Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: Kung Fu Tea and Honey Bits in Doraville, GA

During the summer, I work as a hostess, which means my "normal" work hours are the ones that most people get off. Because of that, there are usually few places I can go to relax and chat after work, especially because I live in the middle of suburbia.

One night after work, my boyfriend, who is usually in his college town during the week for his job was able to come home a day early (he's back on the weekends, when I don't have to work all day), so he picked me up after work and I suggested trying out Kung Fu Tea because it says open pretty late (until 11 PM I believe).

More Taiwanese/Chinese style tea places have finally started popping up in Georgia and I can't be happier. So far, I have tried out Sweet Hut, Quickly, Chatime, and Snow Mountain, and now Kung Fu Tea.

Kung Fu Tea is much more like Quickly and Chatime in that it mainly specializes in drinks and offers a few savory snacks on the side, rather than Sweet Hut, which offers a wide array of baked goods. On the menu are a lot of teas that I don't find in other places including longan red dates and white gourd (or winter melon). I initially wanted to try out the red date tea to compare it to the similar one Sweet Hut offers and that I love, but I was really feeling something cold, so I decided to just get green tea, unsweet and no milk, with grass jelly. My boyfriend got a black milk tea, regular sweet. What I really like about Kung Fu Tea is that they let you customize the level of sweetness and the temperature of your drink.

The green tea was strong and because the grass jelly was sweetened, the combination provided just the right amount of sweetness without being cloying. I also tried a small sip of my boyfriend's tea and immediately cursed my lactose intolerance. IT. WAS. SO. DELICIOUS. Sweet, creamy, with just the right balance of tea. Yum.

Because Kung Fu Tea was actually quite packed and loud at 10 PM, we decided to drive across the street to Honey Bits to try out a few of the baked goods.

Located in the same shopping center was Chef Liu, Dim Sum Heaven, and BoBo Garden, Honey Bits sells cakes, Chinese sweet breads/pastries, and drinks and is just a hop and skip away from Paris Baguette, Mozart Bakery, and Sweet Hut. When we went, there were only five or six other people there, even though Sweet Hut is always packed. My boyfriend and I selected a boluobao (pineapple bun) to try out there and also got a taro mochi bun, red bean boluo bun, mango custard bun, almond custard loaf, and tiramisu bun to take home. Yeah, we got a lot of sweets, but I couldn't pass up the price. Everything came down to just around $8 for six huge pastries!

The boluobao was good as any is, but nothing too memorable. Still, because it was so inexpensive, I would definitely buy it again. I took the taro mochi and red bean boluo bun home with me and my parents devoured them for breakfast the next day before I got to try them out, but they seemed to really like them. My boyfriend said that he ended up trying out the almond custard loaf and mango custard bun with his brother and mom and they enjoyed both as well.

While the breads aren't as good as the ones at Sweet Hut (though my boyfriend begs to differ), they are a bit cheaper, so the next time I am craving for some good, Chinese style sweet bread, I'll probably choose Honey Bits over Sweet Hut. However, if I want something to drink and eat, then I'd go to Sweet Hut.

TLDR: Kung Fu Tea's black milk tea is the bomb diggaty and Honey Bits has great cheap bread. Perfect for a late night carb out session.

Kun Fu Tea menu
Kung Fu Tea on Urbanspoon

Honey Bits menu
Honey Bits on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Naru Japanese Restaurant in Duluth, GA

Yum. Yum. Yum.

Naru has definitely made my favourite restaurant list. I've been here three times (and once to what I think is the sister store, Kang Nam) and walk away with a happy stomach and tongue each visit.

I didn't get to document my first two trips, but on my third trip, I made sure to bring my newest baby, my Nikon D3300 (an early birthday present from my dad. Thank you, daddy!) to capture the magic. On my first visit, I came with my boyfriend (hereafter BF) who is Korean, and so he ordered from the Korean menu. We ended up getting a small platter of mixed Korean style sashimi and shellfish. I have to make a note here that this is a restaurant that serves its meals in several courses. We picked the small platter, but along with our raw fish, we were also served porridge, noodles, banchan, cheesy corn, agadashi tofu, tempura, grilled fish, steamed egg, fish tofu soup, spicy cod soup, and rice. Everything was artfully prepared and presented and for $50, we were stuffed.

On my second trip, I went for lunch with my mom. I got the $10.99 lunch combo with hwedobap and spicy cod soup. Hwedobap is raw fish chopped up over a bed of vegetables. You mix in rice and squeeze on some gochujang, Korean pepper paste, and eat. Naru serves theirs in a giant bowl with the rice on the side. My mom got the unagi don, which she enjoyed a lot, but I just don't like eel in general, so I can't say anything. We were also served some pumpkin porridge and banchan. Once again, the portions were great. 

Finally, my latest and documented trip: I went for lunch with my dad and got the lunch special Uh Jung Sik for 2 that costs $29.99. The meal started off with some savory porridge. I actually really enjoyed it - perfect amount of salt with the roast aroma of sesame oil.

Next came the banchan and tempura. We had some steamed broccoli, fish cake, cabbage, and bean sprouts. I really enjoyed the tempura - one of the crispiest I've ever had!

After that came the four pieces of nigiri and sashimi. Now, I must say that the sashimi in the lunch special is Korean style, which I believe is flounder. It's not as fatty and melt-in-your-mouth as tuna or salmon, but still very good and very fresh.

After that we got the final pieces of our meal: stir fried spicy squid, steamed egg, roe rice, spicy cod soup, and grilled fish. I particularly loved the squid and would just get it by itself. The steamed egg wasn't as silky as it could be, but I'm not too bothered by it. Oh, and the spicy cod soup definite had a great amount of kick to it. I loved it.

It's a lot of food, and we were beyond satisfied. Would I make a fourth visit? Already planning it! Go with a big appetite, a large group, and preferably someone who can speak/read Korean. I've noticed that the best menu items are in Korean and the servers aren't that good at English. 

We killed it!
TLDR: Fabulous restaurant, multi course meals, go with a lot of hungry people and order a giant combo platter. 

Lunch menu - Click to enlarge

Naru on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recipe: Strawberry Mocha Chocolate Cheesecake Cake

Yup, you read it right: two layers of moist and rich mocha cake sandwiching a middle layer of luscious chocolate cheesecake, finished off with sweet cream buttercream and strawberries.

It's decadent and oh-so-sinful while not being cloyingly sweet (in fact, it's Asian-mother approved). For this particular cake, I decided to frost with a very basic swiss meringue buttercream colored in varying shades of pink for an ombre effect and a bit of edge piping with a large star tip.

Because of the various parts involved, this cake does take some time to assemble and is probably a 4-5 time commitment, not including the cooling and refrigerating time. However, the individual parts are actually extremely easy to execute recipes and part of my go-to collection.

The cake base is a one-bowl oil based recipe that takes no more than 15 minutes to mix together and is rich and moist every single time. While swiss meringue buttercream takes a bit more effort than traditional American buttercream, I find the results much worth it. Swiss meringue buttercream is rich, subtle, smooth, and buttery where American buttercream is loud and overly sweet: one taste and you'll definitely be a convert. After learning how to make a good batch of SMBC, I have never gone back to American buttercream again. As for the cheesecake, it's no more than mixing all the ingredients together and baking low and slow in a water bath to maintain the custardy texture. I would recommend making the cheesecake at least a day in advance and keeping it in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Updates: I've been a bad blogger

Yes, yes, I know. No posts in two weeks; I've been a terrible blogger. I was in full swing of moving out of my dorm, finals, and then flying home for college, but still, not excuse for not posting just once a day. I'm terribly sorry.

To update you guys on what's going on, I am officially done with my freshman year of college. I flew back home on Saturday night (May 10th) and spent the night in with my parents and boyfriend. Mommy, per usual, made me a delicious home cooked meal. Can I say how much I love my mom? She always goes out of her way whenever I come home just so I can be happy and relaxed. I feel like such a princess at home.

Yesterday morning (May 11th), I took my mom out to get a new hairstyle for her mother's day present. She looks absolutely fabulous: shoulder length wavy perm with some side-swept bangs. Now all I need to do is to wait a few weeks and then help her dye her roots and it will all be perfect. After the hair salon, my mom and I got some food at this local Chinese food court before I had to go to work. Yup, first day back home and I'm back at work again. To be honest though, I love this job: I host at a Japanese restaurant. My boss is super nice, the chefs are sweet, I like the wait staff, and I'm good at my job. The only disappointing thing is that I'm working lunch all week, which is oh-so slow and boring.

But yeah, that's the update for now. I'm back home for the summer and it feels great!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: NuGo Slim Roasted Peanut Flavour

Taste: Like the previous NuGo Slim bars I have reviewed, this bar has the same premises: not as sweet, dark-not-milk chocolate coating, and a flavored inside. While the taste is remarkably similar to the Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour I have previously reviewed, I felt like there was something lacking. I'm just not sure what.

Texture: Okay, this is what is hit-or-miss for the NuGo Slim line, and unfortunately this time, the bar was a miss. Wayyyyyyy too chalky and too even throughout. I really wish that there were at least some peanut bits or something other than dry, chalky soy crisps. Yuck.

Nutrition: Overall, the nutrition profile is great and it's vegan friendly, which is a plus for all those vegans out there trying to get enough protein. 15 grams protein, 19 grams of total carbs, 7 grams of fiber, 6 grams fat, 190 calories.
Ingredients list: Protein Mix [Non-GMO Soy Crisp (Non-GMO Soy Protein, Tapioca, Calcium Carbonate), Non-GMO Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Non-GMO Rice Protein], Chicory Root, Vegetable Glycerine, Bittersweet Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Liquor, Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Vanilla), Peanuts, Chocolate Liquor, Peanut Flour, Rice Bran, Salt, Peanut Extract, Natural Flavors and Almonds.
My final thoughts: 5/10 - Definitely not a bar I enjoyed. Would I buy it again? No. While the nutrition profile is great and the price is justifiable, there are other more enjoyable flavours in the line I'd rather be eating.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Busboys and Poets in U Street Corridor, DC

After my last failed attempt at trying out Busboys and Poets, I finally made it out there again last Saturday night. This time, I went with a group of just two other friends and we opted for an earlier dinner, so when we arrived at 5:45, we only had to wait for about 15 minutes for a table.

Super, super busy!

Busboys and Poets is definitely an interesting restaurant; beyond just the regular dining area, there is also a bar, several small areas with couches and coffee tables for patrons to do some work while eating, a bookstore, and also a separate open mike room. The ambiance really does cater to the young "hipster" crowd and I wouldn't mind spending a few more Saturday nights there.

There are tons of really great wall art all over the place

Busboys and Poets' menu isn't too large and has a few choices of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and some pricier entrees. It's super vegan and gluten free friendly, while also having some great meat choices, so a great choice to go with a large group. I wasn't particularly hungry, so I just decided to get a salad. In the end, I narrowed it down to the Steak and Asparagus Salad or the Busboys House, but because the latter seems to change seasonally while the former is more of a permanent fixture on the menu, I decided to order the Busboys House and added a portobello mushroom to it. It was made of baby kale, papaya, jicama, and carrot dressed in a yuzu vinaigrette (which I asked for to be on the side) and came served with two pieces of herb bread. It was light and refreshing with the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch from the papaya and jicama that was balanced out with the pepperiness of the baby kale. While the portobello was extremely generous, for $4, I think I would get grilled chicken instead next time I order it. Nonetheless, for a $6 salad without the addition, it's a great choice for a starter; I strongly recommend.

Busboys House Salad with Portobello // Baby Kale // Papaya // Carrot // Jicama // Yuzu Vinaigrette // Herb Bread

As for the rest of the table, one of my dining partners is vegan, and the biggest reason that we chose to go last week was because Busboys and Poets was having a special vegan week menu. She ordered off the special menu and got the Napoleon Risotto, which was a tomato-based risotto mixed with daiya, and topped with roasted eggplant, red bell pepper, and portobello mushroom. I didn't have any of the vegetables, but did get a taste of the risotto. Maybe it's just me, but I felt like the risotto was too grainy and not creamy enough. However, the flavor was phenomenal. For $17 though? Not sure if it was worth it.

My other dining partner ordered the Blackened Tilapia Sandwich, which was served with lemon-pepper aioli, tomato, lettuce, and onion on a potato roll. For her side, she chose sweet potato fries. I tried some of her fries dipped in the aioli, and holy aioli! The lemon flavor really packs a punch! Also, the sandwich was absolutely huge - there was an entire fillet in there and it was flopping out of the roll. This is something I would want to order the next time I go.

Other things on the menu that looked really tempting and I want to try next time are the Vegan Nachos, Seared Scallops, and Steak and Asparagus Salad. Looks like I'll be paying Busboys and Poets several more visits!

As for the service, my server was super sweet and fun to chat with. She was quick was putting in our orders, made us feel extremely comfortable, and knew just the right balance of attention and distance.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Busboys and Poets. The food is delicious, not too expensive, and doesn't weight me down and the ambiance of the restaurant is super fun. If you are ever find yourself on U Street, then you should definitely give it a try!

Busboys and Poets on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: ThinkThin High Protein + Fiber Bar Chocolate Almond Coconut Flavour

Taste: Think of an Almond Joy bar, but less sweet, and that's basically what you have got. Now, I'm not particularly too big of an Almond Joy fan (though I love Mounds for the dark chocolate coating), so for me, this bar didn't exactly do it. Still, if Almond Joy is something you enjoy, then you'll definitely like this bar.

Texture: As with all of the ThinkThin High Protein + Fiber line, it's a chewy bar with a thin chocolate coating and a relatively chewy inside that is reminiscent of the whipped nougat that is inside a Three Musketeers. In addition to the typical texture though, there are a few bits of coconut flakes, one, maybe two pieces of almonds, and a small scattering of soy crisps for additional texture. I really do wish that there was more textured "stuff" inside though.

Nutrition: There is a good amount of fiber and protein, but if you are watching your artificial sugar intake, there are 9 grams of sugar alcohols. 13 grams of protein, 23 grams total carbs, 5 grams fiber, 6 grams fat, and 180 calories.

Ingredient list: Protein Blend (Soy Protein, Whey Protein, Casein), Coating: Maltitol, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Sodium Caseinate, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Salt, Brown Rice Syrup, Maltitol, Chicory Fiber, Soy Protein Crisps (Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch and Salt), Glycerin, Alkalized Cocoa, Almonds, Canola Oil, Coconut
My final thoughts: 7/10 - It wasn't unenjoyable, but I don't think I'll buy this particular flavour again. I like the texture of the whole line, and the nutrition profile + price are nice as well, but I think I'll stick to the Peanut Butter Toffee flavour only.