Where we ate in New York City. The round-up. Part 2

This post is a continuation of Where we ate in New York City. The round-up. Part 1.

Dining at a variety of establishments is a key element of our travels. The Poolboy’s special area of interest in the planning of any holidays is restaurants, and his superpower is identifying a great range of interesting eateries.  In planning the USA 2014 trip, he used OpenTable, TripadvisorTimeOut New York  and word-of-mouth recommendations for ideas and reviews, and he booked almost all of the restaurants before we arrived (via OpenTable).  

Below is a summary of each of the restaurants we ate at. Some of them were for dinner, some for lunch, and there’s even the occasional breakfast thrown in for good measure.  

For the restaurants here in Part 2 of the post, we were a mostly a party of four (two adults, two kids 10 and 16 years), with the exception of Cosmic Diner and Da Marcella where we were joined by a New York friend.

Cosmic Diner @ 52nd

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Address: 888 8th Avenue (Corner of 52nd Street)
Neighbourhood: Hell’s Kitchen
Cuisine: American diner
Website: http://www.newcosmicdiner.com
Phone: (212) 333-5888

No trip to New York would be complete without experiencing a meal in an American diner. So, when we arranged to meet a New York friend for dinner after The Britannia Entourage departed , and she suggested Cosmic Diner @ 52nd, which is near her home, we were happy to try it out.

For a long time, diner culture was a significant part of the eating scene in New York, however, numbers of traditional diners are apparently falling as other dining options take over.

The mark of a good diner is that it is convenient, reliable and offers a HUGE range of American, Eastern European, Greek, or Italian dishes.

Cosmic Diner (don’t let the name put you off, there’s nothing kitschy/space-age about the decor) has a number of two and four-seater booths which are popular with the theatre-going crowd. As we went on a Monday night (when there is no Broadway theatre), it was quiet, but with a steady turnover of customers.

As expected, the menu was extensive, offering page after page of the usual diner fare. Our server was attentive, brought a plate of assorted bread rolls and breadsticks to the table and topped up our iced water regularly.

IMG_4433 (768x1024)Our friend eats at Cosmic Diner often, and her four-times a year treat to herself is the Belgian waffles ($12.30), which were served with a mound of whipped cream and maple syrup. We’d never seen anything quite like it.  The Impossible Princess’s Cheeseburger Deluxe
served with french fried potatoes, lettuce & tomato ($11.10) was equally generous, and I tried a Greek Salad Athenian style with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, anchovies, green pepper, stuffed grape leaves and oregano with added grilled chicken ($16.55) which was about three times as large as I could comfortably eat.

Queenie was intrigued by the concept of a chocolate cream pie ($5.15) and ordered it for the novelty factor of eating something she often hears mentioned on American TV shows.

Our friend took the unfinished half of her waffles to-go at the end of the evening, and apparently that is a very common practice, which I guess makes the incredibly large serves particularly economical if they are being eaten over several meals.

Atrio Wine Bar/Restaurant

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Address: 102 North End Avenue (inside Conrad Hotel)
Neighborhood: Battery Park
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Website: http://www.ConradNewYork.com/ATRIO
Phone: (646) 769-4250

Atrio is the restaurant in the lobby of The Conrad New York hotel, which was where we stayed for the second half of our New York visit, and as our room rate included breakfast, this was where we ate each morning.  Our vouchers entitled us to a short ‘Hilton Honors’ selection of menu items plus tea/coffee or juice or we could chose from the full menu and be given a $20 credit each against what we chose.

Our favourites among the items we chose over the five days? Bruschetta scrambled eggs with vine ripe tomatoes and local mozzarella ($17), ricotta hotcakes with Meyer lemon curd and raspberries ($16.75), market fresh fruit and berries with gingered carrot bread ($17), and the almond and red quinoa granola with organic Greek yoghurt and berries ($12.75).

Maple syrup to accompany dishes (as appropriate) came to the table in cute individual bottles. We all commented that the berries in various dishes were the biggest, juiciest berries we’ve tasted. Much more flavoursome than the berries we generally get in Australia.

On the recommendation of our server, I tried the crispy corned beef with poached eggs, fingerling potatoes, sauerkraut and Gruyere fondue ($22). It’s a hearty dish which sets you up for a big day ahead.

We also ate dinner in Atrio one evening after returning from a huge day of shopping out at Woodbury Common Premium Outlet in the Central Valley. The dinner menu offered a range of pizzas, pastas and main meals, and was reasonably priced for a restaurant in a big hotel.

