I just got back from a trip to NYC last week (hence the hiatus), which was somewhat a life-long dream of mine. The food was a major part of the excitement.
I shall start with the good.
In Singapore, we do have good steaks, but they can be pretty elusive, to the extent that I found it necessary to create a post on where to have steak, because not just any random steak would be of passable standards. In fact, most of the steak places disappoints, while the consistently good ones comes with a price tag.
I had steak at 2 places in New York and both times, I did not order rib eye. If you read my steak post, you know I swear by rib eye as it is the best cut to ensure great taste and texture. Most of the crappy steaks I’ve had were sirloin cut or something. However, for my first steak meal, I had a NY Strip, which was a striploin. It was easily the best striploin I ever had! the meat wasn’t tough and chewy and the nailed the medium rare doneness perfectly. There was no such thing as unevenly cooked meat (super common mistake in singapore’s steak scene) and the seasoning they used brought out the flavour perfectly. I guess NY Strip just tastes better in New York!
To make things better, I arrived on the last week of NYC’s Restaurant Week so my 3 course meal cost only $24.07+. I must add that the strawberry arugula salad which I had for my appetiser was super good too! Who would have known that strawberries went so well with rocket. I did my reservations on Open Table, which is free. They normally have a business lunch for just $25.90+ too and they offer a similar steak as well.
The Palm West – 250 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019, United States
For my second steak meal, we decided to try another steak chain despite being very tempted to return to The Palm (because it was that good). We decided on Capital Grille as it seems to be established and was a walking distance away from our hotel. They did not offer any sets for lunch so we had to go ala carte, which is fine by me. They had no rib eye steak on their menu so I opted for the 8oz Filet Mignon which cost $28+. It was probably the best decision of my life. As anticipated, it was cooked to the perfect medium rare, and the beef was evidently of good quality judging by the flavour and texture of it. It was so tender, and the seasoning brought out the best flavour too! In fact, it was as good as Morton’s (Singapore), but at a fraction of the price. At this point I am convinced that steak is much overpriced in Singapore. The spinach salad ($11) and side of mashed potato ($10) was fantastic too! The mash was outstanding particularly. It was very smooth and creamy. The setting of the restaurant looked slightly classier than The Palm, with a more formal setting. You probably might want to avoid dressing down in order not to look out of place.
The Capital Grille – Time Life Building 120 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10020, United States
Those 2 above are merely just established steak chains, not michelin starred or niche restaurants. Therefore I can safely say that steakhouses which are of established branding in NYC offer quality steak which is already better than the standard you find in Singapore!
Here are more names of established steakhouses:
Morton’s – 551 5th Avenue New York, NY 10017, United States
Ruth’s Chris – 148 West 51st Street New York, NY 10019, United States
Strip House Grill New York – 11 East 12th Street New York, NY 10003, United States
BLT Steak – 106 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022, United States
The first 2 are available in Singapore, for about twice the price you get in US.
Like steak, most salmon you get in Singapore are badly executed. I have somewhat a fear of ordering salmon in Singapore, especially from places which do not specialise in them because most probably it would be dry, overcooked and unfresh. However, my expectations exceeded in 2 random places I had salmon at in NYC. Random meaning I did not hear of any good comments about their salmon specifically, prior to visiting. However, I am unsure whether it was just coincidental that those I tried were really good or is it a national standard.
The first was at Café Boulud, which the salmon was seared. It was seared to medium doneness and it was perfect! There was no sign of the white proteins oozing out and the cooked sides wasn’t tough and dry. The flavour of the fish was evidently fresh. This was part of a 3 course Restaurant Week lunch so it only cost $24.07+ for a full meal. This was a steal for a 1 Star restaurant. The man behind this restaurant is Daniel Boulud, who owns the popular DB Bistro Moderne in MBS. I have also tried out DB Bistro Moderne in NYC, which is supposedly a top French Bistro in Manhattan but I’ll just say it wasn’t my best meal there.
Café Boulud – 20 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021, United States
At another 1 starred restaurant, I had my palate for salmon revolutionised. At Auerole, they offered a 3 course restaurant week dinner for $35+ and I had the salmon. It was poached in olive oil and this was new to me. The entire salmon looks like it was cooked but yet not cooked – there was no signs of protein oozing out and the whole fish was so tender and soft.
135 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, United States
Undisputedly an American food, you just got to have burgers in US. Shake Shack is a good option for those who are on a budget. The lines at Madison Square Park’s outlets are crazy long. Luckily there was one opposite my hotel along 8th Ave and the queue was manageable at about 15 minutes to get it. The patty was on the flat side but it was really good. You will not find such patty in any other fast food chain, not even Carls Junior. A cheeseburger cost $4.55.
Shake Shack – 691 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10036, United States
For a higher budget, there is Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel. This concept reminds me of Keisuke King ramen at Orchid Hotel in Singapore, were the restaurant simply rents one tiny small unit within a hotel and they serve only 1 type of food. The lines are long and the customers mostly eat and go. There is only one outlet so this is like fast food without a chain. The patty here is thicker and better than Shake Shacks, and for the fast food burger category that’s the best in NYC.
Burger Joint – Le Parker Merdien, 119 West 56th Street, New York, NY 10019, United States
For gourmet burgers, the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern was really good. This 1 starred restaurant uses prime aged beef for their Black Label burger, so the patty definitely has a edge over those from Shake Shack and Burger Joint. However the price is premium too, at $26.00+.
Minetta Tavern – 111 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012, United States
4. Lobster roll
I have not seen such food in Singapore but I reckon it is pretty common in NYC. I tried Luke’s Lobster at the Financial District, near Wall Street. At $15.00+ I was kind of sceptical about this as it seems to be a rip off for a fast food kind of experience, but I was convinced upon my first bite. The amount of lobster given was generous and it came in full chunks, not shreds. The bread was not the regular hot dog bun, but some crust-less bread that was toasted so it was quite crispy to bite. I would highly recommend this.
Luke’s Lobster – 26 South William Street, New York, NY 10004, United States
5. Bread and butter
I had bread for breakfast almost every day. It was the norm to have bread with butter and jam. My favourite bread shop has got to be Amy’s Bread. They sell all kinds of bread. I particularly liked the Chocolate Cherry Roll and the Cinnamon Bun a lot. It went super well with butter and strawberry jam. However, I note that typically in this city they do not bother about having bread warm. It is almost always served cold. I tried searching for good bread in Singapore when I returned but to my horror, they were all morbidly expensive! Good bread is very affordable in NYC thus it’s a must try.
What I loved more about Amy’s Bread was the Red Velvet Cupcake. It was the best red velvet cake I ever had! The cake was perfectly moist without being too mushy nor has the texture of bicarb. However, they do not use cream cheese as frosting. Instead, they used a Swiss meringue butter cream. But on the bright side, the cream was really good too. It was smooth, light and fluffy in texture, and didn’t have rough grains of icing sugar in it, so that’s good.
Amy’s Bread – 672 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10036, United States
At Bouchon Bakery, owned by a Michelin starred chef Thomas Keller, we had the most interesting oreo cookie ever, known as a TKO (Thomas Keller’s Oreo). If you think oreo cannot taste any different from any other oreo, you are wrong.
Bouchon Bakery – Time Warner Centre, Ten Columbus Circle, Third Floor, New York, NY 10019, United States
Sadly I only had 1 cheesecake during this trip. However, it was the best cheese cake I ever had! In Singapore, most cheesecakes are slightly hard in texture. The cheesecake at Veniero’s was soft and smooth, but solid enough to retain its shape. I tried the canoli rolls from this bakery too but it wasn’t any good.
Veniero’s – 342 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003, United States
I had this 3 times during my stay in NYC. Luckily there was an outlet near my hotel area. This has got to be the best Froyo in my life. Pinkberry is quite a large yogurt chain, based in California. They have several outlets internationally too and I am waiting for it to appear in Singapore. Actually, it wasn’t exactly about the froyo that I was after. It was the toppings. They charge by size and at a flat rate you get as many toppings as it would fit in the cup. Sounds like a good deal. I like the chocolate hazelnut froyo and my favourite toppings has got to be the roasted hazelnuts and almond roca. It was just too delicious. I also had dark chocolate crisps (crunchy chocolate balls), almond flakes, granola, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry and they were all delicious.
Pinkberry – 596 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036, United States
8. Haagen Dazs
Supermarket chains are very elusive in NYC and so is cheap groceries. Around times square and Fifth Avenue especially, there are no chain supermarkets in sight. More common are minimarts run privately that charge exorbitant rates. Our objective everyway was seemingly to search for cheap bottled water. So in summary, to get reasonable groceries you can consider K Mart, Whole Food Market, CVS and Rite Aid. Among these, the price differs as well. At CVS, we found out Haagen Dazs going on promotion at $2.99 for a 14oz pint. That’s an unbelievable price isn’t it? And tax is included.
1. Oyster Bar Grand Central
This place is a very popular restaurant for oyster and seafood. As there are many places of origin for oysters and seafood in US, I was expecting fresher seafood than in Singapore. However, the oysters I had were teeny and puny. A platter of 10 oysters and some others it cost $34.50+ and it definitely wasn’t the best oysters ever. I do not understand the hype about the place. The ambiance wasn’t very classy either and the service was just not worthy of the tip paid.
2. Magnolia Bakery
This bakery is much raved for their cupcakes and I had high hopes. However, it cupcakes weren’t really all that good. The cake itself was on the dry side and had the texture of chemical leaveners like bicarb or something. I tried the red velvet, chocolate and vanilla based ones and they were all like that. The frosting wasn’t good either. It wasn’t very smooth and I could feel the fine grains of the icing sugar within it. Twelve Cupcakes in Singapore makes much better cupcakes, specially the chocolate one.
It is understandable that one may miss having noodles but I would really advise against trying ramen in NYC. The supposedly top ramen place is Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ippudo. The lines for Ippudo are non-stop and expect to wait 2h for dinner on a weekend. I returned to have it for lunch instead and the wait was about 25minutes. The price is higher than what you would pay in Singapore. For the same ramen, I felt it tasted better in Singapore. The pork wasn’t exactly very tender and the soup was just lacking. As for Momofuku, I’d just say that the standard is just like any random bowl of ramen you can find in Singapore, the sort where if it was a shop in Singapore, it wouldn’t even stand out.