Sunday, March 31, 2013

Istanbul Fast Food - A gem in a big bag of rubbish

I never thought I can have really good Turkish food in Brooklyn, but I sure did. I also have another place similar to Istanbul near my house but that'll be for another post.

Istanbul is more of a cafeteria style kind of place. It's not exactly "fast" like it claims to be but it was pretty quick for what we ordered.

Ok, so the Hummus ($5) was a bit bland, could definitely use a bit of salt but it was overall pretty good. The consistency was smooth like baby's food and that bread it came with, was wowza!

J and I also got the Fried Liver Cubes ($8.50) which was pretty perfect. Adding the lemon juice made it that more amazing. It was a big portion and we ended up having to take that to go...
Liver is usually gamey but here, it actually just taste like chicken breast which means I can lie to anyone and have them eat liver while saying it chicken - I actually sorta of did that with the leftovers I brought to work and tricked my coworker.

The Mixed Grill ($19) over rice was a ginormous portion with a lot of meat. Some were mysterious to me but what I can recall, there were beef/steak, lamb, chicken, grounded meat kebabs and those spectacular bread! They gave us three, it was so warm and fluffy I can just use it as a pillow.

They also have the tzatziki sauce, which is the white yogurt sauce along with the hot spicy sauce. No idea if we're eating it wrong but I just dumped both sauces over the rice and meat, it tasted delicious. Really like the hot sauce, it brings out the flavor of the rice and flavors the grilled meats even more.

We left no room for dessert which was a bummer because they had so many on display. I know J wanted the rice pudding, I wanted the baklava...maybe next time, definitely next time.

Istanbul Fast Food
2202 86th St
Brooklyn, NY 11214
(718) 714-4300

Friday, March 29, 2013

XO Taste - Everything was good but with a little extra something

J and I like going to the old XO restaurant by Walker Street in Chinatown. But ever since they closed that one down and replaced it with a Popeyes, we haven't really wanted to try the new location. This location replaced a Malaysian restaurant which sucked also because that Malay restaurant was pretty good. Everything was good at their original spots, why must they move?!

So finally, we decided to test out this new location. Out of all days, we came on a day where it was raining/snowing. It was a difficult walk because the sleet keeps blowing in my face, even with my hood on!

I have to say that this new location is definitely bigger. Same layout as the Malay restaurant apparently. We ordered our usual and one thing extra, just because.

The Japanese Style Pan Fried Dumplings ($3.95) were pretty much the same but bigger. J and I actually had a hard time finishing it. Don't know why I always order this, maybe it's the sauce.

We thought to give the Baked Escargot French Style ($8.95) a go. It was a risk because we usually don't order escargots at a Chinese restaurant but it somehow appealed to J so I was like, ok let's do this! It wasn't bad, lacked a little salt but overall quite meaty.

The entree we both usually get at XO will probably never change, although it should. J's Baked Ham & Cheese over Spaghetti Casserole ($6.95) was salty! Even when I had it for takeout it was salty, this was a big no-no and the sauce was too watery. Guess we shall move on from the casserole and J will have to find something else on the menu that will replace this.

I always loved getting udon from XO just because I think it's so much more worth it than getting it at a Japanese restaurant, I mean I get more udon and even meat! Although here, the Udon with Grilled Chicken Cutlet ($6.95) wasn't too bad. At least it was better than the casserole. The broth had a bit too much seaweed taste to it and the more I eat from it, the saltier it gets. What's with the salt here?!

So, the chances of us coming back is 50/50 to like really slim because of the salt. But it does makes me curious to know how their other dishes taste, like the curry stew over rice and cow penis with noodles...

XO Taste
41 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-8625

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cafe Orlin - Spontaneous decision that was made and done

It was definitely one of those nights where J and I didn't know where to dinner at. We just walked along East Village and was hoping a restaurant would intrigue us enough to go in.

The famous Cafe Orlin that is usually packed during brunch and lunch hours was patron-less for dinner. I called the shot and had us dinner here.

Dimly lighted and tons of open tables, we were told to choose wherever we like to sit. Our waitress was just too cute, she made the mistake of calling a bottle of red white Helen Keller instead of Keller Estate, we busted her chops for the rest of the night.

