Lan Larb: pretty damn legit new Thai restaurant

Lan Larb
Lan Larb
637 2nd Ave (between 34th and 35th street)
New York, NY 10016

Murray Hill is completely over saturated with Thai places, most of which I qualify as TOTS (take-out Thai standard – as in decent pad thai, pad see ew, and basil rice). I rarely order anything else because TOTS places don’t have much else to offer that is good. I miss dishes like steamed lemongrass fish, phat kaphrao (this spicy stir fried ground pork with lots of basil), and LARB. Luckily, a place called Lan Larb opened up near my place. I generally think that if you name your restaurant the name of a food, you are damn good at making that food. Decided to check out the larb!

This (above) is larb. Larb is actually a Laotian dish of minced meat, fish sauce, lime juice, roasted ground rice, and lots of sweet raw onions. It was delicious here. The dish has a great combo of sweetness from the fish sauce and onions, acidity from the lime, and spice from the… spice. The roasted rice was delicious and added a great crunch. I could totally just have this with a bowl of rice and be very, very happy.

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Shi’s Kitchen: Clammy noodles (aka Linguine con le Vongole)

Vongole
I’m supposed to blog about Central Europe but I’m kind of over it now so I want to tell you about the Linguine con le Vongole that I made. I’ve been ordering vongole anytime I see it on the menu recently and it’s because I’ve just discovered how amazing it is. I talked about this discovery from my Lil Frankies post but basically, I think my baby taste buds have just grown to love the more subtle flavors from this dish. As a kid, I would only ever order tomato based pastas because I craved the juicy, tart flavor of tomato. I would NEVER order an olive oil and garlic based pasta because it just tasted like nothing to me. But now I have matured (okay maybe only my taste buds have). Vongole is an olive oil and garlic based pasta INFUSED with the deliciousness of clams. It’s surprisingly easy to make and absolutely delicious. Check out my super simple recipe!

Vongole
Ingredients (for one):

  • a dozen littleneck clams (rinsed under water)
  • bunch of parsley (just take the leaves and chopped up finely)
  • about 6 cloves of garlic (also chopped up)
  • about a quarter to a third cup of white wine
  • one portion of linguine (form an “O” with your thumb and index finger, that’s about how much you need, maybe more if you are me)

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Central Europe: Prague!

PragueSo very sad that it has been ages since my last post! Long story short, I did a little loop through Central Europe, visiting Prague, Vienna, and Budapest (with a pitstop in Bratislava), got a terrible stomach virus on the plane back, and have been out for about a week and a half. By out, I mean miserable at work and not at home healing my body (sigh). You can imagine how sad I was that I could only eat toast and Gatorade. No caffeine. No alcohol. No meat. No chocolate. No spice. NOTHING REALLY. But now all is good and I am trying very hard not to binge on all the great foods I missed out on in the last week.

PragueOur first city was Prague. Prague is amazingly beautiful, almost unreal because the only other place I’ve seen such well-maintained beautiful old architecture is, well, a place like Disneyland (except Disneyland isn’t real). There’s a kitschy vibe to the place only because you just don’t see such beautiful places like that anywhere else other than in movies (probably why a lot of movies are made in Prague).I ate a lot on my trip (duh), mostly great, some just good, and one really bad place. Everything was surprisingly cheap (beer and wine is cheaper than water). Read on for the highlights!

Baracnicka RychtaBaracnicka Rychta
Trziste 23

Best meal in Prague. This restaurant happened to be right outside our Airbnb, and also happened to be rated super well. When I travel, I like to go to the little places with comfort foods that local people crave and flock to. This was definitely one of them.

PragueI ordered the Pork Knuckle (~$11.50) baked on black beer and served with mustard, fresh horseradish, and gherkin. The knuckle was gloriously juicy and flavorful. As you probably know, I’m not the biggest fan of flavoring things with sauce and much prefer marinated meats that just have INNATE FLAVOORRRR. (See my recent post on these amazing ribs that have just that.)

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Southern in EV: The Redhead

The Redhead The Redhead
349 East 13th St (between 1st and 2nd Aves)
New York, NY 10003

The Redhead is a restaurant I’ve passed many, many times before but had never thought to walk in. It looks like a dark dive bar from the outside and frankly, the name “The Redhead” never sounded like an appetizing name for a restaurant. Butttttt… don’t judge a book by its cover right?

The RedheadEager to try something new one Friday night, LAW, H.W., T.W. and I came to check it out. It’s rated surprisingly well on Yelp and is known for its fried chicken. Can’t say no to fried chicken! We started with a couple drinks. I got the Porch Swing ($11), which is pretty much a spiked Arnold Palmer with cognac, Redhead sweet tea, fresh lemon, and mint. VERY strong. VERY delicious. Definitely exceeded my expectations.

The Redhead
We started with the Grilled Octopus ($12) with marinated beets, chorizo, rye, and pickled mustard. Deeeeelicious. The marinated beets and pickled mustard added a nice acidity to the almost-creamy octopus. Octopus was soft, but not too soft. Had a nice bite to it. Chorizo added a little extra flavor. All round solid dish. Continue reading

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! Now eat some mooncakes.

Godiva Mooncakes
Out of every 10 people I know, maybe half a person actually likes mooncakes. It’s a rare occasion these days where people actually eat mooncakes because they like them, and not just for the holiday. Today is Mid-Autumn festival. Feel free to read the wiki on what the holiday actually is, but for me, it has always been the day I had to eat dense, incredibly sweet mooncakes.

Godiva Mooncakes
Godiva has come up with a limited edition of mooncakes for this holiday and very graciously sent a box over for me to sample!

Godiva Mooncakes
The “mooncakes” aren’t actually mooncakes at all. They are actually just chocolates that are cleverly labeled as “small mooncakes.” I’m saving the big one in the center (Grapefruit and Black Tea) for later, but sampled the other three types. All of them are filled with some kind of tea-infused chocolate ganache. Continue reading

Easiest Chunkiest Pesto

Pesto Fettuccine Ever since a dinner party I went to recently where C.H. made fresh pesto, I have been non-stop thinking about pesto. I soon realized that the only way I could cure myself of this was for me to make my own pesto. I don’t own a blender (yet), but discovered that a blender is only optional in the world of pesto making. As a matter of fact, the first blog I’ve ever read (with the most beautiful food photos), blogs “Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother” – chunky monkey style (she doesn’t call it that, she’s a little more graceful of a writer than I am).

Pesto Fettuccine  As I do with most recipes, I followed this one loosely. I bought the following ingredients:

  • bunch of basil (leaves only, washed and dried)
  • handful of raw pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup of parmesan
  • 3 small cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • some kind of pasta – I opted for fettuccine

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Sushi Tsushima: deeelicious nigiri and soba

Sushi Tsushima Sushi Tsushima
210 East 44th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Aves)
New York, NY 10017

LAW and I have recently discovered a whole slew of great authentic Japanese restaurants around 41st to 44th street on 2nd to 3rd Ave (more on the blog to come!). I always knew about Sushi Yasuda, but didn’t realize that its neighbors were all super legit Japanese restaurants as well. Sushi Tsushima is one of them.

LAW and I were craving sushi one night and didn’t want any of the cheap sushi places Murray Hill is saturated with. Literally walk down any block in the area and you’ll basically hear chants and sake glasses falling into beer. Fratty, cheap, sushi places defines Murray Hill. Walk up north a bit and interestingly enough, you’ll find a little Japan. Part of why I love Manhattan is even though it’s pretty tiny, turn a corner and you can be in a completely different world.

Sushi Tsushima
We first ordered the Moriwase C set ($31 with soup and salad), which included nigiris (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and eel) and one roll of your choosing. We picked the Blue Fin Tuna roll, mostly for its value (you get to pick any roll!). The fish was fresh. Rice was great, though I prefer a little more vinegar in my sushi rice. The set certainly whet my appetite and reminded me to never eat $5 rolls again.

Sushi Tsushima
We then deviated from the sets and ordered nigiris one by one. Clockwise, we had the Seared Salmon with Lemon and Salt ($4.50 each), Yellowtail with Yuzu Pepper ($4.75 each), Sea Eel with sauce ($6.00 each), Seared Mackerel ($6.00 each), and Uni ($8.00 each). These nigiris are much more expensive than the set, and for good reason… All of them were great, but here are the specific reviews in the order from least favorite to favorite: Continue reading

Philly Cheesesteaks @ Tony Luke’s: Whiz or Real Cheese?

Tony Luke's
Tony Luke’s
39 E Oregon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Saturday morning. I wake up.  Okay, late late morning, I wake up. LAW asks if I want to go on a roadtrip. I say sure. So we rent a car and decide to drive to Philly for a Philly cheesesteak. (LAW also spent a few years of his childhood there, so we thought it would be cool to find his old home. I don’t just travel to eat…) Finding the best cheesesteak in Philly is like finding the best pizza in New York. At a certain level, it becomes completely subjective. I did some research and ended up picking a locally well-regarded place (Pat’s and Geno’s are the tourist faves) that had both the cheez whiz and real cheese options on their menu. In my research, I found that the Whiz vs. Cheese debate is very much alive and intense.

Tony Luke's
Tony Luke’s is a skinny (the space, not the food) little fast food esque joint in south Philly that apparently always has a line of hungry people.

Tony Luke's
We got the classic cheese steak: steak, caramelized onions, and cheez whiz. We also added mushrooms. The steak at Tony Luke’s is thin cut rib-eye (never chopped, they say) and the whiz is Kraft Cheez Whiz. Branded stuff here.  Continue reading

Ducks Eatery: Soul food meets Southeast Asian flavors

Ducks Eatery
Ducks Eatery
351 East 12th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

I haven’t been this psyched about a restaurant in a while (The Bao aside, of course). I didn’t know what I wanted to eat but wanted something new and great. I was looking for an unconventional place with unconventional food. Ducks Eatery happened to be exactly what I was looking for. The menu is like a blend of comfort soul food with Southeast Asian flavors. Very, very interesting. And surprisingly very, very good.

Ducks Eatery
T.W. and I both had the Watermelon Gimlet ($12) with watermelon, gin, lavender, and lime. Very light and refreshing.

Ducks Eatery
We all shared a couple appetizers. FIrst up is this Smoked Duck Salad ($13) with black rice, pomegranate, apple, and black garlic. The pomegranate and apple added a great tartness and crunch to the almost creamy, smokey duck. Black rice was a really interesting addition. It was a little sweet and chewy, which rounded out the dish quite nicely.

Ducks Eatery
These are the Smoked Mussels ($14) with chili oil, house cultured smoke butter, and toast with maple and chive. Also H.W.’s favorite appetizer of the night. The smoked mussels were pretty damn intense. Slightly fishy, very smokey, and bathed in a flavorful oily sauce. It was a serious flavor trip.  Continue reading

The Bao: THE BEST SOUP DUMPLINGS HAVE ARRIVED IN MANHATTAN

The Bao
The Bao
St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd Ave
(no website yet!)

This might be the most excited I have been about a restaurant in a long time. The Bao is a new Chinese restaurant in East Village. It’s so new it doesn’t even have a website or Yelp review yet (someone please get on it!). I was lucky enough to be invited (okay, forced to go because I was already so full at this point) by N.T. because her aunt’s friend opened the place. And let me tell you guys, it has, HANDS DOWN, the BEST 小笼包 xiao long bao (aka. soup dumplings) I have had in the United States. Thanks, N.T. and Auntie Judy for bringing it into my life!

The Bao
The restaurant sits in the middle of the craziness on St. Marks, yet offers a peaceful, spacious space with pretty great modern design. We literally just had a huge barbecue meal and ice cream before this, so only came to show support for the restaurant. We said we’d just try one soup dumpling each and would be on our way. One led to two, three, four, five…

The Bao
The restaurant serves up a combination of Shanghai, Hunan, Sichuan, and Guangdong dishes – all the owner Richard and his wife’s favorite foods. This here is a glass of sour plum juice, which tastes slightly medicinal but is super refreshing. I love that they have some of the lesser found things like this on the menu.

The Bao
TURNIP PUFF PASTRY (萝卜丝饼). I friggin LOVE this and have only ever had it in Beijing where I get it at every restaurant I go to that has it. I’ve never seen it on the menu over here and was so excited when I saw it at The Bao. Unlike the traditional kind that are a bit bigger, about 2 inches in diameter, these little guys are bite size. The filling is typically freshly shredded turnip, scallions, some ginger (I believe), and a little bit of Chinese smoked ham (fattier the better). Not sure exactly what The Bao uses, but the filling tastes very similar to what I get in Beijing, maybe even less greasy. Continue reading