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Best of Park Ridge, NJ

While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst.  There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!

Best List / Must Eats

Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters.  However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees.  The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal.  So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie.  It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was.  I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.

Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks.  Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant.  The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:

  1. All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99!  It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
  2. The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness.  So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area.  I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too.  However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)

Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments.  The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani.  And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too.  I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more!  AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA!  (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)

Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew.  Who would??  However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough.  It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood.  Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew!  Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!

Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey

Sushi Village
700-90 Broadway
Westwood, NJ 07642

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY

Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Shimbashi Izakaya

This weekend was CP’s birthday and after much deliberation, I settled on a place I have been trying to get us to for some time – Shimbashi Izakaya.  The restaurant is in downtown Del Mar, tucked upstairs, in a nook of the shopping area by the shores.  Only reason why the restaurant came under my radar was because my fellow foodie co-worker had told me about it.

When we arrived on Saturday, the entire shopping area was packed, including Shimbashi.  However, we were seated immediately for our 8:15pm reservation.  The restaurant was simple and beautiful, though small so I would highly recommend having reservations especially during Saturdays.

As we settled down at our table, we flipped through the menu.  I knew going in, that I wanted to try their sushi (naturally), but also their Paitan Ramen.  Paitan broth generally is made from stock of boiled down pork (or chicken or both) bones, to give the “milky” and rich flavorful soup.  A good broth takes a lot of time and patience, with just the right amount of spices, and so hard to find in San Diego. When I saw that Shimbashi had a “Paitan” ramen, I just had to try!

First up – the sushi!  We ordered the Lobster Salmon Roll: Lobster, masago, and cucumber, topped with salmon, garlic oil, ponzu, sesame seeds, bonito flakes and red onions. Quite a mess of food, but my goodness!  It was utterly melt-in-your-mouth delicious!  I could not believe how one bite of this made me go: HOT DANG!

Fresh salmon, plus sweet lobster in my mouth was worth a squealing ovation.  Then the bonito flakes contributed the salt in the equation, while the red onions gave it a little spice kick and was rounded out by the ponzu’s citrus.  Great sushi roll!

CP ordered the Tempura Udon and take note that this bowl was quite small.  Their portions for noodles were quite small (you’ll see mine).  The udon was simply dressed with nori, scallions, and the cute little fish cakes.  What I did like was that they kept the tempura off on a separate plate so that the batter would not get soggy.  CP really like his udon and since I did not try it, we’ll just have to go with his word! I mean…it IS his birthday ;).

Here is my Paitan Ramen and boy was I excited when this came out!  Take a look at that white, milky broth!  However, here’s where my trepidations came: notice the lack of blobs of fatty oils that I would expect from a good paitan broth.  With hesitation, I took a sip of the broth and was relieved to find it was quite good.  Not to the level of the one (THE best one) CP and I had while in Hawaii, but still worthy of noting.

The broth was rich tasting and coated my mouth nicely, but the flavor did not overwhelm which I had hoped it would.  The ramen noodles itself was the usual egg-based noodles that were cooked al dente.  Accompanying the noodles were bean sprouts, bamboo, corn, boiled egg (not marinated), nori, chashu, and scallions.  The accompaniments were good yet, the non-marinated egg made me a little sad.  I love a good salted/tea egg.

We also had ordered some Chicken Karaage, and the reason why I don’t have a picture of it…it was terrible.  Don’t bother yourself with this item.  The chicken pieces were huge (by appetizer standards), the breading was flimsy and oily, and that whole dish was a hot mess.

Another issue I had with Shimbashi Izakaya was that their servers were not very good at working the floor.  We were left completely unattended for a solid amount of time after the food was delivered by one server, and our waitress came to check to see if we were ok at that point.  Well, of course we were.  We just got all of our food with no issues, so naturally we were ok.  After that point, our waitress (or any of the servers) failed to notice we had empty plates and empty drink cups.   Also, CP and I had wanted to order more food, but it took the waitress too long to bring a menu, and then again too long to come and ask what we’d like, that we just decided to go since we had a movie to catch.

Other than that chicken mishap and sub-par service, CP and I had a lovely dinner.  The sushi is definitely great and a must have when going to Shimbashi Izakaya.  I would come back next time just for the sushi and also just over order because apparently that’s the only way one can ensure they get food.

Shimbashi Izakaya
1555 Camino Del Mar, Suite 201
Del Mar, CA 92014


Last Days in Paradise

Day 5

Today, we started our morning with a quick fruit breakfast before heading off to the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  Other than the Pearl Harbor Memorial, there are also retired WWII vessels that you can visit.  The Memorial is actually completely free and a ferry takes you to it approximately every 15 minutes.  The other military vessels do cost, but you can buy a package to save some money.  CP and I visited the USS Blowfin submarine and the USS Arizona.  I’ll let the pictures do the story telling.

After our memorial visit, but before the USS Arizona, we needed lunch and we were not going to settle for a crappy hamburger or hot dog.  Instead, we hoped in our car and drove a bit to get to Tanioka’s.  This market was recommended to me by my colleague, an ex-pat, for having the best poke and other great bento items.

Once we were there, the large number of choices made it really hard to for us to decide what to get.  In the end, we bought more than what we could really eat…but the bounty cost us about $35.

Shoyu Poke

Lomi Poke

Spicy Tuna with Sushi Rice

Fish and tofu cakes

Fried ahi with wasabi aoili

Best things we ate out of this massive pile of food?  The Lomi Poke and the Spicy Tuna with the sweet sushi rice.  The lomi poke had a subtle sweetness to it, and a hint of garlic or something else.  The soft cubes of tuna melted away and the seaweed gave away to a wonderful crunch.  Best poke I ever had and not sure how others will hold up to this one.

After that big meal, we had visited the USS Arizona as you saw above.  The winded down pretty quickly after that and we headed off to Paradise Cove for our luau.  Unfortunately…as we got closer to the east side of the island, the sun we had was going away and we were driving into showers, to rain, to heavy rain.  Obviously, the luau was cancelled and we had to reschedule it.

Since that plan went out the door, we decided to head to one of the beaches we saw on our drive the previous day.  We already had all our swimming gear in the car in case of anything and good thing we did!  So instead of a luau, we had a sunset swim on a secluded beach on the northwest side of Oahu.  It was a wonderful way to watch the day end (and to have your honey attempt to block a wave from getting you by doing a head dive as if to take a bullet for me.  Except this was water and it just ended up splashing us both completely).

For dinner that night, we ended up at Duke’s Waikiki to satisfy CP’s craving of surf and turf.  I wasn’t completely hungry, so we followed CP’s craving this time.  One thing that I didn’t know, was that the restaurant company that owns Jake’s Del Mar, owns Duke’s as well.  I was a little surprised by this and found it funny we ended up at a place that had a little bit of San Diego too.

CP’s surf and turf – sirloin and lobster tail, with mashed potatoes and green beans.  He lapped up his meal with a smile on his face…guessing he really like it huh? J

My lomi lomi chicken with rice pilaf was not amazing, but not terrible.  It was just kind of boring and I did not particularly like it.  However, not to fear! Dessert comes and saves my night!

The Hula Pie!  It is macadamia nut ice cream, sitting on a chocolate cookie crumb shell, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate fudge and more macadamia nuts and whipped cream.  Man…it was a cold, creamy party in my mouth.  Even CP joined in the dessert (he just steered away from the chocolate, which was fine by me)!

Day 6

Our last full day in Hawaii, we headed straight to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling!  Unfortunately, we did not bring nor buy an underwater camera, but the experience was surreal.  Since we were there early in the morning (granted…it was chill waters for Hawaii given the storms and cloudy start to the day), the fishes were all out and feeding.  The waves were really mild, so it made for a great snorkeling experience.  We saw many of the species of fishes that we saw also at the aquarium, so both CP and I were super excited about that.

As the day progressed, more sun came out, but the waves started getting a little “rougher” for the bay.  It was harder to find the fishes at that point as they most likely took refuge in their coral homes. At that point, CP and I decided that after 4 hours of snorkeling, we decided to call it a day (for snorkeling).

Since we both worked up an appetite, it was time to get another food icon of the island:

YES! Malasadas! And not just any malasadas, but the famed Leonard’s Bakery malasadas!  We bought a box of 6 with the cinnamon coating, and 1 haupia filled sugar coated malasada.  I was giddy with excitement and joy as I tasted the warm, fluffy, sugary pastry.  I felt my eyes roll behind my head as the wonder that is a fresh malasada can do for me.  CP was looking curiously at the box and my reactions to eating it, and finally was convinced enough to try one.  He was hooked, no questions about it.

After having our fill of malasadas, we went back to clean up and headed off to our luau!

Paradise Cove

Upon entering the cove, you receive a shell or flower lei (depending which package you bought), plus a mai tai or a non-alcoholic beverage.  All around the cove, there were free activities that were happening for the guests such as spear throwing and weaving a head band made from palm leaves.  Since we bought the basic package, I did not have any flowers on me, I immediately went to make myself a headband and bracelet made from the same flowers.

After properly decking myself out, there were several pre-luau shows that we watched including: the flower drop (a guy climbs up a palm tree and lets out a sack of flowers…and he climbed that tree super fast) and demonstration of how fishermen casts out the nets from the shore to reel in dinner.

Then came the revealing of the pig ceremony and a traditional hula dance:

Finally, it was dinner time!  The offerings: kulau pig, baked fish, fried chicken, salad, pasta salad, bread rolls (butter and taro), rice, and poi.  Desserts included: coconut jello, vanilla and chocolate cakes, and pineapple.

The food? It was a buffet, what did you expect? I got exactly what I expected: fair to bad food.  The pig was good, and that was about it on the savory end. The coconut jello was the best dessert since it’s a lot like what I eat at home.

After we all had our fill, the show began!

That was both CP’s and my first luau and we both had a great time actually.  True, it is completely and utterly a tourist attraction, but it was something that had to be done.  Would I do it again?….nah, once is more than enough!

Day 7 – Last day :(…

Sigh…like all good things, it must come to an end.  I was sad waking up that morning, knowing that it was time to go home.  Prior to going, I had to pick up some cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company to bring home.

I picked up the mix tin box with 15 flavors and a total of 32 cookies.  The flavors include: Butter Macadamia, Pineapple Macadamia, Mango Macadamia, Lilikoi Mango, Kona Coffee, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Macadamia, White Chocolate Kona Coffee, Dark Chocolate Kona Coffee, Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Lilikoi, Coconut, Dark Chocolate Coconut and White Chocolate Coconut. My favorite?  The Dark Chocolate Coconut!

Also, we decided to make one last stop to Puka Dog for a to-go lunch.  Just because I wanted to bring something else to eat on our plane ride, just in case that the meal served was not good.

That was our week long adventure in Hawaii.  It was everything I thought it would be and at the same time, the island gave me surprises that I did not expect.  I can see myself definitely visiting the islands again!

Pearl Harbor Historical Sites

Taniokas Seafoods and Catering

94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797

Duke’s Waikiki
On the Sand at the Outrigger Waikiki, Oahu
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116
Honolulu, HI  96815

Hanauma Bay

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Paradise Cove Luau
92-1089 Alii Nui Drive
Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

Honolulu Cookie Company

Multiple locations and online ordering available


Remembering Paradise

CP and I were in Hawaii for almost a week and we both are missing it desperately.  It was the hardest thing for both of us to do: come back to our day jobs.  However, as I browse through the pictures that I had taken (all 600+), I fondly reminiscence the places we visited and the food we ate.  Since there’s so much to talk about and show, I’ll just start on Day 1:

We had a morning flight and by the time we landed in Honolulu, it was the afternoon and a storm had just rolled through.  By the time we checked into the hotel and walked to the beach right outside (it was beach front resort). Well, since both CP and I were starving from the mini lunch we had for our in-flight meal, we decided to just get a snack at the resort:

A nice bowl of yakisoba on the beach.  The yakisoba was not bad nor stellar, but it was at the beach.  Can’t complain! 🙂  After we had our snack of noodles, we took a dip into the sea.  I had imagined the water being a LOT warmer than it really was.  However, given that the San Diego coastline’s water temperature is approximately 60 degrees on average, the water there in comparison was warm.  It was a lot of fun and CP had the best time getting me into the water with him.

When we saw this in the distance:

We decided it was time to go in and get ready for dinner.  However, by the time we had cleaned up, we saw our first sunset of the vacation from our room’s balcony:

Great start!

