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Smorgasburger – Go Ramen! Go Life!

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Ramen Burger

One of our first activities in New York was walking all the way from West Village to Williamsburg to check out that famed ramen burger from Keizo Shimamoto at the Smorgasburg food market. It was a super hot day and we underestimated how long that “little walk” would take us, speaking alone that it took forever just getting over Williamsburg bridge. So when we eventually arrived we were pretty much done for the day but also saw a lot of beautiful city views on the way. Williamsburg is actually a pretty nice and grungy neighbourhood, full of cafés, bars and restaurants and Smorgasburg must have one of the best views on Manhattan, that a foodmarket could have. It was pretty busy out here, but we still managed to locate one of our hosts and the ramen burger stall quite easily. The queue was long but moved down fast as these guys really knew what they were doing. Everything was impressively set up in an assembly line kind of way, so patties were sizzling, ramen buns getting crisp and burgers were assembled by the dozens. Thank goodness as we were starving and dying to try this.

That thing was nothing but genius. The meat was not overly seasoned, maybe a bit too little, however beefy, juicy and had the right size in comparison to the noodle buns. Cheese and lettuce weren’t either outstandingly good nor bad but that sauce, a shoyu reduction glaze that tasted something like a sweetish Asia style bbq sauce, had some absolute delicious flavours going on. Last but not least the most curious of elements, the buns. I had a ramen type burger before in Singapore but the noodles were fairly crisp and crunchy and some parts broke off while taking a bite. Here, I have no clue how they actually did it, as it really tasted like qq cooked ramen noodles and still stuck together in it’s patty bun shape until the last two bites maybe. So it really was like the perfect fusion of two fantastic dishes into one; innovative, genius and best of it all delicious.

Get Your Grub On!

Ramen Burger (open Sundays in season)
Smorgasburg (at Williamsburg Flea)
50 Kent Avenue
New York
NY 11249
United States of America
http://ramenburger.com/

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Momofuku Tour – Part 2.

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Cold Beef Ramen (Seasonal Special)

After our delicious fried-chicken-sandwich-stopover at Fuku we went just a few doors down to Momofuku Noodle Bar to have some of those tasty sounding chashu buns, our friends had been raving about while eating their crispy chicken; I love these foodies. Unfortunately, they were just about to close for their afternoon break before dinner service so we checked, when they’ll be open again and went for a little bar in the area to bridge the waiting time with some happy hour drinks. We were back at the door like 20-30minutes after they had re-opened and the place was already full and bustling with people. I must say, I came here with high hopes but very low expectations. You never really know how these hyped places turn out to be. So let’s see.

We started with a couple of beers, a few glasses of sake and some dishes to share. The spicy cucumbers were nicely done and slightly different from how I know them. Someone smashed the hell out of them and they seemed a little bit fermented, covered in that red Japanese chili pepper mix (togarashi) and some crushed almonds. Pretty nice actually. The chashu buns, the actual reason we came here for, were great. Finally, someone got that meat to bun ratio right. Two thick slices of beautifully and soft pork belly with some crunchy lightly cured cucumbers and a sticky hoisin sauce. That’s the stuff and I still regret not having tried the brisket buns too. Then came the first real surprise of the evening. I was wondering why my friend had ordered the rice cakes here and reckoned it would just take up unnecessary space in my stomach, that was reserved for that big bowl of ramen we had coming but oh my gawd, I’ll be eternally thankful to him for doing that. I don’t know how they created this texture, fry or maybe pan fry them until literally rice-crispy-crisp on the outside and teeth-sticking chewy on the inside. Then they all lay around in an absolutely insane and hard-to-define cream sauce, that was wonderfully savoury with a sweetish touch, that reminded me a bit of okonimyaki sauce. I really have to work on my palette again to become better in identifying single flavours, but for now, it was good enough for me just eating and enjoying that amazing dish. The kitchen had added even more layers of texture and flavor by sprinkling scallions, bonito flakes and tobiko over it all. The only ingredient I was indifferent about was the chicken. Anyhow, best rice cakes ever.

After this, my low expectations rose into the sky and thankfully I had the best yet coming. For the bowl, I ordered one of their seasonal summer items, a cold beef ramen dish that sounded just right for a hot day like today. The looks instantly brought back memories of Matador, with its’ perfectly rose slices of roasted beef. The meat was delicious just a bit hard to bite off from, so I ended up eating it by slice and mouthfuls. Not that I cared. The chilled or rather cold broth was light with some citrusy flavors like yuzu or ponzu. This was so refreshing that I would have actually preferred to take it outside to the street and eat it in the warm summer sun. The noodles had proper bite and bounce that reminded me of Korean Naengmyeon not only because that’s a cold dish too. Just the egg, however perfectly made, somehow felt a bit out of place to me. I loved everything about this, the unique aromas and the innovative approach of taking something traditional and transforming it into something entirely new without losing the slightest bit of awesomeness. A dish definitely in my top 3 for the year and one that makes me want to live here and see what else they come up with next.

To the Noodle Bar itself, it’s a rather simplistic and minimalist setup, with light colored wood and mainly long sharing tables, like a bar exactly. On our table getting in and out of my seat was a bit of a hassle though, climbing over other people’s bags and stuff and I also found it a bit too cold inside (having a coolish dish as well). This places is crowded and the air is bustling of chatter from a cool mixed crowd hanging around before heading out to town. Thankfully there are many more Momofuku shops and concepts for me to try out during my next trip to New York but this one’s a definite keeper. Thanks, your food made me smile today.

Get Your Grub On!

Momofuku Noodles Bar (open ever day)
171 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/noodle-bar/

❤ tacos.

The Holy Taco Shack - Food Truck
I collected a huge repertoire of food memories and pictures since I have been back to Europe, mainly because I have been traveling a fair bit to the Netherlands/Holland, Switzerland, France, Spain and Italy, which of the two latter were very focused on the local food experience. That aside I think it’s only appropriate to choose a place in Germany for my first review since almost a year, not German cuisine however representative for what’s going on here at the moment. The Holy Taco Shack is part of the reinvention of the culinary scene in Germany right now. Many people put a totally different value on the food they sell and eat today with a lot of love for detail and appreciation for culinary skill. Some results out of this are the growing numbers of food trucks as well as street food festivals and markets that seem to have started in Berlin but already have spread into all corners of Germany. This particular truck, or actually more a food trailer, is run by a German-American couple that left their former jobs behind and started their own business filling the big gap of proper Mexican food in Germany and thankfully decided to do so in beautiful Freiburg.

The Holy Taco Shack - Classic Tacos Mango SalsaAfter many missed opportunities to try their food before, I finally managed to be in Freiburg at the right time for their weekly appearance at the Rieselfeld Market on Saturday. We went fairly early, as apparently their food sometimes sells out rather quickly and I wanted to have free choice. So here I was, ordering my first round of Classic Tacos – a set of three – with all the meats from the menu, chicken chipotle, beef brisket and my secret passion, the carnitas, medium spicy with some extra mango salsa on the side. They use their homemade corn tortillas, made from maíz azul (a black purple-ish type of corn) that have a bit more to them than the regular corn tortillas. It might be just the colour but I thought they were pretty great. Now on to the inner values and I must say that all of the meats were exceptionally delicious. The beef was super nice and tender like it was slow cooked for ages (which it probably was) and the chicken, which I expected to be either a bit on the dry side or drowning in sauce, I liked even more, just so juicy and fantastic. My other expectation though proved to be right; the carnitas are still my absolute favourite. They were wonderful moist with a good char on the edges that had touched the hot plate, an insanely good combination of meat and fats. The homemade medium salsa was just right, not too spicy but still gave me a kick on my tongue and the mango version for an extra €1 was the perfect companion and totally worth it. Fruity, slightly sour and refreshing in between the flavour party going on around here.

The Holy Taco Shack - Spicy Classic TacosSince I wasn’t sure when I’d be having another chance to eat here again I went for a second round of the same, just this time with the spicy salsa and the extra jalapeños. This salsa is fun and squeezed cold sweat right out of my head so that I wished I would have ordered this mango pineapple salsa again to cool things down a little bit. All in all amazing food.

It was busy that day, the queue got longer and they still stayed cool and friendly even that many people were asking a lot of questions about the food and the TV show they have just been part of. I hope I’ll be able to come here many more times, it’s good to have you guys around, keep it up and all the best.

The Holy Taco Shack
Maria-von Rudloff-Platz 1
79111 Freiburg
Germany
Tel: +49 176 329 70 414
http://theholytacoshack.com/

P.S.: This is their usual Wednesday and Saturday location but follow their Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates and additional spots.