CHERRY BLOSSOMS, MOM & MATSURI

Matsuri cherry blossom sushiMatsuri in the Maritime Hotel, NYCCherry Blossom Trees at Brooklyn Botanic Garden 2010
MATSURI 369 west 16th st, nyc, 212 243 6400

I’m not much of a traditionalist and I think this keeps me sane. Given my knack for tardiness, I’d be late to celebrate anyway. I rarely get worked up over birthdays – not even my own – and I only celebrate Christmas because Jason does. But one of the (very) few traditions I try to uphold is to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with my mom each spring. So when I received an invitation to sample the cherry blossom menu and eat the petals at Matsuri, my mom was the obvious “plus one”.

From now until May 2nd, Matsuri is offering a cherry blossom menu to coincide with hanami, the annual Japanese cherry blossom festival. Plus! in a partnership with Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Matsuri is offering a complimentary pass to the Garden’s festivities on May 1st and 2nd to diners who take part in the special menu, which features three courses and a cocktail – all with cherry blossoms incorporated.

Matsuri Hanami Menu 2010

cocktail sakura cherry blossom, shochu, plum wine $12

appetizer madai steamed with cherry blossom broth $13

main course pink snapper box pressed sushi with shiso & fish flakes $18

dessert • sakura gelée panna cotta with cherries & cherry gelée $9

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In true Amy-style, my eyes skipped critical location information in the e-vite. I was convinced the event was being held at the Gardens. Cherry blossom menu? Obviously, I had to go to the source. So I hauled my butt on the F train to Park Slope where my parents live, bussed it with mom to Grand Army Plaza, and marched through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, pausing long enough to take photos of cherry blossom trees.

• • • •

The event was at Matsuri and I only realized this after trying to convince three security guards I was in the right place. While I banged my head against the wall metaphorically, my mother took my mistake in stride as usual. So, as I hope all my stories end, a yellow taxi cab magically appeared at the garden entrance and took us to Manhattan, where I’d just journeyed from and where I was suppose to be. If I had half a brain (or a smartphone), I could have saved myself the trip to Brooklyn. But then I would have missed the view, so maybe being a little lost – and a little late – doesn’t hurt always. amy april 20, 2010

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April 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Asian, Brooklyn, event, Japanese, Park Slope. 2 comments.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I’M RASH. I don’t like the word but, sometimes, that’s what I am. I also tend to arrive ten minutes late for personal appointments and have a death-grip on what some regard as unrealistically high expectations. To top this toxic cake of bad traits, I’m guilty of cynicism too. For that, Conan, I’m sorry.

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Knowing my own shortcomings, I decided to wait two weeks before writing about my January 21st restaurant outing with the Wandering Foodie, Hagan Blount. (more…)

February 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Asian, Blogs, cash only, Flushing, Manhattan, Queens, West Village. 53 comments.

XIE XIE : Julie & Julia Allison

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XIE XIE 645a 9th Avenue, New York, 212 265 2975

THERE’S SOMETHING MAGICAL about the internet – you can diagnose your own neuroses, self-publish, order pizza, and see where you’re going before you even get there. Sometimes, I feel nearly telepathic thanks to twitter. And Match isn’t just for the socially awkward and utterly undateable anymore.

Take Julie Powell and her fabulous food-focused Long Island City life. You must know the former blogger by now so I won’t detail how she landed her book deal (or share my distress about being the last restaurant writer to see Julie & Julia.*)

Instead, I’ll tell you about my new crush on “media personality” and lifestyle blogger Julia Allison. Truth is, I envy her more than I like her as she can incite the masses over the most inconsequential topic – herself – in heels and cute outfits. While she provokes more backlash than praise, her infamy lets her charge an astronomical sum for her two cents – which is remarkable for someone not known for much aside from her unyielding narcissism and two-year stint as the dating columnist at Time Out.

But even detractors applaud her efforts: the girl knows how to work the web, has inspired a bevy of over-sharing Mini Mes, and even struck Sony gold. Another case in point, I just typed 100 words on a lady I’ve never met and there are food photos to explain!

IMG_1815It probably goes without saying: Julia’s expertise is not in restaurants. Still, if she says she’s dining at 44 1/2 twice a week, I figure it must be worth a visit. So, to sate my curiosity, I dragged Jason to Hell’s Kitchen on an agreeable autumn day to brunch.

In an anticlimactic turn of events, we got to 44 1/2 too late. Brunch service ends at two and we did not arrive til after. My yen for eggs Benedict? Denied.

Hungry but not defeated, Jason and I meandered back to Ninth Avenue. Between 45th and 46th, we were stopped by a timid teen wearing glittery eye shadow halfheartedly pushing flyers in front of Xie Xie, which translates to ‘thank you’ in Mandarin. I pulled Jason in with me before my empty stomach could eat itself and was relieved to finally sit down with the Vietnamese BBQ beef sandwich ($9) stacked high with meat, basil, mayo and carrots on a kaiser roll. He had the sweet glazed pork buns ($8.50) which reminded me of the buns at Momofuku and Ippudo but flatter, denser. Less delicious.

I came so close to trying a restaurant based not on an expert review but on personality. Fate wouldn’t allow it, however, and I experienced something new the old fashioned way – by walking into an undiscovered place without a stranger’s opinion or consent. Guess I have Julia Allison to thank, in a way.

(Learn more about Xie Xie and its new happy hour special here.)

*Since posting this entry, I saw Julie & Julia in Kips Bay. I loved it. And to think I’d never even heard of either Julia until last year…

September 25, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Asian, Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, Theater District. 2 comments.

UMI NOM • offManhattan.com

Pancit Canton smallback to front smallUMI NOM | 433 DeKalb Ave, 718 789 8806 | offManhattan.comMa-Banh’s Beef Jerky small

MANHATTAN CHEF King Phojanakong has opened Umi Nom in Clinton Hill as the sequel to Kuma Inn, his wildly popular, pint-sized Asian tapas destination in the Lower East Side. Drawing on the the chef’s Thai and Filipino heritage, the Brooklyn follow-up features a fresh set of small plates along with noodle and fried rice dishes to showcase Southeast Asian cooking that’s more polished than its “street food” stereotype.

True to its name, which means “To Drink,” Umi Nom will offer Asian-influenced libations like sakes, Singha beer, and even—as a nod to its new home—Brooklyn Lager.

Of the two dozen new plates (most of which hover in the $10 range), King recommends the roasted Manila clams in spicy black bean sauce, the lightly battered crispy calamari, and chili glazed wok prawns. Of the latter he says, “We leave the head on, peel the shell, and sauté it with Thai chili, fish sauces, and palm sugar in a wok, which is one thing we don’t use at Kuma Inn.”

While Umi Nom may trump its sibling with a frying pan, Manhattan regulars visiting this borough should find comfort in its similarities, like Umi Nom’s intimate interior. Prior to its current incarnation, the DeKalb Avenue storefront was an abandoned century-old Laundromat complete with a dry cleaning center, which now houses the open kitchen in the back. As the chef puts it, the property was an empty shell of rocks, rubble, and laundry machines, but it also had its charms: high ceilings, skylight, and an exposed brick wall with windows.

Though Umi Nom stays close to the original recipe, there’s no guarantee Chef King’s sophomore effort will repeat the success of his first. Still, this won’t be the first time he’s attracted gourmands to an untapped zip code. And armed with the time-tested blend of bold Southeast Asian flavors and gentle prices, there’s no arguing that Umi Nom just might be the breakthrough Pratt needs to draw culinary gentrification east.

August 24, 2009. Asian, Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, offManhattan. 1 comment.