Otafuku

While wandering around the East Village one day, the boyfriend and I stumbled upon Otafuku, who specializes in Japanese street food. Their storefront is very small, with the only seating being a bench in front of the store. Most of the time, visitors get some goodies to go and eat somewhere else.

Since we had already eaten lunch, the boyfriend and I decided to share one order of their fried octopus balls, or Takoyaki. Their Takoyaki is prepared in an iron tray with little holes that are the size of the balls. There are always large batches that are already made so the wait isn’t very long.

One order of Takoyaki gets you six large balls with all the works – sauces and all. The balls were very moist! The octopus was cut into tiny chunks and stuffed into these balls of fried dough. It was also very chewy. The sauces, which are basically a sweet sauce and mayo, are drizzled all over the balls and you get a heaping amount with each bite. Gah! So good!

Otafuku also makes seafood pancakes, edamame, and Yakisoba (fried noodles). I would love to come back to try the pancakes one day when I’m not so full from lunch. Until next time, Otafuku!

Bouchon Bakery

For the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with several cookbooks and basically making lunch for the Boyfriend and I. But since it was our “manniversary” or our friend’s term for a monthly anniversary, we decided to go out for a sit down lunch. We decided on Bouchon because I’ve only ever had their pastries. We arrived around 11:30 and were seated immediately. Their lunch menu is pretty extensive – there are salads, sandwiches, soups, and a variation of meat entrees.

After we ordered, our waitress brought over some warm bread and butter. The bread was delicious because it was warm and the butter melted on top of it. The only complaint I had was the lack of plates to eat my bread with. I know we could have asked for plates, but I feel like it’s something that should already be offered regardless.

I decided to go with their grilled cheese with tomato soup ($13.50). First, the tomato soup was delicious. There was a lot of tomato flavor and it went down quite smoothly. It tasted good alone but together with the grilled cheese, it was amazing. The grilled cheese was also very good – moist and chewy. The bread was toasted just right. The combination of Gruyere and fontina cheeses was just right – not too salty.  It looks small but it’s definitely more than enough to fill you up. By the time I finished my meal I was full.

The Boyfriend ordered the Tuna Tartine, which features tuna salad with olives, lettuce and sliced hard-boiled egg on top of pain de champagne ($13.50). I hate to admit it because I love grilled cheeses, but I actually liked his dish better than mine. The tuna was very nicely seasoned with just the right amount of mayo. Most tuna salads include celery but this one didn’t and I loved it. I’m not a big celery fan at all.

I really wanted to have a slice of their crepe cake but both of us were too full to order it. Next time I am definitely saving room in my stomach for it. Since we had such a great experience with their lunch menu, we will definitely be back to try some of their other dishes. The table next to ours ordered the seared salmon, which looked amazing. I might just get that next time!

Jadis

Jadis, located in the Lower East Side, is more of a wine bar than a restaurant but its intimacy and ambiance makes it a great place to spend a couple of hours. The boyfriend and I arrived around 6pm and were seated immediately. Their chairs are kind of awkward because they’re more stools than chairs. Tip: Jardis might not be for you if you need a little bit of back support!

We decided to order a bunch of appetizers to share since we weren’t extremely hungry (I made us these amazing Italian quesadillas for lunch). We immediately knew we were going to get their Scallops Wrapped in Bacon ($8) because we’re both big fans of bacon. I’m actually not a big fan of scallops but these were so good that we ended up ordering another plate of these later on in the night. The scallops were not overcooked and almost melted with each bite. Each dish comes with a bed of mixed greens tossed in sherry vinaigrette, which the boyfriend and I both gobbled up.

Next up is the Mac and Cheese Tartelettes ($6), which were very cute. The mac and cheese was very creamy. My only complaint with these was the crust. It was a bit thick compared to the light creaminess of the mac and cheese. If it were just a bit lighter, it would’ve been perfect.

After that, came the Mushroom Truffle Risotto Puffs ($6), which were amazing! The crust was so soft that it practically melted in your mouth. The stuffing was very creamy and you can definitely taste the truffle. After I finished my share, I kind of wished that there were more!

We also ordered their Mini Quiches ($6) since we didn’t want a whole big one. I’ve never had quiche before so I have nothing to compare this to. It was small and crunchy. The filling had a leeky taste so I guessed that they were the mini versions of their Poireaux quiche, which is leek with Gruyere cheese. I’m not usually a fan of leeks, but this was the exception.

After those four dishes, we decided to order two more dishes – one more order of Scallops Wrapped in Bacon and one order of Crab Cakes ($6). Their tar tar sauce was the highlight of the dish. I really liked it. It had hints of mayo and cheese, which are two of my favorite condiments. I even dipped some of the scallops in the tar tar sauce cause it was that good.

The service was good so I have no complaints about it. Our water glasses were always full and our waitress stopped by to see how things were going mid-meal. When I was at the register to break up my money, she asked if it was our first time at Jadis. I found this pretty interesting because it gave me the impression that this particular restaurant is very neighborhood centered. I love restaurants that know all their frequent customers by name since it gives off the feeling that their home is your home.

The Best Burger Ever.

