Brunch · Chinatown · Chinese · New York · Patio · Restaurants · Special Occasion

New York – Bar 54, Ellen’s Stardust Diner and Cheong Fun Cart

Beep Beep wanted to have a drink at Bar 54. She mentioned the bar was overpriced and touristy, but she wanted to see the rooftop view of Chrysler Building and of lower Manhattan. We toasted to her birthday with an Aperol Spritzer ($26) and a Rosolio Spritz ($26). The spritzer tasted gross and reminded me of cough medicine. Pro-tip – stick to wine. We much preferred our glass of Rodney Strong Knights Valley ($19) over the cocktails. After midnight, we decided to call it a night.

We were about to enter the subway when a dirty looking man peeped through the gate and started babbling in a high-pitched baby voice: “Nooo? Yesss! Nooo? Yesss!” Before I could stop myself, I responded “Noooo.” Subway Guy looked excited and repeated “Yesss?” I sternly shook my head and said firmly “No!” Since we hadn’t entered through the gate, he assumed we were looking for another train. He said if we went up the stairs and to the left, the other train would be there. I didn’t like his eagerness and the fact he wanted to continue our ‘conversation’ so we pretended to exit. When I heard him take off, we returned to wait for our train. There was another guy there who there who half-heartedly muttered, “Noooo? Yesss!” We ignored him. For this post, let’s listen to Trouble by Pink.

A minute before our train arrived, Subway Guy came back and told his friend he couldn’t find us. I pulled my large black hood over my head. Beep Beep whispered, “Your disguise sucks. You are not fooling anyone.” She was right because Subway Guy spotted me and said something that is so obscene, I will not repeat it. I’ve already said too much. My father reads my blog. Knowing Ludwig, he will tell on me to my mother. I know I’m going to get a flurry of emails from Boss Lady telling me to quit creating drama and getting into trouble. Sorry ma, old habits die hard.

On the way home, Beep Beep really had to pee. She ran ahead and then would stop, crouch down with her knees pressed together and bellow “Nooo?” Then she turned around to face me and coo, “Yesss!” I doubled over with laughter and couldn’t breathe or walk until she stopped mimicking the Subway Guy. Omigod, we are so immature.

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The next morning, Beep Beep woke me up at 6:30 a.m. so we would to make it to Ellen’s Stardust Diner by 7:00 a.m. Ellen’s is known for its singing wait staff. Beep Beep ordered the Smoked Salmon Plate ($20). The cook forgot to put the cream cheese on the bagel. Our server was absent so she ate her bagel without any cream cheese.

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I wasn’t feeling well, so I ordered a ginger ale and a Fresh Fruit Cup ($9). I found the assortment of cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes and pineapple incredibly fresh and sweet. Beep Beep took a bite and said it was normal fruit, I was just hung over. I ordered a latte ($6.50) that tasted like it come out of a vending machine from the 90s. Beep Beep said I should have just drank her latte, because she didn’t like it either.

I enjoyed the confetti that fluttered down from the ceiling. Some of the wait staff differed in charisma, but I enjoyed listening to them sing. A staffer came come out and gave a long story about how hard the staff worked to both sing and bring your food, so donations for their singing classes would be appreciated. The suggested additional tip was $20 bucks.

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Before we left for the airport, we stopped by Union Square Farmer’s Market, Little Italy and Chinatown. Beep Beep wanted us to try the Cheong Fun Cart. After using Google maps, I found it. Beep Beep asked a waiting customer if this was the famous Cheong Fun Cart. I knew the lady Beep Beep asked had no clue. I looked up the cart on Yelp to confirm the pictures of the cart and location. The lady said no, we needed to go to a cart that was ten minutes away. I told Beep Beep this was the right cart and showed her the matching pictures I found.

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Beep Beep freaked out because there was only a small slit through the metal cart where the vendor’s face would pop out to ask you what you wanted. The elderly woman working there was tiny, and it looked like there was enough room for her and her husband. I requested two small cheong funs ($1.50), one with pork and the other with chicken and an egg (50 cents). I added green onions and requested no cilantro.

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Oh my goodness. If you are into the texture and subtle flavours of Chinese dim sum, you’ll love these silky pools of noodles. The noodles are made fresh for you, and it was everything I was craving. Steaming hot, soft with little specks of meat and sauce to give it the right amount of savoury, salty flavour. Next time I’d omit the egg as I found texture of the yolk too dry. I would also add hot sauce. Since Beep Beep and I were sharing, I didn’t add any.

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Cheong Fun Cart was one of our favourite eats in New York. When Beep Beep complained again about the work conditions, I informed her that the woman working in the cart was the owner, so it was her decision. If she wanted to unionize, she could. Besides, after only three days in the Big Apple, I too would want to be enclosed in a metal container to protect me from being spat on, hustled or spoken to in an indecent manner.

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Before we left for the airport, Beep Beep found me a Trader’s Joe store so I could stock up Everything But the Bagel seasoning and Mushroom & Company Multi-Purpose Umami Seasoning Blend . Happy 40th birthday Beep Beep! I had an amazing time with you.

Ellen's Stardust Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Japanese · New York · Restaurants

New York – Ivan Ramen

I told Beep Beep that for her birthday dinner, she could choose any Michelin star restaurant she fancied. Based on my friend Soup’s recommendation, I suggested Daniel. Beep Beep said she prefers value and wanted to dine at Ivan Orkin’s restaurant instead. We watched his episode on Chef’s Table twice before.  For this post, let’s listen to something from Orkin’s music to slurp ramen to.

As we walked along Clinton St., Beep Beep observed the neighbourhood has a real fuck you attitude. I was about to ask her to elaborate when we overheard a guy say to his friend, “And then I was like – fuck you – you can’t do that.” One block later, I saw another indicator that residents don’t beat around the bush.

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The restaurant itself was low key, packed with customers clearly happy to eat there. The decor is minimal and clean, with comic book like illustrations on the wall. Service was industrious, polite and attentive. I asked our server what beverage he would recommend with our meal. He said that nothing goes better with ramen than a cold beer. For something easy sipping and light, he suggested  Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner ($8).

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Beep Beep and I started off with an order of the Curry Flower ($11). The cauliflower was still crisp, tossed in a light, buttery curry sauce. The bite size pieces were topped with bonito flakes, green onions, and crunchy pickled ginger.

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I finished my beer and wanted to try a sake.  I asked for something that was dry, smooth and fragrant. Our server recommended Miyuzakura Panda Cup (Junmai, $14). Bonus, it’s like getting two drinks for the price of one! Look at the size of the tumbler.

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Beep Beep ordered Chicken Paitan with an egg ($22). I ordered the Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen, plus an egg ($18). I wanted to try the mazemen because my brother Narc is a huge fan of Strictly Dumpling, who recommended the brothless ramen. Maybe Strictly Dumpling should stick to critiquing dumplings, because I much preferred Beep Beep’s paitan over the mazemen.

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Paitan means white and creamy soup. The generous portion of noodles were chewy and had a great mouth feel to it. The chicken broth was rich tasting but light on the tongue. The flavours were soft and unique but still familiar. The broth reminded me of Thanksgiving, but with more intense, lingering flavours. I’d order this the next time I visit.

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I told Beep Beep to pull the noodles up with her chopsticks so I could take a food shot. She didn’t understand until I showed her by pulling my noodles high above the bowl. I learn this trick from the young kids I hang with at my office.

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The pork in my bowl was tender. The noodles were springy and thick, coated in a salty sauce that reminded me of smoked oysters. The egg was so creamy it could pass as a dessert. Tasty, but the chicken paitan was more unique and satisfying to eat. There was something addicting and unexpected in that chicken broth. It’s been a week since I ate there and I’m still thinking about the paitan.

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The episodes I enjoyed most on Chef’s Table are the ones that I can afford to eat at. Ivan Ramen was the real deal for me and I had zero guilt when I paid off my credit card last week.  Next up, Beep Beep and I ended her birthday festivities at Bar 54 – the tallest rooftop bar in Manhattan.

Ivan Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinese · New York · Restaurants

New York – Cafe China

On the way to Café China, Beep Beep and I walked through High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Still buzzing from the excitement of the morning’s revelation, we marveled at the odds of us being on Wendy’s show when she announced she is living in a sober house. For this post, let’s listen to to “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.

Beep Beep picked Café China because of its Michelin star and it’s inexpensive. She doesn’t like spicy food so I had a feeling this wouldn’t be her favourite restaurant. Café China only takes reservations for parties of four or larger.

When we arrived, we put our name on the list. We waited about 20 minutes. Beep Beep was irritated because customers who showed up after us got in sooner. There is seating at the counter and the moment someone was finished, the other waiting customers would request to sit there. I need to be more aggressive in New York.

Once we were seated, service was prompt. We ordered cold herbal tea – Wong Lo Kat ($3), a detoxifying beverage. I found the tea too sweet but Beep Beep said it refreshing.

We picked two of the most popular dishes – the Braised Fish Filet with Tofu ($13) and the Spicy Cumin Lamb ($16). Beep Beep asked for no cilantro so I could eat the food. I should have asked for less spice, because Beep Beep found the food too fiery. Our lunch specials included white or brown rice and a choice of hot and sour soup or a spring roll.

The lamb was juicy and tender. The cumin seasoning was strong and rich from the spicy oil. I can handle my spice and I could feel my cheeks flushing from the heat. Poor Beep Beep was not enjoying her lunch.

The fish was soft and blended in with the crumbled pieces of tofu. I liked the the topping of peanuts, which gave the dish some needed texture. I didn’t find the fish hot at all but Beep Beep said it burned her mouth.

The piece of spearmint gum we received at the end of our meal was much appreciated. After eating most of the cumin lamb, my breath needed some help.

If you like spicy northern Chinese food, Cafe China is worth a visit. The ingredients were top notch and the food was more skillfully cooked than what I can get back in Calgary.

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After our meal, we walked through the Upper East Side of Manhattan and then cut across Central Park to the Upper West Side to Milk Bar on Columbus.

Beep Beep wanted to try the crack cake at Milk Bar Bakery because she watched Christina Tosi on Chef’s Table. When the employee learned it was Beep Beep’s birthday, she gave her complimentary birthday truffles.

We took subway back to our hotel in Tribeca to change for the evening. Beep Beep told me how she loves taking the subway in New York because it’s convenient, cheap and gets you around the entire city. She even loves the dirty grittiness of the subway and the grinding noises of the trains on the track.

When we walked to our exit, I heard the sound of someone clearing their throat and then spitting. I felt droplets all over my hair. I turned around to see a tall homeless man with red eyes walking towards me, his arms extended and waving. Beep Beep pushed me forward and told me to keep walking.

Gee Beep Beep – you weren’t exaggerating when you said New York’s subway is gritty. In 2008, I surveyed residents and businesses in the Downtown Eastside, which includes the notorious East Hastings St. Not once did I feel threatened, nor did anyone spit or hustle money out of me. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Cafe China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Brunch · French · New York · Restaurants

New York – Buvette

Beep Beep wanted to check out Buvette because it was a Michelin recommended restaurant. We stopped by for a glass of wine and found the bistro so charming, we went again the following morning for her birthday breakfast. We arrived when the restaurant opened at 7:00 a.m.  so we could make it in time for the Wendy Williams show. For this post, let’s listen to the show’s theme song. 

Everything inside the bistro was adorable. I like the Parisian décor and the tiny seats and chairs. The narrow wooden stairs and brick walls added to the room’s vintage vibe.

Beep Beep ordered a latte ($6.5) and I requested an Americano ($4). I don’t normally like lattes but Beep Beep’s beverage was excellent. The foam was thick and creamy. The coffee was strong with just the right amount of milk to take the bitterness out of it.

We ordered Saumon Fume ($16) and the daily Omelette ($16). The steamed eggs in the salmon dish was smooth and custard-like. The salmon wasn’t like the frozen stuff I’m used to eating in Canada. The fish was thicker, fresher and tasted more sashimi-like. I loved the addition of the crème fraiche and the sourness of the pickled caper berries. I’d order this again.

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The omelette was fluffy and moist. Simplicity at its best – I didn’t know eggs could taste this good. The generous layer of chevre was light and melted in my mouth.

Beep Beep and I got out of Buvette and in line for Wendy’s show by 7:55 a.m. As it was her actual birthday, Beep Beep was given a tiara to wear on the show. However, since she had already brought a tiara and it was far nicer, she gave it away. Beep Beep also brought a pink feather and rhinestone crown for me to wear.

I’ve never even seen an episode of Wendy so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Instead of doing her usual Q&A routine, Wendy announced that she was living in a sober house. I was shocked – as was the crew when they stopped filming. Beep Beep spoke to Wendy after the show and gave her words of support. Wendy nodded and asked if it was also my birthday, since I was wearing a tiara. Nope, I’m just a victim of Beep Beep’s love for you.

I told Beep Beep afterwards that I was surprised she didn’t try to shake Wendy’s hand or give her a hug. She told me that she knows better – Wendy is known for slapping fans away when they try to hug her or touch her microphone. Watch the video below for illustration.

Congratulations Beep Beep, that’s one off your bucket list. Next – to Café China – a one star Michelin restaurant. Whoot whoot!

