Believe it or not, I still have things to say about my eating vacation to New York last month.
Admittedly, I couldn’t go to half the places on my wish list for this city. But I covered a lot of ground in the nine days in Manhattan (with a few diversions to Brooklyn and Queens), in between my tennis watching at the U.S. Open.
What I found about this trip to New York is that Chinese food is really on the upswing, with so many options, both casual family-style restaurants and modern upscale chains. Here are my leftovers from New York, from buns to bagels.
Russ & Daughters
This century-old institution in the Lower East Side serves up an array of smoked salmon and bagels from a tiny little shop. It’s expanded into some bigger spaces, like a cafe inside the Jewish Museum and a modern neighborhood cafe. In fact, my Google map sent me to the cafe initially, but it doesn’t open till 10 a.m. and I was looking for breakfast so I walked a few blocks to the original location on Houston Street.
The shop is notorious for the lines so the recommendation is to make a beeline to grab a number so you can get served. But when I dropped in on a weekday, it was nearly empty and I easily got my order of a toasted sesame bagel with smoked salmon and Russ & Daughters’ popular caviar cream cheese.
There’s no seating so I grabbed a seat at one of the outside benches, and enjoyed the savory caviar cream cheese and perfect bagel. Despite the dust from street construction nearby, I still enjoyed my quintessential New York breakfast.
The deets: Russ & Daughters, 179 E. Houston St., New York. Open weekdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. www.russanddaughters.com
The next time I wanted a bagel, I headed uptown to the Upper West Side to check out Absolute Bagels, which isn’t a deli but strictly a bagel bakery, making tons of bagels every morning with just as many types of cream cheese or schmears. The no-nonsense interiors and friendly service make this the perfect spot for an everything bagel with garlic and chives cream cheese, which is what I ordered.
I enjoyed both bagels from Russ & Daughters and Absolute Bagels, both seemed similar in fluffiness and flavor. But I give the edge to Russ & Daughters for the amazing lox selection.
The deets: Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway (at 108th), New York. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In the New York summer, it can get quite hot and humid and the last thing you’d probably think about is hot soup. But when I met my friend Ramon for lunch in his East Village neighborhood, he suggested we go get xiao lung bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings.
I love xiao lung bao, but even I was worried about dining on them on a hot day. Luckily, the restaurant was nicely air-conditioned and actually quite modern and contemporary as this spot is only two years old.
Along with its specialty of soup dumplings, Ramon ordered this amazing dish that in Chinese translates to mean “fly dish,” referring to the insect not how stylish it is. On the menu it’s simply called sauteed black beans with pork and chives ($14.95) but it was delightful with the precision knife skills to finely chop the chives and pork, making the overall dish feel light.
For the xiao lung bao, The Bao has traditional dumplings listed as “kung fu” xiao lung bao on the menu, but also some specialty dumplings like crab, super spicy, chocolate and the dish we ordered, “Wasabi xiao lung bao” ($9.50).
The regular xiao lung bao had a nice flavor in the soup, but something about the way they steam their dumplings made them come to the table looking deflated (although it was fill of soup). The wasabi xiao lung bao was unique, with just a subtle wasabi flavor to provide a nice kick to the soup.
The deets: The Bao, 13 St. Marks Place, New York. Open daily from noon till 10:30 p.m. (till 11:30 p.m. on weekends).
On the days I went out to the U.S. Open, I had to head all the way to Flushing Meadows in Queens for the day. So since I had to head all the way there, one night after a day of tennis watching I took the subway one station further to Flushings.
If you don’t know, this city in Queens is like a big Chinatown. In fact, when I walked up from the subway and started strolling the crowded sidewalks past shops with people hawking all sorts of foods for sale, I almost thought I was in Hong Kong.
The trend is toward Northern-style cuisine, especially comforting dishes like cumin lamb stew and lots and lots of dumplings. I visited Fu Ran, known for its dong bei cuisine. Dong bei means “Northern Capitol” in Mandarin.
The restaurant was packed with Chinese families (and as the night progressed a few non-Asians, who probably came because they read about it in the New York Times). I started with some green beans and pork and leek dumplings, which were fresh and piping hot.
I asked the waitress about their specialty and she recommended the “noodles with spicy minced meat sauce,” which when arriving at my table I realized was the popular zia zia mein. Despite the fact that I can get this often back in the Bay Area, Fu Ran’s version was made with such freshness and flavor that I was a happy camper. (The table of four across from me saw my bowl of noodles and ordered the same dish.)
The deets: Fu Ran, 40-09 Prince St., Flushing, NY. Open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.
Another trending cuisine is Filipino food, which I don’t really know much about but am interested to learn more. So when I heard celebrity chef Jordan Andino (“Beat Bobby Flay” “Chef in Your Ear”) opened his first restaurant in the West Village, I decided to check it out.
2nd City (a reference to how the Philippines calls itself that) is a casual eatery with mostly counter seating. The funky decor with graffiti and skateboard skews Millennial, but the food appeals to all ages.
The menu has a whimsical take on traditional Filipino dishes like the Adobo-rito (burrito made with Chicken Adobo) and “bi-curious tacos (barracuda taco and braised short ribs taco with tamarind slurry). Of course, they also have a poke bowl (“poke me”) because poke is everywhere.
The adobo-rito ($7.95) was a nicely packed burrito with kimchi fried rice and shredded romaine covering the savory and vinegary chicken pieces. I also tried a side of pancit bowl ($6.95), which is pretty traditional vermicelli rice noodles stir fried with shrimp and sausage.
The deets: 2nd City, 525 Hudson St., New York. Open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. www.2ndcityusa.com
This popular pizza spot put the hip in hipster for Brooklyn, more specifically Bushwick. I found myself in this quiet part of Brooklyn because I was going to a real off-off-Broadway show that was playing in a small space in Brooklyn. Luckily, Roberta’s was within walking distance, making it a great pre-show spot.
The eclectic decor really represents the too-cool-for-school vibe of Roberta’s, where you’d probably get punch for saying the word hipster. Even though this has been open for awhile (and there were rumored talks that a conglomerate wants to buy it and turn it into a nationwide chain), the restaurant is still packed from the early hours.
But when eating alone, you can easily find a spot at the back bar near the back garden. From there, I enjoyed a summer-friendly watermelon salad and capped it with the Crispy Glover ($16), a thin crust pizza with taleggio, guanciale, onion, garlic, and breadcrumbs chili.
The deets: Roberta’s, 261 Moore St., Brooklyn, NY. Open daily for lunch (weekend brunch) and dinner. www.robertaspizza.com
I had to squeeze in so many meals into a day that there were times when I would have two dinners. Sushi Nakazawa’s lounge in Greenwich Village is a perfect spot for a relaxing pre-dinner.
Famous for its sushi, its regular omakase (chef’s selection) menu in the main dining room gets booked way in advance. But another way to get a taste of the sushi here without a reservations is by walking into the new lounge, which opened earlier this year.
The lounge menu provides sushi offered up in flights, so you can get a tasting of three types of white fish, or three types of shellfish, as well as individual nigiri.
There’s no doubt that the sushi here is pristine, albeit at a premium price. But the high-end service and serene setting make it a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
The deets: Sushi Nakazawa, 23 Commerce St., New York. Open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. sushinakazawa.com
Gotham West Market
My hotel was on the west side of Manhattan, and I mean the real west past Hell’s Kitchen. While there’s a lot of development happening there, it’s still a bit remote.
So I often found myself at the new Gotham West Market, which is a fancy food court just a couple of blocks from my hotel, featuring some big names like Blue Bottle Coffee, Ivan Ramen, the Cannibal, and Ample Hills Creamery. It was a great casual spot to get some good food, and a nice variety. I also liked how they had big screens so I could watch the U.S. Open.
The variety of food at Gotham was like a mini version of the variety of food I had on this trip. It really reflects the diversity and style of the food scene in New York.
The deets: Gotham West Market, 600 11th Ave., New York. See website for vendors and individual hours.
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