Category Archives: Food Rant / love song

Restauranteurs -Patience is a Virtue

Photo by Renjith Krishnan

Absorbing the warmth in a small cafe in Amsterdam, I  desperately searched for our waiter. This was my first time being in Europe and among taking in the full experience, there were some cultural norms that I needed to get used to.

Apparently, it’s customary to take your time eating and digesting your food before the waitstaff approach and hand you the bill. Unfortunately, that’s not the norm here in the U.S.

I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve been out dining and magically the check appears on the table without any of my dining companions having summoned for it.  Even when accompanied by a well-meaning, “For when you’re ready” still comes off as unwelcoming and pushy.

There’s got to be a happy medium between waiting an hour for a check and getting it while I am still chewing my food. I don’t know too much about business, but basic logic makes me think that the happier I, the customer, am, the more money you, the business, will make. If I have a great experience at a restaurant, I will write about it on Yelp, tell my friends about it, and visit frequently.

I know that time and space are very important, especially in a city like New York, but if allowed more time, I could order more food and most likely give a bigger tip. Restaurants in New York, take heed, an extra ten minutes could mean an extra $10! I’ve noticed this particularly in chain restaurants, such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Applebee’s.

My college roommate in freshman year was a waitress at Friendly’s and told me about their rule of thumb for checking in with customers. About two bites into their meal, waitstaff are expected to check in with diners to see if they’re enjoying their food. To know that there’s an actual formula to this bothers me. “After x amount of bites, hand diners the check whether or not they actually asked for it”.

I know that some people would just sit around forever, but I think a humble balance and a bit of common decency would solve this problem and make a better dining experience all around.

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No false Ads For Tasteless Dishes

“You know what really grinds my gears,” as Family Guy’s Peter Griffin would say, is all of these misleading ads about how tasteful their dishes are. Then when that $18.50 plate of steak medium well done with a side of vegetables and wild rice is sitting in front of you, you greatly disappointed.

“When you pay over $50 for their food, no one wants to pay for a an okay meal they want to pay for a great food,” says Lewis Dimaren, an advent diner of various restaurants. What is the point of putting up those pretty and illustrative pictures in the menu when it turns out to be an illusion with every unsavory bite.

One establishment I can think of that comes to mind oh so vividly is T.G.I.F. I mean there’s so much that can be said about many of the disappointing moments of taking a bite out of one of the burgers on their menu or their steak or even breaded shrimp. Their finely decorated menus with displays of false delights.

The ultimate tease of wanting a dish that’ll not only satisfy your appetite, but explode with the many herbs and spices the waiters and waitresses would tell you are in you curious food decisions. What an irritating feeling to finally get your order after 20-30 minutes of waiting just to have the feeling that your eating something that seems to have been heated in a microwave, I mean come on man where’s the care and love for the customer.

Misleading the eyes into believing the taste buds would be carried on wild journey of ecstasy should be a horrible sin, especially know the prices they charge. If the food is lacking in taste and is simply meant to ease the hunger pains of prolonged wait then it should be stated somewhere in the restaurant, but then again that isn’t living realistically. So I guess until then we’ll have to venture forth into these establishments blindly, hoping that we’ll find one place that can serve its patrons a little piece of tasteful heaven.

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I only eat chicken and rice…Not

I often meet people who immediately assume that when I say “I only eat halal food,” it must mean I only eat chicken and rice. Well, that is not the case.

I assure you, halal food is more than chicken and rice. Even when it’s the mouth watering entree in silver packaging sold on 53rd and 6th.

I don’t actually stand on lines three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner for grilled chicken, lamb or beef chunks sidled with yellow or brown rice, then drizzled with mystery white sauce, hot sauce or the occasional barbecue sauce and a sparing array of salad on the side. If I did, I’d choose different carts each time, and vary even then by day. They do say that variety is the spice of life.

But, really now.

In reality, halal just mean lawful in the sense that the meat was blessed with an Islamic prayer before slaughter. So all I’m saying is that when I’m out and about, I’m often limited to the carts or must choose from vegetarian or seafood options at restaurants not serving meat from a halal butcher shop.

As long as it is, I indulge in practically the same dishes as everyone else, but mostly at home. Home is where the halal is. My mom prepares Bengali meals, like biryani, and American ones, like steak and mashed potatoes, on any given day. So relax guys, I’m not quite so deprived, just particular.

I wish I could explain this one once and for all—because I have, often—but the misunderstanding continues. Sigh.

In fact, I asked a few friends about their perceptions of halal food just so you readers didn’t think this was all based on conjecture. And my, oh my, did most of them basically prove my assessment:

I asked, what is halal food? These were my friends’ well meaning responses:

“It’s chicken and rice. With white sauce,” said Alex Mikoulianitch

“What do you mean? I’m not understanding your question,” said Anas M. Uddin.

“Middle Eastern dishes,” said Brian Gottesman

(And then a light at the end of the tunnel)

“Halal food, to me is the meat, and it has to be prepared a certain way, and has to be blessed,” said David Ospino.

(But wait, there’s more)

“I guess, chicken and rice, and salad,” said Nakeisha Campbell

“The Arabic version of kosher food. And shish kebabs,” said Gizelle Lugo.

Close. But still, sigh.

It’s frustrating to say the least. But I’m confident that as New Yorkers, people will catch up. We understand what kosher is, right?

For instance, Dovilas Bukauskas said, “I think halal is just for meat. I think kosher is for everything.”

So, the concept isn’t completely out of our scope. But little does it matter in the foodie scheme of things when both the vendors and their hungry customers are happy. Especially around Baruch, where there are close to 5 halal food carts/trucks in something of a two block radius and chicken and rice reigns supreme.

My Egyptian buddy agrees, posing for the camera, then jokingly saying, “Now you pay for the photo.”

This halal food vendor by 25th and Lexington serves long lines of Baruch students everyday. At noon on this day, the lunch line is just beginning to form.

$5 dollars for a chicken and rice = halal food misnomer? “Ha-ha.” Certainly not.

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BAM! Surprises Hit You Hard

If you’re aching for a taste of delicious Chinese cuisine and you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? I am hoping that in engineering this question oh-so-subtly (and ingeniously), that you will arrive at the answer I am searching for. But if you still don’t know, here’s a REALLY BIG hint: remember that REALLY BIG landmass in Asia that’s in the shape of a rooster that all of you guys probably came across in your Social Studies class back in middle school? Yea, jog those memories of yours. I’m talking about China.

So what’s in China that you couldn’t find here? I’m sure all of you are thinking along the same lines as I am– the quasi-Communism that exists there and the daily propaganda that the Chinese government regularly feeds to their people, right?

Wait a second, hold up, OOPS. I’m talking about food.

Chinese takeout is something that just doesn’t have a smidgen of authenticity to it. Sesame chicken? General Tso’s chicken? Really? Really? Now, mind you, don’t think I’m hating on Chinese takeout because I’m really not. I’m not a hater– My dad works at Yee Garden, a takeout restaurant in Middle Village, so I firmly support the rights of Chinese takeout restaurants to exist.

In China, I thought I was in food heaven. It had everything I liked, from savory wontons in soup to my favorite noodles, zhajiang mian, to mouthwatering dishes with eggplant or stinky tofu, two things I absolutely abhorred before going to Nanjing.

So imagine my disappointment when I was studying abroad at Nanjing University for three-and-a-half months last fall and was desperately missing my mother’s delicious vegetarian baozi when I discovered that they didn’t have the kind my mom made. I’m not talking about any old vegetarian baozi, I’m talking about the kind that has glass noodles, small squares of tofu, slivers of carrots, and pieces of wood ear inside them. They are irresistible and apparently, hard to find in China. I mean, who knew right?

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian, but my mother, being the health nut that she is, habitually cooks more greens than hearty strips of pork and savory slices of beef. Salt, sugar, and especially soy sauce, are never used in excess and sometimes, they’re even left out. I’m pretty used to it though and now, I think I love it.

Before we go on, let me make this clear. You can put just about anything in the fillings of baozi— there really isn’t anything, any combination of ingredients, that is wrong. It’s all based on your judgment, so if you think that combo A is probably better tasting together than combo B, than stick with combo A.

Because there is no right or wrong, though, it has made my life extremely difficult, or at least my pursuit of it. That perfect baozi seemed lost and hidden in the vastness of China. I mean, what’s the likelihood that people would put the exact same fillings in baozi anyway? Highly unlikely, no doubt about it.

Vegetarian baozi from Mama Su's

So when my boyfriend told me that I could find them at Mama Su’s Grill & Steam in Bayside, New York, I couldn’t believe my ears. Here in New York City of all places? I sighed. This was a scam, it just had to be. They were bewitched by these fakes, these poor imitations of the baozi my mom likes to make. Who else could recreate home, besides my mom?

Even despite all my negative sentiments, I still  wanted to try it. I just had to. I couldn’t very well not eat it, and lose an opportunity to say: “The ones from home are better.” So when two buns arrived in front of us, one for my boyfriend and the other for me, I was prepared to be disappointed. And suddenly, BAM. It hit me just like that. This was definitely a taste of home. I was shocked. Who knew that the vegetarian baozi that I had been searching for endlessly in China would be found right here in New York. Now that’s really surprising.

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I Came to Eat Dinner, Not Catch a Cold

After hurrying my way through the crowded streets of New York City with the incentive to avoid frostbite from the frigid cold, you would think my dedication of venturing out into this weather for dinner would be rewarded at the restaurant of my choice.

Boy was I wrong.

It seems when waiters and waitresses see me walk through the door they automatically assume I prefer my chicken with a side of wind and freezing cold. Which is why at least five times this winter, I was seated right next to the treacherous door at my former favorite restaurant.

Eating dinner in the city at least twice a week, I understand how the dinner rush leads to a long line of customers anticipating a table. In order to avoid an hour wait, being seated near the door is fine. However, when there are at least ten vacant, warm tables available, I expect to eat my dinner in a breeze free zone.

This annoyance was not something I cared about at first. However, as I became more frustrated, and cold, I realized I should not have to be eating dinner with my winter coat and scarf on.

If I wanted to eat in the cold, I would have saved my money on the tip and went to the Shake Shack.

As I became more aware, I searched around for an answer as to why I was placed next to the door more then once. Maybe this restaurant is saving their better seats for their big spending customers. Maybe this is a way for waitresses to equally divide their tips. Maybe those customers made reservations prior, or maybe it was just by chance.

Whatever the case may be, I have found a solution to this bitter problem by dining at restaurants such as Chipotle, where I can eat good food, pay no tip, and not have to worry about enduring the cold weather inside.

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Oishii Desu Yo!

If any of you are wondering what that title of the post means, it is Japanese for “it is delicious!” and that is exactly how I feel about Japanese cuisine. Sadly though, when people think of Japanese food, the first thought that comes to mind is sushi, seaweed, rice balls (onigiri) or Ramen noodles. But Japan has a much wider range of tasty food than just those few items and I was able to learn that a few years ago.

During the summer of my junior year of high school, I stayed in Osaka, Japan for six weeks and fell in love with a variety Japanese food. One of my favorite dishes is Gyuudon, which is a beef bowl with rice and caramelized onions.


Yes, the strips of beef look like a squishy mess, but trust me when it hits your mouth, it is a sweet delight.

Another dish I liked was Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu), which is a Japanese variation of a Chinese meal. Consisting of a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables that are dipped into a hot pot of boiling water and different sauces, Hot Pot results in a broth which is eaten with rice and noodles. Eating this with a group of people is a funny experience, especially when fighting over the last piece of anything on the table.

I also tried chicken Karaage, which is covered in wheat flour or potato starch and fried in a light oil. It is much better than any of the fried chicken that I’ve tried here. My friend Chantal, who went with me to Japan and is picky eater, practically survived on this and gyuudon.

When I returned home, I immediately began looking for convenient places where I could find the dishes in America.

I have not been to many Japanese restaurants in America, but the one that I go to regularly is Yoshinoya, a Japanese restaurant chain that fortunately opened on 42nd Street around the same time I returned home. The cooks make a gyuudon that is just as good as the one I had in Japan.

Now, I am hungry, so I will stop here. But, since this post is about Japan and in light of recent tragic events there, I encourage everyone to send any support you can to the country during this time.

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Sweet Scoop Found in Long Island

Friday never felt so good: sunshine, warm weather, weekend’s coming, new episode of supernatural, and free gelato!

Gelato display

Recently, I brought a deal off a deal site called For $5, you get $10 worth of Baci’s gelato and/or drinks. If you haven’t heard about buywithme, well here’s the deal. It offers daily deals to restaurants, spas and salons, gym, almost anything you can name. With deals that are usually more than half off the original price, what’s not to love?

The best part was, I didn’t get mine for $5, I got it for free! 2 weeks ago, Buywithme had a promotion where you sign up and receive a free $10 gift code. It’s gone now.  The gelato coupon doesn’t expire until August 2011 but I’ve decided to use one of my 4 coupons now because I was craving sweets.

After an 11 minutes drive on to the Grand Central Parkway towards long island, I found myself inside Baci Gelato contemplating on what flavor to get. The display was kind of breathe taking, looked almost of a masterpiece. With a wide variety and free samples to try, I had to constantly keep myself from salivating.  They have your original flavors vanilla, chocolate, to all sort of fruity and rich concoction;  lemon, blueberry, coconut, passion fruit, hazel nut, tiramisu, black cherry chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, butterscotch, pistachio. Phew, that was just half of what they had.

chocolate hazelnut and mint chocolate chip

The coupon called for 2 large cups. My friend, Chi, got the mint chocolate but I wanted to try something different. I only sampled 2 flavors, the tiramisu and pistachio because I didn’t want to be greedy. Guess what?  It was AhhhhMAZING. So which did I go for? Drum rolls please——–Ferro Rocher. Although I came so close to ordering the pistachio, my eyes were fixated on the creamy chocolate hazel nut delightfulness.

It came with double scoops of the flavor, jammed packed on top of each other with a small wafer cone to top it off and embedded inside a cute daisy flower cup. MmmmMmm, it tasted exactly like the real thing. In almost every lick, you get a piece of hazelnut now and then and a rich fudge-like hazelnut chocolate swirl hidden under from all the thick chocolate madness. I wasn’t kidding when I said jammed packed double scoops; I gave up 1/3 of the way through and decided to take the rest home. This was enough to satisfy at least 3 people’s sweet tooth or one’s for a max of 2 days. Chi commented on how the gelato was “better than Beyers. Too bad it’s not sold in stores.”

Did I mention they have another location in the city at 47 W 20th Street? I’ll be seeing you soon—-very soon.

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