Branching out at Ssam Bar

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Photos from Esther and my summer meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which is still one of my favorite places to eat in the East Village.

A seasonal cocktail and the Penicillin – scotch, lemon, honey and ginger…all my favorite ingredients in one beverage with a giant ice cube.

The famous steamed pork belly buns with hoisin, cucumber, and scallions. Still so good that I could make a full meal out of these babies.

A new addition to the menu since my last visit – bbq buns with crispy pork belly, coleslaw, and smoked mayo. Maybe it was the novelty of the dish, but I think I actually preferred this version to the original, and Esther and I seriously contemplated ordering more.

A classic – spicy pork sausage and  rice cakes. I always tell myself that I won’t order these again, but something about the crispy starch mixed with the crunchy Chinese broccoli and spicy meatiness of the sausage just keeps calling me back.

Silky Santa Barbara uni with some melon ice and a strange but tasty gelee (I vaguely remember a porky, ham flavor) with summer tomatoes.

Beef, two ways, with bulgur, fava beans and soubise. I think this may have been the first time I’d had bulgur actually and it was totally great – nutty flavor and a toothsome texture. The meat, as you can see, was also perfectly cooked. Just goes to show that while it may be easy to fall into the same great dishes again and again, it’s definitely worth your while to try new dishes at places where you’ve eaten many times in the past.

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Fatty ‘Cue

September 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Damn, just saw that these photos were taken on June 28…boy, am I behind.

Anyway, this was a meat-centric dinner with Laura and Katie at the amazing Fatty ‘Cue in West Village (just a couple blocks from my summertime apartment), one of Zak Pelaccio’s many awesome restaurants. By the way, I liked this a lot better than Fatty Crab, which was still pretty good in itself. Lament the lack of greens and fiber all you want, but at the time, we were in the mood for juicy, Asian-influenced barbecue and little else.

Ham, jam, butter and bread

Toasty pretzel rolls served with rosy, fatty ham, a condiment called cincalok made with itty bitty fermented shrimps, and dry-fish-dusted butter. So many funky elements in one starter…

1/2 pound deep-fried bacon with sweet and spicy salsa verde

Yes, you read that right, and it was bleeping delicious. Slightly charred pork belly with layers of fat and lean meat, paired with a picante, acidic sauce to balance everything out.

Heritage pork ribs with Indonesian long pepper, fish sauce, and palm sugar

Incredibly tender and running-down-your-arm juicy…Pelaccio emphasizes palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice as the holy trinity of Southeast Asian cooking and it comes across the most in this simple-looking dish. The best part was tearing meat off the rib with our sticky fingers and dragging it through that sweet, sweet jus.

Fermented sausage with asparagus, ginger, chili, toast and poached egg – more funk (in a totally good way)

Lamb shoulder with yogurt dip and grilled pita

For a primer on Southeast Asian cooking with Zak Pelaccio, Bon Appetit has a pretty cool feature which you can find here

Fatty ‘Cue
50 Carmine Street
New York, NY 10014
212.929.5050

Kinshop

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dinner at Kinshop with Cahill girls began with a bottle of crisp white wine, a perfect pairing with the brightly-flavored meal to come…

Starters included a (very) spicy duck laab salad with toasted rice, ground chili and romaine hearts. Acidity from fish sauce, rich meatiness from the duck, and cool freshness from the lettuce – so many different elements playing off each other in a seemingly simple dish.

Our second starter were the grilled prawns with fresh lime and “Phuket-style” black pepper sauce. Loved sucking on those brain-filled shrimp heads a la Anthony Bourdain, and the sauce was so good that we kept it for other dishes.

This fried pork and crispy oyster salad with celery, peanuts, mint and chili-lime vinaigrette was probably the dish I was most excited about (based on reviews) and yet, it thrilled me the least when I finally tried it. Don’t get me wrong, it was still mighty tasty but I think the flavors didn’t meld together as well here as in other dishes.

This was the runaway favorite – fried broccoli and Chinese sausage with young coconut-gooseberry chutney and fermented plum vinegar. Yes, the broccoli is fried so it’s probably lost all its health qualities, but none of us cared. It was surprisingly light and ever-so-crisp and went so well with the tartness of the plum vinegar and sweetness of the chutney. And who’s going to complain about Chinese sausage with their vegetables?

My favorite main plate – Northern Thai style curry noodle with braised brisket, cucumber, peanuts, fresh herbs. So comforting, so complex. This is something I’d want to eat on a rainy day while watching television on the couch. Definitely better than a burger and fries.

Our second main – massaman: braised goat with fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens, and toasted coconut – a very rich dish with tender goat, lots of greens (there’s our fiber for the day) and an amazing coconut brothy concoction. Roti was the ideal vehicle to mop up any remaining sauce.

Desserts: Thai iced tea ice cream, lychee sorbet, coconut cream cake with kaffir lime syrup and toasted coconut. The coconut cake was somewhat bland, but we all fell hard for the ice cream and sorbet, the lychee sorbet especially. It reminded me of being in China, where we’d eat bowl after bowl of that fleshy, sweet fruit.

Top Chef fame aside (the owner and chef is Harold Dieterle, winner of Season 1), this is a great, casual place for a dinner that features a spin on your classic Thai and Southeast-Asian cuisine.

Kinshop
469 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.675.4295

Ngam

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Summer’s going by so quickly and with that realization comes the panic that there’s too much to do in too little time. Restaurants, exhibits, performances, meeting with old friends…why can’t we get 6 months of summer instead of 3? Luckily, some things, like eating out and gathering, go hand in hand. Case in point: a dinner with friends from high school at relatively new restaurant, Ngam, in the East Village.

There aren’t any assertions of authenticity at Ngam, just a focus on comforting, decidedly Thai dishes that nevertheless keep in mind the Western palate. My Thai burger, though a cooked bit too rare for my taste, had bright clean flavors – spiciness and slight pungency from the sai oor curry paste, acid from the green papaya kraut – to balance against the rich taste of the beef and a top-heavy sesame bun and came with a generous handful of addictive Chiang Mai kabocha fries and homemade red curry mayonnaise that Pomme Frites needs to riff and add to their repertoire of sauces so I can enjoy them really late at night.

M ordered an intriguing take on the classic pad thai which used long strands of green papaya instead of the usual rice noodles. I liked that the dish wasn’t overly sweet, a mistake more common than not at Thai restaurants trying to appeal to American tastes.

And X’s crispy chicken “laab” with sticky rice, though definitely not traditional in that it used larger nuggets of meat instead of minced chicken, had a healthy dose of fish sauce, lime, and cilantro.

All in all, Ngam is great for both classics and new approaches to traditional Thai dishes, and the restaurant’s vibe – artsy and rough around the edges – is great if you’re going with a group. Add the fact that they’re on Seamless and what’s not to love?

Ngam
99 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
212.777.8424

Food blitz

May 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Crap, has it been more than a month since the last post? As usual, finals chaos is to blame. That and moving to NYC for the summer (YAY!) Here are (some) bites I’ve had since April. Looking forward to a super delicious summer.

Scones benedict at Alice’s Tea Cup

More blueberry crisp

Nibbles on a Friday night

Roasted Old Bay fingerling potatoes

Lunch plate with southern roasted pecans (i.e. crack)

Afternoon tea with homemade irish scones, raspberry jam, clotted cream

Cocoa pecan brownies

Champagne mangos

Yukgaejang + brown rice

KFC to celebrate the end of exams

First margarita of the summer at Mercadito

Korean dinner spread in K-town

Benedict Jane at Jane Restaurant (just round the corner from my apartment!)

Wong + Grom

January 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Cornelia Street off Bleecker has a trove of great restaurants – Pearl Oyster Bar (where I had my first lobster roll), Cornelia Street Cafe, Le Gigot, Home Restaurant (a brunch favorite with killer oyster po’boys and duck confit butternut hash). The newest of these gems is Wong, by Simpson Wong, whose cuisine can only really be described as Asian fusion. Unlike typical notions of fusion, however, the food here is not as contrived at all and familiar Asian dishes are delivered with unique flair.

Sorry in advance for the very dimly lit, awkwardly tinted photos. The restaurant was extremely dark, even by 5:30pm, and our candle gave everything a reddish glow. The interior is much like any other casual dining place nowadays, minimalist with classroom-style chairs, open kitchen so you can see the chef working on your dishes, and a long, wooden bar where patrons can sip Asian-inspired cocktails while waiting for their table.

 

The waiter first brought us some curry with paneer and naan, the restaurant’s version of bread and butter. The flavors in this little dish were incredibly sharp, and it bode well for the rest of the meal.

Our starter were the house specialty, Wong’s duck buns, with cucumber and chinese celery. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the herbal taste of Chinese celery in what I’d assume would be a fatty bun (akin to Momofuku’s pork belly buns) but we ordered them anyway since they were one of the better known dishes and we weren’t disappointed. The celery definitely added an earthy element, balanced against the fatty, tender duck. The buns were also crisply fried, which was a very nice and unexpected touch.

Initially, we also wanted to try the Hakka pork belly small plate, served with turnip, taro root tater tots (I wanted the dish for this alone), and greens, but the kitchen had sadly run out so we got the shrimp fritters instead. Normally, I don’t like foods that are too tart, and this dish had a really bracing, acidic vinaigrette (no doubt nam pla played a part) poured on everything else immediately before eating. It was a bit shocking for my taste buds at first, but as we continued to mix the sauce with the noodles and fried shrimp, the flavors began to meld together and harmonize with one another.

Our shared main course was a real show-stopper, Wong’s egg foo young. I’ve never actually had regular egg foo young before, so I had no base of comparison, but this was perfect in so many ways. The day’d been extremely cold and we had basically walked the length of Bleecker Street, so to dig into such an insanely comforting, egg-yolk-and-lobster-filled dish was a real treat. Add crumbled salted duck-egg yolks (which my family goes absolutely nuts about), and we were mopping the last scraps up with whatever bread there was left.

We didn’t get to try the famous duck fat ice cream (served with poached plums, tuile, and 5-spice cookie) since we were worried it’d be too much rich food but picked up some gelato from Grom on the way back, though in retrospect I suppose Grom ice cream isn’t that much less indulgent than duck fat ice cream. Mandarin and torroncino (nougat) for me, pear and cassata Siciliana (almond chips, candied lemons and oranges) for Laura.

Wong
7 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014
212.989.3399

Grom 
233 Bleecker Street (and Carmine)
New York, NY
212.206.1738

NJ eats

January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Thai food at Four Seasons and pizza (including a dynamite eggplant, spinach, mozzarella, and roasted red pepper slice) at Mario’s Famous pizza. Good food with good friends.

Kunjip and Koryodang

January 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

One of the many television shows I’ve been watching over winter break is Kimchi Chronicles, a PBS documentary slash travel show about the food and culture of Korea. Of course, it was only natural that afterwards, I had a fierce craving for Korean barbecue and kimchi. When  it came to deciding where to meet some Georgetown friends in New York City, Kunjip in midtown came to mind.

The restaurant was just starting its dinner rush when we arrived, but within half an hour, there were lines out the door, which we took as a good sign for the food. Overall, service was efficient and almost a bit too hurried, but you could tell that the manager and staff had done this many times before and had developed a system to make sure tables were being filled as quickly as possible.

We began with panchan – small side dishes to accompany the meal – which included various kinds of kimchi, mung bean sprouts, steamed eggs, and fish cakes with vegetables.

We ordered haemool jun gol, a spicy seafood soup with a whole octopus, clams, shrimp, crabs, tofu and rice cakes. Although the flavors were good and I loved that our server cut up larger pieces of seafood with scissors, the octopus became quite tough and overcooked, pretty much inedible since it was so chewy.

We couldn’t have a Korean dinner with barbecue, so we ordered kalbi, which was served ssam style with fermented bean paste, rice, scallion salad, and garlic wrapped in lettuce. The meat was very tender and juicy, but the portion was a bit underwhelming considering the price tag.

Our final dish was ddukboki, starchy cylindrical rice cakes reminiscent of gnocchi in a spicy, sweet stew with onions and carrots. So comforting, my favorite dish of the evening for its simplicity.

Afterwards, we stopped at nearby Koryodong for bubble tea and dessert. The pastries and assorted breads were standard Korean desserts and not particularly jaw-dropping, but the space was the perfect place for all the catching up we had to do.

In the past, I’ve kind of forgotten about Koreatown since it’s so close to Penn Station, but after visiting these two places, I’m looking forward to exploring its restaurants and cafes a little more in the future.

Kunjip
9 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
212.216.9487

Koryodang
3
1 West 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001

Dim sum at Oriental Garden

January 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Christmas Day, our family eschewed staying at home like we usually do and drove into New York City for dim sum in Chinatown (now that’s a Christmas brunch I can get with). Our usual choice, Jing Fong, wasn’t available since there were large parties going in at noon, so we ended up at nearby Oriental Garden, where the staff seated us in a different, quieter part of the restaurant.

This was probably one of the most relaxed dim sum experiences I’ve ever had. Usually, customers wait eagle-eyed for carts of their favorite foods and dim sum ladies yell whatever they have in loud Cantonese, but in this section of the restaurant, waiters just circled around quietly from table to table and even let us order directly off the dim sum menu in batches.

As typical with dim sum, most of the food we got almost instantly, including shrimp “noodles,” Shanghai buns, taro shrimp puffs, baked pork wedges, and bacon-wrapped shrimp balls (something I’ve never seen in a Chinese restaurant). Overall, the dishes were quite good, with the super crispy and light taro shrimp puffs being my favorite.

The next go-around, we ordered Hong Kong-style dumplings, which were fried and a bit chewy for my taste, and a whole slew of the classics, like chicken feet, beef tripe, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, shrimp dumplings, shu mai, black bean steamed spare ribs, bean curd with pork, and lotus leaf sticky rice. Stand-outs were the flavorful yet delicate shu mai, the savory spare ribs, and the shrimp-stuffed eggplant, for which I always have a weakness.

And one of our final items and my favorite, was the humble (fried) turnip cake, which I always smother with hot chili sauce and wolf down like a baby dinosaur.

So even though we weren’t able to eat at Jing Fong, I’d say we discovered another solid place for dim sum in Chinatown, with better service than most Chinese restaurants. After looking it up online, I’m also curious to try their supremely fresh seafood during dinner hours.

Also, Happy 2012 everybody! May all your dreams come true in the new year. 🙂

Oriental Garden
14 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10013
212.619.0085

 

Eating across the boroughs

July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yet another day of traipsing around New York City, this time in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene (where I got the first nasty sunburn of the summer).

Asia Dogs: the Vinh (aioli, pate, cucumbers, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno) and the Wangding (Chinese BBQ pork belly, onions, and cucumber). The Vinh was the better of the two, since the pickled vegetables balanced out the meatiness of the dog. Plus I love anything with cilantro. On the other hand, the pork belly and accompanying that topped the Wangding was a bit too salty and syrupy for my taste.

Asia Dog

Salvatore Bklyn, makers of the best ricotta (insanely creamy and rich) and olive oil I have ever had. Literally went cross-eyed when I had my first bite. With just-sliced prosciutto and arugula on fresh bread…absolute heaven on earth. I could eat five, no six, of them and consider it a perfect meal.

Salvatore BKLYN

Chelsea Market for more gelato from L’ Arte del Gelato…this time pear and grape sorbet. No, sadly, these cups weren’t all mine.

Gelatoooo

Company Pizza (again) in Chelsea for a relaxed dinner, complete with a whole growler of Allagash White (props to Maria’s boyfriend, Dave, for introducing me to a new favorite beer), veal meatballs, bread and butter, and three different pizzas.

Growler of Allagash

Veal meatballs, homemade sauce, parmesan, and basil with truccio sare bread and butter

Flambe: bechamel, parmesan, mozzarella, caramelized onions, bacon lardons

Boscaiola: tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, red onion, chili

Special of the day: English peas, pea shoots, prosciutto, bechamel (my favorite of the three)

 

Brooklyn Flea Market
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenue)
Saturdays, 10 am – 5 pm
http://www.brooklynflea.com/

Asia Dog

Salvatore BKLYN 

 

 

 

 

 

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