Not your average sports bar – Review of BottomzUp

BY BETH KAISERMAN

344 Third Avenue
Murray Hill
(646) 918-7220 / bottomzupnyc.com/

 

The 3400 square foot space at 344 3rd Ave. opened Thursday and features a menu of eats from around the nation. You can root for your team while pretending you’re at your favorite tailgate spot from New England to Texas. If you prefer, you can tune out the sports theme and order sushi and oysters, something you don’t see in most sports bars. 

Grilled corn lollipop, shrimp, chicken empanada

Grilled corn lollipop, shrimp, chicken empanada

Tabletop speaker at BottomzUp

Tabletop speaker at BottomzUp

Tempura sushi

Tempura sushi

The bar features a sleek design with 45 flat-screen 60” HDTVs, and guests can listen to their game of choice (or music) on tabletop wireless speakers. This is ideal for serious sports fans like my dad, who listens to football while watching hockey. It’s also nice for people who want a little diddy with their oysters. The apathetic folks deserve a Sunday funday, too.

As time goes on, more regionally inspired features will make their way onto the menu. I may have to check in once their Primantis-style sandwich makes an appearance.

Bottomzup Bar & Grill NYC on Urbanspoon

Half a Decade of ‘Putting the South in the Mouths’ of Murray Hillers and More – Review of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ

BY BETH KAISERMAN

181 Lexington Avenue (btwn. 31th. and 32nd. Streets)
Murray Hill
212-779-7427 / brotherjimmys.com/

Brother Jimmy's Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s Celebrating Five Years in Murray Hill

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in Murray Hill celebrated 5 years this August with a feast for the eyes, ears and belly. The BBQ chain has been around since 1989, but the Murray Hill location offers the “best combination of fun and quality,” CEO, Josh Lebowitz, said.

Since it’s a large space, people tend to eat and then enjoy drinks at the bar afterward, he said. Last week that scene was just part of a summer-style bash, complete with pork, booze, and a three-hour block party on Lexington Avenue that started at 4 p.m.

As a band inside played bar hits like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” guests outside enjoyed a whole hog served up by Chef Eva Pesantez, along with rib tips, corn, popcorn and cotton candy. And even though it might have been a little early for Journey, a wide variety of people enjoyed some free eats to kick off their night.

Simone Martins was on her way home with her husband and kids when they discovered the party. After all, the smell of smoky BBQ always signifies a great time. Though it was “a little spicy,” for her taste, Martins said it was a nice surprise after a day at work.

The typically bustling Murray Hill was rewarded for its devotion to Brother Jimmy’s, a neighborhood staple that’s obviously generous enough to show their appreciation. Cheers to 5 more years, and many more beers!

 

Other Brother Jimmy’s locations in NYC include the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Union Square, Midtown West, and a West Village to-go spot.

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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.

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Taco Enfant Terrible takes Manhattan – Review of Teqa

BY ELENA MANCINI

Chef Chris Goossen

Teqa
447 Third Ave.
Murray Hill
212-213-3223
http://www.teqanyc.com/

Murray Hill has gotten a lot of press lately for its notably upgraded restaurant scene over the past couple of years. Amid Les Halles Resto, Zengo, Terroir, inoteca, Teqa is firmly among the key players in raising the neighborhood’s foodie profile. Open for under two years, Teqa is a airy, elegant dimly-lit relaxing space designed by Lesly Zamor with a spacious bar and a decor that evokes South Beach and L.A. more than it does New York. It has recently managed to lure the creative genius of Los Angeles chef and taco guru, Chris Goossen to helm its kitchen.

A fierce, wife-beater-donning 38 year with a boxing background, Goossen’s demeanor is both provocative and entertaining, to say the least: think: the non-compromising standards of Gordon Ramsey, and the badass mystique of Anthony Bourdain, but the L.A. version of both. Goossen’s passion is to celebrate the authentic flavors of Mexico with his inventive and inspired Nouveau Mexican dishes. Goossen has created 42 original tacos with ingredients from around the world. With two decades of the restaurant business under his belt before coming to New York, Goossen brings a wealth of culinary and business acumen to the table. His previous chefing gigs include Dome and Bottega Louie in L.A. and starting his legendary Knockout Taco Truck in the City of Angeles, or “Lost Angeles” as it is cheekily referred to on his fore-arm-lengthed tattoo. Goossen’s reads like an L.A. story through and through. Prior to knocking it out of the park with his taco truck, Goossen had worked as Mark Wahlberg’s private chef for five years.

My dining companion and I had the opportunity to speak with Goossen briefly that evening. The first things that struck me about him were his fierceness and sense of humor. He asked us to pardon the wife-beater, and made a charming joke about the temperature in his workplace. When asked what his culinary vision and message, Goossen responded that his mission is to educate. He explained that “New Yorkers don’t get Mexican food.” They’re not accustomed to the heat and don’t yet have the palate for it. Goossen aims to change that. Part of his vision is also to prove that that fine food can be served on a taco. If you doubt his cred or dedication, Goossen’s created 42 tacos with ingredients from around the world.

Asked how he runs his kitchen, Goossen fired a reflex-like response: I’m a tyrannt. He talked about educating his kitchen staff by not coddling them. He practices breaking people down to build them back up and make them better than before. He summed up his approach by stating: “I’m the nicest a…(insert unisex body part) you’ll ever meet.” Keep reading to find out whether the dishes rise to match the persona.

The menu includes an extensive cocktail list, many of which are made with tequila and a reasonable selection of wines by the glass at the $10 range. Menu categories include appetizers, salads, (all within the $10 – $15 range) three distinct taco categories and main courses (between $17 – $24) and desserts (under $10).

I ordered a rose hibiscus tequila drink. The fresh juice flavors were very pronounced and added a natural bitter-sweet dimension to the sweet tequila undertones. My dining companion ordered spicy cucumber margarita. This was a margarita slam dunk, and is the drink that I will be sure to order on my next visit. Both cocktails were priced at $11.

DISHES SAMPLED:

Dinner began with an order of Taquitos de Carnitas and border chopped salad. The hard shell was filled with juicy braised pulled pork and flavored with salsa mexicana and a modest sprinkling of cotija cheese for creaminess. When taking our order, our server asked us about our heat-factor preferences, and we opted for mild-medium and the taquitos had just the right amount of kick.

Border Chopped Salad at Teqa

The salad was a refreshing segue to the grounding effects of the taquitos. It consisted of vibrant shreds of farmer’s kale jazzed up with jicama, bacon, breadcrumbs and a compelling citrus vinaigrette.

 

Hawaiian Tuna Poke

The Hawaiian Tuna Poke was an ingenious blend of flavors and textures. Made with fresh and generously meaty cuts of Tuna Poke sushi paired with avocado, jalapeno and a light sprinkle of togarashi, or Japanese chili powder, in a hard taco shell, this dish was excitingly scrumptious and lingered pleasantly on my blissful palate.

Oaxacan Style Escolar at Teqa

For the main course, I enjoyed the Oaxacan style fish of the day. On that day it happened to be the esc0lar. It was grilled with subtle seasoning which allowed for the delicate nuances of the fish’s flavors to shine through. The thick chunk of fish was flaky and moist and had a light, but highly enjoyable flavor. It was paired with an elegant smattering of roasted shitake mushrooms. I later read up and escolar and learned that it has been known to cause gastric distress because of its high-oil content if consumed in inordinate quantities. I’m glad to report that I hadn’t noticed any excessive oiliness and suffered no discomfort whatsoever at having enjoyed this dish.

Churros with Vanilla Sauce

Churros with Vanilla Sauce

For dessert we shared the churros with vanilla sauce. The churro orbs were crisp and puffy and had a dense but caky consistency.  Resting atop a seductive bed of warm white wine-infused vanilla sauce, the dessert and the side of fresh berries that accompanied it was gone within less than a handful of minutes.

THE SERVICE: Knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive. Our servers were consistently able to answer questions about the menu and provide guidance when necessary. Inquired about food allergies and heat-factor tolerance.

Offering a youthful vibe, foodie pleasures and reasonable tabs, Teqa’s an excellent choice for an intimate dinner or for small groups of adults. It also serves lunch and weekend brunch.

