Sunday, August 16, 2015

Maine - Thistles Restaurant

Bangor, Maine holds a lot of nice restaurants but you have to be able to find them. After much exploration from J and his relatives, we finally visited Thistles.

I've heard good things about this restaurant so my expectations were a bit high but nonetheless still open-minded.

It was hard to decide if Thistles was casual dressing or a little dressy. The interior was dimly lighted and was decorated in a modern way. Our waiter was courteous.

We had ordered 4 appetizers and 4 entrees and just 1 dessert to call it a night.

Not a bad Shrimp Ceviche at all, it definitely had a kick to it and the shrimps were plump which is always a good thing.

The Lobster Caponata Crostini was a bit of disappointment. I guess I expected better since Maine is the lobster state. This dish was quite underwhelming, felt like I just had a lobster roll...I mean, there was plenty of lobster meat but the flavor and taste was just kind of boring.

Absolutely love this dish. I was so skeptical about the Queso Fresco with Guava since it was a cheese dish and fried cheese is a bit odd. In the end, it was the best appetizer I've had. The guava sauce paired so nicely with the fried cheese, I would honestly go back just for this dish.

The Argentinean Empanadas were just ok, nothing special about them. It could use a bit more crunch, the center was starting to get a bit soggy.

I find all the entrees to be mediocre, nothing exactly stood out. The Paella Valenciana was a huge portion; the Mofongo de Camarones were a bit mushy because of the mashed green plantains; the Veal Special was on the tomato-y side; and the Latin Grilled Pork Chops was ginormous with a heavy soy-balsamic white wine reduction sauce.

Their portions are very inconsistent as you can tell from the pictures. Portion size control is not welcomed in Maine so watch out.

For dessert, I stuck with the Spanish Flan with Caramel Sauce. I think I would've liked it better if it was a round shape, don't know why but the flan felt "thick." A little thinner, flatter and rounder would be perfect. Maybe I'm just picky.

What better way to end a meal with than with espresso. Nice palette cleanser.

Thistles Restaurant
175 Exchange Street
Bangor, Maine 04401
(207) 945-5480

Monday, July 27, 2015

Midtown East - Hot Kitchen

I've been to Hot Kitchen a couple of times, for dine-in and takeout.

I see myself coming back whenever I'm craving for something spicy. It's a Szechuan style cuisine. The service is quite fast and the food is usually a hit or miss, depending on what you order. I usually get the lunch specials since it's the best 'bang for your buck' kind of deal.

I'm not exactly fond of their soup, the Hot and Sour Soup is barely hot - spicy wise and temperature wise.

I think this is probably one of the best dishes I've had from them. The Double Cooked Pork was very flavorful and I just couldn't stop eating those scallion/leek things.

The Shredded Pork with Dried Bean Curd was insanely oily. I think I would've enjoyed it if it was more gravy and sauce without the extra dollop of oil in it.

Not a bad rendition of the Mapo Tofu. Feels like it's missing some magic powder or ingredient but overall, not a bad choice for something spicy.

Hot Kitchen
251 East 53rd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 588-8826

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chinatown - Ken's Asian Taste

Takeout only --

Sunday lunches are a difficult decision when there are so many choices. But lately, the choices are getting more and more expensive. Before this whole lunch inflation thing, I would order regularly at Ken's Asian Taste. Might I add, they have really good dim sum.

Their lunch specials are $5.95 and $6.95 the last time I ordered, which was just a month or so ago. The extra dollar one applies to the rice being totally separate, which means you get more rice and more side dish by paying a little extra.

I love eggplant and this Eggplant with Fish Filets was not bad for $5.95. Really good flavor and wasn't overly salty, it also had enough gravy for me to eat the rest of the rice with.

I think this would by my second favorite dish. Sate Beef with Vegetables, the gravy sauce is killer with the rice. The vegetables had enough crunch to them and was not soggy or soft at all.

And my favorite? Pork chops with Onions really hit the spot. This is the $6.95 lunch special I was talking about. A lot of pork chop in the container which was a great deal. For people that eat a lot less, this can be divided into two meals.

The Beef Filets with Chinese Broccoli was ok, felt like something was missing and the beef didn't exactly tasted like beef.

It's a good lunch, but depending on what you order it's going to be a hit or miss.

Ken's Asian Taste
40 Bowery Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 608-0806

Friday, July 17, 2015

East Village - Ten Degrees Bar

I don't understand why it took so long for J and I to come to Ten Degrees. He's been nagging me about the wine bar but I was dumb enough to ignore (sorry babe!).

Ten Degrees has this awesome happy hour, like really really awesome. It's from 12-8pm everyday and you basically get 2 drinks for the price of 1. Insanely good right? The deal isn't just good but the drinks themselves are quite incredible.

The service was pretty quick. The wine bar was spacious and even had a backroom. The atmosphere was honestly really carefree and you can sit here for hours talking about absolutely nothing.

We ordered a meat and cheese plate and it was a really good bang for your buck deal. They had fresh berries, I mean, what other place gives this many fruits?! It was the perfect snack to go along with your happy hour drinks.

Ten Degrees is definitely a place I would recommend. It's no speakeasy but the quality and the deals you get here can't be beaten anywhere else.

Ten Degrees Bar
121 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
(212) 358-8600

Friday, June 26, 2015

East Village - Spina

I love Spina's tasting menu and they usually have different ones during the year. So when they had a special tasting menu for Valentine's Day, my boyfriend made sure to secure a reservation spot.

We've dined here before so there wasn't anything new except for the menu itself.

We got seated and as always, was given fresh focaccia bread and house-made ricotta cheese.

Started off with the Amuse Bouche, it was interesting and delightful. What we did not enjoy were the oysters. They were frozen, still covered in ice when served. Extremely poor dish. I'm surprised it was even served.

The appetizers were alright. The Winter Salad tasted light a ball of shredded lettuce, not much flavor or texture going around, very bland. The Lobster Risotto was a bit better, had chunks of lobster and the risotto was creamy.

I thought the American Red Snapper was done pretty well. The entire entree as a whole was executed nicely. On the other hand, the Spice Rubbed Filet Mignon was kind of a mess. Too much going on in that dish, spinach, mashed potato, crispy onion and sauce - it was too overwhelming and the taste was kind of confusing.

Dessert was subpar. I honestly expected more but both dishes were simple and tasted no different if I were to make it at home. Feels like they stopped trying.

Overall, I always loved Spina but this meal was one of the worse I've had. And sadly to say, Spina had closed down as of May 2015. Don't think I'll ever get the chance of eating there again.

Spina Restaurant - CLOSED
175 Ave B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 253-2250

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Midtown East - Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen opened another location not too long ago. My coworkers and I decided to check it out since it was dead of winter when we went (I know, this post is long overdue). During lunch hours in the winter, the wait can be anywhere from 15 to 45 minute wait but if you're by yourself, it might just be quicker.

There is a lot more seatings at this location compared to the west side. Service was quick and the staffs were crazy busy.

The Spicy Ramen was good, nice and hearty for the winter. Noodles were cooked nicely which is always a deal breaker when it comes to good/bad ramen joints. You get a choice between pork or chicken, I do recommend the pork since the chicken is quite dry. One thing I wished they did more for the pork was seared it to give it that crisp texture.

Besides being very well known for their Spicy Ramen, their Paitan Ramen is pretty good also. For those non-spicy lovers, this bowl is for you. Broth was creamy and filled with onions, tasted extremely home-y.

They have an array of topping options, all with additional price of course. I usually get their boiled egg which is boiled to perfection, the yolk is still runny when it's being served to you.

I find myself coming here a lot since it's a nice quick fix, can be a bit pricey at times. A bowl can run me anywhere between $12-15, but I love to indulge once in a while.

Totto Ramen
248 E 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 421-0052

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dominique Ansel - The Cronut

First off, I'm finally writing again after what seems like 1000000000+ years.

Another exciting news (well, for me), I finally tried that darn cronut people have been raving and crazin' about since 2013. The effect?

I have to say, DA knows how to package. But honestly, such a big box for a cronut, was it really necessary? The cronut keeps sliding all over the place even when you pick up the box.

The month's special was Matcha Golden Pineapple. The look of the cronut was very tantalizing which is probably why everyone is willing to stand on line to get or order it in advance. The idea of a cronut and how it visually looks is enough advertisement in itself.

Don't shoot me...
But, I wasn't amazed by this. Period. You can indeed see the layers of pastry inside the cronut but it wasn't exactly flaky, it was more dough-y. I'm guessing it's because of the filling that might have soften the inside. Yes, I like the idea and the flavors worked really nicely but it's honestly no different than a croissant and just slabbing on some jam. I've had other cronuts before and really wanted to try DA's before comparing and now I can!

Well, DA's cronut isn't the best. The only thing that makes it special is the different flavor and taste combinations they come up with each month. But if you're fine with just vanilla or chocolate, get it elsewhere, it's not worth the wait or the headache of online ordering.

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-2773