Babu Ji

IMG_9965

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.

IMG_9969

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.

IMG_9967

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.

IMG_9966

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.

IMG_9968

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?

Advertisements

Moscow 57

IMG_6688

I love trying new places, especially hidden gems that might not be on the same handful of food site’s pages (yes, it’s all PR, and, usually, if a restaurant is one one list, it’s on another’s and another’s). But I work for myself and seek out my own adventures and gems. What. So, I was off to Moscow 57 on the Lower East Side.

IMG_6690

Tucked almost right underneath the Williamsburg Bridge is a restaurant featuring a menu of multi-national cuisine made up of classic Russian, Georgian, Belarussian, Ukrainian dishes. The space is dimly lit and cozy, with vibrant lights by the bar and a red painted wall. They also offer live music every night, which was just great, a mix of Jazz and some R&B/Blues, when I was there. Not to mention, the entire staff there really makes you feel like you’re at home and truly welcome.

IMG_6689

They infuse their own vodkas in-house, so, I had to try one, and I went for Cucumber Vodka with soda. This was really great, it was refreshing and tasted exactly like a cool glass of cucumber water, but, you know, made out of vodka. Way better.

IMG_6691

All of their appetizers sounded great, so decided to get a couple of those to share. First, we started with the M57 Red Cabbage Salad (red cabbage, red pepper, cucumber, apple, celery leaves, onion, parsley and dill dressing with honey). I loved this salad, it was almost like a slaw, but with larger cut ingredients, making it a substantial, fresh, yet still light, salad. The flavors were really nice as well, a little zing and some added sweetness balanced out the salad. 

IMG_6692

Next, was the M57 Zakuski Troika (trio of Rose Petal and Mint Yogurt with Pomegranate, Silk Road Lima Bean Hummus, Eggplant Caviar). Now, this comes in two different sizes, a small and large size. We got the small size, but there was nothing small about it. For only $7 you get three generous portions of each dip with pita and pumpernickel bread on the side, perfect for a starter to share, or, even as a meal. All the dips were delicious too, it’s hard to pick a true favorite. The Rose Petal and Mint Yogurt with Pomegranate was really awesome, and I haven’t had something quite like it before. It was creamy, with a little tartness from the yogurt, but balanced with the freshness of mint and sweetness of the rose petal and pomegranate. The Lima Bean Hummus was delicious as well, really great texture and flavor, similar to a common chickpea hummus, but slightly different flavor. The Eggplant Caviar was excellent too, roasted eggplant, coarsely chopped with peppers, onions and tomato, made more with the consistency of a thick salsa versus an eggplant spread. 

IMG_6693

Now, I didn’t realize how generous these portions would be. I’m pretty conditioned to a lot of NYC’s portions, which, are much more delicate, for a much bigger price, so I was really pleasantly surprised here once dishes started coming out, including my entree, Pan Seared Salmon (with pistachio sauce, bulgur, roasted red peppers, spinach, almonds and pine nuts). This dish was so incredible, with a beautiful presentation, portion and flavor. The salmon was cooked perfectly, a nice medium/medium rare, tender and flavorful, topped with this delicious pistachio sauce, that, I’d love to have a little bottle of to put on everything. Almost everything. The fish is placed atop this fantastic bed of bulgur with vegetables, and then for added texture and flavor, you have the almonds and pine nuts. I love any dish with pine nuts, and between the salmon, pistachio sauce, bulgar and vegetables, this one just totally won me over.

IMG_6694

So, there was clearly no room for dessert, even though I am a firm believer that biologically, the stomach is engineered to have a special little pocket dedicated solely to desserts. However, with the delivery of your check in a little cup, you get some candies. Free candy? Hell yes. A little combination of hard candy and caramels was the best cap to the fantastic meal. 

The Shorts:
Name: Moscow 57
Location: 168 1/2 Delancey Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Absolutely. I plan on going back soon, the experience was flawless and you really feel like you’re in your Russian family’s eccentric living room where they also perform for you…if that exists. 
Would I recommend it? For sure. The service is fantastic, the food in incredible, and the music is just delightful. You won’t be disappointed.