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Lindsay

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Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (79)

Tuesday
Aug212012

A DOGgone, finger-lickin' good time at Neely's BBQ Parlor

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Neely's Barbecue Parlor
  • Cuisine  Southern American, BBQ
  • Location  1125 First Avenue (between 61st & 62nd Streets), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-832-1551
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  *I cannot comment on the interior, as we dined al-fresco*
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, happy hour, dog-friendly outdoor dining
  • Price  moderate

"We have to go somewhere with outdoor seating because I want Lucy to come, too," I said to my two Upper East Side-dwelling friends.  The plan was to meet for brunch.  In their neck of the woods.  An area that I rarely frequent in my free time.

After going back and forth, I learned that Neely's, a BBQ joint that I had long been wanting to check out, had outdoor seating.  "Oh, that place is great," Robin said.  "We go there for happy hour a lot, and both the food and drinks are delicious."  Sweet.

The three of us, plus Lucy, arrived at Neely's sometime after 12pm last Sunday.  I told the girls to go inside and inquire about an outdoor table while I stayed behind with my lil' pup.  Moments later, they emerged with a hostess in tow.  "Sit wherever you'd like," she said. 

After I tied Lucy's leash to one of my chair's legs, we plopped down at our spacious four-top table, underneath a sun-shielding umbrella.  Our friendly server immediately approached and handed us brunch and cocktail menus.  "And I'll be back with a bowl of water for you, Lil' One," she said to Lucy.   Awe!

Served in a salt and lime-rimmed mason jar, I got the party started with a passion-fruit margarita.  And before you go and judge me for ordering a margarita at a BBQ joint, let me just say that this was one of the best versions of my favorite cocktail I've had in a restaurant (vs a bar).  So there.

"We have to start with an order of fried pickles," Robin said to our server.  "But I don't see them on the brunch menu.  Did I miss something?"  Our server explained that the pickles aren't offered at brunch, but that she could see if the kitchen would make us a special order.  "If not," I chimed in, "we'll take the fried green tomatoes (available at brunch)!"  

About 10-minutes later, my eyes followed a kitchen-runner as he got closer and closer to our table.  With plate in hand.  "Enjoy ladies," he said.  And there they were.  The golden, fried pickles in all of their calorie-laden glory.  <Angelic choir music playing in the background...

Served atop a rectangular plate was a bowl filled to the brim with fried pickles, plus a side of spicy-ranch dipping sauce.  Warm, perfectly bite-sized, salty, briny, and encrusted with a dill-infused batter, these morsels were a true show stopper.  So much so, that we ordered *another* batch.  No wonder my pants are fitting so tight this week... 

Adding insult to injury or, in this case, pound on top of pound, I ordered a lumberjack-sized entree:  1/2 rack of "wet" Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs.  I chose the macaroni & cheese for my "choice of one side."  Oh, I'm not done yet, folks.  Add to that the biscuits I ordered.  You can imagine the horror when my two girlfriends each received their egg white omelettes.  Yawn.

I quickly stopped feeling guilty about what I had ordered after I took my first bite.  Each rib was enveloped by a generous amount of smoky, moist meat that had been crowned with a sweet 'n tangy BBQ sauce.  And, because I'm such a sauce fanatic, I made sure to sample each of the varieties on our table.  This included spicy, sweet, and "original." 

For those of you mac & cheese fans out there, Neely's makes a mean version.  Elbow noodles are drowned in a creamy roux of cheeses, before being baked and topped with bread crumbs.

And the biscuits?  Oh, forget it.  These were, hands down, the best biscuits I've ever had.  In my life.  They were so warm and moist on the inside, and perfectly crisp on the outside, that I did not even have to use the accompanying butter!  

