Red Pepper | Framingham, MA Boston

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i was craving sichuan food and ive always heard good things about red pepper in framingham so we decided to take a long drive to framingham.

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重庆凉面 cold noodles in chili, sour and sweet sauce
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夫妻肺片 sliced beef and tendon with chili sauce – this was the best dish out of all. flavors were on point.
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干锅田鸡 dry braised frog with spicy sauce in hot pot – not as spicy, flavorful, fragrant as i wished. the frog was ok.
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麻婆豆腐 mapo tofu with minced pork in sichuan spicy sauce
probably the worst mapo tofu ive had in restaurants. not spicy and ‘numbing’ at all and the pork was full of fat.
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沸腾鱼 sliced fresh fish with bone in spicy sauce
i appreciate that they use whole fish instead fish filets most restaurants use; however, the fish was not fresh and tasted like dirt. 土腥味儿. we love fish, but we barely touched this.
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maybe my expectations were too high, but the food at red pepper was def underwhelming. none of the dishes were as spicy and fragrant as we wished and the quality of the ingredients were not so good. i dont think i would return especially its so far away.

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Red Pepper
17 Edgell Rd
Framingham, MA 01701
Phone number (508) 620-9998
redpepperroute.com

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Brodard Chateau | AFTERS Handcrafted Ice Cream | Orange County Los Angeles CA

Porkbelly again, This past month I went to LA/SF on a business trip. Immediately after landing at LAX, I called my friend and asked him “where are we eating ?” His response, “Brodard.”  Located in Garden Grove, Brodard is minutes away from the heart of the Vietnamese population in SoCal, Westminster.

Brodard Chateau is located in the Mall of Fortune, they are a few restaurants in here

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Such as a Boston favorite (not ours)….dunno if it’s the same or if they just have the same name

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They have take out and sell various teas, deserts and Chè

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This location is very spacious and always packed

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Like any Vietnamese person, I had to order a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) I finished this in 4 sips, they went crazy with the ice, order this with no ice if you can……

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Brodard is known for their Nem Nướng Cuốn, Nem Nướng is a Vietnamese Pork Sausage, It’s rolled up in a rice wrapper, and has a fried egg roll wrapper in the center. It is typically eaten with Tương Chấm, the dipping sauce.

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One order comes with three

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I could eat a million of these…….

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The Fried Egg Roll wrapper in the middle gives it an awesome crunch!

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No Nem Nướng Cuốn is complete without the sauce. The Tương Chấm has a nice sweet note that complements the Nem Nướng Cuốn nicely.

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I ate with a friend and his family so I didn’t want to intrude by taking pictures of their dishes…… I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of my dish…..

My friend ordered Bánh Khọt
A Crispy rice-flour cake filled with shrimp & scallion, served with Asian greens & fish sauce. My mom used to make this when I was a child, I can eat a million of these also…….

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No Vietnamese dish is complete without some sort of sauce…. You always need some nước mắm

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Overall it’s a pretty good Vietnamese Joint, the Nem Nướng Cuốn is to die for, if I went back that is all I would order.

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Brodard Chateau
9100 Trask Ave
Garden Grove, CA
(714) 899-8273
Brodard Chateau on Urbanspoon

Post lunch we went to Afters, a desert place known for their Ice Cream Milky buns, pretty much a glazed donut bun ice cream sandwich. It was a 10min drive away from Brodard.

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In typical Cali fashion, there was a line….

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Our first glimpse at the Buns…

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What they use to keep the line in place, certainly saves space! The boxes were all full.

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The instructions

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Milky Buns….

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They were nice and warm….

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You can sample any flavor…

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The assortment of toppings

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I got the Mint Monster, taste exactly like a hot glazed donut with ice cream in the middle…. Heavenly. It was super awesome because the milky bun was still warm….

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My buddy got the Vanilla, you can’t go wrong with that

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Overall, Afters is a good desert spot if you want something simple and can stand the line.

AFTERS Handcrafted Ice Cream
18030 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Ivan Ramen | Lower East Side New York, NY

Hi all this is PorkBelly, this is my first post on the blog!

I was on a business Trip in NYC (Bunny was back in Boston :( it’s a busy month for her ) so I was super stoked to try the newly opened Ivan Ramen in the Lower East Side, especially since I’m a HUGE fan of Ivan, and love his book.  I met up with a friend that used to live in the Boston area. Traveling to NYC for work is great, there are no lines during the weekday, the atmosphere is completely different compared to the weekend.  With that being said, there was no line for Ivan Ramen on Thursday evening, and I was seated immediately upon arrival.

The restaurant is a quick 10min walk from the train stop

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I opted to sit at the bar since I like to be a bit closer to the action.

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The Bar is next to the bathroom, it seemed like there was always someone using it since there was at least one person outside of it at all times….

The menu is nice and simple

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I ordered a few appetizers…

Braised Ox Tongue
beef broth, hot mustard

I’m a fan of Beef tongue in general and the hot mustard gives it a nice kick. I believe the marinade was Ponzu sauce, the spicy mustard was a great contrast to the tangy ponzu sauce flavor. The meat was nice and tender.

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JFC
double dredged chicken hearts + livers, ponzu honey mustard

My buddy is a fan of fried foods, so I gave this a shot. I’m a big fan of Chicken Hearts, and other unpopular parts of the chicken. The ponzu honey mustard gives it a nice sweet flavor, and the double fry gives it a super crispy skin.

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Lancaster Okonomiyaki
scrapple waffle, charred cabbage, pickled apple, maple kewpie

An interesting re-imagining of Okonomiyaki unlike the one we had at Gaja It was a bit strange to me, the waffle is made out of scrapple, and has some sweet notes such as the apple bits. It was good, but not something I would want over traditional Okonomiyaki

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1000 Year Old Deviled Egg
hen egg + preserved duck egg, tomato, bonito

I really enjoyed this. I could eat a million of these…..

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Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen
tonkotsu broth, pork chashu, whole wheat noodle

My friend ordered this, it was big salty for my taste, the noodles are excellent.

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Spicy Red Chili Ramen
dashi + chicken broth, minced pork, smashed egg, rye noodle +
Fully Loaded:
egg, pork chashu, roast tomato

The spicyness gives it a really nice flavor kick without overpowering the dish. The eggs are perfect, not too soft not too hard, and the noodles were spot on. I wish the dish was hotter, temperature-wise. I went with the fully loaded option for this dish.

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They give a cool postcard with the receipt

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The restaurant is spacious with lots of JDM styled pop-art

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Your typical assortment of JDM beers and Sake

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There is even an outdoor seating area

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JDM Batman, and JDM Startrek

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Overall Ivan Ramen is very good, the portions are small and very very expensive. A bowl of Ramen is $15 and fully loaded is $5 extra. I wish my soup was hotter, it was a bit lukewarm to me. The eggs in the Ramen are perfect, I haven’t been to another Ramen joint that have perfected the egg like this place. If I were to just get Ramen here, I would probably need to eat a 2nd dinner else where.

25 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002
b/t Avenue B & Houston St in Lower East Side
Phone number (646) 678-3859
ivanramen.com

Ivan Ramen on Urbanspoon

Malibu Pier | Santa Barbara Fish Market | Santa Barbara Shellfish Company | Live Uni

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santa barbara uni (sea urchin) is def one of my fave things to eat, so we took a drive to santa barbara for some live uni.

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heading to santa barbara
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we arrived at santa barbara fish market.
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we got some live uni, too bad there were only 2 left. they clean out the uni for you. dont eat the uni out of the shell because it would take very salty. you have to rinse out all the seawater first.
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probably one of the best unis ive ever had. they were heavenly!!! so amazing! super fresh, very sweet, rich, creamy, melts in your mouth. daymn i wish they had more!
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Santa Barbara Fish Market
117 Harbor Way
Ste 7
Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Get Directions
Phone number (805) 965-9564
sbfish.com

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heading to another pier
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Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
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we got a 3lb spider crab as recommended, but it wasnt good at all. didnt taste all that fresh. the meat wasnt tender and flavorful.
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Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Get Directions
Phone number (805) 966-6676
sbfishhouse.com
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company on Urbanspoon

Rural Getaway | The Great Wall of China| Wild Wall| Ping Gu | Beijing, China

the city of beijing is surrounded by mountains. 2-3 hours of drive would take you to the rural area of beijing which is a nice place to take a break from the busy city life.

my dad made handmade noodles in the morning, then we hit the road. did i mention he’s a great cook too?one weekend my family decided to go on a weekend trip to the ‘glass table village’ 玻璃台村 in ping gu 平谷, one of the rural areas outside of beijing. i love going on trips with my family especially my dad. i am a control freak, so whenever i go on trips, i am the person who does all the researches, books all flights, hotels, rental cars. the only time i can relax and not worry about anything is when i travel with my dad. he’s a traveler; he just seems to know exactly where to go and eat. he even hitchhiked all through tibet 20 years ago when tourism didnt really exist in tibet yet. i remember i begged him to take me with him, but he refused. i remember how fascinated i was after seeing the amazing photos he took and hearing his crazy stories on the road and i told myself i wanna experience it too one day.

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we met up with the rest of the family near the entrance of the highway
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we rented a vacation home where they also made you home cooked breakfast/lunch/dinner.

looking out of the windows.
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lunch was served. this is what the countryside has to offer. very simple dishes due to limited resources, but def organic ingredients. some were tasty but some were def not so tasty haha.

clockwise: fried xiangchun ‘chinese toona’, beef and potatoes, pancakes, radish salad.
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tofu, pork bones, more pork, and greens
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veggies, pork belly, fish, pork with mushrooms.
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onions, pork liver, cabbages
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my cousin
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after lunch we took a short nap and went hiking on the ‘wild walls’ 野长城 of china which are the unprotected, unrestored sections of the great wall. the sections of the great wall that tourists go to are the perfectly restored sections, there are even cable cars to take you to the top. the ‘wild walls’ are untouched, stones wearing away and blending into hillsides and hard/dangerous to hike.

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i always wear flip flops, hiking is no exception.
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if you look hard in this picture, my family is in the middle of the picture and there is a destroyed watchtower at top right of the picture. they couldnt hike any further because there was no more road.
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my stupid cousin dropped his shirt so my dad had to get it for him
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another watchtower ruin

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too much hiking for me ha
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then dinner was served.
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a fish bone stuck in my grandpa’s throat and the town’s hospital couldnt get it out for him. my grandma was worried so she insisted driving back to beijing that night to another hospital in the city. my dad and stepmom drove them and the rest of us stayed. my cousin went to sing karaoke, but pork belly and i passed out not long after dinner because we were still jetlagged.
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we left around noon the 2nd morning after breakfast.
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my aunt’s baby
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it’s a little embarrassing that even my family’s dog is fat. sigh.
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we bought a lot of peaches on the way home. i love peaches.

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life seems simple and peaceful in this secluded village. i chatted with the locals that work in the vacation home; they are from the villages nearby. they work for 10 days then go home for couple days. they dont think much or curious about the outside world. although they work in a vacation home, they never go on vacations or travel. it made me a little sad inside because i cant imagine myself not being able to travel and see the world. traveling is the only thing that could get me excited about life.

talking about traveling, i have three trips ahead in the next 10 months. yesterday was a pretty crazy lucky day for us. first, my mom’s offer on a house got accepted by the seller. this was huge for her because she’s been looking to buy a 2nd house for 2 years. she was obsessed and looked at houses everyday for 2 years. she’s extremely picky so she never found her dream house. finally, this house she saw, she felt in love immediately and gave an offer. she couldnt sleep the night before finding out whether her offer got accepted or not because she liked the house so much.

i was SO annoyed by her obsession of buying a new house because she forces me to look at houses and all she talks about is houses which drives me crazy. i was happy for her when she finally got this house because i know how bad she wanted a new house. although i would never tell her, i must say im proud of her too. because of her hard work, now she will be an owner of 2 houses. i remember the times when i woke up 5 oclock in the morning to go cleaning a golf club with my mom at age 13. my mom was a doctor in china, but after we moved to america, she had to start her life all over again. my life changed drastically too because i grew up spoiled. i was showered by money as a kid because my parents were always working and all they could provided me was money since they were absent in my childhood. when we just moved to the states, my mom took on any jobs she could find: working at mcdonalds, cleaning, taking care of elders. not only she worked hard, she also went to nursing school while working. learning both english and nursing at the same time isnt easy especially for a 40 year old, but she did it, she got her nurse license. she continues to work hard as a licensed nurse and now she is about to own a second home. i wish i were nearly as motivated as her. unfortunately i grew up to be more like my dad, the completely opposite of my mom.

2nd crazy lucky thing happened was i got flight tickets from new york to milan to bangkok for only $415 which normally cost $1500+. it’s crazy isnt it. i was on fb and i saw someone commented on this deal which grabbed my attention immediately. it was a mistake fare, the fuel surcharges are being left off which made the it so cheap. ive heard people got tickets for ridiculously cheap prices due to mistake fare, but never thought it would happen to me. i felt like i hit the lotto and booked my flight without having a second thought. the deal was only for november 2014 or march 2015. november and may are my busiest months at work so no way i can take off. i booked my trip for march 2015. although it’s almost a year ahead and things might come up, the deal was too good to miss and i’ll take that risk. southern europe is never on top of lists of places i wanna go, but i guess this deal just gave me a reason to. my mom mentioned she wanna go to europe and i really wanna go to thailand, so i am taking my mom on this trip.

i am also going to:
costa rica in august
- Manuel Antonio
- Arenal
- Monteverde

beijing in sept
taiwan in sept – around the island road trip.

next march, i am planning to go to
milan
rome
paris
munich
prague

then to thailand:
bangkok
phuket island
and maybe somewhere else.

please let me know if you have any tips for me. places to visit, food to eat. you guys were really helpful to me when i went to mexico last year.

this is probably the longest post ive ever posted and i am rambling. sorry.

Sushi Yasuda | Midtown New York, NY

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went to yasuda for lunch a few weeks ago when i was in nyc. the reservation wasnt too hard to get since it was kinda a last minute decision, but all the counter seats were gone. you also have to call them a day before to confirm your reservation instead of them calling you. we were sat in the back room; i appreciated the isolated space.
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for lunch, they have all kinds lunch sets/combos. our waitress was super friendly and helpful. she suggested the lunch sets because they are better deals, but i wasnt feeling the sets especially the hand rolls and sushi rolls that come with the sets so i ordered a la carte. our waitress also gave me suggestions as i was ordering. i was gonna go with some of the chef recommendations for the day that were listed on the menu, but she suggested a few pieces that were better and shipped directly from japan. she said they didnt want to promote to everyone due to very limited quantity.

they served miso soup before sushi which was kinda weird. i guess they are adapted to american customs.
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most of our sushi all came at once. try to get counter seats if you can so the chef can feed you the sushi one by one.
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lets see what we got:
from top to down, left to right
kinme, blue fin tuna, flying fish, madai, macherel, king salmon, giant clam, hotaru squid, uni (sea urchin), sea scallop
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sawani- fresh white sea eel
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they provide a wet napkin so you can wipe your fingers between sushi if you decide to eat it with your hand.
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i adore uni. this particular piece of uni wasnt as sweet as i wished for, but still soulful.
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hotaru squid – my first time having hotaru squid sushi, i def loved it especially they were wrapped with shiso leaves which just make everything taste so much better!
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freshly grated wasabi is always bomb. it’s sweet and not crazy strong as the packaged wasabi.
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the sushi was def better than average sushi places in the states but wasnt mind blowing and def not comparable to sushi ive had in japan. i didnt find the selection of the fish was incredibly fresh and tasty either, but the rice was on point. if you dont have specific fish you would like to try and want to take advantage of lunch prices, def get the lunch sets which cost about half of what we paid. we couldve gone for omakase, the chef selects for you, since it starts about $80, but our waitress said our selection was great so we kept it that way. also, the staff at yasuda make salary so no tips are accepted just like in asia which is the way to be. american tipping system totally sucks. i’d rather the restaurant charge more for food than tipping. the system is just pointless, inefficient, unfair, and so much work.

hate to sound like a snob, but ive been eating sushi less and less nowadays because even the best sushi restaurants here are underwhelming comparing to sushi in japan. i’d rather save couple hundred to a few hundred dollar sushi meals here and there and fly to japan instead.

yasuda menu

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Sushi Yasuda
204 E 43rd St
New York, NY 10017
b/t 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave in Midtown East
Phone number (212) 972-1001
sushiyasuda.com

Sushi Yasuda on Urbanspoon

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