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Restaurant Reviews

07 October 2008

Manhattan Eats: Pearl Oyster Bar


The lobster roll; an east-coast classic and reminiscent of New England summers, the roll is a soft hot dog bun filled with cooked lobster and mayonnaise peppered with celery and onion.

We were lucky (mostly) enough to sample many a roll on our recent road trip of the east coast. We left the sensory overload of Manhattan for the quaint seaside fishing towns of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally, Maine, all the while stopping at roadside clam shacks to sample the famed roll.

More often than not, it'd be a resounding disappointment. The lobster was too dry, too laden with mayonnaise or too bland. Often it seemed more waste than luxury: surely there was a better way to appreciate succulent lobster meat.

Ironically, it wasn't until we got back to Manhattan that we finally found the holy grail of lobster sandwiches -- at Pearl Oyster Bar.


Pearl chef and owner Rebecca Charles has taken traditional east coast cooking to new levels and refined the flavours. Her food is truly homemade in the sense that meals are prepared from scratch, right down to the hand-cut fries and freshly grated horseradish, leading me to think that someone must really have sore knuckles.

Charles' inspiration came from her childhood summers spent in Kennebunkport, Maine. Her recipes are testament to the three generations of food-loving women in her family and are simple, old-fashioned and comforting.


The menu is dependent on what's available each day and tables fill up as soon as the doors open.

We were lucky enough to try the Pearl lobster roll, the salt-crusted shrimp, cracker-crusted fried oysters and the blueberry cloud pie. In fact, we tried everything twice it was so good. Not on the same day of course. While we ate we were entertained and informed by Maria who served up the plates along with their charming stories.

If you find yourself within 500 miles of Manhattan then Pearl Oyster Bar is definitely worth a visit!

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
New York. NY 10014

18 September 2008

Manhattan Eats: 'ino Cafe and Wine Bar


Our breakfast place of choice in New York was Italian panini bar 'ino. Located in the West Village, 'ino occupies a tiny, charming space on Bedford St.

The menu consists solely of panini, tramezzini, bruschette and an excellent selection of Italian wines. Some may shrug and say: "So what, a toasted sandwich." But 'ino is more than that. The flavours are bold, fresh and if you close your eyes, you're transported to Italy.

Another important factor is 'ino's bread -- it's very special. Baked fresh daily in legendary neighbouring restaurant Blue Ribbon's 140-year-old brick oven, the bread is carefully crafted from scratch using only the best ingredients.


One of the many stars on 'ino's menu is the truffled egg toast. It consists of an egg grilled on ciabatta with fontina cheese and truffle oil. The serving plate is scattered with blanched asparagus.

All in all, 'ino is a charming little cafe with a simple menu and friendly service: our favourite way to start the day in New York.


'ino cafe/wine bar

21 Bedford Street
between 6th Ave & Downing
New York, NY 1002

10 September 2008

Manhattan Eats: Momofuku Ssam Bar


The power of the Momofuku Ssam's pork bun -- addictive indeed and New York is showing no signs of tiring of these tasty morsels.

Momofuku Ssam Bar is a revelation. I can only describe the food paradoxically. It's exciting, yet simple. It's confusing, yet comforting. It's of the highest quality, yet inexpensive. The one thing that is certain is that the food will captivate and make you want more.

The Momofuku empire is led by chef and co-owner David Cheng, famous not only for his culinary genius but also his colourful language. Only a few years ago Cheng was a little-known chef at a noodle bar. Now he's touted as one of the most "innovative and exciting chefs America has seen in decades".

In a city where restaurants will sparkle one day and fade into obscurity the next, Momofuku's Korean-inspired food has a firm place in the heart and mouths of New Yorkers.

The steamed bun (pictured above), has been replicated in restaurants all over the city yet none compare to Momofuku's. Pasture-raised heirloom pork belly, hoisin, cucumber and scallions are enclosed in a soft steamed bun. Each mouthful is sublime.


We went twice to Momofuku Ssam. Once at night and once at lunchtime. The difference is really night and day. If you want your meal charged with a frenetic energy, go at night. For something more subdued, lunchtime's your best bet.

For dinner we had the sliced Long Island Fluke (summer flounder) with yuzu koshu and puréed peaches, pork belly steamed buns, marinated hanger steak ssam and the divine spicy pork sausage and rice cakes.

For a light lunch, try out the Bi Bim Bap of braised tofu with bean sprouts, white kimchi, fresh edamame, whipped tofu and a delicately slow-poached egg.


Momofuku Ssam
207 2nd ave. nyc 10003 | corner of 13th and 2nd 
East Village

15 May 2008

In Awe of Raw


There's a whole raw food movement going on in LA, and I'm sure other places, of which I have been quite ignorant.

I had heard about 'raw foodism' but quite honestly, the thought of eating uncooked vegetables for the rest of my days was quite unappealing. That was until my recent trip to LA where I was introduced to two very exciting raw food restaurants, Juliano's Raw and RAWvolution, both in Santa Monica.

The premise behind raw food is eating primarily uncooked, unprocessed and organic fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts. Raw foodists believe that cooking food either kills most of the essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes or transforms them into carcinogens or 'free radicals'.  So to get the most out of most foods, it is important to eat them either raw or cooked at temperatures under 100F (38C).

There are recipes for raw breads, cakes, soups and even French fries. While I am not a complete raw food convert by any means, I was really impressed by the creativity, diversity and deliciousness of some of the raw meals I tried whilst in LA.

Take, for instance, the two meals in my photos, both from RAWvolution, run by renowned raw food chef, Matt Amsden. The first image is a trio of salads including a finely chopped broccolini with parsley and olive oil, cauliflower cous cous, and a 'mock tuna' salad with macadamia nuts, parsley, zucchini, olive oil and nama shoyu; raw organic unpasteurized soy sauce. The little crackers on the side were made from leftover almond pulp, flax seeds and rosemary.

