Donguri, a warm and cozy 24-seater tucked away in the quiet streets of the Upper East Side, is a no frills, very homey type of Japanese place. It’s a nice, laid-back weekday dinner spot - it won’t blow your socks off, but it is appealing in its simplicity and authenticity. Watch the prices though, this place can catch you off guard! For the high bill that we were stuck with, we definitely would have rather indulged in tastier cooked Japanese food havens like Yakitori Totto or Tori Shin!
We’re both such suckers for homemade tofu. Above is the fresh little scoop that arrived at our table. Upon first bite, it was clear that, while good, this was nothing compared to the version served at Yakitori Totto.
The homemade pickled vegetables were absolutely stunning in appearance, but could have used a bit more pickling for our tastes. These just tasted raw, with a slight, too subtle, hint of fermentation.
The housemade smoked duck with baby greens salad, however, did not disappoint. An incredibly smoky taste resonated with every bite; the fresh, bitter salad paired perfectly. Strangely, this dish really brought us back to the classic corned duck, rye crisp, purple mustard and horseradish cream appetizer served at WD-50 for years.
We feared we didn’t order enough food, so halfway through the meal we added an order of veggie tempura. This is not what we expected! Thin slivers of veggies, fried up into this crazy ball. Good, especially with the delicious sweet and savory dipping sauce, but I would have better enjoyed a classic rendition, with veggies still fully intact.
Super simple, very traditional Inaniwa udon noodles with shrimp tempura. ATO appreciated the restraint of this dish more than I did, and he gulped down all my leftovers. I prefer a kitchen sink when it comes to udon, complete with various veggies (best with mushrooms!) and the mandatory soft-boiled egg. And (not a knock on this place, but in general) I’ve never understood why tempera is served in the soup - it’s all soft and mushy, the fried crackling shell sagging off the actual shrimp - by the time it arrives!
ATO went big, with the broiled fish cheeks, which are limited in supply each day and way too expensive ($42!). While tender and tasty, the rich, buttery flavor expected from a good fish cheek was missing.
For dessert, we wrapped it up with rice balls served in a red bean sauce, sprinkled in green tea powder. YUM.
Oh Ladurée…. let me count the ways I love thee. Cognac, lime basil, strawberry, rose, vanilla and salted caramel. Best French macarons in town? Maybe….. but must do more research before making a final determination. Poor me ;-)!
Lady M Confections
It was my mom’s birthday, and I wanted to splurge on a classic Lady M’s Mille Crêpes Cake. And I’m oh so happy that I did. The description from the website is spot-on, so I’m not even going to bother trying to re-describe it: “Lady M Mille Crêpes feature no less than twenty paper-thin handmade crêpes layered with ethereal light pastry cream. Delicate and irresistible, the top gently caramelized till golden. Sink right in, alternating crêpe and cream layers literally melt in your mouth leaving a subtle sweet finish.”
I was just in Boston for my sister’s wedding. And to my complete and utter disappointment and devastation, we didn’t have the chance to snag a lobster roll. Since then, my mind was all about lobster, like a pubescent boy is all about…. you know. I had it baaaaddd. But on Wednesday night of last week, the stars aligned! We were able to get out of work early, and we were headed to the UES to watch the presidential debate with some friends…. leaving us time to grab dinner at Flex Mussels!!!
Above is my absolute favorite dish on the menu: the mussels served “bisque” style with tender chunks of lobster, brandy, tomato, garlic and cream. I really really have been meaning to try some of the other 20+ variations of mussels at Flex, but I can’t tear myself away from this one. I, very predictably, order it every single time. Soooo freakin good. And all my friends agreed, because towards the end of the meal, it was all hands (and bread) in my giant pot. YUMMMMM.
Flex Mussels also happens to be ATO’s favorite lobster roll in the city! All 4 of my dining companions fell victim to its charm this time around. ATO is a very strange boy. He doesn’t like mayo. Which is why he doesn’t like many of the lobster rolls offered by this city. However, Flex Mussels offers a very un-mayo-y lobster roll. And bonus points: the coleslaw isn’t mayo-y either! Instead it’s got a yogurty/curry like consistency and taste. Perfect for my strange boy. Only downside: it’s too small!
The best pork soup dumplings in the city are in the Upper East Side at Shanghai Pavilion (fine, this is not including anywhere in Flushing, where I can’t seem to haul my lazy Manhattan-centric a$$). They are small enough to take down in 1 bite (as they should be) and the soup and meat are mouthwateringly delicious and juicy without being overly heavy and fatty, like at Joe Shanghai’s. The skin is thin (although it used to be even better and thinner!). Actually, I’d go so far as to say that Shanghai Pavilion has the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in the city. And if you don’t trust me (I wouldn’t either), then at least trust my parents, who were born and raised in Taiwan, and request to come here every time they visit. The food here is authentic, sophisticated and fresh and the decor is refreshingly elegant, unlike most traditional Chinese restaurants. The prices are a bit high, but well worth it for the food.
Last night we ordered the perfect dinner here. The special whole live lobster served with ginger and scallion sauce is freakin AMAZING and a must-have. AND to make things even better, it comes at a ridiculously low $19.95! ATO, true Asian-style, was gnawing his way through every last bit of cartilage, and by the time he was done, his fingers had turned pruney from the deliciously addictive sauce and the constant licking of his fingers.
The dry sauteed string beans here are nice, salty and garlicky, and they aren’t drenched in unidentifiable brown sauce like at most Chinese places around town. And the braised lion’s head casserole (think giant meatballs) with stewed vegetables is cooked in a savory broth in a clay pot and so gratifyingly homey: it’s like the special dish your best-cooking A Yi (Auntie) might make for a potluck get-together… but better. Oh man, this place is so good. And so undiscovered! Go, go, go! Ok one more peek at the amazing lobster to convince you….