Monday, August 8, 2011

The Big Apple

I have been contemplating moving to New York City, so on Saturday morning I took the train in to check out the area and look at some apartments (and also to eat some food!). I told myself that Friday night I would take it easy, maybe watch a movie, pack for my trip, just lay low because my train was leaving at 8 am the next morning. Instead, I went to Atlantic Beer Garden, had one too many drinks, barely slept, packed that morning at 5 am, meaning that I ended up in NYC hung over with no cell phone charger, two shoes that didn't match, 3 pairs of shirts, and no pants for later - not my finest moment. Despite all of this, I managed to get to the train station on time, and in three and a half short hours I was in Manhattan! When I got off the train I spent the next 20 minutes on the phone with my cousin and his fiance trying to find each other, and when we finally did we made the unanimous decision to immediately get some food before apartment hunting. Cara, my cousin's fiance, used to live in NYC for many years, so she began talking herself through where we would eat. Eventually we decided on Veselka in the East Village.

Veselka is a Ukrainian diner, opened 24 hours, that specializes in Pierogis.  Although it was acceptable brunch time, and they had Eggs Benedict on the menu (my favorite breakfast dish of all time), I felt I owed it to my readers to try the pierogis. I felt if I didn't it would have been like ordering chicken at the capital grill, or waffles at IHOP - you get the picture. 

I got the Big Plate of pierogis, and opted for a mix of the spinach & cheese, potato, and meat fillings. I also decided to have them fried instead of boiled. That was a mistake. When the pierogis arrived they were deep fried, not pan-fried as I had assumed (I was thinking Chinese dumplings - my mistake). Despite being fried the flavors were still good, and the spinach & cheese was by far my favorite. The traditional potato was a little heavy, and the meat one (not sure what type of meat it was to be honest - maybe lamb?) was a little dry. My cousin ordered the boiled ones, and his had a much better texture and taste to them.

Now initially I had wanted a lighter lunch since we were having dinner at 5:30, but then Cara explained to me that you are actually supposed to eat a big carb-filled lunch prior to a dinner you really want to enjoy, because the lunch will stretch out your stomach so you can consume more at dinner. So fatties - take note!

Veselka on Urbanspoon

After lunch we walked around Soho, Noho and Tribeca, and I was able to get a good feel of which neighborhoods and streets I liked the best and would want to live on. After several hours of walking around we finally stopped at South's Bar in Tribeca for a drink before dinner (mostly we just wanted to get some quality A/C time). I must say, the bartender was really friendly and it was a nice relaxed atmosphere - exactly what we needed. Prior to that we had stopped at Tribeca Tavern , but immediately left because 1) They didn't have wine, and 2) It was very dark and there weren't any seats at the bar.

Kentucky Hot Brown - I know.
After a few drinks we headed to dinner at Mesa Grill. Although I am not a hardcore Bobby Flay fan, I was excited to try the food because I have eaten at one of his other NYC restaurants, Bar Americain, and the food was awesome (I ordered the Kentucky Hot Brown off of the brunch menu - it's this huge awesome open faced turkey sandwich with gravy, etc - highly recommend it). That being said, I was left somewhat underwhelmed by Mesa. 

The three highlights of Mesa (in no particular order)-
1. Goat Cheese "Queso Fundido."
2. Dessert Sampler
3. Fall down drunk bride

I will get back to those in a moment...

My cousin Justin and Cara decided to order a bunch of apps, so they got the crispy squash blossoms, shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale, and queso fundido (they also ordered the quesadilla which was never delivered... which bummed me out because I really wanted to try it). 
Bread Bread!

Crispy Squash Blossoms - Really great. Great crunch, nice creamy ricotta filling, and the hot and sweet yellow pepper sauce paired perfectly with it.

I didn't try the shrimp because my cousin pretty much finished that off in seconds, so I'm going to assume it was very good. 

Here's where we get to highlight #1 - the fundido was amazing. It was super creamy but had a great cheese crust. The peppers with it were an excellent touch, and when we ran out of chips the restaurant immediately replenished our stash. All of the cheeses blended well together, and the goat cheese didn't overpower the rest of them. I wish I had ordered like three of these as my entree (although one would have been plenty). 

For entrees I ordered the Ancho Chili-Honey Glazed Salmon with Sauteed spinach as a side, Kayla ordered the Mango + Spice Crusted Tuna Steak and a side of roasted corn with chipotle aioli, lime and cotija, and her boyfriend Chris ordered the Spiced Rubbed Bison Strip Steak. We also ordered an additional side of double-baked potato with horseradish, green onions & creme fraiche.

My entree was alright. The salmon was a little dry, which I will take some responsibility for since even though it was sushi grade I still wanted it well done. The spicy black bean sauce, tomatillo salsa and roasted jalapeno crema were all very good, I just wish the fish I had to pair with them was better. The smokiness was nice, but as I said it was somewhat dry, and I wish it had been a thicker cut of fish. My spinach was also disappointing, it lacked any sort of flavor (I assumed it would have been sauteed with garlic at the very least) and was grainy. 

Tuna Steak
Corn Side
Kayla's tuna steak was also a dissapointment - it lacked flavor, and had a mushy "crust." The toasted pine nut cous cous however was very good, as was the green peppercorn-green chile sauce it came with. The meat was also very tender (she asked for it seared, so it was very raw on the inside). The corn however was phenomenal - great crunch & flavor!


Chris's Bison Steak was actually really good. It was a very lean cut of meat but was a solid dish. He had no complaints. Also, the potato mash was pretty tasty - nothing too special about it but it was satisfying.

Here's where we get to highlight #2 - The dessert sampler. Holy hell - every restaurant should have one of these!

We had already decided to try some of the desserts before the waitress came over and asked us if we were interested. She brought back a menu and we all began to separately peruse the options. It was at that moment that I heard Kayla whisper to Chris, "Wanna split the dessert sampling?" I looked at her and asked if she was joking because the sampling clearly said it required a minimum of four people, to which she responded that she really wanted to just order it herself but she didn't want to leave Chris out. We laughed about what a dessert fiend she is, and ultimately decided that we would all share the sampler. What an awesome decision - where do I begin...

The deep dish banana cream pie was awesome ... well the one bite I had was awesome... Kayla pretty much claimed that one to herself. 

The mango buttermilk upside down cake may be my future wedding cake ... it was heaven. The cake was so moist and the flavors were just so nice, nothing was too strong everything just blended so well together. So awesome. 

The Crushed blueberry lime tart was a close second - I usually prefer a more tart dessert (pun intended) and this was perfect. The shortcake was also really good - somewhat standard but still very good. 

The only dessert I really didn't like was the churros ... star anise isn't really my cup of tea. The licorice flavor was overwhelming and made it hard to enjoy anything else about the dessert. 

The two desserts that impressed me the list were the mexican pudding and the toasted coconut cake. The pudding was interesting, and had a strong ginger flavor which made it more unique. I was excited to try the cake because it was what Bobby Flay won his Food Network challenge show with, and it was a nice cake, but there just wasn't anything very memorable about it. 

Finally, highlight #3 ... pretty self explanatory... but I'll go into detail anyway. So Cara gets back from the ladies room and mentions that there are some shitfaced, excuse my language but she used that word, in the bathroom talking about whether-or-not Bobby Flay would be good in bed.... typically early bird special dinner conversation. So the girls come out and Cara goes look look look those are the girls from the bathroom. Well we all looked at her, and I asked her how she could of failed to mention that one of them was a bride! But regardless, she couldn't stand, so this sparked the debate as to what a bride, in her wedding dress, was doing at Mesa Grill at 6 pm with just two of her bridesmaids.

Theory #1 (my theory): Left at the alter - blowing off some steam with her girls at the closest restaurant to where she was left.

Theory #2 (Chris's theory): They had to cancel the weather because of the rain, and it was rescheduled for tomorrow.
- my counter argument to this theory was that no bride would wear her wedding dress, that she would need to wear the following day, out to Mesa Grill in the rain while she got drunk and possibly vomited on it later. Men, so innocent. We ended up both being wrong because Theory #3, and the actual story, was that her husband was waiting for her outside... I should probably mention that he was roughly 60 and she was about 30.... hence the drunkenness. We all unanimously agreed that she was getting drunk to cope with the inevitable events of that night... gross.

All and all my trip to NY was amazing. Although this wasn't my greatest culinary experience, I am happy that I finally got to try Mesa, and I enjoyed seeing my family and friends.... and happy that I finally rode the train alone... only took 25 years.

 On a side note, as a hotel recommendation I would definitely suggest Park Central. It was a nice and clean hotel, simple but still classy, and only cost $186 with tax.

Check back in tomorrow, I'll have some more pictures posted from dinner, and I will be going out to dinner in the South End, so I'll have another review to report!


Mesa Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. I've been enjoying potato + cheese pierogies at Vselka for the past 14 years, I have never once ordered them fried, I've no idea what made me this time, it must have been the low blood sugar + humidity, yes, boiled is truly the way to go...fried, not so good
    ... Sure, you forgot your pants, but you had that totally smokin' red dress :)
    ... love that the bartender was going to throw out a dude because he though he was a red sox fan...
    ...yep, Bobby isn't really an entree man, but his apps are to die for...especially the seasonal ones....
    ... that drunk dumpster bride was peeing when I was in the bathroom, so I had no way of knowing she was a dumpster bride...
    ... we missed our train back because I stumbled upon Eataly when we were on our way to Grand Central...oops...
    ...We had sooo much fun, love you and Kayla...
    ...when are we going to the spotted pig?
    c+ j

  2. "Feen" is not a real word. Perhaps you meant "fiend"?

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