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Review of this SoHo staple

Review of this SoHo staple


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A very cool SoHo staple that serves terrific food in a very casual atmosphere surrounded by teams of young people who live in the area. I totally recommend Blue Ribbon.


How to Cook with Canned or Jarred Artichokes, a Superstar Pantry Staple

From make-ahead pasta salad to pizza, canned artichokes are a MVP ingredient.

With their bright green exterior and tangy flavor, artichokes are a delicious vegetable to cook. While fresh artichokes are fabulous right now, we&aposre all about non-perishable, shelf-stable canned goods. We suggest you stock up on a few cans of artichokes or some jarred marinated artichoke hearts during your next shopping trip.

When choosing canned artichokes, you&aposll find that they&aposre usually sold either whole or quartered in a saltwater solution. When you open a can of artichokes, be sure to rinse them thoroughly so that all you&aposre left with is the sweet, slightly tangy flavor and creamy texture of the vegetable. Some recipes may call for a few tablespoons of the marinade, so don&apost dump it all immediately. The jarred variety is usually sold as marinated artichoke hearts, which are super flavorful and ready to eat as is, or added to a cheese and meat board.

In addition to being long-lasting, canned and jarred artichokes are fantastic because they&aposre convenient, available year-round, and super versatile. From Creamy Artichoke Ranch to the Marinated-Artichoke and Green-Bean Pasta Salad, pictured above, you&aposll see the marvelous methods for cooking with jarred or canned artichokes below. At a time when trips to the grocery store are minimal but family dinners at home are at an all-time high, stock up on canned artichokes and cook with them in these delicious recipes.


Review: Soho Rep’s ‘Washeteria,’ Staged in a Brooklyn Storefront

In recent years, Soho Rep has offered dramas like “Blasted,” “Born Bad,” “An Octoroon” and “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation” — tough, turbulent, troubling. But in the new show, “Washeteria,” the company is running on a much, much gentler cycle, with lots of fabric softener, too.

The theater’s first all-ages play, staged in a formerly vacant storefront in South Williamsburg, “Washeteria” is the loopy creation of the terrific set designer Louisa Thompson, who developed it with the directors Sarah Benson and Adrienne Kapstein and the students of Brooklyn Arbor P.S. 414.

The storefront sits on a fairly cheerless block just beyond a highway overpass. But when you step past the smashed glass door and on to the scuffed linoleum, you’re overcome by warmth and light and the fresh and gladdening smell of soap.

A lightly absurdist take on a laundromat, “Washeteria” has a couple of cruddy washers and dryers, a cave of detergent bottles and a pile of unclean clothes stretching up to the ceiling. There are signs that say “Please Let Us Wash and Fold Your Cellphones” and “Please Keep Off the Grass Stains.”

In the first, unscripted part of the event, children toddle and dash around the space, trying on dress-up clothes, hunting missing socks and turning folded sheets into billowing parachutes while ambient sound and music plays.

Then they settle on to seats made of orange laundry bags and the show proper starts, with the musician Miwa Gemini strumming an electric guitar and singing that the laundromat is a “portal into the bizarre.” Which it is.

In the first sketch, “Tuesdays Are Weird at the Laundromat,” written by Charise Castro Smith and directed by Tea Alagic, a couple of peculiar launderers (Che Ayende and Mia Katigbak) help a woman (Danaya Esperanza) accept the loss of a friend. Their means: a giant parrot, an opera diva, a washer that bakes pies.

In the second, “Consuela and the Great Genie of the Laundry Bag,” written by César Alvarez and directed by Annie Tippe, Dale (Ms. Katigbak), the titular genie, helps an exploited employee (Ms. Esperanza) escape the clutches of an evil laundromat manager (Mr. Ayende).

These short pieces, appropriately juvenile, are designed to please elementary schoolers. Those present applauded the songs and howled at the body humor. “This is a funny part!” yelped a girl. “This is so cool,” insisted a boy. (In fairness, another boy, less persuaded, watched Ms. Katigbak remove twisted tights from a dryer, and shouted, “Oh no! Girls’ stuff.”) Younger children liked it, too, though the squawking parrot made a baby boy cry.

The performances are keen and clean enough to keep grown-ups interested. (Mostly.) And when attention wandered, we could gaze out the glass doors and see people bustling by, some of them toting laundry bags of their own. Likely the neighborhood’s other laundries are quieter and more efficient. Probably they even have lint screens. But do they have washing machines that burp butterflies? Carts that double as fishing boats? Genies who scarf granola bars? Who needs permanent press when you could have such untidy magic?


Some Food, a Plate, a Room. That’s Enough at King, in SoHo.

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A friend who has made herself a regular at the SoHo restaurant King sums up its appeal, with deep approval, as “food on a plate in a room.” This undersells the place — King offers much more than that — but she has a point.

The restaurant, which opened in September, is not a show-off. The dining room is small, tidy and nearly square, painted the pale color of butter in the winter. Windows stretching to the ceiling along the north wall look out on the dormered Federal townhouses of King Street. The facing wall is broken up with a single abstract painting, a doorway to the kitchen and a long opening behind which the four people who make up the entire kitchen staff can be seen at work. It is a room content with being just a room, and letting you focus on the people you’re with and the food that’s on the plate.

There will be papery curls of carta di musica before anything else arrives. Brushed with rosemary, this Sardinian flatbread shatters when you tap it. It will be gone in a minute, but it serves as a brief introduction to King’s culinary realm.

After this gift from the kitchen, an order of panisse may seem redundant. It isn’t. At King, these chickpea fritters are long, thin tongues that puff up like pommes soufflés and are scented all over by fried sage. They’re beautiful. They were on the menu last month, but they may not stay long.

Image

Nothing does. King’s two chefs, Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer, cook a different slate of dishes each night. The changes tend to be evolutionary, drawing from a fixed repertoire of ideas. The first time I had halibut there, it was grilled, and its skin had been deeply charred without drying out the rich white meat right under it. The plate was filled out with spinach and white coco beans soft enough to mash with a spoon.

The next time I ate halibut at King, it was poached, the beans were back and the greens had been replaced with small artichoke hearts simmered in white wine and amaranth. I’ll eat either dish again in a minute if the chefs give me a chance.

Their food borrows liberally from the home cooking of those parts of Italy and France where New Yorkers of a certain generation dreamed of buying a summer house. This style has gone out lately, but a few years ago it was the default for the breed of American chefs who led their staff in fava-shucking parties each spring. Ms. Shadbolt and Ms. de Boer practice an English variant of the style they learned in the kitchen of the River Cafe in London.

Anybody who’s eaten at that restaurant or has gone to bed with one of its cookbooks will experience occasional flashbacks at King. Polenta and almond flour go into a classic River Cafe dessert and into a different one that recurs at King. If you see it on the menu, especially if it is weighted with nectarines, pounce.

Chefs can’t get far on imitation. They need to understand the how and why of things, and Ms. Shadbolt and Ms. de Boer do. Once you get past King’s debt to River Cafe, what you really notice is how many little moves they know that can raise a recipe from good to exceptional.

Olive oil blended with nettles is an excellent sauce for boiled fingerling potatoes. What makes King’s even better is that a few fingerlings have been crushed into the purée, so from time to time you bite into a chunk of potato hiding inside the sauce. This was a side dish that traveled alongside a guinea hen, roasted whole with a bath of verdicchio in the bottom of the pan. Wilted nettles sprawled over its crisp skin. With a squeeze of lemon, it was one of the most appealing guinea hens I had ever come across.

If you eat at King often, you can see the chefs making subtle adjustments to keep flavors in balance. Ravioli under spring peas and raw pea shoots were filled with minimally seasoned ricotta one week. The next, the ricotta inside floppy tortellini got an extra spur from lemon zest. The citrus might have stepped on the sweetness of the peas, but it helped the tortellini, because the only competition on the plate was fresh marjoram.

And when some new seasonal ingredient appears on the scene, you can see the chefs strike like cobras. Saltwort, the salt-marsh-loving succulent that Italians call agretti, was the exciting foundation for a May salad built with wild arugula and raw ovals of asparagus stalks, making one of their first appearances of the year. Salty goldenrod bottarga was shaved over everything, even the white rim of the plate.

To be won over by King, it helps not to expect things you’ve never seen before. Even those meeting saltwort for the first time will find that the rest of the meal looks familiar. What Ms. de Boer and Ms. Shadbolt offer is not a wild vision of new ways to cook but a solid vision of how to eat. They put pleasure at the table above gymnastics on the plate. For reasons I don’t want to understand, I associate this trait with other female chefs around town, including Rita Sodi, Missy Robbins, Gabrielle Hamilton, Sara Jenkins, Angie Mar and April Bloomfield, another River Cafe alumna.

At King, the vision extends to how to drink. Annie Shi, who superintends the dining room and is a third business partner with the chefs, can offer guidance with the wine list. She favors French and Italian producers, many of them not quite famous, whose wines gracefully weave in and around the cooking.

At the compact bar by the front door, cocktails are put together with the simplicity and respect for aperitif wines that you find in Italy. There is a kir and a sbagliato, which is nothing more than Campari and red vermouth on the rocks topped up with prosecco. These and other drinks slip into the bloodstream without knocking the palate out of alignment.

The desserts are cafe style. They don’t look like extraterrestrial landscapes but rather recognizable slices and scoops.

One of the few things at King that didn’t make perfect sense was a tiramisù it went too heavy on the espresso and too light on the mascarpone. Every other dessert was just what I wanted, even when I didn’t know I wanted it. Chilled, thickened cream flavored with Pernod? I’m a fan now. I’m also a new convert to something called the Colonel. It’s a cup of lemon granita served with a tiny pitcher of cold vodka. You pour one over the other.

I have no idea why the vodka makes the granita taste better, but it does.


Recipe Summary

  • 15 habanero peppers
  • 1 small mango - peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons dry mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest

Wearing disposable gloves, and being careful not to get any in your eyes or on your skin, roughly chop the habanero peppers. Place the habanero peppers, mango, onion, green onions, and garlic into a blender. Pour in the vinegar, lime juice, and vegetable oil, cover the blender, and pulse until the mixture is very finely chopped. Stop the blender, and add dry mustard powder, salt, curry powder, and lime zest. Blend again until the sauce is smooth. Pour into clean jars, and store in refrigerator.


Chotto Matte Harajuku Brunch – Review

For those who thought that London was dead, I challenge you to visit Soho on a Friday or Saturday. Like Covent Garden, parts of the district have been pedestrianised and like Covent Garden, there&rsquos a real buzz. That&rsquos being helped along by restaurants like Chotto Matte who have just launched a brand new brunch menu where you can enjoy an amazing selection of dishes. The Harajuku brunch is so named after the eponymous district in Tokyo known as the centre of Japanese youth culture and fashion. A vibrant colourful part of town, it&rsquos an apt name for Chotto Matte, the Nikkei restaurant and bar that brightened up Soho when it first opened with a stunning menu of Japanese Peruvian fusion dishes.

We arrived early, a wise move if you want a seat outside or on the terrace, and settled down to a welcome cocktail. The Harajuku Girl was the perfect Saturday pick-me-up with tangy hibiscus and chicha morada (a non-alcoholic Peruvian drink made with dried corn) laced with premium vodka and served on the rocks, garnished with an edible flower.

Brunch for everyone starts with four small plates.

BBQ Edamame seasoned with a good sprinkling of sea salt to nibble on with our cocktail were followed by a delicious Yellowtail Nikkei Sashimi with cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, coriander and yuzu truffle soy. Picture perfect, I would have happily ordered a second or maybe even a third of these.

Warm beef fillet tataki was a delicate slither of fillet beef seared and topped with passion fruit salsa and a smoked aji panca sauce that looked a bit like ketchup but tasted so much better.

Finally, spicy tuna crispy rice was a light rice cake topped with marinated tuna and Peruvian chilli.

The main part of brunch involves choosing a &lsquoBig Plate&rsquo each and a side dish to go with it. For the sake of contrast, we ordered the Asado de Tira (slow-cooked BBQ beef with purple potato puree, teriyaki jus and chives). A large chunk of meat perched on top of melting potato puree was delicious but if I am honest, a little more than I needed at lunch.

Gambas a la Parrilla with aji, lima salsa and chives were a better option with a generous helping of plump prawns crying out to be eaten.

I&rsquove eaten the Chotto Matte Padron peppers before &ndash they come with a miso dressing that sounds a little bizarre but is utterly delicious. By accident, we ended up with two helpings. By design and with no regrets, we scoffed the lot.

My companion&rsquos choice of yuka frite was a new dish for me but one which I could easily develop an addiction for. Fluffy, tender cassava, coated and deep-fried and served with more of that smoked panca dip, which should definitely be bottled and sold to take home.

Dessert came in the form of a delicious platter of mini dishes. It&rsquos an option on the main menu that shouldn&rsquot be ignored and was the perfect way to end the meal.

The Chotto Matte Harajuku Brunch is served on Saturday afternoons from midday to 4 pm. Priced at £40 per person with food and a welcome cocktail, bottomless options include wine, sparkling wine or Asahi beer at £65 per person or Champagne and cocktails at £85 per person. With generous quantities of food and a fabulous range of options, this deserves to join my list of favourite London brunches!

Chotto Matte
11&ndash13 Frith Street,
Soho,
London, W1D 4RB


MOVIE REVIEW : SOHO COMES ALIVE IN ‘AFTER HOURS’

In his sweetly ominous “After Hours” (selected theaters), director Martin Scorsese catalogues our fears. Social fears of seeming wimpy and being dateless and alone for ever . Nice sensible urban fears of dark lonely city streets, of muggers, predators and the New York subway system at a late hour. Then he shuffles them and deals a personal-size comedy, so relentlessly exact that it’s hilarious.

“After Hours” takes place during one long night as an amiably dorky computer operator, Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), ventures from his predictable turf on the Upper East Side into SoHo. The lure is Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), who makes any impulsive behavior completely understandable. She picks him up (over his copy of “Tropic of Cancer,” a quaintly old-fashioned touch) he returns the overture with a phone call and the night’s catastrophes begin.

Within a few hours he’s lost the $20 he began with, he has been treated to a kamikazi taxi ride (like a good New Yorker, Paul can’t admit his terror his only reaction is a pleasant, “No hurry”), he’s been given a primer of SoHo sadomasochism and the tightening feeling that if there is a target for tonight, he may be it.

“After Hours” is dazzling movie making you could get a giddy kick just from cinematographer Michael Ballhaus’ shot as a set of house keys floats down toward the camera, tossed from a top-floor apartment. (Ballhaus’ glittering authority with color was honed during his many films for R. W. Fassbinder more recently he shot “Baby, It’s You” and “Heartbreakers.”) But the film’s bedrock is its pungently well-observed screenplay by 26-year-old Joseph Minion, whose debut this is.

You realize how good Minion is early on, during the carefully nuanced pauses and spurts of Paul’s call to Marcy. As Paul tries to be casual, roguish, man-of-the-world and off-handed, all at once, Minion characterizes with deadly affection. Listen a few scenes later, as Marcy tosses out a few dozen details of her personal life that might electrify Krafft-Ebing. This is a writer deliciously attuned to big-city instant intimacy.

Scorsese revels in all this. “After Hours” is less dark psychologically than most of his other New York-based films, and he whips it into a fast-moving froth with editing (Thelma Schoonmaker) and production design (Jeffrey Townsend) as elegant as the Bach-and-Mozart sound track.

The film is beautifully cast, beginning with Dunne, whose small, pointy features and round dark eyes suggest Stuart Little as a neurotic New Yorker. Arquette has just the right edge as Marcy who, in the space of five minutes, can be open, seductive, hysterical, vague, trusting and dangerous. Linda Fiorentino is splendid as the massively arrogant Kiki, Marcy’s sculptress roommate, the twisted sister of the piece. You can spot Cheech and Chong, rumbling their almost-private running commentary as they systematically rip off most of SoHo. Teri Garr, who seems mired in 1965, has the film’s most touchingly bizarre role as a despondent waitress working in John Heard’s bar.

There is one bit of relief in Paul’s pell-mell flight, as he is taken in by a shy young man (novelist Robert Plunket in a nice acting turn) intent on his first homosexual encounter. It’s only a momentary respite. As the film escalates, so do its surreal qualities. We begin to see SoHo not as a colony of flaky “artists,” virtually unapproachable by the non-artist (clowns like Paul--or us), but as a pack of sharks, both male and female. (That much is even hinted at in a bit of bathroom graffiti.)

The natives begin to roam in hunting packs. Instead of the civilized Mozart Symphony in D Major, which accompanies the opening scenes, you half expect the frenzy of “A Night on Bald Mountain” and its final, exhausted calm at the approach of dawn and the retreat of the demons. Then, suddenly it’s over. Not as scary as we thought it would be--really quite funny. Until you think it over afterward.


Food Rundown

The Dutch doesn’t mess around when it comes to their selection of raw fish. They have at least five East Coast oyster options every night to go along with crab legs, lobster, shrimp, clams, etc. Don’t be shy.

Start your meal with a fried oyster slider. It’s the restaurant’s signature item, and it’s damn good.

One thing Chef Carmellini constantly crushes is steak tartare. It seems like every one of his restaurants have great ones, and they all have their own personality. The Dutch version is a finely chopped raw wagyu beef with pickled mushrooms. You need this.

A really nice appetizer option to split, it’s light, fresh, and the combination of squid and pineapple is unusual and very interesting.

Tomato porn. Tastes as good as it looks in the bowl. If it’s on the menu, order it.

Speaking of things Carmellini does very well: pasta. The dinner menu features a couple options a night, which should never be overlooked. We loved the bigoli, a thicker version of bucatini, tossed with saffron, tomatoes, and ricotta salata. HOLLER.

Come for brunch, eat fried chicken. Trust us. It’s on the lunch menu, too. Not on the dinner menu, though.

Speaking of midday calorie splurges, another house specialty that’s only on the brunch and lunch menu? Yup, that beautiful, beautiful double decker meat sandwich. You want this in your life.

The Dutch makes a great steak. The hanger steak is one of our go-tos here, and the kimchi fried rice with an egg on top is a really nice compliment.

Scallops with a bunch of pretty things that are cooked perfectly and taste really good. Yup. That’s it.


SoHo's MercBar Ends 20-Year Run

After more than 20 years in business, MercBar, a staple of SoHo social life, is closing, its owner said on Monday.

Owner John McDonald planned to make Monday the last evening at the 2,000-square-foot bar, which he opened in February 1993 with the architect Campion Platt, fresh from graduating Columbia University the year prior.

Originally, Mr. McDonald leased the building—what he described as a single-story "shared wall structure" with a mezzanine—from Mr. Platt and Andre Balazs, who were constructing the Mercer Hotel at the time and parked their cars in the space. (He bought out Mr. Platt more than a decade ago and purchased the building in the last five years.)

The vision for MercBar was modeled, in part, after a lodge the fashion photographer Bruce Weber kept in the Adirondacks. Even now, that vision holds, with barn wood lining the walls and a canoe hanging above the bar.

From the get-go, MercBar attracted a fashion crowd, said Mr. McDonald, thanks to Mr. Balazs's relationship with Katie Ford, the former CEO of Ford models, and Mr. McDonald's own connections in Manhattan nightlife.


Yamagoya ramen, London: restaurant review

London’s first outpost of Japanese ramen chain Yamagoya, with counter service ramen, cold ramen salads and an Instagram-famous rain drop cake.

Yamagoya ramen review

Back in the ‘60s lorry driver Masatoshi Ogata travelled all over Japan, tasting ramen wherever he went, noting the varied styles from each region. In 1969, he gave up the day job and set up (ramen) shop in Fukuoka, Western Japan. Masatoshi’s little ramen shack was built from scrap wood, and the recipe tweaked from years of daily tasting on the road. The recipe was so popular that Yamagoya became a ramen empire, now boasting dozens of outposts across Asia.

The Ogata family brought Yamagoya to the UK in late 2016, with a six-month pop up above hot pot restaurant Shuang Shuang on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. A permanent restaurant has now opened (in October 2017) on The CUT, between Southwark and Waterloo stations in South London.

Within walking distance of the BFI IMAX and the Old Vic Theatre, this stretch was in need of another restaurant to join gastro pub The Anchor & Hope to cater to cultured punters. Yamagoya, however, has more of a takeaway feel, with an automatic sliding door, counter service, and a help-yourself drinks and snacks fridge. Considering the restaurant’s origins and family-focused history, we’d have liked to see a few more homely touches (such as the photographs and certificates displayed in the trophy cabinet in the window, along with plastic replicas of Japanese dishes) to make the place a bit cosier and offset the bright lighting. However wood panels and pine stools are very slick, making this a perfectly pleasant spot for ramen slurping.

We started with a selection of snacks, including a crunchy wakame seaweed salad with popping edamame beans and toasty sesame notes, and knobbly, lightly fried kara-age chicken. The latter had a pleasant soft crunch (with no hint of grease) and a punchy green spinach and yuzu dipping mayo.

The signature dish is namesake classic Yamagoya ramen, a pork bone tonkotsu broth cooked for six hours. The broth didn’t have as much depth as some other ramens we’ve tried in London, but the salty-sweet chashu marinade really came through from slices of tender rolled pork belly. Noodles were thin and springy, while earthy wood ear fungus was slippery with a good bite. We fished out and slurped up other classic ingredients such as crunchy bamboo shoots and intense orange-yolked Burford Brown eggs marinated for 48 hours in the Ogata family’s secret soy-based sauce.

You can ramp up your ramen with spicy yuzu kara paste (a real umami hit of yuzu and chilli) in the yuzukara variety, or try the oyako ramen’s lighter chicken bone broth with rolled chashu-marinated chicken. There’s a tofu ramen option for vegetarians and a small selection of cold ramen salads, swapping mushrooms and broth for cherry tomatoes, rocket and shredded cucumber.

Choose from the range of cold drinks in the fridge, from glass bottles of sparkling yuzu juice to homemade concoctions slurped from milkshake-style plastic cups. We tried Japanese soft drink calpico, described rather accurately to us as a milky lemonade. This fermented water and condensed milk drink is much more pleasant than it sounds, with a yogurt-like acidity that cuts through the ramen.

There’s a small selection of alcoholic drinks – refreshing Asahi super-dry Japanese beer, sweet and earthy Thai Singha beer, or local London Pilsner brewed in Portobello. Venture into sake territory (here’s our sake chat on the podcast) with crisp, dry shochikubai, or choose between a single red or white wine.

This is a decent ramen joint and with low prices, quick counter service and minimal interiors, it’s suitable for a quick pre-theatre snack or a slurp-and-go lunch.

Yamagoya has become known on Instagram for its rain drop cake, a staple in Japan to cleanse the palate after an intense hit of daily ramen. The family wanted to keep the recipe true to the original, so Western palates might struggle with the lack of flavour in this clear wobbly drop. It’s seasoned with sticky molasses syrup and powdery soybean flour (and comes with a cute wooden spoon), but we suggest sticking with the creamy mochi ice creams that come in toasted sesame, mango, green tea or raspberry flavours.

The bathroom situation is also less than idea, as you have to nip out the back through a courtyard. The sink is outside so if it’s raining make sure you take an umbrella with you!

Price-range: competitive compared to other London ramen joints (all ramens are under a tenner).


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