Friday, July 24, 2009

Governors Island Food Adventure

Last Saturday was City on Water Day at Governors Day, it sounded like a fun event, there were free ferry rides from Manhattan, but what really caught my eyes were the words "Delicious food from Vendy Award winning vendors from the Street Vendor Project", absolute music to my ears.

I dragged S&G along with me, we got to the Governors Island ferry terminal at around noon and the line was pretty long, we waited for about an hour for a 5 minute ferry ride. Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day, by the time we got to Governors Island, we spotted the first street vendor cart - Veronica's Kitchen, which is usually parked at Financial District. We got the jerk chicken, curry shrimp & oxtail platter with various sidedishes. The service was uber slow, and a lot of their side dishes were gone, but we were happy we got a variety of stuff. Thumbs up on the oxtail and jerk chicken. The oxtail was flavorful, and the jerk chicken was well-spiced. The curry shrimp on the other hand wasn't impressive, the shrimps were not fresh and the curry was diluted.

We also got some arepas from the famous "Arepa Lady" from Jackson Heights (she has a myspace page, how cool). The Arepa Lady cart apparently caters to the late night crowd on Fridays & Saturdays from 10pm to 5am. Just a side note, she used to be a lawyer and a judge...WHOAH! We got the arepa de queso, which was thicker and smaller, stuffed with melted cheese & topped with more grated cheese. The other one was the corn arepa, arepa de choclo, it was flatter & wider with grated cheese in the middle. I absolutely LOVED the arepas, they both had the savoury sweet taste that I have a weakness for, and the texture of both arepas were amazing. We also got the skewered sausages, which came with smaller arepitas, but I was not that impressed with those.

We wanted to try more stuff, the Kwik Meal cart & Dosa cart were there as well but we were stuffed. We took a quick walk around and caught the ferry back to Manhattan. There were a lot of free activites/events that sounded fun, I'll definitely be back next year, I hope the street vendors come back as well!

As I rode back to Manhattan, I was admiring the skyline of downtown Manhattan. Beautiful, isn't it?

All Governors Island photos here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Convivio for Restaurant Week

I must have ADD, I really wanted to stick to writing about Morocco but got sidetracked, but for a good reason, and the reason is...*drumroll*...Convivio. I'm a fan of Convivio, I've been there three times now, I think this restaurant has one of the best 4-course dinner $59 can buy. The quality of the food and the level of service are impeccable.

Last weekend I went there again for their restaurant week menu. I started with Zupetta - chilled heirloom tomato soup, seafood salad, marinated cetrioli. I LOVED IT! The tomato soup was perfectly chilled, there were 4-5 mussles in it, and they were so fresh! Not briny at all.

I also tried the salad CP ordered, Maiale - grilled pancetta fresca, roasted figs, rucola, pecorino, vin cotto. It was a fairly simple salad but the grilled pancetta was so flavorful, and the balsamic vinegrette was not boundary-breaking, but done just right.

For entree, I had the Orecchiette - little ear pasta, crushed pomini tomatoes, ricotta al olio, basil. It was a very clean & simple dish, the orecchiette was perfectly al dente. I am still thinking about the orecchiette as I write now.

CP ordered the Manzo - grilled creekstone hanger steak, grilled eggplant in scapece, young spinach, olive vinaigrette. I didn't try it but he said it was good.

WY ordered the Cernia Rossa - roasted grouper, sweet corn caponata, roasted pepper crema. I tried it and the fish was quite flavorful.

For desserts, WY & I had the Cioccolato e Caramelle - valhrona chocolate ganache, salted caramel, vanilla gelato. Again, this was simple, not gimmicky, and a great compliment to my earlier dishes. I took a bite with a layer of chocolate, a layer of caramel with a spinkle of salt, and it was the perfect bite. I love sweet-savoury desserts, and this did it for me.

CP ordered the Affogato - zabaglione gelato, freshly brewed espresso, vanilla bean crema, I've tried this before and loved it. I like to have coffee after my desserts, so this was perfect, sort of like killing two birds with one stone.

All in all, two thumbs up for Convivio's Restaurant Week menu, again, they did not disappoint, their execution was spot on. I'll write about other Convivion experiences the next time.

Address: Convivio, 45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Morocco - Casablanca

So I want to take a break from writing about food and write about my recent travel to Morocco. My trip started in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. What I thought interesting about Morocco is the fact that it's located in the African continent, it is a Muslim country, has a deep Berber root, but bears a heavy French influence due to French Protectorate. It seems like with all these contradicting elements, this country will be conflicted with its identity, but my impression of Morocco is that it is a country of peace, of cultural richness and is blessed with its beautiful & diverse natural landscape.

Anyway, back to Casablanca. You are thinking Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman, oh-so-romantic city? In reality, Casablanca has no significant characteristics and is merely trying to be a functional city. We arrived in the late morning, exhausted, hopped into a petite taxi and got to Novotel (picture below), we wanted to check in an hour earlier than the usual noon check-in time but was told that we would have to pay for half a day's room fee, f*ck no! So instead, my stomach was growling and with the trusted Frommer's Guide, we found a little restaurant and I had my first meal in Morocco. I tried my first Harissa soup, which is essentially lentil & tomato, heavily spiced. It was surprisingly a little bland but perfect for my tired body. I also ordered a Moroccon tea, which was way to sweet. After lunch, not seeing anything particularly interesting in the old town area, we checked into the hotel and passed out.

In the evening, after a very refreshing nap, we took a petite taxi to Le Corniche, which was once a glitzy resort area, with restaurants, hotels & clubs along Boulevard de la Corniche, facing the ocean. Some of the houses we saw around the neighborhood reminded of Beverly Hills, but a lot of the hotels & restaurants looked like they desperately needed a facelift. We had dinner at seafood restaurant, fried seafood is a specialty in Casablanca, the fried calamari in particular was delicious.

The next morning, we woke up and went to the Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world and one of the few in Morocco that is open to non-Muslims. It is a fairly recent addition to the city, with contruction completed in 1993. The structure is massive, and apparently the minaret is the tallest in the world. We took a tour inside the mosque, I thought the fountains underneath the mosque for worshippers to wash their hands & feet before they pray were pretty cool. This mosque was commission by the former King, Hassan II and cost something like $800 million to built, all from public donation. Just wondering, wouldn't it be more beneficial building schools & improving the education system with that money, considering the illiteracy rate is 50% in Morocco...I don't know, just my 2 cents.

After Hassan II Mosque, we hopped on a taxi to the train station for our train to Marrakesh. Btw, just a tip if you ever go to Morocco, always insist on the taxi drivers using the meter instead of negotiating the price, the latter only cause unnecessary aggravation. :)

All Casablanca photos here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Soft Tofu Restaurant (So Kong Dong)

I call this place the "New Jersey Tofu Soup" place. The restaurant name is so nondescript that I don't even know what it's called until I went for the second time and took a picture of the restaurant sign. My favorite yaokui friends S&G took me to this place end of last year/earlier this year and I absolutely loved it.

This is one of those places you need a car to get to it, and there is always a line outside. Once you get there, get a number, and soon someone will call your number, but don't be too happy because it doesn't mean your table is ready. Instead, they will take your order. They basically only serve two things: Korean tofu soup (soondubu), and bbq short ribs (kalbi). MUST ORDER THE KALBI! For the tofu soup, you can pick what it comes with (either beef or pork or kimchi or mushrooms etc.), the second thing you need to specify is the spice level. I ordered medium spicy both times and it was perfect, any spicier I think I probably wouldn't enjoy it as much because my tongue would be numbed out, and I would start perspiring like I was eating on the roadside in South East Asia.

