Joo Joo Restaurant and Karoake – Creve Coeur, MO – Eat, Drink, Sing, and Be Merry!

The New Year is upon us and mine is off to a fast and furious start.  My “real job” has provided some opportunity to travel and my next trip will likely be to Korea.  To ensure I’m prepared, I have already started my “research”.  What started as one exploratory trip with friends has turned into an insatiable appetite for Korean food!  Let me tell you a little bit about a place in Creve Coeur called Joo Joo.

Joo Joo (Restaurant and Karoake to be exact), is in a corner of a strip mall in Creve Coeur by Olive and Fee Fee.  It’s pretty unassuming from the outside and there isn’t much to look at on the inside.  The menu can be a little bit daunting for a Korean food virgin, so it’s best to go with friends that can help you order.  Better yet, check out some recommendations from awesome bloggers online (hint hint…).  Although all the staff are very helpful, some speak better English than others.  When ordering, keep in mind you will also receive banchan (side dishes) so you don’t order too much food.  In the last month alone, I have been four times.  Here are some of my highlights:

I love to start with the dduk pok ki. It’s spicy rice cakes served in a very flavorful sauce with a hard boiled egg.  I love to use this sauce to spice up the standard white rice that comes with the other meals.

rice cakes

My first love was the marinated BBQ Kalbi Beef Ribs.  You grill these yourself at the table.  It includes an egg stew (think watery scrambled eggs with green onion), lettuce, and sauces. If you are concerned about not knowing when to flip the meat or how long to cook each piece, don’t be.  The staff is close by watching to ensure that everything is going according to plan, they don’t hesitate to come take over.  For me this isn’t overpowering, I appreciate the help!  Here’s how to eat it:  take some of the freshly cooked beef, slap it in the lettuce leaf, and then add some of the bean paste.  You can’t go wrong.

kalbi

Lately my go-to-dish is the black pork belly.  It’s a special they have listed on their wall and I pray this dish does not go away!  It’s another “cook your own” dish, but this time it’s on a grill that cooks it on a slope so that the excess grease can drain.  If you love fatty pork dishes, this will be your jam.  The pork belly is also served with lettuce leaves and bean paste, but I prefer to dip it in the small plate of sesame oil, salt, and pepper they provide.  This dish does not help my blood pressure for sure!

black pork belly

Extreme close up to watch it start to sizzle!

black pork belly 2

If you are an adventurous eater, there is another special dish you should try: the Korean raw beef.  As it states, it’s raw beef served with ginger, pear strips, and a raw egg.  For fans of tartare, it should be no big deal.  You need to like the taste of raw ginger.  I found that the ingredients added a little sweetness.  The serving is quite large and it’s not a dish you want to take as a leftover so I would only suggest ordering if you have a group of 4 or more.

Korean raw beef

In case you can’t tell, I definitely have enjoyed my visits to Joo Joo. 🙂  Eating Korean BBQ is a fun experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the hot pots on an upcoming visit.  Keep an eye out on Instagram and Twitter to see how they look!

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Great family friendly restaurant if you are looking for something different.  If you haven’t tried Korean BBQ, this is a great way to experience it in a more relaxed atmosphere.  They have private Karaoke rooms that I have not tried…I haven’t crossed that boundary of Soju and Sapporo required for me to think I can sing… yet.

The Table, St. Louis, MO – Come Together and Eat!

I have a confession to make… I have never been to Home Wine Kitchen.  GASP!!!  It has been on my radar since I first sampled their food at last year’s Art of Food event.  I did however, make a trip to check out their new sister restaurant, Table.

One quick look at their menu, and I knew I was going to make a trip there soon.  I love trying unique foods and they clearly had plenty to offer.

After a long day’s work as well as fighting traffic, a cocktail was in order.  I started with the Basil Sidecar.  This was a perfect cocktail for a warm day.  It was light and refreshing.

basil sidecar

Remember the “Porkapalooza” blog posts from the fall of 2012?  This dinner started as a throwback to those days with orders of the braised pork belly and fried pig ears.

The pork belly had some sweetness from the maple syrup and a little tang from the orange juice.  It did not have the crispy rind you find at some places.  The texture was mainly creamy from the fat with just a bit of chew.  It was a satisfactory dish.  After the steamed pork buns I tried at Booker and Dax the bar for pork belly has been raised a bit.

Pork belly

The fried pig ears were a surprise. The dish was simple:  fried pig ears with crispy arugula topped with a fried egg.  This is a salt lovers dream dish.  The first time I had it I wished the egg was served sunny side up.  And on my 2nd visit I had my wish.  i love to use “liquid chicken” as a sauce.  The crunch of the pig ears was perfect.

fried pig ears part 2

As I often do, I will ask for a recommendation when trying a place for the first time.  The waitress said that the “fish and chips” was very popular.  The fish is actually grouper cheek.  When it arrived I first thought the batter looked very heavy.  It was much flakier and lighter than you would think.  This was key since the grouper is very mild.  It pairs well with their house-made tartar sauce.

fish and chips

Growing up I always loved my mom’s corn fritters.  I still ask her to make them for my birthday or any other special occasion.  Table has a version of their own, a little more dense than the version my mom makes. It’s a sweet corn fritter served with maple syrup… and it is surprisingly good! This will definitely satisfy those cravings for corn fritters when I cannot make the trip to see my mom.

corn fritters

 

Lastly, let me introduce you to a new favorite cocktail of mine — the Benton Park Bourbon.  It’s Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon juice, ginger beer, Angostura bitters, and caramelized local honey.  It’s well-balanced but let’s you know that you are still drinking bourbon.  It was the last drink I tried the first time I visited and the only drink I have ordered each time I have returned.

DSC00587

Table is an exciting restaurant located on Cherokee Street.  In the past month I have already visited it 4 times!  The two items that keep me coming back:  Benton Park Bourbon and Fried Pig Ears.  There is something here for everyone, not everything has to be on the adventurous side.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  The decor reminds me of early Restoration Hardware.  The space is very open.  The seating is at long communal tables so it gives you a chance to make new friends.  They had a complimentary valet the first night I went but I have not seen it since.  I would suggest 3 dishes per person as they are on the small size.  I have not tried anything from the “Feast” section of the menu; it’s supposed to be larger portions.

Table on Urbanspoon

Booker and Dax, New York, NY – Mixology on a Whole New Level and Pork Bun Heaven

Another successful trip to NYC.  Lots of shopping, sight-seeing, drinks, and of course GOOD FOOD!. After listening to Dave Arnold talk last year at the High Tech Happy Hour as part of the NYCWFF, a trip to Booker and Dax  was added to my “must do” list.

Booker and Dax is a small bar attached to Momofuku Ssäm.  The main attraction here are the cocktails.  I suggest you find a seat at the bar so you can enjoy the attention to detail that goes into each creation.  It is unlike anything I have experienced anywhere else.  What makes these drinks special?  They use techniques you won’t see at your standard bar.  Things like liquid nitrogen to chill the glass, clarifying juice in a centrifuge, etc, are all common place.  It’s like having a bar in a chemistry lab.

Gin and Juice on left, Corsair garnished with a Miller High Life on right

Gin and Juice on left, Corsair garnished with a Miller High Life on right

Since Booker and Dax is attached to Momofuku Ssäm, their bar snacks are also something to behold.  While enjoying my drinks I saw several recommendations for the steamed pork buns on Foursquare.  Check out this slice of heaven:

pork buns

There really isn’t much to them, but this is officially my favorite thing I have eaten.  (Note I was reaching the bottom of drink 3 when I tried them 🙂 ).  They contained nice sized pieces of pork belly, cucumbers, scallions, and hoisin.  The pork belly doesn’t have the rind, so it is extremely fatty and decadent.  It melts in your mouth!  The cucumbers add crunch and helped neutralize the fat.   They were so good I had to order a second batch.

Booker and Dax is a great place to enjoy one-of-a-kind cocktails.  They have a small snack menu, but the steamed pork buns alone are worth the trip.  If you are a science geek like me, get there early before it gets busy.  Then get the bartenders talking about their experience using the centrifuge as well as how some of the cocktail ideas evolved.  It is guaranteed to be a great evening of drinks and food.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  It’s a small space that really focuses on the drinks.  The music variety was intriguing.  I heard AC DC, U2, Blondie, and even Hall and Oates Maneater all in one hour.  If you are in NYC, you should add it to your “must-do” list as well.  This will be something I hit up on all future trips.

Booker & Dax on Urbanspoon

Feed Me, St. Louis, MO – Porkapalooza Continues With A Triple Pork Sandwich

Is it me, or have I been eating a lot of pork lately?  In the past few weeks I’ve had ribs, bacon, shank, shoulder, ham, and now belly.  I think I may have to start raising some pigs to help balance out the impact I am having on their population.

