March 2013 | I just want to eat!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ramen at East Noodle and Izakaya in NYC, New York

Image of East Noodle and Izakaya in the East Village NYC, New York
As the weather is still good to enjoy ramen (meaning not in the heat of the Summer!), we decided to go have this delicious dish for lunch. At first, we wanted to go to Ramen Setagaya, even if it had a B rating...As we were there early, we decided to walk around the block. We then saw Ramen Misoya that had miso ramen with corn that, from what I understand, is typical from Hokaido. So we decided to go there instead, despite the same B rating. Again, as we had a bit of time, we walked further and this is how we found East Noodle and Izakaya with its A rating. Imagine that at that point, we had 3 choices and had to decide how to pick; well, it was not that complicated: we chose the restaurant with the highest grade! That is how we ended up at East Noodle and Izakaya.

It is a nice size restaurant compared to the other ones and was not very crowded. 
Image of Dining room of East Noodle and Izakaya in the East Village NYC, New York
The decor is very colorful with beautiful lanterns surrounding the counter and dark wood for the floor and furniture.

Jodi ordered the Shoyu ramen, that is made of a pork broth with soy sauce, braised pork, vegetable and a boiled egg.

Image of Shoyu ramen at East Noodle and Izakaya in the East Village NYC, New York

I ordered the Pork Belly ramen that is apparently very popular there.
Image of Pork Belly ramen at East Noodle and Izakaya in the East Village NYC, New York

The broth was pork based and it was served with pork belly, vegetables and a boiled egg.

In both dishes, the pork was very good, tasty and tender, although I preferred the pork belly that was fattier. Both broth were fantastic: light and not too salty, they were quite flavorful. The noodles were tender and in fact, the one in the Shoyu ramen were more on the yellow side than the other, maybe because they contained more eggs.
Image of Ramen noodles at East Noodle and Izakaya in the East Village NYC, New York

We really enjoyed the ramen at East Noodle. I think that it is a good alternative to Ippudo if you go for the food, that is cheaper, and less for the ambiance. 

Last, know that in Japan, they say that ramen is great when you have dinner with somebody you do not want to talk to (they have to concentrate on slurping). Just a little tip in case you end up in with a bad date...

Enjoy (I did)!

East Noodle on Urbanspoon

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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lunch at Midtown Philly Steaks in Hoboken, New Jersey

Image of Midtown Philly Steaks in Hoboken, NJ - New Jersey
Why aren't cheesesteaks as popular as burgers? I do not know! Because cheesesteaks are fantastic, as long as, for me, they meet three criteria:
  • Soft bread,
  • Tender and juicy meat,
  • Lots of cheese.
I have been a big fan of cheesesteaks after I tried them at Geno's in Philly (check out my cheesesteak experience in Philly).

So we went to Midtown Philly Steaks on Washington street for lunch. The place used to be another cheesesteak joint called Philly Cheese Steak Hoboken. I never tried it, but decided to try the new one.

The place is small, with only 6 seats.
Image of Midtown Philly Steaks in Hoboken, NJ - New Jersey

Two of the seats overlooking the street.

Image of Midtown Philly Steaks in Hoboken, NJ - New Jersey

The menu offers cheesesteaks, but also chicken, salads and hoagies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Japanese Burger at Kobeyaki in NYC, New York

Image of Kobeyaki in NYC, New York

A Japanese burger! Doesn't that sound cool? Well, that was something I had to definitely try! In fact, I noticed Kobeyaki few weeks ago, when we went to BRGR.

The place has a nice and simple decor that is a mix between a burger joint and a Japanese restaurant.
Image of Kobeyaki in NYC, New York

The way it works is that you first order the food and then pick it up at the pick up counter.
Image of Kobeyaki in NYC, New York

You can order burgers, rolls, bowls, salad or soups. We were there of course for the burgers! Once it is ready, just pick up your tray full of these nicely wrapped items you just ordered!
Image of Kobeyaki in NYC, New York

Each burger was served with  lettuce, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, scallions and kaiware (daikon radish). Jodi ordered the veggie burger:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Danish cuisine at Aamanns Copenhagen in NYC, New York

Image of Aamanns-Copenhagen in Tribeca, NYC, New York

As I mentioned in my bio,  I tend to talk more about food than anything else when I come back from a trip, even if I was astonished with what I have seen...For me, traveling is a whole experience: I will not go to, let say for argument sake, Italy and eat French food or a burger! I will want to eat some local food. Traveling everywhere is a nice wish, if not a dream. But eating different cuisines is not, especially in New York City, where there are so many restaurants that serve food I would have never tried before. For instance, you do not need to go to Ethiopia to eat Ethiopian food! Well, now, you do not have to go to Denmark to try Danish food! We wanted to try Danish food because Jodi has a friend, a fellow artist named Anne (you can check Anne's website here), who lives in Denmark and we were curious about the Danish cuisine. Anne mentioned Aamanns-Coppenhagen in Tribeca; so here we are!
Image of Aamanns-Copenhagen in Tribeca, NYC, New York

I have to say that I did not know what to expect from that place. This place has a spectacular setting: the ceilings are very, very high and they have an incredible bar with a shelf that goes so high that I doubt anybody would try to get the bottle on top! The furniture is modern and looks a bit like the furniture you would find at Ikea in term of style (well maybe a Scandinavian style?). What I truly appreciated there is the fact that there was space between tables (great, I did not have to hear the conversation of the other guests)!

After we sat, they brought us a bottle of water that had a black stick in it.
Image of Japanese charcoal at Aamanns-Copenhagen in Tribeca, NYC, New York

At first, I thought it was some sort of licorice to give a taste to the water, but there was no specific taste. So we asked the waitress and she told us that it was Japanese charcoal, used to purify water. I am glad that I did not try to take a bite of it! 

Of course, waiting for the food, I ordered a glass of Aquavit, a snaps distilled from grains or, in Denmark, from potatoes.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Croque Monsieur at La Maison du Croque Monsieur in NYC, New York

Union Square has lots of cheap and delicious eateries, probably because of the proximity of NYU. Our last discovery is La Maison Du Croque Monsieur, the place of Yves Jadot and Alberto Benenati from La Petit Abeille.

I do not remember that Croque Monsieur was that popular when I was in France. My Mom used to cook it from time to time, very simply, and there were even, sometimes, some variation of it, with Crème fraîche and a slice of tomato. Because Croque Monsieur was a quick and simple sandwich to make, we never put any Béchamel sauce. The original version of Croque Monsieur was with cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyère cheese) and ham. The béchamel inside and outside makes it a fancier version, not to mention when there is béchamel and cheese on top: even fancier!

So, La Maison Du Croque Monsieur is serving a simpler version, as well as some variation of it, using cheese from Murray's. 

It is a small place with two tiny floors. We ordered and then went upstairs where they brought us our food.

Of course, we decided to try the original Croque Monsieur, Croque Mr Henry, made with jambon de Paris (ham), Béchamel sauce and a choice of cheese (we picked Comté  from France).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Burger at Hoboken Bar & Grill in Hoboken, New Jersey

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

I was craving a burger and Hoboken, with its many, many bars, has a lot to offer. We could have gone to Five Guys, but I wanted to try something new. That is how we ended up at the Hoboken Bar & Grill on Washington street. The new part of the experience over there concerned the burger as we already ate there once. I remember that I had sliders and did not really like them because they were too dry; but I have to admit that cooking sliders is not that easy as the piece of meat is so small, it is easy to overcook it.

So here we are, in the dining room, close to the large bar. Of course, eating in a bar, the music was so loud that it was difficult to hear the conversation...

Image of Egg whites omelet at Hoboken Bar and Grill in Hoboken, NJ
So, we ordered our food. Jodi went for the egg white omelet, made with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and goat cheese.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Neapolitan Pizza at San Matteo Pizzeria in NYC, New York

Image of San Matteo Pizza and Expresso Bar in NYC, New York

After watching the TV show "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" that took place in Naples, and seeing some mouth watering Neapolitan pizza, we decided to try San Matteo on the Upper East Side. What I did not know, before watching the show and looking on the internet, is that there are certain rules to follow for the pizza to be called Neapolitan. These rules can be found on the website of The True Neapolitan Pizza Association. For instance:
  • The dough ball must weigh between 180 and 250 grams.
  • ingredients should be flour type "00", sea salt and water with a Ph of 6 to 7 (with a temperature of 20 to 22 degree Celsius). The yeast must be compressed, biologically produced.
  • The pizza is created with a single dough ball, with a motion from the center outward, and with the pressure from the fingers from both hands. From the center, the thickness must be about 0.4 cm (+ or - 10%) and the border 1 to 2 cm.
These are just few examples, but there are plenty of rules such as which tomatoes to use. And I do not know why, but knowing this made me look at the pizza differently!
Image of San Matteo Pizza and Expresso Bar in NYC, New York
So here we are on the Upper East Side, excited to go to a restaurant that is making such pizza. Walking there, I have to say that we could have missed it, also because we were not expecting such a tiny place!

