We did not always dine in high class (and high price) establishments but also sampled some excellent and some not so excellent budget and medium-priced options in NYC. Here I will review The Green Table in Chelsea (green light), Omai in Chelsea (yellow light), Gennaro in the Upper East Side (green light), Broken English in Brooklyn (red light) and The Burger Joint in Midtown West (green light).
A paradise for every food lover is Chelsea Market which is located in an old cookie factory (some food trivia for you: it is the place where the Oreo cookie was invented). One perfect food shop after the other intermingled with small restaurants and coffee shops.
One of the little restaurants there is The Green Table. This informal organic eatery serves fresh food supplied by local farmers and markets. We started with a delectable beetroot salad (10) and as a main RS persuaded me to try a chicken pot pie (15) as this apparently is something like an American national dish and is considered as comfort food in the US. I am not keen on pies as for me the pie batter usually is a waste of calories that I would much rather spend on real food. I was glad I tried it though, as the good thing about this pie was that the flaky crust was thin and just on the top covering the delicious filling of chicken and vegetables. Maybe not the most sophisticated of all dishes but most probably the nicest pie I ever had (considering however that I am not eating pies very often…).
Very close to the market, also in Chelsea, we stumbled upon a Vietnamese restaurant called Omai. The avid readers of my blog know that I love Vietnamese food, especially the lovely clean flavours of the myriad of herbs used in Vietnamese cooking. The menu sounded very interesting, definitely more experimental and modern than the basic Vietnamese restaurants I usually frequent. Unfortunately the execution did not quite match my exceptions as Omai has forgotten to put herbs in their food which made the dishes that could have been delicious just a bit blah.
Having said all this the wok seared monkfish with peanut chili basil sesame rice cracker (7) was really nice. It might not be the most pretty plate of food and I could not pick up many Vietnamese flavours but all this aside I found the combination of monkfish and peanuts really pleasant. The very pretty looking tuna rolls with tasteless mustard greens unfortunately were very boring and could not even be saved by the advertised ‘spicy soy sauce’ which was not spicy at all (5).
As a main we shared the chicken with curry, coconut and lemongrass (15). Can you see this single leaf of Thai basil? The bite including it was nice, the rest of the dish was again bland. Not the slightest hint of chili and it was so under-seasoned that we even had to ask for soy sauce to put some more flavour in. What a shame, this could have been good!
Now to something Italian. There are a huge amount of Italians and Italian restaurants in NYC, even more, it appeared to me, than in London. I might have been very lucky but it seemed much easier in NYC to find a good Italian than in London. To be perfectly honest, Gennaro is the ‘local’ of some friends that live in NYC and I am sure that they had some bad experiences until they found this little gem. Gennaro is a neighbourhood Italian in the Upper East Side without any pretense and at – for NYC standard – very reasonable prices from starters for around 10 dollars, pasta around 12 and entrees around 16.
The figs with prociutto, rucola and balsamic vinegar were delicious. Nice, thinly sliced prosciutto and ripe, sweet figs were perfectly complemented by the sharp flavour of the rucola and the acidic sweetness of the balsamico. A classic but nevertheless very enjoyable. The second starter (both from the extensive list of daily specials) was oven-baked vegetables with some mild Italian cheeseÂ (I can’t remember the name, sorry) and pomogranate seeds on top. This dish was a bit less successful and not terribly exciting but we were still happily eating it.
The galetto al limone – a lemon roasted Cornish hen with black olive sundried tomatoe mince, mash and spinach (14.95) – was lovely. The only criticism I had was, that the chicken was slightly dry, but the flavour combination of lemon, olives and the dried tomatoes was very successful and the portion was more than generous. I also veryÂ much enjoyed the lamb chops (17.95). The meat was cooked to perfection and was tender and moist, served with crunchy vegetables and a delectable red wine sauce.
Then an Italian disappointment: Broken English in Brooklyn was stronglyÂ recommended to us by a random coffee shop owner not far from it and we were keen to give it a try for a light lunch. The restaurant has only been open for a short while and it’s rather mixed menu and stylish decor could not be more different in food and ambiance from the traditional Gennaro.
As it was Sunday we were offered the Brunch menu which contained too many non-Italian dishes (such as burgers). Our hopes of getting decent Italian sank immediately and our pessimism unfortunately was fully appropriate. We started with a salad for something like 9 dollars (can’t remember exactly) and we got around 4 dollars worth of salad. It was not bad but to sell something like this as a main as opposed to a side is plainly ridiculous. The pasta with tomato sauce and basil was – well pasta. On the plus side it was cooked al dente, but it was utterly tasteless and bland. Absolutely unmemorable food and I can just recommend you to stay away.
And of course I had to have a real American burger in the US (I should have had a NY cheesecake too but this kind of did not work out ). I got this great recommendation from Stuffyaface and Dnaequalsfood, who clearly know their burgers as we would have never otherwise stumbled upon this exquisitely weird place named Burger Joint. Even if you have the address this place is hard to find: basically you have to enter the posh Le Meridien Hotel and then you are already a bit disappointed because you were expecting something a bit more ‘American’. When you look around you can’t see Burger Joint written anywhere, so you ask the information desk clerk who sends you behind a big velvet brown curtain. And there it is! It feels like you have stepped into another world – a small, basic place without windows with BBQ smoke hanging in the air and people queuing for tables and food. Good for Le Meridien to accept something that quirky in their establishment.
The decor and service is admittedly not high class but it is fun and I had a great time. The menu is small and only contains hamburger, cheeseburger, fries and milkshakes. We had a cheeseburger (7) with fries (4) which were both excellent. RS, who is American and therefor a burger expert by birth, commented on the bun being low quality and the tomatoes being the pale glasshouse variant, but even he had to agree that the meat was tender and juicy and perfectly medium rare as requested. And some say it is one of the best burgers in NYC…