Last October, I asked for advice about places I could go that would show me (born and raised in CA) what people were talking about when they dissed the CA-style_____. That was actually for my s.o.'s trip, but I kept the file on my 'puter and started revising it for my own trip to NY a few weeks ago. We stayed between LES and Chinatown, so we had easy access to the subway and lots of good food and bars. I barely got through half of what I wanted to do/eat, so another trip is required. I also had to skip a lot of must haves b/c my BF and our friend had just been their in October and had already done things like Katz's, etc.
Fancy dinner-We wanted something experimental and hopefully different than what we eat in SF (Delfina, Foreign Cinema, etc. for nice dinners) so we went for our first ever tasting menu experience at WD~50. We had reservations for Le Bernadin but the s.o. was not into wearing a jacket. We found WD~50 to fit the bill nicely. Interesting dishes, good service, lots of wine, decent surroundings, and didn't leave us hungry or send us to the poor house (9 courses for $105). My favorite of the night was a hockey puck-shaped piece of foie gras that was filled with concentrated beet juice and garnished with peas and candied olives. It was salty and over the top rich and the presentation was unique. The s.o. had a hard time finishing his, and felt like it was almost too rich. His favorite was the manchego cheesecake with foamed pineapple, quince, and a manchego tuille. Nice combo of salty and sweet. The duck breast was also very rich and succulent.
Dishes that we weren't so into were the amuse bouche of smoked tuna w/ tiny cubes of dried apricot, a sprinkling of salt, and tiny pumpernickel croutons. This wasn't offensive but it wasn't exciting at all, were afraid that we were in for a boring meal, but it improved after that. Also, the cocoa-dashi served with a squeezey tube of noodle dough so you could form your own noodles was fun, but neither of us were that into the dashi (which we've both had before), it tasted as if something had been burnt a bit in the dashi making process.
Overall we were very happy with the meal though. Discussing it afterwards, we were surprised that there wasn't a salad course or something lighter, tangier, or citrusy in the main courses. There was a delicious tangerine sorbet to start off the desserts, bu the main menu was rich dish after rich dish (which I like) but it was almost too much.
Random walk in meal-Surya (302 Bleecker Street/ WV). Spendy but very enjoyable Indian food. It's hard to find something different from the usual Northern Indian suspects in SF proper and we really enjoyed the chicken chettinad and a goat curry. Nicely layered spices, good heat, and good quality meats, but again, pricey, about $15/dish.
Otto-Went with simple pizza margherita and pasta alla norma. I think next time I would order more adventurous items with stronger flavors. I did feel like the food was good quality for the reasonable prices and couldn't believe how much cheese we got when we ordered the 3 cheeses for $10 option. Giant serving of cheese. Nice very thin, crisp crust on the pizza.
Cheap meal with the boys-Caracas Arepa Bar (91 E. 7th St.) After a few days on our own, we met up with a friend. It's easy to convince my bf to trek across town for a taco or cheese plate, but it's far more difficult to pull that off with another dude around. I wanted some place that wasn't too expensive, was flavorful and/or spicy, and was fun. Both of the guys loved squeezing into the tiny counter space to watch the very lovely ladies griddle up savory arepa delights for us. I can't believe how cheap this place is too! Very refreshing house salad, savory Candelaria arepa special, muchachos arepa, reina pepida arepa, and build it yourself arepa with pork, jalapenos, cheese, and avocado. They could tell we liked it spicy so they offered us a few tables spoons of a creamy green hot sauce that tasted about 1000x spicier than habaneros. They said it was some kind of chiles en leche sauce. Very spicy and good! I also loved the cocada coconut milk shake, creamy and not too sweet with cinnamon and toasted coconut on top.
Cheap dinner #2 before a show-Gray's Papaya (402 Ave of the Americas), Can't get much cheaper than this, but it was fun, fast, and pretty tasty. We were going to the Silver Jews show at Webster Hall and this wasn't too far away. Nice to only spend $2.75 for 2 slim and snappy salty dogs with kraut and a drink, b/c we were all paying $10/cocktail for the rest of the night.
Something Latin lunch-We were looking for some kind of Latin/Caribbean cuisine that isn't easily found in SF. Went with Casa Adela (66 Avenue C) for the extremely tasty cubano and pernil asado (roasted pork). Nice people in here, inexpensive, and man was that sandwich good.
Ramen-I eat a lot of ramen and wanted a point of comparison to SF/CA ramen. Went to Minca after reading around on this board. I really enjoyed Minca. I tried the Charshu ramen with basic broth, one with shoyu broth, and a miso ramen. I liked the charshu ramen with shoyu broth best, nice roundness and depth to the thick broth. I wold like to return to try the toroniku ramen, which wasn't ready when we got there. I found the miso ramen to be too sweet for my tastes.
Pizza-Pizza was our 3am and 3 pm go to for late night and between meal snacks. We ate a lot of pizza from random neighborhood places, where ever we could find them at the appropriate time. I tried to steer them toward the often mentioned places, but we always seemed to be going somewhere else. Of the random places I tried, I liked Original Ray's (250 E Houston St) the best. I have come to the conclusion that pizza in NY is way better than most of the dough platforms that they serve on the west coast. And I loved eggplant pizza!
Soup Dumplings-Staying on the border of Chinatown, there was no way I wasn't going to try the NY version. Stopped by New Green Bo (66 Bayard St) for a taste of historically lauded dumplings. Sunday afternoon craziness in that place. Decent dumplings with good soup, but I wasn't super impressed with the wrappers. Cheap though.
Check out my full reviews on yelp. Thanks for the advice and ideas, I can't wait to come back.