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The Chairman

The Chairman was nothing like I thought it would be.
That name, right? As pointed out in the Times' recent Yunnan Kitchen review, locally sourced,
organic products haven't been adopted by Chinese restaurants in NYC the way
that other cuisines have. The same is true in China, itself, and by extension, Hong

So, when I read about free-range chicken from The
New Territories and soy sauce brewed in Kowloon, I pictured communal salvaged
wood tables, subway tiles and cocktail programs because I've been in Brooklyn
too long.

The chairman upstairs

In reality, The Chairman is just a restaurant, a
little upscale, neither flashy nor run-down (crab art on the walls!) with good service (shockingly
affable for Hong Kong) slightly away from the hubbub of Long Fai Kwong at the
end of a quiet street with no outlet.

The absence of abalone and shark's fin on the menu
(they'll make them if you want them) also gave me pause, in a good way. I almost skipped The Chairman due to my ambivalence
about Cantonese food, particularly on the higher end. Status markers like the aforementioned
duo plus XO sauce and birds nests aren't for me, and the austere purity of a
double boiled soup or barely sweetened desserts teeming with legumes are above
my head. I can't appreciate a glossy arranged plate of mushrooms and bok choy

Normally I hate over-explainers, but it was a
novelty for a Chinese restaurant. The service was unusual (they also accommodated a last-minute switch to Sunday night–many HK restaurants are closed on Sundays–when a travel snafu caused me to miss my original Saturday night reservation) in that our server,
an older gentleman with a British name, seemed genuinely excited about the
food,  describing everything and being
helpful by suggesting half portions unprompted when we showed interest in items
that would've been too big for two.

We just had tea, in other words, no drinks, which is unusual for me at dinner on vacation, but I
don't travel well and it was that thing where you're so tired that drinking has
no effect (I'd had Sazeracs beforehand at no-vowel, kind of pricey, The Blck Brd,
which was in a more Brooklyn vein, oh, and four hours of unlimited champagne at the Intercontinental brunch).

The chairman smoked baby pigeon with longjing tea & chrysanthemum

Our baby pigeon was missing its head, an omission that
may have been intentional to protect our delicate Western sensibilities (photos
I've seen online are beak and all). Headless or not, the little crisp bird was
smoked with longjing tea and served with pickled onions, a non-Cantonese touch
that balanced some of the richness. There was also a chrysanthemum component,
though it blurred with the green tea flavor (also, I don't know what the flower
tastes like).

The chairman fresh flowery crab with aged shaoxing wine & fragrant chicken oil

Fresh flowery crab with aged shaoxing wine and  fragrant chicken oil is a signature dish, and
rightfully impressive–look at that face. The mottled crustacean arrives assembled
but already cracked, behind ripples of fat rice noodles. Not an easy chopstick
dish. The sauce was strongly winey yet still smooth, pleasingly bitter and
borderline fermented, just a little funk, almost like nothing I'd tasted before…almost,
half-way through I realized it reminded me of fondue if fondue could be
creamless. If your eyes were closed, I'm not sure that you'd recognize this
dish as Chinese. Combined with the flakes of crab meat and the noodles, it was
like the idealized seafood pasta I never actually get from an Italian
restaurant.  I was resisting my American
urge to clean my plate and trying to be more New York by leaving noodles behind
to save room for the rest of the meal (four-hour brunch, remember) but they
wouldn't clear our plate. The remainders started getting cold. The staff seemed
concerned. Eventually our server came over and divvied up the uneaten noodles and
scraped the roe clinging to the crab shell onto our plates. Rookies.

The chairman stir-fried snap beans with mushrooms

We would've felt guilty not ordering vegetables.
There were like fifty different types of mushrooms–that bacon-looking blob is
fungi–and freshly shelled peas in this dish.

The chairman braised spareribs with preserved plums in caramelized black vinegar

This is a half-order (they were bigger than they appear
here) of the spareribs coated in caramelized black vinegar and preserved plums
and garnished sweet potato chips. It's a fancy sweet and sour sauce, and
therefore, pretty lovable.

This was one of my favorite meals during my quick
stint in Hong Kong because the food and approach, a mix of humble and high-brow
with an emphasis on ingredients over glitz,  isn't really like any restaurant I've
experienced there.

