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Remainder of Kyoto

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t says:  Kyoto was a fun city to visit.  However, we do have to confess that two things make it significantly less fun: rain and tourists.  On our second day, we encountered both in large quantities.  It started with our determined efforts to see the vermillion gates at the Fushima Inari Shrine.  We started out early in the morning, thinking if we got there before breakfast, then no one else would be there yet … certainly not in the rain … we were wrong.

I will put up the food finds, first:IMG-5493.jpg

We started off by ducking out of the rain into a little tea house.  Not quite knowing the protocol, we assumed we should remove our shoes to sit on the elevated tables with our legs folded.  Fortunately, when others arrived and did the same, our guess was confirmed.  Hooray!  The only thing we didn’t do was put the umbrellas into the umbrella stand at the entry of the shop – d’oh!

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This place specialized in rice-related confections to go along with the teas.  I went for this one, which essentially is a charred mochi (no filling), topped with sweet red beans.  It was superb.  I don’t know if most people will like it, but for me, I ate a lot of red bean sweets as a child (my parents lied to me and told me it was “chocolate”).  So for me, this is like childhood 2.0.  And the savory qualities of the grilled rice cake really balanced nicely against the sweetness of the bean.  Now, there were a LOT of places to eat around the shrine/gates.  There were vendors hawking every type of grillable food.  There was even an awesome fresh-made mochi place (I got the one filled with red bean – surprise!).  It really is a tourist’s wonderland – so go hungry and see what you find!

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For lunch, we went a bit rogue and sought out someplace away from the main flow of tourists.  Between google and some poorly translated websites, we decided to go to a ramen shop called Hiwamatanoboru Ramen.  We were greeted politely and pointed towards a machine to order.  This was a moment that g and I had feared: we had no idea how to use such machines.  Fortunately – we changed the language setting to English and bam! We could order without issue.  We placed our orders, gave them to the host who pointed at some seats for us, and waited patiently.

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This was one hearty bowl of ramen.  The noodles were thick and flecked with what appeared to be some kind of grain (?whole wheat ramen noodles?).  The meat was smoked (we think) as it had that kind of texture, appearance, chew, and flavor).  The base was simple – like a well-porked tonkatsu.  Definitely a steal for $7.50.  I was particularly pleased that we appeared to be the only tourists in the joint – a lot of folks came in, freely spoke in Japanese, and ate alone before leaving, so I [perhaps wrongly] assume they were locals.  A pretty good spot!

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And the shrine!!  So this is a shot from the outside of the row of gates – I took it because the gates were full of people, and this looked much more serene.  Some tourist photobombed me and I didn’t realize it ’til later (look closely in the center).  Oh well.

And there we go!  Our last half-day in Kyoto: good food and pretty sites!

 

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 October 2017 at 6:38pm

Journey to Naoshima and Kyoto

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t says: g told me there was an “art island” in Japan. Because we cancelled the Korea part of our trip, we needed to fill up those extra days, so we figured that this would be an excuse to get out of Tokyo. Naoshima is quite a journey. The Shinkansen to Okayama was a snap, but the two trains afterwards to get to Uno port was a bit more butt-clenching (Where are we? Where are we supposed to be? Quick – get on the train before it leaves! Why are we the only not-apparently-Asians on this train? What did that overhead speaker say? How many stops left? I’m hungry!). In hindsight it was stupid to be worried about it – it’s quite easy as the Japanese transportation system is mercilessly on time, so you know what’s going on just by looking at your watch and a timetable. And after the ferry from Uni port, we were rewarded with this:

On our first day we went to the Chichu museum. This is my new favorite museum ever. Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Guggenheim, MOMA’s, Barnes foundation – it doesn’t matter. This tiny museum, with its like 10 pieces gave me chills three times, not including the James Turell’s “Open Sky” at dusk program. It’s just the perfect place to go and be quiet and look at something that really begins to distort your perception. Like you may have seen some Monet Water Lilies, but when you see them here, I could have just sat on the floor and watched for hours. To promote the feeling of bending perception, I wish they would have added a strict “no talking” rule to the “no photographs” rule (which is why I have no photographs) – why it is there is always someone at every exhibit who feels the need to explain something to someone who didn’t actually ask for an explanation is beyond me.

We stayed at an AirBnB that included meals at 7070Uogashi. I’m not actually sure about the provenance of the fish it provided (I seem to doubt it was all locally caught, but I didn’t see an obvious grocer or market anywhere on the island!), but everything was quite tasty! The restaurant was quirky (small, old, hilarious covers of pop songs played overhead), but we wouldn’t change a thing.

I kept seeing advertisements for the super-rich Cremia custard. I swear it was so milky it had a cream cheese flavor. Ultimately not quite as sweet as I wanted, but a good experiment.

My last note about Naoshima, as a reminder to our future selves: stay at the Benesse House. Not to be all high maintenance about things (our AirBnB was fine, but it was pretty barebones), but the ease of getting around the island that comes with staying at Benesse House (i.e. the free Benesse House-only shuttle) allows you to cover more ground more effectively. I view it like this: if you’re now at a stage in your life where you’re paying extra $$ to fly nonstop rather than suffering through two layovers to save a hundred bucks, then the Benesse House splurge is worth it. Otherwise, stay in one of the hostels on the island and rent a bike and give yourself enough time to go between the different exhibits (we’d say two full days would be enough – the two half days we had made it hard to see everything we wanted ……. but we saw the Chichu museum, so I’m super happy!)

After Naoshima, we ferry-trained it to Kyoto. We’ve only been here a day, and, as usual, crappy weather continues to follow us around on vacation, so we limited ourselves to the bamboo forest and Nishiki market.

The bamboo forest really is a sight to behold. The stunning trees , so densely lacked, reminds me of standing in a forest of green, super-skinny redwoods. The rain kept some tourists away so we did get some good serene shots, but I instead wanted to show you this one where alluvasudden, a car comes driving down the trail, a bunch of kids hop out and the driver takes their picture right where we were standing. So I figured I’d take their picture too! Maybe one of these kids is famous or a government officials child or something.

On our way to Nishiki market, the map said there was an Ippudo. You’d never know it’s the same as the one in Berkeley by the setup – its rustic, with a large communal table and very few tourists. I ventured a spicy one that featured some minced pork, smoky-spicy flavors, and all the fixings. It was done nicely, but tasted similar to what I had at Berkeley minus the spice. g had the shiomaruwhich was quite good as well. Overal, pretty solid stuff that we’re happy to have eaten for early lunch at 11 ….

… because when w e we’re leaving at 11:30, a line had formed!! Yowzas! I guess we got lucky with our waitlessness!

With full bellies we were ready for Nishiki market, full of vendors selling their wares and foods of various levels of done-ness. Begin the photostorm!

That’s right – g got her Taiyaki. She’s one happy camper!

Really, the only let downs were the Aritsugu and Kikuichimonji knife stores – neither of which had the type of kitchen knife I wanted. I guess I’ll just have to stick with the one I currently have …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 October 2017 at 2:00am

adsz brunch rules apply … even in Tokyo

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t says: Those who know me know that I can be a little impatient at times. This leads me to be a bit more brusque than social convention dictates. It’s usually because I’m hungry. A long time ago, I decided I would never wait for brunch for more than 45 minutes. SF has broken me a few times (damn you Plow and your ricotta pancakes!), but for the most part, t doesn’t wait for brunch.

So now we’re in Tokyo. Food bloggers paradise. Just like everyone else who fancies themselves as enjoying the “finer” things in life, we made the trip out to Tsukiji market. Knowing that it’d be rainy, and reading that it wasn’t worth it, we skipped out on the tuna auction. Instead we wanted just to see some stalls hawking an assortment of items and eat some damn good sushi. Now of course, every “experienced traveler” who has the internet is going for the same two places: sushi dai and daiwa sushi … and it shows, with lines in excess of two hours. Well, g & t don’t play ‘dat. Using he power of the internet, we found the third string: Sushi Bun.

g and I must have spent a solid 60 seconds outside, not knowing if we were at the right place, why the door was closed, wondering if we should just barge in. I put on my best dumb American face and went for it. We were rewarded with two empty seats at the counter.

So it seems that we must have read the same blog posts and reviews that every other impatient American read, because while this place turned over four couples during our stay, we were all essentially the same: gore-tex shells (it was raining), waterproof hiking backpack (it was raining, and who knows what we’d want to buy!), terrible Japanese skills (except one guy from one couple who may have been Japanese), and general awkwardness interacting with staff.  That said, this place was legit.  You could order one of three sets of nigiri or sashimi, and that’s it. Piece of cake. They didn’t allow any photography, but let’s just say that the nigiri was spot-on, with large slabs of super-tasty fish.  We went for the pricier nigiri “set”, which included things like uni and shrimp, but it was still well less than $40 (4000 JPY) per person.  And we were full.  I had to help out g with her uni …  the service was prompt and pleasant (there was some miming involved – like where to put our coats/bags). And as we walked (Or maybe “rolled” given how full we were) around the market to aid our digestion afterwards, we couldn’t help but smirk at those in line at other places (all with shells and backpacks).  Was our sushi “as good” as theirs?  No idea.  We’ll never know.  But for quite possibly some of the best sushi we’ve ever had (certainly the best we’ve ever had at this price), we find it hard to believe there could be better.  (But reserve the right to retract that statement if we’re ever bored enough to wait in line).

We followed this up with some aggressive shopping in Ginza (it was too bleak to visit temples/gardens).  I’ll spare you the details except to say that g was very successful in her quests.

Oh – g helped me find some cookies at the mall. Isn’t she awesome? Had a double chocolate chip and a chocolate chip + ginger. Interesting how the dough isn’t as sweet as I’m used to, but the chocolate was super-delicious. It’s some British company (Ben’s?), so I’ll keep an eye out for other flavors.

So back to the real food:

We managed to lunch at Ginza Kigari.

Don’t be fooled by the “soba” sign – there’s some history/technicality about why this sign exists that I can’t recall – but it’s the place!  This joint is probably one of the five most-commonly blogged ramen shops in Tokyo.  After David Chang mentions it and they get a Bib Gourmand, you know they’ve gone Hollywood.  While a second shop was around the corner and supposedly has no wait, we decided that the half-hour wait for tori paitan ramen at the original location was worth it. They had their system down. Menus were distributed to you while you were in line, and a super cheery lady would come around and take orders. By the time you got in there, they were ready to start working on your bowl – no hesitation, no modification, just put on your bib and buckle up.

As expected, it was teeny tiny in there. We were surrounded by 6 other tourists and 2 presumably native Japanese men (so the ratio is getting better!). This, my first tori paitan in Japan, featured a super-rich chicken broth.  Imagine tonkotsu, but with chicken.  It had some slabs of chicken breast and a few garnishes, but I added some egg and nori to round things out.  I think the soup had an excellent base, and the noodles had a wonderful bite and that superb alkaline flavor (that often is missing from ramens I’ve had in Philly/SF), but  I do wish they would have stepped up their game with their included vegetables (squashes/potato) to lighten up the dish with some brightness. Overall, I can say it was quite delicious and worth the wait, while being happily different from the norm making the rounds in SF.

We did go to one food-related “store” in Ginza – the Kit Kat Chocolatory.  Tokyo being known for its interesting Kit Kat flavors, we found some interesting ones (butter, green tea, etc).  We also found this Gateau Mignon flavor, one which was exclusively released at the Ginza store.  This is the Bentley of kit-kats, hiding a layer of chocolate cake inside.

It was absolutely delicious …. maybe not $4 a piece delicious, but something I’ll only see here. g was perhaps less than impressed …

Finally, we finished off the day with a dirt-cheap meal of dumplings at Tenryu Gyoza.

