Sunday, October 19, 2014

Best Pinxtos Bars in San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián is a beautiful city and a perfect place for the traveler who is also a food enthusiast.  It is here that there are more Michelin star places per square meter than any other place in the world.  More my speed was the Parte Vieja (old town) with its incredible array of pinxtos (tapas) bars.  At first it can be a bit overwhelming.  Where to spend your stomach capacity?  There are literally hundreds of bars to choose from. However, with a little research and common sense (packed bar versus empty bar) you can quickly isolate where to visit for a bite and a drink.

Standard operating procedure in a pinxto bar is relatively simple.  Figure out the specialty of the house and order it.  Usually this is a hot pinxto versus a cold pinxto that you will find on the counter.  Order a drink - Txakoli is a great choice for a white wine as it goes with almost anything.  Plus, it is cheap and delicious.  Should you need a red wine, ask for a Rioja Crianza.  Have a few bites but not too many as there are many more places to explore.  Throw your napkin on the floor instead of putting it on the counter.

The following are the best San Sebastián pinxtos bars per my taste:

Bar Nestor - the specialty of the house is grilled steak.  Other stand outs are the grilled peppers, tomato salad and Basque cheeses.  


Ganbara - the specialty of the house is grilled mushrooms and the signature dish below was just mind blowing.  In addition, all of the hot tapas are superb.

La Cuchara de San Telmo - everything is ordered fresh from the kitchen here and the quality is just fantastic.  Signature items include the foie gras, beef cheeks, grilled octopus, duck dumplings and pigs ears.
Atari Gastroteka - a modern pinxtos bar situated right next to a large church.  Signature items include foie gras, rice of the day, grilled octopus and an unbelievable dessert of basque bread with honey ice cream.  Gin and tonics are the specialty drink of the house.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Go Go Curry, Shinjuku

Ground floor entrance
As a long-time customer of Go Go Curry in New York City, visiting this curry house was an absolute must while in Japan.

I've long been of the belief that Go Go Curry serves the best Japanese curry in New York City. The place is often packed and is generally filthy but the curry is awesome.  I have a hard time selecting my second favorite curry shop in New York because there aren't just that many of them around.  Curry-Ya possibly although I found the roux there a bit thin and lacking in flavor.  The space is cool and super clean though.  And they have a Japanese toilet. +++

Go Go Curry was easy to identify on the street near my hotel in Shinjuku due to the familiar big gorilla logo.  The restaurant is down a short flight of stairs.  You will first come to a vending machine to make your curry selection.  No English but the pictures get you most of the way there. The space is ridiculously spotless, much different than NYC.  Service is efficient and the place is quiet so can enjoy your plate of curry.  The taste is basically the same as in NYC - a dark, thick and rich roux with nicely fried pork on top and cabbage on the side.  I find this curry very satisfying and delicious although Co Co Curry Ichiban is my favorite in Japan.  I like how you can customize the curry experience there and make it spicy.

Go Go Curry is a fantastic place for rich and hearty curry in the Shinjuku area. If you can visit, you won't be disappointed.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hanamaru Udon, Shinjuku


A sharp recommendation from the staff at the amazing Park Hyatt, Tokyo. Looking for something local and delicious for breakfast, preferably noodles, this was the suggestion. Simply put, an awesome way to start the day.  Close to the massive Shinjuku station without any English spoken.  No problem as there are photos you can point to.  Luxurious udon noodles in a beautiful broth.  On the side take your pick of excellent tempura.  Easy on the wallet and delicious.  Came back a second time and it tasted even better.  Places like this are the reason I keep coming back to Tokyo.

Hafu Restaurant, Kyoto

I found this place on TripAdvisor.com as it was one of the highest rated restaurants in Kyoto and the reviews were universally glowing.  The reviewers were spot on as Hafu delivered a great meal. The sirlion steak was just unbelievably great.  The quality of the steak at Hafu is unbelievable, it melts in your mouth like butter with a perfect texture.

I got a set meal that included an appetizer, soup, salad, steak and dessert for about $60 USD.  A terrific bargain as Japanese beef is usually super expensive.  I sat at the counter, which was a very enjoyable place to be.  The manager here speaks good English as he has spent some time in the US growing up.  A bit hard to find, the restaurant is in a residential section of beautiful Kyoto. Definitely use your GPS or take a taxi.  The name on the outside of the restaurant is actually Hafuu.

Rokurinsha Ramen, Tokyo Station

This place has been on my list to visit for years and finally the day came.  Easily this was some of the very best ramen I have had in my life.  Every component of the Tsukemen is an amazing compliment to the other including the perfect noodles and egg.  Tasting the broth alone is interesting as it is very intensely flavored. However, when you dip the noodles in the broth and eat it as it meant to be, the balance is flawless.  The wait in the line was about 30 minutes around the lunch hour. Just a fantastic meal, I was blown away.