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99 Favor Taste

After I hurt my ankle last month, my mom came up to mother me for a weekend. Her reaction to my apartment was that it was a lot cleaner than she expected. Not sure why, but I think she imagined a pig sty. Even so, she did a full scrub down of my bathroom and kitchen, down to the floors. She then proceeded to stock up my fridge and freezer with homemade soups and ready-to-eat meals. Looking at the mountain of food, I should be good to go for the next month. It’s times like these when I feel like I have absolutely no desire to grow up. Can time go backwards? Can I stay a kid forever? It’s so nice to be taken care of.

Of course we also went out to eat quite a few times that weekend. 99 Favor Taste is a hot pot and Korean barbecue spot that newly opened not long ago. The original restaurant is in Brooklyn, and they have done so well that they’ve now expanded into Manhattan. From the looks of it, this new location is a huge hit as well. The line Saturday night was literally out the door, with the entrance area teeming over with people waiting for tables. We made reservations for 8 pm and still had to wait about a half hour before getting seated.

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The first thing I noticed, aside from the line situation, was how beautifully decorated the interior was. High ceilings, red draped curtains, elegant throw pillows on all the seats – this is definitely not your typical dingy Chinatown place. This is what restaurants in China actually look like. Add on top of that really attentive service (almost TOO attentive), high quality ingredients, and affordable prices, this is hands down the best hot pot spot in Manhattan.

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You can pick up to 3 soup bases, and we went with half spicy and half pork bone. There’s one called congee style, which I’ll have to try next time to figure out what that entails. Congee hot pot? Interesting.

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The wall of sauces is an impressive lineup with everything from the classic sesame paste to chives sauce and several different hot sauces. It’s fun to experiment with a dollop of this and that. My go-to concoction is a mix of sha cha paste, soy sauce, sesame paste, chives sauce, and a dash of vinegar and chili oil.

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For the food, I was so impressed by the quality of the meats. The beef (upper right) and the lamb (lower left) were beautiful. Sliced extremely thinly, it cooks in seconds. I like to dip it in the broth a couple times and then take it out immediately so that it doesn’t overcook. The slivers of fat in the beef kept it especially juicy and tender. If you get no other meats, you must try the beef. Really excellent!

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There’s a slew of other meats, seafood, and veggies to pick up too. We loaded up on: pork, fish, crab, frozen tofu (a must!), fried tofu, tofu skin, wood ear, seaweed, enoki mushrooms, pumpkin, potatoes, taro (my favorite!), and vermicelli for the end. This is a waistline-busting amount of food. Beware. Come dressed for the occasion, which in my case means stretchy yoga pants.

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Something else I love about this place is the sweet soups that serve as great palate cleansers, giving you a break from all the spice and oil, or as a refreshing dessert at the end of the meal. On the top is a pumpkin soup, and on the bottom is a tapioca soup. I’m such a sucker for these. I must have had at least 4 bowls.

And what is the price for this giant meal? A whopping $22 per person! I don’t know another all-you-can-eat hot pot place in Manhattan that can top this. I will be back (well, technically, I’ve already been back since this particular meal happened haha).

99 Favor Taste
285 Grand St (btw Eldridge & Forsyth) New York, NY 10002

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Chinese

 

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Chicago: Sugar Bliss

No time to write today! Have some cupcakes instead! These were from Sugar Bliss in Chicago.

Sugar Bliss

Chocolate with peanut butter on the left and cinnamon on the right.

Sugar Bliss
115 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60602

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Dessert

 

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Terroir Wine Bar

There’s nothing better than spending the evening at a wine bar, chit chatting away with your girlfriends. Terroir Wine Bar has several locations, one of which is in Murray Hill, right by me.

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I love the look of the place, perfect for a date or a girls night. There’s plenty of room, so you’re not sitting on top of each other. The music isn’t too loud, so you can have an actual conversation.

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The wait staff is really well-versed in wine. Ask them if you’re unsure of what to get or would like to try something new. We tried sherry…let’s just say it probably won’t be my drink of choice…ever. After which, we decided to stick to glasses of riesling instead.

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For a wine bar, Terrori has a really creative food menu too.

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Saucy mozzarella balls to share. I only wish there was more sauce, but it was yummy.

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I was really disappointed by the tomato, egg, and basil bruschetta. I read so many raving reviews on this, but there was too much tomato to taste anything else. The topping wasn’t balanced with the bread. Was it missing a drizzle of balsamic or something?

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The duck confit sandwich with stinky cheese seemed to be well-liked though. Despite the one miss on the bruschetta, I like the wine service and ambiance here enough to come back. Or that it’s just right down the block from me – that’s nice too. Next time, I’m getting the whipped lardo bruschetta.

Terroir Wine Bar
439 3rd Ave (btw 30th and 31st) New York, NY 10016

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in American

 

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Oda House

I am embarrassed to say, when my friend Jenn first told me about this place that serves Georgian food, my first reaction was Georgia? As in the country? Is that in Africa? Oops. Ok. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that on the internet for everyone to see. But the more important part of this story is that I learned! Georgia is not in Africa. It is next to Turkey, right on the edge of Europe and Asia, which explains the really interesting nature of their cuisine.

Oda House brings a taste of Georgia to this city, adding even more diversity to the East Village. The menu is a mix of breads, stews, pickles, meats, and even dumplings.

