Archive for January, 2008

Katsuhama Lunch

January 31, 2008

We took our colleague David out for lunch yesterday cause he’s jumping ship. Sad for us he’s leaving, but happy cause we used it as an excuse to make a little excursion to Katsuhama. You see, I work all the way on 1st avenue in midtown, which means that it has to be a pretty special occasion to go all the way to 5th Avenue (crossing 2nd, 3rd Aves, then Lex, Park and Madison- whew!).

Katsuhama is a little non-descript looking restaurant that looks like a Japanese take-out bento place from the outside. But don’t be fooled! Keep walking past all the people waiting in line for sushi packs (no tuna please!- sarcastic face here), and you will find yourself in a little wonderland of yellow walls and cute hanging paper lights. They specialize in tonkatsu, which is deep fried pork loin- Japan’s ultimate comfort food, and I would probably say that it’s the best in town (not very many places in NY serve tonkatsu).

They give you a little Japanese version of a mortar and pestle, that is used specifically for grinding sesame seeds– it’s a fun and campy way to wait for your fatty meat lunch to arrive. Here’s a demonstration:

Ryo told us that in Japan, to “goma suri” or grind sesame seeds, is to bullshit someone. We pondered that for a minute.

Our food came out super quick– let the meat fest begin! I got the menchi-katsu, which is basically a deep fried beef/pork/onion hamburger. Yum.

Everyone else got the tonkatsu. We all shared.

Mix their special sauce into the sesame seeds, and dip away! I like mine with a lethal dose of that yellow mustard. The cabbage is a must have with tonkatsu, as it eases the fattiness from all that deep fried meat you’re consuming. The waitstaff even walks around a plate of cabbage and tongs to serve you more! So cute!

After Bittman’s preaching about cutting down on meat intake I actually felt kinda bad after this meal. But not that bad. I save tonkatsu for special occasions, and it helped eased the pain that David’s deserting us.

11 E 47th St (btwn 5th and Madison)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 758-5909
Lunch: $15-20
*Expect to wait at least 5 minutes to be seated.

Tuna Mercury Bullshit

January 30, 2008
WTF! I can’t live without tuna. Recent articles on NYT about mercury might be worrisome, and some people might never eat tuna ever, but I like tuna. If you are eating shit load of fried or junk food, and refusing seafood, that is such an oxymoron.

I am hoping this trend will cause reduction of tuna price, and I will have more of them. Everyone, listen up, moderation is the virtue, both in eating and drinking.

I would rather die from mercury consumption, than not eating tuna forever… So I made tuna tartar.

I am trying to be better about remembering what ingredients I use when cooking.
Recipe for this version is (which won’t be repeated since next time I’ll make it, I will use something completely different):

1/2 lb fresh tuna, cut into small cubes
1/2 of avocado, cut into small cubes
1/2 of mango, cut into small cubes
1/4 onion, minced and rinsed (to cut strong onion flavor out)
1 lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper
dash of soy sauce
dash of ginger dressing
Mix everything together, and chill for about 1 hour to marinate.

I sliced up the rest of the avocado and spread it on the plate, scoop tartar with ice cream scoop, put extra ginger dressing et voila, cute and tasty tuna tartar is ready to be served.

The Umami Reader, vol.011

January 30, 2008

Noteworthy readings and eatings (not necessarily what you would call breaking news):

  • Interviews with 3 hottie female sommeliers at top restaurant in SF, LA and NY (Splendora)
  • Pasta carbonara vs. Pasta all’amatriciana: Debates in authenticity (Eternally Cool & NYT)
  • Paula Deen’s Fried Butter Balls: fatty treats for Super Bowl weekend (Food Network, via Amy)
  • Mark Bittman preaches the Omnivore’s Dilemma: I’ll think about it, but only cause it’s Mark (NYT)
  • Cheeseburger in a can: the Germans really did it this time (Gizmodo, via Matt)

