I happened upon an interesting new restaurant today with V. It is a Dutch fast food chain, though as far as I can tell there are only 2 locations world wide, one in Antwerp and one, a block from my office, in Midtown Manhattan.
Danku provides a wholesome, organic alternative to today’s fast food restaurants. Consumers worldwide can enjoy a fresh, delicious meal while feeling good in the knowledge they are placing less of a burden on the environment.

The menu at Danku is inspired by the popular Indo-Dutch cuisine served all over the Netherlands -- Danku’s birthplace. At one time, Indonesia was a Dutch colony and Indonesian ingredients and dishes have left a delicious and lasting impression, becoming an integral part of the Dutch culinary repertoire.
I definitely liked it, and for "fast food" the menu is very healthy. I had Danku’s signature menu item, the traditional Dutch "krokets," with a garden salad. The prices were reasonable, for New York—under $10 for lunch—and the flavors were interesting. I hope they continue to grow; a sensible enterprise like this is good for our health—and for the Earth. Though it looks like others aren't quite as pleased as I was.

Report from the homefront: Axel's Tavern

For Christmas this year V and I took her grandparents (Mapa and Papa) to dinner at Axel's Tavern, a nice, comfortable place just outside of the Minneapolis suburbs, in Loretto. There is a bar area when you come in on the main floor, and upstairs is a quieter dining room with paintings on the walls and warm wood tones. We were hoping that there was a fireplace to sit by, but even without it we enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a perfect place for a nice dinner together—not too stuffy or formal, and not too casual or cheesy either.

I was surprised by the menu—it was much larger than I anticipated, including the wine list. The restaurant is known for its ribs and steaks. We held off on ordering appetizers, because each entree came with soup or salad, plus a vegetable and potato. Being that we were in Minnesota I also figured it would be wise to get some walleye too so I ordered the "land and lake," a portion of fish and a sirloin steak. V had the "steak Oscar" which included two steak medallions and two crab cakes, and a side of mushrooms. Mapa ordered the walleye, and papa had a steak, Ray's sirloin.

Comparing the steaks, I'd say that the sirloin was a bit more flavorful than V's medallions, but hers were more tender. The walleye was pan fried and served with slivered almonds. It was flaky and buttery and the crust and almonds gave it a nice crunch as well.

On the side we had great green beans and three of the different varieties of potatoes. Mapa had the loaded baked potato, which seemed pretty standard, for a baked potato. I had the "Mo Taters" which were mashed potatoes with cheese and caramelized onions. I enjoyed them but thought they could have been a little more flavorful—I couldn't taste any onion flavor. V had the alfredo potatoes, a kind of cheesy scalloped potato that was very good.

Overall it was a great dinner. The dining room was the perfect place for conversation and we were not overwhelmed with too much music or televisions in every corner. The service was friendly and attentive. I'm not sure exactly how to compare Axel's to a New York City restaurant other than to say it was more down to earth on all levels, from the decor to the menu and the service. I think if this restaurant were in New York they would have to really specialize on a few key items on the menu, and get rid of a lot of the other good options. Plus, they'd probably double the price of everything! When we're back in town next, if I can go back, I want to go back on Tuesday night for all you can eat prime rib and all you can eat walleye. And I think we've found a great new Christmas tradition, too.

Restaurant Density Analysis

I am working on a research paper on restaurants in New York and I am quite pleased with this paragraph I wrote, along with its surprising facts:

The New York City Department of Health lists more than 20,000 restaurants on its “Restaurant Inspection Information” web site. In a city of more than 8 million people that amounts to one restaurant for every 400 people. New York City’s area of about 305 square miles gives a restaurant density of 65 restaurants per square mile – greater than the population density per square mile of Vermont, Minnesota and Colorado and 17 other states. This density of dining establishments in the city has created stiff competition and presents many marketing challenges to stand out and succeed but also serves as a hotbed of opportunity for restaurant concepts so unique that they couldn’t take off anywhere else.


Once a meat warehouse in the now hip Meatpacking District, Macelleria offers rustic Italian fare and a wide selection of choice steaks and chops in the most popular neighborhood in NYC. The extended wine list offers hand-selected wines from all regions of Italy.

We went to Macelleria to celebrate a friend's birthday and we definitely went all out. As we walked into the restaurant, whose name means butcher shop in Italian, I got the sense of a formal but trendy restaurant. The dining room seemed warm with dark wood and brick. As we were taken to our table though, we headed downstairs to another dining room that reminded me of a wine cellar with stone walls and a few large tables. It was a little loud with the other tables full, but I really liked the space.

As for the food, it was even better than the space. We started with a "fresh bufala mozzarella." The cheese was delicious and soft and it was served with some of the best tomatoes I've ever had (and I generally don't like tomatoes). For my main dish I went with the pappardelle al cinghiale, a wide noodle pasta with wild boar sauce. The sauce was flavorful, but i couldn't tell it was boar versus another mainstream meat like ground beef. The dish was good, though maybe I should have gone with a steak, as the restaurant was voted the best steakhouse in New York by Citysearch last year.

Our friend Mark had the filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce. It was the largest filet I have ever seen, and it looked amazing. He described the sauce as spicy yet not overbearing.

V and Lauren ordered a special pasta, tagliatelli with porcini mushrooms. The one little taste I had was rich and delicious and V said the mushrooms were very fresh. Other dishes we ordered included eggplant baked with mozzarella and tomatoes. The bitter rind of the eggplant was a nice flavor in the dish and the meat of the eggplant wasn't mushy. The crispy roasted duck with orange sauce was kind of an Italian take on sweet-and-sour.

On top of all these dishes, we ordered a few sides: fried zucchini, shoestring fires, and grilled mushrooms. The mushrooms were very flavorful and almost steak-like. The zucchini was amazing, though I suppose just about anything fried is delicious.

Then to cap off the whole great meal, we ordered desserts and coffee. (Miraculously, V tried the cappuccino--and liked it!) The desserts were all a great cap to the meal - a fluffy and light New York cheesecake, a small but rich chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a surprisingly delicious (my favorite) apple strudel with cinnamon ice cream.

All in all, this was just a great meal.The service was good, with a friendly waitstaff who were attentive to refilling drinks and keeping our table satisfied. The menu has a range of prices for dishes from a $16 pasta to their $86 porterhouse for two. The wine list has a lot of nice selections from Italy and a few other regions. I think I'll have to go back again for the steak! I definitely had a bite or two too much to eat, but it was worth it--and I'm very grateful to Mark for having a birthday and to Lauren for hosting the party!

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku means lucky peach. This restaurant is one of three by Chef David Chang who was named chef of the year by GQ and Bon Appétit, among other accolades. The other restaurants, Momofuku Ssam and Momofuku Ko, are increasingly harder to get into. I've walked by Ssam a few times and it looks like a very trendy bar and is always crowded. Ko has just 12 seats and offers a tasting menu by reservation only—I'm still struggling to get reservations. So the noodle bar is the most casual of the three and it is relatively easy to get into. We dropped in not knowing what to expect and were very pleased with the experience.

Our server suggested a few things from the menu for us to try and not knowing any different, we followed his guidance. We started with the most popular item on the menu, steamed buns with pork belly and cucumber. There was some kind of sauce spread on the bun that gave the dish a chocolatey or sweet taste that worked really well with the more salty pork.

The next dish was the biggest risk: sliced fluke sashimi with pickled pearl onion and charred jalapeno. We're OK with raw fish in sushi, but I've never had fluke in this way before. It was really a very good dish, though it didn't look that good on the plate (kind of plain as the fish was white as was the plate). The fish was tender and not at all fishy. The onion and jalapeno were a nice texture and flavor addition. There was also some kind of oil or other lite sauce that helped to bring everything together.

Finally we shared a bowl of ramen. After our experience at Ippudo, we're getting used to gourmet noodles. The momofuku ramen came with shredded pork and two pieces of pork belly, a poached egg, scallions, and watercress (or something). The broth wasn't too salty and the noodles of course were very good. We really liked the dish.

I think the main focus of our dinner conversation was who we could bring to this restaurant. It's a unique atmosphere, casual and loud, with communal tables. The wait staff was friendly and helpful. The food is definitely good but I'd say some people might be a little afraid to try it. I think the restaurant fits in quite well though in the neighborhood and with the general crowd around here. We'll have to see who we take to momofuku next - and when we can try the other two restaurants!

Dallas BBQ

A New York City apartment does not easily allow for grilling out. To make up for this, and in the spirit of Memorial Day, we headed down the block to Dallas BBQ for "New York's Most Popular Rotisserie." The place is frequently packed when we walk by, and so we had high hopes for good food at a reasonable price. We were greatly disappointed.

Clarkr ordered baby back ribs that came with fries and cornbread. Staple foods at a BBQ restaurant, but the ribs weren't tender enough, and the fries were soft and bland. The cornbread was the best food on the plate, but was still unsatisfying. I ordered a steak and tried to replace the potato choice with a salad, only to be told that there are no substitutions. The steak was over-cooked, too thin, and was served on soggy pita. The highlight of the dish were the crispy onions that accompanied the steak.

The service proved to be as bad as the food, with the waitress bringing us steak sauce and ketchup after we had finished the food, and water after we had asked for the check.

We were less than impressed with this chain restaurant and in the future will stick to Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem when we are craving good BBQ.

Written by V, who is helping me to catch up on all the posts yet to come!

Dessert Truck

DessertTruck is a new mobile food concept based in the heart of New York City at 8th St and University Place. Using great ingredients and the highest standards for execution, we bring desserts from the world of fine-dining into the realm of everyday enjoyment. At our mobile food truck, there's no BS, no pretension. Just really good desserts.

I couldn't agree more with this description of the Dessert Truck. Simple. Quick. Cheap. DELICIOUS. V and I stopped by for a bite after a lite dinner and it was an amazing way to cap off our meal. (Especially for $5.) We ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding, which is their "take on a classic chocolate custard dessert, topped with vanilla crème anglaise." It was served warm, in a little tinfoil dish that was a perfect size to get the great taste but not overwhelm you with sweetness or richness (or calories). I could have eaten the whole thing myself, but it was nice to share. I'd definitely recommend this, and I'll surely go back. Fortunately it is not that close to our apartment that it will become a regular destination. And next time I'm going to try it with the bacon crème anglaise. It sounds weird but the server told us it is the best thing on the menu!