London Chowhound's NYC itinery - help needed!
After many months of stalking these boards and doing other research it's coming to crunch time to make some reservations for a trip to your city in mid june! We are London foodies (regulars on the UK board) coming over for 6 nights with 4 nights in Chicago sandwiched in the middle.
We're late 20's - food is a big priority for us so I'm investing quite a bit of time into this side of the planning! In terms of taste we're pretty open minded - we have a good variety of stuff in London especially French, Spanish, Gastropub and Indian. I'd like to focus on the stuff we can't get back home so a lot of the US/NYC classics as well as any other international foods NYC excels in. I also love Italian (clean fresh options rather than the heavy/stodgy end of things) and seafood - especially shellfish.
Another big factor for us is to find good fun buzzy places - not necessarily glitzy but somewhere with a good atmosphere and energy - not keen on hushed reverence or empty spots.
Also, we are currently hugely sun-starved over here so the idea of places out in the open or at least in 'summery' spots is rather appealing! Hopefully mid-june will be hot but not too humid for some al fresco dining?
We'll be based in an apartment in the West Village (Charles Street) so also always good to have a few local gems up our sleeves if lethargy takes over.
The itinery is currently something like this (alarms already set for the EMP/Babbo reservations):
Day 1 (Wed)
Lunch - Katz
Dinner- John Dory Oyster Bar
Bar - Good rooftop bar nearby?
Day 2 (Thurs)
(early start for ESB)
Breakfast - Penelope
Lunch - Shake Shack
Dinner - EMP/Babbo (Scarpetta back up if Babbo doesn't work out)
Bar - Little Branch/Employees only
Day 3 (Fri)
Breakfast- Russ & Daughters
Lunch - Ippudo
Dinner - Momofuku Ssam
Bar - Death&Co/PDT
Day 4 (Sat)
Lunch- Union Sq Market picnic / Peurto Rican day parade festivities
Dinner- Spotted Pig
Day 5 (Thurs)
Lunch - Johns of Bleekers
Dinner - [undecided]
Day 6 (Fri)
Breakfast Perhaps Clinton Street
Lunch Burger joint/Xian Famous foods/Halal cart (maybe) - may leave this slot free for last day wandering.
Dinner- EMP/Babbo (which ever we didn't get for Day 2)
Key areas I feel I'm missing are Sushi/Japanese and some ethnic spots - maybe Thai or Indonesian? Babbo/EMP are probably our high-end meals covered so our budget for the other nights is more like $80/head including drink/tax/tip. The sushi recommendations I've seen like Yasuda and 15 East seem a notch or two above this - any good spots which are more mid-ranged? Again, atmosphere is a big plus for us - I sometimes find sushi spots in London can be a little temple like.
Many thanks for your help - hopefully I can help some of you on the UK boards going forward.
June can be VERY hot and humid.
In addition to that, there can be lots of thunderstorms (esp sudden ones), which may "dampen" your al fresco dining mid-meal. Also a lot of outdoor seating is on the sidewalk, which I personally find to be a little odd if you are on a busy street with lots of traffic (buses, garbage trucks, taxis).
> Day 1 (Wed)
> Lunch - Katz
> Dinner- John Dory Oyster Bar
> Bar - Good rooftop bar nearby?
I would think about Birreria at the top of Eataly.
Or just keeping it simple, beers in the park from Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.
You could also go to the High Line. Terroir is opening a wine/beer bar there this year (replacing The Porch).
This is all dependent upon the weather cooperating. Otherwise, you could grab a drink the lobby of the Ace Hotel where the John Dory is located.
> Day 2 (Thurs)
> (early start for ESB)
> Breakfast - Penelope
> Lunch - Shake Shack
> Dinner - EMP/Babbo (Scarpetta back up if Babbo doesn't work out)
> Bar - Little Branch/Employees only
Swap out Penelope breakfast for the Breslin, which is more interesting/creative. Fried PB&J sandwich, grilled cheese sandwich, baked eggs w/ chorizo, excellent pastries.
For Shake Shack, do you mean the Madison Square Park one? I would advise you to have a rain plan, as there's no real cover in the eating area.
EMP has an excellent bar and if you get in, you may not have energy afterwards to continue imbibing after dinner. It can be a 3.5-4 hour meal, even if you only get the prix fixe and not the tasting. You could also try a nightcap at the nearby NoMad, which is also run by the EMP folks.
For a nightcap after Babbo, try Pegu Club, though it might be packed/loud after 9pm or so. They allow standing at the bar, not everywhere here does.
> Day 3 (Fri)
> Breakfast- Russ & Daughters
> Lunch - Ippudo
> Dinner - Momofuku Ssam
> Bar - Death&Co/PDT
Getting into Death & Co or PDT on a Friday night can be VERY difficult. I would advise showing up at 6pm for a pre-dinner drink. I've been at Death & Co at 6:15pm on a Friday and watched every single seat get taken before 7pm. They don't allow standing. It's not a big bar.
As for PDT, it's tiny, even smaller than Death & Co. They have a bar (first come, first served), four booths, and 2-3 tables for two. Official capacity is < 50 or something. I personally prefer to sit at the bar, and tend to get there very early to grab a seat (the booths and tables are same-day-phone reservation only but it's nearly impossible to get in). Again, this place is VERY VERY small.
Otherwise, they will take your name down, and you would have to wait (elsewhere) to get inside, as they don't allow standing. It could be 2 hours (or possibly never -- they might not even GET to your name before last call).
After Momofuku Ssam, try Booker & Dax, our experimental/modern/molecular gastronomy cocktail bar.
I think the Death & Co, Momofuku Ssam, Booker & Dax combination is a great one, and I've done it myself a few times.
> Day 4 (Sat)
> Lunch- Union Sq Market picnic / Peurto Rican day parade festivities
> Dinner- Spotted Pig
The parade marches along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street, going to Union Square might be out of your way.
How about picnic supplies at Epicurie Boulud / Jacques Torres / etc. and a picnic in Central Park?
Of course, you should also have a rain plan.
Dinner at the Spotted Pig on a Saturday night is likely to have a long, long wait.
> Day 5 (Thurs)
> Lunch - Johns of Bleekers
> Dinner - [undecided]
You could also do EMP or Babbo for lunch on this day.
For dinner, if you are going to Chicago, I assume you might hit up a Rick Bayless restaurant there (Frontera or Topolobampo). If not, you might want to try Mexican here.
I'm a big fan of the creative/modern Mexican cooking at Empellon Cocina.
> Day 6 (Fri)
> Breakfast Perhaps Clinton Street
> Lunch Burger joint/Xian Famous foods/Halal cart (maybe) - may leave this slot free for last day wandering.
> Dinner- EMP/Babbo (which ever we didn't get for Day 2)
Clinton St is a great call.
I'm not a huge fan of Burger Joint. Maybe you'd like to try the Minetta Tavern one, though?
You could also do EMP or Babbo for lunch on this day.
Good luck getting into both EMP and Babbo -- two of the toughest places to get in.
If you don't get into one for dinner, DEFINITELY consider lunch. EMP serves Mon-Fri lunch, basically the same menu/experience, for a lesser price.
Babbo JUST started serving lunch Monday-Saturday.
> The sushi recommendations I've seen like Yasuda and 15 East seem a notch or two above this - any good spots which are more mid-ranged? Again, atmosphere is a big plus for us - I sometimes find sushi spots in London can be a little temple like.
$80pp including tax and tip and, say, 1 $13 cocktail, only leaves about $50pp for just food.
This won't go very far at the top sushi places, nor at the ones a notch lower. BUT you have some lunch slots open. I would try the weekday prix fixe lunch at Yasuda and 15 East to stay within your budget. Both are rather temple-like, though.
For something more fun, try Niko, which has a clubby type atmosphere, or Morimoto, which is more glitzy. However, you'll likely have trouble staying within your budget at both.
I also don't see any BBQ or Southern food on your list. Not a fan? How about New England style lobster rolls (even if you are going to John Dory they only serve theirs at lunch)? Pies 'n' Thighs, the Redhead, Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Pearl Oyster Bar, Luke's Lobster, Red Hook Lobster Truck?
If the weather is nice and you're up for a trip to Brooklyn, check out Maison Premiere. Great cocktails, nice happy hour deal ($1 oysters), and a backyard patio.
Kathryn - thank you so much for such a comprehensive reply!
Good heads up regarding the weather - fingers crossed for some sunny days but we will make some alternative plans where it doesn't work out.
Thanks for the BBQ/Southern recommendations - I actually love this kind of food (its something thats become pretty big in London over the past 12 months actually) so will definitely check these out - do you recommend any one in particular over the others?
We will definitely go for EMP lunch if dinner doesnt work out - I have done a few 'dry runs' of getting reservations on opentable and fingers crossed we should get a table even if a little late but lunch will be a decent alternative.
I'm a little less optimistic about the Babbo reservation as no online reservation for 2s and we'd much rather go in the evening than for lunch just for the atmosphere factor. Is Scarpetta a worthy substitute?
Thank you for the warning on the spotted pig/bar waiting times at the weekends - for these I think we'll just go super early and cross our fingers. Does anyone have a feel for the potential wait times for Momofuku Ssam on a Friday if we were to have a drink before dinner? I've heard some horror stories of 1/2hr waits on other threads..
Really can't wait to try these spots out and get back to you guys with my thoughts!
For BBQ, it depends if you like beef more or pork more, and in what form: pulled pork vs ribs, beef brisket vs beef ribs, etc. I like different ones for different purposes. My favorite fried chicken in the city is Pies 'n' Thighs, but it's in Brooklyn.
Scarpetta is excellent. But I love Babbo, and to me, it feels unique to NY.
Momofuku Ssam's wait times never feel quite too bad to me because table turnover is quick. Meals last about an hour.
Great - thanks Kathryn.
From your suggestion I did a little research into Maison Premiere and am now thinking about heading over to Brooklyn one afternoon/evening for some food there combined with Fette Sau to tick the BBQ box - looks like a pretty fun scene over there!
Thanks for the tips re Scarpetta/Ssam - London has got on board with the no-reservation trend so sure we can deal with it..
I see Simon beat me to recommending--or, at least, mentioning--Sakagura. That's one of my favorite restaurants in New York. It's not a sushi place (though they do have some sashimi), but it's a fun small plates place where you order, say, 6-10 dishes to share. The place seems to be popular with Japanese ex-pats, and there's plenty on the menu for the less adventurous. My favorite dishes there are the "duck wrapped around scallions" and the "saikoro steak," which is a kind of diced steak served in a sauce I don't quite know how to describe. If you're interested, they also have an extensive selection of sake and other Japanese drinks. Oh, if you go, go for dinner, not lunch--their lunches don't seem to be anything special.
I'd also suggest skipping Shake Shack. There are dozens of other burger places in Manhattan where you can get a burger that's just as good after a much shorter wait.
I hope you have a great time. Let us know how it goes.
I've live here my entire life, and I am surprised to hear June being described as hot and humid, a description I generally reserve for August. Since my birthday is in June, I have, since childhood, been particularly attuned to the June weather, and really, it is not that hot. And humid. Sure, we can have a day here and there, but with the beautifle light of a late nightfall, June always strikes me as the perfect time to dine outside. I will keep my fingers crossed for the perfect June weather for you. Enjoy your trip to NYC!
hi...i lived in your city for 4 or 5 months in 2010 and i dined very well (fav restaurants: Randall&Aubin, St John, Vinoteca, Durbar, Wright Bros in Borough Market, Sedap, and many more)...
-- i personally love Scarpetta (and i dislike Babbo and all the Batali places)...at Scarpetta i like dining at the bar, w/o reservations...it's a fun vibe and the bartenders are excellent...fav dishes: black cod, raw yellowtail, all the soups...
-- for sushi, consider Ushi Wakamaru
-- for izakaya and non-sushi Japanese consider an izakaya like Sakagura (not my fav but others here like it)...
-- and if you want to swap ramen for soba, Sobakoh on 5th St in the East Village is wonderful...
-- don't bother w/ Thai unless you want to go to Queens or if you want to try some Isaan dishes at Zabb-Elee in the East Village...in London (well, Hammersmith), you have one of the best Thai restaurants outside of Thailand in Thai 101...that said: the Thai-influenced food at Kin Shop is yummy and it's a pleasant spot and also good for bar dining, but i wouldn't put in my top picks for such a short trip...
Enjoy and please report back
-- i like the John Dory (although of the hostesses there is just horrible) and the oysters and cold lobster and vibe are all good...but i think you have superior oysters all over London...
-- for a local fun wine bar, consider Ten Bells in the Lower East Side...they are a great oyster happy hour and good charcuterie...
Fantastic - thanks Simon
Glad you enjoyed your time over here - I am actually still yet to try Thai 101 but need to make the trek west one of these days! I think Kin Shop is pretty close to where we are staying so will put it on the back up list for when we don't have the energy to head out further.
I'll check out those Japanese spots. Scarpetta sounds great and just what we are after - may try to fit that in even if we do get the Babbo reservation.
John Dory appealed for some of the Crudo and main dishes rather than the oysters and looked like it could be a nice space. I'll be wary of the hostesses..
Some great suggestions here. I'm travelling from Australia via London & Paris to NY for a week in June so will try some of your suggestions. We were in Brooklyn about 8 years ago and loved it. Smith St is food heaven, literally 100's of restaurants, cafes and pubs. One memorial meal was a Dominican restaurant, I can't recall the name, but it is in Smith St, near to a convenience/liquor store. It was BYO so we took our own wine ( I gave the boss one). I had the best roast pork ever! It was like pulled pork, probably similar to Cuban roast pork, so tender and full of flavour. I met a couple of cops outside and saw them go in. (cops & nurses always know where to find a good feed, so I asked them. Reply "Man the food is good and you can't spend your money." He looked Hispanic so I guess he had the "knowledge" but he was right, it was sensational. Cost for the 2 of us $13.65!!!! This is my first port of call next month. Thanks for the great recommendations.
As a substitute for EMP-NoMad at 1170 Broadway-several EMP veterans have opened up this place and it's excellent !!!
Spotted Pig on Saturday night is suicide. To give you an idea of the wait time, back in January I showed up on a Sunday night at 5:15 PM hoping to get in first (the kitchen doesn't open until 5:30/45). There were already 5 parties ahead of me. I got seated around 5:45. By the time I left at 7:45 the wait was 2hrs. I recently went on a Thursday night in March at 10:30 PM; the wait was about 45 minutes. So you're best bet is to go on a weekday, and if you want to avoid the wait, show up super early. Also, if you can get a seat at the bar you can order from the menu.
Death & Co -- There's another place with insanely long waits on the weekends. Be prepared for them to tell you 2 hours.
For a cocktail lounge try Mayahuel (East Village). It's a lot easier to get into than D&C.
Seeing that you're going to be going to a lot of places in the east village, you must go to Big Gay Ice Cream. You will not be disappointed. I bring all of my out of town guests there and they all love it. Get the Salty Pimp or Monday Sundae.
As others have said, I would skip Shake Shack. I like their burgers and shakes a lot, but given how limited your time is, I don't think waiting in the long lines is worth it for a burger.
How about doing dim sum in Chinatown instead of Shake Shack? While maybe not quite the best dim sum place, but I'd say Jing Fong is worth it for its circus atmosphere (and the wait is never nearly as bad as other places).
Per Se now offers its $65 five course dessert tasting menu in the Salon, so you can just walk in without a reservation. That could be a fun way to end the night.
In my opinion, the best bagel in the city is Absolute Bagel up near Columbia University. I suppose it's a long way to go for a bagel, but how can you do NYC without a bagel? While you're up there you could see The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine and hit Zabars and your way back downtown (yeah it's touristy, but it's iconic -- and their chocolate babka would be worth it for an out of towner).
I'd also throw out there Boulud Sud, Cafe Boulud, Red Farm and The Dutch.
wd~50 has completely redone their menu -- could be worth checking out.
I see that some people mentioned southern food and BBQ. Having living in Alabama for two years, I would say skip it. This is the one cuisine the NYC completely fails at. In the same way that Americans love to Americanize ethnic food, southern food/BBQ up north is a poor imitation. As seemingly simple as something like cornbread is to make, it's just no where near as good as the cornbread I used to get in the Deep South (probably because no one up here would dare use as much grease).
Spotted Pig - if/when there is a wait for a table can you go elsewhere and come back or do you have to wait in the restaurant/at the bar?
Shake Shack - yeah i'm beginning to think we may give this a miss. We actually have some pretty decent burgers in london now and i'm not sure any meal is worth qeueuing for 2 hours for (my max was 2.5hrs for sushi at Tsujiki Mkt in tokyo and im not sure a burger is going to match that!)
Per Se deserts - that sounds fun, will check it out.
Bolouds - we have a Bar Boloud in London now so may give that a miss.
BBQ - as uwister mentioned, we don't have any trips south planned so we may try this out if in the mood - thinking of Fette Sau combined with Maison Premiere.
Mayahuel is great but focused solely on tequila and mescal cocktails. I love it, but it may not be for everyone.
Big Gay Ice Cream is really fun. Soft serve ice cream with creative toppings. I love the American globs.
I love Shake Shack and I know it can be difficult to get a good burger in London from what my transplanted friends tell me. Plus, I believe you can get pretty good dim sum in London, so I think Jing Fong may pale I comparison.
Per Se's dessert tasting will be a little over their budget ($80pp including drinks/tax/tip) unless they skip drinks, and WD-50 will definitely be out of budget as the restaurant will have eliminated the a la carte menu by then & the cheaper "from the vault" tasting is $75pp.
Also since the OP is also going to Chicago, they might be hitting up one of the molecular spots there instead. WD-50 might be overkill unless they specifically love molecular gastronomy (especially if they hit up Alinea).
I got to disagree with you on Mayahuel. They have a huge drink menu and will make things off the menu -- I've had friends give them cryptic descriptions of drinks they've had elsewhere and they've replicated them.
You can get a great burger at a bunch of other places besides Shake Shack without the wait. Again, I'm a Shake Shack fan, but I don't think it's worth burning an hour of your day waiting in one of their lines when you're only going to be in the city briefly. And if the OP is going to Spotted Pig, they should get their burger (order one of them, cut it in half, and treat it like an app -- in fact, the best way to do Spotted Pig is to order a bunch of plates to split).
That makes sense if you live here. But the OP is likely going to a cocktail bar in NYC to order their specialty drinks from the menu and see what a place is about, not asking the bartender to replicate items they have had elsewhere. IMO ordering non-tequila/non-mescal drinks not on the menu at Mayahuel doesn't play to its strengths and wouldn't really make sense for someone visiting from out of town.
Going off the menu is fine and really fun, but I'd order a few things from the menu if it were my first time there, and stick to agave based spirits if I asked for a custom drink, after the bartender got to know my preferences first.
You're misconstruing what I said, and at the end of the day, the fact that Mayahuel uses tequila in a lot of its cocktails doesn't change the fact that you're unlikely to find a cocktail bar as good as Mayahuel with as large of a menu outside of NYC in the United States.
Further, I'm sure there are many fine cocktail bars at in London, which makes waiting for Death & Co. kinda foolish, which is why I suggested it Mayahuel -- it's emblematic of hip NYC cocktail bars but they wait isn't as bad as the most popular.
Jing Fong is in my opinion a bad idea for someone from London. I actually had some dim sum in London at a Cantonese place in their chinatown that probably was not among the best ones (sorry, I don't remember the name), but it was fine, and better than Jing Fong. London has a good level of Chinese food, from what I could tell in a 2-week trip, so I would never recommend anyplace that was less than very good. And as I recall, the roast duck at that Cantonese place in London was quite good and comparable to New York Noodletown, but the place was a lot cleaner.
As I said in my post, I recommended Jing Fong more for its atmosphere -- I've never been to a dim sum place in the United States quite like it, and I imagine that there are few other places like it outside of China. Further, it gives you a reason to go to Chinatown (NYC does have an excellent Chinatown -- only San Francisco is comparable in the United States), and unlike a lot of the other, better regarded dim sum places in NYC Chinatown, the wait is never that bad (Golden Unicorn on a weekend, for example, always seems to be 45 minutes).
You like Jing Fong's "atmosphere"??...a large plain room, filled w/ tourists and other grouchy people and some staff yammering on walkie-talkies?...Jing Fong has about the same atmosphere as the Department of Motor Vehicles in any major city...for a more fun Chinatown atmosphere, i prefer the place in Chinatown (Triple 8 Palace or whatever it's calling itself these days), in the mall under the Manhattan Bridge, which feels a bit like Kowloon-in-NY...
NY BBQ is not nearly as bad as some would say and BBQ south of the Mason/Dixon is not universally good. Depending on what you order, Fette Sau is phenomenal, Smoke Joint is very good, John Brown's is very good, Big W's is very good. The biggest problem with BBQ in Manhattan is inconsistency. I've had good and bad meals at Hill Country, Blue Smoke, Daisy May, Dinosaur... Fette Sau however totally rocks and yes I've lived in the South. Of course there are going to be people who rhapsodize about food back home, but reality and perception are sometimes twain.
Thank you - I was just talking about this to another 'hound the other day. NYC BBQ is simply not as bad as some people make out to be, in fact it's better than most anywhere that's not South (anywhere in Northeast, LA, etc.) It's also the type of food that's really hard to find outside of the U.S. I think it's a perfectly good idea for someone who's coming from abroad to spend a meal on NYC BBQ unless he/she is traveling to South as well.
After having eaten at Lincoln, Marea and Babbo recently, Babbo is my least favourite of the three!! Pasta dishes looked better than they taste. The appearance of their sauces deceives!! Sweetbread supposed to be crispy was mushy, Octopus was over charred and tasted bitter!.
On the other hand, Marea's pastas using basil, crab and sea urchin or bone marrow and red wine braised octopus were both superb! Lincoln's Linguine alle Vongole was also spectacular. Other seafood dishes also excelled especially Lincolns Ciacciuoco seafood soup!
However, my best meal, taste-wise was the Spanish food of the Michelin 1* Casa Mono! You should try comparing that with London's Barrica ( one of London's best Tapas place )
As for EMP, I also ate there last week. The whole experience was pure magic and memorable! The food was refined, sophisticated but a bit on the 'mild' side for my palette
We also ate at Madison Park's Shake Shack. My advise to you is to order the burger 'rare'. It tasted much better and juicier when compared to the normal ones!
Lastly, Aacross the road is ' Hill Country Chicken'. The southern fried organic chicken had a lovely crispy/crunchy skin, beautiful flavour and extremely moist inside. Great fried chicken! and nothing like that in the UK!
on the chance that mid june means June 9 & 10 - the Big Apple BBQ Festival is in full swing in madison sq park, home of the Shake Shack. lines and all that but you'd get to sample bbq from all over the south.
re japanese, i'm a big fan of Ushiwakamaru but also the kaiseki food at Kyo Ya on east 7th st. it's a very special place tho with sake you might go over the 80pp.
I'd recommend Tacombi for Tacos in Nolita as that's something you can't really get in London. There are other more "authentic" (read: dirtier/cheaper) places in queens but I'm a big fan and my friends from California won't shut up about it since they think Mexican is the be all and end all of food categories.
Thank you so much to all of those who contributed to the thread and also to the boards in general - it helped immensely and all your tips were appreciated. Since I always get frustrated reading through people's itinery plans and not getting to hear back from them I have made myself do this before I forget everything and move on to the next trip planning!
Dinner - Spotted Pig. We arrived jet lagged in the late afternoon to a rainy new york so decided to stick close to our appartment and keep things low key. Arriving around 6pm after being accosted by a hilarious Woody Allen clone outside the Met for a good 20 minutes we were seated within 5 minutes and got started. I liked the place - nice atmosphere and friendly staff. We were sat upstairs in a slightly less buzzy corner and if I went back would probably ask to stay seated at the bar. We weren't too hungry so kept it light.
Chicken livers on toast - slightly sweet, creamy, crunchy toast - a nice but not stunning start.
