Bobby’s Burger Palace

Front

Calling all sporks! Calling all sporks! Run, don’t walk, to any of the Bobby’s Burger Palace (BBP) locations near you! At the moment there are 4 locations – Smith Haven Mall (Lake Grove, NY), Monmouth Mall (Eatontown, NJ), Bergen Town Center (Paramus, NJ), and the Mohegan Sun Casino (CT).

InsideBefore we start, anyone going to BBP and expecting Bobby Flay fine dining will be seriously disappointed. This ain’t that kinda place! Never was meant to be. This isn’t what you would call a burger restaurant, it’s more of what you would call a burger joint, in less seedy surroundings. No linens. Slightly self-service. This is fast and this is good – let me rephrase, not good, GREAT!  The burgers are $7.50, a diner price really, so if you are expecting Flay quality (which is what you get) and Micky D prices, sidle over to the Golden Arches for some fake beef on a bun. This is angus beef, baby, and a bargain at that price! Hard to imagine that there are some folk out there complaining about the cost of these burgers!

Inside 2Fork and Tea Strainer visited the BBP at the Smith Haven Mall. The interior is funky. Warm, retro tones, soft shapes, comfy chairs. There are tables with high chairs, counter space with stools and regular tables with chairs. The place is immaculate, the staff very friendly. When you walk in there is a huge menu hanging on the wall.  Once you work your way through the menu, salivating, and figure out what to order – well, the choices are all so good, it’s more a matter of eliminating than choosing! – you order, pay, take a number,  a large plastic tumbler, and find a seat. The most difficult part may be finding a seat! There is plenty of counter room, and every seat is the same, so they are all comfortable. If you’re having a fountain soda, which is bottomless, you help yourself. Iced tea, beer and margaritas are brought to you. Nay sayers, try getting a margarita at the Golden Arches!

CrunchThis was Fork’s first time at BBP, so the choice was absolutely simple – CRUNCH BURGER!!  It really doesn’t get better than that! Perfect angus burger, perfectly cooked, (oh, yes, they ask how you want it cooked when you order) crunchy on the outside, double American cheese, lightly toasted bun, and covered in potato chips.  Now, back when I was just a salad fork, I loved to put chips or Doritos on my sandwiches, so potato chips on a burger seemed like a natural progression. The burger is big. No interference from lettuce and tomato. It comes served with a pickle. 

Blue CheeseTea Strainer, on the other hand, has been here a few times! Without Fork! Can you imagine!?  Well, now I have been here without Spoon and this fact will, of course, necessitate another trip to BBP. It’s a tough job, but I am sure this Fork is up to the challenge. Fork will just have to keep a stiff tine and eat here again. Such a hardship! NOT!!!  But, back to Tea Strainer and that burger.  Tea Strainer stood there, I have had this, and I have had that, and actually shocked that I wanted a crunch burger!! Tea Strainer finally settled on a Bobby’s Blue Burger. The burger is beautifully plated. Big burger, lettuce and tomato, covered in crumbled blue cheese, and what looked like a blue cheese sauce. Next to the burger were two huge  pieces of perfectly cooked bacon.  Fork was having serious food envy.

FriesWhile staring at the menu Tea Strainer asked if Fork wanted regular fries or sweet potato fries. Fork answered with a simple YES, which left Tea Strainer a little confused. You mean you want to order both? Huh? You mean we can’t have both fries AND the onion rings? See now why Spoon needs to take a secondary adventure to this fine burger joint? Fork acquiesced and said yes, both fries, didn’t even mention the onion rings. So glad we did order both fries.

The french fries are great. Slim, crispy, good quality potatoes. Salted. Crispy. Yummy. Did I mention crispy? There is nothing worse than a soggy fry! Accompanying this generous serving of french fries is Bobby’s BBP Fry Sauce. Slighty spicy, slightly sweet, seriously good complement for these fries. It’s a mayonnaise based sauce that definitely has some chipolte in there.

Seet potsNow the sweet potato fries. These are seriously decadent. Thin, crispy, sweet, caramelized, perfect. Another generous portion. And that little ramekin next to the fries? That’s a honey mustard sauce with horseradish. Totally amazing. You can taste the mustard and the honey clearly, and then there’s another taste that just catches you at the end, hard to pinpoint, not overwhelming at all, but really adds a nice depth to the sauce.

SaucesAlso on each table and scattered along the counter were bottles of different condiments. There was the usual salt and pepper, ketchup and mustard. There was also burger sauce, chipolte ketchup and jalapeno ketchup. Naturally the first thing Fork and Tea Strainer did was make little blobs of sauce on the plates to try each sauce. The burger sauce was great. You definitely can taste BBQ sauce, worcestershire, molasses, mustard and something else I can’t quite touch on.  The chipolte sauce was good, a little strong, but nice to dip the fries in.  The jalapeno didn’t match up so well for Fork. But the nice thing about variety is there is always something for everyone! And if you have become a Flay sauce addict, toy can now purchase them online at BBP Sauce just click on products at the bottom of the screen.

You can have your burger topless, you can have ground turkey or ground chicken. Burgers are cooked to order and to your satisfaction. No matter your opinion of Bobby Flay, this guy knows his way around a grill and BBP proves he knows his way around a burger! This truly is ‘Have it your way’.

This review doesn’t end with what I would have IF I go back, but what I will have WHEN I go back. Spoon, mark your calendar, it’s time for a road trip!

For those that cannot get enough Bobby Flay and his burgers, there’s even a book – Burgers, Fries & Shakes.

Bobby’s Burger Palace ~ Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, NY ~ Monmouth Mall, Eatontown, NJ ~ Bergen Town Center, Paramus, NJ ~ Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, CT 

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Moutarde

Front

In the heart of restaurant laden Park Slope lays the Parisian-style bistro Moutarde.   Inside and out it looks very much like a French bistro – or at least the American concept of what a French bistro should look like. There are some round marble-topped cafe tables, some wood topped tables, black & white checked floor, overly crowded, overly noisy and overly expensive for the typical bistro fare, and service that is not so Moutarde 007great. There are mustard jars and spice jars adorning the walls and scattered on the shelves throughout the restaurant.

Their biggest, and most recent, claim to fame is having a scene from the wonderful film Julie & Julia filmed there. Yes, foodies, a scene that was supposed to be in France was actually filmed in Park Slope, Brooklyn! Do you remember the scene where Julia was having lunch with her sister and introduced her to brie? That scene was shot at Moutarde!

And that movie scene is exactly what brought Fork and Fish Fork to Park Slope this day for brunch. We must have been early. When we walked into Moutarde, there were open tables scattered throughout the restaurant. The restaurant is very light and has a warm feel to it. We were shown to a 4 top table, nervous that at some point two more people would be wedged in next to us. The only difficult t hing about this table was that Fork was sitting on the side of the table that was by the pathway from the kitchen. I swear Fork’s tines were all askew by the end of brunch! Luckily, Fish Fork was sitting across the table and was spared the cutlery bashing!

As it was an early Sunday afternoon, brunch was still being served. One of the nice things about the menu at Moutarde is that the brunch menu has many lunch or dinner type items on it.  There are steaks and burgers and various breakfast items.

Moutarde 003

Fork and Fish Fork both ordered the Croque Monsieur. Fork cannot resist a good Croque Monsieur, especially with a side of fries! Now, I don’t know how things work around your cutlery drawer, but look at the photo….do those look like French Fries? Nope. Not long. Not fried. Not crisp ~ in fact, mushy. And most importantly, not good.

Now, the Croque Monsieur. I wish I had better things to say about this sandwich. Well, I think I can rephrase it. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. I wasn’t all that memorable. The cheese melted on top was yummy.There really was nothing substantial between the bread. The sandwich was a little soggy.  While its tasted good, it sort of reminded this piece of cutlery of a grammar school cafeteria grilled cheese. The company was wonderful, and sometimes – at least for this brunch – that is far more important than the food! The bellini didn’t hurt in setting the mood either! I understand that the burgers at Moutarde are great. Fork should have followed an instinct and had the burger!

Moutarde 005The entire meal was saved by dessert. Apple Tarte Tatin! Yummy! It was sweet and tart at the same time. The crust on the bottom was buttery and crispy. The apples were sweet and slightly tart, perfect foil for the apple-y caramel drizzled all over the plate and the cool scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The only down side of this dessert was that the tart itself was not gooey enough. It was slightly dry, and the delicious caramel is drizzled everywhere EXCEPT on the tart itself!  And this Fork is not quite sure what that feather of mint is doing on this dessert. It kept making Fork think of the children’s song ‘Yankee Doodle’…stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni! It transformed this lovely dessert into a Fez.

The staff is not attentive enough. Proof in that are the tines now in desperate need of straightening form the constant banging by the bus boys as they passed Fork’s chair. Try getting a water glass refilled or to get an explanation of what’s on the menu. As the place became more busy, the service was more lax, and the acoustics just made the sound bouncing off the walls nearly unbearable.  Even trying to get the check and pay the check, was a long procedure.

I think it may be worth a try to go back to Mourtarde for lunch or dinner. I don’t think it’s fair to judge a restaurant by their brunch or holiday service….too many people at the same time.

Cafe Moutarde ~ 239 5th Avenue ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.623.3600

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Co.

Front

Jim Lahey … Jim Lahey… the master of yeast  … the sultan of sourdough … the bread God … the man behind the incredible Sullivan St. Bakery…. the baker man who had foodies across America needing No-Knead Bread.  Which, by the way, if you haven’t tried to do, you simply must!

It makes perfect sense that Jim Lahey’s first restaurant –  and newest project – is a pizza place aptly named Co. (which is short for Company, a word which Latin roots mean ‘with bread’ – I don’t make this stuff up!).  Located in Chelsea, this pizza is definitely a must try!

It seems to be a trend in restaurants to have fronts so plain that unless you are ‘in the know’ you wouldn’t know that they were there or what goodies lay behind the plain front doors. The same is absolutely true of Co. But beyond those wooden doors lays deliciousness.

The interior is very simply decorated.  Tables for two around the outside and two large, rustic tables in the center. Each probably seating 12 – I think more, but I didn’t count.

DrinksOur waitress started off a little rough and a bit aloof, but as time went on she seemed to soften a bit and was actually quite friendly.

They do not have iced tea!! A sad Fork and Spoon had to settle for other drinks. They do have teeny tiny bottles of Diet Coke.  Teeny tiny bottles at really big prices! An 8 o.z. bottle of Diet Coke for $3! Really? That borders on insanity. The very large glass of Lemonade is $4 ~ at minimum 16 ozs.  There is bottled water as well, plain or fizzy. And those are your choices for anything non-alcoholic.  You can buy 24 8 oz bottles of Diet Coke for $18.95 – and this is not a price from a strictly wholesale distributor, as that would be less – which comes out to about $0.79 PER BOTTLE!  Seems like quite a markup in my book.

WaterThey also bring a bottle of water to the table. All of the bottles are emblazoned with the Co. logo. You can not beat New York City tap water. If anyone ever tries to convince you otherwise, and tries to sell you bottled water in a restaurant in New York City, unless you want fizzy water, always go for the tap. The bottle was always full, and fresh glasses with ice constantly brought to the table.

But, back to the food. There are a nice variety of breads, toasts and soups on the menu for starters. The toasts can be topped with beans, chicken livers, roasted peppers or eggplant, and  greenmarket tomatoes. Anything you order at Co. that involves bread or dough is going to be fabulous.

SaladThere is a really nice selection of salads. Although difficult to pick just one to try, we finally decided on the Artichoke Salad.  Baby artichoke hearts delicately poached in olive oil lay nestled in arugula, and you could have stopped right there, but no – sprinkle on some capers, a wonderful lemon dressing and top with shavings of parmesan. Incredible combination, hitting so many taste buds at the same time. It was a simple way to get our palates awake and ready for the feast to come.  The saltiness of the capers was nice against the mildness of the poached artichokes and the tang of the lemony dressing. Fork kept thinking it was just missing something else, though not quite sure what. To be honest though, the missing thing wasn’t enough to keep this salad form being completely devoured by starving cutlery! The salads are a little pricey, but definitely worth it.

 

Sausage and FennelThere are 10 pizzas to try and make a decision between.  Not an easy task, believe you me!

The first choice was simple. Fennel & Sausage. Slivers of fennel that become sweet and caramelized while cooking, crushed tomatoes, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, spicy sausage, and red pepper for some added zip. Pizza doesn’t get much better than this. There are those that argue that they don’t like the fact that Co.’s pizza gets a little charred in places, but brick oven goodness is brick oven goodness and the char is the price one pays for a pizza top that is cooked as well as it’s crust. This is an amazing combination. All the things that go into Fork and Spoon’s favorite sausage are all on top of the most amazing pizza dough.

Arugula and StaccitellaPizza No. 2. Equally as difficult to choose. We opted for the Stracciatella. For those of you that might be confused by the meaning of stracciatella, which is (A) an Italian soup, (B) a gelato (like chocolate chip in the USA), and (C), in this instance, a soft mozzarella. Stracciatella is made from mixing torn mozzarella and cream. It is very delicate and creamy.

Atop this crispy crust is stracciatella, crushed tomatoes, black pepper and arugula. This gives you a delicate creamy element and a delicate peppery element. Another incredible combination. Fork and Spoon both like that the tomatoes are crushed tomatoes and not a tomato sauce. It gives the pizza a much more earthy and fresh taste.

CauliflowerOur third choice was a relatively new addition to the Co. menu. Cauliflower. What kind of adventurous cutlery would we be if we didn’t try this new pizza.

This pizza has no tomatoes at all. The cauliflower is roasted, which for those of you who think you don’t like cauliflower, roasting it completely changes the flavor, so it’s a must try. Along with the roasted cauliflower is a bechamel sauce, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, green olives, chili, garlic and parsley. Fork thought there was WAY too much garlic. Now Fork likes garlic as much as the next cutlery, but when it leaves a strong after taste it’s too much. With the exception of the garlic, this pizza has a very mild taste.  Maybe a little more red pepper would give it a little kick. Might have been that in the middle of a bite we realized that we needed to be 10 blocks away in less than 10 minutes!

This definitely warrants another trip to try the other 7 pizzas!

Jim Lahey has a great new book out, My Bread, this is a step by step guide to his now famous No Knead Bread, along with different recipes. For those beginning to bake bread this is a must have. The No Knead Bread is a great recipe for your baking repertoire, and the variations in this book are fantastic

Co. ~ 230 Ninth Avenue ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.243.1105
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5Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger 006

Sigh………

Today, sadly, we must temporarily change the name to 4 Napkin Burger, as it took FOUR TIMES for poor Spoon to still not get a burger cooked properly! We have been to 5 Napkin Burger before and truly love their burgers, but there was something off in the kitchen this day. But, please don’t let this criticism of only one burger keep you from experiencing one of the BEST burgers in New York City.

Let’s start with the place……

5 Napkin Burger is THE hip place to be after theatre, before theatre – well, any time you want to have a great meal (yes, they have more than burgers!) in a great looking place. 5 Napkin Burger is a huge, industrial looking, jumping, trendy, meat hooks and rolling tracks hanging from the ceiling, tiled, light, fun. Well staffed with courteous, hard working people. Loud. Great music.

The menu is a little eclectic. Seriously, how many places have you been to that have sushi and burgers on the same menu? There are a variety of appetizers, entrees, burgers, sides, even a foot long kobe beef hot dog. Their beer list is extensive. Nice wine selection. Their specialty cocktail list is inviting – all Fork can say about the Perfect 5 Napkin Manhattan is YUMM-O and may I have another!

But, let’s not forget, 5 Napkin Burger is about the burger – the 5 napkin burger. The first restaurant owned by Andy D’Amico and Simon Oren was Nice Matin. THe most popular thing on the menu there was the 5 Napkin Burger.  With the popularity of the 5 Napkin Burger, D’Amico and Oren decided to open 5 Napkin Burger and give the burger its own stage. There are  7 different burgers on the menu, each different. There is a tuna burger, a turkey burger, a veggie burger, and even a lamb burger.

We sat down in a booth supposedly for four people. These would have to be four rather tiny people. Our server, who was wonderful, came right over. We ordered iced teas and asked for water as well. We were ready to order when he returned and ordered away.

Pork TaquitosFor a starter, we ordered the Pork Taquitos. Six tiny little tacos sitting on a bed of shredded lettuce. Across the top was sprinkled queso fresco, sour cream and a fresh tomato salsa. The tacos were crisp, maybe just a bit too crisp. As you bite into the tacquito, it crushes. The tacquito is slightly bigger than simply popping it into your mouth. First bite great, second bite a mess – but a delicious mess! The pork filling was slow cooked and very tender. The queso fresco added the perfect salty addition to this appetizer, with the tomato salsa bringing in a sweet freshness. While these were very good, Fork and Spoon both agree that these needed lime and a little hot sauce.  Once we added a squeeze and a shake, they were perfect. Definitely a ‘must’ order item!

We both ordered the Original 5 Napkin Burger. 10 oz. of ground chuck, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli all atop a wonderful roll. All burgers are served with a very generous serving of french fries. Tuscan FriesSpoon asked if we could swap out one of the fries for the Tuscan Fries (a must!) and they were happy to do so.  Tuscan fries! MY OH MY!! Let’s start with the fact the fries at 5 Napkin are perfect – thin cuts of potato, crisply fried, lightly salted.  The Tuscan fry is a slightly thicker cut, crispy fried,  and then covered in rosemary, garlic and parmesan cheese.  All that goodness on a crispy fry!

Now, sadly, here is where the problems started. Fork ordered the burger medium. Spoon ordered the burger medium rare. Oh, that troublemaker Spoon! Burgers arrive. Burgers get cut in half. Fork’s medium burger is perfect. Spoon? Not so much. Not only is not medium rare, it isn’t even medium, it’s closer to well done.  We call over our waiter. BurgerBurger No.1 is whisked away.  Burger No.2 arrives. Spoon waits a few moments to let the burger rest. The burger is cut in half and it is so rare it practically cries when cut. Burger No.2 is whisked away.  So now Burger No. 3 arrives – which really is just a re-fire of Burger No.2 – and you are really not going to believe what you read next – moo-ing Burger No.2 is now way over cooked Burger No. 3. Burger No. 3 is now whisked away. The waiter is mortified – mainly because he has looked at each burger and realizes we aren’t being difficult diners but somehow this has become a burger debacle. The manager comes over, explaining that they make a lot of burgers there (really? The name gave us no clue!) and he can’t imagine what is wrong. We explained this unbelievable chain of events and our sweet waiter looked at the manager and said sadly, Spoon is right, that’s what’s been going on. The manager, who isn’t quite sure whether he is going to be angry at the cutlery sitting before him or the chefs in the kitchen whoa re obviously having a difficult burger day! He assures us he is going to personally watch the chef cook Spoon’s burger to an absolute medium rare perfection. Burger No. 4 arrives. Spoon waits. Spoon cuts. It is again totally rare in the center, but instead of having Burger No. 4 whisked away, Spoon eats around the edges.  By now, this is seriously ridiculous. Fork’s burger is a distant memory, the fries are gone and Spoon’s burger is still not right. Perhaps the confusion lays in the words medium-rare. It’s almost like two instructions. Every burger came out either medium OR rare. Maybe the combo of medium AND rare throws the kitchen into a tailspin.

I must say, the restaurant did the right thing and removed the offending burger – I should say, burgers 1, 2, 3 AND 4 – from our bill.

Ice Cream SundaeAdditionally, they sent over a WOW of a dessert! We must have looked like the type of cutlery that could be wooed with dessert. Okay, we are, but don’t let that get around! We were staring at the plate with Spoon’s Burger No.4, shaking our heads sadly that our experience at one of our favorite haunts was so ridiculously bad. Really, does any of what happened even seem possible? Anyway, back to dessert! The manager sent over an Espresso Brownie Sundae. This description doesn’t even come close to what was delivered to the table. Tall sundae glass, fudgey espresso flavored brownies, caramel poured over, vanilla ice cream and salted peanuts. Oh, what a devilish way to make us lose our angry!

The situation was handled really well by the restaurant. The waiter is probably still walking by our table apologizing. I don’t mean this in a trite way, but the poor fellow was mortified and couldn’t figure out what else to do to fix the situation. The manager turned out to be very kind and generous in the solution to the burger dilemma.  At first we are sure he thought we were just some sort of difficult cutlery – as if!

Will we go back there? You bet your spork we will! These are still the best burgers in town and everyone is entitled to a bad day!

Not sure if the iced tea is bottomless. More investigation on that later!

5 Napkin Burger ~ 45th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC, NY ~ 212.757.2277

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Lucas Steakhouse

Front

As it happens so many times, Spoon and Fork could not decide what to eat, what borough to travel to, what cuisine we wanted.  All Fork knew was, get out of Manhattan! The sidewalks were jammed. The streets were jammed. This was making for some very unhappy cutlery.  Let’s try Queens.  Now we have a borough, but we can’t quite get to a cuisine.  Okay, so when all else fails – STEAK!  We had been reading about a number of steak places in Astoria, but couldn’t remember the names of any. Thank goodness for Blackberries and Google!

What we came across was Lucas Steakhouse. And all I can say from the outset  – without being too silly –  is HOLY COW.

This wonderful steakhouse is off the beaten path in Astoria. As a matter of fact, as you drive around looking for a parking space you wonder if the address on the internet was wrong. But there it was, right on the corner, hard to miss. Warm and inviting. Great glass fronts (more on that at the end).

InteriorWhen you walk in and you are istantly trasported to a dining room on a cattle ranch somewhere in the midwest – perhaps a 21st Century Bonanza set.  There are only 6 tables (3 sets of 4, and 3 sets of 2), but I am sure that the configuration can be moved around a bit to accomodate more people.  The tables are wood.  The chairs are tufted leather with leather buttons. Some are wing, some are straight backed. Against the windows in the front Wineare small square, cowhide covered pillows for those sitting on the leather tufted bunch by the window.  The tables are simply, but elegantly set.  A cow hide hanging on one wall, great chandelier in the center of the room.  The room is just warm and inviting, from the tin ceiling down to the hardwood floors, all browns and chocolates.

Our server approached with menus, the wine list, and a big smile. We asked for iced tea. Now, out of the corner of my eye I watched one of the bus boys run out……then run back in with a bag from the local market.  I then watched our waiter putting ice into a small pitcher. Moments later our iced tea arrived. Fresh as can be, large glasses, and these large glasses were refilled over and over again before the last sip was taken. Bottomless, fresh iced tea – gotta love it!

The menu is a meat eaters paradise. There is a token fish dish (and the special this night was a fish dish as well). There is a token poultry dish. Surprisingly most of the appetisers are some form of seafood, as were the appetizer specials.

WedgeFortunately for us, there was the standard Legendary Wedge Salad. Knowing we were sharing everything, the chef was kind enough to split the wedge for us. It’s wonderful when a restaurant takes the extra step to make their customers happy and comfortable – and without asking. Bacon and a three peppercorn gorgonzola dressing make this simple dish fantastic. The candied pecans knock it out of the park. The one downside, the iceberg was not as fresh as it good have – or should have – been. There were leaves on the bottom starting to brown, and it didn’t taste all that fresh, and that made it a little unappetizing. None the less, we forced (ha ha) ourselves to eat the bacon, dressing and pecans! This was a great salad even with the wilty lettuce.

Mozzarella and tomatoOur other appetizer was the Beefsteak and Buffalo Mozzarella. The tomatoes were so flavorful, noting better than end of summer tomatoes!  The slices of buffalo mozzarella on top of each tomato slice were room temperature and perfectly buttery and soft. Coupled with with basil leaves and aged balsamic, life is beautiful. This is one of my favorite appetizers always and this one did not disappoint.  There could have been a bit more balsamic on the plate, but it was really good.  I don’t remember any Himalayan sea salt on this, I do remember it needing salt. WARNING – the salt grinder shoots a ridiculous amount of salt onto your food – and all in one spot! Grind it onto the side of your plate and sprinkle it on yourself.

Just before the steak was brought from the kitchen for service, three trivets appeared at our table. One for Spoon, one for Fork, and one in the middle of the table.  The waiter brought our dinner plates to the table, with the warning, these are VERY hot.  Being the mature cutlery we are, we naturally had to touch the plates, and indeed, they were VERY hot! How fantastic!

SteakNow for the STEAK – the reason we came to this hidden gem!  The steak was amazing.  Prime cut, 28 day dry aged, 24 oz., bone-in rib eye. Perfectly grilled. Perfectly seasoned. Tender. Flavorful. Rare in the center for Spoon and more done on the edges for Fork.  Just enough fat for flavor. Salt and pepper and rosemary was all this needed. Butter added on top at the end for a perfect finish. The steak was sliced in the kitchen and brought to the table for serving.

 

Steak sauceAlong with the steak was the chef’s homemade steak sauce. Very good steak sauce, just the right amount of sweet and heat.  If steak sauce isn’t your thing, they also have red wine, au poivre, and bernaise sauces.

Sweet potato friedIn what seems to be the trend in restaurants these days, no sides are served with the entrees, BUT at Lucas there are plenty to choose from!  You can have potatoes five different ways, the usual steakhouse-type creamed spinach, asparagus or sauteed wild mushrooms.  Spoon and Fork could not resist the Sweet Potato Fries.  The chef’s special seasoning is really good. Spicy. Perfectly matched for the carmelized sweet potato fries.

CheesecakeAfter that very heavy meal, can there really be room for dessert? Knowing Spoon and Fork, does anyone even have to wonder? Profiterol with Caramel Whipped Cream? Cheesecake? Let’s ask our waiter, his suggestions so far have been spot on. Cheesecake, says he, Lucas’ cheesecake is outstanding.  I think every restaurant thinks their cheesecake is outstanding, but in this instance he was right. This cheesecake IS outstanding.  It’s worth ordering it for the crust alone. The crust is very thick and buttery, slighty salty and sweet – imagine all that at the same time. The filling was delicate and creamy, not overpowering as some cheesecakes can be. This was served with a berry coulis and a dollop of the caramel whipped cream.  Folks, it don’t get much better than that!

The staff is great.  The waiters, bus boys, even the manager very attentive, checking to see how we liked everything. The manager asked how we liked the cheesecake and then described all the new desserts Chef Carlos Simoes had planned for the winter menu. (Just remember to update your website when you change the menu – not doing so is a pet peeve of the Cutlery!)

There are only a couple of downsides to this restaurant – but we think they’re just growing pains – as of this writing Lucas has been open for 5 months.  There is a LOT of staff for a 6 table restaurant. Two waiters, two bus boys, manager, bartender, and another either bartender or manager teaching the bartender the ropes.  Fortunately they don’t hover, but they do seem to not have alot to do, and in a small restaurant you occasionally feel as if you are under a microscope.

The other problem – the windows!  The front of Lucas has large windows. I believe they open. I felt behind me and there was a latch. Great in the summer – BUT the benches against the window have no back. Just a pillow to lean against. If the windows were to open, then you can’t lean back and sitting up straight like that through a meal may have been the way it was done in parochial school, but people like to be comfy when they eat. 

Even just to lean against, the pillows are too small and too squishy. When you lean back against them you are too far from the table. Two pillows are uncomfortable. The pillows are beautiful, perhaps they need to be slightly larger or more firmly stuffed. Or maybe a half back of a banquet behind you.

AND IT’S COLD! The night we were there Fork sat against the windows on the very comfortable banquet, but as the sun went down and the night air turned cooler, Fork was very cold.  My back where the pillow was placed was okay, but my shoulders and neck were freezing!  Lucas is located on a corner and I can only imagine how chilly those 4 seats against the window are going to be during the winter, especially on a windy night.   A large curtain rod hung about a foot from the top of the windows with a heavy velvet drape would fit the room and keep those seats warm. If they were to come from either side of the windows they could be slid open during the day or on a mild night.

I cannot WAIT to go back and try this wonderful restaurant again!  Right now they are only open for dinner, but they are open 7 days a week, beginning at 5:oo p.m.

Lucas Steakhouse ~ 34-55 32nd Street ~ Astoria, New York ~ 718.786.5200

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Zio Toto

(Photo to follow)

I am sure many of you, like Fork, have a collection of cutlery. Each piece carefully chosen and equally cherished. But sadly in the big drawer we call life, certain pieces of cutlery seem to get lost in the shuffle. Same was true of Serving Spoon. But thanks to a twist of fate, Serving Spoon and Fork have reconnected and managed to squeeze in one of what Fork hopes are many adventures to come.

Neither of us could decide where to go, what to eat (Fork always depends on Spoon to make the choices!) We knew we wanted to try something in Brooklyn, and I am so glad we did!  Zio Toto is a relatively new Italian restaurant in the restaurant saturated neighborhood of Bay Ridge. And restaurants of Bay Ridge, WATCH OUT! This Italian restaurant is marking its territory and will take a large share of the Bay Ridge restaurant goers. Zio Toto is absolutely incredible!  Huge portions, outstanding service, reasonable prices, great wine, and delicious food!

Serving Spoon and Fork met at Zio Toto at 6:15 and sat and laughed and giggled and drank pinot grigio and laughed – menu? really? read it? No rush, take your time. And they meant it. There were no hovering waiters glaring or repeatedly asking whether we were ready to order.  Occasionally only asking if we wanted more wine…..why, YES, thank you!

At some point we figured we should look at the menu. The menu is large and varied, great appetizers, pastas, salads, entrees. What to choose! Our waiter came over and started to describe the specials. By his description of the specials alone Fork wanted EVERYTHING!

SaladKnowing we can’t really have everything, we settled on sharing the Pear Salad from the specials menu. Thin  slices of pear, parmigiano cheese, mesculn salad, light tangy, slightly sweet dressing – and plenty of it. What a great, refreshing way to start a meal.

Oil canOh, wait! I forgot about the bread basket! The very thin, crispy focaccia baked in a brick oven, lightly seasoned with olive oil, fresh herbs and pepper. Sitting on each table was a small can of olive oil – really good olive oil as a matter of fact – to did the bread into. You know more than one basket was consumed during this giggle-fest dinner.

lasagnaFor entrees, Serving Spoon and Fork both ordered from the specials menu. Serving Spoon order the Lasagna. Before I start with the lasagna, let me say, their sauce is AMAZING!!  Very light. Very fresh. Well seasoned. Not too thick or heavy. Certainly not over cooked. Right amount of garlic and basil and pepper! Now, back to the lasagna. This was a large portion of Lasagna. It wasn’t the usual cake like lasagna that some restaurants like to serve it was light and delicate, and still a large portion. The pasta was fresh, the mozzarella just right and the bechamel was fantastic, not heavy or too much of it, there was a slight spicy bite in there too. Everything in this dish was proportioned perfectly to make one of the best lasagnas Fork has had outside of home!

risottoFork, on the other tine, had the Risotto with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.  More. May I please have some more!  It is rare to have risotto served to you in a restaurant that is not sticky or mushy or just downright disappointing. Well, this was none of those things! Again, a very generous serving. The sausage was sauteed and then crumbled, the Broccoli rabe chopped up, the risotto creamy and al dente. When the dish was first placed in front of me, I couldn’t imagine that I could finish the entire thing! I was already thinking what could I do with the leftovers the next day! Before I knew it the plate was empty, by stomach was full, and I had a satisfied grin on my face that only something yummy could place there.

Nutella paradiseWould you like dessert? Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly. Serving Spoon wanted cappuccino. Fork’s replay? Well, just in case, what do you have for dessert? We have cheesecake, tartufo, two things that aren’t here yet, and we have Nutella Paradise.  Nutella and Paradise naturally belong together, so I was intrigued. Two pieces of thin focaccia with Nutella slathered between, set on a grill, drizzled with chocolate, sprinkled with powdered sugar – and just to be healthy a strawberry in the center.  I may not be able to finish typing this. I may need to run out Cappucinoand just sit and have this dessert and a cappuccino!

This is a GREAT place! There are few places in New York City where you can arrive for dinner at 6:15 and stay until 10:15 without looks, grimaces and rushing. This may be the new “IT” place in Bay Ridge for Fork!

Zio Toto ~ 8407 Third Avenue ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.238.8042

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