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Restaurant Review: Zengo Restaurant

There are so many amazing food experiences to be had in New York, and no we’re not talking about the tourist restaurants, we’re talking the hidden gems that you may walk by every day which boasts delicacies so delicious, it’s almost too sinful to enjoy…..almost. We had the pleasure of being introduced to Zengo Restaurant, an amazing food oasis located not too far from restaurant row and trust us when we say you’d definitely want to stray from the beaten path of restaurant row to delight in this foodie’s dream.

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First things first, the exterior of Zengo Restaurant does not do the inside justice…..at all (you’ll see what we mean at the end of this post). You can have a separate adventure on each of its three floors. For our culinary journey, we were on the main floor, which features the Latin-Asian food and drink menu (the lower level, the La Biblioteca de Tequila Lounge, is all Latin and boasts  over 400 Tequilas, and the upper, Asian level features an impressive variety of Japanese sakes, but today we were to indulge in the delicious results of combining these two wonderful bold flavors.

1ST COCKTAILS

WATERMELON SOJU MARGARITA

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David: With this drink in the Biblioteca Tequila bar,located downstairs at Zengo Restaurant, you get the unmistakable freshness of the watermelon that is cut with the starchy punch of the soju then infused with the lively tart punch of a margarita. Nice layers of flavor for a well-blended drink.

SMOKED GINGER

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David: This was like a perfect spiked ginger beer. The fresh ginger and lemon with the cloying honey made for a great fresh and sweet that married nicely with the spicy bourbon whiskey and the pop of the apricot brandy. A sneaky drink to enjoy and not even realize you’re 3 in before it hits you.

TROPICAL WHITE SANGRIA

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Glasgow: This white sangria was a refreshing mix of Macabeo white wine grape, rum, mango, orange, passionfruit, and pineapple. Fair warning, the lightly sweet drink goes down pretty quickly and smoothly, so expect to order more than one. I paired this delightful cocktail with our second appetizer and it really celebrated the spicy elements of the dish.

ACHIOTE HOISIN PORK AREPAS – 1ST APPETIZER

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David: This was highbrow Mexican street food with a dash of the Far East. It’s such a nice blend of the zesty hoisin pork on top of the rustic corn arepa. The creamy sour cream and fresh guacamole added a smoothness to the earthy flavors of the corn cake and the pork.

Glasgow: This was my first experience with Arepas and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but you can’t go wrong with crunchy corn cakes topped with the sweet and salty taste of Hoisin pulled pork. I loved the contrast of the cooling freshness of the crema Fresca and avocado against the spicy pull pork flavors and crunchy corn cake.

SLOW COOKED PORK RIBS – 2ND APPETIZER

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David: These ribs were so tender and savory with a sugary pop of spice while the cucumber kimchee added a fresh element of garden heat. The great flavor profile came from how each element was finished with the sweet smokiness to the pork and the tart heat to the cucumbers.

Glasgow: Talk about succulent and slow cooked to perfection. These juicy ribs slid off the bone with ease and were so flavorful, we considered placing another order. The sweetness of the roasted garlic chipotle glaze reminded me of sweet-style barbecue, and the spicy cucumber pickle added such a wonderful level of heat and flavor intensity, I found myself mixing the cucumbers into the glaze…yum.

SPICY LUMP CRAB GUACAMOLE – 3RD APPETIZER

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David: This dish was just easy textural loveliness. Fresh generous crab married with a chunky creamy guacamole served with thin tortillas. You got layers of meaty briny, garden savory creamy and rustic salty for a satisfying harmonious dish.

Glasgow: I am officially spoiled, thank you Zengo restaurant. From now on, I want all my guacamole to be topped with fresh crabmeat. If you’re looking for flavorful guacamole (ginger, yuzu, cilantro, and Thai basil bring zest and peppery flavors) with an element of fresh seafood (you can practically taste the ocean…..that’s how fresh the crabmeat tasted), you must try it. The thin, crisp tortilla chips allow the crab and guac to shine without distraction. You’ll never want ordinary guac ever again.

2ND/3RD COCKTAILS

FRESA SMASH

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David: What a delightful strawberry lemonade mojito on full blast. The powerfully smooth Blanco tequila met up with mojito nods like mint and citrus then mellowed out with this kick of agave nectar. This is another great sneaky drink that’ll send you into alcohol heaven without you even realizing.

TAMARIND-TOGARASHI MARGARITA

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Glasgow: Not many people like the tart and sometimes sweet taste of tamarind but I definitely do. This cocktail was an easy sell for me and is a wonderful drink for anyone who loves exotic flavors. The hint of citrus adds a fresh zing to the already delicious cocktail. I loved the smooth, clean taste of this cocktail and boasts a nice balance of sweet and tart. There was no harshness to it.

TEMPURA WHOLE FISH – 1ST COURSE

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David: The impressively displayed branzino is almost meat-like in its rich flavor but yet so tender and mildly sweet. The extremely light tempura batter is the perfect non-overpowering compliment. The dipping sauces add that element of sweet and tangy that marries nicely to the fish.

Glasgow: This must-try fish dish was a visual, aromatic and palate-pleasing euphoria experience. I would consider this the equivalent of a chef’s “mike drop”. What a work of art this Whole Fish Tempura is; our photos do not do it justice. The tempura was so light, I forgot it was on the fish. Every bite was perfectly crunchy, the crisp lettuce leaves,  spicy cucumber, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, and black bean sweet & sour made the dish seem even lighter than it as already was. If you ever want to experience what it’s like to enjoy freshly caught fish cooked right on the beach at a restaurant, this Branzino is your best bet.

SHANGHAI STRIP STEAK – 2ND COURSE

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David: I love a steak medium since it is still tender enough to soak up the juices. With this dish, it was served with an earthy, smoky and tart broth that complimented the slightly bitter broccolini but created a great well-layered complex flavorful dish.

Glasgow: I only tried a small piece of this dish because I was pre-occupied with the fish but was immediately wowed by the juiciness of the steak and the sweetness of the caramelized shallots with the contrasting broccolini flavors. The Taro Chips were divine and have some great crunch and texture to the dish. A return to Zengo Restaurant will include this.

DESSERTS

PISTACHIO CREMA CATALANA

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David: This crème Brule remix is so fresh. The pistachio makes the dish so light but maintains the rich distinct nuttiness of the nut. The addition of the fruit on top makes it very seasonally vibrant in taste and display.

SUGAR & SPICE CHURROS

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Glasgow: This simple yet elegant dish will wow any chocolate lover and is great for anyone who wants a lighter dessert. The Churros were practically light as air, not hard yet retained a very nice crunch, which made enjoying it covered in the warmed, rich dark chocolate sauce doubly decadent.

4TH COCKTAILS

AVION ESPRESSO

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David: It’s tequila and espresso with a dab of fragrant sweetness. I have found a new after dinner love. Such a nice marriage for Avion that is a perfect soothing finisher with a kick for when you want a strong liquor other than a whiskey or brandy. The element of sweet saves the cocktail as the straight tequila with the strong roast could be too much alone. This was a great winner.

LYCHEE BELLINI

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Glasgow:  I know this is not the usual after dinner cocktail but I was looking for something along the lines of a refreshing post dinner cleanser and the Lychee Bellini was the perfect end to this euphoric culinary journey we experienced at Zengo restaurant, plus I adore lychee. The combination of the fresh lychee puree and the sparkling Cava was exactly what I needed to top off this great meal.

ATMOSPHERE/SETTING

Zengo interior

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David: This mash-up restaurant is a good idea both in theory and execution as there are many commonalities between Latin and Asian cuisines. The décor of Zengo Restaurant is pretty awesome with larger than life light fixtures and topiaries that bring to light the sculptural heritage of both cultures and also each culture’s love of nature and the land.

Glasgow: For years I’ve had no real excitement on fusion restaurants because I love cuisines with their original flavors, the local regional spices and cooking methods and I’ve been disappointed a few times with flavors that just didn’t mix well for me, but Zengo Restaurant absolutely got it right. If they were my first experience with fusion, my views would have changed a long time ago. Richard Sandoval perfectly celebrates these two distinct, bold flavors; nothing from the flavors or legacy of these two cultures is lost with Zengo’s flavor fusion. As we previously stated at the beginning, the interior is not what you’d expect when looking at the exterior. You will love being surrounded by all the wood and iron, it’s like being immersed in sculpture, there’s so much to take in.

Along with lunch and dinner, Zengo Restaurant also offers brunch on the weekend and happy hour, and for you cocktail connoisseurs, you’ll love their all night happy hour and reverse happy hour options. Check out the times below:

BRUNCH
Saturday – Sunday: 11:30am – 4:00pm

ALL NIGHT HAPPY HOUR
Monday & Saturdays: 5:00pm to close
La Biblioteca & Main Bar only

HAPPY HOUR
Tuesday – Friday: 4:00pm – 7:00pm (Main Bar only)
Wednesday – Friday: 5:00pm – 7:00pm (Mezzanine only)

REVERSE HAPPY HOUR
Tuesday – Friday: 9:30pm to close
La Biblioteca only

Zengo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Review: Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven

Our latest restaurant review took us to Harlem, not the usual neighborhood for great Italian food, but after our wonderful dining experience at Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven, we recommend hopping the train uptown for some mouthwatering Italian cuisine on Harlem’s Restaurant Row. Babbalucci, which translates to “snails” in Sicilian, offers a delicious and varied menu with the essence of slow food, with bread and pizza dough baked in-house.

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Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven is headed up by Chef/Owner Andrew LoPresto, his wife, and Managing Partner Christy Phansond, and childhood friend/Co-Owner Bobby Freid. Dinner signatures include Antipasti, Primi, Wood-Oven Pizzas, and Specialty Pizzas. Curated cocktails are developed by award-winning Italian mixologist, and Campari Brand Ambassador, Enzo Cangemi. Little did we know we were headed for a night of full-bodied flavors without the heavy feeling.

1ST COCKTAILS

EL VIEJITO

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David: Enzo Cangemi, the award-winning mixologist, created the entire drink menu for the Harlem eatery. My drink was a testament to his accolades. It was a sweet and smoky tequila-based drink that was nicely layered first with a nice equilibrium of sweet and heat, then a dry tartness from the grapefruit.

ULTIMATE FRIAR MULE

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Glasgow: I don’t usually like licorice but the addition of the spicy-sweet ginger marmalade and rum smoothed out the Frangelico so exquisitely that I had to restrain myself from finishing off this cocktail in three sips. One sip and you’ll know why Enzo Cangemi is an award-winning mixologist, the man knows how to flawlessly construct a cocktail.

CROSTONI – ANTIPASTI

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David: The house made duck prosciutto was firmer than its pig counterpart but just as flavorful as duck is a slightly more rich fowl. The cured prosciutto with the sweet fig and the tart balsamic reduction created a nice flavor profile layering salty, sweet and a tad of tartness all anchored by the hearty earthy crostini.

