Category Archives: Gramercy

Location, location, location. It matters for restaurants too.

Vanessa’s Dumplings
220 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

The dumplings here are not good. Yet, I have them at least once every two weeks. Why? Because it’s the only place near me that specializes in dumplings and I ache for dumplings about once every two weeks.

I always get the basic: boiled cabbage and pork dumplings ($3.99 for eight). Cabbage and pork dumplings are classic. The cabbage adds moisture and sweetness to the meat. A quality dumpling would have thin, yet chewy skin, tender and flavorful, not-too-loose-nor-dense filling. As you can see here, Vanessa’s dumplings have thick skin, and despite the color of the meat, it actually is quite bland. Soy sauce and chili sauce is needed. In China, the classic way to eat dumplings is just to dip it in a little vinegar. The vinegar helps cut the flavor and fattiness from the dumpling itself.  Continue reading

Bao Noodles – most underrated restaurant I’ve been to!

Bao Noodles
391 2nd Ave
(between 23rd St & 22nd St)
New York, NY 10010

Most underrated restaurant I have ever been to. I came here over a year ago and it was empty. I came here again on Sunday after watching a movie in the area and it was again, empty. I didn’t remember my experience from the first time, meaning it couldn’t have been too bad. I was hesitant to go since it was literally empty but we were all starving and just wanted something edible at this point. They have a $9.99 lunch special for an entree and drink, we figured we might as well just eat here. And I’m so glad we did because lunch turned out to be amazing.


We all chose to have Vietnamese coffee over any of the alcoholic beverage options. I expected a pre-mixed sweet coffee beverage but was so happy to see this drip coffee contraption with condensed milk at the bottom. The coffee was strong but not bitter. The roasted flavor of the coffee beans just subtly came through the sweet condensed milk. So good.

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Not bad, Brother Jimmy!

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ
116 E 16th St
(between E Union Sq & Irving Pl)
New York, NY 10003

 

We wanted to watch the game.  I wanted some ribs.  The guys wanted some beer.  And so off we went to Brother Jimmy’s!

Notice how I angled my camera so that the focus of the photo is the brussels sprouts.  These brussels sprouts were a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  They were pan fried to crispy perfection and there was a ton of them.  This plate is the Combo Rib Platter ($21.75) which consists of three types of ribs, two sides, cornbread, and pickles.  The three types of ribs were Northern Style (smoked and grilled with bbq sauce), Southern Style (smoked with memphis style rub), and Jimmy Style (smoked with Jimmy rub).  I tend to like the saucier ribs over the dry-rubbed southern style ones because dry rub is easily made too tough.  The memphis-style rub actually tasted better the next day with our Chinese meal at home.  I slow roasted it in the oven a bit to warm it up and softened the meat.  It tasted a little like Chinese 蒜香排骨 (garlic ribs): a little sweet, salty, crispy, and sliiightly spicy.  Yum.  Again, brussels sprouts were amazing.  It also made me feel like I was having a healthy meal… veggies, protein, and sweet potato!  Fries were good.  Crisp on the outside and mushy on the inside.  Corn bread was good…. but not as good as….

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Minca and Kambi, sister restaurants that look the same but taste different.

In the great You Es of Eh, we often think of Japanese food as merely sushi and and edamame and forget about a super duper important, tasty part of it: ramen.  Big bowls of chewy noodles in hearty pork or chicken bone broths topped with slices of tender and flavorful barbecue pork, ramen is definitely one of my favorite foods (along with pizza and cookies).  My most favorite ramen place is Totto Ramen in Midtown West but I have yet to write a legitimate blog post about it because I am waiting until I get a new camera (SOON!) so I can do the place some justice (my photos now are horrible so don’t judge by the link)!  For now… I present to you two other ramen places.  One not so good and one pretty good. Minca Ramen Factory*
536 E 5th St
(between Avenue A & Avenue B)*
New York, NY 10009
Kambi Ramen House*
351 E 14th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

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Cracker Pizzas from Posto, not QQ but a nice change.


Posto
310 2nd Ave
(between 18th St & 19th St)
New York, NY 10003

 

If you read my blog, you’ll know that I am a diehard Luzzo’s fan when it comes to pizza (and are probably annoyed with my constant referral to it).  Though, as a pizza-lover with an open mind, I’m always willing to give other people’s favorites a try.  That beautiful piece of work up there is what Posto calls the Shroomtown, a medley of portobello, shitake, button mushrooms, and white truffle oil over a light coat of marinara and cheese.  It could have used more truffle oil (always use more truffle oil) but otherwise was an amazing fungi experience.  I find that real Italian pies have very great but sparse ingredients.  It usually makes me appreciate that one cherry tomato or basil leaf much more.  Posto, on the other hand, really piles on their toppings … in a very American way – excess x 10!  When excess is in the same sentence of mushrooms, I’m all for it.

This is the Salsiccia Dolce, which includes sweet italian sausage, caramelized onions, fresh basil, marinara sauce and cheese.  As you can see from this photo, Posto’s pizza crust is very thin, so thin that this thickness at any other restaurant would probably cause the pizza to become soggy and … well, flaccid.  Posto’s crust is luckily very crisp at the bottom and so manages to keep the pizza in full form throughout your dining experience.  It is a little less cracker-like than Otto’s pizza but does not have the same chewiness as Luzzo’s pizza (understandably due to how thin it is).  I will say that Posto’s toppings are incredible.  They not only use the freshest and most robustly flavored toppings, but they also give you a ton of them on each pie.

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Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String …

These are a few of my favorite things!  Valentine’s surprise from my favorite person included some of my very favorite foods.  You’ll start to notice that I particularly love starch-wrapped things.  Dumplings, hot dogs, sandwichs, lobster rolls, all kinds of buns, burritos, tacos, burgers etc. – I love ‘em all!

 

‘Twas a hodgepodge dinner of…

 

Baohaus: Birdhaus Bun
238 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
  

Baohaus is a tiny restaurant that boasts a lot of swag.  There are usually 3 people working, the bao-man (man who makes the actual bun), the stuffer, and the cashier.  They play a lot of old school hip hop music and have swagalicious bao-art up on the walls.  Check out my older post about the place for more info.  Of all the baos, this one is my fav.  Fried chicken with spicy seasoning, salt, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and taiwanese red sugar.  Taro fries on the right are also deeeeelicious, if you truly love taro that is.  If you’ve only had taro bubble tea, you don’t know what taro actually tastes like.  I suggest you get your butt over to Baohaus and check out these fries.  They are starchier than the average potato, maybe more like a yucca, and have a distinctly sweeter flavor.  The fries are served up with a side of “Haus sauce,” which is a garlicy peanuty sauce.

 

Luke’s Lobster
93 E 7th St
(between 1st Ave & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009

Luke’s Lobster is a tiny shack in the East Village (also in many other locations) that serves up some fresh Maine lobster rolls with trendy sodas like Ginger Root and Sarsaparilla.  The owner was a savvy investment banker who left the industry to pursue his true passion: lobster.  His father provides all the lobster, already cooked, from the family seafood processing company in Maine. Continue reading

BLT Prime: Valentine’s Cooking Class

BLT Prime
111 E 22nd St
New York, NY 10022

  

I went to a “Valentine’s” Cooking Class at BLT Prime where Chef Andrew Matthews sort-of taught us how to make a proper 3-course meal consisting of:

Appetizer: Fluke Carpaccio
Entree: Chateaubriand
Side Dishes: Creamy Spinach, Marble Heirloom Potatoes
Dessert: Red Velvet Cake

  

The class ended up being a demonstration with no hands-on interaction.  This was probably a good move on the restaurant’s part because I’m not sure any of us would be back if we had to eat what we cooked… every dish was more complicated than I thought it would be!  It was amazing to see the kitchen and to learn about how a real restaurant kitchen functions.  You have to be super organized and work as a team or else the kitchen will most likely turn into a nasty food fight!  Actually, apparently kitchens end up looking like the aftermath of a food fight even after a successful night in the kitchen.

 

FLUKE CARPACCIO - slightly chaotic but tasty nonetheless (2/5)

  

The fluke was filled and sprinkled with all kinds of yummy ingredients, such as pomelo, dill pickles, celery heart stalks, apple gelee, paprika, chives, olive oil, lime juice and zest, AND secret basil oil sauce… they also added some house-made rice paper to give the dish a little crunch.  There was all kinds of flavors and textures in this dish, some I think a little unnecessary… it was sweet and sour and salty and oily and crispy and stringy (fish :().

 

CHATEAUBRIAND - Liberal Salt (Ch 4/5)

The preparation for the Chateaubriand (a thick cut of tenderloin) seemed very simple though probably takes a lot of skill to do right.  Chef Matthews demonstrated the tying of the piece of tenderloin to allow the whole piece of steak to cook evenly.  The steak is then seasoned very liberally with salt and pepper and seared for 4-5 minutes.  Then the seared steak is placed in a FULL dish of salt and roasted for 8 minutes on each side.  The steak turned out very moist, tender, and flavorful.  For some reason, the steak wasn’t as “meaty” tasting as Peter Luger’s Porterhouse steak.  That may be due to the cut of meat…?

  

The steak is then served with a classic Bearnaise sauce, which is made with 20 egg yolks, 1 cup of bearnaise reduction (of shallots, white wine vinegar, white wine, black pepper, and tarragon leaves), 1 qt. warm clarified butter, 1 cup warm water, and salt.

 

SIDES – BEST part of meal (S 5/5, P 5/5)

  
These sides were crazily delicious.   Continue reading

Vanessa’s Dumplings: Sesame Pancake with Roast Pork

Vanessa’s Dumplings
220 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Best $3 you’ll ever spend. The sesame “pancake” is made just like the pancakes (I hate calling them pancakes because they are nothing like cake. They are more like breads. In Chinese there is a special word for them, “饼”) they have in Beijing. Slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Cut in half and stuffed with cucumbers, carrots, and roast pork. The veggies are doused with a homemade sauce that has a vinegar base. The roast pork is not what roast pork typically is at places in the U.S. (usually roast pork equates to the cantonese char siu or 叉烧). It is more like a Taiwanese roast pork… Deliciously marinated pork belly that is cooked for hours. The result is a juicy, flavorful, and extremely tender meat. Continue reading

Ess-A-Bagel: Everything Bagel Sandwich

Ess-A-Bagel
359 1st Ave
(between 20th St & 21st St)
New York, NY 10010

 

Everything Bagel with herb cream cheese, crunchy lettuce and tomato

 

Deeeeelicious bagel! The bagel was toasted to perfection. Crispy shell and chewy centers… Just warm enough to slightly melt the cream cheese. The Everything Bagel had a nice onion and garlic flavor with a tinge of saltiness. Boyfriend had the Nova Scotia on a Sesame Bagel which has smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. Bagel was delicious. Sesame topping made the whole thing very xiang (香). The salmon was good but was not particularly amazing. I would go to Russ and Daughters downtown if you want some really yummy fish with your bagel. Bagels at Ess-A-Bagel are much better though.