Thursday, February 25, 2016

STOUT NYC - What a change it has been!

133 West 33rd Street New York, NY 10001

I don't typically go to bars or pubs, but there's one pub that I've been going to for years, because it's a nice alternative from Korean food and etc. around the 34th street area in Manhattan and because their food was always yummy, until my last visit. The food and service felt different.

During my most recent experience at STOUT NYC, Will and I asked for our typical root beer, but literally everything we asked for wasn't in stock and the server recommended a diet cream soda. That sounded bad to me, so I just stuck with a classic coke.

The servers usually bring a plate of condiments to add on our food, but this time they only brought salt and pepper.

Fried Calamari
We ordered our usual appetizer which is the fried calamari with marinara and lemon aioli sauce. I feel like they really skimped this time because during past experiences, there would be a lot of fried calamari, now I don't know what's going on. Sad to also say that the calamari was tasteless.

Wisconsin Style Thin Crust Pizza
We also ordered a Wisconsin Style Thin Crust Pizza with mushrooms and applewood smoked bacon. The pizza was crunchy as it always is, but the quality didn't taste as same and it felt cold.

Sweet Potato Fries
The highlight of the experience and the saving grace was the sweet potato fries. They came out perfect, not too sweet, and crunchy! No complaints here.

I used to love, love, love going to STOUT NYC, but I wasn't happy with the quality of the food. I am hesitant about my next trip to STOUT and I hope sincerely that it won't disappoint us.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wine, Cheese, and Much More at The Cellar

The Cellar
900 Broadway New York, NY 100003

Our friend Sam planned Alex's birthday surprise at The Cellar which is located downstairs from Beecher's Handmade Cheese. The Cellar is absolutely stunning! Dim lights, relaxing atmosphere, and ideal for small groups, but not the best place to take for a first date. The Cellar is a perfect place for a friend or someone that is a wine and cheese lover or just loves good food.

Service was on point and food was phenomenal!

We did two cheese plates and one meat plate (don't remember the names, sorry). It was an interesting and different way of enjoying food, something that Will and I don't typically do.

Some of our friends had a bottle of wine, but Will and I just kept it casual and had:

Original Sin & Pumpkin Ale
Will got the Original Sin and I got the Pumpkin Ale. The Pumpkin Ale was different, tasted more wheat than pumpkin. We also ordered a few different entrees/appetizers to share and try.

Crab, old bay, aioli, bread crumbs (Mac & Cheese)
A friend ordered this to share and oh boy, was it full of crab and cheese deliciousness. Every bite was like crab and cheese heaven. This was possibly the second best mac & cheese I've had so far.

Pork belly, Pickeled Fennel Stem (Mac & Cheese)
Another friend ordered a mac & cheese and it tasted yummy, but not as good as the crab mac & cheese.

Mushroom Tart
I ordered the Mushroom Tart (shitake, crimini, and portabella) and it was pure mushroom creamy heaven! The tart was buttery, crunchy, and tasted really good with the creamy mushroom sauce. It was on the saltier side, but overall I liked it.

Will ordered the mussels. These definitely weren't the best mussels we've had because they were tiny and there wasn't much mussels at all. The sauce/broth felt a little bland.

All in all, I did like the atmosphere at The Cellar. It was a different dining experience compared to what I am used to. I would definitely come back here again to taste some of their wine and dishes again. I would highly recommend coming here for someone's birthday, it's a nice and relaxing atmosphere and perfect for a wine & cheese lover!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Manila Social Club - An Amazing & Relaxing Brunch

Manila Social Club
2 Hope Street Brooklyn, NY 11211

Will and I had brunch with our friends Sam & Alex just before the holidays at Manila Social Club. We made reservations for noon on a Sunday and surprisingly, it wasn't crowded at all. The restaurant is very clean, simple, cozy, and just feels relaxing. The staff are very friendly, super nice, and laid back. It wasn't crazy busy here and it was a nice, calm, and relaxing brunch experience. I almost didn't want to leave.

Biscuits with Ube Butter
We were given complimentary biscuits and ube butter. These were probably the best biscuits I've had because they were fluffy and had a little sweetness to it. The ube butter complimented the biscuits very well. The ube butter was unlike anything I've ever had. It had a smooth and melt-in-your-mouth texture, not too sweet. I really liked it!  I could eat a container of ube butter and still be happy.

Tres Leches & Ube latte
Will ordered the Tres Leches (espresso, milk, Dulce de Leche, whipped cream). This drink can be served iced or hot, but Will got hot. This was an interesting concoction, definitely different in terms of taste. I think it would taste way better if it was iced. 

I got the Ube Latte (ube infused with simple syrup) and it can be served iced or hot. I got it iced and it was interesting. I never had a drink like this before. It was a little too sweet with me even when I mixed it. I liked that Manila serves most of their drinks in cute mason jars!

We ordered three appetizers. The Lumpia Shanghai are Filipino eggrolls filled with duck and longanisa (sausage/chorizo). It came with two types of sauce - one was spicy and the other tasted like a fish sauce. The Lumpia Shangai were crunchy, fresh, and yummy! It's almost always a must have in a Filipino restaurant.

We also had the Longanisa Sliders which are sliders with daikon pickles and lotus chips. The Longanisa Sliders were adorable, moist, and just really delicious. Who would ever though lotus chips would or could taste so so so good? These were perfectly crunchy and taste slightly like sweet potato chips. 

The Spam Fries is listed as a side dish under Manila's menu, but we treated it like an appetizer. I almost always order Spam Fries at a Filipino restaurant. First off, love love love the presentation and creativity behind it. The Spam Fries weren't salty at all. I wonder what was their secret to making some of the sodium diminish. They were crisp and moist. Possibly one of the best Spam Fries I've had so far!

Mango Souffle Pancakes
I urged Will to order this because he loves mango and he's a pancake type of guy. The Mango Souffle pancakes is also one of the popular menu items at Manila. The Mango Souffle pancakes looked like a giant,fluffy cookie with chunks of mango embedded inside. I tried it and loved every bite of the pancake and there's that Ube again, extremely yummy!

Garlic Rice
Will and Alex ordered the Garlic Rice as a side dish. We all felt it was a little bland, definitely not enough garlic flavor in the rice.

Roasted Vegetable Paella
Alex ordered the Roasted Vegetable Paella which looked absolutely vibrant and hearty. The paella tasted yummy, good vegetarian option if you like.

Longanisa Hash
We also ordered the Longanisa Hashb as a side order too. Now this was another dish I was crazy about after I ate it. Everything was cut into perfect bite size. The Longanisa Hash was delicious and just full of flavor.

French Toast Espesyal
Sam and I ordered the French Toast Espesyal. The French Toast is deep-fried with black & blue jam, mango syrup, and macapuno ice cream (coconut). I don't typically order sweet dishes like pancakes, waffles, or French toast for brunch, but this sounded really good. In my own opinion, I kind of regret ordering this dish because it was just too sweet for me and pretty damn filling. 

Overall, we really enjoyed our time and experience at Manila Social Club. I definitely want to come back for dinner some time and try their dinner menu. I would most definitely come back to Manila Social Club again. There's something just different and genuine about Manila Social Club compared to two other Filipino restaurants I've been to so far.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Birthday Dinner at Broccolino

446 Dean Street Brooklyn, NY 11217

I took Will out to Broccolino for his birthday dinner. Broccolino is quite small restaurant, not ideal for a group dinner - maybe 2-4 people at most. Staff here are very friendly and helpful! The service is on point and the food was decent, but the price was a little expensive in my opinion.

*Please forgive me as the photos came out a little dark*

Margarita & Pina Colada
We started off with two cocktails which very good, refreshing and not too strong.


Frittura Di Calamari
We started off with the Frittura Di Calamari (Fried calamari with a side of spicy tomato sauce). The appetizer was expensive - $16.00 (never have I spent that much on calamari before) , but any way the spicy tomato sauce was very spicy to the point, my mouth was starting to catch on fire. I asked the waiter if he could bring a regular tomato sauce on the side and he did. Fried calamari was fried to perfection, crisp, and crunchy so it was definitely well worth $16.

Homemade Black Linguine with Lobster & Tomato Sauce
Will ordered this dish and boy was it expensive - over $20 from what I remember. The dish looked pretty hefty and the lobster meat was enormous. I tried a piece of lobster and it was moist and scrumptious!

Homemade thin Spaghetti with Fresh Baby Clams, Garlic, and Olive Oil
I love linguine with white clam sauce so I decided to try the one from Broccolino and the portion was small for $17.00 and the texture of the spaghetti felt similar to ramen, but was tasty until I started biting into sand from the fresh baby clams. There was also a lot of empty shells and not enough clams. I was slightly disappointed with the turn out of my dish.

Overall, it was a somewhat nice and simple dinner at Broccolino. In my opinion, I think it's definitely overpriced. I also didn't really like eating the pasta dish with semi-empty clam shells with sand too. I think the chances of us being back would be slim just because everything felt very expensive and the quality didn't match up to the prices quite frankly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Parigot - Just Around The Corner

155 Grand Street New York, NY 10013

Have you ever walked by a restaurant numerous of times, but never stopped to take a breath and see what's it about? Well I have with Parigot. It's located on the busy corner of Grand Street and between Lafayette & Centre Street. Parigot piqued my interest and it seemed like the perfect place to have brunch here with my boyfriend and a few friends.

Parigot is quite small, but very casual and cozy to dine in. I made reservations for a party of six for a Sunday which wasn't necessary because when we arrived to the restaurant at noon, it was quite empty. The service was impeccable and the staff made us feel comfortable and like a valued customer/diner.

Everyone ordered their own dishes so I didn't get to sample or snap a picture of their food, but here's what I did try and know:

For Brunch, Parigot has a Weekend Special where if you order a brunch, eggs, or omelets it is served with one cocktail (Mimosa, Bellini, Sangria, or Bloody Mary).

I don't typically have Sangria for a brunch cocktail, but since it was offered along with my brunch, why not? I really liked Parigot's Sangria! It was refreshing, fruity, and had floral and plum aromas.

Eggs Norwegian with Smoked Salmon
Will ordered the Eggs Norwegian with Smoked Salmon since he loves smoked salmon or just salmon in general. I didn't try it, but it looked amazing! The poached eggs were very plump and looked great!

Eggs Benedict with Canadian Bacon
This was similar to Will's dish except mine was with Canadian bacon. The eggs Benedict were delicious, plump, and amazing! The fries had a nice crunch to it and was tasty. Salad added a refreshing taste and touch to the dish.

I saw this on the menu and I knew I had to have it! The ratatouille was a true delight Lost of vegetables incorporated with the yummy and semi-sweet tomato sauce. It was really delicious!

All in all, we were all pretty happy with the service and most of all the food. I definitely hope we will return soon to Parigot because their dinner menu sounds amazing too! I am glad I finally gave Parigot a shot after all these years walking passed it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yaso Tangbao - Soup Dumplings Making Their Mark in Downtown Brooklyn

Yaso Tangbao
148 Lawrence Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

This is a long overdue post, but just an FYI: a Shanghainese restaurant has landed in Downtown Brooklyn! I first heard of Yaso Tangbao from the New York City Dumpling Festival back in September 2015 and when I heard they were opening up just 1/2 block from where I used to work, I was excited!

Yaso Tangbao isn't like your typical Shanghainese restaurants, but rather it is a counter-serve, fast-casual restaurant. I came on a Friday afternoon with Will and boy was it crowded! There's a few communal tables and benches for you to sit on and eat as well as smaller tables that are ideal for one person or two people and counters with seats. The service is pretty quick and the staff here are very friendly!

Pork Xiao Long Bao
We started off with the pork xiao long bao ($8.50). That's quite expensive for the six golf ball sized dumplings we had, but at least the taste and quality was on par. They were freshly made, each one squirting out a rich and savory broth with a chunky pork filling. It was absolutely delicious and went well with the soy vinegar sauce.

Chicken Curry Pan-Fried Noodles
We also had the chicken curry pan-fried noodles, but it wasn't what we really expected it to be. The noodles were very crunchy! The sauce and chicken wasn't on par. There wasn't much taste to it and the sauce was so watered down. I don't think I would order this again.

The xiao long bao was phenomenal, but still too expensive for me. The owner reached out to me on Yelp and informed me that there have been price and menu adjustments, so I may be inclined to return to Yaso Tangbao to give it another shot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Birthday Dinner at Mr. Soon Tofu

Mr. Soon Tofu
152-22 Northern Boulevard Flushing, NY 11354

I came here with Will and our friends to celebrate a friend's birthday. We made reservations ahead of time so we had a table ready for us. The restaurant had two different rooms for dining. Unfortunately, the food was mediocre and service is in serious need of an improvement.

At Korean restaurants, servers typically give you Banchan and at Mr. Soon Tofu, they sure gave a lot of Banchan. There were at most 10-15 different items and when we asked for extras they would give it to us - free of charge!

I was actually not too impressed with their version of Japchae because it was very, very oily and unseasoned. It just felt like we were eating a blob of oily noodles.

Beef Soondubu
Will and I shared the beef soondubu (non-spicy) and it was actually our first time trying a soondubu and I loved it! It was hearty, rich, warm, and yummy! Perfect for a chilly or winter-like day like today.

The bibimbap was okay, not as savory or as delicious as the ones I've had before.

Seafood Pancake
We also had the seafood pancake which wasn't too pleasing either. It wasn't crunchy nor tasty as the ones I've had before and there was not much taste to it.

I really liked the bulgogi! It was a little expensive, but at least it taste good and had a light sweetness to it.

We brought a cake for our friend's birthday, but the staff didn't help with presenting the cake or cutting of it and instead we had to do it ourselves, but at least our friend appreciated the nice gesture from us. 

Service and food quality definitely needs much improvement. I don't think I would be back here simply because the lack of good service and good food.