Trio of Tidbits

2008.Oct.12 Sunday · 4 comments

in Restaurants

“Bring me olives and morsels and I’ll be happy.”

– Mariah Carey, singer

New York City – The other day, a friend of mine here said, “You really are verbose. I pull up your blog in the morning to look at it and there are a dozen photographs and four or five paragraphs. That’s just too much to deal with before I finish my coffee. Couldn’t you just edit, maybe down to half?” I understand, really I do. There are certain things that I just don’t want to face before coffee in the morning. Not words, I can play with them anytime. And, regular readers know I covered this recently…. Besides, further into the conversation he admitted he read all of it, he just didn’t quite get how I could come up with that much to say about these things. Hey, my reviews are shorter than most newspaper restaurant reviews and I know he reads those religiously! That all said, this, other than a rambling first paragraph, is going to just be three quick tidbits – not full reviews of the trio of restaurants visited, but a simple singling out of something in particular that I liked. In particular.

Shilla - korean barbecue
Last weekend, out for a day at the Museum of Modern Art – not, generally, my favorite type of art as longtime friends know, but we wanted to see the Van Gogh exhibit, and it required getting there early, getting a timed ticket, and then mucking about in the musum for a few hours until that time. Afterwards, a bit of a wander along Fifth Avenue until we found ourselves around the low 30s, and a quick and easy Korean dinner sounded like fun. A quick call – actually to the friend mentioned above – yielded up the recommendation of Shilla, 37 West 32nd Street, where we had a delightful barbecue of beef and chicken at the table, along with all the usual small dishes of ban chan – or whichever term one wishes to use, we’ve had this discussion before…. Not the best one I’ve ever had, and the spices were a bit muted, but it was quite good overall, especially the chicken, and the tabletop cooking, done by one of the waitresses rather than being left to us ??? to do.

Cafe Asean - bee hoon, long beans in garlic, Malaysian fried rice
Hmm, I just realized that my commenting friend is going to figure quite heavily in this post – maybe he’ll like it better. Many moons ago, he introduced me to a small, new mixed-Asian joint in the West Village, Cafe Asean, 117 West 10th Street, where chef (and now friend of many years) Simpson Wong was just starting out with a mix of dishes from the nations that, at the time made up the A.S.E.A.N. – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Phillipines and Vietnam (there are now four additional nations in the mix of the organization, if not his food). We used to have great fun making fun of him as he’d be standing in the kitchen, talking on the phone, international long distance, to his mother back in Malaysia, furiously scribbling recipes and techniques – and then flawlessly executing them. At one point he got all fancy on us and opened up the short-lived Jefferson, a few doors away, but now, to the best of my knowledge, he’s just at Cafe Asean – though, he wasn’t there when I dropped in the other day for lunch, with a friend who’d driven down from Toronto to spend the day. We nibbled away at a couple of appetizers – Indonesian crab and shrimp dumplings, salmon springrolls, and then on to a couple of main courses – a Malaysian style chicken fried rice, long beans sauteed in garlic, and one of my favorite dishes, bee hoon – sauteed rice noodles with Chinese sausage and shrimp in a sweet and spicy chili sauce. [Closed]

Little Giant - steamed cockles with andouille
Okay, everyone raise their hands who googles people’s names after they’ve met them at a party or in a meeting, or whatever. Yeah, that’s what I thought, I’m in good company. I tend to do it with reservation requests – not everyone, because sometimes names are just too common to pick out an individual, but sometimes there are enough clues… you know? So when a couple back in January requested a reservation and had names that were unique enough to figure on picking them out quickly, I did, and found that one of them was one of the owners of Little Giant, 85 Orchard Street. So there this same friend from way above, and I, were, at Katz’s (he figures heavily in my food life, no?), and afterwards we walked down towards Chinatown, and passing by Little Giant, poked in to say “hi”. While he wasn’t able to join me on my return visit to actually dine there a couple of nights ago, he still gets his place in this paragraph. So, another friend and I headed down there for a little American comfort food. We started off with some quite good spicy sweet peppadew peppers stuffed with cheese, and some deviled eggs (I make really, really good deviled eggs, so though these were good, well, come try mine…), then on to the winning dish of the evening, this bowl of steamed cockles with andouille sausage. We managed to push ourselves through most of a couple of huge plates of braised short ribs and a very tender pork butt with their various accompaniments, including the overkill of ordering a plate of mac’ and cheese to share, and then the owner giving us a “thin mint sundae” to top everything off – we barely managed a nibble, and my friend took a good amount of the food home. Nice atmosphere, and I love the location – that whole area of the lower east side has changed so much over the years since I first moved there. [Closed]

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lauren October 13, 2008 at 10:16

What a great and informational culinary blog! I love the words and pictures — don’t cut back!

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