Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hookin' the Fishbowl at Sugar & Plumm

If you are looking for a late night dessert place on the Upper West Side, and want to be served giant amounts of sugar in a super-sized container, Sugar and Plumm is your place.

Pichet Ong (of P*ONG, Village Tart and other popular bakeries) is the pastry chef behind this whimsical spot.  The whole restaurant looks like a candy store (like a smaller version of Dylan's on the UES), and appears to be perfect for Ladies Who Dessert.  While cake slices do tower high on the plate, the most attractive menu item is definitely the Earthquake in a Fishbowl.

 It's an actual fishbowl that's filled with utter deliciousness - the bowl is almost the size of surly-faced lady next to us !

And that fishbowl can fit so much ! Key lime pie, chocolate caramel cake, Brooklyn blackout cake, hot fudge, butterscotch pudding, chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel ice cream aaaannnd caramel sauce.  And a crunchy, crunchy bed of crushed chocolate cookies at the bottom.

 The dish was decadent, rich, "I really shouldn't, but I will definitely eat this whole thing," and completely fun.  If there's anything weird about this (besides eating out of a fishbowl) is that the key lime is just totally too tart compared to everything else.  A good ol' fashioned cheesecake would have been a better touch, but who's really complaining with all the other tens of thousands of calories swimming around in there?!

Han's Nonsensical Rating: You'll feel a little lame eating here, but it's fun !  And it's dessert !

Sugar & Plumm
377 Amsterdam
New York, NY

Sugar and Plumm on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 26, 2013

Oleana. Amazing. Eat it immediately.

Today, I was sitting at my desk thinking about what I should post next for your hungry eyes, until it dawned on me.  Shame on us for not posting anything on what had to have been one of my tastiest meals ever. With Diana. Boston. My thirties.  All of those -it's true.

Hopefully you make do with the following ill-lit photos (the restaurant is mega-dark), my limited food description and memory, and just pure, good faith that Diana and I would never steer you wrong.  Ever.  
And so we present to you our meal at Oleana.

It began with plentiful soft, airy breads and fruity olive oil.

Continued with fried mussels, hot peppers and a turkish sauce that were a plump and spicy medley of creamy, crispy fun.

The spinach falafel, donning a tahini cap and beetroot shoes, was crunchy and fresh.

The chickpea terrine, with apricot, pistachio and sauce was an easy way to finish a whole bunch of crisps.  So we asked for more.

And while they weren't able to give us more of those delectable crisps, they gave us these other amazing crackers, which I could eat everyday for all eternity.

The sultan's delight is probably one of the most popular dishes at Oleana, with good reason.  The tamarind sauce is delectable against the ever-so-tender beef. 

The accenting smokey eggplant puree is both dreamy and creamy.

And maybe Diana can help me out, I have completely forgotten what this dish was.  It was a hunk of pork belly with lentils.  It was great also, but not a standout.

Nor were the flattened potato side with lemon and oregano.  Kind of soft, tangy with spice, but perhaps too much alongside everything else.

And the crown jewel of the entire meal is definitely the baked Alaska dessert which is truly one of the best desserts we've ever had.

Gloriously tall peak of brilliantly toasted, creamy meringue, piled high on coconut ice cream and an unbelievable, uhhh-mazing passion fruit caramel.  No problems finishing this.  I could eat a second in a heartbeat.  So delicious !

So repeat after me: You must go to Oleana.  You must eat a lot of small plates.  You must eat the baked Alaska.  And you must let us know if your life felt a hundred times better afterward.  Sorry, I'm bossy, but sometimes people just need to be told what to do !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Eat. It. Now. Baked Alaska is big enough to share, but you really don't have to.  Live a little! (Okay, maybe share so you don't die from too much happiness.)

134 Hampshire St
Cambridge, MA
Oleana on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bunker. Vietnamese.

Bunker is one of those restaurants you'll read about, are intrigued by, look at the address and think, "Yeah, maybe sometime I'll get over there and try that," but you never will because who knows where Ridgewood, Queens is, and the map looked like Bushwick, but whatever it is, it's outside of Manhattan, so it's going to be a bit of a hike.

And so I figured a birthday celebration would be great enough excuse to get everyone to venture out to this funky part of New York to check summa this shit out.

The place opens at 5:30p.  Most of the gang arrived by 6, and with a party of 9, we waited about an hour for seating.  The air was nice. We marveled at the size of the Western Beef.  Remarked about each of our modes of transit to reach this lovely destination. 

Somewhere between 5:30 and 7p, the place runs out of pork.  It's probably one of the saddest things I have ever heard.  "Rest assured," our server tells us, "the rest of the menu is great too."  So we tried out most of it.

Spring rolls were fat, and full of veggies and shrimp, but came only 2 small pieces to an order for $6.

The banh xeo was crispy and had authentic flavor, like a fat taco filled with ham, shrimp and bean sprouts.

The crepe is actually a bit thicker than it should be, and a bit greasy, but otherwise pretty well done.

The shrimp chips were delicate and lightly dusted with a savory, tasty spice.

Thit bo luc lac ("shaking beef") was fairly standard - a handful of fat, fairly tender chunks, lightly marinated, and topped with fried onions.  Squeeze the lime all over it, and chow it down with some rice.

The massaman curry short ribs were fine - with tender meat and potatoes, though the flavors were more reminiscent of Thai than Vietnamese.

The waiter really talked up the shrimp dish - jumbo shrimp caramelized with bacon, ginger, garlic and basil, however, caramelized generally should not mean blackened to oblivion,

until the garlic bits harden onto the shrimp shell, but it was also fine.  I like burnt bits anyway. 

The pho ga was pretty steep at $9, but had clear broth and plenty of strips of chicken.  Pho flavors like star anise and cinnamon were lacking though, and the broth was salty.

Tomato garlic rice ended up tasting exactly like it sounds and looks, but with lots more garlic than expected - pretty good.

And finally the coconut tapioca was creamy and far too rich for anyone to really finish a whole small bowl - share at best, or skip altogether.

I really wanted to like Bunker.  With all my heart and all the glowing Yelp reviews about it, but maybe it's because there's nothing else to eat in the heart of warehouse central, and maybe because New Yorkers just haven't had good Vietnamese, it's definitely overhyped, and I just didn't like it that much.  

Han's Nonsensical Rating: It's fine, but it's not great.  (It's not really worth the trip.)

46-63 Metropolitan Ave
Ridgewood, NY 11385
BĂșn-ker on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back Bay Social Club

I love Back Bay Social Club for many reasons. First (and second, because this one is important), it's two feet from my apartment. Third, the food is really, really tasty. It is, however, rather a scene, and I'm too old to be eating dinner screaming across the table just to be heard.

Alas, the saving grace of food. We started with some awesome appetizers. First up, sausage sampler.

There was a chicken sausage, a sweet pork sausage, and while I forget the others, I do remember them all being quite delicious. My favorite part of this sampler (and perhaps of the whole meal!) was the grilled peach slices, which were definitely brushed with a honey glaze. Talk about perfection.

Seared tuna with grilled challah.

I didn't try this one, but my reliable sources told me it was very good.

Wagyu meatloaf sliders with cheddar and bacon jam.

My second favorite dish of the night. The meatloaf itself was so flavorful, and the buns were the right kind of pillowy. And who doesn't love bacon jam? Just wonderful.

Meat candy!

Oh crap, this was also one of my favorites. It's grilled kielbasa with brown sugar and grilled pineapple. I am all about the savory+sweet combination, and this one totally fit the bill. 

For entrees, many of us got the famed chicken and waffles.

I really can't resist this dish if it appears on a menu, and I'm glad I made the right choice. The waffles were fluffy and buttery, and the breading on the fried chicken was delightfully herby and flavorful. Outside was crisp, inside was moist, just how we like it. That white dollop on top? Butter (because why not?). A barbecue syrup was generously drizzled over everything, and many of my companions would say that the syrup perfectly complemented the whole thing. I wouldn't have minded a separate stash of pure maple syrup, but that's because I'm addicted to sugar.

Check it out, folks. If you're looking for a scene and good food, go to the Back Bay Social Club for dinner. If you'd rather not deal with the loud crowd, go for brunch (that's my next stop, I think!). And definitely order the chicken and waffles.

867 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
Back Bay Social Club on Urbanspoon

The Dessert Tasting at Per Se

For my actual birthday, I opted against a fancy dinner and instead we ate greasy burgers from a takeout spot on the UWS, and celebrated with lots of desserts from Per Se - I can't help that I was born with all sweet teeth !

The dessert tasting at Per Se is served in their salon on a first come, first serve basis.  Five courses for $65, seating until 11p, and jackets for the gents are required.  This one gentleman took off his jacket while drinking coffee with his silver-haired lady, and was kindly reminded to put his jacket back on.  It's a serious scene here.

The tasting begins with adorable bites of raspberry cookies

and pineapple cornets, that have been finely minced in the same effect as the salmon ones from their savory tasting.  Both are fruity and delightful.

The first dessert course was a riff off of cherry coke.

Ripe cherry halves in cola syrup and vanilla bean ice cream.

It was fun.  These wafery cookies were the lightest, crispiest and tastiest things ever.

Next, boysenberry sorbet, macerated raspberries and graham cracker macarons formed a very fancy version of an ice cream sandwich.

A strawberry tart was topped with vanilla marscapone and a cap of white chocolate dusted with strawberry dust.

The signature "coffee and doughnuts," just as good as I remembered.  The doughnuts freshly fried and airy as ever.

Deconstructed s'mores with a rustic block of dark chocolate, a charred, vanilla marshmallow slab and New Guinea chocolate and banana creme fraiche sherbet was the most interesting of the night - combining bits of everything captured the beauty of the s'more.

My favorite part of Per Se meals remain the awesome box of chocolates.  "Choose as many as you like," the server says to me, and of course I did because he told me to - and I always do as I'm told...when it involves eating lots of chocolate.

The best new find was the smoked cinnamon.  Luscious and spicy and pure joy.

But my heart still remains with the mango black sesame.  I requested multiple of these because I am a bonafide birthday brat.

And that's it!  This year's birthday was sweet indeed !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Per Se dessert tasting is solid - nothing very surprising, but everything delicious; a couple can share one dessert tasting, which is what I'd recommend, and then order something off on the side that is not covered in the tasting to have a broader experience.

Per Se
Columbus Circle
New York, NY
Per Se on Urbanspoon