Gramercy Tavern, Rounds 2 and 3 – Burgers, Burgers for Everybody

The one thing that I didn’t get the first go-around in the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern was the infamous burger, which is only available in the Tavern.

Gourmet burgers, the ultimate high-brow/low-brow question mark at so many restaurants in the city, have been having their moment for a while – and as much as I hate being a sucker for food media-driven trendspotting, when it comes to burgers, I’m still a sucker for a good one.  Let’s be honest, I’ll always be a sucker for a good burger.  And sometimes, even if you’re at a fine-ass restaurant, you want a burger.  This is one of those burgers that won’t make you regret ordering one.

off-menu-burger-gramercy-tavern-new-yorkI mean, for the love of God, just look at that.  A lot of housemade details: condiments, brioche-y bun, potato chips, pickled chilis, cured bacon.  These things, plus a lava flow of funky white cheddar.

Most importantly, you can really taste the beef, the grind and the juices.  The patty does not break into chunks.  The bun holds its weight against the grease drip and the heft of the meat.  I guess I’m not really surprised, but nevertheless it’s a damn delicious piece of culinary engineering.

Power lunch Wednesday, pt3: this medium-rare bad boy @gramercytavern #latergram #eeeeeats

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Some stupid-delicious blend of beef cuts (a base of chuck, plus brisket and short rib).  That’s a good mix, flavorful, still a little bloody, beefy/funky, fatty, done medium-rare.

House of Haos Gramercy Tavern Burger 2 New York

Gramercy Tavern (menu)
42 E 20th St, New York, NY
(212) 477-0777

Tasting Menu at Han Dynasty – East Village

When I went to Han Dynasty, we had a reservation for a large group, so were spared a long wait.  I don’t mess with long waits for Chinese food.  If I skipped Kau Kee for a thirty-minute line, you bet your ass I’d skip Han Dynasty, where on the night I visited, walk-ins for two were being told one hour.

Anyway, we ordered the relatively affordable tasting menu ($35 per person), which was just a set rotation of dishes from the menu.  For a lower per-person amount, Han would provide fewer dishes or fewer meat and seafood dishes.

As for the food itself, I agree in concept with Pete Wells’ write-up in the New York Times.  It’s not “authentic,” nor is it high-quality or notably well-made.  There’s a bunch of sugar and garlic (the garlic part isn’t all that foreign for Chinese food, but it’s also not used to that degree in Sichuan dishes I’d tasted in China), and a surprising lack of spice.  The spiciest entree was the dry pepper style chicken (an 8 on Han’s self-administered 10-point scale), and even that was middling at best.

That said, somehow, the meal was quite enjoyable, aided by a skillful front-of-house team.  The dishes were tasty and Sichuan in name, but in execution they certainly tended to veer more towards the land of General Tso.  For $35 per person though, that’s not altogether a bad thing.  As long as I don’t have to wait, I wouldn’t mind having Han Dynasty again.

Here’s a run-down of what we had.  The dan dan noodles: House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dan Dan Noodles 2 House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dan Dan NoodlesSichuan wontons:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Sichuan WontonsDumplings in chili oil:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dumplings Chili OilSpicy crispy cucumbers:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City CucumbersPork belly in garlic sauce and fried Taiwanese sausage:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Chinese Sausage Mouthwatering Pork Belly Continue reading

Lunch at Mission Chinese Food – New York City

I’d been hearing about Mission Chinese Food for quite some time, and I was excited that in general there was a resurgent interest in Chinese (or American Chinese) flavors and ingredients.  I’d purchased the cookbook for Mission Street Food, the equally creative and bootstrapped predecessor to Danny Bowien’s San Francisco, and loved the story, as well as Mission Street Food’s voice of irreverence and gung-ho-ness.  So this was my first stop when I passed through New York in August, late enough post-lunch hour (around 2:30) to avoid the notoriously long wait.

My first memory of the much-hyped Mission Chinese was how confused I was.  Walking around on Orchard Street, all of a sudden I was in this dingy entrance, whose signage is deceivingly similar to any Chinese take-out shop.  That crafty Chef Bowien.DSC_0562-001 But down the crooked hallway to the left and you’re in this economically furnished room (borderline dumpy) with a rambunctious sea of decor: a red-and-gold dragon swirling around the ceiling, an irreverent painting of some Mao-era horse-mounted general.  Biggie came on over the speakers.  It was all a dream…DSC_0548-001I ordered a bunch of things (mainly to try, knowing I had some eager take-out enthusiasts back in the UES).  The menu seems to have gotten quite extensive in comparison to the original San Francisco menu, so there was no way I could tackle even a meaningful portion of it by myself.  But I tried.

Tartine’s spicy pickled carrots:DSC_0552-001I haven’t had the original, but the freshly-pickled carrots were decent if unmemorable.  Briny, with a spicy finish.  The crunchiness and the brightness of the vinegar were a bit at odds with the rest of the meal.

Crispy pig ears (Old Bay seasoning, country ham powder): DSC_0555-001The entirety of the carnivorous slob in me loved this dish – a great blend of cracklin’-esque crunch, umami-charged unctuousness, and peppery seasoning.  I couldn’t stop taking bites of this, even after it had cooled down.

Salt cod fried rice (with Chinese sausage):DSC_0553-001 Continue reading

Phở Hòa Pasteur – Saigon

After a morning of hot & muggy tourism at the Cu Chi Tunnels, we stumbled back to our hotel in dire need of sustenance.  And since we hadn’t yet had any, nothing else sounded quite as sustaining as a bowl of phở (even if it was more than a little warm outside).  The concierge smilingly pointed us towards Phở Hòa Pasteur, and off we went in a taxi.

Even at three in the afternoon, there were a handful of diners slurping away at their bowls when we arrived in front of the restaurant’s humble doorstep.  We sat down and admired the simple interiors, a worker slicing away at a tabletop of chili peppers, several lazy flies buzzing about, the array of herbs and seasoning at our elbows.

DSC_0510 Continue reading