manhattan


A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity along with my friends to check out Ethos, a new restaurant in the East Village. We arrived to find the front sidewalk carpeted in pastel rose petals, balloons, and a smiling hostess greeting us at the door. I quickly realized as we walked into the space that I had been there before to dine at the prior establishment. The space had been brightened, from the open and exposed kitchen to the fabulous enclosed patio space and garden at the rear of the restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

Currently the space in the back features a garden which supplies the produce for the restaurant. The very warm owner was on hand to take us on a tour through the space, including a downstairs spot perfect for accommodating large groups. There’s even a separate bar on hand to complete the event. Having been in a few other East Village locations with basements, I was impressed how warm the space felt. This will be a great addition to restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

While the menu has some heavier options mixed in, it’s very much a place focused on small plates, perfect for sharing with a group of your closest friends (though works equally well for a first date!). You can choose your preference amongst the open bar area you walk through when you first enter the restaurant, the main dining room, or the enclosed patio.

Ethos, East Village

We started the meal with an assortment of appetizers, including the mandatory spreads ranging from tsatziki to hummus, to baba ghanoush. Not typically all that fond of tsatziki, I was surprised to find just how fabulous their rendition is. You could taste all of the layers of it, making it a cool contrast of an addition to their fresh warm pita. Their hummus was nice and smokey and the baba ghanoush was the best I have ever tried. Definitely recommend this assortment for sharing among friends.

Ethos, East Village

Another starter we tried was the baby octopus with mixed organic greens, vine ripened tomatoes and grilled peppers, which was served with a lemon and olive dressing. This clean fresh meal tasted like summer on a plate, complete with tomatoes from their on-premises garden. Their grilled octopus had that nice touch of char stopping just shy of overly crunchy. Perfect. For something with great flavor and a bit of flourish (hello, table-side ouzo-soaked flambé), don’t miss their Saganaki Kefalotiri. Imported greek kefalotyri cheese pan seared in olive oil. Nothing wrong about that.

Ethos, East Village

Of course, we had to try one of their lamb dishes. This here is off the mezes, but there are also other larger portions which come accompanied by side dishes (if that’s more your style).

Ethos, East Village

To finish, we tried a pastry creme tart with berries and their crème brûlée. I was a bit disappointed to not get to give their baklava a taste seeing as it’s such a signature Greek dish, but I figure that’s just yet another reason for a return visit. Great addition to a great neighborhood!

Ethos – 167 Avenue A (b/w E10 & E11) – 646.596.9051
Reservations Suggested

Photos courtesy of Joey Pasion.

Before Lady Gaga’s final show at Roseland Ballroom – the final show ever at the venue – my sister and I met at Don Antonio for dinner. To be honest, I don’t even know what the back part of the restaurant looks like. It was cold and rainy and we were in a bit of a hurry, so we sat instead at the bar (coincidentally, much closer to the door). I opted to start with their Trasteverino – cynar, limoncello, and carpano in a pistachio-rimmed glass. Delicious.

We started with some fried bites – their arancini (Neapolitan rice ball with baked Italian ham) and fritattine (traditional spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella). The arancini was great, but oh the fritattine is where it is at. It’s like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball at it’s finest with only a $3 pricetag.

For the main dish, we had to try their signature dish – a fried pizza, or “Montanara Starita”. This is Antonio Starita’s specialty and is a lightly fried pizza dough topped by their signature Starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella. Now I’ve had fried pizza once before and thought it was tasty but, more or less, that it was just pizza.

This though? Was something entirely different. The crust was light and fluffy, but with that interesting slightly oily crispness you get when something is fried. So good. So worth the hype. If you’re in the area looking for a bite (or meeting friends somewhere where the food is … less than desirable), this should be the spot you try.

This is an area which I often have difficulty finding something good for dinner. I think I’ve found a new go to!

And although the weather might have left a bit to be desired, the concert definitely did not. Another fun and fabulous night. Only sad that there are no more to be had at Roseland… Xo.

Don Antonio – 309 W 50th St (@ 8th Avenue) – 646.719.1043
Reservations Suggested

There are so many places I mean to try but never do. Call it home base syndrome. You know it’s here, it’s popular, there’s likely to be a wait, but you’ll go – sometime. The Burger Joint has been on said list for a long time. I’ve listened to Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about their beef patties, confirming they should indeed live up to the hype – but yet I’ve never been.

But thank you, Lady Gaga! I finally was going to be over in the area to work a VIP experience we had connected to her next to last show at Roseland Ballroom. Not sure what the food situation was going to be and knowing I’d be at the venue from 4:30 until likely 11, I thought it was a perfect time for a burger.

When I arrived, it was every bit the out of place venue I’d always heard it was. Plopped right into the glorious lobby of the Parker Meridien over in the back left was a snaking line, corralled by a series of ropes. There was no sign directly in the lobby and it was a kind bellhop who let me that was indeed where I needed to go.

Knowing their policy of making you order immediately, I started scrambling to find the menu on the wall along the long dark hallway that leads to the entrance – the main thing confirming you are indeed in the right place being a large glowing neon burger on the wall.

The family in front of me was from Australia. They were staying in the hotel, so you could say they had the “home court” advantage when it came to the line. And they’d definitely put this advantage to use, having visited the spot three times during their visit. I was looking through the various menu boxes with languages from French to Japanese when they stopped me. “The English menu is inside behind the register. You’ll have time.” Ominous.

When I entered the restaurant, I was surprise by the overwhelming amount of graffiti on the wall. The sign prohibiting graffiti seemed to be a pointless decoration as clearly, no one was reading it.

I went simple on my order. No shake this time, but I went with the cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke. My bill came to around $10.

The room was filled with patrons, but respectfully they all are their burgers quickly, cleaned up, and allowed the next customers to cycle in. No stragglers playing on their phones holding up the process. This is a large part of what helped make my wait a mere 15-20 minutes. Not bad.

And the burger? So good. I was concerned that it would be massive and that I’d end up ruining my outfit for the evening. The patty wasn’t Shake Shack thin, but it wasn’t one of those super thick ones either. Just right. Nice and juicy with great flavor. The fries were on the thinner side and just the right amount of salt (which is key). If you haven’t tried their burger, I highly recommend. And now that it’s almost warm, it’s in the perfect spot too to grab and head into the park!

How was Gaga, you ask? So good. I followed my stop at Burger Joint with a lovely treat yourself session at Drybar (loved it!) before heading to the show.

The soundcheck was awesome. There’s something magical about getting to see a major performer without the stage costumes, just taking the stage for those few songs to get their bearings.

The show itself was a nonstop energetic hour ride, complete with a serenade to the legendary Tony Bennett.

I heard this show was not as choreographed as her typical tours. I’d love to see what the full tour would be!

 

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – 119 W 56 Street (b/w 6th & 7th Ave) – 212.708.7414
No Reservations

Locanda Verde had been on my “must try” list for over a year before I finally made it there. Now that I’ve been (twice) I’m fairly certain it was my subconscious keeping me away, knowing that once I went, I’d want to keep coming back over and over (and over).

We’ll start with brunch. It was a cold wintry Sunday, one so windy I remember being thankful I made it there since I couldn’t see most of the walk there. I’d managed to secure our reservation thanks to calling directly. The restaurant limits the advance window and overall number of reservations available via OpenTable. For better availability, I suggest calling Locanda.

Since it was so cold, I ended up ordering not one, but eventually two cappuccinos. They weren’t cheap, but fellow cappuccino aficionados would approve of the strength of their espresso and proper foam. Perfection.

To start, we had to order the ricotta toast with honey. I’d had this for dinner on my first visit, the only difference being that the brunch version pairs it with a burnt orange toast instead of plain. Both times I was so blown away by the creamy fresh flavor of their ricotta. I don’t think I will ever be able to come for a meal at Locanda and not order this dish. I’m obsessed.

For my main dish, I couldn’t resist making it a full ricotta brunch, so I went with the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. While the pancakes were not cheap ($17), I have to say they are some of the best I have had in a long time. The ricotta made the interior almost creamy and the meyer lemon curd was the best I’ve ever had. I think I have found my new go-to brunch spot. I could happily spend hours upon hours here. We actually did this specific Sunday! Highly recommend.

Locanda Verde – 377 Greenwich Street (@ N Moore Street) – 212.925.3797
Reservations Recommended

It had been a long day this particular Tuesday during Social Media Week, but I quickly found my second wind. This night T had made plans for our big three year anniversary celebration. I did not know where we were headed other than somewhere nice. I was caught off guard when it appeared we were making our way over from Chelsea instead on foot. Eventually he slowed down a bit and I looked across to see the entry way for Aldea – a restaurant I knew of somewhat, but admittedly not in great detail. I hadn’t done my usual pre-visit scan of the menu. It was fun to go in with no expectations – ready to be wowed by a fun new spot.

We checked in at the front and made our way to the back, where the Chef’s Table is located. Unlike some other restaurants I’ve been to, this one was nice and open, still managing to give you an amazing view of the detail with which the kitchen prepares every single dish. There were small utensils, tweezers and the like, used to ensure that every intricate detail was just perfect.

We went with the tasting menu, which was a selection of 9 courses prepared at the discretion of the chef. They were great about accommodating our few requests – no mushrooms, no red wine, and no strong cheeses. We were first greeted by the chef’s take on a frozen caipirinha – a refreshing and flavorful palate cleanser to start the meal.

The first dish which came out was a mussel soup with chorizo, fennel, and a coconut-curry. I can’t say I’ve ever had a soup with mussels, and this was a simple, slightly salty way to start off the tasting (providing a nice contrast to the amuse-bouche.

Next was a small dish of two small croquettes de bacalao, which were served with garlic aioli. Bacalao is not something that I have had often, so it really made me begin to feel the Portuguese connection in our food. Another thing which added a strong tie was the paired tasting portion, which was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Usually it’s an assortment of wonderful wines, which I have never found anything but excellent. The unique thing about the Aldea sommelier’s take was that it was not limited to wine. We had madeira, sherry, and even a porter. Each really lined up quite well with the course, but I will admit I did notice in particular just how much it added to our meal at Aldea.

Next, we were each served one of their market oysters, accompanied by a pickled shallot mignonette. I decided going in that I was going to try absolutely everything, even if it was something I do not typically order, meaning when it came to these oysters? I would be trying. While still not my favorite out of all of the courses, I did not mind these. The flavor was good, and I really liked the sauce they used.

This dish next dish of beet pickled quail eggs was so pretty! With the Easter season approaching, it seemed like a nice seasonal nod in the line-up. Also not usually a fan of eggs, I liked this dish. The pickling process almost made the egg taste fade a bit, with the beet flavor being more noticeable. I liked that this was just a bite too, smaller than some of the dishes surrounding it.

The next dish, a sea urchin toast with a cauliflower crèma, was one of the highlights for me out of the line-up. I think sea urchin is one of the most decadent, indulgent options out of seafood – dare I say out of savory options in general. I also absolutely loved the unique cauliflower crèma.

We were then served tuna crudo, featuring cucumber and radish. This dish was a nice fresh and light balance to the richness of the sea urchin. I really love tuna tartare and this was a nice play on this – no heat, but just good all-around flavor.

Next, we were served a calamari dish featuring calamari roe and squid ink and languisa sausage. This was a fun dish. The sausage had a bit of a spice to it, which was a perfect contrast to the calamari.

We then were served tortilla with bacalao and black truffle. I think bacalao was the only thing we had which made a repeat appearance. This was a Portuguese take on the Spanish staple Tortilla Española. The layers were nicely done and the stronger flavor of the bacalao stood up nicely to the prominent potato flavor. I was not sure what I would think on this one but I was surprised how much I liked it.

The main entree dish of pork cruda vera was another one of my favorites. The pork was served with rutabaga, radishes, and orange. The orange added a slightly unexpected layer to this dish. The added upside I find to tasting menus is that even the entree is not an overwhelmingly large portion. This was just perfect in every way.

Our first of the dessert dishes was a cheese plate, served with quince marmalade. Not usually one to embrace cheese as a dessert option, I was caught off guard as to how much I liked this! The cheese was creamy and flavorful and the only thing I disliked about the cube of marmalade was that there was not more of it.

