>> Eat the World NYC

23 April 2018



On a Friday night three weeks after opening, Lahi was completely crushed with hungry Filipinos. A big group decided to have their party here and was taking half of the 20 or so seats available. Groups of 2, 3, and 4 were standing in the small front area and outside, waiting for their chance to sample the new restaurant's flavors.

The mood, as always around Filipino people, was jovial. Everyone was full of belly laughs, and no one was upset about waiting. The people with food in front of them were even more full of laughter, and very happy about their spreads.

The restaurant seems to be a family affair, but this was only a hunch. Everyone was so friendly and happy to have all their guests and newfound love. Last year's success at the Queens International Night Market has turned into an instant classic.

The first arrival to the table was kare-kare ($12.95, above), a famous Filipino stew of oxtail and tripe in peanut sauce. Don't be afraid to use your hands to grab those bones and gnaw off all that excellent oxtail meat. Pour the stew over rice for the most optimal experience.

Even though sisig baboy was ordered, a plate of sisig bangus ($12.95, below) arrived, the milkfish version of sisig rather than pork. A porky sisig was being craved for months, but this one was too good to send back, and probably a lot more healthy. Recommended.

Lechon kawali ($9.95, below) gave the proper portion of pork that was needed. These deep fried crispy chunks of pork belly could be the mascot of Filipino food, an emblem of everything.

Last but not least was pancit bihon ($8.95, below), Chinese-influenced thin rice noodles sauteed in soy sauce with thin cuts of meat and vegetables. This was a huge portion that made for a lot of tasty leftovers.

It was admittedly only a meal of four dishes for two people, but the first look at Lahi is very positive. Let us know what you think if you have the chance to visit.

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

19 April 2018

Istanblue Kings Restaurant


The smell of paint was still fresh from the recently completed renovation. The restaurant had just reopened five days prior to this visit, modernizing their interior with many new materials and frankly questionable design decisions. Seafood seems to have been cut from the menu, so come ready to eat meze and meat.

The small plate of mixed meze ($13.25, below) was probably the hero of the meal, a selection of six options that were all strong. Unfortunately the bread they use is a bit subpar for a Turkish restaurant, but eating less of it made more room for the other dishes later.

Do not focus on the red bandana.

Inspired by the old Beyti restaurant in Istanbul, this Brooklyn establishment offers a special Beyti kebab ($17.50, below) which does its best to honor this classic. Ground lamb is wrapped in a thin lavash bread before being drenched with tomato sauce and yogurt.

If you have never tried a beyti kebab before, they are worth checking out. Quality can vary dramatically, and the sauces and lavash are key, but thankfully the version here is tasty. The yogurt gives a sourness that plays off the sweet tomato sauce.

Normally when Turkish "pies" are ordered, a sojuk usually comes out, so we were determined to try something else on this occasion. The pastrami pie ($15.75, below) was the choice we took, thin slices of the halal meat combined with nice melted cheese when baked.

These slices are very nice when combined with scoops of the leftover yogurt cacik from the appetizer plate.

Everyone in the place seemed to have other things on their mind, and even though we were the only guests during this dinner, it was hard to get their attention when necessary. This will hopefully smooth itself out over time, as it was a bit off putting. But just when we thought all hope was lost, a complimentary portion of rice pudding (below, free) was slipped into the takeout bag.

Istanblue Kings Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17 April 2018

Waterzooi Belgian Bistro & Oyster Bar


Right on the main commercial strip of Garden City, Long Island, Waterzooi exists firmly in between two worlds. It ticks off all the right boxes to confirm itself as a Belgian establishment: mussels, frites, beer, and waffles. At the same time, the clientele is distinctly Nassau County, and all of those boxes are ticked as well.

Its absolute greatest strength might be the beer list, for those people that enjoy strong Belgian brews. Plenty of bros with their baseball caps backwards were trying to order Heineken and Bud Light, while their dates stuck to the standard wines, but a few people in the bar area were intrigued by the extensive list if not the majority.

