Maverick Monday: Boiled Over?

This past Monday Marissa took me to The Boil on the Lower East Side for seafood by the pound. The minute she told me about this place, I was sold. A longtime fan of the California chain, The Boiling Crab, I thought I’d always have to travel cross country to satisfy this craving: boiled shrimp/crab/crawfish/lobster by the pound with a seasoning of your choice–or an intense mixture of them all–served in a plastic bag. With corn on the cob and potatoes added to the mix, this is a seafood lover’s dream. Would The Boil be equally as good or better? There’s only one way to find out!

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Upon entering this venue of oceanic enchantment, we were greeted by hip hop in the speakers and two young Chinese men with spiky hair and baggy jeans, jamming to the beat while behind the host stand. I could already tell this was my kind of place; I was totally digging the energy and vibe. Past the bar where people were already drinking and chowing down, one of the cool dudes led us into the dining/kitchen area where the wooden tables were clad in brown butcher paper and plastic bag-lined metal buckets. The clean, brightly-lit and well-ventilated kitchen boiling pounds of crustaceans instantly made my mouth water in anticipation of all the tasty little bottom feeders. Can we dig in already?! Only after we address how hot/cute/beautiful our waitress was and her personality matched her appearance. Looking like Basketball Wives: LA’s Draya Michelle, but an Asian version from Kazakhstan, I was smitten and had to tell her so. I’d go back to The Boil just for her, screw the food! … Just kidding; never screw the food. Never. Here’s what we ordered:

Me
2 lbs of shrimp in garlic butter and Old Bay seasoning, medium spicy
Crème Chocolate

Marissa
King Crab legs and shrimp in garlic butter and lemon pepper combo (1 lb each), fire hot
An additional pound of shrimp, same as above

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Bibs on, we pounced on the food, rabidly digging into our bags and peeling and eating in silence. I was boiling over in happiness, joy, contentment, and any other word that expresses total elation. This was shrimp ecstasy for me! Approximately one pound into my shrimp, after allowing the corn and potatoes to sit and soak up the seasoning in the bag, I bit into my corncob and almost swooned at the garlicky, buttery sweetness; the potatoes were perfect as well, and I’m not really even a corn or potato kind of girl. But these?! Lawdamercy. Dessert was simple and delicious, a sweet ending to a fantastic meal. I ate it so fast I forgot to take a pic, so just imagine an old school to-go flan in an aluminum foil cup and you get the idea.

The bags of magic The Boil serves are worth their weight in gold and I can’t wait to go back! I will not be logging any frequent flier miles to Cali anytime soon with this place in my backyard. OOOO WEEE!

Meeting “The General”

Every week, my girlfriend Marissa of comeexploremyworld.blogspot.com and I leave work and have dinner together on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to better explore the neighborhood and its offerings. We fondly refer to this night as Maverick Monday, as it is the perfect way to catch up on the previous week/weekend and to kick off the new one, and also to strategize world domination.

Our latest excursion found us at The General (http://emmgrp.com/restaurants/the-general/), a “bustling destination restaurant serving up modern Asian cuisine, including sushi specialties and assorted items from the robata grill, in an inspired and imaginative style,” as their website states. This “multi-concept restaurant seamlessly straddles dining atmospheres ranging from a seasonal sidewalk café to a social high-top dining space and an acclaimed Jazz Room, where guests can experience The General’s full, a la carte menu set to the sounds of an authentic, live jazz experience.  Featuring fare that is both grounded in technique and elevated by flavor The General carves out a niche as a something-for-everyone space…” What better way to experience this than to go during NYC Restaurant Week, when prix-fixe menus in the city’s top restos abound? Luckily, The General was on the list.

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The décor grabbed us immediately, the hostess not so much. Therefore, I have pictures of the atmosphere and none of her.

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The black and white floor was one of my favorite features, and I really liked the Chinese characters painted on the subway-tiled columns, as well as the wallpaper depicting the Forbidden City during the Cultural Revolution. Even though I’m not a fan of Chairman Mao’s face, everything came together very nicely; old fused with new in our surroundings made for a nice touch on food that suggested it would do the same. With Top Chef Season 3 Winner Executive Chef Hung Huynh, at the helm, I figured we shouldn’t be disappointed.

After handling the important matter of ordering drinks, which all had fun and creative names…

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it was time pick what we’d be eating while planning our world domination (the main reason for Maverick Mondays, naturally). We ordered their renowned Chinese Chicken Tacos, Mercy Roll (spicy tuna sushi), Spicy Schezuan Chicken, Lemongrass Shrimp, and Hung’s Fried Rice (with Chinese sausage and a fried) as a side dish. To round out the meal we had the famous Green Tea Doughnut and Sticky Coconut Cake for dessert.

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My brief and amateurish critique: The tacos were reminiscent of Sloppy Joes, only with ground chicken instead of beef; the only difference is that the sauce was slightly more sweet-and-sour like with scallions added to the mix. I could’ve made this at home, and probably done a better job of it. I enjoyed eating it while I was there, however in retrospect, it wasn’t worth the hype. At all. I didn’t eat the Mercy Roll, but it looked like a typical spicy tuna maki roll to me, only with a pesto-looking sauce for dipping. Not impressed. The Lemongrass Shrimp (apologies, no pic) was tasty and perfectly cooked, but not unique in flavor and the portion was rather small. My Spicy Schezuan Chicken (again, no pic) was the biggest portion of all, yet it wasn’t spicy, and it got saltier with every bite. My neighborhood Chinese takeout spot is 1000x better and cheaper. Thank the food gods for Hung’s Fried Rice, the best savory dish of the night (as depicted by my the nutty Marissa). Without it, I would not have been able to swallow my salty chicken. The perfect blend of sweet and savory, the Chinese sausage and fried egg were a treat to my flavor-starved taste buds. This dish singlehandedly reminded me of my childhood and saved the meal for me. And then there was dessert.

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Oh my god, the desserts were amazing! The stars of the night! The Sticky Coconut Cake was just sweet enough, thanks to the coconut water sorbet that tempered the sweetness of the cake and the candy pineapple & mango sauce. The portion was extremely small though. I was finished in three bites and ready to move on to the more substantial doughnut. This doughnut, replete with green tea mascarpone cream was the undisputed winner. One bite of this (with a little lemon honeycomb drizzled on top) made be forget everything I ate previously and had me thinking this meal was delicious and a repeat. We were even discussing how great the place would be for an event! Now that I’ve calmed down and had awhile to reflect on the meal in its entirety, I can soberly say that this meal was extremely overpriced (the Restaurant Week menu was a savior to our pocketbooks), overrated, and underwhelming. If not for the décor, company/conversation, fried rice and dessert, this experience would be forgettable. I’d rather go to China Grill; they’ve never disappointed me in quality or quantity. This meal had me rethinking the integrity of Top Chef…

I guess the hostess was the perfect indicator restaurant itself: she was cute, but she totally missed the mark.
Oh well, until next time… Mavericks out!

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