Two big ol’ honkin reviews from our Mike pals — Sula at the Reader and Nagrant at NewCity. What is up, cuban sandwiches and noodles?
• Sula delves in to the curious ethnic mashup that is Cafecito: insane Cuban sandwiches made at the hands of Philip Ghantous, a Lebanese-American who grew up in Peoria. (In our minds, this is like when our Egyptian-Palestinian boyfriend who grew up in New Jersey microwaves us a perfect Italian pizza, except significantly more awesome). Sula spends some time outlining Ghantous’s cred for helming a decidedly un-Middle-Eastern kitchen, and this gets us thinking about the very notion of ethnic kitchen cred in the first place. As is revealed by Ghantous’s academic dissection of his cubano creation process (“How big do you want to make it…Do you want to kill somebody? Do you want them to enjoy it? The most important thing to me is you want it be warm on the inside. Because a lot of these places are good, but they’re not warm. Very rare is it hot throughout, the cheese melted. When it is, that’s when all the flavors come together. That’s why you want that mojo in there. You don’t want to just go off the mustard and the cheese and the juice from the pickle—you want the mojo.”), the key to authenticity isn’t a matter of blood — it’s just a matter of craft and passion.
• Nagrant’s review of Noodles by Takashi, in the Macy’s State Street haute food court, begins with a freaking awesome trip down Food Writer Memory Lane, as we learn that the young Mikey N. really really deeply desired one of those Ralph Lauren Bear Sweaters that were all the rage back in the pre-internet days. But that’s just preface to the revelation that is Noodles by Takashi — a “pop-Asian” counter with a menu awfully similar enough to Urban Belly’s. And while the pork belly in Takashi’s ramen isn’t quite as fantastic as that in Urban Belly’s, the noodles are better and so’s the price — $9 for a bowl, rather than UB’s $13. Nagrant concludes his review by calling himself a label-whore, which we think is almost as adorable as the mental image of him in the bear sweater.
[Photo: Ramen at Noodles by Takashi, via jhritz’s Flickr]
super-mega bonus points to whoever knows what song lyrics we are referencing in our post title! No googling!