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Aaron T

Rochester, NY

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From the sublime stuff to basic Rochester stuff. The summer issue of "edible Finger Lakes" magazine has an article titled : "The Dog Has It's Day...Hots are Haute Cuisine in Rochchacha"

Talks about our hot "history" and features DogTown on Monroe Ave.

http://www.ediblecommunities.com/fingerlakes/summer-2010/eater-at-large.htm

Also articles about salt potatoes, farming, wine, local products, eating.

You can pick up a free paper copy at Hedonist Chocolates,,,,or read it online.

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I've been quite pleased with Warfield's both times I've been. Very much looking forward to a return visit this Tuesday.

El Dorado isn't bad, but for the Rochester area's best Mexican food head to El Rincon in Sodus, or Rio Tomatlan in Canandaigua.

Rochester's food scene just got far more interesting with the opening of two passable banh mi shops a few block from one another on Monroe Ave. I prefer Whatta Banh Mi.

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If you liked Seoul Garden check out Sodam in the Gennessee Regional Market. Their seafood pancake is unreal.

Nice find with Bombay Chaat house. Its one of Rochester's best kept secrets. I also really like Haveli, about a quarter mile further down E. Henrietta, for my regular Indian fix.

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If you liked Seoul Garden check out Sodam in the Gennessee Regional Market. Their seafood pancake is unreal.

Nice find with Bombay Chaat house. Its one of Rochester's best kept secrets. I also really like Haveli, about a quarter mile further down E. Henrietta, for my regular Indian fix.

Sodam or Young's are good choices. Seoul Garden hasn't been above "decent" for a while.

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Sodam or Young's are good choices. Seoul Garden hasn't been above "decent" for a while.

I do trust your judgment Gordon, especially on Korean food, but as I mentioned above, I was pleasantly surprised by Seoul Garden on that visit.

I haven't had enough free time to do any serious eating around Rochester in quite a while, but on a recent visit I managed to squeeze-in a quick detour through the Public Market, and down Monroe Ave, to grab at least a few bites.

At the market, of course, we needed some Poutine - thanks yet again Gordon for the heads-up!

Le Petit Poutine

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It was a very well-made poutine, with good, fresh, crisp fries, cheese curds, and an excellent, rich brown gravy. They weren't especially busy when I ordered, yet they made a fresh batch of fries for this order. I'm really impressed with that kind of dedication to the craft, and it showed: the fries were good on their own, even better with the gravy. I could even stop there, good gravy fries are a thing of beauty, but the cheese curds do add that specific squeaky, poutine weirdness that's petty satisfying as a whole. Next time, I'm trying the breakfast poutine.

While at the market, we couldn't resist some Tacos from Monterey Tacos, beside the bakery. We got a mix of pork, beef and chicken, and they were all pretty tasty, if not mind-blowing. The beef benefited from the inclusion of some rajas, and all of them were better with a splash of spicy salsa. Ultimately perfectly decent traditional-styled tacos: nice fresh soft corn tortillas (yes, you can get flour tortillas if you must... but come on, they're tacos... ) good stewed or roasted meats, just a little onion and cilantro, that's all you need.

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Over on the other edge of the market, it's hard to pass the empanada stand without grabbing at least a few... I really wanted to like the breakfast empanadas, and the pizza version, but I really only enjoy the beef, which is fine, I can leave some room for more grazing.

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Oh, right, and there was a lot of good-looking produce at the market as well. It always weirds me out to see all the pineapples and mangos and bananas, but if you look carefully, you can actually find some local farmers selling local produce. We scored some ramps and fiddleheads, probably the last of those for the season, but there's plenty more good stuff coming...

After leaving the market, we took a drive down Monroe Avenue to check out a couple of new-ish places. There's actually been a bit of local press about these spots so while they're not dramatic discoveries of obscure restaurants, it's worth mentioning that they're really good!

Despite the silly name, Whatta Banh Mi it turning out some delicious Vietnamese sandwiches. We just got a Roast Pork version, but one of the really nice things about this place (as well as the newish Lee's further up Monroe toward Brighton) is that they have a wide variety of sandwiches. The other places I've gotten Banh Mi in Rochester have generally just had one kind: the classic melange of odd pork cold-cuts. Nothing wrong with that, it makes a great sandwich, but it's nice to have some options. And even beyond the variety, this is the best Banh Mi I've had in Rochester, and one of the better ones I've had anywhere. The roll is just about perfect: crusty, yet light and airy. They crisp them up to order in little toaster ovens behind the line. The roast pork was very good, and the pickled vegetables, cliantro and thin slices of jalapeno were in perfect proportion. And it was pretty big, especially considering that it's only $3.50. They're located right next door to a Subway, and if there's any justice in this world, people will wise-up and get the better, cheaper sandwiches at Whatta Banh Mi (673 Monroe Ave.)

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Just a couple of doors east on Monroe Ave is Han Noodle. This is one of the more exciting openings in quite a while, as far as I'm concerned! It's a great idea - a casual place with a lot of noodle soups, and other dishes that can act as a quick snack, or a full meal. Even better, they're offering some traditional regional dishes that I haven't seen in the city before, sometimes in straight-ahead trad versions, sometimes buffed-up in trendy presentations. I found both approaches produced pretty consistently delicious food. Their web page states: "No fusion. No gimmick. We cook the way we want to eat." and that's fine, if not totally accurate, there's certainly a bit of fusion creeping in around the edges...

On that modern, trendy side, they offer steamed buns with various fillings. I thank/blame Momofuku in NYC for making them popular in the mainstream a few years ago, but of course these kinds of buns, with various fillings, are traditional snacks in many parts of China. The versions served here are a little of both: the very successful Pork Belly buns, dressed with tangy hoisin and chopped peanuts, could be right off the Momofuku line (although I did miss the cucumber... ) but the brisket version was much more rustic, featuring a rough chop of fatty, sinewy, sometimes chewy meat, as one might find in a traditional Chinese soup or stew. There are also spicy chicken, and shitake and bamboo versions we did not try.

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A starter of Cumin Beef was not as saturated with cumin as the versions I tend to get in Sichuan restaurants, but the extremely tender slices of beef were nonetheless very tasty, a little spicy, and an absolute steal at $3.

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The Szechuan Pepper Mini Cuttlefish were beautifully-cooked, just barely done, so they stayed tender, not too rubbery. The texture may be a challenge for some, but if one likes grilled squid, these shouldn't be too big a leap, although the varied shapes of the whole tiny cuttlefish create some strange sensations. But more to the point, I'd eat just about anything in the sauce that's applied here, a thin marinade tingling with the numbing spice of Szechuan peppercorn. I found myself dipping buns in that sauce, dragging the cumin beef through it, drizzling it on anything.

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I find it a little odd that the Scallion Pancakes are served with sour cream. That doesn't mean it's not tasty though!

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The Roast Duck Noodle Soup looked fantastic, and the person who ordered it said it was excellent. I would have stolen a taste, but all the broths (except a vegetable stock) are made from both pork and shrimp, and a shrimp allergy made that a little too perilous for me! I think they really might want to highlight that on the menu: I saw it in a review and asked, but I wouldn't have guessed that there would be shrimp in a pork noodle soup, or brisket... Shellfish allergies are not all that uncommon, so beware! But if you're cool with both pork and shrimp, get a noodle soup, they're clearly a specialty of the house.

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But it is Han Noodle, so I had to get some pasta of some sort. No problem, one of my favorite Sichuan dishes is available: Dan Dan Noodles.

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This is a very credible version of this classic, a bit more saucy than I'm used to, but that's not really a complaint. The gravy-ish sauce had a great flavor, spiked with both chile and szechuan peppercorn heat, and there was ample coarsely-ground pork too.

One member of our party needed to avoid the spicy ingredients that are pretty prevalent here, so we got a basic stir-fried rice noodle, with chicken and shrimp. It was very well done, if by definition a little plain.

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On the more spicy side was the Chuanjiao Pork. Chuanjaio is another name for those mysterious Szechuan peppercorns, and this dish indeed bristled with that flavor. The dish as a whole was on the dry side, in the style of many traditional Sichuan dishes, but the pork itself was tender and juicy, and very flavorful. I liked it a lot.

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There's LOTS more on the menu to try, so more visits are in order. The prices are pretty ridiculously low, almost everything is under $10, with a lot of starters under $5, so it's a great place to experiment, it's not as if you'll be out a ton of cash if you don't happen to like something!

Han Noodle Bar

687 Monroe Ave.

http://www.hannoodlebar.com/

Good times for Asian food on Monroe ave...


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Excellent post, Phil. Thanks for sharing. I'm making a swing back home next month but not sure I'll make it to Roch. Any chance of me scoring a Chang-like bun in Philly?

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My experiences at Han have been mixed. I loved the pork belly buns but watching them take frozen buns out of a package and place them in the steamer was disappointing. I know Chang himself outsources his buns but I don't think his source is the freezer aisle at a local asian supermarket. My dan dan also had a medicinal/metallic quality toward the bottom of the bowl.

I'm also a big fan of Whatta Banh Mi. I love their grilled pork variety and their taro boba is delicious.

For more Vietnamese fare check out the new Viet vendor at the public market. They are set up in the indoor area opposite the seafood vendor, sorta. Grab a pork skewer and a hot soy milk. For $3 its tough to do much better.

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I know what you mean about the buns, but I do think the dirty little secret is that the vast majority of places get those buns shipped-in, prepackaged. As you mentioned, even David Chang buys them, rather than making them. And the bottom line was the buns I had were tender and fluffy, so I'm going to pretend that I don't know where they come from, because I enjoyed them!

And that metallic thing you detected with the Dan Dan noodles can sometimes happen if those Szechuan peppercorns build-up, I'm at the point where I dig that, but it certainly can be disorienting!

I did notice the Vietnamese vendor at the Public Market and was indeed tempted by the skewered meats, they looked pretty good, but I was saving myself for Banh Mi, and Han snacks.

And hey Cinghiale: yes, believe it or not, you actually can get some Momofuku-ish buns in Philly. Sadly there seems to have been some kind of coup at the Tyson Bee's truck, and they're not in business any more. They made a tasty version... But you CAN still get some pretty good ones at Chifa, the Garces place at 6th and Chestnut. And also at a little Korean/Japanese place called Doma at 1822 Callowhill St. OK, maybe not quite as good as the Ur-buns at Momofuku, but close!


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Tried a Banh Mi from Lee's, on the eastern end of the Monroe Ave strip before it turns into Brighton.

Whatta Banh Mi is kind of a hole-in-the-wall, but it seems pretty deluxe compared to Lee's, which really is just a bare room with a counter, and one unadorned 6-foot banquet table.

The selection and pricing of the sandwiches is similar.

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Lee's does not have bubble tea, but they do offer both Pho and Bun Bo Hue, and the menu is supposed to expand even more very soon.

We just tried a roast pork Banh Mi, the same thing we had ordered at Whatta Banh Mi. I gotta give it to Whatta. Lee's was fine, but the bread was lighter and crustier at Whatta, and the overall balance of ingredients was better.

And I'm not sure what to make of it: the Lee's sandwiches tasted just fine, but they smelled a little weird... just a little funky...

I might give them another visit, maybe to try the soup, but for now, when in the mood for a Banh Mi, it's Wahtta Banh Mi for me.

Lee's Vietnamese Sandwiches

982 Monroe Ave

585-506-9506


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Swans-Sign.jpg

I've been frustrated for years by not managing to getting myself into Swan Market in time for lunch. Their hours are a little quirky: Wednesday-Friday from 8am-5pm, Saturday 8am-2pm, closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. That ought to offer plenty of opportunities, but I could never seem to get myself over there at a good time.

I finally made it my main goal for a recent saturday, and now I'm feeling a little crazy for not going more often.

It's an old-school German deli/butcher/grocery, selling a wide array of sausages, smoked meats, and more. They also have a few tables, and a nice selection of German beer, so not only can you get food to go, you can also sit and enjoy an array of traditional German foods.

Even better, the place has ...character...

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We got a pitcher of beer, dug into the basket of excellent rye bread on the table, and ordered a Sausage Appetizer. At $1.50 per person, it's crazy to not get it... This is the portion for two:

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It's generally variety of cold sausages, like beef sticks, Landjaeger, Venison Pepperoni, Yugoslavian sausage, etc.

There's a board over the deli case listing the various selections available for lunch. There's an array of sausages, and other classics, like Schnitzels, Sauerbraten, Rouladen, Smoked Pork Chops, etc. The plates are only about $7.50 - $8.50 even for the combination platters.

This is a sausage combination, which includes your choice of two sausages, usually from a list of 5-6. We chose a smoked Bratwurst, and a Bauernwurst. (German potato salad and red cabbage on the side.)

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If you can't decide among the non-sausage offerings, you're in luck, there's a combo platter with small samples of almost everything else, in this case, some jaegerschnitzel, roast pork, rouladen and goulash. All four sides are piled-on too: warm German potato salad, Sauerkraut, noodles with gravy, and red cabbage.

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It was all so delicious, we were strongly tempted to order another round of lunch. Our neighbors' jaegerschnitzels just looked insanely good, and the smoked pork chops were not included on the combo plate. But as you can probably tell by looking, this food is pretty filling!

Somehow we squeezed in a passable slice of Black Forest Cake.

