Poke Post #2: Wisefish

Wisefish Poke
Wisefish Poke
263 West 19th St (6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011

Alright food friends. Quick update here. I went to Wisefish recently with N.T., G.B., H.W., and LAW to do a little taste comparison against the glorious Sons of Thunder. Just by photo comparison, you can see the main difference between the two: Wisefish poke bowls have a lot more stuff. The ordering mechanism is different. At Sons of Thunder, you pick your fish (or octopus or tofu or whatever) and that’s it. It comes with greens, radishes, seaweed salad, etc.  You can also add toppings like krispies (yes do this), nori, avocado, etc. for an additional price. At Wisefish, you pick your fish and then get unlimited toppings from their toppings bar. It’s like the new-ish PinkBerry method where you pay a little more but get as many toppings (edamame, hijiki, radish, etc) as you want – or more precisely, as many as will fit in the bowl/you’re shameless enough to ask for. The price ends up being similar.

Because at Sons of Thunder I have to pick and pay for each additional topping, I find that I cherish/appreciate those toppings that much more. Also, a bigger point here, the quality of fish is just better at Sons of Thunder. The Wisefish tuna and salmon are cut into smaller cubes and are a bit…. softer (maybe marinated too much?) and stringy-er. Though, the fish quality isn’t a dealbreaker because it’s still decent and the number of toppings and sauces you can get sort of makes up for it. You should certainly go if you’re in the area. If the purpose of your meal is to have the best poke on the other hand, I would go to Sons of Thunder (I still have Pokeworks to try so I’ll let you know if my assessment changes). Continue reading

THE SONS OF THUNDER HAVE ARRIVED! Embrace the poke bowl!

Sons of Thunder
Sons of Thunder
204 East 38th St (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10016

Thank the gods that the Sons of Thunder have arrived in desolate Murray Hill, where prior to this moment, the most exciting thing to have happened of late is still Eons (the Greek Chipotle). After tasting poke (pronounced poh-kay) for the first time in Hawaii, I was surprised poke did not exist EVERYwhere. It’s tuna (or salmon or octopus or whatever you want) marinated in delicious sauces over rice. Basically chirashi with spicy mayo. Who wouldn’t like that? And like all my great business ideas, a five second google search showed me that poke very much does exist in NYC and happens to have just exploded in the last few months.  Perfect timing on my part, per usual.

Sons of Thunder is one of two other new poke-specific spots to have opened recently in Manhattan. The other two are Pokeworks and Wisefish. Yelp tells me they’re pretty good but don’t seem quite as good as my little neighborhood gem…. I’ll follow-up with posts about the other two and let you know what I think. For now – my review of Sons of Thunder (I’m going to try to say their name as many times as I can in this post because Sons of Thunder is just too epic of a name. Sons of Thunder.)

Sons of Thunder
The fast-casual restaurant is located randomly on 38th street and 3rd Ave. The space is huge (for NYC standards) and beautifully designed to have a very LA/Hawaiian feel. The place has wooden tables, surfer posters, pretty lights, and a massive, gorgeous skylight towering above the seating area. The space is the definition of chill. Murray Hill – please take note of this spot and learn to evolve to have more places like this.

Sons of Thunder

LAW and I each ordered our own poke bowls ($10.75 each). You have the choice of tuna, salmon, octopus, or golden beets/tofu over white rice or brown rice. You can also do half and half, which is what I did here. I had the spicy half tuna half salmon with an additional topping of “krispies” which is basically fried ginger and garlic (NOM). The bowl itself comes with a small green salad and seaweed salad. Having eaten there a bunch of times now, I know that they change up the salad ingredients all the time (this time I had these awesome turnips in my salad). The combo of the fresh fish, chewy rice, crispy krispies, and crunch from the salad (seaweed and cucumber) … is awesome. Continue reading

Monkey Chocolates by Godiva

Godiva
I interrupt my Hawaiian adventures with a brief commercial break. My favorite holiday, Lunar New Year, is coming up in just two weeks and Godiva was gracious enough to send me their Lunar New Year Collection again this year. I’ve been lucky enough to have sampled their last two LNY Collections as well as one of their Mid-Autumn Festival ones (see my posts on Year of the Goat and Horse aaaand Mid-Autumn Festival).

I must say, this year’s collection just might be the best one yet.

Godiva
First, a little bit about why I love LNY. LNY is basically Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years combined into one glorious holiday. Families fly, train, bus all across the country to be with each other and, like Thanksgiving, eat. A LOT. My family typically does a huge meal for dinner and then ANOTHER entire new meal (no repeated dishes allowed) after midnight as the first meal of the New Year. Like Christmas, the older generation gives the younger generation red envelopes filled with $$$$$$$. Chinese people are very practical. You can then use that money to buy whatever you want. No fears of getting that sweater from mom you’ll never wear. (Okay but truthfully I do love a thoughtful gift >>>> $$). Like New Years, fireworks and firecrackers go off all across the country to “scare away” any bad luck. It’s the best of all three holidays combined. OH and I forgot – in China, everyone gets an ENTIRE WEEK OFF. That’s right, even the stock markets shut down for a few days. It’s beautiful.

GodivaOkay, back to chocolate. Every year, Godiva’s chocolate masters create three (dark, milk, and white) limited edition “ganache pieces” filled with Asian inspired flavors. This year, the flavors are:

  • Dark Chocolate Green Tea: “Luscious hazelnut praline coated in white chocolate ganache infused with green tea, covered in alluring 50% dark chocolate”
  • Milk Chocolate Pu-erh Tea: “Delectable macadamia praline with cocoa nibs surrounded by mellow, 64% Peruvian dark chocolate infused with aged pu-erh tea, coated in smooth milk chocolate”
  • White Chocolate Oolong Tea: “A center of sumptuous pecan and hazelnut praline with crunch soy nuts enveloped by 71% Ecuadorian dark chocolate infused with aromatic Oolong tea, covered in silky white chocolate”

Continue reading

Best of Hawaii: Oahu!

Big IslandI’m BAACCCKKK! Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been super busy with work stuff and haven’t had time to tell you about all the amazing restaurants I’ve been to lately. But fear not! I am back. I actually just got back from a long vacation in Hawaii so I’m super well-rested and ready to make this year better than the last. One of my new years resolutions is to do more things that I want to do (such as blogging). No more agreeing to go to things I don’t want to go to or going out when I just want to stay home and eat spam and watch Making a Murderer.

Speaking of spam, Hawaiians <3 spam. You’ll see a ton of spam in Hawaii because during WWII, spam was served to the GIs in the area and eventually found its way into the local cuisine. Those of you who think spam is gross because comes in a can or is “mystery meat” need to back off and be a little more open-minded. All spam is is preserved pork shoulder, pork butt, salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrate (help keeps the pink color in meats like spam and pepperoni). So basically, if you ever have pizza with pepperoni on it, you have no right being weirded out by spam. Just try it. I <3 it.

Anyway, this post is dedicated to all the best foods I had in my time in Hawaii, many of which included spam. I visited Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. All beautiful, awesome places. I can’t say that Hawaii is necessarily a foodie destination but there are definitely some great eats, especially if you like spam or tuna.

OAHU!

Moanalua 99 Eats
Moanalua 99
1151 Mapunapuna St
Honolulu, HI 96819

The first spot I’ll recommend you check out is the Moanalua 99 food court. Yes, a food court. It’s extremely close to the airport so very convenient (and also VERY TASTY). The food court has a number of really well rated spots, including Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen, Take’s Fish Market, and this place we went to called Urawa Japanese Fusion. I had the BEST fish+rice bowl here out of my whole trip. Really. Continue reading

Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings (there’s a Thanksgiving dumpling!)

Mimi Cheng's
Mimi Cheng’s
179 Second Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
New York, NY

When Mimi Cheng’s first opened in 2014, I was skeptical. But now I feel bad for judging Mimi before even trying them out. I was skeptical because it seemed like an upscale dumpling restaurant pandering to people who are willing to pay too much for, what I assumed to be, meh dumplings. There was too much branding. Too much buzz. For some reason, I thought a polished restaurant couldn’t be a great dumpling restaurant. It’s like having an expensive chicken and rice.

Mimi Cheng's
But now thinking about it, why can’t we have an expensive chicken and rice? Why is it that Korean food is in general more expensive than Chinese food? Or that French food is almost always pretty upscale? It can’t just be that ingredients may be more expensive. I should be promoting the elevation of Chinese food!

Mimi Cheng's
Anyway, let me get back to Mimi’s. The place is super cute. It always seems to be bright inside. Lots of natural light. They have a good spot.

Mimi Cheng's
I had the boiled Reinvented Classic (six piece for $8), which had a filling of pasture-raised pork, baby bok choy, and cabbage. The classic is usually pork with cabbage. The addition of the baby bok choy was great. More color and an extra bit of crunch. You can taste that the meat is so much higher quality than the usual chinatown dumpling. It was tender yet not full of fat, and did not contain any cartilage bits that you sometimes get with chinatown dumplings… really tasty and light. How dumplings should be! Continue reading

Hell’s Chicken: G-Free Fried Chicken & the Best Bibimbap in NYC

Hell's Chicken
Hell’s Chicken
641 10th Ave (45th St)
New York, NY 10036

I was invited to try Hell’s Chicken last week and accepted immediately because who would give up an opportunity for fried chicken? The restaurant also prides itself it making gluten-free fried chicken. I’m the last person to be drawn to gluten-free but I can imagine some of my readers’ ears may perk up at the sound of that. So off I went! I brought LAW along with me so we could try more foods. The restaurant is in – surprise, surprise – Hell’s Kitchen where there are very few options for good Asian food. Keep this one in mind next time you’re stuck there (because there’s no good reason to linger around there).

Hell's Chicken
We started with a Korean classic: Japchae ($10 + $2 with beef, pork, or shrimp). Japchae is like the Chinese rice noodle and beef dish (干炒牛河) except its noodles are made with sweet potato glass noodles. The Hell’s Chicken version is on the sweeter side and has a strong kick from all those scallions. I’m no japchae connoisseur so can’t tell you how authentic it is, but it was good.  Continue reading

House of Small Wonder

House of Small Wonder
House of Small Wonder
77 N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Attention fellow friends who love cute little non-traditional brunch places: I have found your next brunch spot. It’s just off the L train in Williamsburg. House of Small Wonder is a pseudo European cafe with Japanese influences. You all know my opinion of eggs bennies and scrambled eggs (rarely worth the trek out for brunch unless you’re Prune) and my deep love affair with Japanese brunches (see Sakamai and Shabu Tatsu). House of Small Wonder is another Japanese inspired brunch place to add to the list. Its menu consists of both “euro” items like sandwiches (e.g. fig+brie+apple sandwich, salumi arugula sandwich), croissant french toasts, and croque madames, as well as Japanese inspired dishes like Okinawan taco rice, tsukune don (meatball + rice), and sashimi zuke don (sashimi + rice).

House of Small Wonder
It’s decor is also the cutest! You basically enter a little greenhouse with a REAL LIVING TREE in the center of the restaurant. Every wooden surface, faded piece of art, pot of plant, and trendy diner (see B.J. in this one) is Instagram worthy. K.C., B.J., R.Y., and I got to the restaurant before it even opened (10am on weekends) to ensure we got in without a wait.

House of Small Wonder
We each started with the Lavender Latte ($5). This is one deliciously smooth, creamy, latte with a hint of lavender. It has just the right amount of sweetness to feel like a real latte and not a dessert. I give it 10 out of 10 points for warming me physically and emotionally (lots of feelings were expressed at this brunch <3). For those looking for more of a boozy brunch experience, they also offer a cocktail list with concoctions such as fizzy pear, lavender lemonade, and tipsy latte. K.C., B.Y., R.Y. – next time we do boozy?

House of Small Wonder
K.C. and I both ordered the Sashimi Zuke Don ($15), which consisted of soy sauce marinated sashimi of the day, avocado, sweet mushrooms, sesame, and egg served over sushi rice. The ratio of toppings to rice was perfect. Every bite was like a perfect bite of sushi really. The quality of fish was solid (not the highest grade but also zero fishiness). The rice was great. Highly recommend. Continue reading

Park Avenue Summer: Excellent Restaurant Week Choice

Park Avenue Summer
Park Avenue Summer
260 Park Avenue South (between 25th and 26th streets)
New York, NY 10010

OMGOMGOMGGGGG it’s almost WINTER and I have yet to post about my INCREDIBLE dinner at Park Avenue Summer from… the SUMMER! I’m sad on so many levels: 1) summer is over, 2) fall, my favorite season, snuck up on me and is on its way out already (I haven’t even taken out my fall clothes yet!!), and 3) I’ve really abandoned this blog :( I’m currently working on all kinds of things so that one day my food life and work life can maybe merge and become one. How amazing would that be?? This blog has been such a crucial outlet for me so THANK YOU ALL for being so supportive!

Okay. I know. You don’t care. I’m a sap (it’s not that time of the month I swear). Onto the food.

Park Avenue Summer
B.J., K.C., R.Y. and I had a ladies’ dinner here in August during Restaurant Week ($38 for an appetizer, entree, and dessert). The restaurant used to be uptown but recently moved to Flatiron, “offering a more casual, accessible version” of the restaurant. Casual and accessible is right. The place was super classy and the food was definitely high-end cuisine but the mood was light – something I loved about the restaurant. Our waiter made us laugh (THE FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS #insidejoke) but was professional at the same time. In general, I’m not the biggest fan of going to fancy restaurants because they’re usually stuffy and overly polite (and my table of friends somehow always ends up being the loudest). Park Avenue Summer allowed me to have amazingly delicate food without the stuffy package.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know, the restaurant changes seasonally (the name of it, the menu, the decor – everything) so is worth going to at least four times a year.

Park Avenue SummerOur amuse bouche: watermelon cubes on a stick with a creamy spicy sauce on top. Tres refreshing. Continue reading

Hoppy!

Sakamai | Hoppy
Hoppy Happy Hour @ Sakamai
157 Ludlow St. (across from Pianos)
New York, NY 10002

Sakamai | HoppyTo continue the Sakamai love, a couple weeks ago, Sakamai graciously invited me to a party they were hosting for Hoppy, a Japanese beer-like drink that just launched in the US.  The party was super interesting … unlike any party I had ever been to! There were small bites (by Sakamai’s Executive Chef, Akiyama-san) and drinks paired with performances by a Japanese comic storyteller and a traditional enka singer (?!). How many of you have been to a party like this? #blogperks

Sakamai | Hoppy
Hoppy tastes like a light, sweet-ish wheat beer (my kind of beer) though is technically not a beer because it doesn’t have purines… not really sure what that means but apparently purines are super unhealthy (can cause metabolic diseases like gout?!) and exist in all beer (watch out, America – beer bellies aren’t the only side effects from beer). It’s low carb and low cal and often spiked with shochu, making it much stronger than it seems. I’m excited for the day NYC’s bros go to bars and scream “HOPPY!!!!!!!!” to the bartenders when they order rounds of Hoppy for their fellow bros. Gotta love the name (at one point we all cheered “HOPPY!” at the party – it was amazing.)

Sakamai | Hoppy
The food we had was delicious. If you ever find yourself hosting a fancy party with a budget and need hors d’oeuvres (yup, had to google the spelling for that one), skip the usual catering and beg Sakamai to cater for you (I have no idea if they even offer this service). The bite sized food we were served were all delicious. This here is a chicken meatball. Continue reading

Sakamai’s new brunch menu is BOMB

Sakamai
Sakamai
157 Ludlow St. (across from Pianos)
New York, NY 10002

NEW BRUNCH PLACE TO ADD TO THE ROTATION!!!!! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s waiting in line for generic eggs benny’s or pancakes at an overhyped “boozy brunch” place, which is for some reason all the craze in NYC. I have higher standards for my brunch (#snob #jk) and want something more special if I’m going out for brunch than something I can whip up in my kitchen. Some of my favorites are Soba-ya, Shabu-Tatsu, and Prune – if you need an eggs benny). Even just based on that list, you can tell I have a soft spot for Japanese brunch food…

Sakamai Sakamai is a modern izakaya (aka. a Japanese bar that serves food) and sake bar. This month, they just launched a new brunch menu which showcases great Japanese dishes intertwined with some Hawaiian (ie. spam) ingredients and Western flair (aka. fusion but I hate that word). Natalie, one of the owners (who is Japanese-Hawaiian and studied architecture in college like me! :D), graciously invited me to sample their brunch menu this past weekend. I took LAW as my guest (duh) and tried a number of amazing things.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I sometimes get invited to these things and I ALWAYS disclose it. I also always keep my reviews unbiased (even though my meal is comped) because my blog would be worth nothing if I pandered to anyone who gave me free food. Most of these comped meals end up being pretty mediocre (hence they need bloggers like me to help them advertise – I won’t name names, but if you go through the blog you’ll know which ones I’m talking about) but in this case, I lucked out cause… the food was truly awesome.

Sakamai
We started with a couple drinks. I got the Flying Squirrel, which is a cocktail made with coldbrew coffee, walnut liqueur, and coconut cream. It was a delicious alcoholic iced coffee. Coffee itself was high quality and the walnut liqueur added some sweetness and nuttiness. Really great brunch cocktail, especially if you’re tired of the usual bloody mary and mimosa. We also got to try two of their housemade “Shrub” beverages: watermelon and celery-apple. Both drinks were carbonated and, oddly, clear (wonder how they make it). The drinks were very light and refreshing. A good alternative to juice.

Sakamai
We started with the Cha Soba Salad ($15) with green tea soba and sesame soy dressing. It. Was. Awesome. All these different kinds of greens (sprouts, cabbage?, seaweed, corn, tomato, avocado, sesame seeds, some kind of root, AND SO MUCH MORE) sit on top of a bed of green tea soba. The dressing is very light so allows all the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients shine through. The sesame oil just adds an extra bit of umami to make the salad really addicting. So effing good. Definitely a must order when you come (when, not if).

Sakamai
As our first “main,” we shared the Loco Moco ($16), which is a kimchi fried rice served with a hamburger bun and sunny side up egg. The rice and patty are doused in a dashi soy gravy. If you’re looking for a hearty (post-hangover cure perhaps?) brunch dish, this should be your pick. Continue reading