Bon Chon Chicken

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My partner in crime had come here a number of times this past week and recommended it to me as a delicious and unique chicken option.  Fortunately there was one located nearby Bodies The Exhibition down around the South Sea Port so I decided to scout it out.  I was in the mood for some wings anyways.  I was of course slightly hesitant because this was another sampling of Asian Fusion cuisine so I wasn’t sure how it’d go.  I had trouble finding the place just because I didn’t expect it to look so “modern.”

Upon finally finding and entering the place, I found the layout to be quite sleek in terms of design.  However, the bar setup and service seemed slightly dysfunctional.  They had a bar with a register where you couldn’t pay, and their selection of drinks was very limited.  Perhaps this was a relatively new store so I let it slide.  Unfortunately my timing wasn’t great either, and I was told that my batch of Soy Garlic Sauce and Spicy Soy Garlic Sauce wings would take about 20 minutes.  This compounded with the incomplete bar did not please me, but I think it was more a result of bad luck than a bad restaurant.

I started off with onion rings which surprisingly took 15 minutes to prepare.  However, I was quite taken with them.  The shells were nice and crispy and fused with the onion inside.  Unlike the average ring, it didn’t feel like I was eating a ring of uncooked onion and a separate ring of batter.  I also could bite through the onion unlike at some places where I spend half my time fighting the onion with my canines.  Their proficiency with onion rings gave me hope for the coming wings.

I was excited about the wings which came with a free side of dull-tasting pickled radishes.  The wings were cooked close to perfection and nice and crispy without loads of unnecessary breading or batter of any kind.  The sauce was very unique, combining hints of sweet and garlic flavors, which sadly isn’t a flavor I relish.  If they offered more flavors than the two I ordered, then this might be the perfect wing place.  Perhaps it is my bias against Asian Fusion again, but I just didn’t like the sauce despite the wings having been cooked so well.

I would come back here, but I’d really have to be in the mood for the unique flavor that is served at this restaurant.  Perhaps I will go to the one in Koreatown next time since I’ve heard that it is slightly better.  Bon Chon Chicken was certainly enough to satisfy my craving for some quality wings.

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Club A Steakhouse

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Earlier this July, I bought a “dinner for two” coupon from LivingSocial.  I jumped on the deal during a time when I was craving steak.  Finally, two months later I was able to satisfy that craving.  Business casual was the suggested attire, so my date and I dressed nicely for the occasion.  Our reservations were set for 5:00 pm and unsurprisingly, we were the first at the restaurant.  As others trickled in, I saw that a majority of the diners around us were all participating in the same deal I had bought.

The coupon included a 4-course meal for each person in addition to a bottle of wine, either cabernet sauvignon or pinot grigio.  Since I was the only drinker, I decided a bottle of cabernet sauvignon since it would be better match with the steak.  To start we had the Mushroom Soup and Fried Calamari.  The Calamari was nothing out of the ordinary.  The mushroom soup really impressed me.  I was expecting the typical Campbell’s-like cream based soup with mushroom chunks/slices, but was surprised to find that their soup was a strange greenish color that was full of mushroom flavor but no mushroom chunks.  It was probably the best mushroom soup I’ve had in a while and it put a smile on my face.

We ordered a Hanger Steak and a Filet Mignon for our entrees with side orders of Mac and Cheese and Creamed Spinach.  The hanger steak was very good, but I thought the filet mignon was better.  My date had anticipated thus and let me enjoy the filet mignon, which was cooked medium and nearly perfectly.  Tender and a bit raw on the inside while nice and slightly charred on the outside, it really appeased and delighted me.  The creamed spinach was also delicious and smooth, although it felt a bit heavy after I ate a large portion of it.  The mac and cheese was good as well, but it was unimpressive compared to the S’mac we ate a few days ago.

Dessert was tiramisu and cream puffs.  The tiramisu was… edible.  But in the end I still couldn’t bring myself to finish it.  The cream puffs were good but it can’t compare the little dessert shops down in Little Italy such as Ferrera.  This place clearly does not specialize in desserts and could benefit greatly from hiring a new pastry chef.  From my meal, the dessert was the only real weak link in the entire meal, and I would’ve thought much more highly of the restaurant if I didn’t have to end the meal on such a low note.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

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I tagged this with Japanese, but it’s really another experiment in Asian fusion cuisine.  I have never found a fusion restaurant that I liked, but I kept hearing rave reviews about this place.  When describing the ramen at Momofuku, my co-worker said that it was like “Japan married Texas and had a baby.”  But after dining here for an early dinner, it only further reaffirmed my belief that more traditional dishes are far superior to fusion food.

We split an order of Oyster buns and each got the Momofuku Ramen.  The Oyster buns were like a variant of the Pork/Lamb Burgers they have at Xi’an Famous Foods, but not nearly as savory.  We got it for the Old Bay taste, which there were hints of; however I drowned those out with hot sauce, which I felt dramatically improved the bun.  It’s never a good thing when the dish is improved just by covering all of its original flavor with hot sauce.

The ramen was definitely different.  At first bite I thought it was amazing.  Well, the actual ramen was not that great, but the meat and the broth were so mouth-wateringly delicious.  Strangely though, after eating a little more, the delicious flavor of the meat had already lost its appeal.  I think this is one of those situations where they created too much of a positive high with the first bite, which couldn’t be maintained through the course of the meal.  My partner in crime seemed to be more disappointed than me; I at least enjoyed the first few moments of eating the ramen, whereas I don’t think she enjoyed any of it.  In fact, she didn’t even finish, and we ended up going around the corner to S’mac to get some quality mac & cheese.

Compounding the “different” taste of the ramen here with it’s price tag, I don’t think I’ll find myself dining here again.  Totto Ramen is still cheaper and better, and if you love meaty ramen, Totto Ramen serves a special ramen bowl right now which is a monster of a meal.  Better in terms of quality, quantity, and financially.  Personally, I still think Ippudo NY is the best ramen around Manhattan and it’s only two blocks away from Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Aangan

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We sat a block away and across the street at the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream when I saw and began to crave some Indian food.  I always wanted to try Aangan, probably because there is an Aangan in Beijing, which I loved and considered the best Indian in the city.

This restaurant by the same name but situated in New York was not quite the same.  We ordered the typical Chicken Tikka Masala, which is a good baseline for comparison since I’ve had it at almost every Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to.  I wonder though if people really eat this dish in India.  In my mind, it may be like General Tso’s Chicken which is the most popular dish in the US, but non-existent in China.  We also ordered some Goat Rogan Josh in addition to Naan and Peshawari Naan, which were fine and edible.

The food wasn’t bad or difficult to eat since I cleaned up the plates, but it wasn’t anything great, and was incredibly overpriced.  If this were an Indian restaurant located in my hometown in Central Pennsylvania, then I’d probably think it was great; however in the city of New York, this restaurant offers nothing unique or amazing and there is no reason to dine here again.

Torrisi Italian Specialties

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After weeks and months of pining to dine at this establishment, the time finally came.  At 5:10, I thought I was way too early for a restaurant that only begins taking reservations at 5:30 and doesn’t actually start serving until 6:00; however, I was surprised to find that I was the 10th or 11th person standing in line already.  I see this as a good sign.  So, we waited, put in our name, meandered for 25 minutes or so, and returned.  This is an ideal place to go after work, especially after reading the recent New York Times article decision fatigue, because you only really have one choice to make.  Tonight, it was lamb or fish?  The rest is a set menu that changes on a nightly basis.

To begin, we were offered 4 appetizers:  Warm Mozz, DaVero, Milk Thistle Cream; Brighton Beets, Dill Pollen;Roasted Cauliflower, Dried Scallop Vinaigrette; and Tripe, Currants, Fermented Jingle Bell Peppers.  The mozzarella was incredible, and again, it could just be my love for cheeses, but I could have consumed a tub of the mozzarella with the garlic bread as an entire meal.  The flavors were strong and perfectly melted in my mouth with the soft cheese.  This was a rare situation where I actually wish I had more bread before the main course, because it just matched the mozzarella so well.  The beets and cauliflower dishes were as anticipated, great in comparison to other restaurants, but not for the standards already set by the mozzarella appetizer.  The tripe actually intrigued me deeply; I had never before tasted tripe prepared in a western style.  I was a big fan of it, although it could be attributed partly to the currants as well.  I was slightly befuddled though by the different consistency of this tripe from the kinds I generally had in Chinese cooking.  I was informed that this was a different part/type of tripe.  Clearly, there is more food for me to try in the world.

Our first course was Gemelli, Dirty Duck Ragu.  I appreciated the taste of the dish and the duck, as it was unlike other duck that I had in the past, but I am not a big fan of gemelli in general.  I often complain of other thick, chewy, doughy tasting dishes in the same manner.  I think this dish could have had a lot more potential if it was paired with another type of pasta.  It would at least be more suitable for my personal tastes.  Our gemelli wasn’t even twisted in the shape of pretty unicorn horn.  Maybe that would be demanding too much.

For our main course, we had the two options which were Striped Bass, Pickled Green Tomato or BBQ Lamb, Molasses Vinaigrette, and because we work so well in tandem, we each opted for one of the choices.  I took the bass while she indulged in the lamb.  These were both fairly unimpressive for what I had expected, and at this point, I only have a vague impression of both being more sour than I expected or liked.  This is unusual too because I am often ecstatic about very sour dishes.  Perhaps, I was still reminiscing over the mozzarella I had first.

