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Buddakan

This year for my mom’s birthday, she actually didn’t pick sushi! It was a mom’s birthday miracle! Not that I would have minded, but I was excited to mix it up for once. She got to pick, and this time she decided on Buddakan. Can you believe that I’ve never been? So we were all excited to check it out. I was quite surprised at how large the restaurant was inside. When all you get to see from the outside is a big door, you can’t really see what’s happening on the other side. There are a lot of tables here, and several levels. image_2 - CopyWe tried the spicy rock shrimp bao buns. These were like the pork ones, but without the oink, and included pickled slaw and jalapenos. These were nice and spicy and zesty with a sour and sweet crunch. Let’s face it, I love anything with crunchy slaw on it. For those of you non-pork eaters, this is a great way to enjoy a bao experience.image_5 - CopyThese are the General Tso’s Dumplings, which were filled with chicken and a hot & sour broth. M really liked these, and ate most of them, but I only thought they were ok. If I want dumplings, I’ll stick to dim sum garden!image_6 - CopyI’m a sucker for Mao Po Tofu, so I got that as my main entree.  Oh this was really great guys, one of the best mao po tofu dishes I’ve ever had. I have no idea if this is genuine or authentic or whatever, all I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the way Buddakan made their’s. I would come back here just for this dish in a heartbeat.image_7 - CopyThe birthday lady got the miso black cod served with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and a unagi sauce.  I tend to think that ordering miso cod in an asian restaurant is always a safe bet, and this one was no different. It was also a good sized portion, not too small, not too big, perfect for my mom.
image_8 - CopyM is a sucker for seared tuna. If it’s on a menu, any menu, he’s bound to order it. And of course he did here. This is the wasabi tuna tataki with ginger somen noodles. First of all, look how beautiful the tuna is. It was like looking at stained glass or something. Second of all, M said this is the best tuna he has ever eaten. EVER. IN HIS LIFE. He’s not one for such hyperbole, so for him to say such a thing, he meant it.
image_9 - CopyEven though we were all beyond stuffed, we had to get some dessert, specifically the dip sum doughnuts, which were five spice doughnuts with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce, gingered cream cheese dipping sauces. Oh my word. And the best part was that they’re served in a typical chinese takeout container, so it was super easy to take home, which we definitely did! All in all, this was a delicious and fun meal. I’ve been to a number of Stephen Starr restaurants and had positive experiences at all of them, so far. I’d have to say Buddakan is now my favorite! 
Buddakan on Urbanspoon

Cheu Noodle Bar

I don’t often end up going to new and cool restaurants right after they open, but it just kinda happened that way with Cheu Noodle Bar. It was a last minute decision that ended up working out. On the Saturday night of their first week, we happened to be in the neighborhood so we thought we’d give it a shot. They said it would be about a 45 minute wait for a 2-top, but it actually ended up 30 minutes. It’s pretty small on the inside, with one long bar, behind which all the cooking is done, and a fairly small number of tables. The menu is also fairly small, which I like! 
Instead of complimentary bread or peanuts or shrimp chips or whatever, they crush a package of shin ramyun into a bowl so you can snack on the uncooked noodles that are now covered with the flavor packet powder. It’s delicious! But shin ramyun is spicy, so be careful! That big red piece almost killed me!
I’d read that the bbq rice cakes were a must order, so we definitely got those. Oh my word. I could eat these all day, every day! The term rice cakes may scare some people off, but they are the kind of chewy rice-based asian rice cakes, not the crunchy diet snack food. As a korean, I call these ddeok, and I freakin love ddeok, in all forms. And these were amazing! The rice cake pieces seemed a bit caramelized so they were crispity on the outside and chewy and hot on the inside. They’re sweet and savory and just amazing. I just wish that there were more in a portion! It seemed so tiny and they were gone so soon and it made me sad! :-(
M got the ramen which had a thick and porky broth with hunks of melty pork belly. 
I got the brisket noodle which came with a giant matzo ball and brussels sprouts in a spicy broth. This was so good! The broth is slightly spicy and a little bit sour, which is right up my alley. There were several thick pieces of brisket and oh boy, the matzo totally filled my belly! Cheu was so much fun. They just added some new items to the menu so we’ll definitely go back! Service was good and friendly and the food came out fairly fast!
Cheu Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

The Pandan Room – Hackettstown

If you travel for work, sometimes you get to go to really awesome places, like Italy or Boston. Sometimes you get to go to less illustrious places. But wherever I’ve ended up, I’ve always managed to eat somewhere interesting. I’ve had to go to Hackettstown, NJ, a lot, and my best meal there was at Pandan Room. Man alive I love these prawn crackers! I ate the whole damn bowl. I can’t buy these in a store, because I would eat them too quickly.
I got the soup special which was a pumpkin chestnut soup. What’s not to love? I love pumpkin! I love chesnuts! Put them together!
For my main dish, I got the Babi Kecap Manis. These were little mini pork shanks marinated with Indonesian sweet soy, fresh shallot, lemongrass, and medium chili sauce. They were served with a sweet potato puree and quinoa. Quinoa at an asian restaurant? Yep! I’ve never had an entree quite like this. It was delightful!
Everything had been so delicious and also interesting, so even though I was beyond stuffed, I wanted to get some dessert. So I picked the banana mini cheesecake with vanilla ice cream. These were essentially deep fried cheesecake bites topped onto ice cream, with some sliced strawberries. Talk about decadent! This place was such a nice surprise. Service was great, attentive, and my server was super friendly. I was glad to see many people eating there, and it seemed to be mostly locals and regulars. 

Pandan Room Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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