Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Ahh, it’s that time of year again! Foodies in New York rejoice as winter clothes are packed away, the sunshine is beaming, and summer food and drink festivals begin to ramp up. One of the first major food events of the season is the much-anticipated Village Voice’s Choice Eats tasting; this year celebrating their 10th Anniversary! The amount of food and diversity of the cuisines is astounding and a true feast for the eyes. Over 50 of the best restaurants and bakeries, representing all 5 boroughs, have the opportunity to showcase their signature dishes as attendees dance to the tunes of a live dj and sip on complimentary cocktails. Now that I’ve had a couple days to let my food settle, I am excited to announce my top 12 favorites (in no particular order) from last weekend’s fest. Warning: Don’t read while hungry!
Ofrenda Cocina Mexicana (113 Seventh Ave. South, Manhattan) Taco de Barbacao. Savory braised lamb, red onion, cilantro and salsa verde made for one scrumptious taco. Known as one of the top tequila bars in the city, their inventive spins on Latin cuisine make them a popular destination for locals and tourists.
Pinto Garden (117 W. 10th St., Manhattan) Mushroom Medley. Beautifully presented and sophisticated mushroom salad with a thin sweet glaze and bright fresh herbs created a dynamic burst of flavor. The modern Thai restaurant is inspired by traditional dishes from the chef’s hometown of Bangkok.
Peppa’s Jerk Chicken (791 Prospect Pl., Brooklyn) Jerk Chicken. Coated in allspice, herbs, and Scotch bonnet peppers before being grilled over charcoal to the point where the chicken is so smoky and tender, the poultry fell right off the bone and had a definite kick to it!
Café Rue Dix (1451 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn) Fataya. The French-Senegalese eatery in Crown Heights brought their travel-size fryer with them to cook up Senegalese-style beef and vegetable empanadas, topped with their signature habanero hot sauce. The flaky and crispy breading on the outside, stuffed with a juicy filling of your choice, was surprisingly light and not greasy at all.
Row House (2128 Frederick Douglass Blvd., Manhattan) Pan-seared Scallops. Fresh scallops with a hint of char, kept the line for their booth nonstop all night! Served on top of green peas, asparagus, fiddle head ferns and smodes quajilo chile oil, it was the perfect summer treat. Their rotating menu highlights American seasonal small plates with both Asian and Italian influences.
Yemen Café & Restaurant (7130 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, plus other locations) Lamb Haneeth (no photo available). The aroma of the slow-roasted lamb wafted from their industrial-sized cauldron through the aisles of eateries. Once I successfully followed my nose to the source, the taste of the tender lamb inundated in warm spaces met all expectations.
Loi Estiatorio (132 W. 58th St., Manhattan) Walnut Cake. The Greek restaurant was passing out mini walnut cakes with cinnamon, which was the perfect sweet cap to end the night. The delectable pastry had a spongy density and was soaked in rich sugary juices that hit the spot.
Sweet Generation (130 1st Ave., Manhattan) S’more Bites. Even though this East Village bakery is known for their hand-crafted cupcakes, their S’more Bites were absolutely to die for! Sweet Generation not only leaves a lasting impression on NYC’s taste buds, they are equally committed to servicing the community; a portion of their profits goes into funding an in-house internship program for at-risk youth, focusing on job preparation and skills. These efforts make their products that much sweeter!
Asahi Super Dry Beer. I’m sad to say it was my first time trying the Tokyo-based lager, but I’m looking forward to my next pour of it! Refreshingly light and crisp, the most surprising quality of the lager was the thick, creamy head. Summer never taste better.
Don Q Gran Anejo Rum (featured photo). Just a sip will transport you to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. A smooth blend of rums aged up to 50 years could be enjoyed on the rocks or neat, drinkers’ choice. Caramel tones and butterscotch and vanilla spice tasting notes create a truly divine drinking experience.
Prairie Organic Spirits. All organic cucumber-flavored vodka and gin were the base for spritzy summer cocktails to sip on in between plates and plates of food. Whereas the rum was on the heavier and darker end of the spectrum, Prairie Organic provided a lighter option for attendees who wanted a nice cold beverage. I have to praise their versions of a Cucumber Moscow Mule and Gin Grapefruit Fizz.
Stok Cold Brew. Unsweetened, lightly sweetened or chocolate-flavored, Stok is a regular grocery store purchase in my household; so I was thrilled to see them as one of the Choice Eats sponsors. Their cold brew retains all of coffee’s best assets: caffeine, bold flavor and smoothness, without the acidity and bitterness of its predecessor, the outdated iced coffee.
When I told a friend of mine that I was dining at Strip House, his ears and eyebrows perked up. “A strip club?” he innocently questioned. No, while it’s by no means a strip club, the ambiance exudes sexiness, and so does the food! Red vinyl banquettes, a second-level lounge, low lighting, striking modern chandeliers, and floor to ceiling black and white images of vintage pinups and Hollywood actresses make for a memorable interior design. The original downtown Strip House has made its way into the top of the New York City dining landscape, and the Midtown location is well on its way too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the brand continues to grow nationally. (They already have a location in Las Vegas).
Roasted thick-cut bacon with capers and frisee salad kicked off our meal. With two considerably large pieces of fatty, flavorful, charred bacon, it’s more than enough for two people. For the land and sea lovers, the half-order Seafood Plateau is a smattering of seafood: a half–dozen chilled jumbo shrimp, littleneck clams, a half-dozen raw oysters from the east and west coast, which vary in origin day-to-day, mussels, jumbo lump crab cocktail, marinated squid, lobster cocktail, and ceviche. We could have stopped our meal here because it was just so much food! All fresh and cold; the oysters and clams were especially tasty.
But, what’s a steakhouse dinner without a steak? It might have been blasphemous that I didn’t go for the New York Strip, at Strip House in New York City mind you, but I went for the King of all steaks, the Porterhouse. It’s the best of both worlds, tenderloin filet and strip steak cross-sectioned by a T-bone. This was hands down one of the best steaks I’ve had in the city. Strip House is known for its simplistic seasoning on their steaks—salt and pepper only. This preparation allowed the quality of the meat to shine. The thick peppercorns and coarse salt charred perfectly on this Dry-aged Porterhouse for Two. It was crisp on the outside, but smooth as butter against the steak knife. I probably could have used a butter knife, actually.
Accompanied by the Black Truffle Creamed Spinach and the Fire-roasted Asparagus Spears with a brown butter-soy emulsion, this dinner was terrific from top to bottom.
We somehow saved room for dessert, the Rocky Road Sundae packed with brownie bites, rice krispie-chocolate chip cookies, salted caramel and whipped marshmallow that was torched on top like a s’more. While they are recognized for their colossal 24-layer chocolate cake, this sundae was very good. I also must note two of their cocktails. Their specialty vodka martini is served with hand-stuffed black truffle blue cheese olives; the experience of bringing the olives up to your mouth is truly sublime; they use real truffle paste, not just the flavoring. I may go back just to sip on one of these at the bar. Their barrel-aged old fashioned was another exceptional cocktail on their list.
What’s refreshing about this steakhouse is that they are catering to a younger crowd. While most steakhouses in the city beckon middle-aged diners, their aesthetic and style invites the next generation, the millennials (who can afford it at least), to the table.
Top and second photos courtesy of Strip House Other photos: Sha Savage
Nicholas Semkiw of ADB Hospitality has opened a 1950s-themed restaurant and lounge—The Anthony on Bleecker Street. Judging by the Instagram and Yelp photos, The Anthony already has a buzz as being a smashing after-hours dance club with a swanky lounge on the mezzanine level overlooking the main floor, bottle service, and glow-in-the-dark graffiti on the walls, which is only uncovered at night. It was hard to imagine this party scene as things were quiet when I dined for dinner at 7pm, but it gives in to the allure of the times of Prohibition—a sophisticated and demure façade by day, secrecy and debauchery by nightfall. Lucky for me, The Anthony is equally successful in the kitchen, and I hope the word spreads.
Crispy Duck and Waffles
For starters we tasted one of their most popular dishes, the crispy duck and waffles. It’s as if the already trendy chicken and waffles had a makeover, and stepped out as a delicacy. Confit duck on a small bone, savory buttermilk waffles, and smoked duck fat maple glaze made for an outstanding combo. The skin was crispy and the meat fell right off the bone; it would be perfect for one person for lunch or brunch with a small salad or side.
We also tried the burrata, the creamy, gooey center of fresh mozzarella, in a generous portion served on top of charred persimmon and an aged balsamic drizzle. The use of persimmon, an uncommon fruit, was a surprising pairing. One usually sees burrata accented with tomatoes and basil, or perhaps an olive tapenade—but never a fruit like this. Kudos to their originality! It’s orange-pink in color, the texture of a softened apple with a bit of crunch, and lightly sweet like honey. The char of the fruit and the sweetness of the balsamic complimented the creaminess of the burrata quite nicely.
Tony Prime Burger
The Anthony has one burger on the menu and they do it right! It’s called The Tony Prime Burger, made of prime select dry-aged blend; top quality meat. The patty was substantially sized, but lean and juicy, without being greasy. Topped with creamed spinach, crispy red onions for crunch and a house made sauce (their own spruced-up version of thousand island). It’s a perfect coat of the stomach before cocktails if you ask me. The Colorado lamp chops are another signature dish: 2 flavorful chops plated on top of smoky creamed kale and a bacon-apple potato cake, with a pomegranate glaze. Again, I was pleased with the chef’s creativity—I’ve never had anything like the potato cake with bacon and apple. Even though it wasn’t the main part of the entrée, it’s what I remember most.
For cocktails I would recommend my personal favorite, Suzy’s Secret. Made from vodka, fresh muddled raspberry puree, cucumber, and champagne. The first sip was a burst of ripe brightness from the raspberry, balanced out by the cool cucumber and dryness of the champagne. It’s an ideal spring or summer drink—one that I plan on trying again very soon. If you like your drinks spicy, The Matador is also worth a try: mezcal, habanero honey, lime, cilantro and bitters. They served classic cocktails on tap which I found to be a clever nod to the era of hidden barreled liquor. They offer a Negroni, featuring Bulldog Gin, Campari, and red vermouth, and a spiced Manhattan with bourbon, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and german amaro. Both are on the more bitter end of the spectrum for my taste buds, but my guest enjoyed them and said they were smoother than shaken or stirred versions of the standard cocktails.
We capped our meal with a treat, the Caramel Corn Cheesecake. Order this! It was decadent, and appeals to those of us who prefer our desserts to be both sweet and savory. There were bits of popcorn mixed into the cheesecake itself, which had a light buttery flavor. Garnished with a peanut butter and caramel sauce and house made candied popcorn. It was a winner in my book.
Caramel Corn Cheesecake
Prices are on the high end for the neighborhood (entrees average around $32, not including the $99 porterhouse for two), which has notoriously been known for affordable college bars like its predecessor, 1894 Restaurant and Bar. That said, the price is certainly reasonable and appropriate for the caliber, quality and inventiveness of the food, as it teeters on the edge of fine dining. It’s a welcomed option if you are looking for gourmet food and a restaurant dripping in charm and character.
The writer dined as a guest of the restaurant.
Opening photo courtesy of The Anthony. All other photos by Sha Savage.
New Yorkers who think that nothing worthwhile is happening north of Midtown (or Union Square for that matter) have another think comin’ with the deserving buzz around the retro disco/punk/funk bar and restaurant, Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food. I am hesitant to water it down by simply calling it a ‘70s-themed bar, because this gem doesn’t feel like a superficial façade of the era, rather its heart and soul are authentic. From the relaxed service, to the vinyl swirling bar stools, the tunes (of course!), old film posters, “Grease” on the television, hanging disco ball, and the go-go dancers sporting shimmering gold lycra leotards, it’s a feel-good time for a night out. I admittedly wasn’t around in the ‘70s, but at least for the night I felt like I was.
First impressions are everything. I knew I would like this place when I spotted it from across the street. Its illuminating neon sign stood out in the row of crowded bars. Not to mention, the entire block’s sidewalk was under construction at the time; and Ethyl’s boasted a red carpet across the temporary wooden makeshift ramp leading into the entryway. I have to give kudos for the way they turned the ramp into a Glamp!
I wouldn’t recommend going late-night on a Friday if you are looking for a quiet, reserved place to chat, though after-work happy hour during the week might be doable. Once 10pm hits, it’s a loud party scene with go-go dancers performing on the bar, a live deejay and musicians, and a high-energy, packed dance floor. It’s one of those places where you’ll most likely know every single song. If you’re off-pitch – don’t worry – no one will hear you anyway! The groovy jams of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Billy Joel, Sonny & Cher, and co. will surely drown you out. So, if you want to rock it out with friends and put on your boogie shoes, Ethyl’s should be on your list of watering holes.
It’s is the self-proclaimed “home of the Fi-Dolla Burger.” It was just the right size, satisfying without putting you into a food coma; and pretty darn good and juicy for only five bucks! I added bacon for an extra three dollars. Fried egg, guacamole, and caramelized onions are other optional add-ons. It’s not the place to be healthy, but if you have a hankering for comforting bar food, you’ll find exceptional quality. The hot chicken bun is a spicy chicken sandwich battered in crispy corn flake fry and cajun seasoning. Their disco curds are a must-have—fried cheese soaked in “groovy brown gravy.” Southerners will rejoice!
Their specialty cocktails are wittily named The Sleazy Mustache, Bump & Grind, and Chocolate Harlem Honey. I tried one of their most popular, Marilyn’s Chamber (vodka, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, agave and a sage garnish) and the Hot Blooded (tequila, blood orange, agave, muddled jalapeno and fresh lime)—the latter was my preference of the two. I like my beverages as spicy as my food.
I’m planning my next visit. Now that the Q train is traveling express from Union Square and Times Square to the Upper East Side, if the city has more spots open up like this one, Second Avenue will sweepingly become “cool again” all the way down from the East Village to up, and up, and up.
Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food is located at 1629 2nd Avenue between East 84th and 85th streets, New York, NY 10028. 212-300-4132. Hours of operation are: Monday-Friday 4 p.m. – 4 a.m., Saturday and Sunday noon-4 a.m. Kitchen open daily until 4 a.m.
Owner Sonny Solomon and Executive Chef Binder Saini are serving up not only quality eats, but also a new energy to the Indian dining scene in Astoria. If you look around you’ll notice that the trendy and booming Queens neighborhood has an Indian restaurant on nearly ever block, but Kurry Qulture stands out from the rest with a combination of fine dining, eye-catching contemporary art, Bollywood-pop music and a substantial cocktail list that gives the place more of a comfortable lounge-feel.
Kurry Qulture features flavors and preparations of southern coastal India—a departure from the cream-based heavier dishes of northern India that I’ve been accustomed to. Each item that my guest and I tried was robust in flavor and spice, with a contrast of sweet and savory, spicy and tangy. Our tasting began with a complimentary warm tomato soup that was light and brothy, smelling of coriander and warm spice. It was a shot-sized portion and meant to be a glimpse into the palette of flavors we were about to taste throughout the meal.
For starters, we tried two vegetarian options and one seafood nosh. My favorite of the three was the Pav Bhaji, buttered bread rolls and vegetable gravy eaten like a sandwich or open-faced with fork and knife. You could also dip the bread in the gravy if you like to eat sans utensils like me. It was smoky, rustic comfort-food with a medium kick. I would come back for it!
We also had one of their most popular appetizers, the KQ cauliflower florets, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with garlic tomato chutney. The sauce was too sweet for my taste, but I thought it was a creative pairing. The Shrimp Chettinad on a tapioca wafer was a standout. The plump, cooked shrimp were doused in a chile sauce with a satisfying level of spice. The presentation was lovely and it’s a good portion to split between two people for an appetizer.
For entrees, there are just as many meat options as vegetarian: lamb, shrimp, salmon, chicken, duck and goat. I wouldn’t typically order a vegetarian dish as my main course, but the Dum Aloo was as hearty as any meat-centric plate. Masala spices, cream, onions, vegetables and saffron make up the pureed sauce, served over potatoes. It was dynamite!
The tender lamb Rogan Josh, lamb shank Kashmiri-style, is an ideal winter dish. It’s an aromatic stew with a reddish-brown gravy of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, and a dash of heat from the Kashmiri chiles. The lamb shank is slow-cooked for five to six hours, which explains why it so easily fell off the bone, making it hard to distinguish where the meat begins and the sauce ends; and the delicious spinach and goat cheese Kulcha was perfect for dipping. I highly recommend going with this option if you are looking for something more complex than a traditional naan.
Lastly, we tried the Tandoori Salmon topped with green mango chutney, over a bed of rice salad. It was nice and crispy on the outside, but I found the flavor of the fish too strong and the meat too tough.
For dessert, we ended off the meal with a traditional Indian sweet, warm Gulab Jamun. They are like small doughnut holes, milky and creamy in the center, and lightly fried then saturated with a sweet syrup that had the consistency of a thin, light honey. They were served with Ras Malai on the side—a creamy vanilla cottage cheese cake soaked in rose water and topped with coconut. The floral notes, paired with the honey in the Gulab Jamun, was lovely.
Kurry Qulture’s cocktail list is cleverly sectioned into three categories: bright, light and tight. Bright drinks are characterized with bubbles, light are on the sweeter side and easy-drinking, and tight being more of a stiff drink. The couple that I tried were fairly juicy to drink on their own and did the trick in cutting the heat of the spicier dishes. They’d be excellent in the summer in the outdoor patio.