Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Munchkin Fooding is moving!

Many apologies for dropping off the grid, but I've decided to get my own domain. Munchkin Fooding will now be continued (hopefully with regular updates) on my new blog - www.catherinefang.com along with posts about fashion, technology, and my random babbles of course! =D

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yesterday's messes =_+^

Yesterday must have been the most awesome day I've had in a REALLY long time. I can't remember the last time this happened, but almost everything that could go wrong, did. In retrospect it's kinda funny, so I thought I'd share those blunders with you.

First bad thing that happened was my trying (and failing) to update my last two posts by adding pictures. Somehow, I managed to delete a huge chunk of the entry (my favorite part) and replace it with some random html code (idk how that happened, I wasn't editing html at all). I didn't notice until I'd already republished. Not only that, but even had I not republished, blogger had already autosaved multiple times by that point, and there was no way to get it back. -_-^ grrr.... so then I had to rewrite it all, which was super fun because I couldn't remember what I'd written. Awesome.

Then I tried to reformat and update my resume, and while I normally pride myself on being relatively tech savvy (not extremely, but better than the average person) I was having a LOT of difficulty. The reason? I am a huge fan of finding a good version of a program, that works for me, and sticking to it. Read: HUGE fan of OldVersion.com -because newer is not always better. I tried to use the current version of MSFT Word on P's computer, and realized that I hate it because everything is so automated; not in a good way. I like to do things manually, because I can control everything. When the computer tries to make things easier by doing something for me, it seems to always interpret my intentions incorrectly. Then I'm stuck trying to figure out how to convey to the computer program what I want to do - which in my opinion is a huge waste of time. I'd rather just do it myself. -_-^

So I decided to quit before I ripped out my hair or killed myself and started to cook one of my absolute favorite meals ever: Pasta with Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce. ^__^ Instant Happiness right?

.. wrong. so wrong.

Earlier in the day, I had gone grocery shopping, and carefully selected some mushrooms and spent over $10 on about 1.25 pounds of mushrooms. >_< egh. i know.. mushrooms are soo expensive! -_-^ but I was still in the happy b-day glow and I wanted to cook something nice, since P had so nicely cooked for me. I knew we had some heavy cream left, but I didn't know how much, and whether or not it was still good, so I bought half a pint extra, figuring that I could just use some in the sausage gravy and biscuits I was also planning to make later.

When cooking, everything was finally going well. I was down to the last step, adding cream. I take out the old cream, check it out. Expiration date is in Nov. I remember hearing somewhere that after you open it, you should use it within a week or something. I've had it for a couple weeks at least... hmm.. sketch. But it smells and tastes fine... Against my better judgement, I shrugged and started pouring it in. It was fine, and curled smoothly into the mushroom broth. Then, all of a sudden, PLOP! a big chunk of something falls into the middle. F*CCCKKK MY LIFE. I hurriedly scoop it out, rinse it off and examine it. It looks like a white chunk of butter, and smells like cream. But it has a weird elasticity inconsistent with that of butter. FML, I just ruined the whole thing. So much for not killing myself. I almost just poisoned us, I think.

So then I'm thinking "CRAP WHAT DO I DO?" I ended up just stirring it and continuing to let it simmer, while I search google about the shelf-life of open containers of heavy cream. Not surprisingly, there's a huge variety of answers. Everything from "DON'T EAT IT! CHUNKS ARE BAD! ALWAYS!" to "meh just use the ol' sniff/taste test. If it seems okay, it is" to "woot! I accidentally made clotted cream by leaving an opened container of heavy cream in the back of my fridge for wayy too long. it was soo perfectly delicious. totally dreamy." =_=^

So of course I'm afraid to eat it, and when P arrives, we debate whether or not to eat it. It smells, looks, and tastes okay... but what if we get food poisoning?? There's only one toilet! O_o Hmm... but what if it's okay. P tries to console my by offering to take me out to dinner for restaurant week - he'll pay. I'm still reluctant to let a whole thing go to waste. T_T my mushrooms!

