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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.