Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Whale of a Time

Get the phone out and alert PETA! Wait... bad joke... considering I despise PETA and honestly believe they themselves are terrorists.
But you'll get the cliche when you read on.

Taruichi - Recommended
Daiichi Asakawa Bldg 5F.
1-17-12 Kabuki-cho
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

So I finally had whale meat for the first time on my recent trip to Japan.
Yup... freaking Whale.
This restaurant in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku specializes in the mammalian meat and also is a hardcore Sake joint.
They are credited for changing the way sake brewers label their bottles. Upon the behest of the founding owner, the SMV and Acidity is now printed on most of the sake bottles today.

Now onto the whale part. Yah, the meat is RED... I mean, bright red.
If you're not a steak person, you may want to shy away from this.

I on the other hand kinda enjoyed it. I will not say it is my fav, but if served to me again, I'll gladly eat it.

The meat is a bit tough when had sashimi style. But when it's braised or even blanched quickly, it's quite good.

** and for all you hardcore sake fans out there...
that bottle is a Kubota Nama Genshu folks!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Colombini Italian Café ~ Bistro – Review

Colombini Italian Café ~ Bistro
Inside the Nob Hill Hotel
835 Hyde St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 447-8554

The first evening I’m in San Francisco, three of us were happily on our way to the Nob Hill part of SF to Swan Oyster Depot based on Aramis’ review. We were bummed that it was closed, so we decided to have Italian. Lo & behold, there was an Italian joint a couple doors down. There were a couple of broads reading the menu, so I asked if that place was good. One said she hasn’t been to that place but heard of a good place a few blocks away that’s supposed to be “cute and really, really good.” Great! Umm… not so great. As the two resident San Franciscans briskly walked to the restaurant up & down the hilly streets, I was purposely trailing behind huffin, puffin, and sweating all the while trying to look cool. We find it and walk in.

Colombini has a small dining room that’s very intimate and dimly lit. It can be romantic with the right person with you. It’s the restaurant at the Nob Hill Hotel. The person serving us may have been the owner as he knew the food very well and was the only person that was there besides the kitchen staff. He recommended the grilled sardines, and we accepted. Of course, this being San Francisco, sourdough and olive oil were served as we waited for our food. Without looking at the menu, one person ordered lasagna as it is one of their favorite dishes to order at Italian establishments. We also ordered a seafood pasta dish. We shared the appetizer and the two dishes.

Grilled sardines – Nicely done. I would order this again. It went well on top of the sourdough bread. It wasn’t grilled too hard to get too much of a charred taste/feel to let the flavors come out and not get over-powered.

Frutti del Mare Ansio (Fresh mussels, prawns, calamari, scallops tomatoes over pasta) – Nothing outstanding in this dish to me, except “something with tomatoes” is what one of us wanted. Because of that, the sauce was very enjoyable, and they were smiling the whole dinner.

Meat Lasagna (Bistro Special, mozzarella, bechamel) – Ready? OMFG!!!!!! This was the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my lifetime. I was NOT expecting this! Though we split the dishes, I wanted it all to myself. When they asked us if we wanted dessert, I wanted to place another order. Outstanding sauce, great cheese(s?), and delicious sauce. *Highly* recommend this dish.

Tiramisu – I like tiramisu, but I don’t go gaga over it. As far as tiramisus go, it was decent. I’m used to a moister tiramisu, but this wasn’t bad in the least bit. The presentation was nice.

Creme Brulee – Again, the one who always orders this at Italian places was such a happy camper. For me, the presentation was a nice, and the taste was good (normal), but what made me like it more was the reactions of the others. It’s a great feeling to look around the table from start to end and see smiles the entire time, from the company to the food.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ippudo in Tokyo

My coworkers were adamant about taking us to Ippudo while on our visit to Japan.
As many of you know, Ippudo opened it's doors in the East Village about 2 years ago and has taken Manhattan by storm.
Famous for their Tonkotsu broth, the rich / hearty soup is something even chefs talk about in their kitchens before, during and after service.

Here's my 2 cents.

I ordered the "Akamaru", to stay consistant with what I order here in NYC.
I realized the ramen in the states is way richer and also saltier than their counterpart in Tokyo. Hands down.
Perhaps it's their belief American palates aren't able to discern from faint accents between porky goodness and melted pork collagen... and therefore bombard our taste-buds and salivary glands with just layers of pork fat.

In addition, the noodles are a bit wider than what they dish out here in the Empire States as well.

Ambiance plays a big part when slurping up a bowl of noodles. And I feel Tokyo has the vibe down. Afterall, a bowl of ramen is fast food, or drunk food. Kinda like what a slice of pizza is for Americans. So the business model in NY is at times puzzling to many rameniacs.

Anywho, the bottom line is flavor and comfort with the bill.
It was literally $8 for a bowl of Akamaru in Tokyo. Here in NYC... $13.
You do the math.
Yah, I give Ippudo Tokyo 2 thumbs up.

Shanghai Dumpling King –Review

Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa Street
(between 34th Ave & 35th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 387-2088

I crave xiao long bao (soup dumplings). The closest place for me to go in D.C. is Manhattan. With the large Chinese population in San Francisco, I looked up where to get them. Shanghai Dumpling King was named #1 or close to #1 on many websites. Located in the (outer) Richmond district of San Francisco, I found this place nestled among the hilly streets and a view of the water when looking down the large hill. Many people online talked about this place being a hole-in-the-wall with slippery floors, but compared to hole-in-the-walls I’ve been to, it wasn’t bad in the least bit – though the floors were, indeed, slippery. And I was the first person there. This review may not be very fair, because I had an extremely unfortunate problem, and that was catching a stuffy nose on the plane ride over. It was so stuffed up that my sense of taste and smell were almost obsolete. I was literally biting into the food, and immediately blowing my nose to get that split-second of flavor.

I was there for one thing only: XLB. But there were many mentions on other food to try when there. That saying, this is what I ordered:

“Normal” pork XLB – It was good, but it was nowhere as good as the ones I got in China and Manhattan at Shanghai Café. They looked great, and they didn’t rip apart when you picked them up. I just wish I could have tasted them more to give a better review.

Crab XLB – Same as above, but it felt like it had more flavor.

Ribs – These were just okay. I could have skipped this dish and ordered more XLB.

Green onion crispy pancake – There were two pancakes on the menu, and I think I ordered the wrong one. No worries, as this was good and very crispy.

Cloud dumpling/sugar puff – One of the workers was handing these out. There were 2 on the plate. It basically looked like a large, hollow donut hole with powdered sugar on top. It was very light and easy to eat even though they were quite large. These were highly praised online, but I didn’t get that effect.

Lion’s head meatballs – This was the last dish I had. By this time, my nose finally started giving way so I was able to taste these more. And thankfully, that came at a good time, because these were very good. 3 gargantuan meatballs in a sauce with a little spinach. Oddly, one of the meatballs was insanely saltier than the other two. I highly recommend this dish.

As I was wrapping up the meal, the place really started filling up. The table next to me had 4 older people. They were asking me my thoughts on every dish, and soon, we were reviewing each others’ plates. Obviously foodies as they were there because the show “Check Please, Bay Area” recently did a show on Shanghai Dumpling King. I commented on the long line of students going out the door and down the sidewalk, and they stated they’re a $5 college special that offers a lot of food. “Check Please” also talked about that.

Now that my taste and smell are back, I wish I can go back as well to give a more proper and fair review.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Barney Greengrass - Review

Barney Greengrass - Highly Recommended
541 Amsterdam Ave, New York NY 10024
At 86th St
Phone: (212) 724-4707

Our friend Paulina was visiting from Taiwan, so we wanted to show her a truly great New York brunch experience. Only one thing came to mind and Barney Greengrass definitely delivered, although it wasn't as great as our first experience many moons ago. Overall, I give the restaurant an 88/100.

Our Menu
Potato Latke (special) ***
Crispy on the outside, creamy and fluffy on the inside, intense potato flavor, and perfect with the sweet, creamy sour cream. Definitely a WTF latke. I could have had 4 more plates of these.

Chopped Chicken Liver ***
Probably my favorite chicken liver in the city. Rich liver flavor that has a nice sweetness to it and wonderful texture. Great on top of a bagel.

Lox Scrambled with Eggs, and Onions *
Scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, and salty rich lox. This used to be really awesome, but not sure what happened - lost that magic for some reason. Still really fun to eat though.

Sturgeon Platter **
Barney Greengrass is dubbed the Sturgeon King and rightfully so. Sturgeon here is heavenly and very subtle. Lightly smoked, not too salty, and great delicate sturgeon flavor. Key is to add a little lemon, and a tiny bit of cream cheese on the bagel. Too much cream cheese and it'll overpower the sturgeon.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience (88/100)
  • Food (9.0/10) – Classic NYC brunch joint and the only place to bring out of towners for breakfast/brunch. Everything was solid and some of the stuff will blow you away. There were 4 of us there and all of us had one favorite that was different than the others.
  • Service (9.0/10) – Servers were attentive, hilarious, and recommended some great stuff. Plus, free refills on coffee where your cup will never be empty - those guys are like ninjas refilling your coffee often.
  • Atmosphere (9.0/10) – Old school NYC joint with the fish counter in the front and seats in the back. Definitely dug the old school vibe. Crowds were a mixed bag - large families, older couples, younger couples, groups of guys, groups of girls and everything in between. Got there at 11am on Saturday and were seated immediately. There were huge lines when we finished around 12pm...get there early.
  • Price (8.0) – Place was on the pricey side, but we still had a great time and the food did rock. Sturgeon platter was $35 and the eggs were around $14.
Closing Comments
If I lived in the UWS, I would definitely go once a month...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Mugi = Barley, and Toro usually designates something fatty.. like belly of a Tuna or Pig... But it can also denote something soft, starchy, and stringy.

Mugitoro is a restaurant in Tokyo that serves up some of the best Barley Rice and Mountain Yams I've ever had.

Mugitoro - Recommended
2-2-4 Kaminarimon, Tokyo

I should also denote anything tororo (sticky and stringy) in Japan is considered somewhat good for you. No, I don't mean cheese or anything us Americans link to the word "stringy".
But veggies like mountain yam, okra, natto, kelp... are all things considered to help digestion and cleanse the innards.
Below is our menu and a few pics to follow:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kabuki Mon

KoKo and I have been best friends since elementary school. His family owns this really good Yakiniku restaurant in Tokyo and I usually make it a point to stop in and grab lunch or dinner there when I'm in town.

Kabukimon - Highly Recommended
1-19-10 Higashigaoka,
, Tokyo 152-0021

+81 3-3418-5989

So 2 weeks ago, when I landed in Tokyo on business, I told my colleague that he was in luck and that tonight we'd dine like kings.
I called up the restaurant for a reservation and darted over.

We were greeted by KoKo's mother and 'lil brother.
We got to our seats and pretty much ordered the menu. What an unbelievable meal.
Kagoshima Kuroge Wagyu A5 all through the night.
When the meat is prepared properyly and you cook it with the hottest charcoals you can find, meat just tastes so damn good.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gyozas from a Van

I was walking through the streets of Tokyo around 6pm with a colleague of mine and we spotted a van selling gyozas (potstickers).
Much like how a New Yorker would stop and grab a hotdog, we asked for a dozen Gyozas to go and waited patiently for the little suckers to get nicely browned on one side.

To tell you the truth, these were some mighty fine Gyozas.
Pork, Cabbage and Chives... Kinda the holy trinity in Gyoza fillers.
(if only it had shrimp... it would have knocked it out of the park for me)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beer Room @ Whole Foods on Bowery

A co-worker of mine has been touting the Beer Room at Whole Foods in the Bowery for sometime. So on Friday we both headed there after work. He has been there several times before and kept talking up the selection.
When I got there I was like a kid in a candy store. They selections from all over the world, and more than several domestic craft brands. I have been craving Houblon Chouffe for sometime and was unable to find it at other local beer stores. They had it, so I picked it up.

Since going to the DogFish Head brewery this fall, I have become a huge fan. So I picked up their 90 minute IPA, a bottle of the 120 Minute IPA, and surprise...surprise they had the red & white. I have only heard about it from friends and learned more at the brewery. The bottle reads: "Malt beverage brewed with coriander & orange peel with pinot noir juice concentrate added with 11% aged in pinot noir barrels and 89% aged on oak barrel staves." Now being a big fan of Pinot, even before the movie SIDEWAYS, I had to pick this one up too. Before I knew it I was lugging a heavy bag of beer all the way home to Westchester. And for the selection I would gladly do it again.

Other things to mention about the Beer Room. They currently will sell you carafes of a handful of beer they offer on tap. The Beer Room is also looking to provide home brew kits so Beer Enthusiasts can brew at home, this is suppose to happen soon. I would have provided a few more names of beers they carry, but what fun would that be. Push back from your computer NOW and head there, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spotted: Daniel @ Rock Center

Daniel Boulud was spotted in Rock Center last week, promoting DGBG Kitchen & Bar. He was cooking sausage, hamburgers, and giving out a fruit parfet to those on the event list. Feast ( a new NBC website) was coordinating the underground event. Unfortunately my friends and I were not on the "list", but were able to pick up a DGBG t-shirt with the phrase "Eat More Sausage". Don't worry Daniel, we got that covered!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

Had some friends visiting the new house for Chinese New Years and we ended up going to my fave Chinese place in the area Petite Soo Chow. Great times and as usual we ordered a ridiculously delicious feast, albeit a wee bit too much though we finished most of it and still saved room for homemade ice cream.

Our Menu
(apologies, my pingyin sucks)
  • Shao hong gwa (sweet, spicy pickles)
  • Fu chee fay pyen (spicy tripe)
  • Xiao Long Bow (soup dumplings)
  • Vegetable Dumpling
  • Shen jian bow (fried doughy pork dumplings)
  • Joe chai huh ze (crispy dumpling with leeks, eggs, and noodles)
  • Chow dou meow (stir fried snow pea tips)
  • Beefs, leeks, and bean curd
  • Oh wa zhen (Oyster omelet with sweet sauce)
  • Lobster with garlic and ginger sauce over crispy noodles
  • Some type of Tofu, mushroom concoction

Swan Oyster Depot – Athos’ Review

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St
San Francisco 94109
Btwn California & Sacramento St

When I consulted the Dudes on where to go before going to San Francisco, Aramis told me one of his favorite places in the world is Swan Oyster Depot. With a reply like that, I made it a point to go there. The first night, I had two people with me. We went there, and it was closed. Blast!

A couple days later, and I went there in the afternoon. Located in the Nob Hill neighborhood, this place has been around since 1912. It was raining a lot, but it didn’t stop people from lining up outside to get in. The place resembled an old diner where you sit at the counter. Just a long and narrow hall is really all the restaurant is. I think I read there are only 18 stools to sit on. The first four seats were a group of guys that were experimenting different dishes as the person behind the counter made suggestions. I asked them what they were eating and their thoughts and made mental notes what to try before a seat opened up. The couple in line next to me were also foodies who struck up conversation. I was summoned and took a seat on the bar stool in between people and began firing off what I wanted and asked for suggestions. The first guy attending to me wasn’t too friendly, but it may be because it was loud, he had a thick accent, and I was asking him to repeat a lot. After that, every other guy rocked. We joked, talked about places, and, of course, food. I ate so much that the guys there were proud of me. Now then, here’s what I ate (to the best of my memory) and my reviews:

What’s nice is there are oyster crackers every couple feet on the bar along with horseradish, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Clam chowder – It was good, but I wanted it thicker. The freshness made you feel like you can taste the ocean.

Sourdough bread – It’s San Fran, so of course you get some. It was just normal, but it was nice to have to sop up the chowder, oil, etc. from the different dishes.

Oysters & clams – I wish I can give more info, but the accented guy wasn’t clear, and I already had him repeat at least 3 times. These were from different regions. I never really use cocktail sauce, but this was actually pretty good if you need to use it. Also, I’ll admit that I’m not sure what are good oysters & clams to not-as good ones. I know bad, and these definitely weren’t.

Sardines filleted in olive oil, capers, and chopped red onion – The coolest guy behind the counter made this, and he made a lot of conversation. He suggested these, and they were quite delicious. They were good on the sourdough bread. Later he came by and sliced scallops for me and just added it to the dish for free.

Scallops – Very light, tender, and delicate. The taste was mild, especially compared to the sardines, capers, etc. that shared the dish.

Seafood salad – This was the second best dish thing of the meal. This was sick, just insanely good. There was lettuce on the bottom, but I think that was for decoration. They asked if I wanted the dressing on or the side, so I asked for the side. The dressing was incredibly tasty, but I didn’t try it until the end. The salad stood so well on its own. I don’t remember all the ingredients, but it had large shrimp, crab, and more. The Dungeness crab is so, so sweet and adds to the whole dish. I wish I remember what else the salad consisted of, but trust me, you HAVE to get it.

And finally, smoked salmon on sourdough bread. O. M. G. This dish was so good that at the end of the meal, my pants were bursting, but I still asked for another order since I didn’t know when I’d be back. It was so good that I kicked a puppy, slapped a priest, and talked dirty to a nun. The salmon is sliced and prepared in front of you. It goes on sliced sourdough bread. Done. That’s it. It’s also accompanied with a dish of olive oil, capers, and chopped red onion which went perfectly with each other. Typing this is killing me, making me wish I had the entire smoked salmon in front of me.

In two words: delicious and fresh. Very fresh. Cool guys, bare bones, in a small place that delivers up great, fresh, delicious seafood. They know what they’re doing, and it shows that they love it, too. When they were closing up, they simply took an empty pitcher of beer, filled it up with soapy water, and just threw it around and scrubbed with a brush. Just a no-nonsense place. $100 for everything. I thought it would be less, but you’re on the honor system, and I haven’t had seafood this good in a long time. As California’s Governator says: I’ll be back.