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Lindsay

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Entries in Restaurant reviews (305)

Monday
Nov232015

(NYC) Partying like a co-ed at Senor Frog's

*NOTE that this restaurant has since closed.*

This post was written by Edgar Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.

Recently, a select group of New York’s most fabulous 20 and 30 something's were invited to partake in a “fiesta” at Senor Frog's New York.  Beyond the date, time, and address, details about the event were mum...

Prior to the festivities, I scoured the web to confirm that Senor Frog's was, in fact, a Mexican restaurant.  Well, it's not.  Save for the chips and salsa/guac/queso selections - plus a random scattering of Mexican-inspired salads and entrees - the menu is chock-full of Americanized stuff like chicken wings, sliders, BBQ ribs, and Philly cheesesteak.  So, if you can get over the fact that the word Senor means nothing in terms of the type of cuisine that is actually served, then you’ll be alright.  Alternatively, if you're someone (ahem, like me) who can't leave their expectations at the door, then you'll just have to keep reminding yourself that Senor Frog's is *not* a Mexican restaurant.

The Food:

The centerpiece of the fiesta was a ho-hum chips-and-dips station: The salsa was sweet and marinara sauce-esque - nothing remotely close to savory - and certainly not even close to being spicy enough for this guy.  Likewise, the guacamole was runny and heavy-handed with the lime juice.  Proper guac should be chunky and not drip down your arm as you bring the chip closer to your mouth.  At Senor Frog's, this dip relies too heavily on its lack of additions (tomato, onion, garlic) and, ultimately, fails.  In my opinion, the restaurant also missed a golden opportunity for a nacho bar (cheese fountain, anyone?!).

The passed appetizers included mini quesadillas, popcorn, and flautas.   The chicken flauta was so small that I couldn't even tell if there was even any chicken involved!  The fish flauta, on the other hand, was unexpectedly tasty and delicious!  Who'd have thought?

Senor Frog's has margaritas on tap.  I repeat: Senor Frog's has margaritas on tap!!!  The salt-rimmed glasses in which the beverage was served helped to juxtapose the sweetness; this especially came in handy with the much more cloying - but equally tasty - frozen margarita.

With all of the savories, I was pleased when I saw the mini churros slowly making their way via passed tray.  While the yummy flavor was there ("fried," cinnamon, sugar), they were slightly overcooked.

For dessert part deux, we were treated to an 'ice cream conga line light show,' in which the staff paraded through the restaurant and performed prior to presenting us with individual ice cream stations (in the shape of a “mini truck”).  As wacky and far out as this probably sounds, it was nothing short of fun; very nostalgic and reminiscent of my days at summer camp and childhood friend’s birthday parties. 

The Fiesta:

Upon looking around, I noticed that the dining room was packed with some of the most fun 20-and-30-something's in the city (...So, how’d they get my name?)!  Moreover, the ceiling space was slowly filling up with artisanal helium accessories.  Scattered throughout Senor Frog's were a couple of balloon artists who provided guests with whatever designs their hearts desired!  Naturally, I asked for a sombrero.  Let's just say that my balloon artist delivered in a big way!

The Fat Jew!My guest, Eddie, and I began to discuss how this whole experience felt like a spring break trip during college!  To quote a fellow attendee - and new friend - Elliott, “My favorite part was just how much fun everyone was having.  I don’t think any of us were expecting it.  We entered some sort of time warp, and were transported back to high school/college spring break.  Like anything goes!  Pretty special when you think about it.”  More importantly, Elliott shared our grievances about a missing cheese component at the chips-and-dips station.

 

Ultimately, showmanship eclipsed over the cuisine, which wasn't entirely shocking.  But, damn, did we have a good time!

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Nov182015

(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

Wednesday
Nov042015

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

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

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!

Payasam

...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Oct282015

(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

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