NYC trip report (absurdly long)
Had an absolutely amazing trip this past week – many, many thanks to all the hounds who weighed in on my intinerary. I’ve been posting in bits and pieces, so I’ll just link to those, since this is going to be insanely long anyway.
Day 1: Alouette
I got into town earlier than expected, and didn’t have any reservations for that night. I knew what I was looking for – good, traditional French food (as I knew I had a big lineup of avant-garde meals coming), within walking distance of my friends’ UWS apartment. Alouette more than met expectations. I recently ate at Jojo, a much lauded French bistro in the Bay Area – Alouette was better.
Link to my full report: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391602#2480153
Day 2: Pongal, Degustation, Prune
I always think of the cluster of kosher South Indian restaurants around 28th and Lex as an “only in New York” phenomenon. Pongal’s dosas are my favorite to this day (and I do not live in a dosa-deprived area now). They’re thin and crisp all the way through, and they don’t seem to get soggy. Incredibly, they manage to be both obscenely buttery, and yet non-greasy. The potato filling could have been spicier, but it’s hard to be critical when you’re full of buttery carbs. Iddly and vada are excellent too (sambar could also have been spicier). Note to Bay Area hounds – I prefer these dosas to the ones at Vik’s Chaat House, Udupi Palace, Pasand, Dasaprakash, and Saravana Bhavan.
Degustation – may be my new favorite restaurant in the world. It was so amazing that I called the next day to make another reservation for my last night in NYC.
Link to my post on my first dinner: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/387395#2482322
On my second visit, I ordered the “tortilla” (paper thin slices of Yukon Gold potato wrapped around shallot confit and a quail egg), the croquettas (white sardine, lemon, and chickpea with a parsley aioli), the short-rib stuffed squid, and the lamb belly with potato and maitake mushroom hash brown. Everything was delicious, but the croquettes were outstanding (as were the asparagus, scallops, and the ribeye from my first visit). That’s how good this trip was – I’m classifying dishes into “outstanding” vs. merely “excellent”.
Prune (also reviewed more extensively in the above link) – both the monkfish liver and the fried sweetbreads were excellent, but after the pyrotechnics of Degustation Dinner #1, it suffered a little in comparison. (Not too much though.)
Day 3: Landmarc, WD-50
Landmarc is absolutely perfect for brunch with friends with small children. They were incredibly accommodating, and I hear the food was excellent. I couldn’t really taste much of it for myself, as I was still paying for the excess of the night before, so I just had oatmeal and fruit, and looked longingly at the incredible wine list. It seems like the perfect place to do a tasting – gather up six friends, order 6 half-bottles of wines you’ve never had before… I’ll have to save that for my next trip.
WD-50 – well, I already wrote a monster critique earlier (link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38739... ) – in short, I thought the savories were interesting but not really delicious, while sweets were both interesting and delicious. I will return for the dessert tasting menu. Preferably after having savories at Degustation.
Day 4: Lupa, Sushi Yasuda
Lupa’s one of my favorite restaurants of all time, and it was with some trepidation that I returned, given recent negative reports of service (and of my beloved cauliflower pasta!) Thankfully, the pasta was as delicious as I remembered – in my memory, there was a prominent brown butter presence, less of a chili pepper presence, and a finer texture to the sauce… but whatever. I loved it. The brussel sprouts with pecorino were okay… I was expecting the sprouts to be pan fried, and was a little surprised to see finely shredded, blanched sprouts with a generous heap of pecorino. I think I finally figured out why I’ve been disappointed with a number of Lupa’s veg antipasti in the last three years, when I was blown away by every single vegetable dish I had in the years I lived in NYC. Consistently, the ones that aren’t cooked on the spot have been too cold, and the flavors have been muted. I really don’t remember that being a problem before. Would love to know if Lupa got a Dept of Health citation between 2002 and 2004, forcing them to refrigerate things that should really be at room temperature. This was also my problem with a bunch of vegetables I ordered at my one and only meal at Otto – everything was cold and kind of tasteless.
