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Posts from the ‘organic’ Category

Hung Ry: Organic and Sustainable Noodles at Bowery’s Hottest Corner

Hung Ry is a new organic noodle shop on the hottest eating corner of Bowery. Peels just opened up across the street; Il Buco and Mercat are next door; BONDST and The Smile are a few doorsteps down; Double Crown, DBGB, and Pulino’s just a couple blocks south. My good friend Lauren and I were initially drawn to it, before NYMag’s rave review, by word that some of the furniture (as it turns out, the chairs) was repurposed from the University of Pennsylvania’s library. Always nostalgic for our college days, we figured it was a must-try.

All I can say is, yes, it is a must-try. Hung Ry is pretty much a noodle shop revelation. Airy and stylish, with on-trend industrial decor, it defies cramped and crowded noodle shop expectations. Large plate-glass windows let in bright sunlight during the day and the soft flow of Bond Street’s streetlamps at night; each carefully curated element of the decor is refurbished and repurposed (read: “distressed chic”), mostly from ebay: church pew benches, library chairs, diner/cafe tables; napkins are hand-stitched and starched stiff; painted and gleaming pipes intersect in a maze across the ceiling; the open kitchen is sparkling steel, industrial, intimidating, professional. Chefs, dressed neatly, work purposefully and efficiently as a unit, eerily quiet in their work; it’s marvelous. Only in the old Bowery neighborhoods witnessing aggressive rejuvenation can you find such an intriguing space, turned, with vision, into a restaurant. Word of warning though: if you don’t like politics with your food, Hung Ry may not be your ideal spot. Leftist, organic, politically organic, and openly proclaiming everything from views on healthcare (on the website) to the benefits of reusing furniture (with the owner in person), Hung Ry is an establishment that isn’t afraid to let you know what it thinks about changing the way people eat.

…And the way people eat at Hung Ry is very very good. The star here are the hand-pulled noodles, made from organic flour in the tradition of Lanzhou cuisine in northwestern China. Chewy, silky, and with truly wonderful “mouth feel,” these noodles are the typical noodles you’d find in Chinatown; they’re just as satisfying and marvelously textured and yet turned ‘up a notch’ with expensive meats and vegetables from local purveyors. The duck breast and leg noodles, served with generous douses of Szechuan peppers, are a revelation: tender, juicy and high-quality meat, hot and spicy broth mercifully devoid of too much oil. The whole dish has a rich and salty body to it; though the servings are large, it’s virtually impossible not to lap up the whole bowl. Similarly, the beef brisket noodles are remarkable, loaded with melt-in-your-mouth beef, a perfectly-cooked egg, tripe for flavor, meaty roasted eggplant and an unusual dose of mustard oil; it is nothing short of complicated, playful, and delicious.

Hung Ry is mellow and sophisticated, friendly, and appealing to the do-gooder type (though, if you’re not political about your good, you should try the brisket noodles anyway). It has all the markings of a hot spot in the making, but not because of backing from a big name restauranteur, celebrity chef, or gold standard public relations team. Instead, it’s guaranteed to be popular simply because of it’s relaxed, hip, and delicious.

Perfect For: NYU journalism school students, noodles fans, quirky dates, locavores, lefties (in the political sense), hipsters and yupsters

Hung Ry on Urbanspoon


Westville Chelsea: New York’s Farmer’s Market Mecca

Westville Chelsea is not really anything exceptional – it’s not unique, and it’s not a novelty in New York; yet, somehow, despite being a rather run-of-the-mill neighborhood spot, it charms endlessly with it’s bright environment, fresh and simple American fare, and laidback table service. In fact, it’s an ideal place for convening with friends, whether for a leisurely breakfast, quick lunch, or fuss-free dinner.

The space is a substantial size improvement on Westville’s original Bleecker Street location. The boxy dining room is sparse with bright white walls, a chalkboard scrawled with the day’s specials, and a simple bar with seats on two sides, a line-up of artisan beers, and a very hipster cute bartender. Seats for no more than 50 line the walls and are pushed up against the large floor-to-ceiling windows. The look is clean and simple, without over-the-top flourishes (or really any at all) and distracting frills. With so few guided atmosphere cues, put a few picnic tables and benches in here and you could almost imagine noshing on the lawn outside a white clapboard farmhouse, chickens around and a vegetable garden down the slope.

The food is described as what the owners love to eat, “prepared simply and tastefully.” This translates to hearty and recognizable American fare, cooked better than you could probably cook it yourself. The ingredients are market-fresh, seasonal, and uncomplicated; there are no unknown and indecipherable vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, or roots. Vegetarian options abound, yet the comfort food menu will appeal to pretty much any fan of classic American cuisine.

Westville serves one of the better brunches in the Chelsea/West Village area. There’s nothing like finding a place that serves all your favorites: a sweet and chunky granola & yogurt parfait topped with in-season fresh fruit; a thick and fluffy bagel topped with the regulars, cream cheese, lox, capers, and onions; eggs served anyway with salty and bold potato hash, flecked with bits of onion; towering and decadent challah french toast with fluffy cream, cinnamon sprinkles and cut strawberries, all sweetened with authentic maple syrup. On any given weekend, over half the options offered are market-driven specials, including a plethora of vegetable-packed fritattas and omelettes; the choice is close to dizzying.

Westville’s shtick is simplicity and perhaps it’s originality is found in such a stark yet somehow incredibly welcoming dining experience. The lack of decor isn’t cold or contemporary; instead, it’s a blank slate upon which you can build your own idea of what Westville is or should be; it’s surprisingly warm and comforting – no need to stare numbly at gilt-edged mirrors or to put on a show to waistcoat-clad staff. A certain slamdunk for brunch, Westville is fit for just about anyone, except those insistent on wearing stiletto booties and faux-fur shrugs to breakfast.

Perfect For: friendly brunching, hot dog fanatics, relaxed breakfast, farmer’s market foodies

Westville Chelsea on Urbanspoon

ABC Kitchen: Easy as 1-2-3, Simple as Do-Re-Mi

I asked myself whether I could avoid the Jackson 5 references while writing up ABC Kitchen – clearly the answer there was a resounding no. Regardless of the Michael-reminiscent name, Jean-Georges’ new all-natural venture in ABC Home is down-right spectacular on all counts.

ABC Kitchen is not just any Jean-Georges’ restaurant; it is the master restauranteur’s first foray into farm-to-table dining with all organic and local ingredients and sustainable meats. And let’s just say, in an exercise of throwing restraint to the wind, he really didn’t hold back.

The discreet storefront in Flatiron betrays the expansive and breath-taking secret garden that awaits within. Mirrored doors open to a vibrant bar area with standing tables, seats at the bar, and window seats. Quirky antique lanterns and chandeliers hang from the ceiling, casting a soft glow over the youthful and attractive crowd through Edison bulbs. The back dining room is, quite frankly, magical with a serene farmhouse meets castle-in-the-woods vibe. Mod and low-profile white tables and chairs sit well-spaced in a cavernous room, decorated with soft black-and-white photos, gnarled tree trunks, and twinkling white lights hanging from wooden beams. From the soy-based and pesticide-free candles to the bread baskets made by the Mapuche people in Patagonia, every element is thought about and sourced from environmentally-friendly providers. (Even the homey uniforms of restaurant staff are sourced from thrift stores!)

The ‘market-driven’ cuisine, designed and prepared by chef Dan Kluger (formally of Tabla and Gramercy Tavern), features healthful whole-wheat pizzas (with a monthly special from Co. owner Jim Lahey), a veggie-friendly ‘market table’ section of small plates, housemade pastas, and modern American entrees featuring ‘in-season’ and market-available proteins. Think: pretzel-dusted calamari with basil aioli, chili-rubbed black sea bass with red bliss potatoes and spinach, whole-wheat bigoli with berkshire pork ragu, and shaved fluke with olive oil, black pepper and blood orange. The food is wonderful, ranging from very good to truly sublime. At no point do you feel over-laden by heavy and unclear flavors – everything is fresh, sprightly, and imbued with touch of someone inspired by what he’s making.

My friend Alex and I, charmed by the beautiful environment and overwhelmed by the well-curated menu, ultimately opted to try the fragrant steamed mushroom toast, the chicken liver toast, the mackerel sashimi, both the spinach/goat cheese/herbs and tomato/mozzarella/basil whole wheat pizzas, the doughnuts, and the salted caramel sundae. The two toasts, off the market table menu, were fresh and aromatic with lightly oiled toppings over crispy on the outside, soft on the inside toast. The mushroom toast smelled as beautiful as it tasted, with piled high marinated mushrooms; the chicken liver variety was creamy and packed with salty savory flavor, slathered thickly over olive oil.

The pizzas were good, but by no means the best options on the extensive menu. Both had delicious whole wheat neapolitan-style crusts that struck the perfect balance between fluffy and crispy. The spinach, goat cheese, and herbs variety was too burdened by heavy spinach leaves for my taste, yet once stripped of the top layer, revealed a creamy olive-oil goat cheese mess worthy of Manhattan pizza fame; the tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil option, a tamed margherita, focused more on the tomato than any other element. The tomato sauce was fresh, with the clean earthy flavors of a ripe tomato and little else; small luscious blobs of mozzarella turned the pizza into a red-and-white cheetah print, with infrequently scattered leaves of basil.

The desserts really stole the show though with comforting all-American options such as a dressed-up cookie plate, carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream, chocolate cake, doughnuts, and a three-scoop sundae. The doughnuts were delicate, homemade holes stuffed with vanilla and citrus cream, crusted in cinnamon sugar, and served with a tangy blood orange marmalade – is your mouth-watering yet? It should be. I don’t even like doughnuts and those were downright ridiculous. The sundae was three scoops of to-die-for salted caramel peanut ice cream, swimming in chocolate sauce, and topped with whipped creme fraiche and candied popcorn; it was the epitome of ice cream parlor decadence and truly worth the hours of yoga needed to compensate.

ABC Kitchen is a real treat – a restaurant you can feel virtuous dining at without any sacrificing of options, flavor, texture, or ambience. A perfect spot for ladies night out (don’t forget about the environmentally-friendly cocktails and organic beer), a relaxed later in the game date night, or after-work drinks at the front bar, ABC Kitchen offers something truly special, especially for those seeking a more responsible way to approach food and eating out.

ABC Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Cafe Condesa: Fit for a Countess…

…in many ways. Cafe Condesa, a charming eco-friendly wine boite, is delicious enough for a countess, and priced for one too. Unassuming and sparsely decorated, Cafe Condesa sits discreetly on W.10th St, next to Bobo just off 7th Ave. In nice weather, the benches outside are usually populated by sole musicians or locals reading.

The restaurant itself is very compact, with only 10 to 12 tables and a couple seats at the “bar.” Little artwork and Thomas Edison-style light bulbs lend a ‘rustic’ and simple vibe. The emphasis here is not on the decor; it is on the food, the wine, and the ‘concept.’

Cafe Condesa is unique in its pursuit of eco-friendly cooking. There is no gas range; everything is prepared on magnetic induction cookers (i.e. top of the line hot plates). There is no back kitchen; the whole menu is cooked up in a small cramped corner behind the bar. You would never know though that the delicious food came out of that space. Despite the lack of high-tech cooking gear, the food is marvelous. Spanish, French, and Italian, the main influences clearly come from continental Europe. And although there are relatively few options, each dish is done exactingly.

The whole menu looked tempting from the warm brie cheese to the soft shell crab with terra crust to the pan seared sea scallops. I opted for the rack of lamb which they advertise as 3 chops but was suspiciously just 2. Despite being skimped, the lamb was tender and immensely flavorful with a chimmichurri sauce. My friend Sarah went for the scallops after much deciding. She adored them. It should be noted though: while the food is wonderful, the portions are miniscule and the prices are high.

My friends Sarah and Julie, my boyfriend and I absolutely tore through the wine list, devouring the pinot noir, the cote de rhone and the sauvignon blanc. They were all remarkable, not terribly high-priced, and the perfect fuel for an intimate evening of good conversation.

The one significant downside to Cafe Condesa is the lackadaisical service. Two waifs meander around the small space, chatting with each other and noshing on snacks. It took us almost 15minutes to get our check, at which point I just got up and gave it to one of them.

Regardless of the table service flaws, Cafe Condesa is equally ideal for a leisurely breakfast with the paper, a spirited dinner with friends, a romantic yet laidback date, or a wine-fueled evening of debate and banter. It’s sheer size gives it a unique and relaxed intimacy. Adorable and cozy, Cafe Condesa epitomizes a successful neighborhood joint!

Café Condesa on Urbanspoon

A New Organic Restaurant Opening in W. Village

Marcello Assante and Melissa Muller partner to open a new local and organic restaurant in the West Village – another option for all you health foodies to check out!

Organika is set to open on Barrow and Seventh Ave!

Le Pain Quotidien: La Simplicite Europeenne au Village

I have taken to enjoying a casual snack or coffee at my neighborhood Le Pain Quotidien on Hudson and Perry, and I feel the need to blog quickly about this wonderful place.

While technically a chain restaurant, Le Pain Quotidien manages to make each outpost feel cozy and neighborhood-y. The airy and rustic space on the corner of Hudson has private 2-person tables in the back, a large communal table at which to meet some new friends, and a tantalizing pastry/bread counter.

I adore the vibe of Le Pain Quotidien. It is all organic with hearty and fresh food that makes you actually feel healthy when eating it. The fruits, vegetables and dairy products taste like they were just brought in from local farms and the coffee is strong enough and sweet enough to perk up any caffeine-deprived Villager. Noshing on the thick wheat bread topped with luscious ricotta cheese, I feel as though I’ve been transported to a small cafe in the Belgian countryside.

I highly recommend Le Pain Quotiden for a leisurely breakfast with a loved one on the patio, a fresh and relaxing snack alone with the New York Times, or a cup of coffee with your best friend. Come here to relax and escape the overwrought cuisine of so many New York restaurants – bon appetit!