New York

New York, A Round Up

Prior to our New York trip I took food planning to a new level. Inside the depths of my iPhone were each district of the city, marked out with places to eat for each budget and every plausible occasion. Want somewhere to eat on the cheap in Little Italy? I have it covered. Breakfast in Mid Town? I’m your man. Except I’m not. Even the best made plans go to waste. It transpires that not everyone wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 10am, or that even I care where we eat after drinking all day. After already posting on our experiences at Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku Noodle Bar, here is a snapshot of the rest of our eating in the Big Apple.


I have been dreaming about Dos Toros ever since we came back. I don’t care that it is a chain – for me they have the perfect business model. It’s fairly priced, they have real ethics about meat sourcing, and, most importantly, a product that works. The burritos are absolutely the best I have ever had and make the UK’s efforts look pathetic in comparison. The braised meat (we tried both the pork and the chicken), the guacamole, the black beans, even the bloody tortilla. Even single element was handmade and delicious. Add a hot sauce with enough raw heat to induce tears and beer which is almost as cheap as water and you have one of my favourite places in the world.



This can not be said about a couple of other places.  We ended up at The Sugar Factory on the recommendation of a server in a bar whilst on the hunt for Americana in The Meat Packing district.  I can only assume she hated the Brits.  Its the stuff of nightmares; TGI Fridays seen through the eyes of Heat magazine.  The walls are plastered with pictures of awful celebrities whist awful staff serve awful food.  I never took photos as I was too busy looking in disbelief at the dead fly on the rim of my cocktail glass.  The scariest part was not the bone dry chicken, or the heart attack inflicting deep fried mac and cheese, but that the place was full.

The Jintan ended up our default diner when the queue at Momofuku Noodle Bar defeated us first time around.  In premise, its a great neighbourhood Japanese restaurant; low stools, dim lighting, a big sake list and a menu with some things in soup, some raw things, and other things battered and deep fried.  The reality is it wasn’t very good, with vegetable tempura that bordered on raw and a notably bad chicken katsu curry, which tasted a bit like my mothers stew did, only not as nice.  Add staff who were up there with some of the rudest I am yet to encounter and you have somewhere with no real redeeming feature other than it serving ramen across the road from somewhere where people may get fed up of queuing at for ramen.



That same evening we had a table booked at PDT, an achingly cool speak-easy through the phone box at Crif Dogs in the East Village.  Still hungry and getting drunker by the minute, I try a hotdog wrapped in bacon and loaded with kimchi spicy enough to make you question your choice the following day.  It was good, but then I live within walking distance of Chilli Dog Hotdogs, so perhaps I’m spoilt when it comes to sausages in a bun.


We finish our trip with an eating challenge at The Pullman Kitchen because my friend Phil and I would rather eat 5lbs of food than walk around Bloomingdales handbag shopping all day.  The Beast of Midtown East is just that; some deep-fried chicken, waffles, cheese, peppers, bacon, ham and the kitchen sink.  Did we finish it? Of course not.  But we had a great time trying, partially because the girl behind the bar exhuded the sort of charismatic service that we had stupidly hoped was standard in NYC, and partially because the sandwich was very nice.  It would make a great lunch for 2-3 people, but for one it was just daft.  The Pullman Kitchen is a lovely neighbourhood bar-restaurant, which just happens to house a stupendous sandwich. Here is Phil with The Beast of the Midtown East:



So, a mixed bag in this grand city, with unsurprisingly the researched places coming out better than those left to chance.  Not that this is a shock; look to any major city with a large foot-flow of tourists and you’ll have to search hard for the good ‘uns amongst those looking to make a fast buck from a good location.  But none of this has detracted from New York – its one of the finest places in the world.  It will take more than one or two dodgy meals to stop me going back.

Dos Toros 8/10

Sugar Factory 0/10

The Jintan NYC 3/10

PDT 7/10

The Pullman Kitchen 8/10

Dos Toros Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sugar Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PDT (Please Don't Tell) Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pullman Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York

The queue at Momofuku Noodle Bar reminded me of home.  Person after person, all lumberjack shirts, beards and beanies, waiting in line for a bowl of soup with bits in.  How very British.  I know people back in UK that would have joined the back of it for fun.  Me, I hate queuing.  Its wasted time that I could be spending doing more important things.  Like drinking.  Or being obnoxious.  But the original offering from the Momofuku group was high on the NYC hit list, partially due to it being a block away from our accommodation, though mostly down to it being a David Chang restaurant.  I like what I read about Chang; in every printed interview he embodies the ‘fuck ’em’ attitude that I love about his adopted city.  He is a sweary, belligerent man, with an apparent dislike for vegetarians and food bloggers alike.  Two dislikes which I happily share in the majority.


We eventually sit on a communal table in the brightly lit but narrow, canteen-esque space of pale wood.  We would have liked to have sat at the long counter and watch the open kitchen in action, though this is the kind of place where you don’t ask questions and take what you are given.  The menu is concise; some stuff in buns, other stuff in bowls.  There is a smattering of other stuff from which we order a moreish soft boiled egg, marinated in soy sauce and topped with crisp onions and chives.  We cannot resist going back for seconds whilst waiting for the hot stuff to arrive.


It was the steamed buns which started the hysteria here many years ago.  Today we take the beef brisket that requires minimal jaw work, sandwiched between a thin spread of horseradish and pickled onions which still retain some bite.  The buns themselves are a delight; little pillows of rice flour which offer a beguiling textural contrast from the braised meat.


From ‘bowls’ we order two riffs on ramen.  A pork one has tangles of shoulder meat and a wedge of gelatinous belly, the comforting stock which is central to the dish owed to a long simmering of discarded piggy bits.  The triumphant noodles, full of bounce and restraint, are even better when the runny egg yolk finally reaches them.  Another with morsels of smoked chicken thigh meat has a stock enriched with miso.  Its an addictive mix of umami, salt, and heat.  As far as ramen goes its about as authentic as a drag queen in a kimono, but Oh does it taste good.



Incredibly, a glass of wine here costs the same price as a main dish, so I’ll leave it to you to decide if the food is excellent value or the booze overpriced.  For me, Momofuku Noodle Bar takes the best of the flavours and textures from Asia and transports them to the western palate.  I just wish that we had somewhere in the UK with similar panache and without the piss-taking prices we are so used to.  Earlier, whilst stood in the warm autumnal evening waiting in line, I ask generic bearded bloke in front if the queues were always so bad.  His response; “yeah, its fucking good”.  David Chang couldn’t have worded it better his sweary, belligerent self.


Momofuku Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Gramercy Tavern, New York

I blame the Notorious B.I.G. Whilst others siphoned their vision of New York from ten seasons of Friends, my view of the Big Apple came directly distorted from the music videos of Juicy and Big Poppa. I knew very little of the city other than pimped out vehicles and sweaty clubs where promiscuous ladies cavorted in hot pants, whilst men sipped on fancy cognacs and flashed wads of one hundred dollar bills.

Gramercy Tavern is nothing like that. Well, maybe the bit about cognacs and large currency, but certainly nothing like the rest. It’s a civil place where civil people go to enjoy civil food in a civil surrounding. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; the meal would have been very different if we sat to the soundtrack of Puff Daddy and the Family. Instead we took central position on a dressed circular table in a dimly lit room with white-washed walls, long, arching dark wooden beams, and spectacular floral arrangements. It’s a pretty place to spend an evening, but then I knew that already. I also knew we could expect seasonal American dining from a kitchen which has held a Michelin star for a decade. Perfect surroundings for a meal early on in a celebratory trip to the city. In principal, at least.

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We start with a tiny morsel of lobster salad on toast, which we all agree was delicious and left us wanting more. Up next was a pretty looking beef tartare with a salad of tomatoes and peppers that overpowered the slightly under seasoned meat, whereas a well flavoured carrot soup livened with hits of pickled onion was a little on the thin side.  Better would be a bolognese with coarse pork and folds of ribbed pasta which clung to the deeply flavoured cooking liqueur.





Mains were protein heavy with all meat options offering two cuts from the same beast.  Duck breast would be served atop of a mix of cabbage and confit meat.  The cooking of the protein was faultless, though the plate would be dominated by acidity thanks to the heavy glug of vinegar that ran throughout the cabbage mix.  Lamb loin came pink as requested with a slow cooked shoulder.  The accompanying aubergine, pepper and yoghurt taking the dish for a stroll through the Middle East.  It was well conceived and equally well received.



The pick of the mains was arctic char, gentle cooked and whizzed through the smoker at the last second, with the unusual paring of drupe, corn, and pepper.  The fruit offering a refreshing sweetness against the fish.  It felt balanced and original, unlike the conventional pairings which dominate the rest of the savoury menu.


We play it safe with desserts because no amount of wine is going to make me crave a combination of plum, potato and sorrel, or butternut and cranberry.  Instead we take the recommendation of a silky chocolate mousse cake, positioned on a thick smear of blackcurrant jam with flecks of wild violet and coconut ice to discount the richness.  Its the sort of dish that finishes you off for the evening and with the clock hands well passed midnight, we are glad for it.  For the same reason we should have retired to bed with the cookies and cream plate boxed up for the following day, though we don’t because they are too good – in particular a peanut butter cookie which I unsuccessfully beg for more of.



A word on the service.  I found New York in general to be a rushed, tip-orientated culture that frequently boarded on being rude.  Not here.  A team that was polished and knowledgeable, patient and understanding – even when one of the group came down ill minutes into our meal.  And no automatic service charge.  We well exceed the £65 a head for the three courses here because we are celebrating and still it feels value even if the we found the food a little off the mark a bit too frequently.  Gramercy Tavern is considered a dining institution to many New Yorkers; long may it continue to be so.


Gramercy Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato