Tag Archives: asian

Best Bites of Brooklyn

(Photo via andrew c mace, flickr)

Brooklyn is infamous right now for its hipsters, hippies, and OWS, but NYC’s most populous borough also boasts a burgeoning food scene.  GQ restaurant critic Alan Richman proclaimed Brooklyn “the coolest city on the planet,” and Manhattanites seem to be flocking there in droves, whether it’s for pies paired with fried chicken or local artisan goods at Smorgasburg.

I hadn’t spent much time in Brooklyn, so I was excited to explore the borough’s food scene on a recent trip to NYC.  Here are 3 of the most memorable spots:

Blue Bottle Coffee 

I fell in love with Blue Bottle Coffee when I was in San Francisco last summer.  Despite the notoriously long lines and sometimes snobby service, the coffee is certainly worth the hassle.  Blue Bottle’s Williamsburg location is no different than its SF counterpart, and for that, I am extremely grateful.  The minimalist logo on the door in lieu of a sign, the sleek pour-over coffee bar, the seemingly endless lines, the disdainful looks customers get when they ask for ground coffee beans or low-fat milk–it’s all part of the Blue Bottle experience that makes your coffee taste even more glorious in the end.

But the Williamsburg Blue Bottle did have something I hadn’t seen in San Francisco–a snickerdoodle.  But of course, in typical Blue Bottle fashion, it’s not your ordinary snickerdoodle.  Theirs is made with Spanish saffron and Tahitian vanilla, which impart a beguiling, subtle sweetness reminiscent of the original, but much more sophisticated in flavor.  Blue Bottle‘s ability to elevate the old and familiar is what makes it special–that, and it’s just damn good coffee (excuse the language!).

160 Berry St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-4160
Blue Bottle on Urbanspoon

Roberta’s Pizza

After a glowing review in the NYT, in which restaurant critic Sam Sifton proclaimed it “one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the United States,” Roberta’s became even more of a sensation than it already was.  Located on a somewhat sketchy block of warehouses in Bushwick, the restaurant is definitely hipster central, perhaps on the verge of gentrification with the influx of yuppies and foodies (like myself).

The owners have done a great job transforming the space into a casual, congenial scene: diners sit at long communal picnic tables, and a shabby chic tarp hangs over the outdoor bar.  Definitely get comfortable at the bar and order an excellent dark and stormy, because chances are you will be waiting 2+ hours for a table, especially on  weekends.  I’ll admit I flipped my lid a little when the hostess informed me of the wait time.

While I’m not sure it’s worth waiting 3 hours for, the pizza at Roberta’s was quite good.  The secret is in the crust–perfectly charred and chewy.  I ordered the Purple Nurple ($15), which came topped with tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, eggplant, garlic and basil.  My friend and I also split a squash salad ($12) and truffle agnoletti ($18), which were both excellent and demonstrated the kitchen’s skill and restraint.   The real standout, however, was definitely the pizza.

261 Moore St.
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 417-1118
Roberta's on Urbanspoon

Purple Yam

Though I’m always skeptical of Asian fusion restaurant, Purple Yam manages to simultaneously retain its authenticity while adding distinctly modern twists to traditional dishes.  The chefs and owners, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, opened Purple Yam in 2009 after running a successful Filipino-fusion restaurant in SoHo, and it remains a dining destination for Ditmas Park today.

My friends and I started with the fried beet dumplings ($6) and fresh lumpia ($7).  I was afraid the beet dumplings would be a disaster, but was pleasantly surprised by the contrary.  They were flavorful, chewy, and pleasantly sweet, offsetting the saltiness of the soy sauce.  As for the fresh lumpia, I think I prefer its more traditional fried and sausage-centric counterpart, but it was a respectable effort nonetheless.  The lumpia reminded me more of a Vietnamese steamed noodle roll with its sauteed Napa cabbage, leek and mushroom filling and peanut and tamarind sauce, which I suppose is what they were going for, though the name was a misnomer.

The chicken adobo ($12) was a revelation, incorporating integral elements of the original dish, but upgrading the flavors and quality of the ingredients.  Braised in garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and coconut milk, the chicken was tender on the inside, crispy and crackling on the outside.

Perhaps the most surprising dish was the bibimbap ($9), with brown rice, carrots, turnip, taro, edamame, and a fried egg.  I have very high expectations for bibimbap, which is one of my favorite Korean dishes, and I’m happy to report that Purple Yam’s rendition exceeded my expectations.  Each vegetable was meticulously cut and perfectly cooked, and the flavors all complemented each other well.  It was a more refined adaptation of a classic, which seems to be Purple Yam’s greatest strength.

