Tasting Menus: New York City (Lunch, Dinner, Drinks)

I'm back from a holiday in the USA, adapting to a five hour time difference, lack of daily brunch, and a 25 degree temperature drop. Yes, we timed our visit perfectly with The Heatwave. I sought a good dose of summer weather, and Mother Nature wrapped me in a sweaty bear hug. If only my body could conserve that 100 degree heat and dole it out when the English summer is chilling me to the bone.  Anyway, enough on the weather, there is SO much good menu tasting to report! Following are some amazingly delicious yet affordable dining and drinking suggestions...

I lived in NYC for seven years, but my time in London has been almost as long now, meaning the restaurant scene has turned over a few thousand times since I left. I'd compiled a few must-trys on my hit list for this trip, and fortunately I have a Brooklyn-residing sister who made a few killer suggestions.

Par exemple, one sweltering evening Katy suggested we go to the cocktail bar Lani Kai in Soho. A cool, calm Hawaiian decor greets you off the busy city streets. It's an oasis in the concrete jungle. Plus they have a happy hour menu, with delicious frosty drinks. We didn't eat anything, but there's some tasty looking food, ranging from Ahi tuna sliders to mac and cheese. We 'dined' on the Brain Freeze cocktails, which I admit sound like something a teenager would guzzle and vomit but the Bermuda Triangle (Cachaça, coconut, kalamansi and lychee juice) and 8o8 State (A blend of white rums, pineapple, lime and velvet falernum) were well-balanced and refreshing.

A happy addition to the NYC causal eats scene is the Shake Shack. It's the kind of place that is such a natural fit, and hit, you wonder why it wasn't always around. Outstandingly successful restauranteur Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, etc., etc.) started the SS with the Madison Park location, and has since opened up several other Shacks. It's a classic roadside burger stand reinvented for urban settings. The original shack, which we visited, is well designed to sit in this small city park, sleek and unobtrusive.

One feature that stands out is the queue, people are willing to wait a while for this fast food (we waited an easy 30 minutes at 2pm), but you'll understand why when you tuck in. The menu features hot dogs and burgers, frozen custard in varying forms (shakes, the thicker 'concretes', cups and cones) crinkle cut fries, beer and wine.

I bring good news to the non-meat eaters — they make an out-of-this-world mushroom burger. Rejoice, there's no slimy limp shroom soggin' up your bun. This is a crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with L, T and tangy 'Shake Sauce', all on the perfect vehicle for burgers, a soft potato roll (the UK needs to embrace these). Take a moment and gaze at the money shot atop this article. MAN. It was tasty. The crinkle fries, which I usually pass on as they tend to be soft, were just the right crispy texture. The shakes are ideal in size, providing a bit of a frosty cool treat, without leaving you feeling ill. And you eat it all with a view of the Empire State Building. So, yea, it's worth a wait.

Another place that's worth a wait — and this one lives up to near-hysterical levels of hype — is Momofuku Noodle Bar. I was practically panting with anticipation when we crossed the threshold. This is the first of chef/owner David Chang's restaurants, he now has a smattering in Manhattan. The menu is EXCITING. Seasonal ingredients, huge flavours, and delicate presentation are hallmarks. The pork buns are near legendary, as are the deep, seemingly bottomless bowls of ramen. Snacks and dinner specials are listed on chalk boards, as are the local producers who've provided ingredients.

My Manhattan-dwelling cousin Timothy implored us to order a soy sauce egg from the snack menu. He wasn't sure exactly what they did to it or what was sprinkled on it, but he was sure we wanted to eat it. You sir, were correct. It's like nothing you've ever had before, in a brilliant way. The egg has been hard boiled and then soaked in soy sauce, mirin and sherry vinegar and topped with minced scallions and fried shallots.  

The buns, we had a few. Pork, mushroom and shrimp. Succulent powerhouse fillings flung into pillows, their ongoing popularity is instantly understood.  

Noodles were next, our table heaved under the weight of scrumptious bowls of pork belly ramen and ginger scallion noodles.  

We went to 'fuku on a Monday night and only had to wait 10 minutes to be seated; the place was buzzing with happy diners, a feel-good casual spot without any of the pretensions that burden others with such critical acclaim. If you've still got room, round the corner and visit their Milk Bar, a tiny to-go dessert outlet. Try the 'cereal milk' ice cream and you'll be bowled over by the likeness achieved. 

Now, on to Brooklyn, where they excel at creating cosy neighbourhood restaurants. On our first night in town we set up camp at The JakeWalk, a friendly neighbourhood wine, cheese and cocktail bar in Brooklyn. Katy is a waitress here, and we know from a previous visit that they put together a smashing selection of drinks and bites.

This place — this is exactly what we need in my pub-saturated hood. A place where you can stop in for a PERFECTLY chilled glass of wine or an expertly made cocktail (served in a vintage cocktail glass) a selection of amazing cheese, and small plates of seasonal, delicious food. Check out the menus, you'll see what I mean. On a hot and sticky night we cooled down with the "slammin'" German wine recommend to us — Schloss Muhlenhof 'Michel' Muller Thurgau. Minerally and just slightly effervescent, it is the quintessential summer tipple. We ate Figs with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Reduction on Toast, Watermelon-Mint Julep Salad, and English Pea Crostini. (These lovely photos are by Mike Dulles at The JakeWalk)

serves my sister's second favourite pizza in the city (her favourite was closed) and if that's number two well I can't wait for our next trip to taste something even better than this! While we waited for a table (about 30 minutes at 10pm on a Sunday night) I enjoyed a fantastic cocktail. I'm not a fan of sweet drinks, thus wary of anything 'fruity' but I'm obsessed with blueberries, so I gave the Sal's Blueberry cocktail a shot. The mix of blueberry-infused Tito's vodka, Vergano Americano, and fresh lemon juice was juicy, tart and refreshing. An ideal aperitif. 

 The menu at Franny's offers a mix of interesting seasonal salads, antipasti and pizzas. We started with a salad of pole beans, pistachios, summer onion and panaleo as well as a plate of burrata (on trend!) with olives, bread, artichokes, aubergine, and cauliflower. 

I chose a pizza topped with ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, basil, garlic and hot peppers. A wood fire oven glows in the back of this busy restaurant, producing pizzas with a wonderfully flat crust that puffs and chars slightly on the edges. The creaminess of the ricotta and kick of hot pepper was sensational. You can taste why this place is still packed at 10pm on a Sunday.

NYC may be chock full of fine dining establishments, but the places I've mentioned serve stupendous food and drink in friendly settings that will turn you into a regular and not rob you silly. For now I'm just a regular dreamer of a return visit.


  1. Your post has just made me so hungry! I love all the varieties of food you tried, those burgers look MEAN!

  2. Sounds like a great trip! I've heard only good things about Momofoku. The soy sauce egg sounds like a great discovery!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...