A little rum in the tum
You put da drink in da coconut
Yummy but EXPENSIVE nibbles!
Harlem has some DAMN GOOD Ramen!
Last Sunday, I headed to Jin Ramen (http://www.jinramen.com/menu with Lilian and Megan. It was a bit of a trek (took about 30 minutes door to door) but certainly worth it! We saw Jin on a "10 Best Ramen in New York" list and knew we had to check it out! http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/nyc/16860/10_Best_Ramens_in_New_York.htm
As an appetizer, we ordered the steamed pork buns, stuffed with chashu pork, iceberg lettuce and spicy mayo!
The pork buns were absolutely delicious and not too fatty; this may have been a function of the slices of pork we got though. I love the buns at Ippudo and Totto slightly more. I'd be happy to eat any of these at this moment though :)
For my Ramen, I ordered the type that was praised on the list: the Spicy Tonkotsu (pork bone) Ramen. According to the site, "Tonkotsu ramen is the richest and most complex of our ramen broths, and has its roots in Fukuoka. The creamy white soup comes from boiling pork bones, over high heat for hours on end, releasing the rich, hearty flavors of the marrow into the broth." Can you say YUM? The spicy version is blended with the house special spicy mayu sauce (spicy soybean and roasted garlic paste) & rayu (spicy sesame oil). I wasn't sure how spicy it would be, so I ordered the spicy part on the side and mixed it on my own.
I ended up dumping all of the spicy sauce into it. This was absolutely heavenly! I loved the soup spoon it was served with as well - it made it easier to deal with the noodles. Also, I added corn (get more veggies) and added more chashu, because I love that pork goodness!
Although this place is located in a neighborhood I'm not that familiar with (Harlem), it has motivated me to come up here and explore more! The train ride is fairly simple (Jin is RIGHT under the 1 train stop!) and the food is fairly incredible.
Lunch for One
You know when you REALLY REALLY crave a certain food but no one wants to go with you to get it? Well, I felt that feeling last week about ramen, specifically Ippudo (http://www.ippudony.com/). I had only gone there one time and it was during a snowstorm, so the wait wasn't bad. Typically, this place is notorious for epic wait times (1-3 hours), so I went right when it opened at 11am to beat the rush. This was a good call. You may think it is too early for ramen, but honestly, it is ALWAYS time for ramen.
I decided to order the classic Akamaru Modern with Nitamago (seasoned soft boiled egg). The broth, which is pork based and called "Tonkotsu", is absolutely fantastic. Look at this beauty below!
The first time I came to Ippudo, I thought it was the best ramen I ever had. Since this experience, I went to Totto Ramen and it has been my new high bar. Given this comparison, Ippudo is no longer my favorite. While the ramen is still fantastic, I don't prefer the noodles or spicy paste as much.
My main take-away from this visit was to go to Ippudo at weird times and that I LOVE Totto!
All You Can Eat Sushi!
Last week, my block (yay Block 3) at Stern got together to share food, drinks and fun. Last year, we had a really great time at Kumo Sushi in the West Village (http://www.yelp.com/biz/kumo-sushi-new-york-2) so we went back there!
The all-you-can-eat deal is either ~$25 for just the food or ~$35 for food AND sake/beer. Be forewarned that although the sushi is good (it isn't Nobu quality but you also won't get sick) the beer and sake sort of suck. Also, the sake is served in a massive pitcher, so if you don't pay attention, you MAY think it is water and chug it. Again, that may be part of your strategy, so you do you.
Some of my favorite things to order include: the miso soup, avocado salad, spicy girl roll and sexy roll. This place is a such a deal - I've gone here 3x and haven't gotten sick. Also, the sushi tastes very fresh, which is almost surprising giving the low price point; must be a volume play!
I recommend checking this place out if you're down going somewhere that can get noisy/rowdy, especially on the weekend. This is directly correlated to the unlimited alcohol!
The New Location is Right Next Door to the Original - How Convenient!
I met up with Lauren, a lovely classmate of mine, to catch-up over dinner. Lauren recently moved into a new apartment with her boyfriend, another classmate of mine, in Hell's Kitchen. She suggested a spot right near her place: Totto Ramen (http://tottoramen.com/). This well-known ramen spot recently opened up a second location (464 W 51st St, btw 10th and 9th Ave) right near its first location (366 W 52nd St, btw 9th and 8th Ave). Luckily, the crowds haven't gotten to this new spot just yet, so we were able to get a table at 7pm with no problem.
Before we dug into the ramen, we split an order of the pork buns. They were utterly sinful! The pork is melt-in-your-mouth heavenly meat. It is by no means a lean cut of meat. The fat is what makes it so tasty. I'm not normally into aggressive amounts of visible fat (unless it is bacon) but this is something I will welcome with an open mouth. Delicious - a must try if you're here! I thought it was as good as, if not better, than Ippudo.
For my ramen, I ordered the Miso. It looks a bit odd since a scoop of miso and ground pork sit on the top of the bowl. Don't be scared! Just take your chop sticks and mix it in! I tend to prefer Spicy Miso Ramen, but that wasn't offered. To make my own, I ordered a side of rayu. This is spicy sesame oil. It really adds a depth of flavor and isn't overly spicy. If you haven't tried Miso, I HIGHLY encourage it! Lauren doesn't typically order it, but once she tasted the broth, she is now a converted believer!
Also, I used to be scared of the "egg in the soup" thing. Don't be! The egg is perfectly cooked here! The yolk is slight set without being hard or too runny. It has a delicious taste from the soup. Trust me! I was scared too, just go for it.
This is a fantastic ramen spot. If you want to go, you know you have someone willing to join you!
Gyu-Kaku has Deals all Day!
Recently, I met up with Melissa during the week to take advantage of Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Times Square's Happy Hour (http://gyu-kaku.com/ny/timessquare.htm). This location has Happy Hour for lunch (11:30AM - 3:00PM) and dinner (3:00PM - 6:00PM & 9:30PM - 11:00PM). The drink deal during this time is 50% off select drinks. The meal deal is reduced pricing on most menu items.
We ordered the steamed chili dumplings ($6, normally $8), bistro hanger streak ($5, normally $8), sukiyaki bibimbap ($6, normally $10), and chocolate lava cake ($6, normally $8). With a Yelp! check-in, we each got a free edamame ($4 value). Social media has measurable value people!
I didn't snap photos of everything, but trust that it was yummy. The Bibimbap arrived in a hot stone pot. It is served with a raw egg and continues to cook. We didn't realize how hot it was and some of the rice started to get too crispy...nearly burnt. Next time, I'll need to make sure to monitor it more closely!
The dessert was super tasty. It didn't have any Asian twist to it (I love the Green Tea one at Spot Dessert Bar) but it was lovely.
I would recommend only visiting this spot if it is during Happy Hour, otherwise it is a bit pricey for what it is.
Five Minutes Was All It Took for Some IPPUDO!
Tomorrow was a rollercoaster of emotions. There was a snowstorm (see below) BUT school was not cancelled. After trekking through the wasteland outside my apartment, I arrived on campus to check into my flight to Napa TO SEE IT WAS CANCELLED. I checked to see if there were other available flights to prevent a total disaster of my weekend. There were only flights going out on Friday but, naturally, these were all sold-out...UNTIL SUNDAY!
In order to combat this disappointment, Christine suggested we go to lunch at Ippudo (http://www.ippudony.com/) and take advantage of whatever perk terrible weather is; in this case, it is an incredibly short wait time!
We started with the Hirata Buns. They are steamed buns filled with pork or chicken (we picked pork) served with Ippudo's original spicy buns sauce.
These were incredibly delicious! I could have eaten several of them but I didn't want to be a complete animal, so Christine and I split an order and had one each.
While reading the menu and picking what to order next, we each ordered a Sapporo Light.
Out of the different Ramen styles available, I ordered the Akamaru Chashu. This is the original silky "Tonkotsu" (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions and fragrant garlic oil.
This was delicious! Ippudo is certainly worth the hype though I am not an expert on Ramen. I have been happy at many other spots, including Ramen Setagaya and Minca, so I'm not sure if I would bother coming back here if the wait was over 30 minutes. It is good but to my unrefined palate it may be a *tad* overhyped.
Nothing Warms You Up Like Hot Noodles
During a break last week during my intensive class, I stopped by Ramen Takumi (http://www.ramentakumi.com/Web/) with two of my classmates, Tavi and Jessica. We were both in the need of something to distract us from an unending day of back to back sessions.
Jessica suggested this spot and I trust her advice! It was pretty easy to decide what to order: MISO RAMEN! From 11:30am to 3:30PM there is a lunch special and most dishes are a $1 off. My huge bowl of ramen was $10.95 instead of $11.95. You can add extra pork for $2.
This is a great quick lunch that warms you up and fills you up!
One Last Get Together Before Break!
Before we parted our separate ways for break, Melissa and I got together for one last fun activity! We wanted to meet for afternoon tea and did some research. We ended up selecting Cha-An (http://www.chaanteahouse.com/) after debating among many choices. As my review will show you, we may have not made the best decision!
I took a peek at the menu online before we got there. I ordered a dessert set-up: Cha-An's Sweets, with cookies, a fresh baked earl grey scone (the highlight of the visit) and pound cake. This was $16 and I assumed it would included Tea....since it was for Afternoon Tea. I read the fine-print and it was $5 more for tea!! I thought this was a bit expensive for what it was, especially since a tea set-up generally includes tea.
I (unhappily) paid $5 for tea - I got a black tea - Darjeeling 2nd Flush. It was a smallish pot and I drank most of it before my desserts even came. I could get refills of course...but it was $5. Other places I've been for tea, the tea is unlimited. I've been spoiled apparently!
There are much better places in the city for tea. I doubt I'll come back. If you stop by, maybe just order a small dessert - the black sesame crème brulee with black sesame ice cream is "famous" there.
Dinner with Famous People
This past Thursday, I had a truly special evening. In my Digital Media Innovation class, a classmate and I won the opportunity to have dinner with several heavyweights in the digital/tech industry. I knew that my professor (Greg Coleman) and the CEO of LinkedIn (Jeff Weiner) would attend. I didn't know that one of the largest investors in Twitter (Fred Wilson) and basketball legend Dr J (Julius Erving) would be there as well!
I tried to remain calm and not embarrass my professor and his super important (and rich) friends. We dined at EN Japanese Brasserie (http://www.enjb.com/). I only took *one* picture. Naturally, it was of the super swanky drink I ordered: The Local Honey.
This cocktail is made with Yamazaki 12 whisky. local honey with wasabi, Beefeater gin and royal bee pollen. It was DELICIOUS!
Our meal was INCREDIBLE. It was a pre-set menu and we dined on the following items:
Edamame - soaked in dashi (pretty basic, yet the addition was welcome)
Freshly Made Scooped Tofu - served warm with wari-joyu (not sure what the sauce is, but this was one of the highlights of the meal. It was so interesting and the texture was super creamy/soft. Also, it is made hourly!)
O-Tsukuri - chef's sashimi selection (definitely some of the best raw fish I've had in a long time!)
Oysters with Ponzu - chef's selection (these were ok, I had one that was a bit "fishy" and it made me have to chug my lovely cocktail. Eek)
Lobster Ishiyaki - stone grilled lobster with a butter miso sauce (yum city, loved this)
Stone Grilled Kuroge Washugyu Ribeye - with ponzu and arajio (the marbling on this was insane, I can only imagine it was expensive)
Sushi Rolls - chef's selection (basic but nom. I tried an eel roll, I am so adventurous...it tasted like chicken, sort of?)
Seasonal Panna Cotta - with a hojicha cookie (the seasonal selection was chestnut, really lovely)
This restaurant is expensive and certainty worth it. I hope to return soon with friends, even if only for the drinks!