Only in the East Village

318 East 11th Street, New York

Walking in the East Village is a continuous discovery of different traits of human nature. Hopefully those who eventually broke into the locked box did not abuse of its precious contents.

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Tapas @ Degustation

239 East 5th Street,  New York

Degustation is a unique blend of different styles that well represents the multicultural nature of the East Village. The menu consists of tapas with addition of non-traditional ingredients, mostly from other cuisines. The layout of the restaurant reminds of a sushi bar: the open kitchen surrounded by the bar offers the opportunity to enjoy the preparation of your meal. The exterior design is extremely low-key and it recalls the entrance of a prohibition-era speakeasy.

The tapas are attractive and characterized by a variety of ingredients and preparations that could satisfy different tastes and preferences.

Among the six tapas ordered for the dinner, the perfectly cooked octopus was the star. The charred flavor of its tender meat was counterbalanced by the freshness of zucchini and mint leaves, while the spicy sauce gave a pleasant kick to the tastebuds.

Octopus

The hawaiian blue prawns on top of the paella could have been a separate dish on their own. Their flavor was enriched by a mild spice rub and similarly to the octopus they were masterfully cooked. The paella was well balanced, not overloaded with ingredients, and it provided a good textural and flavor contrast with the prawns.

Paella

Finally, the Brussel sprouts confirmed the great versatility of this underappreciated  vegetable. The deep-fried sprouts were covered by a mix of breadcrumbs and cheddar, with cashews at the bottom. Each bite was a surprising explosion of flavor and textures.

Brussel Sprouts

A few other tapas – croquetas, scallops and cracked potatoes – were less successful. In the next tasting they will be probably replaced by other interesting tapas such as the roasted cauliflower, the wild board bbq and the foie gras.

Hasta luego, Degustation!

Happy Bones

394 Broome Street, New York
Happy Bones

The first time “Happy Bones” found me, it was while I was visiting a vintage clothing store on Bond Street on a Sunday afternoon. The scent of coffee coming from the back of the store attracted me to this unusual location for a coffee shop where I ended up spending a few hours at the communal table. I left the store with a good flavor of coffee in my mouth, without even knowing the name of the coffee shop

A few months later I went back to the same vintage clothing store. This time I walked directly to the room in the back, making my grand entrance into an hair stylist shop. This is New York, I thought: stores pop up and disappear quite rapidly.

Luckily for me, “Happy Bones” did not disappear. It just moved. And it found me again, this time on Broome Street. At first it seemed a new place but the quality of the Counter Culture coffee, the small glass for the espresso and the signature spoons made the connection with that Sunday afternoon on Bond Street.

This espresso is really good and since the location is now permanent, there are no excuses for not trying this coffee.

Wayside Coffee/ Bar

139 East 12th Street, New York
Wayside Coffee Bar

A newcomer to the East Village that brings a much needed infusion of high quality coffee on East 12th Street. The quality of the espresso is ensured by a combination of Intelligentsia’s beans and barista’s ability in brewing the right amount and density of coffee. The low acidity and nutty flavor make this cup a good choice for an enjoyable afternoon break.

I am Coffee [CLOSED]

9 Saint Marks Place, New York
I am coffee

Just a few stairs separate the street level of Saint Marks Place from the espresso heaven. “I am coffee” is probably one of the tiniest coffee places in New York (Abraco, located a few blocks away, is similar in size but benefits from a standing area on the sidewalk), and it confirms that size and scale are not a requisite for success. The mix of arabic beans brings delicate flavors of roasted nuts and licorice to a nicely brewed espresso.

The presentation is top class, with the ceramic tray and a glass of water.

Next time I am back (very soon, indeed) I would like to see the sugar cup at the center of the tray replaced by a piece of dark chocolate. As far as the coffee is concerned, do not change anything, please.

Pretzel Croissant @ Birdbath – The City Bakery

35 Third Avenue, New York, NY

When pretzel and croissant meet, new forms of culinary pleasure emerge, especially if the meeting takes place at Birdbath Bakery. The surface of this generously sized croissant is crunchy and savory; the inside is soft, buttery and it almost melts in your mouth.

This precious pastry is not made for quick bites: its complex combination of flavors and textures requires patient exploration. One small bite after another.

Empanadas @ Empanadas Bar NYC [CLOSED]

438 East 9th Street, New York, NY

The “foodiversification” of the East Village further grew thanks to the recent opening of Empanadas Bar NYC. This tiny piece of Argentina offers many delicious types of empanadas, tartas and sandwiches.

The empanadas Cordobesa (sweet beef) and Carne Picante (spicy beef) are a must. Despite their names, these empanadas are not only about tasty and lean meat. Peppers, onions and boiled eggs enrich the filling; the dough has a balanced thickness: it carries the precious content without weakening its flavor.

If you are in a group, you can share different empanadas: the exotic “pollo picante”, the sincere “cebolla y queso” and the vegetarian “espinaca”. They all look similar but you will not confound them: each type of empanada can be identified through tiny letters embossed on one of its corners.

Leave some room for a bite of the sweet empanada: dulce de leche is always a good way to close a meal.