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Let me get one thing straight, I'm extremely picky (hence the name) when it comes to Vietnamese food. As a born-and-raised Vietnamese from the South of Vietnam, I carry a different set of standards from those in the US. But authenticity aside, good food will always be good food.
Why am I speaking about this you ask? Because Bep Ga - the newest addition to the Vietnamese food community in NYC fits into this category. It might not be the most true-to-its-roots, hands-down authentic Vietnamese restaurant, but the quality of food justifies the slight deviation and novel thoughts.
Nestled in a small pink corner in the Lower East Side right next to Spicy Village, Bep Ga doesn't even have a proper store sign. In fact, it looks like something you're more likely to come across in Brooklyn than Chinatown. Their business model is simple: good food, hipster vibe, and a simplified menu. Bep Ga (Bếp Gà) is Vietnamese for Chicken Kitchen and, unsurprisingly, that's the only protein in all four of their dishes. We sampled 3 out of 4 on the menu: Phở Gà (Chicken Pho), Phở Gà Khô (Dry Chicken Pho), and Cơm Gà Hội An (Hoi An Chicken Rice). The Gỏi Gà (Chicken Salad) looked very promising also, but until they decide to serve it with congee (which is how we've always had it in South Vietnam) I'm not interested.
The interior of Bep Ga is very small. They could only hold up to 12 people or so at a time so be prepared to wait 15-30 mins for a table. Another option is to grab take-outs and eat it in the park right across .
Their Pho Ga is a semi-traditional bowl of pho with smooth chicken stock and sliced pieces of chicken breast. The steaming hot bowl is beautifully adorned with chopped up cilantro, scallion, and a handful of blanched bean sprouts. I didn't know what purpose the boiled quail egg was supposed to serve, but felt it was a wonderful final bite. I've had better chicken pho stock elsewhere (a.k.a. Thang Long restaurant in Philly) but this is one of the most solid broth I've come across in the Greater New York area. If you're a fan of a light and clear broth that still packs enough flavor to deliver a good dining experience, this is the bowl for you. One thing I didn't enjoy was how much noodles there were in the bowl, but hey isn't that a good problem to have? :)
My friend had the Dry Chicken Pho, which is basically a salad-like version of the same dish. They skimmed down half of the broth and put it in a paper cup that comes with the bowl so you can enjoy a "drier" version. This is not uncommon in Vietnam although I expected them to serve it with some kind of fish sauce vinaigrette instead of just the broth. I liked the addition of the fried shallots and red onions, but would recommend you guys to just go for the normal version.
But the real star of the show was the Com Ga Hoi An (Hoi An Chicken Rice), which I have no idea if it's authentic or not because I've simply never been to that part of the country. A few quick searches showed a clear difference in the two renditions, to which point I would reiterate my earlier comment that authenticity comes after taste.
And my oh my, their Com Ga Hoi An did not disappoint. The rice is beautifully infused with chicken fat and has such an amazing turmeric color. Dunk the chicken into the dipping sauce and place it onto a spoonful of rice. Layer the onions, fried shallots, and minced ginger on top and voilà, you've got the perfect bite. I was pleasantly surprised that they actually made an effort to feature "rau ram" (Vietnamese coriander) and "la chanh" (lime leaves), two of the most hard-to-find Vietnamese herbs in US supermarkets. The plump wedges of tomato on the side made the dish look like Japnese Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Ramen Salad) while the baby blue plate gave it that instagram-worthy look. I only took a few bites out of this from my friend's plate, but I'll definitely be back next time for the full experience.
Overall rating: 4.1/5
Upside: good food, reasonable prices, great concept
Downside: no AC, limited seating, chicken can be rather dry
Recommended dishes: Hoi An Chicken Rice, Chicken Pho
70 Forsyth St
New York, NY 10002
In retrospect, this is probably one of the best meals I've had all summer, second only to the unforgettable sushi lunch at Morimoto during #NYCRestaurantWeek. We headed to this spot to celebrate the last day of my (stupendously awesome) summer internship @ Chicory , a young and fun food+tech startup that focuses on making online recipes shoppable. As I was on a strictly no-carb diet to gain back the slim body I never had, my marketing manager suggested going for a fancy lunch at this meat-loving restaurant on 29th St. (Thank you, Hillary. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!)
The Cannibal, as its name suggests, focused mainly on transferring different protein into mouth-watering dishes that we cannot wait to dive headfirst into. There is an insane price gap between the least and most expensive dishes, with the dry-aged rib eye costing more than 100 bucks per serving. I don't know how good this rib-eye can be, but there's not a cat in hell's chance of me trading it for 20 delicious popsicles at Popbar.
I opted for what seemed-like-it-had-the-least-amount-of-carbs on the menu: Pig head & Maitake Terrine with Pickled Celery ($11). & my co-intern flipped out when she thought I was ordering the General Tso' Pig Head that sets us back a good $85 :) As good as it may sound, my past experience with General Tso' Chicken at Chinese takeouts left a mental scar that was to be felt for life. I swear my Chinese friend would kill me if I ever call sauteed broccoli or General Tso' Chicken authentic Chinese food...
Pig Head Terrine with Maitake and Pickled Celery ($11)
The terrine itself was pretty decent, with chunks of pork fat and pig head creating a nice, soft, and bouncy texture. The sweet and sour pickled celery really helps cut through the fattiness of the pork, ensuring a mouthful of different flavor explosions. I wish there'd been some ground pepper though, since that would have made this dish perfect.
The Cannibal, without a doubt, knows how to make good pates and terrines. Hillary loved her Chicken Liver Paté, and Joey's Pate Grand Mere with Blueberry Mustarda was soooo good I wish I could eat carbs (yes, blueberries have sugar, hence carbs *sob sob*).
Chicken Liver Pate with Spring Onion and Black Pepper Jam ($11)
accompanied by three slices of toasted bread
Pate Grand Mere with Blueberry Mustarda ($11)
I know Pate is traditionally made from ground meat, fat, and cattle's organs, but what the hell is Pate Grand Mere? There was not a wikipedia entry for the origin of this dish, but some basic google translation gave me "Grandma's Pate" as a consolation prize. More reading will have to be done when I finally get my hands on a good Pate making book. As long as it's not in French...
Taste-wise, the Pate Grand Mere had not a single flaw to it. Unlike the pig head terrine where I felt I would have appreciated a touch of pepper, this dish is perfect to the T. Despite my initial reservation for the sweet + fat combination, the fattiness of the Pate works splendidly well with the slightly sweet and sticky blueberry paste. Google didn't give me any results for "mustarda", but "mostarda" could have been what the restaurant were really thinking of. It's basically a compote, where candied fruits are mixed with a mustard-flavored syrup (probably giving it the name "mostarda"?).
Steak Tartare with Bearnaise and Crumpet ($16)
Didn't get a chance to taste this but it sure looks amazing. Bearnaise is a fancier variation of Hollandaise sauce, where white wine vinegar is used in place of lemon juice.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Slow Cooked Egg & Country Ham XO ($8)
This dish is simply to-die-for
Cannibal Dogs ($15) = "Tiger Style" Hot Dogs with Spicy Tripe Chili, Scallion, Crispy Fried Shallots and Chinese Mustard (whatever that means lol)
The restaurant was also offered us a free House Jerky and Pork Rind platter since Amanda and Gary's Grilled Cheese was taking *forever*
Grilled Cheese with Bacon, Cheddar and Gruyere ($12)
I couldn't snap a decent photo of this Grilled Cheese since Amanda was too busy attacking it and the Half-hearted Vegetarian Gary diligently picking out the bacon from his = _ = " ( no offense, Gary!) They both swore it was the best Grilled Cheese they've ever had, so I guess it was on par with our other amazing dishes.
All in all, I and the gang left Cannibal with the best meat-lover dream (ok, exp for Gary lol)
113 E 29th St
Midtown East, Flatiron
On my wild food chase in NYC this winter, we headed to Ippudo ramen. I and a few friends intially set out for Chuko ramen in Brooklyn, only to find it tragically closed for Christmas break. Instead of giving up and hitting a random bakery along the way for a quick breakfast (which is totally what we did), I looked to Yelp for another ramen place ’cause this girl is in her ramen fix. Thanks to the power of the internet (and a pain au chocolat), yours truly found her way to another famous noodle bar in New York: Ippudo.
I should have expected nothing less on holidays as the restaurant was holy PACKED ! We were super lucky to get a table in just 10 minutes, thanks to the big head count (I swore the couple waiting in line gave us very mean looks). I guess it’s better to travel in big groups then?
The wall was decorated with all kinds of ramen bowl. Isn’t that great?
I was tempted to count all of them during the wait lol
Finally got our seats ! The menu wasn’t as big as I expected.
Prices are reasonable for ramen I think, that is, before you include all those taxes and tips *rolls eyes* What can I say? I've never come across "cheap" ramen in the States...
My friend opted for the Tonkotsu ramen, which is basically ramen in a pork bone based soup.
You may have noticed that it’s missing the famous soft-centered egg. Yes, she was trying to keep the cost low.
I, on the other hand, went for the tempting Karaka men ( spicy tonkotsu noodles ) with soft-boiled shoyu EGG (brilliant choice, I say). The marginal utility derived from having an extra egg in my ramen outweighs the marginal cost, thus my decision to order that shoyu tamago is beautifully backed by science (yes, Econ is a science). Feel free to follow my lead, ramen fans!
For an addition 3$ you can get a rice bowl and side salads. The rice is average, but it’s a good option if you have kids around who wouldn't stop begging for add-on items.
I tasted all the noodles we ordered, but my favorite has to be this Wasabi Ramen. The taste is pungent yet delicate, and I actually appreciate the tempura bits a lot more than I thought ! They also seem to have a different kind of noodle for this soup, one that's a bit more wavy and chewier in texture.
This is my first time having ramen in the States and third time having ramen anywhere. Ippudo surely deserves its spot in front league of ramen in New York. The ramen was chewy and delicate, while the broth is packed with flavor. Perhaps the only thing I dislike about Ippudo is the line outside its door, which again confirms that this is one of best ramen place in town.
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
Spring break is upon us (college students), and that means it’s time for another blog post ! Since I’m in such a good mood, here’s a review of my all-time-favorite Ramen place: MOMOFUKU (if you’re not excited, get excited!)
Momofuku Noodle Bar is an Asian-inspired noodle bar opened by Chef David Chang and also one of the most popular place for Japanese ramen in New York City (insert epic BG music). The place is apparently named after Momofuku Ando, the man credited with the invention of instant noodles. It didn’t take me a long time to locate Momofuku in East Village, since the long, bustling line outside its door is already a giveaway. While standing in line noodle-watching, it’s comforting to keep telling yourself that hunger is the best spice.
No more distraction, here’s the glorious food pics that you (yes, you!) mainly came here for:
Ok, those weren’t exactly the photos thatI had in mind…
I ordered the classic Momofuku Ramen, a choice at first sight that sounds as safe as it gets. This bowl of noodle is worth every penny and has left me quite a few restless nights planning every cost-effective route to schedule a re-visit. The noodle itself is nice and chewy; the shredded pork, glistening with that awesome pork, literally melts in your mouth and urges you to take a second bite (or don’t bite, just simply swallow); and that beautifully poached egg is so good, even on its own, that there’s no need for any description. To whoever that brilliantly thought of putting egg in ramen: sir, that was a match made in heaven.
If anyone (yourself included) ever asks you to go with them to Momoduku Noodle Bar, my good friend, please by all means cease that opportunity. If not, I’ll be more than willing to shamelessly take your place. LOVE <3 !
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave
New York, NY10003