My last few days in New York were mainly spent at a work conference in Brooklyn. There were still a lot of opportunities to dine well though!

Lunch one afternoon was at Hill Country Chicken, next door to Hill Country Barbecue Market. Their fried chicken was good but not a patch on that at Pies ‘n’ Thighs. I’ve been told I should just get fried chicken at Popeyes rather than these ‘fancy’ places though!

Hill Country Fried Chicken

That night, I made my way to Chinatown where I went in search of a branch of Xi’an Famous Foods. Their famous liang pi cold skin noodles were excellent and the kind of light comfort food that was just what I needed. The slippery noodles had been tossed with a vinegary chilli sauce with lots of shredded vegetables and bits of gluten.

Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles

I also ordered a spicy cumin lamb burger, another of their popular dishes. It was quite spicy but I felt that the lamb was a bit on the dry side; I would have preferred a bit of fat in there to give it all some moistness.

Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

The next night, I was looking for a real New York institution as I was taking a guest out (hi, A!) and Katz’s Delicatessen came to mind. I’d not tried it and we were not disappointed! That pastrami was excellent!

Pastrami

Dinner

For me, I chose a soup and half sandwich combo. For the sandwich, their pastrami reuben, with plenty of pastrami topped with sauerkraut, melted cheese and Russian dressing. It nearly defeated me.

Half a Pastrami Reuben

On the side were two pickles – a very sour dill pickle and my preferred half pickled but still very crunchy pickle.

Pickles

My matzo ball soup was just ok – its chicken broth was just good enough. I had to leave most of it.

Matzo Ball Soup

We clearly over ordered. We ordered fries and I think we only had one or two. To drink, I had my very first chocolate egg cream, that fizzy concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, seltzer and no eggs. They featured heavily in the books that I read when I was younger and it was a bit of a thrill to finally taste one (it tastes exactly as you’d expect of the sum of its parts).

Chocolate Egg Cream and Fries

Dessert was easy enough; we just crossed the street to an extremely crowded (it was Friday night) Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Their gelati do change often so not all of their 200 flavours will be available. My Greek yoghurt and lemon ginger were very refreshing and my taste of their olive oil flavour…well, tasted of exactly that!

Greek Yoghurt and Lemon Ginger

Don’t forget to get a ticket as soon as you get in there or else you’ll be waiting for ages!

For lunch the next day, I brought another old friend and colleague back to Hill Country Barbecue for a brisket sandwich. A soft potato bun attempted to sandwich together a mound of peppery chopped brisket (both lean and moist) with lots of barbecue sauce. Good stuff.

Brisket Sandwich

That night, I met up with Diana and Michele and we had dinner at Cocoron which specialises in homemade soba. Homemade soba! I’d certainly not tried that and it sounded excellent.

To start though, we split a couple of cold appetisers: spicy cucumber…

Spicy Cucumber

… and a refreshing off-menu homemade tofu.

Homemade Tofu

The soba! I chose a cold dish for that abnormally hot day; this was their sansai soba, which came with a whole myriad of vegetable toppings.

Cold Sansai Soba

I poured the dipping sauce on top, mixed it all together and slurped down the delicious and surprisingly al dente noodles.

Cold Sansai Soba

For my very last lunch in New York, prior to my evening flight, I went with a suggestion from Diana, who proffered the name of El Tenampa when I told her I had a hankering for Mexican food. I took a subway train further into Brooklyn and got out at what appeared to be quite a suburban neighbourhood. After walking a few blocks, I found El Tenampa, a Mexican shop (‘supermarket’ would be pushing it) with a cafe in the back.

I arrived just before its noon opening time and so sat waiting in the dark with a couple of Mexican families. At noon, the lights were turned on and we queued to order at the counter. When our food was ready, we’d either be shouted at or pointed at if we were watching and it was up to the counter again to pick up your food. When you’ve finished eating, it’s back up to the counter again to settle your bill.

The best and most stressful part of the whole experience was the trip to the salsa bar! What should grace the top of your tacos? There was green salsa, red salsa, radish slices, lime wedges, pickles and, rather amazingly, guacamole. Guacamole at a help-yourself salsa bar. Of course, I guac’ed up all my chosen tacos: lengua, cesina, chorizo, and pastor.

Tacos

These were some legit tacos. I also had a tamal de mole. I love tamales and this was my first filled with the classic mole poblano sauce.

Tamal de Mole

To my surprise, there was a half a chicken thigh in there too, bone and all! And this was one fine tamal.

Tamal de Mole

I’ve read good things about their cemitas and soups too. And one couple I saw had a brilliant idea: buy some of the fresh chicharrones at the front of the shop and bring it to the cafe to eat with lunch. I wish I had an El Tenampa near me!

Hill Country Chicken
Hill Country Chicken on Urbanspoon

Xi’an Famous Foods
Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Il Laboratorio Del Gelato on Urbanspoon

Cocoron
Cocoron on Urbanspoon

El Tenampa
El Tenampa Deli Grocery on Urbanspoon

And that’s it! That was our big trip to New York this year! As usual, all our photos can be found in this Flickr photoset.

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