Monday, December 28, 2009

Saigon Bakery

One day after work, Fleurise and I made a run to Saigon Bakery for their awesome banh mi sandwiches. We were a little afraid we wouldn't make it before they closed at 7 pm. We hailed a cab and ran to the shop. Turns out that their closing time is somewhat variable depending on how many sandwiches they have left to sell. And also, we could have ordered ahead of time by phone and they would have held the sandwiches for us until we picked them up. I put their number in my phone as soon as they suggested the idea.

We love their sandwiches!!


Saigon Bakery
138 Mott St.
New York, NY 10013
212-941-1541

Friday, December 25, 2009

Graffiti

Fleurise organized a trip to Graffiti. Shrey really likes this restaurant. It is in the East Village and is run by Chef Jehangir Mehta, currently a contestant on Iron Chef. It was an interesting experience.

On the one hand, the food and drink were excellent. The Prosecco Lychee Martini was almost like a slushy and was very refreshing to drink. The Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint Sorbet was surprising and fresh. Everything else we got - the Graffiti Burger, the Chickpea Crusted Skate, Braised Pork Buns, and Duck Portobello Gratinee - was delicious and satisfying. In addition, it's neat because you see the chef himself floating around the restaurant serving food and tending the reservation books.

But on the other hand, this is the first time for me that the layout of a restaurant has seriously impacted on the overall experience. The space is extremely cramped. This translates not only into physical discomfort (no one could move their legs freely beneath the table, Amanda and I felt somewhat pinned against the wall by the table, and Eduardo got a touch of sciatica by the dinner's end), but also psychic discomfort (we shared our table with four strangers and had to constantly redirect one person who continually wanted to participate in our dinner conversation).

In the end, Graffiti may just be representative of the usual New York City dining experience, where sweat and toil sometimes have to be put into finding and experiencing good food. The beauty of New York is that the angst is usually worth it. I think in this case, the food is worth the visit.

Graffiti
224 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hakata Tonton

Our friend Soes recommended Hakata Tonton to us a while ago. Dave, Fleurise, and I made it out during a nippy day that was perfect for a hot pot. We ordered the Hakata Tonton hot pot, which was very satisfying.




I'm not quite sure which menu we ended up ordering, but an order of the tebasaki chicken wings came out. They were amazing, and were seriously the lightest and most delicately prepared chicken wings I have ever had. These are the same type of wings that Tebaya makes, but you can't really compare them - they are each tasty in their own way.

We also ordered their Foie Gras Sushi Inari, which was delicious. I know it was just regular sushi with a little square of foie gras, but you can't argue with deliciousness.


The only disappointment was, ironically, the pigs feet, for which this establishment is named. I grew up eating pigs feet, but Hakata Tonton's dish wasn't that appealing to me. Dave started overheating toward the end of dinner as he sometimes does in warm restaurants. Fleurise and I finished off dinner with black sesame ice cream (which I can never resist, especially since it is kind of hard to find). When we left, one of the waitresses stood outside and gave us each a pez from a dispenser. Overall, I had a really good time at Hakata Tonton. I am definitely coming back for another round.

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St.
New York, NY 10014

Rice To Riches

Fleurise was scandalized that I had never been to Rice to Riches. So we made a trip. It is a place that sells rice pudding in different flavors. Fleurise was pretty excited to be there.


I didn't have strong feelings for rice pudding either which way, so I didn't know quite what to expect. She recommended the mascarpone rice pudding with cherries. It was delicious!! I didn't know rice pudding could taste that smooth.


Even better are those durable orange plastic bowls and spoons that are a bit too small to hold anything useful but a pity to throw out and fun to take home. The faintly european sensibility of the place (The clean lines? The zany idea of a rice pudding dessert place?) rounds out the fun.

Rice to Riches
37 Spring St. (between Mott and Mulberry)
New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tebaya and more Trucks

Inspired by a recent article about non-Southern fried chicken, I decided to try out Tebaya, a Japanese fried chicken place in Chelsea. I shanghaied Caroline and Fleurise into coming with me.

Seating is competitive. The trick is to be aggressive but fair. We got a table, narrowly beating out a group of four. We got a combo with tebasaki (wings) and karaage (marinated thighs in a light crust). The wings were sweet with a crispy exterior. The thighs were pleasantly moist with a nicely airy crust. It was pretty good.

We took a picture next to the restaurant's sign. Fleurise felt like we had conquered a small country.


After dinner, we had a hankering for dessert. Our plan was to wander around the West Village aimlessly until we figured something out, but luckily, when we emerged from the subway stop at Christopher St, there was a bright yellow dessert truck called Wafels & Dinges. Caroline got really excited because she had read about this truck and had been wanting to try it for a while.



They sold Belgian waffles ("wafels") with a variety of toppings ("dinges").


