Throwback Thursday – Saigon Casa

Vietnamese crepe

Pho

Six weeks ago we decided to check out Saigon Casa, Vietnamese restaurant in Port Jefferson Station in Long Island.

The menu has limited options in comparison to what I’m used to seeing in other Vietnamese restaurants in Queens.

One of the dishes that we had to order was the pho. There were many types of pho, but we ordered the Pho Tai Nam Gau, which a beef soup containing rare steak, brisket and flank steak with noodles on the side.

The soup tasted good and we loved the fact that we can add the noodles at our discretion to our small bowls. I am still in search and experimenting recipes that replicated the best one I’ve had to date at the Pho Bang in Elmhurst.

Another dish I had was the Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe called Bang Xeo. This crepe was sold as a special item at this restaurant. The dish was huge and it is made of rice flour and tumeric stuffed with shrimp and pork. The dish was delicious and I want to make this dish.

I would like to return to thus restaurant to try their other dishes.

Throwback Thursday – Fishtail to Tavern 62

Happy Winter Solstice! Yes it’s officially winter and this year is going by way too fast.  I was reviewing the thousands of pictures taken within the last five years and I’ve come across several pictures taken of my meals eaten at David Burke Fishtail (closed on January 2016), which is now Tavern 62, which opened in October 2016.    Anyways, what I enjoyed eating at both places was the camaraderie vibe between the staff, bartenders and management.  I enjoyed the happy hour deals, well presented entrees and desserts. Food tasting at times varied depending on the day and whose cooking it and whether it was healthy or not is another story.  But anyhow, I am still drawn into eating at this place due to their seasonal changes in menu.  Below is a chronological timeline of some of the dishes consumed at Fishtail and Tavern 62.

Throwback Thursday – Eat Up Drink Up Japan

Last weekend we have had the privilege to be invited by Japion to attend ChopsticksNY “Eat Up Drink Up Japan”.  

We attended the Dinner Session. Upon arrival, we were given a card containing circles each representing each of the six regions.  What I loved about this setup is that every attendee would have the opportunity to taste every dish as long as they present the card to the server at each station to be stamped. Once the card is stamped, a sample of each of the three dishes are served with a sake pairing of your choice or even try more sake. 

The event setup was well thought out where the attendee could feel that they are going on a food and drink journey through Japan.  

Our food journey began with dishes from Northeastern Japan – Hokkaido & Tohoku. This region is known for their seafood. Food samples paired with Gasaryu Kisaragi sake included: 

Salmon Teman-zushi – Favorite

Dashi Dofu (tofu) – vegetarian

Beef Tongue Roast

The second region we visited is the populated multicultural region of Kanto.  Food samples paired with Tsukinoi Taiyori Ginjo sake included: 

Peanut Miso atop Cucumber – vegetarian and favorite

Utsumomiya Gyoza (pan fried dumpling)

Deep fried monkfish 

We then traveled to Central Japan to experience the food and sake from the Chubu/Tokai region.  We decided to pair our food samples with Kubota Junmai Daiginjo sake. 

Sasa-Zushi (Favorite) – Rice is amazing

Nagoya Tebasaki (fried chicken wings)


Simmered Daikon with Yuzu Miso Sauce (vegetarian)

Finishing halfway through the food and sake journey, we moved on to the region called Kinki is considered the ancient capital of Japan. This region’s food also caters to the noble class. We paired our food samples with our favorite sake of the night: Umeoyado Yuzo Shu

Okonomiyaki (savory pancake) – favorite

Tekone – zushi (love the rice)

Nasu Dengaki – eggplant (vegetarian)

Next we head towards the warmer region of Chugoku and Shikoku. We paired our food samples with Suigei Junmai Ginjo Koiko No. 54 sake. 

Katsuo Tataki – favorite

Tai-meshi (love the rice once again)

Shoyu Mame (vegetarian)

Finally the sixth and final region is Kyushu located in southern Japan. The food presented is more common in most Japanese restaurants here.  We paired our food with the sake Yatsushika Tokubetsu Junmai

Roasted Wagyu Beef (favorite)

Pork Kaku-ni

Gane – vegetarian

After our six region meal, we visited the VIP section and tasted the “higher end” sake, which is unfiltered sake from the Daiginjo Counter.  The sake was served by sake sommelier Toshiyuki Koizumi of Wasan Brooklyn.  

The sake was definitely more refined and strong so the night end with consumption of three different degrees of matcha from Ippodo Tea Company and mochi ice cream. 

Flashback Friday – Dosas

Happy Friday! Although it is National Dessert Day, I have been fascinated about the popular Indian street food – Dosa.  When I first saw this dish, I was overwhelmed by the how big it is.  It is mostly served as a meal for a good part of the day.  Personally I have consumed it as an early dinner.

Dosas also known as Dosai is an ancient Tamil dish.  This gluten free, vegetarian street food dish is made up of rice and lentils.  Therefore, there are health benefits in its consumption.   Dosas are a good source of carbohydrates and protein that will last the whole day.  It is a lengthy process to make dosas and I don’t think that I will be making one anytime soon.  Therefore, I will be leaving this up to the pros.

Recently, I have had the experience of consuming this vegetarian dish at two places in New York City.   One famous spot world is Saravana Bhavan.  There are two locations in New York City (Manhattan).  This restaurant does not need an introduction because it is well known throughout India; the establishment of this franchise was made a controversial person who is banned from leaving India because he was convicted of murder.  This is to show that as long the food is good it does not matter where it originated from. But if you don’t want to be traumatized,  I visited another spot, which is located in Queens called Hillside Dosa Hutt.  This neighborhood spot is in the heart of the Indian community. The cashier that served us was hospitable and knowledgeable about Dosas.  Hillside Dosa Hutt was recently listed on the Eater list of the top 60 cheap eats places in NYC. 

Hillside Dosa Hutt – Marsala Dosa $5.50 (Top Left) and Paneer Bhurji Masala Dosa $9.00 (Bottom left) Saravana Bhavan $9.99- Marsala Dosa (Top right)  and Onion Chili Rava Dosa $10.99 (Bottom right)

Portions of each dosa were huge. I have not been able to finish a whole dosa in one sitting.  If you want more variety then Saravan Bhavan is the place to go, but for a quick meal on a budget then Hillside Dosa Hutt will suffice. 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Blenheim

Happy Thursday so as promised and better late than never I will be posting my dining experience from NYC restaurant week.  Although it was painful to see the $4 price hike on a prix fixe meal, I want to get my money’s worth eating a restaurant with a reputation e.g. Zagat rated, Michelin starred.  In my previous post categorizing where I would eat while getting my money’s worth plus collecting bonus OpenTable points.

Well guess what, I did not include a farm to table Michelin rated restaurant called Blenheim.  The reason why this restaurant was not on my list of restaurants to eat during restaurant week was that their menu was not yet posted on their website or NYC.go’s site.  Anyways, the ambiance and West Village location, the restaurant was cozy, local and low key.

Unfortunately I missed the happy hour special, which ends at 6pm but very excited to indulge in their summer cocktail that contains a hashtag called “#WildWestVillage.  This cocktail consists of watermelon, tequila, honey and berry.  At at splurge of this $16 cocktail, one drink was definitely enough but more importantly it was very refreshing.

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Two of my girlfriends joined me in this restaurant week experience.  The restaurant week menu and the regular menu were given with instructions.  If we wanted to order from the restaurant week menu, the whole table had to participate, which we all did.  Now in hindsight, service treatment was biased because we felt that we were not treated as regular customers.  For example, bread was served to us but in a smaller plate compared with the rest of the customers.  My friend actually called it out where our server heard it and the host had to “clean up the mess”.  Anyways, back to the food, the food served during restaurant week was in small portions compared to their a la carte menu.  However the quality of food did not disappoint.  For appetizers, I ordered the poached egg served with beans and asparagus.  My friend ordered the chilled soup and my order friend got the salad.  I had a tasting of all three dishes and they were all good, but my favorite of the three was the poached egg with asparagus and bean.  The presentation was natural and pretty, but more importantly the flavors were perfectly balanced.

One of the major reasons why I wanted to eat here was their english pea agnolotti and was so glad it was part of their restaurant week menu.  In addition to the agnolotti my two other friends ordered the roast chicken and fish dishes.  Portion wise, the agnolotti and chicken entrees had one of the smallest, the best entree buy was the fish.  I loved the agnolotti entree and enjoyed tasting the freshness of the roast chicken and fish entrees.

Blenheim’s restaurant week menu dessert did not have many options so we went with the waitress’s suggestion of the honey semifreddo and the suggestion was spot on.   The portion size of this dish was also good.  The semifreddo and the fresh wholeness of the berries with honey was a great end to the meal. 20160728_202921

I would actually return to the restaurant just to have another order of the agnolotti regardless of the mediocre service.  But it would be interesting to actually see whether I would be served differently if I ordered from the regular menu than from the restaurant week menu.  Time will only tell…

Throwback Thursday – Weekend Lunch for 3

Happy Thursday! Let’s travel back in time to earlier this year where I took my parents out to lunch during Valentine’s Day weekend.  We decided to return to Coco in Elmhurst, NY.  The restaurant specializes in Malaysian Cuisine.  Personally it was Malaysian fusion cuisine.  The restaurant is currently in the process of updating their menu on their website, but one of the major changes is that they deliver food now with a minimum of $10 purchase.

However, after a long cold winter day of running errands, my parents and I decided to have lunch.  Check this out, total cost for three people plus leftovers to go = $35

The Roti Canai and Singapore Rice Noodle dishes were my favorites.  The Lamb Curry was on the spicy side and the crispy duck was on the dry side.  Service could be better.  The meal was hearty, comforting and affordable especially for three people.  I would definitely return to try other dishes such as the Hainanese Chicken, Curry Laksa, Belacan Kang Kung, and Satay Chicken.

