Monday, December 31, 2012

Sushi Mikasa

I have to admit, I was a bit tentative about reviewing Mikasa. I have mixed feelings. It seems a lot of people either LOVE or HATE this place, and after 3 times eating their food (twice in, once for takeout) I was still trying to figure out where I fell on that scale. 
You may not always agree with my opinion on this blog, but since I started my vow has always been to try and present each experience as fairly and honestly as I am able to. 

Sushi Mikasa. Let's start with the good. Chef Kevin came from Sushi Seki in Manhattan and obviously knows his stuff. The fish is extremely fresh, and the menu is creative. This place goes way beyond spicy tuna and there are always specials and new items they are working on. Everything is presented beautifully, and the food that excelled, really blew our minds. For example, the crispy rice with spicy tuna, though I've had many versions of this dish (Koi, etc), was delectable. Enough so that we got a second, and then a third order of it. The place is cozy, maybe 30 seats top, and there's also a private dining room downstairs. If you don't mind sitting close to your neighbors (and for me, knowing about 75% of the people currently eating there), then it is an intimate, nice spot for delicious sushi close to home.

Now for the not so good.

1. Location. Sushi Mikasa is located on Gravesend Neck Road, a block from the Police Precinct off of Coney Island Avenue in Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. Not exactly Bond Street over here, and not an easy car or train ride from NYC. The location is pretty remote, but it is pretty close to where a lot of people I know live, so for me this is not the drawback. 

2. Service. The service was not terrible, but it was spotty at best. The Russian waitress was not very knowledgable about the menu and did not do a great job guiding us. Maybe had we just stuck to the Omakasa, it would have been a different experience, but I was looking for her to point out the don't miss items, and this just did not happen. 

3. The PRICES here are exorbitant. Now, I eat out. A LOT. I've no problem shelling out  for the big wig sushi spots in the city including Sushi Seki, Yasuda, Gari, Nobu, Bond, Neta, etc, but I have to say that leaving here and paying that much, just doesn't sit right with me. Sushi Mikasa is that place that charges extra for the extra dressing, or spicy mayo, and at this price point, I feel that is unjustifiable. Also when the bill came, we found they charged us for 2 extra orders of crispy rice tuna (1 that we ordered and never came, and another one that was never mentioned!) They barely even apologized. So with this being said, just know what you are getting into. 

Much of the food we sampled here is fresh, delicious, and excellent, but there were some misses mixed in as well. 
Here is our rundown:
-Edamame, pretty standard. 
-Tuna Pizza, good but TINY, probably would not order again. 
-Magura Tuna (diced tuna with avocado and fresh wasabi), delicious. Perfect amount of kick. 
-Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna GET THIS.
-Green Salad was pretty standard, but the Seaweed Salad was inedible. Different than any seaweed I've ever had, and not in a good way. I sent it back, and I really never do that. Also, my friend ordered the Tofu salad and was told by the waitress to try something else, "wink wink". She said it's not bad, she's just never seen it before and wouldn't want to start now. Thanks for the honestly, but um......

We also got some of the specials of the night including pieces of Seabass "Salad" (right) which was crispy and tangy and delicious. The Tuna with Pinenuts (left) had a mushy texture and needed something crunchier. I didn't care much for the Tuna with Pepper (I was expecting spice, it was more of a roasted pepper). My pieces of King Salmon, and Snapper with Sea Salt were fresh and perfect, and the Salmon Skin Hand Roll was also very good. Toro Scallion Roll and the Salmon Avocado Roll were also great. 

For 4 people we definitely ate but I would not say that we over ordered (which I often do!) We ended the meal with some Mochi Ice Cream, and the Layered Pastry dessert. All pretty much on par with what you would expect for dessert at a decent sushi shop. 

Not to overstate the point, but for 2 couples, with 2 orders of hot saki and a few beers, the bill came out to OVER $300 per couple. Come on now...

So now that you have all the facts (or my opinions at least), you be the judge. The sushi is definitely fresh and delicious, but for that price and especially for that location, the restaurant should be FLAWLESS in every aspect. The food should be the last word and the service exceptional, and for me, star chef or not, this just did not happen.

Neighborhood: Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn

Bite Mark: ***

Good For: Fresh Sushi, Breaking the Bank

Sushi Mikasa, 1188 Gravesend Neck Road, Brooklyn. 718-332-6600

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Gabriel Stulman is definitely doing something right. I don't know how he does it, but he has the magic touch. Every couple of months he manages to open up a new spot, and they all f**king rock!

His whole Little Wisco operation is right on the money. Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery, Fedora, Perla, and now Chez Sardine. I have never had a bad meal at any of them. What do they all have in common? They are all located around the West Village area, are all small intimate spaces that play awesome music, and the food at each one is top notch. No matter the cuisine, it is innovative comfort food, in the best possible way. I didn't even menton yet how the service is always friendly and knowledgeable. They make you feel the Little Wisco love.

The first time I went to Perla last June was when they first opened, and I fell in love. The other night we returned, and the love affair continues. Helmed by chef Michael Toscano (Manzo), Perla is an excellent casual Italian restaurant, that stands out amongst the dozens of its kind. Located on the quiet Minetta Lane in Greenwich Village, Perla is stylish and trendy, but not pretentious. The place has a downtown hipster vibe (our server was wearing a fedora), but not in an obnoxious way that makes you feel out of place.

We were a party of 6 at 9PM on a busy Saturday night, and after just a few minutes we got seated at the comfy leather booth all the way in the front. Although we had to flag down someone to take our order after the drinks were in, they were really gracious about it and the service was spot on the rest of the night.

The food. We received an amuse of Crostini with ricotta, honey, and sea salt. Sweet and delicious. Next we shared some apps including Red Beets with macho, hazelnuts, and robiola cheese, Arugula with roasted cauliflower and anchovies, and a bunch of sides. The spicy Brocolli Rabe was good and not too bitter, the Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts was licked clean, and the Soft Polenta with asiago & ricotta was insane. Creamy and cheesy and delicious, order it. The Mixed Mushrooms were also a hit. When I took a breather from inhaling this delicious food, I realized there was not a bite left to be had on the whole table. 

For the main we got the Whole Roasted Branzino with escarole, orange mint, and fried basil for the table and we each got our own pastas. WOW. I remembered that the pastas were great but this BRANZINO was the bomb. I wanna say it's the best whole fish I've ever had. It was lemony and salty and crispy. Do yourself a favor and get one.

The Gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce and ricotta was delicious if not mind blowing. Creamy and a good solid sauce. The Tajarin (angel-hair like pasta) with black truffles, sage, and parmesan was also delicious.
Everyone is smiling.

Dessert was an Apple Sauce Torta with mascarpone, quince and honey which I felt was a little weak, but the Praline Semifreddo with salted rum caramel & croccante more than made up for it. GET THIS.

Overall another great experience at Perla. This is what dining out should be. It was not cheap, but we were not complaining. Excellent food, chilled ambience, friendly service, and good tunes. Who could ask for anything more?

 Can't wait to try Chez Sardine next week. Will keep you posted ;-)

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Date Night, Girl's Night, Family Outing, Foodies

Perla; 24 Minetta Lane, 212-933-1824, 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brooklyn Pizza: Lucali, Di Fara, Spumoni

Brooklyn Pizza showdown.

Lucali vs. Di Fara vs. L & B Spumoni Gardens 

I'm not saying that these 3 pizzerias are the best Brooklyn has to offer, but all 3 are pretty damn amazing. You may like Grimaldi's better, or the ricotta hot pepper pie at Franny's (YUM), but as stand alone pizza joints,  I tend to frequent these the most. 

The breakdown:

575 Henry Street @ Carroll, 718-858-4086, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn 718-858-4086

Pizza: Phenomenal. Thin crispy crust (almost cracker-like), sauce is light, smooth and tangy. Beautiful balance of flavors, and excellent texture. Toppings include artichoke hearts, mushrooms, pepperoni, onions, peppers, shallots, basil & garlic (free)

Atmosphere: Intimate & romantic
Health Grade: A 

What else should I know? BYOB, Cash Only. All they have here is pizza and calzones, but you don't need much else. The CALZONE is amazing (some say better than the pizza). I like the artichoke hearts on my pizza, and shallots and hot peppers in my calzone. The service is efficient, if not particularly friendly, and I love the open kitchen and watching the magic happen. Rumor has it that a select few can also get a nutella calzone for dessert. 

