1682 French Louisiana: New Orleans’ French Quarter in Long Island City

1682 French Louisiana – 48-19 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, New York

Aside from the wonder that is Bourbon Street, New Orleans is known for its incredible food culture. Now, in a Long Island City cafe formerly known as Cranky’s, 1682 French Louisiana is bringing the French Quarter to the city.

The owners, Mina and Jimi, have transformed this former coffee shop into a French/Cajun restaurant. The interior pays homage to its coffee shop roots by still giving off a “coffee shop vibe.” And service with a smile is something you’ll definitely get here. Mina makes it a point to make her way to every table, greeting everyone with a friendly “Bonjour!” and sitting with those that want to chat into the night.

I was recently invited in to check out the menu and chowed down on some delicious dishes.

Creole Style Fries 1682 French Louisiana

We started off with some Creole Style Fries. These very thin and crispy fries were piled high and served with an avocado dipping sauce. They were coated with an addictive Cajun seasoning that had me grabbing them by the handful.

Creole Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crepe 1682 French Louisiana

One of the favorite dishes of the night was the Creole Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crepe. This appetizer consisted of a crepe filled with goat cheese and topped with shrimp and a creole butter sauce made with white wine. This dish gave my taste buds an immediate spicy kick that was quickly offset by a flood of delicious goat cheese.

Crab Meat and Avocado Terrine 1682 French Louisiana

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a favorite of mine. A thick bed of avocado was topped with a layer of crab meat and sour cream. The appetizer was very light and refreshing, but it struggled to find any real defining flavor.

Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya 1682 French Louisiana

Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya 1682 French Louisiana 2

Just look at that presentation! Another favorite of the night was the Shrimp and Andouille Jambalya. A generous amount of shrimp and Andouille sausage was served over dirty rice. This was all surrounded by a precisely placed wall of mussels. Delicious, delicious, delicious. The dish had just the right amount of kick to it and was extremely flavorful. It was served with a doughy homemade Cajun biscuit. I’d order this again in a heartbeat.

Cajun Brook Trout Fillet 1682 French Louisiana

The Cajun Brook Trout Fillet came sitting on wild rice and spinach, bordered by a rich-colored beet sauce. The fillet was perfectly cooked and there was a lot of it. The spinach gave off a healthy appearance, but it had a very buttery flavor so I’m assuming it wasn’t giving me those Popeye health benefits (I wasn’t complaining). This, combined with the sticky wild rice, made for a perfect combination.

Bourbon Coconut Bread Pudding 1682 French Louisiana

Time for dessert. Bourbon Coconut Bread Pudding sat in a pool of bourbon cream sauce. You could taste the alcohol in this rich and moist dessert, and it was damn good.

The Verdict

1682 French Louisiana has a lot of competition to deal with, with lots of ethnic restaurants dotting the surrounding blocks. However, after my experience, I think they’ll do just fine. The food was delicious all around and the service made it feel like home. True care was clearly placed on the presentation as every dish came out looking incredible. I’ve heard the weekend brunch here is packed, but I plan on giving it a try very soon! I highly recommend 1682 French Louisiana. And for those of you in Manhattan, it’s not that far away! 

1682 French Louisiana on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Cranky’s Café
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
Hunters Point / Cajun / Creole
* Street Address
48-19 Vernon Blvd. (Between 48th Ave. & 49th Ave.), Long Island City, NY 11101
* Phone
(347) 738-4921

Get Cooking! Cook&Go Culinary Studio

I recently was invited to check out Cook&Go Culinary Studio. This awesome cooking school hosts a variety of cooking workshops with fun and lively instructors that make cooking fun!

Each class gives you a three course meal that you get to take home – after you cook it of course. The best part is that there’s something for everyone. With a different menu each month, you can learn how to cook nearly everything. For example, this month’s menu includes the “TV Tray Menu” and March Madness-inspired recipes.

I had a great time making healthy, fitness-inspired recipes during the cooking session I attended. The group atmosphere and instructors made for a lively and engaging few hours. The menu we whipped up consisted of:

  • Chickpea Burgers and Tahini Sauce
  • Spinach, apple, carrot, ginger smoothie
  • Raspberry filled shortbread sandwich

I highly recommend checking out Cook&Go. It’s the perfect spot for a fun date night or group excursion. I know I’ll be keeping a close eye on their class schedule to see what they’ll be cooking up next month.

Some pictures of my culinary creations are below. And, as a special bonus, you can enter the coupon code BLOG14 on the Cook&Go website to receive 15% off your first class. Get cooking!

Cook&Go Culinary Studio in NYC

Cook&Go Culinary Studio in NYC

Prep for Chickpea Burger

Prep for Chickpea Burger

Chickpea Burgers Ready for Baking

Chickpea Burgers Ready for Baking

Chickpea Burger

Finished Product – Chickpea Burger

Raspberry Filled Shortbread Sandwich

Raspberry Filled Shortbread Sandwich

Happy Cook&Go Blogger

Happy Cook&Go Blogger

Pink Nori – An Early Look at Astoria’s Newest Sushi Spot

I recently passed along the word that Pink Nori, Astoria’s newest sushi spot featuring New York City’s only “build your own sushi” was open. Their grand opening is scheduled for sometime in February (date TBD), but I checked them out the other night. They don’t have a website yet and just launched their Twitter account, so there isn’t a lot of information out there. However, here’s an early look at some items on Pink Nori’s menu (check out the second page here) and what we chowed down on.

Tuna and Salmon Sushi

Tuna and Salmon Sushi

We started off the meal with complimentary “new style” sushi off of Pink Nori’s menu. Tuna with vinegar tofu sauce and taro chips, and salmon with onion aioli and cherry tomato were placed in front of us. Right off the bat, Pink Nori accomplished it’s goal – taking ingredients that are not native to Japanese cuisine and integrating them into its dishes. The highlight here was the salmon with onion aioli. It basically tasted like a salmon onion dip. Delicious and unique.

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza was next. Another unique dish, this consisted of a homemade scallion pancake topped with guacamole and assorted fish, drizzled with three special sauces. Thick layers of fish – tuna, salmon and white fish – were layered on top of the crispy, buttery scallion pancake and covered with lots of crunchies and caviar. The pictures don’t do it justice. This dish was bursting with color. Pink Nori certainly didn’t skimp on the fish either. Each piece was thick with fish and the crispy pancake gave everything a delicious crunch. 

Pink Nori Roll

Pink Nori Roll

Definitely the most eye-opening roll of the night, the Pink Nori Roll featured seared salmon, cooked shrimp, avocado, tempura flakes and caviar, wrapped in a pink soy bean paper and served with a honey miso glaze. My mouth was in heaven. The honey miso glaze gave this roll a sweetness I’ve never experienced before with sushi. If you’re looking for a sushi taste combination you’ve never had before, order this roll.

Bird Nest Roll

Bird Nest Roll

The Bird Nest Roll was made up of fried salmon, scallions and cream cheese, topped with kani, tobiko, mayonnaise and panko crumbs, toasted and drizzled with sweet chili, eel sauce and wasabi mayo. Now that’s a mouthful of ingredients. This roll was appropriately named because it literally did look like a bird’s nest, complete with brown accents around the outer rim of the plate to mimic dirt.

Cajun Tuna Roll

Cajun Tuna Roll

The Cajun Tuna Roll was made up of crunchy spicy tuna on the inside, with Cajun pepper tuna and avocado on the outside. The cooked Cajun pepper tuna was the differentiator here. It had a mild kick to it that added to the raw spicy tuna. Basically, a spicy tuna roll on steroids.

The last roll we sampled was the Pink Alecia Roll. This consisted of crab meat, asparagus, and sun dried tomatoes, topped with smoked salmon, avocado, eel sauce and truffle oil, and lightly fried. Once again, Pink Nori didn’t disappoint. While this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch, the sun dried tomatoes were a unique addition adding a slightly chewy consistency to the roll and a burst of concentrated flavor.

The Verdict

Move over, Junko, you and your “C” health grade rating can hit the road. Pink Nori is my new go-to sushi spot in Astoria. The food was outstanding and the service even better. The fusion of non native ingredients into Japanese cuisine (sun dried tomatoes, onion aioli, etc.) gave my palate a pleasant surprise and kept me guessing as I tasted each new dish. Hurry on over soon because once word gets out, Pink Nori is going to be a hot spot on 30th Avenue!

Pink Nori on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Feast

Feast – 102 Third Avenue, Manhattan, New York

With my aunt visiting from out of town, I was on the prowl for a solid brunch spot around Union Square. Many Yelp reviews later, I stumbled upon Feast.

Feast Restaurant

Feast Restaurant

Feast is a bright, open air spot with communal seating. The themes here are clearly simplicity, wood and nature, with single light bulbs dangling from a wooden plank ceiling and simple wildflowers adorning the center of each table. Very clean and sharp looking design.

Brunch is a set price at $24 a pop, which includes a drink, a trio of shareable appetizers, and entree.

Beery Mary at Feast Restaurant

Beery Mary

My advice, go crazy with the Beery Mary – a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka.

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Croissants, chocolate croissants, muffins, fresh squeezed juice, and a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola kicked off our meal. Everything was delicious, especially the parfait, but the croissants were my favorite here. Their buttery, flaky crust had a perfect crunch to them.

Lemon Souffle Pancake at Feast Restaurant

Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

The Lemon Soufflé Pancake caught my eye on the menu. It requires a 20-25 minute wait, but it’s well worth it. I’d never seen anything like it. Out came an enormous pancake that had risen into a fluffy, sweet brunch treat. It tasted just like a pancake but was extremely light and airy. The mixed berry sauce and powdered sugar it was doused in certainly helped its cause.

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives at Feast Restaurant

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives

Scrambled eggs in a pastry shell with mushrooms delivered the savory part of the meal. Served on a crispy bed of spinach, the pastry dough flaked away with each movement of the fork to reveal a scrambled egg-filled interior. Great presentation.

The Verdict

What a meal! I thought the $24/person price tag was a little steep for brunch, but Feast delivered. Every part of the meal was outstanding – from the ambiance to the service to the food. Your $24 includes a lot of food and by the end we were ready to roll out of there. Feast is definitely going on my list of brunch spots to hit up when my family is in town.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Abbottega Ristorante – Italian in the West Village

Restaurant: Abbottega – 14 Bedford Street, Manhattan, New York

Hailey and I recently checked out Abbottega Ristorante, an Italian restaurant that opened not too long ago in the West Village. Despite being opened only a short time, Abbottega is rich in history. The owner, David Ranucci, has a number of restaurants to his name (mostly in Milan) as well as an emerging intercontinental group of the Abbottega brand in New York City, Milan and Miami.

Interior of Abbottega Ristorante

Interior

The history of Abbottega dates back to 1913 and is a living tribute to Ranucci’s grandmother, who still spends her days in the kitchen. As he describes it, “It all began in 1913 when my grandfather Giulio opened his “Osteria” in Montefiascone, a small town with an enchanting view of the lake Bolsena, just 60 miles from Rome…a territory, with a high concentration of mountains and hills. At “Abbottega” in all these years, we have proudly served our traditional meals to our guests (including Cardinals) who used to come to us by carriages, bicycles, motorcycles, antiques automobiles (with drivers always blowing their horns twice) and today, with modern cars equipped with A/C and navigation systems!”

With a life-size photo of Ranucci’s grandmother hanging from the back wall, they’re very much keeping this tradition and old fashioned experience alive here at Abbottega in Manhattan.

Atmosphere

Exposed Brick Walls Painted White at Abbottega Risorante

Exposed Brick Walls Painted White

Walking into Abbottega is like being transported from the busy streets of New York City into a quaint Italian restaurant. Exposed brick walls are painted white with solid wood tables scattered throughout the interior. A counter at the entrance features Italian wines, cured meats and cheeses, as well as an area for the chef to make fresh pasta. In fact, there are mounds of it sitting there all ready to be used that same night.

If I were to describe the atmosphere in one word, it would be community. I immediately felt at home, a feeling I’m sure Grandma Ranucci would be happy with.

Fresh Pasta at Abbottega Ristorante

Fresh Pasta is Prepared Daily

Food

Food, food and more food. We were treated to a variety of items off Abbottega’s menu. Yes, it was a lot of food.

  • Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp
  • Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugula, shaved parmigiano and truffle oil
  • Carpaccio di Salmone MarinatoSalmon carpaccio, spinach and orange
  • Tonnarelli Cacio e PepePecorino cheese and fresh cracked black pepper
  • Salsiccia alla Brace:  Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms and grilled tomatoes
  • Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso flan, Chocolate lava cake
Arugula Spread

Arugula Spread

Before all that food was bread, accompanied by a unique spread made up of arugula, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. This was a huge hit between myself and Hailey. You could really taste the arugula and it immediately set Abbottega apart from other restaurants.

Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp

Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp

The tomato soup and shrimp was delicious. The soup is made without any cream so it’s very light and comes out ice cold – perfectly refreshing for a hot summer day. I’m not a big fan of tomato soup but I couldn’t get enough of this dish.

Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugola, shaved parmigiano & truffle oil

Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugula, shaved parmigiano and truffle oil

The Bresaola was served over arugula with decorative plating accented by more of the delicious arugula spread. This beef was delicious! It literally melted in our mouths and had a tremendous flavor with just the right amount of salt from the curing process.

Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato: Salmon carpaccio, spinach & orange

Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato: Salmon carpaccio, spinach and orange

The Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato consisted of thinly sliced salmon topped with spinach and candied oranges. The spinach was very heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and oil – something I wasn’t complaining about. The candied fruit on the top of this dish played an intergral part, adding a hint of sweetness to each bite – something you don’t typically get in a carpaccio dish.

Ravioli di Carciofi: Artichokes, parmigiano & crispy prosciutto

Ravioli di Carciofi: Artichokes, parmigiano and crispy prosciutto

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Ravioli di Carciofi. A very thin ravioli was stuffed with artichoke and topped with crispy and salty prosciutto. A light cream sauce was used that was so light you almost didn’t notice it was there. This was delicious. The flavor of artichokes really shone through with the light sauce serving its purpose to accent the flavor instead of drowning the pasta.

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe: Pecorino cheese & fresh cracked black pepper

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe: Pecorino cheese and fresh cracked black pepper

The Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, while simple, had a complexity to it. The pasta was cooked al dente, as it should be, and tasted like it was literally made a few minutes ago. You can’t get any fresher than that. The sauce had a slight kick to it, reminding you it was there and giving this dish a warmth.

Salsiccia alla Brace:  Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms & grilled tomatoes

Salsiccia alla Brace: Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms and grilled tomatoes

Before dessert, our final dish of the night was the Salsiccia alla Brace. Sweet Italian pork sausage was topped with cremini mushrooms and laid on top of onions and grilled cherry tomatoes. I really liked how the sausage was cooked. It had some burnt areas to it and that extra char had me reminiscing about grilling sausage in my backyard. I liked this dish, but struggled to love it. Unfortunately, the flavors just didn’t go far enough for me.

Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso panna cotta, Chocolate lava cake

Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso flan, Chocolate lava cake

Dessert consisted of three different items – yogurt cake, Espresso flan and chocolate lava cake. The yogurt cake had a hint of lemon to it and was served with a delicious dark chocolate ganache. The ganache was slightly bitter and perfectly accented the yogurt cake. The chocolate lava cake had a layer of whipped cream around it that served as a bed for the molten chocolate that flowed out of this as soon as its skin was pierced. I don’t think I’ve ever had a chocolate lava cake I didn’t like. This was no exception and the layer of whipped cream on the outside was only a plus. The most unique dessert was the espresso flan. The flan had a strong coffee flavor and was topped with a thin layer of coffee grounds. I loved the grittiness of the grounds and the overpowering coffee flavor. Definitely no need to order a cup of coffee after this dessert.

Service

The service at Abbottega was incredible. Going back to what I said about a communal feel, it really did feel like I was eating in my grandmother’s kitchen and she was serving up a feast. The team at Abbottega did everything under the sun to make sure diners were happy.

Value

Prices range from $14 for salads, $14-$15 for appetizers, $13-$16 for pasta and $20-$24 for entrees. For what you get, these prices are a huge value.

The Verdict

I’m adding Abbottega to my list of some of the best Italian food I’ve had in New York City. A communal feel, simple, yet delicious food, incredible service – this restaurant seems to have it all. There are very few places that can make you feel like you’re eating in your grandmother’s kitchen, Abbottega is one of them. I can’t wait to head back.

*This meal was provided free, courtesy of Abbottega. 

Abbottega on Urbanspoon

Great Food and a Few Laughs at The Stand

Restaurant: The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club –  239 Third Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Within New York City some of the best restaurants and food are often disguised down dark alleys, in basement restaurants or in backrooms behind storefronts. Fitting the bill, is The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club.

I was recently invited to check out The Stand and they had to roll me out of the place. Chef Seth Levine has taken your usual pre-comedy show menu to the next level with unique dishes such as Cheeseburger Dumplings, Peking Duck Pizzette and more.

The Stand Comedy Club

The Stand Comedy Club

Atmosphere

Upstairs from The Stand comedy club (street level) sits an unassuming, dimly lit restaurant. Upon entering, ceiling to floor glass provides you with two options – head downstairs to check out some comedy or grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. If you pick the latter, you’ve made a good choice. The interior of the restaurant is simple, but within this simplicity there is a lot of character. As you walk in, a bar lines the right side of the restaurant and long horizontal mirrors hang from the walls to give off the appearance of a larger space. That being said, the restaurant isn’t small by any means. It comfortably holds more than 15 tables lining the walls. A dark copper colored tin ceiling adds a nice touch to wrap it all together. Looking around, you’d never know you were above a comedy club, except for the comedians scattered among some tables working thorough jokes. 

Food

I brought my friend Kim with me to check out the menu.

Cocktails at The Stand

Cocktails at The Stand

Before we dive into food, first things first, drinks! The Stand gets mixology right. We tried a few of The Stand’s signature cocktails and they were all delicious. The highlight was the Slow Poke Rodriguez. (Extra points if you can name who this drink is named after. Hint: it’s a Looney Tunes character.) After taking a sip I saw why the name was appropriate. Initially, I was greeted with a sweetness that soon gave way to the bite of tequila, it just took a little while for it to get there.

For food, we were treated to a number of dishes:

  • Cheeseburger Dumplings: pan-fried dumplings stuffed with ground sirloin and grated cheddar cheese, served with a house dipping sauce
  • Truffle Mac n’ Cheese
  • Peking Duck Pizzette: thin crust personal size pizza, sliced pan seared duck breast, plum sauce, cilantro, cucumber, scallions, crumbled goat cheese
  • Steak Sandwich: grilled hanger steak topped with gorgonzola and sautéed onions on our toasted famous Stand pretzel bread, waffle fries
  • Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding: The Stand’s famous pretzel bread soaked & baked in a caramel cream, topped with a caramel drizzle and pretzel salt.
Cheeseburger Dumplings

Cheeseburger Dumplings

The Cheeseburger Dumplings come out four to a plate. The crust reminded me of an egg roll and was much crispier and tastier than that of your usual dumpling which can be flimsy. Ground meat and cheese exploded into my mouth with each bite. There was extra cheese on the side which was perfect for dipping and had a little bit of spiciness to it. All in all, a very crispy and great appetizer to start the meal.

Truffle Mac n' Cheese

Truffle Mac n’ Cheese

The Truffle Mac n’ Cheese was probably my least favorite dish of the night. I thought it was a little bland and was missing something – what that something was I’m not sure. It was also a little bit too watery for my liking.

Peking Duck Pizzette

Peking Duck Pizzette

The Peking Duck Pizzette was a personal size pizza loaded with toppings. LOTS of duck was piled high with plenty of cucumbers and goat cheese scattered throughout. With all these toppings, I expected this pizza to be heavy but I was surprised at how light it actually was. The cucumber was refreshing and this was the perfect summer pizza.

Steak Sandwich

Steak Sandwich

The Steak Sandwich came out cooked perfectly medium rare. This sandwich was big with lots of sauteed onions and blue cheese. I’ve never had a steak sandwich with blue cheese before so this was something different that made this sandwich stand out from others. The blue cheese flavor was evident in every bite. All this was sandwiched on The Stand’s pretzel bread. This pretzel bread is all over the menu so they’re clearly proud of it. It was very thick and added a lot more than a regular roll would. Sitting next to the sandwich were the best waffle fries I’ve ever had. I can’t describe how incredible these waffle fries were. They were a perfect golden color and very crunchy. Hat tip to The Stand for these fries.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding

The Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding came out warm and was melt in your mouth good. Bread pudding is delicious to start. Make it out of pretzel bread and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dessert.

Service

The food was only rivaled by the service. Our server, Graham, was one of the best waiters I’ve ever had. As soon as he came to our table he was immediately joking around and clearly wanted to make sure we had a good time. Whether it was pushing more drinks on us (in a good way) or proactively selling us on The Stand’s brunch, Graham clearly enjoyed his job.

Value

The Cheeseburger Dumplings were $13, the Truffle Mac n’ Cheese was $9, our entrees were between $17-$19 and dessert was $8. For the service, quality of food and quantity, The Stand gives diners a great overall value.

The Verdict

Kim and I rolled out of The Stand with a huge smile on our faces, not thanks to the comedy, but because of the delicious feast we consumed. If The Stand’s restaurant is this good, I can’t wait to check out its comedy club. I’ll be back soon for that and you better believe I’ll be grabbing a bite to eat beforehand. 

*This meal was provided free, courtesy of The Stand. 

The Stand Restaurant & Comedy Club on Urbanspoon

Lure Fishbar

Restaurant: Lure Fishbar – 142 Mercer Street, Manhattan, New York

Want to feel like you’re eating fresh seafood in the cabin of a luxury yacht despite being nestled away in the heart of SoHo? If so, head to Lure Fishbar where they make that experience a reality seven days a week.

Atmosphere

The interior of Lure Fishbar is modeled to evoke the look and feel of a cabin from a luxury yacht. Wood paneling, portholes and a slew of marine accents combine to form one incredible theme. Looking around, if I didn’t know I was in New York City, I would have sworn I was floating out on the high seas.

Interior of Lure Fishbar

Interior of Lure Fishbar

Food

Crispy Calamari

Crispy Calamari

The menu at Lure Fishbar is expansive. It spans everything from your more traditional seafood fare, including a sizeable raw oyster bar, to sushi. There were a bunch of us at the table, so we ordered from across the menu. A sample of what we had:

  • Crispy calamari: smoked chili glaze
  • Grilled baby octopus: saffron-potato, fennel, pickled carrots, guajillo
  • Tuna tacos
  • Seared branzino: pancetta, broccoli rabe, Manilla clams, garlic broth
  • Nori crusted tuna: garlic fried rice, Chinese broccoli, citrus emulsion
  • Double chocolate peanut butter pie:

    peanut brittle ice cream & chocolate covered pretzel

  • Warm chocolate cake: salted caramel ice cream, caramel popcorn & chocolate pudding
Tuna Tacos

Tuna Tacos

Everything – from the appetizers to the entrees to the desserts – was presented perfectly. The kitchen at Lure didn’t shy away from using colors to brighten the various dishes and nearly everything had some highlight of color in it.

At first glance, I thought the calamari was going to be very heavy and weighed down by the chili glaze. However, looks are deceiving and I was pleasantly surprised at how light it was. The fish tacos were equally as good. The shell was similar to a fried wonton and it was exploding with fresh tuna. This was topped with a wasabi puree, but don’t worry, it didn’t add much spice to the dish.

Grilled Baby Octopus

Grilled Baby Octopus

The seared branzino was double the seafood for one price. A filet of branzino was laid on top of broccoli rabe and placed in a broth filled with clams. The branzino had a mild flavor, as expected. Surprisingly, my favorite part of this dish wasn’t the fish itself, but the clams and garlic broth instead. I loved dipping bread to soak up the garlicky broth.

Seared Branzino

Seared Branzino

While the branzino was good, the hit of the night was the nori crusted tuna. If I could do it all again, I would order this as my entree in a heartbeat. Tuna, cooked nice and rare, was wrapped in nori which appeared to have been lightly fried. The taste was incredible – contrasting between the cold interior tuna and the warmer nori on the outside. A great mix of flavors and presentation.

Nori Crusted Tuna

Nori Crusted Tuna

Dessert didn’t disappoint either. I mean, how can peanut butter, chocolate and a pretzel fall flat? The peanut butter pie was covered in a very thick layer of chocolate and the pretzel provided the salty addition to make this my ideal dessert.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Service

The service was as you’d expect at any seafood restaurant or steakhouse – attentive and prompt. Our waitress took time to walk us through the menu and answer our questions while making sure we were well taken care of the entire night.

Value

You’re eating at a seafood restaurant in the city, what do you expect? The prices are on the high side – $14 for calamari, $31 for seared branzino, $32 for nori crusted tuna. I’m one of those people that doesn’t understand how seafood restaurants or steakhouses get away with charging these types of prices. However, they’re in line with your typical seafood restaurants and the food was delicious. Lure is definitely a restaurant for special occasions.

The Verdict

Lure Fishbar was a fun place to eat. Across the board, our food was delicious. The added bonus was the interior. The team at Lure did an incredible job making it truly feel like you’re eating while drifting miles off the coast in a luxury yacht. The prices are on the high side, but the service and food is there to back it up. Lure won’t be on my short list of regular places I go, but I will consider it for special occasions. 

Lure Fishbar on Urbanspoon

Aquagrill

Restaurant: Aquagrill –  210 Spring Street, Manhattan, New York

It was recently my mom’s birthday and she, along with my dad, traveled into the city to hang out with her two lovely sons (one of those lovely sons is me!). The trip of course revolved largely around food and as our first stop, we decided to check out Aquagrill for brunch.

There’s a reason this place is nearly always included in lists of New York City’s top seafood restaurants. Fresh ingredients (including plenty of fresh fish) and a killer raw bar combine with a welcoming atmosphere to give diners the perfect dining experience, regardless of the occasion. This meal lived up to the expectations.

Atmosphere

First impressions of Aquagrill – it seemed like they truly wanted us there. It’s hard to put into words, but the hostess and team at the front of the restaurant were extremely attentive, friendly and genuine. It’s clear that every diner is truly valued.

View from Aquagrill

View from Aquagrill

It was a beautiful summer day so we decided to sit outside in Aquagrill’s covered outdoor area lining the corner of 6th Avenue and Spring Street. The outdoor area is large enough for a sizable number of tables without feeling cramped and is covered so you’re not sitting directly in the sun overheating. The color scheme outside is largely blue and white, conveying an almost royal feel, and a stark contrast to the yellow and gold interior colors. We were lucky enough to snag the coveted corner table.

Food

I’d never been to Aquagrill for brunch so I didn’t know what to expect. The menu was a nice mix of seafood and classic brunch dishes. I ordered:

  • Warm Octopus Saladwith Roasted Peppers and Peppercress in a Roasted Onion Vinaigrette
  • Grilled Rare Yellowfin Tuna:

    with Avocado, Arugula and Grilled Onions (the specific sandwich I had was a special for the day and a take on this that ditched the avocado and included roasted red peppers)

Warm Octopus Salad

Warm Octopus Salad

First up, the warm octopus salad was extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. True to its name, the dish came out warm with octopus piled in the center and roasted red peppers and peppercress scattered throughout. All this was tossed in a roasted onion vinaigrette. Don’t worry, the onion flavor wasn’t overpowering. This salad was very light and all the ingredients tasted fresh. Great flavor all around.

Grilled Rare Yellowfin Tuna Sandwich

Grilled Rare Yellowfin Tuna Sandwich

The grilled rare yellowfin tuna sandwich was equally as delicious. I didn’t expect there to be as much tuna as there was, but this sandwich was stuffed to the brim with plenty of the stuff. This, along with roasted red peppers, arugula and some mayo was sandwiched between two slices of artisan bread. The sandwich had a great flavor in general, but the bread brought it to the next level. It had a nice crunch to it that really rounded out the sandwich. I decided to have some fries as well and they were doused in the perfect amount of salt to keep me craving more. Can I order another one of these?

Fries and the Grilled Rare Yellowfin Tuna Sandwich

Fries

Service

Our water glasses were never left unfilled, our napkins were refolded when we got up from the table, and most important, our wine glasses were never empty. The service was seamless, prompt and professional.

Value

If you visit a seafood restaurant in the city you expect that prices are going to be a little high. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Aquagrill. The octopus salad was $13 and the yellowfin tuna sandwich was around $15. Only $15 for all that perfectly cooked tuna in a delicious sandwich? I’ll easily pay that every time.

The Verdict

As I said at the beginning, there’s a reason Aquagrill is included on lists of the best seafood restaurants in New York City. Taste, atmosphere, service and value all combine under one roof. There have been very few times at restaurants that I’ve felt they were truly appreciative I was there, and Aquagrill rises to the top as the leader in that list. 

Aquagrill on Urbanspoon

NYC Outdoor Spots for Every Occasion

Summer has arrived in New York City and that means its time for plenty of outdoor activities, including eating and drinking. Just in time for the weather, Grub Street put together a list of the top places throughout New York City, based on occasion, to eat outside. Ranging from weekend brunches to dinner with friends to romantic dinner dates, the list highlights some great spots for dining al fresco. Check it out!

View from the Frying Pan

View from the Frying Pan

Astoria Welcomes its Newest Pizzeria, Milkflower

Restaurant: Milkflower – 34-12 31st ave, Astoria New York 

Astoria welcomed its latest pizzeria, Milkflower, to the neighborhood last week and all I can say is WOW. With so many great choices already – Sac’s PlaceAntika, etc. – Milkflower has come and elbowed its way in to compete with the best of them. Milkflower only has a week under its belt, but is doing one hell of a job at shining bright on 31st Avenue and showcasing its own character to set it apart.

