Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kesté Pizza & Vino - First Positive NY Style Pizza (New York City)


Outside Kesté

After roaming (or sleepwalking) a bit more around SoHo, I was ready for dinner. Our proposed destination was April Bloomfield's Spotted Pig. Sadly, we underestimated the dinner crowd on a Thursday night in the Big Apple, as when we arrived at 7PM, we were told it'll be a 3 hour wait for our party of 5. Thankfully, I was with NYC locals, and we had some backup choices in mind. What's more New York than some pizza?? Count me in paesano!!

We decided on getting pizza at Kesté Pizza & Vino in Westside Village. At Kesté, they're known for a Neapolitan-style pizza made by the famous pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio. A relatively new pizzeria, Kesté opened March of 2009, which is a baby compared to the famous Lombardi's and Grimaldi's. Nevertheless, I was excited, especially after hearing glowing reviews from my friends Dan and Wendy of a.k.a.dandy.

Pizza Del Papa

Pizza Del Papa ($16) - butternut squash cream, imported smoked mozzarella, artichoke, red and yellow peppers

After looking over the menu at Kesté we decided on 4 different pizzas. The one shown above is the Pizza Del Papa. At first, I didn't think much of the pizza, as I much prefer meat based pizza, but the butternut squash cream really adds a nice creamy touch to this pizza. The mix of the peppers and the squash really works. I was pleasantly surprised and it was probably my second favorite pizza of the night. Who knew butternut squash would go so well on a pizza?


Capricciosa ($16) - tomatoes, artichoke, mushroom, imported cooked ham, imported mozzarella, and extra virgin olive oil

This was the only pizza I wasn't able to taste, but the ones that ordered it seemed to enjoyed it as well. The mix of artichoke and ham looked to be a hit, and I regretted not to ask for a taste of the pizza.

Pizza Del Re

Pizza Del Re ($19) - fresh mozzarella, mushroom, prosciutto di parma, truffle spread, extra virgin olive oil

Pizza Del Re was by far my favorite pizza of the night. I'm not sure if it was the truffle spread or the prosciutto, or even just the combination of all the ingredients on the pizza pie. The cheese, the creamy sauce, and the saltiness of the prosciutto was just fantastic. Everything was cooked perfectly and if you're here just for one pizza, make sure you get the Del Re.

Salsiccia E Friarielli

Salsiccia E Friarielli ($18) - italian rapini, italian sausage, imported smoked mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil

Finally, the pizza pie I ordered. As mentioned previously, I'm keen towards a meat based pizza. Hey, there's nothing to be ashamed of being a carnivore. However, of all the pizza we ordered, the Salsiccia E Friarielli was quite average. Although this pizza was better than most sausage pizzas I've had in my life, nothing about it stood out. After taking a bite of the earlier mentioned Del Re, I wished I ordered a whole pie of that instead.

All in all, it was a much better New York pizza experience than my trip to NYC two years ago. Although I have no comparison from the other famous New York Pizzerias to compare, I firmly believe Kesté would hold their own against those other legendary pizzerias. Situated in the middle of West Village, there will definitely be a line when you go. Put your name down and go chill in the surrounding neighborhood. Kesté was definitely worth it!

For an in depth review of Kesté, read this post

Kesté Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker Street
Manhattan, New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-1500
Official Website

Kesté Pizza & Vino in New York

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cafe Habana - Because Grandma Fung Says So! (New York City)

Cafe Habana

Cafe Habana To-Go

After stumbling around the Lower East Side and the SoHo area on 1 hour of sleep on Jetblue, I discovered something new I could accomplish: falling asleep while walking. Buy me a drink and maybe I'll tell you the story of me stumbling into this poor Chinese woman. So I digress.....After getting some doughnuts at Donut Plant for breakfast, I was ready for something savory. So I met up with my old friend Dan of a.k.a.dandy at Cafe Habana, a place Jackie (aka Grandma Fung, aka Citynitz) said I HAD to visit!

Cafe HabanaCafe Habana


Since the regular Cafe Habana was packed with diners, we ended up going to Cafe Habana To-Go, which is geared mainly for to-go orders, or a quick dining experience, a la cafeteria style. The menu are identical (sans an alcohol menu), so eating here was definitely a good alternative. After looking at the menu, I was recommended to get the grilled steak sandwich, and of course, their famous Grilled Corn, Mexican Style.

Steak Sandwich @ Cafe Habana

Grilled Steak Sandwich ($9.25)

The sandwich itself was quite tasty. There were an ample amount of steak, which was cooked medium. Along with the steak (which I believe was skirt steak), there was a good amount of grilled vegetables. With the added Cuban spicy green sauce (not pictured), it added a nice kick to the sandwich. Although the sandwich was tasty, it was nothing special, and was not the reason I was at Cafe Habana.

Grilled Mexican Corn @ Cafe HabanaGrilled Mexican Corn @ Cafe Habana

Grilled Corn Mexican Style (Elote) ($2)

Yes, I came here for this. Cafe Habana's famous Grilled Corn. Told of this particular dish by Citynitz a few months ago, I was hoping to try this during my visit, and boy I'm glad I did. As you know, the Elote is made simply by brushing the grilled corn in melted butter, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and a sprinkling of red chili powder. With a squeeze of the lime, it added a nice acidity to the corn, and in turn, making it a fantastic dish!

All in all, Cafe Habana was a solid, but not spectacular restaurant. My recommendation would be to stop by and try the grilled corn (elote) and eat your main meal at another restaurant. At $2 per corn, it's a rather affordable snack, especially factoring in NYC prices. As an additional tidbit, Cafe Habana will be opening their first West Coast location in Malibu, CA sometime this Spring, so to my fellow So Cal peeps: Check out some Elote!

Cafe Habana New York
17 Prince St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 625-2001
Official Website

Cafe Habana in New York

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Doughnut Plant - It's Mmmm Mmmm good! (New York City)

Donut Plant
Donut Plant

Outside Donut Plant

After landing at JFK and cabbing it to my friend's apartment in Brooklyn at 5AM in the morning, without any sleep I might add, I needed a rush. The rush I needed was sugar, which I found as I arrived in Manhattan, to be specific, the Lower East Side. After reading Gastronomy's post about Doughnut Plant, I knew this would be my first stop in the Big Apple.



After perusing the menu and the aforementioned post on Gastronomy's blog, I decided to start with the crème brûlée doughnut. My favorite dessert in doughnut form, I'm definitely intrigued!

Creme Brulee @ Donut PlantCreme Brulee @ Donut Plant

Crème Brûlée Doughnut ($3)

First thing that came to mind was the size of the doughnut, which was smaller than your average doughnut. However, the taste and flavor was on a different level. The vanilla custard filling was fantastic, similar to your usual crème brûlée. Very nice. In addition, the top of the doughnut was done fabulously with the caramelized sugar that was finished off by the blow torch. What a fantastic dessert!

Meyer Lemon @ Donut PlantMeyer Lemon @ Donut Plant

Meyer Lemon Doughnut ($2)

Even though I was craving the tres leches doughnut, I decided on the seasonal special meyer lemon doughnut as the 2nd donut instead. I'm glad I did! The meyer lemon was light, and refreshing, quite a nice contrast to the heavier crème brûlée doughnut. I especially enjoyed the lemon zest that was found prominently in the doughnut.

Donut Rack @ Donut PlantUp close @ Donut Plant

Doughnut Rack

To recap, Doughnut Plant was a great choice for my first meal in NYC. The service was fantastic, and the doughnuts were great. All the doughnuts were made fresh in-house, as there were fresh batches coming in at all times. The place was small, but there was a consistent line and after trying the doughnuts, I could definitely see why. I wish I made a return visit before I left, but sadly, I ran out of time and appetite. Though on my next trip, I do want to try the tres leches doughnut, along with their famous chai tea that a lady I spoke with that was raving. Come to Los Angeles Doughnut Plant! Even though normally I don't crave fried desserts, you've made a believer out of me!

In addition, Doughnut Plant is opening a new location at the Chelsea Hotel that will offer their own special flavors that cannot be found at the Lower East Side location, so I'll look forward to see how that location fares. Besides seasonal doughnuts, Doughnut Plant also offers holiday doughnuts, like the upcoming candied ginger doughnut, just in time for Lunar New Year! If any of you guys are in NYC, bring me back some doughnuts from Doughnut Plant. Thanks!

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St.
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700
Official Website

Doughnut Plant in New York

Monday, January 11, 2010

Uno Mustachio - Tasty Italian at St. Lawrence Market (Toronto, ONT)

St. Lawrence Mkt.

St. Lawrence Market

After missing out on St. Lawrence Market on the first day in Toronto due to the holiday weekend, we were determined to visit the famed St. Lawrence Market for breakfast. After doing some research, I had my sights on some tasty Italian sub at Uno Mustachio.

Inside St. Lawrence Mkt.Inside St. Lawrence Mkt.Inside St. Lawrence Mkt.

Various Shots of St. Lawrence Market


Counter @ Uno Mustachio

After looking at various post that discussed about Uno Mustachio, I was told to try either the eggplant sandwich or the veal sandwich. Yet, upon seeing the Veal & Eggplant Sandwich, I figured it's wise to try to the best of both worlds, and I'm glad I did. The veal was quite nice, but the star was the eggplant. I was surprised the eggplant was better than the veal, though it's hard to argue against the crisp exterior and the tender and flavorful interior. Very nice.

Veal & Eggplant sandwich
Veal & Eggplant

Veal and Eggplant Sandwich

My 2 friends ordered a meatball sandwich and chicken parmagiano respectively. Although I didn't get a taste of either dish, my friend seemed to enjoy his meatball sandwich. However, I was told the chicken parmagiano was pretty mediocre, as it was nothing special.


Meatball Sandwich

Chicken Parma

Chicken Parmagiano

As expected, the sandwiches at Uno Mustachio was definitely a hit, though I'd probably stay away from their pasta dishes. I was tempted to get a 2nd sandwich after a few bites, but these sandwiches were definitely filling. There were many food choices at St. Lawrence Market, though if you had to try something that the market is known for, don't doubt with the choice of an Eggplant (what I'll get in the future if I return) sandwich at Uno Mustachio with an Orangina to wash it all down!


Orangina, my favorite!

Final Rating: 8 out of 10

Uno Mustachio
95 Front Street East
Toronto, ON M5E 1C2, Canada
(416) 367-8325

Official Site

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best of 2009 Part 2

To continue my previous post about the highlights from 2009, I'm going to go over the best, the most delicious 10 dishes I've eaten in the past year. Again, these dishes varies in price, type, and location. Like with the top restaurant list I posted earlier, these are just based on my taste, but I'm sure most of you guys would agree, to some extent!

10) Brodard's Nem Nuong Cuon: This wonderful mix of grilled pork, vegetables, mint, all wrapped in rice paper with a special house dipping sauce. At $1.50/roll, it's friggin fantastic, albeit affordable!

Brodard's Nem Nuong Cuon

Nem Nuong Cuon @ Brodard

9) Ricky's Fish Tacos: For what else, their famous fish tacos. The little fish taco cart in Silver Lake that could! At the beginning, Ricky was only able to sell 10-20 tacos a day, but now, with a legend of followers via Twitter and other media sources, Ricky can't go a day without being sold out amongst the long lines of patrons. After coming here, through the introduction of Will of FoodDigger, I can definitely see the hype. I'm DEFINITELY a fan!

Ricky's Fish TacosRicky's Fish Tacos

Ricky's Fish Taco, with its abundance of pico de gallo, crema, salsa, and cabbage on top of wonderfully fried fish. Fantastic!

