Tag Archives: Open Kitchen

Mandoo the Damn Thing

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

St. Anselm

St. Anselm, sounds like a name with power, and meaning I suppose.   I’m not sure who this St. Anselm guy is, but if I had to guess, I’d say he was the patron saint of all things delicious.  I mean, why else would they name a gem of a restaurant after him?

St. Anselm is a restaurant in my new favorite neighborhood, Billyburg – or Williamsburg to the newbies.   Williamsburg is loaded with great restaurants, so to stand out there you really have to bring something spectacular to the table.  And St. Anselm brings something spectacular, really spectacular.

This tiny restaurant is not boastful.  In fact, it’s the opposite, which leads me to believe this St. Anselm dude was also pretty modest.  The restaurant is unpretentious.  But not in the Manhattan way that can actually be pretentious masquerading as low key.  This is BK unpretentious, which equals a literal translation.  The restaurant is dark, but surrounded by a glowing light force from the open kitchen.   You know I’m all about an open kitchen, see here, here and here.  Its fun to watch the chefs at work, but it’s also fun to check out their equipment.  This open kitchen isn’t exactly the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but the food that comes out of there can be considered a work of art.

We started with the Clams.  They were fresh and salty.  Flavored with garlic and parsley, these tiny, little suckers were a bright way to start the meal.

We also ordered the Bibb Salad.  A pretty typical starter of crisp lettuce, plump tomatoes, crispy fried shallots and sweet shallot vinaigrette.  Simple but delicious or delicious but simple? Either way, you get the idea.

So you know that feeling you get when you hear music and you feel compelled to dance? Well that’s the feeling I get when I see a burger on the menu.  But think less dancing, more eating.  So, of course I ordered the Patty Melt.  The tender patty of meat was perfectly juicy and topped with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions.    The onions give the burger a subtle sweetness while the mild Swiss cheese makes it slightly salty.   Complete with toasted white bread and spicy pickles, this patty melt was one for the books.

But, if you go to St. Anselm and don’t have the appetite to order everything (weird), the one thing you cannot, and I repeat, cannot pass up is the Butcher’s Steak with Garlic Butter.  This is one of the best steaks I have ever had in my entire life. The butcher’s steak is also known as a hanger steak.  The reason behind the name? This cut of meat is known for its flavor, so butchers used to keep it for themselves rather than sell it! After eating this steak, you’ll understand why.  The meat is incredibly tender and flavorful.  The grill gives it a deep flavor.  With a hint of saltiness, and a touch of butter, this steak is melt in your mouth magnificent.  Besides the fact that this is one outrageous piece of meat, it’s also $15. Yes, you read the correctly.  This is the best $15 I’ve ever spent in my life.

What’s a steak without a side? Similar to chips without dip, which is something this Bite-Sized Blonde is totally against.  So, for sides we ordered the Shishito Peppers, Pan Fried Mashed Potatoes with Truffle Oil, and Grilled Berkshire Bacon.  The peppers were smoky from the grill, but maintained their spicy flavor.  Not every shishito pepper you eat is spicy.  But eater beware, the spicy ones can hurt a little.

The Pan Fried Mashed Potatoes with Truffle Oil came highly recommended, and for good reason.  The exterior was crusty and the insides were soft and buttery.  But there are two things this Bite-Sized Blonde can never get enough of, and that’s shoes and truffles.  And these potatoes could have used a little more truffle oil.  Plus, it would just  be weird to get new shoes at dinner.

The Grilled Berkshire Bacon was thick cut and meaty.  It was good, but after the Patty Melt and Butcher’s Steak, I was unquestionably full.  Which is why it was a miracle, or insane, that we also ordered dessert.  We sampled each dessert on the menu.  Not sure my belly or brain registered them, since I was already at the point of no return.

One last thing you should probably know, St. Anselm is owned by the same, culinary inclined duo that own Fette Sau, Joe and Kim Carroll.  That carries a lot of weight, because their food will make you carry a lot of weight, for good reason.    When you win the Zagat Award for Best BBQ in NYC three years in a row, you know you are doing something right.  And that something they are doing right, is the same something they are bringing to St. Anselm.

Whether you’re a Manhattan Man or Borough Babe, St. Anselm is the perfect place for you.  So, go, eat the Butcher’s Steak, and tell me all about it!

