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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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  • 6/20-6/23: Milwaukee
  • 6/28-7/7: Turkey & Greece
  • 8/10-8/19: LA & San Diego

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Monday
Jan142019

Reviewed: Zavo

Restaurant: Zavo

  • Cuisine: Continental
  • Location: 1011 Third Avenue - Manhattan 10065
  • Pricing: $$$
  • Reservations? Yes, click here
  • Why go? For some savory before your sweet (Dylan's Candy Bar is next door)

...

Conveniently housed *next door* to Dylan's Candy Bar (plus dangerously close to Bloomingdales' Third Avenue entrance), Zavo makes for an ideal pre or post-shopping destination with a vibe that's more serene than Patsy's but not quite as buttoned up as Club A Steakhouse.

A bright, white-washed space is elegantly appointed with modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook bustling Third Avenue.  While you wait for your party to arrive, grab a glass of champagne at the sexy marble-topped bar that traverses the dining room. 

Photo credit: Zavo's website

There are plenty of crappy bread baskets to be had across the city, but Zavo's is not one of them.  Filled to the brim with a fresh and flavorful assortment that goes beyond sliced, dried-out baguette, this carb-laden masterpiece is accompanied by 1) a small bowl of briny olives and pickled onions, and 2) fragrant pesto for dipping purposes.  As tempting as it is to scarf it down in its entirety, save room for two things on the menu: Char-grilled Octopus and a homemade dessert.  

Beneath the smoky and perfectly char-grilled exterior crust was impossibly tender flesh.  The generous portion of octopus was perched atop a melange of warm chickpeas and fresh mango bits, plus chunky hummus that had the consistency of nutty peanut butter (vs. smooth).  The presentation was completed with microgreens and spheres of crunchy, paper-thin radish.

Char-grilled Octopus

My commitment issues in the relationship arena spillover to my plate when, among other things, I have to choose ONE dessert to split amongst the table.  "No!  No, you choose," is what you'll typically hear me say in an attempt to coerce my fellow diners.  What?  I don't want to take the heat for picking the wrong thing!  Luckily, our waiter at Zavo felt my pain and offered to present us with a sweets sampler...      

DessertFrom the honey cake, assorted ice creams, and gorgeous chocolate mousse/fondant work of art (pictured above), my favorite dessert of the assortment was the pistachio baklava.  Made in-house, it had that ooey-gooey, cloyingly sweet consistency that I love, with much less of that 'phyllo dough crunch.'  In other words, I take my baklava like I take my oatmeal: Overly-saturated with honey.  My mouth is watering as I'm writing this!   

...

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Dec212018

The Best Menu Items At: Lagman House

Restaurant: Lagman House

  • Cuisine: Dungan
  • Location: 2612 E. 14th St. - Brooklyn 11235  
  • Pricing: $
  • Reservations? Yes, click here
  • Why go? Off-the-beaten path/transporting culinary experience
  • Good to know: BYOB - Halal-friendly  

...

One of the top five reasons I love living in NYC is that, within minutes, I can literally be transported to another part of the world via the cuisine of a respective neighborhood.  Case in point, Lagman House, a cozy Central Asian gem located in Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn), which specializes in the food of the Dungans, Chinese Muslims who fled China in the late 19th century and settled in what is today Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (and, most recently, Brooklyn).  Located merely steps from the Q train stop, Lagman House is a sizable establishment featuring a casual atmosphere and knowledgeable table/waiter service. 

Because of Central Asia's unique juxtaposition of cultures and geography, the Lagman House's tri-folded paper menu reads in both English and Russian, with the following FYI for its Muslim/practicing patrons, "We only use Halal meat."  It took me a while to decide what I wanted to sample, for the menu is generous, very well proportioned by course, and filled with an abundance of intrigue-provoking options.  I decided that, since it took me a little over an hour to get from my apartment to the restaurant, I would take my time and enjoy the entire experience (which also included making my holiday cards list for my annual distribution via Paperless Post), begining with a glass of kompot (Slavic fruit punch).  

While everything that I tasted at Lagman House was flavorful and visibly handmade with love and care, I had two undeniable favorites:

Dungan Style Samsa

Most of us have had our fair share of empanadas and samosas, but I'm willing to bet that almost none of you have ever had a samsa (unless you're in/traveled extensively thgough China, where Dungan cuisine is quite popular)! 

Sauteed white onions and strips of beef - plus the savory gravy in which they bathe - are enveloped by the most buttery of pastry doughs and deep fried.  A single order comes with two samsas and is accompanied by a very secondary (read unnecessary) tomato sauce for dipping. 

I have never tasted a more flaky, mulit-layered dough that wasn't made with lard (Muslims do not eat pork products).  Unlike its distant cousins (empanadas, samosas), the samsa is almost a meal in itself!

.

Thon Lamian

Nothing suits this blustery time of year in NYC better than a warm bowl of soup.  With a perfectly seasoned and mildly-spicy homemade beef + vegetable broth.  And a mound of thick, hand-pulled noodles, strips of beef, and a melange of vegetables. 

What I particularly enjoyed and found unique about this famous Dungan soup, aside from those homemade noodles, was the fact that the vegetables included bell peppers, onions, garlic bulbs, and green beans; not the typical assortment you see in a ramen or a stew.

.

I know what you're thinking: Is Lagman House destination-worthy from the outer boroughs?  Yes, absolutely.  If not for the samsa, alone, this is the only restaurant in the entire country that serves Dungan cuisine.  The chef is the owner's wife and mother of five (four of whom work in the restaurant, as needed) who, by the way, does not look a day over twenty-five. 

Come out and support this beautiful and delicious success story of the quintessential American dream!  

...

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Nov282018

Houston: Where to eat and drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  

~

Cajun 

Cocktails

Grab & go 

Mexican

Wednesday
Nov212018

European Olive Oil: A Lesson in Tasting, Pairing, and Eating!

Last Friday night, I was invited to a European (Spain and Italy) olive oil tasting event at my culinary school alma mater, International Culinary Center. To further entice the media and invitees, two world-famous chefs - Antonio Ortuno representing Spain, and Mario Rizzotti representing Italy - were tasked with creating an EVOO-centric multi-course dinner. This delicious and educational evening was produced by Ceq Italia Consortium and QvExtra! International to disseminate correct knowledge of (European) olive oils in terms of their quality and health-promoting features...

Click to read more ...