The Chairman * 18 Kau U Fong, Hong Kong

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Shrimp Heads, Downtown Ramen, Bitters-Free Manhattans

Allswell trio

Allswell. Being open till 11pm is not late night dining, not
in NYC anyway, and it's always bothered me, especially on weeknights when maybe
you want to go out to eat at 10:45pm and the pickings are beyond slim.  Allswell serves real food until 3am, not
whole menu, but it's something.  These
hyper-crispy head-on shrimp in a Meyer lemon sauce and duck rillettes were
pre-midnight, normal menu items. The burger, fat and meaty (with cheddar and
bacon, both add-ons) and perfectly pink inside, can be had any time. The fries
were an abomination, though, if you hate wet and oily thick-cut fries like I
do. Steak fries are the bane of my existence. That's the worst part about pub
burgers, which this appears to be emulating.  Bring a friend who likes fat, mushy fries (they
exist!) and let them go wild.

Ganso trio

Ganso. With ramen I often give the same disclaimer I use
with barbecue: I'm neither a fanatic or expert. Obviously, I like both and have
opinions, but I can't speak to what a broth's correct flavor should be or the
specific pH of mineral water needed to produce the ultimate noodles. Frankly, I
just like that there is a ramen shop in that odd pocket of downtown Brooklyn
near the IHOP. The short rib buns weren't anything remarkable, and a little
mesclun-y (I did not try the short rib ramen pictured, but love the idea that
each broth receives a different noodle, subtle and thoughtful) but the spicy
miso ramen with thinly sliced pork belly, Chinese broccoli and a soft-boiled,
soy-infused egg was winsome, if not a little gut-busting (I always find that
Asian noodle soups of this size put me into a coma). I will be even more happy
about Ganso being there when it becomes cold enough to better appreciate the
ramen's warming and filling properties.

Mayflower. A miniscule moderately new bar affiliated with neighboring
Aita, a corner Italian restaurant I may never visit because I rarely eat
Italian food (unless you count pizza). Some might call it a speakeasy (signage
was recently added). Jonathan Ames was there on a date, at least I think so, I
don't like staring at people. The bartenders (who can get overwhelmed when at
capacity) are weird about bitters: on one visit none were used in a Manhattan,
on the other I was asked whether or not I wanted them used. Would it
be too hyperbolic to say that a Manhattan without bitters is not a Manhattan? Still like the place.

Along with Prospect, it's one of two new upscale restaurants to open
on Fulton Street. I figured I should try one of them, and the main reason The
Wallace won out because it was slightly less expensive (entrees in the low $20s
vs. high $20s–now that I live in new shiny condo, no complaints, I'm going
broke buying things like shades for ten-foot-high windows). There's nothing
radical going on, food-wise or with the decor (one might get the impression
this was another tin ceilings, Edison bulb joint, but the interior is oddly
generic like it could've been a suburban Italian restaurant in a previous
life–ok, it was Caribbean) just solid, well-seasoned New American dishes with French
foundations like crispy pork belly on a bed of lentils with braised greens, the
latter an unexpected slight Southern twist, and tilefish with a potato gratin and
beurre blanc tinged with saffron. Manhattans are on the cocktail list and bitters are used, no question.

Il Porto. When I was assigned to review this Italian/pizza
place for
after it opened a few years ago, I thought it was in the
middle of nowhere. I guess it still is, though now that I live down the street and
that the scary-seeming (not just to me) Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge has been
gutted and looks like any generic storefront for sale, the block seems less
isolated and off-putting. With that said, it's not a destination unless you're
already in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. The wood-fired pizza is pretty good
(arugula, prosciutto and parmesan is popular) though the floury, barely charred
and nearly flaky crust that I happen to like probably isn't the pinnacle of
Neapolitan pie-making.

The Sweet By and By

Bangkok has more than a few strange businesses-naming trends (I’ll save Something Story, as in Fat Story, the bluntly ESL plus-size shop in the now-gone Suan Lum Night Bazaar, for another time). The most prominent is Something by Someone (Caffe Nero by Black Canyon Coffee, as pictured here in the background of The Pizza Company). I’m not sure if this has to do with the way the Thai language is translated to English or a desire to sound

By pharmacist

If you spend enough time trolling Sukhumvit’s endless malls (a touristy strip that’s starting to rival Singapore’s Orchard Road) instead of doing whatever it is you’re supposed to do in Bangkok you may learn an interesting thing or two.  (Like if you want to see The Dark Knight Rises, you’ll first have to stand and watch a video about the king’s life while the royal–not the national!– anthem plays. Also, the US may be the only country without assigned movie seating.)

Food-wise, Siam Paragon has Amici by PomodoroAnother Hound by Greyhound Cafe, Coffee Beans by Dao, Ice Glace by Mr. Shake and L’Espace by Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.

Terminal 21 long escalator

Terminal 21, the airport-themed shopping center that’s probably bigger than some actual airports (with a harrowingly long escalator that I blame for making me anxious and  caused me to put a sample frosty taupe nail polish on my lips, thinking it was gloss) has an astonishing array of Something by Somebodies, though only two, the ones I’ve linked to, are food establishments.

Hers by Sopida
Stella by Jolie Robe
Yourburry By Aew
Jikkaroo by Hara
Chichi By One Bed Room
Squeeze By Tipco
Krit By VolumeX
Yamato By Yu-Raku-Cho
21 by aoom
OPA by Apinya
New Sky By Medicos
Three Design By Prayong
Yentafo Krueng Songe By A.Mallika
BB Center By Zirtel
Bar Phone by Duet

Fat by fat

And the crowning glory: Fat by Fat!

Ladyphat shop

Just around the corner from LadyPhat (which doesn’t fit the By theme but is glorious, nonetheless).

The Pizza Company

Pizza Hut gets a lot of play online because the
company's path to success in other countries appears to be paved with stuffed
crusts and other novelties.


Pizza hut 12 cones pizza

They were doing the shrimp cone thing on my
previous visit to Bangkok in 2010.

Pizza hut promo

This time? I'm not sure. Is a soft floppy crust that exciting? I may be missing the point of this promo.

This time I wanted a taste of the homegrown, and
that meant The Pizza Company. It's the Thai Pizza Hut. This particular branch was in the MBK mall, others are delivery-and-takeout-only. (There are alternatives
to American imports. Black Canyon, for instance, is the local chain that
competes with Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.)

Pizza company pad kee mao spaghetti

Pizzas and pastas are equally popular; combos are
available and most parties order both. 
Seafood and spice both play major roles, as shown in the pad kee mao spaghetti,
a logical fusion of drunken noodles with Western pasta. This was not bad.

Pizza company personal pan pizza

Pan pizzas are called "personal" in the US
for obvious reasons. The diminutive though bready quarters are meant for one.
In Thailand it is suggested for up to two diners. Two slices of shrimp,
mussels, fake crab, pineapple and chiles on thousand island dressing is
probably more than enough for most Americans anyway.

Pizza company bubblegum sparkling drink

I don't know what the ketchup was intended for. Also note the turquoise Bubblegum Sparkling beverage. Caffe Nero glowing in the background is a Black Canyon offshoot. Offshoots are big.

Pizza company mbk

Do not be fooled by the old white guy (this was also
the only place where I encountered American Spanish-speakers in two weeks in SE
Asia and the Middle East) The Pizza Company is just as popular with Thais as

The Pizza Company * Multiple Locations, Bangkok, Thailand


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Hello, Myrtle Avenue

I took so many photos at Sapolo that I decided to
give it its own post.

Chinantla. I'm excited to have what feels like a
secret taqueria (there is a full-on restaurant in the back of this bodega, not
just a counter with a seat or two) only six blocks away. Mini-chains Calexico
and Oaxaca have their fans, but they just weren't cutting it for me. The pork
enchilada (as in chile sauced, not the dish with the name) probably wasn't the
wisest pick. The meat was pounded to schnitzel thinness and sauteed till lifeless
and tough enough to start bending the flimsy metal knife I was given. With a big
scoop of refried beans, mountain range of Mexican rice and slices of avocado
and nopales, it was a lot of food for $9, though. I'll definitely return for
something simpler and more fool-proof because I want this place to be good.

Tepango trio

Tepango. is four blocks closer to me and courts a
broader audience with things like hard shell tacos and what they call a Super
Taco, a $5 fat rolled corn tortilla filled with meat and enrobed melted cheese
like a taco-burrito-quesadilla hybrid. These are just regular $2 tacos, the al
pastor sweet with lots of pineapple chunks and grilled onions. They deliver,
but it's worth stopping by in person to see the hand-drawn anime and fantasy
Aztec art that decorates the walls.

Zaytoons pitza

Zaytoons. The only Carroll Gardens/Clinton Hill
crossover, I think, and not the only neighborhood Middle Eastern choice (Damas
Falafel House still needs to assessed). It's byob, five mezzes are only $8.50
(I'm always impressed with how good the boring sounding lentils and rice,
moujadarra, is–it must be all the oily fried onions mixed in) and while maybe
melted cheese and lamb weren't meant to go together, I often end up with a shawarma

Maggie Brown. There's nothing really notable about
this solidly neighborhood restaurant/bar (there is nearly an equal amount of
small space devoted to eating as drinking). The burger is pretty solid
(medium-rare is honored) and there's a nice backyard. My only knowledge of
Maggie Brown up until now was when it got the Under $25 treatment eight years
, and I was surprised to see a Clinton Hill restaurant making The Times. It
still feels a little 2004, which is to say good enough for a transitional area
but not in line with the current crop of new nearish restaurants (Lulu &
Po, The Wallace, Prospect). And that's ok.

