Eat the World New York City will be away for a couple months, eating the world in its natural environment. Inspirations from Hong Kong, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos are about to be had, and I will see you all in February! Thanks for the great year!
27 November 2013
In addition to the array of varieties of ramen we know in New York, Tokyo apparently has a strong following for a broth-less style of the noodle dish, called mazeman. This is the specialty of relative newcomer Yuji Ramen, once a shop in Williamsburg and now a stylish counter on the second floor of Whole Foods Bowery (and soon a second Whole Foods location in Gowanus).
It is not a place where people linger long, and I have always seen a seat open when I visited. The people here are nice, but do promptly ask for a payment once you decide on a meal and place your order.
The first time I visited, I asked for a recommendation from the three mazeman varieties and was told the bacon + egg ($9, below) was a good choice. I was also easily up-sold to the combo for $12, which includes tsukemono (pickled vegetables, above) and hot tea. While the tea was enjoyed, I think I would pass on the tray of vegetables on future visits.
What sets the ramen apart from its more recognizable counterparts is two parts. The first is an extreme al dente noodle much like linguine that has a nice chew to it. This is then laid on a bed of potent type of tare sauce mixed with sesame oil. This concentrated stuff is under there ready to mixed with the noodles and everything else in the bowl, an important step before eating.
The bacon on top is fatty and nicely smoked. A poached egg and some crispy kale joins the mix on top, making each bite an enjoyable mixture of flavors and textures.
The other types of mazeman on the regular menu are salmon + cheese and miso roasted vegetable, as well as a daily shoyu ramen pick for those that must have broth. Limiting a menu can usually be seen in two ways, but I think it works well here because the limited options let them concentrate their efforts on creating a really good end product.
(2nd Floor inside Whole Foods)
21 November 2013
Main Street in South Paterson, New Jersey is so full of Turkish restaurants and bakeries that I had no idea where to start, but had my eye on this corner from a previous visit when it was fully packed and obviously popular.
The interior is tranquil, with a large mural of beautiful Turkish sites adorning an entire wall and families with well-behaved kids at most tables. One slightly stressed out woman was running the entire front, but she could not have been any more friendly to everyone coming and going.
Unfortunately pretty full from a Peruvian lunch downtown, we ordered a couple small dishes and started with dessert in the form of sütlaç ($3, below), a typical rice pudding that gets a strong A+ from me. The bowl is taken straight from the fridge and served cold, tempering the richness and sweetness.
Çorba is just the Turkish word for soup, so be more specific and ask what the soup of the day is before ordering. On this Saturday, yellow lentil was on offer for $3, and comes with a nice basket of fresh Turkish bread. Before I realized this bread was something special, I asked for a pita and probably offended the nice lady who told me I should like the bread she gave me (she was right).
The broth of the yellow lentil soup was thin and somehow grainy, although not in any negative way. It was cold outside and this went a long way in warming us up.
There was slightly less garlic than usual in their rendition of cacik ($4.75, below), although it was still with me many hours later like usual. This yogurt dish made with olive oil, cucumbers, dill, and mint, amongst other ingredients, is served cold and good for scooping up with the bread. I usually end up ordering it when out for Turkish, and the dish is worth getting here as your appetizer.
This stretch of Main Street has many Middle Eastern places, including the wonderful Luna Bakery for Syrian pastries, and so far has been overwhelmingly welcoming and friendly. I hope to be back often to check out some of the other places that also look enticing.
20 November 2013
I will always be a sucker for any place with a sign out front advertising the existence of La Colombe coffee within. Upon further inspection, a cheap Korean lunch menu exists at this small place that is the more formal restaurant Take31 in the evening. The front space has been transformed mornings and evenings by a group of artistic folks from SVA, FIT, and Parsons, serving good coffees and the aforementioned abbreviated lunch menu.
Take a look at what is on offer on wall-mounted clipboards or on the counter, place your order and pay, and sit down and wait to have your name called. The space is comfortable (not counting the consistent cold breeze that was hitting me from the window), and wifi even accommodates those who want to stick around longer over multiple cups.
Veering from standard Korean hits like bibimbop and bulgogi, I ordered a couple interesting hybrids that seemed far more warming on this cold day. All the rice dishes here seem to be served in large teacups, upping the cutesy factor. My favorite of the meal was the nice to meat ball ($7, below), a lightly sauced group of eight or so small meatballs with parmesan cheese. The meat and sauce are nicely spiced and rich, and the rice is deeper than expected. One of these bowls is probably a pretty filling meal, while two was just kind of dumb.
Putting a current trend in a cup is the kimchi taco ($7, below), which leaves out the tortilla and also puts this over rice with a fried egg on top. I imagined liking this more inside of a tortilla though, with some fresh lime squeezed on top and maybe a green salsa. Regardless, the meaty saucy dish did grow on me and the ratio of sauce to rice is better than with the meatball dish.
I ordered another cup of coffee to do some writing, the music changed from slow jazz to more upbeat R&B, and the place emptied of its young and hip lunch clients, slowing down into mid-afternoon.
Don't miss out on taking a look around at the various LEGO installations, some which are actually built into the walls.
