NY: Restaurants

Mapping: the eats

Don't forget, there's a nifty map of restaurants/retailers covered in this blog. This might make it easier to focus on a particular area, for example. 

It's accessible via the menu bar above, or here: http://tommyeats.com/tommyeats/te-map.html

I should add that this Google map doesn't seem to work with Google Chrome, so you have to click on the link for the larger view. You should probably do that anyway.


View t:e restaurants in a larger map


Best Dishes of 2013: The not-necessarily-NJ edition

It's time for a list, right? End of the year type thing? Wrap-up? Is that what they call it?

Every now and again I'll put together a year-end wrap-up thing, generally focusing on the most notable dishes that I ate (rather than the "best" restaurants). When I started reviewing Amex statements and photos for this year's list, I quickly determined that we enjoyed a greater number of memorable meals outside of New Jersey than we did inside. And this list reflects that fact. So if you're not interested in ever leaving NJ, you should probably close your browser's tab now.

For those still reading, I present to you, my completely self-indulgent list of the Best Dishes of 2013: The not-necessarily-NJ edition.

Let's start with a cocktail, shall we?

 

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MP Taverna: Irvington, NY

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Westchester makes north Jersey look like [fill in the blank with a place where you figure there's horrible food and drink so I don't offend anyone in, say, Delaware].

It seems like every few weeks, someone is telling me about a great place in Westchester, or I'm reading a positive NY Times review of a great place in Westchester. But it seems so damned far away. Maybe it's because you have to cross one of those crappy bridges to get there. 287 is no picnic on weekends, and for the love of all things holy, why would anyone subject themselves to the GWB and those horrible pot-holed roads that stem from it.

But every now and again, a trip to Westchester is a good thing. Especially if your destination is a place like The Cookery (auto-play warning!), Growlers Beer Bistro (disclosure: I know one of the partners), or Tarry Market. I'm a bit hesitant to include MP Taverna on this list, but I will.

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The soon-to-be-famous Ooooooo-tommy: burger

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Two, not one, not three, readers, have recently brought the Umami Burger thing to my attention.

While I'm sure it's wonderful, there are two problems with Umami Burger: 

1) it's not 10 minutes from my house
and 3) I don't wait in line for food ('cept BBQ)

The odds of me getting to Umami Burger are slim to none, with none way out in front.

Rather than be left out of the umami craze completely, as I was the Cro-nut and Ramen Burger things, I'll just make one at home, using all of the stuff Umami Burger uses. It will be called the Oooooo-tommy: Burger.  Pronounced as if I touched you just right, and then "tom-me," followed by "bur-ger." Go ahead. Say it out loud. That's right baby.

I'll be using a blend of chuck and short rib (50/50). I'll be making some shiitake mushrooms cooked in butter. I'll be making some caramelized onions. I'll be making and perhaps photographing a parmesan crisp.  And I'll be making some oven roasted tomatoes. I'll be incorporating some Worcestershire in some of this, because that stuff has cuh-ray-zee umami, as you know. I will not be making homemade ketchup, because homemade ketchup, regardless of how much umami, is never preferable.

I'll be placing all of this stuff on a brioche bun, and then I'll be eating it.

If it's fantastic, you'll be informed.

If you never hear from me on this again, it was just OK, or, very possibly, it sucked.

Update: I'm here to tell you it was pretty freakin' fantastic. Click me for more on the Ooooo-tommy:burger.

 


Zero Otto Nove: Arthur Ave, The Bronx NY

Pizza
That's 089 to you.

Without any planning or research, we stopped by the famed Arthur Ave on the way back from a sweaty and ape-filled day at the Bronx Zoo. A last minute rec came over the FaceBook wire, directed to the missus (the one of us who has friends), suggesting we eat at Zero Otto Nove. A message no doubt along the lines of "OMG it's to die for." Hard to argue with that type of feedback.

They hadn't yet opened when we arrived at 4 pm, so we killed some time walking around, primarily trying to find a restroom. Can't say I was paying much attention to anything else on this first trip to Arthur Ave.

At 5 pm we went back to Zero Otto Nove, and, incredibly, the place was packed. I think we snagged the last table.

Inside
We were escorted down the long corridor to the back room, which is two stories high, and has a skylight, making it very bright and airy room. It's got that "just like Italy" feel. That is, if everyone in Italy wears Yankees jerseys and Italian walls have painted stairways and windows. Come on, just joshin'. It's a pleasant enough space with painted walls, and Yankees fans are simply dandy by any standard that I can come up with.

Some quick googling yielded a very dubious claim about the pizza at Zero Otto Nove. One of the NYC food critics made a claim that it was the best Neapolitan pizza in New York City. Unlikely, I thought. The reviewer didn't seem to understand Neapolitan pizza, it seemed to me. Granted, this review was a few years ago, before the explosion of very good Neapolitan pizza places opened, but at the very least, Una Pizzeria Napoletana was already open in the east village at that point, and it no doubt had better Neapolitan pizza, I can easily claim at this point.

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The Cookery: Dobbs Ferry, NY

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Is this my new favorite restaurant?

Weekends afford us time to find some interesting food around the NYC area. Unfortunately, on weekend afternoons, the vast majority of restaurants seems to abandon what they do well, what they've worked hard to develop, the food that gives them an identity and sets them apart from the competition, and shift to a menu fitting of a Holiday Inn buffet for weary travelers.  This is know as "brunch," and "brunch" is strictly for amateurs.

But not The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry. Their brunch menu is no fucking brunch menu like I've ever seen, of this you are assured.

Lots of pig, pasta, eggs (a brunchy item and normally handled in unexceptional ways, but not here...purgatory, coddled etc.), fish, meatballs, all over the brunch menu. In fact it looks a lot like their dinner menu. This reason alone is enough for it to be my new favorite restaurant.

A t:e reader turned me on to this place, and after reviewing the menu online, it wasn't long before we took the quick drive from Bergen County to see what was doin.

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Fatty Crab: New York City, NY

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A favorite hobby of mine is waking up on a weekend and hopping into the city for lunch. This is a way better hobby than getting up and, say, working out.  Unfortunately, the prejudices of others conspire to keep us away from lunch menus on weekends.  See, for some reason, on weekends, restaurants feel the need to abandon the food that makes them successful, the food which is the manifestation of the chef's vision, the food that makes them stand apart from their competitors, the food that people rave about on blogs, and instead of making that food, they're making freakin' pancakes and eggs and yogurt with granola.  Oh, and they mix sparkling wine and orange juice.

This clearly drives me up a wall, and makes our weekend dining decisions that much more complex and time-intensive.

Thankfully there are a few (well, thousands probably) restaurants that will serve decent, non-brunch food in NYC, including Blue Smoke, North End Grill (both being Danny Meyer restaurants...I guess he knows what he's doing), and as we found out last weekend, Fatty Crab.

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Rhodes North Tavern: Sloatsburg, NY

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Representatives from the t:e organization found themselves at Rhodes North Tavern in Sloatsburg, NY, recently, and boy were we impressed.

If you're like me, you've probably driven past this place a bunch of times, and thought "hmm, looks like an interesting biker bar," but then never pulled the trigger.  That was a mistake on my part, and on yours as well.

Our first impression when pulling into the parking lot was "woah, this place is packed."  Thankfully, it's quite a large space, and all of those people from those cars found their way to some place other than the large, square bar, where we gleefully set up shop.

Right from go, we felt as if we were in another world.  While Sloatsburg is only a few miles from the New Jersey border, there seems to be a, umm, cultural difference from your average Bergen County restaurant.  In a completely good way.   Was it due to the country pop music playing over the sound system?  Hey listen, I hate country pop as much as the next guy (although I loves me some Big & Rich), but when subjected to it on a Sunday afternoon, you just can't help but think you're on vacation.  Like in South Carolina or something.  In a completely good way.  

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Triple Pepper Chicken: Sichuan-style

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There's a Sichuan dish called "Triple Pepper Chicken", at least at some restaurants, which consists of little nuggets of somewhat crispy chicken, hot dried chilis, hot fresh chilis, and Sichuan peppercorn (3 peppers*, see?).  I've been eating the hell out of this dish for some years, first at Grand Sichuan in NYC and more recently at New Jersey's unrelated yet similarly named Chengdu 1 (Cedar Grove) and Chengdu 23 (Wayne).  

If you've ever had this dish, you know it's spicy and addictive.  If you've never had it, you're a damned fool, and need to do yourself a favor and go to one of these restaurants and order it. Order it in double, so you have leftovers for the next day.

Although I eat Sichuan at least once a month, I have no experience in Sichuan cooking and know nothing about it, although I do have a wonderful Sichuan cookbook called Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.  I should probably thumb through it some day.  What I do know is that oil often plays a part in the sauces (cleverly disguising itself as the sauce), and Sichuan peppercorns are used.  For some reason I figured I could duplicate this dish at home.  At the very least, the main components are pretty clear (chicken, 3 peppers, oil), and maybe just throwing them together would produce a close approximation, I thought.  As it turns out, I was somewhat right.

So with ignorance as my navigator, off I went...

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