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Trip Report from a weekend in Manhattan

mattlap_2000 | Jan 7, 200810:08 AM

My wife and I recently spent the weekend in Manhattan (we currently live in Downtown Chicago), and thought I'd share, FWIW.

We had Lunch at Haru Park Avenue - this wasn't exactly a plan, we just sort of happened by it, and walked in with no prior knowledge. I thought the quality of the fish was superb, but that the menu was remarkably unimaginative. Chicago (as, I'm sure, New York is as well) is littered with Sushi places with imaginative new rolls and combinations - or even unique hot entrees. At Haru, they essentially had 3 "Super Maki" (the only items with imagination), and the rest was stock Sushi-retaraunt menu (edamame, gyoza, plain fish rolls, sashimi, teryaki, tempura, miso, etc.). All these standards were well done, I was just expecting something a tad more interesting.

The first night, after reading much about it, we had dinner at WD~50, which was only sort of OK. Our favorite place in Chicago is run by a former sous-chef of here, so we had interest. We had the Corned Duck, Popcorn Soup, Lamb, and Scallops. Everything was OK, but not nearly as imaginative as I had been led to believe from reviews. The Scallops, particularly, were quite good. Overall, I thought it was alright, though disappointing, given my expectations. Servive was forgetable, at best, and I thought our waiter had something of an attitude.

The second night, we went to Danube, which was absolutely fantastic. My wife and I got the tasting menu, which enabled me to sate my long-held Weiner Schnitzel craving. My mushroom soup was excellent, as was my wife's appetizer medley and Beef Goulash. The room was beautiful, and service was so inobtrusive, you barely realized they were there until your next dish came. We both happen to be fans of Austrian wines - particularly Gruner Veltliners, and they had the best selection I've seen. The only items that were less than phenomenal were my wife desset (pear strudel, served with, as best I can guess, vinegar ice cream), and our lobster, which was merely "pretty good". I had a chocolate souffle for dessert which, while hardly imaginative, was excellently prepared.

On our final night, we took the hotel concierge's advice and went to Mercer Kitchen. I knew what sort of meal I was in for when the roll that was placed on my bread-dish literally bounced upon contact. The replacement was hard, stale, and difficult to tear apart. As a general rule - good eateries have good bread. This was...awful. The room was striking, and the design was beautiful. The rest - not so much. I cooked in a professional kitchen for 7 years, and can tell frozen veggies and boxed mashed potato from 5 miles away - and these were undoubtedly frozen and mashed. My roast chicken was fine (hard to screw up), but my tuna spring-roll had the consistency of, to be cliche, cat food. My wife had about the worst crab-cake I've ever sampled. For an establishment that charges $30+ for an entree to serve frozen carrots and beans along with boxed mashed potatos is inexcusable.

For breakfast, we went to Oscar's, in the Waldorff, which, I suspect, no one that actually lives in NYC goes to. Regardless, my wife's Gnutella/Banana french toast was surprisingly light and delicious.

Again, take it FWIW.

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