150 Ainslie St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
We were told the wait was two and a half hours. We waited two full hours. And. It. Was. Worth. It.
Okonomi is a tiiiiiny little Japanese restaurant tucked away on the north side of Williamsburg. It opens from 9am-3pm on weekdays, and 10am-4pm on weekends (at night, the restaurant becomes Yuji Ramen). It serves only traditional Japanese ichiju-sansai set meals for breakfast and lunch. “Ichiju-sansai” literally means “One soup, three dishes” – aka a healthy set meal.
I was pretty skeptical with the raving reviews. How good could breakfast really be? I did my little Yelp search beforehand and saw all the photos. The food looked pretty and small – usually the opposite of how I like my food. We got there at 10:30am on a Saturday and already saw a long line forming out the door. Someone sat outside with a suitcase – that’s when you know the place is good. That person NEEDED to eat here before jetsetting off.
Two full hours later, me, N.T., B.J., and A.H. got seated across from this couple.
You can only order the ichiju-sansai (set menu) (~$30), but can choose your fish. We had a choice of Spanish mackerel, some kind of tilefish, and a sashimi over rice bowl. I got the Spanish mackerel, which is pictured here along with all the other dishes. (FYI those flowers were real :)) Continue reading
263 West 19th St (6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Alright food friends. Quick update here. I went to Wisefish recently with N.T., G.B., H.W., and LAW to do a little taste comparison against the glorious Sons of Thunder. Just by photo comparison, you can see the main difference between the two: Wisefish poke bowls have a lot more stuff. The ordering mechanism is different. At Sons of Thunder, you pick your fish (or octopus or tofu or whatever) and that’s it. It comes with greens, radishes, seaweed salad, etc. You can also add toppings like krispies (yes do this), nori, avocado, etc. for an additional price. At Wisefish, you pick your fish and then get unlimited toppings from their toppings bar. It’s like the new-ish PinkBerry method where you pay a little more but get as many toppings (edamame, hijiki, radish, etc) as you want – or more precisely, as many as will fit in the bowl/you’re shameless enough to ask for. The price ends up being similar.
Because at Sons of Thunder I have to pick and pay for each additional topping, I find that I cherish/appreciate those toppings that much more. Also, a bigger point here, the quality of fish is just better at Sons of Thunder. The Wisefish tuna and salmon are cut into smaller cubes and are a bit…. softer (maybe marinated too much?) and stringy-er. Though, the fish quality isn’t a dealbreaker because it’s still decent and the number of toppings and sauces you can get sort of makes up for it. You should certainly go if you’re in the area. If the purpose of your meal is to have the best poke on the other hand, I would go to Sons of Thunder (I still have Pokeworks to try so I’ll let you know if my assessment changes). Continue reading
641 10th Ave (45th St)
New York, NY 10036
I was invited to try Hell’s Chicken last week and accepted immediately because who would give up an opportunity for fried chicken? The restaurant also prides itself it making gluten-free fried chicken. I’m the last person to be drawn to gluten-free but I can imagine some of my readers’ ears may perk up at the sound of that. So off I went! I brought LAW along with me so we could try more foods. The restaurant is in – surprise, surprise – Hell’s Kitchen where there are very few options for good Asian food. Keep this one in mind next time you’re stuck there (because there’s no good reason to linger around there).
We started with a Korean classic: Japchae ($10 + $2 with beef, pork, or shrimp). Japchae is like the Chinese rice noodle and beef dish (干炒牛河) except its noodles are made with sweet potato glass noodles. The Hell’s Chicken version is on the sweeter side and has a strong kick from all those scallions. I’m no japchae connoisseur so can’t tell you how authentic it is, but it was good. Continue reading
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).
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.
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?
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
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.
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
265 W 37th St
(between 7th Ave & 8th Ave)
New York, NY 10018
I am not one for heavy lunches because I tend to go all out for dinner. I know it’s healthier to eat more for lunch and less for dinner … but I get sleepy at work and I think my dinner cooking or East Village options are better than what Midtown West has to offer. I also use lunch as an opportunity to get aaaall the good veggies my body craves. I refuse to have salads for dinner.
Buuuuut there are exceptions. Someone at work mentioned a hidden Ecuadorian place by our office and V.V. convinced me to go by essentially guilt tripping me and accusing me of missing out on a blogging opportunity. So here we go.