Convenience: Not. But if you get the system down, it is doable. Call and they can put your name down and call you when it's almost time. On a Thursday night, I called at 7, they said 30-40 mins, and by the time I drove there and parked, our table was ready. 

VERDICT: Go. It is worth the wait. My #1. 

Di Fara 
1424 Ave J corner of East 15th, Midwood, Brooklyn, 718-258-1367,

Pizza: It's clear from the moment you walk in that Domenico Demarco (Dom) puts his soul into Di Fara. He stands alone behind the tiny counter year after year after year, and lovingly does his thing. The sauce is delicious and slightly sweet made with a mixture of fresh and canned tomatoes, and the mozzerella cheese is imported straight from Italy. Each pie is finished with a sprinkling of parmesan and olive oil, and freshly cut basil on top. You've never tried anything like it. This pizza is perfection. 

Atmosphere: Not very comfortable. It's a tiny shop with a few communal and stand alone tables squeezed in. It's fine and you are very lucky just to get a seat, but you're not going to make a date night out of it. 

Health Grade: The health dept website confirms A, but I have my reservations. Still, taste a bite and you won't care. Also, Dom takes the pizza out of the burning hot oven with his hands!

What else should I know? Cash only. The pizza comes out extremely hot, control yourself for one extra minute or you will burn your mouth. They are open for lunch, so that's really your best bet for no wait. Also, at $5 a pop or $28 for a basic pie, it is not cheap. 

Convenience: Not. Your best chance is stopping in for lunch on a random afternoon (they are closed Monday / Tuesday), slightly before or after the lunch rush. You can expect at least a 1 -2 hour wait for pies, and I've never had them answer the phone when I've tried calling.

VERDICT: Delicious and also worth the wait. The atmosphere no doubt is lacking, but the delicious hot steaming pizza more than makes up for it. I also love the hot peppers they keep out on the counter. 

L & B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th Street between 11th and 12th, Gravesend, Brooklyn. 718-372-8400, 

Pizza: Get the Sicilian. The regualar slice is also very good, but the sicilian is something special. Always fresh and made to order, you can not go wrong. It's not the lightest, so two slices usually does the trick for me (and trust me, I can EAT). 

Atmosphere: The famous red picnic tables are the best way to go (weather permitting). There are some booth seating in the pizzaria, but I always prefer outside. 

Health Grade: A

Convenience: Very easy. There is always parking (and a parking lot!), and there seems to always be a fresh pie just out the oven. There's always ample seating, and they deliver!

What else should I know? There is a restaurant attached. It is not as good as the pizza, and the atmosphere feels kind of like a catering hall, but the artichokes and salads are decent. 

VERDICT: Spumoni is not my favorite, but it makes up on convenience what it loses on the actual pizza. The fact that parking and wait times are not an issue, makes it a great option for local delicious pizza. It's also really kid friendly. And the spumoni ices and creamscicle are delicious! 

What's YOUR favorite local pizza? Comment below & let me know! 

Think there's a great spot that I missed? Email me! I love getting tips...

Saturday, December 15, 2012


A while back, I stumbled upon a charming, tiny, hole in the wall on Smith Street called BattersbyThe whole restaurant consists of about 5 tables and a few bar stools (and an outdoor patio in the nicer weather). At the time, we grabbed the last 2 open seats at the bar, ordered a salad, fish, and pasta and not knowing what to expect, were blown away by the SPECTACULAR food. 

Jump ahead a year and Battersby has completely BLOWN UP. It is on every Brooklyn restaurant list, and is constantly being written up about. I've tried to return a number of times to no avail. After doing some research, I found that a reservation can be secured for a 5 or 7 course tasting (for a mere $65 / $85 per person). I gladly reserved a table for four about a month in advance and eagerly anticipated the upcoming date.

Thursday evening 8pm, and we are here! We quickly recognized the man behind the counter as our favorite bartender from Franny's, Matthew, who lives nearby and works here as well. This was a good sign. After just a few minutes wait, our party was escorted to an intimate little enclave in the back corner with the open kitchen on one side and the back wall of the bathroom on the other. We definitely had our privacy, and we were told this table was often sought after. We were ready. 

Little side note before we get to the good stuff. We went in to the tasting explaining that our party does not eat meat or shellfish (!) This is scary enough for a tiny restaurant to accommodate multiple tastings. But then we went on to confess that one person in our party also does not eat cheese. I didn't realize that the chef would go on to make the entire tasting (7 courses not including dessert!), meat free, shellfish free, and cheese free. I would have cried if I had known this going in. I am a cheese whore. But the amazng thing is that Batterbsy managed to pull off one of the most spectacular meals I've had in ages, with courteous and friendly service to boot.  I'm impressed. 

My friend, the wine connoisseur, ordered us a bottle of Chatea Pradeaux (2006). I'm not going to pretend I know the first thing about wine, but WOW. Every sip had complex levels of flavor. Amazing. 

Without further ado, the courses: 

Lemon Grass, Coconut, Lime Soup. Wow. What was that?!

1. Greek Yogurt, Dehydrated Veggies. Amazing. So small but so good. Tease.

Homemade Rosemary Foccacia Bread with Ricotta. I am salivated just remembering this.

  2. Cauliflower, Hazelnuts, Capers. WOW.

 3. Kale Salad. Crispy, sweet, tangy, delicious.

 4. Pasta Puttanesca, (crazy) Breadcrumbs. In running for the best thing we ate all night.



7. Sea Bass, Spinach, Mushrooms. Crispy, full of flavor. Licked our plates clean. 

8. Arctic Char, Fennel. Good, but one of the less exciting things we sampled. 
9. Cannelloni Beans, Egg - OMG. Please don't tell me it's over...

  Banana Pudding with Chocolate Stout. Creamy. Divine. 

Blood orange creamsicle. Orange Julius on crack. YUM.

Macaroons with ice cream (?) in the middle. Wow. 

 What an ending to such a special meal. We left the restaurant saying this has definitely been one of the best meals we've had. Period. Everything that came out, course after course, was flavorful and delicious. I don't think we left one plate unfinished.
Bon Appetit claims Battersby is one of the best restaurants in America. Judge for youself,  but The Brooklyn Bite has no complaints. Go to Battersby and drink in the kool-aid. 

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Cobble Hill 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Date Night, Foodies, Outdoor Dining 

Battersby; 255 Smith Street between Douglass & Degraw, Brooklyn, 718-852-8321

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

I've been to The Breslin a number of times, and even though I almost always come for lunch and almost always order the same few things, everything is always SO FREAKIN DELICIOUS.

The Breslin is a great spot in the Ace Hotel, which also houses The John Dory, Sumptown Coffee, and No7 Sub. Early, late, or in between, it's always packed. It's the best option around should you find yourself near the Garment District and craving some good eats. I tend to always choose trying a new spot over going somewhere I've already been (even if it's good), so the fact that I've been here on a number of occasions and keep coming back should tell you something.

On a cold Tuesday afternoon, I stopped in to meet my brother for a nice lunch. The place is kind of dark, and there's pictures of pig's everywhere (but don't let that fool you non meat eaters -- the veggies and other vegetarian options are also delicious!)  I grabbed my brother's arm, as I noticed right in front of me speaking to the hostess was none other than Francis McDormand. Love her. That's just the kind of place this is. Celebs come under the radar, not because it's a scene-y place, but because it's cool and casual and because April Bloomfield's (The Spotted Pig, The John Dory) food is off the hook.

There was no tables available and we didn't feel like waiting so we grabbed 2 seats at the bar, and ordered Bloody Mary's from the unfriendly bartender. Not sure what we did to tick him off, but we tried to not let it bother an otherwise pleasant experience.

Now for the food. The Herbed Caesar Salad with anchovy croutons is the best caesar salad I've ever had, ever. I can't even tell you what makes it so spectacular, but trust me, it's worth a trip here just for this one item. I've also gotten the caramel popcorn and spiced almonds in the "snacks" section of the menu and they are also really good. The other "can't miss" item on the menu is the Baked 3 Cheese Sandwich with onion marmalade and mustard. WOW. Crispy outside, gooey and cheesy inside, and the marmalade and the spicy mustard go perfect with it. We also got the Fish & Chips, which actually comes with fries, not chips. The fish was good, though not on the salad or grilled cheese level, but the fries are really really good. It's worth it, trust me.

 I once sat with a friend who ordered the Chargrilled Lamb Burger,  and I just have to say for someone who doesn't easily get enticed by burgers, this one certainly did the trick. I must have seen 6 orders come out for that same burger, so I'm thinking there must something special to it.

The Breslin is a great place. Good atmosphere. Good service. Mix of young hip people, businessmen, and the occasional celeb. Grab a seat by the bar on a random afternoon, or go for an early or late dinner and enjoy the delicious food that comes out of this kitchen.

Neighborhood: Garment District

Good For: Lunch, Business Meal, Celeb Sightings

Bite Mark: *** and a half

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room; 20 West 29th Street Between 5th Ave & Broadway 212-679-1939

Friday, December 7, 2012

El Toro Blanco

It's Thursday night and I secured a reservation for 4 at the new Mexican hotspot El Toro Blanco. It's across the street from Da Silvano, in a space that I know I have been to before. You can't miss the red sign above the door, and the loud packed crowded trying to get inside. It's smallish and cozy, with a huge swordfish hanging on the wall, and a guacamole bar when you walk in. 

This was going to be fun....

I found El Toro Blanco to be somewhat of a mixed bag. There was a lot of good, and there was also some not so good. Still a relatively new spot though, and you could tell that they were trying.I kept trying to remind myself of this as we preceded to wait a full 45 minutes at the packed bar. Not fun, especially in such a crowded space where there really is nowhere to put yourself.

On the bright side, the place was pumping. Lot of young, hip, people wanting to try the new IT spot. We ordered a round of margaritas (I had the El Toro), and started to warm up a little. In walks the (hot) Ed Burns, who gets escorted up to the mezzanine section. 

Once we got to our table, the service was impeccable and they were really quick to take our order and bring over the guacamole and chips. Yum! The chips were warm and crispy but not too oily, and the guacamole was delicious and came with 3 dipping sauces. We also loved the Green Chile Queso Fundido (basically a mexican cheese fondue) with warm flour tortillas. 

Next came the Tuna Ceviche with soy, lime, cucumber, avocado and cilantro. I liked it, I thought it was fresh and had a nice kick. The Snapper Ceviche with tomato, lime, cilantro, avocado and jalapeƱo was also good.

 So far, the food had been excellent. Unfortunately though, the next couple of items were misses. The fresh corn Elote Verde Tamale was mushy and not very tasty. The Chopped Salad which looked delicious and refreshing was severely lacking acid, and needed a heavy does of some vinegar and lemon. 

We also got the Sonoran Cheese Crisp ------>
an open faced quesadilla with cheese, poblano rajas, and roasted tomatoes. Another just ok dish.

Embarassingly, my friend went on to divulge to the waitress the reason I was photographing every bite was because I write for a "famous" restaurant blog, and the next thing I knew out came chef Josh Capon, sombrero in hand, ready for his photo op. He was nice, and you could tell was working his ass off to get this place to where it needs to be.

More food. Next came the Seared Tuna Tacos, and Crispy Cod Tacos. They were both ok, but they didn't wow anyone at the table. They were good, I think the cod better than the tuna, they were just not anything to write home about. For the main we got pan roasted Gulf Snapper, with tomato, olives, capers, oregano and pickled jalapeƱos. Good solid fish, fresh and tasty. The corn side dish was one of the better things we ate all night, and the rice and beans were also good. The plantains were a little too sweet to my liking, I would pass next time on these.

We ended the meal with the churros (YUM) and the Tres Leche Cake, also good.

Overall, I liked the place. It had a good vibe and a nice crowd, but they definitely need some time to get their act together. It's too new. Wait a few weeks, or months, then try it. There were definitely hits and misses but those also may be ironed out in time. Don't  miss the guac, fondue, corn side, ceviches, and churros desert, and you won't regret it.

Neighborhood: West Village / NYU area

Good For: Fun Night Out, Hot Spot, Girl's Night

Bite Mark: *** (for now)

El Toro Blanco; 257 6th Ave between Bleecker & West Houston, 212-645-0193