NYC Chow Down, From Haute to Hipsta…without forgetting the classics…
|February 13, 2014||Posted by hog under Restaurant Reviews||
My trips to NYC always come with a laundry list of newest, latest must sees, but often all I do is walk around and let the city unfold. That is the beauty of NYC, there is something to see at every turn, a kaleidoscopic array of the bold, beautiful and bankrupt on every corner. And, so much screeching into cell phones, I wondered if half the city had gone deaf, or did they just not realize that their broadcast of money making, boyfriend losing and pre-school panics just don’t interest the average civilian. I was grateful I moved away pre-cell phone, before the parabolic palaver prevailed, but on to the food….
First stop was NoMad, the hotel and restaurant that has defined hipster, since opening just shy of two years ago. Packed to the gills at 9pm on a Weds.– don’t even consider a visit if crowds do not entice. NoMad has been on my list for a while, not just for the chic-er than hell digs, but to see what our past,Bay Area boy, Daniel Humm has done for himself since leaving us and then beyond his stint at 11 Madison. Once we quaffed down our larger than life cocktails in the library–yes, I would return for a Sippy Cup (Averna, vermouth di torino, ginger and lime) –we were seated in a cozy nook off to a corner. Beautiful decor, excellent acoustics and truly yummy fare: from the Slow-cooked egg with kale and barley risotto to the Suckling pig confit with pears, cabbage and mustard. Kindly we were served an unnecessary extra dessert and, hard to believe, but the Warm Brioche caramelized with tropical fruits, coconut & cilantro, actually trumped the Chocolate Cremeux with espresso & hazelnut. Welcome to my first day of food coma.
Day two: Race to lunch at the clubby, postage stamp-sized and unexpectedly chic, Carbone. I had heard “old school Italian” by Andrew Carmellini so I was expecting Soprano-style, checkered table cloths and distant wafts of stale cigar smoke. Not in the least. The leisurely lunch, with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in 4 years, was refined and modern. Yes there was garlic bread, but redefined with a goose-egg-sized ball of fresh mozzarella in EVOO, snipped in quarters tableside. Oh roll me over.
The Clams Casino were a stand out: Nine Clams in three varieties with lardo, uni and bacon– one vying to be better than the next with the faintest flavor of the sea. NYC seems to be having a love affair with uni at the moment so you can find it on just about anything, was preparing for an urchin latte at Starbucks. The neon red Tuna Crudo truly seemed to be filtered by Instagram–so gorgeous you almost didn’t want to eat it (click image above to enlarge), with the ideal amount of salt, crunchy shallot and olive oil. And the spicy Pasta Ameritriciana–safe to say was hand-extruded, al dente and sauced perfectly. Way to go Mr. Carmellini, you’re not the city’s darling for nothing.
Now walk as many blocks as you can in the 15 degree bluster, convincing yourself the cold will allow you to burn more calories, and watch out for the ice patches at every corner or you’ll need a stretcher for dinner! Alder was next. Alder is now, now, now. Looking just like that downtown restaurant you expect, long and lean with modest decor, a very proud booze program and 20-something’s chattering cheerfully with pasta in their mouths. Not just any pasta but rye pasta, loaded with a caraway zing, and slices of corned beef below and corned beef confit above. Have you ever noticed that only NYC features caraway flavor? Rye bread in SF, not so much?! A brilliant concoction by famed chef Wylie Dufresne of WD 40 fame, with a little less foam and a lot more comfortable in his comfort meets molecular gastronomy shoes. Everything here, no matter how experimental was in fact, delicious. The Chinese sausage in cracker thin crusted “Pigs in a Blanket” did not disappoint. “More please” she oinked, before my wise dining companion saved me from the sins of gluttony. Save space for Dufresne’s turn on clam chowder, a mouth full of richness– was it yogurt perhaps?– with an oyster cracker somewhere between a shrimp cracker and cheese doodle. If you leave without the oh so Sarsparilla Root Beer Pot de Creme you’ll miss out: what it lacks in presentation it makes up for on your tongue. grab your ear plugs and go.
Next day, growing in girth and off to the Brandy Library. Oh yeah, I forgot about mentioning my typical Shun Lee Palace patronage–nothing to reinvent but always good for those darn crispy noodles and wonton soup. Was supposed to skip a meal today. Howl.
Prinking (pre-dinner drinking) at Brandy Library is worth a peruse, more than just brandy, you will need a reservation in this comfy mid-century modern space: think well-appointed airplane lounge with better lighting. The bookshelves line the walls with, of course, the finest brandies–none of which I can recommend since having been a bit pickled in Bourbon the night before, I chose vodka.
The sleeper was the wonderful Cheese and Charcuterie Platter. delivered tableside, no make that on it’s own table. The ample serving of homemade bread, gherkins, ham, pepperoni, country pâté and the like was a real surprise and delight. As I write this, I wonder who cured it, and frankly don’t know if the spot even had a kitchen.
Off to a late night bite at Betony, Esquire’s Best of from 2013. I wondered how hipster chow would translate to 57th street, home of the tourist and upper crust, name brand shopper. Not too well. The very kind staff did everything to ensure our stay was commodious and exquisite, the chef and GM also hail from 11 Madison, straying from Mr. Humm to give it as they described their best ”all-American” shot. Sadly we missed it. Lobster Rolls, Roast Chicken, and Chickpea Panisse all sounded luscious and with great possibility in this pretty, exposed brick two story space, sexy and elegant. Sadly the minute portions and lack of flavor left us a bit cold–or was it the chicken that was tepid? If happiness is the distance between expectation and reality maybe our hopes we just too high, or maybe the chef was reaching beyond his arch. I suspect a shift in the style of this food for the restaurant to ultimately shine, or maybe my food coma was disabling my senses.
Lastly, no NYC trip is complete withy brunch at Balthazar, the people watching–after all it was fashion week–the hustle bustle NYness of it all, and oh yeah, Lentil salad with locally caught trout and the best Eggs Norwegian this side of Norway. Yes, the hipster places are great, but sometimes nothing really hits the spot like the classics.
1170 Broadway, New York, NY
181 Thompson St, New York, NY
157 2nd Ave, New York, NY
SHUN LEE PALACE
155 E 55th St, New York, NY
25 N Moore St #1, New York, NY
41 W 57th St, New York, NY
80 Spring St, New York, NY