9/22/14

Sorba The Great

Ramen may be the new it food in NYC, but don't you hate it when your noodles and toppings are overrun with broth? Enter Sorba--a new noodle bowl concoction brought to you from Japanese Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya and his new Flatiron restaurant, Koa. The concept of sorba focuses on presentation in a large bowl, handcrafted noodles made from soymilk imported from Japan, and a shallow amount of broth meant to supplement the noodles and toppings, and not the other way around. In addition to sorba, Koa features many traditional Chinese dishes executed with a Japanese flair. I was invited to try the just opened restaurant this past weekend with the boyfriend and would heartily recommend that you check it out!


After being greeted by co-owners Keiko Ono Aoki (of Benihana fame) and Tora Matsuoka, we were seated in the front dining room, which is wrapped in rich wood and decorated with elegant white leather chairs and hanging rope "noodles." The back dining room is designed around a large square bar and features giant iron birdcage chandeliers and hanging tree branches. Tora introduced us to the restaurant concept and designed a menu for us featuring Koa's signature dishes and of course, sake.

We started with the yuzu crispy shrimp with sweet & spicy yuzu pepper cream sauce ($14), crispy crabmeat wontons with coconut chili powder and sweet chili sauce ($10), vegetable spring rolls with sweet miso sauce ($9), and the Szechuan salad ($12).

Crispy crabmeat wontons ($10)
Vegetable spring rolls ($9)

Yuzu crispy shrimp ($14)
Szechuan salad ($12)


The yuzu shrimp was our favorite of the appetizers--tangy, succulent, and crunchy with a late, late kick. It was definitely nice to have a glass of light sake on hand to wash things down with. The Szechuan salad will not be for everyone. It is made with traditionally Szechuan peppercorns that create a tingling, numbing sensation on your tongue as you eat. It is a very different, yet fun, experience. The spring rolls were good but fairly typical and the wontons were great, creamy on the inside but fried to a perfect crisp.

Next up cocktail-wise was the Yu-Gin with Bulldog gin, yuzu juice, cucumber, shiso, and tonic water. It was a refreshing accompaniment to our second course of steamed Chilean sea bass with
broccoli ($29). This was a dish, Aoki explained, that showcased the clean, simple Japanese technique on a typical Chinese dish (which would normally be covered in sauce). Koa's version focused on the freshness of the fish and sprinkled it with some flair--ginger scallion sauce, flecks of bell pepper, and crispy sticks of fried creamy. This was a winning dish for sure.

The Yu-Gin and the front dining room of Koa

Steamed Chilean sea bass ($29)

Next, Tora brought out Koa's signature sorba dish, the soymilk dan dan with ground beef and soymilk broth ($23). If you've ever tried a traditional dan dan noodle dish before, you know the feeling of not being able to stop eating because the second you do you realize how on fire your mouth is, but for some masochistic reason, you go back to slurping. This dish is somewhat reminiscent of that, but much, much milder. That's thanks to the soymilk. The story goes (as we were told twice), that the Iron Chef came to the US and tried the 6 different soymilks available here and spat them all out in disgust. So Koa imports a special brand from Japan which enables dishes like the soymilk dan dan to be very balanced and really shine.

Soymilk dan dan sorba ($23)
We capped things off with a bowl of yuzu sorbet, a very refreshing palate cleanser, and the Lady M cocktail with Ciroc coconut vodka, soy milk, three wishes infused syrup, and premium matcha green tea. The cocktail was one of my favorite items of the night and would go back just for that dessert drink--super creamy but no dairy!

Yuzu sorbet

Lady M cocktail



















Koa just opened for weekend service so it was pretty empty when we were there (usually a red flag for me), but I'm sure with word of mouth and a few adventurous ramen lovers looking for something a little different, this will soon be a tough reservation to snag. Check it out and let us know what you think.


KOA Restaurant on Urbanspoon

8/22/14

Phantom of the Opera: Always a Classic

Phantom of the Opera is one of those shows that only gets better with age--and it should know, having been an esteemed presence on Broadway for 26 years! I was recently invited back to see the show (my 4th time!) to check out Norm Lewis, of Scandal fame, as the production's first African American Phantom.


What can I say other than he was fabulous? Seriously. Lewis brought swagger and strength to a role I usually associated with more of a wimpy figure. This was highly noticeable in the most vulnerable moments of the show. Leading lady Sierra Boggess (Christine DaaƩ) was breathtaking as well, and I highly recommend a trip to the theater to see both of them, even if you've already seen it before. That "Masquerade" scene gets me singing every time!


To celebrate 26 years on Broadway, the show is hosting a contest! To enter to win one of 5 pairs of tickets to the show, you can decorate and submit your own Phantom mask--make it creative because the top 26 masks will be featured in a miniature exhibit hosted at a pop-up shop at the Paramount Hotel and auctioned off to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Enter here through Sunday 8/24 and get your friends to vote through 8/31. Good luck!


8/1/14

The Funnier Side of NYC Etiquette

Proper behavior in public always seems to be a no brainer, but how many times have you walked down the street in a hurry only to be blockaded by a couple taking up the entire sidewalk, leisurely strolling hand-in-hand? How many times have you wanted to hold a subway hold at shoulder level only to be forced to grab the ceiling handle because a selfish straphanger decided to drape his body like a Gumby doll all over the vertical pole? As a New Yorker, you are faced with bad behavior on a daily basis, so just to put it all out in the open, take a look at these helpful, but damn hilarious, GIFs from Nathan W. Pyle (author of NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette).


Click here to see more.


7/29/14

An Awesome Birthday: Tips to Help You Plan a Large Gathering in the East Village

I celebrated a birthday last week and wanted to plan a night out including dinner and drinks with friends and my Dad who was in town. I quickly learned that it is near impossible to plan an outing for more than 8 people in this city without a restaurant forcing you do pay for a $40 and up price fixe meal that doesn't even include alcohol. I love you NYC, but sometimes you are so gosh darn ridiculously expensive!

However, my hours of research and some bar scoping paid off and I of course wanted to share my insight with you in case you are looking to plan a similar event.

DINNER









190 1st Avenue between 11th and 12th streets
(212) 358-7171

Tree has been a longtime favorite of mine for their year-round garden, outstanding service, and simple yet elegant food. They could not have been easier to work with and assured me that they accommodate large parties often. They even do weddings! As such, I simply made a reservation for 18 people via email (which changed to 15 the day of with no penalties) and they allowed us to order off the menu--no required price fixe and no deposit whatsoever. It was like living in event dream world! 

As for food, I'd highly recommend the "Sunday Morning" flatbread ($16), duck meatloaf ($22) and Cookies and Cream Panna Cotta ($7).

Here we all are at dinner:


DRINKS



133 Avenue C between 8th and 9th streets
(347) 465-7911

For after dinner drinks I wanted to find someplace close to the restaurant without the college and post-college vibe that plague many East Village bars (not that there wasn't a time and place for that in years prior!). A friend and I did a Monday tour of 4 bars in the area and settled on The Summit Bar for it's clever but not rip-roaring expensive cocktail menu, the friendly bartenders, and (again) the ease with which it was to make a reservation. The long, skinny bar can section-off either the front or back areas, and I chose to go with the front because it is surrounded by tables which makes it semi-private and is close to the bar. All I had to do was call up a couple weeks in advance and let them know how many people--no deposit necessary and no penalties. 

I would highly recommend both the Sutter's Mill ($12 - Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Cinnamon Agave, Pineapple, Lemon) and The Guv'nor ($12 - Famous Grouse Scotch, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Toasted Cardamom Infused Agave, Japanese Yuzu Juice, Orange Juice) cocktails.

7/28/14

Celebrating Justin Timberlake Broadway Style

If you know what music is you likely know Justin Timberlake. The former Mickey Mouse Club member turned N*Sync frontman and ultimately a music icon has practically reinvented the Pop genre to a point where everyone wants a bit of the action. This past Monday, the stars of Broadway took their swing at a few of JT's hits at the "Broadway Sings Justin Timberlake" concert at Le Poisson Rouge.


LPR is one of my favorite venues for its intimate setting, wide variety of food options, and killer cocktails. They feature acts that you won't see anywhere else and the club does it all with a trendy vibe. When you go to a show here, you can't help but feel like you're in a place everyone wants to be.

For seated performances, they have a 2 food or drink item minimum per person. My Dad and I ordered the Margherita Flatbread ($11) and Roasted Beet Salad with Chicken ($14), respectively, and split the Chicken Satay ($11). I also sipped on the Cool Hand Cuke cocktail ($14) -- very refreshing in this humidity!

Margherita Flatbread ($11)
Roasted Beet Salad with Chicken ($14)
Chicken Satay ($11)
Cool Hand Cuke cocktail ($14)

It's been a few years since I've been a diehard JT fan (oh, to relive 7th grade!), but his songs are so ingrained in daily life that they are hard to escape and I can't help but tap my feet to all of them. The great thing about his music is its versatility. Stars from Cinderella's and Sister Act's sassy Marla Mindelle to the brilliant Tony Winner Lena Hall (currently on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch) to the soulful yet playful Marcus Paul James (of Rent fame) belted out everything from "Mirrors" to "Cry Me a River" to, yes, even "Dick in a Box." Here are a few clips:




Producer Corey Mach did the most spot-in rendition of JT with his version of "It's Gonna Be Me," and was also part of the N*Sync medley along with Max Chernin, Ben Fankhauser, Jason Gotay, and Mykal Kilgore. Wow can these boys sing! Part of me felt like we had all been transported back to 2001 and I couldn't have been happier about it. The only part that sucked was that my memory card had filled already and I couldn't get it on camera.

The best part of Lena Hall's performance was that she was in full Yitzhak character (SEE HEDWIG NOW!!!). She sang "Senorita" and received the most audience interaction. I couldn't help but wonder about all of the training she had to go through to act and sing like a man. It's truly impressive!

Another excellent performance was the "My Love" duet by Jason Gotay and Ari Groover. Gotay delivered a smooth introduction and then Groover took it away with an amazing rap section. I almost thought Mary J Blige had walked in the club.

Darren Bluestone sings "Dick in a Box"
Corey Mach sings "It's Gonna Be Me"
Ari Groover and Jason Gotay sing "My Love"
Shaleah Adkisson, Amber Iman, Crystal Joy sing "God Must Have Spent"
Andy Mientus sings "Not a Bad Thing"
Max Chernin, Ben Fankhauser, Jason Gotay, Mykal Kilgore and Corey Mach sing an N*Sync Medley
Natalie Weiss sings "Gone"
Lena Hall as Yitzhak singes "Senorita"
The whole cast as Mykal Kilgore finishes "Pusher Love Girl"
Mach announced the next installment of Broadway Sings will be Broadway Sings Pink, due sometime this December. I'll be sure to announce it when I get the details. This will not be a show to miss!

I was invited by LPR to see the show but we paid for our food and drinks. All opinions are my own!

Move Over Coconut Water

With my recently increased fitness regimen and the soupy air we've been swimming to work in lately, staying hydrated has been no easy feat. I've been minorly obsessed with coconut water for some time, but I was recently invited to try something new that I wanted to share with you. Introducing: maple water!


DRINKmaple is a new player on the post-workout hydration scene, and I suspect they are about to be the new "it" thing, especially given that many people don't like the taste of coconut. Maple water is sourced by sustainably tapping a maple tree in the same way as is done to make maple syrup, but instead of putting the sap through a refining process to create that sticky sweetness we pour over waffles, the "water" is simply packaged and ready to go. Each serving has only 20 calories and 4g of sugar. It also contains 46 naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and prebiotics.

I sampled maple. after a Spin class and was intrigued by its earthy, almost woody flavor. It's less sweet than coconut water, but equally refreshing, and I loved the hint of maple flavor that was most apparent in the aftertaste.

You can find maple. in retailers all over the city including at Hu Kitchen, Westside Market, Feel Food, and O Cafe.




7/16/14

Where Drinking and Sword Fighting Go Together

Well, not quite sword fighting.

Stand back everyone, because you are about to learn how to impress all your friends with a new party trick. Champagne sabering is an age-old tradition of opening a bottle of bubbly with one fell swoop. For $50, the folks at LIC bar The Baroness will teach you all you need to know about wielding the sword and you get to drink the Champagne. Or, you know, you could share it with a friend.


The swashbuckler in me is super intrigued, so I'll keep you posted if I decide to take the slice, but if anyone beats me to it, please comment how it went!