Vinateria

This eatery in Harlem is a little bit off the beaten path for me.  I don't usually venture that far uptown for food.  Since this place has become one of the go-to places for a foodie friend of mine, I thought I should check it out. 

I liked the energy and vibe of the place almost immediately after entering the imposing black doors. The space was light-filled and airy, lively but not chaotic. I was able to get a seat at the bar and have my morning coffee before my friends arrived. 

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The brunch menu had all the usual brunch items.  I liked that brunch items automatically include coffee/tea and orange juice/mimosa/bloody mary. 

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Not sure how I got talked into ordering the Steak and Eggs  I was surprised to see such an enormous portion. The steak was a bit overcooked, but very tender and juicy nonetheless. It was a very yummy dish. Definitely the thing to order if you are hungry!

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I had a bite of my friend's French Toast. It tasted as good as it looked. I would totally come back and order this. 

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My other friend's burger looked ridiculously decadent! 

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

On my second visit, I got the Porchetta sandwich.  Since the sandwich was topped with a fried egg, it counts as breakfast in my book.  The pork was nice and juicy, but not super flavorful. I did like the aioli sauce on the toasted bread.

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Believe it or not, we actually found room in our stomachs for dessert!  This Olive Oil Cake was my friends' favorite dessert item. I liked the combination of the Olive Oil Cake with kumquat.  The citrus of the kumquat balanced out the richness of the olive oil nicely. The sesame seed ice-cream, on the other hand, was a bit of a miss for me. I liked the sesame ice-cream fine, I just didn't think the flavor went with the cake well. 

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This house made blueberry and orange sorbet was my favorite. It was icy, refreshing, and the intensity of the fruit really shines through. Excellent palate cleanser and a great way to end the meal. 

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Verdict: A; Comfortable space, friendly service, good price, and not hard to get a reservation….all good reasons to check this place out if you are in the neighborhood. 

Venateria
2211 Frederick Douglass Blvd (@119th Street)
http://www.vinaterianyc.com

North River Lobster Company

What better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon than cruising along the Hudson River, basting in the sun, taking in the Manhattan skyline, all while feasting on lobsters!  Whoever came up with the idea of this floating seafood restaurant is a genius!

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The boat (the floating restaurant) sets sail from Pier 81 on the westside of Manhattan 5-6 times a day.  We decided to take the 630pm sail so we can enjoy the beautiful sunset.  We ordered our food and drinks at the bar and headed up to the sun deck.  

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We didn't have to wait long before the waiter brought us our seafood feast.  The lobster roll was amazing! Chunks of fresh lobster meat with only a slight bit of mayo sandwiched between a nice buttery roll.  The only thing I didn't care for was the gratuitous lettuce leaves.

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The peel and eat shrimp was good, but not spectacular. I think lobster is the restaurant's strong suit.

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My friend's whole lobster looked great against the Manhattan backdrop! 

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Even though the sails were only 30 minutes long, it was nice to be out on the water.  We were having so much fun eating and mingling with fellow diners that we decided to stay on the boat for the 8pm sail as well.  The two sails had completely different vibes. 

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Seeing the lit-up Manhattan skyline against the full-moon was just magnificent! 

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Verdict: A+. This is a great setting for a summer outing with friends.  Not only was it a fun experience, the food offerings were also solid. The lobster roll is one of the best that I've had in the city. I hope this lobster boat will be back next summer! 

North River Lobster Company
Pier 81  (near West 41st Street)
http://www.northriverlobsterco.com

Taiwan Pork Chop House

A friend of mine was craving Taiwanese Pork Chop, so we ended up at none other than the "Taiwan Pork Chop House" in Chinatown.  Knowing that Good Taiwanese Cuisine is quite lacking in NYC Chinatown, we were a bit skeptical…even with a restaurant named "Taiwan Pork Chop House". 

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For an appetizer, we got the Red-Oil Wontons, a dish that I was looking forward to trying after seeing all the photos posted on Yelp. Unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectation. It was totally bland and had only the tiniest bit of meat filling. My friend enjoyed it because he was all about the wonton skin and didn't care much about the fillings. 

Photo Credit: DH 

Photo Credit: DH 

The Salt and Peppered Chicken, a classic Taiwanese street food, was overly oily, under seasoned, and basically bare no resemblance to the classic that it's meant to represent. 

Photo Credit: DH 

Photo Credit: DH 

The fried chicken over rice was definitely the most well executed dish of the meal. The chicken was lightly fried on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside. The minced pork and mustard greens that came with the rice made the dish even more authentic. I would come back for this dish.

Photo Credit: DH 

Photo Credit: DH 

Even though the pork chop wasn't really a "traditional" Taiwanese pork chop, it was a yummy nonetheless. Very tender and juicy. 

Photo Credit: DH 

Photo Credit: DH 

I have never met a Taiwanese shaved ice that I didn't like...until now. The taro tasted like it was half thawed and not fresh.  The red bean and green bean weren't quite sweet enough. The fact that I didn't even bother to finish this dessert speaks volumes! 

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Verdict: BBB.  I have come to terms with the fact that good Taiwanese Pork Chop just doesn't exist in NYC. With that realization, I guess this is not a bad place to get cheap, chicken or pork chop over rice. 

Taiwan Pork Chop House
3 Doyer Street (off of Bowery Street)
http://www.taiwanporkchophouse.com

Il Buco

Perfect day for lunching alfresco!

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I arrived at the restaurant on the early side, so I got a chance to browse. I was surprised to find a rustic interior, with farmhouse details.  The space felt cozy and homey, not at all what I had imagined for this upscale restaurant…but in a good way.  If it wasn't such a beautiful day outside, I would have chosen to dine "in".

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The appetizers were small in portion, average in taste, and way overpriced!  I mean, $19 for 4 measly prawns?!  The prawn shells didn't even peel off easily, which made me think that something wasn't quite right…  

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The housemade pappardelle with porcini mushroom was fresh, light, and tasty. 

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The risotto tasted more like Asian rice than Italian risotto. The portion was big, but it didn't have much flavor. 

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The star of the meal was definitely the chicken. Moist and full of flavor. 

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Verdict:  A.  I was a bit disappointed with the food here. I love Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, the more casual sister restaurant to Il Buco, so I assumed the original Il Buco would be even better.  Maybe my expectations were too high...  While I love the atmosphere of Il Buco, I much prefer the food at Il Buco Alimentari.   

Il Buco
47 Bond Street (Between Bowery & Lafayette)
http://www.ilbuco.com

Rosemary's

Sunday Brunching in what's becoming my favorite neighborhood for food and architectural eye-candy. 

I have always liked the open, airy feel of Rosemary's.  I was surprised that there wasn't a wait for a table for Sunday brunch. Then my friend reminded me that everyone who lives in the neighborhood is out in the Hamptons for the Summer…but, of course.  

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We shared the Burrata with olive oil and basil.  My friend loved the burrata here, but I found it to be a bit plain and not quite creamy enough.

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I got the Stringhe Di Funghi, which is poached eggs on top of a bed of oyster mushrooms, prosciutto, and arugula. I am usually turned off by healthy choices, but this dish was delicious!  Even the side of crispy potatoes were super yummy.  

My friend's bucatini with a side of housemade sausage was also spot on.  

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The Olive Oil Cake was nice and light, but the blueberries were a bit too tart and didn't really add to the dish. I probably could have done without the dessert. 

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Verdict: A+. Great neighborhood restaurant with nice atmosphere and solid italian fare.  Perfect for any time of the day. I wish there is a nice neighborhood restaurant like this in my hood. 

Rosemary's
18 Greenwich Avenue (@ West 10th St.)
http://rosemarysnyc.com