Category Archives: Chicken “Noodle” Soups

33 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Estelle’s Chicken Soup at Fred’s at Barneys Leaves You (and Your Wallet) Empty

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Go to Barney’s to feed your closet, not your stomach.

In my 10.5 years living in NYC, the only time I stepped into Barneys was because I had to use the bathroom.  That was the only thing I could afford to do there.  When I ventured there last week for lunch, I was expecting no less than an expensive meal that would leave me needing a second lunch.

“Grandma’s recipe to cure colds and stay thin.”  That’s how the menu described Estelle’s Chicken Soup ($11) at Fred’s, the department store’s restaurant.  I can’t confirm if it would actually cure a cold, but I can confirm that I’d probably stay thin if I ate this all the time:  I would never feel full just eating one bowl, and I’d never have money left to buy myself some more food.

 

Estelle's Chicken Soup at Fred's at Barneys

The shredded chicken filled most of the shallow bowl, which also contained a sprinkle of diced carrots, celery and fresh parsley, and a light coating of golden broth.  I was less than impressed, especially with its $11 price tag.  It was really nothing special (no offense to Estelle who is/was, I’m sure, a very special woman), and, in fact, it tasted just like the chicken soup I made about a month ago.

I think the lesson here is that I should start selling small bowls of my own soup and charging up the wazoo for it.  Maybe then I could afford a luxury item from Barneys.

Fred’s at Barneys
660 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065
212.833.2200

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

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16 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – If I could just Photoshop Tarallucci e Vino’s Scrippelle ‘Mbusse…

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I’d rather spend $8 on some fresh chicken and other ingredients and make chicken soup at home.

I’m not sure if it was an off day for the chefs at Tarallucci e Vino, but I wasn’t impressed with the Scrippelle ‘Mbusse at all.  It’s an Italian chicken soup in which the carbs come in the form of crepes.  And, at $8 a bowl, it just wasn’t worth it.  Don’t get me wrong, though – it didn’t taste bad.  It just wasn’t anything special and was pretty bland.

According to New York Magazine, scrippelle ‘mbusse is from Italy’s Abruzzo region and translates into “wet crepes.”  The crepe, made from flour, egg and water, looks like a super thin sheet of egg.  You know when you’re making an omelette and some of the egg gets swirled and cooked on the side of the pan?  It’s sort of like that.  It’s reminiscent of the French crepe most of us know and love, but different in that the French version is thicker and includes sugar, butter and milk.

Taralluci e Vino’s menu describes their scrippelle ‘mbusse as a “hen broth with crepes filled with Parmesan cheese.”  So, I was expecting a decadently rich broth that would be complemented by the sharp and salty cheese.  Instead, what I received was what seemed to be a watered-down broth, very light in color, with three crepes and a tiny morsel of Parmesan thrown in.  The one time (literally) that I was able to get some cheese while biting into the crepe was a pleasant experience.  Too bad the pleasantries ended there.  And, since the soup was not close to being filling enough as a meal, I had to order a $10 beet salad to go with it.  Even more reason for the cafe/restaurant to lower the price of the soup.

What further confounded me, after I did some research at home, was that I found an old article, again in New York Magazine, featuring the same soup as their 2006 “Best Chicken Soup” pick.  Do they really think this soup is that good making it worthy of being featured again three years later as one of the best soups in NYC?  Or were they just lazy this time around and didn’t want to search for something new and possibly way more exciting?  Perhaps they were just going for the uniqueness factor since I’m not sure if any other restaurant makes scrippelle ‘mbusse.  If that’s the case, though, it should be under the “Unique but Tastes Only Ok” soup list.

Aside from that, take a look at the photos below.  The left is from New York Magazine‘s feature in 2006, and the right is the one I took during my recent experience a week ago.  Let’s go back to our Highlights days and please spot the differences.

(Left) New York Magazine's photo from 2006 "Best Chicken Soup" feature; (Right) Photo from my recent experience

Which would you rather eat?  I know you’re all smart enough to see what I see, so I won’t go through each observation.  And I know that, just like models get their “fat” and wrinkles Photoshopped out of their photos, food items get arranged and “colored” on set to make them prettier and more appealing for a photo shoot.  Not only that, I’m sure that more processing gets done to the actual photos later on.  But who knows what the real story is in this case.

Whether or not the old photo was a specially-crafted version of the scrippelle ‘mbusse or the real thing back then, I wish that I could’ve Photoshopped my 2010 version to that one instead.  It looks like it would’ve been much tastier.

Tarallucci e Vino
15 E. 18th Street (near Broadway)
New York, NY
212.228.5400
http://taralluccievino.net/

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


11 & 12 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – The Power of One, The Generosity of Many: Kicking Things Into Gear

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  If you’re looking for plentiful, cheap and pretty decent soup, then try both of these.

Monday and Tuesday night were probably not the best nights to have slightly spicy soup.  Stomach issues for the past week and a half have really put a damper on my appetite.  But that’s really never stopped me from at least attempting to eat.  My dad always said, “As long as you know you’ve tried your best…”  I think he’d be proud of me right about now.

I went to Cascabel Taqueria on the Upper East Side on Monday night, alone, for some Sopa De Tortilla ($5) with chicken, queso fresco (fresh cheese), Mexican oregano, fried pasilla (big-ass, blackish-brown, medium-hot chile, aka “chile negro”) and tortilla.  Then, Tuesday night, I met T and M at Galanga in the West Village for some $9.50 “Khao Soi” (according to New York Magazine) – aka “Chiangmai Curry Noodle” (according to the actual menu at the restaurant) – with tofu (or chicken, if you wish), mild yellow curry sauce, egg noodle, pickled cabbage (mmm!), crispy shallots, scallion, and red onions.

Got all those ingredients in your head?  Good.

Cascabel Churros and Luchadores

Eating by yourself at a public space is always interesting.  A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have been able to brave it alone.  But, in a city that never sleeps, any time you can take for yourself is precious – time to breathe, read a book or magazine, reflect about your career and relationships and figure out how you want to change the world…if you want to change the world.

Normally, a time of reflection would go well with a hot bowl of good soup, but I just wasn’t hungry at the time.  I only went to Cascabel because I had a meeting in the area, and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back.  With about 30 minutes to spare, I stood in line by the cashier for a few minutes before realizing I should just take a seat at the bar.  The space was small, but it still had a lot of character with all the luchadores (think Nacho Libre) throughout, and it still felt comfortable and airy.

The bowl of Sopa de Tortilla came out in a simple, sleek, silver tray with two small lime wedges on

Cascabel's Sopa De Tortilla

the side.  The presentation excited me.  So much going on in the bowl.  The 6-inch long fried pasilla resting on top made me stop and say “whoah” before putting it aside.  The abundance of light pink-ish/ivory chicken, fresh green cilantro, fried brown oregano, and red tomato made for a colorful palette to mix with the creamy white melted chunks of fresh cheese hiding at the bottom.  The tortilla chips added some texture, providing a soft crunch to every bite, and the medium heat from the chile pieces gave me a slight wake-up call.  But, unfortunately, I had to give myself a rest after only three spoonfuls and asked for the rest of it to go.  I tried to eat more when I got home a few hours later, but, by that time, the tortilla chips had selfishly soaked up most of the liquid.  I’ll beat them to it next time!

*     *     *     *     *

Tuesday night, the Chiangmai Curry Noodle Soup at Galanga had some relatively high expectations to meet:  T is Thai, but that’s exactly why I told her she had to come with me.  Interestingly enough, when we were chatting about this a few days before, she said she had never actually eaten this dish since it was from a different region of Thailand.  She was still Thai, though, and would know much more than I would.

I took a look at the menu and almost had a heart attack since I couldn’t find “Khao Soi” anywhere.  I looked through a second time, and finally noticed that the restaurant called it something else entirely.  Phew!  My noodle soup ended up being pretty darn big, and I, surprisingly, ate the whole darn thing, leaving only a few spoonfuls of broth.

Galanga's Chiangmai Curry Noodle Soup

Does that mean I thought it was the best bowl of noodle soup I’ve ever had?  Definitely not.  The small, extra firm, medium-sized chunks of tofu somehow didn’t fit in.  They should maybe think about cutting them into much smaller slices, like the rest of the ingredients.  Or maybe that’s my OCD-ness talkin’.  I took out most of the raw red onions since my stomach yells at me every time I eat too much.  The pickled cabbage, however, made me smile.  The vinegary sourness contrasted well with everything else.  The broth was not overwhelmingly creamy from the coconut milk, but it definitely needed an extra kick of something to save it from a slight blandness, as T mentioned.  We also agreed that the noodles were overcooked for our tastes.  More al dente, please!  Perhaps a texture between the soft, main noodles and the fried, crispy birds nest sitting on top.  But, overall, it obviously satisfied me since there was barely anything left.  I’d probably have it again if I was in the area and craved something like this.

During dinner, and well after our dishes were removed, T, M and I had a pretty lively night just chatting and laughing away.  It was a nice change from the quiet night before.  This is the second time it was just the three of us hanging out, and there was no shortage of new stories, revelations and observations about each other.  These are two generous women who give a lot to their friends and who have a much higher tolerance than I do for those that have “unique” personalities.  I feel lucky that they put up with my low tolerance, and they can feel lucky that my low tolerance has welcomed them into my world. ;p

What I’ve learned from these friendships and from two books I’ve recently read* is that one person alone has the ability to begin the process for extraordinary change.  But it’s the generosity of many along the way who help kick you into gear, keep you going and fulfill your dreams.

*Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, and The Blue Sweater:  Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor in an Interconnected World

Cascabel Taqueria
1542 Second Avenue (at 80th St.)
New York, NY
212.717.7800

Galanga
148 W. 4th Street (at 6th Ave.)
New York, NY
212.228.4267

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


10 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Trying to Overlook the Negatives: Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  If you’re going to try this, for every spoonful of soup you should have a gulp of water.

It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m staring out my dirty windows trying to write this post before I get started on more work.  Three months after moving into this brand new building, I still have to look past the grime covering the windows to get a glimpse of the beautiful sun shining through.  This is what I had to do with Momofuku Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup.

I almost didn’t get to try it on Friday because, after arriving, we were told by the host standing outside that there was a private party going on and the restaurant wasn’t even officially opened yet.  She said the Chambers Hotel was still serving a limited lunch menu on the Mezzanine level, but she didn’t know if they were serving the soup.  We walked upstairs to look at the menu, and, hallelujah, the soup was there!

As the host took us to our seats, I started sweating because it was so damn hot and humid inside.  This was going to be a not-so-great experience if I had to eat hot soup in a hot environment.  But ask and you shall receive, and the cool air

Má Pêche’s Arnold Palmer

was finally turned on.  Supplementing the cool air were a bottle of beer and a special Arnold Palmer ($5) made from Má Pêche’s calamansi lemonade (calamansi*, lemon juice, simple syrup, mint) and jasmine iced tea, which had a refreshingly delicate citrus flavor.

I was both expecting and not expecting a mind-blowing soup because the Momofuku name was behind it.  I had Momofuku ramen a few times (and it still needs a review on this blog), as well as dinner at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and each time I’ve left unimpressed and annoyed that I spent a lot of money.  However, Momofuku still has an incredible reputation, so this was me hoping that I could see past my bad experiences and finally enjoy something I would rejoice about.

Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup

To my dismay, that didn’t really happen with their Hue-Style Chicken Soup.  I enjoyed the mix of ingredients that were in plain sight – fresh slices of mushrooms, real tender pieces of chicken, fresh cilantro, fried shallot flakes and Asian rice noodles.  The more hidden ingredients that my palate could figure out – star anise, lemongrass and fish sauce – provided some pleasant company.  But, at $12 a bowl, I wondered if they used about $9 worth of salt.  In fact, all of their dishes had salt dumped into them.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been as noticeable in the soup if I wasn’t eating the sodium-ridden side dish, too.  At this point, I was thankful for my many drinks so I could wash it down.

Why didn’t I just stop eating?  Well, I was investing $12 just for the bowl of soup, and wasn’t about to waste my money and spend more money to fill up my stomach.  So I forced myself to get over the saltiness, delight in the parts that I liked, and finish it.

This is similar to how I handle my personal relationships.  As I invest more of myself into a relationship, my expectations increase.  I expect the same that I give.  Over the years, however, I’ve realized, after a number of disappointments, that the only way I could lessen these disappointments was if I changed my own expectations and, from that, changed how I interacted with certain friends.  For example, flakers get invited less and less, but I’ll still be able to have a good time with them whenever we happen to see each other.  They’re still fun people, after all.

I’ve been a work in progress, trying to look past the rough spots and enjoy the shining moments underneath.  This doesn’t mean I never feel let down anymore, but it does mean that I feel happier overall.  If you rub enough salt on the wounds, though, and don’t provide me with an ounce of happiness, then my investment ends there.

So, Má Pêche, I think you’ve filled me with enough salt for a lifetime, and I won’t be coming back.

*Calamansi is popular in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, and is also called “lemoncito.”  It is often described as a cross between a tangerine/mandarin orange and a kumquat.

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


9 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Castration Makes It All Better: Teodora’s Cappalletti In Brodo Di Cappone…and a bit about myself

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Need something to calm you down?  Drink/Eat this.  It’s not your grandmother’s chicken soup.  It’s better.

Last Thursday, my daily lunch partner in crime, C, had to run errands, so I decided to take the opportunity to go to Teodora to try their Cappalletti In Brodo Di Cappone ($13.50).  What is this you ask?  Teodora’s menu says, “homemade dumplings, filled with veal and parmesan cheese, in capon broth.”  Not knowing what capon broth was, I googled it before going.  I feel like there needs to be a pause here ’cause it’s rather interesting…

…it’s broth.  made from meat.  from castrated roosters!  Yes, CASTRATED roosters.  Why?  I have no clue.  But it was kind of the perfect thing for me that day because that morning I really wanted to castrate a friend for seemingly cracking some joke, a bit out of nowhere, about my name.  I’ll bop his head when I see him, but he hit a nerve and I didn’t get it at all.  More on that later.  Right now, let’s talk about the soup.

I walked into Teodora, a super cute, very homey restaurant.  I sat down at the bar and ordered the soup with a glass of wine.

Teodora's Cappelletti In Brodo Di Cappone

The broth was a beautiful, rich, golden hue.  The mini dumplings floated inside, and freshly-grated parmesan cheese and fresh-cracked black pepper topped it all.  The bowl looked so simple that you could only assume the flavors were simple, too.  But, instead, the broth was joyously intense and the meatiness from the veal burst into your mouth with every bite of an al-dente dumpling.  Whatever it is about castrating a rooster that produces a much better broth, I’m all for it.  I could’ve eaten three bowls.  It soothed me…for various reasons.  I mean, I wanted to castrate someone, and then I ate a soup made from a castrated animal.  You feel me?  Maybe not.

Teodora Logo

Before I left, I picked up a business card and noticed that their

logo is a crown with dashes around it like a sunburst to give it that “brilliant” look.  It made me wonder why they used that since I didn’t think it was a translation of “Teodora.”  The only thing I could come up with was that the logo represented their prized soup since it was created by cutting off the crown jewels of the main ingredient. 🙂

*     *     *     *     *

A Bit About Myself

Back to my story from that morning.  It got me thinking about my name again, especially since I came across this quote from a book I’m reading: “Only by knowing ourselves can we truly understand others–and knowing from where you come is an important part of knowing who you are.”*

I’m Chinese-American.  My English name was derived from my Chinese name.  My parents decided to do that for both me and my brother when we were born.  “Ja-Shin” means happy, beautiful, Spring-like.

When I was in third or fourth grade, I remember sitting with my mom on a small chair, looking through the newspaper together.  She came across the name “Josephine,” and asked if I wanted to change my name to something more “American.”  I thought it was the oddest question because “Ja-Shin” had already become my identity.  But I know that my mom only wanted to make sure that I felt like I fit in…so I could have an easier life.  I didn’t even think about it when she asked, and answered, “No.”  She said I could think about it some more, but I never got back to her with a different answer.

My mom was right, though.  I’ve been made fun of before, whether it had to do with my name or the way I look.  I look and “sound” foreign, but I’m American and speak perfect English (unless I’ve had too much to drink or something).  For some strange reason, people still think that it gives them the right to make nasty remarks.  “Chink!”

