Koku in Armonk, NY – Asian Fusion and Chinese Dialects at Their Best from Fuzhou, China

There is a new restaurant in Armonk, NY. As a resident of Armonk, I am so delighted that I now have more options on Asian Fusion restaurants. Koku took over Made In Asia next to the CVS in town. The restaurant is modern with hip designs that are comparable to those in the City.  I walked in with my 12-year-old and the brainless hostess sat us right in front of the bar where it was loud and child-inappropriate. Of course, I declined and sat ourselves at the sushi counter and watched the actions.

The friendly sushi chefs were absolutely amazing behind the counters. I couldn’t figure out what language they were speaking and I decided to ask.

“What language are you speaking?”
“Chinese!”
“That’s not Chinese!”

I exclaimed in both English and Mandarin, the official language of China and Taiwan. They then quickly switched into Mandarin and conversed with me. They were speaking the Fuzhou dialect.  I am slightly surprised because the Fuzhou dialect is close to the Min Nan dialect which is also known as Taiwanese. Yes, I can also maneuver in Taiwanese. Confused, I looked up Chinese Dialects in Wikipedia… OMG. This is a moment when having the 5,000 years of Chinese heritage means the world. We really should be more proud as a people. Grilled squid with Teriyaki sauce. Although this dish was in the menu in the restaurant, it is not listed on their website. That’s unfortunate because it was excellent. It was done the authentic Japanese way. The squid was still tender. It was so good that my picky small human changed her opinion on the squid and ate a lot of it! She used to reject eating squids. Salmon roll. Respectable. This is also not on the menu. My new sushi chef friends decided to treat us and made this crab and guacamole appetizer for us.Nabeyaki Udon: Noodle soup w. shrimp, chicken, egg, fishcake & vegetable. Sadly, this is the only dish that under-delivered. The broth was too young. The noodle did not absorb any of the goodness from the broth.

The restaurant appears to be staffed by people, other than the bartender and the hostess, from Fuzhou. They are the friendliest bunch I have ever known in Armonk. They all commute from Flushing; one of the chefs moved from Virginia for this job. They were so eager to please and to make sure that we like the food. They were so eager to deliver high customer service. I don’t think I could ask for more from a restaurant. Koku has great pricing, excellent food, wonderful staff, and a lively atmosphere. Highly recommended it.

This was a completely opposite experience than my recent trip into Chinatown. There was no belittling of me, click here to read my Chinatown post.  Koku’s people are young, vibrant and want to do the best they can. Chinatown is of the past and Asian Fusion in Armonk represents the future!

This experience took place at

Koku
454 Main St
Armonk, NY 10504
Phone:(914) 730-0077

Zenzo Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY – A Ranking of Mamaroneck Ave Asian Fusion Restaurants 

There are four Asian Fusion restaurants in Mamaroneck, NY and I have been to all of them now with Zenzo Sushi rounding up the end of the list. Each has its own uniqueness. Below is a quick summary of them. Click on the name below to read my past reviews.

  • Red Plum – the least expensive and probably the most fusion (bastardized) version of Asian food
  • Haiku – the middle of the road, balancing the fusion with the traditional. I was pleasantly surprised by their specials of Chinese Soup Dumplings… Almost as good as those in Flushing but much closer geographically to home
  • Ginban – Decent food. Friendly staff, caters to families. Big on presentation. A tie with Haiku.
  • Zenzo – The surprising winner with a strong selection of sashimi. Worth returning to try other non raw items that are on the menu. We went off menu and simply ordered whatever we fancied.

Sashimi: Hamachi (Yellowtail), Toro (Fatty Tuna), Maguro (Tuna), and Hotatekai (Scallop). The presentation was clean and elegant. Sushi: Uni (Sea urchin), Ikura (Salmon Roe).

This experience took place at

Zenzo Sushi

328 Mamaroneck Ave
Mamaroneck, NY 10543

 

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY- A Playground for the Children

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY is one of the four Asian Fusion restaurants on a short stretch of Mamaroneck Ave off the Metro North Station. I often wondered how these four restaurants compete and survive. Ginban apparently is the family friendly one. When I was there, there were two groups of families with small children. The children (4-5 of them all around 5-6 years old) ran around the entire restaurant playing hide and seek, without discouragement from parents nor the restaurant staff. They were very noisy and I asked to sit as far from them as possible.

Interestingly, Ginban is positioning itself as a “cutting-edge” and hip restaurant filled with adults. The image and reality are diametrically different.Sushimi Delux. 21 pieces of assorted raw fish. Can’t complain. It’s fresh raw fish cut up with wasabi, soy sauce and ginger. Beautifully presented!Salmon roll  Miso Soup. Decent.Fried Rice with Chicken. Decent and edible.Tempura Fried Ice Cream. Was told that this is their most popular dessert. Yuck. It was horrible. The batter was greasy. Vanilla Ice Cream. My 12-year-old critic did not like it. Now, for a child to not like ice cream…

In conclusion, if I had a family in Mamaroneck with small children and want to eat dinner out in a restaurant with contemporary atmosphere (almost like the City but not quite), Ginban is where I would come. My children could eat the generic chicken fried rice, be exposed to slightly more exotic dishes like salmon roll, and run around in the restaurant after they finish eating. I can then eat in peace with my husband, partner or friends. It’s all about targeting your demographics- Ginban’s website content should be re-written.

This experience took place at

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi
421 Mamaroneck Ave
Mamaroneck NY 10543
phone 914.777.8889

Red Plum in Mamaroneck, NY- Take Two and A Challenge for the Bastardized Asian Cuisine

This was a funny visit where I tested Red Plum’s ability to understand English and be flexible. I had been to Red Plum before with so so experience. Read my prior post (Reliable Old Shoe Asian), click here.

Red Plum offers bastardized fusion Asian cuisine, from an authentically Asian perspective. Let me just say that there is nothing wrong with it if that’s what the local population wants. Hey, I live in a bastardized area and I deserve this Americanized version of Asian cuisine for being highly assimilated. Sashimi Lunch: 12 pieces of assorted sashimi with rice, served with miso soup and salad. This was perfectly fine. Simple and straight forward for $13. They even put a light inside the ice-cube. The extra touch was fun. But in tomorrow’s post, I will show you how to have a lot more sashimi for not a lot more money.
Chirashi Special: 17 pieces of raw fish and vegetables over sushi rice. This was also fine for $20. The fish was fresh and the uni was very tasty.

Here is where the story gets interesting. I went with a picky friend who insisted that sashimi must be placed on the rice in a bowl, like how it is done in Japan, and not placed directly on ice as how Red Plum always serves their sashimi. He has a point! When chirashi is served on a bed of ice, it is very cold and a lot less appetizing. Further, if that’s how the Japanese eat their chirashi, should the Americans and the Chinese really argue with it? Red Plum is run by the Chinese, as far as I can tell.

My friend explained his request once to the waiter. The waiter did not understand and brought in a waitress, who presumably has better language skills. In the meantime, the wait staff were talking to each other about this request all in Mandarin, which I understand. My friend explained it again, in English, to the waitress. Then came a long conversation, back and forth, with the waitress attempting to clarify the “weird” request and my friend not understanding why she doesn’t get it.

I finally could not listen anymore, after about five minutes of this… I interrupted in Mandarin and repeated the exact same request, in Mandarin, to the waitress. Her response to me was, “That’s really what he wanted?” She did understand him but she didn’t believe what she heard! She also confessed to me that they didn’t have a bowl! Hmm. No bowls in a Chinese restaurant… I told her that there must be one, somewhere back there.

Other than the fact that there is a cultural and language gap between the diners and Red Plum, I feel Red Plum did an excellent job serving the Americanized Asian food. The Sashimi Lunch and Chirashi were well priced and fresh. I will now return and only order in Mandarin! I am sure I will get outstanding service as well as getting a bowl for my meal.  🙂

This experience took place at

Red Plum
251 Mamaroneck Ave.
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Tel: (914) 777-8696 | 777-6888

P.S. This is my December writing challenge 5 of 17, writing one post a day until I leave for vacation.

Wanderlust Taiwan- Ham and Egg Breakfast Crêpes Taiwanese Style. Fusion is Who I Am.

To make up for my error from the first breakfast, I stopped at this joint that serves breakfast in a fusion style… I am usually not a fan of fusion food but this has been an interesting experience for me. When I left Taiwan decades ago, fusion breakfast did not exist. It was shao bing 燒餅, you tiao 油條, 饅頭 and dou jiang 豆漿 all the way (will cover the traditional breakfast soon). I discovered this fusion style when I returned a few years ago. This type of establishment serves sandwiches, bagels, and crêpes Taiwanese style. How is it Taiwanese style, you may ask? For example, the ham and the eggs all taste different. They are all made in Taiwan. 😋


At this kind of place, you don’t pay for packaging. So the two crêpes here were stuffed into a small paper box for me to bring home. The two crêpes are $50 TWD or approximately $1.7 USD.

