Dineout Reviews: Asian food in New York City (2011 Edition)

Hosting NPY in Toronto and going to New York recently are among the many reasons why I have not posted for a while… oh boy, and what a big-time eating trip it was! We went two years ago to New York on my first proper, grown-up trip there and visited the major tourist sights and learned my way around the city. This time was much more relaxed, picking up and checking out the places we missed last time or learned about only after we left the city. While we did take a lot of our host BiNK’s suggestions, I also tried to have prepared something by following closely people who had recently been to New York like Follow Me Foodie, my friend Alfred, and former New Yorker Angela Tung.

So it was a mix in the end but one thing I noticed that I may have previously balked against was that we ended up having some kind of Asian food every day. Without fail. It was kind of funny and when I noticed this trend, I just rolled with it. Because it was tasty!

1 Nov

Sake Bar Hagi (Midtown, Times Square)

My original plan was to go to East Village and visit a ramen shop like Ramen Setagaya or momofuku noodle bar but that would not happen at all. BiNK suggested Ippudo over all others and we would nto end up going either with purported long lines but brought us to Sake Bar Hagi in the neighbourhood of her apartment that is just off Times Square. Our first proper New York restaurant it was, as NPY noted, a cool underground one. Although it was late on a Tuesday evening we had to wait for a table and we squeezed the three of us at a two-top where NPY and I shared the booth seating side while BiNK sat across from us on a chair.great tapas – fave tangy udon, cheesy tofu steak

 

We wanted to try this izakaya’s yakiudon and ordered the non-spicy yakisoba yakiudon that was springy when you chewed on the noodles and the sauce was light and slightly tangy. We ordered chicken karaage and it came arranged beautifully and the chicken was tender and moist.

 

BiNK recommended the cheesy teriyaki tofu steak and I was wary based on the last cheesy Japanese dish I had–piles of mozzarella dumped into ramen broth. The proportion of cheese for the thickness of tofu was just right and I liked tasting New York tofu. BiNK’s favourite dish is barra cabbage which was a sautee of miso paste, cabbage, pork belly, bean sprouts, and some chili. It was surely nice to have the vegetable content but I was a little disappointed with the pork belly which didn’t seem to add much to the dish.

Sake Bar Hagi on Urbanspoon

momofuku milk bar (Midtown)

 

After our big dinner at Sake Bar Hagi we walked about ten minutes to the midtown momofuku milk bar because I came to New York with a list and cereal milk soft serve was on it! So was crack pie for a while but if it’s just like a butter tart, I was no longer interested and neither was NPY. Cereal milk soft serve did taste faintly like its namesake but to me it tasted more like dilute Horlicks, malty. NPY enjoyed his cinnamon bun pie and the blueberry & cream cookie.

Momofuku Milk Bar (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

2 Nov

Totto Ramen (Midtown, Times Square)

NPY picked up Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark tickets from TKTS so we could not have dinner until late and I hadn’t planned anything specifically after show. BiNK suggested Totto which she had yet to try due to the line. It was another “underground” restaurant and at 10:30 we still waited about 20 minutes for a seat at the bar.

From our seats at the bar, we could watch the operations and that chefs were having fun especially when Earth, Wind and Fire’s September came on and they were dancing on the spot while carrying out assembly line-like tasks.

I chose what appeared to be a house special, totto pork paitan ramen, which was a rich and heavy chicken broth. The straight egg noodles were slightly al dente and it was a simple noodle soup that hit the spot. Being very health-conscious, NPY ordered the vegetable ramen with shiitake and seaweed broth ladled over salad greens and additional toppings included marinated avocado, tofu, fresh bamboo shoots, enoki, and lime. It was a beautiful and unique vegetable ramen. NPY also ordered the cha siu mayo don to have a taste of rice. From my noodle soup, the pork was lean and almost dry but there was plenty of yummy Japanese mayonnaise and the rice was surprisingly and pleasantly seasoned with strong umami flavour.

 

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

3 Nov

Pongsri (Midtown, Times Square)

In the afternoon, we were headed to the 9/11 Memorial in the financial district so I had only assigned for that day lunch in the Times Square area before we took the subway down. BiNK could join us for lunch and suggested Pongsri which has great lunch specials with an impressive noodle selection and appeared to be full of locals on their lunch break.

BiNK and NPY ordered noodles so… I had to order a curry and it was my usual red curry tofu. I will order that nearly every time! The curry was good and I liked how they did not use julienned peppers but instead real vegetables like bok choy and broccoli.

BiNK ordered rice noodles with beef and broccoli which looks and sounds like the Chinese dish (except greener) but she likes it much more, probably due to the use of special Thai sauce. NPY’s gai see mee translates to shredded chicken noodle, steamed egg noodles in a rich thick light gravy that made the noodle slurpy and delicious.

 

Pongsri Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tearific (Chinatown)

We checked out Teariffic in Chinatown because BiNK likes it so much but I found the mango slush perfumy. For a small bite (more desserts, another shop was on the horizon), I ordered a two-flavour Taiwanese toast with predictably delicious condensed milk on one half and coconut butter on the other.

The small tea shop served a limited selection of hot food and was decored with traditional Chinese stools at small tables. It was a cute find.

Teariffic on Urbanspoon

Boka/Bon Chon (East Village)

It was a long trek around the city so we were all ready for Bon Chon. At first I thought we would go to the K-Town location but it has changed name and we set out for the East Village location to visit that area once this trip. East Village was like an oasis of Asian restaurants and we spotted many places we’d be almost easily happy to dine at. At 7:30 on a Thursday night, we had to wait about 30 minutes. It would be NPY’s favourite meal for the lively and lounge-y atmosphere… and because it was my treat?!

We ordered the famous double-fried but not greasy Korean fried chicken, of course. To get the complete experience, I ordered the wings and drumstick plate and asked for a mix of soy garlic and spicy chili sauce… we did not know the pieces would be so big! Way too much and I made sure NPY had his chicken with beer to have the full taste sensation. The skin was seasoned well and crispy and indeed not greasy and the meat was still tender and moist.

I also wanted to try the custard which turned out to be like the steamed egg dish my mother made at times. It was fluffy and there were bits of dried shrimp and greens lending light flavour. I also ordered the Korean 3-layer bacon which was like their short rib in taste and consistency.

 

We were splurging and I ordered the unagi (most expensive) bibimbap in a hot stone bowl ($1 more) but it was such a disappointingly small amount. Not only that, the toppings overwhelmed the small amount of rice. I nibbled on the picked daikon between dishes to clear my palate and tone down the heat from the spicy chicken!

 

Boka on Urbanspoon

4 Nov

DohYO in Yotel (Midtown)

Where do you find restaurants to try, NPY asked BiNK who told us that she was browsing around OpenTable.com. Yotel is new with locations in Manhattan and Heathrow. At the ground level, it is a little intimidating looking–no reception but automated kiosks to check yourself in and elevators. There was no indication there was a restaurant inside until you go into the elevators and figure out you want to go to the fourth floor for the restaurant.

DohYO, the restaurant, had great colourful Japanese art all over the walls and had a fun, hip vibe. The waiters were really attentive yet I have to laugh when they stop to ask if we had dined at DohYO before and explain to us the concept of family-style dining. We’d have to order 3 or 4 dishes each and they would be the size of the side plates… they weren’t kidding. We started with 8 dishes so here we go….!

While we waited for BiNK to arrive, we started off with a “pitcher” of potent strawberry margarita asking for it to be blended (“frozen”) and the carafe that it arrived in seemed to be an ill-planned idea as the server crouched at our low table and scraped slush out with a too-short straw to serve us our first glass of drink.

 

We ordered the pork and foie gras gyoza which were rich and creamy and the skins were chewy and sticky. The green curry chicken also arrive next, a small bite of tender chicken.

 

The wagyu beef brisket sounded nice although it wasn’t very brisket like. The dish of wok-fried cauliflower was tart with the use of black vinegar and a touch spicy, a nice purely vegetable dish.

 

For a share-able carb dish, we ordered stir fried pork belly ramen which was cooked al dente and a bit dry but when you punctured the poached egg, the dish was eggy and creamy. Black cod was good as can be expected with a nice pickled artichoke and lemon sake aioli lending the tart profile to the dish.

 

The lobster steamed bun was a rich mixture of lobster (claw), avocado, and fermented black bean. I would not have thought of that combination but it was a nice contrast with the clean steamed bun. BiNK doesn’t eat lobster so we also ordered the home ground beef sliders. The lemon sake aioli showed up again and BiNK liked the sliders most of all.

We had a little room for more so we added three more dishes!

One of the add ons was a modern and quality take on the spicy tuna roll. We also ordered the shrimp and chicken fried rice that was prepared with kimchi for a hint of spice. Then, in an odd turn, we ordered the falafel lettuce wrap, a small, refreshing bite.

 

DohYo on Urbanspoon

5 Nov

Kunjip (K-Town)

Amongst other activities, on this day, I hung outside the Al Hirschfeld Theater where How to Succeed in Business was playing and Daniel Radcliffe would exit at any moment and sign autographs. Actually, NPY figured out which actor the crowd was waiting for and I joined in for the experience. It was a benign crowd about four deep but within ten minutes, there was another four layers and the crowd was compressing. Another ten minutes and there was no escape. By the time I got my photographs of Christopher J. Hanke, Rob Bartlett, and Daniel Radcliffe, it was late. BiNK was working late too so we went to K-Town to their favourite restaurant.

 

Banchan dishes were plentiful and in addition, they offered egg custard for free! We also shared the chap chae.

 

I ordered the spicy tofu soup made vegetarian because I don’t like the odds and ends seafood pieces in the tofu soup. I’m noticing purple rice being served more often… a new trend? I forgot when I advised NPY to order the oxtail soup that it would be really mild (kind of bland) in taste. It was smokey and comforting but still bland.

Kunjip on Urbanspoon

6 Nov

Cha Pa’s Noodles and Grill (Midtown, Times Square)

On our way to a midtown restaurant serving Thai food street style, we ducked into a Vietnamese restaurant instead and I was happy to check out Vietnamese in New York! Cha Pa’s is a modern and clean restaurant and for that, and some of my safe orders in the past week, I refused to order pho, noodle soup!on our way to thai street style, went for viet really evil salty curry (like japanese hayashi sauce) and shaken beef, BiNK loved her crab/shrimp noodle

 

NPY was also in an experimental state of mind and we ordered three things between the two of us. The Vietnamese chicken curry arrived first, a small portion served with banh mi. It was pretty salty and reminded me of Japanese hayashi sauce that is a bit like salisbury sauce. BiNK had eaten just beforehand at work and so ordered only a lotus salad with chicken that looked healthy and light.

 

NPY ordered the seafood crispy egg nest with a good portion of vegetables and fresh shrimp. Of course I love the crispy noodles that also had soggier portions. To try something different, I ordered the Shaken Beef not knowing exactly what it would entail except it was listed first amongst the entrees and might be a specialty. The beef was well marinated and pungent in flavour and very tender as it was cooked only to medium doneness.

Cha Pa's on Urbanspoon

kyotofu (Midtown, Times Square)

Last time we were in New York, BiNK introduced us to kyotofu which has a lot of tofu-infused dishes and desserts. Last time, we had the snacks in addition to dessert but this time, we went for Vietnamese first and while we were full immediately after dinner, a couple hours later, we were ready for dessert and thankfully kyotofu is on Seamless Web and we ordered before they closed for the evening and the desserts were delivered to our door!

I ended up ordering the black sesame tofu panna cotta that, it turns out, I ordered last time. It is not sweet at all except for the addition of the syrup. NPY ordered the warm chocolate cake with moshi which got deconstructed in order to be delivered. The vanilla bean ice cream had a weird foamy consistency so I only really spread the divine miso caramel over the cake.

 

Kyotofu on Urbanspoon

For the complete picture, we also went to Shake Shack (twice), Norma’s, Grimaldi’s Pizza, Jacques Torres, the burger joint, Bouchon Bakery, Southern Hospitality, Lobster Place, Rice to Riches, and Holey Cream. Not being Asian cuisine, I’ve created a separate post, Dineout Reviews: The rest of New York, 2011 Ed., on the other blog!

I don’t think I did the themed Dineout roundups 2 years ago so here is where we ate in ’09 (Asian bolded): Oh Taisho, au bon pain, europa cafe, Great N.Y. Noodletown, Rice to Riches (twice), kyotofu, Shake Shack, Corner Bagel Market, Pisticcio Trattoria, pinkberry, Pigalle, Majestic Pizza, Dylan’s Candy Bar, Sushi Samba, Amazing 66, Kunjip, Koryok@ng… see some overlap there?

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