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From Tokyo to New York City.

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Tokyo Shoyu Ramen

It was almost the end of our New York City trip when our lovely hosts brought us out to Ivan Ramen on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was excited like a little child before Christmas as I missed my chance to check out his original shop in Tokyo during my last trip with the boys in 2014. The place is fairly small but pretty nicely set up with some colorful twisted wall art and nicely dimmed, yet still sufficient lighting to take halfway acceptable pictures without using a flash. Let’s do this.

I had a bit of a hard time deciding, which bowl I should get as there was everything I love on the menu – shoyu, tsukemen etc., even a couple of seasonal dishes. My gut told me to go with something traditional after that brilliant chilled contemporary beef ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar the other day. I have a copy of Ivan’s book, so I did tend towards his signature shio ramen, which is explained in a step by step guide on the last pages and I thought that if I ever get around to try making it, this could be a reference moment. However, a friend had already ordered one so I switched midst order process to a bowl of shoyu ramen instead. Excitement grew stronger and just the looks of it gave me confidence, that this was going to be good. The chicken-based broth was dark of soy, had depth and was full of salty flavor and light dashi aroma. So good. The rye noodles, they use for this one, are very thin with a lovely bouncy texture, the eggs were still a bit runny but just seconds away from that perfect waxy state and the chashu just melted away in my mouth. That’s also why I felt a bit offended by the guy on the next table, who, without even trying, just neglected all of his beautiful pork belly away on the side. What a waste. Moving on and after trying mine and every other bowl on our table, I realized, that here’s so much more goodness to have had here and that I really need to come back to this shop some day. So wait for me tsukemen.

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L.E.S. Buns

For starters we tried their L.E.S. (Lower East Side, I assume) buns, which combine the two cultures and cuisines this shop stands for, Japanese and Jewish, Tokyo and NYC. The Japanese influence was represented by the fluffy steamed buns and the crunchy daikon slaw, while the Jewish and NYC touch came from the wonderfully juicy pastrami and the ass kicking spicy mustard. Great combination of flavors, globalization right there on my plate.

Service here was super friendly, attentive and fast and the place is like a trendy but low-key New York version of a ramen shop you want to spend some more time in, than just your 10-15 minutes slurping on your bowl of noodles. Nice concept, amazing food, more complementing than contrasting, I’m sold.

Get Your Grub On!

Ivan Ramen NYC (open ever day)
25 Clinton Street
New York
NY 10002
United States of America
p: +1 646 678 3859
http://www.ivanramen.com/

Sitting in the park, waiting for you.

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Bacon Cheeseburger & Crinkle Cut Fries

One of the things I had to do whilst in New York was finally hitting Shake Shack. We arrived after the big lunch crowd so the queue wasn’t too bad and it took us just 15 minutes to reach the front and another 10 minutes for them to get our orders out. I must have mixed up something when placing my order as we did get the burgers without the lettuce, tomatoes and all. Just plain bacon cheeseburgers and unfortunately, I realized it a little too late to change it back.

It was a decent tasty burger, nicely sized and grilled. The buns were proper, didn’t dampen the flavours and overall held their part of the deal. The meat, however tasty, was a bit underseasoned for my liking. I know they take special pride in the natural flavours of their beef, but I just wished for a pinch of extra salt and maybe some pepper. The cheese was nice and tart and the bacon added some very welcome saltiness but could’ve been crunchier. Because of the missing freshness of the vegetables, this felt a bit greasy so I’ll have to make sure to order all the works next time. Reading this back actually doesn’t sound too flattering but I still really liked that burger, it just wasn’t what I had expected. The famous crinkle cut fries were good too but actually could’ve used a bit of salt as well.

I like their whole sourcing approach and how they try keeping things as natural and healthy as it is possible  when it comes to burgers and fries. Also, this branch must be fabulous to get out for a relaxing lunch if you’re working in the area as Madison Square Park provides enough shade and a relaxing atmosphere to get a nice break in between your day. One of the nicest fast food joints I have been too.

Get Your Grub On!

Shake Shack (open daily)
Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street
New York
NY 10010
United States of America
p: +1 646 474 2606
https://www.shakeshack.com/home

A night out in BrisketTown.

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Meatfest: Ribs, Brisket and Pulled Pork

Our day in Williamsburg was coming to an end, but we really wanted to have some good old American BBQ before heading home and calling it a night. Our first try was at Fette Sau, but the last guy in the queue reckoned it was going to be at least a one and a half hour wait so I quickly checked the internet for alternatives, found a place called BrisketTown, sealed the deal. The place was kinda cold and super dark (so I have an excuse for the bad pictures) but the bar ladies were really nice and welcoming and got us a booth ready within five minutes.

We ordered a Meatfest mixed plate with all the meats but turkey and a medley of sides including collard greens, mac & cheese and coleslaw. I really did like their brisket, tenderly smoked and nicely spiced with a salt and pepper dry rub. The pulled pork was good but didn’t really blow me away, but the ribs again were outstanding. They had a dark and delicious spice crust and were bright pink with a smokey taste, just falling off that bone with ease. Fantastic stuff. Of the sides, I liked the mac and cheese and the collard greens the most. The vegetables had a slightly bitter touch and the strong fiber gave a nice bite in contrast to all the soft meats. Solid, no thrills address for some good old smokey barbecue with nice staff in a good location.

Get Your Grub On!

BrisketTown – Delaney Barbecue (open daily)
359 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn
NY 11211
United States of America
p: +1 718 701 8909
http://www.delaneybbq.com/

The Hot Dog Lottery.

editDSC00360After Smorgasburg, we started exploring Williamsburg. We walked around for a while, had a cold one here and there and then came across one of Crif Dog’s shops. Not being overly hungry we still decided to go in and try them out. The place had an arcade / comic store kind of interior with some action figures sitting in glass displays on the wall and tables made from old pac-man machines and such. While my buddy went for their lottery meal including two dogs (the cook decides which dogs you will get) I just went with a classic crif dog with relish, onions, sauerkraut and mustard.

The smoked beef and pork wiener tasted quite nice with just a little snap to it. The sauerkraut was rather light in taste but nicely crunchy and the onions and relish unfortunately, didn’t add too much to it. I would say it’s a decent quick snack in between or a late night supper pitstop, but nothing I would really go out of my way for. There are many other dogs on their menu to try though and the chili dog, that my friend got actually looked pretty delicious so if I should ever pass a Crif Dogs again, I will most likely give it another shot. The guy behind the counter was pretty funny, though.

Get Your Grub On!

Crif Dogs (open daily)
555 Driggs Avenue
Brooklyn
NY 11211
United States of America
p: +1 718 302 3200
http://www.crifdogs.com/

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/

Banana Pudding and Red Velvet.

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Magnolia Bakery Takeout

Just down the street from our friends in West Village was the famous Magnolia Bakery so eventually, we had to make a stopover here and get some of their famed red velvet cupcakes and some banana pudding, which was highly recommended to me by my friend Baked HK.

The cupcakes were a bit of let down in my eyes as there were no distinct or exciting flavors present, the frosting was just sweet and it was all a wee bit too dry. The banana pudding in the contrary was just addictively yummy. As it was chilled and squashy (in a good way) it reminded me partially of a gooey fudgy ice cream and even though the mass was fairly dense and filling, the doughy biscuit pockets somehow balanced it all out and made it kind of light. The banana flavor was strong in this one and only some little sprinkles of dark bitter chocolate sauce were missing to make this perfect for me (note to myself).

Oh, and all the people working at the shop were really nice to us, answering questions, making recommendations and just being generally kind. The only problem I have now is how to get my hands on that crazy good banana pudding ever again. Please help.

Get Your Grub On!

Magnolia Bakery (open ever day)
401 Bleecker Street
New York
NY 10014
United States of America
p: +1 212 462 2572
magnoliabakery.com

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/