Zibetto Espresso Bar & Manhattan Gourmet 56 – New York, NY


Zibetto Espresso Bar
1385 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY

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Manhattan Gourmet 56
1377 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY
(212) 246-4410

A sunny 86F day in NYC with nothing to do in the morning.  A perfect setup for a casual walk in Manhattan and to grab a simple breakfast to enjoy on the benches of Central Park.  As a die-hard addict in need of a stiff cup of coffee in the morning, my first stop after bypassing those dreadful Starbucks outlets was Zibetto.  Essentially a long narrow space that couldn’t be more than eight feet wide and anchored by a sleek looking, white tiled and similarly colored marble counter-top bar accented with some metallic touches, it fit with my mental image of an Italian espresso bar.

Staffed with some slick looking, white shirted gents efficiently buzzing around behind the bar, there was already a strong lineup in place, as well as some other customers enjoying their cups of hot liquid at the tiny armrest like shelves jutting out from the walls.  Clearly, its a place to have your drink in a jiffy, no lounging around here sucking up free wi-fi or anything and generally disrupting the business need of turnover on the part of the proprietors.

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Dunbar Pizza and Grill – Vancouver, BC


Dunbar Pizza & Grill
3348 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 732-4999
Hours: Mon-Thu, 11am to 11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am to midnight; Sun, 4pm to 11pm
Delivery: Free within 7 kms on orders over $20; 7% off on pickup orders over $20

Sometimes the cultural mosaic that makes up this great nation of Canada brings with it some interesting and eye-catching combinations, especially when it pertains to food, and at times must surely be seen as blasphemy back in the native countries where the cuisine originates. Sure, there are the occasional experiments with fusion cuisine that often marries two opposing styles of cultural techniques and ingredients (East meets West, Ming Tsai-style comes to mind here) into a single restaurant entity. At other times, it is a primitive headbutt of cuisines that arises, presumably due to the hand-off of a food serving establishment to an entirely different person of another cultural background who then has the difficult task of having to maintain the original theme of the business to retain the existing client base, but who also wants to implant their own mark on their new found enterprise by injecting some of their own cooking methods and food knowledge.

I found a great example of this recently in the Dunbar neighborhood of Vancouver. A very homey, somewhat eclectic street (but no where near the level of say Vancouver’s Main Street or Commercial Drive), that flies under the radar for most of the city’s residents, is home to several restaurants with most of them being of the casual variety. With a relatively close proximity to the University of British Columbia campus, I am sure the numerous pizza, coffee and pubs that abound, make for some convenient pickings for students on the evening prowl. Just off the corner from 16th Avenue turning onto Dunbar, I immediately spotted two pizza joints. Having no idea which one was better, I simply went with the one that was easier to park nearby and I could see someone inside of. Through this unscientific decision process, Dunbar Pizza & Grill was the selection on this night.

Returning to the culinary crisscross that I was describing earlier, this place which first appeared to be specializing in only pizza, had a twist. The generic menu board posted on the wall inside clearly showed that samosas, roti, and curries were available as well. How strange I thought, until seeing the Indian proprietor behind the counter. A friendly chap, who seemed to be enjoying his television program on the nearby set, while another employee was gathering some boxes for an apparent delivery order. Small, medium, and large pizza pies could be had with any three toppings for $9.99, $11.99, and $13.99, respectively. As well, sixteen signature pizza options were listed as well.

Here’s where I thought I’d take a chance. A mix between an Italian and Indian place all in one was too much to pass up. As such, the Tandoori Chicken Special Pizza was my call; with part of me even thinking of by-passing pizza all together and going all-Indian with a Lamb Vindaloo or a Daal Amrtisari. It took maybe 15-20 minutes before it was ready to take home, and upon opening the box, I must say it didn’t look too bad. A good spread of toppings such as green peppers and onions, with pieces of the chicken peaking out from beneath the layer of cheese, and finished off with slices of fresh tomatoes.

Taking a slice out and examining the cross section, it was neither too think or too thin a base either. The edge crust was just fine as well, nice and crispy but not overly so. Taking a bite, all the flavors envisioned from the toppings were there, although the anticipated taste of the tanodoori chicken was not there. I was expecting much more stronger flavors in the chunks of meat. Could it have been a poor tandoori to begin with, or not a suitable topping for pizza and got masked by the cooking process in the oven or blanketed by the cheese too much, I am not fully sure. Lastly, I felt that the bottom base of the pizza was a bit overcooked for my liking. It had that slightly brittle consistency that is a clear sign it was in the oven for a few minutes too long.

So I’d say this particular experiment of melding two cuisines was not a rousing success. Frankly, the tandoori chicken could have just been chunks of regular chicken breast meat. For all the anticipation I had built up in my own mind as to what this match up would be like, I felt left down. It’s all my fault though. I clearly got overly excited with my imagination. Now if they had swapped out the tomato sauce for say a curry flavored paste, etc. then perhaps it would have really been something I’d never had before. I’ll try not to let my imagination get the best of me, the next time I see a culinary cultural collision such as this one at Dunbar Pizza & Grill.

Dunbar Pizza & Grill on Urbanspoon

Kuruma – Tokyo, JP


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Kuruma
Ginza 1st Building, B1
1-5-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, JP
Tel: 03-3561-9601
Hours: Mon-Fri, 5:30pm to 2am; Sat, 5pm-2am; Sun/Holidays, 4:30pm-11pm

With eight locations in Tokyo, and six locations in their homebase of the Kansai region, Kuruma has established itself as a leading group of restaurants under the umbrella of a company called Idea Co. Ltd.  This conglomerate also operates another chicken-speciality chain called Torikagura, as well as a pair of teppanyaki restaurants called Midou and Kanrou, as well as a kushi-katsu restaurant called DankehKuruma is all about serving the very best Miyazaki Jitokko (commonly shortened to Jidori).  Broken down, Miyazaki is a region on the southern island of Kyushu (which likes to call itself one of the “four season food baskets” of Japan), and Jitokko refers to an indigenous breed of free range chicken found in both Miyazaki and nearby Kogoshima.  It is recognized that through agricultural research and cross-breeding experiments (involving Jitokko, White Plymouth Rock, and Kyushu Road breeds) beginning in about 1965 resulted in the discovery of what is known in present-day as Miyazaki Jidori (officially branded as such in 2004).

Sourcing from Miyazaki Jidori producers on a direct contract basis, Kuruma is able to bring the highest quality and absolutely freshest product to their outlets (apparently, gate-to-plate in under 24 hours).  For comparison, consider that Miyazaki Jidori is raised over 180 days, whereas regular supermarket chicken is speed-raised in just 90-120 days.  The resulting difference is improved taste, quality, texture, fat, lack of gamey smell, all without the use of growth hormones.  Though this does make raising Miyazaki Jidori a very difficult proposition, and thus this premium brand is carefully protected both by farmers and their related industry associations.  Sort of like the way Miyazaki Beef is as well.  If you’ve ever had this premium beef, you’ll be even more amazed at what this prefecture does with chicken, and quickly understand why it can hold its own as a specialty restaurant serving only this product.

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