Perfect Pizza at Motorino 06.10.2011

You know how much I used to love the Atomica pizza at Pizzeria Paradiso before it started tasting generic.  You know that, right?  And you also know that Pizzeria Paradiso is not dead to me, but in a coma.  It will remain in a coma, but I am briefly resurrecting it as  a topic for this piece because I had pizza the other day that tasted exactly as the Atomica used to taste and as it should taste.  (For previous coverage on this issue, click HERE.)  

On Wednesday evening while I was in New York City for a cloud computing conference, I met up with our family friend, Roberto, at Motorino Pizza in the East Village.  Eric has known Roberto since he was born; I have known him since his Bar Mitzvah.  Roberto is now a writer for the Food Network and Cooking Channel, and just interviewed Flavor Flav!  Yes.  That's right.

The restaurant filled up quickly.  We talked the entire time, pausing from time to time to quietly appreciate the food.  

I started with the Fire Roasted Red Peppers in olive oil, parsley, capers, and olives.  There were yellow and orange peppers, too.  I can't resist bell peppers, especially the roasted variety.  They could have been roasted a minute or two more, but I was content.  

I asked our waiter for the spiciest pizza and he recommended the Soppressata Piccante, with mozzarella, spicy soppressata, garlic, and oregano.  I only have two words when I eat something this fabulous:  

1. Jesus, and
2. Christ

This is what the Atomica should be.  Really.  I'm serious.  But compared to what Motorino served up, Pizzeria Paradiso's Atomica tastes plastic.

The Soppressata Piccante was a thin-curst pizza, probably made for two people, but it was so delicious and spicy and delicious, I could not stop.  I asked that it be made extra spicy, but still added more pepper flakes, as one does when one is of Indian origin.  The dough and the ingredients tasted fresh, and the salt level was pure delight to my Indian-based heart.  Oy.  I should really watch that.  Note to self. 

Motorino East Village is a small space and you know how irritated I get when I'm in a room with bad acoustics, but the conversation and pizza were so good, it didn't matter.  The upshot of our conversation was that The Picture of Dorian Gray was badly developed, especially the end.  I suggested Oscar Wilde may have been in a rush to meet a publishing deadline.  Thoughts?

Motorino East Village
349 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10003

12 Chairs in SoHo 06.08.2011

There was a period of time when Eric and I visited New York City pretty regularly and I insisted on walking through SoHo each and every time. He got bored quickly because—and this is one of the many things I love about him—he wanted more walks, more adventures, more things to discover. I did eventually venture out, but I kept coming back.

I stepped out of a steamy cab yesterday after having spent the whole day at the cloud computing conference and felt as if I had entered civilization (I love the cloud community, but I love SoHo more, I think). It’s hot, it’s summer, and people are relaxed in open-windowed restaurants with glasses of wine and beer, and iced water. And everywhere you go, bits of conversation fill the air. There’s a sense of community, but it’s perfectly okay to ignore everyone. I love it.

I was meeting my friends Robin and Mark at 12 Chairs Cafe on 56 MacDougal, on the border of SoHo and the West Village. Robin described the restaurant as Israeli-ish. There were numerous Mediterranean elements, but lots to choose from that was strictly Israeli, including the Gamla Sauvignon Blanc I drank.

We sat by the window and immediately dove into easy conversation, as one does with friends, and began ordering.
I started with Israeli guacamole, accompanied by toasted wedges with lots of paprika. Fabulous. Really. And what is Israeli guacamole, you ask? It has egg in it.  It could have used a bit more salt for my taste, but I made a decision not to add salt and just enjoy it for what it was. 

We also received at the table olives, which were fantastic. I didn’t ask (I often don’t) but I tasted a hint of hot pepper.

For the main course, I got the lamb burger, extra dead (as Woody Allen might describe it), and that was a mistake. The meat was cooked just as I like it, but the outside was charred. Perhaps next time I’ll say “dead” instead of “extra dead”. Regardless, it was delicious. It came with the restaurant’s own version of a Thousand Island sauce, with a spicy kick. Had they placed a larger bowl of the sauce next to my plate, I would have finished it. It was delicious. 

French fries accompanied the burger, and as French fries tend to be, they were filling. Delicious, and filling.

The original owner of 12 Chairs Cafe was Israeli and her daughter loved the Russian book by Ilf and Petrov, The 12 Chairs, hence the name of the restaurant. The story is about two Russian men who learn of a treasure in a chair that is one of a set of 12. They return to Moscow to find the chair but—wouldn’t you know it—the chairs have been separated. A treasure hunt ensues.
The restaurant in its first iteration did indeed have 12 chairs (according to our waitress, who was exceptional).  It has grown certainly, but maintained intimacy. I can imagine coming back in any season. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and the acoustics just fine for close-quartered discussions. Go.

12 Chairs Cafe
56 MacDougal St
New York 10012 

(212) 254-8640

Also, Robin's photography blog:

Cloud Computing and Indian Food -- Connected? 06.07.2011

No.  Not really.  I'm in New York City this week for a conference on cloud computing, which has nothing to do with Indian food, or food for that matter.  Well, one could argue, but...let's move on.  

I'm staying with my good friend Michelle, who has a deep appreciation for Indian food.  So, last night we made our way to Shaan, at E. 53rd between Second and Third Avenues .  

Michelle was intent on trying Shaan because before it opened two weeks ago, another Indian restaurant she loved - Baluchi's - was at that location.  She was a regular enough customer at Baluchi's that she's traumatized they didn't personally tell her they were leaving.  As in, a phone call or an invitation to the restaurant to break the news.  

We walked into Shaan and the space and smell reminded me of many Indian restaurants in New York.  The restaurant is long and narrow and a rush of spices hits you as you walk into the door.  Well, it hits me.  Michelle swears it didn't hit her.  I find that hard to believe.  

The decor is spare, which is perfect.  I read a review describing the decor as "Temple of Doomish", but I disagree.  The lighting is soft and there is not a lot distracting you from the food.  It's peaceful.

I was craving samosa so I knew I had to get that.  Shaan has a samosa trio:  one with lentils, one with spinach and cheese, and one with potatoes and peas.  For my main course, I had chicken methi.  Methi are fenugreek leaves, which are -- I'll just say it -- mind-blowing.  The flavor is intense, the aroma intoxicating.  My mother makes fish methi.  There have been numerous occasions when my brother and I looked dumb-founded with pleasure after eating my mom's fish methi.

The samosas came out piping hot so I had to wait for a bit before I could eat them.  The spinach and potato samosas were great, but the lentil samosa was greasy.

As for the chicken methi, all I can say is you have to try it.  It's fantastic.  We ordered naan with our meals and I got the keema naan, which is lamb.  Initially I thought there was not enough lamb in the naan, but was quite happy with it at the end of my meal.  I dipped the naan into the chicken methi, which I recommend you do.  Well, just dip naan into any curry and you will be happy.
The whole meal was satisfying, to say the least.  There was no room for dessert.  Bhushan Arora was overseeing the restaurant last night and brought out an order of gulab jammun, that gorgeous, sugary, saffron-infused, fried, dumpling-dessert that never disappoints.  

With my meal I drank the house sauvignon blanc, which is my drink of choice these days.

On our walk home, Michelle would see Indian people and asked if I knew them.  Initially surprised, I would do a double take.  I must know a few of the billion, yes?  

The Restaurant of India
224 E 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022