Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dessert Review: Caffe Bene

Caffe Bene
106 Mott Street New York, NY 10013
212.575.5484

I've seen Caffe Bene popping up in almost every neighborhood in Manhattan and I knew that at some point I had to visit one of their locations.

Will and I passed by Caffe Bene in Chinatown and decided to check it out after our dinner.

First, I would like to say that I truly love the decor and ambiance. It's like a homey, spacious, and upgraded version of Starbucks. It's relaxing, cozy and perfect for post-date coffee an desserts, studying, catching up with a friend/s, or catching up on work.

There was a lot of beverages, sweets, and savory items to choose from. We didn't know what to order so it took us a while to decide. We wanted to bring a dessert home to share with his family. We ordered the strawberry waffle and strawberry honey bread. We waited approximately 15-20 minutes for the strawberry honey bread which seemed to have took a long time.

Strawberry Waffle
The strawberry waffle was made prior to us visiting Caffe Bene. I felt like we were tricked by this. The strawberry waffle looks nothing like the one shown on the website. The most disappointing part of the strawberry waffle was that it was hard like a rock. It took a lot of strength to bite into it. The second disappointment was that it was way, way, way too sweet! True disappointment.

Strawberry Honey Bread
Will ordered the strawberry honey bread to share with his family. This was the dessert that we had to wait 15-20 minutes for. I assumed if we were waiting this long for it must take time to prepare and be delicious. The presentation of it was pretty and adorable just like it shows on the website. 

The dessert itself wasn't good at all. It was a giant piece of bread with a layer of cheese spread and slice of strawberries. It was a little funky at first and also the bread was very soggy. I was expecting a golden, toasty, and crunchy bread not a soggy and mushy bread. Second disappointment.

In conclusion, we felt like we wasted our time waiting for these two disappointments. Everything tasted under par and mediocre. Customer service was mediocre as well. I am sure there are other menu items that are not disappointments at Caffe Bene  and we will definitely have to give their menu items a second shot, but absolutely not the strawberry waffle or strawberry honey bread. Never again.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recipe: Yau Gok (Fried Sweet Dumplings)

Hi! I would like to take an opportunity to apologize with the lack of blogging on Ambitious Eats. It's not that I don't have content for the blog because I have plenty. Life behind this screen has been utterly busy with school, work, getting back into the gym, and a lot more. 

As promised, I would like to include a step-by-step guide on how to make Yau Gok (fried sweet dumplings). If you read my last post I mentioned my mom, sister and I made yau gok for Lunar New Year, so here is the recipe -

Yau Gok

Ingredients
wonton skins
water
oil

For the filling: sesame seeds, unsweetened shredded coconut, roasted and crushed peanuts, white sugar

Tools:
dumpling mold shaper
wok
spatula


1. Combine all ingredients together and mix over the wok on low heat.


2. Make sure you set all your mise en place together so everything is in it's place and organized.


3. Place the wonton skin on the dumpling mold and wet the edges of the wonton skin. Add a small portion of the filling inside the wonton skin. Close the mold together and rip the excess wonton skin that is sticking out. Open the mold back and you have a beautiful yau gok!


4. When you have a lot of the yau goks together, you can start the frying process.



5. Heat up the oil and stick a chopstick inside the oil until see little bubbles forming. Fry the yau gok a few at a time on medium heat. This will take about 8-10 minutes.


6. Once they are bright and golden, remove from the wok.


7. Place all the yau goks on a tray/plate lined with paper towel so it soaks up the oil. Let the yau goks cool before consuming and serving.



8. Enjoy the crunchy, crispy, and sweetness in this little bundle of joy!

Hope you found this recipe helpful! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lunar New Year Celebration

I can't believe it's already March. Time has flew!

I apologize for not blogging the last week or so, it's been utterly busy behind the screen with Lunar New Year celebrations, classes, work, and etc. 

I was suppose to post a recipe for yau goks (traditional fried dumplings filled with sweet coconut, sesame seeds, and much more), but instead I'd like to share with you pictures of my Lunar New Year celebration at home. 

Pre-Lunar New Year Dinner
This was our dinner that we had the night before Lunar New Year. It seemed a little smaller this year, since my big sister wasn't home and is married, so she celebrated with brother in-law. 

Snacks, Oranges, and Flowers
Mom didn't buy new flowers this year for Lunar New Year since I bought her a small bouquet of flowers for Valentine's Day and Will bought me flowers too. Mom also put out plates of sweets, snacks, and lots of oranges,clementines, and etc to munch on.

