Category Archives: New York

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.

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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?

Lil Frankies: great vongole vongole vongole!

Lil Frankies Lil Frankies
19 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003

E.L. had her birthday dinner here recently. I was pretty stoked because I love Italian food (as you know from my delicious trip to Italy!) and had heard from a number of friends that it was worth going to.

Lil Frankies
Above average bread quality, but nothing to write home about.

Lil Frankies
J.L. ordered the Wood Fire Roasted Eggplant ($7.95) with cyprus black sea salt and peperoncino oil. The menu description says it “Melts in your mouth!” None of the other menu items had any descriptors beyond the ingredients, so I felt like this had to be a signature. Also, Wood fire roast anything and I’ll probably love it. Sadly, all of our expectations were way too high. It was mushy, bland, and the skin was really hard, almost like plastic. Not only was it unsavory, the eggplant also lacked its natural sweetness. No bueno!

Lil Frankies
I had the special, which was a Vongole. Can’t remember how much it was, but all the pasta prices ranged from $12 to $18 ish I believe. I’ve been on a vongole kick lately. As a kid, I never liked non-creamy or non-tomatoey pastas. As an adult, I now love the more subtle garlic and olive oil nuances and the not so subtly infused clam flavor. Deeeeelicious! Spaghetti was thinner than usual, and very al dente. Excuse me while I go wipe off the drool from my laptop… (it’s almost dinner time as I write this, forgive me). Continue reading

Cafe Mogador: NYC’s pioneer Moroccan restaurant

Cafe Mogador Cafe Mogador
101 St. Marks Place (between Ave A and 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10009

Cafe Mogador is the definition of the type of restaurant that I love. It has all the right components to keep me going back again and again. I’m almost sad that I just discovered it now because it is just that good. It satisfies my criteria of:

  1. Having really great food (duh)
  2. Having a speciality food (I hate places that do “all things” because it is impossible to do all things well) - Moroccan specifically (think tagines, cous cous, hummus, babaganoush…)
  3. Having really reasonable prices (~$20 an entree and ~$10 an appetizer)
  4. Having the right “mood” that  pauses time and allows you to get lost in your food and conversation

Cafe Mogador
The drinks are also strong. There’s really nothing not to like! It’s been around since 1983 so is pretty much an East Village landmark. A colleague of mine said his wife grew up going to Cafe Mogador as a little girl. I can’t imagine growing up in East Village but if it involved coming to Cafe Mogador every weekend, I’d be pretty happy about it.

Cafe Mogador
LAW, B.A., B.P., H.W., and I came on a Friday night and definitely waited a good hour before we got a table. It was warm out (YES warm nights!) so it wasn’t so bad. We started with the Hummus Falafel Platter with green sauce ($12). The hummus is the best I’ve had in the city, not quite at Jordanian hummus level, but very, very, good. Not as machine-made smooth as store-bought… FRESH is how I would describe it. Fresh, light, and creamy. The falafel was also the kind I like: small, crisp on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Hate it when falafels are over fried and have a thick crust and dense filling. Continue reading

Apartment 13: Japanese, Caribbean, and American

Apartment 13 Apartment 13
113 Loisada Ave (Ave C and 7th Street)
New York, NY 10009

I was lucky enough to meet CutiePatroller last week over dinner at Apartment 13. CutiePatroller is a NYC food blogger recently started working for Tabelog. Tabelog is a review site curated by other food bloggers. The idea is that the reviews you read will be of higher quality and will contain better photos so you can make a more informed decision. You might remember, but I was a judge for Tabelog a while ago for one of their many restaurant awards. It was awesome to connect with CutiePatroller because a) I don’t really ever connect with other food bloggers and it’s great to learn about their processes and challenges; and b) she’s super cool and fun AND has had her own little boutique clothing store (Cutie Room) in NoHo. Needless to say, I had a great time! Now onto the food!

Apartment 13
Apartment 13 serves up fusion Japanese, Caribbean, and American cuisine. It’s well rated on Yelp and sounded like it has interesting flavor combinations so I was pretty excited to try it. We started with Mimi’s Maryland Crabcake with coconut crema, sour mango, and scotch bonnet (don’t know what that is) ($13). $13 for a single crabcake is definitely on the pricier side. Given the price and that it was pretty mediocre, I wouldn’t recommend it. It came not cold nor hot, symbolic of our meal to come. At least it was packed with crab and not just filled with breading.  Continue reading

Fushimi: French inspired Japanese food

Fushimi
Fushimi
475 Driggs Ave (right off of the L train in Williamsburg)
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Doesn’t look like NYC right? Fushimi is a gigantic restaurant (in NYC terms) tucked a couple streets behind the Bedford Ave stop on the L train in Williamsburg. I wouldn’t have known about it had I not been invited to sample their menu recently. I brought LAW along with me who also played Mr. Photographer for me. And let me tell you, it was quite an experience. 

Fushimi
The place is decorated like a lounge. Red and blue lights everywhere. I was told to ask for Sunny when I got in. So I did, and the hostess said, “you must be Tiffany,” as she curtsied/bowed to me. Service is serious. We waited for a couple minutes before Sunny showed up in a tight-fitted suit. 

Fushimi
He brought us to our table, which was in a booth with red tassels that hung off the top rim of the ceiling. The decor was very stereotypically “Asian” – I almost felt like I was in Hong Kong at a mafia-run lounge. Sunny had the chef prepare us a special menu that included some specials they planned to debut over Mother’s Day weekend. The food is fusion, which is often way too sweet and drenched in sauces for me. Fushimi was different, and was less fusion than French-inspired Japanese food. Sunny also explained that a lot of people tend to think of Japanese food as just raw fish, which he tries to dispel through Fushimi’s menu. Fushimi’s menu is therefore mostly cooked food. Something Sunny hopes will appeal more to Westerners or older folks who are not used to eating raw foods.

FushimiAll the menu items are Japanese inspired but certainly don’t stay within the realm of Japanese food. LAW started with the West Meets East cocktail ($10), which is a whiskey based cocktail that is very, very strong. Definitely a good deal given the quality of the drink.

Fushimi
I started with the Yuzu Citrus Martini, which is a deeeelicious girly drink. Yuzu is a citrus fruit commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It kind of tastes like a grapefruit and mandarin orange hybrid… very great for a cocktail because the bitterness cuts out the alcohol flavor.

Fushimi
Our food adventure begins with the Prawn Frites ($15) with coconut and macadamia crusted jumbo prawns and homemade lemon tartar sauce. The side salad was dressed in a yuzu wasabi vinaigrette.

Fushimi
The prawns were ginormous. The photo doesn’t do it justice because you have nothing to compare it to. The prawn was sweet, tender, and very meaty on the inside. I couldn’t really taste the macadamia crust but the coconut added a nice flakey texture to the crust. Good stuff.

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Holey Donuts! New low fat “gourmet” donuts in West Village.

Holey Donuts!
Holey Donuts!
101 Seventh Avenue South
New York, NY 10014

Gourmet donuts are so popular these days. They’re taking over the cupcake craze, which makes perfect sense. Donuts are literally just prettier versions of fried dough (like cupcakes are to cake). I was recently invited to check out Holey Donuts! during its three-day grand opening. Frank, the owner, spent time talking to me about his donuts and how he got to where he is today. As always, I will state upfront if I was specifically invited to a tasting or had my meal comped for a review. Regardless of the situation, be confident that all my reviews reflect my objective opinions of the food. Rest assured!

Holey Donuts!
Holey Donuts! has been around for almost a decade as an online donut shop but opened its first brick and mortar store in the West Village this past weekend. It makes ultra low fat gourmet donuts in a variety of flavors, frosted and jelly-filled. The base of the donut is actually not even fried. It is baked through a proprietary process and then made to order in front of you at the store. Continue reading

Hot Kitchen: Home Away From Home

Hot Kitchen
Hot Kitchen
104 2nd Ave (between 6th and 7th streets)
New York, NY 10003

Before Hot Kitchen opened, the only Sichuan food I ate was from my own kitchen and the occasional trip to a random Gourmet Sichuan-esque restaurant. Most of these restaurants had the basic necessities: the double cooked pork, the mapo tofu, the GBSJD (we actually call it that – the 干煸四季豆, or dry sautéed string beans), the fish fragrant eggplant (check out my recipe here!). All these basics were too sweet, too greasy, and not spicy enough, and not nearly  numbing enough. Hot Kitchen does all the basics a bit better, and has dishes beyond the basic Sichuan ones that I love. As a result, I go at least once or twice a month. The restaurant is always packed with sounds of home: loud chattering in Chinese and Qing Dao beers clinking.

Hot Kitchen
I always get the 川北凉粉 or Mung Bean Noodle with Spicy and Peppery Sauce ($6.50). This is a Shi’s family favorite. The sauce is a classic Sichuan sauce. It’s spicy, sweet, numbing, and crunch from all the crushed peanuts. The noodles are served cold (goes great with the spice) and are thick but light. You know you’ve got some good noodles when they are elastic and don’t break on contact. Too many Sichuan restaurants in NYC use day(s) old noodles that are refrigerated, which causes the noodles to break. Hot Kitchen doesn’t!

Hot Kitchen
麻婆豆腐 or Mapo Tofu ($13), always a must. Mapo Tofu sauce should NOT be brown. If you order this dish and get brown goopy sauce, you know your chef isn’t Sichuan. It should be bright red and way less viscous than goopiness. The tofu isn’t silken, but also isn’t that hard stuff you find at salad bars. It has enough density that it holds its own shape and doesn’t break. Hot Kitchen’s Mapo Tofu tastes pretty different from how my family makes it (we have more numbingness), but it’s still great. Super flavorful. Could just have this with a bowl of rice and be the happiest person ever. Continue reading