This place has simple decor, you don't go there to hang out or linger. They are pretty militant about getting people in, serving the food, and getting people out. Once you sit down, the food is pretty much served right away. I love how "streamline" they are, to me, this is by far the best Korean tofu soup & kalbi restaurant in the Tri-state area.

Address: Soft Tofu Restaurant (So Kong Dong), 130 Main St, Fort Lee, NJ 07024.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


In the food world, it seems like gastropub is the new black. Recently, a gastro"teca"/Italian gastropub called Gottino popped up in the West Village and it was getting all the hype.

The restaurant/wine bar space is long and narrow, there is a long bar in the front where you can drink & eat, there are few tables behind, and a cute outdoor garden as well.

I am not a wine aficionado so I won't comment on the wine. In terms of food, the best thing I ate there was the rabbit pot pie. It was creamy & yummy, the meat was tender.

The prosciutto was pretty yummy & flavorful. I also liked the cheeses we had.

Overall, I wasn't blown away by Gottino but it's definitely a nice place to hang out, drink, eat & be merry. More pictures here.

Address: Gottino, 52 Greenwich Avenue (near 7th Ave), New York, NY 10011

Size matters?

A little Sunday humor.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The name itself is a bit of a tongue-twister, but if you know what & where Scripraphai is, then you know where to find good authentic Thai food in Queens, New York.

The menu comes in the form of a binder, it's massive! Thank goodness it's a picture-menu. For my first ever Scripraphai visit, I tried a few things and below are my favorites:

Papaya salad with dry shrimp & peanut. We ordered it mild, and like all typical Thai papaya salad, the spicyness kicked in 2 minutes after consumption. I've definitely had better ones in Bangkok - especially the spicy papaya salad I had in Suan Lum Night Market in Bangkok last was so spicy I was tearing up & perspiring like crazy, but OH SO GOOD.

Fried shrimp cake. Very yummy, soft on the inside, crispy & slightly crunchy on the outside.

B.B.Q. pork tender. My absolutely favorite thing @ Sripraphai, very tender and the sweet sauce was perfection.

Bean curd soup with ground pork. Smooth & silky tofu with flavorful soup, I imagine this to be a great cure for a hangover.

I also tried the Green curry with chicken, we ordered it mild and it was slightly spicy, I heard they are pretty generous with making things spicy so be warned.

I also tried a few of their desserts, the black sticky rice & coconut milk was ok, the green mango came with a weirdo savory sauce. We really wanted the mango with sticky rice but it was sold out by the time we got there..oh well, next time then.

Scripraphai, 64-13, 39th Avenue, Woodside, New York. New Location coming soon: 280 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park, New York.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Now that the weather is nicer, I can visit my favorite shack - Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

My friend Cyn was visiting from L.A. last week and I took her there. It was a Thursday afternoon at 4pm and there was still a line, albeit only 15-20 minutes long. I've seen the line wrapped around the park, and that to me, is pure insanity, well at least they acknowledged it in this cute little baby onsie. Noteworthy though, is that there is a "shack cam" on their website that you use to monitor the line situation, brilliant!

My default order whenever I go to Shake Shack is the "Single Shack Burger" - it comes with American cheese, pretty fresh lettuce & tomatoes & the secret shack sauce. The portion is perfect for me, I usually also get the milkshake just because I am a glutton. The fries are pretty decent, and they also have special monthly custard flavors if you don't like the traditional vanilla, strawberry & chocolate flavors.

Cyn loved the burger, and was surprised they served decent quality wine (what can I say, New Yorkers love over-the-top things). Shake Shack is my favorite burger joint in the city, the burgers are incredibly juicy & the buns are soft & yummy, I also love the fact that it's in the park in the middle of New York City. They recently also opened an Upper West Side outpost, and get this, the new Mets Stadium, Citifield serves Shake Shack burgers too! But but but...what about the Yankee Stadium??

Address: Shake Shack, Madison Square Park (Madison Avenue & East 23rd Street)/366 Columbus Avenue (at 77th Street)/Citifield, Home of the New York Mets!