Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Bitching About Restaurants and A/C

Okay, okay - I know it's been fairly pleasant temperature-wise (here in NYC) over the past week or so. Christ, I even have the windows open every day; that is, until about 3 in the afternoon, when they get closed, the shades get drawn, and the A/C gets going.  But this isn't going to last; at some point, August will rear its ugly head and the true dog days will be here. And that's why I'm providing this bit of friendly advice.

Don't forget - July (here in NYC) has been a bit hot,  I've dined in a few places on the really hot days and I'm just gonna subjectively rate those restaurants on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the coldest, and therefore best) based on the air-conditionability of said restaurant - that is, how much do I have to suffer once I get to your restaurant in order to eat the food that I'm paying for.

I mean, if the food and service, etc. are very good, I'm willing to put up with a 5 out of 10; if not, it has to be, like, 8/10 temperature wise, otherwise I'm not coming back till winter...well, autumn at the earliest. You get the picture.

We often walk to the places we're going to - at least one way.   So for instance, one night during the heat-wave, Significant Eater and I walked to Sobaya (cold noodles + cold sake = good in this weather), and by the time we got there I was drenched. But, their a/c is great - and with a 30 minute wait around the corner at that Irish joint whose a/c was cranking too, I was pretty dry by the time we were served our soba. All through my meal, too.

There's nothing rated that's under a 5/10, cause, really, why? Or if you have your windows and doors open, see ya!

Bonus points if at any point during the meal, Significant Eater says: "I'm cold..."  It's why all women should/need to carry a light sweater, even on those hot days.

Here, in no order, just places I remember eating at over the past few weeks worth of miserable weather.

Park Side - 5/10.  Company that I was with was great.  Food/service was okay on this visit. If it was colder in there, I might up to 6/10.

Katja - 8/10 - Nice short walk to here for us.  Great a/c when we first got in Friday night and it was nearly empty.  When we were leaving an hour and a half later, it was struggling. But, I was told there will be an additional unit in place for next summer.  Anyway, it's my local, so no complaints here.

Sobaya - 8/10. It was just fucking cold in here. Yes.

Yunnan Kitchen - 6/10.  Need more a/c and close the front door please. Otherwise, the food and the service are very nice.

DBGB -  5/10.  Though I like the food, the a/c was miserable (this is sitting at the bar, like we usually do) and it's just not worth it (until autumn) and I can be comfortable eating my Viennese sausage. 

Alder - 8/10.  My favorite restaurant of the year, so I'm going no matter what.  Jesus, if it was 5° cooler in here, easily a 9/10.

Sauce - 6/10.  A/C is okay, service is okay, food is good.  It's close. Could be colder for a higher rating.

The Meatball Shop - 6/10. I was actually surprised by the efficiency of the a/c at the Stanton St. Meatball Shop.  Unless you're at the seats right up front by the door.  As a solo, the bar has a nice chill. And how much can you complain when 2 can have a fun, quick meal for under $50? 

Great NY Noodletown - 7/10.  I can put up with miserable temps and eat roast baby pig (or duck, or chicken) this good, at this price, no matter what.  Sweating when you walk in, and sweating when you walk out. So what?

Eastwood - 5/10. Newish place right across the street that's gotten raves for its fried fish, etc.  But the temps will have to moderate before I set foot back in this place. Also, 2 of their 3 ceiling fans were (are?) turning in the wrong direction.  Counter-clockwise in the summer, please.

Hearth - 7/10.  This is damn good food, and damn good service. But if you sit at the bar, be prepared for a bit of heat from the kitchen.

Le Philosophe - 5/10.  Food and service just not worth it cause it wasn't cold enough.

Stella  (the new restaurant in Macy's) - 6/10.  Great view, nice chill, and okay food. Maybe we ordered wrong?

The Butterfly - 6/10.  Pretty comfortable temp wise.  Excellent drinks.  But who goes to West Broadway from the lower east side?

If you happen to be in DC, here are two places with great A/C.  The know how to air condition down there, because it's a fucking swamp:

Kapnos - 8/10.  Nice and cool, and yeah - the food blew us away.  I was even pleasantly surprised by the cocktails.

Jaleo - 7/10 - Maybe not the kitchen's best night, but the a/c was working fine.

More to follow once the weather turns NYC miserable again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's All Greek To Me - at Mike Isabella's Kapnos, That Is

The Yelpers have, well...yelped.  The "pro" reviews (are there any of those left?) will no doubt be in shortly.  No one waits for a restaurant to get its sea legs any more, do they? Especially when a good chef opens what will undoubtedly be a hot spot - you gotta go. And go we did, Significant Eater and me, to Kapnos, chef/owner Mike Isabella's new ode to Greece on 14th St. NW.

Of course, Mike didn't open Kapnos by himself; George Pagonis is the chef de cuisine; Nicholas Pagonis is the GM; Taha Ismail is the beverage director of both Kapnos and Graffiato, another Isabella restaurant in the District. Maybe these guys are even partners - who knows?  Another little point of interest before I get to the important stuff: everyone mentioned above falls not far from the AndrĂ©s' family tree.  They all get to wet their beak a little bit, if you know what I mean.

The first time I tasted Mike's food was at Zaytinya, soon after Significant Eater got her job in DC - and we liked everything about the place. Well, guess what? On our first visit, we liked Kapnos even more.

For starters, the restaurant had only been open for 12 days, but everyone from the hostess to the bartenders to the waitstaff was on their game.  That's nice to see. And I did start at the bar, arriving early and grabbing one of the few empty seats...cocktails are fairly priced (for now) at $12, with extremely cutesy names like my Keebler Elf, a Plymouth gin/cointreau/Cocchi American concoction in an ouzo rinsed glass, that hit the spot on an extremely warm day.

Once at table, what's better to start with than taramasolata, along with fresh from the oven flatbread?
The tarama was nice and creamy, topped with a healthy dollop of caviar...
That didn't last long, as we were eager to dig into these earthy and tender stewed gigandes beans...
There's a daily classic, and we couldn't pass it up.  Keftedes, fried zucchini fritters, showed off the kitchen's frying technique, plain and simple...
At one point, I think the table next to us was wondering how the two of us were eating all this food.  But we'd only just begun, and even though we're not huge octopus fans (too many blah octopus dishes over the years, I guess), we had to try Kapnos' version.  We weren't disappointed, as this was probably the best we'd had in years, all smoky from the grill and served with "green harissa" and eggplant...
No stopping us now, especially once I saw Royal Red Shrimp (a sweet, tender, deepwater shrimp) on the menu.  And expertly poached lobster, served over hilopites (an egg/milk pasta, cut into small squares) with mizithra (a fresh sheep's cheese).  Both of these disappeared (or at least had a bite taken out of them) before I could snap a picture.      

Wanting and needing (really?) some meat, we finished our savories with the marinated spring lamb, spit-roasted and served over "ancient grains." At first bite I thought the dish needed salt, but when all mixed up, it tasted just fine...
The Chocolate Mousse cake with mastic ice cream, was a nice finish to this meal, the chocolate's slight bitterness cut by the not too sweet ice cream...
Yes, we ate too much.  After all, it's a brand new restaurant.  Sig Eater and I don't get to go out that often together in DC (she even waved to Isabella in the kitchen, which kinda made her night).  And I have a feeling that the next time I'm down in the district, we're going to be heading right back to Kapnos - there's a lot more on this menu that we want to try.  And if Mike's not cooking the most exciting food in DC right now, I want to know - who is?