Tag Archives: East Village

A Restaurant with a Pedigree: The Beagle

1 Jun

NYC’s East Village is rapidly becoming one of the most gourmet hoods in the entire city; the cat’s out of the bag on that one.  So it’s no surprise that the latest top dog to enter nipping at the heels of this trend is The Beagle, the E.Ville’s latest cocktail bar slash eatery (and not the other way around, Fabio).  Taking over the former Orologio space on Avenue A (btwn 10th/11th Sts), the self-described “academic” cocktail program and excellent eats may just make The Beagle a contender for the title of Best in Show.

While The Beagle’s concept favors equal billing for cocktails and food, I tend to think that the former stole the show; the cocktail list reads like a study in the classics, with modern twists.  The London Buck ($12) is adorned with a slab of candied ginger and features a dry gin, ginger, lime juice and seltzer – deliciously crafted with surprisingly delicate flavors that go down easily with the help of your metal mixologist straw.  The complete liquor offerings are a comprehensive list that my Scotch-aficionado man-friends dubbed the Who’s Who of the Scotch world.  Though, if you’re a barley and hops fan, you’ll only find 4 beers to mention – but they are thoughtful additions to the liquid imbibement line-up.

One of the more interesting menu offerings are the pairing boards ($17), which, true to their name, team a tasting of food with a modestly sized cocktail.  Of these duos, we ordered the Burrata and Gin (the former a creamy white cheese doused with pepper, much to my delight) and the Pressed Pig Head and Rum (Pig Head = not nearly as offensive to me when served in pastry square form, also, the “pickled things” were a hit).  The happiest accident was the unplanned order of Lamb Neck and Rye which had the table foodgasming – the anchovy relish was quite a remarkable condiment. The Dates served with Prosciutto weren’t bad, but were unremarkable.  My table faves were the Fresh Baby Corn ($6) skewered and topped with a lime/mayo/cilantro concoction – perfect for sharing, such a fun dish – and The Shrimp ($10) with Vermouth, Mirepoix and Crème Fraiche, very well executed.

Though The Beagle’s menu is carnivorously driven, I managed to find several delicious veggie/pesky options.  As for reviewing the meat dishes, I got by with a little help from my friends (overall consensus: Tasty, with a capital T).  So round up your dogs dawgs, and take yourselves out for a walk – over to The Beagle, of course.

Dine Simply – Soju and Sushi: Mono + Mono

5 May

Try to picture ME (a non-meat eater) going to a Korean Fried Chicken joint.  Weird, right.  BUT, I’m always determined to find my way around a menu, so I decided to make Mono + Mono my challenge.  At first glance, you’ll clearly notice the decor has an inexplicably cool appeal, but what I didn’t expect are the simple + amazing Soju Cocktails (think vodka but sweeter) and Sushi Rolls.  Trust me: you’ll be beyond ecstatic that you took my advice by heading to this East Village spot (4th St btwn 1st/2nd Aves).

Full disclosure: the first time I went to Mono + Mono, the service was just wrong.  I talked to the manager who confessed they were short staffed and the normal chef was out that night.  He asked that I give them another try, so months later, I returned.  After all, dark mood lighting, a grand piano doubling as a communal table and a DJ perched a good 1.5 stories above the dining room, spinning awesome jazz standards equals a second chance, as far as I’m concerned.  The AMAZING Soju Cocktail Sampler ($11) didn’t hurt my decision to come back either…

As an overall document, Mono + Mono’s menu can be a bit perplexing.  Grilled Edamame ($5.95) presented inside a hollowed corn husk?  Weird, but also really freaking tasty.  Also odd-yet-wonderful are the Grilled Tofu Sliders ($10.95), perfect for sharing too.  Surprisingly, the Crouching Tiger Shrimp ($14.95), grilled w/white truffle oil, saffron and fennel bulb sauce were a bit small + chewy and didn’t really do it for me.  The best part of the meal, by leaps and bounds, was the sushi rolls.  We went with the Ninja, Spider, and Crunch California Rolls ($11.95-$12.95) which were all SUPERBLY executed.  The rolls each have 11-13 perfectly bite-sized pieces, the flavors are so fresh and they’re made with sushi rice that seems less dense than any roll I’ve ever had.

I may not have had the featured Korean Fried Chicken but I’m sure I’ll go back, and will eventually get the scoop on it.  What my experience with Mono + Mono DID teach me is that if at first a restaurant doesn’t succeed, and the signature dish is something you won’t eat, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an epic fail.  OK, in most cases it does – BUT, in the case of M+M, I learned: judge not [too quickly], lest ye will miss out on some pretty amazing Soju and Sushi.

Holy Basil, Batman; That’s Fine Thai Dining

29 Mar

Generalization time: many Thai spots in NYC blend together in a haze of generic, undersized storefronts with some variation of the same menu. For the last 4 years, I’ve walked past a nondescript entryway labeled “The Holy Basil”, which leads up a staircase, into a building – presumably to ANOTHER Thai resto waiting to be added to my arsenal of the forgettable. Sounds a bit shady, even for this curious foodie – BUT upon hearing from 2 trusted sources that Holy Basil in the East Village (2nd Ave btwn 9th/10th Sts) is a must-try, I decided to give it a go.

Once past the entryway sitch, I found myself in an Asian Speakeasy – and not one of those places that is designed to LOOK like a speakeasy; the decor is authentic (makes me wonder if it had another eatery identity in a past life). The music is a mix of swing and up-tempo jazz, the crowd was lively, even at 6:45pm on a Saturday. Normally I don’t eat that early, but it worked out nicely because I got in on the pre-7pm 1/2 priced drinks and we also each received a free salad + spring roll as part of the “happy hour” special.

The service was meticulous – our waiter answered all our questions about the menu with enthusiasm – we were never rushed; the pacing was excellent. We appetized with Beef Satay, Steamed Spring Rolls and the Papaya Salad. All solid options – of note, the Papaya Salad was spot-on with the traditional Thai preparation of the dish. My entrée, the Koong Kaprow – seared shrimp with peppers, onions and the namesake Holy Basil – was divine. My dining companions went for the Crispy Duck in a red curry sauce w/lychee and pineapple – glowing reviews. If you like it hot, the spiciest menu items have a double-starred (**) indicator, but I could’ve gone even hotter – so speak up if you want extra heat. Everything we ate was legit; like the ambiance there was just an authenticity to the meal.

It’s uncommon to enter a restaurant and be completely floored that the space even exists, but walking into this solid Thai resto, I had a total “who would’ve known?” moment…  and now YOU know.  So if you want a spot with a completely unexpected (and welcomed) vibe, grab your crew and check it out – you’ll soon be a devout aficionado of Holy Basil.

A Little Bit Louder Now: Poco

8 Mar

Lobster Mac: Where It's At

Brunch is always a bit of a party so there’s no shame in a loud brunch; there’s a time and a place for every rip roaring fiesta. Here to show your brunch a monster of a good time is a “little” place in the E.Ville (Ave B @ 3rd St) called Poco.

Poco is a tapas restaurant whose claim to fame is a brunch that balances good food with a superior AYCD brunch deal. If you want to dig up our past, I did have dinner at Poco 2 years ago; picture the following – me, a boy (yes, this was a date) and 2 women in corsets trying to put a mask on said date for a blind vodka taste testing. Clearly, this was not an ideal romance situation. I may have written Poco off altogether had it not been for a friend bringing their phenomenal brunch special to my attention nearly 12 months after said date disaster.

The dealio? $22 bones gets you an entrée and at LEAST 3 drinks (red/white sangria, blood mary, mimosa). We started with Bloodies (complete with blue cheese stuffed olives, mmm) and an order of the Lobster Mac’n’Cheese – I was quite easily persuaded into eating some. I think the Mac could’ve been a tad bit cheesier (t’was a lil runny) but all in all, the panko crusted starter was good for business. That and the free raisin/walnut bread and carrot cake mini muffins all help to curb the worst of your hangover.

We all went for omelets – 2 of us had the Truffled Mushroom Oms – 1 white/1 proper egg – both amazeballs (holler for truffles). The other order was the omelet of the day – Lobster, Goat Cheese, Spinach; awesome but pretty small for whatever reason, perhaps just the luck of the draw. If I wanted to get crazy, I would’ve gone for the pancakes of the day – Reese’s Peanut Buttercup Pancakes – WTF, is this real life?! No matter your order, the ish is good but the scene (if you’re ready/prepped for it) is great; so get your party on, there’s nothing wrong with a little Sunday Funday.

Games, Free Pizza, & Beers – Oh MY: Croc Lounge

20 Jan

RR is a Natural with Pizza (and accepts tips)!

If there’s one thing I like better than a dive bar with an excellent selection of beers on tap, it’s a dive bar that provides boozing patrons with a FREE personal pan pizza with every beer purchased.  But it doesn’t end there folks, add skee ball, video games + naked photo hunt and you’ve got yourself Dive Bar Nirvana.  And that’s just what Crocodile Lounge in the East Village (14th St btwn 1st/2nd Aves) is – and I’m not just saying that because they let me man the pizza ovens.  Ok, so maybe they didn’t “let me”…

Croc Lounge brings in a wide mix of crowds from the hipsters, to some NYU kids and lots of local 20-somethings in between. It’s the perfect date spot with games to entertain you and free pizza if you don’t wanna buy her dinner get hungry. The bartenders are laidback dudes, there are a ton of great brews ready for the pouring and the free pizzas are actually great – plus for a buck per topping you can add your pick of a ton of add-ons from pepperoni to pineapples.

FACT: Free Pizza Tastes Better

A few things to note about the Croc: it has a huge pizza oven in the middle of the bar, so while that keeps things nice and toasty in the winter, you may want to think twice before heading there on the hottest day of the summer. Also, Wednesday night is trivia night which, if it’s your thing, great – but if it’s not your bag, perhaps go another night.  Crocodile Lounge is definitely one of those awesome spots sure to impress a date or even a group of friends… Now get on over there and have yourselves some free pizza!