After indulging in these hand-sized gyoza and some much-needed vegetables (we hadn’t encountered many yet!), we were satisfied enough to feel the strong, stiff kick of our circadian rhythms telling us to go to sleep. We retired to our swank-as-hell-thank-goodness-for-CC-points hotel and fell asleep with the Tokyo skyline in the distance. What will tomorrow bring?

Written by afterdinnersneeze

13 October 2017 at 10:38pm

Guess who’s back …

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t says: yes, it’s been a while, but we’re back. I have some excuses to explain absence, but none are at all that convincing. I was working on other hobbies. We are out less at new restaurants. I forgot the WordPress password. Ultimately it was just time and convenience. With the ubiquity of YouFace, InstaTwitter, and the like, I just couldn’t keep up with the dying art that is blogging …

But now I come crawling back to the good ‘ol adsz. Why now? Vacation!

And so it begins.

Back in January, g and I churned the hell out of some credit cards and accumulated enough points to plan a wonderful vacation. Flights to Korea were cheap (they just impeached their president) so we thought: “family reunion in Seoul!”.

Of course the evolving geopolitical wildfire made us change our itinerary to Japan-only for the trip (which was the day before North Korea started lobbing missiles over northern Japan). Nevertheless, we are sticking with the plan. Tokyo here we come!

In the meantime, an update from my phone’s archives:

We went to Namu Stonepot and it was surprisingly great! Now g and I can be sticklers when it comes to Korean food, especially with current champion Jang su Jang only an hour away -so we went into this not expecting much. I was blown away with their [pseudo-]ramen noodles added to their kimchi stew which was superb. Not as developed as JSJ, but for something easily had within city limits and next to BiRite ice cream, this place was great! I was sweating like grandpa in no time! Keep in mind that there is often a line, which is partly due to the volume of it being a hip new place, but also because it’s clear that folks often have no idea what to expect so spend several minutes on ordering, as they pimp the order-taker on what every dish is. (For the record, g and I ordered in under 37 seconds – we knew what we they had, we knew what we wanted, and we ordered … like the professionals we are …). It’s definitely worth a try – a better experience than Namu Gaji for sure.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 October 2017 at 1:54pm

So much time, so much ramen.

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t says:  It has been forever since our last post.  And trust me – it’s not because we haven’t been eating.  It’s been a non-stop work-fest over here on the “Best Coast” so I let my blog-maintenance duties slide.  As a result, my phone has so many food pictures that I’ve actually forgotten where most of them are from.  I’m a disgrace of a blogger.  Can it be?  Have I transitioned to an age where blogging is more of a chore than a fun distraction?  NEVER!  I just wish it was easier to do on the fly … I wish they had telepathic blogging …

So why come back?  Well … g and I, in our quest to try every respectable bowl of ramen in the city, came across what I can only say was an absolute disaster of a noodle.  And I just can’t help myself.  I must tell someone about it.  Anyone.  Everyone.  They must be warned.

Enter Mensho Ramen.  Or, more accurately “Mensho Tokyo SF” – or whatever they want to be known as.  There were so many problems with our trip to Mensho.  The first was their ginormous line.  With a line this long, my expectations were heightened.  With so many people talking about how they loved it there [waiting in line], I figured that this was going to be great.  But – I can’t blame Mensho for their line – that’s not their fault – that’s ours; we have to stop supporting bad ramen in SF.  The second was the table setup that placed dining partners SO far away from eachother that it was difficult to talk.  Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem at a noodle house either because you’re supposed to be busy slurping noodles – not talking.  But if you’re going to run a buzzy, so-hot-right-now, packed noodle house that’s going to involve some kind of wait for noodles, then you might as well give us something to do while we wait for the order to be filled – like talk to each other.  (g does, however, give them props for the cute little baskets under the tables to put your stuff so you’re not putting your jacket on your lap while you eat.)  And finally, the biggest problem of all: the bowl was terrible.  The above Tori Paitan was ordered with double chashu (double pork shoulder) and extra duck chashu (four slices instead of two).  Let’s get the good out of the way first: the noodles, themselves, were on the thicker side with great bounce, and the duck was quite good.  But that’s where the good stopped and the bad began.  The broth – a “rich and creamy chicken soup” was insipid.  I just couldn’t understand it.  How could ramen have a bland broth with almost no flavor?  And it’s supposed to be so thick and creamy from all of delicious chicken that melted off the bone!  It blew my mind.  The burdock was similarly bland, and the greens ranged from overcooked-mushy to undercooked-why-am-I-still-raw.  For redemption: nothing actually tasted “bad” – it just didn’t have taste … which was a sad way for $19.50 to depart my wallet.  (Perhaps my tears of sadness would have added much-needed salt to the broth.) At least I was full when I was done (the best part about ramen: you don’t leave hungry).

g’s bowl, the shio with double meat, had far more flavor in the broth, bringing a nice saltiness and garlic to the party.  That said, they did manage to serve it in the most unhelpful bowl you could ever serve ramen in – with this gently sloping sides that caught effectively none of the slurp-splashes that inevitable occur with ramen eating (if you’re not slurping, you’re not eating ramen correctly).  And don’t get me wrong – while her bowl did at least have some flavor, it’s not like the kale and chives were pushing any boundaries in a positive direction.  Needless to say – g and I won’t be waiting in line at Mensho anytime soon.  (Although the two vegan people next to us seemed to enjoy their ramen …).

So now what?  Well – with acknowledging that Mensho is officially tied for the worst ramen we’ve had in the Bay Area (the other was Oakland’s Itani Ramen), here are some places that will offer you a better bowl.

Here’s the bowl from Ramen Yamadaya in Japantown (not to be confused with the relatively new Ramen Hinodeya).  This 2nd story restaurant has a little bit of an attitude problem.  The wait can be fierce (make sure you butt your way up to the front of the line to put your name on the list and then get in the line), and the host can be mean (he gets a little bit of a temper tantrum when he can’t read your handwriting), and the “instructions on how to eat ramen” that are posted are a bit condescending … but by golly this is the best ramen of the three we’ve been to in Japantown (Waraku, Hinodeya, Yamadaya).  The noodles are spot on, the broth is flavorful – both hit the right checkboxes (Hinodeya’s broth, by comparison, was far less flavorful – I can’t even find pictures of it – it was so forgettable that even my phone forgot the picture).  However, the real “winner” of this Kakuni Kotteri bowl is the pork belly: the biggest, best-done, perfectly-toothsome piece of belly is in this ramen.  Some may say that it distracts from the noodles and broth and other elements, which is fair – but sometimes you just want a ramen that puts the meat in a spotlight rather than just another tree in the background.  We gladly took some of this broth home with us – it didn’t quite have the oomph of Orenchi, but it was still worthy of a second round at home with adding some store-bought noodles.  I also give them props because one of the servers and I had a moment to geek out on our shared love of raw Japanese denim – it was pretty cool and allows me to award them bonus points.

We also ventured “The Ramen Shop” in Oakland for their twists-on-the-traditional ramens.  Above you see g’s selection of green garlic, veggie ,meyer lemon shoyu ramen which was super-refreshing.  Personally, I couldn’t handle that element of citrus for an entire bowl, but g quite liked it.  Between the arugula, Meyer lemon, and butternut squash, it didn’t really scream “ramen”, but still a very tasty soup on its own.

 

 

 

 

I went with the duck shoyu ramen which was indeed a very respectable dish of ramen.  I can’t say that the rutabaga did anything for me, and I personally like the egg yolk to be a smidge runnier, but the broth was nicely balanced and the duck was fabulous (I wish there was one more slice).  The noodles could have had just a bit more of an alkaline punch to jazz up their flavor some, but overall I was happy with our Oakland adventure.  I would not agree that it’s the best ramen in the Bay Area, but if I had any hipster friends, I’d totally send them there (it’s a little bit of a scene …).

 

Here’s a reminder to myself that Nojo still has our favorite chicken-based ramen.  It’s gimicky as hell to put a chicken thigh/leg in there, but it’s just so darn good.

We also hit up Izakaya Sozai as well.  I ventured the tsukemen style ramen which I have to say would have been astounding had it not suffered from one problem: temperature regulation.  The cooler ingredients (the noodle bowl) got so cool that the noodles clumped.  It also cooled down the dipping broth to the point where it, too, was below room temp.  Darn!!  I feel like the broth would have been far more expressive had it been a bit warmer by the time it hit my mouth.  As far as the noodles, they could have used ones that were a bit more irregular or had a bit more curl this way it would have really captured the broth and delivered it to my mouth much more easily.  I did eat all of it – it was still pretty good – but it had such high potential to be be excellent.

Izakaya Sozai does have these cute bacon-wrapped mochi which is pretty much the best thing ever.  It’s like a stickier/chewier bacon-wrapped gnocchi – what’s not to love?

And here we are … back at the beginning … Orenchi Beyond.  Ok, so the crown that Orenchi Beyond stole from the first moment we went there has been retained … but barely.  With bowls that offer better meat (Ramen Yamadaya), more interesting “twists” (chicken leg and addictive burdock at Nojo), or even a more profound porkiness (Coco Ramen), it’s hard to say that Orenchi is a clear winner.  However, give g and me just one place to bring an out-of-town friend to demonstrate ramen goodness of SF and the Bay, and this is where we’re going to go.  It’s garlicky, porky, and has an almost briny quality to it.  The noodles are excellent (although I’d get a double portion the next time), the pork is well-done, the additions are solid.  Just don’t get distracted by the soba or tsukemen and you’ll be fine.  Man – if only they could steal some of Coco’s bean sprouts and just a small slab of Yamadaya’s belly – it’d be the perfect bowl.

Who knows when the next post will be?  But until then – just keep eating … and sneezing.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 April 2017 at 4:03am

Rounding out the Holidays in SF

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t says:  Because we pre-Holiday’d on the east coast, g and I were prepared for a relaxed time here in SF for real-Christmas.  Wanting to jazz it up and try something we had never made by ourself, I scoured the Safeway coupons until I landed on a one-day sale of NY Strip Roast.  I was determined.  We were going to roast a big-ass hunk of meat and not overcook it.  Mission: Not-Overcooked commenced …

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I realize now that I don’t have the typical blog-worthy extreme-close-up view of the roast.  And while this herb-and-mayo-crusted Strip looks like medium-well here, it was a perfect medium in real life (I know, I know – blasphemy to have medium and not medium-rare!).  Accompanied by some broccoli and parsnip as well as a parmesan-Brussels-sprouts stuffed baked potato, g put on a wonderful show, having cooked the entire meal by herself (I did pre-cut all the ingredients the night before so she could pretend she was on a cooking show – I worked during the day on Christmas).  That meat with the 2010 Tor Rock Syrah that you see above (review here) was absolutely incredible.  g and I have cooked a fair number of meals in our time, but only a handful of times have we stepped back and gone, “damn, that’s like restaurant-quality  good”.  This was one of those times.

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We also did a dinner out at Nopa for our “splurge” Christmas meal (not on Christmas).  Defrayed by j’s generosity, g and I were super-excited to finally make it there (I had to make a reservation at exactly when the reservation window opened).  While normally we’d be happy to not BYO, we felt like for Christmas, it needed to be special.  Additionally, it was our 9.5 year anniversary!!!  So g and I pulled out our last bottle of Alexana Block 7 from our 2013 visit to OR, and the restaurant fairly charged us corkage.  For the record, the wine was fabulous – drink it if you got it.