St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn NY

The Land of Milk and Honey Bunches of Oats

Music to set the mood…

Hello! Bonjour! Hola! Shalom! I must start by saying Happy New Year! And also by apologizing for the serious delay in new content. I was away on an amazing trip to Israel. Two weeks in the land of Milk and Honey just wasn’t enough. But the good news is, I get to be with you now. So, in this new year, expect lots of new recipes and restaurant reviews, obviously starting with the first reviews of the season…restaurants in Israel. Hey, you never know when you’ll be there next and preparation is everything. Well food is everything, but without a little research, you could be eating mediocre shwarma, and that’s good for no one.

So, food in Israel. I know what you are thinking. Hummus, hummus and more hummus. Well you are not entirely wrong, because you’re exactly right. When in Rome Israel, right? Local cuisine is prevalent for a reason. It’s usually the best of the freshest ingredients combined with local spices and flavors. And one of the best native foods in Israel is the falafel. This crispy creation is born from, you guessed it, chickpeas aka hummus. I had great falafel in Tzfat, a small city located in the north. Fun fact for you, or Madonna, Tzfat is actually known as the center of Kabbalah. But, now you know one more thing about Tzfat; they serve excellent falafel at a quaint restaurant called The Bagdad Café. This tiny, and I really do mean tiny, restaurant can seat about twelve people at once. Although the waitress (singular as there was really only one) can’t handle that many people. This is probably a great time to tell you the service in Israel is less than stellar. But what The Bagdad Café lacks in service, they make up for in taste. The falafel was served warm and crispy, with a refreshing salad, creamy hummus and warm bread. It was slightly greasy but light, which made it the perfect meal after a night of drinking Israeli tequila. Well a perfect Middle Eastern meal after a night of drinking Israel tequila.

Now, I know you probably don’t associate the words Chinese food and kosher. And truthfully, neither do I. But, if you find yourself in Tiberias, craving sesame chicken, then there is only one place to go: Pagoda. According to my dinner dates, it was the best kosher chinese food they ever ate. Since it was the only kosher chinese food I’ve ever eaten, I’ll have to take their word for it.

I wasn’t expecting much from the food in Jerusalem. Quite honestly, I thought it was going to be bad, real bad. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best things happen when you least expect it. And the food in Jerusalem blew me away.

The first restaurant we went to was Machane Yehuda. Named for the neighborhood, this trendy restaurant was everything I needed and more, i.e. not kosher. It was also lively and fun. The open kitchen is visible to almost every table in the restaurant, and you know how I feel about an open kitchen. We shared a lot of the menu, including a creamy polenta with mushrooms and truffle oil. This melt in your mouth polenta was some of the best I’ve had. The lamb chops were cooked to a perfect medium. The tender meat was packed with flavor. We also shared the sea bass, which was a light, but flavorful addition to the dishes we ordered. The sirloin with truffle butter was a dish we couldn’t pass up, partly because a meat and milk combo in Jerusalem is not easy to come by, and also because it came highly recommended. The flavors were great, but the steak was overcooked. After a few bottles of wine, and great conversation with new friends, this mistake quickly became forgivable.

The second restaurant we went to in Jerusalem was Chakra. I know I’ve already told you about how the service in Israel is, well to be honest, terrible. But the service at Chakra was great. Our waiter took excellent care of us; at one point in the night, he gave us an entire bottle of Stoli. Key word: gave. Besides the generosity of the waiter, the restaurant was excellent. We ordered spicy tuna on toast points as an appetizer, which rivaled many of the tuna tartar appetizers I’ve had in New York. We also shared the root salad, asparagus, and sea bream to name a few. This restaurant also has an open kitchen. I could totally get used to dining in Israel. If you are in Jerusalem, this is a must!

The Jewish Shuk in Jerusalem is a site to see. Filled with shops and stands of all kinds, this market has everything to offer. Fruits, veggies, nuts, spices, and best of all, pastries. Come hungry – leave happy. Yup, I said it. Sorry IHOP.

Moving on to the next stop on my cultural and culinary tour of Israel. Tel Aviv is an amazing city with great food, which obviously means great hummus. Abu Hassan is one of the most famous hummus restaurants in Tel Aviv. It’s a local place, filled with locals, which can be intimidating in Israel. My advice? Be aggressive. B – E – aggressive. Sit down at a table, whatever table is available and order. Ask for hummus and whatever else they recommend. I wish I knew what I ate, because it was awesome. But I have no idea. The most important thing to know, is that the pita is warm, the hummus is creamy and you have all of 20 minutes to sit down, order, eat and leave. So make every second count. This place is worthy of the madness.

Another excellent dinner was had at Social Club. We ordered one of every appetizer, including eggplant, artichokes and carpaccio. But the star of the meal was an incredible papardelle pasta with duck, and oh yea, pork chops. Insert angel face emoticon here.

Breakfast in Israel is usually hummus, cucumbers and tomatoes, and if you are lucky, shakshouka, which is a hearty tomato stew with eggs. But, there’s one great place in Tel Aviv that takes breakfast to a whole new level, Benedict. I heard about breakfast at Benedict’s for months before my trip to Israel. I thought all the good things were probably exaggerated. I mean how good can pancakes in Israel really be, right? WRONG. The pancakes at Benedict’s are literally the best pancakes I have ever had in my entire life. Each pancake is one inch thick. They are soft and sweet, like cake, but light and airy the way pancakes should be. I had mine covered in white chocolate with a shot of espresso. Yes, that actually happened. I resolve to figure out how to make these pancakes before the end of 2012, even if that means returning to Tel Aviv for breakfast soon. Great resolution, right? Although the pancakes at Benedict’s are a must, you should also know they make a banging shakshouka, so order both.

Also noteworthy in Tel Aviv, is Nanutchka. This Georgian restaurant offers tasty food with an eclectic atmosphere. The live music makes this restaurant a fun and exciting place to enjoy delicious food, especially the lamb shank.

Important to note, all Shuks are not created equal. The Carmel shuk in Tel Aviv is awesome, but in a different way than the shuk in Jerusalem. Sure, you can find many of the same things, spices, fruit, and restaurants. But this shuk is also filled with more chachkies. The best day to go is Tuesday, when the artist fair is right next door. You can pick up jewelry and Judaica. But don’t forget to sample some of the amazing spices and grab a bite to eat. My recommendation: La Cafe. Located in the middle of the Shuk, this small coffee shop and restaurant offers a strong shot of espresso and a great pita.

All this great food was amazing. But my best food experience in Israel was at a soup kitchen, Ichlu Reim. This amazing charitable organization helps all Israelis in need, regardless of race or religion. I spent one morning helping prepare food for upcoming meals. The experience was humbling; I feel truly privileged to have been a part of such a great act of kindness. Of course, there are other ways to help the people in need by helping the food bank. Donations are always needed. If you would like to donate to the food bank, click here.

It pains me to end this post because it officially means the end of my trip. But, here’s to more Israel posts in the future and to next year in Jerusalem.

I L’ove L’artusi

L’artusi is one of those great West Village restaurants.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Great music.  Great Atmosphere.  Great Food.  And I can’t put enough emphasis on great, which makes it the perfect setting for just about any occasion.  The music is fun for a birthday but not too loud for a date.  That balance is key! The space is as exquisite as it is extensive; you can sit downstairs near the bar, in the backroom by the open kitchen, or upstairs near the wine cellar.  And most importantly, the food is heavenly. 

L’artusi even knows their food is stellar.  Their tagline is “L’arte di mangiare bene” which means “The art of eating well.”  Now, that kind of confidence really gets me going.   But it’s not just talk; L’artusi can walk the walk.  Their food is always special.  My love for L’artusi only grows with each and every visit.  And this most recent visit was no exception.

To start, we ordered the Dayboat Scallop Crudo.  The crudo was dressed in sea salt, olive oil, lemon and espelette.  Espelette is dried red pepper powder, similar to paprika.  This dish is light and airy with a hint of earthiness from the smoky espelette and spicy olive oil.


The Hamachi Tartar is one of my favorite appetizers.   The hamachi is paired with lemon, chives and ginger to create a refreshing dish.  These flavors play together so nicely.  This dish will stimulate your palette without leaving you in need of a palette cleanser. 


The Panzanella salad was a no-brainer.  I mean, how can anyone turn down pancetta, tomato, watermelon and basil?  Panzanella is usually a salad of bread and tomatoes, but I didn’t miss the bread one bit.  The watermelon was crisp, the heirloom tomatoes were juicy, the basil was sweet and the pancetta was salty.  I would be doing this pancetta an injustice to just call it salty, though.  The pancetta was thick cut, almost like a spare rib.  It was delicate but rough.  This is how pancetta is meant to be served. 


