Category Archives: New York

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

Cherche Midi, another McNally restaurant

Cherche Midi
Cherche Midi
282 Bowery (and Houston)
New York, NY 10012

It has been ages, my friends. AGES. I feel awfully guilty for abandoning this blog for so long. I can give you the usual excuses of life getting in the way but it won’t make me feel any less guilty. The reason I’ve carved out some of my Sunday afternoon to write to you all is because quite a few of you have recentlyl told me that you MISS my blog posts and actually NOTICED that I haven’t posted in a while. I’m soooooo incredibly flattered and… just… wow, people read my blog consistently enough to be able to tell I’ve been MIA? M.L. told me today I am her sad-desk-lunch reading and it empowered me to get off my lazy bum and finally just start writing again so M.L. can resume reading about food while she eats food.

So here it is! My first post since… ALMOST A MONTH AGO (ugh). The post is about Cherche Midi, a Keith McNally restaurant that opened sometime last year. McNally is a big NYC restauranteur who opened Balthazar and Minetta Tavern (among many others). There are a few deviations from the “typical French” restaurant with some yuzu and shiso on the menu, but otherwise Cherche Midi is a pretty typical French establishment, with steak tartare, steak frites, and lots of butter in and on everything.

Cherche Midi First, the bread. Very important. Bread is the first thing you get to eat at a restaurant so in my mind it should give you a hint of the identity of the restaurant In Cherche Midi’s case, it certainly did.

Cherche Midi
The bread was traditionally French (baguettes!) served with amazing butter. The baguettes had a perfectly crusty crust and a great spring to it (when you squeeze, it bounces back). Center was chewy, stretchy, and soft-but-not-too-soft. Promising.

Cherche Midi We shared the Frogs’ Legs with green garlic velouté, garlic chips, and crisp parsley ($19 – expensive). Despite how fancy it sounds, it tasted pretty un-fancy. The legs were fried well, and were very tender. Sauce was creamy and had a hint of garlic. Nothing to write home about.

Cherche Midi We also shared the Homemade Lobster Ravioli in ginger beurre blanc (aka. ginger butter sauce) with piquillo peppers ($28), which ended up being my favorite dish from the night. Amazingly fresh, sweet lobster (large chunks of it too) coated in a buttery sauce with little sweet peppers and what I think is definitely LEMONGRASS. Oh man was this tasty. I was happy to see Cherche Midi deviating from a traditional French-only menu. The ravioli skin also had a great bite to it.  Continue reading

Fuku: David Chang’s take on the spicy chicken sandwich

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFuku
163 1st Ave (10th st)
New York, NY 10003

I’ve been wanting to come to Fuku since I first heard that David Chang was creating a restaurant solely dedicated to fried chicken sandwiches. I… love… chicken sandwiches. And I’ll let you in on a secret. Every time I go home to Beijing, I have a list of restaurants I always have to hit up, ranging from my favorite peking duck to THE GREATEST spicy fried chicken sandwich ever from KFC. Yup, KFC. Those of you from Beijing will understand. KFC does not have it on its US menu. They call it the Zinger burger. The sandwich consists of a big, thick piece of dark chicken thigh meat fried to perfection, a smear of mayo, and a light sesame bun. It’s amazing. Just take my word for it.

Anyway, that was for context. In my mind, Fuku was benchmarked against my glorious Beijing fried chicken sandwich.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALAW and I came around 1:30pm this past weekend. Fuku is only open from 11-4 Wednesdays through Sundays. The place was packed with Asians. Maybe everyone else is benchmarking against Beijing KFC too?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I ordered everything on the menu sans alcohol: 1 spicy chicken sandwich + 1 Koreana (Fuku’s newer off-menu spicy chicken sandwich with daikon radish) + 1 fuku salad + 1 french fries + 1 seltzer water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
God I was excited. H.W. had visited a few days earlier and said it was the BEST THING he’s had in NYC. People waited HOURS in line when the place first launched mid June. Continue reading

Seoul Garden: great for raw crab and naengmyun (cold noodles)

Seoul GardenSeoul Garden
34 W 32nd St (between Broadway and 5th Ave)
New York, NY 10001

I have to admit, I had been to Seoul Garden a number of times before, each time because I was too impatient/hungry/hangry to wait in line at another place. Seoul Garden was always THAT restaurant for me: good enough to eat at but not great enough to ever be a real choice. It always struck me as a restaurant of mediocrity, one that didn’t have more ambitious goals than providing solid, comfort Korean food (nothing wrong with that). So you can imagine my surprise when I got invited to dine with them recently… are they rebranding? New chef? New management? Someone is clearly trying! I grabbed LAW and we headed over to Ktown to check it out.

Turns out, I had been ordering incorrectly this whole time. I asked to have all the best items on the menu and was served dishes I had never ordered at Seoul Garden before. There were a few things that I had that night that were incredible and absolutely worth going back for.

First: the banchan. Banchan are small dishes that all Korean restaurants serve (complimentary!) as appetizers. It’s like getting bread before your meal except you’re getting all kinds of things like different kinds of kimchi, other veggies, squid, steamed egg, etc. Seoul Garden provided the usual with one particular amazing dish…

Seoul GardenLittle fish with fried sweet potato chips. The salty, chewy fish paired with the sweet, crisp sweet potato made for a mouthwatering combo. This was truly a great banchan that got my appetite going. I had never seen this before either. Plus points for creativity. The rest of the banchan below were more of the usual suspects:  Continue reading

EONS: The Greek Chipotle

Eons
EONS
633 2nd Ave (34th St)
New York, NY 10016

Chipotle… meets the Greek Gods and makes Greek babies. And by babies I mean food. And by Chipotle makes Greek food I mean a restaurant called Eons copied Chipotle’s healthy/fastfood model and made a Greek version of it. And it was deeeeeliicioussss!

EonsEONS just opened up not too long ago in the land of the bros (Murray Hill). Like Chipotle, you choose a base (pita, rice, or salad), pick your protein (chicken, lamb, steak, pork, shrimp, salmon, or octopus – lots of options!), pick your sides (gigante beans, lentil salad, beet salad, etc.), add a spread (tzadziki, eggplant, hummus, garlic spread, etc.), then add as many salad-y things you want (cucumber, tomatoes, olives, etc.). Other than the seafood proteins, your meal will cost less than $10.

Eons
And your meal will look beautifully colorful like this. Here I ordered the brown rice base with slow roasted pork (very juicy and soft), EONS salad (which includes farro, cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, and parsley), beet salad, olives, and roasted baby eggplant spread. The meal was filling yet light, flavorful but not too salty. My body felt amazing after. All the ingredients are just very fresh and simple – something I’ve loved about Greek food but was never able to access it so easily and quickly as from EONS. Continue reading