December 2, 2009

Dining Ethnic on a Budget

Now and days who can say they go out every weekend to tryout new menus the way the economy is going.  I know I am having difficulties, with the little disposable income I have...not much of it is going out to dining.  Until, that is, I decided to snoop around a restaurant that recently opened on E. Washington Ave, Oysy Sushi & Seafood Buffet.  Many times before it opened, I saw signs of the all you can eat sushi and seafood buffet and thought they read my mind.  Though I started to wonder if that was a good idea.  I was a bit skeptical which is why it took me about a month or two to go check this place out.  I imagined sushi sitting out all day and the raw ones stinking up the place or going bad before someone decides to eat it.  And the seafood be low quality, because who can afford to have all you can eat seafood all day everyday?

To tell you the truth, Oysy wasn't bad, it was actually good.  You have about 5 different buffet island to choose from and they all vary culturally.  There a mix of Asian and American deserts, fruits, culturally different salads, and many different flavors of food.  They served dumplings and egg rolls just to mention some of the things different from the Japan cuisine, KimChee (Koren), and many Japan dishes.  The seafood are cooked such as mussels, baby octopus, and crab imitations, nothing here to be scared about.  The sushi is made every second.  A chef prepares the sushi from behind the counter and refills the trays as they become more visable.  There are both cooked and raw sushi rolls though all are pretty good.  Don't imagine it as the sushi you find in Chinese buffet restaurants (where the sushi sit on a tray over ice), the sushi at Oysy are made by the chef who keeps an eye on them so they rarely sit out at all.  Also, don't expect it to be the same quality of other sushi restaurant, there is only one chef who preps them all day.

For those who are afraid to try sushi, you should go Oysy, the sushi choices are very safe and not too extreme, also you reduce the chance of wasting your money.  If you do discover you are not a sushi fan at least there are still other options for the buffet.  And for those who like sushi but can't afford it, this would be the place to go also, for only $11.00 for lunch and $22.00 for dinner this is almost a third of the price you would pay at any sushi restaurant.  This post is not about authenthicity but about budgeting and still trying something new.

View Larger Map

November 30, 2009

Make Your Own Authentic Food

Park Street is well known for its diversity with Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Peruvian, and Vietnamese restaurants.  Though it also holds grocery stores that can help you make your own authentic dishes.  There are two Asian grocery stores, Yue Wah Oriental Foods and Asian Midway Foods, and a Hispanic grocery store, Mercado Marimar.  All contains a mixture of both cultural product but mainly thier own. 
Specials: Asian Midway Foods has a special every Friday.  Every Friday morning, Asian Midway receive their duck delivery right when the store opens.  Many arrive early to make sure they have their best pick of roast duck.  Mercado Marimar has a special every Sunday morning.  Only Sunday mornings can you find the tender steak and cow tongue, sold by the pound, per cooked and ready to placed in tacos, tostadas, or whatever dish your heart desire.

So there's no need to dine in a resturant to get the true authentic taste.  You can find it at these groceries stores and bring the experience home.


View Larger Map

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

November 10, 2009

La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant

I surveyed a few friends who recommended La Hacienda as authentic Mexican food in Madison.  Their menu contain many varities such as burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas.  They also have risky ingredients such as tripe soup and cow tongue tacos.  I enjoyed many of their dishes.  I find myself going back for their "combination" dish which includes one beef taco, one cheese enchilada, one steak tostada, rice and beans.  This way I have a variety on one plate for a very affordable price.  You can also order a la carte and create your own Mexican dish combination.  Another dish I enjoyed was their Parrilladas combination dish.  This includes beef ribs, steak, chicken, chopped pork loin, and Mexican sausage served with rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  I love the presentation of the dish.  The food sits on top of a metal plate which is balanced on a metal box that has an open flame at the bottom.  You serve yourself they way you do with fajitas.  The food still sizzle at the table so you would want to try to gather your food onto your tortillas before the food sticks to the metal plate.  Usually once everyone had their number of their Parrilladas combination, what ever is left gets stuck on the botton, no need to race the heat.

It's hard to mention La Hacienda without mentioning the boycott.  The resturant owner has a dispute with a few employees who claimed to be unpaid for their work.  This is still under trial.  The food is still considered authentic, so for the sake of my blog I feel I should post this information.

View Larger Map

October 21, 2009

Sa-Bai Thong Thai Cuisine

One of Madison's most favorite Thai restaurant is Sa-Bai Thong earning many recognitions such as "Best Pad Thai in the State" - Milwaukee Journal, October 1993, "Best Asian Food in Town" - Isthmus, May 1995, "Madison's Most Authentic Thai Restaurant" - Katy Sai, Channel 3 News 1997, and "Best Asian Restaurant" - Madison, Magazine 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.  I must admit it is also one of my favorite restaurant to go to.  They are well known for their Pad Thai and is a must for your first time around.  Otherwise I would recommend a few other delicious entrees.

First let's talk about appetizer.  You really can't go wrong ordering any appetizer but I would suggest stepping out of the usual ,egg rolls or spring rolls (the traditional appetizers at any Asian restaurants) and try their summer rolls.  It's healthier for you compared to other rolls because it's not fried and made of lettuce, cucumber, carrot, bean sprout, cilantro, mint and vermicelli noodle and wrapped with rice paper skin, served with house plum sauce and ground peanut with your choice of regular (with pork and shrimp) or veggie (with tofu).  I actually prefer their house sauce with ground peanut because its sweetness balances out the zesty of the cilantro and add a pleasing flavor to the rice paper, also the peanut help give it a little crunch.  Another appetizer I recommend is the lettuce wrap, called the Mieng Sabai .  It's ingredients are shrimp, chicken, vermicelli noodle, fresh ginger, peanut, onion, lime, wrapped with green leaf lettuce.  The way you eat requires you to get a little messy.  You have to make sure all the ingredients stay wrapped inside as you dip it into their house sauce; this usually requires two hands.  And finally, an appetizer I would consider as something everyone has to try is the Shrimp Purse.  This consists of ground shrimp and chicken, carrot, cilantro, water chestnut, wrapped with spring roll skin and is served with their house sauce.  The Shrimp Purse has a very different presentation, it is made up of round shrimp and chicken, carrot, cilantro, water chestnut, wrapped with spring roll skin in a shape of a money bag and again, served with their delicious house sauce.

Next comes the entree.  From their noodles selection, I would recommend their famous Pad Thai which is prepared with small rice noodles stir fried with bean sprouts, green onion, shredded cabbage, radish, ground peanut, egg, yellow tofu with your choice of of chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or shrimp.  This dish would satisfy those who prefer sweet over salty and enjoy variety of texture with the soft rice noodles, crunchy peanut and bean sprouts, etc.  From the Sa-Bai speciality I would recommend any dishes with duck or the Lime Chicken which is served with chicken, cashew nut, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, onion, lime juice, dried red chili and light brown sauce.  Don't let the name fool you though, the lime juice adds a perfect balance to their brown sauce and stays consistent with the traditional Thai sweetness flavor.  And my new most favoritest dish is the Tom Yum Talay Hang.  This ultimate seafood dish is created with salmon, shrimp, scallop, calamari, mussel, straw mushroom, white mushroom, galanga, lemon grass, lime leaves, basil, lime juice and chili paste served with a bowl of rice.  The key ingredients here that makes this dish authentic is the lemon grass, lime leaves, and galanga root.  With all these ingredients, this dish will satisfy all your tastebuds. You'll have a little bit of sour and zesty, some harshnes and sweet, and spicy if you please.  All entrees can be made spicy from a scale of one star (being less spicy) to four stars (most spicy).  I like my dishes spicy and appreciate that they have this option, I am typically at the 3-4 stars.  And remember all spiciness levels are different, 3 stars at one restaurant can be more or less spicy for another.

As for desert, nothing here is boring though I like to keep the tradition and go for the sticky rice.  Most commonly it is made with coconut, though if you get the chance to try thier seasonal sticky rice with mango please, take advantage of the different scale of sweet, sweet desert.

So check out one of Madison's Favorites and get a taste of Southeast Asia at Sa-Bai Thong on Odana Road or University Ave.

6802 Odana Road
Madison, WI 53719

2840 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53705

October 10, 2009

Say What? Buraka's Sigawot Dish and more

from top, left, and right:

Sigawot, Dorowot, and Tibs with Lamb (with Lentil Salad between each)

A couple friends of mine, whose been to Africa, convinced me to try Buraka, to taste authentic African food. Right away I jumped to the suggestion and tried a few of their dishes. The Sigawot had beef and potatoes flavored with their rich spicy sauce. The Dorowot had chicken and carrots that was slow cooked in a berbere spiced sauce. And the Tips was served with sauteed onions, green peppers, and red peppers with your choice of chicken, beef, or lamb. Each entree came with a side lettuce salad and traditional injaro (Ethiopian flat sourdough bread) which can be substituted for rice.

So what's so authentic about this place?
I'll have to take my friends' advice that the flavor is authentic since I haven't been to Africa myself, though the food had very unique tasteful flavors which made it easy for me to side with my friends' opinions of the authenticity. I can also say the presentation of the food and the style of eating seemed to be pretty authentic. We requested our dishes to be served in the traditional family platter, which otherwise would have came on individual plates. The platter was served in a huge dish with all our entrees. The minimum number of entrees for the traditional family platter is 2. Because it's a traditional platter, the injaro was served with the entrees, rice would be extra and served in a separate bowl. Injaros were laid out as a bed for the three entrees and separating the entrees was the salad. We replaced the lettuce salad for lentil salad which I thought was a really good call. The lentil salad had a zesty flavor and is good on its own but can also complement the entrees. Though it was the bread that fused all the flavors together. It was striking at first, because I first tasted the bread on its own and the sourness surprised me. Though I quickly learned its function. As you can see in the picture above, the bread looks like crepe or a flat pancake. It has a spongy appearance and texture though its sour flavor sums up the entrees almost the same way lime or cilantro can tie up some dishes; without it, the entrees would taste incomplete. The bread also served as a feeding utensil. You simply tear a piece of the bread and use it to pinch your entree and hand feed yourself. The eating experience alone was different but very fun. Check out Buraka and try not to eat your fingers. Let me know what you think of the unique eating experience.
Buraka Restaurant
543 State St
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 255-1010

September 15, 2009

New off of State Street - Fugu Asian Fusion

My new favorite Asian cuisine restaurant is Fugu Asian Fusion on 411 W. Gilman St. They have both Chinese and Thai dishes for a very decent price range. And talk about authentic, they have dishes such as Pig Ears and Chili Oil Sauce, Ox Tongue and Tripe with Chili Sauce, and much more. Though if that's too daring for you, I recommend their "Unique" dish, Walnut Chicken and Shrimp. It contains Tempura Chicken and Shrimp with Walnuts glazed with their honey sauce. You wouldn't need desert after since the sweetness of this dish will get you to eat every last bit of the plump tastful shrimps down to the last crunchy roasted walnuts. It's like an entree and desert in one that keeps you very satisfied with the flavor, quality, and quantity.

Make sure you check it out and let me know what you think.