Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dog at a Burger Joint & Wrestling

Mikey's Burger
Highly Recommended
(at least for the Dogs)
134 Ludlow St.
New York
, NY 10002

Even as someone who has lived in Manhattan for almost 5 years I still say that I am a caveman when it comes to the Lower East Side, this world frightens and confuses me. When I find myself there late at night sometimes I wonder which way is North much less finding a subway. Thought I'd try to find something that I recognized so why not go on a little mini food binge. Looked for about 5 minutes for a pizza joint and found nothing so stumbled into Mikey's Burger. Unaware that this was actually called by many as Top 5 Burger Joint I just wasn't in the mood for a quick burger. I saw the Shine Dog on the Menu - seemed interesting.

Shine Dog sliced pickle, tomato, onions, relish, jalapeno and mustard.

One bite in there was some serious spicy flavor. It was like two side of a sandwich were about to throw it down with a hot dog in the center ring trying to break up a fight. In one corner Pickles and Onions vs Relish and Tomatoes. "Wait - here comes Jalapenos and Spicy Mustard - Jalapenos and Spicy Mustard are attacking Pickles and Onions - GOOD GOD this match is over!" Somewhere under the pile up in the center was this little tiny hot dog - I almost forgot it was there. That's my only regret with this experience - there could have been more beef. Next time I’ll see if they could throw 2 dogs in there.

Next time you are down at the Lower East Side make sure you Shine it up real nice and stick this thing straight up your candy mouth. This is the People's Hot Dog.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Top Picks from a Mini European Beer Tour

Top places to try Czech, German, and Belgium beers in nine days.

We recently did a mini tour of some of the greatest beer countries in Europe, hitting Czech Republic, Germany, and Belgium in nine days. Here are some of the highlights (our favorites).


Logically we began our tour in the Czech Republic, the birthplace of pilsner and the biggest beer consuming country (per capita) in the world. We had heard so much about "beer cheese" from our friends at Earls Beer and Cheese that we decided to visit first U Medvidku--the only hotel with a brewery in Prague.

The first thing we ordered was the beer cheese with a Czech Budweiser in the downstairs pub. The bread was buttery and crunchy with a nice kick from the raw garlic.

After we went upstairs where the U Medvidku brewery is located and sampled.

We choose the cloudy dark lager. This was one of the most interesting beers we sampled on the entire trip. It had a lively, slightly funky, bready, vanilla flavor with a deliciously creamy head. Many Americans would be surprised that a lager could be so complex.

The next highlight was Prague Beer Museum with the country's biggest selection Czech microbrews. Our favorites were d'Este by Ferdinand, Sedm Kuli by Ferdinand, and Kocour Samuraj IPA. The bartender was friendly and helpful and we got to try a wide variety of styles.

A safe bet for anyone is Portrefena Husa, which is a chain featuring tank Staropramen--our favorite of the bigger breweries. A stellar item on the menu was a Leffe beer spare ribs.

Lokal, a traditional Czech cafeteria, also has Urquell from the tank and great Czech food. The same company that owns Lokal has recently opened a higher end restaurant in the Upper East Side in New York called Hospoda.

Pivovarsky Klub offers a more subdued atmosphere but a staggering selection of bottles and a solid line up of taps. We asked about the sausage and beans on the menu and got a dry answer, "It's sausage and beans..." We are glad we went for it. It was one of the most memorable dishes of the trip.


We took a train to Berlin. The first place we explored was Gaffel Haus Berlin, a Koln style restaurant with crisp kolsch on tap served in small glasses. With the beer, we had herring, hamburger, and outstanding tomato soup.

Inside Sony Center, there is a wonderful brewpub with outside seating called Lindenbräuhaus offering a popular "homemade" wheat beer. Right inside the restaurant visitors can view the brew kettles.

Brauhaus Lemke, another brewpub, was our final highlight in Berlin. It also had pleasant, clean outdoor seating (beer garden) and excellent sausages.


We took the night train to Brussels and went straight to A La Mort Subite (sudden death), an elegant brasserie specializing in geuze beer and decor from 1928. We absolutely loved the Faro (brown sugar).

Speaking of geuze and lambics (the specialty of Brussels), we visited Moeder Lambic, a classy bar with an extensive collection of the style. It was a warm, welcoming place that, according to Beer Advocate, was crafted from artisanal wood.

No beer tour in Brussels would be complete without a trip to the Cantillon Brewery, a family-run traditional lambic brewery that has been in business since 1900. It is a true Belgian national treasure. We have been on many brewery tours but this tour was by far one of the most educational and impressive. Cantillon is the last lambic brewery in Brussels still using the traditional spontaneous fermentation (the open vat near the roof is pictured above). As part of the tour, we had samples of the geuze, kriek (sour cherry), and rose (raspberry). The fruit lambics had a beguiling and filling vinegar quality that reminded us of the concoction we used as kids to dye Easter eggs. We also sampled a very special and rare, nontraditional dry-hopped lambic called Cuvee Saint Gilloise, which is rated 99 by ratebeer.

The Cantillon brewery with its open fermentation resembles a unique ecosystem with spiders and insects living in the building in a kind of symbiotic relationship with the beer. We saw one of the venerated spiders guarding some of the casks.

We ended our tour at Poechenellekelder, a somewhat touristy but nonetheless entertaining pub with outside seating right next to the silly Manneken Pis (which happens to be on the label of Blache de Bruxelles). It was a perfect place to sit, watch the tourists, and reflect on our mini European beer tour.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

KFC Taipei

There are a ton of US fast food joints in Taipei (Subway, McDonalds, Starbucks), but KFC caught my eye since they sell the chinese egg tart (dan tat) - a favorite of my wife. Also, they serve the double down which is oddly quite comforting.

Stopping in, it feels like a coffee lounge with seats that are extremely comfortable. The dan tat isn't great, but it's decent - buttery and eggy; and quite surprising that they serve this at KFC.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mister Donut

In Taipei, there's a ton of Japanese influences - stores, cartoons, and fast food joints. We saw a Mister Donut (originated in the US, but the main market is now Japan) and figured why not give it a try. It's pretty freaking awesome - nice, light, and airy with a custard cream that's lightly sweet and uber creamy. Love this stuff, but Doughnut Plant still reigns supreme for this dude since I'm still blown away by the chewiness and lightness/airiness combined at the Plant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jabez Lohas - Review

Jabez Lohas aka 東雅小廚 (Dong Ya Xiao Chu) - Dude Grade: A
7-1, Section 3 Jinan Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Phone: +886 2 2773 6799

Our friends took us out to this fantastic place in Taipei. I didn't know what to expect as the wife mentioned it was an organic joint. What we came to find out is they use very high quality ingredients and cook them very well. One of the best meals so far on the trip.

Our Menu
Mountain Chicken **
Mountain chicken is what it sounds like - chicken that roams around on a mountain. The flavor is intensely chickeny, but you also get some texture to it as it's not buttery soft - this is a good thing. Killer with the soy, chile dipping sauce.
Cabbage and Dried Shrimp *
Sweet cabbage with the salty, meaty flavor of the dried shrimp.

Fried Rice with Veggies *
Unlike the fried rice you get in the states, this fantastic version is not oily and doused in soy sauce. Simply, a little bit of oil tossed with some veggies. Very clean tasting which allows you to enjoy the other dishes without overpowering them.

Bean Sprouts, Tofu, and Fermented Veggies **
Great combo of textures and flavors - very crunchy, a little spicy, and a little sour. A pretty amazing bright dish.

Fried Tofu Skin ***
A big time WTF moment here. So, light and crispy and airy on the inside. The flavor is very intensely tofu and goes perfect with the slightly sweet and salty dipping sauce. Biting into this thing was a big time eye opener for me on how tofu can be done.

Fried Ice Fish *

Fried whole crispy fish. It was good - kinda reminded of fish jerky but with better more natural tasting flavors.

Chicken Soup ***
I love me some soup and this was by far the best I've ever had. So rich tasting and incredibly creamy (no milk/cream added though) - felt like 30 chickens gave their lives to this thick broth. Ham, shark fin, and abalone were thrown in for good measure too which made this soup very complex - rich, slightly sweet from the white cabbage, and incredibly delicious.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A) – Uber comforting food using great ingredients and cooked incredibly well.
  • Service (A) – The owner came up to us and chatted us up, but that was probably because our friends have been there a couple of times. We requested some changes to the soup (adding cabbage) and they were smiling and willing to accommodate.
  • Atmosphere (B) – Reminded me of a Japanese joint with blond wood walls and wood floors - very serene. We were there for lunch on a Tuesday and it was all full of businessmen/women. The place also reminded me of Grom gelato as they had pictures of all the ingredients they source on the walls as well.
  • Price (N/A) - We didn't pay so it was hard to tell what the prices were. Probably relatively expensive for food in Taiwan.
Closing Comments
Best food on the trip so far and 100% need to visit this joint the next time I'm in Taiwan. Highest recommendation from this dude.

Monday, August 22, 2011

World Soymilk Magnate

I've had many a soybean drink/soymilk, but never one as flavorful as the one at "World Soymilk Magnate" aka Si Jyeah Do Jyang Da Wong. It's slightly sweet (not grossly sweet like the ones in the states) and it has an almost fermented tofu flavor which makes it taste intensely like tofu - this is a good thing.

The traditional accompaniment is xiaobing yo-tiyao - chewy, flaky wrap with some fried dough on the inside. A little too greasy on it's own, but a solid accompaniment with the soymilk. The other dishes looked suspect as they seem to be rocking the microwave a bunch - so caveat emptor.

World Soymilk Magnate
84 Yonghe Road, Sec. 2
Yonghe City, Taipei, Taiwan

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shilin Night Market

Taiwan loves their night markets (places where you go to get tiny bites to eat and shop) and this is their biggest. Think San Gennaro festival and multiply it by 100 in terms of people and space...and this is every single night too. We tried a bunch of things which were all delish, but the huge fried chicken was highly recommended by lots of people...unfortunately for me, I'd go with popeye's any day of the week since it's juicier and much more flavorful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ling Ja Gan Mien

A perfect bowl of happiness :)

Japanese Curry with Onsen Tamago

After a few laps at the pool today, this really hit the spot.

Celestial Restaurant - Review

Celestial Restaurant - Dude Grade: D+
1 Nanking West Road 3rd Fl, Taipei, Taiwan
Phone: 886 2 2563 2171

We got a recommendation to check out Celestial Restaurant which serves Beijing style food. Food is decent, but the waits are horrendous. Definitely not on the recommended list.

Our Menu
Vegetable Dumpling
Textures on the skin were a tad too soft, but the bigger problem was the lack of flavor in the filling. Not terrible, but any food stall in Taipei would serve better for 70% less.

Spinach, Bamboo, and Mushrooms *
Solid textures and flavors. One thing that I can't seem to find back home is dishes that serve delicious bamboo. The texture and flavor of the bamboo were pretty killer - pleasingly crunchy and almost nutty like flavor. Nothing like the canned stuff you get in NYC Chinatown.

Peking Duck *
Very crispy skin with great flavor. The meat was tasty, but pretty dry which was the only negative. The surprising thing was the wrap which was incredible. Thin enough, but incredibly chewy and flexible. When you combined the duck skin/meat, hoisin, scallion, and the wrap, you had a pretty damn solid combination of flavors and textures.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way (no stars - poor to average) * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (C) – Food was generally good, but nothing mind blowing.
  • Service (D) – Servers were relatively friendly, but the waits were unbearable. After the dumplings and veggie, it took 45mins - 1 hour to get the duck. On top of that, they didn't bring out the duck meat until we finished half of the skin. No bueno.
  • Atmosphere (C) – Standard Chinese joint where you have big circular tables - wooden floors and yellow walls. The place was packed with a combo of businessmen (with girls have their age) or families. We got there at 7pm on a Tuesday and it took 30 minutes to get seated. It was 100% full when we got there and 100% full with people waiting when we left.
  • Price (C-) - Price was about $60 which isn't so bad for the US, but pretty pricey for Taiwan. Definitely not worth it for the service and waits.
Closing Comments
Definitely not recommended and although the peking duck was pretty delicious it wasn't much better than stuff we had in NY/NJ. I've had Peking Duck many a time and I'm curious to see if even the stuff in Beijing will be much better than the stuff I've had before - my guess is it'll be better but not eye openingly better.

Mango Shaved Ice (Mongwa Bao Bing)

August is pretty hot and humid in Taipei, so most people cool down with some shaved ice. Tai Eee Nyo Nye Dah Wong is supposedly one of the best. Really ripe and fragrant mangoes with some sweet condensed milk. Very refreshing and delicious on a hot Taipei night.

No. 82, Section 3, XīnShēng South Road, Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Sashimi Platter for Take Out

If I could get this in NYC, I'd order it everyday.
This is just so fresh, it makes my knees weak every time.

Japanese Fresh Baked Bread

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yatai in Fukuoka 福岡の屋台

Street vendors in the streets of Fukuoka.
Ramen, Yakitori, Sashimi, Grilled Fish, Gyoza, Motsu Nabe...

IH Table

I could really use an Induction Heating unit built into my dining
table at home.