Category Archives: Noho

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!

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A Souped-Up Experience: Double Crown’s Gracious Dinner Invitation

After posting my review of Double Crown’s Mulligatawny, I was surprised with a comment from M at the restaurant’s parent company, AvroKO.  She had “a suggestion,” which ended up being much more than I could ever imagine:

“We came across your blog yesterday and we loved your mission of finding the 50 best soups in the city! Our Executive Chef Brad Farmerie loves making and serving soups in the restaurant, so he was glad to find someone [who] really appreciates that!  So, we would like to invite you to come for dinner on Sunday night; we’re currently making a few changes to the menu and are inviting friends, family and foodies to come and sample some of the dishes that Brad Farmerie & Chris Rendell are working on, and we thought, given how much of a soup fan you are, that we’d really like to get your thoughts on the new menu (which includes a wonderful laksa I hope you’ll love!).”

Excited beyond words, I immediately wrote her back and set a reservation for me plus two for their Sunday Nonya Nights.  After waiting in anticipation all week, T, Jamiroquai and I finally met up this past Sunday and had a dinner experience that not only satisfied our stomachs but also made us feel like royalty.  I’m pretty sure (but not 100% positive) that guests are typically supposed to choose one of two choices for each course on the Nonya menu, and then share each choice family-style.  Well, the three of us were treated to everything on the menu, plus an extra dish, courtesy of Chef Chris Rendell.

As I was taking photos, I wondered whether or not I could be fully honest in this blog entry since they were being so incredibly generous.  But they did say they wanted my feedback on the new menu, so here are my unabashed thoughts:  all dishes used extremely fresh ingredients, some could use a little tweaking, none left me with a desire to stop eating.  Overall, while in the company of two girlfriends that I consider family, I sometimes felt right at home, and I gobbled up as much as I could…until I couldn’t loosen my belt anymore.

*     *     *

The Cocktails

While we waited for T to arrive, Jamiroquai and I ordered cocktails, which, unfortunately, tasted a bit like medicine.

(Left) CUCUMBER, APPLE AND ELDERFLOWER TALL
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, apple, elderflower, wild honey, cucumber

(Right) THAI BASIL DARK & STORMY
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, homemade Thai basil ginger

Nonya Nights Menu

No price on this menu, but I looked it up, and it’s usually $35 per person.

Bread

We were wondering who made the bread because they were tassstyyyy.  There was a jalapeno bread of some sort with salt crystals on top, but our favorite was the one with raisins, fennel and other goodness.  We weren’t afraid to ask for more.  🙂  The coconut butter was too hard and didn’t add to the flavors.

Singapore Laksa

I just noticed this wasn’t on the menu.  While it tasted good (but not as good as Taste Good’s Laksa in Queens, which had more kick) and the noodles had a nice texture, the presentation left me slightly confused.  I felt strange eating and drinking a milky coconut substance – instead of black or chrysanthemum tea – out of a teacup.

Pot of Extra Broth

For me, this is also the type of soup where I would really want the starch of the noodles to eat with it.  That’s why, after I finished the sliver of a noodle in my teacup, I never poured more broth out of this pot.  I kept wondering, if the extra broth and our individual portions of noodles were put together in one bowl, would the soup-to-noodle ratio be insanely distorted?

I say keep it simple.  If it’s on the normal menu, I would serve it the traditional way in a medium-sized bowl for one person.  For Nonya nights, which are supposed to be about family-style, I would serve this laksa the way they serve soup at Chinese banquets.  The waiter brings out a big bowl of soup and serves it into little bowls, making sure every bowl gets a little bit of everything (or you do it yourself).  It’s more of a shared experience.  There’s just something about taking portions out of the same dish that makes you feel closer.

(Left) Salt & Pepper Squid w/Green Chili Dipping Sauce; (Right) Apple, Lotus & Lily Bulb Salad w/Chili Miso Dressing

I LOVE Salt and Pepper Squid, so I was very excited that this was on the menu.  It was nicely fried, but the first few pieces were too salty.  Once you got to the bottom, however, the pieces were more perfectly seasoned.  The green chili dipping sauce didn’t excite any of us either.  I’d toss slices of fresh green chili pepper with the squid instead.

