Rather than get into hyper-specific detail and a micro-review of whole meals, I will offer a review from 15,000 feet up – highlights. Think of them as potential leads, if New York is on your radar screen.
Espresso at Ninth Street Coffee, in Chelsea Market
While the entire Chelsea Market is worth a two-hour visit, the must-try is the profoundly rich, exceptionally complex, espresso and cappuccino served at the Ninth Street espresso bar. Their Alphabet City espresso blend is custom-roasted by Chicago-based Intelligentsia, whose coffee I also adore.
Even though Carol, my wife, is an espresso Zen master, roasting her own espresso beans at home daily, she insisted we purchase a 1-pound bag of Alphabet City beans to see if we could replicate the flavor of their espresso at home. The good news: We can. We did. We do.
Ninth Street Espresso in the Chelsea Market, 75 9th Av., between 9th and 10th Streets. 212-228-2930.
The Beast Master Pizza at Roberta’s in Brooklyn
Our son, Jason, who lives in New York and who is a culture vulture (he actually just started a cool New York Real Estate web called blockhawk. Check it out here.), cocktail connoisseur and accredited foodie, compiled a list of must-try restaurants before we got to New York. One of the top spots on his list was this quirky, hipster-style boite in Brooklyn. In a crazy neighborhood, hidden behind an unmarked door, Roberta’s serves up some mighty fine fare, including some of New York’s best pizzas.
We asked our server what she thought was the best of the best, and she suggested that we order a former house specialty, which at present is not on the printed menu. We acceded and ordered the Beast Master, a rich, satisfying, delicious pie combining mozzarella and Gorgonzola cheeses with a tangy tomato sauce. Great crust. Great pie. One of the best I have had in two years anywhere, our trips to Italy included.
Roberta’s, 261 Moore St., Bushwick, Brooklyn. 718-417-1118.
The $29 prixe-fixe lunch at Del Posto
Want to live like a king for a day? Dine at this regal 1-star Michelin restaurant, owned by Mario Batali. The setting is stunning; calm, royal, hushed. The food is of the caliber of that coming out of a 3-star Michelin kitchen. The service is refined, thoughtful, precise; so polished, in fact, that you’d swear you are in Europe.
With add-on prices for specific appetizers, unctuous sea meats and extravagant wines ordered from a magnificent list of Italian wines, our $29 per head luncheon with tax and tip wound up costing more than $100 per head. Never mind, it was so good that we made an effort to return two days later to repeat the indulgence.
If I were scoring the meal out of 100, I would have ascribed 105 points.
But when we returned the next day to rebook a second lunch, we were snubbed by two men at the maitre d’ station who were cold and disdainful. You might expect their demeanor at a mortuary, but not at a restaurant where one comes to celebrate life, not bury it. Their posturing was such a turn-off, in fact, that we canceled our return visit.
The desserts? I can’t recall having better confections in Italy. Superb.
Without question, our best meal of the week, by a city mile.
Del Posto, 85 10th Ave., New York. 212-497-8090.
There are stories on the street that in its first year of operation, the New York food hall will gross nearly $90 million. That’s a success even if industry guessers are off by $10 or $20 million.
Eataly is New York’s new, must-visit food emporium, replacing Dean & DeLuca, Balducci’s, and Macy’s basement as the city’s “in” food destination.
There’s something like 35,000 square-feet of food hall here, encompassing multiple eating areas (each featuring different fare – beef, fish, pasta, salads, wine, etc.) with multiple espresso bars, a gelato grazing station, shelves of Italian packaged goods, kitchen equipment, wine and beer.
I ate twice at the Le Verdure station, which features delicious salads. On my first visit, the grilled salad of bitter greens (Scarola alla griglia), tossed with pine nuts and sweet currants, was finished with a generous snowfall of Parmigiano Reggiano and a splash of a tremendous aged Balsamic vinegar (so good, that we bought a bottle to take home). We returned later in the week attempting to repeat the pleasure, but alas, a different cook, with a heavier hand, turned out a salad that was oily, dull, not delicate, and only memorable in that we would not order it again.
Eataly, 200 Fifth Ave., New York. 646-398-5100.
Our son Jason and several NY chefs insisted we visit this new lunch diner, a sister eatery to Torrisi next door, operated by two talented chefs, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, who have worked with Mario Batali and Wylie Dufresne.
Only hours before our visit, the New York Times published a food story raving about the meatball sandwich here. Our counter server, Katie, kept her cool, despite the crush of patrons clamoring to get in to the small diner to order the sandwich. Call it meatball madness; at one point, the kitchen actually called a 30-minute time-out to catch up with a backlog of orders.
We opted to order the Parm chicken Parmigiana, served on a soft roll; delicioso. We also loved the ultra-moist, sliced turkey breast sandwich.
Parm, 248 Mulberry Street, at Prince Street. 212-993-7189.
The Breslin, in the Hotel Ace
Everyone raves about the lamb burger at The Breslin, which has two entrances, one on 29th Street and one off the lobby of the Ace Hotel.
At 5 pm, the hotel lobby becomes a riot of young people, swarming to hook up with members of the same, or opposite, sex, and who are drinking some of the most exotic cocktails I’ve ever seen, or tasted. The din at 5 pm is so loud, it’s easier on the ears to go outside for a conversation; Broadway is like a hushed library compared to the decibel level in the hotel lobby.
But about the lamb burger: Juicy, moist, served with the best French fries I had all week in New York. And if one can make such a declarative statement – this is quite simply the best lamb burger I have ever had. Served on a soft, tasty bun, oozing taste.
Many wonderful and unusual cocktails served here, too. Don’t miss ’em.
The Breslin, 16 W. 29th St., New York, 212-679-1939.
So successful was the first Il Buco, that there are now two locations. We visited both but ate at the recently opened one, where there is also a take-out, deli counter offering a selection of fine Italian meats and cheeses. Before dinner here, I noshed on the tastiest taralli (circular, pretzel-like breadsticks) I have ever had, and sampled delicious culatello, a refined version of prosciutto, reputedly made from heavier pigs.
Dinner was sensational, a stampede of dishes brought to our table, one after another. The next day, we reviewed our printed receipt and observed that we had been brought small plates that we hadn’t ordered or paid for, and had been charged for dishes we ordered and never received. But the food and service, cocktails and wine, were so good that we didn’t feel gypped in the least. In fact, we can’t wait to return to sit at a community table again and try the many other dishes, which we didn’t have room to contemplate.
Il Buco II , 53 Great Jones, New York. 212-837-2622.
And finally, some additional food-related, and non-food-related, photos from our week in New York: