Featured Spotlight: The Little One NYC

Only a few months ago, a new space serving unique high-quality desserts opened around the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers Street in Chinatown. Bordering the Lower East Side, The Little One brings a whole new vibe to the area with its contemporary look and Japanese-inspired menu. Married couple and owners, Olivia Leung and Eddie Zheng, had always wanted to open a place of their own after studying at the Institute of Culinary Education and working besides renowned chefs and bakers at Dominique Ansel, Tour Les Jours, La Sirena, and The Elm.  While traveling in Asia for inspiration, they were especially blown away by Japan’s attention to detail and the quality of ingredients in their productions. “We wanted our store to be similar in a sense where we really care about our ingredients and the aesthetics of the space,” Olivia explained as I asked her how her trip shaped her business.  “When we went to Japan we loved how simple, modern, and clean ALL the little cafes, coffee shops, dessert shop , and sushi restaurants were. They’ve incorporated a lot of wood, white, and even concrete. So with our space, we wanted to use all those aesthetics and put it into our space.”  Though decorations are soon to come, The Little One really does present a beautiful clean space to catch up with a friend or to experiment some new flavors.

If one is not used to desserts in Japan, a menu can be difficult to decipher, so I asked Olivia to explain what some of her signature dishes are (and means).  Here is the breakdown:

Pictured above are the strawberry and the matcha Kakigōri, a Japanese shaved ice that has an icier texture than other types.”Traditionally, kakigōri is made with flavored syrups,” Olivia explained. “But now there are some places in Japan that takes it one step further and garnishes with creams and fruit sauces or other textural elements. This is where we got inspired to take something very traditional in Japan to make it our own but still keep some Japanese roots. For example, we love using matcha and hojicha (traditional Japanese teas) and we get them from Kettl, a tea shop based in Williamsburg that sources tea from their farms in Japan everyday!” To further make the dessert their own, they have also experimented using some Chinese influences such as the coconut pudding that one may find at dim sum.  This resulted in the Coconut Kakigōri.

Pictured here is the Dorayaki, fluffy pancakes made with honey that traditionally contain a red bean paste filling.  Similar to their take on the Kakigōri, Olivia and Eddie wanted to take the traditional recipe and make it their own by using different fillings.  With the most recent menu, they added a red bean cake with matcha cream, chocolate coconut inspired by the Mounds candy bar, and pineapple caramelized in brown sugar and spices with yogurt cream and shortbread crumble.

Above is the unique and light Monaka, thin crispy wafer shells made out of rice flour that are popular in Japan. They are traditionally served with red bean paste, but at the Little One, they are incorporated with ice cream flavors based on likes and seasons.  Currently, they used buckwheat and chrysanthemum.  Why these flavors?  “Buckwheat has a toasted and roast flavor that we wanted while chrysanthemum is a flower perfect for spring,” Olivia answered.  “It’s also a tea that Eddie and I grew up drinking at dimsum and from boxed drinks.  We wanted to keep it simple but thought that adding a local honey from the Union Square Market will also enhance the dessert.”  

While these beautifully crafted, made in-house desserts already have flavors attractive to many, expect some to change every so often as they have a seasonal menu in addition to their regular one. With Eddie’s love for technical aspect as well as working with hydrocolloids in desserts and Olivia’s love and feel for breads and pastries, the two are always concocting and improving their dishes with the best quality ingredients. “The best part of this business is that Eddie and I love doing what we do,” Olivia said.  “Everywhere we go we are intrigued by new and different ingredients that we have never come across before.  As they say, if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life!”  

Be sure to check out The Little One if you get a chance.  A special thanks to Olivia and Eddie for allowing me to share their story with Lilspirations and sharing the photos that I am not able to take during this maternity time!  As always, thanks for reading! xoxo


Picture credits for this post:

Dorayaki (Vicky Lee)
strawberry kakigōri (Jacky Chen)
behind the scenes ( Jennah Moon)
chrysanthemum (Alan Li)
matcha kakigōri (Alan Li)​​

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A 4 to 6 Seat Restaurant : Sushi On Jones

I was first told about a “restaurant”called Sushi On Jones that has 4-6 seats only a few days before I had the special opportunity to visit. Thanks to my aunt and cousin for taking us there! This one-of-a-kind outdoor sushi counter is NYC’s first, making sushi-on-the-go in an intimate yet somewhat casual experience. Intimate because you are face to face with the sushi chefs, Tashi and Kenny, and the manager, Tom. It was casual because you don’t need to dress up and it is not awkwardly quiet and high-end like other omakase experiences. As soon as you sit, they begin to serve you tea or water and individual pieces of sushi are made right in front of you. You have 30 minutes to enjoy your reservation (yes you need to reserve in advance!) before the next lucky batch of 4-6 get to go through what you just had. Those 12 pieces of sushi come by incredibly quick, but the flavors linger long after you chew and swallow them.

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Leaving It Up To The Chef – An Omakase Experience

When something is quite out of the ordinary like my experience at Sakanaya, it’s hard not to want to share. I’m incredibly thankful for my husband and two friends who took me out a couple of weeks ago for my birthday to my first omakase experience. Omakase in Japanese basically means “I’ll leave it up to you.”  That means from the moment you sit down to the moment you leave, every dish you eat is selected by the chef. I didn’t exactly know this, but immediately figured it out after our first dish arrived within two minutes of sitting.

Sakanaya officially had its grand opening last week (Congratulations!!) but we had the opportunity to reserve during its soft opening thanks to the recommendation of a fellow Yelp Elite friend. Although I don’t have anything to compare it to, I can say that the service goes beyond expectations. While we had to wait about 10 minutes for our seats, the waitress offered us seats to sit in, tea to drink, and apologized for the wait. Towards the end, well… you’ll see. They simply made my day with a never-before-seen-”cake”!  But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.  Here’s a run-through of our meal experience!

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Ending the Summer with Summer Rolls

Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn! It seemed appropriate to wish summer farewell by making Vietnamese inspired summer rolls to end the season. I’ll have to come up with another one to welcome the Fall! 🙂  This appetizer is a very popular one served in most Vietnamese restaurants. They are made with sheets of rice paper softened in water and used to wrap ingredients such as cooked shrimp, rice noodles, herbs, and vegetables. It’s easy to make after a little practice in rolling, but just so you know, this post is a version of my mom’s cooking. We like to eat them with homemade fish sauce as opposed to the traditional peanut sauce. If you’d like something closer to the original recipe, you can try Chowhound’s recipe with peanut sauce.

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Urban Buddy: Social Food & Drink

The school year is almost over!  That means more blogging, socializing, crafting, and cooking time (I hope!!) – I’m thrilled to finally get some down time as the school year felt a little longer than usual. Got some interviews & giveaways coming up in the next 2 months, so stay connected especially on my Instagram! 🙂

Recently, I became a part of Urban Buddy, a really awesome and useful app where “buddies” or locals such as myself connect with hotel guests to give advice and recommendations in and around the city. I’ve always loved playing tour guide or taking friends and family around New York, so it was a great opportunity when I discovered them. Download the app and give it a try – you’ll be amazed at all the knowledge locals have and advice they give! You’ll also get an answer to your question within seconds.


One of the perks of being a buddy is having an opportunity to meet some other locals at get-togethers and food tastings. Our last one was at Yotel, at the large rooftop bar and deck of Social Food & Drink. Along with the huge indoor and outdoor space, comfortable seating, and a view of the skyscrapers around the area, they also have the Rooftop Cinena Club, where you can watch movies on the deck in the summertime. Still haven’t tried it yet, but would love to one day! 

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Australian brunch @Two Hands


Picture walking into a restaurant with whitewashed brick interior and wooden seats, greeted by a beautiful blue-eyed, handsome host with a light accent. You would think you just stepped into a cafe in Melbourne, Australia.  Well, close enough!  Two Hands, a restaurant opened by locals Giles Russell and Henry Roberts, is a glimpse of the food culture in Australia – it’s meant to serve light fresh and vegetable-focused meals. I had been waiting a while to go but I heard if you don’t go early, the wait can be a while, so one morning my husband and I went on a brunch date at 10 a.m.  We liked it so much we went back with our other friends to try something else.  It’s the perfect place for photo opportunities too because of the natural lighting that beams in. If there’s one thing that I think is a must and found to be the perfect bite that’s as close as you can get to the one in the land down under, it would be the espresso mascarpone banana bread topped with buckwheat seeds.  It’s heavenly. The strong espresso flavor mixed smoothly into mascarpone cheese balanced well with the semi-sweet banana walnut. Add a little crunch from the seeds on top and you’re set for the day.

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Gingery This, Gingery That

Did you guess what I did with the 2 pounds of ginger yet?  🙂 


At first, I had no clue!  I was walking in the market areas of Chinatown one day and an entire stand was selling beautiful fresh ginger for $1.00 – 2 pounds!  I’m not one to ever buy ginger, but I recently was trying to eat more healthy so I figure hey, why not cook and drink more things with ginger in it? I wanted to only buy 1 piece, but the vendor stuffed my bag until it was full and said “It’s only $1.00 – take the whole bag.”  So there.  I now had an entire bag of ginger sitting in my fridge.

