>> 3/19/15

112 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 673-6666

Every time I'm on 23rd Street, I walk past Stix, an upscale kabob restaurant. I see it filled with post-work white collar folks having a glass of wine, noshing on meat sticks. I like wine. I like meat on a stick. Why aren't I in there? This ridiculousness had to end. Long story short, Shrink, my mom, was at home. I called her. "Mom, let's get dinner at Stix." And so we did.

Stix was not particularly crowded this rainy evening, which was odd. It's large inside and, having arrived early, I grabbed a table in the middle. When Shrink showed up we ordered some wine, some appetizers, and a platter and everything came out all at once. Apparently, that's just the way it's done here. So the table was slightly full.

Our meal started - in that I ate this first - with the Meat Stixball. Two skewers of beef meatballs with onion and a tzatziki sauce. Very good and not as filling as you might think. These are far from the Italian style meatballs you might be thinking about. They're highly seasoned with herbs and spices. Then I scooped myself a few spoonfuls of the Lentil Salad. If you don't enjoy legumes, I'd advise against this, but if you do enjoy them, then this salad, with honeyed apples, lime, and red pepper was a delightful side dish.

I was more than a little surprised when our waitress recommended the Steak Stix Platter over the lamb one. Mediterranean cultures, and the restaurants that represent them, love their lamb. "I don't like lamb" she said. "So I'm a little biased." Well, that was that. The steak it was. Finally the meal got heavy. A half dozen skewers of steak cubes, cooked to medium, a side of french fries, a little bowl of tzatziki sauce, and some whole wheat pita bread. We probably didn't need the appetizers after all. The meat was grilled perfectly and the pesto it came rubbed with gave it a nice zing. After filling ourselves to bursting there was one stick left. "Let's split it." I said. Shrink refused and rolled her eyes at the thought of eating anything more. I wasn't going to take home a doggy bag with one meat skewer in it so I paused, breathed deeply for a few minutes, and, like a man, had more beef.

Stix is a relaxing, fun place that I'd absolutely go back to. It wasn't too loud, the service was very good, and the food was tasty. It was upscale enough to not feel like one is eating at a wannabe chain restaurant (even though that is exactly what it is) but still casual enough that I didn't feel under-dressed in my jeans. The awning is a little tacky for my taste, but the fact is, Stix isn't fine dining. If you want something more than what you see in these photos, then there are a lot of options that will wow you. Stix will not wow you. But you'll enjoy yourself.

I lost my receipt and I used a Groupon to knock the cost down some, but the total cost for the appetizer, salad, platter for two, and two glasses of wine would have been around $100 before tip and Groupon.

Stix on Urbanspoon



>> 3/4/15

102-15 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 374-3890

Forest Hills, Queens is probably not the first neighborhood that will come to your mind when you start thinking about where to eat out the next time you hunger for sustenance. And yet. And yet. As of this moment, fine dining establishments like Katsuno and the Michelin starred Danny Brown, the classic ice cream parlor Eddie's Sweet Shop, and the new cocktail spot End of the Century Bar, helmed by the guys from Dutch Kills and Painkiler, are all in Forest Hills, all on Metropolitan Avenue, and all within a few blocks of each other. Yeah, I live here. It's my job to trumpet these people. But the fact is, though it may not seem like it, there's some good eatin' here. And with the arrival of Tazzina, it got even better. Don't believe me? Look at Yelp. I haven't seen ratings so high. It's nuts.

Tazzina is the run by Jason Zukas, the winning chef from the Food Network competition show Chopped. I haven't seen so much as a single episode of a single season, so when I heard this my first reaction was not to have one, but clearly the guy knows his way around a kitchen. Tazzina served up one of the best Italian meals I've had in a good long time. Tazzina is a relatively small bistro about the same size as Danny Brown, and the seats fill up on Open Table surprisingly far in advance. At least that was my experience. This meal was delayed a week. There's also a small bar at the front that people actually used. They sat and drank and ate. It wasn't just some cute spot to wait while someone paid their bill. Our service was prompt and polite. The decor was clean and bright, and while there were the requisite old-timey liquor posters and Queens themed photos, nothing was too cliche. There were no olive oil bottles shaped like grape clusters, for example... though there was a vintage mob-hit crime scene photo in the bathroom. I guess some people like looking at corpses when they pee. The one downside: the noise. It's loud here. The music is loud, and the crowd is loud. We were honestly shouting across the table on multiple occasions.

The five of us, myself, Dudeman, Shrink, Bro, and Bro's girlfriend who currently has no nickname were able to sample a relatively wide selection of dishes and all of them were delicious. I apologize to those who prefer reading my negative reviews. This, alas, will not be one of them. Dudeman and Shrink split an Eggplant Caprese. Huge slabs of tomato and mozzarella sandwiched with breaded and fried eggplant, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil leaves, and finally stabbed through with a steak knife for fun. I reeeeallly wanted the roasted bone marrow appetizer, but, apparently, so did everyone else, and they ran out. I went with my plan B and ordered the Beef Carpaccio, raw filet mignon sliced paper thin and unfortunately buried under arugula and huge slices of Parmesan. It was delicious, but it got lost under the massive salad it came blanketed by. Bro and his lady-friend split the off-menu appetizer Broiled Octopus with feta cheese, olives, and capers. Fantastic. Too small to share, especially after I took a piece, but delicious. The octopus all but disappeared into mist once it hit my tongue.

Entrees. Well, none of us fared poorly and everyone thoroughly enjoyed what they ordered. Bro's GF, a vegetarian, opted for the meat-sauce-free Siciliana, a campanelle pasta dish with roasted eggplant, capers and ricotta. My choice was the Cavatelli pasta in a pork ragu with a little dollop of house made ricotta on top. Fantastic. It's not that you can't find a meat sauce out there, or even one worth eating, it's whether or not it's worth bragging about. This one is worth bragging about. I shit you not, order this pasta. Bro ordered the Braised Short Ribs with a creamy polenta, broccoli, and a caramelized onion sauce. Also great and I wish I'd stolen more. The beef was almost as tender as the polenta. Shrink's Linguini Neri is a little hard to see effectively in the photo. That's because it's a pasta made with squid ink. It comes topped with shrimp and calamari and she loved it. Of the three pastas, it was the one that I was least impressed with, but the one she was most impressed with, so... but I still stole a half dozen forkfulls of it, so how unimpressed could it have been, in retrospect? Finally, Dudeman ordered the Veal Spiedini, a dish not without its political implications. I wouldn't have ordered it myself, but hypocrite that I am, I'm glad he did so I could try it. For starters, it's huge and takes up the whole plate. Buried under an Italian salsa-like combo of cheese, tomato, basil, and arugula, you might think that you couldn't taste much, but you'd be wrong. I liked it, though I'm still not sure if I can tell pounded flat veal from founded flat chicken. He loved it, as did Shrink.

Dessert was probably excessive, but we couldn't say no. We decided to just get two and split them... plus coffees. The Nutella Lava Cake was selected as dessert number one. It does look awfully small, but your waistline will appreciate that you didn't go crazy with the calories once you bite in. Served with a little scoop of ice cream (vanilla or pistachio, I don't recall but also didn't have any), the cake was very rich, but very very smooth. Almost candy bar smooth. The Coffee & Doughnuts was the obvious next choice. A fresh, warm, cream filled, sugar and cinnamon coated doughnut, topped with coffee ice cream. I'd get this again and I order you to do so as well.

In the end, this was an incredible meal. Is it worth the drive if you're coming from out of the area? Yes. Is it worth a long, snowy sidewalk filled schlep if you live in the area? Yes. Is it worth average entree price of about $30? Yes. My advice, however, is to avoid groups of more than four. Otherwise people will miss out on half of the conversation. We ate well, had a blast, and then went to End of the Century Bar down the block for tiki cocktails. Ah, such is life.

Three appetizers, five entrees, two desserts, five drinks, and a four coffees came to $325 including tax and tip.

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Tazzina on Urbanspoon


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