Taverna Kyclades

Ever since a friend of ours brought us to a restaurant that served traditional Greek food, we’ve been having constant cravings. And we’re not even craving the typical Greek dishes like souvlaki and pita. We’ve been craving the goodies like grilled octopus and lamb chops! So on a plan-less Friday night, we did a quick Yelp search and headed over to Taverna Kyclades in the East Village to try to satisfy our Greek food cravings!

We arrived around 6:30pm and was seated right away. The dining room was about half full so it was a tad noisy. No big issue but we did have to lean in a bit to hear each other. We were given menus to look over and offered tap water almost immediately after sitting down. We spent a few minutes with our menus before asking our waiter for a bit of advice on ordering. And I have to say he was spot on with his recommendations!

To start, we ordered their Traditional Greek Salad ($8.95), which had a small amount of romaine lettuce, large tomatoes, small cucumbers, olives, onions and a huge slab of feta cheese. Our waiter told us that a small portion is more than enough for two people and we’re glad we listened to him. The small portion is more than enough for two people to share! The feta was amazing, the veggies were fresh and I absolutely love that they use tiny cucumbers! I’ve always thought that large cucumbers were troublesome to eat and whenever I make salads, I also use smaller ones.

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While we were making our way through our salad, the Charcoal Grilled Octopus ($17.95) arrived. Our waiter cut our octopus up for us, which I thought was nice. Everything was in bite-sized pieces for our pleasure! The octopus was fantastic! I think I’ve had better before – but it was really satisfying. The octopus was fresh and I love how simple the dish is – lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can really taste the octopus this way without a heavy sauce to cover it.

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Next up was our entree choice. We opted to share the Galeos, or Fried Baby Shark ($15.95). They offer the dish grilled or fried so we asked our waiter for his recommendation. He told us that he wanted to say grilled since it’s healthier but the fried is definitely tastier. We listened to his advice and went with the fried and boy was it good! Neither of us have had shark before so this was a new experience for both of us. It was surprisingly good – each piece has a large bone in the middle but otherwise it was very easy to eat. The meat was tender and very soft. It tasted amazing with the garlic dip on the side!

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Each entree comes with a side of your choice between rice, fries, lemon potatoes and horta. We went with the lemon potatoes and they were so good! I think these are the best lemon potatoes I’ve ever had in my life – the potatoes were warm and had just the right amount of lemon flavor. It wasn’t too overpowering and had just the perfect tart taste.

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After our dishes were cleared away, our waiter presented us with a complimentary dessert! It was a generous portion of a type of custard wrapped in phyllo dough. It was very tasty and just the perfect finish to a very savory meal. I especially loved the custard part!

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I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Taverna. Everything tasted super fresh and I loved that besides the fried shark, everything was light and refreshing. Our waiter was attentive and gave such spot-on advice. And the complimentary dessert didn’t hurt either! I can’t wait to be back to have more octopus and maybe try the lamb chops next time!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

The Boyfriend and I recently discovered the gigantic H-Mart in Edison, New Jersey, which is literally less than 30 minutes away from his house. Along with it, we also discovered the huge Picnic Garden and Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. He’s been to Little Sheep before in Queens but this was the first time I would hotpot in a restaurant with only one big pot in the middle. All the other places I’ve been to gave each person their own individual pots.

We arrived around 6:00pm and still had to wait a bit. By the time we left, there was a crowd of people waiting outside to be seated. By the time we finished our shopping at H-Mart at round 9:00pm, there was still a huge crowd of people waiting to be seated. They’re super popular!

We opted for a split yin-yang pot, which means you get half spicy and half non-spicy. If you get two pots for a bigger table, it’s the same exact price since they charge per person for the soup.

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We ordered a variety of items to try – I especially like that you can order half orders of items. First up was the beef slices, which we got a full order of. The beef was very tender and cooked quickly. No sign of any freezer burn or frost on the beef!

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We also tried the lamb slices, which were amazing! The lamb didn’t taste gamey at all and cooked very well in the soup.

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My favorite meat of the night was definitely the pork belly. I had never had pork belly in hot pot before so it was another new experience for me. I’m in love with it now! The pork belly is fatty and becomes so soft after you boil it in the soup.

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We also ordered a variety of smaller side dishes:

  • Fish balls
  • Fish balls with cod roe on the inside
  • Fish filets
  • Headless shrimp
  • Mussels
  • Tofu platter
  • Goose intestines

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We also ordered a bunch of other side dishes to share:

  • Bamboo shoots
  • White carrots
  • Real meatballs
  • Wontons
  • Mushrooms
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Chicken

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I really liked that they brought over a serving stand to put our smaller side dishes on instead of crowding us at the table with all the dishes. We were able to eat leisurely, without having to worry about hurrying and clearing up our table for the next round of dishes!

The food was absolutely delicious and super fresh. Nothing tasted bad and a lot of things tasted great. I particularly loved the fish balls with the cod roe on the inside – it’s like having a surprise with every bite! The pork belly was phenomenal and I could eat a whole order by myself!

If you check in on Facebook, Instagram or Yelp you can get a free ice cream – flavor is your choice. The ice cream here is pretty good – again, no signs of freezer burn. I can’t wait to come back to try out the other items on their extensive menu!

Hanamizuki

The cool thing about starting a new job in a new neighborhood is that you get to explore and learn where all the good places to eat are. Whether you’re eating by yourself, with friends or with coworkers, there are always new places to discover. I recently discovered Hanamizuki, which sells Japanese rice balls. It’s right smack in the middle of wholesale clothing and jewelry stores so it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking!

They do an Omusbi Plate combo for $9.50 and you get your choice of 2 rice balls and miso soup combined with their appetizer of the day and Japanese pickles. There are 8 rice ball choices and 4 miso soup choices – all of them sound super delicious!

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I went with the Hawaiian, which had spam, dried tomato, chili and nori – seaweed, and the Sweet Potato, which had Japanese sweet potato, hijiki-seaweed, deep fried tofu and black sesame. For my miso soup, I went with the Gnocchi, which had tofu-gnocchi, arugula, black peppers and extra-virgin olive oil.

I really liked the miso soup – the gnocchi was very moist and chewy. The arugula was also made the soup very fresh and light. The rice balls were a bit on the small side but they’re pretty filling once you get through eating both of them! I thought the Hawaiian wasn’t as good as some other spam musubis I’ve had but it was pretty tasty. I really liked the Sweet Potato rice ball because it was sweet and salty at the same time.

The workers were very friendly and I hear the desserts are coming in soon so that’s definitely something to look forward to. They also serve Columbe coffee!

Disney Roundup: Rainforest Cafe

For my last Disney Roundup, I present our last dinner at Disney: The Rainforest Cafe. The food was pretty good but it was the atmosphere that really got me. For those of you not familiar with the Rainforest Cafe, it’s literally themed on the inside to look like a rainforest. Every 20 minutes there is a rainforest “thunderstorm” and every 10-15 minutes the animals come to life. A lot of people think the noises are too loud but I quite liked it – it’s a different experience than your usual restaurant!

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If you’re on the meal plan, anything in the entree section is up for grabs so I went with their Taste of the Islands, which features blackened tilapia with mango salsa, shrimp and scallops in a creamy garlic and chili sauce, and coconut shrimp on a stick. It also comes with a side of your choice so I chose mashed potatoes. The portion size was literally more than I could finish! Everything had a bit of a kick in spice so beware! I also had bits of my sister and mom’s steak, which I thought was great. A lot better than our experience at Planet Hollywood, which I do not recommend.

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For my dessert, I had Maya’s Mango Sorbet, which is served with fresh cubed mango, raspberry sauce and a chocolate filled wafer. As with the other Disney restaurants, the dessert portion size was huge! They give you two huge scoops of mango sorbet and in my opinion, it’s definitely more than enough for two to share – let alone just me! The sorbet was refreshing and just right for a hot, humid Florida night.

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There are so many options on the Disney Dining Plan that it’s not possible to try them all on one visit. But I am already planning where I want to go next time! It’s definitely a trial and error system where some restaurants are amazing while others are a miss. I can’t wait to try them all!

Disney Roundup: Raglan Road + Wolfgang Puck

Since we ended up with 7 nights of table-service credits, I picked a combination of new and old restaurants. We revisited Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in Magic Kingdom because we really liked our experiences there last time. We ate at five new restaurants during our stay but I want to highlight Raglan Road, Wolfgang Puck and Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney.

Raglan Road is an Irish themed restaurant located in Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney. There’s live performances during dinner – usually Irish tap dancers. They perform both on the main stage and in the side dining areas, where we were seated. There were a lot of yummy options on the menu but I opted for their special of the day – Baked Cod in a creamy sauce on top of mashed potatoes. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes and any kind of cream sauce so this was heaven for me. The cod was tender and cooked just right. The sauce wasn’t overpowering at all and paired very nicely with the mashed potatoes.