1314 Cortelyou Road
Brooklyn, NY 11226
(718) 940-8118
Purple Yam on Urbanspoon

Compost for Brooklyn 

After brunch at Purple Yam, I got a VIP tour of Compost for Brooklyn‘s community garden, given by my friend and co-founder of Compost for Brooklyn, Louise Bruce.   Located on E. 8th St. and Newkirk Ave., the former vacant lot is now green and gorgeous–filled with tons of trees, vegetables, and native plants.

In addition to the garden, Compost for Brooklyn runs a free community composting program and education program for kids and teenagers in the neighborhood.  These programs have been positively received by children and adults in the community alike, who all greeted Louise with a smile as they passed by us.  Seeing all of her efforts and passion for the environment come to fruition was very inspiring, and I wish the organization the best of luck in the future.

To learn more about Compost for Brooklyn, visit their website or email compostforbrooklyn [at] gmail [dot] com.  (Fun fact for foodies: Miriam Garron, Bobby Flay’s sous chef on Throwdown, is Vice Chairman of the Board!)

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Mie N Yu’s Blind Tiger Menu: Decadence at a Discount

Mie N Yu always seemed, to me, to be a place that wouldn’t be worth the money. The restaurant occupies an expansive space on a busy, high-end stretch of M St. Dark windows show glimpses of the bronze Buddha statues and lavish decor inside to passersby. It exudes an aura of exclusivity to say the least, and perhaps some pretentiousness, and that combination usually does not bode well for the quality of the food.

With that skepticism in mind, I warily accepted Mie N Yu’s invitation to try their new Blind Tiger Tasting Menu. I never refuse an offer for a free meal, and plus, the concept behind the menu intrigued me: the Blind Tiger is the name of a prohibition era speak-easy, and to channel that spirit, Mie N Yu offers this “underground,” $25 three course  menu only to people in the know. Those people could be their followers on Twitter (@mienyu), Facebook friends, or even readers of this blog!

Despite my skepticism, I have to say that I was very impressed with Mie N Yu–especially with the quality of the food. Their menu (and the entire restaurant for that matter) is inspired by the Silk Road, which means lots of Asian flavors and ingredients. My boyfriend and I started off with sunomono blue crab salad and zaatar hummus with ful–perhaps our two favorite dishes of the night. The salad was fresh, light, and perfect for a hot and humid DC evening. The earthy flavors of the edamame and soba noodles tempered the tartness of the pickled quail eggs, and a lovely rice vinegar dressing brought out the natural sweetness of the blue crab.

The hummus with ful was thick and smoky, flavored with just the right amount of zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice blend). Ful, a Middle Eastern condiment of Egyptian fava beans braised with roasted tomatoes and various spices, added an exotic element to the dish. Olives and warm naan bread were nice accompaniments, though I did wish the serving of bread had been bigger.

Our second courses were less memorable than our first. Though the Beijing style lacquered duck seemed to be a favorite among fellow food bloggers, I was less than impressed. The duck (sourced from a farm in PA) was very tender and tasty, but I prefer traditional Peking duck with its crackling skin and intense caramelized sweetness. I also found the “mandarin pancakes” to be more reminiscent of tortillas. The char masala lamb kabobs were not my favorite either. I was impressed that the lamb was locally raised in Virginia and ground in-house, but it had a strong, gamey aftertaste. The roasted coriander yogurt served with the lamb helped mask the flavor a bit, but not completely.

For our main courses, we ordered the Pakistani cinnamon and ginger striped bass and the Indonesian chicken “rica rica.” The bass (pictured above) was baked in a yogurt casserole, and the rice was rolled and soaked in the yogurt prior to cooking. As a result, both the bass and the rice were mouthpuckeringly tart. This was quite a surprise for my boyfriend and me–we both expected a mildly spiced, delicately flavored fish. The dish took some getting used to, but after a few bites (and plenty of sips of water), I was able to move past the sourness and taste the cinnamon and the ginger. It’s not necessarily a dish I would order again and again, but it’s certainly worth trying at least once.

The Indonesian chicken “rica rica” was deceptively delicious. At first, I thought the sauce was too mild, but after a few bites, I could taste the sauce’s complex, layered flavors. Sweetness came from shrimp paste, heat came from red peppers, and a slight tartness may (don’t quote me on this!) have come from tamarind. The chicken was cooked beautifully, and fell off the bone.

For dessert (which is not included in the Blind Tiger deal), we splurged on a pecan chocolate croustade with Sumatran cinnamon gelato and fresh berries. The croustade was out-of-this-world good: a warm, flaky pastry crust belied toasted pecans and just a touch of chocolate on the inside, drizzled with local Virginia honey. Eaten with the cinnamon gelato (made at Dolcezza just up the street), the dessert reminded me of a warm cinnamon roll. It was a decadent ending to a decadent meal.

Other random notes about the meal: be prepared to wait a while for your food. Just like Two DC found, there was a long lag between courses. But, that may just be part of the dining experience at Mie N Yu–it certainly gave us time to walk around the restaurant and enjoy the opulent surroundings. I didn’t mind at all, but if you’re pressed for time, I would head elsewhere. Our server was also very knowledgable and attentive, which I appreciated.

Though it’s difficult to remain objective at free meals like this, I can (objectively) say that the Blind Tiger menu is a great value: $25 for three generously portioned, well-prepared courses in a lavish, over-the-top restaurant like Mie N Yu is a steal. And, bottles of wine listed on the Blind Tiger menu are 50% off, and the most expensive bottle is only $28. (I recommend the Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Chile, despite the cheesy name.) I had a fabulous Blind Tiger meal at Mie N Yu, and hopefully, yours will be just as delicious and decadent.

Mie N Yu

3125  M St. NW

Washington, DC 20007

(202) 333-6122

For the Blind Tiger Menu, online reservations must be made between Sunday and Thursday.

Mie N Yu on Urbanspoon

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What the RAMMYs Missed

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington unveiled the nominations for the 2010 RAMMY awards yesterday at a swanky bash at the Ritz-Carlton. My friends Jen (at freshcrackedpepper) and Mary (the girl behind Girl Meets Food) were lucky enough to attend the event, and snapped a few delicious photos of the evening. A full list of the nominees is available here.

Not to detract from the prestige of the award, but I have to say that I am disappointed with the nominations. DC’s dining scene is way more vibrant, and way more varied, than the RAMMY list would make it seem. And I just don’t understand this city’s obsession with the Michel Richard (Citronelle, Central), Jose Andres (Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya, Oyamel), and Wolfgang Puck (The Source) restaurant empires. I have yet to be blown away by a meal at any of these places.

So, what restaurants would I have nominated, you may ask? I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite restaurants, which were sadly overlooked.

Eatonville: This unique spot transports you to the whimsical world of Zora Neale Hurston with bright murals adorning the walls, vintage crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and worn white picket fences encircling some of the tables. But the quirky-cool atmosphere isn’t the only draw; so is the food. The menu features creole and Southern comfort food at its best, and for affordable prices. Mac and cheese ooozes with butter and cheddar, gumbo exudes an intense smoky flavor, and pan fried trout sings with the addition of chopped pecans. Make sure to check out Eatonville the next time you are on U St.!

Legends: No, Legends is not “fine dining.” But it’s fresh and honest Greek food in a simple and modest (and blue and white, in traditional Greek fashion) setting. And man, those gyros. Don’t even get me started on those mouthwatering gyros.

Ray’s the Steaks: I love steaks. But as the unpaid gourmet, I don’t have the cash to eat at The Palm, or BLT Steak, or any of the other venerable steakhouses in DC. Luckily, Ray’s the Steaks offers top-notch, well-priced steaks in a casual yet upscale setting. Ray’s filet mignon au poivre is arguably one of the best versions I’ve tried: perfectly cooked with a rosy pink center, juicy and tender on the inside, with a slightly charred peppercorn crust on the outside. Plus, all steaks come with a complimentary family-style side of buttery mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. And if that were not enough indulgence, a complimentary cup of hot chocolate arrives at the end of the meal. Now that is what I call a value meal.

Asian Food (in general): Did anyone else notice the complete lack of Asian restaurants nominated? The DC Asian dining scene is not limited to Chinese takeout or mediocre chicken teriyaki bowls; there’s so much more. What about Four Sisters, the beloved Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church? Or Sichuan Pavilion, which serves some of the most authentic mapo dofu and dan dan mian I’ve had since living in China? Or Kotobuki, the hidden sushi mecca in the Palisades with legions of loyal fans?