Lunar New Year - breakfast
This was our vegetarian Lunar New Year breakfast. I really enjoy this meal because it's so simple, yet tastes so good. The shrimp chips are irresistibly yummy!

Cheers
We cheered to a new Lunar New Year with a little red wine. 

Yau Gok
These were some of the yau goks my mom, sister, and I made by hand. I will be including a recipe on the food blog in the next post. These were really good. Mom, sister, and I did a great job and a lot of people enjoyed it too. 

Hope you all had a happy and prosperous start to the new year!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ramen Quest: Ramen-Ya in Greenwich Village

133 West 3rd Street New York, NY 10012
212.254.8828

Before I dive into my review for Ramen-Ya, Will and I would like to wish everyone good health and lots of yummy eats this Lunar New Year!

So, I think it's pretty clear to you that I love ramen. It's warm, hearty, savory, and delicious and it's the perfect solution and feel good food to have during these freezing and frightful temperatures we've been suffering these past two months.

Will and I recently tried Ramen-Ya located in Greenwich Village, NYC. They have two locations both of which we have visited. Please click here if you would like to read our review of the original location in the West Village.

Okra Pork Gyozas
For appetizer, we tried the Okra Pork Gyozas. These were quite tasty and different in terms of texture from what we usually order. These gyozas are pan-fried and stuffed with minced pork, okra, and shiso with ponzu sauce. The okra gave a slime-like texture to the gyoza.

shiso - an aromatic green, jagged-edged leaf from the perilla plant, which is part of the mint and basil family

ponzu - a Japanese sauce made with lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sake, seaweed, and dried bonito flakes. This is a dipping sauce served with dishes like sashimi.

Shio Black (Tonkotsu)
Will ordered the Shio Black (Tonkotsu) ramen. The noodles were straight and bathed in the original berkshire pork broth which was full of flavor and deliciousness, with a hint of black garlic oil. It was topped with cha-shu pork,  tree mushrooms, seasoned egg, and scallions. The ramen was alright, but the taste of the black garlic oil was slightly overpowering.

Mini Curry Rice
Will also ordered a mini curry rice on the side. It was yummy especially that curry sauce!

Shoyu Tonkotsu (Ramen)
I ordered the Shoyu (Tonkotsu) ramen and man was it amazing! This bowl of ramen was filled with a unique set of flavors! It's similar to the Shio Black ramen minus the black garlic oil. The broth was absolutely heaven!

Noodles
I really liked their noodles.The noodles were cooked al dente and the berkshire pork was really moist and juicy.

So we really liked this ramen joint. It's different from the ones we've been to so far. It's more spacious and the kitchen is closed. The food was up to par! I can definitely see a second trip to Ramen-Ya in the near future.

Service: 4/5
Atmosphere: 5/5
Taste: 4/5
Likelihood to Return: 90%

Monday, February 16, 2015

Another Lovely Brunch at Cafe Luluc

Cafe Luluc
214 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.625.3815

Will and I had a double date with our friends a few weeks ago at Cafe Luluc. Yup, we couldn't help but coming back for round two but with friends this time.

We came on a Sunday afternoon that was rainy actually and was hoping the wait wouldn't be long, Unfortunately, there was a wait and we waited about 15-20 minutes for a table. I guess the rain didn't stop customers from enjoying their brunch and time at Cafe Luluc.

We sat down and the servers poured our glasses with water. The server passed the menus to us and afterwards we placed our orders.

Iced Coffee
Will and I ordered our usual iced coffee. I was quite surprised that they served the iced coffee in a wine glass. It definitely wasn't enough iced coffee for me (quantity wise) and the iced coffee didn't taste up to par.

Mesclun Salad
Our friend's girlfriend ordered the Mesclun Salad accompanied with a balsamic roasted garlic salad. Great healthy choice for brunch! 

Mixed Berry Pancakes with Sunny Side-Up Eggs and Sausages
Our friend ordered the Mixed Berry Pancakes with Sunny Side-Up Eggs and Sausages. Will ordered this the first time we visited Cafe Luluc and was very full and stuffed to the point, he couldn't see himself order this again.

Brioche French Toast with Apple Compote 
Will ordered the Brioche French Toast with Apple Compote, Scrambled Eggs, and Sausages. Everything looked really yummy, bright, and amazing! I tried a piece of the brioche French toast and it was fluffy, smooth, and just really great!

