A pre fixe lunch and a modern take on classic Indian – Review of Junoon

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Junoon
27 W 24th Street
Flatiron
212.490.2100/junoonnyc.com

Michelin starred ‘modern’ Indian restaurant, Junoon best is known for their courteous service, grand appearance, and pricey-for-the-genre food.  Their 5 course pre fixe dinner will set you back $75, but little is known of their two lunch specials – a two course appetizer and entree selection from Junoon’s a la carte menu or a more traditional Indian tasting platter called Thali, both coming in at $19.95.

 

Thali Platter meat option @ Junoon

Thali Platter meat option @ Junoon


The 2 course pre fixe lunch special is a great way to sample some of what Junoon has to offer, but the Thali platter steals the show with its small tasting portions in katori (small bowls) which are served on a metal, semi-circular plate.

Lamb Kolhapuri @ Junoon

Lamb Kolhapuri @ Junoon

During my lunch at Junoon I started with the lahsooni gobi ($12), fried cauliflower in a sweet tomato sauce.  It was a flavorful way to wake up my palate and begin to acquaint myself with the Indian flavor palate, which at Junoon seems to have a more international appeal rather than strictly Indian.  For the main course I sampled the meat option of the Thali platter (a vegetarian option is also available).  Six small bowls greeted me, each with something different to offer and each with its own warm hue, a visually stimulating experience. The platter consisted of Chicken Lababdar, Lamb Kolhapuri, and Piri-Piri Shrimp while jasmine rice, yellow daal, and raita (a cooling yogurt cumin sauce) helped to round out the meal.  Stand out for me was the Chicken Lababdar, moist chicken pieces in a tomato and onion sauce which finished slightly sweet and smoky while the Lamb Kolhapuri had just the right amount of spice and gave off a more earthy flavor.

  

Chicken Lababdar @ Junoon

Chicken Lababdar @ Junoon Service, to be expected, was practically flawless – attentive and knowledgeable but not overwhelmingly so.

Though you probably won’t stumble in to Junoon for your midday lunch on a dollar slice kind of day, it would be a great place to take those clients you want to impress, or even that co worker you’ve been eyeing at the water cooler.

 

Junoon on Urbanspoon

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

Thai Flavors that will make your taste buds dance – Review of Laut

BY AMY WASSERMAN

LAUT
15 East 17th Street (Between Broadway and Fifth Ave)
Union Square / Flatiron
212-206-8989

http://lautnyc.com/

Chicken Pad See Ew from Laut

There are certainly enough Thai restaurants in the city to be able to eat at a different one every night for one year without ever dining at the same Thai restaurant twice, but the combination of Malaysian and Singapore influences along with Thai make Laut a great and unique alternative to every other Thai restaurant in NYC.

Located in the heart of Union Square on 17th Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue, you can get to Laut by almost any train line in NYC. Although, you may walk past it and not even notice it is there by its unassuming storefront, once inside you get an instant aroma of the spices and know you are in for a great meal!  As you look through the large menu options you will notice most of the dishes have common ingredients such as, turmeric, chili paste, coconut milk, tamarind sauce, curry and lemongrass. These are the key ingredients that make up their flavorful dishes.

Basil Chicken from Laut

Speaking of these flavorful dishes, after studying the menu and wanting eight different dishes, including the appetizer of Roti Canai with a curry dipping sauce, which are similar to Indian pancakes, curry puffs and crispy spring rolls, I settled on just a main dish of Chicken Pad See Ew, a dish consisting of flat broad noodles with onion, egg, Chinese broccoli in a soy based sauce. This more than met my expectations. It exceeded them by a mile. I have had this dish at many restaurants but this was the best I have tried. The sweet and salty flavor of the soy sauce along with the broad noodles layered with the egg, onion and broccoli made my taste buds dance; a happy dance! Each of the menu items comes with your choice of meat; chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, vegetable or tofu. My friend ordered the Basil Chicken and I had to try it. With layers of flavor between the fresh basil bamboo shoots, the onion, bell pepper and chili paste, the dish did not disappoint her or me.  She let me have some of hers on my “side plate” and after I ate it at warp speed, I found myself longing for more of hers in between bites of my incredible dish. I knew better than to stuff myself though even though I tried to rationalize with myself that I could walk it off on my way home. I refrained. I knew next time I ate there, which would be very soon, I would try one of the curries or the drunken man noodles. For now, I was completely satisfied. Its no wonder it’s been a Michelin recommended restaurant for several years now.

They have a lunch menu served from 11:30am – 3:30pm Monday through Friday and Dinner from 5:00pm-9:30pm. Saturdays and Sundays they are open for dinner only 5:00pm-9:30pm.

The lunch prices are very reasonable with dishes ranging from $10-$12 per dish.  The dishes were the perfect lunch size for the price.  Dinner appetizers range from $8-$13 and entrees are $13-$2

The service was friendly and extremely attentive if not too attentive. They came to our table four times in 7 minutes to ask if we had questions or were ready to order. To be fair, it was lunchtime and they were busy and had to turn tables.  We would have been if we have stopped catching up on girl talk long enough to decide on the many mouth watering options. I know we made the right choices. My taste buds agreed with me too!

* You can read more by Amy Wasserman at www.AskWass.com

Laut on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Italy’s home away from home – Review of Eataly

BY STEPHANIE HARRISON

200 5th Avenue :: Flatiron District
212-229-2560 :: http://eatalyny.com

Fresh vegetables from Eataly

Pasta is not the only dish offer in this Italian market and eatery. Eataly encapsulates a range of meat, fish, cheese, pizza, pasta, gelato, pastries, coffee, and wine and beer.  The place from the outside looks a bit like a corner shop café, but once you step foot inside this palace, the options are endless.  For those of you who enjoy fresh, made-to-order, authentic Italian flavors, this is your haven.

You have an option of Manzo – a more formal dining experience, or La Piazza – the standing table in the center of Eataly.  If you dare to fight for your spot, La Piazza is the spot you want – it’s well worth the wait, and you’re right in the action of the food, fun, and flavors.  The process of La Piazza is a bit confusing; the hustle and bustle of this area forces you to quickly decide what to order, and focus on your fast-paced surroundings.  Have no fear, you can’t go wrong with the Salumi and Formaggi – an assortment of the best cheese and salumi of Eataly.  Normally, I don’t eat much meat or cheese, but this is too good to pass up.  When I spy with my own little eye, the thinly cut slices of meat at the deli, and the blocks of fresh cheese, it’s impossible to not indulge.  A combination of a slim slice of prosciutto cotto mixed with a melt in your mouth mozzarella is to die for.  Share this plate with someone else so that you can try other delectable dishes as well.

Next came the Ostriche (daily selection of oysters).  Some prefer the small, skinny kind, but these were the medium-sized, meaty oysters that slurp right into your mouth.  Add a little vinegar, hot sauce, lemon juice, and freshly grounded horseradish and they’re slurp ready.

If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and pick up these items to go.  Better yet, peruse through the aisles of the market, you can cook up your own authentic Ea-talian entrees.

 

From produce to meats, to fish, to jams, to pasta, Eataly houses a magnificent selection of items for Italian cooking.

Everything is organized beautifully, and most importantly, they are extremely clean.  For you neat-freaks out there, Eataly is the place for you to stock up your pantry.

Truffles of Eataly

 

Photo by Stephanie Harrison

You can even try a $36 miniature sized bottle of balsamic.

Photo by Stephanie Harrison

Or get your hands on these jams, jellies, and sauces.

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, drop by Eataly for some gelato or pastries.  Beware of the line that leads out the door!

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Eataly on Urbanspoon

Two fabulous takes on Christmas Eve feasting

Two excellent ways to celebrate Christmas Eve sans apron this year:

almond

Almond is located in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. For more information on Christmas Eve at Almond, click on the image above.

COLA’S HOLIDAY MENU

SPECIAL

Sicilian Seven Fishes for

Christmas Eve

($48 + tax +tip)

APPETIZER

GRILLED PORTUGUESE OCTOPUS AND FRESH SARDINES

PASTA

SPAGHETTINI VONGOLE: CLAMS & MUSSELS IN A WHITE WINE SAUCE

ENTRÉE

FRITO MISTO OF LOCAL FILET OF SOLE, JUMBO SHRIMP, AND CALAMARI

DESSERT

CHOICE OF CITRUS ANNESETTE CHEESECAKE

OR

COLA’S TIRAMISU

*INCLUDES A GLASS OF PROSECCO*

Cola is located in the heart of Chelsea on

148 8TH AVENUE (17th & 8th)

(212) 633-8020

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Tarallucci e Vino brings a taste of Italy to Union Square

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Tarallucci e Vino*
15 E. 18th St.
Union Square / Flatiron District – Manhattan
212-228-5400 /
taralluccievino.net/

On a cold wintry night, six New York City strangers wandered the night seeking one of New York’s revered dining establishments.

A few disagreements later, they ended up at a warm and wonderful Italian restaurant – in one area of what seemed like an endless city.

