Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It's a Food Review! Takahachi Bakery!

So.... after a long day at work and the previous day shoveling 12+ inches of snow, I decided that I needed some sugary sweet treats. I happen to pass by Takahachi Bakery on my way to the office and I decided to look it up on Yelp. Yes, I look up food places before I decide to go to them (so I know what to choose!). Here we go!

Takahachi Bakery

Location: 25 Murray Street, New York, NY 10007

Anyways, off I went to the bakery and bought two desserts to go. The bakery itself is cozy. When I went in I was greeted nicely by the staff. They have a variety of foods, from salads and sandwiches to breads, cakes, and macaroons. If I wasn't in a hurry to head back home (it was cold!), I would have chose a few more food items to try. I bought a Matcha Crepe and a Kyoto Matcha Mousse. They were a little more than $5 each. Behold! Feast your eyes on these cuties. 

The one on the left is the Kyoto Matcha Mousse and the one on the right is the Matcha Crepe. I find the packaging of the mousse is standard, but the crepe is pretty innovated. I've never seen a crepe wrapped up in what looks to be a newspaper (but it's tissue paper!). Anyways, onward!

I ate the mousse first since everyone was raving about the crepe. This dessert is a lovely mix between the green tea mousse, red beans, almond flavored cake and jello thing. I ate each piece alone and found the mousse to be ok, the red beans to be standard, and almond jello and cake thing to be missing something. However, when you eat a bite with a bit of everything, it pleasantly satisfied my sugar craving and the balance was good. (I wouldn't know if the chocolate was good, I gave that and half the mousse to my little sis.)

So, I took the newspaper tissue wrapping off the crepe and it looks rather boring, kinda like a green burrito. At first, I was a bit skeptical about if this thing would taste good because I've only eaten crepes hot and fresh. Anyways, once you rip this thing open, you find yourself with a crazy good treat. Inside this crepe is whipped cream and a red bean paste. Each and every bite, you'll get a good amount of matcha crepe, cream, and red beans. It was sweet, light, and absolutely delicious. 

My sis and I both agreed that this crepe is the better dessert treat of the two. If I was still in the bakery, I would have ordered at least another one so my sis and I wouldn't have to share! After this experience, I believe that I will head back to Takahachi Bakery every once in awhile to get their desserts and try their other items. While their items are a bit pricier than what I am used to (Chinese bakeries are usually cheap and tasty), I find the quality is totally worth it.

You guys should totally try this bakery out!

Review (Games) - Love Letter

Love Letter in one of it's many forms.
Name: Love Letter
Publisher: AEG
Publishing Year: 2012
Designer: Seiji Kanai
Play Time: 15 minutes
Recommended Age: 7+
Cost - ~$7.49 (varies depending on the edition)

-Simple Rules
-High Portability/Mobility
-Low Cost

-Low Variability
-Weak Theme

Verdict: Must have in collection for two important roles, an excellent small filler game and a great hook for non-hobby gamers into the hobby.

Game Summary
Love Letter is a very simple card game. To win, you must either be the last person standing or possess the highest valued card in your hand when the round ends. Games are usually played first to 4 wins.

Every player starts off with 1 card in their hand and on their turn, they draw a card and play a card. Very simple. Each card will have some effect, ranging from checking the card in a single opponent's hand to forcing an opponent to discard the card they currently have. A lot of these effects also lets you remove an opponent from a round, provided you can guess the card in their hand in some form.

Game Components
There's not much to say here, it's literally a deck of 14 cards and a few red cubes to keep track of who won how many rounds. For the ~$7 MSRP, it's going to be worth it for the amount of game you're going to get out of this. Cards are a little thin, so if you're a OCD gamer like me, sleeve them. They will wear out really fast.

Conclusion/Final Thoughts
Love Letter plays fast and has been a hit with a lot of young children as well as adults. It lends itself well to a lot groups and even if you don't like it a lot, it's over extremely quickly. I certainly wouldn't be able to play a whole night of this, but I've seen people in my group play it for 2-3 hours straight.

