Caracas Arepa Bar has been a favorite Williamsburg dinner destination for me since shortly after I moved here nearly six years ago. (Wow six years? Oy vey.) I hadn't been to Caracas since July '12, when my good friend Salvador Sriracha was in town, but this time a visit from my buddy Beafvy (of Beafv's Beerderdash fame, natch) and my brother just after Christmas had us on the hunt for some quality victuals.
For the uninitiated, arepas are a traditional Venezuelan food that feature baked flatbread pockets filled with various stuffings, including meats, cheeses, veggies, etc. At this meal, between the three of us, we split five arepas and an order of their excellent chips and guac and it was plenty of food - arepas are deceptively filling.
The arepas we chose were La Surena (grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, spicy chimichurri sauce), La de Pernil (roasted pork shoulder, tomatoes, spicy mango sauce), Leek Jardinera (grilled leeks, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, guayanes cheese), Playa Deluxe (pan-seared tilapia with garlic-infused oil, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, pickled onions, herb mayo) and a weekly veggie special that I don't remember. No direct link to their menu, but find it here if you're interested in their other offerings.) I immensely enjoyed each except the La de Pernil, but I'm really not much of a fan of either mangoes or dressing pork with sweet sauces, so I guess I probably shouldn't've ordered the fuckin' thing in the first place, huh? <slaps forehead>
Caracas Arepa Bar also has a rum bar with over 30 types of rum from around the world, if that's your thing. They also make great specialty cocktails, seemingly authentic to the Central / South American theme. They also have a really nice little garden in the back, perfect place to enjoy a meal and some beverages during a lazy summer evening. And so forth.
My aggressive dieting over the past year-plus has meant that I've eaten A LOT of salads at a lot of places across the Western half of Long Island. Usually, I'm going to go for a Greek salad type deal topped with well-done chicken breast, one that's ideally big enough to last me through the rest of the day so that I don't need to eat a proper dinner. (Yes, I'm aware that this flies in the face of everything one reads about "keeping the metabolism furnace going throughout the day," but normal diet methodology has never worked for me, so fuck it.)
To that end, Gyrolicious definitely works for my diet, in that the "large" salad is absolutely massive and very filling, and they don't skimp on the chicken. Honestly, it's not rocket science; 9 times out of 10 that's all I'm asking. I also had a bite of one of their gyros (pictured above) which I can report are standard-good. The wings are small and frozen, but still tasty, and the dips I tried (hummus, babaghanoush, spiced feta / tirokafteri) were all fine, as well.
So, the food's solid, at least what I've tried of it. (Their menu boasts a lot of standard Greek restaurant choices that I doubt I'll ever try.) All in all, this is pretty much a textbook "B" place, but I'm going to downgrade it slightly because of the variance in quality of service, at times ranging from "attentive" to "lackadaisical" the few times I've been. But, yeah, decent place; nothing more, nothing less.
Over the past year-plus, Meal Corner has featured WAY more lunches than dinners. This has not only been due to wanting to save a little money here and there, but because of dietary issues - generally speaking you're going to spend more money AND consume more calories if you're routinely eating out at dinner. On the other hand, sometimes you just gotta treat ya'self, and my recent meal at CoolFish was well worth the indulgence.
I'd driven past the CoolFish sign in Syosset countless times, wondering exactly where it was actually located; turns out it's unassumingly nestled in one of the industrial park-ish thingies south of Jericho Turnpike. When we entered, we noticed that the place was packed, which was a good sign - turns out that three or four different offices had chosen to have their Christmas parties here on this night. Although the staff seemed a bit overworked, we were pleased with the attention afforded us - really have to give them due credit here.
We ordered the ceviche, which was intriguingly listed on the menu as "chef's choice." I generally automatically order ceviche whenever I see it on a menu, so I was eager to see what the chef would whip up for us. Unfortunately (possibly due to the overwhelming amount of customers), what we were served (above, bottom picture) wasn't really "ceviche" at all, instead basically chopped shrimp in a cocktail-type sauce with a little bit of extra tartness. Disappointing, but still not really all that bad, and, most importantly, this would be the final culinary misstep of the evening.
When at a restaurant call CoolFish, one should probably order fish, amirite? Top picture above is my entree, seared Chilean sea bass, served in a rich lobster fricasee sauce over sauteed spinach and creamy mashed potatoes, topped with smoked tomato relish. Second picture down shows a halibut daily special, perfectly cooked, on a bed of broccoli rabe. Third picture shows the brussels sprouts with bacon side dish.
These were likely the best fish entrees I've eaten since my meal at Panza Restaurant in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, nearly exactly a year prior on Christmas Eve '12. So, with the exception of the "ceviche" (which truth be told really wasn't bad - it just wasn't really "ceviche" per se) great food, and solid service. Highly recommended, and I'm eager to return.
Just my luck that Roebling Pizza would be closed during only the second time I ordered a pizza in the calendar year 2013. As I've written before, it's far and away the best pizza in my hood, and there's nothing that even comes anywhere near close, including this place, Brickhouse Pizza.
I walk past Brickhouse Pizza pretty much whenever I leave my apartment - it opened a few blocks from my place, right next door to Briskettown. Long story short, Brickhouse place isn't really anything special. Not awful, but not great either. Crust was a bit too hard (not crisp, mind you, but actually hard) for my liking, and I definitely prefer my slices either super floppy or doughy and substantial, and this was neither. Just kinda meh. Also, it was like $26 for a pie with sausage and onion - that's a bit steep no? What's more, I wasn't really impressed with any of their "specials" - is 6 wings and fries for $10 really a good deal?
So, if you're a south sider like me looking for a 'za fix, give Roebling Pizza a ring, or don't bother otherwise.
After still yet another great meal at Surasang Korean Restaurant, it's time to finally give these guys the credit they deserve for being one of my favorite go-to Long Island restaurants. Having eaten here many, many times I've learned what they excel at (quite a lot), and what they they don't do that well (a few items), so let's have that, shall we. Also, the majority of the menus that are posted online for Surasang (they don't have a website) are nearly entirely inaccurate, so here are several dishes that they actually *do* serve.
The pictures above were taken over the course of three or four separate meals at Surasang during the past year-plus. The top two photographs detail what, to me, is Surasang's de facto specialty: spicy Korean stews. First picture is of the Yook Gae Jang, a tasty stew with brisket, scallions, cellophane noodles, and egg. This is one of my favorite Korean dishes (I've also had it countless times at Dokebi in Williamsburg), and Surasang's version is frickin' delicious. Second picture is of a spicy tofu stew, with similar ingredients as the Yook Gae Jang - also excellent. You'll notice that these stews are served in hotpots, appropriately bubbling hot. (Not pictured is the Kalbi Tang - again, prepared similarly, except the main ingredient is short ribs, served bone-in. Also highly recommended.)
Third and fourth pictures depict some of Surasang's stir frys. The third photograph is of a shrimp stir fry dish, which I felt was very tasty if a bit too heavily breaded. Fourth photo is of an excellent squid stir fry, which is more indicative of most of the stir fry dishes I've had at Surasang, served in delicious sauce and with crispy, fresh vegetables.
The final three photos show an assortment of their appetizers. The dumplings are incredible - lightly fried and crisp, and although I like the flavor of the sauce that comes on their chicken wings (sweet but with a little 'hey now'), the wings themselves don't ever seem to taste terribly fresh. The last picture shows a typical assortment of traditional Korean appetizers that are brought before your meal, free of charge. These dishes rotate, although they usually include several types of kim chees, pickled vegetables, lightly fried squash, marinated eggplant, sprouts, and the like.
I should mention that the service at Surasang is excellent. The owner and her son are always friendly and personable when we stop by for lunch, and they always seem to have Korean dramas blaring on the television. I should also mention that if you're in the mood for Bi Bim Bahp, Surasang's is some of the best I've ever had. (Haven't tried the bulgogi here, though.) So, stop by if you want some really great Korean food - you'd be hard pressed to find Korean this good in the North Shore / Nassau County area.
During my trip to San Francisco last summer with my buddy Salvador Sriracha, we made a point of trying as many different types of Asian cuisine as we could cram into the three days we were in town. First we ate at Burmese Kitchen, then banh-mi at Saigon Sandwich and awesome Chinese at House of Nanking the following day. Day three, we found ourselves near Japantown, and, looking to try some Korean, I found Ssisso on Yelp, so we stopped by for lunch.
It had been my goal to get some authentic bi bim bahp, but we both instead opted for lunch specials which offered more food for less money (we were both starving). Mine, the top picture above, included bulgogi, soup, dumplings, and a dish consisting of sauteed cellophane noodles and vegetables. Salvador's was similar, although he opted for the "Ssisso chicken," served in a soy / garlicy sauce. (The bottom picture depicts a few of the typical traditional Korean sides that were served before the meal.)
We found the food at Ssisso to be pretty good, although the soup and noodles dishes were served lukewarm, and the chicken, although flavorful, didn't seem terribly fresh. I came away with the impression that they probably prepare large quantities of this stuff in advance to save time and then reheat it (or in our case, don't) to order. Not bad, but not great in comparison to my favorite Brooklyn and Long Island Korean joints. Of course, it's probably unfair to judge an entire restaurant solely on the basis of two lunch special orders, but what can ya do.
Wild Ginger is so damn good that I've actually eaten there solo, not in the company of other vegetarians, and I'm obviously nowhere close to meatless. (That's what she said!) I've never had a bad dish from this place ever, which is more than I can say for that laughably overrated, flavorless shitbox Angelica Kitchen. (And also unlike Angelica Kitchen, the service at Wild Ginger isn't a bunch of snooty douchebags.)
We arrived at lunch, and as such the top two pictures above depict "lunch special" portions. At the top, we have Singapore Mei Fun noodles, a dish I've ordered many times from various crappy Chinese takeout places. Unlike all other previous versions I've tried, Wild Ginger's isn't the least bit greasy, while still offering plenty of wonderful curry flavor. Very nice. The second picture shows the "Shredded Delight," with bean sprouts, tofu and peppers in a tasty sauce. Again, light, but with plenty of flavor. Third photo is of the pan-fried veggie dumplings, which, (noticing a theme?) were substantial and tasty, but not gassy. Not pictured is the scallion pancake, because, well, it was a scallion pancake. I should mention that the lunch specials also come with miso soup and a nice l'il spring roll, and are very reasonably priced.
Ahhhh, Fall Tour. Not only do I get to see the world's best band perform at a level of excellence that they haven't consistently approached in over a decade, but I occasionally get to let myself off the diet and sample some local delicacies.
After seeing both (excellent) shows at DCU with my buddy Rumpo, I drove down towards Hartford solo, ticket for the evening's show at the XL Center in hand. I decided to pull over in some shithole town about 12 miles northeast of Hartford for some quick shut-eye and maybe a meal. What I didn't notice is that said shithole town is home to Rein's New York Style Deli, whose signs along Rt. 84 I've noticed many times during my trips to / from Massachusetts over the past decade-plus.
Luckily, my motel was located directly next to the strip mall dominated by the Rein's storefront, so I waddled over and placed my order. This is a fairly good-sized establishment, with plenty of tables for eat-in, and a spacious deli section for take-out. (Apparently they also serve alcohol, but I didn't notice a bar.) My plan was to order a sandwich / etc. and head back to the hotel to watch the early NFL game before moseying down to Hartford.
It took them about 15 minutes to complete my order, which seems like awhile, but that's mainly due to Rein's apparent popularity rather than any criticism of the staff. Immediately, the friendly service set this place apart from *real* NYC Jewish delis - compared to the unpleasant, bossy shitheads at Katz', for example, this place was a dream getting in and out.
I got a fresser ("overstuffed") pastrami on rye with mustard, although I regret having not ordered a reuben. (Go big or go home, brah.) Nothing against the pastrami - it was fine, if very expensive - but the reubens I saw these guys putting together looked absolutely scrum-diddly-umptious. The sandwich came with a really nice kosher dill, and I snagged a small side of cole slaw and a soda to go along with it. Everything was good, but for the price (over $20 for the whole kit and kaboodle), I was probably unrealistically expecting something that was going to REALLY impress me, which didn't happen. Oh well. Like I said, should've gotten the reuben.
Pictured above is the "large veggie platter" (or something to that extent), including (in approximate order from 12 o'clock) red beans and rice, curried "chicken," collard greens, steamed veg, veggie lo mein, pepper "steak," and BBQ "chicken." The "meat" substitute that they use is soy chunks. They usually have a couple other options available (I think I remember a lasagna and another "meat" on the menu), but those were sold out by the time we showed up. My favorites were the pepper steak, the BBQ chicken, and the lo mein, but everything we tried was pretty damn tasty.
Apparently the owner is an old-school rasta dude, and he encourages his patrons to check out the articles, photos and art he has posted around the restaurant. This includes literature encouraging healthy eating, philosophical writings / quotations, a list of "famous vegetarians," and many pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bob Marley, among other things.
If I have a complaint, it's that the food wasn't really served as warm as it should've been, and this is the type of situation where I feel like kind of a dick sending the food back. Nonetheless, it was really good, and it was a meal that lent it self perfectly to having plenty of hot sauce dumped on it. What's more, it provided more-than-adequate fuel for rocking the eff out later that night at the (outstanding) show. Huzzah!