For the month of January, I decided to take a small, not-so dramatic hiatus from blogging. 2018 started way too fast and I cannot lie and say I was ready for it. This was the first year I felt like I didn’t really have anything to look forward to... and I mean that in the least depressing manner. It’s the first year where I wasn’t starting something new right away. Last year on January 2nd I was starting a new job. The years before, while in college, I was always starting new classes and a whole new routine.
When trying to figure out what this year was going to mean for me and how I was going to change my outlook on it, one word came to mind—Purpose. 2018 is my year to really figure out what I want to do and what kind of goals I want to achieve. So I needed a minute to catch my breath. I eventually picked up two new freelance gigs. One working with culinary professionals in the city (something I will dive into detail much later) and the other is doing social media for a nonprofit that supports men of color business owners. My time became really divided and stretched thin this month. The break helped me organize my time between juggling Brunch with Sam and my new responsibilities. Instead of eating out and exploring some of the highly recommended restaurants in the city...my favorite past time, I directed my focus in a different direction this month. I watched three films on the topic of food and culture.
One movie in particular that I want to talk about was called Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set. The movie takes place in early 2000's
when the world of “foodies” meant something totally different than I think it means today. The food bloggers mentioned in the film cared about the art of food, the creativity involved in plating, and had a real appreciation for the chef’s behind those masterpieces.
These bloggers spent a large amount of their time traveling around the world to eat at the most exclusive and extreme restaurants. The film caught some negative heat for the pretentious way they portrayed these foodies' experiences at these luxurious gastronomic restaurants. I thought it was still pretty fascinating to see the effort they were putting into their passion. The film starts off with commentary such as “I’m not fond of this particular champagne *sips Moët & Chandon*, but these are the trials we have to go through,” and “My parents sponsor me financially, and I’m very grateful for it.” *said as he enters the exclusive restaurant Noma* So I see where the negative comments were coming from.
One blogger, Andy Hayler, had a goal to visit all 109 3-star restaurants in the world. At that time there were only 109 and currently we have 163 3-star Michelin Restaurants. In the film, we see Andy visit his last one, Flocons de Sel in the French Alps. The whole movie had me thinking,“Wow. You really have to be a certain type of person to be able to a. afford that and b. just be that dedicated to the craft.” So then it hit me that it would be a pretty cool 2018 goal. I mean, not visiting the large number of 3-star restaurants, but at least going to 3- Michelin starred restaurants. To me, I thought it had to be impossible to get a table at a Michelin restaurant in New York City…until last weekend.
I met up with a friend and she mentioned this amazing dish she had at Uncle Boon's in Nolita. Uncle Boon's has probably just jumped to my number 1 favorite Thai place in New York City. Number 2 is now Pongsri Thai in Times Square...always get the duck. Uncle Boon's is reasonably priced and slightly hard to get a table at even on a Tuesday night. Once we were seated at the bar, I looked up from my menu and BAM. I was eating at a Michelin starred restaurant without even knowing it. Uncle Boon's has one Michelin Star, meaning it is "a very good restaurant in its category." I enjoyed the best Thai meal for under $45, including tip, at my first Michelin star restaurant.
For a starter, we shared a plate of the Grilled Baby Octopus. At most establishments, I find octopus, calamari, and squid to be the one item that can really be a hit or miss and Uncle Boon's nailed it. For the entree, we scarfed down the Yum Kai Hua Pli-- an extremely spicy, rotisserie chicken and banana noodle salad with cashews and a roasted chili dressing. You would think that banana noodles would taste like...banana, but that couldn't be further from the truth. They tasted like real noodles and it was served cold. The salad was topped with mint leaves to help cool you down from the heat of the dressing. Nevertheless, it was more than just enjoyable. Mesmerizing, divine, incomparable. I could go on for days.
Come to find out, Uncle Boon has a sister! And she's right around the corner from the flagship location, on Mott Street. Here's the kicker...the restaurant is named Uncle Boon's Sister. Her style is more "fast casual," unlike her brother who makes you wait 45 minutes to an hour for a seat that you never want to give up even when you finished your meal. Although I only tried two dishes from Uncle Boon's menu, I can see myself returning for those same two. If you do get the chance to eat at either establishment, please let me know what you get and how you liked it.
Uncle Boon's is not food for the Instagram generation of "foodies." Your dish might arrive without any artful plating whatsoever. Our salad was piled on top of a delicious pool of sauce. No real thought behind it. The lighting is dim and warm, so it contradicts many "foodies'" methods of taking food pics in bright, natural lighting.
So sorry, this isn't the place to come if you're just trying to "do it for the 'gram." They have their Michelin Star for being one of the best Thai restaurants in the world. You eat at Uncle Boon's to enjoy a splendid meal from their long menu of options. That is what being a real "foodie" really is.
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