Kraft Bistro in Bronxville, NY- A Confused Mediterranean New American Eatery that Plagiarizes

After an intense cycle down between Beyonce and Rhianna in my SoulCycle class, my friend and I ended up at Kraft Bistro in Bronxville to grab a bite to refuel our bodies. We were drawn to the little place for its menu of Afghani lamb offerings. I love the Afghani cuisine and anything lamb.

Fragrant Mussels: Scallions, shallots, sherry vinegar, spicy marinara sauce. This was interesting…I would not use the adjective of “fragrant” because both my friend and I noticed an odd smell on the mussels. It’s similar to the funky smell that I experienced with the Reef Restaurant in Forest Hills, NY.

Lamb Kofta Kabob: Afghan spices, choice of mixed green salad or saffron rice. Kraft calls itself an intimate, candlelit eatery showcasing eclectic Mediterranean-New American food for brunch & dinner.” It’s intimate all right – I could barely see my food. Once I saw the Lamb Kofta Kabob… A brown cylinder with green sauce and white yogurt drizzled on top. It was not aesthetically pleasing and unfortunately the lamb failed to deliver on the taste for my friend.  In comparison, I thought it was all right.  The meat was not dry and the saffron rice was acceptable but the plating was eclectic. What’s half a lemon doing there? 

Shrimp Dumpling: Garlic, ginger, chopped scallions, Thai chili honey soy sauce. This was lovely but I did not think this was Mediterranean nor New American.  This tasted exactly like something I can get from Boa’s Chinese Cuisine in White Plains. It is double the price here.  Nowadays restaurants take a lot of liberty in categorizing themselves and innovating dishes (stealing from other cuisines).  It really is ok to be creative but they should just called themselves New American with an Afghan focus. Let’s be honest and credit the source when one plagiarizes.

Crème brûlée: And this is definitely not Mediterranean nor New American though I was glad to see this dessert on the menu. French has the best dessert in the world!

I would not go back to this place. Although the food was average to good, I don’t like restaurants that have confused identities and darkly lit space. If it is a melting pot like the demographics of the US, then be proud and own up to being a fusion restaurant. This Mediterranean New American approach annoys me.

I cannot believe they got positive reviews from New York Times and Journal News.

This experience took place at

Kraft Bistro
104 Kraft Ave
Bronxville, NY 10708
(914) 337-4545

Hash o Nash in Mamaroneck, NY- A Long Menu of Middle Eastern Dishes and Great Service

Hash O Nash is a middle eastern restaurant located in the heart of Mamaroneck, NY. Their menu is as long as a book. I was a little concerned when I saw the menu because a long menu indicates only one thing to me: the restaurant is trying to do too much and to satisfy too many. Really? How many outstanding generalists are there? It’s an oxymoron.

This is a plate of extremely sour pickled vegetables. So sour that as soon as you put a piece in your mouth you start to salivate. The pickle was the least sour; the green tomato was the most sour. I ate the whole tomato and had to wipe off my drool with a napkin! I just kept on going back for more… Very unique.

VEGETARIAN TRIO PLATTER: Falafel hummus, baba ghanoug and grape leaves. This was the first time I had the baba ghanoug. Very smooth and has a slightly watery consistency when compared to the hummus. Delicious and healthy. I can eat this all day with pita bread.

SHRIMP HAR’RAK: Cooked in olive oil with hot pepper, cilantro, garlic, parsley and lemon juice and pita. Meh – the shrimps were fresh but the preparation seems very common. Acceptable but not special.

MIXED GRILL: A real fiesta combination of shish kabobs and shawarma (lamb shish, chicken shish, lamb kafta, lamb chops and shawarma). They use oak, hickory and mesquite wood, served with tahini sauce, salad and rice or bulgur pilaf and vegetable of the day. I so wish this were better. It had all the promises of being good- I checked out their grill before ordering; this is what they specialized in. Alas, the meat (lamb and shawarma) was dry and rubbery which depleted all flavors from the spices. The chicken was the best because it was moist.

