Category Archives: New York City

wd-50

50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
212.477.2900

This was the meal we were most excited to have in our entire USA trip. We made reservations a month in advance to the day, and it was where we were going to celebrate K’s quarter-of-a-centuryth birthday. There was nothing that was going to stop us from getting to the restaurant, not even the crappy NYC traffic. We were in Woodbury commons shopping in the day, and traffic was just ridiculous going back into NYC. When we got to the Port Authority we had about 10 minutes to our reserved timeslot, and we called the restaurant to ask them to hold our table for as long as they could while we rushed there. Thank God they don’t have a dress code, as we were wearing probably the most shabby looking clothes ever, looking a huge mess, as we rushed into the restaurant. Imagine our relief as we finally sat down, and were quickly poured two tall glasses of ice cold water. First order of business – get some alcohol. We ordered 2 cocktails, a Juicy Lucy, and a Check the Weather. Both went down very well, though A’s Juicy Lucy was a little too bubblegummy sweet.

Service at wd-50 is truly fantastic. Abigail, our server, was like a bright ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Some people are born to be in the service industry, and Abi is definitely one of those people. She was engaging and made us both feel right at home. We ordered the tasting menu, and waited in excitement to be blown away by what is widely regarded to be some of the finest examples of molecular gastronomy in the world today.

wd-50 is owned by Chef Wylie Dufresne. He is a regular guest judge on Top Chef, and has competed in Top Chef Masters as well. He’s well known in the restaurant world for being ultra creative and daring to experiment with different cooking techniques and tools. Chef Wylie is the head chef there at wd-50, and it’s so wonderful to know that the Chef behind the restaurant’s fame is actually there cooking your food. In so many restaurants, the celebrity chef is just there to draw the crowds and is hardly ever in the kitchen, let alone to do any actual cooking.

First item: sesame seed bread. Crispy, delicate, and very, very addictive.

Next item in our tasting menu was a fish amuse bouche, with watermelon foam and some peppers. The fish was served at room temperature, which didn’t make it texturally very appealing, but it was full of fishy flavour (in a good way).

The next dish was called Everything Bagel. This was served with smoked salmon threads and a crispy cream cheese. At first look, it looks like a deconstructed bagel dish, with a little slice of poppy seed bagel, and the classic fillings like smoked salmon and cream cheese artistically arranged on the side. However, there is nothing like a classic bagel in this dish. What looks like a bagel is actually ice cream! Yes I’ll say it again, it’s ice cream! This is one of the truly amazing aspects of the meal – what you see is not what you get, and what you think you’re having is not actually what you’re having.

Cut to the next dish: an emormous slice of Foie gras with chinese celery. First of all the combination of foie gras and chinese celery seems a little strange, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you cut through the foie gras, you find a liquid passion fruit core in the center that oozes out sexily. The presentation and creativity was spectacular. Tastewise this didn’t deliver as much. The sour tang of the passion fruit cut through the creaminess of the foie gras, and perhaps that was the whole point of combining those 2 ingredients together, but we’re not sure if the flavours necessarily complemented each other. Nevertheless, it was a really exciting dish to look at and appreciate the work that went into creating it.

Next dish presented to us was Chef Wylie’s take on breakfast. This was Scrambled egg ravioli with charred avocado and kindai kampachi. Some extremely expertly diced fried potatoes were sprinkled all over the plate as well. They were so tiny it was literally impossible to pick up with a fork – they just slipped through the slits in your fork. This was their interpretation of hash browns we guessed. Overall this dish was outstanding, both in presentation and taste. The scrambled egg ravioli was very well done, and the kampachi was just awesome. We absolutely loved this dish.

The next dish was Cold fried chicken with buttermilk ricotta, some Tabasco and caviar. This was easily our favourite dish of the entire tasting menu. The chicken was fried, and then chilled. Texturally this was a huge success – the jellied fat didn’t annoy us at all, but added a wonderful new dimension to a classic fried chicken dish. The chicken was served with what looked like some mashed potato, but was actually buttermilk ricotta. There was no strange cheesy smell or taste, and was such a cheeky take on mashed potato. This dish was truly beginning to remind us of a traditional fried chicken dish, and what was the little dollop of ketchup sauce on the side was actually Tabasco, that had been ‘Wylie-d’ and transformed into what genuinely looked and felt like ketchup, but with a totally different taste. It was pure genius. We also loved the little slice of fried chicken skin, but couldn’t care too much about the caviar, as we didn’t see how it fit in the dish at all. Perhaps it was a reference to a surf and turf?

