Num Pang Sandwich Shop: The best sandwich in New York

No, the best sandwich in New York is not a pastrami sandwich from Katz, or any other classic New York delicatessen. Zagat gave the award to this quick and informal Cambodian sandwich shop near Union Square, on University and 12th Street.

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Num Pang Sandwich Shop

(Note: the anonymous hipster is not guaranteed during your visit.)

The sandwiches are an interesting fusion of European and Asian cuisine. While the legacy of French occupation has influenced this particular Cambodian food item, the meat and veggies within the sandwich have a very particular Asian flavor. The foundation of Num Pang is the soft, freshly toasted baguette roll, while the flavors inside the sandwich can vary from sweet Asian sauces to spicy styles of meat familiar in Thai restaurants.

Inside, each sandwich comes with a homemade chili mayo sauce, cilantro, carrots, and cucumber. The sauce complements the meat with both a creamy essence and a bit of heat. Similarly, the veggies do not distract from the flavor of the meat, but give the sandwich an interesting crunchy texture.

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The Grilled Khmer Sausage sandwich

Ishita and I ordered two sandwiches:

The Pulled Duroc sandwich is very sweet. The quality and taste of the pork itself is quite good, but the base of the dish is a spiced Honey sauce. If you enjoy foods like sweet flavors with meat, like sweet and sour sauce or teriyaki, you will enjoy this.

The Grilled Khmer Sausage sandwich takes a different approach. The sausage was leaner and thicker than the pork. The taste was characterized by a bit of spice and heat, as well as the smoky, lean taste of the sausage. Even as an avid lover of sweet foods, this sandwich was the better option.

In addition to the sandwiches, there are a multitude of interesting Asian drinks, ranging from teas, Ginger Beer, and watermelon juice. I personally recommend the “blood orange lemonade”.

The restaurant itself is designed for take-out and on to go eaters, but there is a small eating area on the second floor if you feel like sitting down. The restaurant can be a bit busy sometimes, but it’s well worth the wait.

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The Asian Ghetto Exploration #1: Bear’s Ramen House

the infamous asian ghetto of UC Berkeley

Asian Ghetto is one of the oft-frequented casual dining gems of UC Berkeley. Located on Durant (between the intersecting streets of Telegraph and College), the Asian Ghetto is a cluster of convenient fast food eating options (incidentally, only a few of them are Asian).

The Bear Ramen House is a hole-in-the-wall Korean eatery. The seating space is nearly non-existant (perhaps 5 people can sit inside, bar-style seating), and the food takes roughly 5 to 15 minutes to be made. So far, I have only tried one of Bear Ramen House’s dishes (one of their most popular dishes) – Kimchi Fried Rice with Spam ($7.50).

kimchi fried rice with spam

The dish is spicy in a nuanced manner (with sour undertones) accompanied by small, diced pieces of spam and a fried egg on top. Several of my friends who are not as accustomed to spice found the dish hard to eat after a few bites; however, if you crave spicy food, the dish will definitely hit the spot. The more subtly flavored crisp fried egg on top is a great contrast to the thicker tasting spam scattered throughout the rice. The portion size of the rice was more than adequate — I would suggest ordering “to go” even if you plan on eating in the surrounding area so you can easily carry the leftovers home.

I would recommend this place to someone who craves spicy, filling food and does not have access to a kitchen (if you do, I imagine it would be much more time and cost effective to whip up this simple dish in your own home).

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La Laterna: rich flavors, romantic ambiance, an affordable pleasure

la laterna located at 129 MacDougal Street New York, NY 10012

Last week, I visited NYC for a few days and explored a bunch of fun eateries with my favorite foodie, Robert. Although we mostly sampled NYC’s offerings of casual dining (thank you college student budget), we stumbled upon an unassuming gem on MacDougal Street – La Laterna di Vittorio. The restaurant’s exterior doesn’t do justice to its unique, romantic exterior. Lighting is minimal while the furniture is reminiscent of that which would be in a European garden. There are three parts of the restaurant — the immediate seating, downstairs seating with jazz and then an indoor patio (shown above). Our experience of sitting in the indoor patio was marvelous: paper lights hanging at different heights coupled with subtle wall lighting made La Laterna an ideal Friday night date spot.

Robert and I ordered the following dishes:

Appetizer: Pomodoro e Basilico Bruschetta ($6.99) — 3 generous slices of crisp but airy peasant bread topped with finely chopped tomato, onion, and basil. This was a great starter because the bread was light while the toppings were fresh. It revved up our appetites for the upcoming entrees without stealing too much valuable stomach real estate.

Entree 1: Lasagna Quattro Formaggi ($12.99) — this dish was the classic four cheese pasta dish: satisfying cheesy creaminess, silky pasta, the top baked crisp to perfection. As almost every four cheese pasta usually tends to be, this dish was definitely very heavy (many will argue that this is what gives this classic comfort food its charm.) If you choose to try this dish, I would recommend ordering it as a dish to be shared among your party instead of a personal entree. If you’re in the mood to try something risky or new – I’d go for something else on the menu.

Entree 2: Pizza con Salmone Affumicato e Cipolla ($13.99) — this pizza was the star entree of the night! Every component of the dish seems to come together perfectly: thin and delicate slices of smoked salmon coupled with creamy mascarpone cheese, slightly tart capers, and mildly sweet onions. Moreover, the pizza is incredibly thin crust which allows the smoked salmon and cheese to take the front stage (it also means that this entree disappears especially quickly…). If these flavors seem even mildly appealing to you, I would urge you to try this dish — it’s the reason that I am sure I will be making my way back to La Laterna next time I am in NYC.

All in all, I would definitely recommend La Laterna for an enjoyable affordable dining experience. If you’re going with more than four people, consider calling ahead of time to make a reservation — most likely, that will save you the average 10-30 minutes of wait on a busy weekend night. Enjoy!

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Welcome to The Gourmet Life

Hey there!
We’re two college students living in the food capitals of the US — the Bay Area and New York City. We enjoy sampling food from a wide variety of cuisines and exploring unique gastronomical creations. On Welcome to The Gourmet Life, we hope to share some of our favorite restaurant picks and general food commentary.

Hope you enjoy and bon appétit!
Robert Baldwin and Ishita Arora

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