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Lindsay

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Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (77)

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
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
Sep022015

(NYC) Reviewed: A fall media supper at 'Thelma on Clinton'

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.

Restaurant: Thelma on Clinton

  • Cuisine: New American
  • Location: 29A Clinton Street - NYC 10002  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Chicken liver mousse, Braised Short Ribs & Bone Marrow, house-made chocolate truffles
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gems, solo dining, tasting menu, cocktails/craft beer

...

As soon as I entered Thelma on Clinton (let’s proceed by calling it “Thelma,” for short), I already felt at home.  The interior décor is casually sophisticated, with hardwood flooring throughout, a communal chef's table and banquette seating, white-washed exposed brick walls that are lined with wine (bottle) storage, and overhead lighting that won’t put you to sleep.  Honestly, if I were living in the vicinity, I would make a daily pilgrimage.  Thelma is one of those special boutique restaurants where you can enjoy a solo dinner – likely surrounded by your neighbors - at the fabulous bar that centers the dining room. 

Photo by The Style Gourmande

Photo found on Zagat dot comUpon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by Chef Melissa O’Donnell (I’m mildly obsessed with her, by the way), who offered me a beverage of my choice.  When I explained that I don’t drink alcohol, she suggested one of her signature mocktails: Strawberry Basil (a.k.a. the Stanton Street Spritzer) or Blueberry Ginger (a.k.a. the Clinton Street Cooler), each concocted with Chef’s handmade fruit jams.  “Actually,” Chef playfully prompted, “why not try both?”  Sweet (but certainly not cloying) with a righteous tang at the end, both mocktails were refreshing and delicious. 

Strawberry Basil mocktail: Photo by The Style GourmandePost my mocktail sampling, I had a couple of minutes to chat 1x1 with Chef.  I was super curious about the story behind the restaurant's name and what her inspired her culinarily/in the kitchen.  "Thelma is the name of my grandmother," she said.  "New York City inspires me in the kitchen, and the restaurant draws from the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side without straying from a classic approach to cuisine."  And just like the city in which we live, her offerings are simple (but exceptionally well-executed) and straightforward. 

Of everything our intimate group of eight savored, my three favorite dishes of the evening were as follows:

Chicken Liver Mousse

Chicken Liver Mousse: Photo by The Style GourmandeButtery, rich, and gamey, the chicken liver mousse was the perfect compliment to the salty, crunchy crostini.  This appetizer was so delicious, in fact, that I wanted to grab the whole damn platter and hide in a corner somewhere!

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto: Photo by The Style GourmandeI love anything risotto.  Thelma's version was super creamy and cheesy, and the caramelized onions added a fabulous jolt of color, flavor, and texture.  What more could I have asked for? 

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow: Photo by The Style GourmandeDuring our 1x1 chat, Chef mentioned that she changes her menu on a seasonal basis.  So when she recently removed the Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow entree from the summer menu, the restaurant patrons revolted!  Literally.  There were so many complaints, in fact, that she had no choice but to re-add this wildly popular dish!  And after relishing in my first bite, I understood why the clientele went bananas!  The beef was so tender that it virtually melted in my mouth.  The rich broth that served as a pseudo moat around the meat was so outstanding - even on its own - that I almost asked for bread to sop up all of it's savory glory.  Wow!

Perhaps the best surprise of the evening was post the entree course, when Chef treated us to a bowl of her transcendent, homemade chocolate truffles.  And Champagne!  Talk about ending the night on a sweet note...

House-made chocolate truffles: Photo by The Style Gourmande...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Oct242012

Dinner at Tertulia

*This restaurant has since closed
  • Restaurant  Tertulia
  • Cuisine  Spanish, tapas
  • Location  359 6th Avenue (at Washington Place), Manhattan
  • Phone  646-559-9909
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  warm, intimate
  • Attire  smart-casual
  • Ideal for  1x1, small groups, foodies, date night, small plates, outdoor dining area, dog-friendly
  • Price  moderate
  • Tertulia on Urbanspoon

"Cec, the choice is yours.  After all, we're celebrating *your* birthday." I replied, via email.  "Tell me where YOU want to eat."  It was a toss-up between Red Farm (for a unique spin on Chinese/dim sum) or Tertulia.  And, to be 100% honest, my fingers and toes were crossed in the hopes that Ceci would choose Red Farm.  I mean, Spanish food is just so...boring.  There, I said it.  And tapas?  The word, "tapas," alone, just pisses me off.  The last time I had "tapas," I was on a super romantic date with a guy that, actually, I really liked.  And, poof!  Just a few weeks later, we were done-zo.  So, yeah, aside from the word being annoying, I also associate "tapas" with heartache. 

"OK, so I've decided." Ceci exclaimed, "I choose Tertulia!"  Sigh.  On the Friday afternoon prior to our date, I spent what seemed like hours scrutinizing Tertulia's dinner menu, wondering a) if the restaurant had a full bar, and b) if dainty little tapas even had enough sustenance to fill me up.  Only time would tell...

Although Friday was rainy and dreary, the clouds seem to part the moment I arrived at TertuliaGo figure.  After receiving the decent margarita that I ordered while awaiting Ceci's arrival, I informed the hostess that there would be two of us.  "Just let me know when your guest is here," she said.  

When Ceci arrived, the hostess advised that the current wait time was an hour.  I gasped.  "But what about outside?  I see people eating out there," Ceci replied.  Luckily, due to a fickle forecast and trepidatious diners, there was an outdoor two-top with our names on it...

Table setting, margaritaDrink #2:  Apple cider sangria

Although not as sweet as I would have preferred, this cocktail was chock-full of flavor, courtesy of the apple and cinnamon infusion.  Each sip perfectly embodied the crisp, autumn season upon us.

In order to sample as many dishes as our stomachs would allow, Ceci and I chose to split multiple plates/tapas:

Langostinos A La Brasa (grilled Mediterranean prawns)

Although the menu described them as grilled, the prawns appeared and tasted as if they were steamed.  While relatively bland on their own, the grilled, halved lemon and garlic aioli accompaniments set the prawns ablaze with flavor.   

Croquetas de Jamon Iberico (Iberico ham croquettes)

Served atop smudges of sweet membrillo were three golden, golf ball-sized Iberico ham croquettes.  Enveloped by an exterior of crunchy fried breadcrumbs, each bite revealed a warm, molten cheese core that was dotted with salty bits of ham.

Ceci and I fell in love with these savory morsels. 

Ensalada de Otono (Autumn salad of kale, smoked egg, wild mushrooms, squash, pepitas, and Iberico ham)

Dense leaves of lightly-dressed kale greens were tossed with wild mushrooms, sliced butternut squash, pepitas - and crowned with ribbons of Iberico ham and a poached, smoked egg.

From the looks of it, alone, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this salad.  Ceci allowed me to pierce the egg, whose yolk gently trickled down the kale leaves.  The bouquet of textures - silky/smooth ham, meaty mushrooms, supple squash, crunchy pepitas, and the egg - was truly invigorating. 

All in all, a brilliant and unique twist on composed greens.

Brussels Sprouts

Unfortunately, this dish is not listed on the restaurant's online menu, so I can only guess/assume its exact ingredients and how it was prepared

Halved and quartered Brussels sprouts arrived in a hot sautee pan (in which, I assume, they were cooked).  Texturally, they hinted at having been both pan-fried and roasted.  Heavily seasoned, the flavors were exotic and aromatic, with notes of cumin and, perhaps, some paprika.  Chunks of pork belly added a subtle smokiness.

Evening's special paella

Instead of the traditional rice base, this paella was composed of short angel-hair noodles.  Artichoke heart quarters, briny clams, and handmade sausage completed the dish. 

While I found the flavor of the clams verging on offensive, I absolutely loved the garlicky, house-made sausage and that crunchy "crust" that formed on the bottom of the skillet, a.k.a. "socarrat."  Aside from the clams, my only other complaint would be the sheer size of the paella:  It was tiny.   And it was also $38.  Gasp!

...

To conclude:  Tertulia was absolutely fantastic!  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates unique and complex flavors, and portions that are un-American in size.  In other words, you won't leave the restaurant feeling as if you consumed a cow. 

I was, and still am, surprised by how much I actually enjoyed - and embraced - Tertulia's twist on Spanish cuisine, considering my disdain and romantic stigma surrounding "tapas."  In fact, I look forward to returning soon for brunch!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle