Fried Chicken Dinner at The Dutch – Soho, NYC

I’m a sucker for fried chicken in all its forms, so I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to stuff my face with a few pieces made by the folks over at the Dutch.  Plus, pastry chef Kierin Baldwin makes honey biscuits to go alongside.  I AIN’T GOT NO WORRIES.

Okay, so there’s a Caesar salad to start, which is all fine and good.  The cornbread is a pro move as well.House of Haos The Dutch Soho NYC New York Caesar Salad House of Haos The Dutch Soho NYC New York Cornbread ButterBut it’s really just about the hot fried chicken with these honey-drenched biscuits.House of Haos The Dutch Soho NYC New York Fried Chicken BiscuitsThe chicken was excellently made, with a thick shell (as I like it) and an undercurrent of paprika (which I washed out in honey and hot sauce, as any self-respecting fried chicken eater would).  The biscuits were the scene-stealers of the show – flaky nuggets of buttery gold.House of Haos The Dutch Soho NYC New York Fried Chicken Honey Butter BiscuitsThe only bummer is that for dessert, you can only pick one of two pies.  The pies in and of themselves aren’t bad, if you have room for them.  It’s just that the set dinner does not allow you to choose the other fantastic dessert options that Chef Baldwin mixes up on a daily basis.  On the night I was there, I forwent a phenomenal-sounding coconut cake and felt like I had to settle with my choice of apple pie.

Okay, The Dutch, I forgive you.

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012

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Lunch at il Buco Alimentari e Vineria – Noho, NYC

On a sleepy Thursday, I met up with my friend Mimi for lunch at a new favorite, Justin Smillie’s il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a homey restaurant on Great Jones Street just north of the Bleeker Street 6 train stop.  I like the familial vibe of the dining room, the light pouring out of the open kitchen, the excellent, often rustic bread from in-house baker Kamel Saci, the quality of the olive oil and especially the house-made charcuterie and salumi program.  It’s a blend of quality and thoughtfulness to the food that meshes well with the pastoral Italian palette of the dining room, the liveliness of the wine bar backed by exposed brick walls, and the delicatessen counter up front with its stores of flour-dusted loaves and hulking rounds of cheese and cannistered olive oils.

We ordered a plate of cured meats, alongside a cappuccino for me to wake my sleepy ass up.  These came with a basket of bread, with a crisp umber crust and fluffy white insides, perfect for the small accompanying dish of butter.

House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Latte There were a couple different kinds of cured meat: coppa, salami, a gelatinous almost-terrine whose name I don’t remember, mortadella, and prosciutto, with a few capers.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Cured Meats House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Bread BasketI finally got to try the salt-baked branzino, which I’ve always liked as a preparation for the fish.  We had this with mushroom gnocchi and a side of fingerling potatoes with trout roe and creme fraiche.

The presentation for the branzino was lovely, spread out on a simple plank of wood next to a salt-encrusted sprig of thyme and a lemon half crusted with caramelized sugar.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Salt-baked Branzino

The server who brought it to the table then took this back to filet the fish, which was wondrously tender and flaky.  The lemon juice, filtered through the caramel, provided a splash of acidity simultaneously tempered by burnt sugar.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Salt-baked Branzino 2The gnocchi is an old favorite, earthy and herbaceous and hearty.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Roasted Mushroom GnocchiThe potatoes were interesting, with the trout roe serving as a funky form of salt and some roasted garlic thrown in.  I could’ve gone for more char or a sturdier (dryer?) potato to contrast with the melting creme fraiche, but the flavors were good.House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Potatoes Creme Fraiche Trout Roe House of Haos Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria Noho New York Potatoes Creme Fraiche Trout Roe 2Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria (menus)
53 Great Jones St, New York, NY
(212) 837-2622

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House of Haos Le Philosophe Noho NYC New York Duck a l'Orange Turnips Pommes Mousseline

Le Philosophe – Noho, New York

On Bond Street just east of il Buco and Mile End Delicatessen is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, with Chef Matt Aiti helming the kitchen at this year-old establishment.  I’ve visited a couple of times now, and have tried most of the menu now, which is firmly rooted in classic French dishes, with some interesting details and additions to lighten up what are usually on the heavier side (an approach imparted by Chef Matt’s time at Jean-Georges’ restaurants).  The menu is also surprisingly well-priced, for New York and especially for the neighborhood (Lafayette is just around the corner).

I apologize in advance for some of the iPhone photos, the restaurant is pretty dimly lit (and as a result, not a bad date spot), and I am a fairly reluctant flash user.  Here’s a rundown of some appetizers.

Bouchot mussels with a cream sauce with leeks and Aleppo chilis.  I’m normally not a fan of mussels themselves, and even this version doesn’t make me a believer, but the creme fraiche that sits under that pile of mollusks is phenomenal.  You will exhaust all the bread on the table trying to soak up that savory, spicy mess.  Frankly, I was eating all the mussels just to get to the sauce on the bottom.

House of Haos Le Philosophe Noho NYC New York MusselsCured foie gras with cranberries, figs, sea salt, and crumbs.  If I get a choice, I like my foie gras pan-seared, but this creamy puck of chilled livery goodness is nothing to complain about.  The figs and cranberries lend a necessary sweetness and acidity, and the fruit component changes seasonally to allow for whatever’s good during the year.  I also swapped breads between this and the mussels, for a crustier bite to go with this buttery texture, and the more absorptive griddled brioche to slop up as much aleppo-spiked cream sauce as I could.House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Foie GrasCrispy frog legs with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sunchoke, watercress, and garlic. House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Frog Legs Hen of the WoodsThe roasted bone marrow, topped with shallots, lemon, caper, and watercress.  This is probably my favorite thing on the appetizer side of the menu.  Bone marrow is already one of my favorite things in French cafe or bistro line-ups, something that (cardiovascular health permitting) I could eat for days.  I’ve had it quite a few times al forno as well at Pizzeria Mozza, as well as in niche moments in Chinese cuisine.  But what makes Le Philosophe’s version great is the addition of savory notes on top that blended into the melting richness of marrow, plus the citrus to cut through that a bit.  The marrow is still the focal point, but there’s some other interesting stuff going on that doesn’t let the heaviness of the marrow get to you.House of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Bone Marrow Shallot Lemon Capers WatercressHouse of Haos Le Philosophe New York City Bone Marrow Shallot Lemon Capers Watercress 2The pork & duck terrine, as well as the duck rillette, (both not pictured) were also quite tasty.  The terrine is quite rich, and the rillette (topped with an almost-gelatinous fennel-orange marmalade) a cousin to the duck à l’Orange. Continue reading

The Search for Thai Food in NYC – Uncle Boons, Nolita, NYC

Without the sweat-inducing comfort of my beloved Jitlada (and with the venerable Pok Pok inconveniently located far from my Manhattan abode), I’ve felt a little lost when it comes to Thai food.  To be fair, I’ve only just started to explore the city’s offerings to the same degree in my limited time here, with nowhere near the same commitment as I have its ramen joints.  And I haven’t yet ventured to more distant neighborhoods (i.e. Queens), so this is definitely a major caveat to my perspective on the Thai scene here.

Eric Asimov wrote (way back in 2001) about a discovery of his not making his “Southern Californian friends any less smug,” and I still largely feel that gap in experience, as a combination of flavor, strength of cooking, consistency, hospitality, and value.  In New York, the value aspect of it is immediately greatly diminished, so I’m relying necessarily more on the other fronts.  From many of the critics’ write-ups and pronouncements on authenticity, the main detraction is the prevalence of sugar (combined with the overly tame spice factor) in Americanized Thai.

I’d heard a lot about Uncle Boons, particularly from my friend Kelly.  The restaurant’s two chefs and co-owners, Matt Danzer and Ann Redding, are well-pedigreed (formerly of Per Se), and there’s some lineage to Thailand through Chef Redding’s childhood and extended family (hence the name, after a real uncle).  When I got there, my friend was waiting and we sat at the bar next to an old guy dining alone who’d ordered a plate of muu tod (crispy pork belly with shrimp paste nam prik and fish sauce caramel dipping sauces).  We made a mental note to order that.  Beside the bar is also a window to the grill, which is a tantalizing view when you’re hungry and waiting for your table.

After we sat down, we got this salad of banana blossoms, shredded rotisserie chicken, cashew, crispy shallots, and roasted chili dressing (yum khai hua pli).  It was surprisingly spicy, with an interesting dry, chewy crunch from the banana blossoms (almost like fresh lemongrass) and plenty of flavor in the chicken.

House of Haos Uncle Boons New York City Yum Kai Hua Pli Spicy Rotisserie Chicken Banana Blossom SaladThe aforementioned crispy pork belly, which was as delicious as we’d suspected.House of Haos Uncle Boons New York City Muu Tod Crispy Pork Belly Shrimp Paste Fish SauceThen a couple of things from the grill: a Issan pork & rice sour sausage, and spicy rotisserie cabbage with roasted chili nam prik, crispy dried shrimp and shallots.  In theory I should’ve liked these, but they weren’t that impressive.  The cabbage is grilled to the point of mushiness, and while the shallots and shrimp counterbalance that, it only works to a point.House of Haos Uncle Boons New York City Sai Krok Ampai Grilled Issan Pork Rice SausageHouse of Haos Uncle Boons New York City Khalum Pli Spicy Rotisserie CabbageThe beef rib massaman curry (massaman neuh) was tasty, with a nice chunk of boneless beef rib topped with crushed peanuts.  The focus here was on the beef, with the curry almost a sauce rather than, well, curry.  Not all bad, because the beef was tender and went nicely with the crunch of peanuts and red onions, and the curry had an undertone of green peppercorns that added some kick.House of Haos Uncle Boons New York City Massamn Neuh Boneless Beef Rib Continue reading

Lunch at ABC Kitchen – Flatiron, NYC

Dan Kluger’s ever-popular ABC Kitchen on 18th St has that wanderlust typical of Jean-Georges restaurants, a menu dotted with worldly flavors and international details.  On top of that, the restaurant is gorgeous, set to the backdrop of an upscale home furnishing store (ABC Carpet & Home), with expansive beams of exposed rafters, clean white tables and chairs, large tabletops of funky wood slabs, a semi-open kitchen adorned with trays of fresh flowers and seasonal vegetables.

I dropped by a few months ago for lunch with a friend, and got the three-course prix fixe, which started with tuna sashimi (marinated in ginger and mint) with some diced chives and vinegar.   This was as good as the first plate at Sugarfish, good (but not great) tuna with a strong acidic punch.House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Tuna SashimiThe rest of the food took a bit to get to us, so the kitchen sent a dish of roasted kabocha squash (with fresh ricotta underneath) on toast to tide us over.  There with a bit of acidity in this as well, with apple cider vinegar sprinkled somewhere.  Mildly sweet, the topping a nice pillowy texture, although the bread I found a bit too tough (rustic?) for my taste.House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Kabocha Squash Toast RicottaThen the other stuff arrived.  A side of roasted brussels sprouts with mustard vinaigrette.  I loved the vinaigrette, and the extra-browned outside crust, although the insides were overcooked to a bit too close to mushy.House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Roasted Brussels SproutsHousemade ricotta ravioli with a runny egg inside and pork ragu.  I loved how that luxurious creamy texture was achieved in different ways – the warm ricotta, the melting egg yolk, the fatty ragu with herbacious notes ringing the edges – and how the pork was the most textured of the entire plate.  And how wonderfully large this ravioli was, and how it largely held its composition even as I scooped out each cheesy spoonful.House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Ricotta Ravioli House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Ricotta Ravioli 2For dessert, my friend ordered chocolate gelato and I had a slice of concord grape tart with frozen sugared grapes.House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Chocolate GelatoI love the flavor of concord grapes (it’s my preferred jelly for PB&Js, if that’s any indication.  It’s probably not an indication for you, but just nod and walk away).  The pastry staff concentrated that love into sugar-crusted pie form and served it to me on a plate.  That’s how I felt anyway, after devouring this. House of Haos ABC Kitchen New York City Concord Grape TartABC Kitchen (lunch menu)
35 E 18th St, New York, NY
(212) 475-5829
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Lunch at The Dutch – Soho, New York

Since first stepping foot rather serendipitously into Locanda Verde some years ago, I’d been very pleasantly surprised by the quality and creativity of Andrew Carmellini and his partners’ restaurants.  Even though they span different cuisines, there is something uniquely stylish about all the spaces.  The Dutch is no different, albeit marginally more economically priced than Locanda Verde and certainly Lafayette.

Also, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Jason Hua, the chef de cuisine at the Dutch, who had while in college departed the nondescript path towards finance for arguably more exciting one in the kitchen.  The menu at the Dutch appeals because it’s broad enough in terms of flavor profiles and inspirations.  Want Southern?  There’s a mini-loaf of cornbread to start.  Want seafood?  There’s a raw bar with top-notch oysters and other stuff.  Perhaps something heartier?  Cheesy handmade pastas, a gussied-up lobster roll, and that ridiculous line-up of pies.

But what impressed me before I had one bite of food was this chai tea, which I found out later was spiked with vanilla rooibos.  With a dash of (warm) milk, this was perfect on the rainy, chilly afternoon I stopped in.  Since I like my black tea (and particularly chai) with some sugar, the rooibos was a delicious touch because it made the tea fragrant and sweet.House of Haos The Dutch New York City ChaiSome cornbread and butter.House of Haos The Dutch New York City CornbreadMy friend Leiti wanted to try this beef carpaccio with greens and a vegetable soup, with the consommé poured tableside.House of Haos The Dutch New York City Beef Tartare House of Haos The Dutch New York City SoupI wanted something a bit heavier, so I ordered this lobster roll, which came with lettuce, yuzu pickles, and bright orange roe mixed into the chunky lobster meat.  The bread wasn’t quite as buttery as I like – I realize it’s a bit blasphemous, but I’ve structured my lobster roll preferences around Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s version at Son of a Gun, with a buttery, ultra-crisped bun.  I realize it’s a two-bite creation, borderline canape, but that’s the texture I always come back to.  This version was decidedly different, with my attention almost stolen by the fiercely tart yuzu pickles.  In addition to that shock of citrus, I quite liked the lobster mix, which was light on mayonnaise and had the scattered roe to lend both a speckled salinity and crunch.  The fries I would trade for Pearl’s shoestring rendition, but they were delicious nonetheless.House of Haos The Dutch New York City Lobster Roll Yuzu PicklesChef Hua sent us this bowl of rigatoni, with short rib, Parmesan, and butternut squash purée.  Whereas the lobster roll was bright, this was heavy and rich, especially the fatty chunks of braised short rib.House of Haos The Dutch New York City RigatoniI thought we were finished there.  In terms of gastrointestinal capacity, we were definitely edging up near our limit.  And then dessert happened, courtesy of pastry chef Kierin Baldwin, pie master.  A slice of maple creme and a slice of apple.  Classic holiday flavors, as we were just a few weeks out from Thanksgiving.  We really didn’t make much of a dent in these, given how stuffed I was, but I can vouch for how wonderfully crisp the crusts were, especially on the apple pie, with that sublime sprinkling of sugar crystals, and also how well-made the apple filling was.  I like when the fruit still has some structure and tartness to it (one reason that I love black cherry pie), and Kierin’s version had both.  We did, however, devour all of the ice cream.  It felt wrong to let those beautiful globes go to waste.House of Haos The Dutch New York City Maple Pie Sorbet House of Haos The Dutch New York City Apple PieI came back for more (several times, in fact), but this was my inaugural visit to one of my new go-to spots.  In the same way that I love Son of a Gun out in LA, the Dutch had a pleasant, welcoming feel, with consistent execution and a spectrum of flavors within individual dishes as well as the menu as a whole.  The portions are larger, the price point is also a bit higher in comparison, but still quite reasonable (by New York standards, anyway).

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street (Prince Street)
(212) 677-6200

The Dutch on Urbanspoon

House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dry Pepper Style Fried Chicken

Tasting Menu at Han Dynasty – East Village

When I went to Han Dynasty, we had a reservation for a large group, so were spared a long wait.  I don’t mess with long waits for Chinese food.  If I skipped Kau Kee for a thirty-minute line, you bet your ass I’d skip Han Dynasty, where on the night I visited, walk-ins for two were being told one hour.

Anyway, we ordered the relatively affordable tasting menu ($35 per person), which was just a set rotation of dishes from the menu.  For a lower per-person amount, Han would provide fewer dishes or fewer meat and seafood dishes.

As for the food itself, I agree in concept with Pete Wells’ write-up in the New York Times.  It’s not “authentic,” nor is it high-quality or notably well-made.  There’s a bunch of sugar and garlic (the garlic part isn’t all that foreign for Chinese food, but it’s also not used to that degree in Sichuan dishes I’d tasted in China), and a surprising lack of spice.  The spiciest entree was the dry pepper style chicken (an 8 on Han’s self-administered 10-point scale), and even that was middling at best.

That said, somehow, the meal was quite enjoyable, aided by a skillful front-of-house team.  The dishes were tasty and Sichuan in name, but in execution they certainly tended to veer more towards the land of General Tso.  For $35 per person though, that’s not altogether a bad thing.  As long as I don’t have to wait, I wouldn’t mind having Han Dynasty again.

Here’s a run-down of what we had.  The dan dan noodles: House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dan Dan Noodles 2 House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dan Dan NoodlesSichuan wontons:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Sichuan WontonsDumplings in chili oil:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Dumplings Chili OilSpicy crispy cucumbers:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City CucumbersPork belly in garlic sauce and fried Taiwanese sausage:House of Haos Han Dynasty New York City Chinese Sausage Mouthwatering Pork Belly Continue reading

House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Dinner at Pig & Khao – Lower East Side, New York

Pig & Khao is a raucous space in the Lower East Side, run by Chef Leah Cohen (of Top Chef fame, but also of Southeast Asian descent, who took a year-long madness-escaping, idea-searching culinary getaway-slash-hands-on-learning-project through some of her familial homelands).  She was ably manning the passe when we visited.

The restaurant is a little cramped, given the LES crowds, so reserve in advance or go early.  With its bare-bones wooden plank tables and a funky jungle green splashed the length of its walls, if the intention is visually strike a tone of irreverence and quirk, then I’d call it a success.  And that vibe certainly sets you up for a meal that comes strong with the funk: decidedly Asian (particularly Southeast Asian, and specifically Vietnamese, Thai, and Filipino), but in a fairly mishmash array of form factors that comes across as homey (I would otherwise venture to throw out that ambivalent term ‘comfort food’, but I hardly know enough about Southeast Asian comfort foods) but with confidently strong flavors and excellently cooked meat.

We were a group of five, so we ordered a good number of dishes to share.  The five-spice chicharrons were tasty, crisp and savory, with a dipping sauce of coconut vinegar.House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City ChicharronThe pork belly adobo was one of our collective favorites from the night, with generous slabs of pork belly fried til golden on the outside edges, with a sour-salty pool of fried garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, thickened by the runny yolk of a soft-poached egg. House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City Pork Belly Adobo House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City Pork Belly Adobo 2Mantao buns are available as a side, so we ordered two bowls (four each), which were nicely fried and sprinkled with salt.  It was the perfect combination for several of our dishes that came with a good deal of sauce, and if we didn’t feel like dipping them into something savory, I also asked for a small dish of condensed milk.  That’s the way we do it in China (with fried buns, anyway), and Pig & Khao does Vietnamese coffee, so they definitely have condensed milk on hand. House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City Fried MantouThe khao soi was also delicious – a rich and creamy coconut red curry with some heavy egg noodles and pickled mustard greens for that lovable, but familiar weirdness.  Like I said, homey, but from a different Asian inspiration than the adobo and the chicharrons, and served in these bowls with the old-school Chinese restaurant designs.House of Haos Pig and Khao New York City Khao Soi Continue reading

