Dates: August 12-19, 2008
Travel Partner: Ate Di
Disclaimer: This read is going to be long, but for now I’m not going to post a giant post at one time. Give me some time! =) I have lots to tell. And *gasp* you will get to see what my BFF Ate Di and I look like. *gasp* because y’all know I usually don’t show our faces in my posts. Yes, this is a special post. A special post for a special trip.
Tuesday, August 12 and Wednesday, August 13
Thursday, August 14
Tuesday, August 12 and Wednesday, August 13
Yes, it says it all right there. I LOVE NEW YORK. So it’s been a good month since I have been back in the Bay Area and I have had a lot to reflect on. New York City seems like a dream world when you are not from it. From the events of 9/11 and watching movies set there like Batman and Men In Black and Sex and the City (<-- my favorite of all), I began wondering before I stepped foot here: is this place for real? Can one city conjure up so much emotion and inspiration and peculiarity?
My friends, NYC is for real and I feel so fortunate to have come here even if only for one week.
We left San Francisco on a Tuesday night so that we could catch a few Z’s on the flight over. We got a really good deal with Virgin America - $298 (plus taxes) for a roundtrip. What a bargain! I think we decided to go for real just because the fare was so cheap. Anyway, Virgin is for rock stars. Leather seats, monitors to play video games, watch music videos and Top Chef, etc. at every seat, purple and pink mood lighting? Shoot, this is SO my airline. So we finally get to JFK and hitch a ride to our hotel. Momma hooked it up so we got a great rate. Even though she booked us for an early check-in our room was not ready yet. Great. It’s all good because Momma was only book us for one Queen bed. We didn’t mind sharing, but our front desk girl hooked it up with two double beds. =) Yay. It was about 10 in the morning and I was starving…so we ate:
I know I know, we can get McDonald’s anywhere, but please consider the fact that we don’t know anything about what’s around and this was familiar and we were STARVING. =) Besides, that Southern-Style Chicken Sandwich is my new guilty pleasure. After getting some fuel, we went walking since we had a couple hours to wait for our room. Our hotel was on East 40th and 5th Avenue. Such a fabulous location because it was in Midtown and was close to a lot of sights.
Grand Central Station might just be an ordinary train station to an everyday NYC commuter, but I found it to be beautiful. I loved the architecture on the inside and the interior was fantastic as well. Just walking in there reminded me of the locker in Men In Black and a couple scenes from the movie Unfaithful. Bryant Park which is known for their film festivals and performances is just a block from the hotel.
When Momma gave me the location of our hotel, I looked it up right away and I literally squealed in joy. The park like I said is a block from our hotel, which means the Public Library is a block away as well. I am a HUGE Sex and the City fan. One reason for coming here was to feel that magic Carrie feels for her city. Seriously, NYC is my Disneyland. When I watched the movie, there was a part which left me breathless and in shock. If you are a true fan of the movie or simply have a great memory, you should already know what that part is. I don’t want to spoil it for everyone, but the last three photos in the montage above should hit you like a ton of bricks. Yes, I was there friends, I was there, and yes, I was breathless.
Times Square is like the Magic Kingdom to me. When you stand there with numerous of people walking around you, you have to have someone pinch you to make sure you ain’t dreaming. The vibe was busy and lively. Taxi cabs rushing through the streets, hundreds of people crossing the streets at a time…it was a visual orgasm. Everything was so energetic and colorful. I loved it. It was everything I would expect it to be and a bit more. After walking Times Square and meeting some interestingly attractive people, *nudge nudge Ate Di*, we headed back to the hotel because we were tired and had to rest up for our first dinner in New York.
Gotham Bar and Grill - Our First Dinner in NYC
Restaurant: Gotham Bar and Grill
Address: 12 East 12th St., between 5th Ave. and University, Greenwich Village, NYC
Phone Number: (212) 620-4020
Date Last Visited: August 13, 2008
Our friend Chuck recommended Gotham and it was so fitting to eat here. With the hype of The Dark Knight in theaters, it was cool to think that we were really eating in Gotham City. I know, I’m kind of cheesy. I was sucked into the charming vibe of the restaurant. It was kind of dark and mysterious with a retro to the Manhattan of the 50’s type of feel where men wore long coats and mafia hats. Very classy and sophisticated. I was ready for Bruce Wayne to come to our table and offer me a martini and whisk me away and fight mobsters on the street.
Whenever I make a reservation on Opentable, I make sure that I mention that I want to take pictures and that it would be appreciated if we were seated where we wouldn’t bother other diners. They put us in the corner by the bar and it was perfect.
Side note: that’s actually my “signature” on Opentable: something along the lines of We would appreciate a table where taking pictures is not an issue. If this is going to be a problem, please call me… I haven’t had any problem with this at all, and wherever I have sat was appropriate and sometimes better than I thought it would be.
The fact that we were in the corner by the bar was fab because people at the bar are there to drink and mingle, so they’re going to be loud anyway. Since we were not in the actual main dining room, we didn’t have to worry about bugging other people or ear hustling. It was as if we were in our own private area. Very cool.
and Ate Di’s Midori Sour in the background
Yes, I ordered a Cosmo here. How could I NOT? It’s friggin’ New York for God’s sakes. And oh so Sex and the City-like. What can I say? Fabulous.
salted butter seems to be the trend these days
Shiso Leaf and Sweet Miso Asian Ginger Vinaigrette
Chef Alfred Portale is known for his skyscraper presentations, and this is a prime example. The attention to detail is impeccable from the scallop-edged cucumber and perfectly-placed greens. I love the height and presentation. Cliché, but it was too pretty to eat. Unfortunately, we had to knock it down, but the tuna was so delicious. Fresh and succulent. I actually prefer this over MM’s tuna tartare, and we all know that MM’s tuna tartare is renown here in San Francisco. This one is lighter and fresher, partly due to the addition of the greens and cucumbers. Winner.
Lobster, Avocado, and Lemon Vinaigrette
Said to be Gotham’s most famous dish.
I seriously cannot think of a more perfect seafood salad. Simply dressed, not in a mayonnaise goop. I was surprised of how much seafood there was. Some places just add a lump or two of crab and one or two rings of calamari, but this was packed with seafood. There were so many texture and flavor contrasts here from the sweet crustaceans to the subtle avocado to the slivers of bell pepper to the crispy leafy greens to the pop-in-your-mouth fish roe. I absolutely fell in love with this dish.
As you can tell, seafood is heavily used the first courses. I really liked this dish because the rice was cooked perfectly. I have had other risottos and the inside was not cooked. This was perfect because there was a little tiny “bite” on the interior, but the outside was starchy and felt very luxurious on my tongue. It’s new to me to have seafood and tomatoes together in a risotto, but it totally worked. Ate Di said it was a bit too salty for her, but I thought the seasoning was about right.
Here we go again with the “tower” presentations. Isn’t that color on the fish beautiful? I loved the look of the various colors the heirloom tomatoes had against the white fish. When I had my first bite, it immediately reminded me of my Inang’s sarciado*. The burst of bright flavor of the tomatoes combined with the firm fish just brought me back to another place and time. If you are into lighter dishes, you will really like this.
*sarciado - A dish which my Inang made with fried tilapia (newly fried or leftover from a previous meal), tomatoes and onions. She sautéed onions and garlic, added fresh tomatoes and simmered. Once tomatoes broke down and onions were tender, she added the fried tilapia and sometimes added a beaten egg.
Tableside presentation - server pouring sauce over duck
You all know that I love duck. This duck was fantastic. Do you see those portions of foie gras? Enormous. Star would have had an orgasm if she came here with us. And do you see how much meat they have on this plate? It was cooked perfectly rare in the middle. Very tender. The duck breast also comes with a leg bone for you to gnaw on. Ate Di thoroughly enjoyed that. *haha* They offer a little serving of white rice which was good because I found the sauce to be a bit too salty. Ate Di, on the other hand, thought it was perfect.
Vidalia Onion Rings, Bordelaise Sauce
Now this was the star of my meal. My New York steak. *ohhhhh* I wanted it medium rare, and I regret not taking a picture of the inside, but it was prefect. Because the steak is in an awkward shape, the end piece was done more than the other end, but it was still so tender. It came with interesting sides. The Vidalia onion rings were delightfully crispy. The baby carrots were sweet and cooked nicely without overcooking it to mush. The most intriguing thing on the plate was the marrow mustard custard. WTF? Marrow? I’m not a marrow eater on ordinary days, but since this was probably the first and last time I would have it, I tried it. For some odd reason, it worked. The custard was very creamy and the mustard was just a slight hint - not overpowering at all. As for the marrow, if I hadn’t known there was marrow in it, I’d probably have no clue it was even there. I would spread just a teeny bit on each slice of steak and they went very well together. I promised myself and Robert our waiter that if anything, I would finish all of my steak. You can tell that it was going to take some concentration and focus, but I did it. He said I am a woman of my word. Word.
Cheese Gelato and Sage-Infused Pineapple
Jo and carrot cake? Seriously? Yes. On an ordinary, I would have skipped this, but oddly this tickled my pickle when I read it off the menu. I was pleasantly surprised. Great ice cram cake. It was garnished with a piece of candied sage and a paper-thin slice of candied carrot. I asked what the gelato was made of and Robert indicated that they wanted to mimic the cream cheese frosting traditional carrot cakes had. I loved it. The sage-infused pineapple was a bit random, but it complimented everything else so well. It was warm and juicy, so the contrast of temperatures was lovely.
Isn’t the presentation of this dessert the best you have ever seen? The passion fruit mousse was encased in that white chocolate box. That squiggle on the bottom is a passion fruit sauce. In the glass was a little piña colada cocktail. To the right was a kiwi “carpaccio” (f’in clever, man) with milk sorbet and a meringue wafer. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. The way it was presented and the way it tasted - it was light and a pleasure to eat. Beautiful.
By the time these little guys came out, I was exhausted from all the eating. I sampled the pink meringue and it was cute. Not too sweet. What looks like the mini cupcake in the upper right hand corner was really a coconut bon bon. Reminded me of the Rafaelo’s or the coconut Ferrero Roches, but I could tell they were made fresh. Crazy good. Ate Di loved everything else, especially the chocolates.
What an extraordinary first dinner! The food was remarkable! Did you see those wonderful presentations? The service was also fantastic. We had a lot of fun even though our server Robert was a bit stiff at the beginning of the meal. I was afraid that it was going to be a really stuffy of an environment where we couldn‘t be ourselves, but it took a little chit chat and our girlish charm for him to warm up to us. I think it was the question of, “Do you like Linkin Park?” which sparked him to be a bit more open. I asked that question because he looked like Chester Bennington with dark spiky hair - from 10 years ago. *haha* But upon closer examination (once he started smiling), he looked a lot like Jake Gyllenhaal. So look out for him, ladies. He’s great. After this meal, I knew why San Francisco and New York are culinary rivals. Gotham was marvelous and the quintessential New York restaurant.