Sunday, July 11, 2021

Tasting Menu at Jua (food)

It's been over 2 years since I last ate at a Michelin starred restaurant. Ever since NYC has reopened, reservations have been hard to get everywhere. It wasn't my first choice, but it was a Michelin starred restaurant with availability on relatively short notice (only a week out), so I went for it. This is the $120 tasting menu at Jua, a modern Korean tasting menu restaurant focused on wood-fired dishes.
CAVIAR KIM This was a good, very appetizing starter, with crisp seaweed and light saltiness from the caviar. The caviar wasn't particularly special though, and I would have preferred if the caviar had provided more of a textural component.
TOMATO & TUNA Tuna tartare with tomato and burrata was tasty but I felt overall it was one-note.
JOOK Probably the most memorable dish of the night for me, a porridge with koshihikari rice and foie, with the melted foie providing all the creaminess as no cream was used otherwise. I would also have preferred if they served this as the last course of the tasting and arranged the progression accordingly.
ARCTIC CHAR Nicely cooked piece of arctic char with crispy skin and green sauce made with fish bones. Wish there was more sauce though, as arctic char is a relatively mild flavored fish, and the sauce was quite nice.
GALBI & CHAN Chan here stands for banchan, the Korean side dishes. Overall, this was another delicious dish, although one of my pieces of galbi did have unchewable sinew. The problem here is that in the end, galbi is galbi and generally tastes good everywhere. It's the same complaint that I usually have about pork belly. Delicious, but nothing special. The banchan were nice accents, and the green sauce went especially well with the beef, despite being too herby by itself.
GREEN TEA BINGSU Green tea shaved ice with some red bean filling underneath.
HOTTEOK Well executed Korean dessert pancake, not too sweet and went well with the bingsu. 

If it seems like I didn't write much about the food, that's because there wasn't much to write about. I don't know if it's a covid19 effect, but I just did not feel this was a $120 tasting menu. Maybe $95? Seven named courses and two of them were dessert and one of them was fucking shaved ice. You WILL leave here hungry. The food was delicious but at the level that I last remembered NYC dining, it didn't stand out. Yes, it had the modern Korean thing which is super hot right now, but Jungsik this was not (although I understand it's half the price). Then again, even Atoboy this was not. While even Atoboy's prix fixe has climbed in cost, it's still cheaper than this even if you do the add-on, and every meal I've had at Atoboy was more memorable than this. Again, I don't want to downplay that this was in the end a delicious meal, but very little in the way of value and I would also not consider it Michelin-quality, although 1 stars in NYC have always been pretty random.

Decoy Peking Duck group menu (food)

Also discovered this one in my drafts. No descriptions, just photos of food. The last time I ate with the foodie group. This was in 2019 before covid19, but also before I started going to Atlantic City more and eating in Manhattan less. The peking duck dinner at Decoy. Very good value, I think it was $85 per person, we had 5 people which was one duck + 3 entrees (and some apps too?)

Wokuni chef's tasting (food)

I hadn't really been publishing blog posts any more even before covid19, but discovered this in my drafts. No descriptions, just photos of food. The chef's tasting dinner at Wokuni back in 2019. Wokuni is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC for great value for good quality. It's not at the level of a $300 omakase, but it doesn't cost as much and doesn't try to be that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wokuni: Great Value Splurge Lunch (food)

It's hard to call a lunch that costs $31 ($24+t/t) a great value, so I'll classify it as a "splurge" lunch. But the Wokuni-don at Wokuni is definitely a great value for the quality and quantity of ingredients you get. It is also not prohibitively expensive, which would be the case for say, the $150 omakase lunch at Sushi Ginza Onodera (At some point I'll give that a try and write about it).

The lunch sets at Wokuni tend to come with a fresh, crisp salad and some edamame.

The Wokuni-don also comes with miso soup and a nice thick yet fluffy piece of dashimaki (rolled omelette).

A close up of the Wokuni-don. Two large, freshly fried shrimp tempura. A slice of eggplant tempura hidden behind the shrimp. Three slices of yellowtail sashimi. Three slices each of two kinds of white-fleshed fish, which change each day based on what's fresh. The suzuki I had that day was especially good, with a nice firm, crisp texture. Three slices of salmon wrapped into a rose around some ikura. A very tasty slightly spicy salmon tartare. A few small dices of bright red tuna. A couple small slices of tamago. All over a bed of delicious rice.

I've been to Wokuni twice for lunch, and the quality of the fish makes me interested in going back for dinner. Their main selling point is that their prices are reasonable because they own the fish farm in Japan that supplies the restaurant with fresh fish flown in frequently.

As for the Wokuni-don itself, there are only a limited number of servings of the Wokuni-don each day. But basically, if you arrive before 12:30, you should be able to get it unless some large group came in earlier that day with everyone ordering it. However, even if you miss the Wokuni-don, the kaisen-don ($18+t/t) is also wonderful, with many slices of sashimi, including tuna, yellowtail, and salmon, along with ikura and the spicy salmon tartare over rice. The restaurant itself is a nice modern izakaya with a classy feel to it yet quite comfortable.

327 Lexington Avenue (39th Street)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Borgata in Atlantic City (gambling, entertainment)

I haven't been to Atlantic City in years, but since I've been going to casinos more frequently these days, decided to give it a chance as they're comping me rooms during the summer. Went for a quick one night stay with a friend.

The nice view from the 43rd (top) floor

The view from our room on the top floor was about the only thing I liked about my visit. And it wasn't even that I'm pissed that I lost money or something like that, I was actually up slightly for the trip.

One of my main complaints is that I just don't like all the little charges here and there. I don't know if this has always been a Borgata thing, or if it's basically just an MGM thing that happens at all their properties. Let's start from the beginning. Parking is not free. At least I have a comp for free parking. I get to my room and I see that the wifi password was written on my room number packet. I'm about to sign on when I decide, "let me just look through the terms of service". There it is, wifi charge. Screw that. I'm barely in the room, not paying for wifi. Then when I check out, it turns out that my room comp does not cover resort fees. So I use my express comps to pay for it. Honestly all of this is bullshit. I've been getting comped to nearby casinos all summer, and NONE of them have charged for parking, wifi, or resorts fees (although this last one may be a NJ thing).

Well, if the casino is a good time, a few extra charges here and there isn't a deal breaker. Except the casino wasn't great either. First of all, the place is big, not well-organized, and not well-labeled. I spent a lot of time getting lost and just walking. The seats felt old and even where there wasn't any smoking that stench was still hanging around. One thing I found really annoying was that I couldn't even play one hand without them taking my player's card and logging it. All I wanted to do was play one hand and use up my match play before dinner, and it ended up taking like 5 minutes.

This whole bigger, older, and slower thing was evident in the poker room too. The poker room is huge, but with primarily open seating, felt a bit chaotic. The tables and chairs felt old and worn, while none of the USB chargers I tried at my table worked. There is no rake here, players pay for time. While to a lot of players that sounds great, what happens is there is no incentive on the casino's end to speed up the pace of the game. I was there for probably 7 hours and in that entire time there was only one dealer who dealt at a speed equivalent to the other casino poker rooms I've played at the past couple of months. Sure, I probably paid less in time than I would have in rake, but not getting as many hands in makes the game a lot less enjoyable (and profitable).

The sports/racebook was super crowded, practically standing room only as all the main sitting areas (with personal TVs) were filled with old men and their daily racing forms. It's clearly designed (the way it looked that day anyway) as a racebook and I can't imagine it being a good place to watch big sporting events. Although if you're a horse racing degen who's betting 10 races per track across 5 tracks it's probably a really good time.

Again, a large part of my dissatisfaction is probably just personal preference. I view gambling as an entertainment/service industry and I feel smaller, more local businesses are better at that. I'm not thrilled with MGM buying more and more properties and their corporate nature, although they do send me plenty of comp offers now and then.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What Have I Been Up To? (rambling)

Hello to anyone who still visits this blog or stumbled onto this blog!

Noticed that I haven't made a post in over a year, so let's do a quick catch up. I hope to get back into writing a bit more, but I don't eat out as much as I used to, and those food posts really were the main driver of the blog.

I've cycled through a few hobbies over the last 5 years.

At one point I was watching every new season of anime (averaging 6+ shows per season, 4 seasons a year), but I've cut down to about 2-3 per season now. This season I'm watching Hinamatsuri (I started with the manga, it's fantastic) and Uma Musume (I'm really not into idol shows or [insert fetish/animal] girls, but I have fond memories of the racehorses named, and PA Works has managed to turn a throwaway game adaptation into a decent anime)

In 2015 I discovered the fighting game community, and have been watching the majors regularly on Twitch. The scene is getting more and more exposure, with the last two EVO main events being broadcast on ESPN2. A huge tournament (Combo Breaker) just passed, and there's two more major events in the near future (CEO in July and EVO in August) that I'm looking forward to watching. I'm just a stream monster and don't actually play the games, and currently I enjoy watching King of Fighters, NRS games (Mortal Kombat and Injustice), DragonBallFighterZ, and occasionally some Street Fighter V.

I no longer work in Manhattan, so I find myself less often in the city. This has also meant that I've eaten out less, but I do plan on picking that back up a bit, especially for nice fine dining restaurants, and maybe that will get me more motivated to post reviews again. In fact, there will be a food post on Le Coq Rico accompanying this post!