It also makes employers think twice about my candidacy for a job.  I did a little experiment a few years ago where I changed the name on my resume and in my email: I included just my first initial, plus my last name, instead of my full name.  The response level from potential employers increased immediately – I actually received responses.  You’d think that I’d keep it that way, but I changed it back right after I came to that realization.  If someone was going to deny me because of the way my name looked, then it was someone I’d never want to work for.

So, who am I and where did I come from?

I was born and raised in New Jersey (South Jersey), graduated Cum Laude from UPenn ten years ago and am currently an Events Director.  Without going into the details, my upbringing has most definitely shaped a lot of who I am today.  It’s given me both the right tools and ambition that have made me successful.  Even with the occasional self-doubt, I’m still somehow capable of putting myself out there.  Whatever the reason, it’s helped build solid relationships and opened interesting doors, and I really am living out a super journey.  When I’m happy, I’m really happy.  When I’m sad, I’m really sad.  I might be petite, Asian and female, but I’m not afraid to speak up and stand up for myself.  It took a while before I found my voice, but I eventually found it.  And now you might not be able to shut me up.  (Good luck!)  I can say with confidence that I’m probably one of the more thoughtful and loyal people you’ll meet, and that’s partially because I’m extremely passionate about the people I’m close to.  But I also like to treat people the way that I’d want to be treated, so I try to be thoughtful in my actions…no matter whom I’m dealing with.  I’m an analytical person and very introspective, so, for the most part, I know exactly what my faults are.  And I do have them – many of them.  (But why would I tell you what those are?)  The challenge might be whether or not I want to change those faults.  A lot of times, I analyze others, too, and I’m usually spot-on.  (There’s proof!)  At the end of the day, I will do anything for my family and friends, but my closest friends also know that, if you f— up, I will castrate you on the spot.  Maybe if you give me some of Teodora’s capon broth, I’ll forget about it. 😉

*From The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


4 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – First Impressions Color Your Perceptions and Hearth’s Chicken Soup was Impressive

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Go treat your taste buds to a well-executed and unique chicken soup!

Exhibit A

First impressions – one chance to reel them in and color their perceptions…to feel  a warmth towards you…to want to find out more.  And let’s be real here:  no one wants people to think negatively about them.  I certainly don’t, and perhaps that’s why I am very colorful on the outside…literally.  In stark contrast to my more serious side, I have a pretty colorful wardrobe (see Exhibit A).  But it may be why the most common word I’ve heard to describe me after an initial meeting is that I’m very “pleasant.”  (Shall I toot my horn some more?)

Luckily, my experience at Hearth was nothing less than a number of pleasant first impressions.  Some full disclosure – I’ve been to Hearth about four times already, and each time I’ve been impressed with the food.  I’ve also been impressed with the extremely friendly and knowledgeable bartender, Kelley (I met her the last time I was there, and she’s definitely a bartender I’d want to share more food and drinks with).  But I think this just set the bar super high when I decided to go there to try their famous Chicken Soup with Farro and Dumplings.

I went with one of my absolute bestest friends (practically my sister and twin) tonight, and sat at the bar since Kelley happened to be working (hoorah!).  Right when we sat down, we were introduced to Chef Marco who happened to be standing there.  I told him about my little adventure, and he was definitely interested in what I thought (for all he knew I was a young-looking food critic).  We interacted a couple of times, and each time I thought, “What a cool guy.”  I tend to think this of most famous chefs whom I meet – they are genuine, fun-loving people who truly care about customer satisfaction.

Chicken Soup with Farro and Dumplings

When the soup came out, it was a really colorful, rich bowl that just made me eager to dig in.  After my first spoonful, I had to consciously stop myself from picking the bowl up and just slurping it up asian-style.  It was like a lighter French Onion soup but a bolder traditional chicken soup.  The dumplings were not only the perfect size but also the perfect texture (much better than the matzo balls in matzo ball soup).  The firm yet chewy farro was a nice complement to everything else…and a nice, unique surprise.  That may have been my favorite part of the soup.  So, when I was nearing the end of the bowl, I tilted it to make sure I got every…last…drop.

At $10 a bowl, the Chicken Soup isn’t considered cheap, but I do think it’s worth it.  Was I colored by my fantastic first impressions?  One will never know until you try it yourself.

Hearth Restaurant
403 East 12th Street (at First Avenue)
New York, NY 10009
(646) 602-1300

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!