The place is legit hidden on 37th street. It looks tiny from the outside but when we walked in, we realized that small entrance leads to a very large storage-like space. Continue reading
231 E 9th St
(between Stuyvesant St & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
The way I feel about Robataya is the way people should feel about their significant others. It’s always a treat when I get to spend time with Robataya. I always feel better about myself after I spend time with it. The more I spend time with Robataya, the more I grow to love it. The reason I haven’t fully blogged about Robataya sooner is because all my photos have been pretty crappy. The lighting is not the brightest and there’s a yellow warm hue that my old camera just couldn’t handle. But LAW recently got me an awesome Olympus PL-5 so I knew it was time to showcase Robataya.
I hate using the word “tapas” but that’s kind of what Robataya serves up. The menu offers a variety of grilled (over an open hearth) vegetables, meats, and seafood. There are a number of appetizers on the menu as well but the stars are all in the grilled items. I ALWAYS get the brussels sprouts ($6). It’s ALWAYS the freshest, most perfect brussels sprouts. ALWAYS perfectly grilled. ALWAYS salted just right with Suzu Salt, a salt imported from the Noto peninsula in Japan. According to Robataya’s menu, this salt “can only be produced by using the cleanest seawater in the region. Its saltiness is rounded by acidity, bitterness, and sweetness.” Continue reading
78 E 1st St
New York, NY 10009
On a Friday night, R.S., A.C., and I grabbed dinner at Cafe Himalaya, a tiny, cheap, and incredibly busy restaurant on 1st and 1st. The food is Himalayan/Nepalese and is very vegetarian friendly. We sat down at about 7:00pm and watched the line of people grow. It was cold outside so they all waited inside, squished between tables while staring at our food as we ate. It was as if they were counting down for their turn on the swing. Not ideal for a mini high school reunion catch up dinner. Probably a better venue for a quick dinner before a night out across Houston in Lower East Side. We all started with a cup of homemade darjeeling tea with milk and sugar ($1.50). It tasted like Hong Kong milk tea with condensed milk. It was a little creamy for my taste but R.S. and A.C. both got second rounds. They also have butter tea… which I had my share of in Tibet. If you haven’t had it, it’s worth trying. It’s tea with salt, butter, and milk… very much an acquired taste.
R.S. ordered the Tsel Khowa ($7.50), a mixed vegetable curry cooked “Nepali style” with basmati rice. I didn’t get to try it but like Serious Eats said, it looked like there was too much broth. I prefer heartier curries, not watered down soups. On the other hand, vegetables did look fresh. Continue reading
Hua Ji Pork Chop
7 Allen St
New York, NY 10002
Woooooooooooo it’s Friday!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a ton of stuff to do before the weekend begins so I’m going to leave this quick and dirty gem with you. Hua Ji Pork Chop is quick, dirty, and absolutely delicious. It’s located pretty far down into Chinatown in a dingy little space that has bar seating enough for 6. With $5, you get three pieces of crispy pork chop, taiwanese 雪菜 (snow veggies… a kind of pickled vegetable that always goes with rice and beef noodle soup. Trust me it’s good.), and some meat gravy, all over a bowl of rice. Oh, and a bowl of soup. All of these items come in a plastic take-out container so you either wolf down your food and leave, or you take it with you outside and squat on the sidewalk and eat like a real baller. Continue reading
Still sick in bed. I have very little energy today so I am going to repost a photo and add the recipe for it. Egg and Tomato (鸡蛋炒西红柿) is a classic Chinese dish that every household makes when in need of a quick and simple dish. It’s like the tomato sauce and pasta for Chinese families. I’d like to think this is a pretty healthy meal; you have your carbs, veggies/fruits, and protein. I crave this right now in my sickly state but would need to buy tomatoes to make this… reminder to self:
ALWAYS HAVE TOMATOES IN THE FRIDGE. edit: NEVER STICK TOMATOES IN THE FRIDGE! There’s a Z-3 compound in tomatoes that pretty much dies when it’s forced to live in cold environments. Without that compound, the tomato apparently loses most of its flavor, shrivels up, and becomes watery and grainy – GROSS. I can’t believe I’ve been making this mistake all these years. Thanks, S.V.L. for the pointers!
Recipe (as usual, measurements are approximate because I never measure when cooking Chinese food*):