Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sundaes & Cones – great homemade ice cream with lots of Asian flavors

Sundaes & Cones
95 E 10th St
(at 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

After a 20 hour work day, right after an 18 hour work day, the weekend arrived and the sun came out to play.  I had the usual at Soba-Ya for lunch and decided that I really wanted some ice cream.  Normally, LAW suggests that we get a tub of Haagen Dazs and make root beer floats at home but no, that day I wanted some real ice cream served to me by the scoop.  I wanted hard ice cream as well, none of that mushy soft serve stuff that I usually love from Mickey D’s.  I yelped the best ice cream places closest to Soba-Ya and found Sundaes & Cones.  It is rated 4/5 and has 465 reviews – solid.

The “Sundaes & Cones” name conjured up an image of a small-town ice cream place with families lining up for some good ol’ cookies ‘n cream.  It turned out to be an Asian ice cream place with a variety of interesting and unique flavors, such as black sesame, taro, ginger, Thai iced tea, green tea, mango, lychee, etc.  You get the picture.  Asian flavors aside, they also have the usuals like vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough, etc.  But they also have flavors like avocado, corn, pumpkin, strawberry cheesecake… think Il Laboratorio (ice cream place in LES that reminds me of a hospital) but more homey.

Continue reading Sundaes & Cones – great homemade ice cream with lots of Asian flavors

Saint’s Alp Teahouse

Saint’s Alp Teahouse
39 3rd Ave
(between Great Jones St & Bowery)
New York, NY 10003

Oh have I grown.  Saint’s Alp was the first bubble tea place I was introduced to as a college student in Boston visiting New York for exciting weekends in the big city.  Boston’s bubble tea scene is pretty limited.  Very few places in Boston have their own bubble tea sealing machine, a sign of their inauthenticity.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a comparison:

Left is a bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea I was saving in my fridge as a post-dinner treat.  See how the cup is sealed at the top in plastic?  There is a satisfaction of popping that straw through the plastic and it only comes with getting quality bubble tea.  Many places serve the tea and bubbles like the photo on the right.  It’s usually made with some “tea-mix” and crumbly tapioca.  No good.  If a place invests in a sealer, you know they intend to make good bubble tea.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a sufficient relationship (I’m studying for the LSAT, forgive me) but a necessary one, if serves quality bubble tea then has sealer, not if has sealer than serves quality.  There are plenty of places that have invested in a sealer and just can’t get their tea right. Continue reading Saint’s Alp Teahouse

L’Artusi, an Italian restaurant in West Village

228 W 10th St
(between Bleecker St & Hudson St)
New York, NY 10014

I have yet to find an Italian restaurant that I love in NYC.  I miss the North End in Boston, where the Italian restaurants serve up delicious pastas in the most unpretentious ways.  The waiters and waitresses are sarcastic and on the verge of being rude but with good Italian humor.  The restaurants are cozy and small, always packed with just a table or two too many.  The food is served in large family style portions.  Pasta is not called “rustic” but is just labeled “homemade” – really the same thing.  Flavors are bold and chefs are not afraid to use large pieces of garlic.  Prices are also reasonable.  That’s a big one.  Paying more than $20 for a non-seafood pasta just seems a bit odd to me.  Well, with that being said, I’ve been on my search nonetheless.  Last week we tried L’Artusi, a pretty well-known Italian restaurant in the city that we had not gone to yet.  LAW and I were in the mood for pasta and fish and L’Artusi had just that.

We started with the Roasted Mushrooms with pancetta, fried egg, and ricotta salata ($17). This is the priciest appetizer on the menu but is also their most well-known.  Almost every review I’ve come across about L’Artusi mentioned the roasted mushrooms as being amazing.  And it really was quite good.  The mushrooms had an amazing chewy texture, but more importantly, an AMAZING smokey flavor.  The egg served as a nice creamifier as it added a bit of moisture to the mushrooms.  Ricotta salata (ricotta that has been pressed, salted, and dried) was very light, which was great because when I first saw the dish, I was intimidated by the volume of cheese piled onto the shrooms.  Luckily, they served little purpose other than adding a bit of saltiness.  There were also little slices of roasted garlic and some kind of pickles, both adding a bit of sharpness to the dish.  Yum.  Though not $17 kind of yum.  It’s really difficult to mess up mushrooms, eggs, and garlic and though the dish was good, it didn’t blow my mind.

This is the Orecchiette with sausage, salami, and pecorino ($18), rated one of the 12 most epic New York City pastas to eat before you die by Eater.  The orecchiette pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, with a slight bit of elasticity when chewed.  Sweet Italian sausage was good, though was nothing special.  I loved the tinge of bitterness and the slight crisp texture the radicchio offered, it really complemented the sweetness of the sausage and the creaminess of the cheese.  If it were up to me, I would’ve added a little more chili flakes to kick up the heat.  Otherwise, it was a solid pasta dish.  I, again, wasn’t overwhelmed by how awesome it was, but was happy with it. Continue reading L’Artusi, an Italian restaurant in West Village

Homemade Panko-Crusted Chicken

For those of you who don’t know, I actually cook at home for dinner every Monday through Thursday, and sometimes for lunch on the weekends.  I’m not always eating out as my blog may suggest… Pictured above is what LAW and I had for dinner last night.  Panko-crusted chicken thigh, roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes, and sauteed portabella mushrooms.  Nothing too fancy though since I normally make Chinese food, this seemed special.