IMG_4548 (768x1024)The food at Atrio was fabulous. The service however was disappointing. Big delays in seating tables at breakfast time, despite there being free tables inside. A ‘ten minute’ wait in the hotel lobby for a table to be ready became close to half an hour. They ran out of teapots every morning and tried to serve tea in coffee plungers (which, as any tea-drinker knows, is just plain disgusting…). Dishes were brought to the table erratically, and on one occasion three of us had completely finished our meals, and The Poolboy ended up having to go to the pass himself to seek the fourth meal. We did make the manager aware of our concerns, and to his credit he made a big effort to follow up and try to rectify the issues. Small niggles in the big picture, but unfortunate as they took away from what was a great menu and beautifully executed food.

Da Marcella Midtown

IMG_4536 (1024x768) (2)Address: 11 West 51st St. Lower Level
Neighborhood: Midtown West
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Website: http://www.damarcellamidtown.com/Home.html
Phone: (917) 639-3911

Lunch at Da Marcella was a spontaneous choice, as we just walked past it and decided to give it a go. It is the recently opened (December 2013) second location of Da Marcella (Greenwich). This midtown restaurant is situated in a basement under The Jewel Hotel in W 51st Street and is conveniently located near Rockefeller Plaza. It offers a range of Mediterranean fare.

The lunch menu prices were very reasonable with many of the pastas $9.  Our server warned us when we ordered that there were delays in the kitchen, however service was pretty hopeless all round. Our server claimed it was the first time in four months it had been like that, so maybe they were just having a really bad day.

The pastas we ordered were excellent, wholesome dishes of a reasonable size, so it’s worth a go if they get the service issues under control.

Alder

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Address: 157 Second Avenue
Neighborhood: East Village
Cuisine: American
Website: http://www.aldernyc.com
Phone: (212) 539-1900

Alder in the East Village is one of those restaurants that really challenges your thoughts about food, taking familiar dishes and flavour combinations but playing with them, and presenting them in a unique and delightful way. It is a small (56-seat) neighbourhood restaurant fitted-out as a modern interpretation of a public house.

There are, as our very helpful and knowledgeable server explained, no hard and fast rules about how you order IMG_4539 (768x1024)from the menu at Alder. The plates can be ordered to share, or to eat individually, or a combination of both. We ordered a number of dishes to share and started with what I thought was the stand-out star of the menu, the Pub Cheese ($11): an unusual concoction of cheddar, cream cheese, shallots, red wine, and carageenan blended together, then smeared onto a black slate plate, topped with pistachio crumbs and served with Martin’s ‘potato chips’.

We also enjoyed the Pigs in Blankets ($13) which were six little Chinese sausages wrapped in (what I have since found out) is compressed hot dog buns, then deep fried. They were served with a Japanese mustard and a sweet chilli sauce. The Cured Hamachi with black garlic, fennel, timut, orange vinegar ($16) also went down well with all of us.

We shared two desserts – the Carrot Cake Parfait with cream cheese ice cream and candied walnuts ($8) and the Vanilla Milk Pannacotta with cinnamon cereal, candied almonds, apple, coffee ($8).

Alder was a real foodie’s delight. Interesting ingredients, worked in intriguing ways. The restaurant had a young and casual vibe, and the service was excellent.

Trestle on Tenth

IMG_4586 (1024x833)Address: 242 Tenth Avenue
Neighborhood: Chelsea
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Website: http://www.trestleontenth.com
Phone: (212) 645-5659

Trestle on Tenth was another one we just wandered into for lunch one day. It is a Swiss-style brasserie directly across from the High Line Park, in the heart of the Chelsea art district. After a chilly morning of trudging the Chelsea art gallery circuit, we were glad to find somewhere warm and welcoming for a casual lunch.

My crab cake on toasted brioche with watercress-coleslaw was delicious, and The Poolboy and girls recommended the rigatoni with bolognese, porcini mushrooms and ricotta.

Manon

IMG_9243 (1024x768)IMG_9246 (1024x768)Address: 407 West 14th Street
Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Website: http://www.manon-nyc.com
Phone: (212) 596-7255

Manon is a modern American restaurant and bar in the heart of the Meatpacking District. It spans three floors with the main dining room at the top, a bar and lounge at street level, and a mezzanine in-between from which you can peruse the action above and below. The interior is a deliciously decadent combination of baroque and industrial elements – reclaimed wood floors, exposed brick walls, crystal chandeliers and overstuffed leather sofas…

From the minute we were escorted from the front door up to the restaurant via the elevator by an impossibly tall, impossibly thin and gorgeously beautiful young hostess, we knew we were in for a super-stylish treat.

This was the first restaurant we encountered in three weeks, where we were the first table IMG_4622 (768x1024)seated at 6.30pm. (This was one of only two time-slot options The Poolboy had been able to book through OpenTable. The other was 9.00pm.) It is obviously a venue that caters for more of a late-night crowd.