The store front. If I had the balls, I would have pointed my camera at the cook top. The whole operation is fascinating to me: three people man the small counter, money changes hands quickly, food and money are often handled by the same hand, multiple languages are used (Taiwanese, Mandarin, and something else I didn’t recognize.)

The fusion menu with categories in burgers, toasts, bagels, crêpes, snacks (side dishes of fries, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, red bean pancakes, and onion rings), Chinese style (scallion pancakes, taro cakes, dumplings), noodles (pasta and Asian style noodles), jams (from peanut butter to green tea/taro/black sesame), drinks (from soy milk, black tea, green tea to cafe latte).

The lady who took my order called me “Mei Mei 妹妹” or “little sister” in a diminutive but affectionate way.

I am finally home. For now, I am fusion in Asia. ❤️💜💛💚💙

This experience took place at

美而美
台北市崇德街在捷運六張犁車站旁邊
On Congde St right next to Liuzhangli MRT station
Daan District of Taipei City

Water Moon in Rye, NY – Trading Authentic Asian Food for Pretty Bathrooms? Being Fusion Equals Being Indistinguishable. Where Are You From, Pretty Lady?

Water Moon in Rye, NY is a #FusionAsian restaurant or in #PeilinCorbanese speak – a bastardized Asian food restaurant. I rarely go to fusion Asian restaurants unless I am desperate or needing comfort. Today was neither. I was there because a new friend changed the reservation at the last minute and thought this would be a better restaurant to try out. Guess what? It was not too bad for a fusion Asian restaurant and for Americanized Asian food. It clearly has the syndrome of “wanting to be everything to everyone;” the restaurant has a menu that is a mile long covering many popular countries in Asia.

Since Asians from the various Asian countries are “hardly distinguishable” from one another, it makes perfect sense to serve dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Japan all in one fusion Asian restaurant.  It makes perfect sense that people would always ask me where I am from” simply because I look Asian.  People like to guess that I am Filipino, Thai, Chinese, or any other Asian countries they are familiar with. Better yet, many think that Thailand and Taiwan are the same country. I like to tell them that I am Italian – just look at my last name. They usually give me a puzzled look. Then, I take pity on them and succumbed to the stereotype of being a New Yorker to either educate the idiots and the bigots or flip them the bird.


Vietnamese Salad: Nappa with Tamarind peanut dressing. Refreshing but the Nappa could be julienned instead.

Crispy Red Snapper: with baby Shanghai green. The red snapper was crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside, exactly how it should be. This was the best of the night.

Roasted Peking Duck. I had high hopes for this dish because the chefs look like they are from northern China. It was just average. FYI – Peking or Beijing or 北京 is in Northern China.

Just in case you didn’t know, this is how you put the roasted duck and the veggies together in a bun. Sometimes, it’s not a bun but a thin rice sheet that you wrap. I tend to prefer the sheets.

The best part of dinner was the red snapper and running into a work friend. Would I return? Nah – even when Water Moon was voted the best Asian restaurant in the Westchester County from 2004-2010. It was fine as a bastardized Asian restaurant but this is where I draw the line. When it comes to Asian food, I am authentically Asian and not such a commoner.

Any hole in the wall restaurant in Chinatown or Flushing will be much better than this posh restaurant in Rye, NY. But then you wouldn’t have such a pretty bathroom!  Here is a toast to all the idiots and bigots out there.  Without you, none of these fusion Asian restaurants would survive.

This experience took place at

Water Moon Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro
66 Purchase St,
Rye, NY 10580

Má Pêche of Momofuku in NYC – An Unfortunate Incident

I met up with a friend from The Hun School of Princeton at Momofuku’s Má Pêche in midtown Manhattan for dinner. Since Brad and I have not seen each other since our first year in college, the dinner was filled with nostalgia and the fascinating tales of our lives. Má Pêche’s dim sum style food service, blending American and Asian cuisines, provided a much needed interruptions to our intense conversation.

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Pork Bun. They recommend that we pair the pork bun with sake, which Brad did. As far as the pork bun goes, it was ok. The flavor was not as intense as those I could get from the street vendors in Taipei. I will be sure to blog about those street vendors this summer when I return.

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Lobster Rice. This was delicious. Not exactly the Asian flavor profile because I believe there was some cream mixed into the rice. The lobster was succulent. The banana leaf steamed method kept all the moisture in and made the rice a bit sticky.

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Pickled Shiitakes, with baby bok choy and crispy fried onions. I am happy to report that this is authentically Asian with soy sauce and sesame oil as the base. Stir-fried soft baby bok choy contrasted nicely with the meaty shiitakes. There is no funny business with this dish, nothing fusion.

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Cod Fritters. These were not good. Too salty. The outside is not crispy and the inside was mushy.

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Arctic Char Toast. The toast was pumpernickel; it was very hard to chew. The seaweed wrapped around the pumpernickel was just weird. The texture was off. Imagine eating a piece of cardboard wrapped with a soft rubber band. No redeeming quality.

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Honestly, I do not remember what these two desserts are. Toward the end of the meal, I was feeling a little sick.

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Overall, the food was acceptable. Some were even good. However, I became sick immediately after we left the restaurant. This was the first time I had such a strong reaction. So perhaps this is a biased review. Perhaps I needed to focus on the hygiene of the restaurant instead.

This experience took place at

Má Pêche | Momofuku
Chambers New York Hotel
15 W 56th St,
New York, NY 10019
(212) 757-5878

Fusia in NYC – 紐約市的昇Fusia餐廳

I have been missing Taiwan a whole lot recently, for its warmth, familiarity, comfort and a sense of self it evokes. I feel homesick although home is here in New York. To honor my sense of displacement, I will write this Fusia Asian Cuisine restaurant post in traditional Chinese and submit to the fact that this post will get no SEO ranking in English whatsoever. #HomeSick

Fusia 是一個位於曼哈頓市中心的亞洲餐廳。我和我的家人在聖誕節晚上去看百老匯音樂劇,Matilda, 以前去那裡吃晚餐的。那天真是很糟的一天,如果我能重新開始,我一定會改變我的做法,不去曼哈頓! 這一家餐廳是很中式的,客戶服務不頂好,讓我們坐在洗手間旁邊。 因為這是我第一次來這兒,看了一看,餐廳裡大部份都是美國華人還是亞裔美國人,大家都說英文,連餐廳的服務員也說英文。唉呀呀呀呀!真完蛋了!

所以我點了很美國式的菜希望他們能至少能煮美式的中餐。請下面看看。

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Grilled Tofu Skewers: Peanut sate sauce. 這盤豆腐是馬馬虎虎的。我真的是很想要吃台灣的臭豆腐。但因我在美國流浪二十九年,不長回家,我真需要好好學會忘記食物的記憶,不然眼淚就哭也哭不完。

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Thai Calamari: Sweet chili sauce,為什麼這是泰式的小管? 笑死人啊,這是炸得很懶的義大利式的小管。難吃難吃。也很醜,長的像洋蔥圈一樣。

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Miso Soup: Shiitake, seaweed, tofu, scallion。 普通,沒啥好喝。我家煮得比這兒好。香菇切得薄點兒。

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Singapore Noodle: Thin rice noodle, egg, celery, carrot, pepper, onion, bean sprouts, sesame in curry sauce. 新加坡炒米粉煮得很適合美國人口味,很美式。蝦子很多很大,讓妳覺得值得這個價錢。但是,因為他太美式了,很讓我想念台南的柦子米粉。去年暑假有po過,按這兒看。也讓我想起一位董阿姨煮給我們吃的台式米粉和大腸麵線,越想肚子越餓。

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Shrimp Wonton Broth Noodle:Thin egg noodle w. clear chicken broth, baby bokchoy, shiitake, enoki。這是我老公的菜,老公是我家的大廚師,所以我沒有問他的意見。 結婚這麼久了,他煮我吃,他點我吃, 我不批評!

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Chicken Lo Mein: Egg noodle, onion, cabbage, squash. 這個菜的唯一好處是它很大盤。大盤而已! 足以打包,下一頓再吃。但你真的想再吃這個油油的,滑滑的,少味的麵嗎?我可憐的小朋友喜歡這個菜,她是一半美式一半台式。她也喜歡台灣的肉燥麵。

這聖誕節晚餐是我這輩子最難過的一頓 :不只是因為菜難吃,是因為心情不好。  因為那是很痛苦的一天,不管是多好吃一定會感覺像在喝苦瓜湯一樣。Fusia餐廳是一間很美式的中國餐館,菜煮給美國人吃的。正式的中餐到法拉盛去吃吧。Fusia是沒什麼特別的。

This experience took place at

Fusia Aisan Cusine
677 Lexington Ave @ 57th St,
New York, NY 10022
(212) 308-2111

Yum Yum Noodle Bar in Kingston, NY – Surprisingly Slow Service

On my way up to Montreal, Canada, I stopped over at Kingston, NY for dinner. Yum Yum Noodle Bar did not show up when I googled Kingston but it was the only place bubbling with activities at 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon. It is an Asian Fusion type of place with a small college town vibe. The restaurant was filled with diners of all ages. I had high hopes for #noodles!

I apologize for all the red tinted photos below. We sat in a small alcove that is painted deep red with minimal lighting above the table. So please use your imagination.

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Fried Vegetarian Dumplings: Although we went at 5:30pm, the food took around 30-45 minutes to come because the kitchen had only one cook. To compensate for the long wait, this dish was on the house. It was too greasy though.

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Steamed pork buns & pickles: This was good! Two small open-faced buns with tender and well-seasoned pork that fall part easily. Tasted a bit authentically Asian.

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Bibimbap -Korean rice dish: I went for my usual when it comes to Korean. Yum Yum Noodle Bar, although appears to be Asian Fusion, it is really more Korean than Japanese, Chinese, or Thai. I decided to stick to the cuisine the restaurant leans towards to ensure best quality of the food. Plus the waitress told me so. The verdict? It was fine. Still bastardized but fine. My added protein of beef was grilled well. Not as good as what bulgogi would have been for this dish but good enough. This dish was especially tasty after the long wait and the suffering.

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This is the Make Your Own Noodle Bowl: we picked udon as the noodle, chicken broth as the soup base, and pork as the protein. Here is their explanation of the noodle options.

Ramen: Chinese style egg noodle
Rice: gluten-free rice flour noodle
Soba: buckwheat noodle (gluten)
Udon: thick wheat noodle

The pork was tender and delicious like the pork in the buns. But the combo left a lot to be desired. Instead of having the umami from a stewed broth with noodles like one would get from most street vendors in Asia, this bowl tasted like a combo of well-made components but lacked serious harmony with each other. The pork stood out. The udon was blend and too soft. The soup was ok. The nori was ok. But once you try to taste one ingredient with the other, you scream “Blah.” This is a perfect example of a bastardized version of Asian noodles. But in Kingston, I guess it is hip.

One interesting note, the Thai Ice Tea we ordered, although good in a weird way, we believe it was made with soy and not milk!!! It was gritty. Wish we had known. Sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.

FYI – they have got a food truck for catering. Now, that is an idea.

This experience took place at

Yum Yum Noodle Bar
275 fair st • kingston, ny • 845.338.1400

Red Plum in Mamaroneck NY – Reliable Old Shoe Asian

Looking for a reliable Americanized Asian restaurant for lunch? Try Red Plum in Mamaroneck NY. The decor is modern; the menu is just like the other three Asian restaurants on the same street; the price is good for the wallet. Red Plum offers standard Fusion Asian or in Peilin Corbanese’ speak: Americanized Asian food / bastardized Asian food. I went today with a friend and we both ordered the Maki Lunch Special.  Upside: the green tea they served was pretty good!

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This photo is a bit fuzzy but shows the miso soup. It is ok – slightly better than the packet powder version.

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Here is the salad that comes with the lunch. Good for fiber and pedestrian for taste.

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Here are my two rolls: salmon avocado and eel cucumber. They are better than what I could do and decent for the price.

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Here are my friend’s rolls: salmon avocado and tempura roll.

The great thing about this place is that you can be loud and still hear your friend across from you. You can laugh your hearts out and no one would bug you. The waiters and waitresses leave you alone but are very attentive if you look their way. They know how to treat their customers.  The restaurant was not too busy nor too empty.  Just right for a quick get away from the office.

I had a great time with my friend whom I have not seen in over half a year and lunch was the side-show. I highly recommend the place if your primary purpose is not eating great Asian food but to enjoy the atmosphere and the company. Cheers to friendship!

This experience took place at

Red Plum
251 Mamaroneck Ave.
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Tel: (914) 777-8696 | 777-6888