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manolands

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  1. Recently, I had the wonderful experience of going to Belarusian Xata. It’s a very, very new spot so it’s really hot off the press in terms of discovery value: only three months old. I can understand why it has laid low because it’s all the way out in Brighton Beach, a food kingdom few venture to, a foreboding unknown!!! I was especially excited to try this one because I have been to Belarus, and I was hoping it would be a kind of Belarusian-rural-kitsch restaurant that you find in the countryside. Amazingly they got the genre down to a tee. I mean, this is maybe the single most “authentic” restaurant I’ve ever been to in terms of the experience. They even had the fake wood tables and chairs AND the flavored vodka. Belarusian food, as well as most food of the former Soviet Union can be considered an acquired taste to come. Lots of fried, fatty, and salted components would be a great way to describe the core of the cuisine. This restaurant does that, and does it well. It’s a great place to sample Belarusian delicacies like Draniki, which feels like the Potato Latkes ancestor, being thicker, more uniform in shape, and often stuffed. I ordered my go-to appetizer at any former Soviet resto: herring with onions/potatos. I’d dare say I like a bit more saltiness to herring, but that’s me being a bit nitpicky. A solid herring plate it is. Any semblance of a diet went off the rails with the Draniki, fried pork, and cheese sauce (pictured below). I promise it really wasn’t bad. I am a really uptight eater, meaning I judge the shit out of restos, but this actually played very well in a way that only a former Soviet resto could. I may like Draniki better than Latke’s because there is just so much more you can do to them. Meat filled, veggie filled. I BET YOU COULD EVEN MAKE VEGAN ONES :-O!!!! Anywho, it was solid, but if that’s too much of a “fuck no” end of dishes for you, then they have a huge selection of other items to choose from. Fish, Shashlik, etc., you name it!
  2. I am BACK!!! After a long, long hiatus, partially as a result of travels, and partially as a result of issues with my learning disability, I have had trouble coming back to writing. But encouragement from so many of my friends and family has moved me to get back into it. I’ve continued to try hundreds of new restaurants, particularly in NYC where I am from. I thought I’d start it out with a particularly unique Staten Island establishment: Lakruwana. Little Sri Lanka’s NYC HQ is in Staten Island, which makes for a cumbersome journey to its great concomitant restaurants, but it’s well worth it in the end. There isn’t an overwhelming number of restaurants per se-- perhaps no more than 15-- but many of them have become celebrated among the few places to get quality Sri Lankan food in the city. I am also doing a major New Jersey and Staten Island push, so this resto fit into my new offensive! Lakruwana is quite an experience to visit. Its gold-laden front doors are covered in Sri Lankan reliefs, making for a grand entrance to an interior that looks like some warped alternate Sri Lankan reality from the surrounding Staten Island hills. Underneath the restaurant is the Sri Lankan Art & Cultural Museum (the only one of its kind in the city), if you want to tack that onto your food adventure here! Anywho, I went with my girlfriend, who was immensely skeptical of this Staten Island food push, and we both came away convinced of the virtues of these recent tactical maneuvers. The food is very tasty, although I am slightly rusty on Sri Lankan, and have yet to try some of the other options in the area. I want to hold off a full throttle endorsement until such time, but for now can highly recommend this place. We got the classics--lamprais for me, kottu for her. I was a big fan of the lamprais, which have the potential to taste kind of bland since its just rice mixed up with stuff. In this case, each element: the onions, the cashews, the curry etc., were all very good, AND worked together in a wonderful harmony of flavors. I got fish curry with mine, which I have been craving, and while it lacked some of the funky unusual tastes that one might find with a South Indian fish curry, it was cooked very well, and still tasted good. Spiciness was a slight issue for me since I love extreme spice, but they tried their best to bump up the heat. Ultimately Sri Lankan isn’t like Bangladeshi, for instance, in the sense that its extreme spices are often mild by comparison, from my experience. The kottu was also very good, and I was very fond of the chicken curry that came with it. Usually kottu can be kind of dry, but the wonderful lil curry sauce was perfect to enliven the taste and moisten the starch a bit, so to speak. I was sad to have missed the buffet. People rave about the buffet served in these giant clay pots. Indeed, that is how I remember first finding out about the resto whereby one of the websites I follow said “we went for the buffet” etc. All in all, I recommend you go try this place, and the others around to compare (like New Asha, San Rasa, etc.). Little Sri Lanka isn’t necessarily a Chinatown 2 in terms of its offerings and sheer breadth, but it is an under-explored, unsung hotspot for venerable cuisine.
  3. Hellllllooooo fellow citizens of the kingdom of rockwell!!! After a month or so hiatus I am back but no longer on the NYC forum having moved to Geneva!!! I need recommendations big time. I would love some adventures out of town but also need adventures in the city as well. I am extremely interested in Swiss food BUT would love to know about Balkan places, Turkish places, and others you think are noteworthy!! I am a sponge ready to soakith your advice!!
  4. Holy shit they are expanding rapidly. I had a feeling that their several locations in New York wasn't the end of this saga. I actually have eaten at the cart once and wasn't like overly wowed by the experience. I remember it being quite salty but this was some years ago now!! In DC it could do quite well ESPECIALLY IF IT STAYS OPEN 24 hours. DC's great weakness!!!
  5. Second time at Moldova Restaurant, and a unique one at that. This is the one and only Moldavian restaurant in New York (maybe another one but this like the HQ) and having been to Moldova I can assure you the food is better then in Moldova (I didn't eat at someone home or anyting like that BUT I am sticking with my opinion it isn't a place you go for food delights....). It is certainly worth trying and while not quite as good as some of the Uzbek or Georgian restaurants for instances it is still pretty good AND it has dishes you can't find elsewhere easily. Every time I've been I've gotten Mămăligă which is polenta like and served with cheese and sour cream or other things. It reminds me of my trip there and I enjoy it. Is it the best dish ever or some carefully constructed dish no but it's nice still!! I also like some of their appetizers. I got the Kielbasa yesterday which was nice while I wasn't as big a fan of the pickles (veggies). I was really disappointed to have forgotten to order stuffed cabbage as I love stuffed cabbage so if someone goes report back on the cabbage please!!! Last time I got the herring which for me is a go to because I love pickled herring. I would even go as far to say that Pickled herring makes the world go round. I remember it being pretty good. Admittedly there has been a big gap since I was here last so my recall from last time is a bit limited (#sorry!!). Anyway, I digress, me and my friends all got the mămăligă which is still as on point as the last time I had it. You really can't find this dish easily and while some Romanian restaurants have it for Romanians it isn't quite as big a deal as it is in Moldova. EVERY RESTAURANT and indeed every meal I can remember had mămăligă with it. Soooooo the verdict is come here to try a cuisine you never get and it actually is better then just a novelty. I don't imagine it will knock your socks off BUT it's well worth a visit!!! Also if you ever want to do something in Europe that is a little different visiting Moldova is certainly quite the experience!!!
  6. SOOOOOO I went to Agern last night. Better then I expected and I was amazed at the food hall situation they are setting up. Usually I find New Nordic food falls flat in America playing to a taste that is trendy and unable to transcend the inability for us to get the ingredients that make New Nordic food what is over zee ocean. New Nordic food is less a cuisine in my opinion then a phillosophy that requires certain ingredients to be true. Yes we get Cod but we don't get the Faroese cod that Noma (I think they get it from there not 100%) does that is super special or the special berry juice that I had at Faviken with berries grown several miles away. Yet this restaurant does a better job of it then many other of it counter parts. Is it as good as like a Noma....no but for now while the chefs are there I think it'll remain better then you'll think. We didn't do the tasting menu opting instead to do the snacks which were nice (forget all the different ingredients) while I had beef heart and my Dad had the Mackerel with like Dashi and cucumber etc. Both were very nice!!! The Mackerel had a very nice subtle almost refreshing flavor!!! Then we had the halibut for two which I found very interesting. It was both smoked and cooked and was served with a tomato broth that was sort of room temperature. It had very nice cherry tomatos probably from the green market as they look mighty similar to the ones you can get there. Then we had some salt and another dunking sauce I am forgetting but the smoked flavor with tomato was very interesting and nice!! The desserts were in New Nordic fashion kinda weird but I had the English Pea one with Peanut and surprisingly while a bit jarring have the pea taste at first the peanut butteryness of the peanut cakey thing in the middle and the pea worked nicely together. Sooooooo overall this meal was better. Do I think it'll remain nice......different story. The chefs are indeed staying it seems so thats good but the owner is involved with so so so much stuff (look up online the array of activities he's thinking of undertaking or is) that hopefully this restaurant won't be cast adrift and lose it's quality over time. They also have quite the list of liquers including Brennavin from Iceland which is famously drunk with Harkal, fermented Greenland Shark (weird species of shark). My main gripe is honestly the space. Putting the food hall in Grand Central was a great idea putting this restaurant in there was not so smart. It could even lead to it's downfall overtime. It is firstly immesnly difficult to find parking around there and it is the easiest to find once your in there being off to the side of one of the many super busy parts of Grand Central. It's also not really the type of meal you want at Grand Central being better suited to like a nice unique space downtown or somewhere else. Nevertheless, I agree with Don as he said in a previous post. Go now while it is interesting and fresh rather then wait for the quality to possibly decline in the long term. It will not be your absolute best meal but it was enjoyable and different and worth the trip!! My Dad and me will also try Luksus soon which is another New Nordic biggy in BK!!!
