Monday, January 9, 2012

Don Coqui in Astoria, Queens: Puerto Rican Cuisine

After so much hype in the Latino media about the opening of Don Coqui second location in Astoria, I decided to check out the place for myself. Don Coqui is owned by Jimmy Rodriguez and his daughters. The original location is in New Rochelle and I’ve heard that location is very happening place but never been because is not accessible unless you drive!  For those who are not familiar with Jimmy, he previously owned Sofrito and Jimmy Bronx CafĂ© before former Mets player Carlos Beltran and JR Morales took it over.
I have to say the space in Astoria is MASSIVE! It takes almost a whole block. It’s divided into three areas. The first is a private dining area with its own entrance, second is a huge dance floor/lounge area which is shared with the main dining room. Live DJ is present Wed-Sat night after 10pm and it gets rocking. Crowd is pretty sexy too!
As for the FOOD! Yum!!! They literally took most of the menu of Sofrito and made it significantly tastier. My mom had ordered the house special which was a huge stuffed lobster with shrimp and lobster shreds with a side of mash yuca ($48). OMG, it was so freaking gooood and worth every damn dime! The dish tasted so original.  This is the most expensive dish on the menu but if you can treat yourself, why not?  For appetizer we ordered beef and vegetable empanadas.

We also ordered the following dishes: Mofongo with Shrimp ($19), T-Bone with Tostones ($34), Churrasco Steak and Shrimp served Pigeon Peas Rice ($36) and the Seafood Paella ($26). Listen to this Puerto Rican writing this, every dish we ordered was made like if it came directly from Puerto Rico! Very authentic! Done way better than any other PR restaurant in NY. They serve you like at home with exaggerated portions. Very easy to doggy bag it but the reality is that once you start biting into this, forget about it! You will attempt to finish it because it’s really that enjoyable.
For drinks we ordered two pitchers of white and red sangria ($40 each) and as expected very good. They should have added more fruit to give it a bit more flavor but all worth it.
As you can imagine, our tab was a bit hefty but affordable if you divided by five which was in our case. Our total came out to $344.10 which included a 20% gratuity charge. I’m alright with the added tip because this restaurant is busy and the waiters work very hard to provide good service. We wouldn’t want some cheap ass to ruin their day!
As for dress code, dress up a bit. The owners of Don Coqui invested a whole lot of money in the place. Don’t be tacky and dress down. If you want to dress down, then go to a Cuchifrito.  Seriously!

28-18 31st Street
Astoria Queens, NY 11102

115 Cedar Street
New Rochelle, NY 10801

Monday, December 26, 2011

Aroma Espresso Bar: One of the Best Omelet Sandwiches Ever!

My picture might not be convincing but read on, wudya! For the most part, I am not a breakfast girl and tend to eat very light, saving my biggest meal for lunch. But holy cow, Aroma Expresso Bar makes breakfast fun to eat. I've been going to their restaurants for years.Their omelet sandwich is unlike others I tried. Why? Two things! 1) They add cream cheese 2) they add pickles. Two simple ingredients contribute to a contrast of taste that works lovely against the warmth of fresh bread and omelet. I love it!! You just have to try it in order to comprehend what I'm trying to explain here. They nailed it to a science. I could promise you that it's worth it. The best part is that this big sandwich cost only $8.90. You also have the option to just order half.

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli chain that is slowly expanding in the U.S. The menu is for the most part very healthy and breakfast heavy serving eggs all day. Better than unhealthy iHop! Give it up to best omelet sandwich around!! Take a moment to check out their menu for delicious salads and sandwiches. Aroma does not compare to Cafe Metro, Cosi, and other boring salad and sandwich shops.This is much better and good prices.
various locations

Lexington Brass: Midtown's Newest Power Lunch Hotspot

Finally, a fresh breath of air in the very boring restaurant scene of midtown east! I was very glad to see this new edition. It was much needed! It's contemporary, hip and perfect for important lunches. This is owned by EMM Group hotties Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm. Same owners who brought to you hotspots Abe & Arthurs, Catch, Tenjune and SL. These guys are pretty good at what they do, so my expectations were up there before coming in. Overall the food was very good. The restaurant decor reminds me of London, dunno necessarily why?! I really like it.

My friend ordered a delicious guilty free chicken dish and I ordered a steak sandwich that was a bit too juicy making my bread a bit soggy but it was satisfying. It came with truffle fries.  The only downfall was that it's freaking expensive. For both dishes and two diet cokes, it came out to $64, not including tip. Good thing it went on my friends corporate account! My friend and I agreed we will certainly go again but will try to tag a buddy who could put it on a company tab! :)

517 Lexington Avenue

Sunday, November 27, 2011

La Casa Del Mofongo in Washington Heights

La Casa Del Mofongo in Washington Heights is a Dominican owned restaurant that specializes in Mofongo which is actually a traditional Puerto Rican dish. What is Mofongo? Its a fried green plantain dish that is mashed into a wooden mortal and pestle, then you mix in garlic, broth, olive oil, pork chunks (optional). Yum Yum!  Mofongo can be eaten with a variety of sides such as steak, shrimps, vegetables, lobster and so on. La Casa Del Mofongo offers over 20 options for sides. Prices for mofongo dishes range from $10-$33. Although the dish seems simple to make, a lot of places screw it up and it annoys me! But La Casa Del Mofongo did a good job especially making sure that the pork chunks are very crispy. Crispy pork chunks is a very important factor.  Please note that they can make the mofongo without the pork if you wish. You will also find most of your favorite traditional Caribbean dishes from Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The kitchen is open 24/7.

As for ambiance, is very lively. For the most part, is a great place for families to hang out. The crowd age range widely. You will see your teenagers in one table and another with the elderly. It's definitely a neighborhood restaurant and everyone here is local. They have a gigantic bar and it becomes a party scene with DJ or local Dominican bands performing Merengue, Bachata and all that hip shaking music.

1447-51 St. Nicholas Avenue
between 182 Street and 183 Street
New York, NY
(no website)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Don Giovanni: Mom and Pop Italian Restaurant - Delizioso!

There used to be a time when NYC was filled with small mom and pop restaurants just like Don Giovanni.  Diners and bakery shops specializing in different ethnic foods.  Since then rents have sky rocketed and landlords prefer banks, drug stores, and multi million dollar food chains like Starbucks. Mom and pop restuarants got pushed out.  Your local Diner has closed, and the specialty stores or bakeries have been replaced by super chic, super expensive boutique like shops.  It seems as though NYC has become one big tacky mall.  Don't get me wrong, it is cleaner, safer, and much more appealing to visitors from around the world, yet we lost our unique edge.

Don Giovanni took me back to those days when New York used to be very original.  Where it wasn't about being trendy, but more about the food. We are talking about the days when I was a young child and dad took us out for Sunday brunch. The days where a pasta dish was $9 not $23 if you know what I mean. This is Don Giovanni. It's not about ripping your customers with overpriced plates instead its about making sure you are satisfied. Excellent prices for Excellent Authentic Italian. It's not a fancy place but it is a sit down restaurant where you are guranteed good service and food that taste very home made. I went back to back to Don Giovanni because it really left me impressed. The margherita pizza (small $8.95), angel hair with marina sauce ($9.95), and classic lasagna ($12.95) were SUPERB. Please note that about every dish can be shared. Portions are a pretty hefty! Yet these are simple dishes that deliver a banging taste. IF YOU LOVE ITALIAN, it's silly not to visit Don Giovanni. I can not emphasize anymore!

As you step out you will encounter the new super cool hot spot of Chelsea, with galleries, boutique hotels like Americana and off broadway shows.  My hope is that this mom and pop restaurant doesn't get pushed out. I was told its been here for twenty years! They also have a second location in the Times Square area but as a hardcore New Yorker, I'm allergic to tourist areas! Please give it a try. 

Written by: David Markel (eating buddy) and edited by Rafaela Rivera

214 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Street
New York, NY 100144

358 West 44 Street between 8th and 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10036