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
Big 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.
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.
Congee 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.
It 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 (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.
We got off the F train and found this tiny restaurant. Continue reading
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!).
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.
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.
It is a cute open spot on Ave A, with plenty of seating in the back.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Close up of the bagel. Looks lame, yeah? Am I missing something?
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.
Above average bread quality, but nothing to write home about.
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!
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