Skip to content

Archive for

El Mundo

This place is confusing. Fried chicken is a part of their name, yet fried chicken doesnt appear to be in the restaurant. Not that they dont like to fry every other morsel of meat. Chicharrones, and all sorts of crispy bits are on display. But I had to eat rotisserie chicken since that was the name of the game with my New York Post piece on the best Latin chicken in NYC. The pollo was fine, but I really wanted that fried pork.

El Mundo Fried Chicken * 4456 Broadway, New York, NY

El Malecon

Not that I'm an expert on Washington Heights Caribbean food, but I'd never heard of this place before. It seems to have a loyal following and was suggested for my New York Post piece on the best Latin chicken. So, include it I did.

El Malecon * 4141 Broadway, NewYork, NY

Swede & Sour

Familiarity breeds contempt, right? It used to be that I'd actually get excited whenever I'd visit my sister in Swindon, a no-great-shakes London semi-suburb, because we could troll the '60s-style outdoor shopping plaza (now she's in Bristol and they have one too). Very outer boroughs in a way (though not terribly American).

H&M was the best because the clothes were cool, inexpensive, and most importantly, my size. Almost everything came in XL and 18 (American 16). So, I was totally worked up over H&M's American arrival a few years back. And somehow not surprisingly the XLs and 16s must've gotten lost over the Atlantic because they're nearly nonexistent. I even went a little crackpot and wrote them a letter asking about the discrepancy in sizing between the U.S. and England. Which garnered a response that there wasn't any difference.

Don't even get me started on their lame ass BiB (big is beautiful, duh) collection; giant tee shirts and baggy elasticized pants in black, tan and gray shame the rest of the store. You would think that their PR department was correct if you looked at the sizing charts displayed above racks around the store. The number 16 is included with all the other regular 2-14 sizes on the placard. My issue is that while the company may make this size, they certainly don't stock it. If you dig like crazy, you might find one or two larger size items, and they're likely to be either the ugliest or plainest thing in the place, like a navy blue crew neck sweater or white button-up blouse. So wrong, and so spirit-crushing.

Anyway, I'd heard somewhere that the Harlem store carried a more comprehensive range of larger sizes. Er, I guess because of their target audience. You know, black people are way huger than white people. I jest, though I can only assume that is the logic.

Well, the Harlem store is different from others I've been to in that it's quite spacious, the racks have breathing room, and there is no men's section to speak of (also makes one wonder about marketing, i.e. black men don't go for Eurotrash looks–the men's clothes can tend towards 'gay'). But variety of larger sizes' Not at all, it was no better than any other NYC location. In fact, it might've been worse.

So much for typing stores by neighborhood. The best luck I've had so far is Paramus, NJ. They also have the best regional Ikea, as far as items on display actually being in stock. My deduction is that any store inaccessible by MTA means has better goods. And don't just take my word for it, I distinctly recall reading how NYC shoplifting rings were driving in vanloads of thieves and targeting the Garden State Plaza (in Paramus) and other suburban shopping bastions. Even criminals know you've got to leave the city to get what you want.

H&M * Various NYC and NJ locations



Sometimes you feel cursed. Mina, the Bangladeshi chef who used to (wo)man
the kitchen at her namesake restaurant in Woodside, has moved to the Sixth
St. Indian strip in the East Village. I only tried Mina once and it was a
little traumatizing (though mostly because I became violently ill
immediately after eating, which seemed too soon to be poisoning related to
that meal. I had to attribute it to earlier street cart cakes from Sunset
Parks Chinatown).

But Angon is a totally different restaurant with the same enthusiastic
following. I had high hopes, but once again peripheral circumstances threw
the whole evening off. It was hot, I was cranky and argumentative (it was
Friday and I'd already had a few drinks) and James and I started clashing
over everything without reason. The big rift came when our waitress
misunderstood James while he was ordering. I cant even remember what the
dish was, a lamb curry of some sort, and the menu said it was hot. I think
the waitress pointed out that it was hot but in a garbled ESL way because
she thought James was asking if it was hot. We were hoping that it was.

She became convinced he hated hot food (and possibly her) and we were
unable to rectify our orders heat level. (Sometimes I feel like I have the
worst time communicating. There was this period in the mid-‘90s where
every single time I'd ask for Camel Lights, the clerk would give me Camel
Wides. I practically had to practice enunciating the word lights.) James and
I started spatting over who created the confusion, and I don't even know
what else. From this point on, the meal and the rest of the evening were
going to suck. The damage had been done.