Clinton hill white castle

White Castle. For the second time in my NYC
existence, I live a block from a White Castle. This time it's directly across
the street and the view I'm treated to when peeking over the terrace. I don't
think I will ever be tempted by the sign advertising their new parfaits, but
the also-new jalapeno and cheese sliders (I have not been wild enough to try
the version with crispy fried onions yet) are not a bad 94-cent snack for those
who dig gooey processed cheese and chiles as much as I do. I hope this doesn't
become a habit.


Cheesecake Factory Westbury

At the Westbury Cheesecake Factory nothing was as it
seemed or should be.


Cheesecake factory vietnamese tacos

The Vietnamese Tacos were buns.

Cheesecake factory kale salad

The kale salad was frisee and radicchio with a few errant celery
leaves. I was just curious how kale would play in the suburbs, and apparently,
it doesn't. I ordered it because I like sweets and nuts with my roughage and this
one also contained dried cranberries, apple and marcona almonds (at least those
were legit).

Cheesecake factory crab rangoon

I would be surprised if the crispy crab wontons,
a.k.a. crab rangoon, contained real crab meat, but that's not the point. Fried
cream cheese is.

Cheesecake factory white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake

The macadamia white chocolate cheesecake (recommended
my our server and nearly the highest-calorie cheesecake on the list–I would
tell you just how much but nutritional info isn't on the site) was kind of a blondie
with stuff on it. Ok, it was a cheesecake–and a damn fine one if you like violently sweet desserts.

At least my martini, The Well-Mannered Dirty Martini,
was a martini, the only non-sugared choice of the ten on offer. Most chain
restaurant cocktail menus will throw in one drink with blue cheese-stuffed olives
to appease sweet-resistant fat-lovers. (I love cloying desserts–see above–but hate sweet beverages.)

And I must say that the suburbs are for spacious booths,
not two-seaters inches from a banquette of birthday partiers playing music
aloud on their phones. I could stay in NYC for that experience.  When our server mysteriously disappeared for
what seemed like a universe in chain time, we contemplated up and leaving for
Grand Lux Cafe down the road–it's supposed to be classier, right? I will have
to get to the bottom of how once town can have both a Cheesecake Factory and a
Grand Lux Cafe when so many others have to do without.

Cheesecake Factory * 1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury,


Unlike Lulu and Po or Do or Dine, which I can't
technically claim as part of my new neighborhood (they're three and two blocks
outside the Clinton Hill borders, respectively) Sapolo firmly counts. In fact, it's
one of the first restaurants I noticed because it's kind of hard to miss. A
late night favorite with the patrons of Myrtle Avenue doormen clubs, Bamboo and
SoCo (ostensibly a restaurant) and mulleted Pratt students sipping cocktails
the color of  jordan almonds, Sapolo also
represents a dying NYC breed, the sit-down Chinese-American restaurant.

Sapalo interior

And then they also serve "Spanish" food,
oh, and piña coladas in to-go cups. It's a lot to take in.

Sapolo wontons

And to digest, portion-wise. Of course, you're first
brought wontons and duck sauce to nibble on while pondering the list of
cocktails ranging from the classic Singapore Sling to the notorious Nutcracker while
checking out your zodiac on the paper placemat.

Saplo general tso chicken combo

Combos are designed for value with a big butte of
fried rice (with substantial chunks of chicken or roast pork) and classics like
the General Tso chicken pictured. This is not a poor representation of the genre
and easily a notch above corner takeout style. The brown sauce was not overly
corn-starched and gloppy and while it was sweet as one would expect, there was
actual spice. I was tempted to eat more than half the serving, which any sane
person would get wrapped up to go.

Sapolo egg roll

The eggroll comes on its own plate with a steak

Sapolo signage

Honestly, I'm not sure what you're supposed to order
at a restaurant like Sapolo. The clientele isn't Caribbean, the staff is all
Chinese, so it would seem safer to stick with lo mein and beef with broccoli than
fried plantains, paella and bistec empanizado. The window sign does tout pollo
a la brasa, though. And it just might be the biggest restaurant in the area, so I wouldn't call them liars.

Sapolo * 501 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Do or Dine

I’m more excited about Bed-Stuy’s burgeoning dining
scene now that’s more in my physical frame of reference. (I make fun of
Williamsburgers who’ll never explore beyond their defined borders, but it’s not like I’m
going to check out a new Upper West/East Side restaurant unless it sounds
extremely amazing.) Sure, I’ve been to Celestino, Peaches HotHouse and drink
at Black Swan, but I’m not a neighborhood know-it-all.

It took me a while to get to Do or Dine. Yes, they have a menu with both small plates and snacks—does anyone understand
the distinction? Because of this, I assumed the stream of food would be willy nilly, plates
appearing when ready, the bigger items arriving last maybe. Instead, each course came
progressively like a tasting menu, a new dish showing up as the former was
being finished.

Burt reynolds

A serious cocktail (rye, averna, bitters) with a less-than-serious name, The Burt Reynolds, sets the tone. You could just as well have a cheap Rolling Rock (I had just been wondering whatever happened to this ’90s staple) as a stiff $12 beverage.

Do or dine foie gras doughnut cut

How could a first-timer not order the doughnut?
Everyone knows that the warm powdered-sugared dough is stuffed with foie gras.
I didn’t know, however, that the rich liver was paired with fruity (strawberry, I’m
guessing, raspberry, maybe) jelly. Split between two, the fried savory is a
perfectly reasonable starter–unless you’re one of those types who only takes one
bite of everything and acts like you’re overeating (or throws perfectly good cupcakes in the trash and sprinkles Comet on them). 

Do or dine leap year special

The Leap Year Special is a snack for those who
consider frogs’ legs snackable. Sure, the flesh is mild and obviously white
meat, but I wouldn’t say that frog tastes like chicken, that’s just the nuggety
batter talking. The texture is most definitely different, wetter, less firm, I
guess, aquatic. The sauce was more peppery than sweet, despite the advertised
addition of Dr. Pepper. To me, that’s not so much a junk or stoner food touch,
but a Filipino bbq flourish.

Do or dine lamb breast

The lamb breast is also a snack. The word fatty was
thrown in with the ingredient list, and being a prominent feature, I suppose
you could consider fat to be seasoning on par with the cumin. If you do not like
fat, you would probably not be eating at Do or Dine.

Do or dine chicken and woffals

Chicken and Woffals is a liver-smeared crispy game
hen, atop a waffle. There is maple syrup, passionfruit something, cooked-down
spinach (the only greenery we ingested), all-in-all another fried, sweet-and-savory clash
that ends up delicious in spite of the rambunctiousness.

 Do or Dine * 1108 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Farewell to Carroll Gardens

Hbh sandwiches smith st. cheesesteak. cheesesteakk

HBH Gourmet Sandwiches. This is totally one of those
places that was new and talked-about and so ridiculously close to my apartment
that I could put off going for some time. It finally turned out to be that
time. (I did not get to Court Street Grocers, however–too many damn sandwiches in the neighborhood.) It's also totally one of those kinds of absolutely delicious (and kind of ugly when transported home and unwrapped) but caloric
sandwiches that makes you wonder why artisanal food gets a health halo–what do
you mean Shake Shack isn't good for you?–while other equally fatty food  is disparaged. Quality ingredients, yes, I
know. This Smith St. cheesesteak, all tender short rib meat and taleggio on
cibatta, is nothing like a cheesesteak, so if you're craving shaved beef of
questionable quality and processed cheese, this will not satisfy.

Seersucker black pepper ricotta dumplingsSeersucker. I didn't grow up using the term townie,
which feels more east coast anyway. I didn't need to because Portland was
nothing but townies. I like the word, though, so I'm going to call the person
in my neighborhood who told me that Seersucker was expensive with tiny portions
even for her, a tiny person, a townie. I'd resisted for years, based on the
name alone (which I chalked up to being a crank until a non-cranky coworker who
lived on the block also hated it and was coming up with other deserving
fabrics–perhaps Gabardine? Oh, my, that's already been taken by a Top Chef in
San Diego). My duck with a succotash-ish bed of kernels at first did seem a little
precious, but was rich, and the Berkshire pork, fall-apart belly topped with
cracklings (and I swear there was a third pork component) was flat-out meaty. The
prices were fair and reflective of what was on the plate. It was good enough
that I forgot to even snap lame camera phone pics of the mains and only
captured the starter of ricotta dumplings in a crazy broth perfumed with salty
country ham. One day I may eventually warm up to the owners' future Vietnamese
food project too, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface.

Prime Meats. There aren't a ton of dining choices
close to 11pm on a weeknight in my now-a-memory south of Fourth Place universe.
I was curious about what pleasures an $18 1/2 lb Creekstone Farms Angus burger
might provide. More than a Guy Fieri burger created from beef of the same
origin, I hated to admit. I only stole a bite, technically a forkful meat
barely held by a wet bun because it was the tail end of the meal and the whole
thing had nearly fallen apart with texture matching my steak tartare. Prime Meats grew on me over time, though I would never crowd in for brunch.