I liked the place: small with a lot of character, it had some authenticity to it and a rustic feel.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bibimbap at Bann in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Bann Korean BBQ in NYC, New York
You know, sometimes you taste a dish and it becomes The Dish you would like to try in many restaurants, to find out which one serves the best, if the flavors can be different from one restaurant to another or simply because you like it! For me, it is all of that for Bibimbap! What is strange is that I do not have the same reaction with fried rice, although Bibimbap could be compared to it in a certain way (I hope I am not offending anybody...).

One of my colleagues, Hamid, suggested to try Bann, a Korean restaurant that also has bar and lounge at the entrance, making it look fancy.
Image of Kitchen of Bann Korean BBQ in NYC, New York

The layout of the restaurant is quite interesting in fact: when you enter, you pass the bar, then the kitchen with its counter, and then you see this big dining room that was very dark.

After we ordered, they brought us the usual Banchan, these small dishes they serve you in Korean restaurants.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brunch at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

Image of the Entrance of Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

We went to Zafra few years ago for lunch and then dinner and decided to go back after we saw an article about the 15 best hot chocolate in the US where Zafra was nominated #15. So, we decided to complete out experience with brunch! 

Zafra is the creation of Cuban-born business partners and friends Maricel E. Presilla and Clara Chaumont and has been opened more than a decade ago in Hoboken. The place is small, with only 22 seats. We decided to go early so we would not have to wait as, previously, we saw people waiting outside. The place was still empty, but started to get packed at about 12:30pm. 

We, of course, ordered the hot chocolate and picked some dishes. Unfortunately, when ordering, they told us that their fryer died and they could not serve anything that was cooked in it! In fact, half of the menu was unavailable. I prefer when they tell us in advance, so I am not disappointed because I pick dishes that are not available. What was surprising though is that they did not even serve plantains because of the fryer! Don't they know that you can fry food in a regular pan???  After few minutes, we finally found some dishes they were able to make...

First came the hot chocolate. 
Image of Hot chocolate with machica at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It looked like a regular hot chocolate, but with a nice cream on top. Based on the consistency and taste, it was probably made with milk and not water. The hot chocolate (from Venezuela) is in fact thickened with machica, a blend made of toasted barley, brown sugar and cinnamon. This was delicious! The hot chocolate was not really thick, surprisingly not sweet and you could definitely taste the cinnamon. I think that without the machica, it would have been an average drink, but thankfully, this blend of grains enhances the flavors and it makes it a wonderful drink. In fact, making machica is not difficult:
  • 1/2 cup of ground toasted whole barley
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon 
  1. Mix all the three ingredients in a bowl.
  2. It can then be added to a hot cocoa!

Then came our appetizer. We chose Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Frijol Refrito y Tres Quesos
(Piquillo Peppers from Navarre Filled with Refried Beans and Three Spanish Cheeses, Savory Sauce)

Image of Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de frijol refrito y tres quesos at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was delicious! I loved the fact that part of the cheese was slightly burnt, giving a bit of texture and adding the great taste of burnt cheese to the dish. The peppers had a very little kick, and I wish that there was a bit more refried beans. But overall, a nice and light appetizer.

Then, Jodi picked the Cuban version of French toast, made with pressed bread. 
Image of Cuban French Toast at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was served with almonds, walnuts, raisins, banana and mango. It was a disappointing dish! First of all, the mango was not ripe and I am surprised that they put it on the plate as, when cutting it, they must have seen it was no good. Then, the taste of the bread gave the impression is was dipped in water rather than in a batter; fortunately, there was the maple syrup to give a bit of taste. 

On my side, I got Dos Huevos a su Gusto con Chorizo o Jamón, Llapingachos de Papa y Queso y Tostadas
Image of eggs and chorizo, ham at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

Two Eggs any Style (I chose over easy) with Chorizo or Ham (I picked chorizo), Pan-Fried Ecuadorian Potato and Cheese Patties (it says patties on the menu, but there was only one!), Pressed Cuban Toast.

The dish was good, although I would not go back there just for it. The chorizo was fried, enhancing the saltiness of it; the eggs were perfect, and I dipped the very good pressed bread in the runny yolk. The potato and cheese patty was good but nothing extraordinary, lacking a bit of cheese.

For dessert, we wanted to have the Tres Leches cake but they told us that they did not have it. Do they make it in the fryer too??? So we ended up with the Venezuelan crepes filled with dulce de leche.
Image of Venezuelan crepes at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

The crepes came cold and I truly think that this is because they sat there before being brought to our table. The crepe itself was thick, but good. However, there was too much dulce de leche.

So this brunch was not memorable. The kitchen and the service seemed overwhelmed and the fryer situation did not help. I would not have gone to this restaurant before, I would have thought that it was overrated. I will probably have to go back at some point to try the dishes I really wanted; Hopefully the fryer will work!!!

Enjoy (I barely did)!

And remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Zafra on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Press Dinner at Thalassa in Tribeca - NYC, New York

Image of Thalassa Greek restaurant in Tribeca NYC, New York
If you follow this blog, you will probably think that this is deja vu! No, you are not mistaken: I went to Thalassa already for a press dinner and the review was just ok as there were some mishaps. So, their PR proposed that I come back as they acknowledged that there were some issues that night I went. I accepted of course as, after I wrote my review and posted it, I checked other bloggers' reviews and they seem ecstatic about that place. After all, everybody can have a bad day and I wonder if, knowing that you will serve people who will write about your food, can add a bit of pressure to the kitchen.

As a reminder, when you will read this revisiting post, please remember that the restaurant knew who we were and served us a complementary tasting menu of their choice.

So what makes Thalassa different from other Greek restaurants in the city? It is definitely the fish selection. Anyway, doesn't Thalassa mean "The Sea"?

They have this great fish display where you can see the fish selection and you can order fish by the pound.
Image of fish display at Thalassa Greek restaurant in Tribeca NYC, New York

In fact, the Chef, Raphael Abrahante, told us that he tries to only buy wild fish as opposed to farm raised. Of course, the price will be different from the market to the plate.
Image of fish display at Thalassa Greek restaurant in Tribeca NYC, New York

So, here I was at Thalassa, still remembering the place: modern with a spectacular decor designed by a French architect, Jean-Pierre Heim. The bar still looked fantastic with the blue lights and I decided this time to order a ouzo mojito, as we were waiting for other guests to arrive.
Image of ouzo mojito at Thalassa Greek restaurant in Tribeca NYC, New York

The cocktail was pretty good, combining perfectly the anise flavor of the ouzo and the mint. They definitely score some points on the cocktails as I still remember the delicious Greek Pear Martini I had last time.

Once everybody was there, we sat at the table and started our dinner. It seemed very familiar: olive oil, olives, eggplant with roasted red pepper and crostini.

Then, started our culinary adventure that I thought would not stop...

The Cod Fritter:
Image of Cod fritter at Thalassa Greek restaurant in Tribeca NYC, New York

It was a perfect bite: tasty and not greasy, this is the type of dish I would for sure eat at Happy Hour.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in NYC, New York - Mario Batali

I am a big fan of Chef Mario Batali and used to watch him on Iron Chef America. I love his spirit and creativity; he does not seems, at least on TV, to be one of these Chefs who think they are better than everybody else. What he did with Checf Bastianich at Eataly is phenomenal, bringing the best of Italian food in the heart of NYC!

So, this time, we went to Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria. The place is big, with three main rooms. The first one reminds me of Eataly with the high tables where you can have some delicious food:
Image of Dining room at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in NYC, New York - Mario Batali

We sat at the main dining room, that was very classy but had a rustic feel to it. 

Another similarity with Eataly is the way they serve bread, in brown paper, with some delicious olive oil:
Image of bread and olive oil at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in NYC, New York - Mario Batali

Interestingly, they played some Italian opera, that sometimes was a bit too aggressive for my ears, but quite funny considering that I could easily imagine Chef Batali singing it while cooking.

We decided to share some antipasti (from my most to least favorite - clockwise):

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dinner at The Turtle Club in Hoboken, New Jersey

Image of the Sign of the Turtle Club in Hoboken, NJ
We were looking for a new dining experience in Hoboken and the name of that place, The Turtle Club, caught our eyes (ears? or even stomach?) This is a very old place for sure and I think the owners kept the old atmosphere alive inside: lots of wood and an arch between the two main rooms. The place was very dark and we only saw the room on the right side of the restaurant. In fact, I am not sure if I should call that a restaurant or a bar with a menu...

It was a Tuesday night and there was not that many people there at the beginning; people came later. We started off with bruschetta.
Image of Bruschetta at the Turtle Club in Hoboken, NJ

For $8, you can pick three different kinds. We decided to go with: 
  • Gorgonzola and toasted garlic.
  • Tomato and basil with olive oil.
  • Goat cheese and balsamic honey glaze.
It took forever for the food to come and I do not mind if the food is exceptional, but it was not the case: this was so disappointing! The bread was barely toasted; the tomato and basil was dry. At the end, I only liked the other two because you can just spread the goat cheese or gorgonzola on a piece of bread and they would be good. No need to be a Chef to do it right!

Then, I ordered the fish tacos:
Image of Fish tacos at the Turtle Club in Hoboken, NJ

It was three tilapia tacos with a soft taco shell stuffed with corn salsa, romaine, cilantro and sour cream. On the side was a very average (and not homemade I guess) guacamole and a very dry rice and black beans. Let me start by telling you that I did not finish the dish. The fish was dry / overcooked and tasted very fishy. 

Jodi went for the ginger and soy glazed mahi mahi:
Image of Mahi Mahi at the Turtle Club in Hoboken, NJ

The mahi mahi was also dry / overcooked. Too bad because the sauce was pretty good.

So at the end of the day, it was not a great experience: the wait staff seemed overwhelmed although very courteous and attentive to our needs and I would think, based on what we got there, that the issue was the kitchen. This was really a forgettable experience and I think that they should probably stick to bar dishes instead of trying to make a food that is too elaborate. Although, one would think that fish taco are not that complicated....

Enjoy (the post)!

The Turtle Club on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lunch at Benoit in NYC, New York

I had lunch at Benoit recently! Benoit is a classic Parisian brasserie that Chef Alain Ducasse opened in 2008, replacing La Cote Basque. What I did not know is that there is an original Benoit in Paris that opened in 1912 by Benoit Matray. This family restaurant was then sold in 2005 to Alain Ducasse. I might have to check that out the next time I am in Paris, although, it seems to be a bit pricey (not that the one in NYC is not)...
Image of Street view of  Benoit - NYC, New York - Alain Ducasse

I was excited for sure as I recently read some articles about Alain Ducasse who was ranked number 6 Most successful Chef by Forbes in 2012 and number 1 of the French Chefs in revenue: 120 Million Euros, 27 restaurants all over the world and 19 Michelin stars (the second is Joel Robuchon with 75 Million Euros, 16 restaurants and 28 Michelin stars). 
Image of Dining room of Benoit - NYC, New York - Alain Ducasse

People often say that Benoit is a casual brasserie: I kind of disagree! It is an upscale brasserie with a splendid decor, especially the huge vase in the back of the dining room, the walls covered in mirrors and the old style ads.

While we were waiting for out meal to come, they brought us some delicious  gougères, that are cheese puffs (choux).
Image of Gougeres at  Benoit - NYC, New York - Alain Ducasse

These savory delicacies were light and airy. They are a bad idea to serve before lunch, because you can't stop eating them!!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Burger at BRGR in NYC, New York

Image of Entrance of BRGR in NYC, New York
It had probably been 2 years since I went to BRGR that used to be one of my favorite burger restaurant. You probably wonder why I did not come back if it was so good. The answer is simple: there are so many places that are serving burgers now, that I really wanted to try different ones. So, I was excited to go!!!

The restaurant is still the same: two large tables at the entrance (8 seats), seats at the counter or close to it, and the tables with a very colorful banquette made of cushion that looks like buns. 
Image of the Dining room of BRGR in NYC, New York

Concerning the food, you first order at the counter and then they give you a number to identify where they have to bring the order. You can either pick the burgers they propose, or build your own. For this, you have to pick:
- the patty (grass fed beef, turkey or veggie),
- the bun (brioche or whole wheat),
- the cheese (cheddar, american...)
- the sauce (ketchup, mayo...)
- toppings (mushrooms, onions, pickles...)

Jodi got the beef patty with a brioche bun, cheddar, sauteed mushrooms and pickles.