Chinatown Secrets

danieltalsky | NYC,Restaurants,Reviews | Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Walk down Bowery from the Lower East Side and watch as the signs turn to Chinese.

and things are marketed a little differently,

walk into what looks like a little alley with hipsters milling about and see if you can find 9 Doyers St.

so you can walk into the (not really) secret bar of Apothéke, an amazing, fancy cocktail bar.

Notice the chandelier made from flasks.

The drinks are $15 but they're worth it.

Date Night at Sutra

danieltalsky | Restaurants,Reviews | Friday, June 18th, 2010

So I'm unemployed and hustling contract web development work, but special nights with the girl are important, so we make things like this happen.

We have a friend who works the kitchen at the excellent vegan (and reasonable!) price fixe restaurant, Sutra.  We'd been wanting to go see his work for awhile, so we finally did.

This isn't so much a review (short review: everything was impressive to a die hard meat eater and the staff was unbelievably warm and sweet) as a photo tour of our four courses.

The evening started off with the ring of a gong (behind my lovely date), and a speech about gratitude for the fresh local ingredients, some of them plucked from the earth that very morning:

Next, we watched our friend plate the first course, which was seriously a raw food lasagna.  Sounds perhaps gross and crunchy, but it was warm and amazing.  The zucchini and fennel was thinly sliced and the avocado made it luscious like vegan food rarely is!

I was glad we were sitting at the counter so we could see everything plated, and see it go from that to this, the finished product with grilled spring onions on top:

Next was a delicious salad with sea beans, which are weird salty seaweed but really kicked ass on this salad, which was not gross and ice cold as too much salad is:

Then the worth-waiting-for main dish… an Indian themed melange with some spinach saag (read: gravied paste), lentil soup, red quinoa, and an amazing cherry, parsley chutney.  On top was a mushroom saute with a creamy sauce made with cashews.  I could eat vegan a lot more often if this is what the food is like:

Love this array of desserts in progress… I guess I put it down to fast to take a proper picture but it was a little fig-sesame crust with strawberries and coconut ginger rhubarb ice cream:

Thanks for a wonderful dinner, Sutra.  We'll be back.

A Two Night Stand at "How to Cook a Wolf"

danieltalsky | Restaurants,Reviews,Seattle | Thursday, April 9th, 2009
How to Cook a Wolf

How to Cook a Wolf is the trendy Upper Queen Anne restaurant I wanted to hate, but I have failed.  Turns out that not only does it have a sexy decor that packs the place until late, but they really know how to serve a good, human meal that leaves me feeling nourished and excited.

I went in once about a month ago for drinks (it's very close to my house).  Queen Anne is a kind of fancy neighborhood, but not the kind of place where a trendy restaurant would normally go.  It's a bit of a credit to the 'hood that you can even get a drink at 11pm.  They made us some kind of crazy pear margarita and, even though we were already full from dinner, we got some olives, just because the place looked so cool.  

The olives were Castlevetrano… a rich, meaty bright-green kind that my girlfriend loves.  They seriously are some of the best, and we vowed to make it back.

A month or so later, we did.  We got the Octopus Salad, the Baked Polenta, and the Spaghetti.  Japansese food has honestly soured me to octopus, but this was thick slices tossed with some kind of crisp bean (Controne) and parsely.  It was meaty and nourishing and… we ate it with the gusto it was clearly designed for.  The polenta was a super moist, milky polenta.  Two rounds of it, baked crisp on the outside and sitting in a kind of rich, cheesy soup.  My girl and I don't use serving plates, we just scoop out of the serving dish and it felt totally natural here.  The spaghetti was simple and hearty with a huge pile of cheese on top.  It was tossed with anchovy, garlic and chili.  When we were done, the last few noodles were swimming in olive oil, which, although good, was a little much and discouraged us from eating every last noodle.

When I was there, I saw that they serve dinner every night until midnight.  In my neighborhood, there's nothing else I know of that serves dinner after 10, and I don't have a car.  So last night, after I was done with everything else I needed to do… I got a great idea.  Why not grab my book and walk up to Wolf?

It was such a good idea.  I got there just as the last of the dinner rush had cleared out, and I had the nearly full attention of the bartender.  I didn't get far into my book.  He picked my courses, poured me "half glasses" of wine to pair with everything, and generally made me feel like a king.  I had the Escolar Crudo, the Treviso Salad, and the Meatballs.  God knows what the wines were.  Escolar is a really buttery fish I've had several times before as sushi.  Here, though, they served it with an avacado puree and a little chopped grapefruit on top!

This is what you want to see in a restaurant like this.  They're going to take chances, and more often than not, it's going to work.  The salad was Traviso (something like radiccio) tossed with wine-soaked golden raisins.  The meatballs were just a hot metal oven dish of four hearty meatballs cooked in sauce.

Look, I've been to plenty of fancy restaurants.  I've been to plenty of trendy restaurants.  How to Cook a Wolf is a place that sits me down and feeds me, goddamnit.  That's what I like.

Early Impressions of Homegrown

danieltalsky | Restaurants,Reviews,Seattle | Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
HomeGrown

So when a new restaurant opens in Fremont, land of the upscale tech worker, it's a big deal.

And when it's a "Sustainable Sandwich Shop", that's even a bigger deal.  The also brand new and next door Phở place, Lucky's Phở , was packed with people from day one.  There's already a gourmet sandwich shop in the hood, so the bar is set high.  But I think Homegrown really has legs.  

I had a half sandwich of the Chicken Thigh Sandwich with: bacon, lavender pear butter, goat cheese and mixed greens on whole grain.  It was kinda tiny but it was also under six bucks.  I got a cup of their soup of the day, a chicken chili with hominy and delicious in it.  And a soda… under ten dollars.  This is a lunch place.

It's all wooden and friendly inside.  The feng shui could use a little love but this is good stuff.  There's beer, decent coffee, they compost everything… and they stay open until seven so you can go get an early dinner after work.  

I'll update you when I've tried half the menu.

Vios Cafe and Marketplace

danieltalsky | Restaurants,Reviews | Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I've been complaining lately about Greek restaurants.  In case you haven't noticed, they're really bad.  Seriously, at this point, when I see "Greek Restaurant" I can pretty much assume it's going to be the same limp and sad diner food.

Dry-ass gyros (you could get better from any decent gyros stand), cold and hard moussaka, overdone vegetables in a pasty tomato sauce, greasy orzo.  Basically a $13 greasy plate of crap that you need a good, cold Mythos to wash down.

Am I being too harsh?  Probably, but I've noticed that if a "Greek" is code for this kind of diner food.  A perfect example is the overpriced Costas Opa in Fremont.  If it's good, then they bill it as "Mediterranean" and leave the Greek out of it.  There's one of these Greek restaurants in just about every neighborhood of any town.  It serves a purpose I suppose, but I've just about had enough of it for a lifetime.

That's why when Amanda said, "You want to go to the new Greek place by my house?" I was indeed dubious.  As we walked up I noticed that it said "Greek / Mediterranean", so I guess they're splitting the difference.  They serve Mythos, so it's Greek as far as I'm concerned.

But then, I had some of the best Greek food I've ever tasted.

The restaurant lives on the back-side of Capitol Hill, where some of the foodie vibe of nearby Monsoon and The Kingfish Cafe clearly rub off on it.  I don't think anything else has succeeded in this space, but when we walked into the clean, bright restaurant, it was nearly packed on a Wednesday night, a good sign that it's caught on with the very locals.  It's got a big deli-case setup, but the food is priced like… well, humble fine-dining.

We had a couple of simple plates, Salami plate (from the truly spectacular-in-every-way Salumi) and triple-meze plate.  The pita was hot and fresh, and the baba-ganoush and tzatziki were fresh and vibrant and a little chunky just like they should be.

The star was my entree though: a pork stew.  It really was more of a terrine, where vegetables (and in this case, fruit) and meat are braised for a long time in a small amount of thick, flavorful braising sauce.  It was a gentle stew of roasted potato wedges, incredibly soft chunks of pork, and plums slices(!).  I can't tell you how much meat done right pleases me.

That was the only real dish we ordered, but I saw other lovely meat dishes come to people's place, and all looked done with the greatest care.

I think I'm ready to have another look at Greek food.

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