Tim Ho Wan with Bettina Chin

Dubbed the “cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant” in the world, Tim Ho Wan is a Hong Kong-based dim sum restaurant by Chef Mark Gui Pui and Leung Fai Keung that’s been making waves since appearing in the 2010 Hong Kong and Macau Guides. Now with over 45 locations around the world, Tim Ho Wan has settled in Astor Place, opening it’s doors to New Yorkers on December 2016. Eight months later, it’s still generating a line that goes out the door, a testament to its world renowned dim sum dishes.

We got a chance to dine at Tim Ho Wan with a few friends this week, including our good friend and dim sum lover Bettina Cho, who was gracious enough to tune us in on some of her food favorites (see interview below!) Unlike the traditional dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong where dishes make their way around the restaurant in push carts, Tim Ho Wan offers a different experience: waiters deliver each order to you directly from the kitchen (like most restaurants in town). We ordered a good variety of dim sum staples, but one of our favorites, the dish that we both drooled over, were the pork buns. The outside reminded us of our favorite Japanese “melon pan” with a crispy outside and an inside filled with sweet, savory BBQ pork. No to mention the ratio of bread to pork was perfection.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Born and raised here in the States (technically, New Jersey). A 35-year-old, Chinese-American woman who loves music, the arts, and a good mystery. My entire world is packaged into a perfect 21-month-old boy named Beckett (my son). I’m the Director of Special Projects and Legal Affairs at Opening Ceremony; I oversee all collaborations, produce our fashion shows, and serve as in-house counsel.

What was your first dim sum memory?
I’ve been eating dim sum since I was old enough to eat solid foods! It has been always a family affair and a reason for all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (although they’ve since passed) to spend time together.

What’s your all-time favorite dim sum dish?
This is hard. It used to be pan-fried turnip cake because I’ve loved that dish for the longest time, but I think since venturing to Hong Kong as an adult, I really have come to love this pastry called pineapple pork buns, where the topping is deliciously sweet and crusty (looks like the skin of a pineapple, but there’s no pineapple in it) and the bun is filled with succulent roast pork.

What was your favorite dim sum dish at Tim Ho Wan?
This seems so plain, but the sautéed lettuce was particularly delicious!

What’s your go-to restaurant in NYC?
Mission Chinese Food. It’s just consistently good and a favorite among my friends.

What’s your next food destination?
I’m heading to Shanghai in about 2 days and I’m super excited to eat there. I’ve heard so many amazing things about the local cuisine. If anyone has recommendations, please send my way!

What’s your spirit food?
Kraft’s Mac and Cheese. A staple throughout my life. No matter how bougie I’d ever become, I can’t ever forget my roots.😆

Tim Ho Wan
85 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-2800

timhowanusa.com

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

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

Chikarashi

Yes, they’ve been in existence in the West Coast for some time now, but poké bowls are having a serious moment in New York right now. It’s finally summer and all people want to eat in this heat are something refreshing, poké bowls are the perfect dish for cravings like this.

Opened just in the past month, Chikarashi located on Canal Street between Centre and Baxter Street is one of the newer additions to the growing Hawaiian-inspired restaurants across town. Chef Michael Jong Lim has refined his culinary skills at multiple Michelin-starred kitchens of Masa, Aldea, and Aureole. Their carefully curated menu includes three kinds of fish, salmon, tuna (both regular and toro), and fluke, which are freshly delivered whole everyday. After a thorough explanation of the menu, Naomi decided to get the Goma Shoyu Tuna, a delicious mix of bluefin tuna, goma shoyu (sesame seed soy sauce), chili oil, nori (seaweed), hijiki (sea vegetable), avocado, and garlic chips. I went with the Ponzu Salmon, which included buttery Scottish salmon, wasabi ponzu, strips of shiso, avocado, tobiko (flying fish roe), and shichimi (Japanese seven spice mix). Each bowl speaks to the fusion concept of Hawaiian style poké, Japanese chirashi, along with Korean and Chinese flavors. The sesame seeds and chili oil in the Goma Shoyu Tuna give that Korean and Chinese flair, while the nori and hijiki layer up on the Japanese component of the dish. On the other hand, the Ponzu Salmon, our favorite out of the two, came with refreshing citrus flavors from the ponzu, and the tobiko added a unique crunchy texture. If you are feeling a bit more on the decadent side, you can also switch out your standard tuna with some toro (fatty tuna) for an extra dollar. Finally, after our meal, we got two of their sherbert-like soft serve of pineapple and lemon, finishing our meal with the perfect treat for a hot summer day.

Chikarashi also offers takeout, making it a perfect to-go spot if you work in the SoHo/Chinatown area. We have a feeling we’ll be dropping by for lunch often!

Chikarashi
227 Canal St, New York, NY 10013
(646) 649-5965
chikarashi.com