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Coffee & Tea 1

Midtown Reviews - Solera, Macchiato, Ground Central, Bar Americain, Ippudo

RichInMV | Apr 4, 201409:40 AM

Had a quick (3-day) trip this week to Manhattan, and stayed in midtown (at the Sofitel, nice place). I tried to research ahead of time (thanks to all Manhattan CH'ers!). Here's a quick summary:

Wasabi Sushi - this is a quick lunch place - I needed to grab a bite on the way in from the airport, and given the caveat that this is "fast casual" food, I thought the spicy chicken bento box was decent for the price - nice flavor, and freshly prepared. Not gourmet or authentic Japanese, but good value for a quick, clean lunch on the run.

Solera - this place has apparently been around for quite some time, but was one of the few Spanish/tapas places I was able to locate within walking distance, so I met a friend there for dinner. We sampled a couple of the ala carte tapas (patatas bravas and wild mushroom tart) which were well prepared, and then the cold tapas sampler, and hot tapas sampler - both were decent, with some of the high points being the chorizo, the tortilla, the anchovies (very nice) and the stuffed piquillo pepper. Overall it was solid, but not exciting - a good safe place to take friends who want to sample Spanish food, but not groundbreaking in any way.

On the way to dinner, I stopped in at Ground Central for a quick Americano - this place has good coffee and a great vibe to it. Along with Macchiato (see below) this is a definite keeper. As a bonus, in the afternoons they also offer wine and pintxos - I would definitely make this a hangout if I lived or worked nearby.

Macchiato Espresso Bar has three locations, and I've been to two of them now, both serve excellent coffee, and decent pastries. Nice baristas, no attitude, and lively Eurotrash music playing. A welcome change to nearly every other coffee place I've found in midtown.

Bar Americain was a business lunch, and we were a little bit hurried, but as business lunches go, this met the requirements of reasonably quiet, good unintrusive service, decent food (I had a Southwestern chicken salad that was actually quite good, nice ingredients and seasoning) and reasonably quick. Not cheap, but good quality for the cost (in Manhattan)

Rosy O'Grady's looked like a complete tourist trap - I was taken there on a business dinner, and had low expectations, but was surprised on a number of fronts - this is a good, solid "comfort food" place, but they execute it well. You could take your parents or grandparents here, and everyone could find something they like, and you wouldn't be embarrassed if you brought a foodie friend along. Good Guinness on tap, a decent wine list (we had a nice inexpensive Rioja), and the Norwegian salmon I had was well prepared. Fresh asparagus was nice and firm, not overcooked. It surprised me that it was as good as it was!

Ippudo Westside - this was the dining highlight of my trip. I found that this was just a couple of blocks from my NY office, so I headed over there about noon, and was delighted to find a seat at the bar within about 10 minutes. Having lived in Japan for a couple of years, and eaten a LOT of ramen there, I have almost given up on finding a good bowl here in the US, but the karaka ramen (spicy ramen) was defintely one of the very best bowls of ramen I've had here, and it was better than many in Japan. I started with the pork belly buns, which were just perfect - toothsome marinated pork belly with a wonderful glaze, a bit of wasabi, and perfect tender steamed buns. I would give them a perfect 10, really. The spicy ramen was also a hit - thin and firm noodles, no taste of alkalinity, nice rich broth with a hit of spicy peppers, and the pork cha siu was super high quality, firm but tender, and delicious. This was a near-perfectly balanced bowl of ramen, and I only wished I had more time and stomach space to try more of their food.

Overall it was a great 2.5 days in NYC, and I am already looking forward to my next trip!

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