Wednesday, July 14, 2010

today i'm loving: scarlett johansson for mango

It still baffles me why I didn't use to think Scarlett Johansson was hot. It wasn't until I saw the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona that I realized just how ridiculously gorgeous she is. I totally love her in this season's Mango campaign. She makes me want that lacy dress above badly, but it costs $199. Who are you kidding Mango? I'll lay in wait until it goes on sale.

restaurant week diary: shang

Tonight I realized just how out of touch I've been with the world at large. My friends Linda and Jay had set up a Restaurant Week rezzie at this place called Shang in Thompson Hotel on the Lower East Side for us and another friend Caroline.  I recall being confused when I looked up the place. Why are four chinky-eyed folks going out for dinner in an haute Asian fusion restaurant when we know all the best spots in Chinatown that charge a fifth of the price? I had shunned TV for the last eight months so I didn't know that Shang's Chef Susur Lee was recently a very flamboyant and memorable contestant on Top Chef Masters. I used to follow that show religiously so I was pretty appalled that I didn't know what the heck was going on with it now. Thank god for good friends who always steer you in the general direction of yumminess ...

Now if I had done my research well, I would've known to order the Singapore Slaw to start. Good thing Jay (a.k.a. Buddha) is always at the top of his eating game, otherwise we wouldn't have tasted this pile of  deliciousness:
What a fantastic opening salvo this was. It's a crunchy, refreshing and absolutely addictive mixture of taro strips, vermicelli noodles, pickled red onions, jicama, carrots, tomatoes, daikon, cucumber, crushed roasted hazelnuts, peanuts, green onions and even edible flowers, all tossed in salted plum dressing. As we shoveled heapfuls of slaw into our mouths, we began planning a weekend BBQ and unanimously agreed we had to try to replicate this salad for that. Thanks to the wonderful Interwebs, I found this: 

We might actually pull it off if we can find the 20 different ingredients! Aside from the salad, we ordered the calamari with spicy habanero sauce. How good was it? We demolished 3 plates of the stuff.
We also ordered a few plates off the a la carte menu. The lettuce cups were delicious, although my memory fails me on what exactly was in the filling below. I'll let you figure it out because I'm still in a bit of a food coma. I just guarantee that it's pretty good.
I would avoid ordering sushi rolls in the future. We had a couple and found them quite disappointing. The rolls kept falling apart and the rice was just not vinegary enough (I know vinegary is not a word, but it should be).
We didn't realize how slow the service was because we were so busy catching up, but it actually took quite awhile for our entrees to come out. And when it finally did, I was massively disappointed that my skirt steak did not come with Hainanese rice as advertised. You cannot, repeat CANNOT, give an Asian person mashed potatoes when your menu said Hainanese rice. That is just WRONG.
I never did get over the disappointment of the lack of Hainanese rice, but was still glad that I got to try the skirt steak because it is truly the best skirt steak I have ever tasted. I don't generally like skirt steak (I only ordered this dish because I wanted Hainanese rice!) because it tends to be tough and stringy. But this was unbelievably tender and soaked in flavor—so much so that you could almost confuse it for duck. The crunchy hazelnut shallot brown butter and the chili ponzu dip that the steak was swimming in was not bad either. We ended up ordering jasmine rice to have it with though. Mashed potatoes do not cut it! We had high expectation of the Top Chef Chicken Curry (top dish, above) but it fell short. Half of the dish was left untouched.

For dessert, we all had mango panna cotta, since there was really no other choice on the Restaurant Week menu:
While the flavor was good, the consistency was not. It did not have the light quality one expects of a good panna cotta, and instead had this heavy, pudding-like texture. Caroline, who is a trained pastry chef, was not impressed. She'll have to show us what good panna cotta is really like at our next BBQ!

All in all, Shang had both high and low points. What made the dinner really great for me was catching up with some amazing friends that I haven't seen in awhile. Thanks again to Buddha who treated us, and Caroline who hooked me up with Gucci wedges! (and thanks in advance to Linda, who will hook me up with delicious food at the BBQ in a few weeks)

I haven't decided yet if I would come back for another try ... though I am pretty sure that I'm hitting up Chinatown for some $5 Hainanese chicken and rice in the very near future!

Shang is located at 187 Orchard Street, New York, NY. Tel. (212) 260-7900

Monday, July 12, 2010

post-world cup pulpo

I'll be honest. I didn't really follow the World Cup all that much. For the duration of the games, my Facebook status updates mostly read, "Just let me know when Cristiano Ronaldo takes his shirt off. Thanks." And then I completely lost interest after I was told the players weren't allowed to remove their shirts anymore (marketing FAIL). I had allegiances in certain matches but that had more to do with my gratitude to certain countries for the wonderful beer they have fueled my life with (Germany), the location of the city I love and live in (USA), the smokin' hot players (Portugal), and the chocolate they regularly provide me when my eyelids start to droop at 3pm (Switzerland). Today, I followed the finals with mild interest as I had to study for my Spanish test tomorrow. But strangely enough, even as I was laboring at learning Spain's tongue, I was rooting for the Dutch. One of my dearest friends ever, my brother from another mother Johan, is Dutch. So I really wanted them to win it and hear of the mad tales of celebratory debauchery afterwards.

But alas, the victory went to Spain. I ended up spending the evening dancing to Brazilian Forro and a smattering of Latin music at L'Orange Bleue, which inevitably meant dancing amongst the victorious red-clad Spaniards. But don't worry Johan, I had this to commiserate with you and your countrymen:
I thought the salad was quite nice. There was some bitter arugula, endives, turnips, baby turnips, orange segments, and of course, the grilled octopus. The octopus was very tender and not all overly chewy. I would've liked a few more orange segments to counteract the bitterness of the arugula, though. I'm now a fan of their peach sangria, which for $27 a pitcher fueled a few hours of dancing pretty well. I also really liked how easy-going the staff are at L'Orange Bleue. They don't rush you at all, which is unheard of in Manhattan, and will even sit with you and take you for a spin on the dance floor. (The downside is, you may be in a rush to leave but if you're server is in the middle of dancing to Dejame Entrar, there's not much you can do but wait!) This probably isn't the place for someone not interested in getting chummy with their servers, but if you're looking to unwind on a Sunday night as we were, then this is definitely a great place to do it.

Felicidades to our Spanish friends. Hopefully my proctor for tomorrow's test comes to NY via España and will be a tad more forgiving (or too hungover to notice) wandering eyes. I kid ... does this look like the face of someone who can do wrong? (Just work with me, come on.)
Wishing everyone a productive week ahead, now that you can all finally go back to actually working!

L'Orange Bleue is located at 430 Broome Street (at Crosby Street), New York, NY. Tel. (212) 226-4999

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

spice market

No matter how many times I've been there, I always have to suppress a gasp when I walk into Spice Market. What a stunning place ...
Last Wednesday was no different. I'd been to Spice Market on a few other occasions with my Filipino freinds. This time I was with my dearest Céline, our visiting Belgian friends Kevin and Jelena, and soon-to-be-New-Yorkers Kim and Chris (well, Kim's going back to being a New Yorker really, but that description just rolls off the tongue much more easily). 

A friend once told me that the interiors of Spice Market consists of elements imported from Bali, which is pretty believable given the incredible level of detail inside. The food is oft described as reimagined Southeast Asian street fare, which I must say  leaves me feeling a tad neglected since they seemed unable to find a single dish to include from any of the Philippines' 7,100 islands.

But enough taking things personally and moving along to the important stuff. What did we eat? I thought about ordering the Red Curried Duck, which I've tried before and loved. But since it was a ridiculously hot night in New York, I felt more inclined to have seafood. I picked the steamed red snapper with shitaake mushrooms, ginger, scallion and tarragon ($27). I loved the strong flavors, which nicely soaked into the soft and succulent fish.
However, the next time I come to Spice Market, I am definitely ordering what Céline had: the Halibut Cha Ca La Vong with herb salad ($25). The halibut was just addictive, swimming in that heady soup spiked with turmeric, peanuts and fish sauce. Love, love, love. I had total food envy.
Kim's dish was also pretty delicious: Onion and Chili Crusted Short Ribs with Egg Noodles and Pea Shoots ($22). The flavor reminded me a lot of beef brisket soups so common in Asia. So hearty, and the short ribs were incredibly tender and flavorful. This dish is also definitely worth a repeat.
While my entree was not the best of the bunch, I was still stuffed silly since I took full advantage of the complimentary jasmine rice and polished off my entree completely. Such a great meal with wonderful company. Not much more I could ask for ... except maybe an haute version of sisig or turon on the menu someday?

Spice Market is located at 403 West 13th Street, New York, NY. Tel. (212) 675-2322

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

booty call cuisine

It is imperative that I eat at Xiao Ye as soon as humanly possible. 

This joint, set to open in the Lower East Side next week, is brought to us by Eddie Huang of Baohaus, a former lawyer/streetwear designer/restauranteur (he also writes a blog called Fresh Off the Boat which cracks me up to no end). I've never been to Baohaus but now feel this pressing need to trek down to Rivington just to get a bao to tide me over til Xiao Ye opens. Baohaus earned its stripes from turning up some of the most delish Taiwanese  Gua Baos in town. As described in this New York Times article, "God is in the details. The buns are steamed in lotus leaves. The pork is flash-fried, and then simmered in rice wine, soy sauce, rock sugar, ginger and star anise—a technique called “red cooking” in Mandarin—plus cherry Coca-Cola, which adds a hint of caramel." Good lord. I can barely sit still. I am definitely in dire need of having some Chairman Bao stat!

But I digress ... my point was, I really need to eat at this restaurant. Xiao Ye means midnight snack, and the fare served is Taiwanese street market food—otherwise referred to by Eddie as "booty call food." (Source: Serious Eats) I forgive them for naming a dish "Trade My Daughter for Fried Chicken" because they have Hainanese chicken on the menu, which I loooove. They serve it with a sunny side up egg—a combo I've never tried but now I'm itching to know if chicken and egg jive. And I feel the need to hand over some of my hard-earned cash to an establishment with the balls to name an appetizer "Poont@ng Pot Stickers", a veggie dish "Help U Poo Poo Greens", their noodles "Kim Jong's Ill Noodles", and a pancake dessert "Flat Taiwanese Bootycake." It also tickles me pink that their lobster dishes have names like "Robster Rice" and "Robster Craws." I am a fan of people who don't take themselves too damn seriously. I'm positive I will be dreaming about the Extreme Taste Salt Cured Pork, which is marinated in soy sauce and wine for 24 hours before cooking, until the day I step into Xiao Ye.

For more of the wacky menu, see the images on the right. Counting the days til this booty call comes ...

Xiao Ye is located at 198 Orchard Street (between Houston and Stanton Streets), Lower East Side.
Baohaus is located at 137 Rivington Street (Norfolk Street), Lower East Side. Tel. (646) 684-3835

Sunday, July 04, 2010

happy 4th of july!

Hope you're celebrating the long weekend with lots of barbecues, sunshine, sangria and quality time with good friends. I think I've done it justice so far with two days of nonstop partying. I'm starting to feel a little bit of party burnout, to be honest. For my fourth of July, all I want is to sleep in and conquer that elusive 10-mile long run! And if I do, I suppose celebrating with more sangria could be in order ...

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Image via Zimmermann
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