Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan’



April 9, 2010

Woorijip • 12 West 32nd Street, NYC • 212-244-1115

Though this sign says it all, I will continue with the post anyhow… You are the gem of 32nd Street (a.k.a Korea Way). Sure the block is jammed with restaurants but your cheerful, efficient food is absolutely perfect when one has limited time, (limited funds) and needs to get back to their regular stomping grounds in a hurry. It is also very accessible to people unfamiliar with K-way and the restaurants there, as it is very approachable and the casual DIY spirit makes it kind of fun.

In my latest midtown trek, you managed to get another gold star in my non-existent book of great restaurants. The first star was for the best to-go lunchboxes around, the second was for being open until 3am. The newest star is for the lunch buffet I can’t believe it took me this long to discover. For $6.50 per pound one can load up on all sorts of salads, pickles (sort of like getting the traditional banchan with your meal), and put together a plate from two long steam tables full of stews, noodles, rice dishes, seafood, veggies, and little side treats like kimchi pancakes, pork rolled in cabbage, rice cakes two ways and lots more!

I was beside myself with joy, sampling all of my Korean faves like chap chae noodles and ddukboki, as well as some new stuff I had never tried before in all of my Korean food adventures. More stars were generously bestowed upon ground tofu stew with kimchi, fried pork belly and kimbap.

I was so inspired by lunch that later on at work I made some kimchi pancakes. They were easy and delicious. Masitsseoyo! And so this post is not only an idolizing, love letter review, but also a recipe post.

A trip to Midtown is nothing without you.

Loyally yours,



1 cup of your favorite kimchi, chopped

3/4 cup juice from kimchi or water*

1 tablespoon soy sauce (plus extra for dipping)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons oil (plus extra for cooking)

  • Mix kimchi, kimchi liquid or water*, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, eggs, flour and 2 tablespoons of oil together in a bowl. Should be a thick-ish pancake batter consistency. Add a bit of water if necessary.
  • Lightly coat the skillet with additional oil and heat over medium flame.
  • Drop desired amount of batter into hot pan and smooth it out to form pancake shape.
  • Cook until lightly brown, 2-3 minutes and flip. Cook on second side until brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  • Continue until batter is finished. Yields 8 (5-inch) pancakes. Serve with a little bowl of soy sauce for dipping.
  • * if using water instead of kimchi juice, add a pinch of salt to the batter.


Pizza heaven is near. (ARTICHOKE PIZZA)

March 28, 2010

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery 328 East 14th Street , NYC  •  (212) 228-2004.

This is what I have done on various occasions, I have forced friends and loved ones to walk blocks -many blocks- out of their way for a slice of this stuff. In snow or rain, in inebriation or in just plain hunger, bringing someone important in my life to the gates of pizza heaven and then pushing them inside, o the happy joy! The authentic deliciousness of Artichoke is why, at any given moment of the night or day, there are straggles of people on 14th street lapping food off of paper plates or worse yet, massive, squirming lines waiting to eat. There is no inside seating, just a couple of counters, there is no long and useless menu, just four kinds of pizza. Perfect, delicious, unbelievable pizza in varieties like regular, Sicilian, crab and artichoke.

The first one I sampled was the namesake artichoke slice and it was kind of like eating a sofa. Pillowy and the wrong kind of chewy, full of heavy white ingredients like cream and ricotta with this big doughy crust, etc. And, while I was eating (outside the joint) some kids walked by and one of the kids was especially freaking out, yelling at people for eating this ‘burnt-ass’ rip-off pizza. He was really upset. He emphatically taunted pizza eaters his whole way to the corner. I felt  it was his right as a New Yorker to go into a tirade about his pizza opinion, but I can’t help but hope he gives it another chance, as I did.

Next time(s) around I avoided the artichoke and went for any of the other varieties and quickly, deeply have fallen in love. These Staten Island boys have figured out the oven type/temp and the ace recipe to produce the perfect cragged crust, bathed in perfect amounts of oil (which actually render your paper plate transparent) and an amazing, assertive red sauce, so hard to find but so obvious when you do that it’s nostalgic even. Toppings of  good salty cheese and fresh basil leaves make the combination of ingredients and textures attract and repel like two S.I. cousins out on a Saturday night. For reals.

So what if there’s a huge line, that’s what makes it extra-special when it’s all yours. So what if is three bucks fifty, slices are huge and I have had $4 slices in much worse places (sorry that NYC thinks it’s so special these days). Artichoke is open late and it produces righteous pizza. Makes me realize it’s high time I started to make up for all the mediocre stuff I’ve eaten over the years.  The shop is conveniently located on 14th Street just east of 1st Ave, I dare myself to avoid it when I am within a 10 block radius and I can’t (unless there is above-illustrated line). It really comes down to the fact that I love pizza because pizza, like few other things, even when it’s bad…it’s still kinda good. And when it’s great, it’s mind-blowing.



Dear Bahn Mi Saigon Bakery,

September 9, 2009


138 Mott St., NYC

You have made me forget all about the tiny deli on Grand Street that had THE best Vietnamese sandwiches in the five boroughs. And this is a really good thing because I was just about to break a nervous sweat trolling up and down the street looking for that little place. Now that bahn mi joints are practically more common than pizzerias, it is imperative to not take an outstanding bahn mi for granted. And I almost did. Funny the cross streets never stuck in my head after five years, but I had never NOT found it until this day and alas, I think it is gone. We all know this town can be cruel like that.

As I was walking south in despair, fearing that the true and authentic bahn mi had been replaced by a flashy new generation of $13 and too much bread, I saw your sign. It looked and felt right. I bee-lined, barged in, swept past the jewelry counter, and without a second thought, ordered the number One. And well, after a bite or two, I was reminded; the difference between a good bahn mi and an exceptional one is both subtle and clear as day.

The bread. Not just any bread will fit the bill. The perfect bahn mi baguette has to have a certain degree of yielding softness, not like the straight up French kind that makes your teeth work hard and scrapes the roof of your mouth a little, while not a cheap roll that will fall apart either. Since it is usually a take-out item, you may be standing in front of a jewelry store/bakery eating on the street and this thing needs to be compact and sturdy but still of fresh baked quality. My sandwich was lovingly warm, which is best, but for full disclosure I only devoured one half straight away, elbowing through Chinatown, and ate the other refrigerator-cold later. Still super.

The carrot/daikon pickle mix. That punk smell of daikon is mandatory for an authentic bahn mi experience with plenty of crisp vinegar to play with the sweetness that tinges the filling which, on the Number One, is exceptional pork. The caramelized pork, in addition to great texture, adds the fat flavor needed to stand up to the other ingredients which pile on fresh, spicy, salty, pungent and bitter all at once.

There should be a good balance between all of these, not an over abundance of one or the other. It does not sound difficult, but after eating (and making) endless bahn mi I know that, like pizza, even mediocre is still good. All of the ingredients will most likely taste great together: bread, meat, pickle, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, mayo (and the sneaky slice of cold cut), but to hit on all of the points just right and to make that ultimately perfect combo is something very special and rare.

I see that I have stumbled upon a deservedly iconic place. The vegetarian summer rolls I took for later also sort of blew my mind. Not expecting much from the pale presence of cellophane noodles wrapped in rice paper with tofu, they showed off with the huge flavors of a great marinade, tons of fresh herbs and two killer dipping sauces, one salty, sweet and gingery, the other a red-hot chili sauce. Fantastic. And on the money. Your cross streets will never leave my heart.

Your fast friend,




WWJPD: The James Beard Awards

May 8, 2009


It happens that MG and I were invited to the James Beard Awards the other evening. We were not being honored this time around, nor were any of our affiliations, which is fine. I like to think we were invited more as eye-candy and perhaps as a pinch of comic relief for our table, which is also fine. The truth is, that by the time we got to the dining room and each guest had four working wine glasses and one full beer glass in front of them, we were all pretty comical. There was talk of summer homes and yacht building and I just had to check the spelling of the word yacht.

After the awards ceremony there was the Gala Reception where everyone got to rub lapels and eat some bites from restaurants around the country. The standout for me was from a place on the west coast, Cafe Juanita (Kirkland, Washington). Chef Holly Smith celebrated her ‘west-coastness’ by pairing luxurious morsels of king crab legs with a little scoop of green apple sorbetto. This was garnished with a sprinkle of sweet crab butter powder. Crab. Butter. Powder. …which, she explained to me, was created by mixing maltodextrin with the flavored butter. Crab (or lobster or shrimp) butter is one of those waste-not items that simmers the scraps and shells of the crustacean in butter very slowly to draw out all the flavor those bits have to offer. From there it can be seasoned accordingly (and apparently turned into a powder with the addition of some clever creativity on the part of the chef). The crab remained center stage as the bright, crispness of the sorbet was teased by the buttery powder melting seductively over it all. Clearly I was a big fan of this simple yet innovative amuse bouche. Anita Lo of Annisa also had a nice offering and, coincidentally, it also involved an icy element. The dish was a tartare enhanced with Asian flavors (spotty in the memory here…) and topped ‘to order’ with a flavored ice. This was delicious and especially perfect with the tartare because it kept the chill on it, which is key when enjoying raw food.

The real highlight of the evening, not yacht talk or gluttonous hors d’oeuvre consumption, was meeting the kind and gracious Jacques Pepin living legend, fairy godpapa. He truly seemed to enjoy himself as the room filled with people and cameras flashed away. We spotted him from a balcony and sauntered down to make his acquaintance as some of the herd moved toward the dining room. He was not hurried, he was not annoyed that another fan wanted to say hi. Actually he was so totally cool that since this meeting, when dealing with people or dealing with food, I find myself asking What Would Jacques Pepin Do?