Archive for the tag 'review'

THE BITE: A Mexican-Hawaiian take out restaurant? Only in New York City.

Empire Tortillas Aloha Teriyaki Grill (3556 Nostrand Avenue) is one of those anonymous storefront takeout joints that line Nostrand Avenue from Avenue U to Avenue Z. This nondescript takeout restaurant could pass for any cheap fast food joint, and I’ve passed it by for years, never giving it a thought.

Until recently that is.

One cold day last month, I stopped in for the first time. I was immediately greeted by the friendliest woman I’ve ever encountered in a takeout restaurant. It was an odd time of day and the staff was all seated at a small table and eating their lunch. As she stood to greet me, I explained that I was only picking up a menu and that I didn’t want to interrupt her meal. She handed me the menu saying, “Please come back, you’ll enjoy your food.”

Well, I have come back and I have enjoyed my food, mostly. But what continues to impress me most about Empire Tortillas Aloha Teriyaki Grill is the customer service. These folks are friendly and work to keep the customer happy.

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THE BITE: Looking for a new place for lunch? Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II (2556 Coney Island Avenue) is trying something new; the hot table. Hoping to rebuild its customer base after the hurricane, Sarajevo II is offering up a hot steam table of home-made dishes for your mid-day indulgence.

Choices vary every day as the offerings of the hot table are created by a former employee who was coerced out of retirement after cooking for the highly praised Cevabdzinica Sarajevo Restaurant in Astoria. Hey, it’s all in the family. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo in Astoria is owned by Saed’s father. Saed is the owner and manager of Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II.

This woman, whose name escapes me, creates eight or nine different dishes for the “Hot Table” each and every day. There are three or four standards, from soups to rice, and four or five specials that change daily. The hot table ($7.00) is available from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. I was a bit confused by the rules, but apparently you can choose to have one or all of the dishes from “the table.”

“It’s just like eating at home. Eat all you want,” said Saed. Let’s be clear, though. This isn’t “all you can eat” for one price.

On my last visit, we purchased a plate of rice, meatballs in an interesting sweet and sour sauce and Bosnian moussaka. I was intrigued by this Bosnian moussaka. It fit in perfectly for “The Bite.” This is the first time I’ve seen Bosnian moussaka offered in the neighborhood.

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Photo by Lenny Markh

THE BITE: I like to eat where our readers send me. I’ve had some interesting recommendations in the past couple of years, but this is the first time I had a recommendation from a reader who also follows Serious Eats. Not only does he follow Serious Eats, he follows recipes from my friend and fellow food writer, James Boo.  This elusive reader has such high regards for the lowly scallion pancake, he actually makes them at home using James’ recipe.

This reader, who will remain anonymous at his request, highly recommended the scallion pancakes at New Star Restaurant (2212 Avenue X – between East 21 and East 22 Streets) which happens to be walking distance from my home.

Oddly, I had never been to this restaurant. Of course, I had to go.

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Photo: Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I don’t know when donuts took control of the police, but when I was a kid, the stereotype was always a cop and a cheese danish. I guess as Dunkin’ Donuts and the various 24-hour chains replaced the small mom-and-pop bakeries, donuts were just easier to obtain. The cop on the late night beat needed coffee to stay awake, and what better accompaniment than a donut?

Forget the donut – let’s go back the to cheese danish!

At A Taste of Sheepshead Bay this week, I was re-introduced to one of my favorite neighborhood institutions, T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U – between East 23rd and 24th Streets). Their outstanding offerings of made-to-order canolli and mini pastries, reminded me of the wonders of the “mom-and-pop bakery.” It made me ask, and I hope it made you ask, why haven’t I been there lately?

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THE BITE: Stuffed flat bread. How can you go wrong? It seems to appear in every cuisine in some form or another. Be it pizza, the wrap, the taco, burrito, naan, aaloo paratha (a personal favorite), the kutab, roti, the bourek, khachapuri; I could go on and on. Every culture seems to have mastered this simple dish.

Memo Shish Kebab (1821 Kings Highway on the corner of East 19th Street) has it down with the lahmachun. What is lahmcahun you ask? Well, at the restaurant, it’s commonly refered to as a “meat pie,” or “Turkish pizza,” but it’s a plain, pizza liked dough, topped with minced lamb, tomatoes and onions.

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THE BITE I spent some time with my parents the other day. It’s always a bitter-sweet visit. They’re both well into their eighties and time is taking its toll. As I was growing up, my father was into what they now call “extreme couponing.” He worked for one of the major airlines and would get coupons from all over the country. He used these coupons to build what came to be known as “grandpa’s store,” or his stockpile of discounted goods in the basement. At its heyday, there was enough canned and packaged goods to fill a large bodega.

