Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Robert Restaurant

2 Columbus Cir
Manhattan, NY 10019
(212) 299-7730

Robert Restaurant is hidden all the way up on the 9th floor of Museum of Design and Art. The modern and futuristic interior design sets this place apart from other restaurants. The view is spectacular as you can get a very clear and whole picture of Columbus Circle. It was my first time here and we ordered the lunch prix fixe for $29, this was quite a bargain considering the location of the restaurant and everything else that came with it (appetizer, entree, and dessert).

My appetizer was the soup of the day: Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon and it was really good! The other option was salad, but the weather felt too cold for it. The dash of cinnamon gave the soup an extra flavor and opened up my appetite. For my entree, I ordered the Potato Gnocchi with assorted vegetables and grated cheese. The dish was too oily in my opinion and kind of bland. I wouldn't order it again.

My foodie partner ordered something much more delicious (in my opinion): Strip Steak with string beans and tater tots on the side. The meat was tender and sliced with the perfect thickness. The portions aren't huge, but big enough to satisfy your cravings. As for dessert, we had the choice of cake or ice-cream, in which we chose two scoops of ice-cream: Raspberry Sorbet and Vanilla Bean. The service was accomodating and attentive - we didn't have to wait long for the food and our water was always filled. On a side note - make reservations if you want to sit by the windows / see the spectacular view : )

Overall: 3/5

Monday, December 20, 2010


229 E 9th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 533-6966

Came here originally for Soba-ya's handmade soba noodles, but ended up falling in love with their tuna tartar and mountain yam (with uni, wasabi, and shredded nori). Since it was a cold night, we decided to go for the Kamo Namban Soba: a hot dish that is topped with sautéed duck & green onion. The soba was only ok; and the duck meat was rather difficult to chew. I wasn't too impressed. I think the hot soup made the noodles softer, and I'd much prefer to have my soba al dente. I'd recommend ordering from the cold menu next time as that is what they are known for.
Our Tuna Tartar on the other hand, was great as it had two of my favorite ingredients sandwiched in between the fresh tuna: mountain yam and avocado! Not everyone enjoyed the pairing of the tuna tartar, but I personally liked how the three ingredients mushed together. It was flavorful, but not overpowering. Our other appetizer, Uni Tororo Sea Urchin & grated Mountain Yam was another light and flavorful dish. In Japanese cuisine, mountain yam is usually eaten raw and grated - the texture is sticky and slimy. Mountain yam is also considered to be one of the most important and commonly used Chinese herb and medicine repertoire. Although I am personally not a big fan of uni, I loved the taste of uni and mountain yam together. The strong taste of the uni was balanced by the lightness of the mountain yam - a perfect combo!
Since we had grabbed street food earlier, we didn't have enough stomach room for dessert. I completely regret this as I heard they had some pretty unique desserts available (including homemade ice-cream).

Overall: 3.5/5

Friday, December 17, 2010

Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen
366 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019

My absolute favorite ramen eatery thus far! This place is well worth the long wait (yes, even in the frigid cold). I've been here three times already and I just wish I lived right next to Totto Ramen. If you're wondering, this place is owned by the same people at Yakitori Totto on Broadway and 55th. My cousin found this hidden eatery and I've been raving and telling everyone about it ever since. For one thing, their soup base is one of the best I've ever tasted and it's made with the perfect balance of saltiness and creaminess. The service here is also very quick and the staff are friendly and helpful. I love this place!

I would suggest anyone who hasn't been to Totto to order their Totto Chicken Paitan Ramen - the chicken based broth is delicious and flavorful. Their straight homemade noodles are cooked al dente style and topped with scallion, onion, char siu pork, and a nori (dried seaweed). I would encourage those who don't have a cholesterol problem to order an extra seasoned hardboiled egg to go with their bowl of ramen. Their Totto Spicy Ramen is also very good and not at all as spicy as it looks to be. If you are daring enough, you can try the Totto Extreme Spicy Ramen which is 4X spicier. I personally haven't had the guts to try it yet, but mainly because I don't want the spice to overpower the amazing broth! The Totto Miso Ramen is made with Koji Miso and ground pork. The noodles are not straight, but wavy and topped with a seasoned hardboiled egg, scallion, onion, bean sprouts, and their famous char siu pork.

On the other hand, if you are a vegetarian or on a light diet this may just be the perfect spot for you, too. Totto serves two vegetarian ramen (one spicy and non-spicy): with mushroom, avocado, and seasonal vegetables. I've never tried them, but I've heard great reviews!

For the sides, I would highly recommend their Broiled Char Siu Pork - their char siu pork are to die for and seriously melts in your mouth like warm chocolate candy. If you sit on the stools/bar table area, you'll see that the cook uses a mini blow torch on each pork belly before serving. The pork is served with the right amount of residual fat, with juices dripping out from the sides..delicious! I wasn't a huge fan of their Shinachiku Mayo (bamboo shoots and yuzu citrus mayo) - too plain and nothing out of the ordinary. Considering that they charge $4 for the dish, I wouldn't recommend it.

The prices here are reasonable: $10 - $11 for a bowl of ramen (much better than paying a premium at Ippudo). In addition, everything served at Totto is MSG free. However, like any other small ramen shops, this place accepts cash only and only seats approximately 20 people. It is recommended to bring a small party, otherwise you'd be waiting forever!
Overall: 4.5/5

Minca Ramen Factory

536 E 5th St
New York, NY 10009

Minca is another ramen gem in NYC. The restaurant is not as fancy as Ippudo, but it accurately portrays the small and quaint old ramen establishments in the alleys of Japan. In my opinion, I think Minca is in between Ippudo and Totto Ramen - the broth is thick and creamy like Ippudo, but not as oily. I also like how the place is small and unpretentious: when a place is not decorated, you know it's about the food and only the food.
While the soup was thick and flavorful - it does get kind of heavy after awhile. The soup, especially with the noodles, was way too hearty for me. However, if you like your broth creamy and rich - this is the place for you! The two pieces of pork were delicious, and the best part of the meal. The pork literally melts in your mouth. We ordered the #2 Minca Sio Ramen (with pork & chicken broth, salt & roast garlic flavor and thin noodles) and #3 Basic Ramen (with pork broth, salt & roast garlic flavor, and thin noodles). The noodles were okay for my taste, but my eating partner thought it could be a little softer. The plus side to their ramen is that everything is MSG free.
We also ordered the pork gyoza. It was good and authentic - no sauce needed! This place is cash only; and can be a bit far from the subway station. Overall, a reasonably priced and good ramen shop, but not my favorite.
Overall: 3.5/5

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis the Season for HOMEMADE Food!

Jennifer and William's cozy apartment :)
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the food. Last week, my cousin generously invited the family over to her place for a small foodie gathering. Needless to say, the meal was delicious!! I thought it would be too much of a waste if I didn't share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Arugula Salad (w/ apples, marcona almonds, currants, and lemon vinaigrette): I was beyond ecastic when I saw this dish! I'll be honest, working and going to school in NYC has not allowed me to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. The greens paired with the apples, currants, and lemon vinaigrette was refreshing and added a bit of tangy + sweetness to the overall salad. The lemon vinaigrette was so fresh and light, and it suited the Arugula Salad perfectly. Not to mention, the marcona almonds added an extra 'crunch' to the dish.
Leek Bread Pudding: Oh my. So good. I could eat this forever! This is definitely what I call comfort food or "I-deserve-to-eat-this-because-it-is-exam-week-and-I-deserve-to-be-treated" food : ) I've never made leek bread pudding before, but I'm pretty sure butter was involved in the making of this dish. The bread pudding tasted very rich, but wasn't overwhelming.
Orange Braised Fennel: Another delicious and seasonal dish. Slightly sweet and zesty - a great dish to start off with.
Brussels Sprouts (with bacon and parmesan): I've never had brussels sprouts with bacon and parmesan, but it turned out to be a great treat! I didn't feel guilty about eating those bacon bits and parmesan cheese...I mean, they're mixed with brussels sprouts! Brussels sprouts = veggies = healthy! It might be the bacon or cheese, but surprisingly I didn't taste the bitterness that I usually taste in brussels sprouts that night. Score!
Crown Roast of Pork (with herb and garlic rub): YUM. The meat was so juicy and tender - it was beyond words! The roast pork was flavorful and the herb and garlic rub really topped it off nicely. The dish tasted as good as it looked. We also had the pork with red pickles - a first for me!
Strawberry Cake (with cream cheese frosting): Artificial strawberry cake with homemade cream cheese frosting and strawberry jam. The cake was mini-sized, and oh-so-cute! It tasted really good, too! The cream cheese frosting paired nicely with the jam and strawberry cake.
Matcha Cake from Lady M: Once again, Lady M hit it right on the spot! The cake was very nice and airy - not too sweet or rich in flavor! The perfect way to end the night :)
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