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Noo York

new yorkNew York. It's a big city!

Armed with a few recommendations and using Open Table to book our choices, off we went...they have Michelin stars there, so it's always interesting to see if we agree.

 

 

The Breslin

We started at The Breslin at the very trendy Ace Hotel - or more precisely, the busy, noisy bar - as it was a 45 minute wait since we hadn't booked. They said they would come and find us and we wondered how they would recognize us - but they did. Very slick. A dimly lit and slightly grungy atmospheric restaurant, our waiter looked like a stoned poet and had a voice similar to the late Jim Morrison. Dishes included small creamy oysters from New Brunswick, artfully cut and arranged chunks of cucumber dressed with trout roe and a fennel dressing, vinegared poussin, and lamb burgers, all washed down with a Californian red. All good there with no stars of the Michelin kind.

tomato teaEleven Madison Park

We went for lunch. Three stars. Justifiably famous; we expected a lot and it delivered.

Helen declared it one of the nicest food experiences she has had and indeed the service was well pitched as well - impeccable and just friendly enough.

Little touches which stood out were the Parmigiano and truffle biscuit offered at the beginning and other extra little dishes included along the way. All delicious. We had the four course lunch. A twelve course degustation was on offer, but the four course option we chose was enough. You select four from a grid menu with series of words like foie gras, veal, pork, quinoa, broccoli, chocolate, malt - so it's fun, as it's also a bit of a mystery. It seems like it changes frequently as well as some of the options were different to the one on the website. What a fresh, innovative, playful approach.

foodWe enjoyed tomato and lemon thyme tea, smoked sturgeon sabayon, seared foie gras with kohlrabi, pork broth and smoked scallion oil and a myriad of other taste delights. To me personally though, I think lavender is a scent rather than a flavour I want to eat, even if it is with Valrhona chocolate. The malt dessert and the milk chocolate dessert were both enjoyable.

We don't have Michelin stars in NZ, but I suspect this famous chef, Daniel Humm, who was awarded The James Beard Foundation 'Chef of the Year' in May, would enjoy the food of some of our talented practitioners.

Eataly

Eataly was teeming with people both shopping and eating. Brought to the States by Mario Batali, we are familiar with a couple of Italian versions, but this New York version was better, with many busy restaurants, a tempting array of fresh vegetables, fish, meat, homewares and dry goods ranging in quality levels to buy and cook at home. We were lucky enough to score seats immediately at the bar of the busy Carne. Good menu, though Prego's version of Vitello Tonnato was not equalled. The Panzanella salad had a delicious array of tomato varieties and both Phil's gnocchi and Helen's strip steak were on the button. Casual and enjoyable.

Casa Mono

Open Table led us to a Spanish experience, Casa Mono, operated by Mario Batali's ex-head chef and possibly part backed by him as well. It has one Michelin star and we could only dine at 6pm, so along we went to the elegant Gramercy Park area, admiring an excellent deli with an emphasis on cheese, almost opposite first, as we were a little early.

The place is tiny and they cleverly add extra space to the small wooden tables by having a shelf between the top of your table and knees where you put your water glasses.

The book of a wine list is comprehensive but seems extraordinarily highly priced with most, at a glance, well over the $200 mark. Lots of vertical flights apparently. Quite at odds with the casually presented food. We chose one of the few Spanish reds under $100 and Phil noticed that most people around us were drinking the house wine.

We ordered the charcuterie plate, piquillos stuffed with oxtail and a skirt steak dish which was surpassed by the one at Carne as it was quite sinewy and the accompanying onion jam and Romesco sauce were nothing to write home about. We were in and out in a hour, as we declined dessert, and whilst it was fine as a casual eat, we couldn't see how the Michelin star was awarded.

The Modern

modernIn contrast, another one star experience was The Modern at the MoMa. Elegant and restful in ambiance, the menu was interesting with a fixed price for three or four courses, some dishes supplemented with an $10 extra charge. Dishes we enjoyed were fresh foie gras with a caramelised sauce, diver scallops with fennel, chorizo crusted cod, hake with Marcona almonds steamed with licorice, and quail cooked 'en terre glaise' (in clay). The desserts looked like pieces of art - and the chocolate one stated Manjari, so we expected a full on Valrhona experience, but in fact it was only used on the top layer, the balance and the post prandial petit fours using something underwhelming. The meal was highly enjoyable though we noted an unexpected $16 for bottled water, when we had only consumed tap. This was quickly rectified - but it does show it pays to check your bill.

abcABC Kitchen

The following day we headed down to Jean-George's Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen, with Head Chef Dan Kluger, also a Michelin star. What a gorgeous fit out. Popular too.

This is a place where fresh seasonal local produce is emphasised. It was a pleasant enough experience but the dishes on offer aren't particularly crafted. Roasted carrots with avocado and local salad, deep fried squid with a mustard mayo, deep fried pieces of Skate with a salad of local sprouts, seeds and chili, gingered sashimi, turkey sandwich - and a lot of dishes which contained some form of chili. Pleasant enough but not impressive - except for the surroundings - and the wine list offered lots of interesting, affordable choices.

Café Boulud

bouludWe also enjoyed Sunday brunch at Café Boulud, one by the well regarded Daniel Boulud. We had booked thinking it was the normal menu, but did enjoy the excellent versions of brunch classics and good service.

Rosa Mexicano

This was a casual noisy place where we enjoyed the company of friends more than the food, though the guacamole was good - made to order right beside you - and the Margheritas reasonably potent.

Carnegie Deli

We had last been to the 'world famous Carnegie Deli' for brunch at least two decades ago and I remembered why I'd never willingly ventured near pastrami since, as we were shown to our table. Giant plates everywhere of extreme-sized thinly sliced mounds of pastrami, corned beef or turkey, either topped with melted cheese or masquerading as a sandwich. A generous plate of not-so-nice full-sized pickled gherkins await on your table. Somehow all this excess seems at odds with the homeless begging outside, as a normal person would be pushed to finish more than a third of a serving. What a waste! A minimum charge per person and cash or travellers cheques only and the waiter still forgot my espresso after two requests and then openly pushed hard for a tip, despite the policy on the wall behind us explaining this would not be the case.deli

Best dish was Helen's bagel and smoked salmon which looked like the sliced equivalent of half a large salmon and over a carton of sour cream. The excess of salmon - which was good - was welcome, as I had ordered the potato pancakes which turned out to be 3 greasy deep fried potato fritter-like objects with a saucer of sour cream. They needed the salmon. Phil had an omelet which he said was a bit peculiar. One for the experience rather than the food.

Maloney and Porcelli

The last night we felt like steak and the concierge recommended a place right next door called Maloney and Porcelli, where the dry aged steaks were ginormous and tasty, the waiters behaved as your favourite uncle might, and the breadsticks were actually long versions of pretzel dough accompanied by mustard butter. We managed about half of the meat, declined dessert and headed to The Gotham Comedy Club to enjoy the humor of a handful of comedians and the obligatory couple of weak drinks. It was a great deal of fun.

In general...

New York offers a great number of dining experiences, though every eating experience is topped by 8.85% tax plus a tip - sometimes automatically included - of between 15 - 20%. Not awarded by merit as we tend to in NZ, but as a right - and they are not shy about emphasising it, good service or not. Again, it illustrated what excellent value dining experiences are available on our own fair shores, where by New York standards Michelin experiences of at least one star abound!

eleven
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