Tag Archives: NYC

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

New York is an amazing food city. We were lucky to get a taste of it.

I will be brutally honest, I had never had much interest in going back to New York City. I’d been there twice, both times piggybacking on events in nearby Pennsylvania (a wedding, the 2016 Democratic Convention), and I had already seen all the big *must do* tourist spots. None of them, not even the Met, was calling me to return. So when Mike got tickets to see a live taping of the Stephen Colbert show at the Ed Sullivan theater in New York City and asked me to plan the trip for him to go see it, I didn’t immediately imagine me going with him. However, as I started to look into flights and hotels – and discovered the New York City is remarkably affordable in February – the idea of joining him grew on me. Mike and I had been thinking of taking a romantic trip alone for a while – after twenty one years of raising kids, we’re finally empty nesters of sorts – and while I had been fantasizing more along the lines of the Croatian coast, New York City could do in a pinch. Particularly, given that the trip would during St. Valentine’s Day week and would allow us to celebrate our anniversary early.

In previous trips, I had seen everything I wanted to see in New York City – but I had not had the opportunity to eat everything the City is known for – so slowly, the idea of turning this trip into a Foodie adventure crystallized. I haven’t used that word to refer to myself for ages and this blog has mostly been dormant, but I haven’t really discovered any new interests, so why not revisit my old ones? Plus, if there is one thing that Mike and I enjoy doing together is trying new restaurants and new foods.

My goal for this trip was to try New York City classic dishes, as well to explore the current culinary scene. We were only going to be there for six days, so obviously I wasn’t able to fully accomplish this. For example, I really wanted to try a traditional “red sauce restaurant” – I heard that Italian-American food in New York City just tastes different than elsewhere -, but I was unable to manage it. I also never made it to a speakeasy or got a black & white cookie. Still, I accomplished most of my goals – and blogged about it:

We had:

We got to dine at

  • Katz’s Deli, the most famous Jewish deli in NYC
  • Russian Samovar, a super romantic restaurant once co-owned by Mikhail Baryshnikov
  • Daniel, the superb 2-Michelin star flagship restaurant by famed chef Daniel Boloud.
  • Kochi, a Michelin starred Korean restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
  • Tavern on the Green, the only restaurant in Central Park started as a sheep fold and has been featured in countless movies.

And we also:

In all, this was all we could expect from New York City – and more!

NYC Food Adventures: Tavern on the Green

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Tavern on the Green is a NYC Institution, But Is it Worth Eating There?

Our last meal in New York City was brunch at Tavern on the Green. The only restaurant actually located in Central Park, Tavern on the Green has been a NYC institution for ninety years. The restaurant came into life in the 1930’s in a former sheep fold, and underwent changes and expansions in the decades to come. Throughout its history, it served socialites, celebrities and tourists alike, and has been featured in a myriad of movies. After closing and falling into disrepair in the aughts, it underwent a major renovation – I read somewhere that only the original wood beams from the ceiling were kept – and re-opened in 2014. Since then, it’s had its share of struggles, and reviews are mixed.

Still, I figured a visit to the park followed by brunch at Tavern on the Green, would be the perfect way to close our week in New York City – and I was right. It had snowed the night before, and Central Park was covered in light, fluffy, perfect snow that morning. The park was beautiful, enchanting. To me, it looked like out of a postcard. And the restaurant, from the outside at least, looked dreamy.

Inside, the restaurant is very large, with several dining rooms, each with its own vibe. There is one around a very busy bar, bursting with energy. Several have lots of windows, with great views of the park. Most were quite full, though we were seated fairly promptly after we arrived and checked our coats.

We were seated in the last dining room, near the kitchen. It’s a rather small, cozy dining room with tables looking into an enclosed area on one side, and to the patio on the other. It featured the aforementioned wood beams. This was a much quieter dining room than others, but also a darker one – particularly in what was still a cloudy day.


Our table for two was in the middle of the room, which made it much less pleasant. I would have much preferred a window view, and I really should have asked for one – so I have only myself to blame for not getting one. Fortunately, the waiter traffic around us wasn’t too annoying.

Tavern on the Green was serving brunch, that Saturday morning at 11:30 AM, and their menu was surprisingly limited. Prices were high, though not unexpectedly so given its location. I have to confess that I was uninspired by the choices. The menu has a lot of American classics, but not particularly exciting ones, at least in their descriptions. The offerings also seemed rather disjointed – though I guess “American classics” is a theme. It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to eat. I was also disappointed that they didn’t have fresh orange juice available.