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Brussels sprouts.  The “it” food of 2010-2012.  Fry it up, toss something salty on it, and boom: instant praise.  Who knew?  But now those venerable sprouts have lost their sex appeal – people prepare Brussels sprouts at home with little effort or thought, making it as commonplace as broccoli.  Well these aren’t those sprouts.  These are Sprouts 2.0.  Persimmon and a slightly sweeter sauce with nutty (pecan?) accents for texture and savory, it was a celebration of the taste of the Brussels sprout, not a masking with bacon or soy sauce.  Amazing!

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A parade of dishes included a papparedelle (perfectly composed – every aspect), the best duck breast I’ve had in years, and, the surprising star of dinner: broccoli.  Yes that’s right.  They had the audacity to serve us broccoli (we had the audacity to order it).  And out in came – these huge staves of broccoli that sang out kind of like how the Brussels sprouts did: celebrate me – I’m broccoli, damnit!  I don’t know how they did it.  The char was perfect, the breadcrumbs were perfect, and to this day, that lemon-anchovy sauce has mocked every next time I’ve made broccoli at home (they should bottle that sauce!).  Nopa really nailed it – now I understand why the waitlist is full!

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But wha would life be without another ramen post?  Enter Waraku, a ramen joint in Japantown.  With the tonkotsu deluxe in front of me, I dove into a creamy soup base.  While the texture of the silky broth was great, I have to say that after having been to so many ramen joints, this bowl was a bit unremarkable.  The veggies were of “meh” flavor/crunchiness.  The meat was “fine”, with appropriate texture, but didn’t pack the punch I was expecting.  The noodles were a bit bland.  Now this is me being a bit nitpicky.  If this was a nearby place, convenient to home, I’d eat there all the time – it’s not a bad bowl at all!  It’s just not my favorite!  I hear that Ramen Yamadaya, the newcomer around the corner, is also all-the-rage!!  We’ll have to try it!

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We did also venture some Korean shave ice at a next-door Korean cafe.  It was a nice frozen treat, but could have used a bit more red bean to fix the proportion a bit.  We’ll do some more shaved ice investigation.

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g and I were gifted a Feastly meal featuring Shio ramen (thanks again, j!!).  With two home-turned-professional cooks behind the helm (an adorable husband-and-wife team), we were excited to taste the “lighter” “subtle” ramen that is Shio (a first for me!)

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There were a few introductions, including a torched Caesar salad – which added a nice charred flavor to the romaine.  I might have to blow-torch all my salads.

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This ramen was delicious.  The highs include a wonderfully vivid broth, accented with a few pickles and scallions – quite nice.  The ham and chicken slices (sous vide) were oh so buttery smooth.  I think that really, the weakest component was the noodle – it was a bit thick and a bit bland.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 January 2017 at 9:09pm

East Coast Holiday Interlude

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t says:  g and I decided that the best time to run east for the holidays was the few weeks before Christmas – the flights were just so much cheaper!  It was a great visit, with good times had with friends and family.  Here are some food-related highlights:

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Oh yes – here it is: Talula’s Table!!  Now, we’ve been to the Table a few times before, each time enjoying the parade of farm-to-table dishes, beautifully composed and riding the balance of “homey” and “contemporary American”.  This experience was no different.  Now, there were a ton of courses, ranging from the three fabulous amouse bouche, a welcome gruyere gougere (still sooooo good), and those mentioned above.  Each of us had our favorites (we went with a and v and a’s parents) … but because I’m in front of the computer, we’re going to focus on mine:

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The sous-vide egg.  By the Table’s standards, this dish is a bit more hoidy-toidy than their usual dishes, but it was totally worth it.  The egg was custardy-creme-brulee smooth, accented with strong salty (bacon, chicken skin) and bitter (greens) flavors.  It was incredibly simple but got the job done, setting us up for a fabulous meal.  Sure, the rest of the meal was solid, but if I had to pick one of those to have again, it would be this one.

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Although g and I have our faves in Philly, we had to tackle a few new[-to-us] restos as well.  This one is only “kinda” new: Kanella Grill.  Back in the day, the original Kanella was one of our favorite Philly BYOs – one of our “go-to’s” for anyone visiting the city who wanted to really experience the “Philly” we love.  Well that Kanella moved, while the old location now houses “Kanella Grill”.  Dedicated to a more casual lunch-ish kebab-centric menu, we were psyched to taste all that is Cypriot lunch …  Above is g’s lamb shwarma hiding in pita, Greek salad, and some pickled vegetables.  I went for the gyro.  Let’s just say that both were delicious: tender meat, a bit of toasting on the pita, and great vegetables.  Overall, I feel that it was on the order of greatness of Souvla in SF.  Kanella Grill lightens it up with the bright crunchy veggies (i.e. afterwards, we could both still walk), whereas Souvla hits you heavy and hard (i.e. afterwards, we experience food coma).  Both are smile-inducing …  

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But really, the star of Kanella Grill was the hummus.  It was just so crazy.  Now keep in mind: this is not Zahav hummus.  This is not Dizengoff hummus.  This is Kanella Grill hummus.  It was unrefined, a bit chunky, and a bit of a mess in appearance, with roughly chopped parsley.  But it was just so damn good – something in that mix of spices that I can’t even explain.  That, mixed with the blistered pita was sublime.

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The last resto worth mentioning on our visit with DuBu Tofu house up near Elkin’s Park / Cheltenham.  Probably the best soondubu I’ve had yet, this kimchi stew was hot and spicy, with perfectly soft tofu and bits of meat.  I was sweating like grandpa by the end of it, but with the spice-induced endorphins running through my brain, my euphoric grin brought out laughs from g: “you’re crazy”.  The galbi was fine, the dolsot bibimbap was fine, but let’s face it: the soondubu was the star.

As you can tell, we had a lot of great food during our visit.  I wish there was one more place I could mention, but I can’t … because they refused to serve us.  Well – they refused to serve some of us.  g, a, v and I wanted to go toHungry Pigeon.  g and I had heard so many great things, and a is a Hungry Pigeon veteran.  We (the four of us) rolled in at 10:51 (exactly), when the lady behind the counter, upon seeing us enter, announced that breakfast would be over at 11 (that’s why I know the time – I got scared and looked at my phone).  Scared we’d miss breakfast, we immediately got in line behind a woman with a very convoluted drink order (it was 10:56 by the time she finished).  I ordered for g and me and paid using my credit card and signed.  I took one step to the side to allow a to the counter so he could order for himself and v.  The woman announced that breakfast was over (it was 10:59 – I checked my phone).  a was dumbstruck.  He thought it was a joke, but the hipster-glass-wearing barista deadpanned.  She offered up only silence and an empty stare.  No “sorry”, no apologies, nothing.  Not even a “you could buy something from our lunch menu” (actually I don’t know if we could or not – I don’t know when lunch officially starts) or “we have some yummy pastries” or anything.  Just a robotic emptiness.  We pleaded, as we had all come in together and were in line promptly, but nothing.  I had no choice but to cancel my order (what was I going to do? eat my breakfast in front of a and v?).  I actually wonder if she would have stopped me in mid-order had I attempted to order food for the four of us.  Afterwards, I did tweet at them to see if such Seinfeldian-soup-nazi rule was a “real” thing, and got a response directly from @hungry_pigeon indicating that “she was right. Lunch starts at 11. Sorry, we make no exceptions”.  Bummer.  I hate it when that Cinderella-at-midnight moment happens and the carriage turns into a pumpkin and the cooks get amnesia and all the ingredients necessary to make a breakfast bowl and an avocado toast instantly spoil (that brown rice porridge must be very temperamental!).  Although we left Hungry Pigeon still hungry, we were rescued by nearby South Street Philly Bagels and invited to enjoy them inside Ox Coffee – how civilized of them!  Now, I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting by vowing to never go to Hungry Pigeon ever again, but being as we don’t live in Philly, I’m pretty sure it’s a vow I can keep.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 January 2017 at 8:25pm