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Posts from the ‘Lower East Side’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French-ish, All-American, Mexican Mash-Ups

mimi trio

Mimi The mark of a good restaurant is one where you leave feeling better than when you arrived (despite young men good-naturedly but firmly asking you to move down six inches so their lady can have more room even though you’re already arm-to-arm with the older-but-not-old man waiting for his lady on your right, being there first [the first customer period to avoid this situation because you know your limits], the isosceles triangle napkin placed by a server establishing your plot of land at the bar). That’s not a lot to ask, though it’s scarcer than it seems. Mimi succeeds. The sliced madai in brown butter with lemon curd and dried seaweed was like candy, or more accurately, caramel corn, fish caramel corn, which sounds dubious but is brightened by the citrus and amazing with nice bread and butter. I would go back and have this as a bar snack with sparkling wine in a second.  Don’t play around with it too much or else the sauce will start to cool and congeal. Peppery calves liver, rare and steak-like, is served with boudin noir-stuffed eggplant, studded with golden raisins, and also blended sweet with savory well, potent and energizing in the same way as the crudo without being heavy, matchingwith a glass of equally bold French red wine that I vowed to remember without taking a photo  and promptly forgot (comped, I realized later, which occasionally is a benefit–at least at a certain type of casual-polished place–of dining on your own) Even approaching fullness, I was never bored.

emmy squared duo

Emmy Squared I forget if this is supposed to be Detroit-inspired or Detroit-style pizza (which I did try last year for the first time in a very different setting i.e. one that doesn’t threaten a $25/per person fee for no-shows because you just show up and eat pizza). The slices are square, the crust thick but not Chicago deep, with crisp edges and plenty of cheese. I will take any excuse to eat Hawaiian variations in an acceptable manner. Here, that would be ham and spiced pineapple on the Lou-Wow. I’m also a sucker for pretzel buns, which hold together Le Big Matt Burger, the formerly semi-secret double-pattied, white american cheese, and sambal-spiked mayonnaise monster that’s now formally on the menu. Split a burger and pizza if possible. Both are good but you’ll probably leave feeling more or less the same as when you entered. 

mission cantina trio

Mission Cantina is as good a spot as any to unintentionally stumble into on a weeknight. The whole operation from service to menu feels haphazard, and that’s not a criticism (though I almost ordered a drink special because it was green until I parsed that it contained  Midori, god no, which the server thought was cucumber liqueur). It’s a perfect place to knock back micheladas and marvel at more fried chicken than would seem imaginable for $26. That would be masa-crusted, spicy, honey-drizzled, and tarted-up with pickles and pickled jalapeños in a vaguely Southern/South of the Border/Korean way. Like pretzel rolls and Hawaiian pizza, I will always order crab rangoon if I see it. There was an undercurrent of what I thought was curry powder in these fried wontons, which you have to be in the mood for, and then the next day while sweating on a walk home it hit me that the abrasive seasoning was likely Old Bay, with celery salt being the offender.  Limey, lightly funky mussel tostadas, chosen instead of a side vegetable that was practically insisted upon, were more guacamole than anything.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Birds, Blood, Chile Oil

paet rio nam tok soup

Paet Rio take two. I didn’t do a very good job of selling someone who wanted Japanese noodles for lunch and isn’t into Thai food because he thinks it’s all sweetness and coconut milk. I said no pad thai because I’m controlling, then eased up and didn’t provide enough guidance and he ended up ordering rad na, which is the weirdest, blandest, gravy-drenched Chinese-Thai noodle dish that I’m convinced only means something to people who grew up with it. So much so that I passed on a photo. I went looking for a nam tok soup replacement post-Plant Love House (Pata Paplean succeeds, but that’s not a weekday affair) and received an ok rendition. It was a little wan when I was seeking something more powerful and dank.

ivan ramen trio

Ivan Ramen came through on the Japanese noodle front, though accidentally, while weaving from the East Village to Chinatown, not all that hungry after green tea bun at Panya and afternoon beers and a shot at 7B.  The spicy broth slicked with chile oil was softened by finely minced pork and a yolky egg fluffed into an almost-scramble. The tangle of noodles light and springy. I wouldn’t consider $22 a bargain lunch special but with a can of Japanese beer and a chosen side (cucumber pickles in my case) it’s as good a way as any to spend a leisurely afternoon.

