Category Archives: New York

Sakamai’s new brunch menu is BOMB

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.

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.

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).

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

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?

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.

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

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.

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

Nishida Sho-Ten: FAMAZING gyoza and delicious, authentic ramen

Nishida Sho-Ten
Nishida Sho-Ten
302 E 49th St (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10017

I’m really tired of eating at fancy places (#firstworldproblems). I was about to blog about my recent trip to Bouley, then just got so bored writing about the smoked Alaskan salmon with Tasmanian mustard seed, creme fraiche, coconut sugar, and gluten free crouton (yes that is all in one dish, the amuse bouche actually – not even a real dish). I’ve come to accept that as much as I have an appreciation for places like Bouley and Jean Georges, I get most excited about eating, taking photos, and blogging about homey hole-in-the-wall places like this one!

Nishida Sho-Ten
I like eating where hip Asians eat too I guess.

Nishida Sho-Ten
So, Nishida Sho-Ten is a cute little ramen place in Midtown East. There are always diners eating there, but I’ve never had to wait in line for a seat before. Continue reading

Bibble & Sip: An Alpaca Cafe with lots of matcha and lavender (and alpacas)

Bibble & Sip
Bibble & Sip
253 W 53rd St (8th Ave)
New York, NY 10019

J.S., my super trendy fashionista friend (check out her blog!) who also loves to eat and drink coffee, introduced me to Bibble & Sip. She had me at “alpaca.”

Bibble & SipBibble & Sip is a cute coffee shop in Hell’s Kitchen (I know, cute+coffee shop+Hell’s Kitchen almost never go together) that serves up lots of unique, delicious things like earl grey banana bread, pistachio cake, earl grey panna cotta, matcha latte, lavender lattes, etc. The theme seems to be tea-infused things…. yumz. It is also RANDOMLY alpaca themed.

Bibble & SipI spy with my little eye… an alpaca.

Bibble & Sip
I made R.Y. come check it out with me recently and we got these pretty cups of matcha latte and lavender latte.  Continue reading

Interesting AND Tasty: A Delicious Ladies Lunch at Jean Georges

Jean Georges
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

HI GUYZ! It’s been awhile since I’ve done a real blog post. Going to try to get back at it now that the weather is nicer and I’m less inclined to stay home and cook (follow my instagram @whatshisees to see my daily cookeries!). Today’s blog post is from a recent Ladies Lunch I went to with the lovely K.C, B.J., and J.N. As I mentioned in my Betony post, going to fancy restaurants is fun for me in the same way going to a museum is… I admire art and creativity. I usually don’t go for a really satisfying, tasty meal (given that my favorite foods consist of dumplings, noodles, and pizza… you can see why). Luckily for me, Jean Georges ended up being both beautiful and very, very tasty.

If you’re a chronic bruncher or lunch-deal-hunter, you probably know that Jean Georges has one of the best lunch deals. Where else can you go to a Michelin star restaurant for a $48 meal? The $48 lunch deal is a 2-course meal. Any additional “courses” costs $24. We each had two courses and added an additional dessert course because, well, because! And looking back on my journey, it was well worth it. Anyway, let me begin to describe my culinary journey at this fancy pants place.

Bread: Decent. Just decent. The sesame bread was my favorite because it was light and very, very sesame-y (do you like my descriptors?) The bread definitely wasn’t as  good as at Betony. I’m going to Bouley next week where the free bread is supposed to be awesome. That’s the only reason I’ve been dying to go! #bread4lyfe

Our meal started with a little amuse bouche featuring a trio of different flavors and textures. Starting clockwise is a tiny bit of soup, a roasted portabello mushroom, and a swirl of smoked salmon. Every item was pretty unique and flavorful, but didn’t really go together. I feel like each was meant to stimulate a different taste profile on my tongue… to get all my taste buds wired and ready to go. Good job Mr. Amuse Bouche. It worked.

This… this… might be my favorite uni dish of all time. And I’ve had a lot of uni things. B.J. and I ordered it for our first course. It is a trio of Santa Barbara urchin (only the best) over a thick slab of butter, on top of toasted black bread. It’s topped with the most amazing flakes of sea salt and a tiny slice of jalepeno. Oh, and there’s yuzu somewhere in there. The ginormous slab of urchin was sweet and creamy, only to be made more creamy and delicious with the butter. The yuzu added a nice citrusy kick to the creaminess, and the jalepeno added a little bit of heat at the end of your bite. The toasted black bread was a nice addition to help soak in some of the flavors. Honestly, just so much YUM in my mouth. AND THERE WERE THREE OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!! Continue reading

Umami Burger ON MY COUCH thanks to OrderAhead!

Umami BurgerMy good friends A.H. and A.C. both work at OrderAhead, an exciting food startup that is coming head to head with Caviar. Those of you who don’t know, these are food delivery startups that, well, deliver food to you. Unlike Seamless, they deliver food from places that don’t typically offer delivery services, places like ABC Kitchen, BCD Tofu House, and Taverna Kyclades. I’ve been hesitant to try these services because of the added delivery fee but my friends gave me some delivery credit so I obliged. What I came to learn is that $6 isn’t so much, especially if you’re splitting it with a friend. Physically getting to a lot of these restaurants would take way more than that. As much as I like a great meal out, I am also a homebody who loves enjoying food on my couch. Prior to OrderAhead, if I wanted to order in I would have to settle on overly-sweet-Thai-food or fishy-sushi (not the good kind of fishy…) or mediocre pizza. The time for shitty takeout is over! Smell ya later Chinese takeout box.

Umami BurgerLAW and I ordered from Umami Burger because I’ve never had it before, don’t care to ever go out of my way for it (because Shake Shack is my one true love), and because it doesn’t typically deliver to us. I placed my order from the OrderAhead app, which is simple and pretty intuitive to use.

Service was also pretty impeccable for delivery. A couple minutes after I put in my order, I got a call from OrderAhead about a specific dish request I had. I also got a text from the team telling me the delivery man, Takwaun, had picked up my order and was on the way. I read that they are working on getting tracking available for your order so you know exactly where it is. Very helpful to know my order isn’t just sitting around! Especially when I’m hangry (which is almost always right after I put in an order). Continue reading

Betony: creative and delicious offspring of Eleven Madison

41 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

I’m going to take you through my meal at Betony the way I wish I experienced it: aka. without the pretentious crowd and stuffy furnishing. More on this later. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I’m not typically one to chase Michelin stars. Food that excites me is food that is undiscovered like Lan Larb or The Bao (though both have gotten pretty damn popular as of late). That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy fancy food. I like fancy pants food the same way I like going to art museums. I have a deep appreciation for passion involved in cooking and the creative work chefs do. I also like to paint though, and that kind of enjoyment is totally different. ANYWAY. LAW and I went to Betony recently and I was pumped because I had only heard good things. Started by two ex-Eleven-Madison-Park chefs, Betony has been raved about on the interwebs as a creatively delicious restaurant. Oh, it also has a Michelin star.

I started with the Beach Tea (Rhum Blanc, Cranberry Kombucha, and Absinthe Verte – $15). Oh. Hot. Damn. This is my jam. It looks pretty elementary but the mixologist performed some serious alchemy with this one. It tasted deliciously fruity and was REALLY strong in the best way possible: I felt a warmness creep into my body throughout the beverage without ever feeling like I was tasting alcohol. Alchemy.

Per my friend R.P.’s recommendation, we shared the Betony take on the lobster roll ($18). I was disappointed when I saw the dish because it’s nearly 20 bucks (enough for like 7 “burgers” at Xi’an Famous Foods) yet looks like a few sticks of Chinese egg rolls. Lesson learned to never judge a book by its cover because these little rolls were bursting (BURSTING, I tell you) with essence of lobster roll. I don’t understand how so much lobster flavor was jammed into these tiny cylinders but man were they tasty. The shell of the roll was a crispy, slightly flakey pastry. The filling was magic. Continue reading