Coffee with a Message at Hidden Gem Coffee in Hanoi

Practically designed for Instagram, Hidden Gem Coffee feels like a whimsical and anime-esque technicolor experience.

The owner wants to raise awareness on reusing, recycling, and reducing waste in a country very much still in the beginning stages of environmental policy and awareness. He gave a talk when I visited that he especially cares since people in his hometown developed higher rates than average of cancer due to industrial waste pollution from nearby factories. In general, he’s concerned about environmental degradation in Vietnam and really there are stories like this all over Asia as a cost of economic development, so it really resonated with me.

The walls are lined with murals of a previous era of Vietnamese life toned with the nostalgic quality that characterize so many of Hanoi’s cafes. He mentioned the paintings of traditional life were inspired by his mother. The cafe was one of the newest and most unique I visited in Hanoi since he decorated the entire place with unwanted items he’d gathered, hence the name Hidden Gem. It also features three levels of seating with good internet so it’s an ideal study and workplace as well.

I enjoyed my egg coffee, though not the best I’ve had, which is an honor I reserve for Cafe Giang. The egg coffee I had was certainly made with love and skill – eggs whipped with their unique use of Bailey’s instead of other liquors, usually a rice wine, typically used in egg coffee. This place is worth a stop to decompress from hectic Hanoi and worth your support. It’s also close to this awesome sticky rice place.

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Shoutout to Curry-Ya in the East Village

Crossposted from ViewingNYC

The place I must give a shoutout to for the upcoming cold months and need for comfort food is Curry-Ya, which is the best Japanese-style Curry I’ve had outside of Japan. It’s such good comfort food but made at such a high quality here, especially since a lot of places will make it with the pre-made curry packs, which you might as well make at home, but no, this place is legit with the great katsu.

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My favorite dishes at Curry-Ya are the Chicken Katsu Curry, a deep-fried chicken cutlet, and the Berkshire Pork Katsu Curry, a deep-fried pork cutlet, baked with egg and cheese over the bed of curry and rice. It’s heavenly. The Hamburger Steak Curry is also wonderful, a burger-style patty made with high-quality beef packed with pure flavor over curry and rice that coaxes my yuppy heart to feel like a kid again… read more

 

Taiwanese Breakfast in SGV: Yimei

One of my favorite places to get Taiwanese Breakfast when I’m back in my hometown (San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles specifically, for you New Yorkers it’s like the Elmhurst, Queens of Los Angeles) is Yimei in Monrovia. Specifically, Yimei has my favorite sweet Rice Roll and Peanut Rice Milk (dipping with the Chinese donut). The Sesame Bread Sandwich with Beef (牛肉燒餅)is also good, but not as good as the one at Huge Tree Pastry.

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I usually actually order the above, mixing the Peanut Rice milk (米漿)with Soy Milk (豆漿)in that combo (混漿)warm in a bowl. Dip the Chinese donut in it, I like how they make it extra crispy here, although it’s not quite as dense is it might be.

The Sweet Rice Roll (甜飯糰)here is something distinguishing and made uniquely from other places, as per the usual, it’s rice wrapped around Chinese donut, but it has a sprinkling of sweet peanut shavings along with the sugar.

The fresh soy milk is also nice cold with the more savory items.

This place is actually a good twenty-five minute drive from where I usually stay, but I’ll go out of my way if I have slow day when I’m visiting back home.

Shoutout to the Fried Chicken at the Commodore

Crossposted from ViewingNYC

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Had to borrow a pic from Yelp since I probably didn’t take a pic latest visit bc I had chicken all over my hands.

I recently ate at the Commodore again, which is known for their fried chicken, which is the best I’ve ever had. And I have eaten a lot of fried chicken. More than people should. They recently re-did their interior a bit that amps up kind of a 70s cruise line feel featuring fruity throughback drinks like pina coladas. Honestly, this place really doesn’t seem like it’d have good food, but it’s so awesome. This time I had the fried fish and grits, which makes me think twice next time about whether I should order the fried chicken or that, but I’ll probably be a glutton and get both.

First, the fried chicken at The Commodore is the best I’ve had in NYC. I keep coming back here and swear I’ll order another main dish, but I just can’t. The order comes with four generous pieces of fried chicken goodness and three mini-biscuits. It also comes with a helping of vinegar-based hot sauces that taste homemade, which complements rather than smothers the taste of the very crispy chicken. The chicken skin somehow has this twice-fried quality and volume that I can’t quite explain, yet devour against my better judgment knowing about the adverse health effects. An extra piece of crispy peppery chicken skin literally hangs off each piece like a bonus addition to the perfectly tender meat. The biscuits also come with a honey butter that tastes like it was made from scratch. Perfect.

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Faz Bakery in Danville for Persian Cookies

Necessary shoutout to Faz Bakery in Danville, CA for their Persian style cookies, so good with rich flavors of saffron. A friend and I just happened on this place after leaving a baby shower in a city neither of us leave near or really go to, thankfully Faz Bakery and Coffee Bar are an awesome Bay Area chain!

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The Shirini Diamond, Shirini Saffron Rose, and Shirini Chickpea. Get them all.

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Shout out to Lali Restaurant

Crosspost here from ViewingNYC.

To add: I really appreciate a place like this since it can feel like these places, the honest neighborhood eats, the simple diners, and delis, the holes-in-the-wall with good food at a fair price and character are disappearing in Manhattan and many parts of NYC, pushed out by ever skyrocketing retail rents and bougie tastes. Lali’s is not far from the Times Square drag in Hell’s Kitchen if you have visitors who really want something that is no frills local.   

I can only describe eating at Lali Restaurant like eating home-cooking at an auntie’s house, if I had an auntie who is a Dominican lady named Lali. The restaurant calls back to what feels like a different time. The counters have an old-school diner feel, regulars seem to know each other, and comfort food is what’s on the menu.

Lali and her friendly crew prepare selected dishes depending on the day of week. Most of the clientele is Spanish-speaking along with other locals who are frequent customers (myself included). Seating is mostly counter space and a few small tables in the back that seat two or three…. read more