When at its best, New York City is just about the greatest place to be, on that we can all agree. It can also very easily be hell on earth (think the Penn Station area), but let’s not hold that against it. People love the city for different reasons, for some it’s the arts and culture, others revere the shopping, but for me, it’s always been about the food. One of my very favorite things in this whole wide world is sitting down to a great meal with even greater friends, and New York offered a lot of that this past week. When I remembered, I snapped a few pictures and now have a few more New York restaurant recommendations to share on top of the ones from last year (found here). I take my food guides very seriously, so should you ever be in New York, do check some of these places out. I back them wholeheartedly.
For the most important meal of the day (I like to treat each meal before me as the most important one ever, but you know how the saying goes), consider breakfast at one of several Alice’s Tea Cup locations. Since I was staying at the Loews Regency, I went to the Chapter II location on the corner of 64th and Lex. Very cute and right near Bloomingdale’s if you’re the shopping kind.
With coffee shops on every corner, I love a good teahouse (that also serves coffee). Their Alice’s Tea, a house blend of Indian black Vanilla tea with Japanese green tea and rose petals, was absolutely lovely. Smooth and subtle, and just right.
The breakfast was equally as nice. I ordered an egg white omelet and it came with a side of potato-chicken hash that I really liked, and Brian would have loved. He’s a big chicken fan, that Brian.
Before the year is over, I really want to go back with him in tow, because in our nearly five years together we’ve yet to spend any quality time there. There are so many places and things I want to share with him from my college days, that a proper trip is definitely overdue. I’m working on it.
So to recap, the tea was great, the food was too, but the winner for best part of the meal was their signature pumpkin scone with caramel glaze and a side of raspberry preserves and clotted cream. Incredible. I don’t even like scones, but this I loved. So much so that I looked for a recipe and found one from their cookbook that I’ll definitely be trying at home.
If you ask me, the best Italian food isn’t in Little Italy, it’s in the East Village on 7th Street between 1st and Avenue A, at a little place called Giano. It’s the best. I went with Megan on Sunday night, because like me, she loves it too, and we’ve been going for years ever since we first discovered the place thanks to my friend Foram.
Each and every time, we’re completely blown away by the ambience and quality of the food. We also love seeing the same owners and faces waiting tables and working the bar. They may not recognize us, but we love that we remember them.
We started off with the evening’s appetizer special: asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, baked in fontina cheese topped with a balsamic glaze. Molto bene.
For our main course, we shared their spinach pesto risotto special (our favorite is their butternut squash, but it wasn’t available that day), and the Tagliatelle Tirolesi. So so good.
The eggplant appetizer, lasagna, rigatoni, and ravioli are all delicious as well. I’ve never had a disappointing meal.
Giano’s got some great desserts, but one of the restaurant’s major selling points is actually its proximity to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop directly across the street. We typically take our dessert cravings there, but were just too full this past Sunday to make it happen. Their signature Salty Pimp, a vanilla soft-serve cone injected with dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in a chocolate shell, is something else.
If Italian’s not your thing and you’re in the mood for something Asian, Yakiniku West (9th Street between 2nd and 3rd) is near and dear to me. It’s a great little Japanese/Korean barbecue joint that serves both authentic food and an authentic experience.
Taking off one’s shoes is a requirement, and meals are shared in a traditional low-seating setting, so I hope that’s something you’re ok with.
The prices I know you’ll love. Because between 22 and 30 dollars depending on your choice of meat, you get a full meal of salad, miso soup, edamame, rice, a plate of sliced meat and vegetables for the grill, and your choice of ice cream. That would be a steal anywhere, but especially in New York.
My brother Bowen was my date and we went with the chicken and short rib meals to share.
Grilling one’s food right at the table is a lot of fun. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s an experience you need to have.
Pro tip: for five extra dollars, you can upgrade your rice to a sizzling hot bowl of Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice with vegetables, egg and hot sauce). I love the stuff and at least one order is necessary for the table.
And from sizzling to chilling, end your meal with your choice of ice cream (it’s included, remember?). Mango and green tea are the standards.
I’m not usually a name dropper, but I used to nanny for Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian back in the day, and he and his wife were the ones to introduce me to Yakiniku. So if my vouching for it wasn’t enough, I hope the Iron Chef’s approval seals the deal for me.
My last night there, I caught up with my friend Rachel at Frankies Spuntino in the Carrol Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. It’s an Italian restaurant that missed the bar for me. It was pricey, on the underseasoned side, and the service left something to be desired. The experience only reaffirmed my preference for my beloved Giano, so save yourself a so-so bad meal and give my recommendations a try.
I’d like to put my weight gain to good use, so if you’ll try just one of my New York suggestions here and here, you’ll do me proud.
Until next time, New York. Have a great weekend!