Ramen outshines baked goods at Asian Sweet Bakery

Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street
Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street

When I first heard about Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street I wasn’t quite sure what to think…all of the reviews on Yelp were super positive, but most of the individual baked goods sounded either too sweet or a little odd for my taste. But I’m always going to give a new place at least one chance, so I went for lunch with my friend Nicole.

Asian Sweet Bakery baked goods
Asian Sweet Bakery baked goods

The tiny corner bakery has a decent-sized bakery case filled with baked goods even around lunch time. There’s also a small dining room with about four tables. The woman behind the counter was super helpful in describing what everything in the bakery case was and answering questions about the menu.

Asian Sweet Bakery ramen with shrimp dumplings
Asian Sweet Bakery ramen with shrimp dumplings

We decided to try the rice noodle ramen with shrimp wontons. I’ve had bad ramen and it’s like eating noodles in warm water. But this ramen was great. The noodles were perfectly cooked and the broth had a great savory flavor…it wasn’t too salty, but it definitely had some depth. There was just enough cabbage and it still had a good amount of crunch to it. The shrimp wontons were not what I was expecting, but they were super good. The soft noodle wrapper was al dente and the shrimp filling was flavorful…I think it had some green onions mixed in! The other thing to note was the size of the bowl…it was more than enough for the two of us.

Asian Sweet Bakery pot stickers
Asian Sweet Bakery pot stickers

The pot stickers were also pretty good. The pork filling had a good, sausagey flavor, but they weren’t too greasy. And they were crispy, which is way better than mushy pot stickers.

Now onto the sweets

Asian Sweet Bakery black bean bun, kids bun, Chinese fried donut
Asian Sweet Bakery black bean bun, kids bun, Chinese fried donut

I got a red bean bun, which looks like a cinnamon roll without frosting, but instead of cinnamon and sugar the sweet stuff is a sweet red bean paste. I’ve enjoyed similar desserts at other restaurants and this one was also pretty good. The bread and the paste were both moist, and I felt like there was a good amount of the paste…I was worried there might be more dough than the yummy filling.

Nicole and I decided to split one of the super long Chinese fried donuts, but it was kind of disappointing. The batter tasted like plain fried dough…the dough was not sweet and there was nothing sweet sprinkled on top. It was definitely not what we were expecting, and not great.

Nicole also got a fun hotdog and corn bun for her daughter. It was a simple flat pastry with slices of hotdog and corn kernels in it. It went over pretty well with Avery, but I think she liked the red bean bun better…we kept saying it was chocolate!

FOOD NOTES: Although I liked most of the sweets (except the fried donut) that we got…I think the hidden gem of this super simple place on Park Street is their ramen and wonton soup. The broth is super flavorful, the ingredients are fresh and plentiful, and the price is great for the amount of food you get. The red bean bun was pretty great…but I’m not sure if I’m adventurous enough to go back try some of the other interesting baked goods in the case.

Best breakfast award goes to hidden gem on Park Street

The Curve on Park Street
The Curve on Park Street

I’ve driven past The Curve, an extremely tiny restaurant on Park Street, many times, but I never really wanted to try it because it looks a little rundown. After hearing through the foodie grapevine that I was missing out, I decided to try it out for breakfast the weekend before Christmas.

Since the tiny (8 tables, plus a counter) restaurant is right on South Park Street I was worried about parking, but we got a spot on the same block looking toward Monona Bay. The Curve’s exterior and interior presentation is a little unsettling (it’s dirty, outdated and could clearly use some repairs), but don’t let that stop you from ordering. The menu is simple and the staff (two or three people max) are probably the nicest I’ve dealt with ever. The red tile floors partnered with the chatty regulars really give this place a neighborhood feel!

Coffee at The Curve
Coffee at The Curve

We were brought two large cups of coffee before we even had a chance to open a menu. Sometimes diner coffee can be bad — weak, bitter, too strong, lukewarm, only drinkable with cream — but not at The Curve. The coffee was hot, smooth and best consumed black. Good coffee is the first mark of a good breakfast place!

Homemade corned beef hash
Homemade corned beef hash

Now here’s where this review is going to get a little confusing. I was planning on ordering the corned beef hash off the menu, and that’s when the woman told me the special was corned beef hash. I immediately said I’d get the special, but after she walked away I realized the corned beef hash on the menu was $2 less than the special…which didn’t make a lot of sense. And when I asked — the difference does make a huge difference! The hash on the menu is out of a can, but the special hash is homemade. And apparently they only have it every other weekend. I’ve had corned beef hash out of a can and it tastes like dog food. DO NOT get the corned beef hash if it isn’t the special. The homemade corned beef hash special was crazy good! It had a spicy, garlicky heat to it with tender corned beef, crispy potatoes and onions. Corned beef hash is one of my favorite breakfast dishes (thanks Dad!), and this is the best one I’ve had. Normally I need the egg yolk to make the dish perfect, but this hash was so good I could definitely eat it without the egg — but I won’t because eggs make everything better! The serving size is also something to mention — it wasn’t too small or too big…it was perfect! I was full when I finished off my plate, but not gross full and it kept me filled the rest of my day.

The Curve omelet
The Curve omelet

My mom got some sort of omelet that I don’t even remember trying because my hash was so good! I do remember bringing half of her omelet home, because it was so large!

FOOD NOTES: There are three take-aways from this review.

