Sunday, March 30, 2008

Say Aloha to Hawaiian Chicken

Straight out of a 1950s dinner party, Hawaiian Chicken is a nostalgic dish that despite its use of ketchup as a main ingredient stills tastes pretty darn great. Cafe Drake has adapted the recipe so you can cook the entire dish (after marination) in UNDER 15 minutes! We like it with roasted baby new potatoes (just hitting the markets now) and stir-fried broccoli. A cinch of a meal. We so no reason you couldn't substitute fish for the chicken, and pork cutlets would be even more authentically Polynesian.

Mix about 1/2 cup each ketchup and red wine vinegar in a large bowl. Add a tablespoon or three of brown sugar, 1 cup of chopped pineapple and juices and 1 heaping teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Now season to taste with salt, black pepper and soy sauce - you must use all three for a layered, richer flavor. Add thin chicken cutlets (or fish or pork) to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight.

Remove cutlets from marinade and place on an oiled baking sheet. Top with thinly sliced onions and green peppers and bake for about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Remove from oven, baste liberally with remaining marinade and pop in broiler for 5 minutes until just browning on edges.

Big Trouble in Little Korea

Little Korea (645 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 11222)

Last Saturday evening Miki and Kevin (in photo above: at the time we loved the effect of glamorous anonymity; now we wonder if we had too much cheap airplane wine at the various openings) and Cafe Drake set out to explore Williamsburg's annual Late Night Gallery Festival, held in conjunction with the four different art fairs ruling the city for the weekend. An unexpected cold spell kept us from venturing too far and wide (though of galleries visited Pierogi 2000's exhibit of vast futuristic paintings/murals by Yoon Lee was most captivating), and soon we ended up snug in a booth in Little Korea, Greenpoint's latest addition to the ever-expanding Asian cuisine cartel.

Unfortunate signage at the front door spelled Doom from the beginning, with plastic faux-bamboo lettering more appropriate to a theme park ride (think Disneyland, you know, Little Korea, right next to Frontier Land or World of Tomorrow) than a serious restaurant. tacky bamboo also appears on the enormous menus and paltry wall decorations, and we're not talking chic lacquered bamboo or we'd be in love. Large glass goblets of good Polish and Czech beer are a bargain at $5, but Cafe Drake's Ginger Kick (a "martini" of fresh ginger, sake and vodka was perfectly G-rated in terms of booze content - and where is the soju, Korea's national alcoholic treasure?) was a 7 dollar disappointment.

Poor service by befuddled Polish waitresses unversed in Korean food further marred our opening moments. And then it all went really pear-shaped. A Seafood Pancake ($7) was greasy and flavorless, saved by tender calamari but saddled with an oil-based dipping sauce. We may be Greenpointers but we don't all want Eastern European arteries! Nastiness continued with Spicy Octopus with Noodles ($12), another bland dish swimming in oil and redolent more of the pasta's cardboard box than the sea. At Little Korea one doesn't get the ubiquitous platter of tiny dishes known as banchan unless you cough up for a table side BBQ. We chose Pork Shoulder ($12), again hoodwinked by the menu's descriptive promise of "spiciness", and got some rubbery discount meat, difficult to cook on an incorrectly heated grille (blame the waitress again, though she was friendly enough). The decent banchan (potato salad, cucumber kimchi, cabbage kimchi, apple salad, rice cakes) couldn't save the pork.

In summary, stick with Queens (especially Woodside, Elmhurst, farther-out Jackson Heights) or Midtown West in Manhattan if you must, for authentic or at least tasty Korean fare, and leave Little Korea to the Greenpoint punters.

Out of the Way (but really good) Indian Fare

Lonely is an Eyesore

Nearby Socrates Sculpture Park is a nice after-lunch excursion.

Me and My (well-fed) Shadow

Punjabi 5-Star Cuisine ( 13-15 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, New York, 718/784-7444)

Lonely is an Eyesore was the title of a seminal 80s record compilation released by the goth-industrial label 4AD, a mixed grab-bag of gloomy yet danceable tunes from their macabre, premier artists. The poignant, loaded phrase rushed back to Cafe Drake some 20 years later when confronted by the dreary, grimy decaying warehouses and steel refuse of Punjabi 5-Star's immediate surroundings. Operated by Northern Indian Sikhs, the restaurant is housed in a mobile trailer/diner structure, but unlike neighboring Williamsburg's ironic-hip renovated kin (Miss Williamsburg, Broadway Diner, Relish), this aluminum tube is stuck in mid-80s renovation Hell.

Harsh overhead florescent lights jaundiced a glum-looking clientele from the wonderfully wintery late March sunshine beams piercing the front windows. Scared we were! Not to worry as an immediate salad placed on our table burst with ripe tomatoes, avocado, red onions, cucumbers, shaved carrots and all dusted with chat masala, that wonderful yet obscure Northern Indian blend of smokey, roasted spices and mega doses of salt. Condiments - always the litmus test of inexpensive Indian cuisine - rated 10 of 10 with Cafe Drake; hands down the best (and hottest) tamarind chutney we've tasted, with an exceptional fresh coriander chutney and pungent raita as sidekicks threatening to steal the show.

Onion Kulcha ($2.50) arrived piping hot and slicked with obscene (yet lovely) amounts of melted butter, the stuffed flatbread toasty from the tandoori kiln and rife with its chopped namesake in addition to roasted garlic and shredded fresh ginger. A Vegetable Biryani ($8) was equally rich and indulgent, studded throughout with dried plums, cashews and loads of market-fresh produce (stringbeans, carrots, cauliflower and potatoes), flavorful beyond any standard Punjabi fare. Thoughtfully, as if she read our minds with her scarlet third eye painted between threaded eyebrows, a dish of sliced green chiles appeared on our table courtesy of the exceptionally attentive waitress.

Recommended beyond belief. If you can get beyond the desolate location and forlorn interiors.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mini Restaurant/Bar Reviews (late March 2008)

Dressler (149 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718/384-6343)

Tournesol ( 50-12 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101, 718/472-4355)

Noodle Studio (116 North 5th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718/218-7260)

Hugs (108 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211)

Black Rabbit Bar (91 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222)

Death & Company (433 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009, 212/388-0882)

230 Fifth (230 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10001, 212/725-4300)

Cafe Charbon (170 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002, 212/420-7520)

Sunny skies and plummeting temperatures characterized Easter 2008 in NYC, but luckily warmth and beauty was secured by Cafe Drake at South Williamsburg's only Michelin-starred restaurant, Dressler (2nd photo). Seated across from two lovely companions - Jennifer Lazzaro and Julie Bench - and with a view of the Belle Epoch building's rococo ironwork, multi-paned picture windows and, in a nod to the unseasonal Spring, enormous arrangements of forced cherry blossom branches, we tucked into solid and substantial brunch entrees. Generally excellent service and gracious surroundings made up for pricey fare. Can we talk? $11 for a Bloody Mary. Same for a Bellini. Cheapest wine by the glass: $10 (though a very , very good South African Chenin Blanc). Mains hover around $15 and well worth it: an Eggs Benedict swapping the muffin for a huge and flaky biscuit; an over-stuffed omelet bursting with bacon and shallots, and a chorizo and grits ensemble perfect for the chilly morning.

Tucked away amidst luxury high-rise condos and still-industrial side streets, Tournesol is the latest in an invasion of cafes, boutiques and bistros claiming ground in the farthest river-side reaches of The Little Neighborhood That Could (and Has), Long Island City. Serving authentic Left Bank fare (along with attitudinal French waiters), Tournesal delivered a delightful brunch to Jorge Manahan and Cafe Drake before a recent Costco run. In a tiny, packed space, with house music blaring at after-party volume and BPM intensity, these guys still deliver, beginning with superb sourdough bread and triple-cream butter. A Croque Madame ($12) set a new standard for Parisian street food; the lightly fried egg's yolk bursting over perfectly toasted bread and cheese and salty ham. The Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon ($11) were less promising, probably because the fish had been cooked too long with the eggs and released unappetizing amounts of water. Still, EPIC fries and smartly dressed greens saved the day. We'll definitely be heading back for the nightly Plat du Jour specials ($17 every night, including rabbit with prunes and steak au poivre).

