"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, January 2, 2011

XO Kitchen - December 30, 2010

While XO’s yuan yang was working to enslave me, I had plenty of time to gawk, stare and drool at the pictures and descriptions of XO’s offerings – in color photos, too – on the walls. Since my imagination had been blown out of proportions, I made a return trip to XO Kitchen for breakfast to quench my thirst for knowledge and, well, simply and frankly, hunger.

Congee with fish slices

The congee came in a solid iron pot – the black one with a long handle that was hung over charcoal and wood fire in traditional and historic Japanese houses many years ago. This type of pots, despite their “fashionable” uses as mere single serving containers, are cooking pots; therefore, the amount of congee that came in such a pot, brimming and running down on the sides, was sufficient to feed the entire household. The fragrant steam from the congee already indicated that the congee was flavorful. And yet, my burning first spoonful was a divine revelation. I had never thought congee could rise to such noble height; a congee, in my previously misguided mind, was simply a mixture of water and a tiny amount of rice, with some ingredients thrown in. While congee was satisfying and warming, it was not something that I had to drop my jaws for. But now, I am a new person. The slices of fish was incredibly tender; the slippery white fish slid down my esophagus so quickly that I had to keep scooping more congee and fish into my small bowl to keep up with the insatiable desire in my stomach, heedless of the scorching heat of the congee. Admittedly, a few slices near the fish gut were slightly tainted with the unpleasant fishiness, which the schematic use of ginger shreds subtly masked. Having said that, the flavor was so delicate and powerful that a mere taint was soon buried among other pressing joys.

Fried milk & yolk buns

The small buns were filled with a milk and yolk filling; by themselves, they would only have been the average dim sum variety – fun and enjoyable but immediately forgettable. However, at XO, they were lightly fried so the skin became a delicate layer of aromatic crunch without any greasiness. The quick frying further enriched the creaminess of the filling. However, this was not all; it got better. These fried buns were served with a dish of sweet condensed milk to dip in. Sinful, isn’t it?

Soy milk & fried cruller

Their homemade soy milk was a disappointment: It was not so watery but the savory soy bean taste was utterly wanting. As a matter of fact, the soy beans tasted raw and old, as if having been stored somewhere dark and dusty for too long. The chewy fried cruller, usually the best friend of hot soy milk, was better off with XO’s magic potion – the soy sauce. Their intense soy sauce was so unexpectedly full of umami that it would heighten any food.

Red bean pancake

A featured advertisement on the wall in a childish script proclaimed that the pancake was homemade (what else? I wondered). Homemade it was, but it was disappointingly bland. The flaccid crepe (not really a pancake) folded in chunky red bean paste, which was most likely not homemade.

Steamed custard

Silky, delicate and so soft that the egg and milk custard broke against the gentlest touch from a porcelain spoon, it was simple and lovely. Could it have been made better, yes; but was it good anyway, yes.

XO Kitchen
Address:  148 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013
Phone:  (212) 965-8645

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