Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tabata Noodle House - Great Ramen in Midtown

"There MUST be a ramen joint somewhere around here", I thought, when I started my new job in Midtown West (a few blocks north of Penn Station).  However, somehow I couldn't find any - two favorites, Sapporo and MenKui Tei - were over ten blocks uptown; not a feasible option given my limited lunch break.

Thus, I happily settled into a routine of rotating Chipotle, McDonald's, Bonchon, and the incomparable Go Go Curry, among others. But after a few months of downing tacos and burgers, I renewed my search and found Tabata Noodle House, located on a stretch of Hell's Kitchen not known for being a culinary haven. Heck, I'd go as far to say that a more unappealing location couldn't be possible, with the restaurant saddled between the Port Authority and the Lincoln Tunnel entrances. But it was a few blocks stroll and for that reason only worth a visit.

With all the options at ramen places these days, figuring out what to order can be tough. Tired of shio, shoyu, miso, and even tonkotsu? For a change, I opted for the eponymous Tabata Ramen, which seemed like something out of a Thai menu with the cilantro and red onion seasonings in the coconut-flavored broth. Think tom kha gai but a bit spicier.

It's quite a unique twist on ramen, and I've gone back twice to order the Tabata Ramen. Not to neglect the rest of the menu, I've also had the hot and spicy Lava Men a couple of times and loved it as well. Now that warmer times are here, I'll give the less spicy ramen versions a try, and perhaps the rice-based dishes. It might be located in a culinary wasteland, but Tabata Noodle House is a gem and fast becoming my Friday lunchtime mainstay. 

Tabata Ramen on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 14, 2012

Antica Foccaceria @ Madison Square Eats

The sight of those mouth-watering Sicilian desserts, cannoli and cassata, displayed at Antica Foccaceria San Francesco's booth at the Madison Square Eats fair made me renege on my vow to jump start my low-carb diet. 

Yes, they do look that inviting. Everyone's familiar with cannoli, those fried pastry tubes filled with creme, but it was the first time I laid eyes on another dessert from Palermo, Sicily - the cassata

Of course I had to try both! Lest you think I'm a total pig, I managed to restrain my sweet tooth and did so on separate days - I'm happy to report that both were excellent - the cannoli's creme lighter and fluffier compared to those I've tasted elsewhere, and the cassata's green icing sweetness was tempered by the creme inside. In each case, I polished off the dessert in front of in a matter of minutes, and  adamantly refused to share with anyone.

And whom do we have to thank for these delightful desserts? Italian import Antica Foccaceria San Francesco, quite a mouthful. They have been around in Italy since 1834, and have branches in Palermo, Naples, Rome and even in the north, Milan. If your Italian is up to snuff, then take a stab at browsing their website

If you haven't heard of them, well can't blame you since based on my chats with their staff, currently there is no presence in New York. The organizers of Madison Square Eats invited them to participate, and voila! Seems such a long way to come for only a month-long food fair, as I pointed out to the bemused cashier. Perhaps they would consider setting up an outpost here in Italian-food obsessed (or just plain food-obsessed) New York City, I suggested to another crew member, pointing out the success of other Italian food concepts, like nearby Eataly. 

Hopefully my subliminal pleas, along with countless diners' I'm sure, will amount to something, but in the meantime, you have only two weeks to savor their desserts, meat-filled rice balls, pasta and other Italian goodies at Madison Square Eats - get 'em while you can! 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rippy's BBQ, downtown Nashville

Well, those pork ribs slabs do look appetizing, don't they? They're one of the best things that happened on our spur-of-the-moment weekend in Nashville, but it didn't come easily. 

On the advice of one Grayline Tours Nashville driver, we ventured into Rippy's BBQ on a Saturday night - the same weekend as the annual Nashville marathon - so the place was packed with revelers, diners, and perhaps even concertgoers drinking up before crossing the street to the arena. 

In short, we weren't able to get in that night due to the long wait list. At least it gave us time to actually check Yelp reviews of Rippy's and Jack's, situated on the other side of Broadway and a tad more highly-rated by diners. So, we decided to dine at Jack's on Sunday night instead, only to get the shock of our lives (ok, I'm exaggerating) when we saw chairs piled on top of tables and no signs of activity inside. 

Back to square one then. This time it wasn't such a madhouse at Rippy's, and we ordered two full slabs for the three of us. My friends wanted to get a half-rack each, but excuse me - my stomach demands man-sized portions! So, a compromised was reached eventually.

Ok, about the ribs. They were tender, moist, and the meat fell right off the done with minimal effort. Quite delicious too, and I generously poured Rippy's sweet sauce over them. All of us had just eaten at the Texas-style BBQ joint Hill Country in New York City a couple weeks ago, and we analyzed and contrasted Rippy's BBQ with that establishment's, acting like the barbeque experts that we weren't. But no, we just wanted good grub on a mini-vacation, and I'm happy to say Rippy's delivered. Now, maybe we'll drop in on Jack's the next time we're in Nashville...

Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon