Posts Tagged ‘NY’

The Alley is one of Taiwan’s most famous bubble tea (Boba drinks) shops. The ´titans’ of the bubble tea world have long been attracted by NYC with giants such as ´Coco’, ´Ten Ren’ as well as ‘Happy lemon’ and ´Gong cha’ having their own locations in the Big Apple. It was about time that the Alley joins this high level competition, which is what they ended up doing recently with the opening of their first shop in NYC. The Alley is already an International success story with effective or projected presence in many  of this globe’s major cities (Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne, etc). The branch in NYC opened on Saturday Sept 7th 2019 in the NoHo neighbourhood. I went there on week 1 post opening.

I picked two of their signature items:

Brown sugar Deeriocca milk tea featured soft and bouncy homemade brown sugar milk tea pearls. Deeriocca is the name they gave to those pearls. If I had to take a guess, I would say that it is with those pearls that the Alley truely stands out as the brown sugar flavour is, indeed, one crowd-pleasing flavour. I found this milk tea — which level of sweetness they do consider as «regular » —– to not have that much sugar. It was not bland, though. Just enough sugar to keep it on the enjoyable side of the spectrum. Also noteworthy was the refined creamy taste coming from the syrup. It is a chain operation, therefore it cannot  have the « exclusive » quality of the bubble Tea you can make yourself at home, but at what it is, it is certainly a Very good bubble Tea. 8/10

Royal No 9 Milk tea
One of their most popular items according to their Facebook page. The house claims to use quality Black Assam tea leaves. This had a pleasant  fragrance coming from the tea element. Not as rich as the previous milk tea, by design, as it is just your basic milk and tea flavour, with, as it seems to be the consistent pattern  here, the sugar input kept in control – for the sweetness level, I basically took the regular one. This was not too sweet, therefore your best bet if you do not have a sweet tooth. Pleasant on the mouth, but the delicate fine balance between the milk and tea elements is technically without any flaw. 7/10

-The missus ordered the snow lulu strawberry (strawberries, crushed ice in white peach oolong tea base , with a layer of snow velvet cream atop).  I tried a bit of it, and was disappointed: the one we tried had barely any fruity flavour coming from the strawberry. The missus  did not like it at all for the exact same reasons that  I have just raised. The missus adding that she was missing the genuine fresh aftertaste that she came to expect from the better strawberry -flavoured bubble teas she had elsewhere and that is typical of most strawberry-based liquid,  semi liquid or creamy concoctions. 5/10

The Alley enjoys a fame of the magnitude of the Apple’s Iphone when that device first came out and it is easy to see why: you feel the quality of its ingredients (as an example, the sugar cane syrup is made, onsite, with real sugar cane, which is why one does not get the artificial overwhelming sugar taste that comes from artificially sweetened products), a sense of refinement (well balanced flavours) as well as a well judged control of the sugar input. It is clear that their intent is not to excite you with bold /rich flavours, full-bodied textures, which makes it a product that is aligned with its time (a time of health consciousness). Blown away, I was not, but I did really enjoy the quality of the brown sugar Deerioca milk tea , which is easily one of my favourite milk teas. The Alley Addr: 68 Cooper square, New York, NY, 10003

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Roberta’s pizza (above picture shows the take-out section of the establishment) has been hyped up as one of the biggest current hits of the dining scene of NYC.

It is relatively not that old (opened in 2008) and yet it is already a cult in NYC dining history. Its nontraditional

pizze featuring oftently in the top 5 of the best pizze in the nation, not a light exploit in the US.

It is an American-Italian pizza eatery, therefore I went with the flow and ordered exactly what the local crowd have been raving about, their Italian-American pizze (which ratings are not to be compared to my ratings of Neapolitan pizze, btw – two completely different styles).

-Torchietti pasta /topneck clams/ garlic/herbs – it is a pizza place. Not a pasta restaurant. Therefore no expectation, here. I just picked the pasta because I wanted some pasta as well. This was too salty (yep, the cook who cooked this dish seemed to have misjudged that the clams have already plenty of salt ) though pleasant enough 6/10

-« Babe: Pig in the city » is the name they gave to their pizza made of cheddar/mozzarella/ prosciutto cotto / onion / salsa verde – all their pizze are wood fired. Plated on metal pizza tray. No ample quantity of sauce, but just the right ratio. The dough made with specialty flour (they use a blend of specialty flours) and it did, obviously, rise for a long time, judging by the superb flavour of that crust. To get to such nicely rendered crust (excellent thin chewy crust with a superb light feel and ideal crisp to its texture) , they must have been using some of the best thin-crust pizza techniques of the industry. Delicious complementary flavours (the flavour of the crust responding well to the one of its toppings). 9/10

-Lieutenant Dan pizza (marinated summer peppers, pork sausages, cheddar, basil, onion, chili pepper, sesame) – They are so creative and fearless about their choices of toppings that, at times, a distracted palate can easily interpret the presence of some toppings as being « out of place ». That is not the case at all, in reality: take the sesame. It added to the overall festive mouthfeel of this pizza. Another thin crust pie that was well rendered (clearly, there is no quickie kneading operation in their pizza making process) as evidenced by its superb crunch, the right chew factor, and its exciting flavours. 9/10

-Freshly grilled pork collar /cucumbers/ spring onions /cabbage / salsa verde – had fine taste, the flavour that comes from the open fire always imparting an enticing smoky flavour as it did, here, with both the grilled protein as well as veggies. They seem to bother about quality organic veggies as that it how the veggies felt. The salsa verde had superb taste and texture. The grilled veggies tasted fine, too. Nice seasoning as well. Again, you are here for the pizza, but the non pizza items are still enjoyable enough as it was the case with this dish. 7/10

According to the media, the owners were not in the pizza industry before. Then one day they decided to open a pizza shop, went to Italy and learned from those in the know. And then came back and gave birth to Roberta’s. Well, if that is true, then they are the proof that sometimes, you need to come from « outside the box ´´ to offer a better show. As with any operation that is creative, they have to take risks (with their choice of varied toppings), therefore I suspect that it cannot be always as stellar as it was during my visit, but what matters is that Roberta’s has proven, once again, that it is capable of some of the best pizze in the nation.

Overall rating: 9/10 for the pizze – Category ´American-Italian pizza ‘ (They are technically as excellent as It is possible to be, they do come with a divine taste and a flawless crust). If you hear someone telling you that this is as good as any other Italian-American pizza in nyc, then that is coming from the same dude who thinks that mp3 and aiff do have the same quality of sound. 9/10 for the excellent service – no drama, no attitude here, but laid lack /humble professionals who are passionate about their jobs and doing it really well. Ambience was a 9/10 (the place does not look like much from both the inside and outside, ´rough looking’ from the outside, situated in a ´tough looking’ area, but it is full of life, in a civilized way, which is of course a good thing). Roberta’s Addr: 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11206 Phone: 718-417- 1118; URL: http://robertaspizza.com/

I wanted to try my usual go-to Haitian eatery in Brooklyn, La Caye, but the wait was too long. Therefore, we went for Chloe’s which is another Haitian eatery in Brooklyn.

We ate:

-Lambi boucané (Grilled conch) was prepared exactly as they do it in Haiti: not tenderized, not boiled. Straight to the grill. Great grilling flavour and superb pickling technique for the onion/red pepper that was served with the lambi boucane. 7/10

-Crab cake featured plenty of fresh crab meat and was enjoyable with a batter that had proper airy crispiness (flaky and tender), the cakes holding together well. 7/10

-Tassot de cabrit (Fried goat meat – upper left corner on the previous photo) featured tender tasty goat meat (flawless marinade of the meat, they have masterfully balanced the acidity coming from the lemon element with the necessary subtle spicy kick this dish requires) 8/10

The diri kole (rice and red beans, flavoured with thyme/parsley/cloves – right side of the previous picture) was almost bland. I am not sure why some Haitian eateries outside of Haiti do not invest a bit more time and care in the work of the diri kole as Haitians, back home, are used to their diri kole being flavourful. Not here. Too bad, as the Haitian diri kole is usually the most flavourful  of all the  versions  of this dish found in other Caribbean cuisines. I had more flavorful diri kole  at many Haitians eateries elsewhere. However, this is an example where many food reviewers confuse personal taste with technical flaws. Not flavoring the rice is not a technical flaw, in this instance. It is the choice that the kitchen made. A choice that I do not like, but not a flaw. Overcooking the rice, burning it when it is not supposed to, etc..those are technical flaws. Theirs was technically well executed: it  was not dry and it was freshly prepared.

 

-Grilled red snapper was dry throughout, therefore had virtually no flavour 0/10

-Akra ( fritters made of Malanga — a type of root vegetable —, garlic, scallion, peppers, flour ) was freshly prepared, the texture exactly as the one of a perfectly genuine Haitian Akra, though a tad oily but this is not a gourmet restaurant that is looking after such little details and rustic Haitian cooking has the « bit oily » feature as a perfectly legit/genuine part of the Akra experience. 7/10

The pikliz – a condiment made of raw chopped vegetables such as carrots/bell peppers/cabbage that are pickled in white vinegar alongside scotch bonnet peppers and seasoned with garlic, whole cloves and onion had proper genuine taste. This pikliz was certainly great in its prime (meaning if it was timely served) but it arrived at our table with the characteristics of the lesser pikliz: its crunch was a feature of the past, its dryness a  reality of the present tense. A pikliz without crunch and texture is not what one should be looking for (in the same fashion as a slaw —as pikliz is essentially a sort of pickled spicy slaw — if it is not going to have crunch and texture, it is better not to serve it). Too bad, as it was evident that the technique to conceive that pikliz was on point (5/10).

Bottom line: An erratic performance. Not in the league of La Caye, for sure. I would still go back for the tassot de cabrit though, as well as the Akra and will try their other dishes (lambi, poulet en sauce, for example). Overall food rating: 5.5/10 (tassot de cabrit, akra and lambi boucané were good, the pickling technique generally superior, but an average diri kole and subpar red snapper keep the overall rating low) Service: 6/10 (doing the basics , polite) Chloe’s restaurant Addr: 9413 Ave L, Brooklyn NY, 11236 Phone:  347-770-9051

Junior’s (386 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY;  Phone: 718-852-5257;  http://www.juniorscheesecake.com) is a popular restaurant of Brooklyn, widely known in NY for its cheesecakes.

I ordered:

Combo reuben – corned beef and pastrami, grilled sauerkraut, swiss on rye. – an insignificant part of the pastrami was a bit drier than what I am accustomed to with my reuben sandwich at other North American delis, but that was long forgotten and forgiven once I started eating it as its deliciousness and flawless execution were firm indications this was a serious reuben sandwich, truely packing a punch. Montreal and NYC have the best delis in the world and a reuben sandwich of this quality would not be out of place at a top tier deli in both cities. 8/10

Potato salad – rustic style typical to north american delis, no flaws, just good homey flavors. 7/10

Some sides came with my order: a coleslaw (not the regular one, but one with vinegar – nice fresh crunchy vegetables, all delicious) 7/10, housemade pickles that were timely brined and expressing remarkable freshness (a world away from its tired looking examples that can be found at some inferior delis) 9/10, a first- rate corn bread 9/10, as well as some tasty marinated beets 7/10. Simple, simple stuff that are exquisite here, but that many restaurants do not seem to be capable of.

