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Thai Prison Drama “A Prayer Before Dawn” Feels Scarily Authentic

In director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s riveting Thai prison drama A Prayer Before Dawn, Peaky Blinders sensation Joe Cole stars as Billy Moore, an English-born amateur boxer living in Thailand. A meth-head who lights up before a fight, the twentysomething Moore is arrested for gun possession and thrown into the infamous Klong Prem prison. Within ten minutes of the film’s start, Billy is in a cellblock surrounded by throngs of Thai inmates, who berate him in a language he doesn’t understand. They force him at shiv-point to witness the gang rape of a young prisoner — a scene as harrowing for the men’s nonchalance as for its violence.

Adapted by Jonathan Hirschbein and Nick Saltrese from Moore’s 2014 memoir, this is a film where men communicate in grunts, slaps, and head locks, which Sauvaire (Johnny Mad Dog) and cinematographer David Ungaro shoot in long takes and unrelenting close-ups. Billy’s cellmates, tattooed from head to toe, are played by ex-cons, and since Sauvaire filmed in a recently abandoned Bangkok prison, A Prayer Before Dawn feels scarily authentic, and may be too much for some. But there are moments of grace amid the setting’s despair. Billy joins the prison boxing club and gradually comes to know the inmates, who embrace him as one of their own. A scene where they tattoo his back is filmed as a reverent laying on of the hands — the inverse of all the violence that came before. And the year seems unlikely to offer acting as exquisite as the small moment when the warden hands Billy unexpected letters from his family. Surprised, Billy freezes, and yet, somehow, in that non-movement of his body, Cole suggests the life-renewing soul-shock Billy is experiencing. It’s a great performance in a film that’s likely to become a classic of its kind.

A Prayer Before Dawn
Directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
A24
Opens August 10, Village East Cinema
Available on DIRECTV

 

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The Chilling “My Cousin Rachel” Harrows a Dopey 19th-Century Misogynist

The trailer for Henry Koster’s 1952 adaptation of My Cousin Rachel channels hysteria as the voiceover asks, “Was she woman or witch? Madonna or murderess?” Unfortunately, the film itself proved far tamer than the marketing suggested. The novel’s author, Daphne du Maurier, who also penned The Birds and the psychological thriller Rebecca, distanced herself from the project when she saw that 20th Century Fox planned to neuter her moody, mind-bending scenes and infuse them instead with romance.

Today, the late author would likely lick her lips in excitement for the second film version of her masterwork, this time from director Roger Michell and starring Rachel Weisz. Tense and at times downright frightening, My Cousin Rachel tells the story of an irresistible woman whose charms take down the male wing of a family, driving its members to madness. At least that’s what seems to be happening.

In fast-moving scenes, we enter the young life of self-possessed orphan Philip Ashley, who is cared for by his adult cousin Ambrose, circa the late 1800s. (Sam Claflin plays both Ambrose and the grown Philip; Austin Taylor and Louis Suc play Philip as a boy.) As the two goof off in church, Ambrose espouses the virtues of staying a bachelor. “Never had much need for women!” the older man gloats.

Before long, Philip is a handsome grown man himself, and Ambrose, taken ill, is on his way to Italy to convalesce. Then two letters from Ambrose arrive in quick succession: one announcing his marriage to the “radiant, good” Rachel, and the other claiming that this Rachel is trying to kill him. Philip rushes to Italy to save his pseudo-dad. But he’s too late — Ambrose is dead and buried, and Rachel has moved away.

We must wait to meet our anti-heroine, who remains a topic of incessant town gossip — her appetite for sex, her adoration of beautiful things. Did she really marry Ambrose for his money and kill him? Eventually, Rachel comes to Philip’s home in England to sort out finances and contracts, but Michell teases her arrival, focusing on the tempestuous mood swings of Philip, who broods by firelight as he obsesses over how fat Rachel must be, how ugly she surely is, to anyone who’ll listen.

Their first encounter is a taut meeting for tea in Rachel’s quarters. The camera frames Weisz’s poker face — partly obscured by a gauzy black veil — in extreme close-up, savoring her enigmatic smiles as she sips from one of her tisanes (infused teas that she encourages Philip, throughout the film, to drink for whatever ails him). Witchy, eh? But Philip — who until this point has acted like a “Proud Boy” MRA intent on negging women — nearly loses the use of his limbs and mouth upon seeing Rachel; she’s charming, funny, every bit his intellectual equal. She’s everything Philip has been told all his life a woman couldn’t be.

