Let Me Feed You New York, Part I

July 29, 2012

Hello all!

After a long and wonderful trip to the United States, I am once again in Melbourne and once again thanking the coffee gods for a good double ristretto! The United States is a fascinating and varied country – I was lucky enough to stay with friends who gave me an authentic experience of various cultures and a taste of their local lives. The sheer enormity of some of the cities, and the variety across the country as a whole is incredible, not to mention the plethora of things to do! I think I spent in excess of 30 hours in museums alone, not to mention all the parks, bridges, and various other attractions I visited.

The rest of my time was spent eating, pretty much. Yep, the next few posts are about ‘That Time I Ate America’ – hopefully they’ll be useful for your own future trips to the States!

I’ve broken down my experiences in New York into geographical areas to make this easier to use as a guide. Most of the places I went to I’d either heard about from friends, other bloggers, or Anthony Bourdain.

East Village

Momofuku Saam Bar

207 2nd Avenue

Thought I’d start with one of my favourites – Momofuku Saam, owned by the rockstar of the restaurant world, David Chang. His fusion food is both clever and delicious, served in a casual, ‘no-bookings’ setting. We arrived on a Saturday night at 6pm and there were already people gathering outside. The service was faultless and friendly, which made for a very relaxing experience. Next door, in what used to be the Momofuku Milk Bar, is now a small space that used as a food counter serving small meals during the day, and a bar in the evening.

Naked cowgirl oysters (HELLO) from California with ham powder, lime and satsuma. Stunningly fresh.

Then of course we just had to order a serve of the famous pork buns, and holy hell they were sinfully good! An impossibly soft, glorious combination of flesh and fat, pressed between a fluffy bun with a smear of hoisin. There is the occasional crunch of cucumber, but mostly it is a sweet, sticky pillow of pork.  A dream come true.

Oh Momofuku, my love, my love…

We also shared another small dish of blackened bluefish sandwich with kale and miso. Also excellent, good contrast of soft and crunchy, the best fish finger sanger ever.

The menu also (rather strangely, I thought) included a selection of country hams from KA, TN and VA, but we skipped over the charcuterie and continued with some larger dishes. The menu, in particular the way it was set out, reminded me a tad of Cumulus Inc.

Chili soft shell crab with avocado, tomatillo and mole. Avocado and chocolate, what a brilliant combo, and I especially liked the visually arresting presentation.

Then came a Bev Eggleston’s pork shoulder steak with cauliflower puree (YUM), piperade and pine nuts. Delicious, though I found a few pieces of the pork to be a tad too pink for my liking.

Finally, a poor photograph that doesn’t do justice to a succulent dish of charred octopus, pine nuts, celery and ham chips. The octopus, I kid you not, was the most tender I’ve ever had it; it almost melted in your mouth. Great tangy sauce too.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

171 1st Avenue

Ahem, so I was in the East Village again one day… where else is a girl to go?

I was keen to try out some ramen from here, despite mixed reviews over the quality, but NYC was going through a heat-wave that week and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat a steaming bowl of ramen on a 35 degree day. Instead I went with more of the pork buns (natch), and some shrimp buns.

The shrimp buns came with a spicy mayo, shredded iceberg and pickled shallots. These were pretty good, enhanced by a little chili sauce, though I thought that just two small prawns per bun was a bit measly, especially considering that the pork buns come with two thick slices of belly each and cost only $10 while the shrimp cost $12.


Momofuku Milk Bar

251 E 13th St

Delicacies on offer at the Willy Wonka shop of David Chang’s empire include crack pie (‘addictive as crack!’ the shop assistant grinned at me knowingly), compost cookies (trademarked, along with the crack pie) or cereal milk soft serve. They also sold dry-mix milk jugs to take away – cereal milk or pretzel milk. The cereal milk mix consisted of cornflakes, brown sugar and corn starch. Instructions were to add milk, let infuse for 10 minutes, drain and then drink. For $5. David Chang is a bloody genius for getting away with selling bottle of crushed up cornflakes.

And here is my piece of candy bar pie (slightly melted since I’d been cycling round with it in my backpack for a little while). A chocolate, peanut, salty caramel concoction, it was very rich but incredibly delicious.


Big Gay Ice Cream

125 East 7th St

Sorry, there’s no photo of my pretzel, sea salt, chocolate-dipped vanilla icecream, I was just too damn excited about eating it. This place is pretty cool – think toppings like wasabi pea dust, key lime curd, olive oil and sea salt or toasted curried coconut. They also offer an affo’gay’to – hot mexican chocolate, vanilla ice-cream, cayenne pepper, whipped cream and shaved chocolate.


The Dumpling Man

100 St Marks Place

Went here with some friends one evening. Six dumplings cost me under $5, and they were handmade, juicy and gobbled down really quickly along with some soy sauce and vinegar. Excellent student fare.

Lower East Side

Russ & Daughters

179 East Houston St

Russ & Daughters is one of the last remaining great Jewish food institutions of the 20th century. Sitting in the Lower East Side just down the road from Katz’s, Russ & Daughters has been preserving, pickling and purveying quality foods since 1914. There were crowds of people gathering outside, obviously on a guided foodie-oriented walk, but I managed to duck in quickly before them and snap some shots.

‘I’ve given you Wild Western Nova, traditional cream cheese and a few capers. Darling, this’ll be the best bagel of your life’, said the young shop assistant as he handed over my packaged lunch. Indeed it was the best bagel I’ve ever had, though perhaps he got a bit over-excited with the cream cheese. But the salmon – my god…! I sat outside the shop, on a bench I suspect they’ve put there for this exact purpose, munching down on my bagel while groups of tourists queuing up outside looked on jealously.


205 East Houston St

Not much needs to be said about this place, apart from that it’s huge, it’s been around for a while, and it’s famous for that scene in When Harry Met Sally. Also their pastrami on rye is a real mother-of-a-sandwich.

In what felt like some sort of Olympic trial, I attempted to eat my pastrami on rye but only got half way through. It was bloody delicious but eventually the thought of all that meat made my throat close up. All. That. Meat.

Il Laboratorio del Gelato

188 Ludlow St
Incredible gelato/ice-cream shop. They have a serious-looking laboratory out the back where they work on new flavours. I got dulce de leche and turkish fig, both of which were wonderful. I also tried, out of curiosity, the sweet potato and the olive oil flavours, which were among some of the more unusual on offer. It was quite the experience, eating olive oil flavoured ice-cream, though I’m not sure I’d eat an entire scoop!
Check out their website – little did I know that the fig I tried was actually only one of five fig options! Also, you know an ice-cream shop is serious when they bother to distinguish between their raw cashew and roasted cashew flavours.

88 Orchard St

In my quest for good coffee in the city (how a city can be as large, multicultural and metropolitan as New York and not have good coffee is beyond me), I stopped by at 88 Orchard St. As with the noodle bar, it was far too hot for a cappuccino, but I did enjoy my iced coffee, strangely served in a Starbuck-esque takeaway container.

Rice to Riches

37 Spring St
After dinner one night in SoHo we wandered over here. A shop dedicated solely to rice pudding? Preposterous, yet brilliant. Flavour names that caught my eye included Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road, Fluent in French Toast, Pope Pina Colada II and Hazelnut Chocolate Bear Hug.

Points also for this hilarious sign.

Filed under: New York, United States