Lunch at Barbuto – Meatpacking District, NYC

On a bright February afternoon, my friend and I met up in the Meatpacking District at Barbuto, in this garage space that had long ago been converted into one of New York’s seminal restaurants of the last ten years.

The restaurant is expansive and airy.  During warmer days the walls along the street can be drawn up (garage doors) to make the whole place an al fresco experience, and even with the window-doors down, the place is exceptionally bright.

I’ve read about the jw roasted chicken, and liked the easy-going Californian spirit, but I mostly knew of the restaurant as a kitchen where some of people whose cooking I really like had previously cooked there – namely Justin Smillie and Ignacio Mattos.  Chef-owner Jonathan Waxman is a bit of a godfather figure, having been on the ground floor of Californian cuisine and then bringing that aesthetic to New York.

There’s not much else, just relaxed but thoughtful dishes, highlighted by that ridiculous, baller roast chicken.

Shaved brussel sprouts with hazelnuts.  Refreshing, with the crunch of leafy greens and toasted hazelnuts.  Could eat this all day.House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad Roasted chicken with salsa verde (“pollo al forno”), in a shallow pool of oil.  Crispy, flavorful skin, with tender meat.House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City JW Roast Chicken The sausage (chorizo?) pizza with greens (broccoli rabe?  kale?).  Flavorful, but not particularly memorable. House of Haos Barbuto West Village NYC New York City Sausage PizzaBarbuto (menu)
775 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
(map)

Barbuto on Urbanspoon

Yakitori Tori Shin – New York

Funnily enough, on the night where the otherwise fantastic folks at Tanoshi bungled my reservation, we took a brisk walk some blocks down to another well-regarded Japanese restaurant in the Upper East Side: Yakitori Tori Shin.  Michelin-starred yakitori is a strange concept in New York, if only because it’s hard to place among the endless European and New American restaurants that otherwise populate the list.  High-end sushi, sure, but yakitori?  Drinking food?  But this is carefully-sourced drinking food, with Himalayan rock salt at the bar and stuff flown in from Japan.  So, hell yes.

Despite (or perhaps due to) its placement in a nondescript block of the mid-sixties, Tori Shin is a cozy haven of sake-lubricated Japanese suits and my Asian-food-aficionado brethren luxuriating in their charcoal-haze element, slurping and glass-clinking and opining and laughing their way to a good night.

Tori Shin’s goods were simple, straightforward, well-made, crisped and burnt when they should have been, equally so for the tender and buttery.

A bowl of daikon and cucumbers. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Pickles Quail eggs, lightly crisped.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Quail Eggs Shishito peppers, with a healthy char.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Shishito Peppers These spicy fried chicken wings weren’t from the grill, but I’m not complaining. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Wings Grilled chicken skins.  One of my favorite yakitori dishes, that wonderful chicken proxy to bacon, glorious compressed sheets of cracklin’.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Skin Continue reading

House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Santa Barbara Uni Quail Egg

Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar – Upper East Side, NYC

I’m a big fan of Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar.  I’m a big fan in spite of its rating downgrade (to a B), because the violations it was cited for aren’t serious violations (in my view anyway – you can search for ‘Tanoshi’ here), and because (a) good sushi is damn expensive in New York, a city with no Sugarfish, and (b) I’ve had two amazing rounds of omakase at this tiny Upper East Side chef’s counter at a pretty reasonable price point.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City StreetThe reservation process used to be really confusing, done only by phone and notebook and handled by Chef Toshio’s wife.  Since then, they’ve migrated to online reservations (much better, much easier).   There are three seatings per night, at 6pm, 7:30pm, and 9pm.   When we arrived, we found our places around the cozy bar (you sit by the order your group arrives prior to the seating).

The rules of the house are posted:

House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City RulesA plate of salmon in vinegar to start, with a dab of wasabi.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Salmon TatakiA dish of scallop sashimi.  Gloriously sweet. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Scallop Sashimi After this, the omakase portion started.  The first piece was fluke cured with kelp, with a fleeting green brininess.  Chef Toshio’s rice skews a bit toward vinegar, but only lightly.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Fluke Cured with Kelp Next up, winter Spanish mackerel with a bit of ginger and scallion.  Mackerel’s never been my favorite fish (especially cooked), but the curing process takes a bit of that funky fishiness out and the ginger provides ample balance.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Winter Spanish MackerelMarinated tuna, superbly tender for akami. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Marinated Tuna AkamiShrimp, creamy and sweet.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Shrimp EbiSalmon, with a thin sheet of kelp (?). House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Salmon White albacore with moro miso.House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City White Albacore Moro MisoAn annotated map of where the best Japanese seafood is found.  Take note. House of Haos Tanoshi Sushi Upper East Side NYC New York City Wall Map Continue reading

House of Haos Ramen Sanshiro Upper East Side NYC New York City Shio Ramen Chashu

New York Ramen Quest 1.0

In the past year or so of New York City life, I’ve made a small pilgrimage around the city to try some of New York’s finest (and most hyped) ramen offerings.  As you’ll see, I’m still missing quite a few notable exceptions (Ganso, Takashi, Chuko, Minca, Yuji, Ramen.Co, and mainstays like Momofuku and Menchanko Tei), but here are my favorites to date, in general order of preference.

Ramen Sanshiro (open late-nite only, 249 E 49th St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a ramen landscape overcrowded with rich, tonkotsu-driven broth, Sanshiro’s late-night shio ramen is a tremendous breath of fresh air.  There’s a nostalgic fragrance to the soup (for me at least), intensely satisfying and full of umami, chicken broth that manages to be flavorful without being greasy or reliant on onions.  Running on fumes or adrenaline after a night out, or just getting into the city post-commute, the bowl can conquer a midnight craving without completely destroying your ambulatory capabilities in the way that a heavy dose of pork bone on high heat would.  The noodles are half-way between the angelhair’d twirls of Hakata-style ramen and the thick, springy curls, accompanied by a runny half-egg and a slice of deeply caramelized chashu pork.

Hide-Chan (248 E 52nd St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps, website)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Like Ippudo, the noodles here are the distinct Hakata-style, thin and hard, much the way I prefer my ramen most of the time.  I didn’t care for the black garlic ramen that I had on my first visit here, but I gave this narrow second-story shop a second chance.  On my next stop, I ordered the Kogashi shoyu katsuo ramen, which was deliciously fishy (katsuo is bonito) and light, almost sweet.  I added a seasoned egg, bamboo shoots, & chipped garlic (these are good, in moderation) to go along with two fatty discs of chashu.  I realize that my top two choices are not tonkotsu-based, but lighter broths are more in my wheelhouse.  Perhaps it has to do with a brainwashing from Chinese noodle soups, which predominantly feature lighter broths, but without getting too Freudian in my self-analysis, I just emphatically enjoy a powerfully flavored soup that doesn’t feel like a gut punch of fat.

Mu Ramen (tbd, Long Island City, Twitter, Menu)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lest I forget my manners, nobody puts baby in the corner.  By baby, I mean tonkotsu pork broth ramen, and I don’t know what I mean by corner, but Mu Ramen’s Tonkotsu 2.0 is a pretty tasty version.  The broth is a two-day labor of love, with some ridiculously scientific hodge-podge of pork parts (not to say that the Japanese chains’ versions aren’t).  My broken-record appreciation for a lighter-bodied tonkotsu is a key reason for why I liked Mu so much – I had room enough after a pork belly steamed bun, some shishito peppers (with yuzu salt), and a bowl of Tonkotsu 2.0 to walk back to the deserted L stop, which is not something I could say with a bowl of Akamaru Modern.  The pork jowl makes for a great alternative to traditional chashu, and much preferred (stemming from my early ramen-crazy days in Los Angeles getting fat on Santouka’s special pork) I had a bowl when Mu Ramen was still in pop-up mode in Bricktown Bagels in Long Island City (they are currently prepping a brick-and-mortar location of their own).

Now, there are quite a few other bowls I quite enjoy and have gotten multiple times, since the above places are sometimes a bit hard to reach, especially now that I live in Hell’s Kitchen.  They are: Continue reading

Sultanahmet Koftecisi – Istanbul, Turkey

On the way back to New York, we had a day in Istanbul, so we stopped by Sultanahmet Koftecisi to grab some Turkish meatballs – kofteh.House of Haos Sultanahmet Koftecisi Istanbul Turkey Salad Pretty delicious, with a delicious harissa sauce to add a kick of spice.  Plus a cool drink of Ayran, a savory yogurt drink, to balance out the spice.House of Haos Sultanahmet Koftecisi Istanbul Turkey SausageHouse of Haos Sultanahmet Koftehicisi Istanbul Turkey Sausage 2Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta
Meshur Sultanahmet Koftecisi, Divan Yolu Cd No:12
34400 Fatih, Turkey
(map)

House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada 3

Gandarias Jatetxea – San Sebastian, Spain

There’s not much to be said about Gandarias except that it represents a sublime amalgamation of the best things we found throughout the old town in San Sebastian: a lively crowd shuffling for standing room, immersed in good wine and conversation, endless platters of delectable bites on display at the bar (with more stuff from the hot kitchen on order), fat legs of jamon strewn up from the ceiling, good wine flowing from the bar, boisterous and funny bartenders serving that good wine, some indeterminate music in the background but drowned out by laughter and shouts and wine-fueled lines from men and women romancing each other and friends reveling in being in San Sebastian and old-timers watching these rambunctious visitors over a glass of red or white.

Here, we sampled the goods:

House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Bar House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Charcuterie Plate Jamon Salumi ChorizoHouse of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Pintxos House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Crab Tarts House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Goat Cheese House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada Mushrooms Hongos This is by far the most beautiful thing we ate at Gandarias, and one of the culinary highlights of the entire trip, to be honest.  We’d seen the txuletas being passed back and forth in the bustle and din of Bar Nestor and were definitely craving one, and with a little bit more space at the standing bar in Gandarias, we ordered one.  Good god, look at this.  The char, the perfectly juicy red meat, the roughshod crackling of sea salt.  And the drifting smell of that highway of fat rendering in the kitchen.House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada Continue reading

Zeruko – San Sebastian, Spain

Right across the street from Bar Nestor is another lively tapas bar, Zeruko.  Due to some freak accident, definitely not by choice, we chose a few healthier dishes, accompanied (of course) by a glass of txakoli.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txicholi This simple sliced tomato salad with onions, olive oil, salt, and olives.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Tomatoes This stuffed pepper (tuna salad), with crouton and chopped onions and balsamico.  This happened to be one of Myra’s favorite dishes of the trip, if only because it was surprisingly delicious, or just what we needed at the moment – a common theme throughout our San Sebastian experience, finding a favorite where least expected.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Red Pepper Tuna Onions House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Red Pepper Tuna StuffedBar Zeruko
Calle Pescaderia, 10
Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain
(map)

Bar Nestor – San Sebastian, Spain

We only had time for a quick bite at Bar Nestor, which is one of the smaller spaces in Parte Vieja, famous for its tortilla espanola and its txuleta, a beautifully fat-wrapped bone-in ribeye.  So we got something we could enjoy just as much, a plate of jamon iberico, and another plate of roasted pimientos with sea salt (the Spanish version of one of my favorite Japanese dishes, simple shishito peppers done basically the same way).House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon Iberico Ham House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon Iberico Ham 2 House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain PimientosBar Nestor
Pescaderia Kalea, 11
20003 Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa
Gipuzkoa, Spain
(
map)