My thanks to folk who replied to my posts many weeks ago. You helped to make the last three days of our tour an eating high-spot. This is how we did:
Dinner Day 1 – Marseille – Nice room, clearly modelled on an old-style French brasserie. Having spent most of our trip in “the south”, it was a little odd that when water was served it was not iced – in fact it was warm and unpleasant. Not a good start. My wife had an unremarkable mixed salad, followed by steak frites which was fine. I had the Mediterranean salad – which we would call a Greek salad with its feta and olives. I followed this with a lamb cous cous. The “stew” of lamb, merguez and chickpeas was served in a tagine which I presume was for presentation only, rather than the actual cooking vessel. The cous cous itself came in a separate bowl. It was a good dish but would have benefited from being a little spicier. We both had sorbet as a dessert – one blob each of elderflower, blood orange and mango. Great sorbets. A pleasant enough meal.
Lunch Day 2 - Parts of RGR’s (in) famous Lower East Side walking tour. Our starter was the recommended potato knish – a new experience for us and one I’d hope to repeat on a future trip. Our main was Katz’s pastrami on rye.. We’ve been to the Stage Deli before and enjoyed the sandwich there. This was tastier and better proportioned in having less meat. A great sandwich and a great experience – and a good thing too, as $18 for a sandwich and soda is not a cheap lunch. Although not a Saturday, we must have picked a day when religious observance meant a couple of places were closed. So we may never know what the bialys at Kossars are like. Or, even, what they are! Nor could we try Gus’ pickles. After the Tenement Museum tour, dessert was next door at the Laboratorio del Gelato. Fab sorbet. Fab ice cream. Thanks, RGR – great stroll round the neighbourhood.
Dinner Day 2 – Il Cortile. It was a “must” that we had dinner in Little Italy (we were tourists, after all) and we not disappointed. Mrs Brit started with Calzone alla Barese. Stuffed with mozzarella, tomato and basil, it was very tasty but quite a dry filling. I had the Antipasto Freddo Speciali - caprese, proscuitto, aubergine parmigiano, roasted peppers and olives. Excellent mix and quality and a fine starter. We’d then ordered a pasta dish to be shared between us – Capellini piselli & proscuitto – tomato & meat sauce, mushroom, proscuitto and peas. It came as something of a surprise that it arrived with our main courses, rather than being served as a separate course. Is this usual in the US? In either event, it was a good dish with the sauce clinging perfectly to the pasta. For main, Mrs Brit had a “special” – halibut topped with tomato and basil. This fish was perfectly cooked and with a flavoursome topping. I had veal scallopine recommended by the waiter. It came with a sauce incorporating aubergine, mushroom, tomato and slightly spicy peppers. Delish! I managed a dessert of zabaglione topped with raspberries, which was only OK. We finished with coffee. Great experience, made more so by the arrival of an “interesting” character who was greeted extremely warmly by the management and who all the servers seemed to want to shake hands with. No doubt just a good tipper, but us tourists have seen the Godfather and can invent our own theory.
Lunch Day 3 – Big Wong. I am a great fan of the Kinky Friedman books and, having reached Chinatown at lunchtime, it had to be this place which often features on the pages. And, for similar reasons, it had to be roast pork over rice. Most of the clientele was Chinese so it seemed very familiar to eating in Chinatown in our home city. Food was OK; realising an ambition to eat there was better.
Dinner Day 3 – Benjamin’s SteakHouse. I’d wanted to make reservations well in advance and, due to the time differences, wanted to do it online. This brought it down to Benjamins or Wolfgangs. Other review websites consistently mention rude or abrupt service at Wolfgangs which is a guarantee of a place getting crossed off my shortlist. No surprises in what we ordered “steak for two”, German potatoes, creamed spinach. Steak was a very good flavour and, in our view, well on par with the best of UK restaurant steak. We were a little unsure what German potatoes would turn out to be – they are what we’d call sauté potatoes and are a classic accompaniement to steak in the UK. We asked “why German” and the waiter said it was because Peter Luger first called them that and he’s German. Any truth in this? Creamed spinach was, erm, creamed spinach. I’d still room for dessert and had to have cheesecake to finish the “New York experience”. Fabulous ….and the homemade schlag…..better than fabulous. Service was outstanding – attentive, friendly and respectful, all at the same time. Nice welcoming space as well. A rare “absolutely faultless” meal.
As a general comment, at Marseille, Cortile and a small place we had breakfast one day, the tip came already added to the check, in the same way that we are used to with “service charges” in the UK and the rest of Europe. Is this a developing thing in New York? Certainly, it’s something to be welcomed, in my opinion.