Gramercy Tavern, Rounds 2 and 3 – Burgers, Burgers for Everybody

The one thing that I didn’t get the first go-around in the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern was the infamous burger, which is only available in the Tavern.

Gourmet burgers, the ultimate high-brow/low-brow question mark at so many restaurants in the city, have been having their moment for a while – and as much as I hate being a sucker for food media-driven trendspotting, when it comes to burgers, I’m still a sucker for a good one.  Let’s be honest, I’ll always be a sucker for a good burger.  And sometimes, even if you’re at a fine-ass restaurant, you want a burger.  This is one of those burgers that won’t make you regret ordering one.

off-menu-burger-gramercy-tavern-new-yorkI mean, for the love of God, just look at that.  A lot of housemade details: condiments, brioche-y bun, potato chips, pickled chilis, cured bacon.  These things, plus a lava flow of funky white cheddar.

Most importantly, you can really taste the beef, the grind and the juices.  The patty does not break into chunks.  The bun holds its weight against the grease drip and the heft of the meat.  I guess I’m not really surprised, but nevertheless it’s a damn delicious piece of culinary engineering.

Power lunch Wednesday, pt3: this medium-rare bad boy @gramercytavern #latergram #eeeeeats

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Some stupid-delicious blend of beef cuts (a base of chuck, plus brisket and short rib).  That’s a good mix, flavorful, still a little bloody, beefy/funky, fatty, done medium-rare.

House of Haos Gramercy Tavern Burger 2 New York

Gramercy Tavern (menu)
42 E 20th St, New York, NY
(212) 477-0777

Cook Your Own Korean Meat – Don’s Bogam, NYC

When my sister was visiting New York, we dropped by Don’s Bogam for what we hoped would be some really good Korean barbecue.  I forget where exactly I’d heard of the place, but I think it was on a mention in passing on Floyd Cardoz’s Instagram.  I’ll take my chances in following the leads of chefs and sommeliers on where to eat.  Anytime.

Don’s didn’t disappoint.  A clean, gas flame and copper grill, with some banchan to nibble on.  Nothing about the banchan was that notable, but the soy-braised lotus roots were pretty tasty.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Banchan We ordered a seafood scallion pancake to share, as a starter.  Decent. House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Seafood Pancake For meats, we ordered the maeun galbi, a marinated short rib in the chef’s housemade spicy sauce.  Some really top-quality meat, marbled and sliced at a respectable thickness, holding up nicely to the licks of the blue flame.  Fatty and chewy and full of flavor (wasn’t actually very spicy, but also not as sweet as galbi typically is).  The ventilation tube is also positioned strategically right over the grill, so there’s not this overabundance of smoke.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 2 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 3 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Maeun Galbi 4 Between the galbi and the bulgogi, we split a bowl of spicy bibim-naengmyun, cold arrowroot starch noodles with cold broth, spicy gochujang-based chili sauce, and a hardboiled egg. House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Nangmyeong Buckwheat Noodles We finished with a steaming pan of bulgogi, aromatic and sweet, cooked also atop the gas grill flame.  Generous amounts of halved green onions and enoki mushrooms steeped and cooked in sweet soy-sauce and onion.House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi 2 House of Haos Dons Bogam NYC Korean BBQ Bulgogi 3Really good stuff, on par with some of the better meals that Myra and I had had in Seoul, back when we ate nothing but barbecue for about four straight days.  Cordial, attentive service.  But mostly, really delicious meat.

Don’s Bogam (website)
17 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016
(Google Maps)

Don's Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

In Search of Thai – SriPraPhai, Queens, NYC

The best Thai food in New York is a bit of a hike from our place in Hell’s Kitchen.  It’s a straight shot on the 7 train out to Woodside, Queens, a historically Irish part of the metro area that since the 1990s has been a magnet for a multicultural smattering of immigrants, including large Filipino and Thai communities.  Hence its reputation as host to the city’s best Thai food.

In my time in Los Angeles, Jas and the fine folks at Jitlada showed me what Thai food could really be, beyond the peanut-sticky-sweet pad thai and tame tom yums of university take-out joints.  New York has in the past few years experienced an incredible reception to the peculiarities of Southeast Asian food.  There’s Laotian cuisine offered up by Chef Phet over at Khe-Yo (which I unfortunately haven’t been to yet), Isaan-inflected Lower East destinations Somtum Der and Uncle Boons, Andy Ricker’s dedicated etude of the best things Thai at Pok Pok, and my neighborhood go-to Larb Ubol (as well as its new Soho outpost Lan Larb).  There’s also a Burmese restaurant opening soon in Manhattan, I hear.

So I took two trips out to SriPraPhai (its backstory here), on the recommendation of one of Jas’ customers, once alone and once with a group of five.  Here are all the things we ate.

Shrimp tom yum soup – no shortage of flavor or spice here, with hearty stalks of lemongrass and a bowl rimmed with red.House of Haos SriPraPhai Woodside Queens NYC Tom Yum Soup House of Haos SriPraPhai Woodside Queens NYC Tom Yum Soup Shrimp Sour Isaan sausage, sturdy and chewy, with a crisp casing.House of Haos SriPraPhai Woodside Queens NYC Isaan Sour Sausage Fried marinated pork – chunkier and a bit less seasoned than I’d like, but perfectly crisp.House of Haos Sripraphai Woodside Queens NYC Fried Marinated Pork Strips Beef tendon soup – gelatinous, with fat, chewy strands of tendon, the soup is surprisingly sour, the fresh cilantro a faint breath of lightness in what is otherwise an exercise in depth and richness.House of Haos Sripraphai Woodside Queens NYC Stewed Beef Tendon A vibrant roast duck salad, with onion, chili, ginger, lime juice, mango, pineapple, tomato, cilantro, and crushed peanuts.  The fatty slivers of skin-on roast duck combine with the fruitiness of citrus and tropical fruit, and the slow-building kick-in-the-mouth, sweat-out-of-my-nose spiciness of whatever the dressing is comprised of.House of Haos Sripraphai Woodside Queens NYC Roasted Duck Salad Soft-shell crab in basil chili sauce.  Fried basil is the boss.  For me, it’s hard to distinguish soft-shell crab past the obscene crunch (I mean that in a good way), but there’s just enough sweet, creamy innards for each crab to be worth it.House of Haos SriPraPhai Woodside Queens NYC Soft Shell Crab Continue reading

Dinner at Peter Luger – Williamsburg, NYC

There’s not much to say about the iconic steakhouse that does some of the best dry-aged butter-drenched porterhouse steaks known to man.  It’s a historic place, dating back in various incarnations to 1887, with a fanatically loyal customer base and a famous secret dry-age technique, a mecca of all things beef.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Onion rolls.  Everything in Peter Luger smells in a marvelously stinky, savory way.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Bread Bacon, smoky and charred and meaty.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Bacon House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Shrimp Cocktail Steak for four, baby.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak There are no words.  Just tender beef goodness, the spectrum of dark burn to pink to ribbon’d fat and back, with a sheen of seasoned grease.  The dry aging is something special, imbuing the rich, succulent steak with a beefy tang, the glorious aftertaste of climate-controlled decay.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak 3 House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Steak 2 A side of German fried potatoes.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Potatoes And for dessert, the Holy Cow hot fudge sundae, with a mound of whipped schlag (cream), sturdy and sweet.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Sundae 1 House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Sundae 2 And this amazing slice of cheesecake.  Creamy and dense and more funky and sour than anything you’ll get out of a frozen Sara Lee box.House of Haos Peter Luger Steakhouse Brooklyn NYC Cheesecake As a side note, despite our somewhat brusque (brusque-friendly?) experience with the reservation line (but nothing less than professional), we didn’t have a wait to be seated, which I hear can be hit-or-miss, even if you arrive with full party and on time.  So everything worked out great.  The leftover steak made for fantastic steak and eggs in the morning.  God bless America.

Peter Luger (website) – cash only
178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Google maps

Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

Dinner at Betony – NYC

We celebrated an anniversary at Betony, a posh midtown restaurant headed by Chef Bryce Shuman and GM Eamon Rockey, alums of Eleven Madison Park.  The dining room exudes luxury, in whatever way that soaring ceilings of relief sculptures and plush, comfortable oval-backed chairs exude luxury.  But there’s also something cool, something about the towering exposed brick walls and the elegant tableware, through a kind of plush, dark, rich, velvety, rarefied air of midtown Manhattan.

And the food.  Indulgent, irreverent, rich, but also creative and sometimes restrained.

Crisps.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC CrispsFoie gras bon-bons, with black pepper.  The oily nuttiness of crushed cashews and the creamy burst of foie are the epitome of savory candy.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Foie Gras Bonbons Cashew Black Pepper Crisps with scallops.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Marinated Scallops And this beautiful beast: pan-seared foie gras (the way I prefer it), stuffed with ham, in a wonderfully salt ham hock consommé, topped with a crisped kale leaf.House of Haos Betony Midtown NYC Hot Foie Gras Ham Hock Consomme Continue reading

Paris, A Moveable Feast, Part 2: Spring

Our second night in Paris was spent in the dining room at Daniel Rose’s Spring – its elegant floor-to-ceiling windows peering out onto a quiet cobblestone’d backstreet, an openness that extends to the restaurant’s tidy cold kitchen.  The design is both industrial chic and rustic, clean lines of white, wood, and iron alongside the dull gleam of copper pots and warped support beams from another era, encased in glass.

Chef Daniel’s story is compelling, the story of an American moving to France and of food and learning and cooking and doing it at an extremely high level.  In some ways it is unique, because of how Spring started as a one-man show in one of the most food-obsessed and -particular cities in the world.  In other ways, it is a story of falling in love.  This Charlie Rose interview is pretty cool (Chef Rose’s part starts around 31:00).

Service was cordial, unpretentious, attentive.  The sommelier brought us some champagne, and recommended me some ridiculously tasty peach nectar from Alain Milliat (unpictured).  At our 7pm sitting, the restaurant was just whirring to life, with only a table or two having started before us.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris ChampagneThe meal started with small bites: fried oysters, cured foie gras with artichoke hearts, and marinated scallops.  The foie gras was especially delicious, cold and intensely savory, with a bit of crunch from finishing salt and cracked pepper. House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Fried Oysters Foie Gras Artichoke Hearts Marinated Scallops House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Marinated ScallopsThen this amazing langoustine tail, in a broth of enormous depth with crisp bok choy, atop of a bed of tapioca pearls.  It conjured obscure memories of some magnificent soup that an old Chinese restaurant might nurture out of a master stock, but with the precision in that langoustine tail of a technically savvy kitchen.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Langoustine Bok Choy Tapioca Pearls House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Bread BasketAfter the bread, a filet of red mullet with baby spinach, squid, and shredded Galician beef.  Again the broth was very satisfying, enhanced by the beef’s pungent salinity.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Red Mullet Filet Baby Spinach Squid Galician BeefRoasted venison with venison jus, kumquat, and another garnish I don’t remember:  House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Kumquat JustA play on shepherd’s pie with braised venison and celery root purée:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Venison Shepherds Pie Puree Celery RootA glimpse of the restaurant:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Open Kitchen House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Exterior Main Dining ROomA trio of sweets – sorbet, clementine, and pineapple (the last cooked in butter).House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert Trio Sorbet Clementine Pineapple House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Dessert PineappleAnd Spring’s play on a traditional bûche de Noël – a little hazelnut cake with meringue and caramel hazelnuts.House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Hazelnut Bouche de NoelChocolate truffles and tea & coffee to finish:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris Chocolate Truffle Cappuccino TeaA view of the passe as we were leaving:House of Haos Spring Restaurant Paris PasseSpring Restaurant (map)
6 Rue Bailleul, 75001
Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45 96 05 72
(le fooding)


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

Oh My Beef – Fukujukan at Takashimaya, Osaka

After wandering the underground food court at the Osaka Takashimaya at Namba Station, past all those meat purveyors with ridiculous displays of perfectly marbled meat, we couldn’t leave the city without squeezing in a round of Japanese beef.  So much so that we skipped on a dinner at Honkogetsu, a two-Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant, and spent the night avoiding thinking about our transgression.

Fukujukan, on the ninth floor of Takashimaya’s upstairs food court (a collection of restaurants, really), specialized in beef, either grilled or in shabushabu.  In particular, Fukujukan had Matsusaka beef, one of the triumvirate of well-known Japanese beef types (Kobe and Yonezawa being the other two), which come from a black-haired cow.  The meat is distinguished by an intense level of marbling and, partially resulting from this, a buttery tenderness.  I mean, just look at this (the frontmost piece is the highest-quality.  There is a five-point scale to rate Matsusaka beef).House of Haos Fukujukan Takashimaya Osaka Japan Special Black BeefAnd this.House of Haos Fukujukan Takashimaya Osaka Japan Black Beef 2And the obligatory plate of vegetable skewers.House of Haos Fukujukan Takashimaya Osaka Japan VegetablesThe kicker was that the grill, a beautiful slab of perforated stone, was greased with piece of beef fat melted over its surface.  I think I just watched this process with my mouth wide open.  Shock and awe.House of Haos Fukujukan Takashimaya Osaka Japan Beef FatHouse of Haos Fukujukan Takashimaya Osaka Japan Stone Grill Continue reading

Molokai – Shanghai, China

In Luwan, there’s a streamlined Cantonese restaurant called Molokai (摩罗街) putting out relatively straightforward dishes with equally straightforward flavors, cleanly and simply presented, with quality ingredients.  In Shanghai, this is not a bad achievement.  Think of Molokai as a step up from Tsui Wah, at heart still all about Cantonese comfort foods, with milk teas, fried rice, and brisket-centric dishes.

My friend Winston ordered this stewed brisket (清炖牛拉) with daikon radish, and I had a bite.  This is a fairly simple dish but the flavors aren’t easy to get right, and Molokai’s version had good balance between the fragrant sweetness of the daikon and the umami depth of the brisket.  The meat was nice and tender, with a few choice bites of collagen hidden throughout.

House of Haos Molokai Shanghai China Beef Brisket Daikon Soup

A commendable version of sweet and sour pork (咕噜肉), with a crunchy outer layer enveloping some fatty, chewy pork and a light coating of citrusy-sweet sauce.  In this case, less (sauce) is indeed more.House of Haos Molokai Shanghai China Sweet Sour Pork Gulurou

A bowl of fried rice (大肚婆炒饭, roughly translated as the fat lady’s – or the fat wife’s – fried rice).  Really simple, with minced ginger, egg, and thin strips of lettuce.House of Haos Molokai Shanghai China Fat Grandma Fried Rice Continue reading

More Korean BBQ – Mapo Sutbul Galbi, Gangnam, Seoul

In need of more Korean barbecue (yes, a pressing need, even), I turned once again to Seoulistic, which has a list of some of Seoul’s most famous and popular galbi restaurants.  Not being in a place to judge the article’s merits by comparative measures, I just took these guys’ at their word.

They turned out to be pretty spot on about the first place on their list, Mapo Sutbul Galbi in Nonhyeondong, Gangnam.House of Haos Mapo Sutbul Galbi Gangnam Seoul KoreaIn addition to a few more banchan dishes, Mapo Sutbul had a raw crab (without the brains) in gochujang, which was a pleasant distraction while we waited for the meat to arrive.  So much so that Myra had to get me to stop gnawing at the crab when the meat arrived.  And I, with a messy gochujang-stained face and numbed lips, obliged once the pork belly hit the grill. House of Haos Mapo Sutbul Galbi Gangnam Seoul Korea Marinated Crab House of Haos Mapo Sutbul Galbi Gangnam Seoul Korea Pork BellyWe ate everything ssam style, with big, fresh, crisp sheets of lettuce and a little sesame oil with salt.  I prefer lettuce to perilla, but if push came to shove, anything works as long as pork belly is involved.House of Haos Mapo Sutbul Galbi Gangnam Seoul Korea Pork Belly 2And marinated pork and beef galbi, which was tantalizingly fatty on the grill.   Continue reading