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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gang Jung Chicken Cafe

Last Friday I had a hair appointment in the H-Mart area in Carrollton. I rarely venture over there anymore so I got some of my friends to meet up for dinner in that area. There are so many new places to try!

I wanted to go check out Gang Jung Chicken Cafe. They specialized in Korean fried chicken, which I love!! I never got to try BonChon in Dallas, although I was told it wasn't good anyways. Now, I've had BonChon in Korea and it was sooooo good.

Gang Jung Chicken Cafe
2680 Old Denton Rd # 156
Carrollton, Texas 75007
(972) 306-3100
Price: $-$$

This place is pretty new. Opened in the fall of 2013. It's located in the same corner as Spa Castle. It's a cute place. Not very big. Wooden tables and benches, a very typical Korean look. You order at the counter and pick up the order at the counter.

5 of us got there around the same time so we went up to order. The guys behind the counter were very nice and tried to explain the menu to us. There were 2 sides to the menu: Gang Jung and Fried Chicken. From what I could understand, Gang Jung is still fried but the sauce on the chicken is more sweet and comes with rice cakes. Spicy Gang Jung is spicier than Crazy Spicy Chicken which confused us. Because if you call something craaazy spicy, I expect it to be hella spicy. haha. I found the menu a bit confusing but the guys were patient and gave us recommendations (despite a little lacking in English). They also let us taste the different spicy sauces. They said we should get 4 mediums to share between the 5 of us. And that comes with 4 sides.

Here are the sizes and prices:
Small (Chicken breast or wings; with 1 side) $8.99~
Medium (Chicken breast or wings; with 1 side) $13.99~
Large (Chicken breast or wings or whole chicken; with 1 side) $17.99~

So we took their recommendation and got a mix of spicy and non-spicy flavors.

Spicy Gang Jung (garlic, red chili, soy sauce, capsaicin, hot powder). We chose Chicken Breast for this. 
This is supposedly the spiciest of them all. It was just spicy enough for me, but I eat pretty spicy in general. My friends that don't eat spicy couldn't handle it. I didn't think it was insanely spicy though. The chicken breast was amazingly juicy and tender. The chicken pieces were quite large. The batter was a little thick, but was crispy and partly softened by the sauce. I liked the batter but some friends didn't care for it. This also included fried rice cakes which was awesome! I loved the added texture after it's fried. The sauce flavor did have a certain spice/flavor that was interesting. The whole night I was trying to decide if I liked it.

Crazy Spicy Chicken (corn syrup, soybean sauce, garlic, hot sauce, capsaicin, hot powder). We got these in Wings. 
This was my favorite. It was also spicy and sweet like the Spicy Gang Jung, but it didn't have that extra spice. The wings were pretty large and juicy. I will definitely get this again. With the different sizes, the number of chicken breast pieces and wings are different. You get fewer wings to chicken breast per order.

Soy Garlic Chicken (soybean sauce, soy sauce, potato starch, onion, garlic, garlic powder, soybean oil). We got these in Wings. 
One of my friends wanted sweet, so they recommended this. This was my second favorite. It was definitely sweet, but worked very well with the garlic. Again, the wings were nicely fried and very juicy.

Green Onion Chicken (deep fried chicken with green onion in creamy green onion sauce; soybean sauce, onion, garlic, mustard, garlic powder, caramel syrup). They said this is their best seller and is very good with Chicken Breast. So we took their suggestion. 
The bottom is basically regular fried chicken and topped with a ton of shredded green onions. Probably my least favorite out of the bunch. The chicken was fried well and very moist but it was lacking in flavor, especially when it's next to all these awesomely sauced other flavors. The sauce comes on the side. It's a little sweet, slightly creamy and has a mustard-y, horseradish-y flavor. The sauce is much needed for this and was able to make it more unique. I'd skip this next time. I wonder why it's their best seller?

French Fries $2.50~ We also got an order of fries. They made some extra so they gave us another order for free! How nice! :) The fries were good. Paired well with the chicken.

Daikon Radish. Pretty standard. The radish is a little sweet, a little tangy and helps cut the spiciness and greasiness from fried chicken. It's quite refreshing.
Corn Salad. It was like coleslaw with corn in it. I liked it with the chicken. It was good to have some veggies with all this meat!
Rice. Steamed rice. Pretty standard. haha.

