Puerto Rico | San Juan | Castillo San Felipe del Morro| Castillo de San Cristobal

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thank god for my diligent airfare watching, in October 2014, we booked a  great flight deal to puerto rico for 4 days. we explored old san juan on the first day, hiked in El Yunque rain forest and saw la mina falls on the second day, took a boat to flamenco beach, culebra puerto rico, snorkeled with sea turtles, and went on a tour to bio bay when we returned to fajardo. Before our flight back to Boston we visited the barcardi factory on the 4th day.

Day 1.

we flew into san juan airport (SJU) and rented a car. car rental is really cheap in PR. if you had credit cards such as chase sapphire, it even covers the insurance. roads in PR are generally good; our small car was even able to drive into the rainforests. i reserved my car online prior arriving; its always cheaper than renting on the spot. the car rental service at SJU was surprisingly organized; we got our car in no time. we drove to old san juan for lunch and some sightseeing. streets are very narrow in old san juan; it is nearly impossible to find street parking. we parked our car in a garage and headed to restaurant El Jibarito which i discovered from lonely planet.

El Jibarito was pretty packed with both locals and tourists. they serve traditional puerto rican cooking. we ordered some tropical fruit juices (they had no fresh coconut juice what?!), fried whole fish, and a chicken stew dish with plantains. the fried whole fish was dry and the chicken stew wasn’t that special either. lunch was mediocre.

after lunch, we took a walk on the streets of old san juan and grabbed some local coffee at cafe colao. i saw they could do some intense latte art from pictures online, so i was hoping i could get a panda on my cappuccino. unfortunately, the guy that does the advanced latte art wasn’t working that day, so i couldnt get my panda. they suggested visiting them again on a weekend when the guy usually works. the coffee was quite tasty tho.

loaded with caffeine, we took another walk to Castillo de San Cristobal. old san juan is pretty walkable. there’s also a free trolley service that goes between sightseeing sites. the trolley stops are numbered and marked by pink signs. we checked out Castillo de San Cristobal first. the ticket is valid for both Castillo de San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. we enjoyed the view of old san juan from Castillo de San Cristobal.

after Castillo de San Cristobal, we decided to take the trolley to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, but unfortunately the trolley was completely full. we took a nice long walk along the beach to Castillo San Felipe del Morro where our car is parked as well. after taking some pictures at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, we picked up our car and headed to Gran Meliá Puerto Rico Golf Resort in Río Grande.

we had dinner at La Estacion in fajardo. the restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating. we sat outside and ordered two mofongo dishes (one with shrimps and another one with steaks) along with a few drinks and desserts. mofongo is a fried plantain-based dish originated from puerto rico. usually made with fried plantains mashed together in a pilon and served with veggies, meats, or seafood. it was my first time eating mofongo; i found it overly oily and salty but still pretty tasty.

My favorite part of Puerto Rico so far is the fluffy clouds that float in the sky, I want to curl up and take a nap in them.

El Jibarito
Calle Sol 280
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Phone number (787) 725-8375

PR’s Café Cola’o
Pier 2
Old San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Phone number (787) 725-4139
prcafecolao.com

La Estacion
Carretera 987 Kilometro 4
Fajardo, Puerto Rico 00738
Phone number (787) 863-4481
laestacionpr.com

Bassanova Ramen | Chinatown NYC, NY

(PorkBelly) Bassanova Ramen is a NYC outpost of a Tokyo based Ramen Ya. It’s been cold as hell in NYC lately + being bombarded with snow storm after snow storm I felt like ramen was the perfect thing to warm me up. Interestingly, Bassnova is in the heart of Chinatown, not typical of most Ramen shops. I wonder how they fare compared against much cheaper and larger portions of mainly Cantonese restaurants in the area in attracting customers. I was curious how this Tokyo Transplant would do in NYC so I met up my friend there.

The restaurant is subterranean
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The large glass windows make you feel like you’re not actually underground.
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There is one huge communal table in the center
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and some 2 sets on the side
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I took a seat at the bar, first thing I noticed was the extra long chopsticks…

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and large pepper mills

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They have an interesting assortment of bowls, they use some bowls with certain dishes

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I was told the bowls are imported from Japan…..

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The extra long chopsticks again, with a wood れんげ

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Sizzling Hot Iron-Pan Stick Dumplings
filling: berkshire pork, chives, chinese cabbage, garlic, scallion

First order of business was the gyoza

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Gyoza was pan fried perfected, but a bit too oily. It was still delicious, berkshire (かごしま黒豚) pork is my favorite type of hog and I’m a big fan of chives!
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the insides

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Tondaku Ramen
berkshire pork tonkotsu soup. topping with: porkloin chashu, kikurage mushroom, fried ginger onion, crushed sesame, nori, and scallion

My friend got this, the soup has incredible depth, I think anything made with berkshire pork is heaven on earth……

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This one comes with thin Sun Noodles.
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Tondaku Wadashi Green Curry Ramen
berkshire pork gonkotsu & green curry soup. topping with: grilled porkloin chashu, mixed green, shrimp, okra, red pepper

I went for their famous Green Curry Ramen, made famous from their home restaurant in Japan.. My friend tried some of the soup and was instantly jealous. I thought this would taste like a Thai soup like at Tabata, I was pleasantly surprised. The soup is a perfect blend of Ramen broth and Thai ingredients, the spiciness is just right for flavor not for effect. I could slurp this soup for days…… Oh and the Chasu is melt in your mouth goodness…..

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This came with thicker Sun Noodles. The bowl was cool, I heard people drink the broth from the more rounded edge.

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Final thoughts, Bassanova is a damn fine establishment, especially if you are in Chinatown and want non Chinese food. I definitely recommend the Green Curry Broth. The portions are on the small size, well for an average American. Luckily they are dirt cheap Chinese establishments nearby if you are still hungry. Service is prompt and attentive. I would definitely come here again to try out other items on the Menu. I’m glad establishments like this and Ivan Ramen made there way across the Ocean to NYC.

Bassanova Ramen
76 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

Bassanova Ramen on Urbanspoon

Tokyo Shabu Shabu | Monterey Park, CA Los Angeles

(PorkBelly) I know shabu shabu isn’t the most dynamic food to take pictures of, but I have to blog for our fans out there….. When I was in LA, my friend took me to his Shabu spot (funny thing, Shabu is slang for Meth Japanese, just so you know). His old spot was Jazz Cat……. Located in a shopping strip in Monterey Park in the real Chinatown area of the LA area. The restaurant is well-lit and clean with 2 bar tops with shabu stoves.

Started off with a calipo soda, i’m really addicted to this drink…..

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Egg to go with our Shabu Shabu

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Sesame Paste and Soy Sauce

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I got the Kimchi Broth while my friend got the Miso Broth

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I went for the Lamb, i’m a sucker for Lamb

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My friend went for the top sirloin

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Shot with all our stuff in the broth.

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Tokyo shabu shabu was average, not something I would go out of my way for. Service was decent, but I didn’t ask for much. After they dropped off our broth their job was pretty much done. I feel like the kimchi broth was lacking depth and flavor. I did not taste much of a kimchi flavor present. Prices are a bit high for the amount of food you receive. Some Shabu Shabu places it’s better to go there instead of eating it at home and this is not one of them….


Tokyo Shabu Shabu

Mar Center
141 N Atlantic Blvd, Ste 100B
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Tokyo Shabu Shabu on Urbanspoon

Clay Pot Cafe | Chinatown Boston, MA

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clay pot cafe is a small restaurant in chinatown that specializes 煲仔饭 ‘clay pot rice’. it’s a rice dish thats cooked in a clay pot and served with different kinds meat, vegetables, and Chinese charcuterie. the clay pot keeps the moisture and seals all the nutrients inside because it is surrounded by steam, creating a tender, flavorful dish and you also get slightly crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the pot.
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abalone, mushrooms, chinese sausage, greens with rice.

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chicken and mushroom with rice. kinda dry and lacked flavors.

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wasnt the best clay pot rice ive had entire life, but the abalone with chinese sausages one was still pretty satisfying. cash only. they were more expensive than we expected. we didnt get enough cash the first time so we had go get cash again; total came to about 50 bux for two clay pot dishes. the restaurant also serve dishes other than jus clay pot rice dishes.
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Clay Pot Cafe
74 Kneeland St
Boston, MA 02111
b/t Hudson St & Tyler St in Chinatown
Phone number (617) 357-5262
Clay Pot Cafe on Urbanspoon

Santouka Ramen| Harvard Square | Boston Cambridge, MA

(Porkbelly) Santouka finally opened up in Harvard Square!  We were lucky to have been invited to their soft opening event tonight, a few days after the most recent blizzard to hit Boston.  This is the first stand alone Santouka store in New England, and is a welcome addition to Boston’s growing Ramen scene serving their crack broth soup, oops I mean Tonkotsu…..  We were lucky to have been a part of their pop up on Newbury St. last year, check it out here.  We are very exited to be a part of the Santouka Boston Opening.

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The Restaurant is spacious and well lit.

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I like the yin yang theme

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A look into the kitchen

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I like the table setting, I’m not sure if there will keep this on the table when the store opens officially

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Workers behind the counter doing work
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My favorite part of the restaurant is the glass partition where you can see the vats of broth behind the glass

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Sneak Peak at the menu

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They were giving out Sapporo and Sake out all night…

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Their signature Tonkotsu Shio Ramen, with their signature umeboshi plum in the center. I think the Shio is their best ramen, it’s very simple, yet very complex the deeper you get into it.

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That Noodle shot

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The sake came from this…. Kagami-Biraki was performed….

The definition from the Genkeikan website….
“Kagami-biraki is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake is served to everyone present….”

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Kanpai (Cheers in Japanese)!!!!

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Closing thoughts, I think Santouka Ramen in the best ramen in Boston. It is a chain, but it’s a damn good chain. Their broth cannot be beat! I hope to eat here more in the future. Thank you for having us Santouka.

Santouka Ramen
1 Bow St
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Santouka on Urbanspoon

True Aussie Lamb @ Tremont 647 |South End Boston, MA | Lamb Rack Recipe

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Today we were invited to an event hosted by True Aussie Lamb, promoting awareness for Australian lamb in the USA. Master Butcher Doug Piper was flown in from Australia to demonstrate various lamb butchering techniques. The event was hosted at Tremont 647, “Australian lamb is 100% free-range and pasture-raised. It is naturally lean, tender and nutrient rich.” Since we’re both huge fans of mutton of all types, especially on a skewer and placed over charcoal! here here here and most recently here

Boston is still in a middle of a snow storm, but we braved the storm to eat some delicious lamb!

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Tremont 647 was buzzing with activity. It looks like people didn’t let the snow stop them from eating brunch!

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From left to right, Adam, Andy Husbands Chef/Owner of Tremont 647, and Master Butcher Doug Piper

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Tremont 647 provided some of their pastries…

Sticky Buns

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Muffins

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Our victim

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Doug putting on his protective glove

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Doug Piper showing us how to properly butcher a lamb.

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here’s a short video

The end product

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Amuse:

Amuse Lamb Pastrami Rye toast, Mustard, Brussels Sprouts Krout

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Andy’s Huevos Rancheros Braised Aussie Lamb de Birria style, fried eggs, beans and rice, three salsas, & tortilla

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Croissant Breakfast Sammy House-made maple Aussie Lamb sausage, American cheese, fried egg, roasted garlic-herb pistou, & hash browns

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as a souvenir, we got a rack of lamb from aussie lamb to take home.

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my favorite ways to eat lamb are either slice the lamb really thin and eat hot pot with it or cook it with a lot of cumin. in this case, we marinated the lamb and pan-fried it.

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for the marinade, i used (from left to right): sake, oil, black pepper, salt, A LOT OF CUMIN, red pepper, maple syrup (honey), garlic salt. you can substitute or add any of your favorite spices or sauces, but cumin, alcohol, oil, and salt are the key. cumin and alcohol can really get rid of the gaminess of the lamb.

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poke the lamb with a knife so the marinade can get inside of the meat. marinate for an hour or two in the fridge, or even overnight if you’d like.

when they are ready to cook, heat oil in a pan til it gets really really hot then throw in the lamb racks.
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cook each side 3-4 mins depending how well you would like the lamb to be done. i rarely fry anything, but when i do, i want some potatoes wedges too :)
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if pan frying is too unhealthy if you, you can bake it in the oven too.
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10 mins later, lamb is ready to eat.
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you can sprinkle more cumin and red peppers if you’d like. super juicy, cumin-y, delicious.
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we also received a book from the event: from cuts to cuisine. A detailed guide book of the different cuts of lamb with recipes for each cut.
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maybe ill try some of the recipes soon!
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aussie lamb is widely available here in Eastern New England – in many different cuts from a lamb leg to chops. for more information about Australian Lamb, visit http://australian-lamb.com/Lamb/

Tremont 647 on Urbanspoon

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