A Prolonged Goodbye (Leaving NYC in Six Weeks) and My Farewell Tour
So, w/ deeply conflicted feelings (glee and melancholy), i sold my loft in UnionSquare and i am moving to Asia: i'll be based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but i'll be spending the next 3+ years traveling to pretty much every country in Asia, dining, drinking, and generally looking for trouble...
My one-way ticket is in February, so i'm hitting most of my fav NY spots before i go...while it'd make sense to skip Sripraphai and the selective Manhattan Thai joints where i've convinced them to cook me the real stuff that's not on the menu, i've actually been going to them quite a bit to practice my Thai language skills...and as far as some of the other Asian places, i know i'll be getting better Asian food in Asia but i have to hit them for old times sake...generally speaking, so far i've been rabidly going to:
-- Russ&Daughters (god, i'll miss that place)
-- Grand Central Oyster Bar
-- Ushi Wakamaru
-- Angels Share (more for drinks, but it's a special place for me)
and also will be hitting: Picholine, Keens, Lupa, Honmura An, Ferdinando's (RedHook), Cafe Sabarsky, NY Noodletown, the bar at Cafe Des Artistes, Cafe Mogador, n33, La Nacional, and Cafe Cafe (just for coffee and Soho people watching)...
i'd like to get some more great Italian food while i'm here: it's been a while since i've been to Da Umberto and Piccolo Angelo so might go there -- and maybe Malatesta where i've never been...any other suggestions on amazing NYC Italian most welcome: i've been to Babbo i really haven't been to a lot of the major older-school high-end Italian places...
And, any other suggestions on places that i've missed out on while i've been here: most welcome... ANY cuisine, particularly if it's something i'm unlikely to find in Asia...on my hit-list of restaurants i've never been: Florence (West African)...and maybe a Puerto Rican place?...
i've loved participating in this board over the last few years....in advance and for past opining, thank you all: culinary compatriots, mock-enemies, fellow class clowns, acerbic sparring partners, and gentle strangers: for your suggestions, connoseurship, criticisms, vitriol, gusto, wit, passion, and verve...
Yours Truly, Simon
If you get a chance, go to BITE on Lafayette & Bleecker. They have an amazing Spicy Middle Eastern Turkey sandwich (along with some great paninis). They have a really hot Thai green coconut curry. Its run by a couple of guys from Thailand so you might be able to hone your language skills.
I am very happy to hear that you will be starting a new CH journey in Asia. I have been to most of the places that you mentioned, so I am sure you will enjoy the food and the cultures there! In my experience, the Asian places that you mentioned usually serve pretty good high-end western food (e.g. French fine dining) and a lot of the famous Euporean restaurants (e.g Pierre Gagnaire, Joel Roubuchon, Alain Ducasse, and even some Australian famed restaurants) have their branches in Asia such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc. They are mainly targeting the tourists who are willing to pay a hefty price for fining dinner, so the food is generally up to the standard.
What I found to be hard to find in Asia is the "everyday" food that we have in NYC. So here is my list of things that you may want to load up before you leave, as it will be very hard to find the authentic stuff there:
1. Brooklyn / NY styled Pizza - In Asia, it is much harder to find good quality pizza in general, let alone the NY styled pizza. The super-crispy-thin crusted (i.e. Italian styled) pizza are available at some better Italian restaurants (and hence more costly), but you won't be able to easily find a GOOD grab-and-go thin-crust pizza in Asia. The available selection is limited to Pizza Hut and Domino's, and mostly of them are already customized to fit the Asian palettes i.e. think Peking Duck Pizza or Pizza with Salmon in teriyaki sauce). So if you are not a fan of say, California Pizza Kitchen, you really should load up on thin-crusted pizza before you leave!
2. Bagels, breads, and things that involve a dough - my experience is that Asian prefers bread soft and moist, and the crusty and crispy types that we prefer in the US. I had such a hard time to find good sourdough bread which was only available in a gourmet bread store an hour away from where I lived...) You will have to go to gourmet markets for some very expensive European bread that taste closer to home. I found it the hardest to find true good bagels (actually still wasn't able to find one), they just don't have the same thing in Asia. So bagel, bagel, and more bagels!
3. Steaks! needless to say, almost all the Asian restaurants that serve high-end beef are sourced from the US (kobe beef is another story...) And you will pay about 3 times as much for a USDA prime steaks in Asia as in the US (and the quality is not even as good as they are previously frozen). When my family comes to visit NYC, they always want to have steaks because they taste better and relatively cheap. Same principle holds to Burger.
You can probably find some high-quality pastries, fine-dining, etc. as long as you are willing to pay the price (as they are usually served at fancy hotels or gourmet stores). It is intriguing to me that it is the cheaper food like bagels and bread that you just can't find the real thing even if you are willing to pay. Seafood in generally is much cheaper in Asia (except in Japan) so you can save your appetite.
I hope you have a wonderful stay in Asia. Please let us know any interesting food, events, or experiences that you come across in Asia. Of course, for any questions please post it in Chowhound! There are so many experts here I am sure you will find your answers!
Happy New Year!
thanks for the thoughts!...i actually eat bread fairly rarely, but i will be eating a few parting pizzas and bagels...true, i am definitely not a fan of Cali-Pizza-Kitchen and its clones so i'll be getting my fill of Grimaldi's and TwoBoots before i go...
Your family visits from Japan?
My family is over many different places in Asia, and I grew up in Hong Kong. We moved to Toronto Canada about 10 years ago, and I studied and worked in the US (West Coast, Midwest, and now NYC) for the last 8 years. I did work in Japan for a year, and I go there about once a year to visit my friends. Now, my dad and my sister are located in Hong Kong and travel to China a lot for business. My brother is in Taipei and travels to Thailand at least 4, 5 times a year to have fun. My mom and I like to travel, so whenever we go back to Hong Kong to visit our family (a few times a year), we like to stop by nearby cities such as Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul for a short stop.
I would say I probably am the most familiar with food in Hong Kong, China, and NYC as I have spent a lot of years in these cities. But my frequest visit to Asian cities allow me to keep up to date to the food scenes in different countries. I have to admit though, that I don't think I know too much details about the food in more rural areas in Asia (not like Tony Bourdain who can go to these villages to try the really authentic and family-style cuisines). Back to the beef question (I guess that's where your question about my family is about...) I found US beef in Hong Kong and Japan to be outrageously pricey compared to here. Ruby Tuesdays or Outback (well, kind of Aussie) are much more costly in these cities. My family and Japanese friends enjoy having beef in the US because 1) High quality beef in Japan is SOOO expensive and 2) US beef is a different type of "food experience" to them. They eat it differently (serve in big chops, US style) than when having Japanese Beef (usually small slices, or shabu shabu (thin) - may have something to do with the high price tag). So it's a whole different beef experience to them!
I think we who live in New York are very fortunate as we are exposed to a diversity of ethnic food. Hong Kong has a very similar selection in food variety compared to New York, where you can find a lot of ethnic food that is quite authentic to the original(a tiny note: Japan is the least authentic in ethnic food IMO; everything to customzie to Japanese palette. I always only get pure Japanese food when I am in Japan) It helps to introduce me to many cuisines even I haven't had the chance to visit the countries (e.g. Italy! Greece!). While it is a good introduction, it still can't replace the real experience you have in that country, just like I can never get that NY style pizza in Hong Kong. I am very excited for you to have the chance to visit different countries in the next few years and STAY there to get the full experience. I think you as a CHer will definitely enjoy the experience and I hope you can share your experience with people here!
Have you travel to Asia before? There are a few things about food that I will suggest but you may already know or see it in books. (e.g. boiling water for drinking...)
Sorry that I keep talking and talking. My best of luck to you, and feel free to keep the postings coming!
Excellent suggestions, one and all.
I would stock up on NY Jewish food, such as above suggestions(Katz, R & D) and would add to that places such as Barney Greengrass, Moishe's Bakery, Kossar's Bialys and either of the pickle joints on the Lower East Side.
I would also recommend that you hit up the M&G Diner for some great American Fried Chicken, and, by all means, please report back on the Thai Fried Chicken. I've heard it's amazing.
I know I don't have to tell you this, but have a great time.
Go back to Piccolo Angelo & try Florence (by the way, it's African, not soul food as someone said above). I've had very good experiences at both lately. Both owners alone are worth going for. Unless you have a major emotional attachment to Ferdinando's, get to DiFara for pizza instead or al di la (in Park Slope) for an excellent Italian meal. I also recommend a visit to Ali at Kebab House in Astoria. Just tell him you're leaving and ask him to cook for you. Frankly, I'd also recommend Peter Luger's, Uncle Nick's (or similar Greek place), Hearth, a couple of E.Village Italian places (Max was mentioned; was L'il Frankie's?) & the Ukrainian Home on 2nd Ave (or whatever it's called). Couldnt hurt to get to a rodizio while you're at it: Platforma (either location) or the new one on Park Ave.
