Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Within the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to Txikito three times, and that alone sums up how I feel about this relatively new restaurant. Txikito (pronounced chee-kee-toh) which means small is a Basque Country tapas restaurants.

The first time I went there, we ordered up pretty much all the tapas on the menus. We sat at the bar, and the bartender, Brian, who incidentally holds the worlds record for the most Pete Townsend armswings took really good care of us. The food & alcohol kept coming and the fun didn’t stop. The food, oh my gosh, the food was amazing. The foie gras on toast was great, the mentaiko fries was sinful, the Conchinillo (slow roasted suckling pig) was to die for, and the txuleton….Peter Luger, watch outtttttt…..!!!Before we left, Brian told us that in a week, Txikito is doing a txoko, which is essentially a private food tasting event. Without hesitating, we signed up.

So Monday came, and we showed up and was promptly seated at the bar. Brian whipped up a special drink which is a mescal (type of tequila) with coconut foam. It was very delicious. You usually see an adverse reaction from me when the word tequila is mentioned (college-era cheap tequila days were not pretty) but a mescal is slightly different in the sense that it is made with the heart of the Algarve plant. We also had honey glazed pork rinds as “teaser”.

Before I go any further I think it’s important to mention the guest chefs - Ruben Garcia, Ramon Martinez and Will Goldfarb. There is one thing in common with all three of them, and that is “El Bull”. Ruben Garcia and Will Goldfarb met while working in El Bulli, Will consequently went on to open Room for Dessert, and Ruben Garcia ended up at THINKfood Group, which is based in DC under Jose Andreas (famous restaurant – Minibar), and Ramon subsequently joined. When I heard these three chefs were El Bulli trained, I sort of expected that this would a molecular gastronomy type of evening.

Now onto the food, the first course that arrived was the mussel blanched in its own “juice”, with pepper and oil, This was a cold appetizer and boy, did I wish they served a dozen instead of one each. The mussel was really fresh, and the sauce was so good my friends licked up the sauce. The sauce tasted like mussel soup condensed into cream with fragrant oil.

The second dish was the little triangle of bacon, almond & bleu cheese, it was very simple but delicate.

Quickly followed was the steamed bun, topped with sea urchin, shisho pepper & lemon. This dish was quite a pleasant surprise, the ingredients were very asian, but it was what I would call “the perfect bite”, everything worked.

I took a look at the next course and I knew it would not be something I eat everyday. It was chicken hearts on skewer with tximitxuri sauce. Mind you, I felt slightly guilt-stricken when I saw the little hearts but the minute I bit into one, sorry chicken, your sacrifice was worth it. The chicken heart wasn’t gamy at all, and it was grilled to perfection, a little charred, and the texture was slightly springy, simple amazing.

Next came the highlight of the night for me, it was the heart of sea cucumber with sherry reduction, praline pine nut sauce and some other things I don’t remember. Sea cucumber is a delicacy and the fact that they got it in NY was pretty impressive. It was again, lightly grilled to bring out the flavor and the praline pine nut sauce was out of the world. It was truly orgasmic.

Then came the tender loving ajo blance – almond gazpacho, garlic oil, fig snow, early almond and vinegar. I have to say it was the most refreshing gazpacho I’ve ever had. It was milky with a subtle hint of almond, The early almond was interesting, it wasn’t the crunch almond nuts I had in mind, instead it had the texture of boiled peanuts except crunchier.

(I am sorry guys, this is a very long post)...

After the refreshing gazpacho, the chef hit us with the pleasant "ocean" dish of cigales - gambas, baby cucumber in blossom, sea asparagus, marigold flower, lemon juice & soy air with a side of the gambas head "juice" (sounds dirty I know, but it was delicious - imagine sipping the essense of prawns). By this time, my feet was no longer touching the ground. I was on this incredible gastronomy journey, and the fact that the chefs put all these complex ingredients and thoughts into one plate just blew my mind.

The last savoury dish was the hearty veal cheeks, cape gooseberry, pumpkin seed oik, basil, licorice air. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it..nada.

For desserts, the gave us the amuse bouche of lemon meringue, tomato, basil, campari, grapefruit sorbet, white asparagus, mustard oil (bold choice) & sprayed dried coconut. This was so refreshing & palatte-cleasing. The sourness hit the right spot & I was ready for more.

The main dessert was rum gelee, preserved apple, chocolate cream, chocolate nougatine, pine nuts with greek yogurt sorbet. Holy smoke, it was sweet, sour, salty, nutty...mindblowing!

Lastly, we had the marshmallow with dark rum sugar, tarragon & passionfruit smoked salt. This was simply marshmallow done right (and I am running out of adjectives). :P

The chefs came out afterwards and we got to talk to all three guest chefs and owner Alex Raij.

This post officially wore me out, and I just want to say, go to Txikito, actually no, RUN to Txikito!

Address: Txikito, 40 9th Ave (between 24th & 25th), New York, NY 10001

Monday, May 18, 2009


I hardly venture east of Avenue A, so when my friends were meeting at Cafecito on Avenue C for dinner, it gave me the perfect reason to venture into unfamiliar territory. Cafecito is a Cuban restaurant, for the price & quality of food, this is definitely a place worth going out of your way for.

For appetizer, I loved the ceviche with fried plantains. The ceviche was very fresh and the fried plantains were perfect with the ceviche.

For entree, most of my friends ordered the "Bistec De Palomilla" - sirloin marinated in garlic and extra virgin olive oil, topped with sauteed onions served with white rice, black beans and tostones. The steak was juicy, flavorful and get this, less than $15!

The "Camarones Al Ajillo" - shrimp with garlic, citrus and butter served with yellow rice and sweet plantains was also delicious. For dessert, the best was probably the flourless chocolate cake.

Nothing is super-extraordinary at this place but for the price, the "view" (great people-watching, our waitress was gorgeous), and the fun & relaxing atmosphere, this is definitely a place I would go back to, it's also date-worthy spot (take note B).

Address: Cafecito, 185 Avenue C (Btwn 11th & 12th St), New York 10009

Cupcake tasting party

My friend "Cher" decided to organize a cupcake tasting party last weekend in conjunction with her birthday, what a brilliant idea! I LOVE cupcakes, and my girl friends and I are always talking about which bakery has the best cupcakes, so why not sample them all in one night?

Isn't it an overwhelming sight??? We had cupcakes from nine different bakeries, they were from Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery (Lower East Side), Amy's Bread (various NYC locations), Billy's Bakery (Chelsea), Dessert Club Chikalicious (East Village), Two Little Red Hens (UES), Butterlane Cupcakes (East Village), Tribeca Treats (well, Tribeca), Kyotofu (Hells Kitchen), Sage American Kitchen (Long Island City).

We tasted and voted the best of the best, and the result was...*drum roll*....
1. Chikalicious (also my personal favorite, the key was in the icing, it was light & fluffy, not too sweet, and the cake was perfectly moist).
2. Butterlane Cupcakes (another one of my top choice - I usually go there and ask them to pick a fresh cupcake from the oven, they lather on the icing and I gobble it down quickly because the icing will start to melt as the cake is warm. Icing is slightly sweeter than Chikalicious).
3. Tribeca Treats (small dainty cupcakes with pretty icing toppings, the cakes were a little dry compared to the first two).
4. Kyotofu (last weekend was the first time I had Kyotofu cupcakes and the green tea cupcakes were divine. No icing on top, but the cakes were dense & moist, the chocolate one was also amazing, I believe they sprinkled salt in it because it was savory sweet).

This is such fun that I think we need to organize more tasting events, maybe fried chicken, gelato, cheese etc...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Grand Sichuan on St. Marks

Grand Sichuan is a successful Sichuan restaurant chain in NY & NJ. It serves authentic Sichuan & Hunan food (as authentic as it gets outside of Chinatown), the price is reasonable and the menu is pretty extensive.

I frequent the St. Marks location and I definitely have my favorites:

The cold cucumber with scallion sauce is a must have, it is a cold appetizer, it's garlicky (which I don't mind) & extremely appetizing.

The asparagus, egg & crab meat soup is something I like to order on a cold day in NYC.

The smoked tea duck was something I just discovered at lunch today, this is a Hunan dish, the skin is crispy and the duck meat is juicy from the duck fat.

Other favorites include Chong Qing dry & spicy chicken, which isn't as good as what I've had in Hong Kong but at least it has the same tongue numbing effect due to the giant heap of peppercorns. The chicken with spicy sauce (also called Saliva Chicken with direct translation from the Chinese menu) is a cold appetizer which reminds me of Hainanese Chicken in a spicy & sweet sauce. The desserts are great too, I tried and liked the pumpkin cake (deep fried) & sticky rice ball with sesame in soup.

Address: Grand Sichuan, 23 St. Mark's Place, New York, NY 10003.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Cafe Colonial is an old favorite of mine, I haven't been there for a while but I suddenly though of it today, maybe I'll go there this weekend for brunch. My absolute favorite thing there is the Warm Pulled Pork Loin Sandwich in a anjo mole sauce, served with guacamole, sour cream, fries and corn on the cob.

For brunch, I also like their Banana French Toast (made with challah bread and stuffed with fresh bananas) and Basket of Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese puffs). This is a very small cafe, it is very quaint and I especially love the big windows. The space is flooded with light during the day - you get to sit in the cafe where they don't rush you and you can watch the world (well, just Houston Street) go by.

Address: Cafe Colonial, 276 Elizabeth Street (corner of Houston), New York, NY 10012

Yummy cookies alert!

My coworker Jimmy is an avid baker and this week, he started a trial run selling his baked goods through Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Café. Yesterday, two of my colleagues went to Lily O'Brien's to pick up his chocolate chip cookies with shaved coconut and almonds, they were DELICIOUS! I LOVE soft baked cookies and those were done to perfection. In the past, he's brought in cookies randomly and they were all really good. He also made a fresh batch of brown sugar brownies, which are apparently heavenly with Lily O’Brien’s chocolate dipping sauce. I didn't get to try the brownies it was all gone because no one had any leftovers. :(

You know that scene from American Beauty with Mena Suvari swirling in the rose petals? I don't mind doing that except with cookies instead of rose petals. :)

Address: Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Café, 36 W 40th Street (between 5th and 6th), NY 10018

Monday, May 11, 2009

Baoguette Cafe

Baoguette Cafe is now in my neighborhood! Yay! The first time I went, a few days after the St. Marks location opened, chef & owner Michael Bao Hyunh was working in the kitchen.

The spicy beef noodle soup (below) was pretty great, the broth was a little spicy, slightly sour & very flavorful.

Their signature baoguette - with pork terine, pate, pulled pork & fresh herbs is a little bit different from the typicaly Vietnamese sandwich(bánh mì). I liked it a lot, the ingredients were fresh, the baguette was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

They also had pandan soft serve with condensed milk. It was soo creamy, too sweet but very yummy. The color looked very artificial but it tasted better than it looked. They also had a durian flavor one that I did not try. I spoke to Michael Bao and he mentioned that they will expand the flavors for the summer.

I've also tried their cat fish sandwich with cucumber relish, pickled red onion, and honey mustard sauce. You can customize how spicy you want it to me, I picked medium spicy but it was spicier than I expected, the japeno really packed a punch. The green papaya salad with tiger shrimp, mint, peanut & lime dressing on the other hand was very light and refreshing.

Looks like Michael Bao Hunyh & his wife Thao Nguyen are very savvy business people, there are already 3 baoguettes in the city now.
Address: 37 St. Mark's Place(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave), New York, NY 10003
Address: 61 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
Address: @ Pho sure, 120 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sun Ma in Brooklyn

I just polished off my nasi lemak from Kak Liza (her sambal ikan bilis is delicious!) and now I am craving more Malaysian food. I suddenly want Malaysian food at Sun Ma (in Brooklyn).

From top left clockwise:

Malaysian ice cofee, bak kut teh, seafood wat tan hor, Hainanese chicken, cereal prawn, curry yong tau fu & marmite ribs.

My favorites from Sun Ma were the marmite ribs & curry yong tau fu.

Address: Sun Ma (Formerly called Sun Kay), 5918 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220, USA

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I found my ice cream truck!!

Last year, I was in Soho on a hot day and Van Leeuwen ice cream truck showed up like a knight in shining armor. Ok, it didn't just "show up", I stumbled upon it. I ordered a small cup of ginger ice cream and instantly fell in love with the ice cream. I chatted with the guy, assumingly Ben Van Leeuwen and he was telling me about the difficulty of obtaining a street permit, we parted ways and then life took over, I went to Hong Kong and I forgot about it.

Last week, I was at Saigon Grill for dinner and lo' and behold, the ice cream truck was parked right infront of the restaurant on University Place. I was delighted, Sasha (my friend's 3-year-old) wanted ice cream so she got him the strawberry, I tried a little and it was very creamy & yummy (think more milk, less strawberry).

Ben Van Leeuwen apparently sources his ingredients from all over the world, and he only uses hormone-free, organic milk and turbinado sugar. His packaged ice cream is also sold in Whole Foods. The flavors are very basic but the ingredients are of very high quality. if you have lactose intolerance, this is a no-go for you. He also uses bio-degradable cups, and I read on that one percent of his profits go to protecting the Congo Mountain Gorilla. I am glad I know where to find it now, I am sure it will come in handy as summer is approaching. :)

Address: Truck locations, corner of Greene St. and Prince St., 1-7 P.M.; University Pl. between 10th St. and 11th St., 8-10:30 P.M.

Really mini cupcakes

I was walking around Soho this evening trying to help stimulate the economy and I stumbled upon a tiny store front that sells mini cupcakes. The store is called 'Baked by Mellisa', the cupcakes are bite-sizes, and there are seven flavors. I ordered six of them (they were tiny, and yes, I ate them all), I got all the flavors except the "tie-dye" and "peanut butter & jelly".

The cupcakes were really moist, and it had the sticky cake top that I like. They were a bit on the sweet side but the flavors were really fun. You need to get 3 minimum for $3, I got 6 for $5.50. It is pricey but they were so incredibly cute!

Address: 529 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 (window is on Spring Street between Mercer & Broadway).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The 3 minutes that touched my heart

This is so good I have to share. In the industry I work in, we often talk about the influence of viral videos. This is technically not a viral video but a tv commercial by Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in Singapore. With a great thing called youtube, I get to watch amazing commercials like this halfway across the world. Warning: tissues needed, I sobbed like a mofo watching the 3 minute video.

ThinkFamily video

The second one is a less touching commercial, but it's pretty sweet still.

Another ThinkFamily video