July 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Well, I have to admit: even if it’s hard to eat like a locavore and even if there’s not much in the way of greenery in NYC, you can still eat a lot of tasty food.

Old Favorites

We visited a couple of spots to eat what we can’t get in the city proper of San Francisco: namely, excellent Korean food and ramen. It’s odd to me that in a city that is 30% Asian, it’s so challenging to find authentic — or just good — Asian food.

  • Mandoo Bar: Narrow alley of a restaurant in Korea Town, where each side of the room is stacked with blond wood tables and back-to-back benches for seating. Our favorites: kimchee mandoo (delicately wrapped, steamed dumplings filled with tofu, pork and kimchee), dolsot bibimbap and japchae (sauteed sweet potato noodles with pork and vegetables).
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar: Quite often, I wish (silently to myself, out loud to anyone who knows Momofuku) that David Chang would open an outpost in San Francisco. I have yet to find ramen as good as Momofuku’s here: the chewy, toothsome noodles; the porky broth that makes me feel like I’m home; the soft pork belly; the precisely poached egg; and just when you think it’s too rich, the pickled bamboo shoots with just a bit of crunch and the two sheets of toasted nori as perfect complements to the rest. Even though the Noodle Bar offers a host of interesting-looking small plates and a lunch prix fixe, I get the momofuku ramen — the classic — every single time. And I never, ever regret it.

First-time Favorites

We also tried a slew of restaurants that were new to us, although they’re not new to the city. Here are those I liked best (in no particular order):

  • Felice: This small Tuscan wine bar and restaurant was recommended to me by a friend whose taste in food I trust deeply, and who just returned from a gustatory honeymoon in Tuscany. So, I had to try it! The low-key, candle-lit vibe was enhanced by a shockingly handsome waiter (seriously, it was one of those moments where you thought, “Am I in some movie advancing the stereotype that all Italian men are good looking?”) and friendly service. The crostone we sampled, topped with black olive butter and prosciutto, was solid but not excellent. However, the Rose Felice 2009 from Tuscany made a great pair with the spaghetti alle vongole. I love that simple pasta dish — noodles tossed with garlic, clams and cherry tomatoes — and when it’s done right, it’s like heaven. This was the heaven version.
  • Ma Peche: Yes, yes, another David Chang restaurant. Perhaps I’m a bit obsessed. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and had the opportunity to go with two friends who live in NYC and are just as food-focused as I am! My favorites until we neared the end of the meal were the pork ribs (slathered in a savory caramel sauce and coated with minced, fried garlic) and the crispy pig’s head (shredded meat with a tangy, refreshing cabbage slaw and just-this-side-of-sweet peach jam). Given my love affair with pork, this will not surprise those of you who know me. Nor will it surprise you that just as we were about to wrap up our meal, the four friendly gentlemen sitting to our left struck up a conversation with us, convinced us that the summer roll (grilled pork sausage, lettuce and daikon wrapped in rice paper, accompanied with a luscious peanut sauce) was the best thing on the menu and proceeded to order it for us. It was presented like a Vietnamese corn dog, with the pork inside, the carbohydrate outside and a skewer of daikon sticking out the end as a handle. Tasty and fun — my favorite food combination.
  • The Bar Room at The Modern: I’d heard a lot about this restaurant, and though I couldn’t get a reservation for lunch before seeing the Matisse exhibit at the MoMA, I walked in and they were able to seat me at the bar right away. An elegant, airy setting: floor to ceiling windows, white-and-gray marble bar, a slim black leather placemat, and an individual-sized brushed metal basket for my mini baguettes. I had the best salad I’ve had in a while here (even compared to salads-everywhere-SF). The beautiful composition included arugula with fines herbes, summer vegetables, goat cheese and toasted almonds, all drizzled with a yellow tomato vinaigrette. I then indulged in pan seared Sullivan County foie gras with pickled watermelon rind and duck consommé — a bit of locavore eating after all.

Arugula and fines herbes salad at The Bar Room

  • El Quinto Pino: Tiny sliver of a bar on a Chelsea corner where you wouldn’t expect it, the storefront sidewalk wide enough only for one small, bright blue table and two chairs. The photos on the website represent all the space there is. I only went for happy hour, but I can’t wait to go back on my next visit to NYC. The glass of rose I had was a welcome refreshment on that mid-90s, humid day, and the pinchos morunos (marinated lamb skewer) was a flavorful accompaniment, the meat imbued with a combination of Middle Eastern and Spanish spices and perched atop a perfectly grilled piece of bread.
  • Co.: My husband adores pizza. And although San Francisco is pizza-crazed, there’s nothing like a great slice in NYC. While this wasn’t a slice-on-a-paper-plate type of place, we had a great pie: the meatball, which was a thin yet chewy crust topped with tomato, mozzarella, the best veal meatballs ever, caramelized onions, olives, pecorino and oregano. Rich, sweet, savory, tart, earthy and salty all in one. Mmm.

The meatball pizza at Co.

Mandoo Bar, 2 W. 32nd St. between Broadway and 5th Aves., NYC. 212.279.3075

Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 First Ave. between 10th and 11th Sts., NYC. 212.777.7773.

Felice, 1166 1st Ave. at 64th St., NYC. 212.593.2223.

Ma Peche, 15 W. 56th St. between 5th and 6th Aves., NYC. 212.757.5878.

The Bar Room at The Modern, 9 W. 53rd St. between 5th and 6th Aves., NYC. 212.333.1220.

El Quinto Pino, 401 W 24th St. at 9th Ave., NYC. 212.206.6900.

Co., 230 Ninth Avenue at 24th St., NYC. 212.243.1105.

Let me know what you think if you try any of these spots! And let me know of other places we should try during our next NYC trip.


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