With just 2 weekends in New York, I'd decided to concentrate on visiting as many interesting sights as possible, instead of turning to the stacks of colourful city guides for a gastronomic tour. Afterall, how much can one really eat in 48 hours, right? Take it from this big eater, really.
Weekend No. 1's meals were mostly what we could find along the way - burritos, pizzas, burgers and noodles. Despite the presentation, the below bowl of ramen really tasted more Chinese than Japanese.
By the second weekend, the shutterbug died a lethargic death while the appetite grew.
Weekend No. 2 started at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Despite the modest size and simplicity of the facade, it was still easy to find, thanks to the hordes of customers gathering in and out of the restaurant. Having read David Chang's NO PHOTOGRAPHY policy at Ko (one of his many other restaurants), I asked the staff if I could take some photos of my sexy, hot plate of steamed buns. The friendly dude said, Of course!. Cool.
The thick slabs of pork belly lived up to my expectation - soft, slightly sticky thick layer of fat atop the flaky meat. It has a cleaner taste than our usual Dongbo pork. And it's not complete without their chilli sauce that's only slightly sour but (surprisingly) hot. A slice of the pork belly was included in the Momofuku Ramen too, which was great. It was more of a chicken (and perhaps pork bones too) stock than the usual tonkotsu, miso, etc. I liked the taste and named it a bowl of thinking ramen, not because it had me contemplating on the soup base but the ideas that went into making this version of ramen. Not an expert here but I've not seen ramen served with poached egg (except for the chilli pan mee in our part of the world) and shredded pork shoulder (which reminded me of the usage of minced pork in our clear soup noodles) that was pretty flavourful. I was looking forward to their soft serve of the day - snow pea (!) but the machine was down, so I settled for the chocolate chips cake truffles.
It was only on my last day here that I had my first New York bagel at the historic cafe called Zabar's on Broadway. The window seats provide a good view of the busy streets, especially in the morning when runners are seen crossing this part of upper Manhattan as parents and their kids in strollers head to their usual restaurants for brunch, and locals (I presume) returning from their morning shopping at the nearby markets or grocery stores, carrying large brown paper bags filled with fruits, vegetables and baguettes. I had their signature bagel with cream cheese and nova salmon (lightly cured and smoked), apple crumble and orange juice for breakfast that Sunday, before starting my strenuous (but fun) day at the museums along the Museum Avenue. Zabar's had an amazing display of golden bakes, which most looked rather appetizing. Ah, if only I was able to sample everything.
I was at Flor de Mayo, just a few hours before returning to Harrisburg. What attracted me to this restaurant was the description - Chino Latino cuisine. What!? Looking at the menu, I realised that there's nothing fusion, just one that offers both Chinese and Peruvian food. The Chinese menu does seem highly exotic when read in Latin but I should have known better than to order the Chow Mein de Carne Ahumada, Arroz Frito y Egg Roll, which really means roast pork chow mein, fried rice and egg roll. (-___-). On the other hand, the starter of Aquadito Chicken (a Peruvian cilantro rice soup) was bold on flavours. I found some recipes on the web that include beer in the stock. Sounds good, doesn't it?
A brief moment at Wall Street later, I was back at the Port Authority bus terminal, awaiting to board my bus to return to Harrisburg. Into the first hour of the journey, while searching for some reading materials in my bag, I found the remaining half of my apple crumble from Zabar's. And I happily munched away, reminiscing the short but fantastic weekends in New York. It'll be more about the food next time, I promised myself.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue (Between 10th and 11th St.)
2245 Broadway, 80th St.
Flor de Mayo
484, Amsterdam Avenue