Tag Archives: meatballs

The original Xi’an Famous Foods … in Xi’an.

Xi'an Food
子午路张记肉夹馍
located throughout Xi’an, China

I’m back from a two week trip home in Beijing where I ate five meals a day, mostly from my mother’s kitchen. I also did a short two day trip to my dad’s hometown in Xi’an. If you live in New York, you probably recognize Xi’an from the deeeelicious Xi’an Famous Foods chain. Well, I visited the original Xi’an Famous Foods and (no offense) it blew me away. Xi’an Famous Food is amazingly great. But compared to what it aspires to be, I think there is still room for improvement. 子午路张记肉夹馍 (Zai Wu Lu Zhang Ji Rou Jia Mo) is a chain that has apparently been around for ages and ages. It serves up just a handful of classic Xi’an foods.

Xi'an Food
Check out the menu board. Just a few items. All incredibly affordable (8元 is about $1.30, which in this case buys you one stewed pork burger and almost two Liang Pi noodles).

Xi'an Food
You order and pay at the front.

Xi'an Food
Then find a seat and wait. Fast food style.

Xi'an Food
This is where the dude chops up that juicy, flavorful stewed pork for the burger. Continue reading The original Xi’an Famous Foods … in Xi’an.

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

Nai Tapas – someone please explain.


Nai Tapas Bar
174 First Ave
New York, NY 10009

Meh.  I was looking for a good tapas place in East Village to take my family and some family friends because some of them had never had tapas before.  I am really not well-versed in the tapas scene in NYC so relied heavily on Yelp and friends.  Nai Tapas Bar is probably the highest rated in East Village with 4.5 stars on Yelp and Urban Spoon, and was also recommended to me multiple times by friends.  They also took reservations which was a big plus for a big group.  I ordered a variety of things and nothing stood out, especially not the watered-down sangria.

Chorizo A La Plancha ($5.50/$11.00)* – grilled Spanish sausage wrapped in a fried potato chip.  It tastes like how it looks.  Not bad, not great.  Sausage was decent but didn’t have any particular flavors and wasn’t dry nor juicy… what else to say? Continue reading Nai Tapas – someone please explain.

La Bota, tapas for people who don’t care about food nor money.


La Bota
41 Greenwich Ave
(between Charles St & Perry St)
New York, NY 10014

 

I recently went to this little tapas place in the West Village to meet up with some old friends.  Another friend picked the place so I did my research and found that it was rated pretty well – hence, I agreed to go (ha, no but seriously, I don’t like paying for bad food).  Of course I scoured the Internet for all the best things to order prior to coming and ordered those exact things: pitcher of sangria, bacon wrapped dates, meatballs, and croquettes.  Sangria, as pictured above, was a $27 pitcher of immensely watered down red wine with fruits (mainly apples) that felt like they had just been put in recently.  Also, notice the concentric circles on the wedge of apple in my glass?  I vehemently tried to ignore it while sipping my water wine but I couldn’t help but meet its gaze every sip… I really should’ve just removed it, huh.

These are the Datiles con Bacon, aka, dates wrapped in bacon.  For $8, we got 4 mushy dates with probably one slice of bacon cut into quarters.  It wasn’t bad, because nothing can be that bad when bacon is involved.  I was just sad that it didn’t compare to my favorite bacon wrapped dates tapas in Boston at Toro where the dates are slightly crisp on the outside and much more sweet, filled with Marcona almonds and Cabrales blue cheese.  La Bota’s version is much simpler and more expensive.

I read that these meatballs were great and as many of you know, I do love my meatballs (see Meatball ShopParisi Bakery, and Banh Mi Saigon).  They apparently come in a mushroom sauce but as you can see, the sauce seems more like a tomato based sauce with some other vegetables in it (including a few slices of mushrooms).  For $9, I would expect something much more intricate.  The balls were small, dry, and very tough.  At least the sauce had enough salt to give the bland meatballs a little flavor.   Continue reading La Bota, tapas for people who don’t care about food nor money.

Banh Mi Saigon, the best banh mi in Manhattan?

  

Banh Mi Saigon
198 Grand St
(between Mulberry St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013

I posted about banh mi’s a bit ago in my Xe May Sandwich Shop post so you can read the earlier post for more details about the historic Viet-French sandwich.  I mentioned at the end of the post that though Xe May is great, Banh Mi Saigon is slightly better.  Well, after going back to Banh Mi Saigon recently, I decided that I was a fool and that Banh Mi Saigon trumps Xe May by far.

Banh Mi Saigon is a small Vietnamese restaurant bordering Chinatown and Little Italy.  It’s interestingly enough run by Cantonese (southern Chinese) people.  I couldn’t tell you if this has affected the sandwich’s authenticity because I have never been to Vietnam and tried a “real” one* nor do I have Vietnamese friends** who can vouch for it (always welcome to introductions!) but I do know that it is an amazing sandwich shop.  When you walk into the sandwich shop, there are two rows of long tables along each side of the wall and a jeweler who sells Asian jade bracelets and necklaces and such (see top left).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone buy anything there so wonder if it is wasted real estate… perhaps if they converted it to a mini bubble tea seller…  As you continue to walk into this rectangular shaped shop, you approach the cashier and the open kitchen.  Stacks of freshly made baguettes are under the spotlight at a cutting station (see top right, center of photo).  Service is quick and friendly.

A classic banh mi includes fillings such as pork, spreadable pork liver pate, cilantro, pickled and shredded carrots and daikon, chili sauce and homemade mayonnaise.  The essential tastes of a good banh mi need to include a little bit of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and spiciness.  In the US, the chili sauce is often replaced with jalepeno peppers, a type of pepper they do not have in Vietnam.

Pictured above is what Banh Mi Saigon calls “BBQ Pork Banh Mi,” which includes a sweet and salty pork that is crispy on the edges, some kind of ham, pork liver pate, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and jalepenos.  The bread at this shop is amazing.  It makes that nice bread sound when you squeeze it.  Because they make their bread at this shop and are always busy, the bread is always freshly baked.

Pictured above is my favorite sandwich to get at Banh Mi Saigon.  They replace the BBQ pork, ham, and pate with juicy, hyper-tender meatballs.  These meatballs are definitely some of the best I’ve had (better than The Meatball Shop though I have friends who don’t think the two can be compared since this one is “Asian”).

Continue reading Banh Mi Saigon, the best banh mi in Manhattan?