Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Light Lunch at The Steeping Room

A regular lunch for me is homemade Chinese food that is usually consists of a scoop of steamed rice, a serving of meat or seafood, and 2 kinds of stir-fried veggies.  Yes, I know, my packed lunch is fancy schmancy.  I'm very lucky, but I need to mix it up from time to time!

Sometimes I just want something simple for lunch, by simple, I mean something that is still different, special, and creative but has a clean non-fussy taste.  The Steeping Room is the perfect spot to satisfy that particular craving of mine.

Mojteato - Matcha with lime, mint, sparkling water and agave nectar

Lapsang Souchong Chicken Salad - tea braised natural chicken mixed with celery, green apples, scallions, and lapsang vinaigrette

Friday, October 8, 2010

New York City Day 6 Part 2

After the High Line, we went back to the hotel to rest up before the highly anticipated Shuen dinner at Aburiya Kinnosuke.  If you plan on having the Shuen course, you must make reservations days in advance so that the chef can have enough time to plan and prepare for the multi-course dinner.  The Shuen dinner is $60 per person, which is a steal considering the super high quality ingredients, the number of courses, and the expensive location.  This makes me sad how Uchi's omakase dinner is way overpriced when compared to this equally amazing New York Japanese restaurant.  To be fair, there is a major difference in that Aburiya Kinnosuke specializes in traditional Tokyo bar food, which features food from the robata grill, while Uchi is more high-end Japanese fusion. 

Aburiya Kinnosuke

Our table was in an enclosed booth with curtains that shut us off from the rest of the restaurant save for the chatters of Japanese businessmen from the booth across from ours.  I loved the privacy because it made me concentrate on the gorgeous food before me.

I ordered a Shochu with fresh kiwi and club soda.  The distilled version of sake in cocktail form was very refreshing.

Shochu with Kiwi and Club Soda

Course 1: Appetizer Trio
The first course consisted of aloe with ponzu sauce, fried lily root with salted seaweed, and baby micro carrots and daikon radishes with miso.  This first course introduced us to Aburiya Kinnosuke's emphasis on the natural flavors of a few uncluttered ingredients.  Sometimes, in an effort to make innovative and fanciful dishes, we take for granted the taste of ingredients in its natural state.  

Fried Lily Root with salted seaweed, Aloe with ponzu sauce, and Baby Micro Carrots and Daikon Radishes with miso

Fried Lily Root with salted seaweed

Aloe with ponzu sauce

Baby Micro Carrots and Daikon Radishes with miso

Course 2: Chef's Selection of Sashimi
My mom has eaten her share of Japanese food around the world, and she said that the sashimi that night was the freshest and highest quality sashimi she had outside of Japan. I've never been much of a sashimi fan, but the quality of the fish was exquisite.  I especially liked dipping the sashimi in the Japanese fish sauce soy sauce.

3 Kinds of Soy Sauce and Sashimi Condiments: seaweed pearls, wasabi, microgreens, and salted seaweed

Sashimi and 3 Kinds of Soy Sauce and Sashimi Condiments: seaweed pearls, wasabi, microgreens, and salted seaweed

Red Snapper Sashimi


Sea Bass Sashimi

Course 3: Scottish Salmon Covered and Baked in Salt
This was the first time I had fish baked in salt, and it really is amazing.  It's simple yet the result is a piece of moist, gently seasoned, and light and almost fluffy salmon instead of a block of heavy and dry solid that usually happens when you bake salmon.

Baked Scottish Salmon

Baked Scottish Salmon

Course 4: Simmered Sea Eel with Daikon Radish
This unassuming eel was my favorite dish of the evening.  It was naturally sweet (not drenched in thick unagi sauce or teriyaki sauce).  The eel melted in my mouth, and I was transported to heaven.  Again, simple, yet beautifully prepared dish.

Simmered Sea Eel

Course 5: Miso Washu Beef Grilled on Hoba Leaf
The previous courses were light and understated, the grilled miso washu was unabashedly loaded with flavor. The hoba leaf gave the beef an earthy tone, the generous coating of miso sealed in the beef's fat and juices, and the raw green onions brightened each bite of the smoky meat.

Course 6 (add-on): Grilled Pork Cheek
I insisted on adding the grilled pork cheek to our Shuen dinner because I wasn't sure if we would have time to come back the next day (our last day in NYC), and I really had to try it!  The pork cheek was texturally pleasing; it gave a nice snap with each bite.

Grilled Pork Cheek

Course 7: "Tidbits for Drinking" Jellyfish and Cucumber Salad with Seaweed Noodles
The jellyfish served as the "intermission" palate cleanser.

Course 8: Rice with Chicken and Burdock Root Rice Cooked in Earthenware and Miso Soup
Next came a hearty home-style rice and soup pairing.  The portion of the rice was huge.  The leftover rice became an awesome breakfast the following morning.  The rice and chicken were sweet and fragrant.  This would be a perfect winter dish to make back home.  

Miso Soup

Rice with Chicken and Burdock Root Cooked in Earthenware

Rice with Chicken and Burdock Root Cooked in Earthenware

Bowl of Chicken and Burdock Root Rice with Trio of Rice Condiments: Pickled Cucumbers, Parsley, and Fried Seaweed

Course 9: Tea and Tofu Strawberry Cheesecake
We didn't return to Aburiya Kinnosuke our last day, something both mom and I regret.  I really wanted to try their homemade tofu and was too full to add it to the Shuen dinner.  I was glad to at least have tried their tofu in the tofu strawberry cheesecake.  It really isn't gross!  I actually prefer this to the heavy cream cheese cheesecake.  It's just as smooth and creamy, but better for me!

Because the Shuen dinner is different each day, the restaurant doesn't have a printed menu of the courses.  Kanae, our wonderful waitress wrote out all the courses in Japanese and in English. 

Thank you, Kanae!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New York City Day 6 Part 1

I spent my 5th day in New York at my friend's beautiful wedding and had an insanely good time dancing in circles.  Congratulations to the Jonathans!

If my previous days weren't food-centric enough, day 6 was certainly an aggressive pursuit of food throughout the city.  I started off the morning at the Union Square Green Market. (Oh, by the way, I am so behind on blogging that this post is still on my NY trip in July!)

Union Square

...And the place was colors galore!  Purple seemed to be a popular color for a variety of vegetables--carrots, bell peppers, eggplants, you name it!

Zucchinis and Squash

Bell Peppers

Fairytale and Rosa Bianca Eggplants

Purple Carrots

Orange and Yellow Carrots

Gorgeous Multi-colored Swiss Chard



Next stop was the Flat Iron District.

Flat Iron Building

Conveniently located in Madison Square Park right across the street from the Flat Iron Building is Shake Shack.  I made sure to get there around 11AM to avoid the long lines.

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

This place is sooooo not overrated. Their ShackBurger is butter, the patty grilled to a perfect medium-medium well, and the overall burger is juicy and flavorful. I believe this is the best simple burger I've ever had. The ShackBurger is just a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce, but the quality of the patty makes it an absolute stand-out.

The strawberry pistachio concrete (dense frozen custard) is also delicious, but it was odd eating something that's strawberry flavored that's not red.

ShackBurger and a cup of Strawberry Pistachio "Concrete"



I would've ordered another ShackBurger (I shared half of it with my mom), but I wanted to save room to try a haute dog at Dogmatic.  WRONG MOVE.  I should've tried Shake Shack's Shack-cago Dog or Bird Dog or any of the hot dog vendors in the city instead of this overpriced piece of crap dog at Dogmatic.

What makes these hot dogs fancy is that you get to choose a kind of sausage (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or turkey) and one kind of gourmet sauce (chimicurri, sundried tomato feta cheese, cheddar jalepeno, truffle gruyere, horseradish mustard, and mint yogurt), and instead of a hot dog bun, the sausage is stuffed inside a toasted baguette roll and the sauce is pumped into the roll. 

Dogmatic; Beef Sausage in Toasted Baguette with Chimichurri Sauce

I was foolish to think that fancy sauces can make a hot dog good.  It doesn't matter how delicious or inventive the sauce is, the dog and the bun are the most important components.  Well, the dog was room temperature, burnt, dry, and tasteless, the baguette was cold and stale, and the sauce was bland and a far cry from real chimichurri.  The only comfort was the side of warm and fragrant truffle gruyere mac and cheese.

Truffle Gruyere Mac & Cheese

This horrible haute dog experience put me in a bad mood, and I thought a visit to The Lobster Place in the Chelsea Market would bring my spirit back up.

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is a foodie paradise.  I wanted to eat something from every shop; unfortunately the human body is only equipped with one stomach and thus I focused on just The Lobster Place.

The Lobster Place

My mom and I shared a lobster roll and a lobster sushi roll.  Ahhhh...this made me forget my earlier foodie blunder.  The lobster roll is packed with lobster meat.  The meat was sweet and fresh and the mayo was tart and creamy.  I didn't care much for the roll, but as a whole, this was scrumptious. 

Lobster Roll

But, the lobster sushi roll was even better!  The creamy spicy ginger sauce was the perfect condiment.

Lobster Sushi Roll with Creamy Ginger Sauce

After what seemed like a morning and early afternoon eating marathon, we decided to walk it off at the High Line, which is a park that is built on a former elevated freight railroad that runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street.  I love this innovative public space!

The only bad thing is that it gets really hot up there in the middle of summer, and there are very few shaded areas.  Fortunately, I found People's Pops in the park.  The Bartlett pear shaved ice was light and refreshing.  I wish they had made it into a popsicle as well.

People's Pops at the High Line; Bartlett Pear Shaved Ice
Strawberry Basil Popsicle