About Me

Food is one of my many joys in life. It is a common bond I share among my friends and family. Combining food and travel makes it all the more interesting. I enjoy going out for a good meal with friends and family. The array of various cuisines and our fantastic array of produce really makes Sydney such a great city to live in. Blogging is my hobby and my posts on restaurant meals I have had are paid for and not gratis. Any gratis provided to me will always be stated beforehand.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Buddakan (New York City)

This is another of my 'to dine at' list which I had booked with NC for dinner on a day after the Sami Lukis group tour was over. We had booked it when we were back in Sydney.

But when I arrived and found out that the group was dining here on our first night, we immediately cancelled our reservations! I was so happy to hear that this venue was part of the intended group dining itinerary. Yay!

When we rocked up about 9pm on the first night all I could see was a gray building which didn't look very impressive from the outside. One thing I have come to realise over the next few days is what you see in the front is not necessarily what you get when you enter the actual bar/restaurant.

When we walked in, I felt the place was a trendy and cool hangout for New Yorkers. It was rather dark (which is very common across all the bars we checked out) and the place is very large with multi-levels.  Sami managed to score the very table a famous Sex and the City scene was filmed at. Try and guess which scene!!!

Anyway, tonight's dinner is 'pay only my share of food and drinks plus tax and tips'. This is the payment system used by Sami for all the group dinners. I think it is a good concept as you pay what you order and won't be impacted if there are other members of the group who order big or who order lots of alcoholic drinks.

I ordered 3 dishes. I just couldn't help myself so I went a bit gluttonous I'm afraid.

Edamame Dumplings - these were delicious and made me feel I was eating healthily.

Chilled Udon Noodles with Lime Sherbet and Peanut Sauce - what a funky dish! Loved the combination of a sherbet which added a tangy zing to the cold udon noodles. The peanut sauce provided the crunchy texture. I did like this dish.

Chilli Rock Shrimp - by the time this dish arrived I was starting to feel full but I 'soldiered on'. I did like this dish, there was something quite moreish about it. I just kept wanting to eat it but only managed about 1/2 of the serving. Towards of the night Sami (who was sitting across me) decided to have a taste of it and at first she didn't like it but she just kept having more and more until the dish was almost finished. MOREISH!!!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Afternoon Tea at The Plaza Hotel (New York City)

I think I have mentioned many times in my previous posts of a 'to do' list or some would say a 'bucket list'. Well, having afternoon tea at The Plaza Hotel is definitely on my list. Having been in New York twice before, one would think I would have ticked this one off the list. Well, it hasn't happened yet so I was determined to see this one through on this trip.

Sami had sent an email to the group prior to the tour to state that an optional activity available is to have an afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel and the suggested day would be the first day of the tour. She was kind enough to put this out to the group at my behest. I would still have attended the high tea irrespective of the number of people joining me but I thought it would be nice if I could share this experience with some of the ladies from the group.

In the end 6 other ladies decided to join me and we were all so excited about this as the Plaza Hotel is not only iconic but also one of the most prestigious hotels in New York.

I did so love the interior of the hotel. I felt there was a grand and majestic feeling walking through the lobby and the halls.

6 of us chose the New Yorker option and 1 of us chose the Eloise Tea option.

New Yorker

The New Yorker included the following savouries:
Cucumber, radish with green herbs finger sandwich

Smoked salmon and endive finger sandwich

Roquefort, shaved red grapes and watercress savoury

Prosciutto, mozzarella with pesto on a toasted biscuit base

Roast beef with horseradish mini roll

Scones were served with double cream and blueberry preserve

Shake Shack (New York City)

I have been hearing about Shake Shack for a while now and have been very eager to try their hamburgers. During Day 1 of the group's walking tour of Manhattan, we ended up at lunchtime in the area of Madison Square Park and Eataly. I chose to have a hamburger and one of my travel mates NC joined me too. The others decided to hang around Eataly.

When we arrived at Shake Shack we realised that the line was a lot longer than 15 minutes ago, when we first passed it. But we took the chance and queued up. It was a hot summer's day and one of the Shake Shack employees came out with a tray of iced water for the people who were queueing up to order. I thought that was a very nice gesture.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Little Owl (New York City)

When you think about a city as big as New York City, the choices for meals are tremendous! Not only for the locals but for visitors to the Big Apple.

One of the benefits of social media is following certain travel magazines who post beautiful pictures through Instagram. One of these photos was a Beignettes dish from Little Owl. At that time, I made a note to check this place out the next time I am in NYC.

I had arranged to meet up with one of the girls from my group on Sunday morning for a brunch kick off. A few of the other ladies heard of our plans and joined in too and it ended up being 8 of us firstly working out how to get there and then just enjoying the Greenwich Village vibe and food.

The Little Owl is a tiny little cafe located on Bedford Street. By the time we got there it was almost 11.00 am and the place was full. Note that it was open from 10.30 am that day. The waitress told us it would be a 15 minute wait and asked us if we wanted coffee or tea while we waited. I thought that was a nice touch and a few of us took up on that offer. It was also nice there were benches we could sit while waiting.

We eventually got in and I just really liked this tiny place. It felt very west village and I could see there were lots of locals having brunch and not so much of the tourists. Perfect!

There was even a little waiting nook catered for people to wait for a table in the cafe.

A couple of the ladies decided to have cocktails in addition to brunch. There was an order for Bellini and Pink Prosecco.

Katz's Delicatessen (New York City)

So what is the first thing I did after I arrived in New York and checked into the hotel? Well of course, I checked out Katz's Deli. I have heard so much about their Reuben Sandwich and of late their Pastrami Sandwich.

I met up with one of the ladies from the group I am about to join for this New York stint and we headed off for this uniquely American food adventure. She had not heard of Katz's Deli before so I was delighted to be able to share this experience with her.

When we walked in there was a man handing out red ticket stubs to the walk ins. I explained to him we were visitors and new to this and asked him to please explain to us the ticketing system. Thank goodness he was gracious enough to do so. He must be asked that question thousands of times.

So the way it works is we find a table. With the ticket in hand, we queue at the counter we want to order from. There is a section for sandwiches, a section for sides and drinks for example. When your order is served, you present the ticket to the attendee and he will mark the cost on the ticket. You then move on to the next section which you want to place another order and the process continues. As these men and women are serving you, you would typically hand the tip at the section you ordered from.

Note that after you place your order, say at the sandwich section, the man slicing up the pastrami passes you a few slivers of the meat before he starts working on the sandwich. So you get a taste before the actual serving. Cool!

Then with your full tray, you dine at your table. When you are ready to leave, hand your ticket to the cashier who is located just before the exit door. You pay according to what is marked. No extra tips are necessary at that point in time. Easy!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Day 4 Washington DC

This is my last day at Washington DC before I head off to New York City. So I decided to make the most of it.

I started the day by returning to the Smithsonian to see a couple more museums and to have some lunch at the cafe located in the National Museum of the American Indian.

National Air and Space Museum
This museum is apparently the most visited museum in the Smithsonian Institution. I can see why the men and the boys would love to hang out in this place. There were planes, planes and more planes. Cockpits of space shuttles were displayed everywhere. There was a Skylab Orbital Workshop, lunar modules and even moon rocks you could touch.

National Museum of the American Indian
I was fascinated by what I found in this museum. There was so much history and artefacts on display. It highlighted to me the awful pain and desolation the American Indians went through when America was being colonised by the Caucasians. So many of the tribes lost so much of their heritage, much of which can never be retrieved.

I also realised that the term American Indian does not only relate to the indigenous in North America but also in South America.

Lunch was at the Mitsitam Cafe. This cafe is known to be one of the better cafes in the Smithsonian Institute and primarily serves meals and snacks based on the indigenous foods of the Americas.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

minibar by Jose Andres (Washington DC)

I first heard of this restaurant when I watched the Washington DC episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He was having a ball with Jose Andres checking out various food restaurants and joints in DC. This could have been last year or the year before, I cannot recall as time is flying way too fast for me these days.

But I was very impressed with what I had seen and made a mental note to check out minibar (if I ever get to visit Washington DC).

So when I was firming up my group trip to NYC earlier this year and made a decision to visit Washington DC beforehand, I immediately started checking out minibar’s reservations policy etc. I emailed minibar about 2 months ago and was ecstatic that I got a booking!

So what’s minibar like? A food experience like I have never encountered before. Coming from the city of Sydney, you could and would say that we have some great restaurants in Sydney and other parts of Australia (like Melbourne for instance).  But in all my years of dining at all these great places, I have never experienced food like I had at minibar. WOW!

Let me start with the welcome and initiation to the minibar world. Jeff greeted me as I walked into the waiting lounge. The funky furniture made it look so cool. I even sat in a chair upholstered to look like marble. Cool! Jeff then informed me that these are new premises since November 2012. In their previous place, they could only seat up to 6 people. In this new place, seating is up to 12 at any one time. Now that puzzled me, how small is this restaurant I ask myself???

To start the evening off, I had some sparkling wine. A waiter came out with a brown box and presented it on the table in front of me. When it was opened I was informed in it was Puffed Japanese rice paper roll dusted with nori powder and lime zest. Yum!

A few other diners entered the waiting lounge and eventually all 6 of us were ushered into the main restaurant.  I didn’t know what to expect but certainly not this. We were right in the heart of the restaurant, the kitchen! You could say we were sitting at the Chef’s table. We could see everything that was happening in the kitchen and almost all the food were prepared in front of us.

And then, that’s when the adventure started. Plate after plate after plate of interesting, surprising and oh so fun dishes were served to us. The whole kitchen team were involved with the interaction with the guests.

I chose the Virtue list of drinks (i.e. non alcoholic) and can honestly say that the drinks were perfectly paired with the various dishes. How very clever and well thought out.

There were altogether 28 dishes that were served to us that night. So I have decided not to bore the life out of you with every single dish and very single description I can think of under the sun.

What I will do is briefly describe the dishes that stood out and why they stood out.

Asian Coca de Vidrio – beautiful to look at. It was paper light in texture, with an aniseed flavour and a sweet taste. A medley of textures and flavours. Loved it!

Parmesan Leaf – a modern interpretation of cheese and crackers! Yum!

Popcorn Empanada – a burst of flavours in my mouth! Yum to the max!

When pigs fly – when I tasted it I thought of bacon and yet it was made of dehydrated apple meringue. Amazing!

Foie Bomb – this was a dish that had to be consumed very quickly. OMG! What a burst of flavour! One of my favourites.

Waldorf Salad – what you say? Yes, meant to be a salad but apple meringues was in the mix. Textures galore, so clever.

Chicken Shawarma – another of my favourites. There was crunchy and there was savoury. The mousse is meant to be the dip for the roll.

Baby carrots with coconut and curry – super deceiving. I expected to bite into the carrots but instead I had melt in your mouth textures.

Grilled Spot Prawns, Peanut Butter and Honey – the prawns were delicious, beautifully cooked.

Squab liver mousse on oyster leaf – I have never had oyster leaf before. I could actually taste oyster flavours even as I was tasting liver flavours.

Roast Squab with Oyster and Seaweed – The squab was perfectly cooked. The meat was tender and there was a burst of salty flavours from the seaweed.

Dragon’s Breath with Hot Toddy Shot – this was the fun dish of the day. There was no time to take a decent picture. We had to pop in in our mouth quick as! And chew and chew. The result was quite hilarious. One of the chefs took a video of me on my iPhone chewing away. Put it this way, I had smoke coming out of my nose as I was chewing.  I loved it! Not only was it a fun dish but a delicious one too.

Spring Thaw – a burst of mint, cilantro and parsley flavours through this ‘apple’ dish.

Coconut Stick Rice with Mango – it was smooth and creamy. The crunchy texture came from the deep fried rice. The mango was divine.

We then left the main restaurant/kitchen as the next group was about to enter for their session, by this time it was about 8.00 pm. An earlier group had joined an hour after us and were seated at the remaining table of 6 on the other side of the kitchen. And we were shepherded to barmini; this is minibar's sister outlet located next door. We sat together as a group of 6 and got to know each other a little more. That was nice. Four types of petit fours were served and my highlights were:

TerraMisu – hidden under a tray of what looked like dirt (but was chocolatey) were bones. We all got to pick one and it was deliciously made out of chocolate.

Chicharron – Believe it or not, there was pork rind in this together with apricots. So delicious. More please!

I loved every minute of this experience. It was a blast. I wish there was time to say a proper goodbye to the team but we ended up in the barmini so we couldn’t really thank them properly. The whole team were very professional, very keen to interact with the guests, they worked so well together and I would describe their efforts as working like a 'well oiled machine', no offence intended please!

Before I forget, the toilet in minibar is an event in itself. This is one of the coolest toilets I have ever seen and I am not the only one who commented on this. I wish I had my camera with me when I did go to the toilets but….

Would I come back to minibar? I would if I could! So thank you to the minibar team, you guys were great!

minibar by Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

minibar by Jose Andres
855 E Street NW
DC 20004
Website: minibarbyjoseandres.com