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Trip report

First time in NY in 14 years. Wow has the place changed. Note to self: never go to Times Square or midtown.

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  1. Dinners:

    Spotted Pig: great simple food, great hand-pumped local beer. Liked it so much we ate there twice (partly because it was convenient to where we were staying). Favorites included smoked haddock chowder, five-vegetable plate, and crispy fried pig's ears. The burger was odd if I thought of it as a burger, but the combination of Roquefort and rare beef was tasty. "Banoffee" pudding was great, prune tart was heavy and not so good.

    Artisanal: first-rate bistro, world-class cheese shop, great combination. Great rillettes with foie gras and grilled octopus, decent cassoulet, killer cheese course. Meadow Creek Grayson was a revelation.

    Wu Liang Ye on 48th: killer Sichuan. Ox tongue and tripe with roasted chile-peanut vinaigrette, Dan Dan noodles, pan-seared pork dumplings, stir-fried bacon with spicy capsicum, camphor tea-smoked duck, sauteed stringbeans "with Yibin City Spiced". A great meal.

    Bellavitae: good neighborhood Italian, friendly, cozy

    WD-50: see detailed report below.

    Alfama: went mostly because it was convenient to where we were staying. Caldo verde and desserts (pastéis de Nata and Disco Voador) were great. Other stuff so-so; the stone-grilled beef the people at the next table ordered looked better.

    1. Breakfasts / lunches / snacks / bars:

      Sant Ambroeus: stellar cappuccino.

      Caracas Arepa Bar: good, great texture, but too many fillings were sweet. Favorite was the muchacho (chorizo, cheese, and jalapeños).

      Blind Tiger: great local beer plus a ciderish German alt on hand pumps. Nice and quiet on Sunday nights. Was too much of a zoo one other night.

      Christine's Polish: just awful. We took a few bites and left. Nothing left of the place I frequented 20 years ago except the name.

      Momofuku Ssam Bar: didn't research carefully enough and went for lunch. Okay but not great, especially for the price. Sad I didn't get to try dinner.

      2nd Ave. Deli: ordered fatty pastrami, which they call "juicy"; seemed leaner and sliced thinner than I remember, but still better than anything we can get in the SF area

      Junior's: we were in the culinary hell of Times Square and needed a very quick lunch before a matinee, figured a local chain was our best bet. Pastrami was pretty good, nova bagel was fine, excellent cheesecake.

      Chelsea Brewing Co.: we were freezing and ducked in to warm up. Beer was passable. Food was awful.

      Province Chinese Canteen: perhaps the best meal of the trip. The texture of the mantou reminded me of the arepas but the fillings were better, especially the spicy pork. The pancake with banh mi-like beef filling was another highlight.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Yikes! I hope you get to try Ssam Bar dinner at some point.

        I think the EV go to for pierogi is now Ukrainian National Home, for future reference.

      2. WD-50: I didn't expect to love this, but was extremely curious since I've seen so much "molecular gastronmy" on TV and we don't have any in the SF area. Had the tasting menu ($125) with wine pairing ($75).

        Cobia amuse: simple, good. Served with a nice NV cava.

        "Pizza pebbles": weird flavor (nothing like pizza), awful texture somewhere between cookie dough and undercooked shortbread. Pepperoni puree was sort of good. Still drinking the cava.

        Knot foie: tasty and fun. The tiny rice crackers provided a nice textural contrast. Served with the best sake I've ever tasted, Miyasaka 'Yamahai 50 Nama' Ginjo.

        Hamachi tartare with sake lees tahini, grapefruit, and shallot: lovely combination but clashed badly with the accompanying Bourgogne Aligote Jean-Yves Devevy 2002. The sake would have been a much better fit.

        Eggs benedict: really fun presentation, good flavors, surprising textures. Went much better with the Aligote.

        French onion soup: deconstructed, with tasty beef broth in bowl, gelatin-encapsulated Gruyere puree floating in it, brioche chips laid on top, smear of caramelized onion puree. Clever but didn't really work. Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2001 went pretty well.

        Cuttlefish, squash, chamomile, orange peel puree, "toast oil": some unpleasant textures and the flavor combination didn't work for me. Still drinking the Old Telegram.

        Lamb belly (i.e. bacon), pureed and crispy fried black chickpeas, cherried cucumber: really good. Old Gnarly's Reserve Shiraz 2004, great pairing.

        Wintergreen parfait, walnut, avocado puree, chartreuse jelly (not sweet, more of an entremet than a dessert): parfait tasted too much like Life Savers. Transparent chartreuse jelly was delightful.

        Toasted coconut cake, carob fudge sauce, smoked hazelnuts, brown butter sorbet: wonderful, except the smoked hazelnuts didn't really relate to the other elements. Renardat-Fache Cerdon du Bugey 'Methode Ancestrale'

        Soft white chocolate, salty potato chips, malt, white beer ice cream: chocolate and potato chips were nice together, beer ice cream was just weird. Commandaria St. John

        Petit fours--marshmellow with dried passion fruit powder and menthol sorbet with cocoa covering: both very good. The menthol truffle was a nice note to end on.

        Overall, I found the meal more interesting than good. Felt sort of queasy afterwards, as if I'd eaten a bunch of junk out of vending machines rather than a wholesome meal. I'm very glad I tried it, but I probably won't ever eat that sort of thing again.

        I might go back for the dessert tasting menu someday.

        -----
        WD-50
        50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

        Wu Liang Ye
        36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

        Momofuku Ssam Bar
        207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        Artisanal
        2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016

        Spotted Pig
        314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

        Province Chinese Canteen
        305 Church St, New York, NY 10013

        Caracas Arepa Bar
        93 1/2 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

        Second Avenue Deli
        162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

        Junior's
        1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

        Blind Tiger
        281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

        Bellavitae
        24 Minetta Lane, New York, NY 10012

        Sant Ambroeus
        259 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

        Christine's
        208 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

        Alfama
        214 E 52nd St, New York, NY 10022

        Chelsea Brewing Co.
        59 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY 10011

        1. So nice to see you on this board, Robert. I like reading your posts over in wine.

          Next time you go to Artisinal, just go for a snack and try the wine and cheese flights. I suspect you would enjoy them.

          1. great reviews and some good choices...never was interested in wd-50 and yr report sort of is what i expected it to be like.

            makes me ill just reading it actually.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sam1

              actually, wd-50 is excellent -- a lot of fun and, for the most part, delicious in my book. to each her own, though. people who are into traditional fine dining tend to hate the place.

              1. re: cimui

                I liked everything about WD-50 except some of the more abstract food. Some of the a la carte dishes I saw going by were very appealing.

            2. Wow! Good to see you in NYC. Surprised you didn't try any pizza. Also noticed the glaring Babbo and Sushi Yasuda omissions. Time or just not interested?

              Gotta add Spotted Pig to my next, next visit (next visit is already maxed).

              Next time (hopefully not another 14 years), you have to try DiPalo's in little Italy. Just your kind of store. Lots of italian cheeses and cured meats.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Porthos

                I forgot, we had a coal-oven pizza at John's. Same as ever. Leftovers were great on the plane home.

                Babbo was too hard to get into. Maybe next time.

                Sushi (and the great-sounding mackerel sandwich at Province) didn't appeal at all given the cold weather.

                -----
                John's Pizzeria
                278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Hi Robert,

                  When you went to Ssam bar did you try the pork bun? I think the Berkshire pork belly at Ssam Bar is miles better than the pork at Province. While the mantou at Province was appealing, the fillings were a bit weak in my opinion. The mackerel sandwich wasn't that great (the pickled onions that came with the sandwich were good though), so you didn't miss much.

              2. Robert, I really wish I'd seen this post sooner because there are some places in NYC you should experience. Next time you're in NYC, please try Azuri Cafe on 51st off 10th Ave. This is quite simply the best (Israeli-style) falafel and shawarma I personally have ever had. As far as I can tell, there's no place else like it in the US. Buy some hummus for later -- I used to get by the tub and eat it with a spoon.

                Azruri closes early (8pm most nights, sundown on Fridays) so if that is not an option, try Olympic Pita, which is more centrally located. The falafel or shawarma on laffa bread is excellent. Make sure to try the fried eggplant

                Also, a pizza aficionado like yourself owes it to himself to make a pilgrimage to DiFara in Brooklyn (Q to Ave J). It's a schlep, but you of all people need to witness Dom's craft before he's gone. Somehow, he manages to make the best pizza in NYC using a plain old gas oven. Make sure you order a slice of the square pie, which is transcendant.

                I think you would also enjoy the pizza at the former Sullivan Street Baking Co., nka Grandaisy. Their baked goods are among the best in the city and provide an interesting point of comparison to places in the Bay Area like Acme.

                Finally, I don't generally recommend Chinese places in Manhattan to folks from the Bay Area. But since you enjoyed Wu Liang Ye so much, I urge you to try Szechuan Gourmet on 39th. Of the dishes you mentioned, I've only tried the Dan Dan noodles at Wu Liang Ye, which is also quite good. I personally, however, very much prefer Szechuan Gourmet -- try the mapo tofu.

                1. I forgot to mention that a Brooklyn friend brought us some bagels from the Bagel Hole. Now those are the real thing--boiled before baking, dense, chewy. A friend who grew up in New York said they tasted like her childhood.

                  -----
                  Bagel Hole
                  400 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

                  1. sounds like you had a good time. lot's more restaurants/lots more food here. don't wait so long before the next time.