Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Revel = YUM!

I don't go down to Seattle that often and never got a chance to try out any good food.  I was determined on my last trip that I would try something amazing.  We drove up and down Fremont several times before discovering the spot.  One word of advice, if you are from out of town, keep your eye peeled on the left hand side and look for the number on the building instead of signage!  Despite getting lost and growing frustration, we finally made our way in and were greeted with the fume of the smoky barbecue from the outside.  

 The atmosphere was lively with an open kitchen right at the front.  The contemporary fusion restaurant opened last December and, from what I can tell, they have been very successful.

 Tuna confit salad $9 was constructed in the most interesting ways using ingredients I would never imagine putting together; butterleaf lettuce, smoked potato, kalamata olives, tuna confit, cilantro with a green curry vinaigrette.  Somehow, all of them meshed well together. The vinaigrette surprised me, in a good way.  It was pungent with curry flavours, yet not overpowering, and not spicy! I usually expect green curry to have certain degree of spiciness but the dressing was tangy with lime with no heat at all.  The tuna confit had an interesting bite, similar texture to the chinese salted fish, yet not too hard or chewy.  Best of all, it wasn't as salty or smelly.

We ordered the meat of the day, lamb, prepared as a "good way to start" $22.  It was cooked 3 ways; as a sausage, seared medium rare steak, and in a curry served with grilled naan bread and jalapeno pepper.  The sausage was smokey with a sweetness to it, while the steak was juicy and tender.  The curry, though a bit watery and subtle in flavour, was great for dipping with the naan.  It was a good variation, and a fun plate for sharing.  

 My favourite dish had to be this one, short ribs with sambal daikon, mustard green on rice $14.  It was sooooooooo delicious!!! The short rib was grilled to perfection.  It was charred, and marinaded really well.  The meat was tender, and flavourful.  Once you mix everything in the bowl together with the little egg yolk in the middle, all the flavours just come together like a Big Bang concert.  I can finish that whole bowl and everything in it by myself, and not care if I gain 10 lbs.

Someone's been traveling to southeast asia... :) This condiment set is a staple there.  No matter how great the food is, there's always room for personal flavour adjustments.  It's nice to see they have adapted that concept here.  I even notice they have a Thai chili lime sauce.

The verdict: Yes!!!
The people at Revel definitely know what they're doing and they do it well.  The menu is innovative and I can't go back for the short rib rice bowl and try more items!

  Revel on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Asianized pasta at Bistro the Home

Situated at former Bonqula restaurant on Alexandra road in Richmond, Bistro the Home prides itself as the home of "asianized pasta" in a big orange signage.  For those of you wondering, "asianized pasta" simply refers to how pasta is prepared and served in cafes all over Asia where European cuisines are popular, and most predominantly in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan.  The flavours are slightly altered to cater to Asian taste buds.  Although the European influenced variations may not necessarily taste authentic or stay true to their original version, they are still mainly delicious in their own special ways. Other favourite "asianized" western cuisines of mine include hamburg steak, croquettes, and cheesy baked rice or doria.  Oftentimes, there are Asian ingredients infused or garnished with the dishes.  To me, "asianized pasta" simply means pasta with more flavours.

We waltzed in around 5 pm when the restaurant opened.  There was already one table there and we were seated a couple tables away from them.  There was only one staff working and I'm guessing that so it would be easier for her to come around.  However, the location where we were seated was in the corner and a blind spot to the bar where the server usually spent her time.  After a while, it became a struggle to get her attention since she never came around to check and couldn't see us from behind the bar -_-*.  And since we were not in a hurry, I really didn't feel like getting up and go look for service.

The drinks here are extremely cheap, ranging from $1 for pop and tea and $2 for iced latte and slush.  My iced cafe latte was only $2, and it was mainly milk but still quite good.

A complimentary basket of garlic bread.  I love garlic bread, and these were crispy, and garlicy.  However, there was a point where it could be too buttery.  I had butter dripping out of the bread and it was way too greasy.
They alternate soup of the day each day and lucky me, I got cream corn soup ($3.50) after I had been craving it for days.  It was creamy with the sweetness of the corn.  I have to say that the way cream of corn soup is done Asian style tastes different and better that the corn chowder in North America in the sense that there is more corn sweetness and the soup is not as thick.  

Spagetti alla Vongole with manila clams for $10.50 was really yummy and flavourful.  By opting out of the cream or tomato sauce and going with virgin olive oil, I felt like it was a healthier option even though it didn't make much of a difference.  It was a light sauté rather than with thick sauce, with more natural flavours coming out from the clams, garlic and chili.  Overall, I thought it was delicious.

Oops! Unfortunately, we found a small hair on the bottom of the plate (eek..).  Sure, we could've pointed it out, but it was at the very end after the whole plate was already finished.  Based on the not-so-attentive service, I didn't point it out making the assumption that we were going to get maybe an apology and/or nothing more anyway.

A few moments after the first pasta dish arrived and before the discovery of the hair, the second plate, spaghetti carbonara ($8.50), made its way to the table.  For $3 more, I opted to gratin it up since the more cheese, the merrier.  But, there is such a thing as too much cheese after all.  At first, I thought between the 2 of us, there could be more room for a bulgogi pizza.  However, the amount of cheese baked into the pasta cream sauce pretty much total a whole pizza.  The cream sauce was nice, though I wish there was more mushroom and the bacon pieces were crispier and less of a ham texture.

I was already full after the 2 dishes and a hair, but somehow a tiramisu ($4) landed at our table as a final course.  It looked like a fluffy cheese cake with ladyfingers layered at the bottom and drizzled with chocolate syrup.  While it was smooth and creamy, I thought it tasted more like a cheesecake dusted with cocoa powder with mainly cream cheese and not much of the dark coffee flavour.  I wish the sponge at the bottom would be thicker like the one that we love from Chesa.  Sadly, all I have to say was meh, and left it alone after 2 bites.

The verdict: 
Aside from finding hair after finishing the food, I thought the food was not bad for the price (tiramisu aside).  The service was mediocre and the quality didn't go above and beyond.  While I don't hate it and I still would like to try their Nero pasta, but it will be a period of time before my return.

Bistro The Home on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lunch buffet at Atrium, Landmark hotel

One of the great things about hotels in Asia is the buffet selections.  Hotels in North America generally only offer buffet for breakfast or on weekends but if you go to any 3-5 star hotels in Asia, you will find that buffets are offered 3 times a day in most places.  The quality, selections, and price of the buffet vary from hotel to hotel but most 5 star hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, Intercontinental Bangkok, or Four Seasons will not disappoint but generally come with higher price than most.  One of our family's favourite hotel buffet is the Atrium at the Landmark Hotel Bangkok.  They have a wide variety of food aisles from Japanese (more of their cuztomizable cones later) and Thai stations, order to made pasta, appetizers, soup and bread, cheese, salad, seafood, grill station, som tum (papaya salad - it's also customized to your preference), noodles soup, Western cuisine, meat (roast beef or lamb generally) and dessert.  Whew that was quite a long list.  The following are photo essays of what's available at the buffet.  So if you're in Bangkok and in the area, you should give Atrium a try, it's worth the value.

Satay, barbecue, and pasta station
Som Tum (papaya salad) station
Seafood cocktail station
Japanese station with sashimi, sushi, cold soba, tempura, and other Japanese delectibles

Cafe Espanol: Unbeatable lunch deal!

Here Ye Here Ye!

Are you in New York City and perhaps hungry? Do you love finding good deals? In NYC, finding good deals for lunch and brunch is quite easy.  If you happen to be in the Greenwich Village,A lunch deal of $11.95 at Cafe Espanol offers quite a quantity you don't find very often, just check out their menu of how many ways you can mix and match.  Allow me to break it down for you.  For $11.95 on a weekday (or $13.95 on the weekend), you get a drink, a soup or salad, a main course, and a dessert.  Not too shabby! The portion there is enormous that it could last you a few more days. 

