Sep 2006

Becco – New York City

Photos by Phi

September 6, 2006
Cuisine: Italian

355 W 46th St, New York 10036
Between 8th & 9th Ave

Phone: 212-397-7597

Anitpasti e Insalata:
Antipasto Misto – An assortment of grilled, marinated vegetables & seafood

Caesar Salad – Becco’s version of the classic Caesar salad

Sinfonia di Paste -Unlimited servings of our three pastas of the day

Secondi: (Family Style)
Pesce Spada -Pan seared swordfish steaks with seasonal preparations

Pollo Limone -Pan seared boneless chicken breast with lemon, Cerignola olives, & Selina caper berries

Bistecca alla Becco -Grilled Black Angus rib eye, dry-aged & rubbed with porcini mushrooms, served with garlic mashed potatoes & seasonal vegetable

Assorted Dessert Sampler

Café e Vino:
Coffee, Tea, Cappuccino, Espresso

The meal at Becco’s was perhaps one of the most extravagant affairs in my dining career. Our group had a private room and a pre-set menu designed at $82 a head without tax or tip. The restaurant was relatively large compared to many other NY restaurants and busy the evening we dined. Research has uncovered that Becco is one of Lydia Batianich’s restaurants and opened in 1993. I’ve always wanted to dine at a Lydia restaurant because her persona on her PBS cooking show screams authentic Italian. Our meal lasted three hours and included unlimited wine that I didn’t partake in. I prefer not to drink my calories.

Before the courses began we were brought an assortment of breads and olives. Since I was saving room for the actual meal, I only tried the foccacia, a bread stick and a couple olives. All were good, but nothing to write home about. Our first course was the antipasti — we had an antipasti platter filled with flavorful veggies along with some fresh mozzarella. My favorite items on the platter were the corn, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. We were also served two fish antipasti that I thought were only okay. Cold fish is something I’m not too big a fan of. We also had peas accompanied by fresh ricotta cheese — good texture and mild in a good way. Lastly we had a Caesar salad which I hardly ate because it was boring, definitely your average Caesar salad.

After our antipasti we were served three pastas — a penne with marinara, fettuccine with bolognese and some “gnocchi.” I definitely loved the pasta course even though the penne with marinara was a bust. Penne is my least favorite shape of pasta due to it’s terrible ability to hold on to sauce and the marinara was very bland. Great thing the two other pastas made up for it. The fettuccine was absolutely fresh and cut in thicker ribbons, almost like a pappardelle, which is my favorite pasta shape. The bolognese was also quite excellent and I think I tasted the employment of cinnamon sticks. The highlight of the pasta course was the “gnocchi.” While the servers called it a gnocchi it was definitely very different from your average potato ball with ridges. In fact, I don’t think the pasta contained any potato. The gnocchi seemed to be made of cornmeal and semolina and shaped to look like a giant scallop. The gnocchi was doused in a lovely creamy cheese sauce and topped with fresh chives. SO very good. I ate three of these gnocchi scallops. I would definitely return to Beccos just for the gnocchi.

Our meat course came next — fish, chicken and steak. I was very much out of room at this point so I only tried the chicken and steak. The chicken was moist and lemony, but I don’t care much for chicken in general. The steak was fantastic and prepared rare. Lastly came dessert!

Dessert was divine. In addition to the assortment of desserts offered at the restaurant (cheesecake, panna cotta, chocolate mousse) we were brought a number of gelatos and sorbets including passion fruit, sour cherries, basil and a few more. I devoured the cheesecake and panna cotta; they were superb. I didn’t try the chocolate desserts because I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate. The basil gelato was very special and yummy as was the sour cherry gelato.

The Astronomer is quite jealous of my Italian feast without him so we’ll definitely have to go to Becco’s on our next trip together to the city. That is if we can’t get a reservation at Babbo for the pasta tasting menu.

Becco on Urbanspoon

Sep 2006

Caracas Arepa Bar – New York City

Photos by Super Chan Chan

Brother and I ended up getting take out for dinner last night and had the Pabellon Criollo (Venezuelan National Dish—a platter with white rice, black beans, shredded beef and fried sweet plantains sprinkled with white salty cheese) delivered to the apartment. It turns out that Venezuelan food, this dish in particular, is dangerously similar to my favorite Cuban treat – Vaca Frita. The major difference between the two dishes I’d say is the use of cotija cheese on the beans and a yellow sauce that accompanied the beef. While I’m not sure of the exact name of the sauce, I’d describe it as slightly sweet, slightly spicy and perhaps mustard based. The beef was also a lot less “frita” AKA more moist. Cuban rice and beans are a lot more flavorful, probably due to the generous employment of lard. The Pabellon Criollo was very satisfying, but my heart still lies with the Cubanos.

Caracas Areapa Bar
91 E 7th Street
New York, NY 10009
Phone: 212-228-5062

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Sep 2006

Wong Wong Restaurant – Philadelphia

September 14, 2006
Cuisine: Chinese

941 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-1805

Phone: 215-928-8822
Website: none


Entree I: Cashew chicken


Entree II: Beef noodles prepared “Hong Kong” style

I do not care much for Chinese-Americana fare, but the Astronomer loves it very much. Every so often I indulge the Astronomer and we go out for Chinese food. I had a meeting last night near Chinatown so we hit up Wong Wong afterwards. We had not read anything about this restaurant beforehand and chose it on impulse. My rationale is that one can’t go too wrong picking a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, especially a restaurant of the “non-banquet” variety; they are more or less all the same. Although I must admit that the barbecued roasted ducks flanked on the outside window of the restaurant helped to draw me in.

It was late in the evening so we each only ordered an entree. The Astronomer had the cashew chicken with white rice while I had the beef noodles. We shared each dish. The cashew chicken was tasty and mild, nowhere near as spicy as a Kung Pao preparation. The chicken was good quality white meat stir fried with peas, carrots, water chestnuts, straw mushrooms, celery and topped with toasted cashews. All winners but the celery. The sauce seemed a bit too light in color, but was satisfying in flavor which is what really matters. The beef noodles were not exactly what I had anticipated. I wanted a thin pan fried egg noodle, but instead I got a thicker more chow mein like noodle. Nevertheless, it was still quite good. My only complaint were the bean sprouts. I’ve disliked bean sprouts since my youth. The beef was very tender and really hit the red meat spot.

All in all this was your average Chinese establishment. I enjoyed the food for what it was—cheap, warm, and salty. The noodles were priced at $6 and the chicken was $8. Fair enough.

Wong Wong on Urbanspoon