I'm from Toronto, but had the opportunity to spend to spend a few days in NYC recently. We go a couple times a year, and usually manage to hit some great spots (Babbo, Veritas, Lupa, Gramercy Tavern, Lugers... gosh I love your town), but this year, with your help, I outdid myself, if I do say so myself.
Thursday: I managed to score a reservation at Momofuku Ko, which made for some white knuckling when our plane was delayed... and delayed... and delayed. With a rush to the hotel and the quickest change of clothes ever we arrived on time. I won't go into detail on the dishes (except to note that we had scallops instead of fluke in the buttermilk sauce, which meant sea bass in the broth, which I didn't enjoy nearly as much as people were enjoying the roasted scallop. Also, the Arnold Palmer sorbet is the way to go.) I was very glad to be there; was a nice way to ease into New York, since with only 12 people there's a limited amount of bustle.
Friday: Our first stop was Joe Junior, which has become a tradition of a great greasy spoon. They were fast and efficient as always, and it made for some entertaining people watching. Friday lunch was late (3ish) and after getting turned away from Pearl's and Mary's Fish Camp we hit up Gray's for a hot dog snack and decided to start the cocktail crawl early. New York has a cocktail scene like nothing I've seen before. You can get a good one in Toronto hotel bars, but I loved seeing guys my age take cocktails so seriously... and indulged accordingly. We had dinner at Crispo somewhere in there, which was... ok. The bone marrow appetizer was amazing, incredibly indulgent, but the rice balls were simply deepfried starch (nothing wrong with that) and the beet salad was overcooked and pretty awful. My pasta (the gnocchi), although being raved about at the table next to me, had tough gnocchi and the fontina, although I'm sure it was in there, presented no taste. The spaghetti and meat balls consumed next to me, however, was pronounced fantastic, and I was certainly jealous.
Saturday: Quick bite for breakfast, Mary's Fish Camp for lunch. Simply wonderful. Green salad has a wonderful tart dressing, the lobster roll was chock full, and the fish sandwich on great crusty bread. Dinner: Eleven Madison Park. Now, we got off to a rocky start here. We were seated at a table that had passage for staff on three sides, and I quickly got overwhelmed by the constant movement around me. I admit to pouting a bit, but didn't want to create a fuss. As dinner progressed, I learned to ignore it. However, while I liked the restaurant, since the sheer number of staff needed to create that level of service was always visible to me, I really couldn't love it. Nothing seems seamless when you can see the conversations to lead to it. Food was uneven, but generally good. Appetizers (a crab salad and some sort of tartar) pretty forgettable. Mid-courses of lobster and fish... the lobster was wonderful, creamy sauce with a hint of spice on the back of the tongue, but the fish was just... present. Mains of venison and suckling pig. I was on a bit of a pork belly kick so definitely enjoyed that, teh slightly stringy meat made up for by the crsip skin (I think I'm just too used to the over fatty braised presentation), and the venison was incredibly tender.
Sunday: Shake Shack. Forwent a custard for another burger. Love. Grand Sichuan in St. Mark's, because I couldn't remember where Sichuan Goumet is. Was wonderful anyway... I know we have great Chinese in the Toronto suburbs, but this felt more accessible. I will be back. Had to laugh to hear someone in the back say... "this place is great... but Sichuan Gourmet is better!" Chowhounds will debate whereever they are.
Thanks again everyone. I'll be back.