after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘in New York’ Category

3 months and no post – what gives?

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t says:  It’s true!  In the history of adsz, we have never had such a break!  What happened?  Where did we go?  Well, it’s complicated.  About one month ago, we moved to NJ.  But it wasn’t the “oh, let’s move to the NJ ‘burbs” maneuver that most people might try, rather, it was a “oh, crap, we shipped all of our stuff to California and have no place to live” maneuver.  So we lived with our folks for a bit, which was surprisingly awesome.  But because there was so much commuting time, the blog kind of fell off the radar (if only I could blog and drive at the same time …).  Well, anyways, let’s make up for lost time.

I had a sad-looking burger from Good Stuff Eatery ... which closed soon thereafter.

I had a sad-looking burger from Good Stuff Eatery (Asian-inspired – I think there were some Vietnamese influences given the pickled carrots) – it was uninspiring, thus I was not surprised when they closed soon thereafter.



Managed to find this little treasure on and had it sent (for free) to a local PLCB branch.  It was quite good.  If you're looking for a not-so-boring-yet-not-in-your-face-Merlot with some bottle age on it, Matthiasson '07 can do no wrong.

I managed to find this little treasure on and had it sent (for free) to a local PLCB branch. It was quite good. If you’re looking for a not-so-boring-yet-not-in-your-face-Merlot with some bottle age on it, Matthiasson ’07 can do no wrong – I’d say it’s worth about 40 of the $50 they charge (probably would have been a little more exciting of a bottle a year or two back).


Who could do wrong, however, was Serpico.  No - it wasn't the food's fault, rather, it was the service's fault!  We brought the aforementioned Matthiasson to eat there, thinking that they were still corkage-free.  The server gladly brought over glasses and poured our wine with nary a mention that they WERE charging corkage.  We weren't even told anything until after I noticed the charge on our bill!  When I brought it up to our server, she realized that she neglected to tell us anything and went to "ask the GM about it".  He came over, apologized that they had done away with the corkage policy some 6 months prior, and said that he COULD NOT forgive the charge just this once, even though it was his own server's fault for not telling us about the charge!  We have been to several restaurants with the intention of paying corkage, and they always always ALWAYS remind us at the beginning of the meal, "just so you know, there will be a corkage charge" - which we gladly accept.  But if you do not tell the diner that they are on the hook for the cost, serve them the wine, admit that you forgot to tell us about the cost, you should not charge the diner.  I'm sorry you made a mistake (#SorryNotSorry).  In any case, the food was fine at Serpico, but it has now been written off as a restaurant that we will no longer go to.

Who could do wrong, however, was Serpico. No – it wasn’t the food’s fault, rather, it was the service’s fault! We brought the aforementioned ’07 Matthiasson there, thinking that they were still corkage-free. The server gladly brought over glasses and poured our wine with nary a mention that they WERE charging corkage. We weren’t  told a thing until after I noticed the charge on our bill!  When I brought it up to our server, she realized that she neglected to tell us anything and went to “ask the GM about it”.  He came over, apologized that they had done away with the corkage policy some 6 months prior, and said that he COULD NOT forgive the charge just this once (even though it was his own server’s fault for not telling us about the charge!).  We have been to several restaurants with the intention of paying corkage, and they always always ALWAYS remind us at the beginning of the meal, “just so you know, there will be a corkage charge” – which we gladly accept.  But if you do not tell the diner that they are on the hook for the cost, serve them the wine, admit that you forgot to tell us about the cost, you should not charge the diner.  I’m sorry you made a mistake (#SorryNotSorry).  In any case, the food was fine at Serpico, but now there are two strikes against it – #1: no more BYO, #2: intolerable service practice.  adsz will go there no more.


We did a DiBruno After Hours Party (if you don't know what it is, google it now), and it was FLAWLESS.  Gawd.  We ate so much cheese - like this blue which is my new favorite - so salty, so minerally, it really is the gateway-blue of blues.

We did a DiBruno After Hours Party (if you don’t know what it is, google it now), and it was FLAWLESS. Gawd. We ate so much cheese – and it wasn’t just stuff we already knew we liked (or stuff we had before) – there was new stuff!  Like this blue which is my new favorite; I’m not a fan of blues, so when I had this one which had only mild funk, but a salty minerality that was so addictive, I knew I had to buy some.


And then they paired this blue with this chocolate bar and my face melted.  I'm currently faceless.  Thanks DiBruno.

And then they paired this other blue with this chocolate bar and my face melted. I’m currently faceless. Thanks DiBruno.


We made a trip to NYC just to bid it adeu until our return to the East coast.  Brunch started off at The Smith, which had dishes as scrumptious as this - that's a serious mashup of Florentine + Benedict + Waffle.  So delicious.  They did no wrong.

We made a trip to NYC just to bid it farewell until our return to the East coast.  Brunch started off at The Smith, which had dishes as scrumptious as this – that’s a serious mashup of Florentine + Benedict + Waffle …


Of course, we did dinner at Freeman's, which is one of my favorite NYC restos - it's just too darn cute!

… and the day continued on to dinner at Freeman’s, which is one of my favorite NYC restos – it’s just too darn cute!


and the food is nothing to sneeze at either.

and the food is nothing to sneeze at either.  I have to say that it was pretty good – I think that it didn’t really hit any notes that we couldn’t find in Philly, and it was, of course, at NYC prices, but for the super-cute ambience, it was totally worth it.


We visited Frog and Peach, one of a and v's favorite restos near Rutgers.  It was kind of surreal to finally be sitting in the place - the food was good, but surely would have been made better had a and v been there.

g and I visited Frog and Peach, one of a and v’s favorite restos near Rutgers on our return from another NY trip. It was kind of surreal to finally be sitting in the place – the food was good (their take on a carbonara), but surely would have been made better had a and v been there.


We gave Bistrot La Minette another chance.

The gang gave Bistrot La Minette another chance, and while they had me at escargot, I’m just not sure everything was drool-worthy.  Nothing made our eyes roll into the back of our heads, followed by urging others to try such-and-such dish.  Where’s the magic?


I’ll tell you where the magic is – it’s at Mercato.  It’s always at Mercato.  Frickin’ Mercato.  We show up with a bottle of Ayoub, order us up the pasta specials, and they just wreck it.  Every.  Time.  You know – I can’t even remember what we ordered, but I do vividly remember thinking, “you know, after being in Philly for 10 years, I will now put down Mercato over Melograno for BYO Italian”.  *Begin Slow Clap Here*.


fednuts sandwich

Some people are crazy for FedNuts sandwiches.  I’m not sure why.  I mean, sure, it’s tasty, but it’s chicken, pickles, and some cheese.  It was reminiscent of the KFC Chicken Little sandwich, which, while being delicious circa 1980’s-90’s, really shouldn’t draw the attention that FedNuts gets for these.  Oh well.


so i went back to Freeman's for some pancakes.  mother-f'in carrot cake pancakes were so amazing.

Remember Freeman’s?  Well, one day, I snuck back to NYC and had brunch there.  And as the scent of the carrot cake pancakes you see above triggered a tidal wave of drool from my mouth, I realized that while dinner there is good, the brunch is to die for (or to kill for).  Imagine carrot cake.  But make it about 436% better.  And make it for breakfast.  Of every food in this post, this is the one dish where only expletives can fully capture how good they were.  Those f*****g pancakes were so f*****g good.  End rant.


fish was so good

And finally, there was a trip to Lo Spiedo that impressed drb quite a bit.  While he was disappointed in the charge for whisky, he was more than happy with the food (including a not-pictured avocado bruschetta).  The roasted fish was indeed delightful – very simple and so good.

BUT – we’re not done yet!!  There’s one more Philly post in us!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 December 2015 at 2:19pm

Post-Holiday Catch-up

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t says:  Greetings everyone!  How has it been this long since our last post!?  In any case, I hope the holidays have treated you as well as they’ve treated me (lots of delicious food, with little return to the skipped meals and rushed Clif Bars that typically dominate my daily intake).  It’s time to clear out the iPhone!


I got into the spirit of the holidays by constructing a Kale Chip Christmas Tree.  Ok.  No.  Not really.  It just happened to be a very tall pile of kale chips.  Test assured that no kale was wasted in the construction of this holiday decoration (i.e. it was consumed within 24 hours by yours truly – I’m not sure if g even got a leaf).


On a trip to NYC, g kept telling me, “there’s this place that has pretzel croissants”.  I was intrigued.  Pretzel and croissant are two mutually exclusive things in my mind, with pretzels having a savory flavor and dense texture, while croissants are buttery-sweet and lighter-than-air.  This was more like a savory take on a croissant, but they still got that pretzel flavor, which was impressive.  Check it out!  (City Bakery is a great place to people-watch).


For our NYC lunch, g took me to this cool restaurant called Freemans that’s tucked away in this alley around the corner from Soho.  None of the pictures showed well, but what you see in front of you is a pineapple upside-down pancake as well as a delicious salad (guess which one of us got which).  I have to say that if I had to own a restaurant, I’d love to own one like Freemans – the setting was cool, the food was delish – everything about it fit together really well.  I’d be happy to try them for dinner sometime!


For dinner, we celebrated a’s 31st birthday at Maysville.  There was a slew of tasty food that came out (above is ~1/3 of all the food) – so much that I can’t remember a single dish, specifically.  It was funny because I felt that a Philly restaurant could totally pull off these well-constructed dishes like Maysville – it just turns out that I can’t think of any one in particular that’s riffing on Southern-inspired food like this – maybe Fat Ham?  But it’s more modern than Fat Ham.  In any case, it was the usual story of “delicious NYC food with high NYC prices”.  Still – totally worth it – their bourbon selection was crazy!


Ah yes, the Good King Tavern.  I had been wanting to go ever since g’s glowing review.  Of course, she never wrote her glowing review, so it was unknown to the blog.  But what we had was a wonderful execution of dishes that were really “something special” in the Philly brunch scene.  For example, why have “home fries”, when you can have poutine fries with a mushroom gravy!  So delicious.


Finally!  Someone actually puts a reasonable amount of filling in a stuffed French toast!  Blueberry and cream cheese – simple enough, right?  But then why do so many people get it so wrong?  Good King rocked out this dish.


g had no issues with the French Onion soup – it hit the spot – but I was kind of sad it didn’t come out in one of those classic crocks …


What’s a holiday season without at least one visit to Serpico?  Underneath the scallion sauce and crusted white rice were some chili dumplings that totally blew my face off …


… much like the smorgasboard of vegetables …  For something as innocuous-sounding as a “vegetable plate”, g and I happen to think it’s the finest display of cooked veggies in the city.  Sure, it lacks the composure of Vedge’s plates, but if what you want is vegetables, come over here and share one with the table – you won’t be sorry.  It’s an auto-order for us.


What is so poorly shot here is the Sirloin special.  I mention it here only to say that that piece of meat was like 2 pounds.  g and I split it and felt kinda-sorta-guitly-ashamed afterwards for eating so much cow.  It might have won my Best Cow of 2014 award …  (I’m not sure why they served salt on the side – it was perfectly seasoned as it was …)


Lo Spiedo was another new one for us.  g and I met her parents there and buckled up for some “homey” Vetri food, and I have to say that we were quite impressed!  Sure, there’s cornbread and ricotta …


… but the real star was this mess of meat that was the pork shoulder.  With a single taste of it, I knew that Vetri had gone and absolutely destroed any pork shoulder I had ever made at home.  It was so good that I have no idea what that other dish in the background was – I musta blacked out.


Whatever g got, it was obviously healthier than the slab of meat I was eating through …


Oh … but here it is – this is g’s favorite dish that I just can’t understand.  It’s carrots.  That’s right: it’s carrots.  Sure, they’re roasted carrots, slathered in barbecue sauce, and topped with some kind of ?ranch?-ish aoili, but it’s still carrots …  Nevertheless, I dare you to walk up to g one day and say, “hey g, tell me about Lo Spiedo’s carrots” – and she will immediately start drooling while telling you how amazing they are (watch for saliva spray).  They’re good … but they’re carrots.


Obligatory dessert: apple pie. It’s a bit more savory than typical apple pie (more like an apple turnover, but the ice cream really helps it finish off your meal just right.


My parents love the 80’s .  That was their hayday.  So how could we not take them to Juniper Commons?  As hokey as the “salad bar” was, they acutally got a kick out of it!  And it allowed the rest of us to pick at their leftovers (like the beets!).  The presentation reminded me a Korean banchan …


g went fettucine alfredo … which tasted exactly like fettucine alfredo.  I was kind of expecting a more modern take, but I guess a well-executed cheese-and-pasta dish is good, too.


I killed this lobster roll – it was amazing.  It was more like lobster with a side of bread and French Fries, which purists might claim is not what a lobster roll should be, but who cares?  It was awesome!  And I don’t even really like lobster! (I’m a crab guy).


my sis got the French Onion soup – now there’s a crock!  My family got things like crab cakes and steak and were very happy with their meal.  My dad even did the thing where he orders an “almost well done” steak and watches the kitchen struggle to make it so that the inside is brown, but the outside is not burnt.  They took it in stride and produced a nicely cooked piece of meat.  Of course, I don’t know if the microwave was used at all in its preparation, but who cares if it tastes good, right?


Having lc visit, we knew we had to take her to the Dandelion (she enjoys the British, that one).  Raisin scones to start (not quite the butter-full scones at Talula’s Daily, but still good) …


followed by a slew of egg dishes.  Ultimately, nothing too crazy went on here – all in all a very “restrained” brunching operation they have going on there.


Our last nice meal of the new year was a visit to Petruce et al.  Holy crapballs – they killed it again – dish after dish.  For the highlights, above is the short rib with kimchee and crusted rice ?cylinders?.  It was a perfect adaptation of kalbi+kimchi+rice for white folk.  Loved it.  But perhaps the best tasting thing was the sweet potato with avocado dish.  I wish I had a picture of it.  But just envision it: sweet potato … and avocado … on top of eachother … intermingling their mushiness … I know that sounds weird, but the taste was incredible.  Probably the most surprising dish I had of this entire photo-storm.  I would go their every weekend (if my bank account could tolerate it …).  Their winelist is still solid, too!

a brunch storm

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t says:   I was flipping through some of my previous photos on my phone, only to find that there were a few dynamite breakfasty items I’ve had recently.  While no one particular visit is entirely substantive for a single post, I decided it might be fun to smoosh together some highlights.  And here we go ….


Honey’s Sit-n-Eat, March 2014, Brunch.  Those who know me know that I am very plus-minus on Honey’s.  To this day, I just can’t understand why this particular place is worth waiting in line for.  Be that as it may, if you do get in (i.e. on a weekday or something), the service is fast, and the food is often “solid”.  Being a pancake-o-phile, I have to confess that I’ve often been a bit underwhelmed with Honey’s; the pancakes are often a bit too thin, and a bit too rubbery/elastic (I prefer cakey!); thus when I go to Honey’s I often try to find something else to eat.  Well … except this time: the above is the S’mores pancakes that was a special at Honey’s last month.  If you thought that finely ground graham powder, chocolate sauce, and marshmallow would make for a CRAZY good pancake, you would be right!  The toppings definitely made up for the pancake’s ho-humness, so much so that I’d order it again if I saw it on the menu!



Parc, March 2014, Brunch.  The above pancake is the polar opposite to Honey’s loaded kind.  These standard pancakes from Parc’s menu are as good as plain pancakes get nowadays.  Yes, there is a luscious taste of butter and sweet sweet sugar when you bite in, but those flavors are oh-so-comforting.  Combine those with a fluffy-cakey pancake, and you have a stunning example of what a well-done, un-fussy pancake can achieve.  Bravo Parc – way to keep up with this classic!


Cook & Co, March 2014, Brunch.  So this one’s not fair because the eatery is located outside of NYC, quite far away from PHL.  Served at a place that reminds me a lot of Picnic (the eatery in The Left Bank), the above “Elvis” is amazing, harkening back to my memories of Cochon’s Elvis French Toast.  This version is far more restrained, lacking that bananas-foster-sauce, and instead having that peanut-butter cream layer which adds a nice texture and flavor to go along with the banana, bacon, and perfectly battered/cook French toast.  While it would be challenging to eat any more than one of these at a time (it’s still pretty rich!), it was a fantastic experience I hope to re-live on my next visit to Scarsdale.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 April 2014 at 6:57pm

g&t&a&v take over NYC

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t says:  The other weekend, we got in a car with a and v, who graciously drove us to NYC.  Rather than give a super-long-winded blow-by-blow, let’s take a look at the picture roll and see what I actually used the iPhone to capture:

momofuku ramen

momofuku ramen!

Our first stop was Momofuku Noodle Bar.  Inspired by my previous visit, I knew that this place would at the very least have some delicious food.  Plus, I feel like a David Chang restaurant is mandatory for any food enthusiasts like ourselves.  l and c met us there (after a spirited 20-block jog), and the 6 of us were the second party to enter the restaurant when they opened at noon.  As a side note: if you’re not there more than 25 minutes early for Saturday lunch, your butt is going to be waiting outside in the cold.

The pork buns.  Amazing.  The smoked chicken wings.  Scrumptious.  The rice cakes were hit-or-miss depending on if you can deal with rice cakes (e.g. I loved them – and so did l!  But the rest of the party was less-impressed.)  The kim-chi was white-ified (i.e. white people added too much sugar to it, so it had a sweet tang to it and not enough funk).  And the ramen, while tasty, was indeed [just-as-every-New-Yorker-has-ever-said] not-as-good-as-Ippudo’s.  Don’t get me wrong – the broth was delightful, with lots of different flavors.  But there wasn’t the depth or soul of Ippudo’s. (Also, Ippudo’s noodles are superior).  Next time, we’ll hit up Ippudo … (a opines: Momo, sadly, did not live up to the hype – of course the hype was Earth-shattering noodles and ramen which is no small task. I thought the apps were more interesting and noteworthy. Starting with the smoked chicken wings which had a savory, smokey dimension to them beyond the typical heat of a hot wing. The star of the meal, pork buns, would put a smile on anyone’s face. A perfect execution of  Korean comfort food, the pork belly was delicious and the perfect texture, and the buns provided an appropriate canvas. The chilled spicy noodles with sichuan spiced sausage, spinach, cashews was interesting but only to a point and its novelty was lost before the bowl was finished. I love all the ingredients in the bowl and cold noodles can be fun but their consistency didn’t blow me away. My main enjoyment came from the buildup of heat from the sausage.)

blue bottle

ice cream break!

We did some shopping.  And we did some Christmas-tree-watching.  And we did some hunting.  Hunting for what?  The Blue Bottle Coffee tucked away underneath Rockefeller!  It was absolutely wonderful.  Their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had (not that I’m a coffee afficianado like a).  It’s just so easy to drink and full of non-coffee flavors while lacking any bitterness.  They might be poo-poo’d by those “in the know”, but let’s just say that in my eyes, they can do no wrong.  Actually – I hesitated before writing/gushing about them because I kind of want them to be my little New York secret …  I will say that the dudes behind the counter are the most not-in-a-hurry workers ever … so if want coffee on a run, don’t go here – they’ll make you wait as they perfectly brew each cup of coffee … with one hand … ‘cuz the other is too busy sipping a coffee of their own …


super-wicked sausage gravy!

We went to Brooklyn Farmacy … and let’s just say that this place is awesome!  Of course, the workers were just a little “too cool” for us, dressed in dapper threads from head to toe (literally: a cool, period-specific hat must have been mandatory to work there).  The sausage gravy pictured above was ridiculously good.  Although, g probably liked her dessert better:


“sundae of broken dreams”: sweet-and-salty deliciousness!

g also had a great egg-based sandwich, but no photos made it onto our phone.  And yes, more things were eaten on our trip than just at the above three stops, but … you know what they say: “pictures or it didn’t happen!”.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 December 2012 at 10:07pm

t visits Momofuku and Ippudo

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t says:  I found myself in NYC last month so I visited two awesome venues in the local food scene.  First, I made it to the fabled Momofuku Noodle Bar.

November 2011, Thursday 4:22pm, Party of Me.  I rushed over to Momofuku with roller-suitcase behind me.  I made it in there just before the kitchen closes at 4:30pm (it closes for an hour before dinner).  I took off my jacket, and, despite eating a mere three hours prior, was in the mood for some pork buns (sorry – with the onset of December, it’s winter in my book, so Pork Caps is over).  The ramen was calling me as well, but I didn’t want to have to walk around the city with the slosh of liquid in my stomach – so pork buns it was!  Having had a number of Tyson Bee’s pork buns, I figured that I was prepared for Momofuku’s.  Actually, I was readying myself for disappointment, as surely this is one of those things that’s way overrated, right?  COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG.

pork bun = pork belly + pickle + sauce + ?scallion? + bao bun

HOLY CRAP.  I was so moved by it that I pulled out g’s iPad and started writing myself a note so I could try and capture what it was that I was experiencing.

“Holy bejesus.  Never have I seen pork belly this tender.  EVER.  I’m shocked to admit it but it kind of wrecks a LOT of other pork bellies for me – even those at restaurants.  So soft.  The softest ever.  Maybe not the crispest crust but among the best that haven’t been Fondified.  But not totally fatty – surprisingly little fat actually.  Puts Tyson Bee’s to shame.  No wonder they don’t serve it there anymore – someone must have sued them for having such an inferior product under the same name of ‘pork bun’.”

So yea, the buns had two of the awesomest pieces of pork belly ever.  If this pork belly and Fond’s got in a fight, I honestly don’t know whose would win.  Fond’s got the crust, but these have the fluffiest texture ever.  To boot, these tiny slabs were perfectly balanced little bites of heaven (sweet, sour, salty, savory – it was all here).  No wonder they cost $10 for 2.  They’re worth every penny.

I also ventured the “roasted rice cakes” appetizer.

roasted rice cakes

I do like the idea of this dish.  One would figure: if you take gnocchi and then brown them, they get a nice crispy outside, a soft pillowy inside, and an added layer of flavoring from the caramelized sugar.  Obviously, rice cakes could be done up the same way, right?  Eh … kinda …  The way it was done on this particular visit shows that the process added a crispy outside, but it didn’t quite add any flavor [that I could tell].  Then again, it also wasn’t really browned, either, so maybe it was ineffective application of heat?  That said, the sauce and sesame was spectacular. I think that because of these, I’ll label these as “good”, but look forward for [hopefully] a future visit that will prove to have a denser browning that the above.

So overall, I was satisfied with Noodle Bar’s offerings.  As I left, I was already dreaming of the return visit – after all, the ramen needed to be conquered, right?  During my stay in NYC, I got into a conversation with another about my recent visit to Momofuku.  He said, “yea, they have good ramen there – but if you want even better ramen, go to Ippudo.”  Whoa.  Better than Momofuku?  And this was professed to me by a native San Franciscan who also confessed to being food-centric.  I just had to go.  A few days later, before leaving NYC, I made the trek to Ippudo to confront their ramen.

