A Bite of the Big Apple

Just a college student exploring all the food New York City has to offer, from fancy restaurants to food carts.

Review: Flor De Mayo (Peruvian and Chinese Cuisine)

Address: 484 Amsterdam Ave (between W83rd- W84th Street), New York, NY, 10024

Prices: $11-30 per person

August 31, 2013.

After our long and precious visit to the MAC store, my friend Stella and I decided to celebrate (and show off our makeup) by going to a restaurant for lunch. We chose Flor De Mayo because it was in the vicinity and met my desire for latin food. It was a Saturday afternoon and surprisingly we did not see too many people in the place. The numerous busboys, who all lonesomely stood in front of the entrance, greeted us with smiles and helped us to a table near the window. I never know how I feel about window seats. They are interesting if you want to look out the window or have a private conversation with your date, but since I wanted to get a sense of the restaurant, I would have preferred a seat in the middle. 

Upon getting the menu, I noticed that everything was written not only in English, but Spanish and Chinese. It was so odd to see Chinese in a Peruvian restaurant. Apparently, the restaurant is a mix of both Peruvian and Chinese cuisines, which is SO NEAT! I never had Peruvian, let alone a combination of Peruvian and Chinese.

Stella and I both ordered the Peruvian Special: Lomo Saltado. This is the first time I ordered a dish based on good online reviews. I usually order what I think sounds good and hope for the best. This time, I decided to try something less spontaneous and ordered something that was on everyone’s top list. 

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The Lomo Saltado is sliced meat sautéed with tomatoes, french fries, and onions served on rice. The drink that I got with this meal was a Shirley Temple. I really liked this dish. This is the first time I had french fries with rice, and I must say, it was a perfect combination of carbs. There was a bit of sweetness, saltiness, and sourness in the dish. The tomatoes and meat were slightly sour, the french fries were slightly salty, and the onions were slightly sweet. As you can imagine, the rice was needed. This explosion of flavors was counterbalanced by the white rice. If you do not order rice, then make sure to drink water in order to cleanse your palate before every bite in order to really get the richness of this entree. 

The meal was so carby that I had to take 1/3rd of it home with me. I had a great experience with Stella. I wish to go there again and order something different and hopefully something AS wonderful. 

Rating: ★★★★

Review: El Cocotero (Venezuelan Restaurant)

Address: 228 West 18th Street (between 7th and 8th Ave), New York, NY, 10011 
Prices: $15-35 per person

June 20. 2013

As a foody, I am always up for going to new places and trying new things. The Thai, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants that I constantly go to dine have already dulled me to their taste. My tongue is up for unraveling new flavors and conquering new challenges; I wanted something different, which is EXACTLY why I went to a Venezuelan restaurant. I have never tried any Venezuelan cuisines, so you can imagine how happy I was to see a Venezuelan restaurant conveniently located downtown near all the shopping areas (i.e. Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Container Store, etc). It was very hard to not notice this place when passing by it. There is a huge Venezuelan flag to the side of where the door is and a palm-looking plant (sorry to all botany folks) in front of a big, open window. On the outside, it might just be an eccentric-looking restaurant, but on the inside, the flower and the open window with hot air blowing in really made me feel like I was in Venezuela. The restaurant was small, small enough to touch another person’s elbow or listen into five different conversations at once. To be honest, I kind of liked that. I believe that a nation’s culture can be gotten by the dynamic and seating arrangements of its respective restaurant in NYC. I was able to connect with the people sitting next to me in more ways than simply being in the same place and having the same things to eat. 

I came to this restaurant with my dad, and both of us ordered what we thought were must-haves. 

I ordered the Chivo En Coco, which had tender pieces of young goat in coconut sauce with red and green pepper. Along with the meat comes rice, tostones (plantains), and black beans on the side. Writing this made my mouth water all over again.

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I have never had goat before so this was a new, fascinating experience. The goat was very well-cooked and immediately melted in my mouth. The meat tasted like lamb but luckily did not come with a revolting smell. The rice and beans made such an amazing combination with the meat, which  made it hard to eat the three sides separately. The plantains really put this dish all together. Its delicate nature is unique to the rest of the dish and had to be eaten alongside the beans or the rice to counterbalance the sweet taste. LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about this entree. 

My dad ordered Churrasco. This is a grilled steak that comes with yucca mash and salad. 

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Unlike me, he had a bad experience with his meal. He got a steak that was medium rare when he specifically asked for well done. Perhaps it was some misunderstanding, but even as medium rare, the meat was very, very chewy. Whoops! 

Rating: ★★★★★

Review: 27 Sunshine (Dim Sum)

Address:46 Bowery, (between Bayard St & Canal St), New YorkNY 10013

Neighborhood: Chinatown

Prices: $2-5!!! (HOORAH!)

Once winter break was over, my friend and I decided to go to a dim sum restaurant in chinatown. As a college student, I was excited to get something cheap and tasty right before my classes. Finding a cheap dim sum place in chinatown was not hard at all, but choosing which cheap place to go to was a different story. Our decision to go to 27 Sunshine was largely based on how much we liked the photos of the food on the yelp website. In this case, looking at photos really did lead to a decision well made. 

Walking in, I was not too surprised that I was the only white person there and the center of everyone’s attention. The interesting part about dim sum restaurants is that they only have big, round tables for large groups or for small groups to share. My friend and I had to share a round table with another couple, which gave me an opportunity to see what other people were ordering and occasionally exchange friendly smiles with chunks of fresh food stuck between my front teeth. Although it might seem awkward to some, I felt really comfortable, despite some language barriers and a noticeable difference in ethnic background. This breakfast food did what every culture aims to do with food—it bring people together. Unfortunately, I don’t see this sense of community in a lot of other restaurants, and much of this appreciation for food is lost in the process. Proximity to strangers and friends encouraged me to pay close attention to the food and its richness.

Spare ribs covered in black beans sauce over rice noodle rolls

imageThe spare ribs were delicious! This was the first dish that I ordered (or pointed to). The ribs are doused in black beans sauce, but to me it just tasted like soy sauce with a less edgier salty flavor. The chewy, somewhat tasteless noodles helped enrich the moist and savory taste of the meat.   Overall, the combination was marvelous, and I especially enjoyed chewing on the bone and cartilage (but hey, that’s just me!)

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Another dish we ordered was the Shrimp Har Gow. The wrap of this dish was sticky and chewy, enveloping shrimp bits. This dish did not really stand out to me in any way. I would have added something more to this dish or tried to work on the flavor because aside from its chewy texture, I couldn’t even taste the shrimp. 

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I don’t know the name of this dish but it was my friend’s favorite dish. It tasted absolutely divine! The outer layer was sweet and complimented the meat very well. This is a must have! What I recommend doing is to put some sauce in the meat for even more flavor.

Other things ordered:

Sticky rice. (tasted like porridge with meat in the middle; was not too impressed)

Rating: ★★★

 

Newsweek-“101 Best Places to Eat”

Hey, food-lovers! I just read the “Top Chefs Choose 101 Best Places To Eat Around The World” article in Newsweek. Below is their list of New York’s finest places to eat:

1. Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare (Brooklyn). Specialty: Fried Blowfish Tails.

http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0gaecFGg3adS2/303x235.jpg (Fried Blowfish Tails)

Apparently, the chefs serve you directly. Holla!

2. Franny’s (Brooklyn). Specialty: Spicy Clam Pizza

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_H4rniyeYe6Y/SkPJhIdhiYI/AAAAAAAABVQ/5YiUkp39CJE/s1600/franny’s-pizza081013_nymag.jpg (Spicy Clam Pizza)

3. Daniel (Manhattan). Specialty: Black Sea Bass In Syrah

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wesbran/7997904896/ (Black Sea Bass in Syrah)

4. Kafana (Manhattan). Specialty: Cevapi with Onions

http://newyork.seriouseats.com/images/20110621-Kafana-cevapi.jpg (Cevapi with onions)

5. Parm (Manhattan). Specialty: Italian Thanksgiving

6. Momofuku Noodle Bar (Manhattan). Specialty: Pork-Belly Ramen

http://gastrolust.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/momofuku-ramen.jpg (pork-belly ramen)

My plan is to try and go to all of these restaurants and order their specialties. I’ve only reviewed one that’s on the list (Momofuku) and I wasn’t too happy with the food.

I will keep you guys updated! 

My recommendation: Woodland Restaurant

Address: 242 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn 11217

Prices: $18-25

Alla: Guys, I highly recommend the Woodland restaurant! The place is very cozy, the waiters are all very friendly, and the food was simply incredible! I advise everyone to go there, and make sure you order at least one plate from every course because everything was exquisite!

Hors d’oeuvre ordered:

  • Radish with Butter
  • Pulled Pig Head Croquette
  • Grilled Oysters
  • Duck Fat Red Thumb Potato Smash

Entree Ordered:

  • Lamb T-bone
  • Salmon

Rating: ★★★

Review: Acqua

Address: 718 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
Prices: $10-14 

Upon opening the door of the Acqua restaurant, we couldn’t help but notice the unwelcoming bare wall that greeted us. To the left was a bar, and farther in was the cozy four-walled room that we had been waiting all day to feast in. Although we were drenched by the time we made it to the restaurant - summer rain holla - it was comforting to find a small table in the corner waiting for us. Due to our particular seating arrangements, we were placed near the big windows that illuminated our faces and made it possible for us to exchange glances with passing strangers. There was an odd smell in the room, presumably from the wood-burning oven that faced the room, but it faded after about ten minutes as we got used to it. While eating, a huge dust bunny fell right near Alla’s plate from the ceiling drapes, so we’re forced to give them a big C- for cleanliness; however, the sanitation and the stench didn’t seem too significant while in the company of the friendly, comedic waiters and busboys. The workers were very approachable. The restaurant was pretty empty when we came in (around 6:30) but filled up by the time we had finished eating. 

