Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Top 5 Dead or Alive...
I get asked a lot, "Right now, don't think about it, top 5 restaurants". Problem is I already done thought about it cuz. I'm always ready with the favorites. Music, movies, sneakers, and food, I got chu. I already did my favorite rappers so I'ma do the food, sneakers, and movies at some point. Here, I got you 25 of them food joints cause I couldn't keep it to 5. I hate lists where it's titled the "Best". These aren't necessarily the "best" but in my book they are MY personal favorites and I ranked them for fun. The only criteria I used is "like" how much do I like dinner there. It really shouldn't ever be more complicated than that...
1) Peter Lugers
Unstoppable. I grew up in steakhouses and besides Chinese food, this is what I know. You can't beat these cats. Anyone who brings up another steakhouse needs to be taken out your phone b. People bring up Striphouse or god forbid, Del Frisco's. Those restaurants use wet aged steak that comes out of a bag dun. Look, Willy-b is extra soft in the middle, but you can't stunt on Luger's. It's what they need more of in Williamsburgh. Un-ironic, real grown man, B.I. AHHHH, rare, dry aged, broiled at the highest heat possible, laid to rest for 10 minutes, and then sliced for two. Stop fuckin' around, Luger's is the champ.
2) Szechuan Gourmet
That's striped bass with miso chili. Go to the one in flushing. 39th st is passable but the one in flushing is the megatron don. Ma Po Tofu, cumin lamb, chili intestine casserole, cold plate, water braised beef with nappa, water braised fish with nappa, oooohhhh they gettin' paper! My Pops loves Szechuan food more than me. I'm more into Shanghainese, Taiwanese, and Cantonese food cause I like balance, but this place is so on point it's #2 even though it's not my favorite style.
3) Imperial Palace
This is my favorite Cantonese restaurant all time. Best dish in all 5 boroughs, steamed crab over sticky rice. They DO NOT PLAY here. Lamb with red onion and shallots is good too as are all the Cantonese classics: beijing pork chops, pan fried noodles with seafood, shrimp with walnuts and mayo, etc. The chefs love Oriental Garden and it's good, precise, well executed, but there's much more of a soul to Imperial Palace. Same high quality ingredients and more warmth to the food. It's like the Frankies restaurants, there are more expensive, probably more precise, Italian restaurants, but nothing that transports you home with the quality that they do.
4) Nanxian Xiao Long Bao
My favorite place for a Shanghai-Taiwan style breakfast. Soy milk, crullers, radish pastry, beef in pancakes, soup dumplings. It is my favorite style of food and Nanxian is the best place to get it. Grew up on this stuff and if I got a last meal would have to be soy milk, cruller, beef pancake with soup dumplings.
5) John's on 12th St
My boy Kenzo and I have a real problem with John's. We try to eat two vegan/vegetarian meals a day so we go to Angelica's a lot. But mother fucking John's is right next door! We see that carbonara in the window and it makes us want to shoot ourselves for eating vegetarian chili with vegan corn bread. I mean, Angelica's is prob my favorite vegetarian restaurant but come on... John's is classic red sauce in the East Village. I'd go as far to say it's a poor man's Rao's but I don't own a table at Rao's and only got to eat at the Vegas location so it's John's for me and I got no complaints. Just no matter what, by no means, ever, ever, ever try to take a shit in their bathroom. It is nearly impossible.
6) Kuruma Zushi
I sat at the sushi bar with this dude and had the best sushi experience of my life. Do the Chef Omakase and he'll just cut fish until you tell him to stop. They fly fish in from Japan twice a week, perhaps even more and it shows. There are breeds and species of yellowtail that you just can't get here. The kanpachi, jack fish, golden eye snapper, and yellowtail toro are beyond anything you've ever tasted. True story, first big paycheck I ever got from working as an attorney, I brought my girl at the time here for lunch after coppin' a pair of Barker Black's (shoot me it was '06, the shits were aiite then) around the corner. The omakase for 2 people with a bottle of sake ended up $420... it wasn't even 2pm. Even then, I gladly paid and returned the shoes. Come on, $420 for the sushi of your life? I'd do it again if I could get paid from another law firm.
7) Bar Boulud
Ohhh shit! Peep my Damian Sansonetti trading card! Not only is Damian the Head Chef at Bar Boulud, but they got Mike Madrigale who is one of the best Sommeliers in the city. He is the guy every restaurant needs. Someone who's genuinely happy to be there on his feet 10 hours a day, never gets sick talking about food, and fucking cares. Telepan said something to me today that I fully agree with. No matter what industry it is, you need a team and every one needs to care/buy-in. You look people in the eye and sometimes there's just nothing, they're dead. But then there are the guys that are alive. Even if that guy doesn't have experience, Telepan was like "I can make a cook out of him." and he's totally fucking right.
Lately, Mike's been at Sud, but Damian, the Dipset Goonie Server, Michelle, and the other Sommeliers are on top of it. You got Damian in the kitchen killing it with the best charcuterie in NY, great specials all the time, and a petit fours that never fails. I hardly ever get dessert, but at Bar, I do champagne, charcuterie board, Damien's pasta special, a protein, and petit fours. Anyone who's been to Bar Boulud with me knows... it's not just food, it's HBO.
8) Frankie's 17 Spuntino
Frankie's is special to me. When we first opened Baohaus, one of my first post-shift meals was at Frankie's with my brother Evan and my girl at the time, Ning. We were tired as shit and I still remember my order. Cavatelli with red sauce, meatballs on the side, broccoli rabe, and house red. I don't like cavatelli with the sausage, I just want it plain with red sauce. Every culture has that thing. Whether it's minced pork on rice, rice and beans, or cavatelli with red sauce, you just want it plain and simple. Frankie's has the best cavatelli I've ever had, it's homey, perfect lighting, and great people. You talk to Italian people like Madrigale and they'll tell you, "This place is just like eating at my Grandma's with one country rib in the red sauce type shit." Restaurants like this that capture an era, a culture, and family are a treasure... I've never really met these guys but would love to. They are doing great things and deserve all the accolades they get.
Look, it's cheesy to put your own shit on a list, but I'm not a liar. Baohaus is my 9th favorite place to eat in the city and if I didn't eat here 7 days a week, it'd probably be higher up. My order is always a bowl of minced pork on rice with a fried chicken patty on top, and two small pieces of chairman pork belly and haus beef on the side with no bao. Baos are cool, but I prefer braised meats on rice. I think the fried items like birdhaus, oyster, tofu, and broccoli are actually best in the bao cause you get textural contrast. Braised meat in baos is soft on soft.
Come to think of it, maybe I should put a "manager's meal" option on the menu so people can eat it this way too haha. I mean, when you're at home with your family, you get a bowl of rice and throw a bunch of shit on it. It's how we eat Chinese food.
Kenny and Zack put on the best show in the business. People talk about "watching the masters" at chef's tables or open kitchens in 4 star restaurants but I don't want to watch a bunch of bozos with top hats wander around with elevator music on in the back practicing the art of how to complicate cooking in an effort to justify the price tag. I've never had fun eating at a 3 or 4 star restaurant besides Kuruma Zuahi, but every single time I go to Shopsin's I have a good time. It's probably the most NY restaurant you could go to. The food is on point: sliders, ABC, mac 'n cheese pancakes, nutella milkshake, etc. It's one of those restaurants that you can take anyone to and they'll love it. White, black, yellow, purple, I've never brought anyone to Shopsin's that didn't enjoy it.
Kenny will hate me for putting them in this post because he actually doesn't want customers, but he deserves all the praise he gets. He's fucking hilarious, Zack keeps the food consistent, and Luke is my favorite waiter in the biz. It's really a special place and even if you get thrown out, it's a story to tell.
Worth the trip to Woodside. Right now, it's the best homestyle Thai food in NY. Get the kao soy, fried whole snapper w/ sweet chili, green mango salad, larb, green curry, honestly, every thing is fucking good there.
12) Yemen Cafe
There's only one thing to get here and it's the yaneez. The owner roasts whole lamb all day long with a special blend of Arabic spices. You don't get to pick what cut, but there isn't a bad one in the house. Some like the chops, but I prefer neck and shank. I love the cardamom dessert tea jump-off at the end too.
13) Great NY Noodletown
Come on, you already know... oyster and sausage casserole, wonton noodle soup with roast duck, fried squid jump-off, steve likes the beef and egg joint. Steve also walks around town with glasses, a blue tooth, an abacus, and a side kick. Dude is all retro, all the time.
POW, there is absolutely no question this is the best fried chicken you'll ever have. There's a lot of good fried chicken in the city, but this is my spot. I've converted half the hood with Bonchon and they won't admit it publicly, but the Koreans GOT EM! The skin is crispy like on peking duck, it separates from the meat ever so slightly, the sweet soy garlic glaze is perfect and the hot is really hot after two drumsticks, but you need both. One's the fastball, one's the change up. SO fucking good with soju. And please, don't even bring up the Korean fried chicken at that Momofuku fried chicken dinner. It's for yuppies who've never been to Bonchon and have no concept of the standard... like my twinkie cousins. LOL. The DMV style is dope though, I fux with that.
Pastrami, climax, done...
16) Harlem Cake Man
I get the three flavor slice: coconut, pineapple cream, red velvet. they known for red velvet, but true story all of us that lived in the neighborhood and ate there every day fux with the pineapple cream cheese. They'll also make you custom cakes with any fruit you want. Like, I used to go to the Chinese grocery store, get funky canned fruit and they'll put it in a cake. RIP to the trap spot on S. Oxford that got shut down. What up Twinz? Keep Ft. Greene funky!
17) Russ and Daughters
Every one loves the lox, but I make my own super heeb. If you care enough about your shit, this is what you'll do. Go to R&D, get a lb of whitefish and salmon salad, 3 oz of wasabi infused flying fish roe, then take the F train up to the 20s, go to Ess-a Bagel, and make your own super heeb. Dirty secret... R&D got horrible bagels. Out of the lox, I like sable. They also got good gefilte fish.
18) Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Got this photo off a blog. Don't know if Nom Wah serves that titty buffet consistently, but every thing else I've had. Hands down best dim sum I've had in a long time. I used to always pass by going to the post office when I lived in Chinatown, but it was extra funky inside for years. Like, so gutter that no one in the hood under 60 was eating there. It was the joint for old heads who smelled like moth balls. But, they re-did the interior, kept the food the same, and it's back like cooked crack. Get the shrimp rice roll, shrimp dumpling, shu mai, xo turnip cake, chicken feet, damn, for real every thing is undefeated. The texture of the skins and dumpling wraps make the dishes, but the fillings are generous, fresh, and every thing is hot since it's made to order not sitting in carts.
Funny thing, it's become a critical darling of late and you see MAD white people in the joint. I actually do a lot of dinner dates in Chinatown cause you get privacy, there aren't as many industry heads, bloggers, etc. The waiters don't want to talk to you, no one looks you in the eye, every one leaves you alone and I like it. Tried to go to Nom Wah a week ago so I walked by the window and saw mad food writers I recognized so we had to bounce. Can we have a industry night so yall don't blow it up? I swear, once something is on an eater heat map you can't go for 90 days. Why does every one have to be at the same restaurants at the same time???
19) BCD tofu house
Eh, do it just like that! Kalbi cooked in the kitchen and seafood soondoobu. Best korean bbq in manhattan. I usually don't eat bbq, but i really like theirs and the soondoobu is very good too. For gam ja tang or kalbi tang, i'd rather go to kun jip. for haemul goojang, i need to find name of place in k-town that does it best. For the record, why the fuck do you want to cook the food at the table? They do it perfectly fine in the kitchen, your girl don't come out smelling like beef, and it frees your hands up to drink soju. I mean, dun, when have you ever liked a girl that smells like beef fat? It's gonna take a lot of CK One to fix that HAHAHAHA. Playin, if you wearing CK One these days, you might as well just shower in vanilla extract and throw on some gap.
Chef here is great. Every day he's in the same spot doing his thing. When there aren't orders, he's there taking the blood lines out of the fish. Nothing pisses me off more than when I'm paying $5 a piece and get yellowtail or tuna with the blood line in it. I understand you're keeping food cost down, but it's just disrespect for the customer and product. Charge what you need to charge to do it fucking right. Cotan doesn't even charge much at all and you NEVER get a piece with tendon hanging or a blood line. Get the sushi deluxe, for $21 you get uni, toro, and kanpachi, you can't fucking beat it. The tuna dip is good too. Raw tuna tossed in soy, wasabi, served with a bowl of rice.
21) Sandy's Lechoneria
Mofongo and Rabo Guisado aka oxtail on rice, they got pickled hot sauce too. Fux wit it. Then, get 1/2 lb of pernil to take home. If you have time, hang out in the neighborhood. Lots of good Mexican food, other lechoneras, and Original Patsy's on 1st ave between 117 and 118th. I also adopted P.S. 112 so if you have kids in that school they gonna eat GOOD! I mean "well" haha.
22) 456 shanghai
I have to admit. For 6 months, this was the best soup dumpling in all 5 boroughs. Even over Nanxian, but ever since their NYT review, it's been slightly off. I'm sure they're back on track since I haven't been in about 2 months. It always takes a few to absorb the new business. The photo above is the cold plate which you MUST start with. I like it with the kau fu, beef tendon, wine chicken, jelly fish, and green veg. I don't know the american name for the veg but it's like a baby mustard green in Chinese. Other hits are xiao long bao, pork and pepper stir fry, 8 treasure sticky rice dessert, liang jing yi soup, beef in egg pancake. For stir fried small eels with leeks, Shanghai Cuisine still has the best version.
My favorite pizza joints are always in rotation. For a margherita slice, it's still Di Fara's. For Sicilian, I actually like Artichoke. But for sit-down, in the city, I fux with Arturo's. It has that coal oven flavor, but a lot of NY Coal oven slices are too soft in the middle and soggy at the point. My order at Arturo's is a white pie with clams and garlic on top... very underrated pizza in the city. It has a slight crisp to the crust and while it's thin, not too thin, and retains some snappiness. Pizza nerds don't rate Arturo's all that high, but I don't care. I'm not driving out to New Haven every time I want a clam pie. Go to Arturo's, hang out by the piano, watch the Mets game, you'll love it. You'll see my taste in Italian food is red-sauce, family restaurants, old school. I'm addicted to that style of service, food, and family. Can't beat that shit. When you go to restaurants, just have a good time yall. Don't pick the place apart...
24) Ganh Mi Oak
Ox bone soup, done. Don't order anything else. they also have some of the best kim chi in k-town. You have to season yourself so add the salt, white pepper, and scallions, but careful with salt. Add it, stir it, let it sit 20 seconds, then taste. Otherwise, all your salt sinks to the bottom and the last 1/3 of the soup is way too salty.
25) Ukrainian National Home Restaurant
True story, I actually eat at Veselka more cause it's convenient, I like the big glass windows, and late night, it's fun. Josh Ozersky also swears by the burger there. For classics though, the food is better at Ukrainian National Home. Get the potato pancakes, beef stroganoff, stuffed cabbage, beef goulash, i love this style of food. It's like Korean food for white people in the winter haha.
Bonus: Sammy's Roumanian for Passover with the Marks Family aka Hip Hop Moses aka Romey-Rome. Happy Passover O-Beezy!
Lastly, if you got a top 5 or 10, put it in the comments!!!