I finally decided on the French Onion Soup ($14) and the potato pancakes. The soup was surprisingly to my taste (I won’t say good, as I’m sure preferences differ a lot here). The onions were very, very sweet, and contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the cheese. It had an old-fashioned taste – perhaps the lack of bitterness made me think “American” rather than “French”. I just enjoyed it.

The Potato Pancakes ($12) served with sour cream and apple sauce, were also surprisingly tasty. They were very nicely seasoned, without being overly salty. I probably would have preferred them if they were less crispy – they were a tad on the dry side and could use less time in the fryer -, but flavor wise, they were definitely there. I was sad that I wasn’t able to finish them.





Mike had the Green Chicken Salad (deviled eggs, haricots verts, baby oakleaf lettuce, frisée, sundried dates, toasted almonds, red wine vinaigrette – $33). This was a huge salad, and a very filling one. Mike couldn’t finish it. He particularly liked the deviled eggs – he loves deviled eggs -, but the chicken was also nicely spiced and grilled. If you’re going to have a salad for lunch, this is a very good option.

Service was fine, I don’t remember anything particular about it, and we really had a lovely experience – though a window would have made it better. After lunch, we stopped at the gift shop which has a lot of beautiful items, though as overpriced as you expect them to be.

In all, it was a nice lunch, though I’m not sure I’d return – while the food was good, it was boring, and expensive, and the restaurant is so buy you get the feeling you are at an amusement park.

Tavern on the Green
67th Street & Central Park West,
New York City
212-877-8684 
Monday - Thursday 11am - 10pm
Friday 11am - 11pm
Saturday 9am-11pm
Sunday 9am-10pm

NYC Food Adventures: Kochi

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Is the future of high end cuisine in New York, Korean?

Our last night in New York City we decided to have a meal that looks at the City’s culinary future – and what a meal it was!

New York City is the culinary Mecca of the world. Its vibrant immigrant population comes from every country in the world, and its high density forces both people and cuisines to be a in a constant dialogue with each other. Fierce competition means that there isn’t much room for being less than perfect (though apparently some Asian restaurants are the exception to this). It’s thus no wonder that NYC has the most Michelin starred restaurants than other city outside Japan, other than Paris. While I’m not one of those who think that Michelin stars are the be-all end-all (for some decades now, Michelin reviewers have been obsessed with Japanese cuisine and methods, greatly biasing their results in favor of such restaurants), they are as good a way as any to judge to culinary richness of a city.

For years, the high-end culinary scene has been dominated by restaurants serving French or French-inspired, pan-Asian influenced “contemporary” cuisine (and, of course, Japanese fare). Finally, though, we are seeing restaurants that focus on other cuisines break into the high-end scene, and I expect that this will become a growing trend. Already Indian, Mexican and Israeli restaurants have received Michelin stars in New York City, while a Mexican and two Thai restaurants have obtained them in San Francisco. But no cuisine has broken into the high-end restaurant scene as stridently, as Korean food. New York City now features ten Michelin starred Korean restaurants, while the Bay Area has two. The future of high-end cuisine may be global, but the present seems to be Korean.

We were not, of course, necessarily surprised to learn this. Korean food is delicious – my husband could live on bulgogi alone -, and not as challenging to American tastes as other Asian flavors. Indeed, its flavor profiles can be quite flexible, as shown by the rise of Korean fusion cuisines, such as K-Mex. That said, we had never had high-end Korean cuisine before and were excited to try it.

Kochi was the logical choice for this exploration, as it was conveniently located near our hotel. While I couldn’t get reservations the first time I tried, I got on the waiting list and was able to procure them for a Friday at 7 PM without too much trouble, albeit the only seating available was in the enclosed patio.

Kochi’s patio was, indeed, our first indication that the future of fine dining is not in fine surroundings. While the restaurant itself is pleasant enough – a contemporary, clean, non-distinctive, crowded space -, the patio itself was a sad afterthought. I imagine that it was put into place during the pandemic, but little to no effort has been added to make it a pleasant environment. The tenting and heating, while welcomed in such a cold, rainy night, were distinctively unattractive. More problematically, the smell from the fuel burnt by the heaters they used was overwhelming – I’m not sure if they had a leak or they use some particularly smelly fuel such as kerosene, but it smelled toxic. Given how important smell is to a culinary experience, this was an atrocious choice. At the prices they charge, they should be able to afford electric heaters.

On the plus side, Kochi is a rather casual restaurant, particularly in the patio, so you don’t have to worry about bringing a jacket for anything but warmth.


Kochi serves a 9-course menu for $145 plus supplements. The food is upgraded Korean street food, in particular, skewers – though a lot of the items they serve would be better off without one (do remove it before you try to eat each dish). While you don’t get to choose your courses, Kochi will text you before the evening and ask you about any food restrictions, and work around them. Everyone gets the same dishes. The amounts are perfect so that you don’t end up hungry, but are not overstuffed either. They offer a sool paring for $105, which consists of various Korean liquors. We decided against it, as we are not big alcohol drinkers. I had bubbly water while Mike had a single glass of sool, but he doesn’t remember which one. He found it interesting, but not something he’d have again.

Dinner at Kochi started with Sweet Potato Soup (chapsal beignet, caramelized apple, toasted yulmu, caviar). The plate comes with the beignet and accoutrements, and the soup is poured on top of it (the photo was taken before that happened). The soup itself was absolutely delicious, and my favorite dish of the evening, and something I will try to make myself in the future. While the beignet and other ingredients added texture and contrasted well with the sweetness of the soup, the soup was really the star of this dish and didn’t need anything else.

Our second dish was Hwe (red snapper, bergamot doenjang, fennel salad, satsuma). I’m not a huge fan of crudo, though I did like the fruitiness in this dish, but Mike absolutely loved this.

Next, we had the Eggplant Twigim (rice cake, pine nut hummus, turnip, fermented chili). Neither my husband nor I are fans of eggplant, but these skewers were surprisingly tasty. I did like the pine nuts hummus. In all, the combination of flavors and textures was quite good.

Our next skewer was of Halibut in a Jiri Consommé (bean sprout and mustard green namul, tofu). This bite was cooked to the precise right level of doneness, was wonderful flaky and nicely seasoned in the broth. Mike, who loves fish, enjoyed it greatly.

Next we had the 28 Days Dry-Aged Pork Collar (pistachio ssamjang, Perilla kimchi, Savoy cabbage). I’m sure it was good, but it was probably the least remarkable dish of the evening, as we can’t remember it at all.

For the next dish, you could have the Duck (Long Island duck breast , barley risotto, duck jus, potato jeon) or substitute it with Wagyu beef for an extra charge. I decided on the duck, while my husband got the beef. It was perfectly cooked, the skin was nice and crispy, and the whole bite was delicious. I did like the combination of flavors, and the barley risotto underneath it.

Mike loved his A5 Wagyu beef ($59 supplement), which came with the same accoutrements as the duck. While he opted against ordering the Perigord black truffle supplement ($20), it was served with it anyway, compliments of the Chef. A5 is the highest classification for Wagyu beef and you definitely could tell the difference. I’ve only had Wagyu beef twice (I’m not counting Wagyu beef patties), the first from a supermarket and the second at Bix in San Francisco, and neither could compare in any way whatsoever. Then again, a whole Wagyu steak at Bix was $50, while here you got a three-bite strip of beef for a $59 supplement. We did love it, but I don’t think it was worth the money – other than for the experience of having tasted such quality of meat. I wouldn’t order it again, unless I was swimming in money.

The last savory dish in the tasting menu is Shrimp Bibimbap (soy-cured shrimp, sous-vide quail egg yolk, seasonal sprouts, candied anchovy, seaweed rice). You can substitute the shrimp for sea urchin for $16. As I don’t eat shrimp, they offered to substitute the shrimp in this dish with salmon – which I dislike just as much. Fortunately, they were able to do substitute it with beef instead. Ultimately, I don’t think the meat made much of a difference, as it was only a small part of this dish – which really amounts to an after dinner salad. The flavors were quite nice, when everything is mixed together, and I think the crispiness of the fresh greens worked as a great counter for the fattiness of our previous course. This was quite well thought out.

We had ordered one serving of the Abalone ($24 supplement), given that Mike wanted to try it and I didn’t (I did take a bite, I hated it as much as I thought I was going to). Unfortunately, they’d forgotten about it, and they only brought it when I reminded them. Fortunately this was before we had started our desserts. Mike was pleased though not overwhelmed by the abalone – which he’d never had before. He felt it tasted like he expects mollusks to taste, and he liked it but wasn’t overly impressed by it. He was happy to have tried it, but doesn’t think it was worth adding it, given the price.

Finally, we had time for dessert – and this tasting menu includes two of them. The first was Froyo (daechu frozen yogurt, dehydrated korean dates, cranberry compote) and it was absolutely delicious. Mike liked it better than the plethora of desserts we’d had the previous night at Daniel, though I still preferred the vacherin there. But it was really, very good. I was dismayed when writing this review that daechu refers to jujube dates, which means that I will not be trying to make this frozen yogurt myself – but I really enjoyed the bright, tart flavor.