For dinner, what else would we have other than…SUSHI!!!  Naturally, I did my research online while CP was cleaning up and found this place a little further in-land from the coast (not by much).  However, given it was a new city with new roads…we had some troubles navigating to it.  Like seriously Hawaii…can your road signs be possibly any harder to see at nights?  Long story short…in our attempt to get there, we almost had gone onto the freeway and also went the wrong direction on a one-way street.  Yea…it was a really exciting trip to dinner.

We made it to Imanas Sushi/Izakaya.  The restaurant’s small and warm, with a large communal table snaking down the middle of the curved dining room.  Once seated, it did not take us long to figure out what we wanted for dinner:

Rice ball in broth with nori

Chicken Katsu Skewers

Hamachi (Yellowtail) Nigiri

Salmon and Tuna Nigiri

Spider roll (soft-shell crab)

The rice ball in broth was only ok, mostly due to the fact that the rice ball was not crispy enough.  It should be pan-fried til a nice crispy shell forms, to keep the rice from getting too soggy.  Alas…this was not the case sadly.

The sushi was fresh and amazing.  I could’ve eaten just this all night, but I was so full from everything already, that we could barely finish the last bites (which was the roll).  The spider roll was only ok.  However, given that I am me, I needed something sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth. Thus, we headed to Bubbies Ice Cream & Desserts just down the road for a cold, sweet dessert:

Coconut-Macadamia Nut Fudge

My ice cream scoop was soooooo creamy and fresh!  I couldn’t believe that it was that creamy and it was not gelato.  They also had other desserts in their dessert case that looks like are made from their awesome ice cream flavors.

So that was our first day in Hawaii!

Imanas Tei Restaurant
2626 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826

Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
1010 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826


Returning to NYC

My first time in New York was a complete culture shock and I just didn’t have enough time to do everything a tourist does in the city, PLUS touring all the eateries.  However, my second trip to the city was just one of two things to do: go to work and eat.  Guess what I liked doing more?

I must say though, one down side for a foodie in such a huge city with so many options for meals and snacks, is the hard question: what should I eat?!

So again…I will let my pictures do all the talking :):

Momofuku: má pêche
15 west 56th street
new york, ny 10019

summer rolls – pork/ shrimp/ tofu, lettuce, daikon, peanut

broccoli with red miso and sesame

noodles with pork belly and fried pig skin

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Blue Crab Crostini with jalapeno and tomato

Pappardelle with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint

Roasted Sea Scallops with sicilian cauliflower and citrus

Gelato: Chocolate, Cardamom, and Buttermilk

Soto
357 6th Ave
New York, NY 10079

Tuna Tartare

Salmon and Tuna Nigiri

Uni and Unagi Nigiri

Scallop with Shiso Leaf Roll

Rice To Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Inside the rice pudding bar!

Tiramisu Rice Pudding

luent in French w. Toasted Coconut & Graham Cracker bits

Morimoto
88 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Toro Tartare with osetra caviar, sour cream, wasabi, dashi-soy

kakuni (ten hour braised pork) with congee cooked with soy-scallion jus made from the braising liquids

Grom
International locations and limited locations within US

Pistachio Gelato

Wafels & Dinges Truck (and Mini too)
Various locations in Manhattan (dependent on day and time)

Leige Wafel with Nutella

Tasty Dumpling Inc
54 Mulberry St # E
New York, NY 10013

Dumplings: Pork & Chives; Pork & Cabbage

It was a whirl wind of a week of training and food!  My favorites this time?…

  • Locanda Verde – this restaurant really surprised me by the quality of food and the simple, yet dazzling flavors.  This restaurant will be a must visit here on out whenever I find myself in the City!
  • Rice to Riches – I now understand all the rave about this place…it’s freaking delicious (and I used to make rice pudding by the quarts).
  • Morimoto – the toro tartare of course…the congee that came with the braised pork was soaked with pork goodness, amazing.
  • Tasty Dumplings – um…duh, dumpling filling were great, but needed more to the ratio of wrapper.  Also, their dumpling wrapping was too thick in my opinion.

I will be back New York!  I love you and the whole city’s talent for creating some of the best morsels!


Chicago – Again and again

The past two weeks I have been on travel for training and have been getting as much as I could in every aspect: knowledge, networking, and most of all – FOOD.

Last week, I was back in the great city of Chicago and this time, I was actually in the city versus my first trip to the Second City where I was mostly there to sleep.  Granted, it helped that my fellow colleagues all wanted to go out each night to get the most we could together.

However, when I first arrived in the city on Sunday night I was on my own since I had yet to know who was in town.  I quickly checked in and headed straight out to take the metro to my first food destination: Blue 13.

I found this restaurant from researching online and had great ratings, along with fabulous raves from foodies like myself.  When I arrived, it was quaint little restaurant with a warm overall feel to it in its minimalist interior design.  As far as I could tell, there was only one server and one host who bus tables when it became busier through the night.

To begin the meal, I ordered a simple Mixed Green salad:

The salad of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and radish tossed with Dijon vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of pecorino.  A great, refreshing start to the meal.  There is little for me to say about the salad other than it was a great salad.  Plus, the fresh, hot bread that came out along with olive oil to dip in made a delish start to the meal.

For my entrée, as I was dining for one, I ordered the highly recommended “3 Birds” Lobster Pizza:

I know what you’re thinking already. Yes, I did know I was ordering a thin crust pizza in the city known for deep dish.  However, if you come here, I am going to echo what I had found during my online research – this is a must have dish.

The crust was charred perfectly and thin so that you would have to do the fold right down the middle to make sure everything stayed on.  This is a white pie with a roasted garlic puree base, caramelized onions, chunks of lobster, and manchego cheese to hold it all together with a sprinkling of herbs.  This pizza has the sweetness that reminds you of a cheesy, yummy, lobster bisque.  It all balances so well together that I couldn’t stop eating it.  I pushed myself beyond the point of bursting because it was that delicious.  However, I sadly left behind two slices that were stripped of their lobster pieces because my stomach said, “Please…no more!!”

Despite my comatose state at that moment, I still ordered a dessert because how can I call this meal completed until I did?!  So of the 3 dessert choices, this was the one that perked my interest: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Waffle.

Understand that I had no more intention of stuffing myself, but when I saw “candied bacon” I knew I had to try it.  What came out was a waffle, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with candied bacon and hazelnut, and paired with butter pecan ice cream.

First off – the candied bacon was the best part of the dessert.  You’re wondering what did it taste like right?  Just imagine breakfast, where you have a side of bacon with your pancake/waffle, and the maple syrup drips over to the bacon.  It was sticky, sweet, crispy, and salty.  The waffle did not have chocolate chips and needed more peanut butter.  Overall, I would suggest you skip this dessert, try a different one, or just order yourself another lobster pizza.

This is the type of restaurant you go to with friends to just catch up, share some good food, and enjoy the evening.  The two servers were great and attentive, but when it got a little busier by the time I had finished my meal, the lack of staff was apparent.  Still, friendly service and great food is the equation for a satisfied customer who will return.

Blue 13
416 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654-5714

The following night, after our first day of training, a group of us went out to grab dinner at The Publican where if it oinks, it will end up cooked at this restaurant.  I loved the open space design which was to resemble a barn.  To add to that, their booth seating had little doors to encapsulate diners as if they were in a pig stall.  The rest of the restaurant was set up with communal tables where you could be sitting next to a complete stranger on one side and your friend on the other.

We went family style and ordered various dishes off the menu to share.  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, with a few inserts by me, so enough grazing through the pictures!

Beets with Clementine segments and yogurt – this was my favorite side that we had ordered that night.  Sweet and tart, great palate cleanser.

Charcuterie plate: pork pie, trotter-foie gras terrine, head cheese, milano, morteau sausage, pickles & mustards

Turnips with rosemary

Cajun Shrimp with Grits – the grits had soaked up all the Cajun spices and shrimp juices.

Fried Smelt with mustard greens and raw onions

Country Ribs with mustard greens & grilled red onions

Sweetbread with sweet potatoes, black trumpets & green garlic-watercress pesto

Pork Belly with fresh chickpeas and stuffing – decadent and you feel so guilty for eating this fatty yet delicious piece of the pig. (*gurgling sound*)

Lamb Sausage with lentils, mint, meyer lemon & yogurt – I love lamb…I love sausage…I loved, LOVED this dish.  The mint and yogurt balanced out the gamey flavor of the sausage and the casing had a great snap to the bite.

Yams

Frites

Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with crème – heaven in one’s mouth.

Waffle with pear butter & plum marmalade – highly suggest that you do not waste your time with this one.  It was nothing special at all.

Dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream – a darker heaven in one’s mouth.  Then again I am the biggest fan of dark chocolate, so if you don’t like dark chocolate (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!) then this is definitely not for you.

The Publican also has a wide beer and wine selection, as well as servers who are willing to mix you up a great cocktail if you desire it.  The restaurant has a fun atmosphere especially for big groups.  Just make sure you don’t have any vegetarians in the group otherwise they will most likely go hungry.

The Publican
837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

On our last night in the city, our dining group only grew to an even larger number than the previous night.  This time around, upon my insistence on move to more ethnic flavors, we decided upon a restaurant that has several locations throughout the country, but still supposedly made great food.  That night…we our taste buds did the samba at SUSHISAMBA!

Once again, we ate family style and tried a little bit of everything.

Edamame organic soybean, sea salt, lime

Tiger shrimp tempura

Salmon sashimi seviche marinated in mizuna, aji amarillo, and orange

This dish was the sunshine of my night (wait…um…yea, I’ll still stand by my description)!  It was fresh, bright, sweet, spicy, turns your life around because it was just that amazing.  It would even put a smile to the worst Debby Downer that you know! (Unless he/she doesn’t like fish…but even then! This dish may convert him/her!)

Yellowtail sashimi seviche marinated in ginger, garlic, and soy

Tuna sashimi seviche marinated in coconut, lime, and serrano chilies

Of the 3 seviches we ordered that night, this was the most disappointing for me.  It didn’t have the vibrant flavors of the salmon nor yellowtail seviches. 😦  However, our fish adventures had just started because out came our platter of various sushi rolls:

(Going from left to right): Spicy Tuna; Bobo - brazil seared kobe beef, avocado, kaiware, shiso, red onion, chimichurri ponzu; Unagi tamago - freshwater eel, zuke tuna, cucumber, tempura flake, wasabi crema;Rainbow dragon - freshwater eel, red bell pepper, cucumber, mango, avocado

Charcoal roasted mussels garlic, white wine, Peruvian chili

Unfortunately, the mussels did not taste fresh (consistently) and so we asked for them to return it and traded for:

Spicy Popcorn Shrimp – sweet and spicy, fried tempura shrimp.

We also ordered the churrasco “supreme” (aka meatfest) with: rio grande grilled hanger steak, ribeye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguica.  This was served with sides of white rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa.  Additionally, various dipping sauces including malagueta pepper oil and chimichurri:

Meat-palooza!

The Miso-marinated Chilean sea bass roasted organic vegetables is one of those dishes that I still think about.  This is the perfect example of a perfectly cooked fish that is so smooth, so fresh, so buttery, so fracking delish that I gurgle as I giggle with giddy.

Whole crispy red snapper spicy red curry sauce, scallion, ginger, coconut rice – the rice was good! The fish staring at me…not so much.

Side of Peruvian corn – it’s like hominy; I wasn’t much of a fan.

And of course, we had to have desserts.  Note the plural form of that: desserts.  We really went all out for dessert and there were no regrets what-so-ever afterwards because they were all delicioso!

Coco duo: Brazilian dark and white chocolate custard, chocolate pearls, praline

Peruvian hot chocolate served with traditional churros

Rosca: housemade doughnuts, vanilla glaze, chocolate hazelnut sauce

Warm chocolate banana cake maple butter, banana chip, vanilla rum ice cream

Cassava carrot cake brown butter ice cream, cinnamon cream, rainbow carrot chip, orange reduction

Carmen Miranda:  seasonal fresh fruit, pop rocks, lemon sorvete…sorry, no pictures for this one :(.  I can describe to you what it was: a bowl of fresh berries that included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with a sprinkle of pink pop rocks (not enough apparently since the tasters didn’t feel the effects of it) and a scoop of lemon sorbet.

I don’t know which one I liked more, but I did know I had a taste of everything and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like!  Even though it is not a local restaurant, this place has a fun atmosphere and serves stellar food with great service.  SUSHISAMBA…I think you will have to be part of my favorite small, national chain!  One note though: of all the food we ate, it unanimous that the “sushi” part of the restaurant was something that fell short on with the exception of the “seviche.”

SUSHISAMBA
Several locations in the US

Thank you Chicago for showing me yet another good time! 🙂


If you had a black hole of a stomach…

What would you want for the ultimate buffet/sampling of your favorite foods?  Here would be my list of delicious dishes and one-off items I would want:

  • Almond Croissant – Tartine Bakery (San Francisco, CA), Payard (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Tofu Stew – Tofu House (San Diego, CA)
  • Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) and Began Bertha – Punjabi Tandoor (San Diego, CA)
  • Cannoli – Solunto Bakery (San Diego, CA)
  • Gelato (any flavor) – Papalecco (San Diego, CA)
  • Drunken Noodles and Spicy Fried Rice – Amarin Thai (Mira Mesa: San Diego, CA)
  • Green Curry – Antique Thai (San Diego, CA)
  • Cupcakes – Elizabethian Desserts (Encinitas, CA)
  • Falafel – Mama’s Lebanese Bakery (San Diego, CA) or Armenian Cafe (Carlsbad, CA)
  • Xi Long Bao – Shanghai House (San Francisco, CA)
  • Sushi (sashimi) – Sushi Ota (San Diego, CA)
  • Sushi rolls – Harney Sushi (San Diego, CA), Sushi Okoze (San Francisco, CA)
  • Red Beans n’ Rice – Bud’s Louisiana Cafe (San Diego, CA)
  • Ice cream – Mariposa Ice Cream (San Diego, CA), Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco, CA)
  • Sandwich (Hot) – Spicy Pickle, Sandwich Emporium, Earl of Sandwich (San Diego, CA), any shop in Paris
  • Tapas: Sautéed Meatballs al Jerez; Shrimp Croquetas; Brava Sautéed Potatoes; Fabada – Cafe Sevilla (San Diego, CA)
  • Thin Crust Pizza – Bongiornos New York Pizzeria, Cucina Urbana (San Diego, CA), Delfina Pizzeria (San Francisco, CA), John’s Pizzeria (NY, NY)
  • Spicy Eggplant with Ground Pork – Dumpling Inn (San Diego, CA)
  • Smoked Bologna – Earl’s Rib Place (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Smoked Turkey and Green Beans – County Line Barbecue (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Cheese Danish – Ingrid’s Kitchen (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Smoked Ham – Gates BBQ (North Kansas City, MO)
  • Lamb Shank – MoZen Bistro (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Chocolate Budino – Cucina Urbana (San Diego, CA)
  • Pumpkin Custard – Luv-It Frozen Custard (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Harvest Pie – Coco’s Bakery (national chain)
  • Macaron – Lauree (Paris, France), La Maison Du Chocolat (NY,NY and international)
  • Chicken and Lamb over Rice – 53rd & 6th Halal Cart (NY, NY)
  • Tuscan White Bean soup (seasonal) – B&B Ristorante (Venetian: Las Vegas, NV)
  • Chocolate Duo – Opera Patisserie (San Diego, CA)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie – Norstrom Cafe, Potbelly(multiple locations)
  • Egg Tart – Golden Gate Bakery (San Francisco, CA)
  • Saffron Spaghetti with Lobster; Seared Scallops – 1500 Ocean(San Diego, CA)
  • Gobo Salad – Wa Dining Okan(San Diego, CA)
  • Grilled Chicken Wings; Salmon Rice Ball with Broth – Yakitori Yakyudori (San Diego, CA)
  • Peanut Butter Cookie – Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego, CA)
  • Olive Oil Gelato – L’Arte del Gelato (NY,NY)
  • Belgium Waffles – Any fresh or packaged even in Germany
  • Strozzapreti Bolognese – La Terrazza (Vancouver, BC)
  • Crab cakes and Crab Soup – Jerry’s Place (Prince Fredrick, MD)

Man…I realized that I really like eating when writing this.

So readers – want to share what YOU like to eat and from where? 🙂