A Jackson Heights Food Tour

Where else can you eat authentic Columbian, Mexican, Himalayan, and Thai within a 4 block radius?

Two weeks ago, G and I did a food tour with M aka Chef Kimchi. Our first stop was Arepa Lady 2, where the famous arepa lady opened a brick and mortar store instead of operating out a food cart.

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So so good that I regretted ordering just one arepa de queso to share between the three of us. No worries as I have been back twice since then and even took my parents and they loved it as well. The servers are also extremely friendly and despite it being a tiny place, they have a bathroom. I have had many arepas before but none that beats this. Salty, sweet, with lots of cheese and butter. If you dine in, there are 6 other dipping sauces to enhance your arepa. But I prefer it just the way it is.

Our next stop was Taqueria Coatzingo. I have been to their other branches but the 7605 Roosevelt Ave Branch remains my favorite. My typical order is one taco al pastor, a bowl of mole de olla, and a guanabanana shake to cut the spice.

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For $2.50, their al pastor taco comes with juicy meat, onions, guacamole, and cilantro. I usually just eat one because my favorite item is actually their mole de olla.

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What is mole de olla you ask? Well it is the best spicy beef soups ever, provided you can handle the spice. Prior to this, my favorite was Yukgaejang which is a Korean spicy beef and vegetable soup that I have eaten faithfully for the past 10 years. But after tasting mole de olla, I can no longer go back to Yukgaejang. It would be like going back to a non-smartphone. M is Korean and he agrees as well. For one the mole de olla is made with beef shank instead of shredded beef. The soup is that much richer and heartier. And the vegetables soaks in the flavor which makes it that much tastier. And then there is the soup which I finished every last drop. I also like the buttered bread it comes with. At $10 for a medium sized bowl, it is a pretty good deal considering it takes a long time and effort to make. Make sure to order a shake with milk to cut the spice. You have been warned.

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Up next was Himalayan Yak. I heard so much about their momos which is essentially the same as a steamed bun/dumpling. $14.95 for 8 pan fried yak meat stuffed momos. And the best thing I can say about it is that it was memorable. The momos might look pretty on the outside, but the taste at least the yak stuffed ones are a highly highly acquired taste.

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I have had yak meat before in Yunnan China and found it to be very similar to beef but tougher. But apparently Himalayan Yaks and Yunnan Yaks are two very different breeds. The yak meat at Himalayan was very tough even though it was ground up yak. And there was a pungent earthiness of the beef that you must dip with the green sauce to get rid of the smell. I tried my best and couldn’t manage to finish a single yak stuffed momo. The smell of the yak overwhelmed me. G managed two as did M. But really it wasn’t our cup of tea. The waiter gave us a funny look as he looked at the remaining 3 untouched momos. Good thing we didn’t listen to his advice and ordered two plates. Oh and the pan fried momo shell wasn’t all that tasty either. Would I ever eat a momo again? Maybe. But I will make sure it is a vegetable steamed momo.

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Another dish we tried was a shrimp dish that was extremely spicy. It had a funky radish taste that reminded me of kimchi but more spoiled. Picked out the shrimp and left the rest of the dish. Verdict: Himalayan food is not my cup of tea, but definitely an interesting experience.

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Zabb Elle is a northern Thai restaurant that caters to Thai palates. I can vouch for that as I ordered everything mild and it was still very spicy, and I can take a lot of spice. What I like best about Zabb Elle is that their ingredients was fresh. As in that they used white pepper the plant instead of the powder. Which made their food that much tastier.

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Tom Yum Seafood Soup, Zabb Elle’s version was nothing like the ones I had in Bangkok but still very tasty. But I would perhaps call it spicy seafood soup Northern Thai style instead of Tom Yum. Oh and it was very very spicy and I ordered it mild. The white broth was very deceiving.

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And the obligatory fried pork with vegetables dish. Not as tasty as Bangkok, but a good rendition for New York. Overall I am pleased with it. Will I be back? Maybe. I really disliked the bathrooms at Zabb Elee, the floors were very very sticky. I have a pet peeve about eating at restaurants with not so clean bathrooms. Besides my favorite Thai restaurant is still Ayada Thai. But I do recommend trying Zabb Elee at least once because the flavors are very authentic.

Smorgasburg at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5 Review

Due to my limited stomach space, the huge amount of vendors, and the horror stories I heard about the long lines, I worked out a plan of attack the night before.

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First G and I arrived at 10:45am to grab a picnic table in the shade near the entrance.

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After the gates were unlocked at 11:00am, I immediately headed towards Mighty Quinn’s where I was the second person in line for their famous brisket sandwich. Very tasty, but if I had to wait in line 30 minutes for this I would have been upset. Don’t get me wrong, it was good just not waiting under the hot sun without shade for 30 minutes good.

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I first ate ramen burger years ago during my Tokyo trip, wasn’t impressed then and still not too impressed now. Though I will say that the ramen burger at Smorgasburg was better than the one I had in Tokyo. It’s not ramen burger’s fault that I prefer my noodles in a spicy sauce/soup rather than grilled. Or that I prefer my burger on a toasted sesame bun with lots of add-ons. But it is definitely worth trying if you have never had one before. G and Tom both enjoyed it though they both thought it the beef was too well done.

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The Connecticut lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound was just okay. I didn’t care for the old bay seasoning as it masks the sweet taste of fresh lobster. I also didn’t like the iceberg lettuce in the lobster roll because iceberg lettuce turns into water which dilutes the flavor of the lobster. Perhaps a switch to bibb or romaine? G and I much preferred the lobster rolls we had in Cape Cod. Tom enjoyed it but then again he hasn’t been to Cape Cod yet.

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Passionfruit chocolate chip donut from Dough. Very very tasty. On par with Donut Plant. Lots of interesting flavors like hibiscus and blood orange that I will be sure to try in the future.

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Brooklyn Wok’s pastrami dumplings was surprisingly delicious. And dare I say it? I prefer my pastrami in a delicate dumpling wrapper with sauerkraut and dijionnaise instead of rye bread. Blasphemy, I know.

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Got the elote corn as a vegetable side dish and must say I also liked the grilled brussel sprouts with fish sauce from Martha.

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Spicy tuna taco from Takumitacos was tasty but was sorely lacking in the tuna. The ratio was sometime like 1/3 spicy tuna : 1/3 cucumber : 1/3 radish. The spicy tuna should make up at least 50% considering the name of the dish.

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I also really enjoyed the Arnold Palmer slush with White Peach from Kelvin’s Natural Slush Co. Tom and G rather liked Grady’s cold brew iced coffee, but I much preferred a Starbucks frappuccino over that. But then again, I know nothing when it comes to coffee.

Most of the food sold at Smorgasburg is priced in the $3-$16 range with drinks in the $5 range.

Smorgasburg is held on Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5. For more information check out their website here.

Cape Cod Seafood Shacks Review

What I love most about our annual Cape Cod Trip is the food. Last year we ate at Cooke’s Seafood (Hyannis branch), Chatham Pier Fish Market, and Arnold’s. This year we skipped the first two, revisited Arnold’s, and added Original Seafood Restaurant & Captain Frosty’s instead.

FYI: If you love lobster rolls, Cape Cod is a must visit at least for New Yorkers. So much better than any NYC lobster rolls.

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At Arnold’s we had their regular lobster roll, clam strip sandwich, onion rings, and clam chowder. Verdict: The fried clam strips were still amazing but our portion this time was smaller than last years. Their regular lobster roll was SO MUCH BETTER than their hot lobster roll which we tried last year. Arnold’s regular lobster roll contains extremely fresh lobster with only a smidge of mayo and lemon so the true taste of the sweet lobster really came through. The only minus for me at is that Arnold’s lobster roll only contained claw and knuckle meat.

Arnold’s clam chowder was very delicious because there were so many clams. In fact there were so much clams that there may have been even more clams than potatoes! The only thing I found disappointing at Arnold’s was their famous onion rings. They were too thin so couldn’t really taste the onions and tasted mostly batter.

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At Original Seafood Restaurant we had their lobster roll, clam strip platter, and onion rings. Verdict: Best onion rings I have ever had. And their lobster roll was scrumptious as well. What I liked best about Original’s lobster roll is that it contained lots of tail meat. Portion wise there was more lobster in Original’s lobster roll versus Arnold’s though the pricing was similar. Arnold wins in the clam strip category though Original’s is still pretty good.

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At Captain Frosty’s we had the seafood sampler plate which contained fried clam bellies, fried scallops, fried shrimp, clam cakes, and fried haddock. We also ordered a bowl of clam chowder. The chowder disappointing because there were too much potatoes and not nearly enough clams. Fried clam bellies was good but I still prefer strips over bellies. Fried scallops and fried shrimp was also decent but the fried haddock had a slight fishy flavor so G and I left the haddock alone but finished everything else. If you like fried fish, Cooke’s Seafood (Hyannis branch) does it much better. But what was amazing at Captain Frosty’s is their clam cakes which is basically salty fried dough with clam bits inside.

Captain Frosty's Clam Cake

Up close and personal with Captain Frosty’s clam cake.

Overall Verdict: Will definitely revisit Arnold’s and Original Seafood next year and stop by Captain Frosty’s to pick up a large order of their clam cakes.

Cost: All the seafood shacks in Cape Cod are similarly priced. Every meal was around $40-$50 for the two of us and I think Arnold’s is cash only.

How to Enjoy Your Meal at Peter Luger’s

(1) Do not expect good service when dining here. That way it will be a bonus if the service is good and par for the course if it is bad.

(2) Bring your debit card, cash, or Peter Luger’s credit card. Expect to pay around $100 a person for what is essentially a good steak and passable sides.

(3) Definitely order their bacon. This is the real reason you are here and this will be the reason for your return. I have had better steaks elsewhere but I have never had bacon better than this.

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Not much to look at but 10/10 for taste!

Perfectly cooked but remember to add a bit of salt to bring out the flavor. Spinach is decent but too rich especially with the steak.

Perfectly cooked but remember to add a bit of salt to bring out the flavor. Spinach is decent but too rich especially with the steak.

I like their onion rings better than their potatoes but that's just me. I make hash browns from scratch at home and so far no restaurant has beaten that yet.

I like their onion rings better than their potatoes but that’s just me. I make hash browns from scratch at home and so far no restaurant has beaten that yet.

Portion wise the steak for two was perfect for G and I. For two males though, I would say steak for three would be better.

Portion wise the steak for two was perfect for G and I. For two males though, I would say steak for three would be better.

Hunan House Flushing

When Hunan House first opened several years ago, I went there every month. But since moving back from Hong Kong, I have not been back because my favorite Sichuan restaurant is a lot closer to the parking lot. Very lazy of me but in my defense the Sichuan restaurant is really good and only 1 block away from where I usually park in Flushing.

I am glad that I went back because not only did the quality of their food remain consistent but they updated their decor and improved their customer service. How good was their customer service? So good that I tipped 30% which is out of the norm for me as I usually tip 20%-25%. But back to the food. Every one of the 12 dishes I ordered was good but below are my favorites:

Hunan House Flushing Spicy Crab

My favorite dish at Hunan House is their spicy crab. This was my first time ordering it here and it is a must order. Full on flavor, I have ordered the shrimp version of this dish and find that the crab version to be much better. The crab is a lot of work but worth the effort. G hates working for his food but he ate more than his fair share of this dish.

Hunan House Flushing Pumpkin Pancakes

I also always order their pumpkin pancakes because it is probably the best version I have come across in New York. Besides, the sweetness of the pumpkin is good break from the spicy food.

Hunan House Flushing Noodles

This is a dish that our waiter recommended, minced meat and sour long beans rice noodles. The rice noodles had just the right amount of chewiness and the flavoring was spot on. The minced meat and the slightly sour long beans in a slightly spicy broth worked incredibly well together.

Hunan House Flushing Smoked Duck

Smoked duck and turnips. It’s not a dish you often see even in many Chinese restaurants. But this is a particular favorite of mine and I have ordered it many times previously, though I am starting to get sick of it. =)

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Another dish that our waiter recommended: grilled shrimp in spices. Simple but tasty. And really who doesn’t like shrimp on a stick?

Tip: Don’t order their steamed fish even though every table seems to have a steamed fish of some sort. It’s just average, you are much better off ordering a steamed flounder at a Cantonese Seafood restaurant than here.

Hunan House Flushing
137-40 Northern Blvd
Flushing, NY 11354
718-353-1808

5 Hour Food Crawl NYC

As much as I enjoy brunch on the weekends, I love food crawls more. Tom, G, and I managed to visit 9 different places on our food crawl though we were aiming for 11. We just did not have enough stomach space even though we walked 40+ blocks.

Best of the Best:
Vanilla Bean filled & Blackberry Jam Filled Doughnut from The Doughnut Plant –  Doughnut perfection. I can never eat Krispy Kreme or Dunkin ever again.
Carne Asada (grilled steak) from Los Tacos No. 1 – Taco nirvana. This is the real deal. High-end, mid-priced, hole in the walls, street carts, I have never had a carne asada that tasted so good and so fresh.
Honorable Mention:
Clam Chowder from Lobster Place – 3rd best clam chowder I have ever had.

Here is the complete list of what Tom, G, and I ate from noon – 5pm:
Lobster Place Seafood Market (Chelsea Market) – We had the clam chowder, bacon & scallop chowder, slider sampler (lobster, shrimp, crab). The only thing that I would come back for is the clam chowder. The bacon & scallop chowder tasted mostly of bacon which is not my thing but might be yours. The slider sampler…it is hard to mess up fresh lobster, shrimp, crab. There were lots of people eating steamed lobsters but I can never bring myself to pay $30+ for a 2lb steamed lobster when live lobsters are $5 a pound at Chinese supermarkets. Besides, Tom had it at the Lobster Place before and said it was just okay. Again it is hard to mess up fresh lobster.

Num Pang Sandwich Shop (Chelsea Market) – We tried the coconut tiger shrimp which was okay but nothing special. It was basically 4 medium sized boiled shrimps sprinkled with coconut flakes, 2 slices of cucumber, a bunch of pickled carrots which lacked tartness, sprigs of cilantro, lots of chili mayo, on a 6-7 inch baguette. Granted the ingredients were fresh, but I don’t understand the hype over this sandwich. I prefer Bánh mì’s a lot more. At slightly under $12 for a small take-away sandwich, I also found it lacking in value. Especially since I would need 2 to fill me up. And really only 4 medium sized shrimps per sandwich? When I make shrimp sandwiches, I budget at least 10 usually 12 tiger shrimps per sandwich. Otherwise I would have to listen to G complain about the filling to bun ratio.

I thought there was 4 shrimps in my sandwich, but looking at this picture there might have only been 3! So basically I was eating a veggie sandwich.

Amy’s Bread (Chelsea Market) – I have always enjoyed the baguettes at Amy’s. Went well with the clam chowder as I don’t care for oyster crackers.

Los Tacos No.1 (Chelsea Market) – We tried the Carne Asada (grilled steak) taco and Adobada (marinated pork) quesadilla. I loved their  grilled steak taco. It was fresh, delicious, and on a different wavelength than Chipotle’s (which I like but don’t find authentic). The marinated pork had too many different flavors competing for supremacy. My only request for Los Tacos is to add a fried fish taco and a shrimp taco to their menu.

Los Tacos No.1 Carne Asada

Blue Bottle (Chelsea) – Tom really wanted to try Siphon coffee so we headed to the second floor where there is a dedicated brewer at the coffee bar. It was cool and unique experience but if I wanted my coffee to taste like tea, I would just drink tea. The Kenyan blend tasted extremely similar to dandelion tea, same color as well. Note: people who order coffee at the coffee bar drink it black, ordering milk or adding sugar seems to be frowned upon here.

Blue Bottle Siphon Coffee

The Doughnut Plant (Chelsea) – So many choices but we settled on their signature Creme Brûlée, Coconut Cream, and the amazing Vanilla Bean & Blackberry Jam. Everything was delicious but the Vanilla Bean & Blackberry Jam won my heart. The cappuccino here is also very good, much better than Starbucks.

The Doughnut Plant

Square filled doughnuts! So so delicious. 10/10 for taste.

Food Gallery 32 (Midtown West, Korea Town) – I was really craving kimbap so we came here so that I can get my fix. The kimbap was decent but Queens has much better kimbap spots such as Nolbu.

Korean Kimbap

Pinkberry (Midtown West, Korea Town) – I loved pinkberry since the start of the yogurt craze and have never found another yogurt shop quite as good. I love the tartness of pinkberry and the fact that they do not use artificial sweeteners. I can’t help but think how stupid I was previously for only ordering their yogurt in cups and with lots of toppings when it tastes so much better in a waffle cone. Face palm.

Pinkberry Waffle Cone...just say no to the cup.

Lady M Cake Boutique (Midtown West) – G has always been a fan of Lady M’s green tea crepe cake. I like it but don’t love it. And I prefer the original over the green tea because I find the green tea to be too powdery. At $7.50-$8, it’s pricy for a small slice. I don’t think it’s worth it, but G does as he loves it. Oh and be prepared to wait an hour in line if you want to eat in. We didn’t so we took it to go. I like their their Upper West Side branch better as it’s less crowded. Ippudo and Gyu Kaku and several other Japanese restaurants serves Lady M’s crepe cakes but I find it to be less fresh than Lady M branches.

Lady M's green tea crepe cake

My preferred method way of eating the crepe cake is to eat it layer by layer.

Brunch at Rose Water Restaurant Park Slope

I really enjoyed brunch at Rose Water. In my opinion much better than the highly rated Jane in Greenwich Village. For one, the poached eggs are better that Rosewater and so is the french toast. Not that Jane is bad, but Rosewater is better in the same price range of $20-$30. Plus Park Slope is a much more relaxing place to have brunch than Greenwich Village.

Rose Water is known for their smoked fish cakes so I ordered their signature smoked tuna fish cake paired with curry. I don’t know how or why the combination was so tasty, all I know is that it was I devoured it all. The fish cakes came with a salad, poached organic eggs, a piece of banana nut toast, and a nonalcoholic beverage.

Rosewater Restaurant Park Slope Brunch

Rose Water’s french toast was delicious, probably the best I ever had and much better than the famed vanilla bean french toast at Jane which was too soggy in the middle and too hard at the ends. I would order it again to share amongst a group instead of a main at brunch. It makes for the perfect dessert.

Rosewater Restaurant Park Slope

The only negative about Rose Water is that the wait time can get pretty long especially if you go during prime brunch time. No reservations so go early. Ask to be seated in the “garden” section of the restaurant. In the winter it is enclosed but it is still very enjoyable to be sitting among all the flowers and greenery.

Rose Water Restaurant
787 Union Street (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave)
Brooklyn, NY, 11215

Bouchon Bakery NYC – A Must Visit

Bouchon Bakery is highly rated for a reason, pretty much everything is delicious. But the true standout is Bouchon’s pistachio macaroon. This is coming from a person who dislikes pistachios in nut or ice cream form.

Bouchon’s macaroons comes in two sizes, petite and large. Both versions are excellent. Compared to Ladurée’s macaroons, Bouchon’s version is a tad chewier and has less of a crunch.But I happen to like my macaroons that way so I prefer Bouchon over Ladurée. Another reason I prefer Bouchon over Ladurée is that at Bouchon, you can order a drink and sit down to enjoy your macaroon. At Ladurée it is standing room only and they do not serve beverages. A macaroon needs coffee/tea to cut the sweetness!

bouchon bakery nyc

Note: Their pumpkin, chocolate, strawberry macaroons are delicious as well but it is not in the same level of awesomeness as their pistachio macaroon. The only time I had a really weird tasting macaroon was one of their seasonal offerings some type of coconut/mango/salted caramel. That was spectacularly bad…at least to me.

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Circle 3rd Floor
New York, NY