Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why I Love Hometown Hot Pot

If you haven't noticed already there's been a huge boom of hot pot (shabu shabu) restaurants and more and more people are going out for hot pot instead because it's a fun bonding experience and some hot pot restaurants have offers that is too good to refuse.

Hometown Hot Pot opened in 2015, best known for their all-you-can-eat hot pot and Korean Barbecue. I've been here 3-4 times already in the last year and it's always been a delight to eat here.

Hometown Hot Pot is super spacious with 2.5 floors of seating and beautiful and interesting decor.
The staff here are friendly, just a little strict about reservations as you must have at least 6-8 people to minimum to make a reservation.

I've never tried their Korean Barbecue so I can't say anything about it. However, I can talk about their hot pot. So first off the prices are:
  • Hot Pot: $23.99 (per person)
  • BBQ: $27.99 (per person)
  • Hot Pot & BBQ: $31.99 (per person)
  • Children under 4 1/2 feet - half price


Their hot pot menu has eight soup bases you choose from, but they also have duo hot pot - choose any two flavors or trio hot pot - choose any three flavors. They have over 20+ items to choose from. They've also added some new menu items like: stuffed tofu, stuffed tofu skin, stuffed lotus, stuffed peppers, stuffed okra, and stuffed dough stick. It's really just seasoned,flavored fish paste. They also have beverage menu (soda, beer, wine, smoothies, teas, and etc).

The restaurant also has tong sui (sweet dessert soup) that you can have after dinner. In addition, if you check-in on Yelp you get a free scoop of ice cream. 

In addition, there's also a rule that if you're coming here to celebrate yours or someone's birthday, you MUST bring an 8 inch cake and you do have the option of eating it there or not in order for the person to eat for free. This rule applies 3 days before or 3 days after, as long as you or someone brings an ID to verify their birthday.

Tip: I highly recommend NOT wearing your best clothes here because of the ventilation and combination of all the smells will make you leave here smellier (herbal/food) than you can imagine, take my word for it.

I enjoy Hometown Hot Pot more than 99 Favors simply because their portions are a lot large and there's more variety to enjoy and savor. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lunar New Year 2017

This year's Lunar New Year celebration with my family was different. First off it was my niece's first Lunar New Year so that was exciting, but my sister and her husband didn't have an opportunity to celebrate with us as they had to fly off to California for a family emergency.

Any way, my parents, baby niece, and I still found a way to celebrate and enjoy our traditional Lunar New Year meal.

Flowers & Snacks
We always lay out a vase filled with flowers, a plate of oranges and citrus fruits, We also have a platter of dried, candied fruits and another one with lucky candies and pistachios. 

Lunar New Year Breakfast
This was our breakfast, but we usually start off with praying and a ritual for our ancestors prior to eating. We start the morning off with vegetarian dishes and shrimp chips. I always love the shrimp chips my mom makes. She fried them earlier on and sealed it in an air tight bag for freshness. 

This year we didn't have as much festivities nor did we make our sweet coconut dumplings, but I am grateful I got to spend it with my family and baby niece.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Coffee Review: AVA Brew

Last year, I've learned that a new coffeehouse was opened in Downtown Brooklyn. It's located near an old company I had worked for.

AVA Brew serves up Brooklyn-roasted Pushcart Coffee and their delicious pastries too. It's set in the base of the new AvaDoBro building. This coffee shop is perfect if you need to pop out and grab your coffee to go, but also great to sit and relax with a coffee, organic tea, or even craft beer or wine (most recent addition to this spot).

The manager wanted to create a community hub in Brooklyn's busiest neighborhood, giving locals an alternative to the big chain coffee dealers that currently line its street. Downtown Brooklyn already has several Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts outlets, but no local coffeehouses like along Cobble Hill and etc.

AVA Brew - Image Credit to Multi-Family Executive
The spacious espresso bar has a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. There's a decent amount of seating here and definitely a good place to come to get some work done or for a casual meeting.

I happened to be in the area a few weeks ago so I met up with a friend, but also grabbed a cold brew.

Cold Brew
The cold brew was delightful I definitely enjoyed it more than Starbucks. I went in mid-afternoon and it wasn't very crowded at all so it was nice to enjoy the cold brew at this comfortable coffee shop. They also have good, cafe-like music.

I would highly recommend AVA Brew for anyone that's interested in trying different local coffee shops, something outside of Starbucks & Dunkin' Donuts. This is definitely a good spot to come to do work, meet someone, or bring a book by to read while enjoying a beer, wine, or coffee.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Coffee Review: Nitro Cold Brew at Starbucks Reserve

I recently visited one of Starbucks newest stores in Brookfield Place and it offers the company's line of rare, small lot Reserve coffees -apparently only available in limited quantity in around 2,000 stroes around the world.

How is this Starbucks different from any other Starbucks store? They store incorporates elegant design elements from the company's Seattle Roastery, while incorporating premium brewing methods ( such as siphon, chemex, pour over). This Starbucks "Reserve" store is a more elevated experience with an elegant design. Visitors to this Starbucks will find cold brew on tap and special Reserve espresso drinks, liked Smoked Butterscotch Latte and etc.

I'm a fan of Starbucks, coffee, and cold brew as well. I met up with a friend not too long ago to check out this beautiful Starbucks and also to try their Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew.

Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew
The Nitro Cold Brew is Starbucks newest take on it's signature Cold Brew - it's infused with nitrogen for a smooth ,creamy texture. The baristas pulls the tap and allows the Cold Brew coffee to mix with nitrogen to deliver an entirely new cold coffee experience.

The Nitro Cold Brew is cold right out of the tap and served unsweetened without ice. You can see and taste the velvety texture in the nitro cold brew.  The first time I tried it, there was NO sugar or cream/milk added.

The Nitro Cold Brew definitely tastes a lot different compared to the original cold brew, but I like it.  I highly recommend it if you like/enjoy cold brew or if you like coffee. I also highly recommend checking out this Starbucks because the decor and atmosphere is absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Slurping Noodles at ICHIRAN

The day after Christmas, Will and I had lunch, caught up, and traded our Christmas gifts with Sam and Alex.  We opted for ICHIRAN - the famous Japanese ramen chain and known for their one-of-a-kind soup - the ivory pork broth.

I was so happy that when Will and I arrived that there was no line outside because I've seen pictures on Yelp that the line was horrendous. I guess the hype is somewhat over. If you've done your research or asked around, ICHIRAN is unlike any other ramen restaurant. On one side of the restaurant, you have a bright room with tables, red lanterns, and promotional posters while the other side was filled with long rows of booths to yourself and it's great if you're coming to eat by yourself and prefer less human interaction.

Outside of Restaurant & Their Menu

Their menu is super customized! I like this system because you can make it customized to your liking and it's personalized. I like this system because it makes it personal and convenient. A standard bowl costs: $18.90, however if you want to add even more items here you can, but it'll just cost more which can ultimately hike up your bill to about $19.00 - $25.00 a bowl ( just warning you right now).

All of our customized our bowls to our own liking so not everything tasted the same.

Classic Tonkotsu Ramen & Shikaibicha
For me, I got the medium rich for my broth and noodle texture was firm. My thoughts? It was possibly one of the BEST bowls of ramen that I've had next to Ippudo Westside - Akamaru Modren.
The broth was very rich, porky flavor, rich, and just ultimately satisfying. The noodles were cooked just right,, but next time I'd like to try extra firm. 

I also tried their Shikaibicha - Ichiran's Original Cold Blended Tea which was very cool and refreshing.

Kikurage Mushroom & Kamadare Yakibutazara - Simmered Pork Belly with Seaweed
I also got a side order Kikurage Mushroom and the Kamadare Yakibutazara (simmered pork belly with seaweed) to share with Will. The Kikurage Mushroom was delicious and the pork belly was full of delicious fatty goodness. Loved it!

Matcha Annin Tofu
We also tried the Matcha Annin Tofu. This dessert was absolutely delicious and not overly sweet and just melts in your mouth.

Overall, I enjoyed and like the concepts here. Service is welcoming, personalized is key here, and unique. Would I be back? Yes, but in all honestly I wouldn't come here all the time because it is one of the most expensive ramen I've had. However, this classic tonkotsu ramen does stand in my book as one of the best tasting one.

P.S. - This is a no tipping establishment. There's also no soy sauce egg with the ramen.

Service: 80%Food: 95%Taste: 100%Likelihood to return: 90%

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mid-Week lunch at E Noodles Cafe

I found E Noodles Cafe on Yelp and it looked very familiar to food that Will and I had recently with his family in Flushing (we had take-out). Will and I have never been to this restaurant or knew that existed and we came here for a late lunch last month.

It's very spacious with modern decor. Customer service is top notch! The staff is friendly and helpful. I think they knew that Will and I were new customers because the waitress kindly told us their best dishes, but lucky for us I already did my research on Yelp so I knew what we could try.

Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls
You've probably saw this picture in this post, but I wanted to share that I saw this on Yelp and knew it was a must-have. I love steamed rice noodles and love it even more so when it's bathed in peanut and hoisin sauce. It's absolutely wonderful and delicious! A truly satisfying dish!

Sampan (Tengzhai) Congee & Fried Cruller
You've also probably seen this in the same post as the Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls too. Will introduced the Tengzhai Congee to me.I absolutely love it! I never knew about this congee until recently. The congee includes pork, fresh sliced fish, peanuts, fried cruller, shrimp, squid, scallops,and etc. A great food to have especially on cold, wintry days!

Soy Sauce Stir-Fried Noodle
We also ordered the Soy Sauce Stir-Fried Noodle which wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't the best one I've had and didn't taste like the ones I've had before. It was extremely salty and I personally wouldn't recommend ordering this item.

Overall, I enjoyed our experience at E Noodles Cafe. I plan to make a trip in the near future because I'd like to try their other dishes. This is definitely a good and quiet spot to come for brunch or lunch with family or friends. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Birthday Dinner at Longevous Joy

Longevous Joy is one of the only restaurants in Bensonhurst that serves ramen, but that doesn't mean it's the best because it isn't. I feel that Longevous Joy is cramped with any hot and trendy Japanese food you can think of that's been wildly popular the last few years - takoyaki, sushi, yakiudon, yakisoba, uni, and etc.

On the potentially one of the coldest days of last year (December 15th to be exact), we came here to have birthday dinner for my girlfriend. This was mine and Will's second visit to Longevous Joy and we were trying to remember exactly why we never returned, but the quality of the food gave us a good memory.

The restaurant isn't very big so I wouldn't recommend coming here with a big group and I am sure their occupancy level is well suited for 20-30 people max. The restaurant is also a little dark in my opinion.

So this is what we had:

Appetizers
We ordered the Best Seller Roll Combo (eel roll, spicy scallop roll, spicy salmon roll, and California roll). The sushi was okay, but definitely not the best I've had. I feel they all tasted the same. We got the Takoyaki as well which I thought was on par. It was moist, delicious, and just melts in your mouth. The Stuffed Squid is one of their most popular menu items and it was one of the better tasting dishes that we had all night.

Tonkotsu Charshu Ramen 
It was freezing outside so well naturally got a bowl of ramen. I'm a huge fan of Tonkotsu so that's what I ordered and strangely it was the first ramen to arrive. The ramen had everything a typical ramen would have - half egg, fish cake, bamboo shoots, scallions, corn, chashu, but the problem here is that the noodles were well done and didn't taste or feel like ramen. The broth was extremely white. I felt like I was drinking a bowl of milk or cream. Another issue was the ramen was tasteless, couldn't enjoy that pork-like taste very much.

Satay Grilled Chicken Ramen & Curry Seafood Ramen
One friend got the Satay Grilled Chicken Ramen and Will and the birthday girl got the Curry Seafood Ramen. They said their ramen wasn't very savory either. There was minimal to no flavor in the ramen and there was very light curry flavor in the ramen. 
 
I remember very clearly why Will and I never think of going to Longevous Joy for food. The quality of the food can use improvement. I would rather travel to East Village for delicious Japanese soul food instead and ramen with flavorless broth is heart breaking. The broth and noodles are what it's all about.