Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nagoya Sushi - Westfield New Jersey

This is a little bit of an "aside" post I guess (since this is mostly a Boston blog) but I was visiting my parents in New Jersey this past weekend and got some great pictures of my favorite sushi restaurant. The place is called Nagoya, and it's right near the center of town in Westfield. Westfield is about 30 minutes southwest of New York City and you can take the 113 bus toward Dunellen right to Westfield (stops about two blocks away from Nagoya!)

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Nagoya is family owned and run, and they're open late too for the suburbs (10pm I think?) The food is mainly Japanese, but occasionally we get treated to a few Indonesian treats here and there. I've never actually ordered anything other than the sushi, though my sister has had some of their cooked food and seems to have enjoyed it.

But let me go on about the sushi now. Henry, the owner, has a whiteboard of all the popular "specialty" rolls up in plain sight where adventurous diners can put up their own creations. But beware, only the top 20 stay on the board, the rest are relegated to a separate menu. I actually have a roll of my own creation sitting at #3 on the popularity list, primarily for salmon lovers (pictures later).

Now, Nagoya treats the Westfield crowd so well, that it's hard for me to eat sushi elsewhere. And since my family is there so often, Henry cuts us whichever piece of fish we fancy at the time, whether it be a slice of fatty tuna or getting creative with some of the other rolls offered.

Once, I went there four days in a row.

Anyway, onto the pictures! I ended up splurging on a brand spankin' new DSLR last week and these are the first pictures with it. I'm a photography noob (go figure!) but I'm trying hard to get better at it :P

Salmon Tar-tar

Tuna, Yellowtail, and Salmon Sushi

Squid and Wasabi Tobiko handroll, Salmon, Tuna, Yellowtail sushi, and my special MicroBoston roll:

Closeup on the MicroBoston roll:

Christmas Tobiko

Spicy Yellowtail, Spicy Salmon, Eel/Tamago sushi, and Volcano Erupt Roll:

Closeup on the Volcano Erupt Roll

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weekend Hot Pot!

A couple weeks ago, while it was still cold in Boston (It's been 70 degrees for the past 10 days), we all got together for a traditional family-style hot-pot. I'd only had hot pot one other time previous to this occasion so I was a little unfamiliar, but it doesn't take a long time to catch onto how it works. A bunch of people put a pot of soup on some sort of burner, drop raw food into the boiling broth to cook, and then remove the food and eat it :)

Anyway, there were three different broths : Tom Yum, Miso, and Chicken. As main ingredients, we had the following (not enough meat for me though!) : Squid, Fish balls, Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Watercress, 2 different mushrooms, Clams, 2 types of tofu, taro, tomato, broccoli, chives, cabbage, turnip, and some udon noodles. As you could probably tell, it was a LOT to eat.

Here are the pictures!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shanghai Gate in Allston

Allston is generally pretty well known for its collection of bars, most notably Sunset Tap & Grill (at least to this noob). However, tucked away in the hustle and bustle is a small Shanghainese Restaurant, aptly called Shanghai Gate.

A couple coworkers and friends had told me about this place after I moved to the area and I ended up having takeout one night this past winter, but I had never actually physically been to the restaurant. So a couple weeks ago, a couple buddies were over and we decided we'd give it a shot.

And wow, I was pleasantly surprised with a great meal! I know that all I've posted were positive things about restaurants but really, I just like them that much!

Anyway, we had several different dishes. After sifting through the menu (there are plenty of choices of Americanized Chinese food available like your Orange Chicken or Sesame Beef), we decided on the soup dumplings, smoked fish appetizer, Shanghai rice cakes, Beef & brown sauce, and stir-fried pea pod stems in garlic. The waitress even understood my broken Cantonese!

Of all of the places in Boston to get soup dumplings, these had to have been my favorite. They weren't the biggest dumplings around, but each had just enough soup wrapped expertly with a pork mix. My other favorite was the Shanghai rice cakes. It could use a little more flavor (I liked Gourmet Dumpling House's better) but overall, it was definitely a hit!

We also ended up back there again later that week and had their tilapia w/ ginger/scallions (not steamed which was a bummer but was very well prepared anyway). Also had the Shanghai Rice Cakes again in addition to the Pea Pod Stems and Crispy Beef which was a little greasy for our tastes.

Here are some pictures:

Soup Dumplings

Scallion Pancakes

Pea Pod Stems in Garlic

Shanghai Rice Cakes

Beef in Brown Sauce

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tasty Gourmet - Throwback to the college eats

I ended up in Medford the other day with a buddy for some well-needed tennis and afterwards, stopped by one of our favorite haunts from the college days.

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Tasty Gourmet by definition is a deli, but they make some of the best sandwiches (not to mention some awesome french fries). They also serve, as some of my friends can attest to (story for another time :P), some of the biggest portions I've ever seen. They're even open bright and early for breakfast, where some of their breakfast sandwiches (Ham on the Moon - Ham and egg on toasted bread) are a welcome beginning to the day.

And as is with most restaurants I go to, the staff used to know me by face and name, mainly because of the sheer volume of business I gave them (There's also a funny story about some chowder I got there once - which was good by the way), but they're a friendly sort and they just installed a plasma tv for sit-in diners.

Arizona Chicken Sandwich

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mezzi Rigatoni w/ Meat sauce

I usually end up stir frying something quick during the weekdays for dinner but this time decided on something different this time. Did a little searching and I found this recipe over at Simply Recipes and thought I'd give it a whirl since I had most of the ingredients in the fridge anyway.

The original recipe calls for Penne but I love Rigatoni (not to mention it was in the pantry already) so I substituted that. Also added some more Italian seasoning and a little extra basil.

And as per my mantra, I always cook way too much for leftovers for at least 2-3 more meals :)


Mezzi Rigatoni w/ Meat Sauce

1 pound pasta (use rice pasta for gluten-free version)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (blend of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and savory)
Dash red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (16% fat) ground beef
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 1/2 cups canned chunky tomato sauce (I use the Chunky Tomatoes w/ Basil)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Boil some water, sprinkle a little salt in, and cook the pasta until al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, add the onion, italian seasoning and red pepper flakes into a frying pan and cook for a couple minutes. Then add the thyme, some salt and pepper, and garlic and stir-fry a couple more minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Heat up another pan with some oil. Salt the bottom of the pan and brown the ground meat.
4. Once browned, add the meat in with the onions and the tomatoes. Add basil and sugar and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. Dish and serve with some parsley sprinkled on top.

Here's the link again: Simply Recipes

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mamma Maria - North End

I know this may be horrific, but I actually never physically went to the North End in the 5-6 years I've lived in the Greater Boston area. And frankly, I'm hating myself for it. I'd heard about many delicious places and of the heavenly cannoli at Mike's Pastries (Separate post coming!) but I have no idea why I never got off my lazy backside to visit.

Anyway, I met a few friends for dinner in the North End at their insistence and figured that this would be a great opportunity to test the waters. One of my coworkers suggested that I try out Mamma Maria so with that handy information, we strode boldly through the doors without even looking at the menu!

The restaurant itself is located right off of Hannover Street, the main thoroughfare in the North End. It's build into a multistory building where each floor has seating in a house-like decor, which was very pretty. Initially, the building feels a little cramped (there's not much in the way of waiting space) but once we got upstairs, the restaurant opened right up.

They served us some fresh bread with olives and a pesto spread, which were excellent while we waited in eager anticipation for the main course. And when it arrived, I couldn't be more surprised with how excellent the meal was. It's on the expensive side, for sure, but I guess I didn't know quite what to expect! Pictures below!