Pigs ear salad with lemon caper dressing - a little too 'real' for my girlfriend but I loved the crunchy pigs ear with the soft unctuous creamy centre. Only criticism was that the dressing could have afforded to be slightly sharper to cut through the richness. Very good though
Burger with shoestring fries - this was actually a disapointment. Though the huge pile of fries looked impressive I realised that I like a little fluffyness to my fries along with the crunch - these were all about the crunchyness with nothing much else going on - after a few handfuls (!) I got a little bored. The burger too, I found quite one-note, very salty with the rocquefort and a slightly more homogenous texture to the meat then I would have liked. Not bad by any means but not as good as hoped.
Breakfast - The Breslin - After going up the Rockefeller in the morning (controversially I enjoyed the ESB more on my last trip despite the risk of queues and less-shiny presentation) we headed to the Breslin. Cool atmosphere, cool place.
Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla - I actually found this a little dry. The crunchy exterior was great but in my opinion needed a little more liquid to lighten it - not great for breakfast admittedly but I think a spoon of icecream would have done the trick perfectly. I shared this with the GF which made it more manageable.
Poached Eggs with curried lentils, yogurhy and cilantro - Very good. I much preferred this dish. It had quite a kick of chili for a breakfast dish but the flavours were deep and addictive, lightened by the yogurht and coriander. If I was an NYC resident I would be back again for this one.
Lunch - Katz - an essential trip. We went classic with the Pastrami on Rye. Nothing to fault there - special mention to the pickles. On my last trip I went to Carnegies (before discovering chowhound!) and think I actually enjoyed their Reuben a little more than this (I know this will offend some people!). Still great though. Managed to run the ticket/ordering/tipping gauntlet unharmed thankfully.
Dinner - Babbo (after discovering that our block had been shut down by the police due to Obama visiting Sarah Jessica Parker's flat for a fundraiser - a cool little unexpected treat getting to see his motorcade parking outside our appartment!)
First of all - great service. Our waiter was just lovely - a middle aged American guy who was warm, professional and generally made us smile. The restaurant itself was fun and buzzy though for two-seat tables id perhaps recommend upstairs as our view was of the staircase (which seemed to be the trend for two top tables due to the shape of the room).
Grilled Octopus - an incredible dish - we both absolutely loved this. Loved the chargrilled flavours together with the sweet/tart limoncello. The best bite of the trip so far..until...
Warm Lamb’s Tongue with Mushrooms/poached eggs - another amazing dish - a rich, savoury, umami fueled addictive hit - the tongue and mushroom interchangeable and blending together perfectly. I could not fault either dish. Unfortunately not the case for...
Goose Liver Ravioli with Balsamic vinegar - I really did not enjoy this dish. The ravioli itself was great but the balsamic sauce was overwhelmingly sweet, cloying and potentially a little burnt. This just seemed totally out of balance - i could understand they were offsetting the rich liver but for me it was not done well at all - I would hope to cook something better at home.
Black Tagilatelle with Peas - this was a lot better, nice fresh but rich flavours with the delicate pasta - both enjoyed
Orichiette with sweet sausage and rapini - a middle ground between the previous two dishes - nice doughy orichiette and strong flavours but not mindblowing and not quite up there with my London favourite.
Overall a very enjoyable meal though I was surprised that I enjoyed the antipasti over the pasta.
Breakfast - Clinton St Bakery - arrived to the last table being available, left to a queue of 15 people or so so happy with our timing! We had to go for the blueberry pancakes and couldn't resist a side of sugar cured bacon (when in Rome...). Pancakes were great and as often described - fluffy, buttery, just very very tasty. The bacon was an unnecessary but tasty foil against the sweetness.
Lunch - picnic in Central Park from Russ & Daughters - cool place, we ended up going for the classic bagels and some smoked mackeral - both were good but I think the most joy here could probably be found buying some of the different cured fishes on their own. One to further explore if I ever end up living over there. We also stopped by Union Sq Market to pick up some food though this seemed better suited to grocery/home shopping than picnics.
Mid afternoon snack(!) - Shake Shack UES - non existent queue and a ten min wait for the food. Double cheeseburger ordered rare. Skipped the fries. Went for a choclolate crunchcrete shake. The burger was tasty though I'm not sure the 'rare' order made it to the cooking - it looked very similar to the GF's order. I would also say that it could have been seasoned a little more. I enjoyed the burger but I think we have actually been quite spoilt recently in London with an influx of very good places serving similar burgers. It may have just been a consistency issue though and I would definitely try it again. The chocolate crunchcrete shake was waaaay too thick (yes I know i should have looked at the name of it!) and was pretty much just ice cream. Would go for a standard thinner one next time. As an aside, we witnessed a chap who was very clearly a 'regular' (if you catch my drift) take back his burgers to the counter complaining that the were overcooked - the service he got was really quite impressive for a fast-food (kind of) joint with the manager negotiating a free order for him and finishing with a hand shake - you just don't see that over here..!
Dinner - Drinks at Terroir on the highline - loved the highline (walked it three times over the trip) and this bar was great for people watching down below and soaking up the atmosphere. Cocktails at the Standard - great cocktails, great views, good music, crazy prices, mixed crowd. The plusses outweighed the minuses. Would recommend for other tourists.
Food at John Dory Oyster Bar. A little quieter than i'd imagined and felt like a slight dip in energy after our drinks which I hadn't expected. Overall not great but i think perhaps we ordered badly.
Parsley and anchovy toast -i love anchovies but this was just too salty - didn't finish
Parker house rolls - clearly terrible for you but these tasted amazing - soft brioche like bread that just melted in your mouth.
Grilled octopus sald with potato and aioli - an error to order this after eating the octopus at Babbo. It was fine but not great, the octopus was a little cold and the aioli a little heavy.
Chorizo stuffed squid - had heard great things about this but ours was a little leathery and chewy with the stuffing not really adding enough of a kick - disappointing.
Ok - a terrible guilty admission. I'd heard great things about the fried chicken at the Dutch...but was stumped that it was only served for Lunch (where we were all booked up)...oh...and also breakfast...... It was the only time we could go and i felt huge remorse afterwards but this is how I ended up eating a plate of fried chicken at 10 in the morning..! After the initial self loathing there were no regrets - we are not exactly spoilt for this in the UK so it probably doesn't mean much but this was the best fried chicken I have had - great crispy exterior with tasty chicken that never let me down with any dry patches. The biscuits were also a new experience for me and im pretty glad we don't get these back home as they would take at least 5 years off of my lifespan.
Lunch - walk across Brooklyn Bridge followed by lunch at Smorgasburg. Cool place, great views across to Manhattan. Fun crowd. I went for the Red Hook Lobster Roll - good value for a stuffed roll, fresh lobster and a subtle light dressing that didn't drown it. We had drinks after at Maison Premiere and Sputyin Devil which both come recommended. We were planning on dinner at Fette Sau but after a sweltering day were badly in need of a shower and freshen up so sadly missed out though thankfully this led us to....
Dinner at Kin Shop. The GFs highlight of the trip. The place was buzzy and warm, we sat at the bar and loved our server - very friendly guy who was passionate about the food and happy to chat away for a while. This was relatively common during our trip and hammered home the difference in service you get over in London. Admittedly, you do pay for it but there just seems to be a lot more joy in the servers over your side which adds so much to the experience. Anyway, the food:
Spicy Duck Laab Salad - having read horror stories regarding the chili levels I whimped out a little and asked for it to be toned down. The output was just at the right level for me - still made me break a sweat but didn't totally anihilate my tastebuds. A very good example of this dish and I loved the duck element over the traditional pork. Also a huge portion for a starter (by puny European standards anyway..)
Fried Pork and Crispy Oyster Salad - I didn't get much of a look in on this one but it looked great and the GF loved it.
Red curry: roasted chicken breast - very good duck (a running theme in our trip - you guys do duck well), with very moreish roti and a rich red sauce - could not fault this.
Curry Noodles with brisket - nice deep coconut flavour with brisket falling apart. Great springy thick noodles, more similar to udon than most thai noodles i have had. To be honest, we were getting full and didn't need this course but it was still very tasty.
--- intermission trip to Chicago (loved it) ----
Lunch - Il Pesce at Eataly. This was a weekday so Eataly wasn't too busy - I know it provokes mixed reactions but I have to say I absolutely loved it and would love to have this as a local shop. I have been to the one in Bologna but this was just on a different scale altogether. The lunch at Il Pesce wasn't quite so good though. We shared the smoked fish of the day (Bluefish) which was tasty but not mind blowing. For main we had the mussels (average) and the Squid with chili and lemon - this was good but seemed a little overpriced at €24. We saw a couple problems with service - a lady next to us had to send back a salad which had been destroyed with vinegar - the situation was not handled especially well by the staff.
Dinner - EMP. So, mixed emotions on this one. First of all, the food was fantastic- bite for bite some of the best food I have had ever.
Amuse bouches - the standard selection - stand outs were quails egg on toasted brioche with bacon, the yogurht lolly with curry lentils and the apple 'tea'
Foie Gras pate - lovely rich yet light shavings of foie with enough acidity on the sald to cut through it. Simple but undoubtedly tasty and satisfying
Lobster with ... and ... - amazing amazing amazing. A beautiful plate first of all with the squid ink bisque a black pool contrasting with the pink lobster and vivid green burnt leek This was probably my favourite dish of the night
Muscovy Duck for two - we had to go with this when presented as an option. It was predictably fantastic - perfectly pink with the crispy skin spiced with orange. To be honest I am struggling to remember what accompanied the Duck as it really did shine. As an aside, we were wondering what happened to the rest of the duck in the kitchen (the portion is literally half a breast each which is perfect portion sizing but leaves 3/4 of the duck remaining and taken back to the kitchen). I supposed that it some of the dark meat would be used for other dishes or at the very least it would be used for stock. When Daniel Humm did his rounds of the table we decided to ask directly! After some humming (no pun intended) and hawing he basically admitted that it was thrown away...such a waste! I should have asked for the remains of all the days ducks as a doggy bag...what a feast that would have been...Anyway...
Malt ice cream with pretzel/peanut/dijon mustard - probably the best desert I have had. ever. the salty/sweet combo of the peanut/pretzel/ice cream is an American standard I am well used to and absolutely love but the dijon mustard addition incredibly worked so well and took this to a new level - I could not fault this.
So - a great procession of food but at the end I was left feeling very slightly disappointed. Why? I think it comes down to the service. I had read so much about the incredible service balancing formality and warmth and so had dangerously high expectations. What I felt though was that some of the servers though, very attentive and professional, felt slightly robotic. This came out especially in the pitch the servers give when serving the food - notably the duck where a little more spiel is given. I understand the servers will have gone through these motions dozens of times every day but unfortunately it did come across like this. There were flashes of more genuine warmth here and there but overall I felt that the service lacked a certain genuineness to it. (for anyone heading to London I recommend Roganic for fine dining with genuinely warm and personal service as a contrast). In addition, there were one or two blips in the service. Firstly, on ordering cocktails at the start of the meal we asked for some guidance and were given absolutely none other than 'they are all good' - I went for a bourbon based one which whilst tasty was heavy, strong and entirely unsuitable as an aperatif. I should have realised this before ordering perhaps but I would have appreciated some guidance from the sommelier since it was requested. Secondly, when asking for advice on the menu choices our server just repeated over and over that we should 'follow our instincts'...ok, i appreciate that but I am still asking for some guidance and you aren't helping me at all with that... Anyway - small niggles but it wasn't quite what I expected - at a restaurant I like to have a rapport with the staff and have some kind of dialogue going to enhance our experience and to improve my choices, This was not something I felt happened at EMP.
Anyway - I hate to put a downer on that as it really was fantastic food. The overall experience just didn't quite have the x factor for me that can make fine dining so enjoyable.
Sorry to hear about the rote service at Eleven Madison Park. Typically when someone faults their service, it's because they found it overly friendly. That said, my last dinner earlier this year, I had a sommelier who was 'slightly robotic'. Whereas usually both the captain and sommelier would engage enthusiastically with my preferences and enquiries, this fellow [whom I'd never dealt with before] was very pro forma. In terms of actual results: the German riesling he recommended was slightly disappointing, the claret very good.
Thank you for your report. You've written a great deal already, but if you have the chance, would you consider writing a brief summary of your impressions of NY's dining scene v London's?
Lunch - Momofuku Ssam -
Duck over rice with pancakes/lettuce - a great little bowl of food. Such well cooked duck for such reasonable prices. It didn't quite compare to EMP the night before but, considering the price differential, it wasn't too far off.
Pork Buns - a very satisfying unctuous satisfying few bites. I think we actually have few rivals to reach this now in London (Yum Bun) but still very good
Snack - At this point I realised we had still not had any NYC pizza! This had to be rectified so I picked up a Regina Margherita from Keste down the road. Due to the meals either side this was predominantly eaten for breakfast. Obviously not how it is ideally meant to be eaten but I have to say it aged very nicely with the cherry tomatoes/mozarella/basil seeming to be good quality and the base/crust nicely charred and smokey.
Cocktail at Little Branch - nice little spot, pretty quiet when we were there (around 7) but good atmosphere and had a great Bee's Knee's (gin/lemon/honey) which was perfectly balanced between sweet and tart - great to contrast the 37 degrees plus weather outside.
Dinner at L'Artusi - loved this place. We went without reservations and sat at the counter by the bar. Great lighting, great atmosphere, great server who was happy to chat away and exuded the charisma and warmth that was lacking the night before at EMP. I know its a totally different experience but in terms of enjoyment, L'Artusi beat EMP hands down...but on to the food...
Beef Tartar - served with rye crisps and horseradish cream to add some texture/bite contrasts. A nice light start to the meal - nothing stand out but perfectly nice.
Roasted Mushrooms - with pancetta and chili, served with fried egg on top and shaved ricotta. A sinful treat - everything came together beautifully in a bit pile of umami satisfaction. This reminded me of the lambs tongue at babbo though the addition of chili added a nice edge to it - very good.
Squid Ink Fettucine with shrimp and chili - a nice bowl of delicate black pasta with nicely balanced lemon/chili/prawns - a classic combination that worked well.
Final drinks at Fedora - recommended by the server at L'artusi. A nice little understated bar/restaurant with great music/good crowd/reasonable drinks - the perfect end to the trip.
We are now back in very very rainy London and missing NYC greatly - I am currently trying to persuade the other half to move over with me for a year (am half American so need to take advantage of the dual citizenship!). I am still checking the chowhound manhattan board and tragically pining after the food - after spending so long planning the trip and the various food options I definitely have the post-eating-holiday blues!
Thanks again for everyones help - if anyone is coming over to London then be sure to post queries on the board or message me directly - on some fronts I think we have a good few options to match those of your city!