Saturday, April 23, 2016

321 Ice Cream Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

After having dinner at Aurora, our next stop was for dessert at 321 Ice Cream Shop where our friend told us that you can see liquid nitrogen in action. It sounded like an exciting science experiment. 

It's a mid-sized and cozy ice cream shop. They have a few seating areas and their menu is on a screen where you can see when you come in.

There is special discount on Yelp, but unfortunately you can only use it on your actual birthday not any time earlier or later.

Liquid Nitrogen in Action

Green Tea & Rocky Road
Our friends Sam and Alex had the Rocky Road which was interesting and tasted like coffee. Will and I got the Green Tea which I fell literally head over heels for! I've had a lot of green tea desserts before, but this was by far the best one! It was soft, moist, not too sweet, and the green tea Kit Kat bars really added a unique aspect to the ice cream and crunch.

All in all, I really liked the Green Tea ice cream. I think it would be even more delightful if they came out with a Thai Iced Tea flavor. It would be a lot tastier and unique.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Aurora in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

So for the next birthday celebration, Will and I had dinner with Sam and Alex at Aurora. This restaurant was recommended by my friend (former colleague) that I had dinner with at Zundo-Ya. He recommended Aurora a long time ago and I finally got to try it.

I love the name and the decor and ambiance matches perfectly with the name. The decor and ambiance is rustic, intimate, but also elegant. They also have outdoor seating in the backyard, but the evening we went it was chilly and cloudy outside so we couldn't do the outdoor dining. I am definitely going to have to return to experience the outdoor dining. 

Aurora has an extensive wine menu, but also serves beer as well. Will and I didn't have wine or beer, but Sam and Alex did.

For appetizers, we had the Fritto Misto ($18.00) which was flash fried white shrimp, Rhode Island squid and seasonal vegetables with salsa tonnata. I don't know why I ordered this and should have inquired exactly what it was. It basically tasted and felt like tempura, so I wouldn't recommend ordering this. Sam ordered the Cavolo Nero ($12.00) which was Tuscan kale and Brussels sprouts salad with pistachios and Five Spoke Creamery Tumbleweed Cheddar. This was a very interesting salad and the Tuscan kale and Brussels sprouts were delicious and had a buttery taste to it. Sam & Alex also ordered the Formaggi - artisanal cheeses served with seasonal marmalade , almonds and honey (I forgot to take a picture, sorry).

Will ordered the Tagliatelle wild boar which was homemade hand cut pasta with wild boar. This is a popular menu item at Aurora which is precisely why Will ordered it. I really liked his dish! The pasta was actually made from chestnut which is why his dish had a slightly nutty and sweet taste to it.

Sam ordered the Strangozzi all Norcina which was house made hand cut pasta with fennel pork sausage, crushed truffle, porcini mushrooms, and sheep's milk ricotta. According to Sam, her dish was very heavy from the cream or butter that was used. Alex ordered the Polipo alla Griglia  which was grilled Mediterranean octopus with cipollini onions potato salad, almond romesco, and Calabrian chili. I didn't get to try everything in that dish, but I did try the octopus and it was grilled to perfection!

Mushroom Risotto
I had the Mushroom Risotto which was a special of the day. The risotto was very buttery and made me very full after a few bites. It wasn't too salty and had a lot of mushroom flavor int it.

Overall, I liked Aurora and it's definitely different in terms of decor and food than what I usually eat. Although, I would prefer if the dishes didn't have as much cream or butter to it. Next time I return to Aurora, I will definitely have to opt for the outdoor dining. 

Aurora also has another location in SOHO, NYC.

Next post is on -321 Ice Cream Shop (dessert after dinner with Sam & Alex)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Birthday Dinner at Basta Pasta - Flatiron, NYC

As you may or may not know, my birthday was last month and I had multiple celebrations (good cause I ate a lot of delicious foods, but bad because the calories added up). The first celebration was at Basta Pasta with my girlfriends and Will. Will and I have already been to Basta Pasta for our 3rd year anniversary, but I wanted to give Basta Pasta a second chance. 

We came to Basta Pasta on a Friday evening and boy was it a packed house, but luckily we made reservations so we didn't have to struggle with the wait. 

Red Sangria & Pompelmo
We started off with drinks. I got a Red Sangria and everyone else got the Pompelmo. The red sangria was very refreshing and fruity, loved it!  Everyone else got the Pompelmo (fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, fresh mint, soda, tonic *non-alcoholic*) and it was refreshing as well!

Bread & Bread sticks
We got an assortment of bread, breadsticks, and bread with fish spread. I've had the bread with fish spread before, but amazingly it didn't taste fishy at all.

We shared four appetizers: Asparagi Gratinati (al dente asparagus, golden Parmesan crust) , Calamari alla Griglia (grilled squid, homemade sausage stuffed with curry risotto, golden raisins, pistachios, and prosciutto), Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare *appetizer size* (spaghetti,fresh Sea Urchin, fresh tomatoes, JalapeƱos, garlic oil, and fresh basil), and Tonno Fresco Scottato (prime tuna tataki, original wasabi tartar sauce, cucumber fingerling potatoes, hearts of palm, saffron orange sauce).

The aspragi gratinati was delicious. The asparagus was cooked al dent as the menu description said and that golden Parmesan crust had a slight crunch and was tasty. The calamari alla griglia was very different, but just a medley of delicious flavors and textures. The calamari wasn't overcooked, thankfully. My friend ordered the spaghetti ai ricci di mare, but I didn't try it only because I feel quite squeamish when I see Sea Urchin. She also ordered the Tonno Fresco Scottato which I tried and didn't enjoy because it was spicy and just not a fan of tuna at all.

Will had the Trancio di Salmone (charcoal-grilled Scottish Salmon fillet with grilled vegetables)  and our friends ordered these for their entrees - Tagliolini con Ragu di Pesce (homemade Tagliolini, Chilean Sea Bass ragu,capers, shredded zucchini in a spicy tomato sauce), Crespelle con Funghi e Ricotta (Homemade silk handkerchief pasta, mixed mushrooms, lemon zest, and ricotta cheese) and
Spaghetti con Proscuitto e Parmigiano  served in a half wheel of Parmesan cheese at the table.

I tried the salmon from Will's dish and I wasn't very pleased with it. Although it was cooked to the right texture, it tasted very bland - could have used a little salt and pepper. I didn't try everyone's dish, but everything looked amazing!

Fettuccine alla Bolognese
I ordered the Fettuccine alla Bolognese (homemade Fettuccine with Basta Pasta original meat sauce). I really, really enjoyed my entree because the texture of the fettuccine was different compared to other pastas I've had before. The fettuccine here feels a lot thicker but tastier since it was homemade and the sauce tastes amazing.

Overall, the experience at Basta Pasta was pleasant and exquisite. Food was on point and service as well. It looks like the food at Basta Pasta has improved and I was very happy with the quality.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ramen Quest: Zundo-Ya in East Village, NYC

Zundo-Ya has been one of the newest addition to the ramen joints in New York City. It's tucked away on the side stress of where the infamous Ippudo is and unlike other ramen spots, the space at Zundo-Ya is open and has large communal tables.

I came here with my friend (former colleague) to catch up and plus we are both ramen fanatics. We arrived at 6PM on a weekday and luckily it wasn't crowded. The staff were extra perky and ready to serve. Service was on point and the experience was pleasant.

The menu was straight to the point. So far Zundo-Ya is the only ramen joint that I know that lets you choose the noodle type and broth richness which ranges from light, regular, rich, and super rich. The waiter told us that super rich has a gravy-like consistency, so we both stuck with rich for our ramen.

Additional Toppings
First we received a plate of additional toppings which were: sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and spicy cabbage).

My friend ordered the Kaarage and another friend once told me that kaarage is amazing with ramen, but I just ate it separately. It was crunchy, juicy, and tasty. This one came with Japanese mayo, salt and pepper to dip. I think I would order this again on my next ramen quest.

Pan-fried Gyoza
I always have gyoza when I am on a ramen quest. The gyoza had a nice pan-fried texture, slight crunch. The filling was tasty and had good flavor.

Ajitama Hot Ramen
My friend had the Ajitama Hot Ramen ($17.00) and I give him credit for ordering a hot and spicy bowl of ramen. Although it was appropriate on the day we went since it was still Winter at the time. The ramen had Zundo-Ya's classic Tonkotsu with slices of roasted pork, medium-boiled egg, scallions, and seaweed. They have a non-spicy version of this available too.

Ajitama Ramen
I ordered the non-spicy version of what my friend had and also known as the "Signature Dish". The ramen had everything my friend's bowl had minus the spicy sauce.

The noodles I got were the thick wavy noodles and they were delicious and cooked to al dente which I liked very much.  The Ajitama Ramen was $15.00 and it was well worth it. The medley of all the ingredients made the broth super delicious and everything looked so bright, inviting, and vibrant.

I would most definitely return especially because they have a variety of ramen to choose from and next time I want to try the Zenbunose Ramen which literally has all Zundo-Ya's ingredients, so how can you say no to that. I haven't returned yet, but soon I will make another trip and I highly recommend this spot. It's new. It's fun and worth every penny.

Service: 90%
Food: 90%
Taste: 85%
Likelihood to return: 100%

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Brownstone Pancake Factory - Edgewater, NJ

I found out that Brownstone Pancake Factory opened a second location in New Jersey and I knew instantly that Will and I had to go visit it. The drive from home to Brownstone in Edgewater is a bit of a stretch, more so than from home to Brownstone in Jersey City.

The location in Jersey City is the original location and has more of a classical diner vibe to it where as the new one feels more modern, chic, and fresh. This location has a parking lot, but it's tight and also valet unlike the one in Jersey City.

We were seated immediately when we arrived and was given a list of brunch specials and their standard menu. We both decided to order from the Brunch Specials.

Iced Tea & Iced Coffee
We started off with two beverages - iced tea and iced coffee to accompany our brunch.

Chicken Orzo & French Onion Soup
The Brunch Specials menu includes soup of the day. I got the Chicken Orzo and French Onion soup. The chicken orzo soup tasted and felt very healthy and warm, perfect for the chilly weather. Will's been on a French onion soup binge, so when he saw it on the menu he ordered it. The French onion soup was perfect! The cheese was perfectly broiled and gooey. The soup was flavorful and rich!

Brownstone's Mini Waffles Eggs Benedict
I ordered the Brownstone's Mini Waffles Eggs Benedict and it was definitely adorable and beautifully plated. Two of the mini waffles were topped off with Canadian bacon and a poached egg drizzled with Hollandaise sauce and one mini waffle topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

I've never really had a savory waffle before so this was a different experience. The mini eggs Benedict waffle was mediocre. I think I prefer my waffles to be nutty with a dash of sweetness to it. I actually liked the mini waffle with fresh strawberries and blueberries because it was fresh and lightly sweet.

Jersey Chicken & Pancakes
Will ordered the Jersey Chicken & Pancakes which is buttermilk pancakes baked with bacon and cheddar and topped off with crispy fried chicken tenders drizzled with sour cream and confectionery sugar. His dish looked very filling and delicious. Unfortunately, Will wasn't a fan of this dish because he's not a fan of Chicken & Waffles and similar dishes. I tried his dish and the crispy fried chicken tenders were really crispy, fried, and has good flavor. Adding bacon and cheddar to the pancakes was a neat idea.

Overall, I liked the Brownstone Pancake Factory in Edgewater, NJ. It's very clean, chic, and relaxing to dine here. It's completely different from the original Brownstone in Jersey City. Will prefers the original location just because it's closer and ample parking space and not valet. He also prefers the homey, diner vibe. The food was very different from the original Brownstone and I don't recall if they have these dishes on the menu in Jersey City. I would like to come back here again and maybe order a different dish to see how I feel about the food here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ramen Quest: Ramen Setagaya, East Village

Happy April everyone! It's been a crazy, busy two weeks from taking care of my sick boyfriend, taking care of his home while his parents were away, taking care of myself, working, school, birthday celebrations, and etc. I finally have room to breathe for now that his parents are back, he's not sick anymore - just allergies, and project deadlines for class are a month away.

I've been really behind in blogging for this blog and Big City Little Adventures and Yelp, so now it's time to play a little catch up until I suffocate myself with my final projects, so you're going to see a lot of long overdue posts, but please don't judge or be disappointed.

Mid-January, I met up with Waz of Let's Nom Nom for lunch in St. Marks/East Village. I've heard mixed reviews about Ramen Setagaya, but I wanted to try it out and see how it was for myself. We met up after the lunch rush which was perfect because it was very empty, spacious, and soothing at Ramen Setagaya.

Deep Fried Squid
I ordered the Deep Fried Squid as an appetizer for myself. It was definitely deep fried and crispy, just the way I like it. There was also some kind of tartar sauce accompanied with the squid. I can't recall any other ramen joint having deep fried squid or octopus on their menu, but at least the ones from Ramen Setagaya didn't disappoint.

Vegetable Gyoza
Waz had the Vegetable Gyoza as an appetizer and it looked perfectly pan-fried, but according to her post - the filling was a little soggy and bland. It didn't sound like it was her cup of tea.

Vegetable Ramen
Waz ordered the Vegetable ramen and at a good price, only $8.95! The vegetable ramen looked vibrant and healthy compared to what I had. I also found that it was interesting that they included tomato in the ramen, not a typical ingredient in ramen.

Shoyu Ramen
I got the Shoyu Ramen which was $8.95 (for lunch) which is topped with bamboo, scallions, onion, seaweed, egg, and pork. This bowl of ramen looked very harmonious and inviting. I was afraid it would be salty like other ramen I've had at other joints before, but it wasn't a salty case here. The broth was flavorful, but not salty which I enjoyed. The noodles were cooked al-dente, just the way I like it. The egg was runny and perfectly boiled to my liking as well.

I haven't been back at Ramen Setagaya since having lunch here with Waz,  but I've told Will how tasty the ramen was and what the experience was like having ramen in the day time. It was definitely a more delightful experience than having ramen during dinner.

Overall, I really liked Ramen Setagaya and I am glad I gave it a chance and I definitely hope to return soon. I've recently learned there's a location in Williamsburg and Fort Lee, so will definitely have to mark those on my ramen quest. This location definitely deserves another visit and love from me.  

Service: 80%
Food: 85%
Taste: 90%
Likelihood to return: 90%