I’m hoping by now you read my review of my flight over to NYC with Virgin Atlantic, which will give a little background about why I decided on NYC. My previous trips to NYC have either been for business or on a budget – this time I wanted something different having covered all the tourist spots, my second love after travelling; FOOD! Don’t worry I will be covering some tourist aspects over the next few posts either by foot or at 3000ft in the air so hopefully over the next few blog posts I’ll be able to give you a good view on both sides.
After dropping my bags off at my accommodation, I packed my camera bag and headed down towards Chelsea via a caffeine hit at a chain that has taken New York by storm; Fika which is named after the Swedish concept with the basic meaning “to have a coffee.”
My original plan was to head to Chelsea Market to grab a bite to eat but after over indulging on the plane I thought I needed to walk a little more to be able to able to justify having a Lobster Roll!
I decided to visit the High Line which is a 1.5-mile-long park, inspired by the Promenade Plantée in Paris. It runs from the Meat Packing District into Chelsea and was previously a railway line. It’s quite an interesting place and really has encouraged the entire area to be redeveloped, with offices andwan real estate booming in the area. I’ve shared a few snaps of the high-line below, I do recommend it as a tranquil spot to get away from city life in Lower Manhattan, I sat down with my coffee and a book for an hour or so before continuing to explore the rest of the High Line. There are some fantastic art installations, a little area to grab a bite to eat and some fantastic greenery.
After the wander through the High Line, I headed to Chelsea Market which is a food hall, shopping mall, office building (Google/YouTube and MLB) and also houses studios for The Food Network. Most importantly it is the very same building where the Oreo cookie was invented and produced many years ago.
I opted for a visit to The Lobster Place for a quick Lobster Roll followed by some mini Donuts. The donuts disappeared before I had a chance to take a picture – something you may see on a regular basis with desserts and me. My sweet-tooth doesn’t have the patience to wait for a picture. After a quick chat with the wonderful team at Chelsea Wine Vault for some Napa suggestions I headed towards Washington Square Park via the West Village for a quick catch up with a friend who works at NY University. Our quick catch up ended up lasting a few hours and many craft beers – we then parted way and I started to walk around aimlessly with no real plan for the rest of the evening.
I Bar hopped around the East Village for a few hours meeting some new and interesting people along the way – one thing to note I love the fact that you can make conversation with new people in Bars or anywhere in the USA – you get labelled as weird if you do that in London. After a while I thought it was best to find somewhere to eat so I consulted my “NYC Food Map” – I’ll share this with you in the coming weeks, so you’ll see what I’m referring to. I found that the bar I was in wasn’t too far from Momofuku Ssäm Bar, this was highly recommended by several people I met earlier that evening and a friend who had visited NYC earlier in the year suggested I try it out too.
Owned by Chef David Chang it wasn’t surprising to see 10 years after it had first opened there was still a big queue outside waiting to be seated. Being a solo diner I thought I would take a chance and ask the Hostess if there were any solo seats available at the Bar, luckily there was a spot at the bar and I walked right in.
The restaurant/bar was dimly lit and full of groups of friends/colleagues having a meal and a few drinks after work. It was a really nice lively atmosphere. It was actually a great place to people watch. I started off with a tap water and a Mexican Coke – I thought given the long day, heat and humidity it was best to take on a bit of water and as for the Mexican Coke I was intrigued by it, I had seen it being advertised in several places during my day. I asked the Barman who kindly explained to me that it was quite popular on the East and West coasts of the USA due to the fact that it is made with sugar cane over the high fructose syrup they have in the USA. For me the taste was very different, I can’t quite put my finger on it but I was won over by the taste, and did try to have it over normal Coke where possible.
I opted to start with the signature dish – the Steamed Buns filled with pork belly, hoisin, cucumber and scallion. The pork belly is cured on-site for 24 hours using sugar and salt and then oven roasted. I’ll admit I was a bit sceptical about having pork belly as it can often taste oily but the team here at Momofuku know what they are doing it was tender and flavourful. The bun itself upon picking it up was very soft, almost like a pillow and when I put it into my mouth it simply melted away. For the buns alone I understood why 10 years on people were still queuing for a seat.
For mains I opted for the Heritage Foods Pork Chop, which was served with roasted cauliflower, raisin and fish sauce. What
came out was the Smoked Seven Spice Beef Brisket, upon flagging this up they quickly sent the dish back to the kitchen and my correct dish was bought out not too long after – alongside an apology from the waiter, the barman and the hostess. A little over the top for someone from London but according to the guy I was sat next to the norm in such establishments in NYC when something goes wrong. The pork chop itself was a challenge to eat, nothing to do with the cooking methods – simply the sheer size of the portion, the fish sauce and roasted complimented the pork chop well and I admit defeat I didn’t finish the entire dish. However, I did ask for it to be packed up with a napkin, and plastic cutlery and I handed it to a homeless person on my walk over towards Brooklyn Bridge.
Alongside the various apologies with the main meal, the kitchen had sent out a complimentary dessert – a Sake Kasu Ice Cream with sesame, peanut and Thai basil. Yes it sounds strange, did it work you ask? Hell yeah! It was a strange combination that really did go well together (it has nothing to do with the fact I was a complimentary dessert!). I couldn’t describe it to you if my life depended on it – but if you are ever in NYC do try this. When the bill arrived for my dinner alongside the complimentary dessert they had also comped my Mexican Coke which was great customer service and totally unexpected. It was also a good thing for my pocket too, as during my dinner the Brexit results were starting to filter through, when Sunderland results were announced the £ has tumbled from £1: $1.50 all the way down to being $1.32 and continuing to tumble…. Not the best start to the trip but luckily I had bought a majority of the funds needed in advance.
Given that I had my camera bag full of all the equipment and despite the fact it was midnight and I’d been up for 24 hours a this point I decided it was a good time to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn using the Brooklyn Bridge – which was still very busy with locals and tourists crossing. A quick tip along the route head via Little Italy, there is some great street art along the way as per my featured image.
Upon crossing I spent some time admiring the view of the Manhattan skyline and took a few pictures which I won’t share from this night as I wasn’t happy with the quality but did go back the following evening for a few stunning shots. A quick bit of advice if you are in NYC and looking to cross Brooklyn Bridge, either do it late at night like I did or early in the day as it becomes very crowded during the afternoon. Do also explore Brooklyn there are some stunning sites and some great Bars/Restaurants around the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) area.
Next up will be my post on Day 2 which involved a lot more walking, Central Park, The Freedom Tower and a Solo 3 Star Michelin dining experience and more……