The Ainsworth

122 W 26th St, New York · (212) 741-0645
www.ainsworthnyc.com

Is it a sports bar or is it a lounge? This place has a bit of an identity crisis. The Ainsworth tries to promote itself as an upscale sports bar, but it really missed the mark. Maybe it is a personal preference but if you have a ton of TVs you should be able to hear the games that are playing.

I went during the NBA All-Star Saturday night events of Skills, 3-Point and Dunk contest, also a night of NCAA basketball games, which were showing but with no sound. Instead we had not so popular lounge music. It was quiet a shame, especially during the slam dunk competition when it seemed like everyone in the place was watching the TVs. We did ask if they would turn on the sound and were told only during special events such as the Super Bowl,  Local teams and playoffs.  I am going to say it, if you want to watch sports this is probably the worst spot to go to in NYC! There is no doubt about that one.

Now on the other hand, if you want a place to hang out with a group, better than bar food, and music playing at a level you can talk to each other, then Ainsworth is not so bad. The menu does have many options, especially with sliders. We ordered the lobster, philly cheese, sirloin and pork sliders. All were good, my order of preference were the philly, lobster, sirloin, pork. We also got the wings and nachos, which were not favorites of mine but only because they didn’t hit my palate. The wings are a bit on the sweeter side and well nachos, it is hard to impress me with nachos.

Its rare I say this, but with the million places in NYC, I doubt I will give the Ainsworth (either location) another shot.

Rough Start for Sushi Shop

http://www.mysushishop.com

Let us start with the background. Sushi Shop is a chain from France, that recently found its way to NYC. It is the brain child of Michelin Starred chef Jean Francois Piege. I guess that was all I needed to give this place a try, so I went during their first week of opening.

For those that have seen previous reviews of my site, you know I normally put the address of the restaurant up top. I did not this time, because getting the address was sort of an adventure! If you go to their website you have to do a lot of digging to find the address! And don’t even think of calling because unless you are in their delivery zip code you will not even get through. Clearly this place is not ready for NYC if they are trying to keep their MIDTOWN location hard to find! But I will be nice, I will share their address which is 536 Madison Ave, between 54th and 55th street. Special Thanks to Urban Daddy for that one!

Time to get into the experience. When you walk in you are given the option, order at the counter fast food style or go upstairs for waiter service. I opted for the sit down option. I have to say the booth I sat in was not very comfortable at all with their straight wood backing. I would suggest going for the chairs instead. Maybe I am just old! After settling in, I took a quick glance at the drink menu and was struck with oddities. First off wine is served by the bottle only, what if I just want a glass of wine? Do I have to spring for a $40 bottle? And look at the price point, $40 bottles of wine and they have a “fast-food” dining option downstairs?! The beers was the next issue. Look at the menu below, the pricing seemed off to me as well. The worst part was the Orion Draft was out! So now the cheapest alcoholic drink I could get was a $9.50 bottle of beer. Now I am use to over spending for alcohol in NYC, but I guess having only 1 draft option, which was out then the next beer option being $3 seems a bit off. Regardless I got the Shiro, which I was not a fan off. Luckily was I was not alone, so we decided a bottle of wine was the way to go.

With so many sushi restaurants in NYC, you have to step your game up to really shine. I feel it is all to common for sushi places to just be run in the mill. I will give Sushi Shop credit for making a great attempt here to make their rolls unique. Their menu had few intriguing options such as sushi with foie gras BS fried chicken, , but everything else were the staples. They had a decent selection of vegetarian sushi, most bring a roll with cream cheese. The most interesting items on the menu were the tartare, which had a tuna, foie gras tartare with truffle. I ended up getting the yellowtail and mango tartare which I did really enjoy. I also had the fantasy roll, yellow tail jalapeno, and a chive and cheese roll. The fantasy roll was salmon with a spicy sauce wrapped in avocado, tuna and salmon. The chive and cheese roll just tasted like a bagel and the yellowtail jalapeno did not disappoint. Everything did taste extremely fresh.

In addition the staff did not prove to be very knowledgeable of the menu. When I asked for the waiters preferences between a crab roll wrapped in tune and salmon roll wrapped in tuna, he pointed to the salmon roll, saying it is his favorite because he likes tuna! From there on out they seemed to struggle to keep up as tables were being packed. Also when we ordered dessert the wrong flavor of mochi was brought out. Perhaps all this should be expected in the first week.

