Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Oiji: Adorable Korean Tapas in East Village

in New York, NY, USA
What?  Korean food outside of K-town?

And you should go.  To Oiji.  Soon. (Maybe put some pants on first.)

Take a seat among friends.  Share libations like rum & pepper cocktails with pepper syrup and blackberry shrubs.

Remark on the simple decor (it's really so cute) while you wait for your food - order several plates to share, it's the only way.

The fried chicken arrived first, and the waiter swiftly stated, as I grasped my camera with both hands, "You really should eat this as soon as possible."  Fine.  I know the tapioca flour batter waits for no one, but it really took no time to polish at all - the batter was almost ethereal, so light and crisp.

The smoked mackerel was a must order for us - one of my favorite fish.  We dressed it with a simple squeeze of lemon and citrus soy - it really didn't need the soy, so naturally flavorful, but who can resist using that charming brush made of chives?

The beef tartare, topped with a brilliant glob of slow-cooked egg yolk, was instantly the table favorite, topped with ramp aioli, sticks of daikon and immaculate cubes of sweet cantaloupe.  The beef was exceptionally light and amazing.

The truffle seafood plate with crisp rice is finished tableside with a pour of the hot seafood broth over crisp rice.

The rice soaks up a bit of the immensely flavorful broth, but maintains all the crunchy fun you'd want for the party in your mouth.  The soup comes with a few mussels, calamari rings and shrimp, and feels like spoonfuls of instant comfort.

The slow-cooked oxtail with root vegetables is a hearty, meaty plate with two thick pieces of oxtail.  The dish is unexpectedly sweet and would be wonderful with a nice bowl of steamed, white rice, which could be ordered on the side.  We didn't bother with any rice though, instead, we just picked up the oxtail with our grubby hands and chewed that braised meat clean off the bone.  (Okay, I wish we did that.)

We ended with the honey chips, freshly fried to order, unbelievably light and crispy, yet somehow glazed with honey and absolute magic.  The chips are just the slight bit spicy and sweet and all the bit as delicious as everyone says.  Apparently these chips are THE rage in Korea, and now you can get it for $5 in your very own city!

We ended up getting dessert in the LES later, because sticky toffee pudding is all the rage in my stomach right now, and we'll have more on that later, but next time I'll have to see what Oiji has in the sweets department, because there definitely will be a next time.

Han's Nonsensical Rating:    Best chips.  Best beef tartare.  And best water refills (gotta love these little things!)  So much more on the menu to explore and hopefully adore!

119 1st Ave, New York 10003

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Small Flushing Dumpling Crawl

Regrets in life:
1. Not going to Flushing enough
2. Not having a big enough stomach to eat everything in Flushing

Anybody who is anybody should go to Flushing and do a dumpling crawl.  Like get on all fours.  Go spot to spot.  Ignore weird looks.  Devour too many dumplings.

The gang met up in Flushing ages ago (too long ago), and this was what we ate:

1. Tianjin Dumpling House - Golden Shopping Mall (home of the original Xian Famous Foods)

Tianjin makes dumplings to order, which is the coolest thing you can imagine, and which we would definitely have to try next time - I mean, squid dumpling can be a reality?!

And while they offer a variety of prepared foods like duck heads and innards, we stuck to the dumpling menu, which had several options, including their famous lamb and squash dumplings, which no one was game for (pun intended as always),

and instead stuck with the classics of the egg and glass noodle dumplings

were light and lovely, tasting so, so healthy.

The pork and chive which always, always hits the spot, especially with the slightly thicker and chewy wrapper here that was quite delicious.

Ask for a side of their house sauce which is just pure garlicky goodness that adds a spicy punch to every bite.

The quintessential chili oil is a great complement too.

We enjoyed the golden blobs of pumpkin sesame balls, served in a very slightly sweetened broth,

perfect glutinous chew and satisfying ground black sesame.

2. We also tried a bit of the pork dumplings at Lan Zhou, which took some convincing to get a plate of.  These dumplings had a bit more funk, reminiscent of red wine and a thinner wrapper, which makes them go down all more easily, but I did prefer the chewy pork from Tianjin.

3.  We took a stroll around the block to White Bear, a literal hole-in-the-wall 

manned by a husband and wife team who just churns out

these gloriously white beauts.

The dumplings are more like rounds of pork wrapped in pristine rice crepes and dressed only in gritty spice, vinegar and chili oil.  It's not as spicy as it looks, but it's as tasty as you can imagine.  Completely unique texture than any other dumpling you've ever had, it's definitely recommended as your destination dumpling.

4.  We made our final stop at Sifu Chio, renowned for their authentic Hong Kong style noodles and wonton.  Our vegetarian eater opted for coconut tapioca pudding (cold and creamy)

while we tackled a couple bowls of wonton noodles with the brainy dumplings I attribute to Hong Kong.

Upon first bite, you'll find a large shrimp hugging its little ground pork friend for dear life, making it a terrific little turf and surf dumpling to devour.

The broth and noodles, lovely with a few healthy spoonfuls of chili sauce, and tasted pretty close to the bowls I had in Hong Kong (*sigh* of happy remembrance!).

Every time I go to Flushing, I'm reminded how much I love it, how much I need to visit it more often, and how great Chinese food really can be.

Tianjin Dumpling House
Basement Store #33, 41-28 Main St, Flushing, NY 11355

Lan Zhou Noodle
41-28 Main St Flushing, NY 11355

White Bear
135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354

Sifu Chio
40-09 Prince St Flushing, NY 11354

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hotel Tabard Inn

Happy day after Valentine's Day, y'all! I'm still suffering from food coma.

Dan and I started our gluttonous vday with brunch at one of my favorite spots in DC - Hotel Tabard Inn. DC residents have treasured this place forever... who wouldn't love a cozy, romantic, bed-and-breakfast-type inn a stone's throw away from Dupont Circle? The Inn oozes charm, and its restaurant oozes all kinds of deliciousness.

The bread basket is top notch.

The blueberry muffin is slightly lemony and delightful. The sliced herby bread was perfectly soft and packed with flavor. The couple sitting next to us didn't even touch their bread basket before handing it back to the waiter to make room on their table for entrees, and I had to muster all the self control within me not to reach over and grab their basket. 

Tabard Inn's donuts are NOT to be missed. Freshly fried, covered in cinnamon sugar, and served with vanilla whipped cream... these. are. heaven.

I can't describe how pillowy and perfect these donuts are. Don't forget to put a huge dollop of the vanilla whipped cream on each bite, because that whipped cream is to die for. If you have any leftover whipped cream (which you should not), it is advised to just eat it by the spoonful.

We also had the scrambled eggs with cream cheese and chives.

The eggs were wonderfully fluffy and creamy. I also thoroughly enjoyed the home fries with their crispy exterior and great onion duet. The housemade sausage was rather mediocre, however.

The frittata with zucchini, fontina, and caramelized onions did not disappoint.

Simple yet well done. The clumps of caramelized onions were such pleasant bites throughout.

Moral of the story is -- Hotel Tabard Inn is THE place to brunch in DC, and worth all the praise. Brb, gonna go get more of those donuts...

1739 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036

Hotel Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hangawi - A Korean Vegetarian Wonderland

in 12 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016, USA
If there's anything that I never thought I would love, it would be vegetarian Korean.  I mean, what could be more delicious than impeccably marinated beef shortribs grilled over openflame?

But now I question everything I once knew about the world after I have fallen head over heels in love with Hangawi - an incredibly warm restaurant in K-town that is so perfect for dates (take off your shoes, slip into these little wooden bunkers under soft candlelight!) and anyone who would appreciate good ol' fashioned adorableness.

Greeshma and Diana came off the Boston bus, and we bee-lined for Hangawi for their last seating at 10:45p.  To satiate their raging hunger, we shared the following:

The most amazing ginger iced tea you will ever have served in the most rustically crafted ceramic cups.  The spice from each sip will burn your throat in the very best way.

Jap chae, bundled into parchment paper and cut open at your table, releasing the aromatic steam into the heavens.

Inside the paper package are lovely strands of clear noodles, lightly seasoned to perfection, tangled with mushrooms and vegetables.

Wedges of kimchee are served at the table to nibble in between plates.

Black sesame soup which is so thick both in texture and black sesame flavor - hard to eat more than a few spoonfuls, so best to share if you want to try it.

Organic wheatfree kale pancakes, made with rice flour, and served with a slightly sweetened soy dipping sauce.

So addictively crispy and probably very healthy - it has the words kale and organic in it right? 

It was Matsutake mushroom season when we visited which meant an inaugural return of the king of mushrooms.The mushrooms grow at the base of pine trees in the mountains of Korea.

It is because they are so coveted that this plate of mushrooms cost $32.  Without a doubt, one of the most expensive mushroom dishes I have ever had, but they were nicely cooked with tender chew, tossed with eggplant and soy ginger paste sauce.

One of my favorite dishes at Hangawi is the tofu steak, which doesn't sound particularly amazing, but slabs of tender tofu come sizzling on this stone plate, drenched in the most unctious, flavorful, gingeriffic, tangy thick sauce that you must coat every piece of tofu and scrape off into your bowl of fluffy steamed rice.

I would eat my hand if it was covered in this sauce.  

For dessert, I would skip Hangawi and head to Grace Street (to be another post), but they do have a few offerings here - all which are vegan and dairy-free.

We had the chocolate tofu pudding that I know people claim tastes just like pudding, but it really doesn't.  It's not terrible, but it's not great.

The blueberry coconut cake was a bit on the drier side, and though the flavor was good, the texture was also a little strange.  It just made me miss real cake.

However, the amount of which we enjoyed the rest of meal more than compensated for the less than stellar desserts, so all you meat-eaters, take a chance, and romance your man or lady here soon !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: I crave the ginger tea here about every day, and think about the jap chae and tofu steak just as much - definite recommend for one of the more unique restaurants in New York and K-town!

12 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016
Reservations encouraged