Korean Banchan at Atoboy

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At the core of a Korean meal is rice and banchan side dishes. The quality and variety of banchan can really make or break your experience. I know it’s going to be a good day when a restaurant throws in a steamed egg or pan-fried tofu, and on the flipside, it’s always a sad day when all I get is kimchee and some limp bean sprouts. Atoboy, a new restaurant in Flatiron run by Junghyun Park, the former Chef de Cuisine of Jungsik, rethinks the banchan side dish as the main dish, where you can make a meal out of several of them. The menu is divided into three sections of small plates, which is differentiated by portion size, and for $36 you can pick a dish from each one of the sections along with a bowl of rice, the traditional white rice or the rice special of the day for an extra $2. As an fyi, you really should pay up for the rice special, otherwise you will miss out on something amazing like the bacon and scallion rice.Read More

Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen

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The moment I walked into Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen, a new Chinese restaurant in the West Village, it was such a shitshow that I thought there was no way the food here was going to be good. I was greeted by a hostess with a blank stare who kept quoting guests wait times that probably weren’t real and showed us to the waiting area, handing me a menu of “mocktails” and teas that I could order from, only two out of the three special teas were not available that night. It didn’t really matter if I wanted anything, because no one was really around to take my order. The whole staff looked like they had been cobbled together at the last minute to run this restaurant, except no one gave them any guidance on how to do it, and no one looked like they really cared.Read More

Secret Summer 2016

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Secret Summer 2016 was a hot one. I’m not talking about the weather, which did get up there in the high 90s. I’m talking about Lucky Chops, a brass band whose sassy, high-energy performance was scorching. All six members played like they were having the time of their lives, and their positive vibe was infectious. The crowd went wild for the group’s spirited take on pop classics like Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There”, and band member Leo P really put his back into it with his crazy booty shakes. Whoever said band camp is just for geeks hasn’t been to this jam session, because all the cool kids were dancing to the beat of a horn and saxophone. Not even a little rain could stop this party.Read More

SF Round-Up: Kin Khao, Marlowe, The Progress, Nopalito, Cotogna

“SF vs. NYC restaurants” is always a popular topic of debate, and there are certainly arguments to be had for both. Since I live in NY and visit SF one-off every year or so, I’m clearly more familiar with and biased towards the NYC food scene. That being said, I did visit SF several weekends ago and had wonderful meals at a couple restaurants, and here are some key differences I noticed between the two cities:

  1. Food quality is generally better in SF, so the baseline of restaurants is higher. You can walk into a divey looking bar in SF and expect to eat very decent food since chances are good that the ingredients will be fresh and locally sourced. In New York, not so much…
  2. The fine dining restaurant price points are generally higher. Saison $398 before gratuity?? (they said tipping is optional but come on…). Benu $268 before the 20% gratuity? Atelier Crenn $298 all-inclusive? On the New York side, Eleven Madison Park at $295 doesn’t sound like a steal, but it at least includes gratuity and there’s always the option of eating at the bar. Gramercy Tavern at $125 sounds like a bargain, by comparison, and again, there are even cheaper lunch menus and bar menus available. On the high end is Per Se at $325, gratuity included, but I think it’s safe to say that this restaurant is losing its edge a bit and is not as relevant as it once was. In case you were wondering, Atera is $235 gratuity included.
  3. Food in SF veers on the heavier side and tends to be served “family style”. I was surprised by this, as I expected California to have the edge on healthy foods, but every single lunch and dinner I had in SF was so rich and heavy. The ingredients were high quality, but it was like heavy full fat organic creams, meaty grass-fed, dry-aged beef patties and deep fried handmade tortillas. And family style dining is the norm in SF…I’m not sure why that is, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something I noticed.
  4. Mid price restaurants taste better in New York. I do think that New York is stronger in this category. The high quality, moderately priced restaurants like Pasquale Jones, Freek’s Mill or Uncle Boons are much more interesting and more flavorful than a Kin Khao or The Progress. I’m not saying that Kin Khao tastes bad, but the food is not as memorable as Pok Pok or Sripraphai.
  5. Japanese is better in New York. Ramen, sushi, just about everything. Korean is probably just as bad, and I can’t really speak to Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese…

Anyways, enough about that. Here’s a recap of recent SF restaurants I visited. Hope this is helpful to you if you’re ever making a trip out there.Read More

Tomales Bay Day Trip

 

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San Francisco is a beautiful city, but at some point it starts to feel small. Which is why day trips are essential to keep things feeling fresh. Napa, Sonoma and Big Sur are some popular options, but I’m a big fan of a much more low-key day trip to Tomales Bay. Tomales Bay, which is only about an hour’s drive from SF, is known for the fresh oysters that come directly from its waters. You can stop at any of the restaurants along the bay for some oysters that will taste better than anything you get at your high quality happy hour. Raw, grilled, smoked, it all tastes incredible. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even shuck the oysters yourself, but who really wants to prep their own food?Read More