Eat It, Damn It!

Reviews, raves, slams, and damns.

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Royal Siam

Where to eat? Where to eat? Most times, I usually have an idea of where we might end up, but this time, MG and I were just wandering about Chelsea.

Royal Awning
Thai food. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a big fan, but I don’t hate it. Everything just seems very “almost”. The food is almost spicy enough. The sauce is almost savory enough. Everything is nearly something I could go crazy about, but never quite there. Would this restaurant change my opinion?

Crab Chips
At Mexican restaurants, you receive nachos. At Royal Siam, you receive a plate of these little babies. I think they were crab chips. They are served with something that tastes like a spicy duck sauce. This would definitely beat out potato chips as my choice for something fried and crunchy when I’ve been drinking. They were super.

Iced Tea
I did not try MG’s iced tea, but check out that glass. Nice.

Vegetable Dumplings
We started with an order of Vegetable Dumplings ($5.00). The picture above is not what I was expecting. When the menu says dumplings, I expect various bits of diced vegetable inside some form of flour wrapper. This was more like a purre of mashed potato, spinach, and scallions formed into triangles and then fried on all sides. It was served with a soy sauce for dipping. The exterior was crunchy and the interior was like mashed potato. I don’t know what to say about this dish. It was OK, but aside from not being what I expected, it wasn’t necessarily a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t bad either. This form of dumpling definitely holds the oil from frying so it is better shared with another person (or more). If not, the oil that sticks to the potato gets a little overwhelming.

Panag Beef
For my main dish, I got their Panag Curry with Beef ($14.00). They certainly did not skimp on the beef. There was plenty of beef, plenty of curry, but not much vegetable, just a little bit of string beans and a few strips of red pepper. I’m not complaining, but I just want those who really desire vegetables to be forewarned.

This dish was good, and if you are into Thai curry, I think you will really enjoy this offering. However, for me, once again, it was almost. The beef was well cooked, and almost tender enough to be really pleasant. The curry was almost savory enough to make me smack my lips. The curry was almost spicy enough to give my lips a tingle. Once again, not quite, but almost.

Pad Phed Chicken
MG got the Pad Phed Chicken ($14.00). Unlike my dish, her’s came loaded with veggies. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose, or was an accident, but that’s just what went down. I did not try the dish, but she really enjoyed it, and she is very critical of Thai restaurants.

I’m not running out the door to get to Royal Siam again, but keep in mind, Thai food may just not be my thing. I think there might be a Thai restaurant out there that will curl my toes and make me click my heels with enjoyment, but I haven’t found it yet. The portions are sizable, the prices and reasonable, and the décor is pleasant, so I can recommend Royal Siam without hesitation. As their awning states, they have been in Chelsea for nearly two decades, and since I’ve seen more turnover on Eighth Avenue than any other street in NYC, I guess they must have a following. Give ’em a shot. Let me know if they are really great Thai and if my taste buds are just missing something.

Royal Siam
240 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212-741-1732
(Google Map)

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La Sorpresa Restaurant

I’m a big fan of eating at restaurants off the beaten path. I’m a big fan of the places that have a regular clientele that have a “usual”, a “favorite”, and a “sometimes” dish. I like places that are small, possibly family run, and clean. I dig the joints that are off the beaten path, sometimes in the bad neighborhood, but are popular with the locals. I like places where nobody is speaking English.

La Sorpresa Sign
La Sorpresa meets many of these requirements. They are not located on the main drag in Norwalk. The television has soccer, not baseball, and the broadcasters are not speaking English. The clientele are not speaking English. The staff barely speaks English. The menu is not in English. The parking lot is filled with vans that are from some form of manual labor business, be it landscaping, plumbing, or carpentry. Most of the customers are having drinks to wind down from the week and when they dig into their plates, it’s with gusto. All signs are pointing to success.

The interior is divided into two sections, bar and dining. The décor is… well… I don’t really know much about interior design terms, so I guess I would describe it as IKEA’s version of an adobe hut. Not sure if that does it for you, but it was clean, not too garish, and not too tight in terms of spacing between tables.

The cuisine is listed as Colombian. I don’t know how authentic it is, but take a look at what follows.

Maduros
MG & I started with some appetizers. First off was MG’s favorite, ordered anytime it is available, plantains, maduros ($2.00) specifically. These were soft and fried well, not as crisp on the edges as MG really likes, but well cooked with just enough firmness to hold it together.

Yucca
The fried Casava/Yucca ($2.00) was really impressive. This was one of the first times I’ve ever had Yucca that was fried to this dark a shade, and though I use the description often, this really did taste like a french fry on steroids. I don’t know if they poached, boiled, or blanched the Casava before frying, but this offering had a crisp outside and a soft, almost mashed inside. They were really wonderful. I could go for a basket of these during a football game. Excellent.

