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Posts from the ‘Mediterranean’ Category

Newborn: City Kitchen

Hopefully, this will not be the state of affairs in practice.

Not indicative of actual lunch crowds (I hope).

I’m pretty sure that I recently said 2015 was going to be about embracing the personal, not the service-oriented. How does a new food court, more Gotham West/Berg’n than Riese Organization, fit into this rubric? Well, City Kitchen is two blocks from my office in Times Square’s sad lunch zone. So, yeah.

Imagine these full sized

Imagine these full sized

Open to the public today, the second floor collection of stands includes established favorites like Luke’s Lobster, Dough, Sigmund’s Pretzels, offshoots like Ilili Box and perhaps most notably, Kuro Obi, an Ippudo spin-off with noodles that are supposedly resistant to take-out.

Whitman's Upstate PB&B (bacon and peanut butter) slider

Whitmans’ PB&B (bacon and peanut butter) slider

Also, there will be breakfast tacos (at Gabriela’s Taqueria) which I would be willing to trade for my usual hard-boiled egg (I know) every now and then, as well as beer, wine and sake, for lunch hour tipplers. (Though if you’re a serious day-drinker, you’ll probably be better suited to Smith’s across the street when it re-opens courtesy of Hayden Panitierre’s dad.)

 City Kitchen * Eighth Ave. & 44th St., New York, NY


All of a sudden there are an awful lot of places in
Greenpoint to find nice cocktail and small plates of food. Want a Hemingway
daiquiri and seasonal bar snacks? No problem.

 Glasserie, like much of new Brooklyn, is whitewashed, woody, hodge-podge. Less common,  the restaurant at the very tippy-top of the borough (it's practically Queens) is sprawling with multiple rooms;
nothing feels cramped, early 1900s old-timey (the vibe is almost macrame and ferns) or overly precious, style-wise or on the plate. Staff is very friendly. You might hear The Smiths.

Glasserie lamb tartare, olives & bulghur crackers

The menu is not boring. There's no burger or overt
kale usage. It leans more Middle Eastern than some of the other area
tahini and labneh are all sides–with hints of Spain. The minted lamb tartare, cut with waxy green olives, is paired
with bulghur crisps, a flavor pairing echoing Turkish cig kofte, but brinier
(Lamb and bulghur also come together in croquettes.)

Glasserie clams, harissa & couscous

Clams are said to be flavored with harissa, but aren't
particularly spicy. The couscous, which acted like bread crumbs, was the more prominent

Glasserie red potatoes, spanish cheese & egg

Roast potatoes were more grounding, heartier, and creamy from
Spanish cheese (maybe Tetilla?) and a poached egg seasoned with za'atar. 

Glasserie old pal

Maybe it was just the Copenhagen comedown, but $9 cocktails
seemed more than fair (less gentrified parts of Brooklyn are price-creeping past the $10 mark). I've seen people refer to the Old Pal (rye, both vermouths, Campari) as a cold weather cocktail, but I think the spicy brown spirit given the aperitif's bite suits this wet, transitional season just fine.

Glasserie * 95 Commercial St., Brooklyn, NY


Zizi Limona

threeshovelIt didn’t seem right to lump Zizi Limona in with the recent Williamsburg batch. Partially because even though the newish Mediterranean-plus restaurant got
the Hungry City treatment and a Brooklyn Heatmap nod, whenever I pass by–maybe at the wrong times–I see a candlelit expanse of diner-less tables. And that’s just not right.

The above-mentioned plus is that it’s not just a falafel joint, something it might be getting unfairly pegged as. Recently when deciding where to eat with a group, I suggested Zizi Limona because it wasn’t likely to pose a seating trauma on a Saturday night. It was shot down with the supposition that a friend of a friend didn’t want kebabs because she’d just spent the past few years in Iraq. No arguments in this case–Williamsburg is rife with all-American food; fried chicken, burgers and bbq for miles–but the not wanting kebabs argument could be a problem. For what it’s worth, there are seven items in the section called Classic Big Zi’s (as opposed to less traditional Big Zi’s, Small Zi’s and salads) and only one involves kebabs, served with a mysterious sounding black babaganoush.

Zizi limona tershi

I may try the lamb eventually, but other dishes give a fuller picture of the border-crossing style. Take the Tershi, Jewish by way of Libya, a naturally sweet, gingery pumpkin mash grounded with cumin and stewed chickpeas. I don’t know anywhere else in NYC that serves it.

Zizi limona sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

Or the bourekas, called here Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar, flaky pastry cylinders stuffed with non-traditional mozzarella and basil and moved eastward with almonds and honey.

