nyc 2012: nomad, gagosian, smorgasburg, fatty crab and zaab elee
Semi-annual pilgrimage to New York: check. What is there to say other than that that city is fantastic and we should all move there? Lots else. Here are the place worthy of mention, some established, some new, all stand-outs. (Meet you there.)
chelsea/grenwich/west village/nomad etc.
643 Hudson Street
(between Horatio and Gansevoort)
Living up to the hype and worth the wait to get a table. Loud but dim and cozy too, great service but they don’t mess around (saw our server politely scold someone for moving a table over to accommodate their guest and stand firm when they complained about not having enough room. Wanted to cheer. The place is cramped. Deal with it). Simple, satisfying fried rice, famous for their pork buns but the highlight was the “watermelon pickle and crispy pork”–it just works, and stir-fried greens. Would go back weekly just for those two and a bowl of white rice.
Speaking of living up to the hype. Since my visit the restaurant received a Michelin star. The service is almost choreographed and the food, some courses better than others, was overall quite impressive and distinctly memorable. But you must dine here simply to walk through the opulent lobby, parlour, into the different dining and drinking rooms. Absolutely stunning and every detail perfection.
Kind of like the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto if you poured a coat of cool black lacquer over it and made each shop a stand-alone, glass-enclosed boutique. (Oh, and threw a bunch of Food Network and NBC offices on top of it.) Fresh bread, fine cheeses, dozens of delicious, healthy and artisan-crafted lunch options, plus the odd surprise; when I went, a raw space was transformed into Paper Magazine’s Super-Duper Market pop-up. Fun!
I’ve seen exactly one Gagosian exhibit and now I will be sure to take in one, at one of their many spaces, every time I’m in NYC or LA. I was so lucky to catch the (free!) Richard Avedon, larger-than-life photographic murals and portraits of Andy Warhol and the Factory crew, Allen Ginsberg and other interesting reporters, artists and people from the 60s and 70s. The space itself was something to behold, even the people there to explore the exhibit become part of it, their size in relation to the large subjects and the long shadows they cast… it was awesome.
113 MacDougal St., New York, NY 10012 (Betw. Bleecker & W. 3rd Street)
Ideal, indulgent lunch spot either on arrival or as a last meal before a regrettable departure from New York. 100% French bistro but with an NY “feel”–no rigidness but totally competent. Neanderthal-sized bone marrow, super-creamy and dense aligot (if you’ve had the cheese+potato…”pudding”, you know it’s not all that common outside of France), all of which begs for a 1pm glass of champagne to celebrate or console yourself with.
Think of the most amazing silk prints, saturated jewel tones or jet black, with golden, blue and green bird, butterfly and other pretty but bold motifs. Fall in love with one, and then spend an hour trying to choose between the dress, or the same print in the most flattering blouse, or a flowing skirt that makes you imagine the party you would wear it to. That’s what designer Gaby Basora does to you here.
191 Chrystie St. #2f/End of Freeman Alley, near Rivington St.
Finally! Freemans. At least 5 years since it was deemed the hot new spot but just as enticing as ever, sitting at the end of an alley that is too charming to be called that, behind a non-descript exterior, and anything but on inside. Taxidermy before it was everywhere, cozy banquettes, flattering, warm lighting–it’s basically just somewhere you want to be. Standard stuff/comfort food done well, like a surprisingly un-boring warm lentil salad with roasted cauliflower, kale and tahini. And a killer BLT with thick slices of bacon.
If you’ve ever had Northern Thai food, you’ve probably experienced pain. The sear of fresh red bird chilies, and heat that’s inescapable when those cut chilies bleed their venom into the dressing of a tart papaya salad. But you crave more almost immediately after recovering, don’t you? The “medium”-spiced papaya salad here is all that most of us, even the brave among us, can handle. The larb and the catfish are memorable, the greens are properly cooked, stems still crunchy and you must have the sticky rice to soak up that punishing and irresistible green papaya salad dressing.
Williamsburg, off the East River Ferry terminal
As epic as you’ve heard. The best way to gauge the scope of the thing is to take the ferry from Manhattan and said up to the many, many circus tents under which are the artisan and small business food vendors–there must be 100. Everything from gourmet Filipino vegetarian truffled “spring rolls” (lumpia) to Red Hook’s famous lobster rolls to spicy fried rice topped fried egg to–of course–gourmet treats for dogs. The best prepared food market this side of the Pacific, I’m betting.
Beer halls. You expect lots of unique offerings on tap, some great wurst, a fun, loud vibe, etc.–the usual. What’s impressive here is the airy feel, the fried-to-order pretzels with 4 dipping sauces–and the vibe which is even more fun and laid-back than expected. There are young, gorgeous couples but there are also groups of friends, families and lots of babies around. There is Jenga (supplied by the establishment) played at most tables. Good times.
Super-charming, a perfect resting spot after hours at the nearby Smorgasburg. You can sip an Iced Cubano long-brewed/concentrated coffee with chicory and condensed milk, and if you have room in your belly to spare, try their fantastic key lime pie.
Just APC, Thakoon, other beautiful things you’ll want to run your hands along, you know. Coats you want to slip on immediately. Bags that might as well be behind glass so you can press your nose up against it. The place to start your “want” list.