So while we were deciding what to order, another friend showed up and ordered before we even noticed. :P He got a medium Parmesan Chicken (deep fried chicken covered with parmesan powder). He chose Wings. 
We all shared. These were quite popular at the table. I feel like it was the first to disappear. I thought it was ok. I prefer the Korean sauces and stuck to the other ones more.

OMG. We killed it all. There was nothing left. I just kept eating, and eating, and eating. Anything fried is always so addicting. It was a lot of food too... I'd actually say we'd be ok with 4 mediums among the 6 of us... I really enjoyed our meal though. I hope to go again soon. :) I'm so happy that we have good Korean fried chicken in Dallas again. Just a warning... if you don't like sweet and savory, this is not the place for you.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pho Bay

A new Vietnamese restaurant opened in Plano about 2 weeks ago. I heard about it from some friends on Facebook. They are half Vietnamese and were raving about the pho. They said it tastes like how their dad makes it.

I love pho, but I'm definitely not an expert at it and I don't know what's authentic or not. However, I do know that most of the pho places in Dallas are not bad, some are not good and usually pretty dirty. So when someone says it's authentic, I wanted to try it. Last week we had the freak cold front where it was 70s on Monday then Tuesday was in the 40s. Great time for some hot noodle soup though!

Pho Bay
3933 N. Central Expy, #100
Plano, TX 75023
(972) 422-5152
Price: $

My friends and I decided to go check it out last Wednesday. It was sooooo cold, and the winds were insane that night. Brrrr. Pho Bay is located in front of Main Event on 75 and Spring Creek. Personally, I don't think that's a good location for business but I hope they can persevere. It's a small place, but everything was clean and bright. And hopefully it stays that way!

The waiter, which I assumed was also the owner, was super friendly and very enthusiastic. You can tell he's very proud of his food. He told us that the (grand opening) special for that day was free egg roll for everyone, so he went ahead and brought out a plate of it for the 7 of us. 
A normal order of Egg Rolls (2) is $2.50~ just FYI.
Vietnamese egg rolls are the only ones I like to eat. The Chinese versions are usually vegetarian and I don't care for that. The egg rolls here was ok. It was fried well and wasn't too greasy. I also liked the plate of veggies it came with to wrap the egg rolls. But I felt like it needed more flavor. The fish sauce helped with that.

2 of my friends also ordered a Thai Iced Tea $2.75~ which the owner recommended. It looked so pretty. hehe. And it was very good! We all thought so. Even me and another friend that don't really like Thai tea. He said they make it from scratch, so none of that powder stuff. It wasn't too sweet either, which is good.

So my friends who told me about the restaurant says the owner said their Bun Bo Hue is really good. I've never actually had Bun Bo Hue, but it sounded amazing. Spicy broth with different kinds of meat. The rice noodles are thicker than pho noodles. And it's flavored with lemongrass and a bunch of other spices. 4 of us ordered the Spicy Hue Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue) $7.95~ Served with a side of bean sprouts, jalapeno, basil, cilantro, lime. 
I have been craving this for awhile and it totally hit the spot. The noodles were cooked well, it had really nice texture. There were different types of meat in there: beef, what looked to be meat around pig's feet, and pork cakes. I liked them all. All the veggies and herbs on the side were really fresh. I piled those in my bowl. Here's where the verdict splits... out of the 4 of us, 2 were Vietnamese and have had authentic home cooking, my other friend is Chinese but has had a lot of Vietnamese food. And me, who's never had this dish before. haha. So me and another Vietnamese friend liked this. I REALLY liked it, I couldn't stop eating. But my other 2 friends said it was ok. There was a slight sweetness to the broth which was throwing them off. Apparently that's not how it's supposed to taste. But you know me, I love sweet/savory so it didn't bother me. And it wasn't like it was loaded with sugar, it was just a hint. I actually thought the sweetness helped balance the dish so it wasn't too salty or heavy or spicy. It was also not too greasy. I ate EVERYTHING, and although I was super full, I didn't feel disgusting with loads of sodium or grease. I thought that was great. So I will definitely have this again. I can't say the same for my friends...

