I did in fact eat at places other than three star restaurants while I was in New York.
Without a doubt the one I was most impressed by was wd-50. This restaurant was creative, intellectual, and boundary pushing. I’ve eaten at similar places in the past but what was different here was that the food was also deeply satisfying. I found true pleasure in eating there. It wasn’t just some intellectual exercise in using odd ingredients or cooking methods. The Pho Gras was fantastically layered and complex while still being delicious. The smoked duck, parsnip “ricotta”, cocoa nibs, black vinegar dish was full of intricacy but was so tasty that I just wanted to enjoy eating it rather than marvel in how much time and effort the kitchen must have put into the components. Finally the American cheese, tamarind-cola, raspberry chip dessert was the most adventurous dish I had in the city. Crazy blend of flavors and textures, familiar and new, most definitely off the beaten path and not for everyone but compelling and delightful.
Beyond wd-50, Momofuku Ssäm Bar was pretty killer. It was packed and I feel lucky to have eaten there. The steamed pork buns that put them on the map are really that good. I had a few east beach blonde oysters that were fantastic, and the roasted scallops –avocado, black garlic, red radish was one of the best looking dishes I had served to me, plus it was delicious!
Milk Bar across the street was a quick stop, I grabbed a crack pie and thoroughly enjoyed all of its ridiculous goodness on the walk to the next bar.
I went to Flute Champagne Bar, which I’ll address in another post, and after had to pop into Gramercy Tavern. Last time I was in the city I just had a desert here, so I wanted to have a bit more and couldn’t pass up the chance. They have a pretty amazing wine list. I got to enjoy Ch. Grillet for the first time, it was good but I think it trades more on rarity than quality. I also had a tasty little sparkler from Long Island called Lenz. On the food side of things I thoroughly enjoyed fish that unfortunately I don’t remember the name of but I had never had before. However it was really all about the gnocchi that came with it. They were incredible! A bit of apple pie to end the night was also a treat.
Xian Famous Foods this little joint was highly recommended by the folks at Terrior, and it was awesome. This is Chinese food from western China, so it has all sorts of spices and flavors of the middle east incorporated. For $6 I had a plate of noodles that was great!
Reynard I was in Williamsburg and had heard about this restaurant and all of the Marlow empire. I stopped in and had a little soup that was tasty, but the whole vibe of the place was a bit too cool for school. It reminded me a bit of the Woodsman tavern, except the Woodsman makes you feel comfortable where as this place was more about showing you the hipster scene.
I went to Hearth because I had such an amazing time at Terrior that I wanted to experience the mothership. Of all the places I ate at, this is the one that I would most likely become a regular if I lived in the city. I found everything I had was delicious and very comforting without being heavy or overdone. Its also the restaurant that was most like how I like to cook, but don’t have the time for the preparations that they do. The fava bean salad was so spring-y and fresh, but it was the roasted tile fish with artichokes, potatoes, fennel, and clams that really did it for me. It was an upscale version of stews that I like to make. Outstanding. Plus a dope wine list.
I was glad I got a chance to eat at Canvas, which is one of Morimoto’s restaurants. I can’t fully judge it because they’re not normally open for lunch, and I was just coming off the competition. That being said the food was enjoyable, well cooked, and a pleasant blend of Asian flavors and seafood. Décor was great, and clearly done by an expensive professional.
Stay tuned, next post will be all about the drinking. I might have to break it into 2 pieces.