Maki roll insanity. Yes this is Americanized japanese food. Yes there’s spicy mayo all up on that bitch. This is still by far my favorite sushi place in Manhattan. Do I come here for authentic japanese cuisine? No. I come here for the ridiculous, unnatural combinations of fish, rice and sauces that result in an umami explosion in my mouth. Those gargantuan pyramids of rice, fish and mayo at the front of the photo are collectively called a PIZZA ROLL. I rest my case.
I’ve already written about Beyoglu in the past, but it’s been a while so I’ll remind you. You need Beyoglu’s meze in your mouth. Right. Now. It comes with light, fluffy Pide bread that makes you forget all the sadness in the world. I swear I had a papercut that just sealed right up after I swallowed some of the patlıcan salatası (cold eggplant salad). The only negative is that no other mediterranean spreads and dips will be good enough for you anymore. Ever. You’ve been warned.
There is seriously nothing that makes me happier than stuffing great food in my mouth, so I’m always looking for new places to add on to my ‘to-eat’ list.
One of those places just happened to be Khe-Yo in Tribeca by my apartment. I wanted to try it because it’s the only Laotian restaurant in NYC – a rarity. It was like a unicorn in a haystack (that’s how the saying goes, right?) so I bookmarked it for a future point in time when it’d be appropriate to go, since it holds a THREE DOLLAR SIGN status on Yelp. I knew it’d have to be saved for a nicer occasion, because I need to be more careful how I spend my money (aka I’m broke as hell).
And then one of my best friends Joii came back to visit this week. Before she got on her flight here, she sent a message saying she wanted to have dinner at Khe-Yo when she landed. I told her I’ve been dying to go there, so YES. This is how I know she is my soul mate.
Before I even walked inside, I knew this was a sexy, trendy spot based on just the exterior. The dark door combined with the unassuming sign hanging above it could be easily missed. I walked in and the bare wood tables with the exposed brick walls and dim lighting immediately made me think, “This place is HIP AS HELL – Joii will love it.”
When she got there, we ordered a bunch of stuff and a bottle of white wine while we waited for Shirley.
We started off with sticky rice served in a bamboo basket with a side of mashed eggplant and bang bang sauce ($FREE, pictured top center and left). This is the equivalent to bread and butter for the table at other places. It was really good, but then again I am a chronic carb whore. I stuffed that sticky rice in my face like there was no tomorrow. The bang bang sauce was some super spicy chili concoction that made my upper lip sweat, but I couldn’t stop subjecting myself to the delicious pain. The Nam-Kha ($12, pictured center), aka crunchy coconut rice, was great. It was served with spicy kaffir lime sausage, and let’s face it – who wouldn’t like spicy lime sausage and crunchy coconut balls in their mouth?
Next is the Kona Kampachi Laap Pa ($17, pictured right first photo), which is sorta like yellowtail ceviche. It was served with shrimp chips that you get for $2 in Chinatown. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. It was a little sour, and unremarkable. If I could take back that $17 I would.
Our last appetizer was the Ping-Nok-Noi Bamboo Grilled Ginger Quail ($14). It was the size of a chicken wing. I wasn’t left feeling satisfied. The one bite of tiny bird I had tasted like honey BBQ chicken, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t special. I’d skip this too.
For our shared entrees, Joii chose the duck skewers, Shirley the Ping-Pa whole grilled black bass ($36), and I of course ordered the Tohm-Kem braised pork belly.
It was a lot of work and not enough ROI. Essentially, it was a summer roll with a piece of duck that I attempted to wrap myself, but failed miserably (stuffing went everywhere). I don’t have a photo of my braised pork belly but that was by far the winning entree. The pork belly fell apart when I poked it, so you can just imagine what happened when I ate it – melted in my mouth. It was pretty salty, but it still made me drool. The rice, veggies and mushroom soup it came with were perfect. I want to smoosh my face in it.
The black bass was great, but I couldn’t help but think that my parents make it better. It was good, but the meat was a little dry. This fish still had its head chillin’ on it, which was cool, but didn’t warrant the baller price tag, especially for good/mediocre fish. I would skip this as well.
Overall, I’m happy we had dinner there, especially to celebrate Joii’s return back into mine and Shirley’s arms in NYC. It was a different, interesting experience, but I think it lacked the authenticity I craved. But that’s a fault on my part too, going in with the expectation of authentic Laotian food, meanwhile the true street dishes like these would run 1/8th the price that they did here. Would I go back? Yes, now that I know what I like. It’s a great spot if you want to impress your date, since I don’t think it’d be an obvious choice. You’ll seem so cool, and hip, and in the know – unless they don’t like spicy food, then you’d just be an asshole (everything is SPICY).
My search for the world’s best french fries and mac and cheese is never-ending. Or I just use that as an excuse to continuously eat french fries and mac and cheese every chance I get because I am a filthy carb whore. Every time I think I’ve found the perfect fry or mac, it continuously gets usurped by something crispier or creamier or cheesier or whatever. My favorite fries in the past have been at Stanton Social, then The Diner in meatpacking, then Big Daddy’s on the Upper West Side, then Social Eatz, then Minetta Tavern. I’ve had fewer mac and cheese favorites – just at Coppelia and Heidi.
Now, as part of my ongoing “My Ass Is Fat Because..” series, I’ll be featuring my new favorites, both found at the same place – truffle fries and macaroni and cheese at Elmo, which is a sexy little brunch spot in Chelsea.
I love shoe string fries. There is no other cut that gives potatoes such beautiful, golden, crispy consistency. One order of these truffle fries ($12) is enough to feed four people. It’s freaking GINORMOUS. I got a french fry high just looking at it. If there was no risk of high cholesterol or obesity, I would probably eat the whole thing by myself because I hate sharing fries. But this makes sharing a little bit easier. We split this between 3 people.
Where there’s bacon, there’s Jenny. So I naturally had to try this four cheese mac and cheese with smoked bacon and sauteed mushrooms topped with baked bread crumbs ($10). This is some damn good mac and cheese – even better than Coppelia. This is a very bold statement since I have been a diehard Coppelia mac and cheese fan for a very long time. It’s like that friend who is obscenely nice – you’d be an asshole if you had anything bad to say about them, because there is nothing bad you could say. It. Is. Perfect.
Towards the end of the meal I decided to get creative and partner the bacon and mushroom from the mac and cheese with the truffle french fry. It was the most glorious threesome I’ve ever experienced. Try it.
The carbs don’t stop after fries and mac and cheese. Shirley ordered the Banana Nut Waffles made with pecans ($9). They are fluffy wheat waffles, so that took out at least 10% of the guilt that you’d normally have eating regular waffles. Fantastic.
Sure, carbs digest faster and leave you feeling hungry sooner but don’t let anyone tell you to give them up. Treat yo’self. Especially when it comes in the form of the Holy Trinity – fries, mac and cheese, waffles. The best of all three can be found during weekend brunch at Elmo…until I inevitably find the next best place.
I love cheap instant ramen. The kind that’s $0.85. The kind that’s sealed in crinkly plastic wrap with the little boy on it. I grew up eating the chicken flavor because sometimes, there just wasn’t anything else that could satisfy my sophisticated palate the same way.
Nothing pains me more than waiting 2+ hours to pay $15 for a bowl of ramen at places like Ippudo. Noodles steeped in salty broth with 1000% more sodium than the daily recommendation really shouldn’t rob me of both time and money. I had no idea why I thought Toto Ramen would be any different, but my friend May wanted to go, so I agreed to try it since I’ve never been before.
The experience felt all too familiar: long wait, overpriced ramen, strange rules. We waited about an hour and a half, but the weather was nice so it didn’t feel that long. The restaurant was super narrow and small. We were seated at the bar and the waiter rushed us to order. I decided on the pork buns ($5) and the standard Toto Miso Ramen ($10). The pork buns had huge pieces of fatty delicious pork belly and kewpie mayo.
The ramen I had was nothing to write home about. I really don’t have anything else to say about it other than it was salty. But again, I’m just not a ramen type of gal unless it’s my trusty instant ramen. I’d imagine if you like Ippudo, you’ll like this place just as much, or more because it’s $5 cheaper and has a shorter wait. It’s the more economical choice.
No, Toto Ramen didn’t change my perception of ramen joints. Yes, I would still rather have a Big Mac at McDonald’s. I think universally, no matter where I go for ramen in a restaurant, it’s just going to taste salty. I give up. But you should go anyway (if you like ramen)!
I’ve been on a number of dates these past few weeks, and there was one that I was particularly impressed by. The person was super interesting and cute. The place was one of my favorites, Zenkichi. It was the first date and I already knew we were spending the night together.
It was a date with myself.
I originally had plans to go with my girlfriends that night, but given my forgetful nature, I completely forgot that I had a Franz Ferdinand concert the same night. So instead of pouting about not being able to have dinner with them, I decided to book a reservation for 1 and spoil myself before heading to the concert.
Zenkichi is a modern Japanese izakaya in Williamsburg. The ambiance is crazy intimate with dim lighting, winding walkways, mirrored walls, and private table nooks. The dishes are all small plates made to share (think of Spanish tapas) so the recommendation is 2-3 per person. The servers don’t bother you – instead, there’s a button on the table to call them when you need anything, which means they’re not constantly breathing down your neck, or vice versa ignoring you. I only bring people I care about here. I care a lot about myself, obviously😉
They knew I was a repeat customer, so they greeted me with a cup of sake and cod tempura from the chef. Liquoring me up. They know what they’re doing. Awesome.
I’m a carb fiend so I chose the grilled riceball with spicy cod roe ($6). I never thought I’d enjoy having eggs in my mouth this much. I could eat these all day, every day. It’s served with pickled radish.
For my last two plates, I wanted to try something new, so I ordered the camembert and shrimp corn tempura ($9), and shrimp and nasu ($11). The camembert was perfect with the shrimp for the first one, and you can’t really ever go wrong with cheese. The shrimp and nasu was made of shrimp and cod fish wrapped in eggplant, which was nice, but a little bland (where the sriracha at?..just kidding, don’t ask them that).
I finished off with the Mineoka milk tofu for dessert ($7). It had a rich custard-like consistency. I normally don’t like dessert but it was coconutty, not too sweet, and topped off with red bean and strawberry. It’s the type of dessert you want to slather on Ryan Gosling and then lick off – slowly. Mmm.
I’ve eaten alone before when I traveled for work or volunteering, but this is the first time I ate by myself at a sit down restaurant in NYC. I love eating with my friends and family, but I liked challenging the initial discomfort at the idea of eating by myself.
I’d say about 90% of the other people around me were on a date. I was alone with my thoughts. It cleared my head. I was able to appreciate and focus on myself and the food more.
Was it awkward? Not really. It was a new experience, probably made easier by the fact that the tables were in private booths covered by a curtain.
When I was younger, I used to beg my brother to take me to El Greco diner on the bay where I grew up so I could eat the buttered toast with jam that came with his breakfast. I wouldn’t order anything, while he had a full breakfast (usually the western omelet). I have no idea why I HAD to go to a diner for bread and butter, when I could have easily made it at home. But my brother usually obliged and took me anyway.
Now, more than 10 years later, it looks like I haven’t changed much – except I’ve upgraded from El Greco’s toast with butter to Vin et Fleur’s bread sticks with olive oil. I’m on another level. Vin et Fleurs is a tiny French wine bar in the super sexy South Village neighborhood. If you’re stuck on a date spot, this place is your answer.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am the world’s biggest carbivore. Nothing satisfies me more than a hearty helping of carbs and starch. These bread sticks were incredible – crunchy, crispy outside, soft pillowy insides. They give you just one per person, which is such a tease. The food was nice here too, I ordered the fish & chips. The cod is flaky and YUM.
Vin et Fleurs is also another way to say “Wine and Getting Laid” (my own translation) because this place has some serious intimate charm going on. Bring your lady here if you want to get lucky, and I’d say you have a 64% chance, guaranteed. Bonus points if you offer her your bread stick – ZING! Get it? …
You’re probably under the impression that I am all about dirty, greasy, fatty foods – and I don’t blame you. With all the burgers and fries and pizza and macaroni and cheese I eat, it’s a surprise my arteries are still in tact. I am not sorry for all the sins I have put into my body….where do you think them hips and that booty come from? NOT salads.
But there is another side of me. I’m not always ’bout that “90%-of-your-daily-saturated-fat-intake-in-one-meal” life.
I had dinner at Winebar in the East Village and this time, I ordered GRILLED calamari ($12, not fried) and swigged a bottle of white wine (rest assured, my pinkies were up the whole time). These babies were seasoned with toasted paprika and green salsa, so I didn’t miss their flour-y, battered siblings at all.
As the ultimate carbivore, I have an innate need to always order patatas bravas ($9) whenever I am at a tapas bar. Things aren’t right in the world when I allow potatoes to slip away from me. Especially when they are covered in chili aioli, which is just a fancy way of saying spicy mayo. If calamari was foreplay, these spuds were definitely my climax. Oh god. Just shift your gaze up and eye-fuck those things again. Don’t forget the condom.
Are you a dirty carb whore too? Satisfy your fried potato craving and still feel like a lady at one of my favorite tapas bars. Throw on that guise, but bask in the glory of knowing that deep down inside, you LOVE eating dirty….amirite?😉