Monday, May 26, 2014

Viva Argentina

Two weeks ago I visited Argentina for the first time. It was my first time in South America, and although the atmosphere is definitely different than North America, I felt pretty much at home.

For one, the streets are pretty wide and clean and the people are friendly. More importantly, their food quality surpasses that of our country, especially when it comes to steaks.

We visited a Brazilian-style steakhouse by the river front (near the metal statue of the lotus flower than can bloom now and then). It's a lovely restaurant that can house about 200 guests with a view of the river. We arrived around 11:45am, which was too early for their lunch at 12pm. Mind you, everything here runs late - most restaurants don't open until 8pm for dinner.


To start, you load up on appetizers. I was surprised by their vast selection of salads and antipastos. The quality of food here parallels that of Europeans, especially because there are so many European settlers here. Even the packaging reminds me of European products.


There's also a vast selection of breads and cheeses, but I suggest you save them for another day when you have less meat and more stomach to handle it.

It starts with a hot empanada. If you can, share with a friend because it is quite filling. They also put a piece of bread and a plate of fries on every table. Don't skimp on the fries because man are they good! (Granted, I might be quite biased towards them because of my fries-petish. But do try them with ketchup because their ketchup is more sweet than sour, so it has just the right amount of tang.)

After a long time (your stomach hopefully is still half-empty), the waiters come with stacks of meat. The first one is a sausage. Although our local host told us it wasn't the best part, I thought it was amazing. It was so juicy and marinated with flavor. You can taste the bits of meat that are ungrounded, making it crunchy and soft at once. It's best savored though with the bread that they put on your table, because the soft texture of the bread makes it an amped-up hot dog.

Then came the beef, which I thought was good but cooked too well-done. Apparently the beef here is like that. Unfortunately I'm not much of a meat-lover so that didn't go well with me. There's also a course of chicken followed by a part of the beef (beef throat I think?) that I opted to do without.

The lamb on the other hand was tender and juicy, braised in rosemary and dripping with oil and fat. So good. I should have saved my stomach for that but instead, I opted for the... course of the day - ice cream in a waffle cone! While people say that you should fill up on their beef, I say their ice cream is the real deal. It's so creamy soft but not as sugary as American ice cream so you can actually taste the flavor of the cream. The candied nuts they sprinkle on top is a perfect complement to the soft creamy flavors.

The best part of this meal is the price. For less than $30/person you can enjoy unlimited meat and delicious salads, and let's not forget the ice cream.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


My impression of Applebee's has always been pretty positive up until my recent visit at the Brooklyn Atlantic mall.

It was pretty late at night when we arrived, and the place was bustling with people. The bar was packed but there were some empty tables.

We'd made a reservation but still had to wait about 20 minutes before getting a seat, and that's after pestering (and getting kicked out) by the hostess 3 times. She went as far as literally shooing me away from her stand. I later read on Yelp that many people documented her bad attitude as the number one reason not to visit the place.

We ordered the $20 special which was one appetizer and two entrees. Hubby and I ordered the spinach cheese dip and his parent ordered the mozzarella sticks. My parents ordered a soup and a shrimp pasta.

The service was pretty slow. When the chips finally came, I was shocked to see the small portion. Compared to the(exact same) one we ordered at an Applebee's in NJ this was not comparable. Plus the chips tasted stale, to the point of unchewable. The dip was way too creamy, not enough cheese.

Mozzarella sticks were okay on the bland side, nothing memorable.

The soup size was pint-sized for babies, making me think whether I should complain.

My chicken salad was probably the best thing on the menu, it actually tasted okay. There were generous amounts of chicken, albeit left-overs from the chicken and fries dish.

The shrimp fettucini tasted too milky for some reason. There weren't enough flavors other than that of steamed milk which I didn't enjoy at all.

Chicken and fries were your standard fare. I'm sure other restaurants have better renditions.

Hubby's burger looked like a poor attempt at McDonald's, with the patty falling out of the buns. The fries were meh, overcooked with too much oil.

All and all, worst meal at Applebee's I've ever experienced, I hope this experience won't deter me from coming back...ever again.


Reservations needed in advance on weekends

Atlantic Mall, Brooklyn

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Bang's Kitchen

In an effort to catch-up on the last five months, I’m going to try working backwards, starting with recent food adventures and traveling back in time.

It’s not the most conventional way to do things, but you’re going to have to put up with my time travels =)

Last week when the parents came for a visit, I was craving Korean food. So I Yelped my way thru NJ and found an home-cooking joint called New Bang Kitchen. It’s a funny name because in Korean Bang means room, so it’s like New Room Kitchen. Or maybe Bang is someone’s name. It also made me wonder if there was an Old Bang's Kitchen before it.

We arrived around 1pm on a Sunday, but there were hardly any guests. The front door sported a Satisfactory sign, which made it look a little sketchy. 

Nonetheless, we walked into an old school eatery that looks like someone’s kitchen. An ajumma greeted us and showed us the menu. I tried to ask her the special using my broken Korean, and she suggested us to order at least two orders of their famous black goat soup.

For four people, we ordered the seafood pancake, one order of black goat soup, and one samgyetang (ginseng chicken with stuffed sticky rice).

The panchan that came in a loaded circular tray was plentiful, including their own kimchi marinated with green onions. It was refreshingly flavorful, with a burst of spiciness that left a sweet aftertaste. The soy beans were light and fresh, while the radish provided a good kick of spice. The grass jelly was all-right, though I’m not a fan of it. 

Next came the seafood pancake. It was huge and thick and piping hot. The ajumma cut it for us and left the rest. It was just the right amount of gooey-ness, with an abundance of seafood. The squid was cooked soft and chewy, which made it much more enjoyable. 

I dipped mine in the spicy sauce, but it was too much laden with soy sauce that made it taste like a pancake drenched in soy sauce. 

The samgyetang came with a young hen stuffed with sticky rice. The soup itself wasn’t flavorful, but that’s alright because my dad can’t eat spicy food. It comes with a dipping sauce for people who need an extra kick. This soup is good for the summer and for people recovering from colds, providing a boost of yang to the yin.

The black goat soup that Yelpers were raving about actually tastes more Middle-Eastern than Korean. There’s a medley of spices that make it strong, the biggest being something that tasted like parsley. I would have liked it better if they could lessen the spices and added more pepper to make the taste simpler. Nonetheless, hubby loved this dish and devoured it. The black goat soup comes with a dipping sauce with black seeds on it. I used the sauce for the chicken that was a bit bland.

Though we only ordered 3 dishes, it was enough for 4 people and then some. Both the black goat and chicken soup tastes great with rice. The black goat sauce tastes great with rice because its tangy and sweet, kind of like a Korean sweet + sour sauce.

Overall, it was a pretty authentic meal. The ajummas kept on checking up on us (especially after hearing we weren’t Korean) to make sure we knew what we were doing. They refilled all the panchan that were empty, so we had a second helping of their delicious kimchee. The other patrons all seem to be regulars, as they greeted the ajummas pretty warmly. For 4 people, the tab came out to be $56 plus tips.

Hubby said that although he thought the place was sketchy at first, he enjoyed the meal, which is rare because he rarely likes Korean food. Now that's a pretty good accomplishment - 수고하세요!


Parties, babies-friendly

New Bang’s Kitchen
1355 16th St
Fort Lee, NJ 07024