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NGB & La Palapa Revisited

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George Lynch Feb 8, 2001 12:07 PM

I'll start by apologizing if I am being TOO redundant (both these restaurants have been commented on recently), but I feel like I owe it to chowhounds everywhere and to these places to post my thoughts based on very recent visits.

Re New Green Bo: I've been there three times in the past two weeks (had never been there before) and am now among the converts. Favorite dishes include crispy eel, yellow fish with seaweed, the dumplings, several other items. Some of the best Shanghai Chinese I've ever had. And then there is Lou (Liu?), the oh so friendly waiter with the ready smile who already calls me by name. Like a lot of converts, I suppose I'm even a bit zealous about this place. One quick question to NGB veterans: my wife and I noticed the other night that several patrons ordered the fish head soup, which came in a big crockpot, bubbling away. Very interesting looking dish. Anyone every try it?

Re La Palapa: Last night was our second visit in a month, and it was better than the first (which was quite good to begin with). Our friend Dan had the skirt steak, always a winner, and Maureen had the meatballs which she quite liked (especially with the really yummy rice and beans), but I thought they needed salt. I had the great good fortune of following our waitress' advice and ordered the pork chop, which really knocked us all out (a destination dish to me). And again I was impressed with the room itself. Three beers, one appetizer (spicy guac and chips) and the three main courses with two extra sides were just over $80. (I hasten to add that Maureen and I are long-time acquaintances of the two ladies who own the joint, Barbara and Margaritte, from their days at Telephone. We would like to see them be successful, but not at the cost of posting fluff or hype. We think very highly of La Palapa and would no matter who owned it.)

I think these two restaurants are among the best examples of world-class food at very reasonable prices right here in good ole NYC.

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    Caitlin McGrath RE: George Lynch Feb 11, 2001 01:39 PM

    Another yes vote for La Palapa. Unfortunately, we had to be somewhere and didn't have time to try very much, but we definitely plan to go back and try more. My companion liked the flavor of the pork chop but found it a little dry. I liked the accompanying chayote in crema, but it is extremely rich and needs some salt and pepper. I had a special duck breast in orange pasilla sauce that was excellent. Tortillas were disappointing though, not fresh enough. The red citrus sangria was pretty good--not sweet. The room is very nice, though it can be loud. The place has been fully discovered; every seat was filled at 6:30 on Saturday, and was "very heavily booked" the whole night, according to the hostess.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
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      Jim Leff RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 11, 2001 02:00 PM

      Just a note to everyone in general...I got an email last night from someone who correctly pointed out that it feels weird to criticize a place when you know that the owners hang out on these boards. I think that's a valid concern.

      Anyone with a negative opinion of La Palapa (or with dissenting views of any other places touted on this site) is strongly encouraged to post, regardless of who may be reading along. Without a full and rich mix of opinions, this site would be much less useful for all of us, and I'll bet even potentially sensitive restaurateurs recognize this!

      ciao

      1. re: Jim Leff
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        George Lynch RE: Jim Leff Feb 11, 2001 04:19 PM

        Hmmm, had to think about that for a few minutes, came to the following conclusion: I think the emailer has a valid point, but I also think the opposite is true. That is, I think it is very much easier to post a negative review here than to say the same thing face to face to the owner. In fact, that is one of the best things about this site (and there are many other good things). Where else can you say exactly what you think about a meal, knowing (or at least hoping) that the owner will read your remarks?

        I agree wholeheartedly with Jim's remark that potentially sensitive restaurant owners would recognize the value of being able to receive honest comments, positive or negative.

        Finally, it also occurs to me that if a poster has something REALLY negative to say, that poster can always use a pseudonym for that particular post if s/he is a regular poster and doesn't wish to be recognized.

        For myself, I always hope the owner is reading whatever I say, positive or negative. I don't think there is any reason to be gratuitously mean in a posting, but there are a lot of solid reasons to be honest. This site is the best tool, IMHO, for smart and concerned restaurant owners to evaluate what's going on in their establishments.

        1. re: George Lynch
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          Jim Leff RE: George Lynch Feb 11, 2001 07:47 PM

          "restaurant owners would recognize the value of being able to receive honest comments, positive or negative"

          It's important to note that this site does not exist (NO vehicle of restaurant reviewing or opining exists) to give feedback to restaurants. If they choose to use it as such, that's great. But we are NOT talking to restaurants here. We are talking to our fellow chowhounds. It's essential for all parties to bear this in mind.

          "use a pseudonym for that particular post if s/he is a regular poster and doesn't wish to be recognized"

          It's in all our interest to discourage that. What's more persuasive to you: a negative report from Dave Feldman, Jen Kalb, Jim Dixon, Tom Armitage (or any of our other zillions of equally reliable and recognizable posters), or from an anonymous newcomer? I, myself, take much more seriously those who've demonstrated their savvy, and take anonymous posters with a grain of salt. It'd be a great pity (disaster, actually) if our smart regulars posted only praise under their own names because they felt cowed by the presence of restaurateurs.

          If people don't feel comfortable opining freely, openly, and honestly about restaurants on Chowhound.com.... well, that's just too depressing for me to even think about. I mean, that's the whole point.

          hey, if we're going to discuss this further, please post to our Site Talk message board at link below

          ciao

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/cgi/post.cgi...

          1. re: George Lynch
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            Michael RE: George Lynch Feb 12, 2001 04:18 AM

            I agree with George that I'm delighted if the restaurateurs pay attention to anything I say, but I'm more concerned with reporting my dining experiences for the sake of my fellow chowhounds, which Jim pointed out was our main purpose here. And I also know that there are other chowhounds who might be somewhat shier than me. For what it's worth, the response from La Palapa's owners showed regret that I or, well, my dining companion had been dissatisfied with one of their offerings, but I am decidedly unconvinced that they paid any attention to my comments, other than to rebut them by citing the popularity of the dish I slammed and encourage me to give them another chance.

            At this point, I should mention that, though I hadn't realized it the other times I posted, I now know from reading other postings here that the partners who own La Palapa were previously associated with the Telephone Bar and Grill. One of my friends was let go from that restaurant on bad terms, and I would probably tend to hold that against the owners of La Palapa if I knew they were involved. However, I swear on my honor that I had not known any of this previously, and in no way could it have or did it affect my previous postings in regard to La Palapa, which I basically plussed and minused. I still think it's possible I might go back at some point, too. Nevertheless, I figure that fairness requires me to post this.

        2. re: Caitlin McGrath
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          Cathy Elton RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 13, 2001 10:13 AM

          Had a great meal at La Palapa, and will definitely go back. The mole sauces are great - I had the duck. The jicama and pineapple salad was very refreshing, and went great with the potato taquito appetizer. The only not-great thing was the guacamole. Seems like the avacados weren't up to snuff. But in general, I loved this place.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
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            gary cheong RE: Caitlin McGrath Feb 14, 2001 01:44 AM

            I was there Saturday around 6:30 pm also. Sat at the table right by the window when you walk in the restaurant. Only had a few apps because we had to go to the movies in an hour.

            The little tacos were only so-so. Did not really care for the catfish tamal at all. But the big bowl of the soup special was fantastic (can't remember what it was called). Will have to return for a complete meal.

            1. re: gary cheong
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              Caitlin McGrath RE: gary cheong Feb 14, 2001 11:21 AM

              Ya know, we only had main courses, most of the other positive posts here seemed to focus on main courses, and I note that in his review, Eric Asimov felt that main courses were much stronger. Guess it's a main dish kinda place.

            2. re: Caitlin McGrath
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              SLAP RE: Caitlin McGrath Mar 21, 2001 09:11 AM

              Went to La Palapa last night and was not that impressed. We had the guacamole to start and my girlfriend kept pouring salt into it. It was average. The chips were good and crisp, not greasy. The salsa's that are on the table are ok, the best being the tomatilla, which was bright with flavor.
              My girlfriend had the shrimp with tamarind sauce. I thought this was good. She did not. I think that with tamarind (being sweet) you need to know what your getting into , and she'd never had it before.
              I had the pork chop with red rice and a chayote w/cream sauce. If this is the pork chop that George Lynch says is a destination dish then please steer the car in a different direction for me. I've seen Chuleto's with some fat before but simply put this was a cheap cut of meat. I mean were talking manager's special. and they charge 17 bucks for it. The Chayote with cream sauce was rich and creamy and reminded me of Green curry. It was spicy and gets a thumbs up. well the interesting thing about the whole experience is how different chowhounds view the same place. The service was attentive and helpful. I'd have to say on the whole that the Mexican food in NY has been disappointing. The best part of the meal was the bohemia beer which all they had to do was keep it cold....

              1. re: SLAP
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                Mary Shaposhnik RE: SLAP Mar 21, 2001 09:54 AM

                We went over the weekend, and found it good, but not great. Jicama salad with pineapple was dull -- the pineapple had no flavor, the dressing added little spark. Enchilada with chicken was fine but not special. The skirt steak on the regular menu -- which I think was the one people were raving about here -- was likewise pretty good but by no means as wonderful as others have found it. The pork chop was very tender, and the chayote sauce was cool, but somehow the meat lacked a depth of flavor. Still the best thing of the meal, though.

