Thursday, March 1, 2012

Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant

Yes, that's right, Asian Jewels is the name of the restaurant, insert joke here. I'm not sure why anyone would want to name their restaurant that. I guess in hindsight, they probably think it's a bad idea now.

All jokes aside, this restaurant is a great dim sum place to go to when you're in Flushing, Queens only because it has a wide variety of dim sum to choose from. Aside from the usual shiu mai (pork dumplings) and ha gao (shrimp dumplings), they also have curry fish balls, crab meat and snow peas dumpling, and my favorite, bacon wrapped shrimp dumplings.

For dessert, the sweet egg custard bun is always good. The bun is warm and fresh and when you bite into it, the warm, sweet custard starts oozing out. Once in a while, I'll also order the mango pudding. I like the way it's made here because it actually has bits of mango pieces in the pudding, not all dim sum places make it that way.

The prices here are reasonable, it's $1.95 (small), $2.95 (medium) and $3.95 (large). If you order a special dish such as spare ribs or clams in black bean sauce, the price range is $6.25 to $8.50 for each dish.

If you come during the weekends, be prepared to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a table. As soon as you go in, be sure to get a number from the seating hostess. There will be times when you will even share a table with a bunch of strangers if you come with a small group. It may be awkward but it works if you're there to just eat and go and don't want to wait. If you only have time during the weekend, it's best to go around 11am when there's less people.

The decor is very modern and the restaurant is spacious and like any other restaurants in Flushing, the service is usually poor but fast.

What's great about this place is that it offers parking. That's a huge plus especially if you're driving into Flushing during the weekends. Just remember to get your card stamped to validate your meal. Although they advertise that it's "free" parking, be sure to have some singles ready because if you want your keys back, they will be expecting a tip.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Cheap $15-$25

Service: Poor

Website: None

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Salt & Fat

This cozy little restaurant in Sunnyside sure lives up to its name. From the moment you sit down, they immediately start you off with complimentary popcorn drizzled in bacon fat. It smells delicious and is terribly addictive. Salty and fatty indeed! You can go through three bags of them while sipping on some wine and chatting with friends without even realizing it. How can anything go wrong with bacon in it? But fear not, because not all of the items on the menu are as greasy and fatty as one might think.

The Korean BBQ lettuce wraps is a great dish to start off with. For the sauce, they used pickled dikon and miso and it goes very well with the grilled steak. It's sweet, light and savory. The fried chicken was really good too. It wasn't too greasy and the meat was tender and juicy. The other dish I got was the striped bass. I loved the plum sake soy sauce they used. Striped bass usually has a mild, sweet taste so the tangy, sweet plum sauce compliments the bass very well. For dessert I ordered was the rice krispy and marshmallow ice cream. It certainly beings back memories of my childhood.

Many dishes on the menu are served tapas style and meant to be shared. So if you go with a couple of friends, be prepared to order a lot of dishes because the portion is rather small. They update their menu every once in a while so they may not have the same dishes you ordered from before. I was looking forward to getting the crack and cheese, which is a spin on the traditional mac and cheese but it wasn't on the menu anymore.

Their dishes are definitely not boring. The combination of the different ingredients they used is truly creative, exciting and fresh and the results are delightfully good. They are not afraid to take risks and it really pays off because it brings life to the traditional dishes we are used to having.

The atmosphere was warm, cozy and inviting. Our server was attentive and really took the time to explain some of the dishes on the menu for us. One minor inconvenience is that they don't accept American Express. So remember to bring your Visa card, don't leave home without it.

Parking is relatively easy to find. There is street parking on Queens boulevard and metered parking under the overpass on Queens boulevard. The 7 train can also take you there and you can get off at 40th street.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Reasonable $25-$50

Service: Excellent


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Le Perigord - 405 E 52nd St (between 1st Ave & F D R Dr) New York, NY 10022 Neighborhood: Midtown East (212) 755-6244

Le Perigord is one of those restaurants where you would take your mother to for Sunday brunch after church. It's a reputable, classic French restaurant that has been around for decades but it feels more like a senior citizen center for the well-to-do in the upper east side. While I was waiting for my appetizer to arrive, I noticed that not one person in the restaurant was under the age of 50.

The selection they had for the restaurant week menu was very limited. I was only given a choice of two or three items for each course. I ended up getting the risotto with sea scallops for the main course and chocolate mousse for dessert. The risotto tasted very bland and the rice was actually still a little undercooked. The plating for the chocolate mousse was unimpressive. One scoop of chocolate mousse drizzled in some sauce with a few berries on the side wasn't exactly what I had in mind from this traditional French restaurant.
You get a sense of apathy from the waiters as they bring you your food. They move around in a very sedated, slow moving pace, probably because they're approaching retirement age as well. Overall, I really wasn't impressed with this place. The food was lackluster to say the least, and the decor feels very dated.
The purpose of Restaurant Week is to allow people to try out new restaurants at an affordable prix fixe price. It would have been worthwhile to dine here had the quality of the food been better. I would have appreciated the experience of trying old world French cuisine more. Instead, this will probably be one of those unmemorable dining experience for me.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: No

Price: Expensive (if you're not ordering from the Restaurant Week menu)

Service: Slow


Friday, March 11, 2011

La Maison Du Macaron - 132 W 23rd St New York, NY 10011 - (212) 243-2757

Macarons are little bites of heaven. Once you've had it, you'll be constantly fiending for it and finding yourself wanting it every chance you can get. The first time I've ever tried a macaron was at Pierre Herme in Paris and it was also the best I've had so far.

Since macarons are not as popular in the US as it is in Europe, it's been virtually impossible to find a place in NYC that makes them with the quality that is exquisite in both taste and texture. Some of the places that do sell them tastes somewhat stale or bland. The macarons at Bouchon bakery were sub-par at best. A lot of these places never seem to get it quite right. The shell should be slightly crunchy and the center rich, chewy, with a meringue-like texture.

I realized my infatuation with these colorful little french cookies was beyond normal when I found myself searching all over NYC for the ultimate macaron. My hunt was over when I found La Maison du Macaron. So far, this is the only place that came close to the one I had in Paris. This little bakery has a variety of flavors to choose from. These colorful, petite pastries all looked so good, if I could, I would gorge myself and eat them all. But sadly, at $2.50 a pop, all I could buy was a few to satisfy my craving. The Caramel Fleur de Sel was a popular flavor and won't disappoint those who love caramel. The white chocolate coconut was a favorite of mine. It instantaneously melts in your mouth, and that hint of coconut complements the chocolate so well. It's so sweet and satisfying, it's almost orgasmic.

At the end of the day, I had to remind myself that I'm not in Paris, and if you want a good macaron, this is definitely the best you'll get here in New York.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Expensive $2.50 per macaron

Service: Good


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

M Wells - 21-17 49th Ave., Long Island City, NY (718) 425-6917

I've been feeling a little adventurous lately and been wanting to try out different types of cuisines other than the same, usual boring stuff I'm used to having. Conventional foods like grilled steak and steamed bass have become so commonplace that I longed for dishes that are exciting, new and creative. So one Friday night, I went online in search for a new restaurant to try and came across M Wells, a new French Canadian restaurant that has recently opened in Long Island City, Queens.

The fact that M Wells was actually in Queens, (and right by my neighborhood too) got me really excited because it's nice to know that I don't always have to travel to Manhattan for new, ethnic cuisines. Outside, M Wells looks like an ordinary diner but inside, their food is anything but ordinary. With dishes like salmon coulibiac and foie gras tamales, their menu is filled with a wide array of amazing creations from the mind of Hugue Dufour. I knew I was in for a real treat when I found out that Dufour was a former chef at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal.

As usual, I could never decide what to order, but the veal brain was the first thing that popped out right at me from the menu. A lot of people would find that off-putting, and I had to admit that I was a little hesitant at first. However, I reminded myself that when it comes to trying food, I had to be more gutsy and adventurous. So with an open mind, I told my waiter what I wanted. "Excellent choice! It's a very popular dish tonight," he said. It had to be popular for a reason. So I had veal brains for the first time in my life that night and you know what? It wasn't that bad. It reminded me of sweetbreads because it had a smooth and creamy texture. It definitely looked like a brain, there's no doubt about that. It was lightly fried and seasoned with a rosemary and balsamic vinegar sauce. The complexity of the textures and flavors made this dish surprisingly good.

I also ordered the escargot in bone marrow. I've had escargot before so my expectations were really high. It tasted good and the plating was very creative and original, but I've definitely had better.

For dessert, I ordered the Paris brest which is a ring shaped choux pastry filled with praline flavored cream. The flaky pastry and fresh cream makes for an awesome dessert. The only thing that threw me off was that they charge $16 for it.

Their menu changes from time to time so if you're planning on going back to order the same thing, I would call ahead of time first to make sure they have it so you wouldn't be dissapointed once you get there.

As the saying goes, when it comes to trying something new, approach it with an open mind and an empty stomach and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Expensive $50-$75 PP

Main Course: Veal brains

Dessert: Paris Brest

Service: Good


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inoteca - 323 3rd Avenue at 24th Street New York, NY 10010 (212) 683-3035

I've been craving for prosciutto everyday since I got back from my trip to Italy last November. The prosciutto there is amazing. It was the first time I've ever had it and I can't believe what I was missing all this time. As soon as I got back to New York, I started looking for any Italian restaurant that would have it on their menu and that's when I happen to come across Inoteca. Their menu is entirely in Italian, but thank goodness they provide you with a glossary in English.

Inoteca is one of the many new gastropubs that is starting to pop up all around Manhattan. Gastropubs have become really popular lately. It's a place where people can go to enjoy their wine accompanied by fine food. Inoteca has a great selection of wine and their bruschetta is simply delicious. You can select from a list of toppings you want on your bruschetta with one selling for $3, 3 for $7, and 5 for $12. It's a great deal if you go in a big group. The toscana (chicken liver) is flavorful and slightly gamy and the ricotta is smooth and creamy. But under no circumstance should you order the tonno (tuna). It's extremely salty and it tastes like it came straight out of a can.

For the main course, I had the pappardelle with sausage and mushroom. The pasta tastes fresh and homemade and the sauce was excellent. If you don't want too much grated parmesan on your pasta, just remember to remind your waiter of that because they will pile that baby on like there's no tomorrow.

Needless to say, you can't come to a gastropub without ordering some wine. I'm no wine connoisseur so my waiter recommended that I try the 2006 Rosso di Spicca, Tenuta Le Velette, which was fruity and had a nice subtle finish.

I've also ordered the assortito dish; a platter with a variety of cured meats which, of course, included prosciutto. I must say, it wasn't quite as good as what I had in Italy but it will have to do for now until my next trip back to Europe.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Reasonable $25-$50 PP

Appetizer: Bruschetta

Main Course: Pappardelle with Sausage and Mushroom

Service: Good


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grimaldi's Pizzeria - 19 Old Fulton Street Brooklyn, New York Under the Brooklyn Bridge Phone - (718) 858-4300

This little pizzeria by the Brooklyn Bridge has a reputation for serving one of the best pizzas in New York. The coal fired brick oven and the fresh ingredients they use certainly makes their pizza stand out above the rest. Once you take a bite of their pizza, you'll experience the sharp, intense flavor of their tomato sauce and contrasting textures of their thin, crispy, chewy crust.

Grimaldi's has been around for decades, and people from all over have been flocking there to enjoy what they have to offer. Every time I go, the wait is at least half an hour. The feeling you have when you're dining at Grimaldi's can be frustrating if you're a first time diner. The combination of waiting on that long line and the fact that you're starving by the time you sit down can certainly exacerbate your experience there. The service isn't exactly the greatest and the place is so cramped, you might knock over a few glasses as you make your way to your table. But let's face it, that hasn't stop people from going back.

I've tried deep dish pizza at Chicago and the pizza in New York is still the best. Maybe I'm biased because being a New Yorker, nothing beats thin crust pizza. The only complaint I have to make is that Grimaldi's pizza gets cold and soggy if you don't eat it right away. So eat up fast as soon as it gets to your table.

Just a heads up, they serve whole pies only and don't take any credit cards. They have locations all over the US, but definitely try the original right by the Brooklyn Bridge so you can enjoy the view there at night right by the water.

Bottom Line:

Recommended: Yes

Price: Cheap $15-$25 PP

Main Course: Pizza Pies

Service: poor