Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Izakayas, Shave Ice and Salmon Skin

Gazen Tofu
Gazen Izakaya Tofu: Sweet sesame miso sauce (Saikyo), plain w/ sea salt and tea leaves, black sesame seed (Kurogoma)

Gazen Izakaya 2840 Kapiolani Blvd - tofu specialist, a dark club/bar atmosphere -- Tofu sampler and the Daikon Salad.  The other items on the menu are hit or miss.  The fried squid (or octopus?) and standard izakaya small dishes were decent.

Tokkuri Tei - salmon skin salad is great - crispy salmon skin, crunchy fish roe, greens in a nutty miso dressing, and creamy tofu. Squid pancake hearty and interesting sea flavor.  Mid range sushi also very good.

Tokkuri Tei - Salmon Skin Salad
Salmon Skin Salad

Maguro Ya - sushi/sashimi.  The fish is good here. They specialize in salmon, but we have not been disappointed by anything we've ordered here.  I get the teishoku for variety.

KCC Farmer's Market - I like the stand with the kalua pork cooked in an Imu - you have to ask them b/c they don't always cook it Imu style.  The bbq'd abalone is fine, though not worth waiting in a long line.  The spicy ausage on a stick is also worthwhile.

Tanioka's - out of the way, but a good poke spot.  Tako, spicy marlin and Japan clam.

Ginza Bairin - a tonkatsu specialist with a booth in Shirokiya.  Be sure to ask him to cook one for you rather than grabbing a pre-made bento.  Simple dish with the fried pork and spicy curry.  I also like the rice specialist in Shirokiya which is near this booth.
Goma Tei - not destination worthy but an option in Ala Moana Center - tan tan ramen, the soup is a little salty but good if you like sesame flavor.
YuChun - mool naem myun specialist.  Not exceptional but it's nice to have cold noodles in the hot weather.

Ailana Shave Ice - much more natural flavored syrups, mild.  A good option near Ala Moana Mall.

Tenkaippen - Their Kotteri Ramen is pretty good, though Yotteko Ya paitan spicy is still my favorite.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


J&A Hosted a Diwali extravaganza with guest chefs specializing in Marathi cuisine from the region of Maharashtra.

French Macaroon Tower - Happy Diwali
French Macaroon Tower

Diwali Slideshow
- Fresh lime soda
- Chaat: samosa w/chickpeas, pani puri, pakora, aloo vada from Vik's
- Shankarpari
- Daal
- Cauliflower/potato bhaji
- Cabbage/pea bhaji
- Aloo sukhi bhaji, two ways
- Eggplant bhaji 
- Fish curry
- Raita w/cucumber and peanuts
- Pooris
- Ghee and spicy chutney 
- Rice
- Shrikhand with melon/mango salad
- Cardamom-pistachio kulfi
- Sparkling Tower of French Macaroons with chocolate and salted caramel filling

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall in New York

Highlights: Eleven Madison Park, Xian Famous Foods, Soba Nippon, Lucky Eight. 

Culture Espresso - chocolate chip cookie which was gooey at the beginning of October but suddenly become small and crispy by the end of the month. Rumor is that they changed bakers -- too bad!  A side note, there seems to be a fair number of Australian people running coffee shops in NY or perhaps I just happened upon a couple of them.

Taim - Great hummus, super light falafel, slightly smaller balls than what I'm used to nice flavor.   I prefer Azuri.                        
Joe's Shanghai   - Crab XLB a bit flatter taste than I remember and the skins seemed a bit loose (too big for the filling), but still very juicy.  We ordered the Shanghai flat noodles w/ pork -- they were greasy but the noodles had a nice spring to them, I'd get them again.

Just Sweets - I got the patbingsu and G got the bean something. The shave ice was really coarse, but the toppings were fine.                      

Artichoke - Sicilian slice, crunchy crust, nice tangy sauce.  This is a highly seasoned very oily slice crispy and almost fried on the bottom. Love the combination of the crunchy rich bottom and the fresh tomato flavor of their sauce.  The natural acidity of the tomatoes works well.          

Don's Bogam BBQ - Pork belly - just o.k. the PB was sliced too thick and into little pieces; Kalbi was good but again the pieces were too small; I liked the hamul soon dobu good balanced flavor, and the banchan were good though they were a little skimpy with them.  Overall good bbq.                               

Katz's Deli - Pastrami - too salty – disappointing should’ve gone to Torrisi instead.                

BCD Tofu House - Seafood Soon Dobu - overseasoned, but decent tofu.  Lots of clams in the stew, only one shrimp.   The same as the one in LA.              

Fatty Que @ Madison Park Tent - Beef Brisket Sandwich - pretty good brisket lots of fatty bits and nicely charred, though not as tender as I expected.                        

Shilla - Yue Kae Jang - really beefy broth and lots of meat, pretty good rendition - I'd get it again. KimChi was a little on the acidic side.                  

Momofuku Ssam Bar - Tripe and Special Pork Bun - tripe was good, a cold vinaigrette salad spiked with some chili peppers. The pork bun was a play on a blt, it was a pork belly patty crisped up on smokey mayo with pickled radishes on a pillowy white duck bun.  The bun was super soft but a bit too big for the fillings. Overall very good, this place has always impressed me.
New Green Bo  -Crab XLB, pretty good, the skins are thicker than Joe's Shanghai, but there is more filling and the same amount of soup so it balances out.  The scallion pancake is just o.k. even though everyone seemed to be ordering that and the fried pork dumplings.
Degustation - Had about eight items from the menu, just o.k. Food not particularly impressive, somewhat overseasoned and the textures of the octopus and squid were a bit tough.  Some items, such as the fish, were lukewarm temp. If they were intended to be so, they could’ve benefited from being hotter.  If not, there was an issue there.  Even L who travels to Spain frequently for work, thought that the meal at Degustation was middling at best.  I’m not sure if the place has gone downhill or I caught them on an off night.

Il Pesce - Eataly - Antipasti, excellent.  Monkfish Liver - huge piece well seasoned and seared sitting on top of celery root and cubes of apple in a sherry vinaigrette, topped w/ sweet little dabs of apple jam; King Crab Salad - huge portion super fresh, bitter greens, grapefruit, really nice topped off with large grains of sea salt.  

Bleeker Street Pizza - Not good. Crisp crust but dried out cheese and hardly any tomato sauce on my Nonna Slice.                          

Gahm Mi Ok - Sul Long Tang, nice and homey, rice at the bottom rather than on the side.  About the same as the one in Oakland.                             

Ma Peche - Lunch take out: Banh Mi Maison - very good pate and meats well balanced, good crunchy baguette. Squid salad was drenched in fish sauce, so salty and over marinated I could not eat it, not sure if it was because it sat in a container for 20 minutes but I would not get that again and am not in a rush to return to the place.  Peanut Butter cookie from Milk Bar not bad, a little sweet to my tastes but good texture and crumb.               

Wondee Siam 792 9th Ave - Thai dinner.  Nice dried pork salad, the rest was o.k. Out of the special menu, I liked the snapper and the crispy pork with chinese watercress.  Other dishes were a little too sweet for my tastes.                            

Popover Cafe    - Popeye Popover - popover w/ strawberry butter.  Then popover stuffed w/ Norwegian Salmon, creamed spinach fried eggs and hollandaise.  good holandaise, spinach way too thick and did not eat it.  Salmon fine.  I think I'd get the plain benedict next time.  Overall the food here is just o.k. and priced for the neighborhood rather than for the food.

Di Fara  - Arrived at opening, still waited forty mins for three slices. Prefer the square to the regular slice.
Aldea    - Had about half of the menu.  Each course got progressively worse, but overall the food was o.k., possibly overshadowed by our experience at EMP the night before, but still I have no desire to return.

General Greene - good coffee, mediocre eggs, grits, candied bacon (two huge pieces).  The people are nice and I guess that’s all you need to have a neighborhood restaurant.

The Meatball Shop - Really cheap for a sit down restaurant in NY, enjoyed the special of the day, buffalo chicken meatball in blue cheese sauce, good kick, tender meatballs nice flavor but perhaps more breadcrumb in the filling than necessary.  Chicken meatball w/mushroom sauce good sauce and the chicken was surprisingly flavorful.                      

