Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘tapas’ Category

Mango Cinnamon Margarita

In alphabet city, drink, east village, om nom nom, spanish, tapas on July 1, 2010 at 9:00 am

What It’s Good For: Kicking off a great afternoon or an even better night.

Where To Get It: Poco, 33 Avenue B at 3rd Street.

At first encounter, this thick, sunshine-spiked drink smiles up at you from its squat glass. One sip through your straw is pure tropical sweetness, when ka-POW! It kicks your taste buds into gear with its rush of cinnamon-infused tequila. Still, the alcohol is stealthy enough (and the mango delicious enough) that downing three or four of these is frighteningly easy. Hands down, the mango cinnamon margarita is the best specialty cocktail on Poco’s inventive menu. It’s so good, you’ll want one for lunch the next day.

One crucial caveat: You do not want this drink unless it’s been mixed by Brett (who works Friday nights and Saturday brunch). The other bartenders simply do not mix as well as he does.


SushiSamba Meet & Tweet

In fusion food, japanese, nyc, restaurant, sushi, tapas, west village on January 22, 2010 at 6:22 am

The time has come to answer that age-old question: Should you mix your seafood with your social media? After this week’s nationwide Meet & Tweet at SushiSamba, the answer is a qualified yes.

According to Urban Dictionary, a tweetup is “an organized or impromptu gathering of people that use Twitter,” derived from the word meetup. SushiSamba‘s version hoped to provide “a great way to meet other sushi lovers, while enjoying some of your favorite SushiSamba dishes on a Wednesday evening.” Using the hashtag #sstwtup, partygoers in New York, Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas could converse virtually as well as physically, detail their meals, invite friends to join them and generally squeal about the good time they were having. I dined with @sincerelysib and @jessCsims, fellow Tweeters and good friends of mine.

SushiSamba concocts fusion tapas dishes, drawing on Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian influences, and the decor at the restaurant’s Seventh Avenue location reflects this unusual bent. The airy dining room is warmly lit with red-orange light, accented with shades of goldenrod and green. A DJ spins Latin beats downstairs, where sushi chefs labor at the open bar counters. Upstairs, the rooftop is reminiscent of a treehouse, with wide leafed potted plants and ceiling beams the color of avocado pits. The rooftop patio is encased against the winter cold by glass walls and skylights, overlooking the traffic on the avenue below.

For the Meet & Tweet, SushiSamba offered tapas and drink specials at a third of their normally steep prices, as well as a $10 coupon for our next visit. A large flat-screen TV over the bar displayed the Twitterfeed of everyone tweeting about the four parties nationwide. @JessCsims squealed each time her tweets appeared on the screen.

Our best dish by far was the crispy yellowtail taquitos, SushiSamba’s second most popular dish (sea bass and miso skewers are the first.) Two mini tacos were balanced between shot glasses stuffed with lime wedges and layered foam of yellow and red chili pepper sauces. Their brittle shells brimmed with spicy, sweet and hot ingredients, and could be polished off in three bites. We enjoyed our tiny slices of fusion heaven with Caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, a potent brew reminiscent of tequila that can be mixed with berries or tropical fruit. The expertly-mixed beverage smacked of lime and sugarcane, and was dangerously delicious.

The rest of our tapas menu was equally ambrosial. Salt and pepper squid, tender but fierce footballs of cephalopod, were coated in a breading spicy enough for KFC. Paired with barbecue-laced soy sauce or lime spinkled with hot Japanese pepper, the squid took on an added juicy kick. Rock shrimp tempura, piled high in a mountain of fried-yet-creamy coating, were topped with a mess of buttery baby greens and complimented by a strong peanut miso sauce. Japanese chicken wings, lumpy lollipops of meat falling off of bones no longer than my thumb, were tender, fatty and excellently paired with their sugary sweet dipping sauce.

In honor of the tweetup, all the proceeds from the adorably-named Twitteroll went to benefit the Red Cross’s efforts in Haiti. The Twitteroll itself, a cold, bright ceviche of a sushi roll, missed the mark, largely due to its overpowering salsita topping, piled like miniature volcanoes on the roll pieces.

