When you're hungry, you tend to forget that your stomach will reach that point of over-satiated-ness. You know, when you feel like your stomach has expanded to reach your throat or that you're well into the gestation period with a new baby bolus. Dim sum looks manageable with its wide variety of enticing, cute little plates holding cute little portions, but those dishes hold lies. LIIIES! Tasty steamed, fried, baked, and sauteed lies.
On Sunday I met up with Kathryn and Dan at Oriental Garden for my first meal in Chinatown since I got back from Paris. (As much as I'd love them to, egg custard tarts don't qualify as a meal.) We started with a trio (most things come in threes; it's "lucky") of deep fried bird-shaped taro-filled...things. There is probably a real name for it that sounds less stupid than what I came up with (aka, anything else), but I don't know what it is.
I don't know how they make the light, holey crust that doesn't seem to resemble any other batters I've seen, but I like it. Chomp through that and you've got smooth, mashed taro innards with some other bits in it. Like organs. Suspended in taro plasma. This was my favorite dish during the meal, partially because it didn't render me immobile, which has to do with it being the first thing I ate and not consisting of 200% meat like some of the other dishes. Oh, you will see.
We also got cha siu bao, roast pork buns, which were glazed with some kind of sweet syrup. I'm no expert on roast pork buns, so I guess they usually come with glaze, like frosting on cupcakes but instead consisting of sweet goo on a soft, baked bun stuffed with chopped meat. It's just like that. Not really.
Char siu sou are like char siu bao but in a different dough of the uber flakified variety. It was also different for seemingly compressing twice as much meat into the same area. After one bite I felt like my stomach was going to die of meat overload. It was a very weird moment, to be defeated by something whose conquerable-ness I would have never questioned due to it's small size.
Next up were deep fried bacon-wrapped shrimp rolls. Oh, the things Chinese have invented. How did it come about?
"Hey, this shrimp is boring. What should we do with it?"
"Uh, let's wrap it in something!"
"Okay! Like what?"
"...Bacon? What kind of sick person would eat shrimp wrapped in bacon?"
"Yeah, me too. Let's try that.
I've never had bacon-wrapped shrimp before due to not especially liking bacon or shrimp (but not hating them either), so I wanted to get that one under my belt. Chomping through the crunchy crust uncovered, once again, an impossibly dense mass of shrimp stuffed into what looked like a weeny nubbin. What the hell? I'm not saying it's a bad thing to give the customer lots of meat, but I can't handle it. I have limits! And now I know what they are. Crap.
Oh, sweet turnip cakes, you can do me no wrong. Kathryn was opposed to their texture, but Dan and I didn't care. WEE, MORE FOR US. :] I ate one and a half of the smooshy, pan-fried slabs before getting that, "Mugugh, belly full" feeling.
We ended with siu mai, steamed open-face pork and shrimp dumplings (or perhaps the shrimp is optional). Once again, it was ridiculously meat-stuffed, surely a dream for any pork lover but for me was more like a ginormous mountain of meat that I had to eat my way through despite being the size of a ping pong ball.
Oriental Garden is great if you like meat. Lots of meat. I would like to go back to see how their vegetable dishes fare. Most of the tables are too cramped to push the standard dim sum cart around the restaurant, but there are plenty of waiters constantly walking around while carrying trays of food for you to stuff yourself with. They also keep close watch on your teapot so that you're never at risk of suffering from dehydration.
After parting with Kathryn and Dan, I wandered over to Lung Moon Bakery despite knowing that my stomach was about 5 calories from exploding. I wanted something sweet, dammit! Since they were only 60 cents I figured I'd buy two; if I could only eat one, I would give the other one to Nathan, who I was going to meet at the MoMA later that day. Indeed, after eating one (or mid-way of eating one) of the warm tarts, my stomach went into revolt and declared, "NO MORE CUSTARDY GOODNESS FOR YOU." Sigh. The custard was a bit runnier than others I've had, but was otherwise awesomely flaky and eggy and all the other good things that make egg custard tarts one of the best inventions in the world. Certainly worth more than 60 cents.
At the MoMA we watched Fine Dead Girls, a Croatian film that follows a string of tragedies and horrible things that will leave you feeling completely numb and thinking about how fucked up life can be. If you want to be depressed, you've gotta check it out!
:D :D :D
Florent and gelato
On Saturday morning I met up with Tina, The Wandering Eater, for brunch at Florent, my first foray into the Meatpacking District. Ish. I've walked around the area but I've never eaten in a restaurant there. Like many sections of Manhattan, the vibe is different from other areas. Sometimes it feels gritty and out of the way, but then in between the old buildings masked with dirt some polished shop or restaurant suddenly appears out of the wide cobblestone roads and it's like..."Huh?" That might just be me though since I rarely go there.
Florent felt rather random, like most other things in the area that I wasn't used to. There's nothing fancy about it's old diner interior washed in pink lighting with walls covered with framed maps, but it's pretty cozy and comfortable.
I ordered the special burger, "grilled cajun spiced ahi tuna burger (MR) on a toasted English muffin w/ lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced avocado & a chipotle aioli; served w/ french fries". I was pleased to chomp into the burger (well, 50% of it; it was too big to get my entire mouth around it at once) and find that the tuna came in the form of a tuna steak and not some ground tuna patty. The thick, seared tuna steak was definitely awesomer than if it had been a fish patty. It was spicy enough to please me (tingly without making me wish I had a fire extinguisher for my mouth) and I found the lightly toasted English muffins preferable to the standard hamburger bun. Crispy salted french fries (completely with potato skins) were also very good, although they would've retained more tastiness (in the form of heat) if I didn't wait to eat most of them until after I finished my burger. I'd order this again if I didn't think a repeat visit to Florent should demand trying something else to follow my philosphy of, "MUST TRY EVERYTHING."
Tina went with the quintessential brunch dish, eggs benedict. She said that it could've used more salt and wasn't love-worthy, but was otherwise good.
After feeling adequately stuffed at Florent, we roamed up a few blocks to Chelsea Market without the intention of eating any more. Seriously. ...But then I was enticed by the beauty of L'Arte Del Gelato's rainbow display of creamy, smooth mounds of gelato (besides the free sample of cherry vanilla gelato being handed out) and knew I had to get something. Tina felt the same way. What a horrible influence I am. :)
Although I wanted maybe 5 flavors (or...ye know, all of them), I settled on pistachio and strawberry. I rarely go for fruit flavors, but a part of me wanted something fruity, or at least reminiscent of a raw, sweet, and juicy ripened ovary. The non-scary green (aka, real green) pistachio gelato had that roasted nutty flavor that told me, yes, this is damn good pistachio gelato. Strawberry adequately fulfilled my desire for fruit without the nutritional benefits. Tina enjoyed her mascarpone and intensely chocolatey gianduja (good combo too). MORE, WE NEED MOOOORE.
I mean...their gelato is really good. Yes. A small cup is only $3.75 and quite filling, although I might spring for a larger cup next time so I can try more flavors. And call it "lunch".
stuff in Chelsea
Since I am interning at Serious Eats this semester (not that I've done much yet, but I will...unless they realize that I am brain dead) I got to eat at a few places around the office, which is on the other side of Manhattan from my east side apartment. It's an easy walk, but a bit brutal if it's way below freezing. The legs, oh how they tingle.
My first real meal was at brgr, or as I have to tell people, "bee are gee are". Of course, I can say "burger" but then I have to explain it further anyway. "Oh, today I ate at Sndwch. Yesterday I ate at Stk." It's easier when I'm typing it out.
So, you figure out what brgr specializes in, I hope. They offer beef burgers, turkey burgers and veggie burgers, some with pre-defined combinations of sauces and toppings, but you can also make up your own creation. Someone should make one with all the free toppings—lettuce, tomato, onions, pickes, grilled onions, brgr sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, mayo, horseraddish cream—just for fun ...Okay, nevermind.
The place was stuffed with customers and staff members. After you place your order, you get a number on a stand that you take to your seat so that someone can bring you your food. It's like semi-table service, woo! Mitsuwa used to work like that way some years ago until they switched over to the "calling out numbers" system.
We sat way in the back in front of the patty making station where one can witness the transformation of raw, ground meat into compressed protein discs. Mm, meat blobs.
I started with a black and white milkshake (mixture of chocolate and vanilla). This baby was thick. And thus awesome. It passed the standing straw test and the "I feel like I'm sucking in my face when I drink this" test, in addition to the "Does it taste good?" test. I was horribly sad when I couldn't bring myself to finish the whole cup due to overloaded belly syndrome, not because I didn't desire more highly caloric drinkable ice cream goodness. Sigh.
Adam and I shared the sweet potato fries. They weren't bad, but I would've liked them more if they were crispier. We couldn't finish what looked like a manageable portion of fries, although that probably had something to do with both of our bellies containing burgers and milkshakes. Maaaybe.
Oh yes, so onto the burger. I ordered the gruyere, avocado, herb mayonnaise, onion, lettuce and tomato burger, done rare. It didn't come out anywhere near rare, but I've heard they have some problems with getting things cooked the way you want them to. So! That's a warning for you. The burger was...satisfying. It's not going to blow you away, but it won't disappoint you either. I probably would've liked it more if it had been cooked less and had more juicy meat-ness. After eating the whole thing, I felt like I was going to explode.
If I lived/worked near brgr I can see going there for regular burger stuff-agel, but there are other places I'd rather go if I had a burger craving. ...Except Shake Shack is currently closed, Corner Bistro is not the most fun place to hang out with friends (in my opinion), and The Spotted Pig is busy seemingly all the time, besides that their burger is freakin' huge (and so good). Hm. Well.
If I go to brgr again I want to try their kid's sized burger for the sake of not having to waddle out of the place after I'm done. :)
Right around the corner from Serious Eats is Kofoo, one of my favorite cheap eats that I first discovered two summers ago when I took classes at SVA and would walk from the Port Authority bus terminal to the school to kill time, get some exercise and give off a few buckets of sweat in the process. I passed the tiny Korean take-out one night and after ordering a few things found that I liked kimbab, the Korean version of sushi, more than the Japanese kind. As lashes457 said, "its like sushi on steroids", in the sense that there's a lot of filling, not rice. One roll (about $5) is enough for dinner. Hopefully it's not evil that I prefer mushed up cooked tuna wrapped in rice more than mushed up raw tuna wrapped in rice. Or perhaps my palette just isn't mature enough. ...Meh, whatever, I've eaten enough raw spicy tuna sushi in my life to realize that I just like kimbab more. :\
Grilled eel smothered in sweet sauce is one of my most favorite dishes ever, especially when it doesn't cost over $10 like it does at most restaurants. Kofoo's eel rice bowl is around $8 and is extremely filling to the point that I couldn't eat it all even though I love the crap out of it. In between the layer of eel and bed of rice is a ton of sauteed chopped mixed vegetables, something I've never seen with other eel rice dishes. There's some balance! Fiber! Nutrients!...maybe! It's a great value, but I have to keep in mind (or restrain myself) that attempting to finish the whole thing will result in stomach pain.
Enticed by Breadstix's display of baked goods and breads, I went inside for a basic pain au chocolat. It was doughier than I'd prefer, but had some good separated layering action, adequate chocolate content, and a crispy, flaky exterior. Not bad. I'd eat it again.
For intense NYC croissant ratings, check out Tina's posts: Who Has the Best Croissants in NYC? and The Best of Croissants...Part 2. She uses a real rating system! With numbers! And eats a lot! That's dedication.