Last month I too made my first trip to Vancouver and must say that I was disappointed with some of the lackluster meals recommended on the Vancouver boards. I saw this article in the Times today and it suggested some new spots that may be helpful to traveling foodies.
Their recommended restaurants include:
GUU WITH GARLIC 1698 Robson Street (Bidwell Street), Vancouver; (604) 685-8678.
MAENAM 1938 West Fourth Avenue (Cypress Street), Vancouver; (604) 730-5579.
MARKET BY JEAN-GEORGES at the Shangri-La Hotel, 1128 West Georgia Street (Thurlow Street), Vancouver; (604) 689 1120.
THE POURHOUSE 162 Water Street (Cambie Street), Vancouver; (604) 568-7022.
REFUEL NEIGHBOURHOOD RESTAURANT & BAR 1944 West Fourth Avenue (Cypress Street), Vancouver; (604) 288-7905.
SHANGHAI RIVER 110-7831 Westminster Highway (No. 3 Road), Richmond; (604) 233-8885.
SUN SUI WAH SEAFOOD RESTAURANT 3888 Main Street (23rd Avenue), Vancouver; (604) 872-8822.
TOJO’S 1133 West Broadway (Willow Street), Vancouver; (604) 872-8050.
VIJ’S 1480 West 11th Avenue (Granville Street), Vancouver; (604) 736-6664.
Fresh, salubrious, innovative, and heavenly divine: these are the elements that fuel my addiction to the flavors of Thailand and Vietnam. Rarely do I have the opportunity to laud over food that is actually healthy and absent of the artery clogging fun that exists in our rendered pork fat-loving society. The masterful synthesis of aromatic herbs, flavorful chilies, rich meat stocks, and an avant-garde use of spices often spark insatiable cravings for the delights of Southeast Asia. Having tasted the exotic dishes of Thailand firsthand, I can differentiate between true multidimensional Southeast Asian cuisine and homogeneously seasoned, Asian-like food devoured by those with less than concerning palates. The cornucopia of basil, citrus fruits, nutmeg, culantro, mint, chilies, and coriander, among others, lend Thai and Vietnamese food its distinctive, multilayered flavors. I grew to adore these tastes from an early age, but just recently have the cuisines of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia flourished in popularity and authenticity stateside. This recent development is allowing more Americans than ever to broaden their horizons and experience a taste of Asia that they may not be accustomed to.
I was standing in my kitchen last week, lamenting over eating leftovers for dinner, when I came across a box of spaghetti, a bottle of Texas Pete, and oddly enough, a jar of peanut butter. I had no intention of cooking such bizarre ingredients together, but it did remind me of slurping Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok. The thought of those soft rice noodles, lightly tossed with egg, fish sauce, tamarind, red chilies, and topped with crunchy peanuts made my mouth water and initiated a desperate craving for Pho Hien Vuong on Spring Garden Street. Leftovers would have to wait...
Pho Hien Vuong is among the most authentic and delicious restaurants serving Southeast Asian cuisine in the United States. Their menu is impressively expansive, brimming with both Thai and Vietnamese favorites such as Phở (Vietnamese noodle soup, pronounced, “fah”), Gỏi Cuốn (fresh Vietnamese spring rolls), Tom Yum (hot and sour Thai seafood soup), and of course: Pad Thai. First on my menu that evening was an order of Fresh Spring Rolls. I asked Trang, my server and fellow UNCG Spartan, to add roasted pork and basil to the delicate Vermicelli rice noodles, plump shrimp, and earthy vegetables, which are then cloaked in a sheet of rice paper and served immediately. The urgency in which the rolls are served is substantial because rice paper quickly becomes rigid and flavorless minutes after being activated in water and rolled into Gỏi Cuốn. The rolls are complimented by a rich, homemade peanut sauce that pairs perfectly with a touch of spicy Sriracha (known colloquially as “Rooster Sauce”) to lend the dish some heat.
My next discovery was Pho Hien Vuong’s trademark Phở Bò Tái (Beef Noodle Soup); perfected over generations of cooking this Vietnamese national dish at home. The fragrant broth of rich, savory beef drippings enhanced with subtly sweet star anise and cassia is what crowns Pho Hien Vuong’s Phở as one of the most superior soups in existence. Paper-thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth steak, a medley of herbs, a mountain of soup-absorbing bean sprouts, a hint of lime, more Vermicelli noodles, and the addition of a jalapeño pepper make this soup a hearty and inexpensive meal even on its own. Trang soon brought over my steaming Pad Thai; glistening stir-fried noodles adorned with crisp scallions and a generous serving of tender chicken and salty peanuts. If I closed my eyes I could imagine being back on Ramkhamheang Road in Bangkok, enjoying the same exact dish minus the 110 degree heat and relentless offers for “sexy” massages.
Pho Hien Vuong has established a loyal following among Southeast Asians and Americans alike over its two years in business. Recipes and cooking techniques that perfectly capture old-world Thai and Vietnamese cuisines with the added luxury of American sanitation and refrigeration requirements allow residents of the Triad to enjoy these authentic and thought-provoking dishes on a regular basis. Dinner prices at Pho Hien Vuong are extremely reasonable for the volume and caliber of food, but the $4.95 daily lunch specials served with jasmine rice and a spring roll are an especially phenomenal deal.
Pho Hien Vuong
Monday through Thursday
*A version of this article appeared in print on October 27, 2009 on page 15 of The Carolinian and online at worldlyeats.blogspot.com
Pizza is the essence of the gods. Originally created by a humble baker in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy and later perfected by Frank Pepe; pizza is one of the most appetizing and consequently, indispensible foods on Earth. It is a common-denominator that is enjoyed world over, regardless of age, race, sex, or religion. But despite its popularity, people generally eat abominable pizza pies. Whether it has sixteen different types of cheese-product exuding from the crust or was drowned in some red shellac-like excuse for sauce made from something that used to resemble a tomato: good pizza has become an elusive delight. The key to a proper pizza is in the crust. It has to have character, to crack like glass when you bite down into it and then culminate in a chewy, pillowy center. Such a crust comes from quality grains, patience in the fermenting process, and most importantly: really hot and really dry, wood or coal fueled ovens. Big pizzeria chains such as Pizza Hut and even the local guys like Tate Street’s New York Pizza use electric or gas ovens that create pedestrian, greasy, and doughy pies which I find impossible to enjoy. Jaded by the tomato pies of Pepe’s and Rome’s Pizzeria Baffetto, I went searching for a slice of heaven in the Gate City and miraculously found a pizzeria with rock-solid fare.
Sticks and Stones Clay Oven Pizza succeeds where so many other eating establishments fail. They have masterfully taken traditional peasant dishes of Italy and infused them with modern flare and elegance without being cliché or over-the-top. In addition, their strong dedication to natural ingredients from local farms and dairies paired with a true devotion to producing the best possible cuisine make dining at their Walker Avenue restaurant an indulgence. Upon first glance of Sticks and Stones seasonal menu, one will notice that each dish has an ingredient inspired name. Delicious and unique options range from classic starters such as the “Gold” (the richest and creamiest mozzarella I have ever had, fried and served with marinated tomatoes and homemade pesto) to more exotic options like the “Rescue Blues” (rosemary garlic fries) and “Bar Lights” (marinated roasted local vegetables with olives, cured meats, and cheeses). The “Peaceful Valley” salad (local organic greens, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, toasted pumpkin and flax seeds, served with a homemade roasted shallot & herb vinaigrette) is exciting enough to make even a carnivore like me cave in and enjoy raw vegetables.
The pizza menu further demonstrates the chef’s artistry and talent of triumphing over culinary risks when paring unconventional ingredients. The “Sweet Carolina” is a pork lover’s dream with Cane Creek Farm’s all natural sweet Italian sausage complemented with roasted chili peppers, spinach, mozzarella, fresh ricotta, parmesan, and a sauce of crushed local tomatoes. The “Mockingbirdsing” is another stunning example of ingredient coupling with its roasted Ashley Farms Chicken and sautéed fennel which is further enhanced with fresh tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella, and gorgonzola. For those looking for a slightly more placid pie, Sticks and Stone’s “To be the One” is a gorgeous cheese pizza topped with fresh basil. It is simple, fresh, and unforgettable.
Sticks and Stones’ starters, salads, pizzas, and desserts exemplify stellar Italian dining. Their recognition of the importance of eating and buying sustainable, local, and organic foods further adorns this hidden Greensboro gem. To boot, they also boast an extensive beer and wine menu, all at reasonable prices. Put the Dominos triple layered, taco lovers, hot dog and cheese stuffed crust, cookie dough topped pizza down and head to Sticks and Stones to atone for your pizza sins.
Sticks & Stones
Visit Sticks and Stones website at SticksandStonesClayOven.com
*A version of this article appeared in print on October 20, 2009 on page 16 of The Carolinian and online at worldlyeats.blogspot.com
When I started writing Worldly Eats, I promised myself that Confessions of a Foodie would never become adulterated with negative reviews. Bad meals are such an everyday occurrence, I would inadvertently devote more attention to flavorless food while neglecting my mission of compiling a list of the world's best eats. That said, I am a resident of Greensboro, I live on Tate Street, and perhaps most relevant is the fact that I am a college student. What does it all come down to? Clearly, I am a refugee of the Great Greensboro Coffee War of 2009.
Tate Street Coffee House has been the one alternative to the imperious coffee chains offered by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for over fifteen years. With its lackluster service, disheveled and polluted atmosphere, and worst of all immoderately priced excuses for coffee; I have grown tired of Tate Street Coffee being the only player in the game. Well, as of September 2009 a new kid is on the block - Coffeeology - and she is certainly a formidable rival for complacent Tate Street Coffee.
All that needs to be said is, Coffeeology is better than Tate Street Coffee. For those of you that intend to fight me on this, I hereby present my evidence to the court. Coffeology was started by a disgruntled Tate Street Coffee employee who was fired without reason, they are open later than TSC, they have free WiFi (TSC does not), they accept credit and debit cards (TSC does not), they serve delicious panini (I am afraid of TSC's "edible" fare), they have outdoor seating (John Carden was quick to inform me that TSC has a brick wall in lieu of chairs/tables), they have a clean and inviting atmosphere (TSC is dusty and unmaintained), they are friendly and considerate (TSC is rude and often sarcastic), they serve a wide range of homemade gelato, all menu items are priced reasonably, and of course most importantly: their coffee not only prevails over Tate Street's, but it is on par with my hometown favorite, Chapel Hill's Caffé Driade. My recommendations include Coffeeology's silky and robust nine-bean espresso (make mine a double) complemented by their indulgent coconut gelato. Whether Tate Street Coffee survives or not, Coffeology will thrive with sophisticated caffeine addicts who demand more than 'fond memories from freshman year' from their coffee bar.
Hours of Business:
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on October 5, 2009
Mochi Ice Cream: it was about five years ago when they became the quintessential conclusion to any sushi dinner at your neighborhood American sushi restaurant. The snack has been a favorite dessert of Japan since its invention in the early 1980's. But alas, both at home and abroad mochi ice cream has become as cliché as Pokémon, Japanese school girls, and Strawberry Pocky... That is until Mochi Cream intervened...
Mochi Cream is not simply ice cream within a sticky pounded-rice outer layer. Mochi Cream's mochi have three (sometimes even four) layers: a delicately flavored, pillowy mochi outside, a middle-layer of airy ice cream mixed with bean paste, and then a flavor-saturated center (usually fruit) that will haunt your dreams with cravings for more. My personal favorite is the Apply Pie Mochi which features a cinnamon flavored mochi, a filling of clove and spice infused apples, decedent and satiny ice cream, separated by a thin and crunchy layer of pie crust; wholly completing the apple pie à la mode experience. It is probably the best apple pie I ever had... and it is not even an apple pie!
If apple pie is not your idea of the perfect ice cream mochi, then certainly one of the other thirty-plus ever changing flavors will stimulate your appetite. Mochi Cream has a menu that covers everything from the traditional (green tea, sakura, black sesame seed) to the outrageous (tomato, carrot, sweet potato) to the ingenious (chocolate banana, lemon camomile tea, orange with fresh cheese, raspberry mille feuille). In true Japanese style, they offer special mochi corresponding to the ingredients that are in season. Currently it is early August and the Japanese White Peach (hakutou 白桃) mochi at Mochi Cream certainly does not disappoint. The peach meat in the center is sweet and tart, not to mention perfectly ripe. Whichever flavor(s) you do decide on, know that you are eating a creative, perfectly planned confection made with the highest quality ingredients.
There are Mochi Creams located throughout all of Japan, I have been to three locations and they are mostly identical in design, quality, and selection. They also ship mochi via next day air anywhere in Japan for an nominal additional fee. As far as I know, Mochi Cream only has locations within larger stores, often near city centers. They also have a website, but it is not yet operational. For this reason, I will post the information of the three locations I know of below.
Mochi very in price between 150 and 250 yen per piece. Do not forget to wait 20 minutes before you eat your mochi. This will allow it to thaw enough so that you may fully appreciate all of the mochi's intricacies. Locations are open until 9:00 pm, year round.
Visit Mochi Cream's website at: www.mochicream.com
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on August 8, 2009
If my Great Grandma Trotta was reincarnated as a hip, young, handsome Japanese man; his name would be Yoshio Mizutani. Mizutani is the proprietor, executive chef, baker, maître d', entertainer, interior designer, bus boy, and most importantly, genius behind Il Piatto. I discovered this secret gem of a restaurant biking home from Ritsumeikan University late one night. In the instant I passed the little hole in the wall I smelt the most aromatic mixture of garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, red pepper, and fresh baked bread that instantly brought me back to my grandmother's kitchen. The next night I returned to have what I can honestly say was one of the best meals of my life. Most stunning of all is how Mizutani has reinvented old-world Italian classics with a crisp, modernistic, spark. Mizutani has without a doubt attained proficiency in the fine art of Italian cooking and now takes awe-inspiring liberties that are smart, creative, and perfectly executed.