BAKLAVA: Baked phyllo dough, stuffed with chopped pistachio and drizzled with rose water flavored homemade syrup. I am usually not a baklava fan but the flaky dough with the pistachio that night really hit the spot. I used my finger to pick up the last bits of pistachio.  I also had the Arabian mint tea with the Baklava – transported me to a cool ryad with green trees and serenity during a hot July summer day in Marrakech, Morocco.  Arabian mint tea with honey is one of my favorite teas.  Mmm. Mmm. Good.

To be fair now, the food was good, even above average. After all, I did choose only four dishes from a list of “hundred.” When I return, I will stick to the most popular items and avoid the grilled meat.

Oh – the waitress was very attentive and patient with us. She told us that they have belly dancing on Friday nights. Hmm. Who should I invite for this festivity of ogling women?

This experience took place at

Hash o Nash
441 Mamaroneck Ave
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
(914) 630-7310

Main Bakhtar Halal Kabab in Flushing, NY – Lamb Tikka and Grilled Halal Meats Rule!  

Occasionally, I go running in the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, NY. Mt Hebron is a huge cemetery. When not covered in snow, it felt like Central Park for the dead people. Much quieter, less pretentious and more to my liking. But this is mostly a food blog… so after one of my runs, I went across the street to Main Bakhtar Halal Kabab, an Afghan restaurant where grilled halal meats rule! I love Afghan food.

A funny story – My last Afghan food experience in Queens was an interesting one. I walked into a very traditional establishment where the men were dressed in the traditional Thobe (Thawb) and I walked in with a short skirt and high heels. I was also the only female in the entire place that stank of male testosterone and conservatism. Click here to read the entire post.

With that in mind, I thought about what I was wearing before I walked into Main Bakhtar Halal Kabab. I was wearing a pair of tight running pants. Not a whole lot better than the short skirt but at least I was not showing any skin. The authority defying side of me decided that trying out this place was far more important than being judged upon. I was also hungry. I went in.

I was so happy to find that I was treated like everyone else – normally. The men at the counter were friendly and cared more about whether the grilled lamb is ready than an inappropriately dressed Asian woman in a muslim restaurant. The marvelous Flushing, NY, where all cultures intersect. Love it.

This is combo number 1: beef kofta, lamb and chicken tikka. Can’t go wrong when it is the first item on the menu or the most popular one. I eat Afghan food for the lamb and for lamb tikka. It was a perfect lamb tikka, still juicy in the middle. Just writing about this experience makes me hungry again for lamb tikka. The chicken was equally good. The beef kofta was a little dry. The rice was ugly looking but tasty. This is my kind of hole in the wall place. LOVE.

Salad. Ah, ok. A must have accompaniment for the combos but serves no purpose.

I asked – they don’t deliver. I wish they did. This place is too far for me to walk to pick up my food. As you know, driving and parking in Queens can be a pain.

Will definitely return. Highly recommend it if you are looking for a good Afghan place and do not care for the ambience.

This experience took place at

Main Bakhtar Halal Kabab
67-29 Main St
Flushing, NY 11367
(718) 793-4535

Fig & Olive in Scarsdale, NY – A Happy Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Visit

My friend and I wanted to take advantage of the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, Nov 3-16 2014, to go outside of our monthly routine. I picked Fig & Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant, in Scarsdale because it was easy to make a reservation through OpenTable and their special Hudson Valley Restaurant Week menu was on All clicking from the same page. To all Digital Marketers, create an easy user experience and the business will come!

EGGPLANT ROLLETINI: Tomato confit, goat cheese ayala, basil, and Cobrancosa Olive Oil.  This was excellent.  Very cheezy and probably not great for the arteries but it was delicious.

YELLOWFIN TUNA: Cilantro, Marcona almond and Toasted Sesame Oil.  This was also excellent, light and airy, leaving me wishing for more.

CROSTINI– from left to right: Burrata, Tomato, Pesto, Balsamic; Mushroom, Artichoke, Truffle, Scallion, Parmesan; Crab, Heirloom Tomato, Avocado, Apple Aioli.  All excellent. So good that we almost did not want to share with each other.

FIG & OLIVE CHICKEN TAJINE: Moroccan spiced free range chicken served with fig, olive, apricot, carrot, zucchini, cipollini onion, tomato, and toasted almond.  This dish had many layers.  I thoroughly enjoyed every ingredient.  Especially loved the apricot, fig, and olives.  The Moroccan spice was just right, just spicy enough but not over powering.

