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  1. I may have the opportunity to write an collection of places not to be missed in Philly. With the wealth of the posters in this forum, I am asking for a little help. Please chime in where I should visit, and places that are not to be missed. The spots can range from where to eat, where to dine, where the best public bathroom is , think unusual, think funky, think like a local. Please and thank you for all your suggestions. Once I am chosen to write this book, I will personally throw a party and invite everyone to celebrate my very first publication. This is our opportunity to go public. It is with the support of everyone that I have met along the way, including a few of you in this forum, that will encourage me to crush this challenge. I plan on KILLIN' It. 1st time, kat
  2. Looking for a quiet (ish) spot to have lunch with an old friend in the Penn Quarter/Judiciary Square/Chinatown area. I don't want to break the bank. The only absolute no is Indian food and I'd like to try something new to me. So Proof and Fiola are out on both a checkbook basis and that I've been. Suggestions? Thanks!
  3. I'm sure this will be a smashing success just like Eataly was back in 2010, when Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich opened their first store in New York, but a small voice inside me keeps asking "which part of Chinese cuisine has omakase sushi?" "China Live: A Food Emporium of Epic Proportions in San Francisco's Chinatown" by Jonathan Kauffman on sfchronicle.com
  4. When crawfish are in season, it's tough to go a week without heading out for a few pounds, and this weekend we set out early for lunch at what may be the most well-known of Houston's Viet-Cajun joints, Crawfish and Noodles. C&N has hosted Zimmern, Chang, and god knows who else, and they are clearly aware of their celeb-status, with t-shirts for sale prominently displayed as you walk in. That kind of hubris is typically not a great sign, and I have to admit approaching the rest of my visit as though I were cross-examining a hostile witness. C&N held its own, and while I didn't leave with a "We've Got Crabs" t-shirt (I mean, really), I can dig the food they're putting out. We started with an order of honey-garlic chicken wings, as requested by the 4-year old. He fell in love with the "Viet wings" at Cajun Kitchen, and hasn't stopped talking about them for weeks since. C&N's wings were solid, though I think we should have ordered the "Fish sauce" version for a more direct comparison. These were a bit too sweet for my tastes, with no heat. There are a variety of noodles and soups to choose from, and we went with the stir-fried rice noodle with mixed seafood. This is a hefty portion, with onion, celery, carrot, and crispy shallots mixed with shrimp, (chewy) squid, and fish balls, with a peppery sauce on the side ready to be mixed in. Delicious, and devoured quickly, but if we had to go head to head, we all agreed the crabby garlic noodles from Cajun Kitchen might edge out a win. The crawfish delivered. Choices are limited to spice level (though an intriguing "ginger grass" option is listed as being available at some point in the future). Medium is Houston-medium, which is to say, probably "hot" if you're coming from somewhere else. We opted for medium with a side of "hot" dipping sauce, and I would heartily recommend this combo. For the spice-loving but not super-spicy friends, the medium mudbugs alone are perfect. For those of us who prefer to see God when we eat, you can drag the tail through the sauce and get it done. Compared to the purely Cajun versions I grew up with (and have had at Houston places like The Boot in the Heights), these have a more pronounced garlic and citrus flavor. Priced at $10/lb, these were also the most expensive I've had thus far. Note on wait times: We got there just before noon on Sunday, and were 1 of 5 or 6 tables there. 30 minutes later there was a line out the door.
