As you might know by now, the hit series Top Chef on Bravo TV is my absolute favorite show. For a few years now, I have been making it a point to seek out restaurants owned and/or operated by the contestants of the show. Their food is, without fail, always delicious, innovative and memorable. I have traveled much of the US, and have always found their restaurants in the cities I visited, and I have yet to be disappointed. But sometimes the good stuff you’re looking for, is right in front of you! There are quite a few eateries and restaurants by these talented chefs right here in New York City, so I got on my pony and went to see what’s for dinner!
BLT Steak is a chain of really, really good steakhouses here in the US and abroad. And who might the Culinary Director be? It’s Cliff Crooks, one time contestant of the Top Chef show, season 2 to be exact. Unfortunately he was eliminated early, when horse play got out of hand, and someone had to take the fall. Obviously the show was a little more rambunctious then (which I happened to enjoy), but at the same time I was disappointed that I didn’t see how far Chef Crooks was going to be able to go. However, he enjoyed an amazing career after leaving the show, deservedly so. I finally had a chance to visit one of the BLTs here in New York. I went with my daughter during Restaurant Week, and oh boy, it was one amazing dinner!
To start we got an order of Gruyere Popovers. To be honest, I never heard of them, let alone tried one of them. They were without question one of the best things I ever ate! 100% delicious. (I snagged up the recipe). Our appetizers were a Tomato Salad with stone fruit, pickled shallot and ricotta salata, so much flavor, it’s such a joy to have great tasting healthy dishes. We also had the Thick Cut Bacon with herbs and sherry, perfect in and of iself. As a main dish, of course, we had a New York Strip Steak, which was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and considering it was Restaurant Week, it really was huge! I couldn’t even finish it. Sasha had the Scottish Salmon with a ginger-turmeric vinaigrette and charred zucchini, and not only was it gorgeously plated, but also a culinary joy. We closed out with a Buttermilk Panna Cotta with pineapple and oat streusel, and a Sorbet with fresh fruit, both of them heavenly. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this dinner. Another must-try…
Well. You must know Chef Chris Scott, if you are regularly watching Top Chef. He appeared in season 15, where he came in at an impressive 4th runner up. He is quite memorable with a warm personality, which beams of pride, compassion and a sense of community. His cuisine is famously a mix of soul food and Amish food, aka “Amish Soul Food”. On the show he became known as the guy who made the best biscuits, so hey, I was super excited to find out he opened (now his second) biscuit spot right here in New York. There is one location of Butterfunk Biscuit Co. downtown on Vandam Street, but it’s strictly takeout and delivery. His new location is on Broadway in Harlem, just above 125th Street. At this location you can have a seat and enjoy your biscuits right there.
Here is all the good stuff I have tried out here: Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit (a perfect breakfast sandwich, ketchup and all); Crispy Fried Chicken Biscuit (Fried Lemonade Buttermilk Biscuit with whipped Pimento cheese, hot honey, bread and butter pickles, outstanding); Fried Catfish Biscuit (Cornmeal crusted catfish, tartar sauce and pickled red onions, outrageously good). I also ordered his Southern Fried Biscuit Bites with Butterfunk Caramel Sauce, which you would have to fight me in order to get me to share. And hey, if you are a pickle connoisseur, the Kool Aid Pickles are an absolute must, they are crazy good. I have, prior to my visit to the Harlem location, ordered at the downtown spot, and therefore I can also vouch for total deliciousness when it comes to the Smoked Salmon Biscuit (with Chive Cream Cheese, sliced cucumber, gribiche on an Everything Biscuit), and my absolute favorite, the Chopped Cheese Biscuit with chopped beef, cheddar cheese, Sazon ketchup, lettuce, tomato and crumbled Takis. Sweet baby Jesus. It’s all amazing.
Sara Nguyễn opened this takeout and delivery only chicken spot in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In the warmer weather you can have a seat right outside Wangs on some lovely picnic tables and benches. She was a contestant early on in Season 3, where she outlasted her co-contestants for 7 rounds. She was at the time one of the youngest contestants, which obviously didn’t stop her. She is a beautiful woman with a sweet nature, but I would bet my buns that she can be tough as nails. Her restaurant serves chicken of all different versions, all a mix of southern soul food and East Asian flavors. She prides herself in using only quality ingredients, and I swear you can 100% taste it.
I went just recently, because of course I needed to try. I bought a bunch of stuff to eat there, and to take home. My picks that day were an order of her Wangs with a Not-So-Hot Sauce, Korean Style, I’m immediately obsessed. I also got an order of the Fried Chicken (marinated in southeast Asian spices and breaded traditional southern style with a spicy dipping sauce). So fresh and unique. Last, but not least, I had the fried chicken sandwich, which is pretty much a Banh Mi, with pâté, cilantro lime aioli, jalapeños, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon on a French baguette, Vietnamese style. Even if you don’t live in Brooklyn, it’s worth a trip over the bridge to get yourself some of that good chicken!