Author Archives: Robert Sietsema

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Smorgasburg’s Seasonal Restaurant 180 Tenth Is Good for Booze and Snacks

Source: Eater NY

In a first look, Sietsema says plan on dinner elsewhere

As restaurateurs struggle to find new formulas for success in the face of a brutal business environment, the seasonal restaurant is one option. These eateries, which often take advantage of nontraditional real estate, exist only in warmer months. Many have no indoor seating and little shelter from the rain, and kitchens that could best be described as rudimentary.

The latest is 180 Tenth — from Smorgasburg founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler — located in a spectacular location in front of The High Line Hotel in Chelsea. The restaurant occupies ...

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This Summer’s Essential Dish Is Cold Ramen on a Hot Day

Source: Eater NY

Where to find the refreshing Japanese bowl

When the temperature soars as it has during the past few days, when even walking outside is unpleasant, the last thing you want to eat is a big steaming bowl of ramen with thick slabs of pork glinting with grease. Accordingly, most ramen fans give up the noodle soup for at least three months out of the year as a sort of hot-weather penance. They don’t need to.

This Summer’s Essential Dish Is Cold Ramen on a Hot Day

Hiyashi chuka is a splendid bowl of ramen, cooked al dente and served cold. It’s topped with a summery series of ingredients, julienned and precisely ...

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Uptown’s Newest Hot Pot Stands Up Against Any Chinese Restaurant in Town

Four stars for 108 Food Dried Hot Pot

Broadway from 100th to 116th Streets in Upper Manhattan may be poised to become a hotbed of northern Chinese and Korean eats. It started with a series of carts parked by the Columbia University entrance gates, vending spicy noodles, pork-filled dumplings, bao sandwiches, and kimchee-laden stews to students and faculty who demanded modern East Asian fare, but couldn’t find it elsewhere in the area. Gradually, brick-and-mortar establishments have appeared in the blocks south of the campus, in a neighborhood sandwiched between the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights.

One example was Lava Kitchen at 101st and Broadway, a brightly lit spot specializing in dumplings, bing, garlicky vegetable appetizers, and noodle bowls with a range of hotness — and, believe me, the hottest was really, really hot. The latest newcomer is 108 Food Dried Hot Pot, a boxy corner storefront at 108th Street that had been an Irish bar. It offers the city’s latest Chinese food fad: the dry hot pot, a craze renowned for its spiciness that began in Beijing and first appeared here in Flushing food courts.

Uptown's Newest Hot Pot Stands Up Against Any Chinese Restaurant in Town

Dry hot pot is different than regular hot pot in that a standard hot pot involves cooking at the table by swishing morsels of food in a bubbling broth. Dry hot pot uses many of the same raw materials, but they’re cooked in the kitchen as opposed to at the table. This hot pot is not a soup but a stir-fry and the finished product glistens with oil, not “dry” in the least. The communal enjoyment on the part of the diners and a similar roster of ingredients is what unites the two types of hot pot.

Here’s how it works at 108: You step up to a lavish display of raw ingredients deposited in metal tubs at the rear of the restaurant. An attendant with a sense of humor, her baseball cap turned askew, will assemble the ingredients you point to, putting the meat, poultry, and fish in one metal bowl ($10.99 per pound), and the vegetable matter in another ($9.99 per pound).

Uptown's Newest Hot Pot Stands Up Against Any Chinese Restaurant in Town

She brings these to a weigh station by the register and you are then asked to specify a level of hotness: non-spicy, spicy, medium spicy, or very spicy. (The heat comes from a combo of chili oil, dried chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns.) The ingredients are whisked away, stir-fried with scallions and ginger, only to reappear cooked, at which point your number is called, and you pick up the order. Hopefully, you will find a table in the interim if you didn’t snag one already, and your friends will be sitting there, chopsticks at the ready.

Picking ingredients from the 48 tubs is somewhat bewildering: Will you try pig ear, fish balls, gluten, seaweed knots, or chicken gizzards? Certainly, napa cabbage, squid, rice cake, bok choy, and shrimp are go-tos for some. I’d avoid the thin-shaved beef, which looks good raw but completely falls apart when cooked. A pink and salty Spam-like ham was a surprise favorite and so were the baby sausages. Fish proves superb and enoki mushrooms get too soggy, while the wadded tofu skin retains its texture. Ultimately, pick what looks good: three or four ingredients for each person sharing the hot pot.

One rice bowl is furnished for each diner. If you can keep your hot pot ordering on the meager side, there’s a whole other menu available that’s printed on paper, not posted, and lists mainly Sichuan and Cantonese fare, as if 108 Food were secretly a neighborhood Chinese carryout. If the apps seems more expensive than you might expect, know that the servings are humongous. The northern Chinese standard of cracked cucumbers ($9.95) with garlic sauce is improved with peanuts and cilantro and is like a species of heroin.

Uptown's Newest Hot Pot Stands Up Against Any Chinese Restaurant in Town

Ox intestine and sliced beef ($12.95) and spicy beef tendon — the connective tissue in the cow’s ankle — arrive in razor-thin slices for easy mastication and both dishes slide down the throat on a wave of chile oil. There are also plenty of large-format entrées in a Sichuan/Northern Chinese vein. Though hot and spicy shrimp ($18.99) is the most expensive item on the paper menu, it’s well worth the cost. Enjoy old-fashioned Cantonese? Pork and egg chow mein provides a heap of well-slicked, flavorsome noodles with a fried egg on top.

In fact, I’d put the food quality at 108 Food up against that of any Chinese restaurant in town at a similar price. And its location is a boon, because not only is it more convenient than Flushing for Columbia students and professors, but for many others as well.

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North Fork Is Becoming the Brooklyn of Long Island

Source: Eater NY

With ocean views, farm stands, oysters, and other eats, it’s more Williamsburg than Bay Ridge

As a friend and I set out for Long Island’s North Fork, weather prospects couldn’t have been worse. Rain blew across the highway in great ragged clouds, later turning into an endless drizzle. In a rental car that was as gray as the skies, we worked our way eastward along the Northern State Parkway, headed for the point at which the 120-mile-long island forks at the town of Riverhead. There, you can turn right for the Hamptons, but we went left to the North Fork, ...

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Newly Opened Nur Dives Into Middle East Cuisine With Fascinating Results

Source: Eater NY

Our critic takes a first look at the Flatiron spot from Gadi Peleg and Israeli chef Meir Adoni

It wasn’t so long ago that Israeli food in New York meant mainly falafel or shawarma served in a pita that might as well have been a cardboard envelope. Now all that is changing as Israel-identified chefs arrive in New York City, bringing with them a modern cuisine far more lush and nuanced.

Newly Opened Nur Dives Into Middle East Cuisine With Fascinating Results

Einat Admony rode in on a pink Vespa, carrying with her Jerusalem bagels that were lighter than air and covered in sesame seeds — miles different than the traditional ...

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Six Great Things to Eat at the New Canal Street Market

Source: Eater NY

Our critic ranks the new lineup

The new kid on the block where food courts are concerned is the Canal Street Market, where food court space on the busy edge of Chinatown is shared with a craft market selling jewelry, cosmetics, housewares, and decorative objects. So far this craft market looms nearly empty, while the food court is thronged. Take this as a sign of the times.

One reason the food court seems crowded is that space is tight: There are 12 counters and kiosks connected by narrow hallways, so at peak hours the lines that trail from the ...

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First Look: Anne Burrell’s New Brooklyn Restaurant Lacks a Central Concept

Source: Eater NY

But it does have something for everyone

There’s been a rash of TV chefs returning to the kitchen and opening New York City restaurants in an attempt to turn fame on the flatscreen into restaurant success in the country’s most competitive market. Guy Fieri tried it at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, Carla Hall at the temporarily closed Carla’s Southern Kitchen and Cat Cora is about to do so at Fatbird, while the spikey-haired Anne Burrell (some say Guy Fieri stole her platinum hair style) just debuted Phil & Anne’s Good Time Lounge. It’s all about buttressing ...

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Who Serves the Best Coney Island Hot Dog: Nathan’s or Feltman’s?

Source: Eater NY

Sietsema administers a start-of-the-summer taste test

Before this summer season there was really no question: Of course you would go to Nathan’s — Coney Island’s towering behemoth, founded over 100 years ago across the street from the subway. The hot dogs are so much more scrumptious than at any of their sad franchises. Is it the smell of the sea in your nostrils and the sun beating down that makes them so delicious, heaped with kraut and thick grainy mustard?

But now we have Feltman’s. With much fanfare, a branch opened on St. Marks Place last year and more ...

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Six Great Things to Eat at the Gansevoort Market

Source: Eater NY

Our senior critic ranks the revised line-up

Gansevoort Market has had a hard time of it. When it opened in MePa in October 2014, the food court was only partially tenanted, with several stalls remaining in the build-out stages. Still, with the High Line and the Whitney just down the block, the location was ideal.

Its character was distinctive for a food court: art on bare brick walls, lots of relaxed seating under a skylight, and quirky vendors specializing in things like Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, tacos slung from a VW bus, Spanish tapas, and sushi tendered by a ...

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Waterfront Restaurants in NYC to Feel Like You’re Outside the City

Source: Eater NY

From Red Hook to Chelsea Piers

A wise friend once speculated that, given enough time, you could find an eating establishment that resembled any type of restaurant in the world somewhere in the five boroughs. It might be true. If you’re looking for the kind of seafood restaurant that stands near a beach resort, in the hubbub of a working port, or maybe even by a tropical estuary — it’s probably evoked somewhere in New York City. Here in honor of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, we test that assumption by providing this quirky collection of restaurants ...

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Where Can I Take My Snobby Friends at the Last Minute?

Source: Eater NY

This week on Ask Eater, a request for a birthday dinner that will impress the pretentious

Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.


Hi Eater,

My wife’s birthday is on Friday. Today is Tuesday, and I haven’t made a reservation for our celebratory dinner yet. That would be enough of a problem, but the dinner isn’t just the ...

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20 Years Later, Chelsea Market Is a Kaleidoscope of Culinary Choices

Source: Eater NY

How it became the city’s biggest and best food court

Twenty years ago today, Chelsea Market opened its doors. It moved into the old Nabisco factory, an abandoned complex of around 20 buildings that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, occupying an entire city block. The facility had been situated there since the late 19th century, to take advantage of the bargain lard the Meat Packing District could provide. Oreos, Lorna Doones, and Ritz Crackers were invented there.

The stated purpose of Chelsea Market was to provide raw materials and equipment for amateur and professional cooks, while furnishing sales, manufacturing, ...

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The Next Wave in Bushwick Pizza is Santa Panza

Source: Eater NY

Brooklyn’s most meteoric restaurant success in the last decade was Roberta’s. Starting out as a modest pizzeria with a wood-burning oven in an obscure corner of Bushwick, it swelled into an empire. Who can fault other rustic Naples-style pizzerias for trying to duplicate that success? Since Roberta’s founding in 2008, copycats have appeared in gentrifying Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods: Saraghina in Bed-Stuy (2009), Barboncino in Crown Heights (2011), Houdini Kitchen Laboratory in Ridgewood (2013), and Union Pizza Works in Bushwick (2014). Now a new one has sprung up, spinning tasty wood-fired pies.

Santa Panza materialized at the end of 2016 ...

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Manhattan Needs More Peruvian Chicken —but Baby Brasa Isn’t the Answer

Source: Eater NY

In a first bite, Sietsema says the new spot needs work

Only a few restaurants each season are lucky enough to arrive on a tidal wave of hype. Baby Brasa in the West Village is one of them, even though it’s the second branch of a cafe that opened a year ago on the Lower East Side. The hype is owing to chef Franco Noriega: In addition to being a trained chef, he’s a professional underpants model, and the media love to run bare-chested pictures of him.

