- The Man Behind The Music
- A Different Kind of Bar In Jackson Heights
- Live Music Theatre @ 92Y Tribeca
- What's Next for Dirty Mac?
- Realizing a Dream
- A Staten Island Band Strives to Make a Career out of Their Passion
- The Cyrus Movement Prepares for Musical Warfare
- Winston Ford's Information Highway
- Vespertina's Opera Songbird
Category Archives: restaurant reviews
A Bit of Brooklyn to Bite into
In the mystical land of Brooklyn, there lie many foreign and exotic kinds of food and drink. These delicacies are sought after by the bravest of adventurers for one does not simply walk into Brooklyn. The land is separated by a vast uncharted sea and populated by Brooklnites, a strange tribe of people who have great influence on what is fashionable in the civilized world. For those who manage to make a successful voyage to Brooklyn unharmed, its treasures are there for the taking. For those who can’t brave the journey, there is The Brooklyneer.
All joking aside, it’s more than just a little bit silly to make bar themed after another borough, especially one that can be reached within 30 minutes using the subway. The Brooklyneer, located on 220 West Houston St, is a Brooklyn themed bar. In many ways, the place feels like it might be something you’d find in the Universal Studios theme park. However, once you get past the gimmicky nature of the place, there lays a pretty decent place to chill. The interior design is interesting. It is reminiscent of some of the many chic bars you’d find in Williamsburg and they went so far as to even use some of the wood that is from the Coney Island boardwalk.
Depending on the night you go, you could either be listening to a DJ playing club hits or listening to very relaxing smooth music. The first time I visited The Brooklyneer, I was dismayed because the kitchen was closed at the time. Between 1 and 4am the chefs get off of work and the place becomes a full-fledged bar complete with singles trying to hook up. The two chicks I was with pointed out that although the music supported dancing, the space did not and I agreed. The cozy space was not meant for partying à la Ke$ha, however, this was the Saturday night crowd and I suppose they were trying to accommodate for that.
I came back the next night, a Sunday night. Now the atmosphere had changed quite a bit. Things were slow and low key. It was so slow in fact that the bartender, Dylan was happy to personally serve me. Dylan with his French mustache and interesting attire had the appearance of a Williamsburg hipster. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a job requirement or if he dressed like he did all the time.
For my first course, I ordered the Sunset Park sliders. My tongue was first greeted by fresh, oven toasted bread that was warm and soft. As I bit deeper, the tender, moist pulled pork and ham said hello in the juiciest way imaginable. The warm melted gruyere arrived between my tongue and the meats and gave everyone a nice big group hug. Then the spicy mayo showed up and lit its fireworks inside my mouth turning up the heat quite a bit. I finished it off with the crisp cucumber slice that the sliders come with. It was simple and fresh and although it did take a while to arrive at my table after I ordered it, it was well worth the wait.
I had to make sure that the quality was consistent across the menu so after finishing the sliders, I ordered a chili dog which just happened to also be the special that night. Like before, the order took a bit of time to arrive and like before, the bread was fresh, soft, oven toasted and the veggies were so green, you’d think they had a garden in the back. This time around the meat was a different kind of animal literally and figuratively, they use oven-toasted Mile-End all beef hotdogs. While some dogs can only play dead, what I bit into knew more tricks than there are sex positions in the Kama Sutra.
To drink, I ordered the house lager, named The Brooklyneer. It’s the cheapest drink on the menu and for an interesting reason, it’s brewed in Pennsylvania. Unlike the food, the drink isn’t anything special. It isn’t terrible by any means but it also doesn’t stand out. If you just want to have something to wash your food down and get a bit tipsy at the same time, it does the job well enough. Connoisseurs of alcoholic beverages most likely will order many of the other quality drinks on the menu though.
The Brooklyneer is a nice little spot for those who are too lazy to travel across Brooklyn to find the best eats. Though the theme is a gimmick, the food and friendly service are not.
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The Only Good Thing About Amber Is Just The Name
For many years, I had always told my friends how much I hated to experiment with new
foods. When I would get hungry, I liked to eat foods I knew and I enjoyed. It really bothered me when I would buy food I had never eaten before and I ended up hating it. As i grew older, such ideas started to disappear and I decided to give different foods a chance. To my surprise, I started discovering new delicious and very tsaty foods. Now, it’s one of my various hobbies.
It goes without saying, there are times where i really don’t like the food or the service for that matter. Amber Sushi Bar, located on 27th street and 3rd. Avenue, would be a great example of what terrible service looks like.
When I first entered, the first thing I noticed was the bar on the first floor. It took almost half the space of the first floor. Nevertheless, it looked tempting and inviting. The decorations give the restaurant a cultural and traditional, yet modern look and feel. Upstairs, things take a complete turn down.
The space is more limitted in the second floor, forcing the management of the restaurant to decide on a horrific seating arragement. The tables are arranged by rows, one after the other, with only few inches of space beatween each table. When I was directed to my table, where my friends had been waiting for me, as I was sitting down, my backside ended up in the face of an unfortunate customer sitting in the table next to ours. It was, I have to admit, an embarrasing moment.
I waited 15 minutes before I finally got a menu from the waitress and another 15 minutes for her to come back to take my order. We were given a choice between soup and salad. I opted for the salad. I got my main dish before the salad, and I had to let the waitress know she had forgotten to bring, not only my salad but my friends’ as well.
As far as the food goes, what can I tell you? It was average. It was not extremely good, and it did not make me feel like it was the best food I had ever eaten. But it was not too horrific either. I had a Pineapple Chicken dish that tasted very similar to the ones I have tried at some other restaurants. It was missing something. I wanted the dish to have something different to make such a typical dish a unique one, but unfortunately, it wasn’t there. I can only say this: I would not go back to Amber as long as it is my choice.
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A Feeling of Home With A Twist
David Burke Townhouse has been described in an array of word choices; whimsical, playful, elegant and even visionary, yet to my father Massimo Rossi, a devoted captain at the restaurant for the past seven years, his favorite adjective used to describe this four-star restaurant is simply “interesting.”
True, it is possible that Rossi has become jaded by the individualistic style choices made by David Burke on this unique restaurant, but he continuously gives credit where credit is due by insisting that Burke is his most favorite chef. “The innovative style that David uses in his food ideas is really mesmerizing,” Rossi begins “The cuisine choices that David makes really represent his personality, which is rather extravagant.”
The restaurant, located in an actual townhouse, provides a home like comfort while still remaining ornamental and focused on detail. Rossi says that the restaurant can relate to a broad variety of customers because the food itself is “accommodating to all tastes.” Rossi’s favorite meal is the cavatelli with shortribs. This platter consists of mushrooms, truffle mousse of course all over braised short rib. Rossi says the short rib is never short of “perfect”, always being tender, hearty and satisfying.
One perk of visiting my father at work is to be reunited with my favorite dish, the Cheesecake Lollipop Tree.
It is one of the treats that the restaurant is most famous for. Each lollipop is elevated on a stand and when eaten enriches ones mouth with a different flavor, whether it be chocolate crunch cheesecake or regular with strawberry creme on top, each flavor is sure to please. To add to the creativity behind this dessert, The tree also comes with bubble gum whip cream. The Cheesecake Lollipop Tree was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on The Food Network.
One cannot help but be mesmerized at Burke’s decorative, original and delicious creations while also being captivated by the modern art shown throughout the restaurant. The pieces he selects to be shown bring about a discreet yet glamorous aura to ones dining experience. One collection of drawings Burke has showcased is called The Key to the Kingdom created by Tony Meeuwissen. The drawings are fantastical and bring a artistic ambiance to the Townhouse that make it more like a gallery that happens to have amazing food. The balance between art and cuisine is shared perfectly in David Burke Townhouse.
Burke also combines his interests in cooking and art while remaining a true entrepreneur and inventor. David Burke Townhouse has been critically acclaimed. It won New York magazine’s Critics’ Pick, A 24 food rating (meaning very good to excellent) from Zagat 2011 Edition, and Time Out New York’s Critic’s Pick. “At this theatrical little restaurant … it’s a pleasure to watch the restaurant’s staid Upper East Side clientele gawk at Burke’s decorative and generally delicious creations as they go by.” Said New York magazine and Time Out New York commented “David Burke, the culinary merry prankster that knows how to cook.”
David Burke has made himself one of the leading pioneers in American cooking. He grew up in Hazlet, New Jersey and has always been inspired by French chefs and their techniques. He has a fascination with the power that individual ingredients have over the entire meal and the components he puts into his meals to turn them into works of art. Burke has a career fueled by creativity that provides him to have revolutionary products and cooking techniques. He has been featured on Iron Chef America and has opened seven restaurants throughout America.
Winning numerous awards for his culinary skills, it is understandable why David Burke is considered one of the best modern American chefs by one glance at his menus. Ranging from pretzel crusted crab cakes to tuna burgers with lemon French fries and spicy mayonnaise show how avant garde Burke can get with his meal choices.
Massimo Rossi has had prior experience as a captain at Le Cirque 2000 when it was at the Palace Hotel. With these duties, it is Rossi’s responsibility to not only direct but to supervise and train the fellow servers in the restaurant. He monitors their work habits in the dining room while handling the seating arrangements for the guests. He will at times serve tables to which he suggests food courses and appropriate wines to ensure that the guest has an amazing dining experience.
Rossi always knew he wanted to be in the restaurant business. He left his small hometown in Italy and went to the Culinary school in Switzerland when he was 16. Since then on he has worked on world-wide cruise liners and top of the line restaurants but claims that working for Burke has been one of his favorite experiences “I have really watched the restaurant grow and develop into this amazingly elegant yet casual restaurant that is nothing like anything else around. I also think its great how accommodating the food is to every palate, it makes me feel good that what I have invested my life in what can make a lot of people happy.”
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Petite Abeille is worth another date
I was fully prepared to stuff my face that late Sunday morning, and as I headed to the Belgium restaurant Petite Abeille, the anticipation mixed with hunger pains made me wish for the conductor of the Brooklyn-bound L train to go express.“This place better be good,” I thought to myself. After getting off the train and walking a few too many blocks because I got lost, I was there before I knew it.
“Yeah, its the place with the blue awning; next to the Mexican place,” said my classmate Jerrica over the phone. There, on 401, East 20th Street, plainly stood Petite Abeille, an establishment much like the seemingly perfect guy, who is handsome with a great personality and a good job. You’re almost certain he is the one until you discover “the flaw”, whether it be that he’s too much of a momma’s boy or has bad credit.
The restaurant’s name translates into “Little Bee” and is also the name of a Belgium children’s book that was popular in the 1970s.
The chalk boards and the shelf of children books toward the back suddenly made sense upon finding out this information. Clearly a family place, the atmosphere created a warm feeling like cherry pie, which I couldn’t help but think about considering the picnic-like blue and while plastic table cloths that invoke images of the fourth of July and all things American.
Red was subtlety consistent throughout from the painting of a red dragon that greets customers, to the candle holders, to the red wood chairs at each table and by the bar, to the Bloody Mary’s I coveted as they were sipped by a group of friends.
The serene yellow walls with white trim conjured up a mental portrait of a field of daisies on lightly windy spring day. The color scheme, along with the round modern light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, got lost in busy chatter during brunch
The atmosphere was as mildly exotic as the fusion of flavors of the Crocottte ($13), found in the breakfast, brunch and lunch menus in the eggs category. It is sure to break the monotony of the typical breakfast that consists of fried eggs, toast and bacon.
A delightful layered combination of eggs, tomato, pork bacon, and salty yet bitter goat cheese, it was concealed beneath pungent Gruyere cheese, in the same manner it would overlay a French onion soup. The crisp edges rendered a delightful treat circling the center’s chewy consistency.
Compared to the milky-tasting mashed potatoes, which resembled a round scoop of icecream and had an occasional lump that added character, it was a guilty pleasure, however, the spinach leaves, lightly covered in oil and vinegar, fooled me into thinking I was being nutritious.
I let it ease my conscious as I washed it all down with a Mimosa ($7), which was on the strong side. Considering the delightfully bitter taste, it was certainly not your Tropicana or Nature’s Best orange juice.
On the other spectrum of great food was the Vol au Vent ($17), the chicken stew with bacon and mushroom, which could be found on the brunch, lunch and dinner menus. Covered in an off-white gravy, mushrooms and pearl onions, and missing the bacon that it advertised, the only thing this bland chicken had to offer was tenderness. The two burnt croissant-like breads underneath it all just added to the frustration.
At least I had my side order of Belgium fries to drown in ketchup and enjoy. Not! The fries lacked the anticipated crisp exterior and soft steamy interior that would have easily been achieved by most fast food restaurants.
But just like the low credit score-having momma’s boy, sometimes the redeeming qualities can stand on their own if they’re just that good. Only by being open-minded and going on another date can you learn more about what Petite Abeille has to offer.
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Amber is all Ambiance
Sometimes who you eat with at a restaurant can make or break the experience, but even loving your company won’t help Amber.
Despite its misleading height of three floors, Amber is a relatively small asian restaurant on the second floor of its Gramercy location. The third floor is mostly unused, except for private parties, and gives the restaurant lofty high ceilings. The first is primarily “a bar area for young people,” in the area according to Wi Pam, the assistant manager. It’s long electric blue bar is modern looking and complimented by the neon orange of the stairs that clashes nicely with the brick facade hiding behind a curtain.
The space fits roughly 50 hungry people pressed together during the busy lunch hours in a closely spaced tables. It has two long leather couches on either of the exposed brick walls, but those stuck in the aisle’s wooden chairs will be surprised at how comfortably you sink in to them. The tables are an elegant dark mahogany that in the candle lit dinner atmosphere is almost romantic; I say almost because the Katy Perry blaring on the sound system is anything but.
Before you place an order the wait staff is patient, practically invisible. The same is true for when you get thirsty or need a fork if you’re not trained in the art of chopsticks. They begin to test your patience after a while but the giant Buddha surrounded by a small pond of fish by the kitchen remind you to keep your inner peace.
Once the food arrives, faster than the slow service might initially indicate, you realize the reason for the diner like prices. The portions are immense, but the food is disappointingly simple in flavor. Buddhist delight ($9.00), a combination of squash, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and noodles were so drenched in soy sauce that the smell and taste was uniform. The texture of the vegetables also varied from hard huge chunks of the broccoli and cauliflower to smushy squash in your mouth, something I was unprepared for. The side of sticky white rice it came with reminded me of a cheap Chinatown restaurant and did not effectively compliment the dish in any way, even to soak up some of the soy sauce.
The pineapple fried rice ($9.00) was a little better, but that’s not saying much. It comes in an empty pineapple shell, which is nice, but just like the Buddhist delight, the combination of pineapple, cashews, an array of vegetables and shrimp did not combine well to bring out any of the flavor. The pineapple for example had a sharp sweetness that didn’t allow anything else in the bite to be tasted. If you tried each individual element with just the rice however, it fared better in the taste buds.
“I want to just eat the cashews alone, I’d be disloyal to them if I combined them with the shrimp,” said Jessica Rozario, who left a third of her food untouched.
Needless to say, we decided not to take remainder of her meal home. It was nice to sit there though. If you eat there on a weekday night only a few people downstairs silently drink their cocktails, the second floor plays poppy music giving it a lounge feel and no one, especially not the wait staff, bothers you. Just makes sure not to get your hair stuck on the gum stuck on the wall. If you want good Asian cuisine you would probably have better luck eating at any of the other 18 restaurants in the area.
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Eating With the Small Bees
Délicieux! Magnifique! Je ne vais certainement revenir à cet endroit encore une fois et pas seulement à cause de la classe !
In case any of you are confused it means : Delicious ! Magnificent! I am definitely going back to that place again, and not just because of class!
If you want a scrumptious breakfast that leaves you wanting more, then Petite Abeille is where to go. Located on 401 East 20th Street this restaurant, even though it is small in size, carries a big punch.
On the outside of the restaurant they have seating. This served me well since I sat there waiting for Sabrina and Ashley, also on assignment with me, to arrive. Even though it was somewhat warm, when you are sitting in one spot with the wind blowing, reading Jon Stewart’s book “Earth: The Book”, it gets pretty cold.
After they finally arrived, and apologized, we went in; but before we went in I noticed the big blue A staring at me through the window. I have to say seeing that made it a lot easier to eat there. If it would have been lower than a B I would not have eaten and instead watched them eat.
We entered and a waiter showed us to our seats. As we sat there I kept asking Ashley what certain items were; she’s the foodie of the group. I ordered a croissant ($3.00), a Gaufre de Liège waffle ($4.00), and hot Belgian chocolate ($4.00).
The waiter was kind enough to put the croissant and waffle on different plates because I don’t like my food touching.
When the croissant came it was so soft, flaky, warm and awesome. Biting into it felt like my whole mouth was skipping through a soft fluffy cloud. I ate all of it.
The waffle was sweet inside which was ok with me. Just to think I was about to ask for syrup! Every one of its square shaped craters tasted as if filled with Aunt Jemima every time I chewed.
The greatest part of the breakfast was the delicious, scrumptious, lip smacking, tasty Belgian hot chocolate. Take Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream and heat it up until it is fully liquefied and you get that amazing chocolate. As soon as I took my first sip of the chocolate I was in a chocolate trance. My biggest disappointment as far as the breakfast goes happened when I finished my hot chocolate. If it wasn’t for my nutritionist I would’ve ordered at least another.
However, I must say that they do breakfast better than lunch. First, my lunch and those of my colleges took what felt like forever to arrive. When it finally did it was not worth the wait.
The Petite Abeille Burger ($13.50), a 9 oz. burger that comes with fries, is made with BLT with cheddar on a brioche bun and their special sauce. Since I don’t like anything that remotely seems healthy I specifically asked that there be no L or T or any other veggie on my plate.
The burger, stated as Black Angus ground in house, tasted great. Think of a hot summer day where you are in the park having a BBQ and you watch that hot juicy burger being cooked over the coals and then you eat it. On the other hand I couldn’t fully enjoy it because even though I asked for no veggies there was a curl of purple onion on my bread. Safe to say I didn’t eat the bread. Also my food was touching which I didn’t like!
The fries were blah. I could’ve taken McDonald’s French fries dipped them in water and they would have tasted better.
Add to that that my experienced was rushed because I had to make it to class on time. All in all there is a HUGE chance I will go back again for breakfast, lunch not so much.
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“Can we eat outside?” were the first words out of my mouth as soon as I encountered the hostess at Blue Smoke, that unseasonably warm Friday afternoon. It was near 70 degrees, and I couldn’t even fathom stuffing my face with barbecue food let alone having to do it inside the dimly lit restaurant. “I’m sorry, but the outside dining area is only open after five thirty,” the hostess explained. Of course it is, I thought.
The hostess led my group and I to a spacious booth with a great view of the outdoors, where we would not be dining. The restaurant was dimly lit, with a large bar running from the front door all the way to the back of the restaurant, where a couple early drinkers were already mingling. The bar was lined with bottles of wine all the way to the ceiling, despite the generous amounts of taps lining the wooden bar top. The waitress was very knowledgeable in helping us select beers to go with our meals, although our underage group member (who shall remain nameless) stuck to a soda.
Since Blue Smoke is a barbecue spot, (verified by the huge neon BARBECUE sign posted out front) I decided to be traditional and order the baby back ribs, which the waitress raved about. Now, I can’t vouch for my barbecue tasting skills, but when I took my first bite of those delicious looking hunks of meat, I was sorely disappointed. I had to stop mid-chew and decipher what in fact I was feeling. The ribs were dry and pretty tasteless, especially for a restaurant that boasted to have the best barbecue in New York City! Not quite.
I made sure all my group members tried to ribs to make sure I wasn’t just having an off day with my taste buds, but they all agreed with me. The ribs were a disappointment. I ended up letting Joe finish them up, which he gladly did, after slathering them in a baptism of barbecue sauce.
There is one redeeming factor in any movie with a sucky lead: a great supporting cast. And I definitely picked the best supporting cast! The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food on the table by far. I swear when I had my first taste, I almost cried in happiness. Finally, I wanted to scream, someone has done macaroni and cheese justice! There was no wateriness, it wasn’t too crunchy, it was absolute perfection. Heaven smothered in cheese.
What’s a good meal without an even more amazing dessert? Luckily at Blue Smoke they have an amazing dessert platter, which allows you to sample their apple fritters, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate layer cake, and their key lime pie. I was mostly indifferent about most of these desserts; I’ve seen them done before, and usually better. The apple fritters however, was amazing. it was topped with a cinnamon ice cream and was just the right balance or tart and sweet to top off the beginning of my impending food coma.
Blue Smoke may boast the best “barbecue” in New York City, but if you ask me they should stick to sides, dessert, and drinks and leave the grilling to someone else.
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Baluchi’s is meat lover friendly
Normally I don’t eat at Indian restaurants. It isn’t because I’m a picky person or anything like that, it’s just because I usually don’t eat very often. I eat Latino food at home and if I do buy anything outside, it’s usually fast food from a local pizzeria or food cart. So when I arrived at Baluchi’s to dine with a group of students from class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know that Indian food is spicy but that isn’t a problem to me at all. As for what I had to expect in terms of taste and texture, I had no clue.
Small, quaint with Indian décor, Baluchi’s certainly sets the tone, making you feel as if you traveled to the east though I was a little disappointed there was no Indian music playing. Well there wasn’t any music at all for that matter. Another disappointment came when I tried to order Tandoori Quail. Too often, I find that restaurants advertise an exotic meat on their menu and when you try to order it, it turns out they don’t have it. That’s what happened at Baluchi’s, when I went there. To be honest, I’m not going to fault them for it; I don’t think many New Yorkers regularly enjoy quail to begin with. I just make it a point to order the most exotic looking meal on the menu of any restaurant I go to, just to see if they actually have it. Usually they don’t. Noticing my disappointment, the waiter suggested another meal I might like. He suggested to me, the Combination Platter for my entrée.
The appetizer arrived quickly. I had ordered Boti Kebab which is a cube of lamb marinated, cooked in a clay oven. Sounds tasty, yes? Indeed it was. Often, the lamb I eat comes from street vendors and has a warm, bold flavor and a texture that varies from spongy to gritty. This is where Baluchi’s threw me off. The Boti felt like chicken. Though it was not some dry poultry but rather a meat overflowing with the warm and bold flavor I had expected along with a pleasant mild spiciness that won’t have your tongue causing house fires. The brown meat holds itself together well and requires some chewing before it goes down, each clamp of the jaw releasing saliva producing agents upon your tongue. Also there was a lemon, tomatoes, cucumbers and some kind of herb to go along with it. The plants weren’t bad but average; nothing special. That was just the appetizer.
Next, it was time to feast upon the friendly waiter’s suggestion. Despite the fact that I was the last person to join the table and thus the last person to order, I surprisingly was the first one to receive his entrée. I liked that but did find it a bit strange until I saw the difference between my meal and the meals of my classmates. They had ordered food that was mostly non-meat. Now, I assume the waiter based his suggestion on my size and the enormous amount of masculinity I exude. I say this because as one of my fellow classmates pointed out to me when my plate landed on the table, it was just mainly meat. The combination platter is a large assortment of lamb, chicken and salmon. No rice, few vegetables, no herbivores allowed. Fortunately for my waiter, he was right on his assumption of me. Baluchi’s cooked animals do not disappoint. This lamb was prepared in a different style from my appetizer lamb. It was slightly sausage like in appearance with the soft, spongy texture I had expected earlier. The taste brought me back to familiar places. The fish, hot pink on the outside, was so tender; I had difficulty picking it up with my fork, it would fall to pieces. Once in my mouth, it unleashed bursts of tangy, salty goodness that tickles the tip of the tongue. The chicken filled up an impressive portion of the meal. A pretty shade of pink on the outside with a brilliant glowing white inside, the chicken doesn’t stand out much in terms of taste. It isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but it just doesn’t “wow” you. It tastes like chicken marinated with Indian spices. If you don’t know what to make of my vague description of it just keep this in mind: it’s satisfying but not exciting.
As I launched my meal into the event horizon of my mouth, I remembered something. I remembered that I was eating during Baluchi’s lunch special hours and that the entire meal is half off. Considering the quality of the meat that’s brought to the table, it’s incredible that you could spend just as much money on a single fulfilling entrée there as you would at McDonald’s which offers significantly lower quality food. This alone makes Baluchi’s worth visiting at least once. Other than price value, the food itself is great, at least on the carnivorous side of the menu.
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A Cloudy Review for Blue Smoke
Frantically pacing down Park Avenue, I was on a mission. I turned the corner and got to 27th street and before I could even pull out my Blackberry for the directions, I knew I had found it. That neon blue “Barbecue” sign hanging off of the building was like a north star leading me to barbecue heaven, or in other words Blue Smoke.
Upon entering the dimly lit fairly spacious restaurant, the overwhelming floor to ceiling windows allow natural light to flow into the restaurant and you are hit with a sudden sense of southern hospitality mixed with a modern metropolitan aura. The bar itself takes up half of the restaurant, with the entire back wall filled with bottles. Their alcohol selection is one of the largest, to the point where it takes up three pages on the menu, while their food options only take up one.
The Blue Smoke Burger (11.95), though simply named, could be a contender for one of the best burgers in the city. It is relatively small but makes up for it through its height. The moist and juicy beef patty, which is perfectly seasoned, is almost as good as the fresh ingredients that come with it. One bite and it leaves your taste buds mesmerized.
Their side dishes are rather impressive and could even be considered meals of their own. The French fries were the perfect balance of crispy and salty while their creamed spinach literally melts in your mouth. What really won my heart was the baked mac and cheese (7.95). Served in a deep dish, it was like a bowl of thick, delicious, melted cheese drenching the macaroni noodles.
The Kansas City Spare Ribs [half rack) 14.95(full rack) 24.95] were another story. “Big, juicy, spicy and sweet, slathered with our KC Sauce” makes them sound utterly delectable on the menu, but in real life they were quite a disappointment. The texture of the ribs was almost rubbery and made it more of a hassle to eat them rather than a pleasure. The specially advertised KC sauce was barely on the ribs at all. Luckily, they keep a variety of extra sauces on the table.
The dessert varied. Some of the amazing types were the apple crisp and the banana cream pie. The apple crisp consisted of glazed baked apples, crispy crust and topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. The banana cream pie tasted incredibly fresh with banana slices and whip cream. Yet, the chocolate mousse cake was dry and grainy tasting and the key lime pie tasted too tart.
All in all if you crave a chill jazz scene with good foods and good friends, Blue Smoke is highly recommended, but ironically enough, don’t count on their barbecue.
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Save Yourself the Money, Get Take-out and Eat Under a Blacklight
I consider Japanese food a safe bet. White rice, teriyaki meat, a couple of hand rolls and miso soup; what could really mess with that? I didn’t outwardly challenge the staff of Amber Gramercy to answer that question for me, but they gave it their best shot anyway.
My group-mate David made a reservation with the seemingly chic and highly praised restaurant a week ahead of time, apparently not early enough to guarantee a table for our group of five anywhere but next to the drafty windows and conveniently behind the only entrance, where David and I would have to lean in and suck in our guts each time a new diner needed to walk through the door. Naturally, we requested a new table and were brought up to the dining room the website had promised us, a cramped but large loft illuminated only by some red spotlights on the brick walls and on the enormous Buddhist statue in the center of the back wall.
I strained my eyes and my wallet looking through the menu and found a few dishes that wouldn’t leave me without bus fare for the ride home. I was too hungry by the time my chicken teriyaki with steamed vegetables and salmon avocado roll arrived to notice that my miso soup, traditionally served as an appetizer, never made its way to the table. It did hit me, however, after a few minutes of sloppy chopstick maneuvering of the rubbery chicken on my part. Over the not-so-soothing sounds of Kenny G that were blaring from the overhead speakers, I could hear one of my group-mates notify the waitress who had finally stopped avoiding us long enough to hear our complaint.
“Oh, do you still want your soups and salads?” she asked, practically willing us to decline.
Really? Nah, that’s fine. You just keep that money, clearly our immediate questioning on the student discount made us seem like we had the extra cash to throw around for nothing. No, I didn’t say it, and I couldn’t really hear myself think it, either.
Just when our patience and time were beginning to run out, our miso soup dessert arrived. At least, I’m told it was miso. My tunnel vision in the dark dining room could easily have caused me not to notice the waitress scoop my bowl into the tiny koi pond and plop the lukewarm water on the table in front of me, but I’ll keep assuring myself that that wasn’t the case.
I offered up my credit card to cover the bill and took my group-mates’ shares in hopes of ending the experience before I realized anything else was missing from it. I gladly accepted the 10% student discount and darted for the door, the light, and some air that didn’t carry screeching clarinet tunes to my poor ears.
Oh yea, the vegetables were good.
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