Archive for the ‘new york’ Category

Sangam is the no-longer-recently-opened-and-therefore-not-really-hot-news biryani joint in Greenwich Village. Of course I meant to write about it months ago….

The samosa is average, oily, but the vegetable biryani, flecked with long green beans, carrots, and cubes of potato, tastes surprisingly light although it is wholesome, flavorful food. The plump grains of rice are robustly spiced and topped with browned, tempting slivers of fried onion; a cooling yogurt raita is a refreshing condiment.

Sangam’s biryani is nothing like the decadent biryanis I sampled in Bombay last month, stuffed with nuts, mushrooms and cream, but I think it works well here in New York. The eatery provides a fairly light, tasty meal that is an addition to the cheap-eats scene but an alternative to the falafel, dumpling, and noodle joints everywhere in the city. One could eat a Sangam biryani and be happily full but still escape the hard-hitting waves of somnolence guaranteed to come after a few bites of richer biryanis…or falafels.

Sangam’s co-owner, Aslam Parviz, introduced me to Rafat Ansari, the wife of his partner Ishrat Ansari, and the cook responsible for the home-ground spice mixture (masala) that so fragrantly seasons Sangam’s biryani. Rafat’s masala, says Aslam, is what distinguishes Sangam’s biryani from that which you find at other restaurants; most places use a prepackaged biryani mix called Shaan, which he says, wrinkling his nose, “I can smell from a mile away.”

Despite the restaurant’s bare-bones setting (just a few tables and chairs, really) Rafat and Aslam’s faith in their home-ground masala and their belief in food prepared with care sets Sangam apart from the other cheap-eats ethnic places in the city. After the biryani, I tried Sangam’s version of the trendy Kati Roll and loved what an unfashionably straightforward package it was: flaky, freshly grilled paratha wrapped around a tomato-potato-carrot based vegetable dish accented with tiny black mustard seeds. This was not a glitzy roll, decked out in extra oil or garlic or hot green peppers and chaat masala like Roomali’s delicious wraps. Nor was it a party roll to satiate late-night revelry-induced hunger. It’s a seedha-saadha, freshly prepared Indian wrap, tasty and satisfying, sensible and wholesome, in the way that home-cooked food tends to be. I loved it.

I read somewhere that Sangam’s prices have increased since I took a photograph of this menu. I think the vegetable biryani, which was $6, is now $7.50?

Sangam is on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal at 190 Bleecker Street. (212) 228-4648. They deliver, oh and their website provides the menu along with the new prices.


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This post about the 10 best ice cream sandwiches in New York made me drool. I can’t wait to try Ronnybrook Farm Dairy‘s sandwich because its ice cream is…too good…and Bierkraft‘s “fudgy chocolate brownie” sandwiches since it’s located so close to me but I’m most excited about the pumpkin cookie ricotta gelato sandwiches at One Girl Cookie. Pumpkin and ice cream makes a great combination and the store has other intriguing items on its menu, like fig-flavored sheep’s milk ice cream. Y-U-M.

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Pompei\'s slice

[Pompei’s slice]

I don’t crave pizza often, but within the past few months I’ve eaten couple slices worth writing about. I suppose I’ve been generally disappointed by New York pizza because the random pieces I’ll eat on occasion never live up to the hype. Also, for me, the power of pizza is far less than the power of Mexican food or ice cream. Thus, while I’ll drive 45 minutes for a lick of Christina’s, I’m far too unmotivated to trek to DiFara to try its acclaimed pie.

But! When good pizza comes my way, I do not object. In Massachusetts, my favorite pizza is from Papa Gino’s, an east coast chain with two locations five minutes away from my home. It’s my go-to place for an everyday slice. My brother, cousin and I agree that Papa Gino’s has perfected the ratio of cheese to sauce to thin but not glaringly crispy crust. It’s dependably satisfying, which is usually what I desire when it comes to pizza.

Back in the New York area, the first satisfying slice I had was when Waq took me to his hometown favorite, Pompei Pizza in Bayonne, NJ. For the past couple years, I had been listening to him praise Pompei. Of course I trusted his sense of taste- we had eaten many a meal together- but I was never in Bayonne long enough to try Pompeii for myself until one overcast Saturday this past February, when that Pompei slice, thin, cheesy, and fresh, brightened my day with its pleasing proportionality. Below, Waqas’s description of the pizza:

Waqas: “Well, the thinness is perfect; it’s thin enough to be crispy but the pizza never falls or droops, which thin pizzas often do. And the crust is light and fluffy without being doughy or overly chewy. They put a generous amount of cheese on it and the sauce is just slightly sweet/tart and has a great herby spiciness to it. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this pizza, plus, the smell of the place billows out onto Broadway.”

The second noteworthy slice I had was with work folks on a balmy evening a couple weeks back at a Ray’s on Prince Street- yes, Ray’s, that pizza store that sits on the corner of every block in Manhattan. Although Kim said that it was the first Ray’s in the city* and swore that the pizza was beyond average, I still had my doubts. We ordered a pie, half vegetarian and half pepperoni. I usually prefer thin crust pizza but Ray’s thicker crust was pillowy and aromatic and topped with soft ricotta, thin rounds of tomato, sliced garlic and basil. The superior quality of fresh ingredients used in the pizza made it memory worthy- I’ve been yearning for that slice of summer ever since.

*According to Wikipedia, the Ray’s on Prince is the first Ray’s in the city and all the Ray’s pizza places are not connected as one big chain but, for the most part, are independent restaurants that share the same name.

Pompei Pizza, 480 Broadway, Bayonne, NJ. (201) 437-5408
Ray’s Pizza, 27 Prince Street, New York, NY. (212) 966-1960

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We went to BLT Steak for Sandeep’s birthday dinner. Steakhouse dinner invitations come my way infrequently (hmmm), so I thought I should scope out the scene.

Tanned people with nary a golden lock out o’ place milled around the bar, where we waited for 20 minutes despite being on time for our 8:45 reservation. We eventually got seated at a round table (always a plus) in the enormous dining room where the walls, ridged with angular siding, created an atmosphere reminiscent of a furniture showroom.

My friends all ordered steaks (1 medium, 3 medium rare) while I had the much more interesting and varied task of selecting the sides. I choose:

Stuffed Mushrooms: The breadcrumbs were deep-fried and their oiliness distracted from what could have been a meaty (ha!) dish that better complimented the juicy and absorbent qualities of mushrooms.

Parmesan Gnocchi: Delicious. I wish I had gotten a sharper picture of this snowy pile of Parmesan and the lovely clouds of gnocchi bathing in a cream sauce underneath. A little rich? Certainly… :)

Onion Rings: I realize that onion rings are very much a matter of personal preference. BLT’s looked funny, a congealed fried tower. I liked my first bite a lot but these onion rings did not stand up to the test of time- the tempura-esque batter became rapidly soggy from the weight of the oil.

Creamed Spinach: I was curious, never having eaten “creamed spinach.” Yummy! It tasted just like saag paneer from an Indian restaurant, minus all the spices.

My question, which I posed to my dinner companions and to the waiter, was, why are these steak sides so rich? People always talk about how filling steak is; my friends couldn’t manage more than two bites of the sides because they were stuffed from their entrees. I imagined that tomatoes and onions, or asparagus dressed in a light lemony butter would be more appropriate steak sides both for the contrast in taste and weight. But the waiter and my friends and Wikipedia told me that steak is traditionally served with starchy sides.

For dessert we ordered the chestnut chocolate sundae (see previous post for a full-length picture), beautifully presented in a tall skinny glass with whipped cream and a cherry on top, in which fleshy, sweet chestnuts and crunchy candied ones were hidden between scoops of chocolate ice cream and thick chocolate fudge. Delightful Decadence!

And finally, we ordered the peanut-butter chocolate mousse with banana ice cream but Sandeep ate most of it himself, not realizing it was one of the desserts we’d ordered to share. He had been silently working on his cake for so long that finally one of the other boys turned to him and said, Sandy, you’ve been quiet. How’s that cake? “Oh man, guys, this is the most incredible chocolate cake I’ve ever had- I was just thinking- you guys should really try some.” Waq, tasting his first bite, was like, “Sandy this is the mousse we ordered!…and you ate the whole thing.” And so we each got a lick of what remained.

Onion rings, spinach: $9; mushrooms: $10; gnocchi: $10; dessert: $10
Bistro Laurent Tourondel Steak is at 106 East 57th street, New York, NY.

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We had plans, great plans for Saturday night. We were going to dinner (some place fancy) in the east village and then stop by a friend’s party and maybe go out after that, too. Three engagements in one evening is quite unusual for my hermit-self. But as the minutes drew closer to seven, I started to falter and the evening, previously full of alluring social prospects, suddenly seemed daunting. I didn’t feel like teetering downtown in the ridiculous heeled boots I bought in a moment of rain-soaked weakness when my flat shoes were sopping wet. I was tired. I wanted to nourish my soul with South Indian food, specifically a masala dosa, and then go home to my bed with its five pillows and a book. Bye-bye party and the chance to “meet nice people,” as my mother would say.


So we stood on the corner of 24th and 3rd, debating what to do for ten minutes. Good thing I have the most patient friends in the world because I’m well aware that I’m ridiculous. We ended up at the party and of course it was fun, especially because I got to try Humboldt Fog with its pretty, ashy streak running through the rich, crumbly layers of goat cheese. And then, finally, it was time for that dosa. We almost ran back up the blocks.


I’ve been wanting to visit Pongal since last year, when S. told me that she loved it. The rectangular restaurant was packed save for one table adjacent to the door, which is where we promptly sat. While I did spot scatterings of South Asians throughout the room, the crowd was more diverse than the one that generally frequents Saravanaas‘s Sunday brunch. I had abated some hunger from nibbling on cheese, so we decided to share the Iddly and Vada Combo and the Mysore Rava Masala Dosa.


The iddly and vada were standard, good but not exceptional. I felt that the sambar was a little thin, lacking ferocity, but the red tomato chutney served alongside was irresistibly tart and gritty with mustard seeds. Spicy masala powder was smeared on the polka-dotted, angular layers of the Mysore Rava Masala dosa; between the layers was a pile of yellow potatoes wild with onion, cilantro and slices of hot peppers. Again, this was modest fare, nothing fancy, but I tore into it and it satisfied my Saturday night soul food craving. And then I crawled into bed, with my five pillows and a book.

Iddly & Vada combo: $4.45; Mysore Rava Masala Dosa: $9.45

Pongal is at 110 Lexington Avenue (near 28th street), New York, NY. (212) 696-9458.

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On Robert Sietsema’s recommendation, T. and I made the trip to Jersey City for a meal at Udupi Shri Krishna Palace. While waiting for Gabe, who was overjoyed we were visiting his neighborhood, we walked the glittery length of Newark Avenue, ducking into shops to watch small crowds of customers order sev puri and samosas. I promised myself that if I saw anyone frying up a fresh batch of golden jalebis, I would buy some and spoil my dinner. Sadly, no such luck- I guess Jersey City is not the equivalent of Edison.

Udupi Shri Krishna Palace is a tiny, boxy space, more a take out stop than a restaurant, with florescent lights glaring down on the uncomfortable clutter of benches, tables, and the dusty water cooler in the corner. We sat underneath a protruding heater, our grimy corner illuminated by the lights, and served ourselves water using the plastic cups stacked on the cooler.


We ordered ragda pattis, fried potatoes cutlets doused in chutney, chickpeas, and in this instance, spoonfuls of crunchy sev instead of onions. The chutneys were spicy and sweet and soaked through the savory pattis for bites that were properly sensational, bites of India in Jersey City.


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At Stir It Up, we found Caribbean fare for the vegetarians. The restaurant is located on a section of Atlantic populated by Pakistani curio and clothing shops and we visited on one of the chilly nights in January’s interminable stretch. Stir It Up shone invitingly from the lonely street where I was waiting for my dinner companions. Inside, it was orange and warm and relaxed. Our waitress was friendly and our food imaginative.


We ordered tall, cloudy glasses of ginger beer in which the sharpness of ginger was mellowed by vanilla and cinnamon, producing an almost creamy taste. We wanted appetizers but they were out of the fried plantains so we started with the delicate roti skins instead, soft and elaborately wrapped around what seems like a powdery paste of ground chickpeas and garlic. It was so tasty that we started eating it plain but our waitress told us to wait for our main courses- the skins were just an accompaniment.


Anthony’s entree of (vegetarian) Jerk Chicken– firm soy meat shaped into a surprisingly accurate replica of a chicken breast glazed with jerk sauce– was not only a visually stunning dish but also a fiery, smoky, palette pleaser. Gabe’s Ha Ha Chicken Balls (also veg) were delicious fried soy balls in a tangy tomato based sauce.


The Steak Surprise I ordered certainly had the elements of a good dish- tender cubes of soy (I mean, steak) and loads of fresh vegetables seeped in a rich coconut curry- but it was so sadly mild that it became frustrating. I knew with just an addition of heat the dish would be much more enjoyable and I was correct- I doused my leftovers the next day with Tabasco and the savory Island spices suddenly started popping.


Stir It Up is at 514 Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Roti Skins: $3; Jerk Chicken: $9; Steak Surprise: $8.50; Ha Ha Chicken Balls: $8.50

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