FoodbySkyler's Recent Reviews
- Food: 3.5
- Decor: 4.5
- Service: 4.0
- Meal price: $10 - $19
After weeks of hard work and sleep deprivation, it’s necessary to treat yourself. Many people tend to go for the well-deserved pedicure or massage, but I like to use this time to go on the treasured solo dining adventure. A solo dining adventure consists of the following criteria:
- Take yourself to a new restaurant
- Order a dish you’ve never tried before
- Eat your feelings
Now, don’t let these seemingly simple criteria fool you – planning a solo dining adventure is actually a pretty daunting task. For starters, you have to pick a place where you won’t look like a complete, lonely loser (i.e.: bottomless brunch) and you must find a menu with an interesting selection of dishes that you have never had the pleasure of tasting. The solo dining adventure is supposed to be a time to regroup, relax and re-motivate yourself to keep living your hectic life, so a decently calm atmosphere is also a must.
Like any smart person, I investigated my solo dining options with a simple Google search: “best places to eat alone in NYC.” This led me to many articles and finally, I came across Cha-An Tea House – the place where you can (I quote) “leave your cares behind” and “just feel the quiet moment.”
So then I took my zombie self over to Cha-An and had one of my best solo dining adventures yet.
I arrived, checked my cares at the door and walked upstairs to enter the serene, urban equivalent to a Japanese teahouse. I was seated in a corner seat next to the window overlooking NYU’s Alumni Hall and given a detailed menu with a variety of dining options and an inspiring reminder to enjoy the moment.
Obviously since I did my research, I knew I was going to get the $18 meal set with 15 grain rice porridge (also known as Kayu), five toppings, a daily side dish and a chef’s dessert. I also took a glance at the tea list and decided to go with the lavender mint.
The Kayu came with Japanese pickles, seaweed and salmon flakes. On the side was a seaweed salad and the daily side dish, fried white tilapia with onions and carrots in a light teriyaki sauce.
I had never eaten Kayu for dinner nor had I ever paired any dish with seaweed, salmon flakes and Japanese pickles at the same time, so this was like a fun chemistry experiment. I tested each topping and thought about how I could mix them to get the best taste. The Japanese pickles were very intense and salty; the seaweeds were pretty basic (one being thicker and a bit sweeter than the other); and the salmon flakes were dry and a tad fishy. I noticed each ingredient had a sharp taste and figured I would just dump them all in for fun. The end result was a grainy, almost nutty porridge balanced with the different taste elements from the pickles, salmon and seaweed.
Japanese pickles Salmon flakes Seaweed
The fried white tilapia with carrots and onions was a sweeter side dish, thanks to the light teriyaki sauce, and the seaweed salad was pretty typical with sesame seeds and a miso dressing. To my surprise, the fried fish was served cold and was actually a light, refreshing side to the hearty porridge. Likewise, the seaweed salad was cool and invigorating — a great final touch to the main course.
Fried white tilapia in a teriyaki sauce
While I ate the Kayu, a pot of lavender mint tea was brought to the table. The tea was calming and served as a great palate cleanser before dessert: a sponge cake trifle with mint, strawberry and mixed berry sorbet topped with whipped cream. Like all of the desserts at Cha-An, this one was excellently prepared and presented. The sponge cake was fluffy yet perfectly dense, the berries were fresh, and the mint and sorbet merged effortlessly making this dessert a great ending to my solo dining adventure.
By the end of my meal I decided that I had successfully eaten my feelings (the last of the solo dining adventure criteria) and was pleasantly full. I paid the bill (FYI it’s cash only) and left feeling serene and ready to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in weeks.
- Food: 3.0
- Decor: 3.5
- Service: 4.0
- Meal price: $50 - $99
Tabélog, the number one restaurant review website in Japan, has expanded to New York! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tabélog, it basically runs the dining scene in Japan with more than 50 million monthly users and 4.7 million online reviews. In an attempt to make the New York version as popular and trustworthy as the Japanese site, the Tabélog team spent the summer hand picking 200 of New York’s top food bloggers to contribute to site content and give the best restaurant reviews possible. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the judges and participate in their first series of Tabélog Food Blogger Restaurant Awards this Fall.
While there will be more awards throughout the year, the categories for this season were as follows:
- Best Use of Truffles in a Dish
- Best Overall Plate Display
- Best Happy Hour Location
- Best Steak in NYC
- Best Ramen Noodles
To celebrate the first round of the Food Blogger Restaurant Awards, the Tabélog New York team hosted a meet and greet tasting event at the new LES-based Japanese fusion restaurant and sake bar, Sakamai. I had never been to Sakamai nor had I met anyone else associated with Tabélog, so I was anxious to see how the evening would unfold.
