Cafe Orlin

I was in the mood for French Toast so after typing that into Yelp, I discovered Café Orlin, located on St. Mark’s Place. We have walked right past this restaurant before in the past without even realizing it!

We arrived around 10:00am and were given a choice of many seats. We chose the inner dining area, which is a bit quieter than the main dining area. We were given menus to look over, which was a bad idea since I spotted my favorite brunch dish on their menu.

Just the mere mention of Eggs Norwegian made me completely forget about my French toast craving and order that instead. Since it’s featured on their brunch special menu, I got a glass of orange juice and my choice of Americano, Cappuccino or Latte. I went with a cappuccino, which I drank. The Boyfriend stole my orange juice since he ordered off the regular menu.

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My Eggs Norwegian ($14.50) was very delicious! There was a lot of smoked salmon and the English muffin was nice and toasty. The home fries were also very good and I’m usually not a fan of them. With a little bit of ketchup I ate almost half of the potatoes on my place. My only complaint is the eggs, which were a little undercooked. Otherwise, it was yet another great eggs Norwegian!

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The Boyfriend decided to go with the Steak and Eggs ($15), which he has never had before. This features two eggs any style, home fries, toast and a creamy spinach sauce on the side. I didn’t try the eggs but I did try the steak, which was very flavorful. The spinach sauce was amazing! The Boyfriend dipped everything into the sauce and completely cleared his plate.

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Our meals arrived in a timely fashion and our water was refilled when our glasses were empty. After we paid the bill, we sat at our table for a little while longer just to talk since we had time to kill. No one ever rushed us to leave or anything, which was a major plus. I can see myself returning for brunch.

Nobu

When Restaurant Week NYC rolled around I quickly made reservations on OpenTable for Nobu, who offers lunch during the promotion. This is one restaurant where you really have to be quick about reservations because they were filled up for lunch until the end of restaurant week (three weeks later) by the end of the week. We arrived at 11:45am, which is when they open. When we were seated, there were only about 3-4 other tables occupied. By the time we left at around 1pm, the entire restaurant was full.

We were given the regular menu as well as the Restaurant Week menu, which offers 3 options of appetizers, 3 options of entrees and a chef’s choice for dessert for $25.00. The Boyfriend and I both ordered something different so we would be able to try at least 2/3 of the menu.

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For appetizers, he ordered the Black Cod Miso on Limestone Lettuce. Although it was a bit messy to eat, it was so delicious! The cod practically melts in your mouth – you don’t even have to chew the cod! We both have never had a piece of fish that tender before. The portion size was a bit small, but it definitely made us want to come back for a full portion.

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I had the Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce, which is their famous rock shrimp dish. The portion size was more than generous and the shrimp was pipping hot! You can tell that they just pulled them out of the fryer and mixed it in the spicy sauce. The sauce wasn’t overly spicy and allowed the sweetness of the shrimp to shine through.

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For his entree, the Boyfriend ordered the Unami Arctic Char, which is similar to salmon. The dish came with a bowl of some pretty damn good rice, which we gobbled up with the fish. The Arctic Char was very tender and cooked just right. It still had a lot of pink in it, which is perfect. The vegetables that accompanied the Char was very fresh and gave the dish a very light feel.

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For my entree, I ordered the Beef with Anticucho sauce, which is a creamy, spicy sauce. My dish also came with a bowl of rice, which I completely demolished. The beef was cooked to my requested medium rare and was very tender. The spicy sauce was pretty spicy so beware if you can’t take the heat! I thoroughly enjoyed my dish and thought that the portion size was just right to fill me up.

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Our dessert was a Cheesecake Mousse with Raspberry Jam. I liked that it was a mousse instead of a full slice of cheesecake because it was light and and airy. I often refrain from eating cheesecake as a dessert because sometimes it can be too dense and heavy after a meal, but this mousse interpretation was a perfect ending to our meal.

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We also ordered two cups of coffee, fully intending to pay for them but when our check came, we noticed that there wasn’t a charge for it. Nice! The service was quick and attentive. Our waiter had several other tables to take care of but we never felt like we were given less attention because we ordered off the Restaurant Week menu. Before we came, we thought that most of the attention given to Nobu was just hype. But after we dined, we completely changed out minds. The fish dishes that we had were some of the best we have ever tasted. Nobu, wait for me! We’ll definitely be back!

Tabaré

For the Boyfriend’s birthday, he gave me a challenge of finding a restaurant that was both delicious and only had a two $$ rating. After much searching, I decided on Tabaré, located on the South Side of Williamsburg. Tabaré specializes in Uruguayan food, which is something both of us have never had before.

We were seated right away since I had made reservations prior. Since it was still early we were given the option of sitting anywhere. We opted for the table next to the open windows – you get a nice breeze during late summer nights. Tabaré runs Happy Hour from 5-7pm everyday. The host described it as 50% all cocktails, beers and wine by the glass. Our waitress described it as buy-one-get-one-free all cocktails, beers and wine by the glass. Either way, it’s half price.

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For our first round, I got the Yerba mate infused vodka with blue agave, lemon and soda (right) and the Boyfriend ordered the Pisco, lime, and mint with ginger ale. Both were pretty good and were definitely flavors we had never had together before. Despite it’s small size, both cocktails were very strong.

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For our second round, the Boyfriend opted for sangria, which is also part of the Happy Hour special. I opted for the Tequila with lime, grapefruit and smoked paprika rim. I’ve never had paprika in a cocktail before so this was also very new. I liked my second cocktail a lot, which is saying something because I’m not usually a fan of tequila in cocktails because I think tequila is better served as a shot. But the cocktail was very well blended.

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After we received our first round of cocktails, our waitress brought over some fresh bread. I’m convinced they bake it in house because the time in between the waitress telling us she was going to bring us bread and the time we actually got our bread was quite long. The bread was also so hot that we couldn’t rip it with our hands. I always appreciate freshly baked bread!

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Our first appetizer to arrive was the empanadas. You get a choice of 2 for $8.00. We opted for the Spanish Tuna with black olives (left) and the Gruyere and Fontina cheese mix with caramelized onions (right). The Black Tuna was pretty good but the best was clearly the cheese combo. The cheese was gooey, melty and just the right amount of salt. The Boyfriend, who isn’t as much of a cheese fan as me, even said he could eat ten of the cheese empanadas.

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Our second appetizer was the Chorizo Adobado ($7.00), which features Uruguayan sausage cooked with roasted onions, red peppers and adobo sauce. I was expecting something spicy like Mexican chorizo but this wasn’t spicy at all. It was sweet and salty at the same time with a tiny hint of spice. The cast iron it was cooked it ensured that the sausages stayed hot even though we finished our empanadas first.

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We opted to split two entrees so that we could try more items. We opted to try their Homemade Ravioli of the Day ($17.00). That day, it was raviolis stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, roasted potatoes and rainbow chard and served with peas, mixed greens and truffle oil. This was quite possibly one of the best ravioli dishes I have ever had. The raviolis were light and refreshing. Most of the time, raviolis are very heavy and leave you disgustingly full. This was not the case with these raviolis. The combination of the mixed greens and the light raviolis gives off a fresh summer feel. I hope they feature this ravioli more often because I will definitely be back for this dish.

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We also ordered the Churrasco ($22.00), which features a grass-fed steak with a chimichurri sauce, potato confit and a market salad. First off, the steak is huge! It is as long as the cutting board that it is served on. Second, the steak was impeccably cooked. We always order our steak medium rare and this was indeed a medium rare. When you put your fork into it to cut it up, juices oozed out! Third, the chimichurri sauce is quite different from others that we have had. Tabaré’s chimichurri sauce is a bit more sour and less salty than other places. I think I quite liked it since it balanced out the salt from the steak itself.

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We opted for two desserts because the moment our waitress mentioned their dessert of the day, we were very interested. Their dessert special of the day was a buttermilk and honey blueberry ice cream ($7.00). The moment she said blueberry, I knew I wanted it. Each bite had whole blueberries as well as a hint of the honey and buttermilk. I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cream and I kind of wish they sold it regularly in supermarkets.

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Our second dessert was the Alfajor Rustico ($7.00), which features layers of homemade cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche, chocolate ganache and sea salt caramelized walnuts. The cookies were a bit harder than I expected so eating the entire three layers was a bit messy. However, it was well worth it because the mixture was very decadent. Despite all its sweet ingredients, it wasn’t overly sweet, which I really liked.

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In my opinion, Tabaré was over and beyond our requirements. The service was prompt and very friendly. We got all our dishes in a very timely manner. Both our waitress and the other employees in the restaurant were very friendly in explaining the Happy Hour Deals. Our waitress even dropped by to remind us that we had some time left before Happy Hour was over if we wanted another round. The atmosphere was quiet and laid back. We will definitely be back!

Soba-Ya

Soba-Ya has been sitting on my Bookmarks list on Yelp for a while. Unlike ramen or sushi, soba isn’t one of those things that I crave often. But the Boyfriend and I were in the East Village with no clue where to eat lunch so we decided on Soba-Ya so I could cross them off my list.

We arrived before they opened at 12pm so we hovered by the door and checked out their menu. Their menu advertises a limited Lunch Box set ($17.00) with only 25 servings per day. By the time we were seated, we already knew we would get the Lunch Box Set since it’s so limited! We usually don’t get the same thing when we eat out so we could try new things but it sounded too tempting not to!

The box itself comes with four sections – a mixed greens salad with Soba-ya’s original dressing, broiled fish of the day, rice with cod roe and egg, and cooked veggies. The salad was nice and refreshing. I liked that they use mixed greens instead of romaine, which is the standard for Japanese restaurants. The star of the box was the broiled fish of the day, which was salmon. It was very tender and very well seasoned. A bite of salmon and a bite of rice was the perfect combination!

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The set comes with a side of tempura, which features two pieces of shrimp tempura and one piece of pepper tempura. The tempura comes piping hot so be careful when you eat it! By the time I finished everything, I still had one piece of tempura left because I was so full.

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The set also comes with a side of soba noodles. You get your choice of hot soba or cold soba. If you get cold soba, they bring you a plate of soba noodles and a tiny cup of broth to dip the soba into. They also give you a plate of wasabi and chopped scallions to add into your dipping sauce. This was very good portion size because anymore and I wouldn’t have been able to finish! The soba was cooked perfectly and the broth was really refreshing on a hot day.

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After we both finished our sets, we asked for dessert because on Wednesdays, all lunch desserts are 50% off. Our waiter then brought over a tiny version of their tofu dessert. We were shocked because we didn’t know that the Lunch Box Set came with dessert! It was just enough to give us a taste of sweetness without making us too full.

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The service was attentive the entire meal and our food came out relatively quickly. The food was delicious and all on the light side. Neither of us left feeling disgustingly full even though we had quite a bit of food. I would definitely wait again to get this great deal!

Quick Tip: They make their own Calpico Soda here so make sure you give it a try. They also have Mandarin flavored Calpico!

Hi-Collar

I found Hi-Collar through the Yelp’s new restaurant listing and suggested it to the Boyfriend. Hi-Collar, located in the East Village, is pretty tiny with only a single row of bar seats. Hi-Collar refers to the fashion that was popular during the Japanese Jazz Age, which was a period of intermingling of Western and Japanese culture. This was really prominent in the decor as well as the slow jazz that was playing in the restaurant. Everything felt so elegant and laid back at the same time. During the day-time, Hi-Collar is a Western-inspired Japanese cafe that specializes in siphon coffee & a Kissaten menu. During nighttime, the restaurant turns into Hi-Collar Bar and serves sake instead.

We were presented with the menu, which is quite small. I’m perfectly fine with this because a big menu makes me very indecisive. After we ordered, we were presented with a complimentary mixed fruit soup. It was really light and sweet, which really opened up our appetites.

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The Boyfriend opted for their pressed English Breakfast Tea ($3.50) and I opted for their Hawaiian Maui Coffee. Hi-Collar offers three methods for coffe preparation – Drip ($3.50), Siphon ($4.50) and Aeropress ($5.50). I opted for the Drip and it was so delicious! The coffee was so fragrant and rich. It was strong without being too bitter. I thought the Hawaiian Maui coffee was very smooth – I can definitely see myself coming back for just the coffee!

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The Boyfriend decided on the Shokudou Lunch Set ($13.00), which features Japanese tapas dishes with rice and miso soup. The dishes, starting from left, are – miso soup, strawberries in a balsamic glaze, vinegar and ginger with seaweed, and a sour plum. The big dish was sliced beef, tofu and egg in a thin broth. The broth was extremely delicious – the sliced beef was extremely tender and the entire mixture gave a lot of flavor to the broth. The set was just enough to fill him up but not so much that he was too full.

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I opted for the Katsu Sandwich ($8.00), which features Berkshire pork katsu with today’s salad. The salad of the day was a light egg salad, which I thought was amazing. The pork was very tender and the katsu skin had an amazing crunch. The sandwich itself is very simple but it was very flavorful at the same time.

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We were so comfortable and in love with the restaurant that we decided to order dessert so we could stay a bit longer. Since we weren’t really in the mood for ice cream, we opted for the Hot Cakes ($6.50), which is Japanese-style pancakes with specialty butter. We opted to add seasonal fruit into the pancakes for an extra $1.50. This was a great decision because she added bananas into the pancakes, which is one of my favorite fruits to put inside a pancake. The specialty butter was a grape-butter, which is something neither of us have ever seen before. The pancakes themselves were some of the fluffiest pancakes I have ever eaten – and I’ve had my share of pancakes. One of the best desserts I have ever had!

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We never felt rushed to eat faster or leave. Even when our dishes were cleared, our waiter or waitress never urged us to leave. In fact, we had to flag the waiter down to get the menu for dessert. I love the laid back atmosphere of Hi-Collar and I know I will definitely be back to try out the rest of their menu.

 

Lady M Part 2

One day, before class, the Boyfriend suggested we head over to The Plaza Food Hall for a Lady M coffee break. It’s a little bit of a walk from Columbus Circle but it was a nice day so we decided on a little stroll. We arrived at almost exactly eleven o’clock so all the vendors were just opening up. Although some vendors were still in the process of setting up shop, Lady M had already sold a handful of slices of their famous Mille Cake.

I have had their Original, Green Tea and Coconut flavors before so I wanted to try something new. I opted for a slice of the Citron Mille Cake and a slice of the Banana-Chocolate. The Banana-Chocolate is exclusive to the Plaza Food Hall so I definitely wanted to give it a try.

My first bite was the Citron, which features fresh lemon custard in between thin crepes. The top of the cake is covered with powdered snow-sugar and candied lemon. This was one of the lightest pieces of cake I have ever eaten. I felt like I was eating cotton candy the entire time. There was a slight lemon flavor but not overly so. I felt like I was eating a pillowy lemon meringue cake!

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But the highlight of the trip was the Banana-Chocolate, which features a banana pastry cream with chocolate crepes. This one caught my eye when I read about it on a Serious Eats’ article. On our visit to the flagship store, I had asked for this one but was told it was exclusive to the Plaza Food Hall. The worker at the flagship actually told me that it was his least favorite of them all. In my opinion, the Banana-Chocolate is the best Mille flavor after the Original. There was such a strong banana flavor. It brought me back to my trips to Disney World where they sell frozen chocolate-covered bananas.

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The slices at the Plaza Food Hall are a tad smaller than the slices at the flagship store. Since they only get a certain amount of cakes per day, I can understand why they would want to conserve their cakes. A friend of mine went to the Plaza Food Hall in the afternoon to pick up a few slices for his sister but they were all sold out. These babies sell out insanely fast so make sure you visit early if you want to try them out!