Kiin Thai Eatery

I’m a huge fan of Thai food – both authentic and Americanized. Sometimes I just get a craving for some Pad See Ew, which my boyfriend tells me they do eat in Thailand but it’s not common (source: his aunt is from Thailand). But sometimes, you want to try something that you haven’t eaten before and that’s why we love the new influx of Northern Thai restaurants like Somtum Der. When I heard that the folks behind Somtum Der were taking over the space left by Cafetasia by NYU, I was instantly interested.

We arrived at around 6pm on a weekday night and were seated by the windows. They run Happy Hour every day from 4pm to 7pm. You get 20% off all noodle dishes and ½ off the price of all drinks. It’s a pretty sweet deal since it’s basically buy-one-get-one free cocktail.

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We opted to try their non-alcoholic drinks since I knew we’d be eating some spicy dishes and would need the extra liquid to cool down our tongues! I had the Tropical Sunset ($6, HH price of $3), which features a mixture of mango juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine. It was very tasty – flavorful without being too sweet. The Boyfriend got the Vermillion ($6, HH price of $3), which is a mixture of fresh raspberries, lychee guava juice, lime and ginger ale. Look at how pretty they look!

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We started with the Golden Bag ($8), which features diced potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, water chestnut, corn, green peas, and cream cheese wrapped in rice paper and lightly fried to keep the bag shape. I’m not normally a fan of things that resemble fried wontons but these were so good! The rice paper was only lightly fried so they were a bit crunchy but not hard. The mixture in the bag blended so well together and tasted really good with a sweet chili sauce on the side.

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We opted to split two entrees instead of each ordering our own – this way we would try out more dishes! The first to come were Grandma’s Grilled Pork with Grilled Coconut Sticky Rice ($13). The minced pork patties are caramelized with milk when they’re grilled so they were sweet and salty at the same time. The grilled sticky rice was a bit crispy on the outside and super soft on the inside, which had a great mouth feel. A bite of pork and a bite of rice = best combination!

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We decided to take advantage of the 20% HH deal off noodles and ordered the Pad Thai Shrimp with Egg Crepe ($15, HH price $12). I’ve been told that traditionally, pad thai is served this what in Thailand so this was pretty cool. The rice noodles are sautéed with shrimp, silken tofu, egg, bean sprouts, peanuts and chili peppers. Our waitress said it wasn’t really that spicy but we both thought it was pretty spicy. There were lots of water involved while eating this dish – but we wouldn’t stop because it was so flavorful and delicious.

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We finished our meal with a pot of Jasmine Tea ($5) to share and an order of their Green Tea Panna Cotta ($7), which is served with sweet milk. The dish was super cute and also super delicious. The sweet milk helped cut the bitterness of the matcha in the panna cotta. The panna cotta was textured perfectly – it was smooth without being so fragile that we couldn’t keep it on the spoon.

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Service was attentive – sometimes a bit too attentive with their rush to take away plates. But they did leave us alone with our tea and dessert for almost an hour. We arrived at 6pm and didn’t leave until a little after 8pm and we weren’t rushed at all to leave. Make sure you make a visit to the bathrooms before you go – there are 3 stalls but it’s completely unisex.

Dokebi

After watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on California’s Korea Town, I was craving some good old Korean food. The Boyfriend’s parents have had Dokebi in Williamsburg before so we decided to go there. The parentals like Dokebi because, unlike K-Town in Manhattan, there’s always space for parking and the service is always better.

We arrived around 6:30 and were seated right away. Our waitress brought over a series of banchans – including kimchi, pickled radish, potato salad, bean spouts, spinach and fish cake. We finished our first set pretty quickly since we had 5 people and they were really nice about bringing over a second set. I love it when a Korean restaurant doesn’t huff-and-puff about bringing over more banchans.

It’s not on their official menu but they do have Happy Hour from 5-7pm and it features $4 drafts and $5 well drinks. The best part is that they have Stella Artois on draft! I don’t often see Stella on draft at a restaurant and when they do have it, it’s not often part of Happy Hour specials. Another extra point for Dokebi!

We opted to start with two seafood pancakes ($7.00 each). The pancakes are smaller than those you’d get at a typical Korean restaurant but they were pretty good. Both pancakes weren’t as crispy as I like them but they do satisfy the craving.

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Since everyone raves about the tacos here, I opted to try their Short Rib taco ($4.00 each). The taco is stopped with short rib sautéed in their Korean BBQ sauce and served on two soft corn tortillas. It was absolutely delicious! After watching the show and seeing the Korean tacos served on the famous Koji Korean-Taco truck, I was really craving tacos and this one definitely hit the spot. I can see why some of the other tables only ordered tacos and nothing else. The short rib was so tender and flavorful that I didn’t even need to add hot sauce (but it did taste extra good with some hot sauce). I can definitely see myself coming back just to eat the tacos.

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We decided to order one Soondobu ($12.00) to share since we also wanted some other things on the menu.  Their soondobu comes with purple rice, which is a lot healthier for you than the traditional white rice. I also really like the taste of the purple rice because it has a different texture than the traditional white. And now onto the soondobu, which was super spicy. I’ve had my share of soondobu before but this one was extremely spicy! It’s definitely best to mix it with some purple rice before eating.

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We ordered two Bibimbaps – the Pork Bibimbap ($13.00) and the Mushroom Bibimbap ($12.00). Their bibimbap comes in a hot iron bowl, which causes the rice on the sides to get hard and crunchy. Best part of bibimbap! I was the designated mixer since I bibimbap is my usual go-to-order when it comes to Korean food. I noticed that were was very fair ratio between ingredients and rice in each bowl. Sometimes, when I’m mixing, I notice that there is too much rice in comparison to vegetables or meat. This was not the case here. I thoroughly enjoyed the bibimbap at Dokebi because I had a spoonful of veggies and rice with each bite.

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We also ordered one Japchae ($12.00) for the table. We often get Japchae in other Korean restaurants and we wanted to see how Dokebi was compared to the others. I thought Dokebi did a fairly good job. It wasn’t the best Japchae I have ever eaten but it was definitely pretty good. The big issue with the dish was the usage of cabbage. I don’t often see cabbage in Japchae and I actually love cabbage. But they severely undercooked the cabbage in this dish and it gave off a very bitter aftertaste.

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They don’t have any special desserts here but they do have some tongue-soothing gelatos and sorbets. I opted to share the Passion Fruit sorbet ($4.00) with the Boyfriend so we could cool down our tongues after the spicy dinner. The sorbet was very smooth and the semi-sweet and sour taste worked very well after the heavy salt and spice in our dinner.

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All in all, Dokebi provided us with a very good dinner. It’s definitely not as authentic as the restaurants in Manhattan or Queens but it definitely hit the spot. Dokebi will satisfy your Korean food cravings and give you something new to try

Mermaid Inn

Every once in a while I go on an intense Yelp search to compile a list of restaurants for the Boyfriend and I to try out over a time period of a few months. It’s always fun to find new restaurants with amazing deals that I’ve overlooked all this time. Mermaid Inn is a restaurant that fits that description perfectly. With three branches and the high rating of 4 stars on Yelp for all of them, I knew I have been missing out on something amazing.

The Mermaid Inn in the East Village might just become one of our regular restaurants because of their Happy Hour (5:30 to 7:00 PM) menu. Unlike the Mermaid Inn in the UWS, who only offers $1 clams for happy hour, the East Village location offers $1 East Coast oysters and $1.75 West Coast oysters as well as $1 Littleneck clams. The Happy Hour menu also offers appetizers, cocktails, wine and beer at discounted prices.

We arrived a little before our 6 o’clock reservation and were seated immediately. The bar and the sidewalk seating were both already full. There were even people hovering around the bar without seats. We decided to order some wine first while we perused their menu. The Boyfriend went with a glass of sparkling ($6.00) and I decided on a glass of rosé ($6.00). Despite both glasses being their “house” wine, they were still very good. I particularly liked my glass of rosé – very sweet and not too dry. They also offer a variety of Happy Hour cocktails for just $7 each, which is almost half off the original price.

We decided to try out the oysters before ordering too much of them. Their East Coast option of the day was Barcats from Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and their West Coast option was Pacific Kiss from Barkley Sound in British Columbia. We went with 4 EC oysters, 2 WC oysters and 6 Littleneck clams to start. The Barcats were very good – possibly the best EC oysters I’ve had. I liked that Mermaid Inn offered other EC oysters besides the standard Bluepoint. The Pacific Kiss were also very good – very creamy and sweet. And you can never go wrong with some fresh Littleneck clams. All three were very clean – I didn’t get a single grain of sand or shell. The oysters were well shucked – with the occasional sticky one that refuses to let go of its shell.

We also ordered their Fried Calamari off the Happy Hour Menu ($7.00). They were very crispy and crunchy. The main difference with Mermaid Inn’s calamari was the breading. Instead of a sprinkled breading, the fried covering was thicker and more uniform. As a result, the calamari was a lot more crispy than other calamari’s that I have had.

Since we were planning on ordering more oysters and clams later on in the meal, we only ordered sides. The Boyfriend is a big fan of Old Bay over fries, as am I. We liked that their Old Bay Fries ($6.00) were thin and crunchy. The fries were heavily seasoned with Old Bay, which gives them such a nice flavor besides the usual salt and pepper.

Our other side order was their Mac and Cheese ($8.00), which came baked in a tiny little pot. It was the cutest thing ever! The cheese sauce was very creamy and we knew for a fact that it wasn’t cheddar. We guessed that there was some Gouda and possibly Parmesan used in the mix. Regardless, it was very light and delicious. Definitely a must try!

The cutest thing of the night though, was the complimentary dark chocolate pudding and the infamous fish fortuneteller. You take the fish out of the plastic wrap and place it on the palm of your hand. Depending on how the fish curls, it will tell you your mood. It was so entertaining that the Boyfriend and I completely forgot about our pudding and just kept playing with the fish.

It might not sound like we ate much, but after we finished our sides, we decided to order 8 more Barcats and 6 more Littleneck clams. Our total intake came up to 12 East Coast oysters, 2 West Coast oysters and 12 Littleneck clams. I think that’s the most I’ve ever eaten in one sitting. And it didn’t break the bank either! I know I will definitely be back to see what other oysters Mermaid Inn has to offer. At prices like their Happy Hour special, Mermaid Inn really can’t be beat!

Bait & Hook

Periodically I take a look at new restaurants on Yelp and try to figure out if any of them are worth visiting. During my latest Yelp search, I found Bait & Hook, a seafood shack located in the East Village. We had reservations for another restaurant, but the Boyfriend was craving seafood so we quickly canceled and made our way over. Bait & Hook currently have a 4.5 star rating on Yelp, but that’s only based on 8 reviews. But judging from my first experience there, I can tell that the rating will definitely last! We arrived around 6:15 and were seated immediately. Our waiter was occupied with another table at first so we made our drink orders with another waiter. During Happy Hour, they offer $1 oysters and $5 draft beers. You get to choose from their entire draft beers menu, which I appreciated. There’s nothing worse than when a restaurant only offers a few options for Happy Hour. The Boyfriend went with Magic Hat #9, which is light with a hint of apricot (the glass further back). It was nice and sweet, which was quite refreshing. I had actually wanted the Magic Hat #9 as well but since he made his order first, I chose something else. I went with the Fisherman Seasonal Oktoberfest, which has a light and smooth taste. Despite the bitter finish description, I didn’t think it was too bitter at all. We decided to share the White Clam Pizza ($13.00) for our appetizer. The moment our waiter put the plate on the table, I could smell the garlic and olive oil from the pizza. Despite the other dishes placed on our table, I went straight for the pizza first. The pizza was about 8 inches and covered in fresh clams and cheese. The dough was crispy and crunchy and didn’t feel too oily at all. I’m so glad we decided to go with the pizza instead of the calamari because this dish was so delicious! I went with the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($16.00) with three cheeses as my entrée. It was probably the best lobster mac & cheese that I have ever had! It was far better than Poco and Red Hook Lobster Pound. Poco’s lobster mac & cheese is a bit on the watery side – although it is still good, I like my mac & cheese more gooey. Red Hook’s lobster mac & cheese is gooey enough, but does not have enough chees flavor. Bait & Hook’s lobster mac & cheese was gooey, cheesy and they used my favorite part of a lobster – the claws! The mac & cheese was baked, which is my favorite kind. This was easily the best dish of the night. The Boyfriend went with the Fish & Chips ($13.00), which comes on a slider bun. Although the menu says French fries, his order came with a size of mixed greens. The mixed greens were so fresh and light that I kept reaching over to steal bites of it. The fish & chips were also very crispy and fresh. The tartar sauce was phenomenal – it really does make or break the dish. The Boyfriend cleared his entire plate – not even a crumb was left! The service wasn’t super attentive but the food more than kept us occupied throughout the night. The dining room was about 70% full by the time we left, which isn’t bad for a new restaurant. Actually, for a relatively new restaurant, Bait & Hook has a great draft beer list as well as amazing food. I know for sure that I’ll definitely be back to try out the rest of the menu.

Amazing Oysters

Since it was the Boyfriend’s mother’s birthday and she was thinking about going back to Fish for her birthday dinner, I was kind of in an oyster and seafood mood. I did some research on Yelp and came across Upstate, located in the East Village. With a 4 star review, I was intrigued. After reading some reviews, I knew I had to pay them a visit. So I sent the link to the Boyfriend and we were on our way. We arrived around 5:30 on a Friday and there were only one table for two and a couple of bar seats left. Upstate is pretty small but they had a full house. By the time we ordered around 5:45, the waitresses were already starting a waitlist that had an estimated wait time of 30 minutes to an hour. So make sure to get here early!

We were really interested in their Happy Hour Special, which runs every day from 5 to 7. The special involved 6 oysters of your choice with a draft beer of your choice. They have an interesting list of oysters that can change daily depending on the availability of fresh oysters. There are usually 3 East Coast and 3 West Coast oysters available for the special every day. They do offer a wide selection of other oysters so if you have the cash, feel free to splurge on the others!

We decided on two happy hour specials so we would get 6 oysters each. I went with the Southhampton Double White beer, which has a banana and orange flavor. The Boyfriend went with their Kelso Pils, which is a Czech style beer with a hint of sweetness. I liked my beer but I really enjoyed the Kelso. It went down very smoothly and I would definitely go with that next time.

We went with two of each East Coast and West Coast oyster that was offered. Going clockwise, we started with the East Coast oysters. You can just tell by the size. We went with the usual BluePoint, an East Coast that I cannot remember, and a Stony Book oyster from Long Island. Then we began with the West Coast oysters, which are much smaller. We had a Fanny Bay from British Columbia, Bahia Falsa from California and a Skookum from Washington. My favorite out of the bunch was definitely the Bahia Falsa from California – it had a very nice sweet taste to it. I prefer West Coast oysters over East Coast because it’s a lot sweeter. Despite West Coast oysters’ small size, they tend to pack a lot more flavor.

We decided on whim to try another West Coast oyster – Royal Miyagi from British Columbia ($2.75 each). These were probably my favorite of the night. Despite the small size, they were packed with flavor. The oysters were sweet and creamy. The Boyfriend says that Kumamotos are the best for West Coast oysters but since I’ve never had one, I’d say the Royal Miyagi is now my new favorite oyster.

Oysters can get pretty filling so we decided to share an entrée instead of ordering our own. We went with their Fettuccine with clams ($14). It was an excellent choice. Despite the small size of the bowl, we were very surprised with the amount of pasta inside. We polished off the clams before we dug into the pasta. The pasta was cooked with lots of garlic so you can bet it was very flavorful. I almost couldn’t finish my portion of the dish because there was so much!

We finished off the night with a complimentary piece of whiskey pound cake made by the owner’s wife. It was delicious! I loved it. It really made me think about the Bermudian rum cakes that I absolutely adore. I kind of wish there was more after we finished our slice!

The food was amazing. The oysters were beyond fresh and were very well shucked. But I really must comment on the service. Our waitress was attentive without being too overbearing. Despite the fact that they had over 8 parties on the waiting list while we were dining, we were never rushed. They didn’t slap all our food onto the table in an attempt to get us to eat faster. The timing of our dishes was actually perfect. We finished our oysters and had a couple of minutes to let it sink in before our entrée came. There is really nothing bad I can say about Upstate. I would definitely be back.

Birthday Dinner Part Three – Fish

I’ve been dying to go to Fish for a while now since I heard about their divine lobster rolls and fresh clams. I finally got to go when the boyfriend’s parents surprised me with dinner at Fish for my birthday. We arrived around 5:30 for an early dinner since we heard they fill up pretty quick later on in the night. We were seated right away and began to peruse the menu.

Since I was already 21, the boyfriend’s mom suggested that I get their Red, White and Blue deal ($8), which was your choice of 6 clams or 6 oysters and your choice of their house red wine, house white wine, and Blue Moon beer. It was a pretty good deal since one clam on the half shell costs $1.25 each. Since the majority of the table preferred clams, I went with the clams.

The house white wine was okay. For a house wine, it was pretty good but for my own personal tastes it wasn’t as sweet as I liked. Nonetheless, it was a nice accompaniment to my dinner.

The clams on the half shell were phenomenal! They were so fresh and so big. They were so good that we ended up ordering another half dozen for the table to share.

We each ordered the cup size of the Lobster Bisque ($7). The cup size is really more of a bowl size and the bowl size is more of a pot. The cup size was really big and I could barely finish it. It was, however, really damn good. There were tiny chunks of lobster on the bottom of the bowl and each spoonful was very flavorful. I did not need to add any condiments to it. Perfection!

My entrée was the Down East Lobster Feast, which features 1 ¼ pound lobster with steamers, corn on the cob and fries. The price of this dish depends on the market price for lobster that day. On the day that we went, the dish cost the grand total of $19. I think it’s a good deal for the large amount of food that you get. The lobster was cooked just right and the steamers slid off their clamshells. The corn on the cob was okay – it was a bit dry and didn’t have much flavor. The fries, however, was amazing. I couldn’t keep my hands off of them even though I was so full.

The boyfriend and I also shared a Lobster Mashed Potatoes side ($9), which was also quite good. The mashed potatoes were very creamy and buttery. The lobster sauce on top was well seasoned and had many lobster chunks. The two combined made a very creamy dish. Next time though, I might forgo this side because with all the food that we ordered, I was too full to finish it.

Everything was just so delicious at Fish. The clams and oysters were fresh and the lobsters were delicious. The boyfriend’s mother ordered an organic grilled salmon for her entrée, which was phenomenal as well. The salmon was very fresh and soft. It really was cooked to perfection. There was not a single rough piece in the entire dish. I can definitely seeing myself coming back to try the lobster rolls or the crab cakes.

Gyu-Kaku

I’ve blogged about Japanese teppanyaki before so it’s time to write about another type of Japanese cuisine – yakiniku. Japanese yakiniku is a meal that consists of grilled meat. Gyu-Kaku, located in the East Village, specializes in yakiniku. Visitors cook their own meats with a charcoal burner that is built into the tables. The menu offers a variety of foods to choose from – beef, pork, chicken, seafood and an assortment of vegetables.

Gyu-Kaku has a happy hour menu everyday from 3pm-6pm. This menu offers a variety of appetizers, meats and drinks at 50% off the original price. We arrived at 5:30pm just to catch a hold of this deal. Since we had a large party, we were given a reservation for 5:30 but we were told we would need to vacate the table by 7:15pm. But by the time 7:15pm arrived, they were very courteous and didn’t rush us to leave. We ended up finishing around 7:30pm.

We started off with a couple of appetizers. First was the seaweed salad. This appetizer came in a large plate, but the serving size was rather small. However, at the price of $3, I suppose I can’t complain. The seaweed was fresh and had just the right amount of sesame oil mixed throughout the salad.

Next came the fried shrimp dumplings. Each order of dumplings came with seven pieces, which is a bit of an odd number. The dumplings were drizzled with a salsa-like sauce, which made it spicy and tangy. The skin of the dumplings was lightly fried so there was a crunch but it wasn’t too deeply fried. We ordered a couple of orders of dumplings so I had two of these.

We also ordered a couple of orders of kalbi soup. This tasted more like a stew, or more specifically, it tasted like Korean chigae. The soup base was a bit spicy and was interspersed with egg, kalbi meat and other veggies. This was quite delicious and wasn’t heavy at all.

Next up in the appetizers selection was the Sukiyaki Beef Bibimbap. Happy Hour price placed each of these large bowls of mixed rice at only $5 each. We ordered around 4 bowls to be shared between a table of thirteen so we all each got a small bowl of rice. I requested that mine be less spicy and it was perfect. There was just a small hint of spice but not too much. There were chunks of beef and veggies throughout my rice and I had to stop myself from finishing the whole bowl!

After appetizers we were brought our meat! We started off with their Bistro Hanger Steak off their Happy Hour menu. At the Happy Hour price, it only cost $4 per order. We got about ten orders of these for the entire table to share. We put the meat onto the already fired grill and started barbequing! When we finished grilling, the meat was tender and juicy. I was done chewing each piece within seconds!

We also ordered some beef ribs to grill. After grilling these, they almost fell off the bone. They were so tender! We also ordered a ton of other meats – beef tongue, pork slices and pig neck. I was too busy eating to take pictures so you’re going to have to pay them a visit and try for yourselves!

We also ordered Kurobuta sausages, which were off the Happy Hour menu. These were so delicious that we knew we had to have it. These sausages grill super quick and were very juicy. Even though they came at the end of the meal and we were pretty full, I still had room for one of these sausages.

After everything was cleared and the table cleaned, we were offered the dessert menu. Despite being very full, the Green Tea Mille Crepe cake looked super good. I have always wanted to try a crepe cake because they’re supposed to be very delicious. The boyfriend’s friend and I shared a slice and I was blown away! The crepe cake, which came with around 20 layers of thin crepes (I lost count of how many layers there were), was soft and light. The matcha crème in between the crepe layers were full of green tea flavor. Paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this was the perfect finish to a delicious meal.

Gyu-Kaku is pretty expensive when you’re not going during Happy Hour but they do have set menus that are pretty affordable. It’s pretty fun to be able to cook your own meats. If you’ve never tried yakiniku, I suggest a visit to Gyu-Kaku. The service is quick and friendly. My water glass was always filled up when it reached half-full and I was super full after my meal. We actually had left overs!