Grand Central Oyster Bar, the Sequel

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I know what you’re probably thinking.  Grand Central Oyster Bar, AGAIN? Yes, I do wonder about it myself as to why I even bother blogging about Maya and my food adventures in New York City when we go to the same few places over and over and over again … but please forgive me. We are two creatures of gastro habit.  We like what we like.  And I like to document our trip here so we can look back and reminiscent, even if I’ve written about this place twice on this blog already (here and here).  wink

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But look! We ordered grilled scallops, something other than oysters this time for a change! Isn’t that an improvement? Oh, wait, what? We ordered the same thing before? Okay, fine, I give up. I’m sorry. There, are you happy?

We certainly were, after two dozen fresh oysters and a plate of scallops drained in butter, all washed down with a (few) bottles of lovely Chardonnay.

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The New Southern Cuisine: AquaKnox

aquaknox logoThe last thing I expected to find in the state that introduced Paula Deen and Waffle House to the world was fresh seafood, but luckily for us, we found a fabulous seafood restaurant next to the hotel we were staying in Atlanta called AquaKnox that specializes in “global water cuisine” (whatever that means).

I must admit that when I first arrived to Atlanta, Georgia, I thought I would have no option but to eat fried this and fried that and expected to gain 20 pounds in a week. Little did I know that Buckhead, the uptown district of Atlanta where I was staying, was a hip part of town with super exclusive retail stores and trendy, upscale restaurants – not much different from Los Angeles.

When I was greeted by wonderfully fresh salmon on the bed of pureed edamane, I thought about the time I found the best Italian restaurant in Paris. And also the time I found the worst Fish and Chips in London. I guess when it comes to restaurants, you can never judge the food by its regional covers!

aquaknox salmon
Slow Roasted Scottish Salmon, sugar snap beans, spring Vidalia,
squash blossom, cured lemon (27)

aquaknox scallop
Seared Day Boat Scallops, sweet potato puree and
mushroom pancetta fricassee (29)

The seared tuna that my friend and colleague C order was flavorful and the scallop M ordered melted in my mouth! And the French fries were so yummy too!

aquaknox tuna
Seared Ahi Tuna, eggplant caponata, olive tapenade and
celery herb salad (28)

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Pomme Frittes (6)

And desserts, I’ll let the photos do the talking. 🙂

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Cheesecake

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Chocolate Molten Cake

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Chocolate Cake

I really love M. She is so smart, kind, and a lot of fun to be around. Although we were here for work, a round of wine and wonderful conversation made us forget about it — even just for the night.

AquaKnox
3280 Peachtree Rd, Ste 200, Atlanta, GA 30305
★★★★☆

Hitting the Spot: Jake’s Famous Crawfish

jake-mussellMaya and I went to The Yoga Space in Downtown Portland Saturday morning to take what we thought was a beginner yoga class. We should have known better by looking at eight or so very limber yogis stretching when we walked into the studio, that this was not for newbies like us, and was intended for someone with gumby-like flexibility and Ninja Warrior agility. But ignorance is bliss – we ended up surviving the class safely in one piece (but barely).

Needless to say, we were famished by the time we finished the torture, I meant, the practice, and we rushed over to a seafood restaurant that Maya’s brother-in-law Jeremy recommended we should check out. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed, probably due to the holiday weekend, which left two hungry girls stranded and antsy.

We drove for a few miles and found Jake’s Famous Crawfish, which, at 2:00 p.m. was still crowded with patrons, so we rushed in.

We ordered our “usual” – fresh oysters and steamed mussels. You’re not seeing double here. These are two separate orders of different oysters. We couldn’t decide between two kinds our server recommended so we decided to get both.

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We were so hungry that we almost forgot to take photographs but what you see here (whatever is left of it) is salmon with horseradish sauce that I ordered, which was absolutely to die for (the fish was so moist, juicy, fresh and flavorful),

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… and Maya’s Parmasean crusted, pan fried rock fish which was as delightful.

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When we were done with these dishes (with a couple of glasses of wine and cocktail each kicking in), we were both ready to hurry home to take a nap … and nap we took. We passed out around 4:30 p.m. and I didn’t wake up until the next morning!

Jake’s Famous Crawfish
401 SW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97205-2397
★★★★☆

Simply Sophisticated: Seafood Risotto

seafood-risottoRisotto is like a great little black dress. It’s very simple to make yet it gives that feeling of sophistication and class, and is appropriate for any occasions – for a dinner party with friends, or on a lazy night like tonight.

I realized that I hadn’t cooked anything in a long time so I thought tonight would a great time to put on an apron (okay, I don’t do that), roll up my sleeves and slave over the stove for a fantastic supper. But the problem is, I didn’t really want to get down and dirty and also wasn’t craving anything particularly extravagant (I think the recent heat wave in the Valley has gotten to me a bit. It’s been pretty hot lately, especially in the armpit of hell where I live) so I needed something simple and quick but still satisfies like a real, meaningful dinner.

Remembering that I still had Arborio rice left from my last risotto attempt and some chicken broth in a pantry (yes, I don’t eat the flesh of the meat but I still freely consume animal products when it comes in a liquid form … haha), I decided to give this Italian comfort food another try.  Only this time, instead of mushrooms and pancetta, I made it with shrimps and scallops I had in a refrigerator.

seafood-risotto-2If Risotto is a little black dress, La Cruset pot is like a wonderful pair of Jimmy Choo heels that completes the outfit. This lime green cast iron pot is magical, and there’s no other way to describe it. The way it makes chopped onion and carrots caramelize is nothing short of perfection, and it has a way of making the cooking process incredibly enjoyable.
With a glass of iced Riesling in her arm, my Risotto was definitely the talk of the party tonight.

Welcome to the Northwest: Paley’s Place in Portland, OR

My work sends me to Portland, Oregon often, and despite the fact that it rains more than six months out of the year, I’m not complaining. The varieties of Pacific Northwest cuisine I get to experience during my stay compensates for the miserable, gloomy days.

I’m not really sure how to properly explain this emerging cuisine expect to say that it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite American cuisines of all time. The menus consist of locally- grown organic fruits, vegetables and berries, and fresh seafood plays as the centerpiece of all meals. Selections of wine is something to gush over too, and although I don’t usually order white wines much back home, local white wines always make it to the table whenever I’m here.

Paley’s Place in Portland pretty much sums up all the wonders and beauty that is Pacific Northwest cuisine. Located in Downtown’s 21st Street, this 50-seat restaurant is a Victorian-house–converted joint that offers Oregonians with familiar yet sophisticated dishes sure to satisfy even the pickiest eater.

What I love so much about this restaurant is that it offers half order for most of dinner plates, which gives us indecisive food lovers the opportunity to try new things without going into food coma (or broke).

My epicurean partner-in-crime and I began our culinary adventure with the bottle of 2006 Adelsheim, Auxerrois from Willamette Valley, a white wine which has the wonderful floral scent. It was neither too dry nor too sweet, and it went well with every dish we ordered.

We ordered fresh oysters (pictured above) to start. And here’s the rest of our lovely dinner! Aaah, heaven!

kobe-beef-tartar

American Kobe Beef Steak Tartare & Traditional Accompaniments

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Pumpkin and hazelnut mezzuluna

Fried Razor Clams, Spaghetti Squash, Bacon-Wrapped Treviso & Bacon Hollandaise

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Blackened Spot Prawns, Fall Vegetable Medley & Grilled Lemon

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This night’s special, a warm poundcake with huckleberry jam (sorry, it has a more fancy name but I can’t remeber!).

Because chefs here use fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, the menu changes every season. Just knowing that you may never have the opportunity to try these heavenly dishes again, it makes you savor every bite. Seriously, this is one of the best food I’ve ever experienced in my life!

Paley’s Place: 1204 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

★★★★★

No Friend of Mine: Captain Kidd’s Seafood

a-kidd-counterTo this date, I cannot decipher Jennifer Aniston’s soaring popularity. Is she adorable? Absolutely. Talented? I guess. Fashionable? No doubt. But the most beautiful? And the Hollywood “it” girl? Hmm .. I’m not too sure about that one.

For me, Captain Kidd’s Seafood in Redondo Beach is like America’s favorite girl next door. While everyone and their mothers seem be smitten by this cozy, waterfront joint, I’m baffled by it all. The place and the food, I thought, were pretty ordinary — no different from any others alas Gladstones (more casual version, of course). I admit, that the service here is relatively quick, the food is affordable, and you can pretty much find anything that live under water here. In addition, they’ll cook it to your liking whether you prefer fried, sautéed, grilled or broiled.  But I certainly could not figure out what the hype was all about.

a-salmon-kiddI ordered the grilled salmon sandwich accompanied by a scoop of cole slaw and hush puppies. You can tell that the fish was fresh and nicely grilled but the slaw was bland and hush puppies … very rubbery.
Maybe I didn’t give Captain Kidd’s a fair chance. Because I was there during the Southern California fire, the experience was out-shadowed by the smuggy sky and the fishy air (yikes).

a-scallop-kiddMaybe if I return when the sky is clear and the air is fresh, I may have an entirely different experience.  And maybe try the crabs that they’re famous for too.  But to be frankly honest, I have no desire to even do that.  Does this make me a bad person to dis everyone’s best friend like that?

Captain Kidd’s Seafood
209 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
★★☆☆☆

Fusion Vs. Confusion: Seared Albacore with Wasabi Butter

1If I were a dish, I think I would be something like this one I cooked up the other day: a seared albacore with wasabi butter and ponzu, with a side of Japanese eggplant and asparagus grilled with sea salt and olive oil. It may sound complicated but it is rather a simple dish of fresh fish and traditional Asian ingredients jazzed up with a little bit of everyday items. I would like to think of myself hopefully as someone who successfully adapted to the American way of life while managing to preserve the authentic Japanese heritage, like a fusion cuisine.

I just don’t want to be a human equivalent of one of those stupid “tampon” restaurants (it’s teppan, you idiot) who screams out “bonsai!” (a bonsai is a plant, you dumb ass) while doing sake bombs (you clueless dim wits). Now, that’s con-friggin-fusion.