Brandon Kida, the chef de cuisine at the newly-opened restaurant Clement in The Peninsula hotel, isn't at home in Hell's Kitchen much these days. Like many other chefs, he can easily put in long hours seven days a week. But when he is home, there are plenty of spots to dine at within steps of his apartment. With the opening of Gotham West and the existing ramen joints, Kida says his neighborhood's culinary offering has changed a lot in recent years. He spoke with us about his favorites.
Pizza: I usually go to Capizzi for pizza. It has this rustic vibe to it. They use a lot of great ingredients and even make their own sausage there. I like the fennel seed in it, and they also have charred fennel on top, too.
Burger: I'm from California, so I really enjoy In and Out Burger. I try to find something comparable to it all the time. If I had to pick one in New York here, it'd probably be Shake Shack. They have the correct ratios down. It's not too big or fancy and they use good meat. I definitely would go straight for the burger.
Coffee: Je & Jo is a very small place. If you want your Americano, espresso or whatever, you go in there twice and they know you. It's enjoyable to walk into a place where they know you. It's difficult to find that in New York City.
Bakery: Sullivan Street Bakery. I go for their cauliflower pizza, which is more like a flatbread. When it's in season, get the artichoke heart bread. I usually get bread here and then go to Je & Jo for coffee.
Ramen: I really like Totto Ramen. I hate waiting in that line, but on a rainy day, it's so comforting. It reminds me of a lot of flavors back home. I generally time it so that I get right in there before closing, a good time to sneak in there. It comes down to balance when you talk about ramen. I think Totto finds a nice balance between the broth, garnish and noodles.
Thai: I like Pam Real Thai. They don't hold off on any of the fish sauce. It's pretty authentic for Hell's Kitchen. I do order the larb a lot when I'm there—they season it really well with fish sauce, lime juice, and salt. It's a punchy kind of a dish.
Ethiopian: Queen of Sheba is pretty enjoyable. I'm not an Ethiopian food connoisseur, but I enjoyed the variety of dishes. It parallels Japanese food in a way. They put theirs on unleavened sour bread. Something bitter, something sweet, something hot. Japanese food has a similar philosophy. For me it's always entertaining to eat Ethiopian food.
Wine bar: I like Casellula for the wine selection and some cheese. I mainly go there because it's nice and relaxing.
Beer: I go to Pony Bar for the beer selection and the crowd. I generally like a pale (ale) or something bitter or floral. A perfectly poured Guinness can't be beat either.
Neighborhood bar: I go to the Gaf West on 48th and 9th near Traffic. It's just these two friends who used to work there who now run it. It's a little bar right in the middle of Hell's Kitchen and has a real neighborhood vibe. Most people there are locals and everyone knows each other. The tourists are entertaining sometimes, though.