150 Ainslie St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
We were told the wait was two and a half hours. We waited two full hours. And. It. Was. Worth. It.
Okonomi is a tiiiiiny little Japanese restaurant tucked away on the north side of Williamsburg. It opens from 9am-3pm on weekdays, and 10am-4pm on weekends (at night, the restaurant becomes Yuji Ramen). It serves only traditional Japanese ichiju-sansai set meals for breakfast and lunch. “Ichiju-sansai” literally means “One soup, three dishes” – aka a healthy set meal.
I was pretty skeptical with the raving reviews. How good could breakfast really be? I did my little Yelp search beforehand and saw all the photos. The food looked pretty and small – usually the opposite of how I like my food. We got there at 10:30am on a Saturday and already saw a long line forming out the door. Someone sat outside with a suitcase – that’s when you know the place is good. That person NEEDED to eat here before jetsetting off.
Two full hours later, me, N.T., B.J., and A.H. got seated across from this couple.
You can only order the ichiju-sansai (set menu) (~$30), but can choose your fish. We had a choice of Spanish mackerel, some kind of tilefish, and a sashimi over rice bowl. I got the Spanish mackerel, which is pictured here along with all the other dishes. (FYI those flowers were real :)) Continue reading
229 S 4th St
Brooklyn, NY 11211 (South Williamsburg)
I had been wanting to go to Traif for a long time. It’s consistently rated as one of the best places to eat in Williamsburg (4.5 stars on Yelp O.O and wow two billyburg restaurants in a row for me). Traif is a “new American” restaurant that serves up tapas with Asian and bacon flavors. It is also known for its bacon donuts – that curiosity alone was enough to entice me…
I started with the Rude Little Pig cocktail, which is made with lapsang-infused tequila orange liqueur, and a pomegranate bacon rim. Can’t say it’s particularly amazing but it was a pretty stiff drink. Bacon rim sounds better than it tasted. You couldn’t really taste it at all. It was actually pretty annoying to have to deal with bacon crummies in my drink. This start aside, everything else was pretty great.
We were gifted a sweet potato-y soup from the chef. Super delicious. So creamy and vibrant – the perfect little taster to get the taste buds going for the rest of the meal. By the way, I didn’t note all the prices and the menu changes pretty frequently. Just know that each dish is about $11-$20 ish.
Toasted spaetzle with roasted mushrooms. TBH, not the biggest fan of spaetzle because of how grainy it tastes. It’s the same reason why I can’t stand whole wheat pasta. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, anything else really I’m all for. Something about grainy noodles just doesn’t make sense to me. They should be al dente, not grainy. Anyway, of all the spaetzles of the land that I’ve had, this is pretty good, I guess. Cant go wrong with cheese and mushrooms. Continue reading
159 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11206
I know. It’s been for. ever. I could give you some bullpoop excuse about how I’ve been really busy and feel soooo bad for not writing about all my recent food adventures, but the truth is the reason I haven’t posted in a long time is because I recently switched jobs and for the first time in my life am super happy and with what I’m doing (it’s sort of food related!) and no longer feel the need to find another way to do something I care about. That being said, now that I’m more settled in, I hope I’m better about updating because I’ve been eating at some bomb butt places lately. Win Son as the most recent!
H.K., my truest Brooklynite friend, somehow was able to convince me and K.C. to trek to East Williamsburg on a school night (I’m a brat). And it was totally worth it. Win Son is a new Taiwanese-American restaurant opened up by Josh Ku and Trigg Brown (former sous chef at Upland). The food tastes and looks like homemade Chinese food – no frills, just good, with a lot of the same ingredients used over and over again.
Marinated Cucumbers ($5) with garlic and cilantro and A TON OF THEIR AMAZING FRIED GARLIC THINGS. Simple and amazing. Simply amazing.
Oyster Omelette ($11) with A TON OF THEIR AMAZING FRIED GARLIC THINGS. Oysters are whole and fresh – still mostly raw even. Legit.
Pan-griddled Pork Buns ($9) with scallions and chili vinaigrette and A TON OF THEIR AMAZING FRIED GARLIC THINGS. This might have been my favorite thing from the night. The chili vinaigrette is slightly slightly spicy, slightly sweet, slightly acidic. Super nomz. Skin is not too thin nor too thick. Pork is tender. Snaps for these buns. Continue reading
263 West 19th St (6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Alright food friends. Quick update here. I went to Wisefish recently with N.T., G.B., H.W., and LAW to do a little taste comparison against the glorious Sons of Thunder. Just by photo comparison, you can see the main difference between the two: Wisefish poke bowls have a lot more stuff. The ordering mechanism is different. At Sons of Thunder, you pick your fish (or octopus or tofu or whatever) and that’s it. It comes with greens, radishes, seaweed salad, etc. You can also add toppings like krispies (yes do this), nori, avocado, etc. for an additional price. At Wisefish, you pick your fish and then get unlimited toppings from their toppings bar. It’s like the new-ish PinkBerry method where you pay a little more but get as many toppings (edamame, hijiki, radish, etc) as you want – or more precisely, as many as will fit in the bowl/you’re shameless enough to ask for. The price ends up being similar.
Because at Sons of Thunder I have to pick and pay for each additional topping, I find that I cherish/appreciate those toppings that much more. Also, a bigger point here, the quality of fish is just better at Sons of Thunder. The Wisefish tuna and salmon are cut into smaller cubes and are a bit…. softer (maybe marinated too much?) and stringy-er. Though, the fish quality isn’t a dealbreaker because it’s still decent and the number of toppings and sauces you can get sort of makes up for it. You should certainly go if you’re in the area. If the purpose of your meal is to have the best poke on the other hand, I would go to Sons of Thunder (I still have Pokeworks to try so I’ll let you know if my assessment changes). Continue reading
Sons of Thunder
204 East 38th St (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10016
Thank the gods that the Sons of Thunder have arrived in desolate Murray Hill, where prior to this moment, the most exciting thing to have happened of late is still Eons (the Greek Chipotle). After tasting poke (pronounced poh-kay) for the first time in Hawaii, I was surprised poke did not exist EVERYwhere. It’s tuna (or salmon or octopus or whatever you want) marinated in delicious sauces over rice. Basically chirashi with spicy mayo. Who wouldn’t like that? And like all my great business ideas, a five second google search showed me that poke very much does exist in NYC and happens to have just exploded in the last few months. Perfect timing on my part, per usual.
Sons of Thunder is one of two other new poke-specific spots to have opened recently in Manhattan. The other two are Pokeworks and Wisefish. Yelp tells me they’re pretty good but don’t seem quite as good as my little neighborhood gem…. I’ll follow-up with posts about the other two and let you know what I think. For now – my review of Sons of Thunder (I’m going to try to say their name as many times as I can in this post because Sons of Thunder is just too epic of a name. Sons of Thunder.)
The fast-casual restaurant is located randomly on 38th street and 3rd Ave. The space is huge (for NYC standards) and beautifully designed to have a very LA/Hawaiian feel. The place has wooden tables, surfer posters, pretty lights, and a massive, gorgeous skylight towering above the seating area. The space is the definition of chill. Murray Hill – please take note of this spot and learn to evolve to have more places like this.
LAW and I each ordered our own poke bowls ($10.75 each). You have the choice of tuna, salmon, octopus, or golden beets/tofu over white rice or brown rice. You can also do half and half, which is what I did here. I had the spicy half tuna half salmon with an additional topping of “krispies” which is basically fried ginger and garlic (NOM). The bowl itself comes with a small green salad and seaweed salad. Having eaten there a bunch of times now, I know that they change up the salad ingredients all the time (this time I had these awesome turnips in my salad). The combo of the fresh fish, chewy rice, crispy krispies, and crunch from the salad (seaweed and cucumber) … is awesome. Continue reading
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.
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!
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.
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
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).
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
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).
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Our amuse bouche: watermelon cubes on a stick with a creamy spicy sauce on top. Tres refreshing. Continue reading
Hoppy Happy Hour @ Sakamai
157 Ludlow St. (across from Pianos)
New York, NY 10002
To 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
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.)
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