This was followed by Chestnut Ice Cream (honey crisp compote, chestnut cream). It was nice, but completely overshadowed by the froyo, which we liked fare more.

Finally, they brought us a complimentary dessert, as we were – once again – celebrating our anniversary (early). Unfortunately, I can’t remember it at all. If there is one thing I’ve learned from our two high-end dining experiences is that one dessert is enough. I understand that if you hire a pastry chef, you want to take full advantage of their talents – but at least at our age, we really don’t need that many sweets at the end of a meal.

Service was good and pleasant, but not particularly remarkable. It was definitely not as obsequious as at Daniel’s. In all, I’d say that dinner at Kochi was an excellent culinary experience – Mike actually liked the food better here than at Daniel’s -, the experience was limited to the menu. Beyond it, it was like dining at any other average restaurant. For the price – and we ended up spending roughly the same amount as at Daniels -, I felt dinner at Daniel was much more of a treat. Of course, if you can afford dinners like these as something other than once-in-a-decade experience, the lack of “specialness” about dinner at Kochi would probably matter far less.

Kochi
652 10th Ave.
New York City
646-478-7308
Mon-Thur: 5:00pm – 9:30pm
Fri, Sat: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sun: 5:00pm – 9:30pm

NYC Food Adventures: Urban Hawker

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A hit and a miss at this Asian marketplace

The tiny hot dog we got from a cart near our hotel left us hungry, so we headed to Urban Hawker for lunch. Urban Hawker is an Asian marketplace – think like a food court but with many more, mostly independent, Asian restaurants. We ended up getting food from two, but if you visit, I’d recommend trying different stands – or at least different dishes.

Daisy’s Dream Kitchen

Daisy’s Dream Kitchen is the first stand when you go in using the entrance on W 51St. It serves Singaporean Peranakan dishes, which were a novelty for me. I had the Nyonya Curry Chicken (boneless chicken cooked in a thick coconut curry with potatoes – $17). It was the blah’est curry I’ve ever had – it barely had any flavor and had no complexity at all. They would have done better if they’d mixed some powdered curry powder in coconut milk (wait! is that what they did?). Totally not worth the price. I also had a single Ngoh Hiang Meatball (pork meatball with water chestnuts and shrimp, wrapped in beancurd skin and fried – $1). The small meatball – pictured in front of the rice – also had very little flavor.

The restaurant has a nice story – it was started by a 60 year old woman who wanted to share her mother’s recipes -, but the original owner is gone, and the short menu needs some quality control. I wouldn’t eat here again.


Wok N’ Staple

Wok n’ Staple is an off shot from a Singaporean restaurant conglomerate, offering Singaporean style hawker food. Mike ordered the Roast Cha-siew Set (roasted honey-glazed pork loin served with steamed Jasmine rice & vegetables – $16.80). It was very tasty and very reminiscent of Japanese teriyaki. Now, I wouldn’t go out of our way to get it, but we did enjoy it. Still, I’d try something a bit more exotic next time.

Urban Hawker
135 West 50th Street
New York City
Monday-Saturday 10AM-10PM
Sunday 10AM-9PM

NYC Food Adventures: A NYC Hot Dog

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

NYC is famous for its hot dogs. Should it Be?

As part of my foodie trip to New York City, I wanted to try some of the city’s most iconic foods: New York style pizza, New York cheesecake, New York bagels, halal truck food and hot dogs.

Watch any movie or show based on New York City, and chances are you’ll see the protagonists getting a hot dog from a hot dog cart. These “dirty water” hot dogs – called that as they are boiled and rest in water before being moved into the bun – are famous, not only because they serve as a good prop for movies, but because they are supposed to have a special flavor due to being boiled in NYC’s superior water (maybe it’s all those tiny shrimp). But are they as good as the claims go? On our next-to-last day in NYC we set out to find out.

Finding a hot dog cart in Manhattan proved harder than we thought. There were plenty of halal trucks serving hot dogs – but then, that’s not exactly the same concept. It took us walking several blocks from our hotel to find a hot dog cart per se. And then, in Mike’s words, we had the whole New York experience by being charged $5 for the smallest hot dog ever. To add insult to injury, it just wasn’t that great.

Don’t get me wrong, the hot dog was fine. But then again, most hot dogs are fine. The $1.50 hot dog that you get at Costco was probably better, three times as large and comes with a soda. Of course, that’s a loss leader and you have to deal with the inconvenience of going to Costco, but that’s pretty much the only time I get hot dogs anyway.

The hot dog we got was from a cart labeled Sabrett – which is the same brand of hotdogs that seems to be for sale at most halal trucks. Maybe a Nathan’s hot dog would have been better. Or maybe, the allure of NYC hotdogs was the same than their 99-cents pizza slices: they were cheap. Now that they aren’t, it’s time to move on.

Sabrett branded hot dog stand
Corner of 7th Ave. & West 53rd
New York City



NYC Food Adventure: Daniel

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A Wonderful Night at a Two Michelin Star Restaurant

I wanted to crown our once-in-our-lifetime trip to New York City with a visit to both the future and the past of fine dining in the City – going to one of the best classic restaurants, and one of the best and most innovative newest ones. For the former, we chose Daniel.

The beautiful main dining room. Our reservations were early, as we were hoping to catch a show after dinner, and the restaurant filled up by the time we left.

I can’t say, really, that it was much of a choice as one of the other contenders, Le Cirque, had closed years prior, and two more, Le Bernardin and Per Se, did not have reservations available during our week in New York, but Daniel was perfect for what I wanted: a restaurant that for decades had been at the very top of the NYC restaurant pyramid. The eponymous flagship restaurant of famed chef Daniel Boulud, Daniel turned thirty years old last year. It’s located on Park Avenue, near Central Park, and features a grand, if somewhat understated, dining room that screams “special occasion.” It also has a lounge for more casual occasions. While I don’t know what Daniel’s menu looked like thirty years ago, I can’t imagine it was significantly different. The dishes are all classic French-inspired concoctions, which mostly delighted and sometimes even surprised. Presentation was impecable, flavors and compositions magnificent, and the whole experience exactly what you expect from a two or three Michelin star restaurant (Daniel lost its third star a decade ago).

Daniel offers a four course prix-fixe menu ($188) and a seven course tasting menu ($275) in the dining room, and the former plus an a la carte menu in their lounge. The prix-fixe menu gives you a choice of dishes for each course, while the tasting menu is set by the Chef and must be ordered for the whole table. I had gone in thinking we’d do the tasting menu, but quickly changed my mind when I realized that foie gras was only available as part of the prix-fixe one. Plus, I figured, by sharing dishes, my husband and I would be able to taste eight different ones, rather than just seven. In addition to the for courses of the pre fix menu, there is a pre-appetizer dish and three extra dessert courses – so that four-course menu is really an 8-course one. You most definitely do not leave hungry. Both menus come with wine pairings ($125 to $195) but we no longer can drink that much alcohol and stay awake, so we decided against it.

leek amuse bouches

Dinner started with an amuse bouche of leeks prepared three ways, served on a somewhat disconcerting half plate (literally a plate cut in half). Mike and I absolutely love leeks and this dish was not only beautiful but delicious – probably my second favorite of the night. I particularly loved the creamy leek soup, which reminded me of the leek cream I make for my flamishe.

Mike’s first course consisted of the Long Island fluke (sea buckthorn cured, crème fraîche, crispy daikon
shaved radishes, orange balm). These were basically thin layers of fluke, served cold, with the listed accoutrements. I wasn’t a fan, which is not surprising as I’m not a big raw fish fan. Mike, on the other hand, loved it. He thought the combination of flavors and textures was amazing.

Far more successful for me, and I’d say even beautiful, was the Upstate New York foie gras terrine (Lehigh Valley squab, cacao, Fukushu kumquat, heart of palm, “brioche feuilletée”). The terrine was delicious and worked very well with the acidity of the kumquat and the bitterness of the chocolate. Moreover, it was s generous slice.

Mike’s first second dish was Montabauk Black Sea Bass (Ossetra caviar, beluga lentils, vodka-watercress emulsion). We were at first thrown by the presentation (round fish?) but had fun with it. The fish was flaky and perfectly cooked, and the combination of flavors worked very well – I liked how fresh the watercress emulsion was. The lentils were very comforting.

My second course dish, the Upstate New York Foie Gras (Cointreau flambéed, Cara cara orange, licorice, braised black radishes, an $18 supplement) was cooked tableside and it was a spectacle. The show was fun, but the foie gras was truly delicious. I’ve had various combinations of foie gras and fruit before, but this very well may be my favorite. The portion was generous, and it went perfectly with the tiny pieces of brioche. As much as we enjoyed the black sea bass, I wished we had ordered two of the foie gras instead, so I could have had a full portion just for myself. It was that good and our favorite dish of the evening.

For his entree, Mike had the Manchester Farms quail “Onyx” (black truffle, Horn of Plenty mushroom “subric”, celery, “sauce Albufera”). This was perhaps the hardest dish to understand – I’m still trying to. As best as I can understand, the dish consisted of a croquette stuffed with quail and quail eggs. I do not like eggs, so this was not the dish for me, but once again Mike liked it, and he liked the presentation and combination of flavors.

My entrée was the Highland Farm venison (chestnut crusted, parsley, spaetzle, myoga,
mustard greens salad, sauce “Grand Veneur”) and I thought it worked very well. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked – but it’s venison, not the most flavorful meat out there. I did like the spaetzle in the sauce and I absolutely loved the chestnut purée. I will have to attempt to make something like that for some holiday meal. It’s sweet, but the sauce gave it a savory element. It was simply good.

It was then time for dessert, and these kept coming and coming…

dessert

I ordered the Sudachi Vacherin (sudachi sherbet, green apple-herbs sorbet, nori scented meringue) and it was excellent. I loved the combination of the sour sorbets (sudachi is a Japanese citrus) and the sweet meringue. It has inspired me to try to experiment making sorbets from different citruses, as well as green apples (if I can figure out a way to juice them or buy green apple juice). It was my favorite dessert of the evening.

Mike chose the Hukambi (Brazilian chocolate custard, toasted riz au lait, banana ganache) and it was good, but pretty unmemorable. I was pretty fully by then and I have began to like chocolate less and less in my older years so I wasn’t terribly into it. Mike, who wanted it, can’t remember what he thought of it. He didn’t dislike anything that night, so he must have liked it.

We were having an early anniversary celebration that night, so the next dish that came – several chocolate truffles – was served in a dish with a candle and Happy Anniversary written on it. I thought it was very nice. Truffles were good, though, as mentioned, I was really full by then.

mini madelines

If I had been able to eat anything else, I would have gone for these mini-Madelines. They were served warm and they were fluffy, soft and delicious. I had only a couple, but they were very much worth it.

desserts

Apparently, three dessert courses weren’t enough – as we then got these three petit fours. I can’t even tell you about them. I’m sure they were great, but there is such a thing as too much dessert, so they blended into everything else that evening.

And indeed, we weren’t done. Because we had a fifth dessert course to come – though by this point, we didn’t bother with pictures. This involved chocolate sticks (thin cookie sticks covered on chocolate). I tried one – because I had to – and it was very good, but really, it was almost cruel to be given all this amazing food with just one stomach.

Finally, we got a little canelé to take home with us. I wanted to make these myself when I cooked Bordelaise food, but they require a special pan I didn’t want to have to buy. I’d gotten them boxed, and had been disappointed with them, but commercial products are often poor imitation of the real thing. Unfortunately, in this case they weren’t. Daniel’s canelés, which I tried the next day, were also dense, not very sweet and not very flavorful. I think we must blame Burgundy and not Daniel, however.

Daniel has an impressive wine list and large variety of cocktails, but I stuck with sparkling water all night (Evian, $10 for a bottle) while Mike mostly drank tap water. He did have a cocktail, a Liaison Lisbonne ($24). He liked it, but can’t remember what was in it.

Service throughout the night was splendid. The staff was obsequious and really made us feel pampered and special. I’ll say that, in general, we got great service in New York, so that might be part of the NYC hospitality culture.

Daniel no longer has a dress code, though jackets are encouraged for gentlemen. All but a couple of men wore them, and most women were nicely dressed – I didn’t see anyone wearing “nice jeans”.

In all, we had a lovely evening, and we’d highly recommend Daniel for anyone who wants to have a special, classical meal, in beautiful surroundings.

Daniel 
60 E 65th Street,
New York, NY 10065
(212) 288-0033
Tuesday-Sunday, from 5pm-10pm

NYC Food Adventures: Dock Asian Eatery

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

This pan-Asian restaurant in trendy Bushwick didn’t hit the mark.

Brooklyn, by all accounts, has some of the best food in NYC. However, for various reason, a visit to Brooklyn was not in the cards during this trip and we had not make do with a brief stop during our bus tour of the NYC boroughs. I knew, by looking at the reviews, that the bus would stop for lunch at either the Timeout Market or Wyckoff & Flushing in Brooklyn, and that we’d have about an hour to have lunch and get back to the bus. I thus was prepared with a list of possible restaurants to visit at either location. That section of Bushwick is really full of restaurants and bars, but a very large proportion of them do not open for lunch, so our choices of well-reviewed restaurants within walking distance, was actually smaller than you might think if you know the area. We decided on Dock Asian, as Mike was in a mood for Thai and there wasn’t anything else particularly exciting on our list.

Dock Asian is not a Thai restaurant per se, though its chef is Thai and many of the dishes in the menu are also Thai dishes. Still, they also serve some Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes. It might just be that those are better, but I wouldn’t count on it.

chicken satay


We started with the chicken satay ($10) and here is where our disappointment started. The chicken was tender and moist, but it lacked flavor. The accompanying peanut sauce was very generic, it almost tasted bottled. It really lacked the complexity that the best peanut sauces have. The dish wasn’t bad, I’m not sure we’ve ever had bad Thai food, it just was below average. This dish came with four skewers, but I didn’t think of taking a picture until after we’d eaten three of them.

I had the beef pad khing ($15) lunch special as my main. It consisted of beef sautéed with mushrooms, onions, scallions, ginger and red bell peppers and was served with rice and a choice of salad or a spring roll. Once again, I found it to be pretty generic. It was tasty enough, but something that you can easily put together in a few minutes yourself for a fraction of the price. Of course, this was likely my fault for ordering a stir fry – but I thought the sauce it would be cooked in would be more compelling. The spring roll was equally unremarkable.

panang chicken

Mike ordered the panang chicken ($16), which comes with white rice. He chose to have it medium, and it was exactly as a medium spiced curry should be: too spicy for me but not for him. The problem, once again, was the flavor. It was fine, but not developed enough. Definitely below average in comparison to the hundreds of panang curries he’s had in his life (we are old and this is his favorite dish).

While the food wasn’t stellar, the restaurant itself was very cool. It had an industrial (lots of metal) / modern feel, and it did look very hip. There is sitting at tall tables downstairs and more upstairs.

Service was competent and friendly. Menus are also your typical QR codes, but they do have paper menus if you ask.

Our expectations of Thai food might be particularly high given the plethora of high quality Thai restaurants we have in California – recently, we were equally disappointed by a well rated Thai restaurant in Vancouver, Washington. But two other tourists from our bus tour who also ate there were equally disappointed with their meals.

Dock Asian Eatery
22 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
(718) 821-3900
M-Su Noon - 10:15 PM

NYC Food Adventures: Cancun Deli & Grocery

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip
Christopher Rios mural

Yes, the empanadas make it worth a visit

During our brief trip to NYC, we took a tour of the outer boroughs. We visited Harlem, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, and we stopped for food twice. In the Bronx, we purportedly stopped to see a mural of Christopher Rios, a young rapper from the neighborhood who had met an early death. But really, the point was to visit Cancun Deli & Grocery, kitty corner from the mural.

I was happy to stop at Cancun for a couple of reasons. One, is that one of the typical foodie cultural experiences to have in NYC is to stop at a bodega. The second was their empanadas. They were mentioned in glowing terms in many of the reviews of the tour. Apparently, it is indeed visits from tour groups that keep Cancun Deli open – the enterprising owners started giving empanada samples to tour guides that came to visit the mural, and they got hooked. Now they have several tours stopping by daily.

Cancun’s empanadas are made by hand (though by now, they may be assembled by machine) by the owner,  Nathalie Rodriguez, a Dominican immigrant who learned to make empanadas by watching YouTube videos. After tasting them, I can say she found her calling. The fried empanadas, served warm, had a thin, crunchy tasty shell and a generous amount of filling. I ordered the Korean beef empanada and Mike had the standard beef empanada. Mike liked his empanada, which was quite flavorful, but we both loved mine. I don’t think there was much to it, it was basically a bulgogi empanada, which is a brilliant, brilliant idea that I’ll have to try myself (though, while fried empanadas are usually better than oven-baked ones, I’m not a fan of deep frying).

In all, the stop at Cancun was great, and if you happen to be in the neighborhood – or take a tour of the Bronx – make sure you grab an empanada there.

Cancun Deli & Grocery
908 E 163rd St
The Bronx, NYC
(718) 676-9765
7 AM - 10 PM




NYC Food Adventures: Russian Samovar

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A Perfect Valentine’s Day Dinner

Our trip to New York City happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day, so I had the pleasure of getting to pick a restaurant for us to have a special date at. We practically never go out for Valentine’s Day, so this was a special treat.

There were many choices, as you can imagine. At first I made reservations at Orso, an Italian restaurant. It’s sibling restaurant, Joe Allen, is iconic in the Theater District, but they were all booked up for V-Day. I soon changed my mind and decided on Marseille, a French restaurant with a traditional menu. Mike loves French food and what’s better for Valentine’s Day? But we didn’t have that many nights in the city, and I did want to try a traditional red sauce restaurant, so I decided to make reservations at Bamonte’s instead. The centenarian restaurant, with tuxedoed waiters, did sound like an ideal place to have Valentine’s dinner, but getting there from our hotel was a pain. It would require an expensive taxi ride, and I rather spend money on food rather than transportation.

samovar

I finally decided on Russian Samovar because the pictures of the restaurant made it look very romantic – it’s a dark space, decorated with rich reds and has piano player -, and we pretty much never have Russian food here in the Bay Area. There are several Russian restaurants in San Francisco, but we seldom make the trek to the other side of the Bay.

Samovar had another allure, it was co-owned by Mikhail Baryshnikov once upon a time – the restaurant appeared in some scenes in Sex and the City, where Baryshnikov played Carrie’s boyfriend -, and the piano had been owned by him. My college roommate was a huge Baryshnikov fan, and I remember Baryshnikov fondly from White Nights. Thinking of him brought me back to the time when Mike and I first met each other. There is no better romance than young love remembered.

The choice of Russian Samovar proved fortuitous, as it ended up being half way between The Daily Show studio, where we had spent the afternoon watching a taping, and our hotel. Indeed, I had overestimated how long the taping would last so we were about an hour early for our reservation. Fortunately, they were able to sit us. Our small table near the piano might not have been the best in the house – at least judged by how apologetic the hostess was -, but it was perfectly fine for us. The ambiance was, indeed, dark and romantic and the piano music, while loud, wasn’t constant and still allowed us to carry on a conversation.

The restaurant itself is pretty small, but they have another room upstairs – a lounge, I think.

The food is described as Russian/Ukrainian. I haven’t gotten to either country in my international food project, but I did recognize some of the dishes from neighboring countries.

dumplings

We started by sharing the veal pelmeni (handmade dumplings served in a light chicken broth, $19). I’m not usually a huge fan of dumplings, much less in broth, but these were absolutely delicious. The dough was soft and chewy and the filling was bursting with flavor. I was really impressed. Mike loved them as well.

duck

I had the Duck A la Russe (crispy pan-seared duck in a plum reduction – $36) as my main dish, and I liked it very much. Duck is always a tricky dish to cook, but they did a very good job. The sauce went very well with the duck flavor, without overwhelming it.

lamb

Mike had the Karski (grilled, marinated double cuts of lamb in Georgian spices, ~$60). It was also delicious, I’d even say I liked it more than the duck. It was perfectly cooked and the spices gave it a bright flavor. The French fries were good too, though obviously the lamb was the star.

Mike had a White Russian ($18) with dinner, and I felt it was a pretty standard one – though I’m not sure if there is a way to make an actually special White Russian.

We were so full by the end of the meal, that we didn’t even think about dessert.

Mike is not a huge fun of lounge music, but I enjoyed it. At some point, a young, Russian-looking couple sitting near us – who were having Valentine’s dinner with their three kids! – stood up and danced, and it was so extremely cute.

In all, it was a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner. I chose right.

Russian Samovar
256 West 52nd Street
New York City
(212)-757-0168
Monday 4pm-12:00am
Tuesday-Friday 12:00 pm -12:00am
Saturday-Sunday 12pm -1am

							

NYC Food Adventures: Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip
blueberry knish

What the heck is a Knish?

I’ll be honest, before planning this trip to New York City, I had never heard of knishes, and had no idea how to pronounce them (the K is not silent). But while researching the neighborhood around Katz’s Deli, I came across Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery and I knew we had to stop and try a knish.

Yonah Schimmel’s has been on this tiny store on Houston St. (pronounced “HOW-ston”) for over a hundred years. Schimmel, a Romanian rabbi, started selling knishes from a cart in Coney Island back in the 1890’s, and eventually was able to open a brick and mortar store in Manhattan. The shop is now owned by his grand-nephew.

Knishes are baked dumplings, consisting of a thin flour dough enveloping a filling, often mashed potatoes with onions, but it may also include ground meats. They seem similar to pierogis, but as the latter are usually boiled or fried, the texture is different. There are also sweet, fruit knishes. As we had just had lunch at Katz’s, and as we had no method to reheat a savory knish back at our hotel, we got two sweet ones to eat as dessert later.

I got the blueberry cream cheese knish ($8.50). It was exactly what it sounded like: a thin pastry surrounding slightly sweetened cream cheese and cooked blueberries. It was very rich, not very sweet and very tasty. A very grown up dessert – and one knish is certainly enough for two people. Mike got the apple strudel knish ($8.50) and that was less successful. It was basically apple pie filling in that same, thin dough, but it wasn’t sweet enough for his liking. He was terribly disappointed.

If we went back to NYC, I’d be curious to try to savory knishes, and I’d get a blueberry one again. Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery does ship nationwide through Gold Belly. A 6-pack of knishes will cost you $80, shipping included.

Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery
137 E. Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 477-2858
MON - SUN 11AM - 6PM