My 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.
LAW 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
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
Cha Chan Tang (aka Tea Restaurant)
45 Mott Street (between Pell St and Bayard St)
New York, NY 10013
Cha Chan Tang is a type of restaurant that is popular in Hong Kong and specializes in cheap Canto-Western style foods. It also happens to be the name of a restaurant in Chinatown that serves up this exact kind of food. Directly translated, “cha chan tang” means “tea restaurant.” They came to exist after the British colonized Hong Kong and brought the concept of having tea and cakes. Western food was very expensive so restauranteurs decided to make a “tea restaurant” just for locals which served up a fusion menu. This restaurant in Chinatown mimics these types of restaurants through their menu and decor (see above… they have these fake windows that play videos of Hong Kong streets/traffic on loop… pretty cool).
The reason I knew we had stepped into an authentic cha chan tang was because of the intense smell of Hong Kong style milk tea. Hong Kong style milk tea is made with black tea and condensed or evaporated milk. Sounds simple enough but the real deal is actually pretty hard to come by. To make this concoction, tea leaves are placed in a sackcloth (see above), which are then placed in a container with water that is brought to a boil. The sackcloth is said to make the tea smoother. The container is removed when the water is boiling, and then sometimes brought back to a boil. This repeated action intensifies the flavor and caffeine levels – hence, the milk tea is usually pretty caffeinated.
The milk tea looks just like this. You can then add sugar to your liking. It’s strong, milky, and very, very fragrant.
This is a classic pineapple bun. Growing up, I had one of these at least once a week. It is a slightly sweet bread that is made to resemble a pineapple. Nothing about the taste is pineappley. The crust is flakey and sugary while the center is soft and fluffy. This version is a buttered pineapple bun that is very common in cha chan tangs. A warm pineapple bun is served with a fat slab of butter in the middle, melting as it reaches your table. The bun paired with the strong tea is enough reason to visit the restaurant over and over again. Continue reading
53 West 35th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10016
SOOO EXCITED! Rarely do I go to a new restaurant and know immediately that I’ll be a regular from that moment on. MEW Izakaya is now my favorite late night dining spot. LAW and I tend to eat really late (my terrible work schedule doesn’t help) so I’m so so so happy to have found MEW.
Izakayas are Japanese late night drinking spots that also serve food. MEW is an amazing izakaya tucked underground in K-Town (you literally walk downstairs). Most of the crowd fits under the “hip asian” category (think shaved heads with pony tails, denim on denim, and beanies that sit straight up on your head). The menu is an awesome mash up of Japanese foods with Western flair. I literally am going to go back again and again until I’ve tried everything. Continue reading
637 2nd Ave (between 34th and 35th street)
New York, NY 10016
Murray Hill is completely over saturated with Thai places, most of which I qualify as TOTS (take-out Thai standard – as in decent pad thai, pad see ew, and basil rice). I rarely order anything else because TOTS places don’t have much else to offer that is good. I miss dishes like steamed lemongrass fish, phat kaphrao (this spicy stir fried ground pork with lots of basil), and LARB. Luckily, a place called Lan Larb opened up near my place. I generally think that if you name your restaurant the name of a food, you are damn good at making that food. Decided to check out the larb!
This (above) is larb. Larb is actually a Laotian dish of minced meat, fish sauce, lime juice, roasted ground rice, and lots of sweet raw onions. It was delicious here. The dish has a great combo of sweetness from the fish sauce and onions, acidity from the lime, and spice from the… spice. The roasted rice was delicious and added a great crunch. I could totally just have this with a bowl of rice and be very, very happy.
349 East 13th St (between 1st and 2nd Aves)
New York, NY 10003
The Redhead is a restaurant I’ve passed many, many times before but had never thought to walk in. It looks like a dark dive bar from the outside and frankly, the name “The Redhead” never sounded like an appetizing name for a restaurant. Butttttt… don’t judge a book by its cover right?
Eager to try something new one Friday night, LAW, H.W., T.W. and I came to check it out. It’s rated surprisingly well on Yelp and is known for its fried chicken. Can’t say no to fried chicken! We started with a couple drinks. I got the Porch Swing ($11), which is pretty much a spiked Arnold Palmer with cognac, Redhead sweet tea, fresh lemon, and mint. VERY strong. VERY delicious. Definitely exceeded my expectations.
We started with the Grilled Octopus ($12) with marinated beets, chorizo, rye, and pickled mustard. Deeeeelicious. The marinated beets and pickled mustard added a nice acidity to the almost-creamy octopus. Octopus was soft, but not too soft. Had a nice bite to it. Chorizo added a little extra flavor. All round solid dish. Continue reading
210 East 44th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Aves)
New York, NY 10017
LAW and I have recently discovered a whole slew of great authentic Japanese restaurants around 41st to 44th street on 2nd to 3rd Ave (more on the blog to come!). I always knew about Sushi Yasuda, but didn’t realize that its neighbors were all super legit Japanese restaurants as well. Sushi Tsushima is one of them.
LAW and I were craving sushi one night and didn’t want any of the cheap sushi places Murray Hill is saturated with. Literally walk down any block in the area and you’ll basically hear chants and sake glasses falling into beer. Fratty, cheap, sushi places defines Murray Hill. Walk up north a bit and interestingly enough, you’ll find a little Japan. Part of why I love Manhattan is even though it’s pretty tiny, turn a corner and you can be in a completely different world.
We first ordered the Moriwase C set ($31 with soup and salad), which included nigiris (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and eel) and one roll of your choosing. We picked the Blue Fin Tuna roll, mostly for its value (you get to pick any roll!). The fish was fresh. Rice was great, though I prefer a little more vinegar in my sushi rice. The set certainly whet my appetite and reminded me to never eat $5 rolls again.
We then deviated from the sets and ordered nigiris one by one. Clockwise, we had the Seared Salmon with Lemon and Salt ($4.50 each), Yellowtail with Yuzu Pepper ($4.75 each), Sea Eel with sauce ($6.00 each), Seared Mackerel ($6.00 each), and Uni ($8.00 each). These nigiris are much more expensive than the set, and for good reason… All of them were great, but here are the specific reviews in the order from least favorite to favorite: Continue reading
351 East 12th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
I haven’t been this psyched about a restaurant in a while (The Bao aside, of course). I didn’t know what I wanted to eat but wanted something new and great. I was looking for an unconventional place with unconventional food. Ducks Eatery happened to be exactly what I was looking for. The menu is like a blend of comfort soul food with Southeast Asian flavors. Very, very interesting. And surprisingly very, very good.
T.W. and I both had the Watermelon Gimlet ($12) with watermelon, gin, lavender, and lime. Very light and refreshing.
We all shared a couple appetizers. FIrst up is this Smoked Duck Salad ($13) with black rice, pomegranate, apple, and black garlic. The pomegranate and apple added a great tartness and crunch to the almost creamy, smokey duck. Black rice was a really interesting addition. It was a little sweet and chewy, which rounded out the dish quite nicely.
These are the Smoked Mussels ($14) with chili oil, house cultured smoke butter, and toast with maple and chive. Also H.W.’s favorite appetizer of the night. The smoked mussels were pretty damn intense. Slightly fishy, very smokey, and bathed in a flavorful oily sauce. It was a serious flavor trip. Continue reading
St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd Ave
(no website yet!)
This might be the most excited I have been about a restaurant in a long time. The Bao is a new Chinese restaurant in East Village. It’s so new it doesn’t even have a website or Yelp review yet (someone please get on it!). I was lucky enough to be invited (okay, forced to go because I was already so full at this point) by N.T. because her aunt’s friend opened the place. And let me tell you guys, it has, HANDS DOWN, the BEST 小笼包 xiao long bao (aka. soup dumplings) I have had in the United States. Thanks, N.T. and Auntie Judy for bringing it into my life!
The restaurant sits in the middle of the craziness on St. Marks, yet offers a peaceful, spacious space with pretty great modern design. We literally just had a huge barbecue meal and ice cream before this, so only came to show support for the restaurant. We said we’d just try one soup dumpling each and would be on our way. One led to two, three, four, five…
The restaurant serves up a combination of Shanghai, Hunan, Sichuan, and Guangdong dishes – all the owner Richard and his wife’s favorite foods. This here is a glass of sour plum juice, which tastes slightly medicinal but is super refreshing. I love that they have some of the lesser found things like this on the menu.
TURNIP PUFF PASTRY (萝卜丝饼). I friggin LOVE this and have only ever had it in Beijing where I get it at every restaurant I go to that has it. I’ve never seen it on the menu over here and was so excited when I saw it at The Bao. Unlike the traditional kind that are a bit bigger, about 2 inches in diameter, these little guys are bite size. The filling is typically freshly shredded turnip, scallions, some ginger (I believe), and a little bit of Chinese smoked ham (fattier the better). Not sure exactly what The Bao uses, but the filling tastes very similar to what I get in Beijing, maybe even less greasy. Continue reading