Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dinner in New York

When the trip is over, all you really have left are the memories. But while you're there, you actually need fuel. We are nothing but animals, and the food is essential. So why not make the best out of the situation? We wanted to avoid the random encounters, where you just stumble hungry into the first place you see. Mostly to avoid places that got by exclusively through hungry tourists randomly dropping in. But also because we wanted to experience New York by way of eating.

We wanted New York in the form of food.

We did some research in advance. We watched a few travel guides, browsed the net, and asked locals where the good places to eat in New York was. The result was a google map cluttered with potential restaurants, and an extremely simple way of making sure there always was a relevant alternative nearby when the hunger growled like an angry wolf.

Read on!

Again, while I love to photograph my own efforts in the kitchen, I'm not super comfortable with taking pictures of my food inside restaurants, so the pictures are not that impressive. Nor do I feel the need to photograph stuff like scenery, building facades, or my self. Consider the pictures simply additional information to the words. Also, this is a selection of the places we ate at.

Expect to walk when you're in New York. A lot. Sure, buying a subway week pass is a necessity, but you'll still end up walking a lot. And that's ok, because it helps boost the appetite. And it's also necessary, as you'll quickly realize you will need to move out of Fifth avenue/Times Square/Broadway to find proper places to eat.

Felidia - 58th street, near 2 avenue.

One of the first places we ate was straight down 58 street, all the way down at 2 avenue. Quite the walk from fifth avenue, and it began to dawn on us that Manhattan was slightly larger than Oslo.
An Italian place called Felidia, fairly unassuming from the outside, but nice and cosy on the inside. The place was filled, even though it was a Monday evening. We hadn't made reservation, but still managed to get a small table near the stairs.
Sadly, not a lot of pictures from this place, because the food was great. For starters, we ordered a pear ravioli that took me by surprise. Delicious mix of tastes, and proper home made pasta.
Main course, I had meat, a tenderloin/sirloin combination, that along with a Valpolicella made my evening. Then and there. Until the pecan-chocolate cake came, and I fell off my chair.
There was a rumor floating around the net, that I was a fan of pecan nut cakes. Slander, you say? Well, it's not slander if it's true.
Excluding the wine, this was a $50 dinner. No dress code (this is NY after all), and the waiters were polite and cheerful.
Me and my friend agreed that this was a proper start to our plan of eating ourselves through New York. As it would turn out, we would have many meals that would surpass Felidia. In fact, the delicious pear ravioli was not even the best ravioli we had!

The Dutch - The corner of Prince's st and Sullivan st.

A place that we ended up coming back to several times. The Dutch was located on the corner between Prince's st and Sullivan st, near the heart of Soho. This was actually an oyster bar, but for some reason we didn't try the oysters. But believe me, this is a place I want to visit again. 

The first time we visited, we had high expectations. This place was recommended by Anthony Bourdain after all. We hadn't made reservations, but if you plan on eating at the Dutch, you should probably just make a reservation just in case. 

Once again, we ordered the ravioli, only this time to be completely floored with the quality. I could eat an entire meal of this, and I regretted not ordering a second plate right away. 

It's hard to describe why this ravioli was great, and the picture certainly doesn't help. The ingredients weren't unfamiliar in any way, and there wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Maybe it was the combination of the simplicity and the quality of the ingredients? Maybe it was because we expected the food to be good, based on the words of Bourdain? Maybe it was because we were sitting in a corner restaurant in New York, having a good time? Either way, great ravioli.

Main course was pork, which I usually try to avoid, unless it's bacon. But I can't resist brussels sprouts. It was mind blowing! By far the best pork I have tasted. Juicy, yet thoroughly cooked, with a fantastic sauce. My friend had steak with an egg, which he confirmed was tasty as well.

We went back to The Dutch for pie, and eventually Sunday brunch. The last day in NYC, we came back a final time for dinner.

I had the fried chicken, which was great, but slightly less spectacular than our first visit, and the amazing Sunday brunch.

Main plates were between $25-35, and the ravioli was $15 if I recall correctly.

Now that all the food stuff is out of the way, I'm surprised with how many people actually worked at this place. Restaurants over here barely have any employees working, even on busy evenings, but The Dutch was cluttered with waiters, chefs, bartenders and cleaners. Definitely more than enough to keep us, to be honest, a bit annoyed. I can fill my own glass, and if it remains empty for more than a couple of seconds, it's probably because I didn't want to fill it right away.
This abundance of employees was the case with most of the places we visited, to a certain extent.
And in general, I was surprised with how many people worked what looked to be meaningless jobs, opening doors, guiding a queue along its way, three people to handle reservations, and so on. What are these people making? Surely it can't be a lot, even though tourists like me leave behind a considerable amount of money. Is this a form of hidden unemployment, I have to wonder.

We ended up trying several different burgers on our trip. Truthfully, I still think I make the best hamburger in the world, but that's mainly about preference - and the assurance of proper ingredients. But hot damn did we get great burgers in New York, and maybe just as importantly: magnificent fries!
The three burgers mentioned were all in the $20-25 range. 

The Breslin - 29th street, between Broadway and fifth avenue. 

A cool looking place located inside Ace Hotel. This was a dimly lit bar/restaurant that was known for its kitchen. What I found cool was that you could actually see the kitchen from the restaurant. 

To get our weekly dose of Omega-3, we ordered fried herring. It could have been herring, I don't know for sure. It was a fish at least. And to satisfy my daily need for tea, I had a scoop of earl gray ice cream as dessert. But honestly, the sole reason we visited this place was the rumor that they had a great lamb burger. 

Deliciously presented, this was probably as simple as burgers come. A bit too simple for my taste, as I would have preferred at the very least a slice of tomato, or something green to go with the burger. Maybe they could have included a whole pickle? The bread was great, and the burger was tasty. It literally fell apart as we ate it, but it was obvious that me and the chef had different opinions to what "medium rare" means. Waiter got nervous when I pointed it out, and countered with "that's how the kitchen likes to do it". Well, mr. waiter, if you sit on that kind of information, then it's your job to warn me that medium rare is dangerously close to bloody. Make no mistake about it, I don't mind a bloody burger at all, but if I order medium rare, I expect to get just that. 

Fries were great though, and neatly places in a brass flower pot. In fact, this wasn't the only time we got fries served in a flower pot.

We visited a place in Soho, Mercer. They too served their fries in a flower pot. I think I like that. Mercer had tables directly underneath the street, and we could see the tourists above trough tiny glass windows in the street. It felt as we were sitting comfortably and eating great food inside a dungeon. Kinda cool. The burger we ate at Mercer was called The Mercer. It was apparently their specialty, and included pepperjack cheese and avocado. Not bad. But the real surprise at Mercer was the house made lemonade.

Minnetta's Tavern - On the corner of McDougal street and Minettas Ln.

Located between Soho and the West Village, near Washinton Square Park, Minnettas Tavern was definitely a place worthy a visit. But this was one of those places where you absolutely need to make a reservation. Very similar to the Breslin, in the fact that this was a dimly lit bar/restaurant known for their excellent kitchen. I almost wish we went here earlier in our trip, because with the expectations of leaving the next day, and the fatigue after venturing the streets of Manhattan for a week, I wasn't able to take the time to fully enjoy this great meal.

It looks like a classic hamburger, and it was just that. Except that the quality of every part of the plate was extraordinary. We heard a rumor that they cook their fries in goose fat. We didn't ask to get it confirmed, because I wouldn't risk breaking the illusion. Either way, Minnetta's Tavern had the best fries I have tasted.

But a trip to New York will feel completely worthless if you don't eat a proper New York pizza, and in the location right next to Minetta's Tavern we had one of those experiences we'd tell our kids about.

Artichoke Pizza - right next to Minetta's Tavern.

I can't tell what it was, because I would probably never think of making an artichoke pizza myself. Nor do I think artichokes are particularly interesting. But this place was crowded for a reason.

The place was delightfully tacky, and the pizza chefs were completely unpretentious. In fact, they almost seemed uninterested in selling the pizza, and it just worked. I definitely got the "soup nazi" feel from these guys. Were we worthy these pies? Who were we, to come here to Greenwich Village and dare to buy pizzas? Of course, we were brave and put up a confident face when we ordered our slices.

Not a lot of place to sit, inside this place, but we found a bar stool near the wall, and sat down with our slices. Gargantuan, $5 slices with artichoke pizza. The sauce was creamy, and the crust was crisp.

We went back for another slice, and came back the next day for more pizza. And then it dawned on me, as Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind just happen to blast out of the speakers. Times Sqare wasn't necessarily the place to be in New York. Fifth Avenue, with all the luxury goods was irrelevant  The massive tourist holes like Broadway, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, it didn't matter. New York was a slice of pie at Artichoke Pizza.

More trip reports from NYC here:

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