In reality, I tried this dish twice.  The first time here was fantastic and the second was dismal.  In the second round, the center of the chicken thigh was not hot and sightly cold to the touch. Consistency is obviously not their forte.

Couscous with cilantro and harissa, Hojiblanca Olive Oil.  The garnish on the couscous kept me eating.  The mixture of each with the couscous and the combination of them all were quite a delight.

CHOCOLATE POT DE CRÈME: Crunchy praline financiers & vanilla cream.  I love this dessert.  Very very good.  Worth a second and a third time.

This is the chocolate pot de creme in action, getting mixed to create that sweet and tasty sensation.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Menu

This was a very happy outing.  Both my friend and I walked away satisfied and fed well.  Will definitely be back.  Recommend for all!

This experience took place at

Fig & Olive
Vernon Hills Shopping Center
696 White Plains Rd
Scarsdale, NY 10583
914 725 2900

Tea, Spice, and Cheese in Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal: Boucherie Al-Khair

I go to Boucherie Al-Khair in Montreal to stock up on the spices: the Ras el hanout, Harissa, and anything that is middle-eastern and I cannot pronounce. I also go to the same butcher shop for my favorite sausage in the world, the merguez. That will be in an upcoming post. I love the authenticity of this shop. The store is always busy, filled with shoppers. I always feel like a kid in the candy store when I go there.

An assortment of nuts and stable dry goods.

An assortment of nuts and stable dry goods.

The harissa, the sardines from Morocco, and other stuff that I have not learned yet. Now I wish I understood Arabic.

Moroccan mint tea! One of my favorites.

Cheese – many are unfamiliar and unique to the cuisine.

This experience took place at

Boucherie Al-Khair
300, Rue Jean Talon E
Montreal, H2R 1T1

Aria Kabab in Flushing NY, Afghan Take Out – A Story of My Short Skirt and Cultural Norms

Have you ever been to a restaurant or a place and instantly felt that you made a mistake in going? But it was too late to back out and you are stuck there, waiting for the experience to end? That was my experience on Saturday night at the Aria Kabab restaurant/takeout hole in the wall in Flushing NY. Wait! This story has a wonderful ending if you stick with me.

It was 7:30pm on Saturday night and I was incredibly hungry in Jamaica NY. Just finished a hospital visit and did not have time to research for a good restaurant nearby. So a search on Google Map took me to a random Afghan place called Aria Kabab. Yes, I was in the mood for kabab and lamb.

Walking in this place, it reminded me the Chinese takeout place in dicey neighborhoods where there are bullet proof windows in front of the counter. It was not that bad but the place was filled with only men, some dressed in the traditional thobe. As I walked in in a black A-lined short skirt, a black tank top and my three-inch heels, I was suddenly very self-conscious and stuck out like a sore thumb. I wanted to hide or just disappear. Not necessarily crazy about the eyes that were on my bare skin. Regardless, I went up and tried to order Lamb Tikka and Kabab and was told that the lamb would not be ready until tomorrow. It really defeated the purpose of being there. I was upset but needed to eat. Proceeded onto ordering the Beef Tikka and Kabab.

While waiting, we tried this Shahi Kulfi “ice cream.” It’s pretty unique. Does not taste like the ice cream that we know. It’s not sweet and it is very heavy in milk. It’s dense and it’s creamy. It’s not whipped. Interesting.

I had the Almond. Would definitely try different flavors next time.

I waited over 30 mins for the two dishes of takeout food! They are kababs: grilled meat, with rice, salad and a piece of bread! Did they have to butcher the cow in the back and wash every leaf of the lettuce? I started sighing right in front of the guy. He went to the kitchen and started yelling something in a language I could not make out.

Finally! I could not wait to take my food and get out of there. Got in the car. Famished. The food smelled soooooooo good. Wow. I dug in immediately without any utensils. Here comes my very best eating, with fingers. I was such a fine lady eating meat using my fingers and wearing my pretty short skirt in a moving vehicle!

Have you had food that was so good but the pictures look so bad? Here is an example. This is the Chicken and Beef Kabab. I am very sorry to say that I finished my food in the car and no picture was taken of my dish. This is the other dish that survived me.

Let me tell you about the Beef Tikka and Kabab that I had.

  • The beef tikka was marinated so good, grilled so good, and so succulent on the inside that it made the experience completely ok.
  • The beef kabab made me happy because it was well spiced
  • The rice was so fragrant and delicious that made the experience ok
  • The homemade afghan bread was painted with olive oil and I am a sucker for olive oil

My Beef Tikka and Kabab in a moving vehicle experience made my 30 mins of discomfort as a woman dressed inappropriately for a conservative culture almost go away.

I was asked whether I would go back. I think I would.

I was asked later by an 11-year-old girl whether I would go back but dressed in pants instead. I said that I would not change the way I dress because of the cultural requirements and because I feel that I can help changing the conservatism. In retrospect, that was an incomplete answer. This approach only works while I am living in the U.S. and protected by our cultural norms.

I remember being in Marrakech, Morocco and felt completely out-of-place, even if I was dressed conservatively. As far as I could see, women were secondary in everything in the Muslim culture.  As a woman in Marrakech, it was easier to fit in when I changed how I dressed and walked behind the men, including the private tour guide that I paid for!  Not for a second did Moroccan men pay attention to me when I was with a male companion.  I had no voice.  I was not the one who ordered in the restaurant.  I was not the one whom people spoke to.  I was silenced.  I stood behind the men.  It only happened once that a very smart Moroccan business man figured out that I was the decision maker and started talking to me instead.

On a similar note, when I visited the Vatican City in Rome, I had to cover my legs and arms in the brutal July heat wave in order to gain entrance. What is the difference here, other than not walking behind the men?  Italian men sometimes represent the stereo typical chauvinist and only think of women one way.  Why is one approach a turn off and another can be a turn on?

On the flip side, the girls/women in Taiwan have taken up to wearing very short skirts in a fairly conservative culture. Taiwan is extremely safe. There is barely any crime. As a result, a minority of women dare to wear skirts as short as their underpants and ride the tall escalator up, letting everyone (both men and women) a clear view of their business. I was shocked when I first saw it and I was eager to comment. My friends quickly shushed me because it is rude to comment on how others are dressed. Men in Taiwan are respectful. I never catch men looking at women in a sexual way. Men in Taiwan don’t leer and they seem more zen than men. At least outwardly.

  • What do you think of how an American woman should dress in a conservative environment?
  • Are we partially defined by how we dress?
  • Are women succumbing to men if we cover up?
  • Does coverage of our body represent our silence?
  • Do we want men to be so respectful that even a mini mini skirt does not get any attention?
  • What is the proper length for a skirt anyway?

Please feel free to comment and tell me what you think.  I am curious about  what the true cultural norms are in the US.

Lastly, Aria Kabab makes delicious food and is definitely worth a repeat visit – paying the $7.50 bridge toll twice and driving all the way from the Westchester County NY to Queens.  It’s not everyday that I have an experience that makes me question the cultural norms. Happy brain. Happy tummy.

They don’t have a web site. Here is the link to Yelp on Aria Kabab.

Aria Kabab
7255 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367
Phone number (718) 793-2984

Turkish Meze in Mamaroneck NY- A Good & Cheap Lunch

Turkish Meze is a Turkish restaurant in Mamaroneck NY, right by the Metro North station. It serves standard fare middle eastern food such as falafel, humus, doner, gyro, and shish kebab. Worth noting though – it has an excellent lunch menu and for a little more than $10, you get an appetizer and an entrée, which is precisely what I did.

The meal began with warm pita bread covered in napkins and some olive tapenade. My dining companion was extremely satisfied with the olive tapenade and used it on the courses following.

These are the crispy falafel served with tahini.

Both my friend and I ordered the same entrée. This is the Grilled Chicken Shish Kebab. Not bad. If you want a decent and cheap lunch, here is the place to come. Nothing to jump up and down about but satisfactory enough for the tummy and the pocket-book.

And there is usually enough left over for the next day lunch. 🙂

This experience took place at

Turkish Meze
409 Mt Pleasant Ave, Mamaroneck, NY 10543
(914) 777-3042