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Restaurant Review: Kum Gang San

Restaurant Name: Kum Gang San

Cuisine: Korean, Japanese, Sushi

Neighborhood: Midtown

Address: 49 W 32nd St, New York 10001
Btwn 5th Ave & Bway


Telephone: 212-967-0909

Website: kumgangsan.net

Pricing: Expensive

Despite molliedelicious's insistence that I would like it, I'd never actually tried Korean food before having dined at Kum Gang San. I must say - my dear Mollie was absolutely correct. I was surprised to see that the meal came with SO many side dishes. They were laid out on the table shortly after we were seated. So many things that I cannot even remember what they all were - I do know that there was a wonderfully spicy little potato dish, as well as a potato and fruit salad. A variety of Kim Chi, radish salads, seafood dumplings, and an odd little gelatin dish were also served.

Our main courses were Jap Chae (Stir-fried Vermicelli with Thinly Sliced Carrots, Onions, Peppers, Spinach and Beef In a Rich Soy Based Sauce), Hae Mool Pajun (Korean Style Crispy Rice Flour Pancake made with Finely Chopped Assortment of Seafood and Scallions), and Bul Go Ki (Thinly Sliced Boneless Rib Eye Steak marinated with a special sauce Barbecued At The Table). Not being a seafood person, I cannot report on the Hae Mool Pajun, though the rest of my party seemed to enjoy it. The Bul Go Ki was absolutely to die for delicious, and the Jap Chae was also quite tasty.

The atmosphere is nice, especially on the lower level, with a waterfall and rock structure climbing the walls of the lobby, however, it is kind of noisy. The restaurant is on two levels, so there is plenty of room, but it does feel very crowded at the tables, especially if you order a dish that gets cooked on the table top. The service is a bit iffy. We had someone with us who spoke Korean, which definitely came in handy, but even so, the wait staff was slow and pretty inattentive.

Overall, it was a nice experience. I tried some new things and am happy that I did!

Restaurant Review: Gramercy Restaurant

Restaurant Name: Gramercy Restaurant

Cuisine: Dinner/Coffee Shop Standard

Neighborhood: Gramercy

Address: 184 3rd Ave, New York 10003
At 17th St


Telephone: 212-982-2121

Website: N/A

Pricing: Moderately Inexpensive

After a slightly traumatizing search for parking at the place we'd planned on going, my family and I stopped in here for a quick lunch this afternoon. It's basically a standard diner menu - eggs, burgers, sandwiches, etc., but the food is delicious, the servings are huge, and the place is nice. It seemed worth a mention.

They had a nice brunch menu selection - a full meal for $9.95, served with coffee or tea, and your choice of something from their fresh squeezed juice bar (I recommend the regular orange juice - delicious!). Everyone enjoyed their selection and the prices were very reasonable.

Notes: The booths are fairly small if you're seating more than 2-3 people. Even 2 on one side is a bit of a squeeze. I'd opt for a table on a second visit.

Restaurant Review: Waldy's Wood Fired Pizza & Penne

Restaurant Name: Waldy's Wood Fired Pizza & Penne

Cuisine: Pizza & Penne, Salad

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Address: 800 6th Ave, New York 10001
Btwn 27th & 28th St


Telephone: 212-213-5042

Website: waldyspizza.com

Pricing: Moderately Inexpensive

I happened to pass by on my lunch break today and remembered my boss mentioning that she'd heard their pizza was excellent. I stopped in and decided to give it a shot and boy, am I glad I did.

I was on a short break, so I quickly opted for a small four cheese pizza. It cost $5.00, took about 5 minutes to make, and was roughly the size of two large regular slices at a regular pizza place. The thin crust was perfectly crisped on the edges, the four cheese blend was spectacular and the pie was more than enough for one person for lunch.

The pizzas aren't circular, more like a large oval for a single, and a long rounded rectangle for larger orders. They have various topping options - both pre-selected and make your own. The Classic Margherita looked absolutely delectable. There is also a small selection of salads, as well as Wood Roasted Penne, which I will definitely be going back for some time soon.

A few delightful pastry treats are available - I binged on a homemade black & white cookie, which was good, but not the best I've head. Their Chocolate Truffle Cupcake looked tasty, but a bit overpriced for its size.

Notes: The place is small, mostly take out, I'd assume, but there is seating for those who choose to stay. Take-out pizzas come in appropriately sized boxes (the longer the pizza, the longer the box), and for those staying in - the pies are serves on wooden slabs. I thought it might be easier to eat with a knife and fork, but they wound up cutting into slices very neatly, though the wet naps by the door are certainly useful.

Hot Right Now: Regina Spektor
Chances are, you've heard, or at least heard of, [Regina Spektor] by now. But on the off-chance that you haven't, or that you've heard a few tracks from her latest album, [Begin to Hope] and don't know where to go from there, this post is for you.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive biography/discography for Regina [here], so I'll spare you all that David Copperfield kind of crap and skip right to expounding her virtues. First off, Regina quite literally sounds like nobody else. Sure, her style has a certain Fiona Apple (whom I also love) quality to it, but her voice and her off-beat lyrics are super-unique. A friend of mine once told me that Regina was "very New York," which is both a totally indefinable and totally accurate description.

If you've heard Regina on the radio or seen her video on MTV, you're probably familiar with either the boppy, (relatively) up-beat [Fidelity] or the boppy, melancholy [On the Radio]. Among my online friends, [Samson] has been getting a lot of love, and for good reason: the [lyrics] are ninety different flavors of heartrending and beautiful.

The first Regina song I ever heard was "Samson," but an older, down-tempo version of the song that was featured on the album [Songs]. If I knew where to buy it, I would tell you, because "Samson," "Oedipus," and "Prisoners" are three of my favorite older Regina songs, but alas. I don't know [Soviet Kitsch] that well, but [Us] is fantastic, and the title is a [Kundera reference], so I'd venture to guess that the rest of the album is worth a listen. Older Regina is a bit of an acquired taste, but if you've already been seduced by the more "accessible" stuff on her newest album, chances are that you'll fall in love with her older tracks, too.

So what's next for you, Intrepid New ReSpekt Fan? Well, a couple of choice (free!) downloads are available below, along with Amazon links for a few of her albums, many of which are also available on iTunes. And if you're a New Yorker, you can see Regina live in Brooklyn on November 20th. Tickets are available through [Ticketmaster] or at the [Warsaw Bar & Lounge] box office. For you out-of-towners, here is some [additional tour info] via her official website.

To sum up: Regina Spektor is a sexy, literate Russian-slash-New Yorker with an awesome voice and the kind of lyrics that creep under your skin. I think she's pretty fabulous, and I hope you'll agree.


MP3:*
[Blue Lips] Live at [Tonic] (10/16/2004)
[Hotel Song] from Begin to Hope
[Samson] from Songs


BUY:
[Begin to Hope]
[Begin to Hope [Special Edition]]
[Soviet Kitsch]
[Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories]


*MP3s are for trial purposes only. Please listen and delete within 24 hours, and most of all, support the artist by buying their albums/singles!

Three-Cheese Sandwich
Do you ever look in your fridge and see that all you have in there is cheese, soy milk, cheese, slightly old seedless grapes, and more cheese? I do. Which is how I came up with this simple, quick recipe.

All you need is some bread and three kinds of cheese. I used Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse 12 Grain bread, which is delicious and nutritious; Chavrie with Basil and Roasted Garlic; Rosenborg Danish blue cheese; and Land O' Lakes Cheddarella.

Take two slices of bread and spread goat cheese on one side of each slice. Cut the blue cheese and Cheddarella into thinnish slices and arrange them on top of the goat cheese. Place one slice of bread on top of the other slice, taking care not to let too much cheese escape off the sides. Slice the sandwich into sections of your preferred size and shape. Cut off the crusts, if that's your thing -- it's not mine; I love bread crust. Et voilà.

You can substitute various cheeses, but I found that the three I used worked very well: the Cheddarella mitigated the kick of the blue cheese, and the goat cheese held the sandwich together and had a nice zest to it.

A Quick and Easy Salad
The other night, edward_vii, molliedelicious, and I made ourselves a lovely little salad, which took all of about three minutes to put together. I thought I might as well share the idea with you all.