I understand it was the first week, and there are going to be some rough edges, I guess I am starting to see why NY is notorious for having such high failure rates within the restaurant industry. You really need to bring it from the get go, since people’s expectations are high. I feel that the owners need to do a bit more of research as to what NYer’s like, and custom the place a bit more. I see great potential, so I promise to go back in 6 months and write another review.Hopefully, I came out with a more rewarding experience.

BaoHaus

238 E 14th Street, NY, NY
Tel: 646.669.8889
http://www.baohausnyc.com/

I came across BaoHaus after seeing Cheap Bites on Cooking Channel, which was hosted by BaoHaus’s chef Eddie Huang. Being close to my apartment, I stopped in for lunch on a day off from work. First things first, this is a tiny spot! There were 4 people ordering before me and I had no place to move. Being a tight space with people waiting, initial service just to order took a while. There was one person running the iPad based register, 2 others in the visible kitchen and a manager. One turn off for me being a techie was the use of an iPad, which seemed like a cool idea, but then I noticed they has to punch CC number. This really slowed down the transaction time. Not a big deal, but being who I am, and what I do for a living I notice this kind of stuff.

I came in to try the buns, and really not much more. There are 7 of which to choose from, and the sign behind the counter said 2-3 make a meal. I decided to not be my normal fatty self and only try two. I went for the Chairman Bao (pictures below right) and the Adobo Bao (pictured left below). Reading reviews on FourSquare and Yelp, there was positive things about all seven Baos.

image

The chairman bao is a nice fatty, healthy piece of pork belly topped with peanuts cilantro and a relish. The Adobo Bao is a pork, chicken mix, which almost had a curried flavor to them. The bao was topped with cilantro, daikons and cucumber. Personally the Adobo Bao was my favorite of the two, but don’t let that put the chairman bao at all.  I also added a Taiwanese Root Beer to my order. I really did enjoy the Baos and look forward to heading back to try the others.

I mentioned earlier that the service was slow, but as I was walking out the lady at the register said “Bye Tesh.” They took my name during the ordering process, and it was a nice touch that they remembered and addressed me as I left. I guess it is the little things like that, that remind me good things are worth waiting for.

Foursquare and Amex Giving You Cash Back

Many folks may use Foursquare to check in and get those occasional deals such as a free drink, shot, item of even a dinner. But recently I noticed something different. American Express is offering cash back. The deal is simple, you sync your American Express credit card with Foursquare then when you Check In and spend a specified amount ($10 in most cases) you receive cash back ($10 in most cases) on your next American Express statement.

I came across this in the past week and have yet to give it a shot. I promise to return and report my findings now that I have synced my AmEx! Below is an image of the deal being offered at one of my local Sushi spots, Yo Sushi. Also KEEP IN MIND this deal is strictly offered from American Express and not the retails. Please do not take it out on the retailer if they have no idea what you are talking about should you mention the American Express cash back deal!

For those that think Foursquare is stupid or dumb, well here is some real value to using Foursquare. Keep in mind if security is an issue you do not have to publicize your check-ins in order to get the deal.

Good Luck and let us know your results.

Devi NYC

8 East 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.691.1300
http://www.devinyc.com

I am usually pretty skeptical to try high end Indian restaurants in NYC. In my experience most offer the same menu, with a higher price point, doing very little to differentiate themselves. When I first heard of Suvir Saran’s Devi, I gave the menu the quick look over and noticed the menu was not typical India. There was an inviting twist to Indian cuisine. Now the question… would Devi deliver?

I have to mention before going further, if you are looking for traditional Indian food, Devi is not the spot for you. The menu is a fusionized (yup I just made that one up) Indian menu granted you might find some more common dishes. I will also say we decided to dine at Devi via a deal at Savored.com, which gave us 30% off. I will provide a review of Savored at a later moment.

Enough of the background and time to talk about the meal. To begin the meal, I ordered a Mumbai Margarita mostly because of the name. It was a mango flavored margarita topped with cayenne pepper for a kick. If that does not get you interested in Devi, the food will. To complement the drinks we got Bombay Bhel, Shrimp and Crab Croquette and ready for this – Lamb Stuffed Tandoori Chicken. I must also thank our waiter who brought us Spinach Croquettes on the house. The Bhel was served finger food style, on a mini crisp. The Croquettes both veg and non veg were well made, personally I preferred the spinach ones. The Lamb stuffed tandoori chicken had me thinking where have you been all my life! Tandoori chicken stuffed with ground lamb, such a genius idea. It was unique, just what I look for in Indian restaurants.

After a filling round of appetizers came the entrees. This was interesting. We basically went by the waiters suggestions and ordered the lamb chops, Konkan Catfish Curry and Karachi Paneer. We also added a side of rice (thats right my brown people rice is NOT included), the Onion-Parmigiano Kulcha and the waiter comped us a side of Kararee Bhindi (fried okra). I was not impressed with the Karachi paneer at all, I can get this at any old Indian restaurant. The Konkan fish curry, had great flavor, not spicy much to my surprise. The star of the meal was the Lamb Chops though. They fell off the bone, were soft and full of the spice. Many of the reviews on Yelp will say this is a small helping, to these people I say greedy! There are 3 pieces, which is more than one could expect for an entree.

We ended the meal with some desserts which did not hit home at all. I honestly don’t think they are worth writing about. The best I can tell you is eat a meal here that you will enjoy and skip the desserts. I do feel Devi is on the pricey side, but had some dishes that will stick in my mind and warrant a revisit. I also felt the service was exceptional. I always appreciate a waiter who is willing to tell you their suggestions, throw in some side dishes and attempt to give you the finest dining experience.

My suggestion is giving it a shot with your non-veggie friends to truly enjoy the food. I also noticed that they change their menu seasonally, so some of the dishes I encountered might not be there on your visit.

The Frying Dutchmen

http://www.fryingdutchmen.com

Here is something different. This time I can’t really tell you where this chow spot is as it is the first food truck I am reviewing. As of writing this the truck finder on their website does not work, but by following them on twitter you could possibly track them down. I ran into The Frying Dutchmen on 55th street between 6th ave and 7th ave during lunch.

Clearly by looking at the truck their main fare is fries, but what are fries without a burger. The only way to enjoy this food truck is to get the combo which is a burger, fries of your choice and a drink. On doing some research, it seems like the menu is constantly changing so on this visit I went for the Black & Blue burger. Yes, the name is odd, but you could expect a burger topped with blue cheese, buffalo sauce, onions and chips! I was informed all burgers are cooked medium unless asked otherwise, so I went with the house suggestion.

The fries have two, well three options. They have Belgium fries, sweet potato fries or you can get a combo. Then you select a dipping sauce of your choice. They have many options, but only a few in rotation each time. I selected the hells kitchen ketchup, which was a spicy chipotle ketchup. For me this was a great complement to the Belgium fries.

My total bill for lunch came out to about $12, which some might find steep for a lunch, but for a fresh burger and fries its actually a pretty good deal. The chips really made the burger for me, and it was quiet filling, I really only made it through half the burger. The fries were a bit greasy but greasy is tasty! I enjoyed my filling meal, and I will be on the look out for the truck again. With a changing menu I am sure there are many new reasons to go back.

The Meatball Shop

84 Stanton Street
New York, NY
212-982-8895

http://themeatballshop.com

Every NYer has heard from a friend at one point or another that they have to check out the Meatball Shop. If you are anything like me, your instant reaction was probably some immature dirty joke followed by intrigue. What does this Meatball Shop have that makes it so special?

On an early Saturday evening, it was finally my time to explore the intrigue of The Meatball Shop. First things first, when I checked out their website I noticed they do not make reservations. When I got there, they informed me there was a 45 minutes wait, BUT they took my cell number and said they would call me when my table is ready. Let me apologize in advance as I digress.. why isn’t this the norm in NYC? I really hate when places make me stay within their crowded confines trying to hear a hostess call my name. Okay back to the point.

I decided to hit up Epstien’s (bar next door, which I promise to write up as a later moment) and within 45 minutes my phone was ringing. As I sat down and was handed a menu, I noticed a marker on the table. You get to draw on the menu! Okay not exactly, but you do get to mark up the menu with your order.

As you might expect the meatballs are the main focus of the menu. There are 5 types, Beef, Spicy Pork, Chicken, Vegetable, and the daily Special. How you want them is the real question. You can order them in many fashions, naked with sauce, sliders, hero, and smashed with cheese. There are also many options for salads and sides to make a full meal. You can even put the naked meatballs on one top of the sides, so for those more traditional folks who like their meatballs over pasta, the option is there.

For my meal I ordered the beef naked meatballs with the spicy meat sauce. The daily special salad and a risotto. I like that in additional to a daily special meatball, there was also a salad and risotto of the day. Gives you options for the future and a reason to return. The meatballs came 4 in a bowl drenched in sauce topped with cheese. They tasted like they just came out of the oven and were soft. A key note is that the portions are not massive. I actually felt perfect after the main course, that I had room for dessert.

Oh yes, dessert. The options were an ice cream sandwich or float. You can choose your cookie and ice cream, so essentially you are custom making an ice cream sandwich. I had the brownie cookie with vanilla! Excellent pick if I should say so. Overall, an amazing meal and very affordable at that. My total bill was about $25 with a beer in there somewhere.

