Saturday, April 16, 2011

NYC Adventures

It was Thursday and it was beautiful outside; but most importantly--I was off of work! After showering and a little facebooking, I headed out to explore NYC. My first stop was Torrissi Italian Specialties, one of Eater's 38 Essential New York restaurants. Started by Rich Torrissi and Mario Carbone, Torrissi Italian Specialties doubles as a neighborhood deli during the day to a more cozy, romantic restaurant at night.

During the day, this Italian outpost pumps out some favorites such as chicken parm or house roasted turkey. Contorni or side dishes include spicy rabe, roasted peppers, eggplant relish, fresh mozzarella, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower with progresso. If you are lucky to grab a seat, grab a beer or glass of wine. After waiting a half hour, we grabbed a seat in the small 18 person restaurant/deli. We sipped on porkslap pale ale while chowing down on some delicious chicken parm. Growing up on chicken parm, I find myself to be quite the critic; but Torrissi's was good enough to bring my mother.

Despite their small menu, I can see Torrissi being that neighborhood italian deli that has many repeat customers. Once lunch is over, Torrissi Italian Specialties is converted to a space that will make you think Billy Joel. Not because Billy Joel is immortalized in the framed picture on the wall, but because it make you sing "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant". Torrisi's dinner is a pre-fixed ($50) tasting menu that changes every night. Mario Carbone and Rich Torrissi (chef/owners) reinvent the menu every night giving guest something new--something you're not going to get at any Italian restaurant. The tasting menu is done in the normal italian rhythm starting with antipasta then progressing into pasta (primi), secondi (entrees), and ended with dolce or dessert. The menu is listed on the restaurant's chalkboard and could be found on the website just incase you want to see what they are offering before you get there. Torrissi is a good example on how great food doesn't have to be in a stuffy, fine dining restaurant. Torrissi Italian Specialties has garnered much acclaim for what they are doing, so check it out. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, you might have to wait; but many people are saying its worth it! Also be prepared to wait outside as there's not enough room inside.

Continuing on my NYC adventures, we wandered around the streets in search for outside seating. We walked along Houston and then Bowery, but didn't see anything we loved. We always went to B-Bar, but kept walking in search for something new and exciting. We headed over to Union Square and ended up at Republic, an Asian-fusion restaurant offering outside seating. I sipped on a Tsing Tao (beer from China) when I realized that I had to order something to eat! The beef satay and sauteed mini dumplings proved to be good small dishes that fulfilled my curiosity on Republic's food. We headed out and parted ways-giving me a half hour before meeting my friends for happy hour!

I walked up to Madison Square Park for a Shake Shack milkshake, but was definitely not waiting in the line. I then decided to get gelato from Eataly. It was a nice way to kill time, I definitely recommend it. I think I enjoyed this experience of eating gelato in the park so much because it brought me back to an early food memory. It brought me back to the streets of Florence where I use to get cones of gelato almost everyday.

It was now time to meet my friends at Red Sky on 29th and Park. My friend Shannon works around the corner, so her and some co-workers were heading over to enjoy some drinks on the roof deck. Although the roof doesn't provide any good views, its a nice place to hang out and chat. There was only one server, so we found ourselves getting our own beers on the second level. This also allowed us to cash in on the $3 Bud/Bud Light happy hour special. We didn't stay here too long as the scene grew old and the weather turned cold.

Our next stop was at the corner of 29th and 2nd ave--an Irish bar called Failte. We gathered upstairs for trivia night and the wonderful $1 beer special. We snacked on bar food and got a little competitive. We ended the night with some beer pong, but don't worry I used new cups! There was a good vibe at Failte--if it was a little closer then this might be a Thursday must.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brunch Bug

I think I caught the brunch bug, because I've gone the last 3 weekends. I've always loved brunch, but sometimes its hard to get motivated and go out. This Sunday, I went to Mesa Grill with my friend Dana. Mesa Grill is part of the Bobby Flay empire. There are three Mesa Grill locations including the one in New York on 5th Avenue (and 16th St.). The other Mesa Grill locations are in Las Vegas and the Bahamas. The Iron Chef also has a chain of burger joints (Bobby's Burger Palace) and steakhouses (Bobby Flay Steak), Bar Americain is also among the Flay empire.

Bobby Flay is known for his spice combinations, so I've been wanting to go to Mesa Grill for quite sometime. Mesa Grill opened in 1991 with the idea of marrying the flavors of the southwest with Bobby's love of grilling. Grilling and spicy food, bring it on Bobby!

I wasn't in love with the space that Mesa Grill occupied, but I liked the decor. The New York Times described the atmosphere as "a Southwestern fiesta on two levels, with splashes of red, green, orange; cowboy motifs; and an extra-long bar; and a partially open kitchen." The service was a bit unusual. I felt like we were being rushed, but yet it took forever to get our food. We had two servers who took turns trying to take our order. Having two servers isn't a good idea, especially when they don't communicate between each other. Guest could feel confused and overwhelmed--and rushed when they keep coming back.

