Cafe China, NYC

I ate at Cafe China twice this summer. My first visit was a solitary one but I managed to slurp down some passable, but not delicate or soup-y enough soup dumplings.

IMG_0065.JPG

I was disappointed that I’d wasted the space though, when presented with a luscious tea smoked duck with moist meat and perfect, shatteringly crisp skin.

IMG_0067.JPG

In an effort, to eat a somewhat balanced meal I ordered some bok choi which actually came out perfectly cooked – a crisp and garlicky compliment to the duck. The meal was a convincing argument for why this small Chinese restaurant earned a Michelin star.

IMG_0066.JPG

On a second visit, the soup dumplings were still lackluster, but the lamb dumplings in chili oil were so excellent that we asked for a second order. There were also some delicious dan dan noodles. But sadly, it was busy and I don’t think the kitchen was prepared to keep up. The duck had floppy skin which took the dish from star-worthy to disappointing. We ordered a whole fish that was nicely cooked and beautifully filleted – but served in a cloying sauce. And the waiter steered us away from the authentic ma la flavors of a chicken dish to a beef and bell pepper dish that could have come as take out from any Chinese take-out joint in the city. I’d certainly come back, but I’d make sure to do it at a less busy hour in hopes that that crispy duck skin could be a part of my meal.

Little Sister, Manhattan Beach, CA

Little Sister is so good that on a recent trip to Los Angles I had to visit the spot twice. The best dish has to be a whole lobster deep fried salt and pepper style.

IMG_0063.JPG

If you save part of the body they will take it back and turn it into an excellent, eggy fried rice that is served in a hot bowl and gets crunchy on the bottom (everybody knows my kryptonite is crispy rice).

IMG_0064.JPG

I don’t have any other photos because I was enjoying the excellent company – but a papaya salad with grilled shrimp, the shaky beef, the grilled pork spring rolls and the ma la pickles were also excellent. If I had one tiny bit of criticism it would be that some dishes could have packed a little more heat. But that won’t keep me away next time I’m by the beach (which hopefully is soon)!

Starry Kitchen, Los Angeles

Go to this place and eat chili crab with beer beignets. I shouldn’t need to say anything else, though actually the other food is fantastic and innovative too (I just can’t stop thinking about that crab meat in addictive fiery sauce). The quirky location inside a dive bar adds tons of character too. P.S. You have to call 24 hours in advance to get a crab.  The answering machine will tell you they aren’t open.  Don’t believe it. Leave a message or call from a mobile phone so they can text you back!

IMG_5077.JPG
FullSizeRender

The Partisan, Washington DC

We were really excited when one of our two favorite Washington butchers got in to the restaurant game for real so we have been dying to try The Partisan since it was opened by the Red Apron team. We finally got a chance for our anniversary a couple weeks ago. Almost everything (on the food and service front both) was fabulous, only a guanchiale and english pea pasta was a little disappointing because the pasta was overcooked.

The meal started with some excellent (though not quite as light and airy as those at the Publican) pork rinds with a spicy BBQ dust and some delicious (but unnecessary IMO) BBQ sauce.

IMG_0057.JPG

We then moved on to the raw meats. A beef tartare with cured egg yolk was delicious, very freshly ground, and well spiceed. The cured and slightly set egg yolk served as a rich spread to layer between the beef and the (what should have been slightly crunchier) toast.

IMG_0059.JPG

We then moved on to the 120 day dry aged carpaccio. This was the best carpaccio I’ve ever had. Incredibly rich and the dry aging gave it an incredibly beefy flavor. It was like the best bite of meat I’ve ever eaten. I really wonder what it would taste like sliced slightly thicker with a char on one side.

IMG_0058.JPG

<

Then we ate some cooked stuff. Sweet langoustines with a nice lemony olive oil, didn't quite rival St. John, but I love these little buggers which I so rarely see in the US and was very satisfied.

IMG_0060-0.JPG

And some whisky braised lamb ribs that paired succulent slightly fatty meat with a sauce that could have been, but somehow wasn’t, too sweet. I could probably have eaten another order.

IMG_0061.JPG

We finished with some very nicely served whisky and walnut bourbon pie that managed to envelop my favorite nut in a lovely crumbly bacon fat crust (it didn’t taste like bacon but it tasted like some seriously buttery but more umami goodness).

IMG_0062.JPG

We can’t wait to go back with a bigger group to try the larger dishes like the fried chicken, aged duck (which looked delectable as they floated by to other tables), the massive rib eye,and the very adventurous whole pig head.

Summer Sides

While I can pretty much eat tomato and watermelon salad every single day during the summer but I’ve been adding some different sides to the rotation this week.

IMG_4785-0.JPG

IMG_4783-0.JPG

Charred shisito peppers topped with a little smoked maldon sea salt are about as easy as you can get.

IMG_4809-0.JPG

Buttered farmer’s market potatoes with garlic chives pretty much effortless as well. Especially when they are as beautiful as these.

IMG_4812.JPG

IMG_4804.JPG

And bacon roasted carrots and radishes tossed with basil are an unusual but vibrant addition with any grilled meat.

IMG_4815.JPG

IMG_4813.JPG
And finally my take on the bizarre Korean side dish of cheese corn. This used cream and gochujang instead of mayonnaise and was topped with scallions, Amish cheddar and cotija cheese. Now there’s some fusion for you. And it was delicious too!