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Posts tagged “asian fusion

Ssam Bar (Momofuku)

As far as I’m concerned, NYC is pretty much my home away from home when it comes to woes of my stomach.  This city always offers us so much and even after a hard hit to the locals here the past week and still in a tough spot for many.

Despite all the mounting reasons why it would be better for a postponement of a department training, we continued.  To make the best I could for my time in the city, I still tried to give my business to the proprietors of the city.  This evening, a group of 8 hungry, hungry hippos (yes, it’s a MEGA version of the game) made its way down to East Village for Ssam Bar.

The last time I was at this Momofuku establishment was back in March, but it left a specific memory for myself – we need more people to eat!  Last time, it was only my friend KF and myself.  We did our fair share of sampling David Chang’s signature dishes, plus staff favorites.  This time, we had more than enough mouths to sample even more!

shanghai noodle – chanterelles, hearts of palm, trout roe

This was a cold, small dish of noodles that was dressed in what seemed like some sort of sesame sauce.  The roe added the little salt and the hearts of palm seem to freshen up my bite.  It was good, but not stellar.

crispy pig ear ssäm – yuzu kosho, umezuki, thai basil

Wow….the pig ear was fried super crispy and seasoned so well that I thought I was eating chips!  If you weren’t told you were eating pig ears, you could easily pass this for fried jerky.  Yums!

honeycrisp apple kimchi – maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula

This pretty much explains itself: kimchi-ed apples with bacon and arugula.  This is served with a maple yogurt that cuts the pickled apples.  The reason I ordered this dish for the table was because I remember this dish being the big surprise from my first visit.  It was unexpected in how much I liked it!

steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions

bbq bun – crispy pork belly, coleslaw, smoked mayo

lobster sandwich – sour cream crisps, iceberg lettuce

Yes…we had a LOT of the bun appetizers (actually we ordered all of them).  Everyone was floored at how good the steamed and bbq buns were.  Seems like the consensus at the table was that the bbq buns were the favorite of them all.  I personally had a gripe this time about the steam buns – the bread itself was too dry and just made me sad!  The buns used for the bbq version were nice and soft and fluffy.  Why?!?!  As for the lobster roll…it’s nothing special at all.  I would suggest skipping this one and go else where if the craving is lobster roll.

roasted quail – pineapple, spaghetti squash, vadouvan

I didn’t get to try the quail itself, but my colleagues seem to really like it.  One even said, “I wasn’t expecting anything and it is better than I thought it would be.”  I did try the spaghetti squash that was coated with what tasted like curry and it was good.

 

spicy pork sausage & rice cakes – chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

This was the dish that I would say, should be the signature entree of the restaurant.  It was just as good as the first time – spicy, tangy, savory, cripsy, chewy, meaty, crunchy.  There is no way I was going to split one order with 7 other people, so I insisted on ordering 2 of them!  Everyone was loving this dish as well and diving into them.

charred spanish octopus – pine nuts, celery, black olive

O.M.G…this dish was MY highlight of the evening.  During my first visit, KF and I saw people ordering the octopus and it looked soooo good.  That’s why this time, I was determined to get it!!  Gee willikers batman! That is a darn good plate of octopus!! I mean…it was cooked perfectly that this was one of two times I’ve ever had octopus in my life when it was NOT chewy (like rubber). One thing I did have an issue with this was that it was overly salted.  Other than that, give. me. MOAR!!!!

After two visits during different times of the year, I found Ssam Bar to be addicting and consistent (more or less….fix that dry bun issue!).  The staff is attentive but not overly bearing and even took the time to talk to one of our colleagues because she wanted to modify an overly strong drink.  Would I be back?  Heck. YES.

Ssam Bar | momofuku
207 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Del Mar’s Gourmet Food Truck Festival

The Del Mar Fairgrounds was the host of the first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival.  It was a gorgeous day out and perfect for gorging ourselves with amazing food.  Now as  I seat here after some “down” time, I am going through all my pictures and reminiscing about the eat-a-thon with my friend, LA.

We arrived at the fairgrounds with a tentative game plan: hit as many trucks as we could, and share everything we get.  Oh look!  This sign told us where our adventure would begin…

To kick off the eating, we started at Dogzilla:

To wet our appetites, we started with the Yakisoba Dog ($6) – a spicy hot link topped with stir-fried Yakisoba noodles with cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onions, Okonomi sauce, red ginger, finished off with Ao-Nori.  I was excited to try this because it was everything I love, in a bun!  And not just any bun, but a sweet Hawaiian bun.

The sausage gave the meal the spicy kick I prefer my meals to have.  With the lack of Sriracha and only ketchup, the sausage provided that spiciness that made my tongue happy!  The yakisoba was good, slightly sweet and salty, and the sweet bun helped wrapped everything for mobility.  I think this was one of the best starter for this food adventure!

Next…Great Balls on Tires:

Specializing in well…great balls!  Of meat :).  While waiting in line, we talked with two fellow foodies and had a great conversation with them!  As LA said, I make friends where ever I go and you know what?  Food always tastes better with great company! 🙂  Also, during our conversation, LA came up with a perfect phrase that even our new friends found to be quite amusing, and reflected myself perfectly – “food stalker”.  There needs some definition to go with this new phrase….here’s a shot: a food stalker is one who stares at others, known and unknown, solely to drool/obsess/investigate food that is not at one’s own plate.  Who will ask many questions to inquire about the food item being consumed and occasionally proceed to request for some.

Maybe that’s what a food stalker is?  If anyone has a better definition, send it to me!  For now, under this definition, I am a bona fide food stalker extraordinaire!

This bona fide food stalker and her accomplice went for an order of the Ballywood and Buffalo Balls (respectively and $6 per item).  The Ballywood was garam masala chicken balls, topped with coconut madras curry, crispy fired onions, and served with saffron basmati rice with tomato and cilantro chutneys.  The Buffalo Balls were buffalo style chicken ball, mac & cheese, blue cheese dressing, and served with celery and carrot.

The meatballs were amazingly juicy and tender – both of them!  The curry was not spicy (how I like mine), but rather on the sweet side.  However, it was flavor packed and I couldn’t help but lap it all up (my half) along with the somehow decently cooked basmati rice!  The buffalo sauce on the other hand was not spicy, and was sweet with a bit of vinegar tang.  Again, not my usual go-to flavor combo, but the meatball itself was so good, plus when I took a bite with the mac & cheese (with panko bread crumbs at top!!!), it made for a great bite!  Overall – this red, black, and white truck satisfied me and LA.

Next stop – the Tornado Potato:

We went for the “Tornado” with cajun seasoning.  As you can see, it’s a towering spiral of a whole potato on a stick!  LA and I had this at the County Fair this year, but we both wanted a fried potato item so we went with this place!  We both agreed that the potato should be sliced thinner to get that crispiness of a chip on the exterior, while remaining fluffy inside like a fry.  It was still tasty and we both love our potato treat!

Having had so many savory items, plus with the sun baring down on us for sometime now, we both needed a cool off and something sweet.  The answer to our prayers?

Longboard’s Ice Cream:

The recipe of this truck is simple: pick your ice cream flavor on a stick, then your chocolate coating choice (milk or dark) and finally your topping to coat the whole thing.

My choice: coconut ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with half graham cracker crumbs, and half rainbow sprinkles.  I loved the idea of how this worked and I loved the freshly dipped items, but my only issue was that ice cream bar on the stick was too icy.  It must be from keeping the ice cream frozen in order to dip them, so I can understand yet it did bother me a little.  However, it was still quite enjoyable!  Oh!  And since I forgot to take an individual pic of LA’s pop, she chose: pistachio ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate, and covered with rainbow sprinkles.  According to LA, the pistachio ice cream was only ok and didn’t have enough pistachio flavor to it.

After our pops, we decided to sit and rest for a bit, to let all the food mix in our stomachs and begin to really process it.  That was when the food coma started creeping in!  Oh man…I knew from there, it was only going to go downhill.  However, after sitting, then walking, and watching a race, we dove back into the crowds (which only grew even larger at that point).  I met up with a couple of friends and a colleague, watched what they ate and decided I had to make one more last haul!

Hence, LA and I made our way to Tapa Boy:


I ordered the Pork Longanisa Bowl with garlic fried rice (sinangag), an egg, and a side of papaya relish (atsara) with tomato and cucumber.  Man…when they say garlic rice…boy, oh, boy…did they really mean it!  The rice was packed with garlic and I loved it!  Their longanisa was sweet, which surprised me a little because I was expecting something spicy (are you noticing a trend here?…because I am).  The meat was super tender and yield to a plastic fork with ease, so it was still quite good. Though it didn’t blow my mind away.

To end a long day, though I didn’t have any…a friend bought herself a decked out waffle from Waffles de Liege:

This here is a liege waffle with chocolate drizzle, almonds, and topped with a giant scope of Fosselman’s English toffee nut ice cream.  I only had the ice cream and it was amazing!  My friend “Channy” dove into this with a huge smile on her face.  Judging from her expression, I think she liked it ;).

Well my friends, that was my first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival!  I can’t wait for the next one, but until then…I am going to start having to find these food trucks around town for lunch!  Bon appetit my fellow food stalkers!

For more information on the food trucks visited:
Dogzilla
Great Balls on Tires
Tornado Potato
Long Boards Ice Cream
Tapa Boy
Waffles de Liege

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


Northern Nevada Trip

So where was my next stop after my time in New York?…

RENO!!!!!!

Thank goodness we also had a stop in Tahoe as well during our visit to the Northern Nevada casino properties.  Being my first time in Northern Nevada, I was shocked at the decay of the city of Reno.  As we drove through the main road of the city, I could see how this was once the hustle and bustle of Northern Nevada.  Now, it is a sadder scene with areas of abandonment and memory of the old days.

However, granted I was traveling with others this time aka – there was no excuse to NOT eat with tons of people and way too much food.

I will just go down chronologically of the meals that we had shared and consumed:

Santa Fe Hotel

235 N Lake St
Reno, NV 89501

This was a Basque restaurant, serving traditional Basque cuisine.  I had never heard of Basque food before and the only time I had even heard of “Basque” was during my travel to Europe and was given a brief history during our drive into Spain from France.  So I was excited to see what this food was all about.

First, the dining room reminded me of an old bar or saloon.  There were rows of long tables that you would share with other parties when it was a full house.  However, that night, the place was already winding down due to the fact it was a late Sunday night. The meals were served family style with a choice of entrée for yourself.  The entrees differ each night and so…let the food precession begin!

Soup

Chorizo

Beans

Fries

Lamb Chops

As you can see, they pretty much covered the bases with a soup starter, meats, and starch.  The food was good overall, but it did not exactly blow my me out of the water.  Still…it was a good start to the trip.

The Cheese Board

247 California Avenue
Reno, Nevada 89509

The following day, after our morning of walking the floors, we met up with another team working on another property for lunch at The Cheese Board.  This place would be considered a casual French/American Bistro. They had sandwiches, salads, specials and of course – wine (which we did not have because we were all on ‘work hours’ and we were being good to stick to it).

Brie

This was so good! I don’t know how you cannot like warm, melting, good quality cheese.

Cheese Board

Because this was the namesake of the Bistro…and the selections were all quite yummy.

Steak Fajitas

Quiche

(It was one of the better quiches that I had ever tried)

Pasta Chicken Salad

Sante Fe Chicken Sandwich

Overall?…A wonderful lunch spot and reminds me that Reno is still alive!

Wild River Grille

17 S. Virginia St. #180
Reno, NV 89501

Since we had such a nice lunch that day, we hoped that this recommendation we received from a fellow colleague would not fail us.  Plus, it sat right by the river so it was the closest “seaside dining” we could muster for Northern Nevada.

Pear & Goat Cheese Crostini

Taste was there, but there was no texture.  It was just a pile of mush on mush…sad 😦

Artichoke & Brie Dip

(Just…no)

House Salad

Possibly the best thing I ate there that night.  Fresh greens dressed in a delicious vinaigrette (plus there was texture here at least!)

Now our entrees:

Meatloaf

Grilled Salmon

Lamb

Good lamb…even better polenta that was served under it.

Pork Chops

Rib Eye

Desserts (I laugh and make a face as I write/think about this):

River Mud

The way they described it on the menu sounds interesting, yet it came out exactly as I had imagined: a brownie with a Klondike bar sitting on top.  =\

Bread Pudding

Disgusting.  Let me describe to you why: imagine cubes of stall bread that was pressed together and re-baked with no liquids to make it remotely moist and then try to cover it with chocolate sauce.  This was the bread pudding.  UCK!!

Crème Brulee

Now for this one – it was scrambled eggs in a dish with caramelized sugar.  Yea…

Crumble

(Chuckling) Ok…on the menu it does not tell you what kinds of berries are used, just that this was a berry crumble.  So we asked the waitress and she tells us, “It’s a deep berry the chef uses.”

….Did you all catch that? “Deep berries.”  If you were like us, you’d be asking (like we actually did): “What (the hell) are ‘deep berries’?” Are they berries deep within a forest? Are they philosophical fruits?  What?!  Let’s just say the waitress could not talk herself out of this one.  (By the way, it ended up being strawberries…because they were out of deep berries apparently.)

My recommendations to you?…Skip the appetizers and desserts, go for the house salad and entrees only.

Golden Flower Vietnamese

205 West 5th Street
Reno, NV 89503

The place is pretty self explanatory of what we had for lunch.  However, in addition to our bowls of pho, we had orders of the Fresh Spring rolls and Fried Eggrolls

Vietnamese Eggrolls

Fresh Spring Rolls

Now…on to Tahoe!

Lone Eagle Grille

111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, NV 89451

For our first night in Tahoe, we joined with the group at their hotel for dinner.  Let’s just say we ordered more than what we all really needed.  Let the bingeing begin:

Calamari

Pork belly

Quail

French onion soup

Wedge salad

Lamb

NY Strip

Ribeye

Buffalo

Short ribs

Grilled Chicken

Dessert platter

I think the end of the meal was the favorite part of the meal for me that night.  Look at that spread of delicious, fatty, sugary goodness.  We had (going from left to right): Apple Trio; Mud Pie; Cheesecake; Crème Brulee; Chocolate Pear Nougat; Walnut Tart w/ Dolce Dulce Ice Cream.

My gawd…it was an overboard of sugar and we were all already at our breaking point but we were all very dedicated foodies (and a newly initiated one who was brought on to help us and was floored by the amount of food that we ate).  My favorite from the platter?  It would have to be the Walnut Tart with the ice cream.  By the way…this was the platter at the end:

We CRUSHED this platter!

Latin Soul

168 Hwy 50
Stateline, NV 89449

For our last lunch, we headed for some Mexican/Spanish food.  However…it was not that good sadly.

Mushroom & Cheese Empanadas

Tacos – Lamb & Carne

Tacos – Lamb & Al Pastor

The meat tasted fine for the tacos, but not astounding.  Worst part was that the tortillas were too thick.  You needed thinner tortillas to just hold the meats and let the (good) meat do all the talking.  This place’s tacos were just a mumble in the air.

Kalani’s

1001 Heavenly Village Way #26
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Our last night in Tahoe, for dinner, we opted for something amazing to make up for lunch, but yet, staying away from the steakhouses (we both needed seafood to balance out all the red meat).  Thus, it was Kalani’s that really saved the day.

Lobster Bisque

They were kind enough to split an order into two little cups for us.  Thick, flavorful, sweet, a tinge of spice…wonderful.

Pulehu Baby Back Pork Ribs

Sweet, salty, sticky, and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Though we both had enough meat the past few days, this was a great addition to our meal.

Pan Caramelized Miso-Yaki Sea Bass

O.M.G.  I cannot tell you how much I LOVE sea bass and its buttery texture.  This fish really does fall to the slightest force from your fork and melts in your mouth as if it was butter.  Amazing piece of fish and cooked with a crispy side to add a little texture.  Suberb!

Ahi tuna

The special of the night was an ahi tuna steak topped with sweet, fresh crab meat, served on top of kimchi and “veggie sticks” (aka julienne carrots, zucchini and squash).  This was good, but it was not a sea bass.

Coconut Creme Brulee

To round off the night, we finished with this delicious and wonderfully made creme brulee.  The coconut flavor was in your face, but pleasantly so.  By far…it was our best meal to date during this trip!

5th Street Bakery

953 W 5th St.
Reno, NV 89503

Last day in Northern Nevada…back at Reno to grab a quick bite before we headed to the airport.  We wanted something simple and quick.  This little café had a great spirit and a hard working woman who I can only assume was the owner.  She worked the counter, cash register, and waiting/bussing the tables.  Naturally, you see her just running around the little café at great speeds.

While sitting there, you could watch your food be made fresh and also watch them bake their own breads for the menu items.

Morning Cuban

This was toasted bread slice (freshly made in-house), roasted pork, swiss cheese, ham, eggs overeasy, green salsa.  With a little hot sauce, it is the cure for hangovers.

Mediterranean Salad

A mixed organic greens salad with tomato, kalamata olives, red onions, red bell peppers, feta cheese, avocado, procsiutto, house croutons.

We kept it simple and clean….well I did with my salad, can’t say the same for my colleague.

Well friends…that was my first time adventure in Reno and Tahoe.  Will I be back? If it’s for work, I won’t have much of a choice, but if for pleasure, then I will definitely be back to Tahoe.


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! 🙂


Continuation of Valentine’s Weekend

To continue and wrap up the last segment of the Valentine’s Day weekend with CP, on the morning of the end of our weekend in Vegas, I had planned for us to go to my new favorite restaurant in Vegas: MoZen Bistro.

The restaurant is tucked in the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel and getting there was a little bit a discovery.  However, since I have been to the restaurant it was not so hard to get to the second time around :).  CP on the other hand thought it was quite hilarious on: 1. how hard it was to get to the restaurant (unlike other restaurants in Vegas) and 2. the door men and women were wearing full coats and top hats. Anyways…on to the food!

It was Sunday early afternoon when we arrived at the restaurant at 11:30am, which is actually my standard lunch hour anyway, so it was perfect!  I had read about their brunch menu and wasn’t sure what to expect exactly:

“Chef Rawat has prepared internationally inspired dishes that include a variety of limitless passed items as well as your selection of a main course and a full dessert and cheese buffet to finish.”

So I was wondering what I would really get…turns out: it was a buffet style for appetizers, first course(s), main course is menu ordered, and buffet style again for dessert.  It was definitely unique and once I saw the layout, I was excited!  I wish I had taken a picture of the layout, but I can recall it by memory.

Starting from the left and moving to the right as it wraps around restaurant: a fresh sushi station with pre-cut rolls made in small batches (2-4 rolls at a time) and cut to order sashimi.  Next to that, was the salad and antipasto station with a wide selections of cold cuts, grilled vegetables, salads, and cheese.  Following that was a table of fresh fruit from melons, pineapples, mix of berries.  Last but not least, was a table spread of cold breakfast items such as pastries, cereals, yogurt, and such.  Finally, the dessert station was actually off to another side of the restaurant that wasn’t as apparent since it was tucked away in a corner.  However, you can never hide desserts from me!

With so many choices, I had to be really discerning.  For my first plate…

Almond Croissant, Spicy Tuna Roll, and Seaweed Salad.  I know, I know…Why did you get an almond croissant with sushi!? Ok, look…I LOVE almond croissants and I could NOT resist when I walked by.  I had to get one, but rest assure…I did not mix the 2 together while chewing :).

The tuna was so fresh, nice and spicy to the way I like it  and the sushi rice was perfect.  The salad was a nice crisp, refreshing palate cleanser for me and I moved on to the croissant.  My, my, my…so fabulous!  The pastry was flaky and crunched each time I bit into it.   Inside was the ever delicious almond paste to add to the decadence of this pastry.

I also got myself a plate of yellowtail and salmon sashimi.  My only complaint with the fish was that I could tell it was fresh, but it was TOO cold.  Sashimi should be chilled, but this was TOO cold and it made me a little sad because I really liked it and the temperature just ruined it for me.  Still…I enjoyed this little plate of fish goodness.

OH! By the way, part of the brunch experience of MoZen includes random little “additions” to the meal that comes as little taster dishes.  They were all different and I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

Caprese Salad Bite

Shrimp Cocktail with Thai Chili Cocktail Sauce

Har-Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

Ceviche

There was also steamed mussels and fresh oysters.  Insane right?! And this was just additional dishes that acted like bread and butter that would be passed at other restaurants.  MoZen really knows how to make their diners feel like they’re a million bucks without necessarily spending a million bucks!  Love, LOVE it!

I could not leave without trying a few more items:

This was a mini cinnamon bun lollipop with edible gold leaf!  In the background is a mini mason jar with plain yogurt and fresh berries.  I did not particularly like either of the two taste-wise, but I do like the presentation.

Moving onto CP and my main entrees:

Not a surprise right?  Especially if you know me or have been reading my rants – the Pan seared scallops with tapioca pudding, fried buttermilk chicken liver, bacon & poultry jus.  I was very hesitant on the chicken liver because I have had chicken liver in this rice dish my mom used to make for us during the winter, and I did not like it.  However, once again by battering and deep frying will always make everything taste 10x better!  I really loved the liver surprisingly.  The scallops were seasoned just right (unlike the over salted ones I had the following day at Mister A’s), but it was over cooked.  If only I could take the seasoning of these scallops, with the scallops from Mister A’s, I then would have the PERFECT scallop!  Still the dish was really enjoyable with the tapioca pudding, which made the dish fun to eat even more.

CP went with the following:

The Tekka Don – Marinated big eye tuna on a bed of warm Japanese rice with nori, served with miso soup.  Basically, the marinated tuna was like poke-style marinade, but sashimi sliced.  CP had a dried out, sore throat so this was perfect for him.  He lapped up both bowls and loved every bite of it.  I smiled as I watched him go at the food, reminding me of how his enthusiasm for food has grown so much in the last 3+ years we’ve known each other.

However, the one food group that I have still yet to fully bring CP over is…DESSERTS!

Coffee Creme Brulee

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Housemade Marshmellow with Berries

Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

I tried 4 of the multiple options which also included cheesecakes, mini cupcakes, etc.   My favorite: the INTENSE coffee infused creme brulee!

All in all, this restaurant has done me well again!  I’ve been here for dinner and now brunch and both times were amazing.  Thank you to the cooking and waiting staff for an great afternoon and delicious food!

MoZen Bistro
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89158