Do you need a hole in the head? Does Williamsburg need yet another Thai slop kitchen? Can we get a HELLS NO??!! No matter, as the Hipster Nation has developed a nasty addiction to canned Massaman curry paste and coconut milk and despite the misleading moniker (suggesting perhaps a soba joint?) Noodle Studio delivers plenty of the same, the same as on every corner. Poor Cafe Drake was seated beneath the harsh light of a extra-wide skylight, exposing every brutal detail of the grimy dining room, and with panic rising resorted to pharmaceuticals to brace against the ensuing dross. A cheap glass of okay Sangiovese ($5) dulled the edges but overwhelmed the "house soup", a mysterious concoction of dish water and straw mushrooms. Even more vile was a sad plate of fish cakes ($5), straight from the frozen food aisles of Hong Kong supermarket and doused in rancid oil. A sickly sweet dipping sauce - along with pro-offered condiments did little to remedy a hopeless cause. We can't speak about the Chicken Peanut Curry ($7) as we're pretty sure it was the trigger for a later afternoon stomach flu scare.

You know we can get drunk - happily - anywhere, but why not inebriate in the poshest possible surroundings? 230 Fifth and Death & Co (top photo) both fit the luxury standard test, so much we never really wanted to leave. The former boasts a year-round rooftop deck, all comfy with heat blowers and a small plates menu, while the latter evokes speakeasy-era New York with none of the theme park cheesiness so typical of literal-minded bars. Death & Co offers such an astonishing selection of small-batch rye whiskies you basically have to order a Manhattan ($12) or Old Fashioned ($12). Neither are cheap so save your pennies for a particularly difficult day to fritter away the diaper money in style. But DO. By all means.

Cafe Drake is past the days of bar crawling; we rarely ever hit liquid pit stops without the promise of an eclectic DJ and thriving dance floor. Hugs is worth a trip out of exile. The bar's closest competitor, Savalas, came a bit late in our game so we never warmed to its dubious charms. And it turns out there was never a need, as Hugs spins ace tunes all night with a far hipper crowd, more attractive bar staff and smoking EVERYwhere. A great place to recapture lost, tainted youth yes, but sometimes the Adult Gene kicks in (rarely, granted) and you want drink appropriate to your age. Head on over then to the Hot Strip of Greenpoint Avenue between Manhattan and Franklin Aves for classy cocktails in the pitch dark of Black Rabbit. Yes we've sung this crimson-colored bar's praises before, but they just keep getting better and better.

Manahattan's Lower East Side is rapidly lowering its standards to the once-glorious, now hideous neighborhood to the north, the East Village. An oasis is Cafe Charbon, family friendly at lunch but yielding to the party crows after midnight. Cheap French ciggies on sale in front plus a very decent brunch special for $15 that includes fresh-squeezed OJ, strong coffee, a Bloody Mary and if you choose, a minute but tasty Croque Monsieur.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Random Acts of Tastiness

It's that time of year again, mid-winter, when we fall in love once more with kumquats. A bright burst of citrus flavor heralding spring to come.


Feel free to spike with rum or vodka as you so desire. The recipe below is lightly adapted from Tableau Vivante, a stunning food blog based in California.

2 cups of well washed kumquats, quartered and seeded / ¾ cup brown sugar /1 pitcher full of water / sparkling water of any sort

  1. Fill the pitcher that will house your punch to 3/4 full with fresh water.
  2. In a large pot on the stove combine the sugar, water, and fruit and bring to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally and scooping off any foam that forms on the surface.
  3. Cook until the peel starts to separate from the fruit, longer for a more concentrated kumquat flavor. The liquid will be a pale summer yellow.
  4. Remove from heat and add a cinnamon stick if desired and allow to cool.
  5. Strain the liquid into the pitcher and chill.
  6. Before serving to guests, add about 1/4 bottle sparkling water to punch, stir and pour.
Plenty of time for reading while slow simmering those final winter stews lately. Cafe Drake is deeply loving Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts. No better introduction to this disturbing yet profound and beautiful book than a mini viral film featuring an aural performance of Raw Shark by Tilda Swinton herself. Watch it HERE! Perhaps our favorite book of 2008 thus far is David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, at least the third terrific novel we've devoured from this alchemical writer who seems to perform supernatural transformations in the reader with words alone.