Well, the store isn’t as well-stocked today as it was in the past, but I think they could live on the inventory for another 10 years.  In my last visit to “the store,” I stumbled across a couple of boxes of Jell-O 1-2-3. What a blast from the past.

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Lesson of the day: Bento boxes make for awkward photos.

THE BITEI don’t understand what people see in those little sushi rolls.

All that seaweed tastes to me as if I was just wiped out surfing and crashed into the sand, all the while filling my mouth with all the disgusting things found on the beach. It’s a horrible, horrible taste and it amazes me that people will pay for it. Why not just drink from the Bay? It’s cheaper and probably tastes better.

And what’s all this nonsense about “50 percent off?” If it’s 50 percent off all the time, face it, that’s the price dude.

So when I’m in a sushi place, I always check out the kitchen menu. And they always offer the same three categories: negamaki, teriyaki and tempura. C’mon folks. I know Japanese food has more to offer than that!

For today’s Bite, we’re heading into Hayashi Sushi (2901 Ocean Avenue) for the Ginger Pork Teriyaki Lunch Box Combo. For $9.00, you are served your choice of meat with soup or salad and shumai, a California roll and white rice.

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THE BITEI’ve said it before, one of the greatest things about living in our neighborhood is the vast variety of foodstuffs available. With just about every continent represented, one can find himself eating his way around the world. But, to really experience it you need to be adventurous. And by adventurous, I don’t just mean be willing to try new foods, but you need to be willing to try new ways of eating.

Writing the bite, I need to be careful about how I report the foods I choose. What’s new and exciting to me may be old hat to you. I just hope I choose well and select items that reflect our neighborhood’s increasing diversity.

1001 Nights, 35 Neptune Avenue, bills itself as a ” Middle Eastern” restaurant, but offers food styles from across Asia. Diving deeper into their website, 1001 Nights drops all claims to be “Middle Eastern” and proclaims itself  “one of the most sought after Uzbek restaurants in NYC.” I don’t really care which area wins, I simply enjoyed the food.

Parmuda samsa ($3.95), is one of the Uzbeki foods. Offered in the “traditional dishes” section of the menu, parmuda samsas are described as “a dish in honor of the twins, revered in the Orient – the conjoint pair of mini-patties with meat.” Intriguing, no? Who are these twins and why they revered? Hell, if they can cook, I’ll revere them too.

Keep reading; Robert says “boobs” a couple of times.

THE BITE: I can’t remember the last time I had a calzone. I’m struggling to remember the last time I had one and the only memory that comes back is a date with Dorothy in my senior year in high school. I remember making some fairly crude comments about the calzone. But, hey, they worked. Let’s just say that it was a memorable date.

Back to today. Calzones are and Italian version of stuffed bread. They are made from pizza dough, traditionally stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, baked and served with marinara sauce on the side. Many pizza places in the area will add pepperoni or sausages as well. It’s really up to the chef as there are no fixed rules. At Pizza Cardo, 1730 Jerome Avenue, they offer up five different calzones from four cheese to sauteed vegetables. I chose a spinach and mushroom calzone, $8, for my dining experience.
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THE BITE: Anthony’s Place over on Ave X claims to have invented garlic knots. Now I don’t know if that’s true, but they do make some good garlic knots. However, Five Brother’s Pizza, 2650 Coney Island Avenue, has just upped the game.

In a move so simple that I’m amazed that no one has thought about this before, Five Brother’s takes the lowly garlic knot, slices it open and makes a ham and cheese sandwich out of it. What a fantastic concept. In keeping with the food world’s obsession for sliders, for only 75 cents, they have created the first garlic knot slider. Another foodstuff invented in Brooklyn!

Now, I don’t know definitively if Five Brother’s is offering the only garlic knot slider on the planet, but this is the first I’ve seen of it in my travels. I am a little disappointed by the limited selection as they currently offer only ham and American cheese sliders, but, hey, great inventions take time to develop.

I would love to see the offering expand to a greater variety of cold cuts and cheeses. I am hoping that they create sliders more in the tradition of an Italian Salumeria by offering a wide variety of Italian cured meats, sausages, salami, prosciutto, and various types of bologna.

To me, the perfect slider would consist of some extra sharp provolone, topped with Prosciutto di Parma and sun dried tomatoes. What’s yours?

Five Brother’s Pizza, Pasta and Grill, 2650 Coney Island Avenue, (718) 648-1600.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

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