One topping I had never heard of was called spekuloos. It tasted good, like animal cracker paste, but no one was particularly in the mood to have it on their waffles. We went with a variety of fruit, chocolate, and whipped cream and had the waffles at my place a few blocks down.

>

Tebaya
144 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

http://www.wafelsanddinges.com/

The High Line

One fine Manhattan day, Dave and I decided to check out the High Line, a former above-ground railway that has been turned into a park. We enjoyed the walk from Gansevoort to 20th; the architects did a nice job highlighting and retaining elements reminiscent of trains, railways, and motion.

Along the way, we stopped to listen to a band called Chicken Gravy. I have no idea if they were officially sanctioned by the High Line or if they were just cleverly situating themselves on a fire escape on the side of a building next to the park to build up publicity.


We got some video of the show.


We were walking home from the High Line when I caught sight of something.


You don't see it? Try harder...Dave didn't believe me, either.


It was the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Truck!


This was my fourth or fifth sighting that month. I saw it on 14th and 5th a couple of times and randomly on 6th and 22nd. Each time I saw the truck, it was an inopportune moment to stop to have ice cream. So when we saw it this time, we had to get a scoop. I got the bergamot and Dave got the coffee. The bergamot was flowery and creamy. Dave loved his scoop as well, declaring it, "the best in its class." When I asked for clarification he said, "The best super-premium American-style non-gelato ice cream, a coarser, harder type of ice cream." So there you go.

If you don't have time to stalk the truck on Twitter or to chase it around town, Murray's Cheese now carries tins of their ice cream.

http://www.thehighline.org/
http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com/

Monday, November 23, 2009

Salad recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook

I started reading The French Laundry Cookbook last weekend and decided to make a loose version of one of the recipes yesterday. I know that it's something like 10 years after its publication, but it's really a great cookbook. I thought it would be all crazy complicated, but Keller walks you through basic techniques and fundamental concepts, and writes about things like what kind of kosher salt he likes (Crystal Diamond) to the best way to roll a torchon of foie gras.

Anyway, I wanted to eat fish last night and wanted to have a salad (trying to eat healthier nowadays) so I did a variant of his Salad of Haricot Vert, Tomato Tartare, and Chive Oil. I've also always wanted to work on making better composed salads. I replaced the haricot vert with regular green beans because they're cheaper, the tomato tartare with tuna because that was easier and I wanted fish, but I kept the chive oil. I haven't made anything with tuna for a long time and I saw some beautiful-looking tuna at the Lobster Place the day before, so I got a pound of it. I know it sounds like a weird substitution, but it worked. We used the leftover tuna for sashimi. Here's a picture of the final product.


From the bottom up, you've got chive oil; tuna with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and onion; green beans with cream and sherry vinagrette (he calls for red wine vinegar); and topped off with chicory dressed in olive oil and balsamic (he calls for frisee and I don't think uses balsamic). I didn't have the metal ring you need to plate the tuna, so I found a container of expired sundried tomatoes in the apartment, threw out the tomatoes, and cut out my own mold from the plastic container. The dish tasted very good. Not a perfect reproduction of the original recipe, but I picked up some new techniques and I think got into the spirit of things. Which is why I love this cookbook. I'm not going to be following the recipes to the letter, but he has got some clear principles and explains why he does things the way he does. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Berimbau

We just came back from brunch at Berimbau.


I've been wanting to try out this place since they opened up over the summer. It took over the space formerly occupied by Deborah which is a restaurant that I really liked. Brian and Jen took me to Deborah for my birthday the first or second year I was in New York, and I've had some good meals there. It turns out that the chef/owner had a stroke, and had to sell quickly, and now we have the Brazilian restaurant Berimbau.

It's a really friendly place, good music, good vibe, good value. They started us with bite-sized pieces of cheese bread which were really good. Mabel got a delicious chicken sandwich, and I got Brazilian-style Eggs Benedict. (They had Cod Hash on the menu as well.) We talked a bit with one of the partners, Sergio, who told us about how they got started with the restaurant and how they're making it work with the recession. We're planning on making it back for dinner soon.

On the way back we kept seeing these flyers on the street.


In front of the corner church we ran into a petition booth to keep Carmine St a two-way street. "Do you live in the neighborhood?" "Yeah, I live in the neighborhood." I signed it because we don't need to increase the parking in the neighborhood and it was going to mess up the bus drop off for the church school on the corner. The city gave them an ultimatum. Hopefully they'll be able to figure something out.

Berimbau
43 Carmine Street (btn Bedford & Bleecker)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-2606

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sunday, November 7, 2009

Mabel had been craving Home's Oyster Po' Boy, so we stopped by for lunch today. She feels guilty for feeling this way, but she likes their Po' Boy better than the ones she ate on her recent trip to New Orleans.

I got Duck and Butternut Squash Hash with two eggs which was good, but I don't understand why it's impossible to find "homemade" regular old corned beef hash in Manhattan like what I ate at Curly's Cafe in Signal Hill. It's always a fancy insert-meat-other-than-corned-beef hash that is made in house. I had something like that at the Spotted Pig once, I think it was steak hash, and now they have bacon hash. For once I'd like to see corned beef hash that's not out of the can (not that there's anything wrong with the stuff out of the can). But Home's duck hash was tasty, and I got a side of Fried Oysters which is one of my favorite things at the restaurant.

Anyway, service at Home was poor as usual (we're no longer in love with the place and are considering a break up). While we were waiting for our waiter to take our order, we read about City Bakery in the latest issue of Edible Manhattan that they had out for diners.

After lunch, we headed over to the Greenmarket to pick up Japanese Turnips that Mabel has been obsessing about all week.


She also got some grapes and Italian Plums (presumably not from Italy) for herself. The plums were exploding in the bag. And I got a bunch of my beloved radishes.

Then we walked to City Bakery, inspired by the Edible article praising their pretzel croissants and chocolate chip cookies. We'd never been there before.


We got everything to go and just ate one of the chocolate chip cookies. They are delicious. Chewy, salty, sweet, chocolatey, and there's a pretzel taste to it that I like. It's something special.

For dinner, I prepped the turnips by quartering the roots


then steaming them for 10 minutes, which I think may have been on the long side. They were a lot softer than I thought they would get, but they were surprisingly sweet and so good. We just sprinkled some salt on them.


The turnip greens are also fantastic, either fresh or sauteed.

The City Bakery
3 W 18th St (btn 5th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 366-1414

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First visit to greenmarket this year

Mabel and I finally made it to the Union Square Greenmarket today for the first (and maybe only) time all year. We had such plans back in the spring, but our schedules didn't line up, we'd been keeping too busy, and our kitchen was down for a while. We bought a double-thick in-bone shell steak at Florence, the same cut we tried at BLT Prime, and headed over to the greenmarket for some accompaniments.


We got our annual decorative pumpkin, some French breakfast radishes, wild arugula, celery greens, and purple carrots. I didn't realize the purple carrots were not purple inside until later. We picked up enough vegetables, but Mabel saw a bunch of beautiful Italian dandelion greens and we brought that home too.

Hopefully we'll get a chance to come back before there's nothing but potatoes and onions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grand Central Oyster Bar

Dave had been craving oysters for a while. But reading this NY Times article galvanized us into action.

We learned that there are several mom-and-pop oyster farms on the Damariscotta River in Maine. The owner of one farm, Barb Scully, grows seedlings for a year, then plants them 40 feet in the muck. She waits 4 years and then dives down to harvest them by hand. Her children help her with the harvest. The result are Glidden Point oysters. Who wouldn't want to try these oysters?

We ordered a dozen Glidden Points as well as a dozen Pemaquids, which are from a neighboring farm. The Glidden Points are very large (I think that if I had been new to oysters, I might have been a little scared to eat them), briny, and heavenly when you add just a touch of the vinegar that Grand Central provides. They are the best oysters I have ever had. In my life.

We also ordered the oyster panroast, which is a kind of tomato-tangy soup mixed in with oysters and a slice of white bread. Dave liked it, but it left me with the same feeling I get when I drink too much hot chocolate. We also tried the uni, which was fun at first because it was served in the shell (all the spikes had been cut off), but ultimately an unpleasant experience due to some slimy black stuff that tasted horrible. We gagged a little and decided that we much prefer the cleaned up uni served at Japanese restaurants. I guess we just can't handle sea urchin au naturel.

Grand Central Oyster Bar is a vast restaurant. It was fun sitting at the counter. Peter N. tells me that there is a saloon portion of the restaurant where you can still order all the same things on the menu but in a cooler ambience. I think we may try that when we order our next round of Glidden Points.

Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017

Friday, October 2, 2009

Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too

I was at Harlem Hospital this morning dropping off a gift and decided to get some fried chicken at Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too.


I ate here a couple times while I was on my Neurology and Pediatrics rotations and discovered their awesome fried chicken and collard greens. The chicken has been perfectly done every time I've been here. And the collard greens are nice and smoky; I was convinced that they used bacon, but they use smoked turkey. So it's good and good for you.

Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too
547 Lenox Ave (btn 137th and 138th St.)
New York, NY 10037
(212) 690-3100

Thursday, October 1, 2009

BLT Prime

Mabel had a $25 gift certificate to BLT Prime, so we went last Sunday to check it out.

