NYC Trip Report
First, thanks to all who contributed to my request for assistance with this trip – much appreciated, as always.
We arrived on the Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend in the late afternoon. Some of our plans were set (with reservations, etc.), and some were vague. There was an overall goal to get to some of the bars we had not managed to get to on previous trips (thanks to kathryn for much helpful info here). In general, due to lack of stomach and liver capacity, we were not able to do as much as I would have liked.
Betony – We arrived without reservations, hoping to be able to dine at the bar. After a very short wait, we were accommodated. I liked the décor and the barstools were very comfortable. We each ordered a cocktail (the names of which I did not record) and then shared a total of 6 dishes. We couldn’t decide between the two liver apps, so we ended up going with both the Foie Gras Bonbons and the Chicken Liver Mousse. Both were very good, although the amount of chicken liver mousse that came on the wontons was really quite absurdly minute (and I am not one who normally complains about quantity for price). Each dish came with four pieces (four bonbons vs four wontons) but the amount of mousse on the each wonton compared to the amount of foie with the bonbons seemed a bit out of proportion. Yes, I realize they are different dishes, and yes, the wonton appetizer was reasonably well balanced and quite tasty. It’s just that it was only $2 less than the bonbons, yet had almost no liver on it. The foie bonbons were meant to be dipped in the chopped cashews and black pepper and were very good. We then had the grain salad and tagliatelle with ham hock and hens egg. We enjoyed the grain salad, which had a rather surprising amount of lemon juice based dressing (meaning the lemon flavor was VERY pronounced, not that the salad was over-dressed). The pasta was very good, with the egg yolk on top and meant to be broken and stirred into the dish upon arrival to the table. It was reminiscent of a pasta carbonara type dish. We next had the roasted chicken with peas and carrots and skate with green curry. Both portions were ample and we enjoyed them. For the skate dish, we liked the curry, but both agreed there could have been more of the sauce on the dish. The chicken was done very well and the accompaniments were also very good. We were full by the time we were done so we did not do dessert. The bill arrived and I discovered that our 2 cocktails were not listed. When I pointed that out to our bartender/server, he informed us that he had “comped” them. Totally unnecessary, but a nice treat every now and again. Overall, a nice dinner, but nothing really wowed us.
The NoMad – After dinner we walked to the NoMad to see if we could have a drink in the bar. We managed to get right in to the Library Bar, where we enjoyed a total of 3 drinks and some gougeres. The cocktails were the Let It Loose, Satan’s Circus, and Americano. The Let It Loose was right up my alley – well-balanced and tasty. My partner likes spicy drinks every now and then, hence the Satan’s Circus, which was also very good. I didn’t want the evening to end, so I ordered the extra drink (Americano), which I new would be a lighter option, and soaked the booze up with some of the gougeres, which were a great bar snack.
Shopsin’s – This has been on he list for a while and we finally made it (thanks to jeff_pdx for recommending it). We had entertained ourselves with the documentary at home earlier in the week, which increased our excitement for the experience. We were seated right away and given water and offered coffee, but were told that they could only take 4 tickets at a time so we would have to wait to order. No big deal. We spent time looking around and glancing at the menu, even though we knew what we wanted. Kenny was in the kitchen when we first got there and there was a brief shouting match while we were waiting at our table. Eventually we ordered the Mac & Cheese Pancakes, Original Sliders, and Donuts with chocolate glaze. Everything came relatively quickly and was reasonably good. The pancakes with the spicy sauce and maple syrup were probably the most enjoyable. The service was friendly and no customers got yelled at or kicked out while we were there.
9/11 Museum and Café – Not a dining destination, but they DO have a coffee shop upstairs…I just wanted to mention to anyone thinking of doing this that it may take longer than you think. We were in there for 2.5 hours and it was both not enough time and too much time. It was overwhelming and this is from the context of having no personal connection to the events of that day. Plan accordingly and try to plan for doing this earlier in the day when I think the crowds will be lighter. We had planned to try to get to the Dead Rabbit after, but did not have the time to do so.
