Bavarian ramen.

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Tan Tan Men

It was the last weekend of Wiesn in Munich and I went back to the beer tents at freaking 7:30 a.m. in the morning to meet my friend from Hong Kong and her hilarious entourage from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and England, from whom most had never been to the Oktoberfest before; no reservations, no choice. After a bit over an hour wait, we actually made it into the Augustiner beer tent and…well let’s just fast forward for a couple of hours and a few emptied stones. Our little group split up; some went missing, some went home and a few continued on their german beer quest. I, even though ready for an extended nap on the couch, made a little detour to my favourite ramen shop in Germany to date, Takumi in Maxvorstadt, just a little train ride away.

I was obviously lucky today, unlike on other occasions, as the place was actually open and no waiting in the queue either. I sat down and ordered my favorite, the Tantanmen. I have tried others, but so far no bowl could beat that red and rich, spicy broth. Portions are huge here and I was a bit overwhelmed when the piping hot bowl showed up, doubting I could actually finish it, I was wrong. The broth was awesome, savoury and spicy, thick and rich, loaded with peanut and sesame flavors and loads of that deliciously spiced minced meat. I absolutely loved it. Now let me talk about those noodles; I do come here almost everytime I’m in town, but these were hands down the best ones, they’ve ever made for me. Maybe because the place was not as packed as usual, maybe they improved generally or I was just darn lucky, but these noodles were very very close to perfect. Speaking pasta terms, they were absolutely on spot al dente, chewy and with this unique texture, that only ramen noodles have. Not that they have ever been really bad before but more often than not, they were a little on the softer side. Not stopping there, even the eggs went through some sort of evolution here and seemed more beautifully waxy than ever. So awesome guys, keep it up.

Service here has always been super nice and everybody is offering you smiles and it was exactly the same today. Staff is friendly and service is pretty fast and efficient. If I would need to pick on something negative it would be the fact that your ordinary ice tea here comes by the glass for EUR1,80, which gets quite pricey if you (like I) tend to drink loads while eating big bowls of hot soup. In the end, it’s just water, so I would rather pay a bit more for a free flow of my jasmine tea rather than order over and over again, but maybe that’s just me being used to free flow tea and water in these kinda places. Other than this little blemish, I totally love it here and see no reason why not to come back again and again and again.

Takumi München (open all week)
Heßstr.71
80798 München
Germany
Tel: +49 89 528 599
http://www.takumi-noodle.com/index.html

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