*Please send any links to what you’re reading to

Never Underestimate Yourself; or How to be a Fatass Overseas

January 29, 2008

1. Eat stinky tofu in China. Check.
2. Eat street food in Hong Kong like Tony Leung. CHECK!

Okay so ever since the first time I saw Chungking Express I’ve been in love with Tony Leung. Then I noticed that he is ALWAYS eating street food in movies. I’ve had this obsessive dream of eating street food in Hong Kong and it has finally been realized. Now I only had one day to eat to my heart’s content but luckily my best fatass-partner-in-crime happens to be from Hong Kong. This is going to be one long entry but it just serves to show how ridiculous I was that day.

First things first. I had to eat some sort of street food because I am the easily distracted kind and it was possible that oops, I’m back in NY and I didn’t eat street food in Hong Kong like Tony Leung OMG! Peawok took me to his usual joint where we just partook of some light nourishment.

Love this! Just throw some tables on the sidewalk and start eating noodles at 10 am. It was next to a live poultry shop. You know, the kind where you pick and they chop.

Toast with condensed milk and honey, raisin toast with honey and butter. This only tasted good because I was in Hong Kong.

We walked 15 minutes and then felt slightly fatigued…
Where could this be…

Looks like a normal, cute cafe.

A nice clean black and white interior.

Wait, can you read the writing on the plate? If you can’t, it says agnes b. le pain grille. Yes, agnes b. has their own restaurant and cafe! Wtf! Apparently Armani has a restaurant as well but no time for that.

Served up fresh bread nestled in an origami-ed napkin. The bread tasted like pizza, why??

This was “Seafood Bisque” on the menu but you can see for yourself that it was soo not creamy enough. But it was actually deliciously crabby so why am I complaining!

I’m not quite sure why I ordered this because I usually try the stranger items on the menu. Camembert and green apple on a toasted baguette. It tasted delicious.

Okay okay that’s all normal and well and seems like a good sized lunch, no? Well as I say in the title do not underestimate yourself.

Coffee eclair. Notice that they BRAND the dessert. Like, in case you forgot where and WHO you were eating.

White choco mousse cake.

Hazelnut cake.

Mille feuille.

Wait…ordering four desserts for lunch isn’t normal? Whatevs, it’s agnes b. The food is like the clothes…pretty good and normal but overpriced for what it is. Oh and also the service was making me kind of antsy. We had individual bottles of water and every time we drank any from our cups the waitstaff would patter over and unscrew the bottles, pour an ounce into the cup and screw the caps back on. This happened about 5 times so I stopped drinking water because I got so nervous. But I felt special and that’s all that matters.

After shopping for a couple hours I saw something glittering in the distance.

A random cafe in a mall. Okay, whatever goes. JUST KIDDING. It’s the cafe of L’atelier de Joel Robuchon. Yes.

Yes the restaurant is right next door and yes those are mall escalators leading you to a $300/person meal!

I just settled for something little. Green apple juice!

A salted caramel tart, one layer of mousse, one of caramel and one of choco ganache.

I was so sad that I had to limit myself when there was this:

But this was the best:

So now you know how to write “this label is not edible” in Chinese.

Then I bought a box of macarons. The shell was so thin and and tender, perfect. There are too many macaron photos in the world so sorry to bother you with this one. But sorry NY does NOT have any good ones. (If you are wondering why they’re all cracked it’s because I immediately squashed them)

Directly after exiting the mall of dreams, we started feeling a bit peckish.

This is Mak’s Wonton House, or some other name like that. It has apparently the best wonton noodle soups with a few locations (I think there is one in LA as well).

And it WAS good! The broth is the same for all the noodle soups but the toppings are different. I got shrimp dumplings which were just shrimps in wonton skins but delicious! The noodles were very thin and slightly chewy and the soup was on the greasy side but mild. It reminded me of ramen in a way. This bowl would fit in your hand and cost ~$4. I’m sorry but that is way too expensive for fast food like this especially considering I could have eaten 4 bowls easily. Actually I should stop complaining I ate this quite awhile ago!

