One of my absolute favorite meals when I was little was my grandmother’s handmade noodles. Every time she made them I’d stand on a stool next to her in the kitchen and watch. She would spread a big sheet of dough on … Continue reading
Just a few blocks from my apartment is a tiny restaurant called Piccolo Cafe. One walking by too quickly can easily miss it, since the place is tucked between two larger establishments on the bustling Amsterdam Avenue. I first tried it out two … Continue reading
Savory? Check. Sweet? Check. AND spicy? Triple check.
If you want a sandwich packed with an explosion of flavor, you must try Num Pang Sandwich Shop in New York City. I had been eyeing this Cambodian sandwich shop for months, and last night I was finally able to check it out. My friend and I met up after work at the Hell’s Kitchen location. After weaving around the usual crowds in Times Square (actually much more difficult than it sounds), I was ready for a delicious sandwich.
The little restaurant was decorated in a somewhat hipster style, with chalk drawings and graffiti art covering the walls. The menu was short but offered items covering a wide range of tastes, from barbecue to seafood to vegetarian options. I ordered the five-spice pork belly sandwich. The counter had a big basket filled with little tubs of sriracha…this was my kind of place. I grabbed a few and we sat down with our sandwiches. The bread looked crispy and golden, with a generous portion of filling in between. My friend ordered the ginger barbecue brisket sandwich.
I was a little skeptical of the pork and pear combo, but after I took a few bites I was surprised at how well the flavors worked together. The pork was juicy and rich, while the thin slices of pear provided a refreshing amount of sweetness and crunch. While the bread looked like it would be the kind to hurt your mouth with its firm crust, the inside was actually quite soft. It soaked up the sauce nicely without getting too soggy. Though the sauce gave each bite a kick of spiciness, I still had to add my sriracha… but maybe that’s just me.
I actually thought there was too much sauce in the sandwich, making it a little too sweet and a mess to eat. My friend’s sandwich seemed to have a similar issue. When we were done eating, both our trays were stacked with our crumpled up napkins. “Definitely not a good first-date place,” we concluded. “Unless you want to look unflattering while you eat!”
Overall, Num Pang is an excellent place to eat for a quick meal or lunch break. This is definitely not your typical boring sandwich joint – be sure to be up for something more exotic if you come here! I definitely want to go back and try their other sandwich combos. There’s a coconut tiger shrimp and a Chinese cauliflower one that I’m very curious about, so I definitely anticipate being back at Num Pang soon!
Now here is a better Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In fact, it is a favorite among many of my college friends since it is not too far from campus. As promised from our previous post, let me introduce to you: Celeste.
Located in a convenient location close to the 1 train station, Celeste is a cozy little restaurant on 84th and Amsterdam Avenue. The tables are on the small side and placed in close proximity of one another, giving the space a very intimate atmosphere. Not a good pick for large groups, but perfect for dates or smaller gatherings of three or four people. The menu is a simple but full of excellent pastas (I’ve tried four and loved them all!), pizza, and antipasti.
My most recent venture to Celeste was last weekend with my sister and our friend from high school. Even though I have been to there many times, I still spent a good amount of time deciding what to order as I munched on the complimentary bread and olive oil. In the end I decided on an old favorite, the Vermicelli Alle Vongole – thin spaghetti with baby clams, garlic and olive oil.
The spaghetti was cooked al-dente, which I loved, and encircled by a generous amount of baby clams. The beauty of this dish comes from its simplicity. The pasta was garnished with nothing but olive oil, garlic and parsley. The clams were flavorful and soft, pairing nicely with the firm spaghetti. The minimal ingredients allowed the subtle flavor of the olive oil to shine through.
My sister ordered the Tagliatelle Con Gamberi – flat egg noodles with shrimp, cabbage, and sheep’s cheese. This is another favorite, a bit heavier than the entree I ordered. It’s hard to see in the picture below, but there is quite a bit of cabbage in the dish. The cabbage is actually the best part, in my opinion, because it is cooked to such a soft, caramelized consistency. The noodles were very buttery, a little too greasy for my sister’s taste. The shrimp also tends to be on the dense and less-tender side, suiting some people’s palates but not others.
Our friend ordered the Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinaci – ricotta and spinich ravioli with butter and sage. I’d never tried this dish before. I tried a couple bites and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, it is unlike any type of ravioli I ever had – the triangular pieces were large and flimsy, more like pasta crepes. Also, the filling was not overwhelming, which is the usual reason why I steer away from ravioli dishes. Too much ricotta often makes ravioli too creamy and bland, but the spinach-to-ricotta ratio was good in Celeste’s version. Again, simple and delicious.
Celeste is a must-go for Italian food lovers. The dishes are affordable, uncomplicated, and good portion sizes. The homey, rustic design of the restaurant interior makes you feel as if you were dining in a Sicilian cottage. Well, I actually have no idea since I have never been to Italy but that’s how I imagine it to be… In any case, I highly recommend this restaurant to anybody looking to eat some good pasta. The only downside is that Celeste is cash-only, but it is definitely worth a trip to the ATM, I promise you.
Back in NYC for the summer! All moved in to the new apartment and exploring the plethora of places to eat in my new neighborhood.
This weekend I went to Serafina, a restaurant on 77th and Broadway attached to a hotel with the same name, known for its Northern Italian cuisine. It was a beautiful day, and we were able to get nice seating outside.
The menu was filled with yummy-sounding pastas beyond your typical penne a la vodka or fettucine alfredo. I wanted to try so many of them! There was a bow-tie pasta with shrimp and lemon, clam linguini, black truffle risotto…I ended up going with the “Crespelle di Sofia”, crepes filled with spinach and ricotta, with a tomato basil sauce on top.
I was a bit underwhelmed by this. The first bite was really good; I loved the texture of the crepe skin, a good change from the usual pasta skin in ravioli. The tomato sauce was very tangy, but was mellowed out by the creamy and light spinach ricotta filling. About halfway through the entree, though, all I could taste was the sharp acidity of the tomatoes. The crepe skin became very soggy, leaving no real texture to the dish. I’m a big fan of texture in my food, which is why I liked my friend’s choice, the Rigatoni Alla Bolognese, a bit more than my own:
The rigatoni was cooked al-dente, which happens to be how I like my pasta but not how my friend likes hers. (Ironically, she enjoyedd my crepes more than I did.) The texture of the pasta made the dish more substantial and satisfying. Additionally, the bolognese sauce was really savory and delicious, with generous chunks of meat. Unlike in my entree, the tomato sauce was not overwhelming.
Our pasta dishes were around $17 each, more on the expensive side. I can say for certain that the Upper West Side has much better options for more reasonable prices. Perhaps the unexceptional dining experience was due to the fact that the restaurant is part of a big hotel, where food isn’t the top priority. I did enjoy the atmosphere and outdoor seating, though. If you’re on the UWS and in the mood for Italian, I would skip Serafina and go for a smaller and more authentic-feeling restaurant (like Celeste, one of my favorites which will be on an upcoming post!)
After hearing about and eyeing this place for some time, I finally tried out Jacob’s Pickles last Sunday. My sister, Lilly, and I decided to treat ourselves to brunch before church, and while the food did leave me quite sleepy for the Easter service, it certainly did not disappoint!
Lilly and I arrived at around 9:45am, just making it in before the mid-morning rush. Jacob’s Pickles is located on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 86th street, a comfort food haven by day and a bar by night. The interior had an old-fashioned, rustic feel to it, with an entire wall with shelves upon shelves of beer. It is definitely a casual place, suited for eating, drinking, and hanging out during any time of the day.
Both of us were absolutely ravenous that morning, so we ordered a substantial amount of food. First, we started with the pickled goods; after all, that was what the restaurant was known for. We ordered a plate of pickled eggs (curiosity got the best of us), and also the hot and sour cukes.
The eggs were okay, nothing out of the ordinary. Imagine dousing some hard boiled eggs in vinegar. That’s actually how I usually eat my hard boiled eggs, though, so I did enjoy these but it was nothing new. The cukes (short for cucumbers, I just realized) were face-contortingly sour yet somehow really good. When I took a first bite and reported to Lilly, “Mm I like these!” she raised an eyebrow and said, “Yeah it doesn’t look like it based on your facial expression.” Upon trying it herself though, she had the same reaction…in conclusion we decided that it is impossible to eat a pickle without looking like you are in pain, no matter how much you like it. Anyway, while I enjoyed these, they weren’t too different from a typical dill pickle and could be a bit spicier. We found that they were best for pairing with the main dish:
Both Lilly and I ordered the biscuits with sausage gravy and eggs. This was amazing. Just thinking back on it makes my mouth water. The biscuit was warm and slightly sweet, reminiscent of corn bread. It was soft towards the center with crispy edges, managing to soak in the egg yolk and flavorful gravy while keeping its bread-y texture. The sausage gravy was literally perfect. Eating this dish with a bite of hot and sour cuke magically adds a whole new dimension. Full disclosure: I had to stop myself from licking the plate after I was done.
Yeah, definitely not a winner in the aesthetics department. But oh man, this was so delicious. Lilly and I polished off everything. Price-wise it is not bad at all. For the appetizers and two entrees, our total came out to around $30, and our hunger was more than satisfied. Definitely come for the biscuits and gravy, if nothing else. Skip the pickled eggs. I highly recommend this place, and anticipate coming back in the near future, perhaps in the evening to check out the bar atmosphere. Just be prepared for the impending food coma.
Winter Restaurant Week is something I look forward to every year – it’s the perfect opportunity to rally up with some friends from school to get dressed up, go downtown, and enjoy an upscale meal for a semi college-friendly price. I definitely enjoy a change from the usual microwaveable meal and 3-minute omelette every once in a while, so when the website came out with this year’s list I was eager to jump on reservations.
Last night, three of my friends and I made our way downtown to Petrossian, a French-Russian restaurant known for its seafood and caviar. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful! It is located by Columbus Circle, with its entrance right at the corner. The baroque-style architecture of the building is exquisite, with intricate carvings on a white-stone facade.
The inside of Petrossian was just as lavish. Painted mirrors and ornate curtained windows lined the dining room. The entryway showcased its prized fish, the sturgeon, whose roe got the restaurant its fame. Many of the more popular items on the menu have caviar as a special ingredient, and even features a caviar martini!
For those of you unfamiliar with Restaurant Week, it is an event that takes place twice a year during which participating restaurants offer a prix fix menu for lunch and/or dinner. Usually these restaurants are upscale, so the meals are a very good deal. We were each able to order an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
For the appetizer, one of the options was the caviar. It did have a supplemental cost to it, but I felt like I just couldn’t leave without trying it, so a friend and I shared it and a smoked salmon appetizer among the two of us.
And I am so glad we did! I hadn’t ever tried “good”caviar before, but I absolutely loved the delicate and savory flavor of the sturgeon roe. It was served with a blini (a small Russian pancake) and creme fraiche. I learned that you only need a little bit of the caviar to go with the blini in order to taste the saltiness, which was mellowed out nicely with a dollop of the creme. The smoked salmon was also very tasty. I am a fan of smoked salmon and eat it quite often; this didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me, but I enjoyed it.
For my main course, I ordered the olive oil chicken with vegetable truffle medley, sweet pea puree, and foie gras sauce. I rarely order chicken whenever I go to fancier restaurants because I feel that it is such a common meat…like it seems hard to make chicken anything special, if you know what I mean. But truffle and foie gras are two things that I love, so I decided to go for it.
Isn’t the plating beautiful? A work of art, really. And it tasted absolutely superb. I can say that my skepticism of ordering chicken at restaurant has been defeated with this dish. The meat was incredibly tender, juicy, and easy to cut through – no toughness or rubberiness at all. There was the perfect amount of crisp in the skin. The chicken itself didn’t have much of a taste to it, which was actually good because it allowed the olive oil flavor to shine through. The pea puree was smooth with just a hint of sweetness. When I mixed it with the foie gras sauce along with a bite of chicken…UGH so good. The truffle in the vegetables definitely tied the whole dish together. I’m a huge fan of truffle for its ability to add depth and earthiness to any flavor. Absolutely divine – I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish!
Last but of course not least, dessert. I ordered the pineapple cake with coconut ice cream. Normally I don’t go for fruity desserts but decided to branch out because 1) this seemed the most unique of the dessert choices and 2) coconut.
When the waiter brought us our final course, we were amused by the size of the coconut ice cream on the plate. Literally the diameter of a golfball, but I suppose that’s what we get when dining upscale. Don’t let the size fool you though, because the taste was anything but skimpy. Upon trying a tiny bite, I was hit with the super coconutty with strong vanilla flavor. The texture was the most interesting part. It felt like a hybrid of ice cream and sorbet, making it rich and creamy yet also light at the same time. The pineapple cake was a bit of a letdown. While pleasantly warm, it tasted like an average yellow cake. The pineapple compote on top served to add a tang to it, but was super sweet which is not a plus for me. The ice cream was definitely the star of the dessert!
We left the restaurant at quarter to eleven, clocking in a total of 2.5 hours for the whole meal. I think that the spacing of the courses allowed us to savor each one more fully and look forward to the next one (and also gave us time to digest…and eat more!). It was great to slow down and have a conversation-filled dining experience. Being a student whose meals are typically simple and rushed, I’ve learned not to take this for granted. Overall, I had a lovely time at Petrossian and highly recommend it as a choice for restaurant week. I can see myself returning in the future; I admit I am somewhat intrigued by the idea of that caviar martini…
As if casinos, strippers and night clubs weren’t enough, Las Vegas bring the word “indulgence” to a whole new level within its top-of-the-line gourmet buffets.
There is just something so heavenly about eating as much as you can of gourmet food that is so tasty that it tingles your tongue with delight every single bite. When you are not busy dancing the night away at the night clubs or enjoying strawberry daiquiris in the pool at day clubs, you could relish in the many amazing buffets that Vegas offers at each of its signature hotels.
The Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan is one of my favorite buffets in the Strip. Frequently rated one of the top buffets in not only Las Vegas, but in the nation, Wicked Spoon does not disappoint! It has selections from cuisines around the world, a salad bar that would give any supermarket deli an inferiority complex, and dessert bar that could potentially lead to severe dental problems if fully indulged. You could tell that people truly believe in the wondrousness of the buffet through the long lines that go from the entrance of the restaurant to well into the lobby or casinos (at some hotels). While the Wicked Spoon is not an inexpensive buffet (expect to spend $40 for dinner), you really get your money’s worth. Having both QUALITY and QUANTITY never felt so good!
Despite the absurd quantity of food, Wicked Spoon displays its food all so gorgeous. From the decadent dessert bar to the baskets of seafood, Wicked Spoon is as much of a visual experience as a culinary one.
To talk about every single item I tried at Wicked Spoon would probably take days (not only because of the sheer number of food items, but also my tendency to be extremely rambly when talking about food). However, here are some of the highlights and my favorites!
The Salad Bar: I generally try to start healthy at the start of the meal, so I head towards the salad bar. Adorned with meat, cheese, vegetables, ceviche, warm breads and , the salad bar is quite a site to see! My favorites would be the ceviche, cocktail shrimp, watermelon salad (sounds weird, but trust me, it is actually amazing and so fresh!). During dinner time, they bust out the macaroni bar, which everyone mac & cheese lover would die of happiness seeing. WIth dozens of different cheeses and toppings to customize your mac & cheese, you could literally eat bowls and bowls of creamy, hearty delicious macaroni noodles.
The middle section of Wicked Spoon is for all of the meat lovers out there! There is a wide selection, from steak to lamb to bone marrow. My favorite would have to be the bone marrow and the fried chicken. Usually a pricey appetizer, you could eat as much of it as your heart desires at a Vegas buffet. Bone marrow has a such amazingly rich and buttery texture – eaten with a slice of thick, toasty bread, it is absolute heaven to my taste buds! The fried chicken here is also spectacular. Usually, I’m not the biggest fried chicken fan, but it is so delicious here. Juicy, crispy and tender – what is not to love?
My favorites of the seafood section are the crab legs and the mussels. The crab legs are so fresh, and light tasting compared to the other parts of the meal. The mussels, on the other hand, are bathed in a broth of garlic, butter and tomatoes. I ate enough to probably cause the extinction of the mussel species.
In the Italian section, I loved the truffle cheese and mushroom polenta. One bite and its packed with creaminess and flavor. Truffle is one of my die-hard favorite ingredients and makes anything taste just so delicious.
Finally, at the dessert bar, there is an armada of different desserts, from cheesecakes to macarons to ice cream. There is a gelato bar with 18 different flavors – and I tried every single one of them. Out of the cakes, my favorite would have to be the white chocolate mouse cake. It’s so gorgeously plated, with the colors of sunset painted over a harder coat of sugar, and a soft, creamy inside.
Wicked Spoon is a “wicked” and indulgent culinary experience.
But it’s okay. Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?
Scratch that. By “dose” I mean a HEAPING PLATEFUL. When you go to Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, be sure to go hungry.
The restaurant on the Upper West Side, just a block away from Central Park, is known for its delicious soul food staples. When I went there for lunch with my lab, it was my actually my first time having this type of southern, comfort food. Having lived in the midwest and New York for all my life, my experience with “southern food” was limited to KFC and the candied yams at our school dining hall.
Miss Mamie’s, from the exterior, is a no-frills, simple-looking place. The inside was relatively small and reminded me of a diner, with its red and white checkered floor. It had a very casual atmosphere, good for laid-back gatherings and conversation. Our large group sat down at the one long table, and to our delight the waiter gave us complimentary cornbread and butter.
From the menu, you get to choose one entree along with two sides. I went with the smothered chicken as my entree, with collard greens and Hop ‘n John for my sides. I had no idea what Hop ‘n John was, but after looking it up on my phone I knew I had to try it. When my plate arrived, I gawked at the sheer volume of food in front of me. The entree was a good quarter of a chicken, fried and smothered with gravy. My “side” of Hop ‘n John filled up half the plate, along with a generous portion of collard greens.
I thought that the chicken was only okay; the meat was rather dry and bland. While the gravy added some flavor to it, there could definitely have been more (it’s the one thing they did skimp on). The collard greens were sprinkled with bacon and quite tasty. The leaves were soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender, and to my surprise, sweet. While at fist the sweetness was pleasant, I couldn’t get through more than half of the greens before the taste got a bit too cloyingly sweet. The hands-down favorite of the plate was my new discovery, the Hop ‘n John! It consisted of rice and black-eyed-peas, along with a blend of onions and bacon. It was savory and rich, both simple and complex, reminiscent of home-style cooking. I loved every bite, only left wondering where on earth the name Hop ‘n John came from.
The others’ plates were just as filled as my own. One of my labmates ordered the jerk chicken, macaroni and cheese, and french fries. Another ordered the BBQ chicken, macaroni, and Hop ‘n John. I was able to try some of the macaroni and cheese and both types of chicken. The mac and cheese was delicious (but really, who can mess up mac and cheese?). The BBQ chicken was more tender than my smothered chicken but a bit too sweet for me. (As you can probably tell, I am more of a savory gal.) My favorite of the chickens was actually the jerk chicken; it was both tender and well-seasoned with a kick of spiciness.
If you’re a fan of simple, filling, soul food for a good price, definitely stop by Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too when you’re in New York. The amount of food you get is more than worth the money, so make sure you’re hungry when you go! While I was not overly impressed with my entree, I sing praises to the Hop ‘n John and would get it again, perhaps along with some other soul food must-haves such as the catfish or candied yams. Oh, and if you do find out, please let me know why the Hop ‘n John is called the Hop ‘n John. Even Wikipedia is uncertain.
Is it sushi? Is it a burrito? It’s a sushirrito.
Downtown San Francisco eateries are known for their innovation and fusion of different cultures (representative of the cultural and racial diversity of the city demographic itself). Sushirrito is a prime example of how the merging of two different worlds and their cuisines can create something fresh, delicious and utterly addicting.
A “sushirrito” is basically a monster-sized sushi in the shape of a burrito stuffed with fresh sushi fish from yellowtail to salmon, all sorts of greens like seaweed or butter lettuce, and sauces like light wasabi mayo or sriracha. The entire assemble is wrapped in lightly vinegar-ed sushi rice and dried seaweed. Hence, the “burrito” part owes itself to the shape, while the “sushi” to the actual ingredients inside.
I worked at a tech start-up last semester where we would have brown bag lunches, and Sushirrito was very often the catering of choice. And no wonder – since the concept is so fresh and the food delicious and reasonably priced (at around $10 each sushi burrito).
My hands-down favorite is the Geisha’s Kiss, which is filled with Yellowfin Tuna, Tamago (grilled egg which is part of Japanese omelets), Piquillo Peppers, Yuzu Tobiko (a type of fish roe), Lotus Chips, Namasu Cucumber, Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Green Onions. The fish was hand-caught and so fresh, and the vegetables and sauces so flavorful. The sushirrito tasted like a sushi, but with more variety and more explosion of flavors – as the sheer size could allow for more colorful ingredients to be included. Every bite made me want more, and before I know it, I killed my sushirrito, leaving not a trace but the white paper wrapping.
Another great option to try is the Sumo Crunch, which includes crab, cabbage, cucumber, avocado, green onions, red tempura flakes, and sriracha aioli. A burrito derivative of the California Roll, lovers of that sushi would dig the Sumo Crunch. My favorite part of the Sumo Crunch would have to be the spicy sriracha aioli, which combines the spiciness of srirachi with the creamy and garlicky flavor of the aioli. The red tempura flakes, while they don’t really taste like much, make this sushirrito extremely aesthetically pleasing.
I would definitely recommend Sushirrito as a great lunch place and food stop in San Francisco! Be aware of the line during peak lunch hour, but otherwise, enjoy this creative fusion of Japanese and Latin American cuisine.