Then, I ordered the world’s “most fabulous ” cheesecake (their words, not mine), which is the cheesecake that virtually everyone is raving about in nyc. This is made with philadelphia cream cheese, its bottom made of sponge cake (instead of a crust of graham cracker) and was a fine version of a North American cheesecake, but its cheesecake flavor paled a bit in comparison to the richer taste of Montreal-style’s best cheesecakes. Furthermore, its rustic appearance does not sit well with me: I love rusticity, but a cheesecake (especially, a strawberry cheesecake) needs to be easy on the eyes. In NYC, eventhough it’s not the same style of cheesecake as at Junior’s, the one from Ferrara bakery (195 Grand Street ) is the one that’s really knocking my socks off, for now. Still, Junior’s is artisanally made (they make a limited quantity, using artisanal techniques), it is a good cheesecake (just not as great as Montreal’s best) and you have got to sample it at least once if you happen to be in NYC. 7/ 10

All in all: Junior’s is oftently ignored in  most  listings of the great delicatessens of NY, but that is just because it has an extensive menu that  categorizes it as a diner, not a delicatessen. There are also little “technicalities” that keep Junior’s out of such listings. In the competitive delicatessen market of NY, whether the J is or is not the greatest samurai of the empire, it does not matter. At the end of the day, what we need to know is this: the delis at Junior’s are good. Really good. And that is coming from a Montrealer (Montreal is one North American city with world class delis, obviously)..

Bottom line: Junior’s can brag about anything they want (the word s “famous” and “fabulous” appear a lot on their menu), except for the cheesecake (sorry J, our finest cheesecakes in Montreal will beat yours, anyday!!) , I am down with them!

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (1 East 32nd street, New York, NY 10016, Phone: 212-966-9839) is the most popular kbbq spot in NYC, with long waits,  although at lunch time on a weekday, you can get in easily. The popularity of Baekjeong is such that, when celebrities need their fix of Kbbq, in town, they eat here. Baekjeong and Dons Bogam were the only Kbbq restaurants that I have not visited yet in NYC, therefore I went trying both of them. My review of Dons Bogam can be found here.

For the bbq, I chose two  meats: their marinated short rib as well as the seasoned prime short rib. The marinade is good, but the quality of the beef was passable during my lunch, there.  Let’s politely put it this way:  what they call prime quality beef, is not what other kbbq eateries in NYC would call prime. Both the marinated short rib and seasoned prime short ribs did nothing for me, because quality meat was missing in action here, which was unfortunate because the marinade was fine.

Banchans (side dishes that are served with your bbq meats) came in the form of:

-Pickled radish: pleasant, but no more. The pickling lacking depth. This was a world away from the superbly well mastered pickling technique that can be found, right here in NYC, at other Korean restaurants. 5/10

-Marinated cucumber. the marinating technique coming with the same issues that came with the pickling of the radish. 5/10

-Kimchi cabbage: again, and again ordinary / not fully complex in flavors. Kimchi can be eventful, but you would never know that, had this kimchi been your sole reference. 5/10

-A piece of tofu, which nice custardy softness I enjoyed. 6/10

There was also some shredded scallions, some raw egg batter that slowly cooks as your meat is grilling (this is always a fun idea at a kbbq), as well as their secret sauce (I am not a fan) to be mixed with your pieces of barbecued meats in the relevant wrapping lettuce.

Remembering the superb fried dumplings at the nearby Dons Bogam, I ordered some, here, for the sake of comparison: These were tasty, and I loved their non-refined appearance, but they were not in the league of the fried dumplings of  Dons. 6/10

Pros: the energy of the place (Fun, fun fun!)
Cons: Most of the food (at the exception of the fluffy steamed egg and pleasant tofu) was forgettable. C’mon folks, at a Kbbq, the meat and the banchan need to leave an impression, …… obviously!!

 

Bottom line: Surprisingly (given the showers of praises, online, and its popularity) , this meal at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong did not live up to the hype. It is a very popular location, and many celebrities are big fans of it (they have several pics of celebrities in the restaurant), but that seems to be just an indication of how popular and fun the place is. It is fun, indeed, the waitstaff super friendly, but … I need the food to be part of the party, too. Overall rating (Categ: Seafood ): Food (5/10 Culinary-wise, this got nowhere near the best Kbbqs I had in NYC…and the food at Baekjong was marginally cheaper, btw!), Service (9/10 Lovely service ), Ambience: 10/10 (Festive. I mean, if you are depressed, just   go to that place and your sorrows are long wiped from your mind. As fun as that! ).