>> Eat the World NYC

16 May 2019

Restaurant Paradis des Gouts


While comparatively small when judged next to parts of Harlem and especially some neighborhoods in the Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant's Fulton Street still holds its own when considering the treats to be found of West African origin. Chefs from a range of the francophone nations there can be found if you look hard enough, with those of Ghana a bit further south in Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Outside of this zone, the storefront at this address on the dividing line of Bedstuy and Bushwick has been home to the foods of C么te d'Ivoire for quite some time.

The previous restaurant here, called Abidjan and named after the economic capital of the country, was on the to do list for most of its life, but West African hunger pangs always led to trips to different parts of the city. Less than two years ago in August of 2017, the owner of one of our favorite places in Harlem branched out to this Broadway location. Abidjan had the name and colors of the Ivorian flag displayed proudly on the awning, but Paradis des Gouts has decided to be a bit more subtle about its offerings with "African-French-American" under its name.

Those who have traveled the region or have experience telling the different nations apart will still see the telltale signs though, the first of which is the elephants on each side of the awning. The elephant has been of deep importance to the country since its founding, not least of which because of its source of ivory that gave it the name in the first place. Now that this practice is not as common, the animal is held in very high regard, especially with their national football team who have one on their crest and are nicknamed Les 脡l茅phants.

If that slips by unnoticed, the bright orange walls will be the next clue, the color used exclusively for all things Ivorian.

The menu has been expanded since the change as well, but as with most West African restaurants it is a good idea to ask about what is and is not available on any particular day before getting too excited about any one dish. Smaller portions are available, but for sharing we found the "entree" section offered good value and size, pairing the main course with one of many side dishes that you could choose from.

Dishes like this fried fowl ($17, above) come served on handmade wood plates and are meant to be eaten without utensils as would be customary back home. At least in this case a knife and fork would not serve you very well anyways. In the background is a portion of the house atti茅k茅, a starch made with fermented cassava and wildly popular in C么te d'Ivoire moreso than its neighboring countries. This often gets translated across cultures as couscous because of a similar texture, but approach it with no comparisons if you can. Unseen in the photo is the cube of Maggi bouillon that always gets served with atti茅k茅, ready to be dusted over as desired. Missing was the customary fiery scotch bonnet pepper, a sign the chef did not take us seriously.

Covering all three dishes that made their way to the table on this occasion was the onion sauce sometimes referred to as yassa in S茅n茅gal. Using a dijon mustard, lemon, and usually a bit of scotch bonnet, the raw onions give anything they touch a life of their own and ordering some extra is always recommended.

Wanting to try the thick fried tuna but disappointed when it was unavailable, the table instead settled on fried tilapia ($15, above) and chose fried sweet plantains to accompany it. The meaty, bony fish was cooked just perfectly and seemed to be the consensus favorite of the group. The plantains are plentiful and provide a good contrast with almost everything else.

As a scroll through these pages will probably give away, it is hard to turn down a portion of dibi when eating at a West African restaurant. Here the grilled lamb is $16 and very satisfying, tender chunks of on-the-bone meat covered in that ubiquitous onion sauce again. Pick them up and enjoy, throwing in a bite now and then of what they call African potatoes, pleasantly soft and lightly fried.

Sharing West African stews can be a challenge so it was avoided on this trip, but if you come alone try one with foutou banane, a popular starch in Ivory Coast similar to fufu but using plantains. Since you use this to dip in deep into the stews and grab chunks of meat, it is best enjoyed alone, especially if your eating skills are less than average.

At a communal table in West Africa no one would think twice about this though, so do feel free to disregard the last statement and dive right in with friends and family. Grab one of their homemade juices from the fridge and live life to the fullest.

Sorrel, ginger, and bouye juices.

Restaurant Abidjan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14 May 2019

Mi Casa Bakery & Coffee Shop


On multiple occasions the neon signs had beckoned during walks up or down Grand Concourse, but for whatever reasons on those past trips the pull was not quite strong enough. Recently the promise of coffee and a sandwich cubano was too much though, and Mi Casa had finally won. When you open the door, the smell is distinctly more bakery than coffee shop, freshly baked breads and cakes find their way to your nose before the busy grill.

