11:21 AM sians 0 Comments

brunch/lunch seems to be xy's preferred meal of choice when it comes to trying out restaurants. mostly because there is better lighting for pictures and it is cheaper than dinner lol. there are a few restaurants i've tried late summer/fall last year that i have yet to write about. and this is one of them: jam located in ukranian village, owned by chef jeffrey mauro who has worked at the renowned charlie trotter's and north pond.

i wouldn't have been able to find the restaurant if it weren't for xy standing outside, i could have probably walked past the restaurant. when i checked out the restaurant's website - the decor of the restaurant looks more finished. then, i realized jam has moved its address to logan square. (i apologize on my delays in entries that even the restaurant has changed address since my last visit there >.<)

however, they kept the decor and concept the same (at least from what i've seen in pictures). even though it was a narrow dining space, the mirrors that lined along the wall gave an impression of a bigger room. i loved that they took a minimalist approach in terms of decor with white and grey being the main colors with some burst of lime green. and how can i be opposed to an open kitchen (just as long as i don't smell like food after the meal) which allows patrons to watch the chefs hard at work.

although it was pretty busy, there were still a couple of tables available so no wait time (yay!) while i already figured out what i wanted to order, xy didn't have much luck with his choices. his first choice was the amish chicken under lunch option to which he was given a disappointing "we're all out of those, i'm sorry i forgot to mention it earlier" then he had to come up with plan b. after a couple of minutes, he opted the quiche, only to be told that they just sold the last slice >.< lol.  he finally decided on steak and eggs (which i am sure he was bracing for another no) which thank goodness they had! third time's a charm, eh?

they started us out with an amuse-bouche of zucchini cake with cream cheese creme which i thought was an excellent introduction of their food. it was reminiscent of carrot cake but slightly different -  it was moist and delicious. 

breakfast :: eggs benedict | english muffin . poached eggs . crisped pork belly . fennel hollandaise ($10)

the presentation of this dish was quite the show stopper. i've never quite expected such a beautiful presentation for brunch, i would even go as far as calling it 'a work of art'. i am not sure what is my obsession with pork belly lately - i used to always avoid pork belly because it's fatty but boy, oh boy how my mind has changed about this delicious hunk of meat. 

the pork belly took the cake - actually the whole cake and some more.. yes, it was THAT good.  there was a good sear to give it a crispy exterior while it also kinda melted in your mouth with the savory satisfaction you would get from bacon but better. mmm... xy had a small piece and agreed on its greatness. haha. the eggs were poached beautifully with a runny yolk enriching the dish further with slight sweetness of the roasted fennel. 

a couple aspects that brought down the dish was the fennel hollandaise which was too herbaceous that i ended eating around it.  and i would have preferred something better than a regular english muffin to elevate the awesomeness of this dish.

breakfast :: steak&eggs | pan roasted skirt steak . poached eggs . risotto . smoked tomato sauce . truffled pecorino ($12)

although the presentation as beautiful as my dish, it looked rather delicious. however i was surprised they didn't ask xy on how he wanted the doneness of its steak though. he was nice to offer a bite to me and the steak was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked to medium . he seemed to like it and mentioned that it was okay but admits about having the dish envy since he thought my pork belly dish was superior. he is still pretty adamant about coming back to get that elusive amish chicken dish though. lol

oh, one important thing to remember is to have some cash in hand because it's a cash ONLY place. how the system work at this place is you receive the check at the table and you pay at the counter.

there are a mix bag of reviews on both yelp and urbanspoon about jam and i think our brunch experience was just that. there were a couple of highs and a few lows but with a few tweaks, jam is heading in a promising delicious direction.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

Jam on Urbanspoon


it's the year of the dragon

11:38 AM sians 0 Comments

or as they would say it in korean :  
새해 복 많이 받으세요! 
(i'm trying to learn korean, so i am gonna try to include it wherever i can! haha)

it's the year of the dragon this year!

it's times like these that i miss home and sadly it almost doesn't quite feel like lunar new year here just for the simple reason that it isn't celebrated here in the US except for maybe in chinatown and argyle. my friends invited me for lunch yesterday, which at first, i almost didn't want to go because of the cold winter day but i thought it might be nice to have hang out with friends on cny eve. 

my family sent me a cny card!

i cooked my own cny eve dinner and it had to be a good number of dishes (just due to personal superstition and beliefs) so i made three dishes (it was either that or 6,7,8,9 which might be too much for one person to consume). 

