Three Notable Dishes in New York City

My trip last month to the East Coast ended with a weekend in New York City. Food was my focus and I ended up dining by myself a lot of the time. I was excited to try Miznon, an International restaurant serving Israeli street food located in Chelsea Market. This is the only location in the United States and they just opened this year so I felt lucky to have the opportunity to eat here. The other Miznon locations are in Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, and Melbourne.  

Miznon is known for their pita stuffed with fresh and seasonally inspired ingredients. I ordered pita with rib eye minute steak with tahini, tomato salsa, and pickles. I was in heaven as it was pure harmony, one bite after another. If I still lived in New York City, this would be a regular stop for me.

I have yet to travel to Japan, but this meal is one I would suspect would be a traditional one and why I think I would love traveling through Japan. I enjoyed brunch at Bessou on Bleecker Street. I ordered the Japanese breakfast set which came with sea bass, veggies, assorted pickles, a cold poached egg in soy, miso soup, and rice. It was fun to have a variety of food especially when I was eating by myself. I enjoyed the lightness and simplicity of my meal. Sitting at the bar, I watched a lot of food come out of the kitchen and next time I might go with steak and eggs or bananas foster pancakes!
After almost a week away from home, I was craving Chinese food. One place I had bookmarked was King’s Kitchen in Chinatown. I had lunch with my cousins who live a few blocks away. I ordered clay pot rice with preserved meats, which is a dish that always brings me comfort. It came with the usual Chinese bacon and Chinese sausage, but had the addition of taro which was nice. But honestly, you always find the best part at the bottom of the clay pot, the extra crispy rice.
I would say it wasn’t a bad way to spend a weekend!

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When in Philly, Eat at Zahav

Last month I traveled to Philadelphia for a couple of days and I ate some amazing food. The most noteworthy was dinner at Zahav, a modern Israeli restaurant from Chef Michael Solomonov. I had made my reservation weeks in advance, but the earliest time I could get was 9:30pm. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad on my first evening there since I would still be adjusting from West Coast time.  

We were a party of three which I thought was the perfect number of people to share plates with. We ordered the tasting menu which allowed us to try almost everything on the menu. The restaurant is known for their laffa bread and hummus. It was my first time trying laffa bread, which is a middle eastern bread cooked in a wood fire taboon oven. To me it was crisper and had a lot more character than pita bread. The hummus at Zahav was out of this world. It was creamy and nutty with an abundance of flavor.  

Our meal came with six vegetable salads and felt like an Israeli version of banchan. They were all really good and similarly when I eat Korean food, it’s fun to have a variety to pick on.  
We each got to choose two small plates so that ended up being six different ones for us to share. I’ll share my top three mezze plates. I really enjoyed the quinoa salad with fresh peas. I loved the textures and the herbs.  
Cauliflower has become one of the most popular vegetables and the fried variety at Zahav should not be missed.
I was excited about the haloumi as soon as I saw it on the menu. The combination of crispiness and saltiness of the cheese puts me in a happy state. 
We each got to choose a main plate which are all grilled over coals. They were all amazing as well. We ordered the lamb, the hanger steak, and the Branzino.   
The desserts were creative and quite exotic. We ordered the coconut cream konafi, the chocolate olive oil cake, and the malabi custard which had orange, walnut, and saffron.  
This meal at Zahav was all around amazing and an experience for the palette.  I can’t wait for my next trip to Philly!

Dosa by Dosa in Oakland

It excites me to write about Dosa by Dosa, a hip new South Indian restaurant located in Uptown Oakland. The restaurant is owned by the husband and wife team, Anjan and Emily Mitra who already run two popular and successful restaurants in San Francisco by the name of Dosa. The Mitras bring a more casual menu to their Oakland location that I am loving.Let me start with the adult slushies. Dosa by Dosa have two frozen drink machines that are continuously running so that you and I can enjoy a boozie drink at the drop of a hat or rather a pull of a nozzle. One flavor is the monchichi which is made with vodka, coconut, pineapple, lime, green cardamom, and nutmeg. I’m not sure if it’s named after the toy I grew up with, but it was definitely delicious. It tasted creamy and gave me the feel of a beach.  The other flavor was shoeflower cooler which is made with rum, passionfruit, ginger, orange, lime, and lo-fi gentian amaro. This one was fruitier and sweeter. At $5 a glass during happy hour, I am elated.  If boozie slushies are not your thing, Dosa by Dosa offers a number of other innovative Indian spiced cocktails.
I never knew there was such a thing as an Indian french fry until I came to Dosa by Dosa. Called Idli fries, they are made from rice and lentil patties that are cut up into wedges and deep fried. They are served with a roasted chili garlic chutney. For some reason, eating these made me think about the Cream of Wheat that my grandmother used to make me as a child. I enjoyed these so much the first time that I ordered them again on my next visit. The serving is pretty large so it’s a dish that is easy to share.  

I also tried the Chenmai fried chicken during their happy hour. There is nothing not to like about the boneless fried chicken pieces that come out temperature hot. They have a little bit of a kick and served with raita dipping sauce to provide a ying and a yang.
Naan bread is one of my favorite things to eat when fresh. I tried two of their stuffed naan, the chicken and the cheese. For textural reasons, I preferred the cheese as it seems to blend better.  

Dosa by Dosa also includes rice bowls with your choice of Indian curries. They have chicken tikka masala, Tamil lamb, saag paneer, and butternut squash dal. You can also choose coconut, lemon, brown, or white rice. I had the excellent chicken tikka masala bowl with lemon rice.  

I believe there should be a rule that you can’t go to Dosa by Dosa and not have a dosa. A dosa is a beautiful paper thin, golden brown, savory rice and lentil crepe that is usually filled and rolled. I enjoyed both the masala potato and the habanero mango. The fillings are both potato based, but with a variation in flavors. They come with a coconut chutney, a tomato chutney, and sambar, a lentil and vegetable dipping soup. The crispy crepe with the creamy potato is pure harmony and perfection. I think I’ll stick with my rule and keep coming back for dosa!

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UC Berkeley: Changing the way I think about Cafeteria Food


When I reflect back on the lunch I had on Friday, I realize how much has changed since my college cafeteria days. I intentionally made a point to visit UC Berkeley’s student union dining room for What’s Poppin’, A Pop-Up Dining Adventure. For the month of March, three female and minority chefs from San Francisco’s incubator kitchen, La Cocina each have a space to showcase cuisine from their diverse backgrounds. I went to campus with some friends and tried food from each spot.
Chef Binita Pradhan runs Bini’s Kitchen specializing in food from Nepal. Fans seek out her fresh made momos or dumplings. We sampled the vegetarian combo which included kwati, jeera rice pulao, and momos. Kwati is a traditional Nepalese soup mixed with nine different beans. It was thick like a stew and very comforting. The jeera rice pulao is a cumin flavored basmati rice that was cooked perfectly. My favorite part of the combination meal were the plump, fresh, and juicy momos topped with a spicy tomato cilantro sauce. Check out the Bini’s Kitchen website for more ways to access those momos.
Mixiote is a style of Mexican cooking where meats and vegetables are traditionally marinated, wrapped, and slow cooked. It’s also the name of Chef Alma Rodriguez’s business. I was lucky to have attended a wedding last year where she and her team catered some delicious food. To see her have a spot in the dining room was a happy sight. Their pop up menu allows for a choice of pork, chicken, or veggies served on hand made tortillas or rice bowls. We had the pork tacos which were topped with a roasted pumpkin seed sauce. These were hearty, tender, and very flavorful. Our luck was upon us because they specially made taquitos that day. These fried tacos were stuffed with potatoes and were delicious. Stay tuned and follow @MixioteSF on Instagram because word on the street is she’s raising funds for her first brick and mortar.
I have been following Chef Aileen Suzara’s journey for awhile, since she was a Public Health student at UC Berkeley. Sariwa means fresh in Tagalog and Chef Suzara’s mission is to bring healthy Filipino food to the forefront. 

We tried a variety of food at Sariwa including the amazing homemade vegetarian lumpias filled with sweet potato and vegetables. The lunch bowls allow for a choice of mains including chicken adobo and coconut tofu and pumpkin and choice of vegetable side dishes. I was bummed the coconut tofu and pumpkin entree was sold out as it is the menu item that characterizes Sariwa most. At the same time, it’s proving that Chef Suzara is making a difference in the way people perceive Filipino food and it’s all coming full circle. Read more about her story in a recent interview by Bon Appetit.
This month’s What’s Poppin’ is not only a great opportunity for rising female and minority chefs, but it’s a great way for students to explore new, diverse, and healthy cuisines. These three pop-ups are serving lunch M-F. Contact the MLK Jr Student Union for more information and their hours. Address: 2495 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA. Phone: 510-664-7976.  

Irenia: Filipino Cuisine in the O.C.

Tonight I had a craving for Filipino food. I have been thinking about a recent lunch that my best friend and I had in Santa Ana, California. I had bookmarked Irenia when I was doing my research on places to eat near Disneyland. Los Angeles food critic Jonathon Gold had included Irenia on a list of Best Restaurants in Los Angeles. Irenia was only a handful of restaurants located in Orange County so my curiousity was piqued.

We were on holiday, so cocktails during lunch was a no brainer. My BFF got the Purple Drank which was made with gin, coconut rum, ube, and pineapple. Although it wasn’t on the menu, I was able to get a Petite Colada. There is definitely something about drinking from a coconut that sends warm vacation vibes.

Our waiter recommended the Dilis, baby anchovies. I don’t know why I was surprised when a bowl of hundreds of tiny fried anchovies were set in front of us. How bad could it be if they are fried right? Right, because I actually really enjoyed these delicacies. It came with some vinegar to dip them in, which I didn’t really need. It was a fun snack that I kept munching on.
I ordered the Chicken Inasal rice bowl. The pan roasted chicken thigh came with sautéed Chinese broccoli and zucchini. The grilled chicken had a nice crispness and the flavor was out of this world. I definitely could taste a mix of vinegar and soy, like you would find in adobo.  
My BFF ordered the pancit which was described as egg noodles with a soft boiled egg, chicken skin chiccharron, fried garlic, and scallion. It didn’t taste like pancit that we are accustomed to. I think it was the sauce that was problematic. The flavors were one dimensional and fell flat. She let the waiter know it wasn’t what she expected and did not like it. He explained that there were different varieties of pancit, but offered to have the kitchen make her something else. Since we had some time constraints, she declined.  
To make up for the dish, our waiter brought us a dessert on the house. The ube brown sugar pie was a nice way to end the meal. Ube is a purple yam. The pie offered a nice caramelization and the fresh whipped cream lightened up the sweetness.
Irenia offers some very traditional Filipino dishes with a modern twist. Minus the pancit, I thought Irenia was excellent. Looking at the full menu, it’s very clear that they aren’t afraid to use vegetables which I can appreciate from a restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. If you are near Santa Ana, I would recommend a visit to Irenia

Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure

Lunar New Year is February 16 and this year it will be the Year of the Dog. My BFF had mentioned to me that Disneyland has special festivities to celebrate the holiday and we should go since we were born in the Year of the Dog. The festivities are actually held at Disney California Adventure Park from January 26 – February 18. We packed a bag and set out for Anaheim last week.  Most of the Lunar New Year activities were held in the area known as Paradise Pier. The first thing we went to do was to check out the kiosk to shop for Lunar New Year merchandise. It was disappointing to find out that they were already sold out of the commemorative pins. It was only Day 4! They did have special Mickey ears, t-shirts, snow globes, key chains, and lucky red envelopes for sale. 

It was cool that they had food stands serving food from different Asian countries that celebrate Lunar New Year. My BFF and I would attempt to try as many food items as we could. We first stopped at the Korea marketplace. We got the Yachae Mandu which are steamed vegetable dumplings with a sesame-garlic soy sauce. These dumplings tasted like they were from the frozen section of an Asian supermarket. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t very good.
We also tried the Korean dessert, Yang Gaeng, which is a sweet red bean and raspberry jelly. This dessert was beautiful with the gold flake topping. I had a couple of bites and thought it was pretty tasty.  
Our next stop was the China marketplace. I picked up an order of Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings), Sanbeiji (three cup chicken), and a Dan Ta (egg tart). The soup in the dumpling had evaporated and the chicken luckily came with rice to offset the salt and sauciness. The egg tart was the best thing I ate that day. It tasted more like the custard pie that I have fond memories of getting from San Francisco Chinatown.  
We picked up a Banh Khoai Lang Tim from the Vietnamese marketplace. The purple sweet potato macaron was gigantic and quite good. The texture was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
One of the highlights of the day was Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession with dancing and performances. 

The star of the show was Goofy who looked amazing all dressed up.
Speaking of dressing up, we also got to see Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto in Asian attire.  

The finale was a special evening water show called Hurry Home.
There are still two more weeks of the Lunar New Year celebration at Disney California Adventure. If you are a Disney fan, I would recommend it. I would suggest skipping the savory foods from the Asian marketplace, but make sure to pick up some desserts.  

Mockingbird Moves Me to La La Land.

Over eighty restaurants participated in this year’s Oakland Restaurant Week (ORW). For ten days, various restaurants around the community were offering lunch and dinner menus with special pricing. I find that ORW is a great way to try out a local restaurant that I haven’t tried yet. I was super excited to try Mockingbird for the first time in Downtown Oakland.

I made reservations for a friend of mine to have dinner there last week. The Golden State Warriors were playing so we agreed to meet at 5pm to grab a drink at the bar before dinner. Mockingbird has a nice Happy Hour menu so in addition to drinks, we thought we should order some snacks to munch on as well.

Perfect to have while watching the Warriors game, we ordered the some fancy chips and dip. The House Smoked Trout Dip was made with trout, cream, scallions, and lemon oil. I could not stop eating the thin crispy potato chips.

We also ordered the deviled eggs which were topped with capers, pickled jalapeños and herbs. Deviled eggs are one of my favorite foods and Mockingbird makes me want to eat more.

Joe was our bartender but he ended up taking on the role of waiter because we were really getting into the game and didn’t want to leave the bar! We were still able to order our ORW dinner. The ORW menu was simple and each course except one had two different options so my friend and I pretty much shared everything.

For the first course, we had soup and salad. The soup of the day was a tomato soup with a dab of crème fraiche. It was creamy, tangy, and  smokey. Lucky for me my friend had been souped out from the week before so I got to enjoy most of it.

The salad offered was a winter fruit and baby kale salad with pumpkin seeds, ricotta salata, and a sherry shallot vinaigrette. This salad was dressed perfectly and really defines the season.

The second course included fried Brussels sprouts. My coworkers have been raving about these sprouts so I was pretty excited about trying them. The Brussels sprouts are tossed with a confit garlic aioli, blue cheese, thyme, and an Italian syrup called saba. After eating these, I completely understand where my coworkers were coming from.

Also part of the second course was a charcuterie plate which came with a duck liver mousse, jam, pickled vegetables, olives, and crispy bread. This was a fun dish to pick on.

The third course was the main entree and there were actually three options. Originally we ordered the chicken and pork and had decided to skip the vegetarian option. The Moroccan Spiced chicken came with roasted rainbow carrots, chickpeas, greens, and herbed buttermilk dressing. Every item on the plate was harmonious and complemented each other. The flavors were even more infused the next day when I ate the leftovers for lunch. I had a few colleagues comment on the wonderful aromatics.

We were really looking forward to the overnight pork sugo which came with crispy polenta, arugula, pickled red onion, and sheep’s milk cheese. The pork tasted really salty so we requested for a wedge of lemon to see if we could cut down the saltiness. At that time, Joe asked how everything was and the truth came out about the pork.

Joe was generous and offered us the third entree, the Winter Vegetable Tagine which was cooked in a rich sauce and topped with lemon yogurt, castelvetrano olives, and cilantro. This vegetarian dish was extraordinary and made me forgot all about the pork sugo. The vegetable tagine reminded me of the food of one of my favorite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi.

Our fourth and final course was dessert. The first dessert was the Mockingbird Bread Pudding which is described as a traditional bread pudding with vanilla and nutmeg custard, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. To me, this was nothing but traditional and I absolutely loved it. I had more than my fair share of this one.

The other dessert was a citrus almond flour cake with chocolate ganache and candied almonds. I believe my friend preferred this dessert unless she sensed how much I was fawning over the bread pudding and was being nice. Either way, there was not a trace of sugar left on either dessert plates.

After dinner at ORW, I have decided that Mockingbird is a place that I will be adding to my repertoire. The food and staff are great. Joe even told us that he and the chef tried the pork sugo and agreed with us that it was overly salty. I really appreciated this acknowledgement. All in all, it was a perfect evening – the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and my tummy was in la la land.