Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pork katsu don (Ajia Japanese)

Pork katsu don

Things that are delicious to me... pork and things that are fried. Combine the two and you have an instant recipe for success, a formula for food that's pretty much impossible to fuck up. That food is pork katsu. When you add -don to that and put it over a giant bowl of soy sauce + sugar rice... well then you pretty much just made me the happiest Asian boy this side of the Pacific. Since my regular diet consists of basically ice cream, cheesesteaks, burgers, and Chinese food, I was pretty excited to grab some fat-laden fried pork at a local Japanese joint called 'Ajia.'

Little did I know that it was actually possible to screw up frying a piece of pork. First off, the lunch special is like $8. Now I realize to most people that's not exactly putting a hurt on the wallet, but I'm working the poor graduate student angle here (so visit, and make others visit, often!)... that's like 4 tacos from Don Memo. Know something? Their katsu don isn't 4 tacos good. In fact, it's not good at all. The cutlet comes out dripping in oil (in a bad way), the panko breadcrumbs are less than crunchy, and the pork is uninspiring and dry... despite an oil spill that could put BP to shame. How the hell do you screw up something SO EASY?

When you consider the issue of portion sizing (let's say they believe strongly in portion control), and the fact that they basically give you a bowl half-filled with onions... you end up with a giant (by which I mean medium sized) bowl of fail. Have I mentioned it was doused in oil? Because it was doused in oil.

California roll

California rolls as appetizers! I'm not really sure what to say about these aside from the fact that I probably shouldn't have eaten them (BUT THEY WERE FREE). With my slight seafood allergy in tow, I stupidly ate several pieces, not even for the sake of blogging... but for the sake of being a cheap Asian. Uh, these were pretty much wasted calories. I went home and scratched like an idiot, but with zero satisfaction. Usually when I go to dim sum and eat tons of seafood, I go home itchy as hell, but I'm usually okay with it because the food was fucking incredible. Not this time. I mean, they taste fine and all, but... let's just say... I am disappoint.

Japanese food has never made me so sad before.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Inner Fatty turns two!

It's me!

Oh snap, today marks two straight years of churning out blog posts on food of questionable worth. For better or worse, that's a pretty big deal for me... considering my how short my attention span normally is. But you know what? Not much has really changed on my site in the past year. Sure I redid the layout, and yeah I finally replaced my camera, but I'm proud to say that the content hasn't changed one bit. Nope, it's still the same asinine commentary that you fell in love with (or began to hate) way back when.

Have I made an impact on the internets? Probably not. Not unless you have some sick obsession with General Tso's chicken or burgers. Have I made the internet community slightly dumber for having written some of the stuff here? Most definitely. Anyway, I wasn't originally planning on writing a post, so I'll stop rambling and just give a big virtual thanks to everyone who actually reads this nonsense. I'm not sure why you do it... but thanks nonetheless.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ox tails, why are they so delicious? (Denise's Soul Food Truck)

Ox tail platter (Denise's)

Sorry to all my Hindu readers (if there are any), but to me, this pretty much explains why cows were put on earth. Oxen tails... they are good eatin'. I also want to apologize to anyone who actually listened to me and went to Gigi's for their ox tail platter... I'm sorry. I mean, everything I wrote there is still mostly true. The jerk chicken is spicy beyond all belief, the mac and cheese is pretty damn good when drizzled with hot sauce, but let me retract one thing... the ox tail platter there isn't phenomenal. When compared with the platter at Denise's, it seems downright pedestrian.

I had written that Gigi's interpretation wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I had dreams of tender beef that would peel off without much effort, but was greeted with chunks of beef joined by connective tissue. Well in Denise's platter, the beef is spot on with my original expectations. The meat comes off with some light prodding using a crappy plastic fork. The connective tissue is still fantastically springy and... connective? Hrm, I fail at describing this... maybe a picture will help!

Glorious ox tail

So tender... so soft... so intertwined with fat! Forreals, the flavor of the ox tail here is head and shoulders above that at Gigi's. With just the perfect amount of seasoning, the taste didn't overpower the textural delicacies. What do I mean by that? Normally, my mind (as simple as it is) can only focus on one thing at once, either how something tastes, or if the texture of something appeals to me. In this case, it was like I almost forgot I was eating. The magical substance in my mouth melted into a symphony of brilliant deliciousness. I wasn't concerned with how it felt, and I wasn't concerned with how it tasted, I just knew that it was awesome... and I was having it. I bet I had a creepy-ass smile on my face when I was eating it.

So much food!

