I used to get chicken salad for lunch from the Park Slope branch, but that's
all I'd ever tried until I visited the Sunset Park location while
researching a story on places to drink while watching the NY Marathon. Odd
topic? I suppose — drinking at 11 a.m. on a Sunday is a bit much, even for
me. I opted for a fresh-squeezed lemonade instead, which they kindly sweeten
to your liking. And tried a torta even though they're about the rotisserie
chicken. The food is perfectly acceptable, but what really gets me are their
comically portrayed chicken mascots, wide-eyed, wings flapping, strutting in
big red clodhoppers.
Los Pollitos * 5911 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY
Half Japanese, I've heard of. Half Vietnamese, I'm not so sure about. In
that crazy, oh-so-eclectic Williamsburg tradition, they've created a
Peruvian/Vietnamese restaurant with two separate menus under the same roof.
I guess it works for White Castle/Church's and Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins,
right? Some family members want burgers, others want fried chicken. James
got paella (is that Peruvian?) and I got the whole fried red snapper in a
spicy sweet and sour sauce, which wouldn't be likely at most other
restaurants. So, for variety's sake, it's an amusing concept, though I'd
feel better about eating Peruvian at a Peruvian place and Vietnamese at,
yes, you know, a Vietnamese restaurant.
TacuTacu/Maison Saigon * 134-136 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn,NY
We thought we were being smart, taking our extended Columbus Day weekend in Canada. But Monday morning I suspected something was up when there were too many people out and about and it looked like lots of businesses were closed. We had wanted to try the steak frites at L'entrecoute St. Jacques, but the place was shuttered-up at prime lunch time. It wasn't until I read the Thanksgiving closure notice on a bank door that any of it made sense.
Still in search of steak frites, we settled for Chez Alexandre, down the street. I fear that neighborhood is the Times Square of Montreal (minus the Disney Store and black muslims). The menu didn't seem so remarkable, but the prices indicated as much. Who were we to argue? Choices were scarce and we were in a hurry to get on the road.
The most interesting part of the meal was spying on the middle-aged gentleman in the corner who ordered what appeared to be a gin and tonic, then would periodically hide his glass with his newspaper and pour in smuggled gin from one of those mini airplane bottles. He even had the audacity to ask for more ice at one point, just to top it off with his own spirits. I couldn't begrudge him, he was alone on a holiday (maybe he couldn't wait to get away from the family) and the drinks were probably expensive. I wonder if one gets into some sort of trouble if found out by the waitstaff?
Chez Alexandre * 1454 Peel St., Montreal, Canada
I'm keen on the standard cheese fondue, James prefers the chocolate version,
neither of us had tried the shabu shabu ("Chinese," as they call it) style,
so we opted for "The Romantic" sampler. Fondue three ways may be more over
the top than romantic, but to each their own. The whole shebang included an
appetizer of pink peppercorn cheese fondue (or traditional fondue or soup of
the day), beef and chicken Chinese fondue with shrimp, salmon and calamari,
and chocolate (or maple syrup) fondue. The mish mash of influences seemed
rightly French-Canadian, though if we had wanted to really go completely
Canuck, we could've opted for wild game like wild boar in apple oil, caribou
in cedar extract or deer with juniper berries.
Fonduementale* 4325 Rue
St. Denis, Montreal, Canada
We couldn't find Beauty's for the life of us, then were talked out of the
place by a young coffee shop guy (who spoke perfectly accentless English to
us, then French to his friend on the phone. It just doesn't seem right, this
French-Canadian act. Everyone's all particular about speaking French,
signage being in French, but they all understand and speak English as well
as the rest of Canada and all of the United States can) who in so many words
said it was overhyped. That, I understand. I don't want to get stuck at like
the Carnegie Deli of Montreal.
L'Avenue was very popular with the locals, and just about everyone else
in town. People seem to love lining up at restaurants and bars in Montreal.
Are there too many people or not enough places to go? The menu was entirely
in French, but I was able to deduce the eggs benedict. Good: you could smoke
all over the place. Bad: the enormous "fruit" salads that came with
everything. Why fruit means 90% melon, I'll never understand.
L'Avenue* 922 Mont-Royal Ave. E., Montreal, Canada
It freaks me out when a server tries to turn you off a menu item. I feel
like they're trying to keep me away from something really good that they're
afraid Americans won't like. (I will truly eat anything. The only time I was
given pause was over this laksa I'd been warned about at Singapore Cafe. I
know laksa, I love laksa, but this was laksa like no other. I swear there
was liver and twigs in it.) So, I asked about acorda, having no idea
what it was, and the waiter forcefully suggested I order something else,
saying "people who order it know what they're getting," and described it
vaguely as a bread soup with seafood, which didn't sound so beastly to me. I
couldn't tell if this was meant to be snotty like if you have to ask, you
don't need to know or if he just saying that it's something serious
Portuguese cuisine aficionados (I know zilch about Portuguese food) are fond
of, in which case I might like to try it.
Instead, I ordered a most un-Portugeuse starter of tuna tartare with
"armes asiatiques," (I can't understand why they're so into being
French-Canadian) then went for the bacalao entree, which prompted the waiter
to tell me it was salt cod, which was a big "duh," but I guess once you have
to ask about the acorda, you're dubbed an oaf for the rest of the evening.
The most interesting course was the dessert. Amid the requisite molten
chocolate cake, I found a stilton cheese cake with bananas, chocolate
ganache and a port sauce. It sounded totally insane, was incredibly rich,
but totally worked. I furthered the gauche quotient by ordering the house
port, an $800 vintage bottle would seriously be wasted on me.
Regardless, the meal was nice, and even nicer with the exchange rate.
The vibe was sort of business swank, not exactly my scene, but I just wanted
to go somewhere upscale that wasn't French (I'm not anti-French, I swear).
FerreiraCafe Trattoria *
1446 Peel St., Montreal,Canada
I was on a crazy Middle Eastern kick that only lasted this week, but it was
good while it lasted. Nothing beats a shawarma sandwich after a hard day
shopping at the Bay Ridge Century 21 (yet before going to the gym down the
street — there's nothing like doing crunches with a stomach full of lamb).
I've barely delved beyond basics, not because I'm scared of brain or tongue
or anything, but because NYC-style ordering at cramped, busy places like
this frazzle me and I end up blurting out the things I know. I must learn to
slow down and study a menu, no matter how spazzed out this city makes me.
Karam * 8519 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY
This is a Portland guy's idea of a date place: one step up from burritos,
but less than $10 per person (assuming you don't order appetizers or
alcohol, which might be a correct assumption). At least that's what Jessica
and I have speculated when thinking back on the guys we're used to. To be
honest, I could see her getting dragged to Moustache well before I would. I
just don't date those kind of guys (pot-smoking, head-in-the-clouds, full of
unrealized dreams, singer/songwriter/artists who say they're going to move
to NYC). I'm at the haggard point in my life where a date should be a date
— thought-out, aiming to impress a little, care-taken, particularly in the
dining choice — I'm fussy about food, alright? I differentiate between
simply going out to eat with a guy and going on a dinner date.
This particular night was just getting something to eat because I was
craving Middle Eastern food, didn't want take-out falafel and Moustache was
nearby. I had a merguez sandwich, James had a lamb "pitza" and then we got
into a fight and I can't even remember what over. He left in such a huff
that he forgot his credit card at the restaurant. See? Moustache is no place
for couples (or couples to be).
MoustachePitza * 265 E. Tenth St., New York, NY