This game definitely belongs into any gamer's collection. It's cheap, it's light, it's fast, it's fun.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review (Food) - IKEA MEATBALLS?! (And other IKEA food)

Do you live up to the hype?

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am doing this. Before you continue, this is an informal review, so please do not expect my normal format going into this. I've heard a lot about IKEA's (meat)balls from many different sources, but namely Mel. I was headed to IKEA there one day to pick up a display case when she told me to pick up a few packs of meatballs, gravy, and lingon berry preserves. She's never been to IKEA I think, and usually you would think IKEA ---> furniture. She was raving about how delicious it was and etc. Going to IKEA for food and not furniture? Of course this perked my interest, but unfortunately, that day they were hosting some kind of fish tournament or something and locked down the food court as a result. I didn't get to try out some of their meatballs that day and IKEA was frankly a bit of the way for me, so I put it the in the back of my mind. That is, until the other day. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Meh, I am not arranging this for you guys. 
Please keep in mind I had breakfast at 7am and on purposely starved myself until 1pm just for this plate of meatballs. It doesn't look like much, they had a pile of them at the food station and just unceremoniously plopped it onto your plate. I wasn't expecting much from this as it costed $5.99.

It was just that, nothing special. For one thing, the meatballs were a bit cold and dry on the outside. This might have resulted from the food sitting out there in the cold buffet style. I do appreciate that the texture of the meatballs though, it was very smooth. It's not like the Asian or school meatballs, where you have a lot of chunks of meat in there. It's like they took the meats and set the blender to liquefy. It's pretty good in that respect. The mash is just like any other mash, tastes like what you would expect from mash powder + milk,  very mechanically smooth. The gravy was good, but again, nothing special to write home about. If there was one thing I had to say that stood out, it was the Lingon Berry preserves. By itself, it's very tasty and has a very nice balance of tangy and sweet. But this, THIS, is what held the plate together. You take a bite of meat, berry, mash, berry, meat, berry, and it so perfectly accents the flavor of the 2 savory portions. It works not unlike cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinners. I think the berries were the real star, and if you think you have a need for a sweet and tangy sauce to mesh a meal together, definitely grab it.

And of course, dessert:
I'm not as deadly as you think I am... :3
I've also heard some good things about their Cinnamon Buns. After the meatballs, I was really not sure how well these were going to be. I was underwhelmed for the most part by the meatballs and I was expecting to be underwhelmed again. To my surprise, I really enjoyed this bun, and for a few reasons:
1. Price point. $1? Thank you!
2. Size. Compared to at least the ones you find around NYC, these are at least 33% larger.
3. Not dripping in sweetness. I was expecting a diabetic death once I bit into this (and for very good reasons), but they didn't put a lot of sugar on top, and the sugar itself was not extremely sweet. Overall, a very nice bun that I enjoyed. The cinnamon flavor came through and the sugar did not mask it. The dough was very soft and the whole thing melted in my mouth. Definitely worth it, especially at $1.

Nothing special in my opinion. IKEA food is definitely cost efficient for it's taste and quality. Do give it a munch if you are in the area of one, but nothing to go out of your way for. Now I'm really regretting I didn't pick up a can of that preserve...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review (Food) - Ise Japanese Restaurant

So... ho hum...
Name: Ise Japanese Restaurant
Location: 56 Pine Street, New York, NY 10005
Food: Japanese
Cost: Mid-range (~$20 per person for lunch)
Recommendation: Only if you are looking for a beautiful and tasty lunch at 11:30am sharp.
Warning: Almost all waiter's have very thick accents and may have difficult communicating.

Ise is hidden very well in the back of the financial district, more so now that the scaffolding are up around it. You would walk by the place and there's a good chance you'll miss it among the clutter of business buildings nearby from the height of the windows. Inside is a very well lit and simply furnished room with many tables for the customers, along with a bar at the front. On the menu, you'll find many typical dishes in a Japanese restaurant. The price here is in line for the area (we're talking financial district here!) and the quality is definitely above the cheaper places you'd find in Chinatown or in Brooklyn. However, one thing that does set this apart and why I recommend this place is their special lunch menu. Every day, Ise has a special menu given to each customer at their opening at 11:30am. Each item on the menu has a limited quantity of 10, with a first come first serve. These items are combo items and a lunch meal all in one. The price, at least as far as I can see, ranges from $16 - $24, which is a fair price for the area. But what makes them so amazing is the variety and amount that you get from it (and it doesn't hurt they make it really nice looking).

