Saturday, September 25, 2010

New York City Day 4

My fourth day in New York was probably my favorite day on this trip, excluding my friend's wedding.  I met up with my best friend, Mel, from college, visited MOMA for free (compliments of my betrothed friend, JR), and walked the entire length of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Mel and I had lunch at Momofuku's newest restaurant, Má Pêche.  I had high hopes for the prix-fixe lunch menu, but I also feared that Momofuku would turn out to be an in-your-face establishment for the cool and trendy with the food equivalent of the emperor's new clothes. 

Milk Bar is strategically placed at the front of Má Pêche, and that's because there really isn't a dessert menu in Má Pêche.  The desserts are miniature versions of the sweets from Milk Bar.

Milk Bar

Má Pêche

First impression was that the hostess was young, hip, cold, and unfriendly.  Hmm...not a good start, but something I can overlook if the food is good.

Mel and I both started off with a Calamansi Lemonade.  It was refreshing, but it tested my sourness threshold.

calamansi lemonade – calamansi, lemon juice, simple syrup, mint

The pork and shrimp summer rolls are similar to the rolls from Bistro B in Dallas, because the pork and shrimp are grilled ground patties of pork and shrimp instead of slices of the meats, and the rolls have a crispy fried eggroll skin to give the rolls a nice crunch.  But the rolls at Má Pêche lacked the chewiness of Vietnamese spring rolls in general because it's not stuffed with rice noodles!  Each bite gave off a dull crunch of vegetables.  It was good, but I've had better at a lot cheaper prices.

Pork and Shrimp Summer Rolls

Next was my plate of flash fried rice noodles.  When the noodles were still warm (it did not arrive hot), the texture of the noodles (crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside) was very interesting.  However, the noodles cooled quickly, and I was left with a big plate of almost inedible rubbery mess of stuff.  I found myself wanting a simply boiled rice noodles rather than the more creatively prepared noodles.  I didn't even eat half of my entree.

Rice Noodles with spicy pork, bok choy, and sawleaf

Mel's grilled trout looked so much better and was apparently very tasty.  I would've picked the trout too, but I wanted to see what Má Pêche can do with standard Vietnamese ingredients.  Well, I was not impressed.

Grilled Trout with long bean, almond, chili jam

The dessert was lame and forgettable.  Before the lunch I thought I may grab something at Milk Bar for later, but after lunch, I felt that I should save my money for better food and service (like Aburiya Kinnosuke!)
Milk Bar Petit Fours

MOMA; LBJ by Marisol Escobar (shout-out to the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT!)

After MOMA, it was off to Brooklyn!  Not long after arriving in the DUMBO neighborhood, I came across a Jacques Torres chocolate store. 

View of the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn

Jacques Torres Chocolate

I've never tried Serendipity's frozen hot chocolate, so I can't offer a comparison, but Jacques Torres's wicked frozen hot chocolate was deliciously decadent.  The spiciness of the chili powder punctures the thick, cold swath of creamy chocolate.

Wicked Frozen Hot Chocolate

I couldn't resist sampling some chocolates, thus having dessert before dinner!  I loved the variety of tea flavors.  Tea-flavored chocolates are my favorite because they're earthy and subtle and generally not too sweet.

(Left to Right) French Melon (canteloupe and honey), Pineapple Pastis (pineapple pate de fruit with anise), Chocolate Mint Tea, Heavenly Hazelnut, and Jasmine Pearl (apricot and jasmine tea)

Belly of Brooklyn Bridge

After dessert, we lined up for pizza at Grimaldi's and waited about 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, this establishment had more tourists than locals, always a bad sign at restaurants...

5:30 PM Line at Grimaldi's

Olde Brooklyn Root Beer

Apparently, the pizza here is known to be a love-hate thing.  I ordered a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, basil, and olives.  I should have omitted the olives.  They were so salty that even when I removed all of the olives, the remaining liquid traces of the olives still overpowered the pizza.  It was unbearable.  On top of that, the pizza dough was rubbery and became limp from the sauce and grease quickly.  I certainly did not love their pizza. 

Grimaldi's pepperoni, sausage, olive, and basil pizza

Not long after eating at Grimaldi's, I read a post on Serious Eats that the establishment is facing eviction!

After dinner, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.
Bridal Photoshoot on Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge


Friday, September 17, 2010

New York City Day 3

Grand Central Station

Checking out Grand Central Station was another excuse for me to check out food vendors.  I was immediately sucked into Financier Patisserie and decided right then and there that I would lunch on a bunch of pastries.  I also added some sliced truffled salami from Murray's in Grand Central Market to balance out my sweets-heavy lunch.  Very healthy!  I brought my sugar and sodium-loaded lunch back to the hotel to pig out without shame. 

Truffled Salami from Murray's

I think Financier's Napoleon is the best millefeuille I've had in the states!  It was light, flakey, and what really set this apart from others is the thin layer of lemon curd on the bottom.  I forgot to bring a plastic fork back to the hotel, so I ate this with my bare hands.

Napoleon from Financier

The Diplomate is a thick and heavy tart of eggy custard, bananas, and pecans.  It was a bit too heavy for me to finish.

The Apricot Galette, however, was buttery and light.  Just like the ones in Paris.  Delicious!
Apricot Galette

After walking around mid-town, it was back to Flushing for the best xiaolong tang bao (soup dumplings) in New York!

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

Joe's Shanghai has 3 locations in NYC.  The midtown location is more expensive and fewer soup dumplings per steamer.  The meal was amazing.  With each bite of the crabmeat xiaolongbao hot broth and scrumptious, briny crab juice gushed into my mouth.  I became a greedy fiend, eating while eyeing my next dumpling.  The pork soup dumpling was good, but the flavor of the crab xiaolongbao is just so much more phenomenal that it completed eclipsed the pork dumplings.  Skip the pork and double your order of the crab soup dumplings!

Crabmeat and Pork Xiaolongbao

You can actually taste and see the crab meat!

Pork Xiaolongbao

Pork Xiaolongbao

Since we were in a Shanghainese restaurant, we decided to order the traditional pot of Shaguo Yutou (fish head stew in an earthenware pot).  Unfortunately this dish fell short of traditional and lacked generous helpings and variety of ingredients.  Yes, it had tofu, Chinese cabbage, shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and a few broad strands of mung bean vermicelli, but instead of chunks of Shanghainese honey ham there were crappy fast-food-like stir-fried slices of beef that tasted like leftover chunks from a Mongolian beef dish in a buffet line.  This was, indeed, disappointing.

Shaguo Yutou (fish head stew in an earthenware pot)

Shaguo Yutou (fish head stew in an earthenware pot)

Awesome Dinner at Joe's Shanghai

On the way back to midtown, I was able to goof off on an empty train.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New York City Day 2

Statue of Liberty

The second day was devoted to the Financial District.  I highly recommend taking the 8 AM ferry to Liberty Island.  By the time I returned to Battery Park around 10 AM, the lines to get to Liberty Island were impossible.

I've been to NYC twice before and spent most of both trips in museums.  I really wanted to just walk around NYC rather than stay indoors this time around.  And it's when walking around that I got to capture Kodak moments like boy scouts abusing Arturo Di Modica's bull's testicles.

Not So Mighty Wall Street Bull

Walking around the Financial District was surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable.  It's less crowded save for the hoards of boy scouts taking group pictures at every tourist site.  I walked until my 1 PM NYC Restaurant Week reservation at Delmonico's.  I picked Delmonico's because of its reputation as one of the first restaurants in the U.S.


Perhaps Delmonico's is passé in a time when the culinary world praises innovation and fusion.  You obviously would not and should not expect that from a restaurant that has been standing since 1837.  I expected each course to be solid and satisfying, and that's exactly what I got.  However, Delmonico's should be ashamed that their breads were some of the worst I've had at any restaurant (chains included).  It's utterly shocking how one of the oldest restaurant establishments has not spent more time refining the recipe for the one thing that is served at every table for every meal throughout the past 173 years or however long the tradition of serving complimentary breads at each meal the restaurant has observed.

Very Dull, Rubbery Bread

Bad bread aside, the first course of grilled asparagus and frisee salad with grapefruit slices, poached egg, and truffled vinaigrette was quite amazing.  I got really excited when I smelled the truffle oil from afar.  The truffle aroma worked beautifully with the poached egg.

Grilled Asparagus and Frisée Salad Summer Citrus Fruit, Poached Farm Egg, Black Truffle Vinaigrette

My slab of Delmonico's Steak with a puddle of glistening butter was stunning.  I was in a state of carnivorous coma.  This steak did not need any jus, steak sauce, or extra sprinkling of salt and pepper.  It was perfect.  The fries were crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and super garlicky--no ketchup needed.

Delmonico Steak Frites Maitre D'Hotel butter, Twice Fried French Fries

The dessert was a light and tart confection.  However, I don't know if the execution of the tarte was a mistake or intended.  The tarte shell was more like the browned sides of a cake or a muffin than a crusty tarte.  I didn't mind it at all, and it paired nicely with the creamy meyer lemon curd, but it really didn't taste like a tarte.

Meyer Lemon Curd Tarte with Pine Nut Brittle

After visiting the sobering World Trade Center site, pushing through the chaos and crap that is Century 21, the mega discount designer clothes department store (hawking crap at designer-struck consumers), and a peaceful, much-needed nap on a bench at Trinity Church, I headed to old Chinatown. 

Trinity Church

My friend phone-navigate me to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.  Ice cream is truly my best friend on hot summer days.  However, I didn't know that ordering 3 flavors here would turn into an entree portion of ice cream!  Eeks!  Right before dinner too!  The ice cream was good, not great.  It tasted like the packed ice cream I get at Asian supermarkets.  None of the flavors stood out.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory-Lychee, Green Tea, and Ginger Ice Cream Cup

After surveying a couple of restaurant menus displayed on the windows of cramped restaurants with basement kitchens, Shanghai Asian Cuisine looked promising when I spotted xie rou xiao long tang bao (crabmeat steamed soup dumplings) on the menu.

Shanghai Asian Cuisine in Chinatown

This turned out to be quite a find!  The place isn't much to look at, but the food was very well made.  We started off with a cold appetizer of "vegetarian duck," which is tofu skin stuffed with shitake mushrooms marinated in sweet soy sauce.  I hate it when Buddhist-inspired vegetarian dishes are made in reference to meat dishes.  Most of the Chinese fake meat dishes are made from some form of bean curd.  I'm sure tofu and bean curd loving people would order these dishes regardless of meat references.  Besides, these vegetarian dishes never taste remotely close to the meats they're supposed to resemble. 

"Vegetarian Duck"-Bean Curd Skin Stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms

The hot and sour soup is standard comfort food that my family orders almost at every Chinese restaurant it's served at even though the risks are always high.  The soup is either too soupy or too gloopy (excess of corn starch), too spicy or too sour.  Balance is apparently hard to achieve with this soup, but this bowl was close to striking that elusive balance.
Hot and Sour Soup

The stand out dish of the evening was the wine chicken.  The chicken is succulent with an intense shao xing wine flavor.  The leftover chicken tasted even better as my breakfast the next morning!

Ran Shou Wine Chicken

The crabmeat xiao long bao was good...that was until I tried the ones at Joe's Shanghai in Flushing the following evening.  In retrospect, these xiao long bao were above average but I really couldn't taste the crabmeat and it didn't have enough broth inside the dumpling to qualify as a true Shanghai-style steamed soup dumpling.

Crabmeat Xiao Long Bao

Crabmeat Xiao Long Bao

Crabmeat Xiao Long Bao

The Lo Mien was nothing special.  At least it served well as my breakfast the following morning.
Shanghai Seafood Lo Mien