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

Friday, December 25, 2009


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.

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.


144 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

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.