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A discerning New Yorker’s grass-fed of choice – a Review of Bareburger

By Erin Palisin

Various Locations in New York City:

33-21 31st Ave (Astoria)
535 Laguardia Pl. (Greenwich Village)
514 3rd Avenue (Murray Hill)
170 7th Ave. (Park Slope, Brooklyn)

http://www.bareburger.com/

Maui Wowie Burger @ Bareburger

Ask 10 New Yorkers where they go for their favorite burger in the city and you will likely receive 10 different responses. However if you ask this New Yorker, you will only get one: Bareburger. Although a traditional, sloppy beef burger on a regular bun sometimes does the trick, the unique concept and combinations offered at Bareburger are what truly sets it apart from other burger joint competitors.

The Bareburger menu truly offers something for everyone. Diners have the option of choosing from 10 different types of patties: beef, turkey, veggie burger, portabella mushroom, lamb, elk, bison, ostrich, grilled chicken or Cajun spiced chicken. If that weren’t enough, you also have the option of using a multi-grain roll, brioche bun, iceberg lettuce wrap or wheat flour wrap, or a gluten-free tapioca rice bun. After viewing these options, diners can move on to what type of unique burger toppings they want to munch on. Custom designed burgers range from traditional Classic Burger with dill pickle relish, grilled onions and ketchup to the Maui Wowie Burger (pictured below) including smoked mozzarella, grilled pineapple, Canadian bacon, fried onions, roasted red peppers and ranch dressing. Since choosing among these options can be overwhelming, the menu also serves as a suggestion guide. Each type of burger combination comes with a suggestion as to what type of patty would work well. The suggestions have not failed me yet!

 

I am lucky enough to have a Bareburger located only two blocks from my apartment. Since I took my first bite of the Avocado California Burger (with the suggested veggie burger patty and a perfectly buttery brioche bun), I made it a personal goal to try every burger on the menu. I am proud to say I have successfully worked half way to this goal. Although no burger has disappointed, do not miss out on trying the Maui Wowie and Lamb Burger or my first and personal favorite, the Avocado California. In my experience, veggie burgers have been hit or miss; in this case it is a complete hit. It certainly helps that all ingredients are certified organic, fresh and perfectly paired together.  The burgers are a smaller portion, so make sure to order the fresh cut fries and battered onion rings combo (with 4 kinds of dipping sauce, including Bareburger’s own sweet, special sauce); a perfect side to share with your dining companion. Finally, don’t forget to save room for a milkshake made, of course, with certified organic ice cream, milk and fruits. Milkshakes are a thick consistency and contain rich, tasteful flavors. Although you also may leave in a certified food coma, it is certainly one that you won’t forget!

Rings and Fries - Bareburger Combo

As explained on their website, Bareburger prides itself in only using organic ingredients for three reasons: It’s better for you, It’s tastier, and It’s better for the planet. Bareburger certainly proves that all three of these values are not only better for the restaurant’s concept, but better for their customers as well. Enjoy!

*Bareburger has been previously reviewed by Holly Hagan in 2009.
Click here to read her review on The Gotham Palate.

 

 

 

A brunch party for Pranna – Review of Pranna’s “Mad” Brunch

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Pranna
79 Madison Avenue
Murray Hill
212-696-5700|prannarestaurant.com

A newly launched brunch party at Pranna, complete with a DJ brings this after work drink spot into the ranks with the likes fueled brunch parties hosted by Paradou in the trendy Meatpacking District and Sunburnt Cow in the East Village. Or does it?

While good for a drink – at night – when the candles are lit and the lights are low, the pretty massive-for-Manhattan space seemed cold and under designed for brunch when the sun illuminated the space and made it seem even larger than it was.

The American, Indian and Asian inspired menu paired with three drinks (for $28 pre fixe) was certainly the thing to wake up my taste buds.

Prawn cake benedict @ Pranna

Brunch started with a choice of alcoholic beverage (bloody mary, bellini, mimosa, or screwdriver) which took a good 25 minutes to arrive after much confusion with the waitstaff.  My bellini was a great refreshing option.  Despite the wait for the drinks and a waiter who didn’t seem like he had looked over the menu before they threw him to the dogs, our food came out timely.  The prawn cake eggs benedict (with a +$3 charge for Tamarind infused hollandaise sauce!?) for myself and a more traditional eggs benedict florentine for my company.

