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Ngam

8 Aug

My interest in Ngam began when I was living in the East Village only one block away. My old housemate had ordered from there and had a huge box of ‘Chiang Mai Fries.’ He offered me one. Everything changed. This was a game changer.

After ordering take away from them many a time, but really not branching out with dishes (I have no idea why) a group of six of us decided to go on a busy summer night. As packed as it was, magically they had room for us. It’s owned by Chef Hong Thaimee who featured on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, she’s also worked in some of New York’s finest restaurants including Jean George’s Spice Market.

We of course started off with the splendourous Chiang Mai Fries – Kabocha pumpkin, sweet potato, homemade red curry mayo, sweet and sour peanut relish. Crispy to bite, a curried flavour, comfort food interior and without a doubt the most delicious dish you’ll have tasted all year. And for only $8!
Chaing Mai FriesI tried everyone’s dishes, don’t you just love that? When people are excited about what they’re eating, so much so that they want you to experience it too, food truly brings people together.

Here’s a few of the dishes we had:

“Pad See Ewe” Smokey Wok Charred Noodles with Black Soy Sauce with chicken. This is comfort food on true form. The noodles taste so smokey they’re almost barbecued. A really incredibly fresh taste, salty and with a mix of crunchy broccoli and cauliflower too. This is a dish that takes the staple Pad Thai and goes one up. It’s got all your favourite characteristics and flavours, only it does it better.

Pad See EweThe Lobster Dumpling “Kao Soy” – Maine lobster, homemade lobster dumplings, homemade had rolled egg noodles, homemade kao soy curry, pickled mustard, shallots, cilantro. I can hear your mouth watering! This dish was very special, it has an elite quality to it that takes it above the comfort food level, even though it embodies all the characteristics of comfort. It is creamy, so creamy, flavoured to perfection and the lobster dumplings are infused with cilantro (coriander) with just the right hit of it, not so much so that it’s overwhelming. The reason it steps into the realm of the elite is for one, the presentation, it’s spectacular and two, it’s the quality of the lobster, the flavour that comes through, the mix of textures (from crunch, to creamy, to melt in your mouth) this dish has it all. Absolutely flawless.

Lobster DumplingUp next was “The Dark Knight” – Housemade black squid ink “bah mee” noodle, fried calamari, black pepper sauce, brussel sprouts, Thai long chili. This looked amazing, the black noodles are so intriguing and then the flashes of red and green from the chili and sprouts make this a stand out dish. What struck me with this dish was the spice, there’s a big kick to it, but it just makes you want more and more. The noodles are delicious and the calamari is battered to perfection.

The Dark NightWe of course tried other dishes too, including the Cutie Duckling “Ghang Ped Bhed Yang” – Roasted Long Island duck, homemade “ghang ped” curry, lychee, heirloom tomatoes, Thai basil sauce. The duck was as crispy as can be on the outside with the most delectable, fall of the bone, meat. This is food to be reckoned with.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is buzzing without being too loud, it’s constantly busy – a testament to how good the food is. You’re provided with wonderful service and it embodies what you want from a dining out experience.

Noticing the sign that is painted on their wall it really sums it all up.

Ngam SignTry this place, don’t go there unless you’re having the Chiang Mai Fries and eat to your heart’s content. It’s guilt free too because not only do they source all their produce from local farms but they only serve hormone-free beef, chicken and pork as well as use organic and cage free eggs and dairy products in their dishes. They also only use seafood not on the endangered sea food list. You’re in for a real treat.

Rate: 5

Ngam – 99 3rd Avenue (between 12th & 13th Street) New York, NY 10003

Tel: (212) 777-8424

http://www.ngamnyc.com/

Follow them on Twitter – @ngamnyc
NGam on Urbanspoon

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The Cronut

9 Oct

It had to be done. A few months ago when this phenomenon hit the big time, I made a deal with myself (the best kind of deal, it’s always win win) that if I was going to try one of these bad boys (if?!) then it had to be The Cronut. The original, real one.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always believed if you were going to get something like memorabilia, then shouldn’t it be from the actual place? I remember the fashion in England when I was about 17, everyone started to wear New York Yankees baseball caps, from Topshop. Errrrm, no. I waited and waited until I got to go to NY and bought mine from an official New York Yankees shop selling the real deal.
‘Oh but some people aren’t able to go and get it from the real place,’ people might say.
‘Then I’m afraid you can’t have it,’ is what I say. You can’t have everything, otherwise everything would be everywhere and nowhere would be new or different. Oh I’ll just buy my boomerang souvenir from Australia in pound land.
Don’t get me started on Victoria Secret opening up over here…

I digress. Back to The Cronut. An irresistible hybrid of a classic doughnut and a croissant. The creator of this wildly imaginative design is Dominique Ansel. He owns a bakery in Soho in Manhattan, The Dominique Ansel Bakery.
Many have copied this, the world over, calling it The Dosant. Try as they may to have their own success with the copycat creation, Dominique comes out on top. Every morning the bakery makes around 300 Cronuts at $5 a piece. Customers begin to line up at around 5am and wait until the bakery opens at 8am. Everyday. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and tomorrow is a new day.

Aky went to New York a couple of weeks ago and what did I ask him to bring back for me? You guessed it. He got there early and queued for a notable period of time (don’t feel bad, he got one for himself too) and made it in when they were still in stock.

The flavour changes on a monthly basis, September was Fig Mascarpone, October is Apple Creme Fraiche. The Cronut has the outer crust of a freshly crisp, sugar covered doughnut, the layers and layers of pastry inside are like a croissant and reaching beyond what I had imagined, it was injected with jam and cream, sweet fig jam and mascarpone. It also has a hole in the middle and was topped with a sugar glaze and a slice of caramelised fig. The cream was so light, just enough to douse the pastry.

CronutsThis is how the bakery themselves describe the creation:

‘Taking 2 months and more than 10 recipes, Chef Dominique Ansel’s creation is not to be mistaken as simply croissant dough that has been fried. Made with a laminated dough which has been likened to a croissant (but uses a proprietary recipe), the Cronut is first proofed and then fried in grape seed oil at a specific temperature. Once cooked, each Cronutis flavored in three ways: 1. rolled in sugar; 2. filled with cream; and 3. topped with glaze. Cronuts are made fresh daily, and completely done in-house. The entire process takes up to 3 days.’

The moment Aky had dropped his bags at home he popped into see me at work and in all its glory, there it was. A Dominique Ansel Bakery Box with a lone Cronut inside.

As I took the first bite, I realised it was new tastes entering my sphere, I love it when this happens. It made me wish I had been there the first time they made one of these, what the look on their faces said when they took their first bite. Perhaps a good old Del Boy line, ‘We’re going to be millionaires.’

It was absolutely heavenly. An incredibly delicious treat that encompasses all the great traits of already mind-blowing sweet creations. It’s soft and buttery, the thin layer of sugar it’s wrapped in will lightly dust your mouth, but you won’t care because you’ll need to make sure no jam is lost to your jeans.

photo credit: Aky Bukhari

photo credit: Aky Bukhari

I don’t mind so much about trying the replicas now I’ve tasted the original. I now know what it should taste like and can compare it to the real deal. I’m incredibly lucky to have tried one.

Rate: 5

Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson) New York, NY 10012

Tel:(212)219 2773

http://dominiqueansel.com/
Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

City Bakery

22 Jan

Wandering around the Flatiron District on a cold Saturday, I decided to warm myself up in a place I had heard lots about, City Bakery. I came in and I have to say, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Not just teas/coffees etc but a whole ‘serve yourself’ salad and lunch bar. It seemed like a canteen and not the ‘bakery’ feel I so often lust for when one wants a little tranquility on a busy day.

I asked the sales assistant what she recommended, she answered ‘the vegan, dairy free cookie is great’, ignoring her idiotic suggestion I ordered an overload of chocolate. A chocolate chip cookie and a hot chocolate with their famous homemade, giant marshmallow on top.

cookie

mallow

Let’s start with the cookie. It was very thick and almost like biting into a chunky piece of bread, a real mouthful. I know this sounds really weird, but there was a slight smell of fish to it. You know when you sometimes smell butter and it’s a bit ‘fridge smell’ like, well that’s kind of what this was. It was quite rich and not that amazing and so I only managed half, funnily enough the next day it tasted (and smelt) better.