Glasgow: If you’re a fan of the combination of sweet and salty flavors in a savory dish, make sure to add the Crostoni to your dining experience. You’ll love the heartiness of the cured duck prosciutto, especially when topped with the sweet fig and sharpness of the balsamic reduction.

CARCIOFI – ANTIPASTI 2

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David: This was charred loveliness with a semi-sweet smoky crunch. The simplicity of this dish let the artichoke shine with just the fresh lemon and accompanying not overpowering herbs. This is a must order for the Spring Summer season.

Glasgow: I remember flavor, lots of delicious flavors, and this is coming from someone who would give you the evil eye if you put artichokes anywhere near her plate. I loved the varying textures and sweetness of the fried artichokes. This dish had me re-thinking my aversion to artichokes.

FRITTURA  – ANTIPASTI 3

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David: A simple dish allows you to taste what make its simplicity work. So with this dish, the breading was perfectly light and seasoned but not too much so that it overpowered the seafood but just enough so that it acted like a nice salting should where it just enhances the dish’s briny flavor and herbal freshness.

Glasgow: I love seafood but usually stay away from the fried calamari dish at Italian restaurants because they’re always oily, but you won’t have that issue at Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven. Not only do you get a mixture of fresh seafood (squid, shrimp, and white fish), everything (including the vegetables) was light, fresh, wonderfully delicious, and perfectly crisp….not a greasy hand was in sight. Adding to the dish’s perfection was the spicy marinara sauce. The red pepper flakes in the sauce provided a superb flavor kick that accented the freshness of the Frittura.

2ND COCKTAIL

HENNY DEAR FRIEND

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Glasgow: While David ordered another El Viejito, the Saint Germain lover in me wanted to try the above Henny Dear Friend just because I love anything and everything with elderflower. I’m not big on Hennessey but my goodness, Enzo Cangemi won me over with this cocktail. I loved it’s smooth, slightly sweet taste. I’m finding that Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven is an expert on making me love things I normally stay away from. **At this time I raise a glass to Robert J. Cooper, founder of St-Germain liqueur, who I sadly learned has just passed away. We thank you for your creation.**

MAIN COURSES

BABBALUCCI PIZZA

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David: Named after the restaurant, and I can see why. It’s clearly a star to me as it involves snails, which you don’t find on too many menus at all. I adore snails so this was pizza nirvana for me. The earthiness of the full-bodied snails was perfect with the flavorful salty gorgonzola, verdant semi-sweet tomato sauce and the simple fresh garlic and parsley. The pizza crust, made by the chef on site daily, was the right thinness but kept the right body to hold the toppings and to withstand the wood-burning oven’s heat. So you got the right amount of charring and softness to the crust.

Glasgow: My fear of not having room for dessert only allowed me one slice but that one was heaven (note to self: must return to fully indulge). The saltiness and earthy flavor of the snails were a great contrast to the slight sweetness of the tomato sauce.

RISOTTO

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Glasgow: Have you ever eaten a meal that just has you humming and doing a little happy dance? This diving Risotto was mine. It always seems that restaurants love to primarily offer mushroom risotto which I cannot eat, so when I saw this saffron beauty on the menu, I was elated. First, I love cooking with this flavorful spice and diving into this creamy goodness paired with a wonderful pea puree, and sweet and light char flavor of grilled scallops. Topped with a bit of trout roe, which added a touch of saltiness to each bite and you are in risotto heaven.

DESSERTS

HOMEMADE NUTELLA CHEESECAKE

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David: This is a perfect dish for a light but solid dessert. The cake itself was firm but melted so lovingly in your mouth with a good solid creaminess that together with the natural smoky, almost coffee-like bite of the hazelnut Nutella spread, created a rich satisfying finish.

HOMEMADE LEMON RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

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Glasgow: I usually can never eat cheesecake after a multi-course meal because I find it’s such a heavy dessert but this slice of heaven was so incredibly light, it tasted like it as whipped until it was as airy as the clouds. A perfectly rich dessert without it being overly sweet or heavy.

ATMOSPHERE/SETTING

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David: Love the fact that there’s more diverse food in Harlem. Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven is a mixture of traditional and modern Italian right in the heart of Harlem on a popular restaurant row. It’s quaint and delightful with subtle nuances of a charming Italian trattoria and a modern cosmopolitan eatery.

Glasgow: Andrew grew up in the restaurant industry, following his father and grandfather, who were longtime bread bakers. You can find this Chef/owner positioned at their wood burning oven, seamlessly churning out hundreds of his artisan pizzas for both take out and dining in orders. The restaurant has an affectionate homey feeling and a cool, relaxed vibe. I loved the eclectic energy of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it’s casual ambiance, and the coolness factor of Fela Kuti (or was it Femi Kuti) bursting through the speakers. It made me feel like I wasn’t in a traditional Italian restaurant, which made me love it even more.

Babbalucci Italian Kitchen & Wood Burning Oven is located at 331 Lenox Ave, and is open for Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:00am – 4:00pm; Aperitivo: Monday-Friday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm; Dinner: Sunday-Wednesday, 4:00pm – 11:00pm, Thursday-Saturday, 4:00pm – 12:00am; and Weekend Brunch: 11:00am – 4:00pm.

Restaurant Review: Temerario Mexican Restaurant

If you’ve been in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, specifically around 20th street and 8th avenue, then you’ve most likely seen the eye-catching mural by New York-based Graffiti Street Artist, Dasic Fernandez. The mural’s home is on the newest foodie paradise by the Jorge Guzman Hospitality Group, Temerario Mexican Restaurant, which celebrates the street food of Mexico, and Chef Mario Hernandez’s home, Cuernavaca in Morelos, Mexico. We had the pleasure of experiencing the bold flavors of Temerario, from appetizers to desserts, on a culinary journey that left us gleefully sated; and we’re not the only ones. The restaurant quickly filled with other diners ready to feast on the culinary journey Temerario Mexican Restaurant has to offer.

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Between the two of us, we tried a total of ten dishes from Temerario Mexican Restaurant (this includes appetizers, side dishes, and dessert) and two cocktails. We thought this was a great enough variety to really enjoy the robust tastes of the menu. Join us as we retell our culinary journey with Temerario Mexican Restaurant.

CHIPS AND GUAC: APPETIZER

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David: I love when the ingredients for chips and guacamole are chopped with enough bite to still taste each one. The guac was fresh with bite and the chips were a nice balance in between thick cut and thin. I liked the fact that they had both yellow and blue corn chips that created a more lively plating.

Glasgow: I love freshly made guacamole that’s perfectly seasoned and filled with big chunks of avocado in it, and that is exactly what we got. Add in the artisan style, dual sized, yellow and blue corn chips, and it’s a recipe for visual and gastronomic perfection. I couldn’t get enough of this, which as  a great start to the meal ahead.

COCKTAILS

TEMERARIO COCKTAILS TEMERARIO COCKTAILS2

If you’re looking for a daring cocktail menu, the one at Temerario Mexican Restaurant is it. Created by Mixologist Christopher Reyes, the Temerario Margarita and One Night in Tijuana were both deliciously potent cocktails that combined exotic, tropical fruits like tamarind, and guava with the smokiness of Mezcal. They offered the right amount of palate cleansing and paired great with the dishes. For those of you who love the spicy, robust taste of Ginger Beer, the La Parka and Dear Carnal cocktails should be your number 1 and 2 cocktails. The addition of absinthe in the Dear Carnal upps the ante on this memorable cocktail.

1ST COURSE

SABRITONES

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David: This dish was textural, salty and crunchy with the classic crisp pork rinds that balanced nicely with the creamy heat of the jalapeno avocado sauce and the creamy salty pop of the queso fresco. The greens and fresh slaw rounded off the dish to add a lively verdant element to the plate.

Glasgow: I loved the texture, spiciness, and lightness of this dish. It felt like I was enjoying a dish found on the “lighter” side of the menu without giving up its decadent taste. These were the most sophisticated pork rinds I’ve ever had seen. The flavors were so bold and memorable. I can still taste the heat of the jalapeno avocado sauce, and the lightness of the Chicharrones.

LUPILLAS

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David: This was a beautiful marriage of potato and pork that was crispy and savory like a fresh croquetta. The balance to all the hearty base ingredients was a fresh Manzano cream and a salty smooth earthy manchego. Nice high-brow take on an easy delicious fried classic.

Glasgow: I must say on first impressions, I was not expecting a crunchy exterior and was pleasantly surprised with the rustic taste, and the contrast of the exterior and interior textures. While the outside was crunchy, the inside reminded me a bit of one of my favorite dishes, Shepherd’s Pie (if the mash potatoes were mixed in with the meat instead of on top), either way, I loved it, especially when dipped in the peppery Manzano cream. If you like a dish with heat, this is a must.

2ND COURSE

CARNE ASADA

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David: The perfectly seasoned steak was earthy smoky and flavorful which balanced nicely with the Negro Modelo molé sauce that was itself smoky with a blend of sweet. The accompanying salty pork chorizo was a different kind of earthy loveliness for the dish and along with the creamy avocado and fresh juicy tomato, wound up being non-competitive extras that added nice extra flavor profiles.

Glasgow: I’d order the steak just for that delicious Negro Modero based mole sauce alone!! Oh my god!!! Perfection..If allowed, I would pour that delicious sauce over everything and I almost did but of course, most of it went on the perfect hearty, medium steak. This dish had such a variety of texture and flavors, it was impossible to not enjoy it all. The steak as incredibly juicy, the chorizo had the right hint of savory sweetness, the avocado salad added a delicious freshness and the deep fried baby corn (a first for me) provided a unique crunch. A definite must for my return trip to Temerario Mexican Restaurant.

PESCADO VERACRUZANO

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David: This fish was cooked pretty perfectly. The lightness of snapper was maintained along with the subtle sweetness of this island fish and brininess of the sea. More salty elements like the olives and capers could’ve proved overpowering but they were herbal salty and married nicely with the acidity of the tomato and red onion.

Glasgow: If you’ve ever had fish caught, cooked on the spot, and handed to you then you will understand me when I say this snapper tasted like I handpicked it out of the ocean myself, and magically perfected it to my exact liking. The char was perfect, it didn’t overpower the flavor where you couldn’t taste the freshness of the snapper. It was the ideal balance of salt with a hint of sweetness; and although the menu states burnt potatoes, they were flawless and complemented the char on the fish.

HUARACHE CHIDO

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David: This was a flavor explosion of the salty smoky Serrano ham, the textural semi-sweet corn, the smooth iron richness of the refried beans, the gritty savory bite of the starchy potatoes and the herbal freshness of the tomato and greens made this a killer huarache.

Glasgow: This is what I think of when someone mentions a delicious, well rounded earthy meal. The variety of toppings (in this case, potato chorizo hash, arugula, serrano ham, and Tatemado salsa) layered on top of each other provided a great balance of flavor, color, and texture all at once. The saltiness of the serrano ham was especially wonderful directly on top of the arugula.

AGUACHILE DE CALLOS

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David: I love shellfish and this is why. This scallops dish was like a balance between lightly seared and vinaigrette based. The tart and citrusy vinaigrette came through and married lovely with the light tender brininess of the baby scallops. The fresh veggies of crisp red onion and vibrant tomatillo rounded out the dish and almost made if a perfect summer seafood salad.

Glasgow: It doesn’t take much to please this seafood lover, but luckily Temerario doesn’t do the bare minimum in flavor. If I wasn’t sharing this dish, I would have drunk the sauce directly from the plate after devouring the bay scallops. I loved the fresh clean with taste of the dish, it had a peppery, escovitch (marinated in an acidic mixture) flavor. I also loved the addition of the tomatillo, which gave it a nice fruity characteristic.

FRIED SWEET PLANTAINS: SIDE DISH

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David: This was a delicious combo of salty and sweet with the addition of the queso fresco topping the perfectly grilled and smoky plantains.

Glasgow: I’ve never had plantains topped with cheese before and was a bit apprehensive but the queso fresco topping gave the plantains a new flavor profile for me, sort of an elevated savory version of salty and sweet.

DESSERTS

GRASSHOPPER BEIGNETS

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David: This dessert had a very cool plating with an amazing flavor profile. The beignets were perfectly soft, doughy and warm and made even better flanked by the harmony of tart berries and sweet cream. The passion fruit jam for garnish dipping was an excellent citrus balance to the grasshopper toffee that was brittle, smoky, sweet and crisp with a wonderful melt-away quality.

LOS CHURROS

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Glasgow: There was barely room left but I had to try this old favorite. The tater tot-sized fried-dough pastry is accompanied by three dipping sauce varieties: Leche Quemada, Mole Ganache, and Cactus Berry Jam, were the ideal end to this spirited meal. Each sauce provided a different flavor experience that almost me want to find other things to dip in them, but alas, my stomach sadly had no more room.

DECOR/SETTING

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There’s something about countries in the Caribbean or near the equator that just embrace color so beautifully. The colors (an assortment of blue-toned ceilings, red bar stools, yellow, and orange) in the environment affect the peoples’ perspective and the same happens when you translate that into a restaurant in the States. The décor at Temerario Mexican Restaurant was lively and exuberant with the larger than life wall art and vivid graphics, like NYC’s Danielle Mastrion’s Luchador (shown directly above) that matched perfectly the restaurant’s atmosphere and the wonderful ingredients used for the reinterpreted dishes.

We can’t wait to go back to experience some of the other bold flavors that Temerario Mexican Restaurant has to offer. Are you open to trying out the daring flavors of this Mexican restaurant?

Restaurant Review: Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair

Welcome fellow foodies, to another culinary discovery and adventure with my partner in good food, David White. Today’s restaurant review takes us to Brooklyn, to indulge in Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair, which promises (and delivers) “suped up grill cheese sandwiches”. Join us as we journey through some of the many offerings from this mechanic’s garage-themed eatery, located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 441 Metropolitan Avenue.

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For those who may think there’s nothing revolutionary about grilled cheese sandwiches, get ready to have your mind blown away, and for those who like things their way, you will love the overall concept of Fromage Garage. You can either enjoy many of the dishes available on the menu as is or you customize items like your salads and grilled cheese sandwiches and make them as epic as you want. Let’s begin our food journey with the first course.

SMOKY & EL BANDIDO: 1ST COURSE

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David: A smoked gouda round served with chickpea basil pesto and a balsamic reduction, EVOO, tomato, and arugula. The flavor was a nice marriage of salty with a touch of sweet along with a nice balance of the smoky grilled cheese with the freshness of tomato, pesto, and fresh greens. The familiar acidity of the balsamic reduction rounded off the intense flavor profile with a nice tart edge.

Glasgow: I loved many things about this first course which boasted both an elegant and rustic look. I loved the savory aspect of the warmed gouda round, chickpea basil pesto, and smokiness, and the added hint of sweetness is what really got my eyes rolling back in complete enjoyment. This was the perfect starter to begin the night with.

GREEN MACHINE MIXED GREENS SALAD: 2ND COURSE

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David: An easy but fresh and clean salad that worked well with or without the addition of cheese. The kale, avocado, carrots, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and sesame ginger dressing created satisfying proof that with the right accompaniments, kale is a wonderful buoyant green. The textures were perfect together.

Glasgow: You salad, or Green Machine, can be customized how you want it. You begin with a selection of Kale, Spinach, Arugula or a mix of all, then choose your Parts (you can select up to 5 parts from the list of 19), such as avocado, mushroom medley, roasted red peppers, various meats, caramelized onions, etc, then you top it off with your Lubricant (salad dressing). This non-kale fan was head over heels for this salad (I usually stay away from anything that even hints at the word Kale), and our custom Green Machine was especially amazing with the Ginger Sesame dressing.

TIMING BELT & FUEL INJECTION GRILLED CHEESE W/ KALE POTATO DIP/SOUP: 3RD COURSE

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David: Next I sampled the Timing BeLT, a medley of cheddar, chive butter, kale, tomato, chipotle mayo and bacon on brioche. This was also a great dipping sandwich as the zesty blends of spicy and salty made harmonious culinary magic together for a provocative and very satisfying flavor profile. The salty smoky perfect bacon, the sharpness of the cheddar, the crunch of the kale and the creaminess of the butter were textural delights together.

Glasgow: As stated above, you can customize your grilled cheese but we decided to go with one of Fromage Garage’s custom builds already on the menu. I too wanted to see how the owner, Eddy, could rev up the traditional BLT, and he did not disappoint. First we must note, all of Fromage Garage’s breads are made in-house (with a gluten-free option), our Timing BeLT boasted cheddar, chive butter, kale, tomato, chipotle mayo, and bacon on crispy, buttery brioche bread. I for one will never go back to an ordinary BLT, not when this exists.

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David: I found the soup of the day to be a great half of the grown and hearty remix to the soup and sandwich pairing. Kale and potato with a hint of ginger, was it? It was perfect for dipping my Fuel Injection Grilled Cheese Sandwich, a combination of gouda and fontina with scallion butter, ham spinach, tomato jam and truffle oil on brioche. This was a delicate Latin sandwich that reminded me of the Croque Monsieur with the perfect blend of smoky gouda and aromatic fontina grilled with ham and spinach for a delicate and comforting flavor. The tomato jam and the truffle oil brought in an earthy almost herbal flavor to seal the deal.

Glasgow: The soup/dipping sauce has to be commented on separately because it deserves it’s open separate praise. As I’ve stated, not much of a Kale fan, but I found myself devouring this delicious Kale Potato Soup/dipping sauce. It actually reminded me of a Caribbean dish that originated in West Africa called Callaloo, a very thick leafy soup that I thoroughly enjoyed during my childhood. I love a dish that brings back happy memories. I could eat several full bowls of this delicious soup.

DESSERTS

Dessert fans should run (or drive), don’t walk to Fromage Garage, if only to indulge in their sweet tooth offerings. whether there’s room for dessert, trust us when we say, make room!

TRES GREASE MONKEYS

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David: I thoroughly enjoyed Eddy’s remix of the Dominican tres leches cake made with grilled brioche and tres leches creme. The addition of the pineapple and guava jams were just the perfect touch of island sweetness for the creamy cheeses and warm soft bread

Glasgow: I’ve never heard of a grilled Dominican Sponge Cake or of anyone grilling a Tres Leches cake….until now! Eddy’s interpretation of the traditional Tres Leches Cake was phenomenal. from the first bite to the last, down to the additional drops of milk and the tropical fruit jam, it was divine.

DON EDDY

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David: Talk about sweet and creamy. As the gooey sweet dulce de leche, tart and sweet mascarpone and sweet fruit chutney slid down my throat I had sweet tooth nirvana anchored by the soft chewy bite of the perfectly grilled brioche.

Glasgow: As you can expect from a restaurant that’s all about grilled cheese, one of our favorite desserts naturally involved cheese, Mascarpone to be exact. The Don Eddy was the perfect amount of sweet and creamy. I loved the addition of the sweet fruit chutney, taking the side dish and putting it on display. Once again, I was delighted to see those telltale grill marks on my brioche.

EL GOMERO

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David: It was hard to choose a favorite dessert but this was it. The guava paste with the citrus zest was pure island delightfulness. Then when paired with the cream cheese, it was like dessert meets breakfast chewy bread and the cream cheese just melted orgasmically together with the citrus for an explosive flavor profile.

Glasgow: For those who want a little island style, let this the guava paste, and citrus zest cream cheese in this El Gomero satisfy your palate with its refreshing burst of flavor. You won’t want any bite go to waste.

THE SETTING

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David: Eddy at Fromage Garage must’ve taken inspiration from the rise of the boutique experience that’s been taking over department stores and quaint little streets everywhere from Bushwick to SoBro. Fromage Garage’s layout was a kitchy and intensely charming homage to Eddy’s pop who was a mechanic. While waiting with the heady aromas of grilling cheese in the air, I found myself constantly catching some interesting way in which he linked the idea of his love of grilling with the love of his dad and his profession.

Glasgow: Inspired by his father, Eddy Fontana created Fromage Garage as an homage to his father, who was a Mechanical, Civil and Structural Engineer, whose image is the first thing you see as you enter the restroom. Everything from the decor to the music playing is exactly what you’d expect to see and hear at a garage. We were quite impressed ith the small details, such as the drum sink and truck side mirror in the bathroom, the cogs, and gears cemented into the counter, the wall of license plates, the tires, and garage lights hanging overhead, the mechanic shirt uniforms, and the windshield sneeze guard.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Glasgow: Thanks to Eddy and the delicious menu at Fromage garage, I have learned that I don’t hate Kale, I just hadn’t had it served so deliciously before. I also know that a truly amazing meal can bring back wonderful childhood memories and that grilled cheese sandwiches are no longer just for kids. I will be back for brunch. We hope to have inspired you to take a visit to Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair.
Fromage Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Review: La Gringa Taqueria

We are back with another restaurant review, and this time, we make a short trip to a Mexican foodie haven known as La Gringa Taqueria, a Cali-style Mexican restaurant that offers delicious fresh food, awesome events, and free activities, mainly in their Brooklyn location, soon to be available in their West Village location, which is where we dined on this evening. The West village is the second location of La Gringa Taqueria (seconds away from the Christopher street/1 train station, at 82 Christopher Street), the first and most known being the Williamsburg, Brooklyn location. If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside your borough and trekking to Brooklyn to partake in La Gringa’s delights, know that there is a location closer to you. Let’s get to know the West Village location, shall we!

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My contributing writer, David and I wanted to fully enjoy the entire experience from beginning to end, and that included enjoying a few drinks before we begun our foodgasm journey. While La Gringa does offer Margaritas, and a variety of  Mexican brewed beers, we didn’t want alcohol to alter the taste of our meal (of course we must go back for those margaritas), so we indulged in only non-alcoholic beverages for the night.

DRINKS AND BEVERAGES

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David: I had a Mexican coke. Remember in the 80’s, I may be dating myself when those awesome Coke commercial featured people quenching their thirst with a cold-sweating tall glass bottle of Coke? Well before this country got all penny pinching on us, Coke was made with real sugar and they still make it like that in Mexico, hence the moniker of Mexican Coke. And you really do taste the difference between real sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Glasgow: Remember that scene in Forest Gump when he had 15 or so Dr. Peppers at the White House? That was me with the Mexican Coca-Cola. I grew up drinking sodas (including Coke, and Sprite) sweetened with sugar cane instead of the Aspartame Coke is now sweetened with, and trust me when we say it tastes infinitely better. I happily overindulged in my favorite childhood soda, and only took one brief break to enjoy a Tamarind Jarritos. As I’m writing this, I could go for one or two Mexican Coca-Colas.

GRILLED CHICKEN NACHOS – 1ST COURSE

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Glasgow: There are nachos and then there are La Gringa Taqueria Nachos!! If you’re looking for layers upon layers of deliciousness, you should absolutely have this uber-layered delight with orgasm levels of foodie pleasure in every bite. We opted for the grilled chicken Nachos, a delight to the palate and senses. Preparation of this dish is both a visual and aromatic thrill. Aside from the crisp corn chips layered with succulent meat, fresh pico de gallo, black beans, and sweet plantains, the final touch included a topping of torch melted Monterrey jack cheese that added a rustic roasted/charred taste from the flambé torch. I’m so happy I chose this as my meal starter. Check out some video of my nachos getting the flambé torch treatment.

BURRITO – 2ND COURSE 

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David (Pulled Pork Burrito): Take all the flavors south of the border and wrap it in a warm tortilla. The steak was seasoned with just enough salt and spices. Meanwhile, the seasoned rice, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, special tomatillo sauce and my favorite addition of sweet plantains all served to not overpower the wonderful pork but complement it with an explosive flavor profile that was hearty and satisfying.

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Glasgow (Steak Burrito): Never again will I be laissez-faire about my steak burrito or any burrito for that matter. The eruption of flavor I enjoyed while devouring the wonderful combination of perfectly seasoned steak, yellow rice, and sweet plantain (a surprising and very welcome touch of sweetness which paired perfectly with the hot Picante sauce I topped the whole thing with), made me see the light of what a delicious burrito should taste like. I’ll be forever under its delicious spell.

STEAK QUESADILLA – 3RD COURSE 

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David: There’s something about beef with Mexican seasoning that just marries so well together. When the mounds of fresh queso were added it was kismet, but the topper was the winner. The preparer used a blowtorch to melt the layers of cheese down to gooey perfection that ran in between the layer of steak with lovely melted ease. When topped with a spicy fire-roasted Picante sauce and the other warm tortilla I knew the flavor would be simple yet impacting, and it was. The hot sauce mingled perfectly with the warm seasoned steak and the smokiness of the fresh-torched cheese unified all the flavors together in holy matrimony. Another simple but flavorful dish that tasted familiar and satisfying.

THE SETTING

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David: So tucked away on an infamous but quiet street in the West Village is the really quaint little taqueria spot called La Gringa. As soon as you enter it feels like you’re about to have some authenticity going on with the menu. The walls were ornately decorated with a mural-sized painting of Mexican motifs and popular symbolic figures in full, and I must say pretty amazing, vivid color. It was really a page torn out of Mexico City with the rustic tables the array of colors and of particular note, the bottle opener at the front of the establishment that was kind of like a nod to “hey its old fashioned and rustic here, we give you authentic and not mass produced, so you can open your own bottle and not be dismayed by a syrupy fountain soda.

Glasgow: I love quaint restaurant locations. I always find that small or “hole in the wall” locations have the best food, and I wasn’t disappointed at La Gringa Taqueria. I sometimes find restaurants in the village a bit watered-down, so it was great to see this beacon of refreshing artistic pleasure. The interior is alive with the wonderful work of local mural artist, Danielle Mastrion, who perfectly captured the essence of the Day of the Dead in her artwork for La Gringa. It also boasts rustic wood tables, chairs, and benches curated by the owner, and a sense of being tucked away, which made La Gringa feel homey. Customers are not rushed and we got the sense of being welcomed for hours. It’s a great place to escape and savor your meal.

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All in all, it was a fantastic gastronomy experience that I hope to indulge in again very soon. We advise anyone who’s not familiar to get acquainted asap. For those who have been to La Gringa Taqueria, what was your favorite dish?

 

La Gringa Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Tree Grows In The Financial District: Medici 21 Ristorante & Bar Restaurant Review

Traipsing through the Financial District after business hours can often make me feel like that lone tumbleweed blowing through a ghost town. Now don’t get me wrong! That area does have it’s inhabitants, locals if you will, that give it a lived-in neighborhood kind of feel. However, with very little areas to sit and enjoy the foliage, it’s nice to find other forms of life within this architecturally overpowering pulse point of lower Manhattan. I recently had the pleasure of experiencing life in that region that was served up more of the blanched than the branched. Medici 21 is a wonderful eatery at 21 Rector Street in the Financial District that has recently come under new management.

 What has that brought to the table? Try to imagine wonderful, fresh and classic Italian fare and an energy that brings life to the tightly wound closely knit streets of the Financial District. Equipped with an amazing full bar Medici 21 is a quintessential spot for a work day lunch or evening cocktails and dinner. The revamp brings a sexy youthful verve with a polished downtown edge. Relax with a cocktail downstairs then retire upstairs for a delicious meal that covers the Italian culinary experience with both familiar and unique menu offerings.

The night that I had the pleasure of enjoying the Medici 21 experience was just euphoric. The starters consisting of savory antipasti platters, olives, mushrooms and other artisanal delicacies were a perfect start to what would become one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while.

For dinner, Executive Chef Allen Dann served a six-course meal complete with wine pairings for each course that were appropriate for the intensity and subtleties of each dish.

Starting off were plump briny Long Island Oysters with a semi-sweet Villa Sandi il Fresco, NV Prosecco followed by the sweet and salty marriage of gorgonzola with caramelized pumpkin in the Artisanal Green Salad that were just seasonally perfect with a Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Chile.

Next, the light subtle flavor of the Beef Carpaccio with the fragrant white truffles and frosty parmesan created a textural and flavorful wonderment for the tongue while paired with a heady smooth Trivento Reserve Malbec 2013. The Wild Boar Ragu that followed had a tender rustic flavor that was nicely paired with a delicately fresh pappardelle and a Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Napa Valley.

The last two dishes sealed the dining deal for me. The Atlantic Halibut was so tender and light that it complemented the parsnip puree, Tuscan kale and Stag Leaps Chardonnay 2012 also from Napa beautifully. Dessert finished the course roundup with a Seasonal Fruit Zabaglione that was a great plate of sweet and tart flavors that matched up seamlessly with a Marchesi Di Barolo Zagara Moscato D’Asti 2012.

With the World Trade area getting a fresh new start, lower Manhattan dining is stepping up again where areas like Soho and the Meatpacking District were proving victorious. Medici 21 stands to be a great place to have you make that venture into the winding grid-less streets of the Financial District. Medici 21 Ristorante & Bar will stand to be another notable ‘Twenty One’ in the area but far more satisfying.

Fly International On These Wings: International Wings Factory Restaurant Review

Let me preface this review by saying that, in the past, I have indeed met a wing that I didn’t like. It takes more than stumbling upon a recipe online to create an edible delicacy that inspire the senses. It truly takes an acute understanding of pairing certain tastes and flavors. Even with something as simple as a wing, one may think “oh it’s as simple as cooking chicken”. Oh nay! The tender little culinary arena of the revered chicken wing is not just your normal run of the mill poultry fix. It’s completely about the flavor.  The basic “getting the chicken” right is a given. However, it’s the distinct and memorable flavor that makes all the difference between something just on a menu since people regularly ask for hot wings and something that is worthy of a stellar review…..like International Wings Factory!

International Wings Factory is worthy, very worthy. There is a wealth of wings to be had in New York City but this establishment takes a well-deserved prize. Why? It may be their size; they have one location which is handled by its founder and head Chef Deepak Ballaney, so the integrity of the attention to flavor is preserved. It could be their aesthetic. They take the infamous wing, cook it to perfection then give it ‘around the globe’ treatment with a clever and honed arrangement of international ingredients. The result is a menu of wings that live up to the establishment’s name and an adventurous wing-lover’s palette.

International Wings Factory needs no more bells and whistles than their delicious sounding menu. At first glance the only delightfully overwhelming factor was whether to take my palette to the Far East or the Caribbean. I greedily opted to visit several places as the premise is to choose your wing, bone-in or boneless then choose one of the international coatings for your wings to be covered in along with a freshly made dipping sauce. For adventurists, food-lovers and vegans alike there are also meatballs and soy nuggets to enjoy along with regular and sweet potato fries that you can add some pep to with a flavor dusting.

I eventually chose to try five different flavor pairings. The first was the meatballs covered in Mexy Q, a spicy and zesty sauce with a Chipotle Mayo dipping sauce.  It had great heat and spiciness with the mayo adding another layer of balanced flavored heat and coolness. Then I tried the wings covered in a Black Pepper Teriyaki coating and a Creamy Cilantro sauce. The balance of hot and sweet was perfection while the sauce added a layer of “herby” freshness that didn’t at all disappoint. Next I tried wings coated in Coastal Pepper, a mix of Hawaiian and Caribbean jerk spices, served with a Jalapeño Ranch dipping sauce.  With this one, you’re first hit with the sweet then the mounting heat swoops in to deliver that familiar jerk flavor only to be cooled off by the balance of the spicy heat and cool of the dipping sauce. Finally, packed with Chinese flavor and a veil of heat that is not overpowering but enough to tang up the presence of the garlic is the Sichuan Chili Garlic wings. The classic blue cheese it was paired with brought down the welcomed heat with its classic salty sharp flavor.

Accompanying my dishes was a phenomenal side of Sweet Potato Fries lightly coated in a Spicy Garlic dusting. Applying the dusting to these freshly fried potatoes was a perfect way to lock in the flavor as the savory and the sweet paired together quite deliciously. It’s comforting to know that Chef Deepak Ballaney makes everything – coating, sauce and dusting fresh each day himself and that you’re not getting pre-packed, pre-frozen or dehydrated flavors masked to appear fresh. Whether indulging in the scrumptious wing groupings or even other menu items like a Blackened Spice Rubbed Chicken or Crispy Tilapia sandwich, Angus or Chunky Vegetable Burger or even Turkey Wingettes, the flavors offered here are undeniably great, wings down.

International Wings Factory
1762 First Avenue
New York, NY 10128
212.348.2627