Panino at Tarallucci e Vino

Panino at Tarallucci e Vino

That was January 2009, before I ever planned on moving here. But I finally stumbled upon this memorable restaurant again and had to retry it, to see if I was just a jaded tourist or if it truly was as magnificent as I remembered. [Read more...]

Adventurous chef’s restaurant hits a high note – A Review of Les Halles

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Les Halles
411 Park Avenue South
Flatiron / Murray Hill
(212) 679-4111/
leshalles.net

Photo courtesy of citysearch.com

Photo courtesy of citysearch.com

Some foodies might begin their New York adventures by eating at a celebrity chef’s establishment, with secret hopes of running into their white-coated heroes in the flesh.

I began my New York life by running into a celebrity chef – literally.

Last June while watching the Stanley Cup Final at Milady’s in SoHo, my friend saw Anthony Bourdain walk by. Naturally, I had to see where my meat-loving soul mate was going for his nightly imbibing and feasting. His destination would surely be a place worth checking out.

Unfortunately, that plan was cut short when I ran straight out of the bar and into Bourdain. As passersby looked on, he responded with a cool “No problem” and moved on with his evening. I did my best fake-casual walk down the street the opposite way. A block later my face cooled off, and I returned to the bar to watch my Pittsburgh Penguins clench the Cup. Needless to say it’s one of my most bizarre (and treasured) celebrity interactions.

Over a year later, I finally landed in the right place: Bourdain’s French brasserie, Les Halles. [Read more...]

Decadent Brunch in a Noir Style Setting – Review of The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

BY BETH KAISERMAN

The Breslin Bar and Dining Room
16 W. 29th St.
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939/thebreslin.com

Walking into the Ace Hotel made me wish I was having a shady 1940s crime drama-style rendezvous. At least part of that desire was fulfilled by having breakfast in the 1940s-esque atmosphere of The Breslin Bar and Dining Room in the hotel.

The owners of British gastropub, Spotted Pig, Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield teamed up again, to open the Breslin in October of ‘09.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Breslin

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Breslin

When I tried to call ahead July 4 for brunch, the host informed me that they didn’t accept reservations, but said there was plenty of room. When we got there, the wait was only 10 minutes, and the host said we could start with a drink or coffee at the bar and bring it to the table. About 7 minutes in, my coffee arrived as we were told the table was ready. It was a bit difficult and awkward carrying a full cup of coffee to the table. Also, she failed to mention that we had to pay for the drinks separately at the bar. If staff members had been better coordinated, this would have been a good way to deal way to have guests deal with the wait, but as it played out, it was  confusing and somewhat frustrating from the guests’ side of things. [Read more...]

Decadent Brunch in a Noir Style Setting – Review of The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

BY BETH KAISERMAN

The Breslin Bar and Dining Room
16 W. 29th St.
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939/thebreslin.com

Walking into the Ace Hotel made me wish I was having a shady 1940s crime drama-style rendezvous. At least part of that desire was fulfilled by having breakfast in the 1940s-esque atmosphere of The Breslin Bar and Dining Room in the hotel.

The owners of British gastropub, Spotted Pig, Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield teamed up again, to open the Breslin in October of ‘09.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Breslin

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Breslin

When I tried to call ahead July 4 for brunch, the host informed me that they didn’t accept reservations, but said there was plenty of room. When we got there, the wait was only 10 minutes, and the host said we could start with a drink or coffee at the bar and bring it to the table. About 7 minutes in, my coffee arrived as we were told the table was ready. It was a bit difficult and awkward carrying a full cup of coffee to the table. Also, she failed to mention that we had to pay for the drinks separately at the bar. If staff members had been better coordinated, this would have been a good way to deal way to have guests deal with the wait, but as it played out, it was  confusing and somewhat frustrating from the guests’ side of things. [Read more...]

Wined Up no more – Review of Wined Up

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY Wined Up 913 Broadway Flatiron 212-673-6333/winedup.com I had been to Wined Up several times, always recommending it when in the area looking for a mellow place to stop after work.  On my most recent trip I met some out of town guests for a drink and a light bite to eat on a Friday night.

Wined Up

Tuna Tartare

It was about 7:00 and the place was mostly empty (all but about 3 tables).  The low lighting with the wine bottles stacked on illuminated shelves made for a very pleasant atmosphere.  I ordered the Priorat ($12/glass), a wine from Spain that was neither wet nor dry and had a subtle taste.  It was a pleasant wine to sip on as I waited for the other components of my party. [Read more...]