  7. I am supposed to go tonight depending on my plans with my friend!!! I am very skeptical of New Nordic food in NYC generally (PARTICULARLY IN BROOKLYN!!!). We have had a few attempts that have fallen quite flat but somehow manage to continue because New Nordic appeals to many. Having been to Faviken for instances I have seen that New Nordic is greatly reliant on the amazing ingredients of that region which we don't really get here quite as much among other factors which should cause skepticism of that cuisine being done in NYC. Anyway will see tonight but do expect this one to decline overtime even if they have moved to New York.
  8. YES!!!! Everything is brought out pretty quickly. You eat it almost as soon as it comes out. For instances, to your point, I saw what happens when you don't because my mom got full (it's a big several course tasting menu) and she left one or two pieces. It gets kinda soggy quickly so as you said quickness is key!!! They don't bring out several courses at once. Everything tempura piece is one at a time and the other courses come one after another in nicely spaced intervals. The only thing that comes out with several little plates is the first course amuse thing but most of that is served cold or at room temp and isn't tempura. I promise you this will capture some of what your looking for!!!
  9. This is by no means like a secret spot and has gotten a lot of press. I've been twice here now and have had really amazing meals with my family. I keep close watch of the food scene in Japan and I can say this is the closest thing we have to a real tempura restaurant down to the hiddeness of the restaurant discretely off to the side of a building (In Japan a lot of the restaurants are hidden in this way like Jiro which is in a subway thing as I recall but it's hardly the only example of this phenomena over there). The tempura is light and airy with not even a touch of grease to be found on the paper after lifting it up with your chopsticks. It is constantly innovative like our chawanmushi with crab and fois gras. I have never seen chawanmushi with that combo before and while done somewhere else it maybe way over the top here the slight sea flavor and richness of the fois just made this divine. And also they change the menu. Last time I came with my family was winter as I recall and they had a slew of other dishes. Tonight the Crab was particularly divine and tasted of the sea as if Neptune consummated it's relationship with this specific crab and elevated it to godly level. I could go on and on. We had nice fatty toro among and actually our fluke as I recall the fish was had a very nice ever so slight smokiness or some taste like that. This is the type of meal you could pick one thing and unpack it for awhile. OHHHH and lets not forget the shrimp heads. I am a stickler for the shrimp heads. I'm that guy who asks the sushi chef to fry them after eating fresh shrimp for instances. I love the richness of them. Tonight they elevated that taste to a new level yet again. Even the soba was great and tasted straight off the block!!!! Soooooo yes really great all around BUT a word of caution for our frequent Japan goers.....it may not be quite the level of Japan but it is truly one of the top in New York!!! Go here now!!!
  10. Really annoyed with this restaurant. This was my Dad's pick for the evening and it was a very respectable pick it sounded interesting etc. Nevertheless, our meal was not amazing. Really no reason to go here with so many great italian restaurants in NYCCCC. Soooooo we got the zuchini and egg plant parmasian to start with. That was the best thing not fancy but quite nice actually. Then it sorta went downhill from there. The pizza was only fine particularly if you take into account a lot of the great pizza in NYC. It just wasn't dazzling and with fucking pizza I expect dazzling. I'm in NYC I can have very high pizza standards. Then we had this pasta cooked in a tinfoil which was again fine but not outstanding. BUT THEN THE REAL DOWNFALL CAME!!!! I got the osso bucco as my main course AND IT WAS GOD DAMN COLD IN THE MIDDLE!!!!! Yes I had one of those moments you see scrawled on Yelp pages!!!! I've actually rarely had that experience so I was quite annoyed. I didn't like complain or anything I even ate it after they reheated it. it just wasn't good and honestly before it wasn't great either. So all in all DO NOT GO HERE THERE IS NO REASON. If you want I can literally list the great Italian restos that YOU SHOULD GO TO!!! Also the design of the restaurant is very off putting. It looks like a movie set and immediately walking in I was skeptical because it looked very ughhhhhh. I should also note they have a branch on Arthur Avenue. Here's the problem with Arthur Aveneue, however, it is like Little Italy today A LOT OF SHOW far less substance. If you want red saucey italian food you MUST GO TO BROOKLYN OR NEW JERSEY and you have to go far. Think Howard Beach and Bay Ridge for instances. This isn't always true by the way BUT a lot of these types of restaurants are just a ways today!!!!
  11. Sooooooooo yesterday I decided to try my new thing of spontaneity when it comes to restos as I explained in my previous post sort of. I was going to go to Eim Khao Mun Kai which is a very interesting and nice spot that serves Thai Chicken Rice. BUT I had always wanted to try the interesting looking Chinese restaurant across the way. I made the plunge and went across the street to see the menu. It was a pretty uninteresting menu featuring basicly what you could find on any Catonesey Chinese American restaurant menu. I persisted and went in and ordered. I got the salt and pepper pork chops and some roast meats on rice like duck etc (I am a great lover of the roasted Chinese meats!!!). I felt everything was a bit boring and too fatty for my personal taste. I wasn't really wowed by this. It just was kinda boring. Now I know I ordered kinda boring but when those roast meats are good it can be a sensational dish and this just wasn't. It was slightly better then New York Noodletown perhaps but not really super dee duper better ya know. I didn't love the pork chops either and felt the flavor was diluted by the fried fatty taste of the preperatioooonnn. So was this meal like terrible not quite but neither was it great either!!! I think in LA this food is much much better generally or San Fran or Vancouver for that matter!!!
  12. Heyyyyyyyy everyone!!! Sorry I've been gone so long I've been traveling!!! I also have been trying to do some new things with the food game such as using online less and doing restaurants when I see them rather then doing only pre research on everywhere I go!!! Don't worry I'll be doing both but I want this to feel like an indigenous effort rather then me seeing something on a food blog that someone else found etc. Anywho Khao Kang. This resto has been written about a bunch including in the nytimes and is by no means unknown. Food is cafeteria style and it isn't really like a sit down resto. Nevertheless, this shouldn't turn you off as I saw them pretty consistently bringing fresh food out and about!!! Food is Issan as I recall and I by accident got like all pork dishes. They were quite nice spicy as they should be well flavored and the whole bit. They also have like all those thai desserts and juices including a fave of mine: Thai Ice Tea!!! BUT the question is whether it is better then the others. I would say it doesn't quite reach the heights of a som tom der (in Manhat I know but I am looking at the full scope of thai over here!!) for instances but it is a nice place with good food that would be especially good if one were needing a quick sorta meal. I would say go to this one and you will be quite satisfied.
  13. A chef I like named Bo Bech put it up on his instagram today as well!! Have to go try it when I'm back from my travels!!
  14. Wellllll I don't mean to be quite the debbie downer between contra and Karam for while this was better then my bad contra experience, if they can be compared, this wasn't great either. Now this isn't a totally fair argument as one is fine dining and one is a Lebanese "snack shop" but I believe experiences can be compared across restaurant genres. I digress though.... Tonights resto just wasn't great. Perhaps I am becoming tooooo demanding but I got the chicken shwarma sandwich with falafel in it and I got a mezze spread cuz like you can't have Lebanese without some hummus. Nevertheless, I expected more from this spot sadly and left disappointed. Firstly, the falafel didn't taste all that fresh. It had that sitting around falafel taste and texture which is like chewy falafel that loses its crunchy skin etc. That was a big disappointment!! The chicken was fine but I wouldn't label it so good that it outweighed the falafel tragedy!!! Next was the mezze. Now Hummus is something I feel like I've really honed my knowledge of in terms of how it's supposed to taste. I expect a certain sourness and bitterness to it bursting with chickpea flavor (I know they use other beans but the flavor should still have a bursting quality in the mouth at least to me). It should not be bland which precisely this was. I dunno if it was the beans used or something but this just wasn't the best I've had. I also got some other spread they were fine but I just didn't feel this place was up to snuff. My anxious side thinks I'm being to tough recently but I dunno I think I'd stick to this negative review if pressed. HOWEVER.....the day was redeemed by a nice Lebanese pastry/ice cream shop which I shall wax about in another post!! I promise next post will be positive!!! Is there another one of these I should be giving a hard look at going to?? My feeling is that Turkish food is on average better in NYC then Lebanese but I haven't had enough of either during my short sojourn here in the city to absolutely confirm or deny that feeling.
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