I loved every last thing about my meal at Neely's.  First and foremost, a big 'thank you' to the staff for being so accommodating and not FREAKING OUT upon seeing my sweet little dog.  I was blown away by their compassion and warmth.  Our server was a doll and I wish that I could clone her for every future restaurant that I visit.  And the food/drink?  Seriously fcuking delicious.  I know that there are some Neely's critics out there, but y'all are just jealous.  Or insane.  Because this is some solid Southern cooking and hospitality!  Amen.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle       

Thursday
Aug162012

Let's 'tauk seafood: Dinner at Dave's Grill

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Dave's Grill
  • Cuisine  American, seafood
  • Location  468 West Lake Drive (Montauk, NY)
  • Phone  631-668-9190
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  dimly-lit, indoor/outdoor dining, casual elegance
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, older bar scene, al-fresco dining, views
  • Price  expensive

For my last meal in Montauk, I wanted to go somewhere with a reputation of serving excellent seafood.  Not that most restaurants in Montauk don't serve amazing seafood, but I wanted the best of the best.  And, according to locals and tourists, alike, Dave's Grill was *the* place to go. 

Although the restaurant has been around since 1988, it wasn't until this summer that I had first heard of Dave's.  But, then again, Montauk was just a sleepy fishing village until the yuppies took it over in 2008.  And, because MTK is "the hottest Hampton" these days, getting a reservation at Dave's is no easy fete.  Get this:  Dave's only takes reservations day-of.  The phone lines open at 4:15pm, and you may get a busy signal for a half hour before someone answers (...this was the case for me, at least).  After about 45 consecutive redials, I was told that a 3-top would be available at 10pm.  "Great!"  I exclaimed, "We'll take it!"

Located right by the docks on Montauk Harbor, Dave's breathes an air of elegance in to otherwise casual surroundings.  Terracotta-colored walls are adorned with large windows and back-lit oil paintings.  Nautical tchotchkes adorn shelves that overlook perfectly-set white tablecloths.  Booth and table seating are available, and guests can choose from either indoor or al-fresco dining.

Sarah, Nicole, and I arrived at Dave's just before 10pm, and were seated immediately.

Photo: Daves Grill dot comEven at 10pm, both the restaurant and bar were abuzz with jovial guests of all ages.  The atmosphere, mood, and welcoming staff really gave me the sense that I was on vacation.  And *not* on vacation in New York.  I can't really explain it, but I felt happily far away and, for once during my summer dining experiences out East, at ease.  Why?  Because I knew that the folks who were running the show here weren't going to try to up-sell appetizers or desserts, or raise an eyebrow if I ordered the damn "grilled quesadilla" over the lobster.  Honestly, almost every other restaurant I've been to this summer has been chock-full of snobby, know-it-all snoots.  

From the get-go, Dave's just seemed to be a breath of fresh, briny, sea air.

~

To start, Sarah and I chose to split an order of the Clams Casino (clams on-the-halfshell baked with breadcrumbs and bacon).

A half-dozen clams on-the-halfshell were individually topped with a breadcrumb mixture, that consisted of chopped bacon, butter, garlic, and parsley.  The shells were served atop a pool of melted butter.  A lemon wedge and two seafood forks accompanied.

Upon first bite, each plump clam ruptured in my mouth, giving way to a briny flavor remnant of the cold Atlantic waters.  The warm and crunchy breadcrumb topping added a peppy textural contrast to the dense flesh.  While the lemon notes calmed the inherent flavor of the clams, the melted butter added a sexy, rich naughtiness that proved perfect for soaking up with bread.

"Which would you recommend?"  I asked our kind server upon my turn to order an entree, "Dave's 'Original' Cioppino, or Dave's 'Famous Fish Stew?'"  Since her answer was "both, it just depends on whether you want a tomato or a cream-base," I told her to surprise me.  Hell, I don't discriminate!

And the winner was...Dave's "Original" Cioppino.

A chunky tomato and wine broth, dotted with onions and fresh parsley, was chock-full of fresh shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, lobster, and fish.  In true San Francisco style, the stew was topped with a heavily buttered piece of grilled sourdough garlic bread.

The fragrant, robust broth was seasoned so precisely that I did not even have to tweak it with salt/pepper.  Total shocker/rarity for me!  The bountiful array of shellfish was a true delight, and everything, aside from the "fish" (I couldn't tell you which type of fish), was exquisitely fresh.  Had it not tasted as if the fish was caught last year, this beautiful stew would have been perfect! 

C'mon, you *know* we didn't stop at entrees!  Obviously, the three of us ordered dessert...I chose the Homemade Crisp Du Jour.

Baked in a white ramekin was a melange of summer fruits:  Peaches, blueberries, and plums.  Bound by a lightly sweetened elixir, the fruit was topped with an ample mound of oat streusel.  The piping hot crisp was finished with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Although I prefer my pies and crisps cloyingly sweet, this version truly allowed for the natural flavors of the fruit trio to shine.  Instead of added sugar.  My favorite part of the dessert was the oat-y, crumbly streusel topping that magically soaked up the cold vanilla ice cream. 

The girls and I had a fantastic dining experience at Dave's.  From the location, indoor-outdoor seating, and proximity to the water - to the friendly staff and delicious food - Dave's is a Montauk gem.  I cannot wait to return in summer 2013!  I highly recommend this wonderful seafood sanctuary if, of course, you can score a reservation!

~~~

Until we eat again,  

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Aug022012

CLOSED: Dinner at La Promenade des Anglais

  • Restaurant  La Promenade des Anglais
  • Cuisine  French, Mediterranean
  • Location  461 W. 23rd Street (between 9th & 10th Avenues)
  • Phone  212-255-7400
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  dimly-lit, dramatic, sexy, old world
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, happy hour, dine at the bar, bar scene
  • Price  moderate

From the moment that I walked in - on the early side, of course - to meet Devon for dinner, I was totally taken by and fell rather hard for LPdA (La Promenade des Anglais).  Be its surprisingly serene, street-level location within the lovely London Terrace Gardens - the knowledgeable *and friendly* staff - or the old-world, transporting atmosphere, this Southern French newcomer is a welcome slice of Gallic formality in an otherwise eclectic, casual neighborhood.

Until the host greeted me with his American accent, I was momentarily whisked back to Nice.  Deep browns and icy blues somehow "played nice" with splashes of zebra print and sunflower-yellow hues.  Much akin to the melange of decor/colors at the famous Hotel Negresco Oversized mirrors, brass sconces and chandeliers, black + white checkered floors, and rounded-windows + archways evoked that of a dressed-up brasserie.  From a bygone era. 

Photo from La Promenade NYC dot comSince Devon was running late - and I'm always early - I grabbed a seat at the bar.  The friendly 'tender informed me that I was in the midst of happy hour, which meant that quartinos of wine and specialty cocktails were half price!  Score.  I ordered a delightful French pinot and munched on two dishes of assorted nuts in anticipation of Devon's arrival.

Once seated, we were greeted by (what ended up being) the best server I've experienced in all my years of dining.  He was brilliant.  Enthusiastic.  Knowledgeable and passionate about food and drink.  And, on top of everything else, he was adorably handsome.  Do I have a crush?  Ya, maybe... 

Travis, our server, informed Devon and me that, aside from waiting tables, he regularly bartends at the restaurant.  So, because of his mixology mastery, we trusted him to customize our beverages:  A French martini (made with cherry vodka) for Devon, and a raspberry margarita for me. 

While I would have appreciated a bit more depth in flavor, I thoroughly enjoyed the unique addition of the freshly-muddled raspberries amidst the margarita's traditional lime base. 

And then, it was the moment of truth.  My completely unfair and ridiculous method of determining whether or not a restaurant is legit:  Sampling the contents of the bread basket, of course!

Accompanied by a dish of flaky Maldon sea salt was a basket containing slices of heavily buttered, grilled country bread, and one large, airy, round roll that reminded me of a less-dense version of a Parker House.  Both varieties were delicious and fresh, but what I think I appreciated most was the salt!

Being that we were in the thick of "Restaurant Week" (Typically, I could care less about 'Restaurant Week' because I always end up spending more that I wanted and the menu generally sucks.), Travis, our server, included the special $35 prix-fixe menu - that actually looked amazing - along with the regular dinner menu.  "You all can do this anyway you'd like," he said.  "For instance, if you want to split one Restaurant Week meal and also order a few things from the regular menu, that is totally fine.  Or if you want to do one menu over the other.  Whatever!"  Wow, now how often is a restaurant in New York this flexible?  Never.   