Sushi Yasuda – best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. More knowledgeable hounds than I have beautifully documented their meals, so I’m a little embarrassed to even try to name the pieces I had (“the part of the belly that’s half-fat, half-lean, not really toro”, “the part of the scallop that’s usually tough that you peel off when you cook them, except it was coral-colored, and tender, and Yasuda said they get big and juicy once a year”). I will say I almost cried when I tasted kama toro for the first time (I asked for a second pieces). My notes say I also had jack mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red clam, scallop, clam, a “Japanese fish, no English name”, white king salmon, 2 kinds of unagi, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, uni, and arctic char. Thankfully, I listened to the people who told me not to double up on meals on Yasuda night, and I floated back to my friend’s place, blissed out.
Day 5: DiFara, Lupa (again), Degustation (again), Momofuku Ssam Bar, Room 4 Dessert
Well, clearly I failed to listen to all the hounds who wisely attempted to stop me from overdoing it on Momofuku night. And my original plan had me going to only Momofuku (it turned out I had one night longer than originally expected, so I didn’t need to double up on dinners most nights). But Degustation was so good I had to go again… and I was meeting my brother in the Village in the afternoon, and Lupa conveniently serves food all afternoon now… and everyone at both Degustation and Momofuku was absolutely insistent that I had to finish off the night at R4D – and that is how I ended up going to 5 restaurants in 10 hours.
DiFara – originally intended to have one regular slice, one square slice. But the first regular slice was so good, I had a second, while waiting for the square pie to come out of the oven. This was my first time with the square slice, and it was lovely, but I think I’m a regular slice girl. Also you can eat more of them and not get too full.
Lupa (take 2) – I ordered the roasted cauliflower, which was everything I remembered – just beautifully caramelized, nearly burnt, incredibly delicious. Also had the braised escarole, which was too salty, and didn’t do that magical “elevation of the humble to the sublime” thing that I count on Lupa to do. It was just humble. My brother had the tuna with white beans (beautiful, silky tuna; undercooked beans) and duck agrodolce (I only had a very small forkful, but it tasted good).
Degustation meal #2 – covered under Day 2
Momofuku Ssam Bar – luckily, I had a friend with a notoriously capacious appetite with me, and we were able to cover a fair amount of ground. Outstanding: brussel sprouts and veal head terrine. Merely excellent: rice cakes, whipped tofu with uni (I couldn’t figure out what the lychee flavored tapioca balls were doing in that dish), hamachi, plate of ham (the third one on the list), apple salad. I bet more items would have made the “outstanding” list, had I not already been full when I started. By the time the rice cakes came out, I was sweating from the effort of eating, and hyperventilating in an effort to increase my metabolism (made sense to me at the time).
I allowed myself to be talked into going to Room4Dessert – the walk from MSB helped, and we ordered two of the lightest desserts on the menu (the sangria parfait, with red wine “soda” and peach sorbet, plus a bunch of other stuff, and a pina colada parfait. I think.) They were good. I had pretty lost any capacity for critical thought by that point, though.
So now I’m home, and all I really want to eat are some fresh peas and fava beans, and some coarse bread. But that was so worth it. It was great to experience the exciting food that’s coming out of NYC. I hope that I’ll have the discipline to limit myself to one dinner a night on my next trip, but with the addition of three restaurants to my “must-eat when I’m in NYC” list…well… we’ll see.
Daveena I am in awe of your food itinerary, Day 5 WOWZER ! We are a group of mad-on-sushi women due into NY from London in 3 days and Im confused beyond decision right now as to were to go every evening ! Sounds like Yasuda is a must. Im hovering over my list here this evening , wondering where to book next! Is Yasuda way over the $70 pp mark ,as my party may faint if so !!????
Now this R4D sounds like the business and will have to check out now before I go and add to the ever growing ENOURMOUS list of foody places to savour. Great way to end an evening though and the trip there ,after a meal somewhere else, Im sure will make space as you said !