Anna: I ordered the Mushroom (funghi) Pizza. When I was in Rome last summer, I literally ate mushroom pizza at least once a day, and I wanted to see how this pizza compared to the sliced foodgasms I had there.

                     

Bad idea, obviously, because no restaurant in New York City was gonna give me anything comparable to Rome, no matter how many of my body organs I offered the cook. But it at least had the appearance of Italian pizza - thin and gooey, the cheese lightly sprinkled on, kind of patchy in places, and seeming to swim alongside the mushrooms on top of the crust. It was pretty good, and the mushrooms tasted fresh (which I’m super picky about). I was surprised to find that I couldn’t even finish the pie, but it was really filling; it’s been about two or three hours now and I’m still full. For 13 bucks, it was a cheap and simple meal. If only the damn busboy didn’t keep teasing me about the fact that I was absentmindedly throwing crumbs into the olive oil we got for a starter. I play with my food okay.

Rating: ★1/2 

Alla: I ordered the Homemade Meat Lasagna that was baked in the wood-burning oven.  At first glance, it looked like the pasta was just swimming in the orange sauce that was doused over the entire plate.
After taking my first bite, I realized that this “orange sauce” was there for a reason. It moistened the chopped meat of the lasagna and was aesthetically pleasing. Although this restaurant entrée was a good meal, it, of course, could not compete with actual homemade lasagna, stacked with thick pasta and chunks of meat. In my opinion, some lasagnas are too perfect-looking for their own good. The one I ate today was one of them. The meat reminded me of a generic sloppy joe that had no distinguishable taste. I couldn’t finish the plate because it was just too much, but if you’re looking for appetizing and cheap, I think this just might be the dish for you.
 
Rating: 

Review: Momofuku Noodle Bar

Address: 171 1st Avenue  New York, NY 10003
Prices: $10-20 

After a 30 minute wait crushed against tourists, NYU students, and hip 20-somethings, we finally got two coveted seats at the bar. The entire restaurant is long and narrow, with a few tables to one side, and wooden stools on the other, facing either the bar section or the kitchen section in the back. Pretty convenient for catching the attention of the wait staff, and we ordered almost right after we sat down. Surrounded by the never-ending din of my fellow diners, we were pretty excited; we had heard such good things about the restaurant from friends, the atmosphere was as hip and funky as most of its customers, and we were in one of our favorite neighborhoods.

Anna: I ordered the chilled sesame noodles, after being told that the spicy noodles were extremely spicy (which my bland Russian tongue cannot handle), and they came with two friends!

After some bad experiences dissecting animals in biology class, seeing two dead eyes staring up at me wasn’t exactly appetizing. After picking these little buddies off and covering them up with a white napkin, CSI-style, I dug in and found that the food was good, but certainly not worth the hype. The noodles were actually pretty delicious - thin and fairly sticky, easily pickable by chopsticks even for an amateur, with the light tangy flavor of sesame blended through them. However, the dandelions served with them were too bitter for my taste, and didn’t mix well with the sesame. The menu described the dish as coming with fava beans, and I counted exactly three little ones at the very bottom of the bowl. Lovely. The prawns also had a mild flavor, and went better with the noodles than the dandelions did, but they didn’t taste much better than the shrimp my dad buys at costco in large refrigerated packs. Overall, it was a good experience and a nice night out with a friend, but a one-time deal for me - I’ll have to put this right underneath Magnolia Cupcakes in my list of overrated eateries in Manhattan. 

Stars: ★★★

Alla:  I ordered Ginger Scallion Noodles with pickled shiitakes, cucumber, and cabbage. I previously didn’t know anything about the food there and figured everything must be as good as people say it is, so I decided to play eeny, meeny, miny, moe with the dinner menu.

Unfortunately, I was not satisfied with my plate at all! There was about a 15 -minute wait for the food to come, and although the service was good, the food was not exactly the best. The shiitakes tasted sweet, but nothing complimented them. The noodles did not taste like anything, and I felt like more brackish flavors would have made a great contribution to the dish. I speculate that there was an attempt to add some saltiness with the one sheet of roasted seaweed, yet that was not enough. I was not able to chew on my seaweed and had to leave the other half on the side of my bowl. I am guessing that it was simply me and my Jewish luck because the seaweed sheets that other people had seemed just fine. 

I did not bear the blandness of the dish for long and soon added hot sauce. I am a hot sauce lover, so I am by all means biased when I say with hot sauce the dish tasted better. Overall, I was not a big fan of my dish. I ate everything, but did not seem to be satiated at the end. I am glad I tried eating here for the experience; however, there is certainly no guarantee that I will come back. 

Stars: ★★1/2