the number 3 (三, pinyin: sān, jyutping: saam) sounds similar to the character for "birth" (生, pinyin: shēng, jyutping: saang), and is considered a lucky number

so it had to be my mom's traditional shrimp dish and i decided on a fish which symbolizes "abundance". i was ecstatic when i found silver promphet fish which i've always remember having for every cny dinner and i made it as close as i could to what my mom's made in the past. third was a chicken dish, similar to what my mom would make but put a personal spin to it (by taking some elements from my dad's special soup which its recipe has been handed down through generations - that he only makes for cny

it wasn't the nine dishes that my parents cooked for their reunion dinner (my mom called and i asked how many dishes they made this year and it was their usual 9) but it was good enough. hehe :) if you are interested, 9 symbolizes harmony or longevity.


anywho, i will be sharing the chicken and the shrimp recipe sometime in the near future so keep checking whenever you can :)

i wish everyone a healthy, prosperous chinese new year! i hope for a great year ahead.  

gong hei fatt choy !!^^
(angpau, please! hehe)

<3 you all :)

p.s. my mom called me last night and this was part of our phone conversation.. apparently my sister sent me a card which i am still anticipating for because.....
mom : oh, your sisters sent you a cny card. 
me: oh really? that's really nice of them,
mom: your second sister also enclosed two slices of 'bakgua'. she hopes that might entice you to come home. 
me: umm...
my mom: she said that you would probably eat small pieces over a longer period of time and savor it since there isn't much of it. *laughs*
me: -.- unfortunately, that is probably true...
*if you are wondering what 'bakgua' is.. it's chinese salty-sweet dried meat product akin to jerky... i have to admit that my sisters know me too well sometimes >.< <3 you sis!


choc molten lava awesomeness

9:11 AM sians 1 Comments

i know i've been sharing a few korean food recipes lately and thought it might be good to take a detour just for a bit.

for no apparent reason, i just had an urge to make chocolate molten lava cake on new year's eve... thought it'd be nice to make something special to usher in the new year and plus how can you go wrong with chocolate right? (totally!

there were a couple of recipes that i found and consulted ryan after i narrowed it down to two - we chose the one that has a lot more chocolate and a lot less other ingredients lol. i am not even sure if i should tell you how much chocolate and butter cos it might scare you away from the recipe...

...okay.. here it is. half of a bittersweet chocolate bar and half a stick of butter in each 6 oz ramekin..... (ignore the amount of calories! as long it's not a weekly indulgence haha)

the recipe makes four which was perfect since it was me, ryan, his mom and ryan's friend, J who came to hang out and join us for dinner. in fact, i think it really was the chocolate molten lava cake that sealed the deal in convincing J to drive 2 hours from new orleans to baton rouge. haha. i was a bit worried that i might overcook the center and ends being a regular chocolate cake so i was definitely keeping a close eye on the oven.

instagram-ed :: the makings of chocolate molten lava cake

there are a couple of things to be careful with. 
one | patience is key. double boiler may take a longer time to get your chocolate melted but it ensures that it doesn't burn. 
two | make sure the sugar melts completely or close to completely in the chocolate. 
three | also, the eggs need to be tempered before adding it to the warm melted chocolate+butter mixture cos you don't want scrambled egg in your chocolate..well..that would just be yuck! you can do that by adding a few tablespoon of the warm chocolate into the beaten egg, one at a time and then mix so it brings the egg to temperature before adding the rest of the chocolate mixture into the whisked eggs.

after i spoon-ed the chocolate mixture into the 4 ramekins, there were some leftover chocolate mixture and i offered it to ryan and j so they could lick the bowl clean. ryan gives J a regular spoon but then whips out a ladle out for himself. >.< lol. 
(actually, there was only one clean spoon left while the rest were in the dishwasher so ryan was just being nice by offering the last clean spoon to J

once baked, here comes the most challenging part, to flip the mini cake over on a plate and not have it fall part. the first one flipped over almost perfectly in one piece, much to my delight. it was shortlived with the not-so-successful flip for the second and third one but the fourth one came out quite easily. regardless how it came out, it was still pretty darned delicious - all four of them.

verdict | mmmm..rich decadence in every bite. so freaking good. ryan and his mom thought that it kinda does remind them of the famous chocolate molten cake from chilli's but better. i beamed and blushed at that. successful attempt! ^^

i totally recommend something like whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or berries or even all three to cut through the rich yumminess. when we were at the store, buying ingredients for the cake, vanilla ice cream was on top of his grocery list. i thought whipped cream would probably be lighter but his response was between ice cream and whipped cream, ice cream is the superior choice. haha. you would think that the ice cream would make it too much but actually it does the opposite for this dessert. the chill of the ice cream contrasts the cake and warm, gooey melted chocolate center...yummmmmmmm.

i actually posted a picture of this deliciousness on fb which received some favorable responses and promised to post the recipe.. so if you are a chocoholic or even want to make this just to pamper yourself, here is the recipe :

chocolate molten lava cake


ingredients |
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate, at least 60 percent (definitely recommend a good quality chocolate since it's what makes the dessert)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbs cake flour
 special equipment : double boiler, four 6-oz ramekins (i only found 7-oz ones and they worked fine)

instructions |
  • preheat the oven to 350 F
  • butter four (6-oz) ramekins and set aside
  • over a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate, whisking until smooth. make sure to whisk until the chocolate and butter have combined into a smooth chocolate mixture
  • whisk in the sugar, making sure most of the sugar dissolves in the warm chocolate mixture
  • in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth
  • pour the chocolate mixture into the eggs (remember to temper the eggs first with a couple of tablespoon of the warm chocolate mixture)
  • whisk until smooth, then add the flour and combine until smooth.
  • pour the batter into the prepared ramekins about 2/3 full
  • bake the cakes until slightly puffy and set around the edges, 20-25 minutes. don't worry if your cake tester comes out wet, the center should still be loose. serve warm - highly recommend with berries and vanilla ice cream.

note one :: to make your own double boiler, use a heat proof bowl that fits snuggly over a pot with simmering (not boiling) water, keeping the heat on low to medium-low. also make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the warm water - you want to only use the steam as the source of heat to melt the chocolate. 
note two :: check the cakes earlier at about 15 minutes, and every 5 minutes after to make sure they don't overcook since not every oven is the same and the temperature is inconsistent.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


slurping turtle

9:30 AM sians 0 Comments

when i first heard that chef takashi yagihashi was opening a new restaurant that focuses japanese comfort food from his childhood late fall/early winter,  i was more than ecstatic. slurping turtle is a lot closer to my apartment and a warm bowl of delicious ramen any day of the week (be it lunch or dinner except for sunday when they only serve dinner) was the perfect comfort food for the approaching cold winter days. why turtle? turtle is the symbol of longevity in japan and slurping in japanese culture usually means compliments to the chef.

i've had sunday ramen brunch at takashi before and i enjoyed the flavors quite a bit. so i was looking forward to this noodle dinner with my friend, xy who is on the search for the best ramen around. the restaurant was packed on a friday evening but phew ! we got there just before the wait list started so we managed to get seats at the communal table. (let me rant just a bit : dear chicago restaurants, what is up with communal tables almost everywhere?! i've seen enough of those and am so over communal tables...so let's do away with it..kthanksbai! /end rant)

communal tables aside, i love the decor at the restaurant which was modern contemporary in warm shades of green, bronze and a splash of red with japanese accents to reflect its identity. it was simple yet beautifully done with open kitchen where some patrons are able to see the chefs at work. in fact, i saw chef takashi expediting the dishes out the diners.

both of us agreed on getting our own bowl of ramen while we shared an appetizer. the menu looked similar to the sunday brunch menu at takashi but with a couple more selections. my boss has mentioned how excellent the pork belly bun was so that was what we went with. 

appetizer :: pork belly snack ($8)

when the dish arrived, i went oooo.. it looked delicious but i believe the conversation after that was:
xy: so umm, which one do you want? both the pork belly slices doesn't seem to be the same size.
me: yeah, i noticed that too. hmm.. i guess i'll take the smaller one.
xy: you sure? 
however, after the first bite, i was thinking to myself, "dammit...i should have taken the bigger one.." lol. 

this bite size appetizer was delicious - sweet, succulent and tender pork belly with the bite from the mustard and soft bun to soak the sauce. there are several layers of flavor in one bite - all balanced and compliments each other so well. however, i am not sure if i can justify $8 for perhaps four small bites of food which left me a bit unsatisfied. i would have definitely loved more of it.

noodles & rice :: shoyu noodles | egg noodle, classic tokyo style soy broth, braised pork shoulder, naruto, bamboo shoots ($13)

i kinda knew what i wanted to order before i even stepped foot into the restaurant. i absolutely the braised pork shoulder in the ramen i had at takashi and just the braised pork shoulder itself was enough to convince me for an encore bowl of ramen with hopes for a repeat of that yummy performance. this ramen was good with a savory and salty warm broth that warmed me right up. good ramen but nothing amazing. the two slices of pork shoulder was too fatty and while it was still delicious, it wasn't as awesome as my first experience. oh, but i still wouldn't mind more slices of pork shoulder please? :)

noodles & rice :: slurping noodle | rice noodle, napa cabbage, black tiger shrimp, cilantro ($13)

xy's comment on fb about this dish was "had a nice herbal taste (and smell!) to it". since his office is close to noodles by takashi yagihashi, he compared both noodles and said this was definitely more flavorful. the soup has layers of flavor compared to the ramen he's had at noodles by takashi.

i haven't quite figured out what i think of slurping turtle. although the noodles were good, i thought the pork belly snack took center stage. even xy liked our appetizer better than our noodles dishes. a friend asked him what he thought about the place and i think he summarized it pretty well : "it was, shall we say, good but not worth the hype lol." go without expectation or be swayed by the hype and you will have a delicious time - especially perfect for these cold winter days. 

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

Slurping Turtle on Urbanspoon 


bulgogi {불고기} from scratch

4:53 PM sians 1 Comments

note | i submitted this recipe in the 'discover korea's delicious secret'. this was part of a full recipe that i combined to add a twist to the classic recipe. i am thrilled when i found a competition that combined both my loves together :: food and super junior :) incidentally, i was also exploring korean food in the past few months so it was perfect! keep your fingers crossed for me, will ya? :)

what was my first ever korean dish i have ever made?

it took me a few minutes to figure it out but the first korean dish i cooked happens to be one of my favorite korean dishes :: bulgogi {불거기}! however, i have to admit i've been cheating by using the bottled marinade from hmart since i didn't know better. but boy, it was a great and delicious short cut dinner. 

bulgogi is one of the most famous korean cuisines. in fact, because it is a mild but very flavorful dish, it is an ideal introduction dish to korean cuisine to someone who has yet to experience the flavors of korea. bul {불} translates to fire and gogi {고기} means meat which makes bulgogi : 'cooking meat on fire'. bulgogi is made using thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef while the base marinade is usually a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic with addition of some vegetables. at restaurants, you could either ordered cooked served with a side of white rice or you could grill it yourself at the table.

if you refer to the note at the top of the entry, this recipe was a part of a recipe since i needed bulgogi as an ingredient for my other recipes i had in mind. so i've been searching online and comparing ingredients to find out what makes the yummy marinade mixture.

i promise you that this is one of the simplest recipes to make :: the basic steps are to get all the ingredients together for marinade, add meat, leave overnight and cook. sounds simple enough, yes? i would usually prepare all of it the night before to ensure all the meat absorb all the great flavors and also it tenderizes the meat with the addition of grated apple/pear in the marinade. oh and it's always a great idea to make extras! :)


it literally takes a couple of minutes to cook it in a hot pan. i would crank up the heat so that it caramelizes the sugar in the marinade to get a concentrated flavor. anything longer than a few minutes would make the meat dry. 

verdict | i have to say i was pretty proud of myself with this dish. my first thought when i tasted was 'oh, it really tastes like the real deal!' leaving it overnight was a great idea because it allowed the flavors to combine together. sweet, savory beef slices where its meatiness is echoed by the mushroom slices which did a great job of absorbing the marinade. the onions definitely permeated its flavor throughout the dish so if you are not a huge fan of onions you might want to reduce the amount but i loved the sweetness of it and it would go so well with a bowl of warm rice. one thing i would probably fix is the amount of sesame oil which was a lil strong in the dish. .

now that i know how simple it is to make the marinade, i could always just make my own whenever i want to. ^^

so if you would like to have some bulgogi but can't find a korean restaurant to go to (or find bottled marinades) or even just want to make this dish from scratch, the recipe is as follows:

bulgogi {불고기}
recipe inspired by a few recipes i found online.

ingredients |
  • 1 lb thinly sliced ribeye
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks of green onions, sliced 2" lengthwise
  • 0.5 lb sliced mushroom (i used fresh white mushrooms; optional but preferred)

  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbs water
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs rice wine
  • 1 tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1.5 tbs grated fuji apple (typically it should be Asian pear. if you can't find neither, substitute with apple juice)
  • a dash of black pepper
directions |
  • combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix well. transfer it to a huge ziploc bag or container.
  • add the beef slices and make sure the marinade and beef slices are mixed well together. 
  • let marinade in the fridge for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight to let all the ingredients meld together. 
  • heat the pan on medium high and then add the amount of marinated meat you would like to have. 
  • cook until the meat is cooked through and slightly caramelized and the onions softens slightly (typically 6-8 minutes)
disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.