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Very late NYC trip report...which perhaps I'll make up for in length.

c
cobpdx Mar 26, 2013 03:11 PM

We took a trip to NYC from Portland, OR last fall (late October/early November). I tend not to take notes or many photographs, so details will be sketchy, but hopefully still helpful.

Our trip was in 2 parts; first we were with another couple we know, then we were on our own. The trip was also memorable in that Hurricane Sandy also divided the trip a bit in half and foiled some of our plans (our friends flight was one of the last to leave the area prior to the airport shutdowns).

We made do and even were extremely lucky in some cases after the hurricane. No complaints at all; the folks of lower Manhattan and elsewhere had it much, much worse to say the least.

So, that said, on with what I can remember of our trip...and many thanks to those who post on this board; much good advice was gleaned, as usual.

DB Bistro Moderne:

Had a pre-theater reservation prior to Book of Mormon. Highly recommended for the proximity to the theater and all the food we had was very good.

Lantern's Keep:

After the show we went to Lantern's Keep (we had made reservations as suggested-recall there were 4 of us). Even for a Thursday night, I think the reservations are probably a must if you really want to go. This is a very small place, dark, with about 4 actual bar seats and the rest table seating. We enjoyed some very nice cocktails, some off the menu, some made by the bartender after he got to know our tastes a bit. The drinks came with some exceptionally clear ice they get from somewhere that has fueled my increasing obsession with quality cocktails and I am currently playing around with making clear ice at home. They have some small bites, but we did not eat anything while we were there.

Katz:

Went to Katz the next day for lunch and opted for table seating/service. Three of the 4 of us had a pastrami sandwich (do not recommend the lean version) and one got a tongue sandwich. She could not finish hers, so we acted like children and put slices of the meat on our own tongues and took pictures of ourselves. The pieces of meat look disturbingly like extra long human tongues so the effect was pretty funny (we are in our 40s and 50s, by the way).

McSorley's:

On our way back from Katz, one in our party had been to McSorley's about 20 years ago and wanted to check it out again, so we went for some beer and to get off our feet for a while. It is worth knowing that the beers appear small but that they bring you TWO of them each time you order "a beer". I guess they have always done that. We enjoyed the beer and ambiance, but can not comment much more than that because we were not there long.

Per Se:

Lucky enough to score a reservation for 4 on a Friday night. Two of us had been to Keller establishments before (including French Laundry), two were newbies.

As expected, we had a great time and the service was exceptional. Three of us had the regular menu, one had the vegetable tasting menu although she is not vegetarian. We encouraged her to sub the salmon cornets and oysters and pearls which everyone enjoyed. After that, though, I think the vegetable tasting menu ended up being more inventive and possibly better executed than the regular menu.

In particular, the lobster dish we had, described as "Butter Poached Maine Lobster" was disappointingly tough and chewy. All 3 of us had the same opinion about it. The rest of the dishes were, for the most part, pretty good but I left there less excited overall than I have when leaving TFL.

On a positive note, we were gifted "Coffee and Donuts" in addition to the desserts on the menu and this was our first time experiencing this dessert. We loved it and it was greatly appreciated.

Barney Greengrass:

Had breakfast here at this fine establishment and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, bagels, etc. We tend to stay in the UWS when visiting, so we will certainly be back.

Babbo:

This trip coincided with white truffle season, so we were especially excited to go to Babbo. Sadly, only one of ordered the special pasta dish with shaved white truffle and it was the best dish of the night (and possibly of the entire trip). It is pricey, but if you can swing it, do it. The rest of the dishes and wine were very good as well and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We did not do any of the set menus, just ordered a la carte and shared.

Center Bar:

Located at the Columbus Circle shops, we decided to wander over for a late night drink and the 4 of us sat at the bar. The drinks were fairly well made (Lantern's Keep is better) and we had a good time. Unlike Lantern's Keep, this place is brightly lit.

Mission Chinese Food:

We went here on Sunday (the day they started shutting the city down for Sandy) and had lunch. Glad we did, as we did not make it back to the LES again for the rest of the trip. We had never experienced food like this, in particular, the peppers that make your mouth a little numb. This ended up kind of being funny, as *I* knew about it, but my dining partner did not. After a while, she started getting a little concerned and I had to let her in on the secret (yes, I can be a bit cruel, but it was kind of funny). We can't say we enjoyed that feeling but it was interesting and the flavors of the food were very good. We had the spicy buckwheat noodles, which I might be able to eat every day of my life. It is a cold dish and made for very nice leftovers when we became sequestered in our hotel room as the winds picked up and the city shut down. On the advice of this board we also had the Mapo Tofu, which had the numbing peppers and very silky tofu. Our third dish was the Kung Pao pastrami, which we also enjoyed (and had the numbing peppers). This was too much food for 2 people and we would have liked to try more things, but did not have the ability to heat anything up later.

Burger Joint:

This was in our hotel (Le Parker Meridien) and was a nice option for lunch, given that everything else was shut down. The lines were huge, but someone had told us you could phone in an order and go pick it up, which worked out well and we ate it in our hotel room watching storm coverage. It was around this time I started seeing coverage of the collapsed crane, which I thought looked awfully familiar, so I looked out the window and, yep, there it was! This ultimately resulted in the evacuation of the entire hotel around 5 pm Monday.

Maze:

The first of the places we had not planned to go but were grateful for. We landed at the London Hotel, which was within walking distance of the Le Parker Meridien and a very fine hotel. We had dinner at Maze in the bar. The cocktails and food were reasonably good.

We ended up having lunch here as well on Tuesday, as the city was a mess and most things were still closed. There was a food supply issue into the city, though, so rations were running low and everyone was doing the best they could. Lunch was very good (a set menu only, which made sense), all things considered.

Auden:

This was the only meal that was a major fail. Again, options were limited, but things were starting to open up. We had wandered around a bit in the afternoon and walked by the Modern to see if we could tell if they were opening up for dinner service, but there was no indication. We decided on Auden. Not good. Again, food supply issue probably played a role here (and the fact that employees could not come and go - for all we know our waiter may have been a busboy or valet at the hotel and just pressed into service because there were no other choices). The Manhattan I ordered took a really long time to come and was watered down, I suspect because they pour it table side and it had been sitting at the bar waiting for the server to pick it up and the ice melted. They also had those plastic maraschino cocktail cherries, which had nothing to do with the storm and at an establishment like the Ritz Carlton, they really should do better (this is a pet peeve of mine). For dinner, I ordered the duck confit salad but it came with cubes of duck breast instead, without notification of the substitution. I understand they might not have had the confit, but I would not have ordered it if I had been told. Our entrees were just OK (don't remember the details) and we left less than satisfied. Again, many of these things could be blamed on the storm; just reporting our experience. On a whim, we wandered back by the Modern and it was open!

Modern Bar Room:

Although we had already eaten, we decided to stop in for a drink and a bite. Had to wait a bit, but the drinks and food were far superior and it was worth the stop. We will come back on a return trip.

NoMad:

The next day was a really lucky day because our lunch reservations did not get cancelled, which was surprising given how far downtown the restaurant is. They somehow maintained power and we were able to have a great lunch there. We shared the chicken for two with the fois gras and black truffle under the skin - delicious. Wish we could have tried more!

Ma Peche:

Again for lunch. Had the bonus of being within walking distance which was critical since the subways were still not up and the roads were crazy crowded. We would have targeted this place anyway and we had the pork buns (of course) which were great and each had a ramen, also great.

Picholine:

Happy to see this back open. On our first trip to NYC in 2008, we went and it was one of our best dinners on the trip. We did the tasting menu again this time which we enjoyed very well, but we had a strange interaction with the sommelier (he was just a little strange) and he did not follow through when I asked for a list of the wine pairings we had that night. The food was very good and the cheese course was excellent.

So that's it. Again, we were incredibly lucky all the way around, despite the hurricane and had a great time. We missed out on planned meals at WD50 and Jungsik (the only real disappointment of the trip - we were REALLY looking forward to that one). These go on the list for the next trip...

  1. p
    Pan Mar 27, 2013 08:04 PM

    That's quite a story! Of course, many of us New Yorkers have our own, but it's different when you're a visitor.

    Come back another less dramatic time.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pan
      c
      cobpdx Mar 28, 2013 08:23 AM

      All things considered, it was a minor inconvenience. Besides, we now have a reputation amongst our friends and family for finding natural disasters (of sorts) while on vacation that require evacuation. In 2012 in was Sandy in NYC, but the year before, in March 2011, we had to evacuate our condo in Maui due to the tsunami associated with the earthquake in Japan. For that, we spent the night in our rental car at the West Maui airport with several hundred other people and maybe 8 bathrooms. Fun times. No one wants to travel with us anymore.

      1. re: cobpdx
        p
        Pan Mar 28, 2013 11:21 PM

        Hah! Maybe you should make a special effort to avoid earthquake, tornado, and hurricane zones from now on. Not that we ever thought of New York as a hurricane zone before...

    2. loratliff Mar 26, 2013 09:18 PM

      Wow, you got a little excitement you didn't bargain for, ha. Sounds like you still made the best of it though.

      Regarding the ice at Lantern's Keep: the smaller clear cubes come from a Kold-Draft ice machine, whereas the beautiful ultra-clear blocks are from Okamoto (http://www.okamotostudionyc.com/). I was in Lantern's Keep one night when Mr. Okamoto himself came in—funnily enough, he doesn't drink, but he still enjoyed his beautiful ice in a non-alcoholic cocktail.

      If you want to make it at home, use distilled water, boiled and then cooled.

      5 Replies
      1. re: loratliff
        c
        cobpdx Mar 27, 2013 08:45 AM

        Thanks for the link! I am mildly curious how many ice cubes I would have to order to get them shipped all the way to Oregon (for home use).

        The distilled, boiled method is better than freezing regular ice but only marginally. Directional freezing (like a lake freezes from the top down), works much better. Basically, you freeze cubes in a small cooler with the lid off and it freezes from the top down and all the impurities end up at the bottom. Then you chip off the bad part with a sharp knife. So far, I am pleased with the results, but more work needs to be done!

        1. re: cobpdx
          k
          kathryn Mar 27, 2013 08:51 AM

          See if you can find an ice carving studio near you, the kind that usually do weddings/fancy parties/galas/etc. Then order a whole block and get a saw.

          1. re: kathryn
            c
            cobpdx Mar 27, 2013 12:18 PM

            Ha! I have considered the big block and saw, but I can predict how the lady below us (who complains about everything) would react to small bits of ice falling from our balcony!

            I'm actually honing in on the home technique. I can make about 6 2" square cubes every 48 hours with this method and some of them are really quite good (wiht minimal flaws). The edges aren't all perfect, but it will be such a step up from what I have been doing, that I don't think it will matter. They can be made ahead and wrapped in saran if the need for larger quantities are anticipated...

            1. re: cobpdx
              k
              kathryn Mar 27, 2013 12:51 PM

              You can saw indoors! At least consider it for your next party... :)

          2. re: cobpdx
            loratliff Mar 27, 2013 05:28 PM

            We freeze our distilled, boiled water in a 9x9" cake pan and then chip of blocks as needed. They're pretty good quality. For "everyday" drinking, we use the Tovolo silicon trays, which I quite like.

        2. k
          kathryn Mar 26, 2013 03:40 PM

          Thanks for reporting back, sounds like you had an excellent trip regardless.

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