Monday, September 30, 2013

U.S. Adventures: NYC

It’s hard to even know how to begin this post. Hubby and I spent 4 food-filled days in Manhattan recently for our anniversary. It’s so hard to even know where to begin when choosing where to go to eat—there are just so many choices.  I am going to try (TRY) to be brief because there was just so much to eat.

Our first meal was a lunch at the restaurant in our hotel, which also happens to be a fairly popular place right now. Locanda Verde is a modern Italian restaurant—they do great things with their bread. The focaccia they brought to the table was great, as was the toasted bread were served with the housemade ricotta ($15) and the tartare ($19). The ricotta was good, but fairly mild. We both loved the tartare though. It had a lot of little teeny crunchy bits going on inside—there were red onions and little bits of celery as well as some little pieces of hazelnuts. There was also a lovely quail egg on top and little bits of truffles. It had a delicious truffle flavor with the first few bites with the egg—there was also a bit of jowl bacon that hubby and I fought over. The pasta was actually the weakest course I thought—it was housemade and had thin slices of zucchini, roasted tomatoes and pine nuts, and a light cheese-based sauce. The bites with the zing of acid from the tomatoes were really good, but the bites without were kind of bland. Since it was our first meal, we splurged with a dessert—sweet corn budino with caramel corn and blueberry sorbet. Very interesting custard-like texture with the tartness of the blueberry. 

We had scheduled a late (for us) dinner that night not knowing exactly when we would get in for lunch. We ate at Bouley—this is a completely decadent, old school, 1 Michelin-starred restaurant that was walking distance from our hotel.  We had a 6 course tasting menu, and we got different things on every course, so I won’t go through it all. The highlights were the service (which was impeccable and professional while still very friendly, which surprised me) and the room. There were several standout dishes (about every other one was really good), but overall, I would have to say it was not the standout restaurant of the trip. 

One of the dishes we both loved was the porcini flan with black truffle and dashi and Dungeness crab on top. Hubby is mad for porcinis and the rich, woodsy taste of the flan was pure porcini. I liked the variation with the truffle (which is still somewhat mushroom like) and the dashi and crab, which gave it a flavor of the sea. Really interesting together, and really good.  I also loved the Connecticut farm egg with Iberico ham and ramp broth. This was a very small portion of food, but the flavor was just so light and delicate and amazing. As you stuck your spoon further in, you got more of the ramp flavor—and the ham on top was salty and tender. I probably could have eaten way too much of this and as it was, we ate far too much at this meal. Hubby’s mind was blown by the duck course he had as well (I agreed it was really, really good). The duck was perfectly cooked and sliced very thin, with extremely tender polenta (hand-milled it said) and a broth that had a slight sweetness (there were cherries and dates involved), but wasn’t over-the top sweet like duck accompaniments often are.

One of the cool things about this place was just how over the top the service was. They had a bread sommelier! He pushed a little cart around with breads that they make in the restaurant and let you choose your flavors. Also, we had the wine pairings with our meal (which were superb) and they set the bottles right next to our table and poured us more if our glass was empty too soon.  (Needless to say, there was a fair amount of wine consumed on this evening). There was a great little amuse, and lots of extra dessert courses (as well as the insane amount of bread). Yes, it is very expensive, but you will certainly not leave hungry. We thought we might explode. It was a great experience, even if it didn’t turn out to be our favorite meal of the trip.

The next day, we met up with hubby’s cousin (who works in Manhattan) at Momofuku Noodle Bar. This is the first of Chef David Chang’s restaurants, and has a pretty straightforward menu. We got there just a few minutes before they opened at noon to ensure we got a table and it worked like a charm—we were the second ones in the door and the place was pretty much full in the first 15 minutes. We ordered the roasted rice cakes ($10) to start and hubby’s cousin the pork buns ($10). Hubby and I also split a bowl of the Momofuku ramen ($16). The best thing for sure was the pork bun. Luckily, we all shared so we got to eat one of these because it was delicious. Nice pork belly chunks (fatty but amazingly tender and not gristly at all) with hoisin sauce, scallions, and very lightly pickled, super thinly sliced cucumbers. These would be a must order (and I am intrigued by the shrimp bun as well). I really enjoyed the rice cakes which were little cylinders of a slightly firm on the outside, soft starchy centers coated in a chili sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions. The more you ate them, the more you wanted. They did have a fair amount of heat to them as well. The ramen was a great bowl of ramen—simple and very well done. There was more pork belly here, again, just as good and shredded pork shoulder as well, which I really liked because it was easier to portion out with the noodles. A perfectly poached egg gave it a hint of creaminess. We had to get a milk bar cookie as well—we had a couple of the fruity cereal and marshmallow cookies, which were soft and certainly tasted like many childhood memories of eating this kind of food. They were really buttery and good. And I love biting into a cooked marshmallow.

Of these three meals, Momofuku was probably the one I liked the most, and it was certainly the least expensive. It was a fun, lively place. The service was harried but friendly and efficient. The food was good and we had a good time. It was also nice to just get a completely different type of cuisine.  They do a fried chicken meal as well (you need 6 people I think) and you can get a reservation for this. The chicken (regular fried chicken and Korean bbq fried wings) looked amazing. I would love to go back and do this sometime.

But stay tuned; the best is yet to come!

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon

163 Duane Street
New York, NY 10013

Bouley on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

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