Now despite the sheer awesomeness of the food, I still tend to think with my wallet. At $9 for the 'small' platter (has anyone ever ordered the large? I wanna see it), it's definitely not cheap (I mean, I rationalize this as being equivalent to two orders of grandfather chicken and some hot and sour soup), but it's so much freakin' food! Close to two pounds of food. In case you're wondering, yes, I used a scale out of curiosity. The rice and beans were pretty standard, no better or worse than Gigi's, and the mac and cheese was also just... average, but since the ox tail is delicious beyond my feeble descriptions, it's not all that bad a deal. Would I get it all the time? Probably not. Is it worth splurging on once in a while? Fuck yeah.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When doughnuts and burgers collide (PYT Philly)

Chocolate covered bacon double cheeseburger (PYT)

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting PYT Philly for Serious Eats (which is very serious business). Long story short, it's an awesome lounge/burger joint that serves up a fantastically good plain cheeseburger. In any case, you know the drill, if you want to read an actual review of their normal burgers from a non-demented perspective, hop on over to AHT to read my post there. But if your preferred method of death is slow and delicious, by means of clogged arteries, feel free to stick around here, since I wanted to talk a little bit more about their Krispy Kreme and pretzel cheesesteak burgers.

After multiple encounters with burgers with doughnuts as buns (see here and here), I would consider myself some sort of pseudo-expert on the subject matter, especially since I'm probably one of the few people idiotic enough to eat them repeatedly (and actually write about it). Now how was PYT's take on the Luther Burger?

Chocolate covered bacon

Overwhelming would be an understatement. They start with a plain glazed Krispy Kreme donut (the traditionalist bun of choice for doughnut burger enthusiasts EVERYWHERE), but that's where the formula starts getting fucked up. Instead of a single patty, they double the amount of pain/pleasure by double-stacking twin 4-ounce patties all up in there. Then they finish off this abomination with a generously thick slice of melted cheese and some bacon (Luther burger requirements = met). But wait... you see that brown goop in the middle? That's melted chocolate. Why is there melted chocolate? Because the brain trust at PYT made an executive decision to use chocolate covered bacon. Looking at all the components that go into the burger, my mind is thinking... donuts are awesome, burger patties are awesome (x2 no less!), cheese is awesome, and chocolate covered bacon is awesome. The sum of parts must be even greater than... *counts the number of times I said awesome* 5x awesome.

Then I took a bite... and my brain shutdown. It's not that it tasted bad or anything, but unless your body runs on pure sugar and fat (like a fighter jet running on 100% trans-fats or... something bad?), then more than 2 or 3 bites will probably make you want to throw in the towel. In my opinion, it was definitely a worthwhile experiment, but not something I'd order seriously... repeatedly. Okay, maybe twice.

Cheesesteak pretzel cheeseburger (PYT)

They also do one of these thingers. Which is basically the child of a pretzel and a cheesesteak, who gets put up for adoption, and then gets adopted by a family of burgers. Awkward turtle. It's everything you'd expect, a soft, yet thick and chewy pretzel housing a thick and juicy burger patty, chopped steak, and a delicately blend of cheese wiz and cheddar. I liked it more than enough, and I'd probably give it another go when I next visit PYT. I said it might be too much sandwich for some in my AHT review... but really, it's just right amount if you're a fat ass like myself. No shame.

Classic cheeseburger (PYT)

I won't bother saying much about this, since I already sang it's praises to no end on Serious Eats, but yeah... it's basically the shit. One of the top burgers I've ever had in my life. That's a lot of burgers.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jimmy's Sister (Pyramid Pizza)

Jimmy's sister (Pyramid Pizza)

Some things I recently learned about food carts after going to the row at Drexel: there are actually two Gigi's Caribbean carts, there are two George's Lunch trucks, and you can get sandwiches filled with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, fries, and chopped cheesesteak. Love. Clearly ripping off the idea created by the Rutger's 'Grease Trucks,' one of the carts, called Pyramid Pizza, has a full menu of sandwiches in which he puts things that are bad for you together inside of bread (all coming in at under $5). What a guy... he's out to kill me, and at a reasonable price too!

Instead of following the regular naming convention of 'Fat + name' he decides to make his creations part of a family. Of course you have the father, the 'Big Fat Jimmy,' but then you also get the rest of his dysfunctional family... Jimmy's Sister, Jimmy's Wife, Jimmy's Brother, and probably a few more relatives I'm forgetting.

Cross-section of the 'sister'

My choice was obvious. Jimmy's Sister looked easy... too easy. She also had the most to offer in the family. A beautiful 10" hoagie filled with all of the above ingredients, she was the crown jewel of the menu. At $4, you get a sandwich packed full of artery clogging components. Yes, the mozzarella sticks, the chicken fingers, the french fries, and the chopped steak are all reheated from the frozen variety, and it's true the cheese is probably not of the finest quality, but that's to be expected. This thing isn't supposed to be good for you, it's just supposed to make you feel good (and then bad).

Steak innards

Arrrrgggghhhhh~. This is the sound my heart makes when I shove bite after bite of trans-fats down the throat. It's actually curiously interesting... this sandwich is nothing really special, but once that first bite of melted cheese, marinara, fried chicken tenders, and cheesesteak hits your taste buds, you can't help but continue wolfing down the remainder. It's like you're mind is programmed to think 'this is bad for me... it must be delicious,' completely disregarding your personal health in the process.

Gooey cheese + beef

To be honest, I don't really remember too many distinct flavors in this sandwich. Everything just kind of melds together to form a homogeneous taste profile in your mouth. If you made me describe it in 3 words or less... I would probably say it tastes like 'fried,' 'cheese,' and 'fatty.' Would I say it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever had? Probably not. Would I say that it's fucking awesome and deserves to be tried by anyone who's not a health nut? Hell yes.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Death of the Gobbler (and turkey bowl)

Turkey bowl w/cranberry sauce (Wawa)

I'd like to ask for a moment of silence for the 'Turkey Odyssey' at Wawa. All good things have to come to an end. I knew that it wouldn't be around forever, I just didn't think our hot juicy passionate (and gravy laden!) affair would end so soon. To be honest I kind of took it for granted when it was around, but now that it's gone (until next year)... I realize how important it was to me. On December 12, 2010... the Wawa Gobbler met its demise, disappearing from the magical touchscreen at Wawa... replaced by a 'prime rib' sandwich. Disgusting. Prime rib from Wawa? You're just a cheap substitute, you could never replace the Gobbler in my heart.

This post actually isn't about the Gobbler. Nope, as awesome as the Gobbler was, there was something that won over my heart in the past few weeks. Along with the splendid creation known as the 'Gobbler,' the 'Turkey Odyssey' included a variety of hot turkey bowls as well. You could combo the standard turkey and gravy with your choice of stuffing, mashed potatoes, or mac and cheese. It's basically like when Chipotle lets you get burrito bowls instead of burritos... but with cheap turkey and gravy and those other things I mentioned instead. You have the option of getting cranberry sauce added on top. DO THIS (well... next year).

Mac and cheese!

Aww yeah... mac and cheese from Wawa. I won't pretend that this shit is any better than cheap Easy Mac (prepared really well), but goddamn it hits the spot. It's buttery, cheesy, and all sorts of creamy (when you don't get the scoop at the end of a batch). It fills all the requisite characteristics of a decent mac and cheese, and not one bit more. When you top it with oddly processed hot turkey, a ladle of gravy, and refrigerated cranberry sauce, it evolves into a bowl of sensuality... all for $2.99. It's not that this is 'better' than the shorti roll with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce... it's just different (not demented different). Paired with a buttered shorti roll for only $1.19 more, and you basically have a hobo's version of a Thanksgiving meal.

Wawa protip number 2 - If you can though, tell them to chill on the butter. Almost every time I neglected to ask for this, it tasted like someone creamed a cow onto my roll. Normally I'm all for butter, but I'm pretty sure associate 'Kevin' was trying to kill me with heart disease.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

General Tso's chicken cheesesteak

General Tso's chicken cheesesteak

Many a moons ago, some guy... whose culinary acumen puts all the iron chefs' combined to shame, made what might be the greatest single sandwich in existence. The General Tso's chicken cheesesteak. By combining a plain cheesesteak, which by itself is already fantastic, with General Tso's chicken, perhaps the single worthwhile product of the bastardization of Chinese food, he created a love child of heartburn and sinful deliciousness. It is indeed a sandwich of pure magnificence. But for some reason, it never caught on... for shame. Inspired by his innovation and boldness (and possibly by overwhelming boredom), I set out to replicate his experiment, to see if it actually tasted good... in real life, and not just in theory.

Kim's General Tso's chicken

General Tso's chicken sourced from Kim's Oriental. I debated going with grandfather chicken (from which I've been told by several people has a thinner sauce, but tastes pretty much the same), but I figured in the interest of amplifying the flavor, that more sauce would be better. Their General Tso's probably isn't anything spectacular, but amongst the food trucks, it pretty much kicks ass. Plus it's $4. I'm a graduate student... I'm not made of money.

Plain cheesesteak

At the very least, I one-upped the original creation by using an actual Philly cheesesteak from Philly. On the downside, it was really cold outside that day, so I got lazy. Instead of going to one of the better cheesesteak trucks (like Steak Queen), I went cheap with one from George's Lunch Truck. It's $3.75... so the total cost of even a failed experiment would come in under $8. I wasn't entirely listening when I ordered, so I ended up asking for ketchup on it. Some would consider that to be sinning. Oh wells, I'm Chinese, give me a break.

Oh yes, it happened

... and then it happened. George's cheesesteaks are actually filled pretty well, so there was a fair bit of finagling (I was surprised spell check told me this was a real word) involved to make everything fit. The steak had to be ever so delicately compressed to submission, before I ladled out a full serving of chicken into an already obese sub roll. Getting it to stay in this position was harder than telling a kid with ADD to count marbles. Forreals.


Was it good though? I mean, asking me is kind of pointless. General Tso's chicken is like a drug to me. If it were in some way possible to hook an IV of the sauce into my blood and not kill me, I would probably do it. Then there's cheesesteaks... which are just carbs + cheese + beef. If you think about it, they're basically cheeseburgers in a different form, and oh god I love cheeseburgers. When you add them together, upon contact it's like the Wonder Twins except in the form of... gluttony and being fat. The sandwich is greasy, and every description of a plain steak sandwich is still applicable. The chicken adds a secondary element of surprise, supplementing the oozing cheese with sporadic crunches of fried crust. On top of that, the flavor profile becomes a symphony of savory, sweet, and tangy (possibly from the ketchup...) tastes. As disgusting and overwhelming as the combination sounds, I assure you this sandwich is sublime, and arguably life changing. By which I mean, if you eat it too much, you'll probably get heart disease. Best $7.75 I've spent in a long time.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beer, burgers, and blogging (SPTR)

Standard burger (SPTR)

If you're expecting insightful commentary about the burger I had at the South Philly Tap Room, you should probably head on over to AHT for a more comprehensive (read: less idiotic and more objective) review. If instead, you're looking for a post that's full of poorly written descriptions, and some thoughts on on food blogging... then you're in for a real treat.

South Philly Tap Room external

If it isn't inherently obvious yet, I'm currently killing my free time (and vacant stomach space!) by writing about the burgers in Philly for AHT. It's like every fat kid's dream job, I get to eat a buttload of burgers and not pay for any of it. Sure there's the requirement that I write about the places afterward, but... let's be honest, I do that anyway. So no biggie. Those shooting pains in my left arm? Completely worth it for the amount of beef I get to have.


On 'assignment,' I went to SPTR, since it's pretty well known for its bar menu. Their burgers (including the occasional Mexican burger) all get rave reviews, so I figured it'd be worthwhile to check out... even if it's in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Everything I said on Serious Eats is entirely true. SPTR has a decent burger decked out in beer flavored toppings. The mustard is made with beer and the bacon is braised in beer. Hell... I wouldn't be surprised if the patty is secretly infused with beer. Overall, their burger is decently good, but nothing phenomenal, and certainly nothing to write home about (what am I doing then...?). The patty was sort of mushy (probably since I asked for rare) and kind of formed an amorphous blob of ground meat and oil soaked bread by the end of the meal. Actually, that sounds disgusting. I assure you it was more appetizing than my description.

Taps w/mini blackboards

Now let me hit you with some thoughts on food writing. On my trip to SPTR, I had some questions for the waitress/bartender who took my order (so I could write a factual post without resorting to using made up words like fantabulous). General questions, like... cooking method, seasoning, size of burger etc. I was first responded to with a look of bemusement, followed by some 'answers' which turned out to be straight lies, and then the cold shoulder. I started wondering at what point food writing becomes obnoxious to the wait staff, and if I had crossed that line (possibly by going to a pub and not ordering any beer). Honestly, I feel like it's well within a customer's right to know what they're eating... so no, I don't feel like I crossed any lines there. Was it because I was taking pictures of the food? Couldn't be. If the chef were offended that I wasn't eating his food immediately, then that I could understand, but why would a bartender care? I came to the conclusion that the bartender was just having a shitty day/being a bitch. That's perfectly understandable, people have off days. The problem that arises from this is the true problem I have with food blogging...

How much should the dining experience affect the writer's opinion of the food? Should it be ignored? 25%? 50? What if you taste the greatest [insert your favorite food here] you've ever had, but the waiter repeatedly laughs at how unfortunate your dining companion looks at throughout the meal (edit: this did not actually happen, just an example). How would you write that post? Seriously yo... food writing is tougher than you'd think.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Caribbean food at Gigi & Big R

Jerk chicken platter (Gigi & Big R)

Yesterday... I had Dunkin Donut's sausage pancake bites. They don't taste awful actually, but I wouldn't say they're awesome either. Then later in the day, I also enjoyed the wonderful experience that is food poisoning (I blame DD). Why am I starting a post with commentary on the kind of crap that goes in/out of my mouth? Because over the past few hours, in which I got plenty of face time with my toilet, I got to thinking about food experiences that were unpleasant to me. I like food. I like most every kind of food. So if I find fault with something, there's probably something seriously wrong.

Like at Gigi's. Last time I had their jerk chicken... I definitely regretted it. At $7, this is pretty expensive fare coming from a truck. I have high expectations when your food costs twice as much as everyone else's. Basically, if you're gonna charge that much, your portions better be double, or it better make me feel like there's a sexy party going on in my mouth. With the jerk chicken, portions aren't an issue. The box is pretty huge, and the sides are packed down like crazy. Nope, the problem here is with the chicken. First off, it's kind of burnt (maybe it's supposed to be like that? I don't even know), so the meat is somewhat difficult to pull off, and has a charcoal-ish taste. Yum. Secondly... they don't screw around with the spices. While in 99% of cases that'd be something awesome... in this case, it's not. This shit is spicy. Seriously. Spicy enough to make you regret spending $7 on something that's not even enjoyable. Steer clear people.

Ox tail (Gigi & Big R)

To be fair... it's not all bad. Despite my previous experience, in which my tongue and stomach suffered irreparable harm, I decided to give this whole Caribbean 'soul food' thing another shot. First time I looked at their menu, I wanted to get the ox tail, but it was $9, and I didn't want to drop that many bills at once for lunch (yes I'm cheap). Last week, I decided to finally man up and just do it. As much as it hurt to pay the equivalent of 14 donuts at DD, I did it anyway. No regrets. It was legit good.

Connective tissue lovin'

The rice was fine. The mac and cheese still rockin'. The ox tail though, was phenomenally good. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting (soft and tender beef that falls off the bone) it was excellent in its very own way. The meat pulls off in chunks, but remain partially attached to the tail bones by connective tissue. Seasoned an appropriate amount this time, the beef is succulent and flowing in juices, but what makes gnawing at the segments of bone the most enjoyable... is definitely the massive chunks of cartilage. They're proof that there's a higher power who loves us, and that we should be eating beef. Oh yes, it is incredible.

I still don't know how I feel about Gigi and Big R's Caribbean truck. They need to calm their prices down, since they're getting a bit out of hand, and they need to make some revisions to some of their dishes i.e. spicing the crap out of chicken, but goddamn... when they do something right, it is right.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jimmy John's (an ode to Kevin Durant)

It is gourmet.  Dude.

If you've ever spoken to me for any extended length of time, you most likely realize that I have some sort of weird obsession with Kevin Durant. Not gonna lie, that guy's a stud, no bromo. After reading Danny's post on cupcakes (see here), in which he seems to imply that KD is not currently the best player in the NBA, I was livid, and felt obliged to respond. When the debate about the 'Franchise Player' pops up, Lebron's the easy choice. He's gaudy, annoying, and yeah... he puts up big numbers, but Kevin Durant's that guy that people respect, but don't talk about as much. He does everything right, has untapped potential, keeps his mouth shut and just plays the game. In the sandwiching world... that's Jimmy John's.

For the 22 years that I've been on this earth, I had never heard about Jimmy John's, despite the fact that they have locations in a bajillion states. It wasn't until a friend of mine, who wouldn't stop praising their sandwiches, forced me to try it, and then I was absolutely hooked.

Beach club (Jimmy John's)

The 'Beach Club' in all its glory. For $7, it's a monstrosity of a turkey sandwich filled with guacamole, alfalfa sprouts, and all the standard fixings. While nothing about the sandwich wows you at first glance, its excellence is subtle. The bread is actually fantastically special, a french bread that's good enough to stand on its own. A firm, yet not quite crunchy, outer shell contains a matrix of fluffy innards. The only way to describe the flavor would be... delicately sweet. It's a sandwich that's fundamentally sound in all aspects.

Insides of beach club

The turkey is certainly passable, the veggies all fresh, but this is definitely a case where the overall surpasses the sum of the parts. I don't even like alfalfa sprouts or cucumbers, but in the overall equation, they were good. They made sense.

Bootlegger club (Jimmy John's)

Or you can get the 'Bootlegger's Club.' A combination of roast beef with turkey and the standard lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. Like Kevin Durant, Jimmy John's isn't a one trick pony. He can shoot the lights out or penetrate like no other. A generic sandwich when it comes to fillings, but yet again it does everything correctly. It's easy to fuck up a sandwich, but to properly execute a number of different sandwiches is infinitely difficult.

Yeah it's true that Jimmy John's is a fast food establishment, but that doesn't really detract from their ability to make sandwiches. Starting with bread baked fresh daily, through wickedly well thought out flavor combinations, they're a franchise that does everything right... loads of potential, fantastic sandwiches, but not quite as well liked/known as the Subway or Quiznos of the world. Maybe it's not so flashy, but just like Kevin Durant... it's already the best in the sandwich game, I think people are just slow to accept it because there are flashier options around right now. In due time, people will realize the awesomeness of JJ's, just as they'll come to accept KD as the unanimous choice as 'The Franchise.'


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Burritos from MexiCali Cafe

MexiCali Burrito Kitchen

The number of burritos I've eaten over the past week is no laughing matter, and I'm not sure why I've gone on a bender either. Maybe I've gotten kind of bored going to Kim's all the time, or maybe it's because I'm kind of embarrassed the guys at Wawa recognize me... either way, Don Memo, has made quite a bit of money off me lately. Wanting to throw some variety into this whole eating thing, I decided to give MexiCali a spin. They supposedly have a cart on 38th and Walnut (which I've seen occasionally), but it's harder to come by than a leprechaun on speed. Undeterred, I walked my lazy ass 4 blocks (not NYC blocks!) to their actual location.

Oh and it was a glorious hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Not like Greek Lady, which got bastardized to infinity and beyond. Nope, this place had a real homey type feel, just chillin' in a small corner shop location.

Behemoth of a burrito!

Even though their website is kind of bootleg, their burritos sound incredible. I was kind of torn between the combination burritos... I wouldn't mind having plantains stuffed inside, but french fries are also a welcome addition in pretty much everything. I ended up going with the San Diego Chicken for about $7, which when unwrapped, turned out to be quite a behemoth of a burrito, about 10" long and weighing more than a trio of baby pandas (3.5 ounces if you're curious).

Chicken San Diego burrito

Glorious innards! The chicken was alright, a tad on the dry side, but the guacamole and cheese more than made up for that (it wasn't very evenly dispersed). The guac and the salsa were more than adequate, although they lied about the salsa being spicy, but obviously you order this for the fries. They lacked the satisfying crunch of a double-fried fry, but the mushy texture was decent in combination with everything else. Basically, they replaced beans as the starch of choice, and since fries are less healthy than beans, I'm down with that.

As far as how good they are, I don't think there's any denying that they're pretty damn satisfying for the price, but I'm pretty sure I'd still rather go to Don Memo. That dude makes good burritos.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gyros from Greek Lady


As I recall, Greek Lady was a cart that served low priced gyros that would make you sick about a third of the time. Greek food from a cart with meats of questionable origin that might or might not have you befriending the toilet = awesome to me. As dumb as that sounds, there's something that just feels more genuine when you get cheap eats from a cart. It's just different when you see the proprietors every single time, and you know they're the very same people who take your order and make your food. Simply put, it's more personal. When I came to Penn, I was kind of excited to go to that crappy little cart, and to build a beautiful relationship with them, but I found that they had been replaced... with a full sized restaurant.

What is this shit Greek Lady? You have a website now too? Lame. Instantaneous loss of street cred. I was devastated. Since it's not really fair to judge their food based on their choice of cart vs. restaurant, I did my duty as a fat ass and trekked on over to 40th street to have another one of their gyros.

House gyro (Greek Lady)

The House Gyro ($6.25) is basically just a pita with marinated pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, french fries, and tzatziki sauce. There's nothing out of the ordinary here except for maybe the french fries being inside of the sandwich. I mean... it was an okay sandwich, but nothing spectacular. Not too far off from a generic gyro sandwich from any street cart in NYC... plus french fries (which weren't all that great). Color me disappointed Greek Lady. After 6 years of buildup and expectations... the trademark is an average/overpriced gyro sandwich? For shame. Maybe if they were still a cart, I'd feel different. Maybe if I had friendly banter with the person making my food I'd be more impressed, but it currently feels like they're trying a bit too hard with presentation, and not enough on the food.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's-Its at Google HQ

Magical case of ice cream treats

Yes, they are just that magical. Like unicorns that fart rainbows, It's-Its are fantastical ice cream sandwiches that float delicately amongst the clouds, just dripping in molten chocolate. Or at least that's what the drawing on the small freezer case of ice cream promised me. On my last excursion to NYC, I made another trip to Google HQ to visit a buddy of mine (whose name shall go undisclosed, lest I get him fired). It was fun, I got to try hipster fruit drinks made with agave nectar, I replaced most of the Guitar Hero high scores with my own, complete with inappropriate names, and... oh yes, I got to have It's-Its.

Last time I ate at the cafeteria for their burger, Robyn mentioned the existence of an ice cream sandwich that was pretty awesome. I was kind of annoyed at my friend for holding out on me, so I made it a point to remember to get one on a return trip. From what Wikipedia tells me... It's-It ice cream sandwiches began in 1928, and are only sold in California, and luckily for me, available for freeeeee at Google.

It's-It wrapper

Sweet ass custom wrappers. How cool is that? So yeah, if you haven't figured out what they are yet, It's-Its are basically a 1" thick layer of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal raisin cookies, and dipped in decadent dark chocolate. Fuck yeah heart attacks.


Taking pictures of it kinda sucked. People kept walking in and out of the upstairs pantry giving me dirty looks. I'm not entirely sure if it's because they think taking pictures of ice cream (when it's melting) is weird, or if it's because taking pictures of Google stuffs is frowned upon.

It's-It innards

Phenomenally delicious. The chocolate layer is like that of a Klondike bar, but it fills all the crevices of the oatmeal raisin cookie, giving it an uneven texture. The chocolate itself is darker and richer too. Maybe a bit too rich. The cookies? They were nice and thick, with a strong buttery flavor. Didn't really get too many raisins in there (probably too healthy), but I'm not really complaining. Last, but not least, the ice cream wasn't anything to brag about, but certainly passable as part of the equation. Basically, it's a giant puck of frozen win.

Know how good these things were? When we were waiting for the elevator, which takes a long time since it's on the top floor, I grabbed and finished another. When the elevator finally came, I had a split second to decide if I wanted a third, and of course the answer was yes. After I had finished three of these babies, I finally had a chance to glance at the nutritional facts. Each one has 49% of your daily maximum for saturated facts. Was I disgusted with myself? A little bit. Will I do it again next time I go? Probably.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More dishes from KOJA

Jap chae box (Koja)

I've written about KOJA before (see here, and here), but that doesn't expand on the full awesomeness of their little truck operation. On Friday's I don't really have a set schedule since I don't have class and have zero incentive to wake up to do anything, but you can say with 100% certainty, that sometime after 3 pm... I will be at the KOJA truck getting dinner. Not any other day of the week, just Friday. While this probably makes me sound neurotic and like some sort of idiot, there's a good reason. Sort of. On Fridays after 3 pm, something magical happens... like when the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella turns back into the bumpkin that she is, but in reverse... everything on their menu becomes $4.50, which is all sorts of awesome.

Normally everything on their menu is around $5.50... which, now that I think about it, actually isn't all that expensive, but... I'll take those savings any day!

Jap chae (Koja)

The jap chae here is pretty good. It's not Koreana good, but it's pretty decent. Plus when it's $4.50, you really have very little to complain about. There's nothing out of the ordinary, it's just a really massive portion of glass noodles cooked with vegetables, served over rice, and with 2 fried dumplings. The dumplings kind of suck (never get them as an appetizer... ever), but when you give me carbs on top of more carbs for next to nothing... then we straight yo.


The pork bulgogi is actually one of my favorite dishes at the cart. I know bulgogi should technically be beef, but whatever... sweet beef is just too mild for me. I go spicy pork, because that's the manliest thing possible... or something along those lines. The pork isn't the tenderest cut, and the sauce could use some tweaking, but the main flavor profile is present. By which I mean spicy. If you ask them to cook it mild, it will actually be spicy. If you ask them to make it extra spicy, you will most likely be on the toilet and in pain. You have been forewarned.

Beef sukiyaki yakisoba (Koja)

More noodles! I was once told that I should get the noodle dishes here, since they'll pile them across all portions of the box without wasting any precious real estate for rice. True story. The beef sukiyaki yakisoba was decently good. The noodles were springy, the sauce was savory, with a subtle hint of sweetness, and the beef was appropriately tender, but the main point here is that there's a buttload of food for not that much money.

Basically, their food is alright at regular prices. Not something I'd go to as a default. On Fridays though... shit's on, and I'm always down for Korean-Japanese food (if it's after 3 pm).


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chicken wings from Tebaya

Chicken wing lunch special (Tebaya)

When I found out that I had to go back to NYC for a weekend, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do... I mean eat. There's a lot of things that I never had the chance to try, a lot of restaurants that I miss immensely, and a lot of places that just opened up that I've never even seen before. Too much food, not enough stomachs... a dilemma I seem to come across pretty frequently in life. I was craving Korean fried chicken, so I considered going to Kyochon or Bonchon, but what's the fun in that? I've been to both numerous times already. I really wanted to try something new, which is when I remembered a place that I'd heard about years ago, but never got to visit... Tebaya.

I had first heard about Tebaya way back when, even before I lived in NYC. I saw a profile done on them by some Japanese food show where they introduced their specialty, lightly fried chicken wings coated in a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. It sounded like the winning idea ever, and the photos made it look even better, but for some reason or another, I never made it a point to try it. Then, a few months ago, I read about it again on Danny's blog, and I knew that this shit was real legit. I knew I had to have it.

Chicken wing (Tebaya)

Their chicken wing lunch special will run you $6.95. It's basically 8 of their wings served over plain white rice, with some bootleg salad served on the side (it's just plain lettuce, slivered carrots, and a small cup of vinegar dressing on the side). A bit annoying is the fact that they no longer give you a drink as part of the meal, but whatever, minor gripe. Shit son... no one's going here for their drinks, it's all about the chicken! Anyway, not gonna mince words here, the wings are fantabulous... that's right, so good I had to make up a word to describe them. Fried skin on, they're superbly light and crisp, without a semblance of burning. The inner meat is juicy and perfectly tender. Even if they were just served straight up plain, I'm pretty sure I'd still be able to down them without complaint, but what elevates it to a whole 'nother level is for sure the sauce. Seeming to defy science, the sauce is viscous enough to stick to the crispy skin, but not your fingers. The flavor profile is a sweet teriyaki blend, with a subtle vinegar-like kick. I know people tell me not to say this, but these wings are sensual. That's the only way I can think of to describe them. I'll leave it at that.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The return of the McRib


Know that feeling on Christmas morning... where you asked for some stupid toy for the past three months, waited and hoped that it'd be under the tree, then when you finally open the box and start playing with it, you realize, after 10 minutes, that it's actually a piece of crap? The McRib is exactly like that. Except instead of three months, I've waited something like 7 years, and instead of 10 minutes, the disappointment is instantaneous.

I know, I know. It's a 'rib' sandwich from McDonald's. I'm an idiot for expecting anything spectacular, period. The thing is, the last time I had this sandwich... I was 15... and really fat. It really didn't matter how it tasted, all I knew was that the idea of a rib bbq sandwich was glorious. So for the past 7 years, I've held this image of an incredible sandwich in my mind as fact, just waiting for the day of it's spectacular return... like a robot zombie Jesus sandwich of sorts.

McRib undressed

It's not so much that the sandwich is awful. I still like it, and I've been eating plenty of them, it's just that it's impossible to live up to expectations like that. The bun is like any other McDonald's sandwich, so there's not much to complain about there. The patty on the other hand... leaves a lot to be desired. My memory is super hazy, but I always remembered it as something that was texturally similar to the inside of a McNugget, not the soft eraser brick that I found inside my sandwich. When you get over the fact that it doesn't feel anything like pork, the McRib isn't too bad. It does it's job as a glorified sauce carriage, is super cheap, and doesn't taste half awful.

I'm actually not really sure what direction this post is supposed to go in. I guess I'm kind of pissed off that my childhood memories have been effectively stomped into the ground and spat on, but at the same time, I've come to the realization that if I just adjust my expectations to McDonald's standards... the McRib is pretty decent. Enjoy it while it lasts people.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Cheese pies and cheesecake (Allegro Pizza)

Plain pie (Allegro Pizza)

Cheap hole in the wall pizza plays a major role in my life. When I was at Columbia, I had Koronet, Pinnacle, and Famiglia, all located within a few blocks of each other. None of them were fantastic, in fact, barely passable would probably be a more appropriate description, but none of that really mattered to me in the middle of the night. When hunger struck, all I wanted was some form of dough, sauce, and cheese... in that order. Like an addict, I needed to fill that same void in Philly too. I had to find another source of cheap, dirty, pleasure, in the form of carbohydrates and dairy... and oh I did. That place is Allegro Pizza.

Plain slice (Allegro Pizza)

For $11, you can get a pretty sizable 16" pie. That's 201 square inches (rounding down for arguments sake) of pizza, or roughly 18 square inches per dollar. That's actually better than Koronet, given how wack their pricing scheme has been lately. In any case, while I'm pretty sure no one would consider their plain slices anything spectacular, it's a pretty good deal.

Upskirt slice shot (Allegro Pizza)

Their slices are pretty standard. Thin average crust with nondescript sauce and cheese. Nothing to write home about (yet... here I am writing about it?). Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's tasty, but I don't know if I'd say it was a sensual experience or anything close, but it definitely fills that void. You know what I'm talking about... that hole in your heart that yearns for a slice of cheap pizza that can only be characterized as average at best. Oh yes, I've found my pleasure palace of pizza in University City.

Strawberry cheesecake (Allegro Pizza)

I don't know what I was thinking when I got this. I was tempted by a fridge full of cheesecake after lunch. It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, but it was pretty fail. For $3.75 (which feels pretty expensive actually), the cheesecake is more dry and crumbly than thick and decadent, and the sauce is more chemical flavoring than actual strawberries. For how it looks, it's deceptively disappointing. I guess that's what happens when you get cheesecake at a pizzeria. Oh well, doesn't make their slices any worse, and that shit is what really matters anyway.