I've also gotten back into watching wrestling (WWE). I grew up watching it, although I was never a huge fan. I remember watching it in college during the height of the attitude era. But I find the product much more compelling now, especially the in-ring product. While it's not a competitive sport, the athleticism on display is often astounding, and much more entertaining than watching Stephen Curry jack threes. I'm a WWE Network subscriber and watch every PayPerView now. They also have some decent original programming.

I still play very little bridge, although I've been getting a bit of an itch to get back into it more. It's difficult since you still have to find a good partner. However, more recently I have been getting back into playing poker. I was always an online player back in the day, but I've recently found live poker cash games (low stakes, no pressure) to be quite enjoyable. Between playing poker and the occasional stint at the table games, a few of the local casinos have been sending me comped room offers, so I expect to be playing even more in the near future.

Speaking of comps, I was invited to the VIP Grand Opening of Resorts World Catskills. They threw a welcome party and had Jerry Seinfeld as their opening weekend headliner. Here are some pics from the welcome party

They even had celebrities, and apparently I missed Neil Patrick Harris. But I did catch LT and Phil Simms telling gambling stories while smoking cigars out on the balcony, so that was cool. Jerry Seinfeld was enjoyable. I really liked his opening act, Mario Joyner. Jerry mixed in some old guy curmudgeonly complaining in with observational stuff, all in that whiny voice of his. His energy was really good. Overall a good show and the place was packed. In the end, Jerry Seinfeld will always be a New York legend and fans still flock to him.

I've Been to Le Coq Rico A Few Times (food)

I don't eat out much in the city any more, but the last few times that I have done so have been at Le Coq Rico. It's a very nice fine-dining lite restaurant that costs a good amount more than your typical NYC neighborhood French restaurant, but a bit less than a restaurant like the NoMad (which I need to revisit although there's less of a draw now that James Kent has left the kitchen). The owner/chef Antoine Westermann is a former 3 Michelin Star holder who gave back his stars, did some consulting, then opened Le Coq Rico in Paris focusing on quality poultry. It's been 2 years since he opened the NYC branch of this wonderful restaurant. Everything I've had has been very good, though some dishes are better than others. Highly recommended. Here are some dishes from multiple visits.

A beautiful mix of warm salad, cold leeks, a nice Hollandaise sauce, and some (not overpowering) acidity from the vinaigrette. Simple yet tasty starter.

Probably the best value on the menu, with two of everything so you can share. I love offal and giblets so this was perfect for me.

Probably my favorite thing on the menu, a phenomenal dish that is classic French cooking at its core. Tender, flavorful squab meat accompanied by some force meat, foie gras, wrapped in cabbage and cooked in pastry. Absolutely rich and delicious.

If you're questioning whether one chicken will feed 4, please note that the restaurant focuses on older birds and their chickens probably average near 7lbs. This was a nice dish and very homey. However, I don't think it's special enough that I would order it again at the price.

Very delicious duck. The only thing that's missing for me is crispy skin. I prefer duck skin that's crispy to the point of being lacquered, and this didn't have that. But it's not a deal breaker since the meat had great flavor.

Another signature of the restaurant, and another French classic. Here the meringue is one huge fluffy ball that's extremely light and airy, surrounded by a rich creme anglaise and dotted with candied almonds for crunch. I've gotten it every visit and it wows.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare is No Longer in Brooklyn (food)

Without too much fanfare, the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, the only three Michelin star restaurant in Brooklyn, moved to Manhattan earlier this year. Along with the move, the dining room has been upgraded and there are now several tables (2-tops and 4-tops) in addition to the main chef's table. This was the perfect opportunity for my friend and mentor, who's eaten at more 3 Michelin star restaurants than I can name, to finish his list of 3 Michelin star restaurants in NYC now that he doesn't have to endure sitting on barstools for the duration of the meal.

The Chef's Table does not have it's own private entrance. You have to walk through the Brooklyn Fare market to get to the restaurant. But when you do get there, the elegant wood-accented dining room is lovely and inviting. The chef's table is no longer a semicircular metal counter, but a large rectangular bar. However, you can still get the feel of the old Brooklyn Fare as chef Cesar Ramirez brought over his row of copper pots and pans hanging over his kitchen. I highly recommend sitting at a table. Chef Ramirez goes to each of the tables throughout the night to shake hands and introduce himself, and the room is cozy enough that you don't feel like you're missing out on any of the action in the open kitchen.

Comfort and Service
One of the most important things to know is that there are no substitutions. If there are any dietary restrictions such as allergies, they will remove the offending item from the dish, but they will not make a different dish to replace it. The bathroom is also in the Brooklyn Fare market, and going there involves having one of the employees accompany you with the bathroom key. I did not experience this myself, but one of my dining companions said that it felt awkward and uncomfortable. On the bright side, the banquettes at the table were pretty comfortable and service was good. The sommeliers did a good job, and the wine list (I'd been told) had enough reasonable selections to not feel like you were getting gouged (ahem::Per Se::ahem).


A wonderful start to the meal, with a smokiness and saltiness that whets the appetite while the fish itself comes through in the creamy finish.

Just as good as when I had it three years ago. A wonderful combination of earth and sea without any component overpowering the others.

This was cooked so perfectly I dare say it was cooked better than any langoustine I've had at Le Bernardin (and I've had quite a few). This was also the first of a few dishes where the plates were very warm to the touch, which probably helped the dish to maintain at the chef's desired temperature.

I don't quite know what fish this was, but it was extremely meaty and satisfying and not what I would typically associate as fluke. What I really appreciated about this dish was that the fish was cooked through to take advantage of that meatiness. The crispy kelp strands added a nice texture component, and is a technique that I remember was on quite a few dishes during that meal 3 years ago.

Buri is essentially a large yellowtail. In contrast to the previous dish, this was much less cooked, almost as if done in a shabu shabu manner. This preparation suited the fish well, although the ginger and sansho pepper felt a bit more muted than I would have expected.

I've read a few different translations for akamutsu, although the most consistent seems to be black throat sea perch. The sauce underneath was probably an emulsion of some sort, and the creaminess was nice with the fish. However, this was probably the least remarkable of the dishes that night.

For this dish, chef Cesar himself came to the table to finish the plating by scooping out large amounts of caviar.

I believe the potatoes were of the Carola variety, and a great vehicle for the caviar. What really stood out to me was the delicious sour cream. I feel like it's one of those food items where people often don't realize how much better freshly prepared versions are from the generic versions they buy in a supermarket, like real hot fudge sauce or schlag.

I thought this was the best and most interesting dish of the night in terms of a composed dish of balanced flavor combinations. The crab was sweet, but not overpoweringly so where other items were just accents to the crab. There was nice contrast with the apple which provided a slight tartness and crisp texture. Rounding it all out was a wonderfully subdued shiso emulsion that gave it an earthy tone and lingering taste on the tongue, matching well with the warm temperature at which the dish was served. The emulsion reminded me of the chive oil in Eleven Madison Park's sturgeon sabayon.

This was actually pretty good, except that it didn't really work for me on a personal (completely subjective) level. As someone who grew up eating a good amount of abalone in Chinese cooking, I prefer abalone that is tender but still with bite. Al dente, if you will. This abalone was too tender, and had almost no give. The abalone liver flavor was very strong, which while I can appreciate, is also not the flavor from the abalone that the Chinese prefer to highlight. The foie gras rice with dashi froth was magnificent though.

While I love Kinmedai, also known as alfonsino golden eye snapper, my favorite preparation will always be seared as sushi at 15 East before the chef left. I think that kind of semi-raw preparation is best for this fish, and I'm still not quite sure why this dish was served after the strongly flavored abalone foie gras rice.

Simple and delicious, truly highlighting the fine quality of the ingredients. What I appreciated most was that this was beautifully cooked to start bringing out the flavor of the melting fat, whereas I've had Miyazaki wagyu at other places where they just did a mindless sear and left the rest practically raw.

At first I found it interesting that the duck came after the beef, but it all made sense as the sauce was much richer here. Despite just a tiny sliver of skin on the slice of duck, it managed to still be crispy which was quite a feat.

Nice simple palate cleanser.

This was quite good, with the buckwheat flavor coming through nicely. However, in comparison to other similar Japanese fusion desserts I've had, this didn't stand out.

The highest praise I can give is that this really, really worked. It's not even about the flavor, which was great as I love almonds and the puffed almonds were delicious. It was that the flash frozen souffle worked beautifully in both temperature and texture to close the meal. After a long meal such as this, a frozen dessert that was denser that this light souffle would have been too much, while a more traditional souffle served warm would have dulled the senses at the very end. Ingenious conclusion to a wonderful meal.

A couple petit fours, nothing crazy fancy.


I expected no less than phenomenal food given my last visit over three years ago. The overall experience was significantly better, and my main takeaway from this meal is "refinement". The dishes have been refined over the years and form a purposeful menu from start to finish. The dining room, the tables, and other FOH additions also solidify it as a grand restaurant experience, not just a chef's counter where you are at the whim of the chef's experiments. There are still some kinks to be worked out, but I have no doubt that with this move and the overall growth that this restaurant has experienced and will continue to go through, it will not only maintain its 3 Michelin Stars easily, but will also start climbing the World's 50 Best list where it was ranked 81st in 2016.

While Brooklyn Fare does not have or give out menus at the end of the meal, the fact that photos and notes are now allowed means that I can make and print my own menu cards for myself. The full sized version of this is here at