The Orechiette, which means “little ears” in Italian, are the perfect vehicle for the spicy sausage ragu.  The peppers and basil add a touch of sweetness, which is topped off with creamy parmesan cheese. 


The special pasta, which was homemade Fettuccine with portobello mushrooms, egg yolk, and shaved parmesan cheese, was sensual.  The pasta and mushrooms were light, while the egg yolks and cheese were creamy. 


Charred Octopus is one of my favorite things to eat, if cooked properly.  It’s not an easy dish to cook, but L’artusi knows how to do it well.  The meat is actually meaty and tender.   It is paired with simple baby potatoes, chilies, olives and pancetta.  The potatoes absorb the salty flavors from the olives and pancetta which offsets the smoky flavor from the grill. 

I don’t usually order steak in an Italian restaurant.  It’s like ordering a bagel at the diner. Sure, the diner has bagels, but you know the bagel store has better ones.  I hate to be proven wrong, but boy am I glad we ordered the steak at L’artusi.  The steak was cooked to a perfect medium, with charred crust and tender meat.  It was served with a creamy salsa blanca and crispy potatoes. 

So, I’ll leave you with this: L’arte di mangiare bene.  If eating well is an art form, and we all know it is, then L’artusi is the Met. Luckily, you don’t have to buy tickets to visit this exhibit.

228 West 10th Street
New York, NY

Party in the City Where the Heat is On

When I think about Miami, I think of palm trees, night clubs, and of course, Will Smith…I mean how can anyone not love that song, or love to hate it at least.  (Apologies now if you are still singing this song at the end of the day.)

Palm trees and night clubs are great, but never do you hear someone say Miami has great food.  Miami is just not a front-runner is the culinary world, and no, I am not hating on Miami because I hate on the Heat.  (Let’s Go Knicks!)

Don’t get me wrong, Miami has great restaurants, just not that many.  They are hard to come by without a little hard work.  And lucky for you, this Bite-Sized Blonde did all the hard work this weekend.

My first stop in Miami was Casa Tua, which means “your home” in Italian.  This hotel, which is really more like a private residence, has only five private suites.  I didn’t stay here, but I did have the privilege of dining in the restaurant.  Yes, you heard my correctly, PRIVLEGE.  This restaurant is special, and you feel that the minute you walk into the lush garden terrace.  The restaurant is designed to feel like you are in someone’s home; it is adorned with photographs and bookshelves piled high with books and trinkets.  Even the menus are special, decorated with personal photographs for an intimate feeling.

I would be remiss not to mention the enormous open kitchen that embellishes the dining room.  Although I didn’t sit in front of it, I had a pretty good view; Cameron Diaz and A-Rod were at the table next to me.   While this Bite-Sized Blonde might not be a celebrity, I was certainly treated like one.  The service was outstanding.  Our waiter, well versed in the menu, helped us pick a perfectly hued Rose and well as a number of exceptional dishes.  He made sure they were stacked so we could savor each and every one.

We started with The Branzino Carpaccio with Pink Grapefruit and Toasted Hazelnuts, which was enhanced by crisp scallions.  The carpaccio was everything that carpaccio should be, light, refreshing, and delicious.

We also enjoyed The Grilled Octopus with Borlotti Beans, Celery and Red Radish which was tender and creamy from the beans.  The celery and radish added a unique element of texture to the dish.

Spinach Salad is usually something I stay away from in a restaurant with endless options.  But as it was a recommendation, I decided to ignore my initial instincts and give it a chance.  Boy am I glad I did. This spinach salad was anything but ordinary, with prosciutto, fresh figs, fried red onion and balsamic dressing.  The spinach, along with a few sprigs of basils, was cut into beautiful ribbons, mixed with the fresh figs and fried onions, tossed in the balsamic dressing, and then wrapped up in the prosciutto like a beautiful present.   Gosh, I love an early birthday gift.

The Casa Tua Tuna Tartar was prepared more like a beef tartar, with olives and capers.  It was an interesting take on a classic dish.

