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Katz’s Deli + Economy Candy + Crif Dogs, New York

Katz’s Deli

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

On East Houston Street has been standing Katz’s Deli for God-know-how-many years (since 1888 – I don’t do maths). This is a proper Jewish delicatessen of NYC Lower East Side (which London’s dear Mishkin’s takes an inspiration from). The walls are adorned with memorabilia of the past (with a lot of sleb diners) and straight to the future (I’m sure the place will have 100 more years to go). As I walked in, I was given a ticket, which was to be presented at the counter as I ordered my food. The menu is as vast as the deli itself and has everything Jewish – Chicken soup, Salt Beef, Pastrami, Knishes…

(As I was on a mini food crawl), I settled just for a Reuben ($16.55) and a Salt Beef Sandwich ($15.25). It was a mouthful of spectacle seeing the corned beef being sliced and then two slices were given to me as samples. Steaming hot. Tender in texture and powerful in taste. The same was repeated while I was waiting for the salt beef, which was gelatinous (thanks to the fat) and snapped apart very gently. Once turned into sandwiches, I did not like them as much. For the salt beef, I found the American mustard too sweet and did not contribute a striking contrast to the beefy forte. Personal preference. The Reuben was far more calorie-worthy thanks to the corned beef alone. Dressing-wise, the Russian dressing could have been more piquant and the sauerkraut sharper in acidity. But again this is a personal preference for sourness (as I noticed they seem pro sweetness over there). The rye bread were pretty spot-on spongy. A great meal, nonetheless, and the sandwiches were MONUMENTAL!!!

Economy Candy

A digestive attempt. I walked into Economy Candy – a rusty-looking, wholesale+retail candy shop on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side. The range of sweet things (mostly American brands and cartoon-focused goodies) here is incredibly orgasmic, considering how not-so-large the shop is. A sort of place that makes your aged retina beams with gleeful youth. The price of all things at Economy Candy is also a tempting bargain, about 1/3 – 1/2 cheaper than the regular retail price.

(I only bought 3 monkeys – below)..

Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

And my mini food crawl ended here – Crif Dogs. A famous hot dog cafe with a “secret”.

Crif Dogs is dungeon-like with an odd resemblance to Camden. There are a great variation of toppings to choose from (16 kinds, I think), while the price fluctuates between $2.50 – $5. Tater Tots ($2.50) were these little cylindrical hash browns. Light, crispy and additive. No greasy aftertaste. The New Yorker was an all-beef sausage ($2.50) served nude in a bun (toppings on request) seemed fried rather than grilled and did not burst much taste (BAHD’s Pimp Steak beats this one hands down). The Chihuahua ($4.50) was a bacon-wrapped frankfurter with avocado and sour cream. Velvety touch. The sausage was snappy and juicy and the bacon very crackling. The Chilli Dog ($3.75) was pleasant and claimed a good mustard heat. I wasn’t keen on the cloyingly sticky texture, though. Apart from this, I also felt underwhelmed by the paper-like bun (it tasted a bit like the ones we feed fish in Thailand). My favourite of the meal was The Corn Dog ($4.75). I liked the sweet gummy batter and the moist hot dog. My only criticism was that my Corn Dog was a few minutes over-fried, resulting in a mildly burnt aroma and bitterness.

Hot dogs, done!

So, the “secret”?!?

The telephone booth inside Crif Dogs leads way to a secret cocktail bar called PDT (“please don’t tell”) which is opened daily from 6pm till late. You need to secure a reservation over the phone at a designated time (I learn it is 10am of the day you visit). If not, aim to arrive very early. I can’t tell if their cocktails are good because, during our visit, the place was so secretive nobody told us it was shut (for refurbishment).


RATING: 4, 3 Out Of 5



205 East Houston Street
New York City

Tel. 001 (212) 254-2246


108 Rivington Street
New York City

Tel. 001 (212) 254-1531


113 St Marks Place 2
New York City

Tel. 001 (212) 614-2728

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MY 2012…

Happy New Year to You All ^_^

My 2012 started with a cancelled holiday, a lukewarm winter, a depressingly lukewarm washer-dryer, a cat that shuns me and no bloody decent restaurant opened during those festive days. No resolutions. Not too much to look forward to in 2012, apart from the grand opening of Pitt Cue Co., the arrival of Barrafina in Covent Garden and a handful more of restaurants, such as Mari Vanna, Dabbous, Lima, and Bubbledogs. I predict the street market scene prevails, and very much so for burgers, steaks, and quite possibly, fried chicken. There will be more veggie-oriented places to counter that trend. Small portions will still be in. Fine dining chefs will serve less jus and will plate their food in the same manner as Rene Redzepi. Ethnic food – Asian in particular – will never move away from being stereotyped and Asian supper clubs will be the ones (for me) to look out for. That said, I feel Latin/South American might be the new thing for 2012.

There will be more trips (for me). I have kindled interests in Russia, Central Asia and towards the East. Moscow, St Petersburg, a few places in Japan, China, Vietnam and Burma are on my agenda. I look into wandering into North Korea, too. For Europe, I will be scouring not-so-mainstream regions and exploring more of Scandinavia, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. By the end of 2012, I will try making it to all The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. There will be more trips, weirder food .. and The Skinny Bib will (fingers crossed) metamorphose into “something”.

