2020 is off to a strong start!

Also see: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.


Haven’t visited any new bookstores yet, sadly. In the queue: Ken Liu’s book tour stopping at the Center for Fiction.

Food and Restaurants

These locations are in no particular order, though I roughly sort places I liked more first.

Takeout/Street Food/Fast Casual

Worth visiting:

  • Macao Imperial Tea (multiple locations)

    A solid boba tea chain with prices on par with everyone else and all the requisite trends (cheese foam, fruit tea, brown sugar, etc.)—though I had only the standard bubble tea. (Sadly, I couldn’t try the red bean oatmeal flavor.) At 30% sugar, a little sweeter than expected, but that was perhaps because I added boba. Unlike some other chains, the tea flavor still comes through to balance out the sweetness and milk.

Worth dropping by if in the area:

  • Miss American Pie (Park Slope)

    WIP. A pie shop with lots of pies, except when I came in, it was close to closing and they had only apple pie—solid, but nothing special. I think I’ll revisit this place sometime closer to when it opens, to try to get a fresher slice of a pie I haven’t seen before.

    Also offers private lessons.

Maybe worth considering:

  • 暖心饭团 Nuan Xin Fan Tuan (Chinatown)

    Fan tuan, $5

    A fan tuan (onigiri/rice ball) shop. Unlike Japanese onigiri, these are larger and come with more fillings; a spicy squid fan tuan also had lettuce, mayo, etc. inside, keeping it from being dry. This shop also uses purple rice, in case you needed more fodder for your Insta.

  • Rice to Riches (Nolita)

    Imagine an ice cream shop, except they sell 20 flavors of rice pudding. That’s Rice to Riches. Rice pudding is nice, and the shop is…interestingly decorated—it seems made to appeal to the Instagram crowd, and is plastered with faux-encouraging phrases like “you can’t diet on an empty stomach”.

    Now, it turns out rice pudding is really heavy, and everything here is almost sickeningly sweet. One portion of rice pudding is more than enough for two people.

Actual Restaurants

Worth visiting:

  • Szechuan Mountain House (East Village) szechuanmountainhouse.com

    A Sichuan Chinese restaurant. We mostly stuck to the “classics” (水煮鱼片, 辣子鸡, etc.) but they were extremely well done, and they offer lots of less common dishes for your second time around.

    Usually has a long wait.

Worth dropping by if in the area:

  • Bessou (East Village)

    A Japanese restaurant with a slight fusion feel. My main complaint is that dishes come out slowly and prices are maybe high; a green bean and shishito pepper appetizer had only four peppers, for instance, though the green beans were also great. Chicken karrage is closer to Western fried chicken in size—you get medium-sized pieces of chicken, not bite-size pieces. The steak platter is kind of like Korean ssam; you get lettuce, nori, pickles, rice, steak, and sauces to make your own wrap.

    Probably a better place for a date or 1-1 dinner than for a group.

  • Gammeeok (Koreatown)

    A 24/7 Korean restaurant. Unlike its peers (e.g. Five Senses, BCD Tofu House), it gives only kimchi as a side, not the full set of side dishes, but the kimchi here contains chunks of radish in addition to cabbage, and is significantly more sour (and to me at least, somehow fizzy due to the fermentation).

  • Sugarfish (SoHo) sugarfishsushi.com

    Sushi, $40

    A interesting take on sushi, with a selection of fixed menus and a relatively sparse menu otherwise. The fish itself is not quite traditional: the first item out was tuna drenched in a ponzu sauce, and one of the nigri was slightly spicy. Decent quality, but at a price comparable to places like Blue Ribbon, you may prefer to stick with something more traditional.

  • Pho Bang (Chinatown) yelp.com

    Pho, $8

    A dirty, but affordable, pho spot in Chinatown. Not quite on par with the places in Phoenix we go to, but it’s at least similarly affordable.

  • ノノノ nonono (Koreatown) nonononyc.com

    Yakitori, ramen, and small plates, $3–5/skewer

    A yakitori restaurant also offering small plates and ramen. Yakitori offers lots of chicken parts that you wouldn’t normally get; go for the juicy chicken oyster and the crunchy gizzard. Ramen, with broth made from the leftover chicken parts, is decent, though to me, the noodles seemed like instant ramen noodles. We didn’t try the small plates, but the karaage won’t let you down.

  • Hou Yi Hot Pot (Chinatown)

    Hot pot (I don’t know what you expected?), $35

    An all-you-can-eat hot pot place, which distinguishes itself by also offering free drinks (like a boxed lychee juice) and ice cream as part of the package. Other than that, it’s a fairly standard hot pot place.

Maybe worth considering:

  • Vic’s (Greenwich Village) vicsnewyork.com

    An Italian place, one of those places where everything’s dim and just a little noisy. We had a set menu for a group, so I can’t reflect on the food too much, but it all seemed solid. (Some people ordered fish/steak separately—those actually looked good.)

  • Jane (Greenwich Village)

    A casual (I think?) American restaurant serving the usual avocado toast, pasta, salad, eggs benedict, etc.

Bonus: 2020 Film Ranking

  1. Princess Mononoke
  2. Ride Your Wave
  3. Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll

In the queue: Children of the Sea (Kaijuu no Kodomo), potentially Tokyo Godfathers