January 26, 2012

Street Eats: Biryani King

A new truck has been parked outside my office building for a while now, and on a cold, windy January day, I took the plunge and ordered some chicken tikka masala from the Desi Food Truck, aka Biryani King. While waiting for my $6.00 lunch (score!), I read their menu and realized that I'd have to come back and try just about everything else they have to offer.

Look at all that delicious goodness up for grabs! Nothing is over 10 bucks, and most items are 5 dollars or under!

It was a windy, freezing cold day out, so people would grab their food and go. I heard one British guy mutter "It's too bloody cold to wait" as he dashed off somewhere else. I only waited about 3 minutes--quite bearable. Where's that stiff upper lip??

The ad claims that the chicken is all white meat. I'm gonna have to say while the chicken was delicious, it was absolutely NOT all white meat. There was a lot of dark meat, which I am learning to appreciate, but still-that phrasing might need to be updated. However, it was saucy, spicy, and quite good. Best I ever had? No, but worth waiting a minute or 3 on 49th street.

I'm definitely going back to try the Kati rolls, the puri bhaji (2 for $41!) and a delicious looking lentil stew--all under 5 or 6 bucks! You can't miss the colorful truck--or follow them on Twitter (@DesiFoodTruck) to find out where they are each day!

January 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, ABF!

ABF's birthday falls right in the middle of January, when it's usually cold and dreary and bitter outside. I wanted to find a warm, welcoming spot where we could celebrate his birthday, eat delicious food, and just have a great time.

Mediterranean food is a favorite of both of ours, so when I found Kellari Taverna was close by and offering a killer Restaurant week menu, I moved it to the top of my list. When my coworker, C, raved about their food, it rocketed up to #1.

Restaurant Week is a great time to try places you might not normally splurge on (set courses for 24.07 at lunch and $35 for dinner), but the truth about RW is that many restaurants offer some of their cheaper dishes (and often in much smaller portions) and you don't always get a broad representation of their offerings. Kellari is the polar opposite. What an impressive selection!

Perhaps just as impressive is Kellari's wine list, full of wines from Greece and elsewhere. We went along with one gentleman's recommendation for a full-bodied red: this Lion d'Or Cabernet Sauvignon from Macedonia. It was a bit sweet-tasting at first, but it was just lovely and delicious. I'm going to look for this on my next trip to the wine store.

Their house bread was a tangy sourdough and I immediately devoured two pieces, alternately slathering them with the house hummus (complimentary along with olives and radishes) or dipping them in the house olive oil (tangy but not too bitter). Our second batch was so full of rosemary that I passed on it.

ABF's appetizer was the smoked trout with a farro & arugula salad. It was tasty, and the arugula salad was a nice complement, but it was about to get schooled by the awesomeness of MY appetizer.

I chose the scallops with pomegranate risotto. Deeeelicious. Forget it! ABF took one bite and had a rare case of order envy (usually it's the other way around with us)! This was creamy, tangy, tart, and so delicious. The pomegranate juice gave the rice a deep purple color and just a touch of sweetness.

For his entrée, ABF ordered the beef tenderloin. That surprised me--I thought he would go for their signature grilled fish, but he was in a red meat mood. Also surprising? How delectable and tender said loin was! For a place that focuses on fish, they sure do make a tasty tenderloin, too! It came with Brussels sprouts and sliced red grapes--I still loathe the sprouts, but when put together with the melty beef and the tart grapes, it all went together quite deliciously.

My entrée was the grilled lavraki, a Mediterranean sea bass that you may also know as branzino, and it was out of this world. They serve it whole and deboned. To call it succulent seems insufficient. I didn't even spritz any lemon juice on this. The capers, tender fish, and fresh parsley were just meant to be together...and meant to end up in my belly. Well played, Kellari, well played.

Kellari's Restaurant Week menu is three courses, and my dessert pick was for the chocolate pyramid. It was the densest, richest, most intense little chocolate pyramid.

It came with a mastiche ice cream, but I did not care for the flavor at all. It was too ... off-putting. We did a quick google and apparently mastiche comes from the mastic (root for the word 'masticate' I love words #nerdalert) tree in Greece. It tasted a bit plasticky to me, though it did have a borderline minty flavor to it, but ABF enjoyed it. The hazelnut pirouline (stick-shaped cookie) was divine. I only gave ABF a little bite of that. ;)

What ABF enjoyed even more, however, was his dessert: walnut cake with fig gelato. You heard me: fig gelato. Wow. The walnut cake was fine, but when you draped it in the velvety scoop of fig gelato, forget it.

I said something along the lines of "It's like a fig died and went to heaven IN MY MOUTH." Imagine the best part of a fruity Fig Newton, now turned into a creamy, cold, delicious cloud. Le sigh.

So long story short, we'd go back for the scallops, the grilled fish, the beef, and the gelato. Oh yes, and the wine! Oh, and the homemade bread! You get the idea. I think we just added a new restaurant to our "Favorites" list. If you're looking for a delicious meal, excellent service every step of the way, and an extensively impressive Restaurant Week menu. Go now while the deals are still ablaze!

Kellari Taverna
19 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-0144

January 13, 2012

Smorgas Chef @ Scandinavia House

I met up this week with a former coworker I hadn't seen in years. NYC is funny like that--getting around this small/huge city can be quite a trick, and you can go weeks, months, even years without seeing someone (thank goodness for email, FB, etc)! We finally picked a date to meet up for a late lunch, and my friend lives just around the corner from the Scandinavia House Cultural Center (in Midtown Manhattan), which has its very own Smorgas Chef restaurant!

I decided to go with 2 small appetizers--you have to have the Swedish meatballs here! The appetizer is 3 meatballs, chive mashed potatoes, and gravy with just a smidgen of lingonberry sauce. It's $9 and just enough for one person!

I also ordered the seafood chowder. This was super creamy, full of chunks of fish, mussels and more. While it was creamy, it wasn't greasy or heavy. Just right.

My friend ordered the Swedish meatballs entrée, which was just a bigger version of my appetizer (with some veggies on the side).

I don't drink a lot of soda (I don't really like carbonation, period!), but I had to try their housemade Lingonberry soda. This was interesting--it reminded me of bubble tea, with all of the tiny lingonberries sinking to the bottom. This was not as sweet as regular soda, which I actually liked. It was refreshing and just a little tart--I bet this is even better in the hot summer months!

We had a great meal and a great visit for not a lot of dough. The dining area is spread out and comfortable. There's a stunning birch tree in the middle of the room (we got to sit right next to it) with a plaque explaining its significance in Swedish culture. I have always loved birch trees myself, so I loved this bit of decor.

While the Wall Street Smorgas Chef is still my favorite (it's so warm and cozy!), this is a great spot for a midday meal, business lunch, or a quick catch-up session with an old friend.

Smorgas Chef at Scandinavia House
58 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 847-9745

January 12, 2012

Soul Food at Sylvia's

I love lists. I make to-do lists, to-visit lists, to-clean lists, and even where-to-eat lists! And Sylvia's in Harlem has been on "The List" ever since I moved to NYC (more than 10 years ago!) THANK YOU, Kwame, for finally making it happen!

Founded by Sylvia Woods, aka "The Queen of Soulfood," this restaurant has been feeding folks with delicious, comforting, homestyle dishes since 1962. What started as a little luncheonette is now an expanded, welcoming, wonderful place to have a good, good meal.

On a cold, dark Saturday night, I met up with Mike, Sara, & Kwame for a delicious dinner. I didn't have a single snack that day, saving room for all the good stuff!

Sara & I both ordered a Scotch & ginger ale, a drink Mike & Kwame introduced me to years ago when we all worked on the same talk show. This was fine, nothing out of the ordinary.

Mike ordered a Sugar Hill beer and liked it. I mean he really, really liked it. Kwame had the rum punch but I forgot to snap a pic.

Everyone gets cornbread--it's on the house! This was good--strong corn flavor, a little sweet. I was surprised to see miniature tubs of 'whipped spread' instead of butter, but oh well--tasty all the same!

I didn't come all the way from Brooklyn just to eat bread though-- You better believe I got the Harlem style chicken & waffles: fried chicken (breast attached to wing) with waffles and didn't have a second thought! Yep, that's me, mixing sweet & salty (well, sort of).

I'm not a huge waffle fan--but these? These were yummy. Fluffy and soft and they actually HAD something to them--they weren't empty shells of nothingness.

Kwame ordered the fried shrimp. He sweetly let me try one and holy smokes stop the train folks, these are insanely delicious. I might have to go back and just get the shrimp. They're that good!

Mike ordered the smothered pork chop--I didn't get his exact review but I do believe he enjoyed it. (sorry for the blurriness--I was in a hurry to start eating!)

Sara ordered the Harlem-style Chicken & waffles, too, but she opted for dark meat (which was a leg and a thigh, I think?)

Sara & I also shared the mac and cheese. I thought this was just okay. It was elbow macaroni with some cheddar cheese on top--honestly, I'd skip this the next time (and there will be a next time!)

I ate so much of the waffle that I'd forgotten we planned to get dessert. Oof. Dessert. And there are many options. Super moist, delicious red velvet cake, for starters. Yum.

We also got the strawberry bread pudding with bourbon sauce, but I am not a bread pudding fan. Pass.

Sara & I were really wanting to get the peach cobbler, but they ran out right before we put in our order. Sigh. We opted for the banana pudding instead. This was more like a pile of ripe, sweet bananas with a touch of custard. Oh my sweetness it was goooooood.

It was delicious. Absolutely delicious. And very reasonable! My entree was $11.95 and PLENTY of food. Desserts were under 6 bucks. You can easily eat here to your heart's (and stomach's) content and not break the bank. And I will be back to Sylvia's. For more chicken, some of that fried shrimp, and the elusive peach cobbler.

328 Lenox Avenue
New York, NY 10027
(212) 996-0660

January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Normally, ABF & I stay in for a quiet, cozy night on New Year's Eve, but this year we opted to go out for the big night--and it was a lot of fun! (and check it out--above you will see ABF's very first photo appearance ever on Stuff I Ate!!)

We hit up Dino's in Rockville Centre, which is actually an easy walk from ABF's apartment. It's a pretty popular Italian restaurant that is usually super-busy, so ABF was on it when he made reservations almost a month ahead of time!

There were 2 seatings: 7pm and 930pm--we opted for the 7, assuring we'd be on ABF's couch in plenty of time to watch a movie (or, as it turned out, the British comedy series "The IT Crowd") and ring in the New Year's at home. Win-win! They also had a singer serenading us during the meal, which was actually a lot of fun. I even got my very own serenade at one point, thank you very much :)

I opted for a glass of Pinot Noir, and was pleased with the light, fruity body of the house wine.

ABF had a drink too (since we were walking home and ABF didn't have to drive!), ordering a gin & tonic. Cheers!

I managed to limit myself to *one* garlic knot. Are garlic knots popular outside NYC? It's basically a roll twisted into a knot shape and reeking, in the most wonderful way, of garlic. Yum.

The evening's menu was prix fixe, with 4 courses and a decent selection--way more food than we'd normally order, but hey, it's a holiday!

I got an early start on one of my New Year's Resolutions: eat more seafood! I ordered the seafood salad for my starter. I was thinking of the insanely delicious dish we'd had with Jen & Tom at Patricia's. This was close-- a little brinier with a dash of green olives, crunchy red, yellow and green bell peppers. I ate a good amount but still left a lot on my plate--tonight was all about pacing!

ABF started with the Caprese Salad: lots of fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes. Delicious.

We both got the Caesar salad as well--this was lightly dressed and quite tasty. No heavy cream dressing--just a lemony drizzle all over it. Crunchy and refreshing.

My main dish was the Lobster Tail fra Diavolo--which came with mussels, clams, and shrimp. This was good, but the sauce was not even a little bit spicy. That was disappointing, but I do love a good red sauce. We saw the dessert cart stroll by at this point, so I made sure to leave some room for that!

ABF's entree was the striped bass, which was even better than my dish. Tender, flaky fish and also mussels, clams and more (he shared his mussels as he's not a super-huge fan).

ABF went for the Napoleon, and while I was initially disappointed to see a fluffy filling instead of custard (which is my favorite)--this was stellar. Crunchy, firm pastry, delightfully light filling. Wow. Delish.

I couldn't resist the rainbow 'cookie,' which is really more like a cake. My friend Beth G makes THE BEST RAINBOW COOKIES IN THE WORLD, so I'm a tough judge. If you don't have a Beth G handy, the rainbow cookie at Dino's is a damn decent option. Light, almond and cherry flavors, and a dark chocolate topping. It's a small serving, but it is riiiiiiiich.

We each had a strong, cinnamon-topped cappucino as well, and this is the point where we were both quite glad we had a short walk home (you have to get up and move after a meal like this)!!

The best part of the night was easily the service and attitude of the owners/servers. Everyone was in a good mood, everyone who passed by was pleasant and welcomed us, checked on us, smiled at us! The owner and his wife were especially friendly, greeting us just as effusively as the regular customers who sat at the table next to us. I think a night like New Year's Eve is maybe not the best night to judge the menu, as it is a limited section, but it is a great chance to get a feeling for the mood there, and ABF & I are definitely going back to Dino's!

Dino's Restaurant
328 Sunrise Highway
Rockville Centre, New York 11570
(516) 798-0017

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