It is Restaurant Week in New York (from July 25-August 19,2016) so it was time to figure out which restaurants were offering nice prix fixe menus ($29 lunch or $42 dinner)–ones that are not normally available outside of restaurant week. I had lunch at The Clocktower shortly after they opened some months back. It is a beautiful restaurant and I was happy to see that they were doing a restaurant week lunch. Their normal lunch prix fixe is $39.
The restaurant week menu offers a choice of three appetizers, three mains and two desserts. I went pescatarian, ordering the fluke crudo to start followed by fish and chips.
I enjoyed my lunch, but I was very surprised by the fluke crudo. Rather than being cold and raw, it was hot. At first I thought the waiter had delivered the wrong dish. I asked and was told it was “lightly poached.” The dish was tasty but not what I expected and even a little well done. It ended up being too similar to my main course–both were cooked fish over something deep green.
The fish over mushy peas and chips (not in the photo) were a delicious reflection of Chef Jason Atherton’s British roots.
My lunch companion ordered the burger:
Dessert was cherry cheesecake and compote with cocoa whip cream and bits of chocolate sponge cake.
Pan fried chicken, okra, mac and cheese, collard greens, smothered chicken. These are some of the things you can get at Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken in Harlem. We headed up there for lunch because we heard Charles’ chicken is legendary.
The place is mostly a take-out spot, but they have three or four tables where you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet. At lunchtime it is $13.00 a person. You can pick anything you want from the hot food tables, including the famous fried chicken. Not a typical help yourself buffet. Here, you point, they serve.
I started with some fried chicken, smothered chicken and BBQ chicken. I specified how many pieces of each I wanted (one) and which type (drumstick). Plus macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes and an okra and corn stew. Everything was delicious. The fried chicken was crunchy and not greasy. The BBQ is much better than it looks. It is in a thin sauce that is thick with flavor. The sweet potatoes weren’t overly sweet–just how I like them. I had seconds of everything on the plate–I liked them so much, I didn’t try the other items.
While we were eating, I could watch a soap opera on TV or chef and owner Charles Gabriel cooking up some more chicken in a big skillet at the stove behind the food counter.
You also had your choice of smothered turkey leg or stewed pig’s foot. I passed up the rice, corn, collard greens, and beans, but I tasted the greens and beans on Lee’s plate–yummy.
The New York Times agreed that the chicken and the experience are superb.
The New Yorker magazine profiled Charles this week here
The Lee Brothers call Charles Gabriel a legend
Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken is on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 151st and 152 Streets–just a couple of blocks from the 155th Street stop on the B and D subway lines. It is one subway stop (or about a 15 minute walk) from Yankee Stadium.
Yesterday I had a fabulous meal at M. Wells. A couple days earlier the M. Wells folks sent out an email saying that they were having a Labor Day party. There would be a DJ, food for a fixed price of $30 and a cash bar. As is usually the case with M. Wells’ special events, there were no details about the food. The email only stated they would “celebrate the best of our summer specials and take a peak at our upcoming fall menu”. You have to be prepared to jump in without any details. You have to ignore the press who usually get it wrong (Time Out said the menu would include fish quenelle and lobster, veal kidney with sea beans and salt-crusted squab–none of which were served). With M. Wells, you have to put yourself in their hands, go in blind and trust in Hugue. Whatever it is, it is bound to be surprising, generous and wonderful. Yesterday was a case in point.
We got our wristbands and a couple of drinks from the bar, sat down at a table and over the next couple of hours, the following dishes were brought out to the two of us:
The seafood platter had 6 oysters and 4 little jars which contained geoduck, mussels, clams, and roe. What a way to start! (Later we saw that king crab legs were being added to the platter)
A baked potato was served with the seafood platter. The roe with creamy horseradish sauce from one of the jars was a perfect topping.
We shared a juicy hamburger and fries.
The pan con tomate was loaded with flavor.
The guinea hen roulade was stuffed with something sausagey (foie gras was mentioned) and topped with a mushroom sauce. The best part with the exterior–it was wrapped in a thin french toast.
One of the regular items on the M. Wells Steakhouse menu is a “stack of pork chops.” We got a beautiful stack of two delicious chops.
The cauliflower was roasted, topped with puffed rice and served with a sauce with a little heat and Indian flavors.
Fried chicken with a yummy gravy for dipping.
Much more a croquette, than gnocchi, this was oozing foie gras. OMG!
A special meal at M. Wells has to include wild hare.
We were stuffed by this point, but managed to eat all of our dessert-maple pie, something like a chess pie and a chocolate icebox type cake.
Oh, and the music was terrific–it started out with New Orleans music and built up to dance music. A lovely way to spend Labor Day. Thanks M Wells!
Lunch buffets are a staple of Indian restaurants in the New York. A number of the Indian restaurants in Jackson Heights were known for their buffets–but in recent years the quality has tapered off. Some time ago, I tried to find the best of the bunch–but I was only disappointed. The place I used to go in midtown had closed. And then, a couple of years ago, Moti Mahal Delux opened on the east side at 63rd and 1st Avenue.
I had been to Moti Mahal in downtown Delhi, right near the main mosque. We had gone for lunch to have their famous butter chicken. It wasn’t a very popular place at lunch–we were practically the only diners there.
Unlike the one in Delhi, the Moti Mahal Delux in New York is a great place to go for lunch. They don’t offer an a la carte menu, just an all-you-can-eat lunch. Monday to Friday it costs $11.95. There is no buffet, they bring bowls of everything to your table. You can ask for anything to be replenished.
There are two options: vegetarian or non-vegetarian. If you go with two people, get one of each, then you can enjoy the full range of dishes.
Yesterday, they started us with a plate of appetizers: pakora (fritters) and crunchy chaat (below). The chaat had the three different sauces/chutneys (tamarind, coconut and mint) on it. The pakora were like oniony spiced potato pancakes. They started us with two pakora (they call them “pakoda”). Later in the meal we asked for more pakora and we got a tray of them.
Then, they brought a plate of tandoori chicken (below).
Then they brought out a tableful of food. In addition to rice, naan and dal, they brought another type of chicken that had been cooked on the skewer, two vegetarian dishes, a fish dish and a chicken curry. Everything was delicious. Did I say you can ask for anything to be refilled? Because they bring out the dishes as you request them, they are hot and fresh. The naan is fluffy and things that should be crunchy are. Nothing was overly spicy. In fact, a few things could have used more spice.
One of the vegetarian dishes was mixed vegetables (below). The things in the photo that look “meaty” are mushrooms.
The fish curry (below) was tasty. The fish was lightly breaded, with just the right amount of crunch.
We got two types of skewered chicken. Different taste profile from different marinades. They had started us with a plate of each. This (below) is the refill plate.
A vegetarian version of butter chicken (below). Instead of chicken, this one has cubes of cheese (paneer).
After we could eat no more, they cleared the table and brought us dessert. It was a delicious mango pudding with pieces of mango and other fruit.
The dishes change from day to day.
I love the Hi-Collar Cafe which opened at 214 East 10th Street about a year ago. Hi-Collar is a kissaten, which is the Japanese version of a Western coffee shop. Kissaten are places where people can go to relax over a coffee, breakfast, lunch, a sandwich or a sweet.
There are no tables at Hi-Collar–just a counter with about 10 backless stools–so you can’t get too comfortable. During the day, Hi-Collar serves breakfast and lunch. They used to open early for breakfast, but currently are opening at 11:00–so check their hours before you go. At night, it turns into a bar with a long list of sakes to choose from.
During the day, you can find many typical kissaten items on its menu: omurice, which is fluffy omelet over rice, Japanese-style pancakes (i.e. thick and fluffy), and katsu (pork cutlet) sandwich. Of course, they also serve coffee. You can choose from three methods of preparation: pour over, aeropress, or siphon. I’m not sure what the differences are, but they all look like variations of science experiments with beakers and tubes and bubbling liquids and flames. They have several beans, and if you don’t know which bean you want they will serve as your coffee sommelier, asking: Do you like your coffee strong or medium? More or less acidic? More or less fruity?
Big confession: I LOVE this place, and I have NEVER had a coffee here. I’ve had a few of the food items and they have all been very nice, but what brings me back here is the kissaten style daily pasta special. The first time I went there I asked about the daily pasta–I was told “roe.” I had no idea what that would mean, but I ordered it. I got a plate of spaghetti in a very light creamy sauce, some enoki mushrooms with lots of tiny orange flying fish roe. The taste was subtle and delicious. It was good as many of the best dishes I had had from some very expensive Japanese restaurants.
Yesterday when I asked about the pasta, I thought the answer was “bonito” followed up with “garlic” and “pepperoni”. Of course I ordered it, that’s what I was there for. I’m not sure where the bonito was in the dish and pepperoni was in fact tiny rings of red peppers (sliced pepperoncini). It doesn’t matter. The dish was fabulous. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente. I don’t know how they cook it so perfectly especially in the tiny kitchen in the back. The pasta was in oil. When they were preparing the dish, the smell of garlic sautéing in oil reached me from the kitchen. But what came out was a delicate taste, with just a hint of garlic. There was also some spinach, fresh tomatoes, enoki mushrooms and shredded dried seaweed. Every once in a while I got a taste of something sweetly pungent. And don’t forget the sliced red peppers which gave the dish a perfect amount of heat. This is a dish that could go up against Del Posto’s pasta dishes–in particular it called to mind Del Posto’s spaghetti with jalapeño and crab. But there is nothing Italian about the pasta dishes at Hi-Collar. Spending time at Hi-Collar is like taking a trip to Japan. Hi-Collar’s slogan is “Flirting with the West”, but on 10th Street, it allows us to flirt with the East.
By the way, the pasta dishes at Hi-Collar are $8.50 if you also order a beverage or $10.50 a la carte.
214 East 10th St. New York, NY 10003
Though the restaurant Mission Chinese Food closed last autumn, you can now enjoy their greatest hits. Mission Chinese Food is doing a pop-up behind Frankie’s Spuntino in Brooklyn. It started as a one night pop-up in April, and then kept going. It continued a couple of days a week in May. And now they are continuing in June on assorted Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Danny Bowien and team have brought their dragon with them and it is now decorating the ceiling of a room out back in the garden behind Frankie’s in Carroll Gardens. The old illuminated menu board from the Orchard Street restaurant and some of the wall decor are also there.
The menu is fixed priced: $40 per person, though there were a couple of supplemental add-ons available for the table (crispy pork peking style or salt n’pepper king crab legs, the night I was there). In addition to the eight courses on the menu, we were served two other courses: a red cabbage with toasted buckwheat and anchovy vinaigrette and a ramen noodles (no broth) with peanuts, scallions and fennel seeds.
The food was as good as ever. My tongue was numb and my lips were burning from the wings. I enjoyed the cucumbers and the eggplant dishes on the cold platter. I loved the crunchy kasha in the red cabbage and the slight hints of licorice when I bit into a fennel seed in the noodles. Also pleasing was the smokiness of the bacon and the texture of the rice cakes. It was like the old Mission Chinese without the wait (they take reservations by email).