We just got back from a scrumptious New York trip. Spectacular dinner - top three meals ever - at Momofuku. Everything here is spot-on, from flavor to décor to service to tableware to location. We did the wine pairings and I can't imagine not doing it. The combination of the uni and the sake was magical. The razor clam with pineapple and basil was magical. One of my favorites was the majorly simple mackerel dashi with mushroom and pear, made from the drain-off from cooking a previous mackerel course. The orecchiette with octopus was tantalizing, with a texture to the pasta I'd die to replicate. Without a doubt the most magnificent course was the duck - I have no idea how they got the skin so crispy and the meat so tender. We watched them grilling the breasts in the central open kitchen and I still don't know how they did it. The shaved foie gras converted my husband into a foie-gras lover (or at least liker). I just can't say enough about the meal and the evening. The wine pairing is honestly a bargain given the quality of the wines we were tasting. Beautiful experience.
We had lunch at Gramercy Tavern and were saddened that the off-menu burger was not available (the buns had not turned out well in that morning's baking, we were told). Husband loved the carrot soup and lamb sandwich special. I enjoyed the bouillabase like soup of calamari and mussels in lobster broth, with toasted bread spread with garlic aoli. We both agree we'd put this high on the list for a prix-fixe dinner on a future trip.
Dinner was Batard. We were shown to a small banquette where we could sit cozily side by side instead of opposite each other, quite private from the other diners. The seating may have been the highlight of the evening. I had the sweetbreads, which I liked, with a sweet lemon sauce, and my husband had the famous pastrami octopus. I took a bite and the smoke was completely overpowering, from first taste to the last swallow. Husband got the green pea tortellini - all 5 of them! Nice but nothing special. I ordered the duck, intrigued by the description of marzipan as one of the ingredients in addition to cherry. It was nicely cooked and rosy, but I was shocked to bite into one cherry - just one - and find it filled with marzipan. It was sweeter than dessert, and just so uneven. Maybe it wasn't fair to put this duck in a head to head with last night's duck at Momofuku, but it was no contest. My husband took the upcharge for the veal and we when we looked at the plate we both said, Culinary school 101! It was veal wrapped in pastry with a little spinach or bok choy. The pastry only played up the blandness of the veal. The sauce didn't do much to wake it up, either. We also waited a good 25 minutes for the main course. We weren't inspired to try dessert. The décor is very plain and the volume is very LOUD. We saw one of the owners moving chairs and seating people, and he was grimly involved in all those procedures. He somberly bid us good night, and I looked at my husband and said, You know what? None of that was *fun*. That kind of summed it up for us.
On Saturday we were delighted to attend the Thrillist Taco Knockout. Y'all, this was SO much fun. A whole bunch of taco places competed to be top taco and we got uunlimited tastings. It was on the beautifully decorated patio of the Hudson hotel with unlimited beer, guac and other yummies. I can't find a list of all the taco providers but I will post later when I find it.
That night, we were a bit stuffed from the tacos so we opted for lighter options at Manzo. The beef tartare was quite good, elevated by a black truffle sauce. The octopus with salsa verde was also very good - I said, They must be very confident to serve the octopus with just a butter knife, and the confidence was well-founded. Very nicely cooked and lovely roasted peppers along with the flavorful sauce. I was let down by the pastas, which I had heard were on a par with Babbo: they were not. My agnolotti were served with a veal reduction that was one note, but I was more let down by the very al dente texture. I get that some people like that, but to me the dish lacked all the lushness and lusciousness of Babbo's pasta. Same with my husband's pappardelle with goat shoulder - very al dente, one note sauce. We skipped dessert (very basic choices) so that we could get some choices from Eataly's pastry bar and we were not disappointed (an ethereal confection of almond cream with an oozing bittersweet chocolate center). It was a good to very good meal.