Category Archives: restaurant

Happy belated birthday to me :)

Yesterday (which was just an hour ago) was my 23rd birthday – the beginning of the age when we are expected to suddenly go from college students to being grownups. How intimidating! Things have been going quite smoothly in my work life, and in the next few weeks I will make my final decision about which medical school I will be going to this fall. Maybe the continued schooling will give me an excuse to be a "student" for another few years :)

I had a chance to celebrate my birthday early with my family this week. We had a cake freshly decorated for us from the only Chinatown bakery that was still open at 8pm on a Sunday night, so I'm quite grateful that I got a cake at all haha. The decorator made me a bull out of whipped cream on top of the cake, since I was born in the year of the Ox. It was done quite well if I do say so myself – I really liked the cute chocolate accents :) I was originally tempted to make my own cake, but you never make your own birthday cake heh. The cake had a mixed fruit filling, and the sponge cake layers were soft. I wasn't terribly fond of the whipped topping, as it was more fluffy and marshmallow-y than I would have liked, but the flavors came together pretty well. My family and I enjoyed the cake with some freshly brewed aromatic white tea that my dad brought back from China this past week, mmm.

On the actual day of my birthday, I went out with my boyfriend for some nice sushi at one of our favorite sushi joints in Boston: Shino Express. Unfortunately, we realized that in the time we had not gone, they had not only changed their name from Shino Express to Shino Newbury, but that they also dramatically raised prices. More startlingly, they changed all of their sushi from using regular white sushi rice to using some special kind of brown rice. That's right, they don't even carry white rice sushi anymore, and for this they are charging us extra. What happened to the Shino that used to be heaven for students because they had delicious sushi of high quality for a dirt cheap price in a casual setting? It seems like with this new brown rice sushi comes on the tail of Shino trying to remodel itself into a trendy spot on Newbury St. They've changed all their plates and dishes to look modern, but all I really want is the good ol' Shino sushi that was good to my tastebuds AND my wallet (or in this case, my boyfriend's wallet :). I honestly may not go back anymore, since the sushi is no longer priced competitively.

That said, the meal I had tonight was still as amazing as Shino's has always been. I didn't really notice the flavor of the brown rice. It might have been slightly more chewy, but it definitely was a subtle difference (grr, not one I'd want to pay for), which is good because I was so worried that brown rice would ruin the sushi experience. I had a regular salmon roll, a crispy eel roll (eel, avocado, cucumbers, flying fish roe, and topped with mayo and crispy tempura bits drizzled in unagi bbq sauce), and one of their specials, the Boston lobster roll (avocado cucumber roll topped with warm baked lobster mixed with chopped raw red onions in a wasabi butter sauce). The rolls were all amazing, with fresh and fatty fish that melted in my mouth. The lobster roll is one of my favorites because it has such a unique flavor – the wasabi butter sauce really brings together everything in that roll, and it really is a monster to behold with all that lobster! My boyfriend also got a shrimp tempura roll which he said was really good too. Mmm I really wish I could go back to the days when Shino's was cheaper…

After dinner we went to Cheesecake Factory for some dessert – the Godiva chocolate brownie sundae :) Deliciously rich and a perfect end to a wonderful birthday dinner. I never knew this, but apparently Edy's makes a special vanilla ice cream specifically for Cheesecake Factory to use in their desserts. I wonder what exactly is different about it…

Thanks for a nice birthday dinner Greg! Gosh, I still can't believe I'm 23 already… time just passes so fast. There are so many things I'm looking forward to this year, and I'm also sad to be leaving Boston in just a few months. It really is a wonderful city filled with an endless array of amazing places for every taste. I am certain that the years I have spent here will be fond memories I carry with me forever.

p.s. My camera is on the fritz these days… it has a lot of trouble focusing and in dim lighting, and the sensor produces these lines in my pictures a lot when it has to work hard under non-ideal lighting conditions. Sorry for the quality for some of my pictures lately, it's kind of a crapshoot :/ I can't wait to get my new camera!


Recent eatings (and some crazy weather)

A few weekends ago I had to go into work on the weekend (which is one of the things that I dread most), so I dragged my boyfriend along to grab lunch afterwards. Hehe the 30 minute walk to work in the cold weather is a bit more bearable when there's someone with you, and a hot lunch afterwards is great incentive for both parties :) Unfortunately when we were leaving my workplace and making the 10 minute walk to the Indian restaurant for lunch, the weather reared its ugly head. It was cloudy as I left my work, and then a minute later it began to rain, just a few droplets at first, then a little more, with the wind picking up dramatically. I was getting blown over, when next thing I knew, there was a gust of small snowflakes, which then turned back into rain. But no, the sky couldn't make up its mind, and in the next minute, the rain became a wall of little tiny ice pellets, flying sideways with the strong wind. Within literally a few minutes, I could no longer see ahead of me… the icy rain was coming down so hard and dense that it was completely white-out conditions. I was caught right in the midst of it all, and the icy rain came pelting down so hard that my face felt like it was being battered with needles, and I had to take cover next to a building before running the rest of the way to the restaurant yelling "ow ow ow!" the whole way there. Crazy weather I tell you! Of course, minutes after I was seated, the icy rain turned to a falling blanket of giant snowflakes, and another few minutes after that, bright sun. What a storm!

Anyway, we were getting lunch buffet at the Indian restaurant, which is called Royal Bengal. They serve mostly Northern Indian and Bengali cuisine, even though I don't really know what that really means hehe. Indian buffet is always a good time, because well first it's all you can eat, and that's always exciting for students living on a budget, but also because I don't eat Indian food often and it's fun to have something different every once in a while. The prices uses to be great, with the lunch buffet costing about $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends (more meat dishes), and over the years it has risen gradually, to the point where weekend lunch is now $9.50 per person, which is at the threshold where I would not be willing to pay for it if it went any higher. Luckily MIT and Harvard students get a 10% discount, but honestly that's like less than $1 off, so it's not that much of a difference. So that particular weekend they were serving goat curry, fish tikka masala, and fish curry as their specials. The usual fare includes chicken tandoori, aloo gohbi (cauliflower and potatoes cooked with tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices), vegetables curry, daal (a creamy lentils dish), samosas, vegetable pakoras (battered and fried pieces of cauliflower usually), and some fresh vegetable salad with chutney and pita bread available on the side. Yum, here's my first platter of goodies. I try to get a little of everything, but I have to admit I'm not very good with spicy food, so I try to stick with less spicy stuff or else I'd be drinking water like crazy. I usually get a generous portion of the lentils, and some masala item, as they are mild and help give a little buffer to the spicy curries :)

The other thing I really like about Indian buffet is their rice pudding, which is called badami kheer. Indian style rice pudding tends to have a harder rice kernel (not as soft and mushy as English rice puddings) and a more liquid milk that makes the pudding a very refreshing dessert, especially after the spicy entrees. Served cold, it's usually flavored with cardamom, almonds, and raisins, although I try to avoid picking up the almonds and raisins since I like the pure texture and flavor of the rice with the milk. I grew up loving the Kozy Shack style of rice pudding, topped with a healthy bit of cinnamon, and while that is still one of my favorite comfort desserts, I am always looking forward to the Indian rice pudding each time I'm at Royal Bengal. Mmm yum.

Other things I've had lately include a good deal of homecooked meals. On the day that I got back from my latest NYC visit, my boyfriend had prepared dinner for us, which I thought was a really nice gesture especially after my long bus ride back. He pan fried together some onions and a bunch of garlic marinated pork chop medallions, which were thin and juicy with a slightly crispy layer of thin cornstarch. We ate them with rice and a side of garlic stir fried broccoli, and it was a great satisfying meal to come home to after a long day traveling. It's really nice to have someone there who can pick up the cooking when you just don't have the time for it (I had been thinking of getting fast food for dinner when he called me on the phone to let me know he was making dinner – good timing!).

To return the favor, I was in charge of dinner on a night when Greg had to meet with some classmates for a group project right around dinnertime, so that he could come back and we could have dinner ready to eat before like 9pm. Even though cooking alone takes a while since prep time and cooking time can't be cut down by doing both simultaneously (not very well anyway), I really do like having total control over our tiny kitchen space and trying my best to multi-task while planning out what I wanted to make. I definitely relish in the execution of my dinner plan. That's the thing about cooking which makes it so different from baking. For the most part, at least in Asian cuisine, you never have to worry about perfect portioning of ingredients. A dash here, and spoonful there, and a sip of what's in the pot are really the only things you need. Everything else is just trial and error (and execution via familiarity) until you get things to be exactly (or close to) how you want it to be. It's difficult to mess up… as long as you're not burning anything.

