Sunday 10/24/10

24 Oct

This past Saturday I got to do the East Village Eats for FREE because I had to write a review of it for  How did I get this gig, you say?  Well roommate M was really supposed to do the review, but he forgot he was out of town this weekend so he told the NearSay folks that his roommate (ie, me) blogs and will do pretty much anything for food, and they were like ok sure.

SCORE!!!  I was really looking forward to this eating tour of the East Village — I mean this tour was literally 15 restaurants around NYC that were offering food for free, which is pretty much the best thing I could have ever imagined and the best present roommate M could have gifted me.

Since this was a self-guided tour and I didn’t want to eat at 15 restaurants by myself, I forced S to come with me on this Saturday morning starting at 11am.  It was a beautiful day for an eating tour, and I was psyched… but my excitement soon turned to disappointment and annoyance as the hours went by.

Here’s my review.

The first place I dragged S to was the MUD Truck on 4th Ave at Astor Place.  I thought I was being clever by going out of order from what the tour dictated to avoid the hungry crowd, but apparently there were several other clever people on this tour, namely a bunch of Asian tourists.  Seriously, everyone we saw who was holding one of these food maps was Asian.  They were everywhere.

So #1: MUD Truck.  Got a free 10oz latte which was nutty and delicious and I guess you can say better than Starbuck’s for the plain latte that it was.  Very frothy (that’s what she said) and almost tasted like a mocha, and I downed this in 2 minutes.

MUD Truck

Good start with #1.  8 pts for MUD Truck.

However, we go to the next stop on our list, Faustina at Cooper Square, which looked all fancy and nice from the outside until a short little lady approached us being like “Oh are you on the food tour?  I’m sorry, the food isn’t ready yet.”

WHAT?!?!?!  What do you mean the food ISN’T READY YET.  The tour started at 11am and it was 11:30am, and if an event starts at a certain time I expect all participating vendors to be ready at that time.  -10 pts for Faustina.

So we go to stop #3 on our list, Hecho en Dumbo at Bowery and 4th, and THIS ONE WASN’T READY EITHER.  Omg.  I was about to shoot someone and S who had actually paid $45 for his ticket and was dragged out of bed on a Saturday morning to tour with me was really starting to hate on me.  -10 pts.

So we move on to stop #4, Bond Street Chocolate on the other side of 4th and Bowery, and at least this place was open, so that’s an automatic 2 pts for them.  The tasting here was 2 different kinds of dark chocolate bark — one with something something chili pepper, and another with szechuan peppercorn??  I literally asked the lady to repeat what she just said 3 times and it still sounded like she was reading something off a Chinese lunch special menu rather than something out of a chocolate shop, but either way, I gave up on understanding what I was eating and just went for it.

Bond Chocolate Bark

I couldn’t really taste the difference between the two since all good chocolate is good chocolate to me, but they were both very deliciously spicy and peppery and I could really taste the szechuan peppercorn bits, whatever that was.  Upside: Taste.  Downside: Size. (That’s what she said…… we really need to stop saying that so often in our apartment… it’s affecting every way I think.)  6 pts for Bond St Chocolate.

Stop #5 was Cucina di Pesce a few stores down on 4th St, and this place was really a winner in terms of quantity.  This is what I was expecting from every single restaurant.  They sat you down, poured you some water, got you some beer, and came out with an entire plate full of food — tomato mozzarella and sundried tomato spread bruschettas, tomato and mozzarella caprese, and portobello mushroom stuffed with goat cheese and roasted peppers.

Cucina di Pesce

The pitas were nicely crispy, the food was fresh and well plated, and the waiters were very  nice and gave us 1/2 price off on beers, which is a great deal anywhere in NYC before noon.  8 pts for Cucina di Pesce.

Stop #6: Nomad on 2nd Ave at 4th St.  This place was nice and quick and gave us each a chicken skewer with warm pita slices and a little dollop of hummus.

