Monday, October 24, 2011

Bistro 25

When I woke up between 2 and 3 am on Saturday morning after going to bed at 8 pm on Friday night,  I came across a fresh review by the New York Times of Sayville's Bistro 25 on Twitter.  Joanne Starkey of the Times called Bistro 25 "a welcome, affordable discovery," and noted many dishes including a pork belly appetizer, items from a special Oktoberfest menu, and braised short ribs.  The possibility of these three delicious dishes had me convinced that 25 would be a good place to try, but it was a hard sell on my roommates (Denise and Ed) until Olga said she wanted to go too.  I called up on Sunday to get a reservation for that night, and was not surprised to hear that the restaurant was practically booked up after the Times obsessed over it.  Beginning of the end? Just kidding.  The friendly host (and owner) squeezed our party of five in for 4 pm with the understanding that we would be out by the next reservation at 6. 

We arrived to find the bar full and loud, a live band setting up, and our table right next to a large christening party complete with several rambunctious little bundles of love.  It took me about 25 minutes to decide what I would have off of the extensive but refined menu.  I wanted to choose different dishes than were reviewed in the Times, but the pork belly appetizer was irresistible.  This whole process involved me begging others to order dishes that I wanted to try including the pate app and the braised short ribs.  When we finally ordered, we all changed our minds again and most of us ended up getting the prix fixe Oktoberfest menu.  We ordered the pork belly and mac and cheese apps for the table, and I ended up with a potato soup and the bratwurst main.  Mom and Olga went with the pork shank and spaetzle, Rich with the paella, and Ed with the sauerbraten.
The Braised Pork Belly appetizer with corn pudding and pickled shallots was more meaty and less fatty than I expected, but very tasty and satisfying.  The tops of the cubes were crisp and the meat was well complimented by the sweet corn and shallots.  I enjoyed the mixture of textures.  The Truffled Macaroni & Cheese was made with smoked gouda, cheddar and parmigiana.  The truffle inclusion made it a winner for me but I could have done without the smokiness of the gouda; I am not a smoked cheese lover but I wouldn't go so far as to say it ruined the dish.  Mac and cheese plus truffle oil is an upgrade that helps me justify my love for this possibly juvenile dish.  It says, yes, I still have the taste of a small child, but with the price-tag-sophistication of a steak.  I ain't no cheap date.  The breadcrumb topping was nice and the dish was creamy but light.
Oktoberfest Salad Trio: cucumber, beets and carrots
I got the Bratwurst because I peeped the man at the next table devouring it.  I have no complaints about the dish.  The brats were cooked well and the mash was creamy.  I am really enjoying my newfound affinity for sauerkraut, so I was happy to see it here.  The pork shank and spaetzle dish was another winner.  The shank was tender and covered in dark gravy, and the spaetzle were light.  The sauerbraten was nice and tender too, but the accompanying potato balls were too light and could almost pass as mashed potatoes.  They needed to be more starchy and sticky.  The meat had the familiar pickled taste that reminds me of family get-togethers in the Fall.  We often find ourselves disappointed in German food in restaurants, but we were all refreshed to find this meal delicious.  

All of the dishes had nice presentation, and the breadsticks on the table were tasty and warm.  The menu features 25 bottles of wine at or under $25, hence the name Bistro 25.  All of these factors plus a reasonable price tag made this experience one that I would repeat.  I hope that next time there won't be a large party in the vicinity of my table or a time limit (which was enforced by 6:05.)  The friendly atmosphere and tasty food won my approval and will probably lure me back in the future.

Bistro 25: 45 Foster Ave., Sayville, (631) 589-7775

Saturday, October 15, 2011

JG Deli

Main Street in Bayshore is home to JG Deli, which I guarantee that many people have never noticed despite driving past it every day, or have written off as supa-ghetto looking.  It's across the road and a little bit further west from KFC.  I've been missing the bodegas of the Bronx, and for some time now I've had the hunch that this corner store might have something good hiding inside.  I've been nervous to go in there, but upon stake-out today we decided it was worth at least a lap around the store, even if all I scored was an empanada.

We crossed the threshold of the front door and lo-and-behold, there was a hot table to the left with lots of home made hispanic goodness.  On the right was an open area with a few tables and men drinking beers and watching futbol, and there was a back room with a pool table and a few others hangin' around.  Besides hot food they have groceries, money orders, hispanic cookies, porn dvds and little to no knowledge of English.  I'm not going to pretend like we fit in in there but in spanglish we ordered three chorizo tacos and a tamale.  Also on display: a single cooked fish, fried plantains, some kind of seafood stew, something that looked like chili, and another thin stewy dish with beef.  A menu written straight on the wall in marker boasted huevos rancheros and carne asada.  We hit the jackpot.

The woman took a fresh package of chorizo out of the fridge and diced up a few links.  She also added radishes, avocado, tomatoes, onions and cilantro to the corn tortillas she heated up on the grill.  The tacos came with some kind of red salsa and fresh lime slices.  She unwrapped the tamale and disposed of its husk to expose its corn-mealy flesh.  We paid $9 and took it all home.
Dad said these tacos took him right back to his days of living and working in Mexico City.  With a little squeezed lime juice and red sauce they were authentic and filling.  All of the fresh flavors just came together so well.  It was better than a taco from Estrellita Poblana, and I don't say that lightly.  The woman who made them offered beef or chorizo, but I'm sure you could ask for chicken as well.  The tamale dough was light and filled with chicken; it was tasty and simple. 

I'll definitely go back to JG Deli.  It was delicious and cheap, and brought me back to the convenience and homeliness of the bodegas in the Bronx.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gnocchi by Five Men

And a few women.
A Photo Essay
Hilarity ensues.

Frites 'N' Meats

I shared Double Fried Belgian Style Frites from the Frites 'N' Meats truck with Andrea today.  It was an awkward and borderline creepy experience.  When I asked for two sauces, the man said something to the tune of "anything for you honey."  This is an example of a generally flattering expression turned somehow weird as a response to a sauce request.  (See: Freaks 'N' Frites 'N' Meats)  We brought it back to the office kitchen only to find that the fries were skinny and lukewarm.  We got the wasabi mayo and the garlic aioli.  The wasabi mayo was not spicy and but the garlic aioli was decent.  The fake newspaper fry holder was kind of tacky.  Less tacky idea: real newspaper.

I was hoping for some legit frites, but all in all I'm sad to say these were not worth the calories.  Maybe their burgers are more exciting; I'll never know.

Frites 'N' Meats:  See Twitter for daily locations: @fritesnmeats
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