Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Malai Marke Hits the Mark

A Malai Marke Indian feast
East Village newcomer Malai Marke is northern Indian slang for "a dash of cream." But there's nothing slight about its impact on the E. 6th Street block known as Curry Row. In fact, its celebration of authentic regional specialties has given waning Curry Row a much needed facelift. Co-owner Roshan Balan calls it a ‘flavor explosion,’ and he’s right.

A tour around the menu introduces diners to hard to find coastal delicacies from Goa, Kerala and Mangalore, all richly influenced by Portuguese settlers. Try the coconutty chicken xacuti and fish ambotik. Murgh makhani and Malai Marke paneer, two signature dishes by chef/co-owner Shiva Natarajan, are robust twists on classics butter chicken and butter paneer. Lamb madras, a staple dry curry on Indian menus, benefits from quality meat and fresh curry leaves. Fresh chili and red onions add another layer of flavor to classic naan. It's the ideal place to venture off the beaten curry path and try something new. You really can't go wrong.
Malai Marke on E. 6th St.

Interiors by Thida Thong Thai are stylishly casual with copper pots from the company warehouse lining the exposed brick walls. And the open kitchen maintains the connection with diners.

Malai Marke is bound to be a stalwart in the team's fleet of restaurants includes Chola, Dhaba, and Thele Wala.

The $9 a la carte lunch special, which comes with two sides and naan, is one of the best steals in the East Village, too. Now you know.

318 E. 6th Street
Between 1st + 2nd Aves
212 777 7729

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fans Fired Up for NYC Hot Sauce Expo

Hot sauce lovers united at Williamsburg's waterfront
My taste buds are still tingling from this weekend's fiery debut of the NYC Hot Sauce Expo. Dozens of incendiary blends with wickedly enticing names like Evil SeedDragon's Blood Elixer, and PuckerButt competed for the local Oscars of hot sauces - the Screaming Mi Mi Awards. 
And to sop up the heat, there was no shortage of tasty vittles from, among others, two East Village newcomers. Empire Biscuit, a 24-hr Southern biscuit shop opening soon in Alphabet City, was doling out fried green tomatoes topped with gooey smoked mozzarella. The upcoming 14th Street addition, The Nugget Spot, wowed with their gourmet Southern fried chicken nuggets and special sauces.

For booze options, KikaEats got to help crown the winning Negra Modelo michelada competition to Crown Heights' Franklin Park.Other local thirst quenchers included The Murph's Famous Blood Mary Mix from Connecticut and whiskey passion fruit cocktails from Tirado, the Bronx's first distillery.

Set along the Williamsburg waterfront, and right next to a bustling Smorgasburg, the setting couldn't have been more perfect. No doubt this expo will be hotter than ever next year.

An afternoon in pictures:

Bhut means ghost
Deliciously evil
Alphabet City's Southern newcomer

Bloody Mary, anyone?
Three Screaming Mi Mis for Oregon's NW Elixers

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Charm of Zoe

Zoe's enticing take on Middle Eastern shakshuka
Zoe is a ray of sunshine on a tiny, quiet block of Eldridge St. I stumbled upon it a few weekends ago while taking a midday shortcut through the Lower East Side.

I heard it first. Windows open, the place was bustling with chatter, people spilling onto the street. Then I noticed the chalkboard sidewalk sign: fried chicken and blueberry pancakes. Ultimate sweet-salty. My kinda brunch.

Homemade creamy labne with granola and apricots
Readers know I am not a fan of the average boozy, prix fixe brunch - cheap drinks, forgettable eggs. Nothing tastes duller.

Chef-owner Zoe Feigenbaum must agree. Everything on her globally inspired a la carte brunch menu competes for attention. Over a fresh ginger lemonade, I agonized between the Mexican shrimp and eggs ($15), the full Irish breakfast ($16), and aforementioned pancakes and fried chicken (which is not actually listed on the brunch menu but always available). On a whim, I settled for the hearty Moroccan poached eggs ($15), a surprisingly mild shakshuka livened with grilled haloumi, eggplant and merguez.

My friend Barbara gushed over her homemade labne (strained yogurt) with granola and cooked apricots. From the flowers down to the cocktail garnishes lining the bar, everything looks fresh and sunny. Service can be scattered, but on a lazy Sunday, nothing should feel rushed anyway.

345 Eldridge Street
Between E. Houston + Stanton Sts.
646 559 5962