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Archive for March, 2007

There are certain restaurants I would never go during Restaurant Week for many reasons.  I don’t like to fight with the twenty bajillion more people who are trying to get a cheaper meal, and certain big restaurants are always skimping out with the RW menu.  I already planned on going to Megu to try one of their tasting menus, but Jess convinced me to come for dinner with her for RW here.  We went to the Downtown/Tribeca location.  The upstairs is a bar and the dining room is downstairs with an iced buddha sculpture situated in the middle.  The atmosphere is low key and very chic with high back leather chairs and spacious booths.

megu - japanese flagmegu diningmegu bar
the japanese flag/ inside the downstairs dining room/ the bar

I got the appetizer with… guess what?  FOIE GRAS!  Not only did it have foie gras, it had KOBE!!  haha  How can a combo of the two possibly taste bad??  I got a crispy green asparagus with “okaki batter fry” and a crispy croquette of foie gras and kobe beef.  I found the asparagus batter to be too oily and the actual aparagus was dry and lacked flavor.  I didn’t taste any foie gras in the croquette and the tast of the beef is just too overwhelming.  It didn’t even taste like kobe, I was quite disappointed.  I did like the presentation and concept of the croquette though.  I love when there are foods inside stuff, it’s like finding a food treasure.

asparagus and foie gras inside foie gras

 For my entree, I ate my possibly favorite Japanese entree, the silver cod grilled with yuan” miso.  The accompanying palate cleanser in the teac up is a mint soaked cherry.  This was the tiniest piece of fish an the texture of the silver code is definitely not as silky smooth as the black cod [duh].  I’m always trying the miso cod at various Japanese restaurants and to my tastes, many has come up short.  This is one of them.  I would’ve liked for there to be more of a miso glaze; this one was more basted in miso then grilled which made it a bit drier.  Also, this was the tiniest portion- probably 5 small bites at most. 

miso cod

I wanted to try some of their sushi so Jess and I split their signature spicy tuna roll.  It came in a marble slab and each portion is much heartier in proportion to anything on the RW menu.  The tuna was fresh and abundant an mixed with their own medley of spices and scallions and such.  It costs $15, which is the most I have ever paid for a spicy tuna roll anywhere, but it was good- I don’t know about $15 good, but it was good.  I’d order it again if I was here. 

megu- spicy tuna

The dessert was the highlight of the RW menu, it was a green tea crepe in cake form.  There were about 20 layers an each layer is filled with creamy green tea paste.  I personally had fun eating this layer by layer, savoring each bite as I went.  Thus, I’ve come to the conclusion that Megu is possibly worth it a la carte.  I would give them one more try before writing them off my book.  I want to believe that the Restaurant Week menu does not reflect they serve on a daily basis.

megu green tea crepe

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I’ve never had so much meat in one sitting in my entire life.  I don’t know what possessed me to go to Churrascaria Plataforma, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse with Arthur, Rich, and Jen one night.  Arthur basically convinced me to give it a try and just experience the atmosphere of the restaurant so we all went one day after work.  He knew that there’s no way in hell I’d be able to eat my money’s worth of meat – ever.  Before I continue, I should mention that Churrascaria serves grilled meats in a rodizio style, which means food is brought to you.  Basically, what happens is that each person gets a card that looks like a coaster, it’s red on one side and green on the other.  When the green side faces up, carvers will come by your table and each one will offer you a different cut of meat.  When the red side is up, it indicates to the carvers that you want them to stop coming to you, which probably means you want to spend some time eating your meat and not just letting it pile on your plate. 

churrascaria

Before the meat carving commences, each table is supplied with these cream puff look-alike breads filled with cheese called pão de queijo.  They’re warm so the cheese inside is soft, it’s great!  They were so light and fluffy too!  I wanted to ask for more, but knew that I definitely shouldn’t be filling up on this stuff!

bread with cheese

In between the bread basket, ordering of drinks, and the meat comes the buffet.  They call it a salad bar, but there’s a minimal salad selection.  This is also where one would get fish if one wanted to eat that instead of the carved meats.  Some of the highlights are sushi, where the fish was good but the rice was not, and a really good sundried tomato risotto.

sushi buffet-plate 1stuffed meat

RODIZIO STYLE MEATS!!!

