Monday, September 03, 2007

Ze Food

Eating my way through New York City

Scene Now: It’s been weeks since I got back and life has been moving at a clip I don’t normally relish. I more of a slow mo and this is killing me. It’s September already! I have no excuse except work and more travel and sheer laziness in between. I hope this post makes you drool and forgive me.

Scene 1: I have arrived in NooYaark on a sweltering Friday mid-day. It’s been five long working days in London, busy socially but without my boy, a state I am never happy in. V can’t escape office but two of my school friends can escape theirs and so we have arranged to meet for tea at 4. We go to an all American Diner in Midtown Manhattan, with its neon 50s billboard and faux leather upholstered booths and no-nonsense look and drink milkshakes instead of tea. No one makes milkshakes quite like the American’s. Just 2 Litres of thick and creamy flavoured milkshake in a glass and the remains in the mixer all left at your table - enough in one serving to feed 4 people anywhere in the world. All mine. All mine.

Diners: All over NYC

Scene 2: At a crossing in the grid of streets that are mid-town Manhattan, V and I reunited. Beaming faces we head to a restaurant he has been to with colleagues a couple of times before and raved about. Hatsuhana is a wonderful sushi restaurant on 48th street, a quiet retreat in a bustling metropolis. The calm interior is spread out on two floors but without a booking you would be hard pressed to find place. There are lots of beautiful calligraphy hangings whispering about on rice paper, encouraged by the breeze of the air conditioning units and tables of Japanese people enjoying a fine meal. The sushi kitchen is behind a counter and you can watch the chefs prepare your meal from bar stools going around it. The hot food kitchen is tucked away. We shared a number of freshly made sushi and sashimi beautifully decorated on a platter and a salmon teriyaki with some rice. An utterly delicious meal, and a sublime evening.

Hatsuhana: 17 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017. Tel: +1-212 355 3345

Scene 3: This Monday evening, after a day of wandering I meet the office-weary V and there is no question about where we will eat. We have returned to the greatest steakery in the known universe to get me some steak: Keene’s Chophouse. It’s been around for over 120 years and seriously knows a thing or two about good steak. From the pavement this non-descript frontage does not look particularly inviting. This is probably a good thing to avoid great teeming crowds although once inside the crowded belly of the restaurant it is clear that a door is just a door. We sat in its wood paneled bar, surrounded by the huge collection of old photographs and clay and wood pipes and listened to the chatter of New York while eating the BEST steaks in the world, tender, tasteful, done just right and accompanied by sides that are so tasty yet quietly complimentary so as to not intrude or hold court. There is no argument about this. Keene’s is truly too good to adequately describe and too wonderful to ever miss.

Keen's Chop House: 72 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018. Tel: +1-212-847 3636

Scene 4: Bobby Van’s is a chain and the one we are at is on a main street with its entrance tucked into an alleyway. You could miss it amidst the bustle of the suited and booted people on the sidewalk if you did not know where to look. At a large round table we share with V’s colleagues the conversation is all business. A huge seafood platter, gleaming on ice, for those so inclined. I have a giant Portobello mushroom in something herby instead. And my steak is the main meal. It’s a good meal but not a patch on Keene’s. It’s all very loud as Manhattan seems to descend on the packed bar and it’s fully booked tables on a mid-week evening. Conversation shifts to include me and my holiday-while-her-husband-works. I get suggestions for sightseeing, museum viewing, Broadway shows and shopping; very helpful tips on timings/ popularity/ the good stuff/ sales/ independent stores. It’s a wonderful evening and I feel befriended and like I met the soul of New Yorkers and it’s no cold thing.

Bobby Vans: 230 Park Avenue, S.E. Corner of 46th St & Park, New York City. Tel: +1-(212-867-5490

Scene 5: I am in Café Europa nursing a steaming cappuccino and watching Nyorkers skidaddle like ladybugs, crossing streets, rushing somewhere, anywhere but here. It’s Starbuck-sy in here but just a great giant tad more refreshing. They make a delightful Chocolate yogurt slice for $1.95 and I trick myself into believing that anything with yogurt in it has got to have health benefits. Even though its busy busy busy I am never rushed out of here. Service is great and customer is king in Yam-erika.

Café Europa: Everywhere you turn in NYC

Scene 6: It is our last evening in Now Yawk and on the suggestion of someone who knows what they are talking about we are looking for the door of Felidia. It’s is on a street of restaurants, many of which were not in the least bit inviting or encouraging. We had walked the length of the block and I was tired (from dawdling and shopping) and near losing my patience and any hope of finding it when there it was, just across the street, an unassuming door with an understated sign. Behind it was a treat I did not anticipate. In a modest space, past a long mahogany bar, was the most comforting restaurant possible, with soft lighting and amazing wine racks built into the deep yellow walls. The gentle clinking of glass and cutlery and the divine aroma of fine food was enough to even my jagged mood out. A set of breads with 3 different dipping accompaniments set up the meal. Dinner was sumptuous to say the very least, with freshly cooked pasta gently coated with its accompanying sauces/ ingredients on a small tableside trolley. A lot of unusual and yet fairly traditional dishes, with game and seafood and rich sauces accompanying amazingly light and flavourful pasta’s. Not a bowl of regular Spaghetti Bolognaise anywhere in sight. Sated stomachs everywhere.

Felidia: 243 E 58th Street, New York, NY 10022-1201. Tel: +1-212-758-1479

Scene Present: Hunger pangs at just the thought of all this food. The first week of August marked one year of gym-working-out and I am proud to say I stuck it out this long, if with decreasing levels of motivation. I have realized one thing: As long as there is fine food in the world and I have access to it I will never lose any real weight but really I do not care. I will however be a happier person thanks to the tastes and textures of good food all over the globe.

Don’t take this opportunity to comment about the need for moderation please - let me live by my words and memories please.


  1. Anonymous5:04 AM

    Moderation Shmoderation!
    Life is short and there's not enough time for all those yummy things out there.

  2. Anonymous10:29 AM

    All great spots but you forgot about the most important meal of the day...BREAKFAST! Give La Bonbonbiere a whirl. 8th Ave at Jane. Best eggs and bacon in the city. Peruvian family owned, been there forever.

  3. Ahh, sushi happens to be a weakness of mine.

    I have a terrific fondness for yellowtail and ika nigiri. Oh, and chakin sushi is a close second. I must try out Hatsuhana when I'm in New York City, now that you mention it.

    Speaking of Japanese food, there is an authentic Japanese pub called Hagi on West 49th Street. Don't expect sushi, though. Apparently sushi does not qualify as Japanese pub food, but they are said to have excellent yakitori and kushiyaki with reasonable prices. My Japanese friends swear by it and tell me that they feel like they're back in Japan, so I guess you could try it out. Its on my 'next time I'm in New York City' to do list as well. :)

  4. Anonymous3:37 AM

    YUM! All I can say is that this post is crying out for some photos! Welcome back!

  5. Anonymous3:34 AM

    30in2005, I've tagged you with a What's in my fridge? meme. Hope you have the time to participate in it.