There's so much personality in each dish, so much room for variation, that I honestly believe no two dishes I ever make come out the same. Which is fun for me, but I guess difficult for many Westerners to manage, since so often Western cooking is governed by recipes (even when they don't really need to be). That said, I believe cooking is a very intimate thing, and one that you can really only improve on with experience and a flair for experimenting. Whenever I ask my mom how to cook the dishes she likes to make at home, she can never spit out a recipe for me. Never. She'll just insist that I come and watch her cook, and she'll be able to rattle off the general steps, just never the amounts of the ingredients used. And now that I've done a bit of cooking myself, I know just how true that is. When you're just adding and adding an ingredient until you get that satisfactory taste, you definitely lose track of how much is going into the dish. Anyway… heh tangent.

So that night I made a simple cabbage and bacon dish, which is one of my go-to dishes for fast and fool-proof cooking. First off, cabbage must be the world's easiest vegetable to cut. All I do is rinse it, peel off the outer layer, cut the head in half. Then I cut out the stem and proceed to cut the half-head horizontally and vertically in just a few fell swoops before the entire thing is cut into a bunch of small rectangles, since the head holds together so well. So fast! Then I sizzle up some bacon until it's a little bit crispy, and I set that aside. I leave the oil from the bacon in the pan to cook the cabbage with, until the leaves are nice and soft and a bright light green color (the parts closer to the stem will stay a light yellow color). A dash of salt goes in, and then I throw the bacon pieces back into the pan for a quick twirl and it's ready to serve. I personally think cabbage is just as tasty without the bacon, but my boyfriend really likes it with bacon, so I throw some in to humor him. Cabbage just has a great mild but slightly sweet flavor that makes for a nice refreshing vegetable side for most dishes I think.

The other dish I made was improvised on the spot because when I reached into the fridge after defrosting my chicken thighs, I realized that the mushrooms I had intended to use for a nice chicken and mushroom dish were moldy. Fungus growing on fungus is some nasty stuff. So plan B was to use whatever else was in the fridge that could be used to make a chicken dish (and honestly, there wasn't a lot that day). I had onions, carrots, and two small tomatoes. So I cut those up, and softened up the onions and carrots in a skillet while the chicken was cubed and marinated with salt, sugar, white pepper, rice wine, onion powder, garlic powder, cornstarch, and soy sauce. When the carrots were 2/3 of the way done, I threw in tomatoes which soften pretty fast, followed by the chicken, and let that sear to just a bit underdone before adding in some water to make a sauce. For the sauce I used soy sauce and hoisin sauce to achieve a balanced flavor that was neither too salty nor too sweet, something similar to a teriyaki but with a stronger hoisin flavor which made it a rich and rounded sauce. Finally I added a cornstarch slurry and brought the sauce to a boil until it thickened slightly.

You know… it boggles my mind, but how DO people come up with names for their dishes? Like the one I improvised above, I wouldn't know the first thing to call it other than just describing what it is. Who came up with the names like scallopini and casserole? Pad thai? General Gau's? I'm going to call this… hoisin chicken… even though the translation into Chinese makes it mean seafood chicken lol. What, I'm not good at making up names! :P

For Chinese New Year, which I apologize for not having had any interesting entries about despite being Chinese and enjoying its cuisine (I just don't have the ingredients to make those special new year's dishes), I spent the day eating something pretty normal. Greg had the chance to grab a big family dinner in Chinatown though, and brought back some leftovers for me which included a beef clay pot dish, some taro fried duck, beef with tofu, and Cantonese style chicken. He also brought back some dessert that one of his relatives picked up at an Italian bakery… some mini cannolis! Mmm I love cannoli… it has the most interesting texture combination – crunchy outer shell with a creamy but gritty ricotta-like filling. The big cannolis can be a big daunting to handle in one sitting, but the mini ones are great for a bite-sized dessert :)


Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

It's been a busy week, with school starting and coordinating Vday plans, but surprisingly I found time to cook and bake several times, so there will be updates forthcoming as soon as I get off my lazy bum to write them heh. On Valentine's Day, I was pretty excited to get my very own big heart shaped frosted cookie :D Apparently there was a lunch meeting and this cookie was the only one left over, which my boyfriend nabbed and presented to me at lunch. Yum! It was chocolate shortbread with royal icing on top, rich and buttery. We shared the cookie, but I refused to break it down the middle on principle, so we just ate from both sides until we got to the middle lol. I've always thought Valentine's Day cookies are so pretty, and even though it was a left over item from an event, it still made me giddy :)

For dinner, my boyfriend and I got off work early without any concrete plans, and after discussing it briefly we decided to relax and order in for Italian food and watch a movie together. We got our dinner from Stefani's Pizzeria, which consisted of tortellini alfredo for my boyfriend (we ordered fettucini alfredo, but apparently they misheard us), and linguini carbonara for me. We also got a nice complementary Caesar salad, soft garlic bread, and some flatbread to go with the salad. I really liked my linguini carbonara, it wasn't made with a cream sauce like most carbonaras are, instead it was made with a white wine sauce, with olive oil, shallots, mushrooms, and prosciutto. I really liked the flavor of the white wine in the sauce, it was a strong but refreshing taste that went quite nicely with the rest of the ingredients. 

We watched the Bucket List while we ate dinner, and it was such a sweet movie and it made me cry at the end. I don't know why it was given such poor reviews, but we both really liked the movie, even though it's not really a Vday kind of film. I'm a big fan of both Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, and the both of them were just wonderful in their roles. Yes the plotline is mostly formulaic and yes it moves a little slow, but the movie isn't meant to be action-packed, and I feel like both actors did a great job telling their story, and it was certainly moving. Critics might be right most of the time, but there are still many times when you should just let your own intuition do the judging.

Then for dessert we shared a decadent molten chocolate cake together, which I whipped together in no time at all (recipe to follow, with less blurry pictures). It was a delicious way to end the day and I liked being able to add a homemade touch to our meal.

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On Friday night, we had made reservations to eat dinner at McCormick & Schmick's, which is a chain seafood restaurant similar to Legal Seafood. There was a coupon for $20 off any entree, so we thought it would be nice to get dinner at a pricey restaurant without breaking the bank. The atmosphere was a bit stuffy for me, and not very romantic, with the place catering mostly to the older folk (something like a men's club). We had a pretty crazy meal that night… first we were seated in a center table, surrounded by cozy wrap-around booths, which made us feel like we had gotten brushed aside in the seating department. Next our table tilted heavily to one side if we both leaned on it (poor weight balance on the legs?), and our table candle was not lit. We ordered our food and started off with soup, clam chowder for me and Maryland crab soup for my boyfriend. (Sorry for the black & white photo… I accidentally had my flash on, after setting the white balance, so the whole thing came out with a terrible tint of blue that I couldn't fix in photoshop… so I just discarded all color information altogether haha). The thing with this restaurant is that they are very heavy with the salt in everything. The chowder itself was not bad, but a bit too salty (I definitely prefer Legal's chowder) and not as creamy as I expected it to be.

Next came the entree ordering mayhem. They have a special menu every day, based on the fresh seafood they get, which I thought was a nice idea. I was especially interested in their Atlantic salmon special, which was salmon stuffed with blue crab, shrimp, and brie. I ordered that, and Greg ordered their broiled seafood platter, which had salmon, shrimp, scallops, crab cake and stuffed clams. Later the waiter comes back to tell me that they were out of the stuffed salmon, so I had to change my order to their jumbo seared scallops instead. Then 10 minutes later, the waiter comes back to tell Greg that his dish was also out, so he had to then change his order to a yellowtail sole. Well, after all this, it's been about half an hour and our orders for dinner were just going in. Plus, we never got bread and butter, which every other table had gotten, so we had to ask for it ourselves. Finally, a server came with our dishes, and puts down a plate in front of me that I don't recognize… I stared at it for a minute, and that moment our waiter just happened to be coming by and said to the server that it wasn't my dish. Turns out, it was the broiled seafood platter that Greg originally ordered but they had run out of… interesting. So the waiter was clearly very embarrassed and confused, as the other dish the server was carrying was Greg's yellowtail sole. So the waiter gave the original seafood platter to Greg, and took back the yellowtail, and then shortly thereafter brought out my scallops entree. Very confusing.

Anyway, my entree was seared jumbo sea scallops with a saffron risotto and lobster sauce, with a side of steamed vegetables. The scallops were huge, and it doesn't look like it but I actually got 4 of them, which were more than enough for me to even finish. The saffron risotto was, although overly salted, still quite good. It was creamy, and the rice was al dente, with a slight crunch in the center, which I really enjoyed. This is the second time I've tried risotto, and let's just say the first time was terrible, with a lump that was dried and flavorless. So while this risotto was a bit too salty, it was at least better than any other time I've tried it haha. The scallops came in a bit of a brown sauce whose lobster flavor was pretty strong, not at all like lobster cream, but more like lobster stock in a sauce, reminding me a little bit of lobster bisque. The entree was very filling, although it didn't look like that much food at first. I was only able to eat 3 scallops and 2/3 of the risotto with all the veggies before I was completely stuffed to the point of being in a bit of pain heh. So certainly the portions were more than adequate. Mine and Greg's entrees were both about $24, and the soups were $6 per bowl, so the total for the meal after using the $20 coupon came out to about $45 before tip. It's not a bad price, but I think I can get a more satisfying meal experience elsewhere for that price, and less salty overload for sure heh. The one thing M&S does do very well though, is sell desserts. They don't have a dessert "menu" on paper, instead it's presented on a tray with all the desserts molded in very realistic looking plastic. They pick up each dessert to show you and tell you about it, so that it becomes very difficult to deny when the time comes. Luckily we were just literally stuffed to the gills and couldn't handle another morsel of food, but there was a very interesting looking "edible chocolate bag" filled with white chocolate mousse that looked quite delicious. Maybe another time…


A Patriots fan’s visit to NYC on Superbowl weekend

Before I forget, happy belated Chinese New Year to all! I didn't get to do anything special to celebrate, and I didn't have any of the necessary ingredients to make classic Chinese New Year desserts (I only had a navel orange in the fridge… that counts right? haha), so unfortunately, as much as this blog is related to Chinese food most of the time, I don't have anything to post about CNY. I'll try to make up for that with a post about my visit to NYC on Superbowl Sunday :)

So last Sunday I woke up bright and early at about 5am to pack and drag myself to the Boston bus terminal to ride the Greyhound bus down to NYC. I have to say, 4.5 hours is a long time to be cramped in a chair, with the sun shining in your eyes the entire time. Still, I got to the Big Apple just before noon, and met up with my hung over friend Zheng to grab brunch near his apartment haha. I've been on a brunch roll lately, it's almost like I've uncovered a whole new cuisine altogether (I guess there were benefits to never eating breakfast!). At this place, whose name I can't remember but I know it's located on 9th Ave, I saw that eggs benedict was $9 (hah, no way I'd pay that price now!). What sparked my interest however was the large assortment of omelettes that the cafe served, and with a choice of whole eggs or egg whites.

Feeling like I should eat healthy, I settled on an egg white Irish omelette, which had corned beef, onions, and peppers in it, topped with swiss cheese. It was served with a side of smashed and seasoned potato chunks and whole wheat toast. I have to say, it being the first time I've ever had egg white omelettes, it was really tasty! In fact, I would definitely choose it over whole egg omelettes simply for the health benefits, because I honestly thought it was just as good as the real thing. I think the swiss cheese helped give it a lot of savory flavor that perhaps the plain egg whites would have been lacking. The corned beef was also really tasty with the egg whites, something a little different from the usual ham or sausage meat additions. The potato side was not very interesting though, but I suppose it was nice to rotate amongst the different foods on the plate. And as you'd expect things to be in NYC, the price tag was steeper than I would see in Boston. This brunch platter cost me about $9 before tax and tip, and I only got water to drink on the side.

