Spicy Village: My Latest Obsession (Back From The Dead)

19 Sep Spicy Big Tray Chicken With Noodles

Now that I have so much spare time, I figured I would try to revive my sad food blog. I guess my problem with food blogging is the writing part. I end up being way too detailed, and does anyone even really care? This time around, I’m going to try to be more concise with my reviews.

That being said, I recently have been reading and hearing a lot about a hand-pulled noodle place similar to Xi’an Famous Foods, called Spicy Village. The famous Danny Bowien (also, I keep seeing him in NYC) is a huge fan of the food and supposedly copied some of their dishes at his popular Mission Chinese Food. To be honest, I have only been to Mission Chinese Food NY once and I had to wait two plus hours in the rain during the week, so by the time my friends and I sat down, I was not a happy camper. The best dish I recall us ordering was the Chong Qing Chicken Wings.

Anyhow, on one fateful night, I convinced my friend, MS, to go to Spicy Village with me after our first Cirque Du Soleil. We braved the light rain and made it to the restaurant by 10pm. We ordered a few dishes, but our favorites were:

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Spicy Beef Brisket Hui Mei (dry noodle)

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Pancake With Pork

The pork pancake was very crunchy and not overly bready. I find the “burgers” and Xi’an to be more bready. Also, I really like the spices used in the Spicy Village pancake. I don’t know how else to describe it! At a more recent trip to Spicy Village, DZ ordered the pork pancake WITH a fried egg. It looked amazing and I bet it elevated the pancake even more! We also ordered stir-fried baby bok choy because it’s only $5.95 for a huge portion of vegetables. Our parents would be so proud that we happily order vegetables when we go out! Since it was only us two and we had eaten a “snack” at the circus, we saved the famous Spicy Big Tray Chicken for another meal as we were completely satisfied with all our dishes that night. The noodles as you all can see are very wide and remind me very much of the noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods. MS noted that unlike Xi’an Foods, the spices and flavors were better. Basically almost all the dishes at Xi’an Foods taste like they were made together in the same pot. This isn’t bad, but it’s a good observation!

Within a week, I convinced another friend to accompany me to Spicy Village to try the Spicy Big Tray Chicken. Since my friend, DZ was known to have a large appetite, he was the perfect friend to bring along. I also promised bubble tea from nearby Teado. Is it fate that my favorite tea shop in Chinatown and new favorite noodle place are only 2 minutes away? What a match made in heaven! After getting our tea drinks, we arrived at Spicy Village. The owner was there again and she was very nice. We ordered the Spicy Big Tray Chicken and it was everything I imagined it to be! It’s cut up chicken (with bones!!) with potatoes and peppers in this big pot. Then as per all the reviews I read, I requested noodles to be added to our dish for $1 or $2. It was delicious! At this point, we noticed that the other happy customers sitting around us were drinking beer and wine. I asked the owner if there was a corkage fee and she said nope! So, feel free to bring your own alcohol!

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Spicy Big Tray Chicken With Noodles

MS, DZ and I have returned to Spicy Village many many times since then. MS and I have perfected our order: two pork pancakes, baby bok choy and cold cucumbers. If we’re really hungry, we’ll add a noodle dish. Recently, I returned to the restaurant for take out (just pork pancake) and before I could even get the words out, the owner said “Pork pancake right?” I guess I should be happy that the owner knows my order now? I went back yesterday and she still knew my order. I guess being Foursquare mayor of Spicy Village does matter! :)

Besides the really good food and service, the prices are excellent. The restaurant is owned by a really cute family consisting of a wife, husband and at least a young daughter. The wife speaks pretty decent English and is very polite. If the restaurant ends up being full and it’s not too dark outside, order your food to go and eat at the Hester Playground at the tables. You won’t regret it!

Spicy Village

68 Forsyth Street (between Grand St and Hester St)

New York, NY 10002

212.625.8299

Cash Only

David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar – Better Second Time Around

13 Apr

Note: I guess my streak of at least one post a week has ended. I’m going to still try to update at least once a month. We shall see! :)

I went to Momofuku Noodle Bar a few years ago with a friend who was visiting NYC for the weekend. When another out of town friend a few months ago requested a meal at Momofuku Noodle Bar, I was a bit hesitant. I am a big fan of noodles and during my first visit to this over-hyped restaurant, I couldn’t accept that a bowl of ramen could be priced at $16 and still be mediocre at best. Also, a couple years later, it was named best bowl of ramen in NYC by Chef Morimoto (over Ippudo??) I was shocked and disappointed.

