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dessert

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

Vernick

For M’s birthday this year, we went to Vernick. They offered to seat us at the kitchen so we could get a free show, so we said sure! I actually love watching people cook my food. But I always forget that it’s going to be super hot there! But we still enjoyed the show! They started us off with a complimentary little amuse bouche – a pea soup with some chili oil on top. A fun and tasty start!
vernicktunaWe started off with some tuna poke, served with macadamia nuts in a sweet soy dressing. This was a perfect combo of cold tuna with sweet and umami flavors. I’ve never had poke, so I have no idea how poke-ish this poke was, but it was darn tasty. It was obvious, from the very start, how fresh and high quality all the ingredients here were.

vernickbroccWe wanted to get at least some veggies, to feign caring about our health, so we went with the broccoli rabe, which was simply roasted with chili and aged pecorino. I need to eat more roasted veggies!
vernickravioliOur last shared small dish was the ravioli with braised duck and green beans. Another great dish. Three pieces of delicate ravioli with super moist duck. The green beans were still nice and firm. There’s nothing appealing about soggy green beans!
vernickvealM got the oven-roasted veal loin, served with Israeli couscous and spring beans with a pesto sauce. He loved it! The entree portions here were surprisingly large.
vernickbassI got the grilled black sea bass, served with tender broccoli and a fire-roasted tomato sauce. Yum! The fish is cooked really nicely, with the skin on, and the skin is nice and crispity. The tomato sauce is surprisingly flavorful and works well with the flaky fish. It’s a delicate fish, but the accompanying sauce is strong and pungent.
vernickdatecakeWe definitely wanted to try dessert so we asked our server what to get and he said “cardamom cake!” so we said sure! Listen here people. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. It’s just the whole package. It’s a roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce, a scoop of coconut gelato, and topped with a candied slice of orange. Man, the cake is warm and moist with just enough hint of that exotic cardamom flavor, the gelato is just the right amount of cold. It just works! I could eat this every day. Our experience at Vernick was just wonderful. All of it, the food, the show, and the service. It certainly deserves all its raves!
Vernick Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

Barbuzzo – Birthday Dinner

When people ask me for restaurant recommendations, one place I regularly mention is Barbuzzo. It’s just great. And I can’t possibly imagine anyone not liking it. The food is superb, the place itself is adorable, and it’s just a lovely experience. My only reservation would be for large groups. Barbuzzo is just too small to be good for big groups. But it’d be perfect for a romantic date, girls night out, or dinner with the parents. Anyhoo, my last visit there was for my birthday. The cheese board! As a self-proclaimed cheese wuss, I’m sometimes reticent to go for cheese plates. But hey, it’s a new year, a new me, and I’m going to be more experimental, especially with cheese. With nothing overly of the blue variety on the plate, I enjoyed everything. I want more cheese boards!
I’m a sucker for octopus, so whenever I see it on a menu, there’s a good chance I’m getting it. This is the grilled mediterranean octopus salad with sopressata, fingerling potato, taggiasca olive, roasted peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and lemon. Whoo hoo! When cooked well, especially grilled, octopus is super tender. It gets a bad “rubbery” rap because of how many times it can be cooked poorly. This octopus was tender and smoky, slightly tart from the lemon, and rich with the roasted peppers and herbs. 
We thought it would be fun to try one of the pizzas, so we picked one of the very few that had meat! Here’s the prosciutto pizza with roasted grapes, gorgonzola, walnuts, arugula, and vin cotto. Perhaps the sound of grapes and walnuts and arugula on a pizza sounds odd, but to the tastebuds, it’s great.  
I don’t recall this exact dish, but it’s a strozzapretti pasta with duck, I think? This was my favorite dish of the night. It looks so simple… just some pasta with some shreads of meat in it. But dang, I could not stop eating it. The pasta was chewy and buttery and the duck was tender, fatty, and had a nice mild flavor. Oh it was so darn good!
And you have to end every Barbuzzo meal (heck, every meal!) with the salted caramel budino. It’s famous for a reason. So just be sure to order it. You’ll be glad you did!

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