House of Haos Hanjan New York City Scallion Pancake Squid

Dinner at Hanjan – Flatiron, New York

Hanjan, Hooni Kim’s second restaurant, has a menu centered around the idea of an old-school Korean tavern (called a joomak), with food and a setting meant to nourish and comfort and replenish, dishes to be eaten while drinking.  Which is great, even though I don’t really drink, because there are some great flavors in Korean pub food.  And the space is cozy and warm, with long stretches of wood, including a communal table in the middle of the dining floor, and surprisingly comfortable high-backed chairs along the walls.

The menu is split in a few sections, including a ‘Traditional’ and ‘Modern’ part, as well as a list of skewers and side dishes.  We started with a simple kimchi duo of bok choy and cucumbers. House of Haos Hanjan New York City KimchiA basket of ggen-yip jeon (crispy perilla leaves with minced pork and shrimp), which was pleasantly light, almost like a well-done tempura, with a pop of savory.  The batter, which would reappear later with the scallion pancake, wasn’t overly greasy and had an excellent crunch.   House of Haos Hanjan New York City Crispy Perilla Leaf Dumplings Shrimp PorkThen, a plate of fried chicken with pickles, all dark meat.  Pickled daikons and chili peppers made for nice bursts of sweetness and spice when desired.House of Haos Hanjan New York City Fried Chicken PicklesNext up, two orders of skewers – the BBQ galbi short ribs and the spicy pork belly, served with a bit of funkier-than-usual ssamjang and garlic.  The spicy-sweet marinade on the pork belly was especially delicious.  Carefully cut and skewered and grilled to a relatively minimal but precise and uniform level of char, these high-quality pieces are no slapdash Korean BBQ.House of Haos Hanjan New York City BBQ Galbi Short Ribs House of Haos Hanjan New York City Spicy Pork Belly BBQ Continue reading

House of Haos Cafe China New York City Tea Smoked Duck

Cafe China – Midtown East, New York

My first visit to Cafe China, the Michelin-starred Sichuan restaurant, was an affirmation that somebody was still paying attention to decor and design in the execution of Chinese food, and that decent Chinese food could be found in this more gentrified setting.  Unfortunately, a more recent trip back did not yield quite as rewarding results, and this, combined with a horrendous visit to sister restaurant China Blue, has soured somewhat my impression of what ex-bankers Xian Zhang and his wife, Yiming Wang, have been trying to accomplish.

Without delving too deeply into this, I’m all for the elevation of Chinese food – but the food must remain unassailably good, and there are some weaknesses to Cafe China, particularly given its insistence on omitting MSG from its recipes and the dilutive existence of Shanghainese dishes on the menu.  As much as MSG is used as a crutch in Chinese cooking and as deleterious as it can be to a Chinese food experience, if you do leave it out, you better come correct with the flavors, and in particular, the intensity of flavor.

During my first meal at Cafe China, they did a splendid job across the relatively narrow spectrum of savory and spicy that our meal covered.  For the sake of one in our party, we didn’t get anything too spicy.

House of Haos Cafe China New York City StorefrontWe started with a few small bites: pork dumplings in chili oil, mung bean jelly with chili paste, jellyfish with scallion pesto, and some dan dan noodles.  Here the lack of MSG was evident, where you would find it in abundance in Chengdu dives and grand restaurants alike.  The flavors are correspondingly muted, but fresher.  Where there is chili involved, the discrepancy is less noticeable.  And the scallion pesto is good enough to not need any flavor enhancement whatsoever.  The dan dan noodles were also tasty, though not otherwise outstanding, with my preferred choice of flat noodles.House of Haos Cafe China New York City Pork Dumplings Chili Oil House of Haos Cafe China New York City Mung Bean Jelly House of Haos Cafe China New York City Jellyfish in Scallion Pesto House of Haos Cafe China New York City Dan Dan Noodles Continue reading