New York round-up: Part 1
I hadn’t been to New York for five years. Enough time to convince myself that the London food scene was as vibrant and interesting as anything I might find in New York. I’m afraid that I was wrong.
This was the first time I’d gone with the express intention of trying new places. I was also catching up with old friends and instead of going to the tried and tested, I decided to risk the new. Not that it was much of a risk, given the research I’d put into it and the brilliant recommendations of a new friend.
I wasn’t planning to focus on fine dining. One memorable meal at Per Se was more than enough. We were looking for the fresh and the new. We found it.
Salvation Taco – Midtown
We hit the ground running, straight off the plane and straight to Salvation Taco. This midtown restaurant is mainly Mexican food, dark and lively and full of young people who don’t seem to mind that you can’t actually see the food and don’t have to use the torch on their mobile phones to read it. The shame. . The service couldn’t have been more helpful. Probably pity-based. The food was interesting, if a bit hit and miss. Roasted Pumpkin Quesadilla was a carb-fest of a dish, with oozing melted gooey pumpkin and cheese filling and a Tomatillo and Market Vegetable chopped salad was a bit rough and ready in execution but the dressing was zingy and delicious.
The main event was one of the five “Taco dinners”, which are the main courses. We went for the beer-battered fish fillet with spicy tartare and mayan mayo. A bit meh for my liking and I wouldn’t recommend that you order it. If I was minded to go again (and I wouldn’t rush) I’d go with a large group and order more of the smaller dishes. Warning: it’s loud. The Palomita made with Wodka (sic) grapefruit, soda vanilla-salt and lime helped me to cope. The cocktails looked great. C discovered that he has singular love for Mexican craft beer.
No pictures. It was too dark.
Perry Street, West Village
Onto Perry Street, on the road from which it takes its name. C had lived in this district about a thousand years ago, when he was a lawyer and was having Vietnam flashbacks in the cab. It’s a dump, he said. Why are we going all the way down here and in this weather (it was -12C). Why would anyone want to eat here anyway? I got this all the way down from the Upper East side to the West Village.
C is stuck in a timewarp as far as this area goes. It is no longer the rather challenging area full of male prostitutes that he so fondly remembers but a rather expensive, gentrified wannabe-trendy area, with luxury brands on every corner. Not so on trend as Brooklyn or parts of Queens, but for us middle-aged folk, for whom a trip to Hackney is almost edgy, it looked pretty lively.
And again, we disagreed about the food at a Vongerichten restaurant. I had a great starter – Crispy egg, Caviar and Vodka Cream. With those ingredients, what’s not to like? But they also brought home made Burrata, with Citrus jam, Serrano pepper and Pumpernickel Tuile. I liked that much more. The unexpected pairing of citrus and burrata was a revelation.
I then had Maine Shellfish à la Plancha, Green Curry, Cauliflower, and Jasmine rice. Plump prawns, juicy mussels and über-fresh fish filled the plate. The green curry was subtle enough not to overpower the delicate fish but strong enough to give the dish depth and interest. I loved it. I mopped up the remaining curry sauce with the Jasmine rice.
C was unimpressed with his Fried Chicken. Heavy, he said and not a good flavour. Which was a shame as I was having a great meal, topped off by the smooth Crème Fraiche Cheesecake and the extra and wholly unnecessary Pecan Pie Ice-cream Sundae. A bit too sickly-sweet for my palate. And we were very full.
It’s a small, intimate restaurant, with only 60 covers and lively friendly service. It started to get noisy as we left. Oldies: go early if you want to avoid a nightclub vibe.I liked this and would definitely go again, if I was in the neighbourhood.
Fred’s at Barney’s: Upper East Side
Obviously, no trip to New York would be entirely complete without a little bit of shopping and if you want to deplete your savings extremely quickly I suggest you drop into Barney’s, home of ultra-expensive brands and the location of a very acceptable restaurant on the top floor. Do not make the mistake of eating first as you may feel too fat to brave the icy stares of the stick–thin shop assistants, as they eye you up and down and ignore you, as they know that they have nothing in your size, dahlink.
The dining room is full of ladies who lunch and does a very acceptable menu. Notable is the lobster roll and they do extremely good salads. On my first visit I had a great Cobb Salad,and on the second, a huge Vegan Salad, full of beans and chickpeas and all manner of healthy greens. C had an extremely delicious lobster salad. On another visit I have a brilliant traditional Jewish mother-style chicken soup with noodles (lokshen) – the best I have tasted for some time and C had a minestrone that he described as memorable. Not cheap, but not expensive for the amount and quality of the food. So good we ate there twice.
Chelsea Market : Lobster Place Seafood Market : Meatpacking district
This is an amazing building which takes up a whole block and was formerly the Nabisco factory. It now houses 35 stores/food outlets. It was a bitterly cold day and I had spent about three hours catching up on the last five years with my lovely and creative friend, M. Given the icy weather, we were thinking about warm and interesting places to visit, where we might also have a spot of lunch. I can’t imagine what made her think that I would be interested in a place centred around food.
We walked around ogling the produce in the various emporia and decided to try the Lobster Place. It seemed to be about six stores in one and one of the stores is a sushi bar. We plonked ourselves down and ate. Or rather I hoovered and M ate. It could not have been more fresh or more reasonably priced. Recommended.
We dropped in at the Fat Witch Bakery. I had to, with a name like that. The brownies? This fat witch makes better, I’m sorry to say.
After, we took a walk along the entire length of the High Line. It’s a must do.
My New York food adventure was put on hold as I was off to Miami to meet Panadoll, in Miami. From -12c to 27c, in the space of two and a half hours.
And to follow, Part II, in which I eat too much with a Rabbi at Kajitsu, force myself to finish the freebies at ABC Cocina and eat a memorable Tarte Flambeé, at The Modern.