Moules-frites are now very popular in France and around the world, but their origin is from the Flemish coast of Belgium where the molluscs are common. Waterzooi claims to have sold over 2.5 million pounds of mussels since opening, and a look around does not nothing to suggest otherwise. Pots of mussels are on most tables and even ordered at the bar.

There are 12 different styles of pots to order from, with different levels of tradition or craziness involved, all the way to a Thai version. The pot shown above is the Provençal moules pot ($29), a white wine base with fresh herbs and tomatoes. All the pots come standard with a portion of fries (frites) and "mayo" (frite sauce).

Back home, it was later noticed that the menu had a namesake dish on it, and this oversight made it necessary to return for it. The waterzooi ($39, below) is a dish that originated in Ghent and traditionally is a stewed fish cooked in a soup base of egg yolk, cream, and thickened vegetable broth.

The version here is all about seafood using plenty more mussels as well as littleneck clams, a couple pieces of jumbo shrimp, and a good portion of lobster. The creamy soup broth is full of sweet corn, potatoes, tarragon, and fennel. It is an experience.

The menu is full of other not-so-Belgian items and some pan-European plates. They seem to have an affinity for mac n' cheese and offer it alone or on top of burgers. During brunch service on weekends, enjoy a Brussels-style waffle with your choice of toppings.

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

16 April 2018

Mar Mar Restaurant


Middle Eastern foods on Staten Island are not nearly as plentiful as they are just across the Verrazano Bridge in Bay Ridge, but this creates a problem for the island's inhabitants who want foods from back home but are not so hot on the $17 toll. A relatively new restaurant on Forest Avenue in West Brighton is trying its best to fill this void, with a range of fresh meze plates and grilled meats.

The Syrian owners have created an elegant atmosphere that is dressed up quite well, but the service is unfussy and relaxed. A good way to ease into the place is with the Mar Mar combo ($17, below), a selection of four homemade cold meze dishes. Along with staples like hummus, baba ganough, and lebneh, the 4th item is muhamara, a must in any Syrian establishment.

At the bottom right, muhamara uses the famous red peppers from Aleppo mixed with crushed walnuts. The nuts make it slightly sweet, the rendition here is very good.

Popular in Syria, Lebanon, and surrounding areas, arayes are stuffed pita appetizers or snacks that are easy to eat with your hands. They have three options here, including the arayes sujok ($8) seen below.

In this version, the pita is stuffed with spicy lamb sausage and cheese, and pairs very well with the yogurt-based lebneh.

As this meal was only for two, the Mar Mar mixed grill ($22, below) offered the best chance to sample a few different kebabs. It comes standard with shish tawook (chicken) and kufta (ground beef), and then offers the choice between a filet mignon or lamb kebab.

After your meal, a small Arabic coffee ($2, below) is a strong way to settle all those meats.

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

13 April 2018

Kebab Empire


The food court on the lower level of the New World Mall is certainly filled with plenty of wonders, foods from around almost the entirety of China are represented here, as well as some nearby countries. The region of China that is probably the most distinct from the rest, and grouped with Central Asia on this website rather than the rest of the country is Xinjiang. Worlds away from the Pacific coast, the original inhabitants here are Uyghurs, Turkic peoples that generally practice Islam and have a very different diet.

Some of these foods have made their way east in China, mainly because of their deliciousness. In major cities, there is often a large "immigrant" population and therefore plenty of restaurants to sample the foods. New York City is no different in this respect, and the foods of Xinjiang are readily available in Flushing, usually marketed to the mainly Chinese population here.

The most prominent of these influences is the Xinjiang carts that dot the area, serving different types of grilled meats on skewers. Kebab Empire is the sit down version of this, upping the quality and adding other homemade dishes to their menu that could not be served on the street.

