Bep Ga

There’s plenty of Vietnamese restaurants nestled in Manhattan’s Chinatown but how many of them specialize in just chicken? Apparently Bep Ga does because their four-dish menu consists of all chicken dishes: Hoi An (Chicken Rice), Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup), Pho Ga Kho (Pho Chicken Noodle Salad), and Goi Ga (Chicken Salad). It’s a small menu that leave no room for indecision—just order everything!

We headed over to Bep Ga on a scorching hot evening. Upon entering, we were greeted with a jungle of plants flourishing on a teal windowsill, along with baby pink walls and ceilings. We ordered the Pho Ga, Hoi An, Goi Ga, and the sparkling lemonade, seated ourselves at the table by the window with the fan (one out of two tables, yes, seating is very limited!). The Pho Ga made us instantly forget that it wasn’t beef based. The broth was deep in flavor and had a rich sweetness that melded perfectly with the cuts of light chicken breast, crunchy bean sprouts, and aromatic herbs. The Hoi An, a beautiful plate of tumeric-tinted chicken rice, slices of chicken breast, crunchy cucumbers and juicy tomatoes were doused in ginger chicken broth and topped with herbs and garlic chips. And one of our all-time favorite dishes from the night, the Pho Ga Kho. This fresh Vietnamese chicken salad consisted of chicken breast, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, onions, and herbs tossed in a tangy dressing of ginger, lime, and fish sauce. Astoundingly crunchy and refreshing in the hot summer heat. And if you think that eating a bowl of piping hot pho is not a summer thing, then you should know that consuming spicy or hot dishes can actually cool you down!

Bep Ga
70 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002

Bar Moga

This week, we bring to you Bar Moga, an establishment channeling 1920s Japan and a place that also strives to benefit nonprofit organizations. Short for “Modern Girl” in Japanese, a term from the 1920s describing Japanese women who followed a Western lifestyle, Bar Moga is a cocktail bar and restaurant bordering the West Village. The owners have made it a point to celebrate women, and according to the New Yorker, “[t]he menu features female-produced wines from around the world and cocktails devised by Becky Mcfalls-Schwartz and Natasha Torres, veterans of the New York mixology scene.” Also good to note, a portion of the sales from the bar’s signature cocktail (the Moga) go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the A.C.L.U.

Another fascinating feature on the menu is their spread of appetizers and main course dishes. Going along with the theme of Westernized Japan, Bar Moga serves Japanese yoshokuor “Western food,” which consists of dishes like omurice, ebi fry, doria, hamburger steak, and more. Many of you might be familiar with these classic dishes, but do you know how they came about?

Yoshoku was born during Japan’s Meiji Restoration period, right after the country was forced to open it’s doors to the world by the Black Ships in 1854. During that time, the newly opened country sent their people over to Europe and America to learn about the Western industry, weapons, and law. Among the ideology and goods brought back was Western food. According to an articleby the New York Times that explains yoshoku in great detail, “Shocked to discover how much shorter they were than Westerners, Japanese determined that they would catch up…physically, by eating their food.” These dishes that were imported into Japan were recreated to fit the local taste buds, and gradually made their way into the country’s cuisine, establishing themselves as distinctly Japanese dishes.

You might have seen those YouTube videos of an omurice being sliced open, unfolding itself into a perfectly cooked yellow blanket covering seasoned rice, then doused in a rich demi glace sauce. Well, Bar Moga has exactly that! It’s a delicious recreation of the omurice and we, especially Naomi because it’s her favorite, couldn’t be more excited that we get to taste a piece of home right here in NYC. We also highly recommend the ebi fry!

Bar Moga
128 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012
(929) 399-5853
www.barmoga.com

Kuro-Obi at Canal Street Market

Food courts are the perfect solution to quick, to-go lunch options for the office variety—and of course, a brand new food court just opened its doors to the Soho, Chinatown, and TriBeCa for all the working women and men! As the name suggests, Canal Street Market is situated right on Canal Street between Broadway and Lafayette, close to the office-heavy downtown neighborhood. But what’s even more newsworthy is the fact that Kuro-Obi, Ippudo’s sister ramen restaurant, is housed at this new hotspot (if you’ve read any of our past posts, you all know how we feel about Ippudo!). We were commissioned last year to draw up some illustrations and finally got the chance to try it IRL.

Launched with the concept of bringing “the precise craft of true Japanese ramen making into a take-away format,” Kuro-Obi cooks up a delicious “tori paitan”, a chicken based soup ramen that does not disappoint. Although served in a convenient to-go bowl with a plastic lid, the elements of what makes up great ramen are there: a thick, rich soup base, perfectly cooked thin noodles, and several slices of succulent char siu pork. We suggest taking an early lunch or going during off peak hours to avoid the crowds 🙂

Kuro-Obi at Canal Street Market
265 Canal St, New York, NY 10013

Los Tacos No. 1

The origin of the taco is mostly unbeknownst to mankind, but one theory persists. According to the Smithsonian, the taco is believed to have originated from the 18th century silver mines of Mexico. “[T]he word “taco” referred to the little charges [the miners] would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face.” Since then, the taco has made its way to the US—first through the migrants who came to work on the railroads and in the mines—and soon the ingredients were adapted to what was available locally such as lettuce and minced meat. Today, tacos are everywhere. From Taco Bell to Chipotle and fancified versions at high-end restaurants, the taco continues to win over the hearts of any who chance upon it. I mean, how many people do you know who absolutely hate tacos?

To celebrate our love for this wrapped delicacy, we headed over to Los Tacos No. 1 located in Chelsea Market. According to their website, Los Tacos No. 1 was founded by three close friends from Tijuana, Mexico, and Brawley, California whose goal was to bring the authentic taco to the East Coast. Right next to the spice shop in the middle of Chelsea Market, this small taco place is usually packed. When we arrived one evening, there was already a line forming with people fresh out of work looking for a quick bite before heading out. Luckily, the line moved fairly quickly and we soon found ourselves ordering the carne asada and chicken tacos, along with the especial quesadilla and a sweet hibiscus drink called Jamaica. Ordering is easy, but to actually get your food, you need to be quick and push your way through the throng of customers, either waiting for their food or eating at the counter, to hand your ticket to the cooks. Once our dishes arrived we quickly piled on some pico de gallo, spicy sauce and grabbed a few lime wedges and headed over to an empty corner. There are two options for the tortillas, flour and corn. We somehow ended up with corn (make sure to specify!), which and had a nice yellow hue with a slightly chunky texture. Our favorite was the carne asada taco which was filled with perfectly seasoned meat, green sauce, and fresh pico de gallo. All this was devoured in minutes. Yes, it was that good, but also the tacos were small, making us wish we had ordered a bit more. Next time!

Los Tacos No. 1
Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave
New York, NY
www.lostacos1.com

Hakata Tonton

Japan is a small island country, but within it lies a rich variety of cuisine. As odd as it sounds, despite growing up in Japan, I never got a chance to delve into or explore the many different faces of Japanese cuisine. I was always longing for “foreign” dishes that to me, were exotic and exciting. Now that I live in the US there’s a reversal of perspective—Japanese food has become my “longing,” to discover the many dishes each region has to offer.

For instance, take Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture, located in the southern region of Kyushu Japan. Hakata is widely known for their specialty ramen and also their ever popular “motsu nabe.” Motsu nabe is a Hakata-style hot pot that usually consists of either beef or pork intestines and a variety of vegetables simmered in a delicious broth. Yes, disgusting to some but for the adventurous, it’s a delightful and delicious discovery!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t fly out to Japan, but we did find a restaurant that serves a delicious spread of Hakata-style specialty dishes. Hakata Tonton located in the West Village on the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue has brought to New York authentic Kyushu Japanese soul food. As described in their about page, some of these dishes may seem “strange to the eye, but are delicious renditions of the food made famous in Hakata, Japan.”

The main eating area is very small, but there is another secret entrance just around the block that takes you to the back where there is more space for seating. It was there that we were seated at a nice cozy corner and were offered steaming hot roll of wet towels to cleanse and warm up our hands. As we had done some research before, we were ready to order immediately. To start off we got three appetizers, the Foie Gras Inari Sushi, TONTON Famous Homemade Gyoza, and their Garlic Fried Rice. The inari sushi, sticky rice wrapped in sweet fried tofu skin, was topped off with a beautiful foie gras steak, which was melt-in-your mouth tender and oddly enough, paired well with the sweetness of the rice and tofu skin. The gyoza was served on a sizzling hot cast iron plate, perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. But the garlic fried rice might have been one of the best things there. Made with pork tonsoku (pork feet!), egg, and plenty of garlic aroma, the dish was topped off with scallion and fragrant cilantro. Finally for the star of the show, the Hakata Tonton Hot Pot that included their special collagen broth (beautifying for the skin!) tofu, chicken, dumplings, cabbage, chives, spinach, Berkshire pork belly, and pork feet. There was no heavy pork smell, the broth was clean and spicy, and surprisingly very light. We made sure to leave a bit of soup, vegetables, and meat for the rice bibimbap, which was the perfect finish to our meal.

We recommend making a reservation in advance and coming to Hakata Tonton famished! Trying a variety of dishes and exploring their menu will insure you get the full experience of Hakata cuisine this special restaurant has to offer.

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St, New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-3699
www.tontonnyc.com