212 East 10th St (2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Quick post for a place that deserves a quick bite. Madame Vo is one of two new vietnamese restaurants to open in East Village this year (the other is Hanoi House). I promise to try Hanoi House soon to do a comparison, but first up we have my review of Madame Vo. Full disclosure, I actually got the two mixed up because my instafeed was blowing up with photos from both places. I wanted to go to the one that had the pho with a massive bone marrow in the bone – turns out that one is Hanoi House…
Nonetheless, I went to Madame Vo twice within two weeks.
The vietnamese coffee ($4) tastes like chilled, melted coffee ice cream. It was good, very tasty, but definitely more of a dessert than a beverage.
The summer rolls ($9) with shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce, chive, and basil are high quality. The rice paper skin was not overly soft or hard – perfectly chewy. Shrimp was cooked just right – tasted just lightly poached. It’s a bit pricey for what you get, but definitely higher quality than the usual summer roll.
LAW hates soup noodles (it’s odd) so he got the grilled pork chops ($16) which came with a side of crab cakes and rice. Given all the buzz around the pho, I was pretty certain my dish would win. Looking back, LAW may have won this one. That pork chop was so damn delicious. It had this scallion oil all over it. It was perfectly marinated and charred. Paired with a side of daikon + carrot pickles, it was tres tasty. Crab cake was kinda random. A weird pairing in my opinion. I would rather them get rid of it and lower the price of the dish. Continue reading
34 W 32nd St (between Broadway and 5th Ave)
New York, NY 10001
I have to admit, I had been to Seoul Garden a number of times before, each time because I was too impatient/hungry/hangry to wait in line at another place. Seoul Garden was always THAT restaurant for me: good enough to eat at but not great enough to ever be a real choice. It always struck me as a restaurant of mediocrity, one that didn’t have more ambitious goals than providing solid, comfort Korean food (nothing wrong with that). So you can imagine my surprise when I got invited to dine with them recently… are they rebranding? New chef? New management? Someone is clearly trying! I grabbed LAW and we headed over to Ktown to check it out.
Turns out, I had been ordering incorrectly this whole time. I asked to have all the best items on the menu and was served dishes I had never ordered at Seoul Garden before. There were a few things that I had that night that were incredible and absolutely worth going back for.
First: the banchan. Banchan are small dishes that all Korean restaurants serve (complimentary!) as appetizers. It’s like getting bread before your meal except you’re getting all kinds of things like different kinds of kimchi, other veggies, squid, steamed egg, etc. Seoul Garden provided the usual with one particular amazing dish…
Little fish with fried sweet potato chips. The salty, chewy fish paired with the sweet, crisp sweet potato made for a mouthwatering combo. This was truly a great banchan that got my appetite going. I had never seen this before either. Plus points for creativity. The rest of the banchan below were more of the usual suspects: Continue reading
Lam Zhou Handmade Noodles
144 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
If you haven’t already, it’s about time you make the trek deep into Manhattan Chinatown away from the fake Coach bags and thousands of iPhone cases on Canal Street. Lam Zhou Handmade Noodles is a tiny noodle shop on the very South Eastern tip of Chinatown. It’s been around for ages and is consistently rated as one of the best Chinese noodle places in the city. I.K., D.C, F.L., and I skipped the usual eggs benny and came here for brunch/lunch one weekend.
Prices have stayed cheap and options fairly minimal.
The restaurant is small and a little dirty. Expect to sit facing a wall or at a table with other noodle-slurping diners. Lam Zhou is a restaurant in its most basic and practical form: serves food and provides utensils to eat.
Notice that the chopsticks are from another restaurant. Seeing this made me miss home tremendously, because it reminded of how practical Chinese people are. Chopsticks are chopsticks!
As the name of the restaurant suggests, Lam Zhou is a noodle shop. It specializes in beef noodle soup where you can choose the beef type (brisket, tendon, oxtail, some combination, etc.) and the noodles (handpulled or knife-cut). I chose a brisket-tendon combo with knife-cut noodles. Continue reading
25 Bond St
(between Livingston St & Fulton St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
ANOTHER ramen place I needed to try. I needed to try it so badly I was willing to trek all the way into Brooklyn for it, and not Williamsburg I tell you, DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN. So far, I have tried Totto, Ippudo, Minca, Kambi, Hide Chan, Rai Rai Ken, and Yuji, all hyped up ramen places that battle every year to be the best (let me add that Totto doesn’t get as much love as I think it deserves). Ganso is now added to that list. It is rated 4 stars on Yelp with 84 reviews, most of which rave about the “perfectly al dente noodles” and “solid ramen” bowls. One even described the the ramen as “transcendent.” Go figure.
I came with V.P. and J.W. for a Sunday lunch. We shared the Buta Kimchi Buns ($9), which came with two buns stuffed with 9 braised pork belly, jalapeño kimichi, and spicy mayo. It only cost $4 for an extra bun (I was expecting $5). I wasn’t expecting too much from this almost conventional “pan-asian” bun filled with korean kimchi, chinese pork belly, and mexican jalapeños. Given the whole mexican korean food truck craze and the general korean-chinese mix, the concept (A.W.) of the bun seemed ordinary. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised. The pork belly had a perfect 2:3 fat to non-fat ratio. It was thickly sliced and mouth-wateringly succulent. Flavors were just right; a little sweetness and saltiness from the pork with no extra sauce (aka. actually flavored meat) and a little acidity and spice from the jalapeño kimchi. The mayo wrapped everything up in a nice creamy explosion of flavors. I really enjoyed this.
We also shared Rio’s Wings ($9), which included 6 Bonchon-esque wings. Legit tasted like Bonchon. Continue reading
366 W 52nd St
(between 9th Ave & 8th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
It’s getting cold again and naturally, I am beginning to crave ramen again. No other ramen in the city satisfies my palate as much as Totto Ramen does. If you follow my blog, you’ll have heard the name mentioned quite a few times. It’s a bit of a hike from downtown but is always incredibly worth the time traveling, and the time waiting in line. We went for a late 2:30pm lunch on a weekday and still needed to wait 30 minutes to be seated. Like seasoned veterans, we sat down and knew exactly what we wanted to order: 2 bowls of Spicy Ramen ($10.25), one Char Siu Mayo Don ($4.50), and one Pork Bun ($3.00).
Slurp slurp slurp. This is my favorite ramen on the menu. Other favorites include the Vegetable Ramen, and the Nikku Ramen, which is an extra large bowl with piles and piles of delicious, tender pork belly. The Spicy Ramen is exceptional when you just want a solid bowl of no-fuss pork broth noodles. The noodles are always perfectly al dente and they come with a mound of fresh spring onions that really help freshen up the porkiness of the broth. The spicy sauce is that delicious kind my Sichuan grandmother has taught me to make: fried chili flakes and powder. It comes with generous slices of pork belly that has been torched to produce a nice smokey finish. Slurp slurp slurp.