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Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (79)

Friday
Jan132012

CLOSED: The Meatball Factory

  • Restaurant  The Meatball Factory
  • Cuisine  meatball-centric, Italian, pizza
  • Location  231 2nd Avenue (at 14th Street), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-260-8015
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, casual, warm
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, kid-friendly
  • Price  affordable, though prices add up quickly
  • FYI  beer and wine only

I can't tell you when it officially started - or why, for that matter - but lately, I've become obsessed with margaritas and meatballs.  Separately, of course.  And, speaking of 'balls, I've wanted to check out The Meatball Shop for the longest time, but have hesitated due to its insane popularity and, from what I've heard/read, even more insane wait times.

The Meatball Factory, on the other hand, is relatively new to the 'ball arena, having only been open for a matter of months.  Aside from the fact that Top Chef alum, Dave Martin, is in charge of the kitchen, I haven't really heard or read too much about the place.  So, having craved 'balls all month long, I figured that it was high time to give this newcomer a try.

The 1,600 square foot space is hugged by rustic, exposed-brick walls and comprised of a full-sized bar (though not fully stocked), two and four-top tables/chairs, and restrooms for...are you ready for this...men AND women!  "Unisex" stalls do not exist here.  Thank god. 

Phillip, Em, and I arrived for dinner at TMF (The Meatball Factory) at 6:30pm, and were seated immediately.  After we settled in and removed some of our wintry layers, we each ordered a glass of wine.  No margaritas here, folks.  TMF does not serve hard alcohol.

The food menu at TMF is organized like this:  1) Choose a meatball from a selection of eight, including a vegetarian option 2) Choose one of eight sauces to pair with your meatball.  Can't decide on one?  A 3-part sauce sampler will cost you $3 3) Order accompaniments, ie. pizza, pasta, meatball sandwiches, salads, side dishes, or cheese fries. 

So, with that, the three of us decided to split a handful of items and not one, but three sauce samplers.

1 order of "Old School" meatballs, 1 order of "Meatzza, Meatzza" meatballs

The picture, above, doesn't really do the 'balls much justice, but I wanted to give you a visual of how they're presented.  Since we ordered three sauce samplers, our 'balls were served naked, as opposed to swimming in gravy.

"Old School" 'balls: composed of hangar steak, heritage pork, veal, aged asagio cheese, and thyme.  I found these 'balls to be firmly-packed and slightly overcooked.  However, I really enjoyed their robust, garlic-y flavor.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Fire Roasted Marinara, Hells Bells Vodka Sauce, or Meat House.

"Meatzza, Meatzza" 'balls:  composed of braised beef short ribs, hangar steak, filet, buffalo, potato, and parmesan cheese.  I absolutely loved these balls and found them very moist, meaty, and packed with flavor.  The potatoes added a unique creaminess and the cheese produced just the right amount of salt.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Shroom Central, Truffle Time.

"Shrooming" Crispy Crackerbread Pizza

A crunchy, yet perfectly buttered and pillowy crust was liberally topped with a schmear of "Truffle Time" sauce (composed of cream, shallots, brandy, sherry, truffles, fontina, thyme, and oregano), roasted mushrooms, and peppery arugula.   I thoroughly enjoyed this pie, especially when I topped each bite with a hunk of meatball.  Delish!

Dave's World Famous Black Truffle Mac 'N' Cheese

What could possibly be better than mac 'n cheese created with house-made pasta noodles and rich, black truffle?  Not a whole lot, especially if you're my dinner guests, Phillip and Em.  I, on the other hand, prefer the traditional Southern version, chock-full of elbow pasta, cheddar, and Velveeta. 

As you may know, I've grown tired of truffle-mania.  I'm over it.  The flavor, especially that of truffle oil, overwhelms every dish.  That being said, I'm not one to ever "say no" to a plate of mac 'n cheese.  Especially when it's homemade and happens to look as good as it does in my picture, above.  

I loved the use of the corkscrew noodles and the fact that there were actually *real* bits of black truffle in the decadent sauce (which also happened to be the same sauce that served as the base for our pizza)!  The three of us, literally, had a fork-fight over the last noodle.  Luckily, there was plenty of sauce leftover to sop up with bread.    

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Red chili sauce and maple syrup combined to form the sweet and spicy flavor base for this plate of roasted Brussels sprouts.  I could have eaten five more servings of these addictive greens that were lick-the-plate delicious!

Hot Tin Roof Sundae

All I have to see are the words "sea salt caramel," and I'm sold.  No questions asked.  I will order it.

To be honest, I haven't had a sundae since I was about five, so I didn't really remember what one was comprised of until I took my first bite of the Hot Tin Roof.  Here goes:  malted hot fudge, sea salt caramel sauce, candied nutmeg walnuts, and marshmallow-flavored gelato.  Whew!  Wasn't there supposed to be a brownie in there, somewhere?  Maybe, maybe not.  But there should have been.  Something to break up the glop of cloyingly sweet syrups and sauces.  Thankfully, the walnuts added a very necessary textural crunch. 

Conclusion

Midway through our meal, the restaurant was packed!  New Yorker's really do love their meatballs.

In terms of the namesake dish, I think that ordering a sauce sampler is ideal, as we found it to be a little challenging when attempting to pair a specific 'ball with one sauce.   

My friends and I enjoyed ourselves and look forward to returning and sampling more 'balls.  In fact, the three of us have to decided that, for our next dinner date, we'll head over to The Meatball Shop to scope out the competition.

Let the 'ball games begin!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Dec122011

What do Camp Anawanna and potato latkes have in common?

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Kutsher's Tribeca
  • Cuisine  modern Jewish
  • Location  186 Franklin Street (between Hudson & Greenwich Streets), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-431-0606
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  sexy, sleek, modern, spacious
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small and large groups, 1x1, bar scene
  • Price  moderate

I have not been more excited about a restaurant opening than I was for Kutsher's Tribeca (let's make this easy and call it "KT").  And, who better to join me for an abundant, modern Jewish feast than my hometown girl and fellow Jewess, Brette?

Located in a surprisingly sleek, sexy, and haute space, KT is situated just around the corner from long-standing neighborhood fixture, Nobu.

Photo: found on allthingsnewyork.blogspot.comBeing the perennial early bird, I arrived about 15-minutes shy of our 7:30pm reservation.  Upon entering, I made eyes with one of the bar tenders/mixologists who, without even having to utter a word, commandeered me to his post.  I plopped myself down on to a stool and sought his expert advice on which cocktail I should choose to begin my evening.  Side note:  the original Kutsher's is a resort in the Catskills that, some say, was the inspiration for the film, Dirty Dancing! 

All of the cocktail names have mountain resort-y undertones:  Bug Juice, The Deep End, The Anawana, to name a few.  That's right, children of the 80's, I said Anawana.  As in the television show, Salute Your Shorts (only, on the show, the camp was spelled "Anawanna."  Note the 2 n's in Anawanna.).  And, yes, there WAS such thing called "Camp Anawana" outside of TV land...it was a children's camp on the Kutsher Resort grounds!

For my poison of choice, the bartender suggested I try the Bungalow Bunny, a gin-based concoction muddled with lime and mint, and finished with blueberry-lime cordial and smoked bitters.  While I would have preferred it to be a pinch sweeter, my 'Bunny was nothing short of refreshing, quenching, and flavorful.  Thanks, Joe!

Within seconds of her arrival, Brette and I were promptly whisked to our table, but not before being warmly greeted by Zach Kutsher, himself (grandson of the resort owners and KT restaurant partner).  We were seated next to two young ladies who took an interest in the fact that I was snapping a few photos.  After I told them that I had a food blog, we began discussing which cocktail they thought that Brette should order.  The girls also mentioned that they knew the Kutsher family because they used to attend Camp Anawana as children!

While the menu at KT isn't large, per se, it is still chock full of options.  Do you go the various snacks route, or stay true to ordering an entree?  In the heat of our menu perusal, Brette and I were delightfully surprised when a platter of homemade challah slices (white and wheat) and butter appeared before our eyes.

Ultimately, Brette and I decided to go the snacks route.  There were simply too many items that we wanted to taste and, with the upcoming holidays acting as a potential road block, who knew if we'd be able to get back to KT before the New Year!

Charoset Chopped Salad

How gorgeous are those colors, especially that bright green, courtesy of the butter lettuce?  Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of charoset, I think "sweet."  And, perhaps that is what got me in to trouble with this rather savory preparation.  The salad was composed of chickpeas, apples, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, challah croutons, herbs, and finished with a lemon-honey vinaigrette.  And, while that all sounds lovely, I found that it didn't taste all that great.  In fact, there was nothing "sweet" about it.

Crispy Artichokes Alla Judea

You could fry a shoe and I'd probably still eat it.  Do I think that everything tastes better fried?  Yes, I do.  However, do I think that all fried things are delicious.  No, I do not. 

Served over a bed of greens that were tossed in what the menu claimed to be lemon, garlic, and parsley but, in actuality, tasted more like an overly dressed Caesar salad, was a sparse amount of perfectly fried artichoke quarters and shaved parmesan ribbons. 

Bottom line:  If KT had doubled the portion of 'chokes and 86'd the greens, this dish would have been top notch.

Milton's Short Rib & Brisket Meatballs

These delightful little morsels were the perfect size - even for me, a self-professed meatball fanatic.  Voluptuous and round, yet not overwhelmingly large, these 'balls packed a moist, meaty, and playful punch.  The creamy horseradish dollop brought about a tangy, peppery kick. 

Crispy Potato Latkes

The latkes, hands down, were the "belle of the ball."  Shredded potato and minced onion mounds were fried to a perfectly golden crisp and served alongside chilled sour cream and homemade apple sauce.  Don't tell my mom, but these potato pancakes blow hers - my former favorite - out of the water!  

Stuffed Potato & Leek Knish

A knish is a potato dumpling, of sorts, that can be filled with any variety of ingredients.  KT's version comes two to an order:  one is topped with melted emmentaler cheese and house-cured pastrami (that rivals Katz's), and the other with spinach, mushrooms, and gooey fontina.

 

Conclusion

Brette and I really enjoyed our experience at KT.  Since the restaurant is still in its infancy, I think that, like wine, it will only get better with each passing day.  I look forward to returning, especially for latkes, pastrami, and a house-made beverage or two!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Oct122011

This one is for all of my SoCal & Texan readers! Dinner at Florencia 13

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Florencia 13
  • Cuisine  Mexican
  • Location  185 Sullivan Street (between Bleeker & Houston Streets), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-677-6830
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  smaller/intimate, dimly lit, casual, bar scene, outdoor dining
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, bar, casual date night
  • Price  affordable

"I think I've met my match," I replied, via email, to Erin, of Gluten Free Fun.  For someone who has lived with Celiac Disease since she was two years old, Mexican food is one cuisine that is relatively seamless for Erin to enjoy.  So, with that very important tidbit (coupled with my undying obsession for the cuisine), we chose 'Florencia 13' as the venue of choice for our upcoming dinner date.

Habitually, I arrived at the restaurant about 15-minutes prior to our meeting time.  I was told that I could sit wherever I pleased, including one of the two al-fresco tables, and that someone would follow me with the cocktail list.  "Thank you," I replied, "I really need a drink."  I grabbed a seat outdoors and, although the restaurant was offering a $5 house margarita, I opted for something larger.  More potent.  It was one of those days, and I figured that a $13 drink wouldn't kill me.  The margarita that I was served immediately proved that I received my money's worth: approximately 12-ounces of premium tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice, Cointreau, and lots of salt. 

After just a couple of sips, Erin arrived.  Due to the mild chill in the October air, we chose to dine indoors and were seated immediately. 

Although Florencia's interior space is on the smaller, more intimate side, the restaurant houses a decent-sized bar, located in the middle of the dining room.  The atmosphere is warm, casual and, strangely, sexy, in the fact that the lighting is dim enough to where you can be on a date, still look hot, and actually evoke a spark.

A basket of warm, salty, handmade tortilla chips and the best salsa this side of El Paso, TX. coated our stomachs between sips of our margaritas and food menu perusal.

The menu at Florencia, just like the name of the restaurant, itself, is very East LA-centric.  Think: dishes named after famous areas/streets, such as Echo Park, Boyle Heights, and Mulholland Drive.  With so many items to choose from, I ultimately decided to order the 'City of Angels,' which is a combination plate that comes with your choice of three items: a hard or soft-shelled taco (with choice of filling), enchilada (with choice of filling), or a chile relleno - plus rice, beans, and guacamole. 

Per the above picture, I will begin with the bowl of refried beans and move clockwise in my descriptions: 

  • Refried beans: while the consistency was near-perfect, I found the flavor of the refritos to be "too vegetarian."  What I mean is that they tasted as if, instead of being 'refried' with some sort of vegetable oil or lard, they were lightly pureed and then thinned with vegetable stock. 
  • Shredded beef hard-shell taco: not since the last time I was home (El Paso, TX.) or in San Diego have I had such an excellent taco.  Sure, I've raved about Arriba Arriba's version, but this one blew it out of the water.  First of all, the house-fried taco shell was not over-fried.  Second, the shredded beef brisket was perfectly moist and not one bit gristly.  And third, the toppings - consisting of iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and finely shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses - were as El Paso/SoCal authentic as you can get.  This, my friends, was the perfect taco.
  • Cheese enchilada with salsa rojo: in terms of flavor, there was nothing wrong with this enchilada.  My issue was that it wasn't served as warm, temperature-wise, as I would have liked, causing the cheese filling to coagulate and the tortilla wrapping to ever-so-slightly harden.
  • Guacamole: fresh, ripe avocado meat was blended with chunks of tomato and dotted with cilantro, among other ingredients. 
  • Spanish rice: moist, chock full of random tomato clumps, dense, and filled with a rich saffron/tomato/cumin flavor, this is the best Spanish rice that I've had in NYC, to date.  I ate the entire 'ice cream scoop' serving.
  • 'Califas' Chile Relleno: this is the first time, in the history of my 7.5 years of living in NYC, that I have ordered a 'chile relleno' and received one made with an Anaheim not a poblano pepper.  Gracias a dios!  The pepper was stuffed with gooey, melted white cheese, encased in a cripsy egg batter, and topped with a creamy tomato sauce, the latter of which I found to be an overkill - maybe even an afterthought.  Upon my return, I will make a note to order my relleno sans crema.  Aside from that, Florencia's chile relleno truly hit the spot.

Conclusion: for the first time, in the history of my 7.5 years of living in NYC, I *finally* feel like I've found myself a 'home' at a restaurant.  I think I realized this when, upon reading the cocktail list, I noticed that one of the margaritas, the Homie-rita, comes with a collectable Homie doll (...a line of cholo/a figurines that I used to collect at home, as they were available in the 25-cent machine at grocery stores.  From Yankee territory, you can purchase Homies online.).  Yep, that basically sealed the deal.  Initially.  And then came that solid margarita, followed by those handmade tortilla chips and that amazing salsa, the beef taco, Spanish rice, chile relleno, and, last but not least, the down home, friendly, laid back service.  What a winner. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Sep262011

CLOSED: Close, but no cigar: dinner at Ciano

  • Restaurant  Ciano
  • Cuisine  Italian
  • Location  45 E. 22nd St. Street (between Broadway & Park Avenue), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-982-8422
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, warm, 'cabin chic'
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, bar, date night, intimate private events
  • Price  expensive

"Remember this block?"  I asked Megan, as I simultaneously raised a clasped fist in to the air, as if I were about to throw a punch.  "Hahhahhahah!  Of course I do," she chuckled.  Memories.  I used to live in a tiny studio apartment on the lovely stretch of 22nd Street, between Park Avenue and Broadway, from 2006-2007.  In fact, it was my first NYC apartment experience sans roommates.  Sounds fancy and glamorous, right?  Wrong.  I was leasing my unit, which just so happened to be located in a "co-op" building, from the owner, a Ned Flanders-like idiot from Florida.  To make a long story as short as possible, the nightmare began in February 2007 when, for two consecutive weeks, the building was without heat.  After many failed attempts to reach the super, I called '311' and filed a complaint.  Unbeknownst to me, the city doesn't take matters of heat lightly.  An inspector was dispatched to our building the next day to get an internal temperature reading.  We failed miserably.  13 degrees below the legal limit, to be exact.  Because of this, The City of New York ended up taking my building to court.  And, because of that, my building had me evicted.  Needless to say, I hate 22nd Street.

To celebrate both of our belated birthdays, Megan and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Ciano.  Having arrived just before our 7pm reservation, I was pleasantly surprised when the hostess offered to seat me as an incomplete party.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes for Megan to appear. 

While we waited for our glasses of wine, Megan and I took in Ciano's fabulous, 'Tuscan farmhouse meets cabin-chic' interior space.  Think: unfinished plank wood floors - warm hues - splashes of exposed brick - an open fireplace - various large skylights - mini topiary trees.

"Cheers!"  Our glasses of wine clinked.  "To both of our belated birthdays, and hopes that our meal at Ciano will be able to take the 'taint' out of 22nd Street," I exclaimed. 

After perusing the dinner menu, Megan and I decided that we would split a handful of dishes instead of ordering individually, as the prices were steep.  Moments after we placed our food order, we 'broke bread' with a duo of freshly-baked plain and pizza focaccia.  A spicy, chili-flecked oil and truffled butter accompanied.

Roasted Veal Meatballs  Luckily for me, Megan isn't keen on beef, so these morsels had my name - and my name, only - written all over them.  Hovering atop a shallow dollop of white polenta, were two amply-sized (meaning slightly bigger than a golf ball) meatballs that were encased in a rich, red wine-heavy glaze.  The interior of each yielded a soft, almost velvet-like texture that completely melted in my mouth. 

Smoked Burrata Ravioli  Ricotta (not smoked burrata, FYI) cheese ravioli was lightly kissed by a zucchini-basil pesto/toasted almond brown-butter sauce.  Having pictured something totally different - heartier sauce, smokier and more dense cheese - from what we actually received, I was a bit disappointed by this pasta.  While it wasn't bad or even below average, per se, this is not a dish that I would ever consider reordering, should I return to Ciano.

White Polenta (side dish)  As my friend, Robin, would say, "meh."  There is no question in my mind that Ciano whips up their version from scratch, but Megan and I found the polenta to be a bit boring.  There was something missing.  Pepper, maybe?  Perhaps it could have used more melted parmigiano cheese?  Come to think of it, Ciano's rendition was a bit undercooked for my liking; I prefer mine to be a bit more dense.  Perfect example?  The polenta on the brunch menu at Five Points.   

Caramelized Diver Scallops  Of all of the dishes that we ordered, this was the most visually appealing.  Sexy, if you will.  Prior to sauteeing, the top of each scallop was individually scored with a knife.  This seemed to result in a deeper, more golden brown exterior and caramelization (note to self). 

The shellfish sat atop a whole-kernel corn ragu that was dotted with sliced mushrooms and salty pancetta.  While the flavors were spot-on, I wished that the scallops had been cooked just a little bit longer, as they weren't as firm as they had appeared.

Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon  Unfortunately, I found this particular dessert slightly awkward to eat and, to be honest, underwhelming.  While I love the idea of 'peach Napoleon,' this version seemed to be more of an afterthought, especially with the ghetto spritz of chocolate sauce at 6 o'clock (if you're looking at the peach Napoleon, itself).  Isn't there a more clever way to construct this treat instead of using paper thin wafers and awkwardly-large peach slices?  Thank god I wasn't on a date...

Conclusion  I don't think it's fair of me to judge Ciano so harshly based on one meal but, let's be honest, there are a couple of reasons why I would not return: too expensive - many of the items we ordered were just 'mediocre' and the ingredients on the pasta dish were misleading.  However, there were things about Ciano that I did enjoy: atmosphere - bar scene - meatballs - bread + truffle butter.  So, would I go back?  Yes, for snacks and wine. 

Now, to the most important question of all: do I still hate 22nd Street?  Not as long as Ciano hangs on to those ridiculously amazing veal meatballs!  I'm serious.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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