13 E 37th St.
New York NY 10016
(212) 213-2810 Website
Chinese food has been one of the most popular here in the US. It is cheap, tasty, quick, and readily available at any hour of the day. For the most part it has been a quintessential food to many Americans.. There are a number of widely known dishes such as fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, lemon chicken, egg roll and of course, none is more famous than General Tso Chicken, (which was also voted as Grubhub fourth most ordered dish), that can found at every Chinese restaurant in New York City, and all across America. Nestled in Midtown Manhattan, Café China is not your proto-typical Chinese restaurant that serves bastardized version of Chinese food made to please American palates. Instead, they specialize in Sichuan cuisine which is distinctively spicy and pungent.
Unlike other Chinese restaurants, Café China’s interior is appealing. It has an L shape marble bar in the front that greets guests as they come in. Chandeliers and lamps brighten up the space. Its walls are adorned with large mirrors, and 1920 Old Shanghai photographs of Chinese women. Uncovered tables are paired with chairs that are seen in NYC public school. There are also leather benches with velvet back rest.
Café China has garnered a two star review from New York Times, a Michelin star for four consecutive years, and continuously ranked as among the top Chinese restaurant in New York City. Its menu is not overly extensive compared to others, and for the most part the dishes are offered for both lunch and dinner. The prices are fairly reasonable with entrée averaging about $25 for dinner and even cheaper during the afternoon.
Small plates like the Jellyfish in Scallion Pesto- Julienne jellyfish seasoned with scallion pestowere an interesting use of western ingredient in Asian food. In this case it was done properly, the subtlety of the gelatinous jelly fish was wonderfully flavored with pesto sauce. Both the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings and the Vegetable Pot Stickers were good, but nothing really to rave about. But the simple Sweet Potato Pancake on the other hand, had a nice fried crust and sweetness.
For entrées, the classic Kung Pao Chicken- stir fried with peanuts, peppercorn & chili peppers was a better version that I had before and has an abundance of tingling sensation. The Three Pepper Chicken- stir fried with chili peppers & peppercorn were tender pieces of chicken cooked with three types of pepper that yielded a numbing spiciness.
Fragrant Fish Filet filets of sole w/snow pea shoots & green chili pepper, were steamed chunks of sole that were lightly dressed with soy sauce which provided the right amount of saltiness. Snow pea shoots gave it an herbal aroma that went very well with green chili pepper’s spiciness. The Braised Fish Filet with Tofu filets of sole w/ chili sauce, peanuts and cilantro was a bowl of fiery pleasure. Fillet of braised sole and tofu are drowned in thick spicy sauce. Both of these dishes were pleasant.
Shredded Beef with Green Chilihad a nice sum of spiciness that went along with tasty shredded beef. The Beef Sautéed with Tea Tree Mushroom was slightly milder and has very good flavors. It also has a strong earthiness provided by the tea tree mushroom. The vegetarian entrée of Egg Plant in Garlic Sauce were egg plants swimming in sweet syrupy garlic sauce was surprisingly appetizing.
My meals at Café China were quite enjoyable. The food was consistent, straight-forward, and had a certain refinement. It also had tremendous amount of spicy element that manages to blend properly with other ingredients on the plate without over powering them.
Subject to personal opinion, Cafe China might not compare to other Sichuan restaurant in New York City, but there is no denying that this is a solid restaurant. Cafe China constantly delivers spicy and flavorsome Sichuan food that New Yorkers have come to enjoy.
Jones Wood Foundry
401 E 76th St.
New York, NY 10021
(212) 249-2700 Website
In the late 1700’s, there was successful merchant named John Jones who owned a large land in upper Manhattan in what is today the Upper East Side. During that time, the area was known as Jones Wood. Fast forward four hundred years later, a restaurant housed in a 19th century building on 75th street by First Avenue was fittingly named Jones Wood Foundry.
At first glance Jones Wood Foundry looks more like a pub than a restaurant. A long bar greets you as you enter. After making your way through the bar and down a few steps is an area next to a tiny courtyard (use for outdoor seating on warmer months). It has exposed brick walls and a lengthy communal table in the middle sitting directly below the skylight. Behind it is the dimly lit main dining room with low ceilings. Worn out wooden floors, heavy marble tables with cabin chairs along with the décor, created a rustic interior in the space imitating an old English pub.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner as well as brunch on the weekend. The menu has a slight variation but for the most part dishes are available at all times.
Starters like the RICOTTA – sourdough, aged balsamic, thyme, rosemary were the blandness and thick textures of the ricotta was delightfully flavored by the strong balsamic vinegar. The CHICKEN LIVER FOIE GRAS PARFAIT- brioche, grape chutney, cornichon was buttery, extremely rich, and bursting with so much flavor. Toasted brioche was the perfect company for the parfait.
The soup of SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH -brown butter crouton, toasted pumpkin seedand its pleasant thick earthy sweetness was perfect for the cold weather. On the lighter side the KALE SALAD – red cabbage, green apple, spiced pecan, shaved parmesan was particularly fresh and lively. The crunchy leafy vegetable has a nice bitterness to it.
For the entrée, the FISH & CHIPS -beer battered cod, triple cooked chips, tartar sauce, lemon at $25 is probably the most expensive fish & chips I’ve seen so far in New York City. The batter has a beautiful crispness while the cod was incredibly moist and tender. The ORGANIC SCOTTISH SALMON BURGER red pepper relish, avocado, chancellor sauce has the right meat to bread ratio. Scrumptious salmon patty on a potato bun was cooked beautifully. Enhancing the burger are the toppings and its pickled sweetness. Served on a cast iron skillet was the hearty SHEPHERD’S PIE- lamb shoulder, mashed potato, cheddar cheese. This filling dish has different savory layers that will undoubtedly satisfy any signs of hunger.
For dessert, chocolate lovers will be pleased by the MILK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE – creme anglaise. This thick chocolate mousse was dosed in syrupy sweetness. The bitter citrus notes in background kept sweetness at bay.
The humble British fare is often seen in many New York City pubs and sport bars. But in the kitchen of Jones Wood Foundry it was given a certain refinement. They focused on serving dishes that looks appetizing and taste good. While its generous portions will not leave diners feeling unsatisfied at the end of the meal. Furthermore, the prices are not outside the norm for the area. They have good beer selections which consist mainly of American and English brew available in draft and in bottles. Surprisingly for a pub, they have a pretty decent wine list that includes “British Fizz” or British sparkling wines
Named after what the area was once called, Jones Wood Foundry does not only reflect the Upper East Side and its history, but it is also a neighborhood restaurant usually filled with locals. Its casual settings coupled with staffs that are genuinely friendly and willing creates a homey vibe. Here guest can have a nice cold pint while watching a game at the bar or dine in for some quality pub fare at any given time.
Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.
I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.
That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.
Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.
Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.
Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.
From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.
The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.
I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.
Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.
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