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They intentionally are running a little low on everything by closing time on saturday afternoon, but we went up to the deli case and grabbed a lot of what they had left: random sausages, lunch meats, salads, even just good meats to cook at home. Their bacon is serious stuff.

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These little neighborhood groceries, maintaining once-pervasive traditions, are all too rare these days. I'm really glad places like this still exist, partly for the sake of preserving culture, but mostly because the food is delicious.

Swan Market

231 Parsells Ave

Rochester, NY 14609

(585) 288-5320

http://swanmarket.com


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Haunted by visions of the Jaegerschnitzel that the folks next to us were eating at our last visit to Swan's, I couldn't resist another visit while I was back in town again briefly. In fact this is the only place I managed to eat while in Rochester, and I'm convinced that it was the right choice, even though it was about 250 degrees in there... I don't know if they even have air conditioning - if they do, it wasn't working, so an upper-90-degree-day might not have been the best time for a sit-down lunch, but I'd do it again.

Here's why:

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Jaegerschnitzel, with German Potato Salad and Sauerkraut. It's tender, it's crunchy, it's porky, the gravy is outrageous. Totally worth any small discomforts in the environment.

It's hard to resist their sausage combo, so we got one of those too, featuring their Smoked Brat (again) and a "Cajun" sausage, which I'll admit is an odd offering at an otherwise pretty traditional German place (but it's really good...)

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There are only a few communal tables for seating, so you inevitably end up in conversations with the folks sitting next to you, and that's actually part of the charm. We heard some funny stories about visiting Oktoberfest in Berlin, and tips about other local festivals. The consensus around our table was that Swan's is Rochester's best-kept secret.

It's a tiny spot, and not open much, and doesn't provide many options for the vegetarian - even if you're a carnivore, it's tough if you don't eat pork: most entrees and sausages are pork-based, the (fantastic) potato salad and sauerkraut are about 50% bacon... But if you're looking for homey German-style food, served in a friendly, casual setting, Swan's is just about perfect. It doesn't hurt that the it's a bargain, leaving you a few bucks to go up to the deli case and get some sausages or meats or salads to go. I've started a small cult around that potato salad down here in Philly. And no, I don't have any extra.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Have to second everything you said about Swan's. We finally went....a Groupon got us there at last. Your pictures show it perfectly . We sat with some Rochester Germans and had wonderful conversations. But on the really hot day we were there it was a cool oasis so you must have hit a bad day. DH was happy he could get a beer to go along with cold sausage and bread and then hot sausages. After the appetizer and bread I only ate 1/3 of my mushroom gravied porky piece. Excellent! That meant another couple of small meals at home along with a bit of the wonderful German potato salad and the red cabbage....sour but delicious. I love leftovers. Everything was so tasty and the place so friendly.

Must go again soon.

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The wife and I recently ventured out to a new restaurant in town, Nikko, which opened earlier this month. I thought I would post some iPhone photos (apologize in advance for the quality) as I think it worthy of repeat business even at this early juncture. It is part eclectic sushi and part new American food restaurant with a cocktail and wine bar vibe. It is located on the first floor of the renovated residential Capron Lofts. It also shares the same block as Sully's pub which is known for their wood-fired pizza and wings. The co-owner owns Murphy's Law irish pub on East Avenue and the chef was apparently recently the sous chef at Warfield's High Point in Victor, NY. A recent notice was posted in the Rochester City Newspaper Chow Hound column. We went early on a Saturday so we would not have to potentially deal with any early hiccups of the kitchen or staff if stressed by a full restaurant. In addition to sushi, the menu has small and large plates which can be shared. In brief, the food and drinks were quite enjoyable as was the service and atmosphere. In brief, it reminded the wife of one of our regular haunts, Good Luck (except for the sushi bar, they go for a cocktail and wine bar theme and they have their version of a burger). I guess Good Luck should be flattered.

Bar

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Open kitchen and sushi bar

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Bar Menu

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Aviation cocktail

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Grilled Octopus with Marcona Almond & Green Olive Pesto

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Green Gnocchi in White Bolognese sauce

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Salad of Arugula & Black Kale, Marinated Artichokes & Sunchokes, Pecorino Tartufo Cheese, Prosciutto, Hazelnuts, and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

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"Nikkospice" Roll: Spiced infused Tuna with Spicy Edamame

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Nikko Burger: House ground blend, Maytag blue and gruyere cheese, smoky onion jam, roasted garlic aioli, and pommes frites

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Profiterole with Peanut Butter Gelato, Chocolate Sauce, and fresh rasberries

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Edited by Ciao Ling (log)

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