Please Feed Me


Did The Top Chef Master’s Restaurant Meet My Expectations?

courtesy of shangrestaurant.com

I’m addicted to Top Chef. Always have been, and I have a feeling always will be. I must say though, I love Top Chef Masters even more. All the dishes look amazing no matter what because the caliber of talent on this show is so high, and everyone is already so accomplished. I’m in complete awe of all the contestants. So can I just tell you how excited I was to be eating at Shang in downtown New York City? The chef of this Pan-Asian restaurant is Susur Lee. Not only was he a contestant on Top Chef Masters, but he even won one of the episodes. Susar has a ridiculous and celebrated background when it comes to cooking, just check out his Wikipedia bio. And judging from the episode, he looks like a really awesome guy to hang out with.

I walked up an elegant flight of stairs to get to his restaurant and found myself in a beautifully decorated restaurant. Spacious booths, simple art and modern furniture. The interior design was much more pleasing than my overall dinner was though.

For cocktails I sampled a Shang Caipirinha made with cachaca, fresh lime, lychee and tarragon. It was tasty and stayed true to the taste of a real caipirinha. My second drink of the evening was the Thai Lemonade that I asked to be served as a martini. Don’t think for a second that this was a sweet concoction. Made from gin, basil, lemon juice and black peppercorn that infuse the drink beautifully, it was a tart drink that I found very satisfying.

And then came our food for the night:

Singapore Slaw: a massive salad made from 19 ingredients, some of which were fried taro, peanuts, carrots and 3 types of microgreens. I’ve never tasted anything quite like this blend. While I’ve sampled similar dishes, the combination of all of these flavors was fantastic and very unique. I must mention that it was slightly overdressed and oily, but a must try.

Sashimi platter: a complete let down. It was simply average and I really wish that my date and I didn’t order it. We didn’t even want to finish it.

Beef satay with penang peanut sauce and chili mint chutney: As a whole it was good, but not amazing. Though I must mention that the beef was very tender, probably the most tender beef satay I have ever had.

Cantonese wok fried pearl noodles with shrimp: This could have been a good dish, but something definitely went haywire. Eat bite of the shrimp felt as if I were take a shot of rice wine. The alcohol flavor was way too strong. We couldn’t eat anymore of the shrimp after a couple of bites. The noodles were nice and homemade, a bit chewy, but decent.

Overall, I’m happy that I got to try Susur Lee’s restaurant, but I don’t plan on going back, let alone recommending it to anyone. For someone of his reputation I expected a lot more. We were so disappointed in our dinner that we didn’t even stay for dessert.

One other downfall of the restaurant was the menu. Nothing on the dinner or dessert menu excited me and made me feel that I had to try it. It was a bit on the boring side. But then I went home and made myself a Jameson Manhattan to end my night on a better note. Woohoo, John Jameson and Son!

5 out of 10

-Juice

Shang

187 Orchard St, New York NY10002

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Try An Izakaya For A Laidback Night Out

courtesy of Randy F. on yelp.com

Izakayas are great when you are looking to get filled up without spending too much money. What is an Izakaya? Think of it as a Japanese version of an Irish bar that serves food. The food menus here are huge so you can probably go everyday for a month and get to try something new.

One thing that I must make clear about this type of Japanese eating establishment. The food is never really amazing. If  you are expecting Le Bernardin, please just go to Le Bernardin. It’s bar food at affordable prices, and not a fancy bar. Probably great food if you’re intoxicated, which is kind of the point I guess. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, and I imagine that if I get to go, I will see this type of place littered on every block. They aren’t fancy restaurants. Remember this is just plain and simple bar food, just the Japanese version.

I usually go to the Izakayas on St. Marks, but a friend of mine suggested that we go to Hagi, one of her favorites. We ordered a large bottle of cold sake and so much food that even our waiter was in awe. Well he was either in awe or disgusted, I like to think it was the former. What I found the most amusing was that the tables around us saw all the food we got and kept pointing and ordering from our table, and they were Japanese!! I am honored.

Sake- We got a very large and cold bottle. Think wine bottle size. Remember what I said in my mini sake lesson? Check back here if you don’t. They have a very large selection here, so unless you know a lot about sake, get a recommendation from the staff.

Grilled smelt-Very snackable and came three to a skewer. Quite tasty.

Assorted pickles-I love Asian ones, but these didn’t tickle my pickle. Sorry, I just felt like rhyming, heehee.

Octopus balls-Typical Japanese street food and they made them very well. Think of a small round ball of cooked batter with a hidden piece of octopus in the middle.

Spaghetti with cod roe cream-The pasta was cooked well and the cream sauce had flavor. Did I love it? No, but it’s bar food, if I were drunk I probably would have hoovered it.

Large sardine filled with roe-This was one of my favorites of the night. I love roe and when it’s cooked it’s so flavorful and filling. When it comes to any seafood that has eggs in it like lobster, it kills me when people discard the eggs. They taste so good and are quite expensive if you think about it.

Pork belly with bean sprouts and garlic shoots-People rave about this dish, I thought that it was just OK. I’m a huge fan of garlic shoots so I quite enjoyed that part of the dish. I wish the pork belly were a little more flavorful. My one main connection with this dish is that it reminds me of what my grandmother would cook for me when I was growing up and still does upon request, just with beef. That might be why I didn’t love it, granny probably makes it better.

Will I be going back to Hagi? Yes, and it’s because they had one thing that completely blew my mind. It is one dish that I will be looking out for at other Japanese bars and if my friend hadn’t ordered it, I would have missed it on the extensive menu. So thank you friend! It was their fried pork belly. You must be a fan of fat in order to enjoy this dish, because otherwise you will hate it. And as you can see from my Minca post, I am a major proponent of it. The best way I can describe this plate is to think of each piece as a really thick potato chip, a few millimeters thick. The outside is so crispy and when you bite into the middle it is all fat. Pure fat. Heaven on a plate. Based on this one dish, I know that there must be other star dishes on their menu, I just have to find them. Maybe it’s their sashimi, maybe it’s the yellowtail collarbone or maybe the liver or chicken skin yakitori, but I can’t wait to try more to find out.

6 out of 10

152 W 49th St, New York NY10019

-Juice


Really, Really Cheap Sushi That Tasted Good And Didn’t Make Me Sick!

courtesy of sushiloungenyc.com

I am an idiot. Like a seriously major idiot. For over ten years, I’ve walked past the Sushi Lounge over and over again and never once have I ever walked in. As a matter of fact, when they put up signs saying that their sushi was 50% off all the time, I think it kind of even scared me off. But alas, at my ripe old age I decided that it was time for me to walk in. That, and I was broke.

We started off with a round of sake-tinis. They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad. I’m also not use to sugary sweet alcoholic drinks (those who know me know that I can’t resist a Jameson on the rock or a dry vodka or gin martini), but how can I say no to a $6.50 martini? I couldn’t, duh. My friends were pleased with the sake-tini selection, there was everything from lychee and passion fruit to green apple and peach.

I ordered a sushi special of 6 sushi pieces (salmon, tuna and yellow tail) that came with a spicy tuna roll. It was love at first bite. My fish was buttery, tender and quite flavorful. It was really good. And what made it taste even better? My entire entrée came out to only $9.98 and I didn’t get sick from it even though it was so cheap. I was in raw fish heaven.  I’m thinking about when I can go back. Maybe tomorrow?  One of my girlfriends got a California roll and it came out to $2.13. $2.13!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s less than a one-way trip on the subway.  I know that I should try their other items like their ramen or their bento boxes, but I’m a sucker for a good deal.

Oh Sushi Lounge, you’re the one upside to this recession. Please don’t close down…or raise your prices back to normal.

132 St Marks Pl, New York NY10009

7 out of 10

-Juice