I’m BAACCCKKK! Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been super busy with work stuff and haven’t had time to tell you about all the amazing restaurants I’ve been to lately. But fear not! I am back. I actually just got back from a long vacation in Hawaii so I’m super well-rested and ready to make this year better than the last. One of my new years resolutions is to do more things that I want to do (such as blogging). No more agreeing to go to things I don’t want to go to or going out when I just want to stay home and eat spam and watch Making a Murderer.
Speaking of spam, Hawaiians <3 spam. You’ll see a ton of spam in Hawaii because during WWII, spam was served to the GIs in the area and eventually found its way into the local cuisine. Those of you who think spam is gross because comes in a can or is “mystery meat” need to back off and be a little more open-minded. All spam is is preserved pork shoulder, pork butt, salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrate (help keeps the pink color in meats like spam and pepperoni). So basically, if you ever have pizza with pepperoni on it, you have no right being weirded out by spam. Just try it. I <3 it.
Anyway, this post is dedicated to all the best foods I had in my time in Hawaii, many of which included spam. I visited Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. All beautiful, awesome places. I can’t say that Hawaii is necessarily a foodie destination but there are definitely some great eats, especially if you like spam or tuna.
1151 Mapunapuna St
Honolulu, HI 96819
The first spot I’ll recommend you check out is the Moanalua 99 food court. Yes, a food court. It’s extremely close to the airport so very convenient (and also VERY TASTY). The food court has a number of really well rated spots, including Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen, Take’s Fish Market, and this place we went to called Urawa Japanese Fusion. I had the BEST fish+rice bowl here out of my whole trip. Really. Continue reading
228 1st Ave
(between 13th St & 14th St)
New York, NY 10009
FISH! FISH! FISH! I’m so happy that a great, affordable seafood place has opened in the East Village. Taverna Kyclades is a casual seafood restaurant that just opened up where Tepito and David’s Bagels used to be. I used to think that spot was cursed (bad feng shui or something) because the restaurants there never stay long. Three restaurants have occupied that spot in less than two years. I’ve never been interested in trying those restaurants because their reviews have always been super mediocre. Taverna Kyclades opened up late last year, a sister restaurant to the eponymous restaurant in Astoria. The original one in Astoria is so popular that people line up for hours on the weekends to get a taste of the fresh seafood.
Lucky us, the East Village location has not gained that much popularity yet. LAW and I came on a Tuesday evening and only had a 15 minute wait (still wildly impressive for a weekday).
This is the free bread that they give out. AMAZING baguette – crusty, soft, chewy – toasted with olive oil and spices. Huge plus in my book for starting the meal right. I would come just for this bread and wine if I could get away with it.
When you come, you MUST get this. This is the Octopodi: charcoal grilled Mediterranean octopus ($15.95). Prior to this, the best grilled octopus I had had was at Pylos, also a really, really great Greek restaurant. Pylos is a bit fancier. It has prettier decor, nicer plates, prettier wine glasses, etc. Also has really great octopus. But this octopodi was phenomenal. It was even more tender than the one at Pylos and had an addicting smokey finish. It was a bit simpler than the one at Pylos, which had a caramelized balsamic glaze. This one was just drizzled with olive oil and some simple herbs. Continue reading
After Florence, we took a train to Rome and immediately picked up a rental car to drive south to the Amalfi Coast (don’t worry, we wrap around after the Amalfi to Rome). On our way to Amalfi (which is only a three hour drive), we stop in Naples because to visit the birthplace of one of our favorite foods: pizza.
LAW looked up the grittiest little pizza place in Naples for us to stop by for a pie: Antica Pizzeria E Friggitoria Di Mateo (Via dei Tribunali, 94). The place is consistently rated as one of the best, oldest, and most authentic pizzerias in town. The website is in Italian so I could only look at the pictures and it looks like Bill Clinton has been. If it’s good enough for Bill, it’s good enough for me. The place was literally a hole in the wall in a tiny alley.
LAW stayed in the car while I rushed to buy the freshest pies that were coming out of the oven. Two euros a pie. The pie was super simple with just tomato sauce and a piece of mozzarella (that fell off in this photo I think). The crust was very, very chewy, but not as puffy as my favorite from good ol’ NYC Luzzos. The rest of the pie was very thin, soft, and floppy. The tomato sauce tasted like fresh tomatoes mashed up into a pulp with some seasoning. Truly the origins of what pizza is today! Continue reading
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia St
(between 4th St & Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014
There are so many great places to eat in NYC that sometimes I forget to return to my favorites. Pearl Oyster Bar is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC for a number of reasons:
- I love seafood. Especially oysters, grilled fish, and lobster rolls, all things Pearl makes ridiculously well.
- Pearl is unpretentious.
- Something about the space, lighting, and simple furniture sucks me into a vacuum where I forget where I am and how long I’ve been eating.
- Pearl makes the best blueberry pie.
The fourth reason is the reason you must eat at Pearl in the summer months between June and August. Any other time, you are more likely to end up with some kind of strawberry-rhubarb or cherry-something pie. I find their non-blueberry pies to be underwhelming, often too sweet for my taste. Their blueberry pie tastes way less syrupy and more like the actual fruit. Imagine grabbing a large handful of fresh summer blueberries, the kind that is fat and bulbous, bursting with flavor, and eating it all in one monstrous bite.
LAW and I went at the very end of August because I realized I had not had Pearl’s blueberry pie yet and freaked out a little bit. I was excited the entire week for our Pearl meal. On the day of, I reminded LAW at least five times about going that evening. Come 7 or 8PM, I found that he was still working on something he needed to get out by 3AM. All of a sudden I became grumpy and extremely sad that we may not end up making it to Pearl and that I would have to wait an entire year for blueberry pie. LAW must have saw the desperation in my eyes and immediately understood the urgency. He carved out two hours for me as we raced to Pearl on our bikes. The stars aligned at this point. Normally, the wait would have been at least 30 to 45 minutes. There was still a line but there were miraculously two free seats at the bar that no one wanted. 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
95 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
Craving seafood on a Friday night, per usual, I scoured the Internet for good options near home. Upstate popped up a number of times as a low key beer and oysters kind of shack. They are known for simplicity and freshness. Sounded good to me. I hear that normally there is always a wait on weekend nights but we managed to arrive right when a table of two was leaving – score! We ordered 10 oysters ($2.50-$2.75 each), two of each: Sheepscot River (ME), Fanny Bay (BC), Kumamoto (CA), Hammersley (Puget Sound), and Skookum (WA). Notice how we only ordered one East Coast type… both LAW and I prefer creamy sweet oysters to briney ones. Kumamoto oysters won by far, as expected!
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I love scallops and will typically always order the scallop dish if there is one. Well, since I started buying scallops on my own, I’ve stopped this nonsense because scallops are so darn expensive and petty at restaurants. Case in point. The scallop special ($18) included four very fresh steamed (I think?) scallops over a bed of summer slaw (zucchini and cucumbers), drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. It was suuuuuuper simple and very healthy tasting. I quite liked it and thought that the fresh, sweet scallops went very well with the veggies. LAW thought it all tasted just a bit too healthy and was not quite filling enough. I’ll have to agree with the not-quite-filling enough part… four scallops with zero grease equates to an appetizer portion in my mind. I could definitely have two portions of these, easily! Continue reading