yoga, art, and hotdogs

Instead of just the weekend, I’m going to cover everything I did this week… this could be quite long. I’m sure I’ll eventually get tired of doing these posts, the whole “kissing and telling” aspect of it is already beginning to turn me off.

//The Week

-School:

I’m done with physics finally after having a test on monday, then a final on thursday in the same class. I find it cool that I can apply the light and lenses chapter to photography, with the most obvious application being polarizing filters.

I still have to finish up math, which ends on the 17th. After that I’m going to SF for a couple days to check things out. If you’re in SF, or have recommendations on what to do whether it be tech meetups, events, places to eat, or things to see, let me know. (tweet at me)

-East Side King’s new cold ramen

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Went to ESK Hole in the Wall to meet up with Deana and to take pictures of their new ramen specials. Honestly, despite all the hype of an ESK opening up near campus, I didn’t really like the food at the hole in the wall. I know I’m being a tough critic, their fried chicken is indeed tasty… but the ramen and the rest of the menu has always been sort of a miss with me. The problem may be that there’s just too much quirkiness going on without getting down the fundamentals first.

So the new cold ramen that they’re presenting this week are the best specials I’ve had at ESK hole in the wall. Most of the time I recommend eating there only if you’re in between class or close to campus, but I actually think these new ramen are worth taking a drive for.

-Dumpling happiness

dumpling happiness

Dumpling happiness is a food trailer located right outside Whislers, which is an up and coming bar on the East Side. The bar itself is a mixed bag, in the sense that their cocktails are pretty bad, and the crowd is full of Rainey St. yuppy transplants, but it’s quite a cool looking place where you can get a really tall pour of straight liquor for 6~ bucks(which is average).

The trailer apparently has been around for a while, just in other locations in Austin. Which leads me to this point: It’s not worth driving to eat at a trailer in Austin.  Why? You have to eat outside, it’s more expensive than a regular restaurant, and they’re generally really inconstant. Of course there are exceptions… actually I can’t think of any right now.

To put it straight, I think the dumplings taste good. I like the Pork and Ginger since the filling is very soft and tends to melt in your mouth sort of like a soup dumpling. I would also recommend the Glass Gyoza which is a pork dumpling wrapped in chicken skin and fried. The rest I don’t really care for. I respect that they have black vinegar available, never trust a dumpling place that doesn’t have vinegar. 

I know a lot of my friends have already tried this place and dismissed it for being too expensive(to get full you’d probably have to spend $14+ bucks). The thing is, the location is really convenient which is the whole point of a trailer in the first place. You have to admit it’s smart as a business owner to place yourself at a bar full of drunk yuppies with lots of cash that are feeling adventurous since they’re finally getting out to the east side. The cook is hustling, putting forward a decent product with grounded roots. And for that I give this place a thumbs up.

-@dennis_qian visiting

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For lack of an image of this, here’s a picture of my bike on the Metro Rail. Which is California-esque anyways.

One of my friends from high school came to Austin from California on Thursday. When he brought the trip up I told him I’d be available for dinner, blah blah blah. Turns out I had a physics test from 7-10pm on the only day he was visiting. I have to get more organized… especially when it comes to friends making trips to my city. It’s horrible but I always intend on crashing at friends’ places when I visit, and I’m always scatter brained with people visit me.

Dennis happens to be a developer(Github), and one that I respect very much. It was sobering talking to him about the job market for programmers. It’s not like dream jobs are handed to you on a silver platter, you have to at least make some effort. The biggest point he made was relying on the fact that a nice cushy, entry level corporate job is waiting for you incase you fail is the wrong mindset to be in. It’s all about the hustle.

By the way, as of today I’ve made headway on Flickr. It’s crunch time to improve my skills before I meet up with the team later this Summer. And for you critics… saying “Wait isn’t Flickr huge and owned by Yahoo?” Photography is my passion, and Flickr has been my favorite photo sharing website for 6 years… to be able to work on the product and have users that I adore and admire would be a dream. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s my dream job.

Props to Dennis for landing another job in SF.

P.S There’s probably a reason why I don’t hang out with random people from high school anymore unless they’re close friends. I hate talking about prom(it went pretty bad for me) and reminiscing about those days makes me immediately want to down as much alcohol as possible pronto. I had a terrible hangover on Friday.

-Mission Hotdogs

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Oh and here’s a food stand called Mission hotdogs, I can’t find them on yelp because they’re quite new, but I really liked the one I got with green papaya salad on top. It was $5, and beat the hell out of Frank’s hotdogs which are about $9. You can find the cart located outside of The Brixton Thursday-Friday night.

-The Weekend:

For some reason Dennis woke me up at 7am, despite me going to sleep at 5am, still drunk, in this period of lack of sleep/hangover we managed to get food at Habanero which is still the most consistently good Mexican/Tex-Mex place in Austin. And after we went to Summermoon Cafe… where apparently the Americano’s come with 3 shots of espresso on the regular. Started the weekend both wired and tired.

Laid around the house in this zombie like state all day, and eventually kicked myself into going to a yoga event which I probably would have never gone to:

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When I tell most people about this type of yoga… they’re like that’s yoga? Well apparently so, if you’re interested in coming here’s the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/austinacrocommunity/

While watching the 3rd season of Portlandia, there’s a scene where someone makes the comment, “Maybe everyone’s just cropping out the sadness.” referring to people online who just instagram or post the fun bits so Here’s me… struggling Mandy’s expression is… well… yeah.

-Random Art

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Headed downtown via metro Rail to check out some art exhibits I saw on Facebook. One of which was at Farewell Books, which was formally known as Domy Books. 

As a guy who hasn’t studied art and is still new to the contemporary art scene… I really don’t have much to say about the exhibit named “Jungle.”

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What I did find interesting though, was this book called Shoot: Photography of the Moment which has photos that exemplify a candid style of photography I hope to work towards… which is pretty challenging if you think about it since in order to have interesting candid pictures, you have to live an interesting life yourself. 

If you’re in Austin and you’re bored, going to Farewell Books, grabbing an espresso from Flat Track Coffee, and taking a look at the art and their book selection sounds like a fine plan to me.

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The second was located at Mass Gallery which I couldn’t find for the life of me. It’s located in the same complex as Mettle which is a new restaurant by the same people who own La Condessa and Sway. Haven’t ate there yet, but it looked like a poppin’ joint from the outside.

They were showing some films that apparently made a commentary on modern social media. I didn’t understand the 2 I saw, and the room was too crowded to go in.

-Ryan’s Birthday party

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Back at the house, a bunch of my roomate’s friends came by most of whom are in the service and food industry. Had some tasty drinks, grilled food, and the most amazing salsa I’ve ever had.

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Afterwards they went downtown, I went to the arcade to play street fighter for a bit, then headed downtown to join them at The Eastern. Lester was in attendance. Wesley, who now works as a bartender at The Jackalope, asked, “Patrick, do you want to go Swimming?”

“Yeah I’m down.”

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Normally if you said that you swam in someone’s apartment complex at 3am, it doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary. Well… yeah, I hope this was ordinary so it happens more.

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Fun people. Good times.

-Volleyball

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I played volleyball for the first time in years. I’ve only played a total of 3-4 times in my whole life, at least I got the ball over the net a few times and got all my serves(noob underhand style) inbounds. The house is now covered with sand, sorry roomies.

-Interesting posts:

Well if you’ve already made it down here in the post, why not indulge in interesting articles I’ve found over the week.

-Music

So yeah that was this week.

A random weekend in Austin

Well I actually did some stuff this weekend for once.

Today (Sunday):
I spent most of today hungover and now I’m supposed to be cramming for a Physics test tomorrow… but instead I’m going to take a moment to boost my e-credibility.

Friday:

A while ago I met a local artist named Kevin with his dog over at Tamale House East. He posted on his facebook page about having a piece in an art show located at a gallery that I’ve always passed by and always wanted to go to.

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The gallery, which I think is named H15H, was a short, yet hilly bike ride away from the house I just moved into(it seems everywhere is uphill from my place).

pizza cats

I arrived hot and sweaty as usual to a really crowded, tiny, and unairconditioned room with a lot of odd pieces of art. I was familiar with the main artists running the show, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think the most standout piece of this pizza art exhibit was a wooden pizza, adorned with various wooden pizza toppings.

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As I was taking a breather outside, I overheard a girl who was sitting near a couple plants ask, “Is this kale?” And I was like… hmm this is something that would probably go on the “Stuff girls say” twitter. On the flip side, I think the question stood out to me so much since I like kale quite a bit and have an obsession with it myself.

My intention was to then head to either a Foreign Mother’s concert which Kana, a girl who also waitresses at Tatsuya, is the main singer for, or to a birthday gathering a Plush(which I want to claim is one of the coolest bar’s downtown for several reasons). Both seemed to start at 10, which really means 11 or later now days, so I decided to stop by Qui… which was on the way.

That logic works right? 

Right?

I only wanted to stop for a beer, but Tim Dornon… the scooter rider and ex head chef at Uchiko, convinced me to stay and eat. It was a good decision.

ode to michel bras @qui

I’m going to repeat this… when you go to a restaurant that has a nice bar, try and sit there. One of the chefs working right behind the bar, Colin, recognized me from the last time I came in and we had a nice conversation. Initially I ordered 2 sashimi dishes, and the really pretty Ode to Michel Bras dish which I always wanted to try. I was afraid that I was going to leave still hungry.

Ode to Michel bras is a really beautiful dish which combines the textures of various veggies from local farmers with a refreshing garlic dashi stock. I actually had this stock some time ago at Uchi, which was the first time I got a glimpse of Paul Qui’s skills and genius.

The notion, “Food can be uplifting.” crossed my mind as I ate this.

Between the 2 sashimi courses, my waiter handed me a wet towel and told me that I’d might need it for the next dish. Turns out I was given a plate of grilled shrimp, and pretty huge ones at that.

Day boat gulf shrimp @qui

I’ve never been a shrimp guy, always thought they were too much hassle for the reward. But I think these have changed my mind. They were prepped in such a way that the goodies located in the head and abdomen slipped out as you pulled out the tail. The creaminess of those parts, along with the succulent meat of the tail really got to me.

This dish embodied Qui in my opinion, it’s a place where the chefs are constantly receiving new and interesting ingredients that they can experiment on. Paul said the shrimp wouldn’t be as good the next day so he gave me a plate of them. After downing 6 of these guys I was stuffed. I was scared that I wouldn’t have the appetite to appreciate the next dish. Luckily it got canceled, and I walked off full and happy.

What do I think of Qui as a restaurant? I don’t know. I think I’d have to go a couple more times to give a proper judgement. I shall make a post in the future about it.

transport

As I was biking towards downtown, a stream of pedicabbers with no passengers were biking the opposite direction towards me, saying that it was going to rain heavily soon. I saw a ton of thunder coming from downtown, but decided to head down anyways. As I was biking past the convention center… the train was there almost ready to leave, so I was like… hmm free ride home(no hills!)! Arrived back just as the storm started.

-Saturday:

Had breakfast of sweet potato hash at Cherrywood cafe (where I currently am right now writing this…) with 2 friends.

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We saw a cute corgi.

ala momofuku

Went to East Side Kings to take food photos with my roommates. I’m not allowed to upload the photos for myself before the official announcement according to a decree by lord D. So here’s a photo of a special that they don’t have. I honestly think The Grackle is the best out of the trailers since they’re the most inventive and playful.

The new menu at the Shangrila location was pretty bad… which is probably why it’s being removed. Despite all the yumminess of ESK, I think if they made food that was easier for drunk people to eat that maybe came in a bun or you could eat off a skewer… it would be a smash it.

There’s a new dumpling place at Whislers that I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about, that’s the way to go since you can share them easily with friends and eat them without much fuss.

I think a dessert even as simple as a custard or ice cream would kill over on the east side. It’s hot as hell here in Austin during the Summer. I don’t know why there isn’t a snowcone stand on East 6th(correct me if I’m wrong).

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I headed over to Cenote after to finish up some homework, which was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night. I saw a chick pour a Topo Chico into a champaign glass and head outside to join her friends. I know the mineral water has been popular for years, but now it’s literally everywhere.

I don’t have anything against the product… just an observation.

Finished the HW, and proceeded to head to a birthday party…

Long story short, Tatsuya chefs were there, I drank too much, missed out on some epic Pokemon freestylings, and ended up puking for the 3rd time in my life.

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Oh yeah they had a fat kitty.

Austin is a pretty cool city. I keep talking about heading off to other places, criticizing and mouthing off about things I find wrong here. But in reality I think I’m just making excuses to not take the effort to change myself.

The Dojo, Austin Izakaya Restaurant

I just went back tonight… a Saturday, during what should have been “peak” hours the food and experience wasn’t good at all. Service was okay, but man that food was terrible. 

Disclaimer: The following review was for the soft opening.

//Intro:

With all the new restaurant openings and food coming into Austin, the ONE thing that I wanted to see the most was a late night Izakaya place. (Picture above was taken at Kenka in New York.)

But why this in particular?

One of the things that I enjoy the most when visiting my friends in Cali, NY, or even Las Vegas for that matter, is going out late at night to an izakaya with a relatively large group of friends, drinking an obscene amount of beer and sake, playing drinking games, and eating a wide assortment of tasty “tapas” styled dishes which I can share with everyone on the table. It’s just fun.

I’m not an expert on Japanese food, I’ve just always wanted to be able to do the same thing in Austin… and now thanks to this place I can.

Even with the influx of new Japanese places here in Austin, The Dojo is unique since it closes at 3AM on weekends and 2AM on other days. That’s pretty awesome.

//Interior and Service:

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First thing that stands out when you walk in is the size of the place. It’s really large and spacious, which is sort of different than the other izakayas that I’ve been to.

When I first found out they were going to have teppanyaki (Benhihana style with the chef that does all the knife tricks) I was VERY worried. It seems like they were trying to attempt way too many things at the same time. But the teppanyaki tables are hidden away from the main restaurant, which is nice since having that in the middle of the restaurant would have been an annoying distraction for any of the other tables not doing it.

They have a really inviting bar in the middle of the restaurant. I think it’s perfect for when you’re just going with 1 other person. I didn’t see bar hooks to put your bags (key detail in my opinion), but oddly enough… there are electric outlets at almost every other seat which means you can probably camp out here with your ipad or laptop for a quite a while.

Service was awesome. Our server was comfortable explaining the dishes and the whole concept of the restaurant. This didn’t feel like Michi where I felt like I had to actually explain what food I was ordering to our waitress…

//Ramen:

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SO is this just another place trying to jump on the ramen bandwagon? Lets see.

The noodles seemed inconsistent among everyone at my table. Mine were overcooked. I think they made a good choice with the noodles… just need to work on the timing.

Egg was undercooked and had mushy whites in the center.

I don’t think the eggs here will ever be as good as Tatsuya’s since they don’t have the chashu juice to cook theirs in, but at least they could be well cooked.

One could say that the broth lacks flavor in comparison to Tatsuya and even Daruma(which is considered to be light), but I think it was acceptable for a Miso broth, you have to keep in mind that Tatsuya’s miso ramen is actually a Tonkotsu broth with miso in it.

I like that Austin is finally reaching a point where we can have a choice for different styles of Ramen. If you don’t like the intense fattiness of Tatsuya’s tonkotsu broth, you can go to either The Dojo or Daruma  if you still want a noodle soup that has interesting toppings and playfulness.

The chashu pork was really good, very similar to Totto in NY.

I think the temperatures in the ramen need to be tweaked so that the toppings, cold egg, and hot ramen work together, as it stands right now… they’re totally off. I don’t know how this is done, but some other places(tatsuya and ramen shops in other cities) have figured it out so it’s possible. It’s also worth noting that I Daruma also lacks this subtle control of temperature.

I think the broth was a tad too hot at first, but after the broth cooled down a bit it was tasted quite amazing with the corn.

There are 2 ramen sizes which is convenient if you’re going to try more stuff. The small comes with 1 piece of chashu, and the large has 2. Just don’t be a pansy and get the large bowl on your first visit to see what it’s all about. I would recommend adding corn ontop.

Here’s the current ramen tier for Austin:

Tatsuya > Daruma == The Dojo > Musashino > Michi > Kome

It’s kind of weird that Kome’s ramen hasn’t gotten better… despite them owning Daruma as well. Hmm. Also I haven’t been to any of the places in Cedar Park yet.

//Dishes

I didn’t take a picture of the menu so I forgot some dish names…

The good:

-Karaage -

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I actually like The Dojo’s version of fried chicken… more than East Side Kings (blasphemy I know). 1 order has enough pieces so that 5 people can each have 1 piece.

-Yaki Tsukune – Juicy chicken meat balls with a quail egg, quite nice, but perhaps it can have more flavor and be easier to share with more people.

-Fried potato croquette - you get 2 of these for 3 bucks!

-Tuna Avocado Salad -

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A bowl of avo and fresh tuna mixed up, quite an honest portion. Could be made better with some crispy rice.

-Assorted Tempura’d Vegetables(forgot name) - A variety of tempura’d veggies. I really like that they included shishito peppers into the mix.

-Cocktails – I actually enjoyed the cucumber drink and the yopuri lemon. I don’t know about the sugar rim on the yopuri cocktail, but the kick of ginger along with the lemon was very pleasant.

Not so great:
-Cucumber Salad (really bland and unmarinated, compare the flavor of this to cucumber kimchi at any of the Korean markets here)
-Kimchi Fried Rice – I actually thought this packed a lot of flavor due to the charred bits, but for the sake of trusting the Korean girl sitting at my table who knows more about such things, I’ll have to default to her opinion that it wasn’t good.
-Drunken Clams – Had an intense sake flavor, but I’m not sure about this dish being on the menu. Didn’t seem substantial enough, and might possibly be too much effort to produce for such little yield.

//Improvements

-Pitchers of beer: I love that the beer comes in a chilled glass, but ordering it by the bottle gets a little expensive and tedious in my opinion. The convivial spirit of the place would be improved if people got either larger mugs of beer or pitchers.

-Beer selection: While they have all the standard Japanese import beer, I think they should explore local options. Perhaps ABW Peacemaker, Live Oak Hefewizen, and 512 Wit, Ommegang (from NY) Hennepin, and even Rogness Yogi(for its gingery flavor) should be added to the list.

-Dishes that are easier to share amongst 4~ people - Perhaps a yakitori sampler?

-More daring dishes - I want to see heart, liver… that stuff Anthony Bourdain would want to come in and eat. Ya know? I really want to come in and find dishes such as collar bone or more types of yakitori on the menu. I think Austin is ready to actually have the good stuff.

-Ramen wait time – despite the restaurant being almost totally empty, our ramen took a long time to come out, and the quality was inconsistent among all of us. Sort of a warning sign.

//Crazy Ideas that could make this place THE SPOT.

-Beer tower: I know that it seems that I just want more beer… but yeah if they had that crazy glowing lamp beer tower that places such as Mad For Chicken has in NY. It could create quite the buzz.

-Karaage bucket: Yeah. I know this is really what all of us want. Make it happen.

-Cut the ramen entirely:. I know this sounds crazy, as they put a lot of work into the recipe. But if they just let go of this crazy time intensive dish and focused more on their other offerings, it would really help the restaurant.

-Larger tables: I really want to see more 6-8 seaters… that sounds like a good time.

Conclusion

Initially I thought there was no way a restaurant could handle teppanyaki, ramen, izakaya, and binchotan all at once… but The Dojo might be able to do it. I fear that they will run into a ton of problems as more people come into the restaurant, but I’m hopeful they’ll figure it out and do well in the future.

This is a great place to go to with a party of about 4~ people (most tables are 4 seaters) and maybe even a great spot to go with just 1 friend in which case I recommend sitting at the bar.

As for price this place isn’t cheap, but I feel like it’s of good value. Portion sizes are humble and honest.

  • Apps – 3$~
  • Main dishes - $6-8
  • Ramen - small $6/ large $8, (toppings are needed)
  • Drinks – Beer and cocktails about $4

An average person would probably get 1-2 apps, 2 main dishes, and 2 drinks. Keep in mind that you should order in the spirit of sharing your dishes with the table.

Eating and drinking here with friends then going to Pinballz Arcade or karaoke which are really close by to the place would probably be an ideal night for me!

Score: 7/10

Here’s a link to their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DojoAtx

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Yup, this is who we are. Check out my friends stuff at http://www.petertsaiphotography.com/ and http://www.nicolaimccrary.com/

 

vice and magnum photography

I think everyone has seen at least one photo by a Magnum photographer, the thing is the Magnum name has never been big (in my opinion) with the younger demographic. I think this could be due to the fact that people usually find their photos in magazines such as National Geographic, which doesn’t seem to be the place to find something new, hip, or trendsetting.

The Vice / Magnum partnership is amazing since it channels the works of experienced photographers to a younger demographic. As subjective as the field of photography is, Magnum photographers have such a mastery of the technical parts of a good image, as well as the balls to go out and take photos in the most extreme situations. They aren’t hipsters going out and taking photos haphazardly at a set time. They are always out, always taking photos, and refining their eyes and their skills.

Check it out:

http://www.vice.com/columns/vice-loves-magnum

 

 

Book Review – Fresh off the boat

As an attempt to create more content on this site, I’m going to start posting my thoughts on books and magazines.

The majority of the books that I go through are actually full of photography (haha), but I’ve started regularing Farewell Books, the most bad ass independent book store in Austin, where I’ve started to spend time reading local publications and well-curated selections by the owners.

So, seeing as I don’t really read that much, the majority of this “review” will be what I took from the book in general.

I guess if you don’t know about Eddie, I would first check out any of the videos you can find of him on youtube or his series on vice.com. If you like Anthony Bourdain, you’ll like his show. I especially like this clip where he calls anyone who pokes a hole in their xiao long bao (soup dumpling) a hooligan.

-Fresh off the Boat

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Eddie, who is now 31, had a childhood that was very similar to many Asian American teens growing up in the recent decades. At first we get a typical story of a first generation Asian kid growing up in America, where there is a clash between the home he grew up in and the world that surrounded him. I guess the best example would be the first time he was introduced to macaroni & cheese at a friends house.

“Macaroni is to Chinamen as water is to gremlins, teeth are to blow jobs, and Asian is to American. It just didn’t fit.”

The book goes through, in great detail, the many events of Eddie’s life that built up who he is today. He faced many adversities such as being picked on when he went to a white Christian private school for being an Asian, non-believing minority, and even getting denied a job at a newspaper due to the look of his face. There’s also the first time he got called a chink at school, which is sort of wrapped in this hilarious story involving Kid Cuisine.

The thing I respect most about him is that instead of just being docile and accepting these cultural norms in America, Eddie fought back both physically and on paper as well. He stopped taking crap from his oppressors and just beat the living shit out of them. He eventually got a felony during college which hurt his chances of getting a job and progressing in life, but he figured if he could become a lawyer, and obtain a piece of paper that basically said, “Son, I know the law.” everything would work out. So he busted his ass, passed the bar exam, went to law school, and landed a job at a top firm.

xiao long bao @ din tai fung

He keeps the same spirit when he champions Taiwanese culture and food. In my opinion, in the beginning of his life, Eddie never really knew why he was being bullied. But, as he gradually got to know the food and culture of his homeland, he started to have a reason to fight back, to be a proud and loud ass Chinaman. He goes into such detail over staple Taiwanese dishes and his experiences surrounding them. He makes the compelling argument that there is a narrative that surrounds the food that people cook, and those stories should persist and be heard. That most fusion cooking is a bastardization stemming from ignorance of a culture’s food coming from a chef who just wants to put a spin on new American and French cuisine. If we all conformed to American standards, we’d just be eating macaroni and cheese and chicken breast for dinner, and all jokes aside, that would suck dick. But you know what? Everyday you see more kids out there who don’t speak their native language and busy parents who give in and buy the fast food that their kids are screaming for instead of cooking. Also the rise of Korean fusion tacos, bulgogi on french fries… seriously fuck that shit. I want the real stuff. Oh, and major props to him for calling out David Chang’s pork buns, they suck ass.

Even though there are a lot of serious moments in the book, it’s surrounded with a lot of lightheartedness, hip hop, and hilarious moments, here’s a quote from near the middle of the book around his high school days while he was seeing a white chick, this is sort of a spoiler:

“Everything we did, she initiated because I had this irrational fear every time I was alone with white women that some parent or cop would bust in and arrest me for infecting them with yellow fever. Honestly, all the way until my freshman year of college, every white girl I made out with, I let make the first move because I thought I’d get arrested.”

I really thought this was one of the funniest lines ever due to the book’s buildup of strife up until that moment.

After getting his job as a lawyer it seemed that he wasn’t happy, quit, and realized he wanted to open up a restaurant. He faced a lot of adversity at first from his family and friends, but hey look at him now. He made it.

There’s a passage from the last chapter of the book where he describes a feeling that I really want for myself:

“But once I knew I was opening a restaurant, the sky broke and everything was clear. It was the most exciting time of my life. The freedom felt good. It was the first time I can remember waking up every day and not feeling like I owed somebody some shit. All my life, I’d wake up to my parents fighting or my mom yelling at me to grow up faster. It never stopped. Then, when I went to college, I stayed in trouble. I remember the year I got charged, I just woke up every day thinking my life was over. Every interview or application I filled out, there was that convicted-felon box to check that never went away. It’s a fleeting moment, but those first ten minutes of the morning when you’re barely conscious are the worst. You wake up to this fog of fear, confusion, and uncertainty. I swear even now I wake up some days not knowing who I am or where I’m at. In law school, I woke up every day knowing money was going down the drain for a degree I wanted no part of. And even if I passed the bar exam, I might not pass the character fitness test because of my past. For three years, I kept thinking, “I may not even get that piece of paper I wanted!” I was constantly thinking about how to get out. Those years between twenty-four and twenty-seven, when you start to realize things don’t always break the way they’re supposed to, are sobering. When you’re eighteen, you’re hustlin’, you got friends producing, DJ’ing, in bands, all the girls look like someone in the movies, you figure everyone is gonna blow up like soda and water. Shit is just fun. But you hit twenty-four, half your friends are strung out, some are in jail, some got herpes, everyone got HPV twice, and you realize, yeah, we’re in a movie: Requiem for a Dream.”

I want to wake up one morning and feel free. I want to make it, and not sell out in the process. There’s more to life than a boring 9 to 5 that sucks your soul out, it doesn’t matter how much money you’re making if what you’re doing day in and day out doesn’t make you happy.

“I don’t do coupons or Reeboks. Life is too short to half-step.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.55.34 PM

There are many modern culture references that he eludes to, which tends to give this book a certain “expiration date.” For example he tells you at one point to go on Spotify to look up a track(which I tweeted about, and he retweeted!). That just means that you should read it sooner than later.

In general, if you’re a minority growing up in America, especially if you’re a Taiwanese American, you’ll find something that you can relate to in this book. And perhaps if you’ve been taking shit all your life… this could give you that final kick to motivate you to fight back and do something progressive for a change.

-Reflecting on my own life

Growing up I didn’t feel many of the hardships that Eddie went through due to an epic clash between my mom and my dad. My parents had been in America for a lot longer than most parents before having me. My mom, unlike most Asian parents, was all for integrating into American culture, my dad wasn’t. Everyday they would argue, but in the end my mom won.

I didn’t get hit, not once. I grew up on nickelodeon, I had all the toys, all the street sharks, power rangers, pokemon cards, and video game consoles I wanted. I ate a ton of fast food, mac & cheese, and chicken tenders. I don’t speak Chinese. When I went over to a white friends house, I felt at home for the most part, nothing they had was very foreign to me, and likewise when they came to ours. There wasn’t a struggle.

I realize now(like writing this right now) that after all this time. My dad has been the largest influence on my life. He’s been the one pushing in the shadows for the small bits of culture that I have and hold so dear to me. We would play ping pong in the garage (I will destroy any challengers), he handed me my first Apple Sidra, he pushed for me to go to Chinese school (even though I started extremely late and ended up quitting), he made me to go to CYC (Chinese youth camp) where I felt for the first time in my life, truly estranged to something that should have been my own culture, but over time grew more accustomed to it. I know barely any of his stories, barely any of his past, and for all that to be lost would be a damn shame. I can’t kick it with my dad. Is the barrier between us just my ignorance and stubbornness? Is it too late?

a proper breakfast

I wish we could take a trip to Taiwan and talk about everything over some “o a jian” (oyster omelettes) at a night market, or some dan bing, you tiao, and soymilk at breakfast.

