110 E 7th St, New York


Phone: 212-777-2151

We wouldn't really call Sara Jenkins' new roast pork institution in East Village a place for cheap eats. The porchetta plate which includes roast pork, cracklings (if you are lucky) and two sides of greens and beans is actually pricey at $14, and the sandwich is not exactly cheap either at $9. But we have to admit, the pork is nicely flavored and juicy with hints of spices and herbs like rosemary, sage, garlic etc, and the cracklings are pretty incredible. Porchetta reminded us of Malaysian style roast pork sans rosemary; we just wished they didn't served us under seasoned beans and greens.

Be sure to call ahead before heading to the restaurant since they do run out of pork from time to time. We went there twice before finally getting the pork. Seating area is also lacking, so expect to have your porchetta to go especially during dinner time.

Porchetta plate with two sides to go

Porchetta on Urbanspoon



230 Ninth Avenue, New York


Phone: 212-243-1105

With so many awesome pizza places in New York City, do New Yorkers really need another Pizza place? Apparently the answer is yes, seeing how popular Jim Lahey's (of Sullivan Street Bakery) Company Pizza restaurant is. Company, or Co's concept is gourmet pizza, with an emphasis on excellent crust and high quality ingredients/toppings. To us, yes, the crust is good, and yes the toppings are good, but is it worth waiting an hour for a table and paying top dollars for? (one individual pie can cost up to $24) - No.

We ordered four pies at Co. even though we were quite full from Txikito (We ate/drank at Txikito while waiting for a table at Co). We have to agree, the pie crust was pretty good, but the toppings, although more luxurious with quail egg, truffle, prosciutto etc, were not as impressive. There were a few noteworthy pies though; try the Flambe pie and Stracciatella pie if you do go there.

You would think that a pizza restaurant is an ideal place for big groups, but clearly not at Co. The staffs were not accommodating in getting us seated until we headed over to Txikito. Service wasn't good either, we felt we were rushed through dinner by our waiter. We'd rather head to Grimaldi's or Patsy's if we have cravings for pizza next time.

Ham and Cheese pie - pecorino, gruyere, buffalo, mozzarella, prosciutto, caraway

Bird's Nest Pie - raschera, appalachian, parmesan, shaved asparagus, quail eggs, shaved black truffle

Flambe pie - bechamel, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions, lardons

Stracciatella pie - crushed tomato, black pepper, stracciatella, arugula

The yaokui girls

Co. on Urbanspoon

Txoko @ Txikito


240 Ninth Avenue, New York


Phone: 212-242-4730

Txoko, or sociedad gastronomica, is a social gathering that involves food and is very popular in Spain, especially in San Sebastian. It is also a breeding ground for many of the experimental cooking that has been happening in Spain for centuries and what makes the cuisine so dynamic and inventive. We wanted to attend one of the txokos while we were in San Sebastian but it didn’t happen. Because unlike Anthony Bourdain, who was invited to a txoko by Juan Mari Arzak, we didn’t have any local contacts (and definitely not Juan Mari) to bring us in. Most txokos are also limited to fixed members only and language barrier made it more difficult for us to inquire about Txokos while we were there.

But thanks to Txikito, one of our favorite restaurants in NYC, we got to experience what this famous gastronomy event is all about for the first time last week and we got to share that experience with our yaokui friends here in New York! The Txoko @ Txikito is a monthly event, set on a Monday night, an off day for Txikito. Organizing a food and cultural event like this during your rest day speaks volume to how dedicated the restaurant staff is to their craft. There's limited seatings and the invitation is through a mailing list that we were just lucky enough to have got ourselves into. Hint: be extra nice to Brian at the bar or Brad the manager and they'll open your world to authentic Spanish culinary cuisine.

