Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

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(NYC) Reviewed: Angus Club Steakhouse

*This post was written by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell.**

Restaurant: Angus Club Steakhouse

  • Cuisine: Steakhouse
  • Location: 135 E. 55th Street - NYC 10020  
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Steak fries, cocktails
  • Perfect for: Date night, small group dining


From NYC to Argentina (and, literally, everywhere in between) I've been to more than my fair share of steakhouses.  As an avid carnivore, you can imagine the anticipation and excitement I felt leading up to my inaugural visit to Angus Club Steakhouse, a beef-centric restaurant located in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan.  

Housed in a bi-level space, Angus Club boasts a dining room and bar on each level: The lower floor is best suited for the evening with its stunning, dimly-lit atmosphere, generous table spacing, and handsome, "classic NY" appointments (sleek hardwood flooring, leather chairs, crisp white tablecloths).  Upstairs evoked more of a "lunch time" vibe, perhaps for the sole fact that it was brighter.

Dining room: Photo courtesy of Angus ClubUpon arrival, my guest and I were greeted by Dino (the owner) who, en-route to our lovely first floor table, told us a bit about his gorgeous restaurant.  "Angus Club separates itself by approaching some steakhouse classics differently.  Our creamed spinach, for example, is prepared with just a touch of cream," he noted.  "We also pride ourselves on seafood." 

Clink!  My guest and I toasted to our evening with perfectly-crafted dirty martinis that were finished with my favorite accoutrement: Blue cheese-stuffed olives!

Dirty martiniFor appetizers, we chose to split the Crab Cake and the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail.  While the presentation was attractive and colorful, I found the 'cake to be a bit bland and lacking in flavor.  The shrimp, on the other hand, were perfect and delicious.  There was a "snap" with each bite, which confirmed their freshness and quality.  A steakhouse classic!

Pan-seared Crab CakeJumbo Shrimp CocktailFor entrees, my guest and I thought it would be best to split the restaurant's highly-recommended Porterhouse steak.  For those of you unfamiliar with the theatrical presentation of this cut of beef, imagine when you're at a Mexican restaurant and order the fajitas.  Not only can you smell their approach from like 20-feet away, the sizzle wafting from the hot griddle pan causes guests at neighboring tables to pause their conversations and visually follow the fragrant steam train that's quickly approaching your place mat.

Well, very much unlike the fajita service at your local Mexican joint, it is traditional and customary for your waiter to serve each steakhouse guest their first slices of the Porterhouse!  Fancy, eh?

PorterhouseAfter our server placed two slices of the sirloin portion (of the Porterhouse) and one piece of the filet atop our plates, he made a "hold on just a second" hand gesture as we reached for our knives and forks.  "Et voila," he said, as he simultaneously poured some of the rendered drippings over our meat.  To accompany, we ordered a side of Creamed Spinach and Steak Fries.

To my utter shock, I found the sirloin cut - not the filet - to be the better of the two!  Despite the marbling, the filet was lacking in inherent flavor. 

While we found the meat lackluster, the sides were brilliant.  The less-cream Creamed Spinach tasted much cleaner and spinach-y, with a subtle hint of garlic.  Quite the opposite from every other steakhouse's version (a white, wiggly glob with a few green bits)!  And those Steak Fries!  My goodness, they must have been twice - maybe thrice - cooked!  Crispy and hot, with just the right amount of salt, I would return for these, alone!  They were, hands down, the best part of the meal.

With a bit of room left in our bellies, my guest and I split two desserts: Creme Brûlée and the Key Lime Tart.  While neither was exemplary, we preferred the brûlée to the tart.

Creme BrûléeKey Lime Tart


Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle


Are you a documentary buff like me? If so...

It was a cold, drizzly evening in Williamsburg as I ducked down a flight of brick steps just outside the Wythe Hotel's screening room and bar entrance.  As I entered the space, it hit me: What I was about to experience would be something incredibly special, unique, and (literally) underground.  After all, it was the SundanceNow Doc Club's inaugural screening of Jonathan Nossiter's Natural Resistance.