 I wasn’t sure what to do with them besides make hot ginger drinks, so I did some searching on my Pinterest, and found this highly rated recipe for a Ginger cake from Epicurious. The result was a super fluffy, strong ginger-tasting 9×9″ cake that stayed moist for at least 5 days!  I had taken photos, but with this kitchen and lighting, it’s just not worth posting – so instead, check out the recipe!  My only modifications were the exclusion of ground cloves and black pepper.  I also used ¾ cups of sugar instead of one cup. Hellooo, healthiness!

If you try out the recipe, let me know what you think 🙂  xoxo

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Good Food for a Great Cause

Everyone loves good food, but when you know the mission and purpose behind the food, it makes it even better.

This past Saturday, a non-profit organization called The Promise Society held their second annual Bites, Brews, & Wine charity tasting (check out the photos from their first tasting that I attended here.)  It was incredibly successful. While all the guests enjoyed their unlimited samples of great food and drinks, all the money was going towards the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a non profit organization that helps underserved high school students prepare for opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  Two alumni chefs who are excellent role models of why this program is such a success, came to support the event, and it was surreal to see their stories come true.

Meet Luis Adorno (right), sous chef at KOI Restaurant and Lounge, and Chris (left). Chef Luis is a very young chef that hopes to open up a food truck one day. For this charity tasting, he created this salmon sashimi dish drizzled with truffle and yuzu. It was quite a big hit as that yuzu just brought out the freshness in the salmon!

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Dee’s in Forest Hills, NY

Let me start off with this post by saying the following:  when you have 13 hungry people waiting to eat, your camera does not get the first bite. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll capture some photos with the type of quality that’ll get you whimpering over what apps can save your day.

AH YES!  So let’s get to it!  

To celebrate my little cousin (and by little I mean age, not height anymore. SIGH), my family made a reservation to Dee’s in Forest Hills, Queens.  We had gone there once before for my mom’s birthday and thought it was pretty good. But this time, the quality and experience just shot up even more.

First of all, there aren’t very many great restaurants to choose from when you’re by the Metropolitan Avenue area. Most people who don’t live in Forest Hills would wind up eating around Austin Street, which is right by every transportation you can name – subway, LIRR, taxis, Express buses, and buses. So when we discovered this restaurant, it’s safe to say that it’s pretty darn good. When you walk in, you’ll see workers diligently making and cooking your pizzas in their brick oven. You can see the entire process.  On the left is a sweet beautiful barn sliding door that takes you to a private room, should you reserve it for a special event.  Then the rest of the restaurant is welcoming, warm, and wonderful for gatherings or even a casual date night.

The service is phenomenal. I loved our waitress, who was constantly checking back on us and even helped try to make my so-completely-obvious attempt at getting my cousin a birthday cake and song NOT so obvious. He winded up with this incredible sea salt caramel ice cream cake and loved every bite. The rest of us ended with a homemade almond tiramisu – deliciously moist with a perfect level of sweetness. Again – the beasts in all of us devoured that thing so the camera was left on its own. Sorry, no photos!

But here are some of the many deliciously scrumptious dishes that we ordered.


Pan Roasted Mussels in white sauce, served with their famous (omg…) focaccia.  Ran out of mussels? Ask for bread because the sauce is savory!

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Bringing the Restaurants Home

Food brings people together, wouldn’t you say? It starts conversations, stirs innovation, and even sparks debates amongst who, what, or where is better. It’s a huge part of why many of us go out to restaurants- to eat good food and to socialize (and because sometimes we just don’t feel like cooking). However, I didn’t enjoy a larger variety of food until the last 10 years. I explored with garlic, ginger, basil, brussel sprouts, lamb, beets, and even bitter melon (which someone joked to me once, “The day that you like bitter melon is the day that you are officially old!”) I guess i am officially old!  But these were all foods I hated as a kid. Bitter melon had to be the worst, but it is supposedly one of the healthiest.  My palette sure has changed over the years, but after having eaten out so much, I wanted to start bringing the restaurant foods home!

I’ve fallen in love with cooking. It is tiring after a long day of work, but when I have a plan and I’ve gotten all the recipes, I just want to make the best dish I can. My other half though, doesn’t need much planning. He’s a natural with whatever we have in the fridge!  So recently, we had a few nights where we challenged (and worked with) each other to create dishes we’ve never made before, all completely from scratch.  From a packet of ground meat to avocados mashed up and basil blanched and blended. We were allowed to use a little help from Google images and Pinterest for image ideas, but no recipes (except dessert). We’ve been experimenting with different food combinations, presentations, and making dishes that we would normally love to eat at restaurants. Here were some of the results!


Appetizer : Blanched asparagus served with a poached egg, topped with bits of bacon and parmigiano reggiano cheese

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