A La Turka

My husband and I have just returned from enjoying this month’s Foreign Food Night at A La Turka on the Upper East Side.  This month was my husband’s turn to choose which cuisine we would explore and he chose Turkish.  We used to live in the same neighborhood as A La Turka and we always said we’d like to try it sometime but never got around to it.  It was nice to get back to the old neighborhood and after the meal we just had, I think we’ll be doing it more often…

We arrived in a deluge of rain thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Hanna.  We almost thought of postponing Foreign Food Night until tomorrow night but we were feeling particularly adventuresome and set out to enjoy our evening.  As soon as we entered the restaurant, we could smell the heavenly aroma of grilled meats.  My mouth started watering and my stomach started growling.  We were sat at the front window, per our request, and perused the menu, taking note of the soulful music in the background.  As soon as we ordered, we were brought a basket of soft, warm flatbread with 3 dipping sauces (chili sauce, yogurt sauce with cucumber and dill, and flavored olive oil).

We shared a couple of hot appetizers – Sigara Boregi: pan-fried phyllo scrolls stuffed with feat cheese and dill; and Spicy Cigars: pan-fried phyllo scrolls stuffed with ground lamb with a garlicky yogurt sauce.  Both appetizers were out-of-this-world good!

With appetizers as good as these, our appetites were properly whetted and ready for our entrees.  My husband had the Beyti Kebab: hand chopped ground lamb seasoned with garlic, red pepper and parsley.  He L-O-V-E-D it!  I had the Fresh Turkish Okra with Lamb: baby okra cooked with tomatoes and onions served with rice.  Oh my… the lamb was so incredibly tender, I was in rapture.

For dessert, my husband had Baklava.  He can not see Baklava on a menu and not order it.  I ordered the rice pudding, which is my new comfort food dessert of choice.  It was so rich and creamy I would love to have some of it while sitting in front of a fireplace in my pajamas.  But, I digress.  Needless to say, we both enjoyed our desserts very much.  I do apologize, we did not take photos of our desserts as I, acting like a deranged woman who must have her dessert NOW, dug into my rice pudding before my husband could grab the camera.  So sorry.

As far as service is concerned, we were delighted by the wait staff that served us.  Everyone was exceedingly friendly and knowledgeable.

I must point out that we had to use our point-and-shoot camera this evening as our new digital SLR is simply too large to discreetly take photos in a restaurant.  Still, I think the photos turned out nicely.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Yes, you read correctly, I have awarded this restaurant 5 TC’s.  The first 5 I have given since starting this blog!  That is high praise indeed.  I implore you to try this restaurant soon.  We were so thrilled with our meal and I want you to experience it for yourself!

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien NY

My husband and I had a very light brunch today which left us craving something “bad” at 3:00PM.  We thought about going to Gray’s Papaya for a couple of hot dogs until I thought, why don’t we give Burger Joint a try?  We have tried to get in this place twice before but the line has always been out the door so we’ve never stuck around.  I thought, given the odd time of day, we’d be able to get in and get a seat.  I was right; we got in, placed our order and found a seat just before our order was ready for pick-up.  We each ordered a cheeseburger with our choice of toppings, shared an order of fries and we each had a chocolate milkshake.  Hey, I said we were craving something bad!

The burgers were good.  They are grilled, which I very much appreciate.  The cheese is a nice combination of melty cheddar and monterey jack.  The buns are toasted (a nice touch), the red onions are thinly sliced and they put the perfect amount of mustard, ketchup and mayo.  My only complaint about the burgers is that they were served well-done although we had ordered them medium.  Also, they are somewhat on the small side.  The fries were similar to McDonald’s except not as good.  The milkshake was quite nearly perfect.  The thickness was great and the chocolate flavor was great considering they use vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

The place only accepts cash so bring plenty of it.  We managed to rack up a $32 tab with just 2 burgers, 2 shakes and an order of fries.  My advice would be not to go when you are extremely hungry as you will most likely have a wait and the smell of grilled burgers might drive you crazy.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Lederhosen

As you may recall, this past weekend was Foreign Food Night and it was my turn to choose which cuisine we would enjoy – – I chose German. Based on a recommendation from a friend of mine, we went to Lederhosen in the Village. The restaurant is located in the middle of a quiet block on Grove Street. We could have easily missed the place except for a small chalk board on the sidewalk. We were led to our table by a very nice, very smiley woman. Our table was in the back of the restaurant in a windowless room that had been painted to look as though we were sitting in the middle of a sunny bier garten (beer garden) in Germany. As such, we started our evening with a round of biers (beers). I ordered one my favorite beers, a hefeweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer. My husband ordered a Hofbrau, a beer that reminds him of the time he went to Oktoberfest when he was studying abroad.