It was hard to tell if the hollandaise sauce was actually there, as my white eggs had only a hint of a yellowish liquid poured over them.  The eggs however, were cooked perfectly; a trait I often use to judge if my eggs benedict are worthy or not.  The prawn cake, what I thought would elevate this benedict over others I have tried in the past, came nestled in between the English muffin and sautéed spinach underneath and the egg above.  It was sadly a dense, thick mass of prawn and other unrecognizable ingredients that did nothing for the nicely prepared egg above.

A mixed green side salad and curried potatoes with cauliflower were also served.  Although quite good and a wakeup call to my palate, I couldn’t quite figure out how the curried potatoes were meant to be served.  They came out lukewarm and left me wondering, potato salad or home fries?

I’d like to think that Pranna’s “Mad” Brunch party will be a hit (I dare them to prove me wrong!), but first and foremost please work out the kinks in your service.

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BYOB and a blanket: Review of Bhatti Indian Grill

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Bhatti Indian Grill
100 Lexington Ave. at 27th St.
Murray Hill
212-683-4228/bhattinyc.com

Image from bhattinyc.com

Image from bhattinyc.com

On a freezing Friday night, nothing seemed more tempting than a spicy dish of Indian delights.

Unfortunately, the food didn’t stay hot for long at Bhatti in Curry Hill. Maybe I should’ve stopped chattering as soon as the food arrived, because the food turned cold within just a couple minutes.

I arrived around 5 p.m. to an empty, but warm, restaurant. The hostess/server was on the phone when I walked in, and looked like I caught her in the middle of undressing. I told her not to worry about me since I was waiting for someone. Thus, I didn’t receive a menu or water until my friend arrived 20 minutes later. I also didn’t know up until that point that the restaurant is BYOB; I definitely could have run and picked up a bottle of wine in that time if the staff had come over to me in the beginning.

Also, the menu situation was awkward. My friend thought she was missing a page, so she asked for a new one. The waitress promptly brought her a new one, then brashly pointed out that the page was there all along. The customer is always right, and it was unnecessary to prove my friend wrong.

By the time we got into our first dish, a few other parties had been seated. The service remained uncoordinated; that same girl was our server, but someone else (I’m guessing a manager) came over periodically to check on us. I should’ve asked one of them to turn the heat back on.

Maybe I was just hungry, but the first thing on the menu was Tandoori Chaat, and it sounded amazing: grilled diced apple, pineapple, bell peppers and sweet potato tossed in balsamic vinegar and spices. It turned out as basically a plate of spiced apples, like a dryer version of the Stouffers apple side dish I loved as a kid. The dish not nearly as flavorful as the description depicted.

For my main course, I wanted to choose something I hadn’t had before. I went for the Bharwaan Bhindi, a stuffed okra dish. My friend went for the Paneer Tikka Masala. Again, both were too cold to really enjoy, but would have been awesome hot.

A strange service crew and cold food made for a less than ideal experience. I could see it being better if they took care of the heat situation, which is seriously important during these chilly winter nights.

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Take the Pasta Marathon Challenge at Marcony

The 39,000+ runners who will compete in the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 7th get all the glory. But what about the two-million-plus hungry and thirsty spectators who cheer them on all day?

They need fueling too. If you’ll be playing cheerleader that day along the 26.2 mile course, take the “Pasta Marathon” challenge at the Zagat 2011 featured restaurant MARCONY. Marcony’s decor is greatly influenced by the Italian Isle of Capri, offering a distinctly Mediterranean escape within Murray Hill.

Marcony

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A Night in Capri – Review of Marcony

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Marcony
184 Lexington Avenue
Murray Hill, NYC
646-837-6020/
marconyusa.com

Outdoor patio at Marcony

Outdoor patio at Marcony

Marcony’s lofty space hides the fact that the restaurant is relatively small.  There are two balconies perfect for private parties, but they are also opened for dinner on nights when the restaurant gets busy. For a restaurant in a rather dismal area for restaurants, I was surprised to see that by 9pm on a Wednesday night the downstairs dining room almost to full capacity. [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...]