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Lindsay

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Entries in Restaurant reviews (301)

Wednesday
Apr182018

Reviewed: Sabor A Mexico II

Restaurant: Sabor A Mexico II

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Location: 233 E. 77th Street - Manhattan 10021  
  • Pricing: $-$$ 
  • Reservations? Yes, via phone: 212-439-8301
  • Why go? Authentic, delicious Mexican food with waiter service - affordable - best chile rellenos in town
  • Note/FYI: Cash only

...

If you're looking for a swanky, spacious south-of-the-border restaurant with bougie frozen cocktails and $20 bowls of "guacamole made table-side," then Sabor A Mexico II is not your jam.  However, if its authentic, homemade Mexican food that you crave, then look no further.

Upon moving uptown, I wasn't too familiar with the Mexican restaurant-landscape, save for Toloache, which isn't very affordable.  I wanted to find my go-to spot; somewhere I could order delivery or casually swing by to dine-in without hesitation.  Or a fully made-up face.  Nothing too fancy, but also somewhere with waiter service.  A tequila and mezcal selection wouldn't hurt, either.  

After scouring my local options and cross referencing them on numerous websites, I came upon "Sabor A Mexico II."  Having seen a picture on Yelp of what appeared to be a house-made hard-shelled taco stuffed with meat and all the fixins (lettuce, shredded yellow cheese, pico de gallo) - coupled with the restaurant's crappy 3.5 star rating (What the hell do these pinche UES gringo's know, anyways?) - I knew that I needed to take an even closer look.  The menu read like that of any authentic restaurante's playbook: Chilaquiles - Aguas Frescas - Tamales - Chile Rellenos, etc.  It was even sprinkled with a few random items that weren't (authentic), such as Calamari and Chicken Wings.

My first experience with Sabor A Mexico II was a delivery order, which arrived on time and was comprised of: Cheese enchiladas with red guajillo chile sauce - perfectly cooked and seasoned Mexican rice and refried pinto beans that weren't completely pulverized - a hard-shelled taco (the shell was definitely homemade, by the way) generously filled with stewed, shredded chicken breast and topped with all the fixins - and tortilla chips.  Everything was warm, intact, delicious, and as authentic of a meal as something I'd find in Texas or California.  The only thing that I found odd was the addition of rice in the bottom of my taco; since it was placed at the base, perhaps its purpose was to serve as a buffer between the chicken and the shell to avoid becoming a soggy mess?  Pretty brilliant, if you ask me.    

Still high on momentum from my deliciously successful delivery order, I asked my cousin if he'd like to grab lunch with me at the restaurant.   
Located just a few steps below street level, Sabor A Mexico II is easy to miss!  Blink once, and you'll walk right on by.  
To the right of the front door is a teeny tiny patio housing a single table for one very luck party; once inside, the intimate dining room is festively decorated in bright colors and adorned with Mexican relics.  Based on my observation, the space can comfortably seat approximately twenty guests (give or take). 

Larry and I were seated immediately (12:30PM on a Sunday).  There were three other patrons in the restaurant and we were all being waited upon by a friendly male server.  We promptly ordered sodas and a basket of chips and salsa before placing our entree requests.    
While Larry opted for the hard-shell chicken tacos, I chose the chile relleno platter (a "chile relleno" is a poblano or Anaheim chile pepper stuffed with cheese, in this particular case, dipped in an egg batter and deep fried), which was accompanied by rice, beans, and warm corn tortillas.  
"Wow," he exclaimed with a full mouth, "these tacos are fantastic!"  Larry later gushed that Sabor A Mexico II's were the best (tacos) he's had in NYC.   
And speaking of, my chile relleno was not only the most authentic and delectable that I've had in the tri-state region, it was one of the best that I've tasted, period.  Texas and California included!  Instead of being filled with congealed yellow cheddar, the poblano was stuffed with a stringy white cheese that was akin to Chihuahua (cheese).  Unlike Tex-Mex renditions that I've had in Dallas and Houston, the egg batter that encrusted the pepper was incredibly thin and light, not thick and fluffy or cakey.  Crowned with a ladle of warm, garlicky tomato salsa, I finished every last bite - and rice kernel - on my plate.  
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Chile relleno platter: The BEST in town!Returning to Sabor A Mexico II is all I've been able to think about for the past few days.  With plans to visit again on Sunday with a girl friend, I look forward to sampling the restaurant's margaritas.
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Until we eat again
The Lunch Belle
Friday
Apr062018

Reviewed: Neary's

Restaurant: Neary's

  • Cuisine: Irish American
  • Location: 358 E. 57th Street - Manhattan 10022  
  • Pricing: $$
  • Reservations? Nope, sorry folks.
  • Why go? Strong drinks - Irish pride - bygone service - comfort food
  • Photo credits: Because of the restaurant's dim lighting, I wasn't able to snap photos of my own. Everything on this post is from Neary's website.

...

'Twas the night before St. Patrick's Day...

Having lived in the area for more than ten years, Nicole suggested that, instead of competing with other revelers on the actual holiday, we go to Neary's on St. Patrick's Day eve.  "If we get to Neary's around 6:15PM, I doubt we'd have to wait longer than thirty-minutes."  Longer than thirty-minutes??  Considering that the restaurant is located in *east* Midtown East, I was a bit surprised that there would even be a wait time at all (sorry guys, it's not Soho)!

It wasn't until I approached Neary's that I realized I was in for something special, unique, and *not* your typical Irish pub.  "Proper Attire Required" was posted prominently - yet tastefully - on the front door.  I had high hopes that what this really meant was no residual smells of months-old spilled beer, vomit, and the pungent cleaning supplies used as a mask/band-aid...

Indeed, Neary's was like nothing I've ever experienced in New York.  From the moment I entered the space, I was whisked away to a bygone time when the owners still acted as hosts (in this case, Mr. Neary and his lovely daughter) - the loyal staff were treated as family - guests were greeted by name - and the voluptuous mahogany bar was so pristinely polished, I'll bet you could see your reflection between sips of that perfectly-crafted martini.  
 Photo source: Nearys dot comAfter giving our name and party size to Mr. Neary, himself, we waited about twenty-minutes to be seated for dinner.  "It's going to be an early night for me, fella's," I overheard one bar patron remark after taking the last slug of his cocktail.  "I have to be at church tomorrow for the 8:30AM St. Patrick's Day Mass."

The dining room, a space that could easily pass for that of an old-fashioned steakhouse (dim lighting, red table cloths, walls lined with framed photographs, brass adornments), was fully occupied when we were seated.  After placing our drink orders, our attentive waitress returned with a basket of gratis, run-of-the-mill bread and took note of our entree requests.
 Photo source: Nearys dot comWhile most of our table ordered the outstanding Corned Beef & Cabbage (the best representation I've had, to date), I chose one of the evening's specials: Beef Pot Roast.  I found Neary's food to be positively heart warming and comforting; nothing on our plates was fancy or fussy - but everything was delicious and perfectly cooked and executed.
 Photo credit: Nearys dot comFor dessert, we enjoyed a round of Irish coffees while tapping our feet to some live music, courtesy of one of the Neary's relatives.  A true family affair!

Neary's is an incredibly special place, and my evening here proved to be one of my most favorite and cherished experiences in all of my twelve years in Manhattan.  I cannot wait to return here with my mother who has very thick Irish roots!  Until next time...

...

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle
Tuesday
Mar272018

Reviewed: The Harrow

Restaurant: The Harrow

  • Cuisine: American
  • Location: 720 10th Avenue - Manhattan 10019  
  • Pricing: $$
  • Reservations? Yes, RESY
  • Why go? ...I'm not the one to ask.

...

While The Harrow is located slightly off the beaten track and farther west than I'd normally travel in midtown - as a former resident, I have a soft spot in my heart for Hell's Kitchen.  

I had recently read a small brunch feature about The Harrow which showcased their 'Lobster Pierogis,' and my interest was piqued.  So in planning for an upcoming girl's dinner, it was among the first places that came to mind.

Upon arrival, I admired the restaurant's respectably-sized bar area and cozy, intimate dining room space.  My two friends and I were seated immediately.    
I was pleased to see a California Syrah on the wine list, only to be told that "it was a typo and that the wine is actually from France."  I found a suitable Cabernet and enjoyed a few glasses throughout the evening.  

I was a bit surprised that we weren't served some sort of bread post drink and food order, but we were looking forward to sharing some appetizers, nonetheless.
E and I split the 'Cider Braised Bacon & Spiced Medjool Dates,' which was presented in an awkwardly deconstructed fashion; the plate was topped with a thick slab of bacon, a slice of blue cheese, and three dates.  Normally, the fruit is stuffed with cheese and bacon is wrapped around the (date's) exterior.  All of this being said, each component was tasty and paired well together.

Cider Braised Bacon & Spiced Medjool DatesFor my entree, I chose the 'House Made Lobster Pierogi with Tarragon Sour Cream & Truffle Butter.'  The dish presented beautifully and looked delicious, however I was extremely disappointed to find that there was no lobster in/on/around the dumplings whatsoever - just a filling of fish-flavored mashed potatoes.  For $24, I felt completely ripped off and fooled.  
Our server totally forgot to put in our side order for roasted carrots and, when reminded, he brought them to the table just as we took our last bites of our entrees.  The poor kid was too busy servicing the table to our left which, I believe, was the owner/manager and his buddies.  Sigh.  

House Made Lobster Pierogi with Tarragon Sour Cream & Truffle ButterGranted, The Harrow has only been open for a few months, but I was not impressed by the gimmicky fare - the bait-and-switch with expensive ingredients - the wine list typo - or the service.  I do not plan on returning.  Ever.

...

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Feb052018

The Best Menu Items At: Bagatelle

In my series, "The Best Menu Items At...," I cut the fluff and get straight down to business: Which food/drink items are so stand-out that I'd order them time and time again?

Restaurant: Bagatelle (yes, I'm serious)

  • Cuisine: French-ish, Mediterranean
  • Location: 1 Little W. 12th St. - Manhattan 10014  
  • Pricing: $$$$
  • Reservations? Yes, click here
  • Why go? Parisian gnocchi, model oogling/models-and-bottles, Instagram-worthy desserts, brunch parties

...

Bagatelle is not the type of restaurant that I typically frequent.  Sure, I enjoy French/Mediterranean cuisine and copious amounts of rosé just as much as the next person, but more often than not, I'm having a 'fat girl' day and I'd prefer *not* to be surrounded by models and their entourage when I'm trying to get my grub on.  Even the employees at Bagatelle are flawless!  Or being sprayed by champagne during one of those infamous weekend 'brunch parties.'  Call me boring, but I'll take my omelette with a side of peace and quiet, thank you very much.  Hold the Hollandaise and the live D.J.  

All of that being said, I recently enjoyed dinner at Bagatelle sans a live D.J. set and was seated a good two tables' distance from the next gaggle of young models.  It was quite a pleasant and delicious evening!  My point?  Bagatelle has something for everyone, even your grandparents me!  Just do your homework prior to your visit to make sure you're a) not about to walk in to a party (if that's NOT what you're looking for) or you're b) about to walk in to a party (if that's NOT what you're looking for).     

Tuna Tartare

While most versions of tuna tartare pale in comparison to Chef Jean Georges' famous rendition at Nougatine, Bagatelle's interpretation can stand on its own.  

The trifecta of textures - ripe, buttery avocado, crispy and salty taro chips, and cubed pieces of fresh, ruby red-hued tuna - flirt so compatibly with one another that you will find yourself enthusiastically alternating between bites of tuna and taro - tuna and avocado - avocado and taro, etc. - kissed with a sweet and savory soy dressing. 

Tuna Tartare

Gnocchi à la Parisienne 

There's gnocchi.  And then there's Parisian gnocchi.  Sounds way more fancy, right?  It is!  If you're familiar with a profiterole, the same dough is used to make Parisian gnocchi: pâte à choux.  Hint, there are no potatoes in the French version of this recipe.     

I'm not going to go as far as to say that I prefer the French rendition to the Italian, but damn.  Nothing quite compares to these perfectly-cooked pillows of warm dough that effortlessly envelope the inside of your mouth with such a rich, savory 'carb elixir.'  Paired with a buttery cream sauce infused with a mild hint of truffle, the dish is finished with salty parmesan cheese.  C'est magnifique!  

Gnocchi à la Parisienne

Apple Gala

This is one of those dishes that, upon arrival, is so visually unexpected and artfully stunning that it takes your breath away.  Quite literally.  And best of all?  Unlike fondant on a wedding cake, it tastes great, too!  

I can't quite describe this masterpiece beyond the notes on the menu: "Mascarpone mousse, apple filling, white chocolate, sablé Breton, fresh fruit, vanilla ice cream."  

Bottom line: If you're down with apples and willing to shell out $16 for a dessert, then don't even think twice about ordering this Instagram-worthy morsel of edible art.

They should rename this 'The Big Apple'...

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle