Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dinner at Star Tavern in Orange, NJ

Nicole, Dan and I went to nearby Orange for dinner at a very Jersey pizza restaurant.  Thankfully there were two parking lots because the place was packed, especially considering it was a tuesday night. Fortunately we were seated quickly.  Our wings didn't come out until after the pizza, but no biggie because it was all delicious.  I think we each loved different dishes, but the conclusion was that we should def go back.  Dan said the sauce on the wings was one of the best buffalo sauces he's had.  He said next time he's going to order one whole order for himself ha.  Nicole is a huge fan of the pepperoni pizza, in large part because the pepperoni is thick cut.  I liked it but the pizza was so greasy.  I loved the white pizza we got.  I've been on a white pizza kick, especially veggie ones.  So unlike me haha, but I think it's because only recently (as in, the past few years), I've developed real cravings for mozzarella cheese.
White spinach with ricotta and plenty of fresh garlic.  I LOVE GARLIC

Pepperoni pizza.  You can see what I mean about the grease

Dan's fav wings.  They were very well fried - not soggy at all.  The blue cheese sauce was also great.  

Home-made steak dinner

Dan made a delicious steak dinner for our anniversary.  He used our new broiler, resulting in the best steak we've had at home so far.  He also made some bearnaise sauce, which was delicious on the meat and asparagus.  So much nicer than going out because I could eat all this delicious food in my pjs :)
NY Strip steak, mashed sweet potatoes, and sauteed asparagus.  With our fav barolo.

Brunch at Burke and Wills in NYC

The reason my brunch at the Mark was so rushed was because I had to head to Burke and Wills for second brunch/book club.  B&W is where the old Sunburnt Calf (RIP) used to be.  It's still Australian but seems a bit classier and trying to be more authentic.  I was pretty full so didn't eat a lot, but the food reheated well.  The waiter was quite friendly and the deals seem good.  If it weren't so far away I'd likely return.
Cavatelli with rainbow carrots, fried egg, and bacon.  That fried egg made it
Bombolini - dulce de leche inside fried dough, cinnamon sugar, and vanilla ice cream.  Can't go wrong with that combo

Pavlova - passion fruit curd, fresh berries, and whipped cream.  We ordered this because it was mentioned in the book.  I don't think anyone loved it.  The bottom base was a meringue, which I don't think most people love.  I also don't love fruit in my dessert.

Brunch at the Mark in NYC

Went to the Mark on the Upper East Side - another Jean Georges restaurant, this time on a the Mark hotel.  The food, like at Nougatine, had a fresh quality with some creative spins.  A little pricy of course, and not huge portions.  But still a nice meal with excellent service and beautiful modern ambiance.  I think my experience at Nougatine was little better, but partially because here I was on a time crunch.
Black truffle pizza with fontina cheese on gluten free crust.  I enjoyed this but wished there had more cheese flavor than truffle

Char grilled octopus with potato aioli, celery hearts, oil cured olives.  The octopus was well cooked - flavorful yet tender.  Didn't love all the accompaniments 
Crispy sushi - salmon, tuna, scallop hamachi and tuna.  After just having gone to Sushi Nakazawa, of course I was biased.  Interesting idea deep frying the rice, but there's something about having the normal white sushi rice that I missed.  (also the rice there was amazing).  I also found it confusing to eat lukewarm/cold fish on top of very hot rice, which tasted like toast.  It almost felt wrong to me

Peekytoe crab cake with pink grapefruit, avocado and ginger.  Good but not particularly memorable

Russ and Daughters smoked salmon pizza on "everything" crust. I was psyched to try this because of the combo of R&D salmon and everything crust..  It did not disappoint.  I loved the crust!  I only wished there had been even more salmon because the crust was somewhat think.  Can't tell what the green sauce was though

Sweet pea soup with sourdough croutons and parmesan. Same as at Nougatine and just as good