cookie close up

Now for the hot chocolate. Unbeknownst to me, it was that thick, oozy hot chocolate that you often find in Italy or Spain. I can’t handle hot chocolate like this, I don’t see it as a drink, more of a calorie filled dessert. After a couple of sips, really feeling the fat starting to lay down for a nice long nap on my hips, I had a thought, and proceeded to carry this gloop back to my apartment and poured about a third of it into a mug and topped the rest up with milk and heated it up. Lo and behold it was the most delicious hot chocolate I have had in a long while. The marshmallow was pretty good too.

hot choc

hot choc 2

So, I feel it was a little hit and miss, it all looked great but just not quite there for me. I’d also like to mention that this experience cost me just under $10. Extortion!!

Rate: 3.5

City Bakery

3 W 18th St # 1  New York, NY 10011

(212) 366-1414

http://www.thecitybakery.com/
City Bakery on Urbanspoon

Fonda Manhattan

13 Jan

A friend suggested we go to Fonda for brunch. I knew nothing about this place, so with no expectations, I entered!

A Mexican eatery serving a really refreshing menu. The brunch entrees had the typical ‘breakfast burrito’ and the like but everything seemed to be with a little extra je ne sais quoi and a few new surprises.

I chose the Huevos Divorciados, which quite literally means divorced eggs. The description was breathtaking. Two sunny side up eggs separated by two sauces, salsa verde and ranchera sauce, served with black beans, crispy bacon, queso fresco and crema. The taste, even better. The eggs and all the accoutrements are inside a crispy pocket of tortilla, how they manage to not break the yolk, I have no idea. Cutting open this culinary feast to see the yolk ooze out into the salsa looked so beautiful. The oranges, reds and green were good enough to eat, it was quite unbelievable! Perfectly cooked and light enough to not feel bloated and overstuffed, this place really gets it right.

Huevos Divorciados

There was a really nice atmosphere and the service was good…minor pet hate was that they cleared some dishes before others had finished. Also, eyeing up what others had…next time I am definitely ordering the guacamole!

Go and check out this East Side gem.

Rate: 4.7

Fonda Manhattan

40 Avenue B, Manhattan, NY 10009

212-677-4096

http://www.fondarestaurant.com/
Fonda on Urbanspoon

The Cornelia Street Café

3 Jan

Title

Having recently moved to New York, I know that I am in a culinary haven and not only do I need to explore new places, but I also need to relive old favourites. The Cornelia Street Café is one of those little gems that I’m so happy I found a few years ago when looking for somewhere new for brunch. When in New York one must do as they do…and my God do they know how to ‘brunch’.

Cornelia offers main plates, typical brunch dishes of course with their own twist to it, like homefries roasted with garlic and rosemary and they use fresh salad instead of an abundance of toast – really it’s quite refreshing. You can either order like normal or go for their offer of $20 for a side – there are a few to choose from including the delicious chocolate bread that literally melts in your mouth (courtesy of Amy’s Bread that is just a stone’s throw away on Bleecker), a main dish, and a hot and cold drink. This is a great bargain for the quality of the dishes.

download-3The orange juice is as fresh as it can come, the tea – well for Americans they did try. It was served as black, not even a side of milk, but when I asked they politely brought it over. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of Stash Tea before though, it wasn’t great.

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The oh so difficult question always comes to me and that is ‘sweet or savoury?’ Well lucky for you I tried them both – so you’ll hear what I thought on both accounts. First up – Buttermilk Pancakes topped with fresh fruit and accompanied with Vermont maple syrup. The pancakes were the depiction of fluffy – not too sickly sweet and the perfect amount. The fruit was ripe and sweet and the maple…oh the maple, the heavenly nectar trickled over each pancake literally completing the dish. Perfection!

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On the savoury side I chose The Farmer’s Breakfast -Eggs Any Style on a Bed of Greens w/ Crumbled Bacon, Rosemary Roast Potatoes & Roasted Garlic. The salad really takes the edge off the portion size – if it was with toast then I don’t know how much I could have handled. I chose to have my eggs poached and they really were cooked to perfection, the yolk poured out over the bacon so delectably and the bacon was just unbelievable, a slight crunch, but not too much and the saltiness mixed with the sweet of the egg just complemented the dish brilliantly. The roasted potatoes were seasoned well and thankfully the rosemary seasoning wasn’t too strong as I find it can be quite overpowering sometimes. This feels like an adult’s dish – that sounds silly perhaps, but try it and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll leave there wanting to go shopping for rugs or antique coffee tables. Eat it, you’ll see!

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The service is good, you don’t notice them that much but they’re polite and friendly. Always the best way.

Cornelia also serves all other meals and has live music and performances scheduled on a regular basis too. Be sure to visit if you get a chance.

Rate: 4.6

The Cornelia Street Café

29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014

(212) 989-9319

http://corneliastreetcafe.com/
Cornelia Street Café on Urbanspoon

Il Bambino

24 Oct

So I was staying with my beautiful friend Ariana in Astoria, Queens and she suggested we go for brunch to have paninis at a place called Il Bambino. My normal brunch would be more down the pancakes/eggs royale route, also my experience of paninis was that of those practical aeroplane food paninis you get at Cafe Nero. Little did I know what I was in for.

A lovely, friendly little place with an outside area at the back too, we were welcomed in straight away. I chose a guava bellini, it had a good kick to it, not as sweet as you would imagine, but good nonetheless.

We chose a crostini to begin with to share ($6.50 for two). Avocado butter, chorizo, chili oil. OH MY GOD. It really does not get much better than this. The avocado butter was so fricking deelish it was hard not to go behind the counter, find the vat they no doubt have of the stuff and just dunk my face into it. The chorizo was salty and spicy at the perfect thickness and the chili oil, well that is the genius move, the kick of the heat pumped up the avocado butter like what the Tom Cruise divorce did to Nicole’s career. This is not to be messed with, it is unbelievably good.

For the main attraction, in came the paninis ($11 each). I chose the Italian Meatloaf – onion jam, tomato pesto, spicy mayo, provolone and Ariana had the Notorious P.I.G. – Smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, artisan cheddar, truffle spread. baibva onqvioqb. SORRY, just wiping away the drool from my keyboard.

The meatloaf panini was a sheer delight. It reminded me a little of the meatball bolognese pizza I am so fond of at Pizza Express but really, this was in a class of it’s own. The soft meatloaf, perfectly cooked like Mum makes, was whispered with sweet nothings by the onion jam that just married the flavours so delicately. The spice from the mayo and the oozing of the cheese made for the most delicious brunch I think I have ever had. Who knew Cafe Nero could get it quite so wrong.

The Notorious P.I.G. was utter brilliance. The scrambled eggs were cooked so well that you can see the yolk still oozing, which is always the best part of any other type of egg; poached, fried, boiled and so rare for scrambled. The bacon was the perfect compliment to it and far above all of it was the crunchiness and soft centre of the bread itself. So important and the base for all of this. Exceptional.

The menu is fun and inventive and the essence of the place is really good food. I would go back in a heartbeat. Be sure to make this a must eat if you are in New York.

Rate: 5

Il Bambino

34-08 31st Ave, Astoria, Queens, New York, New York 11106

(718) 626-0087

http://ilbambinonyc.com/

Il Bambino on Urbanspoon

*SPECIAL* – Amber Sushi – NYC

19 Jun

This is a very, very special place. It’s creative, it’s quick and it’s absolutely deelish. I would have this everyday of the week if I could!

I have been here a million times and it is never ever less than perfect. It’s not the kind of cheap where you think ‘Should I really risk eating mega cheap raw fish?’ But, equally it isn’t expensive either. They often do deals like $1 Tiger beers on a Monday and their 2 and 3 roll specials for delivery are great for lunch times.

I always get the Salmon & Avocado Roll and the Spicy Tuna Roll, but aside from them, my FAVOURITE is The Golden Dragon Roll (Spicy crunchy salmon & avocado roll topped with fresh mango slices and red caviar). This has a delicate sweetness to it, they always use immensely ripe avocados and the presentation looks like a work of art.

The service is great and the restaurants are very cool, definitely go here!

Have a peruse of the photos so you can get a feel for this little gem.

Rate 5

Amber

432 6th Ave  New York, NY 10011, (212) 477-5880

http://ambervillage.net/
Amber on Urbanspoon
&

381 3rd Ave New York, NY 10016, (212) 686-6388

http://www.ambergramercy.com/
Amber on Urbanspoon

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