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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

BK Jani

The entire family went for a drive through the confusing streets of Bushwick and returned well-fed and enlivened by tremendously high-quality food. This is unmatched meat grilling in New York City. Everything is marinated in yogurt redolent of ginger, garlic and classic Mughal spices.

The no nonsense space (picnic tables) makes for a casual wait. And wait you will. Unlike Babu ji, everything goes from raw to cooked after ordering. The afternoon we went, there were 5 menu items. We ordered four (lamb two ways, beef two ways) dishes and all were fantastic. No clear favorite; all were great. The seekh kebab was the spiciest while the burger was the least.

If any detractor exists, it’s the limeade. At $6, this is a waste of money that you could put towards more meat. Anyone with three limes and the capability to make simple syrup could replicate the limeade. But the meats, copying BK Jani’s quality would be highly unlikely .

Delaware & Hudson

Delaware and Hudson was a great dining experience. SoS and I will visit again. I loved the fixed price menu starting with five appetizers, a pasta and entrĂ©e. The seating was comfortable and casual. The service was perfect and unobtrusive. The KD Lang – Brandi Carlille – Carly Simon soundtrack was enjoyable.

Not strange consider Patty Jackson’s background, we both thought the pasta course was the finest component of the meal. On our evening, the pasta was freshly made spaghetti with barely cooked cherry tomatoes, herbs, and olive oil. Since every component was spectacular the dish was a gem. Our biggest compliment: we were genuinely sad to see the plates cleared.

Entrees were excellent in a straightforward manner. At $58, I thought this was an excellent value and we’d be happy to return again. 

Babu Ji

There’s nothing right with this restaurant. I’ve gone over the experience numerous times in my head. Every dish was average to poor. Babu ji is not a place I’d recommend to anyone. Sad. I had high hopes (on my 2016 list). Here are four observations.

Chef and I (Chef is my friend who is actually an executive chef) sat at the bar because we typically like bar eating. Babu ji doesn’t really have a bar. If you look close, you’ll notice there’s no water or waste lines at the bar so they can’t prepare anything there. In fact, the bar is simply for pouring wines and organize plates. Essentially, the restaurant designers moved the kitchen pass into the front of the house. So there’s no bartender for chit chat and recommendations. There’s no convivial vibe from fellow bar eaters. The bar is simply high chairs at a 2’-wide ledge.

Second, let’s review the two appetizers: yogurt kebabs and batata vada. Both arrived lukewarm; clearly made during prep and assembled as the order comes in (Give them pre-made food and turn those tables!) Both arrived in delicious but very thin sauces (the croquettes came with a beet sauce that was especially tasty via spoon, but nearly impossible to dress the croquette with due to its viscosity). We were upset by the food’s temperature but horrified that both dishes arrived with orchid flowers on top. Orchids can be toxic. First rule of plating, you never put something on the plate that’s toxic.

Third, I inquired about the beef curry. That sounded interesting.
Me: What’s the cut of beef and where’s the beef from? [At $24 in the East Village, I expect a response.]
Waiter: I don’t know.
Me: Can you ask the kitchen? [Chef smirking now]
Waiter: Hold on. I’ll ask but the chef’s not here.
Minutes later
Waiter: The kitchen doesn’t know but you can call Donald tomorrow and ask [Waiter hands me notepad piece of paper.] But it’s very delicious.
Me: Ok.
Chef: Ok, we’ll order the daal, beef curry, aged basmati rice, and assortment of naan.

The beef curry was terrible in two ways. The kitchen garnished the curry with a vegetable spirals (as seen on TV during Three’s Company reruns) and a really rough julienne of ginger. Raw ginger. In the evening mood light, I thought it was crisped threads of potato. Wrong and I paid dearly for this miscalculation. For the following 5 minutes everything tasted like raw ginger. Second issue with this beef curry was the cut of beef. It was something incredibly lean and thus extremely dry.

Finally, we were served 3 naan simultaneously in a wicker basket with no linen liner. By the time Chef and I got to the 3rd, the naan was cold, flaccid and unappealing.

There were myriad other minor mistakes and issues. Overall, Babu ji is a restaurant with no soul or attention to quality. Still, it was jam-packed on a Thursday in August.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Restaurants On My List

Well 2015 was a failure in trying the restaurants I wanted to visit in New York City. I did get to Cosme (which was uneventful and forced) as well as Benoit (which was delightful, satisfying and top-shelf) before the review. In 2016, I've been back to Benoit three times in three months.

2016: The Realistic List of 9

  1. Babu ji (site)
  2. Bunker (site)
  3. Delaware & Hudson (site)
  4. Dirt Candy (site)
  5. Luksus (site)
  6. Semilla (site)
  7. Superiority Burger (site)
  8. Take Root (site)
  9. Xi'An Famous Foods (site)
Thus far, 2016 hasn't had anything new and delightful. Regretful: yes (I'm looking at you Minetta Tavern and your uninspired tripe).

2016: Hopeful Duo

I have a soft-spot for older Italian places and haven't been to either of:

  1. Bamonte's (review)
  2. Queen (site)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dinner #2 - Ivan Ramen

Late last month, I visited Ivan Ramen for a leisurely (and rare) weekday lunch. From the first Lucky Peach issue until now, I've thought that Ivan Orkin had figured out something totally exceptional and beyond (other ramen-ya). Well, this was a delicious and filling lunch, not transcendent.

We had four dishes:

  1. 1000 year-old deviled egg
  2. Chinese greens & garlic
  3. Chicken katsu caesar
  4. Dan Dan Noodles
The 1000 year-old egg was a revelation; way more delectable than the yellow boxes of 6 we purchase in Chinatown. It was supremely preserved and funky. The greens & garlic sounds almost too simple to order which is why, we ordered. And as a cold preparation, it was outstanding. The perfect ratio of greens to garlic, the greens cooked to the point between raw and mushy and the garlic slivers soaking up the relenting green water.

However, the two entrees were just fine. The salad dressing was great, but the chicken felt like any katsu from a W. 55th street shop and the romaine felt like it came out of a newly opened Andy Boy package.

Dan Dan Noodles (or mein) can be something to revel. With the pork chashu this wasn't great, primarily because of the chashu. I think the pork was stale. Definitely not rancid, the meat had this "old' taste to it that I think of when I open a package of badly freezer burned pork ribs. It was fine which was sad.

I thought there would be a big quality and experience gap between Ivan Ramen and Chuko / Ganso (my go-to places). It turns out that there isn't. If anything the gap is counter my expectations.