Tamashii Ramen / Astoria, Queens [ Restaurant Review ]

Chashu Ramen, before dumping in the broth.

Chashu Ramen, before dumping in the broth.

Cuisine: Japanese
Location: Astoria, Queens (delivers to Long Island City)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This is more like 2.5 stars.  Very disappointing.  Because we ordered delivery, this review is purely based on the food and not on ambiance.

Everyone at work was really excited that Tamashii opened (and delivers!), because there isn’t much Asian food here in Long Island City, and we all love Japanese food.  The menu looked good – it had stuff that authentic ramen places normally have…especially Hiyashi Chuuka!  There was both good in bad in the order, but personally I think it leans more on the bad.

We got:
– hiyashi chuuka
– chasyu ramen
– potato croquettes
– ika kara age

The potato croquettes were the best of the bunch; it was creamy with a good color and not greasy.  Ika kara age was pretty good, but a little over-fried and a little soggy.  This is possibly due to travel, but my croquettes were fine, so there’s that.

Potato croquettes!  The packaging is reminiscent of conbini food...haha.

Potato croquettes! The packaging is reminiscent of conbini food…haha.

The chasyu ramen is the same thing as the Tamashii ramen, except with double the pork (4 slices), and that’s definitely AMPLE meat, as far as ramen goes.  For less than $10, that’s not bad at all.  Except…..the pork did not have as much flavor as your typical marinated pork for ramen, and this “tastelessness” was the theme for the chasyu ramen overall.  The broth was lackluster and basically like water (a huge minus for ramen, it’s all about the broth), there were no extras that ramen normally comes with (no soft boiled egg, no seaweed, no enoki, no bamboo…I don’t expect all of that, but some would be nice).  There was simply noodles, a little bit of bok choi, the pork, chopped scallions, and little bit of…grated raddish, perhaps?  I lost those bits once I mixed everything together.  Another thing…the noodles!!!  Tamashii is using Chinese noodles, which are thinner….not the type of noodles that Japanese ramen should have.  Technically they are both “pulled noodles” (la mien/拉麵 or ramen), but it is just not the type of noodles Japanese ramen is supposed to have.

I should note, however, that the Hiyashi Chuuka did come with everything ramen should come with, mentioned above, but was still exceedingly mediocre.  There are way better ramen places elsewhere!  If it were still the 1990’s in New York, then this place would be pretty cool. But back then, our “best” ramen here was mediocre-to-bad.

Overall, we were extremely disappointed, and I’m torn about ordering from here again.  Since the croquettes were good, I’d probably give other non-ramen items a shot.  However…it’s a ramen shop!  The ramen should be their best item! :(

The Dram Shop; Park Slope Restaurant Review

This is a very, very specific review.  Dram Shop is many things – a bar, a place to hang out and play games, a bar where you can watch sports games…and it’s a restaurant.  I didn’t bother trying any alcohol, though a quick glance at the drinks menu says Dram Shop has a LOT of alcohol…and some pretty good names, too.  Saw my favorite 18 year old whiskey on there (Yamazaki)!  But I controlled myself.  This wasn’t a $25 per glass kind of night.  Me and my boyfriend were starving, and this is purely a food review.

The atmosphere is very nice – it’s dark, rather inviting, with a huge wooden door on the outside that makes it look like an old tavern.  Flatscreen TV’s glow above the well-stocked bar, a shuffleboard lines the left wall, two pool tables sat in the back section, and a series of wooden tables fill the long middle of the room.  We shared a table with another couple (not a booth), which I absolutely don’t mind.  I mention it only because for some reason, others do, but those people are ridiculous and clearly are not from a big, overpopulated city.  I’m not just talking about NYC, it gets worse outside of the US.  Anyway, the ambience was actually really nice for a bar.  There were some big, spacious booths on the righthand wall, but those were for bigger parties.  Groups of a dozen.  I hear there’s a dartboard somewhere – probably in the back section with the pool tables.  If you like watching sports at a bar or playing some games while you drink, this is probably a great place.  Dram Shop should get another review based solely on the “bar” experience.

But let’s talk food.

This place is well known for food…specifically, its burgers.  I’ve heard strangers talk about it.  People have told my boyfriend about it.  There are a bunch of awards and stickers on the window, again specifically for their “burger and fries”.  If you check it out on yelp, you’ll find even more reviews gushing about how good the burgers are.

And I’m here to say….I’m not a fan.  I kind of feel bad saying that.  But I’m not.  There were a lot of things that sounded good on the menu, like brats and fried macaroni!  But the awards and reviews all said the burgers were amazing, so I wanted to try their “best”.  And I was rather disappointed.  It was a grass-fed beef burger, apparently split in to two thin patties, with pickles, LOTS of (probably Dijon) mustard, lettuce, onions, and some bacon that I had them add.  The bacon was the BEST part of the burger!!!  They were fried to perfection with a great crispy crunch to it, but not so dry and just a little bit chewy.  Perfect.  But the burger itself…? It wasn’t terrible.  It wasn’t bad.  But it was mediocre, and especially for Brooklyn….especially for Park Slope….that’s not acceptable.  There’s just so much good food in that neighborhood that there is absolutely no reason to eat that burger, if what you want is a Damn Good Burger.  I’d rather go to 67 Burger, which lacks in atmosphere but 1000% makes up for in taste.  Flipsters has a better burger too, though I’d rank it below 67 Burger.

