Monday, April 19, 2010

Homegrown Brew

Brooklyn Lager.

While not made from my house, Brooklyn Lager is a local New York favorite. American amber color beer made from Brooklyn Brewery. 5.2% ABV.

Characteristics: Foamy head, roasted barley malt, floral hops. A pleasant drink that goes down easy. Dry, slightly bitter aftertaste, medium body.

I'm no beer expert - this one fits my palate just fine. But if given the choice, I'd likely choose a Guinness or Presidente over this.

The Lineup.

Right at my fingertips, keeping company with the furikake and other seasonings on the table.

Ramen Setagaya

Ramen Setagaya.

This is not a review.

These days I've been a woman of few words on this blog. More so due to time constraints and job responsibilities - not because there's nothing to say about food! (The day that happens will be a sad one.)

I'm going back to school next month to earn my Web Design degree, so I'll be posting more sporadically than usual. (If you haven't noticed, I've already been cutting back considerably.) Nonetheless, you can still look forward to fun shots of my foodie adventures.

For now, I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Charsu Ramen.

Shio Ramen.

Beginner's Japanese.

Arigato gozaimashita! I sincerely thank you for continuing to give this blog love. Oh, and the ramen here isn't bad either.

Ramen Setagaya
141 1st Av
New York, NY 10009

Under the Green Tent: Korean Street Food - Review of Pocha 32

Green Tent.

This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Imagine yourself bundled up in layers in the dead of winter, sitting on a stool outdoors under a plastic green tent with gurgling pots of kimchi-infused casseroles, soups and spices mingling around you. Soju bottle in hand, pouring your sunbaenim (elder, in Korean) a shot and knocking the vodka-like substance back with a hearty "Kanbei!"...followed by a loud, vehement clearing of the throat. Slurping down ramyun like it was a race to the finish, burning your tongue in the process because you want to eat the noodles while they're not soggy.

That's a typical food stall scenario in Korea, where street food is elevated to the highest form of trendy, home-spun comfort. Pocha 32's decor reminded me of that, bringing the outdoors inside with perforated green tents, pictures of patrons strewn on the walls with nothing but brightly colored paper clips holding them up. My friend and I sat all the way in the back since it was crowded. But at 7:45ish, that was expected. Busy is good.

Blaring through the sound system: V.I.'s "Strong Baby," Epik High's "One" and a female cover of Taeyang's "Look Only At Me." Is it sad that I knew the set list? The lights progressively dimmed more and more as the night wore on. Around 9:30 p.m., the music changed from Kpop hits to dancehall electronica beats, and the lights (made of bottle caps) from green-tinted to white and blue Christmas lights. As if on cue. Turns out it was someone's birthday. Cool way to toast a friend.


I enjoyed the appetizers, huge strips of carrots and cucumbers (although "stalks" would be a more accurate description) and ssamjang, or an orange-red sauce made of fermented bean curd and red pepper paste. The fresh ssamjang complemented the vegetables nicely and especially paired well with the cucumbers, the carrots being sweeter. [It's the same hot sauce as the one at Gahm Mi Oak, only they serve it with hot chili peppers and lettuce.]

And then we waited. And waited. I didn't really keep track of how long it took before our first dish showed up, but it was more than 30 minutes. The waiter said the chef was backlogged since they were so busy (and, it seems, understaffed). He hadn't even started on our order yet! I understand that good food takes it sweet time to prepare, but it's still an inefficient system. And when we cancelled an order for Chicken and Korean noodles, there must have been miscommunication between the waiters that served us since we still got a bill charging us for it. (Keep in mind the chef hadn't even started on our order yet at this time). Luckily, we were able to fix that mistake, but this error kind of dampened my celebratory mood.

Budae Chigae.

Fortunately, the Budae Chigae was worth the inordinate wait. This Korean "army stew" included classic ingredients, such as kimchi, onions, tofu and ttokk (small flat rice cakes), along with bites of sausage, Spam and bulgolgi. I think my favorite version so far is still Kunjip's. But in any case, it was chock full of fireball flavor. I don't think we understood how big the serving size was going to be. This casserole stew is meant to be shared with a big party. At $19.99, it's way too much food to consume for two people! We needed at least 6 people to conquer that Budae Chigae.


The Ddukbokki dish with kimchi and tofu ($9.99) was definitely the winner of the night - soft yet firm and chewy rice cakes. The star ingredient here is Korean hot pepper paste. Without that, you're a fish out of water. We cracked open a bottle of Pomegranate Soju Wine ($18.99) but couldn't even finish the whole thing. I'm sure our waiter meant to be obliging when he recommended the pom soju. He probably picked us out as inexperienced soju drinkers (which we are). However, I don't need sickly sweet things to appease my non-Korean palate. It doesn't take a wine sommelier to realize that pomegranate did not complement the intense red hot pepper spiciness of our dishes. I would go with the Jinro Chamisul Original Soju ($13.99) or the communal Watermelon Soju bowl ($24.99).

To make it worth the splurge, I'm definitely bringing more people (and a Korean friend!) for Round 2. Maybe then the staff would take us seriously.

Blue Blur.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Despite the subpar service, I'm such a sucker for ddukbokki and budae chigae that I'm willing to give Pocha another chance.

Pocha 32
15 W 32nd St
2nd Fl
New York, NY 10001