Eat It, Damn It!

Reviews, raves, slams, and damns.

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Champion Bakery

The beef patty gets a bad rap. I think that too many people have had bad beef patties and therefore do not hold a high opinion of the item.

First, consider where many people try their first beef patty: the school cafeteria. A sure recipe for prejudicing someone against a dish is having them try it through educational dining. I can’t think of anyone that says, “Boy, I really wish I could have that dish the way they used to serve it back in high school.” Even if they could prepare it well, they almost certainly did not make them fresh. They were frozen, for heaven knows how long, reheated at whatever temperature was convenient, then left out in some form of warming device until the lunch bell rang.

The second place many people have tried their first beef patty is from a pizzeria. That might seem like a thing of the past in these days of artisan pizza places, but it used to be that every corner pizzeria that sold slices also had an option for a beef patty. Horror of horrors, many used to give the option of topping the patty with mozzarella or pepperoni. That may sound like I good idea to some, but for me that is the equivalent of topping cream of mushroom soup with dijon mustard. Yuck!

One of my favorite places to get beef patties has always been Champion Bakery. The place has changed a little over the couple decades that I have been customer. However, the modus operandi of their business has not changed. They bake. Everything they sell comes out of an oven. Patties are their only meat option. You can get bulla cake, hard dough bread, gizzada, cinnamon buns, and patties at Champion, but you cannot get a plate of jerk chicken. It is a Jamaican specialty store.

As I mentioned, I’ve been a customer of Champion since my youth. They are the gold standard of beef patties for me. I remember the shape, texture, and taste very well. I happened to be in the area and decided to pick up a couple patties for lunch. As always, the place was packed. It was a weekday, at around 3pm, and the place was hopping. It took a few minutes for me to get my food as there was a fresh order coming out of the oven. Not everyone was there getting patties. Plenty of customers were picking up loaves of bread, slices of cake, and other goods.

Patty Bag

Check out the foil bag. This ensures that your patties stay warm for the maximum amount of time possible.

Patty Outside

This little golden patty was hot as hell. The shape has definitely changed from what I remember.

Patty Inside

The meaty center was tasty, but it was not the patty of memory. The crust was not as flaky as I remember. The center while meaty, did not have the same flavor it once did, too much gravy. It wasn’t spicy, nor was it exceptionally savory. Altogether, it was a little blah. I was crestfallen. I really hope that this was just an off day for Champion. They have been excellent for so long, I will have to give their beef patty at least one more try.

Grater Cake

The grater cake was another story. I usually like my grater cake heavy on the coconut flavor with the sugar serving as a glue for the tropical fruit. The flavor of this offering was dominated by the sugar in both flavor and texture.

This is hardly a rave review, but take it with a grain of salt. Champion Bakery has built up years of good will with me. I’ve had many items from their store and with the exception of this occasion have always been pleased. Give them a try. Parking can be difficult to find, but hopefully, you will find the effort worthwhile.

Champion Bakery
3978 White Plains Road
Bronx, NY 10466
718-798-1203
(Google Map)

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Go! Go! Curry!

Go Go Curry Storefront

My first experience with Japanese curry was in Hawaii. It was a curry noodle soup of some kind at a little place that only opened for lunch and early dinner. It was the first time I had curry outside of Jamaican food. It was pretty awesome. Since then, I’ve taken Japanese curry wherever and in whatever form I can get it into my eager chew hole.

When Go! Go! Curry! first opened, it was mobbed at lunchtime. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was lining up down the block to get a taste. That was a few years ago (four, I think). It’s not as packed, and like so many new places in Midtown New York, it is not as buzz-worthy as it was on opening. Thankfully, their quality has not declined and their prices have not gone through the roof.

A little background: As I understand it, the Japanese word for “5” sounds something like “go”. The name of the restaurant is in homage to Hideki Matsui. Supposedly, the chain is popular in Japan, and when Matsui signed with a certain baseball team in the Bronx, they came across the waters as well. There isn’t as much Matsui gear on the wall as when they opened. If I remember correctly, they used to run promotions based on his homeruns. Enough baseball. On to the curry.

All the dishes are based on rice topped with curry. You can even get plain white rice with curry. If you want a meat item, your choices are chicken cutlet, pork cutlet (katsu), shrimp, egg, sausage, or a combination of the above. There is a Grand Slam dish that incorporates most, if not every possible topping on one plate. I imagine that ordering is reserved for the incredibly famished or the most adventurous of eaters.

Chicken Duo

Many people opt for the katsu, but MG and I go for the chicken ($7.50 for medium). I’ve had the pork, and it just didn’t work for me, the chicken was just better all around. The cutlet is tender and tasty, perfectly fried, and I think it compliments the rest of the dish better than the katsu. I think the pork tries to vie for your attention and takes away from the savory curry.

Curry Closeup

Boy oh boy is the curry savory. It is wonderful. Thick, rich, deep brown in color, short on spicy but long on flavor, it is a fabulous dish. The white rice is expertly cooked as well, plump and slightly sticky. The chicken, rice, and curry meld in a truly magical way. Some raw cabbage is tossed on the side, and while nice, I don’t enjoy it as much as I did years ago. I’ll chalk that up to changing tastes. It wasn’t offensive, but it didn’t seem necessary.

Inside Go Go Curry

The restaurant is very informal, and very lunchroom like in the plastic chairs and small tables. However, I love the fact that you receive a real fork to eat your meal with, out of a metal plate no less. Big thumbs up! It may seem like a little thing, but fighting with a plastic knife and fork, and taking pains not to cut through a Styrofoam plate would spoil my dining experience.

If you like curry at all, drop into Go! Go! Curry!. They have opened a new location in lower Manhattan. If it is anything like their Midtown offering, they should do gangbuster business.

Go! Go! Curry!
273 West 38th Street
New York, NY 10018
212-730-5555
(Google Map)

Go Greenly

Go Greenly Logo

Frogurt is just kinda weird. It isn’t ice cream. It wants to be ice cream. It might even want to be gelato, but it isn’t. The texture is pretty different, and the flavor can be a little bizarre. Sometimes, it works. It’s usually best when not eaten as an ice cream substitute, but as its own entity.

Instructions

Go Greenly is very much in the mode of Chilly Spoons. Get a pull of frozen yogurt, add toppings, pay by weight (in this case $0.59 per ounce). Samples are also available.

Pump Station

Pump your own frozen yogurt. Don’t be afraid to make combinations, but be wary, first timers are most apt to overindulge.

Simply Taro

The Taro is excellent, very intense. There are plenty of fresh fruit toppings available that will compliment this choice nicely. Lychee, kiwi, strawberries, and more are available.

Milk Caramel
Toppings

On this occasion, I was looking for something a little more traditional, so I went with their Milk Caramel flavor. For toppings, I went with chocolate covered grahams, Heath bar, caramel syrup, and a little shredded coconut. It was very good, but lacked the savory quality of ice cream. Much as I wanted to appreciate it in its own right, it was impossible not to compare to traditional ice cream.

The Final Product

The big plus is that frogurt does not leave you feeling very heavy. It is almost like sucking on a sugar cube. It’s very sweet, very intense, and then it is gone with a glass of water.

This particular Go Greenly branch is very popular. On first entry, the place was packed with a few families. It thinned out after 30 minutes or so, but quickly filled up again. If you venture to this branch, don’t count on getting a seat.

Go Greenly
946 White Plains Rd
Trumbull, CT 06611
203-268-0329
(Google Map)

Pimento Caribbean Restaurant

This is a very different kind of review. I am still going to purchase a dish and write my opinions about said dish. This will be a dish that I will purchase for take-out. I know where I am going. I know what I’m going to order. I know how much it will cost. I have an idea of what it will taste like. (Starting to understand what makes this review different?) I am writing this review in anticipation. I have not yet had the dish that will eventually appear in photographs in this piece.

I am going to Pimento Caribbean Restaurant to have a dish of Oxtails. It comes with choice of rice, I’m going to get rice and peas, and choice of vegetable. If available, I’m going to have cabbage.

How can you write a review in advance? Well… the first part of this is not so much a review of a particular restaurant as it is a commentary on restaurants and eating in general.

For a long time, I’ve been searching for the perfect oxtail. Jamaican dishes like oxtail, curry goat, stew peas & rice, etc… are comfort food for me. In the good ole USA, we usually think of comfort food as meatloaf, chicken with biscuits and gravy, pork chops, and the like. While I do recognize these as comfort dishes in most restaurants, it is not the food I was raised on. I never had a pork chop until my late twenties. A biscuit is more a dried-out dumpling than it is a comfort item to me. The scent of baking meat in a loaf pan was not permeating throughout the house during my childhood. I remember the smells of the pressure cooker opening with the scent of oxtail stew with lima beans and dumplings. I remember the taste of really good curry goat, especially the texture if it yielded properly with each bite.

While I was in Florida, my grandmother made oxtail. I was transported. She’s not just my grandmother, she’s one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. She was a caterer for many years and has also run a number of restaurants. Her cooking is excellent, not just the stuff of childhood memories. MG, who is an oxtail novice tried her oxtail and deemed it something she would sample again.

Trying to find something that would match my grandmother’s oxtail is a loosing battle. The best I can hope for is a good offering. Too many places simply stink. If the texture if off, the dish is a loss. Oxtail should be slow cooked and come out tender and savory. Stringy and tough is unacceptable. The accompanying sauce should be rich and complex, not watery and dominated by tomato.

A few weeks ago, I tried out Pimento’s offering. It wasn’t Grandma’s, but it was pretty good. There was a bit more tomato flavor that I like, but it wasn’t a marinara sauce. The rice and peas were very nice, not dried out or dominated by coconut flavor. The sauteed cabbage was also good. I’m very curious to see if the dish in reality meets the dish in my memory.

That’s half the thrill of going to restaurants in the first place: the thrill of anticipation. When it’s a new place, you wonder about the smells, sounds, and tastes will greet you. When it is a place you have been once, you want to know if they will meet your expectations a second time. If it is a place you have been a number of times, you are looking forward to a familiar taste, smell, and the feeling of satisfaction of getting exactly what you wanted. This visit will be something between a second visit and a familiar place. I kind of know what I’m going to taste, and I’m looking forward to the flavors of a comfort dish, but I’m not sure if Pimento will meet the expectations set by my first visit.

I’ll know soon…

Outside Pimento

When I arrived at Pimento, it was around 9pm on a Wednesday. Since many of the dishes are slow cooked, not everything is available.

Pimento Menu

Take a look at that huge menu. Scores of soups, plenty of breakfast dishes, and even Jamaican ice cream is available. What is Jamaican ice cream? Ice cream made by Jamaicans, of course. Some of the staple flavors include rum raisin, grape nut, and egg nog. However, that is a review for another day. Luckily, they had my oxtail. They had my rice and peas. They even had my cabbage. Excellent. I got my medium dish ($11.00) and was on my way home.

Oxtail Above

Take a look at that color. The meat is a deep brown with a slight tinge of red. It was better than I remembered. It was savory with just a little bit of heat. It was incredibly tender with just enough resistance. Any more tender, it would just fall apart. I would have preferred a little more of the fat trimmed off, but that is a minor complaint, at worst.

Oxtail Up Close

The rice was also excellent, plenty of moisture and just a mild bit of coconut flavor.

The fun, and difficult part of eating oxtail is moving around the bones. It is almost impossible to eat without using your hands. As complex as the flavor of the meat is, the marrow is even more intense. The sauce has seeped into the bone creating a magical shot of beef, peeper, and gravy. This is not a dish for dainty eaters.

It was beautiful. It was exactly what I wanted and it exceeded my memory. Pimento has a few seats available for dining in, but most of their business is take-out. They are worth the trip, well worth it, in fact.

Pimento Caribbean Restaurant
4018 Boston Road
Bronx, NY 10475
347-964-6552
(Google Map)