Txoko at Txikito was mostly a Nueva Catalan/Basque affair; with Txikito’s owners Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Spanish chef Ruben Garcia and Ramon Martinez from Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup, and dessert chef Will Goldfarb cooking up some pretty incredible Spanish dishes and dessert. We really liked the caramelized pork rinds, uni on mini steamed buns, “canned” mussels (a Catalan specialty dish), chilled almond soup and chicken hearts pintxo with tximichurri sauce. I wonder if the uni on mini steamed bun was Alex Raij’s dish since I heard it’s one of the dishes she’s famous for. The chicken heart pintxo was also one of the best chicken hearts dish we have eaten and the chilled almond soup was refreshing and luxurious. The platos fuerte (main dish) or pièce de résistance for the night is definitely the grilled baby sea cucumber with praline sauce. Sea cucumber is not a foreign ingredient in Spanish cuisine and we're glad to have had it here after not having the famous Etxebarri grilled sea cucumber in Spain. Sea cucumber is also an ingredient that we're familiar with growing up as a Chinese Malaysian. The distinct differences in the preparation and use of the sea cucumber is in the texture. We were more used to the gelatinous texture of the Chinese stewed sea cucumber dishes. The grilled baby sea cucumber here on the other hand, was chewy and slightly crunchy, almost like squid or octopus but has a sweeter taste to it. The praline sauce complimented it very well and definitely brought the savoriness of the exotic ingredient on the plate. Kudos to Chef Alex for being able to source the sea cucumber in NYC. The word from the chef herself was that she picked it up courtesy of good relations with the supplier. Lucky for us!

The desserts were equally impressive. Will Goldfarb deserved a big applause for making the best coconut amuse bouche with meringue, sinfully satisfying marshmallow dessert and greek yogurt with chocolate cream dessert. Will’s desserts are very original, creative and delicate, and he’s proud of producing his own style of desserts rather than copying what El Bulli has made famous (such as the microwave sponge cake). We hope Will Goldfarb will reopen a dessert place in New York City soon! The word from Chef Will is that he's working on a project at Bali. Guess which hungry ghosts will be making a detour to the Indonesian island on the next trip back to Malaysia?

Frank Bruni had just reviewed Txikito and only gave them one star. Some says a star from Frank Bruni for a "bar"-like food is pretty good achievement. We're not one to be bound by rigid rules and old customs. If it taste good, it's worthy of praise. We (as well as our yaokui buddies) think they deserved more stars than what was given. Places like Txikito is just rare in New York City: genuine people, good tasting food, cozy atmosphere and the restaurant’s dedication to sharing solid, authentic Spanish cooking with New Yorkers through events like the Txokos, you just don’t find it at many places. And best of all, you don’t have to travel to San Sebastian to enjoy amazing Basque Pintxos. The folks at Travel and Leisure magazine probably recognizes that and that’s why they've listed Txikito as one of the Best 50 new US restaurants! Congrats Txikito!



Address: 79 Carrer Indústria, Barcelona

Phone: 34-93-207-6115

alkimia: alchemy in spanish. there's 2 meaning in dictionary.com but the 2nd is most appropriate to describe this restaurant.
[al-kuh-me] - noun, plural -mies for 2
2. any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.

Of all the places we have eaten in Barcelona, Alkimia probably surprised us the most. Especially after eating at amazing three Michelin star restaurant Arzak and two Michelin Star restaurant Mugaritz, we thought that nothing else (of course, other than el Bulli) can top that experience in terms of "Nouvelle Spanish" cuisine. So when Alkimia whipped out one after another of the most innovative, world-class dishes, we were totally blown away.

Alkimia dining room

servei de pa i complements #1, pa amb tomàquet

The dishes at Alkimia are Nouvelle Catalan, a trend Ferran Adria of El Bulli started sometime ago. Traditional Catalan dishes are the source of inspiration for most dishes in the Alkimia’s lunch tasting menu. We were only able to identify a handful of them in their non-traditional form. Alkimia’s Pa amb tomàquet amuse bouche for example, is the chef, Jordi Vilá 's take on classic Catalan cuisine. Instead of the traditional way of preparing pa amb tomàquet by rubbing tomatoes against the bread and serving with cured meat/sausage, Jordi created his own deconstructed version with filtered tomatoes “water”, olive oil, bread crumbs and served with a sliced of cured sausage. Equally tasty as the traditional version, but Alkimia’s delivers instant gratification with sophistication, rather than being just the comfort food that Pa amb tomàquet is known for.

servei de pa i complements#2 - white bean and foam soup (just exactly what amuse bouche was supposed to do, to whet your appetite. the tender bean, smoky scallion and savory foam soup leaves you wanting for more)

Marinated tuna fish with tomato, fresh cheese and strawberry (the first salvo was a perfect fish dish. we get a piece of very nicely marinated maguro tuna. sweet, savory, decadent)

coca (light thin bread) of anchovy with roasted vegetables and truffle butter

We also really liked the coca (light thin bread) of anchovy with roasted vegetables and truffle butter grilled vegetables dish. Coca, is a versatile Catalan flat bread, something like pizza, but it can used with sweet or savory toppings. This combination of Coca and Grilled vegetables or escalivada is luxurious (with truffle butter!) and very satisfying. The anchovy definitely provided the necessary saltiness to this coca and escalivada dish.

topinambur cream with iberian ravioli with sea urchin (topinambur is a type of medieval potato root, which has a more nutty taste to it. you usually won't go wrong with a piece of good uni)

Egg bonbon with potatoes and quince

Saute spinach and oyster marinating and pig mask (pork cheek) - absolutely juicy oyster and tender gelatinous texture of pork cheek. This is the most unusual surf and turf we've had but one of the best.

Another dish that we thought was memorable was the marinated pork cheek and oyster dish. Alkimia’s surf and turf, a modern take on the classic Spanish dish with an emphasis on flavor and texture. What makes this modern surf and turf dish incredible is how the pork cheek and oyster taste so alike in terms of its gelatinous texture. I might have thought that both were oysters, one marinated and one not, if I was doing a blind tasting!

Red mullet with seawater

The last dish we should mention is definitely the restaurant’s signatures dish, red mullet with seawater. The dish is one of a kind, bold, and visually stunning, it was as though the chef had just scooped the seawater out of the ocean and serve a fish on it. The blue soup was created from the heads of Escamarlan, seaweed konbu, Catalan fish, and natural coloring made from red cabbage and basil. It was a shock to our palate initially but we quickly learn to appreciate the simplicity yet sophisticated in its preparation. This is seafood, at its purest.

Iberian pork with cheese and preserved tomotoes (the piece of truffle wrapped around the iberian pork did its trick)

Prawn "a la mano", poached and grilled on burnt bay leaf and salt, to be eaten with hands (we were strongly encouraged to use hands sans utensils, as the chef believes this is the only way to eat gambas. probably not as well cooked in heat as the one we had in Asador Etxebarri but definitely more complex spice used which enhances the aroma)

Consomme with partridge emulsified to tartuffe and winter vegetables (meatloaf, spanish style!)

Almond ice cream with citrus, basil and orange blossom (el Bulli's reach is seen everywhere in Spain and the world)

Bitter chocolate with raspberry cream and eucalyptuses ice cream (another interesting trend was the use of eucalyptus, a type of fragrant flower typically used for fragrance)

The Alkimia tasting menu also came with two dessert, Almond ice cream with citrus, basil and orange blossom (microwave sponge cake) and Bitter chocolate with raspberry cream and eucalyptuses ice cream. It was the second microwave sponge cake we have eaten in Spain within a week, and at two separate restaurants. There was no distinctive differences between the microwave sponge cake at Arzak and at Alkimia, but seems like it is a popular dessert trend in Spain. This is only but an example of the many copies of a creation by the endlessly creative and whimsical el Bulli kitchen. Amazingly, this trend has not yet caught on in NYC yet. Definitely did not see it in WD~50 or anywhere else.

Petit Four

The decision to pick Alkimia over Comerc 24 wasn’t an easy one. It just didn’t make sense to go to both restaurants during this trip since their cooking style is similar. But Alkimia turned out to be one of our favorite restaurants in Spain. We were just surprised that Alkimia was only rated one Michelin star, they definitely deserve more for their ability to create such magical dishes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes


123 E 7th St., New York


Phone: 212-677-2880

Of all the cupcakes stores in New York City, Butter Lane cupcakes are hands down our favorite. While other cupcakes stores are making the usual red velvet, chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, Butter Lane differentiates itself by specializing in fruit frosting cupcakes with flavors such as Mango, Keylime, Strawberry, Blueberry etc. The cupcakes are made from the freshest and top quality ingredients, and they use organic eggs too. Take one bite into their cupcakes and you will instantly taste the difference --they are light, fluffy, "refreshing" (really!) and not too sweet.

We actually stumbled upon this cupcake store while trying to get some pork at Porchetta across the street (not successfully since they ran out of pork). What attracted me to this place initially was its Mango cupcakes, which they didn't have any when we went in. But I was perfectly happy with the Keylime cupcake, and Gan absolutely love the French Vanilla cupcake. We heart Butter Lane cupcakes!

Keylime cupcake and French Vanilla cupcake

Strawberry and Blueberries cupcakes

Gan devoured the French Vanilla cupcake within a few seconds and loved it. I was amazed, since he is not really a big fan of cupcakes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes on Urbanspoon



: 240 9th Avenue, New York (btw 24th and 25th Street)


Phone: 212-242-4730

It's been about a month since we visited Spain and we really miss the food there. So for our latest yaokui outing, we decided to check out Txikito, a Basque Tapas bar in NYC own by the famous Alex Raij (previous co-owner of Tia Pol) and her husband Eder Montero.

Whenever a bunch of us yaokuis get together, there's bound to be lots of food, drinks and laughter. Even though we initially wanted to get a table for the nine of us, we ended up eating at the bar. But it turned out to be so much fun because we were actually got to enjoy tapas the same way it's done in Spain.

We tried almost every dish on the menu on the board and Foie, Rusa, Patatak Mentaiko, Pil Pil Txuleton and Conchinillo are some of our favorites. Here're the dishes we ordered at Txikito:

Foie Miscuit - homemade Foie gras terrine
Marijuli - sweet pepper, tomato, Jamón, Basque anchovy
Rusa - classic Russian salad; potato, imported tuna, homemade mayo
Pulpo - octopus carpaccio; lemon oil, marjoram, Piment d'espelette
Kroketas - crispy creamy croquettes
Patatak Mentaiko - crisp fries w/spicy cod roe mayo
Morcilla - crispy blood sausage filled bundles
Piperrak - blistered peppers with sea salt
Albondigas - meatballs with shellfish broth
Pil Pil - legendary Basque salt cod , poached in olive oil w/ kokotxas
Txipiron "Encebollado" - squid ribbons a la plantxa
w/ sweet onion and pine nuts
Lengua -crispy beef tongue with mustard española, cornichons
Txuleton - Cider house rib eye steak
Conchinillo - Slow cooked suckling pig with Tximitxurri
Pulpo Con Grelos - Imported Octopus with Broccoli and Rabe & Pimenton
Rodaballo - Whole Turbot served Elkano style with crispy garlic vinaigrette

Two thumbs up to our waiter/bartender, Brian, who took good care of us, recommended good dishes and served us amazing drinks all night (good job on the Txacholi as well!) We recommend sitting at the bar when dining at Txikito. It's so much more fun.

(Clockwise from the top) Rusa - classic Russian salad with potato, imported tuna, homemade mayo, Foie Miscuit - homemade Foie gras terrine, Marijuli -sweet pepper, tomato, Jamón, Basque anchovy

Yaokui pigout session. Good food, good drinks, good time, good company...a perfect Friday evening.

(Clockwise from the top) Pulpo - octopus carpaccio with lemon oil, marjoram, Piment d'espelette, Patatak Mentaiko - crisp fries w/spicy cod roe mayo, Pil Pil - legendary Basque salt cod , poached in olive oil w/ kokotxas, Piperrak - blistered peppers with sea salt , (Center) fake angulas/baby eel

Good time at Txikito!

Txikito on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack


Madison Square Park, E 23rd St & Madison Ave, New York


Phone: (212) 889-6600

I am no expert in Burgers, but I do appreciate a good burger when I eat one. To me, a good burger is one that has top quality juicy beef patty that is not overdone, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and hamburger bun that is buttered and slightly toasted on the inside. Shake Shack serves exactly this type burger.

The shack is strategically located at the corner of Madison Square park in Flatiron district, where New Yorkers and tourists alike can stop by for some awesome burgers, curly fries, hot chocolate, milk shake, beers, and even Shake Shack's own WINES! Although the burgers are the highlights, we thought the milk shake and hot chocolate were some of the best we've had.

It's a simple idea - burger in the park, but the Union Square Hospitality Group (which also owns The Modern, one of our favorite restaurants) made it exceptional by bringing roadside burgers to the next level. Enjoying high quality Shake Shack burger with Madison Square Park as the dining room is just amazing. ( Can you imagine summer in Madison Square Park + Shake Shack burger? FOOD LOVERS' HEAVEN!)

Expect long lines, at all times (even during the coldest months of winter). But it's worth the wait, Shake Shack burgers are really that awesome.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon