Obicà

When I visited Italy many moons ago, I toured with a diverse group of people from the Union County area. We went all over the country—Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Capri—but what stands out to me the most is our visit to the Campania Region. We went to a mozzarella and ricotta factory there, where we sampled the creamiest and most flavorful mozzarella I’ve ever had.

obica housemade bread

housemade bread

With a new location in Flatiron, Obicà claims to source their mozzarella from Campania several times a week. Upon learning this, I rushed to make a reservation at the brand new restaurant in order to try their cheese as soon as possible. I regret to inform you that Obicà did not live up to my expectations one bit.

The place was packed on Friday night. I suppose that’s no surprise since the joint only opened the beginning of last week and they already have one location in the city that has received some acclaim. The dark interior was off-putting, but was made up for by all the restaurant personnel exclaiming “buona sera” as we entered. This restaurant must be authentic, I thought.

obica burrata salad

burrata salad

I was wrong. The only saving grace of Obicà is their bread, which is made in-house (and is, I’ll note here, free). The olive kind is forgettable, but the mild-flavored focaccia and the crusty, chewy Italian bread are winners in my book. Too bad the rest of the food, which is fairly expensive, paled in comparison.

We started with the burrata salad, which comes with beets, string beans and pine nuts. I definitely enjoyed the pine nuts, but the burrata itself left something to be desired. Plain and simple: It did not taste like anything. Good mozzarella (and burrata, for that matter) is slightly salty and creamy and should register as “divine” to your taste buds. This did not. Disappointment number one.

MDP got the lasagna, which was served partially cold, so I’m not even going to mention what it was like or what it came with. Massive fail. Disappointment number two.

obica pizza

pizza

I ordered the salsiccia e friarielli pizza. The crust was delicious. Obicà uses PETRA flour and lets the dough rise for 48 hours. I think this makes a difference. But the toppings were not very good. The sausage was not flavorful and the broccoli rabe (rapini, according to their “authentic” menu) didn’t have the same punch it usually has. Disappoinment number three.

We didn’t stick around to check out their dessert menu, since we figured we were already paying a boatload for a dinner neither one of us enjoyed. Why add to the disappointment? We paid and went across the street to Maison Kayser, which is decent but not a place I’d recommend either.

If you’re looking for excellent burrata, go to Palma. If you want fantastic pizza, go to Emporio.

Obicà

928 Broadway

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 23rd Street and walk south a few blocks.

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Village Whiskey (Philadelphia)

Philadelphia has definitely been undergoing a food revolution over the past few years. While I (obviously) don’t live there to attest to this fact first-hand, it’s all I’ve been hearing about the city of late. “It’s the sixth borough,” say those who aspire to commuting to New York City from the relatively inexpensive city of brotherly love—and no respectable New Yorker would dream of moving to a place that didn’t have good food. While relocating may not be in the cards for me, an occasional visit never hurt anyone. I’m telling you—if you decide to stop at a bar, any bar, in Philadelphia, make it Village Whiskey in the Rittenhouse neighborhood.

village whiskey village burger

village burger

Village Whiskey features an unmarked exterior, which emanates the speakeasy vibe that comes from within. When you walk through the double glass doors into the mini-lobby where a hostess meets you, you feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. Inside, the walls are lined with white subway tile and stately, dark brown leather booths for a clean, masculine feel. Fewer than 10 high tables dot the left side of the place with a decent bar certain to be packed with locals who enjoy the occasional (or frequent) whiskey on the right.

You see, the eponymous spirit in Village Whiskey’s name is a favorite of Chef Jose Garces—and they’ve got plenty of it. The menu comprises more than 80 whiskeys, which recalls the thorough whiskey list of Maysville. Although Village Whiskey charges a pretty penny for their drinks, they at least offer a decent pour, unlike Maysville where bartenders measure 2 oz. of liquid and serve that up as a “drink.” If you’re into whiskey, you’ll want to stop here, but don’t be surprised if you can’t get a table or a seat at the bar.

village whiskey bbp pork sammy

bbp pork sammy

Now, what about the food? Well, it is, in a word, excellent. I ordered the 8 oz. Village burger, featuring tomato, lettuce and house made thousand island dressing on a delectable sesame bun. I opted to add the mild tasting Jasper Hill cheddar. The puck-like burger was fantastic. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it had a delicious char on the exterior. I can see why Village Whiskey claims they have one of the best in the country.

MDP got the bbq pork sammy and he was very pleased with his selection. While I felt the sandwich had an understated pork flavor, he commented that it could have had more sauce. His sandwich came with fried pickles that were quite good.

village whiskey duck fat fries

duck fat fries

We also ordered the duck fat fries, which were good, but I expected their flavor to be a departure from fries cooked in, say, peanut oil.

Village Whiskey also has a lobster macaroni and cheese dish that I would be interested to try next time I go. And they’ve also got a good selection of drinks on tap, including Crispin apple cider, for anyone who isn’t into the whiskey menu.

I highly recommend Village Whiskey, but definitely go there during off hours (mid-afternoon on a weekend, possibly weeknights) to ensure you grab a table. One last thing worth mentioning is that Village Whiskey has an outpost in Atlantic City, for all you Jersey folks who don’t want to make the trek to Philadelphia (though you should).

Village Whiskey

118 S. 20th Street (across from the Shake Shack, on the corner of Samson and S. 20th)

Rittenhouse, Philadelphia

1200 Miles

“You’d think the kitchen was 1,200 miles from our table,” said MGDP (My Guy Dining Partner) after he had returned from our lunch. In reality, the distance from the kitchen to our table was about 20 feet, but it felt like 1,200 miles since it took forever and a day to receive our food.

Restaurant Week is upon us in this great city of ours. Some of the fanciest places in all the land welcome plebeians into their four walls to sample three courses of delicacies—for a reasonable $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner. MGDP, MLDP (My Lady Dining Partner) and I decided to try 1200 Miles, located in Flatiron, for a deal meal.

The trouble started when the waiter came over about 10 minutes after our arrival to ask if we wanted sparkling or “De Blasio” water. “What’d he say?” asked MLDP. At the time, I laughed at this meagerly clever reference to New York City tap water, some of the finest in the country in fact. While the surly waiter retrieved our water, the three of us pored over the menu and selected our three courses.

Upon returning, waiter man asked for our orders, and I began. When I requested one of the dessert items on the list as my final course, he dismissed my request, saying, “We’ll get to that later.” In that instant, I knew we were heading into a two-hour lunch. And I was right.

I selected the gazpacho, which was green, had a definite kick and came with crunchy bits of croutons. It was delicious. MLDP opted for the tartine with summer tomatoes that tasted fresh and appetizing. MGDP got the wedge salad and he seemed delighted with his dish, although it didn’t look much like a true wedge salad to me (it was a few leaves of romaine [?] lettuce with some vegetables and a thick, murky sauce beneath the greens).

Fast forward 30 minutes later and our entrees finally arrived. I had already been routinely (and nervously) checking MGDP’s watch to see the time. By the time our second courses came, I had already informed them that I would be leaving after I finished my (very good) lasagna. The lasagna (not on their a la carte menu) did not feature sauce, but rather had an extremely dense ricotta flavor. It was served with baby vegetables (?) on the side. MLDP ordered the tuna salad and MGDP got the shaved lamb sandwich. Both dishes were met with satisfaction.

I’ll never know whether the 1200 Miles rendition of a chocolate-espresso parfait was worth trying because I didn’t stick around to have it. MGDP reported back that it was divine, adding insult to injury. But MLDP was rightfully upset with the 1.5 hours she had spent dining at 1200 Miles, and who could blame her?

You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t included photos in this post. While the food was excellent, the service was so poor—we didn’t even get bread to start while everyone around us did, for example—that I wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone. I’m only writing about it because I wanted to warn you to never go here, especially if you’ve made plans for after your meal.

For the record, I’m not sure 1200 Miles should even be eligible as a Restaurant Week option since the menu isn’t that expensive and the confusing, off-putting decor surely doesn’t put it in the upper echelons of New York City fine dining.

1200 Miles

31 West 21st St., between 5th and 6th avenues

Flatiron, NY

Take the N/R to 23rd Street and walk south two blocks and turn right onto 21st. It’s halfway down the block, but, really, don’t go here.

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