Chez Nini

I am by no means familiar with restaurants in any city in India. Yes, I have spent some semi-significant time in the country over the course of the last 6 years and sure I can probably rattle off a few should-try places in Bangalore, when I was there for 5 months in 2011, I can’t say that I know much of anything at all. However, it’s every so often that you come across something that’s worth mentioning. If you’re in search for European fare that’s not the usual soaked-and-drenched-in-sauce pasta, or the typical Mediterranean kebabs and shish taouks, and you specifically want French, Chez Nini is the place to go.

Chez Nini is the brainchild of Chef Nira Singh, born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Yes, Canada. Don’t they say that all good things come from The North? They don’t? Oh okay. Anyway, Chez Nini is located in the apparently rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Meher Chand market. The decor and appearance of the place is misleading considering its surroundings but you feel as though you could be in a French bistro in Europe when you walk in.

Bread with onions, olives

Bread with onions, olives

photo 2

Poutine, with house made cheese curds. Can't beat that.

Poutine, with house made cheese curds. Can’t beat that.

Crispy pork belly, sweet potato mash and eggplant caviar

Crispy pork belly, sweet potato mash and eggplant caviar

Interior of Chez Nini

Interior of Chez Nini

What to try?
Well, I had the poutine. What’s not to like about fries, gravy and cheese? Especially home made cheese curds! I also had the crispy pork belly, the chocolate tart and not to mention two bottles of prosecco between my friend and I. I wished I had room to eat the Coq au Vin, but I guess one of you will have try it out! People also say to try the Confit of Duck Legs.

I gotta thank my friend Deepti for taking me to this place.

Even if you have nothing good to say about the food (which I assure you, will not be the case), you have to applaud (the gorgeous) Chef Nira for taking on the daunting task of serving French food in an Asian country making it soulful and inviting. Also, she has a habit of stopping by your table to say hello so keep an eye out! (Well, it’s really hard to miss her).

Chez Nini
Shop No. 79 & 80,
Mehar Chand Market,
Lodhi Road , Lodhi Colony,
Delhi , 110003
Phone: (+91) 9560211223, (+91) 9650257451, (+91) 11 49050665, (+91) 11 49050666

Nyonya Ba-zhang

Ba-chang is Hokkien for meat dumpling. And in my books, the best ones are made by the Nyonyas. The Nyonya (and Baba) or the Peranakan Chinese people descended from 15th and 16th century Chinese immigrants who eventually settled in the Malaysian/Indonesian shores. And fortunately for me, a lot of them call the state of Melaka home, which is a 35-40 minute drive from my parents’ house.

This lady, which we will call the Ba-zhang Auntie, works out of her home in Bukit Serindit. I might have some trouble finding her house again, but my dad might be able to direct you…

The Ba-zhang Auntie fetching the precious ba-zhangs for us

How it works: You call ahead and tell her how many you want and when you will pick them up, and she will tell you if there is any left. It’s best to call earlier than later of course, since she only makes a certain number of the dumplings a day, considering how laborious of a process it is to make them.

The glorious Nyonya ba-zhang

My aunt who lives in Melaka did mention that it isn’t as good as some of the ones she has had before, but hey, this seemed pretty good to me. RM3.50 a piece, given its size, I could technically eat 3 in one sitting…

Bunga Raya Char Siu Rice

What is Char Siu, you might ask? What is Char Siu???? You may not ask!! It is only one of the most awesome Cantonese barbecued pork. Now, you might encounter several versions of this. The Chinese (from China) make them, the Chinese (from Hong Kong) make them, and the people who make them best are the Chinese from Malaysia.

Glorious Char Siu

One particular family from the city of Melaka has been making char siu for decades. My mum recalls walking to their stall and buying it from the same man that still sells it now, and she says it still tastes the same from so many years ago!

Located at the Medan Selera Bunga Raya on Jalan Bunga Raya, if you come after 1pm, there most likely will not be a crowd.

Mile End Sandwich

(Spoiler alert: This post will be the last of NY for a while before I take you on a whirlwind tour of Malaysian goodness)

Sandwiches. I don’t know about you but they just sound boring to me. Slices of meat between two pieces of dry bread with maybe some mayo or mustard or ketchup and few obligatory pieces of cheese and lettuce. Fine, maybe I’m exaggerating it a little, but I have never been a fan of sandwiches because I find them un-interesting and not worth the calories ingested. Until of course, I found Mile End Sandwich.

They call themselves a Jewish deli, but in my mind, they are more than that. They are the purveyor of well crafted sandwiches, jewish or otherwise. Heck, they even serve POUTINE!

I’ve only tried 4-5 items from their menu, but I have to say that my favorite is the breakfast burger, served with veal sausage patty, apple butter, maple syrup on an english muffin and topped with an over easy egg. Absolutely divine. I had egg yolk dripping all over my fingers by the time I was done with the burger.

The Breakfast Burger

Other items you should try:

Smoked Meat Sandwich

Smoked Meat: The brisket is incredibly moist. Just like it would be at 2nd Ave Deli. I’m not a fan of rye bread, since it can get dry at times.

Chopped Liver Sandwich

Chopped Liver: Not very livery, if you were worried about that. The garnish makes it a little hard to eat, everything falls apart whichever way you try to shove it into your mouth. But it is delicious nonetheless.

Beef on Weck Sandwich

The weck roll is on the salty side, but it’s soft and very tasty. The mustard does give a kick to the sandwich, but also renders the roll a little soggy if you don’t eat it fast. The beef is moist but I actually prefer the roll on its own, maybe with some mustard.

Mile End Sandwich (Manhattan)
53 Bond St,
New York, NY 10012
(212) 529-2990

St. Anselm

If I were to tell you the the people behind Fette Sau had opened another joint across the street (literally), would you run screaming with arms flailing in the air to the subway and go there immediately? I think you should, maybe minus the screaming and arms flailing part.

The man behind St. Anselm is Joe Carroll, the genius of Fette Sau and Spuyten Duyvil. If you’re wondering what in the world is Fette Sau and why I keep mentioning it, then you should really eat there before thinking I’m a little nuts. Well, you can think that, but still try it out. If you have been to Fette Sau, and worship the place, then you know what I’m talking about and won’t hesitate to try St. Anselm.

Ok, enough ramble and back to business. What we (2 little Asian girls, ok fine, we’re not that little) ordered:

  1. Pan-fried Mashed Potatoes & Truffle Oil
  2. Grilled Berkshire Bacon
  3. NY Strip Steak with garlic butter
  4. Sweet tea brined Young Chicken

Go make your tummy happy!

St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Ave,
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 384-5054
(Pro tip: They don’t take reservations so go for an early dinner, or be prepared to wait)

Gwynnett St

The trend in restaurants these days seem to be to go back to a more traditional, earth-to-table setting, where ingredients are sourced locally and fresh and the cooking style is not overwhelming with creams and sauces.

Hall-of-famer Justin Hilbert, from The George Hotel (England), Mugaritz (Spain) and WD-50 (New York), has decided to set up shop in East Williamsburg, which NYMag calls deceptively scruffy. The food is not the only thing that makes a successful restaurant. Hilbert seems to have gotten quite a few things right, like menu design, space and decor, knowledgeable and attentive wait staff, good drinks, reasonably priced plates ($44 3-course meal for Sunday dinners) being some of them.

Gwynnett St is a must-go if you love food, maybe bring a friend or two so you can share and try more things on the menu. The items to look out for are (though the menu might change according to the ingredients they are able to source at each season):

The Duck, sou-vide and served with peach, chanterelle mushrooms, farro and pecan.
The Chicken, sou-vide and served with broccoli, buttermilk and ash.
The Shrimp (appetizer), cooked with tomato, melon and oregano.

Thanks to my usual food-super-database Sarah and Gan for recommending this place!

Gwynnett St
312 Graham Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Rockaway Taco

I’ve been of the opinion that really good Mexican food does not exist in Manhattan. Maybe Queens, maybe Brooklyn, definitely out on the west coast in SF and LA, but not in Manhattan. Which is a sad thought, because as much as I am addicted to Asian food, I do like myself a taco here and there.

I’ve been taking the long ride on the A train out to Rockaway Beach because I’ve been volunteering with a group called Stoked that teaches high school kids to surf on weekends in the summer. And recently after a 26+ mile bike ride, Rockaway Taco was discovered and I had finally found my reward for going all the way to the beach (yes, it’s still not in Manhattan, but who cares?!)

Behold the Fish Taco (a.k.a. Best Thing Ever And You Should Not Eat Anything Else). Also get the sweet plantains.

The Fish Taco