Culturesplosion.

2010 noms and glugs round-up

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Happy New Year! To kick off 2011, I thought I would list some memorable establishments which made my 2010 mighty tasty. In no particular order of awesomeness:

PEGU CLUB (map!) (New York, NY)

NYC may have cocktail bar/speakeasy fever, but this one still stands out among the rest. Pegu Club is a classy place worth dressing up to visit, and they make some dang amazing drinks. My favorite is their Whiskey Smash, a drink you need to close your eyes for and savor slowly. The decor is dim and cozy, and it always has great music in the background (example: the first time I went they played “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2, aka the full version of the Mad Men theme song, how cool is that?). It’s a great place for dates or ladies night out. Get a table for two by the windows overlooking Houston Street and enjoy.

SEOUL GARDEN (map!) (New York, NY)

Located on the second floor of a nondescript building in NYC’s Koreatown, Seoul Garden isn’t an obvious place people can pass by on the street. Yet for some reason, it is always packed every night with diners hungry for the good stuff. The photo above doesn’t do justice to the kind of spread that you can get at this place. I mean, that assortment of banchan you see above is but a MERE NIBBLE compared to the real dishes that await. I’m talking about the soontofu stew that is one of my perpetual favorites. Crack a raw egg in that bubbling hot bad boy and prepare yourself for the most intense flavor rush ever. This is like tofu riding a Harley-Davidson. For real. Can you tell that I am excited about this dish? You should go try it.

UDON WEST (map!) (New York, NY)

Their website is kind of silly, but Udon West is the place for Japanese comfort food of great quality (AND for a very inexpensive price!). Tucked away on east 46th street, it’s an authentic place for salarymen and locals to get some excellent chewy udon noodles or curry rice dishes. They have a good selection of tasty appetizers as well. I’ve been a customer for lunch, dinner, and takeout and have never been disappointed with their food. I’m looking forward to summer again when they serve their “stamina udon”, a cold noodle dish with natto and okra. Sounds weird, tastes great.

PICKLES PUB (map!) (Baltimore, MD)

Why no food picture? Because every time we went there, we started eating the food so fast when it arrived that I never had time to bust out the camera before there were bitten-off chunks missing out of everything! It’s that good. I’m not sure how to describe what makes this place special, but it’s a memorable spot that I really enjoyed this year. Conveniently located near Camden Yards, hotels, and the convention center, Pickles Pub is a fab little place in Baltimore. Go there with friends, take advantage of their drink specials, and dig into a mountain of wings. You won’t regret it.

MAIALINO (map!) (New York, NY)

If you want good Italian food you need to come to Maialino. The moment you walk in you will feel like “this is the place to eat something amazing.” I mean, come on, look at this prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella! It tastes as good as it looks, and that’s just a starter! The pasta is great, the wine is great, the service is great. This is a place I know I’ll keep coming back to, AND, they will still seat you for dinner on Fri/Sat at 10pm. So if you’re a crazy New Yorker with a ridiculous schedule and a hankering for Italian, this is the place for you (plus you probably won’t have to wait for a table, double points!).

ONYA (map!) (New York, NY)

Anyone who knows me knows that noodles are one of my favorite foods, so I was head-over-heels when Onya opened up. Until then, there was no restaurant in NYC to my knowledge that focused solely on handmade udon noodles. We have many excellent temples to the gods of ramen in this city, and even a couple for soba, but not udon. Onya totally nails the noodle-making art form and has filled my empty tummy on many many occasions. I recommend the classic sanuki udon + tempura combo. Their tempura selection is totally wild. Tempura soft-boiled egg? Tempura melon slice? I could eat their tempura squid forever. If you go for lunch, the line goes out the door. At dinnertime, it turns into a cute sit-down restaurant. Either way, a great place to dine.

HIGHLANDS (map!) (New York, NY)

This place arrived at just the right time. Having been hankering for some good Scottish food (i.e., haggis!) after a recent trip to Edinburgh where I was introduced to the local cuisine, Highlands served up exactly what I needed. Half bar, half restaurant, this cozy west village establishment features some excellent scotch-based drinks. Their signature “Blood & Sand”, along with the “Iron Queen”, pictured above, tasted amazing and totally lived up to their reputation. Of course, their haggis (a rare find in NYC) was absolutely fabulous too, served in the classic style with “neeps and tatties” (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes). If you are squeamish about this dish, it is time to overcome the fear, because you are totally missing out. Believe me when I tell you that it is delicious. Thank you, Highlands.

27 SUNSHINE (map!) (New York, NY)

OMG DIM SUM. This is the kind of food that will get me emotional, it is so good. And 27 Sunshine is, in my opinion, the best place to get it in Manhattan’s Chinatown. With ladies still pushing steamer carts and hoards of people jostling by the entrance to get a table, it is a crowded, hectic, and totally worth-it experience. Hargow, shumai, char siu bao, tripe, chicken feet, shrimp roll, spring roll, congee, malay cake, tofu fah, ahhhhhh!! Don’t think, just eat. I promise, no matter how much you stuff your face, the bill at the end will still be surprisingly small.

DELICATESSEN (map!) (New York, NY)

This is my go-to place for brunch. The prices are good, the food is delicious (I mean, just look at that photo…yummm), and I think it’s just a great airy place to spend a late Sunday morning. I feel like I always end up having good conversations with friends at Delicatessen, and it totally doesn’t hurt to have Soho right outside for a little post-brunch shopping excursion.

THE PLOUGH & THE STARS (map!) (Philadelphia, PA)

I think the Plough & the Stars made me love Philly. On a freezing cold night in December, we made our way to this bar & restaurant and had an amazing time with drinks (their beer selection was top-notch) by a toasty fireplace. Located in a restored historically preserved Corn Exchange Building, it looked like the inside of an ornate bank and was decorated beautifully for Christmas. There was also live Irish music! Definitely a highlight of the holiday season.

HONORABLE MENTION: CABBAGETOWN MARKET (map!) (Atlanta, GA)

I had the great honor this year of visiting Cabbagetown Market, which served up totally to-die-for food. Introduced to me by a dear friend, this little luncheonette and shop was run by a couple of really cool people who had serious talent for food-making. I was sorry to find out that they have since closed this place, but hope that one day they will try again. Meanwhile, the vivid memory of the Vietnamese summer roll and “snappy dog” (pictured above) I had on my visit will will remain with me forever.

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