To date, I have only tried/seen 3 items:
Sushi Special
This is the sushi combo and costs $17. The price is almost the same as ordering each sushi piece a la carte, but they toss in a shrimp tempura udon along with it. The fish is excellent (no freezer burn taste like from the cheap ones), but what really made me like this is the shrimp sushi. Many places makes their shrimp taste really sweet and the meat is very tough. This place, there is only a slight hint of sweetness and you can actually taste the shrimp and the meat is springy. This one seems to be a staple, but they change the fish every week or so, as well as what's in the ramen (the fish cake and tempura is always there though). Very delicious and very well done.

Combination Special
This mixed plate here costs $17 and holy *insert choice word(s) here*, there is a LOT of colors and variety here. The bowl right in front is some kind of medicinal broth (slightly bitter) with mochi, If you're not into eastern medicinal soup, steer clear of it, you probably won't like it. The friend salmon are done to perfection, crispy on the outside, smooth and juicy on the inside. And of course, the star of the show, the sashimi bowl. I'll be upfront, I was actually really hesitant about this bowl, I've had a lot of misses with sashimi bowls before and I was paying a pretty good chunk of money for this one. You will be (as well as I) glad to know I was not disappointed with this. The reason was the rice. The vinegar in the rice added just the right amount of acidity to balance out the sashimi's oiliness. And special note to the salmon roe, this was the first place I actually enjoyed eating it. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of medicinal broth, so I will not be ordering this again and will try the normal sashimi special in the future, but for those who do enjoy the mellow bitterness, this is a good choice.

Gozen Bento
I'll be upfront about this one, I have not ordered it, it was my brother who did it. But he's a foodie too, and he REALLY liked it. The combo cost $24 and is the most expensive item I've seen to date. I haven't taken a bite of it, but the variety is definitely the highest of all the specials and I really liked how they added clams into the miso. The clam flavor came through the miso and overall he enjoyed it a lot. This is one of their most popular item and is not always available. We came in only 5 minutes after 11:30am and there was only 1 left. Move fast if you want this... I will report back as soon as I've had a taste of it myself.

Overall, I really enjoy the place and when I have time and in the mood for early lunch, I like to pick here for it. The rest of their menu isn't bad, but nothing to me stands out. I need to dig a little deeper for their regular menu. What really brings them to the top is their lunch special. So if you have time at 11:30am and want a good lunch with variety, run over here and give it a try. You won't be disappointed. Trust me.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

It's a Book Review! Firefight (Reckoners Series #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Yay, my first book review! I really enjoyed the first book in the Reckoners Series, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, which gave me an excellent action packed sci-fi story. And usually if the first book leaves me feeling happy, I will read all the books in the series.

So this series is set in a world where some people in the whole population have managed to gain some crazy powers. These people (who are called Epics) usually use their powers to do very bad things such as taking over a city and killing people. But there is one Achilles heel for these Epics, they have one weakness that will make them temporarily lose their power.

The first book in the series introduces us to the main character David whose goal is to get revenge on Steelheart, an Epic who killed his father. To get his revenge, he has collected a huge amount of data on Epics hoping to figure out their weaknesses. And hoping to figure out the weakness of Steelheart because his father had managed to stop Steelheart's power once before dying. David also really enjoys creating metaphors (but they're really bad).

Long story short, in the first book, David joins the Reckoners, which is a group whose goal is to kill Epics that harm people. He finds a love interest in Megan, who just happens to be an Epic. But he does manage to kill Steelheart after figuring out Steelheart's weakness and bam! Newcago (Steelheart's city) is free!

If anyone is interested here's the cover of the first book (if you decide to read/buy it, you'll know how it looks!).
Steelheart (Reckoners Series #1)

And here's the cover of the second book in the series. I do like the cover art concept.

Firefight (Reckoners Series #2) 

It's pretty isn't it? The title is the name of a certain Epic. A lovely one (wink wink), but if you didn't understand because I make crappy hints, it's Megan.

Anyways to keep myself from giving too many spoilers, I'll just put down what I liked about the book.

  • Brandon Sanderson's writing is amazing, and it'll keep your eyes glued to the book until you finish it. (Oh my inner struggle with putting this book down when my lunch break was over *tear tear*).
  • David still is in love with his bad metaphors (and is whoo-ing Megan one step at a time). 
  • He likes to talk to his weapons. You're on probation you hear!
  • There is actually politics between the members of Reckoners. 
  • The romance. The inner struggles of a relationship between an Epic and a human. She's so brave telling him her secret and she was willing to sacrifice herself for him. 
  • The plot twists. Every time until the end, I thought it was clear what the story was about, but damn. It wasn't that at all. It was something entirely different and now I can't wait for the next book to come out. *sobs*
  • The new characters are fun. Who doesn't need a mortician?
  • There are good Epics mixed within the bad. I mean I know we see this in the previous book, but it's good to see that there are more than just two. I also liked that the powers given to humans didn't discriminate between the healthy and the sick. 
  • I really like some of the Epics names. Like Regalia, Obliteration, and Dawnslight.
There's a lot good stuff about this book, but I can't seem to remember any more. If I remember more I will definitely edit this post and continue to add. I will definitely be rereading this book. 

I think that this book is a must read, if you enjoy a superheroes and action. I seriously can't wait to read the next book called Calamity!

P.S. Yay to Yonghwa (CNBlue) and Jonghyun (SHINee) on debuting solo!
P.S. P.S. I like to doodle.

First (Late) Foodie Friday!

Well, originally I was suppose to post this up yesterday, but got really tired and knocked out before I had a chance to do so.

Generally speaking, I usually go out around the city on Friday to eat out, either with Mel or my brother. Yesterday's lunch target was ISE, specifically the one down by Pine Street in the financial district. From the outside, the place doesn't seem to be very special:
It certainly doesn't help that they are currently fixing up the building; the scaffolding makes the place seem even shadier. The food here is good, and the price is what you'd expect for food here (expect to drop around $15 - $20 for lunch), but overall, nothing special. Really. Alright, alright, I lied. I wouldn't go and blow so much money of a meal if there wasn't something special about this place.

ISE opens up at 11:30am every day. Each day, they have a special menu of ~6 items (this changes all the time, but I still haven't frequent it enough to figure out the schedule changes) where they will only take 10 orders of each only a day. These menu items (at least in the 3 times I've been here) ranges anywhere from $16 to $24. And THIS is what makes ISE worthwhile to visit, because these daily specials are EXTREMELY cheap for the amount of excellent grade fish that you can get. But you must get there at 11:30am on the dot, otherwise they will run out in a few minutes. I got there late yesterday and already 1 of the items had only 1 left.

I'll be writing a full review later on, so keep your eyes out for it. In the mean time, allow me a chance to make you jealous:
This is the Gozen Bento. We snagged the last one.

This is the Sushi Combo. This is the second time I've had it and it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - First Impressions

So earlier yesterday I received a traded copy of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of Rune Lords and took it for a spin. I have to say I am extremely impressed by this. I'm a Pathfinder GM and when I originally heard about the game, I simply dismissed it as Pathfinder RPG with all the RPG component stripped out of it. That is very true on many levels; you will not find any of the tactical grid combat or many role playing going on here. However, what it does really well is actually transfer a lot of the feelings of a RPG session and compress it into a shorter time frame. It captures the adventuring and exploration of the original RPG and puts it together into a bit sized package with less rules.

I'll need to play this a bit more, but it's looking to be very good. I got this on the cheap in a trade and wasn't really hoping much out of it, but now I'm really hopeful. Look forward to my full review in the future!