Soy Shape saucers add a third dimension to your sushi experience

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RocketNews 24 (by Michelle Hughes):

These dishes make playing with your food look classy and intelligent.

There’s always something cool and unusual to be found on Kickstarter, like ramen charts, samurai armor hoodies, or, in this case, ceramic saucers that play tricks with your eyes when filled with soy sauce.

▼ Soy Shape models “Cubes” and “Impossible Triangle”

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As for exactly how this optical illusion works,Tokyo-based creator and designer Duncan Shotton says that the slightly varying levels of the inner surface of the saucers take advantage of natural color gradations that occur in soy sauce at different depths. Thus, when the saucers are filled, the soy sauce takes on a 3-D quality.

The dishes are made from Hakuji porcelain in Gifu. Hakuji ceramics have a legacy stretching back to the 1600s, so the Soy Shape saucers are definitely going to be high-class.

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You already know the drill when it comes to Kickstarter: the more you pledge, the more awesome the perks become.  Although the campaign has already raised nearly four times the amount of its initial goal, you can still get in on the action and score a Soy Shape at prices starting at US$19.50.

There’s only a few days left in the Soy Shape campaign, so head on over to theKickstarter page ASAP if you’re looking to pick one up.

First Hello Kitty ‘pop-up’ cafe opens in Irvine

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OC Register (by Nancy Luna):
Sanrio will open the first Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container in the U.S. at the Irvine Spectrum Center on Friday. Housed within a metal shipping container, the pop-up cafe sells an assortment of baked goods, pastries, cookies and espresso drinks featuring Portola Coffee Lab coffee.NANCY LUNA, STAFF
About the cafe:

The Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up is having its grand opening this weekend at the Irvine Spectrum, in the Giant Wheel Court.

Its hours are:

Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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The temporary cafe, initially expected to debut over the holidays, opened at 11 a.m. today. It was so popular, drawing a line of about 200 people, the store temporarily shuttered. It was expected to reopen later in the day, according to a representative at Spectrum Center.

The cafe is housed in a bedazzled steel shipping container — refurbished with pink and white Hello Kitty hues. The menu features a limited assortment of cookies, pastries and pint-sized cakes, as well as hot and cold beverages.

Signature drinks include strawberry mint lemonade, peach iced tea and passion fruit tea. Espresso drinks feature coffee sourced from award-winning local roaster Portola Coffee Lab. Menu prices range from $4 to $11.50 for desserts, and $3 to $5.50 for beverages. (Note: Coffee comes only in a 16 oz. size. Sorry skim fans, but only whole milk is served here.)

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Every item on the menu pays homage to the pop icon, first introduced to the world 42 years ago. Pastries are topped with Hello Kitty-shaped shortbread cookies, or bows. Plastic water bottles ($3) are bow-shaped. Hello Kitty’s face is stenciled with cocoa powder on the milk foam of latte drinks.

Allan Tea, managing partner of the cafe, said the container will stay at the Irvine mall for a year before moving on to its next location. Tea and Sanrio marketing representative David Marchi said Sanrio and the Irvine Co. are in negotiations to bring the first U.S.-based brick and mortar Hello Kitty Cafe to Irvine.

Sanrio has other themed cafes in other countries. But there’s no brick and mortar cafe dedicated exclusively to Hello Kitty in the United States, Marchi said. “This (pop-up) is the first of its kind,” he said.

Over the last 12 months, the Hello Kitty food truck has parked at the center twice, triggering throngs of shoppers. The turnout prompted Sanrio to choose the Spectrum as home base for its first Hello Kitty pop-up cafe.

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We know we have a huge fan base here,” Marchi said.

The cafe does not sell savory dishes — only desserts. Some merchandise such as ceramic mugs and T-shirts also will be sold at the cafe, located at the Giant Wheel Court at the mall.

The first 50 customers each day through Sunday will get a limited edition key chain.

Hong Kong’s first Hooters is already causing controversy

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FoodBeast/Next Shark (by Ryan General):

American restaurant chain Hooters, known for its skimpily dressed female servers is about to open its first restaurant in Hong Kong. A month before its launch, however, the sports bar that bills itself as “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” is already attracting controversy.

Set to occupy a prime location in Hong Kong’s Central district along Wyndham Street, Hooters Hong Kong will be just one of the 30 branches that Bangkok-based Destinations Resorts will be bringing to Asia on behalf of Hooters Asia.

While preparations are all well under way for the Hong Kong opening, Hooters Asia general manager Mike Warde is also fending off criticisms about the company’s image and hiring processes.

We’re a sports bar, a family-oriented, fun-loving, entertainment outlet. We have standards for our service and food,” Warde told South China Morning Post in an interview.

For Warde, the Hooters girls who he calls the chain’s “brand ambassadors” are not dressed provocatively but are simply wearing sportswear. He also denied that breast size is a factor in the company’s recruitment.

That’s a myth. That was 30 years ago,” he said while showing a photograph of Thai Hooters girls with small breasts. “The reason they don’t look flat chested is because they are wearing Wonderbras.”

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A friend of one Hong Kong applicant, however is refuting his claim. Scarlet (not her real name), an applicant herself, said her friend who applied didn’t pass because of her breast size.

Her boobs are smaller, so of course they won’t hire her,” she said.

The recruitment process has been going on for months and so far 12 Hong Kong women, one Japanese woman and two European women are being considered for the job.

Aside from normal food-serving tasks, Hooter girls are also expected to perform two-minute dance numbers at certain intervals.

They stop whatever they are doing, wherever they are, and dance every 45 minutes,” says Warde. “In Thailand guests pay them to do hula hoop and the money goes to charity. We have pom-poms and we take them to the rugby pitch to support teams.

To stay in shape, they are also required to attend three kickboxing classes per week.

We teach the girls to be a lot more respectful of themselves, have more confidence in themselves. They have a fit body and fit mind and we bring out their characters because we put them all over social media,” he added.

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They said, ‘This is the largest size’ – I think that was true. But it’s crazy that the largest size is extra small. My boobs were exploding and my ass was half showing out,” the 24-year-old said.

When I went for the uniform fitting they said I’m the only girl with boobs. They want to hire locals, but most local girls are really skinny.”

Scarlet also found the salary disappointing and realized she could earn more as a beauty therapist. The HK$15,000 ($1,932) per month offered for a five-and-a-half-day week is barely above standard.

They said I would get good tips, but in Hong Kong I don’t think the guys would pay a lot. There isn’t the tipping culture here,” Scarlet said.

Back in the U.S., the company has closed about a dozen stores in recent years, with observers saying the concept of “breastaurants” is outdated.

Warde believes that it will be a different story in Asia. “In Asia we are a new brand. And in America they’ve been closing the ones that haven’t been performing and reopening others. Over the last four years it’s growing, they are on the up again,”he said.

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In the next five years, the aggressive expansion plan of Hooters Asia will also see restaurants opening in Indonesia, Thailand, Macau, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Jollibee, the king of Filipino fast food, will open in Manhattan

Jollibee's first Manhattan location will be in midtown.
Jollibee’s first Manhattan location will be in midtown.

Grub Street (by Chris Crowley):

Midtown continues to transform into the epicenter of the world’s favorite fast-food chains. Jollibee, the Filipino fast-food behemoth with nearly 900 locations around the world, will open its first Manhattan location this fall at 609 Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority. This, however, is a slightly more interesting development than the arrival of something like an Arby’s or another Chick-fil-A: Along with Amazing Aloha Champ burgers, flavored fries, and extremely popular fried chicken, the international chain also serves more distinctively Filipino fare like garlic-marinated milkfish, and spaghetti and rice.

The new location will presumably be mobbed from the get-go. Of course, if New Yorkers love one thing it’s waiting a really long time for food — and there’s reason to expect them here. When Jollibee’s first New York location opened in Woodside, Queens, back in 2009, fans formed the kind of waitsusually reserved for novelty foods and stunt pastries.

Häagen-Dazs Japan creates “Heart Hunting Campaign” with 11 different hearts hiding in ice creams

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RocketNews 24 (by Oona McGee):

Now there’s something else to look forward to when opening a tub of ice cream.

Häagen-Dazs Japan has been tantalising frozen dessert lovers over the years with exclusive flavors like Chestnut and Adzuki Red BeanSalty Vanilla and Caramel and even a couple of vegetable varieties. Now they’ve discovered a brand new way to get everyone’s attention, and this time it’s all about looks, with the shape of the ice cream in the tub taking center stage and different names given to the special markings, which are all centered around the love-heart concept.

▼ The new campaign is called “Häagen Heart Hunting”.

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The idea for the fun new marketing plan came about after the company’s creative team tested 1,000 mini ice cream tubs to find what types of shapes naturally appear on the surface after opening the lid. After discovering the shape of a perfect heart in 2 of the 1,000 tubs, it was decided that the other designs could be seen as variations of the love-heart pattern, giving birth to a series of eleven “heart” shapes.

▼ The most coveted marking is the “Clear Heart”, which was found in only two of the 1,000 tubs.

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▼ Also found in only two of the tubs tested was the “Kiss Heart”, which looks like a set of lips, and is said to bring the promise of romance to anyone who finds it.

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▼ Another unique pattern, found in 2.1 percent of samples, is the “Goodbye Heart”, which is divided in the middle, suggesting it’s time to say goodbye and step forward anew.

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▼ At 3.6 percent is the “Baby Heart”, which includes a small crater companion, and is said to bring happiness and new encounters.

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▼ A more common shape is the “Incipient Heart” (7.7 percent), which is just on the verge of taking on a heart-shaped form, like love about to blossom.

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▼ The “Tears Heart” (10.4 percent) features a central tear, suggesting something will move your heart in the near future.

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▼ The “Cheating Heart” (11.1 percent) is bulging out on one side, which can be taken to mean that something may happen to disturb you a little bit.

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▼ More common is the “Gaping Hole Heart” (15.3 percent), which features a floating circle on the surface. Those who come across this shape are said to feel a slight sense of dissatisfaction with the everyday. Which could explain the reason for eating ice cream in the first place…

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▼ And the most common of all, at 26.5 percent, is the “Smile Heart”, which suggests something lovely will happen to make you smile unexpectedly.

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▼ Out of all the hearts in the collection, there are two super rare varieties: the “Positive Heart” which is raised on the surface and has the promise of positivity. It’s said to appear in only 0.1 percent of tubs.

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▼ And the “Perfect Heart”, which is said to make rare, phantom-like appearances, as the most rarefied and beautiful version of the “Clear Heart”. Those who come across a beauty like this are believed to receive incredible happiness.

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Ice cream lovers in Japan have embraced the fun nature of the campaign, posting photos of their findings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Grub Street: The absolute best Chinese restaurant in Chinatown (NYC)

Grub Street (by Hannah Goldfield):

For six weeks, the editors of New York Magazine and Grub Street are publishing a series of definitive lists that declare the absolute best versions of 101 things to eat, drink, and do. The idea that there is “no good Chinese food in Chinatown” has prevailed for quite some time now; it’s an argument that’s been put forth by our own Adam Platt. It’s true that if you’re looking for Chinese food that will expand your mind and thrill your palate, you’re much better off trekking to Flushing or Sunset Park, or even other parts of Manhattan. It’s also true that there’s a certain brand of Cantonese food — made bland, sweet, and gloppy to cater to a certain American sensibility — that dominates in Chinatown, or at least most people’s idea of the neighborhood, and some of it is genuinely bad. But there are dozens and dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood — with new ones opening regularly and old ones changing hands. Not all of them are Cantonese, and some of them offer food that is very good — plus a whole lot of atmosphere. Herein, five of the absolute best full-service Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, right now.

The Absolute Best

1. Royal Seafood
103 Mott Street, nr. Canal St.; 212-219-2338

It’s a good idea to call before making plans for dinner here; though they don’t take reservations, except for large groups, the entire place is often bought out for banquets. Even when they’re not closed for a private event, you might find yourself an unwitting participant in one, since they often rent out half the dining room for weddings and the like, bisecting it with a curtain. But what could be more fun than eating festive, family-style Cantonese standards — like the really excellent off-menu lobster you’ll see on almost every table, hacked into shell-on pieces, then lightly fried in batter and strewn with ginger, scallions, and garlic — while listening to the joyous sounds of celebration from the other side? It’s an institution, as integral to the fabric of the local community as it is welcoming to outsiders, with cheerful pale-pink tablecloths, friendly but efficient service, and plenty of delicious non-lobster dishes, too, including the addictively crispy, caramelized fried Peking pork chops; a steamed half-chicken, served with the requisite salty scallion-ginger-oil condiment; and full dim sum service on weekends. For a similar but calmer and less exciting experience, Oriental Garden offers many of the same dishes in a much smaller dining room, which makes, especially, for a refreshingly non-hectic dim sum destination.

2. Spicy Village
68 Forsyth St., near Hester St.; 212-625-8299
Spicy Village, formerly known as Henan Flavor, is a definition hole in the wall: a narrow sliver of a space that lets in almost no natural light, with just half a dozen tables. Food arrives, for the most part, in Styrofoam, but that does little to detract from its fantastic flavors, imported from China’s Henan province. Jagged-edge hand-pulled noodles show up in bowls of rich, steamy lamb or beef broth bobbing with brisket or fish balls, and again dry-sautéed with egg and tomato or dense, pungent black-bean sauce. Perfect steamed pork dumplings come a whopping 12 to an order, for just $5 — almost nothing on the menu is more than $6. An important exception is the $13.75 Spicy Big Tray Chicken, beloved by Danny Bowien and Mark Bittman; it’s a mess of juicy dark-meat bone-in chunks and tender quartered potatoes enveloped in a dark, satisfyingly beer-based braise, flecked with Sichuan peppercorns and cumin and fennel seeds. It’s best ordered with a side of those hand-pulled noodles, and/or a couple of “pancakes,” arepa-like doughy rounds with crisp exteriors that come plain or stuffed with minced pork or egg.

3. Great New York Noodletown
28 Bowery, nr. Bayard St.; 212-349-0923

Ask a celebrity chef for her or his favorite places to eat in Chinatown, and you are likely to get New York Noodletown among the responses. Open daily until 4 a.m., it has a reputation for being nothing more than a place to fill a drunk stomach cheaply, and it’s true that the grimy-tile-and-fluorescent-light atmosphere is probably best appreciated (read: ignored) under the influence, but the food is also much better than it has to be, no matter your mental state. There are noodles, of course, in soups topped with juicy slices of roast pork, chicken, or duck, or served in a room-temperature tangle drizzled with a tangy ginger sauce that will make the back of your throat tingle pleasantly, plus a scattering of shredded raw scallion (it’s the dish David Chang credits as the inspiration for the chilled ginger noodles on the menu at his Noodle Bar). And when in season, soft-shell crabs are salt-baked to a deeply satisfying, light-as-air crackle.

4. Big Wong King
67 Mott St., nr. Bayard St.; 212-964-0540

There is something deeply comforting about Big Wong King, which serves up top-notch versions of many Cantonese standards, but is an especially good place to get a warm bowl of perfect congee, topped with roast duck or salted pork and chopped thousand-year egg, and best ordered with a giant fried cruller for dipping. It’s hard to imagine a better breakfast. They also do a mean steamed rice crêpe, flecked with tiny dried shrimp and scallions and drizzled in soy sauce — or, for a full on carbfest, get the one that comes wrapped around slices of that same fried cruller. To top it off, the service is a thing of wonder, with waitstaff moving around the room in a seamless ballet, delivering and removing plates and pouring tea and water with an efficiency that could be studied in business school. Depending on what you order, you can be in and out of here in 20 minutes. Which is not to say you’ll want to be; the late-’70s décor, which includes a wood-paneled wall with a groovy round doorway that divides two dining areas, is part of the charm.

5. Wonton Noodle Garden
56 Mott St. nr. Bayard St.; 212-966-4033

There is no shortage of wonton soup in Chinatown — it’s on the menu almost everywhere — but it’s nice to know that one of the very best versions is at a place so named for it, sometimes also referred to as New Wonton Garden, due to a change in ownership. A big corner of the dining room is devoted to the soup’s making, with a huge vat of deep golden, intensely umami broth (if the flavor comes from MSG, they’re using it masterfully) simmering at all times. Poured over a nest of thin egg noodles and a handful of neatly wrapped wontons filled with juicy pork and perfectly crunchy shrimp, it makes a filling, excellent meal, but there are plenty of other things on the menu to supplement, from classic roasted meats to Cantonese-style lo mein, served with a side of broth.