Gino’s Restaurant

Gino’s, located in the heart of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn has been a huge part of my childhood. I spent many Friday nights during high school either eating in or ordering out. There was just something warm and welcoming about Gino’s that has kept me going back even though I don’t go to school in the area anymore. The Boyfriend always laughs at me when I rant and rave about Gino’s. He’s only ever had their salmon so he doesn’t quite believe me when I say their other dishes are amazing. We decided to pay Gino’s a visit so he can really try the rest of the menu.

We started off with a glass of their house Pinot Grigio ($7.50 per glass). For a house wine, I actually really liked it. It wasn’t too dry and not too sweet either. The glass was also pretty big – I don’t think I’ve ever received wine by the glass in such a big glass before.

Since neither of us could decide which appetizer we wanted from their menu (baked clams or calamari?), we went with their Hot Antipasto, which is a combination of baked clams, shrimp oreganata, fried calamari and eggplant rollatine ($11.25). You can’t really see the shrimp since it’s hidden behind the marinara sauce, but I can assure you that the shrimp was delicious! It was lightly coated with breadcrumbs and grilled to perfection. The fried calamari was very fresh! You can actually taste the delicious squid with each piece. The star of the dish were the baked clams. The clams were coated with breadcrumbs and when topped with a squeeze of lemon juice, slid right off the shell. So good!

The Boyfriend went with the Linguine in White Clam Sauce ($13.00) as his entrée. Our waiter supplied him with a spoon to slurp up the delicious broth. The linguine was cooked al dente – both of our favorites. Pasta is meant to be served al dente! The broth though, was the highlight. It was light and flavorful without being too heavy and filling. The portion size was also ginormous – but the Boyfriend managed to finish about ¾ of it. It was just that good!

I, of course, went with my usual dish at Gino’s – the Penne Vodka ($12.00). I always order the Penne Vodka at Gino’s. To anyone who asks where I think the best penne vodka is, I always tell them Gino’s. Gino’s is pretty much the standard of penne vodka for me. I compare every single penne vodka dish I have anywhere else to Gino’s. The first bite of pasta brought back intense feelings of nostalgia. I can remember 18 year old me ordering the same dish and loving it just as much as I do now. Gino’s Penne Vodka is the best because they have the best sauce. It isn’t runny or too thick – it’s just right. I never feel disgusting after I finish eating and their portion sizes are so big that I always have left overs for the next day!

We didn’t have room for dessert but next time I will definitely take a look at the dessert menu. The service was, as usual, attentive. We were asked several times how our meal was and our dishes came out in a very timely manner. We were never rushed to finish our appetizers or our entrees. It might be childhood nostalgia speaking but I am adamant that Gino’s is the best Italian I can find in Brooklyn.

Clinton Street Baking Company

The first time the Boyfriend and I tried to have breakfast at Clinton Street Baking Company, we underestimated their popularity. We arrived at 9:30am (they open at 8:00am) and were given a 1-hour wait time. Since we had other plans afterwards, we opted to head over to the trusty Cornerstone for breakfast instead.

The second time we tried to have breakfast at Clinton Street, we were given a 20-minute wait time instead (we arrived at 8:30am this time). We decided to stay and wait since we had made the trek over. After about a 25-minute wait, the hostess called for us and we were seated at a table-for-two by the kitchen. I didn’t really mind since I got to take a peek at all the delicious food coming out.

I was caught between their famous Blueberry Pancakes or the Smoked Salmon Scramble since I love smoked salmon. I finally decided on the Smoked Salmon Scramble ($17.00) after some deliberation – the pancakes would have to wait for next time. The dish features eggs scrambled with smoked salmon and scallion creamed cheese, a side of mixed greens and 7-grain toast. These were the best scrambled eggs I have ever had. The eggs were fluffy, the smoked salmon was delicious and the scallion cream cheese gave the dish a definite kick. I highly recommend the scramble!

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The Boyfriend opted for the Country Breakfast ($13.00), which features three eggs any-style, maple-cured ham, hash browns and a buttermilk biscuit. The eggs were fine and the maple-cured ham was quite delicious. I didn’t steal much from his plate since I was so concentrated on mine. But I must remark on the biscuit. I’m not usually a fan of biscuits in general but Clinton’s Strawberry Jam is to die for! I could gladly come here just to eat the biscuits with that jam. The jam was very fresh and tasted like real fruit. Mmmm!

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We also got a side of Onion Rings ($7.00) since the Boyfriend hasn’t had them in a very long time. Onion rings aren’t really your typical breakfast food but they were pretty darn good. They didn’t leave either of us with onion breath, which was a big plus.

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I wanted to order a piece of their Chocolate Banana Cream Pie to go but they didn’t have any that day. I’m a big fan of Banana Cream Pie so I was pretty sad when our waitress returned with just our check and no pie. I guess this means I’ll have to come back soon to have a slice! I definitely want to return to try the pancakes.

Zenkichi Part 2

After our first visit to Zenkichi, we were itching to go back. There were just so many amazing things about our first visit that we knew we had to go back. When I saw another Groupon deal for Zenkichi, I jumped on it and we were on our way to one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City.

This time we were given a booth on the 2nd floor instead of the 1st floor. Last time, our booth was in between three other booths with couples on either side of us. This time, we were given a booth that was by itself with only one couple behind us. There was a little bamboo curtain that our waiter opened each time he approached our table. He would also alert us whenever he was about the curtain so as to not surprise us.

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Just like last time, our waiter alerted us that if we needed anything we could press the call button but we didn’t need to at all. He came back periodically to check up on us and pick up any used dishes. We didn’t even need to call him!

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First up, was a lightly battered fried cod that was from our waiter for being return customers. It wasn’t a huge portion but it was very nice of them to recognize us. I’m always incredibly impressed by the service at Zenkichi.

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Next up was the Cold Fresh Tofu ($7.95) that we have had on our earlier visit. Zenkichi’s homemade tofu is the best I have ever had. Despite the raving reviews others have given to institutions like Hibino, I still think Zenkichi cannot be beat. They have this refreshing dashi sauce that is so light that it doesn’t overpower the tofu. I can come to Zenkichi and order three of these and be completely happy!

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Our second dish was the Kakuni, or pork belly ($10.95). The Pork belly is another repeat dish but it was so good last time that we had to have it again. Their pork belly is very savory and filling. The pork belly is always very tender and flavorful. The best part, however, is the fact that one order is more than enough for the two of us to share.

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For our second visit, we wanted to try something new so we opted for the Tsukune Chicken ($10.95), which are chicken meatballs cooked on a bamboo stick and served with soft egg dipping sauce. They cook their meatballs in one stick instead of separate chucks. They have a bamboo scooper for you to cut the meat with. The presentation wasn’t what we’re used to but it was definitely flavorful. The meat was very soft and chewy. The dipping sauce, which is served cold, was a very nice contrast to the hot meatballs.

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Our last hot dish was their Hot Udon ($14.95). The udon was incredibly soft and chewy. I could tell this wasn’t your typical dried-just-put-in-boiling-hot-water udon that you buy in supermarkets. This was very fresh and well-cooked udon. The broth was a simple bonito-dashi broth, which was nice and sweet. It wasn’t too salty or over-spiced. The portion-size was also great to share between the two of us. We each got a serving size of two bowls of udon each!

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We also tried the Maguro Carpaccio ($14.95), which is tuna sashimi served with a green yuzu pepper sauce. The tuna sashimi was very fresh. The yuzu pepper sauce was a bit sour, which took some getting used to. The tuna sashimi was a nice break from all the savory dishes we were having.

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After our main dishes, we opted for one dessert to share since we were pretty full. We’ve read great things about their Grapefruit Gelee dessert but we opted for their Frozen Black Sesame Mousse ($6.95) since we enjoyed it so much last time. The thing I like about this dessert is that it tastes like sesame ice cream but doesn’t have the same frozen texture. I hate it when ice cream gets freezer burn! The Sesame Mousse is sweet enough without being too sweet, which is exactly what I look for in desserts.

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There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about Zenkichi. I love this place because I never feel rushed and I always feel like I have the utmost privacy. I can hear the conversations around me but it was never too loud. I never felt like I was sharing dinner with anyone else at the restaurant except my date. The best part? Kids under 14 aren’t allowed in the restaurant so you’ll never have any crying or tantrum-throwing children ruining your meal. You also don’t have to worry about children running all over the restaurant and knocking things down. When you’re trying to have a romantic date, Zenkichi is definitely the place to go.

Traif

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Traif, located in the South Side of Williamsburg. Traif is definitely not located in the hip side of Williamsburg – if anything, the neighborhood made me think of where I grew up in Sunset Park. But don’t let that deter you from paying them a visit. They have a 27 rating for food on Zagat and although I don’t always trust Zagat, this is one time where we should. Traif’s rating is right smack in between 1 Michelin-stared Nomad and 2 Michelin-stared Marea. Just keep that in mind as I wax poetic about one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten in my life.

We arrived at 6pm on the dot, which is when they open. We were just wandering around the neighborhood because we were early. When we popped in through the door, the male host actually had to ask the female hostess if they had any walk-in tables left. Good thing we came at 6pm on the dot because we managed to snag their only walk-in table available. Lesson learned: always make a reservation because this place is super busy.

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We were seated in the back of the restaurant and right across from the kitchen. They don’t have an actual kitchen – it’s more of a tiny area behind the bar with a stove and an oven. I have no idea how they create such delicious dishes in such tiny a space but I’m not complaining. Our waitress came over almost immediately and explained to us first-timers that Traif is family-style dining in which every dish is shared by the table and there are no traditional appetizers or entrees. We placed our order and our very first dish came relatively quickly.

We started from the top and worked our way down the bottom of the menu since it goes from light to heavy. Our first dish was the Arugula Salad with snap peas, red grapes, currants, feta cheese and a spiced vinaigrette ($7.00). The salad was very refreshing and was a great way to start our meal. The red grapes were surprisingly very sweet and the vinaigrette was very light. The balance of sweet and sour really opened up our appetites for the rest of the meal.

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Our next dish was the Spicy Big-eyed Tuna Tartare, served on top of Japanese eggplant tempura ($9.00). We had underestimated how good this dish would be. The tuna was extremely fresh and flavorful. But paired with eggplant tempura, something both of us had never even thought of before, it was even better. The combination of the spice and saltiness was a taste explosion in our mouths. The creamy tuna combined with the crunchiness of the eggplant for a very complex texture. This is definitely one to satisfy all the Japanese-food lovers out there.

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Our third dish was their Strawberry-Cinnamon Glazed Baby Back Ribs ($10.00). Both the Boyfriend and I are not usually a big fan of ribs. They’re sticky, messy and often get stuck in your teeth whenever you tear into them. But these were completely different and I wouldn’t mind eating ribs everyday if they all tasted like these. First, the ribs are extremely tender. They all fell right off the bone with a light tug with my fork. There was no sticky mess when we ate these. Second, the flavor! I never knew strawberry could taste so good on ribs. These were so sweet and so succulent.

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Our fourth dish might be my favorite. I use the word “might” because everything tasted so good that I can’t really pick a clear winner. We opted, on a whim, to try the Salt & Pepper Shrimp with Cauliflower ($10.00). The flavors and the texture really blew me away. The shrimp is lightly battered and and fried, which allowed it’s natural juices to stay in the shrimp. This is definitely not your typical fried shrimp. The combination of salt and pepper was really balanced. You’re all probably wondering why I love this dish since it sounds so simple. But it wasn’t simple at all. There was a buttery and creamy taste to the shrimp but for all we knew, it wasn’t oily or greasy like butter. I just couldn’t explain what I was eating! The Salt & Pepper Shrimp isn’t mentioned much on Yelp, but I highly recommend it.

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Our final savory dish is BBQ Braised Short Rib Sliders, served with sweet potato fries and smoked paprika aioli ($9.00). The short rib was extremely soft and tender. Each bite practically melted in our mouths and we barely had to chew! The sweet potato fries were very crunchy and cut very thinly. I liked this method because I actually felt like I was eating fries and not a mound of sweet potato. The smoked paprika aioli was amazing! I’m not always a fan of aioli as a fries dipping sauce but this one really blew us away.

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After we finished our meal, our waitress came by to clear our table and offer their dessert menu. We knew what dessert we wanted already but a glance at the menu made us order a second dessert. The first to arrive was the White Chocolate Budino with pistachio ice cream and whipped cream ($7.00). Budino is a dessert that’s similar to pudding or custard. But let me tell you, the budino we had was fluffier than any pudding or custard we have ever had. The whole cup was so soft and pillowy. The Boyfriend isn’t really a fan of dessert – he’ll have one or two bites but then he leaves it all to me to finish. Not this time though! We demolished this dessert so fast because it was just so good. It wasn’t overly sweet and it was just so fluffy!

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And alas, we reach the famous Bacon Doughnuts served with coffee ice cream ($7.00). There aren’t really words to describe these doughnuts – it was that heavenly. The doughnuts were softer than any doughnut I have ever eaten. You can cut through them with a spoon in one go. They were warm and sweet but with a slight crunch from the bacon bits on top of them. The warm sweetness of the doughnuts just meshed so well with the cold bitterness of the coffee ice cream. I applaud the chef for thinking of such an odd combination. After we finished, we wished there was more. I think that if you give this to any anti-dessert person, even they will gobble it up in seconds!

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The great thing about Traif is that you get some complimentary items before your meal and after your meal. Before our meal, we received a tiny cup of Strawberry Gazpacho to open up our appetites. It was delicious! The sweet and sour mixture really helped open up our appetites and stomaches for the incoming feast. After our meal, we received two tiny pieces of fresh watermelon with sweet molasses and lime juice. Such a nice and refreshing way to end our meal!

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The service was also very quick and attentive. If it wasn’t our original waitress, it was other waiters and busboys checking up in our table to take away dishes and change dishes. The beer selection, while a bit on the expensive size, proved to be very strong. Most beers are about 4.5% abv but these were up to 11.5% abv! There are legit no complaints about my meal at Traif – not even one! Everything was delicious from start to finish. I don’t think I have ever appreciated the combinations of very different flavors up until my meal here. If I could rate Traif out of 5 stars, I would give them 10! Absolutely amazing!

Cull & Pistol

I noticed Cull & Pistol on Yelp’s new businesses listing a few weeks ago and read through the reviews. Although was only a small amount of reviews, most of the feedback have been positive. I’m not in the Chelsea area often so I mentally noted the restaurant for future usage. I had forgotten about Cull & Pistol until one day when the Boyfriend and I had just walked the High Line in 90 degree weather and wanted to hide inside Chelsea Market. Lo and behold, Cull & Pistol was right next door to our destination spot of Lobster Place. Lobster Place was really full so we opted to try Cull & Pistol instead since we were looking for somewhere to sit and cool off from the heat. We were greeted immediately be the hostess who sat us by the bar. We were able to see the workers shucking and cleaning oysters, clams and other types of seafood. While we were waiting for our food, we noticed that the workers behind the bar all wore Lobster Place uniforms. We found out later that Cull & Pistol is the restaurant offshoot from Lobster Place and all their seafood comes from next door. You’re guaranteed fresh seafood every single time! IMG_3779 We started off with half a dozen Littleneck Clams ($1.00 each), which is served with their housemade cocktail sauce and vinegar. I thought that the vinegar wasn’t quite strong enough and the housemade cocktail sauce was a bit too chunky. It didn’t really slide onto the clams that well. The clams, however, were very fresh. They did not smell or taste fishy at all. In fact, I didn’t even need the vinegar or the cocktail sauce to go with the clams. They were so fresh that I could’ve eaten them straight up by themselves! IMG_3781 We opted to share the Long Island Clam Toast ($11.00), which is served in a mixture of Dickson’s tasso ham and a garlic aioli on grilled ciabatta bread. The Yelpers did not steer me wrong! The tasso ham and garlic aioli worked together really well and provided one of the most unique mixtures I have ever eaten in my life. The result was an extremely creamy and salty combination that gave so much flavor to the steamed clams. I highly recommend this dish! I could come here, order two plates of these babies, and be the most content person in the entire restaurant. IMG_3782 We also decided to share the Lobster Roll ($24.00), which is served with a side of New Bay fries. They offer their lobster rolls Connecticut style or Maine style. Both the Boyfriend and I prefer Connecticut style lobster rolls so we decided on that one. We both hold Red Hook Lobster Pound as our favorite lobster roll so we compare every other roll that we have to it. Cull & Pistol’s lobster roll really put up a good fight. The lobster is steamed and tossed in a butter and lemon sauce. But I think there’s more to it than just butter and lemon. It was a lot wetter than your standard lobster roll, which ensured that the lobster stayed juicy and not dry out (unlike Lobster Joint’s lobster roll). There was also a distinct taste of something else a little spicier. Regardless of what it was, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also really liked the New Bay fries, which are basically thin fries with Old Bay seasoning. The thin fries were really crispy and crunchy! IMG_3783 After our meal, we were given complimentary gelato from L’Arte del gelato! It’s a tiny portion but they got so many extra points because of it. I love restaurants that give out tiny complimentary desserts instead of offering a dessert menu. It prevents me from overeating and it’s a nice little sweet end to a great meal. We received an orange creamsicle gelato, which was absolutely delicious. I will definitely need to pay L’Arte a visit! IMG_3785 The service was quick and attentive. Our food arrived in a timely manner and we never felt rushed to leave. I think I’ll continue to come to Cull & Pistol instead of Lobster Place. You get the same delicious seafood but in a much nicer setting with more gourmet options. The prices are pretty fair and they even have their own bathroom in the restaurant. You don’t have to go outside and line up for the public bathrooms in Chelsea Market!