Category Archives: East Village

34 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – B&H Dairy’s Vegetarian Borscht: A Better Borscht Experience But Still Not A Borscht Fan

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Better than Veselka’s, but still not for me.

B&H Dairy is apparently one of the few kosher dairy restaurants left in New York City, and after more than 65 years in business, it’s still attracting plenty of customers.  I made my way there after work last week, even though I was still insanely stuffed from my late lunch.

I felt like I walked into one of those scary and depressing diners from a movie.  You know, the quiet, old diner in the middle of a desert that people go to after they leave their car at the scary gas station nearby.   B&H Dairy was a lot smaller, though.  The sliver of a room had one long counter with stools and some rectangular cocktail tables along the wall directly behind the stools.  The restaurant was pretty full – and very quiet – and once I squeezed myself into one of the counter seats, I had to get used to the arriving and departing customers brushing up against me.

Vegetarian Borscht at B&H Dairy

The steaming cup of fluorescent pink Vegetarian Borscht ($4.25 cup, $4.50 bowl) was placed in front of me immediately after I ordered it.  It looked like the meaty version at Veselka, but, instead of meat, it had a mix of beets, beans, bay leaves, cabbage, potato chunks, dill, and carrots.  I was expecting a depressing experience like the first time I had borscht, especially with the depressing ambience, but I was pleasantly surprised.   B&H Dairy’s borscht was sweeter and less vinegary, which made this the winning borscht for me, but I can also see the sweetness becoming a bit overwhelming.  I’d be happier skipping the soup and eating a whole loaf of the restaurant’s homemade sweet Challah bread.

I think I can now confidently declare that borscht is one of my least favorite soups, and, sadly, I think the color is a tiny part of the problem.  Borscht virgins should first try it before declaring the same thing.  I did see a woman scraping the bottom of her own cup.  :oD

B&H Dairy
127 Second Avenue (near St. Mark’s)
New York, NY 10003
212-505-8065

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

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24 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Trick or Borscht at Veselka?

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I’ll get my treats elsewhere.

Yep, I’m way behind on souping and writing.  For my handful of dedicated readers, I apologize dearly.  Life has presented me with some obstacles the past couple of months, so I, sadly, have been eating and writing less and stressing more.  Will try to keep the next three posts short in order to catch up, but you can probably tell that being short is a bit hard for me.

What would you choose?

Back on October 13th, MS and I went to Veselka since she had always wanted to go there.  The restaurant tried t

o be playful with a Halloween theme, and “Trick or Borscht” decorated their back wall.  Borscht, please!  I was specifically there to try it, after all.

Veselka's Ukrainian Borscht

The two of us opted for a cup of the Ukrainian Borscht ($3.50; bowl $4.75) since we’ve both never had it before and weren’t sure if we’d like it.  I had googled borscht beforehand to see what it actually was, and I knew that beets were usually the main ingredient.  But, somehow, I still wasn’t prepared for a cup of deep fluorescent pink liquid.  I felt like I was drinking a pink highlighter that was left to boil in some hot water.  “You eat with your eyes first” has never been so true, and I had wee bit of a tough time getting past the color.  (It does make for a nice photo though, huh?)

I also didn’t expect the vinegary sourness.  Clearly I didn’t read enough when I googled.  But once I ignored the pinkness, I could somewhat enjoy the sourness, beets, onions, tender beef, cabbage and big lima beans that made the soup.  It wasn’t horribly bad by any means, but the coloring unfortunately turned me off for some odd reason.  Weird texture and appearance don’t usually affect me.

So, after having tried my first borscht, if I had to do it all over again, I would say, “TRICK, please!”  And that’s too bad because I’ve got more borschts on the list to try.  But as they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  I’m willing to do that for soup.

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


22 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – DBGB’s Matzoh Ball Soup: An $8 Bowl of Gold

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I would take a giant bowl of this with a side of rice any day.

One would think that I was still dating my Jewish ex since, one fine night a few weeks ago, it looked as if I was taking part in Passover Seder.  Seder includes matzo ball soup and four cups of wine, among other foods and rituals.  Well, before going to DBGB for Jim’s Matzoh Ball Soup ($8), I took a wine tasting class at Astor Center and had multiple gulps and sips of nine varieties.  I was feeling reeeal festive after that, and there was no doubt that I needed something to flush out the alcohol at the end of class.  So it was a good thing that TSH was meeting me at the Center, from where we would walk over to DBGB.

I didn’t have high hopes for the Matzoh Ball Soup, not just because I’ve learned that New York magazine doesn’t always know what its talking about, but also because it’s Daniel Boulud’s restaurant, after all, and sometimes too much hype ensues just because of the name behind it.  But this $8 bowl piqued my senses from the moment the bartender placed it in front of me.  The scent of the golden broth traveled to my nose from behind the counter, which switched the “on” button in my mouth.  If I were a cartoon character, my eyes would be bugging a mile out and there’d be a waterfall gushing out of my mouth and onto the floor.

From the first taste, I wanted to become Jewish.  Maybe eventually the annoying Asian girl on my high school volleyball team can ask, “Really, you’re Jewish?” and have a good reason to actually ask that.

 

Jim's Matzoh Ball Soup at DBGB

 

The three medium-sized matzoh balls crumbled nicely.  Think of them as delicate, airy meatballs, without meat (I know, the horror, right?!), which were accompanied by pairs of two kinds of mini radish and baby balls of carrots.  The veggies were almost too cute to eat, but eat them I did.  And I loved every non-soggy bit.  I expected no meat, but, as I was swirling around, I found two little chunks of what looked and tasted like pork, but they had to be chicken, right?  Sometimes I really can’t tell, so in this case, I think I’ll safely assume it was chicken.

Sipping the broth was like sipping liquid gold – it was that rich.  Add some fresh dill and just a touch of salt, and you’ve got yourself a treasure.  At points, I even tasted a cinnamony flavor along with some essence of Italian seasoning.  Looks like parsley oil is drizzled in, according to NY mag, so that might partially explain the latter, along with some secret matzoh ball ingredients.

Ok, so, I’ve  never tried home made matzo ball soup, but I have a feeling it might just pale in comparison to DBGB’s.  And, until someone wants to cook up their home made version for me, I’ll take a pot of DBGB’s to go and eat it with a pot of rice, Asian style.  For me, this would be the best Jewish-Chinese pairing to date.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar
299 Bowery (between Houston and 1st Street)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 933-5300
www.danielnyc.com/dbgb.html

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


20 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Sick of the Ramen Hype but Not of the Soft Serve at Momofuku

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Don’t waste your time or money, unless it’s for their soft serve.

For five years, I lived really close to Momofuku, and in those five years, I had only eaten there twice.  “Momofuku” apparently means “lucky peach,” but the three times I’ve been there, I have never left feeling lucky, peachy, or like a lucky peach.

The first time was clearly to try the special Momofuku Ramen which was and has been all the rave.  I didn’t like it.  Paying $16 for that made me even grouchier.

The second time was in the cold of winter.  I know you’re asking what kind of person goes there again – waiting at least an hour while standing shoulder to shoulder with other customers and being pushed around by waiters – when she wasn’t impressed the first time?  The generous kind.  Like me.  I ordered the Momofuku Ramen again.  And, again, I was extremely disappointed.  Ok, maybe stupid people like me give second chances with food.

The third and last time was just a couple weeks ago when I had to go there because it was on New York magazine’s soup list.  Yes, I had to.  Yes, sometimes this adventure is no fun.  The third time was surely not going to be a charm.  Since I wasn’t about to waste another $16 just so I could reaffirm to you that the Momofuku Ramen isn’t all that, I went against my very structured, do-everything-by-the-books nature and ordered the three-course prix fixe lunch for $20.  I’m such a rebel!  A rebel with a cause, that is.  Now I can tell you that it’s not just the magazine-featured ramen that’s all hype; the restaurant in general is overrated, especially for the price.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche – Smoked Duck with Lemon Puree & Pickled Mustard Seeds
The mustard seeds gave the bite a nice crunch, but the lemon overpowered the duck which became an aftertaste.

1st Course - Steak Tartare

1st Course – Steak Tartare with Chili Flakes, Sesame and Quail Egg
A perfect-looking round of chopped raw meat was drenched in chili oil, sprinkled with sesame seeds, topped with a raw quail egg, and served with a side of greens that looked like butter lettuce.  When the dish arrived, I just stared.  I had no idea how to eat it, and no one bothered to explain it to me.  I’ve had steak tartare before, but the meat and sauce were prepared and mixed in front of me.  I had to flag a waitress down who then confirmed that I was supposed to mix the egg with the meat myself.  Pretty unappetizing, if you ask me, especially when I couldn’t mix the egg well enough.

I took a bite anyway, and was surprised that, even with all the red oil, it lacked any flavor.  Salt – where’s the salt?!  Other seasoning would’ve been nice, too.  The meat was also tough to chew, and made the experience even worse.  If you want a great steak tartare, head over to EO (Employees Only).

2nd Course - Corn Ramen

2nd Course – Corn Ramen with Hand-Cut Noodles, Smoked Ham & Delfino
Thick and wide noodles sat in a small bowl with clear brownish broth and were accented with a square of dry seaweed, a few kernels of fresh-roasted corn, roasted pork chunks, scallions, and delfino (think awesome Cilantro).  The noodles were cooked al dente, erring on the side of a touch too firm.  But I did like them.

The broth had a good smokiness, but it was too salty, just like the Momofuku ramen broth.  They could afford to use some of the salt in their broths in their tartare instead.

The pork was a tad on the dry side and was more like a tough Chinese roasted pork instead of the melt-in-your-mouth thin style one usually gets with ramen.

While the fresh roasted corn was extremely sweet and crunchy, I don’t understand why only a few kernels were included in the bowl.  Seems a bit absurd to call it a “Corn Ramen” and then only use the kernels as an accessory and not the main feature.  Even if they included an ample amount, they should’ve served the bowl with thin, delicate noodles instead.   The thick noodles didn’t lend themselves to being eaten with the little round yellow pearls, unless I fished them out with the spoon and then put a tiny piece of noodle on top.

Let’s go back to the delfino, though.  FABULOUS.  I’d like to grow me some of this stuff.  The rest of the Corn Ramen can remain a memory.

3rd Course - Spring Pea and Strawberry Soft Serve Twist

3rd Course – Cousin Leroy and Arlo’s Soft Serve – Spring Pea and Strawberry Twist
Imagine me happily running through a strawberry field in the spring.  Sounds totally wrong since strawberry season is in the summer, right?  Well this is how Momofuku’s soft serve made me feel.  Spring pea flavor?  What?  Twisted with strawberry flavor?  No way!  Yes way!  It was so crazily divine…

I happen to be a green pea fan, so this was a treat to get it in ice cream form.  It tasted just like fresh sweet peas.  MmmmMMmM.  The strawberry flavor was also made with fresh strawberries – you could see flecks of the real thing.  And, while the first few bites already made up for the previous two courses, I was later surprised with something even more heavenly.  As I got closer to the center and the bottom of the tiny teacup, I discovered a mix of crunchy dried peas (think wasabi peas without the wasabi), salt and crumbled graham cracker or pie crust.  These toppings may have been at the bottom, but they remained a top highlight of the dessert.  I ate this last course so fast that I felt sick.  If feeling sick feels this good, then I always want to be sick.

Momofuku
171 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-7773
momofuku.com

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


4 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – First Impressions Color Your Perceptions and Hearth’s Chicken Soup was Impressive

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Go treat your taste buds to a well-executed and unique chicken soup!

Exhibit A

First impressions – one chance to reel them in and color their perceptions…to feel  a warmth towards you…to want to find out more.  And let’s be real here:  no one wants people to think negatively about them.  I certainly don’t, and perhaps that’s why I am very colorful on the outside…literally.  In stark contrast to my more serious side, I have a pretty colorful wardrobe (see Exhibit A).  But it may be why the most common word I’ve heard to describe me after an initial meeting is that I’m very “pleasant.”  (Shall I toot my horn some more?)

Luckily, my experience at Hearth was nothing less than a number of pleasant first impressions.  Some full disclosure – I’ve been to Hearth about four times already, and each time I’ve been impressed with the food.  I’ve also been impressed with the extremely friendly and knowledgeable bartender, Kelley (I met her the last time I was there, and she’s definitely a bartender I’d want to share more food and drinks with).  But I think this just set the bar super high when I decided to go there to try their famous Chicken Soup with Farro and Dumplings.

I went with one of my absolute bestest friends (practically my sister and twin) tonight, and sat at the bar since Kelley happened to be working (hoorah!).  Right when we sat down, we were introduced to Chef Marco who happened to be standing there.  I told him about my little adventure, and he was definitely interested in what I thought (for all he knew I was a young-looking food critic).  We interacted a couple of times, and each time I thought, “What a cool guy.”  I tend to think this of most famous chefs whom I meet – they are genuine, fun-loving people who truly care about customer satisfaction.

Chicken Soup with Farro and Dumplings

When the soup came out, it was a really colorful, rich bowl that just made me eager to dig in.  After my first spoonful, I had to consciously stop myself from picking the bowl up and just slurping it up asian-style.  It was like a lighter French Onion soup but a bolder traditional chicken soup.  The dumplings were not only the perfect size but also the perfect texture (much better than the matzo balls in matzo ball soup).  The firm yet chewy farro was a nice complement to everything else…and a nice, unique surprise.  That may have been my favorite part of the soup.  So, when I was nearing the end of the bowl, I tilted it to make sure I got every…last…drop.

At $10 a bowl, the Chicken Soup isn’t considered cheap, but I do think it’s worth it.  Was I colored by my fantastic first impressions?  One will never know until you try it yourself.

Hearth Restaurant
403 East 12th Street (at First Avenue)
New York, NY 10009
(646) 602-1300

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!