Instead of the $1 street cart version, this luxury skewer costs $2.50 and is quite an upgrade. Just like outside, they will ask you if you want a dusting of spicy pepper powder, and serve you the kebab right on the skewer.

Another interesting offering here is doogh ($3, below), a type of yogurt milk drink that has cousins as far away as Turkey and is drank throughout Central Asia. The version here is sweet, while "doogh" usually refers to a salty drink that in Turkey is also called ayran.

A vendor on the street might serve this in Xinjiang or Central Asia and call it durap, but this is just semantics. Raisins populate the bottom and the drink is full of sweetness that does not overwhelm. It is cool and refreshing, with a nice bit of sourness.

Kebab Empire also serves plates of food for more hungry folks. These center around their kebabs, but are served with a nice round wooden plate with high sides. A layer of flatbread is placed on this and meat and rice are placed on top. All for $9.75, this is a deal that is hard to beat.

Kebab Empire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12 April 2018

Yesu Adom Restaurant at Ghanaian Way Grocery

GHANA πŸ‡¬πŸ‡­

Less than ten years ago, the Dream International African Market was born in this afterthought of a building which used to house some kind of shipping company. Eventually they renamed the street Ghanaian Way (technically it is still Victoria Street, but a real sign has been put up!) and the grocery store followed suit. Now Ghanaian Way Grocery stands proud with bright flags of Ghana and Nigeria painted on the side, as well as the pan-African tricolor.

The geography of the market is almost like a deserted island, stuck between the Interstate 78 and Highway 22 overpasses and the main high-speed rail lines leaving New York to points south. Across Highway 1 on the other side is Newark International Airport, and the sounds of planes taking off are constant.

With so many West Africans in the southern portion of Newark, the market seems like a hub, with satellite TV pumped in and a whole array of products available from back home.

It is not advertised from the outside or even visible when you open the door, but hidden within is the wonderful Yesu Adom Restaurant, which may just be called Ghanaian Way Restaurant on other signs. Pass by the counter where people send money back home, take a left when you find the fufu mix boxes, then a right at the fresh yams imported from Ghana and you've found the dining room.

The restaurant will have an undecided amount of dishes on any given day, which can be paired with freshly made fufu, banku, or white rice. On this day, besides waakye they had a goat meat soup (above, with fufu) and another chicken and fish combo in red pepper soup (below, with white rice). Any meal here costs $11, and is entirely too much for a mortal human to finish. That being said, all the West African men completely demolish their plates and make the rest of us look foolish with all the waste we create.

Both dishes were excellent, full of heat and complexity.

Peruse the refrigerated cases for drinks, and come back with some extremely spicy ginger juice and some incredibly fermented palm drink. Premier quality though.

They will not run out of yams anytime soon.

The grocery is worth checking out as well. When I am in another country I am always fascinated taking a look at the shelves of a grocery store, and this feels exactly the same. It seems that this would be the place to come for anything and everything that can be imported from Ghana.

MSNBC was on during this meal, but the mark of any good African restaurant is the satellite below which offers channels from almost every country.

Ghanaian Way Grocery & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

08 April 2018

Samosa NYC


Sometimes new countries take years to find, hidden in plain sight in their communities until the right keyword or walking route uncovers their locations. At other times, a new place will metaphorically just fall from the sky as a surprise. Samosa NYC and its Sudanese snacks falls directly into the latter category, a new food vendor on the scene in 2018.

The easiest place to find them will be the Queens International Night Market, where they will be a weekly vendor at the Saturday night affair when they open April 21st. In the meantime, we caught up with them at a small handicrafts market in Park Slope where they provided the only food available.

The wonderfully friendly proprietor was offering two choices on this day, her namesake samosas in three varieties as well as mahshi, which was new to me. This is a dish of various stuffed vegetables, on offer today were green and orange bell peppers and zucchini. Rice, tomatoes, and onions create a savory interior with some spicing that is slightly sweet and herbal.

She told me that eggplant is often used as well, which would have also been good. The arrangement itself with the different colors is so pleasant.

