Sushi & Soup Dumplings (and much more)

Like a lot of my trips to the city lately, it started with catching the Mega Bus at the Rensselaer Train Station Surface Parking Lot B. They raised their parking prices to $5 per day from $3 per day, and have fancy new signs to show it.

We got in a little late due to traffic, and immediately headed over to the UES to Manhattan Maka’s apartment. This was also no small feat due to the heavy bags we brought with us. But we finally managed to make our way over and didn’t scare the nice door staff too much with our bedraggled presence.

We waited around and chatted a few hours for Yuka, a nice sushi restaurant near Manhattan Maka’s place to open for business. We were in right after they opened, and OMG – they have an all you can eat deal for $21. I figured I was going to order… well, way more than that, so what a good deal. Albany John and his brother also ordered the same thing, so we had quite a bit of food to eat. Yummy!

My brother-in-law also ordered one of their beers on special for $7.95, Koshihikari Echigo beer, which was brewed from rice. It was very smooth and light – I would definitely order it if I saw it again. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness at all.

The way the AYCE sushi works is that there are a lot small slips of paper at your table. Your whole group doing all-you-can-eat fills one out collectively, writing the amounts they would like next to each box. It is a slightly limited menu of nigiri sushi pieces and rolls, and more intricate rolls can be added for a higher cost. We stuck with the ones already included, and we were very pleased.

The food we ordered came out very quickly. They would send out the orders when things were done, for example, our nigiri came first from Round 1 of ordering. We were also there around 5 pm, so there wasn’t a crowd either.

Round 1 of nigiri sushi consisted of:

(Starting at top left) Tamago, Mackerel (saba), Octopus
Octopus, Tuna, Yellowtail
Surf Clam, Salmon, Salmon Tataki

We were quite blown away with the salmon tataki. Lightly seared, it was amazingly good. All of the nigiri were manageable mouth-sized portions, not overly packed with rice. The fish were all very fresh – much better than I can find up here.

There’s the remaining nigiri sushi from Round 1 along with the rolls we ordered.

Salmon skin roll is on the left, and on the right are hijiki, yellowtail & scallion, spicy tuna, and salmon rolls.

CVS ordered the spicy tuna, but I remember how hot it was the last time – it’s mainly sriracha, and lots of it! The salmon skin was delicious! It was my favorite out of the 5 rolls. Hijiki was a close second, and a new food for me – it was a seaweed roll, and had a nice thick/almost crunchy texture and wasn’t too briny or anything.

Yellowtail and tobiko boats, with eel nigiri below them. Albany John and CVS ordered some hand rolls as well. I think one of them was shiso and mint, or ume and mint…

Final round! More salmon tataki nigiri and salmon on top, and yellowtail, squid, and octopus on the bottom. I think there was actually another plate with tuna tataki and more on it, but I forgot to take the picture!

It is very safe to say that I had 8 + pieces of salmon sushi. It is my favorite, and these were all very tasty. The rice was a little warm sometimes, but I actually enjoyed that as it was seasoned very well.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality, service, and speed of this restaurant. They already had the gratuity included, and the service was still great. Our waitress even made this cute pouty face when we said we were ready for the bill. There’s a 2-hour time limit, and we were finished in under an hour. We left pleasantly full (look, I’m almost a bottomless pit when it comes to sushi) without feeling like we’d completely gorged ourselves to the point of bursting. It’s pretty obvious that I am going to go back when I next find myself in Manhattan.

After we got home, Chicago Velvet Smoove took a very contagious nap that left both of us asleep for around an hour. Albany John and Manhattan Maka woke us up a little later with espresso and “Come ON. Who falls asleep at 6:30?! Wake up.”

And then there was the whole convention thingy, ok, let’s just gloss over that.
And then on Sunday night we went over to my Yeh-Yeh’s place. My dad was also in town after visiting with my sister (my sister had already gone home by the time I got in), so we all went out to dinner.

We hopped in the car and went to Flushing, NY. We usually park in this one lot, and ALWAYS pass a meat-on-a-stick cart guy. This time we stopped and ordered lamb sticks. My uncle likes this cart, and we asked for them to be spicy. For $1, this is quite a tasty treat. We waited about 5 minutes for our sticks of lamby meat to be done, and I was blown away with how good it was!

There they are, cooking, just waiting to go into my mouth.

They were nice and tiny tender bits of fatty, fatty lamb. And the spicy seasoning was also good. The outside was nicely browned and the insides were a delicious medium-rare pink! I don’t know how this guy does it, but he sure has skeelz. Did I mention how good and fatty these were? Because they were fatty goodness!

We went to Yun Tian Low Seafood Restaurant. My Yeh-Yeh really likes this place. It’s even getting to the point that I’m familiar with the place, which hardly happens since I can be so forgetful!

Since we had just been in a hotel room eating pizza and sandwiches all weekend, I really wanted lighter foods. You all know how heavy and greasy some Chinese dishes can be. My family was super-nice and accommodated me.
Yeh-Yeh loves beef and bitter melon. After trying this dish, I’ll give cooking bitter melon a shot. Maybe. The melon itself had all of the seeds removed and seemed to be stir fried with the beef and fermented black bean sauce. It wasn’t insanely bitter, nor did the bitterness linger. Imagine something like a bell pepper in texture, only with a bitter punch. Combined with beef, this is a nice dish.

Shrimp and black bean sauce. If you see “black bean sauce” on a menu, it is going to be the fermented black bean sauce kind. I really like black bean sauce since it is fermented it as a nice pungency that adds meatiness to dishes. Chinese Marmite, maybe? If you haven’t tried this before, try it in a restaurant first. A little goes a long way, and when I first tried to make black bean sauce dishes at home I put in too much, so it can be off putting for others.
This dish was very nice – lightly cooked veggies and plump, juicy shrimp served on a sizzling platter.

Albany John wanted to try the sautéed duck with mushrooms. These were reconstituted dry Japanese mushrooms (no further detail given). I liked their meatiness a lot. It wasn’t too overpowering. If they were shiitakes, Albany John thinks they were soaked for a very long time since they were so tender. I’m not sure if you can see any duck underneath all of the mushrooms, but it was also very tender! The skin didn’t slip off of the meat, nor was it overly fatty.

And some nice baby bok choy with garlic! They went very light on the oil in this dish, and I really appreciated it. They were lightly boiled/blanched and that was about it. The stalks were lightly cooked and crunchy, while the greens were wilted and tender. I’m pretty sure I ate half of this plate by myself!

Crappy picture, but we also got ½ of a roasted chicken. Always so good – the chicken was fresh. The meat was all very tender and juicy, while the skin was impossibly crisp. Very little (if any) visible fat. I always love how juicy and soft these roasted chickens are.

My dad dropped us off and left for the night, and Yeh-Yeh, my uncle, Albany John and I stayed up all night eating fresh lychees and drinking beer. That was probably one of my favorite points of my trip – just hanging out, talking. We stayed up until close to midnight – what a social butterfly my grandfather is, no?
He also broke out a small glass of Chinese ‘wine’ and woah… that stuff was potent but also insanely smooth. We all sipped at it, but man! I couldn’t drink a glass of that any time soon, and I am a lady who likes to imbibe. These fresh lychees were also right up my alley – fresh fruit, yes please!

The next morning we headed back out to Flushing to eat soup dumplings for yum cha / dim sum. We got there a little early, so we grabbed some coffee at a one of the many bakeries in town. Everyone got coffee except for me – I saw a special they had – Honey Grass Jelly drink and I had to try it. This was very filling – I only managed about half of it over the course of the morning. It was also very well worth the $3.50 price tag (most basic drinks are around $1).
It was almost like watered down honey – the honey flavor was so very present. The grass jelly didn’t have much flavor, just texture. They said the drink was supposed to be good for your immune system, so bonus, I had something good for me and tasty.

We also snacked before a meal with har gow and spare ribs in black bean sauce. They were both a dollar. $1 !!! The black bean ribs also had taro in there, which were SO yummy. Obviously, both dishes were very good. The har gow noodles were sticky and wanted to stay in the paper box sometimes. We managed to get them, wink wink. They were also filled to the brim with shrimp. Score!