Overall, we found it sorely disappointing, mainly because the steak was either not cooked right or because the steak itself wasn't great. We got the "BLT" cut (their quotes) which is a double-thick bone in NY strip steak for two. Medium-rare. Sounds like you couldn't go wrong with that, eh? Well, the outside of it was double-burnt and it was cooked more or less rare-raw. I think they forgot to finish it in the oven, but that's a big thing to forget. Now, I have nothing against almost raw steak, but it has to be good. This steak was dry and a bit grisly. It was definitely aged, but it made me realize that I've taken Florence and the meat from great steakhouses for granted. Now that I think of it, I've been taking Outback for granted as well. The sauce, which was provided in a mini gravy boat was very nice, but the sauce should not make the steak.

Aside from the steak, the rest of the meal was lots of fun. They started us with complimentary chicken liver pate which was really fantastic, and a nice touch. They also give you free popovers which was completely unexpected and fun, a nice alternative to a bread basket, although they took them away when the rest of the meal came which I thought was strange. We ordered hash browns with leeks which were a bit of a let down, and sauteed chanterelles which I liked but Mabel thought were too salty (I though the saltiness offset the blandness of the hash browns).

I was kind of offended by the wine list where the vast majority of wines were over $100. This place was nice, but not that nice. It's just obscene.

So the meal was very mixed. They did high and low brow, well and poorly cooked, bland and salty. I don't understand how this restaurant survives. Anyway, it was educational. When Mabel got back home she said that the BLT Prime steak made her crave the steaks we get from Florence more. I'll be grilling a couple of those tonight.

BLT Prime
111 E 22nd St (btn Park & Lexington Ave)
New York, NY 10010

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dining Solo

There are lots of times when Dave's schedule and mine don't overlap, leaving one person or the other to fend for themselves for food. Sometimes I'll try to rustle up a friend or get take-out and eat at home. But when the mood strikes me, I'll go out for a meal by myself.

I've always liked eating out on my own. You get to choose your own cuisine. You don't have to make reservations, wait around for people to gather or worry that someone won't like the food. A solo diner can slip into any restaurant pretty quickly because there are almost always seats at the bar. And when you're alone, trendy new places and popular favorites become a cinch to get into. There is a liberating sense of speed, simplicity, and mobility - you are unencumbered of the normal ritual and dance that comes when two or more diners try to go out.

But there are deterrents to eating alone. For instance, eating alone in the suburbs can be very different than eating alone in the city. I once went to a nice sit-down Italian place in a suburb near Cleveland by myself. The surprised host repeated, "One? Just one for dinner?" Which set the tone for the rest of the meal with my waiter directing multiple concerned glances in my direction throughout the entire evening. Luckily, New York City teems with solo diners, and I have not yet had to fend off incredulity here.

But you can get sabotaged of a tranquil dining experience even in the city. When your friends and family, the people most relaxing to eat with, are all busy, the next most relaxing situation is being alone with your own thoughts. Talking to strangers takes energy. I was once at Ippudo ordering my bowl of ramen at the bar after gleefully skipping a line of diners waiting with their friends for tables. The person next to me noted that I was alone, and asked if I came there often. I answered politely with a measured amount of crispness, smiled, and then turned back to my food. Some people get energized from talking to others, but at the end of a long day, when I am hungry and run-down, making small talk is pretty draining. The slight brusqueness is my equivalent of a "Do Not Disturb" sign, which some people, unfortunately, don't understand. After some time, the person asked if I had ever had the vegetable plate. It felt rude not to chat. So we did, but thankfully, I was near the end of my meal and was able to make a quick getaway.

The brilliant thing is that some people do understand. I was at Waverly Restaurant again for a solo brunch (I got the omelette with ham, tomato, and cheese this time, delicious, with molten yolk of egg scattered throughout, and a croissant instead of the toast, which they split in half and toasted!). I was doing what I normally do when alone - planning my upcoming day or ruminating on some past or future case - when a diner two seats down at the bar offered a section of the newspaper. I accepted, and so we came to share some kind of camaraderie as two fellow New Yorkers enjoying our respective homefries and coffee and peacefully reading through the Times. When I returned the newspaper to him, I thanked him and smiled, and he nodded back. It was a nice way to start a Sunday.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Setagaya West Village

On Thursday I dusted off my bike and got noodles for the first time at the Setagaya outpost in the West Village. I want to call it the new outpost, but I don't know if it's new anymore. On the ride over, I learned that my bike has been so neglected over the summer that the gear shifting had frozen, but the brakes worked and I was okay.


The ramen was as satisfying as I remembered it at their East Village location. But I think they added some yuzu oil or peel to the garnish and stopped adding bonito flakes.

I was just glad to have a break and get some well needed nourishment. And happy that Setagaya is now closer to home.

Ramen Setagaya (West Village)
90 University Place (btn 11th and 12th St)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 229-1489

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Waverly Restaurant and Milk Bar

Last Sunday Mabel and I went to Waverly Restaurant for brunch. Classic diner, almost every seat is a booth or counter, corn beef hash is standard preparation, well fried and out of the can with a side of shredded hash browns. Mabel went fancy with Eggs Hollandaise. Coffee is okay. I like this place. It's very comfortable, lots of hanging plants, not hip, good portions, and they've got booths.

It was a really nice day and we took a walk around Washington Square Park afterwards then decided to cab it over to Milk Bar for some cookies and ice cream. I'd been here back in December and didn't have the best impression of the place, but I've changed my mind. I think Milk Bar is fantastic and not just because they have a communal water dispenser. Their cookies are awesome. I've been a huge fan of their marshmallow-cornflake cookies since Mabel brought me one a few months ago. Nice chewiness and caramelliness. Mabel likes their compost cookies which have pretzels in them. I tried their blueberry cream cookies on this visit and they are really good, kind of what I have always wished blueberry muffins would taste like (although I still love blueberry muffins).

Mabel had been obsessed with trying out their cereal milk soft serve for a while so she got a cup of that. It basically tastes like slightly salty corn flake milk (sans corn flakes), and it works. But I don't think I could actually drink a glass of it. Or more than a small serving of soft serve.

I also got their pork bun with egg, even though I just had a full meal because I wasn't sure when I'd be back before 5pm when they stop making it. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that it is the ideal breakfast sandwich. It was very good. On the walk back home we were checking out apartment buildings, and at least I was wondering what it would be like to get my breakfast sandwich from Milk Bar every morning. Only in my dreams.

Waverly Restaurant
385 6th Ave (Btn Waverly Pl & 8th St)
New York, NY 10014

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd Ave (entrance on 13th St)
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ess-a-Bagel

According to Jason O., Ess-a-Bagel makes a pretty good everything bagel sandwich with whitefish, tomato, and onion. I like bagels, although I don't eat them much these days. I grew up eating them all the time - some of my most vivid memories are of toasting supermarket onion bagels and topping them with cream cheese and strips of bacon. When I got my driver's license, I'd make frequent trips to Goldstein's Bagel Bakery (home of the first drive-through bagel bakery in the U.S.) where I once had the luck to get one of their cranberry bagels right out of the boiler/oven; I had never tasted a softer or more chewier bagel.

One day, I was done early from clinic at HJD. It was only 11:30 am and I was free for the rest of the day. It seemed like the perfect time to try this everything bagel sandwich, especially since I was not scheduled to meet with any more patients. Successful patient-doctor interactions require a sweet breath. Thus, everything bagels are, by definition, bad for patient-doctor interactions, and the addition of both whitefish and onion is positively lethal. I figured I'd never have this chance again.

Ordering the sandwich itself was pretty annoying. I am not sure what part of "I'd like an everything bagel with whitefish, tomato, and onion" that he didn't understand, but the counter guy, who was joking around incessantly with the counter girl, asked me what I wanted with my onion bagel, then asked if I wanted butter with my everything bagel, and then forgot to give me tomato and onion.

Anyway, once I got the sandwich and self-applied the tomato and onion, I thought the end result was pretty enticing.



I have to say I agree with Jason; the sandwich is pretty good. Very tasty. Very filling. Maybe slightly taxing on the temporomandibular joints, but worth the effort.



Ess-a-Bagel
359 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pearl Oyster Bar

I can't believe it has taken me this long to write about Pearl Oyster Bar. I've already sent multiple people here; if I haven't told you already, you should know that Pearl Oyster Bar has an amazing lobster roll.

A group of us went today to celebrate Kavi's birthday.



The rolls come overstuffed with large chunks of sweet lobster dressed in a mayo-based sauce. The roll is moist and buttery. The shoestring fries are crispy. Nothing more needs to be said. Except that the Butterscotch Praline Parfait is really good.

Watch out - they are closed on Sundays, and Dave and I have seen many an angry and hungry would-be diner shake their fist at the storefront before stomping away.

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St.
New York, NY 10014

Trattoria Spaghetto

West Village is pretty touristy. It can get mildly annoying at times, such as when the sidewalks get clogged with slow-moving out-of-towners. But Dave and I recently realized that we can embrace the tourism and make ourselves feel like we are on vacation in our own neighborhood.

For instance, take Trattoria Spaghetto. It is a super-touristy restaurant located on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker. Sometimes they have one of those people soliciting customers the way they do in Little Italy. The food is utterly unremarkable. But, it is pretty cheap and you can sit outside and enjoy watching the neighborhood in motion.

And even better, it is the idea of eating at Trattoria Spaghetto. Locals don't eat here; only tourists do. So when we eat there, it's like we become tourists, and then all of a sudden, we're not medical students and residents anymore with exams and presentations, but regular people visiting the West Village, New York City, having a nice time.



Trattoria Spaghetto
232 Bleecker St (at Carmine)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 255-6752

ChikaLicious Dessert Bar

Those glorious post-call days! Kavi, Fleurise, and I were all post-call on the same day. After ramen at Minca, we were all loathe to go home, and so we decided to go to ChikaLicious Dessert Bar. The funny thing about this place is that it acts like a restaurant, but for just dessert. So you can get a Prix Fixe for $14 that comes with an amuse bouche, your choice of dessert, and petit fours. You could also get this menu with a wine pairing. I can't exactly remember what we all got (Fleurise did get some fizzy cocktail in a tall glass that was fun to look at and refreshing to drink), but it was all really good.



We didn't have a camera with us at the time, but we improvised a sign and took a picture at work to commemorate our trip. Not quite the same, but better than nothing. And you can see how happy we were to have gone there!

ChikaLicious
204 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arirang Handmade Noodles

Fleurise, Huiwon, and I went to this secret Korean handmade noodle place based on a tip from one of Huiwon's co-workers.



It is one of those third story restaurants that would have been impossible to find without insider information. The staircase up to the restaurant was narrow and generated a feeling very similar to the feeling you get walking up the staircase to Bon Chon Chicken - like you were the only ones in Manhattan walking into this hidden eatery. However, unlike Bon Chon, the restaurant was not super trendy; thankfully, it is just a normal, down-to-earth family Korean restaurant. We ordered a seafood scallion pancake and a bowl of Seafood and Kimchi Noodle/Dumpling Wrapper Soup as well as this milky-sweet rice alcohol beverage called makguli.



The portions were huge! The three of us were full on just the soup and the pancake. The pancake was pretty good, although the scallion to batter ratio might have been a little high. It was good soup. The noodles were good, but even better were those dumpling wrappers; they looked like random, thin bits of dough that might have been leftover from making the noodles. Next time we want to get a bowl of soup filled with just those wrappers.

We got a basket full of sauces for the pancake. Fleurise thought the basket looked like one that Baby Moses might have slept in as he floated down the Nile.



The walls surrounding the staircase had these fun, bold murals.



Fleurise liked this mural in particular.



Note the dog (cat?). The world is replete with funny representations of animals.

Arirang Handmade Noodles
32 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 967-5088

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ko

We never finished the story about Ko and what happened after we got an elusive reservation there.

I was so nervous about getting there late and having our reservation voided that we got there about 20 minutes early. The entry way was intimidating.



Once we went inside, we were told that we were a little early, but they seated us anyway. The counter, large enough for only 12 diners, was L-shaped. We were seated at the short horizontal part of the L, which ended up being the best seats because we could see the chefs' hands and watch their every move. As the other diners trickled in, I wondered, "Who are these people, and why do they have an entire Friday afternoon free?" The lunch menu is actually more extensive (and more pricey) than the dinner menu. We were there for 3 or 4 hours.

We didn't want to get the wine tasting because we wanted to stay lucid during the entire meal. We started with 1/2 a bottle of sake. We finished it and ended up getting another full bottle anyway.

There were too many dishes to count. They were all delicious. I'm a big fan of bento boxes because you get to taste a lot of different things with one visit. So it was even better that Ko did an omakase ("it's up to you" in Japanese, meaning entirely of the chef's choice) menu. One standout was the Shaved Torchon of Freeze-Dried Foie Gras over Rieseling Gelee with Lychee and Pine Nut Brittle. Shaved freeze-dried foie gras is a brilliant innovation. It tastes like fois-gras ice cream - creamy, melting, and rich. We were tempted to ask for a second helping.

I was a little afraid of talking too loudly and initially wasn't sure where to look. But the music was just loud enough to provide cover for our voices without being distracting, and I think Ko had been open long enough that the chefs were used to being observed. One of them nonchalantly brought out an enormous wheel of blue cheese, cut out a wedge, and returned it to the fridge, afterwards casually checking his Blackberry.

David Chang made an appearance during our meal. He poked around the back, whispered in a few chefs' ears, adjusted the stereo sound once or twice, and then left.

Ko
163 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-7773

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Baily

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily came to New York City! I had never been to the circus so I bought tickets straightaway.

The circus was at Madison Square Garden. I missed this, but apparently the night before the circus opens at around midnight, they close off the Queens Midtown Tunnel and march the elephants in. You can go and watch. Something I also didn't know was that an hour before each circus performance, you can go to the part of the arena that is blocked off and pet the animals. I was pretty bummed about missing that.

But the circus was fun! The whole thing was kind of like a ballgame, with the food coming to you. It was, however, ridiculously expensive. We bought an icey in this plastic cup that lighted up in the dark, and it was $14!!



A bag of popcorn was equally expensive, maybe $10-12. But we went along with it. It was a festive atmosphere. We felt like little kids.

