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As I’ve often suspected, a Queens Under $25 review don’t mean shit. Initially, I was concerned about crowds (and worried that I’d look a mindless follower—I swear I suggested this place the previous week) but when I arrived with a group of six a little after 9pm three days after Urubamba made the Times, (possibly the first instance of a food blogger in this slot) there were only a handful of tables occupied. Sripraphai appears to be the only restaurant in that borough that can draw a genuine crowd from all parts of the city.

Urubamba is the bizarro Kampuchea. You order eight dishes and show up with three six-packs (Budweiser, Negro Modelo and St. Pauli Girl, oddly each female counterpart knew exactly which brew was chosen by their significant other. I easily pegged James for the St Pauli Girl) and only leave $20 lighter. It’s extremely rare that I am shocked over a bill being so low.

This Jackson Heights excursion was to meet up with a former Spanish class taker who’d recently bought a co-op in the neighborhood, a current classmate who still lives in South Brooklyn, and both women’s husbands. I’d like to believe that our Peruvian group dinner wasn’t as dorky as a high school Spanish class field trip (not that I would know first hand—I took French and we never left the building).

Urubamba pollo a la brasa

The roast chicken was awesome, which shouldn’t have been surprising since I’ve never had bad Peruvian pollo a la brasa (I still don’t understand why the West Village Pardo’s morphed into a cevicheria). The salty (soy sauce is the not-so-secret ingredient) crispy skin and juicy meat never fail to win diners over. Don't forget the green sauce.

Urubamba salchipapas

The chicken combo came with everyone’s (ok, my) favorite junk food mashup, salchipapas.

Urubamba chicha morada

As well as a pitcher of chicha morada, a scarlet cinnamony beverage that gets its pretty color from purple corn. Or maybe just a powered mix, who knows? I was recently informed that in Spain chicha means love handles, though I suspect this isn’t true in the Andes.

Urubamba ceviche mixto

Ceviche ties with rotisserie chicken for best Peruvian specialty. This is the mixto with shrimp and octopus. I like the crunch offered by the dried corn kernels. Sometimes the chunky sweet potato rounds are overwhelming. I’m neutral on the white potatoes.

Urubamba tiradito de pescado

Tiradito is more purist, fish-only. These crudo preparations were lime juice tart and not terribly spicy. Despite the use of aji amarillo and rocoto peppers, Peruvian cuisine isn’t known for hot flavors.

Urubamba yuca rellena

A yuca rellena stuffed with ground beef and hardboiled eggs (they really love their hardboiled eggs) didn’t go far split into sixths.

Urubamba papas a la huacaina

No one got too excited about the papas a la huancainas, classic as it may be. The cold dish of yellow-sauced potatoes reminded me of a mild curry. I had no idea that the creamy texture was a result of pureed cheese, evaporated milk and Saltines. Strange, but good strange.

Urubamba aji de gallina

Still hungry, we debated getting a whole fried fish, which seemed to be popular but by the time we asked they were sold out of snapper. When asked for ideas, our waitress suggested the chicken, which was kind of like the potatoes. It appears that you can huancaina-up anything.

Urubamba arroz con mariscos

Arroz con mariscos, a paella-ish dish in a heavy pot, was the crowning glory.

Urubamba interior

Sorry, lovebirds. I wasn’t trying to capture you on film; you just happened to be the only patrons left in the restaurant.

Pre-dinner drinks combined with meal-time beers caused us to lose track of time. Normally, I’m a freak about being the last one in a restaurant or arriving near to closing, but you know, I’m trying to cut loose in 2009. Overstaying your welcome will get lights turned off on you, though.

Urubamba * 86-20 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Sowing My Oats


I’m hesitant to review (if that’s what you can call this) freebies because, you know, I just can’t be bought (not to mention how mom blogger it feels). But I eat a granola bar every couple days anyway so it was no big thing to try three varieties of the new Quaker True Delights line. Quaker must be on a promotional rampage; Wednesday they had Top Chef contestants oat encrusting everything during the quickfire challenge. No one needs to be eating eggplant spackled with dry oatmeal.

Granola bars are a strange foodstuff. I wouldn’t say that they’re good for you and it’s not as if they do shit in the way of filling you up; they’re just a less egregious snack than a candy bar.

In grade school I was jazzed when chewy chocolate chip was invented. And don’t get me started on Dipps or Kudos (that is how I added the previously unknown word to my vocabulary, though). It’s hard to believe that soft, granola bars studded with M&Ms, Oreos and drizzled with chocolate did not exist before the ‘80s. It felt like you were getting away with something in comparison those dusty, dense Nature Valley bars that were usually packed in my lunch. To this day I still prefer Kashi TLC (tasty little chewies) over the heartier crunchy Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax that James occasionally picks up from Target not knowing any better.

Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut: Banana was the strongest flavor and I wasn’t sure if it was artificial or real until I noticed the embedded banana chips. Then there was a mildly salty, baking soda-y effect followed by coconut crunch. Whole macadamias were nice.

Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry: Sweetest of the three, must be that honey, and heavy on tart berry flavor. The cashews added richness. This was my favorite by far. The odd good thing is that if you’re a poor sap who’s resigned to doing Weight Watchers, this bar only has two points where the others have three.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond: More subtle than the other two. I didn’t encounter any whole berries like in the promotional photo, just speckles. And despite the petite chocolate chunks, this bar felt more Kashi-style healthy than the rest.

So, I would eat a Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry bar if someone handed me one and I was in need of a snack, but as long as corn syrup is the second ingredient I’ll stick to my Kashis. The Corn Refiners Association won’t sway me on their “sweet surprise” no matter how many commercials they produce.

The Robert Redford of Pizza

I haven’t eaten at Pizza Hut in years (though I did work at a takeout-only branch the summer between high school and college and ate personal pan pizzas nearly every day) so it’s not likely that a marketing gimmick such as their new (nationally—it launched in test markets last year) pizza, The Natural, will sway me. What I do find interesting is how quickly a food fad will sweep the nation, not that I’m one to argue with a move toward zero high fructose corn syrup and filler-free sausage.

Pizza Hut’s own research found that 73% of those surveyed believe “foods that are natural have flavor the way it was meant to taste.” Ok, that’s a bit vague.

But this newfound faith in nature has been bolstered by recent studies. According to Mintel, in the US 33% of new food and beverage products touted being natural in 2008, a 16% rise from the previous year.

Nielsen has reported that food with natural claims accounted for $22.3 billion in sales in 2008, a 10% increase versus 2007. Meanwhile low carb products decreased 3% during the same time period. Natural in, restricted eating out.

When it comes down to it, taste is what really matters. Check out mixed reviews of The Natural on Chow and The Impulsive Buy.

Latina Clips Local

Sangria Bar & Grill

112 Dyckman Street
Cross Street: Between Post and Nagle avenues

809 owner
Cirilo Moronta is banking that Inwood is ready for an upscale take on
Caribbean classics. The clubby restaurant, named for the DR´s area
code, borrows from more than Santo Domingo. Dainty arepas topped with
a trio of shredded chicken, pork picadillo and ropa vieja are among recommended
starters. The seafood-heavy menu includes the show stopping pargo relleno,
a whole red snapper stuffed with seafood risotto and a lightly spiced
coconut-tomato sauce. The mix and match churrascaria will appeal to carnivores
who want to choose their cut of meat, side and sauce. The pulsing upstairs
lounge going strong Thursday through Sunday draws crowds. If you´re
looking for a quieter meal, head downstairs—on a recent weeknight,
a prime ivory leather corner banquette was filled with a family, newborn
and toddlers in tow, proving that you don´t need to be famous to
get the VIP treatment.


134 East 48th Street
Cross Street: Between Lexington and Third Avenue

Alma Grill is the handiwork of music mogul Ralph Mercado yet isn't strictly
Latin American in style. Cream tones, rich brown accents and metal beaded
curtains give the impression of a tasteful hotel, which makes sense since
the stylish restaurant is attached to a Midtown Radisson and primarily serves
its guests. Luckily, the food rises above corporate blandness and should
attract a broader clientele. Guaranteed favorites like steak frites and
roast chicken are available but creative flair can be found in tuna glazed
with rum and served with citrus salsa and quinoa salad, as well as lobster
ceviche punched up with Thai chiles and passion fruit. Don't pass up the
Alma trio, showcasing of mini versions of crème brule, coconut flan
and buttermilk panna cotta.

197 Meserole Avenue
Cross Street: Between Humboldt Street and Bushwick Avenue

This mirrored
to the max Ecuadorian eatery on a residential Bushwick avenue bustles,
even in the traditionally Puerto Rican enclave. The seaport city of Guayaquil
is represented by a ceviche-heavy menu. Deep bowls of octopus, shrimp
or black clams (when they're available) swim in a blush-colored soup of
lime juice tangled with tomatoes, onions and cilantro. The broth is a
reputed hangover cure, though if you order Pilsener, the national beer,
the healthy properties might be counteracted. Humitas—sweet,
cornhusk wrapped cheese and corn tamale—are a welcome change from
also popular starches: rice and plantains.

338 Bedford Avenue

Cross Street: Between South 2nd and 3rd streets

has been given the Williamsburg treatment. By retaining the original retro
charm of a former Latin eatery, and keeping the subway tiles, counter
stools and glowing comida criollas sign intact, Mexican food
has been made hip. The menu is short and sweet, focusing on tacos and
burritos. Daily specials like guajillo roasted pork shouldn't
be ignored, though. Guacamole mashed in a molcajete the size
of a wash tub, and Baja-style fried fish tacos with chile mayonnaise have
won over locals. And the three table salsas: verde, chipotle and pico
de gallo, are all fresher and spicier than you might expect in this Brooklyn


513 E. Sixth Street
Cross Street: Between avenues A and B

beef is what´s for dinner at this often-packed East Village steakhouse.
Diners can choose from eight different cuts of grilled meat or make like
a hungry gaucho and order the parrillada teeming with sweetbreads,
short ribs, skirt steak, kidneys and two types of sausage. Vegetables
are offered in the form of perfectly crisped french fries, ensalada
—a potato salad with green peas, carrots and mayonnaise—and
baked spinach and cheese empanadas. South American wine is an obvious
choice, though a bottle of Quilmes beer feels right when soccer matches
are being broadcast on overhead televisions.

Castillo de Jagua

113 Rivington Street
Cross Street: Between Essex and Ludlow streets

Savor a
rapidly disappearing segment of the Lower East Side at this Dominican
stalwart. Florescent lights, linoleum, big portions and low prices are
all part of the package. Old timers huddle over steaming bowls of hearty
sancocho at the counter while the occasional newcomer stops in
for a Cuban sandwich and a bottle of Presidente. Early birds can have
mangú for breakfast: the mashed plantains are served with
eggs, fried cheese and salami or a gut-busting combination of all three.
Just like an old-fashioned diner, coconut and chocolate cakes are displayed
on covered glass pedestals near the cash register.

& Chocolate Oaxacan Kitchen

54 Seventh Avenue
Cross Street: Between Lincoln and St. Johns places

This diminutive
Park Slope restaurant that opened in early 2007 boldly states, "We
are not a Mexican restaurant." Instead, they've declared their allegiance
to the regional cuisine of Oaxaca, which translates to rich, complex moles
in three styles: negro, verde and coloradito.
All can be applied to chicken breast, stewed pork or grilled vegetables.
The classic thick, burnished negro mole contains over twelve ingredients,
including chocolate, sesame seeds and plantains. In their effort to strive
for authenticity, ancient beverages like champurrado, a warm
corn and chocolate concoction, is offered, and guacamole is optionally
served topped with fried chapulin—yes, grasshoppers!

320 Amsterdam Avenue
Cross Street: 75th Street

Latin and
Japanese food smoothly co-exist at this cavernous Upper West Side restaurant
washed with orange accents. If it's too tough to choose between shrimp
fajitas or tempura, the ultimate roll combination is the perfect compromise.
Raw fish is paired with mango, avocados and bananas, wrapped in seaweed
and served with spicy dipping sauces like creamy wasabi, chipotle and
scallion soy. Dessert can be skipped in lieu of a key lime pie cocktail
composed of Absolut vanilla, pineapple and lime juice in a sugar-rimmed


170 Waverly Place
Cross Street: Between Sixth and Seventh avenues

food is scarce in the city, and fading fast—Flor's Kitchen shuttered
their East Village location in February 2007. The surviving cozy bi-level
West Village spot is a diverse and date-friendly nook. Start with quintessential
arepas or simply make a light meal out of the stuffed corn cakes. Substantial
dishes like pabellón criollo, saucy shredded meat served
with maduros and black beans, are also available. Cachapas, sweet,
gooey, corn-studded pancakes topped with melted paisa cheese are worth
the estimated 15-minute wait.

y Gonzalez

625 Broadway
Cross Street: Between West Houston and Bleecker streets

Sure, this
impossible-to-miss cantina is cheesy figuratively and literally, but sometimes
you're in the mood for nachos, neon lights and a giant sombrero. Avoid
the pricey guacamole and stick to Mexican-American favorites like carne
asada burritos, enchiladas suizas or decadent drinking snacks like jalapeño
kisses, cheese and shrimp stuffed poppers wrapped in bacon. Gonzalez y
Gonzalez boasts NYC's longest bar—margaritas are almost standard
issue on every table. The festive décor and biweekly salsa lessons
draw crowds from nearby NYU, as well as the Angelika Film Center around
the corner.


1575 Lexington Avenue
Cross Street: 101st Street

2004, brothers Anselmo and Fermin Bello parlayed their behind-the-scenes
cooking talent into their own ambitious Mexican-French restaurant, incongruously
placed in Spanish Harlem. The shoebox-sized corner bistro romances couples
with a candlelit vibe featuring folk art, Frida Kahlo paintings and, oddly,
an '80s greatest hits soundtrack. Unctuous goat cheese flan spiked with
jalapeño and epazote, spicy seafood pozole, rich with
oregano, hominy, mussels, firm snapper and jumbo shell-on shrimp, exemplifies
their Franco-Hispanic style. And their desserts, like the tequila chocolate
cake with brown sugar ice cream, are reason enough to squeeze your way
into this welcome addition to the neighborhood.

6405 Roosevelt Avenue
Cross Street: Between 64th and 65th streets

are quintessentially Salvadoran, and this whimsically decorated Woodside
restaurant serves wonderful examples. Take in pictures of the namesake
volcano and clay-tiled indoor roof inhabited by fake iguanas and an armadillo
while trying the stuffed, grilled corn cakes. Choose from chicharron,
cheese, frijoles or revuelta, a mix of all three. Curtido,
a pickled cabbage slaw (sometimes available with papaya), thin, lightly
spiced tomato sauce and a bottle of Suprema beer are necessary accompaniments.
This isn't light fare; easily sharable meat-based entrees are served with
rice, beans, cheese, sweet plantains and corn tortillas. Simple and satisfying
res con salpicon, beef soup, is a weekend favorite.

25-35 36th Avenue
Cross Street: 28th Street

up early for Malagueta´s Saturday-only feijoada, the Brazilian
national dish of stewed black beans, pork, sausage, ribs and bacon served
with collard greens and farofa (toasted manioc flour)—it
frequently sells out before dinner time. This candlelit white tablecloth
café on a quiet Astoria corner melds the tropical moqueca de
, a Bahian-style shrimp stew with palm oil, peppers and coconut
milk, with dishes you wouldn´t expect on the streets of São
Paulo, like lombo de porco, pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes
and bacon vinaigrette. For a sweet finale, chocolate mousse is just as
popular as manjar, their coconut pudding.

136 West 46th Street
Cross Street: Between Sixth and Seventh avenues

Midtown's Cuban-style, Dominican-run holdout hasn't changed in years.
Three brown vinyl stools facing three foil-wrapped sandwich presses greet
you as you squeeze into the entryway. A long row of steam tables filled
with a changing roster of daily specials stretches out to the left. Lunchtime
hordes line up for aluminum containers of pernil or tripe with rice and
beans, but the star might be the toasty sandwiches Cubanos: roasted pork,
ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard are warmed and flattened into compact
torpedoes and the inclusion of unorthodox salami slices add extra oomph.

82 Washington Avenue
Cross Street: Between Park and Flushing avenues

in the ground floor of luxury lofts on a gritty block near Brooklyn's
Navy Yard, Mojito seems deliciously out of place. A Cuban cigar box motif
blends with the exposed pipes, cement floor industrial-chic, and attracts
Clinton Hill denizens and Pratt students in droves. The freebie garlic
bread with three piquant dipping sauces promises good things to come.
Gently priced ropa vieja and chuletas don't disappoint,
though a less conventional entrée-sized mojito churrasco salad
overflowing with grilled chicken, mango, white cheese, avocados, tomatoes
and fried onions is a satisfying alternative for the rice and bean averse.
Tumbler-sized mojitos are powerful: you've got fifteen—yep, 15—different
rums to choose from!


652 Union Street
Cross Street: Between 4th and 5th avenues

the ground floor of a Park Slope brownstone, Palo Santo exudes folksy
chic. Chunky wooden furniture, colorful mosaics and Andean murals lend
a handcrafted touch, while the inventive food also carries a personal
imprint. Half-Haitian chef and owner Jacques Gautier melds Caribbean and
South American flavors into an ever-changing collection of dishes that
are prepared in an open kitchen flanked by bar seating (patrons in these
perches can order a $45 chef´s tasting menu). Expect things like
seafood asopado, a soupy rice, and obscure herbs that might give
a botanist pause. Duck medallions in mole sauce are accompanied with a
black bean-topped corn cake graced with fronds of Mexican papalo
and pepicha. Don´t forget a full wallet—the establishment
is cash only.

92 Seventh Avenue South
Cross Street: Between Grove and Barrow streets

Peruvian chicken chains are nothing new in NYC, but this
West Village poultry purveyor is the only one straight out of Lima. To
the delight of homesick South Americans, the first U.S. outpost opened
in December 2006 and has been doing brisk business with all nationalities.
Marinated in 14 secret ingredients (likely including indigenous huacatay),
pollo brasa is unquestionably the main attraction. Tacu tacu,
rice and bean croquettes, yuquitas, yucca fries and knobby Inca
corn on the cob are choice sides, and tiny ramekins of mayonnaise and
pale yellow aji sauce arrive as dips. Brave souls should investigate anticuchos,
grilled beef heart slices on skewers. A list of cocktails is worth a look,
from traditional frothy pisco sour to the thoroughly modern Piscopolitan.

47 Eighth Avenue
Cross Street: Between Horatio and Jane Streets

The glowing
wood-fired oven is a focal point in this welcoming West Village wine bar
decorated with dangling lamps and swank decades-old Spanish magazine ads.
Thin, charred-edge pizzas topped with ropa vieja and manchego
or shredded chicken and crema fresca might belie Pasita´s South
American roots, but Venezuelan tapas called pasapalos also complement
the reasonably priced list of South American and Spanish vino. Red pepper
and cumin-covered cheese puffs, tequeños or arepitas,
mini corn cakes with guasacaca (an avocado salsa) and nata cheese
pair up nicely with a glass of fruity Zolo Malbec from Argentina.


264 Cypress Avenue
Cross Street: Between East 138th and 139th streets

The Bronx branch of one of NYC's favorite Peruvian pollo
specialists is an airy Mott Haven escape. Lilting acoustic guitar and
saffron colored walls decorated with Incan glyphs attract extended families
that linger over the generous matador combo. The plates just keep on coming,
along with a whole rotisserie chicken and a delicious green mayo-based
chile dipping sauce. Expect a whirlwind of rice and beans, avocado salad,
and salchipapas, a loco mix of french fries and
frankfurters. (Why didn't anyone think of that before?!) Earthenware pitchers
of fruit-laden sangria complete the well-rounded meal.


1013 E. 163rd Street
Cross Street: Between Simpson Street and Southern Boulevard

This tiny
Hunts Point taqueria could easily go unnoticed, and since it's
not in a particularly Mexican neighborhood, traditions aren't strictly
adhered to. Atypical items like shredded lettuce and tomato come default
on tacos and hamburgers are even on the menu. But the griddle filled to
capacity with quesadillas is a tip-off to their specialty: Tortillas are
crafted from fresh masa and pressed before your eyes. Fillings include
mushrooms, huitlacoche or chile strips and are held together
with melted muenster cheese. Real Azteca's owners hail from Michoacán
in southern Mexico, and their weekends-only birria, a spicy goat
stew, is a hallmark of the region.

1200 Castle Hill Avenue
Cross Street: Gleason Avenue

Bronx accents
mingle with Spanish and Chinese at this nautically themed Castle Hill
institution. As Chino-Latino joints dwindle, this crowd pleaser keeps
churning out old-school fusion like avocado adorned chofan, chicharron
and chicken studded fried rice. Plantains and yucca get equal billing
as lo mein and linguini on the laminated picture menu. Inventions such
as inside-out mofongo—formed into a bowl shape and filled
with creole-sauced meat or seafood—are the result of owner Nelson
Ng´s seven years in the Dominican Republic.

Restaurant & Bar

142 Beekman Street
Cross Street: Front Street

Lazily whirling ceiling fans, plantation blinds, and congas in the corner
might make you forget that you´re steps away from the South Street
Seaport. This slice of Miami on the East River draws hungry shoppers and
an after work crowd seeking mojitos and Pan-Latino tapas. Artfully plated
tasting portions of maduros filled with spicy beef and Monterey jack, Ecuadorian
shrimp ceviche and lobster tacos are snacky options, while full-sized entrees
like seafood paella and grilled Argentinean skirt steak will satisfy larger
appetites. Live Cuban jazz fills the small, multi-tiered space on Tuesday
and Thursday nights.

Antonio Bakery #2

36-20 Astoria Boulevard
Cross Street: 37th Street

Owner Ruben
Guzman, is practically Astoria's ambassador to everything Chilean. Everyone
receives a warm welcome, even if there's not a South American bone in
their body. Substantial, baked empanadas filled with chopped beef, green
olives, raisins and hard boiled egg are a good starting point. Completos,
hot dogs topped with avocado, sauerkraut, mayonnaise and tomatoes are
presented on a little red plastic stand and can be found on nearly every
table. Lomitos and churrascos, pork and beef sandwiches
come with similar toppings on chewy freshly baked rolls. The front glass
case is lined with dulce de leche treats like alfajores, meringue
covered cookies. Don't forget to try a can of Pap, a Chilean papaya soda.
If you're curious where San Antonio #1 is—that's in Long Island,
where all of the baking is done.

400 East 57th Street

When you consider that in New York, finding Puerto Rican
fare that's not served from steam tables at a lunch counter is rare, you'll
soon realize that the moderately-priced sit-down restaurant Sofrito is
quite unique. When you consider that it's restaurateur Jimmy Rodriguez's
latest venture, it makes perfect sense. Jimmy brings glitz, punchy cocktails
and sweeping chic to an otherwise subdued Sutton Place street. Flaky pastelitos
are a great way to start, and since you can choose beef, chicken, shrimp
or vegetable fillings, no one's left out. Boricua delights have been prettied
up and the mariscos are irresistible. Try the creamy seafood
stew teeming with shrimp, crab legs and served with tostones
on the side or the crispy red snapper bulging with coconut rice stuffing.

Cuban Cuisine

73 New Street
Cross Street: Between Beaver Street and Exchange Place

A Peruvian
family, the Lunas, have modernized the classic Latin lunch counter into
a successful chain—their fifth location opened March 2007 in midtown.
Sophie's filling and reasonably priced beans and rice combos appeal to
all strata of office workers, it's nearly impossible to snag a seat between
noon and 2 pm and the take-out line is consistently long. The unmistakable
scent of roasted pork wafts onto the sidewalk, and must be the reason
why the pernil is a menu mainstay, Monday through Friday. Other
specials like stewed goat and oxtails are only available select days of
the week. Cubanos are also a hit and a quick snack can be made of the
fried empanadas displayed in the window.


4503 Fifth Avenue
Cross Street: Between 45th and 46th streets

Sunset Park is teeming with taquerias, and Tacos Matamoros
is a Fifth Avenue favorite. Jukebox ballads serenade families and couples
in the sparsely-furnished dining room. Pint-sized tacos are only a buck
a pop, so take advantage and experiment with fillings! Pork al pastor
sliced from the twirling spit is a stand out, but don't shy away from
tripa or lengua. Hearty tortas and cemitas
are safe bets and simple platters of grilled bistec with tomato-speckled
rice and cotija-sprinked beans are satisfying. You won´t find cervezas
on the menu, but sweet horchata and tangy tamarindo
are on tap.


29 Clinton Street
Cross Street: Stanton Street

a wine bar without snacks? Tapeo 29, secluded behind a heavy unmarked
door on a Lower East Side corner, provides tasting flights of wine with
appropriate Spanish accompaniments. After choosing between red or white,
you'll be given three generous glasses and an equal amount of cheeses
or tapas. Your wedges might include murcia, a goat cheese with
a wine-soaked rind, smoky idiazabal and sharp cheddar-like
. Tapas range from simple olives and grilled garlic shrimp to
bacon-wrapped dates and chorizo braised in cider. Diners can sit at the
prominent U-shaped bar or share tables against the brick walls of the
dimly-lit room.


8218 Roosevelt Avenue
Cross Street: Between 82nd and 83rd streets

Jackson Heights has Colombian options galore, but this
roomy, booth-only diner can almost guarantee that no one leaves hungry:
its speciality, Bandeja campesina, is a quick introduction to
the cuisine and practically serves as breakfast, lunch and dinner in one!
An oval platter barely manages to contain layers of steak, sweet plantains,
soupy red beans, white rice, strip of chicharron, arepa, eggs sunny-side
up and avocado slices. Daintier options include soups of the day like
Saturday's chicken or Wednesday's ox tail served with an arepa. Frothy
fruit batidos are refreshing and lulo (similar to an
orange) is muy Colombiano.

37 East 28th Street
Cross Street: Between Park and Madison avenues

In early
2006 Dominican chef-owner Alex Ureña opened his avant-garde Spanish
namesake in the Flatiron district. The narrow room draped in hushed cream,
brown and burnt sienna tones attracts upscale clientele and foodies seeking
creative flavor pairings. Texturas de foie gras is a decadent
triple threat. Paté is presented wonton style with plum puree,
in a terrine with cocoa and chocolate and mixed with yogurt and currants
in a tiny cup. Cubes of glistening suckling pig crown wilted lettuce and
shiitakes and are surrounded by green apple puree and truffle sauce in
the cochinillo confitado. Sparkling cava makes perfect sense
with the elegantly quirky fare.


10-43 44th Drive
Cross Street: Between 10th and 11th streets

This Latino
bistro is literally a beacon on an otherwise desolate stretch in Long
Island City. Reasonably priced lunches appeal to nearby Citibank workers,
but at night things get more ambitious. Local art enhances the brick walls,
DJs play world beats and deep house on Friday nights and their garden
patio is a warm-weather option. Country-hop with Argentinean skirt steak
with mashed potatoes and chimichurri salsa or tropical grilled shrimp
with coconut rice and pineapple jalapeño mojo. Brazilian cahaça-laced
caipirinhas go along with nearly everything.

Writing Samples
Restaurant Reviews

Fan Ti

AJ Maxwell's
Athens Tavern
Bistro Desaret
Brasil Coffee House
Cafe Noir
Caffe e' Vino
Cherin Sushi
La Casa del Pollo
Chao Thai
La Dolce Vita

Szechuan Village

Grand Sichuan House
Great Burrito
Happy Family
5 Noodle House

Lucky Mojo
My Kitchen
Om Tibet
The Park Room
Palm Court


Reds Produce
Ren Ren

Schnitzel Haus
Sheng Wang
Time Cafe
Tokyo La Men
Le Train Bleu

Village Pizza
Wok to Walk


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Kampuchea Restaurant

Kampuchea was considerably more winsome than bumbling Cambodia Cuisine, but it’s also one of those places where you order soup, sandwich and a salad and next thing you know your bill has snuck into the $80+ range. (Yes, alcohol has a way of adding up. As an aside, I’m still not sure how my request for Torrontes was interpreted as Cotes du Rhone. I just went with it because I’m easygoing that way.) Even though I’m not a recession panicker yet, I’m always price conscious.

I went in with every intention of trying a noodle soup (NY Noodletown was the original after work plan) but after skimming the menu I broke down from sandwich deprivation. And I honed in on the most expensive offering, the $15 oxtail that I will try to refrain comparing to a $2.75 banh mi (ok, they’re like four bucks now in Manhattan Chinatown, right?) because you don’t generally eat Vietnamese sandwiches amidst even a hint of décor and they’re probably not making their pate in house or using Duroc pork.

Kampuchea oxtail num pang

There was a large amount of tender beef, broken into large hunks, and a spiked mayonnaise that resembled Thousand Island dressing. At least I think it was mayonnaise despite the tamarind-basil descriptor to throw you off. I was not disappointed by this sandwich. While you can never recreate the toasty bread, warm meat and crisp vegetable combination the next day, I still was happy to have a softer room temperature half for lunch Saturday.I’m looking forward to creatively named Num Pang if it ever opens.

Kampuchea pork belly

Pork belly cubes were a must and had a high meat to fat ratio (one of my two squares was almost too lean for my taste). A sharp sweet-andsour effect was created with honey and apple cider vinegar. Strangely, all of the cracked black pepper made little impact.

Kampuchea smoked duck salad

Smoked duck was served carpaccio-style with ribbons of green mango speckled with salty dried shrimp. I only wish that the portion was a little more substantial.

Kampuchea pork katiev

This is an impressive looking bowl of soup chockablock with pork belly and shoulder as well as mustard greens and herbs. Unfortunately, I didn’t even try a sip so I can’t compare it to anything taste-wise. I immediately though pho, though the broth appeared cloudier, visually closer to a tonkotsu ramen base. I tend to think the ingredients were more flavorful than the liquid they were bobbing around in.

I left tipsy, well fed and still thinking everything on the menu could stand to have a few dollars shaved off the price.

Kampuchea Restaurant * 78 Rivington St., New York, NY

Party Like It’s 4707

Anyone who is sick of reading food-related tidbits yet for some odd reason would like to hear me prattle on about even less interesting topics should head to Project Me!: Part 2 []. I've brought my personal blog back from the dead.

This fresh start is too late for 2009 but just in time for 4707, year of the ox. I always give myself a month before taking a new year seriously.


*At some point Eurotrip renamed itself to Korzo.

There seems to be an Eastern European culinary renaissance going on. I used to practically equate the post-3am East Village with pierogies and it’s not like cabbage and dumplings have ever gone out of style in Greenpoint and Ridgewood. But that’s old world. 

Recently, schnitzel and goulash has shown up at places like Fort Greene’s Catherine’s Caffe, Draft Barn in Gowanus, and Eurotrip in South Slope giving nearby Café Steinhof some competition. You could even toss in Ost Café, even though I think they only serve Hungarian pastries not hot meals.

I’ve been curious about Eurotrip, as well as its location choice because it fits in with the smattering of Slavic holdouts in what some people like to call Greenwood Heights (technically Sunset Park starts at 16th St. but everyone seem averse to calling it like it is. Ack I sound elderly when I get tough about neighborhood boundaries). Slovak/Czech Milan’s is just down the street, Smolen, a Polish bar, is on the same block and Eagle Provisions is also in the vicinity (it’s a little musty and overpriced but they do have a good beer selection—I used to buy chopped liver and poppy seed sweets there on my way home from the gym, sabotaging my workout and then some).

Honestly, I’ve never had much interest in Austro-Hungarian cuisine because it seems so bland and heavy (as opposed to Scandinavian fare, which I unfairly ignore because it seems bland and light). And I’m still not convinced otherwise. At least I chose one of those nearly-single-digit-degrees nights to find out for sure. 

My goal to try and not bulk up over the winter was not helped by the langoš, a.k.a. fried pizza. Yes, yes, I could’ve ordered the quinoa with flame-grilled paprika shrimp and microgreens but doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of even going to an Eastern European restaurant?

Eurotrip langoš

The fried dough was good in the way that fluffy, yeasty batter crisped up to goldenness should be. Instead of the purist butter and garlic version we tried the simply named pub style, a totally americanized treat oozing with Edam, tomato sauce and spicy German sausage. Just like I believe Sriracha goes with pizza, I can get behind pickled cabbage too. This condiment would never be right with thin crust, but the pillowy richness needed some bite.

Eurotrip chicken schnitzel

While the chicken schnitzel took up much of the space on the plate, the accompaniments hidden in the photo were more interesting. The breaded chicken cutlet was kind of dull, not dried out, thankfully, just not exciting. Beneath the splayed out poultry were wedges of red potatoes and a pile of soft sauerkraut (I do love sauerkraut) that I thought were studded with juniper berries. Hard on the teeth, but the nuggets turned out to be crispy pork bits. Nice. Sugary, pickled cucumber slices rounded out the dish.

Eurotrip krušovice lager

There was also a plate of geographically diverse sausages involved. Poland, Germany and Hungary were all represented. All of this combined with a pitcher of Krušovice, the house lager, make dessert an impossibility. I wouldn’t mind knowing what’s included in the $5 tray of homemade cookies, though. 

Eurotrip * 667 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

The Friendly Skies


Leave it to the Taiwanese. First they stirred up the pot with their lavatory-themed restaurant, Modern Toilet, and now they’ve recreated airplane dining with A380 In-Flight Kitchen. Airline food has a bad rap, but plastic trays would be step up from toilet bowls, don’t you think?

Photo from Reuters. See more.

“Our first hug was the Heimlich maneuver”

Heimlich Just in time for the Valentine’s season, a new article about the pitfalls of proposing in a restaurant is up at A topic near and dear to my heart, though I’m less concerned about the logistics of such operations and more interested in why men (and the occasional lady) need to hide jewelry in food in the first place.

On a side note, there’s been lots of Heimlich talk lately: gagging on rings in above article, the big Tom Colicchio save and a chicken and waffle mishap at Carroll Gardens’ own Buttermilk Channel. Maybe choking will be big in 2009.