New York, New York, from a Californian’s View…
|April 4, 2013||Posted by hog under Restaurant Reviews||
So here’s the funny part. I was born in Manhattan. In the 60′s. But I moved to California in the 80′s. That explains everything, I know, but largely it defines my food sensibility. San Francisco’s ingredient-driven world flourished far before Manhattan’s. Lattes did not exist when I left Manhattan in 87! While Lutece was proud of their reduction sauces, and French influence was heralded at all of the four-star spots, here in town, Alice W. had taught us, a freshly picked anything will trump a silver cloche. At a NYC trade show, Alice was later accused of merely “shopping” not cooking in a NYTimes Magazine story. I laughed at the slight, but by then had learned to love the simplicity of the perfect, freshly-picked Baby Gem lettuce with McEvoy olive oil and Maldon drizzled salt.
Now when I return to NYC, I ask my local restaurant types where to eat–and snicker at how “California” it has all become. NYers you can truly eat your words! Walking for miles with my daughter a few months ago yielded so many restaurants with raw wood and white subway tiles, industrial light fixtures, and you get the picture: Pared down menus, fresh juices, a strong bread program. No major technique. Oh so California. We went to Peel’s for breakfast, and could have been at any small spot by the Bay, although I admit the “shrimp and grits” were worth the visit.
Now on the opposite camp, and new on everyone’s list was Gemma. We stopped in for a very loud dinner and while some folks here said thumbs up and others the opposite, we were only moderately impressed. The restaurant read like a theme park and that is one thing NYers still love: that over-the-top ambiance flashing more bling than style, somewhat mirroring the noise level. Of course if you stick with the caprese salad made with beautiful burrata you can’t go wrong; and if you’re there for a late night bar scene you’re in good hands. Since downtown is a bustle with cheek to jowl ladies in tiny little dresses pouring in like freshly-made negronis.
Now a little sneaky little spot that you might never find on your own is called Cocoron. Blink and you’ll miss it. But under 20 seats and the best soba noodles in town, you must give it a shot. I live near Japantown, and never thought soba in NYC could trump SF. Not to mention, we are having ramen wars here in the Bay Area. Well, how wrong I was!! The warm, delicate soba, served in a steamy pot with a separate jug of dipping broth is perfect. I wish we had something similar here, if just to watch the meticulous chef’s preparation!
Lastly, if you’re heading to Manhattan, don’t forget the cutest little candy store: Papa Bubble. I found this one from a darling pastry friend of mine, here by the Bay. Papa Bubble makes gorgeous candy, hard candy, candy like we grew up with, think sour balls! But this candy is amazing, the flavors are anything but artificial and the preparation of cutting these centimenter-sized candies with intricate drawings of kiwis, cherries and mangos is unbelievable. I never head back to the Bay without ten bags full.
So NYC you still have a few things on us. Or SF, you’ve taught NYers well. Hard to say, as both cities will let you walk for miles and eat like kings and always discover something to bring home to the other coast.