Restaurant

[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

[Shanghai] Qimin Organic Hotpot & Market 齐民市集

Categories: Hotpot, Organic, Chinese
Date Visited:  Multiple times in December 2017 & January 2018
Address: 4/F, Reel Mall, 1601 Nanjing Xi Lu  | 南京西路1601号芮欧百货4层 (常德路) -- but they have multiple locations!
Price:  ~120-160RMB per person
Verdict: YES! Qimin Organic Hotpot is the first organic hotpot in Shanghai. Founded by the same people behind Green & Safe, Qimin Organic Hotpot is a clean & pleasant hotpot experience. It's perfect for dates and small groups (though I did have a dinner here once with 8 people which worked fine). Casual and fun, I LOVE this place!

Reservations: Recommended although not necessary. 
Hours: Mon-Sun (11am-10pm)

Restaurant Interior of JingAn (Reel Department Store) Location 

Restaurant Interior of JingAn (Reel Department Store) Location 

Customize your own condiments and sauces

Customize your own condiments and sauces

Combo meat platter!

Combo meat platter!

Qimin's Organic Yunnan Mushrooms

Qimin's Organic Yunnan Mushrooms

Black truffle dumplings

Black truffle dumplings

Deep fried shrimp cakes

Deep fried shrimp cakes

Shrimp platter

Shrimp platter

Qimin's Organic Produce & Products Market inside the Restaurant (lots of products from Green & Safe) 

Qimin's Organic Produce & Products Market inside the Restaurant (lots of products from Green & Safe) 

[Los Angeles] Mendocino Farms - for the BEST badass sandwiches and salads!

Categories: Sandwiches, Salads, New American
Address: Multiple locations across California (mostly LA)
Location Visited: 175 S. Fairfax Ave Suite B, Los Angeles, California 90036
Date Visited: July 2017
Price: $$ 
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am–9pm

Summary: Where do I even begin to confess my love for Mendocino Farms? Mendo was my go-to spot back when I lived in LA from 2010-2015 for when I wanted something quick, fresh, healthy and hearty. As I'm typing this, I realize these attributes are rarely ascribed to a single restaurant as they're often conflicting. BUT NOT AT MENDOCINO FARMS! Using only fresh, organic ingredients (sourced in nearby farms - hence the name) and charging very reasonable prices, offering hefty portions and serviced some of the happiest staff I've ever seen in the F&B industry, this place will always be one of my favorites!

I miss it every day since I moved away from California. On a recent trip to LA, I brought a friend who's never tried Mendo and not only did he order a second sandwich after loving the first one (and these sandwiches are not small, I tell you), he wanted to come back again before we left on your short 4-day trip. It's that good!

Anyhow, back to the sandwiches. Mendo is incredibly accommodating - whether you're avoiding dairy, soy, gluten, nuts, or meat - they are happy to adapt. A heavenly place that caters to all dietary needs/restrictions/allergies. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free... come and they'll offer something ACTUALLY TASTY for you! 

Personal favorites (but you really can't go wrong with anything): Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi sandwich, Modern Tuna "Almost Melt," Peruvian Steak Sandwich, Save Drake Farm's Salad

www.mendocinofarms.com
www.instagram/mendocinofarms

mendocino-farms-restaurant

Mendocino Farms

Los Angeles

Peruvian Steak Sandwich ( $11.25) - spicy aji amarillo marinated Creekstone Farms steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, shredded romaine on panini-pressed torta bun (avocado +$1)

Peruvian Steak Sandwich ($11.25) - spicy aji amarillo marinated Creekstone Farms steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, shredded romaine on panini-pressed torta bun
(avocado +$1)

Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi  ($10.95) - playful take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich with braised, caramelized Kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini-pressed ciabatta

Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi ($10.95) - playful take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich with braised, caramelized Kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini-pressed ciabatta

Custom Salad  - butter lettuce & romaine, shaved, roasted Mary's organic free range chicken breast, pink lady beets, green apples, cranberry sauce on the side  SO FRESH AND TASTY! One of the best salads I've ever had. The produce really does matter. I've had similar salads before in terms of ingredients but they don't taste nearly as good. 

Custom Salad - butter lettuce & romaine, shaved, roasted Mary's organic free range chicken breast, pink lady beets, green apples, cranberry sauce on the side

SO FRESH AND TASTY! One of the best salads I've ever had. The produce really does matter. I've had similar salads before in terms of ingredients but they don't taste nearly as good. 

