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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The best restaurant I think I've ever been to.

Jung Sik

2 Harrison St.
New York City

The nicest restaurant I’ve ever had the opportunity to eat at! It’s the only Michelin Star rated Korean restaurant in New York City and it certainly deserves it. Sometimes when making a reservation, they will ask if you are celebrating a special occasion. But Jung Sik went above and beyond to print “Happy Birthday Jacqueline” onto each menu heading in gold print with the date. It’s the little things that make a big difference. Not once did our server ever make us feel pressured to order the tasting menu (10 courses for $155, wine pairings for an additional $105). We experimented with the a la carte menu and tasted some incredible creations.

First of all, I heard about Jung Sik when I was in Seoul last time. I was in the hotel room googling places to go for dinner, combining two words in my search: “uni” and “bibimbap”. Two of my most favorite foods! I came across the website for Jung Sik, noting the two locations: one in the Gangnam area of Seoul, the other one in TriBeCa NYC. They had several write-ups on their famed Sea Urchin Bibimbap, so I knew I had to try it one way or another. I decided to make it my birthday dinner in NYC.

First up was a plate of bite-sized samples, compliments of the chef. A rice cracker with jam, tofu with vegetable, meatball, and the world’s tiniest burger (says me), all presented artistically on a slate platter. I’m a sucker for presentation. After all, I take more pictures of food than people.
Bibim with Arugula Sorbet
Sea Urchin
We order the Bibim with arugula sorbet to start. It comes cold, delicate, and refreshing! The next dish was the highlight. Sea Urchin!! Several briny tongues of beautiful sea urchin rested over a mound of Korean seaweed rice and crispy quinoa. It was phenomenal. 
Crispy Pork Belly over Noodles
Black Cod

We followed up the sea urchin with a bowl of noodles with crispy pork belly, and black cod with soy-pepper marinade. Both looked like works of art. Not one dish disappointed!

We received a plate of desserts, compliments of the chef. I like this guy. Bite-sized chocolates, macaroons, and sponge cakes infused with ginger and pistachio finish our presentation. But wait, one last thing. A chocolate dessert with a candle served on a slate tray with “Happy Birthday” written on it. They really know how to create a personalized evening for special occasions. Jung Sik is a class act!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Ear Candling Experience

My Ear Candling Experience

Forever Beauty Inc.
254 Canal Street, Suite 3005, NYC
(At Lafayette Street)
I can’t remember the first time I heard of ear candling, and I’m not sure why I have this obsession with a flaming wax cone sucking wax and toxins from my ear. I have no hearing problems or wax excess that I know of, so it’s unclear even to myself as to why I dream of having this done.
In my ear candling fantasy, it’s relaxing to the point where I almost fall asleep, and it feels like my ears are slowly emptying its gooey wax, allowing me to hear things louder than ever before. In my wildest fantasy, some kind of insect that was impacted in my earwax for years comes out and I feel my ears open for the first time and my hearing is clear! None of this is true, but I let my mind wander as I walked to Forever Beauty Inc. (formerly Diamond in the Rough) on Canal Street in New York City. I chose this place because I saw good reviews on Yelp. I was directed to their new location on Canal and Lafayette, which was on the 3rd floor of the TD Bank building. 
When I arrived, the office was dark and empty. I started turning away thinking I might be getting myself some organs harvested instead of ear candling. But just as I started to tiptoe away, Tiffany came running to greet me. She welcomed me into a room with soothing music and a table to lie on. She explained the process to me and during the next 20 minutes she burned hollowed candles in my ears. It felt warm in my ears, and sounded like a crackling campfire. She was nice enough to pencil in my crazy untamed eyebrows and give me a scalp massage while the candles burned. I felt like a princess. After all, it was my birthday
When we cut the candles open to see what treats were inside, I saw only a few balls of wax but it was still a beautiful sight for me. Some people are against ear candling because it removes wax that is normal part of your inner ear. Also, when fire is involved, there is always a change of danger. I took the risk because I couldn’t help myself, and I probably won’t make this a regular event. But it was a wonderful birthday treat for me, and it only cost me $20. If you have any hearing problems or wax buildup, I recommend trying this out. Give Tiffany a call. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maxim's Palace Dim Sum