However, given the dim lighting, we did not feel too self-conscious and were joined by a couple of other tables around 7.30pm.

A warm, glazed brioche style of bread was brought to the table, and was rapidly devoured. That was followed by the Berkshire Pork Chop ($28) for The Poolboy and both the girls, while I had the Lamb Loin ($36). As sides we had Smashed Fingerling Potatoes (with gremolata and parmesan) and Brussels Sprouts (cooked with honey butter and pecans) which were really interesting dishes (both IMG_3996 (768x1024)$9 each). For dessert, The Poolboy and I shared a plate of local sheeps, goats and cows cheeses ($18) while the girls had macarons (3 for $8).

Overall, the food was excellent and the ambiance was interesting…although I think I would have appreciated dining there later in the evening when I imagine it is full of beautiful young things for me to gawk at.

There were plenty of staff, seemingly standing around doing not much (we were, after-all the only ones there!), so service was attentive and speedy.

 

Hudson Café

Address: 628 Hudson Street (between Horatio and Jane Sts)
Neighbourhood: West Village
Cuisine: French/cafe
Website: hudsoncafenyc.com‎
Phone: (212) 390-1744

This was another casual lunch choice we made when wandering by. We’d spent the morning walking up Bleecker Street from Avenue of the Americas, crossing over Hudson Street and up to W14th Street to visit a couple of dress shops Queenie had spotted the night before when we’d had dinner at Manon. On the way back down Hudson Street, we came across Hudson Cafe.

This tiny cafe has a lovely Parisian bistro feel to it, and during the day offers a menu of panini, sandwiches,  pastries and salads. At night, apparently, the candles are lit and it provides more of a French bistro-style menu.

I enjoyed a warming bowl of the home-made chicken soup which was served with a bread roll, while the others had panini, bolognaise linguini and a caesar salad.

Morimoto

IMG_4678 (1024x768)IMG_4681 (1024x768)IMG_4022 (1024x768)IMG_4061 (1024x768)IMG_4067 (1024x597)Address: 88 10th Avenue
Neighborhood: Chelsea
Cuisine: Japanese
Website: http://www.morimotonyc.com
Phone: (212) 989-8883

Oh my goodness, we saved the best for our last night in New York. And when I say, ‘the best’…I mean if-you-only-eat-at-one-restaurant-in-New-York-make-it-this-one. Where do I start with the excellence that is Morimoto?

Morimoto is named after its renowned Executive Chef and co-owner Masaharu Morimoto, who is star of the TV show, Iron Chef.  Chef Morimoto is best-known for melding traditional Japanese dishes with Western ingredients and preparation techniques.

The restaurant is located directly underneath the Highline in the Chelsea Market precinct. The restaurant’s entrance features the world’s largest Japanese Noren curtain set against a massive façade of steel.

Inside, the fit-out is extraordinary, including restrooms which are possibly the most Instagrammed, Tweeted, or Facebooked in the world (subject of a whole separate post!) and a two-story wall made of 17,000 spring water bottles.   The open kitchen is surrounded by a 24-seat sushi bar where diners can watch the chefs at work. Our table had a great view of the sushi kitchen. Downstairs is a lounge bar for a drink or snacks.

Our server was extremely helpful with suggestions of what to order, steering us into some of the signature or more special dishes that we may have otherwise overlooked. Among the appetizers we shared, an unexpected highlight was the ‘yosedofu’ – fresh tofu prepared tableside and topped with seasonal ankake, dashi soy and fresh wasabi ($16).  The soy milk was brought to the table in a ceramic pot, already heated to 140°F, then a setting agent of nigira was added, stirred and the lid replaced for seven minutes. Voila! (or whatever the Japanese for that is…) silken-smooth tofu.

We’ve taken home the memory of our mains of crispy kombu-brined chicken ($27), slow-cooked King Salmon ($28) and seafood ‘toban yaki’ (lobster, king crab , mussel , clam, diver scallop in a red miso broth – $36),  indelibly imprinted in our taste-buds.

IMG_4060 (1024x1024)Every dish was a visual work of art that delicately combined expected and unusual flavours in every plate.

And dessert? Dessert was ah-may-zing. Green tea and cherry blossom tiramisu ($12), apple bread pudding with green tea crumble and brown butter icecream ($12) and chilled cheesecake souffle with strawberry red-wine sorbet and green tea lemon powder. The last of those was brought to the table by our server as a complimentary dessert, as apparently we had waited too long for our main course dishes. We hadn’t noticed. But this speaks volumes about the level of professionalism and efficiency of all the staff at Morimoto.

This restaurant really knocked it out of the park. A fabulous interior, superlative food and service at its absolute best.

Note: all prices quoted are exclusive of taxes and gratuities.

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