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Monthly Archives: January 2008

by Morris

Ask anyone from the East Bay where you can get the best Japanese food in the area, and chances are Kirala will come to mind. It’s easy to walk past Kirala and not notice it since it doesn’t have a decent signboard and the entrance is rather concealed. Nonetheless, once you enter, you’ll most likely see a huge crowd of a mix of locals, some college students and many Japanese (this often makes me wonder where do they all come from). And truly, the telltale sign for good ethnic restaurant is people of the same ethnicity patronizing it. Here, you get quality service by Japanese waitresses who are quick to respond to your orders. A minimum spending of $10 on sushi will also get you sitting by the sushi bar where you get to admire the art of sushi making by Japanese chefs.

From tempura to sushi, authentic Japanese ryori can’t possibly go wrong here. The katsu don, which is not at all oily and has a hearty layer of fried onions on top of the rice, brings back traveling memories in Tokyo. The soba is excellent and refreshing as well. Though of course, no soba I’ve tried so far can better Shimbashi Soba in the basement of Orchard Paragon (I’ll leave this to Bobby to review).This review is actually pretty lacking in the actual review department but I’m lazy and so I shall let pictures speak for themselves.

Tempura with soba.

Katsu-don.

Seafood tempura combo.

Kirala, 2100 Ward Street, Berkeley

by Mik

天仁 is a popular taiwanese bubble tea chain that somehow found its way to New York City. Having tried it in Taipei itself, I couldn’t help wondering whether the american chain can live up to its taiwanese namesake. Unfortunately, from experience, most american counterparts of asian restaurants are often, sadly, lacking as compared to their asian locations.

Upon entering the store, one is greeted by a list of top ten most popular drinks that New Yorkers often order and the writers of this blog ventured to try three of them (from L to R in the picture):

1. Japanese Green Tea (No.3 in popularity)

2. Passionfruit Green Tea (No.8 in popularity)

3. King’s Tea (No.2 in popularity)

Bubble tea

Upon first taste, the tea is smooth and well mixed, a perfect blend of sweetness and the bitterness of good green tea. Refreshing yet not too bland, the tea was a thumb’s up. Next up, the mainstay of bubble tea – the tapioca pearls. The pearls were soft yet chewy, with just enough of a texture to keep them from sticking together, which frequently occurs when the pearls are overcooked. In fact, all friends of mine who have tried the Japanese Green Tea have agreed that it is one of the best bubble tea they have drank in ages. In all, 天仁 was a good experience. Now, granted that one is in New York City and not in Taiwan, I will have to say that if one craves bubble tea while in NYC, 天仁 is definitely the place to go.

On a side note, the instant green tea powder mix is also a hit with many. A little on the thick side, but it gives all the strong flavorful cleansing power that one ever needs from a green tea.

天仁名茶 :
75 Mott Street
New York City, NY 10013

by Nathan

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[picture from gothamist]

I guess I’m a David Chang fan. I’ve been to the Momofuku noodle bar three times (out of like, the six times I went to the City) and it always impresses the people I bring with me. I still enjoy dipping my somen into the cold broth, and the new larger location is less claustrophobic. So I just had to try the Ssam bar, which Mr Chang opened after the success of the first restaurant. I didn’t know what to expect, having read little about it, except that it is a new take on the asian burrito.

Anyway, the place is as usual, pretty inconspicuous from the outside. The interior is dark and appropriately filled with asian yuppies. The menu is like an asian version of tapas. It only occurred to us that we were supposed to order a few dishes and share them after the waiter told us. Service was good and enthusiastic.

And on to the food: They have the trademark Momofuku steamed buns. We didn’t try them, but I would expect it to be as good as the ones in Momofuku. This is a meat lovers’ paradise and there is a wide variety of ham. The ssam is actually a wrap done in the korean way. We had a ssam with grilled lemongrass pork sausage, fish sauce and bibb lettuce, and we had to sprinkle the sauce all over the meat and wrap it up with the lettuce. The sausage was tender and tangy, thanks to the lemongrass. We also had curried rice cakes, which really fill you up. I wouldn’t recommend that one. Then there was a fish, which was ok.

If I were to go there again, I would probably be more adventurous (and more willing to spend) and order the shellfish and ham. I also heard that there is a special late night menu.

207 2nd Ave and 13th St , New York

by Bobby

While I do enjoy kimchi once in a while, I had never been a fan of Korean food. Having tried Jang Shou this extremely expensive and hugely disappointing Korean barbecue restaurant in the Esplanade, you can understand why I was very reluctant to try Ju Shin Jung. Ju Shin Jung is located at East Coast Parkway and it belongs to this chain of asian restaurants which include Long Beach and Waraku that has its own car park so parking was not any trouble at all.

Like Jang Shou, the menu consisted of 2 parts: a selection of barbecue meat and the side dishes that included items such as the usual ginseng chicken soup and kimchi. Beware as the prices stated for the barbecue meat selection is that for one person and at $35, it is pretty expensive. So if you do the math, you’d realise that it is much more worth it to go in a group of 5 rather than as couples or worse, alone.

Kim Chi

While similar to Jang Shou in many ways, the food here is delicious and the spread of the side dishes that came with the meat was much bigger than what I remembered having at Jang Shou. We ordered the Wagyu beef, Ginseng Marinated Pork and Chicken, Kimchi Casserole and a Ginseng Chicken soup. The barbecue meat was good, though I can’t really imagine how wrong barbecue meat can go. However the meat, especially the marbled wagyu, was dripping with oil and I did feel a little disgusted after a few pieces.

Wagyu Beef

The Kimchi casserole was good, appetizingly sour and not overwhelmingly spicy, The ginseng chicken soup was quite an interesting dish as the chicken was stuffed with glutinous rice that gave the soup a distinctive taste while possible to taste hints of ginseng. The food is rather salty and the flavorful meal was wrapped up with a bowl of refreshing sweet ginger tea. To enjoy ginger tea, you probably need an acquired taste for it and as expected not everyone at the table found it palatable.

Ginger Tea

While the food was good, I found the portions small and at that price (around $45 per person), I doubt I would ever return to the restaurant any time soon. But this is definitely a good place to try good Korean barbecue.
Ju Shin Jung 1018 East Coast Parkway #02-01Telephone: 6447-9279

by Morris

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With 876 raving reviews (and counting) on Yelp and multiple recommendations on publications like the New York Times, it’s little wonder that the line at Tartine bakery is almost always never ending. With all the publicity though, this place is strangely nondescript. It doesn’t even have a striking signboard that says Tartine bakery nor does it show signs of expansion to accommodate the growing crowd. In my opinion, the bakery is one that satisfies every free spirited, organic food loving hipster of San Francisco. Every waiter/waitress has his personality painted all over his face. Just yesterday, I was served pastries by a voluptuous woman with tattoos all over her chest, complete with earrings and nose rings and what-have-you.

Ok, on to the food. Its rare that a bakery can get everything so right. I think it has at least partly something to do with their consistent use of organic produce. My personal favorite is the buttermilk scone and the bread pudding. Now, I am a sucker for scones and I go around trying all types of scones. This one scores on the top of my list with a perfect balance of moisture (not too dry as to make you thirsty, but certainly not soggy), has the right amount of buttery aftertaste and the sugar crust just makes my sweet tooth happier.While most bakeries avoid making bread pudding because more often than not, they just end up serving soggy bread, Tartine does a great job with it. Even though it doesn’t look too appetizing (wet bread with random fruits is something that I will shun in theory and imagination), it is absolutely delicious and wholesome. When I lose my teeth when I am old, I want to have this for breakfast everyday. Of course, if you like savory stuff, the hot pressed sandwiches are also something to die for. I personally recommend goat cheese sandwich which is pretty delectable.

Although a bit pricey, it certainly is an ideal place for breakfast or tea (minus the bustling crowd that is).

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600 Guerrero St. (@18th Street)