We happened to have a prepackaged bag of baby lettuce mix on hand, but I'm sure any mixture would work just fine. Make sure the greens are washed and toss them in a bowl. Next up, a small handful of presalted, large cashews, and a bit of goat cheese. I recommend Montchevré Garlic & Herb, which adds flavor to the mix, but go with whatever floats your boat. Finally, a bit of Balsamic vinaigrette - if you have a local Trader Joe's, I highly recommend picking up a bottle of theirs. It'll only cost you about $2.00 and it's absolutely delicious.

Toss everything lightly, and enjoy!

Restaurant Review: 'sNice

Restaurant Name: 'sNice

Cuisine: Coffeeshops, Desserts & Bakeries, Vegetarian/Vegan

Neighborhood: West Village

Address: 45 8th Ave, New York 10014
At W 4th St


Telephone: 212-645-0310

Website: N/A

Pricing: Moderately Inexpensive

This wonderful little coffeeshop/restaurant is my new favorite place in the City. The interior is cozy, with exposed brick and beam, inviting you to sit and stay awhile. Whether you pick a small table for two or four, or if you decide to sit at one of the communal tables and make new friends, you'll feel right at home here. The staff is friendly, there are books and board games on hand, and best of all, there's free wireless internet.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into 'sNice for the first time was how friendly the staff is. The people behind the counter are sweet and efficient (note to self: find out their names!), and so are the servers, who joke with the customers, offer suggestions, and are generally just very pleasant. Last time I was there, the guy behind the counter told me he liked my T-shirt in an entirely non-creepy way, for which he gets major points.

The menu is 100% vegetarian, and more than half of the offerings are vegan, but even habitual meat-eaters can enjoy the fresh, delicious sandwiches. This past Friday, gingergold and I split the brie, pear, and arugula with raspberry mustard, and the roasted vegetable panini with arugula and goat cheese. The latter, grilled to perfection with zucchini and red peppers, tasted like the healthiest thing I'd eaten in a while -- college living isn't exactly conducive to eating well. The raspberry mustard on the brie sandwich is spicy-sweet and delicious, and offset the juicy pear slices very nicely. All the sandwiches on the menu are a very reasonable $7, and come with a side of mixed greens dressed with a tasty balsamic vinaigrette.

The baked goods are amazing here, particularly the carrotcake muffin with buttercream frosting. Seriously, hands down, my biggest dessert craving of the moment. The chocolate cupcakes are so rich and delicious, it's a wonder that they're vegan. They're also cheap -- under two dollars, if I remember correctly ('sNice only takes cash, so you don't usually get a receipt). edward_vii and gingergold can back me up on the extreme deliciousness of the muffins and the cupcakes.

My favorite drink at 'sNice is the chai latte ($3). I like it with soy milk, but you can also order it with regular or skim milk. The iced coffee ($2) is also very good. I really like that they offer SweetLeaf Stevia as a sweetener. It tastes strange on its own, but who eats sweetener plain, anyway? It also has a slight tendency to clump, especially in cold drinks, but when mixed well, I think it tastes better than Splenda, and I happen to like Splenda just fine. Next time I'm there, I think I'm going to have to try one of their milk-less shakes (made with soy), because they look fabulous.

Bottom line: I have a massive crush on the entire establishment, and I think you'll like it too. If you live downtown, you have absolutely no excuse not to check it out -- I routinely make the trip down from Morningside Heights on the weekend -- so make it a point to stop by sometime soon.

Restaurant Review: Max Brenner - Chocolate By the Bald Man

Restaurant Name: Max Brenner - Chocolate By the Bald Man

Cuisine: Desserts & Bakeries, French

Neighborhood: Union Square

Address: 841 Broadway, New York 10003
Btwn 13th St & 14th St


Telephone: 212-388-0030

Website: maxbrenner.com

Pricing: Moderately Priced

About a week ago, my mother and I stopped into Max Brenner for lunch. The aroma of chocolate inside the restaurant is quite intoxicating. This place is, without doubt, a chocolate lover's dream. If chocolate isn't you thing, however, never fear! The menu offers a wide variety of savory crepes and waffles to choose from. The decor is interesting - large slabs of chocolate, dark, milk, and white, are stacked up on almost every available surface. Chocolate filled pipes line the ceiling and empty into both vats of spinning chocolate on the floor and dispensers behind the take-out bar.

