I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about Shake Shack, my favorite fast food chain and my FAVORITE burger of all time. I’ve tried the whole spectrum from McDonald’s to Minetta Tavern’s $26 Black Label Burger and Shake Shack still wins in terms of 100% taste (meaning, I’m not giving it any bonus points for it being cheap).
I recently went to the Battery Park venue after a beautiful bike ride along the East side river. LAW and I got three burgers and one order of fries. Normally we would have also gotten the pricey but delicious Fair Shake ($5.50), which is a vanilla shake with organic Arabica Fair Trade coffee. It’s the only shake I love because it is deliciously creamy and has such a nice roasted coffee flavor. But we didn’t get it because we were hosting a root beer float party later that day… Continue reading →
Rai Rai Ken
214 E 10th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
GAHHH! I just found out that my favorite East Village Japanese restaurants are all owned by one… person. How is this possible?! Soba-Ya, Robataya, Cha-An, Curry-Ya, Shabu-Tatsu are among my favorites that one person calls his own. Mr. Bon Yagi came to the U.S. as a dishwasher and somehow worked his way up to owning 11 Asian restaurants* and at one point, owning a diner that often saw folks like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Madonna. To say the least, I am impressed. Most of his restaurants are rated 4-4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp and each of them is someone’s “favorite” Japanese restaurant. Rai Rai Ken is Mr. Yagi’s ramen venture.
After my sister-ramen-restaurant battle post, many readers suggested I try Rai Rai Ken, another one of those renown ramen places in the city. Everyone has their favorite (Totto Ramen) and though I am known to be a very loyal customer (Totto4Life), I am always willing to try other favorites – mainly because I like to try new places but also because I like to re-confirm that my favorite still rocks.
Pictured above is the Shoyu Ramen ($9.50), which is ramen in a soy sauce based noodle soup topped with bamboo shoot, boiled egg, roast pork, spinach, fish cake, dried seaweed, and scallion. I have to admit, this was a solid bowl of ramen. Rai Rai Ken also gets extra points for making the egg perfectly gooey in the center, like how Ippudo does it. But the roast pork was just okay… slightly tough and bland. Noodles were not particularly memorable, meaning they were good. Not overcooked and slightly springy. They didn’t fall apart when slurped (unlike Ippudo’s!!) but also weren’t as tasty nor chewy as Totto’s and Kambi’s. Broth was… good. Also not particularly memorable, but was definitely good. Continue reading →
Have you had a currywurst before? I hadn’t until very recently. Currywurst is one of those things that is common and around enough that I always assumed I would definitely try at some point because it was just… always there… like that college friend who lives in the same city as you but you never see because you figure you can see her anytime. Luckily, K.B. was in town and since she grew up in Germany, comfort food for her after a tiring weekend was currywurst. We checked out Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst because it is supposedly one of the best currywurst places in the city. The place is dark with brick walls and wooden tables and stools. It’s what you would imagine a German beer bar to be like. They boast an extensive German beer list with beers like Weihenstephaner Vitus and Pinkus Jubilate (I don’t actually know beers, I just thought those sounded funny).
First up, a large Currywurst with Fries ($12). A pork and veal sausage is sliced up, pan-fried, and topped with their homemade tomato curry sauce. The sausage was extremely moist and tender. The natural saltiness of the sausage tasted so damn good with the tomato sauce and curry powder. I wish we had more sauce because I ended up scraping the bottom of the paper container with the fries.
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
349 E 12th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
I’m always on the search for the best pizza in town because it is on my list of favorite foods and New York just has so many “best pizza in town” kinds of places. Bread and tomatoes are some of my most favorite things in the world so you can imagine why pizza would be on that list. Having tried to make pizza many times myself, I know how little they cost to make and how easy it is once you have the right pizza dough recipe (ingredients and timing, both very important!). But between the thickness and consistency of the crust, the the sauce, and the ingredients, the world of pizza is actually pretty damn large. Like people, they come in all shapes and sizes and can vary greatly based on where they come from.
After a long day of volleyball and boardgames, we ordered in so we could… continue playing boardgames. Motorino is the last East Village “best” that I had not tried so we ordered from there. Pictured above is the Brussels Sprouts ($16) pizza with fior di latte (aka. mozzarella made from cow milk, and not buffalo), garlic, pecorino, and smoked pancetta. Brussels sprouts tasted FRESH, not the frozen kind out of a bag. Smoked pancetta was super tasty and crisp along the edges. Cheese was very mediocre and lacked a little flavor. Their crust is pretty thin and becomes very soggy pretty quickly (it might be better to order in at the restaurant for their pizza). The edge of the crust was sort of puffy but lacked the chewiness of Luzzo’s crust. BUT, this pizza was much, much better than L’asso EV’s brussels sprouts pizza.
Now try not to think about the song while you finish reading my post. It’s going to be difficult. This catchy catchy (that wasn’t a mistake, it is in fact catchy catchy) tune was written and performed by my talented musician friend, Brad Go, and shot by the one and only LAW+Hags! I tagged along during the location scout and after a tiring afternoon of sitting in sofas and lying in beds, we ate at the awesome Ikea Restaurant.
Pictured above is my tray of delights. Clockwise, we have a simple salad, honey mustard and ketchup, Dryck FlÄder (Elderflower drink), Swedish Meatballs, Crack Pie, Fork and Knife, Ikea Furniture Shopping List, and Lingonberry Juice.
If you’re visiting New York City and want to try something quintessentially NYC, forget the pretzel and hot dog stands, and try some chicken and rice from Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th*. You’ll find Halal Carts on almost every street corner in the city, yet Halal Guys has somehow able to secure the “best” title in a majority of New Yorkers’ minds. LAW works near there so I sometimes will go and have a weekday lunch with him there and even on weekdays, there is always a line (see top right). I hear that on weekends, both for lunch, dinner, and post-partying munchies, the line can get pretty crazy… sometimes up to an hour wait.
True… the pile of chicken and bin full of lamb do not really look that appetizing. But no one ever said this was a pretty meal.
Once it is all put it all in a tin plate with extra white sauce and drops of super spicy red sauce, you will for sure be salivating for the first bite. The rice is a yellow rice that is quite firm and not sticky at all. The white sauce is like a Greek-yogurt sauce and helps to bind all the ingredients together. Looking at some recipes online, it appears that the white sauce is made with yogurt, spices, and lots of mayo… gluttony. You can get the Chicken and Rice platter, Lamb and Rice platter, or the Mix Platter which contains both meats, each for $7. The pita bread that it comes with is soft and chewy, much more doughy than supermarket pitas. Thankfully, the platter also comes with some chopped lettuce on the side to freshen up the fattiness of the chicken and sauce.
Sauce. Lots of it. And very sweet. This is what I ate most of at my weekend brunch at Maharlika, a Filipino restaurant in the East Village that boasts a menu of hearty comfort dishes that range from traditional to newly interpreted “modern” Filipino dishes. I, again, wanted something non-traditional for brunch (no egg bennies allowed*) and found Maharlika. Pictured at the top is Jufran Banana Sauce, aka. Filipino ketchup. It is made from mashed banana, sugar, vinegar, and various spices. It seems like it is a common favorite, like Sriracha. Our waiter even informed us that he loved putting Jufran on his Big Macs. To the bottom left is the sawsawan sauce, essentially vinegar infused with chilli peppers, garlic, and whatever else you want to put in it. This sauce was particularly great because it balanced a lot of the sweetness in the meats. To the bottom right is homemade guava jelly and macapuno jam (a kind of coconut), apparently the peanut butter and jelly of Filipino cuisine.
I ordered the Pampangan-Style Sizzling Sisig with Egg ($16). I’m not too sure what pampangan-style means but sisig refers to a method of preparing meat where the meat is marinated in a citrus sauce or vinegar, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices. Sizzling Sisig is a traditional dish that is made with a variety of pig parts; in this case, pig ears, snout, cheek, and belly. The belly is cooked three times (boiled, grilled, and sauteed) and then the dish is flavored with garlic and lemon. Continue reading →
280 Bleecker St
(between Jones St & Commerce St)
New York, NY 10014
At the recent Rosa Mexicano Blogger Tasting Event, I met someone who was obsessed with Fish. He compared it to one of my favorite restaurants of ALL TIME, Pearl Oyster Bar, and said that he even preferred Fish because it was more gritty and shack-like. I’ve tried almost all of Pearl Oyster Bar’s competitors, primarily for lobster rolls, and so had to try Fish. I already knew that it wouldn’t be as good as Pearl because I am loyal and Pearl is the best, but could it be nearly as good? Continue reading →
35 E 18th St
(between Broadway & Park Ave)
New York, NY 10003
ABC Kitchen is one of those staple NYC restaurants that everyone recommends to their out-of-town friends because it is a safe recommendation. It was opened by a famous chef, Jean-Georges, and it boasts a cool NYC vibe with its rustic wooden farm chic decor. The kitchen uses only fresh organic and local ingredients, which is all the talk now. It also has a cool concept as it is attached to its own furniture store that sells all the furniture and kitchenware that the restaurant uses, forcing you to pay attention to not just your food, but also the $55 ripple porcelain plate that your food sits on. Its pricing is also standard NYC pricing for a decently “nice” restaurant, with entrees ranging from $18 to $37 and appetizers ranging from $6 to $17. As you can tell from the large price ranges, the menu is pretty large and so I didn’t post about ABC Kitchen until I had been there twice, once for dinner and once for lunch. I’m going to combine the dinner and lunch items so you get a larger survey of their food (you’ll notice the change in lighting in the photos).
This is the Roasted Carrot and Avocado salad ($14), probably my favorite item on their menu. I got it both times I was there because it is so unique and really defines the restaurant for me. The salad features a large handful of fresh greens with roasted carrots, fat slices of avocado, crunchy seeds, a dollop of sour cream, homemade garlicy croutons, and a citrus dressing. The roasted whole carrots (each about 5 inches long) were caramelized and exceptionally sweet. The ingredients are reminiscent of a simplicity and charm of the “countryside” yet when combined, produces the complexity that you would expect of a stylish NYC restaurant. The textures are crunchy (croutons and seeds), soft (avocado and sour cream), and leafy (greens), while the flavors are sweet (carrots) and sour (citrus). Yum!
This Chicken Liver Toast ($10) was from their Market Table section of the menu. Their menu items consist of quite a few “toast” options, including a Roasted Kabocha Squash toast and a Crab Toast. My friend is really into liver pates so we chose the chicken liver, even though I am a bit wary of chicken liver because bad chicken liver has a horrible, horrible, gamey and iron taste. Thankfully, ABC Kitchen’s chicken liver was quality; it was very creamy and smooth and was not as dense as most pates. Despite the fact that it was lighter with almost a mousse-like consistency, the kitchen slathered on the pate really thickly and so was still too dense for me. The bread, though had a nice crisp crust and soft interior, was not nearly as thick as I would’ve wanted it to be. I ended up supplementing my pate with the bread basket because the pate was just so overwhelming. I’m a bit of a liver pansy though; I imagine that if you were a diehard Liver Lover, you would wolf up the toast with relish, like Y.P. did. Continue reading →