You are essentially moving to chowhound heaven, as Asia is THE place for eating and drinking- a fact which you obviously grasp already. I lived and traveled there most of my adult life and am constantly trying to relive that dining pleasure in the U.S. (sometimes with success, sometimes not).The only things I really missed living over there were cheese-based items and Western desserts. So I'd get some fill of that stuff. Also, kind of strange, I missed American style Chinese food. Not a deep, pining "miss", but a "like-to-have" type of miss. And for some reason, I would miss roast turkey with mashed potatos and gravy. Anyhow, best of luck to you Simon. Maybe we'll cross paths sometime,
thanks!...because of the cheese, i plan to hit the bar area of Picholine at least once...and yeah, roast turkey is classic American goodness: a buddy of mine in Bangkok had some there on Thanksgiving and told me it didn't measure up at all...if you want to email me to talk food/travel/Asia sometime, i can be reached at email@example.com (that's not my main email, just the one i use when i have to post on an open forum, then i'll email back from one of my regular ones)...
Before I leave the city for any kind of long-term trip, I try to get the following in:
- bagels and lox at Ess-A-Bagel (though I really have to work on getting over to R&D)
- concession special at Gray's Papaya
- schwarma/falafel at Azuri Cafe
- plain Junior's cheesecake
- favorite burger and fries (not getting into that black hole of a debate as to which place is best, but this is especially important if you're going to a place largely devoid of burgers)
- Korean BBQ, or anything from my favorite Koreatown spot (Woorijip)
- some kind of bento box from Katagiri
- plain frozen yogurt at Bloomingdale's 40 Carrots
- a good cup of coffee...
I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I'll need to revisit this thread before I travel to Spain in a few weeks...
All i have to say is you will be HOOKED UP on the food in chiang mai- thailand has some of the most incredible food i've ever eaten. you can obviously skip sripapai before you go, because you are in for such a treat. nothing in the west compares to the real cuisine in thailand- now i'd be hitting russ and daughters every day cause you won't see bagels and smoked fish for a long time... enjoy fb
You definitely want to visit restaurants that are a rarity in Asia. With that said, ChowDiva has a good list going, and I agree, say goodbye to Katz's for goodness sakes!
If I moved, I would certainly miss the coffeehouse experience that defines big-city lounging: Joe's, 9th St. Espresso, Sant Ambroeus, Via Quadronno, Zibetto for a great Italian experience.
Village favorites: Hearth, Prune, Little Owl, Blue Ribbon Bakery all offer great food in nice city dives. And 'ino for paninis!
Soul food: I've heard good things about Florence's, but never been. Try Charles' Southern Kitchen, Amy Ruth's, La Marmite for Senegalese.
Pizza is a must: hit up Grimaldi's, Lombardi's, DiFara's for a final farewell.
Bagels: I'm sure you've done it before, but do a final bagel-showdown, because nowhere is bagels more contested than right here - it will always be a NYC thing. Ess-A-Bagel, H&H Bagels, Murray's Bagels, Absolute Bagels.
Pastries: Poseidon Bakery, Almondine, Rocco's, Veniero's, Payard, La Maison du Chocolat - and many of those cupcake places.
Cap things off at Eleven Madison Park - you will have a sensational time, and it really defines fine New York City dining.
Best of luck, Simon - and Happy Happy Eatings.
i'll definitely do your excursion! (although once i go into Russ&Daughters, it's always difficult for me to resist simply going home and making a beast of myself gorging on smoked salmon)...truth be told, i don't eat beef so much so that's why Katz's wasn't on my list, but i suppose another pastrami there would be a fine thing...
Good luck to you!
If I were moving abroad, I'd try and get my fill of:
Tapas at Tia Pol and/or Sala
Lupa/Otto/Bar Jamon/Casa Mono
Pizza, pizza, and more pizza (John's, Patsy's, Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, Di fara's)!
Burgers at Corner Bistro
Philly Cheese Steak at Carl's
BBQ at Blue Smoke
Desserts at Veneiro's, City Bakery, and Il Laboratori Del Gelato
Hotdogs at Gray's Papaya
On the higher end, I'd go to Gotham, Bouley, Craft, Peter Luger, and wrap it all up at The River Cafe for a picturesque farewell to our city.