Showing posts with label hell's kitchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hell's kitchen. Show all posts


Chicken (and More!) in Hell's Kitchen

I've always loved snarky restaurant names. Hell's Chicken (641 10th Avenue) has to be one of my favorites. Their food was pretty darn good also.

I was invited to visit the Hell's Kitchen Korean eatery last week and sample some traditional dishes as well as their highly-rated fried chicken. I visited South Korea about 2 years ago and love finding menu items that remind me of my trip. Instantly, I saw makgeolli ($14)--an unfiltered rice drink similar to nigori sake--and knew how we had to start our meal. It may look weird, but makgeolli is cold and refreshing with a crispy finish. Perfect for a summer evening.


The friendly owner Sung Jin Min walked us through the menu and advised that we start with the Kimchi Jeon ($10), a Korean-style kimchi fried pancake, and the Mussam Mari ($7), pickled radish wraps with vegetables. The pancake was one of my favorite items of the meal. It reminded me of the scallion pancakes I've ordered from many a Chinese dumpling restaurant, but the kimchi made it a bit heartier. It was served on a sizzling hot platter with a soy-based dipping sauce. The Mussam Mari was cooling yet tart and was a great palate cleanser between the Kimchi Jeon and what was to come.

Kimchi Jeon
Kimchi Jeon
Mussam Mari
Mussam Mari

Then came the chicken from Hell! Just kidding. Well, kind of. We ordered drums (you can order wings or a combination of both) because I find they are easier to eat ($12-$50). Then we had a wide array of sauces to choose from arranged on the menu from mild to spicy. We went with soy ginger (a take on the traditional soy garlic) and spicy Hell's (the house sauce).

I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to spice but the spicy Hell's was totally manageable. If you like ginger, the soy ginger will be your best friend. The chicken itself was cooked to a perfect crisp and each piece beckons you before you even finish the last.

What's interesting about the fried chicken is that it's gluten free. It's made with an all-rice flour batter and fried in canola instead of soybean oil. Celiac's rejoice!

Soy ginger (left) and spicy Hell's (right) fried chicken drumsticks
Soy ginger (left) and spicy Hell's (right) fried chicken drumsticks

Lest we forget the rest of the very authentic Korean menu, we finished up with the Dolsot Bibimbap ($16). A classic hot stone bowl mix of vegetables, rice, beef, hot sauce and an egg, this bibimbap cooks as you mix it up (don't worry, I'm not into eating raw egg!). I apologize for not taking an after pic, but I highly advise you go to Hell's Chicken and get this dish yourself. You'll find the rice puffs and crunches a bit more than it would in a regular bowl and that makes this bibimbap that much more incredible.

Dolsot Bibimbap
Dolsot Bibimbap

You may have to walk a couple blocks further west to get to Hell's Chicken than you would normally, but it's worth the extra steps (your FitBit will thank you). Try the chicken that matches your tastes, share a steaming bowl of bibimbap, and wash it all down with some makgeolli or soju. Oh and tell Sung I said hi!

Disclosure: Hell's Chicken provided a comp'd meal in exchange for this review but all opinions are my own.

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Buy a Cookie from Your Favorite Broadway Star

Disclosure: I LOVE Schmakary's. I've tried at least half of their cookie flavors and merely walking into their shop and inhaling the aromas of fresh-baked cookies makes me smile. I also love their strong ties to the local Broadway community.

Schmackary's Logo

So it only makes sense that if they were going to do a fundraiser, it would be for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS--a wonderful organization that practically all of the Broadway productions get behind twice a year to raise money for people afflicted with the terrible disease.

Join them for the third annual BROADWAY BAKES 2015, and come watch your favorite Broadway stars play cookie peddlers just for you! From May 25-29, 2015, from 3-7pm, over 20 of the biggest names on Broadway (Audra McDonald came last year!) will join together to work behind the counter at Schmackary’s selling delicious cookies.

Half the proceeds from cookies sales and 100-percent of the tips generated while the Broadway stars are working at Schmackary’s will go directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Over the last 2 years, this event has helped raise more than $25,000 for the organization.

Here are some photos from last year:

Schmakary's Broadway Bakes 2014

Schmakary's Broadway Bakes 2014

Schmackary's on Urbanspoon


Meet the Indian "Chipotle" Now Open in the Theater District

I'll be the first to admit that having Indian food for lunch often sounds unappealing simply because it's hard to return to my desk and work after a rich, filling, often spicy meal served from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Ironic because I LOVE Indian food. So when I heard about the new fast casual Indian restaurant Chutney Kitchen, which opened up shop in Hell's Kitchen in February, I couldn't wait to try it.

Chutney Kitchen is the brainchild of former finance 9-5'er Silu Sao and her friend since grade school, Pankaj Amin. One morning Sao's 8-year-old daughter asked her why she was working in finance when all she loved was to cook. That week she quit her hedge fund job and enrolled in culinary school. After 2 years of creating recipes reflecting the fresh, high-quality Indian food she likes to eat at home, Sao opened the restaurant with Amin with the goal of providing a light alternative to this cuisine especially geared toward those with special dietary needs like vegetarians and those who eat gluten-free.

The way it works is very much like Chipotle. You choose a base--roti wrap (like a burrito), naan tacos, salad greens, rice bowl, or chaat bowl (garbanzo beans and potatoes)--and then a fill:
  • Charbroiled chicken marinated in yogurt and spices ($8.95)
  • Pulled pork simmered with tangy spices ($8.95)
  • Shredded steak marinated in ginger, garlic and chilies ($9.95)
  • Pan-seared potatoes seared with tumeric, cumin and onions ($7.95)
  • Farmer's cheese (Paneer) sauteed with a 5-spice blend ($8.95)
  • Lentils (Daal) stewed with onions and spices ($7.95)

You can then choose flavors including warm sauces (coconut cashew, tikka, or vindaloo), cold chutneys (date, yogurt, cilantro, or mirchi), and salad dressings (lemon cumin and spicy mango).

If you can't make up your mind (or are just overwhelmed by choices), Chutney Kitchen has some suggestions including the Viva Las Vegas (naan tacos with pulled pork, vindaloo, carrots & cabbage, pickled onions and yogurt and mirchi chutneys) and the Lucy Goosey (Chaat bowl with cucumber and tomatoes, chickpea crunch, and date, yogurt and cilantro chutneys).

I opted for the shredded steak chaat bowl with tikka sauce, carrots & cabbage, corn, chickpea crunch, and yogurt chutney washed down with an Aranciata San Pellegrino. The bowl was enough food for 2 meals for me, which I really appreciated. It was flavorful, yet slightly spicier than I expected. If you don't like spicy, make sure to let the person preparing your food know and they'll steer you clear of anything you won't like.

Other intriguing items on the menu include masala fries ($2.50), hot street chai ($3.50), and mango smoothies ($3.50). The only thing missing was dessert--I would love to see Sao's take on gulab jamun!

Full disclosure: I received a free meal from Chutney Kitchen but the opinions presented here are 100% my own.


Finding Heaven in Hell's Kitchen With Sugartooth Tours

Here at Awesome in New York, we love a good tour, especially when there is food involved. The city has so much to see (and eat!), that to spend an afternoon running around eating every 15-20 minutes is a totally acceptable (and encouraged!) thing to do as far as we're concerned. If you're up for skipping savory food altogether and going straight for dessert, we suggest Sugartooth Tours for a fabulous sugar-high of an adventure.

Sugartooth Tours specializes in walking dessert food tours, combining culinary and cultural history with the best desserts in New York City. Tour guides showcase the city's best hidden bakeries and off-the-beaten-path gems where the locals go. Tours run year round with many special seasonal tours, including private tours and special events.

The fine folks at Sugartooth invited my mom and me to their signature "Heaven in Hell's Kitchen" tour a few Saturday's ago, and though I used to work in the neighborhood and visit it quite often, I had only been to 2 of the 6 stops we made. Yay for trying new things!

Our first stop was SoHo transplant Kee's Chocolates (315 W 39th Street). A tiny storefront offering high-quality, hand-made chocolates, Kee's was featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" for their Creme Brulee Bon Bon ($2.70). Naturally, that was the one I had to try. Our bubbly tour guide Nathalie, encouraged me to eat it in one bite, which I was a bit apprehensive about because it was rather large, but I was so glad I did since it's pure liquid on the inside. This was truly a chocolate experience! Other exotic flavors on the menu include Earl Grey, fennel, honey kumquat, and yuzu.

Stop #2 was a place I must have walked by several times before but had never been in. The Cupcake Cafe (545 9th Avenue) has been serving their namesake desserts since before they were trendy (since 1988 people!). Home of the "original buttercream," all cupcakes are decorated with beautiful flowers that almost look too good to eat. But eat we did! I had almond cake with peanut butter frosting while my mom sampled the coconut ($3 for small and $5 for large). The texture of the buttercream was noticeably smoother than any I had ever had before and I would definitely recommend you check out this cute, plant-clad cafe ASAP!

Next stop was a place I know well from my days working in the neighborhood. The Little Pie Company (424 W 43rd Street) is a New York City institution in my book and you haven't had pie until you've tried their sour cream apple walnut fresh out of the oven. My mom was in luck, because that was exactly what we sampled! What I love about this place is that in addition to selling standard size pies and other delectables, they are known for their little 5" pies ($8), which can still serve multiple people, or not, we won't tell.

Poseidon Greek Bakery (629 9th Avenue) was stop number 4. Nathalie gave us a bit of history on the food of 9th Avenue and explained that the family-run bakery is one of the last hold-outs from a simpler time when pushcarts ruled the area and Times Square was, let's just say, a little less Disney. Poseidon is known for rolling their own filo dough, a very laborious process, and specializes in several different kinds of baklava. We tried a log-shaped variety which was the perfect model of what the honey, nutty pastry should be.

Walking into stop #5, I was a bit sad because the space occupied by Schmackary's (362 W 45th Street) used to be inhabited by this kick-ass Soul Food spot that I liked to frequent when I worked in the area. However, after one bite of a sweet corn Schmackary's cookie with cranberries and pecans ($2.75 each), I was most assuredly not sad anymore. My mom tried the rocky road and OMG was that amazing as well. I want to go back and EAT ALL THE FLAVORS. The friendly staff made my afternoon all that much better when they served us each a little glass of milk to wash everything down with. This may have been my favorite stop on the tour.

Mom and Me at Schmackary's

Originally, our last stop was supposed to be Donna Bell's Bake Shop (301 West 49th Street), but since they were closed for store repairs, we ventured over to another of my Hell's Kitchen favorites, Amy's Bread (672 9th Avenue). My favorite thing to get there is their turkey cranberry sandwich on raisin semolina bread, but their cupcakes are a close second. We had their chocolate challah, which was sad to say, just ok. Maybe I had already passed my sugar saturation barrier for the day, but I don't think I would order that again. Their cheesy bread sticks...that's another story :)

All tours run about 2 hours and cost $50 per person, although several other members of our tour said they got deals on How About We Couples or Groupon, so be sure to keep your eyes peels for deals. Sugartooth Tours also offers a "Sweeter than Sugar" Chelsea dessert tour (Sunday's at 4), a "Village to Village" cupcake tour (select Fridays at 2 and Saturdays at 4), and they will be debuting an ice cream tour soon! I would recommend the tour for anyone, local or tourist because a) you eat A LOT and b) I learned a lot of good history nuggets that I can now impress all my friend's with! (Did you know the founder of Amy's Bread moved all her baking operations to LIC and is now calling that area the "flour district"?)


Meet Your New Favorite Pre-Theater Prix Fixe

Eating out pre-theater can often be a hassle. While there is a huge selection of excellent restaurants especially 9th Avenue, they are often overcrowded and overpriced between the hours of 6-8pm. So imagine my delight when I found a rather large restaurant with an affordable and variable menu (not to mention a $25 prix fixe with a glass of wine) right on 9th Ave and 54th Street.

Pier 9 Restaurant specializes in both American and Mediterannean cuisines, boasting especially fresh fish and innovative flavor combinations. I was invited with a friend to try out their restaurant last week and we were thoroughly impressed.

Back part of the dining room

We each started with a glass of wine ($10), although I was very tempted by some of their unique cocktails. For bread, we were brought a very hot iron pan of cornbread. Honestly, I could subsist on good cornbread, and this stuff was delicious! It was lighter than your average recipe, but that just made me feel like I could eat more of it...teehehe!


For appetizers, we tried the Shitake Arancini ($12), risotto balls stuffed with shitake mushrooms and mozzarella cheese with spicy tartar sauce, and the Spicy Roasted Mussels ($12), mussels in a lemon, chili oil, garlic, white wine and crispy basil broth. The arancini were heavenly and one of my favorite parts of the meal -- perfectly cheesy and crispy, yet not oily. The shitakes really added a nice earthy flavor as well. As for the mussels, these were some of the most giant mussels I've ever seen in my life! Good thing they were also perfectly cooked and pretty tasty. Ten extra points for grilled bread to sop up the broth once the mussels were gone.

Shitake Arancini


For entrees, we both took our waiter's suggestion and ordered fish. I had the Big Eye Tuna Au Poivre ($28), sushi grade tuna seared to perfection served with spinach puree of roasted onion, carrots and au poivre sauce, and my friend had the Horse Radish Crusted Scottish Salmon ($22), golden crusted horse radish salmon served with melted "holland" leeks, black lentils and finish with ver jus. Both dishes were great, if not rather large (though is that really a problem?). Mine was served with sauteed spinach and I loved the sauce. The baby carrots were a little weird for me, but only because cooked baby carrots are weird for me in general. I absolutely loved the salmon as well. I was thinking of ordering it but was turned off by the thought of something covered in horseradish. It is in no way overdone, and the horseradish actually makes the fish pretty dynamic.

Big Eye Tuna Au Poivre

Horse Radish Crusted Scottish Salmon

You would think we were too full for dessert, but good thing we left plenty of time for digesting. We ended up ordering the Caramel Rice Crispy Treat ($7) layered with chocolate mousse and mascarpone and served with maple ice cream and papaya. The papaya was a little out of place, but I just got back from Hawaii so it worked on my palate.

Now more about that prix fixe...from 6-8 you can get a 3-course meal with a glass of wine for only $25. That is an especially great deal since the salmon alone costs $22 and that is one of the options on the deal. If you don't feel like eating that much food, I also noted that Pier 9 is on Scoutmob with a 50% deal, so you should definitely check that out. Pier 9 is definitely a solid option for a good meal, and they are constantly running specials (like their upcoming $60 themed Valentine's Day dinner that comes with a cocktail and live music) so pay them a visit and let us know what you think!

Pier 9 on Urbanspoon


Get Your Fill of Brazil

I'm pretty sure that every time I walk along 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen I discover at least 2 or 3 new restaurants and bars. I'm not sure if that's because the neighborhood is becoming more desirable or because the theater crowd is picky about their dining establishments, leading to a high turnover rate. Regardless of the reason, I'm thrilled that Brasilina opened up shop late last year between 55th and 54th Streets.

Getting invited to a Brazillian restaurant in one of the busiest neighborhoods in town led me to believe I was going to one of those joints with the giant meat-filled swords where they keep pushing the chicken and sausages on you over the steak because they are cheaper (you know what I'm talking about and you love them too). However, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into Brasilina on a Sunday night to find live music, a wall of windows splayed open to the warm summer air, and a very friendly hostess eager to show us to our seats. 

We were served the house yucca chips with olive oil and herb butter.along with our caipirinhas and as someone who normally doesn't like the slightly woody taste of yucca, I can tell you that I loved these. I had to remind myself I had a full meal coming and to stop eating them. The caipirinhas were delicious as well -- as authentic as I had in Portugal (the two cuisines are practically one in the same if you didn't know).

Yucca Chips

Me with my Caipirinha

Live Music

For starters, we ordered the Salgados, an assorted plate of Brazilian croquettes filled with chicken "coxinha," beef "kibe," and codfish "bolinho de bacalhau," and the Pastel , a plate of assorted light crusted empanadas filled with ground beef and cheese with house vinaigrette, per our waitresses suggestion.



There should really be a drumroll before the main course is served here. Seriously. They bring out my Moqueca in a large metal cauldron on a giant wood plank and seriously I have no clue how I'm ever going to finish it. However, with one bite of the cod and shrimp stew served, "pirĂ£o," and cajun nuts over jasmine rice I know I sure well am going to try. Moqueca is something else I discovered in Portugal and it might be one of my favorite meals ever. It's made with coconut milk and sweet peppers and served with Brazilian bread crumbs made from yucca to thicken up the stew. Alas, I did not finish it, but I had the best lunch in the office the next day.


My dining partner loves a good steak and was tipped off by Brazilian tourists at the next table over that the Picanha Fatiada was the best cut of meat to order. It was served in a sizzling pan with white rice, black beans, and collard greens, and it was A LOT of meat. The steak was super juicy and tender, but the only thing I'll complain about in the whole meal was the collard greens served with it. They seemed like almost a vegetable afterthought, and something a little more tasty would have been nice.

Picanha Fatiada

After this feast of a meal, we sadly had to turn down dessert, but I was tipped off that the Brigadeiro, a dark Valrhona chocolate and white coconut chocolate truffle of sorts with reduced condensed milk, was the way to go.

Brasilina would be great for a Sunday supper like we did (you can't beat live music!), but it would also be nice for a pre-theater or even celebratory dinner. The prices were reasonable as well, especially for the amount of food you are served. I'll definitely be back. Obrigada (thank you in Portuguese) for a wonderful meal!

Brasilina Restaurant and Cafe on Urbanspoon