Well... my meal at Yasuda was way over the $70 mark, but you don't have to get the omakase. If your group really, really loves sushi, but is on a budget, you could still go, get a couple of your favorite pieces, then go somewhere else to eat afterwards (if, like me, you have too few days and too many restaurants, this may actually be a good strategy).
If you do go to R4D (it's open at least until midnight every night, so it's easy to squeeze in), do know that the sign is very hard to see (it's printed on the glass). I walked back and forth several times before I figured it out. Look for a glass front with a very long bar inside.
Thank you so much for that with regards to Yasuda, sushi with us however has to be on done on a LARGE full on stuff out scale !!! If I was just with my husband I woud go for it at Yasuda, but I have a group whos pockets vary, sooooo I need to find somewere really good for around $50 pp.
Thanks for the heads up on the R4D signage !!! Will google for a website. .
I am soooo glad to hear about your trip. I was worried at first that the plan that you had was too "agressive", but you indeed made it! That's incredible! Next time when you come visit and need someone to share the dishes, I will be available!
Let us know when you are coming next time and we will suggest something new for you!
what a wonderful report!
It made me hungry and a little sad that i don't take advantage of all the wonderful dining options in my own backyard.
Here's a thought for your next visit...can I come along too? Besides enjoyng great meals it would be joy to experience them w/someone who chows with such verve.
Actually, with the exception of Sushi Yasuda and WD-50, every other meal came in under $70, including wine, tax, and >20% tip. I used to believe that the Bay Area ruled when it came to mid-range restaurants, while Manhattan owned the high-end, but after essentially walking into a restaurant of Alouette's caliber on a Friday night, I really have to question that. Degustation is a particularly great bargain... while Prune, Momofuku, and Lupa look like mid-range places, Degustation looks and feels high-end.
Thanks for the report! Glad you made it to Ssam Bar and with someone to help you eat all that delicious food.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the desserts are the best part of the menu at WD-50. You'll probably want to try P*ong, Kyotofu, and/or Sam Mason's soon-to-be-opening Tailor to compare when you return, though.
I find that if I know I'm going to have a blow-out dinner, I try not to squeeze too much in during the day...that said, a slice of pizza or a cupcake or a bagel or a hot dog or a knish or a falafel sandwich is always welcome. I'd recommend adding some of the awesome street food and snacks that NYC has to offer on your to-do list. :)
Ah yes, that was the original plan, to not eat too much during the day... you see how well that turned out... nature abhors a vacuum, and all that <grin> This was actually my first trip ever where I didn't have a single bagel, City Bakery pretzel croissant, or Sullivan Street Bakery potato pizza slice. I did have some very bad macarons from Silver Moon Bakery, and some surprisingly mediocre macarons from Bouchon (esp given that the caramel ones from the original Bouchon are some of my favorite ever).
You know, almost everyone I talked to at Momofuku, Degustation, R4D, and WD-50 told me about Tailor - they're all really excited about it - it seems like the chefs and servers at those restaurants are all really good friends, and Tailor's going to be their after-hours place, as it's going to be open until 4 am. it's definitely on my list. Projected opening date sounds like anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months.
I know exactly how you feel about not being able to cram in enough meals to hit all your NYC musts. There's always old favorites and new stars to try. I usually build around Yasuda (don't you just love that crazy guy?), Babbo, and Lombardi's and quickly find out that I should have booked another 2 days in NYC...no matter how many days I stay.
As for Yasuda, people may think you're joking when you said you almost cried but the emotional rush is literally that strong. The part of the scallop you mention sounds like the scallop reproductive sac that he served to me around May of last year. It was sweet, crisp, and clean.
Excellent itinerary. I'm still trying to recover from my last visit but as soon as I do, I'll add Degustation and Momofuku to that list...
Wow, I am impressed at your knowledge of snack deliciousness.
Sorry about the macarons at Bouchon. Hopefully you had something else delicious there? Some friends of mine (including Chowhounder roboppy) did a big maracon roundup a few weeks ago and found that the best were at La Maison du Chocolat.