Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BIts & Morsels

Da Andrea's Zuppa Di Pesce Mediterranea Con Erbe Fini E Pomodoro Leggero. Mixed seafood in a mediterranean fine herbs tomato broth.

by Erin Frankel

Da Andrea is my neighborhood restaurant. Ten years later, it remains unsurpassed as a neighborhood gem. Affable owners Andrea Vecchietti and Gian Pietro Branchi have sustained the enthusiasm for their cozy and inviting mom and pop family-owned restaurant, which is now hidden on a quiet, quaint block on West 13th street. You will most likely find me here on any given Sunday night, perched at a table in the back with the same three girlfriends.

We usually come here to indulge our Sunday evening pasta cravings and ... our penchant for feeling at home. Nothing is fancy about Da Andrea, which is why I love it. Whether you are a regular with your own table or a first timer, you are received with the same level of warmth and friendliness the minute you walk in the door.
Portobello Trifolati Al Rosmarino Con Polenta Al Gorgonzola. Braised portobello with rosemary oil, polenta and gorgonzola cheese.
Caprese Con Bocconcini Di Mozzarella, Pomodoro E Basilico. Mozzarella bocconcini with vine ripe tomatoes and basil.
The exposed brick walls are accented by a bright, pleasant glow. The staff is warm and friendly. The restaurant is filled with regulars you will see over and over again. And the food is authentic and reliable. There are always incredible specials but what makes it special are the timeless dishes that have been on the menu for years.

As for starters, I would recommend the mozzarella bocconcini with rip vine tomatoes topped with basil and a rich pesto sauce, the warm octopus dish with capers and basil oil, and the freshly grilled vegetable stacked and sandwiched between layers of goat cheese.
Pennette Con Melanzane, Mozzarella Con Pomodoro E Origano. Penne pasta with eggplant, mozzarella in a spicy tomato sauce.
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Salsa Alla Bolognese. Homemade spaghetti with meat sauce bolognese style.
Defintely come here if you are craving pasta. The chef whips up homemade pasta that is some of the freshest and most delicious in the city. I suggest the homemade spaghetti with a rich Bolognese sauce and the perfectly spicy penne with eggplant and mozzarella. The mixture of the spicy tomato sauce with the eggplant and mozzarella produces the right consistency and flavor.

As for entrees, Da Andrea is known for the Zuppa de Pesce: a mixture of calamari, mussels, shrimp, salmon, and scallops in a lightly seasoned Mediterranean tomato broth. And, I would clearly recommend any one of the sweet and tasty desserts, including the tiramisu and the homemade apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
Cestino di Sfoglia con Frutti di Bosco Zabaione. Mixed berries with warm zabaione in a puff basket.
Tortino di Mele con Gelato alla Vaniglia. Homemade apple tart with vanilla ice cream.
Italian Tiramisu.
Da Andrea
35 West 13th Street
Many New Yorkers relationship with Thai food is a pretty standard equation. For the unenlightened among us, Thai food is greasy, fatty peanut-flavored Pad Thai that is typically scarfed down from a plastic carton. To others, in this case Aussies, Thai food is sophisticated, complex, and refined. Welcome to Betel.

Aussie Chef Adam Woodfield has teamed with Aussie restaurateur, Luke Fryer, to open a modern South-East Asian restaurant in the West Village with a polished, modern approach to Asian street food.

The food is eccentric and inspiring. Woodfield harmonizes nuanced flavors not yet tempered to the Americanized Thai palate. You want the full experience here so opt for the tasting menu, which is both filling and just plain interesting.

Clockwise from above: Summer Citrus Fizz; Strawberry Basil Mojito; Southeast Julep.
Start with the west coast oyster, sprinkled with a potent red nahm jim coriander and fried shallots. Move onto one of the most popular dishes, the chicken betel leaf (the restaurant is named after this betel leaf). Here, the chef flavors the dish with roasted shallot and a sweet eggplant relish combined with the more cogent lemon grass and mint.

Then, the crispy salt and pepper cuttlefish that is dipped in a sweet and fragrant Vietnamese sauce. The son-in-law eggs are made with a rich and sweet yellow bean tamarind sauce and fried shallots. The poached chicken and crab salad is delicately flavored with coconut cherry tomatoes and fiery green nahm jim dressing.

Next: the sumptuous Vietnamese braised Wagyu Beef flavored with long leaf coriander, Vietnamese mint and a tangy chili lime dressing. And for dessert, a sweet and lightly friend cassia bark banana fritter with roasted coconut ice cream.

The cocktails are just as inspired as the food. They are fun, fruity, creative ... and strong! And, like the cuisine, the cocktails take a south-asian spin, my favorite being the Lychee Margarita, which is made with espolon tequila blanco, triple sec, lychee, lime salt and raw sugar rim.
The chic and sleek ambiance.
As for the décor, the vibe is fun and sexy; the ambience is chic, contemporary, and sleek. The exposed brick walls, accented by the low lighting coming from the silk pouch lanterns make Betel perfect for a date, and the large communal table in the center of the room also makes it perfect for large groups or making friends with neighbors.

Overall, Betel is a culinary adventure for those who would like to spice up and challenge their passé Thai routine.
Chicken curry puffs.
Steamed pork belly buns.
Poached chicken and crab salad with coconut cherry tomatoes and green nahm jim dressing.
Son-in-law eggs with sweet yellow bean tamarind sauce and fried shallots.
Vietnamese braised wagyu beef with long leaf coriander vietnamese mint and chili lime dressing.
Caramelized braised beef rib with coriander chili shallot and nahm plah prik.
Chicken Betel leaf with roasted shallots and eggplant relish lemon grass and mint.
Crispy pork hock with coriander plum tamarind sauce and nahm plah prik.
51 Grove Street
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