The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

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

Glass Shrimp Black Sea Bass Foie Trofie Squab Cote de Beouf sausage, tomato, parmigiano pizza Pannacotta
About half of the dishes. Click on each photo for more info.

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.

261 Moore Street, Brooklyn NY 11206 (map)

Roast Pork at Big Wong King

pork and veg
Pork n rice. Aw yeah.

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 cheese, half white
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.

I drew a manatee
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.

Best Pizza
33 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map)

Ghanaian Dinner at Papaye

spinach stew tilapia waakye fufu
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").

2300 Grand Concourse, Bronx NY 10458 (map)

Fried Shrimp Rolls and Noodles at Bo Ky

Forgot the name of this Teo Chew Sate Flat Noodle
Fried nubs and noodles. Aw yes.

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.

Bo Ky
82 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013 (map)

Burgers and Fried Chicken at The Commodore

cheeseburger menu bar

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.

fried chicken is goooood

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.

The Commodore
366 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map)

Burgers at J.G. Melon

Cheeseburger Cheeseburger Fried potato chip things Interoir
JG Melon's burger.

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.

J.G. Melon
1291 Third Avenue, New York NY 10021 (map)


Lizzi / August 9, 2011 4:48 AM

You know what would make my life near complete? All of this in my belly, right now. Preferably in some kind of giant, Frankensteinian monstrous beast of meal.... like fried-chicken-and-noodles-and-fries-on-a-pizza-wearing-a-burger-as-a-hat-YES!

@inaFryingPan / August 9, 2011 7:29 AM

Maaaan, how'd you do it?! You're one of the few...maybe the only?...blogger who can keep me stuck to a super-long post right till the very drool-dribbling end. That too right in the middle of a work day. Tummy growl. Colleagues staring at me. Feeling hungry and stupid. And wanting some of those fried shrimp rolls and fried chicken.

Kevin / August 9, 2011 10:54 AM

Ahahaha yes, I know exactly what you mean by the 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." J.G. Melon is on that list for me, too, so maybe this will be the push that I need to finally check it out.

Judy / August 9, 2011 12:56 PM

oh man! i just moved out of that neighborhood! i used to live on 22nd b/t 5th and 6th aves for 4 years. great hood, i miss it a lot :( you probably already know this but some awesome places to eat are luigi's or toby's for pizza (i prefer luigi's), monsignor's for italian american, lopez boulangerie for cafe fare (really nice bread and tamales!) and quarter bar for drinks, though i know you don't really drink but they have bbq during the summer and savory pies too! guh, now i'm homesick. enjoy the new place!

Julie / August 10, 2011 11:07 AM

Wow, oh my yum!

I laughed out loud when I saw the closeup shot of the claw on Roberta's squab.

I love that almost nothing in the Ghanaian section looks familiar, but it just makes me wish all the more we had a Ghanaian restaurant here. Ethiopian's the closest, and you're also supposed to use just your hands and injera (spongy, sprongy, very thin flat bread) to eat--seems a lot easier than just going in bare knuckled!

I'm totally with you when you mention being "all about distributing my feelings of annoyance equally."

roboppy / August 11, 2011 1:21 AM

Lizzi: That sounds like some Taco Town creation. Maybe good! Maybe bad. ...I mean, I'd eat it.

Emma: I just googled it to figure out what it was...check it out! Grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar, pimento, cream cheese, mayo, and poblanos. :O

inaFryingPan: Aw man [insert virtual blush], I'd say the same about you. :D Thanks! Come over and I shall feed you shrimp rolls and fried chicken etc etc!

Kevin: If you go to JG Melon, let me know what you think!

Tina: Thanks for reading! I do plan on blogging about my Virginia eats...after I edit my photos, which I haven't started yet. Oops. :(

Judy: Thanks for the recs! I've only eaten at Toby's so far (two times during the weekend I was moving in, heh); otherwise I haven't had time to explore the neighborhood. Definitely gotta get me some bread and tamales!

Serena: Thanks! I haven't been to Big Wong King that much, but it's so close to my office...I'll probably stop in for more rice platters.

Julie: Ethiopian food is way easier to eat than Ghanaian, yup!...those neat rolls of injera are very helpful. Maybe someday I will master the Ghanaian art of eating with chunks of starchy stuff.

Winnie / August 14, 2011 10:02 AM

Hey Robyn! This is my first time commenting although I've been following your blog for a while now. I just want to say that I love your cheery, up-beat writing style! Never fails to bring a smile to my day. Keep up the great work!

Ada / August 16, 2011 5:53 AM

Hey! This is that girl who stalked you before getting on the ferry to the Serious Eats Sandwich Festival and who was wearing the H&M dress that you also own.

As usual, this post was amazing! The tasting at Roberta's looks awesome and Ghanaian food sounds quite intriguing. I too, however, highly doubt that manatees would enjoy pizza.

roboppy / August 16, 2011 11:41 PM

Rosebud: Short is totally cool!

Winnie: Thanks for reading! Glad I could cheer you up. :) My lack of sleep has to be worth something. SMILES!!!

Ada: Hello, dress twin! Thanks for leaving me a comment; glad you enjoyed the post!

Angela / August 19, 2011 4:56 AM

I LOVE your posts! The only bad part is that it is 4am and now I'm starving! But I live in NY - I should be able to get yummy pizza in my belly at any hour of the night!

Anyway, I love the personal touches of your blog (long time reader for years now!) but worry a little about you posting where you live. Not to get all maternal on you, but I would maybe replace cross streets with neighborhood just to be safe?

roboppy / August 23, 2011 11:46 PM

Angela: Thanks for reading! I must admit that making my cross streets public didn't set off any alarms for me (still waiting for my stalker, mmhm), but if it makes you feel better I'll change it. ;)

Mahar / August 25, 2011 5:02 AM

Don't know if I mentioned the tasting menu at Perilla---it was awesome. $70, I don't know if that's worth it for a 7-course tasting menu, but it was my best meal in NYC this year.

Goodness, I miss that city.

April / September 6, 2011 5:54 AM

Hey, Robyn! I've been reading your blog for awhile now and even commented a few times. I'm scheduling my first trip to NYC (I currently live on Oahu, Hawaii) and I have a few questions about where to stay. I've been told to just suck it up and spend the money to stay in Manhattan but the hotel prices are around $300 per night, minimum. I've seen some decent places in Brooklyn for much less. Do you think the money saved would be worth it after we factor in hassle and transportation costs? Is it a serious difficulty to find good transportation (at all hours) from Brooklyn to Manhattan and vice versa? Thanks for whatever advice you can offer. Also, if you had to recommend 5-10 "must try" restaurants, regardless of budget, in NYC, what would they be and why? Thanks for your time and keep up the great posts! I'm so excited to finally try some of the places I've been reading about on your blog for years. :)

jesika lin / September 13, 2011 3:08 AM

i feel ya... GENERALLY i have nothing against hipsters, but when they are crowding a bar/restaurant i suddenly am like "G... DAMN... HIPSTERS!!!" this happens often in minneapolis. and the front door area is always crowded with people in skinny jeans on bikes trying to out-cool each other. people, you do not wanna get between me and my food.

Susan Di Leo / November 19, 2011 5:19 PM

Thank you for the recommendations to take out of town guests! We just moved to NYC and need to know of these local great spots. Wonderful info!


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