Eventually, P says "Want me to go buy some more mushrooms and you can cook it again?" Me: -_- _x_ -_- _x_ -_-(nodding with grumpy pouty face). So we go and get some mushrooms (we had everything else) and P nicely cleans up the kitchen again so I can focus on prep and cooking since we're short on time before my Bachata class.

Things are going well, I open the fridge to put the jar of garlic back, and out plops a new container of yogurt. And of course, the container splits. fml. P says "wow you're really having a terrible day" to which I respond by nodding. He hugs me and says "sorry, but it's kind of funny" and we both just laugh. Then he puts the clean portions of yogurt in a bowl, and cleans up the mess. =) my saviour. Consoles me AND cleans up my messes.

And after that, things finally continue to go smoothly. =) MLIA.

He also took pix, the 2nd time around. I'll upload them later (this time without deleting bits).

Recipe (I don't really measure when I cook, but I'll try to be more specific in this):

1 pound or so of mushrooms (use whatever you like. I like fresh cremini and dried porcini. The mix doesn't matter, but I like having half dried, because after reconstituting the mushrooms, I use the mushroom water in the dish. Just rinse the mushrooms quickly before you soak to remove dirt or debris.)
1/2 large onion - diced
1 - 1.5 tsp garlic (I used minced garlic from a jar)
1/2 cup? 3/4 cup? of cream - heavy or light, whatever. I think next time I will try 2% milk, to make it a little less unhealthy.
1 tsp flour
12 oz Pasta (any shape is fine, though I like Barilla Campanelle, Farfalle, and Penne)

Seasoning - to taste (salt, pepper, maybe oregano, or thyme, sage, or rosemary)
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Truffle oil (my personal favorite)

Heat some oil in a large-ish skillet (the kind with some depth) at about medium high. I like a mix of EVOO and canola. Just pour some one one, and then the other, and kind of mix it around. That way you get the benefits of both. When the oil is hot, add the diced onions. Give them a minute or so before adding the garlic. Sweat the onions until they just start to become clearish and softer, but careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the mushrooms (separate the reconsistuted mushrooms from the water, you'll add that later). Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften - about 3-5 min. At this point, there should be some juice in the bottom of the pan, if there isn't add a little bit of the mushroom water. If you added mushroom water, wait until that gets hot before proceeding to the next step.

Sprinkle about a 1 tsp or 1.5 tsp flour over the onion/mushroom mixture. Mix well, making sure to break up any clumps, evenly distribute the flour (this is kind of like making a roux, sort of. except it's not that much butter and flour, and you have other stuff in the pan to help you break up the flour clumps). You will see the mixture tighten and any previous liquids will get thicker. At this point you can add all the mushroom water.

When it comes to a boil (or just before) add the cream. I think generally you're not supposed to boil cream, or you'll form a skin, but IMO there's enough water that any skin that forms, will be be very thin and will dissolve as soon as you stir.

Bring the heat back up until small bubbles start to form again, and then let it simmer until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes). While it's simmering, you can season as desired. (I use a little salt and pepper, a pinch of dried oregano).

When it's done, take it off the heat, and I drizzle some white truffle oil on top and fold it in. (Or, depending on your timing when simultaneously cooking the pasta- instead of tossing cooked pasta with olive oil to prevent sticking while you finish the sauce, toss it with some truffle oil instead =D)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

^_^ P is in the process of cooking a birthday dinner for me! :D

Will update with pictures later.


I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, shall I? ^_~

... and the guy says he can't cook. =P

wheee.. it was a lovely birthday! =D

~*end edit*~

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Back!

After a VERY long hiatus I'm back! Sorry for the long wait, I got caught up in school and stuff, but I hope to make it up with this long entry (pictures later). I figure it's a good time to start again because it's Restaurant Week in Seattle! :D

However, the highlight of this entry is NOT from Restaurant week.

Friday night, I tried BOKA Kitchen and Bar for the first time (sorry no pictures). It was pretty tasty. I always feel that things are starting off well when I encounter drink menus that have a decent list of non-alcoholic beverages that go beyond the everyday soft-drink or iced tea. In this respect, BOKA made a good impression from the beginning. They feature a rotating selection of housemade sodas as well as mocktails. The fact that I was disinclined to try a few flavors did nothing to sour my mood (Jalepeno and cilantro soda anyone? "Not I." said the Cat. =P bonus points if you get the reference). I was a little intrigued by a spritzer that featured prickly pear puree, ginger and lime, but finally took the waitress's suggestion and opted for the Red Havana.

Red Havana was essentially a non-alcoholic mojito with muddled fresh raspberries. Crisp and refreshing, I was slightly disappointed to find that the mint vastly overpowered the delicate flavour of the raspberries. Even with a chunk of raspberry in my mouth, I had to concentrate very hard before I was able to discern its mild essence.

The shared appetizer was undoubtedly the star of the night. Truffle fries! I love truffle and fries separately, but together it must be perfection! However, I am always a little surprised by the apparent difficulty of creating a well-executed specimen. I usually find that in an effort to get a good truffle flavor, fries are belatedly tossed in truffle oil, resulting in a oily, soggy, though flavorful fry. Or the cook errs in preserving the texture by failing to include enough truffle aroma. It is an interesting problem because truffle as an aromatic tends to be more of a scent experience than a taste sensation. Also, in my experience, truffle oil is much more potent in scent/flavor than actual truffle shavings. But these fries were wonderful! They arrived piping hot and crispy and well seasoned with a wonderful truffle flavour (truffle oil and truffle salt)! Even after they cooled down, they retained their crisp texture. I couldn't stop eating them. And at 6 dollars an order, I think it will be hard trying to keep myself from going back, plopping myself down at the bar and ordering a mound of these fries with a drink. Or even a glass of water. Hehe ^_^.

For my main course, I chose the Painted Hills Petite Filet. I estimate that it was about 6-8oz in size, and rather tender, though very slightly overcooked for me. The center of the steak was perfectly pink, tender, and juicy; however, the outer portions were a little too charred for my liking. Though to be fair, I don't really like charring at all, which is why I generally prefer to pan sear my steaks rather than grilling. There weren't too many areas so it wasn't really a problem, but admittedly, I hacked off several small chunks and edges and left them on the side of the plate. But that's ALL that was left by the time I was done eating =) (sign of a good meal right there). Behind my steak was a small arugula salad with shaved parmesan (mmm.. delicious! I love arugula!), a drizzle of truffled demi glace, and an unassuming beige ant-hill. Surprisingly, the truffled demi glace was sticky and kind of unremarkable. Totally forgettable. The really outstanding part of the plate was the beige mound, which turned out to be porcini custard. Intensely flavorful and fluffy, it was the perfect foil for the filet and also went surprisingly well with arugula and shaved parmesan and completely made up for the lacklustre demi glace. Altogether an excellent meal. I give them 4 stars (out of 5).

Moving on, brunch at Table 219. I was delighted to find a rather creative-looking menu. "Usual" breakfast dishes, such as eggs benedict, were recreated table 219-style. In fact, it took me longer than usual to decide (and that's saying something as I usually like to read everything carefully before deciding). In the end I decided that my stomach wasn't in the mood for something innovative, but really clamoring for some comfort food so I caved and ordered the chicken fried steak (which I'd kinda been craving since I haven't had it for years).

When it came, I was so happy. It totally hit the spot. Crunchy coating on the tender steak, topped with a rich, country sausage gravy. Somehow, the bottom managed to retain crunch, even 15 minutes later after the dish had cooled and the gravy soaked in and beginning to form a slight skin on top. I really liked that aspect. The medley of textures in my mouth was great!

I also really enjoyed the rosemary roasted potatoes that came alongside the steak. I forgot how much I love that flavour combination, but it inspired me to go buy potatoes later to cook with my rosemary.

And finally, the two eggs any style. I guess I have no idea what to call the style of eggs that I like. I like fried eggs that have a medium soft, custardy yolk (where the yolk is just starting to set and still has that dark golden color in the center and hasn't become totally pasty yellow). Does that make sense? The yolk just hits the solid phase but isnt completely cooked through? I don't like runny/liquid eggs. What is this called? I thought it was "over medium" so that's what I asked for. But they were very liquidy when they arrived. Only the whites had solidified. I am confused. In my world, those are "over easy." Should I have asked for "over medium hard" or "over hard" instead? or how bout just "fried egg, please?"

Meh regardless, it was a pleasant meal. But afterward, my stomach felt really heavy. It was a weird, new sensation for me. I've had friends mention it before, but I've never felt heavy like that after a meal. Very full, or fat and too full and lazy to move. But it's never just concentrated in my stomach. I felt really kind of gross and dumpy. I don't know if I will return soon. I didn't walk away with the same happy glow that I had from Boka the night before. Mmph. Not their fault I ordered a heavy dish and felt heavy after. Perhaps it is just me. I will probably give the place another try sometime, but probably not very soon. Overall, I give it 3 stars. It's decent.

Oh yah, picture just below was P's meal. "The East Coast" complete with toast, dill scrambled eggs, capers, smoked salmon, and sliced red onions (and a side of rosemary roasted potatoes and citrus).

And Finally! Sunday lunch at Blueacre. The not so epic start to Restaurant Week. My dining buddy and I specifically chose the place because we wanted to go somewhere that had the $15 lunch menu, and this one looked pretty good.

We started off with a small cup of Clam and Corn Chowder. It tasted pretty good. A little overly salty, but I often think so of chowders. It wasn't overkill, so it was okay. Flavour and texture of the soup was good, with hearty chunks of potato and celery. However, I only found two small bits of clam in my cup, which was kind of disappointing and a few kernels of corn. Kind of weird for a dish to feature two specific things in its name, but include very little of it in the actual dish.

For the entree, I had an Autumn Squash Patina Risotto, with toasted hazlenuts, crispy sage leaf, and brown butter. Sounds tasty right? Perhaps my expectations were too high for this dish. That, or I don't really like risotto as a main dish (perhaps a side, but I think I get a little bored sometimes. maybe. but I like congee.. so idk what the deal is). Regardless, it certainly wasn't the best presentation of risotto. It looked lovely when plated. A nice golden orange, with toasted hazlenuts clustered in the center, topped with slightly melted, shredded parmesan, and further topped with crispy fried sage leaves. Unfortunately, it looked better than it tasted. Not that it tasted horrible or anything. Just not "Good." The texture of the pastina was good, and the risotto creamy (until it cooled into a gluttinous mass) however I think that is normal, so no points deducted. However, the flavor of parmesan overwhelmed everything. I couldn't taste the savory sweetness of squash, or the warm nuttiness of brown butter. No complicated layering of flavors or anything. Or at least, not to my palate. So I admit, I'm not the most discerning foodie. I know what I like, and I often stick to those things. My palate is not all that well developed, compared to "real foodies" and "food connoisseurs" or whatever. But it's not THAT bad. I think I should have been able to taste something else besides parmesan. I hadn't even dipped into the parmesan on top of the risotto, and it was already too much.

My friend's pulled pork sandwich was modestly portioned and had pretty good flavour. But the bread was tough to cut with a knife or teeth. And overall, the sandwich was very messy and difficult to eat.

For a relatively pricey restaurant, I expected more out of their main dishes. In all fairness, they are a self-proclaimed seafood restaurant, and neither dish actually contained seafood... But I thought the point of RW was so that people could get a taste of what each restaurant is supposed to be like. What is the point of putting a less than stellar dish on the menu that might be considered an abbreviated representation of your restaurant? Only one out of three entree options was actually seafood. For whatever reason, despite that fact that both my friend and I love seafood, neither of us felt inclined to order it. I think, personally, the preparation didn't appeal to me. Either that, or the accompaniments.

Dessert was pretty decent. The servers actually messed up my friend's order and gave him a german chocolate cake, with a maple pecan brittle, and scoop of spiced ice cream on the side, instead of his chocolate pecan pie. I tried it and wasn't particularly fond (it was too sugary tasting for me) but he enjoyed it. I had a tall glass of bittersweet chocolate mousse with a sprinkling of cocoa hazlenut praline on top. It was very smooth and rather tasty, though not as dark as I expected. It was more milk chocolate, than bittersweet, but good nonetheless. In the end, I think the place is overpriced and overrated. I give them a 2.5 star.

Friday, March 7, 2008


So I'm currently sitting in a lovely little cafe/sake lounge in the middle of "The Ave" in the U District in Seattle, WA. A mere two blocks from the UW campus, Lounjin is a sophisticated lounge that seems like a different world from the rest of the Ave. It's airy, and medium-sized with deep scarlet walls, cherry-wood floors, blown glass lamps, free wi-fi, electical outlets at every table, a large flatscreen TV and modern furniture and somehow blends elements of modern japanese tea houses and sake bars with internet cafe without clashing in any way. The place is beautiful, has the lighting and ambiance of a nightclub/lounge and serves delicious tea (more on this later) but is utterly devoid of life beyond myself and the barista. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? -_-^

Clearly this lounge is located in the wrong place. Were it located in LA, Boston or NYC, I'm sure Lounjin would be a really hot hang out place. However, UW students just can't appreciate this style, prefering instead to flock to small independent cafes with loud music, young funky baristas, and mismatched furniture. Unfortunately this elegant place is ignored. One after another, people stroll by without even taking a glance; somewhat like the Leaky Cauldron from Harry Potter, which is unseen by muggles, Lounjin seems to be invisible to students.

The tea, called Spring Cherry (by The Republic of Tea) is just that; a delicate, refreshing green tea infused with rose petals, white tea buds, has a subtle rose aroma that blends beautifully with the sweet smell of ripe cherries. It is a beautiful amber color with a subtle tint of mahogany. The tea starts with a fruity note with a slight sweetness that fades into a floral green tea with a smooth ending undisrupted by harsh tannin.

I've got to bring friends to this place, I'd hate to see it close but frankly I'm a bit surprised it's still open. They serve six different sakes, shakes, a selection of teas, espresso, and a variety of pastries, and ramen! Without customers, the daily pastries must be expensive to order and throw away.. sigh. Such sadness.

4527 University Way
Seattle, WA 98105

(pictures will be uploaded later tonight)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Happy Harbor Restaurant

Okay, so I must admit to being very behind on posting. >_< Many apologies, but I think the food content in this next entry will make up for the long wait…maybe. A few weeks ago, I was very fortunate to be treated to dinner along with my parents by my parents’ friends at the Happy Harbor Restaurant in Rowland Heights, CA because this friend happens to be not only exceedingly generous, but also one of very refined taste, so I had the chance to dine on some of the best that this restaurant had to offer, and could not pass it up. It works out perfectly because I got an angle quite a bit different than either Elmomonster or Mmm-yoso! so it won’t be utterly repetitive.

The first dish was of sea cucumbers and an unknown chewy substance, sautéed with scallions and a bit of ginger. My mother thought that it was julienned geo-duck clam (also known as giant clam, or marugai when sashimi) however I’m not sure about this claim because I wasn’t immediately repulsed by the taste of it, and the texture was unfamiliar. The texture could be different because for once, it was actually seasoned and cooked, however I feel the sauce might have been too delicate to mask that distinctive flavor that I’ve come to dislike so much.

The next course, which I completely forgot to photograph, was a platter of freshly caught amaebi (sweet shrimp) sashimi. They were delightfully sweet and briny with a satisfying crunch gleaned only from the freshest shrimp, however I hold with my previous preference that they be cooked rather than raw. While delicious in either form, I must favor the supple crunch of the cooked version, over the somewhat slimy crunch of the raw.

This next dish is refreshingly creative and actually just plain refreshing. Served as a cold dish somewhat akin to a salad, it featured slices of real abalone and cooked sweet shrimp on a bed of fresh, sliced honeydew, cantaloupe and tomato, dressed in sweet mayonnaise and garnished with bright maraschino cherries. Arriving beautifully arranged on a large platter, it was quickly and skillfully divvied up amongst the 11 diners, hence the minor disarray pictured above. The abalone was perfectly supple and tender bouncing marvelously to all corners of my mouth before smoothly sliding down the gullet. To my surprise, the ripe melons were the perfect accompaniment to the abalone and shrimp; playing up the subtle salty sweetness of both, while tasting even sweeter with the mayonnaise dressing. Unfortunately, I don’t like mayonnaise so I spent several minutes scraping off as much as possible, but I will concede that it did well to bring out the innate flavors of each ingredient and harmonizing them. In my personal opinion, the tomato and cherry didn’t contribute anything to the dish except aesthetic appeal. Their flavors didn’t mesh with the others, and quite simply, they were just... there; probably just edible garnishes.

At this point, I’m about half full when a large bowl of shark fin soup with shredded crab meat. In my previous experience, shark fin soup contains a few small shreds of the delicacy so I was utterly flabbergasted when I gazed into my bowl and found a gigantic slice the size of my hand. Unfortunately, such was my surprise that I totally forgot to take a picture of it. Such sadness… Aside from the obvious deliciousness of the shark fin itself, the soup was delicious in its own right. A far cry from the usual thick gravy-like consistency of other specimens of the same name, this version had a reduced consommé filled with lump crabmeat.

Now this is one of the most amazing dishes I have ever beheld. Abalone is already a delicacy but this particular kind is even more uncommon. It is bigger in size than those found in the fruit/salad dish previously mentioned and has an extraordinary texture. I took a few extra pictures that will speak for themselves and shall thus refrain from gushing like a little school girl.
The first picture displays knife marks in this remarkably tender piece of abalone that I’d delicately sliced. The latter picture exists merely because I found the appearance of the slice comparable to the grain pattern of wood. Incredibly tender without the slightest bit of mushiness, this luscious shellfish gave easily between the teeth with a subtle rebound. Accompanied by clear, somewhat viscous gravy, steamed broccoli and chicken’s feet, this dish was stewed to perfection.

A massive dish of lobster was then presented before being removed and portioned by the server. Tangy and slightly salty, this was a preparation unfamiliar to me. At best guess, the lobster was sautéed with chopped scallions, cracked black pepper, soy sauce or black bean sauce, some sprigs of an unfamiliar herb and something unidentifiable that accounted for the tanginess of the flavor. Sweet and succulent it was obviously very fresh and wonderfully prepared.

Chilean sea bass with asparagus appeared next. By this time, I was beyond full, so I merely took a small bite and gave the rest to my mother who had hers wrapped up to take home. It was flaky and tender and very lightly seasoned in a way that could be considered somewhat bland. Although sea bass is quite delicious and this dish was well prepared and beautiful in presentation, it was admittedly a little boring after the magnificent fare that came before.

Fried rice appeared next, as though to ensure that no one went home feeling hungry. Most everyone had their portion boxed up to take home but I took a couple small bites before committing it to the Styrofoam. This was my least favorite dish of the evening. Not because it was not a delicacy, but rather that it was bland in taste, boring in texture and decidedly unimpressive. Though scattered through with different ingredients that probably should have beheld a variety of textures and flavors (including bits of unknown brown stuff), the dish looked far more appealing than it tasted.

For dessert, bird spit! I was quite wary with this one. A lightly sweetened almond soup speckled with gelatinous lumps. Sound familiar? No, these were not merely large, overcooked tapioca balls (an initial, fleeting thought of mine) but fairly flavorless bits of birds nest. O_o?! You mean birds nests aren’t made of sticks and straw??! A Chinese delicacy, these particular nests are made of the gummy saliva of the swiftlet. Harvesting these nests from cave walls is a treacherous task and bowls of this luxurious dish can apparently range from $30-$100 in Hong Kong. This was a special dish indeed, even if it was a bit of an acquired taste. For those who have not tasted this dish, I feel the texture can be likened to a sweet equivalent of fish maw soup.

Finally, a large platter of second dessert! The burnt orange object on the right was a sweet potato flavored hybrid of sweet and salty mochi. Fried like the savoury version, but filled with a red bean paste like some kinds of the sweet variant, the sweet potato attributed a delightful pairing of flavours. On the left was a specimen of the same outer texture, but filled with a black sesame paste and dyed to a delightful green.

All-in-all it was an amazing experience! I highly recommend this restaurant because the chefs are so skilled in preparing cuisine of any price range and almost everything is bound to be delicious.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Myung Dong Tofu House and Sushi Kamon(in Diamond Bar and City of Industry, respectively)

So on Fathers' Day, I got very lucky in terms of cuisine. Being that I'd just returned from college and that my family is moving away soon, my parents decided to let me pick where we went out to eat for the day. The final picks: Myung Dong Tofu House and sushi (well technically my dad picked the place, I just clamoured for some sushi ^_^) This tofu house has become so successful that they have opened up several chain locations, one each in Diamond Bar, West Covina, and Rancho Cucamonga. The japanese restaurant in question is called Restaurant Kamon, but most people know it better as Sushi Kamon.

The sushi place is down the street from Myung Dong and across the street from the bookstore where I spent my afternoon as my parents went off to take care of some business at the office. The bookstore was the smallest Barnes and Nobles I have ever had the displeasure to see -_-^ but that is a story for another time. Ok ok, less babbling and more pictures:

My parents and I always get the combinations that come with rice cooked in the stonepot, tofu soup, with one each of galbi and bulgogi and in the past we've tried the shrimp and scallop, which is quite good as well, but not a favorite, so this time we opted to try something new, and my mom and I tried the "fish grilled with seasonings."

But first, banchan! :D

I love their banchan, even if it is a little bit different everytime I go (which is to be expected considering I've only been a few times in the last three years). Today, the cubes of stewed beef are tender and sweet, as if foreshadowing the tender sweetness of the bbq to follow, ending with a very subtle flare of spicyness. The potatoes are also stewed in a sweet sauce until tender and melts so soft it is easily cut with a pair of chopsticks and practically disintegrates on the tongue before it is even chewed. The cold sauteed bean sprouts crunch sweetly and cleanly between the tongue before melting away. Okay, I admit it.. I'm a big wimp and spiciness kicks my ass.. so I am not a huge fan of kimchi.. >_< I'm not sure whether this next appetizer counts as banchan or not.. but it's probably my favorite of all. Korean style pancake? I find it interesting that I like it so much even though I have no idea what it consists of. I can identify the green onion and red bell pepper embedded within, but the texture is so soft and crispy at the same time, I have no idea what kind of flour it's made with. Rice? cornmeal? plain wheat? @_@ The yellow color makes me think there's some egg in it, but it must be thoroughly incorporated into the batter because it doesn't quite taste like eggs either.. I'm mystified but it's delicious nevertheless!

I always ate the default one day, I saw a sign saying that black rice was available; I tried it and since then, that's all I eat. The black rice is slightly sweet, with some peas and a hard bean inside as well as some kind of fruit that I believe are called chinese jujubes or red dates. I have decided that my favorite bites of black rice are those containing morsels of these soft reddish delights. The stickiness of the black rice is perfectly paired with the melting sweetness of the dates.

Next we have non-spicy (>_<) tofu soup. No, despite what it looks like in this picture, it is not murky water in a stone pot. The soup arrives boiling vigorously in which one must immediately crack the egg, and push tofu on top so that the egg will partially cook and take on the texture of a barely firm custard, not dissimilar to that of the tofu itself. The tofu is very soft and silky and by the time it arrives in your mouth, it has absorbed the perfect amount of saltiness and flavor from the soup. The soup itself contains also contains a couple types of mushrooms and some green onions, and in my personal opinion is enough for a small meal (I often take only a few mouthfuls, opting instead to take it home as another delightful meal or snack).

The first protein to be served was the bulgogi. Tender slices of beef marinated in a sweet soy-based sauce (whose recipe is unfortunately unknown to myself or I would make it at least once a week, I love it so) and cooked with mushrooms and onions until the onions become very tender and sweet as it sizzles on the iron pan.

Next, the galbi. The meat is also tender but has a chewier texture than that of the bulgogi and sometimes stubbornly clings to the bone resulting in a deliciously messy fight that I prefer to not have in public. I am always kind of amused by the cow plate that it is served on though... :)

The fish was delicious. It was perfectly salty and crispy on the outside (enough so that the bones were rendered crunchy and edible) and the flesh itself, flaky, juicy and tender enough to melt.

Finally, with the check came a few colourful candies that I fought the urge to photograph. Ok I lost the battle, so.. here it is: my red hardcandy that was so prettily swirled with a subtle white.

For dinner, my mom and I selected a few kinds of sashimi (with a piece each for her and I as my dad doesn't eat seafood of any kind, except seaweed, so he opted instead for a beef teriyaki and shrimp/vegetable tempura combination box) and a shrimp/asparagus cut roll and spider roll. Unfortunately, between talking to/watching the sushi chef, and listening to both parents talking to me and shoving things on my plate (I sat between them at the sushi bar) I ate with wild abandon before remembering to take some pictures.. but it was too late. We were almost done eating but there was still half a spider roll so I took a picture of that. >_<

The sashimi consisted of a hamachi (yellowtail, my mom's favorite), uni (sea urchin "roe" but is actually sea urchin gonads, something I'd heard about and wanted to try), giant clam (I wanted to try scallops but must have pointed wrong because this is what my mom ordered and I decided to try it anyway), amaebi (sweet shrimp, also something new I'd heard about and wanted to try) and my personal favorite: toro (or what I thought was my favorite, except it was way more amazing than I remembered).

The yellowtail didn't look or taste like any other kind of yellowtail that I'd ever had (which is usually kind of plain tasting.. if that makes sense) but this piece was very flavorful but not fishy, and strangely, just like what I thought toro tasted like but it was a different color, somewhat darker than the yellowtail that I'm used to. The sea urchin gonads were very interesting. At first taste, I thought it was tasty, but then (since we had five pieces of it, as five are in each urchin) with each morsel that I ate, the taste got to be too strong and I felt almost compelled to dull it with some julienned cucumber (which is weird considering I don't particularly like cucumber, and sometimes feel that I dislike it). The giant clam turned out to be geo-duck clam which I have long since decided that I don't like. I've had it many times, encountering various degrees of freshness as well as different degrees of cooking and amount of seasoning/flavoring and still there's a very particular flavor to it that I strongly dislike, so after taking a small bite, my mom had to eat the rest. The amaebi was pretty delicious but I've got to admit that I like it much better cooked. Not that I mind, but the texture was not unlike that which a non-sashimi eater might imagine of raw fish and therefore feel disinclined to try it: that soft, kind of slimy, texture with a slight residue that lingers on the tongue (that is quite dissimilar to raw fish). The deep-fried shrimp head was absolutely delicious, though I must admit I spent several seconds gazing at it while trying to figure out how best to attack it ^_~. Toro was simply heavenly. It was so thoroughly marbled with fat that it really melted on the tongue. I thought for sure I'd had toro before, but never anything like that, so maybe not. I did wonder how it was possible for a piece of fish to melt, but now I know!

The shrimp/asparagus roll and the spider roll were both decent though I was too full to enjoy it properly. One thing that I distinctly remember is that the spider roll had bigger pieces of soft shell crab inside than most other places I've been too, which is a big plus for this place. All too often, it is so small that it is simply overwhelmed by cucumber and rice (though, I've grown so accustomed to sashimi that anything more than a small dab of rice seems too much and too filling... I like trying lots of different things and all the rice from a cut roll keeps me from eating more than the equivalent of a whole cut roll) . Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of white rice, especially sticky rice! ^_^ But for some reason I can't eat that much sushi rice (hehe I know it's redundant but ya know..) maybe its the vinegar?

I had a bit of my dad's bento too so I will also comment on that. The rice was perfectly fluffy and sticky and absolutely delicious (I love Japanese rice, anyone know what kind it is? Some say jasmine rice, but I feel like there's all kinds of jasmine rice, and I don't really like the long grained kind..which is usually the kind served in Chinese restaurants. I mean, I'll eat it, but I never get the same enjoyment out of it). The beef teriyaki was slightly over-sauced, but quickly remedied by a deft twist of the wrist (a little scraping! :D) but it was very tender and obviously relatively high-quality beef. The tempura was quite good. The batter was nicely delicate and crunchy (though my mom says it can't compare to anything in Taiwan or Japan, as I apparently will find out later this year, but for the US it's quite good) and slightly seasoned so that it was still good without the dipping sauce, unlike the gummy blandness of some other restaurants.

Overall, an excellent day! :)