Eggs Florentine
Every time I order brunch, I always end up with either grits or Eggs Benedict. Since I already tried Eggs Benedict at Cafe Luluc, I decided to order something different. This was my first time trying Eggs Florentine and it was surprisingly scrumptious! 

I'm not a big fan of spinach, but this was really yummy. This is a good alternative if your considering to go meatless for brunch. I really enjoyed the field green salad as I have before when I had the Eggs Florentine and the French fries are as always bomb! 

As you can tell from my previous blog post about Cafe Luluc, I really enjoy the food here. It's rustic and full of deliciousness. I haven't been to too many brunch places in Brooklyn, but I've got to say that Cafe Luluc is one of my favorites so far.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

HOPHAP

HOPHAP 
204 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.797.5100

Every now and then I would have a sudden craving for Thai food, I don;t know what it is, but I really enjoy eating Thai food and I was even on a Thai binge at one point of my life.

Last month and on a Saturday evening, Will and I had dinner at HOPHAP in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I really and truly enjoyed the decor and ambiance at this restaurant because it's dark, dim, intimate and very relaxing. I like that it 's spacious here and lots of seating too. The staff and waitresses are pleasant and friendly.

Thai Ice Tea
Thai Ice Tea is a must-have at any Thai restaurant. I really enjoyed the Thai Ice Tea. It was light and just refreshing!

Crispy Calamari with Sweet Chili Sauce
For appetizer, we had the crispy calamari with sweet chili sauce. The portion size for this was quite big especially for us two. The calamari was fried to perfection, but tasted really bland. It could have used some seasoning.

Squid Pad Thai
I ordered the Squid Pad Thai which wasn't expensive at all. It was only $9.95 and it's a hefty portion too. I really liked the squid Pad Thai  because it's everything you would expect from a Pad Thai and the squid wasn't overcooked. I actually had a hard time finishing the squid Pad Thai because of the size so I brought some home.

Seafood Tom Yum Pad Thai
Will had the Seafood Tom Yum Pad Thai. The difference between this Pad Thai and a regular one is that this one has a dash of spiceyness from the hot and sour lemongrass. I tried this Pad Thai and it actually wasn't bad at all, couldn't taste much spice in it.

Will can't handle overly spicy foods like myself, so I thought it was very nice that the waitress would check once or twice if he was okay.

I wish I had room to try their desserts because they did sound really tempting and delicious, but maybe next time. I really liked HOPHAP. The service and food was up to par! I am looking forward soon to try more of their delicious foods.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cafe Luluc

Cafe Luluc
214 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.625.3815

Lately I've found myself deeply interested in trying different restaurants in Cobble Hill, specifically along Smith Street. If you've ever walked or drove along Cobble Hill, you'll notice a lot of restaurants and retail.

One of the restaurants that Will and I visited last month was Cafe Luluc right after I completed my last final. We visited Cafe Luluc on a Saturday morning and it was packed, but the wait was only 5-10 minutes. The decor/ambiance kind of reminds me of Clinton St. & Baking Co because it's not a very big restaurant and the decor is very rustic. It's utterly busy too.

So we ordered the following:
Mimosa & Coffee
I had the mimosa. I wanted a little bubbly to celebrate the fact that I've completed yet another semester and all my finals. Will stuck with just plain black coffee.

Mixed Berry Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs & Sausages
I heard the pancakes here is one of the popular menu items, so Will decided to order them. He got very full to the point he didn't want them anymore. Now, I am not much of a pancake or waffle person, but I've got to say these pancakes were amazing! These were possibly one of the best pancakes I've had so far. They are fluffy in the center with a slight crunch and crust around the sides.

Eggs Benedict
I had the Eggs Benedict with ham on an English muffin topped with Hollandaise sauce. It was accompanied with French fries and field green salad. This was a plate of absolute deliciousness! The eggs Benedict were pumped and poached perfectly. 

Runny Yolk
The runny yolk was very sexy, and everything was just perfect. I really liked the French fries because not only were they fried to perfection, but they were crunchy and crisp. I really enjoyed the field green salad - it balances out the colors and the food. It's a nice rustic and simple touch to the dish. I wish I knew what kind of vinaigrette or dressing that used in the salad because it tasted great!

I really enjoyed the service at Cafe Luluc. The simple and rustic dishes really stand out and are truly savory and fantastic! The prices here are inexpensive. I truly and highly recommend that you should give this gem a chance because the food is really good and you won't regret it.