The SundanceNow Doc Club is a service dedicated solely to streaming documentaries completely ad-free!  They provide tailored collections selected by tastemakers and experts (from the likes of Susan Sarandon, Anthony Bourdain, and Bill Hader, to name a few) for under $10/month ($6.99/month or $4.99/month for an annual subscription).  Natural Resistance is a part of the Club's "Wine and Spirits" Collection (a series that I can get totally down with).

Prior to entering the screening room, I sauntered over to the bar to check out the selection of natural wines being poured for the evening.  The tastings married beautifully to the synopsis of the documentary, as the vineyards and their owners were also featured in the film!  Below are the varietals that I was able to taste, each distinct in flavor and composition:

  • La Distesa Verdicchio 2013
  • La Stoppa Malvasia/Ortugo 2009
  • Stefano Bellotti Dolcetto/Barbera 2013
  • Pacini Sangiovese 2010

While all of the tastings for the evening hailed from Italy, natural wines can now be found all over the world - Austria, France, and even in America.  What is a natural wine, you ask?  Grapes (for natural wines) are farmed organically and made with minimal chemical or technological interference.  Nothing is added and nothing is removed during this process, so you are tasting the PURE byproduct of the fruit and its dominant terroir. 

Natural wine has a noticeable difference in its flavor profile; it's a lot more vinegar-y and, in some cases, cider-like.  The coloring is derived from the innate hue of the grape skins (which can change with each harvest due to weather and farming) and is not modified to conform to a consumer's expectations of how a white or red should appear.  Hence, you might even receive a glass of orange-tinted wine (such as the glass of "La Stoppa," pictured below, that I tried)!

The film was an absolutely lovely portrayal of natural winemakers, their passion for the product, and their stance against conforming to the contrived industry standards enforced by the EU and the DOC.  The most eye-opening scene was when winemaker, Stefano Bellotti, dug up the lush, earthy, living soil of his organic vineyard and compared it to that of his neighbor's (soil) just a few feet away, which was hardened, dead, and grey from the over-usage of pesticides and chemicals.  It really makes you wonder...Am I what I eat and drink?  And, if so, do I want to be hard, dead, and grey!?  Let's just say that I'm sold on natural wine!

I absolutely loved my experience with the SundanceNow Doc Club!  Make sure you check out Natural Resistance and many other amazing expertly-curated documentaries using their service!  Whether you are an avid film buff or just a "movies and chill" type of person - I am certain you will not be disappointed.

Pre-movie selfie!...

Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle


Turf cookies and a book that no foodie will be able to put down

What token of congratulations do you get for the quintessential "girl who has everything" upon being accepted to the NYU Masters program in Food Studies?  Flowers seem too generic, plus they die in like three days.  Cupcakes are fun, but they're so five years ago.  I considered a gift certificate but, if she's anything like me, it'll get buried somewhere and will never be used/will expire by the time she actually remembers to present it at checkout.

After weeks of mulling over failed prospects, I discovered two items (literally, within days of each other) that could not be better suited for this monumentous occasion:

"Food Whore, A Novel of Dining and Deceit" by Jessica Tom

Having attended the NYU Masters program in Food Studies for a year before I moved to Los Angeles (yes, I am technically a drop-out), I was elated when I read that "Food Whore's" star character, Tia, was a student in the program, herself!  And, while I haven't finished the book just yet (though that will likely happen soon - I can't put it down), I cannot wait to snag a copy for my buddy.  So fitting, right?          

Photo credit: Harper Collins.

City Cookies

What could be more perfect for someone who's headed East than something both edible and representative of their future home?

Photo credit: Sisters of Los Angeles


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Dosai is "Curry Row's" newest South Indian gem 

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by The Style Gourmande.**

Restaurant: Dosai

  • Cuisine: Indian (vegetarian and kosher)
  • Location: 104 Lexington Avenue - NYC 10016  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Every. Single. Thing.
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gem - vegetarians - kosher dining - Indian food lovers who want to explore Southern cuisine (Tamil Nadu region)


Aside from being one of the most hospitable, humble, and kind folks you could ever meet, Hemant Mathur (owner of Dosai, the newest gem to land on NYC's "Curry Row") is an incredibly well known Michelin starred-chef and local restaurateur.  If you're at all familiar with the Indian dining scene in NYC, then I'm willing to bet that at least one of the six establishments he co-owns is in your queue of favorites: Chola, Kokum, Chote Nawab, Dhaba, Malai Marke & Haldi.

Upon my arrival to Dosai, I was positively taken by the space's modern, urban-chic decor.  I found it unique; not for NYC, obviously, but in contrast to the restaurant's neighboring competitors who have a more, shall we say, traditionally Indian aesthetic. 

Within seconds of placing my napkin in my lap, Chef Mathur arrived at the table and went over the attractive and ample menu.  "So...what can I get for you, my dear?"  I instructed him that I was willingly at his mercy and that he could select some of his favorite dishes.

Upon first sip of the Mango Lassi, both my insatiable sweet tooth and hunger pangs were shockingly squashed.  I mean, I knew that I was literally drinking yogurt, but I didn't realize how incredibly filling it was!  The lassi was so delicious, however, that I could not stop sipping.  Full stomach be damned!

Mango LassisThe first nibble to arrive was the Fried Idli.  "Idli" is a small, savory cake that is made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils and rice; it is served as a traditional breakfast in South Indian households.  At Dosai, leftover idli is cut in to bite-sized pieces and fried.  Trust me when I say that these little nuggets are as addicting as potato chips.  "Bet you can't eat just one!"

Fried IdliIf there's any way to make eating your vegetables more pleasant, then it's obviously to consume them fried - laden with cheese - or served alongside a bowl of ranch dressing.  In the case of Dosai's Lasoni Gobi, cauliflower florets are dredged in rice flour before taking a dip in the deep fryer.  The result is an unctuous, crunchy exterior that gives way to an incredibly moist and tender interior.  While I cannot pinpoint the components of the sauce that the florets were tossed within, there was an undeniable sweet and sour tang, plus a mysterious, spicy kick.  

Lasoni GobiBetween the delicious mango lassi and the fried nibbles, I was almost at my stomach's consumption limit!  However, I couldn't come to a restaurant that specializes in "dosas" (a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils) without sampling a damn dosa!  Right?  Right.

I was presented with the Paper Malai Dosai, a long, crispy dosa (a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils) liberally stuffed with warm, coriander-kissed potatoes and served with four unique dipping sauces.

Paper Malai DosaiBy this point in the meal, I assumed that I would be questioned as to whether or not I wanted dessert.  After my "come to Jesus" that I was too stuffed to even take another sip of water, I scanned the room for my server to ask for the check.  Before I could catch his eye, Chef reappeared from the kitchen and presented me with a bowl of Payasam, broken semolina wheat that is boiled in reduced sweetened milk and flavored with cardamom, fried vermicelli noodles, raisins, and cashew nuts.  A truly sweet ending to an incredibly delicious meal!



Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle


In honor of Halloween, I present...The Most Haunted Cities in America!

The Most Haunted Cities in America!


Credit: Matt Trosle

Posted by Paul Sisolak

We've all heard (and been scared by) some spooky story, freaky urban legend or scary myth that happened right in the neighborhood. You might even consider yourself an authority on paranormal behavior. But how well do you really know America's ghost history?

FindTheHome and FindTheCompany teamed up to identify the most haunted city in each state. To discover the most haunted cities, we found the places with the most cemetery businesses, funeral services, and antique shops (to find the places most likely to be riddled with lingering ghosts of the past). Consider traveling to one of these ghoulish haunts this Halloween. Perhaps you can even go trick-or-treating in these cities with a year-round ghostly reputation.

#10. Asheville, NC

Population: 84,883
Haunted Index: 61.6

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.06
Antique shops per 10k people: 3.65
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 2.71

Asheville's Haunted Story: Perhaps the ultimate penalty for James Sneed and James Henry was that they'd be doomed to roam the earth as ghosts. In 1835, they were convicted of stealing a horse and hanged at the intersection of Merrimon and Broadway. Though the location has changed in Asheville over the last two centuries, the eerie sounds of horse hooves, rolling wagon, and the death knell of a gallows trap-door are heard here.

#9. Cleveland, TN

Population: 41,898
Haunted Index: 62.18

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 0.72
Antique shops per 10k people: 1.43
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 4.3

Cleveland's Haunted Story: The blood stains on the white stone arch above the Craigmiles Mausoleum paint a stark contrast, and signify the tragedy that fell the pioneer family. Four members of the Craigmiles all died young from fatal illnesses, freak infections and auto accidents -- and as each one was interred at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the blood stains got deeper and darker.

#8. Conroe, TX

Population: 59,429
Haunted Index: 62.19

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 2.02
Antique shops per 10k people: 3.03
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 1.85

Conroe's Haunted Story: Not every haunting comes from a ghost centuries old. Ever since a fatal 2008 explosion at the Huntsman Petrochemical Plant that killed two workers, many witnesses have seen and heard doors slamming, voices talking, and the transparent image of a tall, pale man. In the company's training building, which was used as a temporary hospital following the explosion, some people feel as though they're being watched -- or even followed.

#7. Greenville, SC

Population: 59,944
Haunted Index: 62.52

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.84
Antique shops per 10k people: 2.67
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 2.34

Greenville's Haunted Story: Haunted hotels don't need to be old, dilapidated and abandoned, either. At Greenville's modern Embassy Suites, doors open and close at random, and lights go on and off in empty rooms. It's prompted hotel staff to call the police to investigate unauthorized guests -- only when authorities arrive, there's nobody there. Grass doesn't grow on the golf course in three spots, and even a group of hotel investors backed out after getting the creeps.

#6. Charleston, WV

Population: 51,135
Haunted Index: 62.64

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.17
Antique shops per 10k people: 1.17
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 3.91

Charleston's Haunted Story: Have they had too much to drink, or is this joint really haunted? At the Empty Glass Cafe, the spirit of a former bartender -- killed in a car wreck -- is reported to change the jukebox music when he doesn't like what's playing. He's also been seen appearing and vanishing on a whim.

#5. Pensacola, FL

Population: 52,268
Haunted Index: 63.52

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.15
Antique shops per 10k people: 3.64
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 3.06

Pensacola's Haunted Story: Pensacola certainly has its share of haunted activity -- it even has its own paranormal society! One uncharacteristically haunted spot is the Landmark Skate and Fun Center, where an old man wearing plaid and overalls is frequently seen walking the grounds. Why doesn't he set off motion detectors at night? He's the ghost of Mister Vic, the Landmark's former owner.

#4. Wilkes-Barre, PA

Population: 41,374
Haunted Index: 63.95

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 0.48
Antique shops per 10k people: 0.24
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 5.56

Wilkes-Barre's Haunted Story: The Welles House has been called Wilkes-Barre's own version of the Amityville Horror for all the gruesome death and danger surrounding the seemingly innocent home. Anyone who lived in or went near the house through the years seems to have met an untimely end to their lives; ghost hunters still regularly hear unexplained shrieks, screams and moans that do more than make blood curdle, but literally come through the walls.

#3. Danville, VA

Population: 42,996
Haunted Index: 65.33

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.63
Antique shops per 10k people: 1.16
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 3.95

Danville's Haunted Story: Nobody has lived in the Colonial-era Sutherlin Mansion for years since it was turned into a museum, though you'd never guess it. Visitors report seeing the figure of a man peering out the windows during the day, and inside, the smell of cigar smoke fills the air though nobody is smoking. A girl is often heard moaning from the other side of the wall.