Buvette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Bars/Lounges · New York · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

New York – Cookshop

After our meal at Tim Ho Wan, we shopped in Chelsea. We were still stuffed but Beep Beep had reservations at Cookshop. She wanted to go because Sandra Bernhard took Taste Makers here to eat tacos. Beep Beep was also impressed that Cookshop prints off a new menu every day based on what’s seasonal. What I love about about this restaurant is the superb service and how welcome we felt. For this post, let’s listen to Beauty and the Beast – “Be Our Guest”.

Beep Beep was enchanted by the enthusiasm of the male host – he practically sung his greeting. Our male server – also of Asian heritage – was quietly charming. The quality of his service didn’t suffer when we told him we were too full from our last meal and just wanted drinks. He smiled, nodded and told us to enjoy our evening. He didn’t try to push any extra food or drinks or rush us out. Now I get why Americans tip so generously. When the service is that exceptional, I’m happy to tip well.

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Beep Beep and I ordered six oysters ($4 each) and two glasses of white wine ($11) – Alvarimmo Nortico, Portugal 2017. The wine paired well with the seafood. There wasn’t much meat to the oysters. I wasn’t impressed and I’m from landlocked Calgary.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Steamed Bouchot Mussels ($15). At first, I thought bouchot was a type of broth. Nope – it’s a method of growing mussels. This was one of the best things I ate on the trip. The sauce of Dijon mustard, white wine, chile and garlic was delicious. The combination of the crispy, buttered bread and that sauce was downright decadent.

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Look how full and fleshy the mussels are! I’ve never eaten better tasting shellfish in my life. Each morsel was super fat and bursting with juice. When I told our server how much I loved the mussels, he brought over extra bread.

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Beep Beep said if she lived here, she would dine here at least once a week. She raved about the quality of the food, the value, and the taste. Beep Beep and I both agreed that when we return to New York, we’d come here for a full dinner and brunch.

After we left, we went to a subway to get a 7 day unlimited week pass. There was a man who offered to help and show us which button we had to press. He took three dollars from Beep Beep’s change and told her it was for a sub sandwich. When it was my turn, I blocked him while I bought my transit pass. As the change came out, he reached in before I could and said he would take three dollars as well. He was so pleasant about it, Beep Beep said to let him have it. I guess this is part of New York’s charm? Got to give that guy credit for hustling so politely.

Cookshop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Chinese · Dim Sum · New York · Restaurants

New York – Tim Ho Wan (East Village)

For Beep Beep’s 40th birthday, we went to New York. This is my second time in the Big Apple. This visit around, I was scammed, spat on and subjected to pornographic language. For this post, let’s listen to JAY-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State of the Mind”.

As this was Beep Beep’s trip, I told her to pick all the restaurants and the itinerary. The restaurant she was most excited to try was Tim Ho Wan – the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in New York.

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We arrived just after 5:00 p.m. on a Monday. Even though there were plenty of seats, our server squished us in between other parties. Service was typical for a dim sum restaurant – indifferent and not around when you needed something.

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I read about Tim Ho Won’s famous Baked BBQ Pork Buns ($6). The top of the bun formed a crunchy sweet dome. The bread was warm and fluffy, filled with rich gravy and fatty pieces of char sui pork. Yummy, though I personally found the sugar topping overly sweet.

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Beep Beep and I enjoyed the Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf ($6.80). I liked the variety of meats and vegetables. However, when the rice got cold, it became glue-like. I would order this again but eat it while it was hot.

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The Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($5.60) was delicious. The turnip cake was crunchy from the lacy crispness on the top and smokey from the grill. The turnip was shredded, soft and slippery.

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Beep Beep’s favourite dish was the Deep Fried Eggplant with Shrimp (5.80). This was my least favourite because of the cilantro. The eggplant was so soft, the flesh looked like it was melted when I picked it up with my chopsticks.

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The Steamed Rice Roll with Shrimp and Chinese Chives ($5.80) needed more sauce, as the noodles were dry.  The roll was a little too thick compared to the ratio of shrimp.  I would have preferred a thinner noodle or more shrimp filling. I wouldn’t order this again.

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Beep Beep least favourite dish was the chef’s special –  Almond Encrusted Shrimp Ball ($6.80). I liked this dish a lot. There was loads of delicately crunchy shrimp and I enjoyed the roasted almond crust.

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Beep Beep liked Tim Ho Wan more than I did. What I did like about the food at Tim Ho Wan was that everything came out hot and fresh. The savoury flavours from the pork bun, sticky rice and turnip cake oozed out. The prices were fair. I found the dim sum better than Calgary, but the shrimp dishes weren’t as good as some of the top dim sum restaurants in Richmond.

Tim Ho Wan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato