In My ‘Hood – Chuko

Monday, December 19th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, In My 'Hood

I don’t know anything about ramen. One thing that I have learned recently is that it’s called “Japanese soul food”. People line up all over Japan for their favorite local ramen joint, which can come in the form of the most upscale to a completely Mom & Pop operation. Here’s a great Intro to Ramen video from the New York Times Travel section.
I’m still learning so much about what’s authentic and what’s not regarding ramen, but as usual, I aim to eat what tastes good. When I heard about a new ramen restaurant, Chuko, opening up near me in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I knew I needed to go. We are a little starved for good ramen in this part of Brooklyn. Chuko was highly anticipated because the two men who’ve opened the restaurant were formerly at Morimoto. If you’ve ever watched Iron Chef, Iron Chef America or even Top Chef, you’re probably familiar with Mr. Morimoto himself. Either way, Chuko’s founder were bring a lot of buzz with them.

As per usual often in Brooklyn restaurants on a Saturday night, there was a wait; and, boy, did we wait. Even with a walk to kill time, we waited and waited some more. I will say that the staff was friendly and apologetic about the situation. The staff and service at Chuko is friendly, quick and seamless (just go earlier or later on busy evenings). Often at small restaurants, service seems to be the forgotten element, and it wasn’t at Chuko.
I was in the mood for veggies, so Husband J and his visiting friend, Davey, agreed to have some veggie appetizers.

Charred Brussel Sprouts
with fish sauce, peanuts and sliced chili
WHAT?! Brussel sprouts should always be made this way. I purposely went for the chilis while avoiding the peanuts and made sure to cover the brussels sprouts in fish sauce when I could. Asian flavors are the perfect way to highlight this fall vegetable.
Crispy Kale Salad
bacon, golden raisins, ginger dressing

When we tried this kale and the brussel sprouts, we realized that the wait was worth it. I’m still wondering how they made the kale so crispy. I was impressed that the chefs had found a use for the ubiquitous ginger salad dressing that you get at Japanese restaurants. It was stuck on the bottom of the bowl, but what a nice surprise when you reached that portion of the dish. Also bacon. ‘Nuff said.
Yes, we actually DID eat ramen.
There are three types of ramen on Chuko’s menu, and you have a choice of having them with added chicken, pork or sans meat add-ons for the vegetarians.
Our friend Davey had the Pork bone ramen (the soup base was pork bone) with poached egg. I have to say that I didn’t taste this. Davey and I are cool (I still like him even though he laughed at the Giants’ loss to the Redskins yesterday), but we’re not sharing food.

Husband J had the miso ramen that night, and I had this on a subsequent visit to Chuko.
It’s like buttah! Seriously, this soup was buttery smooth. When I think of miso, I usually think salty, but that just might be my limited understanding of the power of miso. This ramen was creamy, with al dente like noodles and crunchy corn kernels. There was something so warming and comforting about this soup. Let’s just say I understand ramen’s Japanese soul food designation now.

My dish…

Spicy Pork Ramen
red bean paste, kimchi, spicy minced pork

Noodle money shot 🙂

O.M.G. First of all, when the waitress said kimchi, she had me. I don’t think that kimchi is usually associated with ramen (Anyone? Anyone?), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have spicy ramen AND kimchi. The soup almost resembled a creamier base than some of my favorite Korean soups (kimchi jigae in particular) with the addition of chewy noodles and a very soft poached egg. It was heavenly. Please note that this is a special, so I don’t know how much longer Chuko will serve it.
By the way, since I’m not a ramen expert, I don’t know if Chuko wins any points for authenticity. Just know that it’s good.
Winter is definitely in the air. Thank goodness for good ramen close by!
552 Vanderbilt Avenue
Brooklyn, New York


In My ‘Hood – Littleneck

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, In My 'Hood

We don’t have enough good restaurants specializing in seafood in this part of Brooklyn. When Littleneck in the Gowanus area opened a few months ago, I was happy to see that it filled a cuisine void.
Littleneck attempts to replicate a New England seafood shack, and I think they do a pretty good job, especially with the decor.
The bar

looks like a bait and tackle shop

They got the decor right, but did they get the food, right? I’d say so…by the way, I forgot my camera that night so these are all IPhone pics in a dimly lit restaurant. 🙁

When we go to seafood restaurants, I let Husband J take the lead. After his years of growing up and visiting seafood restaurants throughout New England, I will say that he knows a thing or two about raw bar offerings. We kept it light, since we were still recovering from Thanksgiving dinner. We got two oysters from Rhode Island, two from Long Island, and two from Washington state. All fresh and all good. I love oysters!

Husband J has to order the chowder. A mark of a GOOD “New England-esque” seafood restaurant has to be its New England Clam Chowder. We both figured that we couldn’t stomach a full bowl of chowder each, so we had the kitchen split the bowl for us. It was a good move that we even ordered it because this might have been one of the highlights of the whole meal.
New England Clam Chowder topped with dill

Usually I find chowders to be overly salty to the point where it really overpowers most other tastes. Yes, I know that seafood is inherently salty so that will affect the taste of the soup, but it didn’t affect Littleneck’s at all. As a fan of spice, I loved that Littleneck’s chowder was spicy, if not perhaps a little too spicy (Well, not for me. Although a dash of salt would have balanced out the spice a bit more). It was such a breath of fresh air to have a chowder with bite. Also it wasn’t unflatteringly goopy like some chowders can get. I loved it, and so did Husband J. The dill was a nice touch, too. I wonder if they will deliver this in the winter. 🙂

I think these are crab cakes with a basic slaw, if I remember correctly. Husband J had these. Good, not mind-blowing, which is fine.
A not-so great IPhone pic. Maybe I do need a DSLR? 🙂

I actually had one of Littleneck’s signature dishes, its Clam Roll. WOW!
The Clam Roll = FABULOUS!

I really do think it has to be the great mix of the tartar sauce, lightly toasted (and spot on traditional) roll with the not overly breaded and lightly fried clams that really makes this dish work. Each element is totally on point here, but my hats off to the perfectly tangy tartar sauce. Husband J had never had a clam roll before (more chowder, fresh clams or clam cakes), and even his New England seafood snobbery was put aside for a few moments. It’s not cheap for what you get on the plate, but usually neither are losbter rolls. We’ll have to get Littleneck’s lobster roll next time.

Finally, Husband J was transported back home by this:
Narragansett beer. You can take the boy of out Rhode Island, but you can’t take Rhode Island out of the boy. **shoulder shrug**
This beer brings back memories for him, especially of unsupervised high school parties.
Thank you, Littleneck, for adding something new and needed in a neighborhood that I am sure will soon be a destination (there was no wait on a Saturday night (at least not yet)). Yay!!
288 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

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Food Porn Friday /In My ‘Hood – Smashburger

Friday, October 28th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Food Porn Friday, In My 'Hood

Midwesterners, you’ve been holding out on me. You didn’t tell me that I’d fall in love with Smashburger. I feel somewhat cheated, but also quite lucky, that the only branch in New York City is a quick walk away from my home. Five Guys, based out of the DC/Maryland/VA area, has also opened two shops relatively close to me; AND Brooklyn’s first Shake Shack, with its perpetually long lines in Manhattan and elsewhere, will be opening close by, too. We’re about to have one big burger glut here in Brooklyn. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. 🙂

I can say that I appreciate Smashburger for the fact that it’s a clean and simple burger. I tend to order the Classic, which comes with lettuce, tomato and onion with melted cheese on the burger. Sometimes when there are too many toppings on a burger I feel as if someone is trying to hide something.
The accompanying Smash Fries are worth it. In general, I wish these fries were tad less oily and had even more of the rosemary that gets sprinkled on top. Please be healthier than me, and just get the sweet potato fries.

Have any new fast-casual restaurants or food shops from other regions of the country (or even parts of the world) opened up near you lately?
80 DeKalb Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

Happy Weekend!


Food Porn Friday/In My ‘Hood – Robicelli’s Cupcakes

Friday, August 5th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Food Porn Friday, In My 'Hood

I think we’ve already covered the fact that I love cupcakes. It’s not because it’s a trend. It’s really because I love cake and frosting. As I mentioned before, I’d fallen in love with Robicelli‘s cupcakes back in March. They have over 160 flavors that are rotated weekly, so let’s just say it’s going to take me quite some time to eat my way through their inventory. 🙂

Why I like Robicelli’s:
1. They pay attention to the cake just as much as the frosting. The cake portion of every cupcake I’ve tasted so far has been moist and flavorful. I think some cupcake bakers think you’ll just enjoy the frosting, so they don’t need to provide quality cake. Robicelli’s recognizes that a good cupcake has got to get both elements right.
2. They take the time to develop interesting flavors and textures instead of selling the same old same old.
Here are some of the flavors that I picked up at their DeKalb Market shop.
Chicken & Waffle

I actually already wrote about this one. That’s an actual piece of chicken. Cool! Yes, it does taste fabulous, although I did eat the chicken separately from the cupcake.
Butterscotch soaked cake, butterscotch butter cream, edible gold dust

Yes, that is a Harry Potter reference. This was my favorite of the bunch.

Chocolate cake, chocolate custard buttercream, chocolate glaze, cake crumbs

This cupcake is for the chocolate lovers!! When I bought these cupcakes, it was one of the hottest days of the year thus far, so I think the frosting was starting to slip. Oops! I’m not a big chocolate cake fan, but this was actually my second favorite. The custard buttercream tastes like you’re biting into chocolate custard melded with soft cake.

Bea Arthur
Black coffee infused chocolate cake, cheesecake buttercream, espresso ganache
Can you tell it was hot in our apartment?

I had to take a pic of this one before Husband J ate it! They actually have cupcakes named after all of the “Golden Girls” actresses. AWESOME! I’ve tried the Estelle Getty, which is a more subtle almond flavor. I haven’t seen the Betty White one though. Hmm…

Robicelli’s (available all over the city. Check their website for locales near you)
@ DeKalb Market
322 Flatbush Avenue Extension
Brooklyn, New York
Happy Weekend!

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In My Hood/Food Porn Friday – Roman’s

Friday, January 21st, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Food Porn Friday, In My 'Hood

Roman’s is an Italian restaurant that opened this past fall in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. It’s from the same group of people who opened the offbeat Williamsburg, Brooklyn restaurant, Marlow & Sons and the traditional butcher shop, Marlow & Daughters, which specializes in grass-fed meats and makes its own sausage (they’ve got another restaurant, Diner, too…busy people!). All of these places are pretty well known and notoriously delicious, so I wanted to see how this team would tackle Italian cuisine.

Roman’s doesn’t take reservations, but my friend MY and I were there early on a weekday night. This restaurant isn’t that big, so I can only imagine what it’s like on a weekend night.
I will say that what I love most about my area are the many neighborhoody restaurants that it has. Roman’s has the feel of a small neighborhood place, but they take their service seriously.
For our appetizer:
Warm Beets with Goat Cheese, Walnuts & Horseradish

Yum! Beets are the best of both worlds, aren’t they? Sweet and a vegetable. Score!
Lamb Chops with Saffron Turnips & Brocoli Rabe

This was MY’s dish. I had a smidgen of this and thought it was flavorful and quite tender.
My dish: Chicken Leg Polepettine
Definitely not what I imagined it would be. It was essentially like a chicken meatball wrapped in spinach in a broth. It was extremely simple but slightly salty for me (maybe I am losing my salt tolerance in my old age?).
Finally the dessert that MY and I shared:
If I remember correctly, this was a ricotta cake with baked pear and fresh cream.
What a perfect way to end a meal! The cream was so smooth and whipped to utter perfection. I could have had anything with that cream, and it would have tasted great. The cake was moist, spongy and had more of an almond vanilla flavor. Baked pear is really nice to have at this time of year, and dessert with fruit always makes me feel like I am eating something relatively healthy. Ha! 🙂
I am definitely going back to Roman’s later this year, since the menu changes constantly (if not daily).
243 DeKalb Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

Happy Weekend!


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