East Village updates
There are a bunch of posts on all of these places scattered around the board, but a lot of them are old, so I was wondering about people's recent experiences...
Elvie's Turo Turo (1st ave between 12th and 13th): Filipino. I really liked everything I had here, but the standout dish was the pork and bitter melon soup with cilantro. Had me poking my head into the kitchen looking for my mommy.
Flor's Kitchen (1st ave at 9th st): Venezualan. I thought the chupa was lovely - a rich broth with chunks of potato, corn, and chicken, with a generous strewing of cilantro, and served with a tiny pitcher of steamed milk. I thought the arepas and empanadas were a little bland (although the very fresh hot sauce and cilantro-based sauces helped a lot) and kind of hard. As in, I sawed away at the arepa for a good five minutes while I was trying to split it to share. They have really fresh, delicious tropical fruit juices - the guava was light years away from the syrupy concoctions I've had before, and a passionfruit-pineapple was tart and refreshing.
Col Legno (9th st between 2nd and 3rd): Italian. Standouts were the baby artichokes fried in olive oil and a simple grilled fish (forgot what kind) that was perfectly snowy, sweet and delicious. The pappardalle alla cinghiale wasn't as assertively piggy as I had hoped, but they get points for even having wild boar on the menu.
Cyclo (12th and 1st): Vietnamese. Appetizers were uniformly excellent. Entrees were uniformly bad. I'd recommend ordering 2-3 appetizers per person and skipping entrees altogether. Particularly enjoyed the coconut roti with some sort of minced chicken filling and the rice crackers w/ minced monkfish. Particularly did NOT enjoy the evocatively named carmelized chicken, which tasted of little more than soy sauce. Crispy fish was lackluster.
And the two major disappointments - please tell me I ordered wrong! Both of these places got consistently strong reviews on this board.
National Cafe - (1st ave bet 12th +13th): Cuban. While the chicken soup was delicious, the pernil was tough and kind of tasteless without the garlic sauce. The skin, which I had been looking forward to so much, was a hard impenetrable knob.
Old Devil Moon (12th st bet A+B): veg-friendly Southern. My shrimp po' boy was a disaster - tiny shrimp coated in a soggy breading tasting of stale paprika. I hate to pan them because the staff is SO nice - my friend had baked a cake (it was my birthday) and they plated and served it and everything (which meant, unfortunately, that I was unable to sample their vaunted layer cakes). Maybe it's better for brunch?
Thanks for any and all input.
The only one I've been to recently is Flor's Kitchen, and I've found that the place is on a real upswing. I get the feeling that they are captives of the produce market (perhaps the powers that be don't have the clout or the inclination to scramble for the best possible ingredients), so when fruit and vegetables are more plentiful and ripe, the fare noticeably improves.
My two cents on the above:
Elvie's - always tasty and surprising, always seems a bit overpriced but not terribly, and you have to be persistent when ordering if you want to uncover the best stuff (what's that there? what's today's special? what have you got in the back that you're not advertising?) Not recommended for the vegetarians among us, everything is prepared with pork.
Flor's - arepas and empanadas were a little bland, as you say, and nothing else has caught my attention. not sure what the fuss is about this place.
National Cafe - also vastly overrated. Any of the latino places on eight ave between 14rd and 23rd are better than this. (I have a favorite, the only one that puts olives in the yellow rice, but I can't remember its name right now. I think the sign out front says merely "best cuban sandwich" and it's around 18th st.) National keeps relatively few dishes at-the-ready, too, so if you want anything but chicken stew or chicken soup you are going to wait. Heating is poor and in the winter you will eat with your coat on.
Devil Moon - never dissappoints me, stuff is always plentiful, spicy, fresh...all that. I love that place. Breakfasts are really good there, too. Good juke box, good service. I'm getting hungry thinking about it.
I think Old Devil Moon is MUCH better for breakfast than for dinner. Dinners have always disappointed me there - they taste a little bit pre-fab. But breakfast is a different story. The roasted corn pancakes are excellent, great ham, and homemade jam for the biscuits.There's also some kind of mexican-y egg thing that's spicy and good.
re: keith k
agreed on flor's. I feel pretty out of step with things being very underwhelmed with both Flor's and the new Woody Allen movie. Can't imagine what people see in 'em.
I'd like Elvie's better if I didn't live 2 minutes from the astounding Filipino micro-nabe on Roosevelt Ave near 69th street in queens (puts the east village filipino places to shame).