Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Heights Cafe

Will and I visited Heights Cafe for a group project I did with my team and plus one of my team members is a server at Heights Cafe. We arrived at 5PM, just as dinner finally started. Many of the servers asked us repeatedly if we needed anything while we were waiting for my friend/server. 

Heights Cafe is located in the heart of Brooklyn Heights and is in a beautiful location because it's just a short walk from the Brooklyn Promenade. The restaurant/cafe has a warm and cheerful atmosphere as there are maroon-like leather seats at the booths and majority of the seats and tables are made of sleek wood. The walls are decorate with paintings from local artists.

Our friend greeted us with a warm and friendly smile and asked what would we like, gave us recommendations, and etc. We started off with drinks:

Will ordered an Angry Orchard ($6.00) and I had a Watermelon Martini (don't remember the price). The watermelon martini had a nice and refreshing watermelon taste to it. It reminds me of a Jolly Rancher candy, but in this case infused with alcohol. It was super strong, so didn't quite finish it.

Bread Basket
Warm Spinach Dip with Corn Tortillas
For an appetizer, we had the Warm Spinach Dip with Corn Tortillas ($11.95). We typically order fried calamari as an appetizer, but this time I wanted to try something different. The dip was a delight, not too cheesy and you get spinach in every dip. Chips were crunchy and fresh, definitely not stale.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli
Will ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($20.95) from the dinner specials menu for April 16th, 2016. It's definitely a little more expensive than ravioli we've had in other restaurants. The wild mushroom ravioli was accompanied with an olive oil garlic sauce, sauteed shrimp,  asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. 

The dish is definitely colorful and vibrant, but I didn't really see why there needs to be shrimp, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. I would have much preferred wild mushrooms around the dish. The ravioli itself was delicious and super filling and I would have preferred more sauce.

Lobster Mac & Cheese
I've been eyeing the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($18.95) ever since I took my first look at Heights Cafe's menu. The lobster mac & cheese was bathed in brandy lobster cream, Parmesan, Gruyere, and cheddar cheese. I liked it for the most part, tasted more like cheese than lobster-like. 

I actually had trouble finishing the lobster mac and cheese because there was so much cheese and cream that I got full instantly. The cheese was just a little overwhelming.

Our dinner was a little expensive than usual. If it's usually me and Will out for dinner, our checks average around $20 - $50, but never close to $70-$90. 

Overall, I really liked the service and the attentiveness from the other servers before our friend arrived to our table. I also really like the atmosphere because most of the customers are locals, tourists, and/or family. I also like that there's a warm and welcoming atmosphere here.

Would I come back here? I think if I am in the area and in search of warm and delicious comfort food than yes and maybe if for a birthday dinner and etc. If a friend or someone asks me for a good Brooklyn Heights restaurant recommendation, Heights Cafe would definitely be on my top three recommendations. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Two Hands Cafe

There's this little cafe called Two Hands Cafe located in Little Italy, NYC that I've been interested in trying for a long time. I had plans to have lunch and coffee with a friend, but they ended up showing up late so instead of just waiting around I decided to experience the cafe by myself. 

Credit to Two Hands on Yelp
Gorgeous, white interior, natural light, and very inviting/trendy, and just super chill and hip customers. The cafe is quite small with limited space and the wait can be anywhere from 1-1.5 hour, so be prepared. I arrived on a late Friday afternoon and it was very crowded, but luckily I got a seat with no problem.

Matcha Latte
I ordered the Matcha Latte ($5.00) which was served in a mason jar, no surprise there. The matcha latte was unsweetened, but very refreshing and great to have on a warm-ish day. It tasted slightly like cinnamon because there was cinnamon sprinkled on top of the matcha latte.

The Good Life Salad
I also tried The Good Life Salad ($13.00) which was baby spinach, carrot, chickpeas, quinoa, golden raisins, sunflower seeds, and avocado with mint pesto. The salad was a little pricey, but very good and super filling! The mint pesto gave the salad a refreshing taste to it and the combination of the sunflower seeds and avocado gave the salad a nutty flavor to it. Loved it!

Overall, I enjoyed my little, solo dining experience at Two Hands. Two Hands is focused mostly on creating healthy, simple, and delicious. It's definitely a place worth coming with a friend or someone that enjoys healthy, delicious food and a relaxing and mellow atmosphere. I definitely want to come back here soon, but with a friend next time for sure.

P.S. - Two Hands Cafe and their food were made for Instagram! Check out their Instagram by clicking here.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ramen Quest: The Graffiti Room

Around April on a Friday afternoon to be exact, I visited The Graffiti Room with Waz of Let's Nom Nom. I found this spot on Yelp and it looked new and the artsy decor caught my eyes.

I can feel and see that The Graffiti Room is all about art and presentation. It has an industrial and artsy touch and decor to the restaurant. Even the restroom is artsy-focused so even if you don't need to use the restroom, it's worth checking out and/or to snap a few pictures. 

First off they give you a laminated menu with a dry erase marker. Mark off what you want to eat. So basically a build it yourself concept. We specifically came here for ramen. There's two choices for ramen broth - tonkotsu (chicken & pork broth) OR Miso, both are $9.50. And all of the toppings are add on's which range between $2 - $4. If you add nothing your ramen would only consist of: sauteed greens, bean sprouts, scallions, and corn kernels.

Passion Tea with Sweet Lemon
I started off with a drink - Passion Tea with Sweet Lemon ($4.50) and is a Free Refill item. The waitress brought a glass of simple syrup in case my beverage wasn't sweet enough, but I thought the sweetness of it was alright. I like that it was served in a mason jar - absolutely cute and the Passion Tea tastes a lot like the Starbucks Iced Passion Tango Tea.

There's an add-ons/separate condiment area/suitcase with pickled vegetables and sauces near the front entrance. 
Tonkotsu Ramen
First off, the set up of the bowl, chopsticks, spoon, and bowl was nice and organized. It's presented on a wooden board and whatever you do be careful with the chopsticks as it can potentially poke your eyes out. I do like that it's organized.

I got the Tonkotsu ramen ($9.50) with veggie dumplings (+$3) and with a poached egg (+$2) so altogether it was: $14.50 , which I thought was a little expensive for a mediocre ramen. It was definitely not the best ramen I've had. I have to agree with Waz that the dumplings were pan-fried, but we didn't get that crispy-ness you would typically get in pan-fried dumplings. It felt soggy and there was soy sauce on the side, but it didn't serve much of a purpose.

I felt the broth was a little bland and could have used more flavor or juices from the chicken and pork. I have had Tonkotsu at other ramen joints before and it was a lot more flavorful and richer. I was quite disappointed by the lack of taste to the broth because that's really the heart of a bowl of ramen.

Miso Ramen
Waz got the Miso Ramen ($9.50) with veggie dumplings (+$3) , but she wasn't happy with the dumplings at all as they were started to fall apart. According to Waz, her noodles were overcooked and even her broth was bland too. That was sad to hear when I read her blog post.

Besides the disappointing and tasteless broth, there was another aspect I noticed through our experience at The Graffiti Room. There was also nothing in terms of service that I can really talk about because there wasn't too much interactions with the servers. They handed us the menus and we marked off what we wanted and they brought out our food and/or beverages when it was ready. They were nice people in general and just doing their job, but I wished they had interacted with us a little more instead of just standing behind the counter.

This restaurant currently holds an average overall rating of 4.5 stars on Yelp. I read a few reviews from past customers and it's either a hit or miss here. I really wanted to like The Graffiti Room and I do admire the artwork in their restaurant and it seems they care more about appearance, but what about putting that caring-ness into the food?

Service: 70%
Food: 70%
Taste: 60%
Likelihood to return: 45%

Friday, May 27, 2016

Petite Abeille

It was an early Sunday morning when Will finished his doctor's appointment in Gramercy Park in the city and we needed breakfast since we went to the doctor's office on an empty stomach. I quickly looked up a restaurant on Yelp and Petite Abeille came on my search, so we opted for it and drove to Flatiron District/Chelsea and got a parking spot without any issues.

It's tucked away on 17th street and walking in, the restaurant is narrow, country and rustic decor. It may seem like seats are limited while walking in, but they actually have a secluded section towards the back and a little outdoor patio. We were seated right away when we arrived and got to sit in the back section.

Iced Coffee
After we ordered, first came my Iced Coffee - can't really have any breakfast utside without something caffeinated. 

Omelet Maison
Will is an absolute salmon lover - raw and cooked! He got the Omelet Maison ($14.25) which contains smoked salmon laid perfectly on potato pancakes/hash and topped off with crème fraîche, chives, and there was a side of arugula too. The salmon appeared to be cooked medium rare and Will was sick that day and all week, but he still enjoyed this dish.

Eggs in Purgatory
I'm an egg fan especially when it came to breakfast and the Eggs in Purgatory ($13.75)  looked really good on Yelp, so I ordered it. Basically it's a hot and sizzling platter of cheese with roast tomato, Bechamel sauce, coddled eggs, and gratin with a side of crunchy toasted bread. I really enjoyed this dish because not only was it cheesy goodness, but it was like bread and dip to me and it was fun to eat.

