Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Short Grain - Jersey City, NJ

Never had I thought I would be living in another state...let alone Jersey.
But, it was one of those decisions that when you think back, you decided correctly.

On a random morning, well I guess it wasn't that random, it was Labor Day after all. The fiancé and I decided last minute we wanted Vietnamese sandwich for brunch. I can't remember the last time we had a good sandwich so I agreed.

Short Grain was a bougie version of a regular Vietnamese cafe that serves coffee and sandwiches. Actually, the only Viet thing about this place was just the sandwiches and coffee, they have other items on the menu like pancakes and avocado toast (which is like the "thing" now). The cafe has a good amount of tables and seats. We luckily grabbed one before the lunch crowd came.

The sandwiches are pretty solid and so were the coffees. We ended up getting an iced and hot version of the Vietnamese coffee, it was perfectly sweetened in my opinion. I'm iffy about getting Vietnamese coffee now since they usually make it super sweet to counter the bitterness of the smokey coffee beans. The sandwiches were massive, packed with ingredients which I did not expect. I ordered the Vietnamese Cold Cut Sandwich, I have to say that I like this better. There was a lot of layered meat like headcheese, Vietnamese ham, pate spread and not too much pickled vegetables. It was extremely filling. The fiancé had gotten the Coconut Curry Chicken, it was spicy but addicting spicy which you just can't stop eating. Had a flavorful curry flavor but not much coconut which I was a bit disappointed with. Our coffees worked well with both sandwiches, the iced with the curry and the hot with the cold cut.

I see myself coming back. The cafe had a really lax vibe to it and everything was solid.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese Cold Cut Sandwich
Coconut Curry Chicken Sandwich

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 4.5 out of 5

Short Grain
183 Montgomery St
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Papa Ole's - Hauula, HI

The amount of good meals we had in Hawaii were endless, and Papa Ole's was one of them. Spur of the moment decision in which I had no idea how I landed upon this joint, maybe it was the high ratings or the fried chicken they had.

It wasn't far from where we were staying, so the drive took us less than 10 minutes. The restaurant was quite spacious but no air conditioning. They had the rotating ceiling fans, better than nothing. The fiancè and I wanted to try their garlic chicken but it was completely sold out, bummer. Instead we ordered the original fried chicken and pulehu ribs. Best decision ever!

Our plates did take a while since it was made to order. Once we had our plates, we jumped right into it. The fried chicken was crunchy and flavorful, it had a bit of sweetness in the marinade which made it very unique. But the star was actually the pulehu ribs. Even though it might look charred and burnt, it was absolutely delicious. So moist and tender, packed with flavor. This was a carnivore's dream.

Overall, an excellent meal.

Pulehu Ribs (left), Fried Chicken (right)

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 5 out of 5
Service ~ 5 out of 5 

Papa Ole's
54-316 Kamehameha Hwy, Ste 9
Hauula, HI 96717

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck - Haleiwa, HI

One of the "must" visit food joints in Hawaii. I was totally excited about garlic butter shrimp and hoped that I wasn't going to get disappointed since it was hyped up so much.

My fiancé and I came right past lunch time so the line had dwindled down. We ordered 2 plates but one was honestly enough to hold our stomachs. The shrimp plates didn't take too long to prepare, I would say a good 5-10 minutes, assuming it was made on the spot (since shrimps doesn't take that long to cook anyways).

One important thing to point out, there are a lot of flies there. If you're not afraid of them buzzing around, you can definitely sit at the benches and enjoy your shrimp plate. But let me tell you this, once you open up your plate of goodies, the flies would be hovering around you. Nonetheless, the garlic butter shrimp was ok, nothing fantastic about it. There were about 10 shrimps along with 2 scoops of rice, the rice was way too soft. They spooned a good amount of the garlic butter sauce on top of the rice which made it even more soggy, wasn't very enjoyable. The shrimp itself tasted a bit soft, like it was floured up and then cooked in butter for a long time.

Overall, it was a disappointment. Oh, and the head of the shrimp is not attached. That's like the best part when you just suck the brains out (tmi?). It's a place you want to visit to say you at least tried it, but I wouldn't return.

Lemon Butter Shrimp (front), Garlic Butter Shrimp (back)

Food ~ 2.5 out of 5
Price ~ 3.5 out of 5
Service ~ 4 out of 5

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
66-472 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Formosa Cafe - Brooklyn, NY

I was so sad to find this place right before my fiancé and I moved. We honestly missed these kind of Taiwanese style cafes. The kind where you can spend all afternoon just sitting there chatting and drinking some bubble milk tea and munching on popcorn chicken.

In a way, I'm glad we found it. Very popular during the day time which makes it quite difficult to get a table. The service here is pretty good for an Asian cafe, the girls behind the counter works quick. The drinks and food are also very good. I've been getting their Bubble Milk Tea non-stop whenever I'm in the area. I love a good milk tea when I can taste the tea and not entirely too sweet. This place does it right and does it well. The Jasmine Milk Tea is also a winner here, taste light and refreshing.

Our first time at Formosa, we stayed and chatted the night away. We ordered the bubble teas, Taiwanese Curry Popcorn Chicken, and Durian Crepe Cake. Everything was good; chicken was crispy and not just covered in flour, crepe cake wasn't too sweet and had a light hint of durian.
We keep coming back here to just get their bubble tea whenever we're in Brooklyn. Definitely recommend.

Bubble Milk Tea and Durian Crepe Cake
Same as above but with Curry Popcorn Chicken

Food ~ 4 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 4 out of 5

Formosa Cafe
5323 7th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11220

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Grace Street - Midtown West, NY

I remember Grace Street to be a very unique spot. My fiancé and I visited Grace Street when they were still in the works a couple of years back. They were still renovating and fixing the dining area when we got our first hodduk.

It was the best dessert I've had before. Hodduk is basically fried dough with a sweet brown sugar filling in the center - almost like a donut. It was fresh and delicious.

Fast forward a couple of years, I re-visited Grace Street with my girlfriends. It's a lot more crowded since it's a good late night hangout spot, especially after dinner and you wanted a place to have some dessert and chit chat.

The wait didn't take too long and we sat at a bench. Wait staff was very friendly, even after a long day of work they look happy to serve you. We ordered Hodduk, Chocolate Brownie Waffle, Bubble Tea and Green Milk Tea. To be honest, everything tasted very mediocre. The hodduk tasted like it was just reheated in the microwave and cut up into really small pieces. The taste was there but the texture was lacking. The drink were good but not great. And the waffle...it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Grace Street wasn't how I envisioned and it's quite disappointing.

Green Milk Tea, Hodduk, Jasmine Bubble Tea
Chocolate Brownie Waffle

Food ~ 2 out of 5
Price ~ 3 out of 5
Service ~ 4.5 out of 5

Grace Street
17 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Born Thai - Brooklyn, NY

After a pre-game with the fiancée (yup, just got engaged!) and friend, we were still hungry. Walking along Flatbush on a rainy day isn't that pleasant. But, what stopped us in our tracks was the happy hour Born Thai still have. Plus, Thai food sounded quite promising and comforting on a rainy night.

There was still a lot of tables open (lucky us). The happy hour beverage menu was quite simple, nothing too extravagant and it was all around $4-6. The food here was what caught us by surprised. I honestly wasn't expecting much but each plate we ordered totally delivered. Also, service was on point and friendly.

We started off with the Curry Roti which came with Mussaman curry and not your average curry, it was delicious. The curry was slightly sweet and gave a bit of heat. Next was the Curry Puff, also excellent choice, the puff pastry was perfect and flaked off just how it was suppose to. At this point, I was looking forward to the noodle and rice dish we ordered. It all came out in a timely manner and tasted like it was made with love (yea, sounded quite cheesy there). The Curry Fried Rice was nice, I loved the basil in there which made it very flavorful and fragrant. The Drunken Noodles was a one of a kind, made with udon, the dish was slightly spicy and the intensity builds as you keep eating, also quite addicting.

The night was good. We ordered a couple of more drinks and the wait staff didn't bother us. I believe happy hour ends at 8pm but with good food, company, and drinks the night seemed endless. Definitely a hole in the wall. I plan on revisiting some time soon.

Gin Daisy

Old Fashioned & Cuba Libre
Curry Roti
Curry Puff
Drunken Noodles
Curry Fried Rice

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 4 out of 5

Born Thai
293 Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maharlika - East Village, NY

Maharlika has been on my list for the longest time, even before the hyped, but I'm glad it died down a bit because that's how J and I were able to get a quick seating on a Saturday during lunch.

It's a really small restaurant but filled with personality. The walls were decorated with Filipino style art and photos which really gives a cool eccentric vibe. Our waitress was so adorable, very friendly and outspoken. It didn't take long for us to decide on our dishes and everything we ordered was delicious.

We shared all the dishes which we almost had a problem finishing. Started off with the Lumpiang, Filipino version of a spring roll, it was absolutely phenomenal. Crispy and flavorful, I really like that sweet and tangy sauce, and also the banana ketchup. Next two things were Sisig and Tapsilog, excellent. The sisig was something special, in a small cast iron were pork ears, snout and belly all sauteed together and mixed with an egg. Tapsilog is a basic lunch dish with steak, garlic rice and some lightly pickled cucumbers. All of these dishes we were drenching them in this special sauce they provided us - vinegar and chili sauce. Absolutely tasted great with every dish, and they encourage you to eat it with everything cause it's that good and it enhances the flavor of the dish.

Filipino food is pretty awesome and Maharlika just makes it that much better. Definitely a must visit.

Rizal's Ruin
Lumpiang Barquillos

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 5 out of 5

111 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

86 Hot Pot BBQ - Brooklyn, NY

It was a night to catch up with my girlfriends and what's better than to hotpot that night away. It was a chilly day in New York, so hotpot was definitely the better option. 86 Hotpot opened not to long ago and is still fairly new to the neighborhood of Bensonhurst.

It was quite empty on a Thursday night, but nonetheless, the service was pretty great. 86 Hotpot BBQ has both your regular hotpot and bbq, we only did hotpot which was $21.99 a person - not bad since it includes seafood (like mussels, clams and crab) which a lot of places don't. The interior was very modern and clean, sauce station was a bit small. The placement of the raw food that came out was on point, they didn't mix the more bloody items with the rest of the food (always a pet-peeve of mine).

At 86 Hotpot, you're given a menu with a list of food and you just mark off what you want. Very efficient and the food came out at a timely manner, which is always a good thing. One thing that might be interesting to know, if you're a party of 4 or less, you'll most likely get a big pot of broth to share whereas if you have a larger party, each person will get their individual pot.

I'd definitely recommend 86 Hotpot, it's very similar to 99 Favors. I need to come back to try the BBQ.

The spread...

Food ~ 4 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 5 out of 5

86 Hot Pot BBQ
2239 86th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11214

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

MarkJoseph Steakhouse - Financial District, NY

Restaurant week creeps upon us twice a year, in the blistering cold and in the scorching sun. It's always that time when J and I have a hard time deciding if we want to go to any participating restaurants and which ones.

This year, we decided to drag along 2 friends with us to a steakhouse. I mean, how can you say no to steak? I've done a good share of researching. I'm the type of person that wants to know what I'm exactly getting at a restaurant for a deal that they usually don't offer. What I mean is a lot of places would either lessen the plate of the food or just serve you something that's what you expect. I don't like surprises...in that way.

MarkJoseph was the winner for us and I gladly made the reservations.
The date we chose to eat as MarkJoseph will forever be memorable, just because the next day, NYC had the biggest snow storm in a long time. It was already snowing pretty hard when we left the restaurant. But, now back to the food.

The service was quite superb. Even dining during restaurant week, I felt like an appreciated patron. The food was amazing. Definitely the best deal we got. We started off with the thick cut Canadian Bacon and Baked Clams, both were very good. Of course, portion size was cut in half since it was restaurant week, but that's ok. Then onto the main course, we all ordered the Sirloin Steak which was 20oz each. Cooked perfectly to medium rare and served on a sizzling hot plate. The steak was so tender, add some salt or use their in-house steak sauce or nothing at all. Each steak came with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. For once, the mashed potatoes actually tasted like potatoes and wasn't covered and mixed with butter and cream, the spinach tasted like spinach and not fancied up cream that had a gloppy consistently.

Lastly, the dessert was simple yet delicious. The Mini Brownie Sundae definitely was a nice ending touch to a wonderfully satisfying meal. Oh, forgot to mention, the wine was amazing also. If you're curious, we ordered the 2011 Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserve from Tuscany, really good bang for you buck wine.

I'd go back to MarkJoseph in a heartbeat. It's hard to find a good steakhouse in NYC because there are just too many, but once you find one that you like, don't let it go, keep it in your radar.

Food ~ 4.5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 4 out of 5

2011 Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserve
Thick Cut Canadian Bacon
Baked Clams
Sirloin Galore
Brownie Sundae

MarkJoseph Steakhouse
261 Water Street
New York, NY 10038

Friday, February 19, 2016

Salvation Burger - Midtown East, NY

Salvation Burger just opened recently, February 10th. Luckily, a good coworker of mine somehow stumble upon it and basically persuaded me to go. Good bye to my smoothie and salad for lunch.

Opened by the same chef as Spotted Pig, it was just a place to check out and say - "hey I've had that burger before!" Also, my coworker really really wanted to go.

They opened at 12pm for lunch, we made sure to go early. Even then we were beaten by a good 5 parties...and did I mention this place just opened like 9 days ago?!

Salvation Burger has a good amount of space, with walls lined with wine bottles, pretty neat decor. They also have a full size cocktail bar, along with communal tables, just because. My coworker and I were seated by the window, being distracted by construction workers blinging up the restaurant's exterior.

Menu was pretty basic. You got your snacks like fries or jalapeno fritters, then there's burgers and hotdogs, and last but not least, the milkshakes.

Service was a bit slow. Waited a bit over 10 minutes for the burgers, which felt like forever. When the burgers came, my eyes couldn't stop staring and literally how beautiful and simple the burger looks. It was served on a plate, nothing else around it, just the burger in its entirety. It was time.

The Salvation Burger was pretty good, patty was huge, thick I mean (that's what she said), nicely cooked to a medium rare and extremely juicy. It was simple but yet complex in its own way. I just couldn't figure out where the salt came from because they definitely didn't season the burger, maybe it was hidden in the crispy onions or maybe it was the buns or was it the taleggio cheese? Anyways, it was good and honestly worth the $25. On the other hand, the Classic Burger was your average any day burger. But, this one had two patties, house special sauce, cheese, and pickles. It was good if they were easy on the seasoning for this. I only had half the burger and even then the saltiness gradually picked up. For $17, I'd rather get the Salvation Burger. The fries started out great, but same thing with the burger, it got salty as we worked our way through it.

Nonetheless, it was a decent experience. I'd come back for the Salvation Burger, which I can count on to give me food coma.

Food ~ 3.5 out of 5
Price ~ 3 out of 5
Service ~ 3 out of 5 

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake
Salvation Burger
Classic Burger

Salvation Burger
230 E 51st Street
New York, NY 10022

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Zundo-Ya, Ramen - East Village, NY

January can be blistering cold, and ramen always seems to be the answer on those cold nights.

Tucked away on the side streets of where the infamous Ippudo is, lay a very hipster ramen joint. Zundo-Ya is the first international ramen joint opened by Tatsuya Hashimoto, he already has 19 shops in Japan.

When you walk through the door, it felt like a cafeteria. Open space and large communal tables, and to mention, it gets quite loud here. The staffs look like they came out of a Grease musical, so cheery and chipper to serve. Service can be a bit slow but nonetheless the entire experience was pleasant.

The menu was very straight forward. J and I were greedy so we decided on the Zenbunose Ramen which has all the toppings they offer, it can be hefty at $18 a bowl but I'm not eating this all the time, so I can definitely justify it. Besides the ramen bowl/flavor that you choose, there's also noodle type and broth richness you can choose. Talk about life decisions here. I had the straight noodles and J has the wavy, we both agreed on the regular richness for the broth. I'm sure we had that moment and realized that we don't want to mask the beautiful taste of the entire ramen by clogging our arteries, plus I don't think we can totally appreciate the super rich super fatty broth yet.

Alongside the ramen, we also ordered the Kaarage. I have this weird fascination with Japanese fried chicken, they're just so delicious, if made correctly. This here came with Japanese mayo and salt and pepper dip, so good. The chunks of chicken were big and juicy - that's what she said.

Onto the Zenbunose Ramen. Honestly, can words even describe it? It was absolutely worth that $18. The bowl looked very vibrant with all the different toppings, soft-boiled eggs, roast pork, garlic chips, dried seaweed, scallions, spicy oil, and bean sprouts. Plus, they give you sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and pickled cabbage on the side. Of course, we threw all those in the ramen also. The medley of all the ingredients made the broth super delicious, it had that umami flavor - indescribable but just insanely good.

I'd come back, I also don't want to recommend this place because I'm greedy. I want this all to myself and let no other know. But with all my raving, that's not going to happen.

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 3.5 out of 5

Additional Toppings
Japanese Beer
Zenbunose Ramen

84 East 10th St
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Maison Premiere, Cocktail Bar - Brooklyn, NY

Oysters, cocktails, and absinthe. How can one say no?

J and I thought we were being smart by heading over to Maison at 4:15pm, happy hour time is from 4-7pm. But when we arrived, the place was already packed. The maitre d put our names down for a 5pm seating so we had to kill about an hour around the neighborhood.

We weren't able to get seats at the bar or a table. Instead, we sat at the corner, with the ledge as our table and stools as our seats. J made sure we can order oysters and be served it when sitting there since the counter space looked very limited.

The wait staff were very professional, and the cocktail connoisseurs were helpful in helping us choose the right absinthe to start the night with. Maison is one of the hot spots in Brooklyn that serves absinthe that is dripped with sugar and chilled water. Quite amazing, really.

Since it was happy hour, we ordered pretty much every oyster on the menu. They have a variety of oysters from Connecticut, Massachusetts and British Columbia Canada. Other than the oysters, they have an a la carte menu that specializes in seafood. But honestly, once you're on the oyster wagon you wouldn't want anything else.

The cocktails here are amazing, the atmosphere was so fitting. I can stay here for hours just drinking absinthe and slurping on oysters but that would probably end terribly. One thing that stood out from this amazing experience (yea, there's even better), was when J ordered the Old King Cole Martini which was stirred table-side. The set up for this cocktail was placed on this copper tray, although it might not be copper since the lighting was so dim, the waiter was literally the table that held up the tray and the connoisseur started his performance. He explained the liquor that was being placed into the mixer and how many parts of each. It was nice. What's even nicer? The olives was served separately and when you're ready you can place it on the martini or you can just munch on it without having it soak up the cocktail. I have to say, the olives were good and I hate olives. This definitely might be a turning point for me.

Food ~ 5 out of 5
Price ~ 4 out of 5
Service ~ 5 out of 5

Happy Hour Menu
Absinthe Selections
Vilya Absinthe Verte
The Great Bambino
Endless Oysters - so delicious
American Pharoah
Old King Cole Martini
The making of Old King Cole Martini

Maison Premiere
298 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ganso, Ramen Bar - Brooklyn, NY

A good ramen shop is hard to find, let alone trying to find one in Brooklyn.

It was one of those nights where J was craving for ramen and I refuse to head out into the city, so we were left with limited options in Brooklyn. After minutes of deliberation, we chose Ganso. It was on my radar, but back like 2-3 years ago, and to be honest, I don't even remember why I wanted to go there.

The ramen shop was quite large, more spacious than your average traditional ramen joints. The place was very modern and chic, with random Japanese posters all over the walls. I chose to sit at the booth, nice secluded seats to be away from people and you don't have to worry about speaking over or under people's voices.

We ordered two appetizers and then our own bowl of noodles.
The Braised Short Rib Buns were served first. It felt very underwhelming when I bit into it, the bun was filled with shredded scallions to a point of which it should be just known as the scallion bun, the miso-mustard glaze was barely there, the taste of the beef short rib was bland, I couldn't find a thing about the bun that was good...maybe the bun itself?
The Japanese Fried Chicken on the other hand was a different story. When it was placed on our table, I literally just stared because it was the least eye-appealing fried chicken I've seen. The pieces were small and oddly shape. At first taste, the chicken were extremely over-seasoned and salty. But, dip it in the yuzu-mayo sauce and it turned into a perfect little morsel of goodness. That literally made me do a 360.

After finishing the appetizers, which I rather go on and on because I was enjoying the Japanese crafted beers with it. This is one of the few ramen shops that carry a variety of Japanese crafted beers. Their menu on it is quite descriptive, so you'll definitely be able to pick on to your liking; bottled or draft.

The ramen was bomb. I honestly wasn't expecting much but I was glad I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. The Spicy Soboro Miso ramen had a kick-ass spicy miso broth which was addicting. The chili was ground and mixed in with the miso paste which gave the broth a really different and special taste. Noodles were bouncy, al dente and also a lot. J's Tori Shio ramen was good also, opposite spectrum from mine. His had a more clearer broth, very flavorful and oil-less; it's like a Japanese version of mom's chicken soup.

Food ~ 4 out of 5
Price ~ 3.5 out of 5
Service ~ 3.5 out of 5

Japanese Crafted Beers

Japanese Fried Chicken

Beef Short Ribs Bun

Spicy Saboro Miso Ramen

Tori Shio Ramen

Ganso Ramen
25 Bond St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Being Back

I admit I had been on a long hiatus and I didn't have the motivation to blog about anything. It was a time where I was conflicted, lazy and lost interest.

But after thinking about it weeks and weeks, I did realize that I did want to do this. It's a passion, and I believe I do still feel it. Being able to eat and experience new cuisine and share it is quite a blessing, either for my own reference or for those that are curious and willing to learn.

Catching up is going to be a bit difficult, I've been to a lot of places since October of last year and all worthy of sharing; whether it be something out of this world, average, or merely sub-par.

Let 2016 be something different. And hopefully, something more.