited me and then we'll spend the whole night in awkward silence, aside from the sounds of our self-conscious chewing.
16 dishes (plus a pizza that wasn't part of the menu, but we asked for it) and over four hours later, nothing bad happened. Only awesomeness. Because the dinner was accompanied by awesome people (besides Chuck, Lesley and Winston). Also, I'm about five gajlllion times more comfortable in a casual setting like Roberta's than a fancypants place like Per Se (not that I have anything against Per Se). Chuck has already written a great review of our meal, so head over there for real descriptions of the dishes, as opposed to what I'm writing. (Pocketfork and Docsconz also have great posts about the tasting menu.) I'll just say what my favorites were: the glass shrimp with celery, finger lime, and poppy seed; the trofie with squab heart and liver; the Cote de Beouf with fingerlings, spigarello, and sweetbreads; and the feather-light chocolate mousse dessert.
The price was about $150 per person, pre-tax/tip/drinks. Yup, it's a special night out, but considering all the dishes you get and the quality of the ingredients, I'd say it's worth it. Since Chuck had arranged the meal (THANKS A BAGILLION, CHUCK), I can't say much on how to get it yourself, but I suppose you just contact the restaurant and tell them you're interested in Mirarchi's tasting menu.
Roast Pork at Big Wong King
Sometimes I just want a plate of meat, rice, and vegetables, quickly and cheaply. The night after eating at Roberta's, Big Wong King provided all of the above with a plate of sliced roast pork supplemented with gai lan over a massive mound of white rice. I don't remember the price, but I'd guess it was around $6.
Big Wong King
67 Mott St, New York NY 10013 (map)
White Pie at Best Pizza
- Half regular, half white. Nope, they don't serve crazy-skinny slices; I had split 'em with Greg.
Best Pizza is a pretty great name for a pizzeria...for raising potential customers' hopes and possibly crushing them with mediocre pizza. Thankfully, the pizza is good—not my favorite (not that it's called "Favorite Pizza"), but among the best (a-ha!) slices I've had. Mostly because they sprinkle the crust of their white pie—which features mozzarella, ricotta, and a smidge of caramelized onion—with sesame seeds, making that last bit of crust not some throwaway bread stick, but a bread stick infused with toasted nutty glory. GLORY.
Having said that, the last two times I went to Best Pizza I got a sandwich, partially because it was more portable than pizza and I was getting my food to go, but also because their sandwiches are awesome. Chicken parm or meatball sub—you can't go wrong with either.
- Manatees probably don't like pizza because it totally goes against their natural diet, but whatever.
The walls of Best Pizza are covered in customers' paper plate art. (I drew a manatee eating a pizza. Naturally.) Any place that encourages doodling wins extra points in my book.
Ghanaian Dinner at Papaye
- Clockwise from top left: Spinach stew with chicken, rice, and banku (fermented corn dough); grilled tilapia; fufu (plaintain/yam/cocoyam flour mashed into balls) with goat in soup; and rice and beans with goat stew and spicy black sauce.
I've had friends struggle to eat Chinese food because they suck at holding chopsticks. I think I mildly felt their pain when I tried Ghanaian food at Papaye because I suck with the Ghanaian utensil-of-choice: your hand. Your right hand, to be more specific. How can you suck at eating with your hand? When the food your eating isn't the obviously hand-friendly stuff you're used to—like spinach "stew" (it's not that liquidy, not that it's quite solid either), whole grilled tilapia, rice and beans with goat stew, or mochi-like mashed yam covered in soup with tender chunks of goat.
My equally un-Ghanaian friends—Noah, Tom, and John—and I probably could've asked for utensils, but then we would've been the only ones in the restaurants unable to use the utensils nature gave us. Failure would engulf us and haunt our every bite. So no—no! We refused to be noobs. We would use our hands! And look dumb because we were probably using them wrong! BUT AT LEAST WE TRIED, OK.
Having said all that, I enjoyed the food, although by this point I can't remember enough to describe it in much detail (you can read more about Ghanaian cuisine on Wikipedia...yeah I'm taking the easy way out). The grilled fish and the goat in the soup-with-mashed-yam were my favorites. I probably would've enjoyed the meal more if I had used a fork (ignoring the part where I'd feel like a failure), but on the upside, eating with my hand greatly slowed down my regular rate of eating (which is basically "inhaling").
Fried Shrimp Rolls and Noodles at Bo Ky
I've eaten at Bo Ky on Grand Street a few times (the original location is on Bayard Street), but my favorite dishes so far have been Kathy's recommendations for the shrimp roll ($6.75)—nubs of shrimp paste wrapped in bean curd sheets then deep fried, resulting in golden nuggets with a light, crisp shell—and the Teochew sate flat noodles ($6.50), noodles topped with a thick peanut sauce, slices of pork, slivers of raw onion, and mung bean sprouts, with soup on the side. Each one could be a meal by itself. Diana and I each got our own noodle dish and shared the shrimp rolls.
82 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013 (map)
Burgers and Fried Chicken at The Commodore
The Commodore's burger ($7) and fried chicken ($11) were so awesome that I'd consider going back even though that means eating in a barely lit bar thick with hipsters*. (To be fair, there are two rooms of which only one fits the barely-lit-bar description, but the other one with booth seating and overhead lighting was full of people who didn't look like they were going to leave, ever. If I had snagged one of those few booths, I guess I wouldn't have wanted to leave either.) I've already reviewed the burger on A Hamburger Today, but to summarize: It reminded me of a Shack Burger with more toppings—like a really good, perfectly balanced fast food-style burger. And that's my favorite style.
They're more famous for their fried chicken: tender and juicy on the inside with a thick, but not tough, crunchy, craggly crust on the outside oozing with the sort of brain numbingly fragrant chicken fat essence best achieved by dunkage in a vat of hot oil. Raphael also gave the chicken the thumbs up, and seeing as he's much more discerning than I am, I'm somewhat confident in my opinion, as opposed to most times when I'm sub-somewhat confident.
* Not that I have anything against hipsters—I'm pretty sure I'd be annoyed by a thick crowd of any people in a bar. I'm all about distributing my feelings of annoyance equally.
366 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map)
Burgers at J.G. Melon
J.G. Melon was one of those places on my list of "Famous New York City Restaurants I Should've Eaten At By Now But Haven't Because I'm In That Mindset of, 'I Live Here, I Can Eat There Whenever! But Probably Later,' Which Means I Haven't Done It Yet." You know that list? Yeah.
But with the help of new-to-NYC food writer Yasmin, we ate there! And even though it's on the Upper East Side, aka "where I go almost never," I'd totally go back. And if I didn't have friends who lived in the Upper East Side, it'd be the only reason I'd go back. So I can eat another juicy, medium rare cheeseburger ($9.25) of lightly packed beef topped simply with pickles and thin slices of raw onions, with little chubby fried potato coins on the side ($4.75), in an old school bar covered in watermelon-themed art.
For more info, read Nick Solares' review on A Hamburger Today. It's spot-on, although the service we received was quite friendly, not gruff.
1291 Third Avenue, New York NY 10021 (map)
Posted by roboppy at 3:04 AM
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