Alright, this is the final post on New York! To sum up the trip, I had a fabulous time and ate like a queen, even when eating cheaply!

One afternoon, before a solo trip to the Met, I stopped in at Gray’s Papaya and ordered their Recession Special ($3.50): two hotdogs, one with sauerkraut, one with onions, and a papaya drink. Yummy! I do love a good hot dog and these beefy ones really hit the spot that day. The papaya drink was only so-so but that’s probably just me (I recently also tried some papaya juice and I didn’t like it. I prefer to just eat the fruit.).

Gray's Papaya Hot Dogs

Another morning, we headed for East Houston and ended up at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery. As a first-time knish eater, the man there recommended a spinach knish ($3.00) and heated one up for me (Mirna had the same). He handed over our knishes in small white paper bags – it must have weighed at least half a pound and was the size of both of my fists combined!

A Spinach Knish

For other knish newbies, a knish is a ball of seasoned mashed potatoes wrapped in a layer of pastry and baked. It’s heavy and starchy and carby and delicious, especially with lots of mustard!

Later that same day, we were in Chinatown and I searched for one of the cheap dumpling joints I’d heard so much about. We found Tasty Dumpling where 5 pork and chive dumplings can be had for only $1.25. I poured on some black vinegar and some spicy chili vinegar and then took them, along with a bottle of fresh soya bean milk, to the park opposite, where lots of Chinese men play chess!

Pork and Chive Dumplings

Dumpling Innards

The skins may have been a little thick but they were pleasantly chewy and the filling was tasty. Cheap dumplings can’t be beat!

The last notable eat was General Tso’s Chicken eaten at a cheap Chinese restaurant connected to our hotel. It was a combination plate with pork fried rice and an egg roll all for under $7.

General Tso's Chicken

Gosh, have you ever seen fried rice that’s that yellow?! The accompanying rice and egg roll were nothing to shout about but General Tso, what lovely chicken you make! Deep fried battered chicken tossed in a sweet and sour and spicy sauce – delicious and oh so not good for us! General Tso’s chicken is available at just about any Chinese restaurant in the States so I won’t provide the address of this one!

I had such fun in New York – I’m definitely going to plan a trip back in the future! To see all my New York photos (including the non-food ones!), c’mon over to my New York Flickr photoset.

Gray’s Papaya
402 Sixth Avenue at 8th Street
New York, NY
(there are two other locations)

Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery
137 East Houston Street
Between 1st & 2nd The Lower East Side
New York, NY

Tasty Dumpling
54 Mulberry St
New York, NY

From a recommendation from a reader (hi newmi!), we ventured out to Madison Square Park (only a few blocks from our second hotel) one night to eat at the Shake Shack. It was already past 9pm and so we thought we’d we able to eat quite soon but what greeted us was a long line, snaking it’s way down the path and around all the tables! And the line stayed that long by the time we got to the head of the queue, about 45 minutes later.

Shake Shack

I ordered a Shackburger, French fries, and a regular Arnold Palmer to drink (half lemonade and half iced tea). I was given a pager and I went to find a place to sit. My pager buzzed about 10 minutes later and I went up to collect my box of food.

My Dinner

Mirna’s pager took a lot longer to buzz and then she took even longer to pick up her food. It turned out that they had just forgotten to set off her pager and so her food had been sitting there getting cold. They proceeded to cook her another burger (also a Shackburger) but her cheese fries were already soggy and beyond redemption. Well, we ended up splitting the first lukewarm burger, pushing us into very full territory and without any stomach space to try their famous frozen custard.

The first thing that came to my mind when I took a look at my burger was butter! The burger reeked of butter – it’s a butterburger, not a Shackburger. But the burger itself? It was very good, definitely not the best I’ve eaten, but not to be sniffed at. The fries were crisp and crinkle cut and were most likely from frozen. I have nothing against that – they were nice fries. The cheese fries were topped with an extremely rich cheese sauce (their menu says its a mixture of cheddar and American cheese) and would have been nicer had they been hotter and the fries crisper. If/when I’m next in New York, I’m going to try their frozen custard!

You know, I thought sitting in the park would be great, all fresh air and bbq party atmosphere. What I’d forgotten about were the um… critters. We sat at a table with some plants and midway through our meal, we saw and heard something rustling underneath all the foliage. A mouse emerged and shot between my legs (yes, I’m not too proud to admit that I squealed like a girl) and then proceeded to make a tour under all the other tables. Eeks!

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park, SE corner
enter at Madison Ave and 23rd St.
New York, NY

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Thanks to a recommendation from Don, we headed to Sushi Yasuda for lunch one day. Reviews online seem to indicate that it’s quite difficult to get a reservation there but I managed to book a place for two at the counter for lunch on a Thursday only a week beforehand. I chose for us to sit at the sushi counter – and I highly recommend the same for you if you visit! We were the second group there for lunch and were seated in front of the first sushi chef of a row of them.

We chose to go with the sushi pre fixe menu ($22.50), which came with a soup or salad to start. This would give us five pieces of nigiri sushi and two maki sushi rolls all from a particular list. Each menu item had its own list. There is also the option to order by the piece or even to have an omakase meal, but we wished to walk out of there with our wallets intact. When we had made our selections (ticking off boxes on a little piece of paper), our counter space was set as such:

The Setup at the Sushi Counter

That leaf is a Hawaiian ti leaf and is where our sushi would be placed by the chef in front of us.

My lunch came with either a soup or salad and I chose the latter. What arrived was this small bowl of greens, beans and tomatoes with crispy, dried baby jako sardine. If you’re familiar with Malaysian food, you’ll know what I mean when I say they’re like smaller fried ikan bilis!

Salad

My five pieces of nigiri were the following: Spanish mackerel, freshwater eel, striped bass, egg custard, egg. I was very curious about the egg versus egg custard and the chef brought both out for me to see, explaining that while the egg custard is common in Japan, it’s less common outside it, and that Japanese people above a certain age tend to be very very picky about their egg sushi and then he suggested that I try both. So I ticked them both off on my sheet.

I was trying not to take photos and instead just sit back and enjoy but I couldn’t help it when such beautiful pieces were placed before me! This was my egg nigiri (huge and so the chef sliced it into two for me) and the freshwater eel. No other photos of the nigiri but a little soy sauce is already painted onto each perfectly sized piece and so it’s all ready to pop into your mouth.

Egg and Eel Nigiri Sushi

This was the best sushi I’ve ever had (ok, so I haven’t travelled to Japan yet). Honestly, the rice was the best part, still warm and so well seasoned. The fish was extremely fresh and the eel soft and flavourful. And the two eggs? The egg custard had been cooked with fish stock and other various ingredients and was smooth and almost creamy and utterly delicious and the egg was, apart from being a massive slab, slightly sweet omelette and was delightful upon the rice.

For my maki rolls, I chose tuna and salmon skin. When these were being made, the chef’s knife slicing them into pieces made wonderful crunching sounds thanks to the amazingly crisp nori.

Maki Sushi

The nori did turn out to be incredibly crisp and a wonderful contrast to the rice inside. The tuna was a white tuna and again was soft and fresh and the salmon skin was freshly fried and also quite crisp and salty. Delicious with a little dab of their homemade soy sauce.

While we were eating our sushi, our chef would chat with us and give us information about the sushi we were eating as well as about other pieces that were being made for the people around us. This was in stark contrast to the other sushi chefs who seemed to be the strong silent types made sushi for their customers at the counter but also for those seated at the tables. After his talking about it, we were seduced by a large box of sea urchin roe that was brought out for uni nigiri for a woman next to us. And so, to end our lunch, we each chose a piece of uni nigiri ($5) from the a la carte menu. It was topped with large flakes of sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Again, fresh and salty and its texture was silky and sigh… it was a good ending.

Oh, and our sushi chef? He turned out to be Chef Yasuda himself.

The Man Himself

Sushi Yasuda
204 E. 43rd Street
New York, NY

Sushi Yasuda on Urbanspoon

To celebrate our last day of work in New York, Mirna and I took ourselves to Babbo, a Mario Batali restaurant just off Washington Square Park. It was on my list of places to eat in New York and as we’d only managed to secure a reservation for 22:45 the following day on Thursday (their phone lines are insane), we tried to drop in that day, on Wednesday, much earlier. No problem! If you’re happy to wait by the bar with a drink in hand and delicious little olives and crispy parmesan-covered grissini to nibble on, a table can be secured for you. We were told an hour’s wait but we were seated in about half that time.

We already knew ahead of time that we wanted one of the tasting menus but which one – pasta or traditional – would depend on the mood that day. The mood was pasta. A little card with the pasta tasting menu printed on it was brought to our table so that we could keep track of what we were eating (and drinking, if we had ordered the wine pairings).

We started with the Black Tagliatelle with Charred Corn and Castelmagno. Tossed along with the pasta were chives, giving a lovely oniony greenness to the carby, cheesy mixture. And the corn! I never would have thought of incorporating corn into a pasta sauce but the toasted sweet corn was delicious with the pasta. The pasta was fresh and perfectly al dente (I’d expect it to be!) but didn’t have much squid ink flavour. I licked this plate clean.

Black Tagliatelle with Charred Corn and Castelmagno

Along with this first course, we were served this chickpea bruschetta, their now quite well known amuse that they serve to everyone there. I wish we had been served it before our first course rather than having it unceremoniously dumped inbetween our plates. The chickpeas were tender (though not as creamy as the ones I love in Spain) and tossed with an tapenade/olive oil/balsamic vinegar mixture. Tasty enough.

Chickpea Bruschetta

I have to admit, I became a little apprehensive when that first plate of tagliatelle was set before me. It was a very large serving of pasta for a supposed tasting menu. Luckily, the sizes of the following dishes were much more manageable.

The second plate was “Casunzei” with Poppy Seeds. (Why the quotes?) These were ravioli stuffed with roasted beets and potato. According to an Italian colleague, they’re from the north of Italy and are not very well known even in the rest of the country. But they should be – they’re delicious! I expected more poppy seeds on top but this was a fine amount; they gave just a hint of flavour on top of the creamy filling and tender pasta.

"Casunzei" with Poppy Seeds

Next was Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati”. (Again those quotes! Why?) The waiter came over with some goat’s cheese and while grating it over our pasta, we were told, “The chef recommends ____ cheese.” Shame I didn’t catch the name of it – it was quite noisy in the restaurant. The internet tells me that trifolati is a method of stewing involving olive oil, garlic and parsley – a most excellent way of cooking mushrooms. The mushroom and garlic flavour infused every bite of the dish – gorgeous.

Garganelli with "Funghi Trifolati"

Then came Domingo’s Pyramids with “Passato di Pomodoro” with a grating of the recommended pecorino romano on top. Inside was shredded braised beef. This was good but to me, the least impressive of the dishes. Perhaps the novelty of the first few pastas overshadowed this one.

Domingo's Pyramids with "Passato di Pomodoro"

So, who is or was Domingo?

The final pasta course was Pappardelle Bolognese. The chef recommended parmigiano reggiano for this one. This was extremely filling, with the sauce to pasta ratio highest of all the pasta dishes, so we were eating meat and pasta, not pasta with meat. It was a very classic Bolognese and the perfect pappardelle went superbly with it. (I was rather pleased that my own bolognese tastes rather like Babbo’s!) A great final pasta dish.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Time for the cheese course. These were “Frittele di Caprino” with Warm Honey. These goat’s cheese fritters were hot and creamy and flecked with what I believe was mint and crunchy on the outside. They were incredibly moreish and I ate mine slowly, wiping up the honey, to make them last longer. Two little fritters are not enough!

"Frittele di Caprino" with Warm Honey

Inside a Fritter

Our first dessert was a Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Licorice. This little thimbleful of rich, cold creaminess (heavier than a typical panna cotta) was very chocolatey but I could not taste any licorice. On a side note, I was shocked that in the time I took to eat my little panna cotta, the man sitting next to me managed to wolf down an entire double thickness pork chop.

Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Licorice

Finally, while Mirna was served this Citrus Polenta Cake with Olive Oil Gelato,

Citrus Polenta Cake with Olive Oil Gelato

I was presented with this Peach Crostata with Amaretto Gelato. It seems to be the norm at the restaurant to give each diner a different final dessert, though only the first was listed on the printed menu. We shared them both.

Peach Crostata with Amaretto Gelato

The first dessert I was keen to try as it had that olive oil gelato I’d heard so much about; however, I found that there wasn’t much olive oil flavour to the gelato and that most of it came from the olive oil drizzle on the plate. Perhaps the cold dampened the flavours? The citrus polenta cake was served on a slice of candied lemon but I wasn’t fond of the cake. Actually, we left it half eaten as the polenta gave it too much of a graininess that made it very dry in the mouth.

The second dessert was just perfect and was a warm peach tart with a crumble topping. I loved just placing my face over the plate and inhaling deeply as the scent of peach tart and lavender and rosemary wafted up to greet me. The two herbs were used as a garnish, crushed lightly before being scattered over the plate.

It was $69 for these eight courses and trust me, you’re not going to find a tasting menu in London at that price; actually, that’s the average price for a meal for many people eating out in this nation’s capital. Overall, while Babbo is not the most inventive of restaurants, the pastas were delicious and I was very happy to have tried it. We left full (but not uncomfortably so – does that make us pigs?), happy and ready to really do some proper sightseeing in New York.

Babbo
110 Waverly Place, NW corner of Washington Square Park
New York, NY

Babbo on Urbanspoon

We had to find a place serving “traditional American food” that could seat 8 people at short notice – this was our mission. A quick search online led us to RUB – Righteous Urban Barbeque. I mean, barbeque is American right? Let’s leave out the part where there are different regions within America and that New York isn’t a traditional place for barbeque and just bear with me, okay? There were cranky people to feed, cranky people who’d been listening to talks since 8am and they were all carnivores. RUB had a lot of seating and a lot of meat – bring it on!

We started the meal with a couple of starters for the table: some finger-licking good barbeque chicken wings…

Chicken Wings

… and fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were just ok but not the fault of the restaurant, I think. This was my first time having fried green tomatoes and I was slightly disappointed to find out that they’re exactly as the name suggests – battered, fried slices of green tomato. Nothing mind-blowing.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I hoped to have The Baron – “A tasting of beef, chicken, pork, ham, pastrami, turkey, sausage, and topped with a quarter rack of ribs”. The waitress ensured us that this would feed three people and so I roped in two of my colleagues and ordered this.

This is what came to the table:

The Baron

THREE people?! Are they insane? Maybe three giants. Or three rugby players. The chalkboard at the front said they were out of ham so this is the only thing missing from the platter.

My favourites were the pulled pork and the pork ribs and the brisket that just fell apart at the touch of my fork. On the table, there’s both their classic and spicy hot barbeque sauces, which were both delicious tomato based concoctions, but many of the meats didn’t even require extra sauce. I wasn’t a big fan of the turkey, which I found dry, but then again, I always find turkey dry.

It came with two large side dishes. I chose the onion strings while my colleague went for the super fries. The onion strings were greasy and good, exactly what I hoped for, and the fries were very good and actually were much better than I expected.

Onion Strings

Super Fries

Needless to say, we didn’t finish the platter. We enlisted help from our other colleagues but they were struggling with their own orders.

For example, one friend of mine ordered a whole slab of baby back ribs with cornbread on the side. She just about managed to finish this by freely handing out ribs to all takers.

A Whole Slab of Baby Back Ribs

Here’s another friend’s two meat platter; he chose beef brisket and pulled pork. A quarter of the way through, he declared himself full but he soldiered on and just about finished the platter. A good effort!

Two Meat Platter

We pretty much rolled out of there. And for a Londoner, the prices were frankly, ridiculously low. I mean, that Baron platter? The one that can feed at least six people? $45. And yes, that includes the two large side dishes. I’m not sure how much barbeque normally costs in the US, but this was a pretty good deal for so much food!

RUB BBQ
208 W 23rd Street
New York, NY

Rub BBQ on Urbanspoon

It was my first night in New York and I managed to eat at Momofuku Ssam Bar: what an excellent start to the trip! I’d arranged to meet Don (Cocktailian on Flickr) and Robyn (roboppy on Flickr and TGWAE) that night and had brought along a few of my colleagues too. Altogether there were six of us and that meant lots of stomachs to hold lots of food and we could try a good chunk of the menu.

We left Don to the ordering, he being a regular there. Quite a few dishes were marked and I did start to worry that we’d never finish them all but somehow we did clean all the plates. I should mention here that it was my first time meeting Don and he’s just a wealth of knowledge on the food scene in New York; he also recommended an amazing sushi restaurant to us but that’s for another blog post. And Robyn is just so cool and nice and pretty awesome all around – I’d met her before when she came to London for a short visit. We’d all known each other through our Flickr photostreams.

Did I mention there were a lot of dishes? This is what came out to our table.

Diver sea scallops – pickled cherries, lemon
These were incredibly fresh and the lemon came in the form of a puree or creme under the scallops. Delicious.

Diver Sea Scallops

Cured hamachi – edamame, horseradish, pea leaves
The black-greenish stuff on top of the hamachi is furikake, Japanese sprinkles normally put on rice. It was great textural contrast to the hamachi (yellowtail).

Cured Hamachi

Sliced Long Island fluke – yuzu kosho, peaches
Uh oh. I’m going to have to admit that I can’t remember much of this one other than the fish was very fresh and in a fruity sauce?

Sliced Long Island Fluke

Seasonal pickles
I insisted on these as I’m a big pickle fan! There was kimchi, daikon, carrot, Asian pear, cucumber, ramps, mushrooms, beetroot, etc. I was quite a pig on these, wanting to try at least one of each type – and I loved them all. It seems I like any pickled vegetal matter.

Seasonal Pickles

Ossabaw lardo – pickled carrots
We all got a lesson that day on the Ossabaw pig (quick story: feral pigs living on an island and they have some special biochemical system so they’re popular with medical research – and with eaters it seems!). These thin slices of cured lard melted in the mouth.

Ossabaw Lardo

Eckerton Hill Farm’s tomato salad – fried tofu, opal basil
Gorgeous tomatoes. And it was some fantastic, crispy fried tofu; I like the idea of using tofu instead of bread croutons.

Eckerton Hill Farm's Tomato Salad

Steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions
Oh my goodness. This is a Ssam Bar classic and I can see why. Don told us that the pork belly was first cooked sous vide which gives it its melt in the mouth consistency. The bread too is soft and steamed and it all goes down quite easily. I was savouring mine, taking itty bitty bites to make it last longer! I want this now!

Steamed Buns

Inside a Steamed Bun

Meacham country ham (Sturgis, Kentucky), Benton’s Smokey Mountain country ham (Madisonville, Tennessee)
See the sauce on the side? I thought it was mustard at first but nope, it’s red-eye gravy. That’s a gravy made with coffee (geddit? red-eye?). The smokiness of the ham and the caffeinated gravy did go well together – and yup, it was some mighty fine ham. (The bread was freaking good and Don told us that it was from the Sullivan Street Bakery.)

Meacham Country Ham

Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Ham

Bahn mi – ham and chicken liver terrine sandwich
Another classic. The filling was really lovely but I wish the bread was the more usual light white bread used in these Vietnamese sandwiches. That said, the bread used here was really very good otherwise and again from the Sullivan Street Bakery.

Banh Mi

Roasted stone bass – Jersey corn, chantarelles, pancetta, lima beans
Fresh fish and it wasn’t nice but not something I would crave. But that’s just me.

Roasted Stone Bass

Bev Eggleston’s pork shoulder steak – zucchini, buttermilk dressing
Oh, this was one of my favourites that night. I really can’t turn down a good pork dish.

Bev Eggleston's Pork Shoulder Steak

Spicy pork sausage and rice cakes – Chinese broccoli, crispy shallots
This one was quite spicy with a few chilies and some Sichuan peppercorns within. The rice cakes were Korean deok and were fried – so slightly crisp outsides and heavy, chewy innards. I liked this dish!

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes

Crispy pig’s head torchon (Newman’s Farm, MO) – sucrine, sugar plums
One in the party described this as “better than sex!”; I don’t think I’d go that far but it sure was good! My first bite was ok – quite meaty as I must’ve got a bit of cheek. The second bite burst into my mouth – amazing fatty goodness! If you’re wondering what sucrine is, as we all were, it’s the type of lettuce.

Crispy Pig's Head Torchon

Sichuan beef tendon – green mango, peanuts
Oooh, it seems I like tendon! When sliced thinly, it’s soft but with a gelatin feel.

Sichuan Beef Tendon

Crispy lamb belly and roasted loin (Four Story Hill Farms, PA) – cippolinis, violet mustard
The belly was soft and the loin tender and I preferred the flavour of the latter. I couldn’t discern the violet in the mustard.

Crispy Lamb Belly & Roasted Loin

Then all those were gone. We were all pretty full but still Don went ahead and ordered one each of the desserts!

Chocolate hazelnut croustillant – nectarine, cherry
Oooh, I do like chocolates with that crispy nutty fillling. But this wasn’t just a chocolate – it was like an oversized chocolate! It might seem like a small dessert but a little goes a long way.

Chocolate Hazelnut Croustillant

Tristar strawberry shortcake – corn, Kendall Farm’s creme fraiche
What I wasn’t expecting was the fresh kernels of corn in there! Nice twist on the classic.

Tristar Strawberry Shortcake

Blondie pie – cashews
This seemed to go down well at the table – strangely enough, I can’t remember much of this one as I only had one bite.

Blondie Pie

And the cost of all this decadence? $40 a head and that’s for all the food and a drink each to start. Further drinks can add up though and I have to thank Don for all the rest!

So, my other opinions. I loved the food and I loved the company but I didn’t love the loud music and dark room. It’s a little annoying having to shout at your companions to be heard and having to look very hard at the dish on the table to see each ingredient. And the waitstaff did have a habit of showing up all at once and talking over each other so some of the details of the dishes did get lost. But we’re really there for the food, no?

Thanks again, Don and Robyn! We’ll go back next time I’m in New York, won’t we?!

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave., corner of 13th and 2nd
New York, NY

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

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