Thursday, July 16

mixing business and pleasure

i freely admit that i'm weird. 

i have a weird stance/posture about certain things that others take for granted.  for instance, i am not the most comfortable about mixing business matters and personal matters. i mean, i'm fine with the occasional happy hour, a co-worker's birthday, but it takes a special person/connection for me to discuss my personal life or invite them to a personal event.

usually i don't have to worry much about it and i'm more than capable of navigating a work happy hour. but every once in a while, the 2 spheres cross paths. like when my boss tells my group he has extra tickets to a client's son's concert and asks us to go.

what're you gonna do? say no to your boss? i don't think so.

the concert starts at 8 pm. which turns into dinner beforehand. where we invite our significant others and family members.

huh?

and then the jackass you work with suggests eating at Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse because it's right next to the concert venue. and your boss LOVES the idea. and so now you are roped into going to an overpriced kitschy steakhouse that will not be expensed which means you'll have to pay. and to top it all off, the jackass that suggested the restaurant tells everyone he can't go. jackass.

and now you have to invite Sandlot to the work event because your other co-worker, the one who you have a social connection with outside of work, has told your boss about him. and you start getting a small bout of anxiety akin to introducing your significant other to your parents for the first time but on a much smaller scale because you CARE what your boss and co-workers think about your relationship, but not THAT much.

of course, as i'm sure you know, everything worked out fine. 

in general, it was a good time. overpriced, but good. sometimes awkward, but good. 

as for Sammy's, it's an event to get tucked under your belt if you like meats, have a nostalgia for staple Jewish cuisine, and are a New Yorker. definitely not a romantic dinner option. and lots of birthdays, engagements, bachelor/bachelorette parties. so get ready for some drunk screaming and yelling. drinks are ridiculously pricey so get ready to just give in and get wasted, because if you're already spending that much, why not?

you start with a bowl of bread, pickles, tomatoes, and roasted green peppers. basically, a pickled assortment. which is delicious. my boss wanted full sour pickles, which Sammy's gladly provided.







we ordered a round of appetizers to share, including the Chopped Liver (Sammy's Style) and Romanian Karnatzlack, which appears to be garlicky sausages. the liver was to die for. so creamy, with that unctuous liver flavor that is so satisfying. and yes, there's a table show since it's mixed by hand table side. the karnatzlack was also very good, with a distinct garlic and ground meat flavor. there's quite a few in a single serving, so have more than 1 at your own risk. 

my boss also ordered his own serving of  Kishka, which according to Wikipedia is a "types of sausage or stuffed intestine with a filling made from a combination of meat and meal, often grain." yuuuuu, (insert sarcastic tone here).  i had a bite, and it was ok. definitely very dense and grainy/mealy, but very bland. the taste was more texture than taste.

for entrees, Sandlot ordered the Double Romanian Tenderloin, which is big, but not HUGE. or maybe that's just me being a typical american with ridiculous serving size expectations. it is big enough to share between 2 people, with no leftovers.  the steak was pretty good, and a novelty of sorts.



i ordered the Broiled Veal Chop, which was just meh. the veal chop was crispy on the outside, which resulted in a slightly dry inside. plus, the portion was really 60-70% giant bone vs. meat.  my boss had the Jewish Veal Chop, again because he was hankering for some good ol' Jewish specialty/home cooking. this turned out to be a GIANT serving of breaded and fried veal chop. if ordering, don't make his mistake. make sure to get some sauteed onions and schmaltz on top to give it some more flavor.

to complete the meal, we ordered a side of Latkes and Mashed Potatoes. The latkes was very good, particularly heaped with the accompanying applesauce. The mashed potatoes were, for lack of a better word, meh. pretty bland and requiring a lot of schmaltz and salt and pepper.

basically, go once to say you've done it and then go somewhere else.

Monday, June 8

dim sum is my jam. i have never ever never ever ever said no to eating dim sum.

so when BB's family offered to take us out to dim sum for lunch, i was delighted! at their suggestion, we went to The Grand at the New World Mall. i never even knew there was a restaurant located there, aside from the extensive food court in the basement!

luckily BB's cousin goes to The Grand frequently and gets the VIP treatment, so we didn't have to wait to be seated. the line looked moderate when we arrived around 12:30 p.m., but it blew up when we left about 45 mins-1 hour later.

overall, the food was good at The Grand, and everything was served fresh and hot. however, the ladies pushing the carts seem to hate doing their job and never want to stop at your table. when you do get their attention, they want to drop their item and leave ASAP. we had to stop more than 1 cart lady from leaving before we could ask for additional items from her cart.

now that i think about, it seems that none of their employees seem to want to do their jobs. BB's parents wanted to order a crispy noodle dish, so we flagged one of the waiters near us to order. she asked if we wanted to settle our check and i advised her that we wanted to order a dish instead. to which she responded that she couldn't do that.


ok, i can accept that. it's a very large banquet hall with a large and quick turnover for dim sum. perhaps her sole purpose is to quickly settle up checks for tables so new customers can be seated. so imagine my surprise when she made the biggest stinkface and exasperated sigh when we asked her to settle our check and gave her our credit card.

lastly, i was surprised with the lack of options being carted around. i'm not sure if it's because the hall is too big, but there were some main/usual dim sum characters that never made it to our table e.g. shrimp balls, shrimp crepes, turnip cake.

however, the service issues aside, the food wasn't bad, and there were some interesting options. not sure if i'll make it back, especially with that food court located right below it.

Thursday, May 7

a trendier Mission Chinese

i've been horribly remiss in updating this blog. and i don't really have a good excuse for it except to say i am extremely lazy.

i'd been to Mission Chinese when it was located at its former LES location on Rivington (i think that's where it was?) but hadn't been back since they moved. so when a date suggested going there, i was more than happy to give it another shot. i had vague memories of the food being good, if a little salty, and Bubby's lips being burned off her face (figuratively, not literally of course).

perhaps because it was a weekday, and relatively early (6:30ish), we had no problem getting a table although the place was packed and got more so as the night wore on. although there were pockets of couples out for dinner, it seemed like the place was more popular as a foursome or a large group. a smart move because that offers you the option to order more items from the menu.


i let my date do most of the ordering. as i found out through subsequent dates, he has a big hankering for asian fusion food.  he ordered the 2 main staples at Mission: (1) Kung Pao Pastrami (home fries, tianjin chili, celery and peanuts) ($14); and (2) Chongqing Chicken Wings (crispy beef tripe, explosive chili, xinjiang spices) ($13). the wings arrived first, and while yes, they are crispy and yes, the spice is that numbing szechuan spice which can be fun at times, i was reminded of my last visit to the restaurant: SALTY. which was further emphasized with the arrival of the pastrami dish. MORE SALT.  the pastrami had a great chew to it and the potatoes add a balancing starch, but both dishes uses some powdery spice substance that appears to make them super salty. no wonder i drank 4 jamesons before the last 2 dishes arrived.

we also had to wait an inordinate amount of time before we were served the complimentary scrambled eggs gyoza/fried dumplings. an innovative twist, Mission doesn't provide anything as traditional as a bread or crudite service. instead it offers starchy pan-fried goodness in the form of dumplings. 

what i did insist on was a vegetable dish. i'm a big proponent of ordering a balanced meal, which tends to get overlooked when you order the most eye-candy menu items. in order to appease me, we ended up with an order of Black Kale and Pea Greens (bone marrow broth and healthy grains) ($14). ultimately, this was the perfect complement to the rest of the spicy and salty dishes my date ordered. it has a very mild but substantive flavor (is that contradictory? well bully to you, because that's what it tasted like). although i didn't get an overwhelming bone marrow flavor, the broth was a soothing and gentle accompaniment to the greens. 

i can never resist a Salt Cod Fried Rice (chinese sausage, lettuce, egg) ($14), so i was really looking forward to this dish, but Mission's was a huge disappointment. the rice was extremely undercooked which made the whole dish pretty much inedible. furthermore, it didn't have the nice salt cod kick that makes the dish so unique. 

there are so many other dishes on the menu that i'd like to try, so i'm not completely writing Mission off, but i also wonder if it's worth it to go a third time and spend money at a restaurant that, if salty again, i wouldn't be surprised isn't as good as the hype.

fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice...

