Savor the Bronx 2015: Bistro SK

I’ve wanted to go to Bistro SK, the Bronx’s sole French restaurant,  for a very long time, but something usually comes up (ok, it’s those City Island pina coladas. Such a distraction!)  This year for Bronx restaurant week, I was determined to make it.

When we first arrived, I quickly noticed that this place is the definition of a cute and cozy restaurant. We were greeted warmly by Stephane, the owner of Bistro SK. We sat down next to “the tree.” This is a real tree that has been boxed off to allow it to grow through the restaurant. Very cool.

I went to Paris maybe 5 years ago and I can’t remember if I had escargot, which is a sin, so I made sure to order them this time, just to make sure. By nature, I hate insects, but especially ones with no legs – worms, slugs, and of course, snails. So, I was a little wary if the texture would freak me out, but, I’m happy to report that it didn’t. The garlic butter sauce they were in was a delicious distraction.

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For my entree, I went with the bar raye roti (bass) which came with a side of basmati rice and vegetables. The portions were great – enough to fill me up without making me feel sluggish. Stephane was instrumental in helping my friend choose her entree, the fish special. Even though we were hesitant about the dish coming with a side of beets, Stephane assured us we would like them and he was right.

For dessert, we split what is known as the floating island, which is merengue with almonds on top, drizzled with caramel. It was interesting. To be honest, I can’t say I’d order it again, not that it was bad, but I didn’t love it.

Bistro SK also does brunch, so I’d be very curious to try that out, too. I’m certain I’ll be back in the near future.

Savor the Bronx: Cabo

For this year’s Savor the Bronx, my friends and I headed east to try out Cabo, a new Mexican restaurant in Throggs Neck. (but we missed the fact that Cabo was only participating for lunch. Oops!)  A sleek, modern exterior coupled with vibrant colors greets you giving off more of a lounge vibe than of what you’d expect of a Mexican restaurant, but this it not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s part of the larger movement of new bars and eateries opening up in Throggs Neck trying to attract the growing thirty-something crowd that wants to go out and have a good time without traveling too far from home.  However, for the record,  I do prefer the decor of places like Taqueria Tlaxicalli in Castle Hill.

When we arrived, we were still waiting for the rest of our party, so we opted to try some of the drinks during happy hour at the bar (which was packed!). I decided to try what I believe was called a Cabo margarita (should’ve written it down!) which was nice, the tequila didn’t overpower it whatsoever, so it had a sweet, pleasant taste, but was still potent enough. I also tried a pina colada, which I liked more than the margarita. It leaned more toward the coconut-y side, which I’m usually not a fan of, but they pulled it off.

For dinner, I decided to try a chicken burrito, while my friends ordered the special of the night – a seafood dish with mole sauce. I’m “allergic” to shellfish (long story), so I couldn’t try it, but the chicken burrito was good. Not great, but a solid burrito nonetheless. I would have preferred a stronger cilantro flavor or something to make the flavors really stand out.

I will say though, that the salsa verde and chips that are given to the table gratis, was really good. The chips were fresh and the flavors in the salsa verde really blended together well.

Our waitress was very friendly, attentive without being overbearing, and was knowledgeable about the menu, which we appreciated. They’re supposed to have a really great brunch menu, so I’d definitely be curious to check it out and try some other menu offerings.

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Savor the Bronx: Oregano

For this year’s Bronx Restaurant Week, I wanted to try something completely new. While looking over the list of participating restaurants, the first one that stood out to me was Oregano. It was listed as Franco-Iberian, which piqued my curiosity. Like, how many Franco-Iberian places do you run into in the Bronx? Last Saturday, Boyfriend and I headed out to Riverdale (which you know was a trek for us) to check it out.

Pros:  The decor is amazing and the place is huge! There’s a separate room for private parties with a sort of garden vibe going on. The main dining area has a vintage French theme. Bf ordered the Mexican Firing Squad from the cocktail menu, which contained illegal Mezcal and chile peppers. What I really liked is that the bartender brought the drink over himself and told us a bit about the drink’s background.

Cons: Okay, so being the intrepid reporter that I am, I made sure to call the restaurant on Thursday to verify that they would have the Savor the Bronx prix fixe dinner on the weekend, even though the website and printed brochure did not indicate any limitations. The woman who answered said they would. Great. When we arrived, at around 3:45 pm, we were told that they were still serving brunch. I asked the hostess when lunch would begin, since lunch and dinner were the prix fixe-eligible meals. She said around, 5. I know New Yorkers  eat a lot later than in other places, but 5 is really late to start serving lunch. But, we’d come all that way, so fine, brunch it would be.

However, when I went to order the unlimited mimosas special, the waiter informed me that because brunch was about to end at 4 and unlimited mimosas run for two hours, the deal would be invalid. Okay, so we’ll look at the lunch menu. There is no lunch menu, I’ll get you the dinner menu. Sure. At this point,  I’m already done with this place and I haven’t even eaten yet. Upon receiving the menu, I didn’t see anything about Savor the Bronx or anything similar, so I asked if there was a different menu for Bronx restaurant week and gesture to the brochure that I picked up in the restaurant and was told that there was not.

I ordered the Poitrine de Poulet a la Moutarde, which is grilled chicken and vegetables in a “sauvignon lime and oregano sauce.” The chicken itself was nothing mind-blowing, though the sauce gave it a nice flavor. The grilled vegetables were pretty good, though. Bf ordered a lamb burger which came with a side of parmesan-seasoned french fries. I don’t like lamb, but he’s the exact opposite and said that it lacked seasoning. The fries were good, but again nothing special.