Below is the 'cocophoria burger'. The 'bun' was made from ground onions and the filling was salad and 'coconut jerky' -- basically sun-dried coconut flesh marinated in curry powder and nama shoyu.


All this was followed by a dessert of coconut pie and one of the best chocolate brownies I've ever tasted - all raw.


Unfortunately I don't have any photos from Juliano's restaurant but trust me when I say that his 'strawberry parfait' was taste bud blowing. It was made of pinenuts, vanilla bean, honey, strawberries and a secret ingredient which I'm afraid I can't share. The parfait was rich and velvety and I savoured every mouthful.

If you're curious to find out about some chef Juliano's raw food secrets, he holds cooking classes on the first Saturday of each month.

2301 Main Street, Santa Monica 90405

Juliano's Raw
609 Broadway Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90405


18 February 2008

Kirin Restaurant: a different dim sum experience


Dim Sum is an experience. It’s about as close as we get to hunting in our urbanized environment. There’s nothing like the satisfaction I feel when I finally catch that elusive dumpling that kept whirring by on the trolley, always just out of reach. It is for this reason that I have found that going out for a Dim Sum lunch can often be a stressful affair.

At Kirin Restaurant in Vancouver, the most stress you are likely to encounter is at the moment you try to decide which steaming morsel to eat first.

Continue reading "Kirin Restaurant: a different dim sum experience" »

13 January 2008

See you at Wilenskys


With Christmas and New Years behind us, I can finally start blogging again. I apologise for the lapse of time between posts. It has been a hectic, all-consuming time with food, family and friends.   

For my first post of 2008, I have decided to revisit some of the Montréal travel highlights that I have been meaning to get to. In particular, there is one place that has remained with me since our trip in September: Wilensky Light Lunch.

Wilensky's is a Montréal institution that mustn't be missed. The historical Jewish diner is most famous for its 'Wilensky Special';  a toasted salami and bolonge sandwich served with mustard and a homemade pickle (also known as a 'half-sour') on the side. The food by itself isn't outstanding (it's a toasted sandwich), but it is the whole 'Wilensky experience' that makes it so special.


Wilensky's time-worn wood-top counters and "hospital-scrub-green" walls take you back into the early 1930s when it first threw open its doors. The place is fascinating and it's hard not to feel like you're part of something special when you step through its doors. A cabinet on the left side of the room, wallpapered with dozens of articles in which generations of Wilenskys pose with their famous sandwiches, bears testament to a diner steeped in history.

For over 75 years Wilensky's has been serving all sorts of clientele from politicians, celebrities to Montréal locals. There are only nine bar stools available so you have to wait your turn and there is a strict policy on no chit-chat or loitering. You are in and out!

We arrived at Wilensky at 3.45pm and their doors close at 4pm on the dot (we didn't know this at the time). I could feel that they were anxious for us to leave but when we started taking so many photos, I think they thought what the heck, we'll let them sit down and enjoy the special. We washed it down with the best chocolate milkshake I have EVER had and then were promptly escorted to the door.


Wilensky Light Lunch
34 Fairmount Street, West
Montréal, QC

02 December 2007



I like simple things. Pretty things. Like Cupcakes.

I like a shop who knows who it is. I like a shop with a simple message. Cupcakes.

Cupcakes is a store that doesn't bite off more than it can chew; who knows on which side its bread is buttered and who knows every side of its buttery bread.

The original Cupcakes is situated in the West End of Vancouver's down town. It only does one thing. But that one thing is done very well!

My favourite is the 'Koo Koo' - a plain vanilla cupcake with delicious, creamy, cream cheese icing and desiccated coconut sprinkled on top.

While the 'Koo Koo' is a very special cupcake there are others which I hold close to my heart such as the 'Lemon Drop'; a lemon cake with lemon butter cream. Then there's the 'Blue Hawaii'; a coconut cake with a blue vanilla butter cream, sprinkled with fresh coconut.

A beautiful shop, doing its thing to keep kids of all ages smiling. You can have a taste of Cupcakes' expanding empire, now at three locations: West End; West Broadway; and North Vancouver.


29 October 2007

What's in a name? Legendary Noodle


I've always had an abiding suspicion of cafes and restaurants who claim to have 'the best cup off coffee in the city' or the 'best pizza slice in town'. Experience has shown these claims to be pretty hit and miss. More miss than hit, really. Often the insult of anticlimax being added to the injury of a mediocre cup of coffee.

So it was with a due skepticism that we entered Legendary Noodle: a small noodlery on Main St, Vancouver, known for its made-on-the-spot fresh noodles. Customers can watch as their noodles are stretched, slapped and cooked right before their eyes.

Since that first visit, we have been back several times. The fresh noodles and dumplings are consistently good; the menu is simple, but with a good mix of meat and vegetarian options; and the novelty of the deft hands manipulating noodles out of dough continues to excite.


This time, we ordered the ground beef and chinese mushroom noodles and a dumpling noodle soup. They were good, complimentary choices. The ground beef and chinese mushroom gravy was rich and salty. The soup was very mild. We asked for a couple of small personal bowls and mixed them to good effect.

The really legendary part is that this all came to $11.00.

This small, family operation is not going to blow you away with innovation, flavour or creativity, but the food is consistent and fresh, the service is quick and the servings are large.

Legendary Noodle is located at 4191 Main Street, Vancouver (Tel: 604-879-8758). A second restaurant has opened in the West End and is located at 1074 Denman Street, Vancouver (Tel:604-669-8551).

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