Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Empanada House, Briarcliff Manor

I am a Yonkers resident, and don't often get up to Briarcliff Manor. On those rare occasions when I venture that far north, though, I usually stop by The Empanada House on Pleasantville Road. The Empanada House serves a wide variety of its eponymous pastries, which are an excellent alternative to pizza for diners in search of a quick meal.

The menu features meat-filled, vegetarian, and dessert empanadas, both traditional and "fusion". One classic is the beef "Mendocina" empanada, which is filled with ground beef flavored with green olives and red peppers. It's a good introduction to the empanada for carnivores. For vegetarians, the cheese and spinach empanadas are a good gateway to empanada addiction. The humita empanada, filled with ham, corn, and (if one so chooses) cheese, is a bit more of an acquired taste, but I like it. Dessert options are good as well, with guayaba and cheese being a stand-out. While most empanadas cost $3, the Empanada House often runs 2/$5 specials. All empanadas are typically fried, but you can request that they be baked.

If you are looking for a quick, light meal but want an alternative to pizza, check out The Empanada House if you are in the vicinity of Briarcliff Manor.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Accent Thai Kitchen

I will admit to being extremely upset when Tum Raa Thai Cuisine, 629 McLean Ave, Yonkers, NY closed, but I am pleased to report that it has returned, under the same ownership, with twice the seating and an expanded menu, as Accent Kitchen.

Accent Thai Kitchen continues the tradition of high culinary standars that characterized Tum Raa. A hospitable staff will gladly answer any questions about menu items, and makes sure that the spice level of the dishes is tailored to the diner's taste.

The appetizer selection is fairly extensive, ranging from crisp spring rolls ($3.75 for 2) to delectable, melt-in-your-mouth curry puffs (also known as karipap, an order of 2 costs $4.95), chicken or beef satays (2 for $4.25), and fried fish balls (an order costs $4.95). I would recommend the curry puffs to a first-time visitor- the pastry shell of these empanada-like morsels is crisp and flaky, the moist chicken filling is sweet and spicy. They make a great introduction to Thai cuisine.

As far as main dishes go, one cannot go wrong with a cutty dish (chicken curries are $9.50, pork $9.75, beef $9..95, and shrimp $10.95- I am sure the staff would be happy to make a tofu curry for vegetarians). The red curry is a good introduction, bamboo shoots, bell pepper, and basil accompany the chosen main ingredient is a fragrant broth of coconut milk and red curry paste. Also on the list of curry selections are green curry, panang curry, yellow curry, Massaman currym, and the coconut-milk free jungle curry. I, myself, being a bit of a wiseguy, like to order the pork Massaman curry, which features potato, bell pepper, and onion in a curry sauce made with peanuts and coconut milk.

Noodle dishes are also a good main dish choice. Pad Thai is a good introduction to Thai noodle dishes ($9.50 for chicken, beef pork, or vegetable pad thai, $9.95 for shrimp pad thai)- the thin rice noodles are tossed with bean sprouts, dried tofu, egg, turnip, and scallion with a tamarind sauce, and garnished with ground peanuts. I prefer pad se-ew ($9.50), a dish which features flat noodles, similar to Chinese chow fun. Another interesting noodle dish is "daddy's noodles" (it's typically a special, I can't recall the price), a dish which echoes the "chow mein" of Chinese American restuarants, featuring seafood and vegetables in gravy served over a bed of crispy noodles, which slowly "reconstitute" as the meal progresses, with alternating bites of crunchy and soft noodles. "Daddy's noodles" are an interesting take on an old standard.

Seafood selections also excel, with fried pla choo chee ($12.95) being a particularly nice dish. Shrimp with basil (a $12.95 nightly special) was a delectable choice- the heat of the dish not obscuring the fragrant herbs which perfume the sauce.

Accent Thai Kitchen is the perfect small neighborhood restaurant. The staff takes an interest in presenting Thai food to those unfamiliar to it, and in keeping Thai food aficianados in love with the cuisine. The servers are pleasant and accomodating, the food prepared with care and sold at prices comparable to those at the average neighborhood take-out joint. Accent Thai is the perfect restaurant for a first date, whether with someone unfamiliar with Thai food, or someone who can casually throw around terms like "larb" or "nam pla".