It’s been a loong time since I’ve seen any of my friends because of my mom’s hospitalization a few weeks earlier and prepping for my upcoming vacation. Julie commented on my blog recently wanted to see me before I’m leaving NYC, I made time last Friday to have dinner with her at 6:30. Almost by default, I’ve brought Helen along because she’s out from work early and can accompany for pre-dinner. (What I mean by “pre-dinner” is consuming food right before dinner just to kill time.)
It was a warm (finally) evening, Helen and I wanted ice cream. We thought of getting coffee but creamy, frozen dairy trumps caffeine during the later hours of the day. Anyway, we took the subway down to Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery. Yes, I know most of your are thinking this place is overrated but I like this place (implicitly, the Momofuku empire) a lot.
When we arrived there, I looked up at the menu boards and spotted the “Coming Soon” section, indicating the possible existence of Arnold Palmer Tea Cake and Cookie Cookie Dough. My eyes were wide open and my mind screamed, “I WANT.” But going back to earth, I’ve made up my mind about getting the Bavarian cream soft serve with banana crumble topping and Helen wanted the chocolate donut soft serve.
Helen’s chocolate donut soft serve tasted like fake chocolate that’s rather chemically or off-tasting. It didn’t really appeal to me. As for herself, she grew to like it. My Bavarian cream soft serve was quite tasty. Smooth, creamy and it tasted like sweet, vanilla cream. The banana crumbles added some crunchy texture that I was looking for with a hint of banana.
As we’re finishing up our soft serves, I was really tempted to eat some relatively new plates next door, Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Helen asked if she wanted me to go and I told her in reply, “If you want to go, we’ll eat there…” She said, “Yeah. Let’s go.” As we’re walking over to Ssäm mind went, “Squee…”
It was early in the evening (it was 6 PM) so it wasn’t that packed. There were two large parties taking over the back and the bar was about half empty. We’ve taken up the four-topper near the window.
Since we’re trying to budget our limited stomach space, Helen and I decided upon two dishes. Thankfully, Helen is open-minded about food, she’s willing to eat offals and we stuck with this theme for this impromptu pre-dinner.
For the first dish, we have the Sichuan beef tendon with green mango and peanuts. I know some of you are disgusted by the idea of eating beef tendon but it’s really good. I like the subtle crunchiness of the tendon and toasted peanuts. The bok choy and green mango that’s in there added a little refreshing, crunch factor. To give the tendon some flavor, there’s cilantro and chili peppers. It’s not as spicy as their spicy rice cakes that cleared my sinuses and made my stomach feel the burn. Thank goodness.
Then we moved on to the roasted foie gras with fig chutney and broiche. This particular preparation is rustic compared to what I encounter from other restaurants. It’s basically two medium-sized chunks of foie pan-roasted until it’s medium rare (it’s slightly pink in the middle), dabbled on with sweet fig chutney and two squares of toasted brioche. It was delicious and arguably for Helen, it was a bit too liver-y tasting than what she would prefer.
After finishing up pre-dinner, we walked down the densely packed, St. Mark’s Place to the newly opened Baoguette Cafe. To those of you who follow NYC food news, this particular establishment was formerly the automat, Bamn! and the Baoguette enterprise is rapidly expanding (they’re opening a larger venue in West Village) probably because of the recent popularity with the banh mi sandwich.
Anyway, Helen and I were kind of regretting eating so much at Momofuku that we’re pretty much at the point of being full while we’re waiting for Julie to come over from work. But we’re still going to eat because we liked what we see on the menu and try to manage to make more stomach space.
When Julie arrived amidst the crowds, hugs were exchanged, and surprisingly told us that she’s not that hungry either; she had a really big lunch that afternoon.
Julie and I are coffee lovin’ gals and we’ve ordered Vietnamese iced coffee. When we both tried our coffee, it was quite strong. It sort of tasted like there’s a bit too much coffee grounds brewed into it and the condensed milk was a bit on the scant side to make it err on the sweet side. It’s not bad but if I want iced coffee, I have other places in mind that does better.
Getting to the meal portion, Helen ordered herself the Pho Special. What came out of their kitchen was the fact that it’s quite a large serving with a lot of meat (as in beef tendon and brisket) than rice noodle. At least, that’s what Helen told me. I’ve only tried the broth and it was very beefy with hints of anise and spice.
As for Julie and I, we ordered their banh mis. I’ve gotten the Baoguette, the classic banh mi, filled with pâté, pork terrine, pickled daikon and carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro. It has a good amount of meat filling that it’s intensely porky and it adds enough salt to the sandwich. The pickled vegetables makes it sweet, tangy and crunchy. Even though, I’m not a huge fan of cilantro it makes a difference for this type of sandwich; it’s pungent enough to stand up to the bold flavors and it gives it an extra something. Julie’s spicy catfish filled with cucumber relish, pickled red onion, honey mustard aioli, and cilantro. The catfish is fresh and moist and I remembered liking the mustard aioli a lot. What made these sandwiches, besides the delicious, flavorful fillings, was the bread. It’s crusty on the outside, soft, moist and fluffy on the inside.
Too bad there isn’t a sandwich shop like Baoguette near my workplace in the Upper East Side. It would make my lunchtime a lot more pleasant (except their table service is kind of rushed and haphazard because she’s split between waiting tables and dealing with the take-out line).
Although we’re all stuffed from our dinner (and pre-dinner for Helen and I), we’re still willing to eat dessert. Since Baoguette’s soft serves were low and the only flavor being served was the durian (which Julie and I are not too fond of that fruit and Helen isn’t familiar), I proposed we go to Dessert Truck since they’re over on 2nd Avenue. As we’ve plowed our way through the crowds on St. Mark’s Place, we waited on line for dessert. Julie and I got dessert but Helen wanted an iced sweet tea from McDonald’s. Yes, that American fast food chain that I would rather die of starvation than eating their food. (I know it sounds elitist but I can’t eat their food. Sorry.)
As gotten on line for her drink, Julie and I took our seats at the nearest table and start snapping photos of desserts. I had the goat cheesecake with rosemary caramel topped with fresh black raspberries and a tuile. It’s arguably my favorite dessert from the Dessert Truck. It’s light and creamy, not much for an intense goat cheese flavor that one normally encounter. The caramel is fluid (as you can tell from the photo above) and oozy with a hint of pine-y rosemary. The black raspberries just added that needed hit of fruity acidity. It’s sooo awesome.
Julie gotten the Dessert Truck’s signature chocolate molten cake. The cake is the other end of the spectrum of what my cheesecake is, it’s dense, gooey and very chocolate-y. It’s best not to eat this when one has a full stomach. Except I force persuaded her to get a dessert since she never tried their stuff. She can survive…maybe.
Except both of us were dying of this issue of a limited stomach space that we’re calling a quits to eating. We failed. Helen urged us to eat but hell, I felt like my stomach was going to burst if I eat another bite of ANYTHING. So, Helen took it upon herself to finish what you see above and that’s not an easy feat if you ate what we went through. Unless you have a bottomless stomach or like my friend, Patrick who has to eat an enormous amount of calories to sustain his weight before he withers before your very eyes…Yes, I envy him. Sorta.
Momofuku Milk & Dessert Bar and Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Avenue (on E 13th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Nightly at St. Mark’s Place & 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10003