Runny Yolk FTW!
In conclusion, we both really like this place and I later found out they have promotions and specials throughout the week, which is awesome! I normally don't find out about promotions and specials until I arrive to a restaurant or from word-of-mouth. So here's the breakdown of their specials:

Mondays: 1/2 price on all Belgian beers
Tuesdays: 1/2 price on all bottles of wine
Wednesdays:  All-You-Can-Eat Mussels and a beer for: $27.00

(Not sure what the promotions are for Thursday - Sunday)

Mondays: Flash Seared Salmon, Quinoa
Tuesdays: Jerk Chicken
Wednesdays: Veal Milanese
Thursdays: Coq Au Vin
Friday: Fish & Chips
Saturday: Chicken & Waffles

Sounds good doesn't it? Well after I learned about these specials and promotions, I am definitely returning mostly for the AYCE Mussels on Wednesdays. Love the food that we had, it was very simple and rustic. This is definitely a restaurant that's worth a second and many more visits.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Food Market: Eataly NYC

On Sunday's post, I mentioned that I visited Chelsea Market and Eataly for a school project that I had to complete. Today's post is about my first experience at Eataly which has been on my list of places to visit for a while. Eataly is the largest Italian marketplace in the world and a foodie destination.

After our visit to Chelsea Market, Will and I took the M23 bus across to Flatiron District to embark on our next adventure. I was warned that Eataly is very crowded on weekends and to try and avoid going on the weekends if I can, but I didn't listen. Honestly, the day I went it was about 60-70 degrees absolutely beautiful and to my surprise Eataly wasn't that crowded.

The main entrance of Eataly is very spacious, big, and grand. It felt like I was walking into a bank and they also have high ceilings. I also like that they have an information desk inside the market where you can speak with an guest service associate if you have questions or comments and at the desk, there's a map and relevant information for you to take.

There's a lot of signage at Eataly with neat quotes and you most definitely won't get lost at Eataly because there are signs that remind you of what area you are in and where check-out is located.

Everything at Eataly is neat, organized, and well-stocked. Eataly has different restaurants and cafes inside the market, but I didn't eat at any of them except for the Nutella Bar. They also have a rooftop beer garden which I also didn't get a chance to visit, but will do so when there's time.

After I completed my picture taking and writing my notes, Will and I took a break and just sat down to relax our feet and grab a treat at the Nutella Bar. I heard the gelato at Eataly is pretty good so we got that and possibly one of the best iced coffees I've ever had. The iced coffee was made with Lavazza beans which was heaven. It definitely did not taste burnt and had just the right amount of bitterness. For our gelato, we tried hazelnut and caramel which I wasn't very crazy about and it was a little too sweet.

All in all, I really liked Eataly and the experience was pleasant. I felt very welcomed, relaxed, and comfortable at Eataly. The customer service and customers are very friendly and nice. I definitely want to return soon to try one of the restaurants and to have their amazing iced coffee again.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar at Chelsea Market

During the visit at Chelsea Market, Will and I made a stop at Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar which is located next to The Lobster Place for lunch. The lunch menu actually says "All seafood  is provided by our sister company, The Lobster Place, next door." which is good to know as a customer and if you are a seafood lover.

The restaurant is quite small, dim lights. I like that the restaurant was divided by half of it was table and seats whereas the other half was counter and bar. We chose to sit at a table. Our waitress was very friendly, helpful, and nice. Unfortunately, two customers were sat in the table next to us and they were constantly staring at us, our food, and as I was carrying out my food photography in front of Will. The experience became uncomfortable as they kept staring. Food was average, but the price was quite ridiculous. 

Homemade Iced Tea
Will and I ordered their iced tea which we later learned that it was homemade, which is always a plus in our books. The Homemade Iced Tea wasn't sweetened, so our waitress provided us with a container of sugar to add our own liking. The iced tea was very refreshing!

Will ordered the Lobster Ramen (that's the first time we've seen lobster ramen on a menu) and it was $21.00. This was by far the MOST expensive ramen we've experienced. The ramen had the typical toppings you would expect at a typical ramen shop: bamboo shoots, runny egg, corn, and scallions. The lobster ramen also contained the claw & knuckle, mushrooms, chili oil bathed in a lobster-miso broth.

Kudos for giving us the meaty lobster chunks, but the broth was sub par. The broth came in a gravy boat that was poured into the bowl which I thought was interesting. I don't know why I was expecting the broth to be thick, cream-like almost like a Tonkotsu broth consistency, but nope. The broth had acidity in it which was very weird and threw off the whole ramen. The noodles were thick and wavy and cooked al dente.

Lobster Roll - Connecticut Style
I opted for the Lobster Roll - Connecticut Style which tasted delightful, but the price of it was a little too expensive. The lobster was warmed in lobster butter & lemon with kewpie mayonnaise and toasted with top split bun. The lobster was on point and tasted amazing especially with lobster butter goodness. They gave plenty of new bay fries which was fried to perfection and had a slight crunch to it.

Overall, the experience here was a hit and miss mostly because the customers next to us were an annoyance to us, prices of the food were steep and although my lobster roll was delicious, the ramen was a disappointment. This was by far of the most expensive lunch we've ever had or at least so far. I definitely think that the next time we are itching for seafood, we will return back to Mussels & More or a less expensive seafood restaurant.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Food Market: Chelsea Market , NYC

It feels good to be back on blogging especially since I have a lot of food adventures to share with you.

Last month, I went to visit both Chelsea Market and Eataly, both of which are foodie destinations for a school project/presentation that I had to complete. Today, I will be sharing with you about my visit to Chelsea Market and thoughts.

I've been to Chelsea Market 2-3 times already, but didn't know anything about the history of the building or the building at all.

The building has an industrial, woodsy, and stripped-down brick walls, The lighting is quite dim between 9th avenue & 10th avenue, but there's a beautiful lighted walkway in the center of market.

Chelsea Market was actually built  in the former National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) factory complex where the Oreo cookie was invented and produced. The display case is filled with assorted vintage Nabisco memorabilia, including old Saltine tins vintage advertisements and even a clock. 

There's a beautiful lighted walkway at the center of the market that I've never seen before and it is absolutely gorgeous and bright!

Most of the stores are bright, inviting, and has big signs to let you know where you are. There are some stores that do get extremely crowded.

Overall, I feel Chelsea Market is quite pricey especially when eating in the restaurants. It gets very crowded here on Saturday and I know because I came on a Saturday afternoon. It also gets very crowded here on Friday afternoons too, so I would suggest not coming on the weekends or Friday. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nan Xiang Dumpling House (Revisit)

Before I immerse myself in endless amounts of projects that I need to sit still (maybe) and work on, I just want to update the blog.

Lately, I've been eating out a lot at different restaurants and cafes, so have no fear because there will be a lot of posts coming your way as soon as this semester is over and I have free time.

It's been less than a year since Will and I last visited Nan Xiang Dumpling House in Flushing, but we decided to give it a second shot since we were already in Queens one evening. We arrived around 6-6:30PM and already there was a 10-15 minute wait, same as last time.

The experience was close to sub par, but at least the soup dumplings made up for it.

Soy Milk
I heard the Soy Milk ($1.50) was sweet tasty goodness here so I ordered it and what I heard held truth. The soy milk had just the right amount of sweetness and you can taste the rich soy bean flavor. 

It reminded me a lot of the fresh soy milk and tofu an aunt of mine used to make when she owned this establishment in Toronto. 

Seafood Crispy Noodles 
Will ordered the Seafood Crispy Noodles ($9.95) to share. The noodles weren't very crispy and the dish itself was okay, but not great. They definitely added either a lot of corn starch or a lot of MSG that did not dissolve completely because it sure felt like a lot of clumps.

Pork Soup Dumplings
We also had the Pork Soup Dumplings ($5.50) which I was absolutely excited about. I had a craving for delicious, juicy pork soup dumplings and I got it. These were probably one of the biggest soup dumplings I have had so far, about the size of a baseball almost.  

They were made fresh and served hot! Each soup dumpling was squirting out the rich and savory broth with the chunky pork filling. I was so excited that I ate all three faster than I normally would and I was soup dumpling satisfied instantly.

Shanghai Shu Mai
I also wanted to try the Shanghai Shu Mai ($2.95) because it looked tempting and worth trying on Yelp. We ordered it as soon as we sat down, but it took forever to come even though the waiter was assuring it would be ready in five minutes. I got annoyed at one point because we finished all of our foods in 15-20 minutes and still no shu mai in sight.

When it finally did come, the waiter apologized for the delay. The Shanghai shu mai is basically delicious sticky rice wrapped in a dumpling or wonton skin. The Shanghai shu mai was absolutely tasty and worth every penny. It had just the right amount of flavor in it and very fresh!

Overall, there were up's and down's in our experience at Nan Xiang Dumpling House. If it weren't for the tasty, fresh soup dumplings than I don't know if I would have been happy. So far, this restaurant is on my top place to go for savory, hot soup dumplings and for cheap eats. 

Will and I ordered four items and including tax and tip, our meal only cost about $25-$30 which is very cheap and good price.