We shared a couple of appetizers, German potato salad and potato pancakes (our server’s recommendation). The potato salad had good flavor with lots of chopped pickle, mustard and dill. It was served cold although I am used to warm German salad. The potato pancakes, served with applesauce and sour cream, were also good if a bit greasy.

My husband’s entree was a wurst platter with 3 wursts of his choice (bratwurst, bauerwurst, and a weinerwurst) and included an assortment of vegetable salads, red and white sauerkrauts and German fried potatoes. He liked his meal although he said it was nothing particularly special. My entree was a wiener schnitzel, a breaded and pan-fried veal cutlet. It was served with the same side dishes as my husband’s entree. The schnitzel was okay. I can’t say for sure if it was me, as I am not much of a meat eater, or the schnitzel, but I was underwhelmed by this dish. It seemed to lack any seasoning and was therefore very bland.

The service was very friendly and efficient.

While we weren’t blown away by the food, I would return to this restaurant. It is a great place for groups as they have picnic tables that fit 8 adults comfortably. It seems like a fun place to drink and have a nice time with your friends.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Mia Dona – NYC Restaurant Week

This past week (as well as the coming week) was Restaurant Week here in New York City. My husband and I try to partake of the festivities at least once each time Restaurant Week rolls around. Last night my husband and I joined our friends Kelli and Tim at Mia Dona to enjoy their Restaurant Week offerings.

We arrived for our 8:30PM dinner reservation and were told that they were running a bit behind and our table was not yet available. We checked back 20 minutes later and were told that our table was being cleared and re-set. We were finally led to our table at 9:00 only to find our table not exactly re-set as my chair was full of crumbs that I had to wipe away before I could sit . I would expect dirty seats at a fast food restaurant but not at a place like Mia Dona.

I was quite pleased with the options available on their Restaurant Week menu. For the first course, Kelli, Tim and I ordered the baked tubetti. The perfectly al dente pasta was absolutely delicious with its smoked mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce and chiffonade of basil. My husband ordered the salad with shaved vegetables. Yes, I was shocked that he ordered a salad. It turns out that he didn’t realize there was a pasta option. That may be my fault as I should not have assumed that he knew that tubetti is a pasta (oops!). Oh well, it’s good for him to eat some vegetables. For the second course, Kelli, Tim and I ordered the grilled Branzino which was SO GOOD! It was served with baby artichokes, potatoes and pan jus and I still can not get over the awesome grilled flavor of the fish! My husband, in addition to not loving vegetables, does not eat fish or seafood. At Mia Dona, this was not a problem. So many times you only have 3 entree choices and they rarely include beef. Well, Mia Dona had 4 options and they also offered beef. My husband could not have been happier! He ordered the grilled hangar steak served with haricots verts (luckily, one of the few vegetables he will eat), herbed ricotta and accented with sliced pepperoncini. The meat was very tender and juicy and the herbed ricotta and pepperoncini complimented the dish beautifully. For dessert, Kelli, my husband and I ordered the tiramisu which the menu said would be accompanied by espresso gelato (yum!) but instead came with vanilla bean gelato (eh, okay). Tim ordered the chocolate semifreddo but seemed to enjoy Kelli’s tiramisu better.

As for service, our head waiter was really nice and checked on us regularly. However, things started to fall apart during the dessert course when they started rushing us. A bus boy tried to take Kelli’s dessert plate while she was still eating and the head waiter popped by for a split second to ask if we’d like some coffee and before everyone could answer, she said “No? Okay, I’ll go get your check.” What?!? What just happened here? At first, I thought they wanted to turn our table but then I realized it was 10:30PM and the place was already half empty. Who knows what the issue was?

Overall, we all enjoyed our meal. The few hiccups in cleanliness and service were not enough to put a damper on our night. I do recommend this restaurant – – get the grilled Branzino!

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Amy Ruth’s

My husband and I had dinner at Amy Ruth’s, a restaurant famous for it’s Southern cuisine, in Harlem tonight. This restaurant has been a favorite of celebrities, locals and tourists alike since opening in 1998. They are well known for their waffles, topped with everything from fried chicken to ribeye steak to fried catfish. The highlights, in my opinion, were the corn bread and the waffle topped with fried chicken wings. The corn bread is warm, soft and moist. The waffle is soft and fluffy while the chicken wings are crispy and deliciously seasoned. The lowlight was the “cheesy grits” which were under seasoned and simply topped with some shredded cheddar cheese. Their potato salad was very good as was the honey-dipped fried chicken. The macaroni and cheese was good but needed a bit of salt and pepper to bring out the flavor.

Here are some photos:

Corn Bread

Waffle with Fried Chicken Wings

Honey-Dipped Fried Chicken with Potato Salad and Mac-n-Cheese

Cheesy Grits

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Nam

As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I went to Nam for Foreign Food Night. I must say, this month’s Foreign Food Night was a success. Nam is a lovely space in Tribeca with the most gracious service you could ever hope for. They are quick to refill your water glass, capable of answering any questions you may ask regarding the menu and their timing of courses could not be better.

We ordered 2 appetizers to share:

Grilled Lemongrass Beef Rolls

Rolls of grilled lemongrass beef with basil and bean sprouts wrapped in fresh rice paper served with a peanut dipping sauce. The grilled flavor of the tender, thinly sliced beef was delicious and the fresh basil added such a bright flavor while the peanut sauce lent an earthy aspect that we really enjoyed.

Steamed Mushroom Raviolis

The second appetizer was a steamed “ravioli” filled with mushrooms and topped with fried shallots, fresh basil and a lime broth. This dish had good flavor but was a bit difficult to serve and eat. The ravioli pasta was a limp rice paper and the filling fell out when we tried to distribute each ravioli to our plates. Once we got the raviolis in place, they were difficult to handle with our chopsticks. Problems aside, the dish was very tasty.

Crispy Red Snapper

My entree was a fillet of crispy red snapper in a chili lime sauce. Delicious! The skin of the fish was perfectly crispy and the flesh was moist and flaky. The chili lime sauce was out of this world and was soaked up nicely by a side of sticky rice.

Five-Spice Grilled Beef Wraps

My husband ordered one of the daily specials: 5-spice marinated grilled beef served with angel hair rice noodles, crunchy peanuts, mint, cilantro, lettuce leaves for wrapping and a chili lime sauce for dipping. He said it had excellent flavor and he really enjoyed the crunchiness provided by the peanuts as well as the fresh flavors of the herbs.

Coconut Panna Cotta

For dessert, I ordered the coconut panna cotta served with tapioca and a sesame tuille. I would have to say this dessert was only okay. The panna cotta had nearly no coconut flavor and an odd, lumpy texture. Additionally, the tapioca seemed a bit out of place in this dish. The sesame tuille was obviously affected by yesterday’s humidity as it was far from crisp.

Chocolate Mousse with Orange Sauce

My husband’s dessert, on the other hand, was great. He chose the chocolate mousse with orange sauce. It had intense chocolate flavor yet was light as a feather. The orange sauce complemented the mousse well as orange and chocolate do tend to make a delightful duo.

Overall, the night was wonderful and I would definitely recommend Nam to a friend.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Magnolia Bakery

My husband and I have been to the UWS outpost of Magnolia Bakery twice since it opened this last winter. We have never been to the Village location as waiting in line for an hour for a cupcake is simply not an option for us. That being said, these 2 experiences at the UWS location are the only experiences we have had with this bakery.

We have some issues with this place… the first time we went to get a cupcake, there was no signage to let us know what flavors we were looking at. We asked one of the employees what flavors they were and she pointed to the obviously chocolate one and said “chocolate” then she pointed to the obviously vanilla one and said “vanilla” then I spoke up and said “What is this one here?” and she didn’t know. Well, I took it anyway but when we got to the cashier, the cashier asked me which one I got. How funny. If they don’t know and there’s no signage, how can I possibly know?

Well, today we went back to get some cupcakes for a friend’s birthday party and again, there was no signage for the cupcakes. We knew better than to ask, so we just took 2 of each flavor/color and proceeded to the cashier to pay. The cashier again asked which flavors we got. We explained what appeared to be obvious- there are no signs, how should we know which ones we got?

Frustration aside, the cupcakes are very good. As an adventurous eater, I don’t really mind not knowing what flavor I’m picking. It does pose a problem in that some flavors cost more than others and since there are no signs to indicate flavor, there are no signs to indicate price.

If you’ve had any experiences with Magnolia Bakery, either UWS or in the Village, for better or for worse, I’d like to hear about them. Please feel free to comment!

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Peking Duck House – Chinatown

As I mentioned in my “Dovetail NYC” post, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. To be specific, it was our 2-year wedding anniversary. The second year’s anniversary gifts are cotton (traditional) and china (modern) and as a person who loves a good theme, I ran with the idea of china. No, I didn’t buy my husband new plates and bowls. And no, I didn’t take him to China. But, I did do the next best thing… a day exploring NYC’S Chinatown!

We kicked off the day with lunch at Peking Duck House. We have always enjoyed this restaurant for its Peking duck – more specifically, its Peking duck skin! Ah yes, we do enjoy some crispy duck skin. We started our meal with the Spicy White Cabbage- crisp, sweet and sour cabbage with a delicious kick of chilies and ginger. We also had the Steamed Pork Buns- tender, flavorful bites of seasoned ground pork wrapped inside a dumpling-type dough and steamed until a heavenly pool of pork broth forms in the bottom of each bun. One must be careful when eating these buns to make sure not to lose that awesome broth. I like to put the bun inside a spoon and eat it from the spoon so that if any broth comes out, I’ve got it captured. We dress up our buns with the provided “bun sauce” which is a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. The acidity of the sauce is a nice contrast to the richly flavored pork.

And now, for the star of today’s luncheon feast… The Duck! One of the servers brings the duck to our table and presents it to us. “Your duck,” he says. Then the carving chef comes out and carves it tableside for us making sure to get every square inch of the crispy, shiny brown skin. He shingles each slice on a platter methodically and the platter is placed in the center of the table and the accompaniments- perfect batonnets of cucumber, julienne of scallion, pancakes and “special sauce”- are place around this platter. We simply dig in. There is no other way to put it. It was delicious, as always. The cool, crunchy vegetables are just perfect with the moist, tender duck meat and the fatty yet crispy skin. And the sauce? Lick-the-bowl good, if I were that kind of girl.

Once we waddled away from our table, we made our way to the Museum of the Chinese in America for a guided tour of Chinatown. This was a very informative and interesting 90-minute tour and we highly recommend it.

After the tour, we treated ourselves to a scoop of ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had the Lychee ice cream and my husband had the Chocolate Oreo ice cream. Mine was perfectly creamy and fruity with lots of nice chunks of lychee. My husband said he would have preferred more chunks of Oreo, but he said it was okay.

And that concludes our tour of Chinatown. Now I have to start planning for next year’s gift…

The Peking duck feast!

The Steamed Pork Buns


My rating (out of a possible 5):

Dovetail NYC

My husband took me to Dovetail this week to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This was a highly anticipated meal as this restaurant has received very good reviews in numerous publications as well as in foodie chat rooms. Here is my review:

First Impressions: The space has lovely design features and atmosphere. However, the first thing you smell upon stepping in the door is fish. Also distracting, the air temperature was much too warm. This leads us to the WINE…

Due to the very warm temperature of the restaurant, my husband and I decided to go with a cool white wine for this evening’s meal. We chose a 2005 white Burgundy as it would be the most versatile white to complement both of our yet-to-be-determined meals. The wine was perfectly refreshing: fruity/floral aroma, crisp acidity, nice fruit, not oaky at all, subdued alcohol, medium body. The wait staff kept the bottle on ice for us and refilled appropriately.

The Amuse Bouche(s) for the evening were a vodka gelee garnished with fried capers and salmon roe served in a sterling silver spoon and a patty pan squash quarter garnished with grated turnip (I think that’s what the guy said), pesto and paprika served on a bamboo stick. My husband and I agreed, we liked the squash better than the gelee.

The evening’s bread selection was a delightfully salty corn bread.

First Courses: I had the Maine sea scallops with banana-curry sauce garnished with cashews and crispy fried okra. The scallops were humongous and perfectly cooked and the sauce was deliciously flavorful yet delicate and complimented the scallops nicely. My husband had the lamb’s tongue served with muffalatta presse, olives and capers. He said it was the highlight of his meal and my bite of the tongue was melt-in-your-mouth-tender and very rich.

Main Courses: I had the poached lobster served with dilled potatoes and garlicky greens. It was really good with fresh herb flavors and buttery, perfectly cooked lobster. The only issue I had was that some of the perfectly cut dices of potato were not fully cooked. My husband had the roasted sirloin and beef cheek lasagna garnished with wild mushrooms and red and white pearl onions. He loved the beef cheek lasagna but said that the roasted sirloin was nothing special.

Desserts: I had the cheese plate. Honestly, I do not remember what cheeses they were (there were 3) but they were very good. They were served with 2 types of bread and a handful of accompaniments. My husband had the peanut butter tart served with beer ice cream and pretzels.

Service: The service was very good and everybody was friendly. There was never a lag in clearing our plates and little wait between courses. The captain was very good with the up-sell; asking if we’d like to start the evening with a glass of Champagne or if I’d like a glass of dessert wine to go with my cheese plate.

With our check, we each received a macadamia nut truffle and a to-go sample of peanut butter granola which tastes awesome in yogurt.

We left Dovetail quite pleased with our evening. We may or may not return. It’s difficult to return to the same restaurant when there are so many others to try. But, I would highly recommend Dovetail to a friend.

My Rating (out of a possible 5):