One day I turned to the Boyfriend and told him that I wanted a burger. When I say that, I mean a real burger made with real beef and cooked to order. I do indulge in the occasional Big Mac at McDonalds but I don’t ever consider that a real burger. I wanted a real burger – juices dripping and melted American cheese. The Boyfriend suggested we hit up Burger Joint, hidden in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien Hotel on the West Side. It’s considered the second best place for burgers according to Zagat and I had stuck a bright orange flag next to it in my Zagat survey.  So along with a friend, we began our hike to West 56th.

We arrived around 12:15 and I’m so glad that we did. When we arrived, there were probably 8-9 people ahead of us. I was able to snag a free table while the Boyfriend and our friend waited in line to order and pay. By the time we left, at around 1:00, the line was already around a corner. They had to bring out the velvet rope to coordinate the line because it was beginning to get very long.

The menu is hand-written and resides on top of the counter. The menu is very simple and no special frills. First you pick a burger. You get two choices of burgers – a hamburger or a cheeseburger. Then you pick how you want it cooked. After that, you pick condiments – ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, onions, etc.

There are fill-in menus in various languages outside of the restaurant, which I suppose is for the tourists. We decided to experiment and use the Spanish fill-in menus. When the Boyfriend got to the counter, they stared at him and asked if he spoke English. When he asked with a yes, they told him he didn’t need that fill-in menu and to just order off the main menu.

I ordered their Cheeseburger cooked medium rare with mayo, ketchup and lettuce ($8). I like to keep my burgers simple so when I bite into them, the condiments aren’t spilling out. The burger patty was cooked just right. It was pink enough to still hold all the juices in but not pink enough to bleed. The patty almost melted in my mouth when I bit into it. So good!

Here’s the friend’s cheeseburger with almost everything – lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup and mayo. Looks so big!

The Boyfriend got us a bag of fries to share ($4). Sprinkled with a bit of salt, it was perfect. There were more crunchy fries than soggy fries, which I suppose in general is a good thing. I, however, like the soggy fries so I had to dig for those.

The décor looked more like it belongs in a diner on the side of the interstate. I would have never guessed this restaurant was actually inside the Le Parker Meridien hotel. Compared to the rest of the hotel and Norma’s across the lobby, Burger Joint looks more like a hole-in-the-wall in the Lower East Side than a restaurant inside a swanky hotel. But that is exactly why I loved Burger Joint. Its hole-in-the-wall quality means you have to be on the lookout for it or else you’ll completely miss it. Their only marker that Burger Joint exists in the lobby is a little neon sign with a burger. So secretive!

I’m definitely putting Burger Joint on my best burgers in NYC list. I know I’ll be back for sure. I can’t wait until the next time I get my hands on another one of their burgers. Mmmmm!

Jebon Sushi

A few weeks ago I had purchased a Google Offers deal for Jebon Sushi, located in St. Marks in the East Village. I had been to Jebon before twice for their sushi, but haven’t been recently because their pricing was a bit high for sushi – especially since Sushi Park/May’s Place is just down the block.

The boyfriend and I arrived around 6pm and were seated immediately in the back section at a table for four. I appreciated this because it gave us space to put our bags and jackets. The service was attentive. We received waters right away and before we even decided a waiter came by to see if we had any questions. Since our deal was good for up to $40 we decided to order a couple of things.

First was the Salmon Lover Combo ($20) that came with 5 pieces of sashimi, 3 pieces of sushi and 1 salmon avocado roll. Each combo meal also comes with your choice of soup or salad. Their salmon sushi pieces are so long! I had to bite it in half! The salmon sushi was very good. The salmon was smooth and sweet. Yummy! Given the fact that both the boyfriend and I love salmon, we were fighting over who gets which last piece of this dish.

Our second order was three rolls. Of course the boyfriend always know that I need to order my favorite – Philadelphia roll ($5). There are two variations on what type of vegetable to use for this roll – cucumbers or avocados. Jebon uses cucumbers, which is my least favorite. I like my Philly rolls with avocado because it makes the entire whole so creamy along with the cream cheese.

We also ordered their eel avocado roll ($5), which was very good. I really love avocados in my sushi rolls so this was perfect for me. The eel pieces were a bit sparse so I wished there could be some more.

Our last roll was the spicy tuna roll ($6). The roll wasn’t very spicy at all. There was a hint of spice but even I, who can’t take spicy things, wanted a bit more heat in it. The tuna was very substantial though so that definitely made up for it.

The highlight of our meal was dessert. We had some money left over so we decided to get two desserts. Jebon gets their desserts from the Dessert Truck so I knew I had to try them. Our first dessert was the Chocolate Bread Pudding ($7). It came with a vanilla crème anglaise and a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream. The bread pudding came hot and mixed really well with the ice cream. It almost tasted like a deconstructed chocolate soufflé.

Our second dessert choice was the Crème Brulee ($7). This one was my favorite! The custard was very smooth and the sugar on top wasn’t bitter like some places make it. The custard was my favorite. When the boyfriend couldn’t eat anymore, I finished the rest.

I enjoyed my meal at Jebon but for the full price of our meal – $80 including tips, it was a bit on the steep side for our usual meals. After the deal, our meal came up to just $12 per person, which was a lot better than the full $80. I might be back for dessert but I definitely wouldn’t stay for a full meal.