Wednesday I tried my first Vietnamese style sandwich.  I had the Banh Mi Special (#1) from Feed Me.  Yes, this is another post about a food truck. Yes, I do follow over 20 different food trucks in St. Louis on Twitter.  Don’t judge #obsessed.

Inside an unassuming plain white paper bag was this work of art:

BBQ Seasoned Pork Belly, Vietnamese Ham, and Sweet Ground Pork sandwich served in a French Baguette. It’s topped with Sliced Cucumbers, Fresh Cilantro, Pickled Carrots & Daikon Radish, with Pate & Mayo Spread.

You can tell from that picture that the toppings are fresh and they did not skimp.  You get three types of pork in one sandwich!  They each had different flavors and textures keeping things unique with each bite.  I’ll admit I normally don’t put as many veggies on my sandwich, but these belonged.  There was just the right about of spread.  This was all sandwiched in a great flakey French baguette.

There isn’t anything I would change about this sandwich.  It’s a good thing I work outside of the city.  These sandwiches could become a habit.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2 Yep, it’s a food truck.  For me, this is one that I don’t see as often as I would like.  It was quick and efficient.  Follow them on Twitter.  If you work close to one of their normal stops, consider yourself lucky.

Feed Me Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Farmhaus Nose To Tail Dinner – The Lesser Used Cuts of Pork

Today’s post is about a unique dining experience I had this week at Farmhaus.  Farmhaus is one of the premier farm-to-table restaurants in St. Louis.  For one night only, they had their “Nose to Tail” dinner.  It focused on the lesser used parts of the pig.

First course:  Amuse.  I preferred the crostini to the cornbread but both were good.  The lardo was still pretty cold so it was a little hard to spread but had lots of flavor.

Bread and Butter. House cured lardo, cornbread, crostini

2nd course:  Charcuterie. My favorite of the 3 was the coppa romana.  I LOVED the spiciness.  The pig ear was a little chewy but added texture when combined with the tender tongue.  I also enjoyed the house made pickles.

Porchetta di testa (right), coppa (middle), tongue and ear terrine (left).

3rd course:  Green Bay salad or “Because We Had to Have a Salad”.  As you can tell by the picture, shadows were becoming an issue later in the night.  Maybe it was the wine pairing as well. 🙂  I loved the fried cheese curds.  The breading was light and let the cheese be the focus. The braunschweiger was of a higher quality than I remembered eating as a child.  You have to appreciate liver to enjoy it.  I practically licked the plate clean.

House Braunschweiger, fried cheese curds, pork croutons, smoked egg salad dressing

4th course:  Reuben.  This sandwich was fantastic.  The pastrami had some chew to it being made from the pig’s heart.  The house made rye was nicely toasted.  The 1000 island dressing was a great accompaniment.  I liked it being served on the slaw so you could add (or not) to the sandwich to taste.  At this point this was my favorite dish.

Pig heart pastrami, smoked rye bread, house 1000 island dressing

5th course:  Pork Belly.  However, after the first bite of this dish I had a new favorite!  This dish had so much depth.  The yin and yang of the ingredients hit all the key elements.  You had sweet (corn / melon), salty (pork belly), and spicy (green beans).  The contrast of the cold melon served on top of the hot belly. The crispy pork belly skin compared to the smooth fatty rest of the belly.  This dish had it all.  I eat pork belly every chance I get and this was one of the best I have sampled.

Pork Belly. Spicy pickled green beans, creamed corn

6th course:  Crostata.  This was the dish that was the most talked about with my co-workers.  No one could understand how pig liver could work in caramel.  Even at the event, the chef de cuisine shared how they thought the pastry chef was nuts for suggesting it.  From what they said, it took several iterations to develop the version we tasted. I appreciate that effort because it was well worth it.  This was a dish I woke up still thinking about this morning.

Crostata- local peaches, buttermilk ice cream, pig liver caramel

7th course:  Black pudding.  As one guest questioned, “is this what I think it is?”  Yes, it contains blood.  I liked the presentation with the tulie covering up the black pudding and suspending the meringue.  My inner child liked that I got to smash something.  The richness of the meringue and the slightly mineral twinge of the chocolate pudding were a lot for some to handle.

Black pudding. Burnt orange meringue, walnut tuile

This was a very exciting night for an adventurous eater like myself.  I appreciate the chances that Farmhaus and its’ chefs took with the menu and the event.  Most of my co-workers thought I was nuts as they heard about this event.  Although that may be a fair assessment of me in general, there was nothing crazy about the Nose to Tail dinner.  It was well thought out and executed in every detail.  I hope they schedule more events like this in the future.

Dive 2 Five Scale:   A solid 4.  Although Farmhaus has a very minimalist approach to decorating their restaurant, the experience is top-notch.  From the server’s knowledge and excitement of the menu to the preparation and attention to detail throughout the service.  A great place to celebrate a special night with an amazing meal in a lively environment.

MEDIAnoche – Half & Half at Twilight

Last Saturday, my wife and I dined at MEDIAnoche. For those that have been to Half & Half, it’s the same location but a completely different style. Half & Half focuses on breakfast and brunch while MEDIAnoche is Mexican. This won’t be your typical Mexican restaurant, but you will find familiar dishes and ingredients used in a new and unique way. Since I have been a fan of Half & Half for several months now, MEDIAnoche has been on my list of places to try.

I love when restaurants offer a prix fixe menu because I usually have a list longer than what one human should consume in one sitting. Their version, called Probando, ensured that I would try an appetizer, a taco, and an entrée. Having my wife there, meant we could double what I would sample 🙂

My appetizer was the biscuit con Puerco. It was a biscuit made using pork fat with BBQ smoked pork belly inside and topped with Brussel sprout slaw. It was served with a side of mango Habanero jam. For those that read my post about Atlanta’s Six Feet Under, you are probably surprised I went for Habanero’s again so soon. I sampled the sauce first to determine how much to use for the biscuit. It started off with the refreshing taste of mangos and then had a nice after-burn from the Habanero. The texture of the biscuit was more soft than your typical flakey variety. The pork belly was a little tougher than what I typically like but still had that extreme pork flavor. I was surprised at how well I liked the Brussel sprout slaw; it provided a nice crunch. Overall this dish was unique but not something I would probably order again. The highlight was the mango Habanero sauce which has endless possibilities for use.

Watch out for the kick of the sauce!

My wife’s appetizer was the atun fresco. It was seared tuna with corn, oyster mushrooms, and jalapeno. It was a typical seared tuna that was cooked perfectly. The slight taste from the corn and jalapeno do give it more of a Mexican flair than you get at most restaurants. A solid appetizer for those that like seared tuna but not too out of the ordinary.

For the 2nd course, I had the de panza de Puerco (pork belly taco). My family has started to wonder about my obsession of pork belly. If there is an option for pork belly I will try it. As you can see it was a part of the 1st two courses! I love that they served the taco in a paper tray. It reminds me of real Mexican style street food tacos. You can tell that the toppings were fresh and that is a key to a good street food taco. If they only had cow’s tongue as an option….

My wife’s 2nd course was the avocado taco. I was hoping she would try the beef cheek or lamb. As all married guys know, there is give and take in a relationship. This was a time to let it slide. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. It was as if you took a good guacamole and served it in the taco. It has a peppery kick. In both cases, I really enjoyed the tacos.

For my entrée, I had the pato agridulce. This was seared duck breast with sweet and spicy confit and corn tortilla puree. The duck was tender and had a good flavor. The tortilla contained the sweet and spicy confit. Luckily the server provided the instructions to break that tortilla to mix in those ingredients. My favorite part of the dish was the corn tortilla puree. It always excites me to try familiar flavors in a different way. In this case, it was the mouth feel of eating something that tasted like a tortilla but had the consistency of mashed potatoes. It makes me want to puree things at home to experiment.

Fun presentation. Don’t ignore the corn tortilla puree.

My wife had the special lamb dish for the night. It was three different cuts of Jones Heritage farm lamb. It featured braised belly, shoulder, and leg. It was served over balsamic vinegar and had large fresh blackberries. The presentation was the best so far. She was nice enough to share a taste of the three types. The braised belly was my favorite. It may be too much for some if you aren’t used to that fatty of a cut of meat.

MEDIAnoche provided a unique spin on Mexican cooking. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. They provided great suggestions for drinks and description of the food as it was served. I do recommend the prix fixe menu for sampling their diverse menu. I prefer the morning version of the restaurant, but this is a solid choice for dinner if you want something different.