I realize that it’s been a few weeks since I got back from my last trip to New York and I still haven’t told you all about it. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip for a family celebration and I didn’t think I would have that much time to roam the city in search of good eats but in the end – and as always – I did manage to have a few great meals and I even fell in love! But more on that later on…
I started my weekend with dinner at Aldea Restaurant, a one-Michelin star restaurant with a menu “inspired by the Iberian Peninsula” and chef George Mendes’s Portuguese background. The restaurant is a beautiful double-height long and narrow space, with plush banquettes on one side and a hanging chandelier overlooking the back and the chef’s table. The plates are beautiful and the food is delicious. The menu is seasonal and changes often and they offer a tasting menu. I urge you to have the sea urchin toast, which was just fabulous! Their cocktail list is also very interesting and the Trade Wind cocktail (vodka, pineapple, lime, orgeat, crème de violette) that I had was fabulous.
The next day was brunch at Locanda Verde, a restaurant located in TriBeCa that I had heard nothing but good things about and one that I’ve been wanting to go to for a while. Reservations are a must, whether you’re going to this very popular spot for brunch or dinner. Chef Andrew Carmellini serves rustic “Italian-influenced tavern cuisine” in a dynamic, bustling, casual and comfortable ambiance. The restaurant is open from early morning until late night seven days a week. We ordered quite a few things that morning and everything was delicious but one thing that I clearly remember is the taste of the fresh ricotta with honey and thyme. A definite must for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner in the city.
Casa Lever in the Il Pelicano Hotel was on the menu for dinner that day. The art deco space is accentuated by a marble illuminated bar in the front, plush seats throughout and pop art inspired art of celebrities on the walls. The menu is classic Italian, Milanese to be more precise and an absolute joy to discover. Here again, the sea urchin toast is a must and so are the pappardelle with slow cooked duck ragu, the linguine with lobster or the spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and king crab meat, all excellent choices.
Right after Casa Lever, my dining companions and I made a pit stop at Marea, a restaurant I’ve been dying to go to but that I haven’t managed to get reservations at yet. We stopped in to buy a gift certificate bu took advantage of the empty seats at the beautiful bar to get ourselves a drink and a dozen oysters, yes, right after we had just had dinner! Note to self: must go back to Marea on my next trip to New York.
Sant Ambrœus espresso bar on posh Madison Avenue is where I had my $7 latte the next morning. The space reminded me a bit of a café I was in in Sicily this past summer, the kind of institution that’s been there forever, where the waitress calls you sweetie and has been there since opening day. How was the $7 latte you ask? It was good, but just about as good as the $2.50 one at Caffe San Simeon, my neighbourhood’s favourite café (and the best in Montreal in my opinion).
It was a couple of hours after coffee and a paninotti at Sant Ambroeus that I fell in love… with a bowl of ramen at Ippudo. I’ve never been to any restaurant quite like Ippudo, which is the first overseas shop of the Japanese chain of ramen eateries. People line up for hours (I heard 2 hours is not unusual) to get a seat at this popular lower east side restaurant. I got lucky and got seated right away at a communal table because I was by myself. Inside, the music choice is loud and kitsch 70s and 80s music. From across the huge room, waiters yell orders at each other and at the cooks in combat gear battling flames behind the glass of the open kitchen. The decor is rich with lots of wood, textural elements and some big murals of Japanese calligraphy and art. Most tables are communal with a few large banquettes along one of the walls. The ambiance is absolutely chaotic and I loved it the minute I was immersed in it.
The menu includes a few appetizers, some hot and cold noodles, some specials and several choices of ramen with extra toppings. Ippudo is know for their rich “tonkotsu” (pork based) broth and their delicious hand-pulled noodles. I ordered the Kasane Black, a limited-time ramen with authentic “Kasane” tonkotsu (pork) & chicken base noodle soup, topped with pork loin chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, red pickled ginger, naruto, scallions, and fragrant “black” garlic oil. I also ordered extra kakuni (braised pork belly) to go with it – or in it. That first spoonful was like a revelation and the realization that all the versions of this dish that I might have had before that very moment were just imposters. The broth was so very rich, the pork meltingly sweet and all the flavours just incredible.
The ambiance, the ramen, the decor, New York City, it was one of those perfect moments and I was in heaven. What can I say, I fell in love…
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