As I got out of the cab and passed a lot of bars I found myself at the weekend before (*sigh*), I walked into Sakamai to find a pretty impressive turnout. The staff checked off my name, gave me a box of personal Food by Skyler Tabélog business cards (nicer than my actual ones) and a gift bag. Then I naturally turned to the sake bar.
I’m not an avid sake drinker (more of a sake bomber) but I decided to try a glass.
Unfortunately, I could not find an English translation for this sake but I will say it was a lot lighter and much nicer than the sakes I am used to bombing into cheap beer. For sake lovers, world champion mixologist Shingo Gokan was there to make the best concoctions, and for classic wine/cocktail/beer drinkers like myself, there was another open bar with an assortment of beverages. I ended up trying the gin and coconut water cocktail (very sweet and a bit milky) and of course some white wine after that.
Sakamai’s menu is really all over the map with everything from Southern fried chicken confit to sea urchin and caviar on a bed of scrambled eggs. While the small plates offered at the Tabélog tasting event are not offered on the menu, they were just as diverse and some of the ingredient pairings were pretty off the wall.
Carrot purée with dash gelée and summer truffle
Filet mignon tartare with sea urchin, wasabi mascarpone, crushed poached egg, and brioche toast
Temari sushi with tasmanian trout and caviar rouge
Croquette with lobster, lardo iberico, sansho pepper and potato purée
Tsukune slider with chicken, foie gras, caramelized onion, butterhead lettuce, and harissa aioli
Iberico pork on a farro salad
Strawberry compote with mascarpone mousse and a truffled balsamic glaze
I tried each one of these dishes and they were good, but they didn’t blow me away. This could be because they were sitting out on a table for an extended period of time, but I also just think some of them were unnecessarily overpowering. Take the carrot purée and the strawberry compote for example — the truffle was excessive. The slider was great but the foie gras wasn’t beaming with flavor, the iberico pork was a bit too chewy, the balsamic glaze overpowered the strawberry compote, and the steak tartare had so many different elements that I couldn’t really pinpoint how I felt about it. I thoroughly enjoyed the croquette and the temari sushi was pretty predictable, but I guess that’s a good thing when the rest is all over the place. This is not to say I didn’t like Sakamai — I just think the selection of dishes they chose to display were hard to grasp. I couldn’t get a sense of what the restaurant was really about, but I guess that is a reason for me to go back and try what’s on the actual menu. Let’s face it, catering to a group of food bloggers is hard.
After the tasting, we had the opportunity to hear from the Tabélog New York team and the owners of Sakamai. They gave us more information on the new restaurant and revealed this year’s Food Blogger Restaurant Awards winners (the results will be announced the public soon).
Once the speeches were over, everyone was beaming with excitement for Tabélog’s New York launch. Although the event was supposed to end at 8:00 p.m., guests were allowed to stay for another drink from the open bar (cha ching) and hangout with the other bloggers and the Tabélog team.
Needless to say, the tasting at Sakamai was such a great experience that made the extensive New York food blogger community a bit smaller. It was a delightful opportunity to meet the team and embark on a culinary adventure together. Stay tuned for the results!
- Food: 3.5
- Decor: 4.0
- Service: 3.0
- Meal price: $30 - $49
Ever since I traveled to Ireland over the summer, I have had a really deep appreciation for pubs and “pub-like” atmospheres. So when I stumbled upon the The Breslin, a unique British gastro-pub on 29th & 5th ave, I was extremely excited and knew I had to eat there. I love being adventurous when it comes to food, and the menu really peaked my interest with a unique selection ranging from onion and (bone) marrow soup to pig’s feet for two.
I decided to invite one of my best friends, who is also a big fan of Manhattan food adventures, to join me on my visit to The Breslin. We decided to go for lunch on a Tuesday. Being that it was Tuesday, we did not think it would be very crowded, but to our surprise we had to wait about fifteen minutes to get a table. While we waited at the bar, I noticed that the Breslin is not just your basic pub like the ones that can be found in midtown Manhattan. It has more to offer: it is cozy and relaxed, yet upbeat and trendy. After observing the atmosphere, it became obvious that the Breslin is the perfect place to have a lunch break and escape from the busyness that surrounds in the streets of the city.
My friend and I were led to get a table in the back of the restaurant where the lighting changed from natural to dim. We sat down and began to browse the menu, even though we already sort of had an idea of what we wanted. Originally, we were going to have some wine, but we noticed that the drink menu had an eclectic selection of gin and beer cocktails, so we decided to take the plunge and get ourselves some gin. I ordered a tonic and grapefruit and my friend ordered the gin and lavender.
The waitress brought our drinks to the table and after one sip, my friend and I both noticed that the gin was a bit too prominent to say the least. A little too strong of cocktails for a lunch date, so if you are in the mood for a lunch cocktail, I don’t recommend going for the gin.
The Tonic and Grapefruit (taken with @nycdinig Instagram)
After a while of thinking through our meal, my friend and I finally made up our minds and placed our orders. To start, we would share the Onion and Marrow soup with parmesan toast and the Lamb Scrumpets and for our entrées, my friend got the Fish & Chips and I ordered the famous Lamb Burger with Feta cheese and cumin mayonnaise.
Our Onion and Marrow soup with Parmesan toast came out first and we did not hesitate to eat it, even when it was still steaming intensely in front of us. Primarily, the waitress had told us that the marrow is more prominent in the soup than the onion, which made my friend a bit nervous, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was not too earthy or “meaty.” The soup was thicker than traditional French onion soup, but a lot oilier due to the marrow. The marrow made the soup a bit earthy but was balanced out by the sweetness of the onions. Not only was the broth delicious, but the Parmesan toast in the middle was crunchy, yet soggy, and added a cheesy dimension to the stew. To say the least, we were very surprised by the onion and marrow soup.
Right when we finished our soup, our lamb scrumpets with mint vinegar were brought to the table. My friend took a bite and was not a fan of how earthy they tasted. I, on the other hand, loved the lamb scrumpets because I am a huge fan of lamb. They basically tasted like fried lamb shank and are definitely very meaty tasting, so if you do not like lamb or the taste of meat, you should probably refrain from ordering the scrumpets. Although I liked the scrumpets, I was not a fan of the mint vinegar served with them. In my opinion, the vinegar was a bit too strong of a dipping sauce to pair with the already intense taste of the lamb.
I ended up eating both of the lamb scrumpets (oops), and conveniently right after I finished, our entrées were brought to the table. My friend and I decided to follow through with our plan of action and try to share our entrees, but that did not work out as planned because she did not like my burger and I was not very fond of her fish and chips. As I said earlier, I am a huge fan of lamb, so when I took a bite of the Lamb Burger with Feta Cheese (I left the cumin mayo on the side) I was very, very pleased. I had already read raving reviews about the lamb burger, but I am so happy I tried it myself because…why wouldnt I? The burger was served medium rare, extremely juicy, and on a perfectly toasted bun which, when bitten into, makes a delightful “crunch” sound. The lamb in the burger is very different from that in the scrumpets in that it is red meat and the lamb in the scrumpets is fully cooked and has an earthier lamb shank taste. The feta cheese also complimented the rich flavor of the lamb so well that I decided to leave out the cumin mayo.
My friend’s fish and chips were light and flaky, almost as if they were fish tempura. When I took a bite, I felt that they tasted kind of dull and lacked salt. However, my friend said she really loved the fish and chips, but she also ordered a side of vinegar to dip them in which probably added some of the missing saltiness back. I personally liked the lamb burger a lot more than the fish and chips, but I think it depends on each individual palate. Also, both the fish and chips and the lamb burger came with a side of fries, which were fried to a golden crisp and salted perfectly.
By the end of the meal, my friend and I still did not finish our cocktails because they were way too strong and did not go well with either one of our dishes. I have come to the conclusion that if you are not a usual gin drinker, you probably should not go for a gin cocktail to start your meal off. Otherwise, I definitely recommend the onion and marrow soup and the lamb burger with feta cheese because they are pretty unique dishes that are also quite delicious. If I did not like lamb, I would probably try the oven baked three-cheese sandwich with onion marmalade and mustard for lunch. I also plan on returning back to the Breslin for dinner and getting the pig’s feet or two, so stay tuned for a review on the dinner as well! Over all, The Breslin has a great atmosphere and uniquely delicious dishes. However, the gin cocktails were not very enjoyable and the lamb scrumpets and fish and chips have acquired tastes. Follow your instinct with what you order.
- Food: 3.0
- Decor: 2.5
- Service: 3.0
- Meal price: $10 - $19
Thursdays are great. Enough school or work has happened to make you feel accomplished and you know the weekend is right around the corner. So what better way to transition into the weekend than to drink beer out of a boot at 5:00 pm? or 4:00 pm? or 3:00-7:00 pm? The answer is that it is the best way to spend every day, but it is clearly not humanly possible to do that, so Thursdays will suffice.
