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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.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dinner #1 - The Black Ant

The Black Ant is an overly adequate restaurant without a single, significant appeal or broad dining friendliness. Nothing is wrong at the Black Ant, but nothing is really right. Are you looking for a tremendous tequila list managed by a team that knows the list well? Head over to Mayahuel. Would you like inventive tacos made with top-flight ingredients? Hey, Empellon Tacqueria is nearby. Looking for innovative Mexican cuisine in a great environment? Fonda is just a bit to the east.

So what exactly was wrong with the Black Ant? Nothing was “wrong” yet little felt right. First, we entered on a cold February evening with the Black Ant offering no place to hang coats. This is not a quick-serve establishment but a full normal restaurant. So our booth had four heavy coats slung over the backs where, undoubtedly, the collar-ends must have been annoying to the fine folks in the adjacent booth.

Second, we had a vegetarian with us looking for an appropriate option. The “vegan” entrée included chapulin, or grasshoppers. That caused an awkward situation.

Third, the goat entrée special offered no gaminess or distinctiveness. This adequately cooked piece of meat could have been lamb or even beef. The Black Ant feels like Midtown coming to the East Village.

Food highlight – the drunken monkey is a silly, spring break name for a delicious and interesting dessert.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Restaurants for 2015

I have my highly-anticipated list of 2015 restaurants ready. Already a month behind, let's see if I can get to all 12 in 2015. Bon Appetit.

  1. Maison Premiere (holdover from 2014)
  2. Delaware & Hudson
  3. Ivan Ramen
  4. Black Ant
  5. SriPraPhai (holdover from 2014)
  6. Xi'An Fine Foods (holdover from 2014)
  7. Luksus
  8. Bunker
  9. Pies & Thighs
  10. Paulie Gee
  11. Semilla
  12. Thirty Acres