Chef’s Omakase at Tori Shin

I’ve heard great things about Tori Shin, the only yakitori joint with one Michelin star, for a while now but I finally had the chance to go a couple of weeks ago. Quite honestly, I didn’t want to make the trek all the way to 64th street and 1st ave in the cold but this blog post really motivated me to do so.  Let me tell you, it is worth the trek and more.

We went with another couple and we all ordered the Chef’s Omakase ($55) – it was our first time here and it was Sunday night, so we did not want to have to think about what to order after a long week.

tori_daikon

Started things off with a simmered daikon dish, very flavorful – a good sign of things to come…

tori_chickenshiso tori_quailegg tori_tomato

Skewers… chicken breast with plum and shiso, quail eggs and tomatoes.  The chicken breast was so moist and delicious, I don’t often find myself ordering chicken breast but I would gladly order this again!  Quail eggs and tomatoes – what’s not to like?

tori_porkbelly tori_chickenmeatball

More skewers!  Pork belly with garlic miso and chicken meatballs.  Pork belly is always delicious, but that garlic miso is so addictive.  The chicken meatball was really tasty and texturally pleasing with some crunch, but I couldn’t help but be jealous of those I saw with the special chicken meatball that came with the egg yolk sauce, I will definitely be ordering this next time I come.

tori_stickyyam

Japanese mountain yam (yamaimo) with vegetables… The texture of this yam is not really my cup of tea, but the taste was okay.

tori_chickenoyster tori_zucchini tori_chickenwing

And the skewers keep coming!  Chicken oysters, zucchini with spicy cod roe sauce and chicken wing.  The chicken oysters were RIDICULOUS.  Really tasty, really moist and tender, with just a small sliver of crispy chicken skin attached.  The zucchini was okay (not generally a fan of zucchini) but the spicy cod roe sauce was good.  The chicken wing was cooked extra crispy, LOVE IT.

tori_oyakodon

After all your skewers are served, the waitress comes back to ask what rice dish you want.  You can pick any rice dish on the mean, the special oyako don (pictured above) costs you an extra $5 and it is well worth it.  Perfectly seasoned chicken bits with onion and cooked egg over rice, topped with a delicious egg yolk – mix everything up with your chopsticks and you  have comfort food at its best.

To finish off, we got house made green tea ice cream, it was good, had strong green tea flavors.  Honestly, though, at this point of the meal, we were too full to care about ice cream.

Overall, great food, inviting atmosphere, friendly and helpful service.  I will definitely be coming back here again and again.

Tori Shin – 1193 1st Ave (between 64th and 65th streets)

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Keeping warm with Cocoron

There is nothing more satisfying on a cold winter day than a hot bowl of soba noodles.  One of my favorite places to enjoy soba in the city is Cocoron.  They have two locations:

  • 61 Delancey Street (between Allen and Elridge) – original location
  • 37 Kenmare Street (between Mott and Elizabeth) – larger location

I prefer the newer and larger location on Kenmare.  Service is generally iffy, but the food is definitely enough to keep me coming back for more.  Now, on to the food!

Two of their best appetizers…

cocoron_tofu

House made cold tofu with bonito flakes, seaweed, scallions and wasabi.  Creamy, silky tofu so pure tasting that you only need a smidge of soy sauce to enhance.

cocoron_dumplings

Steamed chicken dumplings with sticky rice – this dish is steamed to order and will normally take longer than other appetizers, but it is worth the wait!  There is a strong ginger flavor within the chicken meatball, but not overwhelming and the sticky rice coating provides a great textural sensation.

Cocoron categorizes their soba into three buckets:

  • Cold – cold soba noodles with cold dipping sauce on the side
  • Warm – soba noodles in warm soup
  • Dip – cold soba noodles with warm dipping sauce on the side

The cold soba is deliciously refreshing during the warmer months, but you want to stick with the warm or dip soba on a day like today.

cocoron_soba_dip

Our mains: Warm Kashiwa soba in the background, this soba has chicken thigh meat, chicken meatball, shitake mushroom and scallions.  In the foreground, is the Chicken Burdock Dip soba, here you get the cold soba noodles and a warm dipping sauce with chicken thigh meat, chicken meatball, shitake mushrooms and burdock.  The Chicken Burduck Dip soba is one of my FAVORITE things to eat in the winter.  Having the soba chilled preserves the al dente texture that buckwheat noodles should have, and the warm dipping sauce is seriously tasty and warms your body on a cold day.

Of course, it is not a complete meal until I’ve had dessert!  While Cocoron’s dessert menu is not large but they have two really great options:

cocoron_mochi cocoron_icedcoco

House made mochi ice cream served with kinako powder.  It is EXTREMELY rare to find house made mochi ice cream, most restaurants serve packaged mochi ice cream – you can clearly taste the difference in the mochi wrapping.  This is pleasingly chewy and serves as the perfect foil to the vanilla ice cream that it covers.  This comes sprinkled with kinako which is a classic topping for mochi – this gives the dish a nice toasty, nutty flavor.

The second dessert is frozen fruit served with coconut milk and tapioca.  There are frozen mixed berries, bananas and peaches swimming in coconut milk and tapioca.  A very refreshing and light dessert – a perfect ending to a healthy meal =)

So, run, don’t walk to Cocoron!  Just remember to bring cash, they do not accept credit/debit cards.

I ate a lot this weekend… (Kanoyama, Rubirosa, Momofuku and more)

I’ve been trying to keep vegetarian (mostly) during the week, but once the weekend comes around, I kinda go nuts…

Friday night dinner at Kanoyama with some friends:

duck

Kanoyama – Duck with miso sauce cooked on a persimmon leaf

baby conch

Kanoyama – Baby Conch with lemon and sea salt

corn tempura

Kanoyama – Corn Tempura

sashimi

Kanoyama – Sashimi Omakase

Kanoyama is my favorite casual sushi place in the city.  Very good quality and selection, you can end up spending A LOT here for a superb experience or you can scale back and still eat really well on a relative budget.  I think one of the best deals to be had here is the Sashimi Omakase, a selection of 9 different types of sashimi, about 2-3 pieces of each – all for $40 (includes soup/salad and ice cream).  They usually offer a pretty varied selection, on Friday, I had scallop, kanpachi, trout, tuna, toro, fluke, red snapper, and two kinds of mackerel.

Saturday late lunch with Kevin at Rubirosa:

Rubirosa - Vodka Pizza with mushroom and garlic

Rubirosa – Vodka Pizza with mushroom and garlic

Rubirosa serves a Staten Island style, super thin (almost cracker like) crust pizza.  The vodka pizza has the thinnest layer of delicious vodka sauce with blobs of fresh mozzarella distributed across the entire pie.  I added mushrooms and roasted garlic.  I love Rubirosa’s pizza for a light lunch, the crust is very light and crispy, no extra dough to weigh you down for the rest of the day… so you have room in your stomach for…

A perfect kouign amann from Dominique Ansel:

kouign amann

Dominique Ansel – Kouign Amann

A short stroll from Rubirosa over to the west side of Soho leads us to Dominique Ansel bakery, the only places that I know of in the city that makes kouign amann.  If anyone knows of another place to get this delicious treat, please let me know!  For those who have not yet tried this sinfully rich baked good, I suggest you RUN to Dominique Ansel to get it.  The best way I know of to describe this is:  it is like a really rich, buttery, dense, sweet, caramelized crossiant – only BETTER!  Check out some of the other offerings: here and here.

Capped off Saturday night with a late dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar:

momofuku grilled corn

Momofuku Noodle Bar – Grilled corn with Benton’s bacon, lime and cotija

Momofuku grilled octopus

Momofuku Noodle Bar – Grilled octopus with piperade, radish and pistachio

momofuku ginger scallion noodles

Momofuku Noodle Bar – Ginger scallion noodles with pickled shitake, cucumber and cabbage

I really enjoy going to Momofuku Noodle Bar for late dinners.  Although you still have to wait, it is a much shorter wait compared to during the ‘prime hours’ and while you wait, you can enjoy one of their refreshing alcoholic slushies.  I had the creamsicle slushie made with soju, orange and cream.  I don’t like orange or cream separately but when you put them together I just cannot stop thinking… Oooooohhhh ORANGE JULIUS!!!!!  When it is summer time, I see corn on the menu and I HAVE to order it.  Over the years, Momofuku Noodle Bar has done great things with corn,  but I love this season’s incarnation – their rift on the Mexican elote.  Momofuku’s version adds a great smokey flavor with Benton’s bacon and it is served off the cob, I could eat this all day without having to worry about kernels getting stuck between my teeth.  Momofuku does a great job with the grilled octopus, super tender and very tasty, it is a great dish if you want octopus in a pinch but I don’t think it compares to other octopus preparations I’ve been having recently, here and here.  Ginger and scallion noodle is my tried and true favorite here – complete comfort food when you want something lighter than Momofuku’s ramen, which is delicious, but very very rich with the pork-y broth and pork belly pieces.

Ended up in Queens for a late lunch on Sunday and decided to have some Korean BBQ at Hahm Ji Bach:

assortment of banchan

Hahm Ji Bach – assortment of banchan

haemool pajeon

Hahm Ji Bach – haemool pajeon

kalbi

Hahm Ji Bach – marinated kalbi

bibim naengmyun

Hahm Ji Bach – bibim naengmyun

My first time here and I liked it a lot…  Their haemool pajeon is really good, not too thick, not too thin, the best part is their choice of ingredients.  Most restaurants should really call their haemool pajeon (seafood pancake), squid and tons of scallion pancake, but Hahm Ji Bach does it right and includes baby squid, scallops, shrimps and mussels in their version, soooo good!  I will be back to try their samgyupsal, which is apparently what they are known for.

  • Kanoyama – 175 2nd Ave (at 11th street)
  • Rubirosa – 235 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring)
  • Dominique Ansel – 189 Spring Street
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar – 171 1st Ave
  • Hahm Ji Bach – 41-08 149th Place (Flushing, NY)