NYC trip report
It’s been 2 years since my last visit and 5 years since I’ve lived in the city. I wanted a good mix of old favorites and a chance to try some newcomers
Lombardi. A long time favorite. I brushed off all the reports from people favoring Lombardi for Patsy’s in spanish harlem because I had tried both at one time and easily preferred Lombardi. I had gone to Patsy’s spanish harlem before the renovation and thought Patsy’s was the one going downhill. This visit to Lombardi however confirmed that the reports are true. The pizza is decent, but no longer the beauty that it was many years ago. Sad.
Boqueria: great atmosphere, decent tapas, nice wine selection. Very friendly staff. Perfect for later night eats since we were expecting someone to arrive at JFK at 10pm. Standout was actually a complementary plate of sardines on top of grilled bread, olives and goat cheese.
Momofuku Noodle bar. I liked Ssam bar back in the day and was convinced to try the ramen at M. Noodle. The steamed bun was decent (a bit too much sauce) the ramen was good but the broth lacked complexity. The noodles themselves were delicious and I liked dragging them through the yolk of the soft boiled egg.
Per Se. Was never a fan of Keller having been hugely disappointed in TFL a few years back and would much rather eat at Pastis than any of his Bouchon outposts. It was such a costly disappointment that I hesitated to go to Per Se and had backup reservations at EMP. I’m glad I did. I can now see what the hype is about. The oysters and pearls was much better tonight than the version I had at French Laundry. The TFL version had been slightly fishy and warm in an unpleasant way. This version was sweet, clean, and delicious in every manner. The nova scotia poached lobster was cooked perfectly and blew away every other version of butter poached lobster I’ve had to date. It made the very impressive version I had at Providence appear undercooked and underflavored. Simply amazing. I cannot compare to the French Laundry version because they had forgotten to serve me the butter poached lobster that night. The cheese course at Per Se was also far superior to the cheese course at TFL. Coffee and donuts were so good we ordered another despite being near bursting. Service was more polished and warm and unlike the fawning awkward service at French Laundry. The meal was in one word: perfect.
Ess a bagel. warm sesame bagel with whitefish salad. Having moved to the west coast, it kills me that I can’t find a decent bagel with whitefish salad. This hit the spot
Aldea. Lunch. The shrimp alhino salad was very good, fingerling potato soup with chanterelle and sepia was excellent. The arroz de pato was good but a little less than what I was expecting. The monkfish was excellent.
Sushi Yasuda. LA folk love to brag about how LA sushi is best in the states. They’re wrong. No one bests Yasuda. Not even Masa’s former pupil Hiro Urasawa. In fact, it’s ironic that Yasuda’s prices are now considered quite reasonable. At 1/3 the price, Yasuda’s seasonal selection blows away Urasawa and my personal LA favorite, Mori. If we’re talking about the quality of sushi rice is not even close. Yasuda I would still consider a perfect 10, Mori a 9-9.5, and Urasawa a 8.5-9. I had kama toro, toro from behind the pectoral fin, and toro from near the tail. This lineup is not available in LA as far as I am aware of. The bluefin chu toro was simply amazing. An amazing meal and I put down a good 30 pieces of fish that night and never felt happier. He’s a lot chattier than I remember.
Lupa. Wanted to try Arturo’s after my mild Lombardi letdown. Didn’t realize they didn’t do lunch so went to Lupa instead. It’s as good as ever. Fresh cavatelli with duck rago, carbonara, linguine with clams. Each dish was perfect. Even though we have some Batali outposts out west (Osteria Mozza in LA and B&B in Vegas) which do in a pinch, I would easily pick Lupa over any of them.
Corton. I suspected that I would like Corton. I was right. I even thought that I would like it more than Per Se. The two are so different that a direct comparison would not be possible. However, I do like Corton as much as Per Se if that says anything. The cooking style is more innovative and flavors more novel which is to my liking. We also started with gougeres at Corton. The pastry was lighter and more elegant at Per Se. The cheese center more tasty at Corton. The amuse of foie gras mousse with squash foam was spectacular. The foam was actually sweet and flavorful and obviously a perfect foil to the foie. The “from the garden” was a “salad” of winter vegetables and herbs. At least 10 or so different flavors and textures. Genius. The scallop appetizer was 4 preparations of scallop ranging from carpaccio on a peking duck gelee (genius) to seared Nantucket bay scallops on pimenton pepper, to scallop on sable noir, and an amazing truffle royal. The main lobster was served many different ways, my favorite of which was the knuckle in some deliciously savory red sauce. The tail was poached and served with a vanilla and brown butter balsamic reduction. Again, not as delicate at Per Se but more interesting and flavorful. The sommelier and manager were outstanding at Corton. Easily now one of my new NYC favorites.
Peter Luger. It may be my imagination but I think Luger may have slipped a notch. I heard rumors of a possible switch in ownership? Anyways the filet side is still as good as ever, the strip side was less flavorful than what I’ve had in the past. The creamed spinach and the cheesecake still as good as ever.
Had a great time and I was reminded of how amazing the food can be in NY. LA and SF still have a long ways to go in the fine dining arena.
That's quite an itinerary. I haven't been to Sushi Yasuda but it's now on my short list. Glad you liked Corton - my current favorite, though it seems to polarize NYC diners.
Thanks for the report, I'm surprised by your assessment of the ramen at Noodle Bar. I stopped getting the ramen there years ago because I had the opposite opinion. I thought the broth was brilliant but thought the noodles were over-cooked and mushy.
Peter Luger is inconsistent. In the last few visits I had one occurrence of sub-par porterhouse. Not every steak that comes out of the kitchen is transcendent which is unfortunate but when they are on I think they are the best.
Re M. Noodle. I'm told the noodles are different now. The broth lacked the complexity I would find in a good ramen shop. I'm not someone that just likes the richness of tonkotsu. I actually like the complexity of a good shio or shoyu broth. I found that M. Noodle's version was a bit light. The pork belly while fatty and good, also lacked the subtlety of good chasu.
Thanks for the excellent report. I'm a big fan of Per Se. Lupa is one of my "goto" lunch spots. Sushi Yasuda? Yes!
Coincidentally, number one son was over to the house on Sunday and mentioned he was in the mood (again) to sit at Yasuda's station. Chris is an athlete and a gym rat, he and Yasuda hit it off immediately. I'm sure you don't remember, but it was one of your posts that led me to take Chris to Yasuda for his birthday a few years ago. I'll make the reservations next week.
Thanks for the report. I also love Sushi Yasuda and think he serves some of the best sushi in the country. I've tried some of the top spots in LA (Zo, Sushi Sushi, Ike, next time I'll have to try Mori) and thought Yasuda was much better. Have a friend who's a regular at Masa and Urasawa and she says Yasuda's eel is second to none. Yasuda rocks.
Awesome report, Porthos! I'm really glad you had such a positive experience at Per Se because it sounds like you got really, really unlucky at TFL. Your description of oyster and pearls as warm and fishy sounds traumatizing. That dish got me over my childhood aversion to caviar, so I'm especially pleased you experienced it the way it's supposed to be.