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LA hound filling in gaps in NYC

Das Ubergeek | Jun 7, 200805:12 PM

It looks like I'm going to be in Midtown West for a lot of business trips starting soon. I'm hoping to use these trips to fill in the "gaps" of what we don't have in Los Angeles (besides the things that everyone kvetches about on the LA board, like pizza, bagels, etc.)

I grew up as a bridge-and-tunnel kid from New Jersey and lived in the city as a young man. I know where to get bagels, bialys, pizza, knishes and the like.

What I don't know is where to get some of the ethnic food that we don't have here. If you could help out, I'd appreciate it. I'll be in the West 50s, so the closer to there the better, but if it's not available near there, please still tell me where to get it. The only thing is that I am limited to public transport (the company won't rent a car for people travelling to Manhattan), so subwayable is best.

I love ethnic food, and make a speciality out of it on the LA board, but I know that some things we just don't have. Specifically:

Malaysian -- I want beef rendang. I want roti prata. I want a big freaking bowl of laksa. I want it from a place where they're not going to look at my white face and give me four pieces of poached chicken breast and a clump of vermicelli in a bowl of coconut milk over which they waved a chile pepper. I want a big messy bowl of fiery hellbroth filled to the brim with random food bits.

Chiu Chow -- we have a few places but most of the Teochew migrated to New York.

Xinjiang/Uyghur -- the one place here closed. I'm not, by the way, talking about Islamic Chinese, which around here tends to be northern Chinese food minus the pork.

New York Chinese -- you know what I mean, with General Tso's and pork fried rice and boneless spareribs and gigantic fat egg rolls. I grew up on this stuff and it's just not available here. What's the best place close to, say, 50th and 8th?

East Coast Seafood. I never really thought about it, stupidly enough, but seafood is different. Atlantic oysters are clearly superior to Pacific (so salty!); scallops are better; lobsters are fresher; crabs are sweeter. You have a wider variety, too -- so where do I go for this sort of thing? Veritas is, sadly, out of my price range.

Portuguese -- believe it or not, there is not a single Portuguese restaurant in this region of 15 million people. There's one Portuguese bakery. Surely I can find Portuguese food without having to go down to the Ironbound?

Basque -- there's one single, solitary, mediocre Basque restaurant in LA. I would love to find Basque food in New York. If they have sidra, so much the better!

Catalan -- bring on the allioli and the calçots and the veal cheeks with laurel!

Scandihoovian -- any flavour of Scandihoovian is fine. This one might be difficult even in New York, because we Scandihoovians have done a just fine job integrating into the larger culture.

Italian -- what a stupid question, I know. New York has more and better Italian food than LA, SF and Chicago put together. I just came back and had lunch at Roberto Passon, which was very tasty (and an excellent value). Cheapo red-sauce places, nicer jackets-required Toscana (let's call it a $30 limit on entrees), all is fine with me. This one I figure shouldn't be hard to find in Midtown, and Italian here basically means Cal-Italian, which is depressing.

French bistros. Again, here it's all Cal-French. Which is tasty. And not French.

Sardinian -- specifically -- because nobody in LA has ever heard of Sardinian food. Malloreddus, pane frattau, boiled eels with cheese, pasta with bottarga, sevadas. I'll skip the casu marzu, thanks. :)

Puerto Rican -- not a single Puerto Rican place in Los Angeles, believe it or not.

Eastern European -- specifically, Polish and Czech. We're on the wrong coast for European food, I swear.

Finally, any particularly great places for coffee and any great places for bacon-egg-and-cheese on a hard roll in the West 40s or West 50s? While I don't mind Dunkin' Donuts, it's not exactly the be-all and end-all of coffee.

I really appreciate it. I'll write up reviews of whatever I hit. And when your kids whine for a trip to Disneyland, come post on the LA board and I'll save you from the horror of the resort-district chains.

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