Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Omakase at Tori Shin

Diana and I had enjoyed the yakitori at Las Vegas' Raku so much (which we still need to post about - sigh) that we decided to see if New York's yakitori scene was up to snuff.  The Upper West Side's Michelin-starred Tori Shin seemed to fit the bill.

The yakitori selection is small, and we decided to opt for the omakase since they promised these 'special skewers' that are not available on the regular menu, and we entrusted the chef with our meal.  

The problem with ordering omakase is that we pay less attention to what we are eating, and we do not really remember what we ate specifically.  But basically this is the gist you should know:

All the yakitori is chicken-related, insides and outsides, but definitely all chicken.  No seafood.  No pork.  Just a lot of freaking chicken...which is why it is hard to explain what we ate because it somewhat looks the same (minus the distinctive chicken meatballs) and generally tasted the same, from the house special sauce that reigned supreme on nearly everything.  The textures for the dishes were remarkable, with varying levels of fattiness, juiciness and tenderness that did invoke within me an especial appreciation for different cuts of chicken.

All in all we had three vegetables (bamboo shoot. tomatoes, asparagus), a palate cleanser of hand-shaved daikon, four chicken skewers (chicken meatball, thigh, breast and ___), a skewer of quail eggs, a chicken salad, a rice dish and a scoop of ice cream for $55.  Here are the pictures and the best I can remember.

Bamboo shoots with Japanese specially-imported salt that tasted like truffles. The salt was divine, as was the tender shoots.

Daikon palate cleanser.

Shiso-paste chicken breast.  Mouth-puckering flavor.

Chicken meatballs which were dense but juicy.

Fresh chicken salad with avocado, cucumber and an incredibly addictive ginger garlic sauce.  One of our favorite dishes of the night.
I do believe this was the special skewer.  It was quite tender, but otherwise not too special.
Hot, juicy tomatoes that popped in our mouths.
Quail eggs.  Cute in appearance, okay in execution.  (A bit dry.)

The special oyako don (+$5).  Loved squishing the fat, golden yolk and smushing it everywhere.  The grilled chicken chunks were fine, but the combination of raw egg yolk and seaweed is delicious.

The saboro don (ground chicken over rice).  Creamy and flavorful.
A chicken consomme that accompanied our rice dishes.  The cleanest, most flavorful chicken stock I've tasted to date. 
Shiso, Japanese sorbet.  Basically basil ice, simply clean and refreshing.  My other favorite thing of the night.
Green tea ice cream.  Solid (as it always is).

At the end of the day, was it too much chicken?  Probably.  Was it a good experience?  Every experience with Diana is good.  But if I came again, which wouldn't be too soon, I'd definitely recommend ordering off the menu  (we only received one 'special skewer,' so not totally worth it) and definitely finishing the meal with that basil ice.  Amazing.

Tori Shin
1193 1st Ave
New York, NY
Tori Shin on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nashville Fried Chicken at Peaches Hothouse

It seems like I've been on a fried chicken hiatus.  You may have been worried that I have been concentrating on developing a most terrific summer body.  I assure you that I am not.  I am still eating *plenty* of fried chicken.  Here is one of them!

I've never been to Nashville.  I do want to go sometime.  I'm sure you do too.  But until that day ever comes, the only option we New Yorkers have that delivers semi-authentic (inspired?) Nashville fried chicken is Peaches Hothouse, located in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The only thing I can understand about Nashville fried chicken, that distinguishes it from other fried chickens, is that it can come in various levels of spiciness.  Here, you can get it regular, hot or extra hot (fully italicized, like the menu).  As any proud Asian, I got the extra hot.  Nashville ain't got nothin on me!

The waitress hesitated taking down our order.  "Are you sure?  It is unbearably hot."
"I'm sure."
"Many people have asked for the chicken to be refried because it is too hot for them."
"I'm really sure."
She stares at us.
I take five Serrano peppers out of my purse and chew them like bubble gum in front of her.
She appears satisfied and takes our order.

And then it arrived.  My dish included thick fries, crisp and full of fluff, and three pieces of chicken balanced on top of a thin slice of Wonder bread.

Doesn't look so spicy.

Okay.  That piece looks more spicy.

And you know, the first bite was not that spicy, as to elicit the description of 'unbearably spicy.' We initially grew confident only to find that the spice does creep up on you, growing profoundly louder inside your mouth with each bite.  The chicken was moist inside regardless whether the piece was white or dark, but the spice definitely distracts from any sort of proper taste function.  It's not unbearable, but it may potentially be immobilizing.

But that's what these guys are for, to soak up the spice!

Other side options include the red potatoes / home fries which were not as crisp as they look, though has pretty good flavor from the fresh scallions.  No mashed potatoes were available during brunch time (*tear*).

I think two fried chicken pieces into the meal, I made the genius move of rubbing some spice into my eye, and I think I felt what was the true definition of unbearable.  

Nothing a $5 brunch cocktail couldn't help ease me through.  This fruity thing was alright!

Is the fried chicken worth the trip down South?  Probably not.
Is the fried chicken worth the visit if you're in the neighborhood and want your stomach warmed for hours after?  Sure.
Should you get the Extra Hot?  I think it's fun, but maybe Hot will let you taste your food.

'Till next time, my precious chickadees!

Peaches Hothouse
415 Tompkins Ave
Brooklyn, NY
Peaches HotHouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Midtown Sichuan at Cafe China

Josh recently invited Thanan and me to his new favorite restaurant of the moment: Cafe China.  New on the scene for a few months, the restaurant recently received two pretty stars from The New York Times, and seemed to be bustling with customers as a result.  Luckily, we did not have to wait too long on a Thursday night to begin our Sichuan feast.

We started with their five spice beef dish, which was served cold.  A large lump of thinly sliced poached beef was served alongside a small dish of dry red spices.

The dish was nothing as we had expected (though who knows what we were expecting), and it was fine.  Appropriately meaty.  A bit salty (maybe good with beer?) and benefited greatly from the spice to add any bit of interest to the dish.  Although none of us rather loved it, we all just kept eating it because it was there, because it was salty, and...because it was there.

We also tried the pork dumplings in chili oil, and these luminous, slippery little buggers were definitely my favorite thing of the night.

Josh struggling with the dumplings under Thanan's watchful eye.

The chili oil was fantastically savory, but slightly sweet and just pure love on my tongue.  Coupled with the perfectly thin wrapper and the juicy pork, I could be happy eating this for days.  

But that'd be boring for you.  So let's move on with our meal!

There was one healthy dish of vegetables in the form of eggplant in garlic sauce.  Tender chunks of eggplant were drowned in thick garlic sauce, the whole dish absolutely mushy in texture but had good flavor.

The cumin spiced lamb appeared as thick cuts of meat, lightly fried and swathed in chili peppers, onions and spices.

The fragrant fish filet, most delicate and moist, was topped high with cilantro and green chili peppers.

The Chungking spicy chicken, which the waiter warned would be very spicy, was not terribly spicy at all, but we suspected the waiter took one look at Josh's pale skin and toned down our order accordingly to his fair pallor.  The chicken was tender and tasty.

Thanan and I ate a bunch, but then we both just sat back for the remaining half hour and watched Josh continue to finish each dish in its entirety.  It was evident that it truly was his favorite dining spot.

Every dish we ordered looked potentially fiery and spicy, but the flavors were actually quite mild and subtle.  I just might be too used to being punched in the face with flavor that I was not prepared for such nuanced dishes, and though I don't find myself clamoring for a return, I still do want to fill my bathtub with that chili oil and immerse myself in its luscious glory.

Cafe China
13 E 37th St
New York, NY
Cafe China on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breakfast in Williamsburg: Aroma Bakery, Waffle & Wolf and Blue Stove

The more boring my work, the less I post on this blog.  You can safely assume I have been enduring my fair share of snooze-inducing tasks lately, but it's time to look at some tasty things Diana and I ate during her last know, to give me some motivation to live through yet another Excel spreadsheet.

We began our morning at Aroma Bakery, staring at their baked goods.  The fruit tarts look on point, and I need to nab one of those tres de leche cupcakes next time, because who knows what that could possibly mean, aside from potential divine deliciousness?

I had posted about Aroma Bakery before, with my own han-made over medium-cooked eggs, but this time we ate there, and apparently the bakery is unable to replicate such brilliant egg preparation on-site.  Sooo... Diana and I had to settle for scrambled eggs (#firstworldproblems), and I also sprung for sausage, because it's a breakfast sandwich, dammit.

The croissants were just as buttery and flaky as I remembered, and we savored every beautiful crumb.  The sandwich would have been perfect with a better cooked egg, but the sausage was fennelly, tasty, and totally worth the extra 100% saturated fat.

After we walked a handful of blocks to Waffle & Wolf, located further east in Williamsburg, near the Graham stop.

Diana and I had a sublime breakfast waffle in Portland (still remaining one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches of life), so we were most excited to check out this waffleshop serving up both sweet and savory waffle sandwiches.

The whole place is small and cute with great plant decor, courtesy of the owner's amazing Japanese florist friend.  Note to self: make some Japanese florist friends.  Diana and I were *thisclose* to sticking these beauties behind our ears.

Waffle & Wolf offers a variety of fillings and toppings, with options for things to be baked into the waffle or sandwiched.  For those less inclined to go the creative route, there is also a menu listing popular combinations.  Diana and I went lazy.  We ordered the #3:

Baked currants, roasted apples, walnuts and cinnamon cream cheese, muthaf******z.


This was a yummy, and dare I say, healthy-tasting snack, with firm, tart apples, plenty of crunchy, salty walnuts, and delectable cinnamon cream cheese.

The hot waffle, with baked-in currants was slightly crisp and soft.  Perfect !

I'd go back again to try a savory.  I'd imagine some fresh, melty mozzarella would taste great within the waffle folds.  Keep in mind that they enforce a 2 waffle limit during peak periods (no triple fisting allowed during lunch) and buckwheat options for vegany folk.  

Then because that breakfast was just a touch too healthful, Diana and I walked next door to Blue Stove to check out some pies.  (Because we were in the neighborhood.  Because we can!)

The Blue Stove's blue stove !

A variety of pies were avail, but this blackberry mousse gem seemed the most interesting.

And it was !  Each creamy bite was a tasty burst of summer.  Not too sweet, really light - just right!  Pies and waffles.  Perfect neighbors in Williamsburg!

And that's our breakfast trifecta !  'Till next time!

H & D

Aroma Bakery
475 Grand
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Waffle & Wolf
413 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Waffle and Wolf on Urbanspoon
Blue Stove
415 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
The Blue Stove on Urbanspoon