Saturday, January 28, 2012

When mediocrity is okay (Schnipper's Quality Kitchen)

A picture of a napkin

It finally happened. My coworkers found my blog. Not just my coworkers... managers, my manager's manager, my manager's manager's manager. Imagine how confused I was when one of them strolled up behind my desk and brought up the fact that I basically told him to "go eat a dick." Let me tell you, very. Scared, confused, aroused, all of the above. Once I realized I couldn't backpedal fast enough to claim that some other Asian guy working at Google in NYC wrote this idiotic piece of work (why the fuck did I put my picture on here?) - and finally accepted the fact that people could now read intimate and oddly specific embarrassing details about my life + that I now inevitably have to switch teams - I found myself thinking "shit son, if only my blog was a mediocre piece of crap, no one would ever find it. If only..."* Hey, that's just like Schnipper's Quality Kitchen! Despite the name, it's not nearly as dope as they'd want you to believe. They make an assload of different things - from burgers to hot dogs to mac and cheese. I wouldn't say any of them give me uncomfortable erections, but it's okay - because when it's a dish like mac and cheese with sloppy joe filling and a side of maple syrup dipping sauce? Well fuck it, it doesn't have to be good.

Mac and Joe

Look at all that cheese, ground up meats of questionable origins, and other quality shiz. Also breadcrumbs. Bitches love breadcrumb topping. I can't think of many things that make me more excited than a sauce on noodles with meat. Okay, so maybe that's a really low barrier to things that get me excited - but Schnipper's does a decent job with this dish. The mac and cheese is certainly better than what you would get out of a box of Easy Mac, but probably falls short of the fancier ish you might get at S'Mac. Average is average is average, but when you pair a cheesy confection of carbs with a heaping serving of sloppy joe, you can't qualify things simply by how good the components are - the combination of transcends simple addition. If you can, ask for some maple syrup dipping sauce (they have it for their sweet potato fries) to pour over this shit. Savory sweet tones of beef and Canada yo.

Simple burger

They also make some bullshit burger. It looks great, but calm your tits. I'm just a really good photographer (haha, sorry - I'm making a lot of asinine statements tonight). I wouldn't get it, but hey... if you're drunk and you want a burger, it's probably okay. I can't really think of anything good to say about it. It's slightly better than McDonald's I guess, but I'd also rather get two Big Macs of debatable quality. At this level, it's all about value, and McDonald's probably wins.

Sweet potato fries

Dope ass sweet potato fries. Every single time I'm given the option between regular fries and sweet potato fries, I default to the latter. I feel like it's healthier for some reason. Then they give you maple syrup dipping sauce and the illusion is busted. Schnipper's sweet potato fries certainly don't scream quality - they're probably no better than you're standard bar fries - but the theme remains true, pair them with some stupid-ass dipping sauce and all of a sudden these crispy and hot sticks of mediocrity morph into something magically acceptable. Would I beat up 20 midgets to get a cup of them? Maybe. Is that a scenario I see playing out in my head? Definitely. Will it ever happen in real life? Probably not.

tl;dr - I made my blog too awesome and my coworkers found it. I should be ashamed, but I am surprisingly not. My career ceiling has been effectively set by them knowing I'm actually an idiot though. Should've been more mediocre... like Schnipper's. They make pretty good mac and cheese + sloppy joe filling. Ask for maple syrup dipping sauce regardless of what you order. Slather that shit on everything. Rub it on your clothing, it doubles as cologne.

Schnipper's Quality Kitchen
620 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018

*disclaimer: I don't actually think this. I really just needed a way to segue into describing Schnipper's...


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bibimbap burger (Social Eatz)

Bibimbap burger

In a stroke of brilliance, I'm going to capitalize on the fact that a bunch of shit is going down tomorrow in protest of SOPA - since there's nothing better to distract you from work, you might as well read my blog post. You can all eat a bag of dicks, yo. Er, I mean... Hooray?! Now that's not to say that I'm for SOPA at all, but I figure if Reddit's down, I might as well take advantage of a bad situation. Anyway, some people say that the sanctity of a burger is something that should never be tainted - people who get offended when you so much as even think of topping your patty with anything outside of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Those people are dumbasses. What exactly does it matter what gets shoved between the buns as long as it tastes dope? The correct answer of course is - it doesn't, as is the case with the bibimbap burger at Social Eatz. While former Top Chef contestant Angela Sosa might be something of an idiot when it comes to appropriate naming of his dishes (I see no rice in my burger, how can it be 밥?), the burger is veritably sick. In a good way, not a decrepit way.

So what exactly comprises this bread and beef mountain of retarded naming convention? A ton of random shit that doesn't make sense, but ends up tasting surprisingly pleasant. Bibimbap is usually a variety of sauteed vegetables, chili paste, a fried egg, some sort of meat, and rice. Well, all those things are present in some sort of capacity... aside from the rice, and the resulting flavor profile absolutely fills my mind full of fuck. You have an unexpected beefiness from the patty, coupled with a bit of heat from the sauce, stacked with a subtle sweetness from the vegetables. Then he goes and busts a nut on top of the whole deal with a fried egg just for good measure. Do you really notice that it's there? Not really. Does it make it better? Yes. Somehow it does.

What a shitshow

Like a glorious unicorn shitting it's brains out, somehow this clusterfuck of a sandwich still tastes like a million bucks. Maybe it's the fact that I really like Asian food combined with the fact that I think burgers are pretty much the pinnacle of sandwiching technology, but I don't really care how it looks - it tastes like pure pain for my arteries and a sweet sweet erection for my taste buds.

Kung Pow Wow sandwich

Less inspired is the "Kung Pow Wow" sandwich. If it seems like this sandwich was created purely as an afterthought to fit the name, I can confirm that it pretty much tastes that way. Order kung pow chicken from any Americanized Chinese takeout joint, shove it inside a baguette, and you'll probably create something that's eerily close to this. Not that that's a bad sandwich by any stretch of the imagination, but come on bro... you're embarrassing Tom Colicchio with your lack of ingenuity. All I have to say about this is... feelsbadman.jpg. Seriously.

Goddamn... ribs

In a surprising twist, Social Eatz actually makes some pretty dope-ass ribs. Not that I can discern anything remotely fusion-y about them (maybe that's what makes them good?), their ribs are like straight crack in a conveniently stick-shaped form factor. Epic tender, that shit comes off the bone with minimal effort. What makes them palatable isn't simply the texture, the sauce is like liquid candy - with a sweetness so overwhelming that it can basically be a dessert dish. Is everyone going to like it? Probably not. Some buttholes might tell you that it's cloyingly sweet. Fuck them, and ignore the haters. Eat some dessert pork.

tl;dr - the internet will be pretty busted, so you're stuck with my idiotic rambling about fusion food. Social Eatz makes a pretty flantastic bibimbap burger. It has a stupid name, but what it lacks in sense, it makes up for in flavor and protein content. Also, sick-ass ribs.

Social Eatz
232 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022


Monday, January 9, 2012

Loads of dumplings (Shanghai Asian Manor)

Some soup dumplings

I'll admit it - my neglect of this blog is as palpable as the sexual tension in a retirement home, which in case you weren't aware is very. I've mentioned this before in passing, but work has definitely started to get in the way of my blogging. It's not so much that what I do is particularly difficult, or even that stressful, but the fact that I have to think about something as mundane as ad serving is filling my head full of fuck. My creativity is zapped, my energy is nonexistent, and my level of apathy is raging harder than... well, a lot of things. As a result, I find that I'm more or less uninspired by food - and when I write about places that aren't dope as shit... I'm pretty sure my low quality writing reflects my feelings more than the actual taste (or maybe this is just a cop out for being a piss-poor writer). But something that I've gradually come to grasp is that there's a place in this world for mediocrity too. Yin without yang, good without evil, whole-fat milk without skim - that kinda thing.

Think of low-fat ice cream. It's not so revolting that I'll never eat it (although the premise is kind of stupid when you end up eating the entire carton anyway), it's just that I know I'm eating some lame-ass half-baked version of the full-fat stuff. It's close, but not quite there... not rich enough, not creamy enough, not sweet enough. That's how Shanghai Asian Manor is. They serve dumplings of various kinds - small tiny fried ones, soup-filled ones, and ones covered with spicy oil, and they do each one of them well enough, but there's something inherently off about each. Not enough to stop me from eating there, but only if I can't think of something better first.

Stupid nubs on top though

Some of you might be saying "shit son, did you say soup dumplings? I stopped listening to you once I got to those words." Yeah, I did. While I'm mainly of the camp that every soup dumpling in existence is a 'good' soup dumpling (i.e. I'd eat it), these aren't really that great. Flavorwise they're pretty okay - not overwhelmingly pork flavored, subtle sweetness, savory and rich soup juices - the issue mainly exists with inconsistency and texture. There's little nubbins at the top of each and every one of them. Not that that should really be a deal breaker, but when I'm eating a soup dumpling, I basically want the thing to be so delicate that it'll break with the smallest of provocation, not built like a tank with hemorrhoids of dough at the pinch point. Past that... they're not uniform in their soup content. Some of them are literally bitches waiting to burst in your face, but the rest are disappointing shells of dry pork balls. Yes - I know, these are Asian first world problem.

Dat sauce...

Their 紅油抄手 actually aren't that bad. The wontons are decent enough (not that it really matters in a dish like this) and the sauce... oh dat sauce [bites lip seductively]. If you want a non-food analogy, it's kind of like the standard Asian family - there's the older, better looking, more successful doctor sibling... then you have the asshole, precocious, still talented, but slightly less awesome younger sibling. These can't hold a candle to their elder brethren at White Bear, but for all intents and purposes they're not bad. While they're not blessed with the "melt your face off" kind of heat that you'd normally expect from something bathed in chili oil, these have a pleasant sweetness that grows on you with each and every bite. Not the prototypical 紅油抄手, but good in their own little sibling demented way.

Fried rice cake

There was also 'fried rice cake.' What a load of crap. When you fry something, it gets sexually crispy. These weren't sexual or crispy - they were really just flaccid disks of rice flour coated in oil. If I wanted something flaccid and covered in oil, let me tell you something... ಠ_ಠ I could do that at home by myself. And it would be free. In all seriousness, it tasted fine, but if I see the word 'fried' on a menu, I expect that it will have a certain crustiness - I guess I just felt fraüded.

Balls o' pork w/mushrooms

Holy shit bro, this dish was actually dope as hell. If you've never had 'lion's head meatballs' otherwise known as 獅子頭, you should probably remedy that ASAP. Apparently these fuckers got their name because they look like lion's heads. That doesn't make much sense to me, because lion's don't look like oversized and prune-like balls marinated in soy sauce and steamed with cabbage. Regardless of how they were named, or if they look like wrinkly old-man balls, when it comes to taste - they're straight sick. Just put them in your mouth and forget about it. Shanghai Asian Manor's probably aren't the best in Chinatown, but goddamn if they aren't good enough. If you're drunk, these are probably the camel's tits - 'nuff said.

Tiny fried dumplings

And finally, the reason why I even went here at all - fried tiny buns. My friend has had a non-weird obsession with these things recently, and for good reason, they taste like Jesus knocking out robo-Mohammed Ali with a single punch 10 seconds into a grudge match. Thin skins, crispy undersides, pork balls, and juices - oh my. Plus... look at those bitches, they come in a boat. It's like Ellis Island and buns that are immigrants... I'm liberating them from Fascism into my stomach. So really, I'm also a hero.


BUT WAIT. Why am I raging yet again? Is it because I have a hormonal imbalance that makes me the equivalent of Asian Bruce Banner? Maybe - I do turn flush yellow when angry (but not really any more muscular). The more likely reason is that these things are barely fried. Look at that bottom crusting, it looks more like it rusted over time than it was fried. Also, the bun part is epicly bread-like. In my mind, 生煎包 should essentially be a soup dumpling with a fried base... a certain crispness to the texture, but at the same time delicate and laden with soup content. A compromise between a potsticker and a pure soup dumpling essentially. Theirs was like a ball of pork sodomized into a bready exterior that happened to be toasted a little in oil. The boat? Nice touch. The actual buns... not so great.

What does this all mean for Shanghai Asian Manor? Well, aside from having a majestically sick name, they do everything just alright. It's not that their dishes are offensive to me, but they could be better. Part of me is glad for that - it's a pleasant enough dining experience that I could see myself going back and enjoying it time and time again, but at the same time, it's so underwhelming from the broader picture that it really helps me appreciate when other places just wafflestomp their dishes by comparison. Does that even make sense? Probably not, but I don't really care.

tl;dr - Shanghai Asian Manor sounds like a place that a diplomat would go to (or possibly the most absurdly overrated thing ever). They make soup dumplings and fried tiny buns that are kinda 'meh,' but good enough where you don't continuously have that "what have I done?" sort of regret. Don't get the fried rice cake shits... those aren't fried. They are fraud'ing hardcore on that one.

Shanghai Asian Manor
21 Mott St # A, New York, NY 10013


Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in review (five things I ate that are the tits)

Soup dumpling

Note: I meant to publish this yesterday... but I passed out from NyQuil.

So what happened to me in 2011... a tl;dr version would be - I started out stuck in a grad program that I had absolutely no interest in and promptly bailed/failed(?) out, I ended up doing a buttload of interviews for an assload of jobs that I had absolutely no interest in, but somehow frauded my way into the sweetest gig ever, got hit by not one... but two cars while biking (all in the span of three weeks), moved from Philadelphia back to New York, and probably took 10 years off my life with half the shit I consumed (which include a ghost chili cheesesteak, a pie eating contest, and a hot wing eating contest). Now I know what most of you are saying - "Shut up asshole! I don't care about your life! I only visit this blog to see if you've developed diabetes or had a heart attack." Well jokes on you, not only am I still alive... um, I'm still alive? Well, I'm gonna cop-out a bit this week since coming up with new things to say about food is surprisingly harder than an 80 year old man who's accidentally swallowed a hand-full of Viagra. That's pretty hard. Instead of writing about new stuff I ate, I'm going to regale you with tales of the top five things I ate 2011, or a list I like to call "Five things I ate that are the tits."

Why five? Because I'm too lazy to think of 10 things that I enjoyed eating in 2011 and then summarizing them... but three felt like too few. I thought about doing eight, since it's a lucky number in Chinese and everything - but then I realized I was just thinking too much. Five seems like a good amount. Anyway, in no particular order (or so you think...):

Components... assemble!

1. Cheeseburger at Race Street Café - When I was growing up, cheeseburgers were pretty much the only thing I would eat (along with ham sandwiches and chocolate milk)... don't ask me why, I was not a very adventurous kid. After years and years of eating cheeseburgers, I consider myself something a cheeseburger connoisseur... or maybe just an average fat person. I prefer how the former sounds. Anyway, moral of the story - I've eaten a disgusting number of beef, cheese, and bun creations over the course of my lifetime, and very rarely am I legitimately impressed with any of them. That's not to say none of them are delicious, I just don't think there's anything special about most of them. The burger at Race Street Café completely wafflestomps the notion that all burgers are created equal. It's not so much that they do something completely out of left field (like frying the bun or something similarly stupid) - this is a burger built on the simple premise of bun, beef, cheese, onions lettuce, tomato, bun... in that order - it's just that they do everything right. I don't have anything to justify that statement, so you'll just have to trust me and get one.

So much pork

2. Roast pork over rice at Wah Fung - Fuck. I've discussed this ad nauseam already. If you don't know why I love this little aluminum box full of carcinogenic pork, then you probably don't read my blog enough. Let me just put it this way - if you buy this pleasure box of porcine sensuality three times, you will definitely have explosive diarrhea at least once. There's no way to sugarcoat it. It will happen, and you will not like it. Has that stopped me from returning repeatedly? No, because contained in this small rectangular box of syrup-laden fatty pork is the smiles of a thousand children, double rainbows, and an endless loop of nyan-cat. Everything that is good to me. Plus it's only $3, so if you want to think about it a different way, it's really just a moderately effective laxative that also doubles up as a meal. Double win.

Wontons in chili oil (紅油抄手)

3. Wontons in chili oil from White Bear - I eat a lot of dumplings. Way more than the average Asian person does. Probably more than most Asian families do. So you should probably believe me when I say... I've fucked a mermaid, by which of course I really mean that the guys at White Bear have produced one of the finest interpretations of pork in carb wrapper that I have ever tasted in the world. You like thin snappy skins on your dumplings? Fuck yeah you do. You like little pockets of pork that explode with juices? Like a rhino with a raging erection. Do you enjoy having your lips seared with an ever-so-thin layer of sweet-ass chili oil? I don't know what gets more extreme than a rhino with an erection... but one level past that. That's what White Bear does with their wontons in chili oil. The dumplings themselves would be pretty fantastic alone - just dip them in some soy sauce vinegar and I'd be pretty stoked - but when you pour on that semi-sweet mixture of scallions, chili oil, and soy sauce? It's pretty much gg for every other dumpling place.

Ice cream doughnut

4. Ice cream doughnut sandwich from Frangelli's Bakery - Seriously? I don't think I really have to explain this one (it's a huge block of ice cream inside a freshly fried powdered doughnut for Christ's sake...), but I will anyway. Take the notion that Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme serve good doughnuts and throw that out the window. This is not something that's just an opinion, that is just plain wrong. Frangelli's Bakery makes everything OG style - as far as the powdered doughnut goes... the dough is made on premises, fried in-house, and powdered on purchase. You would be probably be hard pressed to find a finer doughnut in all of Philadelphia as it is. But what if I told you that I could fuck a giant block of ice cream in between there too? Piping hot powdered doughnut + giant block of ice cream = blown mind. Yes, I realize this is in the middle of assclown nowhere in the south of Philly, but it's probably worth visiting anyway.

Beef bulgogi cheesesteak

5. Bulgogi cheesesteaks from Koja - Futurama got it right when Professor Farnsworth said "I'm sure no one's ever said this before, but I must get to Philadelphia as quickly as possible!" While the city of "brotherly love" is certainly not my favorite place to be accosted by homeless people, there are a few things that I hold dear to my heart about Philadelphia. One of them being Wawa, and the other being the food trucks at Penn. Especially Koja. What is obvious to everyone is that the old couple running the Koja food truck are the nicest people ever. What isn't obvious to everyone is that they're fucking geniuses deserving of MacArthur grants. Since they already make assloads of bulgogi per day, they inevitably realized the glorious business opportunity of extending their humble little truck into the sandwiching industry. Stuff some hoagie rolls full of sweet marinated beef or spicy-ass pork, charge $3 per, ???, profit. What was easy to foresee was the amounts of ass they would be getting from these dope as shit sandwiches (by ass, I mean money). What they could not have foreseen was that one Asian kid would single-handedly drive revenue by returning several times a day. Seriously, this shit is worth eating for multiple meals a day, several days a week. If there were ever a reason for me to go back to Penn to finish my PhD, it wouldn't be out of love for research... it would be because I miss these motherfuckers too much.

Anyway, enough about food, back to me. As for 2012, I don't think I have any good resolutions... ultimate first world problem: my life is too good, I can't think of any legitimate things I want to do. I guess one of them would be to not get hit by cars and my second one would be to continue blogging? Ha, we'll see how long I can keep this up before I just get insanely pissed off at food blogging in general. Also, dodging cars. Gonna get good at that too.

tl;dr - My 2011 for food (and I guess life) was pretty good all things considered (I didn't get a heart attack or diabetes). If however, those are two things that interest you, here's a list of five things that you might want to consider eating in large quantities.