This location is actually the third of three for what is an expanding franchise, and the furthest south so far. They have another location on Kingsbridge Road and the first was further up on Bedford Park Blvd. All three took over the spots from other bakeries with a focus on custom cakes, a business that is always in high demand amongst certain communities. Flip through their photo album on Facebook to see some of the truly creative cakes they have designed.

There is a list of breakfast foods and sandwiches available up on the wall which most people order takeout from, but grabbing one of the barstools and settling into the rhythm of the place is more recommended. The women who run everything are quite friendly and manage the always swirling goings on very well. They treat their regulars the way they want to be treated, and get good laughs at people who come in for the first time asking for something they do not offer.

Never afraid of taking extras home, an order of two sandwiches was made, both of which were even larger than expected. The first, a pernil ($6, above) was loaded with thin slices of pork shoulder obviously marinated with care and full of spices and flavor. The bread also shined and was the first hint at the skill of the baker here. Soft and pillowy, slightly sweet, easy to bite through yet strong enough to hold the heft of the sandwich without falling apart.

The same bread was used for the cubano ($6.50, below), which I marvelled at for its mashup of so many ideas. The bread's sweetness wanted to trick me into thinking it was a sort of medianoche, but the bread was unlike any of a traditional Cuban sandwich. You can get many versions of a cubano around town, but this rooted itself here in the Bronx, a Dominican-American hybrid loaded not with mustard and pickles but with lettuce, tomato, and mayo like at any proper bodega. This might infuriate a purist, but on this day it was appropriate, and delicious.

With more ingredients but including the tasty pernil, this sandwich is an upgrade and highly recommended with Swiss cheese, ham, and those aforementioned toppings. A New York deli sandwich on quality bakery bread and a touch of Bronx Caribbean flair.

After eating half of each and tucking the other halves away to go, focus shifted on the other patrons, one of which seemed to have his own seat at the counter and knew everyone working here. He was proud of the fact that it was his 81st birthday the next day.

Right before I left, a woman came in asking for flan, but the bakery had just ran out. It was not a tough switch for her to decide on cheesecake instead. At Mi Casa, it seemed very appropriate.

Mi Casa Bakery & Coffee Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 May 2019

El Progreso Restaurant


While the northern reaches of Hoboken continue to see high rise residential development and a complete sanitizing of all life, a quick walk up the hill into Union City seems like an escape to paradise. The avenues south of 495, the artery that leads into the Lincoln Tunnel, are teeming with a Central American enclave made up mostly of Salvadorans and Hondurans. Each block presents a new restaurant, bar, or bakery, all while having a much more calm and serene feeling than the same streets north of the highway.

In and around New York City, El Progreso is probably the favorite name of a catracho establishment, with at least half a dozen eateries, salons, and even a liquor store in the Bronx named after the the city in Honduras that sits at the base of the Mico Quemado mountains. Much of the immigration to the area was from this part of the country, in and around the major city of San Pedro Sula.

Needing some energy after a climb up from Hoboken, first things first the icon of comida hondure帽a was immediately ordered, the picture perfect baleada (above). For the first time in New York, this baleada brought back clear memories of eating at an outdoor restaurant in Honduras, not so much from the inside but the way the tortilla was a bit charred on the outside and had the wonderful taste of the earth. The handmade disc was also thick, soft, and chewy; its creator should have a statue made in her honor.

Inside this meatless beauty is beans, cream, and crumbled cheese, all top notch and in flawless proportion. Is this the area's finest baleada?

With the hunger suppressed, it was easier to enjoy the charms of this simple restaurant. An open kitchen in the back dominates your attention as each dish is prepared fresh to order. Tables are mostly blue and white like the country's flag, with the five stars that represent Honduras and its four neighboring countries that used to form a united Central America.

A plate of carne asada (above) was also a winner, served with all the components of a proper meal. Warm and freshly made tortillas are given to help you add combinations of the beans, rice, cheese, and avocado. A tomato and onion salsa is just right on select cuts of beef. Often carne asada plates can be chewy and tough, but the meat used here is definitely far from the cheapest they could find.

With plenty of other daily plates with a heavy emphasis on meat, future visits will be looked forward to, but dreams will be full of those amazing baleadas until the chance presents itself to return.

El Progreso Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

10 May 2019

Sumnima Kitchen

NEPAL 馃嚦馃嚨

Some time ago, this location at the corner of 64th Street and 39th Avenue was home to a large Himalayan market, purveyor of so many delicious crispy spicy snacks that far too many visits were made to procure these calorie-laden treats. Eventually that business closed down and the space was split into two, a nondescript deli on the corner and a Halal Chinese-Indian restaurant that just had no glow and never really looked that great. Late last year, the addresses turned over another time and Sumnima Kitchen moved in, the division removed and spaces united once again.

On first glance, Sumnima checks all the boxes for a restaurant approved by the Nepali community of Queens. Everyone already knows each other and men sit around tables drinking large jugs of red wine or Budweiser tall boys they brought with them.

Chicken jhol momo ($6.95, above) are served in a shallow plate and puddle of soup (jhol), the classic dumplings arranged in a pinwheel. This particular style of eating Himalayan dumplings in broth is best known in Kathmandu but has completely overtaken the scene in Jackson Heights and Woodside. Don't feel guilty, there is a magic here.

But you cannot stop there, a Nepali would scoff at you for only eating snacks and not a real meal. While technically the back of the menu offers Japanese bento boxes and teriyaki, as well as a fairly long list of run-of-the-mill Indian food, keep it turned to the Nepali side and look for things like samaya bajee ($10.95, below).

This platter is built for festive occasions usually, also as part of Newari celebrations in Kathmandu. Available with chicken as well, the version seen here is completely vegetarian and made for alternating combinations of textures and flavors. The bright white beaten rice is crispy and wonderful when bitten into but wants to be joined by the sharper flavors of all the colorful items that surround it.

Closest in the photo below is aalu achar, potatoes cooked with mustard seed and fenugreek, which seemed to be the item disappearing fastest on this night. Pickles spiced similarly and known as just achar were quite good as well. Fritters and bodi ko achar (sensing a theme?) flank the beaten rice and provide other flavorful ways to combine everything.

A special section of the menu called "Sumnima's Special Platter" draws your attention, but unfortunately both dishes sampled from here were the ones that came closest to falling flat. The first of these was better, hyakula ($11.95, below), chunks of fatty lamb on the bone cooked to the point of charring. What excelled here was the wonderful marinade, which could have shined through if the taste of char had not been so prominent.

The pork rib roast ($12.95, below) had a high char level as well but was also almost unbearably fatty. Sometimes fat works and sometimes it does not, this was unfortunately the latter and beyond overkill.

When the order for chili paneer ($7.95, below) was put in, our server asked if we needed an order of naan ($1.50) to accompany it. Expecting something like the churu khatsu from Little Tibet or drier versions from Nepali restaurants, naan seemed unnecessary, but this dish was quite a bit different and definitely needed the bread upgrade.

This gravy was thick and sweet, slightly spicy, and full of chunks of cheese (paneer). Despite being on the front of the menu, it reminded me more of Punjabi dishes, but honestly no one was complaining as every last drop was mopped up from the bowl.

Welcome to the constantly expanding Himalayan food scene, Sumnima, it's a pleasure to have you. As the frontiers of Himalayan Heights expand further from the 74th Street Jackson Heights station, the cuisines seem ready to impress those it has not yet reached.

Sumnima Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

07 May 2019

Ecuadorian Ceviche/Encebollado Vendor


On a couple walkabouts during the last six months I have twice hiked by this corner in the Mt. Hope section of the Bronx and been intrigued by a regular-looking food cart offering very unusual (for a food cart) Ecuadorian treats. This past weekend conditions finally aligned on the third visit (the right day, an empty belly) to give it a try.

Encebollado de pescado, a uniquely Ecuadorian fish stew cooked with onions was actually the first choice but already finished by 12:45 on a very nice Saturday. That left three varieties of ceviche, all $12, on offer; shrimp, shrimp and fish, or shrimp, fish, and octopus. These options are only available on Fridays and Saturdays, otherwise the sandwich board is flipped around and just the normal New York City offerings of hot dogs and sausages are shown.

