New York City Eats

Pitas, Sandwiches, and Banh Mi

Paris Baguette

I discovered Menupage to be a pretty unreliable source or at least for Istanbul Grill.  The reviews on menupage was better than it actually is. It is located on 14th street between 8th and 9th avenue and it is divided as half takeout and half dine-in.  I have past by it a few times on my way to West 14th street but have never eaten there nor have I ever eaten Turkish food.  What intrigued me in Turkish food was New York Times recent travel section article on Top 30 places to visit in 2010.  Turkey was not listed though users named Istanbul, Turkey as No. 1.  In addition this past Monday’s episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation was taken place in Istanbul, Turkey and the intern from work had returned from her one week winter study abroad where else but in Istanbul, Turkey.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I was in good company Ashley, Cynthia, Jane and I venture out from our comfort zone of Asian cuisines and trekked from Union Square over to Istanbul Grill after the free performance of Vampire Weekend at Barnes & Nobles.  When we arrived, I hesitated to walk in as it looked different than during the day time.  It was candle lit and emptied…hmm, perhaps it was early since it is a 24hr.  On the menu was a list of kebabs in sandwich or platter dishes.  We all ordered sandwiches since it was more budget friendly.  Cynthia and Jane got the Adana Kebab Sandwich (lamb), Ashley got the Chicken Shish Kebab Sandwich (?) and I went ahead indecisively, the Chicken Gyro Doner Sandwich with Turkish Coffee.  When our sandwiches came it was wrapped in the restaurant Chickpea paper bags.  The waitress brought three giant bottle of sauces, ketchup, hot sauce, and yogurt.  My Chicken Gyro Doner came semi-cold.  It had shredded grilled chicken, with lettuce, tomatoes, if I recalled correctly cucumbers too in a pita.  It is a pretty hefty portion of chicken and tasted rather bland so I added a lot of yogurt sauce bite after bite but still did not enhance the taste.  I ordered a Turkish coffee as well since I have never had one and was always curious what Turkish coffee is other than a coffee grind option button back in my Starbucks barista days.  If what I had was an authentic Turkish coffee, I do not ever want it again.  It was in an espresso size cup and with one sip the texture was thick and bitter as if I had chugged mud.  So I still prefer Mamoun’s Falafel / Shawarma on St.Mark’s Place or MacDougal Street or thanks to Cynthia for reminding me how delicious Taim is  I am now dreaming of going back to Taim.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Continuing with sandwiches, my sister decided to initiate a gathering with my cousins Lily and Nancy for brunch and bowling on Saturday.  I wanted to try Clinton Street Bakery since walking by on a snow day rather than our usual Dim Sum brunch.  When we arrived to Clinton Street Bakery at 12:30pm the wait for a table of 4 was going to be for 1 hour and a 1/2 or more.  Since we had further plans in the day, we decided to explore Lower East Side some more and by random we settled for a less crowded restaurant for lunch, Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop. The decor of the sandwich shop is painted in black with a giant tenement house mural growing from a corner, the table tops were black and so were the chairs.  The only in color was the wait staff and the diners and thankfully the food.  The menu was limit to and pretty simple just sandwiches and salads. I ordered a Spicy Rizzak which was turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, onions, chipotle mayo on a semolina sesame hero.  It came with a side of wavy chips in a basket, kind of like a local college hangout or style.  I split my sandwich with my sister’s Southwestern chicken which is pretty much the same except her is breaded and sweet.  The sandwiches were pretty homemade and nothing special but overall quite satisfying.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I walked by last weekend  the grand opening of Paris Baguette on Grand Street, a sister branch from the original Mott Street location. The Chinatown Paris Baguette is different than the Flushing, Queens location where it serves pastries and desserts.  Je’ Taime Chinatown Paris Baguette!  I love Vietnamese Banh Mi’s and Paris Baquette is one of my favorites.  It is amazingly inexpensive and amazingly delicious!  Everything even the baguettes are made fresh to order.  At this new location the menu remains the same with various Vietnamese deli cold cuts with the exception of the French inspired baked goods corner as soon as you walk in.  The new location introduces a new system with a loud speaker with numbers on the flat screen in reference to your order number.  My sister and I ordered the No. 1 Baguette to share which is the traditional Banh Mi with Vietnamese pate cold cuts with shredded carrots, cucumber and cilantro with a thin spread of Vietnamese mayo.  We also order a Vietnamese coffee which tasted like regular coffee.  For 2, we spent only $5.70, amazing deal!   This new location also introduces a combo meal that includes a Grilled Chicken Banh Mi, a green tea waffle and a coffee for only $5.00!  — now this is what I call a recession special.  Paris Baguette has done it again.


Istanbul Grill /// 210 W. 14th St. New York, NY 10014

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop /// 129 Rivington St. New York, NY 10002

Paris Baguette///  113 Mott St. New York, NY 10013 ( original) & Grand St. Between Mott street and Elizabeth Street (Grand Open)


“Do you speak Food?”

January of 2010 thus far has been devastating with 10 days now since the earthquake in Haiti and tonight being the last airing of Tonight Show with Conan’O Brien.  On a personal level, January thus far has been an uneventful start to the year.  Thankfully, Lunar New Year (February 14th, 2010) will allow us all for a second chance, so double check your resolutions and start implementing them.

Three years ago when I started making a list of things to do for the year, among the things to do on the list for every year was to spend time with my dad to understand him better.  My dad is a retired chef/ owner of  a fast food Chinese restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey since 2004. He has been working 7 days for 12-15 hours per day for the last 15 years and obviously with the time spent at work to support the family, he missed  my siblings and I growing up.  Between my dad and I, I am Chinese / Fujianese born in New York City who listens to UK pop/rock music and worships filmmakers, visual artists and spend over 8 hours on the internet (work + spare time) we obviously have cultural differences and language barrier.  I take pride that I can speak Chinese (cantonese + fujianese) and I am able to communicate through the dialects with my dad but somehow very frequently there is still misunderstanding.

When I became interested in culinary cooking shortly after my dad retired and sold his restaurant, we began to connect through our love for food.  Two weeks ago we watched Iron Chef America the White House challenge on Food Network and last week, I made pizza after my dad subliminally made the request since returning from his trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was my second attempt in making a traditional pizza and with a slight help from my dad in kneading the pizza crust, a $10 fresh mozzarella cheese from Whole food, and a bottle of pasta sauce (cheated a bit), with shaved pecorino and parmasean-reggiano, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and to top it off with fresh cut basil, it was a Di Fara Pizzeria inspired and it was successfully delicious!  My dad was all smiles leading to my mom’s comment, she said “You’re dad is a very simple person to please, all you have to do is cook something.”

That’s easy!

Micellaneous, New York City Eats

NYC Restaurant Week 2010: OVERRATED

                                                     photo: week

The list of restaurants participating in the annual NYC Restaurant Week 2010 (January 25-February 7) has been revealed on Tuesday!  Majority of the restaurants participating are upscale fine dining from multi-ethnic cuisines and are offering 3 course prix-fixe lunch ($24.07) or  3 course prix-fix dinner ($35).  Much more wallet friendly compared to the regular daily menu.  

I have never participated during restaurant week and after reviewing 27 pages of restaurants listed,  I am still not  interested.  Many of these participating restaurants are owned by highly acclaimed and well respected chefs in the culinary industry.  I am a fan of many but for most I am really a fan not because of their cooking but as a branding strategist genius!   And restaurant week is essentially a part of marketing as a win-win situation for diners, restaurants and the city alike. 

So instead of dining at what’s listed for this year’s NYC restaurant week, here are my suggestions:

NYC Resturant Week Pick : Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro & Wine Bar  |||  Julie’s Pick: Murray’s Cheese Shop

NYC Restaurant Week Pick: Del Posto Ristorante ||| Julie’s Pick: Carmine’s Italian Seaport 

NYC Restaurant Week Pick: Morimoto ||| Julie’s Pick: Tomoe Sushi

NYC Restaurant Week Pick: Rosa Mexicano At Lincoln Center ||| Julie’s Pick: Red Hook Food Vendors

NYC Restuarant Week Pick: Tabla ||| Julie’s Pick:  Tiffin Wallah

NYC Restuarant Week Pick: Safran ||| Julie’s Pick: Pho Bang

NYC Restuarant Week Pick: Craftbar ||| Julie’s Pick: The Spotted Pig

NYC Restaurant Week Pick: Lupa ||| Julie’s Pick: Basta Pasta

Whether you’re an annual ritual NYC Restaurant Week goer or not, Bon Appetit!


51 Weeks till 2011

I only found out yesterday that there are only 52 weeks in a year.  The number 52 is sort of disheartening. There is not enough weeks to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish on my 100 Things to Do list for 2010.  No wonder I have so many rollovers from 2009 that still remain undone, such as try Ippudo!

I finally watched Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia!  It was the one of two movies I watched over the first New Year weekend, along with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  A mainstream Hollywood Amy Adam flick weekend.  Both of the films had a message I could relate to.  In Night at the Museum: BOS a sequel continues where the first Night a the Museum ended except Ben Stiller’s character Larry Daley have left his position as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History for a corporate, suit and tie career.  Rather only revolving on the museum coming to life, the message of the sequel maybe deeper for the younger viewers but is simple and that is, “the key to happiness…”  What is the key to happiness?  Ben Stiller’s character realizes at the end the answer to the deep question that “it is doing what you love most.”  Or according to Franklin D. Rosevelt, “physical exercise.”  If the key to happiness is doing what you love most, I have yet to do so.  Which leads to the film, Julie & Julia.  I had a general idea of the plot beforehand on the character Julie Powell, an office worker who loathes her job and decides to start a foodblog on cooking through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, (sounds a little bit like myself).   Julia Child’s part was based on her memoir, My Life in  France and Nora Ephron interlink the two.  I thought the film was enjoyable.  I liked how Julia Child’s was an inspiration and a guidance that uplifted Julie Powell during her life crisis and I liked how the film celebrated the cheerfulness Julia Child had toward cooking, life and spread that emotion to people who surrounded her which is a very empowering trait to  have.   I wished I had grown up watching Julia Child or I could catch up on youtube.

On my 2010, 100 Things to do list :

#32: To travel to Asia to reconnect with my Asian roots.

#19: To eat at Blue Ribbon Bakery.

#42 Learn to knit and sew with a sewing machine.

#4 Pickup on Japanese phrases.

#25 Cook more and on top of my 2010 100 Things to do list is to discover what I want to do and what I love to do most or as Julia Child’s answers, “Eat!”