I’d recently visited various family members in the States (yet again) for the Christmas season. What may represent a geographical challenge to others represented a geographical opportunity to me. This trip had me spending quality time with different cousins in Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Washington DC and New York City. I’ll post pics from those places soon. First up: NYC.
Our first night in New York City had our group separated; the only way we could achieve our disparate goals was to divide and conquer. Some wanted to shop, some to sightsee and some to watch a show. Recovering from a cold and weathering 0ºC temperatures, I wanted to eat. Specifically, I wanted to eat somewhere warm.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
I met Bus, our cousin in NYC, for some drinks and a feed. Accommodating my needs as a tourist and an invalid, he recommended dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar. We made our way to the East Village for some hearty ramen and David Chang‘s famous Pork Buns. One of his five venues in New York, the very casual noodle bar is forgiving of those without foresight: put your name down for a table and they’ll send you an SMS when you’re ready to be seated. In our case, it was about a quick 20 minutes at 7pm on a Friday night. Thankfully, there are many bars nearby to wet your whistle, least of which being the Coyote Ugly bar, which inspired the eponymous film.
The noodle bar itself wasn’t very large. It felt even cosier with all the full tables and all the people queued up to grab a table or put their name down. Having beaten the crowds, we wasted no time.
We started with the famous Pork Buns (USD $10 for two), served with two thick pieces of pork belly, hoisin, scallion and cucumber. This was worth the price of admission (ie the wait). The bun was a soft vessel for delivering the sweet fatty goodness of the hoisin and pork.
On the winter menu, they had Duck Sausage Rice Cakes (USD $14). This was entirely different from what I had envisioned upon arrival… and I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of having the duck sausage embedded in flat rice cakes, the rice “cakes” were tubular sections tossed with duck sausage mince, kohlrabi, mint and cabbage. Very tasty and I’d say just as good or better than the buns.
Bus had the Momofuku Ramen (USD $16) and I had the seasonal Pork Ramen (USD $15). Unfortunately, the ramen was lacklustre relative to the great ramen we are blessed with in Sydney.
Cold and tired, I take my leave from Bus and head home to the Ritz Carlton at Battery Park, our home for the next few nights (Thanks, Ninang Doll!). Enroute, my brother had just finished a show at Midtown and asked if I wanted to try the best Halal chicken and rice in New York City. The Halal Guys kiosk on 53rd and 6th has commanded massive lines and long waits for years. It has been regarded as the “Chicken and Rice Capital of NYC”, having lines up to half an hour while other chicken rice carts nearby lay ignored.
“Yes, please!” I advise.
It’s very modest food (duh, it’s street food) but the room was filled with delicious odours the moment he arrived. The red rice had an earthy flavour that went very well with the smokey chicken. Forget the bread and generously slather the rice and chicken with the white sauce and the (very hot) chilli sauce and you’ve got classic comfort food.
How did it compare to other Halal chicken rice places? Others I had tried were merely inoffensive, adequate sustenance at best. This was above average. And at USD $6, how can you turn that down?
Dessert at the Ritz
Stuffed and warm in our rooms, where were we to turn for dessert? Thankfully, the Ritz welcomed us with our own plate of red velvet cupcakes. So rich and sweet, it was the perfect way to end the evening.
And if that weren’t enough, they had jars full of macarons ripe for the taking. I honestly did not expect much of these but I was wrong. They were excellent. What else can you expect from the Ritz?!
The word? So much food so little time. NYC is truly the greatest city on earth.