sushi by m

Instead of ordering in our usual Sugarfish weekend treat, we decided to venture out a bit Friday night. It was a tentative start, with raindrops beginning blocks away from our destination. Fingers were crossed for a covered space, and we were delighted to see the structure in place to shield us from the possible drizzle as we approached Sushi by M. Our reservation was for 6:00 pm and we were surprised to see all four tables filled when we arrived around 5:55 pm. The host assured us that our table would be ready in around 10 minutes, so we huddled under a neighboring canopy to escape the intermittent sprinkle.

The 10-minute wait felt much shorter with the offer of sake from our host. The hospitality at Sushi by M is exemplary, with everyone doing everything they can to make you feel welcome and happy. There are two options for omakase – 12 pieces of sushi for $50 or 18 (with a few more premium options) for $95 – both with the selections for the night shown on the chalkboard brought out as the menu. We went for the lower-priced option and weren’t disappointed. The pieces were a perfect bite-size and went beyond the typical salmon and tuna to sweet shrimp, uni, and scallop. Each was sauced by the chef to highlight the individual flavor of the fish. We added a scallop/uni and toro/scallion handroll to complete the meal. This would probably not be enough for a lot of people, but we were just short of feeling full.

Sake continued to flow throughout the meal, and when the check arrived, we realized it was included in the pricing. With tax and tip, our total was $165. Sushi by M is definitely worth a try – just know that you will probably want to go for the larger omakase or add on a few items to satisfy your appetite.

modern-day mixtapes

I originally wrote this article/journal entry for an industry publication for which I am a writer. We didn’t end up with a place for it, so I’m sharing here so it doesn’t go to waste.

The 80’s mixtape has reinvented itself as the 21st Century playlist. With today’s streaming technology, it’s even easier to share our musical passions with others. As a Gen Xer, I remember waiting by my boombox for hours when I was in middle/high school for the local radio station to play that one specific song so I could hit “record” and complete my perfect cassette. Now, all I have to do is type the title (or even just a line from the chorus) into YouTube or Apple Music. What hasn’t changed is the need for different playlists for different environments, moods, and events. For example, our showroom mix has over 250 hours of songs from every decade and genre so that no one gets bored over the course of the week, but when happy hour comes around, a new playlist is needed to change the energy. While working from home in the quarantine, I decided to put together a COVID-inspired mixtape — a little humor, a little commiseration, and some hope to get through it all. 

Wanda’s COVID-19 Mixtape https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/covid-19/pl.u-DdANNBeta73Kxb

Yesterday /The Beatles
Can’t Touch This / MC Hammer
Don’t Stand So Close to Me / The Police
Under Pressure / Queen + David Bowie
Changes / David Bowie
Shelter / Broken Bells
Outside Sublime / Westerman
I’m Still Standing / Elton John What the World Needs Now / Cat Power
Raise Your Glass / Pink
Party On a Weekday / MYBADD + Olivia Holt
Dancing On My Own / Robyn
Out of My Head / Fastball
Living On Video / Trans-X
Who’s Zooming Who? / Aretha Franklin
Should I Stay or Should I Go / The Clash
Miss You / The Rolling Stones
Tell Me When It’s Over / The Dream Syndicate
I Will Survive / Gloria Gaynor
Fight Song / Rachel Platten
I’m Coming Out / Diana Ross
I’ll Stand By You / Pretenders
Imagine / John Lennon

check out the map

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting as much lately. I think I got tired of trying to get photos of everything before we ate and trying to remember each dish in order to describe it accurately – to the point it was encroaching on the enjoyment. What I am doing is updating the map, which you can find here or here, including a short write-up on our experience or the review that led me to add it to the map. Hope you enjoy it!

bunker

There are so many amazing restaurants in NYC – some that we have tried, and even more that we want to try. It’s always a dilemma to decide whether to go back to a favorite or experience something new. Either way, we tend to plan ahead at least a bit before leaving the house, but occasionally we end up in need of food in an area we don’t know. In most instances, when we just chose a restaurant at random, we left feeling we had wasted money, calories, and more importantly, the opportunity for an exquisite meal. I created my Food & Drink Map for just this situation and it came through again for us with Bunker after our tour of the Raw Wine Festival in an industrial section of East Williamsburg.

As a side, if you love natural wines, you should definitely try the Raw Wine Festival next year. The venue is filled with interesting bottles served by passionate, friendly producers from all over the world. The first couple of years, we attempted to try everything. Our strategy this year was a bit more mature. We began with our favorites, and then asked them who to try next. We also allowed ourselves to dump some of the wine in order to try more varietals without feeling like we had been run over by a truck the next morning. And back to the food.

Vietnamese can be especially prone to mediocrity, so Bunker was a delightful surprise for us. Slightly overexposed to wine, I went for one of the cocktails. Of course, since it has taken me so long to write this, the name and ingredients have escaped me. You have to enjoy a beverage served in pottery emblazoned with a cool guy’s face on it. Unfortunately, they were out of the papaya salad, but we were happy with the Saigon Bańh Mi and Summer Rolls for a quick snack to tide us over until dinner. The servers were lovely and excited about making recommendations. Bunker will be on our list to go back to after next year’s wine outing.

mornings in nyc

I wish I was a morning person, but I reluctantly pry myself out of bed every day somewhere around 6 am (depending on whether or not I snoozed a bit) for 30 minutes of exercise (of which I hate every second) and 5-10 minutes of meditation before getting ready for work. It has to be a non-negotiable habit for me to maintain a degree of health.

Occasionally, I have to be somewhere for work super early, like today. We’re having new carpet installed in our office/showroom, and the installers wanted to get the elevator lobby done before morning traffic started and stepped into their wet adhesive. It was really a blessing for me that they made this ask because NYC in the mornings is really something to experience.

I salute the people who get up way earlier than me to ensure we can order our morning coffee, that our happy hour cocktail ingredients are stocked, and that we have beautiful new flooring. I love walking in while they are getting ready for the day. There’s a different feel at this time. Hopeful. Friendly People say “good morning”.

I won’t be making the 6:30 am trek to work except under duress, but I still appreciate the beauty of it.

ichiran

For Derek, the arrival of chilly temps brings the opportunity to don a jacket, which he loves. For me, it’s the excuse to slurp hot noodles, especially ramen, and particularly tonkotsu. Our top spot for tonkotsu is shared by the classic bowls at three establishments – a place in Atlanta called Umaido, Brushstrokes Noodle Bar (recently closed) in NYC, and Ichiran in Tokyo. Fortunately for us, Ichiran opened its second NYC outpost in Midtown, so ventured up to try it.

At noon on Sunday, a short line had formed. We spent eighteen minutes and forty-two seconds in anticipation until we were seated. A clipboard with ordering options was given to us in the last few minutes of the wait, providing us a glimpse at our options and saving valuable down time at the booth before the ramen arrived.

The ordering sheet looks complicated, but you can’t go wrong just going with the recommended spice level, noodle firmness, broth consistency, and other choices. I would advise adding the egg, but it’s up to you if you want to go with any of the other additions.

For beverages, stick with the Asahi. I tried the matcha draft beer and didn’t feel it made a lot of sense. I love matcha, but it just seemed to muddy the flavors of the beer and tone down the refreshment factor.

The biggest things missing in NYC from the Tokyo branches are the machine ordering system and the retractable screen to combine booths – neither of which made a real difference in the experience.

The simplicity of Ichiran’s lone base and limited options makes for pure ramen pleasure. Warms the body and spirit, and helps keep your skin young and elastic – at least that’s what I tell myself to justify the calories. Please don’t tell me if I’m wrong.

racine’s

Racine’s is one of the places I am prepared to love everything about, and I almost do. The people are knowledgeable and friendly at the bar and the wines are beautiful. Unfortunately, the food was solid, but not stand-out. Maybe we hit them at a bad time. We were among the first to arrive, because we had planned to slide in before the crowds hit at Brushstrokes’ Noodle Bar, but had to find a new option when we discovered that our dream ramen place had closed the weekend before. We should stop for a moment of silence to remember the closing of the last of the great David Bouley Tribeca spots (except his special events space, which is also immensely impressive).

Let’s start with the star of the show. You really can’t go wrong with Racine’s amazing biodynamic wine list. The Mai & Kenji Hodgson ‘Faia’ Vin Blanc from the Loire Valley, was bright and minerally, chosen to complement our many small-bite selections from the food menu. Both the sommelier and bartender (we chose seats at the bar) were helpful in curating our choice.

It’s taken me a while to write this review, so I apologize for not remembering every dish. Our food journey began with the Chicken Wing Schnitzel with Lemon Aioli, which was a tasty bite of fried, deboned chicken wing – impossible to not enjoy. Next, the Buckwheat Blini with Uni and Smoked Carrot had nice components but didn’t come together as cohesively as we would have liked. Because we were set on noodles, we tried the deconstructed Pho – not bad, but not special either.

We’ll be back for wine, or just bring home from Chambers Street, but there are too many fantastic food moments in NYC to go back for the food.

raku

I’m so excited to have an exceptional udon joint in our neighborhood! Everything from the wine to the appetizers to the starring noodles was just as we hoped.

raku the press chardonnayIt was a tossup between sake, beer, and wine, but we ended up with a Chardonnay. A fantastic value at $35 a bottle, I was happy to find an elusive oaky, Californian Chardonnay to enjoy with our lunch.

raku ankimoWe commenced with ankimo. The monkfish liver had such an amazing texture and depth paired with a tart, but not too tangy sauce enhanced by fresh scallions.

niku niku udonOur udon selections included a lighter (Ebiten Udon – shrimp & eggplant tempura) and heavier (Niku Udon – beef short-ribs & honeycomb tripe) soup. Freshly-fried tempura was served on the side of the Ebiten bowl, giving you the choice of a crunchy or drenched shrimp. The beef gave the Niku broth a bit of sweetness, and Derek loved that the chef added the meat in rough chunks.

The quality of food, service, and atmosphere, combined with its proximity to us, means this is going to be a new favorite.

yakitori tori shin

This is a short review – I didn’t even think to take a photo. Let me start by saying that everything we ate at Tori Shin was good, but nothing was outstanding. For a final tab of over $200 for the two of us, we expect to be amazed. The next time we are in the mood for yakitori, we will opt for the value of Sake Bar Hagi 46. I don’t expect any loss of quality, and the price tag will be significantly less.