HOY-OB-MOR-DIN or THAI STYLE MUSSELS
When my friends over at Thai Pavilion in Astoria invited me to try some of the restaurant's authentic cuisine, I was excited yet unsure what to expect. Now, I love spicy food, but I'll admit my knowledge of Thai food doesn't go much further than the mediocre pad thai from my nearest takeout spot.
Not only are the owners (and head chef) at Thai Pavilion knowledgeable, but they're also seriously the nicest, most hardworking people you'll ever meet. I think I sat at the restaurant for a full two hours laughing and enjoying each and every dish.
I'll just jump right in to my favorite: Hoy-Ob-Mor-Din or Thai Style Mussels. The fresh mussels were steamed with Thai fine herbs and lemongrass, and served with a spicy lemon sauce. The lemongrass broth was soothing and bright, while the spicy lemon sauce added just the right amount of kick. Each mussel was tender and not too chewy or overly fishy.
LARB GAI OR CHICKEN SALAD
The Larb Gai was a wonderful new take on the traditional chicken salad. The grounded chicken with onions, chili, scallions, mint and lime juice was served over a bed of lettuce. The dish can be made as spicy (or not spicy) as you'd like. With almost an undertone of licorice, this plate was flavorful in ways no American chicken salad with mayo could ever be.
MIXED APPETIZER PLATE
And the food just kept on coming. The mixed appetizer plate they put together for me was a great way to taste a little of everything. The Steamed Thai Dumplings were not like any dumpling I've ever had before (and I love my dumplings!). Stuffed with finely grounded chicken, peanuts and preserved radish, each dumpling was earthy and textured—especially with crispy shallots sprinkled on top.
I'm normally not an egg roll fan, but the Thai Egg Roll was pretty delicious. Glass noodles wrapped with egg roll skin were stuffed with sauteed white cabbage and bamboo shoots, making this egg roll so much better than the bland vegetable stuffed junk you get at other takeout places. The plum sauce drizzled on top was the perfect addition.
The Shrimp Wrapped in Phyllo Dough was simple but fun. I loved dipping them into the spicy lemon sauce from the mussels.
Drunken Noodles might just be my new go-to dish. The stir-fried flat noodles with chili pepper, basil, onions and chicken were surprisingly light with a wonderful creeping heat.
This Shrimp Pad Thai was nothing like any pad thai I've ever had anywhere else. Even the day-old leftovers were better.The stir-fried rice noodles with bean curd, ground peanuts, egg and bean sprouts were crunchy, smooth and oh-so-nutty. You just need to go try it. Seriously. Like now.
Although I didn't have much room left, I'm glad I took a few bites of the Whole Fish with Tamarind Sauce. The Chilean sea bass was flaky and light, while the tamarind sauce brought a tanginess to the dish. The side of Shrimp Curry was pretty delicious, too.
Needless to say, if you love Thai food (or even if you don't) make your way to Thai Pavilion in Astoria. They'll treat you right, feed you good, and make sure you've got lots of leftovers to relive the experience all over again at home.
WHISKEY BREAD WITH CULTURED BUTTER
On a random Friday night a few weeks ago, my friend Iwa and I decided to go on an adventure. After a few cocktails (specifically Moscow Mules) at Dutch Kills in Astoria (that's in Queens for those who are geographically challenged), we thought it would be a fantastic idea to catch a cab and hike over to Williamsburg (in BROOKLYN!) for dinner. And, to my surprise, it turned out to be quite a fantastic idea.
Yeah, we're a little bananas, but the food at Gwynnett St. on Graham Ave. was pure bliss. The space itself is visually stunning. The wall mural, located in the back of the restaurant, is of the calmest blue. I felt like I was swimming in a glorious fishbowl thanks to the oceanic colors.Originally, we were only going to get one appetizer, but our ravenous stomachs won out. If pound cake and cornbread got together and had a baby, it would be this Whiskey Bread with Cultured Butter. Moist yet textured with just a hint of sweetness, the butter almost wasn't necessary—almost.Iwa had her eye on the Maitake Mushroom, and I am so glad she did. The mushroom came topped with creamy onion, rosemary and lardo. The dish was so succulent and meaty, if you closed your eyes you would have sworn you were eating a steak. My only qualm is that we devoured the small portion so quickly.
GUACAMOLE ALLA TOSCANA
When I came across a Blackboard Eats deal for free guacamole and a bottle of wine with the purchase of two entrees (or two appetizers per person) at Matilda, there was no way I was passing it up. Date nights with Jake have just been us cooking at home lately, so I thought it would be fun to try some place new and go see a show afterward.
Matilda, located on East 11th Street, has both an eclectic menu and decor. Bright pops of pink and lime green are offset by exposed brick walls and modern white tables (so modern the dessert menu is actually part of the table).
Our bottle of red and Guacamole Alla Toscana arrived right away. I'm pretty picky about my guac—not too chunky, with just a kick of spice—and Matilda's version was spot on. Flecks of red pepper and basil kept the dip from being too bland. I would have preferred more chips, but the focaccia wasn't bad albeit slightly soggy.
I guess I should start by saying none of these pictures do the food at Talde justice. At all. For the first time in what feels like forever I was just too excited to eat such beautiful food. Taking pictures was definitely an afterthought. That being said, let's dive right in...
GETTING THE PAN NICE AND HOT FOR CRAB CAKES
Last year, Jake and I started a Valentine's Day tradition of staying in and cooking a scrumptious meal together. Our menu came straight out of Food Network Magazine: Ina's Lemon Pepper Chicken, Bacon-Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Rabe With Cherry Peppers and Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Instead of creating another random menu, I decided I liked the idea of a Surf & Turf type meal. Being on a budget, however, I was pretty afraid we'd get stuck with what I call ghetto surf and turf, or skirt steak and shrimp. That's were GetMaineLobster.com and Living Social saved the day. For what I considered a fairly reasonable price, we received the following:
- 2 Crab Cakes
- Lobster Soup
- 2 Maine Lobster Tails
- 2 Cuts of Filet Mignon
- 2 Whoopie Pies
CRAB CAKES W/ HOMEMADE REMOULADE
FRIED CHICKEN WINGS
I can count on one hand the number of times I've made the trek to Brooklyn. Sorry if I sound like a snob, but traveling from Queens takes just a little too long. When I heard about Brooklyn Wok Shop, however, I decided to suck it up and see what this family business on North 10th Street was all about.
Owners Melissa and Edric hoped to open a neighborhood joint with fresh, delicious food reminiscent of time-honored take-out. I'm happy to say, they did even better. Brooklyn Wok Shop has a laidback atmosphere with casual but upscale food that works for both a large group or a small, intimate dinner.
SEARED DIVER SCALLOPS
To finish my Winter New York City Restaurant Week extravaganza, I met up with my girlfriend Nina for one final lunch. She raved about Quality Meats' Hanger Steak with Brandied Cherries (The photo turned out terrible, but the dish itself was amazing.), so I figured I aught to give it a try.
Of course, I eyed the menu (and salivated) for a full week before we even went. I'm a sucker for seafood, so the Seared Diver Scallops with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon & Honey Crisp Apples was the easy appetizer choice. Although the scallops were a bit thin, they were seared to perfection. The honey crisp apples really brightened the whole dish and brought a nice pop of fresh flavor. Where were the Brussels sprouts? Seriously. I hardly tasted them at all.
Also, the bacon didn't really add anything to the plate. Next time, hold the bacon and give me more Brussels sprouts! (If you can't tell, I'm enamored with Brussels sprouts lately.)
BUBBLES & MADNESS, KEY WEST FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL 2012
Out of all of the Key West Food and Wine Festival events this year, Bubbles & Madness at Azur was my absolute favorite. The unlimited champagne brunch was exactly what I needed after a night of dancing and drinking for my mother's 50th birthday.
BRUSCHETTA = WAY TO MY <3
You know when you just need some girlfriend time, a glass of good wine and yummy food? That was me last week. Thankfully, Destino (and New York Restaurant Week) came to the rescue.
An intimate Southern Italian restaurant, Destino is upscale without being pretentious. An enormous Renaissance style painting reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel adorns the ceiling, while black cushioned walls exude elegance with a goth flair. Not only did our waiter bring a basket of assorted, fresh bread to the table with olive oil, but he also served up three perfect servings of bruschetta. The tomatoes were fresh and bright, and the crisp bread was sprinkled with just enough olive oil to keep it all moist.
NORTH AFRICAN SPICED CHICKPEA SOUP
Navigating Restaurant Week in New York City can be tough. Will I still receive good service even though I'm paying half the price? Will the food live up to the hype of the restaurant? I've made the mistake of going to a restaurant just for its name before, and I deeply regretted it. Boulud Sud has a stellar reputation, and thankfully it lived up to everything I heard
— and then some.
I started salivating over the menu two weeks before I even entered the posh Mediterranean eatery. To start, I chose the North African Spiced Chickpea Soup. Normally I wouldn't go for something like this at all, but I'm glad I decided to choose a dish out of my comfort zone. Topped with cumin yogurt and cilantro, I loved the refreshing tang the yogurt brought to the rich soup. The texture of the roasted chickpeas added just the right amount of crunch to counter the soup's deep creaminess.