Throwback Thursday – Élan

Recently I have received information from various sources of restaurant closings in New York City.  One of them was a restaurant that was on my list for NYC restaurant week to go to, but unfortunately was booked for the days that I am available to go.  The name of this restaurant is élan and I finally made the effort to explore the restaurant on what I thought was the last day.  The restaurant was only serving a prix fixe menu – 3 course meal for $40.  I had the privilege of meeting one of the owners – George.  George informed me that they are extending business until the end of the month hopefully. Meg, my server for that evening was good, but she could be better.  She neglected to inform me of the other specials that was off the menu that evening.  However, her accommodation and hospitality towards was good.  Meg provided a great sales pitch on the popular dishes to try and her recommendations were on point.

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Three course menu options

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Sea Urchin Guacamole 

The first dish I ordered was the Sea Urchin Guacamole.  The dish caught my eye and I was immediately curious.  I asked Meg, my server, about the dish and she highly recommended it so I went with my gut plus her approval and ordered it.   The dish was beautifully presented, approximately 1 cup of guacamole with a sea urchin in the middle surrounded by taro chips heavily seasoned in sea salt.  Personally I am not a salt fan, but the dish was well balanced.  The saltiness of the taro chips complemented the acidity and sourness of sea urchin mixed with the guacamole.  I devoured the dish.

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Complementary house made everything pretzel w whole grain mustard butter. 

While feasting on my appetizer dish, Meg served me a house made everything pretzel with whole grain mustard butter, which was delicious. Hands down.

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Striped bass in red wine butter sauce with house made fried sage potato chips and snap peas. 

For the main course, I followed Meg’s recommendation of the chef’s special of the day dish, which was off the menu.  I ordered a striped bass, which is pan seared star bass on top of a delightful red wine butter sauce.   I loved the red wine butter sauce.  The fried sage potato chips were cleverly made, a piece of fresh sage leaf sandwiched in between two very thinly sliced potatoes and deep fried.  The dish was beautifully presented and tasted even better than the guacamole appetizer.

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Enjoyed my meal with a 30z sherry wine

 

After reviewing the drink list, I came across this sherry wine that cost only $6 I had to try it.  The sherry wine was just right for my tolerance and went well with what I ate so far.

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Milk chocolate mousse with passion fruit 

For dessert, I decided to once again follow Meg’s recommendation of the milk chocolate mousse.  George, one of the owners, served me the dish.  The dish hit the spot.  It had the right balance of the natural sweets of the passion fruit with the milk chocolate.  What I learned is that this was the first day that they were serving this dish and I was satisfied.  I would definitely order it again.

Overall this was one of best prix fixe meals I have had in a while because every dish tasted better and better.  The food experience left a lasting impression and I am sad that this place was closing.  I told three of my friends and convinced them to come to this restaurant.  Therefore, I will definitely be returning.  Hopefully, they will extend their business until the end of the month.

Throwback Thursday – Budget Date Night – Himalayan Yak

Happy Thursday!! A few weeks ago decided to finally try Himalayan cuisine.  I went on a date at Himalayan Yak located in Jackson Heights, Queens.  This restaurant is an eclectic mix of Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine.  Side note: this restaurant was on the scene of ABC TV series Ugly Betty.

The first dish we ordered were “Momos”, which are Tibetan dumpling made of a thick dough containing meat and vegetables.  There are also vegetarian momos as well.  We ordered the steamed momos, one set comes with pork and vegetable ($7) and the other only had vegetables ($7.95).  The food is served with julienned pickled carrots, which were spicy along with three different sauces equivalent to condiments from an Indian restaurant.    These momos were good and the consistency of the dough makes it really filling.  It is definitely a great starter and safe dish to try.

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Momos – Tibetan dumplings

In addition to the momos, we decided to go adventurers by entering the world of “Yak”.  Yak meat is one of the healthiest and leanest meat (95%-97% lean), almost as equivalent as grass fed beef.   It is also low in fat and cholesterol than beef, skinless chicken breast and even salmon.  It may help with lower risk of heart disease and cholesterol.  However, my date was not there yet so we compromised with yak cheese ($6.50).   Given the price of the cheese we were anticipating a huge platter, but it did not appear that way.  This serving plate below looks small, but the texture of each piece of cheese was insulating and filling.  On a tasting level, it was equivalent to aged cheese that was overpowering, but the apple slices complimented the strong aftertaste.   Yak cheese has several health benefits since it is derived from grass fed yaks in the mountains of Nepal, the cheese carries more omega-3 fatty acids especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which help fight heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and even body fat gain.

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Yak Cheese

Finally, my adventurous Himalayan food journey did not end and talked my date into ordering the Nepalese dish – Sandeko Bandel ($6.95), which is smoked wild boar topped with lemon juices and spices.  The dish looked and tasted like bacon – to die for –

Wild boar is another piece of lean meat, but it is expensive to cook.  However, it has health benefits such as low calories, less fat, less saturated fat, low cholesterol, and higher protein content than beef, lamb, pork and chicken.

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Sandeko Bandel: Sliced smoked wild boar topped with lemon juices, chili powder and Sichuan pepper

Overall service was good, food was very good especially if one is on a budget.  Personally I would return to try their other dishes especially the Thali, Ngopa, and more yak.  If one wants a cheaper meal, go during lunchtime, and if you check in on Yelp.