Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Surprise surprise, Z and I headed out to brunch yet again.  This was definitely our least successful effort to date so we will have to make it up pretty soon.  On a really sunny but still chilly day, we took a walk down Ninth Avenue expecting to land somewhere new and delicious. Surprisingly nothing looked good so we ended up at Marseille. The menu looked a lot better while we were standing out in the cold than when we sat in the restaurant.  Although I typically don’t go into this, I will start by talking about the less than service at Marseille. That’s right, I said less than. We walked in and there were a few empty two tops and they asked us if we had a reservation then told us there would be a 30-minute wait.  Since we were exhausted from walking around we reluctantly agreed to wait around.  Unfortunately, the food was not worth the wait.

When they finally sat us, we were happy to eat another bread basket.

Possibly the best part.  I only tried the pumpkin muffins. They had little raisins in them – a pleasant surprise.  Z’s Goat Cheese Tarte arrived and looked good but kind of small.

She enjoyed it but definitely didn’t think it was worth the hype.  I felt the same way about my Moroccan Omelette.

I was so excited about the combination of tomatoes, peppers, olives, spicy harissa & feta cheese, but in the end it was disappointing.  I could barely taste the harissa, the ingredients were concentrated in the middle of the omelette so the ends were rather plain.  The potatoes were nothing to write home about and the salad was overwhelming. It felt like I had an untendered garden on my plate.  It wasn’t all-bad though because we ordered a side of fries that were actually quite good.

Overall Marseille was fine. The food wasn’t particularly good but it wasn’t bad either. The service could certainly improve. I was unimpressed and can’t imagine the circumstances that would lead me to go there again.

Hungry yet?

Marseille on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I’ve been spending more time in the Morningside Heights area these days. In the three years I lived over there I pretty much spent most of my time on the restaurants on Amsterdam, but truth is there are lots of good affordable restaurants around the area.  I went to Ajanta for dinner last weekend and must say that I definitely regret not ordering from there more when I lived so close.  Of course the meal started with Vegetable Samosas.

Yumm! (pardon the pictures - I think it's time for a new camera!) I should have taken a picture after I cut it open so I could reveal the spiced peas and potatoes. The crust was not greasy – which is quite the accomplishment considering how my hands usually look when I’m done eating a samosa.  The sauces of course were a positive addition to our meal.

When our entrees were served, I remembered immediately why I heart Ajanta.  Their individual serving bowls always made me feel like I was getting more than my money’s worth. A hearty portion of Lamb Saag arrived.

Obviously I didn’t help out on that one but based on the repeated return to the bowl, it must have been delicious.  My Chicken Vindaloo was spectacular.

Yes it’s true I almost always order the vindaloo at Indian restaurants, that’s because it’s amazing! I loved it! We also had some Basmati rice.

It was perfectly cooked. It’s quite disturbing how often I go out and the rice at a restaurant is hard in the middle or too mushy. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here. Fluffy perfect rice. Dessert wasn’t in the cards at Ajanta so we skipped out after stuffing our faces.

Columbia students better get on it – Ajanta is a delicious affordable Indian restaurant. Once you leave the comfort of Morningside Heights, it’s hard to find an Indian restaurant this good and still affordable. Yes it’s not the best Indian food you can find in New York, but if you’re in the area this is worth a try. Especially the Chicken Vindaloo!

Hungry yet? 

Ajanta Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy

After my somewhat successful Curry Chicken experience, I figured I could tackle a vegetarian dish.  Although I only eat poultry and fish, I tend to make a face whenever I have to eat vegetarian. Yet, something about this dish intrigued me.  It is another Sanjeev Kapoor recipe from Food and Wine magazine with very slight modifications on my part.

8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeƱos, chopped
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine the garlic, jalapeƱos and ginger and process to a paste. In a large nonstick pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. 

Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, about 6 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and water and simmer until the chickpeas are flavored with the gravy, about 8 minutes. 

Season the chickpeas with salt. Serve with naan and enjoy the awesomeness!

This recipe was pretty easy to make and definitely a super delicious meal. I spiced it up with lots of cayenne and also made it thicker by adding less water than the original recipe calls for.  You should feel free to adjust to your liking. I sure did! J

Hungry yet?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Curry Chicken

I think I was supposed to be posting more recipes this month, but someone how I missed the boat. I did spend some time perusing my Food & Wine Magazine a few weeks ago and came across two recipes that had me intrigued.  I’ve never cooked India food before – I mean other than the stuff in the box or jar. I figured that Food & Wine’s recipe was the best place to start.

4 potatoes, cubed and boiled
3 onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup tomato sauce
Four chicken thighs
1 cup water (or less depending on how thick you want the sauce to be)

In a food processor, chop the onions. Add the garlic and ginger and process until they are finely chopped.

In a medium pot, heat the vegetable oil. Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the onion mixture and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Add the turmeric and tomato sauce and simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. 

Season the chicken thighs with salt and add them to the pot. Coat the chicken with the sauce. 

Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes then simmer over low heat, turning a few times, until the chicken is white throughout, about 15 minutes. 

Season the chicken curry with salt and serve with basmati rice.

This was actually pretty good, but definitely not as spicy as I would have liked. Also, I added the full 1 cup of water and it was entirely too runny for my liking. I highly recommend modifying the recipe based on your preference for more spiciness.  The original recipe doesn’t call for potatoes, but I definitely felt like they belonged.  They added a certain level of heartiness to the curry which I definitely appreciated.  I heart home cooking. Hopefully I can step my Indian cooking game up.

Hungry yet? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Szechuan Gourmet

A little over a year ago, Ms. P (of Banana Bread fame) came to town from her temporary exile in Texas and introduced me to Szechuan Gourmet. The szechuan spot in NYC. Ms. P was back in town this past weekend and a group of us met for another fantastic meal at SG. Ms. P practices her Chinese while ordering so I asked her to call out the numbers so I could try to get down exactly what we ate. I was only partially successful. I hope that she, or any of the other diners will correct me if I misnamed anything. We ordered a lot of food, so bare with me as I go through this mostly in the order they arrived.  The first was a number I didn't hear but apparently it was Cellophane noodles with White Peppercorn and Spinach.

It goes without saying that it was spicy, I mean come on it's szechuan.  However, it wasn't just the spice that I tasted, the noodles were amazing! I am not sure I've ever had those kind of noodles before, but I instantly fell in love. I went back in for several more bowls as did my co-diners. In fact, we ended up asking for the rest to stay at our table so we could use it as a sauce for other dishes.  The next dish to arrive was  #16 Smoked Tofu Shreds with Asian Celery.

I won't lie I thought about just hitting pass on this one, and in fact that's what I initially did. But then I figured, it's on the lazy susan and I'm hungry so why not spin it my way. I started with a couple of pieces of celery. WOW. It tasted crunchy, fresh, almost refreshing even. Tofu is not on my list of favorites so I took a small bite and decided I would stick to the celery. Fantastic! I was definitely sad when that ended. The Pea Shoots arrived next.

They barely got any love from the table, not because we don't like vegetables but because there was so much else for us to eat. I mean come on the String Beans showed up almost at the same time.

String beans are a classic and definitely very delicious, but hands down the consensus favorite was #97 the Stir Fried Sea Scallops with roasted chili peanut.

I must admit when they first arrived I was a little skeptical. I usually like my Scallops Seared but man these scallops were incredible! They were bursting with flavor.  I could actually taste the scallop and the slightly crispy layer was light enough that I didn't feel like I was eating fried food. The off the menu Szechuan Pepper Chicken (I think I just made up that name) was AMAZING!

The bite size pieces of chicken are incredibly spicy. The dish mostly consists of peppers so you have to be a little careful when digging in. Mr. W almost had an incident when he dove in too fast with his chopsticks but luckily his reflexes kicked in quickly enough to get rid of the pepper. Although Mr. K didn't want to "hear about how good the animal flesh is" I couldn't help but raaaave about this dish. #91 was the sleeper hit of the table.

Braised fish fillet with sweet vinegar sauce. I must admit I had my reservations about eating something so pale at a szechuan restaurant. However, the lack of spice did not affect the excellent execution of this dish. The fish was moist and the sweet vinegar sauce was a refreshing alternative to the heat from the other dishes. The Lamb Chili Cumin probably brought the best aroma to the table.

Sometimes I think cumin should come as cologne. I could follow that scent all day. Most at the table were in agreement that the lamb was extremely flavorful. I was only able to appreciate the scent not the taste. The late arrival to our table was the most colorful addition.

The Eggplant showed up well after I had tapped out of the meal. Luckily, Ms. D and Ms. P went all in so the eggplant was not ignored.

Oh Szechuan Gourmet you really are a gem. There is another outpost on west 56th which is close to my office so take out is a possibility. But I must admit this is a restaurant that is best when multiple dishes are shared and friends as fabulous as mine are at the table. 

But I don't think I can wait another year to go back to Szechuan Gourmet. Hopefully Ms. P's return to NYC is only a few months away!

