Category Archives: Restaurant

Mandoo the Damn Thing

Mandoo
It’s not often that I am impressed. Not just by food, but by the food suggestions of others. Excited? Always. One well written food description on a menu and I am so excited that I am salivating. But impressed? Eh, it's a rarity. But today, I was thoroughly impressed, both with the food and with the suggestion of two great friends.

I have been hearing about Mandoo Bar for a while. And now that I have been, I cannot for the life of me figure out why it took me so long to get my Bite-Sized butt down to Korea Town for this tasty treat. Mandoo Bar is a small restaurant that leaves a big impression. This namesake eatery has a laundry list of dumplings to choose from. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Korean, or the art of google translate, Mandoo means dumpling.) Dumplings aren’t the only option at Mandoo, but not ordering dumplings would be like going to the gym and not exercising. Sure, you can do it. But the experts, well, they frown upon that.

While the restaurant considers itself “vegetarian friendly” they serve some of the best Pork Dumplings I have ever eaten. The dumplings are made in the front window of the restaurant. Which is a foodie’s version of the red-light district, or at least mine. Yes, I said it. Red-light district and food. Now you know what I think about.

You will be drawn in by the ladies in the window rolling out dough, and then ever so gently stuffing the dumplings with a heaping amount of pork, veggies, seafood, tofu and kimchi. And if that isn’t enough for you, cause it wasn’t enough for me, you can watch the dumplings get fried and plated too. That, is the Art of Seduction, in its truest form.

If you weren’t hungry before arriving at Mandoo, you can be sure you will be starving by the time you are seated. They don’t take reservations. So while you are patiently waiting for a table, in this small and oh so casual dumpling bar, you get to watch this enticing show, on repeat. So, while you are watching, and waiting, you can take comfort in the fact that you are witness to the art that is dumpling making – and then eating. Cause let’s be real, you came here to eat, and eat is what you will Mandoo.

Oh, and click HERE for the best Vine Video, well, EVER.

Mandoo Bar
2 West 32nd Street
New York, NY
212.279.3075

Take my Breath Away

Sometimes, a restaurant comes along and really takes my breath away.  Okay, not really my breath per say, cause then I wouldn’t be able to breath let alone write.  But it takes me by surprise.  And I’m not going to bore you with more neighborhood nonsense, because you already know how I feel about restaurants in Midtown compared to restaurants, well, anywhere else.  But this is a tale of a terrific restaurant in midtown.

Vitae is like a needle in a haystack, like one shiny star in a dark night sky, like one fabulous pair of shoes in a sea of ugly shoes.  Why such high praise for the midtown eatery? Because it freakin rocks, that’s why.  The restaurant features contemporary American cuisine in a space that feels so American retro and yet so chic. So so chic.  I love it when you walk into a restaurant and feel important, and that’s exactly how I felt walking into Vitae.  And no, I don’t think anyone let them know in advance the Bite-Sized Blonde was coming in.   From the moment I sat down, to the agonizing moment I left, I was treated like the most important customer in the restaurant.  And let me reiterate, they don’t know about the power of my pen.  The service at Vitae was some of the best I have experienced in, well, let’s just call it a long time.  The waiters know their stuff, down to every last ingredient in a dish and even how the food is prepared.  This is the service that other restaurants should strive to have.

To be honest, I might have even liked the restaurant if the food was mediocre.  Especially since I did happen to eat there a few short weeks after it opened.  But alas, the food was f*^&ing awesome.  No, seriously, it was divine.

I can usually maneuver around a bread basket.  Now, don’t get it twisted, I love me some bread.  But I also know my priorities, and they are often deterred by that menacing bread basket.   Well, the bread basket got me at Vitae.  Probably because it wasn’t a basket; it was served in a cast iron dish.  The bread looked like four supple pillows of doughy heaven.  It had a natural, and quite dazzling sheen if I do say so myself,  and was then dusted in large flakes of sea salt.  I don’t care who you are, there is no denying the power of bread perfuming the air, especially when it looks like this.

Unfortunately for both me and you, I started with something that is no longer on the menu.  A poached egg, garnished with mushrooms, frissee, chips and chives and served alongside golden toast points.  In three words, I can describe this dish…come to mama.  The mushrooms brought an element of earthiness to this rich dish, and the chips were such an unexpected pop of crunch.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it, I’d eat it.

I also ordered the Pulled Pork Tacos.  The miniature shells were made of polenta – so they were sweet and crunchy and the ultimate vehicle for buttery soft pork.  Each bite was better than the last.  Had it not been for the rest of the food on the way, I might have told the waiter to keep ‘em coming.

I have an outrageous love for beets which I can only attribute to too many hours of watching Doug Funny.  So, I couldn’t pass up the Roasted Beet Salad.  It was served with Asian Pears and pistachio covered goat cheese.  This was good, but so much of the menu is a stand out, I would forgo the beets for something a little more, dare I say, original.

Hanger steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat because it is so flavorful.  And the hanger steak at Vitae was just that.  It was charred and then sliced to display its soft pink center and served alongside a watercress salad and a mound of salty French fries.  Damn, that’s one fineee piece of meat.

And we all know you cannot eat a steak without a side dish, and no that does not include the French fries.  So, I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon and boy did it hit the spot.  This dish was a pleasant surprise from start to finish.  The leaves of the sprouts were removed and left whole, then blanched and tossed in bits of bacon and lots of bacon grease.  Sounds indulgent, but it was light as can be.  It was reminiscent of a salad – if salad tasted like bacon.

And last, but certainly not least, we finished with a soufflé that must have been made in heaven because it was godlike.  Served in a tall mug with a shot of freshly whipped cream, this dish was everything I needed and more.   Chocolate can be such a heavy dessert, especially in the middle of the day, but soufflé by nature, is the exact opposite.  I told myself I was only going to eat one bite, and then the next thing I remember is trying to lick the mug.  Sorry Mom. 

Vitae
4 East 46th Street
New York City 10017
212.682.3562

Diner, Dive In and Drive Away Happy

So it’s been a while, but I’m backkk!!! I sure hope you missed me, because I missed you!…and that you are wondering what food is bringing me back to the blog.…what restaurant could have been so noteworthy that the writer in me is ready to, well, write again? Ohh hold on tight cause this is a good one…

I was almost tempted to bury this information because, let’s be honest, I’m just not sure if I want this restaurant blowing up.  Sure, it might be selfish, but it also might be brilliant.  Keep this to myself and avoid having a hard time getting in when you all flock like seagulls to this place, sounds like the smart thing to do.   But, I wouldn’t be the Bite-Sized Blonde if I kept information this meaningful from you, now would I?

Is the suspense killing you? Okay okay, here it is…drumroll please…the restaurant so good I had to start writing immediately is…DinerDiner is well, an old diner from almost a century ago – resurrected and brought way above it’s former glory to become a superstar restaurant.   Of course, the food is the star here, but it seems rather silly not to mention the décor, because in this case, it’s what makes the atmosphere so freaking awesome.  Diner looks like a diner you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives if the wrong person bought this place.  You totally could have found chicken fried gravy on this menu or something equally as “comforting” and by comforting I mean just kind of ineffectual.  But, this place is so much more that a triple D joint.  It’s seriously cool, and not just in a BK hipster too cool for school kind of a way.  It’s like cool, man.  The diner is illuminated by votives that take the usual space and make it into something so unusual people are clambering to come in.   The space might be small, but nothing else here is.

Okay, so there’s one more thing that’s small, and that’s the menu.  But remember what I’ve taught you, good things come in small packages.  Or Bite-Sized packages really. But you get the point.   If you take after your favorite Bite-Sized Blonde, then you probably want to see the menu right now.  But you can’t, because it changes daily.  Pain in the ass to reprint the menu everyday, right? Wrong! The waitress sits down at your table to write the menu on the paper tablecloth.  So casual, so cool.

We shared several dishes, because how could we not.  So, I sampled about half of the menu.  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  OMG, these FGTs were SG – so good, so so good.  Green tomatoes are different than your run-of-the-mill red tomatoes.  They are denser and a little sour almost.  Which is why they are great to fry.  They maintain their integrity even under high heat.  These FGTs were something special though.  Lightly breaded and fried to a golden perfection, they were served with a side salad of watercress and mint and moisturized in aioli.  Yes, moisturized – because they had a thin layer of creamy goodness on them to keep them moist.

We also shared the Romaine Salad, which kind of sounds boring, but it was anything but.  The crispy leaves were left in rather big pieces and combined with roasted beets and finely shaved red onion and then showered in love, otherwise known as creamy basil vinaigrette.   A simple salad elevated to awesomeness is a salad you could find me eating everyday.

As a treat, the kitchen sent us a plate of crostini.  Thin slices of sourdough bread, toasted on the grill, and covered in a garlicky spread and marinated green tomatoes is anything but your ordinary crostini, and man, was this good.  Of course, it only had me begging for more…

You know how I feel about burgers – so I couldn’t resist the Special House Burger at Diner since it is the one thing that is always on their menu.  And after eating it, I know why.  This burger is so good, I’m sure the Diner regulars would be up in arms if it disappeared from the menu.  A thick juicy patty of blended meat rests comfortably on a doughy brioche bun and is then adorned with lettuce and pickled onions and served with homemade ketchup.  The pickled onions take on a cabbage-like flavor that elevates the burger so subtly.  And the ketchup is thick and sweet with a hint of cinnamon; it is truly unlike any ketchup you have ever had.  Which is why it’s the only choice in condiments for the fries.

Fries are important to a burger like a bikini top is to the bottom.  Sure, they are separate entities, but if you have one without the other, you are just half naked.   The fries are thick cut and double fried in flavorful and greasy oil and then dusted with salt to create a crunchy, salty snack that is impossible to resist.  Even after I had finished my meal, and all of my fries, I still wanted more.  Not because I didn’t have enough, but because every time a plate of fries was brought near my table, and that incredible scent perfumed the air, I found myself salivating.

Diner is more than burgers though.   We also shared a Sirloin.  It was grilled, so it had beautiful char marks, and then was sliced and plated with grilled spinach and an heirloom tomato salad.  I’m not sure who the genius is that decided to grill spinach but I need to meet this person ASAP.  Spinach takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when it is grilled.  It was so intensely flavorful but light, which made it the perfect addition to one buttery soft piece of meat.

We also shared the Pork Chop, which was grilled and served on top of a garlicy sauce.  It was juicy and hearty and so insanely delicious, I was surprised no one at the table picked up the bone to salvage the last, impossibly small pieces of meat left.

Diner’s food is comforting, but it’s not comfort food.  I would eat here when I’m sad, when I’m celebrating, when I’m starving, or when I’m totally full.  This is the food you cannot pass up.  This place is so cool, that if someone took me here on a date and I didn’t know about this place beforehand, I might just be getting undressed at the table.  Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach, but you already know that…

Diner
85 Broadway
Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
718.486.3077

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

You know that place? You know the one I’m talking about.  Known for their awesome brunch so the line is out the door at all hours, and although you know the wait is going to be tremendous, you walk over there, just to see how long the line really is and maybe put your name down.  Yes, that’s the one.  Almost every neighborhood has one.  And in Williamsburg, this place is called Egg.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about Egg, and the awesomeness that unravels there.  No, this story is about another place.  You should know this one well too.  This is the place that catches all the starving passersby that leave that popular and oh so busy place undoubtedly disappointed when they can’t get a table.  In this case, the Two Door Tavern.   On a warm Sunday afternoon, I fell victim to the Two Door Tavern.  So close to Egg, yet so far away.  But, in the midst of my hunger pains, it would have to suffice…or would it.

Well, the long and the short of it, really, is that this place was an epic disappointment.  Of course, it was disappointing because we didn’t get to eat at Egg, but really the most egregious indignity was caused by the Two Door Tavern itself.   By bypassing Egg, we thought we were avoiding the wait.  Yes, we realized the food wouldn’t be what we had wanted, but we would get to eat soon.  In this game of compromise, that would have to do.  But, what we didn’t know was that the wait to eat at Two Door Tavern would be equally as long.  No, we didn’t wait to sit down.  We were seated right away.  But we did wait to order and then we waited even longer for our food to arrive.  Not because the restaurant was busy, because it wasn’t.  We waited because the restaurant was painfully slow.  In fact, we waited almost 2 hours for food and dare I say, mediocre food.  I ordered a BLT with a fried egg that was offensively overcooked and bacon that was medium rare.  The rest of the food was equally as thrilling.   So, the next time you find yourself caught in a pickle, deciding between delicious and a wait, and someplace else, just remember how un-delicious that someplace else might really be.

Another one bites the dust…

Two Door Tavern
116 N.5th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718.599.0222

My Not So Strange Addition

Hi, I am the Bite-Sized Blonde and I am addicted to Crack. Well, I’m addicted to Crack Pie, which just so happens to get its name from the addiction it is sure to bring on.  If you are not intrigued, you should be.  Crack Pie is what can only be referred to as the ingenious love child of Christina Tosi, the unbelievably talented and deliciously inclined Pastry Chef at Momofuku Milk Bar.  So, back to the crack.  This is the pie that all pies aspire to be.  The crust is unlike any you have tried before, it is crunchy enough to balance out the gooey center but it maintains an element of chewiness that will pleasantly surprise your textural taste buds.  This crust won’t fall apart either – so say goodbye to your pie anxiety – which will forever be known as anxpiety, because you don’t have to worry about a messy pie, which I think we can all agree is a major buzz kill.

Not only does this pie come equipped with the most serious crust in town, it is filled with pure heaven.  The filling is made of butter, cream and sugar and resembles the inside of a pecan pie, minus the pecans.  It is sweet and creamy with a subtle hint of saltiness that will have you screaming.  Think Harry met Sally, but less acting.

As if the pie wasn’t reason enough to visit Momofuku Milk Bar, they make some of the best cookies in Manhattan.  Take it from a Cookie Connoisseur.  The cookies are out of this world.  I have three favorites; I know you aren’t surprised I couldn’t pick just one.  The Corn Cookie is totally unexpected, but that’s not what makes it so good.  It’s the perfect combination of a corn muffin and a sugar cookie.  It’s light and airy but oh so substantial, and needless to say, it’s chew-chew-chewy.  This cookie might be unexpected, but after one bite, you won’t have any idea why.

Another unexpectedly awesome cookie is the Cornflake Marshmallow Cookie.  The cornflakes add an unanticipated element of crunchiness to the cookie and the marshmallows melt into the cookie batter so beautifully.  The cookie is flecked with chocolate chips to round out the flavors.  This cookie is unparalleled, even up against the Compost Cookie.

The Compost Cookie, which is trademarked obviously, is an addictive combination of all things delicious, including coffee beans and chocolate chips, and lots of butter and sugar.  Of course, if cookies aren’t your thing – well, you should go see a doctor.  But, in the meantime you can still enjoy some of Christina Tosi’s delicacies, including Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Cake Truffles.

Christina Tosi is the Queen of Chewy.  Chewy pies, chewy cookies.  Chew Chew!! All Aboard.  First stop Chewy-Ville, next stop…well probably rehab? Someone is going to have to pry that Crack Pie right out of my hands.

Momofuku Milk Bar
milk bar east village
251 E 13th St.
New York, NY

milk bar midtown
15 W 56th St.
New York, NY

milk bar upper west side
561 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY

milk bar brooklyn
382 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Rolling in the Deep

I was uber excited to hear about Sushi Shop opening.  This sleek and modern French import planted itself onto Madison Avenue a few short weeks ago.   Well known throughout France, this fast food sushi chain boasts over 90 stores in Europe.  With an extensive menu accompanied by mouthwatering glamour shots of fresh fish, this place had me more than intrigued; it had me anxiously awaiting its opening.  So, with high expectations, and an empty stomach, I made my first, and last, trip to Sushi Shop.

Let’s see, how can I explain the disappointment that is Sushi Shop? I got it.  Have you ever gotten a gift, wrapped so beautifully, that you were expecting something spectacular, and I mean really freaking awesome?  But, then when you opened it, you realized it was just kind of average, like an ill-fitting cotton t-shirt.  Well, that’s kind of like what Sushi Shop was for me.  A present wrapped so beautifully I was expecting magic.   Those damn glamour shots.

