17 May 2014

New York eats

Ok I went to the City that never sleeps in Dec 2013. So why do I only blog about it now?

Erm because 2014 is better than 2015? 

Well... I always like to get to the bottom of what people eat when I go overseas. What defines New York cuisine? I don't think there is any food that could represent New York alone. You could satisfy that craving for Korean food in Koreatown and the next day, as-authentic-as-it-can-get Italy food in Little Italy. And the best part, finding delicious food in the Big Apple is easier than taking the NYC Subway (ok I over-exaggerated. I think Tokyo's subway is crazy). 

And I learnt that Singaporeans are not the only ones that queue for food.

Just a list of things I ate.. In random order..

1) Mad for Chicken Turntable
There are some places that I fall in love immediately when I see them. Take for example Mad for Chicken Turntable. It was snowing lightly outside and I was inside this place that had golden christmas lights that lit up the place. And how could anyone not like this - an illuminated colorful bar.

And bonus points for a Korean hunk that served us ;)

Only complaint was the service was kinda slow. It was 3pm and there were only two groups of customers. But I swore I probably finished listening the Christmas jazz playlist before my food arrived.

Soy garlic & spicy fried chicken (US$17.95 for 8 wings) - We chose a mix of the two types available. Chicken was crispy on the outside and when I cracked the skin, tender soft meat waited on the inside. Personally I preferred the soy garlic. The spicy version was too hot and spicy for me.

Kimchi fried rice (US$11.95) - Moist and every grain was coated with kimchi flavor. Lotsa hot-kicking kimchi bits too. We finished every grain.

2) Penelope
I had great expectations of this place just because:
- it's highly recommended by my wise colleague from work
- it's so popular. We had to wait like 45 minutes. (They don't take reservations)
- its yelp rating was 4/5
- while waiting for our food, the table next to ours was super pleased with their food and were like, "this is so good..."
- it's website is so dainty and cute

I'm not saying the food is not nice. But the Nutella French Toast with bananas which was generously coated in Nutella and chocolate and topped with sugar icing, was overly sweet for me. On the other hand, the Salmon wrapped poached eggs was too salty.

Salmon poached eggs
Nutella French Toast - Sweetest French Toast in my life
So if there was any lesson that I learnt from visiting Penelope, it would be "the only opinion that matters is mine." Haha. 

3) Shake Shack 
If there was only one thing I can eat in NYC, it would be Shake Shack's Shack burger (US$4.75). Just thinking of the juicy Angus beef patty that's enveloped in cheese and secret Shack sauce is enough to make me want to fly there again. And the cheesy criss-cut fries topped with cheddar cheese plus milkshake - they take the sinful meal closer to heaven. The Shroom Burger (US$6.85), which has a fried portobello mushroom chunk and accompanied by cheese and the same secret Shack sauce, was as good as the Shack burger.

If you don't believe what I said, believe your eyes by checking out the never-ending queues via their uber cool live "Shack cam" on the website. 

Nuff said... Must-eat!
Cos queueing is a waste of life

4) Traif 

We took the J train to Brooklyn where Traif was located. Somehow I am scared of Brooklyn.  Too hippy and dark for me. Nevertheless, I love barbecue meats and was determined to find the best. Based on Yelp, Traif happens to be one of the top in the category. 

Yelp didn't lie. The pork belly (US$12) was amazingly tender and sweet, and all it did was melt in my mouth. I didn't even do much chewing. Same could be described of the pork sliders (US$14). The broccoli  (US$14) - let's just say Traif specializes in meat.

If only the portions were bigger.
Broccoli with toast
Pork sliders

Pork belly

Can u spot the pig?

5) Wafels and Dinghes

What does a poor girl do when she visits an expensive city?
Meets a rich man. Surf Groupon for cheap deals!

The Wafels in the name refer to Waffles. But I have no idea what the Dinghes refer to. A quick google defines dinghes to be discoloration due to dirtiness? Anyway what's in a name. Wafels and Dinghes started out as a mobile food truck. I guess they were doing great hence they started their first brick and mortar sit-down-to-eat cafe in East Village. Thanks to my laser-sharp observant eyes and quick-thinking brain, we got to have two savoury waffles and one dessert for $15. Not bad right.

It was my first encounter with savoury waffles and sadly, it was weird. The BBQ pulled pork and salmon waffles we had were probably not something our taste buds liked. There were red onions in the garnishing too and I don't take onions unless its onion soup. Our dessert was the Belgium waffle with ice-cream. It was much better. But I think I prefer my waffles to be crispy on the outside, airy on the inside. The Belgium style was chewy style.

Pulled pork waffle
Salmon waffle
Belgian Liege waffle

6) Balthazar

Balthazar is located my favorite part of NYC - the charming classy SOHO neighborhood. I am kind of a freak when it comes to planning. So when I read that it is impossible to get a seat at the overly famous French brasserie unless I call and reserve (nope they don't do online reservations), I called two weeks before my grand arrival and got a slot for two for brunch.  

This was supposedly a place for celebrity spotting but we didn't see any that morning. 

The scrambled eggs (US$16) came with potatoes that were soft and delicious although a little oily.  My brioche french toast (US$20) with bacon was sprinkled with cinnamon. The bacon was very delicious and crisp. French toast was soft. Life is great. 

Scrambled eggs with potato and toast
Brioche french toast

Service was attentive and they always ensure there are people to serve our table. My waiter informed me he was going away for a while and introduced us to the next waitress who would be in charge of serving us. So professional!

7) Totto Ramen
To me, ramen = tonkotsu (pork-based). 

So it was intriguing how chicken-based soup broth ramen can taste so good, in fact I think better than some tonkotsu based ramen. The chicken broth was thick, flavorful, and packs a punch of umami. I swear I will never look down on chicken-based ramen again.

Spicy ramen (US$11)

Signature chicken ramen (US$9.75)

And instead of the usual thin-sliced char siew, we found chunky slabs of braised pork in our ramen. I loved braised pork. The ratio of lean to fatty sweet portions was perfect and just melts in the mouth. I googled and found this:

Torching of the pork - This explains why it's so good?
OMG OMG! My saliva touched the keyboard already. Someone should invent a teleport machine that can make me appear right in front of Totto Ramen shop now. 

My Gloating Moment - Insane queue outside while I stay warm inside with my piping hot ramen
8) Clinton St Baking Company

We went to Clinton St baking Company for brunch. The 1 hour wait was like insane and to make things worse, we can only wait outside the restaurant as it was very small. It would be ok on any other day, except that it was only 5 Degree Celsius and windy outside on that day. Brrr...

The grilled chicken, avocado, beef tomato, bacon chicken sandwich in chipotle sauce. How do I remember all the ingredients? My memory never fails to amaze me. Just kidding. I went back to the website. But I could remember the food - skin of the bread was so crispy, similar to Peking duck. The fries were nice but sprinkled or rather covered with too much salt.

Grilled chicken
The pancakes were the reason why the name was called baking company. I went for the banana and walnuts. They were really fluffy, although a bit dry. Maybe I should have gone for wet blueberry pancakes..
Pancakes with banana and walnuts
Can I make friends with you?

9) Joe Shanghai
This was recommended by the same wise colleague (see no. 2 above). In a corner of Chinatown, we found the biggest Xiao Long Bao (US$5.95 for 8) ever. The skin is a little thicker than Din Tai Fung's legendary XLB which in my opinion has the best skin. However, the piping hot soup and delicious meat filling makes up for it. The rice cake (US$8.95) was equally good!

10) Eileen's Cheesecake

I was surprised we didn't end up in the emergency ward of some NYC hospital. 

All the sinful things we eat were probably burnt to keep us warm in the freezer-like winter. 

No visit to NYC is complete without having the New York style cheesecake. We did our research and went to Eileen's cheesecake with high hopes.

Hmmm though it was creamy and smooth, the blueberry cheesecake (US$3.50) didn't really have an intense cheese flavor. It was lighter than what we hoped for. One of the customers kept telling us it was the best cheesecake ever. I guess this place attracts its own cult following.

11) Junior's Cheesecake

Junior's Cheesecake is certainly no junior when it comes to the art of cheesecake making. Creamy and consistent, every bite of the cheesecake was a burst of rich cheese flavor. Yes! This was what we were looking for.

The buffalo wings were smoky and flavorful with the blue cheese dipping.

Since I started this post with a city view from the top of Empire State Building, I shall end this post with a video of it. Can't teleport back to NYC now. But a video is definitely better than nothing!

Mad for Chicken turntable - 314 5th Ave 2nd Fl New York, NY 10001
Penelope - 159 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016
Shake Shack - 691 8th Avenue (8th Ave & 44th St)
Traif - 229 S 4th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Wafel and Dinghes - 209 E 2nd St New York, NY 10009
Balthazar - 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
Totto Ramen - 366 W 52nd Street (Bet. 8th & 9th Ave) New York, NY 10019
Clinton St Baking Company - 4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton) New York, NY 10002
Joe Shanghai - 9 Pell Street New York 10013
Eileen's cheesecake - 17 Cleveland Pl, New York, NY 10012
Junior's cheesecake - West 45th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave

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