Brunch Away Your Saturday: Sunburnt Cow

18 Jan

Sunburnt Menu

Sunburnt Cow is something of a brunch institution in the East Village (Ave C btwn 8th/9th Sts) – just ask anyone who’s waited up to 2 hours to get in on the boozey brunch action they have going on there.  Walking into the dimly lit tavern is like walking into the perfect meet market.  The crowd is young, hip + good looking, the staff members are all friendly Aussies, and there’s something about the day drinking atmosphere that makes being approached by randos less “stranger danger” than your run-of-the-mill evening out at the bar.

I must admit, when I swung by the Cow this weekend, the wait time was much longer than I’ve ever been subjected to (~1 hr, 45 mins).  However, after letting the bartender know we planned on dining with the bottomless brunch, he gave us free drinks and kept them coming for the next 2 hours or so, which made it more than worth it.  Just to note: we were a party of 3 and we got there at prime brunch time (1:15pm) which did make it tough to seat us – they only take reservations for parties of 6+, so we were at the bottom of a long list.

Aussie Brunch Fare

Eventually, we grabbed a prime table in the back and got to work on brunch – it’s a pretty small yet standard menu.  My brunch mates had the burger (piled high w/ Aussie fixin faves such as beets, pineapple, tomato, lettuce and a fried egg) and the Bush Benedict which was Australian for your standard eggs benedict.  I had egg whites, which our waiter informed me was very boring, but hey – a girl’s gotta leave room for cocktails!  Sides included are salad greens and/or fries and the grub’s actually pretty good, but we’re not really here for the gourmet food, are we kids?!  The main feature is clearly the party atmosphere and the unlimited drinks.  For $18, you’re getting an entrée and hours of inhibition-robbing cocktails (the special includes bloodies, greyhounds, screwdrivers, mimosas and Fosters) – c’mon, that’s a stellar deal.

RR hearts the Cow

A few tips for the best Sunburnt Cow experience: ideally, grab 5 friends and go as a group of 6 – you can snag a rezzie and bypass the wait.  If you want to do a smaller party, I’d make sure you get there by 12pm – after that, the wait grows exponentially – or you can even eat at the bar!  Brunch is always cash only, so make sure you’ve got moola on hand.  LOVE the cow?  Give a visit outside brunch hours – they always offer the option of a 2-hour open bar for 20 bucks (hello, pregame!).

I’m not one to mess around with brunch, folks… get to the Sunburnt Cow STAT!

French with a Flair: The Affaire

14 Jan

Cocktail Dreams

When the owner of The Affaire, the resto/soon-to-be burlesque joint/lounge (that used to be home to China 1) contacted me to come in opening week, I was skeptical of the once-trendy bar’s ability to reinvent itself as a decent restaurant. Well, boy was I wrong – and I’m not afraid to admit it. This is not your average “bar-gone-wrong-so-let’s-salvage-it-as-a-restaurant”. Affaire in the East Village/LES (Avenue B btwn 3rd/4th Sts) is truly its own unique entity; the sexy restaurant/drink den features a menu of delicious french nouveau cuisine that is actually playfully american in its execution.

I was lucky enough to dine in January while there is still a 3 course $19 prix fixe – for vegetarians they doubled up on the apps – but the important part is that I got to try SO much! As far as starters go, the endive salad with walnuts and pear was yum, the roasted beet with roasted goat cheese and almonds was DELISH but teeny, and the mini pizzette provençal with goat cheese, tomato, peppers & herbs was nice to share. The #1 stand out of the apps was the TRUFFLED Mac & Cheese, which was actually RIDIC – penne with so many different cheeses, topped with bread crumbs and truffle oil, then baked to perfection. We ordered 2, we finished 2 – it’s amazing, go get some – NOW.

Truffled Macs Where its At

As far as entrees go, we had a plethora of veggies for moi and my dining partners had the duck leg confit which, I’m told, was amazing. We also had several sides to complement our main dishes. The haricots verts were pretty standard beans in my book, and the spinach was pretty good too, but the brussel sprouts with bacon were RAVED about.

Before dessert, I got the full tour of the space from Andrew, the owner. While there’s a similar setup, the resto/lounge has been updated since the days of China 1 and I certainly hope that the renovations will breathe new life into the amazingly large and diverse spot. I’m especially excited about talk of brunch, which I’m told will include a DJ and some sort of multiple cocktail option (you can expect a review, once it’s fully rolled out). After our tour, we got to taste dessert! The profiteroles were like little yum eclairs, but the true star was the warm chocolate cake which was served a la mode and made for a warm/cold chocolate nirvana.

All in the Cocktails Details

I should add that the bartenders made it a point to ask questions so as to make your drinks exactly as you want them and the wait staff (esp the most wonderful, Nicole) were all attentive and helpful. Restaurateurs, take note: this is how a restaurant’s roll-out should be. Foodies, take note: this is a new and notable worth trying.  I would particularly recommend going for a late weekend dinner that would easily segue into cocktails downstairs… Whenever you go, visit The Affaire, where it’s perfectly acceptable to be having one (with food, of course). Book through Savored for 30% off your total dinner bill most evenings or check their website for daily specials!

They do excellent private events as well – to book your very own secret society dinner, email PreferredDiners@gmail.com

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