We sat around until 11 and then walked back over to… Joe’s Shanghai!

I had never been, but my uncle absolutely raved about the crab dumplings.

We started off with bowls of pork and pickled cabbage soup. I really liked the broth, but wasn’t too crazy for the noodles. They were thick and a little too bland for my liking. For some reason it reminded me of chicken noodle soup noodles. However, I was still in “Gimme Veggies” mode and loved the pickled cabbage. I also really enjoyed the shredded ginger. Normally I find it too harsh, but maybe these were slightly boiled, as I found them to be great complements to the soup.

These bowls? INSANELY HUGE. I’m talking, I left the room, came back and saw these and went “We ordered FOUR of these?”
It was like a volley ball filled with soup.

Here is an action shot of Albany John picking up a soup dumpling and putting it into his soupspoon.

Here are some of the soup dumplings! We got 2 orders of crab soup dumplings. They were orange-yellow inside, and had a nice sweet crab flavor to them. I was trying to figure out what the color was from when my uncle said it was from the yellow stuff in the crab (is that the roe?). AH ha! It certainly added a nice creaminess to the dumplings.

The soup dumplings also come with a small saucer of vinegar, soy sauce, and shredded ginger. This sauce was tart and flavorful, but I also feel like it was almost a bit buttery. There is also shredded ginger on the side to eat with the soup dumplings. They also complement the richness very well.
We also got fried meat dumplings (akin to gyoza, except they’re mostly just meat). The saucer in the background is filled with a sweeter sauce for this dumpling. I love my sauces, so I was quite in heaven at having all of these different dipping sauces at my disposal!

I ate a good amount of soup dumplings, but I barely dented my soup. Here you can see Albany John tucking into a meat dumpling, along with his finished bowl of soup in the background, and my nearly-full bowl of soup in the foreground. When he looked over he teased “What, did they bring you a new bowl of soup when I wasn’t looking?”

Maybe I’ll show you all some of the goodies I got at the supermarket in Flushing as well. They are wonderful! Right now I’ve got to go find a Father’s Day card.

  1. that dumpling looked like a soft ball!
    great pic of the bok choy, might have to cook some up this weekend

  2. Drool. Jealous.
    Almost two months until my SF trip and then hopefully I can return the favor. That is if I can manage chinatown with two kids in tow.

  3. josie said:

    My mom tricked me into eating bitter melon when I was a kid by telling me it'll give me beautiful skin. And you know how important beautiful skin is to the Chinese… Anyways, I learned to love it and still cook them. You can remove most of the bitterness if you salt them (after splitting them open and cleaning out the insides) and let them sit for a while (~1 hr) and then rinse the salt off before slicing them.

  4. phairhead – yummy!

    Daniel B – Niice, i look forward to it! Best of luck, too!

    josie – great tips! I always got “It tastes like candy” pshhhh. I wised up to that one pretty quickly.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Hi, I was wondering if you knew what those “styrofoam looking things” are that came with your 1/2 roasted chicken? I've eaten them in the past and always wonder if I am eating styrofoam or if it's something else.


  6. josie said:

    Those are crackers (either fish or prawns). Here's some info
    They used to have them in the Asian market but I haven't checked in years. You just put them in oil and they'll expand and expand out like flowers.

  7. I love cooking with bitter melon, josie is right about salting them if you want a less bitter dish.

    You can also eat it raw, thinly sliced with tomato, red onions, carrots, etc. My uncle routinely makes bitter melon salad in the summer and I will devour at least half of it.

  8. hey anon – josie is right! They are prawn crackers. So yummy, although they can get stale quickly. They sell them in the bag at asian food markets already made to eat, but I like getting the small boxes with tons of chips to fry. They are so fun to eat! (although watch the oil splatter)

    lili – DUDE! Awesome sounding salad!

  9. Oh that sushi looks so good! I'm def going to check that place out!

    Thanks for the info 🙂

    Some NYC bloggers are planning a meet up (and opening it up to Upstate bloggers if they'd like I think) for food and drinks. Maybe I can get them to go there? Or maybe I'll just extend my trip!

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