Bar B

Japanese-Italian food, also known as Itameshi (Italian food), is a particular sub-cuisine within Japan, which features unusual twists on classic Italian staples like pasta, pizza, and risotto. Its origins date as far back as the 1920s, when spaghetti first appeared in Japanese restaurants, along with ‘red sauce’ popularized in the 1940s by Italian-American GIs after the war. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Italian cuisine really took off in Japan as a more”friendly, cheap, and cheerful” option compared to French food.

There aren’t as many Japanese-Italian food joints in New York compared to the booming ramen scene, but among the few in the city, Basta Pasta rings a superior note. In 1985, restaurateur Toshi Suzuki opened the original Basta Pasta in Tokyo, and five years later, in New York, located in the Chelsea neighborhood. His New York success has allowed him to undertake creative new ventures like Bar B, an Italian standing wine bar, inspired by small plate bars in Spain and Italy.

Open the menu and you’ll find Italian classics with Basta Pasta’s signature twist, a selection of carefully curated Italian wine (displayed neatly along the walls), and authentic Italian espresso. Naomi and I headed over on a Thursday night for some wine, delicious eats, and good conversations with friends. We started out with a cheese plate, a beautiful range of both hard and soft cheeses paired perfectly with small baguette slices. Our main dishes included Bar B’s seasonal creamy mushroom risotto, as well as their signature Fusilli, a cheesy concoction of finely diced prosciutto and porcini mushrooms. For the more carnivorous variety, we hear the house marinated skirt steak with potato salad is a standout!

If you don’t mind standing, Bar B is the perfect place to grab a bite or share a few glasses of wine with a friend or two. You’re sure to enjoy the soft lighting and cozy European atmosphere.

Bar B
84 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011
www.barbnyc.com

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

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

Domo Williamsburg

2017 is finally here and we decided to celebrate the new year with a traditional Japanese dish, mochi. Mochi can be eaten all year round in many different forms, but it plays a huge role especially during New Year’s Day. On this special day, kagami mochi decorations are put on display at homes all across Japan. These ornaments comprise of two flattened circular mochi patties stacked on top of the other, and finished off with a mandarin orange at the very top. We also cook a special clear broth soup called ozoni that includes toasted mochi. Unfortunately, we did not decorate our apartments with kagami mochi nor did we cook ozoni. Rather, we headed over to Domo Williamsburg for a different kind of mochi that you don’t usually eat on New Year’s Day, but is equally as delicious.

Domo Williamsburg located on the corner of Jackson Street and Manhattan Avenue is a small Japanese eatery/grocery store that stocks everything from candy to cup ramen, and of course, a menu consisting of homemade rice balls, sandwiches, an array of teas, and dangos. For those who are not familiar, dango are little mochi balls that are usually served with wood or bamboo skewers. At this particular eatery, you can order from a variety of red bean paste, sesame, and mitarashi (soy sauce flavor). We had to go with two orders of the mitarashi dango, because as little girls we had fond memories of this sweet and savory snacks. Originating from Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto, Japan, the mitarashi dango is made with a thick, sweet soy sauce glaze that also has a deep toasted flavor. Often times, a sheet of nori seaweed is carefully wrapped around the dango, providing a little bit of texture and enhancing that toasty quality of the dish. At Domo Williamsburg, the dangos come in nice paper coverings and served on a beautiful wooden platter.

If you love dangos as much as we do or have never eaten one and want to try out some traditional dangos, we highly recommend dropping by Domo Williamsburg. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a few snacks for later!

Domo Williamsburg
359 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
domowilliamsburg.com

Anna’s Soba Noodle Recipe

One thing we love equally as much as eating out is cooking at home. For our very first recipe post, we’re sharing a quick and easy way to whip up a heartwarming noodle dish for the cold months.

Soba noodles hold a very special place in our hearts. When we were growing up, every Sunday when our grandpa would visit our home, we would order from a noodle place that delivered delicious soba and udon noodles, hot or cold. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but when I make soba noodles, it brings instant comfort and happiness to any dull day.

Of course, it’s up to you what you prefer in your noodles, but nailing the broth and perfectly cooked noodles are key. Most days I don’t feel like making my broth from scratch, but lucky for you and me, a lot of grocery stores nowadays carry soba or udon noodle concentrates. My personal favorite is the Kikkoman brand hondashi, a mixture of bonito and kelp broth with soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. If you have a hard time finding these ingredients at your local grocery store, there’s always Amazon. I’ve added links of products I recommend for some of the harder-to-find ingredients below.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once water comes to a full boil, place soba noodles in pot. Refer to package for proper cooking time.
  2. While the soba noodles cook, combine Hondashi and water (1:4 ratio) in a separate pot. Bring to a simmer and include dried seaweed, chives, and egg.
  3. Take out soba noodles while still al dente and include in the Hondashi mixture with other ingredients. Cook another minute, and serve in a bowl.
  4. Optional: sprinkle togarashi pepper to taste

Look out for more recipes to come!