Food Gallery 32

Around late winter/ early spring of 2011, a new food court opened up in Koreatown located at 32nd street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Food Gallery 32 hosts a variety of vendors all in one place. The food that are served by these vendors are all relatively cheap for Manhattan standards. The portions are also very big considering the price you pay for them. The method installed in this food court is very similar to the food court styles inside shopping malls. There are two floors of seating for the customers. You purchase your food from the individual vendor that you choose and then you are given a beeper. The beeper will sound when your food is ready. Once you pick up your food, you have to carry it by yourself to find a table. Because all of the food vendors use actual dishes and not plastic or styrofoam, when you are finished eating, someone will come to pick up your tray and dishes.

During the course of a month, I sampled majority of the food vendors available to customers. I managed to sample 5 out of the 7 vendors:

  1. Boon Sik Zip: serves boon shik food which is basically Korean street food
  2. Pastel: serves pastas and other Korean dishes
  3. O-de-ppang: serves Japanese food
  4. Bian Dang: serves Taiwanese food, it’s the guys from the NYC Cravings truck.
  5. Hanok: serves more regular Korean food

At Boon Sik Zip I ordered Ddukbokki or Korean rice cakes cooked in hot pepper sauce. A lot of Korean places serve their ddukbokki without melted cheese but at Boon Sik Zip, you are given the choice between adding cheese or not. I personally like my ddukbokki with the melted cheese, so this vendor was perfect for me. My order of ddukbokki was served with a side of fishcake soup, which helped sooth the fire on my tongue from the hot pepper sauce. Even though I am not a fan of hot foods, I will always make an exception for ddukbokki. Boon Sik Zip did not disappoint me with their presentation of this popular Korean street food.

At Pastel, I sampled the Seafood Cream Pasta. The pasta was very creamy and had a significant amount of seafood – mussels, scallops, and shrimp. The mussels were my favorite part of the seafood pasta. It complemented the cream pasta very well. My order came with a side of salad, seaweed soup, and surprisingly, kimchi. My order only cost around $11 but I received a lot of food in return. Even though most of the foods offered at pastel are pasta dishes, they manage to add a bit of Korean flair by offering kimchi and seaweed soup. I appreciated having such a wide range of side dishes offered to me.

At O-de-ppang, I ordered soba noodles, or buckwheat noodles cooked and then cooled down so it can be eaten in a cold broth. My order of soba noodles did not come with any side dishes, but it was more than enough to feed me and possibly a friend. The order came with two bundles of noodles, which is more than a standard order anywhere else. As I was waiting for my order, I was able to watch the chef in the back prepare it. A lot of work is put into making soba noodles because they have to be cooked al dente and then cooled down. For the low price of $8, I really thought that this was a deal.

At Bian Dang, I had their signature meat sauce over rice paired with a chicken thigh. This order did not come with any side dishes either but once again, it was big enough to feed me and another person. I have always been a fan of Taiwanese meat sauce over rice as I have eaten it numerous times before in a chinatown restaurant that has been around since before I was born. Although I am completely loyal to the my usual chinatown restaurant, I thought that Bian Dang came pretty close in flavor. I scarfed down the rice because it was just that good. My only complaint was that typical Taiwanese meat sauce over rice has pickled cabbage all over the rice. Bian Dang did not offer as much pickled cabbage as I would like or even as much as the original dishes.

At Hanok, I ordered their barbecued pork dish. The dish came with a side of salad and kimchi along with a bowl of white rice and seaweed soup. In comparison to all the other vendors, this one offered the most side dishes in my order. The barbecued pork comes either spicy or a little spicy. I ordered the little spicy one, which was just right. There was a slight taste of spice but it was not overwhelming. If you eat a bit of meat with a bite of rice, it is enough to fill you up completely!

Last but not least, is a surprise vendor that is located on the 3rd floor of the Food Gallery – Crepe Monster. Crepe Monster offers Japanese style crepes with a variety of toppings. You can either order one of their signature crepes or make your own. I always make my own. Their Snow Beast Crepe is a make- it- yourself crepe that includes two toppings and a scoop of ice cream – provided by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (which I’ve been a fan of since I was a little kid). Pictured is a banana and nutella crepe with a scoop of green tea ice cream. The crepe is made when you order and is wrapped tightly so that it can be taken to go. Nothing ever spills when you eat crepes from this vendor.

Crepe Monster has officially pulled their lease from the Food Gallery, but have no fear! If you want to try one of their delicious crepes, follow them on Facebook to find out where their new location will be!

The Food Gallery is a definite recommendation from me because it offers so many cheap foods in one place. You have the option of eating in or taking it out. And the best part of their food court system? You don’t have to pay tip! In the midst of Manhattan, where food is always expensive, having good food at such a cheap price is always a steal.

The San Gennaro Festival

The San Gennaro Festival is an annual event that occurs over the course of 11 days in September. This year, it was held from September 15th to September 25th. It is held in Little Italy in New York City in celebration of the Feast of San Gennaro. The feast runs along Mulberry Street between Canal Street and Houston Street. Over the range of seven blocks, there are over hundreds of food vendors – each serving up something delicious. If you’re a food lover like me, then this is both heaven and hell. Heaven because there is so much good things to eat and hell because every kind of food that’s completely unhealthy for you is within a few blocks.

What is there to eat at the fair? Sweet corn, endless amounts of mozzarella sticks, rice balls, corn dogs, pina coladas (with free refills if you buy it in souvenir cup), rainbow cookies, cannolis, zeppoles, churros, paella, steak and mozzarella sandwiches, pizza, fresh oysters and clams, and even tacos! Talk about foodgasm.

Here’s a sausage and sweet pepper/onion sandwich from Pip’s Pit. The bread wasn’t as soft as it should’ve been but the sausage was juicy and just the right amount of spicy. The sweet pepper and onion did not overwhelm the sausage but complemented it perfectly because it counterbalanced the spice of the sausage. The added ketchup made the sandwich a little difficult to eat – I even got some on myself in the process. My advice: skip the ketchup and just enjoy the sausage without any condiments. It’s delicious enough on its own. Priced at $10, this sandwich is a bit pricey but it is big enough for two to share and will fill the both of you up!

Most of the vendors selling corn were grilling them on a barbecue grill along with their beef patties and hot dogs. There was only one vendor that made his corn differently. The vendor was simply called “Roast Corn” and sold their corn on the cob for $3 each. He used a large machine to roast his corn. This resulted in juicy corn that did not have any of the charred and bitter taste from the grill. After roasting the corn and unwrapping it, he brushed butter on the entire corncob. However, it wasn’t just the roasting machine that made the corn so delicious. The corn itself was already very sweet – which is harder to find during the fall season. I actually came back a second time just for this corn!

Despite every other vendor selling cannolis – in jumbo sizes, regular sizes, and mini sizes, I chose to purchase mine from Stuffed Artisan Cannolis. They had two stands at the feast – one at the beginning and one towards the center of the fair. My first time, I purchased three (for $5) mini cannolis in their original flavor. They were very good but once I visited their website and realized that they created new flavors every week and there were flavors exclusively created for the festival, I knew I had to pay them another visit. On my second visit, I tried three – Pumpkin Pie, Nutella, and Banana Creme Pie. The Pumpkin Pie cannoli had a creamy and buttery filling. The Nutella tasted a bit more like chocolate than the hazelnut flavor of nutella. This was my least favorite cannoli. My favorite would have to be the Banana Creme Pie, which had a great banana flavor to it. It was really creamy and easy to eat. The Banana Creme Pie Cannoli actually had mashed up banana in it, which added to the overall texture of the filling.

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis has a storefront located in the Lower East Side on Stanton Street. They feature seasonal flavors along with their new weekly flavors. I know I will definitely be making a visit to the store to try them out and you should too!

Sadly, now that the San Gennaro Feast has passed, we will have to wait another year to have these goodies again. But now since I’ve already visited and sampled so many of the foods, I’ll definitely know what to aim for next year when the feast comes back around. I hope you all know too!

Homemade Pasta = Quality Pasta

Food has always been an essential part of everyday life. Food has always been an essential part of my life. During high school and later in college, I discovered that while one culture might use the same ingredients as another, the way they use those ingredients are very different. Chinese rice is very different from Spanish rice. Cheeses that are used in Italian dishes are used in a very different way than those in Spanish dishes. Japanese curry tastes very different from Indian curry – but they both use rice, chicken and potatoes!

It became my mission to discover and taste all these different types of foods and cuisines. But I soon realized that eating out was becoming very expensive. So I tweaked my mission a little. Discovering and tasting different types of cuisines became finding delicious foods at a cheap and affordable price. I soon discovered that small and cheap restaurants could actually offer really delicious food. Sometimes, the intimacy and friendliness of a smaller restaurant can add to the charm of the food. You don’t need to be eating foie gras in a fancy restaurant every night to truly enjoy food. Really good food can be found in the most unexpected places.

First up is Da Andrea, an Italian restaurant located at 35 W13th Street. Da Andrea originally opened in 2001 in Tribeca but has since moved to Greenwich Village, in the heart of Manhattan. Da Andrea is owned and run by true Italians – their waiters still have their accents. The restaurant is small, with their largest table fitting around 10-15 people. Therefore, if you plan on arriving after 6:30PM, reservations are a must because they fill up fast!

Their menu contains fresh homemade pastas that are made on the premises. The pasta dishes, which are the highlights at the restaurant, all range from an affordable $11 to $13 each. Not one of their entrees exceed the $20 mark and their most expensive and signature appetizer is only $12. But the size of that $12 entree is enough to feed a party of four.

Their signature appetizer is the one that I sampled. Their appetizer titled Le Tigelle consists of baked by order flat buns that are served with imported prosciutto. The buns are baked the moment you order, which makes the wait time a little longer than the average appetizer. But the wait is well worth it because what is placed before you is heavenly. The flat buns are warm, soft and could be easily eaten on it’s own. However, the main star of this appetizer isn’t the flat buns. It’s the prosciutto. The prosciutto is cut to almost paper thin slices and comes in abundance. Typical prosciutto is often quite salty but the prosciutto at Da Andrea only has a slight hint of salt. It is good enough to eat on it’s own without the flat buns. Their prosciutto might be one of the best that I’ve ever had.

Next up are their pastas. The boyfriend and I tried two of their homemade pastas. Their Tagliolini al Nero consists of squid ink tagliolini with fresh clams, cherry tomatoes and white wine. Squid ink pasta is a bit harder to make than the usual pasta. The squid ink must be harvested from fresh squid and then incorporated into the dough when the pasta is made. Their squid ink pasta was fresh and had a distinct taste that is not found in boxed pastas. The fresh clams complimented the white wine sauce perfectly. The dish was clean and simple, which sometimes is the hardest status to achieve.

Their homemade Pappardelle is served with small chunks of sweet sausage and truffle oil. The sauce is a mix of a tomato and spice from the sweet sausage. The sausage made the pasta both sweet and spicy – the pasta gave your taste buds a slight kick. The homemade pasta had a bounce to the texture that is not typically found in premade or boxed pasta. I learned that homemade fresh pasta really does make a difference in how the entire dish tastes!

Both pasta dishes were served at the same time and within a few minutes after our appetizer were taken away. This leads me to believe that the wait staff had watched our progress on finishing the appetizer and put in the order accordingly because our pasta was piping hot when it arrived at the table. The wait staff was very attentive and our glasses were always refilled before they were even half empty.

Our bill came up to $60 including tip for two people, which I find a steal considering we also had a slice of Tiramisu for dessert.

I would give Da Andrea 4/5 stars because the noise level did get quite loud in the restaurant as the night wore on.