November 2011, Tuesday Dinner, Party of Me.  As I stood around in the waiting area of Ippudo (i.e. the bar), I felt the energy of the place.  I was clearly in a hot-spot.  I was clearly out of my element.  It was loud and people were packed in tighter than sardines.  Patrons were willing to lie, cheat, and steal so they could get in – I heard the hostess tell people wait times of an hour or more.  Of course, maybe it was just a fluke and maybe this place is not as thumping/bumping/jumping as I perceived, but I just picked a bad night?  Regardless of the reality, I stuck with it and waited, silent and patient.  Why?  Because when you’re by yourself, the wait time is “5-10 minutes”.  It’s one of the few perks of eating alone.  But I wondered how many single-tops or bar-seating they had available for singletons like myself.  As the minutes went by, I missed g.  She’d probably like going to a noodle bar, and here I was about to go to two within five days.  Also, it was times like these when we’d look around an analyze things like the decor or patrons’ attires.  Later I found out that she had gone to Barbuzzo with some friends … I didn’t feel so bad anymore …

In 10 minutes, they took me to the main restaurant area.  As I walked in, some of the servers began shouting some sort of incoherent Japanese greeting.  Gimmick or legitimate or both?  Who knows?  That’s when I saw the communal tables.  Suddenly it made sense!  With all of the random-numbered parties in there, squeezing one here or there made it so they could fill the open gaps of the table with strangers.  And I didn’t mind, as I was here for one thing and one thing only: ramen.  Forget “socializing”.

I ended up ordering the “Akamaru Modern” which is their contemporary take on ramen (I think it’s one of the ramens they are most known for) and added a side of braised pork belly (“kakuni”).

akamaru modern ramen + kakuni

This ramen’s kind of different than what I think of when I say “ramen”.  It’s in a cloudier-sauced broth.  Furthermore, my addition of the the brown-sauced-shortrib yields a collision of the dark and light browns that you see in the pic above.  I must admit that I was totally digging having two porks in a single dish (the kakuni I ordered and the “chashu” which is included – I think both are belly).    What’s also fun is the additional soup spoon thing they give you.  While I’m not sure what the “right” way to use it is, I used it as an intermediate platform on which I set my noodles on so I can visualize how much I’m going to put in my mouth before I do it.  Like this:

the soup spoon is the last stop for those noodles and pork before my chopsticks lift them to my mouth

The ramen was pretty damn good.  The noodles had that alkali noodle taste and were perfectly al dente.  The broth was savory and had some weight to it in the mouth (?miso?).  The veggies still had bite while the porks were right on – perhaps not as soft as Momofuku’s, but respectable.  I felt that everything was in place for a nice solid bowl of ramen.  Mind-blowing?  No.  It’s not like there were unexpected tastes and textures, but it was very well-done indeed.  It was good enough that I’d definitely go back and try out some of their other noodles to see what kinds of flavors they might bring in (I think the special of the night was a wasabi one).  I suspect, however, that Momofuku’s is going to be a little more complex with the pork being more tender and flavorful (they use the same pork in their buns as they do in their ramen).  Alternatively, I recall Momofuku have a dinner special the night I went which was beef shank and gruyere … in ramen … crazy! … so that would have pushed the envelope a little.

I was about to leave but wanted a little something sweet and cold to close the meal.  I saw a number of sorbets and ice creams, but they looked a bit boring.  For $8, I’d rather hit walk around until I found some other dessert place.  Then I saw the “matcha brulee” which featured green tea brulee with green tea ice cream.  Gimicky?  Sure.  But I’m a sucker for green tea sweets.

the matcha brulee

You know – this was the surprise of the evening. The green tea ice cream had that bitter green tea taste, but wasn’t very sweet.  The creme brulee had more of creamier/sweeter profile and, obviously, a different temperature.  Add in the texture of the crust that kept the two from co-mingling until after they got in your mouth.  It was surprisingly good!  By themselves, the two components would have been a snooze-fest.  But together, and it was fun!  I’d say it’s worth 6 of the 8 dollars it cost.

In summary, what I found particularly interesting while I sat and ate and people-watched at Ippudo is that I feel like Philly desperately needs a noodle house like this.  Yea, we have some Asian-themed restaurants (e.g. Sampan) and some actual noodle houses (in Chinatown).  But we don’t have something like this.  This is like if Barbuzzo was a noodle bar.  It’s loud, it’s hip, and it’s a place to be.  That said, the food is good and it comes out fast.  Make sure it serves some vegetarian options (lookin out for you, dz!) and have the same servers that are friendly [enough] while executing exceedingly efficient service (they ran like machinese).  Considering what seems to be reasonably large profit margins (seriously – how much does it cost to make good ramen if Ippudo’s going to go and charge $15+ for it?), I think they could really do some damage on the Philly scene.  Maybe it won’t have the longest life cycle, but for a well-heeled restaurant group, it might be easier to get in and get out.  Ok, I’ll stop talking out of my derriere now – I just want someone to make a comparable ramen house here so I can get some ramen!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 December 2011 at 4:24pm

Vega: Tasty But Tacky

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g says: l and i are spending the weekend working on some top secret projects (more on that to come), so i hopped a train and am visiting her and c up in hartsdale. we worked hard all day long, and were so excited to get out of the apartment to try some mexican food for dinner. you’ll notice that l and c haven’t made many appearances on the blog, but that has changed tonight! we are joining forces and reviewing this restaurant from all angles, telling our readers what we write about best — i will discuss service, l will talk about decor, and c will be telling us about the food.

vega is about a 5 minute walk down the street from l’s and c’s apartment building – a pleasant enough travel time on a brisk fall evening. it’s easy to spot this trying-to-be-hip mexican joint, as its glass facade and bright colored lights set a mood unlike any other restaurant on the block. we walked in without a reservation, so we were given the choice of a 20 minute wait for a table, or to eat at the bar. c likes eating at bars, so we decided to give it a try. our bartender was a bright, friendly girl in her late twenties, literally running back and forth behind the bar, but smiling the entire time. she was actually pretty calm compared to some of the other staff, who were hustling to accommodate the packed dining room on a saturday night. she took our drink order, followed by a long hiatus, then took our appetizer order, followed by an even longer hiatus, and finally took our dinner order. we were not in a rush to get out of there, but we were absolutely famished, and wished that we could have sped up that process a bit. but, eating at a bar, such is life, right? just about the time when we expected our entrees to arrive, a food runner came to our seats with an order of chicken fajitas (which i flagged as mine) and some chicken enchiladas (which we did not order, so we sent away). about 5-10 minutes later, as we waited for l’s and c’s dishes to emerge from the kitchen, the runner came back with a manager confused and speaking in spanish about the order. our bartender cut in quickly and diffused the situation – apparently the order was for another couple sitting at the other end of the bar. one point for bartender-girl. she then proceeded to pick up the plates of food (which again, had been sitting in front of me for about 5-10 minutes as the three of us nibbled on tortilla chips) and brought them to their rightful owners. upon seeing this, i leaned over to c (who has spent a bit of time in food service himself) and asked, “can she DO that??” i had always been under the impression that once food hits a table, it cannot be served to another table, but rather, must be discarded. c confirmed this theory, and i snatched that point back from the bartender-girl for being gross. the other couple didn’t seem too bothered by it, i don’t think, so i guess all’s well that ends well. our correct order did finally hit our table a bit later – everything was what we ordered, and nothing seemed to make any stops between the kitchen and our seats, so we were ready to roll. from then on, it was pretty smooth sailing, sans a fairly long wait for l to receive a water refill. all in all, service was not bad for bar seating (not that i have dined at many bars before, but we had fun, so i wasn’t too bothered by the small hiccups). as for the food, c would be the expert in this area (since he lived in LA for many years and knows good mexican food when he eats it), so i will turn it over to him…

c says: the 5 second review is… i thought it was delicious once we got the food we actually ordered! but on to the details: meals at vega always start with hot homemade tortilla chips and refreshing salsa. we started off with an appetizer of house made guacamole, made to order right at your table. the girls thought the guac needed more onion and salt, but i disagree (onions give me heartburn anyway). next course was the main meal. both g and i had fajitas, she with chicken, i with steak. they came out so piping hot, that you could hear it sizzling from across the restaurant [l says: he is exaggerating – it was so loud in there, you couldn’t hear a thing]. the steak fajitas were very tender and tasty! as for the others, i didn’t have a chance to have any because i was so full, but they looked good. we did take lots of food home, though, so i’ll let you know tomorrow how the leftovers are. i had a margarita, too – cuervo with rocks and salt. very good, but a little strong, so i finished l’s white sangria instead. she was feeling whoozy after the first two sips. she’s a lightweight. g had some pee colored drink that she says was okay, but they should definitely serve in an opaque glass due to the unappealing color. [g says: it’s a shame that they have that listed as a specialty cocktail on their menu – there are so many more interesting combinations that would have both looked and tasted better. it’s not that it was undrinkable, just not expertly crafted]. i’m tired and the mlb playoffs are on, so i’ll let l take over… g’night!

