Before leaving my beloved Manhattan to move to Tokyo, I had to stay at the Waldorf Hotel and try the iconic Waldorf Salad. It was one of the many quintessential New York things I did before moving away. It’s funny how I lived in SF, LA and NY but was rarely a tourist in my own city.
The hotel itself is old and crumbling with gaudy, outdated decor. The rooms are old and the bathrooms are small and almost motel-like. For a luxury hotel, it sure didn’t seem like one. To be frank, I didn’t like it at all. (The Waldorf Towers though, are stunning.)
The salad is served in the cafe like dining room right next to the lobby. I think it’s called The Peacock Lounge (sorry, too lazy to Google). I of course order the salad and was eager to finally taste this legendary dish I grew up reading about in many books and magazines.
It was weird.
I was a bit taken back by the peas but then again, I have a strained relationship with peas. We also ordered the tartare. It was also weird. Both had a lot of mayonnaise.
Eating the Waldorf Salad and staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is one of those ‘things to do only once in a life’ experiences 😉
Smoked tofu. It’s okay if you wrinkle your nose. If I wasn’t Japanese, I probably wouldn’t touch it either. I’m not a vegan, vegetarian, glucose-lactose-whatever free and eat rich, fatty foods – no problem. But just like smoked edamame I see smoked tofu in Japanese pubs and bars a lot.
When properly executed, the texture is a luxurious cream, the consistency reminiscent of a Brie. The flavor profile is versatile and pairs perfectly with a nutty miso or with the touch of heat from yuzu koshō. I can’t get enough of smoked tofu and I hope it’s a trend I start seeing abroad.
Yum. Love Japan so much.
Bonus: a photo of Ginza near the bar from the above photo. Only because Tokyo is so photogenic.
Saizeria is a Denny’s like chain restaurant in Japan, where the food is ultra cheap. Edible, as it is a Japanese establishment, but everything on the menu is most likely highly processed pre-packaged foods, zapped in some sort of super oven with bionic rays of light that resurrects the ingredients into consumable states.
The interior of every Saizeria mirrors the photo from above: dingy yellow halogen lights shines down on the food making them look even more unappetizing. Rickety turtle green chairs and booths that look like leftovers from a 70’s porn set.
So when I heard a rumor they had a hidden wine list, I of course had to check it out. Lo and behold…
This is only part of their menu as I got busted for taking photos but they have Barolos for 7,500 yen (apprx: USD$70) and even a Grappa. What in the world?
Why anyone would come here and eat their cheap crap foods with expensive wines is beyond me.
April Bloomfield is the beloved chef/owner of some of my favorite places in NYC. The Spotted Pig a delightful comfort food restaurant tucked away in the West Village of NYC, funky fun restaurant serving intense games: The Breslin (their lamb burger is amazing!) and John Dory Oyster Bar (incredible happy hour deals) — the latter both inside the Ace Hotel.She also recently opened Tosca Cafe, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco.
When I stumbled onto her recipe for Welsh Rarebit while watching The Mind of a Chef of course I had to share. Welsh Rarebit is this melted cheese sauce over toast and boy, is it delicious. (I took notes from the video but silly me, when I googled, it turns out she shared her recipe)
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Cook until mixture starts to turn a light brown. Pour in the Guinness in a slow, steady stream and whisk as you go, to avoid lumps. Add the mustard powder, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
Bring the mixture up to a simmer. Add the grated cheese to the pan and stir until the cheese is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
Once smooth, remove from the heat, pour into a shallow container and allow to set.
Once set, spread the mixture onto each piece of toast, and place in the oven under the broiler setting. Cook until cheese is bubbling and starts to get golden brown in some parts. Serve immediately.
*I modified it a bit — put less Worcestershire and only a sprinkle of cayenne because I prefer a touch of heat and spice vs a more prominent punch.
**Make sure the bread is loaf of rustic bread that is stretchy, hole-y with a crisp crust (ex: the center pieces from a round loaf cut in half)
It’s impossible for any cook, any chef, to visit Japan, be exposed to the positively fetishistic appreciation of ingredients, the perfectionist approach to technique, the mind boggling sheer volume of variety of good stuff to eat without being changed forever.
You leave Japan a better cook or, you give up cooking all together.
Japan tends to focus the mind in wonderful, new ways.”
— Anthony Bourdain
Thank you Chef, for the constant praise of my country, nation, culture, people.
wd~50 in NYC was one of the very first U.S. restaurants that served molecular gastronomy. Sadly they closed in 2014 but memories of the Clinton St. icon still lives on. Chef Wylie Dufresne owner and chef of wd~50 is still one of the highly respected chefs of the world.
I was looking through photos from one of my U.S. iPhones and came across these I took on one of my many visits. In 2011? 2012? ish, the exact year eludes me, but I learned through a restaurant industry friend that you can sit at their bar and order two dishes from their prix fixe. The tasting menus were regularly priced $225 (not including alcohol). The bar was $25 for two dishes, $15 for additional plates. Seriously, best deal ever.
After I learned this, I ate through a lot of their tasting menus that way — ghetto, I know. But wd~50’s food was very intense and there was no way I could eat 11-12 courses of heavy food.
Anyway, the point of this post is that if you search and ask enough questions, there are many fine dining establishments that offer similar deals.
Some may argue that dining should be an experience and how diners like me ruin Chef’s visions, etc., etc., but what Chef Wylie did, was make his food accessible to picky eaters who wanted to taste his food and also to those who couldn’t afford to indulge in expensive meals. And if you don’t like it — don’t do it!
Sigh, things like this makes me really miss the U.S.
If you happen to know deals like this in and around your city, do please share!
More food photos after the jump — in case you’re interested.
Cherry blossom season has ended and Japan is entering summertime which means the onslaught of summer only snacks slowly hit the shelves. Japan is into seasonal offerings, not only in our food but junk food as well. I commend the labs of these companies that come up with new flavors year after year, season after season.
Pocky and Kit-Kat flavors are usually delicious but some of the other snacks are just weird.
The other day I stumbled onto a used bookstore down the street I walk down almost daily. Turns out, it wasn’t that I was oblivious to my surroundings, this used bookstore is open only twice a week during an odd chunk of hours. It almost seems like the owners have this shop as a hobby, more so than a business. Which is only one of the many reasons I love Tokyo so much. I make new discoveries all. the. time.
Anyway, I walked in and immediately found two food books (one on pickling and another dedicated to chicken karaage) I picked up for $3 USD! Sadly, I was on my way to an onsen get-away so I didn’t want to carry too many heavy books with me. But there were so many books I wanted (I’m addicted to retro cookbooks). Can’t wait to return.
It’s incredible how Japan has so many books, magazines and resources dedicated to food — usually focusing on one topic. There are hundreds of books dedicated to ramen, soba, sushi, French, Italian, haute-cuisine…on and on introducing restaurants and even food stands of Japan. They are also broken down by region, major cities down to neighborhoods and areas. Food is so ingrained in our culture and beings. The amount of knowledge is seriously neverending.