Category Archives: East Village

Hot Kitchen: Home Away From Home

Hot Kitchen
Hot Kitchen
104 2nd Ave (between 6th and 7th streets)
New York, NY 10003

Before Hot Kitchen opened, the only Sichuan food I ate was from my own kitchen and the occasional trip to a random Gourmet Sichuan-esque restaurant. Most of these restaurants had the basic necessities: the double cooked pork, the mapo tofu, the GBSJD (we actually call it that – the 干煸四季豆, or dry sautéed string beans), the fish fragrant eggplant (check out my recipe here!). All these basics were too sweet, too greasy, and not spicy enough, and not nearly  numbing enough. Hot Kitchen does all the basics a bit better, and has dishes beyond the basic Sichuan ones that I love. As a result, I go at least once or twice a month. The restaurant is always packed with sounds of home: loud chattering in Chinese and Qing Dao beers clinking.

Hot Kitchen
I always get the 川北凉粉 or Mung Bean Noodle with Spicy and Peppery Sauce ($6.50). This is a Shi’s family favorite. The sauce is a classic Sichuan sauce. It’s spicy, sweet, numbing, and crunch from all the crushed peanuts. The noodles are served cold (goes great with the spice) and are thick but light. You know you’ve got some good noodles when they are elastic and don’t break on contact. Too many Sichuan restaurants in NYC use day(s) old noodles that are refrigerated, which causes the noodles to break. Hot Kitchen doesn’t!

Hot Kitchen
麻婆豆腐 or Mapo Tofu ($13), always a must. Mapo Tofu sauce should NOT be brown. If you order this dish and get brown goopy sauce, you know your chef isn’t Sichuan. It should be bright red and way less viscous than goopiness. The tofu isn’t silken, but also isn’t that hard stuff you find at salad bars. It has enough density that it holds its own shape and doesn’t break. Hot Kitchen’s Mapo Tofu tastes pretty different from how my family makes it (we have more numbingness), but it’s still great. Super flavorful. Could just have this with a bowl of rice and be the happiest person ever. Continue reading

Mighty Quinn’s, Manhattan’s BBQ joint

Mighty Quinns
Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue
103 2nd Ave (between 6th and 7th street)
New York, NY 10003

Mighty Quinn’s has been in my neighborhood for more than a year now yet I had not gone until just recently. It wasn’t until Chrissy Teigen (my major celebrity crush) posted that she came with John (because Chrissy is my crush, I am on a first name basis with John too) that I decided I needed to go asap. The line is always really long but it moves quickly. I would definitely consider this a fast food kind of place. Food is ready made and tables are first come first serve. (Btw, I didn’t have my camera with me so have these gritty iPhone pictures.)

Mighty Quinns
Nice to see fresh vegetables in the kitchen.

Mighty Quinns
LAW got the Brisket Sandwich ($8.75), which seems to be the crowd favorite as seen on Yelp and first hand at the restaurant. The brisket is sliced in front of you after you order and you see the fatty juices gush out onto the cutting board. Looked very promising but ended up tasting mediocre. It lacked flavor (which is made up for by the gallons of Mighty Quinn’s BBQ sauce on all the tables) but was very tender. The bun was cold and dry, which definitely didn’t help. Sad, sad disappointment.  Continue reading

Ugly Kitchen: where I had balut, a duck embryo. It was great.

Ugly Kitchen
Ugly Kitchen
103 1st Ave (between 6th and 7th streets)
New York, NY 10003

I love Filipino food. I didn’t really discover this until Jeepney (sister to Maharlika) popped up in my neighborhood and I got to try some excellent Bicol Express (slow roasted pork shoulder in coconut milk). I haven’t blogged Jeepney yet because I never have my camera when I go, but I definitely need to soon. It embodies everything I know about Filipino culture: fun, familial, loud, and delicious. Ugly Kitchen is another Filipino restaurant in the East Village that my friend L.B. is involved with (and even worked in the kitchen!). It embodies the same kind of vibe as Jeepney’s but is a bit more affordable (mains are $10-$15 whereas at Jeepney where they are $15-$20).

Ugly Kitchen
L.B. welcomed me and Y.N. with dangerous fruity cocktails that the bartender threw together as a special for the night. The most dangerous part of the cocktail was that it didn’t taste dangerous…

Ugly Kitchen
Y.N. asked for the most popular dish on the menu: The Ugly Grilled Chicken ($14), which consists of two pieces of fire grilled chicken with a Korean fusion marinade and a side salad and rice. As simple as this sounds, it tasted pretty damn delicious. The chicken was flavorful, had a strong charred flavor, and was fairly tender. As the chicken cooled down, it got less tender (so eat quickly!), but was still tasty. Great home cookin’ for when you don’t want to take out the grill (or don’t have one because you live in NYC).

Ugly Kitchen
L.B. got the Sizzling Sisig ($13), which consists of spicy minced pork belly, liver, pork cheek, all sautéed together in onions and soy sauce with an egg on top. The waiter cuts the pieces up on the sizzling stone plate when the dish is brought over. The bite size pieces are fatty, and super fragrant. It’s a classic Filipino dish that I haven’t quite learned to love just yet but can see why it is Filipino comfort food. Continue reading

Pigs in a Blanket for Valentine’s Day? Be mine!

Brooklyn PiggiesBrooklyn Piggies
195 Ave A (between 12th and 13th)
New York, NY 10009

I was walking down Avenue A and the words “LOVE” and “PIGGIES” and “SPICY” jumped out at me (naturally). Those three words are some of my favorite things and someone was offering them for Valentine’s Day?!

Brooklyn PiggiesForget chocolates, pigs in a blanket are the way to a true woman’s heart. This tiny little restaurant just opened a little over a week ago on Ave A and specializes in pigs in blankets. 

Continue reading

Gaming the System at Soba-Ya

Soba-Ya
Soba-Ya
229 E 9th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

This will be short. All of you know that I LOVE Soba-Ya. If you follow me on Instagram (@whatshisees), you’ll see a photo of it nearly every weekend. The lunch menu is deeeelicious, filling, healthy, and sooo damn tasty. We’ve gone so many times we’ve figured out how to maximize our food with the least amount of money.

Soba-Ya
The restaurant offers a lunch menu where you pick a rice bowl of some kind and a soba or udon for about $15. BUUT with lots of trial and error, LAW and I have found that certain bowls are way more worth it as regular bowls (non-lunch-menu), and others more worth it as lunch-sized-bowls. So, we always get the Sake Oyako don (above) regular size and the Seared Tuna bowl lunch size. The salmon regular bowl is way bigger than the lunch one, whereas the tuna bowl is about the same size. For the lunch size, you can ask for extra soba for just $3.50. This way, LAW and I can share the lunch portion soba and feel like we have two portions.  Continue reading

Taverna Kyclades: love me some good seafood in EV

Taverna Kyclades
Taverna Kyclades
228 1st Ave
(between 13th St & 14th St)
New York, NY 10009

FISH! FISH! FISH! I’m so happy that a great, affordable seafood place has opened in the East Village. Taverna Kyclades is a casual seafood restaurant that just opened up where Tepito and David’s Bagels used to be. I used to think that spot was cursed (bad feng shui or something) because the restaurants there never stay long. Three restaurants have occupied that spot in less than two years. I’ve never been interested in trying those restaurants because their reviews have always been super mediocre. Taverna Kyclades opened up late last year, a sister restaurant to the eponymous restaurant in Astoria. The original one in Astoria is so popular that people line up for hours on the weekends to get a taste of the fresh seafood.

Taverna Kyclades
Lucky us, the East Village location has not gained that much popularity yet. LAW and I came on a Tuesday evening and only had a 15 minute wait (still wildly impressive for a weekday).

Taverna Kyclades
This is the free bread that they give out. AMAZING baguette – crusty, soft, chewy – toasted with olive oil and spices. Huge plus in my book for starting the meal right. I would come just for this bread and wine if I could get away with it.

Taverna Kyclades
When you come, you MUST get this. This is the Octopodi: charcoal grilled Mediterranean octopus ($15.95). Prior to this, the best grilled octopus I had had was at Pylos, also a really, really great Greek restaurant. Pylos is a bit fancier. It has prettier decor, nicer plates, prettier wine glasses, etc. Also has really great octopus. But this octopodi was phenomenal. It was even more tender than the one at Pylos and had an addicting smokey finish. It was a bit simpler than the one at Pylos, which had a caramelized balsamic glaze. This one was just drizzled with olive oil and some simple herbs. Continue reading

AMAZING Weekend Lunch Deal at Shabu Tatsu

Shabu Tatsu
Shabu Tatsu
216 E 10th St
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003

I decided I love weekend lunches. Not brunches. But lunches. I love eggs but rarely feel that I’ll find a good enough eggs benedict to wait in line for… that being said, I recently found a place where I don’t have to wait in line.

I digress. Soba-Ya has always been a favorite of mine. LAW and I go almost every weekend for our weekly dose of delicious salmon sashimi, torched tuna, unagi over rice, and cold dipping soba. The price is just right, always under $20 each with tax and tip. Recently, we decided we had been going to Soba-Ya TOO much and decided to venture out to some other lunch deals in East Village.

Shabu TatsuWe searched Yelp and found Shabu Tatsu, which I always love going for dinner for Japanese hot pot. We found that they also have a weekend lunch menu that seemed too good to be true. They have these lunch sets that range from $12 to $14 and come with egg drop soup and salad.  Continue reading

Duck Confit Hash at The Winslow, A Top 5 Brunch Item

The Winslow
The Winslow
243 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

The Winslow is a very special place. You can feel it when you walk in. You can sense that someone cares deeply about the place. Maybe it was because I was biased when I walked in. I knew that Jeff Winslow was a bartender at Hibernia and had saved up money for a decade to open his dream place. But there’s something incredibly charming about the place. It maintains a small town bar feel with the warm wooden décor, but also has a New York snazzy edge because if you look closely enough, everything is very deliberately picked and well designed. Just look at the stools. The subtle curve of the wooden seat sits on top of four elegant legs. Not your standard wooden stool.

The WinslowV.S. introduced me to Jeff one night when we were all getting drinks there. At night, the place gets bumpin’ with old hip hop tunes and endless gin cocktails to sample. I was told that I had to come and try their food sometime. I brought M.B., Y.N., and L.S. one Saturday for brunch. Brunch in NYC is a normally a nightmare that involves long waits, lame eggs benedicts, and watered down mimosas. Winslow had none of that.

The lack of a wait might just have to do with the fact that it is still very new and unknown to most. I almost don’t want people to read this post so I can continue to enjoy brunch without a wait. But that’s just selfish… Continue reading

what shi said: Huey Cheng, owner of Kura and all around BAMF

KuraFINALLY! I’m so excited to share the first of many what shi said interviews that I will be doing with all the food industry BAMFs. To start the whole shebang, we have Huey Cheng, owner of the very loved Kura restaurant in East Village. Kura was recently written up in the NYTimes, and if you haven’t read it, you need to right now. It profiles Chef Ishizuka (above) so very well, accurately depicting his joyfulness and candid style of making sushi. What the NYTimes article does lack is a profile of the man who started it all: Huey. (Huey is camera shy, so here is a photo of the amazing chirashi bowl Kura offers in place of him.) Continue reading

Gruppo: thin, crisp, and chewy pizzas with lots of flavor

GruppoGruppo
98 Ave B
New York, NY 10009

After playing a couple hours of pretty intense volleyball, a short but tiring game involving a soccer ball, and an hour and 15 minutes of anti-gravity yoga (a story for another time…), LAW and I were starved and so happy to hear that the rest of our crew had already been seated at Gruppo, Posto’s pizza sister located in Alphabet City. When we arrived to join our dinner family, E.C. had already ordered for us. I normally am pretty involved in the ordering process so felt that it was refreshing to have someone else take the lead.

We started with the Strawberries & Pecorino Crostini with toasted ciabatta bread, topped with pecorino cheese, fresh strawberries, fresh basil, and white truffle honey ($9). SO. DAMN. GOOD. Strawberries aren’t in season now so were a bit more tart, which was solved with the delicious truffle honey. The saltiness and creaminess from the cheese gave this crostini a delicious balanced flavor. The fresh basil added a nice herby kick. I am definitely going to make this at home sometime, perhaps with a saltier cheese. Continue reading