The Tagliolini with Maine lobster and fresh tomatoes was a dish I couldn’t pass up, and do you really blame me?  The sauce was sweet which complimented the succulent lobster so effortlessly.

For the grand finale, we ordered the Grilled Waygu Skirt Steak with Baby Cipollini Onions and Roasted Mini Sweet Bell Peppers.  The juicy meat was smoky and woodsy from the rosemary yet sweet from the onions and the peppers.  When such a simple dish has such complex flavors, you know there’s a great chef behind it all.

Casa Tua is a great restaurant, and not just for Miami.  This restaurant would be successful in New York and Los Angeles.  You know why? Because exceptional food, outstanding service and a warm atmosphere are like love, universal and hard to come by.

Casa Tua
1700 James Ave
Miami Beach, FL

Not Your Standard Grill

On a beautiful day, the best seat in the house is at a table outside, right? Well not if you are at The Standard Grill.  Don’t get me wrong, sitting outside is great.  But why sit outside, when you can sit inside at the Chef’s Counter?  That’s right.  The Standard Grill has a glorious chef’s counter.  There are about a handful of seats at this counter that face a window into the kitchen.  You get a firsthand look into the life of a chef, and for this Bite-Sized Blonde, that experience is priceless. 

Even if your sights aren’t set on being a chef one day, this is still a cool experience.  It’s like dinner and movie, or in my case, brunch and a show.  I had a mint lemonade to start which was super yummy.  The lemonade was freshly squeezed and mixed with a handful of mint leaves; such a refreshing way to start a meal! I couldn’t decide between the burger and the olive oil poached eggs, so I ordered both.  Hey, you only live once. 

The eggs were divine.  They were served floating in a shallow bowl of spicy olive oil with a side of grilled French bread.  I ordered a side salad to go along with my eggs; I love mixed greens with eggs.  Try it some time; it rocks! The eggs were perfectly cooked.  The yolk ran into the olive oil which was the ideal mixture of creamy and spicy for my bread.  The salad, as simple as it was, was also great.  The greens were crisp and they were dressed with just the right amount of vinaigrette. 

The burger, which I had the privilege of watching being cooked, was awesome.  It was charred yet tender.  The bun was soft but sturdy enough to handle the juicy meat.  The fries were crunchy and salty, just the way I like ‘em. 

So, the next time you are in the mood for a not so standard brunch, make a stop at The Standard Grill, and don’t forget to indulge.  You can walk it off on The Highline after.

The Standard Grill
848 Washington Street at 13th Street
New York, NY

Speakeasy and Carry a Big Fork

Do you ever catch yourself daydreaming?  I mean really daydreaming…like caught in a stare, out to lunch, off in lala land.  Because I have literally been daydreaming about this big, warm gooey plate of risotto for a month now.  Yes, that’s right, a whole month.  This creamy creation is a plate of pure, unadulterated love.   And you can have your very own plate of this oooey gooey goodness at Hudson Clearwater.

Hudson Clearwater opened a few, short months ago in the West Village.  It’s one of those great, hidden gems…and I mean literally hidden.  The entrance to this speakeasy style restaurant is tucked away behind a small, green garden door.  If you don’t know what you are looking for, there’s a good chance you will miss it.  But once you finally arrive, you know you are in for a real treat.  After you make your way through the courtyard, you are greeted by an open kitchen and sunken dining room.  A restaurant with an open kitchen is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka to tour the factory…and who doesn’t want to be Charlie Bucket for a night?

Unfortunately, I was seated nowhere near the kitchen.  We were seated downstairs in a small room that sort of felt like an unfinished basementNeedless to say, I would have preferred to sit in the dining room.  I forgot all about where we were seated when I got the menu…which I had carefully perused before dinner.  The second that menu hit the table I knew exactly what I wanted to order. The Squash Risotto with seasonal vegetables, sunchoke chips, and pomegranate seeds had my name all over it.  So picture this: creamy risotto filled with morsels of butternut squash so tender they melt in your mouth, crispy Brussels sprout leaves that lived on the equator of caramelized and almost burnt and vibrant pomegranate seeds that were like little bursts of happiness.

I would tell you about the arugula salad I had to start, but it was snooze-fest; amateur move on my part, I know!  One the bright side of boring, it wasn’t bad.  So, go to Hudson Clearwater, try the risotto, and order a different appetizer!

447 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014