Maxim's Palace
Dim Sum in Hong Kong
High Block, City Hall, Hong Kong

This banquet hall serves a more upscale dim sum than Tim Ho Wan, but with the upscale atmosphere comes higher prices! The room is large and bright, with delicate plates and silverware. The servers with pushcarts came around with various plates that we shared via lazy susan at our large round table.  The soup dumplings were my favorite. It’s like a foodie game, how to pick one up and eat it without it popping or spilling any of the soupy contents within. The pork buns were excellent… haven’t had a bad one yet in Hong Kong...
Inside Maxim's Palace

Place setting
Some plates on the lazy susan
Carefully eating a soup dumpling, shrimp and corn roll, pork buns

A visit to the world's cheapest Michelin Star rated restaurant

Tim Ho Wan
Dim Sum in Hong Kong
 2-20 Kwong Wa St., Mong Kok
Hong Kong
Dim sum is a big part of Chinese culture. It’s typically a brunch-time meal made up of several small shared dishes including chicken feet, pork buns, dumplings with various fillings, vegetables with oyster sauce, rice, etc. I recommend trying the worlds cheapest Michelin Star rated restaurant, Tim Ho Wan. 
 Now there are three locations in Hong Kong, but we chose to pay a visit to the original location in Kowloon. Be prepared to wait on line for a while, because the restaurant only holds about 20 people at a time. We arrived an hour before opening, second in line. By opening time, the line was wrapped around the block, and we had our orders already placed with a punch card. It’s a fast paced dining experience, but totally worth the wait. The pork buns were so flaky, almost like they were made with Pillsbury crescent roll dough. A little sweet, a little savory! My favorite was the larger than life leaf wrapped around a bundle of sticky rice with pork and chicken. I tried chicken feet for the first time, and it wasn't for me. First of all, it looked like deep fried baby hands. Something about the Chinese loving their gelatinous textures mixed with cartilage... it turns me off big time. Everything else was delicious. The plates kept coming and I was slowly fading….
Chicken feet. A very popular dim sum dish I tried for the first (and last) time!
Rice and pork wrapped in leaf
Pork buns
Chicken feet, veggie dumplings, spare ribs, shrimp shumai
Rice and pork wrapped in egg
Something sweet and fried
I can't get past the look of it. Rice wrap with pork inside and vinegar?
For a total of 19 plates, it only cost $40. This is a budget travelers dream come true.
HKD 321 = $40!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Macau, "Chinese Vegas" as I call it...


Macau, a growing casino hub, is only an hour-long ferry ride from Hong Kong. It’s a former Portuguese colony, and the ruins of St. Paul’s are worth visiting. I, however, took the casino route.  Reminiscent to Las Vegas, there are multiple resorts and casinos in the area such as the Venetian, Wynn, and MGM. 
Ruins of St. Paul's
MGM Casino
Venetian casino floor
We took a bus from the ferry port to the Venetian and walked around. The hotel had a lot of open unused space, and it was quite different from Las Vegas. Still, the casino has the usual slot machines and table games. I tried the Michael Jackson slot machine and lost HKD300. Luckily, that’s close to USD30 so it wasn’t a big loss. I followed up my gambling with a beer at the Irish pub just off the casino floor. 
Michael Jackson slot machines!
Irish pub in the Venetian
I’ll have to go back to Macau in some other life. It wasn’t all I had hoped for but then again, I didn’t put in the effort to search the city for whatever it was I was looking for. In my dreams, it’s a place of extravagant gaming, drinking, and dining. And that very well could be the case, but the Venetian just wasn’t where it was at! I do encourage you to experience Macau if you find yourself in Hong Kong for an extended period of time. Report back to me with your experience and recommendations. Happy gambling and good luck!