J.P. brought us home two bags of Kraft Chili Lime and Panko mix, which was essentially panko mixed with some lime flavor and cheddar cheese.  Panko, by the way, is a Japanese style bread crumb.  The only difference from regular bread crumbs is that panko is made with crustless bread.  The crustless bread is coarsely ground and tends to stay crispier than regular bread crumbs because they do not absorb as much grease.  I defrosted the chicken thighs, patted on the panko and cheddar, and stuck it in the oven for about 30 minutes.  I read somewhere that you shouldn’t cut up chicken right after you cook it because you end up losing all the juices.  It’s best to wait a bit so the moisture is sealed in, which is what we did.  The chicken ended up very juicy and tender.  I was quite happy with it!  The Kraft packet was pretty solid, with just a hint of lime.  I didn’t have to add any other seasonings as the mix provided enough flavor on its own.  I still have some more mix and chicken which I will save for another lazy cooking day.  It’s honestly too easy. Continue reading Homemade Panko-Crusted Chicken

Seoul Food Truck – Midtown Lunch

Seoul Food Truck
51st and Park Avenue
New York, NY

Seoul Food Truck parks right near my office during lunch so S.X., K.C., LAW and I decided to check it out today for our fun workday lunch.  Seeing friends on weekdays is so much more exciting than weekends, not that weekend dates aren’t fun.  There’s just something special about taking an hour out of your work day to see someone familiar, someone you don’t have to turn your work-face on for.  Anyway, it was warm out and I wanted a Korean burrito so we went.

So, I’m actually obsessed with Korilla, Seoul Food Truck’s main competitor, and so directly compared this Sweet and Spicy Pork burrito to Korilla’s Spicy Pork burrito.*  I ordered the Sweet and Spicy Pork in a whole wheat wrap with brown rice and spicy mayo.  I don’t know why I was trying to be healthy with the brown and wheat given that I was eating a burrito, go figure.  Anyway, If you click on that Korilla link, you can compare these two burritos side by side.   Continue reading Seoul Food Truck – Midtown Lunch

The Toucan and the Lion

The Toucan and the Lion
342 E 6th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

G .B. recommended this place to me a few weeks ago as a new, potentially delicious place in the East Village.  The reviews I found were all very positive and enticing.  The restaurant calls itself an “Asian Bistro,” not really sure what that means but the menu sounds pan-Asian, usually not my cup of tea.  But I was intrigued.  They had whiskey sour pickles, toasted bao buns, and a burger with cashew butter.  On paper, it sounded like a potentially well-crafted pan-Asian menu so I decided to drag my friends and check it out.

We decided to order a number of things and share.  Pictured here are the Scotch Eggs ($12), which was highly recommended by anyone and everyone who had visited this place.  The plate came with 3 halves of soft boiled egg with five-spice duck sausage and kaffir lime aioli.  Sounded great.  Looks great.  Tasted mediocre.  The eggs were perfectly done, just the way I like them.  Not quite runny anymore but soft and gooey in the center.  Delicious.  The duck sausage was the disappointment.  I think they could have added a lot of texture and flavor with this sausage but it ended up tasting like mushy… something.  I couldn’t even really tell that it was sausage.  The fried exterior added a nice crisp but otherwise offered nothing much more.  Aioli was good but the mayo + fried shell + egg made the dish extremely heavy and almost nauseating.  Luckily we shared the dish and each only had a little more than half of a half.

Continue reading The Toucan and the Lion

Xi’an Famous Foods, one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the city.

Xi’an Famous Foods
81 St Marks Pl
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003

This, my friends, is my go-to weekday spot when I don’t feel like cooking and want something delicious and cheap.  Xi’an is a city in China in the Shaanxi province that is fairly centrally located. Its cuisine therefore is heavily influenced by all regions of China, especially Sichuan for its spiciness and numbing flavors.  As the first capital of China and the start of the Silk Road, Xi’an cuisine is also influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine.  Hence, you’ll see a lot of cumin-flavored meats… I always get three things at Xi’an: a noodle dish, a burger, and a tofu dish.

Pictured here is the Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles ($4.50).  This is a very traditional dish that originated in Xi’an.  The noodles are made from rice and are served cold with cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro, and chewy tofu/bean curd pieces.  The sauce is garlicy, sweet, sour, spicy, and tingly all at the same time.  It honestly is an explosion of flavors and textures.  The noodles are very springy and chewy, which pair very well with the crisp cucumbers.  The cucumbers, bean sprouts, and cilantro add a bit of freshness to the spicy and oily sauce.  I always, ALWAYS get this in the summer because it is light and refreshing, especially compared to Xi’an Famous Food’s other noodles… I took my dad here when he came to visit and he thought that this was even better than what we get in Beijing.  He’s from Xi’an, so he would know.

The other noodles are all hand-pulled noodles.  There is quite a variety of flavors, my favorites being the Spicy Cumin Lamb, Spicy Hot Oil Seared, and the Pork “Zha Jiang” noodles.  These noodles are made with flour and are hand pulled to a tremendously chewy texture.  They are wide and flat, equivalent of a pappardelle pasta.  As you can see, the noodle dishes are saucy as hell.  You can generally adjust the level of spiciness though don’t go asking for zero spice because it just isn’t going to happen.  They pride themselves in serving authentic Chinese food and will only cater to your weak buds to a small extent. Honestly, if you can’t handle it, you should just force yourself to eat spice more often and you’ll soon appreciate it, I promise. Continue reading Xi’an Famous Foods, one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the city.

Westville East, get your share of veggies here.

Westville East
173 Ave A
New York, NY 10009

Both Westville locations are so incredibly popular.  They are especially known for their market vegetables.  You can pick four of them for $14 (used to be $12, I believe!).  Your choices range from lemon grilled asparagus with parmesan, to soy glazed green beans, to korean cucumber salad, and roasted beets with walnuts.  There is always a huge list to choose from and I don’t know anyone who goes to Westville and doesn’t get the market vegetables.  Pictured above is the full plate of brussels sprouts with honey dijon, cauliflower dijonaise, artichoke hearts with parmesan, and fried plantains with cojita cheese.  I think because I cook Chinese food almost every week night that I’m not as enamored with the plethora of sauteed veggies.   Continue reading Westville East, get your share of veggies here.

Aussie Meat Pies at Tuck Shop

Tuck Shop
68 E 1st St
(at 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

I posted about this little Aussie joint a while ago when I tried their brussels sprouts at the Chelsea Market location.  The brussels sprouts seemed to be the main attraction at that location because the little bulbous green things were displayed in a large glass case at the front of the shop.  Here in this East Village location, rows of meat pies are on display instead.  J.Y. was in town and so we gave him a little Saint Marks food tour, starting with Tuck Shop.  We ordered the traditional beef meat pie ($6).  The pie is pretty tiny, only about the size of a doughnut, but we had a lot of ground to cover in Saint Marks so we split one pie between the six of us.  The pastry itself was buttery, flakey on top and hard on the bottom. Nothing too out of the ordinary.  The ground beef filling was juicy and very beefy tasting with not much else.  They served it with a side of sweet chili sauce which was a welcomed addition given the fairly bland and salty pie.  Not bad but also not something I would crave.  It actually tasted pretty homemade so I imagine if you grew up eating meat pies… this would be pretty good…

Barrio Chino, a Mexican restaurant in Chinatown.

Barrio Chino
253 Broome St
(between Ludlow St & Orchard St)
New York, NY 10002

I finally made it to Barrio Chino.  LAW doesn’t like Mexican food very much and since he is my primary dining date, I had yet to venture out to this very well-known Mexican restaurant situated right on the edge of Chinatown.  There’s also always a long line so there was even less incentive to go.  Anyway, I finally made it on a girls’ night out (+T.G.).

Started out with a round of margaritas.  I got the grapefruit margarita with a rim of sugar… apparently their most popular drink.  It was a good margarita, but lacked grapefruit taste.  I was imagining a deliciously cold sweet and tart tequila drink with hints of grapefruit bitterness… but just got the sweet and tart bit instead.  I would have had another round if I wasn’t biking home from dinner.

We shared the Guacamole with homemade tortilla chips and salsa roja ($10).  M.B. pushed my expectations way high when she said that we had to get it because it was some of the best guac she’s had.  She’s from California, where avocados are in season all year round, so she definitely knows her stuff.  The guac was creamy, yes, and very good.  But I think avocados are naturally just so awesome that I can’t say I’ve ever had bad guac before… it requires little more than mashing and some light ingredients.  The best guac is definitely the kind you make for yourself because you add as much salt, pepper, lime, and chilies as you like… This guac was not spicy enough for my taste and could have used a bit more lime.  But honestly, any ripe avocado makes me salivate.  $10 for a small bowl was also a bit pricey.  If you are willing to pay for overpriced guac, check out Rosa Mexicano.  They have a highly customizable guac appetizer that is deeelicious.

I had the Camarones Borrachos, which was a plate of fresh shrimp sauteed in tequila, guajillo chiles, and garlic, with green rice, avocado slices, and tortillas ($12).  The first thing I noticed was that the rice wasn’t really green.  Green rice, or arroz verde, is rice dish made with long grain rice, parsley, and steamed spinach leaves.  I’ve never had it so was excited to try what I envisioned to be a flavorful rice.  However, it tasted pretty plain, which after having the shrimp, I was happy about.  The sauce was tasty and had a nice kick to it from the chiles.  It was a little too salty, which is why the plain rice and tortillas were welcomed.  I was bummed that the shrimp was overcooked… overcooked seafood is one of my biggest pet peeves.  A couple seconds too long on the heat and the shrimp or fish is completely un-salvageable.  Seafood should be fresh, sweet, and only lightly seasoned to enhance its own flavors.  Not chewy, tough, and doused in sauce. Continue reading Barrio Chino, a Mexican restaurant in Chinatown.