Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post Haste

Just a couple of notes from my El Rey Del Sabor visit yesterday. In the frenzy and excitement that I wrote the post, I missed a few key points I wanted to make.

  • Out of the 4 tacos I had, chorizo, pollo, carnitas & al pastor, the chorizo is the one that stood out the most. I might have to pass on hot sauces next time in order to fully taste all the meats. The chorizo was the only one whose flavor stood out over the sauce.
  • The tacos would be better with some acidity. My coworker and I both agreed that a nice wedge of lime would have gone a long way.
  • After having another tamale for a snack today, I don't think it can be beat value wise. For $1.50 you get a very good tamale. I haven't yet, but I'm sure you can ask for a side of mole which would make it perfect.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

El Rey Del Sabor

El Rey Del Sabor Truck

For me, the El Rey Del Sabor Truck has been elusive. A friend had discovered the truck during Thanksgiving day visit to Manhattan. Filled with stories about these great tacos he randomly had during turkey day around the midtown Bloomingdale's, I searched high and low for this cart that I had never seen. I would walk around the exterior of the mega clothing store searching for a taco truck. It was a weekend. No cart. I would make a detour post-run around Central Park. Too late in the day. No cart. I would go try to visit pre-run. Still too late. No cart.

I was starting to think that the truck didn't exist. Until my friend moved to the city and his apartment happened to be a block away. Then he did his research. It pretty much catered only to the lunch crowd closing at 4:30 and open only on weekdays. I was about to give up all hope in every trying the tacos there until I overheard that there were other locations.

On a whim, I checked the trustworthy Midtown Lunch
and found that they had just opened up in my work neighborhood (43rd & 6th). Not only that, but there was a fight the day before! I had decided on a lunch place for the day.

First off, I have to say that the guys in the truck were awesome. They had had a slow start to the day after having slept in the truck overnight because of the ruckus from the day before. Plus, their groceries for the day didn't arrive until 10:30 as lines started form. They seemed to be tired but making the best of it and having a blast.

El Rey Del Sabor - tacos
Tacos (left to right): chorizo, pollo, carnitas, al pastor.

The taco filling had some pretty good flavor. The pork and chicken from the Red Hook taco truck was better, but the beef wins here. The green and red sauce were nice and gave the tacos a nice medium kick. The traditional double corn tortillas are also nicely grilled. At $2.50 a taco, a lunch consisting of just tacos can get pretty expensive. But as a quick bite, I would take these over a hotdog any day.

El Rey Del Sabor - Tamales
Chicken Tamales

These tamales were a delight. I've been jonesing for some tamales for a week or so. So when I saw these on the menu, I had to have one. They did not disappoint. The masa was light and had some very nice flavors. The chicken filling was moist and had a nice kick. I actually had it after my tacos and immediately wished I had gotten another. At $1.50 it was definitely worth it. The only thing that the tamale could have used was some mole. Next time I might have to get my tamale with some enchiladas which come with mole.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Ssam Bar was the last David Chang outpost that I needed to visit. Each of David's joints has a specific feel and purpose but his style ties all of them together. His menus seem to come together in similar fashion with quality components and a creative mind coming together give an odd but exciting twists to traditional (and not so traditional) dishes. What I do find is that no matter how 'exotic' the dish, the presentation always makes the food approachable.

Ssam Bar has long been on my list just because it was the missing piece for me to close my Momofuku loop. By this time, I feel like I understand the chef's food and know what to expect. The new car smell has worn off. That's not to say that the food no longer excites me, because it does. (I don't think I'll ever grow weary of pork belly buns.)

What I have come to appreciate is the high quality of food the Momofuku kitchens have been able to churn out. Some dishes have been hit or miss, but the quality, precision, and care put into a dish has never been lacking. I do have to applaud the Momofuku crew for running a first rate operation.

As for the meal at Ssam Bar itself? I do have to admit that my post comes over a month after my visit and with no notes, its becoming quite hard to remember all the details of the meal. I'm not sure if this is all for the worse since the few things I do remember, I remember fondly.

Bev Eggelston's Country Ham
Bev Eggelston's Country Ham (Shenandoah Valley, VA), red-eye gravy, Sullivan Street Bakery baguette.

The country ham stole the show. Actually, it was the show. The ham itself was sliced delicately and the bread was what I would expect from Jim Lahey's bakery. Both wonderful selections for David Chang to showcase on his menu. But what really elevated the collection of 3rd party goods was the 'red-eye gravy'. Broken down, red-eye gravy is coffee flavored mayo. Put together, its a creamy bitter smoky concoction. It brought and already perfect combination to a level I never knew existed. I would be happy just ordering all the ham's on the menu, just to see how the gravy would compliment.

The rest sort of fades from my mind. I remember the crispy pig's head to be good. Nice and crispy as advertised with a great fattiness to it. The pork buns have yet to disappoint. The chicken fried chicken sounded great but fell short. The asparagus with burgundy snails I don't remember at all.

My next Momofuku experience? I hope its the infamous Bo Ssam...

Crispy Pig's Head
Crispy Pig's Head (Newman's Farm, MO), lime pickle, frisee.

Pork belly buns
Pork Belly Buns

Bell & Evan's Chicken Fried Chicken
Bell & Evan's Chicken Fried Chicken with ramps, morels, and eggs.

Asparagus and Burgundy Snails
Asparagus and Burgundy Snails, onion dashi, market greens.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Dutch Kills

Dutch Kills bar

Hidden in industrial Long Island City, away from all the new high rises, is a bar by the name of Dutch Kills. Run by the same guy behind the notoriously exclusive Milk and Honey, Dutch Kills brings to the New York scene a place where a person can get a well mixed drink at a reasonable price. Its a place where you can find some creative concoctions, interpretations of classics, & the classics themselves. For around $9 a cocktail, the quality of bartending here is on par with other pricier city establishments (PDT, Randolph, etc). It's a gem and I hope that its location will keep it that way.

The place is easy to find if you are looking for it, but almost impossible to stumble across. The only clue that Dutch Kills exists is the sign on the door. But armed with an address its hard to miss. Everyone who shows up came for a reason; its not a place to visit during your weekend bar crawl.

The place is dark. Real dark. With wood paneling all around and no windows, our group staggered in during a late afternoon summer and let the world around us stop, reentering hours later to the glorious setting sun. I have never felt like such an alcoholic stumbling out of a bar; the world so bright. And that wasn't a bad thing.

Dutch Kills Seating

The first round of drinks we ordered were off the menu. The flavors were bold. The flavors providing big flavors to accompany their fermented friends. Heavy tones of ginger (Gershwin), grape (Garibaldi), and nutmeg (Infante). It was a nice change of pace to be able to sit at a table, indulge in our drinks, and converse quietly. It might have been the time of day, most likely it was, but I can't see the place getting too packed even late nights.

Dutch Kills Menu
The menu.

Dutch Kills drinks
From bottom left(clockwise): Garibaldi, Gershwin, Infante

What Dutch Kills currently lacks is a kitchen. I would be more than happy with some nice roasted peanuts (in the shells please!). Just a little something to munch on while you drink. The hostess made it seem like a kitchen was in the works. But until then, I'll be more than happy with drinks and intoxicated ride back into the city.