Nomad Chicken Skewers

The chicken was nice and tender and I thought it was great, but then later throughout the day we heard other people on the tour complaining about how the chicken skewers at Nomad were raw and severely undercooked.  Well I certainly didn’t notice and still give it 7 pts.

Stop #7 was Mono+Mono also on 4th St, and in hindsight I think this was probably my fav stop of the tour.  This place had delicious Korean fried chicken, and I would say it’s better than Boka except what makes Boka amazing is the fact that it’s right under Sing Sing Karaoke.  So, hard to beat that.  But this place had really good fried chicken, the skin was a perfect crispiness, the BBQ taste was just the right sweetness, and it was really perfect all around.

Mono+Mono Fried Chicken

Better than KFC Double Down?  I’m not sure.  But what I know is that this place was the oddest Korean restaurant… didn’t have a Korean vibe at all except for all the Asian waiters (except they were all wearing bow ties which was a weird sight) and they were also playing 1920s jazz music so not sure if that sets the right tone for fried chicken, but hey, the food was good and I probably could have eaten an entire bucket of that friend chicken, so 9 pts for Mono+Mono.

Stop #8 was Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches on 2nd St at Ave A.  I was really looking forward to this place because I’ve been a huge fan of Vietnamese sandwiches ever since G gave me a bite of his at a Gossip Girl viewing several years back.  This place was pretty good – I got a porkchop sandwich on a toasted baguette with marinated carrot, fresh cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro.

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches

The only thing I scowled at was the fact that they were cutting these sandwiches into thirds for this tasting, which I was like WTF about.  S and I were both getting the porkchop sandwich so I naturally asked if they could just cut it in half rather than thirds and they shook their heads at me.  Dickheads.  But I have to say the meat was very moist (that’s what she….), and S was impressed by the fact they have Cafe d Monde coffee shipped from NOLA.  So I guess 7 pts overall.

Stop #9 was Supper next door, and this place was just plain awful.  All they served, literally, was some mushrooms on bread.  And the presentation was horrible.  The mushrooms were falling off the bread, it was difficult to eat, and the taste was just blah.  It was like they didn’t even try; they literally didn’t give a shit about this tour.  Here’s what I got — I mean, just look at it.


This is certainly not what I want for Supper.  -3 pts.  I mean, seriously?

Stop #10 was a little bit better — Tuck Shop on St. Mark’s.  They gave us these pork/sausage/sage rolls that were tasty and had good spices/seasoning but were the smallest things ever.  I finished this in one bite:

Tuck Shop Rolls

Whoever said size doesn’t matter was a 5’3″ dude with a microscopic dick.  Size DOES matter, and that was really the theme of the tour this Saturday.  Food was good for the most part, but bigger was really what impressed me most.  And smaller just didn’t cut it.  4 pts for Tuck Shop.

Stop #11 was Xi’an Famous Foods, and this place was also pretty awful.  The noodles were really pretty looking and the tofu in it was actually pretty good, but it was so fucking spicy that I literally could not eat it.  I mean, there are some spicy foods that are ridiculously spicy but somewhere beneath all that spiciness you can still tell that the food is really good.  That was not the case with these spicy Asian noodles.

Xi'an Noodles

Look how good they look.  They look awesome.  Taste: Not so awesome.  My mouth was burning up so much that I was forced to purchase this fascinating-looking chrysanthemum tea that again, looked awesome but taste was eh.

Chrysanthemum Tea

There were flowers at the bottom.  Really pretty tea.  But 1 pt for Xi’an.

Stop #12: Luke’s Lobster, or as I like to call it: Ruke’s Robster.  This place was PACKED, and they were handing out their Maine shrimp rolls for the eating tour, which were actually incredibly tasty.

Luke's Shrimp Roll

This would have probably been roommate K’s worst nightmare since she hates seafood — this was a lot of raw little shrimpies on one very buttery roll, a lot of little shrimpies packed in, kinda reminded me of that scene in The Little Mermaid where Ursula is applying lipstick by bursting those sea creatures onto her disgusting lips.  But let me tell you, the taste was incred.  Roll was so soft and buttery, shrimpies were so soft and buttery, maybe a little on the raw side, but raw has never stopped me.  7 pts for Ruke’s.

Stop #13 was Souen East Village on 6th St.  Let me tell you about this place.  First, when we went inside they kicked us out and made us form a line outside.  I was like what is this, 2nd grade?  Then, they were only seating one table at a time, so you can imagine how slowly this was going.  So I snuck in with S along with the previous party, then when the waitress called us out on the fact that we weren’t actually with them, I just asked her if she could just put the dumplings in my hand and we would be on our way.  After giving me a little snarl, she agreed, brought us 2 tiny dumprings each and hustled us so much that I couldn’t even get a picture.  I had to just shove the dumpring in my mouth and leave.  And the dumpring wasn’t even that tasty — it was actually pretty bland I must say, probably because they were wheat dumprings with wheat gluten and cabbage and some other non-tasty ingredients.  -5 pts for Souen.

For our next stop S and I decided to go back to #2, Faustina, for their garlic knots.  Given they weren’t ready on time, I was expecting some serious shit out of Faustina… but nope.  That didn’t happen.  The garlic knots were cold, they weren’t crispy on the outside the way I like them, they were mushy, and I just wasn’t impressed.

Faustina Garlic Knots

But I guess as S said, at the end of the day, it’s still a garlic knot.  Just like pizza’s still pizza.  Point taken.  Anyway, so I guess that takes this place up to -5 pts instead of -10.

After the garlic knots we hit up #3, Hecho en Dumbo, which was finally open.  This place had really amazing braised venison with pico de gallo-type thing on top of tiny quarter-sized tostadas.  Lots of flavor, just the right amount of spices with a serious kick at the end, the venison was tender, and it really was incred.

Hecho en Dumbo Tostadas

The only thing wrong with it was the size.  WAY TOO SMALL.  I mean what is this, an amuse-bouche tour?  NO.  So I took two.  Anyway, the venison raised Hecho en Dumbo up to -1 pt.

Stop #14 was Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery.  I mean the name itself should earn -10 pts.  Why would anyone go to a gluten free bakery unless you have Celiac disease.  Well, their mini red velvet cupcakes were pretty good but yet again TINY.  This was like a mini mini mini cupcake.  For a midget.

Tu-Lu's Red Velvet Cupcake

The cake wasn’t very moist nor was it impressive (I wasn’t expecting it to be…… it’s gluten free), but the cream cheese icing was pretty delicious I have to admit.  5 pts for Tu-Lu’s.

Last stop was the best stop: S’MAC on 12th and 1st.  I had been dying to go to S’MAC ever since I moved to NYC 3.5 years ago.  I suppose it shows you just how poverexic I am that I’ve been dying to go to this place for 3.5 years and couldn’t just get myself to go out and get a $7 plate of mac ‘n’ cheese because it wasn’t free until now.  Well this was my chance.  They were serving their four cheese mac ‘n’ cheese, and it was pretty damn good.


I wanted the entire pan.  Instead, this is what I got:

Four Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese

So I asked for two.  The cheese was just so melty and the burnt cheese crust part was sooooooo tasty.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  10 pts for S’MAC.

I guess that sums up East Village Eats.  Overall pretty good and who am I to complain since I got this all for free, but my biggest complaint for sure was the portion sizes.  I mean I woke up Saturday morning starving and expected to end up with my head in the toilet by the end of this tour ralphing up half the tour from eating and drinking so much, but that was far from what happened.  S and I were still hungry and thirsty so we went over to his fav bar after the tour to continue drinking and eating bar food, a bunch of candy bars from the bodega next door, followed by a fried chicken sandwich for dinner and more beer and scotch.  I feel like my life is evolving into poverbesity.

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