Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, Events, New York City Eats

2014 Year in Review

2014 eats_text

photos taken with instagram @iluvpotato

“Nothing is achieved without effort.” 2014 has been a milestone. It was not easy, starting the year and on my birthday being unemployed. But it was an opportunity to take the time to rejuvenate, rethink, and rediscover the city I grew up in and reviewing my personal goals. A transition was exactly what I needed and ever since I have moved out living on my own in an exciting, evolving part of New York City I hardly knew. I also settled into a new job with healthcare and after 4 years it was the perfect timing for a trip to Japan. While I did all of the above, it was the first half of the year during my unemployment when I was able to slow down and leisurely enjoy a meal without the weekend crowds and without the urgency of going back to work or eating at my work desk. Dining out was therapy with the company of friends to help me get through what would have been a stagnant year. Here is my annual top 12 from 2014:

:: TASTE TALKS ::
I was unexpectedly invited to Brooklyn’s Taste Talks early this Fall via OpenTable. I have been fortunate through my previous work to have been to a number of food events but it was for the first time and hopefully not my last through my work as a foodblogger where I was invited to a food event. Taste Talks is a weekend festival celebrating New York City food culture and media. I was only able to attend the second portion, the All-star BBQ at the East River State Park. It was a nicely organized group of intriguing chefs and restaurants currently in New York City. Each chef participant exhibit their interpretation of barbeque. My favorites were from Chef Ivan Orkin from Ivan Ramen- grilled duck hearts, Chef Jonathan Wu from Fung Tu – Pig head salad and Chef Rob Newton from Nightingale 9 – barbeque duck which all had an Asian inspired touch to their dishes.

:: MAIALINO ::
Moving out from my parents has been the biggest step. To celebrate this milestone, I took my parents to Maialino for a 3-course lunch during restaurant week. It was by far one of the best restaurant for restaurant week I have been to and a great spot to bring parents to. My dad being a retired chef / restuaurant owner and my mom, a vegetarian, homecook but somehow still manage to season meat dishes really well are both really hard to please when it comes to dining out. Maialino, nailed it. The ambiance of the restaurant was appropriate and service was exceptional. The food by executive chef Nick Anderer is rustic, refined Italian and the olive oil cake is a must. It is why Danny Meyer’s restaurants continues to have the reputation and the respect the food industry has for him as a restauranteur and his team’s craft.

:: BOBWHITE LUNCH & SUPPER COUNTER ::
Alphabet City remains to be a less known part of Manhattan or a part we recalled in the musical Rent. Tompkins Square Park for instance has transformed to a dog loving park and the neighborhood is home to many community gardens and the new St.Mark’s bookstore. It is also a neighborhood with a couple of awesome fried chicken options. I discovered Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter while on the elevator. The restaurant is very small with limited seating but the bar counter is my preferred spot, even with a group of friends. They have a fried chicken supper for four that includes sides and biscuits. A low key spot and has quickly become a favorite of mine in a new neighborhood I am excited to call home.

:: CONG LY ::
For cheap eats in New York City, you can always count on Chinatown. One of my favorite cuisine is Vietnamese for a bowl of pho, sandwiches, or spring rolls. For a very long time, Thai Son was my go to spot until I stepped foot into Cong Ly one day and since then haven’t been anywhere else. It is a family owned spot and a restaurant you can linger as long as desired over a bowl of pho. Other than their configuration of tables, which I am tempted to rearrange, the food is delicious, inexpensive and comforting.

:: BAKERI ::
I made a few visits to Bakeri this year. A small café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with an assortment of cookies, freshly baked rustic breads, pastries and several savory options. The décor of the café and choices of ceramics and silverwares is one of many reasons why I keep going back but mainly because of their lavender shortbread paired with a cup of latte – every girl and gent treat. Bakeri has since expanded a second location in Greenpoint, which I have yet to visit. In the meantime, it is worth heading across the East River.

:: LOBSTER JOINT ::
This year marked my 10 years High School reunion, in addition to an impromptu mini middle school reunion at the Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side. After 14 years, it’s amazing to reunite with friends and to be able to casually catch up where we left off. The Lobster Joint on the Lower East Side sadly recently closed but their Greenpoint location remains open. It had a great happy hour with a wide selection of beer, wine, and affordable, pretty delicious fried oysters, shrimps and lobster rolls sliders. It will be missed.

:: HOMETOWN BARBEQUE & STEVE’S AUTHENTIC KEY LIME PIE ::
World Cup and barbeque at Red Hook’s Hometown doesn’t get any better on a hot summer day and is how we celebrate Father’s day. The place is only a ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan and a few blocks from Ikea. Hometown Barbeque is as good as any Southern, Texas barbeque and the food is presented on butcher paper, the authentic way. For dessert, save room and head over to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. The graham cracker crust and the amount of citrus is a nice complement after a heavy barbeque meal.

:: FRENCH LOUIE + BUTTERMILK CHANNEL ::
Two is better than one. Some of the sister restaurants I went to this year included: Freeman’s + Isa and The Fat Radish + The East Pole. Rosemary also opened Claudette, which will be on my list for 2015. Read more on my review on some of the listed restaurants on Brunch. Buttermilk Channel has a cult following and it is likely to be busy even on a rainy, Monday evening which is when I went. On the contrary their sister restaurant, French Louie is far more mellow. The outdoor backyard dining space is probably the reason why I would go back. It is hard to believe it is Brooklyn because it’s damn pretty.

:: MAK’S NOODLE ::
It has been over twenty years since I have been to Hong Kong and the city is glowing and the food culture is astounding. Sorry New York City, but Hong Kong is the new city that never sleeps because its non-stop eating. Mak’s Noodle is an example of what a Michelin Star restaurant taste like without a need for reservation and without splurging. With only a few items on the menu, the wonton noodle soup is the signature dish. The wontons are silky with the perfect ratio of shrimp to pork filling and the handmade noodles are refined submerged in a tasty broth. The bowls are petite but ultimately satisfying.

:: NISHIKI MARKET ::
In the heart of Kyoto, Japan, Nishiki Market is a long strip of various food vendors or also known as food heaven. A taste of everything Kyoto has to offer and surprisingly the best pickles and fermented food I have ever had. There are specialty items to take home and small bites like tofu doughnuts, soymilk ice cream, onigiri, octopus on skewers, rice crackers, and all the samples you can indulge on. I miss the warm welcome of irasshaimase and the hospitality of the Japanese culture. More on Japan in a future post.

:: HONG KONG AIRPORT ::
The Hong Kong Airport food court is amazing. On our way back to New York City from Japan, we had a layover at the Hong Kong airport and enough time to eat some more delicious Cantonese Chinese food. The challenging part is narrowing down to which one. The Hainese chicken rice dish and Penang style rice noodles was unlike anything I had in an airport and frankly with the limited amount of days spent in Hong Kong, it was one of the best meals we had.

:: PICNIC ::
Summer went by far too quick this year. At one point I was juggling 4 projects and finalizing the apartment was very stressful. One fun activity I did manage to pull together with the help of my sister was an outdoor vegetarian friendly picnic. I made a mushroom, asparagus quiche, quinoa kale salad, a platter of crudités with garlic labneh and pita and homemade lemonade. I have a long way and a lot work to do to become a professional chef and have no means or interest in becoming a chef. What I find most satisfying and joy is creating the menus, preparation and organization aspect. The picnic was a preview of what I am sure will be more of in 2015 – potlucks, picnics, and gatherings. More news on that next Spring.

“Without effort nothing is achieved.”  Food keeps me going, it’s an endless discovery and I am excited to start a new chapter in my new home in this diverse city where you don’t have to travel far to get a bowl of ramen and a lox bagel.  As always, thanks to those who shared a meal, their positive energy, laughter, tears, words of wisdom and the kind support from readers, making 2014 a memorable year. Happy trails and to a fruitful New Year!

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New York City Eats

Ippudo, At Last

Ippudo Shiromaru Hakata Classic

Who said third times the charm?   My fifth and final attempt at Ippudo, Japanese Ramen restaurant on the East Village called success!

I have been wanting to try Ippudo for the longest and the wait would always be outrageously long during evening hours.  The strategy to getting a table at Ippudo is to dine during lunch on weekdays or go solo during evenings. Part of the fun is to eat with a friend of course, so I met up with my friend Hiroko who is happily 4 months pregnant for lunch at Ippudo. According to Hiroko Ippudo is New York City’s best ramen! As a native and pure blood Japanese, I trusted her and I cannot agree more.

Consecutive day in a row with temperature in New York City in the upper 90s to 100 F was the perfect weather to slurp on a bowl of ramen, I promise.  The air conditioner was blasting and making pass the reservation desk without waiting at all was exciting.  It was a moment of victory.  The lunch hours are much more slow in comparison to dinner but the servers were energized greeting いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase) meaning welcome!  The decor of Ippudo is modern Japanese elegance.  From lighting to the layout of the tables Ippudo imports the Japanese comfort food to comfortable atmosphere to relax for a lunch or dinner meal.

The menu and description all read delicious.  Being it was my first time at Ippudo, I ordered the Shiromaru Hakata Classic bowl ramen ($13).  With $3 more I pigged out on the lunch set which I selected the Fried chicken over rice with salad.  Hiroko had the same ramen with the choice of Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe) over rice.  In the Shiromaru Hakata Classic Bowl ramen was slices of simmered berkshire pork, kikurage (wood ear mushroom), red pickled ginger, menma (bamboo shoots), 1/2 hard boiled egg, sesame & scallions submerged in a savory pork broth.  The texture of the noodle is definitely very distinctive and unusual.  Thin and al dente. The condiments of kikurage, menma, ginger, etc. are quite commonly used in even Chinese bowl of noodles and is frequently used in my dad’s homemade noodle soups but the way the condiments are cut and the presentation at Ippudo absolutely knocks your socks off!

いただきます!  Slurp, Slurp

The meal ended with a cup of roasted genmai cha (brown rice tea).  The desire to try Ippudo since its opening in 2007  has finally come true.  With the last 4 failed attempts in getting a table at Ippudo, my expectations have constantly built and Ippudo did not disappoint one bit and has met my highest expectations.

Address:

Ippudo /// 65 4th Avenue New York, NY 10003

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Metro Asian Food Magazine: Food Spy for a Day

IMG_1838                Metro Asian Food Photographer taking a photo on one of the four food spy at Ichi Sushi

 I have recently been selected to be a food critic for an Asian food publication called Metro Asian Food.  The publication is in complete Chinese writing and covers the local Asian Cuisines dine out scene of New York City.  My dad occasionally brought home the magazine for reading pleasure which is how I became familiar with Metro Asian Food.  There is a section in the magazine known as Mission Delicious and it is a section where they invite readers to be participants to be food tasters.  Each mission has a theme, previous themes included: the search for the best dumplings in Chinatown and another theme was Malaysian Cuisine.  The mission I was selected to participate was Japanese Cuisine in Brooklyn.  I love Japanese food especially Japanese comfort food: curry, ramen, onigiri, etc and my knowledge of Japanese food only comes from being a frequent customer at the midtown Cafe Zaiya -amazing! and the strip of Japanese restaurants on St. Mark’s Place.  Fortunately, being an expert at the cuisine is not necessary but having an appetite is critical.

The mission started at Halu Japanese Restaurant in Brooklyn.  I met my fellow tasters on this mission who had all arrived.  All the foodies were my age and all girls: Annie, Zea, and Christine –winner of Miss Chinese of New York City 2008 and Jeny a freelance writer who will be writing this piece Mission Delicious for this coming June issue.  The decor of Halu Japanese Restaurant is pretty upscale with a napkin ring and individual place mat and cushion seats.  We were each given a rate and comment sheet and minutes later it was a parade of one dish after the next dish.  The first dish was an appetizer of fried shrimp wonton on top of a dollop of gucamole.  Continuing with appetizer an individual portion of bread pastry  over a bowl of new england clam chowder soup.  Third a pasta dish with shrimp and breaded chicken.  As I am digging into the fourth plate of short ribs, I am thinking to myself what is Japanese about these dishes?  Gradually, as I am dining I begin to forget that I am having Japanese food but the mango madness sushi roll as the restaurant calls it and the raw lobster (signature dish) and shrimp sashimi reminded me it is Chinese interpretation of Japanese Cuisine.  The hospitality of Halu Japanese restaurant was extremely generous in feeding the tasters – me and the crew of Metro Asian Food, I felt the food at Halu Japanese restaurant was mediocre but if one dish stood out it was the last dish Blue Ribbon Pork Chop .  It is panko fried porkchop with a layer of ham and kewpie mayonnaise in the center of the porkchop.  The panko fried porkchop was light and tender and it is a good take on the Japanese tonkatsu.

IMG_18365 variety of fishes  cucumber sashimi rolls at Ichi Sushi

With our stomaches satisfied, the crew of Metro Asian Food had arranged transportation from Ridgewood, Brooklyn to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to our second and final Japanese restaurant of the mission, Ichi Sushi.  The decor of Ichi Sushi is much more zen like with wooden booth seats for a party of six to eight and overhead traditional Japanese noren curtains.  Unlike at Halu Japanese restaurant where we were served with a range of different dishes from pasta to rice, to meats to seafood.  At Ichi Sushi, it was a parade of a variety of sushi one after the other and by the end of the entire meal I was pretty certain the mercury level in my body was exceedingly high.  Towards the middle of the meal, one or two girls were exhausted from eating and from being photo taken but it was our job to eat and I was delighted to do so.  

Be sure to pickup a copy of Metro Asian Food magazine June 2009 issue!  To see more of my photos taken during mission delicious and other food outings, please visit my flickr account:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mousejewelz

Halu Japanese Restaurant/// 7109 13TH AVE. BROOKLYN, NY 11228

Ichi Sushi /// 2040 86TH ST, BROOKLYN, NY 11219

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Homemade, New York City Eats

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APRIL 9, 2009

img_1574Rai Rai Ken /// shio ramen

A bowl of ramen and two hours long conversation with friends accompanied with ice cream is more than essential but therapeutic for a mediocre work week.  Jane and I have been i-chatting up a drool fest. in the course of the past two weeks during our boredom at work.  Since Ippudo have been introduced in New York City, this place have been jam-packed and I was curious what the hype is or if it is over hyped.  At 6:30pm, the wait for a table for three: Cynthia, Jane and I, was already insanely going to be one hour.  For Jane’s sake, since she only had a sponge cake for lunch fundamentally “air” -jane, we decided to skipped Ippudo and headed to Rai Rai Ken…another ramen joint.  I was first introduced to Rai Rai Ken by my friend Jesse.  I have never been to Japan but the size of the interior of Rai Rai Ken may be as close to a restaurant in Japan based on what I have seen on travel shows.  The restaurant only seated about 14 people on barstool and over watching non-Japanese but Hispanics preparing your bowl of ramen.  We ordered one of each ramen options available.  Jane ordered the Shoyu Ramen, Cynthia ordered the Miso Ramen, and I ordered the Shio Ramen.  Service was in full speed and in less than ten minutes we were slurping away.  The proportion of the ramen is deceiving with only one sliced of roast pork, one fish cake, one sheet of dried seaweed and  half of a boiled egg and a portion of spinach and bamboo shoots.  It certainly is not overfilling but surely satisfying and enough room for an ice cream at Sundaes and Cones.

img_15801 hazelnut not pictured =(

Sundaes and Cones was a really nice surprise.  I have past by Sundaes and Cones several times before while in St. Marks but never really acknowledged it.  With a wooden bench in the storefront it gives a sense of a very young family and friendly ice cream parlor on any ice cream weather permitted day…for me that is 366 days.  The decor reflected the friendly and patient staff at Sundaes and Cones and majority Asian and hence the exotic selections of Asian flavors such as: wasabi, taro and honey & ginseng.  I do not think I would have the patience in working anywhere with unlimited free sampling but I have to admit and I honestly do not do samplings often when allowed that it was great fun deciding which flavor to select for the ultimate one-scoop.  Cynthia and I spent at least almost 10-15 minutes or longer sampling flavors.  I sampled the taro and the semi-full bucket explains why it is still semi-full.  Cynthia suggested we both tried honey & ginseng but I had misread and misheard it as honey & ginger so I was expecting a spice to hit, instead the flavor still hit but rather unpleasant…almost like a rubber rain boot?  I end up having a full scoop of black sesame seed which is neither of the flavors I had sampled.  I was pretty confident with how black sesame would taste though I have never had black sesame seed in ice cream form,  it seems  a very common Asian ice cream flavor in Asia but practically foreign here in the states.  I wanted to be surprised and I was happily surprise.  It had a very roasted and nutty taste with a very fine sesame creamy texture…I was in heaven.  We each took a sample of each other’s final ice cream choice, Jane with the hazelnut which was nutty as well and rather nice since it tasted pure hazelnut without artificial sweetener and Cynthia’s very bold traditional choice of matcha green tea flavor would certainly be a great pair to a cup of green tea.  Sundaes and Cones is a luxurious treat on a budget and I highly recommend everyone who loves ice cream to make a visit, even my grandma with dentures would love it, I guarantee it.

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iLuvPotato & Friends ate at: 

Rai Rai Ken /// 214 E. 10th St., New York, NY 1000

Sundaes and Cones /// 95 E. 10th St., New York, NY 10003 

 

APRIL 11, 2009

I have  been craving for curry throughout the week and I am tired of the instant Japanese bars of curry in a box and had picked up a bottle of curry powder from a small Thailand/ Indonesian grocery store on Bayard Street, owned by an adorable grandpa.  Perfect day to make curry and of course eat it!

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