Every table gets a basket of muffins in leu of bread. The assortment of muffins was paired with an orange marmalade that had a distinct spiciness. We started with the bacon and hash brown quesadilla ($11). This was a great way starter, especially for brunch, because it fulfilled my breakfast craving allowing me to get lunch for my entree. The bacon and hash brown quesadilla came with a fried egg on top of it which allowed for dunking the quesadilla into the runny egg yolk! The quesadilla also came with a spicy tomato salsa which added another component to the already delicious dish.

Our entrees must have gotten lost, because they took forever. We sat at 1:30 and it was 3:00 and our entrees hadn't hit the table. Our server brought over a complimentary dish to compensate for the wait. They brought out the rough cut tuna nachos with mango-habanero hot sauce and avocado crema ($11). This dish made me forget the wait, so good recovery Mesa Grill. The tuna was fresh and flavorful and paired well with the mango-habanero hot sauce and avocado crema. Dana, who doesn't like raw fish, even enjoyed the dish. Our entrees hit the table alittle after 3, which gave me around 10 minutes to eat. I had work at 3:30, so I was in a race against time.

Dana got the Mesa Burger ($15) while I opted to get the pork sandwich ($14). I didn't try the burger, but Dana seemed to enjoy it. Bobby is known for his burgers, so I could see the massive burger being awesome. The pressed pork sandwich came with grilled red onion, arugula, ancho mayonnaise, and southwestern fries. The pork was well cooked and packed some great flavor. It was a simple sandwich, but it was done right. The fries were good!

Only being able to eat half our entree, we packed up our food and headed out. I thought Mesa Grill did a good brunch despite their timing problems and somewhat clumsy service. "Just keep your head down and don't stop eating", says NY Magazine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kickin' it on the West Side

Last Wednesday, my friend Colette and I met up for some food and drinks. She suggested we check out Sweet Revenge after becoming aware of a deal they had going on Yelp. From April 4th-10th, Yelp partnered with a bunch of bar/restaurants for a 1/2 half off "adult beverages" deal. Sweet Revenge, located at 62 Carmine Street, is a cozy cupcake bar. It was kind of an unusual place to start, considering Sweet Revenge is more of a dessert spot; but sometimes its fun to do things in reverse.

A bit hesitant, we sat at the small bar and decided we had to atleast get a drink...and a cupcake! Sweet Revenge is known for pairing imported wines and beers with artisan, internally inspired cupcakes. Colette got a Mango Bellini while I got the Vino Granita. I wasn't a fan of the bellini, but I can see people getting down with it. The Vino Granita was a frozen wine slushy, that was actually pretty good. I hate to admit it, but part of me kind of liked it. It was definitely a chick drink that I thought I was going to hate, but something about being at a cupcake bar made it all ok! Unfortunately, I can not say the same for colettes drink.

We ordered the Sweet Revenge cupcake: a delicious peanut butter treat. After a drink each and a cupcake, we headed out and continued our food adventure. I could definitely see myself going back for a cupcake!

Colette and I have a habit
of being indecisive, so we walked around for a little until we came to Cuba on Thompson St. We were roped in by the a later night Happy Hour sign, which proved to be for another night! Once we realized it wasn't happy hour, we were bummed; but we stayed for a cocktail and appetizer anyway. Colette got some kind of mango martini that she tweaked around to her liking while I opted for one of Cuba's "spring cocktails". The cocktail was a combination of clove/cinnamon infused bourbon, egg white, and some other ingredients that I cannot recall. Although the combination didn't make me think spring--it was pretty good. I can say that too, because I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon.

We split the some kind of chorizo appetizer recommended to us by the bartender. It came up real quick and turned out to be quite delicious. The chorizo had great flavor and it came with a delicious jalapeno chimichurri sauce. Cuba was a good time--maybe next time we will stay for a full meal and some of the highly praised sangria!

We continued on our way and ended up at the Fat Black Pussycat on West 3rd. We skipped food and got a round of drinks. Fat Black Pussycat has some good drink specials--real cheap. Unfortunately, the Yeungling on tap tasted like ass. Bar managers, CLEAN OUT YOUR KEG LINES!

Overall, a nice Wednesday out and about on the West side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Margaritas and Music

This weekend, I helped celebrate two of my roommates birthdays and what better way to start the celebration with some brunch. Jon picked Vamos on first Ave right outside of Stuy Town. Vamos came recommended to us by the brunch queen herself, Nikki. Once she mentioned unlimited margaritas, we were in! That's right, add $6 to any entree over $10 and drink unlimited margaritas till 4pm. We arrived around noon, so this gave us plenty of time to get our money's worth. The margaritas were tastey--these frozen margaritas had a good amount of alcohol, but didn't have that cheap tequila taste. I do enjoy a good margarita, but the sugar content could sometimes be overwhelming; especially after a few of them. Overall, I'd say it was a good deal if you like frozen margaritas!

We started off with a bowl of guacamole, which was a table hit. The guacamole seemed to have a nice balance and the hot chips were a perfect complement. For entrees, I got the carne asada tacos, which was grilled marinated skirt steak, pickled onions, and guacamole. The tacos were good, not my favorite but good. Marinated skirt steak has the potential to take on so much flavor; but I felt this steak was bland. In my opinion, the guacamole overpowered the rest of the taco. I would have liked to see a little more heat as well. I like spicy food and I expect Mexican food to pack a punch.

Overall, Vamos was a fun time. It wasn't as rowdy as we hoped it'd be; but it started us off in the right direction. Vamos might not be a place you'd go for food, but a place you'd go for the atmosphere and the margaritas!

Continuing the birthday celebration, we headed to Red Lion. I've been to Red Lion a few times and its always a good time; however, this Saturday it was too packed. The place was so crowded you couldn't even get a drink at the bar. After paying my $10 cover, we turned around and headed out. Our next stop was Libation. One of my friends works there, so I can't badmouth this place too much! I just don't like it. Inside, sure its a good time--I like to dance! But the bouncers are assholes and that's enough to keep me away. Not to mention, its a $15 cover! I think you could find other places to shake your tailfeather!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Weekends in the Financial District could be pretty desolate. Sure, there are tourist and some downtown residents; but the area is pretty much dead compared to Monday-Friday 9-5. With my family coming in for Sunday brunch, I was nervous that we wouldn't be able to find a decent spot. I wanted to steer clear of the seaport as its a huge tourist trap. We walked along Front Street checking out some menus. After a quick tour of the area, we decided on Stella Manhattan Bistro.

Stella seemed to offer the best variety for brunch. Its hard to please all four of us, but Stella seemed like our best bet. The restaurant was pretty empty, but it wasn't because of the food or the service because we had a great meal. Stella Manhattan Bistro offered a casual atmosphere with good food and friendly service. Nothing that I ate was WOW, but we weren't expecting that.

The hardest part about brunch is deciding whether to get breakfast or lunch. After grappling with the menu for awhile, I decided on the French-Dip Sandwich (braised beef, caramelized onions, and gruyere on a baguette) which also came with a side salad. My mother also opted to get lunch with the Grilled Fish Sandwich. Although I forget what fish was in the sandwich, I want to say Fluke. The sandwich reminded me of a Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. Her fish sandwich was made with pickled vegetables, cilantro, jalapenos, and a spicy mayo. I really enjoyed both sandwiches. Lunch was a good choice!

Breakfast was also a good choice! Kim got the the homemade waffles which came with 2 eggs, bacon, and maple syrup. The waffles were made crispy and delicious--even my mother would approve. Kim got her eggs scrambled and seeing that she didn't have any left--I want to say that they were cooked good. They definitely didn't go cheap on the bacon as her plate had atleast 5 pieces. Usually when bacon comes with a meal, they give you 2 slices...maybe 3! Jen got the Stella Pancakes: pancakes served with maple butter, maple syrup, nutella, and fresh bananas. The pancakes were on point as well. I feel that breakfast sometimes disappoints me because growing up, breakfast was huge at my house. I grew up on waffles and pancakes, so I guess I could be hard to impress. Jen also got a side of Mac n Cheese as its one of her guilty pleasures. The mac n cheese held up pretty good to her standards as it was made with truffle butter and a gruyere crust. I thought it was real good.

Although Stella didn't WOW me, they served up a good brunch. Both breakfast and lunch dishes were delicious. The service was good. I think the lady forgot to bring something out, but she was so friendly that it was overlooked. Raise your mimosa to great family and a well-done brunch.

FiDi Sushi

Oka sushi also known as Sushi a la Kawa serves up a variety of sushi, sashimi, and maki. Located at 18 Maiden Lane, Oka Sushi was a must try as its right down the street from my apartment. I ordered in, so I cannot talk about the space itself; but I could talk a little bout the food. I got the Special Maki Combo C (Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, & Spicy White Tuna), which came with a side of miso soup or green salad. The combination platter was $14.50, but the delivery guy tipped himself $5.50 after running away with my $20. How much do you tip for delivery? I always considered myself a good tipper when eating/drinking out; but getting food delivered is something else. I think I'm a fair tipper when it comes to delivery-- not overly generous and not cheap.

Anyway, back to the food! The sushi was good! It was fresh--delivering a some really nice flavor. The delivery was fast, so that is always a plus. Nothing really else to say! Consider Oka Sushi when wandering around the Fidi for sushi.