Ooh artsy photo #1:

I really wanted to eat street food again so we stopped by this dessert shack. Actually they served noodles and other savory foods as well but my friend threatened me with physical violence if I ordered any more.

A very thin cold soup of ground black sesame. I could distinctly taste almonds that might have been used to cut the amount of sesame. Loved this! But totally needed to gargle and rinse afterwards.

Sago/tapicoa in sweetened coconut milk. I was so impressed by the desserts here because nothing was overly sweet or cloying. They were boarding on bland but both desserts were the mindless-eating-inducing type.

Stopped in for another dessert at a very chain type place.

OMG how can you NOT be in love?? Mango sorbet in thinned coconut milk with sago, cuts of mango peeking out and a scattering of that wonderful fruit the POMELO. The colors the colors! I think I’m going to make this at home.

Okay but that was all mere child’s play. This is how Peawok and I really roll. Two people does not equal two dishes.

I forget what kind of greens these are but I eat them in the US as well. What are they?? We needed to start light.

Shrimps in sweet and sour sauce. Freshness matters! Tasty but so messy. I love how they tried to be class with the flower!

Chicken in a clay pot(?). Sometimes I think chickens are different in Asia. Like, I’ve NEVER seen those parts before…

Squid over vermicelli with garlic. So surprisingly good! But I think I read in Amy Tan once that squid should “roll into lucky balls” when fried. Why aren’t they lucky balls.

Mystery mess.

Oh, it just turned out to be rice steamed in lotus leaf with mystery meat.
I saved the best for last.

I order this in Chinatown all the time. I have no idea what it’s called but it’s basically a big pork patty with mushrooms and water chestnuts chopped into it. A pork pie. The one I usually get is literally swimming in an inch of oil so by comparison this was healthy (I’m sure…). I love this salted preserved fish they put on top that tastes like heaven but smells like feet! “Unfortunately” they only have salted egg here.

Of course, we had to end on a sweet note. Mango with cream, pomelo and sago again. What a great combination.

I ate so much.

Umamiventure #6: Jackson Diner

January 28, 2008

Trekked out to Jackson Heights on Saturday for our monthly Umamiventure- a food field trip that we take to cult-following foodie places all around the 5 boroughs (that the DOH wouldn’t necessarily recommend). After all the hoo-hawing about the Indian food at Jackson Diner, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to check out what all the hype is about.

Honestly, I was sorta skeptical about this choice, and even thought about changing it last minute– I heard so many mixed reactions from people! But since it’s such a famous destination spot, we figured we should all try it at least once. As my friend Radhika says, “Makes me giggle that the Indian restaurant with the most street cred in all the burrows is called ‘Jackson Diner’.” SO TRUE!!!

All in all, we had a great time. There were 14 of us, and even though I had only made a reservation for 8, they were really friendly and accommodated us in a smaller dining room upstairs (which was much better cause the downstairs area is really loud because of the high ceilings).

The lunch buffet is only $10, all you can eat, and they had all sorts of dishes: chicken tandoori/ makhani/ with chili sauce; goat curry; grilled veggies; pekoras; saag paneer; and even a man making dosas. Favorites around the table included the veggies, chicken makhani, chicken in chili sauce, pekoras, the saag, and the coconut rice dessert.

To be fair though, I would say the food was so-so– I’m a Indian food novice to say the least, but there wasn’t anything super spectacular about it, I didn’t think (Radhika agreed- she being my Indian food expert). People say that Jackson Diner isn’t what it used to be from 10 years ago, which may be true, I couldn’t say. This is why I normally don’t blog a place I haven’t been to at least twice though- it’s just not fair to rate the food on your first occasion. Radhika says that Saravanaas in the city is much better, so we need to try that pronto.

But for $18 after tax and tip for all that food and a Kingfisher beer, it was a fun day trip to Queens. After the meal, Mariana led us into the depths of Jackson Heights to an Argentinian bakery– they sold all sorts of Argentinian goods, and even bags of mate! Walking around the neighborhood (Betty Suarez born and raised), you really do feel like you’re in another place– makes you remember how great New York can be.

All photos by Christy Jones and Matt Myers.

Jackson Diner
37-47 74th Street

Jackson Heights, Queens

T: 718.672.1232

*PS- Umamiventures are open to everyone! I do post information about it under “UM News” or on our FACEBOOK page whenever they are coming up so don’t be shy and join us!

Past trips include:
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

Waiting for Sakae Sushi to Open

January 25, 2008

NY’s first kaiten sushi (sushi on a conveyer belt) will be opening any day now. Until yesterday, the windows were still covered- a guy (a partner/owner?) saw me peeking through the paper and invited me in to check out the space. When I asked if I could take pictures, they declined.

But looky looky- here it is today! Basically, there are only boothes for seating, and a conveyer belt will transport sushi round and round on each side of the tables. Midtown Lunch got a lucky demonstration last week, and it looks like you can order more food off the LCD screens. WOO HOO!!!

The guy yesterday told me that it will open TONIGHT- but that is yet to be determined. As their phone voice recording says, they are closed to the public this week. The guy urged me to come on Tuesday though– he said by then, everything should be perfectly ready to go.

Sakae, NYers have been patiently waiting for months. Hurry and open already!

*CORRECTION from Marc W.: Sakae Sushi isn’t NY’s first kaiten spot. One of the East empire’s locations, on Second Ave in the 30s, I think, has had kaiten in the back for quite a while. Course, the sushi is only mediocre there.

Sakae Sushi
405 Lexington Ave at 43rd St
T: 877-725-2387

The Sake Samurai at Astor Center

January 25, 2008

Last week, Urban Sake‘s Timothy Sullivan was kind enough to invite me to his ongoing sake tasting course, “The Elements of Sake” at the Astor Wine and Liquor Shop’s very new and swanky Astor Center (just around the corner from the shop). It was the second class ever to take place in the gleaming space– complete with sparkling white tile counters, a censored stainless steel sink between every other person, reclining leather chairs, a beautiful test kitchen behind the front counter, and LCD screens right above it.

The place was packed! Every seat was taken– I took Erin* as my guest and we sipped while listening to Tim talk passionately about sake. He went through the types of sake (Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo), must-know terms, ingredients, the brewing process, and added his own personal tidbits of how he came to learn about sake. He was recently invited to Japan in honor of his devotion for sake, and he’s been awarded the title of “Sake Samurai”, which only two Americans hold. WOW!

Here’s a list of the sakes we tried (with my notes- increasing in quality and price I believe):
– Urakasumi (Junmai- sweet, full, good to serve warm)
– Hakkaisan (Ginjo- crisp, smooth)
– Rihaku (Nigori- creamy, sweet)
– Wakatake (Nama- sweet)
– Dassai (Junmai Daiginjo- fruity, sharp, clean)

We all had these little remotes that we used to “vote” for our favorite sake. I think everyone loved the last three– I personally always like the second one, which is what my pops drinks.

Tim’s love and knowledge of sake runs deep, and his excitement about it was really infectious. I guess if I could relay one thing that I learned that night, it’s that sake is at it’s best in the season its made for (usually spring or fall). Unlike wine where you wait for years for it to peak, sake should be consumed while it’s still “young”. Astor Wine has a great selection of sakes, as does NY’s own sake shop Sakaya in the East Village.

In total the tasting lasted about an hour and a half. The class is well-paced with great visuals and Tim encourages questions and dialogue- so it’s a great course for sake novices. He’s teaching through the spring for $95 a pop (Mon. 2/18, Wed. 3/19, Fri. 4/18; here’s a 2 spots for 1 promo code I found (sneaky!): ACWelcome)– hurry and sign up cause it’s gonna fill up fast!