#2. Prescott, AZ

Population: 40,003
Haunted Index: 68.57

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 1.75
Antique shops per 10k people: 5.25
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 2.75

Prescott's Haunted Story: A feline phantasm? The ghosts of a woman and her cat are known to still reside at the Hotel Vendome in Prescott. The way the story is told, the woman was the former owner of the now-historic establishment, but after her husband left her, she died of a broken heart. Too despondent to feed the cat, it starved to death, and joined her in the ghostly afterlife on earth.

#1. Alexandria, LA

Population: 47,938
Haunted Index: 71.96

Cemetery developers and managers per 10k people: 2.29
Antique shops per 10k people: 2.71
Funeral, burial and cremation companies per 10k people: 3.96

Alexandria's Haunted Story: The crew of Ghost Hunters once paid a visit to the Alexandria Zoological Park, where the spirit of Robert "Les" Whitt, the zoo's former director, remains. Whitt, who died of heart problems in 2008, loved his animals so much, that we'd like to think he watches over -- rather than haunts -- his beloved park.

Compare Places on FindTheHome


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Italy by way of Queens at "Via Vai"

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by The Style Gourmande.**

Restaurant: Via Vai

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Location: 31-09 23rd Avenue - Queens 11105  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Savory flan, pasta, daily fish (branzino) special, desserts
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gem - prix-fixe lunch - live music (call ahead) - al-fresco dining


Located just one block away from where his wife, Cynthia, grew up is Chef Antonio Morichini's Italian gem, Via Vai.  Loosely translated to "coming and going" from his native tongue, Chef envisioned a warm and inviting gathering place where folks could come together and enjoy some the most authentic Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.

Having received his formal culinary training in Italy, Chef went on to work in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Rome and Chiavari, in addition to serving as Executive Chef at establishments in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  "I remember becoming inspired to be a chef at age 25 when I first dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome.  I loved the entire experience - the dinner, the service, and the people being happy and loving their food."

Chef Antonio MorichiniAs charming and romantic as his culinary story may be, the aesthetics of Chef Morichini's Via Vai come in at a very close second.  From the outside, folks who enjoy eating their pizza al-fresco will get a kick out of the outdoor seating located just off of the restaurant's entrance.  Floor to ceiling glass doors, with the ability to open up to the elements (NYC weather pending, of course), invite guests indoors to enjoy four beers on tap (one local, one seasonal, at least one Italian, and one domestic) or an authentic espresso at the sleek, marble-top bar. 

Restaurant exteriorAn Italian-made brick pizza oven overlooks the dining room which is outfitted with leather banquettes and tables made from 100+year old wood tops and refurbished bottoms.

Brick pizza ovenDining roomTo begin the meal, we started with the seasonal Pumpkin Flan.  Served atop a creamy parmigiano fondue with a streak of reduced balsamic sat the savory custard crowned with a delicately-breaded egg yolk.  I have to say, my favorite part of this dish was upon cutting in to the breaded yolk and watching it spill atop and along the sides of the flan.  Truly, a heavenly culinary experience!

Pumpkin FlanAfter having learned that Via Vai makes their pasta on the premises daily, we couldn't not order one!  Although the Lasagnetta ("mini lasagna") was meatless, the porcini mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, and beschamel made-up for any lack of the dish's traditional "masculinity," if you will, and richness.  It was appropriately warm and gooey, creamy, and unctuous. 

LasagnettaFor my entree, I chose the daily preparation of branzino, a Mediterranean seabass.  Aside from the fact that the dish was *almost* too beautiful to eat, the fish was incredibly tender and artfully paired with mashed potatoes that were colored pink with beet juice, and sauteed spinach.

BranzinoBecause the dessert menu listed so many drool-worthy offerings, we had to order two!  Both the chocolate soufflé and the tiramisu were perfect - creamy, astonishingly light, and not cloyingly sweet.

Chocolate souffle (bottom right corner) and tiramisu (top left corner)

Whether you're coming from the neighborhood, another borough, or beyond, Via Vai is that unique kind of NYC Italian restaurant that excels every category, from appetizer and pizza to pasta and entree.  And dessert!  I am so happy to have been acquainted with this heavenly slice of Italy right in my Queens backyard.


Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle