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LA hound looking for NYC centric ethnic

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  • Jase Feb 8, 2009 07:53 PM
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Hi hounds, LA hound here. it's been 4 years since our last visit to New York. We used to visit twice a year for a five year stretch and had some favorites but it looks like things have changed considerably. We're going to be in town in a couple of weeks for a five day visit. Flight landing Wed afternoon and leaving late Mon night, trying to squeeze in as many meals as possible. I've been doing some board searches the past couple weeks. Looking for food that LA does not do well. So not looking for Asian or Mexican. We like funky ethnic places and also looking for Italian and French.

We love items like offal, sweetbreads, tripe and any peasant parts of the pig. Casa Mono is a stop and last time we loved trying all the different items such as rooster comb, got 12 plates just for the two of us and that was before dessert. Is there a good Les Halles equivalent these days? Scouring the boards and the online menu it seems like they aren't as good as they used to be and don't carry as much of the non mainstream dishes we love like pig foot. I used to love their version of that dish.

We're not big wine drinkers but usually order a lot of food. Budget if possible around $60 pp before tax and tip but willing to go higher for a few of the nicer meals figuring it'll be balanced by the cheaper sub 10-15 pp meals.

We also love little hole in the wall ethnic places and aren't afraid of wandering into places where we stick out. Wife on a solo visit one year wandered into a halal place that where most of the customers were taxi drivers and just started pointing at stuff to order. We also don't mind eating at off hours whether early or late, it just means we can squeeze in two dinners or more snacks like pommes frittes.

Am also interested in ethnic delis where they have different cured meats and sausages. Especially items that I can't find in LA.

We plan to try the 53rd and 6th chicken and rice truck. Of course we have to get our usual Katz's and Lombardi's visits in. And a gray's papaya mid morning or afternoon snack in between meals. We also have show tickets for two nights and will need to plan meals around those.

We're staying near 29th and 5th but are used to walking a lot and both have a working familiarity with the subway system, at the very least, we can usually puzzle out on the map which line and stop we need to go somewhere. I'm used to marking the line and stop next to the restaurant info.

Appreciate any suggestions even for keyword searches so I can continue research if people don't have time to list places. We're also familiar with all the location acronyms. Thanks in advance. I hope I gave enough info, was trying to avoid the usual generic, what's good post.

Hope this wasn't too long.

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  1. You're staying right near Curry Hill. I know LA has great East Asian food, but do you have great South Indian food? If not, consider going to Saravanaas, corner of 26th and Lexington.

    For Greek, I highly recommend Kefi, Columbus between 84th and 85th. Best to get reservations.

    Enjoy your trip!

    11 Replies
    1. re: Pan

      LA does not have great Indian food, nor is the Asian food comparable to New York (although the Pasadena/Glendale area has some passable Hunan and Schezwan food). But we can go up to S.F. and get great Chinese Food or Seafood.

      My recommendations are on this thread I just posted on this board a few minutes ago:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/594594

      What is Lombardi's?

      1. re: Hoc

        Lombardi's is the well-known pizzeria.

        http://www.firstpizza.com

        1. re: RGR

          And I think it's overrated and not that good.

          Hoc, I totally disagree with any claim that LA's doesn't have great Chinese food. What I _have_ heard is that New York may have superior Sichuan-style food. But LA and the Valley certainly have excellent Cantonese food. And that's not to mention Korean, etc.

          1. re: Pan

            Ditto regarding Chinese food in LA (especially considering that the dim sum in Manhattan really pales in comparison to what I grew up with, the only places close are in Flusing, Queens).

            And ditto regarding the sad, soupy Lombardi's. Too bad Dom is still recovering from knee surgery, as a trip out to Di Fara might be in order otherwise. For pizza, I would recommend Co or Una Pizza Napoletana instead of Lombardis, although both are more of a Naples style than traditional NY style. Also LA has Mozza, which is amazing, but Co. may be giving Mozza a run for its money these days...Also there's a John's (as in John's of Bleecker street fame) in the LA area now, as well.

            1. re: kathryn

              Arturo's is the same style as Lombardi's but much consistent and not a tourist trap.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Thanks, we'll give Arturo's a try then instead of Lombardi's. We were happy with Lombardi's years ago before they expanded but we're not pizza experts by any means. I'd assume NY natives approach pizza the same way I do Chinese. Where most non natives go wild over a basic popular place, a native will say, ehh, it's not bad, but here's a much better place.

                We've been meaning to try DiFara's in other visits. But somehow never get out there. It's not in Manhattan if I remember correctly?

                As for Chinese food, I fully urge Hoc to explore San Gabriel Valley more and postings by Jerome if he thinks Chinese of all regions is only passable in LA. I'd dare say it beats anything outside SF easily and can rival if not beat many SF offerings. Also echo Pan about Korean or try Thai, etc. But I don't want this to drift.

                1. re: Jase

                  Di Fara is in Brooklyn but Dom was in a car accident recently and they have not yet reopened. :(

                  1. re: Jase

                    Stick to Lombardi's. Just ask for it well done. Arturo's might also be to your liking, but it's not really the same style. Much closer to John's, I think. Crust is thinner, sometimes burnt past the charring point, and similar to what you can get in LA at some of the 50's family style type Italian places. Yeah, the Lombardi expansion was awful, but if you ask to be seated in the old rooms, it has the same feel. I've never seen lines later in the evening....and if it's dead awful, you'll have judged for yourself , and can salvage your night by going to Peasant and seeing if they can take a walk-in for rustic Italian. If that doesn't work, go to Public and try one of their stranger gamey entrees with infused vodkas. (I wouldn't suggest Public unless it's a backup though).

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      I don't think I've ever gotten charred pizza at Arturo's, and I've been going there for a bunch of years, though not super-often. Nor is the crust all that thin there. I actually prefer the thinner crust at Patsy's East Harlem. But it IS thinner than Lombardi's, and that's a GOOD thing.

                      1. re: Pan

                        Again, it's probably a better alternative for someone who prefer John's then someone who likes Lombardi's. It's a matter of preference. I'll eat them all, but I like Lombardi's better.

        2. re: Pan

          Oh, I didn't even think about India. yeah, I'd love to explore great Indian. Certainly I keep being told LA indian is passable at best. Thanks, will put Saravanaas on the list. Maybe we'll hit that the night we come in. We figure we won't check in until 8 or 9 on Wed since our flight lands after 5 at JFK and we'll be starving.

          Wife loves Greek. We've done Greek tapas before at a place near Hell's Kitchen a couple of times. Nick's I believe?

          Thanks!

        3. Although you requested not Asian-you should still try Momofuko Saam or Noodle bar!! may have to wait few minutes because they don't take reservations but so worth it-then go to Momofuko milk bar fr dessert!!!!!!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: UES Mayor

            Indian- I recommend Banjara 97 1st Ave at 6th street. It is slightly upscale but the food is accordingly far superior to the other smaller (and much cheaper) Indian restaurants around it.

            Spanish- Las Ramblas is a favorite of mine (170 West 4th); tiny place, no reservations, great service and amazing food. Also, if you want more upscale tapas in a really beautiful setting, I recommend Suba and ask to sit in the water room. http://www.subanyc.com/ (109 Ludlow). This place is a little trendy with a slightly younger crowd on weekends (mid 20's).

            1. re: heinlein42

              SUba was sold; will close end of February and after that will not be Latin food. (Per Grub Street)

            2. re: UES Mayor

              NB: That is Momofuku Ssam (two S's, one a) Bar or Momofuku Noodle Bar or Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar. Momofuku is a small family of restaurants, so if someone says you should try Momofuku, you need to ask "which one?" :)

            3. J - I'm not a fan of offal, but there is a NYC fan club!

              Here's their site, w/info on lots of their past (pre-arranged) meals: http://www.gastronauts.net/

              And a great report on one feast:
              http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/1...

              And here's another interesting report on offal: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/1...

              1 Reply
              1. re: fredid

                Cool, thanks! I'll do some reading up. Appreciate it.

              2. If you like offal, and are looking for Italian food, you might want to try Babbo. I love their crispy pig's food, and they also have lots of cured meats you can try. I'm also a fan of their tripe, lamb's tongue salad with a three minute egg, lamb's brains pasta, beef cheek pasta, goose liver pasta, gnocchi with oxtail ragu, glazed sweetbreads...

                Actually if you want a truly ethnic, interesting, hole in the wall experience that you can't get in California, you'll probably need to go to Queens (Kabab Cafe in Astoria, in particular, serves a lot of offal, it is an Egyptian restaurant).

                6 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  It's always such a pain to try and get Babbo reservations. We do love Batali's food and end up at Lupa instead. Seems like it's a bit easier to get in there especially if you go during non peak. Same with Casa Mono. I go to Vegas regularly and eat at Enoteca San Marco frequently to satisfy my Batali fanboy cravings.

                  The Egyptian place sounds great. I just don't know if we'll be straying from the island. Between show tickets and other commitments, it's hard to justify spending time going out and back. Unless I have my commute times all screwed up.

                  1. re: Jase

                    Ah, right, I forgot about the Las Vegas outposts...

                    There's lots more offal and charcuterie to be had in NYC:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583207
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/536890

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Thanks! Irving Mill just made my must go list. I was salivating over the menu. Also the other posts reminded me of RGR excursions. I had noticed that a while back and forgot to write it down. Thanks again!

                      1. re: Jase

                        You're welcome! I forgot to mention Bar Bouloud who are known for their charcuterie!

                        Definitely try to hit up Irving Mill, Lupa, Casa Mono, Momofuku Ssam, Yakitori Totto (or one of the others), Spotted Pig, Prune, Hakata Ton Ton, Resto, one of the Blue Ribbons that serves the bone marrow...

                        Oh, there's also this NYT article from a while back:
                        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/13/din...

                    2. re: Jase

                      You could also get your fanboy and pizza fix at Otto. Sounds like their ice cream might be better then the pizza though.

                      As an aside, you might try Arepas Caracas bar in the East Village

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        The gelato at Otto is defintely better than the pizzas (which are grilled).

                  2. How about Artichoke for pizza? There's no place to sit, and you may have to wait in line, but it's worth it check out the love it or hate it artichoke pizza. The other pizzas are good too. The owners will crack you up and it's definitely something you won't experience in California. Take the money you save by eating there and splurge somewhere else...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hungrycomposer

                      Eh, you think it's all that good? Nothing personal, of course, but I don't think it's important to go there on a 5-day visit.

                      1. re: Pan

                        The quality varies. It's a local phenomenon and worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood.

                    2. Thanks for all the help everyone. Here's my tentative itinerary so far, with lots of holes still. Appreciate any further thoughts.

                      Wed. We'll probably get settled and out of the hotel around 9 pm.
                      Dinner: Prune
                      Late night snack. Something around St Mark's or maybe wander up to chickalicious depending on weather and energy

                      Thu.
                      Daytime: RGR's LES tour working our way up to East Village and stopping at Pomme Frittes. We love that place and visited so much several years in a row, the owner recognized us a year later on a following visit. And all the snacky places on the way and around there like egg creams, bialy's, Crif dogs etc. We need to stock up for a big block of no food, see next.

                      5-11 pm: Non good food commitment and will be starved

                      11 pm on: Resto walk in or 53rd and 6th chicken and rice halal? or Blue Ribbon bakery

                      Fri.

                      Lunch: Momofuku ssam bar. But not sure if lunch menu is much more limited on items we like based on online menu
                      Dinner: 5:30 at Casa Mono to make our 8 p.m. show tixs
                      After show snacks: Nick's greek tapas in Hell's Kitchen

                      Sat
                      Daytime commitments around Museum Art and Design, need noshing options around there
                      Dinner: Irving Mill
                      Late night: Momofuko ssam if previous lunch doesn't work out or 53rd and 6th chicken and rice halal

                      Sun
                      Lunch: Peter Luger
                      Snack options between there and going back to Manhattan?
                      Dinner: Lupa

                      Mon
                      We have a 5 p.m. flight. Plan to just walk around the city and snack on anything else we might have missed. This might be pizza day for lunch and grey's papaya before we hit the road..

                      Appreciate all the help so far and any other thoughts. Thanks again!

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: Jase

                        It looks like the Museum of Art and Design is at Columbus Circle. There's plenty to eat in that area. I don't think Jean-Georges has a low prix fixe on weekends, and truth be told, I thought my lunch there was at a good 1 1/2 star level, not 4-star. But they're right there, and there are also some places in the Time Warner Center, none of which I've gone to.

                        The likelihood is that what I'd do if I were in your shoes would be to get Afghan food at Ariana Afghan Kebab House, 9th Av. between 52nd and 53rd Sts., but that's because it's dependably good and economical. But if price were no object, I'd consider the more high-class places around Columbus Circle. Also, you'll naturally consider what LA is strong in. I don't know whether Afghan food is a strong point of LA.

                        1. re: Pan

                          Afghan sounds like a fantastic idea. Thanks! It seems like we're going to be spending a fair amount of money in the other places and going inexpesive here makes sense. Also we need to be flexible that time period. The Afghan place sounds easier to drop in on the fly rather than making reservations.

                          Wife just went Afghan!? I want to try that. So I think we have a winner. Thanks again.

                          1. re: Jase

                            You're welcome, and yes, there's no problem just showing up. I'm not sure I've ever gotten reservations there. According to menupages, they open at noon every day:

                            http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...

                            I just noticed the first "review" on menupages, and it's a huge whopper. The idea that this place has tiny portions is insane. I do agree that the salad is nothing special; ask for it w/o dressing and put the green hot sauce on it.

                          2. re: Pan

                            Jean Georges offers its prix fixe lunch Mondays through Saturdays in the formal room (not Nougtain). A reservation is highly recommended, and they stop serving at 2:30pm, however.

                          3. re: Jase

                            For your Sunday in Brooklyn, you can walk from Luger towards the water, along Broadway to Marlow and Daughters (a really nice butcher, and gift shop), and then on to their snack-y location called Marlow and Sons (where you can get something sweet)...the same owners have a place called Diner in a train car, that's really good, and fun. ......there's also Hasidic grocery store nearby, which is an experience. There's lots of nice places to sit down and get a drink, or tea around the area too.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Thanks! I love old fashioned butcher shops. Wife can always eat something sweet.

                              A Hasidic grocery store sounds exactly like the kind of NYC experience we're looking for. We hear the weather will be very cold especially for us thin blooded southern californians. So places to sit and warm up sounds good. I'm also looking forward to being able to have a cocktail or two while wandering and never have to worry about driving. I hardly ever drink while wandering around SoCal due to all the driving.

                              1. re: Jase

                                For cocktails, the NYC equivalents to Comme Ca, Father's Office, S-Bar, etc. would be:
                                Death & Co
                                PDT
                                Pegu Club
                                Flatiron Lounge
                                Tailor (downstairs lounge)

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Hey thanks! I've been in a sidecar kick lately. I just might have to get one at every bar we stop at for comparison. For research and warmth purposes only of course.

                                  1. re: Jase

                                    I forgot to include Brandy Library, B Flat, Angel's Share (although I think other places are better), Little Branch...

                                2. re: Jase

                                  I'll try to figure out the street that the grocery store is at....it's about a block off broadway where the butcher, and Lugers are both located....it's not a must see, kind of similar to visiting a Japanese grocery, and if it's real cold, you won't be able to wander much around there. Luger's is near the water, so the winds can be brutal. Ducking into Marlow and Daughters will be worthwhile for a peak but you can't very well take a roast home, so Marlow and Sons down the block is where you should plan on picking up a snack (just to clarify).

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    appreciate the help. I can't take a roast home? :-) years ago before they did online orders and LA's cheese selections was sparse, we actually packed away several types of cheese from Murray's to take home. That was fun.

                                    We're go with the flow adventurers. New stuff is always neat so we don't mind just poking our heads into places. We'll be bundled up for the weather and have comfortable walking shoes. I walk five miles daily and when in NYC, we expect to walk a ton. Helps work off the food so we can eat more.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      Sounds like you got the right spirit.

                                      By the way, if you haven't visited Murray's Cheese since they moved from their cramped corner location, that's highly recommended. Don't worry, it's still cramped, just bigger. Murray's ships really good gift boxes for mailorder by the way. Be sure to pop into Faicco's Pork Store next door, and Amy's Bread at the corner.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        Last visit to NYC was right after they remodeled Murray's.

