Fish Ball All Kind, 5.99. (H Mart in Chicago.)

I have a best friend, and his name is Joe. Joe lives in Chicago, and I like to try to visit him at least once a year. Our time is effortlessly focused on good talks, food, playing pool, lots of imbibing, and more food. This trip around, he was excited to take me to a new-ish Korean market called H Mart!

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Pictured above is a lady making kimchi. It’s neat to see them making it right before your eyes. Honestly, I didn’t try or buy any. Growing up in a Chinese Korean household, with your mother making damn sure that the table was never missing this fermented cabbage, I have been kimchied out for plenty of years now. (Don’t tell my mom.)

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When we stepped inside I was quite surprised at the size of the supermarket. It’s massive, with more than plenty of fresh selections. The entire store was very organized and clean. hmartfishballs hmartpeppers

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A lady making a ton of banchan, traditional Korean side dishes. hmartfood

H Mart also has a food court! I was elated. There were many different restaurants, all featuring different Korean foods,  Chinese, and Japanese.

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This is what Joe was most excited for. The gentleman that owns the store called What A Dumpling makes all the dumplings he sells, and there were plenty of different kinds! He also packages them up so you can take them home. Yummy stuff, for sure. It was fun sharing several different kinds, and we each had our own favorites. I know earlier on I was inadvertently not so inadvertently dogging kimchi, but I freaking love it in dumplings.

There is also a large section of retail stores, selling everything from electronics to kitchenware to beauty products. I took a couple of photos but there were people either ducking or covering their face in each one so I opted not to post them. Shy or annoyed people not wanting to be in a total stranger’s picture, because you know, Asians just don’t take enough photographs, ever. What a bunch of jerks.

H Mart is a great market! Obviously I don’t shop there often, so the whole experience was just fun for me. The food court alone makes me want to go back the next time I’m in Chicago. Hopefully Joe’s obsession for those dumplings is true love and not just fleeting infatuation.

Thai Express. Maybe the Most Authentic Thai Fare in Town?

Located in a nondescript little building on Kalamazoo Avenue, I have driven past this little restaurant countless times without truly noticing it. Now, after having dined here one time, it can safely be said that this place is in my top two of Thai eateries in Grand Rapids.

 

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Tod Mun

I suppose the best way to describe this appetizer is as a fish cake. A mixture of fish, herbs, and vegetables. Tasty and chewy, mild but still flavorful. The sauce that accompanied it was delicious, with peanuts and cucumber chunks. I could have eaten it alone.

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Nam Kao Tod

The salad was interesting. It was good, but certainly not my favorite dish. Rice with red curry, ground chicken, onion, ginger, green onion, lime juice and peanuts on top of lettuce. I had a little left over the following day and enjoyed it more cold, as the dish was served warm.

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Spring Roll.

If you order a specialty dish, you receive a complimentary spring roll. It wasn’t the tastiest spring roll ever, but the skin was crispy and light and it made me wonder if they make their own.

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Pad Bai Gra Phao

Holy basil leaves, mushrooms, and onions stir fried in a ginger garlic sauce. I added beef and tofu. As far as the spice level I ordered, whatever it was, most likely it wasn’t hot enough since I don’t remember it. I enjoyed the meal, and the large mushrooms were quite nice. The beef wasn’t the most tender, however. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t chewing on overdone beef, either.

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Thai Sweet Iced Tea

They offer Thai Sweet Iced Tea with free refills! That was something different. Always so tasty.

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Complimentary Dessert.

Another pleasant surprise was the free dessert they give with your meal. There were a couple of choices, and I went with the old school ice cream sandwich. They also offer those gross pastel mints you always find at Asian restaurants. I’m a little shocked that they still exist.

There wasn’t anything I raved about. Some things I enjoyed, and others were just okay. So why do I hold this establishment at such a high ranking? At the risk of sounding amateur, looking over the menu gave me the sense that this place has more authentic offerings than any other in town, even if it’s just a couple items. Without exaggeration, there were so many different choices I wanted to try. That is usually a good sign of a great menu! A small little casual spot with very friendly service, and I would say low to medium price points. I very much look forward to going back and trying the other five+ dishes I wanted to try the first time!

“Warmth of the Mitten, Soul of the Boot” Shown By Osteria Rossa.

A new Italian eatery is in town! Located downtown in Grand Rapids, this casual yet beautiful and modern establishment features small plates, pastas, wood fires, and seasonal dishes using plenty of local ingredients for their menu.

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For a starter, Nathan and I decided on their Crostini, where there are several different choices for an accompaniment. We chose the Roasted Mushroom and the Whipped Baccala. I think the cheese that came with the mushrooms was goat cheese. Whatever it was, it was incredible, and I rarely say anything that positive about cheese. The whipped fish with potatoes was delicious as well. Salty but not overly so for the small amount and I really enjoyed the texture. The crostinis were pretty much perfect. Not too greasy or the slightest bit stale.

Osteria Rossa Pizza.

The Clams Pizza featured not only clams but also Calabrian chilies, dried tomatoes, olives, and asparagus. To my relief and joy, the peppers actually had some heat to them! The pizza was delicious, and there wasn’t anything I disliked about it. The seasoning that comes on the side, however, was too salty.

Osteria Rossa Drink.Osteria Rossa Cocktail.osteriadessertwine

Unfortunately I can’t recall the names but their signature cocktails were good and for dessert, I ordered the N.V Giuli Cocchi Brachetto. It was okay but nothing I would order again. I much prefer indulging in my sherrys and ports.

I always say that I got tired of Italian food years ago, and I rarely ever crave going out for it, but Osteria Rossa is different. Service was friendly and prices quite reasonable. The only issue I had with the new establishment is that it was quite noisy. There were times when Nathan and I had a hard time hearing each other from across the small table. Overall everything was very enjoyable, but there is something else about it that has made me want to go back since we went. What is it?! I don’t know. Maybe I’ll figure it out the next time I go.

 

Toast in Ferndale.

Toast is a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Ferndale, and one of the other places Nathan used to frequent while he lived on the other side of the state. Breakfast items such as Huevos Rancheros, omelettes, sandwiches, soups and salads make the menu here. The space is small, with a bunch of different vintage toasters adorning the wall. The look and feel is an artsy, hipster one. We came in on a Friday afternoon and got really lucky with getting a table immediately, as this restaurant tends to be packed more often than not.

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The Cure.

Home fries topped with sausage gravy, green chilli, fried eggs, and cheddar cheese. Sounded amazing, but unfortunately I wasn’t crazy about the dish. I couldn’t get over how sweet the potatoes tasted (I am incredibly sensitive to sweetness compared to others). The cheese on top was quite hot but the inside of the pile of food was lukewarm. The eggs were done easy. Once I got to the green chilli, I enjoyed the dish much more. It brought everything together, but at the end this was one meal I actually did not finish. It became too rich for me from the eggs and cheese.

This place wasn’t anything special. Nathan really likes the joint so I’m not opposed to trying it again. We’ve got a couple more concerts in Detroit to go to pretty soon so maybe we’ll stop in for another try.

 

Namaste Kitchen Featuring Nepali Food In GR!

I came upon this restaurant by accident. Perusing Yelp one day and looking over reviews, somehow Namaste Kitchen popped up. At the time there was only one review, and quite a positive one. Honestly it wouldn’t have mattered what the reviewer had said, because once I saw that the restaurant offered Nepali food, I was sold. I couldn’t’ wait to check it out. Not only have I never had it before, Grand Rapids has never had a place that featured it (as far as I know). There is also Indian food on the menu and interestingly enough, a couple of Chinese dishes.

Namaste Kitchen.

Chatpate.

The Chatpate is a mixture of potatoes, onion, green chili, fried peas, mustard oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, papad, crispy rice, and bitten rice(?). I loved this vibrant dish. It was very salty but the cilantro cuts it and complements beautifully. The spice was great, and on several occasions I bit down a crunchy pea. I don’t know if that is prepared that way on purpose or not.

Namaste Kitchen.

Chola Chana with Puri.

 I am going to guess that Puri is the bread. Greasy and a little bit sweet, it was definitely not my favorite part of the dish. The Chola Chana is described as Kabuli Chana, red onion, tomato, garlic paste, ginger paste, chili powder, and salt. Nice mild flavors and maybe the least salty of all the dishes I tried.

Namaste Kitchen.

Indian Fry Rice.

Namaste Kitchen.

Pork Sekuwa.

 The Indian Fry Rice was great, and I can see it being popular with the masses here. Onions, carrots, peas, and egg, this dish had a sweet touch to it. The only negative was that the meat, along with the entire Sekuwa dish, was incredibly burnt. While nicely spiced, similar to the Chatpate, they completely overcooked the pork. I don’t know if that’s just the way they prepare it in their own country, or that they just don’t consume a lot of it. Perhaps the cook plainly just did a poor job. The menu describes Sekuwa as a boneless piece of meat, cut in a specially designed way and mixed with spices and grilled in fire.

Namaste Kitchen.

Indian Tea.

Indian tea with some sugar and cream. Rich and delicious, I would cut back on the cream a little. I prefer teas without any additions but Indian ones are always an exception.

I will definitely be visiting Namaste Kitchen again, and I’m looking forward to trying other things. Their vegetarian fare was fantastic, and I will try another meat dish next time with hope and wariness. Our server was friendly and helpful, albeit his accent made it a little difficult for me to understand him a couple times. The atmosphere is very casual and I think the prices are quite low for the amount that you get. If you haven’t been here yet, check it out and let me know what you think!

Over On the Other Side of State At Cass Cafe.

I’m sick of calling the boyfriend by the name “The Boyfriend”, so let’s do a big reveal now, shall we? Nathan. His name is Nathan. There.

So Nathan used to live in Detroit years ago, and attended school at the College For Creative Studies. He’s really loyal to the city and the surrounding ones as well. I was genuinely excited to be able to visit some of his favorite old haunts while we were in town for a concert. One of those spots is Cass Cafe, located very close to the private school he attended. The atmosphere makes that very apparent as you receive an artsy vibe in there, with mostly students on staff. The menu is eclectic and unique, which I always appreciate.

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Asian Vegetarian Spring Rolls.

The Asian Vegetarian Spring Rolls were interesting. They were most likely store bought, served with seaweed salad and emerald green wasabi. There was also some coconut milk on the dish. They might have been trying too hard with this one.

Salad With Caesar Dressing.

Salad With Caesar Dressing.

The greens for the salad were fresh, and the Caesar dressing for the salad was great. Vinaigrette based as opposed to cream, and there were chunks of garlic, cheese, and perhaps anchovies? The only thing I didn’t like were the dried little clumps of fish, which I thought wasn’t necessary. I enjoyed the flavor, but not the texture so much.

New Orleans Seafood Linguine.

New Orleans Seafood Linguine.

My main entree was ordered off their Specials Menu, the New Orleans Seafood Linguine. The mussels and shrimp were juicy and of good quality and the mushrooms and big pieces of wilted spinach was another big plus. The sauce was a type of pesto, which I’m normally not crazy about, but on this plate it was tasty and nicely balanced. I really enjoyed this dish. The toasted bread was a nice touch too, as I can never get enough starch into my body.

The service was very friendly and the atmosphere quite casual. There is also a full bar, which is always nice. Overall I had a good time here, and I can see why it’s one of Nathan’s favorite restaurants. Cass Cafe is definitely a spot I’d like to visit again.

 

 

Part One: One Night Layover In Hong Kong.

Monk Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

For our layover in Hong Kong, I booked a room through Airbnb for quite a reasonable price and a friendly host. Located in Mongkok, we were situated literally right in the middle of the famous Ladies’ Market. At the time of booking, I read about that detail but didn’t look into it. Indeed, out the front door and we were smack dab in the middle of a shopping stall, one of the hundreds that line one kilometer of streets.

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Mongkok is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The weather was cooler and gorgeous, comparably to Georgetown in Penang. The atmophere was so frenetic! People packed everywhere, long ass bus lines on every street, and a mix of new modern buildings attached to old decrepit ones. At night, there is no way you could escape lights, colors, and a humorous number of signs. Not that I would ever want to. I loved the energy.

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Lookit All Those Signs!

Lookit All Those Signs!

Street Food, Not Nearly As Many Stalls Or Karts Found Here As Penang.

Street Food, Not Nearly As Many Stalls Or Karts Found Here As Penang.

So with all of that, you would think I would have a ton of food to blog about for this entry, right? Nope. I was on a quest to find some great dim sum, and the boyfriend and I wanted to find a place to eat that was within walking distance to our stay. That part in itself wasn’t difficult; what was a little frustrating is that every place we walked into was packed, and there were plenty of attempts. No free seats in sight. The few street stalls we came across encompassed mostly sweets and fried things, and didn’t really intrigue me much. We finally came across a three story noodle restaurant, and we were sat at a table community style.

My Noodle Dish.

My Noodle Dish.

The bowl looks much better than it tasted. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t that good. The whole menu was a variety of different selections for you to create your own noodle dish. I was really excited about that, and also the different levels of spice they offered. However, I found the flavor to be bland, and the spiciness was much more black peppery than the kind derived from chilies.

The boyfriend and I each had a bowl of noodles and two drinks and the total was 90HKD, which equals to 11.61USD.

After dinner, we came across a food vendor and even though I was full, I couldn’t resist.

Intestine.

Intestine.

How was it? Smelly. Really smelly. Fortunately, it didn’t taste as bad as its odor may lead one to believe. Rubbery, thick, and to be honest I don’t remember much of a flavor. Quite mild. It cost me 2HKD, which is about 26 cents here.

I finally did get to have the dim sum I so yearned for during the stay in Hong Kong, but unfortunately it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. More on that in the next chapter!

Delicious Middle Eastern & Mediterranean Le Kabob.

Le Kebob on 28th Street is a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant located in a strip mall.  I liked the food so much that I went again the next weekend, so this entry will have two trips combined into one.

Le Kebob Garlic Spread.

Le Kebob KibbehLe Kebob Meat Pie.

As soon as you are seated, your server tells you that they will be right back with a basket of bread and garlic. This honestly may be my favorite part of the whole restaurant. The pita comes out hot and tender, and the spread is phenomenal. I am obsessed with garlic, so some may find it overwhelming. When I asked what it was made of, I was told that it’s just garlic, olive oil, and “a couple other things.”

The right is Fried Kibbeh. Beef and onions sauteed, stuffed in kibbeh balls, and fried. Served with a very mild yogurt sauce. The kibbeh here is my favorite I’ve ever had so far, due to flavor and the moistness.

Bottom photo, their Meat Pie. I liked the filling but I wasn’t a fan of the dough, mostly the texture.

Le Kebob Chilli.

Le Kebob Salad.

The Lamb Chilli was pretty lackluster. The salad came with my meal, so I’m not sure which one is was. Either the Greek Salad or the House. It was quite fresh and the citrus dressing was very tart.

Le Kebob Lamb Chops.

The Lamb Chops come in three or six pieces. I’m not sure if they only cook it to one temp, or if the server forgot or didn’t bother to ask me, but they came out well done. Surprisingly, I still enjoyed it. Seasoned deliciously. The rice was tasty and light with a nice oiliness to it.

Le Kebob Sauteed Beef.

The Sauteed Beef is cooked with mushrooms, cilantro, and a little garlic. The sauce was a little too sour for me, but I have to state that I was getting over being sick when I had this meal. I’ve noticed that when I haven’t gained my senses back to normal levels, I’m quite sensitive to sourness, so that may have been a small factor.

Le Kebob Rice Pudding. Arabic Coffee.

I love rice pudding, and this one was pretty great. Cold and not too hard, not too soft. Their Arabic coffee was good as well, and I think it’s best to drink it without cream.

The service here has been efficient and friendly, and the atmosphere is pretty casual. Prices are in the medium range. Le Kabob is one of my new favorite restaurants in GR, and if you’re in the area you should check it out.

Bamboo.

Been to Bamboo yet? This Vietnamese & Thai restaurant is located on Division Avenue. And before I go into anything else, I must make an important statement:

Do not order the pho. 

Now, don’ t think that this review is going to be a negative one. However, if you are indeed a fan of this famous Vietnamese noodle soup, you will be disappointed here. It’s only decent. Of course, this is in comparison to other places I frequent. I have had worse, and I have had much much better. Still, if you’ve never had it, or perhaps you just have a crappy palate, you might actually enjoy it.

Moving on.

Bamboo Clam App.

Clam appetizer. The minced garlic was great but overall it was too salty and I kept biting down on bits of shell?

Bamboo Soup.

This soup came with my entree, and it was freaking delicious. Spiced nicely, peppery with cilantro, green onions and rice. I wish I could eat this every day.

Bamboo Bun Dac Biet.

Bun Dac Biet. Char-grilled pork with pork meatballs, egg roll, mint, shredded pork, lettuce, and bean sprouts over vermicelli noodles. You can drizzle or pour the sauce over your bowl, which is on the sweet side. I think there is fish sauce in it as well. I love this dish. The simple vermicelli noodles with the different types of pork, the crispy salty egg roll, and mint and bean sprouts to freshen and liven everything up. Of course you add fish sauce, and what an eclectic and delicious bowl of food!

The interior is interesting and a little busy. The service here is always warm and there is a sweet lady who walks around to check on all the tables. I’m guessing she is the owner. Their prices are at a $-$$ range. So again, if you’re looking for pho, don’t come here. If you’re looking for good food and hospitable service? Bamboo it is.

Fine Seafood Dining at Leo’s.

My first time at Leo’s, located in downtown Grand Rapids. I love seafood, especially bivalves! Fresh oysters, clams and mussels are some of my favorite foods. I can be pretty picky though, so if they are fried or breaded or heavily sauced in any way, I will usually skip over them.

 

leoescargot

 

I dined here with the boyfriend and I really wanted to try escargot for the first time, so we started with the Wild Mushroom Escargot. The snails are sauteed in garlic butter with sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, spinach and goat cheese served with crostini. I didn’t really find anything special about this dish. The escargot was how I pretty much imagined it to be, lightly earthy in flavor and a little rubbery in texture. The sauce was lively and I loved the mushroom and spinach. The crostinis seemed a little stale.

 

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Leo's Surf and Turf.

The complimentary bread served here comes out piping hot and is pretty fantastic. Lightly herbal and incredibly soft and moist. My main course was Leo’s Surf & Turf. The filet was good and the lobster was tender, albeit a little too salty. I chose spaetzle for one of the sides, and I barely ate any of it. It was too rich, if that makes sense, too heavy with the steak and lobster. Thankfully there was asparagus to bring more balance to the meal.

 

Leo's Dessert

 

 

We ordered Rubies & Cream to finish our meals and it was delicious. Ice cream with shortcake and raspberries and a wine reduction. They have their own pastry chef that makes all their desserts.

 

 

 

Overall, I found the whole meal to be severely heavy and I left not feeling great. Yes, everything I ate was due to my choices, so if I were to go back again I know to order some lighter fare instead of rich dishes for all three courses. The service was professional but slow, and there were a couple times I felt we were being neglected. The space is massive, modern, dim, and after a short while you get the feeling you’re in a hotel. If you’re looking for a nice upscale seafood place, Leo’s is a good bet.

On a side note, what I’m really looking for is seafood in the style of South American cuisine. Does such a place exist in Grand Rapids?