Friday, October 15, 2010

L'Artusi is for Lovers

This past weekend, Eric and I hit up L'Artusi, which I had been wanting to try for a while now. We were lucky enough to get a 9 pm reservation, because it's definitely one of those places that's always packed. For a quieter, more intimate meal, try to be seated upstairs, where they have a wine room and less going on. We sat on the first floor in the back by the kitchen, where it was loud and crowded. However, even though I felt like I was in the middle of our neighbors' conversation, they couldn't distract me from the fact that their food rules.

We started out with the mushroom appetizer with fried egg, pancetta and ricotta salata. Each bite was full of flavor - maybe a
little salty - but definitely one of the best mushroom dishes I've tasted. Complete flavortown. 

Mushrooms covered with a fried egg

Next up was the butter lettuce with lemon crema, gorgonzola, hazelnuts and olives. We both agreed that in our meal's setlist, this was the slow song that you need to catch a breather in between non-stop rock and roll jamming. Not a bad slow song - this dish was great. The lettuce was soft, the cheese was creamy and the hazelnuts added a nice crunch. This dish completely did it's part and did us well.

A heaping pile of butter lettuce
The ricotta ravioli with pecorino and black pepper came next and was recommended by our waitress because they make their ricotta in house. Perhaps aided by the buttery sauce, this pasta was deliciously rich and savory. I'm happy we decided to split everything because each dish was rich enough that you were fine having just half....well, maybe we could have each had a serving of this ravioli.

Our entree was the chicken, which was another recommendation by the waitress, after acknowledging, "I know it's chicken, but it's delicious." She was correct - they serve it in their own type of marsala sauce and every bit was tasty and savory - not dry and plain like chicken can be. This was the rocking set closer of our meal.

Encore: enter olive oil cake with a side of cappuccino gelato. This satisfied our sweet tooth and was a great capper to the evening.

We'll definitely be back here - it's a great place to go with a group and share plates. Or you may just want to go and get the ricotta ravioli for yourself. I know Eric does.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Neighborhood Eats - Greenwich Village Edition - Part II

This is another series of mini-blogs about places around our apartment that we’ve sampled over the past few weeks:

Pinché Taqueria – I’ve always found it difficult to find really good, inexpensive Mexican food in the city, so when this spot was recommended to me by “Web,” I was pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty excited (anyone else excited for Curb to come back?!). I read good things online about the fish tacos so I went with the Taco de Pescado (Fish) & Taco de Camaron (Shrimp). While both were OK (not good, not bad, just OK), they were not filling at all and they each cost $4.
Side ramble: I felt like they should have been $2 each so I could have four. You might be thinking, “Stop being such a cheapskate & get 3 tacos for $12!” Well, if I’m going to spend $12 + tax on 3 tacos, I might as well go to Rosa Mexicano and spend $20 to eat their Budín de Pollo dish that I love so much. Like I said, I’m looking for good, cheap Mexican food. I want to be able to get a burrito the size of my head with fresh ingredients from a non-fast food Mexican spot, and I want it for under $10! Anyhow, I digress…

They taste worse than they look.

What made the tacos worse was that next to me, Jess was sitting PRETTY with a Pinché taco salad that looked somewhere between 10,000 & 1 million times better than my dish! The taco salad comes in a tortilla shell, which means you can add as little or as much crunch as you want. It’s also a heaping pile of lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, guacamole and comes with a delicious cilantro dressing (they have other options too).
In short, epic fail.

However, I wasn’t ready to give up on Pinché for good. Not me! I went back just the other night & got another dish that was recommended to me… nachos w/ carnitas (braised pork). Bing bang boom! Just like that, Pinché was in my good graces! The nachos were loaded with cheese, topped with tasty, fresh guacamole, and the beans & pork were mixed into each layer of nachos!

They taste better than they look. You'll have to trust me.

Pinché redeemed itself and while I’m not ready to anoint them “my Mexican spot,” I’m pretty, pretty, pretty excited for my next experience.

(There are two Pinché locations. I went to the Lafayette Street location for both meals but the “eb” in “Web” claims that the Mott Street location is better. I don’t buy it.)

Pizza Box – This place was recommended to Jess & I by her cousin’s fiancé, Jordan, and we were anxious to find a good pizza-by-the-slice spot near our apartment. Jordan claimed it to be his favorite pizza place in NYC. Do I trust his pizza opinion? Not that much, to be honest, as he’s from Cleveland. But, I gave it a shot and was proven wrong... Clevelanders can know good pizza! I got a cheese slice & a ‘roni slice and both were on the money. As Jess said, “this is what you expect when you think of good New York pizza.”

We’re both pumped to have found our local pizza joint. We will probably be stopping by there after a night out drinking. Taboot, there’s a chill garden in the back that’s perfect for dining in.

Quantum Leap – Yet another recommendation - this one was by my sister’s friend, Julie K. Quantum Leap is a vegan, natural food spot with locations in the E & W Village. We ordered in from here and really, really enjoyed our meal. I got the Portobello Pesto Burger with a side of sweet yam fries. It’s a grilled veggie burger topped with roasted sweet peppers, grilled onions, Portobello mushrooms, & pesto sauce, and it absolutely rules! Along with the sweet potato fries, it’s a hearty, healthy meal that hit the spot! We’ll definitely be coming back here to sample the rest of their menu.

Silver Spurs Diner/Restaurant – Sweet potato fries were MONEY!! Turkey burger with swiss and avocado grew on me as the meal moved along and I ended up enjoying it. Similar to Quantum Leap, this meal was hearty, and felt healthy (even though it probably wasn’t). I want to come back here to get a beef burger (which I hear is huge) and to eat more of those tasty fries! Jess went with a salad and wasn’t disappointed – their salads are big and there are so many different options. This is a good spot to have right around the corner.

NoHo Star – For a recent catch-up session over dinner, I headed to NoHo Star with a friend. The menu is a little odd – they have salads, sandwiches, omelets and then a side Chinese section that seems out of place. We both went for the American food there and I ordered the chicken burger that came with fontina, pickles that almost tasted like they had been marinated in soy sauce and some coleslaw. The burger was pretty tasty when paired along with the coleslaw but the pickles seemed a little out of place – in keeping with the random Asian aspect of this restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid place with lots of food options and a good place to catch up over food and drinks…but the food is by no means amazing. It did the trick and I would come back for another low-key weeknight meal.

PS – We’ve got a big weekend coming up with dinners planned at L’Artusi (cross it off the list!) & Nonya! Stay tuned…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thank you, readers! This blog is for you.

A big thank you to all of our readers out there! When we started this blog, we didn't know exactly who we were writing for, besides ourselves. So, it's nice to hear that people have gotten enjoyment out of Restaurant Hoppers - whether it be friends, friends of friends, family members, or lurkers (who we welcome). Also, thank you for providing us with YOUR recommendations. Our philosophy is that writing about and recommending restaurants bring out happiness in people on both sides. If you give someone a great restaurant recommendation and they have an enjoyable experience, you feel good that you had a part in it. On the other hand, there's nothing like the experience of having a great meal out. In sum, we thank you for the random recommendations, emails and notes that we've gotten thus far. Rock on.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Do Hwa (Korean BBQ)

As promised, we're back to bloggin! On Wednesday evening, we went out to dinner with our dear friends, LT & J-Fark. Despite Jess' stomach feeling a bit under the weather, we decided to check out Do Hwa, a Korean BBQ spot in our neck of the woods. We learned about Do Hwa through a BlackBoard Eats deal (25% off) and wanted to get outside our culinary comfort zone. LT had been there before and said it was good so we headed down to Carmine Street to get our Korean BBQ on!

We entered Do Hwa and were immediately taken back by the tasty aroma filling the air. After a long hump day, we all needed a cocktail... I was the only one who went outside the box by ordering the Yuja martini (chilled citrus vodka topped off with champagne & lemon sorbet). It went down easy and packed a punch... pretty much, exactly what you want from a martini. I didn't dabble but they had a nice selection of beers on tap, taboot.

We shared 3 appetizers between the 3 of us: Obok Salad, Japchae, and Dukboki. Not sure what any of that means? Me neither! Check out their menu here: CLICK ME! (From what I've read, it's always changing.)

Despite carrying some serious kick, the best app, IMHO, was the Dukboki. It looks like ziti pasta in a red sauce, but looks are deceiving. What looks like ziti are actually tender rice cakes, and what looks like red sauce is a hot chili sauce. We kept eating this tasty dish despite our mouths being on fire. Both the Obok Salad & Japchae were completely finished by the time the entrees came around, so don't think that they weren't good as well. The vinaigrette on the salad & the noodles in the Japchae really made the dishes.

The entree that both Farks got was the Steak Bibimbop. This dish consists of slices steak & loads of veggies packed on top of rice (white or brown) that's served in a way-too-hot pot. Oh, and it's topped with a fried egg (if that's your thing). You control your own spice & flavor destiny by mixing in as much chili sauce as you'd like. I think I might have put a bit too much on as I was sweating by the end of the meal. But, that might have had something to do with the dish being served WAYYYY TOOO HOT! I couldn't eat for a good 5-10 minutes til it cooled down to a reasonable temperature. It was rather tasty & quite hearty with a nice mix of flavors going on in the bowl. J-Fark thought that it lacked flavor and I understand why he said that.. there was a bit too much going on in the bowl, and combined with the hotness, all the flavors kinda blended together. I would get it again, but not before sampling some of the other items on the menu.

The garlic spinach side dish had LOADS of flavor and I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who likes the garlic-spinach combo.

Due to her aching belly, Jess went with the most neutral soup on the menu - the Mandu D'Uk Gook.  It was homemade dumpling soup with rice cakes and was basically like wonton soup on steroids.  There was lots of flavor in the broth and the dumplings and rice cakes really soaked it all up. 

Overall, it was a tasty meal that turned us on to a type of food we weren't very familiar with. More importantly, it was great times with friends, and I think we would all come come back to check out their do-it-yourself grilling tables. Head down there & let us know what you think of Do Hwa!

Monte's Trattoria (Revisited)

I previously blogged about Monte's Trattoria (see here). Well, I was back on Friday night with my parents. It's one of their go-to restaurants in the city, and one of the perks of Jess & I living in the Village is our proximity to Monte's. I wanted to revisit this entry because of an incredible dining experience and their food is so darn good I feel like writing about it!!

I went away from my normal order (Shrimps Monte) and got the Veal Bolognese. This is the dish that my mom always gets and last time we were here, I tried it, and fell in love. Bolognese is NOT the right description since it's not even close to a traditional meat sauce. What it is is tender, thinly sliced veal that's topped with perfectly cooked prosciutto (crispy & tender all at once!) and mozzarella cheese, and surrounded all over by the most flavorful wine sauce. Their generous portion allows you to have all aspects of the dish in each bite! It's the kind of dish you wish they served at Olive Garden so it can be never-ending. Of course, the OG could never produce something this tasty.

Monte's is a go-to spot for the Farkas Family because I'm already excited to go back there and get this dish again! Go there & find out for yourself why we love it so much!