Dinner at Just Beclaws in Jersey City, NJ

Had a double date at Just Beclaws, a new Vietnamese seafood spot in JC.  Despite being nice and sizeable, we had a somewhat long wait to be seated (30 mins or so), though it was Saturday.  The good thing is that it was BYOB and we were allowed to drink in the hall/waiting area.  So it just felt like being at a bar but much cheaper. I don't know if I could really identify the Vietnamese flavors, but my meal was great overall.  The crab fries alone are definitely worth coming for.  I could literally have eaten the entire thing as my meal but had to share with three other people ha.  The crab fries are not listed on the menu, but of course we all knew about it.  It was poutine-like - crab meat and garlic aioli (fav) over fries, which were well fried.  SO GOOD.  Our sandwiches were good but my lobster roll a little too buttery.  The boils Laura and Dannys got looked good but I didn't feel like being messy. I'd like to come back another day for that though.  And to get more crab fries!
My beloved crab fries.  Don't worry, I'll be back

1/2 dozen raw oysters.  I really don't get why people love these so much.  I had one and felt meh about it. Other people seemed to enjoy it

Lobster roll. Pretty small and expensive.  They should've cut down on the butter and knocked off $3 or so

Shrimp roll was excellent! Wonderful crunch on the bread and loved the sauce.

Crawfish boil in just beclaws sauce

Shrimp boil  in just beclaws sauce

Brunch at China Gourmet in West Orange, NJ

Dan and I snuck in towards the end for dim sum at China Gourmet.  Service was not great, and the meal cost a little more than I thought, I think because of a spur of the moment calamari order.  The calamari was the only thing that we got that was not good.  Not well fried and lacked flavor.  Otherwise a good dim sum meal considering how close it was and how quickly we got our food (the check was another story).  It was kind of nice coming at the end because we didn't have to fight to get food, but then you wonder about freshness.
Shrimp noodles, shrimp dumplings, stuffed peppers, bok choy, spare ribs, and pork shu mai.  Yup for two people

And this calamari.  Do not order this.  Everything else is good

Dinner at Sushi Nakazawa in NYCSor

I took Dan to Sushi Nakazawa for his birthday.  The owner is one of the apprentices featured in the Netflix documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."  This meal was unreal.  I seriously think it was the best meal I've had in this country.  Definitely the most expensive lol.  But honestly, while it seemed like a piece of fish on rice wouldn't be that mindblowing, it was.  It started out as one thing, then would change mid chew.  It was CRAZY.  Obviously everything tasted super fresh.  We also opted for the sake flight, which was like 7 or 8 different sakes that paired perfectly with our pieces.  We had the omakase menu, which consisted of 20 different dishes, plus ordered two pieces a la carte at the end.  The bar seating is $30 more expensive, so we opted to sit in the dining room, which was probably better because we could talk.  However, we arrived early and got to watch Nakazawa and his chefs and it was magical.  I will now forever compare every other sushi experience to this place.
Ivory King Salmon and Copper River Salmon

Horse mackerel, mackerel, yellowtail, and scallop

Can't remember top left.  Top right was prawn. Bottom was sennet and bonito.  

I think top was perch and  bonito?   Bottom three was trio of tuna, with fattiest on the left.  Omg the fatty tuna was like butter.  So delicious.

Hand roll of choice - fatty tuna obvi

Trout roe and Uni - my first uni experience.  So creamy.  I actually loved it
A la carte order of wagyu beef.  Like meat butter. Unreal

A la carte order of red snapper.  Dan called it "f-ing delicious"

Grand finale - egg custard famous from the documentary, and sea eel, my usual fav at regular sushi places.  The egg custard was perfect.  It had a sponge like texture at first with just the right amount of sweetness

Green tea

Yuzu flavor sorbet.  Great way to cleanse.  Despite the many pieces I felt comfortably full.
Bottom line - if you want a fancy meal and feel like splurging, go here!  Even if you are not a total sushi lover (I like it, but it's not usually one of my top meal go-tos), you will be after this meal.  Incredible.

