• Hole in the wall

    L’ABSYNTHE – Paris

    Beetroot Gaspacho with goat cheese, a thick juicy steak, their signature Le Hot Duck as appetizer… these are only a few of the savory items on the menu that you’ll find here at the Michel Rostang’s L’Absinthe. It is run by Michel Rostang’s daughter, Caroline, who presents a soft, “hip” version of Rostang’s cuisine in this renovated old place. Pair that with a chilled carafe of Beaujolais and you’ve got yourself a memorable meal. Adding to the charm of this family bistro is its location on the Marche St. Honore, a pedestrian area and market square hidden between the Eglise St. Roch and Place Vendome. And let’s not forget the handcrafted absinthe cocktails, the namesake of this little gem. Though if sitting out on this picturesque terrace on a Parisian market square and pedestrian zone is your idea of a perfect end to a wonderful day, then rest assured there are plenty of cocktails and a solid wine list, too, to choose from for your down time.

  • Hole in the wall

    PAIN, VIN, FROMAGE – Paris

    This cozy, hole-in-the-wall little restaurant next to Rue du Renard is a hidden gem of Paris, and the best place to eat a traditional fondue or a raquelette. Ok, not so “hidden”, it’s so notorious among gastronomy lovers that a reservation 2-3 days in advance is mandatory if you hope to be able to clog your arteries with cholesterol (but indeed a mouth-watering cholesterol).

    The best choice is probably the “fondue savoyarde”, a classic with emmental, beaufort, comté, white wine, kirsch and spices: accompany it with a plate of mixed cured meat, and some boiled potatoes, and you will go out of there with a big smile on your face and a full belly. A good bottle of cider is necessary to gulp down all that cheese of course!

    For dessert, they recommended the cheesecake, a house specialty, and I can guarantee it was definitela great piece of advice.

  • Hole in the wall

    ROSENSTEIN VENDEGLO – Budapest

    Walking into Rosenstein, Budapest’s most revered Hungarian-Jewish restaurant, two distinct moods emerge. The crisp white tablecloths, chic stemware, dark wood furnishings, and immaculately dressed waiters exude fine-dining elegance. But other details—from the father-son chef duo to the time-honored weekly menu highlighting traditional Hungarian and Jewish meals—lend the familiar coziness of dinner at grandma’s house.

    Striking a great balance between traditional and indulgent is the forte of owner-chef Tibor Rosenstein, and now his son and partner, Róbert. What he started as a tiny buffet in 1996 on a side street next to Keleti Railway station (and which is still in operation next to the restaurant today) has grown into one of the city’s finest restaurants, all thanks to his culinary expertise and entrepreneurial chops. Rosenstein’s menu is made up of Hungarian-Jewish specialties, from gulyás to lecsó (stewed peppers and tomatoes), and lamb knuckles with garlic hremzli (potato pancake) to goose leg with red cabbage. But it is his decadent take on comfort foods—such as töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage) and Brassói aprópecsenye (a dish made up roasted pork, potatoes, garlic, and paprika)—that really stands out.

    Hungary, with its robust soup, bread and meat traditions, has also infused its own flavors into the vibrant Jewish cuisine which has deep roots in Hungary, and is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance these days. 

    There are plenty of excellent dishes to try at Rosenstein—which has become somewhat of a pilgrimage spot for visitors to Budapest—including the matzo ball soup. But if you are there, you really cannot miss trying the sólet.

    Sólet is the Hungarian take on the Jewish bean stew, cholent, a slow-baked bean stew which is prepared for the Sabbath. The local take, naturally, adds paprika, as well as onions, often boiled eggs, and meat. The type of meat added is largely dependent on the region, customs and wealth of the cook, and can include smoked pork, goose, or duck. At Rosenstein, the sophisticated sólet comes complete with stuffed goose neck, creamy roasted egg, and smoked brisket. It’s a hearty, wonderfully-prepared meal that not only deserves a pilgrimage but also clearly underlines the restaurant’s motto: everything is kosher that tastes good.

    While the patriarch masterfully prepares classics, Tibor’s son Róbert helps bring the fusion fare into the 21st century. On the menu are modern variations of szalontüdő (lung stew), stewed veal with tarhonya (egg barley) and grilled chicken stuffed with goose liver. On the sweet end of the menu, there is madártej (floating islands), császármorzsa (emperor’s crumbs) and flódni, a traditional Jewish triple-layered pastry filled with ground walnuts, poppy seeds, and apples, slicked with homemade plum jam.

  • Hole in the wall

    SUSHI SASBUNE – Los Angeles

    If you didn’t grow up in LA (or, you know, Japan), your sushi experiences probably amounted to mysterious California rolls in the one Japanese restaurant in town, grocery store spicy salmon rolls, or hand rolls made with canned tuna . Your first omakase (the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order) is always a revelation. The first time we had omakase was at Sasabune

    So while we will keep going back to Sasabune because it’s the place where we really learned to love sushi, you should get here because it’s one of the best examples of classic LA omakase.

    You can order off a menu at Sasabune, but to be honest, we’ve never even looked at the thing. We went twice and we always had the omakase. At around $130, it’s certainly not cheap, but you get a whole lot of very high-quality sushi.

    A meal here starts with sashimi, ends with a crab hand roll, and involves many pieces of nigiri in between. But you’ll also get an oyster, a scallop (still in its shell), a baked mussel, some crazy good cooked butterfish, and uni if you want it. Fish varieties change depending on what’s available, but you’ll rarely encounter anything especially advanced. The menu barely changes between visits, but everything is as fresh as it could possibly be. The space is also what you’d expect when it comes to classic LA sushi – a little storefront, no interior design to speak of, and a sushi bar that’s really the only place you should be sitting.

    Overall, the food was definitely worthy and for the price we didn’t think it was over-priced by any stretch. 

  • Hole in the wall,  Restaurants

    ŞEHZADE CAG KEBABI – Istanbul

    Hidden gem, delicious meat. This is a somewhat unique way of roasting directly over charcoal and wood, right in front of your eyes.

    Order a çag kebap with a salad and yogurt and enjoy the thinly sliced, slightly crispy lamb meat on skewers served together with freshly made pancakes.

    The place is not large. Some tables outside, some inside and there is an upper floor. Service is fast, people smiling and it is hygienic. 

    Don’t expect to linger around in your post-meal bliss – it’s a place with a lot of turnaround where people get served and leave fairly quickly. Fairly inexpensive.

    ☎ (212) 520-3361

    Hocapaşa Sokak 6

    🕖11-22

    🚊

  • Hole in the wall,  Restaurants

    KARADENIZ AILE PIDE VE KEBAP SALONU – Istanbul

    This popular restaurant near Divan Yolu has the typical style of the pizza places on the Black Sea (Karadeniz). It serves pide and kebap and it is crowded with merchants from the neighborhood. You can sit comfortably at one of the indoor tables (local women usually sit upstairs but they are not strict with tourists) or at one of the outdoor tables in the cobbled street.

    They don’t serve alcohol.

    Try not to confuse this salon with the ones around, that has very similar names but are not at the same level. This one is at the corner of Biçki Yurdu Sokak.

    ☎ 212-528 6290

    www. karadenizpide.net; Haci Tahsinbey Sokak 7

    🕖11-23

    🚊 Sultanamet