Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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 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
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.
Posted by Nicholas at 10:17 PM
Friday, December 24, 2010
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!
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
... 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.