Little Bites of the Big Apple

Why are holidays always “too short”?

Yes, I am back from my trip to the USA, well relaxed and fresh and ready to get back behind the stoves.

New York, New York, as the song goes, “So good they named it twice”.

We decided to stay in Midtown, right next to the Empire State Building and 5th Avenue. The way the roads are named makes it very easy to get around, especially on foot.

NY has sooooooo many places to eat. In fact, at every turn you can find some kind of eatery serving an array of food (or a Starbucks, so much money for selling Coffee, only in America…. 😉 ).

With so many places to choose from, I think I gained a few kilos during this trip!

Food highlights included a dinner at Wylie Dufresne´s WD-50. When dining at such a restaurant, choosing the Tasting Menu is always a good option as you get to taste smaller versions of some of the best creations from the menu, in this case 12 small plates, which included…

Aerated Foie Gras, Brioche, Tamarillo Molasses.

WD-50 is listed in the guides as American Cuisine, which I think is a little misleading, I mean, what is defined as “American Cuisine?”, I think that the Spanish have a better name for this type of restaurant,  “Cocina de Autor” or “Creative Cuisine”.

Scallops, Tendon, Endive, Parsley, Hazelnut Oil.

The lovely soft textures of the Scallops and Tendon were really smooth.

Caramelized Brioche, Gala Apple, Sage, Brown Butter.

The Brown(ed) Butter Ice Cream had a wonderful nutty flavour, and the inside of the Brioche was warm and soft whilst the outside had a crispy texture.

After dinner and drinks I was invited in to the (small) Kitchen to have a look around. On any given day, there are around 10 to 13 cooks under the leadership of the Chef.

Chef Wylie and I share a joke.

The restaurant has a Michelin Star, and I am sure will get a second. What I like best about the restaurant apart from the food is that it is casual, the service is laid back yet professional and attentive. I tend to stay away from “stuffy” restaurants as I think that eating out should be relaxing and above all, fun.

Over the next few days I visited many different restaurants, it was kind of a “Busman’s Holiday” for me… 🙂

Some where good, and some were bad, but lets not dwell on the negative and instead remember the positive.

Through emails and my Coming to America post, many of you recommended places to visit and eat, which I thank you for.

Elgin told me about a Vietnamese restaurant called Nha Trang in Chinatown, which he remembered as having “the best Vietnamese food in the country. Nothing unusual, but everything done really well“.

Sounded interesting so we thought that we would give it a go.

The restaurant is situated in a side street, next to other larger Vietnamese eateries. It´s decor is the usual worldwide “Chinatown quick food restaurant interior”. Cramped glass top tables, displaying photos of their specialties, menus in Chinese, Vietnamese and English. The service is very fast, though always polite.

A chance for my first taste of Vietnamese beer.

Information from the bottle says that the brewery is owned by Fosters, but the one of the logos looks very similar to the LBC (Lao Brewery Company), makers of Beerlao. Anyway, after a couple of bottles, it was time to order some food.

Bánh Cuốn, also known as Vietnamese Crepes were very nice.

The Soft Shell Crab was a larger variety than what is sold in Europe.

Obviously we also ordered a couple of bowls of Phö, one with Meat Balls and the other with “Mixed Meat”, but the best soup I had was “Pork Leg and Beef with Rice Vermicelli”.

This is a wonderfully heavy and filling dish. It is served spicy and has cuts of Pork leg as well as Blood and Beef Brisket. This dish is only served on the weekends, but is really worth going there for.

Another good dish was displayed as Frog Legs with Lemongrass on the menu, which I suspiciously think actually contained the whole frog, not only the legs. This thought was confirmed when I saw live Frogs being sold in the local food markets. Some say that Frog tastes like Chicken, but I disagree, I think that it taste like Frog. Rebbit. 🙂

You probably think that I ordered too much food, but the photos are from two different visits.

New York, New York, as the song goes, “So good they named it twice”.

Yep, the restaurant was so good we went there twice too…. 🙂

(thanks Elgin!).

After a filling lunch, it is good to go for a walk. I think that NY is the advertising capital of the world. It seems that every conceivable place to publish adverts is taken.

No other advertising space is as famous as Times Square.

It was sunny, but cold.

Though obviously not cold enough for him…. 😆

I didn’t get a chance to visit all the restaurants that I wanted, and only realised too late that most of them were either closed for lunch on the weekends or only served dinner. Manhattan is less busy during the weekend. Never mind, that gives me another reason to visit NYC again. 🙂

One lunch that I did do was at Jean George´s Perry Street Restaurant, situated next to the Hudson River.

Peekytoe Crab Salad with Hot Mustard and Granny Smith Apples.

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Burger, Bonito Mayonnaise with Shiso and Yuzu Pickles.

Both of the above dishes were nice, though the buns that they were served on were a little burnt to my taste, giving the other ingredients a burnt toast taste.

Grilled Beef Hanger Steak, Smoke Paprika Butternut Squash and Caramelised Brussels Sprouts.

The Beef was cooked to my liking but the dish had been waiting under the Hot Lamps at the Kitchen Pass for too long, and a dry film had covered Squash puree.

Overall the experience was regular. I didn’t complain (as is the British way) and have the dishes changed, though during some visits to other restaurants I did see locals returning some plates to the kitchens.

I guess that we were unlucky and got served during an “off moment” for the kitchen, though if food was done to my liking, I am sure that I would really enjoy it.

On a positive note and suprisingly, prices for lunch were extremely attractive. 24USD for three courses in NY! Great value..

One “must do” thing in any big city is to take a tour on an Open Top Bus.

We have all seen them and they are a great way to get around the city and see the important sights as well as listening to at times, hilarious running commentary from the guides.

During the day time after the morning rush hour, there is less traffic, a perfect chance to whiz through the city.

Just make sure that the driver knows which way to go…..



7 thoughts on “Little Bites of the Big Apple

  1. It really seems that you had an excellent time. When I was in New York, I did not have enough time to fully enjoy it so I guess I will have to return sometime.

    Please, please… tell me that you know how to make Bánh Cuốn and the Vietnamese (or is it also Lao?) pork sausage that is on it!! I have always wanted to have the recipes! It reminds so much of my childhood when I spent that wonderfull year and a half in Vientiane.



  2. Vienne!  Those pictures look so yummy.  So glad you had a great time in NYC.  I still haven’t had time to get your pics and video off of my little camera yet.  I’ll do that soon and send it to you.

  3. Hola all, and thanks for your comments.

    Thanks for the pics Tui! They look great.

    Pan and Lao Ocean Girl, I kinda miss the justle and bustle of NYC and its character. I really needed a little more time to appreciate it. Two of the day that we were there the weather was bad, so we lost those days. However, on the other days we had a great time. I will always remember my stroll through Central Park and all of the lovely colours of the leaves.

    I do have (somewhere) the recipes for Bánh Cuốn and the Yor, the recipes are not that hard to follow, its the technique that is difficult.

    I will see if I can find them.


  4. When I was in NY, I remember that I was so eager to try Spanish food that right to a wonderful Basque restaurant next to the UN called Marichu. Too bad that I could not get a bottle of wine since I was “only” 18 years old when I was there… you know how Americans are regarding this matter.

    I will be very pleased if you were to find the recipes. Regarding the technique, no problem if it is complicated. I know that they are not that easy to make. I guess that they are the kind of recipes that need a lot practice for an amateur as myself.



    PS: Remember to write me an email in advance if you plan on coming to Madrid soon 😀

  5. Wish I knew you like bang guan Vienne.  My mother in law cranks those out constantly for private parties and us, of course.  We normally have it in the freezer, but nothing like the fresh thing.

  6. Pingback: laocook » Blog Archive » Sweet Things: First Look

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