                I appreciated the nice staff, but on a busy weekend night, the service was quite haphazard and poorly timed. Also, it might be best when not crowded--the very pretty, calming room seems to have little to absorb sound, and it got very loud.

                Worth trying, but don't expect every dish to hit. It will be interesting to see if it gets better over time.

                1. re: Mary Shaposhnik
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                  Elaine(Snutteplutten) RE: Mary Shaposhnik Mar 21, 2001 10:14 AM

                  Hmm, if you see my post above, you'll see I had my first not so good meal there (after several really good ones) this weekend. I attributed it to it being Sunday, but after reading your and SLAP's posts, I'm forced to wonder if either the chef is on vacation or if it's already time for a "Downhill alert" for this still-new restaurant.

                  1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)
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                    Caitlin McGrath RE: Elaine(Snutteplutten) Mar 21, 2001 11:31 AM

                    And now I'm wary about a planned upcoming meal there, esp. since this meal needs to be good (for the occasion). I hope anyone who eats there during the next week or so will report back.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
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                      JJM RE: Caitlin McGrath Mar 21, 2001 12:52 PM

                      ate there last night. mediocre. prefer mi cocina on jane st.

                      1. re: JJM
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                        George Lynch RE: JJM Mar 23, 2001 02:57 PM

                        Your post goes to prove the differences in taste. I've had dinner three times at Mi Cocina and found it mediocre at best each time. Plus the last time, the beer was tepid.

                        Staff was always very friendly, though.

                2. re: SLAP
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                  George Lynch RE: SLAP Mar 23, 2001 02:54 PM

                  Sorry you didn't have the same experience we've had each visit. Four of us were there most recently on Tuesday, 3/13, and we had the usual wonderful experience. The other couple is experienced in regional Mexican cuisine, has traveled fairly extensively in Mexico, and thought the food was excellent.

                  We decided to have several appetizers that night and we enjoyed them all. We ordered the special pork chop as a main course along with several side orders and extra tortillas, and that was enough to feed our party of four.

                  Don't know what happened with your pork chop, but I've had two there (one from the standard menu and the other from the specials menu) in my two most recent visits, and they knocked me out. The others in our group said the same thing. (And we ran into a mutual acquaintance as we were leaving who said the same thing about his pork chop.) We were told that they order the pork chops cut specially for them.

                  I think you're right, that different Chowhounds have very different views of the cuisine here. I noticed the same thing happened at a Brooklyn Tapas restaurant (Tinto). I really like the food there and several other Chowhounds agreed with me, but several others didn't care for the food at all. That seems to be the case here.

                  We intend another visit in the near future. I'll post again after that visit and give my impressions then.

                  1. re: SLAP
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                    jen kalb RE: SLAP Apr 11, 2001 01:47 PM

                    We tried La Palapa for the first time and it was a mixed bag - 3 cheese quesadillas, salsas and lime-dressed salad with picked cactus pads were all tasty and carefully made - we had the pork chop with red rice and chayote and the grilled duck breast with mole as main courses I liked the rice, the chile sauce on the pork and the chayote in cream quite a lot (though about 1/4 of the portion they served would have been plenty!) - but the so called pork chop was about 1/2 of a pork loin - tending to dry and, because so thick, not well flavored by the sauce. Its been years since I left so much food on my plate. Oh for a nice cheap juicy shoulder chop! Jim's duck breast (med rare) was very chewy and to my taste did not meld at all with the mole sauce, which itself did not appeal to either of us particularly (we have no expertise in Mexican food, though). I thought it was a poorly conceived dish. The pork loin with pipian that the lady next to us had looked better than both of these dishes. My verdict, I would definitely return but would look out for dishes other than hunks of grilled meat garnished with a mexican sauce.

                    1. re: jen kalb
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                      Caitlin McGrath RE: jen kalb Apr 11, 2001 03:21 PM

                      I was back for the second time last weekend and concur with some of your observations. We haven't had quesadillas, but I'd probably choose those over tacos if my other half would eat cheese because I've found the tortillas there to be pretty disappointing, and grilling usually helps that. We had a chicken pozole (a special) and the jicama/pineapple salad, which were just okay, seemingly confirming my impression that their strength is in the main courses. First time we went, he had the pork chop and had a similar reaction to yours: liked the sauce and sides, but found the pork too thick/dry. First time, I had a duck breast special in a different (and chile-based, not sesame-based) mole than the one on the regular menu. It was very good, and was on the specials menu when we returned (both were Saturday nights, though I don't know if there's a connection). This time, he had the tequila-marinated skirt steak, which he liked a lot (it was a huge portion, too). I had the shrimp with garlic, which was quite tasty, but not especially differrent from what you'd find on an Italian or Spanish menu, flavor-wise.

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