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Nagasaki, not a gourmet's delight

Chinatown in Nagasaki is pathetic, especially in light of the other Chinatowns around Japan (I think "China Alley" is a more accurate description. The food is alright, but frankly there is not that much to see or eat around there.

Natives keep recommending Chinatown because historically, there's been a big influence from the Chinese in Nagasaki. It's what Nagasaki is known for. It's a pity, though, because there is so much more to try and explore in Nagasaki than Chinatown, especially when Chinatown is so... unimpressive.

For nightlife, you need to go to Shianbashi, which is Nagasaki's nightlife district. It's right by the Kankodoori tram stop and next to the Hamanomachi area. All the bars are open there all night long, people stumble down the alleys drunk and ready for some ramen... but other than that area, yes, Nagasaki shuts down pretty early.

However, here are my recommendations for Nagasaki. I'm sure I'll have more soon, as I continue to live around here, but what I've discovered:

1. Castella (kastuera), brought by the Portuguese. It's a cross between an spongecake and a pound cake, made chiefly with sugar, butter and eggs. Very simple, but when made well, it's very good. Not too too sweet. There are inventive flavors like matcha, chocolate, peach, and "chocolate latte," but I find the original to be the best. This is the food Nagasaki is best known for.

2. Champon and saraudon are the other two Nagasaki staples, influenced by Chinese cuisine. Champon was invented by a cook from China who made a dish for homesick Chinese college students -- his restaurant, Shikairo, still exists in Nagasaki and serves some really delicious champon. (There is also a Korean version called jjampong, but these two are totally different -- champon has a mild taste in a slightly white broth, with lots of vegetables and some seafood; jjampong is oilier, resembling ramen more than anything else, and is more packed with seafood.) Saraudon is like champon, but the noodles are fried, like chow mein, and the toppings are gloppy. I personally don't find either of these THAT great, but to each their own.

3. Buta kakuni -- or pork belly buns. You can buy them piping hot in Chinatown for about 200 yen a bun. You can't really mess this up.

4. Toruko rice ("Turkish rice"). It's a weird East-meets-West deal, combining spaghetti, rice/pilaf, and hamburg steak with demiglace sauce. It is a gut bomb for sure... Tsuru-chan is a very famous place in Nagasaki for this, but my personal favorite is Hustle Heart Cafe in Hamanomachi, which serves up a chicken AND steak version.

5. Nagasaki is also known for kamaboko, or fish cakes. I don't have a very discerning taste for kamaboko -- they all taste the same to me, so I can't say much on this...

6. Goto Island, one of the smaller islands off Nagasaki, is famous for its udon (called Goto udon). I haven't tried it myself so I can't vouch for taste, but it seems much finer than regular udon, almost like a cross between somen and udon? Goto is also famous for kankoro mochi, which is mochi made with sweet potatoes, so it's got a starchier feel.

The thing with Nagasaki cuisine is that it is not very traditionally Japanese -- and by that, I mean you feel a lot of "foreign influence" in the food, since Nagasaki was Japan's first open port of entry for foreigners. A lot of the food "feels Chinese," and there are some good Chinese restaurants (though not so much around Chinatown, in my experience). And there are other great restaurants, but I guess Nagasaki's weakness is that there isn't one dish or food that they are that famous for, that is SO delicious, so it seems less of a culinary destination than other places in Japan.

But here's a fun fact for you: that highly praised Kobe beef? I've been told by many people that it's actually all from Nagasaki...

Nov 25, 2009
baobao in Japan

What am I not getting about Sugar Sweet Sunshine?

I'm not a fan of their cupcakes either, but what SSS excels at are the puddings. Have you tried their banana pudding yet?

Oct 26, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Looking for a certain Japanese seafood restaurant

I think some of the dishes are based on Okinawa cuisine, and is probably the only place in Manhattan you can get that sort of food (there used to be a Japanese restaurant uptown that specialized in Okinawa food but closed down a while ago, I think).

The place is very cozy (read: tiny) and charming, like you're in someone's home kitchen. Food portions are small, and I found it rather forgettable.

Jun 29, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Where can I find chilled Korean noodle dishes?

Just had some bibim naengmyun at Gama on St. Mark's the other day. Passable, but still a bit disappointing. Since Daedong has now closed and You-chun has been gone since 2007, does anyone have any more recommendations for good mul naengmyun (broth) or bibim naengmyun (spicy, no broth) in Manhattan?

May 26, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Fresh, Potent Margaritas

Agreed -- Mercadito has some great flavored ones, and they pack a nice punch as well.

May 26, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Grilled Pork Chop at Baoguette

Grilled pork chop is my favorite banh mi there now. Felt like I was eating a bun and banh mi at the same time.

Has anyone tried the Veguette (vegetarian banh mi)? I still think nothing tops Banh Mi Saigon's "Buddha" vegetarian banh mi—which I actually like the best there, even over the classic banh mi—I'm curious to see how Baoguette's is...

May 26, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

best shabu shabu

I'm a big fan of Shabu-Tatsu, but it's in the East Village and not very close to MSG. They only take reservations for parties of 6+, I believe... but they also have sukiyaki and some other specialties. Very good shabu shabu deal if you ask me.

May 01, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Birthday dinner for 6 girls who eat

We've actually been there before for another birthday dinner (although great places both) and trying to find something new!

May 01, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Birthday dinner for 6 girls who eat

Planning a birthday dinner for 6 girls, preferably about $25-$30 pp. I've come across a lot of tapas bar suggestions, but the six of us are also pretty big on eating well without having to spend too much money. No real preference on cuisine, and no place really too loud or super trendy, but either fun + lively or intimate and cozy?

I've made reservations at 41 Greenwich Avenue, Rayuela and Sakagura -- any thoughts? We've been to Sakagura before and loved it, but I'm thinking of trying something new. 41 Greenwich Avenue sounds cute, but I haven't heard much about it... same with Rayuela.

May 01, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Soba

Sakagura has great food and is perfect for sharing a bunch of plates... almost everything we ordered was delicious. Great ambiance too! (Gotta love the hidden bathroom, heh.)

Apr 25, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Arirang - New "must try" restaurant in ktown (kal gook soo)

Also checked out this place this past week. I'm not a huge fan of kalguksu or sujaebi to begin with, since I find 'em pretty bland, but Arirang's may be the exception. Wish they gave me a little more chicken, but no big complaints. Service was also very friendly and accommodating, which is a thumbs up for any Korean establishment, since they tend to lack on service.

The seafood pajeon was also fantastic. Best one I've had in Manhattan (or at least in recent memory) so far.

Portions are amply generous and I agree with previous posters that you have more than enough food for two should you split an order and get a pancake.

Apr 25, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Ippudo

That's probably Otafuku, on E. 9th St. (near 2nd Ave). They also have yakisoba there as well.

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Otafuku
236 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003

Apr 20, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Best Japanese Tofu in NYC?

I think Sunrise Mart in East Village carries Otokomae Tofu. Naminori Johnny tofu sounds vaguely familiar but I'm not 100% sure if they carry it there or not.

The handmade tofu at EN Japanese Brasserie is delicious, if not particularly remarkable. Try to get it fresh, as soon as they make it (they list the times on their website).

Apr 09, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Rude Service at Num Pang

I have to add: people, CHECK the numbers on your tickets. All the times I've been there so far during peak hours, the guys there will be yelling out the ticket stub numbers a good seven or eight times, and some poor shmuck won't realize it's his ("Oh... wait, is that the catfish?").

Apr 03, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Num Pang reports?

I found the pork dry and the vegetarian one a bit boring... not bad, but just didn't hit the spot. The catfish is another story entirely. Took a while to get that one, but it was well worth the wait.

Mar 27, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

PDT dogs?

Yes, the "special" dogs are only at PDT. Personally found the Chang dog skippable, but don't miss the John John Deragon -- it's like a bagel/hot dog mash-up (cream cheese and chives on top of a hot dog).

Mar 23, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Pho in/near New Haven?

Haven't personally been myself, but there's a pho restaurant in Danbury:
http://www.phovietnamrestaurant.com/

Has anyone been? I've been meaning to try since I can't seem to find any other Vietnamese place around the Danbury area except this one...

Mar 23, 2009
baobao in General Tristate Archive

Momofuku Milk Bar-this ain't no Dairy Barn

Has anyone tried the kimchi and blue cheese croissant? I saw it on the board the other day...

Feb 25, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Sichuan in Chinatown?

What about Grand Sichuan on St. Mark's? I haven't been to the other locations so I can't compare, but I found the food there delicious... and St. Mark's itself can be an experience too.

Feb 25, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Momofuku Ko -- Anyone been lately?

I'm told it changes daily.

I went to Ko last night as well, and wish I could remember all the little things I had! Do they give you copies of the menu for the day (or do people just have really great memories)? Nevertheless, great, great dinner...

Feb 25, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

Where can I find dak galbi?

It's been a while and I satiated by dak kalbi craving in Seoul... absolutely delicious. Does anyone know still if it's an option at Chung Moo Ro? Or anywhere else in Manhattan??

Jan 17, 2009
baobao in Manhattan

best sukiyaki nyc

Have not tried it personally, but Shabu Tatsu in the East Village offers sukiyaki.

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Shabu-Tatsu
216 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003

Dec 08, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

Momofuku Milk Bar-this ain't no Dairy Barn

The pork buns -- are they still 2 per order?

Nov 24, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

best soondubu - queens/manhattan/nj

BCD Tofu House has now open in the old Dae Dong space, and their soondubu is better than Seoul Garden, in my opinion (their tofu is pretty good, although I think I like the soup better at Seoul Garden).

Oct 26, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

St. Marks Yakitori

The menus at Yakitori Taisho and Oh! Taisho, the two main yakitori places, are essentially the same (same owner?) and you can find them online. These two are a haven for college kids looking for cheap beer & eats, especially during the end of the week, so the wait can get pretty long. Village Yokocho is a little less known, and while they don't specialize in yakitori, they do have a huge menu of much more varied cheap eats, with a few more Korean-inspired ones as well. It's also a lot less cramped and hectic (though no less popular) so it might be better to go there -- I personally prefer VY better for the atmosphere and food.

There's also a place called Zen on the south side of the street (the one with outdoor seating and the okonomiyaki griddle outside) that serves up some cheap bar food as well.

Oct 14, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

What is new and exciting in the East Village

I went the other night—it's pretty much exactly like Minca.

Oct 13, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

Taste of Chinatown this weekend?

According to this site (http://www.explorechinatown.com/), which usually posts information about events going on Chinatown, it does indeed look like it's been bumped up to December.

Oct 07, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

Where can I find dak galbi?

I have a mad dak galbi craving these days, so I'm reviving this thread. Anyone tried it at Chung Moo Ro? Do they still have it? Does Cho Dang Gol still have it?

Oct 07, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

BCD Tofu House - now in Manhattan?

I was browsing the boards and heard someone mentioned that BCD Tofu House was coming to Manhattan, so after doing a quick search, I found this:

http://www.chow.com/places/37863

Had no idea Daedong was closed for good, for one thing, but I had no idea it was being replaced by BCD Tofu House! Now I won't have to trek out to Queens for some good soondubu! Is it open yet? Has anyone been?

Oct 04, 2008
baobao in Manhattan

Apiary

Expensive, yes, but it's not worth the food that you're getting IMO. Nothing was bad, but then again, nothing was outstanding either, and I couldn't justify paying $25+ for chicken. The dishes were bland and uninspiring. Their dessert menu looked pretty good, but after the ho-hum entrees, no one really wanted to give a shot at the desserts...

Great decor though, if that counts for anything? (Love the shadowy illusions of chandeliers.)

Sep 11, 2008
baobao in Manhattan