The morning of the third day started with a visit to Lincoln Center, the arts and culture hub I missed seeing on my last trip. It’s certainly a beautiful space – lucky New Yorkers!

Metropolitan Opera House

After a bit of wandering (and a disappointing avocado toast at ‘wichcraft), we found yet another Dean & Deluca where this time we tried a peanut butter and jelly doughnut from Doughnut Plant.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut

Mmm…now I’ve heard great things about the doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, and especially about this particular doughnut, but it was just too much. The dough itself was overshadowed by too much peanut butter, too much jelly. Perhaps I chose badly.

Onwards we went to 5th Avenue, down to Rockefeller Center where the Easter decorations were still up…

Easter Bunny

… and then down to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library where my favourite reading room was closed that day! A shame, I love that place.

Bryant Park

Lunchtime! We caught the subway from there to somewhere in East Manhattan to visit Momofuku Ssam Bar for lunch. I’d visited on my last trip to NYC and I wanted to return to try their lunch menu; ok, I was mainly there for their rotisserie duck.

But first, their famous steamed buns again. I think what makes them stand out from other pork belly buns are the not one, but two thick slices of braised pork belly. Indulgent!

Steamed Buns

And that rotisserie duck! I would have liked more of it… but what we had was excellent. This is not your ordinary roast duck as in between the breast and skin was tucked some pork-based forcemeat. This is truly the mutant animal that would be welcome at my celebration table (bah to the turducken).

Rotisserie Duck over Rice with Chive Pancake

We got it with all the fixin’s available: the chive pancake above (only ok), the bowl of lettuce below (we weren’t entirely sure what to do with it and tried eating the duck ssam style), and an excellent broccoli salad with dried bluefish (below that).

Lettuce

Broccoli Salad

For dessert, we split a Thai Tea Pie, which whilst not tasting particularly strongly of Thai tea, was a delightful ice cream pie and a complex tang provided by a tamarind sauce.

Thai Tea Pie

Afterwards we walked over to Momofuku Milk Bar which had not yet opened when I was last in New York. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy any of their sweets (I tried a few over a couple days). Their cookies (compost and corn) weren’t great to me and their cake truffles were bleh (dulce de leche). Perhaps I should have tried their soft serve. Their bagel bomb (a round bagel filled with savoury cream cheese) was quite good though.

And then onwards we went to the Flatiron Building and where I spotted the city’s Eataly, that huge emporium of eateries, delis and shopping all direct from Italy.

Flatiron Building

The sunny weather necessitated a gelato and we queued up to try that at Eataly. I mean, it’s from Italy so it has to be good, right?

Gelato at Eataly

Wrong. The flavours were muted; the texture wasn’t great. Boring. Oh well, the rest of Eataly looked exciting.

We didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon but we did want to see a few more galleries at the Met so back up on the 6-train we went. It’s impossible to see everything there in only a day or two and I wish we had a whole week for its!

Later that evening, we headed back to the East Village (fast becoming my favourite place to eat in Manhattan) and while we first thought about pizza, the place we had in mind was extremely crowded. We turned the corner and headed for some American-Italian food at Parm instead.

We started with some vegetables – spicy rabe was actually pretty spicy (to our surprise) but this heat paired well with the slightly bitter greens.

Spicy Rabe

String beans oreganata were grilled until the beans were tender and will black grill marks and they were tossed with a spicy breadcrumb mixture. These were brilliant – I know I’ll try throwing green beans onto the barbecue this summer….when I get a barbecue.

String Beans Oreganata

Of course, Parm specialises in anything parmigiana, i.e. anything topped with red sauce and cheese and it’s all melted together in the oven. We had a couple of small sandwiches.

The chicken parm roll was breaded chicken with tomato sauce and melting cheese in a soft bun.

Chicken Parm Roll

Inside the Chicken Parm Roll

Eggplant parm (that’s aubergine if you’re not familiar with the Americanism) was silky slices of eggplant layered with the sauce and cheese. Both parms were excellent.

Eggplant Parm Roll

Inside the Eggplant Parm Roll

After dinner, we ended up walking past the pizzeria again and this time it was empty. And open (ok, it was still very early in the evening). And that meant getting a slice. This was Prince Street Pizza, a tiny place that sells pizza by the slice – we were there for their square slice with spicy salami. As recommended by Serious Eats, I asked for our slice to be extra crispy, meaning that it just spends a bit more time in the oven during reheating.