Sorry about the blurriness, it was a little dark and couldn't get great pictures :(

The restaurant itself! Early afternoon

Hand Stuffed lobster ravioli:

Sea Bass w/ veggies:

Seafood Pasta (Cod, scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp in a spicy red sauce):

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Soup Dumplings and more at Gourmet Dumpling House

Last Sunday, on a little spur of the moment decision making, a bunch of us headed over to Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown. I'd never been there before, but I was assured that the food was great. And it didn't disappoint!

Gourmet Dumpling House is a pretty small restaurant, probably about 12-15 tables at the most, with only one or two tables that could sit a party of six. We ended up right by the kitchen so the sweet smell of tasty wafted through quite often. The restaurant classifies itself as a blend of Northern and Southern Chinese cuisine which I guess is apparent from the menu (though I think most of the dishes are Cantonese-inspired).

But what we were really here for were the soup dumplings, shown below. These gems are almost like your ordinary dumpling, except when steamed and prepared right, are full of tasty broth! One usually eats with both a spoon and chopsticks as to not lose all of the tastiness but alas, my skills were insufficient and I ruptured at least two, spilling out all the juiciness :(

We also got some rice cake noodles stir fried with vegetables and seafood. I never knew rice cake noodles were available at restaurants in Boston, never really could find a place that served them! I'd only had them in New York City at Joe's Shanghai and I was quite pleased to finally be introduced to a place in Boston that served them. We also got some scallion pancakes and fried oysters. The scallion pancakes were a little doughier than I'm used to (not necessarily a bad thing) and the oysters were great, especially with the seasoning mix that was provided on the side.

Rice Cake Noodle with seafood:

Scallion Pancakes:

Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings:

Pork Soup Dumplings:

Note: I was so excited about the rice cakes that I completely forgot to take I had to use a little artistic freedom to get a "shot" of the whole dish ;)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fresh Corned Beef in Brookline

Ever since I moved into the Coolidge Corner area, I kept getting recommendations to try Michael's Deli on Harvard Street. Unfortunately, they are not open for dinner hours (10 - 5:30 on weekdays : 9 - 3pm on weekends) so I never really had much of a chance to go (not to mention I keep forgetting to on weekends too). But I finally ended up there a couple weekends ago and had to try their famous Corned Beef sandwich.

Michael's is a very small place, more like a deli counter + a few tables for the occasional diner to quickly down a sandwich for lunch but not much more than that. I asked the sandwich guy what his recommendation was for a first-timer and without batting an eye he suggested the Corned Beef on toasted rye with a generous portion of mustard. About 5 minutes later there was a steaming toasted corned beef sandwich sitting before this foodaholic's very eyes. And about 5 minutes after that, I was comfortably into the lean.

I have to say, I haven't really had corned beef often enough to be able to discern between good and bad, but I thoroughly enjoyed this sandwich and well definitely be back soon.

This is the sandwich itself

Here's Michael's, right past Coolidge Corner on Harvard Street

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hei La Moon in Chinatown

I've been to Hei La Moon multiple times over the past year but had the best experience by far a couple weeks ago with my parents. Hei La Moon, like many other Chinese restaurants in the area, serves Dim Sum as well as the more traditional style lunch/dinner fixings.

The restaurant itself is not actually in Chinatown but about a block away from where the gate is located. There are two floors to the restaurant and I ended up downstairs the last few times I was there. The food, while pretty good, sometimes was a little old (sat around for a while I guess), mainly because I'd been there later in the day (noon-1pm). This past time, I was there around 9:45am and we were seated upstairs. The place was actually pretty empty and the food was super fresh! I think I actually ate more than I should have (which isn't saying much because I always pig out at Dim Sum).

Some of the pictures are posted below :)

I'll try my best to describe some of the dishes, but I mostly know only the Chinese name for them :P

Classic Shrimp Dumplings - a Dim Sum must have:

Tofu skin wrapped around chicken, roast pork, mushroom:

Pork, peanut, radish, and other veggies dumpling:


Pork dumplings: