Tag Archives: brunch

House of Small Wonder

House of Small Wonder
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).

House of Small Wonder
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.

House of Small Wonder
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?

House of Small Wonder
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 House of Small Wonder

Sakamai’s new brunch menu is BOMB

Sakamai
Sakamai
157 Ludlow St. (across from Pianos)
New York, NY 10002

NEW BRUNCH PLACE TO ADD TO THE ROTATION!!!!! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s waiting in line for generic eggs benny’s or pancakes at an overhyped “boozy brunch” place, which is for some reason all the craze in NYC. I have higher standards for my brunch (#snob #jk) and want something more special if I’m going out for brunch than something I can whip up in my kitchen. Some of my favorites are Soba-ya, Shabu-Tatsu, and Prune – if you need an eggs benny). Even just based on that list, you can tell I have a soft spot for Japanese brunch food…

Sakamai Sakamai is a modern izakaya (aka. a Japanese bar that serves food) and sake bar. This month, they just launched a new brunch menu which showcases great Japanese dishes intertwined with some Hawaiian (ie. spam) ingredients and Western flair (aka. fusion but I hate that word). Natalie, one of the owners (who is Japanese-Hawaiian and studied architecture in college like me! :D), graciously invited me to sample their brunch menu this past weekend. I took LAW as my guest (duh) and tried a number of amazing things.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I sometimes get invited to these things and I ALWAYS disclose it. I also always keep my reviews unbiased (even though my meal is comped) because my blog would be worth nothing if I pandered to anyone who gave me free food. Most of these comped meals end up being pretty mediocre (hence they need bloggers like me to help them advertise – I won’t name names, but if you go through the blog you’ll know which ones I’m talking about) but in this case, I lucked out cause… the food was truly awesome.

Sakamai
We started with a couple drinks. I got the Flying Squirrel, which is a cocktail made with coldbrew coffee, walnut liqueur, and coconut cream. It was a delicious alcoholic iced coffee. Coffee itself was high quality and the walnut liqueur added some sweetness and nuttiness. Really great brunch cocktail, especially if you’re tired of the usual bloody mary and mimosa. We also got to try two of their housemade “Shrub” beverages: watermelon and celery-apple. Both drinks were carbonated and, oddly, clear (wonder how they make it). The drinks were very light and refreshing. A good alternative to juice.

Sakamai
We started with the Cha Soba Salad ($15) with green tea soba and sesame soy dressing. It. Was. Awesome. All these different kinds of greens (sprouts, cabbage?, seaweed, corn, tomato, avocado, sesame seeds, some kind of root, AND SO MUCH MORE) sit on top of a bed of green tea soba. The dressing is very light so allows all the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients shine through. The sesame oil just adds an extra bit of umami to make the salad really addicting. So effing good. Definitely a must order when you come (when, not if).

Sakamai
As our first “main,” we shared the Loco Moco ($16), which is a kimchi fried rice served with a hamburger bun and sunny side up egg. The rice and patty are doused in a dashi soy gravy. If you’re looking for a hearty (post-hangover cure perhaps?) brunch dish, this should be your pick. Continue reading Sakamai’s new brunch menu is BOMB

Lafayette: skip the brunch and have a croissant

Lafayette
Lafayette
380 Lafayette St. (between 4th and Great Jones St.)
New York, NY 10003

Pardon my absence, but I’ve been super busy on the receiving end and giving end of what I have come to hate with a passion: the flu. I definitely remember a time when the flu was just a minor annoyance that actually came with tremendous benefits, such as missing school and being taken care of. The pains from the flu have gotten exponentially worse as I’ve aged. Yes, I would much rather go to work than feel like a train ran over my body and a thousand samurais lived in my throat.

Anyway, after more than 30 hours of sleep over three days and over 30 cups of water, I am now well enough to blog for you. You’re welcome!

Lafayette
M.B., Y.N., L.S and I recently got brunch at Lafayette, a very New York style French restaurant, reminding me of Balthazar. I’m going to say upfront that my experience at Lafayette was also very similar to Balthazar: mediocre food in a nice, bustling, classic New York feeling restaurant.  M.B. and I got orange and grapefruit juices to vitamin C up our morning before our meal.

Lafayette
After at least 15 minutes perusing the menu, Y.N. and I both finally settled on  the Smoked Salmon Benedict on Brioche with Sauce Choron ($21). I really actually wanted the breakfast sandwich but it was a $16 breakfast sandwich that I know wouldn’t have been as good as a Sausage Egg McMuffin. So I decided to at least get something worth a bit more, like smoked salmon.  Continue reading Lafayette: skip the brunch and have a croissant

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 Gaming the System at Soba-Ya

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 AMAZING Weekend Lunch Deal at Shabu Tatsu

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

Freemans for Brunch

Freemans Restaurant
191 Chrystie St
(between Delancey St & Rivington St)
New York, NY 10002

Brunch is not just waking up too late on Sunday for breakfast but too early for lunch in NYC. Brunch is its own category of gastronomy here where people plan brunches weeks in advance. There’s the ladies-who-lunch, boozy-brunch, birthday-brunch, or any-occasion-brunch. Regardless of which it is, brunch is an activity that New Yorkers are willing to shell out the time and money for.