And yes, we did end up getting the Heller Estate ($32/bottle). A little lighter than a malbec but it still wasn't my favorite. It has that pungent spice to it which really gives you a kick when you eat anything acidic.

Appetizer was Mussels in Garlic and White Wine sauce ($11) in place of the calamari on the menu. We would definitely get that if it wasn't off the menu for the night. But the mussels were great, the broth was delicious. There was chopped tomatoes and onions, the cilantro really pulled it together and made me fall in love with the dish. The toasted bread drizzled with olive oil was amazing with the broth also.

Our entrees didn't take too long to come out. J had the Hanger Steak ($18) with frites and watercress. It was cooked to perfection with the right amount of red in the center, it got some interesting steak sauce over it which was so good. The waiter asked us if we wanted ketchup and hot sauce, J just said yes because he believe there was a reason why he suggested the hot sauce. Truthfully, I've never been to a restaurant that serves hot sauce with steak. Boy, ketchup and hot sauce with steak is the bomb! Quite genius!

I chose a dish from their Today's Special menu which was the Market Cod ($19) with mash potato, asparagus, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Very flavorful dish, the cod could've used a bit more seasoning but all the vegetables were nicely cooked. I wished I had more mushrooms...I'm a mushroom fiend!

Delighted evening. Started to get packed around 8-9pm but emptying out by 9:15...odd. I'd definitely come back for the steak with ketchup and hot sauce.

Cafe Orlin
41 St. Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-1447

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cannibal - Please turn around if you don't want anything meat

Been wanting a good piece of steak for the past month or so and finally satisfied this craving!

And to satisfy such craving, what's better than going to a place named Cannibal. A bit odd and creepy but we're not eating humans here, just other animals...haha.

In total, we ordered 3 dishes and none of them have greens in them. Pure meat heaven.

Started off with Pig's Head Terrine ($11) as an appetizer. A nice cold rendition of headcheese that is quite gelatinous and porky. There were bread accompany this dish so don't feel too horrified of eating this fatty goodness. The gherkins were a nice touch, love me some pickled cucumbers.

Next was the Beef Heart Tartare ($16), I have to say this was my favorite. I love trying something new and I know that J couldn't agree more! I was afraid the heart would be too gamey and had too much of an iron taste to it since it is a muscle of blood, but to my surprise, the beef heart was covered in spices that really brought out the meaty-ness of the dish.

The beautiful fried shallots on top really gave it that extra oomph, if you know what I mean. I would come back to Cannibal, get a glass of wine and just enjoy this tartare because it's that amazing. If you can eat tuna tartare or beef tartare, then this is just a piece of cake.

For our main course, we had the Steak Du Jour for two. It was whatever they had that night and they had a ribeye and t-bone. We chose the former because the t-bone was quite on the pricey side plus, we weren't that crazy into the steak.

The Ribeye ($95) cooked to medium rare was perfect. Placed on a wooden cutting board and served to us just like that. We cut our own pieces, or we could've used our one cared since we're suppose to be cannibals! There was a lot of fat on the ribeye though, the non-fat parts were quite juicy and delicious. Was it worth the $95? Definitely not, but it was aged for about 4 weeks so that's where the price kicks in.
The waiter asked if we wanted any sides, I really didn't want any because I literally just want to be left alone with this ribeye. But, good thing we didn't because I was stuffed and J would have to finish everything and I don't think he'll be too happy with that.

Would I come back again? Sure, but I won't be getting the Steak Du Jour again though. Maybe try their bone marrow or cold cuts or even sausages.

113 E 29th St
New York, NY 10016
(212) 686-5480 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tito Rad's Grill & Restaurant - Six years is celebrating with comfort and homecooking

Surprise surprise!

Suppose to be how I should've felt when J took me here for our six years together. I was, but I also guessed it before we even started walking to the restaurant. I'm pretty dam good sometimes.

Tito Rad's a Philippines cuisine restaurant that specializes in home cooking, or at least that's what it felt like. The atmosphere was very laid back. Also, my first time trying real Philippines food. I really wouldn't know what to order if it wasn't for J.

The layout of the restaurant looks a lot like a Vietnamese restaurant. It's not big, but the decor felt really home-y and simple. There's TV screens everywhere, so it's like you're dining at home.

Our spread. Yes, we ordered a lot of food and yes we did finish it all. Philippine cuisine is definitely different than your Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. Not too salty or packed with a "bam" flavor either.

Dinuguan ($7.95) was a creepy dark looking dish. The appearance is quite a turnoff eh? It's pork in vinegar and pork blood, the cooked pork blood gives it that dark brown color. How does it taste? Well, for one thing, it was really iron-y and gamey tasting. I like coagulated pork blood but this was on a totally different level. It tasted too strong for me, good thing J liked it...he can have it all.

I have to have some vegetable on the table, so I decided on the Ginisang Ampalaya ($8.45). A simple dish consisted of bitter melon, eggs and shrimp. It tasted really light and not bitter at all which I'm surprise. I've had bitter melon at other restaurants before and it was always bitter. Plus, this melon is good for you - prevents diabetes.

J was so excited about the Lechon Kawali ($7.95). When it came out, I knew why. It was pork belly, fried pork belly. It wasn't even dripping in oil, felt like it was flashed fried because it was dry and still really crunchy. Ok, maybe crunchy to a point where it's a bit hard. You need to know how and where to bite so you don't get hurt. No joke, eating this takes experience and practice! Either that, or just chew and bite really slow. I really like the skin and the fat part...hehe.

Last but not least, the Inihaw Tuna Belly ($Seasonal) was really good. Smokey and tasted great with the salty sauce. It took the longest to cook and I keep telling J to wait for it because I didn't want to start eating the other dishes before this. Totally worth it because the skin was sizzling and had a nice crisp to it.

And if that wasn't enough, we ordered dessert.

Tough decision but I clenched my hands and ordered the Tito's Delight ($6.95). Presentation was really pretty and colorful, 3 different slices of cake - Ube (purple yam, addicting texture and taste), Leche Flan (tasted like a cheesecake version of flan, quite dense), and Cassava (suppose to be made from the cassava plant but I take sticky rice and banana here). Great dessert overall and it really lets you have a glimpse into the Philippine's culture.

Lovely meal and I couldn't ask for anything more than just spending the evening with my boyfriend and having a simple yet satisfying dinner for our six year.

Tito Rad's Grill & Restaurant
49-12 Queens Blvd
Sunnyside, NY 11377
(718) 205-7299

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hong Kong: Kam Wah's Cafe

On our last full day in Hong Kong, J and I had to Google a cafe to get some pineapple bun (nothing about it was pineapple - just a name). Lo and behold, we found Kam Wah's Cafe aka 金華冰廳. It wasn't far where we were staying so we decided to head over for some afternoon tea.

The place was packed inside, but service was moving quickly. They have a lot of specials posted all over the walls and waiters yelling back and forth, now that's service for ya.

There's an extensive menu right in front of you if you care to take a look. Tucked right into the table is pretty much everything they offer. Sorry guys, no English here...maybe a Chinese friend can come in handy now or you can ask the waiter or even point around and order what other people are eating.

I wanted to get some noodles but with the things that we ordered, there's definitely no room for that. Plus, we were sharing a table booth with 2 other girls...awkward.

J had the Iced Lemon and Honey (凍檸蜜).

While I had the Iced Milk Tea (凍奶茶). If I have the chance, I'll always order the milk tea at a cafe/restaurant in Hong Kong.

Tis the Pineapple Bun w/ Butter (菠蘿油). We had the Mexican Bun (墨西哥包) first, but apparently I never took a photo of it because now I remember that we just devour that sucker because it was insanely good. Fresh and fluffy and sweet, lord I want one nowww! The Pineapple Bun was a bit more bland and the butter didn't seem to add any flavor, maybe salted butter would be better?

Ahhh the Egg Tart (蛋撻), these things have to be fresh to taste good. It was already room temperature by the time we got to it, wish it was a bit more sweet but the flaky crust is good.

Last but not least, the Hong Kong Style French Toast (西多士). Let's be honest here, nothing will ever beat the french toast I had in Stanley - that was the best of the best and I would definitely want that as one of the last things I eat on earth. This toast was just average and I needed to add syrup which was no bueno already.

