Part 2 of 4: LA Native in NYC
This is part two (Friday 7/13) of a four part write-up of my eating escapades in NYC this past weekend.
Morandi: My second day began with breakfast at this Italian trattoria. Although mostly empty, I love the design as it feels very rustic but homey and comfortable. The staff was extremely pleasant and offered seating anywhere I liked. I knew going in that the pastry basket is well-received but I am not a big fan of sweet breakfasts. However, I did decide to start with an order of the mazarazi, a pistachio sweet bread. The two wedges were about an inch thick, light, moist and fluffy with a wonderful nutty pistachio flavor that was not overwhelming. My main savory dish was the uova in camicia, two poached eggs over artichokes, peas and fava beans. While a simple dish, the poached eggs were perfectly done and the vegetables were sweet and melded together well with the runny yolk. The dish needed a bit of salt but a pinch from the provided container solved that issue. I was also offered freshly cracked black pepper by the server and happily obliged. To tie everything together, a glass of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice that was tart, a bit sweet and had a good amount of pulp. Definitely enjoyed my breakfast here and would love to come back to try some of the other breakfast offerings (especially the other breakfast pastries!).
William Greenberg Desserts: Prior to spending the morning at The Met, I had intended to do a black and white cookie showdown between this bakery and Glaser's. Alas, upon arrival, I found that Glaser's was closed and on vacation until August. From my understanding, the hallmark of a good black and white cookie is that it be very moist due to the cake-like batter when this cookie is made (a drop cookie). However, I found that the cookie here was too much like a cake. While super moist, the almost cloying sweetness reminded me too much of a very airy cupcake flattened out. The chocolate frosting was hardened on but melted easily to a warm hand and offered a very rich chocolate flavor. The vanilla was fine but I didn't find it too special. Although there are other baked items offered, I only tried the original black and white and was disappointed.
Motorino Pizza: After a morning at The Met, I was to meet a friend here for lunch but she ended up being held up at the office. Regardless, I found the place easily enough and was happy to see that it was not too busy a little before 1PM. I was quickly seated and set out to order the prix fix lunch menu of a green salad and choice of one of four pizzas for $12. My choice was their well-known Brussels sprouts. The green salad was fresh with no limp or soggy greens. The dressing was a simple small spout of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. When the pizza arrived, I was met with a slightly irregular circle of brown, bubbly crust speckled with beautifully roasted Brussels sprouts and studded with the pink pancetta all tied together with evenly melted mozzarella. The crust underneath had a great, even char with the middle moist and just starting to take on wetness. The aroma was that of roasted Brussels sprouts and garlic. My first bite was of vegetal sweetness from the brassica, an airy, crisp, chewy crust that didn't get in the way with a nice bite from the fresh garlic and porky saltiness of the pancetta. The cheese was creamy and flavorful. I happily devoured the entire thing much more quickly than I had intended and seared the roof of my mouth along the way. For $12 before tax and tip, this is an amazing deal. Come here for lunch if you are in the East Village; I will be back. Service was courteous and prompt.
Veniero's Pastry: This was an unplanned stop but I saw it as I walked south on 1st Avenue and the “Since 1894” sign caught my eye. I ducked in and was met with the great aromas that only bakeries can produce. The selection was large and I was confused as to what I ought to order. I spotted some mini cannolis and eclairs and placed my order for one of each. The cannoli filling was rich but light with a good vanilla essence but the ricotta flavor was a bit lost. The shell itself despite being pre-filled, still had some crispness but was not as good as it could've been. The eclair was forgettable but the chocolate frosting was flavorful with some coffee-like notes. I realized now that I should've tried the strawberry shortcake, but alas, I missed out. I will hold judgment for now until a follow-up visit but for the time being, Veniero's misses out on the cannolis due to them being pre-filled although the chocolate covered ones might not suffer from the moisture issue (just a conjecture).
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: I had heard much about the popularity of the truck and since the shop was in the East Village, I wanted to give it a try without having to track down the mobile version. The shop was not too busy and only took about 5 minutes to place my order for a Salty Pimp ($5) and about 5 minutes to get my cone. The chocolate dipped portion was thin and broke easily with a bite. It was solid chocolate but unremarkable. The dulce de leche was noticeable and added varying flavor elements to the vanilla soft serve such as butterscotch notes. The vanilla soft serve itself was not that interesting but the added sea salt easily punched up the flavor. I wished that there had been more of the dulce de leche since that disappears pretty quickly. All in all, a tasty cold treat but I would not call it destination-worthy. If you're in the area, it's worth a try.
Donut Plant: After hiking down from East Village, I was ready to partake in some donuts from this famed shop. There were only a couple individuals in line ahead of me so I took the time to decide what I wanted. I had read/heard previously to get the cake donuts and that was fine with me since I prefer cake donuts. My order was one of each of the orange blossom cashew and tres leches. Both donuts were wonderfully light with a tender crumb. While many bad donuts take on a heavy, oil-laden flavor, these donuts was nothing like that. The mouthfeel was almost cake like but was definitely a donut. The orange blossom cashew was lightly scented and flavored with a pleasing citrus flavor and not overpowering. The cashew offered that rich nuttiness cashews have and worked well with the citrus. The tres leches had a smooth layer of hardened frosting that yielded a donut with milky sweetness that you find in a tres leches cake. The difference here is that the donut is not mushy but carries the essence of a tres leches cake. Included inside was a custard that was not overly sweet and very smooth. Both flavors are ones I would order in a heartbeat again but alas, there are other flavors to try. Donut Plant is definitely a destination-type place; I will be back.
Ippudo NY: Since Ippudo is almost always named when asked about top ramen stops in NYC, I had to make a stop. I was originally going to try to sneak in near the end of the lunch hours but missed out. Instead, I entered right around 5PM when the dinner hours started with a friend of mine. As soon as I entered I hit with a wall of sound/music that resembled something out of an obnoxious club. Seating was prompt. My order was for the Akamaru Modern with the addition of a soft boiled egg. When it arrived, I tasted the broth and found it to be fairly rich and distinctly pork-y. It was smooth and full-bodied. I would characterize it as being fairly refined since although it had a pronounced pork flavor, it wasn't harsh and in-your-face as some pork broths can be. The noodles were a touch flour-y but had good texture. The pork slices were tender and fresh as were the kikurage mushrooms. Once mixed with the broth, the miso paste and garlic oils brought great, savory notes to the broth that kept it from being too one-dimensional. The egg was kept whole and as a result, the center was a bit cool. Overall a very good bowl of ramen but I prefer Totto due to the more interesting and different broth. Totto also split the egg in half to more adequately bring it up to temperature from the hot broth. Would I visit it again? Definitely to try the different broths but the ambiance left something else. It is difficult equating a bar or club-like atmosphere with the loud music and somewhat forced trendy outlook with great ramen.
101 Taiwanese Cuisine: The original plan was to check out Txikito for dinner but my friend informed me he was headed to Flushing with his co-worker so I decided to tag along. Although good, I think I would've preferred to try Txikito. I don't remember all the dishes but we ordered four. There was three-cup chicken, a pork and bamboo shoots dish, a braised tofu dish with shittake mushrooms, and one other dish that escapes me. The dishes were all competent, especially the three-cup chicken, but I didn't find them to be remarkable or distinctly memorable. I think given the lack of Taiwanese food in Manhattan, this is an opportunity to indulge in that food culture. Service was fine and on par with other Chinese restaurants although they did mess up our bill. We didn't try other Taiwanese stalwarts such as minced pork over rice or stinky tofu so it's difficult to fully gauge the abilities of the kitchen but I think they would fit the bill for those looking for Taiwanese food.