Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hey Ho, Khe-Yo !

It was date night and time for sweet, sweet romance at Tribeca's newest restaurant, Khe-Yo, a Laotian hotspot.  (Just kidding.  We were hungry though and time to try something new !)

New York seems to offer cuisines from every corner of the map, but Laotian food is definitely underrepresented.  Khe-Yo was fully bustling throughout the night though, exemplifying the high demand for this Asian fare.

My favorite thing of the night was the free appetizer (the best things in life are free!).  A big bamboo container, filled with sticky rice, is served with an eggplant mash and what Khe-Yo calls their "bang bang" sauce which, as you know it, is completely bangin'.

It's like a Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce on fire with copious amounts of bird's eye chilis, strands of fresh basil, and plenty of limey tang.  You ball up the sticky rice with your fingers, dip it in the sauce and it's spicy, mouth-puckering perfection.

(And yes, it's okay to eat the sticky rice with your hands.  The menu tells you to!  It's a flavor enhancer !)

The boy loved the coconut rice with kaffir lime sausage.  It resembles fried risotto balls and comes whole to the table, but the server will smash them down with much gusto (and bottled anger).

The coconut flavor was nil, but wrapping up the sweet, crunchy rice and flavorful sausage in the cold, crisp lettuce leaves still made for a great bite.

The bamboo-grilled ginger quail was a gorgeous, glistening sight for hungry eyes.  I know.  Most people hate eating quail because it's so bony, but girl,  Khe-Yo's got you covered.  This bird is surprisingly de-boned in the center.  I don't know how they do it, but I love that they do it.

The sticky skin is irresistible, the meat moist and wonderful.  It's a shame this dish is SO small.  And the sauce here is the bang bang + ginger.  Yeah.  It just got real.

The chili prawns with ginger scallion toast and Thai basil came as a group of four large prawn-friends holding hands together awaiting their gruesome fate.

The prawns were fine (similar to the lobster from Marc Forgione), but the bread was just herbaceous bliss.

With four prawns to a plate and ringing in at $26, this is a pricey plate, so I might opt for a different dish if I returned again.

The scene here is definitely fun, filled with ladies that love to gab, so grab some galpals and that sticky rice with your fingers and bang the night away!

Han's Nonsensical Rating: While the cuisine is Laos, the pricetag is definitely Manhattan.  Everything tastes good with the bang bang sauce - the succulent quail still has my mouthbuds wagging.  (I love imagining mouthbuds wagging.)

157 Duane St
New York, NY
Khe-Yo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Good Word on Mountain Bird

I struggle with whether or not to describe places as gems, but I just can't think of anything else.

Mountain Bird is a true gem for Hamilton Heights.  I mean, look at these lace curtains.

The staff is Japanese, the food is French, the prices are Harlem-friendly and the interior belongs in a Brooklyn cafe.  In other words, an instant recipe for me to fall in love.

The Sunday brunch is a serious steal.  For $15, you get choice of coffee or tea (Harney & Sons, my favorite), a salad type course, a plate of muffins and an entree.  Hell.  Yeah.

No clue if they replace the sugar each time after the table is cleaned, but pretty sure I just plunged my dirty fingers directly into the cup and ate the raw sugar crystals by the fingerfuls.  I'm a monster.

The place is tiny.  Call ahead for dinner reservations (they book up fast!).  No reservations are accepted for brunch, so come as a small group only.  You'll sit very close to other people.  We watched this one group just stare at this one girl who couldn't stop talking.  Literally.  She's still talking right now.

No salad was served for brunch, instead we received a teacup of cauliflower soup, which I gladly spooned into my cold body to warm my soul.  The soup was creamy, tasty and very caul-erful.  

The plate of muffins would have been better enjoyed warm, and with soft pats of butter, but I ate them all anyway.  Spiced bread, scones and blueberry muffins were cute and delightful.

The spiced turkey goulash pasta had a wonderfully rich, flavorful tomato sauce with spicy chunks of turkey sausage.  The poached egg was perfection, and the bits of squash, soaked in tomato, dissolved in our  mouths.  We just wished the pasta wasn't so undercooked.

A popular plate (as you can see at the table pictured above) was the french toast, which comes as an adorable round of bread with a brilliant bruleed sugar crust.  Licoricey chicken sausage and the dreamiest, most buttery scrambled eggs finish the plate.

The dish will satisfy any french toast lover - crispy edges and a soft, tender middle with just the right bit of sweetness.  The plate is perfectly offset with the savory eggs. 

Next time, we'll have to check out Mountain Bird's dinner menu (with nose-to-tail plates), and their amazing looking $4 desserts.  Yes.  Four dollars.  If those end up being fantastic, I will officially be in love.

Han's Nonsensical RatingWonderful new addition to the Hamilton Heights scene with tasty food priced right.  Sunday brunch is especially solid with amazing scrambled eggs - hopefully will report on dinner soon !

Mountain Bird
231 West 145 Street (bet 7 & 8 Avenue) New York NY, 10039

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brunch ! Minetta Tavern !

