Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 6: Soba & Misono Wok

Hot soba.

Julia made me some yummy hot soba in a light broth for lunch. Even as a kid, I loved nori, the ocean-tinged salty crunch of seaweed.

Tuesday (3/24) I listened to my friend Katie and two other B.U. students as they shared their first-hand internship experience with Uganda in front of a crowd of sixty or so students and adults. They spoke about how their hearts broke for the Ugandan people. The event was called INJustice and included an interactive visual and video exhibit where you could see, read and hear about the plight of the child soldiers and the tragic lives of those in Uganda. After the awareness event, we headed to Misono Wok at Super 88 to quell our ravenous appetites.

My Tukbokki.

This is my tukbokki (rice cakes) with dumplings ($6.95). Usually when you see food drenched in red, it's code word for HOT HOT HOT. I was right.

My mouth felt like it was literally on fire as my tastebuds were sparked (electrified?) with each proceeding bite. I imagined myself a warrior heading into a brush fire forest. Not the best imagery, but it recalls another similar experience...the time I tried this stir-fried squid dish at Buk Kyung that was covered in red hot sauce. Ojinguh bokkeum.

After I ate my fill, I closed the lid and planned to take home the rest for later. Not four steps out of the eatery, I felt a sticky substance oozing through my gloves. Uh. YEAH. I thought, It can't be...but it was.

I assessed the damage. Worse than I expected: a viscose, oily red pepper sauce not only on my gloves but all over the front of my coat, hoodie, jeans and -- worst of all -- my white button-down shirt. Now the only reason I even wore that particular shirt that day is because I had run out of laundry. Talk about bad luck...

Despite my accidental run-in with hot sauce, I still savored every bite of that tukbokki. No hard feelings.

Rachel's Spicy Tuna.

Hannah's Kim Bap.

Dave's Kimchi Fried Rice.

Dave's heart was a flutter after consuming the kimchi fried rice. Sweat it out, my friend. Sweat it out. SO worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I only wish I hadn't spilled hot sauce all over myself. Bleach, please come to my rescue.

Buk Kyung II
151 Brighton Av
Allston, MA 02134

Misono Wok
1095 Commonwealth Av
Boston, MA 02215

Day 5: Cafe Brazil

Eu entiendo Portuguese! Um poco... (I understand Portuguese! A little...)
Pronunciation: Ee-oo eng-TENG-do Por-too-GUESS! Oom po-co...

Hey, at least I could pronounce the dishes on the menu. That means the Brazilian Portuguese lessons are working...

Julia and I were hunkering for something new in the neighborhood. A few clicks on Boston MenuPages and we found ourselves at Cafe Brazil in Allston. Hannah and Rachel came along for the ride.

Mustard, honey glazed walls and mellow yellow decor created a fiesta atmosphere. A six foot long mirror created an illusion of more space. In the back, an island painting took up an entire wall, transporting diners to a warmer climate. An Asian family was celebrating a birthday when we arrived around 8 p.m. Friendly, gracious waiters took our orders.

Hard to see here, but the Xingu Black Beer advertised on our table beckoned us to "Explore the Heart of Darkness." Maybe next time, pal.

Julia ordered the Super PF do Peao, a plate of sauteed vegetables with rice, beans, pasta marinara and sausage. She treated us all, like the sugar daddy that she is. I'll have to return the favor next time.

Rachel got the Bife de Boi, thin slices of beef in a garlic mariinated, lightly sauteed with onions and served with fresh vegetables.

Not pictured: Peixe a Dore, fresh filet of fish in an egg batter, then simmered in a wine and garlic sauce, sauteed with seasonal vegetables (Hannah's); Rabada, slow-simmered oxtail with rice, beans, pasta and sausage (mine). The Rabada was one of the Specials of the day. It was heavy on the salt but the oxtail pieces nearly melted in my mouth. Divine. Honestly, though, I could live on rice and beans alone.

Most of the dishes are meant to be shared family-style.

Pudim, a rich baked custard pudding with caramel sauce ($2.95). The pudim had an airy, almost mousse-like consistency and was drizzled in caramel sauce for a sweeter touch. We also got the Torta de Abacaxi, or pineapple torta. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. It might've come straight from the freezer.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. We ate here on a Monday night, so I wasn't exactly expecting a five-star dinner. Still, very good for its rice and beans.

Cafe Brazil
421 Cambridge St
Allston, MA 02134

Day 5: Pho Sure

Traipsing around town in new three-inch heels is no easy feat. After lugging my heavy shoes and a bulky folder of resumes to a rather uneventful Boston Career Fair, it was high time to warm up my stomach (and my mood) with a big ole bowl of pho.

Pho cures colds, hangovers and poor spirits. Something about the warm, spicy beef broth, crunchy bean sprouts and thick noodles plug up that empty pit inside. There it was -- Pho Pasteur, crammed full with students, families and co-workers on lunch break.

Half the waiters barked orders in Cantonese. I stifled a laugh. This is, after all, Chinatown.

A serve-yourself caddy allows you to grab your own chopsticks, spoon and hot sauce. I sat in a tight two-seater keeping the jade jeweled elephant above me company.

I ordered #13, a large meat bowl ($6.75). The dry pork was slightly off-putting, but I hungrily gnawed on the tender beef. Lots of meat! And a decent share of white rice noodles. Don't forget the lime and bean sprouts.



Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Pork could've been better, but the pho was worth it for the quick service and steaming hot bowl ready to be devoured.

Pho Pasteur
682 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111

Day 4: Diesel Cafe & Kickass Cupcakes

Photo by Dan4th.

My camera battery died halfway through Sunday (3/22), so you'll have to excuse the jacked photos. I met up with my friends Aya and Renee at Diesel Cafe in Somerville, off the red line Davis Square stop. I'd heard about the hipster vibe but that didn't daunt me.

Framed abstract paintings of faces in watercolors and acrylics lined the walls, along with geometric prints and images of foliage and flowers. The cafe is a lot more spacious when you step inside. Nine to ten booths stretched out into oblivion (or what seemed like it), but each one was occupied by focused folks speedtyping away on their laptops, their caffeine fix (ahem, "friend") next to them.

From my high stool, my peripheral vision took in two Asian chicks playing pool, a vintage Mobil regulator and a busted photo booth. An old man wearing a grey newsboy, royal blue cardigan and a plaid shirt stood guard in front of the photo booth, arms akimbo, right arm lightly resting on his cane and an unswerving gaze to the right (cash counter). That's when I noticed his chunky silver chain. Grandpa's a true G!

A bright red stop sign in French ("Arret") next to the "Employees Only" swinging door arrested my attention. Diesel Cafe was super crowded and bustling with noise, but a good kind of noise.

My grub.

The counter person served up my Vietnamese iced coffee and sausage, egg & cheese sandwich with a chipper tone and a wide smile. This is the best Viet iced coffee I've had in a cafe -- bar none. Though Renee found it "too smoky" for her liking, I downed the entire thing. Not too sweet like those boba drinks, with just the right strength to keep me awake but not in zombie mode.

A mix-up in my order resulted in me lugging back an extra Vietnamese coffee. If I had downed both of them, I would have been a jittery mess. One thing's for sure: Diesel doesn't shortchange you. The size small coffee is easily the equivalent of a Grande at Starbucks (take that!). Starbucks, incidentally, is right across the street. If you're not a coffee person, Diesel also sells croissants, muffins, bagels, sandwiches, non-caffeinated tea and chocolate.

The cafe wasn't as "lesbo" as the reviews hinted. I didn't get any chicks hitting on me this time, so I was a happy camper.

Aya chowing down.

So was Aya. That huge Italian thing of pastrami, ham, cheese and fixins' sure looked scrumptious. And required additional maneuvering in the chomping department. Some random bits of lettuce and honey mustard flew across the table. Whoops! Aya also bought some Taza Chocolate here and shared some with me. Renee, sadly, is allergic to chocolate, so she had to pass on this one.

Tazo Chocolate Mexicano is stone ground, organic and locally produced in Somerville. We sampled two flavors: Vanilla and Guajillo Chili. The chocolate was nutty and crunchy with sugar flecks (cane sugar) aplenty. Since I prefer dark chocolate, I liked the bitter undertone.

Photo by Nodame.

Before I parted ways with my buddies, we walked a couple blocks down to Kickass Cupcakes. A more fitting name for this bakery would be "Kicking to Stay Afloat" -- hardly kickass.

Photo by fromourruins.

I asked the counter lady what the special of the day was and she suggested the Mojito Cupcake ($2.75). I gladly obliged. The cupcake's cream cheese filling gave it a moist sheen. While I thought the frosting was overly sugared up (See those sugar crystals? Pumped it up three notches above the normal sweetness level), I would be content just chomping on the cake part. Although the rum factor initially drew me in, it was toned down in the actual cupcake. I didn't even taste a hint of rum. Disappointment.

OK, so I wasn't expecting J.P. Licks-like rum raisin ice cream, but still... The cake's texture was too crumbly and hollow. I've tasted more heartier cupcakes. Though the gimmicky store name was worth a shot, I probably wouldn't go again.

Diesel Cafe - 4.5 out of 5 stars. Kickass Vietnamese coffee, bombdiggity sandwiches and lots of people-watching character to boot. You do have to pounce on a table, though.

Kickass Cupcakes - 3 out of 5 stars. I'm being generous here: The cream cheese filling saved this otherwise too-sweet-I'm-parsing-my-lips cupcake from being a complete flop. I'm just glad I didn't spend more than $2.75 on this one.

Diesel Cafe
257 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144

Kickass Cupcakes

378 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02144