  5. Crawfish season is just getting underway here in Houston, and today's visit to Cajun Kitchen marked our first batch. We opted for the "Fatass Number 1" combination. 3 pounds of crawfish (still pretty small this early in the season), a half-pound of head-on shrimp, and a generous section of snow crab legs, plus some potatoes and corn. Market price was $56 today, including the $2 upcharge for the "Kitchen Special" spicing on the boil (which appears to include orange slices, generous amounts of garlic and ginger, onions and peppers. Totally fair, I think, given the amount of seafood you get, but YMMV. We got "medium" spice on the boil, planning to share with the boys, but be forewarned that "medium" is pretty damn spicy. The shrimp and crab are clearly added after the crawfish are tossed in the spice, and were mild enough to share with kids. Aside from the boiled seafood, the garlic noodles and Viet-spiced chicken wings were winners with the whole table. The noodles are fairly thick, tossed in a garlic sauce, and topped with ample amounts of sweet lump blue crab meat and crispy fried shallots. The wings veer toward the sweet side, with a nice backbone of funky fish sauce. There are big screen TVs all around the dining room, and cheap domestic beers available...This could be a great place to spend an afternoon watching a baseball game come Spring.
  6. On Rye (website) opening November 11, 2016 per the Washington Post. Looks promising. Aside from the sandwiches, I need to try the babka ice cream sandwich profiled in the Post earlier this summer.
  7. With my wife and older boy out seeing the Astros take on the Rangers, I turned to take out for dinner tonight, and ordered from the Montrose location of Mala Sichuan Bistro. I went with my standard szechuan restaurant benchmark order of ma po tofu, cucumber with chili oil, and a noodle of some sort (typically dan dan mien, but I went with cold "funky noodles" from Mala). I am pleased to report that Mala is, as the kids say, legit. The ma po was spicy and numbing, but not overwhelmingly so. The funk of the broad bean paste was there, without the overwhelming saltiness I've experienced at other places. I stayed vegetarian tonight, but they do offer it with ground beef. The cucumbers were fresh and crisp, topped with a nice balance of chili oil and crumbled szechuan peppercorns. I think next time I'll try the version in garlic oil to add some variation to the flavors. The cold noodles were similar to Chengdu cold noodles, and a great version of them at that. The noodles were nicely cooked, with a good bit of residual bite, and nicely coated with the sauce as opposed to sitting undressed on a ladle-ful of sauce on the bottom of the bowl. There will be plenty of time to explore the legion of amazing holes in the wall in Chinatown, but for now, I'm glad to have found a more-than-solid joint close by.
  8. We ended up here after the close of the Democratic Convention Thursday because we wanted a bunch of food and drinks, and there weren't that many spots still serving those things after 1 am. We were able to roll in here with 20+ people, order drinks (cocktails are $5, and they have the extensive faux-tiki drink menu that I love at older Chinese restaurants) and a ton of food. It's not the best Chinese food I've ever had, but it was quite solid, and I'd even rate the pork dumplings and fried chicken wings higher than that. And it may have saved our lives, so I'll add another star for that. Full food menu until 3 am.
  9. Sooooooo I don't want to give the impression I am just working the nytimes grind. I do use like 7-8 different sources and could use more BUT I decided to try this resto recommended by the NYTimes. Nevertheless, I was disappointed!! Did I taste it wrong?? Have I not been eating enough Malaysian or perhaps I ordered wrong?? Firstly, I found the menu very boring. It was a few choices that were basically beef or chicken curry with rice or noodles. There was more then that but not like much more. They didn't even have Nasi Lemak, at least that I could find on the menu. When I got the Chicken Curry it not only was very bland but was also soooooo under spiced. Further, there was just nothing really special about the dish. I think to those amazing curries and dishes you read about and this was just so....boring compared to what I've had and seen. Perhaps I am wrong here or maybe I ordered badly but I think the NYtimes really misfired on this one. Nevertheless, the night was redeemed by going to have Malaysian desserts after which I have been meaning to try for awhile. Soooooo verdict: avoid!!!
  10. So - the daughter is turning sixteen shortly and wants to go out for a fun, mostly upscale dinner with the family on her big day. Any suggestion from the galley? I lean towards more food-centric places, so this is outside my wheelhouse. Hoping to pay ~$50/person with only 2 drinking wine, so most places are game. Georgetown to Chinatown areas are game. Thanks!
  11. For anyone working in the Chinatown area, Reren Lamen has temporarily popped-up in the old Mehak restaurant. I think another ramen place will be there eventually.
  12. Went to this nice place after reading about it in the times. A very welcome addition to the Chinatown landscape that increasingly fails in my book. It is very small but sort of sleek especially considering a lot of the restos down there. They specialize in the night market/ snack foods of Taiwan as well as the food served in trains as I recall (train food is a much bigger deal in parts of Asia as I understand it particularly in Japan). I had the night market crunchy chicken which I found to be delectable. It didn't taste disgustingly over breaded and it had a nice savoriness to it. The chicken itself was nice soft and meaty rather then bony and chewy which added to the general deliciousness of the product. The sausages were a special of the day and had that instinctive savory sweetness that characterizes a lot of taiwanese food. I also had a nice bubble tea there with the jasmine tea as I think it is sacrilege to not get bubble tea with Taiwanese food (bubble tea started in Taiwan as did other innovations of Chinese cooking such as Mongolian Hot Pot). I didn't get the bento box which is their bread and butter as I was eating dinner later (at the ever reliable en brasserie) and didn't want to get stuffed up. Nevertheless, this a nice place to come and eat something quickly that is also quite delish as well.
  13. Bonchon Chicken, a Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise, is coming to Philadelphia. I suspect Philadelphians will immediately fall in love with the eternally crispy skin, and that the novelty will wear thin after enough time goes by. The quality of some of the Bonchon franchises has slipped here in the the Washington, DC area (here's the Washington, DC thread if you want to get some historical background). Nevertheless, it really is unlike anything you've ever tried before - they double-fry it in a super wok (I think), and the chicken stays hot and crispy for over thirty minutes (actually it stays crispy for much longer than that). You can get a double-mix of drummies and wings, and soy-garlic and hot chili sauce - I've always found the wings with soy-garlic to be the best combination - the drumsticks (the actual chicken) have really changed in quality and size (they are now nuclear-sized) over the past couple of years. "Update on BonChon Korean Fried Chicken" by Arthur Etchells on phillymag.com This will have multiple locations in Philadelphia before you know it. "Bonchon" means "my hometown," by the way.
  14. I didn't see a thread on Flight, but please feel free to merge if I missed it (I searched a couple of different ways and came up empty). This brief write-up from Tom Sietsema is what initially piqued my interest, even though the bar has been open since January. We arrived, not really knowing how long we would stay - while the wines are very interesting and the staff very friendly and knowledgeable, I think Flight works best as a first or last stop of an evening. The food menu was very small, and I couldn't really see myself doing a full meal there. That said, we did try the bread basket, and the three varieties (Parker House rolls, English brown bread, and cornbread) were tasty and warm, and the butter was good and salty and served at the appropriate temperature. There were about a half dozen pre-arranged flights, of which Jason chose to try the Greek flight (with one white and two reds). I created my own flight of dry, minerally white wines, with the bartender's assistance - generally, you can do a half pour (2.5 ounces) of any wine they do by the glass. Flights are $18, and full glasses seemed to run from $10 to $16 or so. I was surprised it was as empty as it was - we got there around 6:30 on a Saturday, and there were 2 other people at the bar and maybe 6-10 people at tables. There isn't much signage at all - if I didn't already know it was next to the Corner Bakery on 6th Street, I might have missed it. I think it would be fun to go here with a group and try a lot of different things.
  15. We're heading out with a few friends Saturday night to celebrate my wife's birthday. Normally, this is an easy request - we start at Hogo, maybe sneak into the Passenger, and wander down to the street to a new restaurant we haven't had. Grab a little to eat, a drink or two, and move on to the next place. However, this year, my wife happens to be 17 weeks pregnant, so we need to get her some non-alcoholic beverages. Are there any places out there where they have some exceptional, non-alcoholic drinks? We were thinking of starting at Hogo still, as I'm assuming they'll be able to whip something tasty up for her to drink. After that, I wasn't sure where to go. We don't HAVE to be down in Chinatown, as long as we can have a couple places we can go to. I know when we went to Dino a couple weeks ago, she enjoyed one of their shrubs, so that gives you an idea of what she's into. Any ideas would be much appreciated!
  16. Fuck Hop Sing. I have never been more rudely treated anywhere, and this is a place that didn't allow my party in because the doorman said I was wearing sneakers. Then he gave me the bird. For the record, I am wearing Mozo's Marcus Samuelsson shoes. Drinks might well be great. Wouldn't know. Todd Thrasher, Gina Chersevani, Derek Brown, Jeff Faile, et al., would never DREAM of pulling a stunt like that. Fuck those guys. Period.
  17. Brian Freedman's review of Xi'an Sizzling Woks in philadelphiaweekly.com website (Note: the website says Xi'an Sizzling Woks is closed Mondays; the article implies otherwise).
  18. I'm starting a new thread despite the facts that Daikaya's new Izakaya shares owners, a name and a building with the ramen shop downstairs. I do this because it's a wholly different concept in most every way and I'm guessing the discussions for both will remain active and very different from each other. Of course, if that's wrong (I know the Izakaya is referenced in Daikaya's ramen shop topic title), please just combine the two but thought it worthwhile to suggest the separation. I'm also going to violate my own self-imposed rule of not assessing a new place until it has had to time to work out kinks and/or I've been able to visit a few times. Doing that because I'm not a food critic (or anything close to one), this new open is as anticipated as any in the city in the past year and already has lines waiting for tables, and, most of all, this may be helpful to some (always the goal). HEADLINE A very funky, cool take on the traditional Izakaya with a big focus on spirits, sake, beer and wine and pleasing food. Likely to do very well as a meetup spot and bar but probably less likely to win "best izakaya" in town honors even with time. Lots of good and interesting dishes, impressive beverage program and very good value across the board. CONTEXT After yesterday's NCAA "Elite 8" game at Verizon, we thought we'd try the newly opened Izakaya if there wasn't a very long wait. A good half hour after the arena emptied out into Chinatown and 45 minutes after the restaurant opened, it wasn't a problem at all. We got seats straightaway without any trouble though, by the time we left at maybe around 8:30pm, it was very busy with people waiting and the central bar area pretty full. VENUE I won't write a lot about the specific decor as I don't have much knowledge about Japanese art and design so wouldn't do it justice given all the thought and significance of many features. Both the Post and City Paper have already published excellent overviews of the design philosophy and specifics here and here in their pieces done pre-open. To us, the space is cool, edgy, and interesting in a modern and pop-culturish sort of way. They say the seating capacity is around 90 which includes nicely sized booths toward the back and a gaggle of comfortable two tops with 2 or 3 larger community tables toward the front facing out onto 6th St. The large bar dominates the middle of the space just as you reach the top of the stairs from street level. Entry is a separate door to the left of the ramen shop below, conveniently labeled "Izakaya." Someone was playing around with the lights last night enough for us and adjacent tables to notice and comment as they became darker, brighter and finally darker. Not a big deal but, on average, it's lit a bit darkly. Noise level wasn't bad for us when full but I'm guessing TS will report a noisier, higher number on the Sietsema-Noise-Meter. There is a fine line here between creativity and cutesy with the latter getting in the way of a more practically functional experience to a limited degree. One small example is the menu distribution 'policy' and menu design itself. The small plate, sharing philosophy behind the food is fun and worthwhile, however cliched. But, extending that sharing philosophy to menu distribution is silly. We went back up to the hostess stand to ask for a second menu for our table (we'd only been given one) and, after the hostess explained the intention was "that a table can share a menu," we were given another readily. Another group of six was also seated with only one menu. We found the menu itself cute but a bit annoying with colored paper pages pasted onto the first few pages of a heavy Japanese lifestyle magazine. Some of the pages had two sheets of colored paper pasted on top of each other, implying updated menus. We saw one table literally tearing out a page to see a page underneath it, thinking it an older menu (but it was only the 3rd night). Kind of interesting; a bit funny; more annoying. Suggest maybe considering a simpler, more functional menu or, at least, more than one per table. The bathrooms are cute, indeed reminiscent of shoebox-sized spots in Japan and a bit impractical with very narrow basins that make splatter and overflow more likely and the type of hand dryers that require one to insert hands into the device. FOOD We ended up ordering close to a majority of all dishes on the menu, drawing from sections labeled "Grilled Dishes," "Cold Dishes, Salads and Sashimi," "Braised and Simmered Dishes" and "Unique Dishes." Brief reactions as follows: - LIVE OYSTER GRILLED WITH SAKE & OYSTER SALT ($2.75/oyster): We ordered just a few of these to try them. Fine but nothing special. Maybe a tad under-sake'd and a bit overcooked. - SHISHITO PEPPER WITH GOUDA CHEESE ($3.25): 6 smaller-sized shishitos on two skewers, these were different from the more commonly found straight grilled Shishitos and very tasty. Our waiter told us about one in ten were especially hot and that was right. - MISO COD WITH CARROT PUREE AND PICKLED GINGER ($7.50): Not sure the carrot puree is the best accompaniment for this dish though the fish itself was fine. - GRILLED AVOCADO WITH PONZU AND FRESH WASABI ($6.25): This was an original and delicious preparation. One of our favorite dishes, it came served as a half unpeeled avocado grilled with pit removed and ponzu partly filling the pit cavity. Served with a spoon to scoop out and share. Wonderful combination of flavors. - CHAWANMUSHI WITH SHIITAKE AND PARMESAN ($7.75): Maybe a bit heavy on the parmesan but a very nice rendition of the egg custard dish with the finely julienned shitake almost mistakable for enoki. - FRIED MONKFISH (Comp'ed--See Service Notes): Also one the best dishes. Generous portion with light touch on the breading so plenty of nicely seasoned fish. The table next to us ordered two orders of this citing it as their favorite. - BRUSSEL SPROUTS AND PORK OKONOMIYAKI STYLE ($5.25): Its name notwithstanding (usually a pancake with cabbage and other ingredients? unless this refers just to the pork; maybe more likely?), this was a very well executed version of the familiar 'grilled/broiled/baked brussel sprouts with savory pork' dish found in many restaurants of all types. Very nice char with ponzu or something sweet. A bit more pork belly, even if they had to raise the price a dollar or two, would improve it even more. - “RUIBE” TRADITIONAL HOKKAIDO FROZEN SALMON SASHIMI WITH FRESH WASABI, GRATED GINGER, AND SEKIGAHARA TAMARI (Didn't order): We didn't get this but I wanted to include it here because it was one of the more unusual dishes on the menu. We would have ordered it but were steered away from it by some advisors. Evidently, it arrives frozen, sliced very thin and melts in your mouth quite literally. - HOUSE FERMENTED JAPANESE VEGETABLES; HOME‐MADE NUKAZUKE, NAPA CABBAGE, TAKUAN ($5): As with most of the menu, good value for the price. Pickles a bit ordinary for Japanese restaurants. - STUFFED CABBAGE BRAISED IN DASHI ($8.50): Think this may have been the most expensive dish but still very good value. Generous portion of a mixed pork/beef filling in cabbage gently braised. One of the people at table next to us was from eastern Europe and commented the dish was similar to ones she knew from home. A gently seasoned and satisfying dish. - ANKIMO WITH MISO ESCALIVADA (see service notes): This was from the "unique dishes" section of the menu and unique it is, combining a great Japanese dish of monkfish liver with a Catalan veggie preparation. We were excited to try it. Unfortunately, it tasted of vinegar (not usually part of either dish from what I've experienced) and that flavor was a bit overwhelming. That said, they couldn't have handled this more nicely and graciously than they did (see below). - WASABI OCTOPUS WITH WASABI SPROUTS, GREEN APPLE AND ARBEQUINA OLIVE OIL ($5.50): A delightful, fusion-ish interpretation of the Tako Wasabe I had recently at Seki. Adding the apple and olive oil made this very good. I preferred it to the straight version at Seki and other places. SERVICE We were there on what was only the third night for the Izakaya. And, as we enjoyed dinner, the place slowly filled to capacity. On top of all that, they're using a proprietary order-taking and transmission system that has some complexity and, for whatever reason, some of the servers were helping out from downstairs at the ramen shop. All said, and though of course there are kinks to work out, they performed wonderfully in many respects. Usually a mistake is an opportunity to delight--rather than disappoint--a customer if seen that way by a seller of anything including restaurant operators. Daikaya exudes this ethic whether upstairs or down. We noticed a couple of tables around us waiting a long time for drinks though food seemed to come out of the kitchen quickly. A manager comp'ed drinks. We had an issue with the Ankimo being too vinegary as described above. After a short and entirely constructive conversation with the manager, he took it back, didn't charge us for it and also comp'ed the fried monkfish. That was an above-and-beyond response we really appreciated. No point in detailing other minor service kinks they'll surely be smoothing out in the weeks to come. The hospitality of the staff is a solid foundation upon which to build. BEVERAGE We didn't partake of anything but, by the looks of it, they have a very nice bar and beverage program with many interesting beer, sake and cocktail options. Will defer to others to report on that but suspect the program will earn strong praise. BOTTOM LINE For a 3rd day, this was impressive and, overall, we enjoyed the experience. Most of the dishes were good or very good with a couple standouts. The place is very hip and no doubt will be very popular. Value is very good.
  19. I went to New Malaysia yesterday to try Asam Laksa for the first time, and chili crab for the first time. I ordered in Chinese, and the waitress promptly asked if I've had it before. When I responded no, she said it's hot and spicy, can I handle it? That actually sounds promising. I said of course I can handle the heat. When I asked for chili crabs, they said they don't have crabs, how about chili shrimp? I said okay. The laksa turned out to be pretty wimpy. I liked the flavor but wasn't in any way enchanted by the noodle soup, which had lots of sardine or anchovies in the soup. The shrimp was tasty, more sweet than spicy. The restaurant is in an arcade, but the interior is pretty nice, for a place in Chinatown.
  20. If you are looking for soup dumplings in Manhattan, Shanghai Cafe Deluxe delivers some pretty nice contenders. This is a small place (100 Mott St., near intersection of Mott & Canal) with a fairly extensive menu. We have visited twice now and ordered rather heavily off the dumpling side of the menu. The soup dumplings are the first two items on the dumpling menu--one version is pork only and the second is pork and crab. My daughter and I preferred the pure pork version; our other dining partners found the two versions equally good. The kitchen lines the bamboo steamers heavily with greens to prevent the dumplings from sticking and every dumpling has still contained its generous load of soupy goodness. We had an excellent "cabbage and black mushroom" dish which was baby choy and shitake, recommended by our server. The baby choy were cut in half and just a bit big to eat easily without a knife, but the shitakes were perfectly sauced and had a silky, meaty texture to them. Yelp is full of complaints about rude staff, but we have not had that experience at all. Yes, they are likely to be a bit aggressive about clearing your table, but they have a tiny space and I don't blame them for wanting to turn tables quickly. Cash only, "A" health rating on the door.
  21. Have not yet seen anything reported here on an exciting new restaurant from Chef Daisuke Itagawa of Sushi Ko and restaurateur Yama Jewayni (Marvin, Local 16, etc.). The project just got a whole lot more interesting with the announcement that Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Minibar fame will head the kitchen. The space is being built in the empty lot next door to Graffiato and reportedly will be offering ramen on the ground level and izakaya on the second floor. Sounds awesome - anticipated opening early 2012. http://www.washingto...going-out-gurus
  22. Details from the Washington Post here. Personally, I'm a little disappointed to hear that it's going to be, in part, ANOTHER pizza place; I realize that's not the entire focus of the place, but I don't think we're exactly lacking for good pizza places in DC.
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