Later that afternoon, I walked with Zheng through the city to get to his friend's apartment for a Superbowl party. Having grown up in the Northeast, there is no way I could be anything but a Patriots fan, and I was a bit intimidated that I would be the only one at the party who wasn't rooting for the Giants. Luckily I was wrong, because otherwise it would have been really hard to watch the last few minutes of the last quarter by myself heh. Anyway, on my way to the party, I was taking in all the sights and sounds of the city, and then I remembered that I've always wanted to try the frozen yogurt phenomena known as Pinkberry. Since Pinkberry stores are only located in CA and NY, I was set on getting a taste before I left. Zheng informed me that we'd be walking by "Koreantown", which is literally just one block of the city with all sorts of Korean and Japanese restaurants and stores, and that Pinkberry was located there. Apparently Pinkberry is a Korean frozen yogurt concept, which was news to me haha. Anyway, we made our little detour there and I was all giddy and snapping pictures because I've heard so much hype about this place and how celebrities love it. I have to say, the interior decor was nice and hip, very Korean-cutesy. I bet a lot of the people just come here for the decor alone, to be able to say that they hang out at the "cool" fro-yo place lol.

They had these big round white lights hanging from the ceiling, with undulating wave patters on them. Certainly very eye-catching and chic. On the walls were printed names of many famous lovers (Zheng was asking me what half of them were heh), although I'm not sure how it has anything to do with frozen yogurt or Pinkberry… I associate neither with… love haha.

There was a long line from the cash register going all the way to the front door, all people waiting to be served on a winter's Sunday afternoon. Amazing. Notice the cutesy pastel things on the right side wall? I don't even know what they were supposed to be… but definitely your typical Korean cutesy items. The one thing about the way Pinkberry operates (btw all their staff was non-Korean) that annoys me is that they don't tell you anything before you get to the cash register. On the back wall are the prices (and damn, this stuff is over-priced!), which say that a small yogurt is $3, and each topping you'd like to add is an additional $0.95. That's all it really says about the frozen yogurts. I figured out eventually that there were three yogurt flavors: original, green tea, and coffee. They don't tell you what the toppings are at all… how the heck was I supposed to order my $0.95 toppings?!? So when I got to the front of the line, I ordered a small original yogurt with 2 toppings, but the cashier said I needed to specify the toppings. Well you didn't have a list of them!! So I had to run up to the counter where they were serving the yogurt, which is like 7 feet away from the cash register, to observe which toppings were available in the serving bins. Normally that's not a big deal, but when there's like 15 people in line behind you, you feel terrible having to step out of line to figure out what toppings are available before coming back to order. What a poor system. Anyway, I chose cookies & cream (oreo crumbles) and mango chunks for my toppings, which made my small Pinkberry yogurt a grand total of $5 plus taxes. What a ripoff, seriously! For that price, I could buy a whole half gallon of premium ice cream at a grocery store!

So now that I've got my Pinkberry in hand (and I had to leave the store to eat it because all the seats were taken up), what is the verdict? Like many people, I had thought the "original" flavor, since it was white colored, would taste like vanilla. But it didn't… in fact it had a very distinct but very familiar taste to me, something I had often tasted while growing up in China. It was the taste of fresh yogurt… the kind that is sold in small bottles in China where the yogurt is partially liquid and partially soft curds, and you shake it up so that you can drink the thing with a straw. That's exactly the kind of thing that Pinkberry tasted like, except it was in a soft serve form. If you've never had the yogurt drink I've mentioned, I can only really describe Pinkberry as sour – not citrusy but more of a mild tartness that is accompanied by a hint of sweetness. It's not really creamy at all, which is what makes Pinkberry a refreshing and healthier alternative to ice cream. It's kind of an acquired taste, I think. Personally, I loved it because it brought back all my childhood memories of those yogurt drinks that I really enjoyed, but I think if you've never had such a flavor before it might be a shock to associate it with frozen yogurt. As tasty as the yogurt is though, I felt like the toppings didn't add anything to the experience… this isn't ice cream, there's no point in topping it with the traditional toppings aside from ripping customers off (honestly… $1 per topping?!?!). So while the flavor of the yogurt itself is appealing to me, I will definitely not be going back often due to the exorbitant price tag. When I go to China this summer… I'll just have my fill of my little yogurt drinks for a few pennies each :)

