Tag Archives: egg

Le Petit Rooster

This french joint just opened about two months ago with a really creative and unique menu. There were about eight starters that I wanted to try, but I ended up settling on three.

Black Garlic, Cynar & Bone Marrow Escargots

Incredible. The flavors, when combined, almost tasted like a really good balsamic. I’ve never really had snails like this before. Delicious.

Whiskey French Toast Foie Gras

This also had a cherry compote on it (on the toast in the background), along with some cocoa nibs and flake salt. So good. Really enjoyed this dish.

Prawn Escabeche

These massive head-on prawns were delicious. The spicy black garlic sauce really made them pop.

For the entree, we went with this 50-day dry aged cote de boeuf.

It comes with some tangy bone marrow and crispy fried onions, but what makes this stand out is the additional dry aging that they do in house. They get the meat at 28-days from Pat LaFrieda, but they age it for more time on site. I always find that this makes for a better aged flavor. 9/10.

We paired this with the schmaltz tater tots, which were fucking awesome.

We also had the purple and green asparagus, which was a special for the day. It had caviar and a fried/poached duck egg on top, along with a tangy hollandaise sauce.

For dessert, we took down this nice bread pudding.

This joint doesn’t have a full liquor license yet, but they do offer some creative amari type light cocktails, and a nice wine and beer list. I highly recommend this place. I know I’ll be going back to try the other apps that I wanted, along with some duck, chicken and pasta.

LE PETIT ROOSTER
491 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024

The Modern

My wife and I came here for our 10th wedding anniversary.

We did the six course chef’s tasting menu. But first we started with some nice cocktails.

We did the groundskeeper and the terracotta navy. Here’s what’s in them:

The first thing to come out was this interesting tartlet amuse that had some sort of cheese and mushrooms inside a tiny pie crust.

The bread service consisted of a nice rosemary focaccia and small buns of pretzel bread.

The first of the six courses was their egg on egg on egg. Custard, yolk and caviar with a toasted brioche stick. Really delicious and easily a top dish for the year.

Next was this snapper crudo/tartare preparation.

Another top dish for the year goes to this foie gras tart with strawberries. Both white/green strawberries (tart) and red (sweet). A perfect dish in every way, with some meringue and tart strawberry salsa on top. Really nicely balanced between savory and sweet.

Next up was the first of the main proteins; the sea bass with mushroom in minestrone broth. Really light and flavorful, and it came with a pasta made from noodle-ized celtuse root.

This five-spiced, dry-aged Long Island duck was the winner for the mains though. Beautifully tender with lots of flavorful punch from the Thai basil puree and leaves.

Along with our complimentary anniversary cupcake (pictured above), they brought us a dessert amuse of mango fruit leather and ice cream, made to look like dim sum.

And finally, our dessert was this nice pistachio cake with lemon ice cream, white chocolate, balsamic reduction and some crumble.

We really enjoyed this meal. It was hefty in price, but we truly loved every dish. Also this is a no-tipping restaurant. Here’s the William:

THE MODERN
9 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Madame Vo

Madame Vo is a Vietnamese joint on 10th Street near 2nd Avenue.

My wife and I have been itching to go, since we have been on a quest to find good Vietnamese food in NYC since the early 2000’s. I think we finally found it here, so let me give you the rundown of our meal.

First, Autumn Rolls. These are soft rice wrappers filled with jicama, egg, sausage and shrimp. The brilliant thing about these is that they’re sauced with a brush of hoisin prior to wrapping. Just a little hit of sri racha and you’re all set. They’re delicious.

Next up, the “Madame Pho” soup. This is served with short rib.

Awesome deep, rich beefy flavor. No sauces needed whatsoever. The broth is on point. And the meats are all high quality. It has a variety of cuts like flank, brisket, meatballs, eye round and marrow. But that short rib! So good. And the noodles were cooked perfectly.

The Bun Bo Hue, however, was even better. It’s very hard to find good pho in NYC, but it’s even harder to find good bun bo hue.

So many times, bun bo hue noodles are overcooked and fall apart when you try to pick them up with chopsticks. Here, they are nicely cooked and hold up to pulling and grabbing. The broth has a great pungent richness, bright with herbs and lime, and really deeply satisfying. Just the right amount of heat, too.

Last, the rib eye Bo Luc Lac, or “Shaking/Shaken Beef.”

I’ve often seen this made with lean cuts like sirloin and sometimes filet. This is the first time I’ve seen it made with rib eye, and also the first time I’ve seen it served with an egg.

The result is a nice sticky sweet molasses flavor, with a great sear from the sizzling cast iron skillet. The fat rendered out nicely, making for a delicious sauce sludge through which to drag your rice. I really enjoyed this dish, and it’s a perfect example of what a good chef can do with a choice grade cut of beef when he – in this case, Jimmy – knows how to coax out great flavor. 7/10.

For dessert, we shared a nice avocado shake. While pricey at $8 (avocados are expensive these days), its filling and well made. Not too sweet, and super creamy.

MADAME VO
212 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003

Urbani Truffles

I’m going to use this product review and press event post as a vehicle to deliver unto my readers a comprehensive guide to truffles. Let me begin with the education portion of this post.

What Are Truffles?

You’re probably all somewhat familiar with truffles. You occasionally see them on menus as expensive add-ons to your pasta dishes, and you may see “truffle fries” offered at a higher price than regular French fries at certain restaurants. Shavings per ounce can be quite pricey, especially for white truffles.

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But what exactly is a truffle? It’s a fungus. It’s a tuber-like fungus that grows along the roots of certain trees, like oak, hazelnut and chestnut. They are incredibly aromatic, with an intensely concentrated earthy flavor profile that’s truly unlike anything you’ve ever tasted or smelled before.

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Some people say they’re similar to mushrooms, but that’s like saying Kraft mac and cheese powder packets taste similar to piave vecchio. Not even the same ballpark. Similar to dry aged beef, fermented foods, or smoked and/or aged cheeses, truffles offer that same kind of “umami” sensation for your taste buds.

Size & Shape

They typically range in size from something like a walnut to about the size of a softball. They get to market size overnight, growing very fast, as do other members of the fungi kingdom. However it may take some time for the spore to first germinate properly.

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But just like the saying goes for dicks, “size doesn’t matter.” The same flavors exist in small or large truffles. But preference does matter (just like dicks, I would imagine). The smaller truffles are just as good in terms of quality as the larger ones. They’ll still get you off. Yet, kind of like a director’s preference for big dicks in porn, some restaurants want larger, more uniform shaped truffles so that their shavings look prettier on the plate.

Speaking of which, their shape varies based on the soil in which they grow. Soft, loose soil allows the truffle to grow and expand mostly unhindered into a more spherical shape, while harder, rocky soil will result in more odd-shaped, lumpy truffles.

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Kinds of Truffles

There are (generally) four varieties of truffle: white, black summer, black winter, and bianchetto.

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As you can see from above, there are specific seasons for harvesting each type of truffle (in Italy, that is). The neat thing is that some black truffles are grown in Australia as well, so we have access to them in the reverse seasons as well.

Each style of truffle is suited for its own unique purposes. For example, white truffles are best for shaving directly onto freshly cooked food, like eggs and pasta. Black truffles are better suited for grating and incorporating into sauces. If you see black truffles being offered for sale, per ounce, shaved directly onto a food item, my advice is to skip it. That’s not the ideal way to enjoy a black truffle, and you may not even taste anything.

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Ripeness & Storage

The best way to tell if a truffle is good is to feel it and smell it. They should be firm, but not rock solid, and definitely not mushy. The aroma should be very powerful and fill your nose with an abundance of robust earthiness. In fact it is said that some can detect up to 120 different flavors and aromas from a fresh truffle.

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Here, you can see how the degradation process occurs as a truffle goes from good, fresh and ripe to bad:

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As a truffle begins to go bad, less of those invigorating aromas come through, the truffle gets spongier, and it emits a more ammonia-like scent. Eventually a white truffle will turn more brown, as well.

The shelf-life for a fresh truffle varies from 7-10 days for white truffles, to 15-20 days for black. A truffle is about 90% water, and it will lose 3-5% of its moisture per day, so that’s why it’s so important to use them while they’re fresh. The intense, characteristic flavors and aromas come from the moisture content within the truffle.

Lots of times you see truffles stored in a box filled with rice. This isn’t a good idea, unless your goal is to infuse the rice with the flavor of truffle. The dry rice will leech out all the moisture, and thus the flavor, from the truffle. My opinion: that’s a dumb move, even if your goal is to infuse the rice. Why? Because rice dishes will never sell for or be worth an amount that’s high enough to cover the cost of the truffle you just wasted by storing it that way.

The best way to store a truffle is to individually wrap each in a paper towel, somewhere cool. It should also be put into a wooden box or a glass mason jar; not plastic, as plastic doesn’t breathe the same way. Excess humidity can build up in plastic and ruin the truffle.

Where Do They Come From?

In Italy, truffles can be found in a variety of locations, as Italian geography is ideal for producing the right weather conditions that result in truffle growth.

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The coveted white truffles are highly sought after when they come from the Alba, Piedmont area in the northwest, which is similar to our Napa Valley. However the demand for certain wines from that region (Barolo, Barbaresco) has created a situation where the land is being altered by vintners, with trees being removed to make way for grape vines, and chemicals being used in the soil to aid in the grape-growing process. Trees are necessary for the truffles to grow, so Alba truffles are very rare indeed. In fact, less than 3% of the truffles on the market hail from Alba, and most of the truffles from that region stay local. So be aware, if you happen to see a menu flaunting that the truffles are from Alba: it is likely a lie.