Next for dessert was a combination plate featuring a panna cotta, coconut foam, and granita. I think this was my favorite out of the dessert dishes. I liked the playful nature of this one and the way each element was a contrast to its neighbor – with the panna cotta being creamy, the granita being super icey, and the coconut foam falling somewheer int he middle.

Our final dessert was a chocolate plow pudding with almond sorbet and poached pear. The chocolate pudding was almost more of a super soft cake. The almond sorbet and poached pear managed to nicely balanced out the more heavy, rich flavor to the chocolate. I don’t think I have ever had this combination of flavors – chocolate, almond, pear – but it was so nice, with the pear being the surprise addition.

When our server brought out the bill, it came accompanied by yet more sweets! This time, it was a gummie for each of us and custard tarts. If only the bill always came with such an indulgent option.

What a wonderfully indulgent way to celebrate such a milestone. Three years! Kudos to T for an excellent pick and to the fabulous staff at Aldea for providing us both with an experience to remember. Highly recommend.

Aldea – 31 West 17th Street (b/w 5th and 6th Aves) – 212.675.7223
Reservations Required

I’ve been to 7A twice the last couple of weeks with my sister. We wanted to squeeze in at least a couple of visits before it closes its doors for the last time on January 31st. I’ve already posted over on Medium just how sad their closing makes me. They’re on the short list of restaurants I automatically link to neighborhoods, almost as if one couldn’t exist without the other.

Friday night though, I think it all set in. Deciding we were going to go all-out with our final visit, my sister kicked off our order, “We’d like to start with the mozzarella cheese sticks.”

Our server paused, seemingly running through a mental list. She shook her head, “We are actually out of those.”

Caught off guard, my sister continued, “Okay, well I’ll have the Austrian … the fried chicken cutlet with sweet potato fries.”

The server looked back up. “I think we still have those. I’ll check. If not, are regular fries okay?” My sister nodded yes.

As our meal continued, I heard similar conversations between patrons and the servers. No, we don’t have that beer. We are out. No, sorry we are out of that menu item. With 7 days to go, it seems as if they’re done. No new supplies. Just there to sell out of their existing kitchen inventory.

The last weekend has come and gone, so no more chance at brunch, but there still are several nights to squeeze in a dinner or lunch. A last hurrah. Might I suggest the Austrian sandwich – of course, assuming it’s in stock.

The intersection of East 7th and Avenue A will never be the same.

Side note, this is this blog’s 1,000th post! I can’t think of anything better to be the focus of this post.

7A Cafe – 109 Avenue A (at East 7th Street) – 212.475.9001
Reservations Not Required

It’s been a busy several weeks going into Christmas. Aside from the Christmas parties, there were concerts (Pink & meeting John Mayer) and even Sleep No More hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. This blog has been a bit neglected, with November focused on NaNoWriMo and December being a holiday whirlwind. That doesn’t mean, however, there haven’t been some fabulous meals, so it’s time for some overdue catching up.

A week ago, our team at Facebook took some of my work team out for a holiday lunch at Craft. It was a beautiful lunch, taking place in their private dining room. It was a really nice space, with an area in the back corner that opened into the kitchen where you can watch them preparing the food.

We started with a fabulous pasta dish – ricotta cavatelli with butternut squash and parmesean finished off with a dusting of roasted pumpkin seeds. The pasta was so light that it melted in your mouth, almost as if it was instead butter. So good. The flavors were simple and light, so it was not a heavier pasta. The pumpkin seeds were a fun addition – a nice contrast in texture. It looked so simple, but I was quite impressed.

For my main dish, I went with the Black Bass, which was served with a potato puree and niçoise olives. The outside was lightly charred, rich with flavor. I’m usually not a fan of olives, but the flavor here worked perfectly – a bit tart and salty. The flatiron steak also looked excellent, served with cipollini onions, hen of the woods mushrooms, and bordelaise.

For dessert, we were all treated to some gingerbread served with quince, muscato, and crème fraîche‎. The entire dining space was filled with the rich spicy smell of gingerbread. I did not even have to have a bite to know this was going to be quite good. It was moist and molasses-y, which was balanced out nicely with the ice cream and the fresh slices of quince. It was truly the holidays on a plate!

Craft – 43 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003 – 212.780.0880
Reservations Required

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