Monday, February 28, 2011

Aoki

I wasn't feeling my bagged lunch one day. I wanted Japanese food. So I went and ordered from my staple joint in Midtown: Aoki. They're fast, nice, and the food is good.

I tried their bento box for lunch which is $12 during the midday rush. I picked the unagi (eel) which came with white rice, salad, soup, and house roll. That day's rolls was spicy tuna. I opted for pick up to get a little bit of exercise that day. When I opened my bag, I was surprised to see such a large bento box. The container itself was about 12x12 inches. What I wasn't surprised about was the quality. Everything was fresh, light, and delightful.

First, the soup. It was okay being your normal miso soup. Not bad, not great. It satiated whatever craving I had for miso.

And now, onto the bento goodies. The eels was really nice. The glaze was savory and sweet, the fish was meaty, and there was more than enough for me to enjoy. I appreciated the pickled radishes on the side.
The spicy tuna toll wasn't very spicy at all. It was mild. But the seaweed held up, the rice was nice, and the fish fresh.
The salad was very mediocre but I enjoyed the fact that the green were fresh and the dressing was in a separate container. That's a touch that would being be back to a place to eat.
And the rice. Just plain white rice. Nothing special but went really well with the eel.
I really enjoyed the bento box from Aoki. I think it was a good value at $12. The portion was large and it came with soup. It may be a little more than what people want to spend on lunch every day but this is a good splurge once in a while.

Aoki
234 West 48th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 956-2355
aokinyc.com‎
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Big Wing Wong

You read that correctly, it's Big Wing Wong and not Big Wong this time. Yes they are technically different restaurants. But the menus, service, and food are so similar. Are they related? Are they sister restaurants? I have no idea. But they are on the opposite sides of Mott Street each off of Canal Street. Anyway, so how's the food?

I ordered my staple of soy sauce chicken leg and greens (choy sum) over white rice. The chicken was really tender and juicy. The flavor was really good. It reminded me completely of Big Wong. Really good. The only difference is that this place gives more more veggies. I like that.

Mr. M&P got his usual as well: beef ho fun. This looked different. And it tasted different too. They were skimpier on the beef and the color wasn't as brown. I'm not sure if that's due to less soy sauce (the dark kind) or less sauteing and browning in the wok. We both agreed that it was better at Big Wong's.
And we had to get a plate of char siu (roast pork). It was okay. I feel as if they places are becoming healthier because the pieces were pretty lean. I like fatties roast pork. It just taste better. However, I did notice that the roast pork at both places were served at room temperature which can be cold at time. This is not make a good plate of meat. The fat and glaze congeals. At both places, I asked for it to be heated up. This usually means the microwave.

Big Wing Wong
102 Mott St # A
New York, NY 10013-5600
212-274-0696
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cooking: Soupy Noodles with Pork Stuffed Fish Balls

Rainy weather always calls for soupy noodles. I always have the ingredients stocked in my kitchen.This time, I'm trying a new noodle as suggested by my family. They really love it. They're called sau tao noodles. They look almost like spaghetti but without the egg part.

I set a pot of stock on the stove and let it boil. I added salt to taste, then the pork stuffed fish meatballs went into the pot. I brought the stock back up to a rolling boil for about 5 minutes. Then, I placed the noodles in and cooked until almost al dente. Lastly, I threw in some veggies, bok choy this time, and cooked them until bright green but still crunchy. When the one pot meal is done, I like to scoop the ingredients out in stages. First, hot/soy/oyster sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Then all the noodles, fish balls, veggies, and lastly the stock gets poured on top. A splash of sesame oil at the very ends is a nice touch as well.
The noodles are soft and pretty slippery. I would buy it again but I like udon noodles better. Oh well. Personal taste, that's all. The fish meatballs are delicious! The texture of the outside can be rubbery but it's the inside that you care about. Well seasoned ground pork in juices just spring out in flavor. So very very good. I'm glad Mr. M&P doesn't care for these. More for me!!
Thanks to Yvo of the Feisty Foodie for getting these for me from Sheng Wang. And thanks to Danny of Food in Mouth for continuously eating and blogging about it.

Sheng Wang
27 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
212-925-0805
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Schnipper's

One random day, I met up with TC and Cheeeeeeeese for lunch. We decided on Schnipper's for their, fast and affordable meals.

Cheeeeeeeese decided on some chicken fingers and fries ($7). He told me that he thoroughly enjoyed them. They had a nice crispy exterior matched with juicy meat inside. The fries were the normal shoe string kind. Well fried and salted.

TC had the cheesy joe sandwich ($8) which is a sloppy joe with cheese. Look at that messy thing! So messy yet so good. I think he liked it. It certainly filled him up and he's a big eater.
He also washed it all down with a chocolate malted shake ($6.50). His comment, "It wasn't chocolaty enough". Hahah! Malted never is. Stick with regular chocolate next time.
I had their Schnipper's classic burger ($9) ordered medium. I appreciated the soft white bun. It held up for the juices of the meat.
And that's what the inside looks like. Pink? Yes, indeed. I enjoyed this burger. It was fatty and well seasoned. Plenty juicy and meaty enough for me. I like the balance of everything. I would definitely order this again.
And my side order of fries ($3) came addicting. I kept picking at it even though I was full. Ah, fries...how can I resist thee?
I also grabbed a packet of oatmeal raisin cookies for later. I never made it to dessert for lunch. It was a nice late afternoon snack though. Just in time for my sugar rush/energy/pick up.
I really enjoyed Schnipper's. I liked the service, the layout of the place, and mostly the food. I would definitely come back and order their burger again. However, I'm eager to try some of their other items.

Schnipper's
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(212) 921-2400
schnippers.com
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lunch Week 8: Leg of Lamb Sandwiches

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Leg of Lamb Sandwiches

I was inspired by the gyro I had this weekend. I wanted lamb but not a lamb product. So I decided to roast a leg up with lots of herbs and make a sandwich out of it.

First thing, the leg of lamb. I made marinade using chopped garlic, fresh rosemary, paprika, dry mustard, salt, pepper, cinnamon, hot pepper flakes, and olive oil.

Then I took my leg of lamb and trimmed a lot of the fat off. Also, I cut it so that it laid mostly flat to the board. This helps the marinate infuse the meat evenly.
Rub that sucker with the marinade. Make sure to get the top, bottom, and sides. Then I tied it up with kitchen twin. Back into the fridge for a couple of hours. Best thing to do is to marinade overnight in the fridge.
Then take it out of the oven for about an hour so that it comes back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375oF. Place the lamb into the middle of the oven and roast until an internal temperature reaches about 160oF for medium well lamb. Use similar temperatures for doneness as beef.
I waited about 15 minutes before slicing into the loin and seeing all the herbs, garlic, and seasoning. Oooh, just lovely.
I carefully sliced off thin pieces for easy sandwich layering.
Then I made a dressing using Greek yogurt, scallions, cucumbers, lemon juice, mint, salt, and pepper. I left it fairly thick so that it would adhere to the bread easily.
I also thinly sliced some cucumbers and tomatoes.
And let the sandwich layering begin! First, the whole wheat bread. Then the yogurt dressing goes on top.
Then, the sliced lamb on top of the yogurt dressing, followed by cucumbers, then tomatoes, and finally baby arugula. On the other slice of bread, I decided to add some hot pepper spread from Wegmans which turned out to be really good!
I really enjoyed the mix of flavors in this sandwich. I heated it slightly in so that everything can meld together even more. The lamb wasn't gamey at all. The marinade really infused the meat and made it delicious. It was pretty juicy as well. The yogurt sauce balanced the hotness from the hot pepper spread. It also added a nice tang. The vegetables gave the whole thing great texture and freshness. The only thing wrong I can say about the sandwich is the bread. I like whole wheat bread but it seemed wrong for this sandwich. Maybe I should have used pita instead.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ML HH: Hagi Saki Bar

Every month, the avid readers of Midtown Lunch get together for happy hour. In the past, it's been an excuse to meet random strangers and bond over drinks. Now, it's evolved into hanging with weirdos and bonding over food. And so here's Midtown Lunch Happy Hours.