8) Torihei's half cooked egg with salmon roe. Wow, what else can I say about this dish? The egg, delicately cooked, with runny yolks, and a generous scoop of salmon roe (ikura) on top. The egg is then put into a bowl of dashi broth. Simply fantastic!

I love this half cooked egg with ikura!


7) Melisse's Cornish Game Hen "Jambonette." I, having a self professed dislike of most poultry dishes due to the dry texture when it's overcooked, was pleasantly surprised with the cornish game hen dish I had at Melisse. The palenta and mushrooms added a nice touch to the dish, but the game hen was so wonderfully cooked, I really just wanted to devour that dish on the spot! Delicious!

Cornish Game Hen "Jambonette"

Cornish Game Hen "Jambonette"

6) Ludobites' Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur with Ham Cherry Amaretto. The "only" disappointment during Ludobites' return at Royal T in December was the croque monsieur not making a return on the menu. The Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur was fucking fantastic! On the surface, it looked like a simple sandwich on some sort of black rye/wheat bread, but in reality, it's much more than that. The black bread was actually a squid ink brioche. Sandwiched between the brioche were sheep milk cheese, foie gras, and ham. There is a cherry amaretto on the side, but the croque monsieur itself was delicious.

Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur

Foie Gras Black Croque Monsieur with Ham Cherry Amaretto

5) Nota Bene's Pulled Suckling Pig Boudin Noir Tart almost saved my trip to Toronto. I do have to say, boudin noir is definitely not for everyone, but I'm definitely a fan. The crunchy tart, served on a bed of arugula was simply delicious. Juicy pulled pork, crunchy pig skin, smoky bacon, and slices of boudin noir layered onto of the top. The ingredients by itself were great, but combined together, added an extra element. I truly enjoyed the crunchy pig skin in this dish. I loved the texture and the taste of it. If I ever make a return to Toronto, Nota Bene will definitely be on the list!


Pulled Suckling Pig & Boudin Noir Tart

4. Petrossian's Truffle Mac 'N Cheese. A dish I've been raving since my review earlier last month. I don't really have anything more to add to my previous review other than I'll let my picture do the talking. Petrossian West Hollywood is a must visit for me after my New York trip!

Black Truffle Mac & Cheese - Orrechiette, bacon, parmesan

Truffle Mac 'N Cheese

3) Toque! Restaurant in Montreal, the 7 course tasting menu was fantastic, and it was hard to single out one particular dish. However, the one dish that stood out for me was the "Râble de lapin confit, feuille d’ail verte asperge, morille et purée d’ail noir." Or in other words, rabbit confit with garlic leaf, green asparagus, and a black garlic mashed potatoes. The rabbit confit was pure magical. The meat remained tender and flavorful, and even though it was the first time I've had a taste of "Thumper" (rabbit in Bambi), it was magical. The garlic leaf and the potato added a nice touch to the dish. Simply, fantastic!

Râble de lapin confit, feuille d’ail verte asperge, morille et purée d’ail noir

Râble de lapin confit, feuille d’ail verte asperge, morille et purée d’ail noir

2) Au Pied de Cochon's Duck in a Can was a dish that pushed for the best dish in 2009. Even so, I was also tempted to pick the foie gras poutine, as that was also an awesome dish. Duck in a can, as decribed by Anthony Bourdain, "Martin Picard uses like a pound of foie gras and a pound of duck, some vegetables, all cooked inside a can." Sounds simple, sounds strange, but the final result is just fantastic. Fatty, yes. Artery clogging, yes. Yet, I wouldn't hesitate to go back for another can of Duck!

Duck in a CanDuck in a Can

Duck in a Can

1) Urasawa's entire meal was memorable, and probably will put all of my future sushi endeavor to shame. However, although many dishes stood out, the one that will forever be memorable was the Kani Miso Kora-Yaki. As mentioned in my Urasawa post, it was a mix of kani miso (crab brain), meat from the hairy crab, and uni. Can that NOT be delicious??