Maialino – Probably my favorite dinner of the trip. We started with the Insalata with spring greens, peas, favas, and pecorino. Very nice, highly seasonal, and delicious. Next were two pastas, a spring special with morels, peas, pea tendrils and the bucatini all’amatriciano. Both were excellent. The crunchy bits of guanciale in the bucatini dish were especially tasty. For the main we went with the special maialino served over rosemary roasted potatoes with a side of spinach. The crispy skin over the succulent pork was divine. We ate everything and were quite full. No dessert for us. Just coffee followed by a walk to the Flatiron Lounge for a drink.
Flatiron Lounge – We were able to get right in and, after perusing the menu, I opted for the daily flight, which turned out to be a mistake. I went with it because it was bourbon-based, but as soon as I heard what the flight consisted of I should have chosen differently. This is mainly because 2 of the 3 drinks were shaken drinks because of the addition of citrus and that is just not my favorite type of cocktail. The 3rd was a drink I am already familiar with (Boulevardier) and which I like, but was less chilled than I would have preferred by the time I got to it. In retrospect, it would have been better to explain my preferences to the bartender and have something made for me. Loved the space and the atmosphere, though.
Ma Peche – Since this was a Saturday, they had their brunch menu available, which suited us fine and comes with a Bloody Mary Cart! Normally we would not start that early with drinks and initially planned to split one, but they both sounded so enticing we ended up getting one of each and sharing them. They had a Red version with bourbon and sake and a Green version with gin, tequila, and some sort of liqueur. Both were excellent. For food we split the habanero chicken and waffles, ceasar wedge, and broccoli (which was forgettable). Loved the chicken and waffles and definitely could have eaten more of that. I would like to try it on a non-brunch day, as well.
Lady M Bakery – We stopped in while walking around and had some coffee and shared an apple galette and chocolate éclair. Both were very tasty.
Alder – For dinner we landed at Alder and had a couple of half-cocktails (I love that idea), the pu-pu platter (a combination of some of their smaller plates), burrata with smoked salmon, rye pasta, and hanger steak with mu shu vegetables. Regarding the menu in general, there is a surprising lack of salad/vegetable options. The dishes they offered with the pu-pu platter were the “pigs in a blanket”, scotch quail eggs, foie gras, pancetta crostini, and shrimp on shrimps. We really enjoyed this dish, as it allowed us to taste a bunch of different things. It was basically 2 pieces of each of the 5 dishes. They were all very good. The burrata with smoked salmon was our next favorite dish. The rye pasta with shaved pastrami was also good (I liked the concept), but the hangar steak dish was a little under-seasoned for me.
Pouring Ribbons – A short walk away was another cocktail establishment I had yet to try. I went with the Bad Habit while my partner had the Forgetful Jones. We also had some of the beef jerky bar snack, which was so good we ordered a second serving. The cocktails were well-made and I liked the descriptions below that tell you where they are along a spectrum from Refreshing to Spiritous and from Comforting to Adventurous. We were not seated at the bar but our young server seemed very knowledgeable about the cocktails. I ended up also getting their “twist” on a martini with grapefruit bitters and a grapefruit twist.
Russ & Daughters Café – This (R&D) had been on the list for a few trips now, and we were happy to see that the Café was now open. We waited for about 45 minutes for a table (they took our name and cell number while we walked around the neighborhood). Upon being seated we settled on a chocolate egg crème, hot smoke/cold smoke, shtetl, and Pastrami Russ. Each dish was very good. The hot smoke/cold smoke was a smoked salmon-type dip that came with housemade waffle potato chips which was a total dietary splurge for us, but well worth it (it may have been our favorite dish of the 3). The shtetl I had read about on a previous CH post and lived up to its reputation.