Minetta Tavern is one of New York's prime dining institutions that I've never before visited.  Their black label burger that rings in at $28, with its dry-aged beef blend procured from Pat LaFreida, is declared by most as the best burger they've ever had, but man, for twenty. eight. dollars.  You'd hope so, right?

So we joined a few friends for brunch at the Tavern recently just to check out what you can buy for crazy amounts of dollars.

The french toast, at $19, is probably one of the most expensive french toasts you will ever get for toasted, regular-looking bread.  Although it looks pretty plain and sad, it actually tastes okay - not too dry, and with nice, citrusy flavor.  It comes with fresh ricotta and real maple syrup.

The duck hash, at $9, is a hearty side, full of thick flavorful potato chunks and bits of duck.  If it wasn't over salted, it might actually be pretty tasty.  I especially enjoyed the strands of sweet, caramelized onions.  If you added a couple poached eggs over the top, it'd make an okay meal in itself if you don't already suffer from hypertension.  

The boy ordered the Minetta burger, the $19  bargain compared to the black label burger.  It's made with a similar blend of beef, topped with caramelized onions and cheddar.  It's definitely a tasty burger, the meat well-ground and a bit loose and juicy, and the fries are perfection.

The boy's friend ordered the black label, and thought it also tasted good, but wasn't sure if it was the best he's ever had.  I think spending $30 on a burger makes you question a lot of things.  I guess no one really knows what to believe when they are spending $30 on a burger.  

A popular favorite at the brunch table was the Pasta ZaZa dish.  The fried egg's clearly a beauty and the bits of sage and pancetta is just an irresistible combination.  Overall, a surprisingly light and creamy plate of goodness.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: New York institutions are usually pricy affairs, and Minetta Tavern is no exception.  Can't say I'd return back for anything soon, but the burgers didn't disappoint.  (I'd still prefer Whitman's or Brindle Room any day.)

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St., New York, NY 10012
Minetta Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New York afternoon dabbling in doughnuts, fine breads and The Met

Not dead.  Just lazy.  And obsessed with playing computer games.  Hours and hours of computer games on Steam.  I somehow regressed into the lifestyle of a 12 year old boy this winter, and it's hard to stop !  I hope your progress with your New Year's resolutions are going much better.

Thank goodness for Jamie to motivate me to actually get dressed, brush my hair and check out our fine city - this time the Upper East Side!

From the owner behind Earl's Beer and Cheese comes Dough Loco, an artisan doughnut shop with funky flair and flavors to match.

The doughnuts are tall with bright thick glazes.

Fun flavors include raspberry sriracha, maple miso, blood orange, cinnamon sugar and chocolate.

This is the face of someone who looks like they are about to Dough Loco !

I tried the chocolate, irresistible-looking with its deep brown glaze and skinny minnie chocolate sprinkles to match.  The icing was so rich and sweet, but it's the kind of sugar kick any bad boy with a sweet tooth would appreciate in the morning (like me!).

Jamie got the maple miso, which was my favorite of the batch - the maple flavor reigned supreme and brought me back to my McMinnville cream days of Voodoo Doughnuts (sigh!).

The blood orange, spotted with tiny poppy seeds, is a good offset to the two sweet ones.  It's absolutely bright, tart and tangy.

While the glazes are delicious, the doughnuts do fall short in the airiness of the yeast doughnut itself.  These buggers are incredibly thick and dense, making for a pretty heavy breakfast treat.  I can't help but compare these to Dough, whose blood orange is amazing and the doughnut airy and light.

For our breakfast entree, Jamie grabbed us a loaf of Sfoglia's signature sourdough bread, heralded in the Huffington Post as one of the top things to eat before you die.  Yeah.  Bold stuff.

Sfoglia serves the bread with their meals or you can purchase full loaves in the mornings from their restaurant for $8.50.  There's some confusion with the restaurant staff understanding whether or not bread is sold in the morning, but just remain persistent and stand your ground, and eventually you get rewarded with this:

A huge square hunk of golden brown bread.

Our Verdict: you can safely die before eating this bread without any regrets.  

Still, it's a very solid bread, soft and moist on the inside with very slight sourdough tang, but could use more sea salt sprinkled on the crust, and honestly might be better enjoyed first warmed in the oven with a tasty marinara sauce.

After, we spent a few hours perusing the treasures of the Met.  It's been half a year since I've visited last, but I always forget just how amazing past civilizations really were.  

I mean look at these gold finger caps!

Meticulous hieroglyphic jewelry!

This Egyptian is swaddled by a bird who is wearing a snake !  That's SO cool !

I'm pretty sure I just headed straight home after this lovely afternoon to play more computer games.  Man, I am in trouble.

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Dough Loco and Sfoglia are pretty good, but probably not worth a special trip; if you're conveniently on Park and 98th and appreciate a good maple doughnut, pop your head in for sure.

1261 Park Ave
New York, NY
Dough Loco on Urbanspoon

1402 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10128
Sfoglia on Urbanspoon