Experience was great. Service was fast just like how it's suppose to be. I want more Mexican Buns now.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Terakawa Ramen - Something new something old but always something good

Having ramen is a hit or miss for J and I now. Revisiting is also quite risky because the last time we went back to a ramen shop we liked, it was a huge disappointment. But...thank god Terakawa was still great!

The Terakawa Pork Bun ($6.50) was a new item on the menu, along with half a dozen more that was posted against the wall. I wanted much more but I tried not to be too greedy since we'll be having a bowl of ramen to ourselves.
The bun was different and tasty. Tasted more like a hamburger because of the lettuce, tomato and dressing. I really like how it's not your average pork bun with the sweet sauce and cucumber.

I had the Tan Tan Ramen ($10), I was hoping it would be spicier than it was since the description said it was a spicy miso broth. Even though it wasn't spicy enough, the broth was delicious and the wavy noodles were pretty good also. There was a lot of bean sprouts though. How about a little less bean sprouts and some more meat eh?

J's Miso Ramen ($9) was rich in flavor. Definitely felt like they've been cooking the broth for a while.

Good to know Terakawa is still up to par these days, maybe even slightly better than before. Service is quick and the staff is so enthusiastic to serve, makes you want to come back whenever you're in the mood for ramen.

Terakawa Ramen
18 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 777-2939

Hong Kong: Tofu Dessert

What's better than having Tofu Fa in Hong Kong? Nothing! It's its own origin and is authentic as it can get. After a fulfilling meal at a dai pai dong (previous post in HK), J and I were up for some dessert. Cheap and delicious dessert.

Grandma's Tofu (亞婆豆腐花) isn't your sit-down-and-eat place but a quick 1-2-3 bam kind of place. Quite popular for their tofu fa aka 豆腐花 and other things like herbal drinks.

A good bowl of tofu fa is light and silky with the right amount of sugared syrup in it. A bowl here is $7HKD if you eat it on the spot; $9HKD if you decide to take-out, charging you an extra $2HKD for the take-out container.

J and I wanted it right there, fresh and cold. By the way, you have the option of hot or cold. We chose cold since it was hot in HK even during the late night. The interesting part I thought (which I didn't take a photo of), is this orange powder they have. I thought it was some Hi-C orange flavor thing but it was just orange powdered sugar, weird. But it was great! Really fun to eat and it looked so pretty. Yes, I'm easily amused by strange miniscule things.

So, forget about the sit-down really sweet dessert. Get something light, quick, and cheap for a change. Cost us less than $1USD for that bowl...haha.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Audrey's Concerto - A little symphony to keep the sweetness going

Audrey's Concerto is a great cafe, especially in Brooklyn. Opened up and run by Chinese people, the desserts are light and quite creative.

I came here twice, once was takeout while the other time, I finally got the chance to sit down and enjoy.

There's limited seats here, 2 large tables that sits about 4-6 and then 2 comfortable cushion chairs and also a "bar."

The cafe is really clean and everything was so organized. We came on a snowy day which is why it looked so beautiful outside. The staff behind the counter were very friendly and helpful. Would never thought that J and I would have a light conversation with them.

Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate, Coffee and Shaved Dark Chocolate ($3.25)
Lavender Honey Creme Brulee ($3.25, takeout is an extra $1.50 for the cup)
Green Tea Tiramisu ($3.25)
Strawberry Rose Mousse ($3.25)
The desserts were interesting and majority of them revolved around mousse or pudding. All of them were unique in their own way and truthfully, I didn't have a favorite. None really "wow-ed" me but it doesn't mean I won't head back for more.

What I really liked was the Lavender Rose Tea w/ Honey ($3.50?). It didn't have a strong tea taste at all but just enough for you to notice and the honey worked so well. Pairing a tea with a sweet dessert really helps balance out everything. Not to mention the teabag is so pretty, you can actually see the petals.

I like the concept of Audrey's Concerto and I would come back, I would even recommend it even though the desserts weren't crazy amazing. It's a good cafe to check out and definitely different that your average Chinese bakery.

Audrey's Concerto
2379 86th St
Brooklyn, NY 11214
(718) 266-2829