For this ML HH, we went to: Hagi Sake Bar

The key to Hagi Sake Bar is to arrive early and score a table. For a large table, you'll need at least 3 people. They won't seat you otherwise. Thankfully, some people arrived by 6pm to get the last big table. Once more people wandered in, we ordered lots of food, beer, and specialty cocktails.

Here's an order of fried gyoza which had a crispy bottom. The filling was mediocre but tasty. Nothing crazy good but not bad either.

I think this was a special that  night which was grilled blue fin tuna. The meat was really tender but I didn't think it deserved to warrant the price (which I forgot). It's good enough to order once but it's definitely not a repeat dish.

I think this is tuna sashimi which looked amazingly fresh. I don't think I tried any of this but it certainly looked good.
The fried tofu was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The bonito flakes on top danced around due to the heat rising from the cubes. I liked this. It was simple and good, especially with a dip in soy sauce.
For some barbecue treats, we ordered some pork belly and quail eggs. I didn't try the belly but I thought the eggs were overcooked. The yolk became chalky.
Here's a closer look at the pork belly skewer. Layers of meat and mostly fat. Who doesn't like fat?
Here's another skewer with asparagus wrapped in bacon. This was pretty good. The bacon here was a little more cooked. Therefore making the fat more rendered and crispier.
We also ordered some grilled eggplant which turned out to be really good. At first, we were skeptical  but as we dug in, it was really flavorful. The texture was soft but the charred surface helped.
We got another bacon wrapped item (go figure), but I can't remember what it was! Ack, this post is becoming a sign of me being a bad blogger and not taking notes. Sorry!
But these are easily identifiable: clams. There were just okay. They didn't have much flavor, I thought. And 4 to an order is quite cheap. Oh well. Now we know.
And here's some fried garlic which turned out to be awesome! These little nuggets were coated and deep fried to a point where the cloves melted. The accompanying hot sauce was pretty good too. This is a dish to get again.
And here an order of their famous yellow collar, a special that day. It was a skimpy piece though. And you can see it was charred. Normally, this is pretty tasty but on this night it was lackluster.
A new dish for me, the fried chicken. The crispy battered chicken was topped with shaving of daikon and soy sauce. It was pretty good. The chicken was really crispy.
And here's some fried squid which was actually pretty light and crispy. It needed more flavor though. A heavy hand of salt and pepper would have worked really well here.
Getting tired of small appetizers, we ordered an okonomiyaki which is a pancake-type dish with cabbage and your choice of meat. It usually comes with a sweet sauce on top and bonito flakes. The pancake itself is supposed to be pan fried crispy. This was a little of the soft side. However, I liked the filling. A good combination of vegetables and meat.
Here's another entree. This one is pork belly sitr fried with green beans and sprouts. It was okay. The pork belly needed to be crispier. I don't really enjoy really soft bacon that hasn't had the fat rendered.
And lastly, we ordered some yaki udon which are stir fried thick noodles. This one came with chicken which was pretty dry. The different sizes of chopped vegetables, chicken slices, and noodles kind of made this hard to eat. But tasty, yes.
I really enjoyed coming here again. The service can be spotty, the crowds can be epic, and the food can be meh, I still enjoy the good points which are: cheap alcohol, people just enjoying themselves, and certain good food.

Thanks to everyone coming out that night and making my day special!

Hagi Sake Bar
152 West 49th Street
New York, NY 10020
(212) 764-8549
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