I still have a few more Australia posts to write (nope, not letting go of vacation), but I did want to talk about this past weekend’s trip to New York and specifically the food before I forget it all in a work-and-life-in-general-induced haze.
Lucky Cheng’s not surprisingly, was not very good on the food front. But then, why would it be? Nobody’s there for the food. Or the service. Let me tell you. As one of the girls said this week, “Those drag queens waited tables like men.” And it’s true. The fine ladies of Lucky Cheng’s put the word “wait” into “waitressing.”
Unfortunately, when the food did arrive, it didn’t really put the glitter in my platforms either, if you know what I mean. We had five forgettable appetizers. Oh wait. Not entirely forgettable. I remember the butternut squash soup tasting not-so-mildly like soap. Soup/Soap/Let’s call the whole thing off. And let’s give a round of quiet clapping to the fine dishwashing staff who must’ve done their jobs so admirably well that we could taste the results of their hard work. Bravo.
This was followed by four platters of supposedly “tasty Pan Asian cuisine” to share, none of it very good or easy to eat. I remember wrestling with a quarter-chicken drenched in some dark sauce and served on what I think was mashed potatoes. I don’t know. At the risk of sounding like a cranky, near-sighted old lady (which might all be accurate), the lighting was turned down so low you really couldn’t see a thing. Which might have actually been a blessing in disguise.
There definitely was some dry fried rice with indeterminate meat products involved. I had a spoonful of that. Overall, there was much food left on the table after it was all said and done.
I guess we were sort of warned about the food quality. When we called to confirm gluten-free options for the bride-to-be, we were told to call back when the chef got in at 7 pm. Considering that the first show began at 7:30, we all thought this was a pretty laid back approach to dinner prep.
The next morning, we dragged our starving selves to brunch at Balthazar. This incredibly popular hotspot is very Paris bistro chic. The interiors are gorgeous, with lots of old mirrors, wood floors, and milky light fixtures. It’s massive, and yet, crowded beyond belief and fairly noisy. We had reservations for noon and the place just got busier from there.
Three of us had eggs Florentine with spinach and artichokes, another girl had steak and frites, and our gluten-free friend had a simple omelette. The eggs Florentine came in these adorable little skillets, and each was perfectly cooked according to our stated preferences (I like mine a little on the hard poached side, which I know is an insult to chefs everywhere).
The only problem with these adorable little skillets is they didn’t really hold a lot of actual food. And there weren’t any sides. Amy’s omelette came with home fries cooked in clarified butter (she can’t have dairy either), so we swooped in and ate those little delishiousnesses as well.
The service was pretty good, when we could distract our waiter from looking at himself in the oversized mirrors behind our banquette. I will say, once we got his attention to place our orders, things came out very soon after and they were very quick to clear away our Bloody Mary glasses the minute we put them down.
It was ok, as far as $22 eggs go. Next time, I’d come at a less busy time, park in a corner with some café au lait and a book and just soak up the vibe. Also, the location—near all the shopping in SoHo—can’t be beat.
Finally, for Saturday night dinner we went to Mario Battali’s Babbo. This was definitely the highlight of the weekend eating. We had 9:30 pm reservations and again, the place was packed. Babbo is inside a tiny New York townhouse, complete with a large staircase in the middle of the downstairs dining room.
Even with reservations, we had to wait about 10-15 minutes, but once we were sat in our upstairs corner table, we understood why. The service was impeccable. Not at all rushed but everything came out perfectly timed. The pacing was just perfection.
We started with fragrant blood orange cosmopolitans, which were recommended by our very helpful waiter. After a tasty crostini topped with chickpeas and balsamic vinegar reduction, we moved on to appetizers.
I was a bit disappointed in my carciofi romana (Roman-style artichokes). They were four small grilled artichoke hearts topped with a single little crostini with goat cheese. It would have been better reversed: four goat cheese crostini’s topped with the artichoke hearts.
The real appetizer winner was our friend Linda’s grilled octopus. It was so nice and smoky and had a lemony vinaigrette and was just amazing.
We split a few pasta dishes including one of my favorites from our trip to Rome, bucatiniall’ Amatriciana. Again, I was just slightly disappointed. They made the wonderfully spiced sauce with pork cheek instead of bacon and I personally feel like the heat of the sauce could have used a more fatty, salty, bacon-y contrast.
Far better was the pumpkin “lune” (basically little raviolis) with sage and browned butter. I wanted to lick the plate, it was so good. I was actually sad that I had to share it with the other girls. I almost ordered one for dessert (what I’m saying here is that I liked it.)
For a main course, I had braised beef. It was salty and tender and extremely satisfying.
Finally we came to the desserts. I resisted the urge to order more lune and instead we split three desserts amongst us, including the marscapone cheese cake, the chocolate hazelnut cake (which I thought would be my favorite), and the pistachio and chocolate semifreddo (which actually was recommended by our waiter and again, he didn’t steer us wrong. It was my favorite). But honestly, none of them were bad and in fact, they were very, very good.
And with that, five very stuffed girls tottered out on their high heels into the night.