Adventures of a Gastronome in Training (GIT)

One amateur foodie's quest for culinary enlightenment. Musings on cooking, dining, food products, basically all things edible are fair game.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Kittichai is one very of those hip/stylish venues that can make a diner leery. It’s located in the SoHo boutique hotel 60 Thompson. The lighting is subtle, the fabrics lush, the staff tall and thin. You can’t help but wonder if the place is about the scene or the food – and I can’t help but think of Spice Market as an example. Scenes can be fun in that adult Disney kind of way, but when you’re 7 months pregnant – it’s about the food. And, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with my meal. That is certainly thanks to the restaurant’s eponymous chef Ian Chalermkittichai who is the former executive chef of the Four Seasons Bangkok.

The reviewers have been consistently positive, but not gushing with their opinions although they seem to vary a little on the favorite dishes. We started off with the galangal soup with chicken, lemongrass and kaffir lime ($8) and chocolate back ribs marinated in Thai spices ($9). The classic soup was delicious. The lime flavors blended smoothly with the richness of the coconut. It was as good as at my all-time favorite Thai place, Tamarind in Atlanta. Although…I did feel pretty silly paying eight bucks for it. I found the ribs moist and not too fatty, but I wouldn’t have thought of them as a Thai dish. Some have complained about the sweetness of this dish, but I found it only subtly so. For entrees, we tried the crispy whole fish with lesser-ginger and Thai hot basil ($27) and wok-fried chicken with roasted cashew nuts, dried chili and green onion ($18). For me, the whole fish was the star of the show. It came in a panang-like sauce which paired perfectly with the crispy fried fish. I could eat this every day of the week. The wok-fried chicken was solid, but not noteworthy. We also got a side of the pineapple fried rice with sweet sausage and shredded egg ($7) which is served in a carved out pineapple. The pineapple chunks were limited and mild. I liked this dish for its textures – thin strips of egg with chewy rice and chunks of sausage.

I, of course, had to pass on the intriguing list of specialty cocktails. Marty did try the mandarin martini (fresh mandarin juice with Cointreau, fresh lime juice and Skyy vodka - $12), and wasn’t very impressed.

If you’re more the foodie and adverse to scene-y places – go early, a 7:00 p.m. reservation would work. If you want to see more of the atmosphere in action, get a drink first and go late. Kittichai manages to satisfy both the foodie and the fashionista, not crowds that usually mix well together, and that may well be the restaurant’s greatest achievement.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Angon on the Sixth and Brick Lane Curry House

I guess I’ve been on a bit of a curry binge lately. When I was visiting family in Denver, I requested Indian for one of our meals out. Then in the last week, I’ve tried two places in NYC – both with notable results. The first is Angon on the Sixth, located on Curry Row in the East Village. It has been a chowhound darling since opening last fall. Chef Begum Mina Azad surfaced in Manhattan bringing the talent that gave her notoriety at her former digs in Queens at Mina Foods & Restaurant. I had read that the food is “incredibly authentic, though Bangladeshi.” To be honest, I had no idea what that meant. After visiting, I think I have an idea. The food was much lighter and fresher tasting compared with your typical Indian restaurant in the U.S. This was most pronounced in the palak ponir ($8.95), which has thinly shredded spinach paired with homemade cheese. Mina’s rendition was assembled without cream and the spinach was not puréed. This resulted in a delicious, healthy tasting dish. The message boards and the New York Time’s review raved over the dhal fry ($7.95). It is a dish of earthy yellow lentils with a malto-meal like consistency. Again, the dish had a healthy taste, no evidence of the “fry” indicated in the name. The third dish we tried was the chicken korma ($12.95). I’ve had this dish countless times at your standard Indian outlet, but here it is light on the cream, therefore less rich. To be honest, I missed the depth, but I did not get that bogged down feeling that often accompanies an Indian feast. There are still many dishes to I need try at Angon, but my general impression based on what I’ve had is decidedly positive. It’s a nice change of pace from your typical Indian – one that your arteries would welcome.

My next curry fix was satisfied at the Brick Lane Curry House, also on the 6th Street Curry Row. It is described as London or British-style Indian – which to me is just your typical north Indian food I’ve had in the U.S. When this style is executed badly, it’s oily and greasy with a side of clarified butter. When it’s done well, as at Brick Lane Curry House, it’s rich with layers of flavor and completely satisfying. Although I do like the treats from the tandoor, I am a curry girl. My standard is chicken tikka masala, and Brick Lane Curry House’s ($15) does the trick. It’s a little sweeter than average, but there is enough flavor depth to balance. The curry has a thin consistency that avoids the typical greasy pitfalls with ease. The chicken chunks, fresh from the tandoor, were tender and well prepared. I am certain this dish will be calling me back to Brick Lane's door time and time again. The samosas ($5) were solid, though nothing special. But again, I’ve had so many that have missed the mark either by being too greasy or salty that I am happy when it just meets the mark. The saag paneer ($12) was also up to par, rich with cream and savory spinach. Granted, it’s not nearly as good as what I've had at Tamarind. But, when paired with a bit of the buttery, hot from the oven nan ($3), you can’t miss. Overall, Brick Lane Curry House does a very respectable job of satisfying my craving for standard (i.e. London-style), north Indian eats. I'm actually quite relieved to have found a place in Manhattan that can...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Golden Unicorn

Marty and I headed over to Golden Unicorn last weekend to try out their Dim Sum. Up to this point, our NYC dim sum cravings have been satisfied at Ping’s Seafood. Ping’s in general, has treated us right, but there are some drawbacks. First, if you get seated downstairs (which we seem to be sat almost every time), there is no cart service. The variety of treats making basement appearances is scaled down from the main floor. You have to send waiters on wild goose chases for your favorites – trying to explain what you want in English can be challenging. So…I figured it was time to try out some of the other dim sum houses that NYC had to offer.

Golden Unicorn is prepared for serving in volume with three floors of seating – we, of course, only saw one. It was far more spacious than Ping’s with sun coming in the wall of east facing windows. All of the carts have pictures of the contents with both English and Chinese labels. The servers wear cute little uniforms that resemble candy stripers with hats to match. The décor is what you’d expect, but feels more comfortable than some given the space between tables.

Overall, we thought the food was pretty comparable to Ping’s. I saw no real difference in the baked and steamed bbq pork buns, shrimp noodle, or spare-ribs with black beans. The food came fast and frequently – we must have seen some items pass by a dozen times during our meal. On the other hand, we had to wait around to see some variety in what went by. I was impressed with how they cooked the turnip and taro cakes on a portable griddle cart – they came to your table hot and silky. The only disappointments were the sesame balls and sticky fried pork dumplings. They were both under-fried and soggy with grease. I’m willing to write this off to a bad batch. I’ll see how they turn out next visit. Plus, I never saw Chinese broccoli – something I count on to counteract all the grease and pork. Again, who knows if this was an isolated omission or typical for the restaurant.

I think we’ll head back to get a better feel for their strength and weaknesses. Plus, I really prefer the ambiance over Ping’s – it just seems less hectic, more relaxing. Depending on my mood, this can be a big plus over Ping's.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fish Tales - New Green Bo & Spike Hill

I apologize for my continued hiatus. I’ll keep trying to get back to this on a more regular basis…

In the meantime, I have hit a couple of places for fried fish that really stuck with me. The first was at New Green Bo (Bayard b/w Mott and Elizabeth Sts). We hit NGB for the first time for Chinese New Year – luckily we had a reservation. It’s a tiny place with a few 4-seater tables and several tables that seat 8-10 – if you go with a small party, expect to sit with other small groups. The décor is straight forward Chinatown basic. NGB is known for its soup dumplings, which we perhaps foolishly did not try. We did enjoy the fried pork dumplings, which still were a little juicy and full of porky flavor. I am a sucker for fried bread, so the scallion pancakes ($1.50) totally hit the spot. Theirs are not too greasy with a nice savory flavor. The Ma Po Bean Curd ($5.95) is a simple dish of tofu in a spicy sauce. The depth of flavor went beyond just heat, which made it stand out from similar renditions. For veggies, we enjoyed the sautéed pea tips ($10.95) served in a rich chicken broth. Finally, the surprise dish was the yellow fish with dried seaweed ($12.95). I kind of had to laugh when they arrived at the table – they look just like frozen fish sticks my babysitter made me as a kid. Looks can be deceiving – these tasty sticks were nicely seasoned and fried to a satisfying crunch. Plus, the firm, flaky fish hidden inside showed no signs of mushiness found in your grocer’s freezer.

On another fishy note…After reading the favorable review of Spike Hill’s fish and chips in the Times’ $25 and Under Column, Marty and I decided to head to Williamsburg to check it out. Spike Hill is conveniently located right on the main drag across from the Bedford L train stop. It’s a lively pub with a great selection of beers, but we were there for the fish… I started with the warm goat cheese salad in a blood orange vinaigrette ($7). It was a decent salad. The sweetness of the blood oranges seemed to overwhelm the goat cheese, but with careful bite construction it worked out fine.

The fish and chips ($16) arrived with tartar sauce, ketchup, and a bottle of malt vinegar. The fish was coated in a bread crumb batter, much lighter than the traditional wall of batter you typically see. The batter held up well to the shower of vinegar I promptly imposed on my fish. I must say I was impressed with the overall product, moist, flaky, firm fish with a crunchy, greaseless batter – what more could I ask. The skin-on fries were unremarkable. They did the trick, but didn’t really add to the overall appeal of the dish. But, keep in mind that where the fries left off, the fish made up for in spades. This crave-worthy dish will become a regular on my dining circuit.

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Jennie/Female. Lives in United States/Jennie Auster/New York, speaks English. Eye color is blue.