Fast forward a few months ago, after getting delicious drinks at Angel’s Share, my friend JC and I walked over to Momofuku Noodle Bar. I was expecting a huge wait since it was Friday at 9pm, which is prime dinner time in NYC. To my surprise, we only had about at 15 minute wait before we seated at the bar. In case you are living under a rock, one of their most famous dishes is the steamed buns with pork. I already tried them during my first visit, so I wasn’t really interested in having it again. I have this distaste for visible fat on meat, so I have trouble enjoying pork belly like most people. JC ordered the buns and really enjoyed them. I think this dish comes from Chinese cuisine and it’s pork belly served in steamed pillows of bread. Anyhow, after taking a look at their menu, I decided against their famous “Momofuku Ramen” as I wanted to try something different and I didn’t want to cheat on Ippudo. I skimmed the menu and the words “hand cut noodles” rang my internal noodleaholic alarm. Then I saw other delicious words, “brisket” and “soy egg”. I decided that would be my noodle soup of the night.

Momofuku Brisket Ramen

Handcut noodles and brisket


JC ordered the Momofuku Ramen as she just had Ippudo the night before so it’d be the perfect taste test. When my steaming bowl of noodles arrived, I was pleasantly surprised with the presentation. The noodles were thick and chewy, just the way I like it. The broth was really rich and beefy. I was in love. If only there was more noodles (maybe double portion), then I’d be even happier. I hope David Chang keeps this dish on his menu permanently as it is so much better than his signature ramen. All I know is that my next meal at Momofuku Noodle Bar will be for the highly coveted Fried Chicken Dinner. If I could only snag a reservation.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets)
New York, NY 10003
212.777.7773
Takes credit cards
No reservations except for the Fried Chicken Dinner

A crowd favorite: Otto

19 Mar

Such a simple, but tasty pizza at Otto.


I have been going to Mario Batali’s cheapest restaurant, Otto, ever since I moved into the city after college. Whoever I take along ends up becoming a fan of this large, loud, warm, affordable and delicious restaurant. I’ve had a few birthday dinners here. In fact, I would probably have my birthday here every year if I didn’t have to worry about my guests getting bored.

Otto is great for large parties and has a very extensive wine list. In fact, their wine list is much longer than their food menu. If you’re a wine and pizza lover, then I highly recommend this restaurant. Since this restaurant is hugely popular, I recommend making reservations if you don’t want to wait 1.5 hours for a table for two. When you first enter the restaurant, you are in the enoteca area of the restaurant. If you are there during the weekend, I guarantee it will be extremely loud due to the number of people in the restaurant. I would not recommend going on a first date at Otto as you’ll most definitely have trouble hearing your date. After getting over the fact just how busy and loud the restaurant is, you’ll see the large train schedule which will have Italian cities listed and a time. Whether you make a reservation or not, you will be handed a train ticket when checking in with the hostess. When your train ticket’s city shows up on the train schedule, then it’s time for you to be seated. I find the train schedule really cute and reminds me of Italy.

If you end up having a long wait, I suggest getting getting a table in the bar area. Order a couple glasses of wine and maybe a cheese platter. I just want to tell all my readers that my absolute favorite cheese at Otto is Taleggio. It’s a soft and spreadable cheese, which goes perfectly with the very crusty bread. Otto also has great antipasti and I highly recommend the Cauliflower “alla Siciliana”. I don’t even know how to describe it other than being delicious.

Once you are finally seated, you will be handed a short menu which lists their everyday pizzas and pastas as well as their specials. My favorite standby pizzas at Otto are the prosciutto arugula and the pane frattau. I only heard about the pane frattau after watching Mario Batali and Michael Stipe on the Iconoclast series on the Sundance Channel a few years ago. Apparently the pane frattau is Michael Stipe’s favorite pizza! After seeing how delicious the pizza looked, my friends and I ordered it and it was truly amazing. It has a perfectly cooked egg, which I’m guessing is placed on the pizza after it’s cooked in the oven, pecorino cheese and tomato sauce. The pizza itself is really simple and delicate. The yolk is a bit gooey so it mixes into the pizza which makes it just perfect. I normally am not a fan of yolky eggs, but I make an exception here. If you’ve never had an egg on a pizza, I really think you should try it at Otto if you get the chance.

The only time I ordered pasta at Otto. It was delicious!


Another reason why I like Otto so much is that the menu is so moderately priced. Pizzas max out at $15. The pastas at $10. I admit that I can remember ordering pasta just once at Otto. I ended up ordering the pasta special of the day which had fettucine, summer corn, guanciale and tomato water. It was delicious. If this pasta is ever the special of the day, please get it. By the time it’s dessert time, I’m usually full with pizza and wine, so I end up getting gelato or sorbet. There are many fans of Otto’s famous olive oil gelato, but I am not one of them. I just don’t like salty and sweet mixed together in anything. Also, I feel like it doesn’t taste like olive oil. If you’re curious, then you should definitely try the olive oil gelato to see for yourself. After writing this post, I’ve decided it’s time for yet another trip to my trusty Otto.

Otto
One Fifth Avenue (between 8th Street and Washington Square North)
New York, NY 10003
212.995.9559
Takes Credit Cards
Reservations recommended

The Famous Shopsin’s

12 Mar

Chorizo, eggs and peppers

I’ve heard about Shopsin’s. My friend SC informed me that they had strict rules and their menu is CRAZY. There’s over 200 items on the menu, so it can be bit over-whelming. I met my co-workers PS and SB at the Essex Market. This was a first for me. I’ve walked past the Essex Market a number of times enroute to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. If you can’t tell, SSS is my favorite cupcake place in NYC! Yum. My co-workers agreed to meet me in the LES for lunch since I had to buy a dozen of cupcakes to bring to my friends in Seattle/Portland. Yes, I know, I’m an awesome friend!

Anyhow, after PS and I agreed on Shopsin’s I did my usual menu research. I couldn’t even focus on the menu because it was single spaced and so cramped with items. SC informed me of their famous dishes such as macaroni and cheese pancakes, blisters on my sisters, sneaky pete eggs, etc. I decided I wanted something with eggs and meat. The Zackzuka caught my eye because it had sizzling chorizo. Mmm. When I arrived at the Essex Market, I was a bit lost because I had not realized that Shopsin’s was located within it. I found my dining mates and we arrived at Shopsin’s little nook. There were a few tables available and we were seated promptly. We were a bit nervous because we didn’t want to get thrown out. We survived the ordering process and I thought our waiter was quite nice. PS ordered the Orange Julius so I could try it. I never had one during my childhood. It tasted like an orange juice smoothie, but lighter. It was pretty good I guess! I’m not much of smoothie drinker. When her smoothie arrived in the metal cup, we looked at each other wondering how we’d share it. I told her I was afraid to ask our waiter for a straw. He came by and asked, “What are you afraid to ask me?” So I nervously asked for another straw. He came back with two cups and straws. Wow! How kind.

Our meals arrived soon after. PS got a half order of the mac n cheese pancakes and SB got a BLT sandwich. I tried PS’s pancakes and they tasted exactly what I expected. I think they put in the mac in cheese after they put a portion of the batter on the griddle. It was delicious. It was a bit spicy too since she used some hot sauce. Since I lack creativity, I never thought about combining mac n cheese with pancakes. It surprisingly works quite well. My eggs were delicious. I’m usually not a fan of gooey eggs, but these were an exception. I popped the egg yolks and mixed them into my chorizo and veggies. It was perfect. There was plenty of chorizo throughout the dish. They definitely didn’t skimp!

My first meal at Shopsin’s was surprisingly enjoyable. We did not get thrown out and our waiter was quite friendly. When we left, there was a short line of people waiting to be seated. Please note that they will NOT take any parties larger than 4. If you have a larger party, you better split up and pretend not to know each other. Also, they only take cash. During the weekends, this restaurant is quite busy, so I recommend going for lunch during the week if possible.

Shopsin’s
120 Essex Street (between Delancey and Rivington Streets)
South End of Essex Market
No Reservations
Cash Only
No parties larger than 4
Open Wednesday-Saturday: 9:00am-2:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am-3:00pm

Meatball Overload

3 Mar

Beef, chicken and pork meatballs (furthest to closest)


I’ve been reading a lot of reviews about The Meatball Shop in the LES. To be honest, I don’t usually eat in the LES because it’s quite inconvenient for me. The F train rarely runs on the weekend, so I don’t really have an easy way to get there. I could take the bus, but it would take 45 minutes at least. However, I know there are a lot of tasty restaurants in the LES. I usually only go if I need to buy cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine or if I need to get my jeans altered at Express Tailor for $10.

My friend SC and I decided that since we now work at the bottom of Manhattan (near the Staten Island Ferry), we we would hop on the J train and get our jeans hemmed at Express Tailor. Since it usually takes 30 minutes, we’d then have a tasty lunch at The Meatball Shop. We studied the menu the morning of our excursion. We decided we’d get three types of meatballs: beef, pork and chicken. I was lucky to be given the job to pick our sauces as well. After dropping off our jeans at the tailor, we made our way to The Meatball Shop. We were hoping there would be no people since it was rainy and windy.

When we entered the restaurant we saw the almost every table was full. There was a large communal table in the center of the restaurant. The hostess directed us to our seats at this table. I would recommend trying to get your own table as the communal table was VERY tight. I was literally bumping elbows with my two side neighbors. In fact, I had trouble pulling out my chair because it was that tight. We received our checklist menus where you mark down your orders with a marker. After further deliberations that perhaps the 3 orders of meatballs (each has 4 meatballs) would not be enough to satisfy our hunger, we added the salad of the day.

This was the best sauce!


The salad was pretty tasty. It came with water cress, endives, grapefruit and candied walnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette. Then our meatballs finally came out. We ended up getting the beef meatballs with classic tomato sauce, pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce and chicken meatballs with pesto sauce. The pork meatballs were extremely soft and almost fell apart as soon as I took my first bite. The sauce was delicious. It wasn’t overly spicy, but there was a nice kick to it. The beef meatballs were firmer and the tomato sauce was also tasty. However, next time I would probably get the beef meatballs with the spicy sauce. I guess there’s nothing wrong with mixing beef with pork (the sauce has pork in it)? Lastly, the chicken meatballs were the hardest of the trio, but still juicy. The pesto sauce was good, but I think a more watery sauce is needed for the chicken meatballs as they are the leanest meat. Since we ordered the meatballs “naked”, only a piece of focaccia came with each order. You can also get it with pasta or in a hero.

We finished our lunch relatively quickly. I also heard that their ice cream sandwiches are quite tasty, but I was more interested in getting a cupcake at Sugar Sweet Sunshine, so we skipped dessert. Perhaps the next time I’m there and I’m sitting at a regular table, I’ll at least order a cookie. They had quite an extensive dessert menu. I definitely recommend The Meatball Shop if you’re craving some good meatballs. They do NOT take any reservations, so I recommend coming at an off time (lunch probably would be best).

The Meatball Shop
82 Stanton Street (between Allen and Orchard Streets)
New York, NY 10002
212.982.8895
No Reservations
Takes Credit Cards

Middle-Eastern Gem in Nolita

26 Feb

Delicious Taim falafel wrapped meatballs.

For those who haven’t read my post on Maoz, I am a fan of falafel. I especially like the green falafel. Serious Eats did an article on the best falafel sandwiches in NYC. After reading about how wonderful Taim’s falafel, I had to try it for myself. Since it was located in the West Village (somewhere I don’t visit often since it’s far for an UESer like myself), I had to trek there after work. I remember that I had already eaten dinner, but was really curious about Taim. I met a friend at the place and it was tiny. There was just a very small bar with a few stools if you wanted to eat in the restaurant. I also remember it was extremely warm inside. Anyhow, I ordered just a side of falafel and it was delicious!

Recently, I have been reading in my food blogs about this new restaurant called Balaboosta. Apparently it was opened by the same owner of Taim. After the NYTimes wrote their mostly positive review of this restaurant, I was definitely intrigued. I studied their menu and I discovered they served Taim falafel wrapped meatballs for dinner. I convinced my boyfriend JRA to have dinner at this restaurant. We decided to skip the typical pre-Theater restaurants in the Theater District for Jersey Boys. I had no problem making a Friday 5:30pm reservation for the same day on OpenTable. We arrived a few minutes late, but the restaurant was pretty empty. In NYC, most people eat after 7pm, so we were lucky!

JRA's favorite: fried olives!


Since JRA absolutely loves olives, we started with the fried olives and the falafel wrapped meatballs. They gave us a basket of really crispy bread (almost like crackers). It was good. JRA ordered the skirt steak for his entree and after reading several reviews on Yelp and Foursquare, I decided on getting the popular Chicken Under a Brick. Our small plates came out and the fried olives were perfect. They weren’t cold and the olives themselves were nice and salty. I love salty flavors. Then our falafel came out. It tasted like I was back at Taim (except I wasn’t sweating) and inside each large falafel was a small meatball. Yum! Our waiter/busboy was pretty attentive and made sure to fill our water. At the same time, he wasn’t hovering which is exactly what I prefer.

What a tasty dish. Look at the crispy skin!

JRA and I enjoyed the last bits of our small plates before our entrees were brought out. My chicken looked fantastic. The skin looked crispy and almost fried. I was under the impression that this type of chicken dish was cooked in an oven? I took a bite of my chicken and it was juicy (even the white meat)! I tried some of the Israeli couscous and it was tasty as well. There were bits of apricot mixed in which I actually didn’t mind at all. I usually have issues with having sweet things mixed into grains/rice (such as raisins in rice). Jeff’s skirt steak was equally as delicious. It was seasoned/marinated very well. He let me have a bite and it was definitely not lacking in the flavor department. His came with big pieces of roasted sweet potatoes. What a perfect combination!

All in all, JRA and I agreed to add this restaurant in our NYC restaurants rotation. The entrees were all below $30, which is pretty reasonable for the quality of the food. It’s definitely a perfect date restaurant. I highly recommend making reservations online if you want to go on a busy night (Thursday-Sunday). The host told me that it gets busier later in the night and there weren’t THAT many tables. They also have a full bar, but I didn’t have any alcohol as I wanted to be full awake for Jersey Boys (amazing show by the way).

Balaboosta
214 Mulberry Street (at Spring Street)
New York, NY 10012
212.966.7366
Takes Credit Cards
Reservations Recommended

Soondubu in Manhattan

17 Feb

The banchan at Mandangsui


I have a confession to make. I only like Korean BBQ when I’m having it at a buffet. Otherwise, it’s just not filling enough and way too expensive in Manhattan. Mandangsui is famous for their Korean BBQ. In 2009, the NYTimes awarded them with one star, which is rare for an authentic Korean restaurant. I was lucky enough to try Mandangsui’s famous BBQ about a year ago. It was quite tasty, but I left the restaurant a bit hungry and $65 poorer. We did order alcohol, but even that didn’t satisfy my hunger.

Just a couple months ago, I returned to Mandangsui and since it was in the middle of the winter, I was in the mood for a soup to warm my body up. I have been a fan of non-seafood soondubu. Yes, I know that traditional soondubu is tofu soup with seafood such as clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, etc. To my surprise, Mandangsui had beef tofu jjigae, which is perfect for me. After my friend JL and I placed our orders, our banchan were brought out to our table. Every restaurant has different banchan and they’ll change on a daily basis. My favorite dish is the steamed egg, which only Kunjip offers with their banchan. I also heard that this dish is available at Mandangsui only when you order enough BBQ for two people. Anyhow, the banchan was pretty decent. They did not have radish kimchi, which is probably my favorite type of kimchi. For those who didn’t watch Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” episode that took place in South Korea, kimchi is Korea’s national dish. In its most common form, it’s made out of napa cabbage along with many spices such as hot pepper. It’s served cold and is a delicious!

Beef tofu jjigae at Mandangsui. Perfect bowl of soup for a cold winter night.


When my beef tofu jjigae came out, I was happy to see that our waitress brought me an egg. After a previous failure at BCD Tofu House in Flushing, where our waitress did not explain what to do with the egg, I was quick to crack my egg into my still boiling stew. I mixed everything up to ensure that the egg was fully cooked. I took a taste of my creation and it was perfect! The tofu was nice and soft. The beef gave it more of a meaty taste and filled my belly up. I did wish it was a tad more spicier, but I’m afraid to ask for it really spicy and then end up with something inedible. It could be because our waitress knew I wasn’t truly Korean (even if my looks say otherwise) and even though I asked it for medium spicy, it tasted pretty mild to me. Nevertheless, both me and my dining companion enjoyed our dishes thoroughly. I believe JL ordered some kind of seafood stew and there was plenty of it in her bowl. They definitely didn’t skimp on the seafood. I left the restaurant comfortably full and my meal only cost about $15 (with tip and tax), which is just a fraction of what I paid for my BBQ meal. Another great thing about Mandangsui? It’s located on 35th Street, which is a few blocks north of Koreatown (on 32nd Street), so there are a lot less tourists and it’s just less busy in general. However, due to the NYTimes review, expect a wait for a table.

Mandangsui
35 West 35th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10018
212.564.9333
Takes Credit Cards and Reservations

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