In a city saturated with ramen houses, I think I found my favorite: Chuko. The menu is short but satisfying: choose from three different appetizers, three different “bites”, and four different types of ramen. Add either roasted pork or steamed chicken to your hot bowl of noodles. Choose a poached egg or a hard-boiled one. Simple. Delicious.
This is the type of place that serves sake from a can. I found this very cool. And very representative of the general vibe of this ramen joint: super casual, laid back, a bit funky and new-fangled, but keeping to authentic roots. And very Brooklyn.
Our “bites” came first: a salad of crispy brussel sprouts tossed in fish sauce with peanuts. Super savory and addictive, but a bit too Ma Peche-style for me (ie - too heavy on that “Asian” flavor, aka fish sauce).
Though some might call it gimmicky, I happily took down a shrimp bun with garlic tartar sauce. The shrimp was amazeballs. The three proprietors of Chuko hailed from Morimoto, which serves up one of my favorite guilty pleasures: rock shrimp tempura. Unsurprisingly, the shrimp here were super similar, but had some nice shredded greens on top that brightened them up.
ATO ordered the miso ramen with scallions, a poached egg, corn and roasted pork. So much depth of flavor in that murky broth. The pork was meaty and nice and charred on the edges. Mmmmmmmm.
I asked our waitress for a recommendation. She said the veggie broth was the best. Veggie broth at a ramen joint? Blasphemy! But she was right. Above is the veggie miso based ramen with market vegetables and steamed chicken. Best ramen ever. Better than the chicken broth ramen at Totto, better than any I’ve had at Ippudo (only because it didn’t upset my stomach afterwards) and better than Dassara (even the mushroom ramen, which I love so much!). Filled with unexpected veggies - sweet potatoes in ramen? But by God, it worked! The whole bowl was rich without being a gut bomb, the ingredients were fresh, the steamed chicken was tender and fantastic and the noodles were curly, springy and cooked just right.
My only complaint: it was quite a trek to get here. Open one in Manhattan!!
I know, I know, I used to complain incessantly about having to make the trek out to Brooklyn, but these days it seems as if I’m here almost every week. Truth be told, I still complain incessantly (especially when taking public transportation)… but I’ve seen the light. Once I’m actually settled into my final Brooklyn destination, I’m blissfully happy and that whole traumatic experience of riding the subway for 30+ minutes is forgotten (kinda like childbirth, or so I’m told).
So after another fun excursion rock climbing, ATO, EW and I met up with JA and headed over to Littleneck for a late-night dinner.
We split an order of the special appetizer of the day: beets with hay ash. These beets were da bomb! Sweet and savory and smoky. I loved the cruchy crumble served alongside it, and the fried paper-thin greens that sat on top.
I love simple and fresh seafood done right. I imagine myself sitting at a wood picnic table on an outdoor deck by the water, salty breeze blowing through my hair. Sigh. Above were EW’s mussels with Thai basil and curry. Not too heavy on the curry; the brininess and natural flavors of the mussels still shone through. Yum.
Maine lobster roll. If you’re an anti-mayo and pro-butter lobster roll type person, this little sandwich is definitely for you! The lobster was fresh, plump and sweet. My only complaint: too small!! Although to be fair, at $18 per pop, it is on the cheaper side in this city….
But the best sandwich of the night was definitely the fried ipswich sandwich with tartar, pickles and shredded lettuce. My dad talks about ipswich clams with such reverence that you’d think they held the key to the universe. Ipswich clams are soft-shelled salt-water clams. They are ridiculously good and can be fried whole. Which is just how they were served in this delicious combo! Perfectly hot and crispy on the outside, but soft and clammy and juicy on the inside. Mmmmm.
Each night there is a pie of the day. This one was super dense and super sweet and gluttonous. Like cookie dough in a pie crust.
This place is seriously good. Definitely come for the seafood!
I didn’t like Dale Talde when he was on Top Chef. He was too cocky, had a bad temper and his butterscotch scallops (for which he was sent home) have been ingrained in my food memory as one of the worst looking dishes ever on that show. His starring role prior to Top Chef was sous chef at Buddakan (a guilty pleasure of mine, but at its core, just cheesy Asian fusion food). So I was surprised to find that I actually REALLY like his food! After some open-housing in Park Slope, we stopped by his signature restaurant, Talde. Despite my tendency to hate this entire genre of food, I found his dishes delicious and not coarse or overly contorted. Dale is quoted as stating in NYMag that I’m “trying to take the dirty word out of fusion.” Well, he has done just that. I’m a believer now.
Above was the lychee martini: super refreshing and yummy. The drink wasn’t overly sweet as most lychee martinis are. The lychee touch was light (and didn’t taste like Pucker) and the lemon-lime juices and bitters added a bright citrus note.
Some small snacks to start: Perilla leaf wrap filled with toasted shrimp, coconut, bacon-tamarind caramel and peanuts. Crunchy and vibrant. We both hate coconut, but it was thankfully barely noticeable.
Pork and chive dumplings in a pretzel wrapper. This was awesome. The pretzel was a bit thicker than a normal dumpling skin, and when fried got a lot more crispy and browned. It also had a nice saltiness, perfect when paired with the spicy mustard sauce. A very harmonious blend of two street foods from opposite sides of the world: dumplings and pretzels.
The best app (and probably the best dish of the night) was the shrimp toast topped with a fried egg, served with a thick sausage gravy. This dish was truly inspired: a highly creative iteration of East meets West served in the form of soul-satisfying comfort food. It was heavy for sure, but not superfluously so. Yum.
We got a little carried away with carbs after the apps. Please don’t judge! Above is the fried oyster and bacon pad thai. I found the pad thai overly sweet and basically over-done in all respects: I mean, was the bacon really necessary? ATO recognized that this wasn’t a skillful dish, but enjoyed that gluttonous heap of noodles nonetheless.
I enjoyed the much more simple side dish of shrimp fried rice much more. The shrimp was tender and juicy, the fried cracklings on top provided a great crunch and the bean sprouts a necessary freshness. But the rice was the best part. So much flavor in that rice! Coming from a noodle girl (and an Asian who generally eschews rice), that’s quite a compliment.
Finally, a bowl of ramen: roast chicken dinner ramen that is. Definitely not the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever had, but I was left bewildered. Close your eyes and you’ll be immediately transformed to the 1950’s at an all-American Sunday dinner complete with roast chicken and stuffing. All this in a bowl with ramen noodles and seaweed. Totally trippy, and very good.
We’re completely converted. Asian fusion can be successful! We love this place!
PS - if you’re looking for something more casual and you’re craving straight-forward solid bar food, check out Dale’s laid-back joint, Pork Slope (http://photo-hungry.com/post/41977898527/pork-slope).
After an exhausting afternoon of rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, EW, JS, ATO and I headed straight to Dale Talde’s Pork Slope to satisfy our hunger pangs with some pub food done right. This place is solid - nothing fancy and nothing mind blowing - but just good ol’ greasy spoon grub, better than what you’ll find at any typical pub. All in all, it’ll fill you up, your hands might need a wipe-down afterwards and you might even feel a little sick…. in a good, “I was a glutton and couldn’t control myself and ate too much” way. This place would be a ridiculously good drunk food spot!
Here’s what we sampled:
Half a rack of St. Louis ribs. Now that’s something pretty.
Tater tots! Like really, really good tater tots.
Crispy mac and cheese, burnt edges and all!
Onion strings. Good on just about anything. Finished with a surprising nice kick!
Frickles! We cleared the entire table but for two frickles. They were good for frickles, but frickles always seem to be a better concept than they are a reality.
Brisket sandwich. Loved the toasted white bread.
Motherporker. WTF. That’s a lot of pork. And an egg for more richness. Cos we obviously needed more richness.
Shrimp po’ boy. Impossible to eat without dropping shrimp in your lap or smearing mayo all over your face. Delicious nonetheless.
Aska might be the hottest ticket in town right now (it’s been at or near the top of Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings for weeks now). Chef Fredrik Berselius, formerly of the pop-up restaurant Frej (which we loved, check out our prior post: http://photo-hungry.com/post/23044904789/frej), recently opened this modern Scandinavian venture in the same Kinfolk Studio space that formerly housed Frej. The scene: industrial meets magical forest/Atera-like setting (an Atera alum, Eamon Rockey, is also involved in this partnership). It’s a very casual, chill-laxing, semi-hipster vibe. I liked it.
Unfortunately, given the hype and how much we loved Frej, the food was underwhelming. Inventive and intriguing? Yes. At times brilliant? Definitely. Best butter in town? Might be. A great deal? $65 for 7 courses, yo! But despite all of this, my overall reaction was that it fell a bit flat. I was hoping for much more.
Ah, the bread and butter, of which we each had about 3 normal servings. Our waiter even noted how impressed he was with our butter intake. RP exclaimed after one bite of this flavorful, fresh goodness - “This butter needs to be mentioned in the blog!” Well, it’s being mentioned, and worshipped. This was truly amazing butter. We all took down reckless, copious amounts; enough to clog our hearts on the spot. It was worth the risk.
Time for our starter snacks! Dried pig’s blood crisps dotted with sea-buckthorn jam. I couldn’t get past the very distinct iron blood flavor that clung to my tongue and wouldn’t let go - I’m no vampire, I have no taste for blood!
A much tastier snack in my opinion, the scallop crisps with dill sour cream. Uh… how did they fit my scallop into the shape of this crisp? Seriously though, this crisp reaaalllly tasted just like a fresh scallop. Bewitching.
Finally, a little cheese plate and sweetness to end our progression of snacks: the molasses shortbread with smoked cheese. YUM.
We started with a very light and enjoyable dish of oysters with cucumber, dill and tallow. So everyone has seen a white fish paired with cucumber and dill, but an oyster? A brilliant idea; the more pronounced oceanic and musky qualities of the oyster brought a depth to this plate that’s missing with fish.
Next up, the herring with anchovies and new potatoes. Very clever presentation. There was no chance I was going to eat this, but my companions really enjoyed the dish. ATO decided early on that the fish head was the best part and was ecstatic that he got two. When RL tried his, he enthusiastically concurred, “The head is where all the juice and flavor is!”, to which I quipped: “That’s what she said!” I’m always happy when presented with the opportunity to use my favorite catch phrase.
The next dish was a variety of salsify, lichen, turnip and celery root, bathed in a winter leaf broth. While I love root vegetables and recognized the satisfying hearty qualities of this dish, these particular veggies were a bit too par cooked for me, and the broth was too salty (to the point where you couldn’t just take a spoonful of broth on its own).
Our fourth course: pork trotters with shaved apples and sunchokes. WTF. This was not good. Conceptually I get it, but the dish set in front of us was frightfully dreary in execution. The pork was distractingly bad (I think my pork was only 1/10th edible - most of it was pure fat), the apples were too sweet and the sunchokes were sliced too thin and tasted like paper. FAIL.
Our next dish was an improvement: a white, tender hunk of monkfish with an accompanying monkfish liver served atop savoy cabbage. While I preferred the more mild monkfish itself, RP and ATO favored the monkfish liver, which was much more powerful in flavor. While neither were really great, at least we all agreed: the savoy cabbage was delicious!
Our last savory course: flank steak and brisket cooked in hay and served with parsnips, thistle and caramelized butter (picture of the butter below). Finally, a dish worth all the hype! The meat was perfectly cooked and the undertones of earthy and smoky goodness from the hay really peeked through. The parsnips and thistle countered well with crisp herbaceous notes. And the butter…….
Caramelized butter! And we thought the butter served with our bread was good….this was insane! I slathered it onto each forkful of already decadent beef. Super intense, super awesome. This one dish may have been worth the trip alone.
Our palate cleanser: Frozen whey with oat crisp. A bit nutty, a bit oat-y and a bit cold and tart.
We ended our meal with cardamom ice cream with brown butter mousse and hazelnuts. A lovely combination. The brown butter mousse (of course, it’s more butter!) was our collective favorite component. The nuts added a nice textural contrast.
The moral of this story is: don’t go with your expectations set too high, and take advantage of the BUTTER!
I was recovering from the flu, but I was a supportive wife and trekked it out to Brooklyn to watch ATO play in a soccer match. As my incentive, he promised we could grub on hot, savory bowls of ramen at Dassara after the game. The PERFECT recovering-from-being-sick food!
I’ve blogged Dassara before. I liked the ramen I got last time. But I have to blog it again, because the ramen we tried on this visit was absolutely incredible (and although ATO will disagree, better than the first visit)!
ATO wasn’t craving a hot soup right after his big soccer workout, so he ordered the sesame Szechuan noodles. These are served cold, in a creamy (but not heavy) sesame sauce, with Szechuan dressing, kimchi pickled vegetables and smoked tofu. Result: it’s rich, smoky, tangy, tart and has a bit of a kick. Yum. A nice change from the hot versions.
I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle indulging in a super rich pork- or chicken-based broth tonight, but the vegetarian mushroom ramen was calling my name. This ain’t no usual vegetarian ramen - one that’s entirely too light on flavor or substance - just placed on the menu to appease the vegetarians who are dragged into a ramen shop. This is some very savory hearty-a$$, satisfying umami-inspired mushroom broth. It is served with mixed wild mushrooms, nori, wilted greens, bamboo shoots (my favorite) and chopped scallions. Variety is the spice of life, and I love that each twirl of the chopsticks contained so many veggie delicacies. The flavors in this bowl are immense and intense and amazing. It is the best vegetarian ramen I’ve ever tasted, and definitely gives any ramen (vegetarian or not) a run for its money. I’m totally infatuated. I’ve been seriously obsessing over this ramen night and day (especially in this crazy cold weather). I want, I want, I want!!!
On a sad note, the lamb ramen (see post from last time: http://photo-hungry.com/post/34183359648/dassara-brooklyn-ramen) is currently unavailable. Apparently their lamb purveyor was dislocated by Sandy, and they haven’t found a good replacement. ATO was dejected when he heard the news. And while I truly do hope that their supplier can get their business up and running again soon, I personally won’t be affected, cos from here on out, I’ll be ordering the mushroom ramen every time anyway!
The Meatball Shop
ATO was in an animal-friendly mood: he went for the vegetarian meatballs, which were recommended with the pesto sauce, on a whole wheat baguette. Important note: don’t order the whole wheat baguette! It’s not worth the extra fiber and health benefits. The very distinct wheat taste almost masked the flavors of the tasty meatballs and the fresh, verdant pesto sauce.
Following the advice of our waitress, I ordered the spicy pork meatballs in the classic tomato sauce. A perfect blend of savory, sweet, tangy and spicy. While the whole wheat baguette worked better in this combo, I’d still opt for the white baguette. The greens accompanying this sub were so satisfying that I didn’t even mourn the lack of french fries from the menu!
Mmmmm…. I gotta say, the best part of this meal was the customizable ice cream sandwiches for dessert. I asked for my ice cream separately on the side. Choose your house-made ice cream and your freshly baked cookies! And remember… variety is the spice of life, so choose 2 different cookie flavors! We went for the snickerdoodle cookie and a chocolate malt cookie (amazing). The ice cream? Brings me back to my elementary school days….. classic pb&j. LOVE.
The Barclays Center
From Fresco by Scotto, potato and zucchini chips smothered in gooey melted gorgonzola cheese! Chips started to get a tad soggy after a while.
A cheeseburger, stacked high with lettuce and tomato from Brooklyn Burger. A bit hard to eat for stadium food (I did not envy IIA as she awkwardly balanced the plate on her lap and the burger in one hand)!
Unfortunately, a disappointing sandwich from a usual fan favorite, Fatty ‘Cue. This is the BBQ brisket sandwich. The bread was so soaked in grease that IA opted to eat the meat off his chips (they were less greasy!) than the bread itself. When your gooey gorgonzola chips are less heavy than your bread, you’ve got trouble…
Luckily for me, I ordered the right sandwich. A hot-pressed Cuban sandwich from Habana. Salty, porky (stuffed with both roast pork and ham!), melty and refreshingly tart (from the pickles), this sandwich really hit the spot.
ATO also made a great choice in ordering the Baja fish tacos with fresh corn relish from Calexico. Although also inconvenient to eat while watching a game, the tacos were bright, lightly fried and all-out tasty.
Dassara Brooklyn Ramen
Ramen has been all the craze lately. Totto and Ippudo’s lines are legendary. But if you’re looking for a shorter wait and a funky twist to your bowl of noodles, then try a bowl of off-beat, unorthodox ramen from Dassara, a newish ramen shop in Carroll Gardens. For starters, sample some of the eccentric offerings on the “Not Ramen” side of the menu: above is the tasty miso eggplant dip with nori crisps.
For those adventurous organ-lovers, order a bowl of fried chicken hearts served with house-made duck sauce and hot mustard!
Or if you’re just craving some good ol’ veggies, try a plate of the selection of beans with yuba cracklins, corn and celery, tossed in a sansho vinaigrette and served on whipped silken tofu. Mmmm, interesting and yummy too!
But definitely save room for the ramen. We decided to go with the less traditional options. Above is the famous “Deli Ramen”: ramen served in a rich chicken broth, garnished with diced celery, matzo balls, locally-sourced Canadian-style smoked meat and a soft-poached egg. The broth was fragrant and wonderful, and while less decadent than the chicken broth served at Totto, ATO actually thought it packed more flavor. The smoked meat added vigor and salt. But the matzo balls? More conceptually cool than actually delicious.
Above is the lamb ramen, with braised lamb belly, market greens and a soft-poached egg. If the chicken broth was rich, then the lamb broth was filthy stinking rich. And there was absolutely no doubt that this broth was made from lamb - an aggressive lamb flavor penetrated everything in that bowl. To me, it was honestly a bit overwhelming (although I do have to admit that the braised lamb belly was unforgettable), but to ATO, it was all insanely good. He now proclaims both of these ramens at Dassara to be his favorites in the city!
And even tho he spilled a bowl in his lap (apparently the first person ever to do so) and knocked over a beer shortly thereafter, the owners/staff good-naturedly laughed it off, poked a bit of fun and happily encouraged us to visit soon. Which, knowing ATO, we definitely will.
After another rainy work day, another trek to Brooklyn and another go at bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders, we stuffed ourselves at another delicious restaurant in Park Slope: Convivium Osteria (2 weeks ago we hit up Al Di La, see prior post). Convivium Osteria offers a mix of Mediterranean fare that spans from Italy to Spain to Portugal. The food is comforting and excellent. And I can certainly see why our friends CR and AR frequent this joint as their go-to date spot: the dim lighting and candles are romantic and warm, the low murmur of conversation provides a sense of stolen intimacy and the space is charming while a bit fun and quirky.
At CR’s suggestion, we ordered the DiStefano burrata with ugly tomatoes and air dried mullet roe (the roe was served on the side and is not pictured). As we all agreed, it’s so hard to see burrata on a menu and NOT order it! We weren’t disappointed. The gooey cheese fell apart at the touch of a knife, and we were rewarded with its pure fresh milky taste. The tomatoes, while surely ugly, were sweet and packed with flavor. The balsamic added the perfect amount of savoriness to each bite.
We also shared a portion of the braised artichokes: big, fat juicy gourds of artichoke hearts sat like just-ripe fruit in a fragrant bath of olive oil, garlic and wild mint that caused me to go through 2 extra pieces of bread in an effort to sop up the whole tasty pool of goodness.
EW ordered the special of the night: the roasted Cornish game hen. As VB aptly put it as the mouthwatering dish arrived, “ah, birds are just meant to be roasted, aren’t they?” Crisp, crackly skin, tangy citrus notes and a peppery rub made this particular apiary delightful.
The pastas were awesome. CR ordered the spinach and Italian ewe ricotta gnudi with asiago cheese: fat plump mounds that melted in your mouth, smothered in a decadent cheesy sauce.
VB and I both ordered the green apple and cinnamon ravioli, topped with fresh parmesan and chopped radicchio and served with a rustic duck ragu.
First bite: this is kinda weird. My palate is confused. It’s so savory and so sweet at the same time! How can this be??
Next 2 bites: Hmmmm??? Ears perking up.
2 bites later: Higgins - “I think she’s got it! I think she’s got it!” Eliza - ”The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” Higgins - “By George, she’s got it!”
Ha ha. I love that movie. And on this plate I especially loved the bitter and fresh radicchio, balancing all the cheese and sweetness.
But alas, I must admit, that the best pasta ordered that night was ATO’s: whole little monster prawns (these are not a type of prawn, I’m just calling them monsters cos that’s what they looked like to me), head and tail on, hovered protectively over house-made tonnarelli, as if guarding it with their lives. And I see good reason why. That pasta was ridiculously good. It had soaked up every bit of prawn essence; it basked in their juices and their glory. Every last bit of that sauce was greedily soaked up and eaten with our remaining bread basket. Mmmmmm….
Seriously, if we hit up amazing restaurants after every rock climbing trip, I might just become an expert rock climber!! ;-).