Mid-September Restaurant Roundup
gelato pizza, bagel brunch, homey Japanese food
This might be my last NYC writeup for a bit! I’m headed to Penang, Singapore, and Arcata, CA. Send me your recs.
Maison Kintaro, at 24th and 9th in Chelsea, is the sort of relaxed spot where an old friend can spend two hours giving you a leisurely tour of the dumpster fires that constitute their romantic life. No one will hurry to wrap up. It’s also a place where you can bring a group of ten people to share nearly everything on the menu. Make sure to order at least one onsen tamago, a gooey egg with toppings that taste like the sea. No liquor license yet, but a bottle of Calpico will do.
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For another homey Japanese restaurant, try Hibino in Brooklyn. So far, I’ve only been for lunch, when they serve seafood bento boxes. Portions are generous, prices are low, and their logo is very cute.
Thanks to my friend KZ for introducing me to both Hibino and Maison Kintaro!
With one scoop each of ricotta and basil gelato, I tried to make myself a pizza from il laboratorio del gelato’s array of random flavors. (Tomato was unavailable.) The flavors were accurate and delicate; I’ll be back.
The salmon on your NYC bagel, whether you order it at Barney Greengrass or Russ and Daughters, probably comes from Acme Smoked Fish. Rather than pay twice as much at the deli counter, you can just pick it up from Acme’s warehouse in Greenpoint during their Fish Fridays. Although their pre-cut salmon is sliced a little thicker than I prefer, they’re a good option when you’re hosting a bagel brunch for a crowd.
The late M.F.K. Fisherdecried the massacre of oysters by frying them wrong:
It is too bad, since [frying] can be good, that so many chefs dip their oysters in a thick and often infamous batter, which at once plunged into the equally obscene grease, forms an envelope of such slippery toughness that the oyster within it lies helpless and steaming in a foul blanket, tasteless and yet powerfully indigestible.
She would have been pleased with Fradei’s oyster sandwich. The oysters had only a thin film of batter, lightly fried, still juicy and plump inside.
Fradei has switched for the month to an a la carte wine bar format. (Usually, they have a five-course tasting menu.) Sit down with a tomeat a sidewalk table, sip from your wine glass, and enjoy a September late afternoon in Fort Greene while you still can.
Big news for Thai food lovers: you no longer have to preorder your meal seven days in advance when you make your Ugly Baby reservation! You can now pick whatever you want from the menu just like you would at any other restaurant. Order the nung gai (crispy chicken skin), my favorite new menu item from the past year or so.
I could go on and on about my love of Ugly Baby!Instead, let me talk about one of my few gripes. Their kao tod nam klook, a crispy rice salad with sour fermented pork sausage, is… a bit of a tease? If Thai Farm Kitchen’s version is like eating a brownie, Ugly Baby’s is like eating a pile of brownie crumbs. Ugly Baby’s morsels of pork are flecks of sourness, but Thai Farm Kitchen’s are big enough to feel chewy. Thai Farm Kitchen’s dish has a fried rice ball and is seeded with clusters of crunch; Ugly Baby's is less generous. The Thai Farm Kitchen dish can serve as a starring entree, while Ugly Baby’s is meant to be a member of an ensemble cast.
For brunch at Claro, get the aguachile (if you’re fine with the spice), the masa pancakes or the chilaquiles (sweet vs. savory), and whichever dessert you’d prefer (I alternate between the chocolate mole cake and the churros).
My calendar says I’ve had five brunches and and three dinners at Claro in the past two years. They’re reliable.
My preference for Terrace Bagels is mostly sentimental—that’s where Mr. C, coach of New York City Math Team when I was in high school, would pick up bagels for Saturday-morning ARML practice—but they still hold up.
Promising first impressions
I enjoyed my first meals at these spots, but I don’t yet know whether I like them or like like them.
My pan-fried knife-cut noodles with roast duck at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles were greasy, filling, and the exact 9:30 PM second dinner that I wanted after playing DDR at Chinatown Fair.
I ordered a fried egg with my Hainanese steamed chicken over ginger rice at Gai Kitchen, a new stall in Mott Street Eatery. Note that the fried egg is a deep-fried soft-boiled egg, not what you’d get in a diner or on top of your pad kaprow.
Grey Lady is named for the Nantucket fog, not the newspaper. The space is bright and airy, welcoming and classy, somewhere you could go on a second date or a team outing from work. I’ve only had the happy-hour dollar oysters, but I’ll be back to try the rest of the menu.
The oysters are tasty undressed or with a dash of lemon juice, but best (IMO) with their thin, watery sauce. (It’s the one just to the above-and-right of the lemon in this photo.) Skip the other two options, which are too overpowering.
Hawksmoor was unimpressive. I’ve eaten better steak, bone marrow, and creamed spinach elsewherein NYC. The service was confused—I had to remind them what drinks I’d had while they were tabulating my bill—and slow.
The normally on-point Tammie Teclemariam (subscribe to her newsletter!) named Taikun Sushi as her “favorite mid-priced omakase spot.” It was nothing special. Go to Sanyuu West, Domo Sushi, or Sushi Katsuei instead.
Matsunori is a good fit for your out-of-town relatives who want to try their first mid-priced sushi joint. Not too expensive, not too stuffy, and not too unconventional, it’s a low-stakes place to begin. (Plus, judging by the conversations around me at the counter, they’d be in similar company.) But for you, dear reader? Go to Sanyuu West, Domo Sushi, or Sushi Katsuei instead.
Consider the Oyster, pages 21-22, in “The Well-Dressed Oyster.”
Might I suggest The Power Broker? You can buy it at Greenlight Bookstore across the street.
I mean it. It’s one of my favorite NYC restaurants.
NYC Math Team understood the importance of good food for good performance! Along with the math, I even learned some table manners that my parents, uh, missed.
Lots of places, Minetta Tavern, and Peter Luger, respectively.