We had last Friday night all planned out… a good ol’ dinner and a movie. First we went to the movie at the Angelika, which was fine, and then we walked over to the LES to the Kuma Inn. We had found it in Zagat’s and were very excited: a funky Filipino/Thai small plate hole-in-the-wall with a 24/15/19/$34 rating. Sounds good, huh? Yeah, well we weren’t the only ones who thoughts that… It turns out when we got there that it was completely booked all night =(. Of course we did not make a reservation, because we are idiots. So for most people finding themselves in the EV/LES at around 8pm on Friday, it doesn’t create a problem. For us ridiculous foodies, it does. We did not have a backup plan, were hungry and had literally a few hundreds options. Totally overwhelming. It was a nice night so we start walking around the LES to find a simple place for dinner and this is how is went: Schiller’s (too trendy)… Clinton Street (too many of the same little unnamed places)… Kate’s Joint (great name, but all vegan)… my great idea to walk over to Bao 111 (packed and overpriced)… oh let’s go to Momofuku (with everyone else in the city)… settle for Taco Loco (too fast-food)… Mermaid Inn (no seafood)… where’s that little French place? No clue… and another dozen or more nameless places… finally after 90+ minutes we are tired, starving and realizing that nothing will do. We stop to look at yet another menu, and are coerced to go in by the shady guy in the doorway. We couldn’t refuse and step into Candella, Candella, a Italian/Cuban fusion place, but as soon as we sit down we know this will not be a good meal.

Candela, Candela
92 Second Ave, NYC

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The music is all off, it is too aggressive Euro/club for the setting, the other customers do not look interested in the food, only drinks and each other, and the waiter looks like he just stepped out of an Italian club. We are both thinking of bolting, but order anyway. THe waiter comes over with… Italian bread and ice cold taco sauce in a bowl, I kid you not. He said the “salsa” is for the Cuban side and the bottles of oil and vinegar are for the Italian. Now we are really thinking of bolting, but then our appetizer comes. It is pureed cauliflower and cheese over pureed fava beans. Mush on mush and does not scream Italian or Cuban. But it wasn’t horrible because we were starving. Then the mains: “homemade rolled” pasta with scallops, pancetta, chickpeas and a few other things that didn’t quite jive. Not sure when or at what home the pasta was made, but it wasn’t there and wasn’t recent, at least it seemed. The other dish was something we could have made at home, and it would been much better. It was chunks of pork with corn, red peppers and some other ingredients. Truthfully it was not a very good meal at all. It wasn’t horrible, but the expectations in this city are just through the roof. A good meal anywhere else is just average or below in NYC. We never have a meal that is inedible. And we only have a meal like this once or twice a year, which is actually quite an amazing feat.

Chickalicious Puddin’
204 E10th 1-2 Ave, NYC

But the night quickly redeems itself with an incredible surprise…almost an act of god… we stumble on Chickalicious Puddin’! I am very familiar with Chickalicious, although I have never been there, but had no idea they opened a take out pudding place across the place. I love pudding. Just love it. All kinds. So for a place to be called Puddin’ and have the Chickalicious name, I knew immediately the night would be redeemed. We had both the steaming vanilla pudding with apple cake in it and the “adult” chocolate pudding. The vanilla was warm are satisfying with the soft cake and the rich vanilla flavor. The chocolate was cold and rich and creamy and was definitely the real deal. The counter guys were really nice and the solid cups of puddin’ were only $4.50 each. It is not instant pudding, but it is certainly an instant hit. I’m giving this puddin’ palace a Golden Bonzone.

NOTE: They have changed around the interior and the menu, but still have great pudding and rich molten lava cake.

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