We ended our evening with the warm chocolate banana cake, a layered concoctions dwarfed by the giant white plate in which it is served. The three of us were handed giant spoons and encouraged to snag all the layers (maple butter on bottom, scorching hot chocolate and banana cake in the middle, frozen vanilla rum ice cream on top) in one bite. @jessCsims, the first to balance the layered decadence to her mouth, immediately exclaimed, “Oh my god. That’s the best dessert I’ve ever had.” Her pronouncement went unquestioned by the table.

The Meet & Tweet generated lots of activity on Twitter but less so in the actual restaurant; the Seventh Avenue rooftop held thirty or so people at any given time during the night. The event wasn’t much of a meet and greet of online acquaintances; strangers kept to their own tables and mingling was almost nonexistent. Regardless, the event was a great chance to nab SushiSamba’s pricey food on the cheap while bonding with other Tweeters, if only in cyberspace. It also made my mind up to return to SushiSamba at my earliest convenience.


In dc, greek, recommended, restaurant, tapas on June 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Great meals always start with an exhalation. You know what I’m taking about: almost compulsively, an “ohhh” escapes your lips as you bite into a flaky crust, a juicy piece of fruit, a perfectly grilled steak. I think all meals should begin like that. To get a good taste of such a meal (pun intended), try Zaytinya, located in DC’s Penn Quarter.

Zaytinya has an interior like a futuristic subway car: clean, flickering, dim. Blue and white luminaries line the bar and the slick white staircase, hung by criss-crossing wire cables. The restaurant’s airy layout creates as much open space as possible; this is a place for beautiful people to see and be seen. A long central table for large parties is spot-lit; get a smaller side table on the main floor to observe the hustle & bustle.

Greek food is often oppressive, centering around the harsh, acidic flavors of garlic, feta, and olives. Zaytinya, in contrast, serves mezze, tapas-style plates of a Greek-Turkish-Lebanese hybrid cuisine. Two people can share five to seven small plates, which the bustling staff present to your table in staggered courses throughout the evening. Order a few dishes from each of the menu’s categories, and don’t be afraid to ask your waiter for advice: the staff gives great recommendations.

Zaytinya reinvents done-to-death Greek standards and makes them outstanding. Ubiquitous pita bread is transformed into long trenches of puffy, air-filled bread, piping hot and served with a trio of spreads: silky smooth hummus, drenched in oil and garnished with chickpeas; an outstanding red pepper and feta mash-up; and a nice variation on tzatziki sauce. Another Greek standby, chicken kebabs, is deconstructed, served with slipskin tomatoes, spice-laden onions and a delicious whipped goat cheese on the side.

Zaytinya isn’t content to reinvent the wheel, however. Squash blossoms are stuffed with crab meat and cheese, deep fried, and served with a dill sauce. The end result is light, creamy, and warm; try this dish while the blossoms are still in season. In another dish, sauteed shrimp are served in an artful sauce of lemon, mustard, butter, and dill. Zaytinya gets especially creative with the cauliflower side dish, tossed with sultanas for sweetness, capers for tang, and pine nuts, chopped into crispy disks and roasted with sea salt, for crunch.

My favorite concoction of the evening combined Zaytinya’s talent at reworking old standards with its daring inventive streak. A spanikopita crust is packed with flavorful ground lamb and crumbly feta, and topped with pungent crumbled feta. It is excellent. My only regret is that I was so full from the other wonderful things I’d eaten that I couldn’t finish the lamb dish.

Zaytinya’s dress code is upscale casual, and its prices reflect that sentiment. All told, our meal cost $100 for two people. If you’re on a budget, you can still nibble on a plate or two while you sip inventive house cocktails at the bar. The floral drinks invoke the Greek pantheon with names like Aphrodite’s Pear, and feature unusual ingredients: baby roses and honey dust make the Eros cocktail taste like a sachet. In the end, no matter what budget you’re on, Zaytinya is a gem worth remembering.