Han Dynasty

Han Dynasty
90 3rd Avenue
New York, NY  10003
212.390.8685
Mondays – Wednesdays, Sundays, 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Thursdays – Saturdays, 11:30 AM – 11 PM
http://www.handynasty.net/

Han Dynasty is a Sichuan restaurant chain based in Philly.  The hubs and I stopped by to check this place out, as we had heard that they were famous for their dan dan noodles.

Their menu was pretty extensive, offering appetizers (such as pork belly with sweet chili oil sauce, beef & trip in chili oil, spicy crispy cucumber, etc.), soups, noodle dishes, fried rice, various entrees (dry pot, cumin-focused, etc.), specials (ginger duck, spicy tofu fish, spicy hot pot, etc.), vegetables, and lunch specials.

We got an order of the Dan Dan Noodle as well as an order for the Cold Sesame Noodles.  YUM!  The Dan Dan Noodle was super spicy, but the flavor was pretty good – the noodles were slightly overcooked, but I am thinking because of the heat from the sauce, as this is a hot noodle dish.  This is probably one of the best dan dan noodle I’ve had!

The Cold Sesame Noodles was also unbelievably good, and the hubs remarked on how it is one of the best cold sesame noodles he’s had!  The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, and the sesame sauce was just so peanuty and yummy!

I highly suggest in ordering both of these noodle dishes, as the Cold Sesame Noodles is a way to ‘cool’ off your tongue after eating the spicy Dan Dan Noodle!

Note that the menu rates the spiciness level from 1-10 (the Dan Dan Noodle is rated at a 6 – no joke!).

Service was a little on the slower end but friendly, so just be persistent in waving them down if you need anything!  I can’t wait to go back!

+Cold Sesame Noodle
+Dan Dan Noodle
+spiciness level is noted on the menu

Advertisements

Ninth Street Espresso

Ninth Street Espresso
Lombardy Hotel
109 East 56th St
New York, NY  10022
646.559.4793
Mondays – Fridays, 7 AM – 7 PM
Saturdays & Sundays, 8 AM – 5PM
http://www.ninthstreetespresso.com/

The Ninth Street Espresso is considered the first quality-driven, specialty coffee bar in the city.  They are located between the Harlow and the Lombardy Hotel, and have a very small, but honest menu – since this is a coffee place, they offer what they are known for: coffee!  Brewed coffee, iced coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk (they also have tea, too).

Underneath the cash register, there is a little case of pastries from Balthazar’s: plain and almond croissants, danishes, and muffins.

I had the espresso with milk and an almond croissant.  The espresso came with a cute heart art on top – very strong, but very tasty, and probably one of the best espressos I’ve had!

The almond croissant was also nice, as it was pretty large, had a nice caramelized/crunchy crust with slivers of almond, and it was perfect with the cup of espresso.

The baristas here are friendly, professional, and really take care in making a perfect cup (you can see that in how they prepare the beverage for you!).  Definitely a cute place to stop by to get some caffeine!

+delicious espresso with milk
+Balthazar pastries (almond croissant)

Cocoron

Cocoron
61 Delancey Street
New York, NY  10002
212.925.5220
Tuesdays – Saturdays, 12 PM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 11 PM
Sundays, 12 PM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 10:30 PM
http://www.cocoron-soba.com/

I’ve been wanting to try out Cocoron for a while, a little soba shop owned by Yoshihito Kida.

This small eatery has few tables and a wrap-around counter seating, and offers appetizers, salads, kobachi, cold and warm soba, vegetarian soba options, and desserts.

I really liked the cute little characters, decorating the menu as well as the chopsticks.

The hubs and I shared a Yokozuna Dip Soba, which was a miso-based broth that comes out bubbling, filled with vegetables and meat.  It was saltier and slightly thicker, but the saltiness is offset by being paired wonderfully with the perfectly-cooked soba noodles.  Some just dump the whole noodles into the broth, but those who like to eat dainty-ly, dip the noodles in it.

Once you are done, you are given a little jar of hot soba water where you ‘dilute’ the leftover/remaining broth.  This changes the taste of the broth completely, which you can now drink it more of like a soup (called ‘soba-yu’).

I’ve only had cold soba noodles before, but this dip version is just so delicious and much more preferable!  The broth is super flavorful, and it really warms you up – perfect for cold weather or if you’re sick!

Service is super friendly and super sweet, and once you’re done, you are given some hot green tea.

I highly recommend in avoiding the bathroom, as it is super small, unisex, and the heater is on non-stop (I almost passed out!) – just use it to wash your hands!

Another note is that this place is cash only.  I can’t wait to go back!

+Yokozuna Dip Soba
+Soba-yu (dilute with soba water with remaining broth to sip)
+friendly staff
+avoid the bathroom!
+cash only

Potatopia

Potatopia
378 6th Avenue
New York, NY  10011

212.260.4100
Sundays – Thursdays, 10 AM – 10 PM
Fridays – Saturdays, 10 AM – 11 PM
https://potatopia.com/

I think Potatopia is just super cute!  If you’re a fan of potatoes (who isn’t?!), be sure to check this place out – their menu offers build-your-own potato hits (you first start off by choosing a protein (oven roasted chicken, marinated sirloin steak, spiced beef, vegetarian chili, BBQ pulled pork, smokehouse bacon, or cajun shrimp), then you pick your potato (baked potato, baked sweet potato, mashed potatoes, tater tots, smashed red skins, thick-cut chips, shoestring fries, cajun curly fries, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, or waffle cut fries), toppings (such as marinated tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, hot pepper relish, parsley, fresh garlic, etc.), cheeses, and a sauce (like savory bacon aioli, greek yogurt honey, horseradish, BBQ, etc.)), or for those who are indecisive, you can try one of their signatures.

I tried their Bacon Overload, which contained shoestring fries (regular fries), double smokehouse bacon (an overwhelming amount!), red onion slices, smoked gouda, and scallions; I swapped out the chipotle aioli for the garlic aioli, which was a great substitution – the fries were super crispy and hot, and the toppings were of massive amount.  I really liked how this place takes the ‘bacon overload’ literally, as there was tons of bacon in it!  The garlic aioli was creamy and was of a generous drizzle that there was enough for dipping opportunities for all the fries in the bowl.

I loved the potato logo that they have (on the napkins and on the cups), and there is even a little pad where you can sketch your own ‘potato’ – AHAHAHA

Staff here were super friendly, and there is plenty of counter/bar seating.  If you’re craving for some potato-y goodness, check Potatopia out – you won’t be disappointed!

+’Bacon Overload’ – swap the chipotle aioli for the garlic aioli!
+cute potato logo

Chalait

Chalait
224 W 4th Street

New York, NY  10014
212.929.0266
Mondays – Fridays, 7 AM – 7 PM

Saturdays & Sundays, 8 AM – 7 PM
http://www.chalait.com/

I really love Chalait!  The hubs and I had just landed in NYC, and while we were on our way to get some breakfast, we saw Chalait – we had to stop by to check it out!

The place itself is so cute – bright, white, and open with clean lines.  The menu offers tartines, sandwiches, matcha, coffee, and tea beverages.

Teena welcomed us warmly, and gave us some suggestions and recommendations.  We ended up getting a Miso Butter Toast (crispy toast smeared with miso butter, a perfectly soft-boiled egg, sliced avocado, and a side of arugula salad; this was sooo yummy!  The saltiness from the miso butter paired perfectly with the crispy toast and the avocado; yum yum yum!); a Matcha Latte (matcha shot with steamed milk – I opted for whole milk; this had a wonderful deep matcha taste to it, and it was creamy from the steamed milk; it even came with a lovely latte art!); and, a cup of Chalait Hot Chocolate (matcha latte with chocolate sauce – this was not sweet at all, as it was more of a twist on the matcha latte with a drizzle of chocolate).

Anthony, who was the professional barista, was super cool and super awesome!

There are little hooks under the counter to hang your bags, and the place itself was a nice refreshing way to begin your day!  I would love to come back and try out their other plates and their other matcha-oriented beverages.  Check this cute little gem out!

+Miso Butter Toast
+Matcha Latte
+beautiful latte art
+ask for Anthony, the awesome barista!
+ask for Teena
+bag hooks under the counter!

Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
126 Rivington Street
New York, NY  10002
212.995.1960
Mondays – Thursdays, 8 AM – 10 PM
Fridays, 8 AM – 11 PM
Sundays, 10 AM – 7 PM
http://sugarsweetsunshine.com/

Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery is such a cute bakery!  The hubs and I stopped by here to check out their baked goods, as I’d heard that they had some awesome pudding and cupcakes!

The place is owned by Peg & Deb and has been around since ’03.  The menu consists of cakes, cupcakes, layer cakes, pudding, pies, bars, cookies, iced sugar cookies, and custom-order offerings.

I tried the Pinch Me! cupcake, which was a strawberry cake topped with whipped peanut butter mousse – OMG, this is literally one of the best cupcakes I’ve had!  I really loved how fluffy and moist the strawberry cake was, and the light whipped mousse peanut butter-flavored top was a lovely pairing!

I also tried a small cup of their Banana Puddin,’ and this was plain MAGICAL – chunks of bananas throughout, the pudding itself was the right consistency of creaminess and thickness, and it had a lovely delicious taste!

The staff here were super friendly and awesome, and there are some tables where you can enjoy your treats.  I loved the Polaroids of the locals’ pups that’s taped on the wall by the cashier – so cute!

Definitely a cute bakery to check out, and I can’t wait to come back and try out their other cupcakes, pies, and cookies!

+Banana Puddin’
+Pinch Me! cupcake
+friendly staff
+Polaroids of pets

 

Babbo

Babbo
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY  10011

212.777.0303
Tuesdays – Saturdays, 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM, 5:30 PM – 11:15 PM
Mondays, 5:30 PM – 11:15 PM
Sundays, 5 PM – 10:45 PM
http://www.babbonyc.com/

I’ve been to a handful of Italian restaurants, and this one, I can say, tops all of the ones I’ve tried so far (and am sure will top anything else I try in the future or the rest of my life)!

My husband and I came here, being underdressed (there were people who fancied up, and a few who came with jeans; they didn’t make us feel uncomfortable, though!).  We swooped in without making a reservation, so being seated in the back of the restaurant was out of the question.

However, we were seated by the bar/front of the restaurant area with smaller tables meant for 2, which I thought, was perfectly fine!  I do think it was actually more romantic than being all elbow-to-elbow in the back with no sense of privacy.  The place does get packed, and without reservations, you are looking to an hour to an hour-and-a-half wait.  It is definitely worth it, though!

I ordered the  Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette for the appetizer/antipasti, and it was grilled, full of octopus-flavor, and a hint of a citrus action to it.  It was good.  For the main dish, I ordered the  Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles.  Hands down, I literally died and had gone to heaven when I took my first forkful!  It was filled with bits of rock shrimp, a plentiful handful of salami calabrese which was just like precious pricey bacon bits in your mouth.  The sauce was this oil-like coat that was all over the black spaghetti noodles, and it was spiked and infused with garlic and the chili.  The dish itself was spicy, but not spicy enough that you are sweating like a salami yourself.  The portion was perfect.  I LOVED it, and I licked the plate clean, literally!

My husband ordered the Gnocchi  with Braised Oxtail, and the portion was on the smaller side – I expected it to be at least 2 or 3 times as much.  He loved the gnocchi, and he did mention that the oxtail was good.  He just wanted more!

For dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Orange Sauce and Hazelnut Gelato; this one can knock your tooth out, so if you have a sweet tooth for chocolate and the hazelnut combo, this could be your cup of tea.  It was overall good, but I preferred my dessert, which was Saffron Panna Cotta with Quince, Pink Peppercorn and Quince Sorbetto and rhubarb pieces.  The panna cotta was flan-like, and it melted in your mouth.  The rhubarb dices were a great tang-like flavor and great crunchiness with the panna cotta.  The sorbet was delicious, refreshing, and lovely with the overall plate.

I loved the service – it was attentive, always refilling your glass with NY’s finest tap water, and it wasn’t rushed nor slow.  I would come back here and wait another 1-2 hours for the food.  Neverending kudos to Batali!!!

+Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles
+Mario Batali-owned

19f15c98-f143-47bc-a349-63ee7bcadb26

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J

Brooklyn, NY  11230
718.258.1367
Wednesdays & Saturdays, 12 PM – 8 PM
Sundays, 1 PM – 8 PM
Closed Mondays & Tuesdays

http://www.difara.com/

It has been however many years since I’ve been trying to go to Di Fara, but it never worked out – until, at last, on our recent trip, we were able to make our way out there!

Owned by Mr. Domenico DeMarco (also known as ‘Dom’), he immigrated to NY from Italy back in ’59.  Most of his family members were bakers and master pizziaolos, and when he first arrived to the States, he worked as a farmer; eventually, in ’64, he opened Di Fara Pizza.

The menu offers pizza slices (regular, square, with topping, or with specialty topping), pizza pies (regular pie, square pie, or the DiFara Classic Pie (with sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions), and calzones.  Toppings selection include: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, garlic, black olives, meatballs, anchovies, peppers, artichokes, porcini mushrooms, green olives, baby eggplant, broccoli rabe, prosciutto, sun-dried roasted peppers, sun-dried tomato, and semi-dried cherry tomatoes.

When we arrived (very convenient off, literally right across from the Q), there was already a line, but not too long.  I just put in an order of one Square slice of pepperoni and garlic, requested a ‘corner’ piece, and waited for about 1.5 hours.  Now, I didn’t mind waiting, as I was just so happy that I was finally able to try this place out.  I’ve noticed that other larger parties ordered either a small or a large square, which I will probably do, as I saw one that was extra well-done, and it literally came out sizzling (had similar toppings as me) – it looked AMAZING.

When I was finally able to try mine, I found it to be pretty tasty!  I wished I requested it to be extra well-done (which I usually do), but I think I got too excited and couldn’t think straight!  Either way, the dough was nice and crispy, nonetheless, and held the toppings well – the ingredients were quite generous – copious amounts of pepperoni and fresh garlic that you can actually taste, and I loved the chunky tomato sauce that tasted oh-so-fresh!  Loved that!  I also loved the automatic additions of the basil and the olive oil – definitely adds that extra pizazz!

I loved how Mr. Dom was there, assembling the pizza, cutting the fresh basil, drizzling olive oil, checking the temperature, checking the baking progress in the oven, and transferring it onto the tray for the patrons to chow down.

The restaurant itself is small (only seats 19 (and, yes, I counted the number of chairs; there are only 3 tables as well, so expect to share space!).  I’d love to come back again, but this time, I would order a whole Square pie, extra well-done, and gobble up them corner pieces!  Also, don’t be shy in asking for chili flakes as well as Parm cheese – the guy who takes the order is very generous in his pourings (also very nice and very efficient!).

I thanked Mr. Dom on my way out, and he gave me such a sweet smile and a wave – HEART HEART HEART.  Definitely check Di Fara out!

+seeing Mr. Dom in action!
+Square pizza – pepperoni and garlic; extra well-done (corner pieces will be fought over!)
+automatic addings of basil and olive oil
+lovely chunky tomato sauce
+19 seats, 3 tables; sharing will be inevitable
+across from Q station

The Bohemian

The Bohemian
57 Great Jones Street

New York, NY  10012
Phone number is not displayed due to its ‘secrecy’

The Bohemian is an exclusive/secret/underground restaurant (sister restaurant to the Nishiazabu’s location; I heard this space used to be Warhol’s loft!!!) that you can only get reservations with a REFERRAL from a past/regular patron (YES, THEY CHECK, so don’t go on being shady!).

We came here to celebrate the hubs’ birthday – they have two seatings – 6PM or 9PM.  Finding the place was slightly tricky, but it’s strategically located by the butcher shop.  Once you ring the bell, you are confirmed on their list.  There’s a coat rack in the front where you can hang up your belongings and you are shown to your table.

The restaurant itself is SO SO SO CUTE (and clean)!  There’s a little ‘nature-istic’ decor on the far side of the restaurant and lovely art pieces from the artist, Seiji Yamauchi; there are only 21 seats in the main area (3 2-seaters, 2 3-seaters, and 2 4-seaters), and some more seats up at the bar.  Considering how this restaurant is so secretive, I loved how totally unpretentious it was!  We were greeted warmly, and our server, Karen, was so cute and lovely, and made sure that our dining experience was wonderful!

We were given lovely scented warm hand towels while deciding on what to order. We had the tasting course; this came with a ‘Farmer’s Fresh Vegetable Fondue’ – very fresh and crispy parsnips, radicchio, bell peppers, juicy & plump cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers, all dip-able in a lovely cheese sauce that was so creamy and yummy (husband was a total fan!).  Next was the Uni Croquette, which was filled with a mushroom cream, topped with creamy uni – this literally tasted like a cream of mushroom in a croquette form .  Next, we had a Washu-Beef Short Rib Sashimi – thinly-sliced, marinated, and lovely with the pickled/delicately-sliced garlic, dipped in the soy sauce mixture.  Yum!  The main entree was the Pan-Roasted Branzino with farmer’s seasonal vegetables – it came in a hot skillet, and the whole fish was delicate and flaky.  The side of the pan-roasted vegetables (potatoes, brussel sprouts, and half of a roasted garlic bulb) were so delicious.  Next, you were able to choose between the Bohemian’s Washu-Beef Mini Burger with fried potatoes or the Sashimi Rice Bowl with Japanese Cucumber Pickles with Toss-zu jelly.  My husband had the burger, while I had the rice bowl.  The burger was done medium rare, which I was not a fan of (I probably would request the patty to be well-done next time!).  I enjoyed my Sashimi Rice Bowl, with the fresh sashimi and the seasoned rice – yum!

Before the conclusion of our tasting, I, of course, had to add additional plates – Karen was a bit nervous at first, as she said that the tasting is a lot of food, but we ensured her that we can EAT and that we could handle it (yes, she was impressed with us at the end AHAHAHA)  We tried out the Homemade Pickled Cauliflower (this was delicious, as the large cauliflower florets were pickled in this great brine, and had this sweet/tangy taste going on), the Toro-Taku Roll (with daikon pickles, scallions, roasted sesame, and shiso leaf – garguantuan in size, it had a generous amount of toro; my husband was a fan of this), the Bohemian Mac & Cheese (similar to the fondue cheese; came with a tomato butter toast), the Cazuela Garlic Shrimp (which came with a shrimp paste (not a fan) and sliced baguette; loved the minced garlic and the salty whole olives within), the Kuro Buta Pork Loin (topped with cacao-nibs and mixed spices with roasted baby onions – the pork was SO JUICY – it was cooked perfectly and great with a little dip-age of the course salt); and, the Tokyo Teriyaki Washi-Beef Mini Burger (enjoyed the teriyaki sauce; came with pickles).

The ending of the tasting was with the Yuzu Pannacotta – literally, one of the best desserts I’ve had in my life!  So creamy and delicious, and the tangy yuzu was a lovely complement!  My husband also had a lovely creamy vanilla ice cream scoop as a birthday treat!  My husband also had a strawberry basil frozen drink that was really nice – fresh and not overly sweet.

The manager, Kadori, was also awesome – extremely kind and also checked up on us.  I really enjoyed this experience and will definitely be back.  I would probably order off the a la carte and am curious of any of their new additions.  On a side note, they have a bidet in the bathroom – um, it was awesome with its warm seats (I know, TMI).

+lovely underground Japanese dining experience
+awesome staff

ob c d