Lunch at Better Bites in Newark, NJ

I finally tried Better Bites for lunch.  Having worked in Newark before and gone to school, you'd think I would have eaten it by now. The menu has some nice, healthy, delicious-sounding options.   The wrap I ended up getting was tasty, but very small and expensive for what it was.  Too bad, because it's nice having a healthy option so close.  But I can really drop almost $10 a day and still be hungry.
Salmon wrap - grilled salmon, spring mix, carrot and cucumber with sweet sesame dressing.  I enjoyed eating it but it seemed so tiny

Dinner at Balaboosta in NYC

Had a ladies night at Balaboosta, which oddly enough is the Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook and gracious hostess.  We shared several apps and entrees and I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything was while generally tasting healthy.  It was a cute spot too for catching up and talking.  And right by the Churreria, which was sadly closed :(
Hummus "mortar and pestle" - tahini, roasted garlic, and za'atar pita.  Tasty but not enough pita

Patatas bravas with garlic aioli.  Tasty, but having just been in Spain, of course I had unreachable expectations

Crispy cauliflower with lemon, currants and pine nuts.  Enjoyed it but wasn't as wow-ed as the yelp reviews

A special of calamari, merguez, and giant white beans.  Definitely reminded me of food in Spain.  Very hearty

Spice rubbed skirt steak with rainbow peewee potatoes, cipollini, and tomato vinaigrette.  Something about the spice didn't sit too well with me.  Kind of tasted sweet?  The meat was well cooked, though the portion small 

Dinner at Left Bank Burger Bar in Jersey City, NJ

Dan was craving a good burger so we went to Left Bank because he hadn't been before.  Our waiter was a little weird, but the food came out quickly and everything was delicious.  The portions were enough to fill us up but not enough for leftovers.  Now that we're coming back I'm sure this will be a regular spot for us.
Fried pickles w/buttermilk ranch  I actually didn't hate this, despite my dislike for pickles.  I guess literally anything fried can taste good

Dan got a special - Jalap' In Yo Business: chorizo/chicken patty, jalapeno slaw, queso fresco, avocado cream, lettuce, tomato, red onion.  With onion rings.  He loved this. It was like this burger was custom made for him

Cypress Hill - lamb patty, fried goat cheese, pickled red onion, market greens, and cucumber mint sauce.  I enjoyed it overall but the lamb patty itself was less flavorful than the one at Park & Sixth.  I loved the fried goat chese though.  The cucumber mint was kind of suble; wished it were more potent

Inside of the Cypress Hill

Inside of  Jalap' In Yo Business

Dinner from Oh Picadinho in Harrison, NJ

We ordered take-out from Oh Picadinho again.  As it was the first time, it was delicious and the portions were huge.  Takes a little while to arrive but that seems to be the norm in Harrison.  I definitely recommend this place for a cheap, hearty, and meaty meal.
Short ribs, yellow rice, and fries

Picadinho with chicken, chorizo, and shrimp.  Last time the pork and beef was pretty tough    This was an excellent decision, because all of these proteins were tender and perfectly cooked.  Such delicious garlic flavor and lasted for many meals

Dinner at Pig and Khao in NYC

I've been wanting to go to Pig and Khao ever since it opened, and for reasons unknown never made it until now.  Risheen and I sat outside in a covered patio area.  Felt warm just like the Philippines haha.  We decided to order the Chef's Tasting Menu, which consists of five courses, plus dessert.  While the chef does choose some, you can also make some requests, which we definitely did.  It was a great value because each dish seemed to be a full size appetizer or entree, and some things offered were not on the regular menu.  I was pretty impressed.  While most of the food was straight filipino, there were also some twists that were nice.  There was also some heat in the dishes, which is not typically filipino.  Overall I would return and recommend to others.
A small bite of spicy beef on lettuce.  Refreshing yet spicy

Lumpia shanghai, which is surprisingly not on the normal menu.  Good but mine's better :)

Coconut rice.  LOVED this.   Jasmine rice with a light coconut taste

Grilled pork jowl with brussel sprouts, toasted rice, lime chili, fish sauce, and herbs .  Probably my fav dish.  There was more veggies in here than meat, but the meat was so tender and flavorful.  There was a little spice but not overwhelming.  This is not a traditional filipino dish by any means, but a great job of Asian fusion

Sisig with egg.  I was skeptical at first because of my experiences at Mama Fina's

Sisig all mixed up with egg. DELICIOUS.  While not as crisp as Mama Fina's, I think the egg made it a lot better.  Helped with some textures that I don't necessarily love
Khan soi - red curry, coconut milk, chicken, egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots.  This was super tasty and I enjoyed the crispy noodles.  Unfortunately we were pretty full by the time this came out
Turon with ice cream.  Didn't seem as well fried as normal.  Again okay, but not as good as mine/parents' versions.

Bathroom writing was cute