Black truffles can be “seeded” with spores and grown in other locations that have the right climate and trees, but white truffles can not. Therefore, white truffles tend to be a fuckload more expensive, as they are much more rare and localized. Think $1,000/lb.

In Italy, much of the land where truffles are hunted is public access, meaning anyone can come by (licensed truffle hunters, typically) and pick up a truffle. In other places, like Australia or the USA, the land can be owned outright so no one else can lawfully snatch up any truffles that might be growing on your tree roots.

Urbani Truffles

Now that you’ve gotten a good first lesson on truffles, I guess I can begin the product and press review portion of the post.

Urbani Truffles began in 1852 and now supplies 70% of the global market with their truffles.

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Urbani Truffles are in the hands of NYC restaurateurs within 36 hours of being dug up by their network of truffle hunters in Italy. Amazing! Truffle hunters go out with their trained sniffing dogs at night, to minimize noise and distractions for the dogs. The next morning, any truffles that were gathered are cleaned and sent to the market or shipped out on airplanes all over the world. Cleaning just requires getting the dirt and blemishes off (like a potato). If needed, some light brushing is done, but cleaners are careful to avoid direct contact with water, as that can harm the truffle.

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Take a look at this Urbani video below, which will help you visualize the entire process.

You probably noticed some truffle products in there, like oils and canned goods. Whatever Urbani doesn’t think is fit for the fresh market, they use to create various other products.

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Like their fresh truffles, these products are all top notch quality. They never use chemicals in their products, so everything is all natural. Chemicals actually taint the flavor of truffle products, and deliver too much truffle flavor and aroma up front.

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All of Urabni’s truffle products will deliver a delayed and longer lasting truffle flavor, due to their rejection of chemicals in the production process.

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I had the pleasure of sampling both their fresh truffles and some of the products they sell when I was invited to their truffle lab on West End Avenue.

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As a matter of fact, I was there while a presentation was being given to six Art Institute / International Culinary School students who were selected as the top of their classes to learn about truffles and to practice cooking with them. Talk about having a great lunch!

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First, we experienced one of the most simple and satisfying ways to enjoy fresh white truffles: shaved directly onto a fried egg.

According to Vittorio, the VP of Urbani Truffles, salt should be sprinkled on after the truffles are shaved onto the egg. Pepper can take away from the truffle flavor and aroma, so skip that.

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Truffle oil goes really nicely with flatbread and pizza. This one we tried really popped, making something as boring as zucchini really exciting for a change.

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We also sampled one of the canned truffle products: white truffle with porcini mushrooms. This was added to a pan of sauteed shallots and butter to make a sauce, which went on top of some polenta.

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This was delicious, and I can totally see this being used to spike something like gravy or even to make a sauce for the top of a filet mignon. Really flavorful – best thing I ever ate from a can.

Another item I tried was their truffle mnustard. I plan to feature this in some recipes in the future, as I think it would be an excellent addition on a cold cut sandwich or a burger.

Finally, we tried some truffle cream cheese spread as well. This, too, was plopped onto some sauteed polenta. I can’t imagine how amazing this would be on lox.

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If you’ve got room in your budget for a fresh truffle, I say go for it. Urbani delivers the freshest product I have ever experienced, and they supply big dog restaurants like French Laundry and Del Posto. Whipe up some homemade pasta, cook it, throw the pasta in a pan with some butter, fry a sunny side up egg for the top of the pasta, and shave that delicious truffle right onto it. Perfection.

But even if a fresh truffle isn’t on your to-do list, then I highly recommend picking up some of Urbani’s other products and experimenting with truffle in your own recipes that way. You can’t go wrong. Every product is amazing.

Bustan

Bustan means “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew, Arabic and ancient Aramaic. The Upper West Side restaurant named as such boasts a pan-Mediterranean menu that features dishes from the shores of Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, which are home to those languages. Bustan stands out in New York City’s sea of Mediterranean restaurants with its multicultural approach to food and drink, where diners are encouraged to explore and ask questions about their diverse menu.

My wife and I came in for Sunday brunch at noon and the place was already almost full. But the restaurant is spacious, so you won’t have to throw elbows just to cut your food. You may want to make a reservation, though, because the people who live in this neighborhood obviously know how good the food is at this joint.

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We started with a pair of bloody marys that had Mediterranean spiced rims.

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We enjoyed these. They had the right amount of heat, and the mix was a nice, thick, tomato blend that they must have made in-house, because it was really fresh.

Since I’m on drinks, I may as well mention that they have a really interesting and unique cocktail menu that further highlights Mediterranean flavors. And the bar is a great place to sit and eat as well. There’s a beautiful wide grey marble topper and plenty of seating. They also have a pretty incredible whisky selection as well.

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We snacked on some homemade focaccia bread before our entrees came out. This was spiced with the same stuff from the bloody mary rims, along with some toasted and minced rosemary. Really delicious! And its served warm, with a bowl of olives.

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We also tried these burekahs, which are spiraled rolls of doughy pastry style bread with feta and minced kalamata olives inside. Super tasty!

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I ordered the green shakshouka for my entree.

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Shakshouka is a baked egg dish from the region, often made with tomatoes. This green version featured creamed spinach, artichoke, fior di latte and white truffle oil. It also comes with homemade pita.

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I was half expecting something heavy and salty, given the cheese and cream elements, but this was light and mild. I really loved it, and the addition of truffle oil really brought a wonderful earthiness to the dish. All you people looking for a healthy protein boost, this is the way to go! There had to be about four or five eggs in this baby. You get a lot of satisfying food for your money with this dish ($18).

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My wife went with the potato pancakes entree. A large white plate is covered with one huge, crispy potato pancake, and then topped with two eggs (cooked any style you’d like) and three rolls of really high quality smoked salmon.

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The best way to enjoy this dish is to eat a little bit of everything with each bite, so that the saltiness from the cured salmon seasons the pancake and egg with a its natural brine.

This dish also comes with labaneh, which is a thick, tart, creamy, yogurt-like cheese that almost mimics the cream cheese that us NYC locals might eat with lox or smoked/cured salmon. It is a perfect pairing for this dish.

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But one other savory item that’s a must try here is the hummus.

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This stuff has won awards. In fact, I might as well mention Bustan’s overall awards for best restaurant in the upper west side (2014) and diner’s choice top 100 neighborhood gems in America (2015). This place is no joke.

Anyway, this hummus is super creamy, and the addition of tahini sesame paste gives it a massive flavor boost. I actually recommend getting this as an app for the table to share before diving into those delicious entrees.

But you absolutely MUST save room for dessert, because this next thing is my favorite ice cream dessert that I’ve ever had.

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It’s two scoops of vanilla gelato on a bed of candied pistachio nuts, dates and crisped rice, which is then topped with shaved halvah!

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It’s called the Turkish sundae, and I get really excited when I see halvah used in anything, since I always loved eating it as a kid.

Clearly I loved that dessert, but I’ll be back in very soon to try the sticky toffee pudding, which consists of dates, walnuts, banana and tiramisu gelato. In fact several items on their dessert menu are really interesting, as are the entrees. Bustan is truly breaking the mold for Mediterranean fare and offering up lots of dishes that celebrate the entire region’s diverse food culture. Get up here ASAP and eat!

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

BUSTAN
487 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Burke & Wills

I’ve only ever been to two or three Australian joints in my day, so I jumped at the opportunity to check this place out with Jay from The Dishelin Guide. When he asked if I was interested in going with him for a press review, I was psyched. Aussie joints always offer the possibility of trying exotic meats, and, as you can imagine, the prospect of something like that gets my juices flowing.

In the case of Burke & Wills, you can find a kangaroo meat burger on their daily lunch and dinner menus. Since we came in for brunch on the weekend, however, we were in for a different treat involving ‘roo meat: a traditional meat pie.

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Meat pies are pretty much street food and walking around food in Australia, but this version is served like a pot-pie, not hand food. It comes on a bed of English pea puree with mixed baby greens and a tomato jam. As for kangaroo meat, which is slightly gamey and very lean, it’s about as common on menus as venison here in the States.

Okay wait a second… before I get into more of the food I have to talk about the customizable Bloody Mary menu here.

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Our waitress recommended the exact combination that I was thinking of ordering, so I took that as a sign. This ended up being one of the best bloodies I’ve ever had. Kaffir-lime salted rim, Citadel gin, far east mix (sri racha for the spice element) and the deluxe skewer.

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Okay so where was I… Right; kangaroo meat. The brunch menu swaps out kangaroo in the burger for a standard beef burger, however there’s nothing else that’s standard about this particular burger other than the beef.

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It comes topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, onion, pineapple, pickled beets and a fried egg. It really is an amazing combination of flavors that I never expected to work well together. The meat is high quality, cooked nicely, and all the various toppings really make it a juicy and satisfying meal.

Aside from tasting good, this burger was really beautiful.

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For the reasonable cost of $16, this stack of breakfast food and beef also comes with triple fried “chips,” which are what other people from across the various ponds call French fries. What we call chips, here, are called “crisps” over there. Hey, I’m not judging… just informing you ignorant bastards out there.

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The fries (yes, I will continue to call them fries because I’m American and that’s what we do) are thick, almost like potato wedges. They’re blanched several times at various temperatures and then fried multiple times. The end result is a super crisp outside and a mashed-potato-esque interior. Really nice. And they come with a deliciously unique harissa-based dipping sauce to boot.

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Another feature of the brunch menu is the ever present and highly trendy “elevated toast” offering. This particular one, however, was not some dainty piece of bread smeared with a little bit of avocado and then topped with a slice of tomato. No. This was a nice thick slice of toasty grilled bread as a base, with a generous amount of avocado as the next layer, to serve as a bed for what was essentially an entire salad of micro greens, tomato, frisee and pickled onions on top. And there was a LOT of awesome feta cheese on there. In fact, that was the bulk of it! I think I might have changed my mind about this toast food trend because of this dish. It was filling and satisfying, yet also light. Perfect for brunch on the weekend, especially with a bloody beside it.

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For dessert, we had doughnuts and coffee.

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These hot and sweet babies come with two dipping sauces; dolce de leche and chocolate. Both are fantastic.

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I definitely recommend coming here for brunch in the back room, which is like a greenhouse:

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If you’re not into brunch, then you should at least come in and try a bloody at the bar up front.

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BURKE & WILLS
226 W 79th St
New York, NY 10024

Louie’s Backyard

We decided to take in the water view for a quick lunch here at Louie’s Backyard in Key West. I went with a burger, which, here, is topped with provolone cheese, caramelized onions, roasted poblano peppers and sri racha aioli.

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I didn’t get much heat from the aioli or peppers. The burger patty itself was nice, though cooked a little too much in my opinion. The steak fries were pretty good. I usually don’t like these, but they were very crispy.

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My wife had this really interesting smoked salmon and egg brik turnover. The outer shell was light and crisp, and inside was a runny egg yolk and perfectly cooked salmon.

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My buddy went with this really great duck confit dish. Super tender.

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Definitely give this place a try if you’re in Key West. The bar outside is nice too, even if you don’t sit to eat.

Mentoku

This joint just opened up a month ago on 9th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets.

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Some things that caught my eye were that they served Hakata style ramen, which I am generally a fan of (thick, pork bone soup), and they also offer a matcha ramen, which sounded really unique. My wife and I tried them both.

First the green tea matcha ramen:

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My wife got the lunch special deal for $12, which comes with a side of flavored rice (or extra noodles). This is the wasabi rice, with dried bonito flakes:

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Watch them wiggle!!!

Anyway back to the ramen. This was very light (vegetarian), but it had an interesting, savory green tea flavor to it.

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Very good for those looking to get a ramen fix but cut the calories in the process. It came topped with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, scallions and what I think was some kind of bready, fried tofu cake.

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The flat, straight noodles were excellent. That goes for both bowls, too. However the Hakata style ramen was a bit too thin for my liking, despite the mushrooms being nice.

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You choose bamboo shoots or mushrooms, for some reason. To get both is extra, like the egg.

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Egg was perfect, but the pork was just one slice and very chewy. Bummer there.

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There was still one other ramen bowl that I wanted to try, with a yuzu paste involved, so I’ll be back, for sure. I just don’t think this broth is thick enough for my Hakata, tonkotsu fix.

MENTOKU
744 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Ramen Guide

With ramen season kicking into high gear, I suppose it’s high time that I put out a guide to ramen for all of you cold, hungry fucks out there looking to get your soup on. This should serve as your singular, all-encompassing resource for all things slurp. This is more of an informational page, clearly, so if you’ve landed here looking for my ramen reviews, you should go to the Ramen-Ate-R page, where you can read about the tremendous shitload of ramen that I’ve eaten.

There are a bunch of things you need to keep in mind when thinking about ramen. Namely, you need to think about the thickness of the broth, how the broth is made, how it is seasoned, what kind of noodles are used, the toppings, and, finally (if you’re into food knowledge), where the ramen style was developed and the history behind the dish. So let’s get into it:

BROTH THICKNESS

This is classified as either assari (light) or kotteri (rich). Assari broths are generally thin or clear, as they are typically flavored with vegetables, fish or seaweed. If animal bones are used at all, they are usually just simmered lightly for a short amount of time.

Kotteri, on the other hand, are thick and usually opaque, due to all the emulsified fats, proteins and minerals that are rendered from boiling animal bones for long periods of time. That makes them stocks, technically, not broths. Kotteri are also known as Paitan (from the Chinese). Paitan translates to white broth, which makes sense, given that they are usually cloudy in color and thick in texture.

SOUP BASE

Ramen soup bases are classified by the main ingredients that are boiled or simmered to make the soup stock (if bones are used) or broth  (if no bones are used). As expected, a stock can be made from animal bones (chicken, beef, pork, fish). But lighter broths can be made with dried seafood or kelp/seaweed (like dashi – a broth made from dried, smoked bonito flakes and kelp), and sometimes even just straight up roasted veggies and mushrooms + water.

An example I will use to illustrate here is tonkotsu. “Ton” means pork, and “kotsu” means bones. Thus, the tonkotsu ramen base is a kotteri style thick stock made from pork bones, which would then need to be seasoned with a salty or savory component, which is covered in the next section.

SEASONING

Tare or kaeshi is the seasoning – the main savory element or source of salt – that is used to flavor the ramen. Ramen seasoning comes in three major varieties: Shoyu, Shio and Miso.

Shoyu: This, simply, is soy sauce. If you didn’t know, soy sauce is made from a paste of fermented and boiled soybeans, roasted grains and seasoned water.

Shio: Sea salt. Pretty straightforward. As you can imagine, sea salt as a seasoning is nicely suited for thinner, assari style broths.

Miso: This is an earthy flavored, thick, fermented soybean paste. Seasoning with miso will almost always result in a thick, kotteri style broth, as you can see below:

NOODLES

Ramen noodles are made with wheat flour, water, salt and kansui, an alkaline water which gives the noodles their yellow color and characteristic bounce. In China, it’s more common to see ramen made with eggs instead of kansui.

Depending on the soup they’re added to, ramen noodles can range from wavy to straight, thick to thin, flat, round or square. The type of noodle selected for a bowl of ramen is based on its broth-clinging characteristics, its bounciness and its texture. For that reason, one noodle style may be better suited for a particular soup base or broth thickness than another.

Depending on the noodles used, cook times will vary as well. In addition, their ability to last for a while, soaking in the soup broth, will vary. After a few minutes certain noodles will lose their spring and bounce, and the texture will change.

Just an FYI here: if you need more noodles while you are eating, yell out kaedama!

TOPPINGS

We have a bunch of categories to discuss here. Let’s start with the most important one: meat.

Obviously if a ramen base is made with animal bones, it only makes sense to use the same animal meat as a topping for the soup. Tonkotsu should have copious amounts of kakuni (pork belly), or chashu (rolled pork loin or belly that is cooked slowly in a sweet soy and mirin sauce, stew-style, then sliced and sometimes charred or grilled afterward for texture). Clearly, chicken is a good topper for your chicken-based ramen. But some chefs get creative. For example I’ve had beef ramen that was topped with crispy beef intestines. I’ve even had chicken broth that was topped not only with chicken but with ground pork as well. Mixing is not a bad thing and it is quite common, as you’ll learn below.

In addition to meat, ramen broths also contain aromatics, such as garlic (fresh, charred, fried or fermented), onions (charred, pickled or raw), ginger (either pickled – beni shoga – or fresh), leeks (fresh or charred), scallions (usually fresh, typically sliced or shredded) and mushrooms (both dried and fresh, and a ton of different types). These can also be incorporated into the creation of the soup base at the start, not just as toppings that are added at the time of serving.

Other common toppings include seasoned soft boiled or hard boiled eggs, sliced fish cakes (naruto), bamboo shoots, corn, cabbage, seaweed, bean sprouts, spice pastes, butter and various oils, such as chili oil, onion oil, pepper oil, garlic oil or sesame oil (and certainly sesame seeds, too, for that matter).

On many occasions, the toppings you see will depend on the region in Japan from which the ramen hails.

REGIONAL STYLES

Japanese ramen varies greatly by region. Some areas focus on thinner fish- and seaweed-based broths, while others tend to be hearty and thick animal bone soups. I’ve highlighted some of the regional styles below, alphabetically:

Akayu: A sweet and mild ramen soup is topped with a spicy dollup of miso mixed with chili and garlic. Chewy, thick, wavy noodles grace this style, and it is usually served with powdered seaweed as well.

Asahikawa: Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city, and is located at the base of the mountains in the middle of the island. Its ramen is a mix of chicken, pork and seafood broth, with a shoyu base. The soup is topped with a layer of melted pork fat to seal in the soup’s heat in the colder months, as well as pork meat, bamboo shoots and scallions.

Hakata: Also known as Nagahama ramen, this style comes from Fukuoka, a prefecture in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, which is famous for its pork dishes. This is my favorite of ramen styles, because it is a thick, fatty, pork bone broth with thin, al-dente noodles. Toppings usually include sesame seeds, pink pickled ginger and fried garlic.

Hakodate: Ramen arrived in Hakodate from China. The soup is thin and light, and the shio-seasoned broth had a mild pork and chicken base. Noodles are usually soft, with toppings like roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions, nori, fish cakes and spinach.

Kagoshima: Kagoshima is known for its Berkshire pork-like black pigs, yet the ramen is a mild mix of both veggies and chicken, combined with the black pork bone stock. The broth then gets finished off with burnt onions and seasoned with soy sauce. The noodles are soft, and toppings consist of pork meat (obviously), scallions, wood ear mushrooms (kikurage) and bean sprouts.

Kitakata: Kitakata is famous for a clean, light soy-based breakfast soup. In the bowl there’s usually a serving of chewy, wide, flat and curly hand-cut noodles with pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.

Kumamoto: When tonkotsu ramen arrived in Kumamoto prefecture from Kurume, the locals started cutting it with chicken broth. It’s also served with straight noodles, though they’re softer and thicker than the Kurume style. Most bowls have pickled mustard greens, sliced wood-ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and cabbage on top, but the unique thing about Kumamoto ramen is the use of garlic. You’ll see fried garlic chips and mayu, the black liquid made from garlic that’s been burned in sesame oil. That shit is delicious.

Kurume: This town on the southern island of Kyushu is the birthplace of tonkotsu. Melted bone marrow, fried lard, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and garlic give Kurume ramen a unique and pungent style. Toppings include pork meat, scallions, nori, and spicy mustard greens, in addition to those just mentioned above.

Kyoto: Kyoto’s home to two distinct types of ramen: a thinner assari shoyu ramen, and a thick kotteri chicken soup. The thin version is a blend of pork and chicken broth, with a dark soy base. The thick version is a rich porridge-like chicken soup, topped with garlic, spicy bean paste, chives and odoriferous local onions called kujnoegi. Both are seasoned with shoyu, but the toppings vary for each.

Nagoya “Taiwan” Ramen: “Taiwan Ramen” is Nagoya’s reimagined version of Taiwanese danzimian, which has lots of ground pork, Chinese chives, hot peppers, green onions and garlic. This shit is for people who like spicy soup.

Onomichi: Take a bit of pork, a heap of chicken, some local seafood and a big mess of lard and you’ve got Onomichi ramen. The soup has a shoyu base and is served with chewy, homemade, wavy, flat noodles. It’s usually topped with roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions and pork fat.

Sapporo: Sapporo-style ramen hails from Japan’s northernmost province, Hokkaido, which is the birthplace of miso ramen. Sapporo miso ramen generally has thick, strong noodles and is commonly topped with bean sprouts, sweet corn, cabbage and ground pork. Soft boiled eggs and thick slices of chashu pork are also common, as well as pats of butter.

Shirakawa: This town developed a refined ramen typified by light, simple soup and hand pulled noodles. It features a shoyu broth, but local mineral ­water makes for springy noodles with a good chew. Toppings include roast pork, bamboo shoots, fish cake, scallions, seaweed, spinach and even wontons.

Tokushima: Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and udon is the preferred noodle. But Tokushima prefecture has an aged, extra strong shoyu soup that originated with tonkotsu stocks made from leftover pork bones from nearby ham factories. This is similar to Wakayama ramen. Ramen shops here will add a few strips of thinly sliced pork belly and break a raw egg on top. Tokushima ramen is sometimes divided into “yellow,” “black,” and “white” styles (how racist) of varying strengths. Other toppings for this ramen consist of scallions, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.

Tokyo: This ramen is usually made with pork and chicken broth and typically features slightly curly, somewhat wide noodles. Very often in Toyko you’ll find broths that are flavored with dashi (broth made from aged bonito flakes and sea kelp). This style of ramen is generally seasoned with shoyu and has a medium-thickness. It’s similar to Yokohama ramen, though that tends to be heavier and meatier than the dashi broths of Tokyo ramen.

Tsubame-Sanjo: The cities of Tsubame and Sanjo are in a freezing cold area, and the ramen from this spot is bizarre and unhealthy. The hearty stock is made of chicken, sardines and pork bones, and the bowls are blasted with tons of pork fat (common in soups from the colder climates). There’s thick, flat noodles in this shoyu-based soup, and toppings include pork meat, bamboo shoots and lots of chopped white onions.

Wakayama: This is the median between thick, rich tonkotsu, and thin, clear broth. Wakayama ramen has a strong shoyu tare seasoning with a long-simmered tonkotsu base. The noodles resemble the thin, firm and long threads of Hakata style ramen, but you also get fish cakes like those in Tokyo style ramen. These soups are also topped with the seemingly ever-present and most common of toppings: roast pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.

Yokohama Ie-Kei: Yokohama is known for ie-kei ramen, a viscous, salty, and fatty tonkotsu shoyu style of ramen. When ordering, diners can designate how firm they want their noodles, the amount of fat they like on top, and the saltiness or strength of the soup. This is my kind of ramen – catering specifically to each unique diner. The toppings for this style of ramen usually include sheets of nori (seaweed paper), spinach, garlic, spicy bean paste and ginger.

RAMEN-LIKE DISHES

Although these dishes are not quite ramen, they’ll still be able to satisfy the most intense need for a ramen fix.

Abura Soba: The name of this soupless noodle dish translates to “oil noodles.” It consists of cooked ramen noodles dressed with flavored oil and tare (usually shoyu). It often comes topped with an egg, and diners are meant to stir everything together in the bowl to form a creamy, fatty, thickened sauce. One can also add vinegar, chili oil and other shit before slurping. Hot peppers, mayonnaise, fried noodles, chopped garlic and pork fat are also crowd favorites to add in.

Chanpon: This originated in Nagasaki and is made by boiling thick noodles directly in a thick pork and seafood soup. It’s viscous, and eats more like stew than ramen.

Hiyashi Chuka: This literally means “cold Chinese.” As such it’s a dish made with cold ramen noodles and various toppings like fried egg, ham, carrot, cucumber and chicken. It is usually dressed in a light soy-vinegar sauce. I’ve even seen fish sauce used in some versions around NYC.

Mazemen: This is a hearty “dry” ramen, characterized by thick noodles and weird toppings like cheese. Similar to Abura Soba, this is essentially cooked noodles with a small amount of strongly flavored sauce on the side for dipping. Toppings and sauces can vary a great deal, and are often experimental in nature.

Tantan-Men: This is an off-shoot of Chinese dandan noodles. Based on a pork broth, it comes with a scoop of heavily spiced ground pork and is generally served with bok choy and/or spinach.

Tsukemen: This, like Mazemen, is also a “dipping” ramen. Cold, undressed (nekkit) noodles are served alongside a hot, concentrated ramen broth. You dip the noodles into a bowl of broth as you eat, grabbing the toppings whenever you choose to.

Yakisoba: This is the Japanese version of Chinese fried noodles. It’s made with egg noodles that get stir-fried with veggies and occasionally meat or seafood. This shit then gets hit with a Worcestershire style anchovy and vegetable sauce. It’s often topped with shaved bonito flakes and pickled ginger (beni shoga).

FUSION RAMEN

All around NYC we are seeing various kinds of fusion ramen items being offered, which makes a lot of sense given that the history of ramen in Japan involves a lot of Japanese-Chinese fusion.

However some of the more wild examples I’ve seen in NYC include:

Korean-inspired kimchi ramen (Mokbar):

Thai green curry ramen (Bassanova):

Flavors common to Burmese cuisine that feature coconut milk in the broth base (Tabata):

Indian-inspired massaman curry ramen, even complete with potatoes and carrots and (Yasha):

Italian spaghetti ramen, with pepper oil, arugula and crispy porchetta (Maialino):

Thanksgiving turkey ramen, with gravy, mushrooms, stuffing and cranberries, of course (Talde):

And Jamaican jerk chicken ramen (Miss Lily’s 9A):

There are even ramen burgers (L&L Drive Inn, among others)…

…and now ramen cake (courtesy of my wife, The Cake Dealer).

So that about does it here. If ramen isn’t your thing, but soup most definitely IS your thing, as a general matter, then there’s always pho, bun bo hue and laksa out there to soothe your hot soup needs in the cold winter weather that’s about to strike.

Breakfast Fried Rice

My wife and I dreamed up this incredible concoction about a week ago. Last night we finally gave it a shot. It’s a pretty straight forward recipe, so no real instructional videos or any other complicated bullshit to show you.

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What The Fuck Do You Need?

  • Pre-cooked bacon (it’s just easier)
  • Eggs
  • Ham steak
  • Frozen breakfast sausage
  • Frozen spinach
  • Jalapeño pepper
  • Chives
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shredded cheese
  • Potato
  • Crispy fried shallots
  • Leftover rice from the fridge
  • Butter
  • Olive oil

How The Fuck Do You Make It?

The first thing you’ll want to do is some basic prep. Dice up your ham steak, potato, onion and jalapeño. Mince your garlic, and slice your chives, bacon and sausage. These will be more like “toppings” for your rice, so as not to moisten the rice while cooking together.

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Fry some shit off in olive oil and butter. I did the potato, pepper, onion and garlic together to form a hash, and then I put it aside in a bowl lined with paper towels to get rid of some of the grease and excess moisture.

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Since we used frozen spinach (you can use fresh), we threw that in a pan by itself to dry it out and remove all the excess water.

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We gave a little fry to the bacon and sausage too. Here are some of the components before adding to the rice:

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Grab your rice and throw it into a hot buttery wok or pan.

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Once its all hot, you can mix in your scrambled egg, which you should first cook in a separate pan:

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Once you get some snap, crackle and pop going, and some crispy browned rice forming at the bottom of the pan/wok, you can lower the heat and fry off the other egg separately for the top of the rice:

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Fill a bowl with rice and start to assemble your dish by adding the toppings. Don’t forget the cheese!

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Here’s a jerkworthy shot of the finished product:

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Dive in and eat. I like to mix it all around, break the yolk, fold the spinach in, etc. Then I get a little bit of everything in each bite.