Category Archives: Restaurant

EV2BK Hotel Review – Ace Hotel

I first toured the Ace Hotel over the summer and was impressed with the thoughtful layout and design, the general vibe of the place appealed to me right away. We were thrilled when they agreed to let us shoot the upcoming Boy Crisis video there. I can’t say enough about how great the staff was to work with and, as a result of the Ace being so accommodating, I think the video is going to be amazing (more details to come on that soon).

The Ace Hotel, 20 W. 29th St., New York, NY

Owner Alex Calderwood opened up the first Ace Hotel in 1999 in a former Salvation Army halfway house in Seattle. In an effort to accommodate, and appeal to, musicians and artists, affordability was a top priority. Ten years later, Calderwood has opened up three more Ace hotels—one in Portland, one in Palm Springs, and the newest hotel in New York City. The Ace Hotel New York has 12 stories and 260 rooms. The affordable rates make you feel like you know about a secret inside deal at one of the coolest hotels in the city. As you enter the lobby, you can smell the coffee brewing at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a Portland favorite, that has a small coffee shop set up adjacent to the front of the lobby. Although there are long lines at times, it turns out that the coffee is worth the wait.

The reception area features an apothecary case filled with taxidermy (birds) and reclaimed laboratory tables that are used as the reception desk. The hotel commissioned artworks by local artists to decorate the lobby and many of the rooms. The lobby is a scene —bustling all day and night— with a laid-back vibe where at any given time you could find some hipsters on their laptops next to an eccentric artist sketching and a group of European tourists mapping out their next move. They kept the original mosaic floors and coffered ceilings in the lobby and it’s obvious that great care was taken in the construction and layout of each room, with a nod to the historically land-marked buildings’ origins.

Each room has a somewhat different layout and design; many include vintage refrigerators, chairs, and tables, customized Gibson acoustic guitars, plumbing pipes refashioned into clothing racks, and fur and leather accents and upholstery. These varied layouts enhance the illusion that you are in a cool apartment rather than a standard hotel room. And check out this view:

The event space downstairs, Liberty Hall, is another find. I first saw the space when it was raw, and then went to the Fader/ Levi’s show there in the fall and now it is completely finished and it looks great. You can use the whole space for a large event or break it down into three separate sections. If all of the above wasn’t enough of a draw already, The Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield helm the newly opened Breslin Bar & Dining Room, which is located adjacent to the main lobby in a simple, elegant space.

-Melissa

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Jam of the Day – Have Some Coffee at the Motel Motel

If you’ve been around the neighborhood lately, you will have notice that a lot of cute new coffee shops are popping up the East Village. One of the best that I’ve tried is the Coyi Cafe (Avenue B between 3rd and 4th streets). It’s adorable inside, although quite small, and the coffee is hard to beat.

Brooklyn is also embracing coffee these days, that is, the song “Coffee” by Brooklyn’s own Motel Motel, a new americana jam that you’re sure to enjoy.

The boys of Motel Motel play at the Mercury Lounge tomorrow night and at Union Hall on Friday, so if you like what you hear, check them out!

Motel Motel – Coffee:

-Melissa

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ev Veggie Restaurant – Counter

counter menu table When I came across an article about the boozy brunch popsicles that were being offered all summer long at East Village vegetarian bistro and organic wine bar, Counter, I was shocked that I had never been there before. As a long time vegetarian, and somewhat long time resident of the East Village, I couldn’t believe that I had missed a place that sounded so perfect for me. So I set out to see if the website and menu were too good to be true.

Upon arrival, we were ushered in to a small table for two near the back. Although the place was really cute inside, with small tables, low lighting, and vivid pictures of edible flowers on the walls, the ambiance was interrupted by the giant McDonald’s across the street. The front of the restaurant was entirely open to take advantage of the early August night but the benefits of the few sidewalk tables were far outweighed by the drain that the blaring McDonald’s signs had on the overall vibe. If they just nixed those few tables outside, or even closed the curtains at the front, it would have been a tremendous improvement.

Moving on from the ambiance, it was time to go through the menu and see what I wanted to try. As a vegetarian, I am fairly used to having just a few options to choose from at most places and going with whatever sounds the most interesting. But the Counter menu proved overwhelming, with so many delicious sounding items to try, how could I decide?

First things first, we started off with a delicious and fairly affordable bottle of Spanish Cava Brut. Sparkling white wine, in my opinion, is the perfect compliment to light meals, especially when they are vegetable based. The wine list at Counter exclusively offers organic, sustainable, and biodynamic options.

Counter started serving a new menu on August 4th, so everything available to us was new and exciting. Many of their ingredients come from their own sprawling rooftop garden at 51 East 7th Street, so you can’t get much fresher than that. We decided to share everything and, as they are relatively small plates, we were advised that five items would be a good amount for two people (we couldn’t narrow the choices down any further anyway).

To start, we ordered the gazpacho, and the watermelon and heirloom tomato salad (with flecks of basil and drizzled balsamic). The gazpacho was tasty, spicy and well-seasoned, with cubes of avocado to top it off in the center. The watermelon and heirloom tomato salad was perfect; it was visually and palatably interesting, featuring both pink and yellow watermelon cubes along with red and yellow tomatoes. Since everything looked the same, you never knew what you were biting into.

For the next course, we sampled the spaghetti squash spaghettini with roasted garlic tomato sauce and the cauliflower “risotto” (featuring both white and purple cauliflower with shallots and herb butter). The spaghettini was delicious, with the spaghetti squash cooked just long enough to achieve the spaghetti-like texture (for those of you that have tried this at home, you know this is hard to do) and the sauce was spicy and nicely complimented with hints of roasted garlic. The cauliflower “risotto” was a standout for its savory, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. The quotations indicate that cauliflower was used in the place of the traditional rice used for this dish. This creative pasta replacement continued in the last dish of the evening, the beet ravioli (with pinenut cheese and rosemary foam), with the beets acting as the ravioli outside of the pinenut cheese and the aromatic and flavorful rosemary foam was served as a light sauce on top of each bite.

Obviously, we had to order the popsicles as an after-dinner treat (the strawberry-mint was my favorite). They were tasty, but probably the weakest point of an otherwise stellar meal. Each dish was delicious; it’s not often that I have no complaints or order remorse.

Overall, I would highly recommend Counter to vegetarians and carnivores alike – I took a carnivore with me and he loved it! Counter is open daily for dinner and for brunch on the weekends.

Counter
105 First Avenue (at 6th Street)
212.982.5270
http://www.counternyc.com

-Melissa

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ev Restaurant – Table 8

Table 8 2 I recently checked out what all the fuss was about at Table 8, the high-profile restaurant in the newly-opened-boutique Cooper Square Hotel. Head chef Govind Armstrong, who now has five restaurants in three cities – including the original Table 8 in California and another in Miami – designed the “New American” menu around small plates, fish, cured meats, flatbreads, pastas, and salads. The dining room, with its leather-clad wall and bookshelves full of tomes from Housing Works, has little else to adorn it’s simple, sleek interior. The south-facing wall is all glass and offers a view of the patrons on the dining patio and the private garden. There is a central fourteen-seat “salt bar” featuring house-cured meats and fish from which you can order a sampling to start off the meal or you can sit at the bar for a more casual dining experience. For appetizers, the seared Cana de Cabra (goat cheese) with arugula, avocado, red onion, and balsamic was delicious. I also had a piece of Halibut with fava beans, marinated tomatoes, and smoked Halibut toast. The fish was very light and well-complimented by the tomatoes and beans, but the toast with smoked Halibut (in the style of crabmeat) was unnecessary and an overkill of the similar flavors. The grilled baby chicken with short rib hash, cipollini onion jus, and arugula salad was a big hit at my table. Our group also shared a few “small accents” including spinach with grilled watermelon and red onion (so good!), sautéed Hen of the Woods mushrooms, and cauliflower a la plancha (grilled) with dill, capers, and parsley. There’s also the “8 oz.” burger that inspired Armstrong’s burger mini-chain of the same name, plus the short-rib grilled cheese that made it onto Oprah.

Table 8 has two bars, one at ground level and another on the second floor. The second floor bar is surrounded with floor-to-ceiling glass walls which gives the small space an open, airy feel. The doors open onto a 50-seat outdoor patio that offers views of the Bowery when you’re not getting shouted at by noisy neighbors. The second floor bar has a lounge menu from Table 8 as well as a signature cocktail list. A house specialty is the Basil 8, like a vodka mojito with a splash ginger ale and white-grape juice. A Champagne attendant also hovered down a steep flight of stairs near the restrooms offering guests a glass as they exit. A nice thought but a curious setting…

Table 8
25 Cooper Square (On Bowery near 6th Street)
New York, NY
212.475.3400
www.thecoopersquarehotel.com

-Melissa

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ev Restaurant – Tonda

Tonda BarWhen Tonda opened in late-March, they claimed that they would have New York’s “best fire-baked pizza.” True to their word, their menu highlights, including the thin-crust pizzas, paninis, foccaccia, flatbreads, and calzones, are all baked on a rotating stone pivot in an 8-foot-wide wood-burning oven (which maintains 1,000-degree temps). Located near the corner of 4th Street and Avenue B, Tonda has taken over the large space previously inhabited by the now-shuttered restaurant, The E.U. The rustic layout of Tonda makes it an inviting space with tables for different-sized parties, a small lounge area, and a large bar located adjacent to the wood-burning oven. To take advantage of the warmer months ahead, they also have tables set-up on their front-patio (i.e. sidewalk with an awning) with enough room to seat 26.

We first checked out Tonda in March and the authentic Neapolitan pies did not disappoint. The margherita pizza and the prosciutto di parma and arugula pizza were both delicious and both featured an excellent tomato sauce base. They were so good in fact that we went back to sample some more of the goods this past weekend. Unfortunately, we did find a few things lacking this time around. The arugula and parmesan salad which was stellar last time, was over-salted and oily and the white pies that we tried (one featuring sausage and broccoli di rape and the other featuring fresh cherry tomatoes) were both a little dry. Having tried these different styles, I would definitely recommend going with one of the traditional tomato-sauce-based pizzas. Overall, the place is worth checking out even if there are high and low notes on the menu because, in a neighborhood of some pretty stiff pizza competition (Artichoke and Luzzo’s to name a few), Tonda is offering something unique. The thin-crust of their pies is authentic and outstanding.

Their head-chef Michele Sceral was flown in from Naples to supervise the creation of the menu “in the tradition and high standard he garnered at the Napolitan Pizzaiolo Association” as their press release claims. Michele Sceral has 15 years of experience and the Tonda website explains that he uses “mostly locally-sourced nutritious ingredients and flours.” … and “special water will also be used to make the crusts for all menu items.” I’m not sure what kind of “special water” this is but that crust sure is tasty.

Owner Bob Giraldi collaborated on the Tonda concept, menu, and hospitality staffing with restaurateurs Luigi Comandatore and Dario Milanin, with whom he is partners in the popular Bread Tribeca restaurant located downtown.

Tonda also has a wine list offering primarily Italian whites, reds, and rosés. Delivery in the immediate neighborhood (lucky me!) is also available. You can check out the menu here.

In a creative marketing decision, Tonda has also launched their own blog on which they are posting information about their owners, their menu updates, and are seemingly trying to create some general buzz for the new eatery.

Tonda
235 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10009
212.254.2900
www.tondapzza.com

-Melissa

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ev Restaurant – Zaitzeff

ZaitzeffWe checked out local gem Zaitzeff for the first time on Saturday night. The menu at Zaitzeff is simple and precise. Their claim that they “get the best ingredients and fuss with them the least” seems to be true. We sampled the sirloin burger with mushrooms and cheddar, the veggie burger, and their mixed-fries (sweet potato and regular, cooked daily in cast-iron skillets) and everything was well-executed and delicious. Their burgers are served on Portuguese muffins which are a tasty compliment to the hearty burgers. With the $5 drink specials (Mojitos were on tap that night) and reasonable menu, we had plenty of funds left over to have a hell of a Saturday night!

They also offer nationwide delivery of their Morning Glory muffins and chocolate chip cookies (we didn’t get to sample these so it looks like we’ll have to go back…)

The East Village outpost is the second location opened by Zach Zaitzeff. Zaitzeff opened the first location of this all-natual burger spot when he saw the market for a wholesome eatery in the Financial District and left his day job at a brokerage firm to open one.

Zaitzeff
18 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
-and-
72 Nassau Street
New York, NY 10038

www.zaitzeffnyc.com

-Melissa

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