Devon and I decided to choose two dishes from the nightly dinner menu, and split one of the Restaurant Week menus.

...

Whipped Ricotta  appetizer from the nightly dinner menu

Fluffy, whipped ricotta cheese was kissed with fragrant thyme and honey and served alongside slices of buttery, grilled country bread.

Doesn't that puff of ricotta look like a cloud?  So soft and fluffy!  Melt-in-your-mouth creaminess with the most subtle hint of sweet honey. 

To dunk or to spread?  Either way, the mild cheese made a lovely crown to the buttery, smoky, grilled bread.

Gazpacho "Riviera Style"  appetizer course from the Restaurant Week menu

A chilled soup of coarsely pureed tomatoes, garlic, and onion - somewhat resembling salsa - was topped with croutons of grilled bread and a dollop of ricotta.

While I sipped a few spoonfuls, I ultimately made use of the sliced bread in our basket to dip in to the gazpacho.  The puree was so flavorful and delicate; not laced full of tomato and onion chunks like the gazpacho's I've typically seen.  My only complaint was that the ricotta dollop was oddly dense in texture and tasted off/sour/pungent.

Scallops   entree from the nightly dinner menu

Plated atop a bed of spring vegetables, prosciutto "chips," and a lemon-kissed beurre blanc, were four perfectly-seared, seaweed-crusted scallops.

To be honest, I liked the accompaniments more than the actual scallops.  Aside from the fact that they were a tad bit too soft/mushy, their flavor was off.  And I can't help but chalk this up to the "seaweed crust" component.  I had a feeling that seaweed would be a buzz killer...

Steak Frites  entree course from the Restaurant Week menu (note that Steak Frites is also available on the traditional menus)

Plated atop a butcher's block were slices of perfectly-cooked skirt steak, a small dish of salsa verde (to top or be used as a dip for the steak), and a bowl of homemade rosemary French fries.

Every component of this entree was spot-on.  Dynamite.  The beef was charred on the outside and the interior was cooked to our requested medium-rare.  Despite the cut, the meat was not gristly or overly chewy.  Although fragrant and flavorful, I did not pair the salsa verde with the steak.  The French fries were sturdy and crunchy on the outside, revealing a soft, velvety core.  Bravo! 

Warm Chocolate Fondant  dessert course from the Restaurant Week menu

A.K.A. "molten-chocolate cake."  This version varied in that it was encrusted by a lighter-than-most exterior " cake shell" that, rather seamlessly, gave way to a warm, molten-chocolate interior eruption. 

I was hoping that the white, almond-shaped dollop on the plate was ice cream, not whipped cream.  Bummer.  The combination of the latter with the warm, sweet cake just pales in comparison to a sub-zero scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

...

Devon and I enjoyed every aspect of our experience at LPdA.  From the atmosphere and excellent service, to the delicious food and drink, we could not have been happier diners. 

This restaurant is a winner in every aspect and one that I foresee returning back to time and again.  I especially look forward to visiting my crush, Travis, while he mans the bar on his server off-nights...!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Friday
May112012

A revelatory dinner at Kin Shop

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Kin Shop
  • Cuisine  Thai
  • Location  469 6th Avenue (btwn 11th & 12th Streets), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-675-4295
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  bustling, warm, sophisticated-yet casual
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small-sized groups, 1x1, foodies, celebrity chef (Harold Dieterle)
  • Price  moderate