l says: g already hinted at the exterior decor so i’ll fill you in on the interior. when you arrive there are two sets of clear glass doors that i always manage to crash right in to because they look like they aren’t there. then there is a tropical floral wallpaper on the wall behind the hostess and after about a minute of trying to look through the colored glass window in to the next room you realize that the colors on the window are actually a portrait of frida kahlo! (side note: when they were doing construction and gearing up for their opening they had a sign up on the door which said “frida coming soon – mexican cuisine!” so I think they couldn’t get the rights to name it frida and had to settle for “vega” which has no meaning as far as i can tell except that its a town in mexico – i googled.) after you get past the entrance you’re kind of overwhelmed by a mix of decor elements having nothing to do with each other which kind of makes the place look schizophrenic – but at least its actually really fun! here are the details: there are crazy-ass metallic chandeliers made of metal cone shapes above the bar that remind me of sea anemones. (could these have anything to do with the water wall dividing the center of the restaurant between the bar and the main dining room?) above either side of the bar area are blinking tube lights (purple. orange. cyan. green) which strobe at random times (they are not in sync) which feel kind of like an 80s disco tech, not that i’ve ever been in one. an element which i do enjoy is the whole left wall of the space which is an open window in to the kitchen where you can view the chefs at work. props to them for the modern white square serving dishes, the ball-ish-jar-with-a-handle and straw water glass, and the wooden platters used to serve the hotter dishes. best of all there is beautiful and classic patterned white anaglypta wallpaper along the whole back wall of the restaurant – i feel awful for it – the only in-good-taste element stuck in this crazy room having to be stuck in the middle of all this crazy crap.

g says: So like we said, tasy but tacky. But definitely worth a visit!

t says: I spent the weekend working … at home … by myself … eating a single large pizza over the course of 4.5 meals …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 October 2010 at 8:58pm

Posted in in New York

Tabla: You Have to try the “Green Drink”

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g says: I was browsing my Tasting Table emails last week and came across an advertisement for NYC Martini Week. I had no idea what that was or what it meant, but I sure liked the sound of it! I knew I must participate (at least for the sake of the sneeze).

After reading on, it became apparent that this martini week was indeed right up my alley – several restaurants around the city were serving special $10 martinis made with premium vodka or gin from 5:30-8:30 pm for a 2 week duration. We have been working really hard at the office, so a few of the girls and I set out to plan a little happy hour to celebrate our love of martinis and treat ourselves a bit. We knew it was meant to be when we saw that one of the participating locations was Tabla (located just across the park from our office); this was an offer we just couldn’t refuse!

3/2010, Wednesday 6:00 pm, Party of 3 – We arrived on time and were seated right away in the mezzanine dinner area. The atmosphere was comfortable, spacious, and afforded us a great view of not only the cool “bread bar” below (the lower level where there is more casual seating), but also the park right outside.

I have been to Tabla on 2 or 3 occasions before for lunch, and have never been disappointed. Their Indian food is creative, fresh, and always delicious. It has been a long while since I have dined there, so I don’t remember exactly what I have tried before, but I do remember being completely satisfied with my experience each time. I also don’t have a gauge for how authentic the food is; I am inclined to think it is more Indian-inspired than traditional, but it doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s tasty (and in my experience, it is).

The time came for us to order our drinks – I was so excited to hear what kind of special drinks they would be offering! They had an upgraded version of their signature Tablatini (pineapple with vodka — upped to grey goose from skyy) and something we referred to the entire night as the “green drink.” I forget what our server told us its real name was, and her description didn’t sound too fabulous either (green and spicy with muddled cilantro), but it was more interesting than pineapple and vodka, so I wanted to give it a whirl. Also, it was a gin drink, and I am usually a fan of those.

The girls ordered a dirty martini and a glass of cava respectively, and I ordered the mysterious green drink. Boy was I happy I did, for it was incredible! First, it was a more fresh, translucent green than the murky color I was picturing. Then I came to find out that it was composed of Bombay Sapphire, cucumber, lime, mint, and cilantro – not so much spicy as herbaceous and refreshing – a total hit for me. Gold star for drinks!

But what happy hour would be complete without something to nibble on as well? Tabla happens to also be a perfect place to get apps and small plates to pair with something from the bar. I was the only one of us who had visited there before, so I was able to make my recommendation: flatbread and chutney for all!

I love a good flatbread and chutney any time of day, and Tabla makes them both really well. We ordered both the rosemary and garlic tandoori flatbreads, as well as the 6 chutney sampler (cilantro-mint, tamarind-jaggery, mango, spicy chili, peanut, tomato), and a saag paneer pizza for good measure. My drink dates and I were delighted by the bold, yet approachable flavors of each item we ordered, and it was just the right amount of food.

I think the girls were pretty impressed, as we vowed to return again another time. I’m thinking that might have to be pretty soon…

t says: I’ll trade NYC our Cafe Spice for their Tabla any day …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

12 March 2010 at 7:39am