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Archive for the ‘east village’ Category

What: Ramen date

Where: Ippudo
65 4th Ave, New York 10003
Btwn 9th & 10th St

A friend of mine who visits Japan every year HATES Ippudo. He warned me, a seasoned traveler like him, that I would hate it too. He told me it’s not like the ramen I had in Japan and I’d be disappointed too. The broth, the noodles, and the prices all had a negative effect on him.

Yet, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I went twice. I mean, I have to ask, what is up with their noodles? To me, it’s too thin and too much like the Chinese chow mein, and too hard to be ramen. I was, however, fairly impressed by their broth. Okay, so maybe it isn’t like Japan, but it was still good. And I can swear that their they put the oils from which they braise their berkshire pork into their broth, which makes it that much fattier and tastier.

ippudo

If you want noods, you better be sure to go early b/c … they might close on you!

sign

The atmosphere: Very fun and unique. The bar is clear topped with rows of packaged ramen noodles and the walls are lined with ramen bowls. Inside the dining room, there are several areas of seating, including one where every two seats are designed to make up a loveseat couch.

ippudo bar

ramen bar

ippudo seating

The noodles: Upon the recommendation of the waiter, we both ordered the Akamaru Shin, ‘that’s suppose to come with the special Ippudo sauce in their broth. The broth is thick so the noodles do absorb a good amount of the broth, but not enough for me. As with all ramen places, I wished there was more pork. The second time I went, I tried the spicy broth because they took the dipping noodles off the menu.

ippudo noodles

The berkshire pork. Tiny portion, but it was delicious. It was tender, flavorful, and not as fatty as most pork belly.

berkshire pork

Overall, I say it was an experience worth having. The prices are too high for ramen, and I don’t enjoy the noodles, as I’ve said before, but it’s worth it for the broth. Also, go during non-prime times. Don’t do the wait.

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Japanese BBQ.  This reminds me of the korean BBQ, only the flavors are different, but I still get just as excited.

 Are there any Japanese BBQ buffets in New York like there are Korean BBQ buffets?  If anyone out there has any knowledge about this, let me know! 

Two of my friends and I went to Gyu-Kaku one day for an early birthday dinner.  The thing I like about this place is that they offer happy hour bbq meats that change everyday.  We went on a Monday so we got to try the marinated kalbi short rib for 50% off.  I think drinks were also 50% off.  They really marinate their meats well making each piece super mouth wateringly flavorful, but the portions are just too small!

gyu kaku

inside gyu kaku

marinated stuffs
marinated kalbi

steak
more bbq-able meats

bibimbap.jpg
main course: bibimbap: rice cooked in a stone pot mixed with assorted veggies and sometimes an egg with your choice of meat.  I usually go for the bugolgi [beef].  It’s a Korean specialty, but they served it here.

dessert
dessert: aka most wonderful pancakes EVER

dessert

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So I’m saddened to say that one of my favorite eateries has bitten the dust. It’s the small space with the small garden area behind Ramen Setagaya. People are probably paying too much attention to the ramen place to consider going to the hidden quieter gem in the back. I mean, yes, the name, Oriental Spoon makes me cringe but the food is good, the service is good, and the ambiance is good. What more can one ask for? Oh right, a shelf life of more than 6 months.

While I’m probably over-hyping the quality of the food here, I did enjoy my experience and I think that always makes the food stand out more. I must admit that some of the dishes could use a little improvement, but I didn’t think there was anything that couldn’t be improved with time.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact specifics of each dish so you’ll just have to deal with the pictures.

bar
bar area

garden space
overlooking the “garden” area

backwall
interesting wall design

 

We started with a sashimi salad. The selection of fish was small but the quantity was fairly large for a small plate and it was topped with a bunch of shredded daikon.

sushi salad

They have HUMUNGO ROLLS.  Hu-mung-go!

sushi

This is their sampler appetizer platter. Clockwise from the top left: 1. Sashimi with pickled shredded daikon and caviar 2. tuna with a wasabi based sauce 3. sashimi pieces in ponzu sauce 4. tempura eel rolls

sampler

Chicken wings wrapped in some type of bitter tasting dried veggie. Chicken was nice and crispy but it was too hard to eat with the veggie, I had to take it out.

fried chicken

Calamari. Pieces of squid were good sized but it was lacking in the crunch factor

calamari

Pineapple curry chicken.

curry rice

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EVERYONE and their grandmothers have been talking about the newest ramen place in the East Village. Of course that means it’s what I need to try it the next time I’m in New York and that’s exactly what I did. I’m currently living in 3, yes 3, different cities at the moment. Munich for work, Missouri for the Boy, and NYC, ya know, for the food. I think I’ve been at home in New York a total of 10 days in the last two months. Anyways, back to the restaurant. The place I’m talking about is Ramen Setagaya. It’s a tinyyyy, let me re-emphasize, tinyyyy place with at most maybe 20 seats. I went directly after work with two of my girl friends one day and we didn’t have to wait for a table.  If you want to beat the line, and there is normally ALWAYS a line, go around 6PM or earlier. 

There was also an Asian tapas place behind the ramen shop which I also tried, but I’ve since heard they’ve closed down.  I think it’s such a tragedy because I actually enjoyed the tapas place more than the ramen.

ramen settagaya outside

First of all, I have to acknowledge my love for tiny eateries.  It must be the intimacy and the familial-ness that draws me in.  This may also be why tiny eateries who make bad food just makes me want to cry.  I take their short-comings to heart.  While Setagaya does not make me want to cry internally, it does make me a little sad.  They have all the staples of a good tiny eatery.  Line shooting out the door.  Seating for less than 20.  Quick service.  You can see into the kitchen and the cooks from virtually any seat.  But I’m left with a few reservations after my experience.

setagaya kitchen opening
feels like he’s taking a take-out order, doesn’t it?

 First, I’m going to quote from silverjay; he says that there’s a “Japanese impression of American tastes is that we like things strongly flavored” and I think that may contribute to the saltiness of the broth.  I do have to acknowledge that they use a salt based broth, or shio rather, made with, none other than, real salt.  However, I don’t believe that a salt broth should be so salty that one doesn’t even want to drink the broth at all.  At this point, I was thinking that I should have tried their dipping noodles instead.  I could then control how much of the broth should go on my noodles.  Needless to say, my companions and I thought it was overly salty.  Setagaya uses pork and chicken bones did make for a very deeply favored broth, but the shio made it difficult to enjoy.  Silverjay went closer to the grand opening of the Setagaya and said that the dried scallops and anchovies gave the broth a stronger seafood taste than pork.  I didn’t taste any seafood and I have a strong seafood radar since I’m allergic to a bunch of it. 

I do enjoy the texture of the ramen noodles, they had a little spring in their steps when I was eating them.  Some people say that their noodles are too chewy, but I actually liked that.  I also got 4 pretty hefty sized pieces of pork, which was marinated beforehand and half a half oozing egg. 

classic pork ramen

For me. the best thing from the ramen house wasn’t the ramen, it was the mini rice bowl.  This was awesome.  I mean Perfection.  But then again, it’s hard to mess up chicken and rice, right?  Minced chicken with an organic egg garnished with seaweed and green onion.  I don’t care how bad it is for me, egg yolk over warm rice is the best thing everrr, with a little drizzle of soy sauce of course.  I even have a Persian friend who does the egg yolk over cold rice, she says in her family, warm rice is taboo.  If you ask me, I’d come here again just for the rice and maybe the dipping noodles.  Although, I heard that they use different noodles for that dish, so I may have to request this particular ramen.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

chicken rice

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A little while ago [meaning … March], I was obsessed with drinking Thai iced teas– don’t ask why.  I think it’s because the weather started warming up a bit, and I kept going to Thai restaurants with my friend JJ so I couldn’t stop drinking them!  It came to the point where I would just walk into a Thai restaurant and just order a Thai iced tea to go.  These are just some of the Thai restaurants I went to during the month of March.  My obsession got so bad that McTwinkle had to put his foot down and forbid me to have any more.  But where did I take him for his birthday ?  To a Thai restaurant ;p.

I went to Seain Williamsburg twice… in one week.  The second time, I had my Thai friend go schmooze with the hostess so we got a table with a quickness.  =X  The first night I ordered the massaman curry with chicken, the second night I ordered curry noodle soup with chicken.  I enjoyed the massaman curry as it was mild but flavorful.  The curry soup was a bit disappointing as the flavor was just in the soup, everything inside including the noodles were bland and overcooked and the chicken was overdone.  Their thai iced tea was made overly sweet the second time around so I had to send it back to get them to lessen the sweet factor.  I also got to try a few of their appetizers- I tried both of the spring rolls [crispy basil spring rolls &po-pia sod], which were okay and ordinary.  I enjoyed the crispy ones more b/c it didn’t have mint in it but I did like the summer roll type skin on the po-pia sod.  The Sea chicken wingswere actually really good- I’m not sure what the sauce is – it looks like jerk chicken, but definitely tastes a lot better.  I also had the fried ice cream for dessert.  They pour a whole buttload of rum on the plate and lit it up so you get the cool blue flame effect below.  The rum seriously overpowered the whole dessert, which was a bit disappointing, but the actual fried ice cream was really good.

What I hate about going to Sea is that their service sucks.  I mean the workers there are nice enough- it’s not like I got into a spat with any of them directly.  However, they are always trying to accommodate more people than is politically correct so they are always rushing customers to finsih their meals.  I had a server/bus boy pull my plate from under me just as I was picking up my last spring roll.  Now, that is just plain rude!

thai iced tae

chicken wings

curry noods 

flaming ball of ice cream

McTwinkle, Arthur and I went to Kittichai for lunch one day and got seated in their lounge area b/c their space downstairs wasn’t opened- there was no explanation why.  We sat on plush seats surrounding a black bar in the middle.  The tables were very small, as they normally only hold drinks, so it was a bit difficult trying to balance three people’s lunches on two of those small round tables in the picture underneath. 

kittichai- space

We ordered both thai iced teas and thai iced coffees, which we got to sweeten and milk to our own tastes.  I got the thai salad to start, but I had meant to order the duck salad, but my mind was somewhere else and I ended up ordering the wrong one.  The salad was just a simple medley of lettuce, cucumbers, salmon, and peanuts with a crunchy rice paper look-a-like chip.  There’s nothing in regards to the salad to write home about.  McTwinkle and Arthur shared an order of their beef skewers, which were amazingly juicy and not-beefy tasting.  I don’t know what it was basted with, but I’d definitely eat it again.  I’ve been trying to open up more to meats lately.  The skewers came with a mango salsa, which resulted in the three of us wrestling for the mangoes.  We definitely should’ve ordered more of the skewers. 

thai iced tea

salad

beef satay

I thought their entrees were small but made very well.  I had the massaman chicken curry, which came with mashed potatoes and a side of rice.  It was very innovative that they decided to swap regular o’ potatoes for mash b/c I loveeee mash!  I think massaman may be one of my favorite curries because it’s mild in spice and on the sweeter side.  Sometimes I crave a spicier dish, like a vindaloo, but when I’m craving curry, I’m usually craving it for its sweetness- like the Japanese curry.  Mmm.  McTwinkle ordered a much spicier curry- a red curry with pork and capers that set my mouth on fire, which is exactly how he likes his food.  He drenched his rice with the sauce so all you can taste is the curry.  We have no idea what the pork really tastes like, this dish was definitely concentrated on the curry.  Arthur wasn’t really hungry so he ordered the tuna tartare.  They came looking like mini sandwiches, with the tuna acting as the bread with a slice of tomato and arugala in between and a beet on top.  The tuna had a nice red color in the middle and the pesto sauce complemented the tuna well. 

massaman curry 

spicy pork

tuna

While I enjoyed Kittichai, especially the mellow atmosphere and their presentation of both food and drink, I have to say that dishes here are just too expensive and small for the amount we paid for it.  If you’re in the mood for a nice lunch and want to just sit back and chill, this would be the place to go.  No one will bother you and the food is good.  The boys also give a thumbs up to the restaurant’s cute hostess.

I also revisited what is quite possibly my favorite Thai restaurant in NYC, Kai Kai Thai.  There’s something about the close-knit family vibe and the small kitschy dining room combined with a mason jar of thai iced tea and some home-cooked noodles to hit the spot.  We sat in the back of the small dining room, which was made to look like a front porch of a house, looking out onto  Thai movie posters and trinkets of model houses along the walls. 

I had ordered the pad siew again and it was just as good as I remembered it.  Soft broad noodles pan fried with chinese broccoli with chicken, carrots, and egg.  The chicken was a bit on the dry side since it wasn’t marinated- it’s good in small pieces mixed with the sweet [oyster sauce based?] sauce used to fry up the dish.  JJ ordered a heavily chilied dish that had similar ingredient as mine, only spicier.  She ordered in Thai so I have no clue what she asked for. 

 kaikai inside

thai iced tea
mason jar style ;P

pad siew
pad siew

spicy noods
ultra spicy version of my noods

I walked about two weeks ago and realized that the dining area to Kai Kai Thai is now gone!!  They still have their little take out area with a lone two seater table, but now they’re basically a solely take-out business!  The space is now used for doggie treats!  It’s like a 50s style ice cream parlor, but for doggie treats.  *sigh.  There are no words left…

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Some friends and I went to my friend Benny’s favorite Italian restaurant, Via Della Pace for his birthday.  Nestled on an East Village side street, this seemed like a hidden treasure to me right off the bat.  It even looks all rustic from the outside, doesn’t it?  Sadly, much to my dismay, this restaurant was a disappointment. 

There’s a small bar off to the right when you walk in.  There were quite a few people hanging around there throughout our dinner; I’m sure it’s probably just a neighborhood crowd.  There are so many bars in the East Village- why come to a cramped restaurant for drinks?  The atmosphere is very cozy, dim, and definitely gives off a romantic vibe.  The space is small so couples are often almost hovering over each other – which some like.  This probably wasn’t the best place to try to accomodate over 10 people, but they did it. 

outside
i kept trying to wait til these people left to take a pic 

They provided each table with a bottle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping their warm bread into.  It took our group forever and a day to get settled and for our whole party arrived, so I ate a LOT of bread and I’m mighty glad it was warm and soft too.  

balsamic and olive
balsamic & olive oil = yummy combo

Browsing the menu [and from looking at Menupages earlier], I noticed that the prices for this restaurant are reallyyy wallet friendly.  A friend did warn me that the portions weren’t too big though- which is why they could afford to charge so little.  I wasn’t very hungry so I decided an appetizer and a salad would fill me up just fine. I ordered a bruschetta; the friulana, seared tuna avocado and mustard.  At first glance, this looked waayy appetizing.  Upon tasting the bruschetta, I noticed that the mustard used is just regular cheapo mustard [French’s?] and the tuna was not of the highest quality therefore the flavor suffered.  If the avocado was browning, I think I would’ve cried.

tuna bruchetta

I ordered a salad that included shaved parmesan, yellow tomatoes, italian ham, capers, and arugula in a balsamic dressing.   The greens were very shredded and I asked for no capers, but they put them in anyways.  There was nothing special about this salad; what you see is basically what you get.  There were other choices for dressings, one which was a almond and walnut dressing.  I forgot to ask for that specifically and I wasn’t asked which dressing I wanted, so I got [stuck] with the balsamic.  However, I’m not complaining about that- I do like balsamic.  I would liked to have been asked though.

salad salad

I did hear better reviews about the pasta dishes so if I ever come across eating at this restaurant again, maybe I’ll try one of them.  One particular pasta dish I heard was good is the lobster ravioli.  I was sad that this place did not live up to my standards- it could have been a potential date place!  Intimate, cheap, and candles aren’t enough.  The quality of the ingredients in the dishes I ordered [I picked at my friends’ plates too, including their baked ziti] is low/mediocre.

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 Where do you go when you’re craving food before hitting up Pomme Frites for fries?  Paul’s Place

pauls outside  pauls inside

Paul’s is very cramped inside with a lot of cheesy neon lights and random random kitschy items hanging about.  With its red and white plastic checker board tablecloths, there’s nothing fancy about this place. 

Each table is supplied with a whole bowl of half-dill pickles to munch on while watching the game or waiting for their orders.  Iordered the texas burger with a turkey patty and a fried egg on top.  I added tomatoes.  The burger had a good chunk of meat- half a pound’s worth supposedly!  The burger was a little more well done than I expected even though.  It didn’t seem to be the medium that I ordered.  In retrospect, I actually would’ve liked the burger more if the eye wasn’t fried all the way through, but the yoke was left a bit gooey and it spilled into the burger and moistened the meat.  That sounds fun, no?  

texas burger

I also got a classic ice cream float- coke with vanilla aka a “burnt cow.”  I have friends who are all about the sprite and ice cream- but I like the classic better.  It’d be even more enticing if it was Pepsi instead of Coke, but I’m not complaining.

coke float

I say that this place is just a basic run-of-the-mill burger joint.  It’s just a small neighborhood-y place to grab a bite to eat or to get some take-out.  This place will definitely satisfy a burger craving, but it’s not one of those knock-your-socks-off hole-in-the-wall joints.

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