Desi Grill. 46 Wyckoff Ave. Brooklyn. NYC

A highly-rated Indian restaurant in Bushwick that turned out to be well below average – why was I not surprised. This is definitely Desi food for waspy palates that first had a korma in college and wouldn’t dare cook curries at home. Everything was bland, creamy and insipid. Naan was firm and light, but the salmon tikka masala (interesting choice of fish – all the flavour was in the chunks) swimming in a sweet-sour sauce was terrible. The consistency of the saag paneer made me wonder whether they’d used creamed spinach directly from the freezer bag, and lacked any discernible spice. Service is all over the place, stressed and rushy at slightly busier periods, with a smile and a few words when it’s time to pay up. Decor is likewise terrible, with undersized Taj Mahal pics floating around with random hangings and paintings on an exposed brick wall. No redeeming qualities here, and there are far more Indian restaurants to try out, so this will be our first and last experience at DG.

$$

Subway: Jefferson St (L)

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Bolivian Llama Party. Night Bazaar, 165 Banker St. Brooklyn. NYC

This must be the best street food stall in the city; never have I felt such exhilaration accompanying each bite of their spicy, complex creations. The beef brisket cholas (BBQ sandwiches, $10, or $5 for a smaller cholita) rubbed with rocoto and cracked black pepper were wonderfully rich and juicy, and the cliza salteƱa – oyster mushrooms and quinoa in the Bolivian pasty pie (just don’t say empanada) – was served with a wickedly sticky salsa. Papitas (fries, $7) come in cones, and the Parmesan-garlic ‘super frites’ we got with a cilantro dipping sauce were relatively cooling after the wild peppery excess of the sandwiches. Staff are friendly and hard-working, and don’t forget to pick up a ‘Fuck Empanadas’ badge to wear with pride.

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Mominette Bistro. 221 Knickerbocker Ave, Brooklyn. NYC

Brunch at this French bistro is a popular neighbourhood activity, since there really isn’t much around but a paucity of bars amongst an abundance of random pawn shops and fried chicken joints. Mominette stands out – not in frontage but in quality – and their outdoor space at the back is delightful. The spinach & goat cheese croissant ($10) is a crowd favourite, and the French toast ($9) is colourful. The Sunday special oyster Benedict was wonderful, with the shellfish deep fried and placed on sturdy poached eggs and English muffins. I also had a tasty beets’n’bourbon cocktail that was begging for some ice and a taller glass. Though it can be expensive, service is great, and the kitchen is quick to fulfill orders at busy periods.
This restaurant will surely go down as one of the forerunners in Bushwick’s blossoming.

$$$

Subway: Jefferson St/ Dekalb Ave

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Pho Hoai. 8616 4th Ave, Brooklyn. NYC

This popular neighbourhood eatery has a huge selection of soups, rice and noodle dishes. Overjoyed that they had my beloved Bo Kho (spicy beef brisket soup) on the menu inspired my full confidence in the kitchen; we ordered crispy noodles with seafood ($12 for a huge serving) and curried squid on rice ($7.50). Both were fresh and firm, with enough marine protein and Asian carbs to keep you going for a full day. Wine, Tsing Tao, Heineken and Beer 33 are served, as well as salted lemon soda and Vietnamese ice coffee, all for between $3.50 and $4.50. Service is quick and friendly, and food can arrive ridiculously fast. Be prepared to wait a while for a table in the evening.

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Subway: 86 St.

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Mayahuel. 304 E 6th St, East Village. NYC

The tiny upstairs restaurant above the even smaller bar area is cosy and warm, aglow with red light and decorated with a large ceiling-mounted tarantula. Indeed, Mayahuel is the fertility goddess of agave alcohol and libations should certainly be poured in this sacred space.
The food is merely good, and not too dear at all: most starters are under a tenner while mains are $14-$18, with a creamy saffron paella to share at $28. The Elote (corn-on-the-cob covered with crema agria, cotija cheese and chile de arbol) was great to share and the quinoa and avocado salad looks like a winner for the summer. Flautas, tacos and ceviches are all available, and the Tres Leches for dessert was a firm, muscular piece of coconutty milk-soaked cake. But it’s all about the drinks here: the cocktails list is succinct and impressive, with all the emphasis on agave. It won Best New Cocktail Bar in the World at Tales of the Cocktail in 2010, and we can see why: the Dijahbone (Sotol, duck fat infused Grand Marnier, carrot juice, lime and cumin) was rich and smoky, while I Love Lamp (tequila, rum, banana, pineapple, lime and bitters) was a heady hit of a tropical beach. Cerveza cocktails are tempting too; the Fade to Black (mezcal, rum, ramazzotti, whole egg, xocolatl mole bitters topped with Negra Modelo) was one that everyone wanted to try. They’re all $14 so you’ll need to watch your bill as it’s all too easy to run up a large one. Service is slow but friendly, and bookings are not taken so you’ll have to turn up early.

$$$
Subway: 1/2/3 Av, Astor Place

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Yuca Bar. 111 Avenue A, East Village. NYC

New Year’s Day brunch at 4pm? Not many restaurants in Manhattan would be happy to cater for a group of six, hungover and hungry, but Yuca was there to indulge our cravings. Officious service brought us feasts from the Kitchen of Earthly Delights: Crab Cakes Benedictos were fabulous, Yuca Benedictos remained sturdy and tasty under the pressure, and the grilled skirt steak special was what I actually wished I’d chosen – a quality churrasco cut with chimichurri. All specials come with tea/coffee as well as a choice of Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, frozen Margherita, mimosa or sangria; BMs were peppery perfection. For $17 it’s decent value, and all come with excellent rice and beans or home fries.
The space is bustling and energetic, beautifully lit and even though the servers can be curt, they are quick to respond to special requests. We’ll be here more than just the first day of the year.

$$
Subway: 1st/2nd Ave

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Minca. 536 E 5th St, Lower Manhattan. NYC

It’s fantastically small and busy, and it’s not that cheap, but the ramen is exceptional. Excellent spicy miso ramen with pork was our favourite, but the basic ramens are also decent, allowing subtler flavours to come through. Noodle quality is superlative, but the magic is all in that broth and the slurp you give it.

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Subway: 1st Ave/2nd Ave

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