C&B Cafe in East Village

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inside c&b cafe

C&B Cafe is another one of those impossibly tiny, perennially packed East Village cafes with a no-reservations policy that make getting a table something of a headache. The place is quite well known for its breakfast sandwiches, and in a young neighborhood where hearty egg sandwiches are popular cures for hangovers, C&B is crammed with millennials and young hipster families at all hours. The table situation is especially annoying given that some of the millennials have complete disregard for people with food in hand waiting patiently for a table, hogging valuable space with unnecessary chess games and coffee chats about start-ups and breaking into investment banking. Just know that this is what you’re dealing with.

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mushroom and egg bowl
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pig and egg sandwich

Once you do get a seat and can focus on the food, you’ll be pleased to know that the enormous egg sandwiches are very satisfying. The ingredients live up to their promise of being fresh and locally sourced, and I was very impressed by the robust slab of fatty pork belly that was in the pig and egg sandwich. For those who want something lighter but no less hearty, the egg bowls are the way to go. I liked how the mushroom and egg bowl was filling, but not so much that I couldn’t go for a slowish run after. The bready croutons were also a nice textural touch, although they were a bit soggy towards the end, probably because we were waiting so long for one of those millennial coffee chats to wrap up.

I did enjoy the very sensible American cooking at C&B Cafe. The seasoning is pretty minimal, so at times I felt like I was eating off of a grocery list rather than a cohesive recipe. But the ingredients are pretty good to begin with, so I guess that’s half the battle. What’s really a struggle is dealing with the seating situation. I’d probably come here early in the morning or order take out, because it’s not so good that you can deal with waiting for a coffee chat about how one is lucky to take two unpaid internships in a row to wrap up.

C&B Cafe
178 E. 7th St (between Ave A and B)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 674-2985

Kopitiam, Malaysian Breakfast

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kopitiam’s cozy quarters on canal st

A bowl of nasi lemak for breakfast is not for the faint of heart. This traditional Malaysian rice bowl dish, which is one of the specialties at tiny LES Malaysian cafe Kopitiam, is shameless in its pungent, stinky fishiness. The anchovies are front and center, eyes peeking out of their tiny, dried bodies, swimming in a fragrant sea of other strong personalities like fish sauce, shrimp paste and garlic. Stinky, fishy, spicy, sweet, this is the type of Asian dish that makes white people with meek palates very, very afraid.

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nasi lemak

That’s the type of approach that Kopitiam takes to its Malaysian cooking–bold and authentic flavors. There’s no toning down of this or that to appeal to a broad audience, which I appreciate. You definitely have to be in a certain mood to eat foods that are so intense early in the day, in the same way that you can only take in so many episodes of Game of Thrones, but when you do, you won’t forget it.

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pulut panggang

The pulut panggang, a sticky rice snack covered in banana leaf and filled with dried shrimp, was just as funky and feisty as the nasi lemak that came before it. As a Korean, I’ve had my fair share of eating dried squid or cuttlefish, and the highly concentrated and briney flavors in just about everything I ate felt very familiar.

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blue morning glory sticky rice

We also had the pulut inti, a blue morning glory sticky rice with grated coconut that reminded me a lot of Thai coconut sticky rice. As a sweet treat, it served as a nice palate cleanser for all the salty marinades that came before it. I’d say that the sweeter options like the malaysian toast and pandan and coconut cake are good entry points for those who want to tread the Malaysian waters a bit more lightly. But I’d recommend plunging right in. Almost everyone in the small 4 person restaurant as well as the steady flow of take out customers were going for it, and we were all staying afloat just fine.

51 Canal St (between Orchard and Ludlow St)
New York, NY 10002
(646) 894-7081

Brunch Roundup: Taboonette and Acme

I had one of those nights where I had one too many gimlets, and the next morning I woke up in this groggy haze, where I was convinced that only a proper plate of eggs would clear everything up. There are a lot of options for eggs in the city, but when you’re this hungover, only one type of egg will do – a fried egg, preferably two, served alongside some tender slabs of braised beef brisket and a side of crisp arugula. When you can barely think straight, you need something hearty with punchy flavors to snap your taste buds out of their drunken funk, which is why the brisket and eggs, with its savory medley of Middle Eastern spices and robust fillings, is so perfect for the morning after. Not only does it taste good, but the dish has some serious medicinal effects. You know how when you’re hungover, your stomach either feels queasy or you just feel a little uncoordinated in general? The brisket and eggs literally ground you, providing you with the warm center needed to regain your balance and go on with your day.

taboonette - brisket and eggs
brisket and eggs, the ultimate hangover cure

The shakshuka egg plate has similar therapeutic effects, perhaps even more so than the brisket. In this dish, the eggs are served alongside a thick, spicy tomato sauce, just begging for you to sop it all up with some pita bread. Running the bread through the sauce and having it absorb the warm, luxurious and fragrant flavors was really quite a dream, one that I didn’t want to wake up from. Sadly, when the pita bread ran out, it was back to reality.

taboonette - shakshuka
this shiksa wants a shakshuka

Taboonette is more of a take-out restaurant with a few communal tables, but really, when you’re that hungover, you don’t need to scare the world with your post-bender likeness. Quickly getting takeout or ordering delivery probably makes more sense. Either way, the heart wants what it wants, and it wants an egg plate from Taboonette.

30 E. 13th St (between 5th Ave and University Pl)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 510-7881

On the days when you are at your most beautiful and not hungover, brunch at Acme might be a little more appropriate. The restaurant, which is run by Chef Mads Refslund, co-founder of the world famous Noma, not surprisingly serves new American food with Nordic influences. Since Scandinavia is involved, you know that the food and the clientele is going to be good-looking. Waifish hostesses, aloof models-slash-servers, Eastern European prosties–they are all part of the backdrop.

For such a scene-y place, where everyone looks delicate and trim, the food is surprisingly heavy. We ordered the smoked salmon benedict and the chicken and eggs, and we couldn’t really finish them all. The hollandaise sauce on an eggs benedict is usually pretty heavy, but this one felt extra rich, and after eating half I felt extremely weighed down. Perhaps if there were something distinctive about the sauce or the lox I would be inclined to eat more, but nothing really stood out.

The chicken and eggs was advertised by our waitress as being very substantial, so we were prepared for something large and meaty. But even so, the dish took the concept “meat and potatoes” to the extreme. There were literally chunks of chicken and roasted potatoes piled high everywhere. Everything was well-seasoned–the chicken was tender and flavorful, and the potatoes had a nice char to them–but it was just very over-the-top and very heavy. Of course, it didn’t help that we ordered a side of duck fat fries, which were absolutely divine. These were probably some of the best fries I’ve ever had. I suppose cooking things in duck fat makes everything delicious. In fact, I’ve never met anything duck fat fried that I didn’t like.

acme - salmon benedict
smoked salmon benedict
acme - chicken and eggs
a very literal interpretation of chicken and eggs

It’s clear that the standards at Acme are high and the cooking is well-executed, it’s just not the right place for brunch. It’s a little too early in the day to be eating such dense and heavy food. Maybe in the cold Scandinavian countries, this is how they do breakfast, but some things get lost in translation. Come here for dinner instead, which does a better job of showcasing Chef Refslund’s skill in Nordic, foraging cuisine.

9 Great Jones St (and Lafayette St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 203-2121

Japanese Coffee and Breakfast at Hi-Collar

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but in reality it’s the most neglected. During the work week, I usually just stick to my routine of coffee and a Kind Bar because it’s quick and efficient. During the weekend, I’d rather spend my time catching up with friends over a late and lazy brunch rather than waking up early for a balanced breakfast in the AM.

But during those rare moments where you actually have time for a light meal in the morning, I highly recommend that you stop by Hi-Collar in the East Village for some breakfast. Hi-Collar is a small Japanese coffee bar that specializes in siphon-brewed coffee, a process that produces an extremely delicate, refined and flavorful brew. I don’t even need to add milk or sugar because the coffee is so smooth and naturally sweet on its own.

If you were wondering, the siphon looks like this– a crazy-looking device that wouldn’t look out of place at a steampunk convention. It basically converts water into a gas, which floats into the top contraption where the ground coffee rests, and then it filters back down into the bottom container as coffee when it resumes its liquid form.

Hi-Collar - siphon press coffee
steampunk coffee siphon

You can’t make a breakfast out of coffee alone, and Hi-Collar has you covered with some light fare that go especially well with your morning brew. The hot cakes and the morning set in particular are very tasty and portioned appropriately for an early morning meal. The hot cakes are essentially denser and thicker than your typical pancake, yet the consistency is surprisingly fluffy and light. The buttery lemon spread is quite good and provides nice light citrus notes if you should want it.

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japanese hotcakes and lemon butter

I absolutely love the morning set, a square meal of eggs, sausage and toast that renders the typical Western breakfast with a Japanese touch. The toast is the real standout here, consisting of two crispy, buttery and thick slices of Hokkaido milk bread. If you’re not familiar with Japanese bread, it’s thicker and has a slightly sweeter and creamier taste than American bread. As a child, I was addicted to this bread and would look forward to my trips to the Marukai store, where I would eat several slices plain straight from the bag. The boiled egg and light sausage round out the meal with some healthy, filling protein that balances out the carbs. You’ll feel pleasantly satiated and fueled with just the right amount of energy to get you through the morning.

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the deluxe morning setto – toast, sausage and egg

Breakfast sets the tone for a great day, and the excellent coffee and low-key comfort foods at Hi-Collar will set you up for success in getting through the daily grind.

214 E. 10th St (between 2nd and 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-7018