Square Slice

A most excellent Sicilian slice this was – and we loved the crispy base.

To make up for our crappy gelato earlier in the day, we walked around the corner from the pizzeria to AB Biagi‘s yet again! Here’s strawberry and a vegan almond. What made it vegan? Almond milk! It was fantastic.

At AB Biagi's again!

It was a good end to the day!

Doughnut Plant
Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Ssam Bar
Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Parm
Parm on Urbanspoon

Prince Street Pizza
Prince St. Pizza on Urbanspoon

The second day saw us wake up again stupidly early but that meant we could get to Russ & Daughters Cafe before 9am on Sunday for breakfast (no bookings are taken). There we were served by a very serious young man who declared that everything we selected was a “good choice”.

Coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice were necessary to get our internal engines going.

Coffee and Orange Juice

Are kasha varnishkas a typical breakfast food? Probably not but when topped with a poached egg, it sure felt like one. This Jewish-Ashkenazi dish of buckwheat and pasta and caramelised onions was supremely comforting with its butter and possible schmaltz.

Kasha Varnishkas

We also split a Classic Board – Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, capers – all served with an everything bagel (“Good choice!”). The salmon was excellent and I loved their bagel.

The Classic Board

By the time we left, the place was packed and people had started queuing for a table. Yeah, get there early.

A short stroll away was Economy Candy, the legendary candy shop that’s been going since 1937.

Inside Economy Candy

What a fun place this is! The proprietor asked Blai if he was taking me on a first date there (apparently that’s common) but when I explained that we’re not from around there, he quipped, “I could tell – you’re here early!” True that! It wasn’t even 10am then! We ended up leaving there laden down with goodies.

We then caught another 6-train up to the upper east side (we got very familiar with that subway line) and spent the rest of the morning at the Frick Collection. If you get there between 11am and 1pm on Sundays, it’s pay what you like. It’s a fine little collection that’s definitely worth seeing!

Untitled

For lunch, we headed to the branch of Luke’s Lobster that’s nearby. We split a lobster roll, …

Lobster Roll

…a crab roll, …

Crab Roll

… and a side of their Boston clam chowder.

Clam Chowder

It was fantastic. Those buttery toasted rolls were chock full of shellfish with just a tiny bit of mayo and a sprinkle of something heavy on celery salt. Fabulous. I’d never seen Blai so enthusiastic – he demanded, demanded!, that we return on his last day in the city. Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of times he’s demanded some particular dish and this was almost shocking! But they are worth the enthusiasm!

And then it was onwards to the Guggenheim. While the building was quite spectacular, as was most of their permanent collection, we were disappointed that one main gallery was closed and that most of the space was dedicated to a major exhibition by On Kawara. Now, Kawara’s work is interesting as a concept but seeing a lot of it there (and it’s quite repetitive) got tiring after a while.

Untitled

After our time at the Guggenheim, the warm weather had us thinking about gelato and we took the subway back down to the East Village and headed to A.B. Biagi, which I’d heard had some excellent stuff. The shop was much smaller than I expected (there were only three seats inside) and the menu was equally tiny (maybe about 5 flavours that afternoon) but what we tried (lemon sorbet, chocolate and pistachio) were all excellent.

Gelato - Lemon, Chocolate and Pistachio

Somewhere in between gelato and dinner was another subway ride down to Battery Park to bask in the sun and peer out at the Statue of Liberty and a long walk back to the subway as a few stations were closed around Wall Street due to filming of some movie. Ah, New York!

Dinner that night was back near Chinatown on Canal Street at Pies ‘n’ Thighs.

Three pieces of fried chicken made up their Fried Chicken Box and on the side, we had a lovely refreshing green salad. The chicken was excellent – moist on the inside, seasoned goodness on the outside. Oops, I think a piece of chicken was already missing from the plate when I took this photo.

Fried Chicken Box with Green Salad

And there was a biscuit on the side. I miss biscuits so.

Biscuit

We also split a chicken biscuit. This chicken breast had been coated in a crumb coating and was slapped between a biscuit with lashings of honey butter and hot sauce. Mmm… honey butter and hot sauce. Excellent stuff.

Chicken Biscuit

We couldn’t leave without a slice of pie! Here’s their apple pie a la mode, which was just ok. The crust could have been flakier and the apples cooked a little longer.

Apple Pie a la Mode

And that was our second full day in the city. When I look back at it, butter seems to have been the running theme throughout the meals.