Momofuku Noodle - Group fried chicken dinner.  Disappointing fried chicken, roasted rice cakes good nicely balanced sauce, all sides: cauliflower, potatoes, and something else were good, the Southern style chicken had an over fried exterior, dark brown, slightly bitter burnt taste and smell, though it was moist inside. Moo shoo pancakes and accompanying sauces fine.  The Korean style wings were fine, juicy crispy and spicy but not particularly special.  Stopped by Milk and had a taste of the black sesame soft serve, way too strong a flavor, no balance or subtlety.                         

Marea   - Nice lunch, some good dishes and some ok items.  Liked the lobster with burrata and passion fruit, and the grilled octopus (nice smokey flavor and tenderness), The uni spaghetti was just ok, the pasta was good but the sauce lacked punch, the branzino was very nice, a large juicy piece, the signature octopus fusili dish was just o.k. the fusili detracted a bit from the excellent octopus. Seafood risotto was nice but not particularly exciting.  We hear that Alto is better.               

Great NY Noodletown   - Excellent shrimp dumplings in soup, nice fresh shrimp flavor with wood ear mushroom and some little kick, seafood fried noodles good though I did not like the scallops in the seafood, they tasted like they had been injected with something artificial, roast duck was just o.k., greasy and lacking crispy skin, no suckling pig available, flowering chive with sea bass, good, nice herbacious chive with sea bass chunks, probably would get the flowering chive with squid next time.                     

Matsugen - Lunch of Soba noodles.  Three ways, one cold sesame in the coarsest grain, very good, Second cold uni mix with finest grain and a bit of cold jus - good though probably not worth the high price, nice pieces of uni.  Third hot soba in a duck broth, the coarsest grain, this wasn't a good showcase of the soba as the noodles couldn't stand up to the hot broth and became a bit too soft.  The prix fixe lunch is a good deal.

Jacques Torres  - Chocolate chip cookie.  This is basically chocolate wrapped in a bit of cookie.  The cookie from here was 10x better than the crispy overcooked one at Chelsea Market, someone needs to tell Jacques that he needs to do quality control at the market. 

Xian Famous FoodsLiang Pi is as good as I remember, chewy noodles with a spicy sauce, so good.  Lamb face is a specific flavor profile for those that enjoy fatty bits, this one had a lot of greens and then just a bit of the fatty lamb face.  I think could be better if the ratio of vegetables, face and spice was balanced out by less veg or  some noodles.  “A” loved it.  The meat in the lamb burger is has a fair amount of gristle.  I like lamb and lamb fat, but gristle isn’t my favorite. I wish they used more choice pieces of meat, though I like the seasoning.  Perhaps I’m getting spoiled from the cumin lamb at Mission Street Food.

Al di La - Tripe - excellent, cuttlefish w/ oxtail over polenta - creamy polenta but sauce was a little one note, though the textures were nice. Brussel sprouts still not my favorite veg, the preparation was ok, but nothing special; tagliatelle w/ ragu was just o.k. pasta was fine though sauce was really lacking, the other pasta was a little too chewy though the sauce was fine, whole fish was really good, liked the agrodolce sweet and sour flavors with the moist juicy fish, loved the crispy skin on the sliced duck.                         

Del Posto - Lobster fra diavolo - very good, roasted vegetables w/ truffle oil - nice, cotechino over lentils, just o.k. sort of spammish, beef tartare was excellent, Orechetti pasta - good porky sauce, Garganelle quills - also nice, both sauce and pasta excellent, Arctic Char - beautiful piece of fish perfectly cooked and presented, seafood stew - also good, but could've used some more spice, the seafood in it was excellent, wheat pasta with bonito flakes, weird dish. Desserts - tartufo of espresso - strong coffee flavor, some chocolatey dessert, their signature - great, goat cheese balls covered in something sweet and served w/ celery ice cream, some cake was just o.k.  This was a good showing, but the service was a little awkward at times.  I’d come again for lunch.                    

El Quinto Pino    - Uni Panini - excellent, more wasabi flavor than I was expecting, but still very satisfying. Cute place excellent service.   

Kun Jip  - Yue Kae Jang - o.k. Jjul Myun - not the best I've ever had, the noodles were a bit soft. Hae Mul Pajeon - soggy and greasy. Service very good and the place is clean and reasonably priced.  The people running are very friendly and aim to please.

Soba Nippon - Excellent soba, they own their own buckwheat farm in Canada and use it to make the soba, they have a lunch deal if you order before noon.  I tried the traditional cold soba.  Definitely worth returning, perhaps try one of the soba salads in the future.   

Kang Suh - Kalbi Tang a fine version.  The kimchi is pretty good the soup is what it should be. 
Porchetta - just o.k. the service at the spot on 6th is good, the guy at the Brooklyn Flea projects the sense that he is doing you a favor by selling you a sandwich. Attitude could be forgiven if the sandwich was better, unfortunately it’s not so you don’t get a good sandwich or service that would make me want to return.

Ayada - whole fish w/ mango more tart than sweet, raw shrimp thing, taro pudding, jungle curry not great.  Favorites were sour curry w/ the egg pancake, sausage, crispy pork w/ chinese broccoli, larb!!

Red Hook Lobster Pound - Great lobster roll, plenty of fresh lobster and a nicely toasted bun.  This is the way the roll should be made.             
Brooklyn Soda Co. – interesting homemade sodas.  I like the tart brightness of the cranberry spiced soda. I would definitely have more of their sodas if I see them at restaurants.
Pizza Moto – at the Brooklyn Flea. Mushroom slice, very good not crispy but well balanced.                        

Lucky Eight - Crab good and huge, pride of lucky eight stir fry nice, beef ho fun wet very good.  I’d like to spend more time exploring Sunset Park.         

Chikalicious - green tea shave ice, the ice is very finely shaven, but all the azuki and ice cream amounts are inconsistent from visit to visit.

Momofuku Milk - pork bun, good though I prefer the daily special BLT style pork bun I had at Ssam.  The pork belly is a bit too thickly sliced but I like the good layer of fat included in each bun.                      

6th Street Kitchen - liked the curried carrot salad, the ceasar and the truffled deviled eggs. The rest of the menu didn't live up to the descriptions.  Though I could see potential in the place.  If they lowered prices or increased portion size, I’d return.

Motorino - lunch deal $12 for a salad plus a whole pizza! Spicy sopressata. Nice blistered cornicione puffed up. Thin though sturdy enough to hold up. Nicechew, though on the thinner crispier side.

Recipe - another lunch deal at this tony place only $12 for two courses. Decent foie gras terrine, though it was a little chilly like it was taken straight out of the fridge.  It would've been better served slightly below room temp.

Absolute Bagels - sesame w/ lox smear. Good bagel, not bready - decent chew.  I wouldn’t go out of my way but good if you are eating around Columbia.

DonatellaDonatella pizza, Diavola pizza, uni spaghettini and salads.  Impressed with the pizza, very thin low collar Neapolitan style w/o the wet center. Crust is tasty and had a bit of char.  Straciatella very decadent and works well. Diavola is only for a real sopresatta lover chopped up into matchsticks so you get it on every bite. The crust is seasoned enough so the sausage takes the salt level over the top. Pepperoni lovers would definitely enjoy it though. The salads were good and they have a
very reasonable wine list.  Sfoglia for dessert- nice candied quince accents.

Motorino compared to Donatella - Moto is more NY Neapolitan - crispier and with a higher cornicione, the dough is tasty though not was well seasoned as Donatella's.  D's crust is very well seasoned maybe a bit too much so for the spicy sausage preparation.  Not as much of a cornicione, but chewy despite its thinness.  Reminded me most of a traditional Neapolitan pie without the wet center.  As I recall Numero 28 has the traditional Neapolitan style with the softer center, I actually prefer the NY Neapolitan, but I want to return to No. 28 next time in town.  I like all three of these places and would be happy to return.

Brooklyn Fare – after failing to get a reservation for dinner, I was curious to see the store.  I was close by so I walked over.  It’s just a typical gourmet grocery store. Nothing special in the prepared foods section.  The staff is nice and friendly however the Intelligentsia coffee served in the cafe is a little watered down, good thing they also sell the beans.

Mile End - Classic Poutine and Stumptown coffee.  Poutine as good as last time. Nice chicken gravy and soft gooey cheese curds.  The whole thing is a bit of a gut buster, perfect to eat right before a long flight.  Very conducive to sleeping for hours without having to eat airline food. 

Kee's - bought some chocolates to take back to SF.  I had to stop myself from eating all of them.  This one is my favorite out the chocolate shops I've tried in NY.