SORRY baby  @gofindtoro  but none for you today!

SORRY baby @gofindtoro but none for you today!

"Don't make a move, hooomans think I'm a statue!" -   @gofindtoro

"Don't make a move, hooomans think I'm a statue!" -  @gofindtoro

"Okay I give up." :p FEED ME!  - @gofindtoro

"Okay I give up." :p FEED ME! - @gofindtoro

[New York] Quality Eats (dinner)

Categories: American (Traditional), Steakhouses
Address: 19 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014
Date Visited: March 2017, dinner
Price: $$$ (~$65-90 for two, with a couple of drinks)
Hours: Dinner: Mon-Wed 5:30-11pm | Thurs-Sat 5:30-12am | Sun 5:30-10pm
            Weekend Brunch 11-4pm | Wed-Fri Lunch 11:30am-4pm
Verdict/Summary: MAYBE - question is, what are you looking for? Quality Eats is a chic, quality restaurant in Greenwich known for their modern twists on classic dishes (eg. $29 for a hanger steak, steak tartare for $16). Please note that this is NOT a traditional New York steakhouse or porterhouse, so don’t come here looking for something similar to Peter Luger’s or Del Frisco’s. But come if you're looking for fresh ingredients, cooked-to-order and affordable steaks without having to break your bank. Their steaks are solid, though their appetizers have room for improvement.  

What to Order: The Don Ameché steak ($29), served nicely charred, sliced, and pink-in-the-middle; with amazing chicken liver mousse toast and balsamic-dressed arugula

http://www.qualityeats.com/ (212) 337-9988

Don Ameché steak     ($29),   charred, sliced,  chicken liver mousse toast  and balsamic-dressed arugula

Don Ameché steak ($29), charred, sliced, chicken liver mousse toast and balsamic-dressed arugula

We each individually ordered a main (steaks!) and shared some appetizers and sides.

Appetizers Not bad but neither were memorable,

  • Sausage and pepper toast ($15)
  • Crab and avocado ($18)

Sides (unpictured): Overpriced for portion sizes and just alright.

  • Grilled bokchoy ($8)
  • Spicy mushrooms ($8)

To be honest, these weren't impressive and I probably won't order them again if I returned. However, I did hear great things about their grilled octopus ($25)!

Sausage & Pepper Toast ($15),     Faicco's sausage, B&G peppers

Sausage & Pepper Toast ($15), Faicco's sausage, B&G peppers

Crab & Avocado ($18),   jumbo lump, cilantro, citrus

Crab & Avocado ($18), jumbo lump, cilantro, citrus

birthday-cake-dessert-quality-eats

[NYC] Sushi of Gari 46 - Omakase Dinner

Categories: Japanese, Sushi Bar
Address: 347 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036 (Manhattan/Midtown West)
Date Visited: Feb 2017
Price: ~$220-250 for two, not including drinks, tips or tax
Verdict:  YES! First off - flawless, fresh ingredients. This Midtown joint is pretty well-known in town and based on my first visit, I think it lives up to its expectations. The environment was a lot casual and relaxed than what I had expected (in a positive, unpretentious way). Very solid meal overall. I strongly recommend it. 

The original location (1 Michelin star) was opened by Chef Masatoshi "Gari" Sugio on the Upper East Side in the late '90s and was one of the first unorthodox sushi chefs in New York. He made such a name for himself that he opened two other locations in the city (this one included) as well as one other location in Los Angeles. 

Chef Masatoshi "Gari" Sugio opened the original Upper East side location in 1997 and made a name for himself on the scene by serving experimental sushi. He employs tactics and ingredients not found in traditional houses, including signatures like a fluke topped with sweet onion sauce, quail egg, and white truffle oil; or a scallop with proscuitto and sundried tomato sauce. Sugio, whose flagship restaurant has a Michelin star, was one of the first big avant garde sushi chefs in New York. He now has three other locations in NYC, and one in LA.

THE FOOD: Experimental and fun, the dishes presented here are ones you won't find anywhere else.  ALL the omakase nigiri pairings I had were fun and innovative, but more importantly - devine. Everything was lick-in-your-lips-twice delicious. Toppings were playful and delicate; nothing too overpowering so you can taste the raw delicacies of the fish. 

Left to right:   Japanese Red Snapper  with lotus chip  / Santa Barbara sea urchin (uni) / Seared Cod  with Miso garlic  / Blue Fin Tuna  with tofu purée with homemade chili

Left to right: Japanese Red Snapper with lotus chip / Santa Barbara sea urchin (uni) / Seared Cod with Miso garlic / Blue Fin Tuna with tofu purée with homemade chili

What to Order: OMAKASE! My personal favorites were:
        * Salmon Sautéed Tomato (their signature dish)
        * Sautéed Kingfish with creamy mushroom
        * Blue Fin Tuna with tofu purée & homemade chili (A MUST)
        * Baby Yellowtail with jalapeño
        * Sautéed Foie Gras nigiri (YES)
        * Sea Urchin (if you're a fan of uni, this is a must)

Our omakase courses in order (I came with a regular who knew what to order so some pieces we requested, such as the salmon sautéed tomato nigiri & foie gras nigiri but most others were chef's choice):

  1. Amuse bouche - mushroom with sweet soy and ginger, garlic oil chicken tenderloin, Sasabune-festival inspired soybeans
  2. Snow Crab / Sautéed Kingfish with creamy mushroom  / Baby Yellowtail with jalapeño / Toro with ponzu soaked radish
  3.  Japanese Red Snapper with lotus chip / Santa Barbara sea urchin (uni) / Seared Cod with Miso garlic / Blue Fin Tuna with tofu purée with homemade chili
  4. Salmon Sautéed Tomato  / Korean Sweet Sauce Marinated Tuna with roasted pine nuts and nori seaweed
  5. Sautéed Foie Gras with sweet balsamic and pickled turnip
  6. Seared Fluke Fin with sweet onoin sauce, poached quail egg and white truffle oil  
  7. Seared toro

Gochiso-sama (deshita)! ("It was a feast!") I'll be back for sure, especially since it's just a block away from my apartment :)

Amuse Bouche  - Mushroom with sweet soy and ginger, garlic oil chicken tenderloin, Sasabune-festival inspired soybeans

Amuse Bouche - Mushroom with sweet soy and ginger, garlic oil chicken tenderloin, Sasabune-festival inspired soybeans

Me caught in the moment: (awkward happy face) eating :D 

Me caught in the moment: (awkward happy face) eating :D 

Seared Toro

Seared Toro

Salmon Sautéed Tomato  / Korean Sweet Sauce Marinated Tuna  with roasted pine nuts and nori seaweed

Salmon Sautéed Tomato  / Korean Sweet Sauce Marinated Tuna with roasted pine nuts and nori seaweed

Snow Crab

Snow Crab

LOOK AT THIS  FOIE GRAS .  JUST LOOK AT IT. AMIGAWD.

LOOK AT THIS FOIE GRAS.  JUST LOOK AT IT. AMIGAWD.

Bottom to top:   Snow Crab /   Sautéed Kingfish  with creamy mushroom   / Baby Yellowtail  with jalapeño  / Toro  with ponzu soaked radish

Bottom to top: Snow Crab / Sautéed Kingfish with creamy mushroom  / Baby Yellowtail with jalapeño / Toro with ponzu soaked radish

[Shanghai] Fu He Hui 福和慧 - Autumn Tasting Menu (One Michelin Star)

Awards: Michelin One Star (2016, 2017), Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2016
Date Visited: November 2016
Categories: Vegetarian, Fine Dining, Chinese
Address: 1037 Yuyuan Lu, near Jiangsu Lu, Changning District, Shanghai
上海市长宁区愚园路1037号, 近江苏路
Price:  Tasting menu only, 880RMB per set, without drinks
Verdict: YES for refined & innovative vegetarian dishes. Great for dates, business dinners, and special celebrations. Forget about what you think you know about Chinese vegetarian food. Be prepared for a good mix of traditional vs experimental offerings and displays, eg. Shanghainese-style stir fry gluntinous cakes with shaved black truffles to smokey porcini on sticks in a jar. Spectacular services, environment and presentation.
Hours: Mon-Sun (11am-10pm)

"Matsutake" (松茸) ; with taro, crisp rice & snow pea

"Matsutake" (松茸); with taro, crisp rice & snow pea

fuhehui-mushrooms
"Truffle" (   松露 ) glutinous rice cakes;   garden greens, bamboo shoots and BLACK TRUFFLES

"Truffle" (松露) glutinous rice cakes; garden greens, bamboo shoots and BLACK TRUFFLES

fuhehui-champagne
"Bean Curd" (豆腐); organic tofu, gingko, peach gum, soy - super silky and smooth tofu covered with a gelatinous jelly-like topping

"Bean Curd" (豆腐); organic tofu, gingko, peach gum, soy - super silky and smooth tofu covered with a gelatinous jelly-like topping

"Lotus Fungus" (荷仙菇) soup;     baby corn, white fungus, black medlar, vegetarian consumme -   immaculately pure without losing taste - not oily or greasy at all!

"Lotus Fungus" (荷仙菇) soup; baby corn, white fungus, black medlar, vegetarian consumme - immaculately pure without losing taste - not oily or greasy at all!

"Lotus Fungus" (荷仙菇) soup

"Lotus Fungus" (荷仙菇) soup

"Truffle" (   松露 ) glutinous rice cakes

"Truffle" (松露) glutinous rice cakes

fuhehui-01
fuhehui-banana-dessert-ice-cream

[London] Fera at Claridges (One Michelin Star) - Summer '16 Tasting Menu

Fera - Claridge's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Address: Claridge’s, 49 Brook St, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR, United Kingdom
Hours: Everyday; 12–2pm, 6:30–10pm
Price: £110 (dinner tasting menu) + 12% service charge per person (without beverages or tip)
Verdict: Worth trying, if you're a fan of fairy food. Every dish and crumble is elegantly and beautifully presented; the tastes fresh and exquisite. A very polished meal (a little ironic since Fera means "wild" in Latin). Don't come for the Michelin star; come if you want to be dazzled by food art and treated like a medieval lord. Both the waiters and dishes are very dressed to impress. 

Reservations necessary. +44 20 7107 8888; reservations@feraatclaridges.co.uk
http://feraatclaridges.co.uk/ 

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Seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs

Seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs

July '16 Dinner Tasting Menu

  • Stewed rabbit with lovage
  • Seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs
  • Puffed barley, mushroom, celeriac and junipe
  • Pea mousse with cod and calamint
  • Mackerel in coal oil, marinated tomatoes, seaweed and fennel
  • Rose veal tartare, oyster, apple and kohlrabi
  • Leeks with pork jowl, chicory, sunflower, apple marigold
  • Cod with roe sauce, courgette and lemon verbena
  • Goosnargh duck, roasted radish, turnip, rhubarb and oxalil
  • Fig leaf mousse with gooseberry, sorrel ice, almond meringue
  • Meadowsweet cake, cherries, pine and sheep’s yoghurt

I distinctly point out that I came for the July '16 dinner tasting menu because Chef Simon Rogan's food here is heavily influenced by season and climate. "Our menus are inspired by the constant changing of the seasons," says their website. "We only use exceptional, mostly homegrown ingredients that are harvested in their prime. This is why our à la carte and tasting menus change as often as the weather in which our ingredients are grown."

I had a very delightful, refreshing dinner. For 11 courses, the full-flight meal was satisfying without being overbearing. Sauces were light, subtle and precise. I'm impressed because it's difficult to make fine food tasty without putting much burden on your digestive system.

My favorites of the night: pea mousse with cod & calamint, rose veal tartare and the meadowsweet cake (that really isn't cake but more like icy flavored crisps). I'd visit again for the creativity and grace of its presentation. Sure, the restaurant receives criticism for its almost 'too-perfect' glossy feels. It's ornate. Extravagance disguised in hushed rustic tones. But let's not kid ourselves, what were you expecting? Stepping into Mayfair and into one of London's most sophisticated hotels... you knew what you were getting into.  

Seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs

Seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs

Rose veal tartare, oyster, apple and kohlrabi

Rose veal tartare, oyster, apple and kohlrabi

Goosnargh duck, roasted radish, turnip, rhubarb and oxalis

Goosnargh duck, roasted radish, turnip, rhubarb and oxalis

Meadowsweet cake, cherries, pine and sheep’s yoghurt

Meadowsweet cake, cherries, pine and sheep’s yoghurt

Leeks with pork jowl, chicory, sunflower, apple marigold

Leeks with pork jowl, chicory, sunflower, apple marigold

Puffed barley, mushroom, celeriac and juniper

Puffed barley, mushroom, celeriac and juniper

Pea mousse with cod and calamint

Pea mousse with cod and calamint