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Feb 8, 2009 07:53 PM

LA hound looking for NYC centric ethnic

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:

      What is Lombardi's?

        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?


        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. (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:

              And a great report on one feast:

              And here's another interesting report on offal:

              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:

                    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:

                    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.