SobaKoh

To ring in 2013, my first meal of the year was at SobaKoh, hidden on East 5th between 1st and 2nd Avenue. After arriving home at the crack of down consuming McDonalds filet a fish and fries just hours before, I decided to opt  for something light to balance out my heavy remorse.

In an area full of ramen shops, I seldom go out to eat soba, nor make it at home and I can’t understand why, even after reading blog posts about places that serve soba with uni and ikura! In front of the restaurant you can see a man behind the window effortlessly making soba. The inside of is simple, clean and quiet and finding a spot was easy (compared to the wait at Cocoron). I looked at the menu and spotted just what I was looking for: cold soba with uni and ikura. My boyfriend decided on the broth noodles with duck. When the waitress took my order, she sadly informed me that they were out of uni. Out of uni???? How can that be??? Our original plan had fallen through and I quickly glanced at the menu again and brashly decided on the cold soba with duck. My boyfriend did not want to get something similar and switched his order to the soba in broth with shrimp tempura. We started off with the grilled Chilean sea bass, which tastes similar to misoyaki butterfish, a nice surprise.

Cold soba with duckThe main course: the noodles were done right–chewy and long. In my opinion it’s an art first acquiring some of the noodles and dunking them into the bowl of broth without losing any in order to grab a piece of meaty, fatty duck. Such small, immaterial issues, which are quickly forgotten after eating that first bite.

The soba with shrimp tempura

Soba with shrimp tempura

Soba with shrimp tempura

did not disappoint; however I would have wished there more pieces.

To end the meal, we shared the green tea ice with azuki beans, an agreeable and light way to clear the palate and balance the savory flavor of the soba broth.

I will definitely come back again, especially to try the soba with uni and ikura.

Advertisements

Gnocco

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city, Gnocco is currently hidden underneath scaffolding on 10th street between Ave A and B , and is almost like a best kept secret. I recently had dinner here on New Year’s Eve, my second time, and always admire it’s Tuscan charm and unpretentious vibe.

Gnocco

Gnocco

The cuisine is northern Italian, heavily focused on meat, cheese and stuffed pastas. We first started off with the restaurant’s namesake appetizer, the Gnocco, and Arancini di Riso. The Gnocco comprises of homemade deep fried dough (similar to the Cassoncini from A Voce ) with a selection of cold cuts and is served unassembled; however the way it’s supposed to be eaten is by wrapping the cold cuts around the fried dough. Simple in concept, this dish is absolutely mind-blowing.

Arancini di Riso

Arancini di Riso

The Arancini is stuffed with creamy medley of peas, zucchini, mozzarella cheese and is supposed to be dipped in a spicy marinara sauce. The marinara sauce can be mistaken for tomato soup and can stand by itself. While I did like the Arancini, I still keep reminiscing about this past summer at Madison Square Eats where I tried a variety of them for the first time.

For our entrees, we shared the Tagliatelle con Ragu e Piselli (homemade tagliatelle pasta with beef ragu and green peas) and the Affumicata (pizza with smoked mozzarella, tomato sauce and Italian sausages). People always ask why I would choose to go out for pasta when I can make

Tagliatelle con Ragu e Piselli

Tagliatelle con Ragu e Piselli

it for way less. My personal philosophy is to pick dishes that would be difficult to recreate. I can appreciate a ragu because it can typically take hours for the meat to stew  and the Tagliatelle did not disappoint! As for the pizza, the combination of smoked mozzarella and spices of the sausage enhanced seemingly basic ingredients.

Unfortunately I didn’t order dessert, but on my next visit I will look Calzone Nutella. I look forward to the next visit and will have a difficult time picking something new to try.

Food: 4.5/5

Service: 4/5

Ambiance: 4.5/5

Value: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.4/5

Singapura

I first heard about Singapura after perusing the New York Times a few months ago. I never consistently rely on reading food reviews, but I needed inspiration since I have felt disconnected with the up & coming restaurant scene. After reading SeriousEats, I was reminded yet again of this place and decided to go before the New Year!

Sandwiched in between the Indian restaurants in Curry Hill, Singapura is situated next to Dhaba, one of my favorite spots in the area. The space is narrow, and the ambience intimate, with warm colorful lights shining down on the red upholstered booths and walls decorated with abacuses. The staff is friendly and seated us instantly despite the fact that the restaurant was full.

Malay Fried Chicken

Malay Fried Chicken

We started off with glasses of wine and ordered the Malay Fried Chicken ($7) and the Roti Canai ($5) with chicken curry. The Malay fried chicken came with sides of Sriracha and garlic sauce. The skin of the chicken was crisp and satisfying, but the flavor wasn’t anything beyond good. The roti was predictable and safe, and like the chicken, not memorable.

For entrees, we ordered the beef

Massaman curry

Massaman curry

Massaman curry ($15), Sizzling Lamb ($15) and shrimp Chili Garlic Noodles ($14). The Massaman curry, a simple, mild yellow curry with potatoes, peppers and peanuts is lightly spiced but very flavorful. The Sizzling Lamb, true to its name, arrives in iron platter reminding me of fajitas. Last but not least the shrimp Chili Garlic Noodles, my personal favorite, with scallions, bell peppers and shrimp.

Looking back on the meal, I wasn’t disappointed with any dish, but I can say that there are new dishes I would try the next time I return. In fact, we got take out from here the same weekend and ordered the roti (again) but tried the chicken satay, shrimp pad thai, nasi goreng.

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Ambiance: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Overall: 3.9/5

Christmas Day Dinner 2012

For the past 2 years I’ve been learning to cook simple dishes, inspired by food blogs or random recipe suggestions triggered by quick searches. Christmas dinner was the first time I’ve cooked

Cooked duck

Cooked duck

multiple side dishes in addition to a main entree and was excited for the challenge of reducing the ingredients  for 2 people instead of 6 or 8. On the menu: cornbread stuffing, candied yams, roasted Brussels sprouts and duck with raspberry sauce as the main entree. Neither my boyfriend nor I have ever prepared duck and I was a little unsure of what grocery store carried them. I ended up at Citarella where duck breasts are $14.99/lb, which seems to be comparable to the frozen version at Whole Foods. I personally think that $40 for 2 duck breasts is astronomically high, but was later convinced after they were finished–they grew to twice the size! I found the recipe on another blog after searching “Christmas dinner for 2.”

Stuffing

My mother had shared her stuffing recipe, which is an improved version of StoveTop. She adds wild rice, celery, olives, mushrooms and onion. Instead of StoveTop, I used the cornbread
stuffing mix from Trader Joes, which is double the size of StoveTop, and included 1 cup of wild rice, 4 stalks of celery, an entire can of pitted olives, 8 mushrooms and 1 full onion.

The candied yams and roasted Brussels sprouts recipes were very simple

Candied yams

Candied yams

and delicious. My mother has never in the past added marshmallows, but I began to as a result of trying them a few Thanksgivings ago in college. One thing to note is that the yams recipe suggests placing them in the oven for 25 minutes; however I would recommend leaving them in for less time if the recipe is reduced to 2 – 3 servings, probably for 15-20 minutes instead. The marshmallows expand and then literally evaporate for a patchy appearance once out of the oven.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Preparing the Brussels sprouts is pretty straightforward and the one amendment to the recipe is that I used garlic salt to add more flavor without actually mincing garlic.

Overall the dinner was a success. I am lucky to have my boyfriend work on the duck as I focused on the side dishes. The great thing about these recipes is that they all require the oven at 400 degrees and can be staggered. I would first start off with chopping vegetables for the stuff, then work on the Brussels sprouts and then once in the oven, the yams. The stuffing takes the least amount of time and should be done 15 minutes before the duck is ready.

Bon appétit!

A Voce Columbus Circle

Scrambling to confirm Holiday plans just one week ago, I decided on A Voce for our Christmas Eve dinner. A Voce has always been in the back of my mind as a place that I’d like to visit, but usually forget about it, until I hear about a friend’s experience or come across a restaurant review.

A Voce has 2 locations in the City, one on Madison Avenue and the other at the Time Warner Center. In all honesty I selected the TWC location based on the festive area near Central Park and also because the complex houses Per Se, Masa and the Landmarc–A Voce must be good in order to compete with these businesses, right? Kidding (kind of). I actually went through a minor period of remorse for not picking the Madison location with Uni pasta on the menu!

Our reservation was for 8:15 pm and the restaurant was completely packed. The ambiance is romantic and dim and my boyfriend and I were seated against the wall and had a transparent view into the large wine cellar that holds hundreds of wine bottles. Upon ordering, we received complementary, fresh focaccia bread and ricotta cheese with olive oil drizzled on top.

Cassoncini (swiss chard and crescenza cheese filled fried dough, prosciutto di parma) shown in front; and Pancetta (pork belly, figs, balsamic, pistachios) shown behind

Cassoncini (swiss chard and crescenza cheese filled fried dough, prosciutto di parma) shown in front; and Pancetta (pork belly, figs, balsamic, pistachios) shown behind

For appetizers we ordered the Cassoncini (swiss chard and crescenza cheese filled fried dough, prosciutto di parma) $11 and Pancetta (pork belly, figs, balsamic, pistachios) $13. Both delicious, the Pancetta offered a duality of  taste with the sweet figs co-mingling with the not overly salted, savory pork belly. The Cassoncini itself is a safer yet satisfying option, tasting similar to that of a Spankopita, except now wrapped in prosciutto.

I was disappointed that the Pici (cocoa pasta, duck bolognese, golden raisins, pine nuts) had sold out because I was craving longer noodles and was also intrigued by cocoa infused pasta. When informed that this was no longer an option, I scrambled to find something under the Primi section of the menu. Nothing especially jumped out at me and so I settled for the waiter’s recommendation of Agnolotti (cauliflower filled pasta, anchovy, lemon, breadcrumbs) $22. My boyfriend ordered the lamb and sausage tartare $39. My Agnolotti was rich in a creamy sauce with lemon zest. Each bite had the perfect combination of cauliflower and sprinkled breadcrumbs. The lamb was tender and delicious but nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand the sausage tartare was an interesting addition to the dish, balancing the gamey taste of the lamb.

Agnolotti (cauliflower filled pasta, anchovy, lemon, breadcrumbs)

Agnolotti (cauliflower filled pasta, anchovy, lemon, breadcrumbs)

Lamb & sausage tartare (not on the online menu!)

We topped off dinner with complimentary marshmallows, Bomboloni alla Toscana (tuscan doughnuts, bittersweet chocolate) $11 and Semifreddo (semifrozen espresso mousse, espresso caramel, chocolate, milk) $10. Any dessert with chocolate never fails in my eyes, but I must say the marshmallows were a highlight because of the light lemon flavoring and the soft, half-melted texture. I’ve never had anything like this before.

All in all, the ambiance and food alone have made it worthwhile for me to revisit again. I’m curious to actually try the Madison Avenue location for comparison. The service was lacking and the waiter did not appear to be fully engaged (or energetic) when it came to serving his customers, which is not indicative of a 1-Michelin star restaurant.

Food: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Ambiance: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Overall: 3.8/5

Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil/butter
  • 1/2 chopped round onion
  • 1-2 stalks of chopped celery
  • Chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 can chopped pitted olives
  • Black pepper
  • 1 box Stove Top Stuffing (6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of wild rice
  1. Make 1/2 cup of wild rice.
  2. Saute onion and celery in olive oil and/or butter on low-med. heat.
  3. Add mushrooms and olives and saute until tender.
  4. Add stuffing (bread crumbs) and (packaged) mix (as directed on package). Also add wild rice to the mix.

 

Jalapeno Popover Chicken

This is one of the tastier chicken dishes we’ve ever made. If it wasn’t for a random Facebook post that appeared on my Newsfeed, I would have never come across this dish. Jalapeno Popover Chicken incorporates both flavor and texture to spice up what otherwise could be basic. Here is the recipe.

Some amendments made to the existing recipe include using chicken thighs instead of breasts and mixing mozzarella with the cheddar cheese. Very minor tweaks.

The finished result!

The finished result!

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

Shrimp scampi

Shrimp scampi

During my last trip to Hawaii, I finally tried Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, which is both a tourist stop as well as a well-respected establishment by locals. Located in a lot in Kahuku, the truck opens around 11 am, and is surrounded by tents of crafts, shaved ice and roasted corn on the cob.

Sitting in the shaded eating area a little before 11, I eagerly waited for the truck to drive down the lane and park at the entrance. A line already formed before I could reach the opposite end, which gave me some time to peruse the menu. The choices are limited to 4 items, and we decided on the Shrimp Scampi ($13) and the Lemon Butter Shrimp ($13). The Shrimp Scampi is doused in garlic, lemon and butter and oh so tasty. The Lemon Butter Shrimp is a subset of the Shrimp Scampi without the garlic. Both are satisfying, but the Shrimp Scampi is a must have.

Down the path we also picked up freshly roasted Kahuku corn, which tasted as good as it looks!

Roasted Kahuku corn

Roasted Kahuku corn

Rainbow Drive-In

I dream of Loco Mocos living in New York. One of the only places that serve it is L&L Drive-In on Fulton Street, which is a satisfactory alternative to the real deal served at Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu.

There’s something about this concoction that just works…2 sunny side up eggs on top of hamburger patty with 2 scoops rice and thick brown gravy draped over everything. Oh yeah, can’t forget the macaroni salad. An acquired taste for sure as well as a love for carbs, it took me 18+ years to try this delicacy. The ironic thing about growing up in Hawaii is that I had never really been exposed to the local comfort food, which is partly a shame, since I no longer can get it at my disposal. I guess this is partly a good thing seeing as this should be consumed sparingly. Nevertheless, I will make a concentrated effort to visit Rainbow Drive-In at least once during my visits home.

Loco moco

Loco moco