New York! These streets will make you feel brand new! Big lights will inspire you!

29 Nov

New York Soundtrack

Empire State of mind – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys:

The A train

So I arrived in New York one early afternoon mid-week and took the A train to Harlem. Apparently it’s the quickest way.

I’ve planned a whistlestop tour of some of New York’s finest restaurants, bars, markets and street food. I’ve arranged to stay in Harlem, using AirBnB. At £67 per night, this is reasonably good value in New York. I was a little nervous though as it felt a bit like going back to being a student and having a flat share.

420

I’ve picked a bad week. New York is freezing. Buffalo is under 5 feet of snow. Having hopped out of the subway at West 125th street and after several cold consultations of the map, I arrived at a slightly “bruk down” looking building. Surely that’s not it? It’s not quite the Harlem brownstone that I had envisioned.  I climb the 3 flights of stairs with a feeling of mild trepidation.

Thankfully, the flat is nicer than it first seemed. I met our host, settled in and began to get ready for dinner.

Just as I was bracing myself to catch a cab in the cold, I was arrested by a mellow scent familiar from life in Brixton. Hello? Of course I couldn’t resist asking my Guyanese host if that was what I thought it was. He confirmed that it was and showed me the number “420” on the blackboard in the lounge. I guess not all things about student life were bad.

"420"

“420”

Daniel

I felt very lucky to book a table at Daniel Boulud’s Daniel at 60 East 65th street.

Daniel

Daniel

Unfortunately jet lag kicked in and I forgot my camera so ended up taking pictures with a phone.  I apologise for the fuzziness in advance.

Dress code blues

Something that I have found surprising about New York so far, is that the high end restaurants seem to all stipulate business casual wear. This is in contrast to London, where you can turn up in jeans and sneakers (as I have done on several occasions) if you so desire. This had my dinner companion scrabbling through his luggage to try to find suitable attire. He just about managed but I did wonder if we’d be turned away on arrival.  Far from it.

We received a very warm welcome although he was definitely the least well dressed of the men dining that night.

The Food

The food on offer included a price-fixe menu for $125 (one starter, main and dessert from a wide selection); a 7-course tasting menu or a la carte.  As the range of choices was excellent and having almost died having tasting menus in Australia, I went for the price-fixe.

I chose lobster to start, pork for the main. My dinner companion chose scallops and cod.

The lobster came in three ways: butter poached; rolled with Hawaiian hearts of palm, wrapped in blanched romaine lettuce; and in a small light curried lobster samosa.

The scallops were seed crusted with Aleppo seeds and came with a birch reduction and flavourful celery mousseline.

The pork included chops and belly with delicate shards of crackling. Treviso ragout cut through the fattiness of the belly and the harissa jus gave the chops a zingy edge. The pork chops were so surprisingly tender, they could probably be cut with a spoon.

Pork

Pork

The Atlantic Cod was slow baked, in order to cook without drying. It was coated in yoghurt and grilled. It was served with spinach and a lemon balm and liquorice “foamed” emulsion.

Cod

Cod

Wine

I’ve never understood why you are sometimes offered a choice of wines before you’ve even had a look at the food. I resisted, chose my starter and main and asked if the sommelier could come across and give us a hand in finding a wine to match. I like to do this as it helps to engage. A good sommelier will know the wine list inside out, sometimes producing a choice that you wouldn’t have made but that may well work better.

This was such a case. We ended up with half a bottle of an Austrian Gruner Veltliner.

Gruner Veltliner

This had a full and floral bouquet but wasn’t quite so perfumed on the palate. The rounded, full flavor worked well with the food that we’d chosen: it stood up well to the pork and the butter poached lobster but didn’t blow away the cod. The wine was described as being fun by the sommelier and that was an accurate description. Before the starter had gone, we were already contemplating the second and third halves of the bottle.

The extras

Before the meal began, we had a selection of canapes and an amuse bouche. The canapés included 3 broccoli inspired tastes: broccoli soup with crème fraiche; smoked trout with a broccoli slice and broccoli quiche. I love broccoli and this was certainly enjoyable.

I wish I could remember the amuse bouche but it was so greedily inhaled I’d forgotten what it was by the time I stared sadly at the empty plate

The accompanying bread rolls were so tasty and flavourful, they could almost be considered a course on their own. The cheese rolls were full of umami that they almost tasted Marmite-y. The layered brioche rolls were sinfully buttery, only the fear of not finishing the rest of the food stopped me from eating about four.

Dessert

I strove for comforting simplicity, choosing a simple chocolate fondant with caramel ice cream. The second dessert was a work of art. It included a tempered chocolate tube with a layered “drawer” which could slide in and out. It was made of layers of cake, praline and mousse.

This dessert was technically excellent, cleverly conceived and just plain good fun.

Chocolate "drawer"

Chocolate “drawer”

Post dessert

After dessert, we were offered petit fours, despite not having coffee. I greedily galloped my way through these but my stomach drew the line at the Madeleines. Sensing my hesitation at jumping off the greedy cliff, the waiter proposed packing them up to go. I was delighted not to leave my little friends behind.

Madeleines

Madeleines

I wonder if everyone gets quite the same treatment at Daniel?

The food was delicious and varied with a lot of choice on offer.  The sommelier and waiter made the service feel not only exceptional but personal and special.  This makes it one of, if not the best restaurant experiences that I’ve ever had.

We’re off to an exceptional start in New York. Long may this continue!

3 Responses to “New York! These streets will make you feel brand new! Big lights will inspire you!”

  1. Simone D December 1, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    This was the one fancy restaurant we went to when in NY last year, while it was certainly good I found it a bit stiff and not particularly memorable. Glad you really enjoyed it maybe we were just being fussy. Looking forward to the other updates.

  2. Nerinaholden December 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    The image of you inhaling your amuse bouch without remembering what they were, hilarious. Aw, Madelines as little friends! I had a plate of bombolinis yesterday, and they were both not needed and little friends too….

  3. Kevin August 3, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    Here is another review.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/magazine/fine-dining-for-second-graders.html?_r=0

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