Monthly Archives: October 2010

Katz’s Delicatessen

205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246
http://www.katzdeli.com/

Katz Delicatessen is known for its pastrami sandwiches, and has been made famous by the movie When Harry Met Sally, in that bizarre fake orgasm scene and the line ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ that followed. There’s a sign hanging from the ceiling that shows everyone the exact table where Meg Ryan sat, with the words ‘Where Harry met Sally, hope you have what she had, enjoy!’

So is the food at Katz’s Deli truly orgasmic? We ordered a pastrami sandwich to share, with very little mustard and some pickles. The sandwich came just stacked high with pastrami. Oh was it good. Oh yes it was very very good. Oh yes indeed. The pastrami was so moist and tender, and full of wonderful smoky flavor. The sides were beautifully charred, and burst with salty goodness with every bite. This was the ultimate simple sandwich, done absolutely perfectly, hitting all the spots (and yes, maybe that spot as well). The bread is just ordinary, the pickle is quite average, the mustard is nothing special, but the pastrami, oh the pastrami, absolutely to die for. When everything is put together, you get probably the most amazing pastrami sandwich on the planet.

Service: NA
Food: 8/10

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‘wichcraft



http://wichcraftnyc.com/

 

It was our first (full) day in New York, and we wanted breakfast. Being huge fans of Top Chef, we decided to check out as many restaurants and eateries associated with the contestants or judges of Top Chef as we could, while we were in USA. ‘wichcraft is a sandwich take out owned by the head judge of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio. There are many branches found all around New York City (and around the country as well), and one of the closest to our hotel was the one at Bryant Park. (Technically not the closest to our hotel, but it was the closest one that served breakfast.)

We had the Stone Ground Grits and a Fried Egg Sandwich with a tall cup of lemonade. This was our first time having grits, and we became immediate fans. Kind of strange for us to like grits as much as we did, since we’re both not huge fans of porridge, or oats, and grits does have that kind of texture and appearance. It was the taste that won us over. It was mild and comforting, and the bacon and cheddar gave it a good punch of flavour. When people say everything tastes better with bacon, they really have a point there.

The fried egg sandwich was also really, really good. The gorgonzola was slightly pungent, but when combined with the other components in the sandwich, it brought everything together. We loved ‘wichcraft so much we went back the next day, and again the next day, and, well, for practically everyday we were in NYC we had ‘wichcraft for either breakfast, or an early lunch. The next time we went back to ‘wichcraft, A ordered the fried egg sandwich again, this time without gorgonzola, since she didn’t like the pungent flavour it brought. Well, the sandwich was still delicious without the gorgonzola, but there was definitely something missing, which A admitted herself as well. It is truly wonderful to see how every component in a well thought out dish, or in this case, sandwich, is important to the overall taste and presentation of the dish. By leaving one component out you deny yourself the full experience and taste that was intended by the chef.

Anyway, as we mentioned, we loved ‘wichcraft so much we kept going back. On our repeat visits we tried other sandwiches like the Roasted Turkey sandwich, which came with avocado, bacon and an onion relish and aioli on a ciabatta roll, which was also fantastic, and very generous with the avocado (in this case an unfortunate thing, since A doesn’t like avocado at all).

We also had the Slow Roasted Pork, with red cabbage, jalapeno and mustard. This is probably one of the best sandwiches ‘wichcraft has. The pork is incredibly flavourful, and would stand alone as a dish by itself in any decent restaurant. The inclusion of the jalapeno peppers gives it a good spicy kick with each bite, which we just loved to bits.

The Meatloaf sandwich, with cheddar, bacon, and a tomato relish was also really tasty. We also love their lemonade – really tangy and refreshing, perfect in that summer heat.

Service: N/A
Food: 8/10

Fatty Crab

2170 Broadway
(between 76th and 77th)
New York, NY 10024
212.496.CRAB (2722)
http://www.fattycrab.com/

First meal in New York City!!

A’s sister’s friend, Ch, brought us out to Fatty Crab for dinner the day we landed in NYC. We had helped her bring (quite literally, shit loads of stuff) from London where she was based for the past 2 years to NYC since she was starting out on her 2 year programme at Columbia.

Fatty crab serves South-East Asian-ish food. The restaurant itself looks and feels hardly like what you would expect a South-East Asian restaurant to be like. It seemed more like a happening bar/pub/club than a restaurant, with seriously loud blaring music (it was so loud we had to shout across the table into each others’ ears to be heard, like you would do in a club) and almost entirely non-Asian servers. Yet, people around us were feasting on chilli crab, eating off those stereotypical red and white patterned plastic plates and bowls. It was truly a curious juxtaposition.

