One of the great things about Craftbar is that it serves nearly all dining needs. If you just want a couple of small plates and your dining companion hankers for a full three-course meal, the eatery offers everything from snacks, like pecorino-stuffed risotto balls, to more elaborate dishes, like spicy fish stew with red pepper aioli.
And the food, with a few misses, is consistently good. We went the snack route, and the winner was a dish of raw fluke with lemon and celery. The fish was impeccably fresh, and the seasonings enhanced, rather than overwhelmed this sashimi-like preparation. Less successful was the octopus with chickpeas, cucumber, yogurt, and dill. Rubbery and stiff, the octopus was unpalatable. Chickpea fries were yummy and the assortment of charcuterie was toothsome.
With wine, we spent about $100 for two. Dishes range from items like the charcuterie plate for $20 and the fluke for $10 to hanger steak priced at $25.
Service is friendly if a bit gushy.
New York, NY
nr. 20th St.
212 461 4300
For everyone who wants the skinny on the East Village food scene, check out NYC Food Guy’s food tour. Here’s how he’s conducting the tour:
NYC Food Guy loves the East Village for its culinary variety and it’s old school New York vibe. What better way to celebrate the diversity than a food tour? But with almost 300 eateries south of 14th Street and east of 3rd Avenue, how would I narrow my tour down? Simple, I imposed two requirements: 1) A meal had to be under $10 and 2) There could be no wait staff. Bonus points awarded to late night spots.
If like me, you remember grandma’s robust Jewish cooking–and for some inexplicable reason long for a return trip to those dishes of yore–then Rego Park’s Cheburechnaya is for you.
A cross between Middle Eastern and Russian-Jewish cuisine, the cuisine at Cheburechnaya hales from Tajikastan. Isak and Simon, two brothers, opened the place in 2002 and its been serving hearty kosher fare to Rego Park’s many Russian families since then.
This is not a diet place; the dishes will make you reach for an extra Lipitor. But if you skip all the heavy-duty fats and carbs, and head straight for the excellent kebabs, you an have a very good meal at this sprawling eatery.
We started with chebureki with mushrooms, and cabbage and samcy with ribs. Either of these dishes make my grandma’s kreplach taste like the lightest of souffles. Chebureki are akin to large fried wonton with a stuffing. Chewy and tough, they are definitely not my cup of tea. The males in our party loved the samcy. It’s every guy’s wet dream of what a meat dish should be– a beef rib, with the bone still in it, around which is wrapped thick pastry dough. My hubby eagerly scarfed the whole thing down, minus the bone, of course.
Then the waitress brought out a selection of kebabs. They were all outstanding and included succulent and tender steak, ground lamb and chicken kebabs.
The waitresses are largely Russian-speaking but we didn’t have any trouble getting our order across. There are two TVs featuring Russian wrestlers and the eatery basically boasts an atmosphere like your neighborhood bar, except with a Russian inflection.
The food is all kosher and don’t forget dessert. The highlight of the meal was the rich, flaky baklava.
92-09 63rd Dr.
718 897 0138
If you can ignore the grungy decor, the surly waitresses, and the uncomfortable seating, it’s hard to find a better pre-theater deal than Mee’s.
There’s an endless selection of noodle soups–noodles with roast pork, noodles with shrimp, noodles with fried fish cake, and on and on. And you get a big, hearty bowl of soup–which constitutes a filling, satisfying meal–for around $5.00. Add some spinach to your soup, and you have a complete meal!
And if you’re looking for some authentic Broadway vibes, the diminutive place is usually filled with Broadway actors, stagehands, and other theater folk.
Mee Noodle Shop
795 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10019-5638
212 765 2929
Just in time for Passover, Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Classics and Improvisations, published by John Wiley, offers fresh takes on traditional holiday fare. Here’s what author Jayne Cohen has to say about the inspiration behind the book:
Its story began years ago when my father put two freshly roasted ducks on the table and poured a soft red wine. My sister and I had come home for Passover, but this was not our seder. It was a midnight snack to sustain us as we cooked late into the night, trying to create the taste of Passover without my grandmother, who had died that winter.
We could not imitate her cooking. In my family we like to potchkeh, or play with our recipes. We read cookbooks for inspiration, not instruction. So we decided to make foods familiar enough to taste like Passover, yet still be fresh and inventive: dishes reimagined so that they reflected our changing palates and insatiable culinary curiosity.
Every year since then, the special festival dishes have become more important to me. For food is a metaphor for all that is delicious in life, for everything that we share with those we love.
Jewish Holiday Cooking features Eastern European favorites plus dishes from communities throughout the Diaspora, like Classic Hummus with Toasted Sesame-Cumin Matzohs, Moroccan Fish with Chickpeas and Saffron-Lime Aioli, Fesenjan (Duck with Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce), Syrian Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato-Apricot Sauce, and Iranian Grilled Chicken Thighs with Sumac.
And there are dozens of new takes and re-interpretations of the traditional for today’s palates, such as Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon Horseradish Sauce, New Mexican Sweet Potato Latkes with Lime-Sour Cream Sauce, Braised Brisket with Thirty-Six Cloves of Garlic, and Upside-Down Caramel Cranberry Pecan Noodle Kugel, to name just a few.
I wrote the book not only to rekindle old food memories, but to create indelible new ones. But holidays are about more than food, and my book is about more than cooking–it’s about celebrating with family and friends. By inviting others to share in our holiday meals, we connect them to the warm embrace of our family. And I hope you’ll enjoy our very personal stories.
For more information about the book, visit www.jewishholidaycooking.com. It’s available online at Amazon, B&N, and at brick-and-mortar stores as well.