The Apple, Lotus and Lily Bulb Salad was AWESOME.  I couldn’t stop commenting how refreshing it was.  This was also my first time eating Lily Bulb.  Um, hello?  I am oh so sad that I have been missing this all my life!  I never would’ve thought that miso dressing with apples would pair well together, but I think I’d eat this salad everyday for lunch if I could.  Do I dare try making this at home?

COMPLIMENTS OF THE CHEF: Yellowtail Sashimi w/Cucumber, Hijiki, Citrus-Truffle Dressing

This yellowtail sashimi was a nice surprise.  On the surface, it looked like maybe there was too much going on, but the different textures and flavors worked well together.

I think this was the point I loosened my belt a notch, and yet I still had a loooong way to go.

Coconut Chicken with Snowpeas and Mint

This chicken salad contained thinly sliced snowpeas, peanuts, raw beansprouts, mint, cilantro, toasted coconut and baby dried shrimp powder.  I couldn’t really taste all of the ingredients, and Jamiroquai said she wished there was more mint, but, just like the apple salad, I personally wish I could eat this for lunch once in a while, too.

Oatmeal Crusted Shrimp w/Fried Garlic

Possibly my FAVORITE DISH of the night.  Fried shrimp is a pretty popular Chinese banquet dish whenever my family has some dinner party, but I’ve never had it quite like this.  I usually don’t bother eating it because it’s just way too greasy, but this was something else entirely.  You could see it was deep fried, but it tasted rather light.  Does oatmeal automatically make everything taste and feel healthier?

Steak Knife

Behold the steak knife!  This is the point where Jamiroquai exclaimed that Double Crown was really winning her over – the partially serrated blade, light weight, and pretty ivory (?) handle…  Scary. 🙂

Grilled Strip Steak w/Chinese Black Bean Sauce

Too bad she wasn’t as ecstatic about the steak, which I could understand.

Although the steak was perfectly cooked – very tender and not hard to chew – there was a slight disconnect with this dish, despite some of its Asian ingredients.  I couldn’t taste the black beans, and the Chinese broccoli might’ve been better served as leaves only to resemble collard greens (and maybe with some mashed taro root?).  I appreciate the play on traditional Chinese beef and broccoli (if that’s indeed what it was), but, in this case, I’d rather have the Chinese version.

Sweet & Sour Eggplant w/Tofu & Pickled Bean Sprout

I couldn’t wait for this dish to come out because I wanted to see how it’d compare with my mom’s eggplant dish – one of my faves.  In the end, this might be a very close second to the fried shrimp.  My only gripe is that it was slightly too sugary for me, so I prefer my mom’s version.  But it IS called “Sweet and Sour” Eggplant.  *shrug*  The mushrooms at the bottom kept me going back for more.

Brussel Sprouts w/Sweet Chili Glaze

Looks charred, right?  Well, brussel sprouts that are charred and crisp on the outside ROCK!  These rivaled the ones T and I love at The Vanderbilt in Brooklyn.  Jamiroquai doesn’t usually like charred things, but she liked these.

Steamed Rice w/Ginger-Garlic Relish

The Rice – no Asian meal can do without rice, in my opinion.  I eat a lot of it, and I typically eat it plain with my meal.  But Double Crown’s ginger-garlic relish won me over, even though it looked a bit unappetizing.  I think I could eat this by itself as dinner every night and be perfectly happy.

Doggie Bag Claim Check

Before dessert was served, I had asked one of the waiters to pack up our leftovers.  I sure as heck wasn’t going to let that all go to waste.  A few minutes later, the waiter placed a claim check in front of me, and, after seeing the utter confusion on my face, told me that it was for my doggie bag on my way out.  Genius!  The table or floor wouldn’t be cluttered with a to-go bag, and I could continue on with my pleasant evening without feeling rushed.

(Left) Kalamansi Lime Custard w/Tangerine Broth & Champagne Kaffir Jelly; (Right) Warm Banana Fritter w/Cashew Toffee Ice Cream & Cereal Crisp

“MmmMMMMmmmmmMMmmmm…MMmmmMMmmMMm…” is all you could hear from us while we ate these desserts.  Jamiroquai and I wanted to end with our favorite one, but we couldn’t figure out which one that was.  T declared the Kalamansi Lime Custard her fave.  It resembled a creamsicle (but better) and refreshed the palate.

The fried banana reminded me of Filipino fried bananas but with a welcome crust.  The oatmeal crisp had just the right amount of sugar and spice, and the cashew ice cream thankfully tasted like real cashews and not a bunch of extracts.  Cashews are one of my favorite nuts, and I’ve never seen them made into an ice cream flavor, so this was special to me.  Together, these three pieces complemented each other, but they were also good enough to stand on their own.

*     *     *

As you can imagine, we left stuffed.  Too.  Much.  Good.  Food.  Sure, perhaps there could be some minor adjustments, but Double Crown will definitely be seeing me more often.  I’m especially excited to experience brunch in the Springtime.

Special Thanks

Thank you to M for contacting me and making the reservations for dinner.  Thank you to the waiters for being friendly and accommodating and never trying to rush us out.   And a huge thank you again to Chef Farmerie and Chef Rendell (whom I had the pleasure of meeting).  Words can’t express my gratitude for treating me and my friends to such a memorable meal.


5 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Taking Comfort in Illusions, Double Crown’s Mulligatawny Does the Trick

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Need some comforting?  Then go treat your taste buds!

I woke up this morning feeling extremely crappy.  My eyes felt swollen, my head felt like it contained a 50-pound weight, and my throat hurt…again.  I just got over a week-long illness two weeks ago, so I really wasn’t thrilled to wake up with this familiar, unwelcome feeling.  But I had plans to meet Jamiroquai* for another soup tasting.  I have responsibilities to fulfill, darn it!

I dragged my butt out of bed, hopped into the shower and then continued with my daily light makeup routine.  Normally I put on makeup because, admittedly, I care about how others perceive me, and I need all the help I can get to look my age (I’m 31 and look anywhere from 18-25), especially when I’m at work.  This morning, the carefully drawn-on mask was a way to trick myself into thinking that I looked good and was feeling healthy.  It gave me the necessary push to start the day with a better attitude.

When I finally made it to the restaurant, Double Crown, Jamiroquai* and I were thankfully seated right away.  We apparently got there right before the crowd.  Phew!

I asked the waiter how big the Mulligatawny soup ($9) was, and he advised that it was a decent-sized bowl but that it might be good to order a side dish.  So we ordered a small baked goods basket ($5) and a side of roasted mushrooms ($5) as well.

Double Crown's Mulligatawny

As the Mulligatawny was being placed in front of me, I was reminded of the Billi-Bi at Minetta Tavern, but a much prettier version.  To quote New York’s blurb: “This vegetarian rendition of the imperial relic combines puréed and whole red lentils with enough spices (green chiles, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper)…Floating atop is a piquant garnish of preserved lemon, red onion, cilantro stems, and a couple crimson turnip wedges pickled in beet juice.”

I really didn’t want to mess up the art, but I dunked my spoon and lifted a spoonful to my impatient mouth.  In the few seconds between the lifting and the shoving into my mouth (gracefully, of course), my senses were pleasantly greeted by the spicy scent.  Then, when the orange sea flowed down, it enlivened me even more.  The green chiles definitely left their itty bitty mark – a nice little parting gift to say, “Hey, we’re here to give you that extra kick!”  So, not only did the bowl leave me feeling perfectly satiated, it also comforted me, even if it was just temporarily.  It would make for the perfect winter cabin meal after a long day of snowboarding/skiing (if I actually did this sorta thing).

Alas, our meal was over, and Jamiroquai and I headed to the bathroom before venturing back outside.  It was the best bathroom experience yet.  (Stay with me, it’s not going to get gross.)  The lighting in the individual stalls made you feel extra beautiful.  Super smooth, porcelain skin and plump pink lips – I challenge everyone to not stare at yourself in the bathroom mirror while you’re there.

Needless to say, the makeup, Double Crown’s Mulligatawny and the special lighting all contributed to my feeling better for a few hours.  Sometimes the best way to make it through a rough day is to create the illusion that everything is better than it is.

Double Crown
316 Bowery (at Bleecker)
New York, NY
(212) 254-0350

*My “twin,” who will probably be accompanying me a lot on these tastings, shall now be dubbed “Jamiroquai” from here on out.  It’s an inside joke, so don’t get confused.  I’m not out with the band. 🙂

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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!