Meet Pichet Ong’s Impossible to Pronounce Cocktail, the Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit

The Krungthep

Yes, this cocktail is for real, and it’s a delicious (and cheap!) one at that.

The Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit — known as the “Krungthep” for short — could even be considered the house cocktail at Qi, Pinchet Ong’s pristine new temple to Bangkok-style Thai, as that string of indecipherable words is a name for Old Bangkok, more than one server confirmed.

While sheer audacity of the name is what caught my attention — (“Really, five lines for the name of a cocktail in a bar menu? Is this some sort of gimmick?”) — in actuality, the Krungthep is a lovely cocktail composed of gin, vodka, star anise, ginger, yuzu, lime, Thai iced tea and guava juice. It’s fruit-forward without being too sweet, complex without being pretentious. When the heat of the spicy beef mango salad flared up, a sip of the Krungthep would set things right. Likewise, this cocktail has the backbone to withstand any heat it may receive for its name. (e.g. “Couldn’t it just be called “The Krungthep” from the start?“)

Qi Bangkok Eatery, 675 Eighth Ave., btwn 42nd and 43rd sts., 212-247-8991.

Wednesday: Kashmir Grill Finds Its Stride (aka the “$3.99 30th Anniversary Lunch Special” Post)

Dang. In business for 30 years in this dismal neighborhood?!

photo-5Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority has to be one of the last bastions of that gritty, grimy, seedy New York City that far too many New Yorkers wax poetic about, wearing it as some badge of pride.

Well, I’ve seen far more of it than I ever cared to having worked nearby for not even a year — so I can’t imagine the tales that Kashmir Restaurant, an open-around-the-clock Pakistani-Indian restaurant located at the nexus of it all, could tell. If only these freshly-painted walls could talk.

From when I first heard that the restaurant had reopened as a counter-service spot with a spruced-up interior, and had done away entirely with the perpetually stale, and slightly terrifying (and yes, I ate there) lunchtime food buffet, it was only a matter of time until I made a visit.

photo-7Now known as Kashmir Grill, the restaurant is offering two “30 years promotion specials”: A $2.99 kabab roll and a $3.99 rice and chicken special (regularly priced $4.99). In hindsight, I think I would have rather tried the roll, which consists of two grilled kababs wrapped up in naan bread — all the better to sample the new grill feature that I’m assuming prompted the name change.

But I might be thinking about that now because the rice and chicken plate was, well, just okay. Not that I have an issue with offal, but I like to know when I’m ordering it. And I’m fairly certain that not all of the chicken meat was simply white or dark meat pieces, there were some other bits mixed in. The rice was satisfactory, if a little burnt. And the cuts of romaine lettuce laid across the top of the rice and under the charred naan — well, they were neither salad nor anything, other than out of place.

photo-6For the price, you can’t beat it, but I still prefer the meat plate from the nearby food cart, Meal O’Bama.

That kabab roll, on the other hand ... I’m still thinking about it. I think it’s the way to go; I have high hopes. Because really, Kashmir Grill can’t have made it this far for nought.

$7 (and Under) Lunch: Meat and Potatoes, Kolache Mama Style

First impression of Kolache Mama: pink tiles, stainless steel interior, pop-y, cutesy, logo and fonts — some kind of Beard Papa’s copycat?

Then I read a blurb in Time Out NY, which describes a kolache is “a type of stuffed pastry from Central Europe.” Huh? I did not get that at all.

photo-3photo-2Truth is, Kolache Mama is all of the above — and then some. It has more sweet-style kolaches than savory — 10 of the 25 on the menu are listed under the “SweetieMama” section. But, there is a conspicuous bottle of Sriracha sauce sharing a counter with coffee sweeteners and stirs. And the whole interior is pretty, in that anime sort of way.

photo-4Which brings me to the menu: Many of the “MeatieMama” and “VeggieMama” options are even more difficult to grasp than the idea of a central European snack food gone anime rogue.

Options include everything egg-topped versions (presumably for breakfast but sold all day); a “Street Dog” version, in which the lightly-sweet buns that are used as the base for all of the kolaches — sweet or savory — are wrapped around an All Beef Hebrew National Frank; and the “Combo Nosh,” a veggie version, which is topped with hummus, tabbouleh, tzatziki and spices — and just about everything in between.

photo-1All are priced equally: $2.99 ea. or a pair for $5 ($5.44 with tax). Given that common denominator, I picked my two based purely on looks: The reuben, which, according to the menu, was a roll topped with corned beef, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and caraway seed, and the twice baked potato one, one of my favorite styles of potatoes, and came topped with mashed red potatoes with flecks of red potato skin, cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives.

photoSurprisingly, I preferred the potato one, although the idea of starch-on-starch seriously unsettled me, at first. The corned beef version was okay; I ended up eating all of the topping and only about half the bun underneath, plus the whole thing was a little dried out — in part because, so far, people aren’t buying them quick enough. The only other people to stop in while I was making up my mind about the prettiest kolaches to try were two guys, who said something along the lines of, “We’re just stopping by to try to figure out what this place is about.”

My thoughts exactly.

Thursday: Finally, Free Meal at Brasserie Comes True (aka the “$19.59 Three-Course Good Value” Post)

It’s true. I wound up at Brasserie in Midtown East on Thursday night, photo-6enjoying a free, three-course meal, plus a couple of not-free cocktails from their $9 Vintage Cocktail menu, because of Twitter.

More precisely, because of a tweet from my friends at Wined & Dined (who I’ve leveraged previously for some food deal hookups) announcing that Brasserie, in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, was offering a free lunch on Sept. 17 until reservations were full.

Lunch was booked up by the time I called, but the restaurant gave me an even sweeter deal: A complimentary three-course dinner, on the night of my choosing (before November 1), so long as the reservation was booked for 9 p.m. or later.

And, surprisingly, there was no other catch. We were comped the restaurant’s “$19.59 after 9” menu, which is on through the end of October. Since there was two of us, we decided to just order the whole thing and do a mini tasting.

photo-7Here’s the breakdown:

Appetizers

French onion soup: This molten, cheese-crusted bowl of soup didn’t skimp on portions, and we ended up using pieces of the fresh baguette (one comes with every table) to sop up the broth and polish off all that cheese. Great for two people to split; a really large portion for one.

Pâté de Campagne: My favorite of the two. Better portion size, a savory pâté, plus, I always love the “some assembly required” appetizer: layering spicy French mustard, pâté, a slice of cornichon, a touch of frisée.

photo-9Entrees

The Brasserie burger: A towering burger, stuffed with cheese, more cheese melted on top and garnished with frizzled onions. Served between sliced, toasted halves of a French bread loaf and served with a heaping side of hot, fresh French fries. I tried my best to finish my half — but no go. This burger is a serious meat rock.

photo-8Poulet, frites and salad verte: Again, the portion of this plate is so, so generous. It comes with an entire half of a roasted chicken, bones trimmed up in the French style, plus a heaping portion of fries and a dab of salad.

The chicken was well-executed and moist enough,  if a bit bland — I was wishing for more evidence of herbs and seasoning. But that was sort of the modus operandi for everything that came out of the kitchen — well-executed, if a little ordinary. Maybe “playing it safe” is a better phrase?

But generous meal for free? In no way am I complaining.

photo-10Dessert

The desserts, on the other hand, I could have skipped. (Trade out for a cocktail?) The beignets unsure of their beignet-ness — a little bit doughnut, a little bit churro and a little bit beignet, and not so fresh.

And the creme carmel, too, didn’t impress. Then again, this might have been my stomach having reaching its capacity, vetoing any more intake.

Verdict

The $19.59 special is a great value if you’re hungry, and a little overwhelming if you’re not.

…On the other hand, the $9 Vintage Cocktail menu, which includes a specialty cocktail from each decade of Brasserie’s history (you can find a copy of the menu here) beats out just about any others you could possibly scour up in this part of Midtown, at least in terms of price and strength. Imbibe and enjoy, carefully.

Brasserie, 100 E. 53rd St., near Park Avenue, 212-751-4840

Monday: Oh Why The Hell Not (aka the “Back for More $5 Sandwich Love from Food Exchange” Post)

A friend of mine who saw my Tweet about trying Food Exchange on Friday asked me over the weekend, “Well, how was it?”

photo-7“Oh it was sooo good,” I said. “The special runs through Wednesday. I might just have to try three more.” I was teasing, sort of. But as it turns out, not really, because here I was, perusing the online sandwich menu for Food Exchange at 11:35 am on Monday morning. More than a little deja vous.

The only thing deja vous, however, about the “100% all natural beef” steak & cheese sandwich from the “Hot Pressini Melts” section (quite different from the “Cutting Edge Sandwiches” section) was … the serious deliciousness.

Another winning sandwich: It arrived via delivery perfectly warm, the cheese melty, tender slices of beef, flecked with bits of sauteed mushroom and red pepper, garlic aioli, all pressed between a crusty rosemary focaccia bread. My one (minor) critique would be I’d love to have the beef a little more rare, but that’s virtually impossible, particularly in a warm sandwich.

Alright, Food Exchange, you’re 2-for-2, so far…

Friday: $5 Sandwiches, You Say? Alright, I’ll Bite (aka the “Sandwich Exchange Gamble” Post)

photoI generally hate when people shove flyers, etc., at me when I’m just coming up from the subway in the vicinity of Times Square sometime between eight and nine o’clock in the morning. Seriously, it’s way too early (and, these days, too chilly) for this nonsense; having to emerge in Midtown is unpleasant enough as it is. (Nevermind the fact that I have no gold to sell.)

Yet, on this particular morning, the flyer being wagged in front of my face caught my interest: A $5 sandwich promotion from a place called Food Exchange (never heard of them)? Closer inspection revealed that this promotion appeared fairly gimmick-free; all you had to do was order online, not even a promo code required.

Alright, I’ll bite. I picked the one featured in the big photo on the front of the flyer (all the better to inspect you, my dear), which is the Tuscan chicken sandwich, complete with “roasted red peppers, mesclun and artichoke aioli in an olive pocket.”

photo-1photo-2Ordering was straightforward, other than the minor annoyance of having to set up yet another user profile, and my sandwich arrived within minutes of when my delivery window began.

Nice bag on the outside, nice sandwich packaging and … whoa. A damn good lookin’ sandwich on the inside. Generous portion of chicken on a soft olive loaf (olive pocket has to be the worst name for this type of bread in the universe); everything else present just like the description promised … (pause, savor and repeat.) I enjoyed full-flavor bite after bite, until it was, suddenly, gone. Damn, that’s a good $5 sandwich.