NYC Eats: What I Ate in My Last 30 Days as a New Yorker

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Major Food Porn Alert. If you can get through this blog post without salivating, check your pulse because you're dead to me.

With my days numbered as a New Yorker, I made a list of all my essential NYC eats, a 60-Day Eating Bucket List. I had a good mix of new places that I needed to check out and repeats of places that I'd miss the most.

It's not that I couldn't come visit NYC to have another eating adventure, but it would never be the same. So many eats, so little time - you know? In July, I did a decent job making my way through this list, but our last 30 days here was when J and I seriously did some damage.

Here's what we ended up eating, rated on a scale of Shelly Stars and how much each place makes me miss NYC.

★★★★ - Absolutely Amazing, would move back to NYC for this


O Ya - Ooooo ya!? That's definitely what I was screaming after our meal here. It is the single most memorable meal that we had all summer, if not year. When I originally heard about this place, the snobby NYC foodie in me originally turned my nose up to the selling point of this place.

"It's the best sushi place in Boston. The owners Tim and Nancy (Cushman) wanted to bring their amazing concept to NYC!!"

Ummm, what does Bawston and two non-Japanese folks know about amazing sushi right? Apparently everything.

This isn't your typical omakase, and that's what made this so exciting. Say hello to Fingerling Potato, Summer Truffle and a touch of honey nigiri. Or, how about nigiri that reminds you of a bagel (smoked salmon and a hint of tomato). "Is this real life?", I kept asking myself as I took another bite of this 24-course omakase. Yes, there is a high price tag that goes along with this meal. But, this is our last meal here in NYC, and everyone in my group of 6 thought it was worth it.

Will have a dedicated post for this meal soon because this amazingness deserves to live in this blog forever :)



Ippudo - If you follow me on Instagram, then you'd know that I went to Ippudo 3 times in the last month of August because of our newest discovery. Did you know that you can ask for fresh garlic and a garlic press along with your bowl of Akamaru Modern ramen???

You guys, this is LIFE CHANGING. Honestly this seems to be a huge secret to us all - I have rarely seen any tables with a garlic press and a search on Yelp will show you it's only been mentioned 2-3 times out of over a thousand reviews! Apparently the fresh garlic comes standard at all Ippudos in Asia, but being such an American Ippudo eater, I just never knew! The fresh garlic gives the deep fatty broth a extra kick and completely elevates the flavors.

That's why I went for a total of three times in August, and it was amazing every time. While you're ordering, don't forget to also ask for a fresh sesame grinder. Thank you to my bestie Rena for telling me about this, and sorry again for not believing you when you first told me, lol. :)


Zabar's - Earlier this summer, I told you What You Need to Buy at Zabar's for the Ultimate Central Park Picnic, so of course I had to go back one last time for a last picnic. I love you Bi-Rite and Dolores Park, but you've got nothing on Zabar's and Central Park    .


Soba Totto - I've been trying to hit up different Japanese restaurants with lunch specials and I really hit the jackpot with Soba Totto. Can you believe the meal in the photo above only costs $10?

YES. $10!!

Where are you ever going to get such a high quality meal for 10 bucks? There is a small catch, Soba Totto only has 20 of these per day, so you have to get there slightly before opening to ensure you get it. If you can line up by around 11:30am for the 11:45am opening, you're golden.

This Chirashi bowl and Soba combo is worth the quick wait. I also came here another time 20 minutes after they opened and ordered their Sanshoku Don - uni, crab, ikura over rice - it was just as delicious, but much more $$. A popular choice here!


The Dead Rabbit - I am so happy that I finally got to go to the Parlor at Dead Rabbit once before I left NYC. This amazing cocktail bar has a long list of accolades, the most recent being The World's Best Bar and World's Best Cocktail Menu ranked by the good folks at Tales of the Cocktail.

Is it overhyped? Absolutely not. Since this bar is in the Financial District, it is slightly out of reach for the rest of the Manhattanites - it's about 25 minutes away from midtown, and yes we are that lazy. Anyway, my party of 3 waltzed in around opening time at 5:30pm on a weekday and was able to get seats right at the bar.

Quick tangent: this experience is a million times better than my most recent visit to PDT where the wait was 2 hours, and then the drinks absolutely sucked. Was watered down and lacked any depth of flavor. I guess it's too well known and touristy for them to give a crap about quality. Sad but true.

Anyway, more about the Dead Rabbit. The cocktail menu is a beautiful book that lists out cocktails by the season. It holds 72 of the best cocktails that bartenders in the past century has dreamt up. But if you're indecisive like me, you can always just ask the bartender. Oh, and did I mention there is $1 oyster happy hour until 7pm? Yes, we ordered a few dozen and it was glorious.

★★★☆ - Great noms, would eat again on a NYC trip


Takashi Midnight Ramen - If you are into garlic, this is THE ramen for you. I came to Takashi a while ago for their amazing Niku-Uni: uni on top of raw marbled chuck flap wrapped with a shiso leaf and seaweed. When Takashi's dinner service is over on Fridays and Saturdays, it turns into a ramen joint. The midnight ramen is literally served at midnight and if you get here early enough you can get foie gras added to it. Is it necessary? Probably not. But did I want it? Hell yes!

Unfortunately, we missed the boat on that additional add-on but this ramen because the first group ordered all of it. But even without the foie, this bowl is a flavortown of beefy goodness. Their beef bone broth is the fattiest ramen broth I have ever had so I don't think I can make this my regular ramen place. You know, that and the fact that I can't be eating ramen at midnight all the time.

But is this one of the best bowls of ramen I've had in the city? Yes and yes. The flavors will linger in my mind forever. The intense garlic flavor and the crispy small beef intestines makes this extra drool-worthy. Worth checking out if you've already been to Ippudo and Totto Ramen (the most popular ramen places in NYC) and want to try something new.


Maharlika - I don't do brunch often (gasp), but when I brunch, I make sure it's at Maharlika.

I've written about this filipino brunch place before, but it is a classic for me. I personally love it because they serve garlic fried rice topped with a fried egg for brunch (yaass), but they also just serve delicious twists of classic brunch foods.

One of the favorite dishes for me here is their take on chicken and waffle: the chicken is fried filipino style - without batter, the waffle is a purple yam waffle (ube) and its condiments are a compound of anchovy-bagoong butter and caramelized coconut flesh (macapuno) syrup.

Anyone who I've taken to here loves it, and you will too!


Katz's Deli - The pastrami sandwich is a NYC classic because it's a staple for Jewish cuisine. Katz's Deli has been open since 1888, so pretty much when the Jewish population took over Lower East Side at the peak of their immigration to the city.

Yes, there are other places to get a great pastrami sandwich (2nd Avenue Deli has less of a line and is much cleaner, and Carnegie Deli is much closer to Time Square but I've personally never been), but Katz's Deli is definitely an iconic NYC spot to visit. Bonus points given because the infamous orgasm scene  from "When Harry Met Sally" was filmed right here.


Clinton Street Baking Co. - The reason we went to eat at Katz' Deli this month was actually because of these panckaes. I thought Clinton Street opened at 8AM on a Saturday and dragged some folks who were visiting me down here at around 7:30AM to ensure we were first in line. Turned out it's open at 8AM on weekdays, and 9AM on Saturdays. Woops, with one hour to spare, we pre-gamed our pancakes with some pastrami nearby.

Fast forward an hour: we go back to Clinton Street Baking Co at 8:30AM and there was already a line forming! By the time the restaurant opened, the line was long enough so that you would likely have to wait an hour and a half before you got a table. Clinton Street is one of those places in NYC that will likely have a long wait on the weekends, but is SO TOTALLY WORTH IT (*ahem* unlike Cronuts at Dominique Ansel...).

The blueberry pancakes is what we all come here for. It's crispy and buttery on the outside, and light soft and fluffy in the inside. Top it off with their warm maple butter and you're in for a good time. My visitors were very pleased.


Dough - I've already written a love letter to Doughnut Plant, but never to Dough. Dough's yeast donuts are so fluffy and damn addictive. Not to mention, their fun glazes such as this hot pink hibiscus flavor is just so fun to look at.

Dough used to only be available in far-ish Brooklyn and often at Smorgasburg but now have a location in Flatiron which makes it super convenient for anyone in the city craving one of these fluffy bad boys to just go and grab it.


Shake Shack - Prior to living in NYC, I had a whole Shake Shack vs In-N-Out convo with J, a Shake Shack enthusiast. I used to be very gung ho about my love In-N-Out, but I think J has turned me into a Shake Shack believer.

So here's what's great about Shake Shack. The meat on the burger is thick, juicy and has a stronger beef flavor (in a good way). It's for a true meat lover who wants that dripping grease from their patty - and Shake Shack provides the perfect fluffy griddled potato bun to soak it up.

Then, you have to consider only going to the Madison Square Park location of Shake Shack because 1) it's the original, and 2) the location is just beautiful. There's outdoor seating right in the park, the experience only further enhanced at night with the view of the lit up Empire State Building right behind you. Yes, there's a bit of the wait, but it adds to the whole feel of it. Just grab a beer in the B line and hang out, sip your beer with a friend and wait in line for some food.


Lavazza - If you're in the neighborhood of Shake Shack and Flatiron, pop into Eataly for some coffee. Lavazza is super popular in Italy, and it's just as delicious at this mega-Italian superstore opened by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.

We ended up getting the Affogato and Cremespresso as dessert. The Cremespresso is an espresso blended with milk and cream, frozen into a sorbet, delicious for a dessert/pick me up so that you can keep eating ;)


99 Favor Taste - I LOVE HOT POT. I love it so much that I went to hot pot even on the hottest days of NYC summer in August. For those unfamiliar, hot pot is just like a Chinese fondue. There's different kinds of boiling broths that you can dip your raw food into. Once it cooks in the broth, you can start stuffing your face.

I have a special place in my heart for 99 Favor Taste (and yes, it's Favor, not Flavor, so you know it's hella authentic lol). It's probably the easiest place to introduce any of your friends to hot pot who don't know what they're doing.

It's all you can eat, so you don't feel guilty for ordering weird stuff to try. And, even better, each person gets their own tiny hot pot instead of the usual communal ones you find at hot pot places so it seems more sanitary for those who aren't used to sharing.


New York Food Court - Another good destination for authentic Chinese eats is Flushing in Queens. Flushing is the biggest Chinatown you will ever find in the United States. When you take the 7 train from Grand Central and exit at the last stop, you will literally feel like you're in China.

There are tons of people who do Flushing Food Tours and while I didn't really eat my way through Flushing, I did end up going to the New York Food Court to have my way around the different booths. My favorite ended up being this place where you picked a mix of meats and veggies and they toss it in a spicy ma-la sauce. This is as authentic as you can get without actually having to leave the country.

I forgot what this place is called, but you can do what I did.  Be a creeper and go walk around and look at what other people are eating. Once you spot something that looks delicious, ask them which booth they got it from. Don't worry, most Chinese people love sharing delicious eats, so they will gladly point you to the right direction.


Lucali - Alright, first let me put it out there - Lucali is Jay-Z and Beyonce's favorite pizza joint in NYC. If this place is good enough for Queen Bey, it's good enough for me.

Unfortunately, unlike Queen Bey, us commoners actually have to work pretty hard to get a table here. It opens at 6pm on the weekends, so likely you'll have to come and put your name down at 5pm so that you and your gang can get a spot. We ended up getting a table at around 7pm.

To make things a little bit more bearable, Lucali is BYOB so you can at least get your drink on while you wait, and for cheap! This was my first time here and I'm really glad we paid this place a visit. The pizza here is simple: there's just 1 pizza as a base: a basil garlic tomato sauce. Then there's only a few toppings you can choose from. It makes things easy - we ordered the special that day which had artichoke hearts and peppers. It was addictive.

You can ask for extra garlic on the side, and it also comes with a basic tomato sauce that you can dip your crust into it and pretend like you're Queen Bey for the day.



Marea - Speaking of Jay-Z and Beyonce, did you know that they spent their Valentine's Day this year at Marea? Who knew they were such foodies? Marea will always have a special place in my heart because it's the first place J took me to to celebrate my birthday when we first got together, and now it's even more special because my amazing friend Chef Tony is the Pastry Chef there.

I've written a few things about Marea on the blog already: 1) birthday meal and 2) a compilation post of the few other times I've eaten here, hint: dessert galore, but here's my cliff notes on my faves:

  • Ricci- uni and lardo on toast, OMGGG
  • All the crudos, you can't go wrong
  • Red Wine-braised Octopus, and Bone Marrow Fusilli
  • All the desserts, because duh


Eleven Madison Park - J and I couldn't leave Manhattan without having a final hurrah at Eleven Madison Park. We went here in 2012 and it's still one of our favorite meals of all time. We didn't want to do the full on tasting menu cause, 1) $$ and 2) we want to come back to NYC to eat it again eventually. So we did the next best thing, we grabbed a quick bite at the bar.

One of the lesser known things about Eleven Madison Park, currently ranked as the #5 in the Top 50 restaurants in the World, is that you can just grab a seat at the bar without a reservation and order from their a la carte menu. We got there half an hour after it opened and got seated pretty much immediately.

We enjoyed a few cocktails from their amazing cocktail program and ordered an app, main and dessert. While the food was good, I think I enjoyed our full on tasting menu experience a lot more. The bar is a great alternative if you want to try the food and want to save a lot on your budget, but I would definitely recommend going for the full menu if you can.


Del Posto - J really really wanted to come back here for their Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Ragu and I happily agreed because the lunch prix fixe at this 1 Michelin Star restaurant is just such a solid deal for amazing Italian food and great service. Oh, did I mention that there's a live piano player serenading you through a food coma? Classssy.

We definitely had our share of "So this is what it's like to be a fancy New Yorker" moments throughout the whole meal.

The dish pictured above is my favorite of this meal, a Truffled Beef Carne Cruda with Crispy Salsify Chips. Excellent flavors with the cute little chips cutting through the otherwise soft texture of the raw beef. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich - you guys done good.

★★☆☆ - Good, would eat if I lived here


Sushi Dojo - Sushi Chef David Bouhadana of Sushi Dojo told us on his Instagram: You Uni Live Once! But if you're as addicted as I am these days, you uni live as many times as you possibly can. And Sushi Dojo is where I like to uni up.

You see those bowls of uni in the pic? Chef Bouhadana serves delicious uni flights where you can sample uni from different places: Maine, Santa Barbara, Chile, Hokkaido, etc. Yaaassss!

I'm only a little sad because the last time I was here, they were testing out a new rice and they put a bit too much water to cook it for my taste. Rice aside, the omakase was still tasty with high quality fish for an affordable price.


Ootaya - After hearing about Ootaya over and over again, I finally gave this semi-casual Japanese spot a try. Overall I thought it was a bit pricey for what we got, so I would recommend checking it out for their lunch special to save some money.

Personally really enjoyed this yakitori box: momo (chicken thigh), mune wasabi (chicken breast), tsukune (chicken meatball), tebamoto (upper chicken thigh), and momo asparagus served on top of rice.


Tanoshi - This BYOB omakase in the Upper East Side is another affordable sushi dinner in Manhattan, but my repeat meal of this had me a little bit disappointed. Since our last visit, they expanded to their tiny restaurant to have 2 sushi counters.

We got seated at the new sushi counter which also meant our sushi chef had to have all the fish pre-sliced, wrapped in saran wrap since they were away from the main counter. It took some of the magic of an omakase away, but it was delicious nonetheless. I wouldn't make a special trip here when I visited NYC, but for those looking a good sushi meal and live in the city, it's definitely worth checking out.


Jeepney - I'm completely obsessed with filipino food, I love the savory and vinegary flavor profiles in the meals. I've been to Jeepney's sister restaurant Maharlika tons of times (see post above), but this is the first time I've ever been to Jeepney.

We came for their Kamayan Night- a huge "eat with your hands" feast for bigger groups. I really enjoyed the experience and spectacle of having the food spread out on banana leaves in front of us but realistically I would probably only come back to eat just straight off the menu and with utensils =P

Here's what we ended up ordering:

Appetizers
LUMPIANG SHANGHAI - beef/pork, carrots, water chestnuts, xiao xing, rice paper, WARM PINAKBET SALAD - roasted kabocha squash, sautéed eggplant, steamed long beans, pork belly w/ bagoong broth & chicharron

Mains
**BICOL EXPRESS (so good!) - slow-roasted pork shoulder, coconut milk, sili & bagoong
INASAL NA MANOK - 1/2 roasted chicken marinated in lemograss, calamansi, soy sauce, achuete served w/ bokchoy
ADOBONG HIPON (thought this was a bit overcooked) - head on shrimp sautéed in garlic, ginger, vinegar & bay leaf

All meals include longganisa (amazing pork sausage), ensalada, rice (we made ours garlic fried), and halo-halo (delicious filipino dessert) and costs $45 per person. We ended up with way too much food and everyone was able to pack lunch for the next day.




Huertas - Been meaning to try this Basque tapas place for a while. Huertas is a highly rated Basque-style tapas spot, so it's pretty much like going to San Sebastian right? ;) We ended up coming here twice over the course of the month. Once for the hot dogs and spiked horchata slushie special at lunch (recommended!), and once for their $1 Pintxos Tuesday during happy hour.

I enjoyed all the $1 pintxos, but what I would come back for is their $10 Can and Conserva special. In this deal, you get a beer along with a canned fish on bread - which doesn't sound too fancy except when the dish comes out, it looks like the photo above.

Beautiful + Tasty = Winning!


Musket Room - Had a last hurrah with some of my favorite NYC foodies - Cindy of ChubbyChineseGirl and Terry of Food Journies and we wanted to try somewhere new. Of course as food bloggers we all eat with our eyes, so when we feast our eyes on the Instagram of Chef Matt of the Musket Room, we knew we had to go immediately.

Everything here was beautifully presented, and of course us girls took forever taking photos of each of the dishes. One of the favorites of the night was this Corn Custard with Shaved Truffles and Herbs but truthfully I didn't have anything that I was like, zOMG must come back here ASAP.


Amorino - Speaking of my favorite NYC foodies, the week that I was leaving NYC, Tabelog hosted a gelato event at Amorino for us food bloggers (yay, thanks again for that!). It was at this event where I had this beautiful gelato rose made for me.

The flavors pictured here is yogurt, mango and peach - not sure if I would have normally ordered this flavor combo, but you know, it made for a great pic ;)

★☆☆☆ - Meh


Domo Domo - After walking past Domo Domo a few times in Greenwich Village, being intrigued by the fun name and modern decor, I was a bit curious about it. After seeing my favorite Japanese foodie, Cutie Patroller, post about it on her IG, I took the plunge to go eat there too.

Sad to say I was a bit disappointed. Being a pretty new restaurant, there's still some hiccups with the place. I made a reservation but ended up having to wait for an additional 30 minutes because it seemed like they overbooked. Besides that, the overall quality of the fish here just wasn't as orgasmic as other meals we've had. For example, when we had the hotate (scallop) nigiri, I expected the flavors to be sweet and for my eyes to want to roll to the back of my head cause it's so noms.

However, I never once felt like anything was THATTT amazing here. I did like the fun unagi dish they had at the end - the black dot you see on top of the fish is chocolate, which is unexpected but goes well with a sweet eel sauce.

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So that's it - it's a wrap. My days as a New Yorker is finally over, but I'm glad I went out with a bang. Thank you New York City on teaching me how to be a true foodie and opening me up to all these delicious adventures!!!

Now to become a healthier person in California. These meals have completely wrecked my fitness progresses. Also as promised, I'll do a round-up of all my ClassPass classes I did during these last 60 days as well. Because you know, this is a diary of a Fitness Foodie afterall. ;)

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