I really enjoyed my week's holiday in New York, and as one might expect the food played a large part in that. Rather than do loads of blog posts (I really can't be arsed nowadays) here's a round-up of some of my favourite eats in the Big Apple.
The dimly-lit dining room at Minetta Tavern, while terrible for food photography, is one of the most buzzy, atmospheric ones I've eaten in. And I've eaten in a lot. I kicked off with a generous portion of roasted bone marrow served with shallot confit and baguette soldiers while my friend went with roast baby beets. Both got the thumbs up. For mains, we both ordered the legendary Black Label burger. Made with prime cuts of dry-aged beef, topped with caramelized onions and served in a sesame-topped brioche bun, this was without doubt the best burger I've ever eaten. Oh, and the big mountain of fries were bloody amazing, too. Overall, Minetta Tavern was probably my favourite out of all the restaurants I visited in New York. This begs the question whether Keith McNally opened the wrong restaurant in London.
Minetta Tavern, 113 MacDougal St (btwn Bleecker & 3rd St), Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10012
Kesté Pizza & Vino serves pizza the Neapolitan way with a wood-fired brick oven taking pride of place at the back of the shop. My diavola pizza was pretty much perfect with its blistered chewy crust and quality toppings of homemade mozzarella, spicy soppressata and fresh basil. My friend enjoyed his pistacchio a salsiccia pizza with its subtle pistachio pesto topping and moreish sausage meat. As the name of the restaurant suggests wine is of equal importance to the pizza and this is reflected by the excellent wine list. Along with Biang! and the Minetta Tavern, this small pizzeria is on my A-list of New York eateries.
Kesté Pizza & Vino, 271 Bleecker St (btwn Cornelia & Jones St), West Village, New York, NY 10014
Choosing where to eat in Manhattan's Chinatown is a risky business. One false move and you could end up in a tourist trap. So I was thankful that I had some local knowledge to fall back on in the form of coolcookstyle's recommendation of Shanghai Café Deluxe. Being a caff specialising in Shanghainese food, both 小籠包 xiao long bao (soup-filled pork dumplings) as well as the less well known 生煎包 sheng jian bao (pan-fried soup-filled pork buns) were ordered. Of the two I preferred the latter; I think this might be to do with the fact that sheng jian bao, with their juicy pork filling and crispy bottoms, are nigh on impossible to find in London. Incidentally, these two dishes are listed on the English language-menu as steamed tiny buns with pork and fried tiny buns with pork.
Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Mott St (btwn Canal & Hester St), Chinatown, New York, NY 10013
Fette Sau may not be the best barbecue joint in New York (the twitterverse told me as much) but it is ideally located to kick off an afternoon out in Williamsburg. I know sod-all about proper American barbecue and have precious little experience of it. So for what it's worth, I thought the pulled pork shoulder, beef short rib and beef brisket were decent enough but that the pork ribs and pork sausages were better. I liked the casual fun vibe of this converted auto repair shop so it was a shame that our lunch was slightly spoiled by rude and inattentive bar service (by the way, the food counter service was just fine).
Fette Sau, 354 Metropolitan Ave (btwn Havemeyer & Roebling), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211
I'm pleased to report that there were no such service fails at the excellent Black Brick. Some haters may dwell on the overtly hipster interior design, but quite frankly who cares when the coffee is so damn good. The barista's attention-to-detail was a sight to behold and he also found time to have a friendly chat whilst making my brew. This coffee shop is an ideal pit-stop when strolling along Bedford Avenue, the main drag in Williamsburg. All power to hipsters!
Black Brick, 300 Bedford Ave (btwn Grand & S 1st St), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Tribeca Grill may no longer be the place to be seen, but I enjoyed my Sunday brunch at this glamorous restaurant famous for being part-owned by Robert De Niro (I had a good look around but Bobby was nowhere to be seen). I adored my jumbo lump crab cake, which as promised had jumbo lumps of sweet white crabmeat. This was perfectly paired with chipotle roasted corn and cilantro avocado mousse. My mate enjoyed his scrambled eggs, country gravy & buttermilk biscuit so much, he didn't offer me any. And do remember to order the basket of bread & pastries if only for the amazing banana bread. This was a fine last meal before heading off to the airport.
Tribeca Grill, 375 Greenwich St (btwn Franklin & North Moore St), Tribeca, New York, NY 10013
To conclude my round-up, here are a few places where I enjoyed drinks and snacks. Eataly, Mario Batali's gastro-shrine to all things Italian, has no less than seven restaurants. Being a sunny day I popped up to the rooftop beer garden, Birreria, and enjoyed a fine platter of salumi. To top-up my Britisher points I spent an enjoyable Friday night at April Bloomfield's gastropub, The Spotted Pig. Next time I'll save some space to eat more than just my share of pork rillette and some shoestring fries. Happy Hour is a great time of the day to take a breather from sightseeing whilst plotting where to go out at night. I found this was best done over drinks, some truffle fries and half a dozen littleneck clams from the raw bar at McCoy in Greenwich Village.
Birreria @ Eataly, 200 5th Ave (btwn 23rd & 24th St), Flatiron District, New York, NY 10010
The Spotted Pig, 314 W 11th St (at Greenwich St), West Village, New York, NY 10014
McCoy, 89 MacDougal St (at Bleecker St), Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10012
[NYC Postscript – updated August 2013] After having a great holiday in New York in May, it was a pleasant surprise to return so soon after for a business trip. This, of course, meant more eats and here's a quick round-up of some more places worth checking out.
There are two very good reasons to visit the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking district even if you're not a guest: the Standard Biergarten and the Standard Grill. Enjoy German beer in the former before going to the latter to tuck into seafood from the raw bar followed by treats such as seared scallops. A short distance from the Standard Hotel is Fatty Crab in the West Village. I'm not entirely sure what my Malaysian friends might think about this take on their cuisine, but I was a big fan of the signature chilli crab as well as snacks such as coconutty chicken wings and seasonal salad.
Taiwanese-style gua bao seem to be taking over the world at the moment and New York is no exception. Of the bao I tried I liked the belly pork-filled Chairman Bao at Baohaus but preferred the pork buns over at Momofuku Noodle Bar, although they were so amply-filled with pork belly it left little room for the slightly-lacklustre Momofuku ramen. My last tip is an example of what the Big Apple does best: ambience. I have no doubt there is better Japanese food in New York but for a good time vibe, there's no beating the Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya.