Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Wonjo

Thinking of having Korean BBQ for lunch/dinner? Great call. Hit up New Wonjo on 32nd St, tucked between 5th Avenue and Broadway.

I went there the other day for dinner with two of my pals, and we ordered the Marinated Meat Combo #2, which was perfect for a party of 3. It came with chicken, beef and spicy pork. We also received a complimentary spicy tofu soup, known as the Soon Doo Boo Jigae.

Soft tofu cubes floated in a pool of steaming red broth, garnished with chives and other spices that contributed to the strong, exotic flavor.

One of my favorite things about Korean BBQs is the wide variety of healthy little appetizers that accompany the main entrees. We didn't even ask for these. The waitress just laid the plates on our table until there was no room for anything else. Kimchi. Flat rice strips. Steamed vegetables. Salted black beans. Fresh lettuce.

Well, I guess we were off to a healthy start! And then our meat platters arrived. We waited patiently as our waitress grilled the meat in front of us. A suction tube hovered above the grill to absorb the smoke rising from the meat. The spicy pork was my favorite out of the three. Marinated in a special sauce, it was the epitome of perfection. It was spicy enough to test your taste buds, but mild enough to keep you lunging for another piece.

My love for Korean BBQ has brought me to several places, but New Wonjo is definitely a winner. It's worth every penny. For what you pay, you get quality food and decent service, along with a quenched appetite.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tipsy Parson

What's better than breakfast and lunch?

Brunch. Well, more importantly, Sunday brunch. There's something fresh about Sunday mornings in the summer. It was a beautiful morning to be out in the city. I woke up early to catch the train to Manhattan for brunch with Erika and Jacqui, and found myself strolling through the quaint neighborhood of Chelsea.

Jacqui had suggested Tipsy Parson, a charming restaurant that served American comfort food like biscuits and gravy, pancakes, sandwiches and more.

It was crowded, but we were lucky to get a table at the back of the room. Jacqui and Erika each went for the lemon-cornmeal pancakes, served with blueberries, bananas, lemon butter and maple syrup. 

I got the Belgian waffle, adorned with peaches, whipped cream and brown sugar butter. All of us agreed that it was the fluffiest waffle we'd ever tasted. Waffles usually have a slight crisp to them, but this one was really, really fluffy! I loved it.

Even though we were full, we couldn't resist sharing the Biscuit Bomb, a buttermilk-chive biscuit topped with melted cheddar. It resembled a small mountain spewing stringy cheese that ran along the thick, cracked wall. 

Jacqui cut it in half, and it pretty much exploded. The biscuit crumbled onto the plate, and nestled in the heart of all that delicious mess was a chunk of homemade sausage. And boy, it was everything I'd imagined it to be. I guess it's named Biscuit Bomb for a reason. I know I'm being cheesy, but I love it when restaurants get creative with their food!

New York is peppered with so many hidden gems... and Tipsy Parson is definitely one of them! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mary's Pizza Shack

Had the privilege of visiting Sonoma, a quaint little town in the heart of the world's third largest wine country (Sonoma/Napa Valley) located in San Francisco. We stopped in Sonoma for a lunch break and then continued the journey to the other wineries. I was enthralled by the town's vintage charm -wooden white pillars and lamp posts adorned with Christmas heaths among pastel clapboard buildings.

The afternoon was cloudy with a burst of sunlight. Traffic was minimal. Women pushed strollers as they window-shopped. Old friends laughed over fresh coffee in the warm interiors of cafes.Tourists paused outside trinket stores to snap pictures (that's me).  

Along the short strip of stores was Mary's Pizza Shack. You couldn't miss it. A statue of a fat, oversized elf with striped stockings and curly-tipped shoes greeted you at the front with a large pizza. 

Once inside, I quickly learned that Mary's Pizza Shack is an Italian family-owned business. The restaurant received national recognition for its delicious pizzas. It serves Italian comfort food like soups, pizzas and pastas. This got me excited. You know how much I adore Italian food! ;)

The founder's grandson who looked no older than 12, greeted us and led us to our table. 

Pots and pans hung from a rod at the back of the restaurant, contributing to the restaurant's cheerful decor

Random snapshot of my dad's hands while I waited for the food

I ordered the seafood risotto because I hadn't tasted risotto in almost a year. It arrived in a big white plate.  Shrimps and clams were nestled in a bed of creamy rice, garnished with peas, herbs and a hint of lemon. 

Best risotto I've ever tasted. The shrimps were juicy and fresh. And the rice, soaked in a creamy pool of sauce, was cooked to perfection. Everything about it was delicious.

My brother contemplated between a pizza and a meatball spaghetti. He ended up going with a pizza called "Mary's Combination." Since my parents were interested in having pizza as well, they all decided to split the large pizza.

When our pizza arrived, our jaws dropped. I thought we ordered a large, not a Ginormous. I later learned that the restaurant's definition of a large pizza was 16" and 10 slices. My parents had only been in America for a week, and were still incapable of increasing their appetite to more than two slices of pizza. I think I saw a flash of panic in my mom's eyes the moment the waitress lowered the pizza onto our table.

The pizza was a lot larger than it looks. But it was worth every penny. It was topped with salami, pepperoni, cotto salami, mushrooms and sausage. Toss in the best meats in the world and you'll have Mary's Combination. (No bacon on there though)

I was full from my risotto but I helped myself to a slice anyway, and then another. It was so good! I highly recommend the Mary's Combination. I'm not a huge fan of meat but I really liked it. If you're a vegetarian, don't worry. There's a Vegetarian Pizza on the menu too, specially for you guys.

We ended our lunch with cake. I don't know how the thought of dessert even crossed our minds because we were bloated from all the carbs. But my mom was craving cheesecake and the blueberry crumble cheesecake caught her eye.

Lemon cheesecake caressed with sweet blueberries and streusel, with fresh cream on the side.

It was pretty sweet. Too sweet for my mom's liking. She stopped after several bites and made the rest of us finish it. The sourness of the lemon was barely detectable beneath the overpowering sweetness of the cake.

I'm not trying to be cheesy, but at least we ended on a sweet note. ;)

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cheeburger Cheeburger

Welcome to Cheeburger Cheeburger

I was down in Shreveport, Louisiana last weekend and my friends and I made this cute burger joint our lunch spot.

The moment I entered, I was greeted by nothing but pink. Pink walls, pink menus and a pink L-shaped counter. Bright sunlight filtered in through the curtainless-glass windows that lined the diner, filling the place with a natural glow. 

Cheeburger Cheeburger is famous for its burgers. But it's also a superb place for milkshakes because...

... you get to create your own milkshake flavor out of the dozens of existing flavors on the menu! 

How exciting is that? I love milkshakes and I went crazy when I saw the milkshake menu. Some of the flavors were delicious to the eyes... blueberry cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, double chocolate, chocolate banana, chocolate peanut butter, oreo cheesecake. Some made me raise my eyebrows... almond, coconut cream pie, peanut butter and jelly... and some were so fruity, they could fool you into thinking they were healthier than the others... apple, watermelon, mango kiwi, kiwi strawberry

The best thing was that you could combine flavors and create your own! I decided to just go with the strawberry cheesecake. One of my friends combined the brownie batter and mocha. It turned out to be a creamy concoction of chocolate and coffee. Still yummy though. My strawberry cheesecake milkshake was so thick that I couldn't taste it through a straw. So, I gave up and used a spoon. It was pretty much like ice cream.

I had my doubts at first. Strawberry and cheesecake? What if it ended up tasting funny? But it was the most delicious milkshake I'd ever tasted. Hands down. I also found tiny strawberry chunks embedded within the creamy drink, which made it even better. Because then I knew they used real fruit. :) 

Our milkshakes and appetizers arrived before the entree. My friends and I shared the fries medley, which was a basket of peppered golden-brown fries and crispy onion rings. The fries were decent - pretty typical fries - but the onion rings were a crunchy delight!

At Cheeburger Cheebuger, you get the liberty to invent your burger from the selections of cheeses and toppings. 

I ordered the classic quarter pounder, weighing 5.5 ounces, with lettuce, sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella and mayo. I chose my steak medium-rare. Frankly, the meat was a little bland. Maybe I should've asked for it to be well-done. But it was still tasty, nonetheless. 

Unfortunately because it arrived after the milkshake and fries, I didn't have a lot of space in my stomach for the entire burger. I only managed to chomp my way through half of it. It was a pretty big burger.

Cheeburger Cheeburger holds a daily contest for its customers - whoever finishes its large 20-ounced burger gets photographed to be pinned on the diner's wall of fame. So far, the wall has been filled with photographs of men.

I can imagine the women shaking their heads and thinking, "A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips. No thank you."

Apart from milkshakes, fries and burgers, the diner also serves sandwiches, wraps, melts, hot dogs, and salads. View the full menu here

Say Cheeburger Cheeburger! It's like talking with your mouth full.

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.

Beard Papa's

Imagine a world without bakeries. What does that leave us with? A sad, lonely world where people lack the liberty of taming their taste buds with the sweetness of a custard cream puff.

During my stay in New York over the summer, my of cravings for sweet treats were amplified with the surplus of bakeries. Every time I passed one, I couldn't help stealing a glance at the pastries on display. I would be compelled to enter for various reasons: the smell of fresh baked goods and hot chocolate brewing at the back of the shop, and the sight of dainty treats sitting on the display counter. 

Beard Papa's caught my attention one afternoon. Located on the Upper West Side, just a few blocks from Central Park, it was a small, cozy size and situated beside a cheese shop. I'd had Beard Papa's a few years ago and I'd always liked the cream puffs. It was a familiar shop in a foreign city.

I wasn't very hungry, but I went in anyway because my mind compelled me to enter. I'd gone in for a vanilla cream puff, but I saw the cute paris brests smiling at me from the display counter and I decided to get a chocolate-coated paris brest as well. 

Come to mama!

Half of the chilled pastry was shelled with frozen chocolate, leaving the other half exposed beneath the thin sheath of paper that contained it. The inside was filled with rich vanilla cream. The marriage of chocolate and sweet vanilla produced a luscious taste that made me want to buy a box of eclair paris brests to go. But I thought about the long subway ride home and decided against it.

The original cream puff was filled with the same sweet vanilla cream that laced the insides of the previous pastry. The only difference was the texture... and the lack of chocolate. It was a crispy puff, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The inside was hollow expect for a generous pool of fresh, chilled cream. That left me feeling bloated.

The cream puffs come in a range of flavors, including green tea, dulce le leche, pumpkin and more! 

Read the reviews of other satisfied customers here and head over to your nearest Beard Papa's soon! 

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.

What I Miss...

I've been in the States for two years. While I've learned to appreciate a lot of American cuisines, especially Southern cooking, there's not a day when I don't crave some of my favorite Malaysian meals.

Ask any Malaysian living abroad if they miss the food back home, and they'll start saying things like, "If I could teleport home right now for the food, I would."

It doesn't help that my Malaysian mates are constantly flooding the social networking sites with delicious Malaysian cuisines. And with the vast time difference, I always happen to be viewing photos of their breakfasts and lunches when it's late at night over here. I'll be prepping for bed and scrolling through my timeline, when photographs of mouthwatering meals start appearing on the screen. What a bad time to be hungry.

This post is dedicated to some of the Malaysian meals I've missed for a long, long time.

This is currently the top dish on my list. I've missed it so much. Kway Teow is a type of rice noodle with a broad, flat texture. This dish consists of stir-fried noodles with soy sauce sauce, bean sprouts, shrimps, eggs and the optional cockles, chives and the Chinese sausage known as the Lap Chang. The sausage, dried and pink, creates a sweet flavor above the saltiness. Chili is optional. Best served hot.

Tom Yam Fried Rice

Oh my gosh. I'm torturing myself with all these pictures from the past. The tom yam fried rice is actually a Thai-inspired dish, but plenty of Malaysian restaurants have adapted it into their menus. It's basically rice fried in a tom yam paste or mix, garnished with chicken or shrimps, spring onions, onions, eggs and minced garlic. The spiciness varies depending on your preference. It's heavier on the salt than it is on the spices. The sweet-sour Tom Yam flavor is distinct but not overpowering because the other ingredients balance the overall taste.

Won Ton soup

Won Ton soup is healthy because it's boiled with vegetables in chicken broth and sesame oil. There's something soothing about supple won tons floating in steaming bowl of warm, tasty soup. Won Ton is a Chinese dumpling, often containing ground and vegetables wrapped in a flour skin. Won Tons can be cooked in various ways - deep fried, pan-fried, boiled or steamed. 

If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of fried food. Fried Asam Laksa is derived from the original asam laksa, a spicy noodle soup. The fried version comprises a collection of fragrant and flavored ingredients that will tantalize your tastebuds. The Asam paste adds a sour tang to the thick, sticky noodles and the red chili bits spice up the dish. Lime is often squeezed over the noodles for that extra sour taste, which blends perfectly with the rest of the ingredients. Throw in an egg, onions and fresh shrimps, and the serving is complete.

Egg custard tarts

After four hearty appetizers, we should end with dessert. Egg custard tarts (known as dan tart in Cantonese) originated from Hong Kong and made their way across the globe. The outer crust is loaded with creamy egg custard and placed in the oven to be baked. The brittle crust breaks easily, giving way to the smooth, pudding-like texture of the egg tart. Unlike English tarts, these egg tarts do not contain milk in them.

I live in Conway, a university town in central Arkansas. The few Chinese restaurants here are catered to the Southern tastebuds, so most of their dishes lack the Asian authenticity I was accustomed to. 

Malaysian food is generally rich in color and taste. Because of its cultural diversity, it's known for the multiple cultural cuisines such as the roti canai, nasi lemak and the mee goreng. But more on that another time. Stay tuned!

PS: Writing this really made me crave a taste of home.

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


My cousin and her husband, Dina and Rob, treated me to an early graduation lunch yesterday at Boscos. Oh, for most of you who didn't know... I'll be graduating a week from today (Dec. 15)! Yup, still can't believe graduation bells are ringing already. 

Before I get sidetracked and start babbling about my mixed feelings toward graduation, let me tell you two things about Boscos: good service and even better food. I've only been there twice and I've always left the restaurant with a satisfied stomach. Even their water's good!

Boscos, which ranges from $4 to $20,  is located near the River Market area and serves mostly American food, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta and seafood. It's also well-known for fresh beer brewed in its mini brewery at the back of the restaurant.

The advertised beer on the wall was the Flaming Stone, so Rob gave that a try. 

He said it wasn't too bad. It wasn't his favorite beer, but it was decent enough. I took a sip of it. Above the typical beery bitterness was a tinge of sweetness, which made it unique.

Rob also ordered an oyster po'boy sandwich with a side of fries. You can substitute the fries for fresh fruit, or for an extra $1, have garlic parmesan or sweet potato fries.

Fried oysters dredged in seasoned flour and crisp lettuce with remoulade (similar to tartar sauce) were sandwiched between baguette slices.

The crispy oysters were pretty salty, but that wasn't a problem because the saltiness was easily overshadowed by the lettuce and the baguette. The fries tasted so fresh and enticing, an addiction formed right away.

I had the shrimp scampi, a generous serving of capellini pasta tossed in grated parmesan and juicy gulf shrimps sauteed with garlic butter, white wine and lemon parsley. The shrimps were cooked to perfection.

The menu didn't mention parmesan, so I was in for quite a surprise. I'm not a big parmesan fan, you see. But the strong taste of wine stole the parmesan's spotlight, so the noodles had a rather sour and unique taste to them. Definitely different.

Dina's grilled portabella club sandwich was so healthy, she made the rest of us look like gluttons. Her sandwich was served with fresh fruits on the side. The portabella mushrooms were deliciously marinated and char-grilled, and the provolone cheese, lettuce, roasted red peppers and basil mayo added to the delight.

I'm looking forward to my next Boscos visit. When I'm there again, I'd like to try one of their good-sounding pizzas. Glimpse their menus here.

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.