Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I moved!


Because for my birthday, I asked for a new blogskin... And TPS decided to upgrade that gift by presenting me with a new address =) Bye bye blogger... (my own domain!!! thanks tps!)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Being so far away from home, it is a blessing to be able to share one's birthday with friends. It is an even greater blessing to have them go through the trouble of choosing restaurants based on thorough research, for the one dish that you love on a fall night, and endure all your rubbish about changing dates and times. So on Friday night, me, my roommates and some friends met at Gascogne for dinner.
Situated in Chelsea, Gascogne is a charming French bistro, with warm lighting, a genial staff and country-inn like decor. We were there early and got seated with no trouble, but by the time we left at 930, the seating area near the door was full, with would-be patrons drinking and snacking on crusty peasant bread the staff thoughtfully brought out. It also has the requisite tight New York quarters, so a group of six (as we were) is probably as comfortably big as it gets. On warmer days, garden seating is available and while we did not attempt to freeze ourselves on Friday, the twinkly fairy lights look very inviting indeed.
Gascogne focuses on rustic French dishes and has a game-oriented menu. The specials board listed pheasant, quail and venison. We were spoilt by the choice and the portions when the food came, so unaccustomed we were after 2 years in New York to see Midwestern portions in restaurants. Indeed, Walter's and Ceci's bisques were served not in cups but tureens and Gerrie's foie gras was a very generous, albeit oily slab. Yanru's pork dish reminded me of wiener schnitzel, rounded and crisp, while Justin's escargot were pretty wrapped in phyllo over a rich garlic sauce, an elegant take on the rustic baked escargot appetizer.
My entree was the cassoulet, which is a favorite dish, especially on a chilly night like Friday. A deep casserole of white beans, simmered in a tomato based stock, absorbs all the flavors of fatty bacon, duck confit, garlicky sausages and herbs. Bread crumbs scattered on the top of the dish adds color and crunch. While some others on the table thought the dish was overly aggressive on the garlic, I loved it, the thick pork sausages, the golden skin on the duck, and the starring beans, neither mushy nor crunchy but just right. Unfortunately I had lunch at Chipotle, but no matter, because the cassoulet tasted great even as leftovers.
Desserts were similarly huge and large on flavor. Prunes and Chantilly cream were steeped in heady Armagnac, while the apple tart slick with a perfectly burnt caramel sauce, so tasty we almost licked our plates. And the crepe Suzette, while not as crispy as the ones Madeleine makes, was saturated with a mixture of orange juice and liquor, and came alit with a candle and a rousing rendition of a birthday song. Thank you, thank you.

158 8th Ave (On 18th St)

Friday, October 05, 2007


Oktoberfest is the festival when people throughout German cities let their hair loose and partake in traditional Bavarian delights, brats and beer. If you ever find yourself on the Upper East Side, with a sudden urge to celebrate Oktoberfest by drinking a lot of beer out of a boot, Heidelberg is a pretty safe bet. The massive boot at Heidelberg stands about 2 feet tall, holds 2 litres of beer while keeping the liquid surprisingly cool for a long time, and commands a whopping $60 deposit. While I didn't get a boot for myself, some friends did, and they earned their bragging rights after draining 6 cans worth of beer.
The food at Heidelberg is hearty, filling and plain. Platters of unadorned sausages and other entrees are simply served with mounds of sauerkraut, sweet red cabbage and some potato sides. The three sausages I had were thick, plump and had a good snap to them, and I liked the smokiness of the fried bratwurst and a slightly milder boiled veal sausages that tasted of spices. The wiener schnitzel and fried potato pancakes suffered from pre-frying, and had grown stale and greasy by the time they landed on our table. Sides too left much to be desired, with cold fried homefries and an overly sour and watery potato salad highlighting a lack of care during the cooking process.
Interesting too is the Disney-fication of Heidelberg. If memory serves me right, I visited the city of Heidelberg during the summer of 2000 (having eaten many sausages but still underaged for beer), and the restaurant certainly looks overtly cheerful and rustic compared to its namesake. Its beer garden brethrens throughout the city too look like dioramas of "a typical bavarian village inn on a mountain top", complete with servers dressed in lederhosen and kneelength socks.
Despite the rather blah food, I would return back to the restaurant but with certain caveats. I would go back with a big boisterous group of friends, for the good selection of cold German beer, and the general feeling of good cheer. And that, when beer drinking and brat eating, is paramount.

Heidelberg Restaurant

1648 2nd Ave (Bet 85th & 86th Sts)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blue Hill

Watching the Top Chef finale reminded me of the best dish I had this summer. Hung, the eventual winner had a duck dish, whereby the duck was cooked sou vide. Blue Hill had one too. Like the winning dish on tv, my duck was not the world's most attractive looking dish. Cooked skinless, the whole piece of meat was a uniform dirty pink. But the texture was so wonderfully smooth, like a piece of velvet ribbon, that you ignored how it look. It doesn't hurt that each bite yielded tender, juicy pieces of meat, uncharacteristic of duck, so often tough and over-cooked. Treated in this matter, the duck seemed to have lost its usual gristle and fat. The gamey smell too, had been toned down. I was stunned by its perfect texture, much like the esteemed judges acted during the tv show.
What made the duck even more spectacular was the flavors that it took on from the accompaniments. The chef at Blue Hill masters the seasons, putting out the freshest ingredients in a most unobtrusive way that is original, subtle but definitely not bland. Sugar snap peas in season during July added crunch and natural candied sweetness, along with tiny pearl onions. The minty jus added brightness, and an unexpected lime glaze, brushed on with such restraint that you could almost miss it if you were not careful, brought a fresh acidity and summery scent that lingered long after the last piece of duck was consumed.
I too remember the wonderful berry and goat cheese dessert that was at once sweet, tart, creamy and cheesy at the same time; and the apricot that came at the end in place of petit fours, so full of amber juice it was threatening to burst. Last but not least the servers and bartender were the most natural, relaxed and hospitable people I've encountered this summer, that whilst I sat alone at the wide U-shaped bar on an early Saturday evening I did not feel lonely nor out of place. I remember being so guilty about having such a fine time at Blue Hill that I walked home from the village to Hell's Kitchen, paying penance for consuming that many calories while reminiscing about what I had just eaten. With this reminder, it could be time again for another visit.

Blue Hill
75 Washington Place (6th Ave & MacDougal)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Maze by Gordon Ramsey

Both Ruoyi and Chloe were in town a few Fridays ago and as tradition would have it whenever my cousins visit town, I always get a treat courtesy of my uncle. We headed to Maze, casual sister to the more formal Gordon Ramsey restaurant, US outposts of the celebrity chef's restaurant empire. Unlike Gordon Ramsey's tv shows, where he raves and rants at incompetent sou-chefs, there are no theatrics in the restaurant, just solid food in a cool space. First impressions about the place was favorable. The banquettes wide and comfortable, and the place less than half-filled before 8 - seemingly undiscovered by the pre-theater set- was nice and quiet. Lighting was dim and flattering for pictures (which we took shamelessly) and service, besides our sullen and no-nonsense server, was efficient and friendly, but not overly pushy.

With regards to the food, it must be said that fashionable sets will do very well with the beautifully plated dishes and deftly seasoned food. Like the bar room at the Modern in nearby MoMa, portions are meant to be tapas-sized and the slim prices (for a midtown celebrity chef joint at least) reflects that. For the hungry set however, the little tastes may be slightly too precious, as the three of us found out.
Behold Ruoyi's lobster and chicken confit caesar salad, with a piece of lobster the size of a quarter, flanked by two pieces of similarly sized poached chicken. Ruoyi offered me a taste, but I didn't have the heart, it being so petite.
Smoked duck breast, crispy tongue and smoked foie gras. We laughed when this plate appeared. Who knew smoked duck breast meant razor thin slices of duck prosciutto? The tongue was crispy, but pretty tasteless but the smooth foie gras custard had a lovely texture and was very spreadable on bread.

Quail and Foie Gras. The quail had a fantastically crisp skin and the right about of soy, while the lobe of foie gras was rich, unctuous and downright generous compared to the lobster quarter. At some point, I gave up using my cutlery, picked up and quail leg and started gnawing.

By some twist of fate, Chloe, the smallest eater in the group ended up with the largest, almost regular sized dishes. In fact, when her duo of beef appeared, we went "wow.. this is huge". Her halibut wasn't that badly sized either, and had a decidedly spanish flair, with iberian ham, chorizo and some mussels thrown into the mix. Unfortunately though, the strong flavors upstaged the otherwise well cooked fish.

Desserts were next, with Ruoyi's apple themed shotglass being the best. Apple green gelee was sweet and tart, topped with foamy caramel and icy apple cider granite. If only there was more of that, and the accompanying beignet.
Interestingly, the only regular sized things on the menu were the petit fours, a fun chocolate truffle filled with melted peanut creme, and blocks of homemade peanut brittle, which was rustic and tasty, but somewhat out of place. Why would you serve peanut brittle twice the size of your entree?
With its location and the quality of its food, Maze should be a very good place for some peckish bites amongst girlfriends. But for girls with manly appetites, take me for example, all's not lost. After-all, there's always Junior's for an after-theater supper.
Maze by Gordon Ramsey at the London
151 W54 St (6th & 7th Ave)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Madeleine's Crepes

Something made me happy and a tad heavier on Saturday.
Trying to avoid the weekend masses at Starbucks, I decided to do some work instead at CyberCafe on 49th St instead. Since it's an internet cafe, there is obviously no free wifi to freeload, and there were all but a handful of tourists making use of overpriced internet quietly. No soccer games were showing on the projection screen slung across the backwall either. Peace and quiet finally.
What makes CyberCafe even more perfect for an antisocial reader is its bounty of more than decent coffee and food. While there are no pies on weekends, Madeleine, a sweet old French lady is on board to make some traditional French crepes. I was extremely pleased with my crepe, the simplest of them all, with all but a squirt of lemon, a brush of honey and a fairydust of powdered sugar. The crepe was paper-thin, crispy on the edges and with a little chewy give, not fat, doughy and tasteless like the foodcourt variants. Sweet, sour, buttery. It was delicious.
While I was polishing off my crepe, I felt a tap on the shoulder. There was Madeleine, smiling away with a fat slice of cake in her hands. "Here you go", she said. "You're my first customer today, so this is on the house."
Wow... When did I ever get so lucky? And it wasn't just some day-old cake she was trying to clear too! She had just baked it that day, an unassuming but rich butter-cake, almost dripping with moisture, topped with a compote of fresh plums to celebrate the end of summer and stone fruit season. The plums were sticky, sweet and tart at the same time, and a splash of grand marnier (her secret ingredient, she smiled conspiratorially as she told me) gave the jam a heady scent. The fresh cream that accompanied that cake was the real deal, creamy, milky and fragrant. Definitely not from a can. It took me willpower not to finish the cream. But the cake, I did. After all, it was a gift from a most charming hostess. One that made me heavy, but more importantly happy.

Madeleine the crepe lady
250 W. 49th St. (btw. B’way & 8th)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dinner at Yankee Stadium

A Nathan's hot dog, some peanuts and a bag of Cracker Jack. This is the requisite dinner at the famed Yankee Stadium, which I visited with my colleagues for the very first time. The hot dog, while encased in a cold unremarkable bun had great snap, the peanuts was fun ammunition and Cracker Jack popcorn sure beats micronuked Orville Redenbacher's. Snoopy, with his Metlife sponsored Yankee shirt was an excellent dining companion, gamely posing with the vast stadium as its background. My coworkers weren't bad too, gamely coaching me on baseball basics. Had I known watching a live game was this much fun, I would have sang "Take me out to the ballgame" sooner!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jean Georges

My little sister is in town for the very first time and like a proud, slightly over-coddling older sibling, I was eager to show her quintessentially New York scenes. She's covered the sights on her own, from the verdant fields in Central Park to the garishly mesmerizing lights in Times Square, so I decided to induct her to the decadent New York dining scene at Jean Georges.
The menu is built like this: for $28, one can choose two dishes from about 15 dishes, with each additional savory dish $12 and dessert for $8. To start, fresh bread and a trio of amuse bouches are served. The amuse bouches were fun, each yielding different textures and flavors. The pinkie sized ball of mozzarella was mild and sweet, the corn fritters a crispy bite while the cucumber water with lime "foam" tended to be a touch acidic, with a spicy kick at the end. Each bite into my starter, a bowl of corn ravioli, brings forth a burst of sweetness characteristic of fresh corn. The slightly charred kernels tasted a little like pop-corn, while the beautiful tomatos, at the peak of tomato season, was packed with flavor. Likewise, Ruoyi's ruby ribbons of tuna, a ceviche of sorts in a tangy ginger and soy based sauce was artfully presented and tasted as great as it looked.
A platter of expertly fried sweetbreads extended the summery theme, when paired with slightly tart roasted peaches and peppery arugula. A dash of pink peppercorn salt for added flavor and pizzazz. Throughout the menu, Ruoyi's braised short-rib was the only concession to the coming of fall weather, and it was no-frills but very hearty, though its vinegar base a tad sour.
No meal ends without dessert, and so we shared the summer themed one, as if that would make autumn stop dead in its tracks. The cherry souffle, with its fluffy purplish and white peak was pleasant but the accompanying cheese with peaches suffered from very aggressive cheese.
Even if one opted out of dessert, Jean Georges is still not letting you go without something sweet and petit fours are rolled out in style. We delighted in the surprisingly pleasant licorice-flavored chocolate bon bon, with a slight anisey rush at the very end, and ruoyi loved the plump marshmallow pillows that the server cut out of long marshmallow ribbons, particularly the strawberry ones, complete with seeds. Last but not least were lilliputan macarons that would surely interest any miniature enthusiasts.
In the realm of fine dining, Ruoyi is a convert. And who wouldn't be, when for a fraction of what dinner costs, one can immerse in the soothing grey and mauve surroundings and be treated, if not like kings and queens, then at the very least like princesses?

Jean Georges
1 Central Park West

Friday, September 07, 2007

It only takes a trip to the furnace-like subway station to remind one that despite a humid August having given way to a slightly drier September, we've not quite seen the end of summer.
For a refreshing treat on that rare unpredictably hot September day almost guaranteed to come in the next few weeks, I suggest a quick jaunt to Cafe Whatever in Chinatown, for a big bowl of Chinese styled desserts. Whatever Cafe is a franchisee of a popular Hong Kong dessert chain, Hui Lau Shan, and serves up a repetoire of brilliantly colored fruit-based desserts. The most popular of them all is the mango pudding, a wobbly milk based custard dyed orange with the heady mango juice and topped with fresh seasonal fruits and a large scoop of coconut ice. Mango and coconut. You've almost left Manhattan for a tropical island.
If cool puddings and icy sago drinks aren't your cup of tea, there's a short list of traditional chinese desserts too. I am a fan of the double-boiled milk pudding with ginger, a sure cure for the common cold, as well as the double-boiled papaya with white fungus thats supposedly great for the complexion. For the chi-chi types, there are even desserts packed with ultra-luxe exotic ingredients, such as bird's nest and hasmar, although I can't vouch for their authenticity. But at such low prices, I suspect you'll enjoy it anyway.

Cafe Whatever
150 Centre St (Between Walker & White Sts)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Spotted Pig

At Spotted Pig, the massively popular "gastropub" in the Village, where an astonishing number of size zeros can be found digging into hearty dinners while drinking pints of beer, it is not the namesake but its bovine friend, in the form of an obscenely expensive, yet perfect burger, that enjoys #1 popularity amongst scores of diners.
A hefty beef patty, lightly charred and wonderfully juicy is topped with salty and stinky roquefort cheese that smells aggressive but tastes much mellower. The brioche bun comes with perfect grill marks and while soft and chewy, manages to encase the patty, juice and all, without falling apart. The near perfect meat-bun pairing ensured that by the time I finished the entire burger, self-control be gone, there was nary a drop of meat juice nor stray ground chuck left on the plate. Being a lover of thick cut fries, I'm somewhat ambivalent about the crispy but non-greasy haystack of shoestring fries that accompanies that burger, but these were made better with the addition of fried garlic slivers. The garlic chips, I am glad to report, are neither bitter or rancid from over-frying and adds flavor to the chips. A burger, a beer and a distended tummy in the aftermath, this is comfort dining at its best.

Spotted Pig
314 W11th St (at Greenwich St)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The New Yorker Food Issue - Calvin Trillin takes on Singapore

The New Yorker talks about all things food in this fortnight's issue, and in it is a heartfelt and hilarious laugh-a-minute piece by my favorite writer Calvin Trillin and his adventures in my favorite country, Singapore! So when he told me he was going to my hometown to eat the food I grew up noshing, on the day I was star-struck at Singapore Day, he wasn't lying!

To critics of Singapore's hawker system, who believe that street food only tastes sanitary, but not authentic in hawker centers, Mr Trillin offers this insight:

"For years as I've walked past food stands in foreign lands, I've struggled to keep in mind that for an American visitor the operational translation for signs that ostensibly say something like "bhel puri" or " tacos de nopales" is "Delivery System for Unfamiliar Bugs That You Will Bitterly Regret Having Ingested."... Gathering food venders into hawker centers, ..., meant that a Western visitor not only can have a safe shot at a variety of Singaporean delicacies but can do so in a setting so convenient that his energy is reserved for eating."
Take that, you hawker center detractors! Even locals do not have iron clad stomachs, so indeed the hawker center is a boon to all eaters of Singapore food.

I've loved Calvin Trillin's writing ever since I picked up an old copy of Alice, let's eat! , and to read his take on Singapore, the system, the people, and last but not least the food that we are all hungry for is an extraordinary treat. His description of the culinarily homesick Singaporean, whose first stop after a 15 hour transcontinental plane ride is not home but to Geylang/Newton/East Coast Park for their favorite local food fix is so evocative and so personal I couldn't help but laugh out loud, to the shock of the other patrons in the Korean restaurant where I was reading/supping. Mine happens to be Qiu Lian Ban Mian, and I do not even need to leave the airport for it. What's yours?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

XO Kitchen

Poor Mark. First, I overpromised and failed to deliver on bbqed sambal stingray. Luckily for my reputation, our dinner wasn't completely ruined and Sanur sans stingray was still a hit with Auntie Hui, Uncle Sam and Mark who are in the city for a college tour. Then, weaving through the side streets of Chinatown, we then visited XO Kitchen for dessert and I managed to cajole Mark into ordering the Japanese deep fried ice-cream, thinking he'll enjoy the hot and cold contrast. WORST DECISION EVER.
Now ladies and gentlemen, please please whatever you do avoid #215 on XO's expansive menu. First of all, the plate of ice-cream was inexplicably adorned with a slice of tomato and cucumber and coleslaw. Perfectly respectable sides for a plate of say, fried calamari. But with ice cream? WRONG.
And the ice cream could have well been calamari, if not for the icy chunks of insipidly sweet ice cream in the middle of the severely battered balls that tasted of old oil. We all took a stab at ID-ing the flavor of the rapidly melting puddle of pink milk soup and halfheartedly agreed that it was supposed to be red bean. Thank goodness everyone else had much better luck.
That being said, I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from going to XO. In fact, I've enjoyed multiple meals there, including good desserts, such as a cool creamy coconut pudding and sweet steamed egg custards. I've recommended this place to friends too, who've enjoyed their congees and steamed rice crepes (perfect for a post wisdom tooth extraction dinner) But on a menu that stretches over 200 dishes, all I can say is that food can be terribly inconsistent, from good to pure HUH? But at such rock bottom prices, it doesn't hurt to try. But, avoid #215!

XO Kitchen
148 Hester St

p.s.: I only like this branch. Avoid the other branch off Centre St like plague...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boston in 30

Boston in 30 hours. That doesn't seem like a lot of time at all, but yet I managed to fit in 3 square meals with a couple of dessert breaks thrown in for good measure. Of course, I can't claim credit for doing it alone. I had help from 3 ladies, who happily allowed me to dictate our dining schedule for a good day and a half. My partners in crime:

Ruoying, Wanling & Gerrie, aka the Superstar, her Assistant & the Manager

We refueled at Taiwan Cafe, a convenient 2 blocks away from the bus station. This is the place to go for a filling, honest chinese breakfast when in Boston. We dunked fresh fried dough fritters into bowls of sweet soy milk, mixed up a big bowl of slithery noodles topped with thick brown meat sauce and scalded our tongues gobbling up plump soup dumplings.

After checking into the coolly decorated Nine Zero Hotel located a stone's throw away from Boston Common, we engaged in some non-food activities, like wetting our feet in the Frog's pond, smelling roses in the beautifully manicured Public Garden, walking the length of Newbury Street, trying out clothes in Filenes Basement and crossing the Charles River to Cambridge, home to MIT and Harvard universities. Very soon, it was dinner time at the Cambridge branch of Legal Seafoods in the Charles Hotel.
Legal Seafoods is a Boston chain, and as much as I try to avoid chains, the seafood here is pretty stellat. Nothing says summertime like a lobster roll does, and so I had one that shared the plate with nondescript fries and coleslaw.

At $20, its definitely a fancy kind of sandwich, but the roll was toasted, buttered and then stuffed with fresh and succulent lobster meat loosely bound with mayo and a minimal amount of celery as filler. It was an extremely satisfying but messy meal. Cioppino is a great choice for someone looking for more variety, coming with a lobster claw, shrimp, clams and big, sweet mussels in a hearty tomato broth.

You know how sometimes you eat too much that you have no room for dessert? That was us. Well, almost. We declined dessert at Legals and had reached the hotel before decided it was far too early to call it a night. So we traipsed down to Finales in the theater district for a fitting end to our first day in Boston.
The Fantasia Plate is a smorgasbord of minature fruit accented desserts. Unfortunately, the names sounded prettier than the food tasted and the success of the multiple dishes was mixed. I liked the creamy orange creme caramel, was indifferent about the strawberry tart and peach mousse slices, thought the chocolate basket with crispy things inside and white chocolate petals with butter cream and blueberries were pretty and pretty superfluous and downright avoided the gunky rice cement.
Luckily the signature molten chocolate cake saved the day, with a rich gooey chocolate cake paired with coffee gelato and addictive caramelized walnuts that brought some smokiness and salt to balance the dish.

Day 2 in Boston and we had plenty of ground to cover. The Freedom Trail beckoned, as did the entertaining street performers at Quincy Market doing dare-devil stunts in return for applause and some singles. Lunch was a quick and simple affair at Wagamama. Yes, in New York we have Momofuku, but in Boston there's Wagamama, which the additional clout of being part of an international chain first becoming popular in the UK before spreading ramen fever to continental Europe and Australia.
I must say the noodles were a little too tender for my taste, and I found the broth of my spicy miso beef ramen too one-note. I however enjoyed the tenderness of the quality beef, and Ruoying's complex spicy beef ramen broth that was salty, spicy and sourish at once. The fruit juices too were very yummy and sippable.

A few hundred feet away from Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market is the North End, also known as Boston's little Italy. Pastry shops are dime in a dozen, but Mike's Pastry is where the action's at judging from the crowds that spill over onto the sidewalk.

The shop operates on a mode of organized chaos. There are no lines at the counter. You just shuffle your way to the front of the counter and catch the countermen's eye. Then you select your cannoli, baba rums, eclairs, tiramisus, cheesecake, mousses, cookies, marzipan fruit to go. Or you can keep and eye out for one of the 10 tables in the shop to clear, park yourself there ASAP and wait for a stressed out looking but highly efficient waitress to serve you. Or do as we did, the hybrid way, getting the pastries in a to go box, then somehow managing to grab a seat, and then ordering coffee from the server. Whatever method works best in this crazy place.

We were really impressed with the dense, moist chocolate fudge cake and the peanut brittle like flavor of the cannoli shell. The Florentine cannoli was indeed redolent of burnt sugar, nuts and filled with cool, slightly grainy ricotta cheese and the best cannoli I've ever had. The cappuccino had a rich creamy foam and great with the decadent pastries. Sitting there in the midst of the cannoli buying maelstrom, we were an unexpected oasis of calm.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chicago recap

Besides Orange, these were a few other places I ate while in Chicago last weekend:

Phoenix Restaurant
One of the few banquet restaurants in Chinatown, Phoenix is justly popular for the largest and freshest selection of dim sum in the Chicago metropolitan area. A table for five at 11am on Sunday morning requires a 45 minute wait, so be early or be prepared to spend some time lingering in the lobby. My girlfriends and I fed each other with months, years worth of gossip as we noshed on classic dishes: bouncy shrimp in the har gow, chewy lotus paste filled jian dui, yam cake squares with crispy fried edges. While I reconnected with friends, I also introduced Kathy and Maggie to TPS and Kayla. We've always thought that Phoenix was pricey for dim sum, but after the bill only came up to $10 per person, we realized it was the inclusion of boys with big appetites that pushed up the tabs during previous meals. So from now on, dim sum is an all girls affair.

Joy Yee's
I don't really care for its brusque service and the MSG laden food, but Joy Yee's does serve the best fruit shakes. UofC alum who've had many late night suppers at Joy Yee's will be glad to know that despite moving to a larger space close to the center of the same complex (yes, the coming soon signs finally came off), the shakes are still as good as ever. They definitely do not stint on the fresh fruit and my lychee-mango shake was fragrant with the perfume of lychee and yielded stringy mango pulp as I sucked up the juice via an extra large straw. Tapioca pearls here remain large and chewy, none of those mini undercooked crap found at Joy Yee's.

Tango Sur
Midwesterners are reputed to be meat and potatoes type of people, so it should be no surprise a BYOB Argentine steakhouse like Tango Sur thrives in the Lakeview district. This is Peishan's go-to place whenever visitors come into town, and do the flavorful steak and mild prices wow guests. We sat outdoors on the balmy night, on a wide sidewalk that would make any New York restauranter green with envy and shared a bottle of red wine Jon, one of TPS's friends brought. Spicy and minerally were terms the wine afficionados thrown out as they swirled and sipped. We split a saganaki-like melted cheese appetizer that paired well with the warm, crusty rolls and a stuffed portobello that unfortunately suffered from an overdose of tomato sauce. 2 large chunks of filet mignon came in our El Filet entree shared between TPS and I, presented with a nice char and on top of wine sauce, as well as garlicky spinach mashed potatoes. The meat, while rather nondescript in flavor was tender, bursting in juices and the red wine sauce added oomph to the taste. Her friends shared an assortment of sausages, sweetbreads and meat served on a table top grill, enough meat for a family of five but shared amongst only 2 men. Needless to say, we rolled out of the restaurant many hours later very sated and satisfied. Once again, Peishan outdid herself.

Friends, food and fun. This almost makes the painful airport shenanigans bearable and has me looking forward to the next visit to Chicago!

Phoenix Restaurant (2131 S Archer Ave, Chicago)
Joy Yee's (2159 S China Place, Chicago)
Tango Sur (3763 N Southport Ave, Chicago)

Friday, August 17, 2007


Just like in New York, brunch is a big deal in Chicago, and people are not afraid to wait for it. Orange in the lakeview area is one such place where brunch devotees congregate, where clumps of people form along the sidewalk and happily wait for their names to be called. Peishan, Kayla and I were there at 11am last Saturday, unearthly by New York standards but mightly late in Chicago. We put our names down, headed back to Peishan's loft just around the corner to check out Peiyun's wedding photos, went back to wait some more, and were finally seated a little before 1230pm. Peishan even gave a little hop and skip when the hostess mercifully called for us.
Like its young, tanned and generally thin clientele, Orange exudes a fun, hip vibe. The orange (at this point it gets a little trite) walls creates a cheerful setting for a nice big meal while the very high ceilings and well spaced tables help keep the noise level comfortable. The juice bar is the focus in the main dining room, and an enormous juicer works double time making fresh squeezed fruit juice. Coffee is poured as we pore over the menu of innovative eats, smelling and tasting like orange, as these beans have been roasted with orange essence. Funky more than tasty. Frushi, or fresh cut fruit on sushi rice was another gimmick we did not fall for.
The brunch dishes were eclectic, huge and in general pretty good. My eggs benedict were smothered in a basil flecked hollandaise sauce and the perfectly runny poached eggs sandwiched between to thick slices of tomato. Instead of ham, the eggs sit on barely melted pieces of milky mozzarella. What was my eggs benedict channeling? A caprese salad!got it?
Kayla's plate of coconut french toast kebab looked like a CSI crime scene, with the fruits bleeding passion fruit and raspberry blood. But the fresh mango, pineapple and strawberry slices were just tart enough to balance the sweetness of the coconut crusted brioche, which in turn did an admirable job of soaking up fruit purees. All she needed was a margarita to feel like she was on a beach in the Carribean. My favorite dish however was Peishan's green eggs and ham. Scrambled eggs and pesto is for me a new flavor combination I will forever keep and employ at home, and the generous chunks of ham didn't hurt, adding savoriness to the heap of fluffy eggs. With all these and other intriguing dishes, like a daily flight of silver dollar pancakes dolled up in various styles and chai-tea flavored french toast, no wonder people line up here.

3231 N Clark St (bet Aldine & Belmont Aves

Monday, August 13, 2007


Soba-ya is one of my East Village standbys, and for very good reason. Comfortable seating, good prices, polite service and most importantly pitch perfect buckwheat noodles, made-in-house and begging to be dipped in sauce and slurped aloud. However, while the place is not exactly a hole-in-the-wall, its not big either and waits, especially on weekend nights can border on egregious. One way to game the system is to come in for lunch, where I found myself some weekends back with a group of friends.

Most of my companions were taken with the price-buster of a bento set. For a ridiculously low price of $15, you get, not only an expertly made serving of nutty, chewy soba, you are also served a lacquer-box filled with 4 food types: salad, nimono (stewed root vegetables) , agemono (tempura) and yakimono (for that day, a slice of teriyaki salmon), on top of pickles and dessert. I found myself lusting over the tempura, the shrimp and vegetables showing through a crisp and light coat of batter.
Besides the bento set and bowls of soba and udon (also made in house), diners can choose from a multitude of noodles + rice combos as well as a daily special (Chirashi soba, with the ingredients artistically fanned out on of a mound of noodles in a large ceramic bowl). A fan of fish roe, I had to get the salmon + roe ricebowl + soba combo. For a non-sushi place, Soba-ya serves really fresh fish, and I absolutely adore the burst of brininess with each bite of the glistening salmon roe pearls. The salty rice, and the austere zaru soba make for a contrasting but good meal.
We washed down our lunches with leftover sauce and the soba water, left over from the cooking process and dug into the complimentary desserts, precious little pots of eggy custard. With noodles this good, who needs eggs for brunch?


229 E 9th St (Bet 2nd & 3rd Aves)

Thursday, August 09, 2007


For the residents of Hells Kitchen, Bis.Co.Latte offers a welcome alternative from Starbucks, with free wifi in a cheerily neon room, as well as a friendly proprietress and her employees serving up Illy coffee in real hefty cups and freshly baked pastries that are small but packed with flavor. The house specialty are solid sticks of crunchy biscotti, all 15 or so types on each given day. Besides biscotti, gelato seems to be a popular menu item on a hot summer day, and customers sitting next to me were raving about the fragrant vanilla bean and refreshing mint chocolate gelato. Visitors can sample the whole array of biscotti generously laid out near the counter, ranging from the regular almond studded variety to a savory red wine and pepper biscotti that was hot and spicy, and even a carob one that your puppy could eat and would love. My favorites are a chocolate chunk espresso one that's great dipped in a cup of strong coffee, and a fruity but balanced apricot and almond biscotti, with chewy chunks of dried fruit providing textural contrast to the crispy, twice baked treat. Yummy. Prices are also fair at only $0.85 per cookie and a whole pound for $15. I brought a bag to work and thought a good 20 sticks was a lot. But a pound was not too much at all when your co-workers like it as much as I did. In less than 2 hours, we had nothing left but the plastic bag.