It wasn’t my high expectations that had me disappointed though.  Even if I hadn’t read about this place weeks ago, studied the menu intensively, and drooled over the pictures, I would have been less than thrilled with lunch.  The sushi was average at best.  I sampled much of the menu, from the pre-packaged platters to the a la carte pieces.   Yes, I did just say pre-packaged sushi.  But it’s more complicated than you think.  During the day, Sushi Shop is a self-serve restaurant.  Okay, okay, the more I think about it, I’m beginning to question my original excitement too.  You can choose from pre-packaged platters, supposedly made moments before you arrive or you can order a la carte, which is made on the spot and brought to your table.  The good thing about the pre-packaged platters:  they come with sides and you get your food immediately.  The bad thing: they totally lose their appeal of fresh sushi.  It might be the freshest sushi in the world, but put it in a paper box with wasabi in ketchup packets, and you lose me too.

One of the rolls I was most excited for was the Foie Gras; I know, I know, another obvious lapse in judgment.  The foie gross was rolled in preserves, then seaweed and rice, and then nuts for crunch.  It was exactly what I would imagine the love child of peanut butter and jelly and sushi to taste like, minus the love.  Not only were the flavors were in disagreeable contrast, the pieces were too large.  Halfway through one piece I almost lost my lunch.  If you decide to ignore this warning and try the foie gras sushi, do not, and I repeat, do not, use the soy sauce.  Seriously, don’t.

The a la carte pieces made a better impression.  The spicy scallop roll was petite.  And sure it was good.  But was it great? No, no it was not.

I also order the TNT roll, which was a combination of tuna, cucumbers and other tired sushi ingredients.  Another average roll.    Last, and definitely least of the a la carte sushi, was the tuna on crispy rice.  If you have ever eaten this dish at a good restaurant, like Nobu or Koi, you know that the rice is supposed to be warm and actually crunchy, as opposed to room temperature and slightly tough.

The side dish was noteworthy, I guess.  Carrot, orange and cilantro salad.  Yes, this is as boring as it sounds.  Oh the poor person who had to peel all those damn carrots.  Note to self – never serve carrot salad.

The entire experience wasn’t a bust though.  The service was truly fantastic.  From the faux-hostess who greets you upon arrival to the bussers, each and every person wants you to enjoy your experience dining at the Sushi Shop, and you feel that.  Unfortunately, service isn’t enough to impress this Bite-Sized Blonde.

And so another one bites the dust…

Sushi Shop
536 Madison Avenue
New York, NY

Mmm Noodle Soup

Ohh you know that feeling when you are full? Like really, full. Make that really, really full.  But you know it’s all worth it because your belly is happy.  Truly happy.  Like I just won the lotto, never need to work again, going to travel the world and have a million puppies happy.  Yea, that’s what I feel right now.  And it’s all because of Udon West.

Food is a priority, but on a rainy day, convenience can often trump deliciousness.  Sad but true.  But, today, I found my favorite rainy day spot for lunch, and not because it’s convenient, but because it is convenient and delicious.  Udon West is a Japanese Noodle Shop in Midtown.  It’s not hidden, but it’s certainly not a standout either.  Unless you know the awesomeness that awaits you, you are probably going to pass it by.  I know I have a million times.  But today, I changed what a rainy day work lunch means to me forever.

Udon West is all about the udon, a thick flour based noodle.  The noodles take on a form of noodle unknown to the Italians.  Udon noodles are thick and doughy and so silky they are almost sexy.   These sexy noodles are not so sexy to eat though, as they are usually served as a hot noodle soup.  But this is no ordinary soup; it’s a sea of complex flavors that is a salty and satisfying expression of comfort.  Topped with scallions and a thin slice of egg, this soup is a meal in itself.  But, you know there’s more right? Of course there is.  Udon is usually topped with tempura, vegetables or meat.  When it comes to soup, this Bite-Sized Blonde is all about the veggies.

The Vegetable Tempura Udon was everything I wanted it to be and more.  The hot soup was the perfect counterpoint to this dreary day.  One sip of the warm broth and I was an Udon lover.  The noodles were velvety and slurp-tastic and the crispy tempura was music to my ears and tastebuds.  Can you think of anything better on a cool, rainy afternoon? I can’t.   This namesake restaurant brought the heat on a cold day.  There’s really nothing left to say, so I’ll leave you with an all-important quote.  In the wise words of Joey Tribiani…”mmm noodle soup…”

Udon West
150 E 46th St
New York NY
(212) 922-9677