Aside from the cultural aspects though. The best thing that I can take from this book is probably the idea that in this world you have to fight for everything. No one will throw you a bone. If you just sit around, someone will come around to eat your lunch. Rise up and have a voice. Be yourself, never forget where you came from, and never sellout. That’s what I learned from Eddie Huang.

Want a copy? Check it out on the Amazon Store:

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir

Random good mood

Hi official blog, here’s a post from my tumblr:

amplify

I’m not sure why, but I’m in a good mood.

After giving another photography lecture… I’ve sort have got to thinking about this whole photography education thing. The only people who are good at this thing are self-doers. They learn by going out in the streets, getting their hands dirty. They make mistakes, but know the possibilities out there, and that their goals are actually in reach.

I’m still going to hold these photography lectures, since it’s sort of cool teaching something for once. The idea of having pretend “office hours” where I just sit at cafe medici for 2 hours and see if anyone wants to come by and talk about photography sort of excites me.

The thing is, very little comes out of these lectures, the prodigies get little out of them since they’re too hot headed. How do I pull all of our talents together and make something cool out of it? What can be done with all of these photos that we’re taking?

Oh, here are the slides from the lecture! https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1sSFKSW4-N1Gpk3b0MoglK9GWxeTmsySwWw7VMxEcCwc/edit

kevin

One of my pictures just got explore on Flickr! Please favorite and comment on it >_<!!!

kevin

I met Kevin and his dog while grabbing a quick breakfast at Tamale House East. I took a couple pictures of them chilling and eating at a table outside. He was approached me to exchange info so he could see the pictures. I wasn’t really confident in the ones I took, so I ran after him as he was leaving to take a couple more. The sky was super cloudy which created a really nice diffused light for the whole area, perfect for a couple quick candids!

Oh yeah. His design work is actually quite impressive, check him out!
http://kevinmunoz.us/

Boston and Cambridge City Guide

charles river

I spent 3 months living in Boston during last Summer. Specifically, I lived near Kendall Square and worked on the MIT campus, so a lot of my recommendations are close to there. However, Boston/Cambridge are very very small, you can actually walk from Harvard all the way to the east coast of boston with very little effort.

I know I’m missing pictures, but I’m quite sure I have them for all the places listed. Just give me some time to get those up.

**Guide after the jump…**

Continue reading

East Side King – The Grackle Reopening

East Side King – The Grakle reopening.

east side king - the grackle

Here’s a little history lesson for yall. (Hopefully this is accurate, and sorry for the long rant!)

I’m going to make the assumption that if you live in Austin you have heard of East Side Kings.

paul qui

It’s the brainchild of Paul Qui, pretty much our most popular celebrity chef, and the original location at The Liberty bar has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

east side kings - the grackle

Currently, there are 4 East Side Kings, which is comprised of 3 stationary trailers next to bars on East 6th St. and one mobile trailer which they use for special events and catering.

The first East Side King location is at The Liberty Bar, which features pork belly buns, fried chicken (karaage), and beet fries.

binchotan

The 2nd location, which is now at The Grackle has gone through a lot of iterations over the past 4 years. At first it was located on Rainey St, and they served wonderful yakitori(Japanese shishkababs).

The thing is business wasn’t that great at that location, so they relocated to the East side where did away with the skewers, and had a menu of grilled meat which was similarly prepared, but not as fun to eat. I wasn’t a fan of this change, and I guess the people of Austin weren’t too impressed either as the menu has gone through a revision, which I will go over in a little bit (wait a sec!).

sous vide pork belly

The 3rd location is at Shangrila, which used to serve pretty mediocre buns until they redid their menu to feature AMAZING dishes, including sous vide pork belly and tounge, the best damn shrimp tacos I’ve ever had, and pho buns(that actually work and taste great!).

ANYWAYS…

Onto the preview of the new Grackle menu.

Here’s a link to it

Before I went I discussed it with my friend Jasmin who works for Food & Wine in NY. Immediately we decided that the tongue sando and the quail were the most interesting. I decided to get the mackerel just to see if they did it right, and also picked up the broccoli as well to get some veggies in.

Uzura

Uzura – Quail and roasted edamame with shrimp paste

This dish is quite tasty, but I really don’t think it’s worth 12 bucks. First of all quail is really tiny… and the edmame/shrimp paste combo, while filling… doesn’t really pair well with the quail overall. Mint, even though not listed on the menu, seemed to be the strongest flavor in this dish to me. Not sure about this one!

PA110072

Panko fried beef tongue in brioche, kewpie mayo, karashi mustard, served with shira-ae.

First bite into the buns is quite surprising and nice since “karashi mustard” actually tastes a lot like wasabi. Shira-ae is a mashed tofu salad, which kind of pairs nicely with the bun, but in my opinion it doesn’t offer much flavor or add to the dish at all except for adding a smooth mushy texture which contrasts to the crunch of the panko-breaded tongue. As you eat more of the bun, I sort of got the feeling that the tongue could have been more fatty and dense, but this is probably a problem with the beef tongue they had, and not them.

The thing is, the beed tongue at their other location is always pretty darn good and moist. Overall I think this dish is worth it since it’s interesting, and provides a quite a bit of flavor and textures.

saba don

Saba Don – Mackerel, beni shoga, and furikake on rice.

This dish is indeed nice. It’s a great piece of grilled fatty fish with the skin still on. The “beni shoga” pickled ginger is a no brainer addition to the dish, as it adds a ton of flavors that cut the fattiness of mackerel very well. “furikake” is that seaweed  sesame seasoning that you can get at Chinese food marts, it’s a good addition cause it adds a nice bit of salt which goes a long way with the fatty fish. This is PERFECT drunk food.

I do have some complaints about this dish though. It’s advertised as a “don” which in my opinion should be a rice bowl with stuff on top. I really believe they should get some larger styrofoam or plastic bowls, fill them with rice a lot of rice, and then top it off with the mackerel and other toppings. This for one will fill up the person more eating it, and give a better presentation of the dish overall. Maybe add some lemon on top! Or something!

Untitled

Broccoli Pop – with sweet chili miso

Really flavorful grilled broccoli, would eat again.

-A Side Note…

stripes

As I sat down I noticed some really pretty light, as well as a really fashionable girl.

deana

Turns out it was Deana! Who manages all the social media for East Side Kings.

workin

Gettin down to business! Ooh ooh!

-Overall

Again this is just a preview since I’ve only had 4 out of the many dishes that they have. Overall I think the new menu at ESK – The Grackle is refreshing, but it still needs some tweaking. The ability to get a nice piece of fried mackerel after a night of drinking downtown is an unbelievable thought. (Also this place is like 3 blocks away from my coworking space).

The current state of cameras in 2012

leica

So this is a post I’ve been wanting to make a while, but I’ve been really too lazy to make one. The thing is Photokina is coming up and a lot of really interesting cameras are coming out, which in my opinion is the first time that we’re seeing any innovation since 3-4 years ago.

First off let me say this, this post will be very confusing to those who don’t follow camera gear closely. And when I mean closely, I mean every single camera that has come out recently including DSLR’s and Mirrorless.

This will be just an exercise for me to organize my thoughts. I get most of my opinions from reading DPreview, and browsing rumors sites such as mirrorlessrumors, and 43rumors. I don’t usually go onto forums since I feel a ton of photographers on there are really ignorant and take bad pictures.

ranbow puddle

I’ve only been shooting for about 4-5 years, by no means does this make me an expert on anything, but I believe that I have very grounded opinions through using a wide spectrum of the cameras that have been available. I’ve owned the following cameras: D40, 30D, 5D, M6, GF1, EPL2, OMD-EM5, M9P. I’ve tested and returned a Fuji X-pro1.

You know what I’ve found out? There’s really no all encompassing, perfect camera. All cameras have different characteristics, and that’s what makes them so frustrating yet fun at the same time. I do feel like the technology is out there to create one AMAZING camera system, but the market is just so fragmented and new that no company will make it.

These ramblings will be accompanied with relavant images, taken by relavant cameras. Feel free to check out the exif info on flickr if you’re curious to which camera I used for each shot.

-Micro 4/3 and Mirrorless

the last high

I was one of the first adopters of micro 4/3′s when the GF1 came out. Mirrorless cameras are fantastic. They’re small, discrete, they don’t get in the way, and they take really decent pictures. At this current point my recommendation for anyone going mirrorless is the Sony NEX 5N.

Wait a sec, why are you recommending a non Micro 4/3 camera?

I really think Micro 4/3′s direction is completely misguided right now. Both Panasonic and Olympus have confused consumers by producing so many different iterations of their cameras in the past 2 years, and they’re continuing to do so.

I’m very sure that a consumer won’t know the difference between the EPL5 and EPM2, actually I’m sure the average enthusiast photographer doesn’t really know the difference between their OMD, EP, EPL, and EPM lines of cameras. And let’s face it the OMD-EM5 isn’t really a digital OM, it’s just another pen camera.

kutsu

Also I feel that Olympus is scared to release lenses that compete with the current Panasonic equivalent. The only 28mm equivalent lens we have is a crappy 14mm f/2.5 lens from Panasonic. Sure it’s light, but the iq is pretty flat in my opinion.

Also the OMD-EM5 still suffers from really bad banding with both the Panaosnic 14mm and 20mm lenses… ugh…. why hasn’t this been fixed?!?!

The GH3 is a bit of an anomaly. The GH1 and GH2 were hailed as fantastic video cameras with a very small footprint, but here they are making a super beefy pro version of the GH2… I know that they’re targeting the main consumers of the GH2, but doesn’t making a beefy micro 4/3 camera defeat the point of it all? Why not just get a Canon 5D Mark 3?

Untitled

Also don’t you think a 2x crop sensor is so much less appealing with cameras such as the Sony RX1, Sony NEX C5, and Fuji X-E1 coming out… I really feel like micro 4/3 is in danger of becoming obsolete for high end users. I mean, look at this picture. This is all the bokeh I could muster with a 20mm f/1.7!

The thing is the micro 4/3 market is a great place for beginners looking for a cheap camera that takes better pictures than their smartphone, but I’m already assuming that none of you reading this blog post this far in are one of those.

The only saving grace for this format are the pro quality lenses being made by Olympus. Currently only there is a 12mm, 45mm, and 75mm (24-90-150 equivalents). These lenses are really fantastic, and they just announced a new 17mm f/1.8 which looks amazing as well. I was so impressed with the 12mm implementation, that it had a pull back ring to switch from focus by wire, to mechanical focus. It literally blew my mind that they could make such as lens. Hopefully olympus will make these types of lenses for all the standard lengths.

Sure there are a ton of manual lenses being produced… but the thing is micro 4/3 does not have focus peaking yet! What is up with that?!

lovejoy's

In my opinion the Fuji cameras coming out such as the Xpro1 are not bad at all, the thing is I don’t think they’re sexy cameras. For one, all the lenses are focus by wire, which makes manual focus just so crazy bad… Also the aperture rings are electronic, which means that when you change the aperture at the front… the blades don’t move at all. Along with poor EVF implementation, the fuji xpro1 is just a powerful camera with crappy MF and AF, which makes it not a very good tool for street photography or capturing the decisive moment. It’s like a crappy 5D mk2.

The Sony NEX line in my opinion has the best mirrorless implementation so far. They have a 1.5x crop factor which makes mounting old manual lenses a lot better vs using a micro 4/3 camera with 2x crop. They actually have focus peaking… for those using manual lenses, and despite being so slim, they have a wonderful, fantastic handgrip.

-Entry Level Full Frame DSLR’s

ashley

Full frame cameras have been long sought after by almost all photo enthusiasts, but the thing is they have been at a price point quite out of reach for most people over the last few years.

The announcement of consumer focused, full frame cameras such as the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D doesn’t really come as much as surprise to me. I knew that eventually digital SLR’s would come back to being “full frame” just like the 35mm film SLR cameras of the past which were all technically “full frame.”

I mean the whole crop vs full frame war was only started due to the fact that companies could not make a cost effective sensor that was as large as a piece of 35mm Film. Explaining that some sensors have a 1.5 or 1.6 crop to new camera adopters has been a real pain in the ass over the past few years.

fader

Finally we can see more people being able to grab a full frame camera and use lenses how they were meant to be, and perhaps put an end to this dilemma created by a limitation of technology. My roommate Waytao has a really good point, that now days photography is pretty much up to the photographer… since now almost anyone can grab a fantastic full frame camera and a some decent sharp glass.

-The future for gear junkies…

fast folks

With all these amazing cameras coming out, it really seems like the playing field is being leveled, and your true ability as a photographer will be tested in this new sea images taken with great gear.

The thing is, there is still an escape path for crazy gear obsessed folk like me, who shoot mostly natural light, who try to distinguish their look with the gear they use.

I’m going to say it now. M mount lenses are the future. Invest in them now before they become CRAZY expensive.

Canon and Nikon lenses are so… boring. For example look at Canon’s selection of 50′s… we have a 50mm f/1.8, decent, but completely plastic and toy like which makes the photographer want to look at the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.2. The f/1.4 is really soft at under f/2… with a really unique hazy look that is very unappealing. The f/1.2 is a huge chunk of glass that has notoriously slow autofocus and a soft center.

shine

Look at Leica’s range of 50′s. The 50mm f/2 Summicron which is AMAZINGLY sharp at f/2, the Summilux… which is ridiculous at f/1.4, and the Noctilux which is sharp even at f/1 or f/0.95. The noctulux produces images so unique and beautiful that they keep me awake at night.

The thing is you have more choices than just Leica… you have really awesome offerings from both Zeiss, Voigtlander, and small companies such as MS Optical. The image above of the 2 fixie chicks, was almost UNTOUCHED in ACR/CS6… the files are absolutely mindbogglingly sharp.

The most exciting camera that I’ve seen ever… is the new Leica M. Why? Because it’s going to completely rock the socks off anything made in the past.

peco peco

Until now the only full frame camera that could accept M mount lenses has been the M9, which in itself is great camera during the day, but it has HORRID high iso limitations. I find myself trying not to shoot at anything above iso 800.

floral

A lot of people have been giving me flack for getting the M9P, which is such a crazy expensive camera. The thing is, in my honest opinion, I’m taking the best pictures of my life right now, and I need to have the best camera possible to use one. If you haven’t used a Leica M… it’s like no other camera. The controls all make sense, the focus is insanely fast even though it’s manual focus only, and the lenses just produce outrageously sharp images with a unique feel.

alfonso

It’s not a camera for everyone. For one all lenses are manual focus, there’s no auto/P mode, and the real kicker is that you’re using a range finder window to frame your images versus a mirrored or live view image like in a DSLR. This means that a lot of your images, unless you compensate yourself, will be off by a little bit if you don’t know how to use the camera well.

parcel

The thing is, the new M will have live view (WITH FOCUS PEAKING!!), allowing you to have the option to frame your pictures using an actual representation of the scene. The regular optical viewfinder will still be in the camera, which means that you don’t lose all the perks of having a rangefinder, which are being able to see a subject wonder into your frame lines, and having very precise focus even in the most dim lighting.

What’s more is that the new accessory port will allows us old Olympus pen users to reuse our EVF2′s which are fantastic, yet again! So glad that I didn’t sell mine. I can’t wait till I can tilt the EVF upwards and focus a Leica M camera at my waist similarly to a medium format camera! (I REALLY CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS >_<!!!!)

lost

So when I say that Leica’s are like pure photography leading from you brain to your hands, what do I mean?

  1. Your aperture and shutter speed are clearly visible from the top of the camera.
  2. Lenses come with a fantastic focus markings which make focusing by estimating distance a breeze, which is amazingly important in street photography.
  3. With Leica’s there’s no sense of seeing a scene and miss it due to autofocus hunting. It’s up to you, and you can focus super fast with Leica’s really unique split prism implementation.
  4. Metering is simple, responsive, and clearly stated in the view finder. You can see a scene, bring the camera up to your eye, and instantly, with 2 hands, change your exposure settings to obtain a correct exposure.
  5. M mount lenses are eyeball slicingly sharp at all apertures, and have their own unique/pleasing look.
Huge cons of Leica’s:
  1. Horrible close focusing distance, which makes macro/food photography is extremely hard.
  2. Slow FPS, makes shooting sports really hard…
  3. Manual focus only… makes shooting moving things and tracking movement difficult.
-Point and shoots
yeast
As a guy who likes to take tons of pictures of food and such, I’ve started to pair the M9 with a high end point and shoot such as the Canon S95. They’re fun, quick and snappy, making them a great paring to any camera in my opinion. A lot of photographers that I follow closely are starting to use the Sony RX100 or Ricoh GR4 along with their main cameras.
A friend has asked me if I think point and shoots are dead. I don’t really think so… recently there have been a lot of P&S cameras that are clearly better than the iPhone camera. The thing is, I don’t think the average consumer will yearn for that difference in image quality or usability. In the end I think low end point and shoots will start to fall off the spectrum, while high end and unique point and shoots such as the water/weatherproof ones made by Olympus will still have their place in the market.

-Overall

I still think gear matters. A lot.

Best the best gear reviews:

I’ve yet to come across better resources for camera reviews. The reviewers at DPReview are fantastic photographers that go very indepth into every camera now. Also, I’d like you to take note that Kai does a lot of trolling when he sees useless Camera iterations (T2i -> T3i -> T4i), but recently you’ll see that he’s been doing more serious reviews due to all the cool cameras coming out.