A ‘cull’ is a lobster with one of its claws broken off, a ‘pistol’ its pitiful clawless crustacean buddy – I didn’t know this until I had seen the paintings in their bathroom (a great way of avoiding the inevitable public bathroom lines in Chelsea market) on my third visit there. Happy hour is tremendous here – all oysters and clams are a dollar each and there are chowder, tacos and drinks specials. Naragansett pints ($4) and Sauvignon Blancs ($7) will make you want to stay longer, while the Pistols on Horseback (fried oyster wrapped in Jamon Serrano on a ramp crepe with smoked aioli: $7 for 2) might tip your bill over into triple digits. Service is a little harried but you can hardly blame them. Expect long waits from 4-6pm.
Subway: 8th Ave (L)
This spacious corner restaurant with outdoor seating in Bushwick may be open until 4am, but they’ll need to increase their portion size if they’re keen to attract loyalty in their first month of business. The fluke ceviche ($12) was fantastically zesty and really had so much bite, but was about a third of the size it was expected to be, and sloppily served in a shallow steel bowl. The swordfish skewers ($10) were tasty, and not so tiny, but the crab causa was far too firm and just not mushy enough, even though the pulled crab meat was great and the purple hue of the potatoes authentic. Service is swift and helpful, though not overly warm and cheery, and decor and fittings are impressive, as are the seating options inside. Lorenzo’s kitchen definitely knows what it’s doing, but just needs to offer more of it on the plate.
Subway: Jefferson St. (L)
Dave Chang’s noodlehouse Momofuku is an NYC institution, so when he opened this fried chicken sandwich eaterie almost next door to his East Village restaurant, he really brought in the crowds. In the same month that Shake Shack unleashed their own bird-in-a-bun, Fuku – with only three items on the menu, standing room only, and initial limited opening hours – caused a stir. There’s no bathroom here, so when you pay $8 for a chicken-thigh crisply fried and placed in a bun far too small for it, that’s all you get – the food. Oh, but WHAT a sandwich; I could’ve done without the pickles, but the off-menu daikon-radish slaw is what I’ll ask for in the future. The taste of the chicken is spicy, like mild scotch bonnet, but without any lingering heat, and completely devoid of artificial chilli flavours (so I added some Korean hot sauce, of course). And that’s what’s really bringing the punters in, to the extent that the queuing time can be up to 45 minutes, though the buzz has definitely died down by now. The drinks list is actually much longer than the food choices – Tecate beer, Micheladas, whiskey & ginger, G&T, Margaritas etc. There’s also a water tap with some plastic cups. The other items on the menu are steak fries (which are supposed to be very disappointing) and a farro salad with orange dressing, which I’d love to try next time.
Subway: 1st Ave
Superlative Neapolitan-style pizza at slightly higher prices than your average. Fire roasted peppers with burrata ($12) are soaked in olive oil but served in small portions, just like the other starters such as the white beans and pesto. Fior di latte is on every pizza, and though the
sopressata picante ($15) is good, the cremini and fennel sausage pizza ($17) is even better. There’s a range of draft and bottled beers, cocktails and wines, and service is just average. The decor and lighting is very intimate – even romantic -though, and this definitely is a special spot in the neighborhood.
Subway: Franklin Ave, Botanic Garden, Park Pl.
New York restaurant critics – no doubt chagrined by Zuma’s belated opening in New York after successful outposts in Dubai, Miami, Istanbul and Hong Kong after the original London location – weren’t kind to the brand when it came to the city. Why should NYC be last on the list, why such an afterthought? After all, the super-rich haven’t stopped parking their money here. It might be easier to ignore such relics of the early-naughties, themselves far too close to the eighties’ slick and flashy izakaya abominations; for Zuma is definitely big and brash and pricey. Delusionaryculinary visited the Knightsbridge location in 2004 and again in 2014, but lunch in this midtown location on a hot summer’s day will be most memorable for the lamb chops, thick cut and marinated in miso, then seared over the robata grill until dark and sticky outside, and pink inside. Their version of a Chawan Mushi, remixed for dessert but less egg custard and more fruity-foam, was unbeatable. The $25 restaurant week lunch deal was in effect, and made it so much more accessible, but prices hover around the $21-23 mark for most dishes, which for such splendid fusion Japanese fare is really rather reasonable. Ignore the peacocks, get the lamb chops.
Subway: Grand Central – 42nd st
The most famous barbecue joint in Brooklyn had waiting times of up to an hour on some nights, though thankfully the buzz has died down; if there’s a group of you there can be a delegation of duties – those that get the drinks from the bar and those that get a table, with others holding their place in the line. The bar is not that well-stocked on spirits but has a sufficient choice of draft beers and a good range of flights. The food is reliably smoky, high-quality meat such as Black Angus beef brisket, Duroc pork belly, ribs and lamb bacon. Order these by the pound – a half for the hungry or quarter pound for the sensible should be more than enough per couple. Prices vary, but tend to be high: most choices were around $25/lb. Sides are excellent too: the garlicky broccoli and burnt-end beans ($3) were particular favourites – the sauerkraut was bland and pointless though. Try the hot sauce, which blends hickory and chipotle flavours, and the slider bread rolls are perfect to dip in the meat-grease. Nothing of interest here for vegetarians.
Subway: Lorimer st.
Not quite an izakaya as the Gothamist wrongly labelled it, but a modern fusion okonomiyaki restaurant specializing in the truckers’ favourite belly-filler: noodle pancakes. It’s so new (one week old when we were there on a Saturday night) that it’s overwhelmed with Bushwick gourmands, and servers are struggling to keep up; so let’s concentrate on the food. Delusionaryculinary fell hard for these cheap creations when he lived in Shiga-ken for a year in 2001, so brought a keen critical eye to proceedings. We sat at the bar and chatted to the grillmaster, Lawrence, who led us through some of the different combos available, and they all sounded mouth-watering. The Classic ($9) topped with pork belly, otafuku sauce and kewpie mayo was great but we still chose to add some octopus to that. Mexican Osaka ($12), with chorizo, avocado, cilantro, chipotle and crema, another with pulled pork and BBQ sauce and a third topped with crispy ramen noodles, means that there’s more choice for the fusion-hungry. Besides the pancakes, the kitchen does a good range of mini-bitings and snacks, mixing up Wasabi Guacamole ($7) with gyoza chips, a Daikon Vichyssoise ($5) that subs in radish for chilled potato, and also Takoyaki ($7), the beloved street food balls stuffed with octopus. Cheese nori and shrimp tempura were tasty beer snacks. Decor is kitsch Japanese posters, skateboards and tchotchkes, and the bathrooms are plastered with nihongo magazines and newspapers. A few lesser-known beers are on the menu such as Okinawa’s Orion, while Ozeki One Cup ($7) sake and Sapporo draft are also available. The Wasabi Beer from Niigata ($13), light but flavourful, is an experience that must be had. Make the trip to Bushwick: it’s all happening here now.
Subway: Morgan Ave (L)