Soon his adoration turns to a kind of madness. When Rachel gives him her attention, he’s more than ready to forget Ambrose’s letter accusing her of murder. When she ignores him, he lashes out, ransacking her room for clues of her unfaithfulness, trailing her through town like an unhinged stalker. But whether his loss of control is from the copious tisanes Rachel feeds him or from his own inability to remain a respectable human being in a woman’s presence remains up in the air.

If Rachel is indeed a sorceress, she’s a good one. In one scene, Philip makes fun of her tisanes, calling her a witch, scoffing as he asks her if she’s gone so far as to make one for women in childbirth. “And why not?” she says, stopping him short. “Do you think it’s their destiny to suffer?” Koster’s 1952 adaptation of this story explicitly answers the question of whether Rachel is woman or witch. Michell’s suggests that the two aren’t mutually exclusive — and that neither is bad.

 

My Cousin Rachel

Directed by Roger Michell

Fox Searchlight

Opens June 9, Angelika Film Center, Cinema 123, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

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Favorite Dishes, #79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza

New York’s best pizzerias serve their communities above all else, and Delmar Pizzeria (1668 Sheepshead Bay Road, Brooklyn; 718-769-7766) has been doing just that for nearly 60 years. The Sheepshead Bay pizzeria brands itself as the first to introduce sauceless “white” pizza to New York, and the classic Italian-American warhorse puts its denaro where its dairy is, loading slices with dollops of ricotta embedded into melty mozzarella. Resuscitated after Hurricane Sandy, it retains an old-school charm (check out the murals and vintage menu posted on the walls). In addition to the white pies, the seasoned ovens churn out nicely crisp grandma slices and cheese pizzas with herbal, savory tomato sauce.

The
Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

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Favorite Dishes, #91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada

At El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette (100 Stanton Street, 212-260-3950) chef Gerardo Gonzalez draws from his SoCal upbringing with playful baking and cooking. His favorite preparation is also our own. He celebrates fatty, oily Portuguese sardines by arranging the boned fillets around a fragrant and supremely crunchy corn tostada. The fish are held in place by a layer of whipped Greek-yogurt butter, whose low-fat tang mellows out their aggressive brininess. Shaved radishes and carrots accompany carrot-top salsa verde to complete the colorful display with punches of brightness and acidity. This is exciting cooking, a plated party in every sense of the word, and those humble bait fish? They’re vogue battling.

Fork in the Road is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco

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The Three Best Things We Ate This Week

We’ve spent another week feasting our way through New York City, discovering new dishes and rediscovering old favorites. Our favorite bites this week include a whole duck for two, a killer guacamole, and pork skewers we crave each year come spring.

Pork skewers at Souvlaki GR, 116 Stanton Street, 212-777-0116
Warmer weather means we’re ready to eat a little lighter, and we find ourselves especially craving Greek fare. So we head on over to Souvlaki GR (or track down the truck) and order ourselves the pork skewers, deeply seasoned with oregano and crisped brown, which come wrapped in pita and drizzled with a little tzatziki (you can also get the skewers sided with those items, if that’s more your speed). Match it to a feta-smacked tomato and cucumber salad, and pair your meal to a little Moschofilero, a dry white that sings of spring. — Laura Shunk

Whole duck for two at Rotisserie Georgette, 14 East 60th Street, 212-390-8060
This isn’t your average Duck a l’Orange. Daniel and Per Se alum Chad Brauze works under the guidance of owner Georgette Farkas to offer an off-menu whole duck that forgoes the sickly sweetness that characterizes the traditional dish. Instead, Brauze marinates the duck for 48 hours in a bitter orange glaze that brightens as the meat is charred to a tender medium-rare. It’ll set you back a cool $99, but it’s hefty: While the menu says it’s meant for two, it easily feeds three. — Jon Cheng

Guacamole at Rosa Mexicano, multiple locations
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been writing about what feels like bazillions of new Mexican restaurants this season, but we’ve been eating an inordinate amount of food from restaurants that celebrate our southern neighbor — and we recently made a special trip for Rosa Mexicano’s guacamole, a chunky avocado spread tuned tableside with jalapeños, tomatoes, onions, and, for us, tons of cilantro. We need a margarita or five, too, to wash it down. — Laura Shunk

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These Are the Four Best Things We Ate in NYC This Week

Over the past week in NYC, we’ve chowed down on some great sashimi, excellent cioppino, and one helluva stack of pancakes. Here are the four best things we ate this week.

Cioppino at The Wayfarer, 101 West 57th Street, 212-691-0030
You’ll have to cough up a pretty penny to dip into this fish stew, but if you’ve got the cash — or the expense account and a client to impress — it’s a worthy order. A bowl of deeply savory and mildly spiced tomato-infused fish broth is loaded up with all manner of mollusks plus crabs legs and a hefty lobster claw. Topped with raw, crisp zucchini, it’s hearty enough for a rainy day — and light enough for spring.

Sashimi at Sushi Dojo, 110 First Avenue, 646-692-9398
It’s always a treat to drop into this low-key East Village sushi lair, where chef David Bouhadana turns out pristine cuts of immaculate fish. This time, we opted for sashimi, which netted us slabs of salmon so plump with fat they cut like butter, ruby red tuna, cold sea urchin, and a number of other treats. Start your meal with a little red miso, and don’t forget to check out the sake list.

Lemon ricotta pancakes at James, 605 Carlton Avenue, 718-942-4255
James offers one of our favorite brunches — and bloody marys — in the city, and we’ve never ordered a dud. But our perennial favorite dish from this kitchen is the stack of lemon ricotta pancakes, which surrender decadence and citrus across your tongue as you chew. The flavors play nicely with blueberries, which top the stack.

Chicken habanero sausage at Rosamunde Sausage Grill, 285 Bedford Avenue
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap bite in Williamsburg, you’ve got a few food options; one of those is Rosamunde, a sausage joint that also pours craft beer. We’re not normally chicken sausage people — we believe franks should be made of cow or pig — but we make an exception for the chicken habanero link here. The juicy, spicy sausage pairs well with grilled onion and sweet peppers, and is best sided with some baked beans.

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The Five Best Things We Ate This Week – 4/24/2014

Spring made an impact on our dining decisions this week, and we finally felt ready to cast off the heavy meats of summer for the produce and seafood we crave in the warmer months. The best things we ate this week include a platter of artichokes, a whole-roasted fish, and a cookie, for good measure.

Kinpira at 1 or 8, 66 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn, 718-384-2152
This sleek Williamsburg sushi joint does a well calibrated mix of traditional and modern raw fish offerings, but don’t skip the foresake the soup and appetizer part of the menu just to head straight to the nigiri and rolls. Then you’d miss the lovely scallop in bonito broth, the fluke carpaccio, and the kinpira, a deceptively simple blend of burdock root and carrots pooled in sweet soy sauce that’s both refreshing and indulgent — and an excellent start to a meal here.

Grilled baby artichokes at Bar Bolonat, 611 Hudson Street
There are flashier things on the menu at this new Israeli place from Einat Admony and Stefan Nafziger, and you’ll likely look first at the Jerusalem bagel, the Yemenite curry, and the green fatush. You should order all of them — plates here are meant for sharing, after all — and you should be sure to add the grilled baby artichokes, which matches the soft, slightly bitter vegetables to pistachio yogurt and a dusting of dukkah, a nut blend that here is pistachio-heavy. The dish tastes of sunshine, good living, and spring.

Whole rotisserie branzino at Narcissa, 21 Cooper Square
John Fraser may have a following for his vegetables, but it was a sea creature that really blew us away when we dined there last weekend. The chef uses his rotisserie for all kinds of produce, but luckily, he’s tossing branzino on it as well, and the result is crisp-skin encasing supple flesh, which pairs nicely to the sharp fennel, peppery arugula, and tart citrus vinaigrette that accompany it.

Kale salad with eggs at Northern Spy Food Co., 511 East 12th Street
Are you over the kale salad now? We are, too, except for here, where the salad is familiar yet unique, and manages to continue to coax us back into the antioxidant camp. It comes dressed with sharp cheddar and soft squash, and you can add a pair of baked eggs to make it a solid brunch. You could also add some bacon or sausage — we hear those pair nicely with health food.

Chocolate chip walnut cookie at Levain Bakery, multiple locations
We know — we know! It’s warm out, so now you’re detoxing, preparing for swimsuit season, and trying to avoid unnecessary carbs and fat. Reward yourself for your good behavior with this gooey cookie, one of our perennial favorites that we fall in love with anew every time we stop into this place. Pairs well with a cup of coffee — and hey! It has walnuts in it! Those are high in protein.

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The Five Best Things We Ate This Week – 4/17/2014

Our edible escapades this week turned us on to a worthy brisket substitute at one of NYC’s most popular Texas barbecue joints, a killer grilled cheese sandwich, and some addictive babaghanoush. Behold, the five best things we ate this week.

Bucatini all’amatriciana at Emily, 919 Fulton Street, 347-844-9588

When first we tasted the fare from Emily, the homey new Clinton Hill Pizzeria that opened this winter, we fell for her crisp, crusty, wood-fired pizzas, her hot sausages oozing with fatty goodness, her sparse Caesar dusted with herbs. We vowed to return to taste her pastas. Last weekend, we did, and they didn’t disappoint. Rather than fuss with rolling pasta in house, chef Matthew Hyland outsources the task to Sfoglini, the Brooklyn-based pasta artisan known for creative, superfresh semolina creations that toe the line between classic and avant-garde. Hyland puts Sfoglini bucatini to excellent use, tossing it with rich, fatty guanciale, tempered by red onion and bathed in bright fra diavolo for a serious kick. –Hannah Palmer Egan

Grassfed beef at Beautique, 8 West 58th Street, 212-753-1200

In this gilded (and already star-studded, at least on the night we were in) dining room, chef Craig Hopson is serving some beautiful food. See, in particular, the savory crab flan, the crisp and addictive seasoned potato fries, and the rabbit, fava, and grape salad for proof. But the stone cold stunner of our meal was the grassfed beef, which pairs mid-rare, juice-drooling hunks of well-seasoned steak to a rich bone marrow flan, toast spackled with sweet caramelized onions, and — because it is spring — ramps. It looks heavy but eats light, which means it’s as ideal for a warm night as it is for one of these last cold days. –Laura Shunk

Iberico at Hogar Dulce Hogar, 341 West Broadway, 347-705-2290

Although it’s not specifically mentioned as such on the menu, the Iberico, listed under “savory breakfast snacks” at this new bakery/cafe, is a grilled cheese sandwich — and at $12 with no sides, it’s a pricey one at that. It’s also not much to look at, but its humble appearance belies one of the best toasted sandwiches we’ve had in months. Hidden between slices of soft-baked, airy white bread, grilled and buttery, find creamy, bright white manchego, a generous scattering of shredded ruby-red ham from the storied pigs of Southern Spain, and thinly spread tumaca, the garlic, tomato, and olive oil mix often lopped on toast for a refreshing bruschetta. This otherworldly grilled cheese is so much more than the sum of its parts. –Hannah Palmer Egan

Smoked turkey at Hill Country Barbecue Market, multiple locations

We’ve always gone straight for the brisket at this Texas barbecue market, and while we’ve occasionally considered siding that meat with more meat, our second choice would be ribs or sausage — certainly not turkey. That was an error, though, because the smoked turkey here rivals the bird anywhere — the poultry is tender, moist, and imbued with throat-stinging smoke; the edges crisp and peppery like the rest of the restaurant’s proteins. We’ll have a few more slices, thanks, with a side of mac & cheese and a little cornbread. –Laura Shunk

Babaghanoush at Bodrum Mediterranean, 584 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-799-2806

It takes a special kind of mezze spread to lure us away from brick oven pizza scattered with chunks of lamb merguez sausage, but that’s exactly the kind of power the babaghanoush from this Upper West Side Turkish restaurant holds over us. Charred in the same brick ovens used to make the pizzas, the eggplants achieve an intensely smoky char, tempered by the fatty, nutty, and tangy flavors of tahini, olive oil, and yogurt. Scooped up with strips of ridged, sesame seed flatbread, it’s worth a special trip, especially on Monday nights, when the restaurant sells wine at half price. –Zachary Feldman

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The Five Best Things We Ate This Week – 4/10/2014

As you ponder your weekend dining plans, consider these dishes, a round-up of the very best things the Fork in the Road team ate this week. Our list includes a honey-topped pizza, a 70 cent bakery treat, and a snack ideal for fueling up for a long night of drinking.

Sponge cakes from New Kam Hing bakery, 119 Baxter Street, 212-925-0425

For over 30 years, this miniscule coffee shop — really more of an indoor kiosk — has served some of Chinatown’s best sweet treats. You won’t find egg custard tarts or crullers here. It’s the unassuming sponge cake that reigns supreme. Occasionally flavored with chocolate or cinnamon, it’s the green tea cake, with its mossy green interior and near cotton candy-like fluffiness, that has made us loyal customers. The coffee’s nothing special, but at 70 cents per cake, you can stock up and pair them with your favorite artisanal brand. — Zachary Feldman

Hellboy at Paulie Gee’s, 60 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-987-3747

Honey has become one of our favorite pizza toppings, and that’s especially true here, where the sweet syrup has a kick of palate-tickling heat. This pie comes topped with mozz, tomatoes, and slices of spicy sopressata plus a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey, which adds a nectar balance to all that salt. We like to pair this pizza to one of the restaurant’s cold tap beers. — Laura Shunk

Fennel salad at Aeronuova, JFK Terminal 5, 718-244-4444

We had some extra time before a JetBlue flight last week, and so we forwent our usual scramble for takeaway snacks we could eat on the plane and instead treated ourselves to a proper lunch. And this terminal has some decent food, like this fennel salad, cloaked in a lemon vinaigrette and inundated with fresh citrus. Way better than a soggy cellophane-wrapped sandwich. — Laura Shunk

Poutine at One Mile House, 10 Delancey Street, 646-559-0702

For a quick, nourishing meal before a show at the Bowery Ballroom, hit up One Mile House for a plate of poutine ($10), that’s equal parts dressed up and classic. It’s a big, shareable plate of wide, hand-cut fries, topped with gooey, lightly tangy curds of marinated cheese and fantastic brown duck gravy. As if that wasn’t enough, the kitchen throws a fried egg on top, yellow yolk runny and rich, which brings it all together. Sit down to that as you lace up your drinking shoes for a boozy late-night marathon. –Hannah Palmer Egan

Pistachio ice cream at Van Leeuwen, multiple locations

Now that warmer weather seems to be around to stay (we hope that doesn’t jinx it), we’re beginning to crave ice cream from our favorite parlors, including this fleet of trucks and storefronts. Van Leeuwen makes nice, subtle scoops, and we’re most enamored of the pistachio, a take on the sweet, earthy classic that feels indulgent but not heavy or unhealthy (though we’re sure there’s sugar and cream aplenty in there). — Laura Shunk

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The Five Best Things We Ate This Week – 4/3/2014

We hope you’re going out to eat this weekend. Might we make a suggestion? Here are the five best things we ate this week.

Macaroni and cheese at The Rookery, 425 Troutman Street, Brooklyn, 718-483-8048
The menu is short at this Bushwick gastropub, but it needn’t be longer. Really, the restaurant could get rid of all but a couple of dishes, and we’d still return. The first is the shepherd’s pie, a pungent stew chock full of lamb that’s buried under potatoes; the other is the macaroni and cheese. Shells come lacquered with gruyere, cheddar, and parmesan-infused bechamel, the top baked crisp so that you have to break it with a spoon like creme brulee. — Laura Shunk

The pastas — all of the pastas — at Charlie Bird, 5 King Street
There’s a power play to be made at this Soho haunt: Order all of the pastas. Even if it means skimping on the appetizers or skipping the mains. Chef Ryan Hardy has a deft hand with noodles, and that shows equally well with the papardelle with braised duck in red wine, the rigatoni with veal ragu, and the duck egg spaghetti with uni and guanciale. There are five pastas on the menu, and once you polish them off, you’ll wish you had one more bite of each. — Laura Shunk

Caryn Ganeles
Caryn Ganeles

Roasted corvina at Perilla, 9 Jones Street, 212-929-6868
Harold Dieterle’s West Village outpost certainly isn’t lacking in accolades, and a recent visit to this contemporary American establishment reminded us why. The roasted corvina, a mild white flaky fish, is served on a bed of crisp brussels sprout leaves, melding well with sweet raisins, crunchy pistachios, and earthy chanterelles and lentils. Call ahead to see if it’s available since this special is only served when the chef can find corvina at the market. — Caryn Ganeles

Bacon at Fette Sau, 354 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-963-3404
We’d normally pass on the bacon at a place like this — to many other delicious animal parts to gnaw on — but we didn’t on a recent trip, and we were pleased. Fette Sau sources its meat from quality hogs, and then slices the belly thing and cooks it until it crackles. It may not be worthy of the spotlight, but it’s a side we’ll add every time we see it on the menu. — Laura Shunk

Fried chicken feast at Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 First Avenue
We named Momofuku Ssam Bar one of our 99 Essential Restaurants in Lower Manhattan, calling out the bo ssäm as one of this city’s best large format feasts. But we also had occasion to check in on another Momofuku group meal: the fried chicken feast at Noodle Bar. Piles of battered bird arrive at the table with moo shu pancakes and lettuce wraps, meant for wrapping bits of the poultry dabbed with sauce. We can barely pause long enough from tearing the meat from the bones with our teeth to make such neat little packages — the chicken is just fine on its own. As a bonus, if you can round up six people, this meal is a screamin’ deal — it’ll run you just $20 each, plus whatever you spend on additional dishes (which aren’t necessary) and drinks (which are necessary). — Laura Shunk