Hungry yet?

Szechuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Negril Village

Since I am a HUGE fan of Mos Def, I couldn't help but make plans to see him for the second time in as many months. I miraculously was able to leave work early enough to have dinner before the 11:30 show.

Negril Village is down the street from Blue Note so it was the perfect location for the pre-concert feast.  The atmosphere was not exactly what I was looking for but I could deal. They had a live band, which was awesome but the MUSIC WAS SO LOUD!!! We could barely hear ourselves across the table. I definitely had a hard time hearing our server.  When it was time to place our order though, Ms. S kept it simple with the Curry Shrimp and Rice & Peas.

The shrimp was suuuper fresh. 

It tasted as though they caught it that morning. I must admit I had a little food envy, but then again I ordered more than enough to keep me satisfied.

Yup the Negril Sampler that allegedly serves 2 was my entree. It was filled with a great variety of treats – exactly what I needed. The Jerk Shrimp was a different kind of fabulous.

Spicy yet tangy. I loved it. Equally fabulous were the Chicken Ribettes.

I dreamt of these the following day and was quite sad that I left a couple on the plate.  The Collard Green Spring Rolls were my least favorite (maybe that's why the picture is blurry).

It’s not that I don’t like Collard Greens or that Spring Rolls aren’t delicious.  I just think they should lead separate lives.   Thankfully the Codfish Fritters were there to chase away the less than pleasant taste.

Man those fritters were great!! Usually when something is fried, I expect it to be dry but this was quite juicy and the guacamole was a surprisingly good dipping sauce.  The platter also had a couple of sweet plantains.

Literally, just a couple. Apparently they mostly had green ones so they weren’t frying a lot. Shame shame. Everyone knows how sweet plantain can change the game!

We were all sorts of happy when we finished eating.  I was quite satisfied with my meal and for the first time ever the service at Negril wasn’t horrible.  It also helped that the next stop was to see My Mos Def.  He was of course the most incredible.

He had a 5 person band that was very talented.  His banter was as witty as ever.  He paid his respects to Biggie and also gave a shout out to Nat King Cole. Overall it was a wonderful performance and definitely worth staying out late.  And in the end, Mos and I held hands. Some might call it shaking hands, but that’s their business.

Hungry yet?

Negril Village on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Braai - South African Restaurant

One of the things I love about New York is that no matter how many times I dine out, I'll never run out of new things to try. A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with Mr. G his Ms. R and Ms. F. Ms. R suggested we try Braai, a South African restaurant in midtown. I was a little late but thankfully they hadn't decided what to order yet.

The appetizer special was a good value so we decided to select three items to share. Before our food arrived, we received an amuse bouche.

Those vegetable chili bites were fire! 

Spicy combo of tomatoes, peppers and onions served with a fried little ball of vegetable goodness. Few phrases sound as good as "compliments of the chef." ::sigh:: I definitely need more chefs in my life. Our appetizers eventually arrived. It was a nice presentation but I wish there was more on the plate. The Ostrich Mini Burgers were a welcome surprise.

I thought they would be like grilled chicken but the meat was ground and then shaped into patties. They were tasty but I can't say that I would have been able to identify them as ostrich. The Samosas were amazing.

Happiness-inducing little pastries filled with potatoes and peas. Last but not least were the scrumptious Crab Cakes.

I could have eaten a plateful of these. The size and shape was definitely a little different than the crab cakes I'm used to but I loved it!  The appetizer special is a good value. Just enough food to whet your appetite, but not enough to ruin it.  As soon as I started to get hungry again, our food arrived.  The Lamb Biriyani was a popular dish at our table.

Both Mr. G and Ms. F ordered it.  Heaping portions spilling out of the bowl.  I didn't taste it but based on the comments around the table, it was well seasoned, aromatic and flavorful. It also came with a number of sauces.

Pretty cool, huh? Ms. R ordered the Chicken Bobotie.

I'm not sure how to pronounce that but I love it anyway. The malay spiced ground chicken was cooked with a baked egg and served with coconut saffron rice. One of my favorite parts of dining at Braai was the amazing aroma of everything that was brought to the table, especially my Mozambican Prawns Peri Peri.

I definitely felt like a winner. The prawns were MONSTROUS and the flavor was out of this world! I absolutely loved this dish. The peri peri sauce was not as spicy as I normally like my food but it still tasted spectacular. I will definitely order this dish again. Braai was a great dining experience. I'm always happy to try something new so thanks to Ms. R for putting me on. I look forward to returning multiple times this summer.

Hungry yet?

Braai on Urbanspoon