  1. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” really applies to The Curve. Don’t let the peeling paint and dusty window ledges scare you away.
  2. The employees (and diners the day we were there) are some of the friendliest people I’ve met in a restaurant. The woman who works there even invited us back the next week on a day that she brings in Christmas cookies for all of their customers!
  3. The corned beef hash special is so good I’m craving it now just writing about it and looking at the picture. It is a perfectly seasoned, crispy pile of potatoes and corned beef only made better by the gooey eggs! Remember: I wouldn’t suggest ordering the corned beef hash off the menu.

Authentic Mexican food can be found on S Park St

I’ve posted about my quest for authentic Mexican food before, and I had almost lost hope until I had my first meal at Taqueria Guadalajara. The Mexican restaurant is a block down from the new Barriques at Park and Fish Hatch. Be careful not to drive past because it looks like a house and is between two other small buildings. You walk in to a front bar area that seats about a half dozen, then there’s the open kitchen and in the back is a dining room that probably seats about 20.

Taqueria Guadalajara chips and salsa
Taqueria Guadalajara chips and salsa

Our waitress promptly brought over some chips and two little bowls of salsa. As I’m assuming everyone already knows, I hate cilantro and they use a lot of cilantro at Taqueria Guadalajara. So if you love cilantro you’ll love both of their salsas. The red salsa had chunks of tomato, a lot of cilantro and no too much spice. The green one was extra spicy, also had a lot of cilantro and is pureed. Clearly I didn’t like either of the salsas but most people probably would.

Their menu has well-known options like tacos, chimichangas, enchiladas and burritos, but it also has some interesting options like lengua (tongue), huaraches, menudo (only on Saturday and Sunday) and chile rellenos. I wasn’t sure how I’d like some of the more authentic options so I opted for a lengua taco and chicken enchiladas.

Taqueria Guadalajara lengua taco
Taqueria Guadalajara lengua taco

The lengua taco comes in a freshly-made corn taco with onions and cilantro…our waitress was more than happy to exclude the cilantro. My friend doesn’t like avocado so I put her avocado on my taco when it came to the table. The corn tortilla was hot and fresh. The lengua was super tender and had a perfectly seasoned flavor. It came with a small chunk of lime, which adds a great tang to the taco. The raw onions added a great flavor and crunch. I wish the taco normally came with avocado on it, but it would be worth it to add it on. I loved my tongue taco, and went back a couple weeks later for more tongue! On my second visit I got a lengua huarache, which is a flat corn tortilla covered in beans, choice of meat, green salsa, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sour cream. The lengua on my second trip was just as good, but the extras on top really added some great flavor and made the meal better.

Taqueria guadalajara enchiladas, rice, beans
Taqueria guadalajara enchiladas, rice, beans

For my main meal on my first visit I got chicken enchiladas. They were very tasty but nowhere near as special as the lengua taco. The shredded chicken was cooked well and was plentiful. The enchilada sauce was supposed to be a green sauce, but usually green sauce is made with cilantro so I subbed that out for red sauce, which was standard red enchilada sauce. The enchiladas come with rice and beans, which are usually throw-away sides in tex-mex restaurants, but these were great. The rice was plump and had a good flavor. The refried beans were perfectly creamy but still had lumps, and actually had some flavor…I’m not sure how but they didn’t just taste like beans.

FOOD NOTES: The restaurant itself isn’t anything impressive, but the fresh, authentic Mexican food is show stopping. The chicken enchiladas were fine, but the flavor of their rice and beans were exceptional compared to most places. Tongue sounds disgusting, but when you call it lengua and it tastes as good as it does at Taqueria Guadalajara, you can’t pass it up. They use a lot of cilantro so if you’re like me and think it tastes like soap…make sure to ask for everything without it. I definitely suggest the huarache, and would definitely be up for trying some of the other authentic menu options. If you’ve had menudo let me know what you think about the traditional Mexican stew made with beef stomach.

The search for Madison’s best Chinese food – Orient House

I have been cautiously trying different Chinese food restaurants in Madison for a while now in search of the best place to go for my Chinese food fix. There are some places I will never go back to and some places that I wouldn’t mind making my go-to place. But I continue to solicit suggestions from friends in search of that perfect place. Thanks to Adam Schrager, I was directed to Orient House on Park Street. He said it is a family favorite and I can see why.

Orient House chicken lo mein lunch special
Orient House chicken lo mein lunch special

A friend and I decided to order Chinese food during the Capitol One Bowl to root on our beloved Badgers, so I suggested Orient House. Their menu is pretty common with a good lunch deal where you get an entree, rice, 2 crab rangoons and you can get an egg roll for $1 extra. My go-to entree is chicken lo mein. Our order took almost an hour to be delivered but I’m sure New Year’s Day is a busier day than normal.

My lunch special was definitely enough for two meals with a large portion of the lo mein and a good amount of fried rice all for under $10 including delivery tip! The fried rice was pretty standard, the egg roll was a little greasy but was very good, and the crab rangoons were crispy with very creamy filling (I’ve had dry crab rangoon filling…not sure how it happens but it’s gross!). Most lo mein tastes the same so I look for things that are bad: not enough chicken, undercooked veggies, greasiness. The lo mein from Orient House definitely passed my test! It had a good amount of chicken, perfectly cooked veggies and wasn’t too greasy. I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch special lo mein the first day and on the leftover day!

FOODNOTES: They deliver but only to the downtown and near west side so if I want Orient House I’ll have to drive downtown. Because of that it probably won’t be my normal place, but I wish it could be! The prices (especially lunch prices) are very reasonable. Their menu and portions sizes are pretty standard. I very much enjoyed my lo mein. It had good flavor without extra greasiness. Adam’s recommendation is a win in my mind!