2 other friends got the Pho a la carte $5.50~ Add meatball +$1.50~ Add brisket +$1~ 
It basically starts as the basic broth and noodles and you can add in what types of meat you want. I only tried a sip of the broth and I thought it was really good. My Vietnamese friends thought it was good too. But I think as they ate more, there was also some sweetness so one friend didn't like it at all. I will still go back and try their pho though, since I didn't mind the sweetness.

And lastly, one friend got the Pho Bay Ultimate Rice Plate $9.95~ It was nicely presented and looked really good. He said it was ok... a standard rice plate, nothing special.

So I guess the opinions were across the board. From one person not liking it at all to me, who really enjoyed it. To each its own. But I do appreciate the energy from the owner and the cleanliness of the space (so far... since it's still so new. haha). I'll take my fiance there some time. I think he would really like it. Now I'm on a Bun Bo Hue kick, I want to try it at other Vietnamese places. My friends said their favorite is still at Pho Tay Do... so that's definitely on my list!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Tineo Peruvian Cafe

Last week, some of my co-workers treated me to lunch to celebrate my recent graduation. How sweet of them!
I chose this Peruvian place that's close to the office but I've never heard of before. I just found it online.

I can't say I've had much Peruvian food before. I know La Duni does some Peruvian stuff... but I don't think they are specifically Peruvian. I always want to try it more. I do love Latin food.

Tineo Peruvian Cafe
525 W Arapaho Rd.
Richardson, TX 75080
(214) 256-4535
Price: $$

This is definitely a hole in the wall, although it was a pretty big space. It's at the end of a nondescript shopping center. It was pretty bare when I walked in. No decor to speak of. There were a few people in line to order at the counter. And not only is it a restaurant, it was also like a mini convenience store. They had some Peruvian snacks and drinks for purchase. Oh, and some good looking bakery goods too!

I was the first to arrive so I waited in line to ask the guy if I can pull some tables together. The service is pretty slow. Even though there were only 2 people in front of me, I waited quite a while. I realized that they only had one guy manning the register and front of house, and I think one person in the kitchen.

We thought we had to order at the counter but the guy finally emerged with menus and said we can sit down and order. He was very friendly, although not so good in English. It was a little difficult to ask questions about the menu (which I always end up doing.) :P Yes, yes.. I'm the difficult customer. haha.

We finally all ordered. We waited quite a while to get our food since it seems like there's only 1 person cooking in the back. None of us really minded though, we weren't in a hurry. However, they didn't really turn on the heat in there so we were all freezing to death. Definitely go when it's warmer or bundle up!! Finally the food came out one by one. We told others to start eating so the food doesn't get cold. Every plate looked yummy and huge! I thought the prices were a bit expensive but then you see the portions and it was better.

Tallarin Saltado a la Criolla (flamed beef or chicken with sauteed onions and tomatoes; served with noodles) $10.99~ 
3 people ordered this. 2 got beef, and 1 got chicken. It was on a large plate and was overflowing. The noodles came out steaming hot too. Looked amazing. I was starving by then. They used spaghetti noodles which my mom uses at home when she makes stir fry noodles because they hold their texture well. It was very good. All of them loved it. And 2 of them cleaned their plates! Impressive.

Seco de Carne (beef, potatoes, and cilantro stew served with beans and rice) $10.99~ 
2 other co-workers got this. It looked really good too! Definitely a great choice for such a cold day. The beef was nice and tender. The beans were an interesting pairing but worked well. They said the rice was flavored with something and kinda threw them off a little. But overall they loved it.

Tallarines Verdes con Bistec (Peruvian style pesto on spaghetti; served with a thinly sliced steak) $12.99~ 
Last but not least, I got my dish. I really didn't know what to expect with this when I ordered it. I just know I like pesto... but I had no idea what Peruvian pesto is. haha. It was a pretty green color. TONS of noodles topped with a seared steak on top. The steak was pretty flat but I liked how the edges were seared and a little crispy. The noodles and pesto was good too. The pesto was slightly different than an Italian pesto. There was another spice/flavor that I couldn't really identify. I enjoyed it a lot. I only wish that there was some veggies in it as well. It would've been nice to have some freshness.

My co-workers all loved it and were already saying they were going to come back. I want to say that the food here is more "homey", maybe something people would cook at home for their families instead of restaurant cuisine. However, don't believe everything I say because I am really not an expert in Peruvian food/culture. I CAN say that I've never had Peruvian food like this before.

I took half of my dish to go because I wanted to save room for dessert!

Flan $3.25~ Like a typical Latin flan, it's much heavier/denser. It was good. Not the best I've had, but I would definitely eat it again.

Bread Pudding $3.25~ Some others wanted to try this. It was cold, since it was prepackaged and put into the fridge/display case. They loved it. The raisins were nice and plump. I thought it was ok. I personally like warm bread puddings with a little bit of a crispy edge. And I would've loved a rum sauce or creme anglaise or something.

Chocolate Cake $3.25~ I caved and also got a chocolate cake. From the display case, it looked soooo gooey and moist. However, after I opened it up, I realized they just drizzled some chocolate sauce on the top of the slice so it looks really moist. It was a pretty generic chocolate bundt cake. Compared to the other two it wasn't anything special.

What a great new find! The service is quite slow but the guy was super nice. And the place isn't anything fancy, but we all loved our food. I'm sure most of us will be back there again at some point. I can't believe they only had 2 people running the place! So go on a day you don't have much going on. hehe. And thanks so much to my co-workers for the great lunch! I feel so loved. :)

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Harvest Seasonal Kitchen - Lunch

I had a car appointment in McKinney early last week. So I took the opportunity to go back to Harvest! This time for their lunch service which only started a little over a week ago. I met up with my ex-boss (who was the one that told me about this place from the beginning), and he hasn't been there yet.

I had made a reservation, but the place was only about 30% full when we arrived at 12:30PM. Might've been the terrible rainy weather that slowed business? But I'm not sure if a lunch reservation on the weekdays is necessary.

Harvest Seasonal Kitchen
112 E. Louisiana St.
McKinney, TX 75069
(214) 726-0251
Price (for lunch): $$

I still love the decor so much. It was extra smokey inside that day though. The kitchen was in a cloud of smoke... I wonder if something burned?

We started with the Deviled Eggs (Texas pecans, pickled mustard seed, pickled red onions) $5~ I loved it the first time and it's just as good the second. My boss really liked it too. Just hits all the flavors and textures. :)

We both decided on the Fall Duo (choice of two: half sandwich, half salad, cup of soup) $9~

I got the Turkey Sandwich (house smoked turkey breast, jalapeno jelly, avocado, smoked cheddar, whole grain wheat bread). $9~ if you get the full sandwich and it comes potato chips. 
I laughed a little when our half sandwiches came. They looks so small! But this was so delicious!! I really wished there was more, but with the soup and the appetizer/dessert we got, I was plenty stuffed. The jalapeno jelly is what sealed the deal for me to order this. The waitress said it was pretty amazing and I took her advice. YUM! The jalapeno jelly was the cherry on top. It was sweet for the most part then I started getting a little bit of that jalapeno kick. It was perfect with the flavors of the smoked cheddar. The avocado added a richness to make the sandwich more substantial. I'd totally get this again. And I need to get my hands on a jar of that jalapeno jelly!

BLT (bacon, watercress, fried green tomatoes, sun-dried tomato aioli, Texas toast). My boss says he loves fried green tomatoes. It looked really good with that thick Texas toast. He said it was really good.

Butternut Squash Soup (cream, pumpkin seeds, paprika). 
We both got a cup of the soup. One of my favorite fall vegetable.. or just in general. haha. Doesn't have to be the fall. The soup was silky and luxurious. Creamy soups are my fav! I love the pumpkin seeds in there to add texture. I could've drank a bucket of this.

Grandma's 'Tomato Soup' Spice Cake (pecans, raisins, butter cream icing) $6~ 
We got this to share. It sounded super interesting. The waitress was explaining to us that the chef got this recipe from the 1930's, when dairy wasn't all that available so they used tomato soup as the wet ingredient in baking. Much like the concept of using apple sauce when baking. It was yummy. And a HUGE slice! Filled with dried fruits and nuts and just enough cream cheese frosting. You can't taste the tomato soup at all. We couldn't finish it between the 2 of us. I took 1/3rd of it home!

Delicious meal once again. And our waitress was fantastic. Still love this place! Can't wait to go back again. :)

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Emporium Pies - McKinney

*EDIT 11-4-14*
I went back to Emporium Pies yesterday. I had an appointment in McKinney, so I met my ex-boss for lunch at Harvest. I was really full, but I happened to park right in front of Emporium Pies so I HAD to go in. I HAD TO! XP It was calling to me. And then I found out they had wifi, so I was able to sit in there and do some work.

I ordered a hot tea first, hoping I could digest some of my lunch and then get a piece of pie. 2 hours later... I was still incredibly full. So I got a slice of pie to go.

Smooth Operator (french silk chocolate filling in a salty pretzel crust) $5~ 

This would be the 5th flavor out of their line-up of 7 flavors that I've tried. I took one bite before I popped it into the fridge at home. It was so rich and decadent. The French silk chocolate was so smooth (hence the name). Definitely needs a cup of milk, a scoop of ice cream or some tea. I liked the pretzel crust a lot. The hint of saltiness helps to balance out the rich chocolate filling. YUM! But I don't know if I can eat the whole slice in one sitting. hehe.

Next time I'm going to try the Nannerz... bananas with vanilla custard! :)

Oh.. I do wish they have a bell or something at the register because at one point I waited a long time before someone came out. I needed their wifi password!


I was so excited when I found out Emporium Pies was opening a second location. But they chose McKinney, which is still so far from me. Oh well, I'll take whatever I can get. They're that good. At least this way whether I'm in the north or south of Dallas, I can get some pie! :P

Emporium Pies - McKinney
107 S. Tennessee St.
McKinney, TX 75069
(214) 491-1577
Price: $

As soon as I reserved our painting class in downtown McKinney, I immediately decided I will get some pies to go and have it during class. I'm excited! It's been almost a year and half since I've been to the original one in Bishop Arts. I've never been a huge pie person, but theirs is legit. All the pies are homemade and has no artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils, dyes or corn syrup.

I jetted out of dinner and went to get some pie while my fiance and other friends went to check in at the painting class. There was a line at Emporium Pies. Not surprised, but I was in a hurry so I was really anxious. I could see the ladies behind the counter cutting slices of pies feverishly. It was nonstop and there were stacks of pies and to go containers everywhere. And I loved their packaging for the to go orders. Little wooden baskets tied in string with a wooden spoon. 
So homey and cute, just like their shop decor. The one in Bishop Arts is in a renovated old house. The one in McKinney is just a storefront but it's decorated in the same manner so when you step in, you get the same feeling.

I got a bunch to go, cuz when's the next time I'll be back?? The main one I really wanted to try was the Drop Dead Gourdgeous (gingersnap crust and pumpkin custard filled with cinnamon cloves and spice) $5~ 
I saw a picture of it on instagram last holiday season and I've been dreaming about it ever since. haha. I dug into it first chance I had while in class. It was so good. Probably one of the most flavorful pumpkin pies I've ever had. Whatever their blend of spices are, it packs a punch! The crust was flaky and buttery. I wish I had some tea, this would've been good with it.

Cloud 9 (house made caramel on the bottom, creamy butterscotch custard in the middle, toasted brown sugar meringue at the top) $5~ (Sorry, forgot to get a picture!) This is a seasonal flavor that's only available in the fall. I got this for my fiance cuz he loves butterscotch. It was really rich and quite sweet. Definitely needed milk or tea. But it was good. The filling was a little too runny for my preferences but he loved it, which is most important since I got it for him. :)

I also got the Lord of the Pies (apples baked in hand-made caramel and topped with a crispy cinnamon streusel in a buttery, flaky crust) $6~ 
One whole pie contains 10 apples! It is a mega apple pie, hence the extra dollar. It pretty much filled up the whole container! Tons of apples, baked to the right texture. Not too mushy but not too hard and crunchy either. The streusel was great. I wish there was a little more. If you love apple pie, give this one a try.

Buttercream Gang (classic buttermilk pie in a shortbread crust) $5~ 
I got this one for me, for later. I had a buttermilk pie the first time at Emporium Pies and it was pretty awesome. I ate this the next day and it was still good. The buttermilk filling is dense but I didn't think it was too sweet. I like sturdier pies, the one's with the super runny, fruity centers is usually not my thing. I liked the filling a lot but thought the crust was a bit dry. Not sure if that's due to being out overnight but it wasn't as good as I remembered. I ate this one with a cup of tea and it was great.

There are still flavors I haven't tried there yet. Definitely looking forward to those. They have one with bananas. If I wasn't taking them to go, I would've tried that one. Best pies in town, go check them out! :)

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