Thursday, March 18, 2010

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC Restaurant 5

Restaurant 5: Waverly Restaurant
385 Avenue of the Americas (at Waverly Pl.)
New York City.
Rating: 5
Description: Listed on the menu as "Home Fried Potatoes," listed by the waiter as "Hash browns"
Actual Description: Hash Browns!!! The slightly heavier, heartier-kind.

Yep, this is it. The real deal. The Real McCoy. Reality meeting the dream. And it was good. VERY GOOD.

Upon receiving a hash brown-recommendation from a fellow Yelper, I made date to visit the Waverly Restaurant. (I'd been to the Waverly Restaurant years before, completely unaware they served hash browns. Had I known this, I would have been eating there every day for the past ten years.) My fellow Yelper, Alex S. (Thank you so much, Jando!!), provided me with a description of what I was to find--this even included a photo!--"They are listed as home fries, but they are prepared as hash browns." This was extraordinarily good news to me as I had perused the Waverly Restaurant menu looking for "Hash Browns" but had found none. Having Alex's confirmation that these potatoes were, in fact, the real thing, made my decision easy: Waverly Restaurant for dinner.

Once there at the restaurant and seated, I opened up the menu to find one of the most extensive diner menus available. The "Home Fried or French Fried Potatoes" listing was located on the Breakfast foods menu hidden under the egg and omelet platter listings in small and italicized font. Such a little introduction for such a BIG deal!!

I ordered a half of a grapefruit and a mushroom, tomato and broccoli omelet. The waiter looked at me and asked, "Would you like hash browns or french fries with that?" HASH BROWNS! He called them HASH BROWNS!!!
Hash browns, please! And that's what came to dinner: Real-life hash browns.


Served warm, with a luscious, almost buttery texture complemented by the crisp and crunchy golden-brown outside layer, these hash browns were hearty potato shreds. They were of the heavier, richer-nature, with larger gratings and the distinct full taste of a mixture of butter and oil. They were barely seasoned, a touch of salt and no more, but did not require a second salting. A second salting for me, the salt-fiend, but it was really not necessary. The mouthwatering taste of true hash browns was perfected by the melt-in-your mouth consistency.

I cried I was so happy. I sat in the back booth against the back wall and cried. It was like being home.

Thank you Alex S. for the recommendation, and thank you Waverly Place. Truly exceptional.

Next up: To find the perfect hash brown -- the light and fluffy kind.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC Restaurant 4

Restaurant 4: Quantum Leap Restaurant
226 Thompson Street
New York City.
Rating: 1
Description: "Hashbrowns"
Actual Description: Mealy and tasteless (except for that BURNT flavor), with a playdough-like consistency.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."
-Mason Verger in Hannibal

Yes, that's what Verger said, while recounting the day Hannibal Lector convinced him to peel his face off. That's what you'll be thinking as you shovel in (and then immediately out) Quantum Leap Restaurant's "Hashbrowns."

Close in appearance to what hash browns should look like, these little potatoes are... misleading. Expecting a mouthful of savory, moist potato gratings, you'll be disappointed to be chewing (or attempting to chew) a dry, yet soggy at the same time, hunk of potatoes. As the potato mixes with your saliva (the liquid your glands have been producing in anticipation for delicious hash browns), a paste is made. A potato paste. A paste that tastes like a potato that has cleaned the burnt residue off the kitchen range, been shredded and placed in your mouth.

It's not good.
Not even close to good.
It is BAD.

The shredded potatoes are a little too white in the center and a little too dark-brown around the edges... not enough golden-brown. The outside pieces are flaky-looking, while the inside looks a little like hardened mashed potatoes. While examining the three orders my boyfriend and I purchased in high hopes of a delicious treat, we came to the conclusion that the potatoes must have been boiled, then shredded. Then they must have been thrown onto the range sans salt, oil or pepper or any kind of flavoring.

In lack of a better word: GROSS.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC Restaurant 3

Restaurant 3: Prune
54 E. 1st Street
New York City.
Rating: 4.5
Description: "Potatoes Rosti"
Actual Description: Something close to hash browns--a shredded potato patty.

At Prune, the brunch wait at peak brunch-time can be anywhere from a half an hour to two. By the time you've made it into the restaurant and to your table, the idea of real hash browns can be overwhelming. Hopes that the Potatoes Rosti will be the hash browns you've been dreaming of can set your expectations to an unattainable high. Although the Potatoes Rosti has been challenged by these unreasonably set expectations (and is not exactly the typical hash brown) it will NOT disappoint.
Prune's Potatoes Rosti is the closest I've found to hash browns in NYC. It is the closest to hash browns mainly in texture. However, they are thinner potato gratings than regular hash browns, clumped together to form a patty, which is then cut in half and served. The outside layer is fried crispy and golden brown. The moist inside is more comparable in texture and taste to the typical hash brown, but is slightly lacking in flavor. To solve this problem, ask for a side of salt. Potato-salt lovers: You will be satisfied with exquisite texture and salty goodness.

The Potatoes Rosti is best served with a fried egg so that the potato may be brushed through the moist golden yolk, which adds to the flavor and creates a wonderful contrast to the crispy outer-layer. What a delectable combination! Prune's Potatoes Rosti is definitely worth the wait.

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC Restaurant 2

Restaurant 2: DBGB Kitchen and Bar
299 Bowery
New York City.
Rating: 3

Description on the menu: "Hash browns"
Actual description: Served in a mini-cast iron pan lays a miniature wedge of mushed potatoes with a slightly crispy edge. Despite this awkward description--and the fact that it not true to its name... no hash browns here--it is savory and delicious. However, onion-haters beware: There is a distinct flavor of sauteed onions mixed throughout the potato cake, and in some areas, the flavor is like eating straight-up onion. This version of "hash brown" (aka: potato cake) is very similar to Cafe Cluny's in consistency and texture; however, the inside potato is a bit more moist at CBGB's and the outside potato has an almost caramelized-coating, which is down-right delectable. However, CBGB's potato cake could use a dash more salt to counter the sweetened taste of the onion. A nice side order and will satisfy that potato-craving, but still, no hash browns.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC Restaurant 1

Restaurant 1: Cafe Cluny
284 W. 12th Street (at W. 4th Street)
New York City.
Rating: 3
Description on the menu: "Hash browns"
Actual description: More like a potato cake: tiny potato nuggets clumped together into a large cake about an inch thick and pan-seared on each side, creating a crusty outside layer of slightly fried potato.  Inside, the potato stays mushy with bits of potato with slightly thicker consistency, but without noticeably varying texture.  The cake is then cut into slices, which is served along side their Herb Omelette or alone as a side. Tasty, but not hash browns. 

Rating Guide: From 1 (Worst)-5 (Best)

THE HUNT: Hash browns in NYC

                                                              image from

Hash browns: light and fluffy shavings of potato, lightly kissed by a frying pan so that the edges of each shaving turn golden brown and become delicately crisp as the lace of an antique doily, while keeping its moist texture and muted, but undeniably familiar, taste of home. 

I am on a hunt for hash browns.  Real HASH BROWNS. 

New York City is the city of "Breakfast Potatoes" or "Homefries." Neither come close to hash browns.  They are inferior.  Chunks of crumbling, dry potatoes seasoned with chili powder, paprika, sometimes rosemary, thyme and other herbs are tossed about a frying pan with lumps of green peppers, cut up onion, and occasionally diced tomatoes. Breakfast potatoes are meaty and dense.  Hash browns are airy and exquisite. 

The search is on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

obsessions and addictions

Obsession food: Tempura Onigiri
Where: Cafe Zaiya
entrance through Kinokuniya Bookstore on 6th ave (btwn 40th and 41st sts.)

All I want is Tempura Onigiri. That's all I ever seem to want as of late. Its "Batter-Fried Shrimp" description doesn't even come close to describing its delectable nature. The flaky, almost crunchy, melt-on-your-tongue-the-moment-it-hits seaweed paper combined with the sweet, softly moist rice make for an excellent combination. And just when you think, "It's pretty good," then creeps in a hint of salt, a bit of crunch, and a wave of lightly spicy-goodness. The taste rises in your mouth as the ingredients mingle together and create a full expanse of deliciousness.

Then you realize that you've eaten the entire thing, and all you want is another.

The preparation to eat this small portion of Japanese wonder adds to its comprehensive nature. Peeling the Scotch Magic Tape from the back and separating its wings of seaweed allows you to pull the cherry-colored tab at the top, ripping through the top plastic wrap of the handroll. This allows each side of the plastic wrap to be pulled out and off, displaying a perfectly triangular-shaped hunk of rice carefully wrapped in dark green seaweed paper with the hidden treasure of shrimp tempura only hinted at by the lightly-fried shrimp tail peeking out from the top.

You've created a little piece of perfection, which you raise to your lips and slide between your teeth as you take your first bite.... thus starting the addiction. Soon you find yourself thinking of it with the same warmth that you would a dear friend. You think, "I could have another... Just one more." Cafe Zaiya, I'm in love.