2012's Most Challenging Dishes in NYC

Welcoming the whelks!

Some dishes you dig into without hesitating -- you know the terrain and keenly anticipate the execution. These sorts of dishes make eating pleasurable and worry-free. Other things you like the idea of, but once the dish arrives the fork hesitates over the plate. Either the appearance is alarming, or the strange combination of ingredients gives you pause. But somehow your fork begins to fly faster and faster. Here are some menu selections that scared us this year but turned out to be wonderful.

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Rural Restaurant: Further Adventures of the Organ Meat Society

Pig Ear in Aspic (a/k/a "Crystal Pig Skin Frozen" on the menu) was one of the more unusual dishes assayed by the Organ Meat Society that evening.

Lately, the Organ Meat Society has been often seen along Flushing's Main Street, because that is where the city's best collection of variety meats is found: in Northern Chinese restaurants. This week, Counter Culture sails into Rural Restaurant, a place that represents for the cuisine of Dongbei in far Northeastern China, on the border of Russia and North Korea. The week after I turned in the piece, the Organ Meat Society convened a meeting there. Here are some pictures of the incredible food we ate.

Read the entire review here.

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Eating Penis at Minzhongle (NSFW)

The roster of organ meats available at Minzhongle is indeed impressive.

In my capacity as scout for the Organ Meat Society, I've stumbled on a broad range of offal and other variety meats. It's easy enough to find liver, tongue, chitterlings, stomach tripe, sweetbreads, and even kidney, but there's an entire world of organs out there much more difficult to find in area restaurants. Brains and lungs are somewhat difficult, but the hardest of all is penis.

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Takashi Has Heart For Your Valentine

Heart shaped like a heart can only be enhanced by cheese and mochi.
They say it's best to wear your heart on your sleeve, but this Valentine's Day, West Village restaurant Takashi wants you to have it on your plate as well. The restaurant offers hatsu (beef heart) as a grill-ready item on its regular menu, but they've also come up with a special dish for this offaly overhyped holiday.

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Minutes of the Organ Meat Society, Five-Course Dinner at Hospoda

The third course was a chunky beef-heart stew in bacon sauce served over steamed and sliced dumplings.

Organ Meat Society Meeting
Friday, January 22, 2012
321 East 73rd Street

The meeting was called to order precisely at 7:30 p.m., at Hospoda, an elegant Czech restaurant on the Upper East Side. The Society occupied an alcove with some diverting murals in the rear of the restaurant. There were seven Organ Meat Society members present. The meal lasted until 11:15, at which point, after shaking the hand of chef de cuisine Marek Sada, farewells were said and the meeting adjourned. Following is a report on the food.

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Mutton Eggs. Ever Tried 'Em?

Wait a minute. Do geriatric sheep lay eggs?

A few nights ago, some friends were sitting around Kavkaz, a restaurant on Coney Island Avenue specializing in the food of the Caucasus (that's a region in the former Soviet Union, not an electoral process), when we spied an unusual dish on the menu styled "mutton eggs w/ potatoes." Hmmm, I didn't think muttons laid eggs," a member of the group thoughfully piped up.

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How About a Beef Brain Sandwich? At Karam in Bay Ridge

They don't call it gray matter for nothing ...

Organ meats are currently quasi-stylish, and it's not uncommon to see sweetbreads, tripe, and liver on menus. Less common are kidneys, with brains more rare than that. In fact, when was the last time you ate brains? I did the night before last at Karam.

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Geez Beez at Cupola Samarkanda II, Dish No. 59

West of the Caspians, you can just call it "jizz biz."

In Azerbaijani restaurants, it's called "jizz biz." This rather provocative name denotes a hash of potatoes fried with cubed animal organs of indeterminate distribution. Eat it in the dark. Over on the other side of the Caspian Sea, in Central Asia, the dish is called "geez beez," and the potatoes are gone.

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The Opulent Organs of Western Beef

Here's looking at you, kid -- I mean piglet.

Organ meats, also known as offal or by the more all-inclusive category of variety meats, form a perpetual topic of conversation among food fanciers. Some love 'em. Some hate 'em. But no one is completely indifferent. Many chefs have fooled around with organs, and they know where to get even the most obscure ones (like Casa Mono's cock's comb), but do you know where to buy variety meats if you want to experiment yourself?

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Chicken Liver Poori at Gandhi in Flatbush

Chicken liver poori: Be careful! When you tear the bread open, scalding steam squirts out.

Lately, Indian restaurants are becoming a substitute for neighborhood Chinese. On Bedford Avenue (yes, the same one that runs through Williamsburg, but miles to the south in Flatbush), Gandhi is the latest restaurant to appear in this category.

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