You can’t even see the beef patty in my picture, and there’s a reason for that.  When I eat a burger, I expect the meat to be the star.  The beef patty was McDonalds-thin, and even with two of them in there I just couldn’t taste it.  The dijon was way too overpowering, as were the pickles and American cheese.  So I have no idea if this grass-fed meat was really worth its cost.  When we passed by the kitchen on the way out of the restaurant, my boyfriend pulled me aside.  He pointed at the grills and said, “You see that?  Burger meat, left unattended on the grill.  How long are they even cooking it?  That’s why this place sucks, they don’t know the first thing about cooking a burger.”

And like I said, the patties were THIN (and grey).  Even with a thick slab of ground meat, you could blink and end up leaving the burger on the grill too long.

The hand-cut fries were pretty good, but again nothing that amazing or special.  Nothing to make me remember it or crave it.  It wasn’t bad.  But it wasn’t exceptional, it was just…fries.

My boyfriend ordered the grass-fed beef chili, which had jalapenos, sour cream, some kind of cheese…..it looked and sounded great!  But again, rather mediocre.  I actually think the butcher shop, Prime Meats, has a better tasting chili than this one.  If this is their B-team, their backup chef, they really gotta switch his schedule….Friday night dinners should be done by their best kitchen staff.

Our waiter was exceptionally nice, I have to say.  Really friendly, and didn’t charge me extra when I accidentally spilled my Pepsi :(  So…extra tip for her!

To sum things up, Dram Shop is probably awesome as a bar to socialize and hang out with your friends.  If this bar/restaurant was anywhere else in the US, I’d probably say it was really good.  But it does not have the best burger in New York, nor Brooklyn, nor Park Slope.  The food is exceedingly mediocre.  If you’re drunk, maybe it can breach 3 stars by this neighborhood’s standards, but we weren’t drunk.  I wouldn’t go back again, since there are so many other good eats to be had in Park Slope.

Happy Valentine’s Day! At Palo Santo [Restaurant Review]

Never mind that it’s technically two weeks early!  Me and C decided to beat the restaurant rush and high prices. He also got me a present back in January and was getting anxious that the real Valentine’s Day was so far away.

Continue reading

Weekend of Food: 3 Restaurant Reviews

Royal Seafood [ Dim Sum ]

流沙包子

Dessert at dim sum [流沙包子] in NYC’s Chinatown.

After an unnecessarily difficult period of scheduling and rescheduling, the brunt of which my sister had to deal with, we had a family dim sum lunch in Chinatown on Saturday.  Royal Seafood is alright as far as Manhattan dim sum goes, and it’s not terribly hard to get a spot there.  The location is easy to get to – very close to the 6 train – the interior is a vast hall that seats over a hundred, surely, and the waiters are actually pretty attentive!  If you don’t see a food you know they serve on the roaming carts of food, you can easily ask any worker for help and they hunt it down for you.  But I’m not convinced it’s as good as some of the seafood dim sum places in Flushing, which I think have a bit more variety….and none of these are as good as the variety and freshness you can get in Hong Kong!  I suppose it depends on what you order though!!  I really liked the fried radish cakes here.  Okay, maybe my uncle just kept picking stuff I didn’t like, and that is why I’d give Royal Seafood 3 stars.  But the siew mai (燒賣) tasted a little old to me.  Bad batch, perhaps?  My uncle refused to order it because it’s “common food”….but as I’ve learned over the years, I love common food!!!  You can also order actual meals from a menu, like noodles or a plate of vegetables, meat over rice, etc.  The prices are good here and the portions are HUGE.  You probably want like 6 adults with you to finish it all if you order a meal-type dish.

Kinda gross looking, but the inside of this dessert is filled with a very sugary, golden egg yolk! Tastes really great.

We actually wanted to order the red bean filling version of this, but someone made a mistake!  Egg yolk instead!  Imagine a chicken that is about to die of diabetes, but before it does it lays a single egg.  You then put that diabetes egg yolk in to a dessert, and VOILA…you have this yummy treat!  Okay, that might have grossed you out even more.  But trust me, it tasted great.

Cha Chan Tang

Cha Chan Tang - Pork chops, fried egg over rice, sausage, and Hong Kong style milk tea.

Cha Chan Tang – Pork chops, fried egg over rice, sausage, and Hong Kong style milk tea.

My boyfriend came down from the Bronx to meet me after my Mandarin class in Chinatown, and we went to another restaurant I like called Cha Chan Tang.  It’s a cute place, very trendy – flatscreen TVs on the left-hand wall show live feeds of Hong Kong, so during the daytime it is night time there.  There’s a wall of tea cups and saucers, each stacked one on top of the other, that reaches from waist-height up to the ceiling.  I tested it a little – they appear glued together.  The service is not that great…the waiters are not very attentive and it can be difficult to flag them down for service, including ordering and getting the check. I had to ask for the check twice today actually, and no, it doesn’t matter if you use English or Chinese.  The space between tables is also extremely cramped, but once you’re in I don’t mind one bit!  The seats are cushiony and I still had enough space for me and my boyfriend’s bags and coats.  Despite the lackluster service, I have and will be coming back again and again…the food is pretty damn good!!!  And the distinct fusiony mix of Western and Chinese influences on this type of food reminds me of childhood and the food my dad used to cook.  Pork chop anything is good, go ahead and order it, hahaha!  Instant noodles with pork chop, pork chop over rice (as seen in the photo), anything…I have yet to try the baked spaghetti with pork chop, but I bet it’s good too.

I wanted to eat that actually, but accidentally ordered “fried spaghetti” with BBQ pork instead.  I totally thought this meant it would still be, you know…spaghetti in tomato sauce, just deep fried.  There’s a now-closed restaurant that I used to frequent that had really good spaghetti and fried chicken, and I got that a little mixed up!  Anyway, it was just stir fried noodles with scallions and bean sprouts…the kind you can get from street vendors for $1 on Canal St.  The kind I used to buy on my way home from high school, haha.  But at least it was VERY tasty, so I was not disappointed for long.  Didn’t take a picture because it resembles pig slop.  But it tasted great.

Hong Kong style milk tea - cold.

Hong Kong style milk tea – cold.

The Hong Kong style milk tea is hit or miss.  The first time I went, I got it cold, and it came in this ice bucket with a charming glass bottle.  It tasted great, with the perfect amount of condensed milk in there.  But this weekend, I dunno.  I got the hot version and it tasted like yuck.  Not enough condensed milk flavor…and for just 25 cents more I could have had the yummy cold one again!  Maybe it was just a bad day for whoever mixed it. Ah well….I’ll be back again.  Can’t help myself.  Also I’m quite happy that my boyfriend likes it too!  This style of food is all new to him, and sometimes I worry that he won’t like it….as seen in the next and final restaurant review.

Ugly Kitchen [ Filipino Night, Sunday ]

Ugly Kitchen appetizers - fried fish balls and fried tripe.

Ugly Kitchen appetizers – fried fish balls and fried tripe.

A brief story before the review….!  My boyfriend hasn’t seen his college roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend for close to half a year, so we all agreed to have a double date this Sunday night!  I had my heart set on taking them all to Umi no Ie, which is a GREAT spot for Japanese comfort food. I can go on and on about it, but I’ll save that for when I actually visit again with my camera in a later post!  Sadly, we arrived at Umi no Ie and it’s actually closed on Sundays….huge oversight on my part.  But this is the Lower East Side, there’s tons of restaurants in the area!  My back up plan was to eat at Ugly Kitchen, which I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  I think they mostly have modern Korean food.

Surprise #1: It’s Filipino night on Sundays!!!!  The roommate’s girlfriend is also Chinese from the Philippines, like my family is, so we were both excited to eat Filipino food.  Happily, we ordered.

Surprise #2: Some free appetizers come to our table.  Turns out, a good friend of mine from a while back works as the chef!  I have no idea HOW he knew I was there, I’m extremely impressed that he recognized me after all these years.  But I honestly think he is the best chef ever; anything he cooks I WILL EAT.  He used to work at my best friend’s Filipino restaurant a few blocks north, but quit a few years ago.  It was really really great seeing him again, and of course I’ll be back now that I know he’s cooking there on Sundays!

My boyfriend saw the appetizers, and after a moment of confusion he said, “Why do you seem to get free things wherever you go….?”

Hahaha.  It’s not everywhere.  It’s just sometimes, and I happen to tell him.  I don’t tell him about the 1000 times inbetween where I get nothing.  Also I think he’s referring to how sometimes people throw in a little extra food when you order at deli’s and stuff.

The food we ordered, with description of each dish in the captions, below.  FYI, pork knuckles may sound weird to some, but it is one of the most tender parts of the pig.  The other most tender part is pork belly!  Order these 2 types of meat anywhere and you have a 99% chance your meal will be amazing.

Crispy Pata

Crispy Pata – Deep fried pork knuckles.

Crispy Pata again

Crispy Pata again … so good, it deserved two pictures! I love that it’s fried yet NOT greasy. Perfectly golden and crispy.

Lechon Kawali

Lechon Kawali – deep fried pork belly, the other tender and tasty part of the pig, perfectly fried and not greasy.

Laing

Laing – not too sure how to describe this but…it’s sorta curry-like, a little spicy, with coconut milk that makes it incredibly yummy. With taro leaves, and some meat.

Not only was the food 100% delicious, the prices were really good too.  Entrees ranged from $8-15, and totally worth every penny.  I suppose I could be biased, since I love Filipino food…but doesn’t that mean I know good Filipino food?  ;D  I’ll be the first one to tell you, finding a Filipino restaurant that is both great tasting AND affordable is really freaking hard.  I don’t know why, it’s hard to get both those traits here in NYC.  But Ugly Kitchen is that restaurant, on Sunday nights!