One of the things with Angon, and Mina previously, is how the food
supposedly isnt watered down for Americans, but that you really need to
emphasize you want spiciness. So no, our food wasn't incendiary, though it
was tasty. The fish kofta was good, as well as the samosa chat, which is
practically a meal in itself. I'm afraid that I'm just not meant to be a
member of the Mina-loving club. Not that shes ever done anything to me
personally. But both affiliated restaurants have been settings for odd

Angon on the Sixth * 320 E. Sixth St., New York, NY

Tour de Ville


I don't know why revolving restaurants havent become trendy, retro, whatever
(though I swear I recently read a tidbit about one being created in NYC).
Theyre more about the atmosphere than the food, a timeless draw.

I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to sample Tour de Villes
fare, but we didnt have to—it was atop hotel we stayed at over
last-minute-planned Labor Day weekend (it was the cheapest hotel we could
find that seemed palatable). And I'm not one to say no to a Sunday buffet

And it was pretty impressive, though I'm not sure about the
“California Cuisine” they were touting (I guess every month the
restaurant has a theme, wed just missed a Taste of Quebec). I became
enamored with hotel buffets in Thailand because they had to cater to
Europeans and other Asians too, so congee, museli, dried fish, and Chinese
sausage shared the stage with eggs benedict, bacon and hash browns. This
wasn't so multi-cultural though they spanned meals. There was pasta,
seafood, and roasted meats in addition to more standard morning offerings.

Ill admit being surprised at the lack of fat Canadians, especially since
we share a border—does gluttony obey international lines? And I made a
true American pig of myself at the multitudinous dessert display. No one had
even touched a single pie, cake or pastry yet. Pristine, uncut and awaiting
my arrival. A few families had also begun to wander over and were telling
their children how they could choose one thing. Meanwhile, I was taking
slices out of everything. Well, four things (not to mention the chocolate
croissant I'd eaten earlier). All that slow spinning can really work up an

Tour de Ville * 77 Rue University, Montreal, Canada

St. Viateur

After three Montreal excursions, it seemed ridiculous that I'd never tried their bagels. I'm no purist, so its not that I'm a NYC-style bagel snob. It just never occurred to me to sample theirs. It's an interesting beast. At St. Viateur they come hot from the oven, and perhaps this is the best state to eat them in. Chewy while warm, they harden like a pretzel when cooled. Compared to NYC bagels theyre smaller, with a big hole, and denser and sweeter (I think they use honey in the water bath). They seem better suited to eating plain like a snack, rather than as a conduit for cream cheese and spreads. I liked them a lot, but for me its all about the schmear, and with Montreal bagels you feel more like youre eating cheese and crackers.

St. Viateur Bagels * 263 St. Viateur W., Montreal, Canada

Chez Claudette

Poutine. I always imagined it pronounced like Poo Teen, but after hearing it
uttered aloud by a proper French-Canadian, it sounds more like Putin, as in
the surname of Russias President.

Poutine, which is really no more than French fries covered in gravy and
cheese curds, strikes me as way more British than French. Peas are also an
optional accompaniment, and I could see the mushy concoction right at home
on some demented chip shop menu in England.

Origins aside, this was a dish that needed to be tried. And no, I didnt
want fancy foie gras poutine or mass produced chain restaurant poutine. I
wanted Montreal greasy spoon, 24-hour diner style spuds, and Chez Claudette
came through for me.

East of the boutique-y part of Laurier St., sits this no nonsense corner
caf with little tables and counter stools. The menu is filled with basics
like eggs, bacon, burgers and oddballs like fish and chips and spaghetti.
Most baffling was the use of Michigan as descriptor; there was a Michigan
burger listed as well as a Michigan hot dog. I've never associated Michigan
with any particular food style.

I ordered the poutine as a side with eggs and bacon (most meals have
poutine as an add-on for a few dollars more). It wasn't bad at all, sort of
gloopy, and more peppery than I'd imagined. The cheese curds are in large
chunks, not like baby-sized cottage cheese ones. And the base wasn't really
French fries, but cubed potatoes. I'm not sure if thats standard or not. I
think the crispiness of fried potatoes might work better, even though the
gravy would inevitably make them soggy anyway. I need to do more poutine
research before coming to any conclusions.

Chez Claudette * 351 Laurier E., Montreal, Canada

Au Pied de Cochon

It's extremely rare that I have a dining experience so enervating that the quality of the food becomes almost irrelevant. In fact, I can only think of two other examples of restaurants not worth re-visiting because my first impression was too tarnished: Lupa and Chickenbone Café (which is gone anyway). 

I love the idea of meat in monstrous portions, using unusual parts, and high-low ingredient combinations (foie gras poutine?). Au Pied de Cochon struck me as potentially being Montreals St. John restaurant (which it isn't exactly—St. John is austere where APDC is convivial). And I wasn't disappointed by the food. James had the French onion soup, which he declared the best hed had, and the massive “Happy Pig Chop.” I went pork crazy and started with a plate of pates and sausages that wouldve been better suited for sharing with a table of diners. For a main, I had to try the namesake pied de cochon. I didn't realize a pigs foot was so large. It filled the plate, and contained all the best aspects of pork: crispy skin, gooey gelatinous fat and tender inner flesh. The foot sprawled on a puddle of mashed potatoes and creamy mustard sauce. A tart onion, tomato and parsley relish was scattered liberally over the top and helped balance the porcine richness. 

But–yes, theres a big but—the dining experience as a whole felt abusive. Initially, it was just off, the vibe was wrong, nothing specific. You'd think as New Yorkers wed be used to cramped spaces and long waits, so that wasn't quite it. But it did seem that no matter where we stood we were in the way. Before even being seated we felt a touch beat-up and jostled, like how a bad subway ride can ruin a day before you even get to work. After eventually getting our table, we were promptly ignored. After nearly 15 minutes it started feeling intentional. Customers seated after us already had food and drinks, and we couldn't even get eye contact with a server. It seemed like everyone knew each other. Maybe that was it, we weren't regulars? Was it because we were speaking English? I don't think so, there were plenty of non-French conversations in the air. We finally ordered drinks, then lost our waiter for about another 10-15 minutes. Things started getting odd when we noted our waiter and a cohort motioning to our table, speaking in hushed tones, then laughing. I was like what the fuck? Paranoia set in, we didn't say anything weird, I don't think we ordered poorly, I like to believe were at least moderately attractive—what was the deal?

By the time our food arrived, I was totally turned off to eating. No matter how much I scooted my chair and our entire table forward, the guy behind me would inch closer. After the millionth time he leaned back enough that the backs of our heads were touching, I started to lose my shit. Did I mention this was our fifth (dating) anniversary? If this meal was any indication of the future of our relationship, we were in serious trouble. It was just plain non-good and creepily ominous. I'd had high expectations for our dinner, and all I could think about was dining and dashing (I never even did that as a teen, but its never too late to start). 

The clincher came when James chomped down on something hard in his onions, and pulled out a big fat metal screw. Yeah, a screw. Was this some sort of messed up message? A not so subtle screw you. Honestly, I didn't think so, but we weren't even able to point out the little screw up (ha) because not once did anyone stop to ask us how we were doing. At this point we were invisible, we couldn't have flagged down a waiter if wed tried. So, we just sat and waited, both our entrees barely touched. To be fair, the staff seemed genuinely concerned after politely being shown the screw. We didn't make a fuss at all, I'm never one to cause problems at restaurants, in fact, I'm probably overly passive when it comes to bizarre customer service. Thankfully, the Happy Pig Chop wasn't included on our bill (they offered to make another one, like we wanted to sit in this hell hole any longer). 

The whole evening was so horrendously bad that all I could do was laugh. I mean, it was kind of comical. We imagined an Au Pied de Cochon review being written in a New York Post-ian style. The headline would invariably say something about the staff having a screw loose. It would be a hoot to read. But then, maybe I'm the only one gets a kick out of the Post.

Au Pied de Cochon * 536 Rue Duluth E., Montreal , Canada


Wed narrowed down our Friday night choices to two contenders: Lemeac and L'Express. Primarily because we wanted bistro food at a late hour. L'Express had been compared to Balthazaar; crowds and less than desirable staff had been described (we decided to save that kind of traumatic atmosphere for Saturday night at Au Pied de Cochon). Leanings went towards Lemeac, plus it appeared they had an appetizer and entre set for $20 (Canadian) after 10pm, which was an added plus though I hadnt intended a penny-pinching vacation.

As it turned out, after settling into the hotel, getting ready, checking the internet and all that, by the time we finally traipsed into the city, we arrived at Lemeac at 10pm on the nose. And that just seemed tacky, like you were there only out of miserliness. I'm overly weird about perceptions of others and appearances so we killed a little time walking around the neighborhood in surprisingly chilly weather. Despite the brisk autumn breezes and threat of rain, we still opted to sit on the outdoor terrace.

My time paranoia didnt even end up mattering because the $20 special didnt appear in the menu anyway. Humiliation averted. It wasn't until tried to order that we were told they had a prix fixe deal thats only in the French language menu, which the waitress kindly brought over. At least she was courteous enough to notice our English menus missing piece (though it does make one wonder why they don't just put the same things in both menus–I had a mild phobia of anti-American bias. It does exist and is considerably more retarded than if you were in Europe since practically every Montrealer speaks perfect English. French-Canadians have issues).

So, my bargain meal consisted of a raw milk cheddar and vegetable tart to start and duck leg confit with fingerling potatoes and salad for a main. I love a nice frisee salad doused by duck fat and escaped juices. The potatoes were perfectly crisp and salty. It's the kind of food that comes across as simple and straightforward, but that I would never make at home. Doing basics just right is harder than it seems.

Lemeac* 1045 Laurier W, Montreal, Canada