667 10th Ave (Bet 46th & 47th St)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Arte Around the Corner

Of the neighborhoods I frequent in the city, the upper west side ranks highest in terms of baked goods. While the rest of the city sleeps in on weekends, the upper westsiders and eastsiders, typically a more mature bunch with children in tow are up and about by 9-10 am, hitting Fairway and the other supermarkets for cooking ingredients and on the lookout for breakfast and strong coffee. There are fewer generic bagel chains and more independent bakeries, and Arte around the Corner is one such shop, simultaneously a specialty store for Italian foodstuffs and purveyor of very gooey and addictive pastries and cakes. This morning, a honey and blueberry loaf looked extremely attractive on the cake stand, with pristine blueberries lined uniformly in the crack of the loaf cake like a row of edible buttons. I picked another honey-flavored item, a honey and fig muffin. Unlike regular muffins, it was a lot moister, the crumbs were less compact and suffused with the heady scent of honey. The muffin is not perfectly dome shaped, as the more liquid batter ran over the baking tin, rendering crispier bits that linked one muffin from the other. I picked up chunks of fresh figs in each bite, the caramelized fruit contributing to the overall stickiness of the muffin, sticky enough to have to lick my fingers afterwards. The muffin is paired with a potent cup of coffee. Not a bad start to Sunday at all.

Arte Around the Corner
274 Columbus Ave (73rd St)

Saturday, August 04, 2007


There is a reason why people do not make late dinner plans on a Monday night, regardless of how hot the restaurant is and how perfect the food is. The thing is, after a long day easing into the workweek, especially when you have to wake up at 5am the next day to make it into the office come Tuesday, you really do not have the mood to eat multiple courses and enjoy yourself like you would on Friday night. So under that premise, I must say that my meal at Babbo was less than I expected.
Of all the restaurants I've ever visited, Babbo, by virtue of its innovative Italian menu, modest prices and the fame of its owner Mario Batali, is by far the most difficult to get into. To get a table, be prepared to call one month in advance, at the strike of 10am, and be prepared to press redial multiple times. Rosie was probably put on hold for about 30 mins before she scored a table for 4 on a Monday night for Yanru's belated birthday dinner. That evening, we met in the restaurant, and huddled in one corner of the extremely crowded bar area, cramped full with diners without reservations (another way to score a seat without having to go through the trouble of making the calls). We were dismayed to find ourselves having to wait an extra 15-20 mins for the table before us to clear out, given it was 915 pm, we've been up since 5am for some of us, and were starving. The hostess though, did try to offer some help by bringing glasses of water to us while we waited.
Once we were seated, things did improve. For one, the upper floor where we were seated was much mellower than the circus downstairs, and the townhouse setting was urbane and warm. Water glasses were filled and chewy Italian peasant bread brought to us while we contemplated the menu, finally settling for 2 appetizers to share and a pasta each. Appetizers came fairly swiftly, an artfully presented plate of fresh salted sardines served with a cool caramelized fennel salad that I could not get enough of, and an exotic sounding Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette with morel mushrooms and a 3 minute egg that was more cooked than poached. Yanru swooned over the unique flavors of the dish, although the rest of us were slightly more ambivalent and lamb's tongue, well tastes like beef tongue but gamier, but nothing ventured, nothing gain!
The pastas took some time to arrive but when they did, they were very good. I really enjoyed my black tangle of squid ink spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed with fresh rock shrimp and spicy pancetta. I loved that the pancetta did not overwhelm the more subtle sweetness of the shrimp and the slivers of green chile provided extra heat. Rosie's spaghetti with tomato sauce, lobster and chives took me by surprise. While my dining companions were not too impressed by the ordinariness of the tomato sauce, I loved the introduction of subtly garlicky chives- which I only associate with chinese pork dumplings- enhancing the natural sweetness of the lobster flesh. It would have been even better if the tomato sauce was less sweet and more acidic. I went home thinking about the dish and ways to recreate it, given its simplicity. Yanru's beef cheek ravioli is probably the most complicated, with the winy braised beef cheeks shredded and stuffed into large packets and served with trace amounts of truffle oil. Very tasty but more a fall dish than summer one. Fennie's orecchiette was perhaps the most disappointing as it was more chewy than the rest of the pastas and bordered on undercooked. The sausage and broccoli rabe combination also played with sweet, bitter and spicy flavors but seemed more traditional and thus less impressive.
We skipped dessert as it was 11pm by the time we finished our entrees, and no one (except me) was in the mood to linger over coffee and dessert. What a waste though, because the dessert menu and our neighbors' plates looked fantastic. Oh well, I'll just have to come back another time.
When friends asked me about my dinner at Babbo, I told them that the food was good, but maybe not worth the effort of making endless calls and taking ridiculous timeslots for a meal (915 was great compared to the 1030 or 11 pm times they've offered for weekends). However, despite all that, I may find myself calling one of these days, 30 days in advance of a weekend night and eat again, this time not having to fear missing my bedtime, for the desserts that I've missed and the great pasta that is to be eaten.

110 Waverly Place

Monday, July 30, 2007


I remember a time when cheese meant tasteless Kraft singles on toast and the green bottles of powdered parmesan that I avoided like plague everytime my mum makes spaghetti. Even then I knew those stuff wasn't real cheese. Now that my palate has grown up, so has the humble grilled cheese sandwich. At Casellula, a cheese and wine bar devoted to the finer things in life on Saturday afternoon, Gerrie and I found for ourselves a contender for best grill cheese and tomato soup pairing. 4 folded wedges of toast are grilled till golden brown, and between the slices of bread is a luscious blend of comte, fontina and cheddar, at times creamy and others sharp. A slice of tomato is pretty to look at but doesn't do much else for the sandwich. The chunky bowl of chilled gazpacho, more a salsa than soup is simultaneously cooling but spiked with spice and herbs, and made the perfect companion for the comforting cheese sandwich.
Since it was too early in the day for a decadent meal of cheese and wine, we ordered yet another sandwich cheekily called the "Pig's Ass" sandwich for the presence of pork butt (another name for shoulder). This updated cubano is another lovely little crunchy lunch, packed with juicy shredded pork, cheddar, sweet and sour pickle slices and just enough olives to pack a salty punch. A little crispy on the outside perhaps, but the crunchy toast did take well to the spicy chipotle aioli that added even more flavor to the sandwich.
Eating is truely hard work and we lounged around after our sandwich handling, sipping coffee from the attractive cups and admiring the airy and inviting decor. I love the antique-ish cabinet, the rugged pine bar and even the often-times cliched barnyard chic exposed brick wall. Casellula is perfect for lingering in the afternoon, and probably only even better at night, when it becomes legitimate to just have cheese and wine.

401 W52nd St (Bet 9th & 10th Aves)

Monday, July 23, 2007

A chain of unfortunate dinners

Some people have commented that I've been having too great a time eating all these excellent meals. Contrary to popular perception, I do not have the Midas touch to choosing restaurants that have good food, good pricing and great service. In fact, just two weekends ago, I was cursed with meal after meal of mediocrity.
Saturday night at Congee Bowery: Granted this is Chinatown and I wasn't expecting good service. And yes, we did flout the laws of seating, making them seat us when there were but only 7 out of 9 people that showed up. We know table turning is essential in order to make money in Chinatown, but for the servers and managers to view our table with barely veiled contempt and to wrestle menus away from our hands? I've truly never been so ill-treated in Chinatown and I wonder why the lines were so long for such ordinary food. So the food was standard Cantonese with some better the the rest. The casseroles were hefty and comforting, but the frogs legs were devoid of meat while the shrimp, fresh and well fried was left swimming in too much mayo. It is 10-20% cheaper than say Ping's and Oriental Garden but for the level of emotional trauma inflicted, I'm better off at the other places.
Sunday at the Modern Bar Room: Here, our experience was disappointing, as the hum-drum food was exacerbated by lackluster and amateurish service, odd in a Danny Meyer's establishment.
The concept was good, appetizer sized items with no clear entree and appetizer distinction that allows for a casual shared dinner. But when I asked for the server to split our plates, he said no, there's no such policy. What he didn't notice was that other diners all had their food in the middle of their tables, with individual serving plates to share family style.
Ruoying and I ordered 2 savories each, for her the mushroom soup and a duck breast dish, and for me the cracker-like and pretty fun to eat tart flambee and a tiny roasted quail. Ying's soup was too salty and we waved the server down to tell him so. Usually the soup should be whisked away and a new appetizer offered. Our server was clearly flustered and said he would check with the kitchen, leaving us stranded with the 90% filled bowl of soup cooling rapidly. He then served other tables, trying to avoid us until about 10-15 minutes later, when finally he came back with the menu, apologies and the chance to order another app. The scallops that followed were nicely seared with a refreshing citrus base, but the experience was already marred. Then out of good intentions the server said he will slow down the pace of service for the main courses in order to let ying enjoy her scallops. Clearly the busboys serving the main courses didn't get that message because 2 mins before the scallops arrived, the main courses showed up. So ruoying was juggling with 2 dishes at once. Fun. and all the server said was "so the main courses turned up" sheepishly, no apologies extended. The duck and quail were actually well prepared and the duck with mustard sauce a great pairing. But whatever. Back to the server. He disappeared after main courses were served, to be replaced with a more professional server who patiently offered dessert suggestions. We opted for a really hefty serving of beignets with maple ice cream, caramel and a sourish mango preserve. The maple ice cream was wonderful, fragrant and sweet, the icy coolness contrasting beautifully with the fresh hot fried dough.
We were pleasantly surprised in the end with the bill, because the restaurant tried to remedy our subpar experience by comping not only the scallops but also the dessert. Still, the let-down from the service and forgettable meal was great enough that I probably will not return, even though sometimes thinking back, I should give it the benefit of a doubt, that Sunday's probably not the best day to eat out.
Monday dinner at Shilla: I've been there numerous times and have always enjoyed the bbq. This time round we opted for the cooked dishes. The seafood pancake was fantastic, crispy at the edges and filled with seafood and spring onions, but the bibimbop was unforgivably bland. What would normally be an average meal ended up in my list of jinxed meal because shortly after we left the restaurant, both of us were struck by a sudden bout of food poisoning. So at Shilla, stick to the bbq.
Luckily such strike-outs don't happen too often, or else I'll be eating in a lot more.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bukhara Grill

The last week was John's final week at work, and I will miss John, not just for the camaraderie, the division of labor and the shared jokes and meals, but also for an arsenal of Indian food knowledge. I was a chicken tikka masala girl, didn't like raita and had no clue which paneer was. John changed that. Most of all, he introduced me to mithai. Mithai, where were you all these years?!
You know how much people like him by how long his farewell celebrations went. Besides the perfunctory round of drinks and a lunch treat by our boss the day after John's last day at work, a bunch of close friends even met for dinner the week before. The place we chose? Bukhara Grill, for its close proximity to work, large, safe North Indian menu and some nostalgia, for we had often ordered from there by way of Seamless Web.
As people settled in the long banquette with their Taj Mahal beers and mango lassis, we started with crisp papadums and some chaat, or what I described to first timers as "deconstructed potato salad". The potatos and chickpeas added heft, the crackers crunch, the yogurt cool tartness and the green mint and red (tamarind?) chutneys lifted the dense dish with sweet, hot and aromatic flavors. Samosas were also decent but not as fun as chaat, at least for me.
The entrees consisted of vegetarian and meat dishes. Instead of chicken tikka masala, John selected chicken makhani, a tomato-based chicken curry that John calls butter chicken. Dieters beware, because the sauce is indeed super creamy and great with the copious amounts of freshly baked carb-filled naan at our disposal. The other meat dish was either lamb or goat. I can't remember, I was too busy eating the tender meat laced with a complex sauce. Besides the meat dishes, we had also a chickpea side, and some favorite vegetable dishes. Saag paneer is spinach and Indian cheese cooked with a lot of different spices, where the heat from ginger and cumin really lingers and warms you long after you've swallowed the entire dish. And my ultimate favorite - gobi taka tin, the flourescent red and oily cauliflower stirfry. Indians sure know how to cook cauliflower, from Gobi Taka Tin at Bukhara to the Manchurian Cauliflower at Chinese Mirch. Most of the time, cauliflower is undercooked or so resolutely overcooked that it turns into a mash. Here, the diced cauliflower is cooked through but retains its shape, and the bell peppers and some tomato puree adds contrast to this spicy yet comforting dish.
That night we ate, we talked, we enjoyed John's company and his running annotation of dishes we ordered. I committed to memory as best as I could and am noting it all down here, so that next time I fancy some Indian food, I won't have to call John at Penn come dinner time.

Bukhara Grill
217 E 49th St (2nd & 3rd Ave)

Friday, July 13, 2007


I packed a lot of eating on a recent trip to Atlanta, from fluffy biscuits to lip smacking ribs, but had neglected to eat fried chicken. A craving for crispy battered chicken did not go away even after I returned to New York but intensified, so in attempt to eat the one dish that got away, AI did some research, assembled my roommates and some friends, including friends visiting from Singapore and ended up at Maroons.

The restaurant, really an assembly of 3 long, narrow rooms tucked on a side street of Chelsea serves not only Southern classics, but also an equal number of Carribbean dishes. We split appetizers, all from the Southern side of the menu, a plate of golf ball sized hush puppies drenched in an unorthodox sweet, buttery sauce and some bbq ribs that I found on the dry side, but others thought fine.
Entrees were next and of course I had to have the chicken. And was I not disappointed. 2 huge pieces of chicken, really more like half a chicken was fried till golden crisp, glistening with oil but non-greasy. Hot savory juice squirts out as I tore the pieces up with my fingers, the only way to eat fried chicken and the meat was really tender and flavorful. Even the breast, usually the victim of over-frying and drying up was moist, registering a slight pinkish tone. I gladly ate all my stomach to take and happily forced the rest of the group to try a superior piece of fried chicken. Collard greens and mac & cheese provided the needed vegetable nutrients and carbs, along probably too much cheese and butter, but they too were good, the mac & cheese being a little too dry however. Gerrie's grits, which she paired with a portion of aromatic and ultra-spicy jerk chicken was even better in terms of its creamy texture and cheesy taste. Others ha bbqed chicken, shrimp and a whole fried fish, but I like think my chicken was the champion of the entrees, for no one elicited as much pleasure as I did plunging into their food that night. Perhaps they were all too healthy =)
We lingered over dessert, dessert being one single slice of red velvet cake for the seven of us and were jokingly chastised by the server for our tiny appetites. But along with a large slice of cake that was stained a deep ruby, he also brought along seven forks, so we knew he wasn't being slip. Unfortunately, while the cake was moist and had a dense mouth-feel I associate with red velvet cake, the cream cheese frosting tasted artificial and the cake seemed like it had taken a quick defrost trip in the microwave. A disappointment, because it was my favorite type of cake afterall.
We finally left the restaurant more than a good 2 hours after we were seated, happy to linger with good company in the cramped space. With all that amber walls and exposed brick, its hard not to make the place look warm and inviting. The restaurant had a constant energetic buzz about it the entire night but never a din, and the clientele was eclectic, alternating between African American families to a large frat-boy reunion, couples on a casual date and us, the table full of Asian too full to have one dessert each. The food was excellent and much more expensive than ordering at a roadside chicken shack (which you can't find in new york city anyway) and KFC, but not egregiously so for New York standards and with the Southern hospitality and the chill Carribbean pace (read slow) I would gladly go back whenever I find myself needing fried chicken.

244 W 16th St (Bet 7th & 8th Aves)

Sunday, July 08, 2007


So calling Ratatouille the greatest cartoon ever made might be a stretch, but I was thoroughly charmed by the simple but smart story about a rat with haute aspirations making good on his dreams. Pixar once again does a fantastic job with the animation with each twitch of Remy's rat whiskers. The hordes of rats plundering the kitchen larder was appropriately nauseating while the food shots looked worthy for a 5 star restaurant. A little bit of intrigue, a dash of action, some romance and a smattering of professional kitchen vocabulary makes this a fun family movie and will leave you hungry for some food afterwards. Indeed, by the time we rolled out of the movie theater sometime past midnight, we were famished for some french food. Which lucky for us in New York, is not that difficult to find, not even at midnight =)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kwik-E-Mart comes to life!

Fans of the Simpsons will be happy to know that not only is the full length feature a scant 3 weeks away, they can now also live out life in Springfield by way of its convenience store. Indeed, in a brilliant product tie-in move, several 7-Elevens in the country have been converted to Kwik-E-Marts, Springfield's leading convenience store, complete with boxed cereal endorsed by Krusty the Clown and Buzz Cola. Unfortunately for some, Duff Beer is not available.

Below are pictures from my maiden trip to the Kwik-E-Mart in NYC on 42rd St, right across Port Authority Station:

The only Kwik-E-Mart in the metropolitan area, this one suffers from not having the vast, empty parking lot emblematic of suburban Springfield.

Buzz Cola, looking to provide more caffeine than other colas

Ooh.. Krusty O's - The best you can expect from a TV clown. Like cheerios, only better... I couldn't resist and bought a box...
Donuts... How could you not have donuts? D'oh!!!

Apu says goodbye and thanks you for loitering... This is one of the only twelve 7-Elevens in the world to have received such life-altering transformation =)

For more information about the movie and other Kwik-E-Marts near you, visit:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Barney Greengrass

I had visitors from Singapore again this weekend, and before a trip to the Met thought it would be good to fuel up somewhere nearby. Barney Greengrass - a 99 year old upper west side Jewish foodstore/ restaurant complete with tiny formica tables and 1950-ish shiny plastic and chrome chairs - isn't exactly on the same side of the park as the museum, but I figured, a short walk wouldn't kill anyone, not especially after a nice, fishy breakfast.

Jeanette had lamented on the dismal state of Singapore bagels and while Barney Greengrass is more famous for smoked fish, the bagels we had were dense, chewy, poofy, not too big. Overall a pretty decent bagel.
As good as the bagels may me, it unfortunately plays second fiddle at Barney Greengrass. For the main reason people frequent this old store is not for the bagels nor the excellent baked goods, but for the fish. I clearly wasn't the only one with fish on my mind, as the main sitting room was already filled at 10.30am with early risers including my coworker Alan, his fiancee and friends, and my party had to be sitted on the more makeshift are right across the refrigerated displays. This proved to be a great seat as we stared at all the unfamiliar types of fish like sable and salmon pastrami, imagining their tastes, and watched the deli-men perform their mean slicing skills, shaving thick slabs of lox into thin layers fit for a cream cheese, lox and bagel trifecta. The lovely couple I breakfasted with both chose plates of nova scotia salmon scrambled with eggs and onions. The creamy eggs binded well with the thick chunks of flavorful cured salmon, while the soft and slow cooked onion provided a sweet counterpoint. I selected a fried egg sandwich stuffed with a generous serving of sturgeon, for which Barney Greengrass unabashedly calls itself a king of. The delicate fish was moist and flaky and the eggs was just as I liked it, crispy on the eggs but juice-filled as I bit into my towering sesame-seed flecked sandwich.
We, or rather I ended my meal buying a bag of black-and-white cookies that are as New York as bagels are and was not disappointed. The cookies are ubiquitous in New York delis, but are often stale, dry disks of cake dough topped with oily glaze. The mini cookies I bought were moist and tasted slightly lemony, while the duo of chocolate and vanilla glaze were sweet but not cloyingly so. Yummy.
For New Yorkers, Barney Greengrass is a great place to enjoy local favorites in an efficient, friendly and no-nonsense setting and for visitors, a charmingly old-school dining experience that is definitely not cookie-cutter!

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue (86th St)