 

As we were leaving, a new hostess was attending to an elderly couple who sat in the booth next to us. They asked if there were any specials and wouldn’t you know it, she brought out the Savor the Bronx menu (I could tell by the logo on top) and said that they weren’t offering it on weekends, but they could feel free to order one of the dishes if they wanted. At that point, our check had already been paid and I really just wanted to leave.

It’s evident to me that there is a serious lack of communication at Oregano. There’s no reason there should be so much conflicting information here. Now, whether there was a misprint on the Savor the Bronx website and brochure is one thing, but of course there’s no misprint during a phone call. Even knowing when lunch or dinner starts seems to be a problem. It’s unfortunate, it seems like it would be a nice place to hang out with friends or family, but I don’t see me going out of my way again when there’s all this confusion.

 

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A Toast to Tosca

Alliteration much? Anyway, I finally decided (with lots of input from my friend Jess) to make Tosca my last stop during Savor the Bronx. As mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I went to school out in Throggs Neck and passed it everyday and never went in. This probably has more to do with my association of the 40/42 busses with school, so it was nothing personal.

Tangents aside, I’d seen online that they had expanded with Tosca Marquee, which piqued my interest as well. What was great is that I went with two non-Bronxites and their first impression of the restaurant was “Wow, this doesn’t even look like it’s in the Bronx,” which in its own unique, backhanded way, is one of the highest compliments a non-Bronxite can give a Bronx establishment.

Their restaurant week menu consisted of a choice of three appetizers, four entrees, and three desserts.  The entrees included chicken marsala, baked ziti, and chicken francese- which is what I ordered. My friends ordered the ziti, chicken marsala, and a California roll. We sampled each other’s food and everything was delicious (I did not have a taste of the California roll, I’m not too crazy about sushi). For dessert, I ordered the mini cannolis, which were pretty good.

Bottom line, go there. Tosca was already pretty well known, being Zagat rated and all, but I do think it’s worth the hype. There was an eclectic crowd making it the perfect spot for a date, family dinner, or girls night out (or the male equivalent of that).

I know most of my more recent posts have been food-centric, so I’m going to leave that to Baron Ambrosia for a bit and scope out some upcoming events.

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Tosca Cafe on Urbanspoon

Authentic Soul Food at Z’Novia

The first stop on my Savor the Bronx culinary adventures was Z’Novia, located on Grand Concourse and 161st St. I’ve had an intense craving for soul food for the past month, so I was hoping they wouldn’t let me down. I’m glad to report that did not only did they not disapoint, but they set the bar for any soul food restaurant I may ever go to in the future.

I decided to order something standard that any soul food place should be order to make (same way I always order a vodkacran at a bar to see if I can trust them to make anything more advanced), which was fried chicken, collard greens, and baked mac and cheese.

The fried chicken had the right amount of crispiness – not gross and damp like KFC and not overly crunchy where you might lose a tooth like Popeye’s. No one makes better collard greens than my Grandma, but this is as close as I’ve ever tasted. You could tell it had been marinating for a while and held the juices in without being soggy. What I really loved about the baked mac and cheese is that it was made with real cheese, not any fake Easy Mac nonsense.

There was an extra piece of chicken, but I was eating it when this picture was taken.

Afterward, we opted for dessert. And I don’t say this lightly, it was the BEST sweet potato pie I have ever had in my life. Everything about it was perfect. I’m still thinking about it 24 hours later, that’s how you know it’s good.

Throughout the night, a live band played renditions of classics like “Betcha By Golly Wow” and more recent favorites like the Fugees’ “Killin’ Me Softly.” Other diners bust out their moves on the dance floor, while we opted to sway in our seats.

The hostess checked on us frequently, but it did take a while for us to get our food and check from our waiter. The place was super packed and it was a Friday night, so I won’t hold it against them too much.

I have yet to figure out where my next stop will be, but there will, as always, be a post on it.

P.S. Thanks to my friend Ketiwe, who served as the photographer for the evening!

Z'Novia on Urbanspoon

Finally! Bronx Restaurant Week Announced

After being the only borough without an official restaurant week, Savor the Bronx, the first annual Bronx restaurant week has been announced.

Produced by the Bronx Tourism Council and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., it’s set to take place from November 1–13 and features 15 different restaurants.

This is a really great opportunity to showcase the borough’s culinary awesomeness, however, I am surprised that more restaurants aren’t participating. [I really would’ve loved two of my favorite Bronx eateries, Bruckner Bar and Grill and Taqueria Tlaxicalli offer up some specials]. Plus, Applebee’s is NOT a Bronx restaurant. Geographically, sure, but you can’t tell me that there weren’t any other restaurants originally from the Bronx that wanted to jump in and participate in this. The lunch special they’re offering is the lunch special they offer everywhere. Come on, now. [end rant]

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to checking out Z’Novia, Ice House Cafe & Restaurant, and the Bronx Ale House. I’ve been mulling over going to Tosca. I passed by it everyday on my way to school, but never went in. And five years later, I still haven’t visited. I feel like I’d rather give these lesser known (well maybe not the Bronx Ale House, they’ve got a solid following) restaurants a shot.

What restaurants are you looking forward to visiting OR what Bronx restaurants do you think should’ve made the cut?