Manhattan Needs More Peruvian Chicken —but Baby Brasa Isn't the Answer

When Baby Brasa moved into the former Empire Szechuan space on Seventh ...

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Eat Like Anthony Bourdain in Queens — Without the Lines

Source: Eater NY

More spots the ‘Parts Unknown’ star didn’t visit, but you can

In last night’s episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain journeyed by 7 train to his own backyard — the borough of Queens. In an episode filled with rumination about the epic importance of immigrants to our workforce and food culture, he wolfed down Ecuadorian llapingachos (cheese-laced potato cakes), Shanghai soup dumplings, and Tibetan chile beef, among other things. As a paean to Queens’ wonderful food, the episode is effective, though we’re guessing that the carts and restaurants will see the Bourdain effect, attracting lines and long waits. Explore ...

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This Is How You Do a Pho Tour of NYC

Source: Eater NY

Visiting the best spots with The Pho Cookbook’s Andrea Nguyen

It is often my pleasure to welcome food writers from elsewhere to New York, and arrange to conduct them on culinary tours. In many cases these jaunts cover the subject the writers specialize in, cramming many restaurants into a few hours of concentrated eating. Thus it was that I recently took Northern California-based Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook on a tour devoted to the Vietnamese noodle soup. It’s her fifth cookbook with Ten Speed Press, along with Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and The Banh Mi Handbook...

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4 Excellent Pastrami Tacos to Try in NYC

Source: Eater NY

Robert Sietsema tracks down one of our most elusive cross-cultural treats

New Yorkers have historically been purists about their pastrami. Though this cured and smoked brisket was invented here (with Romanian antecedents), its use has historically been restricted to Jewish delis and sandwich shops. The former serve it hot and sometimes hand-sliced; the latter often cold-sliced as one among many sandwich meats. Lately, a few of the city’s barbecues have experimented with it, without tremendous success. In spite of promising new small-batch pastrami makers like Harry & Ida’s and Frankel’s, Katz’s remains the world’s best.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles ...

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9 Wylie Dufresne Du’s Doughnuts, Ranked and Rated

Source: Eater NY

Critic Robert Sietsema cites the best and the rest

Who doesn’t love doughnuts? New York City has been undergoing a doughnut renaissance lately, and your choices are now nearly unlimited — from old-fashioned neighborhood doughnuts, to outsize cake donuts thickly smeared with chocolate, to glistening glazed doughnuts hot out of the fat, to farmers’ market apple donuts dusted with cinnamon and sugar, to newfangled French crullers, to chef-driven doughnuts that, like the Cronut, defy categorization.

Into this welter strides Wylie Dufresne, the city’s own science chef and molecular gastronaut, for whom the doughnut shop Du’s Donuts is now his ...

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Chinese Noodle Dish Rarely Served in NY Arrives in Sunset Park

Source: Eater NY

It’s called Western Yunnan Crossing Bridge Noodle — and it is quite good

One of China’s most famous noodle dishes has long been in short supply in New York City. Utilizing the mixian rice noodles recently introduced at the East Village’s Little Tong, the soup hails from Yunnan, China’s southernmost province. It is called “crossing the bridge noodles,” and has a fascinating legend behind it, involving the wife of a student who sequesters himself on an island to study for some imperial exams. The island is approachable only by a very long bridge.

Chinese Noodle Dish Rarely Served in NY Arrives in Sunset Park

The spouse makes him ...

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Fiaschetteria Pistoia: A Brilliant Bit of Tuscany Lands in the East Village

Source: Eater NY

In the 1990s, Tuscan cuisine blazed across the culinary firmament like a comet. Helped along by Frances Mayes’ book-turned-movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, Americans were besotted with the region’s simple and elegant cooking. We savored pungent pecorino and rustic salami as a first course, just-made pastas lightly sauced as a second, and third courses of meat, fish, or fowl unencumbered by sides or starches. And the cuisine’s emphasis on fresh and locally sourced ingredients was to profoundly influence New York dining in the decades that followed.

But, once translated into the American dining idiom, there was little in this ...

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Fiaschetteria Pistoia: A Brilliant Bit of Tuscany Lands in the East Village

Source: Eater NY

In the 1990s, Tuscan cuisine blazed across the culinary firmament like a comet. Helped along by Frances Mayes’ book-turned-movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, Americans were besotted with the region’s simple and elegant cooking. We savored pungent pecorino and rustic salami as a first course, just-made pastas lightly sauced as a second, and third courses of meat, fish, or fowl unencumbered by sides or starches. And the cuisine’s emphasis on fresh and locally sourced ingredients was to profoundly influence New York dining in the decades that followed.

But, once translated into the American dining idiom, there was little in this ...

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A First Look at Little Tong, the East Village’s Newest Noodle Shop

Source: Eater NY

Critic Robert Sietsema tries bang bang cukes, beef tartare, and variations on Yunnanese mixian

The East Village is becoming a hotbed of new Chinese restaurants. In the last couple of years, the neighborhood has seen mouth-searing Hunan (Hunan Bistro), Sichuan from a respected Philadelphia chain (Han Dynasty), hot pot with individual burners for each diner (Hot Pot Central), stylish new dry hot pot (MaLa Project), an updated take on Chinese dumplings in modern surroundings (Mimi Cheng’s), and dim sum from a prestigious Hong Kong chain (Tim Ho Wan). Recently, Little Tong Noodle Shop appeared at the corner of 11th ...

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Great Sandwiches of the World: The Croque Monsieur

Source: Eater NY

Critic Robert Sietsema looks at NYC versions of regional favorites

The classic sandwich of the French brasserie is the croque-monsieur. It features thinly sliced boiled ham (called “jambon de Paris”) and gruyere cheese melted on slices of sourdough bread, in a sort of hammy toasted cheese sandwich. Often, béchamel — a thick flour-and-butter sauce — is added to further glue the assemblage together. Lay a fried egg on top and the sandwich is called a croque-madame.

Great Sandwiches of the World: The Croque Monsieur
Toasted French ham and gruyere sandwich $20

You won’t find a croquet monsieur on the menu at Balthazar, at least not by that ...

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Cheap Eats to Know: Manousheh, Flautas, and Po’ Boys

Source: Eater NY

Critic Robert Sietsema points to new spots in the New York Great Cheap Eats roundup

The 41st installment of critic Robert Sietsema’s bargain dining series

Cheap Eats to Know: Manousheh, Flautas, and Po’ Boys
Robert Sietsema
Manousheh

Manousheh — An offshoot of East Village restaurant Au Za’atar, this Greenwich Village fast casual specializes in Lebanese flatbreads, styling itself “a real taste of Beirut.” These breads fly from a gas-fired brick hearth that dominates the small room, which is equipped with a modest amount of counter seating. Rudimentary as the accommodations are, the made-to-order flatbreads — you might almost call them Levantine pizzas — are absolutely delicious, and beer and ...

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Yellow Magnolia Cafe Raises the Bar for Museum Fare in Brooklyn

Source: Eater NY

Critic Robert Sietsema takes a first look at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden spot from chef Rob Newton

It’s natural to be skeptical about eateries that open in public facilities like parks, gardens, and waterside marinas. With a captive audience of outdoors enthusiasts, they don’t need to be very good. But now we have an exception in Yellow Magnolia Café, newly opened in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Yellow Magnolia Cafe Raises the Bar for Museum Fare in Brooklyn
Robert Sietsema

Taking residence in a former greenhouse from McKim, Mead & White that’s now a landmark, the restaurant features two lines of tables that follow a wall of circumflex windows. Along the ...

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