Monday, March 9

an italian feast at home

this weekend could be called a splurge weekend-at least when it came to food. and to end it all, V and i started Sunday with brunch at Cafe Luluc. i'd always heard great things about their brunch, especially their pancakes, and since V usually has a sweet tooth for breakfast, i figured it'd be a good suggestion.
lo and behold, the one day where V doesn't want to eat too much. turns out he'd had a fast food junket the day before and he wanted to try and eat healthier, a la yogurt and fruit for breakfast. 

however, undeterred, i forged ahead with our walk over to Cafe Luluc. arriving around 11:15 a.m., the wait was a reasonable 10-15 minutes. shortly before 11:30 a.m., we were seated at the counter and ready to order. 
a sucker for savory breakfasts, especially eggs benedict, it's no surprise i ordered the eggs benedict with smoked salmon ($10). it's served with french fries (hooray! i'm actually not a big fan of homefries-i always prefer french fries) and a small salad. overall, i wasn't that impressed with their dish. the eggs were overcooked and the salmon portion was meager. 
courtesy of blissfuleats.com
V on the other hand ordered the goat cheese and spinach quiche, which was a special for the day. the spinach was well seasoned and was perfectly paired with the creamy saltiness of the goat cheese. also served with french fries and a small salad. this was clearly the winner amongst our 2 dishes.
their service was impeccable and friendly, even though the restaurant was overwhelminingly full with diners. i also noticed that they have dinner specials Monday-Thursday and Sunday which were interesting, especially the drinks specials (all $5). definitely worth looking into.

you would think that after such a bountiful brunch, V and i would've relegated ourselves to a light dinner. but V, who clearly possesses the metabolism of a teenage boy, was already planning our dinner before we'd even left Cafe Luluc.
his interest had been piqued for Durso's Pasta & Ravioli Company after seeing it featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. and so a few hours later, we found ourselves at the quaint italian shop purchasing the featured osso bucco ravioli and accompanying osso bucco sauce. to add carb on top of carb, V purchased half a dozen garlic knots ("to soak up the sauce" he said). in an attempt to balance out our carb feast, i got a half pound of broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and some hot peppers.
in total, we spent about $50 for dinner for the both of us, which included all of the above and a box of lobster ravioli and spicy fra diavolo sauce. the osso bucco with the accompanying sauce was pretty epic. the sauce isn't a traditional red sauce, but instead more of a gravy which accents the taste of the ravioli perfectly. plus those garlic knots were heavenly with a strong garlic scent but not an overpowering garlic flavor. and it really was the perfect vehicle to sop up that amazing sauce.

Sunday, March 8

#idfwu

i've recently been seeing V, and the more time we spend with each other, the more our relationship is beginning to traverse the line between "casual" and "committed." but anyone who knows me knows i am not a person who jumps into relationships lightly. it takes me a long time to decide whether i am ready to fully commit to a person i.e. forego all others and risk the possibility that this relationship (and my time) will crash and burn like my past attempts.

the whole point of that spiel being that, yes, i go on dates with other people as well.

which is how i found myself at a dinner date with Awkward Guy at Dieci on Saturday night. ever since i found out about this place, i've been dying to go. about 1/3 of the menu items contain uni, one of my favorite food items.

upon arrival, the first thing you'll notice is how tiny the restaurant is. a long communal table sits on the right of the entrance adjacent to the half-open kitchen, and a few small individual tables sits on the left. late-reservers and those who don't specifically request it, will find themselves seated at the communal table, and it is a very tight squeeze. the girl sitting next to kept brushing my bare shoulders with her very voluminously curly hair every time she turned to face the companion sitting to her right or to address the waiter. uncomfortable.  the service is also very attentive, and slightly formal, which would be great except for how intrusive the changing of the silverware for each course can be in such a tight space.

but all is forgiven once your food arrives.

AG usually lets me order our appetizers, although i usually do defer to him to see if there's anything he specifically wants to eat (he is footing the bill after all). perhaps sensing how excited i was to eat at this restaurant, AG deferred to me completely. which is how we ended up with the Uni Scrambled Egg with sturgeon caviar ($18) and the Miso Seared Foie Gras (duck miso; simmered daikon) ($15). both of these dishes were heaven on earth. the egg was softly scrambled with a hint of dashi broth to keep it most.  paired with the richness of the caviar and the uni, the flavors were delicate and creamy. the foie gras was nicely seared, maintaining the rich soft center and counterbalanced with the well simmered daikon, which maintained it's firmness but was permeated with the light flavor of the simmering broth.

for entrees, i ordered the Fettucine (creamy sea urchin, sauce and calamari) ($24) and AG ordered the Japanese Red Snapper Chazuke (grilled rice ball and hoji tea soup) ($22). the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, with a little toothsome feel to hold onto the light and creamy uni sauce. i could've done without the calamari, but it was cooked well and remained tender so it didn't distract from the overall dish. the chazuke was also very good, the rice swimming inside the broth was a good melding of subtle flavors and the snapper was well cooked. when AG went to the bathroom, i kept sneaking bites of his dish.

although i was eyeing the Earl Grey Creme Brulee for dessert, i let AG pick and he went with the Molten Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Ice Cream. great combination and well executed, it will satisfy any sweet tooth.

the night was young and AG hoped to continue our date. which was slightly problematic for me. AG is a great guy, but i just don't think we click overall, including our sense of humor and our conversation flow. he's a great listener and remembers just about everything i tell him, but it actually overwhelms me when that happens vs. impresses me. he often talks about our future vacation trips and getaways together and when i'll meet his best friends and family. #overwhelmed.

so i plopped us down at Bar Veloce (the scene of a previous crime) to have the dreaded "talk". but how to do that? which method to employ so that i could let AG down gently, especially after he took me to one of the best meals i've had this year?

i decided to disclose that i was also seeing V, and that we had been seeing each other for the past few months-beginning with the time that AG decided to "drop" me per the sage advice of his sister. i figured, with the time, money, and investment that AG was putting into me, and the fact that he isn't seeing anyone else, he would've decided to cut his losses and move on.

of course that didn't exactly happen. instead, AG took it as a gauntlet being thrown and a healthy competition. ::shake my head::  but we'll see, he might be blustering about wanting to step up to the challenge.

Monday, February 23

Omma's Year

happy Chinese New Year! it's the year of the goat/ram. which happens to be the year my mom was born in.

i have to say, my lunar new year isn't getting off to the best start vs. my western calendar new year. hope it's not a sign of things to come...

since the new year fell on a Thursday this year, my parents decided to hold the family dinner on Saturday to accommodate theirs and our working/school schedules.


P.F. Market opened up in my hometown a few years ago, on a strip of the main street surrounded by car dealerships and Wendy's, Taco Bell, and Burger King. not a very promising opening. but over the years, i've heard very good things about the mildly upscale seafood restaurant. plus it's BYOB. 

the menu is clearly seafood-centric, with little to no other options. so diners with seafood allergies beware. 



we started with a Seafood Tower ($34) consisting of 3 little neck, 3 cherry stone, 3 east coast, 3 west coast, 3 shrimp, and colossal crabmeat. it was very difficult to be judicious in picking and choosing which pieces to eat in our family of 11. as is tradition and culture, the adults got first and multiple pick, with the kids, receiving it last, pouncing on the platter like hyenas at a feeding frenzy. 



we also ordered 2 versions of calamari.  the traditional Fried Calamari ($12) was nice and crisp and i actually preferred it over the special calamari that was offered that night, which was a twist on the traditional with an inclusion of honey and chili to the fried version. others also ordered bowls of Lobster Bisque ($8) and New England Clam Chowder ($5.50).  The lobster bisque was the clear winner that night, with a great creamy texture and light lobster accent.  unfortunately, the chowder that night was very salty, nearing on almost inedible.

for entrees, the Seafood Fra Diavolo (shrimp, scallops, calamari, PEI mussels, & lobster tail in spicy marinara over linguini) ($29) was a huge hit. and the portion was ginormous. it had the right bite of spice without being overpowering, and the sauce had a clear seafood flavor and was sufficient to properly coat the pasta so every bite was balanced with the dish's components.



as is expected, my mother ordered the P.F. Paella (fresh octopus, calamari, shrimp, scallops, PEI mussels, clams & chorizo, over rice) ($28). you know that 1 dish that you can never resist when you see it on the menu? that's paella for my mother. my dad ordered the Broiled Branzino, which is technically a special but appears to be on offer at all times.



unfortunately, the remainder of the entrees ordered were all from the specials menu.  there was a very light and refreshing lobster risotto, a squid ink pasta that was a tad salty, and my entree, an arctic char served in arrabbiata sauce. 


just about everybody took leftovers home (excluding my dad and BoyCousin#1). but, proving the resiliency of the young, WongSquared ordered dessert. and as typical of young taste buds, she ordered Chocolate Lava Cake ($8). knowing that people might want something sweet, but not that sweet, i ordered the Pistachio Gelato ($8), which was happily well received.