There are certain New York foods that I must have each time I go. I have a little me-conversation asking if I'm denying myself a new treasure for the sake of a beloved favorite, but then convince myself having something every 1-2 years is not overdoing anything. This trip, my return visits were to Patisserie Claude (pain au chocolat still marvelous), Gotham Bar and Grill (chocolate cake still the best in the world and the $25 2 course lunch unbeatable), Keens Chophouse (sat again at the bar delighting in the bistro mutton chop and the steak salad, both done perfectly and well-priced, with terrific rolls and excellent sweet butter, and dynamite cocktails), Grimaldi's Pizza (running late so got a cheese to go and ate in the subway on the way to a play-- they moved next door to a bigger place, but the pizza is still terrific, John's Pizzeria (always reliable with a cheap but good house wine and a big salad and a location in Times Square), Joe's Pizza for a right-out-of-the-oven slice, and Carnegie Deli (we got the meat platter with pastrami, corned beef, and brisket, enough for the 2 of us and sandwiches for our plane the next day. I went to Katz's my last trip and I vote for Carnegie's pastrami.
I went on a mini Momofuku spree with lunch at Momufuku Ssam Bar and dinner at the Noodle Bar. I had the Ssam roast duck lunch plate with an added green onion pancake. I got there soon after it opened so it was not crowded and very pleasant to sit at the bar eating excellent duck and sipping a nice Loire red. Dinner at the Noodle Bar was more of a challenge. Very good food but a noise level to cause nausea. The famous pork belly bun, a superb grilled octopus saute, and the momofuku ramen with pork, pork belly, and an egg were all great to eat. I wanted to try the soft serve for dessert, but Sheila had had enough of the bruit, so we left. The other new discovery was Coppelia, a Cuban place on 14th, with a large, reasonable menu, like a good NY coffee shop. Great fried yucca, decent calamari, a perfect roast pork sandwich, and green plantains made for a satisfying meal before an ever-wonderful walk along the High Line.
Many years had passed since I went to a few old favorites I returned to this trip. Junior's in Brooklyn features really incredible cheesecake. We shared a pastrami sandwich with it, which was so so. Service was great tho and the place has a real classic feel and very good cole slaw, pickles, and beets. Eating in the tavern area at Gramercy Tavern offers an excellent meal at half the price of the restaurant with superb service. The prix fixe is 4 courses at $48 and featured black bass with spring onions, a soft-shell crab sandwich, bavette steak with fingerling potatoes, and a delightful strawberry shortcake. You can get a drink pairing for $20, which in this case was 3 excellent ales and an Italian white for dessert. Their wine list is enormous with some fine choices by the glass, including the always exceptional Turley Zinfandel.
It had been probably 15 years since we ate at Le Bernardin, but they recently remodeled and it still is at the top of all ratings (recent 4*s in NY Times after we made our reservation) so we decided to go for the "more reasonable" $70 lunch. Yevgeny Kissin was there too after he too received a glowing review in the Times. The place is beautiful and service is excellent, a little but not too much hovering. Choices are many for each of the first 2 courses and desserts all sound good. I would have preferred to forego dessert and have 3 courses of the seafood specialties. I had a wonderful fresh thinly pounded yellowtail served over a toasted baguette slice with fois gras, chives and olive oil--simple and perfect. Sheila had marvelous raw fluke in a jalapeno-lime brroth, sublime. Her entree of beautiful Arctic char with truffled peas was the best dish we had; my roasted monkfish was delicious but not as otherworldly as the char. Sorbets for dessert were lovely and a raspberry melange with cake and ice cream was very nice. Really wonderful butter cookies were a final treat. We had a delicious Montagny, at $65 about the cheapest wine on a formidable list.
And now for bagels. NY bagels are just the best. I love the giant pumpernickel ones at Ess-a-Bagel especially filled with chive cream cheese and Nova lox. Staying in Brooklyn, tried several there and decided Bergen Bagels on Flatbush and Bergen is the best. I tried their other store on Myrtle, for some reason not as good. Le Bagel Delight is fine, Fulton Bagels, fairly new on the scene but nicely chewy, and Brooklyn Bagel Works on DeKalb was OK. Amazing to be in a place where there are 5 bagel places within 3 blocks. Ahh, New York, what a wonderful town.