Had an absolutely amazing trip this past week – many, many thanks to all the hounds who weighed in on my intinerary. I’ve been posting in bits and pieces, so I’ll just link to those, since this is going to be insanely long anyway.
Day 1: Alouette
I got into town earlier than expected, and didn’t have any reservations for that night. I knew what I was looking for – good, traditional French food (as I knew I had a big lineup of avant-garde meals coming), within walking distance of my friends’ UWS apartment. Alouette more than met expectations. I recently ate at Jojo, a much lauded French bistro in the Bay Area – Alouette was better.
Link to my full report: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39160...
Day 2: Pongal, Degustation, Prune
I always think of the cluster of kosher South Indian restaurants around 28th and Lex as an “only in New York” phenomenon. Pongal’s dosas are my favorite to this day (and I do not live in a dosa-deprived area now). They’re thin and crisp all the way through, and they don’t seem to get soggy. Incredibly, they manage to be both obscenely buttery, and yet non-greasy. The potato filling could have been spicier, but it’s hard to be critical when you’re full of buttery carbs. Iddly and vada are excellent too (sambar could also have been spicier). Note to Bay Area hounds – I prefer these dosas to the ones at Vik’s Chaat House, Udupi Palace, Pasand, Dasaprakash, and Saravana Bhavan.
Degustation – may be my new favorite restaurant in the world. It was so amazing that I called the next day to make another reservation for my last night in NYC.
Link to my post on my first dinner: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38739...
On my second visit, I ordered the “tortilla” (paper thin slices of Yukon Gold potato wrapped around shallot confit and a quail egg), the croquettas (white sardine, lemon, and chickpea with a parsley aioli), the short-rib stuffed squid, and the lamb belly with potato and maitake mushroom hash brown. Everything was delicious, but the croquettes were outstanding (as were the asparagus, scallops, and the ribeye from my first visit). That’s how good this trip was – I’m classifying dishes into “outstanding” vs. merely “excellent”.
Prune (also reviewed more extensively in the above link) – both the monkfish liver and the fried sweetbreads were excellent, but after the pyrotechnics of Degustation Dinner #1, it suffered a little in comparison. (Not too much though.)
Day 3: Landmarc, WD-50
Landmarc is absolutely perfect for brunch with friends with small children. They were incredibly accommodating, and I hear the food was excellent. I couldn’t really taste much of it for myself, as I was still paying for the excess of the night before, so I just had oatmeal and fruit, and looked longingly at the incredible wine list. It seems like the perfect place to do a tasting – gather up six friends, order 6 half-bottles of wines you’ve never had before… I’ll have to save that for my next trip.
WD-50 – well, I already wrote a monster critique earlier (link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38739... ) – in short, I thought the savories were interesting but not really delicious, while sweets were both interesting and delicious. I will return for the dessert tasting menu. Preferably after having savories at Degustation.
Day 4: Lupa, Sushi Yasuda
Lupa’s one of my favorite restaurants of all time, and it was with some trepidation that I returned, given recent negative reports of service (and of my beloved cauliflower pasta!) Thankfully, the pasta was as delicious as I remembered – in my memory, there was a prominent brown butter presence, less of a chili pepper presence, and a finer texture to the sauce… but whatever. I loved it. The brussel sprouts with pecorino were okay… I was expecting the sprouts to be pan fried, and was a little surprised to see finely shredded, blanched sprouts with a generous heap of pecorino. I think I finally figured out why I’ve been disappointed with a number of Lupa’s veg antipasti in the last three years, when I was blown away by every single vegetable dish I had in the years I lived in NYC. Consistently, the ones that aren’t cooked on the spot have been too cold, and the flavors have been muted. I really don’t remember that being a problem before. Would love to know if Lupa got a Dept of Health citation between 2002 and 2004, forcing them to refrigerate things that should really be at room temperature. This was also my problem with a bunch of vegetables I ordered at my one and only meal at Otto – everything was cold and kind of tasteless.
Sushi Yasuda – best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. More knowledgeable hounds than I have beautifully documented their meals, so I’m a little embarrassed to even try to name the pieces I had (“the part of the belly that’s half-fat, half-lean, not really toro”, “the part of the scallop that’s usually tough that you peel off when you cook them, except it was coral-colored, and tender, and Yasuda said they get big and juicy once a year”). I will say I almost cried when I tasted kama toro for the first time (I asked for a second pieces). My notes say I also had jack mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red clam, scallop, clam, a “Japanese fish, no English name”, white king salmon, 2 kinds of unagi, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, uni, and arctic char. Thankfully, I listened to the people who told me not to double up on meals on Yasuda night, and I floated back to my friend’s place, blissed out.
Day 5: DiFara, Lupa (again), Degustation (again), Momofuku Ssam Bar, Room 4 Dessert
Well, clearly I failed to listen to all the hounds who wisely attempted to stop me from overdoing it on Momofuku night. And my original plan had me going to only Momofuku (it turned out I had one night longer than originally expected, so I didn’t need to double up on dinners most nights). But Degustation was so good I had to go again… and I was meeting my brother in the Village in the afternoon, and Lupa conveniently serves food all afternoon now… and everyone at both Degustation and Momofuku was absolutely insistent that I had to finish off the night at R4D – and that is how I ended up going to 5 restaurants in 10 hours.
DiFara – originally intended to have one regular slice, one square slice. But the first regular slice was so good, I had a second, while waiting for the square pie to come out of the oven. This was my first time with the square slice, and it was lovely, but I think I’m a regular slice girl. Also you can eat more of them and not get too full.
Lupa (take 2) – I ordered the roasted cauliflower, which was everything I remembered – just beautifully caramelized, nearly burnt, incredibly delicious. Also had the braised escarole, which was too salty, and didn’t do that magical “elevation of the humble to the sublime” thing that I count on Lupa to do. It was just humble. My brother had the tuna with white beans (beautiful, silky tuna; undercooked beans) and duck agrodolce (I only had a very small forkful, but it tasted good).
Degustation meal #2 – covered under Day 2
Momofuku Ssam Bar – luckily, I had a friend with a notoriously capacious appetite with me, and we were able to cover a fair amount of ground. Outstanding: brussel sprouts and veal head terrine. Merely excellent: rice cakes, whipped tofu with uni (I couldn’t figure out what the lychee flavored tapioca balls were doing in that dish), hamachi, plate of ham (the third one on the list), apple salad. I bet more items would have made the “outstanding” list, had I not already been full when I started. By the time the rice cakes came out, I was sweating from the effort of eating, and hyperventilating in an effort to increase my metabolism (made sense to me at the time).
I allowed myself to be talked into going to Room4Dessert – the walk from MSB helped, and we ordered two of the lightest desserts on the menu (the sangria parfait, with red wine “soda” and peach sorbet, plus a bunch of other stuff, and a pina colada parfait. I think.) They were good. I had pretty lost any capacity for critical thought by that point, though.
So now I’m home, and all I really want to eat are some fresh peas and fava beans, and some coarse bread. But that was so worth it. It was great to experience the exciting food that’s coming out of NYC. I hope that I’ll have the discipline to limit myself to one dinner a night on my next trip, but with the addition of three restaurants to my “must-eat when I’m in NYC” list…well… we’ll see.