*I have been informed by the nice people at Astor Center that the promo code is only available for February programs. A post-Valentines day date maybe?

*All photos by the one and only Erin Gleeson.

Masitas in Jackson Heights!

January 24, 2008

Masitas are teeny-tiny Argentine pastries. I’ve been obsessed with them since always and photographing them in their natural habitat for the last three years, but I only learned recently that these miniaturized pastries are basically the same thing as petits-fours. But do not confuse them with dumb squares that look like wrapped presents!

You can find them at bakeries all over Buenos Aires, and also in Jackson Heights at La Nueva Bakery on 37th Ave. La Nueva may have a smaller assortment than your typical bakery, but the classics are all there, like this little cone of dulce de leche bathed in chocolate:

Or this coquito, cousin of the macaroon:

This one has dulce de leche between cake layers:

Here is a masita with a local twist–tiny carrot cake!

La Nueva Bakery
8502 37th Ave,
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

T: (718) 505-3700

The Umami Reader, vol.010

January 24, 2008

Noteworthy readings and eatings:

  • Kimchi Family video- complete with beatboxing! (Youtube, via Ayagwa)
  • “Protect your family! Mercury in Sushi!!!” Why are people so lame??? (NYT, Fumiko)
  • The BaconFall (I Believe in Advertising, Matt)
  • The Venison Feast is coming! (Zlata Prata Restaurant, Judson)

Reporting from Craft Bar

January 23, 2008

Damn, Kayoko, you went to the real one? Well, I went to the cheapo version of Craft for lunch today. Yep, I took 2 hour lunch break, and felt great!

Out of many restaurants that participates in RW, we thought this place had the most varieties of choices. They had 10 appetizers to choose from, 7 or so main course, and 5 dessert, including cheese course.

I haven’t done this for like ever. Last time I went to Brasserie, and stupid me, ordered too many drinks, ended up spending about $70 or so, which totally lost the point of going to RW…

This time, I successfully resisted the urge to order wine, just stuck with 3 course meal for $24.07. By the way, I thought it used to be $20.01 in 2001, and should be $20.08 for this year? What happened to the pricing? But it was still cheap enough.

This was Christy’s Pecorino fondue with honey, hazelnut and pepperoncini. Cheesy, sweet, and spicy mixture was quite interesting. It was more like melted cheese than fondue, though.

Molly ordered home cured smoked salmon with creme freche. Smoked salmon was very lightly smoked, so tasted almost fresh. Or was it even smoked? Maybe it was just home cured salmon…

I ordered speck, cheese, collard green crostini. All the appetizers had SO MUCH bread underneath, and I was a bit skeptical about the main course. Maybe they are trying to fill us up before main course, since the portions are super small?

I was wrong. Main course portions were just right. Maybe be even too generous for $24.07…

Christy ordered salmon with brussel sprouts and apples. There was some jelly type thing, which looked similar to salmon itself in color, but tasted like apple jelly. Inside was pink and outside was crispy. Cooked to perfection.

My main course was beef short rib with beets, and shallots. It was very flaky, all the beets were cut the exact same size, and the sauce was red wine and red wine vinegar base. Very yummy.

Molly ordered duck prosciutto and mushroom panini (though they call it a sandwich). A bit strong too mushroomy, and not enough taste of duck, but good.

After the main course, we were already full, but we couldn’t pass dessert.

I ordered brown sugar cake with roasted pear and eggnog ice cream. Ice cream tasted more like pumpkin spiced ice cream than eggnog, but very refreshing. Cake wasn’t too sweet thanks to the brown sugar.

Christy ordered butterscotch pudding with ginger snaps (I think). It was good.

Molly ordered the cheese course, which disgusted me so much. I mean, who the hell orders CHEESE for dessert?! It was also all the VERY stinky kind. Goat cheese tasted like soap, the others were filled with molds. I know people love blue, bree, romano, pecorino, etc., but I HATE CHEESE.

Overall experience was very excellent. Service was a bit slow, but nice. I will go back there.