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Jun 14, 2009 10:58 AM

Review of chowish weekend - most good, one really (expensive) bad!

Hi all, thanks to a bunch of hounds on this board, we spent a wonderful weekend in NYC, enjoying the sights, a play (The Philanthropist, which was great for lovers of words!) and some really good food. To start, I should note that we are originally from Montreal and so love classic French fare and we are huge fans of anything ethnic, especially street-ish food. So, without further wait, here are our reviews:

Burger Joint
We were staying at the Parker Meridien, so we had to try this place (really, because we were starved upon check-in too!). I've got to say that the burgers were good, but not great... especially for $26 for lunch for two! We got 2 burgers, 2 fries and 2 cokes, and the fries were probably the best part of the meal. The burgers had a nice charred flavor to them, but were otherwise underwhelming.

This was our first choice for dinner, and was absolutely incredible. The place was packed with a great vibe and lots of different types of people - from hipsters, to yuppies, to the older crowd. The food was top-notch, with lots of wonderful flavors mingling with each other. We started with the Cypriot sausage (wonderful!) and the crispy calamari, which was very fresh and cooked perfectly. For the mains, we shared the pulled rabbit with pasta - which was our best meal of the whole trip - and the braised lamb shank with orzo. The lamb shank, while underseasoned, was fall-off-the-bone wonderful meat with wonderful textures. The desserts (galaktobouriko and a chocolate cakey-thing) were also very good. The service was also great, as was the wine list and the suggestions of the server. Will definitely return to this place on our next trip and highly recommend it for all!

Based on the poll of best street foods, we decided to check out Margon (we'd already been to a few of the other choices, by mistake!, on our last trip to NYC and really loved all of them). We shared the avocado salad, which was nice, and got the steak & peppers and the chicken stuffed plantain. The food was all served with rice, beans and plantains, and was generally very good. The only problem was the chicken-stuffed plantain that tasted a bit fishy and had a weird consistency. Most people coming in were ordering the pork chops and the baked chicken - which we would recommend for others too. But I've got to say that for our meals, with a Corona and a coke at $23, was an absolute steal!

Bar Boulud
We went here to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. WHAT A MISTAKE!!! All of the food was below sub-par, the service was god awful, and the prices were over-inflated for what you were getting. What a joke of a restaurant! We got the braised cheek and tagine charcuteries to start. These were OK at best, got boring very quickly, and were grossly overpriced. The mains we got were the braised flat-iron steak with peas and the steak tartare. I'm a huge fan of steak tartare and will always order it if its on the menu. This one, at meal size and $28, was the size of a hockey puck at best. Are you kidding me?!?!?! Not enough seasoning, too much binders, not enough flavor, just horrible. And I asked if it came with frites, and the waiter said "A type of frites" so I didn't order any more. These "frites" were 6 fried potato crisps! How can they get away with this?? And the braised steak? The first few bites were nice, but then it got very boring very fast. The flavors all geled into one, not like the wonderful food at Kefi where each bite was different and added another layer. I've got to say that people should definitely stay away from this place, and those who like it must be blinded by the aura of Chef Boulud. Really too bad, especially when it set us back at $130 with only 1 beer and 1 caipirnha. What a shame. I hope this was an off day for them, but at this level, you should never have an off day!

After a rough dinner at Bar Boulud, we headed to Norma's in our hotel for brunch. And for brunch, this place was great! The best deal had to be their drinks - the freshly squeezed OJ at $9 (refillable) and $7 French press coffee with wonderful beans - were fantastic. The meals we got were the shrimp with egg white frittata and the rock lobster with asparagus omelette. Both were perfectly done, with huge portions (a whole lobster tail in the omelette!) and great flavors. We really loved this place, that had wonderful service and an eclectic crowd like Kefi's. Next time, we'll try the waffles that the table next to us were having and loved. After this meal, we weren't able to eat a thing until we got home late at night!

So all in all, we had another great weekend in NYC and tried as many different places as possible. There were lots of highs (Kefi and Norma's stand out) and a huge low - Bar Boulud. We'll be back soon, and always enjoy trying out the interesting foods and flavors of NYC.


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  1. We stayed at the Meridian two weeks ago and never seemed to have time for The Burger Joint. I'm thrilled to know that we missed nothing special.

    Had a grand dinner at Babbo but plan to do Kefi next time...especially based on your review. Thanks.

    1. the norma's brunch sounds great; been meaning to hit that up for a classy breakfast sometime.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bigjeff

        I agree with you on the Burger Joint. I don't know what all the fuss is about. Granted, I only ate there once, but thatwas my two times, first and last! Terrible burger, worst FFs, (you were obviously lucky) and crowded and noisy!

        1. re: Stuartmc910

          The OP hits upon what, for me, is the best part of burger joint's burger - "nice charred flavor." I prefer it to the burger-as-vehicle-for-gooey-toppings paradigm or the big-juicy-gutbomb model. Plus, the experience, while a tad stressful, has never turned out badly - to me that's very new york.

        2. re: bigjeff

          I think I must have opposite taste from the OP because I found Norma's coffee to be kinda gross tasting (and watery) and way overpriced at $7. I had the same lobster and asparagus omelet last summer and found the asparagus to be overcooked and lobster to be rubbery.

          I've eaten brunch there a few times now and have given up. I do love their freshly squeezed juice, though.

        3. We stayed at the Meridien two weeks ago and never did get to sample the Burger I don't feel so bad about missing it.

          1. Thanks for the review. I agree with you completely on Burger Joint. WAY overrated! It's a very average burger. Super busy and hectic and unenjoyable atmosphere with people vulturing over you for your table the entire time you're eating. The fries were crispy and tasty. The burger was just an average charred burger you could get at any decent cookout. And the shakes were very watery from sitting in the blender too long. They make them ahead of time and leave them sitting in the blender.

            I've always had pretty good luck with Norma's too despite the fairly negative views of it on here. I did have the lobster mac 'n cheese one time, though. And it was horrible. It tasted like it was microwaved for about 30 minutes because the dish was hotter than the surface of the sun, and the lobster had the consistency of a superball. Other than that one miss we've had some really dishes there.

            1. great reviews! that is good to know about bar boulud - I toyed with the idea of going but it just seems overhyped. I agree with Norma's, went there on my last trip and although I liked it, probably won't go again - the OJ and coffee were great, everything else was a bit much, but it was a fun experience. Kefi wasn't on my radar but your review makes it sound so appealing, I'm going to check it out!