The Black bass was next. There was a beautiful smear of what we were told was popcorn across the entire plate. It was really popcorn! It’s really cool how your brain looks at what you’re going to eat, processes it, preps itself for what it’s about to taste, and then when you actually it eat it the disconnect between what you’ve prepped yourself to have and what you’re having just makes your brain do a little cartwheel. The popcorn sauce was one of those moments, and we felt almost bad having to destroy the beautiful presentation to eat it. The fish was beautifully cooked. It was firm yet juicy and overall very delicious. The ground chorizo was also nice and smoky, but we couldn’t care very much about the pineapple.

So far, this meal has been by far one of the most exciting meals we’ve ever had. Dishes are turned on their heads, reworked in creative ways and challenging our notions of food, texture and tastes. The next dish was Beef and béarnaise, and this was way out there in terms of creativity. When I say Beef and béarnaise, you think of steak with some sauce. The last thing you’ll ever expect to see is soup. Well, soup was what we got. The soup was the beef steak, and the béarnaise was manifested by the 3 creamish balls. They were topped with some onion reduction. Talk about deconstructing a dish. The individual components were not meant to be eaten separately, as they had some really powerful and quite jarring flavours. Eaten together however, you honestly feel like you’ve just had a steak with béarnaise sauce. This was such an amazing dish that we still talk about it quite regularly.

It would be really hard to top the highs of the previous few dishes, and indeed there was a lull in the proceedings with the next dish – Lamb loin with black garlic, romesco, soy bean and pickled garlic chive. The lamb was perfectly cooked, slightly rare in the middle and juicy and tender all throughout, but the black garlic was definitely an acquired taste. It was too overpowering that we barely touched it at all. Hence it was like eating an incomplete dish.

With the tasting menu we were served a series of desserts. First up was a White beer ice cream with apple, caramel and caraway. Beer ice cream is definitely a novel concept and this dessert definitely pushed the boundaries. It was slightly bitter, and the caramel provided a much needed sweetness to remind us again that this was dessert. (Not our favourite dessert, but a very brave attempt at one.)

We loved our next dessert. It was a Rainbow sherbet with plum, tarragon, orange and a little bit of olive oil. The sherbet was wrapped in a thin roll of sugar paper that was just so delicate and crispy. We loved all the flavours, and the different components worked very well together.


The third dessert was Soft chocolate with beet reduction, long peppers and ricotta ice cream. The soft chocolate was seriously decadent and to die for. The ricotta ice cream was also very luscious, but we didn’t like the beets very much – just give me more of that chocolate!!!

Since it was K’s birthday, a complimentary dessert was brought out for him. This was a cucumber cake, with once again that lovely sugar paper, and a candle was lit in the roll of sugar paper. It was such a delicate cake – you wouldn’t think that cucumber was strong enough an ingredient to be the main focus in a cake, but it really worked. Funnily enough, cucumber is K’s favourite (healthy) snack to munch on when he’s feeling hungry (and fat), so this was such a pleasant surprise for him! The candle extinguished itself when the flame hit the sugar paper (whether this was intended to happen or not we don’t know) and gave a little smokiness to the dessert which we quite liked. There was a little taste of seaweed somewhere in the sugar paper, but we were told there wasn’t any added to the dish at all..quite fascinating indeed.

The final dessert of our extremely long but exciting meal was a Cocoa packet with chocolate shortbread and milk ice cream, basically a take on cookies and cream. The ice cream was hidden in the shortbread, and the cocoa packet was actually edible in its entirety, packet and all! It was such an exciting concept, to bite into the packet and to taste the cocoa powder (obviously it wasn’t just ordinary cocoa powder). It was like having a cup of coffee to finish off our meal, but without the coffee. The ‘cookies and cream’ was also wonderful. It was a small little bite, quite characteristic of the entire meal – full of small components, all carefully thought out, meticulously created and beautifully presented.

Overall this was quite the meal. We were brought on a culinary tour, and tasted some of the most interesting and creative foods of our lives. The team at wd-50 is just awesome, both in the kitchen and in the front of house, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in the couple of hours we were there. (Yes, the tasting menu is a whole journey and actually does take a while to complete, but that’s all part of the experience!) At the end of the meal we got to go into the kitchen to meet the team responsible for all our food, and even took a photo with the main man himself, Chef Wylie Dufresne! This was the perfect birthday celebration for K, and definitely one of the meals we will be talking about for ages to come.

Service: 9/10
Food: 8/10

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I Trulli

122 E 27th St (between S Park Ave & Lexington Ave)
New York 10016
http://www.itrulli.com/

It’s quickly becoming quite of a theme now – us visiting restaurants featured in TV shows. This next restaurant we went to in New York City was featured in the Food Network’s show ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’, in their ‘Filled with envy’ episode. The dish featured was the Orecchiette, which is an ear-shaped pasta typical of Apulia, a region of South Italy. In I Trulli, their Orecchiette is handmade fresh everyday by Dora, the mother of the owner. Their entire family moved from Apulia to New York City in 1970, and they have strived to keep the food at I Trulli authentically Italian. Service at I Trulli is unfortunately not the full Italian experience that we love, and there’s little of the loud, friendly, macho banter that we’ve had at other good Italian places, since the servers at I Trulli are (all, it seems,) not Italian. Nevertheless, service is excellent – very professional, attentive, and accommodating.

We were sat in the garden, and it was a lovely not-too-warm, not-too-cool summer evening, so it was really nice being able to get some (relatively) fresh air, away from the noise of the traffic and the hustle bustle of the city.

A little bread ‘basket’ was brought to us, with some very nice focaccia bread with sun-dried tomatoes, and a little side dish of a cheese dip which we didn’t care very much about – the bread was very good by itself.

Our starter of lightly sautéed calamari with garlic and chilies was a very light, clean dish. The slice of toasted bread was a little too overly toasted, and was too hard to bite, but the calamari was very nicely cooked, with a nice subtle heat from the chilies to finish off each bite.



We had a main of Wild Striped Bass with Manila Clams, and this was also a very nicely composed dish. The fish was nicely cooked and the clams brought a ton of flavor to the dish. The only gripe would be that it was a rather small portion for a main dish – where are those famously large American-sized portions? You’re not in Italy anymore – your customers don’t watch their waist-lines so double those portions!

The dish we came all the way to try was their famous Dora’s handmade Orecchiette in a rabbit ragu. The pasta was clearly handmade – each piece different from the one before it, lovingly pinched and moulded by dear old Dora. This is one handmade pasta that definitely elevates the dish. As with some restaurants which do their own pastas or noodles, very often the attempt falls flat, and they would have been better off using store bought pasta instead (Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc, we’re referring to you here). With I Trulli, the handmade pasta makes the dish. It is the dish. The rabbit ragu is also very tasty, but the star is well and truly the handmade Orecchiette.

Service: 8.5/10
Food: 7/10

Teariffic Café

51 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013
212 393 9009

Bubble tea is something we really, really like. Back in Singapore many years ago, there was a bubble tea craze that went really out of control, and though it’s died out quite a while ago, it has always retained a special place in the hearts of all Singaporeans. (Now it seems the bubble tea craze might be resurfacing woohoo!!)

While studying in London, we’ve tried very hard to find a place that sells good bubble tea. Unfortunately, none of them can ever match up to the bubble tea found in Singapore or Taiwan. Some of them can get the taste of the tea right, but not a single shop has achieved the perfect consistency of the pearls that is so important in a kickass bubble tea.

The bubble tea at Teariffic Café is quite hands down the best bubble tea we’ve ever had outside Singapore and Taiwan. The tea is fragrant and not too sweet, and the pearls are absolutely fantastic. They have the perfect balance of chewy, firm, bouncy textures, and are just lovely to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Service: NA
Food: 7/10

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

65 Bayard Street
New York, NY 10013
212 608 4170
http://www.chinatownicecreamfactory.com/

This place has been featured in lots of guide books for having really awesome ice cream.

We went in and ordered a single cup of green tea ice cream, and were just blown away by the wonderful fragrance of the green tea. This is something we’ve never experienced in any green tea ice cream, so it was really nice to be able to taste the natural bitterness and fragrance of green tea in our ice cream. One criticism would be that it could use with a little less sweetness, to let the subtle flavours really sing.

Service: NA
Food: 6.5/10

Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc

1 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10013
212 791 1817

Deep in New York City’s Chinatown is this little restaurant called Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc. (The word ‘restaurant’ used very loosely here.) It was featured on the Food Network show ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’, where one of their network stars, Guy Fieri, named the noodles in Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc as the best thing he ever ate in a bowl.

We ordered some boiled dumplings to start with. These were definitely quantity over quality. There were so many dumplings on the plate that it could have easily been a very full meal for one person. Taste-wise, they were uninspiring – quite bland on the outside, and seasoned with a strange spice on the inside that was definitely an acquired taste.

The noodles soon arrived. We had the Beef Hand Pulled Noodle and the House Special Hand Pulled Noodle, which was a medley of cow parts, with a fried egg on top. The noodles were very clearly hand pulled. They were slightly varied in thickness, and had a nice bite to them. However, they weren’t as outstanding as we hoped they would be. We can’t help but contrast the quality of the noodles at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc with the udon noodles at Koya in London. While Koya’s udon noodles are head and shoulders above other udon places and are extremely memorable, the hand pulled noodles at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc are quite forgettable and lack that special x factor.

Also, they were let down by the quite ordinary broth and meat. There was perhaps a bit too much oil and MSG in the broth, and it was also very forgettable. The meat was also just so-so.

Overall, we have to say: sorry Guy Fieri, this isn’t the best noodle dish around. Most eateries in Hong Kong and in London’s Chinatown do a far better job.

Service: 6.5/10
Food: 6/10

Shake Shack

www.shakeshacknyc.com

Shake Shack began as a hot dog cart, and has slowly turned itself into a burger chain. Now, it’s probably one of the most popular burger places in NYC, if the queues are anything to go by. We’ve long heard about the monstrously long queues, so we decided to beat the crowd by going there extremely early, and ended up being one of the first few customers of the day. Kiasu we are.

We had the Shack Stack, a Cheeseburger, 2 portions of fries, lemonade and a peanut butter milkshake.

The burgers were both very good. The beef patties were very delicious, but they were definitely over cooked and not medium as we requested. Nevertheless, they were extremely satisfying, full of flavor and still juicy, despite being over cooked. The difference between the Shack Stack and the Cheeseburger is that the former comes with an additional layer of crisp fried Portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese. This addition of the mushroom made the burger even more awesome, as the wonderful flavor of the Portobello mushroom really brought the whole burger together. You really can’t go wrong with a Portobello mushroom.

The buns however, are really just an afterthought. They’re buttery and soft, and probably quite yummy by themselves; but they really serve as just something to hold the burger together, and are overwhelmed by the strong flavours of the beef patty and the mushroom. When you bite into the burger you barely taste the buns, and the same can be said for the lettuce and tomatoes – there just to provide an illusion of a balanced meal, but you ain’t foolin’ us!

The fries were very well cooked and the peanut butter milkshake was easily one of the best we’ve ever had – very thick and sinfully sinful. Thank god that we ordered a cup of lemonade as well to provide some acidity to balance the sweetness of that milkshake.

So how does Shake Shack’s burgers stand in comparison to the other burgers we’ve had? It’s definitely ranks right on top in the fast food burger category, well above the likes of MacDonalds and even Burger King. However, it will never feature in the gourmet burger category, with contenders like Hache and Byron. Shake Shack is not, and has never portrayed itself as a gourmet burger chain. It is fast food done extremely well, and it is definitely something worth queuing for if you find yourself hungry in NYC.

Service: NA
Food: 7/10

Eating badly at a baseball game

One of the things we really wanted to do in USA was to watch a baseball game. We managed to get quite cheap tickets for a game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and for the full complete baseball experience, we wanted to eat hot dogs and, well, basically, junk food at the stadium while watching the game.

There are many stalls selling food at the METs stadium. Lots of hot dog stands, lots of drinks and sweets stalls, lots of fast food stalls, and you wonder why these people are so fat. Well, another reason could also be that one of their favourite sports is baseball, which is one of the most lazy, boring sports ever to be played, but that’s another rant altogether.

 

Back to the food. We bought a selection of junk food – some chicken tenders, crinkle fries and a cheeseburger. To sum it up, everything was appalling. The cheeseburger was dry, the fries were soggy and terrible, and the chicken tenders were a complete joke – tender was definitely the last word on my mind when I bit into them. But then again, we didn’t exactly expect to have gourmet food at a ball game did we? We wanted a true blue American experience at the ball game, and we got just that. Having said that, we did have a lot of fun watching the baseball game, but going once is probably more than enough.

Service: NA
Food: NA