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

Big Wong King: a place for a fast meal of Canto BBQ and congee

Big Wong KingBig Wong King (between Canal and Bayard St)
67 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

After buying my groceries from HK Supermarket (you can check out my grocery list here, where I can average $2.33 per dinner per head), I always grab a meal somewhere nearby before heading back home. Most recently, I went with my mom to Big Wong King just south of Canal Street. I read that their BBQ is supposed to be pretty fantastic.

Big Wong King We started with Pork Congee (or porridge) with Thousand Year Old Egg (aka. preserved duck egg) ($4.00). This is one of my favorite congees to get. The egg, as gross as it may sound to those who have never had it, is super tasty and adds a lot of savory flavor to the congee.

Big Wong KingCongee here was nice and thick. Not too salty. Would be great for a rainy or sick day. Bowl was much larger than it looks because I don’t have a comparison. It was about the size of a large ramen bowl.

Big Wong KingIt was already after 8pm when we got to the restaurant, so they were out of the chicken and roast pork. We settled for a plate of roast duck ($5.50). The duck was good, but not amazing. Skin was not as crisp as it could be. Meat was flavorful, but mostly through the soy sauce that was poured over it. Soy sauce was way too salty so the pieces soaking at the bottom required large amounts of rice to wash it down. The cuts of duck were huge and very filling. My mom and I barely finished half of it. Continue reading

Shawarma Mediterranean Grill Flame House (longest name for the tiniest place)

Shawarma Mediterranean Grill Flame House
Shawarma Mediterranean Grill Flame House (right by Prospect Park)
212 Prospect Park W
Brooklyn, NY 11215

A good while ago, before my trip to Iceland with LAW, N.T., and G.B., we decided we needed to prep for the upcoming intense hiking by doing some local hiking in … Prospect Park. So maybe it wasn’t so intense, but we pretended it was by taking a bunch of well-planned, well-cropped photos. Before we started our rigorous day in the park, we stopped by Shawarma Mediterranean Grill Flame House, which seemed to be a local favorite.

Shawarma Mediterranean Grill Flame House We got off the F train and found this tiny restaurant.  Continue reading

Madangsui for some mouth watering marbled galbi (short rib)

Mandangsui Madangsui
35 West 35th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10001

I was recently invited to Madangsui for their Korean barbecue. I was pretty excited to try a new restaurant in ktown because I find that I’m always at the same places when I go (Kun Jip, Don’s Bogam, BCD Tofu House…). Madangsui is a couple streets up from the main 32nd street strip and nestled between a number of non-korean bars, which I thought was a red flag. But once you walk in, you’re transported back into that same Korean world. The place is actually pretty huge (note: good for parties) and was packed with koreans. Like all korean places, we were served an array of ban chan (small appetizers pictured below that are always refillable and FREE!).

Mandangsui The array of ban chan was not huge, but included a nice variety of things. Spicy, not spicy, crunchy, soft, etc. They were nice pairings with the barbecue to come.

Continue reading

Shi’s Kitchen: The SIMPLEST Spicy Bolognese

Homemade Bolognese
A long time ago, a reader asked me for my pasta recipe that I frequently post on Instagram. I love pasta and pretty much need it weekly, if not more. I love all kinds of pasta too. From fancy ones that are extra al dente and served in small portions in a ginormous curved plate, to the home bolognese pictured above. The pasta I make is simple, very tasty, and completely unpretentious. You’ll see why: Continue reading

what shi said: Meet Christine. She tastes food for a living!

ChristineI wanted to do more of these interviews, starting late last year with my interview of Kura’s owner, Huey, but I have failed. I want to do more, so let me know if you like these and I’ll definitely make a bigger effort to do them! Here goes my second of hopefully many more to come.

I have a scientist friend. Her title is legitimately “Scientist” on LinkedIn (how cool is that?) and she’s my favorite kind of scientist… a food scientist. Meet Christine.  She studied Food Science and Packaging Science in college (wish I had my shit together back then) and now tastes and tests and creates all kinds of crazy stuff for PepsiCo. Oh, and that photo is from her engagement shoot with her now hubby. Good choice of a prop to show off the rings. Definitely my kind of girl! She was nice enough to entertain all my curiosities about her job and answer some questions for us. Check it out!

Okay, first of all, how the hell did you know you wanted to study food science in college? I feel like most people probably didn’t even know a major like that existed at 18 years old.
Me neither!! I had no idea what Food Science was until I was at a crossroads as a freshman in college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I started off the Pre-Pharmacy track in my undergrad studies. I wasn’t extremely passionate about it, and all I knew was I’d probably have a pretty stable career. After an intense first semester of taking Chemistry, Biology and Physics and talking with a few people who were already in the Pharmacy program I knew it wasn’t for me and I would probably be pretty miserable if I kept going. The plan was to go the “exploratory” route and figure it out later, but many days of walking past the Food Science and Human Nutrition building on my way to the dining hall had me curious. I wasn’t huge on Nutrition or Dietetics, because honestly I really didn’t care too much about “Health & Nutrition”. I am not one to tell people what they should or should not eat, it’s really their choice at the end of the day. But what is Food Science? Does it have anything to do with culinary? I loved all things food but I know I didn’t want to be a chef. I stopped in and talked with an advisor, and he had me sold within the first 5 minutes. Food Science is defined as “the discipline in which the engineering, biological, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the improvement of foods for the consuming public” as defined by the Institute of Food Technologists. It is such a broad field that really did not limit me to just one specialized path, and he assured me that humankind will always be eating food so there will never be a shortage of jobs. He was completely right! It is an extremely high demand field with a very wide reach globally, and even now is projected to grow at least 9% from 2012 to 2022 (according to US Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). Continue reading

Why do people love Tompkins Square Bagels?

Tompkins Square Bagels
Tompkins Square Bagels
165 Avenue A (between 10th and 11th St)
New York, NY 10009

My go-to bagel spot is Ess-A-Bagel on 1st Ave and 21st street. And one really only needs one bagel spot in their life. This is why I had yet to venture to Tompkins Square Bagels, even though many East Villagers have told me about how great it is. Seemed like TSB is a lot of people’s bagel spot. One weekend, I decided to cheat on Ess-A-Bagel (yikes) to see if TSB was really all that.

Tompkins Square Bagels
It is a cute open spot on Ave A, with plenty of seating in the back.

Tompkins Square Bagels
The bagels are made in-house everyday. There are a ton of sandwich combinations on the board for you to pick from. Ess-A is a little more no-frills  (no “Jessie Jane Roast Beef” type of sandwiches at Ess-A, you just tell them what you want in your sandwich and they make it for you).

Tompkins Square Bagels
LAW and I shared the cream cheese and lox ($8.00). Really nothing special. The lox was very mild, and almost not salty enough for the cream cheese and sesame bagel. This needed at least some capers or something to get rid of the blandness.

Tompkins Square Bagels
LAW and I also shared the BLT, which was better than the lox but still was lacking. The saltiness from the bacon helped add flavor to the overall blandness of the bagel. Iceburg lettuce was fresh and gave the sandwich a nice crunch. I think it needed more mayo, because the whole thing was just so dry.

Tompkins Square Bagels
My favorite, if I had to pick one, is this scallion cream cheese with cucumbers and tomatoes on an everything bagel. The cream cheese is NECESSARY because the bagel is just so damn dry. The salt crystals on the everything bagel is also necessary because the bagel is so damn bland. Tomatoes and cucumbers were average. Nothing to write home about.

Tompkins Square BagelsClose up of the bagel. Looks lame, yeah? Am I missing something?