My two favorite aspects of Il Piatto are the grace in which Mizutani single-handedly operates the intimate seven-seat restaurant and the design of the brilliant, ever-changing menu. Il Piatto serves its food in a tapas-style, allowing patrons to experience the restaurant's exceptional variety of flavors, fragrances, and characteristics. The entire menu is easily recommendable, so instead I suggest consulting personally with Chef Mizutani to create a fine-tuned dining itinerary to meet your personal tastes. Highlights not to be missed are Il Piatto's wide range of appetizers, any dish containing veal, Mizutani's handmade pasta (you must ask for the "nama pasuta" 生パスタ), and of course the house special chocolate gelato. Il Piatto also features a selection of mixed drinks that are made with top-shelf liquors, reasonably priced, and generously portioned.
In a town flooded with overpriced, monotonous food, Il Piatto is one of Kyoto's restaurants of distinction. Chef Mizutani beautifully cumulates impressive flavors, an exciting atmosphere, and brilliant entertainment worthy of the title of Kansai's (if not Japan's) Best Italian.
Visit Il Piatto's website at: www.ilpiatto.net
*A version of this article was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on July 27, 2009
It is said in Japan that "People from Kyoto spend all their money on kimono and people from Osaka spend all their money on food." (京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ) As a resident of Kyoto, I often find myself incurious with clothing; deciding instead to take the train to Osaka to obtain a bite of Japan's most elusive morsels. Once in Osaka, the smell of yakisoba, kushikatsu, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki will torture your senses until you give in to their decadence. But surely Osaka has some tasty treats that are not so artery clogging, right?
In a town filled with sushi joints out to make a quick buck off of not so discerning foreigners, one must be careful not to get hooked. Tucked away down a back alleyway in the corner of a nondescript black brick building lies Kouyoshi. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Yano serve up what is undoubtedly the best sushi in Osaka and perhaps the most enticing in all of Japan. Upon entering Kouyoshi, one may notice the minimalist sushi bar absent of the typical hourglass shaped bottles of soy sauce and the containers of green mustard meant to emulate wasabi that usually accompanies them. Instead, Mr. Yano masterly seasons his delicacies as to bring out their surreal essence. At times the ideal complement is not soy sauce, but instead a simple sprinkle of sea salt. I was skeptical at first, but after tasting the salt's power to illuminate the unadulterated attributes of each fish, I needed no further convincing.
Kouyoshi is also very reasonably priced considering the quality of the food and the ambiance of the establishment. The Chef's Choice, お盛り合わせ (Omoriawase) is the best option to try a wide variety of fish, especially when it comes to experimenting with options you may not even have known existed. My most memorable pieces included the unctuous Fatty Tuna 大とろ (Ootoro) and silken Hamo Eel 鱧 (Hamo). With beer or rice wine 日本酒 (Nihonshu) included, expect to pay between 3500 and 4500 yen per person for the same caliber of sushi which would cost tens of thousands of yen at similar establishments in Ginza or Tsukiji. Classic mom and pop osushiyasan are a dying breed and it is only a matter of time before Kouyoshi suffers a similar fate. To put it bluntly, when it comes to sushi like this, there are NOT other fish in the sea. Experience this cultural and gastronomic phenomena of Edo Japan before the inevitable occurs...
Koyoshi is open Monday through Saturday from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm, except on national holidays. Only cash is accepted. Mr. and Mrs. Yano can be reached from approximately 4:00 pm until closing time at 06-6372-5747, but reservations are not accepted. Access to the restaurant is minutes by foot from JR Osaka Station, Hanshin Umeda Station, and Hankyu Umeda Station.
Kouyoshi was featured on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
*A version of this review appeared on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on June 20, 2009
Gyoza no Ohsho (餃子の王将), The Supreme Commander of Dumplings, is a chain located throughout southern Japan dedicated to serving freshly made dumplings and order-made Chinese food. Osho is a franchise, which made me hesitant about posting it on my blog. Regardless, I wanted to highlight my Ohsho; my key to eating well while still maintaining a budget. Located across from Hanazono Station 花園駅 off of the Sonobe Line 園部線, Gyoza no Ohsho Hanazano 餃子の王将・花園店 is special to me. The staff is friendly, the food is always consistent and fresh, and the location is literally seconds from my Kyoto dormitory. The night staff makes the best food and consists of cook, Tomotsugu Terasawa and waiters, Kousuke Yoshimine and Yonhimi Okazaki. They know me by name and even have invited me to make gyoza with them; an offer I will surely take them up on!
Gyoza no Ohsho
Visit Gyoza no Ohsho's website at http://www.ohsho.co.jp/
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on June 7, 2009
There is nothing worse than a tourist attraction. When I am abroad I want to go where the locals go. What is the point of eating and drinking some concoction that has been custom tailored to the tastes of an unenlightened invader. I seek out the places that fulfill the essential role of nourishing the locals with soul food reminiscent of their childhoods. The kind of place that is greasy, but in a good way. A good friend of mine, Alejandro Pedro Medina, was born and raised in the Yucatan and he knows his Mexican barbecued meats. I asked him one morning where he recommended for carnitas, the Mexican version of pulled pork. He suggested a restaurant on the main strip downtown... I then clarified my request. "Where do you take your family for carnitas?" I asked. Oh what a question...
Next thing I know, the six of us (yes, Jeremias also came along for the ride) were packed into my parent's rented four seater, sub-compact Dodge. As we navigated the alleyways and neighborhoods of real Cancún, my excitement and hunger for barbecued pork flesh roasted in its own succulent, fatty juices became insatiable. We were not on the mainland of Mexico for five minutes before we arrived at the Holy Palace of Pork. Mi Ranchito is a small, family run barbecue joint that is just close enough to downtown to be easily accessible by bus or taxi, but still far enough away from the Zona Hotelera to avoid being corrupted by arrogant tourists and the greedy proprietors that usher in their company. Mi Ranchito is the perfect undiscovered gem in a town filled with cliche excuses for dining establishments such as Senior Frogs and the shockingly disgusting Hard Rock Cafe.
We met Alejandro's lovely girlfriend and soon the ordering commenced. While they do sell tacos, we were not interested. Our savvy hosts knew better... So we began ordering kilogram after kilogram of rich porky goodness. A kilo of sortido (half pork meat, half crispy pork skin, all chopped and mixed together; my personal recommendation), a kilo of pork carnitas, and of course a kilo of barbacoa. With the legs of our white plastic lawn table beginning to bend under six pounds of glistening pig and lamb meat, we began to stuff the flesh into fresh corn tacos, sprinkle chopped white onions and cilantro as if it were pixy dust, carefully added a fiery dollop of Mexican chili sauce, before finally indulging into bite after bite of carnivorous Mexican history. Wash it all down the traditional way, with a cool glass of agua de horchata, a sweet drink made of rice and almonds, and you have a truly memorable meal. Mi Rachito is located right at the intersection of Calle Nichupe and Calle Abeja. For the best pork in Mexico, Mi Rachito is clearly the kosher choice...
*A version of this article was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on May 18, 2009
The United Kingdom is the place for fish and chips, but to my surprise there were so many average chippies! Regans was founded in 1959 and is one of two shops (the other being Santi's Fish and Chips in Glasgow) that really stood out as offering a bit of classic Britain in modern times. I highly suggest the Monster Cod, but smaller varieties are available. The fish was hot and crispy and perfectly salty. The chips were also perfect, crunchy on the outside with a nice soft potato center. Its a bit of a trip outside of London, but if you do find yourself in Whitton, Regans is the place to have one of the UK's best Fish and Chips.
Regans Fish and Chips
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on May 14, 2009
If you don't already know about Katz's Deli, where have you been for the last 120+ years? Katz's is the home of melt in your mouth pastrami that is dripping in savory juices, hastily but masterfully cut, enveloped in a classified blend of seasonings, and proudly displayed on fresh rye with a smear of golden spicy mustard. Founded in 1888, Katz's Deli is one of the last remaining sites of Old New York in every imaginable sense. The recipes, the decor, the service, and especially the grunge have not been altered in any form or fashion. The one exception: the prices. But $14 is a steal of a deal for a sandwich which can easily be counted as two meals, especially in Manhattan.
A complete meal at Katz's consists of: Hot Pastrami on Rye (light on the mustard), Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda, French Fries (ask for hot ones or you will not get them), and tons of Half Sour Pickles... Mmmmm~
View Katz's Delicatessen website at www.katzdeli.com
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on May 13, 2009
My fellow Americans, you may want to take a seat for this one… despite what you may have been mislead to believe, pub is not a synonym for bar. Calling a pub a bar is cheapening one of man’s greatest triumphs. Pubs are known for serving traditional dishes and local specialties in homey dining rooms packed with friends and amazing conversations. Pubs are sacred to Foodies in that they are so much more than humble restaurants. When you walk into your favorite pub, and yes – everyone does have his or her favorite – a personal connection is made. The staff prepares your drink exactly how you like it, the chef instinctively knows what you want to eat, and your friends will continue your conversation right where you left-off on your previous visit.
Himawari is among my top three favorite restaurants in the world. Proprietor Manami Magotake takes great pride in offering a wide selection of exquisitely prepared and utterly irresistible Japanese izakaya (pub) specialties. Favorites include the crunchiest, most flavorful tempura in Japan, yakitori complemented by a homemade salt blend to enhance the natural flavors of the meats and vegetables, and traditional Sapporo Miso Ramen with homemade noodles, tender char sui, and a rich porky soup. They skillfully construct each and every dish resulting in a menu that is thought provoking and takes advantage of Hokkaido's superior access to delicious, fresh, and local ingredients. The chefs, Konno san and Honma tencho are responsible for a majority of Himawari's charm and they make every night a unique experience. A wide selection of Nihonshu and Shouchu and of course Sapporo Classic further cement my affection for this, the world's best izakaya.
Visit Himawari's website at m-five.sakura.ne.jp/himawari
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on May 8, 2009
I am the fourth (possibly fifth) generation in my family to patronize this historic brick-oven pizza paradise. Even in Italy I endeavored to find a pizza on par with Pepe's and was shocked to discover that Frank has no equal. Pepe's remains unchanged from when they first opened in 1925. Paper thin charred crust cradling crushed Roma tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and maybe some fresh Italian sausage if you are feeling exotic. Do not even dream of going to Pepe's and not ordering a White Clam Pie. Pepe's signature pizza is a genius composition of freshly shucked clams and oregano - simply life-changing. Long lines form in all types of weather, all year long, so arrive early to save yourself the agony of watching others graze over their monstrous apizza pies. Pepe's is open Monday through Saturday 11:30 am to 10:00 pm and on Sunday from Noon to 10:00 pm.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
Visit Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana's website at www.pepespizzeria.com
*A version of this review appeared on worldlyeats.blogspot.com
Founded in 1862, Boulangerie Ladurée is the single best bakery and pastry establishments on Earth. They are credited for having inventing the quintessential French cookie, the two-layered macaron. Several locations exist across the globe, even reaching as far as Dubai and Tokyo; but the main shop on Champs-Élysées is by far the most breathtaking. You may dine-in or take the far less expensive option of taking your French delicacies to go. The to go room features a long slab of black marble in which the day's freshest offerings are proudly displayed... do your best not to drool. The macarons are unforgettable, with their creamy centers filled with fresh fruit or exotic chocolate and brittle, pastel colored cookies. But do not limit yourself to merely the macarons, truly every item on their menu will be among the most delicious sweets of your life. Let your eyes take control and do not worry about leftovers... for no matter how much you order, there will not be a single crumb remaining~
Ladurée Champs Elysées
Visit Boulangerie Ladurée's website at www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm
*A version of this article appeared on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on May 7, 2009
BaaBar is an ultra modern concept with brilliantly original drinks and a sophisticated yet friendly atmosphere to match. Over thirty types of shots for only £1 a piece that will cause you to repeatedly promise that you are "on your last one" only to be at the bar three minutes later ordering another. Feel free to rock on to the blaring techno and glowing neon as BaaBar is open to 2 am on weeknights and 3 am on Friday and Saturday.
BaaBar Deansgate Locks
BaaBar Sackville Street
BaaBar Fleet Street
Visit BaaBar's website at www.baabar.co.uk
*A version of this review was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com
I have spent years living in China and Japan and my experiences confirm that Noodle Town is top notch. Having dined in Sichuan Province, I am unimpressed with New York's offerings. I am sorry if you disagree.
Erica, I mentioned that Noodle Town is Cantonese and I am quite familiar with Gong Bao. The statement was directed towards followers of P.F. Chang's who do not recognize the significant provincial variations in Chinese cuisine.
Thank you for your input.
Hahaha! Yes, it is true that among New Yorkers, Noodle Town is no secret. While I am originally from the City, down here in North Cackalacky I am frequently asked where to get the best Chinese. Surprisingly, many people do not know of the all-mighty woks of this historic Foodie haven. A shame!
Since originally reviewing Noodle Town, I have added all three of those dishes to my list of regulars. If fact, the roast sucking pig (the mother is in fact the suckling) was so delicious I decided to prepare one myself at home. It wasn't as good as theirs, but it fulfilled my need for rendered pork fat at the time! I have pictures of the little cutie at http://worldlyeats.blogspot.com/2009/...
My good friend, fellow Foodie, and chef, Paul Marini, introduced me to the culinary haven of Sandwhich one Friday in early 2008. When Paul told me that we were going to dine at a gourmet sandwich shop for lunch, I had expectations of a glorified Subway. I remember entering the quaint little courtyard in which the restaurant is located with skepticism; a sandwich was not exactly my idea of fine dining. But after religiously examining Sandwhich’s diverse menu and the brilliantly written letter by owners Hich and Janet Elbetri that accompanies it, my pessimism quickly shifted to optimism. I passed by patrons zealously enjoying their sandwiches and noticed the beautiful artisan breads prepared in the old-world style, stuffed with radiantly red tomatoes and leafy organic lettuce. As I waited in line, my mouth watering, I understood the challenge that so many before me endeavored, “Which of Sandwhich’s masterly engineered sandwiches will I indulge in today?” After hemming and hawing, I opted for the Grilled Gruyere with tender sautéed cremini mushrooms on their famous sourdough toast. It was absolutely luscious!
Since my initial experience, I have made many trips to visit Hich and his one-of-a-kind eatery and every time I struggled to describe Sandwhich in a way that fully encompasses the elements that establish it as a Foodie paradise. After their White Oak Pastures Grass-Fed Burger was released in October, I was enlightened… “Deliberate” is the most fitting description of this extraordinary establishment. Nothing is left to chance at Sandwhich; every characteristic of every item is deliberately planned and (perhaps even more impressively) implemented with passion and unwavering consistency. They really bring new meaning to the term, "Sandwich Artist." Haha... After trying almost every dish on their ever-changing menu, I realize that one does not have to go through the drama of deciding “which” sandwich to enjoy. Rather, I trust Hich, Janet, and their team. In the same spirit of the Japanese tradition of omakase, where no menus are provided and the chef prepares dishes that he or she feels is demonstrative of their own personality and that of the ingredients they use, I can order any of Sandwhich’s imaginative hot or cold sandwiches, refreshing Moroccan iced-teas, flavorful scratch-made soups, inventive salads, and scrumptious desserts and know that it will be a superior-quality product that is wholesome and just as delicious as it is thought-provoking.
Everything at Sandwhich is incredible, so please do not limit yourself to the small handful of dishes listed here. My original favorite is a mix between “Lex’s Favorite,” named after Lex Alexander of Wellspring and consisting of a Mike’s free-range fried egg (prepared medium with a perfect liquid yolk to solid yolk ratio), Sunny Slope Greenhouse tomatoes, Nueskes apple-smoked bacon, and toped with fresh local organic greens placed between two slices of wonderful wheat bread, and the O.B.L.T. (Outrageous B.L.T.) which adds fire-roasted jalapeño peppers and creamy avocado, combined with the same great tomatoes and greens from Lex’s Favorite and served on their awesome sourdough bread. My variation consists of the perfectly fried egg, ruby red tomatoes, thick apple-smoked bacon, organic greens, roasted jalapeños, and soothing avocado slices, served on either wheat, sourdough, or a baguette – depending on my mood, of course. I call it, “Jonathan’s Favorite.” (pictured above)
My favorite hot sandwich is their brand new White Oak Pastures Grass-Fed Burger available only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I have been on the search for the world’s best burger for several years now and Sandwhich has been the first and only winner of this gastronomic honor. The deliberate nature of Sandwhich is fully realized in every component of this amazing burger. Of course we must begin with the meat. The White Oak Pastures beef is grass fed from birth and masterfully cooked until it reaches the most perfect shade of pink. The flavorful meat is “drip down your arm” juicy, impossibly tender, and has a wonderful beefy flavor that is further enhanced with a silky buttery undertone consistent with beef of the highest quality. I have a pet peeve about burgers being overly compounded; it just ruins the texture and flavor of the meat. Sandwhich’s beef patties are not overly dense and have a delightful, almost “fluffy” consistency. The thinly shredded red onion gingerly placed above the burger adds a zest that is balanced with a subtle sweetness which contrasts perfectly with the richness of the meat. A special sandwich deserves special bread and Sandwhich accomplishes this with the introduction of their brand new sesame seed and poppy seed focaccia. The twice-cooked fries are reminiscent of the gorgeous chips (French Fries) I enjoyed across the United Kingdom and Europe. The fries are thick and rectangular, served blistering hot, and accented with delicate slivers of salt. I hate both ketchup and mayonnaise, but Sandwhich appeals to my adventurous side with their takes on the fundamental burger condiments. The homemade ketchup has a delicate sweetness which is harmonized by the fiery spiciness of harissa, a North African chili paste. Sandwhich’s signature mayonnaise is infused with garlic and of course, made in-house from scratch.
Other Sandwhich specialties include the most delicious cornmeal you will ever come across in your life. Sandwhich’s famous mascarpone polenta is a creamy treat that is slow-cooked and full of flavor. You will normally find it as the foundation for Sandwhich’s tenderly braised meat dishes. Hich generously let me sample the goat on my last visit and it left me licking the bowl clean. All of Sandwhich's offerings are accompanied with a side of superbly seasoned Moroccan marinated olives (typically earlier in the day) or Moroccan marinated carrots (served once the olives are depleted). The Moroccan spices are so flavorful you will find yourself staring intently into the little stainless-steel bowl in wonder of how such perfection is accomplished. As you may already know, I am anything but bashful, so I usually ask for (and receive) two bowls of these little ethnic treats! Don’t forget to try Sandwhich’s iced Moroccan teas made with whole tea leaves from In Pursuit of Tea and steeped with fresh herbs in-house. The green tea is my favorite and has hits of sage and mint – no tea on Earth has more personality!
Hich and Janet’s Sandwhich is a fresh idea that accomplishes astonishing food with simple, yet pure ingredients. Sandwhich can be reached at (919) 929-2114 and is located at 431 West Franklin Street within the West End Courtyard on the corner of West Franklin and Roberson Street. You can enjoy their devilishly innovative offerings Monday through Saturday from 11:00 to 4:00. A key element of a well-run restaurant is the owner’s presence. No staff member could ever or would ever take a personal interest in the quality of the food and service the way an owner can. Hich is one of these dedicated proprietors and is working the kitchen and the crowd at Sandwhich everyday ensuring that your Sandwhich-experience is distinct and memorable. He loves to meet fans, so ask for him, he’ll be happy to meet you. Just make sure to tell him that Jonathan sent you…
*A version of this review appeared on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on November 16, 2008 and in The Carolinian Newspaper on November 10, 2009.
I can think of no better introduction to my Foodie adventures than with a declaration of what I believe to be the single greatest restaurant in the United States; the Great NY Noodle Town. This Cantonese gem of Chinatown was once one of New York’s best kept secrets. But being the Mecca of Chinese restaurants for self-proclaimed Foodies, government elite, glitzy celebrities, and snooty locals alike, the wonders of the Great NY Noodle Town are quickly becoming more widely known. Unfortunately, this means you will typically have to wait in line. But no worries, the queue moves quickly and it is certainly worth the wait. It is also important to note that this is real Chinese food... Chinese food like you (probably) have never experienced before. They do not serve Mongolian Beef or Kung Pao Chicken, so spare yourself the embarrassment and don’t ask…
With the gusto of a lion examining his pride, I enter the neon-lighted doorway of my favorite eatery and scan the dining room in hopes of making eye contact with a waiter. Once our eyes meet, the connection is made. I raise my hand, four fingers extended: the Ross Family has arrived. As we sit down, we fool ourselves by scrutinizing the menu; what a silly charade. We have no need for a menu. The four of us have a standing order at Noodle Town that encompasses a spectacularly balanced variety of the most mouth-watering offerings of this renowned Foodie paradise.
Winter, spring, summer, and fall; regardless of the temperature or the season, the meal must always begin with a piping hot bowl of roast pork wonton soup. The handmade wontons are tenderly stuffed with plump shrimp and perfectly complimented with a hint of ginger. The broth is rich and flavorful with a taste that is evident of hours of work and decades of experience. The bowl is crowned with a generous portion of decadently succulent char sui that is, of course, expertly roasted in house and chopped to order. The vegetable dishes are next: sautéed pea shoots with garlic, steamed Chinese broccoli stems and leaves with pungent oyster sauce, and Chinese eggplant in a savory (NOT sweet!) garlic sauce. I cannot possibly explain the flavors occurring in these oriental treats other than to say that you will never be able to eat a humble vegetable in your life without going back in time and savoring this moment. Next comes the subject of salt-bakes. The question is not whether to order the perfectly fried seafood morsels; rather it is a debate between Mom and Dad’s choice, salt-baked shrimp, versus my personal favorite, salt-baked squid. Alex loves them both and has been known to stealthily eat the last shrimp/squid slice on the plate without asking permission, so you would be well advised to forget your good-manners in addition to any regard for pain and consume as many sizzling pieces as possible while you have the chance. All of NY Noodle Town’s salt-bakes are flawlessly fried and served with thinly sliced hot peppers. The heat from the peppers melds with the saltiness of the fish to provide a deep-fried experience so rich and rewarding that you’ll consider it sinful. If soft-shell crabs are in season, go with them and forget the shrimp/squid, it is a sacrifice worth making for this rare treat. By this time, Alex is enjoying the most brilliant Sweet and Sour Chicken known to mankind. Noodle Town prepares this dish using a homemade sauce that packs a vinegary punch with a nursing sweetness that makes eating more than one of the crispy, sheet-like pieces of white meat chicken an irresistible temptation. Pace yourself because the climax of the meal is imminently approaching. Every single offering served up at NY Noodle Town will make your toes curl with pleasure, but nothing brings me closer to tears than their famous Ginger and Scallion Lobster. Noodle Town’s master chefs utilize a seemingly illicit medley of wok-sorcery paired with an ancient Chinese understanding of flavor combinations to take a simple crustacean and transform it into an intoxicatingly scrumptious shellfish banquet. The entrée casts a spell that will mesmerize you even after the last chunk of glorious lobster is long gone. What may seem like an institutionalized man’s way of combating separation anxiety, I end the meal by chewing on the empty lobster shell fragments to fully savor the dish’s magnificent sauce. It only gets worse when the waiter removes the plates from the table, returning with ice cold orange slices to cleanse the palate. They are refreshing, but by no means adequate substitutes for the copious amounts of Chinese soul food in which you just indulged. With this, the symphony that is dining at the Great NY Noodle Town is complete. I’d like to be cliché and say that you will have sweet dreams later in the evening but the truth is you will probably be lying in bed later; fervently craving one last wonton or a fragment of salt-baked squid. I’m just warning you in advance.
The Great NY Noodle Town is located at 28½ Bowery Street between Canal and Bayard, across from the Manhattan Bridge. They serve up the best Chinese food outside of China from 9 AM to 4 AM (yes, that's eighteen hours a day, seven days a week~) and can be reached at (212) 349-0923. Our favorite server is Bonzai, but once you get to know the waiters, they are all pleasant. Prices are extremely reasonable, so go hungry! It's a meal worth the life-long addiction...
*A version of this article was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on November 1, 2008