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First Course

BEST OF NYC
Look No Further, the Award Goes to BLT Burger

Burger joints in NYC are almost as common as Starbucks these days, and the promise of the ultimate burger is almost as frequent as the promise of the world's best cup of coffee. Various eateries boast that they serve the biggest burger, the most innovative burger, or even the most expensive burger. More often than not, restaurants fall short of their burger promises, leaving us lost in the search for the elusive title of Best Burger.

Enter BLT Burger, Laurent Tourondel's casual burger restaurant with LT's signature service and quality ingredients. BLT has mastered the delicate balance of a neighborhood casual dining experience, while never skimping on product quality or attentive service. BLT Burger is a great go-to restaurant for almost any occasion, and for those who frequent BLT often, the menu offers enough variation and specials to keep regulars from getting bored.

Diners who want to keep the bill down and get the most bang for their buck should order one of the three combo meals that include the classic burger, fries and either a soda ($15), milkshake ($17) or a draft beer ($18). The shakes at BLT are velvety smooth and sweetened to perfection, with flavors as basic as chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and coffee or as intricate as the Twinky Boy (vanilla ice cream, Twinkies and caramel syrup), Cookie Monster (chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and chocolate chip cookies), or the Lunch Box (vanilla ice cream peanut butter and grape jelly). This classic burger is everything that a burger experience should be, with the quality 100% certified Black Angus beef (a mix of sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket) cooked just as you asked, and a perfectly spongy bun to hold the masterpiece together.

CHEAP EATS
Sophie's Cuban Cuisine
BAMBOO TRAIN
The Norry at Kampuchea

The Norry at Kampuchea
Cuisine: Cambodian
Price Range: $6-$16

Lower East Side
78 Rivington Street
(Allen and Rivington Streets)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 529-3901

The Norry at Kampuchea is Ratha Chaupoly's newest addition to his growing list of restaurant ventures. Named after a bamboo train that runs in the Cambodian countryside, The Norry is aimed at those looking for a casual dining experience. The vibe of the restaurant is laid-back, with tiled, arched ceilings reminiscent of any New York subway. But make no mistake about it: the food is a few notches above your typical pub fare. Led by executive chef Scott Burnett, the philosophy of the restaurant is to provide diners with an unconventional Cambodian experience. The ingredients are all traditionally Southeastern Asian, but embellished with a classical flair owing to Burnett's culinary training.

DOLCE
Philippe Chow's LA Incarnation

I've been wanting to try Philippe Chow's LA incarnation of Philippe since it opened nearly three months ago in the old Dolce space on Melrose (he has four other locations in the U.S. and Mexico). After landing in Los Angeles with lots of buzz (and some controversial headlines) Philippe was received with much Hollywood love. In an instant, the ghost of Dolce had been exorcised. Philippe was stuffed to the gills nightly with celebrities, foodies, and Mr. Chow groupies alike. The place was near-impossible for the average diner to get a decent table at. That was then.

CHEAP EATS
The Loading Dock

The Loading Dock
Cuisine: Mexican
Price Range: $3-$6

Downtown Brooklyn
170 Tillary Street
(Near Gold Street)
New York, NY 11201
(646) 355-7518

The Loading Dock is an eccentric amalgamation of a number of influences and ideas. Part neighborhood coffeehouse, part Baja Mexican, and part patron of the arts, it manages to seamlessly integrate seemingly disjointed parts into a harmonious whole. Partners Owen Wright and Forrest Cole, who doubles as the chef, are attempting to become the cultural and culinary epicenter of a blossoming downtown Brooklyn scene. But until then, Owen, a resident of the area for going on 10 years, and Forrest are content to serve some classy Mexican street food and gourmet Gorilla coffee.

BETTY XIE
Zine Noodles Declared Top 10 Chinese Restaurant in USA

Zine Noodles Dim Sum made history this week by being by being honored as one of the Top 10 Chinese restaurants in America for this year’s Top 100 Chinese Restaurants Awards.

Editor-in-chief of Chinese Restaurant News, Betty Xie, congratulated the restaurant saying, “With these awards, we acknowledge those restaurateurs who excel at the overall experience: exceptional food and magnificent service in beautiful restaurants. We salute Zine Noodles Dim Sum for being the first restaurant from our host city of Las Vegas to rank in the top 10 in our six year history.”

CASTING
Calling All Amateur Chefs!

If you've ever dreamt of graduating from cooking for friends and family to tutelage under the, ahem, "watchful" eye of chef Gordon Ramsay, then today is your lucky day. Ramsay is looking for a select number of talented amateur chefs for the opportunity to become a MasterChef!

Ramsay will challenge and coach contestants to new culinary heights, but isn't afraid to speak his mind. If you've got a thick skin and special talents, this may be your chance to shine.

For those in the New York area, simply fill out the application at Fox.com/casting and make your way to Sur La Table in Manhasset this Sunday, January 10th, where they'll be holding auditions between noon and 5 pm. Don't forget to bring your best - judges will be expecting one prepared dish to be served at room temperature. You'll be given the opportunity to plate your dish there, but you are responsible for any utensils or other materials that you may need.

CATO FARM CONNECTICUT
Meet The Minds Behind Tocqueville

Union Square
1 East 15th Street
(between Union Square and Fifth Avenue)
New York, NY 10003-3102
(212) 647-1515
www.tocquevillerestaurant.com

If you happened to stroll past the entrance to Tocqueville without any knowledge of what was within, you'd be hard pressed to realize that one of NYC's finest dining destinations was just feet away. Tocqueville offers a menu and milieu which are elegant without being haughty, and understated without becoming simplified. As husband and wife team Marco A. Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzsky put it, it isn't about "flash." Instead, Marco explains, "I don't think Tocqueville is for everybody, but if someone wants to come in for a great dining experience and be transported to a different atmosphere culinary wise, that's what we offer." Although the original location opened in 2000, the pair built Tocqueville's current home from scratch in 2006, designing everything from the cozy, yet refined bar, spacious but graceful main dining room, and the inviting private dining room. Everything is designed to welcome their clientele to an upscale meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Marco and Jo-Ann were gracious enough to lend Joonbug some of their time, and give you a chance to get a glimpse into the architects behind Tocqueville.

When did you first know that food was your passion?

ARCTIC AVENUE
Little Saigon Delivers Boldly on Flavor and Value

Little Saigon Restaurant (BYO)
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Price Range: Inexpensive

2801 Arctic Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401-3704
(609)347-9119
Open 12pm-9pm, Closed Tuesday

In 1990, Chef Lien Pham opened Little Saigon in Atlantic City, a small restaurant featuring the wonderfully diverse cuisine of Vietnam. At that time it was the first of its kind, serving a deliciously varied menu of South East Asian specialties in a quaint setting at an outstanding value. Presently there are several good establishments in the area to enjoy Vietnamese cooking, but none have garnered success and culinary accolades like Little Saigon has. This is due entirely to Chef/Owner Lien Pham and her kitchen's ability to consistently produce fresh and intensely flavored regional Vietnamese dishes that aromatically encase the restaurant's dining room with an enticingly exotic fragrance.

FERRARO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR
Ferraro's Takes A Gamble On A Location Change

Ferraro’s has been a Las Vegas mainstay on Flamingo since it was opened by Gino Ferraro 17 years ago. Now, however, the Italian restaurant has packed its knives and moved across the strip to the corner of Paradise and Harmon. The new Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is set for a grand opening in the last week of January.

The Ferraro family and restaurant have done very well in their current location with their focus on authentic homemade Italian food. Gino boasts that “59 items are made fresh when you order,” leaving the osso bucco as the only item on the menu which is prepared ahead of time.