Zen6

Cooling temperatures always make us want hotter foods in order to keep warm. Despite the fact that we’ve both lived in NYC our entire lives, we’re still never fully ready for when fall hits. So when the temperatures started to dip to 40 and below, we headed over to Zen6 for some delicious and warm ramen. Since they’re off the main area in the East Village, you never have to wait for a table or suffer rushed service for lunch. In fact, they even have a lunch special! For $9.50 you get your choice of six of their signature ramen dishes, a small side salad and your choice of six mini sides.

I went with their Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, which features a milky tonkotsu soup base with “umami dama” on top. I went with their thin straight noodles and it was so good! The soup base was very tasty and definitely did not lack in flavor at all. One portion was enough to fill me up until way past dinner – and we ate at 12:30pm! I went with a small side of gyoza, which were crunchy and juicy. The dipping sauce is a bit spicy though, so beware!

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The Boyfriend went with their Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen, which features a soy sauce and tonkotsu soup base. He also went with the thin straight noodles. His ramen was a bit more salty than mine but I think it has more flavor. He went with the mini curry rice as his side – the curry rice was pretty good. It’s not one of my favorite curries but it definitely hit the spot and helped fill us up.

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Service was attentive throughout despite the fact that it was only one waitress for the entire restaurant. She was very responsive to our requests for hot tea and refills. For all the Yelpers out there, check in on Yelp for a free ice cream bar! I highly recommend Zen6 – the ramen is good, cheap and filling!

Wasan

I first heard about Wasan through BlackBoard Eats, which offered a free deal for a complimentary Wagyu Beef Tartar and a glass of their house sake at Wasan. I got the deal and forgot about it until it was almost the expiration date! So I quickly made reservations to give them a try.

We were the first table to arrive so we were seated at a table-for-two. The restaurant itself is pretty small but the service is very friendly. Even though we were early, our waitress seated us and left us to look over the menu. When we handed over our deal code, she was super nice and service did not change at all throughout the night.

We started off with a carafe of their house sake, Wasan Junmai, which was pretty good. It was smooth and just a bit dry. Normally, a carafe costs $10.00, so we were already cashing in the freebies! After we finished our carafe, we opted to split a canned beer – Yona Yona Pale Ale Β ($8.00), which was really good. There was a hint of fruit and the ale was very light.

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Our first appetizer was the Cold Cheese Tofu ($5.00), which features tofu, cheese, dashi, tomato jelly and asparagus. I was a bit apprehensive at first but after my first bite, I wanted more! There was definitely a cheese taste but it wasn’t overpowering. The cheese made the tofu a bit firmer than typical cold tofu dishes, but I still liked it. I just wish it was a bigger serving!

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Next to arrive was the Uni Lover Roll ($13.00). Both the Boyfriend and I are avid uni lovers so this roll was practically calling our names! The roll features super fresh sea urchin, avocado and tempura flakes. The tempura flakes was a nice opposition to the otherwise smooth sea urchin. The uni was definitely fresh and I quickly gobbled the pieces up.

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Finally, our complimentary Wagyu Beef Tartar arrives as our last appetizer. Normally, an order of Wagyu Beef Tartar costs $16.00, so our second freebie was a great one! The Wagyu Beef Tartar features Wagyu beef with shiso, red onion, spicy mayo, quail egg and soy sauce to mix. It also came with rice crackers as a base, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was crunchy and crispy and was a better compliment than the typical baguette. I liked that we got to mix our tartar by ourselves so we could taste and mix to our liking. The Wagyu Beef was very fresh and tasted amazing!

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Our entrees came shortly after our appetizers. I ordered the Salmon Chirashi ($15.00), which features salmon sashimi with apple-chip smoked salmon skin and assorted root vegetables. The root vegetables gave the plain white rice a sweet flavor. The salmon, however, was the star of the plate. The salmon was very fresh and it practically melted in my mouth.

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The Boyfriend went with the Tuna Rice Bowl ($14.50 for large), which came with a large serving of tuna. From the look of the tuna, it seemed kind of thick and hard. But once I put it in my mouth, I found that it was very tender and soft. The tuna almost melted with each bite!

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After all our dishes were cleared away, our waitress brought over some hot barley tea for us to clear our palates. She also dropped off the dessert menu and we opted for the Extra Rich Brownie with Arare Mochi Ice Cream ($8.50). The Brownie is served with Himalayan Pink Salt and Banana Chips. The Himalayan Pink Salt was a very nice compliment to the sweetness of the brownie. My favorite, however, was the mochi. It was basically a regular mochi coated with rice pops. The rice pops was crunchy and the mochi was very fresh. The skin of the mochi had a nice bounce to it, which showed that it is definitely not frozen! So good!

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Service throughout the entire night was very attentive and our waitress constantly refilled our barley tea throughout the rest of our meal – even as we were paying the bill! Our entire dinner felt very quiet and intimate, despite the other patrons in the restaurant. I will definitely be back for more raw goodies!

Pig & Khao

For a joint birthday dinner, our group of 10 people ended up at Pig & Khao for some Asian Fusion/Filipino food. I’ve had Filipino food before – the legit kind that you only find in the middle of Queens – so my standards are set pretty high. About half of us arrived right on time for our 6pm reservation while the other half was a bit later. They offer Happy Hour drinks until 7pm so we opted to get something to drink while waiting. All cocktails are $8 while glasses of Prosecco and Riesling are $5. They’re pretty generous with their wine pours so I think it’s their best bet.

We opted to order a la carte, despite the fact that their dishes are meant to be eaten family style. We always over-order when we do family style!Β I had the Banana Leaf Cod ($14.00) with a big bowl of Coconut Rice ($3.00). The cod was cooked perfectly but it was definitely a bit on the spicy side. The flavors were all there and I really liked the coconut cream sauce they put on top of it.

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Three of my friends got the Sizzling Sisig ($14.00), which is pork head cooked with chili and whole egg on a hot plate. I’ve had Sisig before and Pig & Khao’s version was pretty good. It wasn’t as spicy as your traditional sisig, which was nice. But I felt like the flavors were a bit too toned down as a result of trying to appeal to everyone’s tastebuds. It was pretty tasty – but not quite as good as traditional sisig.

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Our food came at different times, which was something our waitress warned us about since we ordered individual plates instead of family style. Everything was very good though. The only complaint I have is that an open kitchen meant our clothes and hair all smelled like Filipino food and barbecue!

Somtum Der

I found Somtum Der on Yelp while looking through the recent openings. Somtum Der features dishes from Northeastern Thailand or Isan. The typical style of food in the Isan area features small-plates or finger foods that are meant to be shared. The East Village location is a branch from their original location in Bangkok and serves up authentic and genuine Thai food. Their menu, which features pictures for every dish, is super colorful – just like their food.

We arrived at 12pm, which is when they open. We were the first ones in the restaurant so we were given our pick of spots. There were a row of tables along the wall, another row of benches in the middle and two bar area seats. The place may look small but there is actually a lot of seating!

Since we were there for lunch, we opted for the lunch special, which comes in two price ranges. The first is $12.00 and features:

– Tum Thai: an original spicy papaya salad

– Sa Poak Kai Tod Der: Der styled deep-fried chicken thigh

– Sticky Rice or Khao Mun, coconut rice

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We opted for the sticky rice, which is a staple of the Isan area. Almost every dish or meal in Isan is accompanied with sticky rice! The papaya salad, while colorful and fresh, was so spicy that neither the Boyfriend nor I could finish it. Hot hot hot! The chicken thigh was one of the best pieces of fried chicken that I have ever had. It was flavorful and crunchy while still staying moist and juicy. We went with sticky rice, which comes in a bamboo steamer. The rice was so good – it was fragrant and chewy.

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The other lunch option is $10.00 and offers up a choice between eight entrees and two soups. Both soups are spicy – I went with the pork cartilage soup and it was so spicy that I couldn’t finish it! The cartilage was very tender and fell off the bone. I went with the Kaho Moo Tod Kratian Prik Thai, or Fried Garlic Pork with Jasmine Rice. It comes with a oozy egg on top of the rice. I popped the egg, let it soak the rice and ate a bite of rice with a piece of grilled pork. It was so good! The flavors meshed so well together and everything was so fresh and flavorful.

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We opted to share a side of Grilled Sticky Rice ($4.00), which is one of their specialties. The sticky rice was very fragrant and there was a sweet, yet salty, taste to them. I really enjoyed them and could literally just eat a whole order of them.

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The service was friendly and prompt. The food came out in single plates so there was never too much clutter on the table – I really liked that simple touch. I didn’t snatch a picture of it but their Thai Iced Teas are very good. It was very creamy and tasted like how a true Thai Iced Tea should taste! I will definitely be back for more fried chicken and sticky rice!

Zutto

The Boyfriend and I were both craving ramen but did not want to wait in line at Ippudo or hike uptown to Totto. After a quick Yelp search, we found Zutto in Tribeca. Zutto accepts reservations, serves sushi and ramen, and has plenty of space. The restaurant has many two-seat tables, several four-seat tables and a huge table in the middle that can fit 10+ people. I made reservations on OpenTable before we both headed out for the restaurant and we were seated right away.

Our first dish was the Pork Belly Steam Buns ($9.00), which come two per order. The buns were soft and the pork belly was very tender. The miso-mayo sauce helped balance out the saltiness of the pork belly. I thought these steam buns were very good – not as good as Ippudo’s – but still very delicious.

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We also shared a Foie Gras Sushi Roll ($14.00), which has snow crab, blue crab, tobiko, cucumber, foie gras and avocado with a wasabi-pomegranate. The roll was very generous in stuffing and I really enjoyed the wasabi-pomegranate sauce. I don’t think I would order this particular roll again – I’d rather get more steamed buns – but it was enjoyable all the same.

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We split the Parma-Karma Ramen ($15.00) because we always struggle to finish individual bowls when we order ramen. The Parma-Karma Ramen features a rosemary infused pork noodle soup base with Parmigiano-Reggiano menma, freshly grated ginger, karashi, and scallions. The ramen itself is very good – it was bouncy and cooked perfectly. The broth, however, was the star of the dish. At first glace, the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sounds a bit weird but once it melts into the broth, it smells and tastes absolutely delicious. The broth was salty and buttery at the same time.

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We opted to split the Coffee and Doughnuts ($9.00), which is coffee semifreddo, foamed cream, and zeppole doughnuts. The doughnuts come warm and I could smell the cinnamon from them the moment our waitress placed the plate onto the table. The coffee semifreddo was so delicious! It was cold and sweet, which contrasted really well with the doughnuts. This is a must get!

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The service was attentive and the food was delicious. Zutto is definitely a contender for best ramen in NYC!Β Quick tip: If you check into Yelp, you get a free glass of Asahi!