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2006 Favorites

December 27, 2006
Celia Sin-Tien Cheng

Celia’s Top 8 Favorite New Cravings in 2006.
click on a restaurant below to read about the craving
A Voce
Café Kashkar
Sip Sak
Blaue Gans
DuMont Burger

Celia’s Top 7 Favorite Classic Cravings in 2006.
click on a restaurant below to read about the craving
Yakitori Totto
Basta Pasta

Cravings International Features in 2006.
click on a destination below to read more
Istanbul, Turkey
Shanghai, China
Paris, France
Shida Kuo’s Chinese Cuisine in New York, U.S.A.
Hakone-Izu, Japan
Hong Kong, China

Carne Crudo A. A Voce Madison

The carne cruda is basically an Italian rendition of steak tartar, and this might be my favorite in town. The choice of beef, which is finely diced, is Wagyu, a genetic breed of beef that is predisposed to well marbling of fat. (The most famous type of Wagyu is Kobe beef, which must come from Kobe and meet strict standards set by the Japanese... full article

Spaghetti with local ramps, American speck and Parmesan (Seasonal) B. A Voce Madison

On my second visit to A Voce, I really just intended to have the spaghetti with local ramps, American speck and Parmesan and a glass of the 2004 Gérard Tremblay Chablis — two things I instantly craved as I finished my first meal at A Voce. But alas, who are we kidding?! It’s hard to pass... full article

Roasted Veal Sweetbreads (Seasonal) C. A Voce Madison

The roasted veal sweetbreads were part of the del mercato menu because they are cooked with fresh and pickled ramps and morel mushrooms, which also are in season right now. Growing up as a child in Taipei, I always ordered a filet mignon with morel sauce from my favorite restaurant, so I have a special attachment to these... full article

Sweet Corn Ravioli (Seasonal) D. A Voce Madison

It is literally corn inside the ravioli. The texture of the crisp corn is rather refreshing and a little unexpected since we are generally accustomed to ravioli with smooth blends of cheeses or meat. Accompanying the ravioli are smoked tomatoes, summer truffle — I can still smell and taste it now — and farona di bosco... full article

Pilaf E. Cafe Kashkar

Uyghur cuisine is my dream come true — a combination of Chinese and Turkish influences. Café Kashkar’s pilaf is a mixture of fried rice, carrots, lamb and spices. The rice is rich and flavorful with a bright orange-yellow tint. Unlike many pilafs that come out exceedingly dry, this one is almost buttery, and the spices and generous use of cumin... full article

Manty F. Cafe Kashkar

Like the Turkish manti, the Uyghur have a manty too. But the Uyghur manty (slightly bigger than a golf ball) is extremely large in comparison. It’s a dumpling filled with the tenderest lamb, onions, cumin and spices. The skin of the dumpling is thicker than wanton skins but thinner than ravioli, and the texture and proportion of skin to filling is just right.

Eggplant Salad G. Cafe Kashkar

The Uyghur salads at Cafe Kashkar are like Chinese cold-dish appetizers of mixed batches of vegetables, not like the green salads from the West. The eggplant salad is tasty with cubes of sautéed eggplant with red and green peppers, carrots, garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar.

Lagman (Noodles) H. Cafe Kashkar

The lagman noodles are homemade and whether pan-fried, served in lamb broth or without broth, each has a unique texture; all are scrumptious. All three versions are mixed with the same meat and vegetables and star anise flavors. The pan-fried noodles are thicker and shorter, while the noodles in broth are also short but flatter, and the regular noodles are like Chinese lo-mien, long and thin.

Almond Pudding I. Sip Sak

This doesn’t seem to be a traditional Turkish dessert, as my Turkish friends all found it to be rather unusual. Traditional or not, it is truly memorable. I have been dreaming of having my lamb gyro platter followed by this refreshing dessert. It’s like a panna cotta with sliced almonds. The texture is less gelatinous than panna cotta... full article

Lamb Gyro Platter (Special) J. Sip Sak

The lamb gyro platter does not appear on the menu. Its absence is explained by the fact that chef-owner Orhan Yegen does not want to serve the dish unless fresh ingredients are available to prepare it. Thin slices of lamb gyro are served over cubes of sautéed pita bread and dressed with yogurt and tomato sauce. There’s something... full article

Jaeger Schnitzel K. Blaue Gans

Oh my God! A perfectly pounded thin slice of pork is breaded and pan-fried in oil, then butter, cream, bacon and mushrooms are added to make the scrumptious sauce. The jaeger schnitzel at Blaue Gans is perfection. The ingredients are supremely fresh and the sauce, though rich, doesn’t feel heavy. Oh, but I forgot to mention that it... full article

Austrian Fried Chicken L. Blaue Gans

Kurt Gutenbrunner’s latest German-Austrian bistro, Blaue Gans, is a welcome addition to his KG empire that includes Wallse and Cafe Sabarsky. Many of the dishes that I expected to be heavier or muddier in flavor were delightfully clean and at the same time richly flavorful. The crispy fried chicken, which is both breaded and... full article

DuMont Burger M. DuMont Burger

The burger is served on a grilled brioche bun with bibb lettuce, thick-cut tomato, red onion and pickles. The onions are pickled with a deliciously subtle anise taste. The choice to use brioche bun over regular sesame bun, bibb lettuce over iceberg and pickled onions rather than raw, makes it seem a bit fancy, but it’s really not. It’s... full article

Croquetas Cremosas (creamy croquettes) N. Boqueria

I LOVE the croquettes at Boqueria! Six little croquettes are served in a long slender dish. There are two each of three varieties. The flavors on the menu change but I’ve tasted the salt cod, mushroom and Serrano ham. The three different types are shaped distinctively but I enjoy not knowing what’s what until I... full article

Cojonudo O. Boqueria

This mini egg and sausage open face sandwich is adorable and addictive. A fried quail egg layered on a slice of chorizo on top of toast make up this dainty little treat. They’re bite size, and an order only comes with two, so get ready to place lots of repeat orders! Though I’m a fan of almost all the tapas at Boqueria, the cojonudo is definitely a favorite!

Sushi Omakase P. Sasabune New York

Sushi at Sasabune is a friendly Upper East Side neighborhood experience. The restaurant’s motto is “trust me” because it’s omakase (chef’s choice) only, and that’s how sushi should be enjoyed. At Sasabune, you are in good hands with Chef Kenji Takashi, so you will be served the best selection of sushi. Though it’s more along the... full article

Peperoncino Spaghetti with Bottarga Q. Alta

As you are well aware by now, I am a bottarga (dried and pressed fish roe) fiend, and I love spaghetti with bottarga. Alta currently has a grey mullet bottarga spaghetti with fragrant shrimp oil and a hint of peperoncino for added heat. Rather than shavings of the bottarga, this version has thin slices of gorgeous... full article

Crispy Brussels Sprouts R. Alta

The Brussels sprouts are always on the menu at Alta and they are one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Their success speaks to chef Harrison Mosher’s talent — he has made a loathed vegetable into a best selling item. What’s the secret? Deep fry the sprouts, add some apple cider reduction to make them taste caramelized,... full article

Moroccan Bistilla of Chicken Confit (Seasonal) S. Alta

This bistilla (layers of phyllo dough with spiced meat inside) is just dreamy! Using chicken confit for the meat ensures the richest of flavors. The chicken is tender and succulent and the scrambled eggs truly creamy (really well scrambled eggs are not easy to find). Added into the mix are sweet, dried... full article

Braised Oxtail Ravioli (Seasonal) T. Alta

For such a heavy meat and pasta dish, the final outcome of this braised oxtail ravioli is surprisingly light and delightful. It could have something to do with the porcini foam, which though rich in flavor lends an ethereal quality to the dish. But besides that, the strips of preserved lemon peel add a refreshing citrus... full article

Tempura Oysters (Seasonal) U. Alta

It’s really difficult to master the frying technique of tempura, but Alta seems to have done it. Tempura should be light and crisp. You’d expect this deep-fried oyster dish to be greasy and heavy, like the breaded deep-fried oysters we are accustomed to eating, but it is not. The tempura oysters are surrounded by a sea of... full article

Bacon Arancini (Seasonal) V. Alta

Since it’s a small plate, the arancini (Sicilian rice balls) are bite-sized. They are deep-fried to croquette-like perfection and gooey inside. Bits of bacon accent the rice with decided flavor. Adorably, a tiny fried quail’s egg tops each ball. For garnish, slices of pickled Guindilla peppers add a little accent of spice and... full article

Spaghetti (w/ chilis, mint & 1 lb. lobster) W. Esca

The spaghetti is cooked to a perfect al dente, so that there is actually a bite to it. It’s hard to compare the tomatoes here in the US to those in Europe, but the tomatoes used in this dish made me reminisce about how flavorful and juicy tomatoes are meant to be. Finally, the full one-pound of lobster is as fresh... full article

Yakionigiri (Grilled Rice Balls) X. Yakitori Totto

Yakionigiri is grilled rice ball. It’s commonly served at restaurants that specialize in grilled skewers or izakayas, Japanese pubs. The rice ball is usually coated with soy paste and then grilled; this gives it more flavor and texture. The yakionigiri at Yakitori Totto is super tasty, because this restaurant is a grilling specialist and the food is just excellent in general.

Totto Soup Y. Yakitori Totto

Yakitori Totto is a chicken specialty restaurant. Besides the signature chicken skewers that range from chicken skin to chicken cartilage to chicken butt, the chicken soup is phenomenal. Light and rich at the same time, the soup has tender little chicken meat balls that make it even more of a treat. This chicken soup differs from the Western... full article

Bonchiri (Chicken Tail) Z. Yakitori Totto

It takes some skill and time to grill the bonchiri, as the chef must alternate the skewer from the hotter and cooler parts of the grill in order to achieve the right amount of sizzle on the outside while the fat inside cooks away. And let me tell you, bonchiri is the best! You don’t taste any rubberiness in the skin, and the fat... full article

New England Clam Chowder 1. Pearl Oyster Bar

This is just one of many favorites of mine at Pearl. Chef Rebecca Charles’ New England clam chowder is THE perfect clam chowder. It’s creamy, rich, full of small chunks of potatoes, sweet onions, smoky bacon bits, fresh chopped chives, and of course, juicy clams. The consistency and proportions are just right. And I love... full article

Blueberry Crumble Pie (Seasonal) 2. Pearl Oyster Bar

The thought of summer always conjures up the image of blueberry pie for me. And when I think of blueberry pie, I think of Pearl. Served only in season, I wait three quarters of the year until I can get my pie. So once it’s summer, I would not think of leaving the restaurant without that essential ending to a perfect meal.... full article

Lobster Roll 3. Pearl Oyster Bar

Pearl’s lobster roll is the standard to which I hold all lobster rolls. Served in a hot dog bun, the mayonnaise mixed lobster is fresh and delicious. The side of shoestring fries also tastes great with malt vinegar. Mary’s Fish Camp, The Mermaid Inn and BLT Fish all have a rendition of the lobster roll, but I consider Pearl’s the classic and the best!

Crispy Chicken (Galleto Ruspante Saltato con Insalatina) 4. Basta Pasta

The crispy sautéed tender baby chicken at Basta Pasta is an appetizer that’s copious enough to serve as an entrée. Two pieces of super tender chicken — breast and leg — are flattened and pan-fried leaving the skin thin and crispy. Each lean bite is comprised of a little crunch followed by a juicy... full article

Spaghetti with Tobiko and Shiso 5. Basta Pasta

One of my favorite pastas at Basta Pasta is the spaghetti with tobiko and shiso. The Japanese love mixing pastas with fish roe — mentaiko and tarako are most commonly used — and it works because the texture of the roe adds a miniature crunch and a strong flavor to the pasta. While tobiko is less commonly used it pasta, it... full article

Bagna Cauda 6. Basta Pasta

You might think that no matter how “fresh” vegetables may be, they can’t be that exciting. Well, think again. The key here is the warm anchovy cream dip. This is not the thick creamy dip that you are used to seeing, but a thin soupy sauce that is so addictive that once you run out of vegetables, you’ll continue to soak it up with bread or... full article

Seared Tuna 7. Basta Pasta

The seared tuna with wasabi tartar sauce and salad came highly recommended by the waiter and it was a lovely way to start the evening — even before the veggie sticks — with something light, refreshing, and balanced in flavor. Seared tuna can often be a bore these days, but the wasabi tartar sauce jazzed it up with a nice subtle touch. The last... full article

Avocado Sandwich 8. Olive's

The avocado sandwich is the special sandwich on Thursdays at Olive’s. This is another one of those seemingly simple dishes but just made so well. The combination of California avocado, sprouts, tomato, red onions, Vermont Sharp Cheddar cheese and Chipotle mayonnaise on seven-grain bread really makes this a stand out and one of the most popular sandwiches at Olive’s.

Yellowfin Tuna Steak Sandwich 9. Olive's

There’s something to be said about novelty. This grilled yellowfin tuna steak with red onions — also grilled — watercress, tomato and wasabi mayo on a brioche only appears on Olive’s daily menu one Wednesday a month. And when it comes to waiting for this sandwich, a month feels like forever. I generally don’t like cooked... full article

Classic Egg Salad Sandwich . Olive's

This egg salad sandwich is the special sandwich available only every second Tuesday of the month. How very clever of Olive’s. Just once a month makes me crave it all the more! And while it’s called a classic egg salad sandwich, the combination of the roasted red onion’s caramel taste and the pungent flavor of the watercress make... full article