Marumi Sushi

Sushi is something that the Boyfriend and I are always up for – it’s refreshing and nothing beats a great piece of salmon in my mind. We’re always on the lookout for affordable and trustworthy sushi places. Our most recent search led us to Marumi Sushi in the West Village. We arrived round lunch time so it was pretty packed. Luckily there were two spaces at the bar and I always love bar seats. You get to see all the chefs in action!

We opted to start off with a Tuna and Uni Roll ($8.00). The Boyfriend also ordered an Ikura (salmon roe) hand roll ($6.00). Both rolls were very fresh and nicely done. I thoroughly enjoyed the Uni. I always want to order Uni but I’m never sure if it’s going to be fresh. The Uni at Marumi is definitely fresh and brightly colored. I could eat four of these rolls!!

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I opted for the Salmon Don ($16.00), which features various salmon sashimi (around 9-10 pieces) over a bed of sushi rice. It also comes with your choice of soup or salad. I opted for the salad, which was a bigger portion size than most other sushi restaurants. The salmon sashimi was so fresh! There were about three different ones and each one was more mouth-melting than the next! They give you a very big bowl of rice too so it really fills you up.

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The Boyfriend went with the Tuna Don ($16.00), which is pretty much the same as the Salmon except with three different Tunas. I had one piece of tuna and it was indeed very fresh and delicious.

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Service was pretty quick and attentive. Our water glasses were almost attended to and our food arrived in a timely manner. I am definitely adding Marumi to my Sushi-Go-To List!

Cafe Asean

When we want Malaysian food, we usually head over to Chinatown to either Nyonya (if we want roti) or New Malaysian (if we want Haianese Chicken). But since we were already in the West Village, a quick Yelp search led us to Cafe Asean. We arrived around 1:00pm and had our pick of tables. It was raining that day so we decided to sit inside instead of the garden.

We started off with the Sotong, or salt & pepper calamari with spicy mango salsa ($7.75). The calamari was crunchy and pretty tasty on its own. But the mango salsa really made them pop. The Boyfriend said the salsa makes him think of Thailand because it was so fresh and light.

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The Boyfriend went with the Nasi Goreng, or Malay-style fried rice with shrimp ($9.00). This was super good! They used a stickier rice, which when fried, has a crunchy texture. It’s kind of like the bottom layer of rice when you cook it with a clay pot. It was flavorful and very delicious.

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I decided on the Kari Kapitan, or Malay coconut curry chicken with potatoes and steamed veggies ($8.25). Boy, was that chicken fragrant! It was a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. I dislike when curry is so spicy that you can’t taste what you’re eating. They definitely do not skimp on the coconut milk here and that’s exactly my favorite way to have curry. The serving size was generous – I actually had to take half of it home with me!

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The prices are higher here than it is in Chinatown – but prices are always higher outside of Chinatown. The food here is super delicious and I think it’s worth the price difference. I’m more partial to the fragrant coconut flavors so the Malay curry here is more to my tastes than the Chinese-Malay curry in Chinatown restaurants. I can’t wait to be back to try out the laksa!

 

 

 

Gottino

The Boyfriend and I originally had plans to have lunch elsewhere in the Village, but since he was a tad late for the original reservation, we decided to wander around and see what else there was to eat. We stumbled upon Gottino after walking around for about ten minutes. They were pretty empty for lunch so we had our choice of seats.

Gottino looks like an amazing place to have drinks with friends and catch up. As it was lunch time, we just ordered a few plates to share. Their wine menu looks pretty extensive though!

We started off with an order of the Prosciutto Di Parma, aged 24 months and shipped in from Italy ($14.00). This was served with a side of bread and olive oil. We both haven’t had prosciutto in a while so this really hit the spot. The Prosciutto was really good – just the right amount of salty.

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We decided to go with two Crostinis ($8.00 each) – Pesto Di Noci, or walnut pesto with parmesan and thyme, and one with goat cheese, fig, honey and crushed almonds. The walnut pesto was okay – it takes a few bites before you get used to the flavor. The goat cheese, however, was super delicious. It was sweet and tart at the same time because of the honey and the fig. The crushed almonds contrasted nicely with the smoother texture of the goat cheese. Definitely give this one a try!

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Our last shared plate was the Steamed Egg served with Smoked Salmon ($10.00). The steamed eggs were nice and hot when they arrived. It tasted pretty good by itself but it tasted even better when put on bread with salmon. The smoked salmon was very flavorful and very fresh.

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We were both pretty full by the time we finished our meal – there was so much bread! But I definitely want to be back to try out their other cheese and meats. They didn’t have waffles that day – but both the waffles and crepes sound really good! Service was attentive and on point. We received our dishes in a stacked manner so we weren’t overwhelmed by food. They don’t have a real kitchen so everything is prepared by the bar area.

All’onda

All’onda has been on the Boyfriend’s radar for a while now – his aunt wanted to have dinner here when she was visiting NYC but couldn’t get a reservation. With Chef Chris Jaeckle, alum of the Altamarea Group, as the executive chef,  there has been so much attention paid towards All’onda. The Boyfriend and his parents have been to Marea before so when it came time to pick a restaurant for his birthday dinner, they veered towards All’onda.

We arrived at 6pm for our reservation and was seated immediately. When we arrived, there was only about 2-3 other tables occupied. By the time we left around 8pm, the restaurant was packed! We were seated on the second floor by the window, which I really liked cause the lighting was great for pictures!

We started off with appetizers to share. Our first was the Arancini ($12.00 for 4 pieces). They used to have an uni and squid ink version but with the lack of Maine uni available on the market, I can definitely see why they changed it to a black truffle and parmesan version. Despite the change, I really liked the black truffle and parmesan – it was very fragrant and easy on the palate. They’re a bit on the small side so if you have a larger party, you might want to order a few more.

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Our second appetizer was the Clams Casino ($15.00), which features cut clams with pancetta, panko and parsley. I kind of wish the clams were a little bigger because the topping was very flavorful. I love panko crusted dishes so this was a great dish for me.

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Our last appetizer was the Risotto Astice or Lobster Risotto ($23.00). It sounded great when we read it on the menu but we had all already settled on entrees so we decided to share it for an appetizer. I’m so glad we did because it was so good! The lobster chunks were very generous and the risotto was cooked perfectly – still a bit stuff but soft enough to eat. The sauce was very strong and tasted great with the fresh lobster.

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For my entree, I went with the Garganelli with Peekytoe Crab ($24.00). It’s cooked with citrus and tarragon, which gave it a very fresh, summery taste. I really enjoyed my pasta dish because it was very filling but tasted super light. There was also hints of Thai flavors too, which really appealed to my tastebuds. I highly recommend this dish – the Boyfriend even said mine was better!

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He, himself, went with the Lumache with Aged-Duck Ragu ($24.00). The dish is sprinkled with chocolate flakes on top, which may sound and look a bit weird but worked well with the saltiness of the aged duck. The duck melted in your mouth and tasted great with the al dente pasta.

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The parentals went with Stripped Bass with English peas, baby carrots and taggiasca olive ($31.00) and the Chicken with Lemon puree, broccoli rabe, and pan sauce ($25.00). I sampled a bit of the chicken and it was probably one of the juiciest pieces of chicken I have ever tasted in my 23 years of life. It was so smooth and not dry at all.

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We also split a side of Mushroom Polenta ($9.00) with miso-cured egg yolk. The polenta was very flavorful and cooked thinly so it was too goopy like a lot of other polentas. The miso-cured egg yolk worked well to give flavor to the otherwise tasteless polenta.

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For dessert, we split the Olive Oil Cake, which comes with ricotta gelato, lemon sauce and basil seeds. The cake comes warm so it was a nice contrast to the cool gelato. I’ve never had ricotta gelato before so this was a new experience for me – and I found that I liked it! Because it was ricotta flavored, it wasn’t as sweet as other gelato flavors so it really complimented the olive oil cake. The cake itself was very soft and smooth.

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I really enjoyed my meal here – everything tasted amazing and despite the smaller portion sizes, we all ended up pretty full by the end of the night. Service was decent – sometimes our waitress disappeared but our plates were always cleared and our water glasses were always full. I also highly recommend coffee – it’s $3.50 for a whole French Press of coffee so it’s definitely more than enough to share between two people. My only regret is that we couldn’t try the Bucatini with Uni since market price of Santa Barbara uni placed the dish at $50 that night. Perhaps next time we’ll come back to try it when Maine uni is back on the market!

Smorgasburg 2014

It’s time for my annual trip to Smorgasburg! Every summer, the Boyfriend and I try to make it to Smorgasburg at least once to try out the new vendors. We always see some familiar stands – Red Hook Lobster Pound, Mimi & Coco, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Dough, Brooklyn Soda Works, and Mighty Quinn’s. But every year, there are brand new stands that we’ve never seen before – and definitely want to try out.