My mother chose to have dessert before dessert and went with Banana Split Waffles. The dish came with decently sized waffle squares, a quartered banana covered with a light toffee sauce, a dish of strawberries, one scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a small beaker of warm chocolate sauce, which hardened once poured over the ice cream. Everything was cooked to perfection. The ice cream wasn't fabulous, but definitely not terrible. The toffee bananas were probably the highlight of this dish, adding a nice, rich flavor to the taste of the waffles. Had I not been in the mood for something less sweet, I'd have chosen this as my main course.

As I'd not yet eaten that day, I'd decided to go with something with a bit more protein and chose the Croque Madame Waffles - a meal off of the savory waffle menu. The dish was served with two waffles - of the same variety as my mother's dish, though not sweet - each with a scrambled mix of melted cheddar cheese and smoked ham, and topped with a sunny side up egg. A small beaker of mustard sauce and green salad were on the side. The entire thing was absolutely delicious, and extremely filling. I was a bit iffy on the idea of waffles in such a dish, but was more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

For dessert, we shared an Eskimo, which can be found on the ice cream menu, and consists of 2 scoops of ice cream (your choice of dark, milk, or white chocolate, vanilla, or fruit sorbet), a sugar cone, a cup of chocolate covered waffle crunchies, a bowl of finely chopped nuts, and a beaker of hardening chocolate sauce. The ice cream, again, was not bad, but definitely far from the best I've had. We regretted ordering it, as the meals were so filling and the dessert wasn't quite as tasty. I'd recommend sticking to the non-ice cream dessert items. It does well as a small addition to their waffle meals, but not so much on its own.

Notes: In the times I've passed by it before, there's always been a line out the door and a packed lobby inside. We wound up there at a very off hour - around 3pm on a Monday afternoon - and were seated immediately. I'd venture to say that if planning on dining here, timing is definitely key. My meal came out a good 15 minutes after my mother's. If not dining alone, it is probably a good idea to ask that your meals be brought out at the same time, as mom was almost done with hers by the time mine was being served. The wait staff was friendly and the restaurant was clean and not too loud. A nice, though busy atmosphere with very enjoyable music. They also have a wonderful chocolate shop to the right of the main entrance that everyone should check out before leaving.

I'd absolutely give Max Brenner another go... and another, and another.

Restaurant Review: Tanti Baci Caffe

Restaurant Name: Tanti Baci Caffe

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: West Village

Address: 163 West 10th Street, 10014

Telephone: 212-647-9651

Website: tantibacicaffe.com

Pricing: Moderately Inexpensive

This afternoon, edward_vii and I decided to give this little caffe a try. We'd spotted it a few days back and were intrigued. The lunch menu consists primarily of pasta, though there is also a small variety of panini, salads, and sides. Bread and olive oil come with your meal.

gingergold's menu choice: Rigatoni with Pesto
The portion was a decent size. The pasta was a bit more al dente than I would have liked, but not bad. The pesto was very nice - not too light, not too heavy (heavy on the garlic, however - and that is not a complaint). The olive oil and bread served before the actual meal was quite delicious.

edward_vii's menu choice: Arucola Pere e Parmigiano
Arugula, pears and slivers of parmesan cheese.
My salad portion was a decent size as well, given that it was off the appetizer list. While I loved the rosemary and pepper infused olive oil that came with our bread, the balsamic vinegar on my salad left something to be desired. I liked it well enough, but those with distinguishing taste be advised: wait until pears are in season, and ask for your parmesan to be freshly sliced. The slivers were hard and waxy, a sure sign it was stale. On the other hand, I tried and loved gingergold's pasta, so I'm going to definitely give the caffe another go.

Notes: It is important to mention that the actual menu price is about $1-$2 off from what it currently says on the restaurant website. Pastas were about $1 more, salads were about $1 less, give or take a bit. The oudoor seating area, where we were, is tiny, but nice. There is a lower, indoor level as well, but we weren't able to sneak a peek at it. The waitress was perfectly friendly, however the service was slow. edward_vii's salad came out at least 10-15 minutes before the pasta arrived.

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