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Everyone who comes here needs to get the adjaruli, which is this hot, out-of-the-oven bread, filled with melted cheese plus a chunk of butter and a raw egg on top. THIS IS CRAZY AND AMAZING!

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What you do is you stir it all up, and the egg kind of gets cooked by the hot, melty cheese. Then you break off pieces of the bread starting from the outside, dip, and devour. Oh my goodness. I think we each took a bite, chewed, and then just sat there, looking at each other in silent wonder. I demand that you also experience this. So delicious.

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Here is the lobio, a pinto bean stew with lots of pickled veggies on the side. That’s a big piece of Georgian cornbread called mchadi on the bowl.

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Lift the bread, and you can see the stew underneath. It’s vegetarian but really filling. Especially since we had already gobbled down loads of cheesy, eggy, buttery bread, Jenn took part of her stew home for another meal. Also, notice the kinds of veggies that were pickled. There’s a bulb of garlic there. I tried a bite of it. It was not as pungent as I expected. Very interesting.

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I got the chakapuli, a lamb stew with tarragon and white wine, also served with Georgian bread. The lamb was tender, but the stew was incredibly salty. The bread helped soak some of the soup up, but the salt was still very overwhelming. At some point, I stopped messing around with the stew and just returned to the adjaruli that was calling out to me. I’d come back just for that.

Oda House
76 Ave B (btw 5th and 6th St) New York, NY 10009

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Georgian

 

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Red Hook

I didn’t learn to really appreciate lobster until after college. Now, I will actually crave a big, fat lobster roll. Taste buds do change. For my lobster lovers, Red Hook Lobster Pound has some awesome choices year round to satisfy your lobster craving.

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I’ve only had Luke Lobster’s lobster rolls and haven’t tried Red Hook’s. Anyone who has and can make a recommendation of which you like better?

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Red Hook’s lobster mac & cheese has really big pieces of lobster in it along with 4 different cheeses. The bowl looks small, but it’s filling. The lobster bites smothered in warm oozy cheese is perfect for the cold winter.

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The lobster BLT isn’t quite as satisfying. Given the size of the sandwich, the amount of lobster seems off so that it’s too much bread and lettuce and not enough lobster. Next time, I’ll have to try their lobster rolls to see how those are.

Red Hook Lobster Pound
Around Town – Williamsburg Flea, Smorgasburg, Fort Greene Flea, Food Truck @lobstertruckny
284 Van Brunt Street Brooklyn, NY 11231

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in American

 

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The Marrow

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2014 annual letter came out in January, and I’ve had it in my to-read folder for a long time. In this letter, Bill and Melinda Gates address 3 common myths about global poverty and aid:

1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

I think this is a very well-written and inspirational document that should be circulated to as many people as possible. I know through my small experiences in fundraising for charities and volunteering, that working towards a charitable goal can be frustrating. The question in the back of my mind has always been “Am I actually making a difference?” What I love about this letter is that it is both incriminating in pointing out our shortsightedness and yet encouraging in showing us the life-giving impact that global aid can and does make. Give it a read and send it to all your friends.

Now onto the food part!

The Marrow brings us German and Italian food, representing the two sides of Chef and Owner Harold Dieterle’s heritage. For a restaurant in this price range, they serve a really affordable brunch. If you are not down for spending $40+ on a dinner, brunch is the perfect meal to come and try the food.

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Brioche pain perdu is basically french toast, and it is paired with duck liver mousse, plum compote, and vermont maple syrup. Duck liver mousse and french toast?! Surprisingly, it works! The combination was interesting and yummy. I would say though that the duck liver still had a bit of iron taste to it, which I would prefer it not to have at all. Also, this is a very sweet plate, so for someone like me, it was too much sugar to finish.

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My friend’s choice was steamed eggs with cauliflower creamed kale, gravlax, and grilled bread, and she really liked this dish. The portion size is just the right amount so you don’t feel unbearably full afterwards.

At the end of the meal, they bring out a little dish of homemade cookies, which is a lovely touch evoking all kinds of warm and fuzzies. I wish all restaurants did this.

The Marrow
99 Bank St (btw Hudson St & Greenwich St) New York, NY 10014

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in American, German, Italian

 

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XO Kitchen

Fast, cheap, and with enough hustle and bustle to transport you to Hong Kong. XO Kitchen’s walls are plastered with different menu items and daily specials. There are pictures of menu items all over the place. In my opinion, the best course of action if you’re not too familiar with Cantonese food, is to look and point. Forget about reading the menu, it’ll just confuse you.

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That’s how I found this dish: zong zi with XO sauce. I saw a picture on the wall and said I want that. Zong zi is sticky rice and various fillings wrapped and cooked in bamboo leaves. The filling can be sweet or salty. In this case, it was the savory variety with pork, peanuts, and bits of egg. My biggest complaint with zong zi is when the sticky rice that doesn’t touch the filling has no flavor, and you have eat through several bites of it before getting to the filling. Here, the XO sauce solves this problem. XO sauce is a spicy cantonese seafood sauce made from dried shrimp, fish, and scallops. It pairs nicely on the sticky rice.

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My friend got her usual braised beef he fen which are the wide rice noodles. It looked really good.

XO Kitchen
148 Hester St (between Bowery & Elizabeth) New York, NY 10013

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Chinese

 

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