If you’re a college student desperate for a real college experience or just someone who wants to get a little sloppy, Thunder Jackson’s happy hour is a great start to becoming what you truly desire to be.
To start, I must mention that happy hour is every day from 11:30-7:pm where a bottle of selected beer, glass of red or white sangria, and well drinks all go for $3. You can also get a drink and the shot of the day for $5.
Moving on, the food is perfect for the ultimate sloppy drinking fest with traditional barbecue/sports bar food. There are also some fun extra sloppy dishes such as the Preztel Cheese Steak, Filthy Burger with truffle mayo, and “The Horseshoe” — a grilled burger covered with a mound of fries smothered with cheddar cheese sauce.
Bargain: If you are one of the few people in the world who has time to grab a beer and burger between the hours of 11:30 am and 3:00 pm on a weekday, then you should know that there is a Burger & Beer deal ($8 for both) during the time slot every Monday-Friday.
Buffalo Wing Wednesdays: 30¢ buffalo wings 11:30 am – 7:00 pm
Thirsty Thursday: Fun drinks such as the flaming Scorpion Bowl (Malibu with white rum, cranberry juice, orange juice and a flaming 161 set on fire in the middle), the infamous Beer Boot and the Jumbo Drink of the Day are discounted at your service to make your Thursday the best day ever.
And whatever you do, DON’T forget about Ladies Night on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 pm – Close.
Specials are ladies only, visit their website for details.
Have a Happy Wednesday and Thursday!
- Food: 3.5
- Decor: 3.0
- Service: 3.0
- Meal price: $20 - $29
While I was walking through Soho with my friend, I saw the word $15 jump out at me on a chalkboard in front of a seemingly trendy restaurant. It had outdoor seating on a little balcony and a couple of stairs to the big glass doors of an entrance. We take a closer look at the menu and it says $15 BRUNCH for an entrée and a cocktail or orange juice. K. I’m Sold.
(sorry for the bad quality I was just too excited.)
We walk in and there is a rustic, Italian brick-oven pizzeria vibe with brick walls, antique wooden tables, jars of oranges (like the Sploosh from Holes) on the shelves and old Native American looking corn hanging on the wall next to worn out copper pots and pans.
The service was very friendly and there was no wait. Our brunch started with some complimentary bread that was not warm, but it was fine. It was served with olive oil that was mixed with black pepper and salt. It was a fine starter, but it was nothing special.
For the cocktail, my friend and I ordered mimosas. They were very sweet and actually refreshing. Each mimosa was bright orange and tasted like carbonated orange juice. It was a great choice.
(excuse the stains I’m a sloppy eater. k thanks.)
As our appetizer we ordered the Prosciutto & Burrata (we’re indulgent). Unfortunately the menu on the site is not the same as the one we had for brunch, but basically just add prosciutto and bruschetta to the Burrata from the website’s menu, and that’s what we had. So our dish arrives and the burrata is fresh and creamy with a mix of a yogurt/cottage cheese feel in the middle with that fresh, light mozzarella taste. The prosciutto is salty and flimsy in a sense that it melts in your mouth when you start to chew it. They tasted great together. Also on the side of our dish, there were two pieces of bruschetta that had crispy crusts and soggy tops due to the thinly cut tomatoes that rest atop of the bread. The tomatoes and herbs gave the bruschetta a smoky flavor. I personally think the dish would be better without the bruschetta because it really does not add anything spectacular to the dish and since its there, you feel like you have to eat it.
For my entrée, I ordered the Almond Brioche French Toast, which came with a strawberry sauce, strained yogurt and maple syrup. I have never had such fluffy French toast in my life. There was buttery whipped ricotta cream on top (I am not sure if it was a special day or if that is what they usually put on as the strained yogurt, they failed to specify), but it had a fruity, almost lemon-y taste to it. The strawberry sauce added a sweeter fruity flavor to compliment the ricotta cream, and the almonds and blueberries topped off the dish leaving a savory taste in my mouth.
My friend ordered the Classic Eggs Benedict which came with a buttery hollandaise sauce, English muffin that had a slight burn on the bottom of it, thinly sliced ham, and poached eggs. The ingredients in the eggs benedict blended very well, but it would have been better if the English muffin was not burnt. He also ordered a side of the Applewood Bacon, which was served perfectly hot with a little bit of grease on the outside. The bacon was so crisp and smoky it was hard to stop eating it.
The meal was great overall and the service was wonderful. I would say the one problem with the restaurant was its lack of air conditioning and cell service.