Friday, May 7, 2010

Taste of East Village: Caracas Arepas, Luke's Lobster, La Lucha, S'Mac, Baoguette, Dessert Club Chikalicious and Kuma Inn

Last weekend, Greeshma, Belmund and I ventured out to take advantage of TheDealist's awesome "Taste of East Village" deal, featuring miscellaneous eats from 5 different East Village restaurants for $16 bucks!  An absolute bargain if I ever saw one.

We met up at Luke's Lobster to start our day, because nothing tastes better at 11:30 a.m. in the morning than a lobster roll, but we got momentarily distracted: Luke's Lobster is next door to Caracas Arepas, a spot Greeshma has been dying to try before her Philly life begins, so we made a pitstop there first before starting our official Dealist food tour.  Let's call it an arepa appetizer!

We stopped in their "To Go" storefront.  They have a huge sign stating arepas are not fast food, and to be patient.  They make every arepa fresh to order.

I can best describe arepas as a Venezuelan pita made of maize, a dough very similar to El Salvadoran pupusas.  Caracas Arepas recently appeared on an arepa throwdown with Bobby Flay. The waits at this tiny restaurant are notorious in the foodie community, but we arrived right at opening time of noon, and there was no one !

Belmund got the La Surena which features chicken, chorizo, avocado and chimichurri sauce.  I had eaten this on my previous visit, and I liked everything but the grilled chicken.  I am a chorizo fiend though.

Greeshma ordered the De Guasacaca, with Venezuelan guacamole and cheese, but you could not even see the guacamole underneath all of that beautifully grated cheese.

We eventually found the guacamole which tasted super fresh and pure.

You will look like this when you eat an arepa.

Greeshma trying out some of their special sauce.

I did not partake in the arepa eating activity because I already had a bubble tea that morning.  I did contemplate getting their yummy Papelon con limon beverage, sugarcane + lime.

Papelon con limon

But I had to save some stomach space because I just knew today's eating adventures were going to be strenuous.  Greeshma and Belmund both found the arepas solid.  And with that appetizer down, we set forth on our grand foodfest!

First stop, Luke's Lobster for a "snack-sized" lobster roll. 

Cute slogan: "From ME to you."  Puns are so fun.

Luke's is tiny with requisite harbor decor.  They assemble the food right behind the cash register.

Luke's Lobster snack sized lobster roll, about the size of the palm of my hand but filled to the brim with chunks of fresh lobster.

The lobster was barely dressed in any mayo and had a light touch of seasoning. The amazingly fresh lobster flavor shone through and through.

Genuine happiness.  We pretty much stopped talking to each other as we experienced this incredible roll.  Only "Mmmm" and "Ohmigodthisissogood" could be heard for five minutes.

Seriously that lobster roll was the best thing I've eaten all year.  I want one every day of my life.

We are going to have such a happy life together, Luke's lobster roll.

We left Luke's with pure bliss on our faces.  Except for me.  Because at that moment, a pigeon decided to crap on my shoulder.  But special thanks to Belmund and Greeshma for acting so swiftly and cleaning up that bird mess.  They are the best food partners you could ever ask for.

So onto the next stop!  La Lucha!

La Lucha was a last minute add to replace Led Zeppole (home of freshly made zeppoles and fried oreos) which had an unfortunate flood in their basement the night prior.  We were down with trying some of their tacos though.

Cute luchador decor

The Mano Negra: mushrooms and fresh cheese

Ciclon ramirez: chicken in chipotle sauce

Mmm.  Cilantro.

We didn't know what to expect from La Lucha, but we were completely won over with the quality of the ingredients.  Greeshma loved adding the table sauces to hers and told me that I wasn't really living it up without adding them to mine.  She is probably right, but it was still really great as is!

Then we strolled to Sarita's Mac and Cheese, more commonly known as S'Mac.


They served the four cheese mac 'n cheese from a huge heated tray setup outside of the restaurant.

We all got heaping cupfuls of the cheesy mac, and while it would be any cheese lover's dream, Greeshma and I could barely eat a few spoonfuls before calling it quits.  It was tough to eat such thick, heavy food in the growing heat outside.  I did enjoy the little bits of sharp cheddar interspersed in the gooey mixture though.

And then it was banh mi time at Baoguette!  Baoguette is a NY chain bringing banh mi to the mainstream.  Vietnamese sandwiches here are a tad pricier than the norm ($6-$7), but the ingredients are pretty fresh.
The wait at Baoguette was the most extreme of the day (~15 minutes) as banh mis are probably not the easiest to make as fast food.  But we needed time for our stomachs to digest the food we had already eaten that day.

The Vegette with kung pao soy protein.  Greeshma said it was okay, but not as good as Henry's in Brooklyn.

The pork chop banh mi, which is my personal favorite type of banh mi sandwich, with grilled pork.  Belmund was all about this and managed to eat his whole sandwich!

I got the Classic which had minced, marinated pork and the traditional pickled daikon carrot trimmings.  I got it medium spicy (jalapenos + Sriracha), and it was the perfect amount of spice.  I really like Banh Mi So 1 in Little Italy, but I will admit the minced pork at Baoguette is better.  It just resembles actual meat here.

Greeshma and I were only able to eat half of our sandwiches as our bellies were reaching maximum capacity.  But we still had just one more place to hit for the afternoon:

Dessert Club Chikalicious!

I had visited Dessert Club with Tanuja previously, but did not get to eat a whole cupcake.  But now I have!

The premium triple chocolate cupcake

Chocolate cupcake + caramel macaron

Rose macaron

Greeshma opened her macaron like an Oreo (I have never seen anyone do this before!); she said it was necessary to spread the filling evenly before consumption.  I somehow feel that good macarons do not require this step.

Inside of the chocolate cupcake.  Can you see that tiny dollop of chocolate cream inside?  The frosting on the cupcake was super soft (borderline melty) but was really, really good.  Perfectly small-sized cupcake with great chocolate flavor.

The caramel macaron was strange.  It had way too much filling as you can tell from this shot.  It was oozing everywhere.  Greeshma said it was because I did not evenly distribute it, but there was just way too much all around.  I would stick with the cupcakes here.

We had originally planned to spend a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that afternoon, but we kind of got sleepy and tired after eating all of that intense eating (it's a lot of work!), so we headed downtown to check out the Romanian Day Street Festival occurring on Broadway.  This street festival ended up being so productive: we got cute rings, headbands and sweet sunglasses.

Greeshma, in sweet designer sunglasses, holding her favorite treats

Can you tell what they are?

If you guessed fried Oreos, you are right !  They were warm and very good. 

After the street festival, we headed to Carnegie Hall to catch some culture: Piotr Anderszewski, a handsome and talented pianist.  We stayed for three sets, and left because the lady next to me was hostile to my sniffles, and we were actually kind of hungry again for dinner !

Dinner. The final meal.  Kuma Inn, a Filipino-esque tapas restaurant in the Lower East side.

A special of the night: barbecued pork belly.

Love. Pork. Fat.  These were soooo good.  They had some vinegary barbecue sauce brushed onto them that gave a nice tart, savory flavor.

Lightly picked cucumbers that Greeshma loved.

Garlic rice.  Also very good; garlic and rice are a match made in heaven.

Pancit bihon stir fried noodles with pork, sausage, bean sprouts and carrots.  I really liked this; it also tasted sort of vinegary.  The Chinese sausage was softer than I am used to (though I always eat packaged Chinese sausage), but there was a nice balance of veggies, meat and noodles.  The portion was also super huge compared to everything else we ordered.

Drunken spicy shrimp finished with sake, kalamansi and thai chilies.  This plate came about six shrimps to the plate; they tasted fine, but could have been spicier.

Steamed pork buns.  They remind me of Baohaus, but less jazzed.  The shredded pork was cooked well, and the buns were pillowy wonders.

Belmund is Filipino and gave Kuma Inn an "Okay" rating.  He said the spot was too trendy, but the food was alright.  I liked the restaurant because it made me feel cool, eating on top of a Bulgarian dance bar.  The waitress was terribly hard to understand (thick Asian accent) and the service was so-so. The food was good but not great (outside of the pork belly, but I've yet to have bad pork belly!).  We are tentatively planning a more authentic meal later this month.

All we ate.

I think I gained five pounds from that day alone.

As we parted ways that night, Belmund said to us:
"That lobster roll was really good, huh?"

Oh, Luke's, you've made quite an impact on us.

Caracas Arepas
93 East 7th Street, New York, NY‎
(212) 529-2314‎

Luke's Lobster
93 East 7th Street, New York, NY‎
(212) 387-8487‎

La Lucha
147 Avenue A New York, NY 10009
(212) 260-0235

Sarita's Mac and Cheese (S'Mac)
345 E 12th St, New York, NY‎
(212) 358-7912‎

37 St Marks Pl, New York, NY‎
(347) 892-2614‎

Dessert Club Chikalicious
204 East 10th Street, New York, NY‎
(212) 475-0929‎

Kuma Inn
113 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 353-8866


  1. why has no one ever told me of garlic rice?! amazing.

    those lobster rolls like absolutely magnificent. i've never had a lobster roll with meat that looks THAT chunky and delicious.

    i'm ready for my papelon con limon, please.

    and i totally agree with you - proper macarons do not permit oreo-like-openings!!! hahahah but kinda hilarious to see that picture.

  2. Don't worry Han, that old lady at Carnegie Hall went home to an empty house while we were enjoying our youth by stuffing our faces.