19 November 2013
I always keep my head up, searching for tacos in the Bronx that can put the borough in the same league as the street scene in Queens and the deli grocery heavens of Brooklyn. Mexicocina seems to have aspirations to become an empire of its own in the Bronx, and deserves some of the good press it has been getting. Each location is casual and welcoming, and the food is pretty good.
At the location furthest east on 149th Street, next to the gem El Atoradero, walk into the deep red room, past large jugs of homemade jamaica and horchata, and grab a little spot at one of the counters if you are eating here.
With each order, everyone gets a nice mountain of of chips served in a large bucket, good for munching on while watching whatever is on the small TV and waiting for your order to come out. My sampler for this evening was two tacos ($2.50 each, below), one with tripe and the other of tinga, a type of spiced chicken.
The tinga, on the left in both photos, was more finely shredded than I usually find in tacos, and had a heavily smoked taste which was quite pleasant. It needed the salsa for some heat, but otherwise was very good. The tripe pieces seemed extra crispy, having been left on the grill for a good long time and losing their marinades.
The onion served on the tray is unfortunately not cooked that much and cannot add much to the meal like at other places. The other locations look about the same and have the same informal system. As far as empires go, the Bronx could do worse.
18 November 2013
Like most restaurants of this style, Kowloon Cafe offers a menu so grand and all-encompassing that it reads quite intimidating. Most customers know what they want from the minute they walk in, so inevitably the server will come to ask what you want less than a minute after seating you.
We ask for a few minutes and continue reading as the lime green glow around us offers plenty of light. The menu has a broad range of Hong Kong and Cantonese favorites, as well as the pasta and western dishes that always seem to be present when a place describes itself as Hong Kong style.
I thought it wise to start off with the namesake dish and ordered the Kowloon Cafe fried rice ($8, below), a plate that turned out to be quite tasty. The rice is not oily at all, and is prepared with bacon, tiny fried fish, shrimp, peppers, egg, and onion, has multiple textures, and can be spiced up as pleased.
Tomato & egg ($5, below) over rice is a staple of any Cantonese menu and here is probably the sweetest I have ever seen. The rice helps counter this though, and as always, a good feeling of comfort is awarded to the diner of this meal.
In the middle of the afternoon, we were only one of three filled tables, but you could tell the staff was preparing for a crowded dinner as they all chipped in to cut vegetables and prepare for later.
16 November 2013
With buildings surrounding it only two or three stories high, most corners in Union City are like this one and get an abundance of sunshine even during a winter day. Streams of light were actually coming in, making it hard to see the television and enjoy the Uruguay national team fight their way into the World Cup.
With four or five other customers and all the staff, the team scored five unanswered goals and happiness was the theme of the day. It was nice to share this moment with them, and have an easy excuse to travel out to Bergenline Avenue for food.
Knowing I would be ordering too much for one person, I could not resist a couple empanadas. These baked versions had such a thin crust and a chicken filling so airy that if there could be such a thing, it might be a diet empanada. Still delicious, the shredded chicken inside comes well-spiced and fluffy.
Needing a partner for the plates of grilled churrasco meats, I had to "settle" on the beautiful chivito de carne ($9.95, below), a typically Uruguayan steak sandwich that comes loaded with egg, ham & cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. The steak marinade on this guy is delicious and the prominent ham & cheese in the middle create such a flavor party that you will want to bring your friends.
I packed up half of the sandwich to go as the second half of the game was coming to an end and ordered a small alfajor ($1.50, below) to round out the meal. This crumbly cookie was dipped in chocolate, and was much less sweet than I expected. They have a large case in the back with homemade desserts which all seemed just as nice.
One of the most wonderful things about Union City for people that live in New York is that it only takes 15 minutes on the bus from Port Authority to get here, as long as tunnel traffic is not ridiculous. Take the opportunity to walk up and down Bergenline someday if you have not already, as it is full of Latin American restaurants, delis, cafes, and markets. The ones I have written about on this site are only a drop in the bucket.
14 November 2013
That's right, this is filed under Korean food. You might walk by Henry's, a small deli on Henry Street just south of Atlantic Avenue and next to Splendid Japanese restaurant Hibino without thinking twice, that is if you were not in the mood for a turkey club. But the sandwich board out front promises homemade Korean food at the top, and thus warranted a quick stop.
The place is open for breakfast and lunch, and probably has served the staff at Long Island College Hospital during much better times. Along with jerk chicken and teriyaki, the menu also promises bibimbap and bulgoki, Korean staples that seem decidedly out of place here. The friendly Korean proprietor lends it all a grain of authenticity though, and about ten minutes after ordering, good meals come out.
The star here is definitely the bibimbap, ($9.95, below), a vegetarian rendition with a fried egg plopped right on top. He'll remind you to mix everything together even if you are in the process of doing so, and always tell you that you have not added enough hot sauce to the mixture. I was not expecting to be wowed here, but this dish is actually really good.
If asked, say YES to white rice and NO to yellow.
Less attention grabbing but still pleasantly comforting is the bulgoki ($9.95, below), a healthy portion of beef served over rice and with a leafy salad. The meat is definitely not top grade like you would find in a Korean restaurant, but it is still well-marinated and tasty.
I have not tried the normal egg sandwich breakfasts and cold cuts here, and probably will not when this good stuff is available. If anyone tries the jerk chicken one day, let me know how that goes.