We ordered quite a lot of food as usual. Perhaps we were trying to use food as a cure for jetlag (and in case you’re wondering, no, it didn’t help – we KO-ed the moment we got back to out hotel, and woke up ridiculously early the next morning).

We had a serving of Black Pepper Clams, which we didn’t like very much. The black pepper sauce was too buttery and creamy, which was completely the wrong way to do a black pepper dish, if you call yourself a South-East Asian restaurant.

The Chilli Crab was better, with pretty nice flavours, but we felt that it was still a little creamy. (Creamy sauces are quite rare in Asian cooking, but very common in Western cooking.) Also, we balked at the choice of bread. In authentic Singaporean Chilli Crab you’re served alongside your Chilli Crab, a plate of fried buns (mantou) to soak up the wonderful sauce with. At Fatty Crab, we were given some thick slices of white toast.

Our Kangkong Belacan was miles better. This was very close to the version we have at home. It was just a shame that it came in such a small portion! Finally, we had a Whole Fish Bakar. This was excellent. The fish was very well seasoned, and perfectly cooked.

It’s hard to judge a restaurant like this. Being from South-East Asia, we understand the flavours of the region very well. Hence we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the authenticity of the dishes rather than on taste. From an objective standpoint, the dishes were all pretty good, with two standouts – the vegetable dish and the fish. However, having said that, the 2 other dishes weren’t bad, they were just not what we expected them to be. Overall then I guess Fatty Crab does a reasonably good job with the food, but it has a long way to go before it can truly do justice to the flavours of South-East Asia.

And also, it wouldn’t hurt to turn the volume down a bit. If I wanted loud blaring music I would go to a club, not a restaurant.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Goodbye London!

London is an amazing place for eating. We knew we would miss it when we left, but we never knew how much we would miss it until we actually left London for good. In our short time in this beautiful yet frustrating city, we’ve tried so many different cuisines, dined at so many different restaurants and eateries that it’s literally impossible to document them all. We’ve tried in our blog to capture as many food experiences we’ve had in London as possible, and they’re the perfect way for us to look back on our time there and reminisce.

Some of our favourite places in London to eat at are in Chinatown, since being Asian those flavours appeal the most to us. We consider the roast duck in 4 Seasons to be the best in the world, and the service at Wong Kei to be the most hilarious and shockingly bad experience you’ll ever get. Food is of a generally high quality in Chinatown in London, and we’ve always taken that for granted. When we went to San Francisco, we ate at a couple of restaurants in Chinatown, and really struggled to find a decent meal. It was then that we really missed the variety and quality of the restaurants in London’s Chinatown. You can walk into almost any restaurant there and know that you’ll be reasonably satisfied with the food, if not better. There are of course exceptions to that rule, but we’ll come to that later.

Some things we’ll also miss in Chinatown will be Leong’s Legend, not the best example of Taiwanese food no doubt, but we love their Bamboo Glutinous rice, and their dim sum isn’t bad at all. We will also miss Viet, our favourite place for Pho, technically not in Chinatown, but very close by just across the street. The lady boss is very friendly, and the fried calamari is oddly addictive.

A stand out restaurant in all of London for us is definitely Roka. We celebrated our 5th month anniversary there, and it holds a very special place in our hearts. It’s quite the place to see and be seen, and is quite expensive, so it’s not somewhere we go to all the time, but only reserved for very special occasions. One such special occasion was when we nearly burnt down our entire flat. Basically we had set a pot of beef rending on the stove to simmer, and went into our room to do some work, without realizing that we had left the heat on high. After about an hour, we opened the door to our room, and walked into a cloud of smoke – the entire flat was filled with it! Our beef rending was, to say the least, ruined, and we were quite lucky that nothing caught fire. Feeling absolutely devastated, we wanted to go somewhere to cheer ourselves up, and Roka it was. (As a side note, it took us about 2 weeks to rid the house of the smell of smoke, it was awful.) In August 2010 Roka closed because there was a fire in the kitchen (the irony). They’ve probably reopened by now, and hopefully have taken the time while they were renovating, to revamp their menu and look, to place themselves even more at the forefront of Japanese fusion cuisine.

Another of our best meals ever in London was at Eastside Inn. It was our favourite restaurant of 2010, and we were wowed by both the good service and the absolutely wonderful food, created by Chef Bjorn. We had planned to go back there for our farewell meal in London, but they had unfortunately closed for good. It was a very sad day for us when we found out about their closing, and we sincerely wish them all the best for their next venture, whatever and wherever it may be.

One of our favourite finds of the year was Chili Cool, a Szechuan restaurant near Russell Square tube station. D first introduced us to that restaurant, and we fell in love with it after having a proper ala carte meal there. Since then we’ve introduced so many people to that restaurant, and we really look forward to going back to Singapore and hunting for the best Szechuan restaurant in town for our major ass-burning, tongue numbing experience. Who wants to join?

We’ve not always eaten at atas places, and have tried to post reviews of places for varying budgets. Cheap eats include places like My Old Dutch (awesome gigantic crepes), GBK (forever having 2 for 1 deals) and ICCo, probably the cheapest eat ever in Central London. We’ve unfortunately neglected to put a budget tag in our posts, but we’ve included, whenever possible, a website where readers can find out more about the restaurant, possibly look at the menu, and find out if it suits their budget. Alternatively, do as we do and look for more reviews online (try tripadvisor, or toptable, and search for the restaurant name) for a generally more objective opinion. Many other blogs do include an idea of the price range of the food at different restaurants so it would be useful to use those to supplement our posts.

Speaking of websites, we just can’t forget the horrible disconnect between what’s promoted on the website and the reality of the restaurant at Euston Chinese Restaurant. Do go read that post for our full rant. It was really just a convenient, lazy way for us to eat something, but it turned out to be one of the most horrible meals ever in London.

Another of those horrible meals was at somewhere you’d least expect to have a bad experience – Plum Valley in Chinatown, which proudly claims to be a fine dining restaurant. There was little, if any at all, fine about the dining at Plum Valley. The food was bland, or burnt, or soggy, and we got the impression that arranging some orchids on a plate with your food was their idea of fine dining. Plus, service was horrible – our server was disinterested in us and was more engrossed in reading the newspapers of playing solitaire, all done in full view of the diners, and she was also very careless with our food. It was the first time we felt so negatively about a meal that we made a complaint to the manager, who appreciated our comments and was so apologetic about our bad experience that she waived the bill for us. We’ve avoided writing an explicit review of Plum Valley for that reason. This is our first time writing about that meal, as since then it seems that they’ve improved vastly, judging by the far more positive reviews online nowadays, and we like to take some credit for that. J

We’ve been sporadically following some of our favourite London food blogs since we left, and it does remind us of the wonderful times we’ve had in London. At the same time though, it reminds us that we’ve left for good. Most of the reviews on those blogs nowadays are of places we’ve never heard about, and the food looks very different from what we’ve been having while travelling in USA and Korea, and definitely very different from what is available in Singapore. What used to be standard, easily accessible fare to us is now becoming more and more foreign, and while we used to consider London our second home, it will gradually become more a memory; a place we used to live in, but is now so removed from our current reality that it seems so very far away. We’ll always have a soft spot for London, and maybe, someday in the future, when we return for a holiday we’ll hopefully find that everything has remained more of less the same as when we left it. It would be so awesome walking around the city, familiar with the sights, sounds and scents, as if we’d never left.

Nuocmam

35 Great Portland Street
London W1W 8QQ
0207 631 2099http://www.nuocmam.co.uk/

It was the last day of the academic year, and it was the day we all handed in our summer project reports and gave our final presentations to the lecturers in our department. After a whole year of hard work a celebration was definitely called for. Nuocmam was chosen because it was running a 50% offer on toptable. For some reason we (read: the powers that be) negotiated for a different deal instead: 25% off food and 50% off bottles of wine – which might seem like a fantastic offer if you’re a huge wine drinker, but considering the demographic: poor college students, many of whom don’t even drink in the first place (for various reasons), this deal sucked. But the rest of us (read: those with less say in the way things are run around here) went ahead with the sucky deal anyway, since everything had already been arranged and it was too late to make alternate plans.

The above was just a rant, and has nothing to do with the restaurant, but everything to do with the undemocratic decisions, but I should move on now.

Nuocmam is a rather new Vietnamese/Japanese fusion restaurant near Great Portland Street Tube Station, and it trying very hard to establish itself it seems. Restaurants like Noucmam are a dime a dozen in London nowadays, and to be honest, it’s becoming quite a tired concept now. The selection of food items is what you would come to expect in a restaurant like this, so we didn’t find anything too exciting in the menu. Since we were there to hang out with our coursemates, food was secondary in the whole experience, so we weren’t bothered at all by the uninspiring choices or the quality of the food, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Anyway, we had to order an appetizer and a main in order to enjoy the 25% offer (oh don’t get me started again), so we went with the Dynamite Roll and the Yuzu Squid. The Dynamite Roll was basically a soft shelled crab maki roll, which was nice, but that’s about all we can say about it. It was definitely not as dynamite-ish as its name would suggest. The Yuzu Squid fared a little better. The squid was nice and crispy and the yuzu sauce gave a good tangy burst with each bite.

For our mains we had the Kimchi Miso Lamb and the Slow Braised Pork Belly Broth, with a Stir Fried Egg Noodles as a side (personally we don’t think Asian restaurants should charge extra for serving staples like rice and noodles. They should come included in the meal). The lamb was quite tasty, but nothing special. I suppose with the 50% offer (that we should have got dammit) it could be considered quite good value for money, but on the other hand I think for a truly ‘wow’ experience, go to Roka, or even Tsunami.

The pork belly on the other hand was outstanding. Visually, it got major envious looks from everyone – it was served perched on top of its own little fireplace, and just looked amazing. Tastewise it hit the spot as well – the pork belly was beautifully tender and the broth was very flavourful. Definitely something we would order again. The egg noodles were nice, but oily.

One of our coursemates had the Pan Fried Fillet of Seabass, which was quite delicious as well, the fish very nicely cooked with good flavours, and something worth a try if you ever find yourself in Nuocmam.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Taro

10 Old Compton Street
0207 439 2275
http://www.tarorestaurants.co.uk/

Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos of the food at Taro since we didn’t expect to end up eating there. We had originally planned to go to Viet (our favourite place to go to for really good Pho in London) with KR, but it wasn’t opened, and KR knew about Taro, which was just around the corner from Viet, so we found ourselves in Taro, without our camera.

Taro serves simple Japanese food in a canteen style dining room, with wooden tables and benches. The food comes in truly enormous portions, and it quite good value for money if you’re a big eater. Overall the food is simple and fuss free, and generally of a decent standard. It’s never going to win any gourmet awards, but I guess it will always have its loyal following.

We had the Japanese Curry (with breaded chicken) and the Yakiudon (I always chuckle to myself when I think of the name yakiudon…yucky udon). The Japanese curry was too much for A to finish, but it was pretty good. My Yakiudon was also an enormous serving, and I finished every last bit of it. The noodles had really good flavour and a nice generous amount of seafood.

Overall this is a good place for the budget conscious eater. Basically, any place that KR is willing to eat at is a budget friendly place. (haha no offense man.) This place gets our stamp of approval for its generous portions and reasonable quality.

Service: 6/10
Food: 6/10

Melati

30 Peter Street
London W1F 0AR
0207 437 2011
http://melati-restaurant.co.uk/

For some strange reason there are 2 restaurants called Melati about 400m from each other in Soho. Both are unrelated, but both serve Malaysian/Indonesian food. We had planned to go to the Melati along Peter Street, but ended up stumbling upon the restaurant along Great Windmill Street first. Thinking that it was just a branch of the one along Peter Street, we went in, but we quickly realized that it wasn’t related at all to the Melati that we wanted to go to, so off we went again, navigating ourselves through the confusing streets of Soho till we finally arrived, starving, at the Melati along Peter Street.

So starving we were that we practically ordered their entire menu; actually, no we didn’t, but we had far too much food than we could handle (as we usually do).

Drinks: We ordered a glass of Grass Jelly drink and a glass of Bandung (Rose Syrup). The Bandung was exceedingly sweet, and had probably more condensed milk than one should consume in an entire year, but it was nevertheless oh-so rich and sinfully good. As the ice melted the drink got a lot less cloyingly sweet, but it was definitely something I would order again. The Grass Jelly was far more sensibly flavoured, and also really good.

Appetizers: The Curry Puff we ordered was enormous, and the light fluffy pastry reminded us of roti prata which we really liked, but the filling was a complete let down. Another appetizer we had was the Tahu Goreng, which was horrible – presentation-wise it was a mess, and the tofu was tasteless and the peanut sauce was watery and bland.

Mains: We had a Laksa, which looked and smelt amazing. Taste-wise it was pretty good, but it definitely paled in comparison to the Sedap version, which is by far the most authentic Laksa available in London, and you can quote me on that.

The Mee Goreng Istimewa was quite disappointing – the noodles were just average and the satay was pretty nice, but the beef rendang was appalling and the pickled vegetables were horrible. The beef was very tough and though it was marinated well, was poorly cooked and did not melt in your mouth as a good beef rendang should.

We also shared (yes, I told you we ordered a lot of food) a Sambal Ikan Goreng, which was probably the best dish of the whole meal. The fish (mackerel) was a good choice to cook in that style and the sauce was tangy and flavourful. The problem however, was that it was more ketchup than sambal.

Service: We struggled a little to get their attention at some points in the meal, which was quite unforgivable since we were literally the only customers around for the most part of our meal, but otherwise they were very pleasant and courteous.

Service: 7/10
Food: 5.5/10