The ceviche (below) is served with white rice as common in Ecuador, but thankfully the beloved ketchup and mustard toppings were left out this time. In addition to a small portion of ma铆z tostado (toasted corn) that is essential to Ecuadorian ceviche, a packet that looks like ketchup but is actually hot sauce is given as well. Squirt that all in as it is not that hot.

The cart sets out a couple stools for customers, but these seem to be the exclusive property of some local old-timers who come to chat with the proprietor and each other. Standing while eating is probably going to be a requirement here, but the communal atmosphere of the always busy cart is enjoyable to be around.

Other customers were ordering grilled skewers of meat variously called chuzos or pinchos at many Latin American carts but usually referred to as carne en palito by Ecuadorians. These seemed to be the most popular item, and much more convenient for eating while upright.


06 May 2019

Rei Da Manivela Churrasqueira Bar


The more time you spend underneath flights taking off and landing at Newark International Airport, the better you eat. The areas directly surrounding the runways are full of interesting foods from around the world. North of the airport is the well-known Ironbound neighborhood, hosting many Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants and businesses. Just to the west are some communities with many West African establishments catering to a fast-growing population. Even to the east at Port Newark there are good lunch trucks including a dynamite Chilean vendor.

Just south of EWR is Elizabeth, New Jersey's fourth largest city and home to so many Latin American communities. In addition, like the Ironbound, the area is also home to quite a few Portuguese and Portuguese-Americans, and all the barbecue that typically goes with them in New Jersey. Just south of the sprawling cemetery in the far reaches of Weequahic Park is one of the best, on the first floor of a long building. Besides the sign in front, the business is given away by a tall smoke stack connected to the side of what otherwise just seems like an apartment building.

The smells of cooking meat are of course noticeable, but that stack is doing great work because for a place that cooks over charcoal indoors, the smoke and smell is well under control. Taking a sneak peek in the back is recommended to check out the automated rotating traps that spin quickly over the fire as not to burn anything.

Orders come in fast and furious once the Elizabeth lunch rush starts from tables of course but also from walk-in customers taking big bags for takeout, and from a phone that seemed to be ringing nonstop. The skilled chefs in the back were constantly removing and returning the traps to fill orders, never missing a beat and always knowing the proper times everything needs.

While our neighbors at other tables were clearing plates on their own, ours decided to share a $21 order of beef ribs and chicken (above). With so much happening over the fire, it is a testament that all of the meat is cooked so well.

Served without fuss on metal plates, but somehow with great care, the feast also procured a side of beans and rice for $3, red beans that almost came out as soup but go very nicely with the ridiculous amount of rice. To give variety to the meat-heavy meal, return for bites of these frequently.

The marinades are simple yet tasty, the cuts and cooking is really where the beef ribs shine. The skin of the chicken is brightened by its rub, the intensity of each bite quite a bit sharper. The first touch on the tongue gives a slight reminder of the tangy vinegar of Buffalo wings. Underneath, even the thick white meats are miraculously juicy and full of flavor.

They truly know what they are doing here when they cook an animal.

Rei Da Manivela Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

03 May 2019

Kong Sihk Tong


If you wandered around the streets of New York City's various Chinatowns ten years ago, you may have come across a cha chaan teng only once in a while. Now this particular style of Hong Kong eatery is popping up in all of them, and even sometimes on their own in other neighborhoods. While they may be a "tea restaurant" if translated literally, they are much more than that. In Hong Kong, they are usually quite informal, a stall inside a market, or a few plastic stools at an outdoor stand.

Here the look is much more formal but still casual, with a full menu of favorites. The appearance outside, with a faux-traditional tiled roof kept from the Sichuan restaurant that used to be here will not prepare you for the modern interior with murals and sleek design.

In addition to the fun interior, take a few moments to visually enjoy in all the good tchotchkes they have placed around the restaurant like cans of Ovaltine and Milo. It all has a connection to the beginning.

My greatest connections with memories with cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong is sitting down to plates of condensed milk "French" toast in the morning, preferably those with peanut butter. Those would be filled with a thick layer of the nutty condiment and drowned in condensed milk, a morning heart attack. As if that was not enough, many times a slice of butter would be placed on top and start melting as the toast was served.

The version of condensed milk & peanut butter toast ($1.95, above) here was comparably super healthy, with very small amounts of both between slightly toasted pieces of white bread. Light as a feather, and to be honest not nearly as satisfying.

I never saw chicken wings in Hong Kong tea restaurants, but that certainly does not mean they do not exist. Here they are offered with a few interesting sauces, a wonderful HK-USA mashup food. These grapefruit honey sauce chicken wings ($4.75, below) really hit the spot and the sweet citrus glaze was much better than imagined.

Throwing cheese on instant ramen is something of the Hong Kong equivalent of a guilty pleasure, maybe like a New Yorker's constant desire for a quick slice of pizza. Pork chops instant noodle in cheese sauce ($8, below) was everything we wanted it to be, comfort food on a chilly night and a complete guilty pleasure. They went a long way to bringing me back to Tsim Sha Tsui eating at Sun Kee Cheese Noodle.

Last but certainly not least was the forever order on my playlist, beef macaroni with tomato soup ($6.25, below), another dish that should be taken advantage of when not listed in the children's section of the menu. Sweet and savory in equal amounts, and completely comforting.

The most common iteration of macaroni soup in a Hong Kong cha chaan teng is a simple chicken broth with small cuts of ham, but the upgrade to some of the "fancier" bowls is a good move in my book.

Kong Sihk Tong offers all the tea and coffee classics, the most imaginative being the super sweet half milk tea half milk coffee concoction that is beloved in Hong Kong. In addition, a full range of other options are available like the red bean ice with coconut milk ($4.25, below left) and taro milk shake ($4.25, below right).

Kong Sihk Tong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

02 May 2019



Do you remember the original San Rasa down on Bay Street in Tompkinsville? The spot that is now a Senegalese restaurant? Before it briefly moved up the hill in St. George, it was cooking pretty wonderful foods and even had a lovely beer garden of all things! Close to the ferry, it was like heaven on earth Staten Island. When it moved, it changed hands and the location just was not as nice, closing its doors after a short time.

The chef/owner of that original San Rasa is back here much further west on the island in Bulls Head, conveniently right off a Staten Island Expressway exit. Open since the end of 2016, fortunes finally aligned to have a meal here and it was a true regret to have waited so long. He seems just as talented as ever, although unfortunately there was no replication of the beer garden.

The awning proclaims "Sri Lankan & Indian Cuisine" but I do not remember seeing the latter, this may be a ploy to attract some of the less adventurous islanders. Quite a thorough portion of the Sinhalese side of Sri Lanka is presented on the menu here, many return visits could reward new dishes and flavors.

In the mood for the black lamb curry, an order of hoppers ($15, above) was placed with it. You can also order curries on their own with sides of basmati rice, but hoppers are more representative of how you might eat it in Sri Lanka. An order comes with five, one of which has an egg cooked inside, perfectly runny when punctured. Tear off pieces of the delicate "bowls" and scoop chunks of meat and curry to eat. These are made with fermented rice flour but given a slight sweetness from coconut milk.

It is the curry itself that is "black" and not the lamb, a result of intense roasting of the curry powder and addition of black pepper. The resulting dish may not be completely devoid of color, but it is far from devoid in flavor as well, full of herbs and a nice level of heat if you asked for it that way.

My travels in Sri Lanka were filled with evenings outside eating freshly stir-fried dishes of "devilled" meats, and on this night the memories of those sweat-inducing plates was enough to call for another order. This was one of the easiest ways to find a quick meal, and ubiquitous anywhere south of where the island gets more Tamil.

Most of those plates were delicious, while some were overwhelming with freshly sliced peppers full of seeds. When our server here in Staten Island asked about heat levels, I was sure an order at the top level would not be too bad, not like those back in Sri Lanka that actually felt like they had been possessed by the devil.

While not quite at those levels, the dish was not afraid to bring the heat. As always, this is accompanied by sweetness and a slight tang in all devilled dishes, creating bites that go to all corners of your mouth. It gets served with a nice big side of rice just in case.

Next time here, orders should include biriyani, godamba roti, other curries, kottu roti, and some dishes from the entire of page of "Sri Lankan-Chinese" they offer. Randiwa is offering a comprehensive look at the daily appetites of Sinhalese Sri Lankans.

Randiwa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato