Restaurant Review: Noodle Cafe Zen or Zen 6 Ramen Gyoza House (not sure, but the address is 31 St. Mark’s Place, NYC)

I’m trying to find the official site or an updated picture for this place, but it’s kind of confusing since all the websites refer to Zen 6 or Noodle Cafe Zen. Either way, had dinner had 31 St. Mark’s Place.

It’s a Japanese restaurant. Had some of there ramen (not a huge fan and I think most ramen tastes the same so no point naming the specific kind), ramen burger, and the beef don. The food was pretty crap. We didn’t order sushi, but it is 50% off… sort of. Not sure what the conditions are.

Score: 4/10 Did not enjoy.

Official site: Not sure if http://www.noodlecafezen.com/ or http://zen6ny.com/

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Restaurant Review: The Spotted Pig (West Village, NYC)

Came here for lunch. Was worried there would be a line since this place has a Michelin star, but luckily, we got a table in ten minutes.

The decor was interesting and kind of eclectic. It’s a pub.

Service was very helpful and nice.

We ordered the favorites: hamburger with shoestring fries, the chicken liver toast, the deviled eggs, and the roll mops (pickled herring). Everything was fine. Only thing that stuck out was the chicken liver toast, which was very good. If you like liver.

Score: 7.0/10 

Official site: http://www.thespottedpig.com/#home

Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a standard spy movie with some action, though no big set pieces. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Cavill is a one dimensional, suave character, like due to a directorial choice. Hammer was a weird Russian accent, but has a slightly more complex character. Vikander’s performance is about as good as Hammer, which isn’t going to win an Oscar.

Score: 5.8/10 It tries to be clever and it tries to be fun. For a thinly written film, it is pretty fun. Nothing too deep here, just a fun movie perfect for a weekend night spent inside.

Restaurant Review: Daeji Daeji (Flushing, NY)

While Koreatown in Manhattan is more convenient, most people who know about Korean barbecue will testify that Murray Hill in Queens is the absolute best place to get Korean barbecue in NYC. On one late night, me and some friends decided to head over and indulge ourselves there. The place we decided to go to was Daeji Daeji (nothing else was open as it was one in the morning).

This place is fantastic. Firstly, the appetizers… man I love Korean appetizers and this place didn’t skimp. They had a large selection including duboki (rice cakes in spicy sauce), steamed egg, and fried dumplings.

As for meat, we ordered the LA galbi (short rib), the pork belly, and the sirloin steak. The galbi and pork belly were amazing. The sirloin steak was likely a poor choice. If you want a steak, you may as well go to an American steak house. If you want galbi, go Korean barbecue.

Service was amazing. They usually close around two, but they let us stay till two thirty without saying a word until after we asked him. We were guilty and greatly appreciative. Plus, our server did a great job cooking the food and helping us to additional servings of duboki and steamed egg.

Watch for that price though. It was about forty dollars per person.

Score: 8.4/10 So, so good. If you get a chance, it’s worth a visit.

Yelp Site: http://www.yelp.com/biz/daeji-daeji-flushing

Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/daejidaeji/daeji daeji

Restaurant Review: Izakaya Mew (near Koreatown, NYC)

Came here with a friend for dinner. First thing to know is that during peak hours, this place is packed. There is a perpetual line that is about an hour long from around five-ish to midnight. There are no reservations so get ready to wait.

The space is downstairs in a basement, but — as you can see from the photo — it is a nice space. Despite the large number of people waiting for tables, it was comfortable. Also, I love exposed brick.

For food, we ordered the black sesame chicken (fried), the omu soba (its a noodle stir fry wrapped in an omelette, tastes like okonomiyaki), and the black dragon roll (eel, avocado, shrimp tempura). Everything was great. I was worried about the Omu Soba, but it was fine. Almost everyone there had ordered it. Loved the black sesame chicken. You can faintly taste the black sesame, but it’s sweet.

Service was great. Plenty of waiters and all very helpful. Front guy taking tables was unbelievably busy, but still very nice.

Score: 7.4/10 Loved this place. Probably not coming back because of the crowd though.

Official site: http://mewnyc.com/

Video Game Review: Dragon Quest VIII (PS2, iOS, Android, 3DS)

Dragon Quest VIII was recently re-released on iOS, Android, and 3DS, pretty much all the mobile systems. It originally came out on PS2 and that is the version I played. It was also English dubbed.

Before playing, I read many reviews on the game. Most of them were very positive with the same specific caveat: this is a classic/old school Japanese role playing game. What I found during my playthrough was that this was a euphemism for grinding, repetitive, unoriginal, primitive gameplay.

But first, let’s go over the good parts of this game.

The first thing that amazed me was that all the music in this game is fully scored by a live orchestra. Even in this day and age, synth music is popular and practically much cheaper and less of a hassle than hiring a full orchestra play your music. Dragon Quest VIII ignores that and opts for the live orchestra for every song, something even Final Fantasy X did not do even though it was a system seller back when the PS2 was released. You need to also remember that this was years ago, back during the time of the PS2. Games were far less popular than they are now. Even still, they opted for the orchestral music and I am glad they did.

Voice acting is all right. Everyone has some kind of accent from the United Kingdom for some reason.

Graphics are all right. It’s an old game. I do appreciate the nostalgic Toriyama art style.

I think most people agree that the strength of a good role playing game is its story. The story here is satisfactory. It’s a classic tale of a nameless hero saving the world.

I also think most people would agree that the greatest weakness of role playing games is the gameplay. Even with the years of progress made in this genre of video games, I think most people would agree the weakest parts of games like Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition was the unimaginative combat and gameplay. The same is absolutely true here.

Dragon Quest VIII self proclaims that it wants to remain true to the “old style” of Japanese rpg’s, but what comes across to me is old primitive it is and how lazy the developers must have been not attempt any improvements to the old formula.

The games basic structure is this: you travel through an open world from town to town, dungeon to dungeon. Each town has  plot point. Each dungeon has a boss and an associated plot point. Town’s are safe areas while everywhere else is not. That means that if you walk through these unsafe areas, you are subject to random encounters (based on the number of steps you take) with enemies who you have to battle. Battle is turn based. You have up to four playable characters and you and your enemies take turns casting spells and performing attacks.

It’s a tried and true system… except role playing games have come leaps and bounds since the inception of this genre and playing into these outdated systems leaves much to be desired. For instance, there are only four playable characters. A remedy to the old problem of how boring only four playable characters are is to add more character to the plot who play differently. Further, there aren’t that many spells nor are they sufficiently flashy. In the past, old role playing games would create massive, cinematic spells to help ease the boredom of turn based combat and alleviate the repetitiveness of seeing the same spells over and over again. In Dragon Quest VIII, I’m just bored. There aren’t enough spells. Furthermore, the lack of a journal or some method of keeping track of quests just makes playing the game a hassle. I literally have to memorize or write down what I was doing or else be completely lost in what I’m supposed to do. As an adult who takes breaks between gaming sessions, this is a hassle.

And I haven’t even gone into the time consuming grinding required to progress in the game. At many point in the game, the difficulty of the game spikes and there is no way to progress unless you spend substantial time grinding out levels and items so that you can be strong enough to defeat the enemies in that area. Normally, you can attribute this to bad or lazy game development. Developers are supposed to organize the pacing so that players get some kind of payoff as they play through the game, be it in items or story progression. Subsequent games after the old Japanese rpg’s, like Dragon Age: Inquisition or Witcher 3, have introduced many side quests with meaningful storytelling instead of requiring dull, repetitive combat. In Dragon Quest VIII, there is none of that. I just waste time grinding out levels. It’s extraordinary frustrating as I am working adult and I just don’t have as much time to attribute to such mind numbing game play.

Score: 5.9/10 A fun game, if not for the grinding. I spent around sixty seven hours playing this game, maybe thirty hours of it just grinding and leveling so I can progress. I don’t have the time for this. There are plenty of better role playing games to play that reward the time spent much better. I would only recommend this game if you’re looking for a time killer, feel nostalgic about old Japanese role playing games, and you have a 3DS, android, or iOS device. Otherwise, avoid it and go play Witcher 3, Dragon Age, or any of the other million role playing games that that better respect your time.

TV Review: Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 5

This episode started fine… and then it made me mad. It went down the road of a pathetic, predictable romance instead of introducing some new alien species, or anything new really.

The problem with adding romantic interest into any story is that it is so easy. Need some suspense for that action movie? Add some romance. Mystery story lacking a twist? Add romance. Science fiction unoriginal? ADD ROMANCE. Adding romance because your writers lack better ideas is the laziest thing a writer can do and that is what they did here.

What a crock of shit this episode was. All the crap Simmons went through on the alien planet… was for a man. Not even an alien man. A human guy. Sorry for the spoilers but this was so damn stupid and lazy. And the season was going great with the inhumans and the secret warriors. They had to go and write in a cliche.

I guess the conclusion we can take away from this episode is that in the end, there is nothing a woman shouldn’t do for a man. Also, it’s nice to have two men love you if you can swing it. Nice job Simmons.

Score: 3.4/10 Let’s get back to the superhuman spy stuff. Aliens would be cool, too. Not this crap writing a five year old could come up with.

TV Show Review: Doctor Who, The Girl Who Died and The Girl Who Lived, Series 9, Episode 5 and 6

The first two episodes of Doctor Who were great, but the following two didn’t really interest me. The two who followed that however, were just fantastic.

When it was introduced that Maisie Williams was going to be on Doctor Who, speculation was that she would play the Doctor’s granddaughter. I’m so glad those theories were wrong because the character that Williams plays in so much more interesting and treads on new ground.

Episode five was a good episode but merely an introduction Williams’ character. The real meaty parts happen in episode six where we explore what has happened to Williams’ and the existential implications of what has happened to her. In many ways, the side story doesn’t really matter. It’s just a fun vehicle to explore Williams’ character and what she has experienced.

In regards to performances, Williams is just great, matching the stage presence of Capaldi even though Capaldi is a much more experienced actor.

Score: 8.3/10 Loved the introduction of Williams’ character. I sincerely hope to see more of her in future episodes.

Restaurant Review: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (Chinatown, NYC)

I’ve come here a couple of times and mostly good. One time though, they did get me the wrong size, but I just paid for it anyway.

The best part of this place is the flavors you don’t normally get in western supermarkets. Flavors like red bean, green tea, black sesame, and durian among others. They also have some other ice cream flavors, like pandan. I’m not really sure what that is.

It is kind of pricey, though it is pretty well known for their ice cream.

Score: 7/10 Asian ice cream flavors. Good place to bring friends or a date.

Official site: http://www.chinatownicecreamfactory.com/

Restaurant Review: Cafe Katja (Lower East Side, NYC)

Came here with a friend on the weekend. It was packed and we would have had to wait an hours for a table, so we ate at the bar.

We ordered the aufschnitt teller (cured meat plate and spread), the pretzel, and the emmentaler sausage (came with quark dumplings and cabbage). It was all good. I don’t normally eat German/Austrian food, so it was a nice change. Heavy and a little bland though, but that’s probably true of all German/Austrian food.

Space was ok.

Service was ok.

Score: 6.2/10

Official site: http://cafekatja.com/