Babu Ji

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Now that Winter has actually kicked in, in NYC, you probably crave comfort food. And, if you’re like me, you want comfort food that’s hot and spicy too, because, extra warmth. I love Indian food, which pretty much checks these marks for me, so, I was off to Babu Ji in Alphabet City.

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A mix of modern elegance meets local deli kind of sums up the aesthetic of this contemporary Indian restaurant. You’ll find striking, large print photographs framed on the wall, along with a projecting Indian movie, and, a stuffed peacock on top of a self-serve beverage refrigerator. But once your food starts coming out, you won’t even be paying attention to what’s around you, and only what’s in front of you. Not only are the dishes all visually captivating, they’re insanely delicious. And, the entire staff here was so amazing, attentive, courteous, and, if you’re a crazy food-picture-taker like myself, you’re in luck, because one of our servers asked a few times if I’d like him to provide some additional light from his phone. What a gem! Ok, food, let’s get into it. Get some Naan. It’s warm, soft and pillowy, but still has a nice chew to it. The flavors are delicate, but give the dough a little pizzaz.

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All of the appetizers sounded amazing, so, I started with a couple to share. First was Papadi Chaat (chickpea, cucumber, pomegranate, tamarind, mint and yogurt chutney). They describe it as the motherland’s version of nachos and salsa, a must try. And, they’re 100% right, this dish was unbelievable. First off, it’s stunning to look at, but each ingredient is so fresh and dynamic, and you can really taste all of the flavors individually, while going so wonderfully all together. Texture wise, you really have everything here, you’ve got crunch from the slaw and the chips, creaminess from the chutney, and all of the other elements in between. It was really fantastic, and you must order it.

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Ok, so, before I even start about the second appetizer, I need to take a breath. Ok, breath taken. This was possibly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while, and definitely my favorite thing from my meal here. I had their Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower (Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato chili sauce, sesame and onion seed, chives). So, they killed it in the immitation department, replicating General Tso’s Chicken from the outside. But, take a bite and this vegan dish made out of cauliflower tastes crazily similar. Everything about this dish was pure perfection, from the sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce, to the airy and crisp breading around the tender and flavorful cauliflower. I wish I could go on forever about this, but, my fingers will get too tired from typing. So, let’s meet up for a plate of Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower and I’ll talk your ear off about it.

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For my main, I ordered Baingan Bartha (Spiced and fire roasted eggplant curry with green peas). Again, presentation on point. And flavor wise, excellent. The eggplant is pureed into a consistency in between a spread and a paste, making it very substantial. There’s a really nice kick of heat, and the freshness of the peas and shaved veggies on top help to cool your mouth a little bit and add a nice textural component.

The Shorts:
Name: Babu Ji
Location: 175 Avenue B, NYC
The Shorts: Would I go back? Let me think about it…YES! Did you not read my obsessive fan-girl review of that cauliflower?
Would I recommend it? 100%. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go. I can’t even think of one complaint. The staff is incredible, the food is outstanding, what else could you ask for?

Cooks & Soldiers

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I recently took a short trip to Atlanta, first time, and wasn’t 100% sure what to expect in terms of the food scene. I mean, I’m quite familiar with Waffle House, but wanted to, you know, go beyond the land of late night waffles. I got a tip on a few places, and had to check them out. First, I was off to Cooks & Soldiers.

First off, the aesthetic here is wonderful. The space is open, a little industrial, but structured, with fantastic light fixtures. The menu is mainly driven by Spanish cuisine, with some other Mediterranean influence. Everything on the menu sounded incredible, and luckily, the focus is mainly on sharing plates, so, you get to try a number of things.

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First, I had the Hongos Y Setas (coal roasted mushrooms, goat cheese crème fraiche, black truffle). Are you there, God? It’s me, Sprung, and I would like to eat this everyday. Thanks. This was so incredibly delicious. The toast is crisp around the edges, and softened in the middle, soaking up the rich truffle flavor and smear of crème fraiche to cut a bit of that richness. The mushrooms are tender and flavorful, and all together perfection.

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Next, I had the Tortilla Espanola (classic Basque omelette, onion and potato, garlic allioli). Another total slam dunk here. The layers of potato are savory and tender, and the garlic allioli on top adds a creamy richness that compliments it so nicely. It was completely delicious.

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After that, I had the Ratatouille (Piperade, wood grilled squash and eggplant, one hour egg, guindilla). This was a very nice dish, but not my favorite of the bunch. The vegetables were absolutely fresh and delicious, but I would have preferred them to be a bit more stewed, since they were a little al dente to me. The flavors were really nice, but I’m also not a runny yolk type of person, so the egg kind of threw me off.

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Next, I had the Azalorea Erreta (charred cauliflower steak, cauliflower cous cous, capers, carrot chicharron). This was pretty fabulous. The cauliflower’s natural flavors maintained their integrity, and when paired with the creamy and rich sauce that they were laid on top of, it really balanced nicely. I loved the capers with this, adding a bit of saltiness to the more neutral flavor of the cauliflower, and the carrot chicharron was just brilliant.

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Finally, the winner of the evening might have to go to the Pulpo (grilled Mediterranean octopus, guanciale, roasted new potato, fennel, squid ink). To start, visually this was gorgeous. The squid ink here was in more of a substantial sort of puree than I’ve had before, and I loved it. It was savory and spicy and amazing. The charred fennel went really well with the spice of the squid ink, balancing out the bitterness. The octopus was perhaps the most tender octopus that I’ve had, completely melting in your mouth. On top was probably the most interesting element, not noted on the menu, I believe that I was told is might have been a paper-thin taro crisp? It was basically like rice paper, but salty and seemed to have the flavor of a taro root. It was fantastic. 

The Shorts:
Name: Cooks & Soldiers
Location: 691 14th Street NW, Atlanta, GA
The Long and Short: Would I go back? 100%. This menu is amazing, the service is phenomenal. I’m only bummed that I was too full to try their fantastic sounding desserts.
Would I recommend it? Definitely. Try as many items as you can, I’m sure you’ll be delighted by all of it.