Moving on… the Superbowl itself was a pretty intense game to watch, and it was a lot of fun with a room nearly split 50/50 Pats fans and Giants fans. Zheng's friends had an enormous apartment (they had an entire floor of a building to themselves… with 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and a giant living room with kitchen. In fact, and this was exciting to me haha, the elevator of the building opens right up into their living room when you hit their floor button. How cool is that?!? Okay… sorry haha I clearly am easily excitable. We had the usual pizza and wings and chips and beer at the party, and then we stuck around for a while after the game since there were riots going on in Times Square (near where Zheng lives). We walked through some of that on the way back, and Zheng, a Giants fan, high fived a lot of random people in the streets haha. I saw policemen sitting on horses, trying to keep the order, but everyone was screaming and shouting and cars were honking (I almost got run over crossing the street). It was pretty crazy and a little scary too I have to admit, although I guess we've had our fair share of riots up in Boston for the Red Sox too heh.

The next night for dinner, I went with Zheng to a little French-Italian fusion restaurant on 9th Ave called Nizza. Zheng wanted to get dinner from the Olive Garden, and I was having none of that chain restaurant stuff while out traveling, so we settled on this small but nicely decorated restaurant with decent prices (entrees $12-16 each). After being seated, the waiter came and told us about the menu, and informed us that the food here was a fusion of French food from the area of Nice and Italian cuisine. He also told us that the portions at this restaurant were about 3/4 normal entree portions at other places (no wonder it was priced cheaper than most places I saw), but that worked out nicely for us since neither of us can eat big portions anyway.

We started off the meal with two appetizers, which the waiter told us were tapas-style and great for sharing. We got the warm calamari with potato salad, and a plate of prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. (Sorry for the pictures with flash, it was just too dim in the restaurant).

The calamari (right) was not fried as I had expected, instead it was naked and tender, probably braised. It came with little jalapeño pepper slices and grape tomato halves that were so sweet and juicy, in a savory vinaigrette sauce, on top of a small bed of skinned and cubed potatoes. I'm not a fan of spicy, so I let Zheng eat all the peppers, and he's not a fan of seafood, so he let me have most of the calamari (oops! I forgot he hates seafood and he didn't tell me not to order it when I suggested it). But in any case, the squid was just so tender, with that warm and perfectly soft chew that fresh and lightly cooked squid has.

On the left is the prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. It was soooo good. The prosciutto was fresh and lean, sliced very thinly so that it pretty much melted in my mouth. The flavor was wonderful too, not too salty, not too bland. It paired perfectly with the creamy sheep's milk ricotta, which was much milder than I thought it would be, but I thought that was nice, because it would have competed too much with the prosciutto otherwise. And then, with the sweetness from the balsamic syrup on top of a crunchy slice of French bread, I was in heaven with each bite. I really liked the ricotta, it was nothing like cow's milk ricotta with its gritty texture. This cheese was so smooth and creamy I could have sworn it was a different cheese altogether. What a perfect pairing of fine flavors and textures!

Next came the entrees. Zheng ordered something that was pretty much like spaghetti with marinara sauce (it's not on the online menu right now), which wasn't interesting enough for me to waste a flash photograph on :P I ordered the crab ravioli, which came in a lobster cream sauce with fennel and parmesan.

I think the thing about Nizza that impressed me the most was the freshness of everything they served. The ravioli blew me away with how tender and fresh the pasta skin was. It was this pillow-soft texture that I had never ever experienced eating ravioli or any kind of pasta before… simply amazing. The crab meat filling was silky and subtle, with the lobster cream sauce giving it most of its flavor. I really liked the added kick from the fennel in the sauce, which gave the creamy flavor an edge that made it memorable. The portion size was perfect, each ravioli was two bites, and I felt just satisfied after dinner. I had room for dessert, but none of the dessert options (of which there were 4 or so) interested me, so we left to grab dessert at a bakery on the way home. I would definitely come back to have dinner at Nizza again, the appetizers were fantastic and the portions were surprisingly just right (there's something to be said about being able to eat your whole meal and not feel too full or not full enough). The price tag with 2 appetizers is a little steep (I paid about $27 including tax and tip), but that ends up being about on par for dining in NYC, as I was seeing a lot of restaurants advertising prix fixe menus at $24-27 per person before tax/tip.

So then on our way back to Zheng's apartment, I stopped by a busy little bakery called Amy's Bread, which had some tasty looking cakes on display, as well as a lot of sandwiches and breads. Apparently everyone else waiting in line was getting some of their fresh handmade bread to take home, too bad I'm not a big fan of bread. What caught my eye from the street were their red velvet cupcakes, complete with lots of whipped cream cheese frosting on top. It was no Magnolia, but it looked just right for dessert (although $2.50 for a cupcake is steep!).

Truth be told, it was my first time eating red velvet cake, and it's true that there is nothing special about how it tastes (it's really just red cake), but I guess it's something of a visual experience not to be missed out on in your life hehe. The frosting was just great, it wasn't sweet and overpowering like most cupcakes that use royal icing or even buttercream. This frosting also wasn't thick and heavy like cream cheese frostings. I really liked its lightness, which most resembled the kind of frosting that whipped cream cakes tend to have, with a bit of butter in it. Of course, with cakes that have this much pretty frosting on it, it's hard to eat properly without getting frosting all over your face, so I'll remember not to get such a thing when I'm out with important guests :)

So those were some of my food exploits on this trip, yummy and pricey as always! Until next time, NYC!


Brunch at Brookline Lunch

Having thoroughly enjoyed last weekend's breakfast at Sunny's Diner, I looked up other popular brunch places on Yelp.com, which brought up a small place not two blocks from Sunny's Diner called Brookline Lunch. It had the traditional breakfast fare, but also had some additional options as well as Middle Eastern entrees for lunch. Everyone that reviewed it seemed to really enjoy the food, although the interior was a bit grungy. So this weekend, my boyfriend and I ventured out to grab brunch there. We woke up late, so by the time we actually got to the restaurant, it was already just about 2pm. Luckily for us, this place seems to serve breakfast and lunch all day long, and since it was way past the usual brunch time, there was no wait. We sat down and eagerly browsed the menu before both deciding to get the eggs benedict special (take a guess how much this cost):

Not more than 7 minutes after we made our order, two piping hot plates of eggs benedict were plopped down before us, filled to the brim with food. I was actually surprised to see that each order came with 2 eggs benedict, which, if you are unfamiliar, is a poached egg on top of a slice of grilled ham, on top of half an English muffin, toasted, topped off with some Hollandaise sauce. Here they also sprinkled some paprika on top for contrast. The menu mentioned home fries on the side, but what we actually got was an interesting medley of completely random grilled vegetables, which included peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and some boiled and seasoned potato chunks (not actual fries, like Sunny's). It was unexpected, but certainly refreshing, and I was pretty happy thinking about how I was getting some servings of vegetables with my brunch haha.

The eggs benedict themselves were incredible. The eggs were poached to perfect tenderness, slightly firm on the outside but with the yolk still runny in the middle (similar to eggs over easy but with less runny yolk and more of a tender texture because it wasn't cooked on a surface). The softness of the eggs were great with the slight crispiness of the toasted ham and muffin, and the muffin itself does its job of soaking up the liquid yolk in each bite. Most notable, however, was the Hollandaise sauce that topped the eggs. It was creamy and smooth, without being too thick or too runny, but also not too rich, due to a nice blend of lemon juice in the sauce. It gave the eggs benedict all the flavor that was needed, and was not overpowering at all.

After finishing off my plate, I was very full and satisfied. It was my first time having eggs benedict, and my boyfriend's 3rd time, and we both thought it was phenomenal. What's even more incredible is the price… did you guess it? $4.95!!! For such a small price, we got so much wonderful food, and it wasn't even silly fast food, it was well-prepared and delicate and delicious. I think perhaps this small diner is able to keep its prices down by being completely family-owned and run. There is only one waitress, the mother of the family, serving the entire diner. She was very efficient, though very busy running around from table to table (there were probably 15 tables in the restaurant). But you could see that it was a humble diner, with interesting artwork on the walls rotating in from a nearby art gallery. Almost every single breakfast option (ranging from omelette platters to eggs, sausage, and pancakes) was less than $5 each. The price and the quality of food will definitely keep me coming back, and clearly it is what makes Brookline Lunch such a popular place to grab brunch. I heard that there are usually lines going out the door during the busy hours on the weekends, now I know why!


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