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foodzings: December 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ha Long Bay - suburban vietnamese

I had some days off as the calendar changed, and lazed about a lot. Seriously, I did nothing. But I did eat. When you live in the burbs, you don't have many options when it comes to Vietnamese food. There are a few spots (Frazer/Paoli, Exton) but those are far. There is a spot near 69th street, but I never know if that place is open. It's hit or miss. A few summers ago, a vietnamese spot, Ha Long Bay, opened up in Bryn Mawr. Before it opened, there was a sign in the window saying "Vietnamese Restaurant - Coming Soon" for at least a year, if not more. Every time I was in Bryn Mawr, I looked for it to open. And months went by with the sign still up. It killed me! Then one day, it opened! Hooray!

We showed up way after lunch and way before dinner. Basically during a time where noone else is going to be eating at a restaurant. Needless to say, we were the only diners there. I got a strawberry shake, because I've had it before there and it was awesome. Well, this time, it had milk/ice cream or something in it other than just strawberries, so it wasn't as awesome. Still ok, but not the awesome-y just strawberry shake that I had before. We also got summer rolls. They were freshly made and tasted just fine.

The grilled pork bun. Looks good to me. It's hard to screw this up I'd say.

It was cold, so I wanted soup, so I ordered bun bo hue, the spicy beef hue style. Bad idea. I've had the pho here before. It's a completely different experience than going to an of the mostly pho places in the city. You know what you'll get. But here, when you order pho, no matter what kind, you will get funky stuff in it. You can order flank pho, and it'll have flank, some other meat, and some tripe. You order beef ball pho, and it'll have beef balls, some other meat, and some tripe. Tripe will inevitably show up in your pho here. So be warned! It also tastes a little funky. Not funky bad, but just not like the other places.
So anyway, my food... well, I've ordered this in other restaurants before (vietnam, vietnam palace, etc) and it was nothing like those places. This is supposed to be some type of stewed dish. The beef wasn't stew beef. It was thin slices that had been somehow pan fried. And the broth was bizarre, and had big chunks of spices that was supposed to make it spicy. It was just all wrong. And the noodles... well, it was like spaghetti noodles. Seriously. It was definitely not rice noodles. And there were big slices of raw red onion. Overall, just weird, not what I wanted, but I ate it. I was cold and starving. But heed my warning, do not order this here. Order something else! Anything else!
I've had other stuff here and it's been fine. Since we were the only people there, the service was good! :-) I remember having the skewered meat appetizers here before, and they were f'in good. So try those! If you're in the burbs and want some decent vietnamese, go ahead and try it. Just stay away from the soupy noodle dishes!

Ha Long Bay
816 West Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nifty Fifty's

So I've been hankering to go to Nifty Fifty's for months. So on the weekend before new year's, I kidnapped C and forced him to eat food that was bad for him. For those of you that are not experienced with the throwback kitchy goodness that is nifty fifty's, it's basically a 50's style soda shop. They have tons of shakes, a bazillion flavors of soda, burgers, fries, and the like (they're famous for a filet mignon sandwich). The workers are forced to wear horrible hats. They don't smile either, after all, you're talking about Delco here.

I know why I came here - spicy chili cheese fries. You can get them plain, you can get them just with cheese, you can get them just hot with cheese, but no. That's for the weak. You must get the spicy chili cheese fries. Their chili rocks. But please don't get large! The regular sized fries are big enough for several people. They're hand cut and deliciously bad for you. I once watched a poor sap cut potatoes for at least an hour straight. He must have been bored out of his mind.
I also got the peach soda. This is what I get all the time, but they have hundreds of flavors. And you can mix and match to customize your very own. And score - free refills!

I also got the royal burger, which is what I usually get. It's a burger with a homemade onion ring on top. Who doesn't love this? C went crazy and got a peanut butter oreo shake, along with his bacon cheeseburger. And even as he complained about how bad this was for him, he enjoyed every mouthful. It was pretty damn tasty, and I'm not ususally that into shakes. There's usually a big wait here if you want a booth. So sit at the counter so you don't have to wait. Plus you can people watch some of Delco's finest teenagers in bad paper hats with their names on them!


Holiday Get Together

M and E had a small post xmas holiday get together. There were about a dozen of us there. M had two food stations for us - make your own fajitas (spicy pork, non-spicy pork, or tofu) and make your own gingerbread cookies.

The fajitas were great. Especially the spicy pork, tender and full of flavor. It had quite the kick. She made the pickled red onions again, which I just loved from when she made fish tacos. M, I wish I could cook as well as her!

The gingerbread cookie station, delicious also. But we realized that kids and artificial colored decorations do not mix well. But the icing and the sugar did made the cookies taste that much better. Then I forced everyone to play Guitar Hero!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday eats 2007

Hope everyone had a nice holiday season, whatever you celebrated. I celebrated by stuffing my gourd... no different than every day really. I was down in Baltimore earlier on xmas day, and I was being lazy, so I got to my aunt's a bit late for dinner. But luckily for me, there was still some food left, and my aunt, being the loving aunt that she is, guarded some of the chinese dumplings for me. Since after all, I was the one that asked her to get them.

My mom totally surprised me by making these funky fresh spring rolls. They're like the vietnamese ones, but with far more ingredients stuffed in, including: avocado, mixed greens, red and green bell peppers, shrimp, fake crab. They do not include cilantro, mint, or sprouts. But damn, these were good! Instead of the hoisin/peanut based sauce, she made a dipping sauce by using sweet chili sauce (just the simple bottled kind) and squeezing some sriracha in it, to make it even more spicy. I'm going to have to add these to my spring roll repertoire.

Those shrimp look sad and greasy, but they were not. And here are those fine fine dumplings that I love more than just about anything. Even after sitting out awhile, they still tasted great. And I promptly stuffed at least half a dozen in my mouth. There was kalbi, of course, but I did not partake. There was also some shrimp lo mein, with the biggest shrimp I've seen in awhile. After stuffing our gourds, we exercised the food away by playing wii until the wee hours of the evening...


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Morimoto's Lunch

So you all know about Morimoto's... Iron Chef Japanese, blah blah blah. I'd been there once a few years ago and wasn't particularly impressed. I mean the food was good, the restaurant itself beautiful, the service impeccable, but I didn't necessarily feel it was worth the price tag. Even if I did see Morimoto himself behind the sushi bar. My sister in law had been wanting to go there for years, and for whatever reason, it just never happened before. So we planned ahead and made reservations for xmas eve lunch. And off we went.
So the place is quite stunning. Modern, sleek yet wavy, minimalist, but very stylized. Slightly futuristic, dimly lit, just attractive. It's basically one long room with two tops on the outside edge and booths in the middle. There's also a large room downstairs for big parties, where the bathrooms are also located.
My brother and sister in law got a few cocktails (I was DD, of course). Lychee cosmo and shiso-jito. I think my bro is addicted to mojitos. Sis in law was the one person who decided to go for the omakase, and the most expensive one to boot. Course one was a toro tartar, which was topped with caviar and served with freshly ground wasabi (not from a tube) and some kind of little peach palate cleanser. We all tasted this, it was pretty good.
Course two was a scallop carpaccio, thinly sliced with hot oil, mitsuba leaf, and yuzu. Another good dish. She liked this one quite a bit.

Course numero tres, was a three salads dish. I think the two fishes were fluke and salmon, and then in the middle was shaved smoked bonito on top of microgreens. I didn't try this, but it looked just fine to me.

For course 4, the hot dishes started with the balck cod miso. As expected, this dish rocked. This is sort of like the cod dish that I tried to make myself the other week, but you know, it's much better at Morimoto's than in my own kitchen. It even just looks damn tasty.
Course 5 was the second hot dish - soba carbonara. This was soba noodles with edamame, bacon, and bay scallops. I was thinking about getting this myself as an entree, but didn't. So I was psyched when this came in the omakase. It was as good as you would think it is. Soba, edamame, bacon, scallops, what's not to like?
Course 6 was a sushi plate. She was pretty full at this point, but you know, at Morimoto's prices, you eat every last bite.
For dessert, she got a flourless chocolate tort. Look how beautiful that is. Damn.

Ok, so the rest of us ate too, just not the omakase. My bro got the spicy beef bento box, which was marinated sirloin with a spicy miso sauce served with rice. It basically tasted a bit like kalbi/bulgogi with a spicy kochujang on top. Pretty good. My mom got the sushi combination. She totally dug it, she especially liked the roll. Both of these lunches came with miso soup and a salad. The house salad is mixed greens with shaved bonito and yuzu vinaigrette. Nothing exciting. Honestly, I prefer the iceberg with the ginger dressing. The soup was a bit salty, but good.

Ok, so what did I eat? I started with the yosedofu, which is fresh tofu created at the table served with two sauces. Now when it said created at the table, I figured it would be a block of tofu and they would mix it with the sauce in front of you or something. Oh no. When they say created at the table, they mean created at the table. So out came this vessel with the liquid tofu slurry, and then they added a sea water reduction, which acts as a coagulating agent (or however it works, I have no idea). Ten minutes later, it had become soft tofu! It was crazy and completely surprising. It was served with a soy based sauce first, and then a second and amazing snow crab based sauce. Man, I could have literally drank this crab sauce. It was awesome topped on the tofu. I absolutely loved it.
I didn't expect the tofu to be so big and filling, so I also ordered the ramen. And I'm so glad it did. It was chicken noodle soup with fresh hand made ramen noodles (I asked my brother, and he said it was fresh. Trust him, he's been to japan a bunch of times). It also had big hunks of freshly roasted chicken. I loved every bit of it.
The service was excellent. Eating at Morimoto's really is an experience. They know the dishes in and out and explain everything to you. Especially with the omakase, they tell you every little detail about the dish, and it actually helps you to enjoy it that much more. So sure, a few hours and many many dollars later, we were absolutely stuffed, and couldn't stop talking about how good everything was. Everyone was quite happy with the meal, including me. I know I wasn't crazy about my first Morimoto experience but I was definitely crazy about this one. So it's not exactly a place I could go to all the time, but I would say once every couple of years is fine with me. If you ever have a chance to go, you really should!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Honey's Holiday Brunch

I'd been wanting to go to Honey's Sit 'n Eat for... well, forever. And it just didn't happen. Luckily, my sister in law actually likes to go out for brunch, so she was on my side. The whole fam trekked out to the big city for Sunday brunch. Upon approach, we started seeing snow. We all went "it's snowing!" Never mind that it was 60 degrees and raining, we honestly thought that we saw flakes. Alas, it was a suds contraption that had been rigged above Honey's to fake snow. It was pretty cool.

It was packed, as expected, but because it was a bit later, they told us it would be a 40 minute wait. Not the end of the world. Luckily, it really only ended up being about 20 minutes. It was fine though, because it was unseasonably mild and we could hang outside and not freeze our butts off. We got a great table right in front of the window.

When we first sat down, they brought us some water and some menus, and then proceeded to pretty much ignore us. I've read that the service can be spotty. We flagged down someone so we could get some coffee, and when we asked this one particular worker that we wanted something, she seemed surprised. As if to say "oh, right, I work here". But then when our actual server showed up, it was much better. She was friendly, attentive, and also wearing the tightest jeans I'd ever seen in my life (even my mom couldn't not comment on them).

The menu is extensive, and there are also daily specials. My bro went with the 3 eggs and pastrami. You also get to pick some sides, and he went with challah toast and a latke. It's quite a lot of food. He liked it. My mom got the peach french toast. It was several good sized chunks of challah french toast with a peach topping (I'm thinking frozen peach?) and maple syrup. She loved it.

My sister in law went with a giant bowl of grits and a latke. I've actually never eaten grits before. Or at least not a plain old bowl of it. I think I might have helped someone make cheesy grits before (with real hominy and all) and that was fine, but it's not something that I would ever think to order, let alone choose to eat. I tasted this, and it tasted well, you know, completely flavorless. She'd put practially a pound of butter in it, so it tasted a bit milky and buttery, but that was just about it. Definitely not exciting. But she's crazy about grits. She grew up with it, I definitely did not. The first time I ever even heard of grits was during high school, when on a band trip to some southern city (yes, I was in the band), we stopped at the Cracker Barrel and they kept asking us if we wanted grits. We were all "what the hell is this grits?" Heck, I only found out what hominy was about 5 years ago.

I ordered the enfrijoladas with veggie sausage, and a side of mac and cheese. So I definitely did not need to order both! I probably ate maybe almost one of the enfrijoladas. There were two big ones, topped with all kinds of microgreens and red onions and sauces and what not. It was good. And there were big giant hunks of veggie sausage, that was particularly tasty. I'm not too into regular sausage, but this veggie sausage I could definitely get into. I also liked the mac and cheese quite a bit. It wasn't mild, it was very sharp and cheesy, but good.
All in all, a fun dining experience. Good food, affordable, big portions. Aside from initial hipster surliness, but service was good. Our server also had a great sense of humor, as she kidded with my sister in law about how she had barely touched her grits. I can see why so many people like this place.
Honey's Sit 'n Eat
800 N 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19123


Monday, December 17, 2007

Home cooked meal

Can you believe it, I cooked the other week. And not fish sticks, or ramen noodles, or a can of soup. I actually cooked something involving veggies, and even fish. I had to turn on the oven for goodness sakes!

This is one of the easiest, yet tasty broccoli dishes you will ever make. After boiling or steaming the broccoli and draining, mix 1 Tb each of salad oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds with 4 tsp sugar in a pan and heat to boiling. Pour this over the broccoli and serve. Voila.

I also made some miso glazed cod. There are many different recipes running around for miso glazed cod. I first had this dish at Nobu and there is a Nobu recipe for this. I didn't use it. I used the Ellie Krieger recipe for miso glazed cod, which is a lot easier to make. It doesn't require marinading the fish for 2 days. I basically made the lazyman version. It did turn out fairly well, but I think I will go with the Nobu one next time. Served with some rice and the broccoli, this was actually all fairly easy to make.

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Fast PF Chang's at Pei Wei

I finally got around to checking out the new Pei Wei on City Line Ave two doors down from the Chipotle and in front of the Target. They call themselves an Asian Diner. All I know is that PF Chang's owns/runs it, and serves some of the same dishes you can find there. The place is decent sized, colorful, and modern. Check out these big ass menus.

You order your food, and then you go sit at a table. You sit at the table they tell you to go to, after they tell you a table number. They have this whole weird plastic number circles thing going on where someone on the floor puts the numbers on the tables, after the cashier takes your order, and they tell you to go sit there. I felt like I was at the Rustler during the 80's. It's weird, but I guess you get used to it. Then once your food is ready, they bring it out. It's all cooked in the open kitchen.

I think I've been to PF Chang's once, or twice, honestly I don't remember. All I remember is that the food was ok and it was served by very attractive caucasians. I remember that I liked the Dan Dan noodles, so I got it here. It has egg noodles, minced chicken, bean sprouts and cucumbers. It comes out not mixed, and you mix it yourself. It's pretty good still.

Z got the teriyaki bowl with chicken and brown rice, and I tell you want, I'm totally in love with this thing. Totally. I could eat this every day. No fooling. I mean every single day. So good people, so damn good. The sauce is beyond good, it's really sweet though. The chicken pieces are also well marinated and well cooked, and the brown rice. Man, I think it's the brown rice that does it. It even adds more flavor. I LOVED IT. Screw the chicken teriyakis from the mall food court, this is the only teriyaki bowl for me.
The food comes out quickly. You get your own drinks, they have bottled as well as fountain. One annoyance was that they had lemonade as a selection, but no actual lemonade came out. Damn. But they have orange slices and lemon slices that you can put in your drinks. Score. It's affordable, but not super cheap. But it all works out because the portions are definitely big enough for at least 1 1/2 meals. If you have leftovers, the same dude that runs around putting the numbered circles on the tables will bring you to-go boxes and bags. I'll definitely be back, because as of Saturday, I have a new teriyaki bowl addiction.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Korean BBQ - Kim's

L picked Kim's Restaurant for the Sunday Night Dinner Club this month. And you know, well, it's the best Korean BBQ in all of Philly (yes, I even think so), so I was totally stoked. So what if it's in a dodgey neighborhood? Don't worry, there's security cameras in their parking lot, so it can't be so bad! There were supposed to be 10 of us, so they had prepped two tables for us, and all the banchan was already laid out. Score. We started eating it right away. I do have to say, the quality of banchan is a pretty good sign of whether a Korean place is good or not, and really, their banchan is pretty damn good. Not everything is great, but their regular kimchi is great, and that's a pretty good litmus test.

So yes, we came here to eat Korean BBQ. You cook it yourself, people. So don't come here expecting to be pampered. And well, it is a Korean restaurant, so certainly, you know the service is going to suck. So just go in knowing this, and you'll have a good time. There ended up being 7 of us, so we ended up getting 2 orders of the spicy kalbi and 1 order of the regular kalbi. Our waitress recommended that we get 4 in total, but I didn't think we needed to do that. And in the end, we didn't need to. So even though it says spicy kalbi, it really isn't that spicy. And it's definitely a bit different than the regular one, but trust me, it's good in its own way, and not really spicy at all. Yes, it certainly looks spicy (it's totally bright red), but it doesn't taste that spicy at all. So get it. Trust me!

I ended up being the Korean food expert (haha) of the group, so I also ended up cooking the meat on my grill. We had two grills going. And you cook the meat over real wood coals. This is real Korean BBQ folks. And yes there is a fancy Korean BBQ stink air intake system over your table, but don't even believe for a minute that you won't have Korean BBQ stench reeking out of every pore of your body after this. You just will. There's no getting around it.

In all my having to cook the meat glory, I totally forgot to take photos. Once I remembered, it was pretty much too late. That's why there's only this gross picture of the leftover bones from the spicy kalbi and L cooking the last few little bits of meat on the other grill. Oops, my bad. We did also order the haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) and the gochu pajeon (pepper pancake) as appetizers. As usual, the haemul pajeon rocked, and the gochu pajeon, well, it was good, but much spicier than expected!

The service.... well, it was actually particularly bad. Haha. We asked for refills on the banchan, and that took forever. And they didn't give us everything that we wanted. We barely ever had any water on the table. Even when we kept asking. And we had to ask for rice like a half a dozen times. And when we finally got our rice, so much of the meat had already been eaten. But perhaps the charm of a Korean restaurant is that the bad service is part of the whole experience? No matter what though, the food is good, and you will leave full and happy and stinking like cooked meat.

Kim's Restaurant
5955 N. Fifth St.



Graduate Hospital Eats and Drinks - Divan and Sidecar

Saturday night was spent in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, dining and drinking at two of the area's best spots - Divan Turkish Kitchen and the Sidecar. Dinner was first up, at Divan. It's a cute and cozy spot on the corner of 22nd and Carpenter. There's quite a number of tables, but very little room to maneuver between them. When I say cozy, I mean it. I apologize for the crappy pics. It wasn't very bright in there, and I was experimenting with my dumb point and shoot by not using flash, and as you can see, it just didn't work well. We had fairly early reservations, so when we first got there, we were one of the few parties there.

You get some complimentary bread, which is always nice, and we ordered the falafel with hummus as an appetizer. The falafel were delish - warm, flavorful, good texture, with a tahini sauce on top. The hummus, good, but a bit too liquidy. It seemed like it should have been thicker. So this place has a liquor license, but it's also a BYOB, with a corkage fee. It's nice that they offer that option.

D got the Karides (shrimp casserole). Notice the hilarious presentation in a fish shaped dish. He seemed to enjoy this dish quite a bit. S got the Hunkar Begendi (pureed eggplant topped with lamb). I didn't taste the lamb of this, but I did taste the eggplant and I loved it. It had a kick ass smoky flavor. I could certainly have eaten a plate of this.

C went with the Kayseri Manti (turkish dumplings). This was pretty good, but the dumplings were so teeny. I think it would have been better with bigger dumplings, so you could taste the filling more. I went with the Iskender, which was the doner kebab (ground lamb) with a tomato sauce. It was ok, but I should have gone with the plain doner kebab. The sauce was rather bland, and it was supposedly served over a turkish pita, but it looked like to me that it was served over burnt croutons. It was weird. I would have liked it if it actually came on top of a pita. Yes, that is a giant pepper on my plate, and yes, it was hot.

In general, the food at Divan was good. Everyone enjoyed the food. Some of the portions could have been bigger, but the food was fine. Now, the service? Well, the service was weird. We keep wanting to chalk it up to "lost in translation", but let's just say that perhaps there were some communication issues with our waiters. We'll just assume they're Turkish, and they seem really really fresh from the motherland or something. D ordered an unsweetened iced tea. He got it. Then he asked for sugar, so he could sweeten it on his own. He got no sugar. Then he asked again, to another waiter, and he still didn't get it. So then he asked again to the original waiter, and he brought D a new sweetened iced tea. It was bizarro. We were having a pretty good time, so even after we'd finished all our food, we just hung out talking and drinking wine and watching C drink his turkish coffee. They gave us a not-so-subtle hint of wanting us to leave by shoving another two-top next to our four-top. Ok, we get the hint, we'll leave! We don't blame them, it was a Saturday night, and they were quite busy. On to the next joint!

We walked down the street to the Sidecar. And you know how much I love this place from my previous experience here. I was the DD, so I did not drink, but S had a greyhound and C had some kind of weird beer he liked. And D, well, he was actually still hungry from his meal at Divan (he's a good eater!) so he actually ordered more food! :-) He got the Philly. He seemed pleased, and finally sated.

And I certainly could not forget the pecan square from my last time here. I HAD to order it! Yum. Sweet, chewy, sweet, sticky, sweet, nutty goodness. Man. So damn sweet, but so damn good. We also had a slight communication problem here. D had to ask for ketchup twice. So weird! Maybe D just had bad condiment karma that night. Otherwise, the service at the Sidecar was good, and the waiter was funny and a good sport. Like I said before, I just love this place.