Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bits & Morsels visits the one and only NEO

Uni tempura at Neo.

Upper West Side. As you, dear readers, can surmise by the jist of many of my columns, sushi is definitely not one of my favorite foods. However, once in a while the craving appears, and that's when I head to Neo, located on the Upper West Side at 2298 Broadway on 83rd Street.

Neo has been open for over eight years and it is a neighborhood fixture. The ambiance is super low-key and even when busy it’s always civil, and never too loud, making it a pleasant place to go with a friend or on a date. Start the meal off with some sake, preferably unfiltered, and some edamame. I don’t eat sea urchin; but if you do, I was told by every dinner date I've ever brought to Neo, to order the uni tempura.
Neo sushi platter -- notice the variety of sauces and toppings.
Uni tempura. Tuna sashimi.
They have a huge assortment of hot dishes as well as sushi, as one would expect. They have a miso cod that easily rivals anything you would get at Nobu. I’m partial to the sushi rolls which are unlike any rolls I've ever had. For example, in a large sushi platter each piece is topped with a special homemade sauce (one I particulary love, a lemony tofu sauce on the fatty tuna). They do have soy sauce if you must, but the rolls do not require it. Neos' spicy tuna roll is also a winner, with tuna on the outside and a spicy aioli dipping sauce. Yes, the rolls at Neo are expensive compared to your typical neighborhood sushi bar, but they are bigger than your average roll, and the fish is impeccable. You too, will get hooked ...

2298 Broadway
Neo Sushi, 2298 Broadway. Edamame.
Tuna with fresh wasabi and with a tofu sauce. A shot of unfiltered sake.
Tuna sashimi. Miso cod.
Raw oysters. Spicy tuna roll.
Clockwise from above: A beautiful example of a sushi platter; Yellowtail with jalapeno; Salmon tartare.
Eel avocado roll with crushed eel on the outside. Spider crab roll with cucumber and a spicy ponzu aioli.
Another West Side gem is Alibaba, a tiny space located at 515 Amsterdam Avenue place. Now it’s not the place to go for a long, leisurely dinner, but for a tasty Shawarma it’s THE place. No ambiance, no frills, so it's best for take out. They are are also glatt kosher and open late; there's a line out the door on most Saturday nights.

They have all types of kebabs and other yemenite goodies, but they are known for their Shawarma. It rivals the best in the city.
Alibaba, cash only.
Julio and Itay Shmielov. Liran Modan.
They use turkey Shawarma, which I suppose is slightly healthier, but definitely less greasy than lamb Shawarma. It is slow roasted on a rotisserie and is shaven off with an electric knife into a whole wheat lafa bread that supports a lot of Shawarma and toppings, much more than any pita bread could hope for. Their salad bar is filled with pickled vegetables, cabbage, hot peppers, fried crispy eggplant and more. Alibaba is a real recession friendly restaurant with top notch food. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself trekking over to the West Side for your Shawarma fix.
Shawarma in the lafa.
This column is for JH who recently moved to the Upper West Side. If you have any Upper West Side favorites, please feel free to e-mail me and I will do my best to explore.


515 Amsterdam Avenue, nr. 85th St.
Fresh eggplant, eggplant in the fryer, the finished crispy eggplant.
Clockwise from top left: Beef kebab sandwich; Shawarma; Salad bar.
Last week I went to the Grand Gourmet event at Grand Central Station. The sold-out event featured restaurants in the Grand Central area and was to benefit Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services Corporation. Participating restaurants included La Fonda Del Sol, The Palm Too, Grand Central Oyster Bar, Kellari Taverna and Dos Caminos. [The Feed]

A customer at T.G.I. Friday’s near Schenectady recently found a snake’s head in his broccoli. Surprisingly, The customer is not planning on suing the chain. [Gothamist]

Steakhouses are doing pretty well in this economy
relative to other categories of restaurants. Steak houses feel comfy and homey compared to newer concept eateries like molecular cooking. Even though a good steak house is expensive, it does not 'feel' like a luxurious and unecessary meal. Portions are usually enormous at steak houses so order less, save some money, and still enjoy the same great experience. [Zagat]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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