Monday, November 15, 2010

Vietnamese Iced Tea, Tu Do, Chinatown

This Vietnamese restaurant sits on Bowery in between Grand and Hester with a simple red awning that reads Tu Do-Vietnamese Cuisine. I met up with Candice this evening for dinner and we both had an enjoyable time. The husband and wife couple who own the restaurant are quite kind. I ordered a Viet Iced Tea, basically iced tea sweetened with condensed milk. This blend was particularly sweet, even for my sweet tooth. But it was refreshing and rich nonetheless and helped balance out the savoury banh mi bo kho, a beef stew served with baguette.

Green Tea Baguette, Takahachi Bakery, NYC

25 Murray Street at Church Street in the FiDi wouldn't seem like a particularly special intersection to the unassuming New Yorker, however this particular corner is home to Takahachi Bakery. This little Japanese gem is a lovely spot overflowing with Japanese goodies including buns, muffins, cookies, cakes, breads, macarons and an assortment of teas and coffees. Not to mention there are already prepared lunch sandwiches and homemade ice cream. All baking is done on premises and you can see it being done through the glass window by the seating area. On this particular Saturday afternoon, friend Nicole and I lounged at Takahachi for a while sipping on Matcha Lattes and Espressos (both fabulous!) But something I was really intrigued by was the green tea baguette on offer. I had to buy one. It was fresh and lovely and subtle hints of green tea poured through each bite. Later, I toasted the remains of the baguette and added some Yeo's Brand Kaya. After toasting, the tea flavor was more intensified and it was a perfect partner to the kaya! Although I love Panya and Cafe Zaiya, there is something a little more laid-back and calm about Takahachi that the others lack. I can't wait to return for a weekend breakfast of an-pan, tea, and a good book! Go visit today!

Teh Tarik, Malaysia Kitchen for the World, NYC

Last weekend I was pleased to attend the Malaysia Kitchen for the World event at Grand Central with friends Dani, Candice and Melissa. Many restaurants around the city came out and supplied guests with some iconic Malaysian staples including Nasi Lemak, Rendang, and assorted Kueh (pandan cupcakes in our case).

Of course for me, the most exciting part was the free samples of teh tarik being given out by the Malaysia Kitchen for the World food truck outside. This truck has been making its way around Manhattan and Queens, doing the Malaysian Tourist Industry a great service.

The teh tarik was hot and frothy, sweet and light, not overly powerful, just like I remember it in Malaysia. A really sweet and nice balance. The vendors were so friendly and allowed us to take multiple samples of the mini cups. Did I mention there was also free plates of mee goreng? This is a perfect noodle accompaniment to the sweet milk tea!

Check out the Malaysia Kitchen for the World twitter to learn about the truck's locations and upcoming events!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cha An, East Village, NYC

Cha An is a slice of heaven in the hustle and bustle of the East Village. The storefront is located in the Little Tokyo area that makes up 9th Street in between 3rd and 2nd Avenues. A set of stairs leads you up into a traditional Japanese Tea Parlor. It's so easy to forget you are in Manhattan after stepping into this other world. The staff is friendly and attentive and after I walked in from the chilly night air, I was quickly escorted to a private table in the back. I couldn't get over how much I was in love with the space. It was just beautiful. There is also a private room covered in tatami mats where a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony takes place. For a very reasonable charge, you can experience the art of matcha.

But, because I was a solo diner on this particular night, and I just wanted some "me time", I ordered dinner, "Set A" from the food menu. There are several sweets that I would have loved to try, but I will be back for that. There is also a huge book of tea that is not only informative, but also just plain fun to read. I was learning about all sorts of Japanese teas that I did not know about before. However, I settled for a Matcha Latte, as I have read wonderful things about their iced lattes, and I had to try one of my favorite drinks at this authentic spot. The latte was perfect! It came out promptly, extremely well mixed, blending the sweet and powerful taste of matcha with milk. The latte was smooth and delicately blended, and I certainly appreciated that. To make it even more indulgent, there is a dollop of azuki beans (red beans) on top of the latte that you are to mix in, and then enjoy as you sip them up through the straw with your matcha. Heaven.

My set meal came out not too long after my drink arrived and it was simply stunning, both visually and gastronomically. A big bowl of Japanese 15 Grain Rice Porridge takes center stage. It was great. Along with the rice porridge, I enjoyed a mackerel in miso broth, along with small Japanese assorted bowls of Chinese cabbage, egg, seaweed, and a daikon salad. Everything was delicious. I will admit, I sampled the bit of sour plum that sits at the side of the tray, however it was much too sour for me and I left it off to the side. I could have been in Japan though, that's how authentic the food tasted. It was really quite nice.

In the set meal, dessert of the house is included. It rotates, but this evening, I was presented with homemade vanilla bean ice cream studded with mixed berries, sandwiched between two puff pastry outer shells, creating a splendid homemade ice cream sandwich. Delicious! If they have this when you are there, order it! The vanilla bean ice cream is out of this world. Very high quality, indeed!

I really loved Cha An. The space, the food, the tea. I want to return to try some of the house blends and sample some of the other menu items. I must say, although the menu seems like it is expensive, my whole meal with tea came out to only about twenty dollars. Not too bad. Head over and try some traditional Japanese tea house fare for yourself!