le coq rico trio

Le Coq Rico is where you’d expect a prix-fixe lunch to be $38 (though I had a $27 deal because I’m a grandma, see above). The Parisian import is all about aged birds of many breeds, some more than $100 a pop. This particular week, and maybe always, the featured non-whole chicken was a 110-day aged Brune Landaise, roasted with riesling and other aromatics, ideal for the dark meat types (I’ll never understand white meat-lovers), plated simply with jus and a side salad, but not necessarily revelatory. It’s chicken. I’d need to taste more varieties in quick succession to better suss out this particular breed’s attributes. First course was chicken livers with another salad. There is a lot of liver lurking under those leaves, plus some unexpected smears of hummus for added creaminess and richness. That île flottante, though (baked Alaska is next on my list of classics). The meringue mound surrounded a crème anglaise moat and slivered toasted almonds was the breakout star. It was practically a sext when I sent a pic of myself cradling the dish–and now, I’ve firmly entered middle-aged Better than Sex Cake (Better than Robert Redford Cake, if you’re even more aged) territory. Wow. 

duck soup

And speaking of poultry offal, the shop with a three duck logo and name I can’t recall because I don’t think it was in English, is where to go in the New World Mall food court if you want a bowl of mild, cloudy broth full of clear bean thread noodles and bobbing slices of fried crueller and hidden cubes of duck blood, gizzards, and other, livery bits instead of the more popular hand-shaved noodle soups. It lacks the luxuriousness of fatty roast duck and the herbs to read as medicinal. I’d say the soup is restorative. When in doubt, add chile oil. It’s Probably good for a hangover.

white bear wontons

White Bear is hardly an unknown. All non-Chinese order the 12 for $5.50 #6, and I’m not one to buck that wontons with chile oil trend.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Feeding Out of Towners

seamore's spread

Seamore’s The sustainable seafood restaurant may have won “Instagram Bait of the Year,” but I’ll concede this is a pretty shoddy pic. (There’s a reason no one is paying me $350 to promote their food.) The poke, so LA, and chosen by the visitor from that raw fish-crazed city, was easily the best thing eaten and it was all because of the peanuts in addition to the tuna, avocado, and ponzu. The bluefish in its pure state was fine, and kind of bizarre with miso brown butter that tasted like caramel corn (perhaps better for sweeter shrimp or scallops) The steamed vegetable and grainy sides of the same sort you get at The Meatball Shop (not that I ever eat there, but what I’ve heard from a friend who regularly gets vegetarian meatball takeout and was also was at this dinner, is how inconsistent and frequently half-cooked everything is) were less exciting even though it didn’t matter since the well-fried dogfish tacos took up all my free stomach space.

la perrada de chalo hot dogs

La Perrada de Chalo There are a lot of ways to go when wooing a West Coaster and trying to convince them Queens is a great place to stay even though they’d prefer Manhattan. Don’t attempt Mexican, just don’t, even though we know the Mexican-food-in-NYC-sucks trope is tired. Colombian hot dogs are more than capable of doing the trick, however. Make the crushed potato chips, bacon, pineapple, blackberry sauce, and creamy squiggles of mayonnaise and ketchup blending into one, seem like foreign delicacy. Plus, open 24 hours on weekends, which is a tough call between the nearby White Castle.

dominique ansel kitchen savories

Dominique Ansel Kitchen I chose the chicken chicken paprikash and cheddar chive biscuit when I should’ve just shared the massive croque monsieur. And I’m still stinging from not realizing the edamame avocado toast is actually a bread bowl when I’ve dedicated my life to embracing the edible vessel.

brooklyn diner kugel sundae

Brooklyn Diner I wouldn’t tell anyone to go to Brooklyn Diner (how it happened to me is still vague) but noodle kugel in a sundae was a surprise. And a welcome one along the same rich, custardy lines as leche flan hiding out in a pile of icy halo halo.

cata egg toasts

Cata Kind of underrated. Do we ever hear about this tapas bar I picked primarily because it’s a non-abusive Friday night choice on the Lower East Side? The big gin and tonics (smoked coconut, kaffir lime) are fun, the food doesn’t suck, though even after sharing maybe five things and two desserts (among three, then four for sweets) you still might end up getting tacos on the way home and find out your Oakland friend stopped for cereal milk soft serve in Carroll Gardens. The quail eggs benedict with chorizo were the sleeper hit.

jackson heights white castle

White Castle Yeah, so I was recently at one in Detroit but I’d never been to the location I’ve lived a ten-minute walk from for the past year. And no better time than 4:30am on a Saturday. Semi-related: I’m still waiting for the damn Northern Boulevard Denny’s I was promised.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: The Great Outdoors

northern bell duo

Northern Bell. It’s the time of year when setting can trump what you’re actually eating. Sometimes you just want to sit outdoors, preferably in a yard or on a patio (never on a sidewalk, never) with a drink in hand, and the food, if good, is an added bonus. Northern Bell isn’t breaking any new ground with its barbecue and burgers (maybe with the other B’s, bison and boar, in short rib and belly form?) but the backyard is nice as long as a violent downpour doesn’t erupt minutes after you’ve received your drinks. I forgot to ask for cheese, and despite the Pat Lafrieda custom blend, the burger felt a little naked. And who doesn’t want a cobb salad, southern-style with pimento cheese, pecans and deviled eggs?

Battery Harris. The $12 beer-and-a-burger happy hour deal can draw a crowd even when storms render a good portion of the fenced-off patio useless (has it rained every Friday in recent history?). When sunny, it’s not a half-bad place to share a plate of jerk wings or pork buns. Plus, it’s the only establishment in Williamsburg where I can recall ever seeing a crew of artsy adults clearly over 60, which counts for something.

astoria bier & cheese berliner weisse

Astoria Bier & Cheese. First, I was excited to find Berliner Weisse with the colorful red and green syrups, a summer quirk that I missed out on my one cold weather trip to Germany. Sure, the woodruff, despite sounding weedy and foraged, is more sweet than herbal, a softener for the beer’s sourness. It is pretty, though, (and happened to match my nails). Then my excitement continued with the sweet/savory/fatty grilled cheese of my dreams. The Cambozola and bacon, drizzled with honey and squished between toasted slices of fennel, raisin semolina is exactly the sandwich I would make myself if I made sandwiches at home.

bacchanal duo

Bacchanal. Ok, one of these things is not like the other. I may have tightened my purse-strings and burnt out on Brooklyn (I’m in the process of whim-buying a Jackson Heights co-op, it turns out) but beer and burgers must give way to aperitifs and small plates at some point. The Adonis (Noilly Prat Ambre, amontillado sherry, orange bitters) is like a summery, lightened-up Manhattan. The sparkling Chinon probably paired better with the sweet and sour–Italian-ish, not Chinese–sweetbreads, though.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Frites, Fried Artichokes, General Tso Fried Chicken

antoniono's 6

Antonioni’s Gato was nuts, so too Le Philopsophe. I just wanted to sit at a bar and have some drinks and snacks. Antonioni’s, a short walk away, was suggested–and don’t kill me, but I had no idea what it was because if I ever see anything written about a new restaurant with an Italian-ish name, I skim past it because it’s just not my thing. We all have our biases. I might compare Antonioni’s kitschy mid-century Italian-American theme to Parm, but I’ve never eaten there and am only interested in the pastel, layered ice cream cake.

The restaurant turned out to be fun, bustling yet just chill enough to grab seats at the bar with no maneuvering or hovering. The much-Instagrammed orange jungle animal wallpaper set the right tone. You can start with a stiff brown drink like the Ace High (Laird’s Applejack Brandy, Cocchi di Torino, Luxardo Maraschino, Fernet Branca, Gran Classico, Scrappy’s orange bitters) and end with an intense amaro made from rhubarb that tastes not unpleasingly like burnt tires. The fried artichokes were all hearts, no leaves, making them more like the steak fries of the fried artichoke world. Just a warning. Some people love steak fries. Eggplant rolatini is something I would never order myself, but the eggplant had a smoky quality and crispy edges that kept it from being all about the tomato sauce and melted cheese. The pizza crust could be described as biscuit-y, which I don’t mind. Most people–a mix of older locals, industry types, and families with young children–were eating pasta anyway.

