Bread Tribeca, Apr. 27, 2005


Mara's Homemade (1 Year Anniversary), Apr. 6, 2005

Mara's Homemade
342 E. Sixth St.

Last night was the 1 year anniversary of Mara's Homemade and reservations were on a first come first serve situation - no walk-ins tonight.

My friend Jeff was there last week and made reservations for 6, 2 of whom ended up unable to join us. The group, all Music industry PR pros and/or music writers (except for me) would eventually bring up the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival (aka Jazzfest) and how all of us (myself included) have enjoyed various incarnations of the Spring festival and how we all wished we were going this year.

In the meantime, Jeff and I sat/stood at the miniscule bar-cum-checkout counter waiting for the other two, drinking a head-free (slightly flat) but tasty nonetheless, Abita Amber Ale, as the owners wouldn't let us sit until our whole party was there.

Our 2-some soon became a 4 some and we were seated at one of the tables in the main room, which tonight featured a Cajun band playing, um, cajun music that had quite the bluegrass twang to it as well. The music was great, and if you've eaten in the pubs in Ireland, this is pretty similar: tight quarters, real music and continous refills of beer. The only problem with Mara's in respect to the music - it should be everynight. I can't help but think the place would be very boring without it.

To the food:

We ordered the fisherman's special and a half dozen oysters for the table. The fisherman's special was a plate of fried items including catfish, hush puppies, shrimp, oysters and garlic mashed potatoes. All of this was just okay, the catfish and oysters (both fried and on the half shell) being the best part of it.

For entrees:

Carla: Crab special which included Blue Claws boiled with potatoes, corn on the cob, hush puppies. They all looked pretty good...minus the potatoes which looked eh.

Jeff: Catfish New Orleans (sauteed in creole seasoning smothered with crawfish etouffee and served with pilaf and green beans). Wow. This smelled delicious...and tasted good as well. Fish was cooked well and the seasonings were spot on creole style.

Dave and Me: We both ordered the Andouille Crusted Tilapia (like the catfish, this too was farm raised). It had a crust made with andouille sausage, then baked and covered with a creole mustard sauce and came with asparagus. I also ordered a side of fried pickles. Just had to try them. They were pretty good. Tasty pickles.

The tilapia was perfectly cooked and the sausage/fish/mustard combo was amazing. This was a very good dish and was surprised at how good and fresh the asparagus was. Just the right crunch/tenderness.

I think the tilapia was the best of the dishes, but the catfish might be worth trying again.
The prices might be a little steep, I confess ($22 for the catfish and $22 for the tilapia) but all in all not a bad price considering the entertainment (music) freshness of ingredients, the fact that much of their food is shipped daily from Louisiana, etc. but it does seem as though these folks are up here knowing they can get these prices. If this were in New Orleans, we'd be paying half the price and you could go anywhere to get the same dishes. But we are in New York, and this style is hard to come by.


Our waitress was good at what she did - knew the food well and was there only when we needed her. The proprieters are definitely an interesting pair. A bit gruff but hospitable.
Here's a pic of them:


I've spent little to no time on 6th Street (simply because I live in Curry Hill as it is) but it was a pleasure to walk by all of the Indian/Ethiopian restaurants and to see Angon. Looks really nice. I will have to check it out. Awash was an Ethiopian place that looked interesting as well. The neighborhood, I must confess, is far more pleasing to the eye than my neighborhood, but I think that's an Avenue v.s. Street situation.

Mara's Homemade is clearly the reincarnation of a previous Indian restaurant. The passage between the two dining rooms had the unmistakable lotus leaf cutout at the top.

Would I go back. Actually yes. I think once a year would be a good bet. Once in awhile you crave a seafood/crawfish boil and this could very well be the place for it. I just wish the prices were a little bit less and that they had live music everynight.


Shake Shack, Apr. 5, 2005

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park

The first of many stops to the Shake Shack this year.

Photo credited to

It's safe to say that the robin has gone the way of the dot matrix printer. The opening of the Shake Shack is now the first sign of spring.

Danna and I met for a late lunch and as luck would have it, it was one of the nicest days we've had in a long time. And the very long line of people both waiting to order and waiting to pick up their food at 3:00pm was proof that Spring Fever is in high gear.

We are both big fans of their burgers, so we each got a Shack burger (mine a double, hers a single without tomato), 2 orders of fries and at the request of the wife, we ordered a plain hot dog to give it a try. I also got an Arnold Palmer, which is quite well made here.

The burgers, slightly sloppy, are exactly as I remembered them - which in short, is to say delicious. Kinda juicy, kinda crisp where it needed to be. The bun gets a little soggy but not too much. The dijon mustard they have on the side of the building I think is new this year. I could be mistaken, but I don't remember their mustard being home made and with such a bite to it. Yum. Wimpy mustard is a sin. This stuff cleared your nose quite nicely. We split the hot dog, which was actually quite good with just ketchup and mustard. I remember last year not liking the Chicago style hot dog and in general, don't care for boiled ones (grilled please), but this was pretty darn good, I have to admit.

Also reveling in the lovely afternoon was, if I'm not mistaken, Andrea of my favorite food writers. I couldn't or rather dared not to confirm my hunch that it was in fact her, but I think all signs point to yes.

As I said, this is the first of many trips to the Shake Shack. Best be getting to the gym now.


Koi, Apr. 4, 2005

175 Second Ave.

Well, hmm.

My wife goes to LA several times a year and has heard the hubub about Koi and wanted to be one of the first of her coworkers to check it out. Reason enough for me and so we made it happen. Also, a group of coworkers and clients of hers tried to get reservations for this upcoming Wednesday and had no luck. More reason still. And lastly, today was a big day for her - review/raise/bonus day. Clearly a great reason to try something new.

So I called this afternoon to see if we'd be able to get a table for a light meal. To my surprise - getting a table was remarkably effortless. 8:45. No problem. Red flag?

So we head over and quite frankly, I had my doubts about this place from the get-go. Nothing about it intrigued me. And the decor was pretty hideous. The honeycombed "fisherman's net" that is supposed to represent some aspect of feng shui (wind, they tell me) takes up the back wall and entire length of the main dining room. Danna's comment made me think twice about this. She said "What are we - the fish?" And indeed, I felt trapped.

Traces of ILO are everywhere still. The banquets are the same - maybe with new fabric. The columns of subway tiles that hold the room up now have some dark strips of wood randomly placed on top of the subway tiles. Please guys, don't try so hard.

We were sat in the top area near the sushi bar. Which was fine. The place was somewhat busy but not packed. A few empty tables here and there. And pretty quiet. Not much to talk about perhaps.

Which brings me to the food.

Danna isn't that adventurous, but has really been keeping an open mind lately. For example, she wanted to try some sushi she'd never had before. So, since this was her day, I avoided trying to change her mind to wait to go elsewhere for the sushi.

She had the miso soup ("average", "you don't need to try it" were her words), edamame (she still loves it, me no thanks), a toro scallion roll, an eel and avocado roll and that was about it. The fish was pretty good. The seaweed was terrible. You can find better for certain but the fish was good. The eel was particularly nice.

I had the Cucumber Sonomono (traditional pickled cucumber) which was very good. Nicely cut (even, thin) cucumber with skin, in a sesame dressing. This was a pretty dish and tasted very nice. Things were looking good. Then I tried the Miso Bronzed Black Cod with baby bok choy, snow peas and mushroom. Hmm. This was really pretty bad. I haven't had the dish at Nobu, but I can't imagine it tastes anything like this. I ate about half of it. I should have heeded caution when I saw the barely touched miso cod on the table two down from ours. The waiter said it marinated for 2 days. Now, call me crazy, but that doesn't sound right. And if, which I am sure it is, is true, I think they should marinate it for a day less. The fish just wasn't tasty. The miso was everpresent and perhaps a bit strong for my liking, and the flavor of the fish was blank, bordering on overcooked-tasting.

We ordered two glasses of the Australian (cookaburra?) Shiraz they had. Bad finish. Just not a great drinking wine. We also ordered the still water which was actually quite good. The wine-by the glass list was pretty mediocre. Funny moment when the two guys next to us were talking about I Trulli. Funny (if you know me and my posts about I trulli.

I don't see this place lasting very long. Maybe a year. Maybe. Ilo, for example, was far better and cooler and we saw how quickly that place folded.


Rice, Apr. 3, 2005

115 Lexington Ave.

So, we welcomed the new neighbors tonight and ordered take out, the only thing they are offering at the moment.

Here's what we got:
Warm Lentil Stew
Indian Chicken Curry
Thai Beef Salad
Jerk Chicken Wings

I'll just come out and say it. The Indian Chicken Curry was the best of the four. Minus the chicken of course, the taste was very similar to a dish that my Hindu/Hare Krsna devotee friends often make. Which is as big of a compliment as I can give (they are great cooks with even better supplies of organic produce).

The lentil stew was pretty good. It was very "Mexican black-bean"-like in taste and texture. Good, but not necessary to try again until we've gotten through the other dishes they have to offer.

The Thai Beef Salad is not warm (the beef, that is) and had a nice pickled veg/greens flavor to the salad. A decent dish but have a hard time eating plain ol' iceberg lettuce - especially after being awakened to Windfall Farms (Union Sq. Greenmarket).

The jerk chicken wings were remarkably tender. Fell right off the bone. Yum. Very little heat. But tasty. The small order of these only came with 4 pieces. 2 drumsticks and 2 wings. I'll have to order the large next time (will they sell these by the dozen? Please say yes!).

Japanese rice
Basmati rice
Brown rice
Sticky rice

I honestly can't remember which rice went with what entree but they were all good except for the japanese/sushi rice. It was a little overcooked. I like the mixing and matching though of the rice/entree (your choice). I'll have to keep track of the matches from here on out.


Warm Pear Cider
Ginger Lemonade

Both were excellent. My wife thought that the cider would be better when not eating. I have to agree. This would be just fine by itself on a late September Sunday...or today for that matter. The ginger lemonade was very good but made me want more...or more water. Good blend of ginger - not too too much of a bite.



The only time edamame has ever traveled well (well, okay, I live across the street - so it wasn't far) but I personally have lost my love of this vegetable.


Cranberry Rice Crispy Treats in a canister


Final Words

This does not bode well for Kelley & Ping which opened up a few months ago in the extended neighborhood. Clearly, they are different types of restaurants, but, location aside, there is nothing on the menu at Kelley & Ping that will drive me back to it - unlike the ginger lemonade, jerk wings, chicken curry and pear cider at Rice.

Very courteous/informative folks. FYI - The delivery service will extend in the near future.