Zizi limona chicken liver

A special featured chicken liver, rich, unadorned (I thought it might be coated and fried) and served with Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke, if you rather) two ways: pureed as a base and slivered and fried to a crisp as a garnish gone wild. Hit with thyme and Santorini vinegar, like a less sweet balsamic, this was about as far from a kebab as you could get.

Zizi Limona * 129 Havemeyer St., Brooklyn, NY


3/4 On my first and last visit to Tanoreen a few years ago, I was underwhelmed. Not majorly, I just had high expectations and I think much of the so-so-ness had to do with poor ordering. I hate to say it, but misguided picks befell me again this weekend.
My main reason for heading to Bay Ridge was to satisfy a craving for Middle Eastern lamb that arose while reading an article on Turkey in this month’s Gourmet (I’m still in denial that there’s no alfresco photo spread). No, Tanoreen isn’t specifically Turkish. If I’m correct the owner is Palestinian and the restaurant’s cuisine borrows from all over the region.
But I knew they would have lamb, and specifically a lamb shank special. I had a precise image of the type of mutton I wanted, though I couldn’t place exactly where I’d had it before. It had to be on the bone, definitely not kabobs, and not a chop either. Nothing dainty.

It was with the appetizers that I went astray. There are tons of choices, both hot and cold and part of the regular menu and specials list. I got a little overwhelmed. Muhammara was an easy choice. I’d made the roasted red pepper walnut dip before but had never actually tasted how it’s supposed to be made. Tanoreen’s version was chunkier and nuttier than mine. I could see this rich, sweet spread as an ‘80s suburban canape layered atop a swath of cream cheese on a Ritz cracker. Who says I’m not classy?
James ordered something (I can’t recall the exact name) described as a pie topped with shankleesh, a Lebanese cheese, off the specials. This seemed ok, too.

Where we tripped up was deciding to share the lamb shank at the last minute (at $24 it’s the most expensive thing on the menu) and instead of getting two full entrees each to try a third appetizer. Normally, I never ask staff for suggestions because I’m a decisive person. Maybe I’m the weird one, but I can never figure out diners who spend five minutes asking their server questions. I should’ve just gone with my instincts and picked the Brussels sprouts or one of the many eggplant preparations. Instead, I asked our waiter what he’d recommend and was offered something called musakhan with chicken and almonds. I was a bit thrown off since it sounded so much like moussaka (which apparently, they also do) but I’m down with nuts and poultry.

The musakhan turned out to be kind of an Arabic pizza. Something about chicken on a pizza seemed kind of California Pizza Kitchen, but the spicing and almonds were very un-chain-like. This appears to be a modern interpretation of traditional dish using chicken, pine nuts and lavash.

This is the appetizer James ordered, also a pizza. Hmm…I didn’t really need to eat two pizzas for dinner, not that they both weren’t good and distinct from each other. I’ll admit that I’m not a Middle Eastern cuisine know-it-all, I rarely ever cook it, and this innocent looking pizza was complex. It took me a while to figure out that the tartness was coming from sumac. The overriding flavor was pungent and floral goat cheese, almost creepy (to me, because I don’t like flowery tasting things) in its funkiness. One notch stronger and the taste might’ve been offputting but it was just enough to encourage another bite to figure the combination out. I’m fairly certain that the brown hue, which makes the topping look like ground meat, was za’atar, a spice blend that includes a lot of everything with thyme and oregano shining through.

Ah, the lamb. If you ignored the accompanying rice and preceding dishes, you could almost picture yourself sitting down to a British Sunday roast, carrots, potatoes, parsley and all. The meat was moist and almost too juicy, a fine specimen but not what I was looking for, no fault of the poor lamb shank. I was thinking of something less saucy, maybe stringier and kind of charred, closer to what I’ve encountered at Yemen Café and A Fan Ti.
This was a strange case of perfectly good food that didn’t satisfy my particular craving. We definitely encountered more interesting items than on our first visit, and perhaps three times will be a charm.

Flaky, not syrupy-sweet baklava taken to go.

Read more

Bar Uriarte

I don’t know how to classify a restaurant like Bar Uriarte, which serves steaks, blood sausage and grilled pizzas, all local favorites, but French terrines and chile-spiked prawns, as well. The local online food guide Guia Olea calls this “Mediterránea” so I will take their word for it.

Supposedly, this is a sceney restaurant but on a Sunday night it was dead with just two other occupied tables and some underdressed, overtanned Brazilian tourists sitting way too close to us. Can you be bridge and tunnel if you live in South America? I don’t think puente y tunnel means anything in Spanish.

I do see how this restaurant is geared towards American tastes and pocketbooks (along with Olsen, it gets mentioned a lot in US media). They serve brunch, which isn’t common in Buenos Aires, and specials written on the chalkboard are in English. I don’t recall if the actual menu was in English or not.

Bar uriarte pancetta wrapped figs

Figs stuffed with goat cheese and almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. This was a split appetizer, decadent but not overwhelming. There was a touch of honey in there, too.

Bar uriarte sweetbreads

Grilled sweetbreads with onion rings, french fries and watercress salad. Who can argue with French fries and onion rings? I had to get a dose of mojellas (sweetbreads) in somehow. Organ meats are rampant in the city, not just at parrillas. I do appreciate the Argentine fondness for offal where it’s low-end, upcale and everywhere inbetween.

Bar uriarte ricotta cheesecake

No, you don’t have to go to Buenos Aires for ricotta cheesecake. It was still a nice dessert, and the white chocolate wasn’t completely typical.

Bar Uriarte * Uriarte 1572, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Mazzat certainly isn’t going to help re-gentrify Red Hook or that isolated sliver of Carroll Gardens that some call Red Hook. I was excited to see something new show up on Columbia Street earlier this year but the Mediterranean tapas (so says their awning) aren’t really any great shakes. Then again, they’re not horrible either. If the urge for Armenian string cheese and a glass of wine ever strikes when in western Carroll Gardens, you’ll know where to go.

Chicken cigars aren't such a crazy concept, but served with honey mustard?

Don't worry, there's no honey mustard in the hummus.

Soujouk, a crumbly, mildly spicy Armenian sausage with cheese.  It's not pretty, but at least it's something you don't typically see at a tapas bar. I also don't think Armenia is Mediterranean–maybe it's one of those Carroll Gardens/Red Hook debates. 

Read my review

Mazzat * 208 Columbia St., Brooklyn, NY


I don't unusually partake in any of those Restaurant Week type promotions. Partly because it makes me feel like a scornful cheapskate coupon clipper, but mostly I'm just lazy. The one time we did it years back, we just ended up ordering off the regular menu anyway, the discount not making a major difference. Value is the thing, ideally you want restaurants with entrees that cost over $20 to make the $19.95 deal sweeter. (I'm still trying to figure out what Uncle Sams in Sunset Park is and how they could possibly serve three courses worth twenty bucks. Sunset Park kicks ass with Mexican and Vietnamese fare, but minus the White Castle, I'm scared of anything all-American in the neighborhood. )

I thought this would be a chance to finally try some of the new-ish acclaimed restaurants that kind of blur together in my mind with their New American flair. Applewood, Tempo, Stone Park Caf, Chestnut, all sort of wholesome and simple sounding, right? Wed actually eaten at Chestnut when it first opened, but I think there's a new chef, so thats on the list for later in the week. Stone Park was all expectedly annoying because theyve been talked up in the food press lately, that was a no go. All reviews of Applewood make mention of the owner toting around a toddler, and thats a deal breaker, kid-friendly makes me cringe. Tempo became our other reservation. Since we were looking at Friday and late in booking, are options were 6 or 10pm. I don't mind late night dining so we chose the latter.

I didnt anticipate the downside to this slot until later. It was crowded in the bar area when we arrived, not the best sign, but it wasn't as daunting as it first appeared. We ordered gin and tonics and barely got through a third of our cocktails before being seated. Luckily, we got the better spaced side room, and even though we were given a two-seater next to another table, they werent touching or close to touching like in the main dining space.

Unfortunately, we were seated next the couple giving me the heebie jeebies in the lobby. I know, I complain about the upscale bohemians in Brooklyn, but this girl was 180 degrees, young and well, kind of trashy and not in a refreshing way. Like she thought she was super sexy and all dolled up in short '90s body hugging dress, the guy seemed foreign and actually too handsome for the louche lady friend. They were kissing and groping at the bar and its not like I don't already get enough of this on the F train every day. I tried to ignore them, but its hard to when fingers are being licked and food being spooned into each others mouths. My favorite overheard line was "I want you to teach me about food." There's probably some other schooling shed benefit from first.

The P.D.A. twosome ordered right before us, the guy asked millions of questions, his way of showing off. I started getting antsy about the service, this couple was sucking all the waitstaff energy and we werent given a wine list like they were. So much time elapsed between when they ordered and when we did that their first course had already arrived by the time someone stopped at our table. I had wanted the duck pastilla roll as a starter, the same thing the gentleman next to me was tearing into. As an entre I chose the Moroccan spiced roast chicken with chickpea fries. Minutes later the waiter returned to inform me that they were out of duck. Really? Because the eurotrash next to me got the last of it?

