Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Best Dumplings in Chinatown

Last Sunday Mr. T and I meet up at J&R to get some sort of cord.

I honestly am not even sure that's what we needed but it seems like we are always buying something that requires a new cord or cable.

I had been walking around the Seaport earlier because I hadn't been there all summer.

BTW I wasn't missing much! At least on the main drag of the Seaport itself. It was overrun with tons of people! More than I have ever seen! I could hardly move there were some many people and so many different languages going on I felt a little woozy.

I did find a nice calm street right off the strip though.

Front street actually was completely empty and filled with lots of cute shops and restaurants.

That's why I love New York. One block can make a world of difference!!

Anyway after we were unsuccessful finding the cord (or whatever it was) Mr. T needed we decided to walk over into Chinatown a little and get some food.

We couldn't decided what we wanted. Noodles, Pork Buns, Beef Jerky...We finally decided to walk all the way through and go to Prosperity for some Dumplings.

Prosperity Dumplings is a tiny little storefront that can really only fit about 6 people eating inside comfortably.

Although there s usually many more people than that.

Luckily it was kind of an off hour so we placed our order and grabbed a seat on the side.

We started out with an order of the Steamed Pork Dumplings.



Oh Yum! These babies were steaming with pork goodness!!

That orange stuff on top is hot sriracha chili sauce which we douse the dumplings in. Prosperity also offers a soy vinegar sriracha sauce that is almost as strong as the chili sauce! We like to put a little of both on our dumplings.

What can I say- we're greedy!

We also got an order of the pan fried pork dumplings which are simply fried instead of steamed so they have any excellent crunch on the bottom and top.



I like the pan fried a little better than the steamed. Almost anything that's fried is going to taste better!

We gobbled these up like we had been on a starvation diet all week! They were just really fantastic!

Oh and the best part of all- the cost!

For this feast of food we ended up paying a total of $4.50.

$4.50!

It's okay to swear out loud right now. The first time I went there I said Holy Shit too!

$1.00 for the 5 fried dumplings, $2.00 for 10 steamed and a $1.50 small water.

That's a bargain. And a tasty bargain at that.

Don't expect any frills- this is a no nonsense dumpling house. You get in, order and get out. But it's excellent.

Try the sesame pancake as well- you won't be disappointed!

A Soho Lunch Au Natural

I had a half day of work last week just for the hell of it. I realized a little too late that summer was almost over and I wanted to enjoy it a little more. It was a perfect day outside- 80 degrees and sunny. I decided to take myself out to lunch and soak in some late summer rays.

I got out of the subway in Soho and thought I would wander around a little bit and find an outdoor place. Well I had really only gone about 10 feet when I saw Spring Street Natural.

I walk home from work by this place at least twice a week. The tables are always occupied with the Soho shoppers and tourists of all kinds.

Today there was actually one small rickety table unoccupied in the sunlight. Just what I was looking for- I grabbed the seat.

The table itself wasn’t actually rickety. It just happened to be right on top of those grates leading into the restaurant cellar.

Okay- I have a serious phobia of those grates. I don’t even walk on them in the city because I am so scared of them opening up and swallowing me whole.

Luckily, after shifting around my seat here and there I was able to at least get my seat onto the sidewalk and stable ground. I figured only my food would be lost now if the grates opened and I would be safe. I decided to order a glass of wine though just to sooth my nerves :)

This place boasts itself as a neighborhood restaurant that focuses on serving up fresh, healthy food at affordable prices. Apparently they try to serve foods that haven’t been processed.

All I know is that they had a special swordfish sandwich with roasted garlic mayonnaise which sounded really good!!

So I placed my order and a basket of bread arrived.

The man put the bread down so quickly I barely even saw him at my table. It was almost like the bread appeared out of thin air!



First I tried a bite of the multi-grain which was really thick and tasty. Unfortunately this place suffers from the rock butter syndrome which was so hard I thought I was going to slice my hand open trying to spread it on the bread.

Well the other kind of bread didn’t look like it required butter so I tried a bite of that next.

Yum! This was excellent. For the life of me I could not figure out what it was made of but it was moist and slightly sweet with a great tangy bite at the end. I found out later from the waiter that it was their house made tomato bread.

Tomatoes-I eat those damn things everyday and I never would have guessed that was the flavor!

Well about 3 minutes after I had ordered, my fish sandwich arrived.

Now if I was a busy Soho shopper or someone on a lunch break, the quickness of the order would have pleased me.

I was kind of more into relaxing and enjoying the sun so I found this a little too fast. It also made me wonder about the quality of my meal because really! How can they put it all together in that time?

Luckily my fears were for naught because the sandwich and fries were piping hot and right off the griddle.



The swordfish sandwich was good albeit a little boring. The fish was a little thin in texture but the buttery toasted onion ciabatta roll made up for it.

The roll was soft and squishy with plenty of pores to soak up the garlicky goodness of the mayo on top.

The hand cut fries were a little hit or miss, as it seems is always the case with this style. Some were soggy and limp because they had been cut too big, but the ones that came out crispy simply rocked! I only wish they could have all been cooked that way.

So I sat there munching on my sandwich and happily enjoying my spot in the sun. It was nice to people watch on the busy sidewalk and enjoy the last days of summer with a peaceful solo lunch.

I got the bill and it came to $15.25.

Not too shabby for a glass wine and a sandwich! It really hit the spot as well. A pretty good place for a quick bite.

And FYI I didn’t fall through the grate. Whew!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mercadito Grove

This is going to be kind of a quick post. We've been so busy lately with guests it's been a little ridiculous. I am kind of happy the summer is ending so stuff will slow down but also sad because summer is over :(

Anyway, Mr. T had family in town so we wanted to meet up for dinner at a casual fun place. I figured Mercadito Grove would be a good because we could sit outside in the sun and they have a bunch of vegetarian options.

I made reservations a week before for 8 people outside.

The day of the dinner I called the restaurant to confirm and was told they had no reservation recorded.

I was a little upset but said okay then can I make one for 8 people outside.

The man then tells me they can't sit that many people outside.

Okay now I'm a little pissed. I wouldn't have suggested this place if I hadn't had a reservation outside. Not only that but we already planned the entire night around going to this place. We argue a little and then he says fine. Come in by 5:30 and we'll seat you outside.

Well 5:30 rolls around and as we walk up to the restaurant I see all of the outdoor tables filled.

I walk inside and the host says "oh someone called and I explained to them you would be sitting inside and they said that's fine."



Please pardon the use of the O Rly bird but this is exactly how I felt.

Obviously this guy didn't realize it was me that he talked to and was trying to pull a fast one. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I looked at the tiny table inside that was supposed to fit our large group comfortably.

Not wanting to cause a scene I close my mouth and take a seat. The tables were so small that we end up smashing a couple glasses in the process of sitting down. Not exactly how I wanted to night to start out.

Once seated the host comes over and tries to sell us on doing this tasting menu that is going to cost a lot more than we were planning to spend. Once he FINALLY stops talking we tell him we are just going to do the regular menu.

He seems a little perturbed but turns and leaves us to decide.

Okay I'm not going to keep going on about this guy because it's obvious he's an idiot and the rest of the dinner ends up going pretty well.

The important stuff in the end is the food, right?

I ordered the fish tacos which are hands down the best in the city.



They beer batter some Mahi Mahi and serve it with a Mexican style coleslaw and a chipotle aioli.

The tacos are pretty small for the price but they are really good. The fish is nice and crispy and the chipotle gives it a spicy kick at the end.

The margaritas are pretty good as well. They use only fresh fruit and come in all different flavors like pineapple, mango and even habenero.

Fresh fruit make such a difference! I always feel so full and gross after a frozen margarita. These guys I could drink a ton of (which might not be such a good thing)!

In the end Mercadito was okay but I wouldn't go back to that location with a group again. I have had much better service at the East Village one and no attitude at the door.

Toffee, Chocolate & Pistachios!

Just a quick update- I was walking around Kalustyans yesterday looking to pick up some cinnamon sugar coated almonds when I spotted a new item.

Chocolate covered toffee encrusted pistachios!

Okay those three things are some of my favorite things in the world and now they are together in one candy! Yum!

I bought a quarter pound and came home to share them with Mr. T. Next thing I knew I was back at the store about an hour later buying more because we had already gone through the bag!

Go get some!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Eleven Madison Made Me a Liar

This meal actually happened a couple weeks ago. I'm a little behind but it was so fatastic I needed to share it with the world:)

In my previous post about Park Avenue Summer, I said it was the best Restaurant Week meal I had ever had.

And it was...until two days later when I went to Eleven Madison Park and got my socks knocked off.

Now I have been to Eleven Madison twice before for dinner, and while I enjoyed it, it never blew me away. I mean the crispy pork was always amazing of course, but that's all I really remember being fabulous.

Well now I can say, Eleven Madison blew me away AND it was during restaurant week!

It was the last day of restaurant week and Mr. T and I had the day off of work. We decided we would try to get in one more RW lunch. We started out by going to the Tavern room at Gramercy tavern.

We walked up and were greeted by about 20 people crammed into the front room waiting for a seat.

We turned around and headed straight for Eleven Madison. I was scared they would be packed as well but we were able to score a seat at the bar.

Unfortunately we had our backs to lovely dining room and beautiful windows overlooking the park, but I turned around a couple of times during my meal and that made it a little better :)

We started off our meal by ordering some beers. Mr T got the Kostritzer, Schwarzbier and I got the Professor Fritz Briem, which is a Berliner Weisse from Germany.



With Berliner Weisse beers, due to their fermentation process they are very strong in lactic acid. Many times people add fruit syrup to the glass in order to reduce the sharpness of the beer.

I enjoy the beer on its' own but the bartender had some really neat flavors so I decided to try them out.



He gave me three different syrups a strawberry, pomegranate and honey lavender.

The Honey Lavender was my favorite by far. The sweetness of the honey really mellowed out the tart flavor of the beer and gave it a silky feel.

I still prefer my beer 'au natural' but it was nice to try something new.

And I have to say, being a total girl right now, it was kind of fun having those cute mini pitchers to pour into my beer!!

The restaurant week menu here works the same way it does everywhere else. You pick an appetizer, main course and dessert for $24.08.

For my appetizer I ordered the Big Eye Tuna.



The presentation was beautiful and the tuna itself was tender and delicious. It was covered in a fantastic olive oil and complemented with rolled up pieces of kiwi, watermelon and mango.

I honestly didn't care for the fruit with the tuna. I thought it was so good on its own the fruit just took away from the flavor.

I asked for a copy of the menu when we left and realized that the dish was different than I had ordered. On the menu it was supposed to come with Heirloom tomatoes not fruit. I wonder if the kitchen ran out of tomatoes last minute and whipped us this idea!

Luckily they didn't run out of anything for Mr. Trekker's appetizer the Sweetbread Ravioli with Sweet Corn, Lime and chorizo.



Oh my Word! This dish is permanently in my list of the five best things I have ever eaten in my life!

I took one bite and I felt my eyes roll back into my head. The sweetbread had a rich creamy texture and the light eggy ravioli was covered in a corn foam that was utterly delightful.

Words cannot describe how good this dish was. I wanted to take my piece of bread and soak up every last drop of that corn foam. Good thing sweetbreads aren't available in every restaurant. I think I would be about 500 pounds!

For my main course I ordered the Seared Skate with Cauliflower, Lemons and capers.



I was wowed once again. And by skate!

The skate was cooked perfectly so that the outside has a great crispy crust but the inside was moist and flaky.

The cauliflower and capers tasted like they were caramelized in butter almost and sprinkled with a little lemon for some acidity.

Simply wonderful!

Mr. T ordered the Colorado Lam Sausage with Eggplant, Tomato Confit and Roasted garlic.



I'm not a huge sausage eater but this dish rocked. The roasted garlic and tomato confit added a slightly sweeter flavor to the spicy sausage.

My favorite part of his dish though was the mashed potatoes.

Gramercy tavern has my favorite mashed potatoes in the world and these were almost identical.

Super creamy and smooth they were almost like a milky potato puree. Yum!!

We were both very happy with our entrees and I don't think we left anything on our plates. We were stuffed but of course the best part about restaurant week is that dessert is included!

Who cares if you feel like you might explode!! Dessert is on the way!

I got the Araguani Chocolate Custard with Passion Fruit Sorbet.



The dish was almost more like a custard tart with a scoop of sorbet on top and passion fruit syrup on the bottom.

The sweet custard and sour passion fruit worked well together and I ate the whole thing in about two seconds flat.

Mr T ordered the Sheep's Milk cheesecake with Summer Berries and Lemon Verbeana.



The cheesecake had a light airy texture and the berries and lemons gave it a crisp refreshing flavor.

An excellent way to end our meal!

So there you have it. Without drinks our total for the meal was $48.16.

We kind of laughed a little because the other times we have been here we have dropped a LOT more money and never experienced this level of deliciouness.

I was truly wowed by this meal and the marvelous talent of Chef Humm.

All I know is next restaurant week this will be on the top of my list to get a reservation. Hopefully this time at a table so I can enjoy the room a little more.

I'm sorry Park Avenue Summer. Your meal was great, but I lied. It wasn't the best I have ever had. Eleven Madison swept me off my feet. It is truly in a league all of it's own.

Simply wonderful.

Eleven Madison Park

Monday, August 11, 2008

One of the Worst Meals of my Life at Ushi Wakamaru

Okay, I want to preface this post by saying that I really don't enjoy giving bad reviews. Who Does? I wish every meal out could be a fantastic culinary experience.

But you know what? That just does not happen all the time. And it really didn't happen to Mr. Trekker and I this past Thursday night.

It started out nice enough.

We meet up after work at Pegu Club where we enjoyed some really tasty cocktails.

When I walked inside I immediately fell in love with the look of the place. Long hardwood floors and candle lit tables gave the room a hip but cozy feel. I ordered the Pisco Punch which is pineapple infused pisco brandy with grapefruit, lemon juice and lime syrup.



It was so tasty I easily could have had four or five of these things. Dangerous for sure.

Mr. T tried out their signature Pegu Club cocktail and the Tantric sidecar which were both awesome although definently stronger than my Pisco Punch.

After a couple drinks we headed across the street to Ushi Wakamaru for what I thought was going to be a fantastic Japanese dinner.

It was not to be. I am kind of sorry I didn't take pictures but honestly they probably wouldn't have done this review any justice.

Things were bad from the start. We sat down and were given our menus. After looking over them briefly we decided what we wanted and then waited. And waited. It took about 15-20 minutes before anyone acknowledged our presence. Finally a waitress came over and took our order.

Luckily she was much quicker in bringing out our drinks.

Maybe a little too quick.

About 2 minutes later she comes out with Mr. T's sake and my glass of wine. As I go to have a sip I notice something brown floating in the bottom of the glass. Now this isn't just a small piece of cork...This is something quite large and gross looking, possibly some sort of food but I couldn't really tell.

We flag down our waitress and show her and she quickly takes it away and brings me out another glass.

Whew..A couple bumps in the road so far but I'm hoping things will get better once the food comes.

It does not.

Our first order, the special Toro negori with Bonita flakes. Out comes a bowl with what looks like ground up tuna with some black chunks in it.

The Toro has the consistency of slimy baby food. I could hardly pick it up with my chopsticks because they just went right though it. And the taste..well it kind of tasted like slimy baby food as well. It was so gross texturally I couldn't even get down more than a bite or two. Mr. T was able to eat most of it but kept saying, is it supposed to be like this, with every bite.

Next came the black cod miso.

The cod was so overcooked it was difficult to even cut into it. The protion was tiny as well but out of all of our dishes this was to be the highlight of the meal.

At least it was at least edible.

Next out is our Japanese Beef Sashimi. Five tiny triangles of beef that were so oily and gristled they were disgusting. Mr. T likened the taste to what we assume dog food would be like and I agreed.

It just tasted dirty.

Mr. T had gotten an order of soft shell crabs and was busy trying to enjoy those.

About halfway through he stops and says, "something is wrong with these" He couldn't put his finger on it but decided to stop eating them.

Not being a soft shell crab eater I couldn't weigh in but I applauded his decision to stop eating them if he was unsure about the taste. Unfortuntely it would be too late.

The abalone came next and fared no better. Mr. T discreetly spit his first piece out because it was too tough to even chew or swallow.

Upon inspecting the other pieces we realized this was the case for them all.

At this point I just wanted to leave but we only had one more thing coming out which was the eel sushi. I took one look at it and knew I wasn't even going to give it a try.

At this point I look over at Mr. T and notice drops of sweat coming down the side of his suddenly very pale face and I realize he is about to be sick.

Those soft shell crabs didn't taste funny for no reason.

I wanted to complain, I wanted to argue about the quality of our food, I wanted to understand why our stuff was so bad!

But one look at Mr. T and I know he just wants to pay and go, so he can be sick outside rather than in the restaurant.

So we do. And the entire rest of the night we are both sick.

This is by far the worst meal I have ever had and I will never be returning to Ushi Wakamaru.

I have no idea how it gets such good reviews, maybe we just had an off night but I really don't think so. The quality of all of the food was so bad and the cleanliness of the restaurant as a whole is seriously in question.

With so many great Japanese places in the city like Shushi Yasuda, Abiyura Kinnosuke, Le Miu...why would anyone go here?

It is the one place that I don't think deserves my second chance.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BBQ Face Off!! Dinosaur vs. RUB

So we went out to two BBQ dinners this past week and I have to compare them since we got basically the same things.

Okay- just to start- I have eaten at both RUB and Dinosaur BBQ before, although the dinosaur I ate at was in Syracuse, but I knew what to expect walking in.

At Dinosaur we started off by splitting an order of their Honey BBQ and Garlic Chipotle wings.



This is one of each and once I saw them coming to our table I couldn't help but smile.

These were actual wings!!

They were big, meaty and oh so close to the Buffalo wings I grew up with!!

The Honey BBQ sauce was nice although I thought it could be a little sweeter
The Garlic chipotle however rocked!!!

They had an excellent smokey garlic flavor which just enough spice at the end to leave your lips and mouth burning for a few seconds after.

For my main I ordered the 1/2 rack BBQ Plate that came with a choice of two sides and cornbread.



The ribs were just as I remembered from Syracuse. Meat that was juicy, moist and covered in a sweet, tangy and thick BBQ sauce.

I was pretty boring for my sides, I admit. The coleslaw was alright but I've had better. The iceberg wedge with blue cheese was nothing special but it was nice to see salad offered as a side at a BBQ joint.

It made me feel little bit better about all of the red meat I was consuming.

Everyone also got a piece of cornbread that was so moist it must have been made with about four sticks of butter. No joke.

Three nights later we found ourselves at a neighborhood joint RUB. We decided to order the same stuff and check out the differences.

Here is our order of buffalo wings. The wings were a tad smaller than Dinosaur's but still bigger than most. The sauce on these were pure spicy BBQ with a salty kick.



These were good but I found the sauce a little too salty for my tastes although I did enjoy the bbq flavor.

Here we split a full rack of St. Louis style ribs with an order of BBQ baked beans and coleslaw on the side.



We had a full rack at RUB so we got both the long and short end of the ribs.

I have always loved RUB ribs. They are moist and beefy without tons of fat. The sauce is good as well, but I usually add a little more of the spicy sweet sauce on the side to give them a little more flavor.

The sides at RUB are really great.

It's one of the few places where I can get vinegar based coleslaw rather than mayo. And Mr. T swears they have the best baked beans in the city.

They are thick, rich and have burnt end pieces swimming about. Quite decadent!

So here's what it breaks down to.

Score card please:

Dinosaur had huge juicy wings that almost stole the show from the ribs- 1 point Dinosaur
Dinosaur's Ribs were more moist than RUB and had such great flavor that I never even thought about adding more sauce- 2 points Dinosaur
Dinosaur gives you free buttery cornbread that is awesome. RUB gives you wonder bread- 3 points Dinosaur
The beans and coleslaw at RUB are pretty awesome although Dinosaur gets a little nod for having lettuce as a side offering. 1 1/2 points to RUB 1/2 to Dinosaur
RUB aesthetically is alright but kind of small and cramped where as Dinosaur is a large, boisterous, fun place. 5 1/2 points Dinosaur
RUB is 3 blocks away. Dinosaur is about an hour subway ride- 2 1/2 points RUB

So there you have it. Where it matters most Dinosaur is the big winner.

Not to say I don't still like RUB...Its just not on the same level as Dinosaur for ribs and wings. Dinosaur is BBQ the way I like it and I guess that just makes me an up state kind of girl:)

My goodness how I love meat!!

A Fantittalliastic Falafel

Okay so Fantittalliastic isn't really a word but that's how I feel after I had one of these falafels today!!

I was heading to work this afternoon, through the West Village, when I happened across Taim. I saw a guy outside the small shop, eating what looked like an amazing sandwich so I stopped in to grab some lunch.

It was about 12:45 and the 5 stools inside Taim were filled and there were about 5 others waiting patiently in the sardine tin space for their food.

They had an awesome sounding Sun dried Tomato Falafel special but I decided to try one of their usual ones first so I went for the Red Whole wheat Pita falafel.

About ten minutes later I was out the door on my way to the office to indulge in my amazing pocket of goodness.

Look at the little guy in there when I opened him up!



Don't be shy little guy! You should be strutting your stuff with all of those toppings and awesome balls of flavor!



Yum! I took a bite right into one of the falafel balls and the wonderful taste of red roasted peppers came shooting at me.



See those red flakes- those are the peppers. And look at all the other stuff!!

I really shouldn't have called this guy little! This pita was packed to the brim with hummus, isralei salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, green cabbage and tahini sauce.

This was the most solid pita sandwich I have ever had in my life and I ended up eating the whole entire thing!

Once I was done I honestly was so full I had to go for a walk around the block before I could start working again! What an awesome lunch and guess what it cost me?

$5.45. Crazy cheap and delicious.

I am so happy I know how close Taim is to my office now. Their fries looked ridiculously good so I will be back soon with Mr T. to try those out. And it'll help me save some pennies for my bigger, more expensive outings!!