Wednesday, March 2

sheep dip

met up with Goldilocks for an impromptu dinner last night. she had initially suggested meeting in her neighborhood, Chinatown, but since i'm attempting to low-carb diet, i suggested Egg Shop in Little Italy instead.

i arrived early, and although the shop is small, there was plenty of space. the uber-chic waitress with hot pink hair was very friendly and inviting. it's definitely a trendy/hipster spot attempting to be casual. for instance, sit-where-you-like=casual. no jameson or average liquor choices behind the bar=hipster. you don't have jameson or dewars or any run-of-the-mill choices, but you have a Knob Creek maple bacon bourbon.

however, this snafu aside, the service and food was pretty great. looking for a reasonable alternative for whisky on the rocks, the waitress suggested Sheep Dip. it was a reasonable alternative,but only because my drink of choice wasn't available.

Goldilocks and i split the Poached Burrata ($14) as an appetizer. holy shit.  runny egg yolk encased in a ball of burrata to create the illusion of a poached egg, but SO much more delicious. the saltiness of the cheese was perfectly balanced by the tomato agrodolce, which are sweetly braised/stewed grape tomatoes.  the chickpeas could have been crispier, but were by no means mushy. and that truffle toast. i permitted myself to have a small piece of the crispy, garlicky bread and it took all my resolve not to gobble up the rest.

resolving to stay strong, i ordered the Prefab Sprouts ($15) which was a flavor packed bowl of healthy, low carb items. the best part was the pool of creamy tahini at the bottom of the bowl. there was ample sauce to coat and dip every item in the bowl.

Goldilocks, influenced by my healthy decision and thinking about her impending nuptials in May, opted for the Spandexxx ($15). unfortunately, the dish looked a little dry and the abundance of miso quinoa proved overwhelming for her. she struggled to eat the bowl and left a pretty sizeable amount of quinoa at the bottom of it. 

can't wait to go back when i'm not on a restricted diet. it is a little pricey for what you get but the flavor is spot on. note that alcohol can really rack up the bill and it seems that the best option is to order wine if you're looking to keep things under budget.

Thursday, February 25


i've always been a big fan of Japanese food.  it's probably one of my favorite cuisines. whether it's sushi, sashimi, or izakaya-style, i want to eat it all.

Bubby and i decided on a girls only dinner last night at Izakaya.  the choice of restaurant was perfect in light of my upcoming trip to Japan.  it's a small eatery, but when we arrived at 7 pm there was plenty of room and we were seated easily.  the place filled up an hour later, but was never packed.

the simple wooden fixtures and design fits perfectly with its simple and homey menu. and they have the most kawaii (adorable) hipster waiters! they make helpful food suggestions without being pushy and describe the ingredients of each dish when it is served. it's a great place for casual dinner with friends and almost a good date location except for its poor acoustics.  when the place began getting filled, the conversational noises become deafening and Bubby and i were pretty much shouting to each other at one point during the meal.

that aside, the food here is impeccable. it's tapas style eating so be prepared to share dishes.  we started with a special from their specials board: tofu and mushrooms ($11). the dish is a block of soft tofu with enoki mushrooms in a thick dashi gravy. it was the perfect gentle note to start the meal.  this was Bubby's and my favorite dish of the night. it was just... umami.

foods are served whenever they're ready, so halfway through our first dish, the grilled mackerel ($12), another special of the night, arrived. crispy and salty grilled skin containing tender flesh inside, Bubby and i pretty much ravaged the dish. it's served with a side of grated daikon and lemon wedge which help round out the savory salt.

next up was the addictive cabbage ($6), a simple raw cabbage dish dressed with salt and pepper and a very light dressing (perhaps of sesame oil and something else i can't place). you may want to dismiss this dish, but, aside from providing a nutritional balance to the meal, it's just damn good and just the kind of dish you want to munch on while drinking sake.

the scallop carpaccio ($12), another dish from the specials board, was the prettiest dish of the night. meaty slices of raw carpaccio were simply seasoned with just a little tang, and garnished with ikura.  the ikura were perfect little bursts of flavor to accompany the scallop.

before we could start on the scallop, the famous chicken nanban ($15) was delivered to the table. juicy pieces of boneless fried chicken dressed in a tangy sauce and generously topped with homemade tartar sauce. although the dish could have been crispier, the flavor was spot-on. a little sweet, a little tangy, with wedge of lemon for some nice acidity.

lastly, we were served a scallop, avocado, and pork roll ($12), a special of the night, and a last minute substitute for the miso grilled beef tongue we had initially wanted to order.  it was a recommendation of the adorably hipster waiter (he was japanese, with bleached blonde hair and thick-framed glasses. total hipster). the scallop and avocado are rolled up in the pork, breaded and fried. then sliced like a sushi roll. while the insides get a little mushy since it's heated avocado, the pork remains juicy and it creates an interesting flavor compilation.  this is probably the only dish that i wouldn't have ordered again.

Bubby and i slowly worked our way through the food, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over the simple yet complicated flavors of each dish.  although the noise level of the restaurant was sometimes overbearing, the food was always gentle and comforting. 

the food prices are very reasonable considering we were the perfect amount of full and the quality.  be aware that the sake prices are pretty steep, with glasses averaging $11-14 and bottles starting at $65. 

Tuesday, January 5

BRRRR it's finally winter

for Christmas, my sister gave me the Flexitarian diet book in an attempt to help me lose weight and facilitate my conversion to vegetarianism.  in the spirit of the new year, i decided to go for its 5-week diet menu with as much gusto as i can physically and monetarily accomplish.

which is how i found myself at Rego Park Center on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. worst mistake ever.  no surprise that the place was completely packed, as most people would think to go grocery shopping on Sunday, before the week starts. but when you team a Costco and an Aldi's in the same shopping complex, expect chaos to reign. Aldi's is on the 1st floor and Costco is on the basement level. if you make the unfortunate decision to park in the basement level and would like a shopping cart for your Aldi's shopping needs, be prepared to wait for an elevator.  there was actually a ridiculous line for the 1 working elevator. and of course, as happens all the time, there will always be assholes who attempt to cut the line, as if the rules of society and civilization don't apply to them. 

after surviving the hell and nightmare of that ordeal, we headed over to Trader Joe's in Forest Hills. because i like to make myself suffer. our entire trip was probably 35 minutes. 20 minutes to get there. 15 minutes inside the poorly laid out store, where the lines are outrageous, and because of the exorbitantly long lines, it's impossible to shop for anything in the aisles. i grabbed a free turkey chili sample and bolted out of there. it made me deeply appreciate the Trader Joe's on Atlantic near my apartment for the efficiency of their layout.

since we were in Forest Hills, Sandlot was clamoring for a stop at Eddie's Sweet Shop, the oldest ice cream shop in New York. however, since Sandlot's lactose intolerant, he needed to fortify his stomach before he filled it with lactose. luckily, there was a pizzeria just down the block so we stopped in for lunner/dinch. 

Dante's Pizza is clearly a local pizzeria. sparse decoration, the old school orange plastic booths and tables. clearly most of their business is delivery and take-out. the regular cheese slice had a layer of glistening grease on top, so i opted for the spinach mushroom slice instead, extra crispy. the mushrooms were canned (which i secretly like more than fresh) and the toppings were abundant, covering every inch of the slice. aside from a wish for more sauce, i was pretty satisfied with it overall. and they did the extra crispy request perfectly.

Sandlot got a meatball hero (no cheese), which was good if not generic. he also felt they were a little stingy with the sauce. but otherwise, no complaints about the food.

my only really complaint is that our entire meal was $14. the hero was $7 and my bottle of diet dr. pepper was $2. which made my slice $4-5. yikes.

next we walked over to a completely empty Eddie's Sweet Shop. the decor borders between nostalgic and old-like-it-needs-to-be-renovated. 3 teenage kids were hanging out behind the counter. friendly and attentive enough, although their presence seems contrary to the nostalgia of the place.  especially as they played songs from their iPod over the speakers i.e. hotline bling.

full from our prior meal, we each ordered a single scoop sundae: strawberry with hot fudge and vanilla with hot fudge and walnuts. the strawberry ice cream was average, without the frozen strawberries or homemade taste i tend to like. the color was that processed bright pink that blares unnatural. the vanilla on the other hand was pretty good, as was the hot fudge, although based on the yelp pictures i had expected some more of it. the walnuts were finely chopped, which was a nice touch. and the whip cream was definitely abundant. although by the end i was feeling a little whip-creamed out.

$13.75 for 2 scoops and 3 toppings is a little steep, but i guess it's worth it to sit in a part of history. once.

Thursday, November 5

getting vegucated about the cowspiracy

i recently watched 2 documentaries on Netflix: Vegucated, about 3 New Yorkers attempting a vegan diet for 6 weeks and the education provided by the documentarian about the environmental and humanity reasons for the lifestyle; and Cowspiracy, an environmentalist documentary about the huge detrimental impact animal husbandry and fishing has on our environment.

both documentaries shed a lot of light on how much of a detrimental impact humans make to sustain an omnivorous diet.  ultimately, both documentaries conclude that a vegan lifestyle, wherein animals are not raised in mass quantities for human consumption, including milk and eggs, is the best solution.

like the participants in Vegucated, i've never been able to understand vegans. vegetarians, i get (a little) but veganism seemed so extreme.  however, these documentaries point out how little we, at the top of the food chain, have to do in order to help the environment by embracing a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. our only sacrifice is what we ingest. it's really not that hard when you weight the benefit to the environment vs. my sacrifice to not eat delicious yummy proteins.

so, beginning November, Sandlot and i decided to give vegetarianism a try. it's week one, but we've already gone all-in with commitment. the only animal items we're allowed to eat are eggs and dairy and we went on a massive grocery shop in order to feed our new diet and avoid temptations.

Sandlot likes Aldi's vs. Trader Joe's, and since they're technically related companies (owned by brothers, each running one entity), i decided to give it a shot. Trader Joe's has an abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, primarily in the frozen foods section, but still a very varied selection. alternatively, Aldi's doesn't really have a lot of vegetarian/vegan meat alternatives, although their gluten-free options are very abundant.  we left with lots of beans varieties and cheeses.

to supplement our choices, we stopped into Costco, located in the same shopping complex.  although i was expecting more options, Costco's choices weren't disappointing. in terms of ethnic vegetarian food e.g. hummus, stuffed grape leaves, cheeses, tofu, there's definitely a lot of choice.  in the frozen foods section, there were some choices e.g. vegetarian quiches, edamame, vegetable ravioli, but the big ticket items i was hoping for like tempeh and soy hot dogs were sorely missed. we did pick up some Morningstar Chipotle Black Bean Burgers, which i have yet to try but which Sandlot says is surprisingly tasty. still tastes like a veggie burger, but the chipotle aspect helps to add some nice smoky flavor.

so far, we've been making most of our meals and lunches at home and have been doing well with options and variety. but then again, it's been less than a week so far....

Tuesday, September 1

東北 cuisine

before Sandlot and i started dating, i didn't spend a lot of time in Flushing. the most exposure i would get would be when my parents went to visit our relatives in Fresh Meadows. and when we went out to restaurants with them, i never really paid attention to the restaurant we went to/the food that we ate because i was in perpetual "little kid" mode, where you just tag along to wherever your parents take you and eat whatever they order for you.

now that i'm older, i'm appreciating the restaurants and cuisines my elders are taking me to, like Golden Palace. Golden Palace serves northern Chinese cuisine, which i have no knowledge about, except to say, after tasting it, that it varies in its use of vegetables and the way it prepares its dishes and meats. well, that and it's delicious.

if you're looking for savory, full flavored punch in your food, then  東北 cuisine is definitely the way to go. they have a Spiced Beef Shank ($10.99) which is a specialty of the house and is only available for a limited number of servings a day. it's available warmed or cold. although usually i would opt for the warm version, the cold version is just as good. although the meat's been cooked, cooled, and then sliced, it retains a moist texture. with the accompanying garlic soy sauce, it's hearty and delicious.

similarly, the 大拉皮 Green Bean Sheet Jelly ($9.99) is a tart and cooling dish with cucumbers and carrots, like a cold salad. The 尖椒肥腸 Intestines in Fresh Hot Pepper ($8.99) packs a punch of spice and is a great accompaniment with rice. fair warning, the green peppers are very spicy.  

One of our favorite dishes was 酸菜粉絲 Sour Cabbage with Vermicelli ($7.99). the stir fried sour cabbage provides instant umami inside your mouth, and the vermicelli adds heft and contrasting texture to the crunchiness of the cabbage.

an interesting dish is the 血肠 Blood Sausage. i've never encountered it before, although Uncle informed me it is a very authentic dish that has died out in most restaurants. it's essentially a sausage casing filled with pigs' blood that is steamed and then sliced. it's served with a garlic soy dipping sauce. i love eating offal, but i found the texture of the dish... unpleasant. the inside is just too mushy and off-putting for me to enjoy.

there are also some dishes that, unfortunately, i can't recall the name of but are a house specialty. a vegetarian stir fry consisting of wood ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and carrots is served with handmade pancakes, raw sliced scallions, and the brown sauce usually served with Peking duck to be wrapped like a tiny burrito. every table orders this dish so i recommend giving it a shot. if anything, you'll feel healthier for having done so.

Dishes we could have done without: 焦溜茄子 Eggplant with Brown Sauce ($7.99). i'm a huge fan of eggplant, and while the eggplant was properly tender, the dish felt overly greasy and lacked the flair of the other dishes. a similar problem occurred with the 回鍋肉 Sautéed Sliced Pork w. Pepper & Chili $8.99). the 蒜蓉空心菜 Sauteed Chinese Watercress with Garlic ($9.99) lacked any uniqueness of flavor, but then again, it was mainly ordered to provide some much needed green vegetables to our growing table of dishes.  Uncle was a big fan of the 肉絲炒乾豆角 Sautéed Sliced Pork w. Tofu ($12.99) but i found it a bit salty. according to him, the dish was extremely authentic and i did like the dried tofu sheets, which i rarely see used in the Chinese cuisine served at restaurants. 

another warning: the portions at this restaurant are pretty epic. my mother's side of the family tends to over-order when they go out, but our table was pretty daunting and the servers kept running out of room to put each new dish that arrived. which reminds me: the service is friendly but not the best. it seems to be 1 waiter and 1 busser for the entire restaurant, and neither can keep up with the speed in which the dishes come out of the kitchen. so be prepared to have empty dirty plates on your table for the duration of your meal or to have clean plates stacked upon old empty dirty plates.

as if we hadn't stuffed ourselves enough, after finding out that they make their dumplings fresh on the premises, Uncle ordered a plate of 三鮮水餃(蒸) Seafood Dumplings with Pork ($8.99). as with all dumplings that are freshly made, the filling was succulent and juicy, and the skin retained the fresh dough snap, although a little on the thicker side.

Wednesday, August 19

One of my favorite videos.

i saved this link as an, "i'll come back to this and share it" sort of thing.

which i did.

but, i could never get myself to delete the link from my Favorites. and i always watch it every time i stumble upon it.

it makes me happy.

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.


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.