February 2013 | I just want to eat!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

MBG burger at Madison Bar and Grill in Hoboken, NJ

Image of the Entrance of the Madison Bar and Grill in Hoboken, NJ

Madison Bar & Grill is a very popular Bar / restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey. We went there couple of times and had mixed experiences about it: their Sunday brunch buffet is fabulous! They serve a wide range of dishes that can satisfy any palate: from seafood, with fresh shrimp and oysters, to meat, to the fantastic creme brulee French Toast! If you have a good appetite or want to try plenty of delicious dishes, this is a good deal.

Then, we went to their first seating menu: for a little over $18, you get an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. When I went, I had the crab cakes, the free range chicken and the cannoli. This was a very average experience: the crab cakes were just ok and a bit greasy, with lots of filler; the chicken was dry and bland and the cannoli not good. 

But this time, I went specifically to try their burger! It is called the MBG signature Blue Label Burger. Such name is an invitation to indulge! 
Image of the Burger at the Madison Bar and Grill in Hoboken, NJ

As you can see on the photo above, they branded the brioche bun! So, the burger comes with skin-on French fries. I asked for the patty to be cooked medium and picked cheddar for the cheese (they also proposed Swiss, provolone or American).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On the way to a food exhibit at the Museum of Natural History

We decided to go to the Museum of Natural History to see their exhibit, Global Kitchen. I really wanted to see it because this exhibit is about food, culture and nature: it not only explains the food chain, but also give a glimpse about the food in other cultures. Of course, we could not go to this exhibit with empty bellies! So we first stopped by Sapporo Ramen that was recommended by our cousin Jessica. Yes, I know: ramen again? I love it, what can I say!
Image of Sapporo Ramen in NYC, New York

We tried in fact to go to Sapporo ramen last Friday for dinner, but the restaurant was packed and we ended up at Pho 66 for a different kind of noodle soup (but this is another post...). So we decided to show up early on Sunday to avoid the crowd and were lucky because the restaurant only started to get busy after noon. 
Image of Sapporo Ramen in NYC, New York

Similar to other ramen restaurants we went to, we could sit at a table of the kitchen counter to see the cooks making these succulent dishes. We chose the table. What I liked first is that they propose different types of broth and explain what they are on the menu, so you can decide if you would like a traditional one, a salty one, etc. They also have, for $11, a lunch special, where you can pick your ramen and an appetizer: pretty good price I would say. 

So we started off with pork and vegetable gyoza (dumplings):
Image of Pork and vegetable veggie gyoza at Sapporo Ramen in NYC, New York

They were 3 of them and they were fried on one side. It was very good: the meat was not dry and the shell was thin, soft and perfectly cooked, with a bit of char that gave them some delicious crispiness. We ate them with some soy sauce.

Jodi ordered the Shoyu Ramen, the most traditional style of ramen - a light, soy sauce based flavor, and added a boiled egg and bamboo shoots.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cheap Lunch at V{IV} A Thai restaurant in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Viv in Hell's Kitchen - NYC, New York
Usually, for a cheap delicious lunch, I am thinking about eating Thai or Chinese as most of the restaurants serving these types of cuisines offer lunch specials or lunch menus that are usually good deals. Viv is no exception, although, entering in the restaurant, you would think that you are in a fancier version of most of the Thai restaurants in NYC or even in a lounge! The decor is splendid with black everywhere: from the walls to the ceiling, to the granite tables. It is a great choice to make the colors of the food stick out!

So I went for the lunch menu that offered an appetizer and an entree for less than $8. What was interesting is that they proposed choices for the appetizers; usually, you only get a spring roll. At Viv, you could get:

Spring rolls:
Image of Spring Rolls at Viv in Hell's Kitchen - NYC, New York


Friday, February 22, 2013

Brunch at Market Table in NYC, New York

Image of the Entrance of Market Table in the West Village - NYC, New York

We went for brunch on a Sunday with some dear friends to Market Table in the West Village. This place was packed: that was a good sign! When we entered, we could see the kitchen facing the entrance and there was a fantastic buttery smell coming from it. We sat at our table and asked for some coffee and tea, before ordering what would hopefully be a great brunch!

Image of tea and sugar at Market Table in the West Village - NYC, New York

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Brunch at Locanda Verde in Tribeca - NYC, New York

Image of Locanda Verde in Tribeca, NYC, New York
Tribeca is a splendid neighborhood in downtown Manhattan: quiet, it is known for its Film Festival thanks to Robert De Niro, celebrities (Robert De Niro - again- with his restaurants) and its luxurious lofts that I unfortunately only saw on TV shows! 
Image of tea at Locanda Verde in Tribeca, NYC, New York

Jodi and I wanted to go for brunch and I got the idea of Tribeca from my last visit there, to review Thalassa (check the review of Thalassa here). I looked up for restaurant and found Locanda Verde, where Chef Andrew Carmellini serves Italian cuisine. It is a gorgeous place with high ceiling in the tradition of Tribeca, wood everywhere and leather banquettes. There was definitely a warm atmosphere mixed with a feeling that it is the hype place to see and to be seen. In fact, couple of minutes after we came, we saw Katie Holmes and Suri!!!

We decided to share an appetizer and then have each an entree. We started off with the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta:

Monday, February 18, 2013

French Vegetarian at Table Verte in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

Before you read this, please note that this post is about a press dinner: understand that the restaurant knew who we were and this was a complementary dinner.

Going to a French Vegetarian restaurant sounds like an oxymoron so I was extremely curious to go to a Press Dinner at Table Verte, located in the East Village. I had vegetarian experiences previously either in true vegetarian restaurants like Gobo, Zen Palate or Angelika Kitchen, as well as Asian restaurants where vegetarian dishes are always available (think about Indian, Chinese or Thai)! But French? I was excited to see what it was all about!
Image of the Dining room of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

So, here I am, walking to this place, passing the crowded Saint Marks Place, and ending up on the same block as Caracas, the Venezuelan restaurant that serves delicious arepas! Fortunately, I always rely on the address because I could have passed next to Table Verte without noticing it: no extravagant lights or outside decoration. The place is tiny with its 38 seats (each table is green, matching the name of the restaurant) and I retrieved there the type of atmosphere that I was used to when living in Paris, especially at La Butte aux cailles, in the 13th district, close to Place d'Italie. La butte aux cailles has these small restaurants, very casual, warm, where the food is the star and where you feel so comfortable, you tend to forget you are in a restaurant and are just enjoying the moment you share with others at a meal. In fact, the press dinner was on a Tuesday and the place was packed. I did not notice though that they were rushing people so they had to eat quickly and free their tables for other customers as it is customary in a lot of restaurants in New York. 

I did not meet with the owner, Chef Didier Pawlicki (Taureau and La Sirène), but had a quick chat with Executive Chef Ken Larsen. Chef Larsen was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute, and spent few years as a Chef in France, near Nancy. There, he discovered that French people attach a lot of importance to food and that everything on the plate has to be good, including the garnish.
Image of Chef Ken Larsen in his kitchen of Table Verte in the East Village, NYC, New York

Later, being himself a vegetarian, he decided to make these garnishes the star of the dishes, without trying to recreate proteins with tofu or seitan, crafting a menu with not only vegetarian, but also vegan and gluten free dishes. I was pretty intrigued, of course as a Frenchman, but also because vegetarian has not always been successful in the past (Angelika kitchen was terrible!).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ramen at Rai Rai Ken in NYC, New York

Ramen being the new trend, I asked around if people knew some good places that I did not know and my co-worker David came up with Rai Rai Ken in the East Village. So here we are, on our way to that restaurant. We passed by Ippudo that is so far one of my favorites for ramen (see the review of Ippudo here): as usual, there were plenty of people lining outside, waiting for a table. We arrived at the address and then I saw, at first, that the restaurant was closed! What a shame! 
Image of the previous location of Rai Rai Ken in NYC, New York

Then I realized that they relocated 2 numbers down the street! Such a relief! Well, you know how it is: you have a plan you are excited about (yes, eating ramen is not earth shattering, but still!), and then it falls flat!

Image of the entrance of Rai Rai Ken in NYC, New York
We entered the place that feels kind of zen with its wood all over. I like the concept of most of the ramen restaurants I went so far where you can sit at the counter and watch the kitchen.
Image of the Bar and Kitchen at Rai Rai Ken ramen in NYC, New York

The place was not that crowded, contrary to all the other ramen places we went to, but we were ready to give it a try! 

So, we started off with the pork buns:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Virgil's Real BBQ in NYC, New York

Image of Virgil's Real BBQ Restaurant in Times Square, NYC, New York
It is no surprise that I love BBQ and when we have people visiting, it is often an option for lunch or dinner. So, this time, we went to Virgil's Real BBQ, near Times Square. The place has the feel of any BBQ places I tried: wood all other and a delicious smell of meat as soon as you enter. It was a Friday night and the place was packed! 

This whole experience started well when they gave us a towel instead of a napkin on the table.
Image of Towel instead of napkin at Virgil's real BBQ in Times Square NYC, New York
It was definitely promising!

So we ordered food! Jodi got the Mac & Cheese, as I was going for a sampler and we were planning to share a bit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

Image of the entrance of Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

It has been a while since I wanted to try Burger & Barrel, although more interested by the burger than anything else...One would think anyway that if you have burger in the name of a restaurant, the kitchen will be able to serve an amazing one! So, we were supposed to go to the Angelika Film Center to see the West of Memphis (that I recommend) and I proposed Jodi to go have a burger before the movie. It was late afternoon on a Saturday and the place was packed! The restaurant had a warm atmosphere with an impressive collection of wine bottles on the walls. 

So we ordered our burgers. I went for the Mushrooms and gruyere one. 
Image of Mushroom and gruyere burger at Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

It had on top of it some caramelized onions. 

Jodi ordered the vegetarian burger that was composed of a patty made with chickpea. Apparently a recipe of the house!
Image of Vegetarian veggie burger at Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

Both burgers came with two large onion rings and fries. 

My burger was fabulous! Perfectly cooked medium and very juicy! It tasted meat for sure! The bun was a light burger bun, very soft and not toasted. You could taste a hint of salt from either the mushrooms or onions and it was perfect, just enough. I inhaled that burger! 

Jodi's veggie burger was just ok. It reminded me of falafel (normal: it was made with chickpeas), but it was missing some texture (see photo below). 
Image of Vegetarian veggie burger at Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

We finished the meal with a banana cream pie.
Image of Banana cream pie at Burger and Barrel in NYC, New York

It has some chocolate chips on top that I did not really care about. The banana cream pie was made with a thick graham cracker crust (fantastic) and real bananas! It was delish! As a separate note, I am still wondering why the chocolate chip fell off the tart...

I was satisfied at the end of the meal and pretty excited to have found another great place for burgers! Definitely a place to recommend and that I will add to my favorites!

Enjoy (I did)!

Burger & Barrel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 10, 2013

新年好 Xīnnián hǎo - Happy Chinese New Year!!!

The Chinese New Year that celebrates the year of the Dragon is a big event in New York City! But do not only think about parades and celebrations: think about food!

I love Chinese food and was lucky enough to go to Asia few years back to develop a real taste for it as a lot of restaurants tend to Americanize the taste to serve a larger crowd.

So, below are the Chinese restaurants I really like in NYC (clicking on the name will bring you to the review and address):

The Golden Unicorn in chinatown for Authentic Hong Kong style dim sum:
Image of Crystal shrimp dumplings and dim sums at the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown NYC, New York

My favorites were the sticky rice, crystal shrimp dumplings and BBQ pork buns!

Szechuan Gourmet in Midtown West:
Image of the Spicy scallops at Szechuan Gourmet in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, New York

I loved their General Tso Chicken as well as the spicy scallops with roasted chili peanuts.

Wu Liang Ye, a family style restaurant serving an authentic Szechuan cuisine (spicy!). Also ocated Midtown.
Image of Kung Pao Chicken at Wu Liang Ye in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, New York

The Kung Pao chicken was to die for!!!

 For an upscale meal, China Grill in Midtown:
Image of Tempura tuna sashimi at China Grill in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, New York

My favorite appetizer was the Tempura Tuna Sashimi that was served with a hot mustard champagne sauce.

Enjoy and 新年好!

And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Authentic Hong Kong style Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn in NYC, New York

Image of the Entrance of the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown NYC, New York
Our cousins, Jessica and Michael proposed us to go see The Hobbit with their entire family and to eat before in a Chinese restaurant offering soup dumplings. I have to admit that the only restaurant serving dumplings I knew, besides Joe Shanghai, closed, so I did not have any address to suggest. Fortunately, a co-worker from Michael proposed the Golden Unicorn.
image of the Inside of the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown NYC, New York

I was pretty excited to go there because I love Hong Kong style dumplings, where the staff pushes carts full of dumplings and propose them to you. If you order them, they will put a stamp on a piece of paper so they can keep track of what you eat for the check.
Image of the Dim Sum bill at the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown NYC, New York

I had the chance to experience it in Hong Kong in the late 90's, for my first lunch there. I like the playfulness of it: they tell you what it is and you order it or not, not always knowing if the dish is what you expect or if you will even like it. Also, the food keeps coming and sometimes, even if you have a lot on the table, you may add a dish that you really like, ending up with too much food...
Image of Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown NYC, New York

So, here are the dishes we ordered:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hide-Chan Ramen in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Hide-Chan ramen in NYC, New York

In the last press dinner I attended at Oficina Latina (check my review of Oficina Latina), we discussed about the ramen phenomena. One of the attendees of Japanese origin mentioned this place called Hide-Chan Ramen in Midtown East. We went on a cold Saturday thinking that it would be the perfect dish to warm up our bodies. We showed up a little before they opened, at 12pm, and surprisingly, there was no line of people waiting for the restaurant to open. In fact, 15 minutes later, the restaurant was packed, with mainly Asian customers, that is always a good sign! 

Similar to any ramen places, you can sit at a table or at the counter, facing the kitchen. We sat at a table in front of a wall decorated with masks from either Disney characters, manga or super heroes. 
Image of Dining room of Hide-Chan ramen in NYC, New York

On the table, they had several kinds of seasoning, such as sesame seeds or red ginger that you can put in your dish:
Image of Seasoning at Hide-Chan ramen in NYC, New York

We started off our meal with pork buns.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Press Review at Oficina Latina in NYC, New York

Image of the Entrance of Oficina Latina in Nolita, NYC, New York
I was recently invited to a press dinner to review Oficina Latina, a restaurant located in Nolita. 

Before you read this, please understand that the restaurant knew who we were.

I have to say that this restaurant surprised me in many ways that you will discover in this post. I did not check anything before going, facts or reviews, because I did not want to be biased...So here I am on Prince street, on my way to that place. Fortunately, I had the number because I passed right in front of it!!! Not that the entrance was very discreet, but more that it did not look like a restaurant, but more a bar from outside. In fact, the bar is in the front and the dining room further away. Once you are there, there is an authenticity and rusticity that you cannot miss and, you would be transported randomly to places, you would think that you are in South America! It seems that this feeling is partly due to the way the restaurant was furnished, with items either imported or specifically customized for it. 
Image of the Dining room of Oficina Latina in Nolita, NYC, New York

It had a certain warmth to it, thanks to the bricks and diverse artifacts that gave a traditional feel to the place. Fortunately, they did not exaggerate the use of white tiles, that can sometimes, if too white and too present, give the impression you are eating in a bathroom...

I also liked their own version of a communal table that was original and had a nice presence in the room. 
Image of the Dining room of Oficina Latina in Nolita, NYC, New York

As I mentioned first, I thought it was a bar before thinking restaurant. They do show some creativity in the cocktails they are serving. For instance, I tried a delicious blackberry caipirinha ! 
Image of Blackberry Caipirinha at Oficina Latina in Nolita, NYC, New York

Not only it tasted good, but it looked good too! Funny thing is that the napkin they gave with the cocktail had printed on it: Me darias tu numero de celular (Would you give me your phone number)! Practical...

So let's talk about food now! Chef Abraham Trinidad prepared a menu featuring a selection of classic dishes inspired by the Pan-American highway in Latin America. So it was the promise for culinary travel and I was ready for it!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ramen at Menkui Tei in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Men Kui Te in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, New York
I am wondering if, to make tons of money, people should not open a ramen restaurant!!! Each time I went to any restaurant of this sort, it was packed and there was a line outside! This time, I went to Menkui Tei (literally "noodle eating shop"), a Japanese noodle shop located Midtown Manhattan for lunch. We had to wait for a table for 10 minutes (not bad), but I can tell you that the place was very crowded and people were happy to see us leaving...

I ordered one of their best sellers: the Hakata ramen.