Help a Londoner eat her way through Manhattan
- greedygirl Aug 2, 2009 06:59 PM
I'm going to be in Manhattan for a few days at the end of September and I've been doing some research about the best places to eat, and I'm now really confused by the enormous choice!
For reference, I'm not particularly interested in eating European food in New York, for obvious reasons, but I will make an exception for Italian. I can get great Indian at home. So what I'm really interested in is American, new American/fusion, Korean, Japanese, Chinese (in fact all things Asian, especially Bahn Mi, which is hard to find in the UK) and Mexican (I know NYC isn't the best place in America for this, but there's not much good Mexican in London). We will already have visited DC and the South (Staunton/Charleston/Savannah) so will probably have had enough soul food by then. In fact, lighter food might be a good idea!
Anyway, on the long (long) list.....
Katz's for pastrami (a must, I think)
Baougette / Saigon Grill / Bahn Mi San Voi
Peter Luger ( for the burger)
Russ and Daughters
Clinton Street Bakery
Sushi Yasuda / Sushi Azabu
Ippudo (for ramen)
Di Fara (I'm not sure I want to waste time on this when I live near a place that serves the best pizza in London but can't help but think that you need to have a "slice" while in NY. On my previous visit eons ago I went to Lombardis I think but wasn't overly impressed - too much cheese).
Babbo / Lupa
Cabrito / El Paso
Balthazar (I know I said no French!)
Eleven Madison Park
Spotted Pig (although I come from the land of the gastropub, I'm quite interested in the American take on it. But maybe not that interested).
I'd love some input on this. If it helps we'll be staying in Greenwich Village. I'm willing to spend $$$ on one blow-out meal, but as this is the end of an expensive 2.5 week trip, the more moderately priced would be good! Thank you.
Going down your lists, here's my take on the places I've been to.
Katz's for pastrami (a must, I think) - Yes, a definite must! I've had deli in London at Bloom's. Not even on the same deli planet as Katz's.
Baougette - I've tried only one banh mi at the Lex location. Not impressed.
Peter Luger ( for the burger) - I wouldn't shlep all the way to Brooklyn to have a burger when there are excellent burgers to be had in Manhattan.
Russ and Daughters - Absolutely! But keep in mind that it's take-out only.
Shake Shack - Yes! To avoid the hideously long lines, get there just before they open at 11 a.m.
Di Fara - I've been to London several times but have never had pizza there, so I have no idea what it's like. In any case, again, with excellent pizza available in Manhattan, I wouldn't bother going to Brooklyn and especially now that Di Fara has raised the price of a slice to $5. Imo, no pizza is worth paying that much.
Gramercy Tavern - Yes, to the casual Tavern Room (no reservations accepted), but I cannot recommend the formal dining room since we had a very disappointing dinner there a few months ago.
Eleven Madison Park - Regulars on this board know that this is our #1 favorite NYC restaurant. You did say no Europeon/French, and Chef Humm's cuisine is French-inspired. However, it is the most upscale, blow-out worthy restaurant on your list, and it does have the whole package: stellar cuisine, an excellent wine program, one of the best service staffs in the city, and a gorgeous space.
Aldea - Excellent! If you're fine with Portuguese-inspired New American, I highly recommend it.
For modern Mexican with an emphasis on fish and seafood, I would suggest Pampano.
You might want to consider taking my famous self-guided eating tour of the Lower East Side. Both Katz's and Russ & Daughters are on it. Here's the link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493333
A lot of good ideas here, I'll chime in:
Katz's - Definitely a must. For the first trip, don't deviate from the classic: pastrami on rye with mustard. Ask the slicer for a juicy cut if you like it moist and fatty.
Peter Luger - The burger here is among the best in NYC and is a good value, but the porterhouse is why the place is famous. I don't think I could resist the urge to order steak, even at lunch time. Minetta Tavern may be a suitable alternative; they have arguably better burgers, including the (in)famous dry-aged $26 Black Label burger. Many people consider it the best burger in NYC, bar none.
Russ and Daughters - It's just down the block from Katz's, so it would be very easy to visit. The herring in cream sauce is probably their most iconic item, along with many types of smoked fish.
Shake Shack - A very tasty fast-food style burger that deserves the praise it gets, but it is not worth braving the insane lines during peak times (easily over an hour). Try to get there right before opening (11 AM) or try their Upper West Side location.
Clinton Street Bakery - Weekdays are better as the waits can be long on weekends. Their pancakes with maple butter are great (I assume you're going for breakfast).
Matsugen - The best soba in town since Honmura An closed. I'd ignore the rest of the menu and go straight for the unadorned cold soba, without the distractions of duck, eggs, natto etc. I find that the simplest version is the most sublime.
Sushi Yasuda - Yasuda is a couple tiers above Azabu both in quality and cost. Omakaze at the bar at Yasuda will be pricey, but it is one of the very top sushi meals you can have in NYC, only rivaled by Kurumazushi and Masa. For much less money, you can have a chirashi entree at a table and order a few nigiri/other items a la carte.
Ippudo - Probably the best ramen in town, especially their akamaru modern if you like rich pork broths. Unfortunately, the wait during dinner time is usually long, so I'd suggest going for lunch or right at the beginning of dinner service.
Di Fara - Be ready for a trek. It's a rather long subway ride away and Dom DeMarco takes his blessed sweet time making each pizza himself. You have to be assertive when ordering and keep close watch, because people will take your slices/pies if you're not careful. If you're unlucky, you may end up waiting nearly 2 hours to get your pizza, especially if Dom loses your order in the shuffle. Now at $5 a slice, I honestly can't tell you if it's worth the money, time, or aggravation. But what emerges from that plain, beat-up looking conventional gas oven is the best pizza of this style in the country. Old school Brooklyn through and through, it is undoubtedly a cheese-heavy, New York style slice. But that's ok when the cheese is top-shelf fior di latte mozzarella, mozzarella di bufala, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Together in the right proportions and topped with olive oil and freshly-snipped basil, it is absolutely amazing. Your mileage may vary. Tips: Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Going early is best to avoid the prolonged waits. It is also much cheaper to get a pie, which is $25 I believe (works out to just over $3 a slice), rather than individual slices.
If you're looking for Neapolitan style pizza, Motorino and Keste are good options, and easier than getting a slice from Di Fara. And Lombardi's wouldn't even make it in a top 30 NYC list IMO, it hasn't been relevant for a while.
Babbo / Lupa - Both are board favorites and well worth going to if you manage to snag a reservation. I've been to Lupa fairly recently and enjoyed eating there.
Scarpetta - There's some really excellent food here, but the standout for me is what looks like the simplest item on the menu: spaghetti with tomato and basil. Humble ingredients elevated into a region-defining dish; who knew that tomatoes could be that decadent?
Degustation - I've heard nothing but good things, so I think I'll be checking it out very soon.
Gramercy Tavern - It has been a NYC fine dining institution for many years and was a forerunner in the fresh, seasonal ingredient movement. Either the casual Tavern or main dining room would be good choices. It is also interesting to note that GT is one of the very few high-end restaurants that takes beer seriously. They have a carefully chosen selection of beers on tap, a list of relatively hard-to-find bottles, and several vintage ales, all served in proper glassware. Just like any beverage though, it seems like large mark-ups are part of the game, with Rochefort Trappists 8 going for $16.25 (EMP charges $19 for the same bottle). I bet the Rochefort 10 would go for well over $20 if they had it...oh well, still not nearly as painful as wine mark-ups.
Balthazar - Pass. Good French bistro fare, but I think there are more interesting options.
Eleven Madison Park - This would be a great choice for your blow-out meal. Searching "EMP" on the boards will bring up many recent reports.
Aldea - Haven't been, but I've heard nothing but glowing reports.
Spotted Pig - Pass. Not much reason to go here, especially as a Londoner.
I'd also recommend Jean Georges for lunch. It isn't strictly French as there are strong Asian influences in the flavor combinations of many dishes, often involving the interplay between fleeting heat, acidity, and sweetness. The lunch menu features many of the items on the dinner menu and is priced at $29 for 2 courses, $14.50 per additional course. The best items on the menu are wonderful, and I can't complain about JG lunch being the most inexpensive Michelin 3* meal on the planet.
Another possibility for your one blow-out meal would be Le Bernardin. If you like seafood, there are dishes here that would make you swoon. I think Eric Ripert's best dishes are the best NYC has to offer in any capacity. I also think the experience is unique to New York, as there is no other restaurant in the world singularly devoted to preparing seafood at this level (though L2O in Chicago is trying). For vegetables, there's l'Arpège; for offal, there's St. John; and for seafood; there's Le Bernardin.
$25 for a pizza! I'm in shock. ;-) My local (which does Neapolitan style sourdough pizza which is raved about http://www.independent.co.uk/life-sty...) is only a fiver and uses the finest organic ingredients. And the queues are only really bad on a Saturday. I'm intrigued, and maybe if I was in New York for longer, I'd give it a go. But I honestly think my OH will balk at spending half a day queuing for pizza.
Di Fara isn't Neapolitan style, it's a New York style pie. So that $25 pie isn't individually sized; it consists of 8 large slices and would feed about 3-4 people. But if you bought 8 slices ($5 each) piece by piece instead, it would be $40. Just pointing out that buying the pie is cheaper if you're going to have enough people to eat it.
A standard Margherita Neapolitan pie would generally be $10-12, and a couple dollars more if mozzarella di bufala is used.
I wouldn't really say Di Fara is really NY style (gas oven) either. He's got a gas oven but also that crazy blend of cheeses which includes parmesan, and with the drizzle of olive oil and the fresh basil, it's his own creation. I can't think of anywhere else in the city using a gas over that does those three things. I prefer to call it Dom-DeMarco-style!
Distinct styles of pizza found in NY are typically Neopolitan, NY-Neopolitan (coal over mostly), New York style (gas oven).
Di Fara FAQ
If I had to live on a desert Island, I would take a Difara pie over any neopolitan pie on earth, bar none...however, it is a long trek out to midwood and will take up most of your day ...I didn't see any Momofuku's on your list, David Chang is the most decorated young chef in the states and arguable the most influential and relevant chef in NYC right now, do a search, you'll see..
Go to Peter Luger for the porterhouse- The best steak you will ever have.
Clinton Street Bakery- A definite for the bluberry pancakes.
Di Fara's- Yes, a hassle but the best pizza I have ever had.
Eleven Madison Park- One of the best restaurants I have ever eaten bar none.
Babbo- Still think it is the best Italian in the city, despite what people may say.
I've just been looking at the website for Eleven Madison Park. It looks seriously amazing and not too bad for the food but the wine list is scary expensive! I'm used to European prices for wine and even a three-star Michelin restaurant like Gordon Ramsay will have much more moderately priced bottles than that. However, I have yet to spend the £200 my granny left me which I have put aside for a special treat (she liked to have fun, my granny) and maybe this will be the place. Will a meal here cost much more than $300 for two, do you think?
As I mentioned in my post upthread, EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant, so we've been there countless times. If you do the 3-course prix fixe @ $88pp, keeping in mind that in addition to wine, you will have to include tax (9%) and tip (20%), you should be able to get out for $300 - $325, depending on what you drink.
EMP's wine program is headed by John Ragan, one of the best sommeliers in the city. He will help you choose the perfect wine to go with your meal at a price that you feel comfortable with. Also, don't dismiss the idea of wine pairings. John is an absolute master at this and, again, he will select wines that suit your budget.
Btw, I strongly urge you to have Chef Humm's signature duck for two. Sensational! One of the best duck preparations on the planet, it is carved tableside.
I'd love to do the wine pairings but can't really afford it at the moment. I forgot about the tax and tip as well - this "hidden" charge is something that drives me mad about US restaurants but that's for another thread. The other option is to go for the Tasting lunch with wine pairing. Is that a better option than the prix fixe dinner with wine, do you think?
PS My other hope is that the pound continues to climb against the dollar!
If you want to economize, the $68pp 5-course lunch Gourmand is an excellent way to go. We have done lots of those, and they are always superb! You don't get quite the full treatment as at dinner, i.e., you do get an amuse, but no hors d'oeuvres and mignardises. If you don't care for the dessert, you can request the tart trolley instead. Also, you can add on a cheese course and still come in well under your budget.
Since I drink very little -- some sweet wine with foie gras -- my husband always does the wine pairings and regularly comments about how smashing they are.
I love going to EMP for lunch. Sitting in that grand, gorgeous space with the light (hopefully sunshine) streaming through the huge windows facing Madison Square Park, it's truly magical!
I would definitely make time for Momofuku Ssam - if only to stop by for the pork buns. You can get them at the Milk Bar next door as well.
Banh Mi - I'm thinking maybe you mean Saigon Bakery in Chinatown? Excellent Banh Mi - haven't tried the other places.
Since you are staying in the Village, this list might be of interest to you:
If you are interested in a "take on" Mexican food, I'd highly recommend Bistro Itzocan - Mexican ingredients combined with French technique.
Very definitely Saigon Bakery over Baoguette. And if you're walking around Chinatown sampling here and there (pork buns, soup dumplings, pork and chive dumplings, etc., etc.), note that one Banh Mi can easily satisfy two people.
And I'll be perhaps the lone voice in favor of the Luger burger--especially if you get a side of bacon along with it. It's a damned good burger, a fun way to experience the place without the crowds, and the bacon is killer. You do the burger, let hubbie do the steak. Betcha he won't be able to resist anyway.
Katz's - I am not by any means a fan of Katz's pastrami, but that puts me in a distinct minority in these boards. Were it me, I would not bother.
Banh mi - I am not a fan of Baoguette, especially in comparison to authentic banh mi in Chinatown. I have not yet tried Sau Voi, though I did just get their menu last week, but having tried everything else, I would heartily recommed going to Saigon Bakery and trying their roast pork or banh mi dac biet. You will not be disappointed.
Russ and Daughters - A definite must unless you choose to visit Barney Greengrass, which makes my favorite nova in the city.
Taco Taco - I haven't been to Taco Taco. My personal preference is for holes in the wall where I am forced to attempt Spanish if I want to eat well.
a few random thoughts:
-- i'd say get your banh mi at the Chinatown places rather than Baogette, which i too found underwhelming...and i'd really recommend avoiding Saigon Grill, a terrible place w/ gloppy food...
-- for a moderately priced Italian meal, Malatesta is a Far West Village classic, and has outdoor seating and is perfect on a summer eve...
-- Scarpetta is great too...i recommend sitting at the bar and sharing 2 or 3 dishes if you want to go there at moderate price, but it's fantastic for a full meal too...
-- Russ and Daughters is a must...
-- definitely don't waste your time at Spotted Pig
-- i went to Azabu twice and didn't care for it either time...
-- if you go to Matsugen, i'd recommend the soba (esp the inaka soba), and maybe some sashimi, but a lot of other items on the menu are so-so...
-- while Szechuan Gourmet is a fav of many here, i personally prefer the Grand Sichuan on 9thAve/24th St...
-- consider a short subway to Sripraphai in Queens for Thai food...(see outer boroughs board for details)...
Sripraphai is right off Roosevelt Ave. in Queens which is a strip filled with Latin American and Asian places to eat. Check the Outer Boroughs for suggestions on what to eat if you're gonna be out there. Sripraphai is one of those places people in Thailand tell you to go to for Thai in NY. For Mexican, hit up the Redhook ball fields in Bklyn if they're still out there.
trip out to Queens - Take the 7 train out of Manhattan, It only goes to Queens. It is elevated so you can look at queens roof tops as you plod along. It goes directly to many of the places discusses on Chowhound.
DiFara, near difara are a number of decent Jewish delies and restaurants so there are other things you can so. You can also get back on the subway, which is elevated at that point(I think), and go to Coney Island and try some Russian/Eastern European. M&I International food story /restaurants or one of the restaurants on the board walk.
If you are a bit daring you can rent a bike and bike from Manahttan to Difara. From Prospect Park to Coney there is a separated Bicycle path(get the map) and a marked bike path from manhattan to PPark.
I've had two great meals and one very good meal at Wondee in the past month and a half. I think that if you convince them you want really spicy Thai-style food and only order off the "Secret Thai" menu (which is in English) and any specials your waiter may tell you about, you can have a meal that's better than some meals you could be served at Sripraphai. I certainly think that my last 3 meals at Wondee were better than my last meal at Sripraphai.
Going down your list I would immediately eliminate Katz's (way overrated), Shake Shack (a fast food hamburger), Baoguette (ordinary), Matsugen (unless you have a "thing" for soba), Taco Taco, DiFara, Perilla, Balthazar and Spotted Pig.
Then I would focus less on what you are thinking you want to eat and more on what NYC does best:
Italian - Del Posto, Esca, , Babbo, Lupa, Alto, Convivio
Japanese - Masa, Sushi Yasuda, Soto, Yakitori Totto
French - Per Se, Jean-Georges for lunch (great value), Corton
Chinese - Flushing (would be happy to provide many recs)
Mexican - Not a strength here, but I kind of like Suenos, Crema and Mercadito
I would add a Momofuku just to see what all the fuss is about.
And since you mentioned Charleston, don't miss Gullah Cuisine in Mt Pleasant - incredible soul food. FIG and McCrady's are great as well.
@gourmandslife: I'd like to hear your list of recommendations for Flushing--including recs for markets, if you have any. I've been to Spicy & Tasty and Waterfront International but would like to explore further. I've had dumplings at one of the stalls in the Golden Mall on Main Street, but would be happy to have recs for specific stalls as well.
Probably best if you reply on the Outer Boroughs board. Thanks.
We're a New York-London couple and maybe this can give us an edge on advice!
We really don't want you to blow your granny's money at Eleven Madison Park! It has no soul! The service is a really over-the-top and it's stuffy - of course the food is exquisite but the whole experience is so fussy. Lots of men in suits, etc. Huge, caverous room with million-foot ceilings. Damn expensive wine list. Something depressing about it.
For your big splurge I would highly recommend going to Blue Hill - which is also handy for you because it's in the West Village. The food is amazing, local produce and meats from their own farm mostly and the ambiance is spot-on. Skip the tasting menu and maybe get 2 starters, 2 mains and then share a pudding. Really nice wine list, not too fancy.
I would go for Katz's, because it's an institution. One pastrami sandwich can easily serve two.
There was a good, recent write-up in the New York Times of the best new pizza places http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20... -- try one of those, maybe Motorino in Williamsburg or Veloce Pizzeria in the East Village.
We're kind of anti-brunch, weirdly, but be warned that Clinton Street Bakery usually has a long wait even before it opens. Try Egg in Williamsburg alternatively on a weekday. The fried chicken at lunch/dinner there is also amazing and it's a very American experience too.
Fette Sau in Williamsburg would expose you to barbecue and is economical - it's not like British bbq it's deliciously melting pork belly, brisket etc. and they use quality ingredients. Good bar across the street run by the same people.
Dinner-wise, Lupa isn't so special. The food is kind of boring. Go to Prune instead, which is very neighborhood-y and is maybe New York's answer to St. John. Balthazar isn't so exciting for dinner - it's like London's Wolseley. Maybe grab breakfast there. Cabrito is over-rated in my experience - and over-priced.
Skip Szechuan Gourmet - it isn't as good as Bar Shu in London. In fact, I'd strongly advise avoiding Chinese and Indian in New York because both are much better in London. Instead, you should try one of the Momofukus which has become a real New York institution. I'd go with Momofuku Ssam bar if I were you because it has a more interesting menu than Noodle Bar.
Hope that helps and isn't too rambling.
It may be possible to find faults at EMP (though as a regular, I think it's perfect!). But "stuffy" it definitely is NOT! Although many men choose to wear suits when dining there, the fact is that EMP is the only one of the six NYC 4-star restaurants, with the exception of Masa, that does not require a jacket. And yes, service is proper - as it should be in a 4-star -- but at the same time, the staff is young and exceedingly cordial.
We had dinner at Blue Hill once about five years ago, and there was not much about our experience which prompted us to go back. The seating is uncomfortably cramped, especially along the banquets. Though service was pleasant, specials were recited without prices. We ordered the asparagus special and were served a half dozen stalks which were nothing special. The cost? $13! Our fault for not asking, but it was a good example of what is generally known as "highway robbery." We also had to send back our main courses because they arrived at the table at an incorrect temperature, i.e., not hot enough. Inexcusable for a restaurant which purports to be a high caliber. Imo, choosing Blue Hill over EMP is like choosing a Chevy over a Rolls Royce.
Katz's - yeah, a must. And get it juicy. But be careful; if you have a whole pastrami sandwich for lunch, you will want a light, late dinner.
I'm a regular at Baoguette St Marks, but that's because I live so close to it. Banh Mi Saigon on Mott between Hester and Grand is still the place to go. Get a sandwich (my favorite is the Banh Mi Ga - chicken sandwich - and I always get it spicy) and eat it outdoor in a park such as the one on Spring and Mulberry. If you want pizza, Keste is just as tasty as, though different from, Di Fara, and you don't have to wait 2 hours or whatever. It's modern Neapolitan pizza. Some New Yorkers don't like it, because it's not New York style. Good New York style pizzerias that don't require a trip to Brooklyn and won't make you wait hours include Patsy's in East Harlem and Arturo's on Houston St. in the Village.
What's Taco Taco? Never heard of it.
As for your dinner choices, I had a wonderful dinner at Degustation in March. They serve modern tapas. Szechuan Gourmet is very good, as long as you stick to their spicy dishes, but if you have the time to go to Spicy & Tasty in Flushing, or perhaps the Hunan restaurant on Northern Boulevard, do it. I had a great meal at Babbo and a number of very good ones at Lupa. I like Balthazar but question why you'd want to go there, if there are good brasseries in London, or if you get to France much. I think you should skip Spotted Pig. If you go to Gramercy Tavern, my sense in one Restaurant Week meal (so take this with a grain of salt) is that their appetizers and desserts may be their forte. So consider whether you might want to make a meal out of several appetizers and a couple of desserts.
Definitely go to Sripraphai in Queens. Please note it's closed on Wednesdays and there can be an half hour wait on weeknights, longer on weekends, but no wait off peak hours.
Do go to one of the Momofukus but you can do better than the pork buns there.
Of the places you mention, Sau Voi has the best banh mi. Saigon bakery is also good but is no longer made to order (at least on weekends). They get a lot of costumers recently so it's still fresh though.
For upscale Mexican go to Maya (though I haven't been recently and have a feeling it went downhill). For bare bones Mexican go to Cafe Ollin in East Harlem or walk along Roosevelt Ave in Queens.
Sushi Yasuda is king on this board but if you like modern style sushi better go to Sushi Seki instead.
Head to Flushing for Chinese and Korean.
Chiming in on Charleston (GG may already have come & gone , fellow-Yanks!): you MUST make it to Hominy Grill, the justly-awarded James Beard winner for Southeast this past year. Best low-country cuisine in the world, an opinion shared by the late great gourmand R.W. Apple, whose wife is from the region....
In NYC, you've got a marvelous array. As a born & bred W. Villager, will just add one local place that's worth your visiting: EN Japanese Brasserie, on Hudson at Leroy St. Terrific modern takes on traditional Japanese dishes, & among the best black cod preparations in New York. And in a gorgeous, tasteful location that will allow you actual conversation at dinner....I know NYC 'hounds loooove Sushi Yasuda, but for my oft-spent $$ EN is equally delicious & more attractive. (I spent more than a year in Tokyo not long ago, so feel somewhat qualified on this one.) Indeed, if it's simply sushi you're after, skip the Yasuda lines & book at Ushiwakimaru: not much curb appeal (on Houston b/t MacDougal & Sullivan, an undistinguished block), but a hushed oasis of fresh-fish glory as soon as you step inside.
Also another vote for Degustation, which Frank Bruni & I both think is among NYC's most underrated dinner spots...ditto for Perbacco, a stunningly good Italian in the E. Village.
By Chinatown/Flushing - do you mean Chinatown in Flushing or in Manhattan? I'm still pretty ignorant about a lot of Chinese food, but the only pork buns I've been exposed to in Chinatown in Manhattan is those baked (not steamed) buns stuffed with pork before baking. Would love more details if you mean Manhattan. Thanks. And - I agree that there are many fabulous things on the Momofuku menu, but I always have to have the pork buns as well!
So here's what we did, and as usual we didn't fit in nearly as much as I wanted! Plus we were suffering from food fatigue after two weeks on the road, and my palate was somewhat jaded, which I wasn't expecting. Consequently, we didn't make it to EMP, but still had some great meals.
Cornelia Street Cafe - this was round the corner from where we were staying so we grabbed lunch here while we were waiting for our room to be ready. I had a goat's cheese salad, which was fine, nothing special. Mr GG had a BLT, which he really enjoyed.
Katz's deli - the pastrami on rye was really great. Huge pile of very juice meat. Did this as part of RGR's famous Lower East Side walking tour, which we really enjoyed. One thing to note, though, is that it's probably best to start off with the Tenement Museum (which I highly recommend), because it gets booked up really quickly and if you turn up in the afternoon it will probably be full. I think you can book in advance though, if you're more organised than me. Also had my first knish - great comfort food - how can you go wrong with something made of mashed potato?
MMRuth's favourite burger joint - I'm afraid I can't remember the name but it's on Lexington Ave near Kitchen Arts and Letters. Very nice juicy burger and great waffle fries.
Sripraphai - as amazing as everyone says it is. Best Thai food I've ever had outside Thailand. Particularly impressed with the chicken penang curry and my go-to Thai dish, tom yam, which was very delicious but liked everything we had. And we had a lot!
Malatesta - we were very tired on our first night after an overnight train journey from Savanannah so wanted somewhere local and simple. This fitted the bill admirably and was refreshingly tourist free (after Charleston and Savannah, we wanted to not feel like tourists any more!). This would definitely be one of my favourite dinner spots if I lived in the neighbourhood - loved the atmosphere and the food was pretty good too. I had the specials - an artichoke salad which was actually raw, finely shaved artichokes (good) and a porcini ravioli (good bite to the pasta, but I thought it the porcininis were a bit overwhelmed by the accompanying tomato sauce. Sage butter would have been better). Decent bottle of Puglian red.
Cantoon Garden - we fancied something cheap and cheerful and a walk to Chinatown so decided to go here. It was a bit hit and miss - I didn't particularly care for the chicken kung po (although the OH liked it a lot) but loved the salt-baked shrimps. Hot and sour soup was decent but not spectacular. Braised aubergines very good (I am a sucker for a braised aubergine). Very cheap, no atmosphere to speak of and Chinatown was completely dead, which surprised me. We saw them filming Gossip Girl on the way which might have been exciting if we were 20 years younger and had ever seen it!
Degustation - without a doubt the best meal we had in our whole trip to America. Loved, loved, loved the creativity of the meal, and the open kitchen. It reminded me very much of a restaurant in Barcelona called Cinq Sentis, where the chef is half Catalan, half American. We had the tasting menu. The smoked fish (a type that we don't have in Europe) with smoked tomato sorbet was outstanding and I also loved the octopus with smoked paprika. The service was very nice - they were very accommodating to my irrational hatred of fried eggs and subbed something else for the pork belly dish with fried egg. We had a nice chat with the chef and told him how much we'd enjoyed our meal and were subbed a cheese plate and two glasses of Pedro Ximinez - we left a big tip!
Smoke - our last night and we'd had a humungous lunch at Sri so we just had a bottle of wine and a salad at this Upper West Side jazz and supper club. We loved it there and happened upon a very good quartet. A great end to our holiday.
Thanks to everyone for the great tips and advice, and to MMRuth and moh + hubbie for sharing their time with us. New York, New York - so good they named it twice. We'll be back soon!
So glad you had a good visit. The hamburger place is called Ottomanelli's, on Lex & 93rd, and, for future visiting 'hounds who love cookbooks, it it conveniently across the street from Kitchen Arts & Letters. What did you think of the cookbook section at The Strand, by the way?
Edit - oops, you mentioned KA&L.
Thanks for your report. I'm happy that you liked Degustation so much. I haven't ordered Kung Pao Chicken or Hot and Sour Soup at Cantoon Garden, and stick more to Cantonese dishes (Kung Pao, though served commonly in American Chinese restaurants, is something I really think of more as a Sichuan-style dish), but they do make great Orange Flavor Beef and Fried Rice.
I have been very underwhelmed with the food at Cornelia St. Cafe since they changed their menu several years ago. It was never a great place, but they used to make solid Penne all'Arabbiato, maybe 10 or more years ago.