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Lindsay

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Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (75)

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

Tuesday
Sep182012

Celebrating Wong's 1st anniversary with $9 cocktails & Gael Greene

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

I was thrilled when Hollywood invited me to join her and her husband, plus two of our other couples friends for Wong's First Anniversary Whole Hog Roast.  Gosh, I'm such an exemplary Jew...

For $38 (Including tax and a service fee), we enjoyed a multi-course, pig-centric meal.  Added bonus?  $9 specialty cocktails.  Look, I realize that $9 for a drink may sound pricey to those of you outside of the five boroughs but, sadly, that's quite a steal for us locals.  Or suckers that pay too much for everything.  Whatever you'd like to coin us...

Despite the fact that we would not be sampling any of Wong's daily menu items, I was really looking forward to this large format meal.  There was just something about the restaurant's casual, yet sophisticated, space that made me want to linger.  I especially got a kick out of the chairs...They reminded me of those from grammar school.  Perhaps it was those chairs, coupled with the long, communal tables that resembled desks, that really evoked the whole "being in a classroom" thing.  Only this was a classroom where you could actually talk to your friends without getting scolded...and drink.  A lot.

Source: wong new york dot comI whetted my palate with an excellent Tamarind Margarita (...that tasted even better at $9/glass).  Rimmed with a blend of black sesame seeds, tamarind, and salt, an "old fashioned" glass was filled to the brim with this fragrant, exotic take on a traditional favorite.

Tamarind MargaritaThe first course we received was the Pig Ear Salad.  While I did take a lovely picture (ahem, see below), there was no way in hell that I was going to devour this dish.  I took one bite and spit the ear out.  It's not any fault of the kitchen/chef, I'm just not a big "offal" fan.  And I guess I draw the line at pig ears.  Sorry, y'all.  But, please, do enjoy that pretty photo!  Oh, and make sure to note the white "stripes" in each noodle-looking thing - that's cartilage!! 

Pig Ear SaladJust as I was about to start eating my chopsticks from hunger pangs, something arrived that warmed my picky little heart:  Scallion Pancakes

Are all scallion pancakes made with rice flour?  Because these were greasier than most - along the same vein as Korean pancakes.  Don't worry, it's not like that stopped me from eating my portion - and then ordering a second helping.  Laced with plenty of melted scallion bits, the 'cakes were accompanied by soy sauce for dipping/dunking purposes.    

Scallion PancakesThe next dish to arrive was the Dan Dan Noodles.  One of my most favorite things in the entire world...When prepared properly, of course. 

Wong's version was constructed with ultra-thin ramen noodles.  By "ultra-thin," I mean thinner than the noodles I've seen in most versions of Dan Dan - as in vermicelli-thin.  Anyways, the gristle-free ground pork, crunchy scallions, and tangy - but not spicy - vinaigrette were fantastic and incredibly flavorful when combined. 

And, come on, you already know that we ordered two more bowls of this deliciousness...

Dan Dan NoodlesAs if I hadn't already gorged on enough starch, the next item to arrive was the Fried Rice

Moist, yet dotted with crunchy kernels, the buttery rice was chock-full of Chinese sausage and sauteed green onions.

Fried RiceFor our "vegetable course," we received some sort of bitter green and baked squash/gourd. 

I found the greens to have an overwhelmingly unpleasant rotten-fish taste.  But my friends absolutely loved them and could not stop raving!

The baked squash/gourd, in my opinion, felt more like an afterthought. 

I give this course an overall "meh."

Bitter, fishy greensBaked squash/gourdAnd......drumroll please......the Roast Pig

The seven of us were initially (read "initially") presented with two roasted pork-topped plates; one for each side of the table.  Since I'm not big on gristle and/or spitting fatty bits in to my napkin, I didn't eat too much of the swine.  However, I did enjoy a couple of bites.  The rest of the table, on the other hand, went "hog wild" and ordered more plates.

Just when I was about to relieve the top button of my jeans, Julie gasped, "OMG you guys! (cough, point, cough) Gael Greene just walked in!" 

...You bet your ass we got a picture with her!

Hollywood, Jules, Gael, me, and MarysaAlthough a bit startled by our approach, Ms. Greene was gracious and seemed like a very nice woman.  She even handed us 'post cards' advertising her newest books, which she claimed were "very similar to 50 Shades of Grey."  Meowwww!

Just when we thought our night could not get any sweeter, dessert was served:  Nectarine Financier topped with Pork Ice Cream

Buttery, mildly sweet, dense, yet moist at the exact same time, the financier was divine.  I wanted another, in fact. 

Prior to taking my first hesitant spoonful, the pork ice cream was very intimidating.  However, it revealed that it was only kissed by the slightest pork-y essense (smoky and earthy).  Nothing offensive or overwhelming in the least.

Nectarine Financier, Pork Ice CreamWhat a fun, affordable, delicious, and star-studded evening we enjoyed together at Wong!  Hey, if it's good enough for Gael Greene...

...

Wong

7 Cornelia Street, NYC 10014

Ph: 212-989-3399

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle