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Posts posted by jeanki

  1. I lived in Richmond before I moved to NYC, and while we of course have a lot in NYC, Richmond has its own perks, like the unique Mamma Zu's and superior Vietnamese food, and Millie's breakfast food. I enjoyed reading your column, and am about to make a reverse trip to Richmond in a couple weeks to visit some friends!

  2. when the poetry is food...

    Eating Poetry

    by Mark Strand

    Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

    There is no happiness like mine.

    I have been eating poetry.

    The librarian does not believe what she sees.

    Her eyes are sad

    and she walks with her hands in her dress.

    The poems are gone.

    The light is dim.

    The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

    Their eyeballs roll,

    their blond legs bum like brush.

    The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

    She does not understand.

    When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

    she screams.

    I am a new man.

    I snarl at her and bark.

    I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

  3. I've tried most of the Ethiopian places in the city except Queen of Sheba (just haven't had the chance yet) because I really love the flavors, savory and spicy, less cream/buttery and more direct than Indian, but not as salty/soy-based as Asian. I actually think they're all fairly similar; none shines out as the ultimate best or worst. Ghenet is my least fave because it's more watered down to me and somewhat blander, but others may like it for the same reasons. It has the most chi-chi setting of the bunch. Awash I think has the most flavor kick/might be the most authentic, but also leaves my stomach unsettled at times as a result. It's still my fave though (both branches are similar). Meskerem is ok but seems a little blander and inconsistent at times. Ethiopian Restaurant on the UES is probably my other favorite, although again, a little blander than Awash. None of these places is as good though as Addis Red Sea in Boston. (And I hear DC places are even better although I've never been.) I also really like a semi-fusionized but still delicious Ethiopian/Eritrean place called Caffe Adulis which is in New Haven. They used to have a Manhattan branch but it closed (which someone else mentioned earlier in this thread.)

  4. If they had just sent the entire final five home it wouldn't have been a bad thing. Their dishes were just incredibly blah. Even Marcel's was just fancy presentation, the techniques had nothing to do with the flavor profile. (If anything it made it worse.) Although at least he tried to do something different. I agree Carlos should've gone home (he epitomized Tom Colicchio's worst nightmare of contestants just trying to coast by), but he was just the worst of the worst.

    I agree that I think Marcel's bad rap is overdone. He isn't half as insufferable as Stephen was at his worst last season, but the editors are trying way too hard to make him the new Stephen. He's too wimpy at heart I think to really make his comments truly sting. Betty and Frank are the ones who look pathologically hypersensitive for reacting ballistically to someone who is just a kid next to them.

    I wish they had Tony Bourdain every week, his comments are like crack hits to my jaded ears. Hilarious. His dynamic with Michael was great.

    Sam, Ilan and Cliff are cruising to the final 3. I'm crushing on Ilan.

  5. I just saw an online ad for Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger line at Super Target. I've seen Ming Tsai cutting boards before, but his apparently new food line is news to me. There are coupons on Super Target's main page -- looks like there are entrees, appetizers, glazes...

    I'll probably try them, if I ever get to Target (which I don't care for and very rarely shop at). But, for me, this cheapens my image of Ming in my mind. Just like when Michael Graves did a cheesy product line for them. But, hey, I'd likely do the same if there was enough cash!  :raz:


    I agree I don't think starting a line for Target is the same thing as working for Applebee's, although in some ways they obviously are (appropriating something for mass consumption). The whole joy and philosophy of Target is that they have this democratic approach to providing 'designer' lines at low prices. Lots of top name folks are doing the same thing for them, so I actually admire Michael Graves et al for doing so. And I am a huge Target fan accordingly (even their contact lens solution bottles are chic). I wish I lived near a super Target which would be even better. That being said, the quality of some of the designed items are variable, given the price point, but at least they are trying to give everyone a shot at great stuff.

    Applebee's though, blechh. Chain restaurant food isn't bad necessarily because of the recipes, it's the execution that is crap. Tyler Florence is wasting his time (aside from the huge paycheck). If he invented a brand new high quality Cafeteria chain, now THAT would be a cool idea.

  6. I kind of don't expect any sushi place, even good ones, to have excellent take out sushi. By its very nature, the quality of presentation and temperature control will be lost. Plus the only 2 times I've gotten sick on sushi were from takeout sushi.

    Working 12+ hours/day is not condusive to eating out. I asked for recommendations, not a sermon.

    It's not a sermon. I just wonder if high expectations for takeout sushi are unrealistic especially if we're in NYC and not Japan. But it's understandable that you would want the best possible takeout sushi, to take the sting out of a 12+ hour workday.

  7. Really sorry about this.  There were several things on their menu that I really liked. But never, when I've been there, were there more than 3 or 4 tables filled.  And it was a fairly large restaurant.

    I felt the same way, outside of a couple of small parties I saw hosted there. I'd often ask myself how they stayed in business--Question answered.

    I know, it was only filled during Dim Sum hour which of course you make less money off of (lower prices). It was one of the best dim sum's I've ever had; they even brought out sublime jellyfish and congee. Dinner was always great when I went too, especially the seafood; it's sad that the buzz never caught on for this place, which I thought was one of the best authentic Cantonese joints I've ever been to.

  8. Almost everything is good there. Solid everytime. There's nothing amazing though.

    My experience has been a little different. I think there are a number of amazing items (painstakingly enumerated above) and quite a few poor ones. For example, the basil beef, basil chicken, basil anything: the sauces are sweet and gloppy, reminiscent of bad American-Cantonese food from the 1970s. I've found that to be the case with many of the entree dishes from the heart of the menu. Whereas, on the whole, most appetizer, soup and noodle/rice dishes I've tried from Saigon Grill have been exceptional.

    I agree I find the entrees gloppy and cloyingly sweet. As a result I just don't agree with all the hype about Saigon Grill. And personally, I don't even think the appetizers and soups are that impressive relative to versions I've had at New Pasteur or Nha Trang or even Bao Noodles. The pho is mediocre, and there's always an off taste to the goi cuon. The bun is the only thing I usually order there, and even that is just ok to me/you're hungry after 1 hr. Nearly every Vietnamese place I've been to anywhere is superior to Saigon Grill, and yet it's packed and people rave about it. I just don't get it.

    (Maybe it's just a location thing. Shun Lee Palace also gets similarly hyped up and it's just the location I think.)

  9. I love Korean food, but haven't tried making any dish yet.  I particularly love Japchae (or Chapchae) and Kimchichigae (Kimchi soup).  I'd probably the recipes you have here.

    I make a quick and easy version of kimchi jigae at home.

    First I dice some pork loin and marinate it in soy sauce, sesame oil, and aji-mirin.

    Then I crush some garlic or chop it finely. I saute the garlic in canola oil and then add the pork loin and saute until it just turns almost brown (about 4-5 minutes) and then add about a cup to two cups of kimchi (well-fermented/not newly bought), and saute the whole damn thing. (You can also add some chopped onion too.) Then I add a long dash of more aji-mirin, a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil and saute some more, about 3-5 minutes total. (I think sauteing the kimchee adds another level of richness to the overall taste.) Then I add about 2 cups of water. I let the soup come to a boil and then I simmer it for about 10-15 minutes. When it's almost done, I add a box worth of diced soft tofu and cook for about 2 minutes more. At the end I finish with some chopped scallions and black pepper.

    It's not necessarily the most authentic way to make it (the pork I use is fairly lean, and the aji-mirin is my own secret ingredient), but it's good enough for my kimchi jigae cravings. Enjoy!

  10. I like to add a dollop of oyster sauce when I saute (in canola oil) baby bok choy with garlic, and maybe a dash of shaoxing rice wine too. I usually blanch the bok choy in boiling water first to make it more tender. When I saute snow pea shoots or leaves I just use the garlic, oil and wine and I don't blanch them. Salt and pepper to taste of course.

  11. mamma zu still has the same rotten service. There is a difference between attitude and bad service and they cross the line too many times: forgotten meals, entrees before appetizers, never refilling water or beverages. BUT, the food is great. Edo's does as good a job and they serve broccoli rabe while mamma zu tends to have escarole. Either way, they are garlicky and delicious.

    Nobody gives the Jamaica House on Broad St. near VCU much credit. Fantastic and authentic Jamaican food, and the line out the door at lunch proves it. Also we are blessed with a number of great Vietnamese Noodle joints: I prefer the Pho So #1 on Horespen Rd behind Full Kee, but all of the restaurants in that block are good.

    You're totally right, Richmond has an unusually terrific array of Vietnamese restaurants, almost all of which are bargain cheap. Nothing in Manhattan where I lived afterwards comes close to my old Vietnamese faves in Richmond (I left in 2000).

    It's funny to hear the service at Mamma Zu's hasn't changed in all these years. I found it part of the unique experience, as awful as it was. It was funny in a 'screw you we know you'll eat here anyway because our food is THAT good.' and it is! best cannoli I ever had also, like butter.

  12. smgarsh:

    i know.  but people are only allergic to MSG when the cook is Asian.

    Do we need any further stereotype?

    Nathan may have a point. No one seems to be making a negative ruckus about Wylie Dufresne who makes a whole science out of adding powdered food industry additives to his dishes for unique textures. Some of the stuff he was adding in his Iron Chef episode (like carrageenan, although I guess like MSG it is derived from seaweed) looked quite synthetic/artificial. And I think he has every right to; he knows what he's doing with it, and it's still safe.

  13. Here's probably the first evidence of some "mainstreaming" of Korean Food:


    The new Momofuku Ssäm Bar in NYC, opening "soft" this weekend and soon to the public.

    A ssam is essentially the Korean equivalent to a Burrito. The one currently served on Momofuku's lunch menu is "Berkshire pork, rice, edamame, onions, pickled shiitakes, and kimchi in a wrap"

    And herein lies the rub; there is no such thing as a Korean burrito, at least the way David Chang has conceived it. He's riffed very tangentially on the tradition of wrapping Korean BBQ pieces of meat with rice and dwengjang paste (fermented soybean paste) inside a large lettuce leaf. The leaf is folded into a bite-sized bundle and eaten as a little 'burrito' if you can even call it that. The lettuce itself is called "ssam".

    But as in the Aspen article you quoted, David Chang has no hesitation in adapting Asian prep ideas and creating what he calls American dishes like his new style ramen, even if they have virtually no similarity to the original dish it riffed off of. Whether this is innovative or disturbing is a matter of debate. I guess it's a metaphor for all cultural assimilation debates. Are you selling out/diluting the original into oblivion by adapting a dish for mainstream palates, or are you creating something wholly new, unique that still bridges the gaps?

  14. While I agree MSG certainly occurs in nature, there is a difference between substances in their natural state and those that are distilled and concentrated. Even different types of salt taste and look differently depending on how it's created even if it is basically the same stuff chemically.

    While I agree some of the anti MSG hype is somewhat overdone, perhaps even vaguely racist, and not always scientifically based, I think it is going to the other extreme to say that people never have headaches due to it, given that as a powdered additive it is in a more potent form.

    Personally I've never had headaches from MSG, but when I've had it 'straight' as in ramen noodles or greasy dive Chinese takeout, I do notice a specific sleepy/woozy feeling from it that I do not get with smaller amounts. I'm sure other people have their own sensitivities and reactions to it. To say it's purely psychogenic is in itself an unscientific statement.

  15. According to Florence Fabricant in the New York Times the Chinatown location of Sweet-n-Tart has lost it's lease and closed.
    SWEET-N-TART a cafe and restaurant at 20 Mott Street in Chinatown, lost its lease. Its branch at 136-11 38th Avenue in Flushing, Queens, remains open.

    That totally sucks! That was definitely one of my all time faves!

  16. And I've had dishes like the seafood tofu stew mentioned upthread.  But I like the balance of flavors in the Vietnamese version of such a dish so much better that I'll opt for that every time.

    That's your preference, but I think it's an unfair comparison/they're completely different styles of flavor. For me, I adore both for what they are. It's like saying "I think bouillabaisse is better than cioppino." Feh. And I agree Cho Dang Gol's seafood tofu stew is da bomb.

  17. Any update on any Burmese restaurants in NY? Anyone been to Village Mingala lately and able to report back?

    I love Fermented Green Tea Leaf Salad, so I'm hoping to find a restaurant that serves a good version of it. BIG thanks if anyone can recommend a place to buy fermented tea leaves in NY, or anywhere in North America. I've struck out everywhere.

    I've been to the Upper East Side branch of Mingala Burmese. I really enjoy it and find it somewhat underrated/it doesn't seem as busy as it should be, considering the flavors seem authentic, unique, and tasty. It's a bit kitschy there, sure, but it serves its purpose.

    The menu is indeed wide-ranging as is the cuisine, with some dishes leaning Indian, others Chinese or Thai as others mentioned, and others just plain who knows what. Their fermented tea leaf salad is OK, although I had a better, fresher tasting version in San Francisco once. (That place, I don't recall the name, was incredible.) I like their dumpling dishes which come in a nice, lemongrass-type broth.

  18. Korean cuisine is not all about raw bold flavors. From what I have read, the traditional imperial cuisine of the Korean royal court as well as upper level aristocratic cuisine used to be very mild and more subtle. The vegetarian cuisine of Buddhist temples in Korea are also good examples of lightly seasoned food that allows the ingredients to become the highlights.

  19. It's not the family style concept that bothers me, it's the fact that in 9 out of 10 NY Korean restaurants, starter type dishes come in one size, and that's large.  Dumplings and seafood pancakes come to mind, 10 inch diameter panckaes and 15 dumplings to an order.  If you have two people, it makes it very hard to order either one of those and then have something else as a main and then finish it.  I can't tell you how many times I've asked if it comes in a smaller size and been told no.  Most Chinese restaurants have 4-6 dumplings to an order.

    The sodium content in the food adds up...every dish is salty because as far as I can tell, everything used for flavor in Korean cooking is salty.  And some quick research on the web indicates that your average Korean main dish seems to have over 2000 milligrams of sodium, and that's in just one serving of the main dish alone.....

    Although valid, I don't really find these criticisms of Korean food all that cogent to its particular issues as Korean food per se.

    All Asian food is salty because they are based on either soy or fish sauce. Both are basically hyperconcentrated sodium solutions. It's just the way it is. I don't think Korean is any saltier than Japanese (ever had ramen?) or Chinese or other Asian cuisines (actually fish sauce is way saltier than soy). This dependence on salty flavor partly makes up for the fact that Asian cuisines also tend to be low fat and still need to taste like something. Granted it's not great if you have hypertension, but otherwise with healthy kidneys your body will excrete the extra sodium with enough water. If you don't like salty flavor, then you're kind of outta luck with Asian food (although I agree I don't like salt overkill/there is a way to make it moderately salty and not killer salty).

    Ironically though, the people I see who love to douse and soak their sushi in soy sauce are yous white folks.

    The portion size doesn't really bother me either. Just take the extra home. The banchan is free anyway so you don't have to finish it. And like someone else said, Chinese food is the king of giganto portions you can't finish. (Even Italian too sometimes). I just think of it as a bargain and tomorrow's microwave heat up meal.

  20. As someone else mentioned, most Korean restaurants still depend on a Korean clientele for a large portion of business, and they risk alienating them if their restaurant is too 'watered down' for their taste. If there isn't tons of banchan, huge portions, and salty/spicy flavor, some Koreans start to grumble. Conversely, straight up Korean joints do tend to alienate westerners for the same reasons. It's true that hard core Korean food is an acquired taste for most westerners (even myself, a Korean-American didn't care for most of it growing up although I love it now) because of its non-sweet/non-fatty flavor palate. I do think though that Korean BBQ like kalbi and bulgogi would appeal to most Western palates immediately.

    It's hard for a Korean place to strike the right balance between the two palates/styles. Some modern Korean joints (i.e. Dok Suni's, etc.) tend to do ok in the east/west village because there are enough young trendy non Koreans who are willing to try it anyway. It's interesting to see which places water down what and how (I found Temple's jigae awful because it hardly bore resemblance to the original deal, but I like Dok Suni's because it gives you just enough portions of what still tastes fairly real, if simplified). Conversely, a place can risk alienating both parties if it's in the wrong neighborhood or serving a less adventurous populace. I adored a place called Emo's on the Upper East Side a few years ago because for me it was the perfect balance of a lovely, modern decor, user-friendly menu with dishes that were clean, well prepared yet still authentic tasting (great multi-grain rice), and moderate prices. It died after about a year because unfortunately the Upper East Side is a bastion of culinary conservatism (i.e. red sauce joints, diners, and greasy Chinese takeout) and it wasn't able to draw Koreans to the area (they figured they should just go for the standbys in K-town and Flushing) or UES non-Koreans who are still too freaked by food that actually tasted like anything, and there weren't enough neighborhood Koreans for sure.

    A similar situation happened in Washington DC, there was a really fancy BBQ joint near Foggy Bottom called Jinga, with fancy decor, fancy grills that actually sucked the smoke downward so you didn't reek of odor afterwards, and pretty dishes and presentation. The portions were smaller (and better prepared IMO), but regular Koreans avoided the place like the plague because they thought the portions were too tiny, and back in the mid 1990s, relatively conservative Western DC diners didn't really try the place either. It died shortly thereafter too.

    So it's hard for the general American market to sustain mainstreamed Korean food so far.

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