Look, I'm going to be brutally honest.  And you may not like it.  But, here goes:  When Kin Shop - a Thai restaurant opened by Top Chef's first winner and Perilla Restaurant founder, Harold Dieterle (read: white man) - first opened its doors about 1.5 years ago, nothing particularly spoke or prompted me to add it to my "Top 10 dying-to-try-restaurants" list.  Or even my "Top 20," for that matter.  Why?  Because, 'Dieterle is white!  What could he possibly know about Thai cuisine?  I mean, c'mon, this isn't Nebraska we're talking about here, folks.  This is NEW YORK CITY!  Certainly you can find a Thai restaurant with a Thai chef within that 10 block radius that you're sitting/standing in right now...

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago:  Emily and I were eating and drinking our way through the maze of culinary stations at Toast to the Children when we happened upon Kin Shop's table.  Emily, a Chicago native, was immediately drawn to the sous chef's 'Cubs baseball cap.  That was all it took for her to initiate a conversation with Chef Eric, who proceeded to explain, in artful detail, his scallop hors d'oeuvre.   "Oh my gosh," she squealed, "scallops generally aren't my favorite, but this preparation is delicious!"  Before moving on to the next station, Emily grabbed a Kin Shop business card and shook Chef Eric's hand, promising that the next time they'd see one another would be at the restaurant. 

Always a woman of her word, Emily kept her promise to Chef Eric.  She snagged a dinner reservation and insisted that I join.  8pm on a Thursday evening is a bit late for me but, after having been impressed by Chef and his scallops at Toast to the Children, I was intrigued enough to accept Emily's invitation.

Upon arrival, Kin Shop was bustling.  There was not a vacant seat or table in the entire restaurant!  While we waited for our other three guests, Emily and I hung out by the entrance and quizzed the friendly hostess about her favorite items on the menu.  "Oh my gosh," she exclaimed, "there is so much that I love!  Where do I begin?" 

Having dined at Kin Shop's previous occupant, Philippe Chow Express, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior transformation.  Where there was once gaudy black and red hues now showcased Dieterle's signature white-washed walls and minimal, yet casually sophisticated decor.  

Photo credit: Sip, Chat, ChowWhen the other ladies arrived, the five of us were promptly seated.  And, within moments, menus were distributed, water glasses were filled, and cocktail orders were taken.  

To whet my appetite, I chose to begin with the "Shiso Crazy" cocktail, a combination of vodka, maraschino, passion fruit puree, lemon juice, and prosecco.  Sweet, tart 'n tangy, and effervescent...without the slightest taste/burn of alcohol!  Now that, to me, spells beverage success.

"Shiso Crazy" cocktailIn following what the hostess had mentioned were her favorite dishes, our table chose to split various plates, "family style."  There were just too many delicious-sounding items that we *had* to have!

Fried Pork & Crispy Oyster Salad

Served atop a bed of sliced celery and pickled red onions were, what I'd like to call, "chicken fried" whole oysters and chunks of succulent pork.  The menu does not coin the oysters and pork as being "chicken fried."  Broken peanuts, micro-greens, and mint-chili-lime vinaigrette finished the dish.  

If you hate raw celery, then I'm not so sure that I'd recommend ordering this salad.  However, you could eat around the celery, as there are plenty of delicious morsels to sample.  I particularly loved the "crust" on both the pork and the oysters, as it reminded me of that on chicken-fried-steak.   Additionally, I found the multitude of textures - crunchy celery and onions, chewy oysters, moist pork - to be flirty, creative, and adventurous.

Spicy Duck Laab Salad

Romaine hearts were amply topped with juicy ground duck, toasted rice, and plenty of spicy red chili flakes and grinds.

This dish reminded me of a Korean ssam and/or the "chicken lettuce wraps" made famous at PF Chang's.  However, unlike the latter, this verison was much spicier and, because duck (a much fattier bird than chicken) was used, way more juicy. 

This salad was a huge hit at our table.  Even Emily, a self-proclaimed duck hater, could not get enough!

Fried Broccoli & Chinese Sausage

*Forgive me for not posting a photo.  The one that I have on-hand is blurred and does not do this incredible dish any justice, whatsoever. 

A mound of crispy, fried broccoli florets were tossed in a young coconut-gooseberry chutney and sweet fermented plum vinegar.  Chinese sausage "coins" added a welcome smokiness, depth, and meaty texture.

This, hands down, was the most popular item at our table.  So much so, that we ordered another helping!  Trust me when I say that this dish will turn any broccoli hater in to a lover. 

Grilled Prawns

At a whopping $4/prawn, we only ordered one piece per lady.  Head-on prawns were grilled to perfection and served alongside a halved lime and sweet/tangy black pepper sauce. 

While the prawns were tasty, there was nothing particularly unique or life-changing about them.  Would I order these shellfish again?  No way, Jose.  Especially not at $4 a pop! 

Pan Seared Tile Fish 

The skin atop this mild tile fish filet was seared to a crisp, honey-hued golden brown.  Surrounded by a moat of chu chee curry sauce dotted with crayfish, bamboo, and bok choy, the fish took center stage.

Of the entrees that we ordered, this was the table's favorite.  While the fish was pristinely fresh and cooked perfectly, it was the subtly sweet, creamy, and fragrant chu chee curry sauce that all five of us fought over.  Literally.  Had straws been handed out, there is no doubt in my mind that each one of us would have voluntarily sucked this curry sauce down as if it were a milkshake. 

Northern Thai Style Curry Noodle

A mustard yellow-tinged "pool" of Northern Thai-style curry was filled with 2-3 chunks of slightly-overcooked beef brisket, cucumbers, peanuts, and a small tangle of the thickest noodles that I've ever seen.

While I loved the flavorful curry sauce and the starchy, thick noodles, I was very disappointed by the dainty portion of brisket.  Even though it was slightly overcooked.

Steamed Sticky Rice

Wrapped up like a birthday present in banana leaves was a square-shaped mound of packed, sticky white rice. 

While some at the table felt that it was too gummy and gelatinous, I thoroughly enjoyed the sticky rice.  For the rich curry sauce-based entrees that we ordered, I found this to be the ideal accompaniment, because it did not break up in to individual rice kernels and sink to the bottom of the said dish.

Crispy Roti & a Tasting of Condiments

FYI:  The crispy roti and the condiments do not come together.

I'm sorry, but what's NOT to love about roti?  Seriously.  One of the girls at my table said it best, "This tastes like a flattened croissant.  A croissant pancake!!"  Buttery, doughy, crispy on the outside, warm...just think of any delicious adjective you can muster, and it could probably be used to describe this sinfully delicious bread.

The condiments were interesting and flavorful but, at $8 for a "tasting" of four, I found them to be an unnecessary rip-off.  Trust me, folks, the roti is delicious enough on its own, or when dipped in to your entree's sauces.

Ice cream trio:  (from left) Galangal, Thai Iced Tea, Thai Coffee-Chocolate

Served atop, what tasted like, crunchy coconut cookie crumbs, were three homemade scoops of Thai-inspired ice creams. 

While each flavor was pleasant, my favorite was the Thai Iced Tea, which also happens to be one of my favorite drinks in the entire world. 

Roasted Pineapple Financier

Think along the lines of a fancified Pineapple Upside Down Cake...

Unlike the traditional French financier, this version was much more dense.  Flecked with caramelized chunks of pineapple, the rectangular cake sat atop a zesty passion fruit sauce and was accompanied by toasted coconut shreds and a scoop of calamansi sorbet.  

Had the cake, itself, been a tad bit moister, this would have been the world's most delicious dessert. 

Coconut Cream Cake

Three layers of coconut cake were sandwiched by and iced with rich, sweet whipped buttercream.  Toasted coconut shreds completed the picturesque cake.

While I found the cake, itself, to be moist enough, I thought that the dessert, overall, was too sweet.   

 

To conclude

Shame on me for initially stereotyping - maybe even mocking - a white man's Thai restaurant.  Because, frankly, Kin Shop knocked my fcuking socks off.  I walked in with some hesitation, but walked out proclaiming that this was the best meal I've had in recent memory ("bo ssam" at Momofuku Ssam Bar NOT included). 

From its friendly and knowledgeable staff - creative cocktails list - casually sophisticated atmosphere...to the kick ass food, Kin Shop wins!  Bravo, tens times over, Mr. Dieterle!  I cannot wait to return.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The *very satisfied* Lunch Belle