                                        Pork Store?!? Okay, that got my attention. We were going to wander into Murray's just because. But a pork store nearby too?

                              2. re: Jase

                                while it may be less convenient depending where you are, for my money, papaya king beats grey's papaya - which is a papaya king knock off

                                1. re: thew

                                  We've done both. Wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to do another comparison :-) Afterall NYC natives keep telling me LA dogs <insert word that begins with s> here

                                2. re: Jase

                                  sounds like a pretty damn good itinerary. thurs dinner i would do perbacco in e. village or the redhead in e. village for something different. i would skip the irving mill for your sat night dinner. you can definitely do better. i would look into knife+fork restaurant, peasant, or mas farmhouse.

                                  1. re: midtownresider

                                    Thanks for the suggestions!

                                    Perbacco, website gives no times or menu so I was hesistant to plan anything around it. The couple of descriptions I see sound interesting even though we're not big wine drinkers. I'll file away in case we're in the area and want to pop in for an app or two.

                                    Redhead. It seems like a lot of New American-ish cooking that I can find fairly easily. It may be great but nothing jumps out at me. Do you have a fave must try dish? I do like the late menu option until 1 a.m. and will file away also just in case.

                                    Irving Mill, I just liked what I saw on the menu and in discussions about pig parts. Along with hours, it seems to work.

                                    Knife/Fork. Hours may be too limited for out needs

                                    Peasant. website doesn't give me a good enough feel on menu to decide and no hours listed for flex option

                                    Mas. Looks interesting but might kill our budget knowing how we like to order a few apps and other things. And it's in that New American style that even though I'm sure it's fantastic cooking, with my limited time in NYC, this time around, it's just not high on the priority list.

                                    NYC just has so many fantastic places, each trip can only be so much. Thank you for all the suggestions and I will file them away for future trips.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      Knife and Fork is not as good as any of the other restaurants on your list and I wouldn't recommend it as part of your itinerary.

                                      Note: if you have trouble finding hours of operation or menus, go to menupages.com or Opentable.com, as both are usually more up to date than restaurants' own web sites.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        yeah, i never use menupages or Open table as much as I should. But for NYC it does make sense. Thanks for jogging my memory.

                                      2. re: Jase

                                        I would say you're right to skip Redhead, personally. I think a lot of the reviews and hype don't reflect what's actually on the plates. Even the bacon brittle wasn't much more exciting then a bowl of beer nuts would have been, and it just seemed like it was jumping on the latest foodie trend. For fried chicken, I much prefer Amy Ruths in Harlem.

                                    2. re: Jase

                                      Regarding Chikalicious, note that the sit down restaurant closes at 10:45pm but the takeout place across the street is open until midnight. If you are low on energy, you can grab some cookies or cupcakes and take them back to the hotel from Chikalicious' take out spot, Dessert Club.

                                      Not sure why you'd want to do Resto *and* Irving Mill as the ex-Resto chef is now at Irving Mill. If I had to choose, it would probably be Irving Mill.

                                      As for Resto vs. 53rd/6th halal vs. Blue Ribbon Bakery -- wow, those are all SO different. I think a lot will depend upon the weather and your energy level! The line for 53rd/6th can get long at night and there's really nowhere to sit to eat your meal...the food is delicious, though, and cheap.

                                      Re: Momofuku Ssam Bar, yes, the lunch menu is a little bit more limited than the dinner menu, but not by too much. The online menu is fairly accurate.

                                      For Saturday, you could potentially do Bar Bouloud and get your charcuterie fix, but I think they close at 2:30pm. Yakitori Totto also opens at 5:30pm -- you can get all sorts of odd parts there.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Thanks for the Chickalicious reminder. I had sort of planned the takeout as backup and we'd eat at the hotel room after a long day of travel and big dinner.

                                        Didn't realize about Resto and Irving Mill. Just saw the menu and thought it looked interesting. We'll probably stick with Blue Ribbon then. They were out of the bone marrow dish last visit. As for the differences. I like having some options and going with the flow. Halal can always be a one dish order we split back at the room for a nightcap. Some people have a drink, I eat :-)

                                        Sat, we're going to have to be flexible. There's a ton of great yakitori around our place and my work, so that's lower on the priority list. Thanks again!