I seriously almost lost my shit. It's one thing to blindly be told a restaurant has run out of something, but its pernicious when you can see it being devoured inches from your face, and by a diner already on your bad side. So yeah, I was irritated the rest of the meal. Dumb and petty as it is, not getting what I'd ordered when another did, struck a nerve, a nerve that happened to have a lot of alcohol swimming around it that evening. I became a little vocal and disdainful, it couldnt be helped. I wasn't mad at Tempo (the food was fine), I was incredibly pissed off at the couple having the fucking time of their life right next to us. They spoiled my meal.

This happened once before, and I wasn't the upset one, so don't brand me an isolated kook. A few years ago I took Jessica to Diner for her birthday and we wanted mussels and fries like usual, that was the deal. The table next to us full of fun loving oblivious Williamburg kids ordered the same thing right before we did. Guess who didnt get mussels and fries? It's the principle. And the context. Wed just been talking about getting older, late 20s, Jessica wondering if shed ever find anyone (she still hasnt, for the record). Meanwhile these yahoos were acting like NYC was one big juicy apple ripe for the picking. We both got ruffled, she started crying. Not getting what you want in life, even a stupid bowl of mussels, can have serious emotional repercussions.

I might return to Tempo, whos to say, but certainly not at 10pm and during prix fixe promotion. Discount dining brings out the riff raff and the worst in me.

Tempo * 256 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Coriander Leaf

Honest to goodness I can barely remember the food. And oddly enough, James
claims it was one of the highest credit card charges from our two-week S.E.
Asian excursion. It wasn't that the food was unremarkable, we were just
overwhelmed and tired. It was our first proper, sit-down meal on the
continent. I recall there being some naan and some prawns…heck, the
restaurant was in our hotel and we were beat. I started to feel
self-conscious when we asked for a shared dessert, neglected the two extra
plates provided and shared the treat on the plate it came on. Perhaps that's
not the thing to do? It was the first, though hardly the last, time we'd get
odd stares for eating off the same plate. Are these folks germ freaks or
just plain particular?

CorianderLeaf * 76
Robertson Quay, Singapore


The garden, the garden, the garden–that's all I've ever heard about this
place. I'm not even a garden person (if there is such a thing), but I was
finally convinced. Perhaps a little too late, as it was the Tues. following
Labor Day, and while calendar-ly inaccurate, the end of summer to the rest
of the reactionary world. Bah, it's still warm out.

It was my second anniversary with a former stalkee. Convincing on object
of obsession to go out with you is no small feat in itself, but maintaining
the whole affair for 730 days (was there a leap year in there?) deserves a
celebration to be sure.

And there's where Mooza came into play. Gardens are romantic, no? I
didn't want a break the bank bash, nor did I desire a bland burrito in the
East Village. This was middle ground, an appropriate choice. We both had
black currant champagne cocktails, and shared a ceviche. There was also a
mussels dish with shrimp tempura as a starter. I opted for a seafood pasta
special, while James tried a lamb concoction with a cranberry sauce (nothing
like the jellied Thanksgiving variety). All was pleasing, though half-way
through the meal I realized we were the only ones left in the garden. It was
mildly disconcerting. I don't feel that 11pm on a weeknight is ungodly for
dining alfresco (though I've been getting tired earlier and earlier these
days. I just can't admit to the fact that I'm now 29. I don't care if my
bones ache and bags form under my eyes–I'm not going to bed before
midnight!). I can only attribute the sparse clientele to perceived change in
season. A little nip in the air isn't going to put a damper on my spirits,
no way. (9/4/01)

Mooza shuttered some time ago. I think it's One91 (so clever) now.

Mooza * 191 Orchard St., New York, NY

Time Cafe

I like Time Cafe, though it's not the sort of place I go out of my way for.
It's just there, relatively reliable. It's where friends take their families
(though I never have), acceptable for out-of-towners and good enough for a
pre-Fez show bite to eat. I'm particularly fond of their pizza with ham,
apples and honey. On the recent visit I opted for the soft-shell crab
special, which was also a bit fruity with the accompanying jicama apple
slaw. I hate to say it, but the dish was altogether too tart. Crab should be
crabby, not mouth puckering. Ah, but look who's the crab now.

This occasion was a birthday, and for once I was at a table where the
guests remarkably managed to put in the correct change, over actually.
What's normally a brow-furrowing ordeal with my usual groups of friends
became nearly pleasant with these folks I only know in passing. Perhaps it's
time to trade in dining companions. Are friends who feign ignorance about
amounts ordered when the check shows up really friends?

Time Cafe * 380 Lafayette
St., New York, NY