Next to this was a tray of three different samosas, filled with beef, vegetables, or feta cheese. My curiosity must have been appreciated, for after my questions I was awarded all three types as part of my order.

In other East African countries, this pastry often takes the name sambusa, but is usually triangular like this. While it is small enough to fit into your mouth, take your time and have a few bites. Each one of the three had a very different taste, making the assortment quite good.

As I discussed the lack of Sudanese food with the proprietor, she mentioned eventually wanting to open a restaurant. We can only hope! Denver has a really good Sudanese restaurant, maybe one day we can too.


06 April 2018

Em Vietnamese Restaurant


Without much fanfare, this Bensonhurst address quietly changed from a Chinese breakfast spot called "KooKoo Cafe" to Em, which opened its doors two and a half months ago. After reading through the love story on the restaurant's website and seeing that the chef only recently moved here to New York City from southern Vietnam, a quick trip to Bensonhurst was in order.

Vietnamese restaurants in this city must be approached with caution, but first reports here are good. The quickest thing you notice is the much higher level quality of ingredients used in every dish, from the cuts of meat to the freshness of the vegetables.

From what I can discern, "em" means "younger sibling," and this chef obviously learned a lot from her family. There is care in the preparation, and the menu is very small. This focus is admirable, as many restaurants will list 20 pho options and do them all poorly.

Fresh off a recent Los Angeles trip to possibly the most famous nem nuong house in the country, a sample of the nem nuong cuon ($6, above and below) seemed necessary. The bites are fresh and nice, the grilled pork does not disappoint.

Something about the bowl of hu tieu ($8.50, below) shows its hand even before eating, as if to say "You are going to like this better than any other version in town." And the talking soup was not wrong. This is the restaurant and chef's signature dish, and full of complexity and warmth. Squirting and spooning in extra sauces, chilis, and sugars is completely unnecessary, the broth is perfect as it comes out.

Our server kept mentioning it was MSG-free, so if that concerns you, the bowl has that going for it as well.

The hu tieu speaks to you.

If you prefer a little kick, just add the jalapeΓ±os to infuse the broth rather than changing the flavor profile with sriracha.

Online they had only listed one pho, the house pho ga, but a new beef option was available that will become permanent on the menu. The pho bo ($12, below) was unfortunately the only item that was a bit lacking. All the signs of a good bowl are there, but it might just need a little more work with the broth. The beef cuts are really good and the potential is high. Maybe another couple months will make this soup ready for primetime.

Until then, try the pho ga (chicken) and tell us how it is. When we get a chance to get back and sample it, this page will be updated.

The menu is also populated by four banh mi options, of which the banh mi Em ($6.50, below) is shown. This is their rendition of the classic banh mi, with layers of pork, pate, and fresh vegetables.

In the near future, the restaurant is planning to offer a fish noodle soup that has its origin in the chef's home province of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam. This unique dish is probably something that our city has not had the opportunity to eat, and is much anticipated.

The tasty Vietnamese-style iced coffee ($3, below) got a discussion going about third generation Southeast Asian restaurants. Thai restaurants, especially in Queens, are currently thriving under the leadership of this "third generation," who are taking bigger risks and preparing the foods how they are meant to be rather than catered to western tastes. Vietnamese food is a bit different, but the current generation in New York right now is not as concerned with freshness and quality that make the cuisine so delicate and extraordinary.

This coffee was of higher grade, and a touch less sweet than most, setting some of these ideas in motion. Maybe it was all in my head, but maybe this "third generation" is soon to flourish in New York City. We can only hope.

If coffee is not your thing, a full range of smoothies is available and will be very tempting in warmer months. The chef's husband is in the business of exotic fruit importing, and these promise to be satisfying.

Along with nearby Pho 18 Ave and Little Saigon Pearl, this is one of the three most important Vietnamese restaurants in the city. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but Bensonhurst is ground zero at the moment.

Em Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato