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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Cooling Off in a Bowl of Japanese Noodles

There’s no better hot-weather meal than cold Japanese noodles, and Saburi works a delicious variation on the theme. Its hiyashi chuka–thin wheat noodles in soy-flavored broth, topped with egg, sliced chicken, shiitake, pickled ginger, cucumber, and lettuce–is a refreshing dish that nails the subtle flavors of the Japanese-Chinese fusion cuisine called wafu-chuka, reports sunnydesu. Also recommended: unagi ishiyaki don (broiled eel on rice), tender inside, sweet and smoky outside, and served hot and sizzling in a stone pot.

Rai Rai Ken, whose ramen gets mixed marks, offers decent cold noodle specials in summer. kenito799 recommends tasty (if inauthentic) cold ramen with chicken, seaweed, apples, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and ginger.

In Midtown, ramen specialist Sapporo unloads an “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” take on hiyashi chuka, says Spoony Bard: cold noodles in dark, sweet broth, topped with beef, chicken, fake crab, egg, red pickled ginger, cucumber, mushroom, seaweed, tomato, and corn. Not bad, but it may overwhelm those of more austere taste.

A relatively restrained version can be had at Menchanko-Tei, which makes more elegant broth and limits its toppings to egg, chicken, cucumber, mushroom, and seaweed. Other cold noodle treatments here include tsuke men (with pork, vegetables, and a dipping sauce) and sesame-peanut sauce with chicken.

For fans of buckwheat noodles, East Village favorite SobaKoh serves cold soba several ways–a terrific recent special paired the delicate handmade noodles with uni and salmon roe.

And in Soho, cold (or hot) soba remains a dependable specialty at Tokyo-based Honmura-An. “Pure serenity,” sighs guttergourmet. “Highly recommended to escape the heat wave.”

Saburi Restaurant [Murray Hill]
168 Lexington Ave., between E. 30th and 31st Sts., Manhattan
212-481-7766
Map

Rai Rai Ken [East Village]
214 E. 10th St., between 1st and 2nd Aves., Manhattan
212-477-7030
Map

Sapporo [Rockefeller Center]
152 W. 49th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan
212-869-8972
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Menchanko-Tei [Midtown]
43 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan
Map

Menchanko-Tei [Grand Central]
131 E 45th St., between Lexington and 3rd Aves., Manhattan
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SobaKoh [East Village]
309 E. 5th St., between 2nd and 1st Aves., Manhattan
212-254-2244
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Honmura An [Soho]
170 Mercer St., between Houston and Prince, Manhattan
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Board Links: Japanese noodle bars
Honmura An

Stuck on This Kebab

The secret herbaceous ingredient in Heider Baba’s koobideh sandwich was driving mr mouther wild. Mint, Thai basil, dill?? Whatever it is, is blended masterfully with the creamy dressing and spiced ground beef. The sandwich also has lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Adds bfez, the adas polo (rice pilaf with raisins, lentils, and more) is great.

Heidar Baba [Pasadena-ish]
1511 E Colorado Blvd., at Hill, Pasadena
626-844-7970
Map

Board Links: great pita sandwich from Heider Baba in Pasadena

Sweet Relief: Mango Shaved Ice

After two weeks of eating Taiwanese mango shaved ice every other day, TonyC says the absolute best is at Shau May on Valley Boulevard.

What makes this mango shaved ice so darned special?

A ton of condensed milk
Free shaved ice refill
Plenty of fresh mango chunks
Mango juice in addition to condensed milk
Various bits of almond/fruit jelly squares
AND a whole cup of mango jello on top

They’re running a buffet special for $4, plus $1 for shaved ice. Shaved ice alone is $2.99, an unbeatable deal for flavor euphoria.

Shau May Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
250 W Valley Blvd., between New and Del Mar, San Gabriel
626-282-7123
Map

Board Links: Best Taiwanese Mango Shaved Ice (at least in the SGV)

A Wiener Winner, with Chili

Hot Dog City takes its hot dogs seriously, says Melanie Wong. They use Schwarz sausages, with natural casing. Their chili dog, $3.75, is everything a chili dog should be–meaty, brown, and glorious. Chili is made on premises. It’s made almost completely of hand-chopped, irregularly-sized, browned, and braised beef, with creamy red beans. It has a resonant, meaty depth to it. It’s not about the seasonings; it’s more a robust experience of pure beefiness. Cheese and onions are grated and chopped to order, ensuring freshness. The steamed bun is fluffy, and the dog itself is perfect–snappy, plump, and juicy. Every bite yields a burst of liquid meat flavor. The place is never that busy, and patrons worry it may not make it. So go, please!

The downtown location is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and closed on Sunday.

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
631 4th St., Santa Rosa
707-579-4885
Map

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
804 Coddingtown Ctr., Santa Rosa
707-545-5448
Map

Board Links: Hot Dog City, Santa Rosa

Clearest of Corn Soups, and an August Wine Deal, Too

While most chowhounds consider XYZ merely decent, nja says some really spectacular dishes are buried in the menu. If you order well, you can have a meal of Myth-like quality. The big news, though, is their wine deal. Through August, any bottle on their list is half price. And the list is deep, with lots of Loire, Burgundy, and domestic Pinot Noir choices. You have to actually dine to get the deal though; it’s not offered at the bar.

Their best dish by the far is corn soup, with an intense, sweet, bright, clear corn flavor, plus a few cockles for garnish. Best of the entrees is scallop with corn risotto. Crab frito is also worthy, and gazpacho (with some smoked prawns) is is clever but the prawns will probably be better a bit further into the season.

The best option might be lunch: the wine deal is in effect, and a lot of the best dishes are available for a lower price.

XYZ [SOMA]
181 Third St., at Howard St., San Francisco
415-817-7836
Map

Board Links: XYZ: Half price wine (thru August) and great corn soup

Nutella

Nutella is a delicious and creamy chocolate/hazelnut spread. You buy it by the jar, and it has lots of uses beyond eating it with a spoon.

Spread it on toast, good bread, croissants, waffles, pancakes, crepes, even tortillas! You can dip fruits too (bananas are wonderful with Nutella).

Sandwich it between two shortbread cookies.

Add it to ice cream base, before freezing.

Make Nutella ravioli! Just fill the ravioli wrapper with Nutella, brush egg wash around the edges and seal. Fry and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Donut hole extravaganza! Here’s a photo Weez took of some donut holes filled with Nutella and hazelnut gelato.

Board Links: Nutella…....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Favorite Pretzels

Martin’s pretzels are a favorite in New York. They can be ordered online or picked up at greenmarkets in NYC. They make hard pretzels, salted or unsalted, and they’re very good!

Also very popular are Snyders and Utz’s, both from Pennsylvania.

An unusual style of Pennsylvania pretzel is called “Unique,” which is both a style and a brand making that style. Unique Splits are extra dark, and come with extra salt–amazing and super crunchy.

Karl S is more old school, preferring Brachman’s twists, which he deems a delightful textural pleasure.

Board Links: Do you have a favorite brand of pretzels?

Ideas for Crabmeat

Here are some ideas for cooking with freshly picked crabmeat beyond the obvious choice of crab cakes.

Variations on crab salad: crab Louis with avocado; crab salad stuffed in avocado or tomato halves; crab dressed with vinaigrette, served over greens.

Crab au gratin (mix crab with white sauce, minced shallots, a bit of parsley, and good quality white cheese like fontina, and bake or broil).

Crabmeat rolled in crepes and laid in a pan, topped with tomato sauce flavored with cloves (a dish Pitu discovered in Martinique).

Cook a full head’s worth of minced garlic slowly in plenty of butter. Stir in crabmeat until heated, and serve with fresh sourdough (toodie jane).

Make a cheese sauce, stir in crab, and use the mixture to fill phyllo dough triangles (fl bob).

Anya L recommends recipes for crabby Carolina rice, crab quiche, and crab imperial.

Board Links: What to do with fresh picked crabmeat?

Measuring Butter for Baking, Without a Scale

It’s easy to measure butter for recipes calling for warm butter: let it soften, then scoop with a measuring spoon and level off. But if a recipe calls for a quantity of cold butter, and you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can try the water-displacement method.

Fill a liquid measuring cup with water equal to the amount of butter you need (e.g., if you need 1/2 cup butter, put 1/2 cup water in the measuring cup), and add chunks of butter until the water doubles its original volume (in this example, to 1 cup). Just be sure your measuring cup is large enough to accommodate twice the volume that must be measured out.

The water-displacement method also works well for measuring solid shortening and peanut butter. It’s scientifically sound (it uses the Archidemes principle!), and accurate for baking.

Board Links: How to Measure Butter from a Block of it

Williamsburg Taco Update: Mexican Bites at an Italian Eatery

Taco Bite is a streetside window taqueria that sprouted late last year from one wall of an Italian restaurant. Tacos are $2 each and tasty–steak, carnitas, or chicken on a pair of lightly griddled corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and salsa, reports thievery. The benchmark for Williamsburg taco lovers is Matamoros Puebla Grocery, and a couple of hounds say Taco Bite measures up (though another finds its stuff on the dry side).

Also on the menu: burritos, a “Mexican cheeseburger,” and daily specials such as chicken quesadillas. They serve beer and have some outdoor tables for hanging out.

Another decent neighborhood spot is Mexico 2000–like Matamoros, a grocery with a kitchen in back. Its tacos are pretty good, says bill-p, though a notch below Matamoros’s.

Speaking of Matamoros, it continues to turn out great tacos, tortas, and other Mexican chow–months after the owner told regulars that rising rents were about to force him to sell the business. Seems it isn’t a seller’s market, so he’s rethinking his plans. In the meantime, pass the salsa.

Taco Bite [Williamsburg]
905 Lorimer St., at Bedford Ave., at Monsignor’s Italian Restaurant, Brooklyn
718-963-3399
Map

Mexico 2000 Grocery [Williamsburg]
367 Broadway, between Keap and Hooper Sts., Brooklyn
718-782-3797
Map

Matamoros Puebla Grocery [Williamsburg]
193 Bedford Ave., between N. 6th and 7th Sts., Brooklyn
718-782-5044
Map

Board Links: Just one taco, one at a time, in Williamsburg