There were soooo many different types of meats that the few pictures below only cover about half !  There were sirloin, lamb, beef ribs, baby back ribs, chicken wrapped in bacon, and pork.  Also, with stuff like the sirloin, depending on how well you want your meat done, they will cut it in a certain area due to the way the cook the meat.  I’d go with the pork chops, and the beef items, the ribs, but not the chicken or the lamb, which were both incidentally overdone.

meat meats
ribs moree
more meat more ribs

We couldn’t get away at an all-you-can-eat place without dessert!  At Churrascaria, there are different all-you-can-eat packages you can choose from.  It starts from the simplest package with just meat for $51.95 to a package with unlimited drinks, food, and desserts for $81.95.  I thought we were getting the package with dessert, so my friends and I basically went crazy when the dessert cart came by.  This brings me to the next brilliance of this place- one can probably sit here for an entire dinner and never once have to get up, after the salad bar that is.  They bring everything to you!  They wheeled us over a dessert cart and we ordered several desserts that we knew were available and not on the cart.  We got a fruit tart, some chocolate truffles, a pineapple sorbet in a real pineapple shell, a chocolate moouse, and some other stuffs.  We were pleased with almost all their desserts- I especially liked the tiramisu and the sorbet.  Needless to say, we were quite pleased and verrrrrrry stuffed afterwards! 

FYI:  Our desserts totally up to $50 alone. =X  whoops?

desserts

I’m really glad I got to experience Churrascaria.  I loved the way they have everything set up, and all the wonderful foods they offer.  If I was a meat lover, I’d be head over heels!  My favorite would probably be the dessert cart and the wait person walking around with the assortment of after-dinner beverages.  Tonight, I found a dessert wine that wasn’t too sweet for me – the Italian Brachetto!  Although this restaurant is more on the pricey side, it’s worth the splurge just to experience it once. 

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There’s definitely a lack of a Filipino fooding scene in NYC.  I only know of two restaurants in Manhattan off the top of my head that serve Filipino cuisine and I’ve been to neither.  I’ve been to Dragonfly, but that doesn’t count as it’s a fusion of cuisines where Filipino is just one of the many.  Corinne informs me that there’s a bit of a scene in Queens, but it’s still not as big as I’d expect.  Thus, most of the Filipino food I’ve ever eaten was home-made.  When Corinne told me about Guiradelco, a hole-in-the-wall type place in the middle of nowhere, Long Island- I had to go!  I finally went out there one Saturday to meet Corinne and her bf for lunch and would totally do the journey again. 

 guiradelco outside guiradelco seating 

This family owned restaurant has a little grocery store attached that sells many of its items in frozen form along with other Filipino goodies and sauces.  On the restaurant side, the tables are set up with red and white checkered picnic table clothes, actual silverware and cheap plastic chairs. 

When one walks into the restaurant, one is greeted by a long counter of foods available for the day.  One can either point at the dishes they want or call it out to the woman behind the counter.  I left all the ordering to Corinne, but requested the rice noodles because they looked really good.  I do like to eat with my eyes.  We ended up ordering quite a few dishes for just the three of us.   Not only is there no real menu, there are no prices- but I believe each entree costs around $6 (they’re all the same price), and the smaller dishes and appetizers are a bit less.

guiradelco- picking dishes

Pancit bihonis the name of the rice vermicelli noodles we had; in it were veggies, pork, chicken, and colored with achuete.  Achueteis a spice and a food dye to provide “bright and exotic appearance” for dishes.  This looks very similiar to the $1 rice noodles from the Chinatown cart vendors.  I think the achuete made the biggest difference in this dish to change it from a typical Chinese stir-fry noodle dish to something Filipino.  The spice gave a tangy taste to the noodles, which I’m not crazy about, but the dish would have been flavor-less without it.  I liked all the veggies in it – so I kept eating this instead of the white rice we ordered. 

pancit

Bopis is Corinne’s favorite dish; it’s basically chopped up pig parts: heart, lung, liver, stomach, belly, ear, cheek flavored with achuete and sili, which are chili bird peppers.  I thought the meats were tough and I couldn’t decipher which parts were which, which I guess doesn’t really matter since it all tastes the same anyways.  This dish was easily mixed into rice and eaten together with the accompanying sauce. 

bopis

Kare-kareis oxtail in a peanut sauce served with a shrimp paste accompaniement and greens such as string beans and bok choy on top.  I like the taste of the oxtail, it was cooked until soft and the meat came off the bone easily.  The dish came with about 3 big pieces of oxtail.  The sauce for the kare kare did not taste peanut buttery to me, but the mildness served as a good sauce to mix my rice in.

kare kare

For the boy, we ordered something he would actually recognize- barbeque pork skewerswith a honey glaze.  These can be bought frozen next door, as are many of the other edibles here.  As you can see on the plate, there’s a ton of ooey oils that leak from this yummy treat.  At first, I thought it was the honey that glazes the pork, but I can tell you after dipping my fork into that and into my mouth, it most certainly is not.  The pork was very flavorful and not at all overdone [don’t let that bit of black coloring sway you!], albeit a bit tough to fight off the skewer.   

pork skewers

While we were working on all the aforementioned goodies, they were preparing our lumpia shanghai in the kitchen.  These mini eggrolls are filled with pork and carrots; they are accompanied by a sweet and spicy dipping sauce [my fave!] .  I love the flaky crunchy outside and how it gives way to a meaty goodness center [ok- so this is what a meatlover would say.. me… I love doucing the whole thing in sauce].  They definitely don’t skimp on the amount of meat for such a little roll- one could barely detect the bits of carrots that are intertwined in the molds of pork.

lumpia shanghai

Another variety, which is probably healthier to some extent, is the fresh lumpia.  I was most excited to try this because I was originally told it was a veggie dish.  Buttttt, much to my dismay, this has shrimp in it, which I’m allergic to, so I gave mine to the Corinne’s bf.  The fresh lumpia comes in a soft shelled roll, almost reminiscent of a soft shelled taco, stuffed with various veggies like celery, cabbage and carrots, shrimp, and topped with some minced garlic.  It lies in a bed of “garlic and mild soy sauce” according to the NY Times.   

veggie lumpia

For my drink, Corinne recommended a typical Filipino iced drink that could probably double as a dessert.  Many Asian cultures have similar drinks – the Chinese with the flavored juices and aloe/ jelly/ tapioca pearls at the bottom, the Malaysians with with their coconut creations and the Vietnamese with their varieties.  This one is called the sago’t gulaman and it is a mix of white tapioca with gelatin and the liquid is made of brown sugar base [I read somewhere banana extract is also used but I didn’t taste any].  Overall, this drink was overly sweet because basically, you’re drinking sugar water, but it was oddly addicting.  The gelatin and tapioca just serves as interesting textures with the ice – they really have no unique flavors of their own. 

ice drink - brown sugar

After all this food, we still had room for dessert!  It basically came in the same style as the sago’t gulaman with layers of stuff on the bottle, shaved ice, and juice.  We ordered halo-halo, a mixture of red beans, white tapioca pearls, coconut, jackfruit, sweet yam (ube), leche flan, coconut milk and topped with mango ice cream.  These medley of flavors really do a number on the taste buds; this is definitely one of the most unique blends of food stuffs I’ve seen.  I would never think to put all these things into one place.  The mango ice cream was probably my favorite part [so creamy and soft!], next to the flavorful flan and the rich coconut juice.  

dessert  guiradelco dessert dessert 2 purple yam?

Overall, I had a good experience at Guiradelco even though I had to take a little journey on the LIRR to get there.  Sometimes it’s fun to travel for food… like the journey to French Laundry!!  [I think I’m going in a few months!]  Anyhow, this is a bit out of the way for us crazy Manhattanites who don’t have a license [yes, I don’t drive- period] but they do serve up some authentic Filipino fare for those willing to make the trip. 

Thanks to Corinne for introducing me to this restaurant and helping me with various food descriptions on this post!

Guiradelco
324 Post Avenue
Westbury, LI

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beijing

Beijing in the Winter is COLD.  I went to visit a few friends and my cousin in December and got to cram all the sights into just a few days.  In addition to sights, I also had to try everything that Beijing was known for in the food world.  I made sure I went junk food shopping to grab all the different snacks they have there but aren’t offered in the US.  Lays chips company has a bajillion flavors there and many of the same flavors like their bbq flavored chips seem to taste better.  There was a green tea one that I tried a few months ago, but they’ve long since discontinued it. 

There was a huge selection of jelly candies that one can buy by the pound so I decided to get one of all the ones that looked good and try them before deciding on which flavors/types to buy in bulk.  There are yogurt flavored ones, ones that are filled with fruit, and ones that have two different flavor layers.  If you’ve seen the selection at your local Ichiban, it doesn’t come close to comparing to the selection in Beijing. 

jellies

I don’t know why but I’m a really big fan of ramen noodles.  My cousins are always going on and on about how much more flavorful the ones in China are compared to the ones we get imported here.  I’ve tried some the previous time I went and admit they are good.  Thus, I was on a hunt to find some to bring back with me to the states.  Sadly, I was informed that the good ramen only exists in the Southern part of China- Beijing ramen is actually a disappointment.  Though, upon my cousin’s recommendation, I did try a ramen bowl.  This one comes with a package of dry ingredients and another with wet ingredients and meat!  Preserved meat!  This definitely isn’t from Nissin!  So the meat tasted weird and fake, but the noodles and broth were actually very good and flavorful. 

ramen  ramen

Beijingers are known for hot potting or shabu shabu.  The long cold winters are perfect for people to huddle over a boiling pot of water for hours at a time.  I had hotpot about two – three times on this trip alone.  It was great.  There are places where each person gets an individual hot pot, which is great for people like me with food allergies.  There are others, like the one below, which are more upscale and presentation, ambience, and quality of ingredients are key.   

hot pot hot pot's pot
meat hot pot

I also had a spicy hot pot at Chamate (cha = tea in Chinese).  It’s a leisurely tea saloon with tons of magazines for patrons and a pretty comprehensive fooding menu.  I went with the vegetarian hot pot with spicy broth- yes, like the well known Korean dish, but in hot pot form.  I wanted to taste flower tea so I had sunflower with some type of bitter tea leaves.  Flowers used in flower teas are mostly just for show, they are pretty flavorless so it is always recommended to brew a flower tea with some regular tea.

chamate flower tea
hot pot noods close up hot pot noods

 Of course, no trip to Beijing is ever complete without some Peking duck.  I visited the only peking duck place worth mentioning; QuanJuDe.  The peking duck is centered on the skin and not the meat.  The skin is usually crispy and the layer of fat between the skin and the meat is turned into an almost glutinous form, transforming the taste and texture.  One wraps the skin in rice paper, dresses it up with cucumber, sugar, onions and hoisin sauce and roll it up like a fajita and eats it.  I knew the duck wouldn’t be enough so we ordered a spicy chicken dish and some asparagus and mushroom.  They also have a selection of fresh fruit juices- I had the apple.

quanjude quanjude inside
asparagus and mushrooms chicken
apple juice condiments for duck
peking duck peking duck skin

I tried a few other Beijing specialities.  I had my cousin go on a field trip and gather me up some of Beijing’s famous eats.  The chrysallis silkworm is one of them.  Yes, I did physically eat a worm.  It’s gross, I know.  Talk about exotic foods, eh?  These things are really popular and expensive in Japan because they’re rumored to be really good for one’s health.  Anyways, this was a stuffed fried crysallis – I forget with what, but it wasn’t good.  There’s really no way to describe it.. the skin was just salty and crunchy, but the stuffing was a bit bitter and overly salty.  The inside was also kind of soggy, which put me off.  The fried eggs that accompany it were good though, if a bit over salty.  I also tried the Beijing style Shanghainese noodles.  It’s basically noodles with a meat satay [ja-jern] sauce.  Very yummy even if the sauce is unidentifiable to me.  There were lettuce and veggies on the bottom, which isn’t usually included in the Shanghai style.

silk crysalis noods with satay sauce

Before I left to catch my flight, I ordered in some breakfast.  I got some congee and roast pork wrapped in noodles.  I love roast pork and noodles like that, but they rarely offer this in the states.  Usually, it’s either beef or shrimp. 

congee cha siew churn

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