And finally for those of you have had ditry jokes on your mind everytime I said Meat or Ball during this post, The Meatball Shop has the fix. Check out their ball jokes sections.

The Best Damn Beer Special in NYC

The Bravest
700 Second Ave
At 38th Street
New York, NY 10016

I have lived around Gramercy and Murray Hill for over 3 years now. I have been hanging out in this area for many years prior to moving here and I have really missed out on what I believe to be the best deal in NYC! The Bravest has $2.50 Bud Lights all the time! That is right folks, it might actually be cheaper to have 6 beers at the bar, then going to your local bodega for a 6 pack. But it does not end there. The Bravest takes it up a notch up for happy hour. Seven days a week, you can snag a $2 beer from 4pm – 7pm. On my visit they were offering any draft beer at this price. Now that I have gone over the beer special, there is more to add. They have a happy hour menu, which gives up 10 wings for $4 and few other reasonably priced options including nachos and tacos.

The ambiance might not be for all, especially if you are one who prefers the typical Murray Hill sports bar. I am not hating on the Murray Hill bars, but if you prefer a loud environment, shoulder to shoulder with fans yelling over each play, stay away! The Bravest is a no frills bar. I would describe it s a hole in the wall, with its tight interior, which to my surprise was not packed on my football Sunday visit. They have many screens and had every game showing. The staff is extremely friendly. The bartender even made sure to address us by our name as we gave him a credit card to open the tab.

In my opinion this has to be one of the best bars I have come across in NYC. It is a perfect spot to sit down watch football on a Sunday, have good affordable beers, eat some wings and enjoy your team. If you have come across a bar you believe provides the optimal football viewing experience, please share, I am always open to suggestions.

Dos Caminos What is the Secret?

http://www.doscaminos.com/

Dos Caminos is an immensely popular Mexican chain, in New York and around the country. They are a bit on the high end side of Mexican dining as they are a part of the BR Guestgroup. Having been there on many occasions, I always came out feeling a bit let down. The food never hit the spot, but the bill did do a dent to the wallet. I have tried many items on the menu and constantly left with this feeling; where is Taco Bell? Okay, maybe a bit of exaggeration there, but you get the point.

So what is the point of this write up? Am I simply trying to bash Dos Caminos, even though I end up back there over and over again? Not really, for once I found a dish at Dos Caminos that will make me come back and I wanted to share. The Lobster Ceviche. I tried the Ceviche Trio, which comes with a Tuna, Snapper and Lobster sample. The snapper, had a typical ceviche taste to it. The tuna was basically 2 pieces of sushi grade tuna in vinegar, but the lobster was unique. It had some sort of cream sauce. Yes a cream based ceviche, something I am not use to seeing at all. The flavors just blended together! I have to say I finally found a stand out dish at Dos, and now will say you have to go there just to try it!

Trumbull Kitchen

150 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103
P: 860.493.7416
http://www.maxrestaurantgroup.com/trumbull

New job and I am back on the road again. This time I found myself in Connecticut; Hartford to be exact. Actually, I will probably end up back here more often for business, so you can look forward to more reviews in Hartford.

While visiting, a friend suggested we check out Trumbull Kitchen. After initially looking at the menu I had to think how do you classify the food here? They have pies, burgers, thai, seafood and meatloaf! Talk about a hodge podge menu. You know what else stood out on the menu.. the drink list.

After sitting down, I was given a plate of mixed bread, and with the bread I see papadum. Not just any kind, the exact type my mom makes at home! I hardly find this style at Indian restaurants, and would not expect it at a mutt style restaurant in Hartford! Regardless, there was more than just padadum on the way.

I started off the meal with the herb and goat cheese fondue. Not only was this fondue unique and great, the papadum with the fondue was an amazing combination. What do you guys think of a papadum and fondue restaurant? Okay, enough of the papadum, I promise.

Entree time! I was contemplating between the Hawaiian Snapper, Hanger Steak and Spare Ribs. I decided on the Snapper, well after the fondue I wanted something on the healthy side. As a side I added the Truffle Pomme Frites (there goes healthy). I think you can add truffle oil on anything and I will love it! The snapper was a well flavored light dish, served with basmati rice.

To end the meal, I tried the coffee creme brule. I use the term try, because this was the most disappointing part of the meal. I had a few spoons and opted for an after dinner drink instead! Putting the dessert aside, Trumbull was an experience I look forward to again. Perhaps next time I am in Hartford I will check out more of the menu.