100 Allen St
New York, NY 10002
If you are an American Born Chinese and grew up eating in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Congee Village will make you nostalgic for your childhood. Congee Village is the quintessential Chinatown restaurant. It is Cantonese (early Chinese immigrants were mostly Cantonese so most Chinatowns now are dominated by a Cantonese population), uses huge gold wallpaper adorned with dragons and phoenixes, has plenty of large, round table seating, and has an all male wait staff that wears black slacks, white shirts, and little black vests. If you’re hungover, Congee Village will provide the hearty dishes and watered down tea to make things right again. I happened to be both an ABC and hungover on a Sunday afternoon (well, I’m always an ABC) and so Congee Village was doubly perfect for me.
I seriously woke up, with a headache, craving Salted Fish and Diced Chicken Fried Rice ($9.50). If you’ve never had it, you’d think I was weird. But if you have, you’d completely understand. I needed the oily goodness of second-day jasmine rice fried up with
chicken, peas, scallions, and most of all, salted fish. Good fried rice is always made with second-day rice because the extra day in the fridge* lets the rice dry out. Fried rice always involves some sort of liquid (oil, some kind of sauce, or cooking wine) and if you start out with a plump batch of rice, the additional liquid will just make your rice mushy. If you can’t fry each individual grain of rice, you know you have a problem. The chicken is actually kind of useless in my opinion and I’d be completely okay leaving it out… but it is part of the traditional style of this canto dish so Congee Village leaves it in. Chicken is very difficult to make well… a couple seconds too long on the stove and you have a dry stringy wok of diced chicken. I do love the peas but according to T.W., they are not actually part of the traditional dish. Americans eat a lot of peas, so one day, someone just decided to add them to every fried rice possible. It adds color and I think it tastes great. It gives a bit of sweetness to counter the salty fish… my favorite part of the dish. Yes, salted fish smells kind of like … feet … but it tastes like salt on crack. There isn’t a whole lot of it in the rice, which makes it all that much more special. Tiny pieces of the fish are sprinkled throughout just to give you enough to make you yearn for more. Serious umami factor here.
Ciao For Now
523 E 12th St
(between Avenue B & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009
I discovered another yummy (and super healthy) brunch place in the East Village area. It’s tucked off to the side between A and B so is away from the hustle and bustle of the crazy EV hipsters. The restaurant ends up having a very homey and small-town feel, almost like Boston. Ciao For Now is neighbors with Northern Spy Food Company, but is not as “famous” and never has a wait.
I read all about their Almond Brioche French Toast ($9.50 with fresh OJ or grapefruit juice) before coming and knew I had to get it. Brioche in general is amazing for french toast because it has a concentration of egg and butter, making the bread slightly puffy and yes, QQ (chewy). Almond Brioche is just brioche with almond cream and a sweet almond crusted topping. You really can’t go wrong with this french toast. However, the beauty of what Ciao For Now did is that the french toast isn’t heavy at all. It was buttery and delicious but somehow manages to stay light and healthy. How? I really don’t know.
We also shared the Organic Steel Cut Oats with brown sugar, currants, and cranberries ($4.25). I love love love steel cut oats because they are chewier and have more of a bite to them than regular rolled (or quick) oats. This is because steel cut oats are pretty much straight up oats chopped into smaller pieces. Rolled oats are oats that have been flattened by a roller and have had their outer “bran” skin removed. The result is a softer, less textured oat. Bran is tougher but also more nutritious (yay fiber) and I just prefer the texture. The Ciao For Now bowl was a hearty bowl of steel cut oats with a little too much brown sugar. Luckily, it wasn’t mixed in so I removed most of it before devouring the bowl. Though it came with a side of milk, the oats were already very creamy and delicious. The oats were perfectly cooked so that they weren’t overly soggy nor were they still too hard. This was probably the best oatmeal I’ve ever had…
Brother Jimmy’s BBQ
116 E 16th St
(between E Union Sq & Irving Pl)
New York, NY 10003
We wanted to watch the game. I wanted some ribs. The guys wanted some beer. And so off we went to Brother Jimmy’s!
Notice how I angled my camera so that the focus of the photo is the brussels sprouts. These brussels sprouts were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. They were pan fried to crispy perfection and there was a ton of them. This plate is the Combo Rib Platter ($21.75) which consists of three types of ribs, two sides, cornbread, and pickles. The three types of ribs were Northern Style (smoked and grilled with bbq sauce), Southern Style (smoked with memphis style rub), and Jimmy Style (smoked with Jimmy rub). I tend to like the saucier ribs over the dry-rubbed southern style ones because dry rub is easily made too tough. The memphis-style rub actually tasted better the next day with our Chinese meal at home. I slow roasted it in the oven a bit to warm it up and softened the meat. It tasted a little like Chinese 蒜香排骨 (garlic ribs): a little sweet, salty, crispy, and sliiightly spicy. Yum. Again, brussels sprouts were amazing. It also made me feel like I was having a healthy meal… veggies, protein, and sweet potato! Fries were good. Crisp on the outside and mushy on the inside. Corn bread was good…. but not as good as….
Rai Rai Ken
214 E 10th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
GAHHH! I just found out that my favorite East Village Japanese restaurants are all owned by one… person. How is this possible?! Soba-Ya, Robataya, Cha-An, Curry-Ya, Shabu-Tatsu are among my favorites that one person calls his own. Mr. Bon Yagi came to the U.S. as a dishwasher and somehow worked his way up to owning 11 Asian restaurants* and at one point, owning a diner that often saw folks like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Madonna. To say the least, I am impressed. Most of his restaurants are rated 4-4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp and each of them is someone’s “favorite” Japanese restaurant. Rai Rai Ken is Mr. Yagi’s ramen venture.
After my sister-ramen-restaurant battle post, many readers suggested I try Rai Rai Ken, another one of those renown ramen places in the city. Everyone has their favorite (Totto Ramen) and though I am known to be a very loyal customer (Totto4Life), I am always willing to try other favorites – mainly because I like to try new places but also because I like to re-confirm that my favorite still rocks.
Pictured above is the Shoyu Ramen ($9.50), which is ramen in a soy sauce based noodle soup topped with bamboo shoot, boiled egg, roast pork, spinach, fish cake, dried seaweed, and scallion. I have to admit, this was a solid bowl of ramen. Rai Rai Ken also gets extra points for making the egg perfectly gooey in the center, like how Ippudo does it. But the roast pork was just okay… slightly tough and bland. Noodles were not particularly memorable, meaning they were good. Not overcooked and slightly springy. They didn’t fall apart when slurped (unlike Ippudo’s!!) but also weren’t as tasty nor chewy as Totto’s and Kambi’s. Broth was… good. Also not particularly memorable, but was definitely good. Continue reading
Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst
120 1st Ave
(between 7th St & St Marks Pl)
New York, NY 10009
Have you had a currywurst before? I hadn’t until very recently. Currywurst is one of those things that is common and around enough that I always assumed I would definitely try at some point because it was just… always there… like that college friend who lives in the same city as you but you never see because you figure you can see her anytime. Luckily, K.B. was in town and since she grew up in Germany, comfort food for her after a tiring weekend was currywurst. We checked out Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst because it is supposedly one of the best currywurst places in the city. The place is dark with brick walls and wooden tables and stools. It’s what you would imagine a German beer bar to be like. They boast an extensive German beer list with beers like Weihenstephaner Vitus and Pinkus Jubilate (I don’t actually know beers, I just thought those sounded funny).
First up, a large Currywurst with Fries ($12). A pork and veal sausage is sliced up, pan-fried, and topped with their homemade tomato curry sauce. The sausage was extremely moist and tender. The natural saltiness of the sausage tasted so damn good with the tomato sauce and curry powder. I wish we had more sauce because I ended up scraping the bottom of the paper container with the fries.
I’ve been very into cauliflowers lately. The roasted cauliflower sides at all the restaurants just seem to be much tastier than usual. Of course, this is purely a result of me finally paying some attention to them. Have you really tasted a cauliflower? Unlike mushrooms and butternut squash, vegetables that have a good fan base, I feel like cauliflower doesn’t get enough cred. Carrots have carrot bread, butternut squash has soup, mushrooms have everything now… what does cauliflower have? Continue reading
Monday was a big day for me. I needed some serious brain power to get me through the day. Some people go for a run in the morning. Others get their dose of coffee. I make sure I have a good breakfast, full of rich brainy ingredients. After perusing the top 10 best brain foods, I decided to make the Ultimate Brainwich.
9466 Charleville Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
The fabulous LAW was in LA on a business trip and came home with six delectable two-inch treats for me from ‘Lette Macarons. First of all, just imagining him in a swanky Beverley Hills macaron shop made me giggle a little inside. Actually having him come home with macarons for me brought me even more joy. ‘Lette Macarons is supposedly one of LA’s best and I was just all too eager to try what the west coast had to offer. We NYers are lucky enough to have Ladurée). Oh, and please ignore the little oil stains on the box. These delicate macarons are quite high maintenance and don’t do well during travel.
A good macaroon has a crisp, shiny shell, chewy crust (almost like a good brownie!), spongy “feet”, and creamy filling. I have read numerous recipes and baking stories about macarons but have yet to attempt it because of the amount of ingredients, time, and patience required for such feats. Baking macarons is no Betty-Crocker affair as even a slight deviation from a recipe can result in completely flat, feet-less macarons, lopsided macaroons, or hollow macarons. You can’t undermix nor overmix the batter. Some say you have to age the egg whites a couple of days before baking. I love macarons because yes, they taste great, but also because I appreciate the amount of precision and care involved in baking a good batch.
131 Sullivan St
(between Prince St & Houston St)
New York, NY 10012
After a loooooooooong day yesterday, I met up with M.B. at about 10pm for a quick bite. I hadn’t had dinner but only wanted something light (busy days… they either make me ravenous or the opposite). She suggested The Dutch, a trendy modern American restaurant in the West Village that is particularly known for their late night dining. If you read their “about me” page and watch the video, you get the sense that this is a real food kind of place, a place that probably serves large portions and is about simple, good tasting food.
YUP, THAT’S THEM. SO, WHAT’S GOOD HERE ANYWAY?
We cook things that make us happy, like a seasonal green market salad; a deluxe steak with a tower of shellfish; tasty sandwiches; flavorful curry or chili; homey fried chicken and fresh pie or something altogether surprising and new. You should really check out the menus.
DO YOU BUY LOCAL?
MAKE YOUR OWN HOT SAUCE?
SOUNDS INTERESTING. WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT? IS IT DUTCH FOOD?
It’s American food.
See what I mean? Continue reading