Russ & Daughters Cafe
Russ & Daughters Cafe on Urbanspoon

Luke’s Lobster
Luke's Lobster on Urbanspoon

A.B. Biagi
A.B. Biagi on Urbanspoon

Pies ‘n’ Thighs
Pies-n-Thighs on Urbanspoon

It’s difficult to believe that we were in New York City last week! It was only my second time but Blai’s first time and we were gonna hit all the high spots and, of course, eat well! We flew American Airlines direct to JFK and I was pleasantly surprised by how much space we had and quality of the food provided. What wasn’t so great was the flight taking up most of Friday, which meant that we landed mid afternoon Friday, checked into our Airbnb apartment in downtown Brooklyn, and then went directly to find dinner.

My friend Diana had sent over a huge list of delicious places and one really jumped out at me – Yemen Cafe & Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, only a 15 minute walk from where we were staying. As soon as we sat down, we were brought a huge round of warm clay oven bread, lemon wedges and zhoug, the fresh green and spicy sauce served with Yemeni food.

Warm Clay Oven Bread, Lemons, Zhoug

Two bowls of lamb soup were also presented to us. It smelled very lamby but its flavour was much gently than that which its scent hinted.

Lamb Soup

And a plate of salad! This, we think, accompanied our main course and was brought as a sort of starter.

House Salad

Being somewhat wary of American portion sizes and not wanting too much waste on our trip, we ordered only one main course and one appetiser to split between us. Weirdly, we wanted something quite comforting and ended up with hummus! It was excellent homemade hummus and we ate probably way too much of that round of flatbread with it.

Hummus

And then our main course, the Yemeni national dish saltah, arrived. This was a hot stone bowl of a thick, slightly gelatinous vegetable stew topped with a frothy fenugreek sauce. We stirred our bubbling bowl hesitantly…and ate a little with rice. Then we tried it with bread and knew that we were onto a winner. It really is best with the warm flatbread – somehow the stew (with okra being the thickening agent) went amazingly well with it. I need to find saltah in London!

What we should have done was follow the lead of the Yemeni guy at the next table who dumped in a couple spoons of zhoug and stirred vigorously before tucking in with his wife. He was impressed by how we cleaned our bowl though!

Saltah

The saltah came with a portion of their lamb haneeth, a falling off the bone chunk of tender spiced slow roasted lamb. The rice we ordered as a side dish and that highly scented pile of spiced basmati came with a little drizzle of saltah sauce on it.

Lamb Haneeth and Rice

And to drink? Iced Yemeni tea, which hit the spot.

Iced Yemeni Tea

Our first proper day in the city started early… like 6am early. Jetlag had hit us a bit and we used that early morning to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

Untitled

After walking for a bit (and having a bit of tea somewhere), we found ourselves in Chinatown and we headed for a place on my list for cheap dumplings (also, it opened at 7am, which was useful) – Vanessa’s Dumpling House. One order of fried pork and chive dumplings and a veggie filled pancake (a thick wodge of soft bread) saw our tummies filled for under $4. Bargain.

Dumplings and Filled Pancake

Then it was catching the 6-train and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my favourite places in the city and where we spent most of the day.

Temple of Dendur

All that walking through the galleries builds up an appetite! We walked (some more) to a nearby Papaya King and grabbed hot dogs to eat in Central Park. On the way, we also ran into a Dean and DeLuca (the upscale grocery store) and picked up a doughnut from Dough.

It’s here I need to mention the fantastic weather we had during our week there. Thumbs up!

Two Papaya King Hot Dogs

Dulce de Leche doughnut from Dough

Anyway, lunch was great! Papaya King’s hotdogs were excellent (no, I couldn’t tell any difference from Gray’s Papaya from my last trip) but as for topping, I don’t really get the New York onions, a stewed mixture that hints of cloves and cinnamon. I preferred the relish – pickle relish mixed with mustard. Their corn dogs and curly fries are excellent too. And that doughnut! Oh, it was brilliant – this was a dulce de leche one with icing that wasn’t too sweet and topped with lots of toasted almond slices.

After lunch, we returned to the Met again! And still, after spending most of the day there, we didn’t ever make it to the second floor!

All that walking around the Met was killing our feet and we needed another sit down mid afternoon. Tea and a snack then and that snack was our very first black and white cookie, a New York classic. It was alright (soft cakey cookie with icing) but I didn’t see the great appeal of it.

Black and White

One final round through the Oceania galleries (fantastic) and it was time to go. Dinner, as is normal for any jet-lagged traveller, was required a little earlier than usual. However, our chosen restaurant, Ootoya in Times Square, had a one hour wait for a table (it was Saturday night). No matter – we waited in the Starbucks next door. When we finally sat down, we were ravenous.

My kaasan ni set was a stoneware bowl of chicken katsu in a soy-dashi broth topped with lots of grated daikon and a poached egg. I ordered this as a set, with rice, miso soup, steamed egg, and pickles.

Kaasan Ni Set

Blai’s buta shio koji with negishio was fantastic – the pork belly had been marinated in shio koji before being grilled and were then topped with sliced spring onions that too had been in shio koji. It was so utterly savoury and moreish.

Buta Shio Koji with Negishio

Altogether it was a lot of food! I only just about managed to squeeze in some warabimochi (another big portion!) at the end!

Warabimochi

And that was only our first 1.5 days in the city.

Yemen Cafe & Restaurant

Yemen Café and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Vanessa’s Dumpling House

Vanessa's Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

Papaya King

Papaya King on Urbanspoon

Ootoya

Ootoya on Urbanspoon

Lately I’ve been watching a Japanese television series that has the same plotline (if you can even call it that) for every episode and has been running for four seasons already. It’s Kodoku no Gurume, or the Solitary Gourmet, originally a manga series about a travelling salesman, where each chapter covers a particular restaurant somewhere in Japan at which he dines. And that’s the main thing in the television series too – his eating.

Every episode is our protagonist Goro having some client meeting somewhere in Japan and post-meeting, his having some crisis of empty stomach that needs rectifying. He goes in search of a restaurant that satisfies his criteria of a good restaurant (not necessarily expensive but with good homey food) and then we spend at least half the episode watching him order and eat the food. And damn, do I get hungry watching his ridiculously expressive face while eating. It can get a little slow going – I mean, he is actually eating and chewing the food in real-time – but his thoughts are going on as he chews and whatnot.

And here’s the best part too – every one of the restaurants he eats at is real and actually exists in Japan! At the end of each episode, Masayuki Kusumi, the original writer of the manga series, visits the restaurant and tries the food and interacts with the real owners and staff (the staff at the restaurants are replaced with actors in the series).

But don’t just listen to me – go and watch it – Umamimart has links to the episodes with English subtitles. It really is absolutely brilliant. You might get hooked (and if you do, ….uh, don’t blame me).

As an aside, I do wish I saw this programme before visiting Japan as it’s a great way of learning about the food and restaurant culture of the country!

It may or may not be known (ha! Probably the latter) that I’m not a fan of the ramen at Bone Daddies. I find it’s just packed too full of stuff to enjoy – it’s a bit over the top. When I first heard about Shackfuyu, I assumed it was another ramen joint and ignored it but soon reports started coming in about the dishes served there and I realised it was more like an izakaya but with intriguing fusion style foods.

We thought of popping in one evening but found the place absolutely packed. Back up plan: return for lunch on Easter Sunday, when it’s possible to drop in at some of the hippest and most popular restaurants (provided they’re open on the day) without a reservation. And sure enough, Shackfuyu was half empty. Perfect, we’d get our opportunity to try it!

We both loved the short and sweet menu and chose a few things across it. The yellowtail sashimi tostada – avocado shiso (£2.50 each) was a great two-bite starter with lovely shock to the tongue of the hot crisp tortilla and the cold avocado and fish.

Yellowtail sashimi tostada - avocado shiso

Blai’s favourite was probably the mackerel – nanban style (escabeche) (£7.80). Here the fish fillets had been battered and deep fried before being drained and marinated in a vinegary mixture with shredded vegetables. Fantastic.

Mackerel – nanban style (escabeche)

The fried potatoes – japanese curry sauce (£4.30) were excellent. The potato cubes had been fried with a perfect crispy shell that remained crispy in the sauce.

Fried potatoes – japanese curry sauce

The aubergine – 4 miso – bubu arare (£5.80) were silky smooth and smeared in a delicious miso paste and topped with nori and little crispy rice balls (the bubu arare).

Aubergine – 4 miso – bubu arare

To meet our carb needs, we also shared a hot stone rice – goma tare – chilli – beef (£7.80). As expected, it was like a bibimbap with a raw egg and corn and mushrooms. It was all mixed up for us to ensure we didn’t burn ourselves and then we helped ourselves to the rice with its crispy toasted edges.

Hot stone rice – goma tare – chilli – beef

What everyone says about their kinako french toast with matcha soft serve ice cream (£6) is true. It’s just dreamy with its crispy crust and custardy centre and that matcha! soft! serve! and we’re still thinking about it.

Kinako french toast – soft serve ice cream

Just go and eat that french toast. Go. Go. Go. But if you can’t go, you can get a matcha soft serve for takeaway for £3.50 (I know I will). And hurry, as Shackfuyu is just a pop-up that’ll be around for just a year or so.

Bone Daddies Shackfuyu
14a Old Compton Street
London W1D 4TJ

Shackfuyu on Urbanspoon

Spaghetti carbonara has to be one of the best store cupboard pasta dishes that one can whip up in the time it takes for the spaghetti to boil. We’ve only just discovered that the addition of something green is absolutely brilliant as it helps cut the richness a little and you certainly feel better about getting your greens in even with such a quick meal.

While I’ve seen recipes for courgette carbonara, we like the addition of broccoli. Broccoli keeps for ages in our fridge and well, I just feel courgette can be a bit boring at times. Adding the broccoli doesn’t add any time to the preparation of the pasta dish as it’s cooked with the pasta. And, of course, as my Italian colleagues are likely to shout at you – no cream! The egg and cheese and pasta water will make it all creamy by itself.

Farfalle and Broccoli Carbonara

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
serves 2.

250g dried spaghetti or other pasta shape you need to use up (farfalle in our case)
olive oil
5 slices smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
about 1/2 a small head of broccoli
3 medium-large eggs
about 30-50g grated pecorino romano
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Crack all your eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Add the grated pecorino romano and season with salt and lots of black pepper and beat well again.

Heat a large saute pan and add a little olive oil. Chop the bacon/pancetta and fry off the pieces slowly. Keep on a low heat when ready.

Chop all the broccoli (the stem too) into small pieces and toss them into the pasta water when the pasta is almost done. When the pasta is ready, the broccoli will be too – drain them both and add to the warm pan with the bacon. Stir and while stirring, pour over the egg mixture, and keep mixing all together. The egg and cheese should coat the pasta without scrambling. If it’s looking a bit too dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

In France, the first of April is also full of pranks in France. The tradition is poisson d’avril (April fish) – children try to stick paper fishes onto their friends’ backs and when it’s discovered, one shouts “Poisson d’avril!”. Simple but effective. On the day at Brasserie Zédel, they went all out for the event, with paper fish to stick on someone’s back at each place, fortune telling fish, and beautiful dark chocolate fish to take home. I was there on invitation – Blai and I actually find ourselves there quite regularly. It almost always has space for a walk-in for two and is priced very well for a centrally-located brasserie…and, of course, we like the food! But this…this was different. It was a one-off for a particularly French way of celebrating April Fools.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

And I couldn’t help but giggle at the poor victims of the prank that night, many of whom were the waitstaff!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Then we watched as every fortune telling fish curled up in our palms…. that’s the usual thing right? That we’re all “passionate” people?!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

For my meal, I started with Steak Tartare. It was excellent despite it being not much of a looker – all the seasonings had been mixed in with the meat already.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

I felt an implicit pressure to have fish somewhere in my meal (actually the pressure was all self-inflicted) and chose the Daurade aux Aubergines et Sauce Verte – sea bream. The aubergines under the fish were fantastic!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Brasserie Zédel’s menu changes ever so slightly through the seasons and it’s most apparent in their dessert menu. I chose one dessert that I certainly hadn’t seen on the menu before: Soufflé Glacé au Café, Crème Anglaise. The thin custard was poured directly into the heart of the cold coffee mousse. I loved that the combination wasn’t too sweet overall and was a fine ending to the meal, no extra coffee required!

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

And here’s that dark chocolate fish, made in house by their chocolatier, that was presented to each of us at the end of our meal. I’ve been nibbling on it every day since and it’s ridiculously good.

I was invited to dinner for Poisson d'Avril at Brasserie Zedel.

Thank you very much to Hattie and Natalie and Brasserie Zédel for the invitation – it was a fun night! I’ve now signed up to the restaurant’s newsletter to get head’s up for their other French celebrations (I hear they do a great Bastille Day).

Brasserie Zédel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED

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