Restaurant Review: Noodle Village

Details: Located at 13 Mott St, New York, NY 10013. Official site is http://www.noodlevillage.com/

Noodle Village is a Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown that specializes in… noodles. They have some other stuff, too. Like soup dumplings.

I came with some friends and we got the Shrimp Wonton, Shrimp Dumpling, and Braised Beef Brisket Hong Kong Style Lo Mein. It was just okay. The beef brisket was too chewy in some places. We also had the Lollipop chicken. That was also just okay.

Score: 3/10 Kind of hated it. In the restaurant’s defense, I’ve eaten a lot of Cantonese food in my life and I generally do not enjoy it. My other friend who was there loved the food.

Restaurant Review: Indikitch

Details: Located at  940 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019, among other locations. Official site is http://indikitch.com/

I don’t normally write a review for fast food or fast-casual food, but I tried Indikitch the other day and felt compelled to do so.

Indikitch is essentially fast-casual Indian food served in the same format as Chipotle, that is assembly line style and very quickly. It’s Chipotle, but with Indian food instead of Mexican.

A new one opened in Midtown and I decided to visit for lunch. The space is very large, clean, and modern. Prices are around ten dollars for a meal.

In regards to how you order, its pretty much like Chipotle. Here’s the link of the menu for convenience: http://indikitch.com/menu.html. First you pick a meal. Personally, I prefer the feast in that you get some veggies and lentils along with nan. Next you pick a meat or if you don’t like meat, then you can pick a veggie or cheese based main ingredient. They all come with rice, too.

One main difference with Chipotle is that while the meat is prepared before hand (like Chipotle), they actually cook it with some sauce on the spot with every order. Some people might appreciate this, some might not, but it’s noteworthy.

As for taste, the food is pretty good. It’s not as good as a sit down Indian restaurant, but its still not bad for something prepared so quickly.

The main reason why I needed to write a review is because Indikitch filled a need sorely missing in this city. That is, we need more food of similar quality and speed as Chipotle, but we need it to taste different.

A while back, I (and I imagine a lot of people) ate Chipotle for a prolonged period of time. I worked in the city and Chipotle was fast and tasted all right. But you can only eat the same thing so many times and after a while, I no longer had any desire to eat there. Ever. And really, I didn’t eat at Chipotle all those times because I loved the taste. Chipotle was just so easy. And relatively cheap. And the quality was far better than McDonald’s or any other fast food chain. But what I really wanted was a greater variety of food, maybe from a different region, with the same relative price, speed, and quality Chipotle delivered. As a wise man once said, “man cannot live on bread alone…,” or burrito bowls.

Luckily for me, Indikitch fulfilled that desire. To a greater extent, Indikitch stands at the forefront of a potentially profitable trend that may be descending upon the city. For example, Korilla, the well-known Korean-Mexian fusion food truck, has opened a brick and mortar location near St. Mark’s. Like Indikitch, they serve Korean food in the Chipotle format.

It is my hope that both Indikitch, Korilla, and any other similar restaurants using the Chipotle method find great success in their endeavors. I envision a day where there aren’t only Indian and Korean foods represented in this format. I want Thai food, Japanese food, Italian, French, English, and every other country represented in this convenient way. Perhaps one day, they will even open a food court where all these competing restaurants work together to provide a truly multicultural and convenient place for a person to eat lunch during the work day while preserving their piggy banks. A true United Nations of fast-casual food.

In conclusion, Indikitch is great. Go try it out. Go try Korilla at their brick and mortar location. Stop eating Chipotle, or at least eat less of it. And prepare yourself for the oncoming onslaught of convenience, speed, and quality, in a multicultural variety of flavors.

Score: 7/10

TV Show Review: Teen Titans Go! (2013)

Details: Currently airs on Cartoon Network. In its third season and is ongoing.

I was in the mood for some lighthearted entertainment and decided to give the cartoon Teen Titans Go! a shot. After watching an episode… I then watched all the episodes in Season 1. After watching all these episodes, I can safely say that Teen Titans Go! is… perfect. It is a perfect, hilarious, lighthearted cartoon and does everything a good cartoon should.

When thinking about Teen Titans Go!, I can’t help but think about other cartoons I’ve loved and laughed at. Cartoons like Recess, SpongeBob, or Kim Possible. Cartoons that can be amusing to kids, but provide an even greater level of humor for an adult.

Each episode of Teen Titan’s Go! is ten minutes long, which is great. Less drag, more focus, and a faster pace. There aren’t really any overarching stories over the season nor are there really any themes and morals. Its just fun and hilarity, childish and amusing.

What is noteworthy are the voice actors. They clearly have mastered playing their respective characters, be it through their performances in the prior Teen Titans cartoon (which was more serious) or the ample voice acting experience they all possess (check their imdb.com pages, very impressive). Each character has their time in the sun and are given plenty of hilarious lines.

Also noteworthy: references. For example, one episode involved a giant robot clearly referencing the Power Rangers. They even used the actual Power Rangers melody. Actually, Batman and Aquaman even make small appearances despite DC’s heavy embargoes. I think its because of the comedic nature of the show, but I still appreciated they actual depictions nonetheless.

Additionally, the music selection used/written for this show is fantastic. Nice one whoever writes/picks the music.

8.5/10 If you want something funny and lighthearted to watch, can’t go wrong with this. Watch the clip above if you’re unsure this is your cup of tea. I have no idea what the showrunners are smoking, but there are some episodes that were clearly written under the influence of something.

Video Game Review: Mirror’s Edge (2008)

Details: Played on PC for about five hours.

This game was pretty terrible. I was relieved when it was over.

Mirror’s Edge is a game released by Electronic Arts back in 2009. The main emphasis of this game was on trying to express free running through the first person perspective. This game puts in a barely satisfactory effort in that regard, but let’s start with the good before we get to the bad.

Despite being a years-old game, Mirror’s Edge still looks amazing. I was running the game on maximum video settings and it looked great on my 1080p monitor. The art — which focuses on a clean style with bright colors contrasting with white — is also lovely to look at. I do have a bias for minimalist, clean styles (be it in video games or interior decorating), so this was right up my alley.

In regards to gameplay, Mirror’s Edge is at its best when you are running at maximum speed and free-roaming/navigating an expansive level. At its core, Mirror’s Edge is a first-person platformer/puzzle game slightly reminiscent of Portal and Portal 2. However, despite succeeding a few times, Mirror’s Edge fails by trying to take away the speed and freedom of the game and forcing the player to conform to strict, one-path level design and half-assed combat mechanics.

For example, many times throughout the game your are forced to fight enemy guards (armed with guns) or else you cannot proceed through the level. You cannot avoid them or run past them. The game only gives you a few options for combat: strike/punch/kick (which sucks and if you try, you will get killed) or disarm (which involves running up to a guards face and waiting for a prompt).This is retarded because it generally leaves only two ways to combat groups of guards: disarm them one by one or disarm one and use that guard’s dropped gun to kill the rest. Guns can be picked up, but cannot be reloaded. Also, aiming/gun control is terrible and was clearly not thought out in development. In a game which should be focused on speed and navigation, this slows the game down to a frustrating crawl.

Furthermore, the levels themselves are confined to a set path which you must pursue in order to complete a level. Many parts of the game require to player to stand around and think about a level rather than run through with improvisation. Personally, there were some parts where I died over and over again, eventually figuring out some obtuse solution to a path with only one exit. This did not feel very “free” in a game about free-running.

Here are some more negatives:

The controls weren’t precise for a game that required some fairly precise platforming.

The story was ridiculous and did nothing to motivate a player. It was cheesy as hell.

The use of flash videos instead of cinematics or even in-game scenes to tell the story was pretty lousy. I wonder if it was a lack of budget or just laziness that caused the decision to include these scenes.

In conclusion, it wasn’t that much fun and I enjoyed uninstalling this game much more than I should have.

Score: 3/10 When I purchased Mirror’s Edge, I was expecting a fast paced game where I would run through large, mult-pathed levels that required me to act with speed and improvisation. What I got was a game where levels had only one path; forced combat on me with shitty controls; and a stupid story told through flash videos. The fun parts of this game are few and far between. Mirror’s Edge is a tolerable game as long as you do not spend more than three United States dollars on it.

Restaurant Review: Bianca

Details: Located at 5 Bleecker St #1, New York, NY 10012. Official site is http://biancanyc.com/

Bianca is your standard, authentic, Italian restaurant.

The space is moderate but the tables are stacked on top of each other, leading to lots of bumping into other people.

I came here with some friends and we ordered the lasagna (used bechamel, which I prefer to ricotta), Stracceti di Manzo (Sliced filet mignon with fried potatoes), and the mushroom pasta (special of the day). The pasta was fresh and the food was good. It wasn’t anything extraordinary; just your average Italian fare.

I did appreciate the short length of the menu. A short menu suggests to me simplicity and a focus on what a restaurant knows how to make, and I can appreciate that. Do what you’re good at.

Score: 6/10 Whenever I eat Italian food I realize that it is the same at most places, unless the restaurant is trying something different/unique. This place doesn’t try anything different/unique. It was still all right though.

Restaurant Review: Tink’s

Details: Located at 102 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009. Couldn’t find an official site.

Tink’s is a charming, small restaurant in the lower east side of Manhattan. There aren’t a lot of seats, but the food is great.

I came here with some friends for brunch the other day. We had the True Apothecary with corn beef hash (sweet potato, potato, two sunny side up eggs, and organic beef for $3 extra), Biscuits and Gravy, the Fritatta (basically and egg omelette with vegetables and herb goat cheese), and an order of the Cinnabon pancakes.

Everything was delicious and seasoned well. Of note was the sweet potato hash and cheesy fritatta. The herbs really added to the goat cheese. The sweet potato hash was still potato, but the sweetness was something new-ish.

It was a bit pricey as everything cost around 18 bucks for the prix fix menu. I guess it’s just the idea of paying a premium for eggs and potatos. However, they did come with mimosas and bloody Mary’s, so I guess that’s ok. Plus, brunch in the city is always around this price.

Score: 7/10 Make a reservation, it is a tiny space.

Video Game Review: Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)

Details: Played on PC. Because Uplay stupidly has no way to measure time played on a game, I have no idea how long I played it. Felt like around fifteen hours.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest in the Splinter Cell video game franchise and was released about two years ago. I received a copy when I upgraded my video card and I am so glad I did.

As the name suggests, the game plays out like a political thriller written by Tom Clancy: terrorists called the “Engineers” seek to commit a number of terrorist attacks and it’s up to Sam Fisher and his crew to stop them. Sam Fish and his crew are part of a splinter cell of American operatives who answer only to the president and can exercise the “Fifth Freedom,” which is to do whatever it takes (legal or not) to protect the country. The story is a lot of fun and really has that Tom Clancy feel. It rivals that of his other works in the political-thriller genre.

Voice acting is top notch and the performances of the actors really come through. I am a little upset they replaced the voice actors for Grim and Sam Fisher, but I can see why they did. The performances require a lot more physicality due to motion capture and hiring actors who can do the voices and act out the scenes really add to the atmosphere of the game.

In regards to gameplay, the game is the best iteration of the Splinter Cell formula yet. There are three ways to get through a level: assault (going in guns blazing, no stealth), panther (remaining stealthy but taking out all the enemies), and ghost (avoiding enemies and stealthing through an entire level without fighting). Personally, I prefer panther style, but I would occasionally engage in some ghost and assault style as well. Enemies generally walk on a predetermined route and your job is to either avoid or take them out as you proceed to the end of the level. It’s a fun formula that gives the player substantial discretion over how to approach a situation.

Of note is the games computer controlled enemies. While not clever in all situations, they can still be impressive. For instance, if you open a door in a hallway along an enemy guard’s patrol route and they come around and see it open, they will notice the door and begin to search the area/room associated with that door.

On the other hand, the enemy guards are completely oblivious to the disappearance of their colleagues as I was assassinating them one by one. This however, is a wise gameplay choice in my opinion because a substantial part of my enjoyment of the game was going around and stealthily taking out the guards at my leisure, without the worry that one of them would fail to radio in and incur the wrath of reinforcements. You still get screwed if the bodies are found, but I found hiding the bodies in creative places (e.g. on a toilet, in a jacuzzi) a hilarious and fun part of the game.

The game also has a kind of level progression in the form of purchasing weapons and armor through in-game currency. You earn money by finishing missions and fulfilling certain parameters during missions (like finding a laptop or capturing a high value target). Armor and weapons have stats which can then be upgraded through further purchases. It’s not an in depth leveling system, but I appreciate the inclusion of it. Furthermore, acquiring money to purchase things isn’t really that difficult and I purchased all of my favorite things around halfway through the game.

In regards to multiplayer, Blacklist provides a fun, if not troll-heavy form of entertainment. One mode is “spies versus mercenaries,” where one group of players play as patrolling guards while another group tries to take them out through stealth.

The game also provides coop missions which can be played with a friend. These are really fun and often provide all sorts of hilarity as you try (and often fail) to accomplish missions with teamwork. I really appreciate that Ubisoft kept this feature from prior games as this is one of the best parts of the Splinter Cell games.

Additionally, the graphics for this game are fantastic. I played this game on my computer on maximum graphical settings. It can easily compete with the games coming out today despite being released around two years ago.

Score: 8/10 Loved this game. I’m not sure it is worth $60, but seeing that it was released a while ago, you could probably get it at a discount. In fact, as I type this, it is currently on sale on Steam for $7.49. For that price, it is well worth the purchase.

Restaurant Review: Ootoya

Details: Located at 8 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011, among other locations. Official site is http://ootoya.us/

Ootoya is part of a chain of Japanese restaurants which do Japanese food, but more authentic. No reservations unfortunately. I had to put my name down and wait around fifty minutes.

The space is large and calming. It’s clean and all the tables are given plenty of space from each other. The entry way is also worth a mention since it is a wooden cage that separates the entrance form the rest of the restaurant. It helped to increase my anticipation of dinner there when we were finally let inside.

Service was fine. The wait staff were very nice, although it seemed like the waiter/waitress who waited on us may have been a new hire. We had to show them where everything we ordered was on the menu in order to confirm it. No biggie.

Most of the items on the menu offered the item a la carte or as a set. Sets come with the item ordered, rice, miso soup, pickled stuff, and steamed egg custard. We ordered three things: the Katsu Toji (pork loin served in a bubbling pot with egg, onion, and some broth), the Kaisen Don set (assorted sashimi over rice, including fresh uni), and the Gyu Shio Koji Don (grilled slices of washu beef).

It was all delicious. The egg custard was amazing; hot, steamy, and soft, with a thin layer of some kind of tangy sauce over the top layer of the custard. The sashimi served was extremely fresh and the sea urchin was wonderful. The pork loin was fine. The washu beef was good as well, but not extraordinary compared to a good steak house.

We ended the meal with the crepe dessert, which was a crepe filled with some kind of cream and red beans alongsie a scoop of green tea ice cream. Also good.

Score: 7/10 Tasty, but the lack of reservations is annoying. They seem to be opening a new location in Greenwich Village. The one I went to was in Chelsea and someone opined it may be the most comfortable of the three current locations.

Video Game Review: Battlefield 4 (2013)

Details: Played the Premium version (that means all downloadable content included) on the PC for over four hundred hours.

I bought Battlefield 4: Premium Edition a year or so ago. At the time, two out of the five promised DLC had come out and the game was just getting over the crippling bugs that just about destroyed this franchise.

Fans were leaving. The game kept crashing. It was unplayable. I gave up on this game and cursed the eighty dollars I spent on this stupid purchase.

Fast forward a year and my feelings are the opposite of what they once were. Battlefield 4 is a great game I love playing. I have played over a hundred hours of this game. If only this game could have been this good instead of the disaster that it was when I bought it.

For those new to the series. Battlefield 4 is the latest in the Battlefield franchise. It is a first-person-shooter (FPS) that takes place in the modern world and uses modern vehicles and weapons. While there is a single player (and it really isn’t that bad, although it is short), Battlefield 4 really shines in it’s multiplayer.

The main thing that differentiates Battlefield from other FPS games is the use of vehicles (and the difficulty of their operation), certain game modes (like Conquest) and the allowance of 32 players versus 32 players at the same time. All these things combine into a unique experience that no other game offers. Additionally, most buildings can be destroyed to a degree, which is fun.

Vehicles are really fun and add a lot of variety while remaining balanced. Each vehicle is fairly powerful and can mow down infantry, but can easily be countered by infantry armed with rockets or explosives. Furthermore, helicopter and jet pilots can brag about being the most difficult vehicles to operate and require a great amount of skill to master. Once you do though… there is very little that can take you down. I’ve seen people go 70 kills with zero deaths in a helicopter. Seeing a master helicopter apply his skills is either a terrifying sight or a thing of beauty.

Conquest is the main game mode the Battlefield franchise is known for and remains fun in this iteration. In Conquest, two opposing teams each have a certain number of tickets. The goal is to drain the enemies tickets down before your team runs out of tickets. This can be done through killing enemy team members and forcing them to respawn (which drains a ticket) or by capturing and occupying identified points on the map (which also drains tickets). A game of Conquest with a full game of 64 players… is absolute chaos. Explosions everywhere, snipers and gunfire all around, all the while trying to capture points on the map. It is incredibly frenetic and insanely fun.

For instance, in one game, me and three friends took all the tanks on our team and traveled in formation to capture a point on the map. Through grit and organization, we took the the point and earned dozens of kills apiece, all the while laughing our butts off at formation we were using, lovingly named the penis formation.

In another game, I was engaged in a sniper fight with someone well over 1000 yards away, the maximum distance on the sniper rifle sight. We were dodging and hiding and firing but none of our bullets seemed to hit. Miraculously, after a few minutes of exchanging fire, I fired a shot and as it traveled over, the enemy sniper strafed into it resulting in a headshot (a one-shot kill). Damn it felt good.

Additionally, this game looks amazing. There are few if any games that look this good and I am constantly reminded of that every time I play. This is a true, modern game which — in my opinion — looks better than just about any other game out there (possibly with the exception of The Order: 1886).

Score: 8/10 I hated this game when it was released. It was a broken game, a waste of money, and Electronic Arts (the game’s publisher) should be ashamed of itself if not sued for consumer fraud. However, I am happy to say that it has improved. With five DLC packs since it’s release (adding up to twenty new maps), the addition of numerous new weapons and gadgets, and the fixing of game breaking bugs, Battlefield 4 is one of the best multiplayer games out right now and offers a unique gaming experience.

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Details: Run time is over two hours. Comedic, action adventure movie starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Kingsman is a fun movie with a lot of action. Even with all that action, the only things that deserve the R rating it received was the constant use of profanity and one incredible action scene involving a church. Kingsman is largely a PG-13 movie.

Loved the large and recognizable cast, including one Mark Hamill. Samuel L. Jackson plays a weaker character this time. Michael Caine… plays Michael Caine.

Score: 7/10 Lots of humor and action. You probably shouldn’t bring young children with you. Otherwise, it is a great movie that pays homage and in some cases improves on the classic spy films that came before. Go watch it. It’s a good time.