 Right when you walk into Cafe Espanol, the spaniard murals and traditional decor would tell you that the restaurant is old school and a place which offers a more traditional and rustic spanish cuisine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memory of Shinjuku: Sake Bar Hagi, NYC

During a rainy evening while wandering in Midtown, NYC, we somehow stumbled upon a Japanese izakaya, Sake Bar Hagi.  The menu looked promising, the price point looked alright, and the place was packed, and most importantly, we were starving.  No hesitation there!  We walked in and the busy Japanese bar was reminiscent of the buzzling izakayas in the ever lively Shinjuku district, a parallel comparison to Timesquare neon central.  The menu consisted of Japanese tapas such as yakitori, deep fried dishes, noodles, as well extensive list of sake, cocktails and Japanese beer.  Could this be the real deal? Let's find out!

First to caught my eye, a list of flavoured beer.  I went for plum flavoured beer and it tasted quite exquisitely refreshing.  Sweet and tangy, like an umeshu, or plum wine, with a bubbly note.  I wish I could take this home with me!

And perhaps the plum flavoured beer was the most impressive item of the night...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How I made crispy salmon and risotto with random items

Last weekend during an afternoon stroll at Steveston Fisherman's Wharf, we somehow caved in to buying an unbeatable deal of $10 for 3 whole pink salmon.  These fish were massive.  What's worse, after we got home, I had no idea how to properly fillet the fish.  It was a total nightmare for me and the fish.  I mean, I'm pretty sure I wasted a lot of the meat and punctured a lot of the good parts :(
What on earth are we doing?!!

I really wanted to create something sophisticated, like crispy salmon on a bed of risotto.  I peaked in the fridge and we had mostly asian ingredients in stock.  Go figure.  I didn't want to waste more trip running to the grocery store and decided to go against the rules by creating my own version of crispy salmon and risotto.  Along with the salmon, I found the following ingredients; snow pea leaves, long grain jasmine rice, white mushrooms, garlic, Knorr cubed chicken stock, onion, butter, and half a bottle of red wine.

I started off by sautéing chopped garlic and onion together until golden brown.  Then, I threw in a cup of uncooked rice and mix everything together.  After, I threw in a "splash" of red wine.  I knew I was supposed to use white, but :) ...

...just grabbing whatever was within reach..

I let the rice simmer in the wine before adding 1 tbsp. of butter.  Afterwards, I slowly added 2 cups of diluted Knorr stock about half cup at a time.  The tedious task of churning the rice until all the liquid evaporated would keep me occupied for the next hour *wipe sweats.

At the same moment, since I'm such a multi-tasker, I saute snow pea leaves with garlic and olive oil in a separate pan before transferring it into the saucepan of risotto.  Mushrooms were also added into the mix.  After an hour and a half of cooking, I finally reached my end point when my risotto was softened with creamy starch surrounding it.  I ended things off with some shaved aged Italian cheese (I forgot the name, but its very nutty with sharp flavours) and drops of truffle oil.

Now for cooking crispy salmon fillet, it was like a walk in the park after the risotto.  I seasoned the salmon with sea salt and black pepper before searing, skin side down, at a medium heat.  Once the salmon was 2/3rd cooked, I flipped it over (guilty, I peaked before it was 2/3rd cooked).  After a few moments, I took the salmon off the stove and served it on a bed of risotto.


Despite using non traditional Italian ingredients, the dish turned out successful.  The long grain white cooked much faster and not quite as bouncy in texture as the short grain arborio rice.  However, it wasn't soggy and not a complete fail.  So you can use it ONLY if you are left with no other substitutes.  I didn't need to add any salt to the risotto as the chicken stock already had plenty.  The snow pea leaves went nicely with the risotto, sort of similar to spinach but better.  The risotto was rustic with a creamy texture.  I was surprised by how much the flavours stayed true to its Italian origin.  The salmon fillet was flakey with crispy skin and fortunately, it didn't have any of the overwhelming fishy, salmon taste.

I was quite happy with the way it turned out and my diners were also impressed, though it would be quite sometime before I recreate this dish again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gordon Ramsay makes dim sum

While I was searching for a crispy pork belly recipe, I stumbled upon an old clip of Gordon Ramsay learning to make dim sum at a busy chinese restaurant.  I thought it was pretty funny and refreshing to watch a master chef out of his element and vulnerable, yet stayed humble and accepting criticism.    There's always room for growth in everyone!