Vietnamese-y Peasy!


UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | The city of New York—and Yorkville as a prime culprit—has become egregiously more overrun by pan-Asian shops. You know these spaces, the ones that have over-complicated menus serving a variety of cuisines from a wide variety of Eastern countries. The ones that offer Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, even Indian all on the same side of the page.

Not surprisingly, the problem with places like these is that, with no concentration on one type of food, all the dishes kind of suffer. How I hate realizing that a restaurant is using the same noodles for both their ramen and lo mein, and using strips of fried wonton skins for crispy soup noodles.

So it was by fortuitous accident that I discovered Vietnaam a few weeks ago, and have made it an immediate new staple for my neighborhood lunch and dinner options. First turned on by their excellent canh chua (sweet and sour soup), I was immediately impressed with the classicist authenticity of the traditional Vietnamese menu, and with the delicious respect with which the menu's dishes are executed.

The proof rerealized during a recent lunch of lollipop" sugar cane shrimp (shrimp paste deep-fried on a sugar cane stalk) and a bánh mì sandwich featuring braised duck. Vietnaam keeps their dishes simple, pure, and clean, making for tasty meals that speak most honestly—and simply—to its cultural provenance.

Which means when I want true and truly tasty Vietnamese food—and nothing else—Vietnaam makes my decision-making very very easy.

Bun Apple Tea!



VIETNAAM | 1700 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10128 | (212) 722-0558 |

Vietnaam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Year Of The Goat Sees The Return Of The "Pig"


UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | A truly special occasion just occurred up here on the Upper East Side. In a neighborhood chock-full of any number and varieties of (pan)Asian takeout joints—like most NYC neighborhoods—Yorkville got to see the return of the decades-long favorite, Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven.

To us local nostalgists, Pig Heaven represented the last of a seemingly extinct iteration of Chinese restaurant, that of a time when "going out for Chinese" was a special occasion. People looked forward to it for a week, showing up formally-attired and sitting down at sturdy linen-covered tables, where likewise formally-attired waiters served family-favorite Chinese dishes in or on decoratively ornate porcelain vessels. Nary a plastic fork, paper plate, styrofoam container, or sauce packet in sight!

But happily in sight is the owner/proprietor herself, the agelessly beautiful Nancy Lee, who broke hearts last fall by informing loyal local customers that she had to give up her former space of 29 years. (Rent hikes—what's new?!) The bad news was short-lived, as she was diligently persevered and was able to find a space just a block away to offer the same quality food, service, and personality that defined an era in this area, if not the whole city. And she thankfully turned the business around so quickly she was able to celebrate the Chinese New Year with her reopening just last week.

The year and location might be new, but the vibe, and ambience are old, welcomed, warm reminders of many great experiences of a grateful generation of whole families of diners. And as I—this past Chinese New Year Day—enjoyed my General Tso's lunch special (with spring rolls and chicken velvet corn soup), I decided to congratulate Miss Nancy Lee, on the return of her fine traditions of Chinese food service, by spoiling myself with one of her all-time most popular menu items: the BBQ spareribs.

And I am proud to say that those spareribs alone—as deliciously sweet, smokey, meaty, tender, sticky, spicy, "porky", and sublime as ever—are reason enough to celebrate. As is the sight of neighborhood staple, Miss Nancy Lee and her restaurant of many fond memories. Welcome back, Miss Lee, and Happy Year of the Goat!

Bun Apple Tea!



NANCY LEE'S PIG HEAVEN | 1420 3rd Avenue | 212.744.4333 |

Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The UES Gets NOLA-fied!


UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | The Upper East Side of Manhattan has been culinary homogenous for so long, that when some place with a novel food concept pops up it's, for the most part, unexpected. And when they do pop up, it's only on rare—yet welcome—occasions.

And most of these rare newbies occur below 86th street here on the east side of Central Park. And recently as I was doing a search for places that served fried chicken—the more than decent version sold at The Penrose notwithstanding—it was an unexpected surprise to find out that this new place called Infirmary (that I hadn't heard of) not only served fried chicken, but that the place wasn't that new at all. It just so happened to be above 86th street, on a row of 2nd Avenue that lines up indiscriminate post-collegiate bars and pan-Asian food joints—the upper section of Yorkville that, besides Libertador and Cafe D'Alsace, I had given up on for decent grub.


Infirmary is proudly a New Orleans-inspired restaurant and bar that boasts Creole and Cajun cuisine. So, of course, fried chicken (and baked mac 'n' cheese) would be right in their wheelhouse. But as I first visited last SUnday during brunch service, I did not expect to come across a menu that offered so many other enticing-sounding dishes, born of tradition "Nawlins'" comfort, but tweeked with modern twists. Suddenly, the fried chicken was going to have to wait. Luckily, a diner next to me had ordered his weekly plate of the bird—served with BBQ sauce and jalapeño cornbread—for me to at least snap a picture of. His friend about to dig into a crispy chicken sandwich (with fried egg) himself.


Both diners swore avid loyalty to their dishes and the restaurant. I envied them slightly as I heard their fried chicken's crunchy exteriors crackle with each crispy bite, while clear juices slowly ran out of the chicken's meat.

So I quickly distracted myself with the other yummy-sounding items on the menu. A jambalaya risotto—an unexpected mashup of two classics—was the first to catch my eye. I decided follow that up with the welcomed surprise of the crawfish and boudin benedict.


The jambalaya risotto was very well balanced, ably delivering savory/sweet/smoky/spicy notes in great compliment that developed even more with each bite. Pan-fried smashed boudin "balls", nicely crisped on their outsides, made a great riser for perfectly poached eggs, a hollandaise sauce subtly spiked with the layered, late-rising heat of cajun spices, and expertly cooked crawfish tails.

My good friend Vik soon joined me, catching up on the meal by ordering the crab au gratin (crab dip), and I continued discovering the nice surprises on the menu by ordering a half dozen of oysters char-baked with parmesan, oregano, and butter.


The crab dip was creamy and rich, with hints of the lump crab's natural sweetness coming through. The char-baking of the oysters added welcomed smokiness to plumply delicious oysters, layered with the herbaceousness of oregano and natural salt of parmesan.

My palate wanted even more, but my stomach had hit it's limit. I'd have to return just a few days later to try the dessert that earlier that week had caught my eye, the spiced pumpkin cheesecake. Another pleasant taste surprise was both the ginger pecan crust that it sat on and the sriracha cranberry compote it was served with.

A great surprise to unexpectedly find a great, fully-realized out-of-the-norm restaurant like Infirmary in the usually predictable neighborhood of Yorkville. And a welcome addition it is with its menu that more than meets my even highest expectations.


Bun Apple Tea!



INFIRMARY | 1720 2nd Ave. ( between 89th & 90th Sts.) | 917.388.2512 |

Infirmary Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tidings of Comfort Food and Joy


KAC FOOD HOME KITCHEN | I guess the holidays bring out the nostalgia in me, if not most people. And that nostalgia seems to seep into many as well, as the most innocuous of foods get doctored with flavors as pumpkin, mint, gingerbread, egg nog, and so on.

I was not immune to that particular inspiration, but chose to impart that type of culinary nostalgia into a dish that I could rightfully enjoy outside of the holiday season—any time of the year.

So I whipped some peanut butter into some softened cream cheese and sour cream, added a little vanilla and more than a little sugar, poured that into a pie shell and put that in the oven. While that baked, I heated some strawberry and plum jams in a sauce pan with fresh ginger, lemon juice, and just a tad more sugar. Once the cheesecake pie came out of the oven, I let that sit on the counter until it got to room temperature. Once the sauce got to room temperature I poured it over the chilled pie. I, somehow, left this PB&J Cheesecake Pie in the fridge for a couple more hours undisturbed, letting it further chill so the cheesecake would have that perfectly creamy firmness, the jam sauce would become even glaze, and the crust would stay flaky and crumbly.

By the time I allowed myself to sink my teeth into a slice, all the effort and patience was richly rewarded with two-tiered pleasure of enjoying the most nostalgic of comfort foods in such a traditional dessert format.

And now I have a recipe where I can celebrate the joys evoked by this holiday season any time of the year!

Bun Apple Tea!



PB&J CHEESECAKE PIE | Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Ginger Strawberry Plum Jam Sauce, Flaky Buttery Crust


East Meets Upper East


UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | As the Second Avenue Subway continues to close small shops and businesses on the UPPER EAST SIDE of Manhattan, it is with continued curiosity that new ones pop up to replace them, hoping for a better fate. In a space that has already been two different Asian-themed restaurant in the last three years, another had quickly appeared. It is called Kobeyaki and, is the name—and decor—suggests, it offers Japanese cuisine.

It looked neater than that of the previous tenants, yet small enough that even with the visible-from-the-outside table seating, projected more of a "takeout place" feel than that of a fully realized restaurant.

The menu posted of the storefront window boasted "rolls, bowls, burgers & buns" of traditional Japanese variety. Curiosity took over me as I found myself walking by one evening and felt a hankering for their spicy tuna burger, which comes with miso onions, wasabi mayo and spicy mayo. And although the spot comes across as a little "corporate franchise", the flavors excelled throughout each bite, balanced with layers of savory, sweet, spice, acid, umami, and even a little smoke. The tuna tasted very fresh, and its light texture were nicely complimented by the crispy breading, as well as the crispy julienne pickled vegetables.

So impressed with the tuna burger, I returned two days later to try a couple of other items off the menu. I opted for the grilled beef bowl, consisting of teriyaki grilled beef tenderloin over a bowl of udon noodles. (Other options to have the beef go over are white rice, brown rice, or salad.) Again, great layers and balance of tastes and textures, although I obviously needed to be reminded of why I've never been a big fan of thick and inherently gummy udon noodles.

More successful was the side of sweet potato fries, tempura-fried to help maintain crispness without interfering with the sweet potato's comforting and earthy sweetness.

I am eager to revisit Kobeyaki often—and am thankful that they are a chain and available elsewhere in Manhattan—hoping to enjoy the rest of the menu on the promise of these first few dishes. I'm just hoping other diners do the same and help this place stick around for a long while.

Bun Apple Tea!



KOBEYAKI (UES) | 215 East 86th St. (off 3rd Ave.) | 212.860.2300 |

Kobeyaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato