September 22, 2014

Mombar: Egyptian Food Adventure

I love food! I'm usually talking about food, enjoying food and giving my opinion about food.  Usually people ask me for recommendations and they expect me to share a great find.  The last few weeks when I've been asked for a recommendation I felt I didn't have anything exciting to share, so this weekend I decided I would spend some time looking for something different than the usual foods I eat.  I headed to Astoria, an area I don't usually visit, and walked up and down the streets to see if anything caught my eye.  I came across Mombar, a tiny Egyptian restaurant on Steinway Street.  I walked in and asked to see a menu, what I noticed where interesting dishes that I have not tasted which was a good sign for a food adventure.

Mombar is a small restaurant; maybe it fits about 30-40 people (you can see the chef cooking from the tables) but with great personality and quite the eccentric decor (plush pillows on the seats, rugs and pots hang from the ceiling and the walls).  I asked the chef, who was also the server for recommendations and he gave me a long list of options.  I spent quite the time looking through the menu, studying trying to balance my need for adventure with my desire for something delicious (since I was hungry).  I finally decided I would go with a tasting menu and leave it up to the chef to decide for me (I don't believe I've ever done that before, so that alone is adventurous for me).

To start with some mint tea with Egyptian farmers bread and olive oil infused with thyme and sesame seeds.  The bread was warm and flaky, as a person who loves bread, I could have been happy enjoying this bread all night!

Mint Tea
Egyptian Farmers Bread with Olive Oil
However, since I did come here to enjoy a food adventure I made sure to leave room for all the wonderful food that I expected to come my way.

As I waited for my food, I enjoyed the ambiance and lively Egyptian music that was playing in the background.  I observed the patrons and the chef while I waited for my food and I was really taken back by the joy the chef had as he prepared the food.  I was watching him for some time and he had such a smile on his face as he was cooking. Repeatedly he came from behind the counter to check on the patrons and inquire about their food and their experience.  I believe his son was assisting him with the dining area and he too would come by and ask people how they were enjoying the food.  Sometimes this happens and if done persistently it can be annoying, but in this case it felt as if I was in a relatives house about to enjoy a meal with them.  This was so refreshing to see, someone who really seemed to enjoy food and sharing food with others.

Before I knew it, my first dish came out: lamb tajeen over couscous.  The lamb was braised with vegetables, which seemed to be mostly green beans/peas and some carrots.  The lamb was tender and flavorful; I could have eaten a lot more of this!
Lamb Tajeen
The next dish was Mombar, just as the name of the restaurant.  This dish was handmade sausages with rice, beef, lamb and herbs.  This dish had strong tomato flavors and a little bit of garlic.  This was an interesting choice for me, one sausage had a thick casing so I had a hard time enjoying this; however the filling for the sausage had wonderful flavors.
The third dish was Ar nab Moulekhia, which is rabbit cooked with moulekhia served with white rice.  Moulekhia, I was told, is a plant that looks very similar to basil, but with very mild flavors.  I've never had rabbit before, texture-wise it tasted similar to hen or maybe turkey.  The flavors of this dish were very subtle, very earthy and slightly nutty.
Arnab Moulekhia
The final dish for my meal was dessert.  I had two choices: Om Ali or Chef Surprise.  A couple sitting in an adjacent table had selected the Chef Surprise and what they received was a beautiful spread in a platter, everyone let out an Ah when it was put on their table; it seemed like an impressive work of art.  For me after eating so much, I didn't have a lot of room for dessert so I opted for Om Ali. Om Ali is made with shredded toasted phyllo dough that is baked with milk, sugar, raisins, coconut, and nuts.  It is similar to bread pudding, but not as dense. I really enjoyed this dessert and was happy I came away with at least one dish that I know I can recreate at home.
Om Ali
Mombar was such a great find.  I'm glad I strolled through the streets in Astoria and came across this little gem.  If you're looking for a food adventure or great food in a warm inviting environment, I recommend going to Mombar.  To the chef, thank you for such great service!  Until next time, Buen Provecho!

2522 Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11103
Phone: 718.726.2356
Closest Subway Stop: 30th Avenue or Astoria Blvd (N,Q)

August 16, 2014

Smorgasburg Food Adventure

I stopped by the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg for some food sampling and came across Ethiopian food.  I hadn't checked off Ethiopia from my list of countries, so was happy to add this one to the list.

Injera with Misir, Keysir and Gomen
Bunna Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant has a food stand at the Smorgasburg.  I ordered the injera; a sourdough flatbread.  The injera had the texture and taste of light pancakes.  I ordered this with Misir Wot (red lentils), Keysir (sauteed beets, carrots, and potatoes) and Gomen (sauteed kale with carrots).  The misir wot was my favorite of the three, it had a slight kick.

I picked up some Bunna; an Ethiopian coffee which had a nice cinnamon taste.

There's lots of different choices at the Smorgasburg, there are approximately 100 food vendors representing a wide range of cuisines.   For dessert, I headed to the Bamboo Bites. I picked up the mango with sticky rice for dessert. The rice was drizzled with a sweet cream. I love this dessert, the creaminess, the freshness of the mango, this was a nice treat.  I definitely will go back and taste some of the other flavors that they have.

Mango with Sticky Rice
The Smorgasburg has so many different options to choose from. It's a great way to experience lots of different foods in one location.  Here are a few images of other stands.

If you're interested in checking out the Smorgasburg, it's at the East River State Park in Williamsburg on Saturdays through November. For other locations, visit the website.

(Williamsburg location)
East River State Park
90 Kent Avenue, at North 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Closest Subway Stop: Bedford Avenue (L)

June 5, 2014

Malaysian Food Adventure

I just returned from Malaysia and had such a wonderful culinary experience I wanted to share some of the highlights.  It was my first time in Malaysia and I was very excited about the food possibilities and Malaysia certainly did not disappoint.  I enjoyed street food as much as fine dining, and I especially enjoyed going to the markets and checking out the broad range of fruits available.

Below are some highlights from my trip to the markets in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Sabah (Borneo).

One of my favorite experiences in any country is to eat the local food. I usually do my own exploring but while in Kuala Lumpur I took advantage of Urban Adventures food tour to explore the food of Little India and Chinatown.  The tour guides (Gabby and Carlson) were so great at giving us lots of information about the places we visited, the food we tasted and really giving us a taste of Malaysia.  Two of my favorite foods from my time in Malaysia on this tour are: the amazing banana fritters (a really light batter, so good) and the crunchy Misoa noodles stir fry.  Here are a few pictures from my favorite foods while in Malaysia, including some from the food tour.

My goal now is to try and find these foods in NYC, especially the ones that I really loved.  The alternative of course is to try and make it myself.  Luckily I purchased a Malaysia recipe book and I look forward to testing those recipes out.

If you're ever in Kuala Lumpur check out the Urban Adventures food tour.  It's an adventure you will not forget.  You can book directly online at Urban Adventures food tour or Food Tour Malaysia.

Until next time, Buen Provecho!

April 13, 2014

The Copenhagen: Danish Food Adventure

A couple of weeks ago I had a change to stop by The Copenhagen for a bite.  I was hoping for some traditional Danish food, but the menu was limited, more of a traditional brunch menu. The Copenhagen is a Danish restaurant off of Canal Street, near the Holland Tunnel.
I ordered the Bixemad: potatoes, fried egg and onion, with Havarti cheese.  I also got the bread basket: rye bread with butter and jam.  I was hoping for a Danish pastry but they were out that day.  The potatoes were quite tasty, kind of like the American version of home fries.  The bread was hearty and I really liked the jam. The rest of the dish was pretty straightforward, fried eggs and cheese with coffee.
Bread Basket
I"ll have to go back to The Copenhagen for dinner and taste some of the more traditional dishes.  Until next time, Buen Provecho!

The Copenhagen
13 Laight Street
New York, NY 10012
Phone: 212.925.1313
Closest Subway Stop: Canal Street (1)

March 16, 2014

Almayass: Armenian Food Adventure

I've had Almayass on my list of places to check out for quite some time.  I was happy to finally go this past week.  Almayass is an Armenian restaurant in the Flatiron District.  Complementary pita bread is served on the table.  I ordered the labneh toom: a yogurt dipping sauce blended with dry mint and olive oil to dip the pita in.  I didn't taste the mint but it did have a slightly garlicky taste to it.
Pita with Labneh Toom
For my appetizer I ordered the subereg. The description on the menu was of a pastry with cheese and parsley but this tasted more like pasta, almost like a cheese lasagna without the sauce. It was chewy, with a little crisp on top.
The main entree was the Almayass delight, described as filet mignon cubes sauteed with garlic, tomato and parsley.  The meat was incredibly flavorful.  Strangely it reminded me of bhindi masala.
Almayass Delight
For dessert I ordered the ashta el saraya, which is cream of milk with pistachios.  The bottom of this dessert is like a spongy cake, topped with the sweet cream of milk and the pistachios.  This desserts is not very sweet, it's served with a simple syrup that your pour over it.  It's really rich and dense.  I enjoyed this with a Rooibos Chai tea (cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, and lemongrass).
Ashta el Saraya
Ashta el Saraya with Rooibos Chai Tea
This was an incredibly filling and satisfying food adventure.  Lots of good food at Almayass and very friendly service.  I'm hoping to do a few more food adventures in the coming months and as always share my adventures on this blog.  Until next time, Buen Provecho!

24 East 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
Closest Subway Stop: 23rd Street & Park Avenue South (6)