We arrived around 11:00am, which is when they open, so we walked around to take a look at all the stands first. Our first stop was at the Ramen Burger stand. Despite trying it last summer when it first came out, we both wanted to get one this time. Because we were there just when the stand opened, we only waited about five minutes since we were 3rd in line. This time around, they have cheese option – I’m a cheese lover so I opted in. Each burger with cheese comes up to $10 each, which is a bit pricey but you’re paying for a delicious burger! I actually prefer having the cheese on it since it gives the burger a bit more flavor. I only wish the burger wasn’t so fully cooked!

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After we polished off our ramen burgers, we walked around a bit more to see all the options. We walked by Lonestar Empire just as they pulled out a beautiful piece of brisket. The smell and amazing appearance hooked us and we ordered their Slow-Smoked Texas style Brisket Sandwich ($9.00). You get your choice of moist, lean or a mixture of the two so we went for the moist. They have a few toppings you can add on to your taste but we decided to do it plain. The brisket was so soft and tender! It was very well flavored. We’re both not big brisket fans but this one definitely changed our minds!

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By now, we’re getting pretty hot so we stopped by People’s Pops for some Shave Ice ($2.50). They have two flavors and we opted for the Plum Orange Blossom flavor, which was both tart and sweet. The shave ice takes a long time to melt so it’s great for snacking on while you walk around the stands.

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At 12pm, the beer garden opens so we went straight in for some day drinking! I opted for the Rum Punch ($12.00). They use a good amount of rum in the cocktail so it’s at medium strength. It was just enough rum for me to taste it but not so much that it was like a punch in the face. It was nice and refreshing – I love summery-tropical drinks!

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We then headed over to Ca’pisci for some Calamari Salad ($8.00). They toss chunks of squid, tomatoes and homemade croutons together to made this calamari salad. It’s a better deal than their squid sticks, which are the same price. It’s light and refreshing and a must have if you’re a squid fan! The salad was a perfect for the hot weather because it’s chilled.

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My favorite drink of the day, which I went back for seconds of, was from Bellocq, which sells loose leaf teas as well as two iced teas. The iced teas of the day ($3.00 each) were #21 White Nixon Tea and #82 The Phoenix. Both teas are white teas and taste amazing chilled. I had the White Nixon Tea, which has hints of white peony and grapefruit while the Boyfriend had The Phoenix, which has hints of fruit, orchid and honey. We both agreed that the White Nixon is better suited for summer since it is fruiter and lighter. We finished both our teas and went back for a second cup!

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For dessert, we went with an ice cream sandwich from The Good Batch. A friend had previously Instragram-ed a picture of the Nutella-Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich ($6.00) from them so I knew I had to try that one. And it was a great decision because it was so good! The cookie was just hard enough to hold the sandwich together and the nutella + nuts in the sandwich made it both smooth and crunchy at the same time. I quickly gobbled it up and hardly left any for the Boyfriend!

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If you haven’t been to Smorgasburg yet, I really recommend that you make a trip soon! There’s so many different cuisines to try out – there’s West African, Ethiopian, Columbian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, American, Mexican, and so much more! But remember to go early or else there will be huge crowds and lines.

Broadway Bites 2014

After watching Maleficient at 34th street, the Boyfriend and I stumbled upon Broadway Bites, a seasonal popup market located at the intersection of 33rd street and Broadway in Greeley Square Park. We noticed a bunch of familiar vendors like Mexicue, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Mighty Balls and Roberta’s. But we also saw a few vendors that we haven’t tried yet!

Our first stop was at Onigiri by Tampopo, which serves Japanese rice balls. They had a variety of rice ball fillings but we opted to go for the Salmon Scallion ($5 each). The prepare it to order so your rice ball is always toasty warm and ready to eat. Even though I’m not a huge fan of scallion, I thought the filling was pretty good. It was light and flavorful – perfect for a hot afternoon.

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Our next top was NuNu Beers & Scoops, which was serving up a variety of alcoholic beverages and chocolates. We opted for the Frozen White Wine Sangria since it was pretty hot. The plastic cups they serve it in is pretty small but the sangria was really strong. The moment the ice starts to melt, you can sip at the delicious goodness!

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We also made a top at Mimi & Coco for some takoyaki and edamame. If you order takoyaki on it’s own, it’s $8 for six, but if you order a side with it, it’s $10 total for both. The takoyaki was pretty good but I really liked the edamame – probably because it was so hot outside and the edamame was super chilled!

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Our final stop was at CAЯNAVAL, which serves up Brazilian cuisine. Despite the fact that the corn and sandwiches looked very delicious, we were eying the churros. Their churros are made to order – they have this little machine that squeezes the dough out in a churro shape. They’re then fried and rolled in sugar. Brazilian churros are filled with dulce de leche so that’s exactly how we ordered ours – it’s sweeter and messier than we’re used to but it was still pretty good!

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There’s not a lot of room to sit and eat – they have some high tables for standing but that’s about it. It’s definitely not a place to really catch up with friends or have a leisurely meal. But it is a great place for a quick snack or drink! I highly recommend NuNu’s frozen sangria!

Amelie

I first heard about Amélie via Yelp because everyone was raving about their Happy Hour Specials ($10 for a flight of 3 red or white wine and $5 select appetizers). I put it on the list but it wasn’t until months later that we walked by and decided to stop for lunch.

They serve a lot of their dinner appetizers during lunch so we opted to try the Warm Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese Ball with honey, caramelized onions and toasts ($7.00). This was so good! The goat cheese was perfect to spread on the toast with some onions. The sweet taste of the red wine onions contrasted with the tartness of the goat cheese very well.

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We opted to split two mains. I started with the Smoked Salmon and Arugula Salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and leeks tossed in a mustard vinaigrette ($12.00). The smoked salmon was fresh and the salad was packed with veggies. I liked the mustard vinaigrette because it was very light but packed with flavor.

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The Boyfriend started with the Amélie Burger on brioche bun with tomato, sweet onion, lettuce and French fries. We opted to add gruyere cheese for an extra $1. I really liked the burger – it was filling and cooked to our desired taste. It was packed with veggies and cheese! The french fries were also quite good – I liked that it was thin and crunchy!

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We didn’t stay for dessert since we were both stuffed from the burger and salad. But I can’t wait to be back to try the Happy Hour specials! I really enjoyed the food – but I loved the service even more. We walked in with iced lattes from Stumptown down the block and our waiter didn’t require us to throw them out or finish them outside. He even offered to move our coffee to maison jars so that we could keep them and drink them inside the restaurant. That’s what I call great service!!

Kotobuki

Since the Boyfriend started grad school at NYU, we’ve been exploring the East Village a lot recently. We stumbled upon Kotobuki by accident and they caught our attention with their 27 rating from Zagat. Now, sometimes I don’t pay too much attention to Zagat because some restaurants that I have loved received mediocre ratings. But when a restaurant gets such a high score, it grabs my attention. We took one of their take-out menus and stored it away for future use.

One day, as we were thinking about what to eat, we thought about Kotobuki. We pulled out the menu and noticed that they have a $14 “Omakase Entrees from the Sushi Bar” menu for lunch. It’s available Monday to Friday from 12:00pm to 2:30pm, which is a shorter period of time than usual lunch specials. There’s three options – Chirashi, Sashimi and Sushi entrees. Each option comes with miso soup and fresh salad. And you own’t be jipped because it’s the good miso soup and salad – not the ones from your typical Chinese-run Japanese sushi restaurant.

We both opted for the Sashimi option, which includes 10 pieces of assorted sashimi, a small salmon carpaccio and a u.f.o. roll for $14.00. You might not think it’s much but it’s actually a very significant meal. I think it’s a super great deal because the fish is very fresh. You get 10 pieces of sashimi with a bowl of rice and then there’s an added roll with even more fish! Everything tasted very fresh and was very expertly cut. By the time I finished everything, I was so full!

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We opted for the Rice Cream ($5.00) for dessert. Rice Cream is just their version of mochi ice cream. Each order comes with two mochi in a vanilla flavor. It’s definitely better tasting than your standard supermarket freezer section mochi but it’s not the best mochi ice cream I have ever had. This one is less memorable and skippable.

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Service was attentive and prompt. We were given waters and a hot towel to clean our hands before we even ordered, which was nice. The bathrooms are really big and very clean, which is a huge plus in my book. I love big bathrooms – nothing is worse than having to maneuver in a tiny bathroom after you’ve had a big meal!

Zenkichi

Every once in a while, the Boyfriend and I revisit Zenkichi for some quality food and great ambiance. After several times at Zenkichi, I have to admit that the second floor booths are my favorite. The second floor has two kinds of booths for parties of two – a bigger booth that can fit up to four and a smaller corner booth that fits two snugly. The second floor booths are more private and provide a more intimate feel.

Usually, if you’re a repeat customer, they give you a little dish to nibble on compliments of the chef. We’ve had different types of fish given to us before – this time we were presented with steamed eggplant in broth. I love how they do this – it’s often not much but it’s a great way to show appreciation to repeat customers.

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As always, we started off with their Cold Fresh Tofu in a light dashi sauce ($7.95). We’ve tried many cold tofus at many Japanese restaurants but we both think that Zenkichi’s tofu is the best. It’s very smooth and light. I love how we get to assemble it ourselves – adjusting the amount of each topping we want with our tofu.

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They had a special March 2014 menu so we opted to try a few items off of that list instead of continuing our progress on their regular menu. First up was the Fluke Fin Sashimi ($6.95), served with monkfish liver and yuzu sauce for dipping. The fluke fin was very fresh and sweet but the best part was definitely the dipping sauce. We’re both a big fan of monkfish liver so we really enjoyed the sauce. It was really creamy and saltiness really contradicted the sweetness of the sashimi.

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Next up was the Steamed Red Snapper ($8.95), served with a traditional broth that had a hint of plum and rice cracker. The snapper was so sweet and tasted super fresh. You can just taste the sea! The traditional broth was also very good – it was very flavorful but also very light at the same time. I ended up drinking the rest of the broth after we finished the snapper!

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Since one of the items on the new menu wasn’t available that day, we opted to try something new on the old menu before went back to the oldie-but-goodies. We’re heard a lot about their Grilled Black Cod ($17.95) with a Kyoto miso marinade. Their Black Cod is probably one of their most expensive items on the menu but it’s definitely worth it. The portion size is pretty big – you get two large pieces of cod. I don’t think it’s better than the Black Miso Cod at Nobu, but I think it comes pretty close. It’s very soft and super sweet. It almost melts in your mouth!

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I’ve written about our next dish before and we ordered it again this time because it’s one of the best deals on the menu. Their Grilled Fish of the Day ($13.95) is a great deal because the portion size is super large. We had the choice between Salmon or Yellowtail and we went with the Yellowtail. Just like last time, we had two big pieces of Yellowtail collar, one of the most smooth and soft parts of the fish. It’s a bit of work getting all the bones out of the fish but the end result so sweet and delicious!

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Zenkichi has been a solid restaurant for the both of us since our first visit. It’s probably the one restaurant we’ve been back to the most as a couple. And for as long as they stay in business, they’ll continue to get our business. The service is always super attentive and the food has never failed. It’s the perfect place for date nights!

Murray’s Cheese Bar

When I told the Boyfriend that I was craving something cheesy, he came up with Murray’s Cheese Bar, which is located down the block from their larger cheese store. Everything on their menu has at least one type of cheese in it and they also do cheese plates. It’s practically every cheese lover’s dream! There were so many options to choose from that we had trouble making our decisions. Luckily our waiter was very knowledgable and was able to give us some recommendations, which split between the two of us.

We started off with the Burrata ($14.00), which is cream-filled fresh mozzarella with olive oil and sea salt served with toasted bread. This was easily my favorite dish of the day – mozzarella is pretty much my favorite cheese, despite it’s more subtle flavors. The mozzarella was very fresh and the cream and sea salt really gave it so much flavor! I definitely recommend this dish.

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We then split the Buffalo Cheese Curls ($10.00), which are Wisconsin Cheddar curds tossed in a buffalo sauce and served with Blue River Blue Cheese dressing. One of my favorite snacks are buffalo chicken bites so this was a good one for me. The buffalo sauce was just a bit spicy and the blue cheese dressing was very tangy. The dish looks small but it really fills you up!

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I was primarily responsible for the Mac & Cheese (&12.00), which features their special blend of four cheeses topped with breadcrumbs. I thoroughly enjoyed the mac and cheese – it was creamy and gooey. In fact, it even tastes better the next day when all the cheese sauce has soaked through the pasta! It’s not the best mac and cheese that I’ve had (that goes to Bleecher’s in Flatiron) but it’s pretty darn good.

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The Boyfriend was primarily responsible for finishing the Cheeseburger ($17.00), which features Ottomanelli Brother’s grass-fed beef on a brioche bun with rarebit cheddar cheese sauce. The unique fact about this burger is that the cheese sauce comes in a pitcher and you pour it onto your burger yourself. You get to choose how much cheese you want to use. The burger was delicious without the cheese but it tasted completely different with the cheese. The burger also comes with fries, which I ended up dipping into the cheese sauce. I’m a huge fan of cheese fries!!

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Overall I really enjoyed my meal at Murray’s. Our waiter was very nice and helpful. He ensured that our dishes came out almost one at a time so we could have time to enjoy each one without being too overwhelmed with plates on the table. His recommendations were extremely on point and we enjoyed everything he suggested. I definitely want to be back to try their other dishes – especially the cheese melt with tomato soup!