Freemans is a pretty classic NYC brunch place. Most people have heard of and have been to it. It’s tucked into a tiny alley that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The food is American comfort food. I’ve been here twice and my impressions both times were that they do all their food well. There’s nothing fancy or spectacular. The vibe is very much simple and rustic, just like how Gordon Ramsay would like it. Pictured here is the Skillet Eggs, Bacon, Spinach and Gruyere with buttered sourdough toast ($12) that I ordered. Portions are adequate, neither stingy nor doggy-bag worthy. My skillet eggs were runny and creamy, coating the bacon and spinach with a layer of yolky goodness.  Continue reading Freemans for Brunch

Balthazar, a NYC Classic for Brunch

Balthazar
80 Spring St
(between Crosby St & Broadway)
New York, NY 10012

The first time I came to NYC as an “adult,” I was a college sophomore rebelliously skipping Friday classes to make the 5-hour trek to the big city. The only meal I distinctly remember having was at Balthazar. We went for dinner and I remember it feeling super NYC… busy, trendy, with a hint of stuffiness. I hadn’t returned since…until Y.N. invited me to join her and L.N. for brunch. LAW and I decided to go for the bread (they have a bakery next door known for its baguettes) and for the company, of course.


Y.N. read my mind and asked if we could share the bread basket ($21.00). L.N. was on the same page and had apparently already asked for a bread basket… on the house. L.N. manages a number of restaurants in NYC, including Dos Caminos (which I need to check out), so he has the hook-ups. For a bakery that supplies so much bread to numerous restaurants and cafes in Manhattan, I expected more from Balthazar’s bread basket. It wasn’t bad. The croissant was buttery and light. The pecan sticky bun was fresh and properly glazed. The golden raisin walnut bread was dense and flavorful. But nothing stood out… the breads weren’t particularly moist, chewy, soft, or crusty. The bread wasn’t hot or cold. It was room temperature. Really nothing to write home about. Continue reading Balthazar, a NYC Classic for Brunch

Rosa Mexicano kicks off their Flavors of Mexico series with a new Desayuno menu – officially launching tomorrow!

Rosa MexicanoRosa Mexicano
9 E 18th St
(between 5th Ave & Broadway)
New York, NY 10003

Rosa Mexicano
Thanks to M.B., I was lucky enough to be invited to sample Rosa Mexicano’s new brunch and late night menu to be offered from February 23rd to March 10th (starts tomorrow!). I stepped out of work for about an hour and a half on a Tuesday morning and started off the day with a shot of tequila. Rosa Mexicano skips coffee.

Rosa Mexicano
I was then offered a chaser, a Chilled Horchata de Coco, which is a classic Mexican beverage made from pressed rice milk infused with coconut. The smooth and creamy flavor of coconut soothed my stomach from the tequila and prepared me for the rest of my meal. The aftertaste was subtly of sweet rice. Mr. Howard Greenstone, president and CEO of Rosa Mexicano, explained to us that they chose to add more sugar than typically added in traditional horchatas to better suit the palate of Americans. I appreciated his honesty. Truly. One of my pet peeves is when Chinese restaurants that clearly know they are not making Chinese food, market their food as “authentic.” There’s nothing wrong with a good regional twist.  Continue reading Rosa Mexicano kicks off their Flavors of Mexico series with a new Desayuno menu – officially launching tomorrow!

Cafe Gitane, French and Moroccan Brunch

Cafe GitaneCafe Gitane
242 Mott St
(between Houston St & Prince St)
New York, NY 10012

V.P. told me this is her favorite restaurant in the city. I find that few people in New York can come up with a singular favorite place so I figured I had to check it out. There are two locations, one in the Jane Hotel in the West Village and another in Nolita. While waiting for a seat with D.C. and M.X., I saw a waitress walk past with a delicious deep jungle green colored beverage. She saw the way I looked at it and said, “It’s the cucumber juice. You have to get it.” And so I did ($4.50). The juice was surprisingly lightly carbonated and almost a little fermented tasting… like kombucha. Don’t know how I feel about it though it did taste refreshing. The menu also boasts a number of yummy sounding teas, such as Iced Mint Tea and Turkish Green Tea. Things to try next time.

Cafe Gitane
M.X. ordered the Brie with Apple ($7.25) which came with a toasty warm piece of rosemary foccacia. Brie was just okay. Slightly hard for a brie and a little blander than most. Particularly compared to the brie I had in France which was hyper sharp. Unlike the brie, the apples were way too soft. They were almost mushy like apple sauce. I expected a crisp, sweet and tart apple, like a Fuji or a Gala, to go with the brie. The bread was good.

Cafe Gitane
D.C. was lame and had eaten with his other friends already so just had a Blueberry and Almond Friand ($4.00). A friand is a small french cake made with almond flour and eggs. I didn’t get to try it but D.C. seemed to enjoy it…

Cafe Gitane    Cafe Gitane
This was the “must-have” item on the menu: the Avocado Toast with lemon juice, olive oil, and chili flakes on seven grain toast ($7.25). Like many people before me, I agree that the toast is way overpriced. I make this all the time at home, especially when avocados are in season. Yes, it was creamy and delicious with a slight acidity and kick. Yes, the bread was thick, sturdy but soft, and deliciously toasted. But $7.25 for toast is hard to justify.

Continue reading Cafe Gitane, French and Moroccan Brunch