Friday, September 28, 2007

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden: A NY Treasure

Step Back In Time, and Eat Like a (Czech) King

If I wouldn't have gone for myself, I would have never believed it.

It was only a week ago... and there I was. Sitting under the trees on park benches, drinking cold Czech beer and eating pierogies... with about 500 people.

The place is the famous Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens, and if you haven't been... well, you haven't experienced one of the most authentic destinations in NYC.

Why is the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden magic?


1. They have just about every beer brewed in Eastern Europe, and most of them on tap. They come in great mugs that refill from your enormous pitcher. This they bring you while you sit under a tree outside in their Beer Garden, under an umbrella or shady tree. Got your attention?!

2. They have an outdoor grill that grills homemade Klobasa sausages, and serves them with rye bread, fries, sauerkraut, dumplings and cucumber salad. Here we go.

3. They have a real menu of... ready?.... Chicken Paprikash, Chicken Schnitzel, Chicken Bohemka, Beef Goulash & Dumplings, Potato Pancakes, tender Mushroom Pirogi and Smažený vepřový řízek & příloha (thats Breaded and fried pork cutlet served with Czech potato salad... oh my god). All of it is fantastic, and the real deal. Insane.

4. Almost nobody speaks decent english, and they don't care. You gotta love it.

5. It's affordable, and can be reached by by subway.

Take my word for it, this is simply a terrific place to bring a group, or even a buddy. It's screaming with history (the Beer Garden opened in 1919) and is infectious in spirit. WHere did these places vanish to?

Not to mention the size. I'm fairly sure this much property in Manhattan would run ya about $20 mil.

All of the info you need is in this link, so check it out and get the info you need to make the trip over. The hours can be a little funny, so make sure you don't arrive too early, or you'll be walking around the neighborhood for a while.

Have fun, and eat a plate of Goulash for me!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fig and Olive: Slip Sliding Away

After a Decent Start, the Upper West locale falls into blah.

Ever since I learned about the hip and trendy "Fig and Olive" on NY's Upper East Side (and now downtown as well) I wanted to check it out... I mean, I am all about the concept of this place. Small plates... olive oils... great wine... I get it.

Well perhaps I waited too long, because my visit to Fig and Olive was a massive disappointment.

After being greeted kindly at the door, we were shown to an awkward, cramped table for three... which resembled 2 cocktail tables pushed together. OK, well, if the food is happening I can deal with this. But, I do like being comfortable when shelling out good money. Whatever, I'll deal with it.

From there, the evening (company aside thank god!) just failed.

Out came the bread. A basket of thin sliced, bland and chewy bread. It came with a dish of three olive oils, but I couldn't tell you what was what, as nothing was explained to us. I can tell you the olive oils were not high in quality... and this is coming from a cook (that's me) who has some pretty kick ass Olive Oil in his pantry.

The front page of the menu, a listing of small plates consisting of veggies, cheeses, crostini and tasting plates... were average if not below average at best. I ordered three crostini... the Artichoke Tapenade-Asparagus-Tomato-Parmesan, the Bresaola-Goat Cheese Black Olive Tapenade, and the Shrimp-Tomato-Basil-Lemon. All three were horrible on soggy lifeless bread (my god toast the bread at least?) and were quickly thrown together. The ideas here were good, but poorly executed. A crostini of warm grilled bread topped with the same ingredients and presented properly would have helped a great deal.

The group also ordered the fennel starter (again, average at best) as well as the Prosciutto Melon Carpaccio, which was by far the best dish.

Service waned here, and I'll be the first to admit that the three of us were talking up a storm (old friends catching up)... but the attitude from the waiter that we were putting him out by not having our order ready was inexcusable. Note to FIG and OLIVE: uh, we are the customers.... that means, we can take our time, visit... drink.... talk... whatever. So, get a grip.

When we finally placed our dinner order, the entrees solidified my feeling that the entire place had thrown in the towel. I ordered the Rigatoni Mediterraneo (shrimp, tomato, garlic, cilantro, chives in Sundried Tomato Olive Oil). This dish had decent flavor even if the pasta was overcooked and flat, but the 2 inches of oil in the bottom of this bowl showed the sloppy nature of lack of caring by this kitchen. What a waste.

My partner ordered the whole Branzino fish which was plopped down in front of her without an offer to debone. Our other guest ordered the Rack of Lamb special which he found decent. Nothing stood out.

Let me take a moment to remind those of you who read this blog that I don't go to restaurants to find things wrong. There is nothing I love more than a spot that gets it right. But when so many details are swept under the rug, I feel obligated to warn anyone who is planning on going. I have had far superior meals (even tapas) elsewhere... and after dropping $300 (food and 2 bottles of wine) I expect more.

So sadly, I blog about this place, disappointed and let down. It's a perfect example of an establishment that has decided to mail it in... after having some early success.

Well, in NYC, you need to bring your A-game, day in and day out. Those places that continue to push the envelope nail the details, and rethink their menus on a daily basis. At this rate, this Upper East Side locale will struggle to retain their buzz, and by looking around the place, I wasn't the only disappointed patron.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Fig & Olive
808 Lexington Ave- Btwn 62nd & 63rd St
New York, NY 10021

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Landmarc Making Waves At Time Warner

Don't Look Now, But The Newcomer Is Proving It Can Hang With The Big Boys

I've often complained about the food in the Time Warner Center. Bouchon Bakery aside, my main compliant hasn't been the quality of the food (god forbid).... it's been the price. I'm not screaming for an Orange Julius mind you, but when you and the wife want to go out for a great burger, bowl of pasta or side of hanger steak... well Per Se, Masa, Porterhouse and Cafe Grey don't fit the bill.

Enter Tribeca staple Landmarc, the terrific and gallant answer to this quandary.... and a space worthy of calling a Central Park destination.

What do they get right at Landmarc? Well, just about everything. The first thing they figured out... breakfast. They serve it. And well. Baguettes, chocolate chip pancakes, egg sandwiches and killer omelettes. Wash it down with a Bloody Mary and you're ready for that 9am meeting with the boss. Remember, I warned you.

They get lunch right, too... but it's dinner when Landmarc shines, when the food is right on and can match the spectacular views over a lush Central Park. Stunning.

Dinner for myself and companion of 17 years started with a perfectly shaken martini and a half bottle of Pino. No wines by the glass at Landmarc may be their lone mistake (at least carry ONE you can call the house pour and charge $12) but in their defense they carry a wide variety of half bottles and bottles in affordable fashion.

While I am a fan of several of their salads, I'm not sure that any can come close to the Sauteed Shrimp with Frisée, artichokes and capers. Tossed in a warm mustard vinaigrette, this dish could steal the show at damn near any restaurant in town.... I'm just glad it's in my neighborhood! The balance of flavor in this dish is terrific, and I'm fairly sure the guys in the kitchen know it. Home run.

Landmarc carries a well crafted pasta special daily, but I tend to stick to the base menu as the dishes have been time tested.

Steaks are a fine choice at Landmarc, if not a safe one. The ribeye, full of flavor and very tender, is a no-brainer. With a number of sauces on the side (bernaise, peppercorn, etc) you can get the flavor just right even though they survive well on their own.

The grilled pork chop is terrific, the quail well above average and the rock shrimp risotto is downright decadent. With it's bright neon-orange color, the perfectly cooked risotto is loaded with tender shrimp and lobster butter, making for a rich, rewarding meal. I didn't even mind the "heavy" rosemary the waiter warned me about.

There are specials here too, such as oysters, sweetbreads, calf's liver and steak tartare... but all of these dishes can be had at much stuffier joints, for much higher prices. Not that Landmarc doesn't nail them... I just can't get a burger and an ice cream cone at Bouley.

So by now you are getting that I like this place. Yes the location is spectacular, and yes, the food is terrific... but it's neither that make Landmarc a winner.... it's the little things.

It's the obvious attention to detail by the owners and staff. The smile and greeting at the door. The great cocktail. The never empty water glass. The honest recommendations. The superb design. The hot food. All things you have come to expect at a good NYC restaurant, but sometimes have problems finding. This is where Landmarc wins.

Add it all together... and you get solid. Solid as a rock.

10 Columbus Circle- At 60th St
New York, NY 10019

212 823-6123

André recommends: Sauteed Shrimp Salad, the burger, any steak, risotto and ice cream cones and cotton candy for desert.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Worth The Trip

Put Down That Nasty Cart Stuff, Maoz Is Simply NYC's Best Falafel

It wans't long ago I was hanging out in Amsterdam near the T.O. Centraal Station, figuring out how to get to my hotel. Hungry for something, I spotted a small falafel kiosk across the street with a line out the door. Hmmmmm. More often then not, lines = good food.

Little did I know that the Maoz kiosk right there in Amsterdam would change my life. Yes, for a lover of falafel, it simply is the best, anywhere. I would wind up eating there 4 times in 5 days.

So imagine my excitement when I found out that Maoz, the little falafel shop that could, was opening in NYC... incredible.

Over the weekend (on my way to watch my New Orleans Saints at a downtown sports bar) I made a little detour to the Union Square area to grab one of these gems, and wasn't disappointed. They are still simply the best.

What makes them special?

To begin, it's the falafel itself. This isn't grainy, bland stuff. This chickpea blend is moist on the inside, not dry... and crunchy on the outside. The mixture is spiced with a great blend of spices... and it is served hot. It is packed with flavor, which makes for a great sandwich.

Then, you get great fresh pita. White or wheat, name your flavor.

Next, our friends invite you to dress this masterpiece yourself, with a bar of condiments that make you downright giddy. Terrific salsa-type toppings (Chili, cilantro, etc), fresh onions, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage salads, etc..., as well as yogurt and tahini sauces. By the time you are done, you are trying to figure out how to put the damn thing in your mouth.

Now, if you are reading all of this, and it sounds great, but you aren't a falafel fan... listen up. NEITHER WAS I! But there is just something about this sandwich which will convert the biggest of beef lovers.... and it is taste. You owe it to yourself to make the trip and get one of these babies.... you won't be sorry.

Maoz. It really is the world's best falafel, and we have our own store now... right here in NYC.


Being a self proclaimed lover of cart food here in NYC, I had a container of chicken and rice from Shendy's last week (corner of 51st and 6th). Low and behold, it was downright fantastic. Get it with pita and the white sauce. Hell yea.

Sushi hot spot KOI has the famous crispy tuna roll, the sushi that liberated Los Angeles. If you hadn't had yours yet, impress the hell out of your friends and get there.

Eat Out 07 is happening next weekend, so if you need tickets, you can find them here.

I sure as hell hope you use Menupages as often as I do.

If you haven't tried Chicago legend GARRETS POPCORN,now in NYC... you have no idea what you are missing. The blend of cheese, butter and caramel is insane, and will have you waiting in lines you never thought possible....

Monday, September 03, 2007


Done with A Summer of Projects, André is back and In action......

Greetings Foodies. I'm back!

Not just kinda back, or back in a bi-monthly way... I'm back with you this fall season to guide you to the best eats in NYC... on a regular basis.

I've missed you!

To jump squarely into the middle of the fray, I won't blog any one joint today, but I'll give you an overview of what is shakin here in NYC, as well as a few bites from my recent travels up the coast. I'm headed to Paris this week, so please chew on these goodies for a week...


As our friends in LA continue to bake in the "I told you Global Warming Was Real" summer heat, Mario's "Osteria Mozza" continues to dominate the headlines. Unfortunately for Mario, it's not all good. As I had a good experience, I have heard from several of very uneven meals, if not just downright bad. Given the newness of the venture and the pressure to be on every single night, I'll cut them a small bit of slack here... but one thing is for sure... the celebs love the joint and as long as it remains hot, people will flock and spend.....

Of course, Katsuya continues to attract the beautiful peeps as they ready to open their newest outpost in Hollywood.... but hey, you don't need to be a celeb to love the crispy tuna roll, do you? (Do yourself a favor and visit katsuya on 3rd and save $50 a person :)


I recently had a chance to decompress on a quick visit to beautiful Camden and Bar Harbor and came away with these thoughts on my experience....

First, it's simply too bad that everyone and their mom now knows how beautiful the Maine Coast is.... the crowds were massive, and the traffic no fun. Add hour long waits for a table at the local lobster joints and the place gets downright pesky.

Next, don't go looking for luxe accommodations in Maine. You can find charming, sweet, friendly, quaint and homey... but not luxe.

And last, it may not matter. The scenery in Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park) is so incredible, you feel as if you have entered an Disney-esqe theme park of natural wonder. I met 100 people who had the same "oh my god" look on their face I did, as the fog rolled across the sound and swirled around the lighthouses. This is spectacular stuff.

DINING TIP OF THE DAY: Local lobster shantys: GOOD. The lobster place "Stewman's" on the water in Bar Harbor? HORRIFIC. The biggest tourist trap in the state of Maine contines to pack em in, but I can tell you that I've spent my last dime being treated like some ding-a-ling that just feel off of a bus from Des Moines. Shame on you, Stewmans.... Thurman's is worth the drive across the Island, and the lobster is sweeter, too!

Where to begin??!! Here is a quick blast to get you in the know....

Quality Meats is still All That.

I hit Quality Meats a week ago and can happily report that they are still doing great things. Everything we ordered that night was right on, and the wine and cocktails were perfect. Hey, if you are gonna spend some cash, might as well get what you pay for, huh?

Landmarc Turning Heads at Time Warner Center

I waited what seems forever for a normal restaurant to open in the Time Warner Center, where you can spend all of the money you never had on decedent junk... and I am happy to report that Landmarc was worth the wait. With a cool bar, excellent cocktails, a hip lounge area on the side and view of Central Park, this spot is now my first call in the area, without spending $200 a person on dinner (and thats on the low end in that building... Per Se, Masa, Porterhouse, etc....) The steaks and chops are great, the pasta well prepared, the sides creative... and dessert...... well, when is the last time the waiter brought the table a wispy cloud of banana-flavored coton candy? I though the kids at the next table were going to have heart attacks.

La Esquina, Say It Ain't So!
In case you missed it, the underground lair of magical molé has been shuttered... as it seems our friends La Esquina never got the basement permitted by our friends at City Hall and the NYFD. Now that I think about it, a fire down there could be a bad thing on a busy Friday night....

Get Ready For Pierogies
I placed a call to the folks at First Avenue Pierogie and Deli (not sure about the deli part, as they really only sell pierogies and borscht) at 130 First Ave, and have been told that the dear old polish woman will reopen this week, after her annual break. Finally, I can get off of the crap from Dagastino Grocery and get the real crack that I deserve :)

Gemma a Miss
The new Bowery hot spot Gemma opened recently, and I met a friend for a quick bite and chat on a hot, deserted afternoon. I understand the mood and feel of the dreary day dictated the crap service I received, but the horrible food makes me scratch my head and wonder.... what the hell they are thinking? There is a bar of quality in this town when it comes to Italian food, and unless you are over the bar, you should save the time and effort and serve Beefaroni.

BLT Market is now open on CPS and the smells wafting onto the sidewalk are almost too temping to stroll past... my favorite quickie dumpling joint RICKSHAW DUMPLING BAR has opened a store near NYC on 8th.... BarFry has finally opened in the West Village for those of you who need to eat all of your food fried, all of the time..... For those of you who enjoy a good cigar now and then, Davidoff in the Time Warner Center has re-opened their tiny smoking room in the back... Has anyone been to SpotLight??? I wish Dylan Prime had better food.... Koi, the sexy japanese joint in midtown actually serves the Crispy Tuna Roll, the single dish that set LA on fire..... Turtle Bay on the East Side (52 and 2) might possibly be NY's worst run bar....