Arepas
There were many different options for Arepas, but I opted for plain ($1.00). I should have gotten something else. These were room temperature and very dull. They were starchy and filled with corny goodness, but were not something I would order again.

Churrasco
I’m not sure which cut of meat the Churrasco ($17.00) is made from, but I believe it is skirt steak (taken from the inside of the rib). It is tender with enough fat to make for a succulent flavor, but lean enough to have a very meaty texture. The accompanying sauce is a mixture that tastes like mint, garlic, and olive oil. I won’t say that those are definitely the ingredients, but that is what came to mind. The steak itself would have been nice, but the accompanying sauce put it over the top. Excellent. This is a MUST order.

Tostones and Rice
Beans
Adjoining my steak were tostones, beans and rice. The tostones were awesome. They had a crispy exterior, but yielded to a soft inside. Wonderful. The beans and rice were beans and rice. Nothing to go crazy over, but well prepared and a good compliment to the protein.

Steak and Fries
MG got a dish that was basically a steak stew served over french fries ($14.00). Sorry, I forgot to write down the real name, but don’t worry, you’ll find it on the menu. It was pretty good. The meat was very lean and well seasoned. The fries could have used a minute or two more in the hot oil to give it a little more crisp, but they were still tasty.

The bar section gets going after 5pm and plenty of people are there watching soccer. Drop in a for a bite and a drink.

La Sorpresa Restaurant
61 Cedar Street
Norwalk, CT 06854
203-838-9809
(Google Map)

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

On almost every top ten list of pizzas in America, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is listed. There are a few outposts: the original is in New Haven, CT, one in Bridgeport, one in Danbury, and now Yonkers, NY. They’ve been in Yonkers for a little while now, maybe two years or so. When it arrived, people in Westchester lost their damn minds. Everyone proclaimed it best pizza ever. Everyone declared that they would eat pizza nowhere else, it was Frank Pepe or bust.

MG and I went on a Sunday afternoon around 1pm. It was not crowded and we were able to sit anywhere. Booths line the perimeter of the interior, and they were filled, but all the tables on the inside were free. When this outpost first opened, it was packed at all times, but thankfully, some of the crowd seems to have dissipated.

Pepe Ovens
The ovens are prominently displayed. As the place wasn’t too crazy, only one was in use.

Peperoni Pie
MG and I got a large Peperoni Pie. We didn’t have to wait too long for it arrive, maybe fifteen minutes.

Pepe Upskirt
Check out the upskirt, well charred and crisp, very nicely cooked.

Normally, I would never write a review for someplace as popular as Frank Pepe. They do not need the press, and many people consider it the holy grail of pizza. However, I think it important for the sake of my other pizza reviews. Usually when I recommend a pizzeria to someone, I get the response “Have you tried Frank Pepe? They’re the best.” Well… here’s my review of what many consider the best. Before you give me grief and say, “This isn’t the New Haven location,” I will point out that many reviews have said that the Yonkers post is very, very close to the New Haven storefront. Some have even said that it is better.

So what do I think? It’s good. It’s just not great. It does not give me the eyes rolling to the back of the head splendor and euphoria that great pizza does. I’m simply not impressed.

The crust was ultimately underdone and chewy. The underside is very well cooked, but the inside was gummy. Yuck! The flavor of the crust was alright, but nothing transcendent. The sauce was nice, but did not blow me away. The cheese was good, but was neither soothing nor sharp. We ordered a peperoni pie, and they were pretty scant with the topping. That’s not the worst thing, but the pizza was incredibly oily. Granted, peperoni will add some more oil to the pie, but this thing was practically dripping.

Though this all seems damning, it’s not. I’m not going to say Frank Pepe is terrible. They’re not. However, I don’t understand the hype. In a pinch, I would stop in again. However, I sure as hell would not wait for 30 minutes to get a seat.

Was I there on an off day? Perhaps. I’ve also been to the Bridgeport location and I came away with the same impression, nice, but not incredible.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
1955 Central Park Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10710
914-961-8284
(Google Map)

Firedog

When throwing a party for 30 or more people, what to serve is a headache that most people do not want to deal with, hence the existence of caterers. However, depending on the size of your kitchen and dining space, your options may become limited. If you have a big driveway, the Firedog Truck of CT is an option.

Default Lawn Sign
They bring the kitchen. They bring the disposable plates. They bring the condiments. Everyone just walks up to the window and orders what they want.

Chili Cheese Fries
If it is available, MG is having the Chili Cheese Fries. This was not spicy chili, but it was not bland or under-seasoned. It was quite good, sans heat, which many guests were very pleased about. The fries were crispy and the cheese, though not high quality, was plentiful. In all honesty, is high end cheese really needed for chili cheese fries?

Red Hot
The Red Hots are excellent. There was just a little char, and the bun was soft. One of the signs alongside the truck advertise that they use Sarabett Hot Dogs. If you find this truck at any sort of event, definitely opt for the red hot.

Specialty Sign
One of the specialties that they offered for this event was Pulled Pork. That was a big hit for all the guests. Everyone was ordering pulled pork in various combinations: on bun, on fries, on a hero roll, but one options was the…

Dream Dog
Dream Dog: a hot dog topped with pulled pork and served on bun. The pulled pork is nice, but it lacked the vinegar kick that many search for when eating the dish. The hot dog is nice, but overwhelmed by its swiney neighbor. The red hot might have been a better delivery system for this bizarre concoction, but I was full.

Though not pictured, I also tried their grilled chicken. Served on a fluffy Portuguese roll, it was properly charred, meaty, well seasoned, and delicious. They do grilled chicken right, if you are so inclined.

Another specialty item they offered was called “Elvis’ Last Call”. It was a bacon burger topped with peanut butter. I did not partake of this abomination. The reviews were mixed, as should be expected for a mixture of pork, beef, and peanuts. Needless to say, it shows that the folks at the Firedog Truck are willing to mix and match whatever they have available to your liking. Were I not full, a red hot with chili and cheese would have been pretty awesome.

I spoke with the owner, and he says that he and his partner (I assume his wife) have been running the truck for two years. Though they generally do corporate events and private parties, they are also at festivals and concerts. Check their website and twitter for their availability.

Firedog Truck
203-627-6970

Hummus Place

“Where can we eat before the show?”
“There’s a Hummus Place near the theater.”
“Oh cool. Haven’t we eaten there?”
“I think that was Hummus Kitchen.”
“Wasn’t that Hummus House? Or wasn’t it Hummus Town? Hummus Haven? The Hummus Tent?”
“Stop being a jerk.”

There’s a lot of places that serve hummus in New York City. I just think that some of these places should vary their names. Then again, there are plenty of morons around that wouldn’t be able to figure out what the place serves without a big tip in the title.

There are a few locations of Hummus Place around NYC. MG and I were seeing a show at the Beacon Theater, and this was directly across the street. The place is pretty small, but it is not so cramped as to make dining uncomfortable. The one drawback is that since the space is so small, there is no waiting area during crowded hours. Outside is the only real place to wait, and during bad weather that would simply not be acceptable. They do what they can with the space, so don’t take this as a knock. Just be prepared if it is raining and you go there during peak dinner hour.

Lemonade
What I will knock is the Lemonade ($2.50). I believe that it is squeezed fresh. However, it is an unholy abomination that should be avoided at all costs. Do not partake of this foul beverage whatever you do. MG was the recipient of this horrid thing, and she actually thought it was “not bad”. While I respect her opinion on many food issues, this does not extend to many drinks, as she enjoys various teas and other odd things I can’t pronounce. I, on the other hand drink coffee. But I digress… do not order this lemonade.

Hummus Place has a three appetizers special ($9.95). It’s a really cool deal since they have a nice variety of dishes to start.

Grape Leaves
The Grape Leaves are served warm with a green mint sauce. Though they lacked the tang of many traditional grape leaves, they were quite good. I enjoyed them immensely.

Falafel
The Falafel are great. They are crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Accompanied with a little green sauce and tahini, they are a phenomenal dish. If you go to Hummus Place, you must absolutely order this dish.

Babaganush
Though I generally don’t enjoy Babaganush, this offering was very nice. It was not exceptionally creamy, but more of chunky mash of eggplant and spices. It is not overly seasoned or intense, but is a savory experience.

Crispy Pita Pieces
Use the crunch pita pieces that are served alongside the appetizers to dip into the babaganush.

Wheat Pita
When asked for a choice of pita, MG and I opted for wheat. Under the things you see in the picture is a more standard wheat pita. The thing on top is mystery. It was wheat, I think, but it was not soft and fluffy. While I did not hate it, I definitely preferred the more traditional pita to dip into the star of the show.

Hummus Platter
Of course, the star of the show is the Hummus Place Platter ($11). It combines hummus with four different toppings. The first is Hummus Fava, which is pretty self-explanatory. Neither MG nor I were crazy about it. Second was the Hummus Masabacha, hummus topped with chick peas. I suppose that is like putting pieces of tomato on top of marinara sauce. It was good, but not special. My favorite was the Hummus Mushrooms. The sauteed mushrooms on top were a great addition to the creamy hummus. If you are going for a sole dish of hummus, I would recommend this highly. Finally, there was the Hummus Tahini combining creamy hummus with creamy tahini. This is very savory and delicious.

If you’ve got a hankering for some hummus, Hummus Place is a great place. The appetizers are wonderful and the hummus is pretty good. Whatever you do, avoid the lemonade. Have some falafel and hummus, but get a soda or beer.

Hummus Place
2608 Broadway
New York, NY 10009
212-222-1554
(Google Map)