Rich and spicy, an Indian stew to warm a chilly night. Serve with rice or wedges of roasted potato. Best of all, you can walk away from dish completely for an hour and a half on the stovetop, freeing up plenty of time to dig into one of the books mentioned above.
1 1/2 T. grainy mustard / 2 t. ground cumin / 2 t. turmeric / 2 t. cayenne pepper / 1 t. salt / 1 t. red wine vinegar / 3 T. oil / 1 onion, sliced thin / 6 cloves of garlic, minced / 1 1/4 lbs. pork shoulder cut in cubes (or lamb!) / 2/3 cup coconut milk
  1. Mix mustard, cumin, turmeric, pepper, salt and vinegar together in a small bowl to make a thick paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet. When hot add onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, careful not to burn.
  3. Add spice paste to pan and cook for another minute or so.
  4. Add meat and stir for 3 minutes, then add coconut milk and about 2/3 cup of water.
  5. When boiling, turn to low and cover.
  6. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.
  7. If the vindaloo remains too liquidy, cook uncovered on high heat for 5 minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. The sauce will thicken nicely.
Cauliflower simply sauteed with brown mustard seeds and dried red chiles. Perfect as a side to fish, fowl or meat. Pile over brown or basmati rice for a vegetarian entree.

Jennifer L seems well-pleased with Easter Brunch at Dressler. Full review to follow soon.

Sailor has difficulty adjusting to Daylight Savings Time.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Night of Classic Nippon Cuisine

Cafe Drake recently has the rare, glorious opportunity to sample a multi-course meal of home-cooked Japanese classic cuisine, courtesy of neighbor and grand pal Miki-san. Hiro joined us for an authentic dinner from the Land of the Rising Sun, complete with shochu (Japanese high octane liquor far favored over sake) cocktails (initially, with grapefruit in a citrus-sour combo, then shaken with Midori and lemon) and Cafe Miki mascot, Berry the Too Cute Kitty.

We'll never be able to completely recall the multitudinous splendour laid out before us for two hours +, but highlights included: shrimp crackers, dried squid with peppered mayonnaise, perfect rice spiked with chicken and bamboo shoots, hiziki seaweed studded with mountain yam and carrots, savory baked egg custards bursting with chicken and stringbeans and cradled in a clear broth, fried tofu dressed with shaved daikon radish, asparagus tips rolled in ham and so much more. Hats off to Miki for keeping Tradition alive and sharing the lively tastes with our appreciative selves!!


A nice stew on still cold Spring evenings, or a marvelous entree for Easter Brunch, this recipe does require fresh herbs if you can find them.

1 1/2 lbs boneless leg of lamb (or shoulder cut 1-inch cubes) / 1 tablespoon olive oil / 1 small yellow onion, sliced , 3 garlic cloves, crushed / 1 sprig fresh rosemary / 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste / 2 bay leaves / 5 cups beef stock / 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes / 2 large red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges / 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar / kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

  1. In a medium pot, stir lamb cubes in hot oil. When well-browned, add onions and garlic and cook until onions are golden.

  2. Add tomato paste, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves and cook for another 3 minutes. Add beef stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

  3. Add carrots and potatoes and simmer for another 20 minutes.

  4. Make sure potatoes are not overcooked. Add vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves, thyme and rosemary.

  5. Serve with crusty bread and good butter. A few cucumber pickles are also really nice with this dish.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy (Chilly, Rainy, Gray) Spring ! !

Leap Year has thrown everything out of sync in 2008, especially a horribly early Easter Sunday with little time for preparation . . . not to mention a dreaded Daylight Savings Time changeover so premature as to be gruesome. Like we need to get up an hour earlier with a fiercer hangover here at Cafe Drake!

Rolling with the punches dealt however, Cafe Drake has planned a holiday brunch out with good friends and welcomed the Spring shift despite snow showers and slate-colored skies. In honor of the most transient of seasons, we offer yet another variation on the time-proven and most heavenly of food combinations - Asparagus and Egg.


Lightly adapted from The Pat Conroy Cookbook ( a gift from Cafe Drake's Dirty South cousin Anne Michaels), this is a quick-fire Cafe Drake version sure to please as both a brunch side dish or Spring dinner party starter.

Roughly: saute 1 large bunch of asparagus (rinsed and broken at the bending portion of the stem) in 2 T. butter for 3 minutes until softened. Transfer to a covered dish kept warm in a LOW oven (do not exceed 200 degrees if your model does not have a "Warm" setting).

Meanwhile break 3-4 quail eggs into a buttered skillet over low heat. If quail eggs are hard to come by (they shouldn't be now as a stock feature in most basic markets), substitute 2 chicken eggs. Spread the whites out gently with a wooden spoon and cook till whites are just set firmly.

Place asparagus spears on a platter and top with eggs. Sprinkle with previously-fried crumbled bacon or pancetta. If desired, sprinkle further with Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper generously.

Trout with Pecans

Warm up lemons on the stovetop before juicing always; the stubborn citrus available in most American markets yields twice the juice if slightly heated.

Never hesitate to set a charming table for One.

Here's how we do it fast enough to finish during one cigarette: dredge 3-4 fillets of any thin white fish (trout, flounder etc) in a plate of flour heavily seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat 3-4 T. butter and 1 T. canola oil in a large skillet till nearly smoking. Fry fish for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, turning carefully. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate kept warm in a low oven. Now add 1 cup pecans and saute for 5 minutes, then add 2 T. lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute and season with additional salt to taste. Pour over fish. Voila!

Cafe Drake loves this simple fish entree draped over a mound of well-seasoned mashed potatoes. Boil chopped potatoes, drain, return to pan over warm heat and stir till all moisture is removed. Add butter, warm milk or cream and plenty of salt. Above you will see we spiced up the spuds with cayenne pepper for an extra kick.

Of course, first dibs always go to furry angels when fish is on the menu!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

LINKS Warning ! ! ! ! May Cause Dizziness!!

It's been brought to our attention that certain links on this site lead visitors to intended destinations, but without easy access back to Cafe Drake.
ALL photos may be clicked upon for larger versions, and subsequently right-clicked upon "to save" to your hard drive.

Links to other websites or Radio Cafe Drake - FIRZ-FM and recommended playlists may cause confusion and browser stubbornness. If so plagued by contrary technology, RIGHT CLICK upon links found herein and designate to open within a separate or new window.

This should eliminate those wild goose chases back to Cafe Drake we've heard about from many disgruntled patrons. In the future we'll try to make things easier. Promise.


Please join Cafe Drake in wishing our Mother March birthday greetings! Below you will find a favorite Cafe Drake dish of our mother's, prepared for her on a previous visit to us here in Brooklyn.


4 lamb shanks (trimmed of excessive fat) / 1 large onion /4 garlic cloves / 3 cups beef stock / 1 cup red wine / 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence seasoning / 2 tablespoons vegetable oil / 1/2 cup flour / 1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper / 4 bay leaves /salt and pepper

  1. Combine flour and pepper in large ziplock bag (we used a freezer bag).

  2. Dredge lamb shanks in flour.

  3. Thinly slice onion, mince garlic.

  4. Heat oil in large frying pan. Fry shanks until golden brown on each side.

  5. Place shanks in Dutch Oven, or large oven proof pot with lid.

  6. Add minced garlic and bay leaves to pot.

  7. Add onion slices to frying pan.

  8. Cook stirring occasionally until onion is soft.

  9. Add red wine to frying pan. Cook stirring occasionally until slightly syrupy, approximately five minutes.

  10. Pour onion mixture over shanks.

  11. Sprinkle seasoning over shanks. Pour beef stock into pot.

  12. Cook in 375 F oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

  13. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Think You Have a Problem Conjuring an Appetite for Breakfast?

Drugs Made Pauline Vague

Drugs made Pauline vague.
She sat one day at the breakfast table
Fingering in a baffled way
The fronds of the maidenhair plant.

Was it the salt you were looking for dear?
said Dulcie, exchanging a glance with the Brigadier.

Chuff chuff Pauline what's the matter?
Said the Brigadier to his wife
Who did not even notice
What a handsome couple they made.

- Stevie Smith, English poetess (1902-1971)



Feel free to substitute smoked haddock or trout or whitefish for the cod used below. Cafe Drake dishes this homey Irish "bake" up alongside boiled new potatoes (you'll need a starch of some sort anyway) and buttery steamed carrots. Only one beverage to accompany this meal of course - a tall, frothy glass (or two) of Guinness stout.

1 - 1.5 lbs. smoked cod / 2 T. butter / 2 leeks, thinly sliced / 1 oz. flour / 1 C. milk / 2 T. of cream / fresh black pepper / bay leaf / chopped parsley / grated SHARP cheddar cheese

  1. Generously grease a pie dish with butter, remove all bones from fish and cut in portions, place in pie dish.

  2. Melt butter in a saucepan, add leeks, cook gently for two minutes. Add in flour and cook for one minute.

  3. Whip in milk and cream. Bring to the boil.

  4. Pour sauce over fish, add bay leaf.

  5. Cover and bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes.

  6. Remove cover, sprinkle cheese over the fish and return to the oven to brown.

Even More from the Mind of Cafe Drake

There's a new mix in town at Radio Cafe Drake, FIRZ-FM, possibly our most eclectic yet - musically disparate yet strangely compatible tracks from the various likes of Hot Chip, Jens Lekman, Luna, Le Loup, Andrew Bird and many more. Guaranteed for any event. Click on the link to experience Open Minds, Open Hearts.

Think $8 can't buy a decent Bordeaux? Well think again; think Chauteau Haut Branda, a vineyard just releasing their smooth and light 2006 vintage. Cafe Drake found a bottle even at our corner ghetto liquor store - famous for stocking very little that is very good - so you should have no worries scoring a case. Dry but fruity just enough to sip solo, we've enjoyed it paired with everything from pizza to pepper steak.

Who knew Antony (of the Johnsons) could translate the characteristic warble, so perfect for his neo-cabaret torch songs, to dance music for the Chronic Fatigue set? Flitting in and out of minimalist techno beats, the mid-tempo styling of Hercules and Love Affair adds romance to any gathering. For a sneak peek check out the Open Minds, Open Hearts mix plugged above.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1st Annual Choice Eats Food Fair

The East Village's historic Puck Building was recent host to the 1st Annual Choice Eats Food Fair, a selection of 35+ restaurants hand-selected from the five boroughs by Village Voice food critic and ethnic cuisine adventurer Robert Sietsma. Sprawling through two large ballrooms, vendors set up booths and hawked their exotic wares, while attendees were kept well-lubricated and peckish via passed cocktails and local artisan brews and wines. A few major snafus on the planning side occurred, primarily, an over-booked space, intense crowding and an eventual shortage of food. Cafe Drake and foodie pals Jorge, Dorothy, Susan and Kenna found plenty to eat however, and waddled out the grand lobby doors stuffed to the gills and in need of further cocktails only. See a few photos above from the uber-event and a couple from after-party drinks graciously hosted at Jorge's Williamsburg pad.

Standout offerings included: Chiyono's ( pickled lotus root salad, Deshi Biryani's ( fragrant and sweet namesake rice dish and tiny chat pooris, house-cured pastrami with super hot mustard courtesy of Williamsburg's Fette Sau, impossibly creamy and rich hummos, tender pita and fava bean stew from Hummos Place (, greens, fruited couscous and goat cheese fritters dished out at La Maison du Couscous (, NY's first South African restaurant Madiba's ( gooey vanilla corncake, Mercadito's ( tiny shrimp tacos, intense jerk chicken perfectly prepared by Peppa's, lentils and Ethiopian beef stew from Queen of Sheba ( and superb rice pancakes with all the trimmings spooned up graciously at Tiffin Wallah (

Among the few disappointments: leaden pot stickers at Vanessa's Dumpling House, bland Greek drudge from Philoxenia, lukewarm franks at Schnitzel Haus and underwhelming Barbadan fare a la Bajan Cafe. The true dog of the night was also Bajan - Culpepper's dry mac-and-cheese, too salty fried rice and gag-inducing roll-ups of oily, grimey fish.