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For dessert, I had the Key Lime Pie, which was huge! The key lime was just tart enough without being overly sour and the crust was nice and crunchy. This feels more like a two person dessert to share – especially if you’ve eaten a huge entree beforehand.

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Wolfgang Puck is located in the West Side of Downtown Disney. Since we stayed at Port Orleans, who have a River Ferry to the West Side, we didn’t have to walk far at all. I only wish that it didn’t rain so much, which causes the ferry to close! I liked Wolfgang Puck because it had a lot of different dishes on the menu – you could get pasta, pizza, sushi and a variety of entrees. I went with the Pesto Rotisserie Chicken with mashed potatoes and an arugula salad. The portion size was huge! The chicken was tender and not dry at all. The pesto sauce was strong and tasted really good mixed with the mashed potatoes. This dish is definitely worth your money.

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My mom and sister both went with their Salmon with polenta, which I thought was amazing. The salmon was cooked perfectly and wasn’t dry at all. The polenta gave the dish more flavor and the fresh veggies really made the dish pop.

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Both meals were beyond my expectations. Even though Downtown Disney isn’t technically a theme park, it is affiliated with one so I wasn’t expecting too much from either restaurant. Especially since the night before our visit to Wolfgang Puck, we had a pretty disastrous dinner at Planet Hollywood. But all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Raglan and Wolfgang Puck and will definitely put them on my Disney must-go list for our next visit.

Disney Roundup: Be Our Guest

Recently, my family and I decided on Orlando, Florida for our annual summer vacation. We traveled to Orlando two years ago and stayed on Disney property at the Caribbean Beach Resort. This time, we opted for a much smaller resort and stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter. The French Quarter is much smaller than its counterpart, the Riverside, and if you’re in building 3 or 4, you’re extremely close to the main building, the food court and the buses.

We also opted to sign up for the Disney Dining Plan, despite the fact that we would be spending two days at Universal. For those of you not familiar with the Dining Plan, you basically get 1 quick-service meal, 1 snack and 1 table-service meal per day, per person. Due to the lengthy list of restaurants participating in the Dining Plan, we ate at some really great places and that’s what this post is about!

We used all our quick-service credits for lunch since we wanted to have a nice sit-down dinner every night. Most of the time it was fast food – burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. However, one quick-service meal really shone above the others and it was Disney’s new Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom. If your’e staying on Disney property, you’re able to make FastPass+ reservations for this restaurant, which is amazing because when we arrived for our FastPass+ time at 12:40pm, the restaurant was completely full and not taking anymore walk-ins.

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Be Our Guest is modeled after the castle in Beauty and the Beast and it’s absolutely gorgeous! The decor is beautiful and it’s the only quick-service restaurant that I’ve been to in Disney that serves food on actual plates. The menu isn’t that big but the food is really good for for a restaurant labeled as quick-service for lunch. I went for the Braised Pork (Coq Au Vin Style), which featured eight hour slow-cooked pork with mushrooms, onions, carrots and bacon served with mashed potatoes and green beans jardiniere. The pork was very tender and broke apart easily. The mashed potatoes tasted delightful with the sauce from the pork. It was brought hot to our table by a covered trolley, which was really thoughtful.

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For dessert at Be Our Guest, I went with The Master’s Cupcake, which was chocolate sponge cake topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff”. I heard that the special “Grey Stuff” was super-whipped cookies and cream panna cotta and I don’t doubt it for a second. The “Grey Stuff” was so good! It was very light and not too sweet at all. It looks pretty heavy since it’s meant to be a cupcake frosting but it melted in my mouth.

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Ai Fiori

The Boyfriend and I have been extremely interested in the Altamarea Group ever since he had a great meal at Marea after our graduation from college. We recently dined at All’onda, whose chef used to work under the Altamarea Group and we were blown away by how good the pasta was. So when Restaurant Week Summer edition rolled around, I quickly made reservations for Ai Fiori, one of the restaurants under the Altamarea Group. Ai Fiori boasts one Michelin Star, so we went in with high expectations.

We arrived early for out 11:45am reservation (we had a matinee show on Broadway afterwards so I wanted to give us ample time) and were told to wait in the lounge area. A few minutes later, we were seated – the first ones in the entire restaurant! But the other tables filled up pretty quickly during our meal, so I’d say they’re pretty popular! We were greeted by our waiter with menus – both a la carte and Restaurant Week clearly marked.

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After we made our order, which our waiter didn’t even bat an eyelid to, our seating plates were taken away and bread was brought to our table. I want to comment on this – they come around and give you two pieces of bread. Around 20 minutes later, when our appetizers arrived, they came around again to give us more bread. We both really liked this because sometimes it’s such a hassle just to get bread at other restaurants. At Ai Fiori, bread just appeared on our bread plates! Ps. The bread was also really good – super soft!

I went with the Zuppa di Zucchini, or chilled zucchini soup with basil and lemon. I’m a huge fan of chilled soups so this was extra enjoyable for me. The soup was nicely flavored and had a hint of spice. With each spoonful you get a nice kick of heat but it doesn’t linger.

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The Boyfriend decided on the Terrina di Maiale, or house-made pate. The presentation was lovely, but one gripe that we had was the lack of baguette! There was one tiny piece for the entire square of pate! Lack of baguette aside, the pate was delicious – stiffer than other pates that we’ve had but still very enjoyable.

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For my entrée, I opted for the Pollo Arrosto, or pan-roasted chicken with polenta, pancetta, corn and hen jus. The chicken was moist and flavorful – there was a hint of herbs and lemon in every bite. The polenta was just soft enough and tasted really good when mixed up with the pancetta, mushrooms and corn bits. I wished there was more!

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The Boyfriend opted for the Tagliatelle, which featured house-made pasta with capers, taggiasca olives and tomato. The pasta itself was cooked al dente and tasted fresh. But it was the sauce that really made the dish shine. The sauce was superb! The capers and olives really gave the standard tomato sauce a burst of flavor. The pasta was so good that he even declared Ai Fiori his favorite Restaurant Week meal to date (and we’ve had Dovetail, Nobu and Capital Grille!).

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For my dessert, I went with the Crema di Cioccolato, or dark chocolate and coffee mousse with vanilla ice cream. I really liked the mousse – it was firm but not too much. The use of dark chocolate ensured that the mousse wasn’t too sweet and the ice cream helped sweeten up the bitterness of the dark chocolate and coffee flavors.

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The Boyfriend went with the other option on the menu, the Panna Cotta with balsamic crema, almonds and market berries. I had a bite of his dessert – the balsamic and raspberry gave the sweet panna cotta a tarty flavor. I’ve had better panna cottas before but this one was pretty tasty.

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We both opted to have a glass of white wine with our meal – they offered a white and a red wine for $10.00 extra on top of their Restaurant Week menu. They bring it over, offer you a taste and then pour a very generous glass if you approve. The wine was from 2006 so it’s almost a teenager in wine terms! We both enjoyed it and thought it paired very well with our dishes.

Service was impeccable – our water glasses were never empty and bread appeared on our plates without prompting. Our dishes came in a timely manner – we had just the right amount of time between courses to chat and slowly savor our food. We never felt rushed at all. I would definitely love to come back for a regular meal outside of Restaurant Week!

Dovetail

It’s time for Restaurant Week 2014 – Summer Edition! This time around, instead of going for Nobu again, I went straight for lunch reservations at Dovetail, which has been on my list for a while. Nestled in the heart of the Upper West Side, just steps away from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History, Dovetail has earned a Michelin Star for three consecutive years.

The maître d’ greeted us the moment we walked through the door. We arrived 15 minutes before our reservation time but they seated us right away anyways. The dining room is modern and airy. The seats were so comfy! We were given menus to look over and our orders were taken soon after. Our waiter didn’t even bat an eyelid when we said we wanted to do the Restaurant Week menu – no attitude change at all!

After we ordered we were given the “bread” platter, which consisted of two pieces of a biscuit-like cornbread and two mini riceballs. I’m not normally a huge fan of cornbread or biscuits but this one was pretty good. It was soft and moist and served warm, which I really liked. The mini riceballs were also pretty good – I thought it was more flavorful than the ones at All’onda.

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I decided on the Melon Gazpacho with cucumber, basil, and house made cottage cheese. It was a bit hot outside during our walk to the restaurant so this chilled soup really hit the spot for me. The gazpacho tasted exactly like a melon but the cucumber, basil and cottage cheese helped temper the sweetness. I really liked this dish – I just wish there was more!

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The Boyfriend went with the Steak Tartare with poblano, cured jicama, and tostada. The tostada was basically a flat taco shell, which we thought was a bit odd. The steak tartare isn’t as finely cut as what we’re used to so the texture was definitely a bit weird. It was a good steak tartare, but I don’t think it’s the best one I’ve had to date.

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I went with the Long Island Hake with sweet potato puree, snap peas, and a coconut emulsion for my entree. There aren’t quite words to describe how satisfied I was with my selection. The presentation of the dish was very similar to my gazpacho – the dish with all solid ingredients was placed and then the liquids poured on over it. The hake was cooked perfectly – just a bit of clear in the middle. The sweet potato puree was sweet and paired very well with the simple hake. My favorite part of the dish, however, was the coconut emulsion. It was light, refreshing and super fragrant.

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The Boyfriend decided on the Barbecued Pork Shoulder with summer squash, white bean, and capers. I had a bite of his dish and thought it a was very flavorful. The pork shoulder was tender but a bit on the dry side. There was a strong barbecue taste so it worked very well with the more simpler flavors of the squash and beans.

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I was torn between the three dessert options but I ultimately decided on the Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with cherries, hazelnuts, and buttermilk. I thoroughly enjoyed my dessert. Usually cheesecake is very sweet but the dark chocolate helped even out the sweetness. The cherry sauce went really with the cheesecake because it was a bit tart while the dark chocolate was a bit bitter.

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The Boyfriend went with the “Horchata” or panna cotta with berries and citrus. You can never really go wrong with a panna cotta and that definitely applies here. The berries were nice and tart and mixed with the panna cotta very well.

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Service was prompt and attentive. Our water glasses were refilled frequently and our dishes came in a timely manner. For $25.00, I think it’s well worth it to try out a Michelin starred restaurant that’s normally well over $80 for a regular meal. I definitely enjoyed my meal at Dovetail. Everything tasted great – especially my hake!

Marumi Sushi

Sushi is something that the Boyfriend and I are always up for – it’s refreshing and nothing beats a great piece of salmon in my mind. We’re always on the lookout for affordable and trustworthy sushi places. Our most recent search led us to Marumi Sushi in the West Village. We arrived round lunch time so it was pretty packed. Luckily there were two spaces at the bar and I always love bar seats. You get to see all the chefs in action!

We opted to start off with a Tuna and Uni Roll ($8.00). The Boyfriend also ordered an Ikura (salmon roe) hand roll ($6.00). Both rolls were very fresh and nicely done. I thoroughly enjoyed the Uni. I always want to order Uni but I’m never sure if it’s going to be fresh. The Uni at Marumi is definitely fresh and brightly colored. I could eat four of these rolls!!

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I opted for the Salmon Don ($16.00), which features various salmon sashimi (around 9-10 pieces) over a bed of sushi rice. It also comes with your choice of soup or salad. I opted for the salad, which was a bigger portion size than most other sushi restaurants. The salmon sashimi was so fresh! There were about three different ones and each one was more mouth-melting than the next! They give you a very big bowl of rice too so it really fills you up.

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The Boyfriend went with the Tuna Don ($16.00), which is pretty much the same as the Salmon except with three different Tunas. I had one piece of tuna and it was indeed very fresh and delicious.

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Service was pretty quick and attentive. Our water glasses were almost attended to and our food arrived in a timely manner. I am definitely adding Marumi to my Sushi-Go-To List!

Cafe Asean

When we want Malaysian food, we usually head over to Chinatown to either Nyonya (if we want roti) or New Malaysian (if we want Haianese Chicken). But since we were already in the West Village, a quick Yelp search led us to Cafe Asean. We arrived around 1:00pm and had our pick of tables. It was raining that day so we decided to sit inside instead of the garden.

We started off with the Sotong, or salt & pepper calamari with spicy mango salsa ($7.75). The calamari was crunchy and pretty tasty on its own. But the mango salsa really made them pop. The Boyfriend said the salsa makes him think of Thailand because it was so fresh and light.

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The Boyfriend went with the Nasi Goreng, or Malay-style fried rice with shrimp ($9.00). This was super good! They used a stickier rice, which when fried, has a crunchy texture. It’s kind of like the bottom layer of rice when you cook it with a clay pot. It was flavorful and very delicious.

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I decided on the Kari Kapitan, or Malay coconut curry chicken with potatoes and steamed veggies ($8.25). Boy, was that chicken fragrant! It was a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. I dislike when curry is so spicy that you can’t taste what you’re eating. They definitely do not skimp on the coconut milk here and that’s exactly my favorite way to have curry. The serving size was generous – I actually had to take half of it home with me!

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The prices are higher here than it is in Chinatown – but prices are always higher outside of Chinatown. The food here is super delicious and I think it’s worth the price difference. I’m more partial to the fragrant coconut flavors so the Malay curry here is more to my tastes than the Chinese-Malay curry in Chinatown restaurants. I can’t wait to be back to try out the laksa!