The wife and I just returned from a weekend in New York, or as we like to think of it, the Grand Buffet. A few quick assessments:
Chantarelle -- We had the $38 prix fixe lunch. Both room and food had a wonderful understated elegance. The staff could not have been more welcoming. I was not dazzled, but I was very much pleased.
Shun Lee Palace We were invited for a birthday banquet and could not have been more disgruntled. Everything tended to be blunt and Americanized (despite the fact that we ordered off the Chinese menu), with no real play or variety or flavor, and no exploration of texture. Hoisin sauce seemed to be the operative flavoring device, and the mandarin pancakes tasted like supermarket-bought tortillas. My wife, who's Taiwanese, makes much better pancakes herself. For all its high prices and celebrity appeal we saw Woody Allen, which was kind of fun Shun Lee is not for serious eaters of Chinese food. My wife holds the opinion that it could not survive in Taipei.
Sullivan Street Bakery Entirely lives up to its billing as one of the top bakeries in New York. Having tried the potato pizza recipe in Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking Across America," I was pleased to discover that my results were very much like the real thing.
Bruno Bakery -- We had sfogliatelle, anise biscotti, and cannolli, all of which were impeccable.
Ferrara -- Good, but not great, and very expensive. We had a small sampling of cookies for a whopping $11. I would not be quick to return. The sfogliatelle was not nearly as good as that served at Bruno.
Kossars Id long wanted to try the legendary Kossars, but I was just a tad disappointed. The bialys were certainly good, but not clearly better than bialys Ive had elsewhere in the city. The were soft and chewy, lacking what seems to me a certain slight crustiness (i.e. there should be a bit more contrast between crust and crumb). Perhaps you need to get them right out of the oven.
Bill Hongs -- We stopped in for a late night snack because we happened to be in the neighborhood. Fantastic egg rolls (which are definitely the right thing to order in a place like this), but we had to send a duck dish pack to the kitchen. The duck pieces were coated in a heavy, bitter-tasting breading and fried. It was truly terrible.
Jin Fong I agree with the archived postings: big and chaotic, with surly staff and frequently cold food, but there were some interesting offerings: especially the mussels with sweat custard baked in the shell, which Id never seen before. Id like to return before making a definitive judgment.
David A. (a former New Yorker now living in Chapel Hill)
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