Milkflower Interior

Interior of Milkflower

Atmosphere

Milkflower has completely transformed the space it’s in with reclaimed wood and exposed brick. Light bulbs jut out from sockets in the ceiling and walls to provide just enough light. One of the tables, made of police crossing barricades, immediately drew my attention as a nice New York City touch. Additionally, Milkflower honors the previous tenant in the space, a dry cleaner, with a mural on the back wall. Everything is intricately designed and you can tell a lot of time and effort was put forth to deliver a well packaged atmosphere and interior.

Milkflower Interior Burlap Cushions

Creative burlap cushions

The highlight of the restaurant that all eyes seem to be fixated on is the enormous pizza oven situated behind an open kitchen where pizzas are prepared as quickly as they are eaten.

Milkflower Open Pizza Kitchen

Where the magic happens

Food

Milkflower’s menu isn’t online yet and I foolishly forgot to take a picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say they have some incredible sounding pizzas, salads and small plates, many of which are seasonal. We decided to pig out on the following:

  • Toast Plate: Four pieces of a toasted baguette served up with (you get one of each)
    • Ramp pudding, charred onion and broccoli rabe
    • Avocado and tomato with balsamic
    • Crushed pea, ricotta and topped with lavender
    • Grated egg, fava bean and onion
  • Brussels Sprouts and Egg Pie with Truffle Oil
  • Spicy Soppressata Pie with Thyme Honey

First up, the toast plate. Each piece of toast had its own unique personality and I loved each and every one of them. There were some surprises, such as the crushed peas topped with lavender, but these were pleasant surprises. I didn’t expect to be eating flowers when I arrived at Milkflower but the lavender was refreshing and did a great job complementing the crushed peas and ricotta. The highlight was definitely the ramp pudding, charred onion and broccoli rabe. This was full of garlic and salt and I didn’t want it to end!

Milkflower Toast Plate

Toast plate

Now the main event… pizza!

Brussels sprouts pizza

Brussels sprouts and egg pizza with truffle oil

Brussels sprouts are my latest addiction (weird, right?) so when I saw a Brussels sprout pizza I just had to order it. Brussels sprout leaves are scattered across the pie topped with fresh cheese and an egg. This was delicious at night and I immediately envisioned this as the perfect daytime pie. It’s colorful, light, refreshing and would be perfect for brunching over while recapping a late night out with friends. The one question I have is how do they prevent the whole restaurant from smelling like Brussels sprouts?!

Milkflower Spicy Soppressata with Thyme Honey Pizza

Spicy soppressata with thyme honey

The spicy soppressata pizza was a perfect combination of spicy and sweet. The soppressata was definitely spicy and gave this pizza a nice kick. The edges of the meat were curled up and charred from the heat of the oven, giving off a nice burnt flavor as I made my way through this pizza. This would have been your everyday pepperoni pizza had it not been drizzled with honey. The honey contrasted with the spiciness of the soppressata, hitting your mouth with two drastically different flavors. I was in heaven and couldn’t get enough of it.

The pies at Milkflower aren’t the enormous pies you get at your regular pizza place. These pies are medium-sized and not perfectly round in shape. These irregularities give them a feeling of authenticity and fit perfectly with the seasonal toppings scattered throughout the menu. The dough is light, chewy and doesn’t weigh down the pizza, allowing the other ingredients to really shine through.

Service

It was opening week at Milkflower when I checked them out so it was very busy. However, they were all over it. The wait was about 15 minutes but I was offered the opportunity to order a beer while waiting which I gladly said yes to. The service was extremely friendly and very accommodating. The staff gladly took time to walk diners through the menu, answer any questions and just chitchat.

Value

The toast plate cost $12 and the pizzas were around $15 each. Based on the quality of ingredients and overall experience, this is a great value. The pizzas aren’t huge – we ordered two of them for two of us – but we basically had to roll out of the restaurant after consuming all this food.

The Verdict

After writing this, I wish I was heading to Milkflower tonight! This may just be my new favorite pizza place in Astoria. From start to finish, everything at this restaurant impressed me. It delivers on a unique and intriguing interior with similarly unique and intriguing pizzas to follow suit. Visit Milkflower, now. 

Milkflower on Urbanspoon