Momufuku Ssam Bar – Another place that had been on the list for a while. We went early and were seated immediately after being warned that they had reservations for that table in about an hour and making sure we were OK with a quick-ish dinner. We were, so in we went. We each had a cocktail (Seven Spice Sour and Kinkan Colorado) and we enjoyed them very much. My partner got the Seven Spice Sour and if I had it to do over again, I probably would have had that one instead, but I still was very happy. Dinner consisted of the smoked liver mouse (which was tasty, but a bit odd for us as it was not served with any sort of bread or crackers), diver scallop tataki, grilled asparagus, and the spicy pork sausage with rice cakes. For the liver dish, we could have ordered a side of bread, I suppose, but we ate it as intended and it was fine. The scallops and asparagus dishes were very good and the pork sausage was good, but the ratio of pork sausage to rice cakes was very heavily skewed toward the rice cakes. Flavor and spice was spot on, but needed more pork.
Booker & Dax – It was so close, how could we not? We wandered over and got 2 seats at the bar. I love a cocktail menu that breaks the drinks into shaken and stirred, as it immediately gets me to the drinks that I tend to prefer (I believe the NoMad has a similar breakdown). Anyway, I had the In The Pines and my partner had the Dr. J; we shared the shiitake buns. We both enjoyed our drinks but there was an amusing/annoying situation that developed a couple of seats down the bar that caused us to have to move on prematurely. It was an older (50s ish) couple on a first (or at least very early on) date. He had to have the Dr. J when he heard about it because he was also “Dr. J”…OK, but then he accused the bartender of serving him a weak drink. Then he ordered something else and she (the bartender) appropriately attempted to get more information from him about what he likes in a drink. Finally they settled on something and then he wanted her to perform some sort of show or provide entertainment (what is this, the movie Cocktail? That was the 80’s, buddy). Anyway, it was actually quite painful and I’m not sure how the bartender kept it together. And if I had been the date…
Death & Co – We moved on to another establishment and managed to get to seats at the crowded bar. It was an extensive menu but I didn’t really see anything I was interested in, so I spoke with the bartender about my preferences (bitter, boozy, stirred) and he came up with something for me. My partner had the Jekyll and Hyde and mine was called the Bounce Test, but I don’t remember now what was in it. I did enjoy it and I would have loved to spend more time there, but could not manage any more drinking for the evening. Next time.
Sarge’s Deli – Went for the pastrami sandwich, which we shared because it is about 4 inches tall. I guess everything comes with cole slaw and pickles because they arrived at the table right after we ordered. If we had known, we would not have ordered the chopped salad, which was large enough for a family of 4. It was a VERY good pastrami sandwich. Better than Katz? Who knows, we were last there 18 months ago. It is certainly no worse and I would be happy to have it again.
Two Little Red Hens – My partner wanted NY cheesecake so we walked from Central Park over to this little bakery. In addition to the cheesecake, which was very good, we had a mini Brooklyn Blackout cupcake (I could have eaten about 10 of these). Yum. Worth the hike.
Molly Pitcher’s Ale House – We had walked a lot and it was a warm day, so an ice cold beer at a sidewalk table was calling my name and we walked across the street to this establishment. Did not have any food, the beer was nice and cold, and they were kind to an old woman with a cane who sat at the table clearly not intending to order anything but who needed a place to sit in the shade to rest for a bit. A good deed needs like that deserves to be recognized.
Jungsik – This was one of the restaurants we missed out on last time because of Hurricane Sandy. This ended up being our only tasting-menu type dinner of the trip and we saved it for last. Unfortunately, I did not photograph the menu, as I sort of expected they might provide that and the end of the meal. They didn’t, and I forgot to ask. We ended up going with the 9-course (I think) tasting menu. Each dish was very good but the details are sketchy. From photos, I recall that we had oysters, scallop, rice cake/egg/mushroom, octopus, snapper, kobe beef in broth, lamb chop, and 2 desserts. We were full, but not overly so by the end of the meal. Service was excellent, of course.
Ward III – What a great little spot. I had a mescal negroni and something specifically made for me with Rittenhouse Rye, Averna, Luxardo Maraschino. Both were good, and coincidentally, the bartender serving us was a recent transplant from the pacific northwest (Seattle and Portland), and we enjoyed his thoughts about the cocktail scene in Portland and his transition to NYC.
Until next time, NYC…