2011 in Few Words..

Before all that to happen, this is my quick 2011 round-up..

To start. I ate dogs. I ate cocks. I ate raw chicken. The latter came from Bincho Yakitori, the super restaurant that dares push all the boundaries for those up for it. I caught my own fish, sampled blowfish and found the taste not at all deadly. I made friends with a great handful of amazingly cool food enthusiasts. I even woke up early to travel with one. The “woke up early” will not happen again. I also had the fabulous opportunities to stuff myself at CC and many world’s destinations. I have learned to book tables a year ahead, though I spent 10% of my life on auto redialing but failed to snatch a table at Keller’s popup. I also spent another 5% of my life figuring out a new and less confusing rating system but only came out with this lame one. I still insist on being among the first reviewers of restaurants.

… it was definitely an eye-opening (or mouth-opening?) year and it would have been a lot less fun without you lot to share all these exciting things with  >__<

I’d also like to extend my best wishes to these 10 eateries that, despite their being old or new, I consider (un)advertised powerhouses of my London existence and have made my 2011 a superlatively indulgent year…

In no particular order…

Roganic… exciting food. Excitingly friendly flocks. And, mind those ceiling lamps!!
Opera Tavern… inventive food. Relaxed glam. Hot boys. Greatest neighbours. And don’t forget the Iberico Foie Burger :-9
Sushi of Shiori… an out-of-this-world sushi gloryhole. Thoughtful creations. If walking in is not possible, there is a takeaway option.
Big Apple Hot Dog… the hot dog pimp that gets London well stuffed. Now mobilizing between two locations.
Gauthier Soho… bonker chef + cute French twinks = comfortingly gay elegance. Also London’s most budget Michelin starred.
Barrafina… a real Spanish bustle that never dies down since its first opening. Best tortilla.
Dinner by Heston… a place that oozes warmth and charm. Occasional celebrities. No pretense.
Beirut Express… the BEST Sherwarma and many other great things. (Just turn blind eyes on service).
Hawksmoor Seven Dials… the best burgers & lobster roll in London in my book.
The Heron… uncompromising Thai (with distracting karaoke and horrifying retro disco look).

Apart from this, I instantly crave for Beijing Dumplings from Jen’s Cafe, Beef Pelmini and Truffled Salad Olivier from Bob Bob Ricard, Mac & Cheese from Spuntino, Wagyu & Truffle Sushi from Zuma, Duck & Foie Gras Borek from Quince, Pickled Herrings from Goodman’s, Eggs Benedict from The Wolseley, Madeleines and ejaculating Custard Doughnuts from St John, Wagyu Slider from CUT, Afternoon Tea from Espelette/The Connaught Hotel, Peking Duck from Min Jiang and Chicken Rice from Old Town 97. And, before I sound like I do not eat vegetable, I love Mushroom and Walnut Miso Udon from Koya very much.

And the most exciting of London 2011!?

Alex McKechnie!!… the superstar mixologist who came up with many super quirky, innovative cocktail and food pairings at Viajante Bar. (He has left, but Viajante & The Corner Room still rock). There will be more coming from Alex so check his site..



2012.. BRING IT ON  :-D

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E Mishkin: One Jewish Dream Fulfilled in Covent Garden

A Jewish Dream

… that he[Ezra Mishkin] might make it to London, England and that he might realise his dream of one day having his own restaurant…

Ezra Mishkin, I don’t care if he is fictional, historical, pseudo-historical, historical-fictional, fictional-historical. All I knew was this Jewish man from Ukraine sparked thoughts in Russell Norman’s head to open a “kind of Jewish deli” in his honour of his existence in the heart of Covent Garden. When I had my chicken soup and “alternated a sip with a hunk, sip with a hunk”, I couldn’t help being distracted by the decor, NYC’ Lower East Side blitzed with London’s East End quirk. A well-polished shopfront glared at Shrek the Musical and led way to a class-act gin and cocktail bar, where like all of Norman’s restaurants, you can perch for drinks and nibbles. Inside red leather banquettes were embraced by reclaimed bricked and timbered walls and a tiled ceiling. London’s smallest, cozy, sound proof private room was tucked in one corner and a long table in the other where natural light (if such thing exists in England) beamed through a glass roof. The long and limp lamps oozed charming warmth.. yes, in this pseudo-Jewish establishment, nothing – NOTHING – was reminiscent of Palestine, Israel, UN’s disputes or Sarkozy’s slagging off Netanyahu.

Home, not Home?

The menu at Mishkin’s was Jewish/Eastern European-inspired but left unkoshered. Dishes – Meatloaf, Hot Dog (from the famed Big Apple Hot Dog of Old Street), Chicken Soup and Salt Beef – ranged from being nibble size to quite shockingly huge portion size, while the price fluctuated between £4- £13. There were sections of “sandwich”, “meatballs”, “all day brunch” and “all day supper”!!

To start, I had this off-menu Duck Gribenes. Crispy fried duck skins that burst juicy fat. Then came Cod Cheek Pop Corn, a simple bowl of battered cod cheeks with salted, pepper, gremolata and chilli Though this a combo reminded me of Chinese “Salt and Pepper” with a twist, the Mishkin’s dish was done up with much better quality. The cheeks were crispy on the outside but popped appetising moisture. I quickly found the WOW factor in my Meatloaf which arrived as a dainty, guilt-free (as I’m on a diet) portion. One prick in the middle resulted in an eruption of yolk-y lava from a hidden soft-boiled egg. The coarsely ground, expertly seasoned meat was not just love at first bite but would last as a lifelong relationship. I asked for two of this. Then, to slurp was Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, where floated a baby-fist-sized herbed dumpling. The soup had a distilled taste. Not strong but heart-warming enough. Pickled Herring was a more Ukrainian dish (the origin of Mr. E. Mishkin) and featured zingy herring fillets on a finely chopped beetroot paste with additional intensity and contrast from slivers of pickled gherkins and scattering of dill. Not the best I had since Moscow but a nice find.

The dishes from the “Sandwich” section were much bigger than the above. Steamed Patty was served with a “supersize me” option, which for the sake of my “Skinny” branding, I declined. The normal sized one featured a densely packed patty of beefy robustness, well interjected by an obscene amount of caramelised sweet onions and stringy salted cheese. If asking for a “supersize”, you would get to have two of those patties and more cheese. Chopped Liver with Schamaltzed Radish was my second most favourite of the day. The small hill of fine liver paste was mixed with chopped egg white and a side of goose fat rendered radish & parsley salad. The freshness from the radish helped cleanse my palate off offal-y deliciousness well.

All went excellently well until this Reuben on Rye arrived. Probably the biggest toasted sandwich I’d ever eaten in years. Thin sheets of pastrami sandwiched by a steep dose of sour sauerkraut, gooey cheesy and awesomely crusty Rye. There was a lot of acidity in play from the sauerkraut to the pickled gherkin on the side, but the flavour from the delicate slices of pastrami was not lost. I was also delighted to find Salt Beef Slider from Spuntino (which has been off for months!!) to reappear on the Mishkin’s menu. But I didn’t have enough room for it today :’(

No dessert. I was way too, too, too STUFFED!!!!!

Five Times a Charm

There was no doubt that Mishkin’s will be an overnight success. There are also queues and a lot of phone bookings taken already but the bar area is reserved for walk-ins. I am amazed how Russell Norman makes all this happen – Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino, da Polpo – but at least I’m so glad that he has turned Catherine Street into a destination for those not on their way to see Shrek the Musical. Oh, and Tom the manager is quite hot, too.

Go for: Comfort food and really, really cool vibe.

RATING: 4 out of 5

(read about new rating here)


25 Catherine Street

Tel. 020 7240 2078

Mishkin's on Urbanspoon

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Harry Morgan

Lurking behind the Chinese communities around the globe in numbers must be, to my narrow-minded belief, the Jewish. While my great-great grannies bring their woks along when they emigrated from China, the good Jewish people keep with them the Kashrut, generally and perhaps not fully understood by the term Kosher. This, I must admit, is perplexing to a religious alien like me. Basically, I would explain this as a Jewish prep tradition: that the slaughtered animals must be blessed and cleansed off their impurity. Blood must be drained and meat must be salted over and over. Do correct me if I am wrong. It all sounds a little too labour inducing.

That said, a few days ago I was at Harry Morgan, one of those Jewish restaurant institutions as I had been told, to savour my first Jewish meal. I had seriously minimal knowledge, heard a lot that Jewish cuisine was bland and unappetising, but I did have a stomach that rumbled “F-O-O-D!!”. Good start.

First up was the traditional treat: Chicken Soup with Dumplings. It was relatively too large for a starter and too small for a main course. The soup was vegetable-based and delicate in flavour. The shredded chicken was fluffy and melted in my mouth; the dumplings had this little bounce and not at all soggy. A simple dish but it delivered. Based on this, I could easily be wooed over by Jewish food.

I asked for Salt Beef – slow cooked beef brisket in spice-infused brine – for an intermittent course. Not my first salt beef and it was not the best. The beef was so pink it got my mouth water. Yet, this too, too soft, watery texture made me feel like I was not actually eating anything beefy. This beef, compared to the one at Spuntino, was lacking in texture and flavour. Even a dollop of mustard did not help lift up the taste. The main of … – sliced beef sausages layered in three fried eggs – was more like a breakfast dish. Uncomplicated but not at all disagreeable.

My dessert of Lokshen Pudding put me back on the loving track. This steaming hot noodle cake tightly packed at the base and loose at the top was full of texture despite the ingredient’s being, well, the same thing. A hint of sweetness came through from the sultanas and the dusting of sugar, while the acidic coolie gave a sharp and pleasant contrast.

I was happy but still remained an outsider taster. It might take a few more trips and a few more plates of salt beef to win me over.

For more info on the Laws of Judaism on Food, click here.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.


29-31 St John’s Wood High Street

Tel. 020 7722 1869
Harry Morgan's on Urbanspoon