[NYC] Ruby's Cafe - Excellent Aussie-Inspired Eatery in Soho

Categories: Australian, Brunch/Breakfast, All-day
Date Visited: July 2018
Address: 219 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012
Price:  $$ 
Reservations: They don't take reservations! 

Verdict: A hundred times yes! A laid-back spot in Soho with excellent food. Summer vibes all-year-long, Ruby’s is where you want to go for a casual meal any time of the day. Reasonable prices too. 9/10. 

 Left:  Breakfast Bowl / $14  Right:  Lamb Ragu Pappardelle  with burrata & tomato sauce  /$15

Left: Breakfast Bowl / $14
Right: Lamb Ragu Pappardelle with burrata & tomato sauce /$15

  Breakfast Bowl / $14  soft egg, spaghetti squash, brown rice, fermented cabbage, wild mushrooms, house made chili sauce

Breakfast Bowl / $14
soft egg, spaghetti squash, brown rice, fermented cabbage, wild mushrooms, house made chili sauce

[NYC] Ikinari - Excellent Fast Casual Japanese Steakhouse

Categories: Steakhouse, Japanese, Fast-Casual
Date Visited: March 2018, April 2018
Address: Multiple locations throughout NYC
Price:  $$ 
Reservations: Nope, none needed. Just walk in! 

 Ikinari Japanese Steakhouse NYC


About: Ikinari is a famous chain from Japan, best known for its highly affordable but high-quality steaks. You can order, eat, and get out of here in 30 minutes. The menu is very limited as they only serve steaks and selected sides but they do offer a few different cuts priced by the ounce (Ribeyes, Sirloin, Filet). They weigh and cut the steaks in front of you.

There are no servers, no high-end decor, no dessert menu. After ordering, you sit and wait for your steak (takes ~5 minutes) and then pay before you head out the door. 

Clearly, this isn't meant to replace the time-honored, pedigreed steakhouses that run sacred in the New York dining institution. But frequenting old-fashioned dining rooms covered in mahogany and brass for is not exactly realistic for many people as well. Sometimes, you just want a good steak without the dress up and the fancy wines.

Ikinari is a great option for a decent steak without having to cook it yourself. 

  Middle Ribeye ~ 11oz Topped with a delicious garlic butter and fried crispy

Middle Ribeye ~11oz
Topped with a delicious garlic butter and fried crispy

All steaks are accompanied by grilled onions, a side of corn, and a garlic paste on top of the steak that's referred to as “magic paste."

 Ikinari Pepper Rice - fried rice mixed with corn, 

Ikinari Pepper Rice - fried rice mixed with corn, 

[NYC] 15 East - Disappointing Michelin Star Omakase Dinner

15 East

Categories: Japanese, Sushi, Omakase
Address: 15 E 15th St, New York, NY 10003
Date Visited: Jan 2018
Price: ~$320-400 for two ($65-140 for omakase sets)
Hours: Thurs-Sat 5:30pm-12:30am, Sun-Wed 5:30pm-11:30pm
Reservations Needed?: Yes

15-east-omakase-sushi

Thoughts: Disappointed. Given their price point and newly "Michelin" one star status, I expected quality on par with some of the other better omakase places around the city. Unfortunately, while ambiance was on point (slightly casual but nice), food was a letdown. Certainly not what you'd expect from one of Manhattan's "best sushi" spots.

We ordered a 15 piece sushi omakase set ($115) and a 15 piece sashimi omakase set ($115). While nothing was "bad," the omakase experience was very boring. There wasn't a single standout dish; nothing on either the sashimi omakase set or sushi omakase set that made me go, "wow, that was amazing. I want it again." Portion sizes were unreasonably TINY and we both left still hungry. For $115 per set, the omakase we got (especially the sashimi - refer to photos below) were underwhelming. 

The fish was not particularly fresh. Both the quality and creativity of here pales in comparison to the other high-end sushi restaurants I've been to in the city (Sushi of Gari, Nakazawa, Gaijin, Sushi Seki, etc.) Honestly, I would've gotten MUCH better sushi and double portions at Tomoe Sushi at 1/3 of the price. 

Just not worth it. Michelin, what were you thinking?

Recommended? No.

THE FOOD

[NYC] Amélie Wine Bar - Simple Brunch in West Village

Categories: French, Brunch, Wine Bar
Date Visited: April 2018
Address: 22 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011
Price:  $/$$  (Very affordable for Manhattan!)
Reservations: Not necessary for brunch for a smaller party. At least I had no problem getting a table at walk-in. For dinner, however, reservations are strongly recommended!

Thoughts: The menu here consists of quintessential French brunch dishes: burgers, omelets, salads, eggs benedicts, croque-monsieur, etc. For a medium to larger sized party, I would recommend ordering one of their charcuterie/cheese combo platters, which is great (I tried it for dinner on another visit). Service is friendly, although it could be faster and coffee quality definitely needs some upgrading. 

Otherwise, this is your solid friendly neighborhood brunch spot when you're too lazy or tired to line up for 1+ hours for brunch! They swapped out my potatoes for avocado without extra costs. Also, all the dishes are very price-friendly for what it's worth! Very affordable considering they're located in a high rental cost area in Manhattan.

  Amélie Burger / $12  Pat Lafrieda brisket meat - tomato - red onion - lettuce - served with French fries

Amélie Burger / $12
Pat Lafrieda brisket meat - tomato - red onion - lettuce - served with French fries

  Eggs Meurette / $13  red wine poached eggs - pearl onions - mushrooms - bacon - toasted brioche   My friend swapped out the bacon for avocado instead!

Eggs Meurette / $13
red wine poached eggs - pearl onions - mushrooms - bacon - toasted brioche

My friend swapped out the bacon for avocado instead!

 On the right:  French Toast with fresh berries / $10

On the right: French Toast with fresh berries / $10

 Amelie's Brunch Menu as of Nov 2017, but the menu was the same when I went in April 2018

Amelie's Brunch Menu as of Nov 2017, but the menu was the same when I went in April 2018

[NYC] Dos Toros - Fast Casual California-style Mexican Eats!

Categories: Fast Casual, Californian-Mexican
Date Visited:  Multiple times in 2017, 2018
Address: Multiple locations across NYC and Chicago! Check out locations here. 
Price:  ~$10-15/meal
Verdict: HECK YES! People who know me well know that I've been frequenting Dos Toros way too much. Similar to Chipotle... but fresher and tastier! 

The menu is very straightforward: burritos, bowls, tacos and quesadillas.
Create your own meal by picking your choice of protein(s): carnitas, grilled chicken, grilled steak, market veggies, +  rice and/or beans and/or salad + generous toppings of (optional) grilled fajita veggies, shredded cheese, tomato salsas and sour cream. And last but not least... just +$0.92 to top it all with guacamole! 

I find the ingredients simply more fresh and less watered down than Chipotle (esp. the sour cream and guacamole). Try it out!

Website: www.dostoros.com

 3 tacos - each with different customized protein/topping combos! The one in the front is the new market vegetable option (seasonal squash & greens, with cremini mushrooms & shishito peppers). Great as a vegetarian option!

3 tacos - each with different customized protein/topping combos! The one in the front is the new market vegetable option (seasonal squash & greens, with cremini mushrooms & shishito peppers). Great as a vegetarian option!

 Three diff types of tacos!

Three diff types of tacos!

 Healthy low-carb chicken salad - lettuce salad base, non-spicy tomato salsa, grilled chicken and guacamole! Low-carb friendly, healthy and delicious!

Healthy low-carb chicken salad - lettuce salad base, non-spicy tomato salsa, grilled chicken and guacamole! Low-carb friendly, healthy and delicious!

 Dos Toros' new vegetarian "protein" option - seasonal squash and greens, with cremini mushrooms and shishito peppers! Veggie up! #vegout

Dos Toros' new vegetarian "protein" option - seasonal squash and greens, with cremini mushrooms and shishito peppers! Veggie up! #vegout

[San Francisco] Fort Funston (ie. Dog's Disneyland)

Who: Humans who like to hike + dogs who love nature/play
What: They say Fort Funston is "Dog's Disneyland." IT'S TRUE.
Where: Fort Funston, San Francisco, California 94101. There is a huge parking lot off of Skyline Blvd. There is a sign that tells you where to go and where to park.
Why: If you love your dog, you must bring him/her here! Your dog will be super happy and therefore make you happy. What used to be a military fort has now become a popular off-leash dog park and beach with a ton of trails. You can stroll on the various trails, meander on the beach, and hike along the cliffs. It is the only park in the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation area) that allows off-leash dogs.

There are typically HUNDREDS (yes I know) of friendly, well-behaved dogs for your dog to play and socialize with.

My dog is normally very happy. But never have I seen him THIS happy. If you love your dog, bring him/her here and he/she will have the best time!

Being next to the Pacific, it can get very windy and cold. Bring a jacket!

 Love at first sight with the Ocean!

Love at first sight with the Ocean!