The finale of our meal were the House Pastries.  This consisted of 5 little treats:  a green-colored pastry with a sunflower seed on top; a custard with cayenne pepper and sea salt; celery sugar cookies; tri-color almond cake; and ricotta cheese filled cannoli.  As we ate around the treats we often exchanged looks of surprise and apprehensiveness.  Some were quite unique, and some were not as delicious as I expected, but all were worth a try.  My personal ranking would be:  1. custard; 2. cannoli; 3. sugar cookie; 4. almond cake; 5. green-colored pastry.

Despite everyone’s ravings, I didn’t enjoy this meal as much as I expected.  Perhaps my expectations had already been built too high.  However, despite my complaints, even the dishes that I was “not a big fan of” or considered “unimpressive” were still very good on the entire spectrum of possibilities.  They were merely less impressive than some of the best dishes I’ve ever had.  Nevertheless, I really do think I would’ve been happier with a giant tub of the mozzarella and a large roll of the Italian garlic bread.

Cafe Habana

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My friends had just come into New York from China, and after two days of 12 hour shopping, I met them at this popular little corner store down in NoLIta.  It was recommended to them by the shoppers and employees at a nearby Tory Burch store, and it looked quite promising with people lined up around the corner just waiting to get in.  We became increasingly eager to go inside.  This was a combination of the fact that it was beginning to rain harder and harder and that the two shoppers had merely eaten one hot dog so far today; that is, one hot dog between the two of them.

We eventually took over the corner of the bar, and sat down for some frozen margaritas and food.  The margaritas were not universally loved, in fact they weren’t really loved at all, but I suppose they weren’t the reason we were here anyways.  Our purpose for being here was some good Cuban food, and in pursuit of that, we started the meal off with two orders of the Grilled Corn Mexican Style.  Fantastic fantastic.  I’d never had corn of this style in the past.  I love cheese, and it was covered in it.  I love spice, and it was sprinkled with it.  The flavors blended together harmoniously in joyous revelry.  If I ever return, I will undoubtedly get this appetizer again.

For the main course, I ordered myself Camarones Al Ajillo, which is apparently shrimp in spicy garlic sauce with rice and beans.  I only chose this dish because I saw that the customer who was sitting at the bar before me ordered it, and he seemed like a frequent customer who knew what was good so I followed in his tracks.  I think I made the right decision.  The rice and beans were good, but the shrimp and the sauce they put it in really blew me away.  The rice and beans served its purpose of not overwhelming the senses, and was like an anchor to keeping my senses steady.  Perhaps it was the contrast that made the shrimp taste even better?  It’s quite possible, and I was very pleased with this dish.

My friends unfortunately came in and ordered some of the most American dishes possible, which denied me the possibility of sampling more Cuban cuisine. One went with the Grilled Steak & Corn Salad; the other got a Bacon Cheeseburger.  They both ordered their meat medium-well.  Maybe I don’t like my meat that well done, or maybe the restaurant just wasn’t so great at making these everyday dishes.  Either way, I was pretty unimpressed by it.  The salad underneath the steak was fairly palatable.  However, I was told it was far too filling, and this again reminded of the shear portion size in a typical US restaurant.

I an most assuredly very content with my order here as well as the appetizer.  I am willing to wager that if my friends had ordered better, I would’ve thought even more highly of this little joint.  Unfortunately, their meals were very unspectacular in my eyes.  But, I look forward to bringing others here to at least enjoy the Mexican style corn in the future.

Num Pang

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This is a place I’ve always heard of and finally, following two Cambodian’s, I stopped in for lunch.  Though this is New York City, Cambodian sandwich shops are still not common around here.  I actually have no idea what to expect from Cambodian food at all.  We finally got to the actual storefront after parsing through massive crowds gathering for a street fair on University Place.  On quite a few occasions, we were tempted by the fried Oreos, but our resilience and strong will eventually led us to the little two-floor sandwich shop.  Other friends then joined, and our duo became a tetrad.

I ordered a Grilled Skirt Steak, but was too preoccupied with being social to notice what others had ordered.  The sandwich, was larger than most, but smaller than many that I have eaten.  I say this with Philly Cheesesteaks in mind right now because those are usually on the larger end of the sandwich size spectrum.  Still, I devoured it with great haste, tasting within it fresh, but not whole wheat bread, above average meat, delicious chili mayo, and nice cool cucumbers and pickles which were perfect for the summer season.  I was told though, after the meal, that this was unlike typical Cambodian food, and I shouldn’t expect Cambodian sandwiches with steak should I ever decide to visit Angkor Wat.

Though it was indeed a delicious and extremely unique sandwich, it didn’t bring me the kind of exuberance and joy I had hoped for.  It was after all, still a sandwich, and it takes relatively extreme sandwiches to jolt my tastes.   Perhaps, I’m still biased as usual, and continue to find fusion foods and non-traditional cuisines subpar in comparison to their original counterparts.