Ganso: Japanese Comfort Food Perfection

As someone who writes about food, I’m always thrilled to hear of a cookbook author opening a restaurant.

I find the idea that a writer who has invested time and sweat in mastering a cuisine has the guts to apply some of that knowledge and passion to a restaurant setting hugely inspiring. And so when I heard that Harris Salat, the fabulous author of several terrific Japanese cookbooks, had opened a little ramen shop in Brooklyn in September, I knew I had to stop in.

On a recent drizzly night — perfect weather for a hot bowl of noodle soup — it seemed like the time had come. So, we bundled up tightly and headed over to Ganso

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Pok Pok NY: Thai, By Way of Portland

The thing I adore about traveling is discovering a terrific restaurant — a place with dishes so delicious that just the memory of them, even months later, gets you instantly salivating.

Of course, the downside to this is your immense sadness over the fact that you won’t be able to sample those flavors until you travel back there again.

Which is why I just about had a fit when I heard that Portland, Ore., chef Andy Ricker was opening Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn.

Now, I had the great fortune of dining at Pok Pok in Portland not once but twice last year thanks to my book travels — Ricker’s Thai and Southeast Asian noodle dishes tantalized; his intensely flavorful crispy fried chicken wings were seared in my memory. Each time I left I found myself wishing he had a branch in New York.

And then, a few weeks ago, it happened …

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Singapore Day: Blood, Eggs and Noodles

If I’ve been a little silent, it’s because I’ve run off and joined the police.

Alright, you got me. The last time I inspected a knife that seriously was when I was trying to hack my way through a brisket and wondering if it needed sharpening.

What you’re seeing above is one of my favorite mystery writers S.J. Rozan and me getting a close look at a faux crime scene set up by the Singapore police force at Singapore Day in Brooklyn a few weekends ago.

The day-long festival, which first came to New York City in 2007, is a day-long celebration of all things Singapore — the government there flies in actors, singers and even recruiters with jobs in hand.

All of this is fine and good — but what we really came for that day? Food — glorious hawker dishes from only the best little stalls you’ll find in Singapore …

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Peaches: Comforting Southern

It’s hard to resist a challenge when you read in the papers of a Southern restaurant owner boasting that his spicy fried chicken is so hot that it “will kick you in your face and make you cry.”

Anyone who’s been to Singapore or sampled real Singaporean food knows that my people don’t shy away from spice. My mother, in fact, has been observed eating the tiniest, spiciest raw chilis– like candy.

So when the sister was in town recently, we immediately set off to see what all this making you cry business was all about.

With Singaporean blood coursing through us, this chicken couldn’t possibly take us. No, we would take it.

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Hanco’s (Brooklyn Heights): Finally, Pho

As you may have read on this blog, I live in something of a gastronomic wasteland.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore Brooklyn Heights and its picturesque streets and 19th century brownstones. What it does not possess, however, is more than two really good places to have a meal.

So when a new sign went up on the neighborhood’s main street recently, we all began watching the storefront’s papered-up windows with great anticipation. On Sunday, the paper finally came off and Hanco’s, a little Vietnamese sandwich and pho shop was in business. Would it present a third viable option for good food? We immediately got in a very long line to find out …

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Jake’s Wayback Burgers: New Burgers On The (Brooklyn) Block

Burgers are my big, decadent cheat.

When I’m too tired to cook and there are no dinner plans on the horizon, my neighborhood Five Guys Burgers is my instant best friend.

And so it was with great excitement that I read about a new burger joint opening near my Brooklyn neighborhood this spring — Jake’s Wayback Burgers, a chain that began as Jake’s Hamburgers in 1991 in Newark, Del., and in 2010 changed its name to brand itself as a throwback to a time before “frozen hockey-puck burgers” or celebrity chefs “selling overpriced burgers for $20 at their upper-crust burger boutiques,” so says its Web site. Now, having had some of these types of burgers — and enjoyed them very much — I was curious to see how a chain that slams other burger purveyors would make its own.

So, on a recent afternoon, we set off to see how this bygone burger would taste …

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Colonie: Style Over Substance

Saturday night in Brooklyn Heights and the unthinkable finally happened.

Striking up a conversation at the new restaurant Colonie with a group of people who were kitted out with the glaring symbols of current New York hipster-ness — the plaid shirt, the Bear-like beard, the professorial Mad Men-style glasses — we discovered that they were, as suspected, definitely not of the staid stroller-central that is Brooklyn Heights.

No, this group hailed from Williamsburg, home of the impossibly fashion-forward and often sneering of other lesser neighborhoods. Not only that, they had traveled to Brooklyn Heights because they had heard of Colonie and were curious to check it out — quite possibly marking the first time that a restaurant in my neighborhood has garnered the level of buzz to encourage this type of stunning reverse migration.

The anticipation of Colonie’s opening has been palpable for months. For starters, the restaurant smartly began generating chatter about its plans by raising more than $15,000 on Kickstarter last fall to obtain “sexy kitchen appliances, beautiful pendant lamps, and cool tiles for the wall.” By the time the restaurant finally removed the paper shrouding its glass doors in February, locals (and out of towners) began packing its sleek bar stools right away.

Would it live up to the hype? We were keen to find out …

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Yemen Cuisine: A Lovely Taste of Yemen in Brooklyn

It’s highly likely that if you were to look up mentions of Yemen Cuisine online, you might just end up never going to this little Brooklyn eatery.

“This place is a total dump,” reads one Yelp review. “Dingy” and “food all over the table and floors” pop up in other accounts.

Many of the best meals I’ve had have taken place in locales of questionable hygiene, however.  In fact, in Singapore, where I’m originally from, if you’re dining at a hawker center (essentially an outdoor food court) the spiffier the place, the more you should be suspicious. Anyone who has to rely on such bells and whistles as unsticky seats and clean tables, after all, clearly is making up for his lackluster food.

So when a friend who’s an intrepid traveler and eater suggested meeting at Yemen Cuisine for lunch, I was undeterred …

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Red Hook Lobster Pound: Maine, Transported


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It's never easy for me to admit that summer's over.

Once 70-degree temperatures take hold, nostalgia for those seemingly endless sweltering days and salty breezes at the beach sets in. This tropical Singapore girl starts yearning for spring, which is just too many months away.

This year, however, the husband — looking out for his own mental well-being, no doubt — has a solution for the seasonal bitchiness moodiness. "The new seating area at the Red Hook Lobster Pound appears to be open," he says one day. 

Instantly, the air brightens. As soon as we can plan it, we're on a bus to Red Hook, racing toward a lunch of lobster rolls, plump and buttery…

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Hotel Delmano: The Last Toast of Summer


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Labor Day weekend in the City and it can feel as if the world has fled to the beach.

For the less privileged, this is prime playtime in New York, however — packed restaurants are emptier, exclusive bars suddenly become accessible.

With Hurricane Earl nowhere in sight, the sky is a saturated cerulean; a light breeze cuts through the waning warmth. We are in Williamsburg, my writer friend Mr. B and I, for an afternoon of nursing our disappointments at not being at a beach ourselves. But mostly, to catch up on this Writing thing that we do.

“I want you to check out this bar,” he says, “I think you’d really like it.”

And so we find ourselves sliding into seats outside the Hotel Delmano, watching the too-hip rompers and ankle boots and tousled-just-so hairdos amble by.

The thing here is the cocktails. It’s mid-afternoon — but a holiday weekend, we reason — so we decide to oblige …

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