Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: The Friendly Toast (Cambridge)

The Friendly Toast CambridgeThe Friendly Toast first opened in Portsmouth, NH twenty years ago and opened a second location in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA five years ago so this review is a bit late in the making.  Despite that fact, I’ve been looking forward to visiting this restaurant since it opened.  The funky vibe that is so evident in the original restaurant is replicated in Cambridge, although there is a haphazard nature to the decor in the Portsmouth location that seems more planned or contrived here.

The Friendly Toast CambridgeTacky decor aside, our food was delicious.  The breakfast menu options are abundant and each plate seems to have plenty of flavor.  Shown above is The Friendly Toast’s Costa Rican breakfast $10.75 which comes with black beans and plum tomatoes under melted provolone;
 two eggs with a dollop of sour cream, served with homefries & homemade toast.

The Friendly Toast CambridgeSergio opted for a breakfast sandwich for $8.50 that came on a homemade biscuit with a thick slice of ham, eggs and cheese and a side of their breakfast potatoes which are flavored with chili powder to give them some kick.  The presentation of both breakfast plates was imposing so it is best to bring your appetite.

Since the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, you may end up waiting quite a while so if you don’t arrive hungry, by the time you get a table you likely will be.  The Friendly Toast in Cambridge is open for breakfast at 8 a.m. seven days a week at 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA.

The Friendly Toast on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: The Paramount (Southie)

The Paramount South BostonThe Paramount in Beacon Hill has been serving delicious meals since 1937.  In February 2012 they opened a second location in South Boston. The “new” location has a similar layout, executive chef, hours and menu. The casual dining option nicely compliments the personality of Southie, offering very good, affordable meals in a comfortable setting.

While you might want to try lunch or dinner at The Paramount, we recently indulged in breakfast, which is available 7-days a week starting at 8:00 a.m. with plates reasonably priced from $5-$9.  Although the helpful staff is quick to clean, there is no table service so when you enter the restaurant walk up to the kitchen counter to place your order.

The Paramount South BostonI ordered huevos rancheros $9; two fried eggs, homemade salsa, sliced avocado, with three grilled corn tortilla.  The breakfast was satisfying but the salsa lacked any spice (then again I ordered this in Southie where many think mustard is spicy).  Sergio ordered a breakfast sandwich for $6 which (like my plate) came with a generous scoop of breakfast potatoes that are crispy on the outside and nicely salted.The Paramount South BostonIn the name of ‘research’ we also ordered a plate of blueberry pancakes $8.50.  The large stack of three pancakes are served with a liberal dollop of butter and a healthy sprinkling of confectioners sugar.  Two words describe these pancakes, “mmm-mmm good”.

Paramount SouthieThe Paramount South Boston is located at 667 East Broadway and is open 7-days a week.  They open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Paramount on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Blue Dragon

Ming Tsai

Photo credit: Melissa Ostrow

Last Thursday Blue Dragon celebrated their one year anniversary.  This is Ming Tsai’s second restaurant and his first in Boston. When it first opened there was so much buzz it was impossible to grab a seat at this gastro pub that served Asian inspired plates.  One year later the place remains a popular destination, and I’m happy to say that Ming’s touch remains – the food and service is excellent.

PotstickersBlue Dragon encourages you to share plates so there are only a few true dinner plates.   We sampled a bit of everything but one thing you *must* try is the potstickers on the menu; we tried two:  Carolina BBQ (top left) for $9 and Braised Short Rib and Chinese Celery Potstickers (top right) for $9.  Both were soft and flavorful, but I liked the kick in the BBQ Potstickers most.

Ming TsaiWe followed the poststickers with Ming’s take on Fish-n-Chips $12 that are made with panko cod, fries and served on a soft tortilla with cabbage, peppers and Chinese black vinegar aioli.  These were delicious and something I would recommend to anyone who likes this sort of thing. The peppers had some heat that I found really appealing.  We countered the “fish and chips tacos” with Teriyaki bison sliders $13 that come topped with smoked Gouda, caramelized onions and shiitakes.  Both plates went great with my winter lager.

Ming TsaiFor dessert we ordered the deep dish chocolate chip cookie $10.  The cookie is served warm in a skillet and topped with ice cream and caramel sauce and was delicious.  One year later, Blue Dragon proves it still is worth visiting.

Ming Tsai’s Blue Dragon is in Fort Point Channel at 324A street in Boston; open Monday – Saturday; closed on Sunday.

Blue Dragon on Urbanspoon

Favorite Boston pizzeria

Boston PizzaPizza may be my absolute favorite food; perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A lot of people will dis Boston pizzerias in favor of pizza shops elsewhere, but I’ve found a number of places I really like.  One of my absolute favorites is the North End pizzeria, Ernesto’s.

The pizza pie crust is flavorful but not too thick and I love their sauce. My only beef with Ernesto’s is that they don’t deliver, but that doesn’t stop me from picking up a pizza every couple of months.  The large 18″ green pepper and onion pizza is $18 and change; and worth every penny. Give Ernesto’s a try if you live nearby or happen to be in the North End.

Ernesto’s Pizza – 69 Salem Street – Boston (617) 523-1373

Do you have a favorite pizzeria in Boston?  Do tell. Boston Pizza

Restaurant review: Ostra

Ostra opened late last year in space formerly occupied by Avila in the Back Bay.  Executive Chef Mitchell Randall describes his food as “contemporary Mediterranean” with a focus on seafood; fear not there are options for meat lovers too.  Ostra is Columbus Hospitality Group’s 5th restaurant in Boston and 6th in the area; it is a welcome addition to CHG’s collection of power dining options and sister restaurants (Mistral, Sorellina, Teatro, Mooo, and L’Andana – in Burlington).

Columbus Hospitality Group OstraThe restaurant is beautiful with white walls offset by large, dramatic paneled photographs of the ocean.  The caramel colored leather booth seats and hints of gold add interest, but I really liked the custom chandeliers inspired by jellyfish that float high above the dining room.

Ostra also features a beautiful baby grand piano (nightly entertainment is set to start in February in their lounge) next to a comfortable long bar that seats approximately 15.  Main dishes at Ostra range from $28 to $90 (a dinner option for 2).

Columbus Hospitality Group OstraI started my first meal at Ostra  (I will be back) with the Hamachi ($19). There is a hint of heat courtesy of jalapeño oil and pepper, but it is very subtle and offset by the citrus.  I thought the starter was as visually beautiful as it was delicious to eat and I’d highly recommend it. Following our first plates, my friend and I continued to nibble on the warm bread and butter, while we chatted and sipped our cocktails.  My friend tried the Malbec braised beef short rib ($42). This was unbelievably tender and flavorful – meat lovers take note. Columbus Hospitality Group OstraI had been torn between a few options but our helpful (and distractingly handsome) waiter, Carlos, won me over with his description of the Native Cod ($36).  The fish was cooked to perfection and the accompanying sweet garlic whipped potatoes and mushrooms really made the dinner special.  The porcini mushrooms definitely added an earthy taste to the dinner and I made a concerted effort to include a bit of everything in each bite to enjoy all the flavors together.

Columbus Hospitality Group OstraAlthough I’m not much of one for ordering desserts in the name of ‘research’ we opted to try the Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeux ($13) – again a recommendation from our waiter, Carlos.  As with all the plates that come out of Chef Randall’s kitchen, the dessert only entices you more when you see it so beautifully plated in front of you.

Columbus Hospitality Group OstraOstra is a fine dining restaurant and a welcome addition to the Boston dining scene.  Service from the moment I walked in to the moment the door was closed behind us was flawless. Our waiter was helpful without being intrusive and the GM, Alex Hage, whom I met when I walked in was so helpful answering all my questions about the restaurant and menu.

Another way to enjoy this new restaurant is to visit their lounge. Nightly entertainment will begin in February so patrons can enjoy a cocktail (or two), sample some of Ostra’s raw bar or share a plate while listening to the piano player.

Ostra – 1 Charles Street – 617.421.1200

Ostra on Urbanspoon

Mike’s Pastry vs. The Modern Pastry Shop

Mikes vs Modern Boston North End Italian BakeriesAnyone who has grown up in the area will be familiar with the rivalry that exists between two of the North End’s biggest Italian pastry shops.

Mike’s vs. The Modern

Earlier this month I hosted three taste testers to blindly sample a plain cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and The Modern Pastry Shop. The testers agreed the size of the pastry was relatively similar, but the appearance of The Modern’s cannoli was more appealing. When I asked what it was about The Modern’s cannoli one tester said “it looked more rustic and homemade.”  You decide. Which looks more appealing to you?

Mike's Pastry Cannoli $3.50

Mike’s Pastry Cannoli $3.50

The Modern Pastry North End

The Modern Pastry Shop Cannoli $2.50

While size and appearance matter when evaluating food, what really counts is what it tastes like and all three tasters agreed the cannoli from The Modern Pastry was superior.  The pre-filled cannoli from Mike’s made the cannoli shell not as appealing and the ricotta filling from The Modern was sweeter and creamier. Have you been to these Italian pastry shops? What do you think? Conduct a side-by-side sampling like we did and share your findings with me.

BosGuy Cannoli tasting

Do you like this sort of thing? You may want to check out the results of a another blind tasting: The Best Chocolate Chip cookie in the South End.

South End chocolate chip cookie tasting

BosGuy cookie tastingBoston’s South End has a high concentration of bakeries and cafes so I enlisted the help of three South End residents to take part in a blind tasting to determine who makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the neighborhood. I did not partake in the voting but organized the tasting that included (alphabetically): Appleton Bakery, Berkeley Perk Cafe, Blunch, Flour Bakery, Jaho Coffee & Tea, Render Coffee, South End Buttery and The Wholy Grain.

BosGuy cookie contestWithout a doubt the clear favorite by all three tasters was The South End Buttery chocolate chip cookie that received a rating of 81.5 out of a possible 90 points. This cookie scored high in all three categories: taste, appearance and size.

Tasters commented that the cookie was soft and full of delicious chocolate chips.  Honorable mentions should also go to Flour Bakery and Render Cafe which came in second and third by the reviewers.  Listed below is the complete ranking and score of those bakeries and cafes sampled along with the cost.

BosGuy cookie tasting

Much thanks to Ben Samson, Ryan Losey and Dr. Julian D’Achille, South End residents and chocolate chip cookie aficionados who acted as judges for this blind tasting.

*Greenlight Cafe and Stella Cafe were not included because they were not open at the time of purchase. National chains in the South End were not eligible for consideration.

Restaurant review: Tangierino

Tangierino in Charlestown serves both ‘old’ and ‘new’ world Moroccan cuisine. Over the years, their success has allowed them to expand into neighboring spaces so the restaurant is a collection of cozy, romantic dining rooms that also includes a subterranean hookah lounge. Tangiero Charlestown The rich decor and exotic smell of spices made me feel like I had left Boston behind as soon as I walked through the front door. After being seated we were asked if we’d like to wash our hands with rose water; a hand washing ritual that was both fun and fragrant. Following the ritual, a plate of hummus and olives were served.  The marinated olives had an unexpected kick and we all nibbled on them while perusing the menu. While there are many small plate and appetizers most range between $10-$16. For our dinner we settled on these delicious options.

Mendoubia Salad $11 Tangierino Charlestown

Mendoubia Salad $11 Tangierino

The Mendoubia Salad is made with baby spinach and included goat cheese and cranberry wrapped in phyllo along with toasted pine nuts that was light and flavorful.

Chicken B’Stilla $12 Tangierino

Chicken B’Stilla $12 Tangierino

The Chicken B’Stilla (a house favorite) is encased in a light phyllo with toasted almonds and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar that is served with mint-yogurt.  This was part of the ‘old world’ menu and really was delicious.

4 Layer Tuna Tartar $14 Tangierino

4 Layer Tuna Tartar $14 Tangierino

However it was the Tuna Tartar that really impressed me. The base included chopped cucumber, followed by a layer of honey and mango, and then a generous helping of spicy tuna that is topped by a thin layer of guacamole and served with crispy wontons. After our plates were cleared and a brief belly dancing performance our main dishes were served.  Steve ordered the Tunisian Seafood Couscous.

Tunisian Seafood Couscous $29

Tunisian Seafood Couscous $29 Tangierino

The seafood is served on a bed of couscous that was cooked with familiar fragrances and spices that I couldn’t place but I recognized as staples to the Moroccan cuisine we were eating.  My meal proved to be more to my liking if only because it surprised me.  I usually prefer salmon grilled with citrus, but this filet was coated with harissa – a sauce made from chili peppers, paprika and olive oil – and I loved it. I devoured the entire plate. 

Salmon Baha $26 Tangierino

Salmon Baha $26 Tangierino

However it was Sergio’s order, M’rouzia of Boneless Short Ribs, that was both a house and table favorite.  M’rouzia is one of the most important dishes of Moroccan cuisine – a sweet and salty meat that combines a blend of spices with honey, cinnamon and almonds. Suffice it to say, the short ribs were delicious, practically melting in your mouth; and worth trying when you come to Tangierino.

M'rouzia boneless short ribs $28 Tangierino

M’rouzia boneless short ribs $28 Tangierino

Tangierino is open 7 nights a week. The restaurant is located at 83 Main Street in Charlestown.  Reservations are highly recommended.
Tangierino on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Estelle’s

Photo Source: UrbanDaddy.com

Photo Source: Urban Daddy Boston

Estelle’s Southern Cuisine opened in the South End approximately one year ago but it wasn’t until recent that I visited this casual neighborhood restaurant. Estelle’s won me over with its easy going atmosphere, continuous stream of 80s pop rock that played all evening, and the impressive selection (30 all included) of beers on tap. While I lived in Atlanta for a few years, I’ll be among the first to admit I’m not a Southern cuisine aficionado so my comments are more focused on my impressions rather than if Estelle’s passes the muster as an authentic southern cuisine restaurant.

Estelle's Bitter Green Salad $9.95

Estelle’s Bitter Green Salad $9.95

Estelle’s menu is reasonably priced with Starters ranging from $5-$14; Burgers & Po’Boys ranging from $8-$13; and Main Plates ranging from $18-$26.  I started my dinner with the Bitter Greens Salad that has a delicious sherry – mustard vinaigrette, beets, goat cheese & orange – spicy pickled carrots. The salad portion was so large it could easily be shared but that didn’t prevent me from eating nearly all of it myself.

Estelle's Pulled Pork $12.95

Estelle’s Pulled Pork $12.95

Following the salad I ordered what the bartender told me is a reoccurring special, a Pulled Pork sandwich.  This too proved to be addictive.  The pulled pork was piled so generously on the bun that I needed my fork to eat some of the excess off before I could even attempt to pick it up to eat.

Estelle's Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Pie $6.95

Estelle’s Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Pie $6.95

Against my better judgement I succumbed and ordered dessert when I heard the bartender describe how the chef puree’s peanut butter and banana and serves it on a light thin pie crust topped with chocolate and served with a side of fresh whipped cream. This was so decadently good I know I’ll have dreams about Estelle’s Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Pie.

From start to finish I enjoyed my dinner. This latest venture from the Wilcox Hospitality Group get two thumbs up from me.

Estelle’s 782 Tremont St  /  (857) 250-2999  www.estellesboston.com

Estelle's on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Da Noi Midtown NYC

Provocative image of a young Sophia Lauren dominates Da Noi's entry

Provocative image of a young Sophia Lauren dominates Da Noi’s entry

Da Noi which in Italian means from us has a very cozy and welcoming feel as you walk in from 49th Street. That feeling is further reinforced by the attentive and thoughtful care given to all who enter by the manager.  As I slid into a chair at the bar, I was introduced to the very friendly bartender, Patricia.  She was only too happy to talk to me about the history of Da Noi which has several other locations around New York City and to point out her favorite options on both the dinner and wine menus.

