Kopi Ramen

I’ve frequented Kopi Kopi Café in the past before – it’s very conveniently located close to both my office and NYU. When I read on Yelp that they have opened a ramen restaurant in the back of the café, I knew I had to check them out. We strolled in on a Saturday afternoon and were seated right away. The menu currently consists of a handful of appetizers and four options of ramen. Their beer list is quite extensive!

We decided to order the Pork Belly and the Charred Edamame as our appetizers. The Pork Belly is marinated with miso and served on top of seasoned seaweed with chopped scallions. I loved this presentation because it was very quick and easy to eat. Unlike Pork Belly Buns, which I have a soft spot for, these were bite-sized and mess free. The pork belly was tender and not overly sauced.

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The Charred Edamame was a nice change to the typical edamame dishes at Japanese restaurants. There was a smoky flavor to each piece, which coupled nicely with the course salt.

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We actually fought over who would order which ramen on the menu, since all of them looked quite good. In the end, I ordered the Shoyu Ramen, which is a soy based ramen with duck broth. The ramen was thick and bouncy, but it was the broth that shone. The broth was salty without being overly so – I gladly drank almost all my broth. The seaweed, bamboo shoots, and pork belly were a nice addition.

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The Boyfriend ordered the Miso Ramen, which was delightful. The pork broth was milky and just the right amount of salty. Most of the time, miso ramen is too salty for my tastes because of the heavy use of miso, but this one was just right. I think the miso ramen is a heartier than the Shoyu Ramen, so if you’re a bit more hungry, definitely go for the Miso Ramen.

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Service was attentive and friendly. Check in on Yelp for a free beer – draft or canned. If you’re an NYU student, you also get a discount if you show your ID. Service charge is included in your bill so all you have to do is take your check to the counter and pay there. I highly recommend paying Kopi Ramen a visit before everything hears about it and crowds over!

Smorgasburg

The Boyfriend and I have been going to Smorgasburg for a few years now – we often make our annual trek to Williamsburg in June. This year, we opted to go early in May to try to beat the heat – and the crowd! We arrived around 12pm and the fair was still relatively empty. All the stands were already open so we strolled around and stopped when we found something that caught our eye.

The first stand that caught our attention was Rise & Swine, which serves breakfast bacon sandwiches. Rise & Swine cures, smokes and cooks bacon made exclusively from Heritage breed Pigs. We picked their Bacon, Egg and Cheese ($8.00) sandwich served on an English muffin. The sandwich comes with a fried egg, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and jerk bacon. The bacon was really tasty (when is bacon not tasty??) and the onions and cheese really added a lot of flavor. But beware! The fried egg has a very gooey yoke that bursts the moment you bite into the sandwich!

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Our second stop was Big Mozz, which serves up freshly made mozzarella that’s craft on site! You can even stand by and watch as they stretch and roll the mozzarella balls! We opted for the Mozzarella Bomb ($7.00), a ball of mozzarella cheese injected with pesto and served over greens. This was one of my favorites of the day – the pesto was very flavorful and tasted amazing when mixed with the super fresh mozzarella and greens. I highly recommend a stop at Big Mozz!

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Our third stop was at an old favorite, the Lumpia Shack. We had their signature pork lumpias, which were crunchy and crispy. They’re a more refined version of the traditional Filipino lumpia, which is crunchier and probably 10x oilier! We’re not partial to either – a good lumpia is a good lumpia!

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Our fourth stop was Carnal – we had not planned to stop but the smell got to us. We walked a few feet within the stand and could already smell the delicious grill! Today, Carnal was serving up Beef Short Ribs ($13.00) topped with bone marrow, spring onion and black pepper. The price tag is a bit steep but the ribs are divine! They’re very moist and tender – basically falling off the bone with each bite. The bone marrow and spring onion topping is so flavorful and buttery. It’s a messy dish but it’s a damn good one.

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Our fifth stop was Rai Rai Ken, who was serving just one dish that day – cold Unagi Mazemen ($9.00) with barbeque eel, cucumber, shredded omelet, onion and Sichuan pepper. They use a tiny blow torch to heat the barbeque eel on site so it’s really cool to watch. The mazemen is really refreshing on a hot day and super tasty. The ramen noodles were cooked to a perfect al dente and each bite had a nice bounce to it. There’s an option to add a scoop of guacamole for $2 – we weren’t adventurous enough for this but we heard good things from the others that ordered it.

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Our last official stop was Home Frite, who was selling Belgian fries – Pomme Frites style. The line was longer than the Ramen Burger line and we were seeing numerous people walking around the lot with them so we had to try it. There’s only one size so it’s definitely something to share between 2-4 people. We opted for the Truffle Fries ($8.00) with the Truffleist Truffle Oil, parmesan cheese, and lemon garlic aioli for dipping. The fries were good and the dipping sauce was even better! The fries come out pretty quickly so the line does go by fast.

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We didn’t really get dessert at the fair but we did have a lot of beverages. Standouts included the oldie-but-goodie Kelvin Natural Slush (Arnold Palmer base with cherry flavor is surprisingly good!), POG (passo-orange-guava juice) from East Coast Poke, and the iced teas from Bellocq Tea Atelier. Their teas are always super refreshing and very light on the palate! There were quite a few vendors that I would’ve loved to try out – if I had more stomach space. I think I’ll make a repeat trip this year – stay tuned!

Smorgasburg 2014

It’s time for my annual trip to Smorgasburg! Every summer, the Boyfriend and I try to make it to Smorgasburg at least once to try out the new vendors. We always see some familiar stands – Red Hook Lobster Pound, Mimi & Coco, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Dough, Brooklyn Soda Works, and Mighty Quinn’s. But every year, there are brand new stands that we’ve never seen before – and definitely want to try out.

We arrived around 11:00am, which is when they open, so we walked around to take a look at all the stands first. Our first stop was at the Ramen Burger stand. Despite trying it last summer when it first came out, we both wanted to get one this time. Because we were there just when the stand opened, we only waited about five minutes since we were 3rd in line. This time around, they have cheese option – I’m a cheese lover so I opted in. Each burger with cheese comes up to $10 each, which is a bit pricey but you’re paying for a delicious burger! I actually prefer having the cheese on it since it gives the burger a bit more flavor. I only wish the burger wasn’t so fully cooked!

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After we polished off our ramen burgers, we walked around a bit more to see all the options. We walked by Lonestar Empire just as they pulled out a beautiful piece of brisket. The smell and amazing appearance hooked us and we ordered their Slow-Smoked Texas style Brisket Sandwich ($9.00). You get your choice of moist, lean or a mixture of the two so we went for the moist. They have a few toppings you can add on to your taste but we decided to do it plain. The brisket was so soft and tender! It was very well flavored. We’re both not big brisket fans but this one definitely changed our minds!

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By now, we’re getting pretty hot so we stopped by People’s Pops for some Shave Ice ($2.50). They have two flavors and we opted for the Plum Orange Blossom flavor, which was both tart and sweet. The shave ice takes a long time to melt so it’s great for snacking on while you walk around the stands.

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At 12pm, the beer garden opens so we went straight in for some day drinking! I opted for the Rum Punch ($12.00). They use a good amount of rum in the cocktail so it’s at medium strength. It was just enough rum for me to taste it but not so much that it was like a punch in the face. It was nice and refreshing – I love summery-tropical drinks!

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We then headed over to Ca’pisci for some Calamari Salad ($8.00). They toss chunks of squid, tomatoes and homemade croutons together to made this calamari salad. It’s a better deal than their squid sticks, which are the same price. It’s light and refreshing and a must have if you’re a squid fan! The salad was a perfect for the hot weather because it’s chilled.

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My favorite drink of the day, which I went back for seconds of, was from Bellocq, which sells loose leaf teas as well as two iced teas. The iced teas of the day ($3.00 each) were #21 White Nixon Tea and #82 The Phoenix. Both teas are white teas and taste amazing chilled. I had the White Nixon Tea, which has hints of white peony and grapefruit while the Boyfriend had The Phoenix, which has hints of fruit, orchid and honey. We both agreed that the White Nixon is better suited for summer since it is fruiter and lighter. We finished both our teas and went back for a second cup!

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For dessert, we went with an ice cream sandwich from The Good Batch. A friend had previously Instragram-ed a picture of the Nutella-Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich ($6.00) from them so I knew I had to try that one. And it was a great decision because it was so good! The cookie was just hard enough to hold the sandwich together and the nutella + nuts in the sandwich made it both smooth and crunchy at the same time. I quickly gobbled it up and hardly left any for the Boyfriend!

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If you haven’t been to Smorgasburg yet, I really recommend that you make a trip soon! There’s so many different cuisines to try out – there’s West African, Ethiopian, Columbian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, American, Mexican, and so much more! But remember to go early or else there will be huge crowds and lines.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The Boyfriend and I were wandering around the East Village after making a pitstop at an iPhone repair shop. We had no idea where to eat for lunch – until we stumbled onto Momofuku Noodle Bar. We’ve heard about the insane wait times during dinner so we thought, ‘hey, why not try it now?’ We were seated right away after walking in at about 1:00pm. We opted to sit at the bar (their tables have hooks for your bags!) instead of a table. This way, we could watch all the chefs making the food!

We started off with their Pork Buns ($10.00), which aren’t on the menu but written on the blackboards along the walls of the restaurant. They come two to an order and were absolutely delicious. I love that they use hoisin sauce instead of spicy mayo – when it comes to buns, I prefer hoisin sauce. The pork belly was super tender and practically melted in my mouth. Based on personal preference (hoisin sauce!), I have to say this is the best pork bun I’ve had.

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I went with the Momofuku Ramen, which has pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg. First off, I absolutely loved the poached egg. It’s different from other ramen places, who serves soft-boiled eggs with their ramen. The ramen noodles themselves were very good – very bouncy and chewy. However, I felt that the broth itself wasn’t as good as many other ramen restaurants. It was nice but not as flavorful as I’m used to.

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The Boyfriend opted for the Spicy Miso Ramen, which is served with smoked chicken, swiss chard and sesame. I didn’t try his since I’m not that big of a fan of spicy ramen but he said it was quite good.

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For dessert, we went with Lucky Charms Soft Serve, which I had no idea even existed until our waiter told us the flavor of the day. It was so good! It tastes like the milk that’s left after you finish your bowl of Lucky Charms. I loved it!

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Service was quick and attentive. My water glass was never half empty and our dishes were always cleared in a timely manner. I think next time I might pass on the ramen and just get two orders of the pork buns for myself!

 

 

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! Quick tip: If you check into Yelp, you get a free glass of Asahi!

Smorgasburg

Saturday afternoon brought the Boyfriend and I to Smorgasburg on the Williamsburg waterfront. Smorgasburg, which runs every Saturday and Sunday, is host to over 75 different vendors. Each visit is slightly different than the previous one as some vendors change weekly based on availability. This Saturday, we started off at Dough, which is usually located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. They didn’t have my favorite flavor (blood-orange) so we settled for Passionfruit Chocolate Nibs ($2.75 each). The doughnut itself was very good but I thought the passionfruit flavor was a bit weird. I think next time I’ll probably try their famous Hibiscus instead. IMG_4506 As I was waiting on the line for Dough, the Boyfriend stumbled on the infamous Ramen Lab’s Ramen Burger line. At 11:20am, the line was already 188 burgers deep. We were #189 and #190. They were serving 400 burgers that day so we were about the halfway point. They only allow one burger per person so make sure if only one person is lining up for a group – round up the group before ordering! IMG_4518 IMG_4523 The line is pretty slow (took us TWO hours to get our burgers!) because they only have one grill and it is split into two sections – one side for burgers and another side for the ramen “buns”. There is one cook on each side with three workers unwrapping the burger patties and “buns”. One worker mans the register while two other workers sets up the burger. IMG_4520 You start with one ramen “bun”, add mixed greens, put on the burger patty, a spoonful of their special sauce and it’s all finished with a handful of chopped scallions and the other ramen “bun”. The burger is then wrapped in a circular wrapper that allows you to eat the burger without taking it out of the wrapper. Genius! Each burger is $8, which isn’t too bad considering how much work goes into preparing one. IMG_4524 IMG_4526 IMG_4527 We quickly found a nearby ledge and began feasting. Boy, that first bite was absolutely heavenly. We both thought the ramen “buns” were very tasty – and intriguing! The ramen was still chewy and bouncy despite the fact that they were in a solid block form. The patty was well seasoned and the special sauce was a nice compliment. It tasted a bit like Chapagetti sauce, which is a sweet black bean sauce used in a Korean instant noodle dish. I’m not sure if I would wait 2 hours again but it was pretty damn good. IMG_4529 As the Boyfriend waited, I would walk around and bring back goodies to the Ramen Burger line. First we tried Landhaus’ Maple Glazed Bacon. It’s more pork belly than bacon but regardless it was very well seasoned. They come $3 for 1 piece or $8 for 3 pieces. I opted for 3 pieces, which we split between the two of us. Because it’s barbequed, the bacon was a bit tougher than we’re used to so biting was a bit hard. You’re better off being a piggy and sticking the entire piece in your mouth. IMG_4509 My second trip around brought us two new items. First was Takumi Taco’s Spicy Tuna Taco ($6.00), which features big eye tuna, jicama, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo on top of a fried gyoza shell. The gyoza shell was very crunchy and held together better than your typical corn taco shell. The tuna was just the right amount of spicy but I wish there was a bit more for the price tag! IMG_4511 I also brought back Lumpia Shack’s Filipino-style spring rolls ($7.00 for 6 pieces). I opted for the vegetarian option – Truffled Adobo Mushroom, which features three types of mushrooms: cremini, shitake, and enoki. The spring rolls are topped with truffled aioli and pickled red chili peppers. The spring rolls were super crunchy but be careful because they are spicy! IMG_4510 The last treat that I brought back to the line was Pecan Patti’s Sweet Tea, which was a hot seller that day. Each sweet tea comes in a huge mason jar ($6.00), which is definitely the best deal out of all the vendors at Smorgasburg. The portion size lasts the longest and you get to keep the jar! I opted for the Citrus Sweet Tea, which features Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Black Tea. The combination is refreshing, sweet and light all at the same time. I wanted to go back for another one but the line was way too long! It was even longer than the Mighty Quinn line! But I highly recommend this one – it was my favorite after the Ramen Burger. IMG_4516 IMG_4517 Although I didn’t try as many vendors this time as I did on my last Smorgasburg visit, I definitely thought the ones I did try this time were pretty outstanding. This is the first time I have waited two hours for a food item and I thought it was worth it. The Ramen Burger lived up to the hype and the sweet tea really quenched my thirst during the two-hour wait. I wish they made bottled versions of that stuff because it is delicious! You’ll have to go try it out for yourself!

Yuji Ramen

The Boyfriend and I have known about the Smorgasburg inside the 2nd floor of Whole Foods Market on Bowery Street for a while but we haven’t gotten a chance to try them out until now. Basically, every month they feature a new pop-up restaurant that will serve up something unique to customers. Yuji Ramen has been extended until the end of August. They specialize in Mazemen, which is a new style of broth-less ramen that are served with a variety of toppings. IMG_3690 I decided to try their Salmon & Cheese Mazemen ($9.00), which features cured salmon, cheese and lemon. The combination sounds a little gross but I can assure you that it was one of the best ramen dishes I have ever had. The noodles were bouncy and chewy. The cheese sauce had an Alfredo pasta sauce consistency and mixed very well with the ramen. The salmon portion was also generous and mixed very well with the melted cheese. It was so delicious! IMG_3692 The Boyfriend opted for their Daily Shoyu Ramen ($9.00), which has a different broth everyday since they source their bones from the Whole Foods Market. I had a quick bite of the ramen, which had a very nice tasting broth and bouncy ramen noodles. The Boyfriend absolutely loved the broth. He even drank the entire bowl of broth, which he didn’t even do at Ippudo. IMG_3691 The portion sizes aren’t really enough to fill you up for lunch or dinner. But we were looking for a semi-filling snack since we skipped lunch but was eating dinner a about three hours. It was absolutely perfect for our snack! I left pleasantly full without being too full for dinner later on in the night. I loved my ramen dish and will definitely be back before May is over to have it again!