Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ando Yes, Morimoto No.

After finding out that restaurant week was still underway I wanted to catch the chance to experience some of top restaurants at a low price. So I asked a foodie friend to arrange a table at Morimoto because I had never been. It was a prix fixe lunch for $24. I thought that's a great deal thinking Morimoto was really expensive. But once we got there we realized that it was the same price as most other things on their regular lunch menu, so none of us ordered the prix fixe. This was my black cod bento box. The cod was good, but tiny... the usual sweet fish in a miso glaze which is hard to mess up. The sushi was decent, but nothing special. The tempura, which was actually quite tasty, came in this nasty cheese sauce instead of the traditional ponzu dipping sauce. As if deep fried fish and vegetables aren't heavy enough! The side salad looked nice but was way too salty and the miso soup was actual just right! It was a lighter tasting miso with a lovely piece or super soft tofu floating in it.

Although I wasn't impressed with the food, the space is pretty great. Actually the main reason in going to Morimoto in the first place was to the see the space. Tadao Ando is my favourite architects and so I was excited to see what he had done with the interior of the restaurant. The walls and ceiling is draped in what looks like concrete made to look like fabric. (although we all agreed that it's plaster not concrete) It's a really cool idea none the less, playing with your mind a bit between hard and soft materials. The seats are super heavy, but very comfortable, making the table experience really good. There are mesh dividers separately the space nicely. Overall it feels white and modern yet warm. The toilets in the washroom are actually the best part of the experience. There's a floor to ceiling infinity mirror backing the toilets. They are filled with cherry blossoms that are suspended in space. It's beautiful! All toilets are wonderful fully automatic WARM Japanese (Toto) toilets! There's nothing like a warm toilet, brings back instant memories of Japan! The bar downstairs was nice too, all lit up blue with leaves suspended in the glass. The seating area for the bar was intensely and carefully lit in red. I might even come back to have a drink sometime.

88 10th Ave
New York, NY
(212) 989-8883

Now For Ciao

We dropped in to Ciao for Now for lunch, looking to try something new and because we were craving salad in particular to cool us off in this NY summer heat. I had a nice vibe and felt really like a east village neighbourhood spot. It was nice and chill and had a homemade feel to it. We shared a few different things so we could taste more. We ordered the chicken salad sandwich, the beet salad and a spinach quiche, all were surprisingly good. I know there are several locations around the city but never managed to pop in. The food wasn't mind blowing but it was definitely a nice place with good food to read a book or hang with friends.

Ciao For Now
523 E 12th St, New York
(212) 677-2616

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cute Korean Posers

Although we all know what my favourite ramen restaurant is, I thought I should broaden my horizons and finally try the newest location of Setagaya. It was better than I expected. My main qualm with this place is that they are Koreans trying to trick the public by attempting to speak Japanese. It's really annoying. I can hear them speaking Korean to each other in the kitchen since I was sitting front row at the bar window watching them make it. I wasn't completely sure because the thick glass makes it hard to be sure and they are throwing in Japanese-ish words to the waitresses and the consistent "irashaimase" as people walk in. But I investigated more online to find that others had also stated that both the cooks and management are in fact Korean. Nice try, can't fool me!

Anyway back to the food, both time that I've been to Setagaya I've always liked the seaweed taste that the soup has but it is definitely too salty overall. I was actually happy with my order which had the noodles served cold separately. I really preferred these curly noodles over the stand ones in the hot soup. They were less cooked (more al dente) so I was way more into the texture of them. I HATE HATE soft noodles with no chew to them. The soup that comes along with them is quite tasty and heavier than the shoyu-based hot ramen. I heard the chef call it "jigae" as it went out so guess it's a bit inspired by that. They do have a nicely priced set which includes a bowl of hot ramen and your choice of buta-don (pork over rice), curry rice or gyoza, both which were generously sized. So if one person gets the set with gyoza and the other gets just a bowl then you have a lovely appetizer!

Ramen Setagaya
34 St. Marks Pl.
New York, NY

Sweaty Boys and Free Beer!

It was an awesome sunny day on Saturday so we headed over to Chelsea Waterside Park to watch the Adidas sponsored soccer tournament called Fanatic 8. Everyone in fashion and design was there; La Esquina, Nom De Guerre, United Bamboo, Opening Ceremony, PSYOP, Freemans, Vice, Tokion, and the list goes on and on... But it was great because the beer and food was free, so we enjoyed a few colds ones in the sun along with some bbq meats while we watched cute boys run around and get sweaty. Love New York City!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Kind of Meat

It's so nice to be back in New York although I must say this food was a bit of a shock on my body after my two weeks in Vancouver of eating tons of fish and amazing Japanese food. But nothing like good serious meat once and a while!

A good friend of mine has his birthday dinner here every year at the very famous Peter Luger's steakhouse in Williamsburg. I was excited to finally check it out. Although this place is so NOT in my budget, I made an exception this one time. This is probably one of the most famous steakhouses in the world serving up serious meat since the 1800's. It's got a huge following as you can tell by the lobby which is packed full every night around dinnertime. Since Mario knows this place in and out he did all the ordering. We started with this insane bacon side dish which was ridiculous! Probably the tastiest pig I've ever had! We had the tomato and onion side dish which was very refreshing, and then you smoother it with their homemade bbq sauce. Creamed spinach and fried potatoes were also in the mix. As for the main meat, enough prime rib was ordering for all of us, done medium rare and served sliced up on these huge plates. I think the bone was the size of my head! It was intense but really good! The staff is super old school, with very dry and direct New York attitudes. It's definitely a part of the experience! This is not a place to bring vegetarians or vegans because even the potatoes are fried in animal fat! YUM!

Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400

Sadness in the East Village

My favourite pizza place in New York has closed its doors last week leaving me and many New Yorkers so sad. The pizza here was among the best I've ever had. I had been meaning to blog about it since before I started the blog and sadly I had only made it but 3 times to Una Pizza Napoletana. I never thought it would go away and I always counted on it to be there. The dough is so amazing and airy, it's so special. I called this place "Purist Pizza" because it only had 4 pizza's on the menu and a few wines. No salads, no side, no substitutions... my dream! Each pizza was made with only simple and fresh ingredients, tomatoes, cheese, salt, garlic and olive oil. No sauce. You tasted each ingredient to the fullest and very separately instead of having a saucy mess where all the flavours mix together. It was a very special concept and a true unforgettable experience. I am really sad and wish I had the chance to have it one more time. That said it was probably the most expensive pizza I've ever had, but I never cared, it was always so worth it. Anthony Mangieri, the man behind this pizza has decided to move to San Francisco to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle there and plans to open a new restaurant there sometime in the future.

Una Pizza Napoletana
Now Closed

Eat Fresh

There's nothing like picking your own food... and spending some quality time with my 84-year old grandma who loves to pick blueberries. She's been picking berries of all kinds for years and carefully inspects each branch to pick the perfect ones. I mostly just picked the ones that look good and ate them! I'm a bad picker-eater but still managed to get one ice cream bucket full of blueberries, half of what my grandmother picked. I brought back a small container of them with me to New York and I've been enjoying them every morning on top of my greek yogurt. Emma-Lea is a really quaint and well kept farm located in the farmlands of Ladner on Westham Island, which is about 30 minutes south of Vancouver. They also sell wonderful jam which they of course make from their fruit which I also brought back with me to NY.

Emma-Lea Farms

Oh Holy Breakfast Bento!

This was hands down the best find on this trip to Vancouver. Thanks to my friends Kenta and Dan. This secret restaurant is hidden inside this crazy retro hotel/hostel on a very residential strip of 12th Avenue. These Japanese are serving up amazing traditional breakfast bento boxes! I had the grilled salmon one (how very B.C. of me!) which was delicious and salty in its traditional way, the miso soup was wonderful and all the little sides were actually quite unique. Here's a group of guys from the hospital nearby that have also found this local spot. It's really hard to find places outside of Japan that offer a Japanese breakfast, this is the first and only known one so far in Vancouver. I have yet to find one in New York, but think I'll make that my mission now!

1125 12th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC V6H 3Z3, Canada
(604) 742-0234

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Go Fish!

Go Fish is amazing. I have been wanted to check it out since my last visit and finally I made it this week. It's located right along the seawall just outside of Granville Island which makes it super convenient as we were biking around the city enjoying the amazing weather! The special fish tacos of the day were "Pacific Fish Tacones" which were a combination of cod, salmon and halibut in an adobo sauce. They were SO good! We also shared 1 piece of halibut fish & chips which was so fresh and flakey! I wish I could have gone two more times before leaving back to New York!

Go Fish
1504 West 1st Ave.
Vancouver, BC
(604) 730-5040

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hide and Go Seek Out That Horse Meat!

Kakurenbou might be one of the only restaurants serving raw horse in Vancouver. I didn't want to miss out an opportunity to eat some fresh sakura-niku (means horse meat)! This was the first time I had eaten it outside of Japan and it was delicious! The menu is not as large as their competing Izakaya restaurants, but I can respect quality over quantity any day. We started with an amazing Caesar, a cocktail which is the "bloody mary" of Canada. It's made with clamato juice instead of tomato juice and Kakurenbou makes their own clamato juice from scratch with a grilled squid skewer to top it off! Besides the raw horse, we had some great dishes: a maguro sashimi, a duck eggplant dish and a very unique tuna sashimi seared on top with rosemary. (not pictured) We also ordered the corn tempura and a mochi gobo pizza! Imagine chewy mochi instead of just cheese, and thinly sliced gobo (burdock root) sliced on top. A very interesting version of pizza to say the least.

793 Jervis Street (nr Robson)
Vancouver, B.C