Monday, January 30, 2006

Review: Mr. Tang (NYC) - 3 1/2 Oinks

Restaurant: Mr. Tang
Location: NYC (Chinatown)
Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: Cheap
Dress Code: none

Items Ordered: An 8-course lauriat was ordered for Chinese New Year celebration. Dishes include fish maw with crab meat soup, Peking duck, beef with curry sauce, salted fish fried rice, Buddha's delight, steamed sea bass, sauteed mixed vegetables.


The highlight was definitely the succulent Peking duck. A second plate was ordered to satisfy everyone's craving. The sauteed vegetables were popular as well (although I didn't touch it), and though swimming in oil it wasn't as heavy as it looked. I personally loved the beef and ate most of it, as well as the salted fish fried rice. Fish was ok, looked somewhat smaller than usual. The Buddha's Delight for some reason still not fully explained (unless you count, "the chef forgot") did not contain tofu.
"Service - fast and curt, when you could get their attention".

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a satisfying, filling, reasonably priced meal to bring in the Year of the Dog.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Review: Bouley (NYC) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Bouley
Location: NYC (Tribeca)
Cuisine: French
Cost: Very Expensive
Dress Code: Business Casual (lunch), Formal (dinner)

Items Ordered: Since this was our first and perhaps only time to dine at a top end restaurant by David Bouley, we opted for the 4-course lunch tasting menu ($48) to be able to sample a few signature dishes.


Service staff were formally dressed, gracious and well-trained, as can be expected from an establishment of this caliber. At times it seemed like there were too many of them, since we had numerous servers bringing the food or taking away the dishes from the last course. Perhaps that's the reason why the price of admission is steep.

While not distinctive from the outside, the aroma of apples in the tunnel leading to the entrance of the restaurant provides a nice welcome into the uniquely designed interior. The walls and curved ceiling were painted dark red, and the effect was somewhat similar to dining in a fancy cave.

My tasting menu selections were as follows (to the best of recollection):

a) sashimi quality tuna
b) salmon with orange sauce
c) slices of duck
d) warm pineapple meringue

I liked most of the dishes, especially the excellent medium rare duck. On the other hand, the salmon was so-so and the orange sauce overwhelmed the fish. The portions were a bit small, and were devoured almost instantaneously. Bouley also has a nice assortment of bread which are rolled out in a cart to your table - I tried the pistashio bread which was quite tasty.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a good upscale dining experience at a high price. Probably will come back on a date or special occasion.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Review: Lounge 11 (Hoboken) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: Lounge 11
Location: Hoboken, NJ
Cuisine: Italian
Cost: Moderate
Dress Code: Business Casual

Items Ordered: fried calamari, chicken francaise, vanilla gelato

Comments: This place is more of a bar, with several tables added in for diners. At the back there is a lounge where a DJ plays live music starting at 10pm or so. It surprised several Hoboken natives in our group that the place serves dinner at all, and it came even more of surprise to the organizer that there were quite a number of diners at 730pm, since according to him, "the place is usually dead". Guess Restaurant Week helped in drawing a bit of a crowd.

The fried calamari appetizer lacked flavor. The chicken francaise was well-executed but fairly standard. The waiters weren't well-trained either, as they kept asking which dish was ordered by whom as they were brought to the table.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice bar/lounge with yuppie crowd, but don't come for the food. Service could use some improvement.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Review: City Lobster (NYC) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: City Lobster
Location: NYC (Midtown)
Cuisine: Seafood
Cost: Expensive
Dress Code: Business Casual

Items Ordered: lobster bisque, tuna carpaccio, pan fried lobster, key lime pie

Comments: We went to City Lobster two years ago for Restaurant Week and loved it, so we decided to come back and order pretty much the same food items (their Resto Week menus seemed to stay the same). Lobster was good but a bit dry and ultimately disappointing due to our great experience in the past, and I've certainly had much better lobster in Roatan (Honduras) recently. The lobster bisque was well=liked by all, and I enjoyed the tuna carpaccio as well. Dessert was disappointing - key lime pie didn't have the same sharp, tangy flavor but tasted more like custard.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice atmosphere, but food not as good as before.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Review: Oddfellows (Jersey City) - 3 Oinks

Restaurant: Oddfellows
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Cuisine: American (Cajun)
Cost: Entrees between $11-18
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: chicken fingers, blackened codfish, warm bread pudding

Comments: Couldn't resist trying this spot for Restaurant Week. There are bars on two levels as well, and a big dining area. Chicken fingers were hot and crunchy. Blackened codfish was ok, the salsa topping was very tasty though. The side of beans reminded me of canned pork n beans from childhood. Maxine had cinnamon cheesecake for dessert, which didn't taste anything remotely like cheesecake. My bread pudding was good, even if I don't like raisins.

Overall Rating: 3 Oinks (out of 5). Nice after work hangout. Food is pretty standard.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Review: Kwan Thai (Pearl River) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Kwan Thai
Location: Pearl River, NY
Cuisine: Thai
Cost: Entrees between $7-$10
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: tom kha gai, chicken curry with crispy noodles

Comments: Was brought here by colleague who raved about the place. Food lived up to its billing - tom kha gai soup was EXTREMELY spicy, causing me to break out in a sweat (in winter time!). Chicken curry was good too, portions were more than adequate. Everyone liked their dishes, one colleague said that the pad thai noodles were one of her best meals in a while. Soda is a bit expensive ($2) but they give you a huge glass (not a can) which comes in handy as you try to extinguish the flames inside your mouth. Place is a bit drab, but the great food and friendly service make up for it.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Recommended for cheap filling lunch specials. Sure to become a favorite being close to work.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Life is Easy with Online Reservations

Hopefully after checking out (talked about in previous post), you've already decided which restaurant to visit, when to dine out and who your companion will be. Now, for the hard part - making reservations.

In the past, one would need to look up the restaurant's phone number either in the Yellow Pages or by doing a search on Google, and then trying to get through to the reservations line. But if you're someone like me who dreads talking to strangers on the phone, or making repeated calls and getting a busy signal, now there exists a better alternative. A new website called Open Table offers the ability to make free, instant online reservations to over 4,000 participating restaurants all over the United States.

The way it works is simple. Just select a restaurant and date/time, and the number of diners, and availability (or lack thereof) is instantly displayed onscreen. If you decide to make a reservation, it will be instantly confirmed and stored in the restaurant's reservation system. Can't get easier than that. In the event that your plans change, cancelling or modifying your reservation is also a snap. Needless to say, I've found this site to be very handy in making Restaurant Week reservations!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Manhattan Restaurant Menu Sneak Peek

Let's say you wanted to dine out on a special occasion, like a anniversary, birthday, and the like. Or maybe you want to impress a client and wanted to take him to a high end restaurant. So you're thinking, "Wonder how much it would cost? And what entrees do they serve? Do they have vegetarian options?".

Well, if the restaurant of your choice happens to be in Manhattan, one of the most diverse dining capitals of the world, then you are in luck. One of the most invaluable resources I've discovered is MenuPages, which lists the menus of over 4500 (and counting) restaurants in that part of NYC. Moreover, you can search for restaurants by neighborhood and cuisine. For avid foodies, there is also an "Advanced Search" option which will surely hook you up with the right matches.

Probably the most useful feature is the ability to read customer ratings in four categories: food, service, value and atmosphere, as well as the essay reviews. Sometimes the conflicting reviews adds to the fun (and uncertainty), but in most cases it is worth the trouble to find out what feedback other diners have written.

To check out Menupages, click here. Happy pigging out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Review: Sushi House (Hoboken) - 4 Oinks

Restaurant: Sushi House
Location: Hoboken, NJ
Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: Moderate (Entrees from $11-$18), sushi/sashimi prices reasonable
Liquor: BYOB
Dress Code: Casual

Items Ordered: salmon sushi, spicy salmon roll, tempura roll, miso soup, fried green tea ice cream

Comments: Miso soup was delicious, with a more pronounced flavor than other restaurants. Sushi was fresh and delicious, and portions were generous. Spicy salmon roll a bit too spicy. Service was speedy and courteous. Highly recommended is the fried ice cream which comes in two flavors: green tea and red bean.

Overall Rating: 4 Oinks (out of 5). Recommended for delicious, reasonably priced sushi.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hudson Restaurant Week

Well, after years of being overshadowed by NYC, the restaurants by the waterfront in New Jersey decided to get into the act and hold their own Hudson Restaurant Week. This two week festival is held on the same weeks as its NYC counterpart, on the weekdays of Jan 3 - Feb 3 (coincidence? I think not).

So, for those who get sick at the mere thought of schlepping into the city for great eats, you might want to check out the list of participating restaurants here. With some of them literally a couple minutes walk from my doorstep, I'm simply salivating!!! Any reviews you wish to share will be welcomed, so go out there and pig out!

NYC Winter Restaurant Week is here

As in years past, New York's finest restaurants are serving up three-course prix-fixe lunches and dinners at a fairly reasonable (all things considered) price for TWO WEEKS ONLY (Jan 23 - 27, Jan 30 - Feb 3) this winter. Yes, prices have gone up: $24.07 for lunch, $35 for dinner - not including beverages, taxes and tips. The good news is that it still affords us unwashed masses probably our only chance to sample the cuisine at these fine establishments without breaking the bank.

Click here for a full list of participating restaurants. I personally am looking forward to it, and trying to get friends together for some delicious meals. What's great is that reservations can be made online at Open Table, though not for all participating restaurants. Among the restaurants I've tried in the past are Compass, Django, City Lobster, Inagiku, and Aureole. Most have been pretty good, some border on amazing. So take a look at the list, make those reservations, and let's pig out at the NYC Restaurant Week!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Welcome to Pig Out NYC!

The inspiration for this blog comes from my brother's upcoming visit to NYC later this month. In preparation for his arrival, we have been exchanging emails to plan our culinary adventures at some of the city's top restaurants, and excitedly making the reservations. So while driving home today, I thought, "I should create a blog about this". A few moments later, it struck me: I should create a blog not only about the pigging out that will occur during his 4 days here, but about ALL of my interesting food experiences. And not only mine, but also my friends', some of whom eat out way more often than I do, surrounded as they are by numerous temptations.

So this blog will mostly chronicle my eating adventures, and thus contain restaurant reviews and recommendations. About good and bad experiences, in cheap hole-in-the-walls and upscale jacket-required restaurants alike. Mostly in NYC, some in Jersey. And some from wherever destination I travel to. Contributions from my friends stuffing themselves will be featured as well. So without further ado, grab your forks and let's eat!