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.

IMG_1868

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.

IMG_1876

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.

IMG_1870

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.

IMG_1874

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!

IMG_1875

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.

IMG_1879

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

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.

IMG_1102

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.

IMG_1103

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

Ootoya

The idea behind Ootoya is to introduce the world to Japanese home cooking – meals that are eaten in real Japanese households on an everyday basis. In other words, not the sushi and sashimi most people associate is the beginning and end of Japanese cuisine. There are now 2 Ootoyas in NYC, which speaks to the popularity and success they’ve found here.

IMG_0957

For most of the entrees, you can elect to get it teishoku style or a la carte. The teishoku or meal style comes with a bowl of miso soup, pickles, and egg custard. I got the mini soboro don which is minced chicken with egg served over rice. This tasted so homey and comforting. Sometimes, I find the sweet soy sauce used in Japanese cooking to be too sweet, but I think it was very balanced here. I licked my bowl clean.

IMG_0959

The rosu katsu ju is fried pork loin wrapped in layer of egg custard, also served on top of rice. The pork is cooked in dashi, so it’s very flavorful.

IMG_0961

Despite Ootoya’s very limited dessert menu, the anmitsu matcha is great. It’s a conglomeration of agar jelly, shiratama (mochi), red bean, and green tea ice cream all sitting in soymilk with a side of kuromitsu brown sugar syrup to pour on top. The elements were wonderful together except for the kuromitsu, which I found too cloying. We left it unpoured.

Ootoya has a really extensive menu full of yummy sounding choices, so anyone interested in Japanese food should come back with me to try more of it.

Ootoya
8 W 18th St (btw Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave) New York, NY 10011

Afternoon treats

Yesterday, I wrote about feeling sorry for myself about my sprained ankle. What I neglected to write about was all the blessings that this experience opened my eyes to. Fortunately, it’s not a fracture, just a really bad sprain. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who have been so kind and lovely to me these past few days. Thank you for being my first responder and getting me bandages. Thank you and you for stopping by with ice packs and socks and a much needed hug. Thank you for keeping me company and bringing me sweet treats, ice packs, and DVDs. Thank you and you for cheering me up with laughter and stories and even more cookies. Thank you for letting me work from home. Thank you for being my water girl. Thank you to friends who have endured looking at gruesome pictures of my foot (It looks like a purple and green watercolor hehe). Thank you to everyone who have sent me texts, emails, and chats of well wishes and prayers. It’s been a blessed weekend.

With all the sweet treats that I now have stashed in my apartment, I thought I’d do a post on afternoon treats that have become more or less a daily habit during the workweek. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, my office is located right above a number of decent eateries and quite a few bakeries.

IMG_1520

Joe’s has the hands down best coffee in walking distance of my office. Plus, they carry baked goods from the Doughnut Plant and Ovenly. Ovenly’s salted chocolate chip cookie is my favorite out of the pastry case, and yes, I have tried nearly everything they have in there. See how bad this is for me?

IMG_1440

Financier has some hits and misses. I’m not a fan of their macarons, madeleines, or financiers. I am a fan or their croissants, scones (nutty and almondy), and their little cakes and tarts. I just took a bit out of this yummy lemon crumble tart.

IMG_0990

Ok, so this one wasn’t purchased during work, but it was still an afternoon treat. Macarons from FP Patisserie with a cup of black tea to help rejuvenate my energy for the rest of the workday.

Joe’s
Various locations in NYC and Philly

Ovenly
31 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Financier
Various Locations

Francois Payard Patisserie
1293 3rd Ave (btw 74th and 75th) New York, NY 10021

Noodle Village

This weekend, I twisted my ankle going down the subway steps. My ankle promptly swelled up to the size of a tennis ball, and I was confined to my apartment for the rest of the weekend. It was a weekend of especially nice weather too, which we haven’t had around here for a long time. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself makes me crave comfort foods like noodles and congee and made me remember this meal at Noodle Village.

IMG_0193

Soup dumplings hit the spot every time. These are the ones with minced crab. Honestly, I should probably stick with regular soup dumplings going forward rather than trying these crab ones. I haven’t seen any place in New York that uses real crab, so there’s not really extra crab flavor. Not worth the extra dollars, so just stick with the original pork.

IMG_0195

The waiter highly recommended this sha tin chicken congee, which they supposedly only have a limited number per day. I have no idea why because it did not taste anything special. In fact, it was bland and the pieces of chicken too large. I would not recommend this one.

IMG_0191

Congee is not complete without its partner you tiao or fried crullers. Did you know that there is a theory claiming that churros originated from these bad boys? The Portuguese went to China, saw these you tiao, took it back, and then changed it to be sweet rather than salty and voila! Churros!

IMG_0194

And because we definitely don’t have enough carbs on the table already, here are some cheong fun or rice rolls in a blanket of peanut and plum sauce and a light sprinkling of sesame seeds. I can eat this whole thing by myself. So delicious!

Noodle Village
13 Mott St (btw Chatham Sq & Mosco St) New York, NY 10013

Rose House

Last week, I started reading Quiet by Susan Cain, which talks about the culture of extroversion and the unrecognized value of introverts in this world. Some people may be surprised that I consider myself an introvert. It’s because I hide it well. I’ve recognized from a young age the rules of the game: extroversion is rewarded and introversion is a weakness. To play this game, I have worked hard to change myself, learning to be graceful in large crowds and to put on a smile for small talk. It’s wonderful to hear a different take on what introversion means. Not only is introversion not a weakness, but it actually brings value to the table, whether it be in a corporate board room or a restaurant kitchen, that extroversion cannot. Did you know that when looking at some of the biggest corporations, studies have found that charismatic leaders have higher pay but not necessarily better performance? Cain gives many examples of introverts, or maybe a better term would be “thinkers,” like Lou Gerstner of IBM and Bill Gates of Microsoft who were legendary leaders and innovators. Highly recommend this book, especially to my fellow innies.

And what do introverts do best? Personal, one-on-one time mixed in with a good dose of introspective conversation, which Rose House is the perfect venue for.

IMG_1740

Rose House is tucked away in Queens Crossing and has a huge tea selection. My rose milk tea is kept warm on a stand and candle. The tea is milky and has a lovely aroma. You can taste and smell the rose in it too. I can drink many pots of this.

IMG_1742

If you’re not in the mood for hot tea, they also serve a great iced fruit tea that’s really refreshing.

IMG_1738

The food choices are rather limited, and the menu isn’t very helpful in presenting the food options. I asked if they had any kind of cakes or desserts, and they presented us with a “rose cake.” It’s a standard Asian bakery cake with whipped frosting and fruit. There are rose petals in the pink sauce, but I couldn’t taste much rose flavor. Come here for the tea, not the cake.

IMG_1745

The teaware is reminiscent of a little girl tea set, I’m pretty sure I had a miniature version of these teapots and teacups when I was 6. So much pink!

Rose House
38-10 138th St, 1st Fl
Flushing, NY 11354

Go Go Curry

I didn’t develop a taste for curry until college, but now I’m hooked. Go Go Curry looks tiny and dingy on the outside, but they make a great Japanese curry.

IMG_0470

I went with the pork katsu curry with a topping of natto, which is Japanese fermented soybeans. The curry sauce is so yummy that I might get just curry and rice next time. The beans are definitely an acquired taste, for those adventurous eaters among y’all.

Go Go Curry
231 Thompson St (btw 3rd St & Bleecker) New York, NY 10012