Chez Jef is the cutesy French pop-up that’s acting as a placeholder before the now-dead Bowery Diner turns into something else, presumably. The core menu is short. Just get the steak frites, even if you feel pressure to branch out and try something pseudo-healthy like the salmon with sunchokes so there aren’t two plates of the same thing on the table. The salmon’s boring; the steak isn’t. Plus, you get a metal gravy boat of béarnaise. And a whole jar of cornichons and a pair of tongs to play with if you order charcuterie. The oblong radishes and slices of crusty bread served with a thick slab of butter the size of a Kraft single topped with crunchy sea salt is also a nice freebie.

applebee's black & blue burgerApplebee’s Astoria may have created a new arts district, but there’s still a Pizzeria Uno and Applebee’s in its midst. Order some $1 happy hour oysters and a Mary Pickford (silver rum, maraschino, grenadine, pineapple juice) at the Astor Room, watch a non-blockbuster movie like Grand Budapest Hotel (now gone) at the Kaufman Astoria Cinemas because it will be nearly empty, and then cancel it all out with a Bourbon Black & Bleu burger and a Sam Adams at Applebee’s. The bar is the only thing bustling after 9pm in the immediate vicinity.

Martha Definitely go for the general tso fried chicken (this is also done at Sweet Chick on a waffle, by the way). I was also happy to see that in addition the now requisite brussels sprouts and fish sauce dish, there was a spin on Thai eggplant, spicy, and tossed with basil and bits of hard-boiled eggs that’s almost too much for two. I was less happy about my order being lost and seeing skillet after skillet being diverted elsewhere, but they were super transparent about the mix-up, apologetic and comped a round of drinks, which was all thoughtful. I’m not so paranoid or self-absorbed to think these sorts of snafus are personal (think how many times I order my food, get it, eat it, no biggie) but it seems to be a not uncommon Brooklyn restaurant thing.  Even more confusing was that I subtweeted this issue and Karloff, where I’ve never eaten in my life, responded.



threeshovelThere are times when I’d like to start a gimmick blog, only eating at restaurants run by fellow Leos, traveling to every Bonefish Grill around the country, or subsisting on nothing but carbs for a year. Decaded, or maybe Aluminum Anniversary, would chronicle my mission to only eat at restaurants that have been open at least ten years. Or maybe ones where I haven’t been back in ten years? (Gael Greene is on this trend.)

I would have to wait a few months to include WD-50, but it would make for a worthy example. A lot can change in a decade.  My last visit was at the end of 2004 before the dilemma of whether or not to act like a civilized adult and leave the camera at home was a thought. Back then I only used words, I talked about the food even less than I do now, I didn’t do the tasting menu, and the restaurant seemed very upscale. I also thought I was too old to be drinking on the LES in 2004. Now, that’s a given and I’ve moved past it, so I hit Barramundi’s happy hour first just like
last time.

As to what upscale means now, WD-50 still is in price and intent, but as far as fine dining goes it’s relaxed (I ultimately opted for the camera, obviously, and it was no big thing), service is just friendly enough and the chef was hands on in the kitchen, despite Alder’s impending opening.

We’re at a contrarian moment regarding tasting menus. I’ll admit that I shy away from them more than I used to, but they have their place when marking  the periodic special occasion (in this case Valentine’s Day not on the 14th and not technically with someone who is my boyfriend any longer). Or when someone else is paying, of course.

I’m not so much of a nostalgist that I needed to dip into the vault, as they’re calling the smaller tasting menu that reprises classics. I wanted the modern version, the only other option, that was introduced last spring. Some of the dishes still bear a resemblance to the original iterations (I was extremely relieved to see that the honeydew had been dropped in the chartreuse dessert, but I wouldn’t have minded trying the root beer ribs).

I chose an Oregon pinot noir (after starting with a Rye Not?), Elk Cove’s 2010 Clay Court, because lighter reds are solid fallback if you’re going to stick with one wine for multiple courses, I have a soft spot for my home state, and West Coast pinot noirs made up a good number of the red wines on the list. Bizarrely, the couple next to use who only asked for “a red,” were steered toward Oregon pinot noirs. Is it a varietal and region for beginners?

Wd-50 nigiri, salsify, seaweed, sesame

Nigiri, salsify, seaweed, sesame. Cream cheese and seaweed are turned into spheres that mimick the trout roe, and that’s salsify not rice as the base. My original WD-50 visit prompted the created of the Eclectic/International category because I didn’t know where this food fell. I would be more inclined to just call it American now, sushi or not.

Wd-50 sweet shrimp, 'pine needles,' chestnut, cranberry

Sweet shrimp, ‘pine needles,’ chestnut, cranberry.  A little Nordic, a little Christmas. Pine needles freak me out in a good way, and these aren’t coniferous but crafted so they nearly dissolved in the mouth rather than offending with menthol chew.

Wd-50 pho gras

Pho gras. One of my favorites, maybe because it’s a play on a familiar dish. The rice noodles were almost superfluous; what mattered most were the foie gras torchon and beef tendon chicharron that could be doled out into the cinnamon-and-star anise-spiked consomme to melt and transform into a seriously luxe soup. The little dots of combo hoisin-and-Sriracha and microgreens only helped matters. No making fun of tweezer-style plating here.

Wd-50 bone marrow, potato, pomegranate, pepper streusel

Bone marrow, potato, pomegranate, pepper streusel. I liked the idea and presentation of this more than the reality. I may be mixing up where the potato and marrow end up, but if I’m correct the edible bone is made from the animal product and had a cartilagey, powdery quality while the invented marrow lacked the unctuousness the brain expects.

Wd-50 bay scallop, pear, oatmeal-nori

Bay scallop, pear, oatmeal-nori. Then again, this also played with that chalky texture in the form of oatmeal and it worked. I would never put a single one of these ingredients together, a blend that created a tamped down sweet-saline effect.

Wd-50 pig tail, artichoke, olive oil jam, hazelnut

Pig tail, artichoke, olive oil jam, hazelnut. There’s always a dish or two that slips past me. That description is from the website (somehow I didn’t get the paper menu) but I’m not convinced that’s what this was. Compressed meat, likely pork, yes, and there were definitely hazelnut overtones, but also lemon, and what looks like fluffy grated cheese and melting more like Monterrey Jack than parmesan, is bone marrow, maybe the bone marrow I missed in the potato dish.

Wd-50 bass, squash, cherry, juniper, couscous

Bass, squash, cherry, juniper, couscous.

Wd-50 squab, tomato hummus, pickled turnips, tzatziki

Squab, tomato hummus, pickled turnips, tzatziki. I was not expecting Mediterranean flavors. “Green liquid falafel right on,”  as my disjointed notes read. I’ll stick with that. There was also a pleasant livery flavor, likely from the game bird.

Wd-50 flatiron, mushroom jerky, grape, verjus

Flatiron, mushroom jerky, grape, verjus.  The meatiest course was also the most straightforward. Dried mushrooms and grapes and the umami and sweetness they added weren’t out of line with the thick cut of rare beef.

Wd-50 coconut, cucumber, pineapple, chartreuse

Coconut, cucumber, pineapple, chartreuse. The doom dessert that wasn’t, though it still was startlingly vegetal for my liking.  Barely sweet from the pineapple, it’s a bridge more than a dessert.

Wd-50 walnut, sweet potato, coffee, plum wine

Walnut, sweet potato, coffee, plum wine.

Wd-50 s'mores, bitter cocoa, meringue, blackberry

S’mores, bitter cocoa, meringue, blackberry. Ok, a real dessert. I don’t always remember the sweet courses like the one above, but this one with the smokiness, chile heat, fruit tartness (I tasted cherry rather than blackberry) and gooey texture stuck with me.

Wd-50 beer, malt, pretzel

Beer malt pretzel.

Big mac

How many times (don’t tell me never) have you heard the “I had to eat a Big Mac afterward,” cliche used to deride the sorry effeteness of tasting menus? I have never ever had that experience, but we hit the
McDonald’s on Delancey (Shamrock shakes are back!) afterwards anyway just to make the trope complete. I wasn’t hungry even an hour later,  safely home watching The Americans, but it had to be done.  What I took away after not having eaten this burger in at least two decades was that even if you’re not hungry after a tasting menu, you can always make room for a Big Mac.

 WD-50 * 59 Clinton St., New York, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Mexico, Spain, Brooklyn

Pampano quad

Pampano doesn't get the attention of other newer, cooler Mexican restaurants, but it remains popular, seemingly with early-stage dates, guys who appear businesslike, and older Spanish-speaking women with younger relatives who only speak English. I was there to sample a new summer menu spotlighting ingredients from La Paz in Baja California. (I've also been before of my own volition, so this isn't totally shilly. And yeah, Richard Sandoval rivals Ducasse with his international expansion efforts, but I'm still curious enough to try a tapa or two at Toro Toro when I'm in Dubai this weekend. Ha, that's sounds hilarious, as if I'm always off to glitzy places.) Supposedly, different regions in Mexico will be featured throughout the year. The full menu is here with details, but I can say that the bacon-wrapped shrimp (is there a bad bacon-wrapped shrimp?) with a chipotle sauce, grilled pineapple and melon ball-sized rounds of avocado was the standout with its sweet, creamy and salty components. And it didn't hurt that the presentation was so pretty. An all-seafood meal, there were also smoked clams, a tamarind mahi-mahi and a tuna tamalito. The guava pastry did not contain seafood, thankfully, just fruit and Damiana, an herbal liqueur said to have aphrodisiac properties (they're not boasting that claim on the menu, though maybe it's legit since even WebMD mentions that usage for the herb).

Tapeo29 trio

Tapeo29 I find myself coming back here with increasing frequency. The corner bar using open windows instead of air conditioning is more Madrid than Barcelona (though both cities would let you sweat in the summer) meaning traditional, not avant-garde (I don't know the Spanish for avant-garde–de vanguardia?). Chorizo al sidra, croquetas de bacalao and boquerones aren't surprising, but they are satisfying, and before 8pm on weeknights only $6 each (plus wine and cocktails for the same price). I always leave a little drunker than intended and just full enough.

Lavender lake aperol spritzLavender Lake I didn't try any food and, frankly, it's the kind of place I read about on blogs, or rather The Times Style Magazine, in this case, and decide that there's no need to rush over. Can I live without "Scandinavian  rustic" in Gowanus? (I also refuse to give pseudo-neighborhood, Gowanus, its own category–it's two blocks from the F train.) But I didn't realize it was located on the relaxing, over-the-canal route I occasionally take home when I feel like the F is going to crush my soul so I preemptively take the R all the way to Union Street and walk the mile-and-a-quarter to my apartment. So, I had an Aperol spritz, which is dangerously close to a white wine spritzer (in spirit, not taste) and awkwardly sat by myself on a folding chair too short to reach the bar-like ledge on the back patio. At 7pm there wasn't a free table in the entire yard, which is a common phenomena and I'm certain would've been the same even an hour earlier. I'm convinced no one in Carroll Gardens actually works, despite the crazy real estate prices. Regardless, it's a pretty place, all muted tones and reclaimed wood, like a physical Instagram.

Brooklyn Ice House I have far less to say about this Red Hook bar than Lavender Lake, and yet I like it more. Thai chile sauce wings served Buffalo style (blue cheese, carrots and celery) and a pint of Sixpoint Righteous Ale don't need rehashing. Neither bar has a website, which is distressing.


Painkiller drinks

Painkiller on a normal weekend night is very different from the Christmas evening Saturday when my trio, the only patrons for a solid hour, equaled the number of staff. Now, they’ve revamped the menu, explicitly listing all the cocktail possibilities in a fun Chinese take-out motif. Even so, the ingredients aren’t listed. I just took a chance (I didn’t want to wait for our very nice and very busy waitress to ask the bar what this cocktail contained) on the SW8 a.k.a. Hell in the Pacific because the name was appropriately full of swagger. It appeared to be a strong rum-based drink, its force masked by the innocent  blush of grenadine. That’s an iteration of a Suffering Bastard in the stubbier tiki glass with a crafty palm tree garnish. It’s not easy capturing the cocktails’ colors in the back room with lights changing from blue to red periodically. I couldn’t decide, which unnatural hue I prefererd.

Painkiller * 49 Essex St., New York, NY

Mary Queen of Scots

Reimagined tartan upholstery, hipster toile wallpaper, a graying Eurasian server with a Scottish accent (I’m still waiting for young women to own this silver streaked look instead of dyeing) and a random Morrissey single I can’t even remember but want to say was "Now My Heart Is Full," all add up to yes, I’m liking Mary Queen of Scots. I’d almost forgotten this was the old Allen & Delancey space.

Despite the presence of larger dishes, the menu lends itself more to drinks enhanced by shared things rather than a more traditional appetizer, then entrée convention. Unfortunately, they were out of two of the six-or-so snacks during the early side of Friday night. No sweetbread beignets or scallop crudo.

Mary queen of scots charcuterie

Instead, we ordered a selection of charcuterie. Jamon de Bayonne, a veal cheek, pistachio and chestnut terrine and saucisson. No, you will not find haggis—all offal is Gallic. They do have scotch eggs and devils on horseback, though.

Mary queen of scots phoenix

The Phoenix (applejack, rye whiskey, maple syrup, and orange bitters topped with Champagne) wasn’t overly sweet, despite the man at the table next to ours being broken the news that none of the cocktails met his “Which are dry?” criteria.

Mary queen of scots pork belly

It was the substantial cut of gooey, crisp-skinned pork belly atop a plate of lentils coated in rivulets of foamy butter that made me think sharing would’ve been a better idea. It’s a lot of richness for one. Also, none of the mains really jumped out at me. The preparations may have been interesting, but I tend to shy away from roast chicken, salmon, moules frites and burgers unless I know that one is particularly outstanding. At least the extra side of fried brussels sprouts added a little green to the meal.

Mary queen of scots bathroom toile

When I first started seeing modern tweaks on toile back in 2004, Timorous Beasties, a Scottish design firm, was the name often mentioned. I do not know if this is their handiwork in the bathroom, but I would not be surprised.

Mary Queen of Scots * 115 Allen St., New York, NY


The first time I visited 'inoteca, Frances McDormand was sitting across from me. The last time I dined at 'inoteca, it was wine and crostini with librarians. This weekend I was accompanying Hagan Blount of 93 Plates on his mission to eat three meals a day for a month with food bloggers.

I think he was surprised that I wasn’t Asian. (I was surprised that I agreed to be on video.) There's no use questioning why Asian ladies dominate at photographing and writing about what they eat;  it's a given like how there will never be a Staten Island food blog (ok, there is one).

Hagan insisted he saw Glenn Beck pass by, Mike Bloomberg out the window and Dash from The Incredibles sitting at the head of the large wooden table next to us. Ok, the guy nearby did have the in-motion blonde hairstyle down pat. Maybe if you drink enough Aglianico del Taburno dubious celebrities will appear.

Inoteca brussel sprouts, pomegranate, fiore sardo & walnuts .CR2

Shaved Brussels sprouts, the vegetable of the moment, with walnuts, a funky crumbled fiore sardo and pomegranate seeds started things right. This sweet and salty salad was one of the highlights along with the octopus below.

Inoteca truffled egg toast with bottarga

The scent of truffle oil is impossible to miss when the fancified Italian Popeye sprinkled with bottarga is placed in front you. Oozing yolk and warm fontina melded into a thick slab of chewy bread would be fitting brunch snack. But as soon as the square turns room temperature, all the components stiffen up. It's not for leisurely nibbling—just tear into the thing.

Inoteca polpi, fingerling potatoes, escarole, olives & meyer lemons

The shapely octopus leg–from the curled charred tip to the meaty end fat as a bratwurst–wasn't just a conversation piece, it was also the hit of the night. The Meyer lemon and olives lent a Greek flavor while the escarole stayed in Italy. Cooking cephalopods with corks to ensure a tender final product always seemed like an old wives' tale to me, but we were told that was the exact method used by the chef.

Inoteca soft polenta with roasted mushrooms, poached egg & parmigiano

More of those runny yolks, this time adorning polenta along with hen of the woods mushrooms.

Inoteca cheese

One goat cheese, a sheep's milk and one blend. I preferred the soft runny goat variety that I think was Brunet. It was even better spread on warm toasted flat bread.

Inoteca affogato

Cheese and dessert is really a bit much. Consequently the budino (not pictured—I’m fairly certain this was the affogato, though I don’t recall anyone ordering it) was neglected. And maybe our senses were dulled at this point because the alleged pumpkin flavor was nearly undetectable. Just stick with the cheese unless you can’t stand ending a meal on a savory note.

'inoteca * 98 Rivington St., New York, NY