Archive for February, 2016

New York minutes

February 2016

New rule: When the menu mentions chorizo, said ingredient had damn well better be perceptible, either visually or as you chew and chew. But the missing element was one of only two flaws when we stopped at the newish Tasca Chino in search of something different after a rare Saturday outing to the Greenmarket on Union Square. Bob chose those pallid losers (for once the taste-free chicken deserved the cliché description of rubbery), but I scored with another steamed dumpling option, the Woodland, which had a filling with seriously meaty mushroom flavor inside the light wrappers and a broth with intense and complex taste. We also split patatas bravas, perfectly cooked with crisp outsides, fluffy inners, with yin-yang dipping sauces in a too-small ramekin/portion: “Szechuan aioli” and tamarind barbecue. The restaurant itself has style to burn, with oversized paintings of, say, Mao overlaid with bullfighting images; it’s clearly designed for nighttime action. But at that most dread eating occasion, brunch, it’s quite pleasant, huge table of drinkers of $20 bottomless margaritas to our left notwithstanding. And I can’t remember the last time we left a resto with so many big smiles and “thank yous.” WIGB? Yeah, actually. For that dread eating occasion, the menu had quite a few clever huevos, plus duck & waffles. I would be tempted by the “nested eggs Benedict,” in a blue corn tortilla with miso hollandaise. But the menu said chorizo. And you never know.

Old rule: Always head to Baker & Co. after a movie at IFC; we have not found a more affordable hospitable option anywhere for blocks. On the occasion of our meeting two friends for the slow but powerful “Mustang” (lots o’ food in that film, BTW), we ran ahead and made reservations for dinner after the show. And so we wound up with the table in the window right after an obnoxiously entitled mom with stroller the size of a Cuban Buick strutted in with her husband and another guy and told the hostess that that six-top should be their spot. The din level was even more bearable there, and the food and service were, as always, a notch above. We all shared a jazzy special of anchovies laid over blood orange slices with red onion, capers and microgreens. And when we all passed plates, I scored again, with the lasagne packed with pork slices and ragu, enough for dinner and then lunch for two next day for all of $17. Garganelli must have been house-made because they were not little rolled handkerchiefs but unfurled, under a lavish layering of burrata. Bob’s pappardelle with veal ragu was almost more meat than pasta, not that there’s anything American-wrong with that, while our other friend’s orecchiette with shrimp and roasted cauliflower landed with a whiff of rancidity, and there is something wrong with that. (The bread crumbs? WTF?) With two bottles of food-friendly Grillo from Sicily, the bill was about $50 apiece. WIGB? Undoubtedly. Despite the one-holer bathroom where you can only feel the dread rising as the person taking too long is a guy. Still, as someone said over to FB: Sometimes they like to sit and think, too.

In between N & O Rules: We ducked into Amy’s Bread on Bleecker to pick up bread (olive fougasse, just like I’d pictured it) and were seduced into trying a new item, a croissant pistachio twist. Which was sensational, with just enough balance of nutty paste and buttery dough that made you long for a swig of coffee. Somehow it was fitting that we shared it on the sidewalk just steps from a homeless guy going through a trash can and pulling out unfinished hot dogs still in buns. It was a survival model: Station yourself near a tourist attraction where the food actually sucks. And scoop up what they leave behind. Side note: Said homeless guy was annoyed when a family pulled up in a car and a kid inside jumped out to carefully deposit what was apparently an unfinished large coffee drink atop the debris. The intended recipient was not happy it could have leaked onto “the food.” Sadder side note: We saw all this after passing yet another homeless guy on Sixth who had a big bleak sign (where do they get the Sharpies?) laying out how desperate he was. While he sat and ate a presumably donated sandwich offa which he had pulled all the crusts. Beggars/choosers? This is someone’s America.

New York minutes, A (plural) to Q

February 2016

Twitter might have done me a favor for once. A digital pal just asked what my favorite dining/drinking spots, $ to $$$$, might be. And of course the answers would take more than 140 characters. And of course I couldn’t just send her here because my site is a bit dusty, which is an ass-saving way of saying downright neglected. Now I’m motivated, even though I have to quote my consort’s response whenever he was asked, back when he was on the road nine months of the year for National Geographic et al: Favorite city? The next one.

So. I haven’t gotten around to writing why RedFarm was my choice in early November for what could have been my last meal. The cooking and service are unsettlingly close to perfect every time we go. Pro tip: Stick to the dim sum and appetizers and you will eat extremely well for just $$ and not $$$$. We also find ourselves at the Mermaid Inn almost too often since it expanded and added soundproofing. Happy hour is even more of a deal for surprisingly creative cooking. (I can make a meal of the crab cake appetizer.)

We are also devotees of $ Jin Ramen, although I always get the rice bowl with beef rather than the namesake bellybuster. We like $$ Saravanaas in Curry Hill for the thali and the dosa and the atmosphere (uptown? not so much). Great New York Noodletown in Chinatown ($) never lets us down, either, but Hunan House in Flushing is vaut le $$ voyage for atmosphere as well as a great menu.

I always like Baker & Co. in the West Village after a movie because it’s good and quiet and $$. We usually get a good meal (prosciutto-arugula pizza for me, inevitably) with very cheap wine at Fairway’s upstairs cafe. We like the Smith, too, even though it’s loud and it’s not at all cheap — it delivers in a restaurant what nearby New York Look promises in clothing. Because of the peeps behind it, I like Toloache in any of its locations although, again, the appetizers deliver more than the mains for a lower tab. I could happily eat at least once at week at Momofuku Noodle Bar, the best duck dealer going.

But this all makes me realize how big this city is and how small the world is.

I think the birthday night we cabbed home from Le Bernardin and reflected that we (or one of us) could have flown to Paris for the same amount I’d just paid for dinner was sobering, because we almost never go out for fancy anymore. We’re much more interested in places like the awesome Fung Tu, or the Musket Room, where we’ve had perfectly splendiferous meals for less than a month’s maintenance.

Because Twitter is not the room for an altercation, I didn’t ask why my pal was asking about restos. But she has made me confirm something. The $$$$ is no longer about the food. It’s the experience. I went to a media event the other night at one of New York’s Finest and was kinda stunned by how bustling the place was, how mixed the crowd was, how lively the whole mood was. But the food just struck me as safe. And I wasn’t even paying.