No deli there I guess!

So, I just spent ten days in New York and hope I didn’t gain an equal number of pounds from all I ate. So many ethnic delights, so little time. Luckily there was a lot of walking involved. I figured I might as well share my favorites and mebbe some of y’all will share yrs before my next trip in August.

First day resulted in pierogis (my preferred spelling even if the text editor doesn’t like it) and borscht on Second Avenue for both lunch and dinner. At first I had some reservations about this idea, but then I realized that both Polish and Ukrainian food deserved equal time. Oh, and as far as I know, nobody does borscht in North Cackalack.

First up was Little Poland on Second Avenue, where I enjoyed the ‘Very Special Pierogis’ which include potato, sauerkraut and cheese with an herbed butter cream sauce. I never like being forced to choose fillings, so I was pretty happy to get everything at once. For starters I had the red borscht. My only regret is choosing rye bread after seeing the next table served giant slices of potato bread. The interior of Little Poland is really homey and the waitresses always have on big Slavic smiles. I particularly love wood paneled walls, as anyone who has visited my residence, the Pine Lodge, will tell you.

The interior of Veselka is a different manner all together. It is all modern clean lines and well lit 24 hours a day. I chose the vegetarian sampler, which included stuffed cabbage, 4 pierogies, a salad and a cup of veggie borscht. I would never have finished without some help from a friend. I was a bit awed by her ability to gourmandize even after polishing off her bigos (where sausage, pork, sauerkraut, onions and mashed potatoes comprise ‘a meal fit for a hunter’). Top that with some beet horseradish salad and a bottle of Cabernet and you can imagine our groans of satisfaction as we waddled back onto Second Avenue.

The next night my brother treated us to the Blue Water Grill, which had amazing seafood selections. After consulting my handy Seafood Watch Pocket Guide, I eliminated the Swordfish and Chilean Seabass as environmentally questionable choices and decided to go for sushi. I’m glad I did, the tempura spicy tuna monster roll was to die for and the smoked eel sashimi was flaky tenderliciousness. My one regret was not trying the creamed spinach, which I eyed across the table, but was regrettably at my breaking point before I noticed it. My brother asked me to make the white wine selection, where my recent fondness for dry yet complex Sancerres paid off. I think the seven of us went through four bottles over the course of the meal. Plus a little Willamette Valley Pinot Noir as some of us don’t do whites (I know I really didn’t until two years ago). The only drawback to the place is that it is nice enough to have bathroom attendants, which I find a bizarre form of luxury and always find myself awkward around. Oh, and I highly recommend sitting in the basement ‘Jazz Room,’ which is tastefully appointed and has a good house band.

For the budget traveller, I highly recommend heading to Chinatown to get yourself some Xiǎolóngbāo aka ‘soup dumplings’. Joe Shanghai’s on Pell Street off Bowery is the Home of the Soup Dumpling, so I went there to eat dim sum style with a friend. One oddity of the place is the communal round tables of six to eight. The hostess, who obviously hasn’t read my favorite entry, sat us next to an apparent double date of Young Republicans. Fortunately, they ignored us and soon payed their bill to be replaced by two couples chatting in Cantonese. The soup dumpling is a genius of culinary engineering. In an odd reversal of roles, the soup is contained within the dumpling, not vice versa. Crazy! Tasty, too, as were the scallion pancakes and spring rolls. The turnip cake and overdone bokchoy left a little to be desired. I think if I returned I might hunt out another place, or at least bring a large enough party to take over a table and order lots of different things. I know from a previous trip that vegetarian soup dumplings exist somewhere in Chinatown under the delightful title ‘mini pea shoot bun,’ but I can’t remember where. If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

We followed the dim sum with a trip to Decibel, my favorite sake bar and number one recommendation of things to do in New York. I know about zilch about sake, but the waitstaff is always really helpful and the mochi ice cream is freakin’ adorable. Apparently mochi is pulverized sticky rice, which coats the ice cream to form a kind of dessert dumpling that will melt in yr mouth but not on yr plate. Another genius of culinary engineering if you ask me. Unfortunately, they were all out of mochi, so I settled for iced lychee fruit which is nice, but not nearly as exciting.

My biggest regret is not chasing down all these rumors about a ninja restaurant. Apparently these rumors are founded in reality, cos I found the website which promises “Good Service, NINJA WAY!”

The rumors did provide my favorite late night drunken conversation, though.

Elijah: Where should we go after this?

Mike: I dunno, maybe we should find that ninja restaurant and have a cocktail.

Elijah: Do you think it’s still open?

Eric: Well, there’s really no way to know.

Mike: How’s that?

Eric: Because the ninja restaurant is only open WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT!

(Eric laughs uproariously at his own joke)

…What a jackass.


About this entry