Kani Miso Kora-Yaki

Kani Miso Kora-Yaki

In retrospect, 2009 was a fantastic year. Filled with great meals, met some great individuals, and all in all, I had a blast. I hope 2010 will hold more interesting meals and travels for me. I guess I'll be off to a good start with 2 weeks of meals in Philadelphia and New York City! I can't wait for more adventures ahead.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Best of 2009 Part 1

After reading Diana's Best of 2009, I started to looked back at some of my pictures of the food I've consumed in the previous year and figured it's a good idea to put together a list of my own. As with everything in life, everyone has different taste buds, thus this list may vary from person to person. However, these are the food I've thought about often over time. I guess this is food porn at its best!

I'll start off Kung Food Panda's Top 5 restaurants of 2009:

1) Urasawa, "the very best sushi in Los Angeles." " The sushi mecca,""the best money you could spend outside of Masa in New York City." Those were some of the words I've heard before actually trying out "The U" back in March of 2009. Outside of saying the meal was a life altering experience, I could safely say, it was the BEST sushi I've ever had in my life, and probably the BEST meal I've ever had, regardless of the type of cuisine.


Chef Hiro Urasawa, truly, an artist at work

2) Restaurant Toque!, one of the best rated restaurant in Montreal, and I could see why they earned the acclaim. Upon trying their 7 course degustation, the impeccable service, the food, the atmosphere, it definitely gave Urasawa a run for their money. Toque! was one reason I'm definitely going back to Montreal in the future. The rabbit confit was definitely a hit for me and my dining companions that night! Bravo Toque!


Restaurant Toque!

3) Au Pied de Cochon, another restaurant I tried during my trip to Montreal. I could go further with my take on Au Pied de Cochon, but why not hear from Anthony Bourdain on his Quebec episode for No Reservations?

Simple thing, do you like foie gras? If you do, don't EVER miss out on Au Pied de Cochon!

Duck in a Can

Au Pied de Cochon's famous Duck in a Can

4) Melisse, headed by owner and executive chef Josiah Citrin, offers his exceptional take on French style cooking. I had two meals here in 2009 and was impressed with both. Another restaurant I seriously need to finish blogging, Chef Citrin was able to take one ingredient I've never been enamored with (poultry), and made it one of the best dishes I've had in 2009. One of the most complete meals I've had in Los Angeles in 2009, I'm definitely looking forward to return to Melisse sometime in 2010 (especially due to the fact I received a $50 GC for attending their 10 course tasting menu).

Side view of Melisse

Exterior shot of Melisse

5) Petrossian/Ludobites (tie): I might be taking the easy way out here, but it was hard to really drop one of the above referenced restaurants. I'm truly amazed at Chef Ludo Lefebvre's innovative style of cooking and his willingness to learn and adapt to various styles of cuisine. The finished results were usually fantastic. Even as of last night, Wesley of twohungrypandas and I were still discussing the lychee creme brulee we had as the last Ludobites meal. Simply amazing!

Deconstruction of Bloody Mary

"Deconstruction of Bloody Mary" at Ludobites

For Petrossian West Hollywood, Chef Benjamin Bailly has taken what was supposed to be a specialty caviar and smoked salmon shop into one of the better finds in 2009. The previous I had there was utterly fantastic, highlighted by the truffles mac 'n cheese amongst many of the dishes that night. I'm really looking forward to my return visits there. Bravo monsieur Bailly!

Black Truffle Mac & Cheese - Orrechiette, bacon, parmesan

Truffle Mac 'N Cheese @ Petrossian WeHo

I'm looking forward to many more fine eats in 2010, but those above 6 restaurants offered me the most memorable experiences and I'll never turn down a return visits there. I am though, a bit surprised 5 of the restaurants were French influenced meals, as prior to last year, I've rarely had French style cuisine, as I tended to coil around the food around the San Gabriel Valley. Regardless, I'm looking forward to part 2 of my best of 2009, as I'll go over my top 10 favorite dishes I've had in the previous year. Until then, bon Appétit!