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
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
547 9th Ave (between 40th and 41st street)
New York, NY 10018
This charming, cozy little restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from Times Square. I’m going to be upfront and tell you that Capizzi invited me to come by and try their pizza, but I’m also going to guarantee you that I will always write unbiased reviews, regardless of who is fronting the bill. Having said that, believe me when I tell you that I was very happily surprised that this Midtown West restaurant ended up being a fantastic experience.
I started with a glass of Chianti as I waited for LAW to arrive. They have a bunch of different wines by the glass all for about $13 (can’t remember exactly).
I read the menu and really loved this little bit: “As I got older I realized it’s not just about good food. It was a passion, kind of like a sport, a love affair with food and Nature all rolled up into one.” Definitely resonates with me and the reason I even continue to have a blog in the first place.
When LAW arrived, we started with the special, which was a fresh housemade Burrata with prosciutto, artichokes, roasted peppers, and cherry tomatoes ($13.95). The platter did not look particularly fancy, more just like how you would serve something at home (everything tossed onto a very normal plate). This appetizer represented everything I love about Italian food: super simple and completely determined by the quality of ingredients. The burrata was SO creamy yet light. The tomatoes were perfect: firm, sweet, and juicy. The artichokes and roasted peppers were great as well. I could eat this appetizer all the time. Continue reading
Eggplant really doesn’t get enough love. The craze was brussels sprouts in 2012, kale in 2013, not too sure what the vegetable craze will be this year… but I’m hoping that eggplant will make it to the list in the near future because it’s a damn good (and healthy) vegetable that too many people find repulsive. People who say “it’s the texture” are just being narrow-minded. The texture of an eggplant is similar to a zucchini!
Fish Fragrant Eggplant (鱼香茄子) is a classic Sichuan homecooked dish. As Appetite in China (where I got my recipe) says, the name is deceiving because it isn’t meant to taste like fish at all. The flavor is associated with how fish is often prepared in Sichuan cuisine, hence the name. It’s super easy to make and goes great with a bowl of rice. Very few Chinese kids hate eggplant and I attribute that to them growing up with this very specific dish. Continue reading
100 Allen St
New York, NY 10002
If you are an American Born Chinese and grew up eating in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Congee Village will make you nostalgic for your childhood. Congee Village is the quintessential Chinatown restaurant. It is Cantonese (early Chinese immigrants were mostly Cantonese so most Chinatowns now are dominated by a Cantonese population), uses huge gold wallpaper adorned with dragons and phoenixes, has plenty of large, round table seating, and has an all male wait staff that wears black slacks, white shirts, and little black vests. If you’re hungover, Congee Village will provide the hearty dishes and watered down tea to make things right again. I happened to be both an ABC and hungover on a Sunday afternoon (well, I’m always an ABC) and so Congee Village was doubly perfect for me.
I seriously woke up, with a headache, craving Salted Fish and Diced Chicken Fried Rice ($9.50). If you’ve never had it, you’d think I was weird. But if you have, you’d completely understand. I needed the oily goodness of second-day jasmine rice fried up with
chicken, peas, scallions, and most of all, salted fish. Good fried rice is always made with second-day rice because the extra day in the fridge* lets the rice dry out. Fried rice always involves some sort of liquid (oil, some kind of sauce, or cooking wine) and if you start out with a plump batch of rice, the additional liquid will just make your rice mushy. If you can’t fry each individual grain of rice, you know you have a problem. The chicken is actually kind of useless in my opinion and I’d be completely okay leaving it out… but it is part of the traditional style of this canto dish so Congee Village leaves it in. Chicken is very difficult to make well… a couple seconds too long on the stove and you have a dry stringy wok of diced chicken. I do love the peas but according to T.W., they are not actually part of the traditional dish. Americans eat a lot of peas, so one day, someone just decided to add them to every fried rice possible. It adds color and I think it tastes great. It gives a bit of sweetness to counter the salty fish… my favorite part of the dish. Yes, salted fish smells kind of like … feet … but it tastes like salt on crack. There isn’t a whole lot of it in the rice, which makes it all that much more special. Tiny pieces of the fish are sprinkled throughout just to give you enough to make you yearn for more. Serious umami factor here.
This is probably the healthiest way to eat eggplant. Usually cooking eggplant requires a ton of oil because it sucks it right up. For this dish, you just steam it and make a dipping sauce. I fried up some chili and garlic, added some soy sauce, black bean sauce, vinegar, and a bit of sugar. The steamed eggplant is sweet and mild, pairs well with a spicy sauce.