The acrobatics were not as impressive to me having been spoiled with Cirque du Soleil. However, I loved watching the animals. The dog show was incredible. There were dogs of all sizes and types doing clever antics and jumping over and off various objects. They also brought out zebras (!) and horses and had them run around in a circle. Which doesn't sound that amusing now, but was somehow extremely amusing to me as I was watching. The zebras were not as bright as the horses and tended to clump together despite the trainer's encouragement. The horses ran around their circle pretty evenly. I couldn't help but clap to encourage them along.

And there were elephants!!!!!!!



The only animals that did not seem happy and content were the tigers. I felt a little sorry for them. One of them was a particularly bad troublemaker - Princessa - and she wouldn't stay on her stand. The trainer had to constantly reprimand her and she would roar irritably. I was a little afraid he would get eaten.

Overall, it was a good time. Go to the circus the next time they're in town!

S'mores in our fireplace

This is from a while ago from the winter.

We lit a fire in our fireplace and roasted marshmallows. Then we made s'mores with graham crackers and Hershey's milk chocolate. It was fun! We couldn't remember the last time we had s'mores.


This is when one of my marshmallows caught on fire.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Daniel

Two days after Bloomsday, it was our 4th anniversary. So we went to Daniel to celebrate. We planned on getting the prix fixe, but our resolve crumbled after we saw the menu. We justified our change in decision the way we usually justify our weakness of will with such matters - we work hard, we don't buy nice clothes, we may not be in the city in a few years, and therefore wouldn't we regret not getting the tasting menu?

So we did. The food was delicious - more obviously and satisfyingly so than at Le Bernadin. The timing of some of the dishes were off, but we didn't care - we weren't in any hurry. We speculated that someone was on vacation. The restaurant was beautiful. It is hard for me to remember specific dishes, they were all so good. It is just all awash in one long memory of spending four happy hours at Daniel.

The wines were excellent, though not as life-changing an experience as at Le Bernadin. The pours were quite generous and Dave had to take a quick break at the pinot noir, though he bounced back quickly. We liked our sommelier a lot even though we couldn't understand his descriptions very well due to his thick French accent.

There was a point in the dinner when I dropped a piece of food on my dress. We were startled when two or three people rushed over with a real look of concern in their eyes to ask if everything was okay. It was a funny moment.

Towards the end, as the restaurant was emptying out, it seemed like some of the staff were feeling a little giddy. Our sommelier took this photo of himself with our camera:


Then we decided to take a nicer picture of him and the person-who-took-our-order-and-orchestrated-our-dinner:


At the beginning when we told the person-who-took-our-order-and-orchestrated-our-dinner that it was our anniversary, the look that flashed across his face made me realize how neat it must be to work in the kind of restaurant where people come to celebrate such events.

And that's us - we're 4 years old!




Daniel
60 E 65th St
New York, NY 10065
(212) 288-0033

Le Bernardin and Bemelmans Bar

Dave took me to Le Bernadin for my 30th birthday. We realized en route to the table that there was Le Bernadin staff everywhere. I was pretty nervous when we sat down - I had a feeling we were going to be watched pretty closely. But we had a cocktail, and the uneasiness melted into the sensation that we were actually in one big Le Bernadin hug, and that the staff was going to take really good care of us. It was an excellent cocktail.

We ordered the tasting menu with the wine pairings. The flavors at Le Bernadin were clean and delicate, but perhaps a bit too muted. The real accolades belong to Le Bernadin's impeccable technique. That which was supposed to be crispy was perfectly crispy, the dish components were cut incredibly precisely, and all the seafood was cooked exactly as it was supposed to be cooked with not a surplus moment under the heat. I have never encountered this kind of execution with food. Eric Ripert runs a tight ship.

Even better were the wine pairings. You could tell which of the staff were sommeliers because they had silver necklaces with these large silver medallions. The sommelier we had was very nice, and she led us through a variety of wines that were classic examples of their type. The whole experience was actually pretty incredible, but the wine I loved the most was the chablis. I learned that I am a huge fan of minerally whites.

At the end of the meal, there was one awesome moment when one of the staff came by with a second set of petit fours by accident. There was a glitch in the flawless machine that was Le Bernadin! She grimaced when she found out there had been a miscommunication, paused for a microsecond, and then resolutely gave us the second set anyway.

We felt a little shy about taking pictures in such a nice restaurant. But we snuck one of this painting:



We love the dog!



After dinner, Dave and I met up with my brother at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. The bar was beautiful; there were murals all along the walls and this feeling of old-time swankiness. I felt right at home in my cocktail dress. The cocktails were excellent, as was the live jazz. It was the perfect place to hang out, relax, and end the evening.


Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

Bemelmans Bar
35 East 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 744-1600‎

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back & Foot Rub (and Minca)

One of the peculiarities of the West Village is the density of cheap Chinese massage places. I had found a gem on Carmine Street that charged only $48 for an hour ($40 between 11 am and 3 pm, if you can believe it) for an extremely intense and effective shiatsu/deep tissue massage. I was looking forward to getting a massage one day when, Jane-Eyre/burnt-Thornfield-style I found the store cleared out and a sign tacked on the window stating, "Thank you customers, Moving to 10th and McDougall." I was crushed, but not truly heartbroken until I looked for 10th and MacDougal and realized that it didn't exist.

Fast-forward a few months. Fleurise convinced me to go on an expedition to find my old massage place by walking up and down MacDougal. I got pretty discouraged, but then on the intersection between 8th and MacDougal, we found this:



And it was the right place!! Fleurise and I got our massages and then went to Minca to top off our day with ramen (which, by the way, is my new favorite ramen place; get the Shoyu ramen with thick noodle - the broth is flavorful and rich, and the noodle has an addictive and perfectly calibrated amount of chewiness. Better, I'm sorry to say, than the hand-pulled noodles at Food Shing.)

Falai Panetteria

I have been semi-obsessed with tomato tarts ever since I had one on a flight to Paris (can't remember the airline - Northwest?). Maybe it wouldn't be that great if I had it again now, but I was new to savory tarts at the time, and I really enjoyed it. So when I found out that Falai Panetteria in the Lower East Side made tomato tarts, I knew I had to make a trip.

The first time I went they were out. I went back a second time and I bought two tarts for $4.50 each. Given that Iacopo Falai was the former pastry chef at Le Cirque, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at how delicious the tarts were.


That day, I decided that I love places where I can get a glass of wine with lunch. It was a laid back and comfortable little corner restaurant when I went, although I heard it can get busy, crowded, and hectic during the peak hours. I'm definitely going back - to get more tarts and also to try their other pastries.

Falai Panetteria
79 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002-3451
(212) 777-8956

Shopsin's General Store

Note: Dave and I are both on vacation, and we are hoping to get a bunch of posts in before the next onslaught of rotations. Here are some of our adventures from the past few months...

Fleurise and Jeremy (both post-call) and Mike and I (on our vacations) decided to go to Shopsin's General Store for brunch on a random Wednesday morning.


Contrary to its name, Shopsin's is actually an eatery (Stall #16, Essex Street Market, Lower East Side), although if one expects to be able to buy most anything at a general store, then their ridiculously extensive menu does contribute to a feeling of being able to order anything you might possibly feel like eating, or at least something very close to it.

Seating is extremely limited, and once the establishment found out that I was running late and not yet with the group, they made the other three get back up from the table, leaving them to pace anxiously while a few hipsters took over one of the other tables. I did show up soon thereafter and the four of us ordered blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes, lemon ricotta pancakes, slutty pancakes, and a combination of pancakes, along with bacon, fried brussel sprouts, and andouille sausage.


The ricotta pancakes were made as regular pancakes but with a ricotta filling; they were light and delicious. The slutty cakes (peanut butter, pumpkin, pistachios) and combo pancakes (3 way between slutty, lemon ricotta, cinammon raisin), with their unusual fillings, had a nice texture, and were fun to eat. The bacon was incredible!! It was crunchy with honey or maple syrup drizzled all over - probably the tastiest way to serve bacon, ever. We liked that we could order brussel sprouts for brunch and were tickled to discover that the dish comes with a bottle of Brussel Sprout Sauce.


Definitely come here for brunch, although be warned that Shopsin's will not serve groups larger than 4, requires that everyone order a meal, and takes only cash. Afterward, you can stroll around the market and maybe pick up cheese from Saxelby Cheesemonger for later (she is in the stall next door and has a small cheese cave you can view.)

Shopsin's
120 Essex St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 924-5160

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Big Apple BBQ 2009

Mabel and I just got back from the 7th annual Big Apple BBQ at Madison Square Park.


It was fun, the weather was perfect. We went for lunch.

The strategy was to go to 2 places, a rib place from Texas and a pulled pork place from the Carolinas. But there were ridiculously long lines at some of the places we wanted to go, so we skipped them. And the portions were very small so we went to 3 places.

The first place we went was to Baker's Ribs which is based in Dallas Texas.


The ribs were pretty good. There was a unique flavor to them that was nice. They weren't so smokey, and didn't have that pink smoke ring, but they were still good to eat. The cole slaw was fantastic and had some jalepeño kick to them.

Then we went to 17th Street Bar & Grill which is based out of Murphysboro, IL and Las Vegas.


The baby back ribs were really good. There was a satisfying chewy quality to them, and they were nice and smokey. I could probably eat two racks of these if given the chance.

We walked around a bit and ran into this useful sign.


So we turned the corner and went to our last place of the day which was a whole hog place, The Pit run by Ed Mitchell in Naleigh, NC.


It was good eats.

On our way out of the park, we passed by this probably illegal cupcake stand.


At least it's for a good cause.

All-in-all a fun lunch. We went in, ate, and made a quick getaway. I like BBQ.