Monthly Archives: June 2006

Mermaid Inn

After an unfortunate bout of food poisoning [this gastrointesinal upset actually turned out to be the precursor to a shingles attack – ew!] on Friday and Saturday, I bounced back enough to have dinner at the Mermaid Inn on Sunday (though sadly, I couldn’t indulge myself near enough for my liking). It was ace. We had:

Shrimp cocktail: four gigantic, firm, salty monsters, served with classic horseradish-heavy red sauce.

Chilled tomato soup: amazing depth of flavor, boosted by a very spicy creme fraiche. Garnished with chopped yellow tomato (frankly overwhelmed by the heat of the soup) and sliced grilled shrimp (thankfully not).

Lump crabmeat cocktail – Sweet, classic, and lovely.

Cod croquettes: Served in little logs like grade-school fish fingers, these were cute as well as very, very tasty. A perfectly crisp crumb crust without; comfortingly smooth filling within.

Pan-roasted chicken with sweet potato salad: I didn’t try this, but it got a good review. A huge portion, so the leftovers are going to be my dinner tomorrow [OMG, it was so tasty!].

Crispy calamari salad with avocado: I only tried a bite, but it was pretty flawlessly done – greaseless, crispy breaded squid with a bit of bite, though far from rubbery.

Skate with creamy cucubmer, green lentils, and pickled onions: as with the calamari, i just had a taste. Still – holy shit. This was an amazing piece of fish – moist, flavorful in that delightful nutty skate-y way, and done to the minute. I think you have to sell your soul to the devil to cook fish that well.

Mermaid Inn, 96 Second Avenue, New York, NY

The Islands Adventure

Having spent all week working myself up into a gluttonous frenzy, I made the trek last Sunday out to The Islands (803 Washington, nr Eastern Parkway). 95 degree heat was not going to deter me from jerk chicken. Even in the face of record high temperatures, Kiran and Ian and I were going to have our Jamaican picnic in Prospect Park. Somehow managing to avoid heatstroke on the walk over to the restaurant, we were a bit put out to hear that despite being open from noon onwards every day there would be no food ready for at least an hour (this was about 2.30). Weary and ravenous, we went next door to Key Food for avocados then went back to Ian’s to make guacamole and watch PBS.

After an hour or so had passed, we peeled ourselves off of the furniture and trekked back to see what was happening at The Islands. Food was cooking and things seemed to be in full swing, so we waited our turn in the tiny space in front of the counter and gave our orders: jerk chicken, chicken curry, goat curry, and a roti. While our meals were being prepared, one of the owners gave us glasses of rum punch on the house. The fumes coming off of it made my eyes burn before I even took a sip, and within half a glass we were all stumbling around giggling like Curious George after his ether binge. Damn.

Somewhat dazed, we hauled our bags over to Prospect Park and plunked down near one of the playing fields to eat. Except we couldn’t eat. Not really. The combination of the intense heat, the intensely sweet and alcoholic punch, and the intensely tasty and large bowl of guac we’d had while waiting meant that tucking into steaming containers of rich, heavy food was suddenly quite unappealing. Damn!

Eventually, Ian managed some of his goat curry and I had a few bites of my jerk chicken. Later that night, I ate the rest. What can I say? It was fabulous. The spicing was perfect, very hot yet not coarsely so, and combined well with the coconut-spiked rice and peas. Buttery steamed mixed veg (cabbage, peas, carrots) rounded out the meal. Next time I’m going to call ahead for green banana and for the mysterious reggae mussels – apparently mussels in a herring-based sauce (!) – and I’d like to try the spinach and the codfish rotis. I’d also like to just hang out with the women who run the place, because they’re fantastic.

LP’s Really Good Guac:

4-5 large avocados, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup chopped white onion

1 cup chopped cilantro (or to taste)

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 limes

salt, black pepper, ground red pepper

Mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl, but don’t smoosh the avocados too much. Squeeze limes over and add the seaonings to taste. That’s it. Remember – no tomatoes!!

Nice Buns

I finally tried Lucky King Bakery after weeks of peering in. What attracted my attention was a sign from which I inferred that they are now serving dim sum (said sign was not in English, but pictures of xiao long bao are universal). My beloved Sun Hop Shing Tea House is gone, so I was intigued by the idea that there might be another small dim sum-cum-bakery operation so close to home. Nothing against the large restaurants, but sometimes you just want a plate of dumplings and some sticky rice without 300 other people screaming around you and trying to beat you to the turnip cake cart.

I didn’t actually have any dim sum this time, as I was in a bit of a hurry and absolutely none of the signs around the steam cabinets are in English. The woman who served me was very friendly and I’m sure would have gone through and shown me everything, but I just didn’t have the time for that kind of interaction. Tipped off by Chowhound that their steamed pork buns are among the best in Chinatown, I asked for one of those. They didn’t have any ready, so my options were chicken or combination. I’m not a huge fan of the former, so I went for the combo thinking it would be pork and chicken together. And it was. But lo – it also had shrimp, black mushroom, fish ball, chinese sausage, and a quail egg. Everything was kind of fused together in a giant, savory, slightly greasy sphere. The entire bun was nearly the size of a softball and even the dough was delicious, though I tore most of it off in a vain attempt to save some calories (probably the equivalent of having a Diet Coke with your Whopper). Now I’m really looking forward to a weekend visit for some dim sum.

Lucky King Bakery, 280 Grand St, New York, NY

Answers On A 3×5 Card

Is there a dignified way to eat a jello shot? If so, I’ve yet to discover it.

And Deliciousness Once Again

Though I just had Zaragoza on Thursday night, I couldn’t restrain myself from stopping in on Saturday for another couple of tacos. I know – I might as well camp out front. The guy has started calling me “mami,” for Pete’s sake. But the food, the food… This time around, I had the beef tongue (I’m one of those people who loves gross things like liver and tripe and tongue) and the lamb. So fucking good. The lamb was extremely tender, as all Zaragoza meats are, and just gamey enough to be interesting. The tongue was even better; melt in your mouth, really, and such a great foil for the acidity of the lime.

Look, I know I’m a glutton. You would be too if you lived near this place.

More Interesting Than Delicious

In addition to gorging on tacos, I tried Stoli Blueberi on Saturday night. It is, as you may have guessed, blueberry-flavored Stolichnaya. While I don’t like sweet drinks, I had to give this a go in the name of Science. And much to my surprise, it wasn’t bad. The flavor wasn’t overpowering and there didn’t seem to be any extra sugariness, so when mixed with selzter the whole thing tasted like a lighter version of the Italian sodas that coffee shops sometimes make. Mildly pleasant, but not something I’m going to be rushing to try again.

Pure Deliciousness

I had the pleasure of inhaling a few tacos from Zaragoza (215 Avenue A) last night after a whiskey or four at Heather’s Bar (506 East 13th St). I used to live around the corner, and my roommate and I would often indulge in the various good things available for ridiculously low prices – tacos, chillies rellenos, fresh watermelon and tamarind juices, exotic frozen ices – in the narrow little space. In the time that I’ve been away they’ve added a few tables, though the place is still very much a grocery/bodega.

Fillings vary from day to day, and on offer yesterday were chicken, chorizo, and veal cheek. I went for the latter two, with green sauce. The combination of that with the chorizo added up to a blistering mouthburn that I can still kind of feel this morning, whereas the veal was very subtle – shreds of extremely tender meat that offered a bright richness when hit with a few squeezes of fresh lime. What price for such delight? $4. Love you, Zaragoza.