The affordable menu is divided into antipasti ($11-$15), pastas ($19-$23) and meats ($22-$45) and all main plates come with the option of coming as a half plate.  After watching a few orders come to the bar I wisely selected a half portion, that proved to be quite large and more than adequate as a dinner portion. 

Restaurant ReviewUnfortunately, this is where my glowing review and admiration for Da Noi ends.  To accompany what turned out to be a particularly good Malbec, I ordered Da Noi’s Melanzane Afumigate $11.95, which is grilled eggplant with smoked mozzarella and tomato.  What I didn’t realize until the appetizer was served was that it also comes in a pool of oil and balsamic.  The eggplant acts as a sponge and where a drizzle would probably be delicious the amount of oil and balsamic not only overpowered the flavors of the eggplant and cheese in particular but it also made it heavier and less satisfying overall.

Da Noi NYCDespite the mezza mezza review of the eggplant I looked forward to my Spaghetti Bolognese (I ordered a half portion for $11.95). However, I found the sauce too sweet for my liking. Also the proportion of spaghetti to sauce left me wondering if the line cook had dumped a full portion of Bolognese to accompany my half portion of spaghetti.  I suppose I wouldn’t have minded so much if I had enjoyed the sauce but it wasn’t meant to be.

So I’m quite conflicted with this review and wonder if anyone has perhaps had a different experience at Da Noi. The service was flawless and the space couldn’t be more welcoming, but I found the food average verging on disappointing.

Da Noi Midtown / 214E 49th Street / (212) 754-5710

Da Noi - Midtown on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: UpStairs on the Square

Upstairs on the SquareAfter 31 years co-owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes have decided to close their successful restaurant in Harvard Square.  When word of their closing was announced, I spoke to my very good friend and fellow blogger, 40-Something Life about having a last hurrah at UpStairs.

I suppose this isn’t quite a review as much as it is a tribute to a restaurant that has been uniquely true to itself over its 30+ years in business.  For my final dinner at UpStairs on the Square I made reservations for the Soirée Dining Room and we were seated near the beautiful fireplace in the back third of the room – sometimes called the Jewel Box because of the round windows and champagne bubbles in silver leaf that decorate the walls.

Upstairs on the Square appetizersDinner was superb from start to finish with flawless service that was attentive without being intrusive. We started our meals sharing the beet trio $17.00 and grilled oysters $18.00. While both starters were delicious the half dozen grilled oysters served on a bed of salt were so good that I kicked myself for not having ordered them before. The oyster shells were hot to the touch, but the meat of the oysters only warm providing a uniquely delicious dining experience.

For our main plates we opted to try some of the house favorites. Tracey (40-something life) ordered the crescent duck served with beets and the juice of blood oranges $33.00. The duck was succulent with a salty exterior that made it impossible not to devour.  Upstairs on the Square main dishesI opted for the monkfish which was served with mushrooms and sauce that was so addictive my dining partner had to dip her bread into it a second time to enjoy it again. I had contemplated ordering the salmon but our waiter had suggested I try the monkfish and I’m happy he did. The fish was delicious with the bottle of Laroche Chablis we had ordered with our dinner.

Upstairs on the SquareFollowing our meal, we were provided complimentary glasses of sparkling wine served in classic champagne glasses.  Perhaps it was the bubbles or just knowing that we’d not return again but neither Tracey nor I wanted the dinner to end so we ordered  a cheese platter $15.00 and glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.  The cheese plate included (from left to right) Charmoix – a cow’s milk cheese from Belgium, Gran Pyramide de Chevre – a goat’s milk cheese also from Belgium and a Comte (my favorite) from France.

I will miss this restaurant and would encourage anyone in the area to make one final reservation – preferably for their Soirée Dining Room before they close for good on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013.

UpStairs on the Square you will be missed.

Upstairs on the Square on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: PICCO

picco bostonPICCO is an acronym of sort that stands for Pizza and Ice Cream Co. This affordable South End restaurant serves up delicious pizzas, home made ice creams (flavors change daily) as well as a host of other pastas, sandwiches and salads that are all affordably priced.

In their initial review, The Boston Globe referred to PICCO as, “A destination pizzeria disguised as a neighborhood joint, Picco tempts even the most persnickety foodies with delicate brick-oven crusts and top-drawer toppings…” Although that review is several years old, PICCO’s food remains consistent. While service fluctuates depending on the night and staff, their menu and price point make it one of the better casual dining options in the South End.

South End Dining

Neapolitan pizza chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella & basil $20.00

The Neapolitan pizza shown above remains one of my favorites at PICCO.  Served slightly crispy with the mozzarella still bubbling, it takes a bit of restraint not to pick up a slice right away.  The pizza smells of slightly burnt crust and basil when it is first served and is large enough to share with another.

PICCO Boston Ice Cream

Small ice cream sundae $5.00

What would a visit to PICCO be without sampling some of their ice cream?  We shared a small ice cream sundae opting for the vanilla, pistachio & brownie ice cream with oodles of hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.

PICCO is located is at 513 Tremont Street, Boston in the South End. They open at 11:00 am daily.

Picco on Urbanspoon

Beat Hotel in Harvard Square

Beat Hotel BarLast week I was invited to attend a digital media dinner hosted by the Beat Hotel in Harvard Square.  The subterranean restaurant, bar and music venue resembles the owner’s other venue, The Beehive in the South End, but it manages to exude its own character.  The Beat Hotel earned my immediate gratitude when I learned the owners have brought back a few popular menu items that they had served up at Pho Republique but more about that later.

Beat Hotel Soursop Fresca

Beat Hotel Soursop Fresca

Capable of seating 360 and offering two bars in addition to live performances 7-days a week, makes the Beat Hotel not only a unique destination but also a very welcome addition to Harvard Square. I have to admit I really enjoyed everything about my first visit. I loved the look and feel of the space that was inspired by the Beat Movement from the 1950s and think that this place will thrive in its new home.  As I mentioned  previously, the owners have given a nod to a popular restaurant they closed in 2010, by adding Pho Republique’s smokey chipotle BBQ spare ribs ($14) and crispy tuna springroll ($11) to their menu.

Beat Hotel Pho Republique I practically lived off of Pho Republique’s crispy tuna springroll so I was excited to see this return and the opportunity to eat this regularly is enough incentive to get me to head over to Harvard Square.  For the record, both taste exactly as I recall and remain as addicting as ever.  There are approximately 20 items from The Beat Hotel’s large menu that one may choose for appetizers and shared items with most reasonably priced $10-$12.

The dinner menu includes approximately 20 items.  One menu item featured is the Beat Hotel’s Earth Bowl.  These range from $20-$26 depending on the protein you include and the portions are very hearty including a natural selection of grilled and roasted vegetables, rice pilaf  and tasty sauces to accompany your protein.  I opted to try this and was pleasantly surprised by the variety of textures, flavors and portion; only order if you really are hungry!Beat Hotel Dinners

My table guests were nice enough to let me photograph their dinners.  The first photo shown above is Sergio’s massive organic chicken piccata that was served on a bed of gnocchi and spinach for $23. Unfortunately, the image next to it is hard to see, but it turned out to be my favorite meal, 40-Something Life’s swordfish tacos for $24.  The photo in the lower left corner was my salmon earth bowl and in the lower right is the Halibut for $34. I failed to try the halibut, because I had stuffed myself into a pleasant food coma, but it smelled and looked delicious.

I’d encourage people to check out this venue for dinner, drinks or just a fun night out to catch some great live music. The website includes a current calendar of upcoming acts.

Beat Hotel 13 Brattle Street / Harvard Square

617-499-0001 / frontdesk@beathotel.com

Beat Hotel on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Tavola

Tavola is an authentic Neopolitan pizzeria and pasta restaurant in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.  Originally an Italian grocery store the original sign and some of the grocer’s shelves can be seen along the left wall when you first enter this long, rectangular restaurant, but my eye was immediately drawn to the massive wood burning oven at the far end that cooks the pizzas. I ended up chatting with the owner, Nick Accardi, who took over this restaurant about 18-months ago and he proudly told me about the restaurants history and why they are so passionate about the food they make.

Tavola Hell's KitchenI also had the chance to chat with the handsome Italian bartender who spends his days in Brooklyn as a struggling artist.  This neighborhood restaurant is definitely worth crossing town to check out.  Antipasti range from $8-13; pasta and entrees are $16-28; and the individual pizzas range from $10-19 — while the pastas all looked good, I knew I was going to order a pizza.  After chatting with Nick I ordered a glass of Sangiovese and the Calebresa Bona which comes topped with Esposito’s hot sopressata, fresh ricotta, plum tomato and basil.

Tavola Hell's KitchenThe thin crust is substantial enough to cradle the hot cheeses, meats and herbs that melted in my mouth.  The salty toppings had just a bit of heat but nothing that would set your mouth on fire and I used a bowl of olive oil that Nick gave me to dip the crust of the pizza so when I was done there was hardly any evidence that a pizza was once there.

Do you like pizza? Are you in New York? Head over to Hell’s Kitchen, say hello to Nick or the friendly Italian bartender, Francesco and try their pizza.

Tavola’s is located at 488 Ninth Ave in Hell’s Kitchen.

Tavola on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Hendriks NYC

Hendriks Murray HillHendriks is in Murray Hill on the corner of 3rd Ave and 37th Street in New York City.  The restaurant opened earlier this summer and can seat 60+ patrons on the dining room floor and another 15+ at the bar.  Large windows and white washed walls and ceilings provide an open and airy feeling to this comfy neighborhood restaurant that is open for brunch, lunch and dinner.

The menu is comprised of classic American fare sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.  One-third of Hendriks’ dinner menu is dedicated to appetizers that range from $6-$12. The menu also includes salads, a few pastas and main plates which mostly range from $15 – $25.  The waitstaff all seemed genuinely friendly and service was both prompt and helpful, answering my questions confidently and making suggestions.   The beer and wine menu is just what one would expect from an upscale neighborhood restaurant in terms of price range and options.

HendriksI couldn’t decide which appetizer to order so I opted to try both (I told myself this is for research purposes).  The Soppresatta for $6 was a steal. It was so delicious I’d come back for this as a snack regularly if I lived closer.  I rolled up each slice of dried salami with the thinly sliced Parmesan cheese, drizzled with honey, and chewy, sweet figs.  Combined it tasted like a slice of heaven and I greedily ate every last bite. The second option, Chick Pea Fritters – also $6 – proved to be satisfying, but I couldn’t stop obsessing over my first plate and really only ate the fritters because they accompanied my ale so nicely.

Hendriks BurgerWhenever I go to a restaurant for the first time, I temper what I want with what I see on a menu.  In this case, I really was craving pasta, but with just 3 plates on their menu and 10 plates focused on fish and meat, I thought it better to follow the menu’s lead. Because I’d already committed to a good Octoberfest brew, I opted for the Black Angus Burger ($16).  The thick burger was served with the aged cheddar still melting on it.  It also came with a heaping glob of smoked onion jam and had pickles and lettuce on the side.  Lest I forget, the thinly cut french fries came out hot and salty and sprinkled with sage and Parmesan cheese.   I wish I could share the smell emanating from my plate, because I’m fairly certain you’d immediately salivate. I know I did.

I’d certainly recommend Hendriks if you’re near Murray Hill in Manhattan.  Let me know if you try Hendriks and tell me what you thought of your meal.

Hendriks  –  557 Third Avenue & 37th Street  –  (212) 686-8080

  Hendriks on Urbanspoon