Food in NYC: Upscale Grocery, Vietnamese, and a Milk Bar

View of Central Park from Top of the Rock

Well, I’m back from Manhattan and all of the 110º weather that came with it! This is going to be a relatively quick update, as I want to get back to more local topics soon (especially with the Taste of Buffalo going on!). While in Manhattan, we visited only three noteworthy foodie locations. It was all we could fit in, really! (Although I do think that we bought water bottles from nearly every street vendor in Manhattan at some point or another…)

Central Park

While shopping in SoHo during our first day in the city, we stopped for a quick visit and lunch at Dean & DeLuca. I had originally wanted to go to the Chelsea Market, but, things don’t always work out. A quick and expensive lunch, that is. After wandering through the store in awe (the produce looked simply incredible, and those heirloom tomatoes…), I settled on a small sandwich (chicken salad on brioche) and a pineapple-orange-strawberry juice.

The sandwich was very fresh and tasted fine, but was nothing special for the nearly $9 I paid for it. The juice, on the other hand, was worth every penny. In that intense summer heat, and after walking for hours, nothing could’ve been as refreshing as the juice. The blend of citrus juices was delectable; so good, in fact, that it was easy to ignore the pulp in the drink (which I prefer strained).

Later on in the evening, we dined at Apple Restaurant and Bombar, a restaurant directly next to NYU in Greenwich Village that offers a fusion of both French and Vietnamese cuisines. The menu is decidedly more Vietnamese, though. The interior of the restaurant is very tastefully decorated and clean, and the food proved to be exquisite. About the food: everyone at the table was beyond happy with their dinner. The food was simple in concept and yet carried exquisite flavor.

And yet something was very, very off about the service. While there’s truly no need to go into detail in this mere overview of the restaurant, various oddities occurred while in the restaurant: the three largest dishes (the sea bass) came out about 7 or 8 minutes later than the rest of the food, presenting that awkward situation where the remaining 5 people must either wait while their food cools off or being eating before everyone is served. Furthermore, the sea bass — touted as being served with jasmine rice (which would have perfectly soaked up the delicious orange-tamarind sauce on the plate) — came with no such rice. Also, the papaya and shrimp salad ended up being served with no resemblance or taste of papaya in it, although the menu stated that it would be mainly comprised of shredded papaya. When asked about this inconsistency, the waitress remarked that “you may not taste or see the papaya in the salad because the salad was mixed together before it was plated”. And about the waiters… While extremely kind and attentive, they crossed the line of too attentive. Water was repeatedly refilled after only a few sips were taken, and we ate dinner while being practically stared at by about 4 waiters and waitresses. It created an uncomfortable situation that should have been easily avoidable. But, all in all, the food itself was memorable and surprisingly reasonably priced.

The next day, I was only present for one of the two meals (my cousin and I were at a concert while our family had dinner). This first “meal” was actually a trip to Momofuku Milk Bar, David Chang’s famous dessert restaurant in NYC. Our visit to the Midtown location (right off of 5th Ave. near Central Park) was inspiring: perhaps the most memorable food experience any of us had had in quite some time. The Milk Bar, located inside of a boutique hotel, is set up like a small coffee shop: there’s a side panel with baskets upon baskets of cookies, a counter with pies, a soft-serve frozen custard machine behind the counter, and a small table with milk for coffee. Unable to contain ourselves, we tasted just about everything: cookies (confetti, peanut butter, chocolate, and compost), crack pie, and ice cream. The famed compost cookie, containing pretzels, coffee grounds, and potato chips (among other things) was absolutely enjoyable: a cookie taken to another level.

But how could a cookie stand up to a slice of pie? The crack pie (think pecan pie without the pecans, but with a cookie crust, and just so much better) was like eating a gooey slice of heaven. Perfection in pie form. And the soft serve (which is much closer to an Anderson’s frozen custard than a Dairy Queen’s soft-serve) was plain intriguing. The flavors offered that day were salted pistachio caramel and cereal milk, the latter of which can be bought in a bottle to drink. The cereal milk ice cream was nostalgic; it was like drinking that last bit of milk at the end of the cereal bowl, but only if you had had multiple kinds of cereal that morning. Meanwhile, the pistachio ice cream was hands-down the best ice cream any of us had had, ever. The flavor was so real, so concentrated, and almost overbearing, that it was practically unfinishable. But there was no question: this was truly gourmet ice cream that we will not find again until our next visit to New York City.

That concludes my trip to the city, at least food-wise! Now, back to Buffalo (well, reality).


1 Response to “Food in NYC: Upscale Grocery, Vietnamese, and a Milk Bar”

  1. 1 Back to the City « Cooking in Western New York Trackback on June 10, 2011 at 1:09 PM

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