Tag Archive | Restaurant Review

Dine and Dream at NYC’s Row Hotel!

Row Hotel District M
District M Image Courtesy of Row Hotel. Food Images By Anne Raso. Other Interior Shots By Gail. (Click on Any Image to Enlarge for Detail).

Just mention the name Milford Plaza to anyone who’s lived in or visited New York City (or ever watched an original cast episode of Saturday Night Live) and they’ll likely offer an enthusiastic and nostalgia-tinged memory of that hotel’s Iconic TV Commercial featuring the popular tune “The Lullabye of Broadway.” I know this, because that is exactly what happened to me this past week when I started telling friends about my visit to the new Row Hotel, formerly the Milford Plaza, which reopened on March 1st following a years-long renovation to the tune of $140 million dollars. To call the transformation wildly impressive is an understatement.

We started off our visit with dinner at The Row’s hip and chic Restaurant and Lounge, District M, where the limited menu is simple but highly satisfying. We started off the evening with one of The Row’s seven signature cocktails, “I’m Walking Here,” made with the can’t-miss combination of vodka and Elderflower liqueur plus white grape juice and lime ($13). This refreshing elixir is as delicious as it potent! I had two of them.

District M Cheese Plate

We wanted to sample a good cross section of the menu, so ordered way more than we could comfortably eat, starting with the Cheese Plate ($15), featuring selections procured from Murray’s cheese shop in Greenwich Village. This is an excellent choice as a snack with evening cocktails before heading out to a Broadway show!

District M Charcuterie Plate

The hearty Charcuterie Platter ($16) also provides a generous portion of gourmet cured meats for sharing with one or more companions.

District M Croque Monseur

We couldn’t resist indulging in the absolutely gorgeous Croque Monsieur sandwich (grilled Gruyere and thinly sliced ham with béchamel sauce, $16), accompanied by a small field greens salad and a creamy herb sauce for dipping. It tastes even better than it looks.

District M M is for Musroom Pizza

A specialty of District M is a selection of Neapolitan-style, hand-stretched pizzas, so we had to add one of those to our order. On our waitress’s recommendation, we chose the M is for Mushroom ($16), a thin crust white pie loaded with Fontina cheese and generously topped with fresh cremini mushrooms and “melted” leeks. I was expecting a smaller “Personal” sized pizza, but this one was huge – more than enough for two people to share. We could only eat one slice each after our meat and cheese fest, so most of this pie came home with me, where it fed me for two additional meals!

While you’re drinking, dining and relaxing in cool comfort, you can also enjoy the digital art gallery projected on District M’s rear wall featuring famed paparazzo Ron Gallela’s most infamous shots. For additional dining options, The Row will open City Kitchen, a food market similar to the popular Chelsea Market, in the Fall of 2014.

Animated Light Sculpture by video artist Yorgo Alexopolus

These two Animated Light Sculptures by Video Artist Yorgo Alexopolus are located on the wall behind the concierge desk and directly across the check in area on the opposite wall. The images change continuously.

Animated Light Sculpture by video artist Yorgo Alexopolus

After our extremely satisfying dinner, the hotel’s super friendly and accommodating Guest Relations Manager took us on a fun tour of select guest room. All I can say is, Wow, what a cool hotel! If you are planning a trip to NYC and want a comfortable and modern hotel that has an ideal location and terrific rates, look no further than The Row.

NYC Slogan
Assorted Clever Sayings Adorn the Walls Behind Most of the Beds

Conceived and executed by architectural and interior design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates, The Row Hotel’s 28 floors feature 1,331 rooms and suites of various sizes that maintain a contemporary, “Boutique” feel while offering a generous amount of space at surprisingly reasonable rates. All rooms feature Complimentary Wi-Fi, iPod Docking Station, Flat screen LCD TVs, Cable and HBO and a Desk with Ergonomic chair.

Tortilla Flats Mural
Tortilla Flats Restaurant in the Meat Packing District

While the hotel is located “In The Center of It All,” the idea is to inspire guests to explore Manhattan’s many compelling downtown neighborhoods through streetscape photographic murals showcasing images of Soho, Greenwich Village and Lower East Side hot spots painted directly on the walls of guestroom floor corridors.

Balthazar Mural
Balthazar Restaurant, Greenwich Village

Yellow RoomBright Red Room
Bold Room Colors Match those of the City’s Subway Lines

Times Square View

It goes without saying, but you can see I am about to, that the higher floor rooms have an unbeatable view of Times Square!

Rates on standard room can start as low as $150 per night or even lower (what a bargain!) so be sure to consult travel sites like Priceline to see if they are running any specials before booking.

King Room

The Row Hotel, Featuring District M Restaurant and Lounge, is Located at 700 Eighth Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets in Times Square, NYC. More cool photos and lots of additional information is available at Row NYC Dot Com. Email reservations@rownyc.com, or call Toll Free in the U.S. and Canada: 888-352-3650 or 212-869-3600 for Reservations.

Executive Suite Livigg Area

Executive Suite Living Area (Above) and Bedroom (Below).

Row Hotel Suite Bedroom

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Top Ten Things I Love About Bobby Van’s Grill

Bobby Vans Grill Interior
I Love This Place (Photo Courtesy Bobby Van’s Grill)

It’s been more than a year since our previous review of Bobby Van’s Grill on West 50th Street, so it was a special treat to be invited back again for another taste of what we here at The Gig consider to be the Best Filet Mignon in Manhattan. Just being serious. Here are a few of the reasons why this surely won’t be our last visit to this Midtown gem.

First of all, the place is gorgeous. Bobby Van’s is an old school steakhouse fitted out in warm woods, polished brass fixtures and classic lighting moderated by decorative glass shades. As soon as you enter the restaurant, which is fronted by a spectacular long bar, you feel comfortable and welcome, but also like you are in for a very special dining experience.

Which brings us to  service that is exceptional on every level. Our waiter and additional wait staff were all friendly and attentive, but also confident and invested in making sure each customer has a memorable meal at Bobby Van’s. General Manager Paul Modica even stopped by our table to make sure we were being taken care of. Paul, who has a professional background like something out of a movie, also entertained us briefly with engaging stories of his impressive career in the restaurant business, which began when he was just 14 years old. Paul is the coolest.

Warm Crispy Artichoke Salad

Among an exhaustive list of tempting appetizers and salads, the Warm, Crispy Artichoke Salad ($15.95) stands out — served as a portion generous enough to split with your dining companion, but also hearty enough to satisfy as a main dish at a lunch visit. These lightly battered and quick fried, tender artichoke hearts mixed with frisee greens are tossed with tangy Parmesan cheese and then garnished with another slice of cheese. This is a very special salad the likes of which I’ve not encountered at other steakhouse restaurants.

Brussels Sprouts

When it comes to choosing your accompanying vegetable side dishes you will not have an easy time of it, as there are so many good things to try. On this visit we opted for the Brussels Sprouts, which are sauteed in garlic, rosemary and olive oil before being lightly braise and crisped  with a quick trip to the oven, for an elegant presentation.

Creamed Spinach

And if you’re going for Classic Steakhouse Meal sides all the way, their Creamed Spinach cannot be topped.

Mac and Cheese

Look at this Macaroni and Cheese. Just look at it. Bobby Van’s serves an authentic baked Macaroni and Cheese, created with two different kinds of White Cheddar (English and American) plus Parmesan cheeses and topped with bread crumbs and seasonings. This dish is culinary perfection in a white ramekin.

Filet Mignon

Here it is, the star of our show: The Filet Migon! You can see the masterful result of perfect cooking in the lightly charred and caramelized crust on the filet’s exterior, which reveals a perfect, juicy medium pink inside (medium rare is also recommended, depending on your preference). At approximately 16 ounces pre-cooked weight, this steak is a bargain at $49.95.   Bobby Van’s signature Filet is so flavorful, buttery tender and outrageously delicious that it tastes perfect on its own, though a side of rich Bearnaise sauce comes with the entree. You may want to also try…

Bobby Vans Steak Sauce

Bobby Van’s Original Homemade Steak Sauce, just to change it up and keep your palate amused. A little bit sweet, a little bit tangy, so so so good.

21 Layer Crepe Cake

OK, it’s time for dessert and that means just one thing: 21 Layer Crepe Cake! Trust me, this pastry treat tastes even better than it looks — and it looks pretty great! You can see in this photo how whipped cream-like custard is layered between stacks of tender crepes to create a dessert that is both decadent and yet light. While Bobby Van’s does procure these cakes from an outside vendor, they make it their own with garnishes of  mint leaves, fresh sliced Strawberries and tart Raspberry Coulis. This is a must have on any visit and is perfect to share after an indulgent meal.

Finally, we love the value of a visit to Bobby Van’s Grill. Considering the high quality, consistently delicious food and generous portions of all their dishes, the prices are quite reasonable, and the menu is so extensive and varied that you can find dining choices to suit  any budget. We recommend that you consider Bobby Van’s Grill to be a desired destination for all celebratory events as well as just a rewarding weeknight  break from the grind!

Bobby Van’s Grill is located 135 West 50th Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10020, and is convenient to many subways including the 1, N and R Trains. Hours are Monday to Friday: 11:30 AM – 11 PM, Saturday and Sunday: 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM. Phone (212) 957-5050 for Reservations.

Zengo Previews Its New Test Kitchen Menu for “Japan to Mexico”

Zengo Interior
Zengo Serves Gorgeous Food in a Gorgeous Setting (Photos By Gail, Cocktail Photos Courtesy of Burke Communications)

Foodie Fans of The Worley Gig know that one of our very favorite dining destinations is the Asian-Latin fusion restaurant, Zengo, conveniently located adjacent to Grand Central Station. While the menu is consistently delicious, Zengo is dedicated to continually changing things up. And in this case, change is good!

Every few months, Chef Richard Sandoval and his culinary team at Zengo research and develop new recipes featuring the cuisine and spirits of one Latin and one Asian country. The result is a menu of specialty plates and cocktails that showcase the flavors and techniques from each region. The featured new dishes are marked with a special “TK” symbol on the menu, noting that they are exclusive and available for a limited time. The current “Test Kitchen” menu, unveiled at Zengo in January, is dubbed “Japan to Mexico,” for which Chef Sandoval drew inspiration from the rich and flavorful street foods of Japan and Mexico to create the new Test Kitchen menu.

Recently we were invited to enjoy a Tasting of the Japan to Mexico Test Kitchen Menu and were wowed once again by the Chef’s finely honed skill at blending and accenting the flavors of these two distinct cuisines. Here’s a review of what we ate:

Calamansi Old-Fashioned

It’s always fun to start off a meal with a potent and refreshing cocktail and Zengo features two new ones for Japan to Mexico. The Calamansi Old-Fashioned is made with Japanese whiskey, fresh Calamansi juice (similar to Orange Juice) and Agave Bitters. Surprisingly, this tastes like a fresh Blood Orange cocktail with no overpowering Whiskey taste and not one hint of bitterness. Delicious!

Shiro Margarita

Also on the cocktail menus is the Shiro Margarita blending Nigori Saki with 100% Agave Blanco Tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and house-made sour mix. The Shiro Margarita is light and tart and will brighten the taste of whatever you are eating. These go down very smooth!

Octopus Carpaccio

Next up on our selection of TK small plates was the outstanding Octopus Aguachile Tiradito: an unbelievably tender Octopus carpaccio flavored with Ginger Green Chile broth and White Soy, tossed with crisp Asian Pear and luscious, ripe Avocado and garnished with sprinkling of Nori and Sesame Seeds. This was the most delicious and visually appealing presentation of Octopus I have yet tried — and that includes the Octopus and Chickpea Salad at MP Taverna, which is just insane.

Shrimp Tempura Rolls

Zengo is famous for its excellent sushi and vegetarian maki rolls and they’ve come up with another excellent offering in the Achiote Shrimp Tempura Roll – a Tempura Fried Shrimp with Avocado, Jicama Chile Lemon, Charred Scallion and dressed with a light Chile Toreado Aioli. I enjoyed dipping pieces of this roll in the dressing from the Octopus dish!

Pork Belly Sliders

Elevating Mexican Street Food are the Terikayi Pork Belly Gorditas “Sliders” – Fried Pork Belly with a sweet Teriyaki glaze, nested on a crispy Masa cake “Bun” with Oaxaca cheese, Guacamole, Caramelized Pineapple and Pickled Chiles for just a little bit of heat. If you’re a Bacon fan who’s looking to try something new and different, you’ll want to give this a try.

Lamb Shank

In the realm of hearty entrees, Zengo adds the Kabayaki Glazed Lamb Shank Barbacoa – fork-tender lamb marinated in a Ginger, Chiles and Tamarind glaze, served atop a bed of fragrant Arroz Verde and garnished with tender-crisp Pickled Carrots. The bones in this look intimidating, but the meat literally just falls away as soon as you prod it a bit with your fork. I loved the contrast of textures and flavors in this delightful dish.

Avocado Panna Cotta

And last but not least we sampled an unusual take on a traditional dessert, the Avocado Panna Cotta – Fresh Avocado Custard, served with tangy-sweet Tropical Fruit Salad and garnished an added crunch of Chocolate Cookie Crumbs. The mildly sweet true-Avocado taste of the Panna Cotta gets a kick from the chopped fruit and syrup accompaniment and the unexpected crunch of the cookie morsels add a fun texture to this not-overly-sweet ending to a fine meal.

Please note that all food photos in this post are representative of a group tasting presentation and expect the dish may look somewhat different when ordered for just one person.

Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue (at the corner of 40th Street). Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:00 PM onward. Lunch is served Monday – Friday from 11:30 AM -2:30 PM. For reservations, please call 212-808-8110 or visit their website at This Link. The Mexico-Japan menu is featured through March 31st, 2013 at all Zengo locations including New York City, Denver, Santa Monica and Washington D.C.

Teqa Revisited: Murray Hill Modern Mexican Gets a New Chef!

Teqa Pulled Pork Tacos
Sure, Teqa Still Does a Mean Taco, But There’s So Much More You’ll Want to Try (All Food Photos By Anne Raso)

It’s a fact that Foodies can get Fickle Fast. Even restaurants that have laser-like focus on a successful culinary groove may need to change things up in the kitchen sooner than anticipated. On a review visit to traditional Mexican eatery Teqa back in the late summer of 2011, this self-proclaimed ‘Taqueria & Tequileria’ was savoring its position as a hip newcomer and was all about promoting a ‘Tacos and Tequila’ vibe that would attract a fresh crowd to its Murray Hill neighborhood. But it wasn’t long before anyone with a Mexican food hankering could find Tacos and Tequila every few blocks. It was clearly time for a re-think, as Teqa came under new ownership, bringing in a new Chef, 28-year-old Steven Cruz (a private catering expert also formerly of the Lower East Side’s Orchard House).

Earlier this month, we were part of a large group of bloggers and journalists invited to dine at Teqa, meet Chef Cruz and sample many of his new dishes for ourselves. And while the menu has been revamped (think now of Teqa as a culinary equivalent alternative to Dos Caminos for when you’d rather not drop $100 on dinner and drinks), Teqa still feels comfortable and familiar. The cocktail menu still includes a full page, triple column listing of specialty tequilas offered behind the bar; and yes, Teqa’s cozy yet modern dining room still flaunts that amazing Tequila Bottle Chandelier by designer Johnny Swing. Here’s a walk through some of our favorite new items!

Teqa Avocado Ensalada

Our dinner kicked off with potent cocktails and a “family style” service of many of Teqa’s new featured appetizers, so everyone got a chance to try many things. The Avocado Ensalada (pictured above, $12) is a refreshing mix of carrots, frisee, cucumber, hearts of palm and chives dressed with a pleasantly sweet cilantro lime vinaigrette and, of course, a generous portion of rich ripe avocado.

Teqa Chips and Dips

The Chips & Dips ($15) deliver three varieties of Salsa, plus freshly-made Guacamole to be scooped up by both quick fried plantain and house-made tortilla chips, which is a nice take on a traditional antojito!

Teqa Guava Chicken Wings

Another sure to please starter is the Guava Chicken Wings ($10) — a generous portion of tender chicken drumettes grilled in a Guava BBQ Sauce with cilantro chimichurri dipping sauce on the side. Finger lickin’ good!

We also really enjoyed the Crispy Calamari ($12.00), which is lightly cornmeal crusted and served almost like a salad tossed with crisp Nappa Cabbage and a Chipotle Agave Aoili. Honestly, this is the best Calamari appetizer we’ve had in any NYC restaurant, ever. Tuna crudo lovers will absolutely want to try the Tuna on Crack ($16.00): Sushi Grade Tuna, avocado, cucumber, Sriracha, toasted sesame seeds and chive cilantro oil served with tortilla chips! Delicious!

Teqa Boneless Short Rib

The night’s superstar entrée selection proved to be the Boneless Short Rib ($25) one of Chef Cruz’s specialties. Preparation begins on this truly outstanding dish when Cruz arrives at the restaurant at 10 AM to begin braising the ribs for a total of seven hours. Tamarind BBQ Sauce adds flavor before and the dish is served simply over a roasted corn puree and topped with cilantro oil. Even though this is just one rib, it is a huge portion and the meat is so tender and lean it would fall off the bone if it was not already boneless! High Fives all around on this one.

Teqa Grilled Skirt Steak

Meat lovers should also check out the ample Grilled Skirt Steak ($28), marinated in chipotle adobe for 14 hours, then grilled to order and served with grilled scallions, yucca fries and chimichurri sauce.

Teqa Churros

Stand out desserts include a plate of traditional Mexican Churros (yummy donut sticks, $6) which arrived to the table crispy and hot from the fryer, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with both dulce de leche and chocolate tequila sauces for dipping.

Teqa Chocolate Pudding

Another of Cruz’s new additions to the Teqa menu is the Crema De Chocolata ($8), a divine milk chocolate pudding which was light and luxurious but more substantial than a mousse. Just a dollop of whipped cream kicked it up a notch to sheer perfection. Cruz confessed that he adds a splash of tequila to all of his desserts!

Teqa is open late most nights and has what looks like a fantastic Brunch on the weekends that we are looking forward to checking out. Thanks to Teqa and Chef Cruz for hosting such a fun and delicious dinner!

Teqa is located at 443 Third Avenue (near 30th Street). Hours are Sunday and Monday 4:00 – 10:00 PM, Tuesday and Wednesday 4:00 PM – Midnight, and Thursday to Saturday 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Phone 212)213-3223 for reservations or visit their website at Teqa Dot Com for menus and information on special events.

Zengo’s Latest Test Kitchen Presents the Flavors of Peru to Malaysia!

Zengo Test Kitchen Menu
Above Photo By Gail, All Food Photos Courtesy of Berk Communications

I can’t be the only fan who was disappointed see Chef and Restaurateur Richard Sandoval get eliminated so early in the competition on the most recent season of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Hopefully there will be a next time for this talented and enterprising chef to compete on the show, because Sandoval’s Zengo and Raymi are two of my favorite restaurants in New York City!

Right now, Zengo is taking its ever-revolving blend of Latin-Asian cuisines on an adventure with Peru and Malaysia. I was recently invited to a press dinner where we sampled select new items on the Test Kitchen Menu. Here’s a preview of what’s new at Zengo!

Pisco Elevation CocktailShiso Mojito at Zengo
Left: Pisco Elevation Cocktail, Right: Shiso Mojito

Made with the popular Peruvian Grape Brandy, the Pisco Elevation ($13) blends this potent liquor with Sweet Elderflower and fresh Lychee for a refreshing kick that goes down smooth. Mojito fans can enjoy the Shiso Mojito, ($14) featuring rum, shiso and citrus and garnished with Fuji Apple!

Spicy Crab Potato Sushi
Spicy Crab Potato Sushi

A tasty and multi-textured addition to the Dim Sum and Antojitos menu is the Spicy Crab Potato Sushi ($10): Sweet shredded Crab flavored with Malay Curry, nested atop layers of soft Yukon Potato Cake and fresh Avocado, topped with a crispy Corn Cancha — which is like a Peruvian Corn Nut! Very unique and tasty!

Chicken A La Brasa Satay at Zengo
Chicken A La Brasa Satay

A take on traditional Peruvian roasted chicken, or Chicken A La Brasa, ($13) is presented as a skewered appetizer, loaded with tender chicken thigh meat grilled with a black bean glaze. This hearty starter is served with another traditional favorite, Potatoes Huancaina, which I have previously enjoyed on a visit to Raymi. Additional flavor and texture is added by the fresh Cucumber Rocoto Salsa and finely chopped toasted peanuts!

Arroz with Maiscos at ZENGO
Arroz Con Mariscos

Arroz Con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood, $14) is Zengo’s take on paella: Malay rice studded with a generous portion of Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops and Clams dressed with Thai Basil. This dish was a hit with everyone at the table, and the gently-cooked seafood is extremely tender and tastes fresh-caught.

Char Roased Skate at Zengo
Char Roasted Skate

Skate may sound like an exotic dish, but you don’t have to be too adventurous to love Zengo’s Char Roasted Skate in a ginger chile marinade ($28). This flaky white fish is mild but has a distinctive flavor. The dish is served with a Crispy Lentil Rice Cake and Sambal Butter Sauce — delicious!

Profiteroles at Zengo
Profiteroles

While is is not commonly considered appropriate to lick ones plate in public, the above dish of Profiteroles ($9), stuffed with Toasted Coconut Ice Cream and served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and fresh, ripe strawberries had everyone at the table scraping the plate with their forks to get an extra drop of the dulce de leche flavored Manjar Blanco that was puddled under each delicious morsel. What a fantastic ending to a very special meal!

Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue on the Northwest Corner of 40th Street. Dinner is served Monday to Saturday from 5:00 to 11:00 PM. Lunch is served Monday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. For Reservations and More Information call 212-808-8110 or visit This Link.

Restaurant Review: Coming Full Circle at Circolo45

Circolo 45 Exterior Shot
This and Interior Photo By Gail. All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Ask a random sampling of Manhattanites if they can tell you the location of Bond Street and most will likely either scratch their heads or offer that it must be somewhere in the Financial District. Because Bond Street is an enchanting enigma of NYC real estate, a kind of Urban Shangri-La, if you will. Stretching for just two short blocks above Houston, nestled between Broadway and Bowery — and still paved with cobblestones from the days when New York City was in its youth – Bond Street offers a mix of unique public art, both definitively modern and gorgeous historic architecture, and best-kept-secret foodie destinations. It’s appropriate then that 45 Bond Street is the address of Circolo45, an intimate Italian Trattoria featuring fresh takes on traditional favorites and exceptional, old world service.

Circolo 45 Interior Shot

Recently renovated just nine months after its initial opening, accents such as pastel-painted walls in the bar area and white-painted brick in the rear dining space, minimalist, line drawn portraits hung  throughout the restaurant, and the variable candlelit “mood lighting” all fit right in with Executive Chef and General Manager Daniele Sicuranza’s vision of Circolo45 as an Italian Retreat with a “simple, yet vibrant” atmosphere. The varied menu’s emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and an extensive offering of homemade pastas echo the themes of simplicity and comfort in a setting that elevates the dining experience.

Tizi Cocktail

We started off our evening with one of Circolo’s specialty cocktails, the Tizi; a rose-colored elixir similar to a Cosmopolitan but with Elderflower syrup added. Delicious! I like my cocktails fruity and potent, and this delivered on both counts.

Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana with Tomato Sauce and Basil

Our cocktails put us in a nice, relaxed mood to peruse the impressive menu, which seems to offer a taste of the various regions of Italy to please every palate. The Appetizer section alone was overflowing with dishes I felt excited to try just from reading their descriptions. Agreeing to go with the classics, we chose to split the Meatballs Florentine Style and the Eggplant Parmigiana (both priced at $12.00). The Eggplant Parm, a perfect size for sharing which arrives with a golden cheesy top, is extremely rich and creamy, more so than I’ve tasted with this dish when ordered at other restaurants. I’m told that the mousse-like texture is owed to additional baking time. If you want the taste of eggplant to really stand out rather than be hidden by the flavors of other ingredients, this is the dish for you.

Meatballs
Meatballs Florentine Style with Tomato Sauce

The Meatballs, served in a ramekin with tomato sauce, sliced bread for dipping, and fresh rosemary, have very little binder added, so they are meaty and satisfying. These are also a good sharing size, especially if you want to sample several items from the menu without getting too full before your main course arrives!

Two starter dishes I’d definitely like to try on a future visit are the Arancini (Fried Rice Balls with Ragu, $10) — which are always a comfort-food favorite – and the Vitello Tonnato ($13), featuring cold, sliced Veal served in a Tuna Sauce. I had this dish once before, at Da Silvano on Sixth Avenue back in the nineties, and I’ll never forget it. It would be interesting to discover if Circolo45’s offering could compare with my fond memories.

Spaghetti with Black Truffles
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo

From Circolo’s extensive selection of fresh, house made pastas we chose a signature dish of the house, the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo: Fresh Egg Spaghetti with Black Summer Truffle ($20). The thick, al-dente cooked noodles are similar in size to Japanese Udon noodles for a hearty bite. This dish is perfectly seasoned and fragrant with truffle oil as well as a generous addition of sliced Black Truffle. We  reflexively asked our server for grated cheese but were advised to just try the dish sans cheese and let the truffle richness prove itself to be flavor perfection on its own. She was right; no cheese was needed.

Other delectable pasta choices include one of my favorites, Traditional Lasagna Alla Bolognese ($13), and the Paccheri Alla Genovese; Pasta served in a Veal Shoulder Ragu, cooked slowly in the oven ($15). I can imagine that the Veal Shoulder Ragu is exceptional, based on the next dish we tried.

Beef Shoulder

Another specialty is the Spezzatino Alla Toscana, Beef Shoulder oven-baked at low temperature served with tender, golden Potatoes, Tomato and Basil ($24). This wonderful dish is comparable to a pot roast or rustic beef stew. The meat is fork-tender and the large chunks of potatoes are cooked perfectly. If you are not sharing this, you will have enough to take home for a second meal (as I did, and it was even more delicious the second time)!

Steak and fish lovers will also find lots of tempting selections on Circolo45′s menu– from an oven-baked, Salt Crusted Branzino for Two ($54) to a reasonably-priced selection of steaks which we understand are prime cuts!

Brussels Sprouts

A generous side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts (all sides are just $5) could easily serve three people. The tender sprouts are roasted using very little olive oil, in case you are counting calories!

Chocolate Souffle

Circolo45′s dessert selections change daily and we let our excellent server surprise us. Giving us enough time for our food to settle a bit, she returned from the kitchen with a gorgeous and feather light Chocolate Souffle ($9.00). Light and crispy on top and just oozing with a rich Valhrona Chocolate center, this souffle is a few cuts above the ubiquitous warm /molten chocolate cake you see on every menu in town. A perfect ending to a rich and satisfying dining experience. We look forward to a return visit!

Circolo45 is located at 45 Bond Street Between Lafayette and Bowery. Hours are Monday to Sunday, 5:30 – 10:30 PM. Please Call 212-375-0323 for Reservations. Visit their Website at Circolo 45 Dot Com.

‘Aangan Style’: Fine Indian Dining on the Upper West Side!

Aangan Mosaic Chandelier
All Photos By Gail Except Where Noted

Do you like Indian Food? I sure do. I have a couple of favorite destinations on Indian Row (East 6th Street) and also Curry Hill (vicinity of Lexington Ave and 28th Street) but I didn’t really have a favorite Indian restaurant with a proper uptown address. That changed last week when I was invited to visit and review Aangan, conveniently located just steps from the 103rd Street stop on the Number One train. Even folks who dread traveling above 14th Street can be assured that dinner at Aangan is worth the trek!

Our considerable feast at Aangan included at least a dozen different dishes, all delicious, but where Aangan really distinguishes itself from its peers is in the restaurant atmosphere, level of gracious service and overall dining experience. Aangan is a Hindi word meaning “Courtyard,” and it is typically associated with the open spaces in traditional Indian homes – an area where families get together to relax, dine and spend time with each other.

Aangan Interior Shot

In this way, Aangan provides an authentic Indian courtyard restaurant experience on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The restaurant’s interior is beautifully fitted with a glass mosaic chandelier, wall mounted candle fixtures and elegant, modern padded wall finishes. Floor to ceiling windows looking out onto Broadway provide lots of natural light and great people watching. Once the sun sets, Aangan continues to glow with its special brand of hospitality.

Mango Lhassi with Rum Cocktail
Mango Lassi with Rum

My dining companion (also a food blogger) and I ordered modestly: two appetizers and two entrees – all to share – plus a basket of bread. But our waiter asked if they could bring us a few additional items and house specialties which they’d like us to try, and we could hardly refuse. What we ended up with was a bona fide Indian buffet featuring favorite dishes and tasty new discoveries.

What we ate:

Shrimp Balchao

Shrimp Balchao: Medium-sized shrimp marinated in Goan Balchao Sauce ($10.95). When people say a shrimp dish was “Perfectly cooked,” they are talking about the tender and sweet shrimp in this dish. The sauce has just a mild kick. Really lovely.

Bhel In Phyllo Cups

For an unusual appetizer, go with the Bhel in Phyllo Dough Cups, comprised of Spiced crispy Rice and Lentil Flour savories served in pastry cups ($6.95). It’s a light and tasty choice that I’ve never seen on any other menu.

Crispy Cauliflower

Another favorite that I first had at Junoon is the Lahsooni Gobhi: Lighty battered and Crispy Fried Cauliflower tossed in Tomato Garlic Sauce ($8.95). This is a hearty appetizer for vegetarians or a complimentary side to any meat dish.

Assorted Indian Appetizers

The two appetizers we ordered, Vegetable Samosas: Triangular turnovers filled with Potatoes and Peas ($6.95), and the Paneer Pakora: Cottage Cheese Fritters Served with Mint Chutney and Tamarind Sauce ($7.95), arrived on an attractive platter of mixed Vegetraian appetizers including Vegetable Kabob (mashed veggies in a lentil wrap) and a very delicious, pleasantly crunchy Onion Pakora. This off-menu assortment is something you could ask your server about if you are game for trying many different things. Aangan is very eager to make sure your experience is enjoyable and personalized. And, as you can see, they create a beautiful presentation with every dish.

Tandoori Chicken and Lamb

They also brought us a Small Platter of Chicken and Lamb Tandoori to sample. The lamb is exceptionally tender and flavorful, and the chicken is a good choice for the less-adventurous diners in your group.

Tandoori Lamb Chops

Tandoori Lamb Chops are another house specialty, priced to share at $19.95.

(Photo Above and Below By Anne Raso)

Tandoori Salmon

Also perfect for sharing, and with a gorgeous presentation, if I may say so, is the Tandoori Salmon: Filet of Salmon marinated in yogurt, coriander, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika and turmeric ($19.95). The salmon is meaty, tender and perfectly cooked.

Chicken Korma

Here’s a dish everybody loves, Murgh Korma: Boneless pieces of chicken in a rich cashew nut and almond cream sauce ($14.95). I love that they put a cherry on top of this.

Murgh Xacutti

Murgh Xacutti, a very mild Goan Chicken Curry cooked with coconut and aromatic spices and served with mint rice ($14.95), is an excellent choice for curry fans who want to go easy on the heat.

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer: Puree of Spinach Cooked with Homemade Cottage Cheese ($12.95). You just gotta have it.

Lamb Biryani

My favorite dish of the night was the Lamb Biryani: Aromatic rice with cubed Lamb ($15.95). I always love a good Biryani, and the Lamb in this dish was beyond tender and so flavorful. I would order this again.

Assorted Indian Breads

An extensive selection of Indian flatbreads are priced at $2.95 – $4.95, or you can build your own Bread Basket, with your choice of 3 breads ($11.95) which we did, selecting the Garlic Naan, Alloo Paratha (filled with mashed potatoes) and, my favorite, Onion Kulcha — which I highly recommend. These fresh and hot from the oven breads are light, delightfully chewy and crispy.

Malgova Mango Pudding

After enjoying such an impressive repast, we hardly had room for Dessert, yet we were able to savor a few bites of the Malgova Pudding – described as a ‘Mango soufflé’ with a touch of Coconut ($4.95). This fruity dessert has a firm, gelatinous consistency, rather than the traditionally creaminess one expects with something called “pudding,” but it was quite light, tasty and refreshing.

Come to Aangan and enjoy the Indian Courtyard Dining experience! You’ll be glad you did!

Aangan is Located at 2701 Broadway on the Northwest Corner of West 103rd Street (Right at the #1 Train Stop). Visit them online at Aangan Dot Com or Phone 212-280-4100 for Reservations.

Aangan Logo

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Announces New Desserts & Boozy Beverages

Brother Jimmys Dessert Menu
Menu from Dessert Tasting Event (Above Photo By Gail, All Food Photos By Anne Raso)

No matter how full I am from eating a meal, 90% of the time, I want dessert. Because that is how roll.

Apple Crumb Pies Etc
Red Velvet Cake (Top Tier) and Apple Crumb Pie (Lower Tier)

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ is a place that will likely leave you feeling very satisfied after a meal of their ribs, chicken and other specialties – because their food is amazing. But on future visits you might have a more challenging time saying no to one of their home baked sweet treats, because they have just created a New Dessert Menu on which every pie, cake and ice cream creation is delicious. I know, because I tasted everything.

Earlier this week, Brother Jimmy’s hosted a fun Dessert Tasting Party to give bloggers a chance to sample and preview items from the new menu, which also features an original selection of “Boozy Beverage” dessert cocktails. Here are some photos from our sugar-fueled evening.

Cherry Rhubarb Pie Float

The Cherry Rhubarb Pie Float contains Rhubarb Tea Liquor, Cheerwine Cherry Soda and Rum Ice Cream. Very sweet and very strong, if you like Dessert but also like to be wasted, this drink is for you!

Pecan Pies

There are two new pies on the menu. The Pecan Pie tastes as good as it looks, so if you are a fan you are going to love what they serve at Brother Jimmy’s. The Apple Crumb Pie, pictured further up top, is completely delicious and was quite clearly a favorite of many at the event. The crumble top is the perfect sweetness and texture, and the tender crust is loaded with delicious sweet-tart sliced apples. Better than Mom’s!

Red Velvet Cakes from Brother Jimmy's

I am a little bit of a Red Velvet Cake snob but this is the best Red Velvet Cake I’ve ever had. These are just tasting sized cakes but what you’ll get a is a big chunk of three layer cake that is moist and light and frosted to perfection with yummy creamcheese icing.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

These are Ice Cream Sandwiches from Melt Bakery, who deliver them directly from their freezer to Brother Jimmy’s. If you’ve ever had an Ice Cream Sandwich from the Coolhaus truck, these are very similar, with a selection of different types of cookies matched with interesting Ice Cream combinations. I had one of the pink ones you see in the above photo, which was a Sugar Cookie stuffed with a Berry Ice Cream.

Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae

This is a Brownie Sundae that they made fresh for each of us and brought to our tables after I was already engorged with sweets, so we had no choice but to eat it. The Brownie is served warm and topped with Butterscotch Swirl Ice Cream and Jimmy’s Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce. It was Insane.

These new desserts are price right as well. The Melt Bakery Ice Cream Sandwiches are $5 and all other Desserts are priced at just $7 each. The Boozy Beverages are $7 and $8. Be sure to add one of these delicious desserts or beverages to your next dining experience at any Brother Jimmy’s location, and tell them The Worley Gig sent you!

Review: Patiala Lounge at Junoon

Patiala Lounge from Website
Above Photo Courtesy of Junoon Website. All Food Photos Courtesy of Diane’s iPhone

Delicious Indian food can be found all over Manhattan; from East 6th Street to Curry Hill and elsewhere. But when you really want an unforgettable fine dining experience in the realm of Indian Cuisine, there is no question that the place to come is Junoon. On a previous visit to this Michelin-starred foodie haven on West 24th Street, we were wowed by delicious foods perfectly paired with a variety of wines (wine pairings are a Junoon specialty), gracious, personalized service and the understated opulence of the main dining space. When we paid a long-overdue return visit to Junoon last week, we decided to change up the experience a bit by dining in the Restaurant’s equally gorgeous front room and bar, which is called the Patiala Lounge.

Patiala Lounge Seating
Photo By Gail

Offering the same menu as Junoon but in a more relaxed, intimate (and dimly lit) space, Patiala Lounge provides a variety of seating options. From the room-length bar to high communal tables, clusters of sofas, low tables and side chairs, or suspended, glass topped tables (which were formerly swings) that display a collection of colorful Indian spices and dried flowers, Patiala is an ideal destination for everything from an after work cocktail and light bite to an impressive first date. Chef and Culinary Creative Director Aliya LeeKong along with Executive Chef Vikas Khanna have created a menu with all of your Indian favorites as well as their own special creations.

Cocktails

We were so smitten by numerous delights on the appetizer section of the menu that we opted to forgo main dishes in favor of concentrating on a meal of exotic starters. We started off with specialty cocktail selections including the Star On Earth ($14) a Floral Cocktail of Chardonnay, Maraschino, Pear Brandy and St. Germain with a Star Anise floating on top as a garnish. This is a very sweet and potent drink, as you might guess by the list of ingredients. My dining companion chose one of the featured nonalcoholic cocktails, the Jaswal ($8), a refreshing blend of Cucumber and Lychee Juice with Fresh Lime, Topped With Ginger Beer (the virgin cocktails can be spiked with your choice of alcohol on request).

Here’s what we ordered:

Paneer Pakora At Junoon

Paneer Pakoras ($12), Generous pieces of Homemade Spiced Paneer lightly fried in a chickpea flour batter and served With Cilantro – Mint – Yoghurt Chutney is amazingly delicious with a nice mix of textures as well as being vegetarian friendly. Junoon makes its paneer in house, and it is the best.

Cauliflower

Lahsooni Gobi ($12), Crispy Florets of Cauliflower with Chili Flakes in Garlic Tomato Chutney has a rich and fresh tomato taste and a hint of fire. If you like just a bit of spice but not too much, this dish is a good choice.

Eggplant Chat

A new favorite as of this visit is the Eggplant Chaat ($12) featuring lightly fried sliced Baby Eggplant topped with crispy Red Onions and served with Yoghurt and Tamarind. Chaat, meaning snack, is a name for most Indian street food, and I just wish they had street food this yummy in the US. Seriously, if you are a fan of eggplant, this dish is must try. The sweet fried onions and blend of sauces take it over the top.

Chicken Thighs

Murg Tikka Mirza Hasnu ($14) is a dish of Chicken Thigh pieces marinated in Hung Yoghurt, Junoon Garam Masala and Cheddar Cheese (yes, the cheese is in the marinade) and served with A Tomato and Cucumber Salad. Juicy and very flavorful from its time in the tandoor oven, our waiter suggested we have it prepared with a little extra char on the outside to accent the tenderness of the meat.

Naan Breads

Because we were in a tasting mood, we asked for a basket of assorted Indian breads that included traditional Naam, Parartha, Roti and a Junoon Specialty Naan stuffed with Prune and Walnuts, which was divine. Breads are priced from $5 – $8 for a basket generous enough to share.

Normally we would not order three desserts (!), but our server insisted we try a little of everything, it seems, as follows:

Junoon Dessert 2

If you are a person who, like me, enjoys many different flavors commingling together on one plate, you will flip over the desserts at Patiala Lounge. This is a Chocolate Spice Cake with a light touch of chili powder giving it a little kick. It comes with a buttery tasting ice cream flavored with pistachio and other assorted nuts. Insane.

Junoon Dessert 1

Here we have a mélange of Coconut Rice Pudding, Bruleed Bananas, Dates, Rum Glaze, Candied Almonds and Ginger Ice Cream. Unreal.

Junoon Dessert 3

The Date Fig Gateau is topped with Salty Caramel Sauce, garnished with sweet and fragrant fresh Clementine segments (which we loved), Meringue bits, Black Sesame Crumble and accompanied by Cinnamon Ice Cream. All Desserts are $12.

There are many reasons why Junoon is one of my favorite restaurants – excellent food, beautifully designed interiors, exceptional service – and I can say that when you visit you will be treated to all of these things equally in the Patiala Lounge as you will in the main space of the restaurant.Maybe I’ll see you there.

Patiala Lounge at Junoon Restaurant is located at 27 W. 24th St., New York, NY, 10010 (Between 5th and 6th Avenues). I would recommend that you phone 212-490-2100 for reservations just in case, as it is a pretty popular place (and with good reason)! The extensive menu can be downloaded from their website at Junoon NYC Dot Com.

Ivy Bar and Grill Elevates Neighborhood Bar Fare to Gourmet Eats

Ivy Signage
All Photos By Gail and Anne Raso

A comfy and welcoming bar and grill can easily become a favorite neighborhood hang out based on atmosphere, drink specials, favorite beers on tap and its number of wide screen TVs; with the quality of the food served being mostly inconsequential. And while the menu offered at Ivy Bar and Grill, open since February on Eighth Avenue and 56th Street, would indicate that they are not aiming to become an upscale dining establishment, the quality and taste of the new American comfort food they serve up says otherwise. I enjoy a good watering hole as much as the next New Yorker, but I am also a huge foodie, and Ivy is the first bar I’ve found that could seriously become a destination based on its cuisine. My dining companion and I discovered a few new favorites on our first visit this past week.

Ivy Wall Mirror

What will attract a varied clientele right away is Ivy’s décor; sleek and modern with an understated essence that gives the restaurant an adaptable vibe for many occasions. A modern bar with lots of seating runs perhaps two thirds of the length of the space. Exposed brick walls are highlighted with attractive touches such as custom lighting fixtures and accent mirrors, and the bar is flanked on the opposite wall by plenty of high table seating, so everyone can make themselves comfortable while grabbing a beer and a bite before watching the game. Happy Hour specials run daily from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM offers a specialty cocktail menu as well as a stand out selection of artisanal craft beers.

Ivy Bar Area ShotIvy Dining Area

The rear of the restaurant is beautifully fitted out with a modern-textile upholstered high banquette encircling an intimate cluster of tables. In this way, Ivy feels contemporary and trendy, but also relaxed and without any pretense. Clearly, everyone is welcome.

Ivy Kiss & Tell Cocktail

We started our dinner with one of Ivy’s unique cocktails, a fruity and refreshing Kiss and Tell ($10) featuring Stoli Razz vodka, champagne and fresh raspberry purée, garnished with a skewer of fresh raspberries. This is a tasty drink with an appropriate kick. Any size appetite will be sated by Ivy’s impressively mouth-watering menu, which offers dozens of outrageous Appetizers, several Salads, a rather wide selection of Sandwiches and Burgers, and just enough Entrees to please basic tastes without overdoing it. We were tempted to dine solely from the many intriguing selections on the appetizer menu, and chose a few to start out.

Ivy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

We absolutely could not say no to the Fried Brussel Sprouts with Bacon ($11), a piled-high plate loaded crispy applewood smoked bacon pieces, sautéed sweet onions and topped generously with melted aged white cheddar cheese. The Brussels sprouts are cooked to perfection and have a pleasing mixed texture of being crispy fried (but not battered) on the outside and tender to the bite. There is no shortage of bacon chunks and we could easily have enjoyed this dish as a side to an entrée, or as an entrée itself with another appetizer. It’s that good!

Ivy Polenta Fries

Being fans of polenta, we also tried the Polenta Fries ($10). This fun take on traditional French fries features Italian polenta cooked with herbs, cut into sticks and lightly fried, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese shavings and served with a creamy, mild Romano cheese sauce for dipping. Delicious, different and also appropriate as a side dish to accompany a sandwich or entree.

Ivy Steakhouse Spring R

If you read The Gig’s food coverage regularly you know we love a good steak, so the Steakhouse Springrolls ($13) seemed like a natural choice. These crispy rolls take a generous portion of sliced steak and surround it with traditional steak house sides of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. This little steak house meal you can eat with your fingers is served by a trio of homemade steak sauce, black peppercorn reduction and A-1 sauce for dipping. Yet another unique offering that goes far beyond the usual nachos and potato skins you find on most bar menus.

Ivy Grill Cheese and Chicke

Ivy Grilled Cheese Sandwich, with Chicken Roulade Entree in the Background

On the Sandwich menu, the Ivy Grilled Cheese ($11) caught our attention with its surprise main ingredient of soft ripened Brie cheese. This gourmet quality sandwich is stuffed with avocado and homemade mango chutney (made with fresh, diced ripe mangoes, not the sweet mango preserves you might be used to getting in Indian restaurants) and served on griddled sourdough bread, accompanied by a mound of crispy fries. We were fans from the first bite!

From the half dozen well-varied entrees we chose to split the Chicken Roulade ($20), a pounded thin and oven roasted breast of chicken rolled and stuffed with prosciutto, spinach and sundried tomatoes, served in natural pan jus. Sides included with this tasty dish are a sizeable scoop of luscious truffle mashed potatoes and perfectly tender fresh grilled asparagus. Considering that it’s not unusual to pay $20 for a burger at most sit-down establishments, Ivy’s Chicken Roulade is very reasonable priced for an entrée of this size and quality.

Hell’s Kitchen isn’t that close to our ‘hood, but we’ll be going back to Ivy Bar and Grill to revisit some of the delicious creations featured in this review, as well as to try a few we are craving just from reading about them!

Ivy Bar and Grill is Located at 944 8th Ave. (between 56th St & 55th St.) New York, NY. Phone (212) 459-9444 or visit their website, IvyBarNYC.com for full menus and more Information.