Saturday, April 20, 2013


Oh, what a night!
I had such a memorable and fun dining experience the other night at Carbone, the brand new, hottest ticket in town, old school Italian restaurant in the old Rocco space on Thompson Street. Carbone is brought to you from the boys over at the extremely successful and delicious Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm. From the moment this restaurant opening was announced, the foodie community has been all over it eagerly anticipating Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone's latest venture. So when I scored a reservation weeks in advance for a 10PM seating on a Thursday night, I was pretty pumped. 

From the moment you walk in, Carbone transports you to a 1950's old world Italian restaurant, complete with life size menus, servers in Zac Posen designed burgundy tuxes, and tunes that match the ambience. It feels like a scene out of The Godfather. It's a dark and cozy place, with 2 smallish rooms and a tiny semi-circle bar in the back that holds about 6 people comfortably. The drinks are expensive at $15 a pop, but they are stellar, and were actually brought down from the original $20 price tag. After about 40 minutes, 2 drinks and 3 check ins with the hostess, we are still not seated. I'm livid. It's now 10:45, I have a reservation, and they could care less. The horrid review began writing itself in my mind....
But then, the evening took quite a turn. We were quickly seated and given the "freebies" (or not, given the hefty price tag of this meal), consisting of a chunk of Parmesan Cheese (YUM), and an amazing looking Bread Basket including Grandma Bread, Breadsticks, and the most delicious, oily, garlicky, crispy Garlic Bread I've ever had in my life. YUM.

Our old waiter was not too thrilled about the 'no meat no shellfish' rule we imposed on him, and condescendingly said something like "well then, you're on your own". Really?  Thanks for the help, man. We still managed to do okay. 

Some friends of ours walked in soon after and they accommodated us by moving us to a table for 6 in the back room. Here's where things get interesting...Not 2 tables down from us sits Jake Gyllenhaal, Jay-Z, and about 10 of their friends, loudly talking, drinking, eating (making animal grunting noises !?) and having a great time. FINE. Maybe I can let slide that wait time. Now as a New Yorker, I see famous people time to time. New Yorkers are cool like that. We just roll with it and realize we live in the best city in the world, and sitting next to Jay-Z, or Jonah Hill (like I did the other day at Smile to Go), is one of the many perks. Regardless, it's still pretty awesome. We didn't bother them, just snuck some flashless photos and admired our dining mates, even as they pretty much took over the spot and started smoking cigarettes amongst over things (happy 4/20!) right at the table. Funnnnnnnnn. But I digress. I guess this review should at some point mention the delicious food we consumed. 

 Appetizers. Caesar Salad, I'm told is usually prepared table side. It wasn't for us. It was good and garlicky. I actually liked the version I had at Speedy Romeo the other day better. The Asparagus Genovese was excellent. House Chopped Salad also good, but nothing crazy. 
Main courses we went all out on the pasta. Spicy Rigatoni Vodka. Please order this. Al dente, spicy (but not inedible), delicious. Top item of the night. The other pastas were also great. We had the Penne Primavera, The Fettucine Con Funghi and the Angel Hair AOP. Rigatoni and Angel Hair were probably my favs, but really they are all excellent. The Polenta Torrisi is a definite winner as well, and the Funghi Trifolati was licked clean. 

As if all those carbs weren't enough, we ordered 4 desserts including Nutella Tiramisu, Banana Split, Cheesecake and Carrot Cake. We also got another freebie of sugar dusted crisps, and shots of Grappa was offered all around. My favorites  are the Carrot Cake with ginger ice-cream and candied walnuts and the Cheesecake. WOW! Order both. 

Go on OpenTable, and book any reservation you can get here. It's expensive, and they make you wait, nontheless its a great spot and I highly recommend it. I can't promise you celebrity sightings, but the food was incredible, the service for the most part was good, and it was just a really great, great night. Can't wait to go back. I love New York. 

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Hot Spot, Trendy, Impress your Date, Family Dinner, Special Occasion 

Carbone, 181 Thompson St 212=254-3000

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Momo Sushi Shack

I wanted to love Momo's. The hipster Williamsburg "I'm a restaurant in a garage" vibe works for me, as does the communal tables and low lighting. I'm also cool with how Philip (the manager I assume?) comes over personally and promises an incredible experience. I love that the service was great all night, (although some extra deodorant would certainly not hurt), and the vibe was very chilled. Alas I almost feel bad saying but the sushi was underwhelming. And for the price we paid (over $200 for a couple including 2 beers), I just don't know. Some things are really exceptional here, and maybe I've become a bit of a sushi snob, but it's just not GREAT sushi. 
As a side note, although it's not really fair to compare, I should mention that the other day I experienced the Omakasa $50 lunch special at the sushi counter at Sushi of Gari 46 (see photo). That's a review in and of itself, but in short I was BLOWN AWAY... and Momo just didn't do that for me. 

But now back to the review at hand....

I love the surprise of doing a tasting. Phil said he would take care of us and that we were in good hands. I was psyched. The 1st course came and it was pretty solid. The Tofu / Avocado Salad was plated beautifully and tasted great. We were smiling ear to ear with the wonderful Carrot Shiso Soup and the made from scratch delicious Miso Soup.

The next couple of dishes unfortunately, did not fare as well. First came an assortment of "sushi bombs" (balls of rice with a thin slice of fish and some sort of sauce over it). We were given 3 pieces of Spicy Mc Low Bomb (tuna, avocado, wasabi cream), 3 pieces of Pink Bomb (salmon, scallions), and 6 pieces of Yellowtail (hamachi, daikon, ponzu). I don't know what's up with their rice, but it doesn't taste like sushi rice at all. It was hard, but not crunchy in a good way. Kinda weird. It also felt like too much rice to fish ratio. I didn't love it. Next was the Sashimi Tasting including 2 pieces of Kanpachi, Thai Red Snapper, Striped Bass, Sea Bass, Hamachi and Mackerel that we're told came straight from Japan. Not my thing. I don't know why, maybe I'm not hardcore enough, but it fell flat. Phil felt terrible and we felt embarrassed as we silently promised to finish whatever else came out of the kitchen no matter what. He immediately sent over this unbelievable bite of Salmon Belly with burnt onion and mayo, and I was back in heaven. The Toro Scallion Handroll was also really excellent. Great quality, perfectly rolled and delicious. I could have ate 3 more.

 Lastly we got 2 pieces of cooked fish, a Salmon with crispy skin, fish roe and greens that was delicious and perfectly cooked. And a Miso Cod that looked dry but was actually really flavorful and delicious as well.

I'm kind of torn. I love the passion and hands on approach to the place, and some items were really really delicious (soups, tofu salad, toro, salmon belly and cooked fish), but major points are deducted when the actual sushi (or sushi bombs in this case) and sashimi don't measure up. They also ran out of dessert which was kinda disappointing.
Momo Sushi Shack is a decent spot. I probably would not go out of my way to go back but if I lived in the hood or if the wait at Roberta's got too crazy (it's around the corner) I would give it one more shot. Thanks for the love Phil, good service is always appreciated.

Note that Momo's is Cash Only. Also, they only take reservations for tastings, but those can start as low as $40 per person. They also are very vegetarian and Kosher friendly, so extra points for that as well.

Neighborhood: East Williamsburg / Bushwick, Brooklyn

Bite Mark: *** (extra star for the good service & veggie friendly kitchen) 

Good For: First Date, Neighborhood Sushi 

Momo Sushi Shack, 43 Bogart St 718-418-6666

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I'm baaaaack! After relinquishing all bread, pizza, pasta, and hametz related substances for a long (yet wonderful) Passover in Jerusalem & Tel Aviv, I'm finally back! Home sweet home, and itching for springtime in New York and delicious new spots to fill  my belly and quench my insatiable appetite.... 

Shortly before my trip I had a wonderful meal in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn. In what looks to be the middle of nowhere off an unassuming corner, lies the excellent SaraghinaI heard this place mentioned a few times (there's even been Beyonce/Jay-Z spotting for what that's worth), but unfamiliar with Bed-Stuy I was reluctant to trek out there. Turns out it's not too far (15 min drive from Midwood, where I live), and even if it was a little further it would still be worth the trek.

I would describe Saraghina as quaint, funky, and relaxed. There's chairs hanging from the ceiling and other awesome decor. It's the kind of place I'd want to go with a small party for a birthday celebration. It's hip and fun but without the pretentiousness, and with delicious food. The service is good, the people around me seem cool, and it is just comfortable.  There's also an outside area that looks pretty cool come springtime. 

After just a few quick minutes we were seated, ordered, and had some nice local beer in our hands. We started with the Burrata Salad, imported from Puglia and served with fresh tomatoes, greens, basil and evoo. I love Burrata, and this is DELICIOUS burrata. Get this. We also had a delicious Fennel Salad served shaved with parmigiano, pine nuts and thyme. Spaghetti al Chitarra, the homemade spaghetti with fresh tomato and basil is simple and excellent. The sauce lies a little on the sweeter side but it was al dente and really just a perfectly cooked bowl of pasta. 

We went for the Carciofi Pizza with san marzano tomatoes, baby artichokes, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. Wow. Thin crust, tangy sauce, fresh cheese, and yummy artichokes. The pizza here is up there with the best Brooklyn has to offer (Di Fara, Lucali, Franny's, etc). Brick oven Brooklyn deliciousness. 

We had such a pleasant experience at Saraghina, without any of the hassle. Although I've only been once, this place is definitely going to become a regular and I'm told the brunch is pretty awesome as well. Check this place out for sure. It's another Brooklyn winner. 

Neighborhood: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Pizza, Date Night, Romantic, Small Parties, Brunch, Kid-friendly 

Saraghina, 435 Halsey 718-574-0010