Zhu Ji’s Eats

I discovered a new gem at Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. The mall itself is already a gem, so I guess I just discovered a gem inside a gem – sweet potato noodles!

The Golden Shopping Mall is a 2 floor “mall” (which is in quotes because it’s just houses a bunch of random Chinese vendors so not exactly your quintessential suburban mall) with the basement floor completely dedicated to food. It’s unadorned, dingy, and kind of sketchy, which is why I love it.

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You go down these super suspect steps to the glorious underbelly of Flushing…

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…and you are welcomed by this sight of so much good, authentic food. Check out some of these side dishes.

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Continue down this pathway to the end, and where that little white sign is marks the spot of today’s post – Zhu Ji’s Eats.

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They serve a lot of different noodles and dumplings, and I found out that they make a special type of noodle from sweet potatoes. How intriguing.

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I ordered mine with pork bone, and they brought me not just this bowl of piping hot noodles but also a plate, a plastic glove, and a straw. It’s so ridiculously thoughtful, I almost started laughing.

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Those tools are for tackling this giant pork bone. At home, I will be completely uncivilized and just dig in with my hands and end up with oil and soup all over my hands and face. Yes, I know. Very attractive. Here in public, I did really appreciate having a glove to not get my hands dirty and a straw for the bone marrow. The sweet potato noodles are springy and chewy, really great consistency.

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Upstairs, on the ground floor of the Golden Mall (right next to the sketchy staircase) is one of my other favorite stalls, Tian Jin stuffed pancakes, and I just couldn’t leave this post without touching on this place. They have all kinds of on-the-go eats from congee to crullers to steamed buns to traditional Northern Chinese pancakes.

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I highly recommend the 牛肉卷饼 beef crepe where they wrap roast beef inside this giant chinese style egg and scallion crepe. Trust me, try it! It’s amazing.

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St. Flushing, NY 11355

 

Melt Shop

Ever since starting work this week, the weather has been horrendous – either pouring, flooding rain or in today’s case, snow. I’ve been too lazy to cook since coming back from vacation, so lunches have been a quick dash to the Chipotle or Potbelly next door to avoid any additional time outdoors. It made me miss the lunching adventures we used to go on, such as a trip long ago for some grilled cheese sandwiches at Melt Shop.

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Ahhhh…back when it was warm, and we had the luxury of eating outside.

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Here we have the 3 cheese – gruyere, havarti, goat cheese & roasted tomatoes on sourdough. It’s too bad my closeup didn’t focus correctly and came out blurry. I admit I get my cheeses confused, and I couldn’t taste the difference of having all these different cheeses in here compared to just one. It was just…very cheesy.

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This one is call the dirty – pepperjack and muenster cheese with caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños, sliced tomato, and crunchy potato chips. The crunchy potato chips remind me of my grandparents who used to always put potato chips in their sandwiches (I have no idea why…they just thought it was the most logical thing to do). I used to scoff at them for not eating chips the right way, but this surprisingly seemed to work.

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Parmesan tater tots are the best things ever though. I come back to the Melt Shop over and over again more for the tater tots than for the grilled cheese. Hot and crispy, with just the right amount of parmesan sprinkled on. I really like tater tots. I really really really like tater tots.

Melt Shop
Multiple Locations; 601 Lexington Ave (btw 53rd and 54th) New York, NY 10022

Calle Ocho

A lot has happened in the last 2 weeks. I quit my job, went on vacation to Italy, and just this week started at my new gig. On my last day, I had brought my camera and documented my last walk up Park Ave to that office building. Perhaps I am just an overly sentimental person, but I had a lot of unexplainable emotions on that last day. Think about it. First job out of college. First paycheck. First work email. First desk. First time having co-workers. First team. First meetings. Not to mention the fact that I was there for over 2 years. This was your life, day in and day out, for over 2 years, walking that same route, going up those same escalators, and sitting down in that same chair. Then in one day, poof! All changed. It just made me gape at how both unchanging and mutable this world can be.

Reflecting back on my experience there, I have a lot to be grateful for – in particular for the friendships. I knew that I would probably make friends at work, but I didn’t predict the depths of some of these friendships and how much I would come to rely on them. Having someone who understands, who you can go to in the middle of the day is priceless. People who comforted, encouraged, and supported me in the good and bad, in the professional and the personal. People who were friends before they were co-workers. My heart overflows with gratitude and love for these friends.

Now, with one such friend, we went bottomless brunching this weekend at Calle Ocho. Reservations were made months in advance by the way because delicious, affordable, day drinking brunch is serious business.

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In the bread basket, please focus your attention on the 2 white rolls towards the front of the photo. This cheese bread is out of this world. We got another basket of JUST these cheese breads because we could not stop. They come hot and soft on the inside. Smear on a bit of that strawberry butter, and you’ve got an addiction on your hands.

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They’ve got 8 different sangrias: 4 whites and 4 reds. We started out with the Tropical – mango, passionfruit, pineapple, and rum.

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The Vaca Frita is cuban skirt steak over rice with 2 perfectly fried eggs and some peppers, onions, and avocado. This was really hearty food with bold flavors. The steak was juicy and had a nice char. The peppers and onions surprised me as really helping to balance out the heaviness of the dish with more brightness.

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The Vegetariano is a mushroom paella with black rice and a sweet pea vinaigrette. I had a bite of this to try and loved the earthy taste of the mushrooms. It makes me intrigued to come and try their non-vegetarian paella during dinnertime.

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The price of the food includes the drinks as well, so this is probably the best deal of a bottomless brunch that I have ever encountered. Bottomless places are tricky too because all too often, they fall into the camp of free-flowing drinks with below average food. Here, there is no compromise. The food speaks for itself, and the sangria keeps on coming.

Calle Ocho
45 W 81st Street (at Columbus Ave) in the Excelsior Hotel, New York, NY 10024

Quality Meats

There have been so many times where I found myself enjoying the appetizers of a meal more than the entrees. In light of this oft-occurring phenomenon, my friend Kat and I decided to skip out on the steaks at Quality Meats and instead order a table of appetizers. We were a little apprehensive of whether one, if we would have enough food, or two, if we would be scoffed at by the wait staff. I’m happy to report back that the whole experience turned out to be really wonderful. I loved being able to sample a variety of different dishes, the food was more than enough, and the wait staff didn’t think that we were strange at all. Well, maybe they did think that, but they certainly didn’t show it. We were made to feel right at home.

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The meal started out with complimentary figs and cheese. The figs were bright and tangy, paired nicely with the cheese and a dash of salt. We were instantly tickled pink and put into a lovely mood by this complimentary plate.

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The rosemary bread came so piping hot that we had to let it sit for a bit before digging in. Super fluffy and soft on the inside, this was a real treat.

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We were first intrigued by the corn creme brulee on the menu, and then we fell madly in love with the corn creme brulee. I was so surprised at how yummy it was. Creamy with that slight corn-y sweetness, this was one of the stars of the night.

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While we didn’t order steaks, meat was still a must have. Here are the baby back ribs with crispy lotus roots. The sweet glaze tasted distinctly Asian. The meat fell right off the bone and was quite satisfying.

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The steak tartare is what Kat came here for. It comes with an egg to mix in and then an assortment is different salts and seasonings to sprinkle on. I think it lived up to her expectations.

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The bone marrow is what I had my eye on. I was so excited to see how they prepared it. The idea is to spoon some onto pieces of toast with some veggie spread and a sprinkle of salt. It was very rich bone marrow. I thought the tomatoes and carrots masked the creamy bone marrow flavor so I ended up just eating the marrow by the spoonful and then ate the toast and spread separately. Still delicious. This is also because I am big fan of bone marrow. At home, my mom would make pork stock with these giant bones full of marrow. When the stock was finished, you’ll always find me sitting at the kitchen table digging into the bone marrow. So good and really nutritious too.

I didn’t get any good pictures of the dessert, unfortunately. We had long heard about Quality Meats’ ice cream cake cups. I tried the Strawberry S’more with strawberry chunk ice cream, graham cracker cake, and toasted marshmallow icing. Kat got the Pie Fight with blueberry pie ice cream, lemon chiffon cake, key lime frosting, and topped with blueberries and a mini lemon tart. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Both ice cream cakes were average, nothing to write home about. I would skip dessert for more of their meats next time.

Quality Meats
57 W 58th St (btw Ave of the Americas & Grand Army) New York, NY 10019

 

99 Favor Taste

After I hurt my ankle last month, my mom came up to mother me for a weekend. Her reaction to my apartment was that it was a lot cleaner than she expected. Not sure why, but I think she imagined a pig sty. Even so, she did a full scrub down of my bathroom and kitchen, down to the floors. She then proceeded to stock up my fridge and freezer with homemade soups and ready-to-eat meals. Looking at the mountain of food, I should be good to go for the next month. It’s times like these when I feel like I have absolutely no desire to grow up. Can time go backwards? Can I stay a kid forever? It’s so nice to be taken care of.

Of course we also went out to eat quite a few times that weekend. 99 Favor Taste is a hot pot and Korean barbecue spot that newly opened not long ago. The original restaurant is in Brooklyn, and they have done so well that they’ve now expanded into Manhattan. From the looks of it, this new location is a huge hit as well. The line Saturday night was literally out the door, with the entrance area teeming over with people waiting for tables. We made reservations for 8 pm and still had to wait about a half hour before getting seated.

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The first thing I noticed, aside from the line situation, was how beautifully decorated the interior was. High ceilings, red draped curtains, elegant throw pillows on all the seats – this is definitely not your typical dingy Chinatown place. This is what restaurants in China actually look like. Add on top of that really attentive service (almost TOO attentive), high quality ingredients, and affordable prices, this is hands down the best hot pot spot in Manhattan.

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You can pick up to 3 soup bases, and we went with half spicy and half pork bone. There’s one called congee style, which I’ll have to try next time to figure out what that entails. Congee hot pot? Interesting.

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The wall of sauces is an impressive lineup with everything from the classic sesame paste to chives sauce and several different hot sauces. It’s fun to experiment with a dollop of this and that. My go-to concoction is a mix of sha cha paste, soy sauce, sesame paste, chives sauce, and a dash of vinegar and chili oil.

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For the food, I was so impressed by the quality of the meats. The beef (upper right) and the lamb (lower left) were beautiful. Sliced extremely thinly, it cooks in seconds. I like to dip it in the broth a couple times and then take it out immediately so that it doesn’t overcook. The slivers of fat in the beef kept it especially juicy and tender. If you get no other meats, you must try the beef. Really excellent!

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There’s a slew of other meats, seafood, and veggies to pick up too. We loaded up on: pork, fish, crab, frozen tofu (a must!), fried tofu, tofu skin, wood ear, seaweed, enoki mushrooms, pumpkin, potatoes, taro (my favorite!), and vermicelli for the end. This is a waistline-busting amount of food. Beware. Come dressed for the occasion, which in my case means stretchy yoga pants.

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Something else I love about this place is the sweet soups that serve as great palate cleansers, giving you a break from all the spice and oil, or as a refreshing dessert at the end of the meal. On the top is a pumpkin soup, and on the bottom is a tapioca soup. I’m such a sucker for these. I must have had at least 4 bowls.

And what is the price for this giant meal? A whopping $22 per person! I don’t know another all-you-can-eat hot pot place in Manhattan that can top this. I will be back (well, technically, I’ve already been back since this particular meal happened haha).

99 Favor Taste
285 Grand St (btw Eldridge & Forsyth) New York, NY 10002

Chicago: Sugar Bliss

No time to write today! Have some cupcakes instead! These were from Sugar Bliss in Chicago.

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Chocolate with peanut butter on the left and cinnamon on the right.

Sugar Bliss
115 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60602

Terroir Wine Bar

There’s nothing better than spending the evening at a wine bar, chit chatting away with your girlfriends. Terroir Wine Bar has several locations, one of which is in Murray Hill, right by me.

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I love the look of the place, perfect for a date or a girls night. There’s plenty of room, so you’re not sitting on top of each other. The music isn’t too loud, so you can have an actual conversation.

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The wait staff is really well-versed in wine. Ask them if you’re unsure of what to get or would like to try something new. We tried sherry…let’s just say it probably won’t be my drink of choice…ever. After which, we decided to stick to glasses of riesling instead.

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For a wine bar, Terrori has a really creative food menu too.

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Saucy mozzarella balls to share. I only wish there was more sauce, but it was yummy.

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I was really disappointed by the tomato, egg, and basil bruschetta. I read so many raving reviews on this, but there was too much tomato to taste anything else. The topping wasn’t balanced with the bread. Was it missing a drizzle of balsamic or something?

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The duck confit sandwich with stinky cheese seemed to be well-liked though. Despite the one miss on the bruschetta, I like the wine service and ambiance here enough to come back. Or that it’s just right down the block from me – that’s nice too. Next time, I’m getting the whipped lardo bruschetta.

Terroir Wine Bar
439 3rd Ave (btw 30th and 31st) New York, NY 10016