Welcome back to my final two days of exploring New York’s dining culture. We continue our journey from our previous posts Part 1 and Part 2.
An amazing new concept in NYC are single named celebrity chef venues with many genre’s of food stations that you can order, from homemade breads and pizzas to sushi bar, homemade pasta and homemade sausage station and much more. It’s an amazing signature spin on a traditional food court. Today we visited Todd English’s Food Hall and I was blown away with the quality of the food. There were about 10 different restaurants. The sushi was excellent, I was amazed considering I’ve been eating sushi in Hawaii for the past 20 years which has great, premium fresh fish. Seemed no matter what you chose; Spanish, Italian, sushi, grill, raw oyster bar, a communal theme, all fantastic. You could take it home with you or eat it there.
Next my dining consociate and I, Brian Berusch, went to East Village, very cool and eclectic. There we checked out Lady M Confections, Manhattan’s hottest bakery of the moment. The owner, Ken Romaniszyn is actually a local from Hawaii. His mother owns Wasabi bistro here in Honolulu. We sat with Ken and talked story over slices of the most insane crépe. Ken graduated from Harvard with a business degree and turned this gem around. When he took over it was a struggling business and now he has three Lady M’s, Royce’s confections shop and a 4th opening in LA right now. Smart businessman. They have 40 bakers in a central New York location. They’re known for their Mille Crêpes. It’s made with twenty lacy thin crêpes. Light, beautiful and creamy. Others have tried to duplicate it but the baker who invented it is the only one who can actually do it authentically.
We breezed through Algonquin Hotel, one of the first boutique hotels in Manhattan. We checked out the restaurant, lounge and lobby that hosts top celebs regularly.
We enjoyed a special 7 course tasting dinner at Torrisi Italian Specialties, a two-month-out reservation only eatery. I encourage you to check out the link to see how visually beautiful their presentation is. This place makes an untraditional sheep’s milk gnocchi. It was the lightest fluffy most delicious gnocchi I’ve ever had. They make the sheep’s milk ricotta in house and then add a very minute amount of flour. The less you can put in the better. delicately rolled and then refrigerated to dry them out just a little so they can actually be handled. Then they flash poach them and serve with chive butter and pecorino cheese. A sausage paté with a tomato jelly that was very innovative. A duxelle mushroom paté accompanied. The homemade pasta course was spectacular. There was a bouillabaisse with fresh skate fish, which was pretty cool. It actually had some Szechuan peppers, so it was their spin on traditional Italian; a little hint of fusion. They had a charred Wagyu short rib with polenta. Nice small portions with a really nice bottle of wine. It was a very intimate venue, someplace I would love to experience with my wife but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves; the dinner was excellent. Models, actors, young and trendy is the vibe. There’s like 25 seats in the whole restaurant. We would have missed out on a spectacular experience if Brian’s friend didn’t hook us up.
We checked out the venerable Gramercy Tavern. Enjoyed sweetbreads, baked clams and other appetizers.
Starting with lunch at the midtown power-lunch institution 21 Club. It’s your classic Manhattan fare done with precision, white glove service for down home food.
Checked out DB Bistro, the power lunch eatery with the famous $30 foie gras and short rib hamburger that made headlines when it first came out.
We took the subway to Brooklyn and ate at Pauli Gee’s. Super busy artisan pizza place with a big stone oven and craft beers on tap. It’s got a cool, modern New York style vibe. They were cooking them too hot though. The crust was crispy but they were kind of gooey in the middle, not cooked all the way. They are a new establishment so I think if you went when they weren’t as busy the pizzas could be excellent. Great taste however. Interesting ingredients: kale and parsley oil pizza to name one. I tried 7 or 8 different types of pizzas. Between 18 of us we had something like 16 pizzas on the table.
Brian’s restaurateur friend took us to Xixa, a super hip eatery-of-the-moment getting major press this fall. It’s a Mexican, Szechuan mashup run by a Jewish guy and his wife who earned fame for launching a really successful pork-focused restaurant, next door, in a Hassidic Jewish neighborhood. Pork isn’t allowed in their religion, go figure. The food at Xixa blew our collective minds. Very Unique.
We didn’t make it to every borough but we went to Gramercy, SoHo, Union Square, Brooklyn, Chinatown, East Village, Times Square, Tribeca. I have to say that with all the bustling of New York City everyone was really polite and hospitable. It’s New York so you don’t make eye contact with people but once you stop and ask someone a question they were very accommodating and friendly. What I’ve heard a lot of was that after 911 and the economy crashing people really stopped and reevaluated things. New York is so much cleaner and very little visible homelessness since my last experiences. I remember being in 7th grade and just remembered thinking how dirty and overwhelming it all was. Then I went again shortly after getting married and our rental car got broken into. That’s what I expected New York to be; this was all before 911. Going back this time I came to the realization that I could actually live there now. Areas of crime still exist out there but those areas have shrunk. A lot of gentrification has occurred.
If I opened a restaurant in New York I would do a noodle place. I think that’s what’s missing there. They say in Tokyo there’s no such thing as a bad restaurant. I think that might be true for New York as well. The environment is ultra competitive and rent is so high and people are fickle. Bringing what I’ve learned from Hawaii and introducing it to Manhattan could have some great success I think. Asian food in Honolulu is hard to beat. A lot of people would argue that in LA and NYC but from what I saw, it’s hard to beat. Respectively, here in Hawaii there aren’t many great Italian or French restaurants.
This trip was a spectacular experience and the best dining trip I’ve had to date. I gained 7 pounds. People think that Honolulu is 10 years behind the food trend and they might be right. What our beautiful city might lack in sophistication it makes up for with freshness, charm and an outstanding plethora of world class Asian cuisine. We have a small town mentality with a metropolitan feel. I love how we are situated and lucky to live Hawaii!