A New (And Only) Sichuan Restaurant in Grand Rapids Called ChuanCai Fang.

There once was a wonderful Chinese restaurant in Grand Rapids called Peking Wok. Serving authentic Chinese cuisine, this establishment served fantastic food with friendly service and incredibly low prices. Unfortunately, they were located in a dead strip mall in an area hardly anyone goes to, and it was very sad but not surprising when they closed down. Alas, Grand Rapids went back to only having American Chinese restaurants in its growing foodie roster. Until now.

Chuancai Fang is a new Sichuan restaurant that has only been open for a couple of months now. Located on 28th street, it’s not an ideal area but it’s not bad. I first read about the new establishment from EatGR (big thanks to whomever posted this blog on there!) and I was appalled and even a little angry that I hadn’t known about  it earlier. I had a new mission.

Spicy Boiled Wontons

Spicy Boiled Wontons. Some of them were just shy of being completely cooked, and there was a sweetness in the chili oil that I wasn’t crazy about.

Spicy Boiled Wonton

Spicy Boiled Wonton

Cucumber in Garlic Sauce

Cucumber in Garlic Sauce. One of dishes I will always love. So simple but so tasty.

Stir Fried Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers

Stir Fried Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers. I was spoiled growing up by my mom and dad cooking these, so there was a high bar that wasn’t fully met. But still good!

Sichuan Cold Noodle Salad

Sichuan Cold Noodle Salad. Addicting! A new love.

Green Onion Pancakes

Green Onion Pancakes. These will always be one of my favorite foods of all time.

Spicy Beef Tripe

Spicy Beef Tripe. A little bland.

Mala Spicy Chicken

Mala Spicy Chicken. Eat with rice!

Five Spicy Beef

Five Spicy Beef. Much better when eaten with the sprouts hiding underneath.

Lamb with Cumin Seasoning

Lamb with Cumin Seasoning. This was Nathan’s dish but he absolutely loved it. I was actually surprised at how enthused he was.

Spicy Poached Fish

Spicy Poached Fish. I want some right now. Rice is a must.

Boiled Wonton

Boiled Wonton. The filling tasted old and flavorless.

Gele Shan Spicy Chicken

Gele Shan Spicy Chicken. Terrible, completely overcooked.

The photos are taken from a combined three trips, excluding repeated dishes. One lunch with Nathan, a dinner with my friends Jose, Jen, and Eddie, and the last visit was take out. The first two times were great! Delicious food, friendly service, and reasonable prices. Not to mention that hey, Grand Rapids has a Sichuan restaurant now. Hell yeah! The last two pictures are from my take away order and it felt like I ordered from a different restaurant. However, that just means now I have to go a fourth time to see if it was just a fluke, right? If you’ve been to Chuancai Fang, let me know what you think!

Why Haven’t I Been To Raad’s Mediterranean Grill Sooner?

Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, Raad’s in East Hills has been open for about a year. For the majority of that time I didn’t know this place existed. When I saw a posting on Craigslist from them looking to hire new staff, I was incredibly confused; it says that this place is really close to my house, but I’ve never even heard of it! Is this a scam?

Turns out that no,  Raad’s certainly does exist, and yes, I am sorry that I didn’t know about this restaurant sooner! But better late than never, right?

Garlic Dip.

Garlic Dip.

Not my favorite garlic dip but still very good nonetheless. They make theirs with egg white, garlic, lemon, and seasonings. Served with large pieces of thin bread that were crispy on the bottom and soft on top.

Lamb & Beef Jambalaya

Lamb & Beef Jambalaya

Off the lunch menu, I ordered their Lamb & Beef Jambalaya. I was actually deterred from this dish at first because of its name. It’s not that I don’t like the traditional Creole dish, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. After some hesitation I ordered it anyway because the description just sounded too good. Lamb and beef sauteed with garlic, mushrooms, peppers, saffron rice and topped with fresh onion, tomatoes, and herb. I am so thankful that I went ahead and ordered this dish because it was freakin delicious! I was a little shocked when I took my first bite. Flavorful, vibrant, savory but not heavy. I also ordered the dish to be spicy. I loved it! I chose to have mine plated, as opposed to put in a wrap, and you can choose two sides with the dish. I chose more saffron rice and hummous. The latter was okay. I’ve never been a hummous fan and have only tried maybe two in my entire life that I enjoyed. The saffron rice was good and different from any of tried so far. Do they season it with cinnamon, perhaps? I couldn’t place it, but I was also too distracted to really focus on it.

The chef who prepared my dish also gave me a complimentary side of their Raad’s House Salad, and after trying it I immediately knew why. Because it was incredibly delectable! He must have known it was my first time dining there. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I have ordered it? He got me hooked, and I owe big thanks for that. A mix of Mujadara and pomegranate with parsely, chips, radish, veggies and olive oil. Light, fruity, citrus-y with a great texture.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish Coffee

View From Bar Seating

View From Bar Seating

The interior is nice looking and cozy. They have bar style seating right up against their front windows that offer a nice view of East Hills. I find the prices to be reasonable, and I went in during an off time so the food came out at a good pace. I don’t think they serve alcohol. Raad’s focus is on serving some of the finest traditional and fresh food, and I believe they deliver. I really like this place, and if you haven’t been here yet, I strongly recommend that you go asap!

Part Two: Hong Kong and Dim Sum At The Airport.

Last year I asked the WordPress World on recommendations on great eats in Mongkok, Hong Kong. I received a lot of helpful responses, mostly involving dim sum. I was pretty excited to feast on authentic Chinese fare during our one night layover. Nathan and I wanted to go somewhere to eat within walking distance from our stay, and being smack dab in the center of the Ladies Market I didn’t think it would be an issue. Unfortunately, the popularity of the city and area had it’s backfires, such as every single restaurant being packed to the point of no available seating

So where did we finally get some dim sum? At the Hong Kong International Airport, right before our flight back to the States. And how was it? Good! Nathan and I enjoyed the food and the tea was delicious and trippy. The esthetics was pretty as well with a fancier setting.

Jade Garden In Hong Kong International Airport.

Maxim’s Jade Garden In Hong Kong International Airport.

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Ginseng Oolong Tea

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The location wasn’t ideal, and the food was good, although not the best. But airport dim sum is better than no dim sum, right?

The Third Time’s The Charm At Terra GR.

Terra GR is a farm to table restaurant that strongly focuses on using locally sourced ingredients with a menu that changes with the seasons. Located in the Cherry Hill/East Town/East Grand Rapids area (somebody please tell me which one it is), Terra has been open for over a year or two. I have dined here a couple times and never left impressed. The interior and set up is beautiful, modern and refreshing. I was also impressed with the creativity and deliciousness of their cocktail menu. The service was always good. But the food? Meh. Not bad, but not great.

My friend, whom I affectionately call Meggers, was in town and visiting from Texas. I wanted to bring her somewhere she had never been but still close to where I live. We decided on Terra, and I’m so glad we did.

Terra GR Buffalo Cauliflower

Buffalo Cauliflower

The Buffalo Cauliflower was quite tasty, and I liked that the sauce wasn’t thick. The greens were dressed in a bleu cheese vinaigrette and it was delicious. Everything on the plate went well together. 

Terra GR Braised Beef Shoulder.

Braised Beef Shoulder

My entree consisted of braised beef shoulder with potatoes, arugula, roasted beef and chimichurri. I loved this entire dish. The beef was tender with some mouth watering fatty parts and the greens, vegetables, and the chimichurri were all fantastic. I want to go back to have this meal again.

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Brown Butter Tea

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Terra 75

 I mentioned earlier that I have always admired their cocktail menu, and this visit wasn’t any different. 

Meggers enjoyed everything as well and after this last dining experience, I’m happy to say that I am officially a Terra GR fan!

 

Indonesian Street Food at Rickshaw Republic!

Oh my gosh I loved this restaurant. I wish we had one in Grand Rapids.

In Chicago and visiting Joe, we went to an Indonesian restaurant he had heard good things about. Located within walking distance from his place in Lincoln Park was a plus, but we almost didn’t find it. If I recall correctly, there was nothing with it’s exterior to draw attention to the establishment. However, when we walked in it was a completely different story. 

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We were sat at a small two top tucked off to the side so we got plenty of views of the gorgeous Asian interior. I was a bit in awe, and noticed others taking pictures as well. 

rickshawappet

Rickshaw Apps. rickshawwrap Rickshaw Wrap. rickshawcurrychicken Rickshaw Rice. Rickshaw Smoothie.

Everything we ordered was fantastic! Focused on traditional Indonesian street food, their menu is broken up into sections such as Side Street, Main Street, Satay Stall, and Rice Table. Clever theme! Our server did a good job and was very welcoming, warm and helpful. The prices are reasonable. I don’t believe they serve alcohol, and you know what? I don’t even care! I’m in love with the place, and I can’t wait to dine here again. There are so many dishes I need to try. Why oh why are you so far away, Rickshaw Republic?

Food at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market!

Grand Rapids Downtown Market. What is it? Well, I’m feeling lazier than usual today, so the description of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market comes straight from their website:

“The Market is a mixed-use facility that brings together production, distribution, marketing and education about local produce. Our indoor facility features a 24-vendor market hall, while dozens of farmers and artisans line our outdoor farmer’s market shed. We offer several exceptional spaces throughout the site, including rentable incubator kitchens, rooftop greenhouses, and the nation’s first demonstration kitchen for kids (you have to see it to believe it). The Market is set to be LEED-certified (also the first in the nation), features a green roof, live walls, geotherm wells, rain gardens, and plenty of other innovative sustainable features.

We wanted our Market’s location to serve as a focal point within the city while revitalizing a previously neglected area. The Market continues to spark redevelopment of nearby properties while reintroducing community neighbors to a once underutilized Grand Rapids locale.”

So yeah, all those things. Now, the food!

FISH LADS

Fish Lads. Fish Lads Bivalves. Fish Lads Closeup. Fish Lads Mussels.

Their menu, (not cheap!), is full of different selections that showcase freshwater fish from the Great Lakes and high quality seafood from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. I love fresh oysters, so I adore the seating at the small bar right in front of their various bivalve selections! They also have a large case of beautiful and fresh catches that you can buy and take home with you to prepare for later.

RAK THAI

rakthaidtm Rak Thai.

The food here is described as being created by a Thai upbringing in an American childhood. I wasn’t crazy about the Mini-Mis but I did enjoy the Bangkok Tango. Also keep in mind that they do things quite spicy here! Much appreciated.

TACOS EL CUNADO

Tacoselcunado tacoselcunado2

Not only tacos and tamales, Tacos El Cunado focuses on authentic Latin American foods using Michigan ingredients. They have a self serve salsa bar and grocery store items for purchase as well.

LOVE’S ICE CREAM

Love's Ice Cream.The first Michigan ice cream maker that creates ice cream, sorbets, sundaes, and cookies using organic and locally produced ingredients. They also offer vegan treats, and even their cones are handmade. Highly recommended is their mint ice cream, with real chunks of mint that Joe is enjoying, pictured above.

I really enjoy the Downtown Market. It’s trendy and expensive, but it’s something new to the city of Grand Rapids. Plus, you have one area with a high concentration of food options, and I’m always sold.

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!

hmartkimchilady

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.)

hmartexterior hmartinterior

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

hmartlady

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.

hmartwhatadump

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.

 

thaiexpressfishcake

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.

thaiexpressricesalad

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.

thaiexpressroll

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.

thaiexpressentree

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.

thaiexpressdessert

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.

osteriaapp

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.

toastbreakfast

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.