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Lulu and Po

Homespun and tiny with intergenerational groups (making sure skeptical parents see the neighborhood's
charms?) breastfeeders, small plates, Vampire Weekend tempered by Marvin Gaye, no reservations, no credit cards, Lulu
and Po is pretty much a New Brooklyn stereotype, and a sweet place, nonetheless.

Lulu and po bone marrow tacos

Maybe you've read about the bone marrow tacos? I
suspect more than few have since the vertically chopped bones with three soft
tortillas and a thatch of parsley-caper salad sat on nearly every table. They're
kind of a mess since tortillas don't absorb the fat like toasted bread does,
but I love the idea. And the accompanying house-made Sriracha was right on,
more tart, less sweet than the commercial version. I could totally see spicy
Yucatecan pickled red onions working with this too.

Lulu and po green bean salad

The wax beans in the wax and green bean dish had
been 86'd (I'm directly quoting from the chalkboard that listed that evening's
depleted items: a pork loin and said wax beans) which was ok. They were served
cold and tossed with  generous hunks of
feta and jalapenos for a little non-Mediterranean intrigue.

Lulu and po fried anchovies

The lightly breaded and fried anchovies were like a
Spanish bar snack (I've never had this exact thing in Spain, I'm just saying they could fit in) meaty, not greasy in the least and perked up with a
Sriracha-spiked tartar sauce.

Lulu and po iron pressed chicken

Smaller plates dominate, but the "iron" pressed
chicken, with its nicely crisped skin, is a medium plate heavy on brown tones and still more than
sharable. It made me remember the less purist, but slightly more
attention-grabbing sweet tea-brined chicken recently eaten at St. Anselm and
now I want to try brining a Thanksgiving turkey in sweet tea.

Despite the full house on an early Saturday evening,
the service was always pleasant, never rushed. Frankly, I was surprised to have
a dish comped as thanks for accommodating a weirdo seat that was in everyone's
way. That counts for something.

Lulu and Po will more or less be in my neighborhood,
ten blocks east on Myrtle, as of tomorrow. I probably won't rely on it as a
show-off if my parents ever come to visit because roomy seating and individual
entrees are more their thing (they might like sit-down Chinese-Spanish Sapolo,
however) but I would definitely give it another go.

Lulu and Po * 154 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Soi Polo Fried Chicken

Soi Polo is one of those restaurants like Chote
that is a secret to no one with even the vaguest chowhoundish tendencies.
Was it the doing of R.W. Apple Jr.? I don’t know.


Polo fried chicken exterior

It would take me more than the
five days I had to scout out (no, not gems–I decided this week that that word
is no longer usable) un-blogged stars. Thailand is tougher than Singapore and
Malaysia with their English-friendly signage (and Malay is written in Latin
script with food words that are easy to figure out) plus you really need to
stick in one place for a while to get a sense for what’s truly off the radar
and noteworthy.

Polo fried chicken

But after two previous fried chicken-free Bangkok
visits, Soi Polo had to be done. Known for its fried chicken and som tam, and
that’s exactly what we ordered. The chicken was crispy, golden and covered in a
mulch of fried garlic. Good, but certainly not the world’s best. I like the
sweet crunch from the garlic and the meat was moist, but I’ve yet to encounter
anything that beats the simple perfection of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, the New Orleans
favorite is no less discovered than Soi Polo.

Polo fried chicken som tam

Straightforward payapa salad with fresh shrimp, no
dried seafood or fermented crustaceans.

Polo fried chicken meal

Chang beer on ice and a wad of sticky rice pried out
of its plastic interior rounds out a nice lunch.

Polo fried chicken interior

I’ve read reviews disparging the air conditioned restaurant that used to be a small stand, but it was certainly not air conditioned unless I was missing something. No amount of fans can counteract the humidity.

Speaking of fried chicken, I saw this tweet while at
MBK and had to see for myself.

Kfc fried chicken bangkok
It was totally American-sized, but you do get real plates and silverware. Don’t forget the sweet chile sauce.

Kfc featured coleslaw

The coleslaw, however, came in a plastic container and was nowhere near the size as the salad-bowl version in the ad.

Soi Polo Fried Chicken * 3 Soi Polo, Wireless Rd., Bangkok, Thailand

Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar

I'm still not 100% clear why Guy Fieri staking a claim in
Times Square is causing such a flap. I mean, isn't that where one would expect
a wildly popular food personality to take Manhattan? Tourists have their fun,
locals steer clear. Win-win.

Guy's quad

Except that locals can't stay away. At this point, the
restaurant is already old news and it hasn't even been open a week.  If I'm lucky we've already moved onto the
backlash to the backlash.

Guy's American Kitchen and Bar is not technically a chain (though
if you want a similar vibe and for some reason only a chain will do, Brick
House Tavern + Tap
fills that niche) since it’s not an offshoot of his two
Santa Rosa restaurants. (I have semi-estranged family in that Californina town and almost want to
get in touch to see if they've dined at either.) It does borrow from Johnny
Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's menus, however. No "gringo sushi," sorry.

Guy's american kitchen and bar big bite burger

The night before I sampled the $18 1/2 lb Creekstone Farms
beef burger at Prime Meats in anticipation for a comparison with $13.95 Guy's
Pat LaFrieda blend of the same origin. It would be nice and contrarian for a flashy
everyman burger to best a pricier Brooklyn version that you almost expect to be
called a "hamburger sandwich" for old-timey effect, but it wasn't to be. (For the record, eight of the nine burgers served at the Time Square Ruby Tuesday cost more than $13.95–Guy's pricing isn't really a valid complaint in that neighborhood.)

Guy's american kitchen and bar big bite burger cross section

patty was too thin to be consequential, a nice enough fast food burger,
but not a serious all-around contender. I should've taken heed when not asked how I wanted
it cooked. The LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) dominated, though the SMC
(super-melty-cheese) did deliver. Brioche bun? It was fine. I guess I'm not a
member of the brioche-haters club that I woke up to this morning on Twitter. For reasons unknown, both of Guy's other restaurants serve the Big Bite Burger on a pretzel roll, not brioche.

Guy's american kitchen and bar malibu clams

If you don't mind a lot of cheese and shit baked into your
clams (I don't) you'll be fine with the Malibu Clams Oysters, smothered in Havarti,
spinach and onions.

Guy's american kitchen and bar rojo onion rings

Rojo onion rings. They were just onion rings despite the
touted panko, buttermilk, Sriracha and ranch.

Guy's american kitchen and bar big dipper

The Big Dipper, is yes, a french dip. I did not try this.

Guy's american kitchen and bar mojito

Sure, I had two fairly stiff cocktails at Rum House before heading
over to Guy's, but I'm still blaming the South Beach Mojito for the
rough-around-the-edges feeling I was saddled with upon waking (ok, there was
also a Morgan's Red Ale in there). I just wanted to try a cocktail and there was
no getting around the sweet even though this blueberry and mint concoction
seemed the least offensive, Barcardi Arctic Grape and all.

With all this said, I would totally go back if asked (are you asking?). I only
wish I had an expense account because that incongruous Steak Diane needs
sampling, as does the 18-ounce bone-in ribeye, both over $30. The Beer and
Honey Porchetta sails under at $29.50.

Outside guy's american kitchen and bar

Don't tell me that's not Guy's dad deciding whether or not to drop in for a surprise visit. 

I've tried to get better at note-taking while dining, but all I was left with the next day when I remembered I'd even taken notes was: John Cougar "Check It Out" and Thought Catalog waitress. Maybe that's all you need to know?

Guy's American Kitchen and Bar * 220 W. 44th St., New York, NY

Serendipty 3

We caught the last gasps of summer (yes, I'm very
aware that fall doesn’t arrive until next Friday) before Park Avenue morphed
into autumn. It was my 13th (dating) anniversary, though it wasn't meant to be
a big deal, no blow-out, no special flourishes, just a restaurant we hadn't
been to in a while and felt like re-visiting. And it's a good thing we didn't
go in expecting a super-special celebration (really, after 13 years it's hard
to get that excited) because the meal was kind of a bust.

And I don't even mean the food, which was fine
enough but quickly made irrelevant. It was ruined by the beastly couple next to
us who fought loudly through most of the meal in a total Real Housewives manner
and culminated in the husband calling his wife "trailer trash." Meanwhile,
their sending back food and demanding nature cancelled out our service altogether.
By the end of our meal, our water glasses hadn’t been refilled once. Squeaky
wheels, I guess. But squeaky wheels that will keep me from returning to the
restaurant again. It’s like the time when I threw up at Ruby Tuesday after
eating dicey dim sum earlier. I now have a bad association with Ruby Tuesday and
there’s nothing that can be done about it.  

I was ready to high-tail it by the time we were
handed the dessert menu, and then the decision was accelerated when the child
of the heinous abovementioned pair began playing DVDs aloud at the table (is
this a Dear FloFab candidate?).

But I did want a dessert still, particularly my
favorite all-American dessert (second only to pecan pie) that I rarely eat: a
big fat sundae to raise my spirits. Where?

I hate being one of those uptown/downtown dividers
(and really, I'd have to be lumped more into the borough-centric side of the
Brooklyn/Manhattan battle) but the Upper East Side isn't exactly my comfort
zone or area of expertise. I wondered, “Isn't Serendipity up here somewhere?”
Indeed, it was, and quite close to Park Avenue Summer. Ok, I'd play tourist.

Serendipity movie

That entailed getting on a waiting list at 10pm with
a quoted hour wait. Not a problem, I'd need a few shots of whiskey at nearby
Subway Inn (which isn't an old man dive on a Saturday night but hangout for a
lot of short, Spanish-speaking young men and people, other people I’m guessing,
who put Maroon 5 on the jukebox) to appreciate the ice cream parlor's (which turned out to have more savory items than sweets, including shrimp fettucine and sauteed chicken livers) frippery

Us seredipity 3

On return, we were ushered upstairs and asked,
"Have you seen the movie?" What movie? No. And then felt bad because
we were given the coveted fireplace seat for two where the scene from The Movie
(Serendipity, duh) took place and we weren't appreciating it properly. I'm no
Kate Beckinsale. Though, I admit it the setting felt more appropriate for the
anniversary we attempting to celebrate low-key. Others, however, totally knew
the movie and were taking photos of our seat. I had no idea it was that kind of
place, in the Magnolia Bakery vein. (Or not, I honestly knew nothing about its
history—Andy Warhol was a regular?—that’s far more charming and storied than an
early '00s cupcakery.) I also can't believe that Dubai doesn't have a
Serendipity yet.

Serendipity 3 pecan pie sundae

And it was exactly what I needed. A massive $15.95
sundae (a special, not on the online menu, with a name I can't remember) with
all of my favorite ingredients: butter pecan ice cream (no boring vanilla) hot
fudge and pecan pie (an entire slice is sitting in the bottom of that dish)
smothered in walnuts with a billowing cap of whipped cream studded with slivered
almonds (three different types of nuts and no peanuts?!). Um,
because I'm a glutton, I would've even tolerated a drizzle of caramel, but no
one should take my advice on constructing the perfect dessert because I have a
genetically strong sweet tooth (I will never forget taking my mom to the
Brooklyn Flea where she bought a bunch of artisanal candy bars and later
complained that they weren't sweet enough.)

Serendipity 3 peanut butter frozen hot chocolate

That's all I wanted, more than plenty for two (or
four) but I panicked over the $8.50 per person minimum on the menu (would they
really enforce that if were $1.05 under?) so James also ordered a peanut butter
Frrozen Hot Chocolate that came with four straws. Excessively excessive, the
whole thing, but a right-on night-saver.

Seredipity 3 * 225 E. 60th St., New York, NY


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Heroes and Never Ending Pasta

Defonte's duo

Defonte's With two weeks left in Carroll Gardens
(never mind that I'm only moving four miles away and have access to a car)
there are some oversights to be corrected. Though it seems farther because of
the BQE and Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance, Defonte's is technically only
three blocks from my apartment yet I haven't been once in eight years. Ridiculous.
So, I finally got the famous roast beef, mozzarella and fried eggplant hero, as
well as one, equally hefty with roast pork and pickled vegetables. Both seriously
filling workhorse sandwiches that I'm happy still exist in this ever rarefied
section of Brooklyn. I'm afraid I've been exposed to too many improved
versions, though, like Paesano's (scroll down) in Philadelphia (yes, weird to compare to
Philly, not NYC, but I don't eat a lot of Italian-American things on bread
here–I still haven't tried Parm either) and now I find the originals kind of
dull–or maybe just in need of a little salt or an extra condiment. 

Rocky Sullivan's I didn't realize the Friday night
6-9 lobster thing
they advertise starts at 6pm and means you need to be there
then, not any time in that three-hour slot. At 7:30pm, the 35 lobsters had been
spoken for. The cheeseburger and fries I consoled myself just didn't cut it.
And it must be said that if you're at Rocky Sullivan's, which is attached to
the Sixpoint Brewery, one should probably drink a Sweet Action or whatever may
be on tap, not a bottle of Bud, as suggested by possibly contrarian Sam Sifton
last week.

Never ending pasta bowl 2012

Olive Garden The Never Ending Pasta Bowl may not be
local or organic, but it's highly seasonal. Each August the ads appear, teasing
with the limited-time disclaimer. I'm not sure when it ends, but not much later
than Labor Day. I've written about the absurd secrecy of claiming this $9.95 promotion
in Manhattan
more than once, and this still hasn't changed. You have to ask because
it's not on the menu or any signs, then will be given one big bowl (plenty
for one meal) on the first round, then subsequently smaller ones. And if you
order a drink (no making fun of my malbec) at the bar while waiting for friends
to show up, you'll get an automatic 18% tip added in. Do I look like a tourist?
Who else but an American would be at an Olive Garden on a Friday night?


A Member of the 88%

Today I learned that 88% of residents of the UAE
dine in mall food courts,
which was no surprise whatsoever. (And that the waits for a table at the Cheesecake
Factory, which I'm still sore over missing by a few weeks, are as rough, if not
worse, than at any American location. Also, Cheesecake Factory is surprisingly
high on the wish list of a number of New York Times commenters.)

Mall of the emirates empty dining

This empty warren of seats at the Mall of the
Emirates during Ramadan isn't technically a food court (there were two of those
elsewhere) but where you could dine "al fresco" if eating at the waiter
service restaurants just to the left of the frame like California Pizza Kitchen
and Chili's, as well as Iranian Pars, Lebanese Al Hallab and South African The
Butcher Shop & Grill.

In the real food court, late night for a second
dinner, I nearly took a chance on the Zinger Shrimpo dishes at KFC (Singapore
isn't the only country with weirdo shrimp on the menu) but decided that with
limited time it would be better to go homegrown. We hit the food court at Mall
of the Emirates late night for a second dinner.

Al farooj xtra fire

Al Farooj is the UAE's popular fried chicken
franchise. I don't even know if I can call it fast food since it took close to
twenty minutes to get one spicy chicken sandwich, a.k.a. Xtra Fire.

Al farooj extra fire chicken sandwich

Fried chicken, chicken
sandwiches and wraps that wouldn't be completely out of place in the US are its
main thing, but the sides are where it gets interesting. American jalapeno
poppers and mozzarella sticks mingle with more local tabbouleh, hummus and
stuffed grape leaves. We just got fries.

Hatam mixed grill

If I had one more sit-down meal at my disposal it
definitely would've been Persian food since that's scarce in NYC. Instead, I
settled for a mixed lamb and chicken kabobs at Hatam, an Iranian fast food
joint. The butter, that comes in a little plastic packet to drizzle over the (large
for me) serving of rice wasn't solid but liquefied like popcorn butter.

Hatam mall of the emirates

I regret
not getting to sample sangak, this giant Iranian bread, or fesenjan, the
renowned chicken, pomegranate and walnut stew, but this wasn't half bad for a
food court meal.

St. Anselm

St. Anselm was the right answer to the
question? Which isn't to say that it wasn't bustling on a Sunday or that
Metropolitan Avenue was bereft of hanger-outers. There was, however, room for
two at the bar at 7:30pm, and holding out for a table probably wouldn't have
been more than 30 minutes but I didn't want to risk it.

St anselm trio

There was an endless procession of burrata, tomato
and basil salads being assembled in my line of vision. Too airy and blatantly summery,
the thick stalks of pea shoots, long beans and charred halloumi was more what I
was looking for.

I really would've been tempted by the rib-eye if I
hadn't just done a semi-splurge meal the night before (I still don't know if
you can rightly call a dating anniversary an anniversary even if it's been 13
years). Instead, the New York strip steak with pepper sauce sufficed. There was
plenty of beef and nicely charred, but next time I want something bone-in.

And the sweet tea brined chicken because even though
I can't stand the candied beverage, it lends just the right amount of subtle
sugariness to the meat and maybe even helps caramelize the skin (though I'm
certain it would brown and crisp up just fine using their combo
grilled/oven-roasted approach).

Our server made me nervous when she interjected,
"About the chicken…"

Me: panicking, bracing for horrible news.

Server: "It's whole."

Me, always concerned about over-ordering: "Oh,
so it's too much food for two?"

Server: "No, it comes with the head and feet

Oh, right, I knew that. Fedora, too, was serving birds
with little scrappy feet.
Frankly, I don't mind beak-to-claw dining and gnawed
on the blackened cheeks when no one was looking. The above picture is doing it,
and the rest of the food, no favors, but this is what happens when you try to
be all free-spirited and live in the moment and force yourself to leave your
real camera at home.

A bunch of professionally grilled things (there was also
a crock of lobster mushrooms involved) and a bottle of Italian rosé (I was
pretending to go along with the Labor Day is the end of summer thing–how are
you liking this cool, refreshing fall weather?) were the perfect counterpoint
to more mundane burgers on a Weber and lukewarm beers (which I enjoyed the next

St Anselm * 355 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY


It’s Not All IHOP and Cheesecake Factory in Dubai

Al fanar harees

You could easily visit Dubai and never encounter harees. It’s associated with Ramadan, for one, and Emirati food is more at-home food than restaurant fare, and well, there aren’t a ton of Emiratis in the city–17%, more or less–the bulk is made up of expats and guest workers. It’s definitely easier to find Indian, Middle Eastern of all stripes, or American, for that

Belgian beer cafe carpaccio
To wit, I ate at a Belgian chain (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) my first night in Dubai. Beef carpaccio and frites. Not really on purpose, but because it was one of the only still-bustling places (I hate empty restaurants) open in our hotel complex after arriving late on a Saturday. Despite all the dietary and dress rules we encountered, smoking is not much of a frowned-upon vice. It was too hot for sheesha outdoors this time of year, but you can smoke in bars (which are only attached to hotels and serve alcohol at inflated prices) as well as in quite a few restaurants like this one.

Rivington trio

And a British restaurant, Rivington Bar & Grill (it’s owned by the same company as Le Caprice and The Ivy) that I didn’t even realize was a chain. You could eat at sundown, around 7:15pm, but could not order a drink  until 8pm, a rule I still don’t understand. Potted duck with piccalilli and plaice with lemon and caper butter. There’s nothing like a nice shepherd’s pie while the temperature soars well into the triple digits.

Dubai festival city
But two of my precious few evening meals in Dubai were allotted for local food. Al Fanar bills itself as the only (and first) Emirati restaurant in town, which isn’t exactly true, there are a few others. It’s part of a sprawling mall complex, which should be no surprise, since practically everything can be found at a mall. It is also across the walkway from a Jamie Oliver restaurant and a Brooklyn Diner USA people in the desert can pretend they’re eating in Midtown.

Al fanar outside duo

The theme is old Dubai, meaning mid-century pre-oil days. You can pose with statues of donkeys, toiling men and pickup trucks (with a Trader Vic’s coming soon banner overhead). There was a very old air conditioner poking from one of the interior walls–odd for such a new structure–and we couldn’t determine if it was part of the yesteryear motif or not.

Al fanar meal

For iftar there was a prix fixe of sorts with a variety of entrees that shifted day by day during Ramadan with a choice betweensalads, appetizers, soups and beverages. When I asked for the harees, which isn’t always on the regular menu, I was steered away, “It’s like Quaker oats.” (This reminded me of a meal, a decade ago, at Ferreira Café in Montreal when I
wanted the accorda, a stiff bread soup, and wasn’t allowed to have it. I also see that it’s no longer on the menu.) Interesting brand name drop, but yeah, I knew it was pretty much a porridge. I still insisted that we (or rather, I) wanted it because where or when else would I ever be able to try it?

Al fanar harees scooped
Sure, harees is kind of weird, though I wouldn’t liken it to oatmeal. Essentially, it’s cracked wheat (bulgur?) slow-cooked with lamb (or chicken) until porridge-like, then blended until thick and elastic and drizzled with clarified butter.  I had imagined that the lamb would be shredded, not disintegrated, for a little textural intrigue. There is a subtle nutty, grain
flavor, but overall it’s fairly bland. I would’ve been fine with one scoopful, but the serving was enough for a large family.


The only thing I really didn’t like was the laban, a super-sour yogurt beverage. And I’m clearly alone because they sell enormous jugs at the supermarket (and at Turkish McDonald’s, not in the Middle East, though).

Smcfcu harees duo

I encountered harees the following night during a visit to Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. (I swear, I didn’t spend every waking moment in mall, and even wore a poorly wrapped shayla.)  It’s a popular venue for foreigners–more expats than tourists–to learn about Islam (when it’s not Ramadan they host breakfasts and lunches) visit a mosque and be able to ask dumb questions, or pointed ones, for that matter, even if the answer may be a little squirrelly. (All of the twentysomething women and men, who reminded me of the equivalent of Christian youth outreach types trying to make church seem cool, were wearing traditional dress, but if I were to have asked a question it would’ve been why when out and about do the women have to wear the full black abaya and head scarf while the men with them get to wear tee shirts and shorts.)

Sheikh mohammed centre for cultural understanding iftar

There was a spread of traditional food. We were encouraged to dive in and told that there was no such thing at lines during such gatherings, which made me think of Macau and Hong Kong where I was headed next. (I never rode a subway or took an elevator in Dubai–I wonder if they let people off before pushing on. For the record, Thais had very polite subway-riding etiquette in Bangkok.) I’m all about cultural understanding, but I’ll still be annoyed if you bumrush on public transportation.

Smcfcu desserts duo

And later, desserts. Dibs, i.e. date syrup is awesome.

Elsewhere This Week

While I've slowed down my posting a bit this summer
(also, there are still THREE MORE WEEKS left after Labor Day) I did write two
things this week elsewhere:

I praise the cashiers at Yip's in one of Eater's front of the house tributes.

I encountered haggis and more at Smith, a new
gastropub in Bangkok of all places. Read about it on Food Republic.