Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chinese Food with the Family, Plus Lunch at Union Square Cafe and Dinner at Gotham Bar & Grill

Happy new year!  I'm back in Hong Kong and jet lagged, and in disbelief that  2016 is over  - but I'm feeling optimistic and hopeful for 2017!  I will continue to catch up posts on my trip to the US as I still have lots more pictures of food and other things (but mostly food) to post.

While I was in NY, I tried to eat a lot of meals at home with my family, but also to balance it out with some fun restaurant experiences with friends.  My mom spent a lot of time and care planning out meals, thinking about what we most like to eat and what we would like to eat.  Below, you will see the entire spread for just one of our meals at home, including the shrimp that my dad made, the Chinese kale that is always a favorite, a delicious ox tail stoup, and eggplants.

We also ate hotpot (to my delight) twice - once a lamb and shrimp hotpot, the second a pork and pork belly (and pickled vegetables) pot.

Lest you think it was all home cooked, we also did go out to eat Chinese food as well.  One of the places we tried was a new Chongqing restaurant in Flushing.  Here are dan dan noodles, a vegetable dish of lotus root and silk melon, and house pickled white radish.

This was the highlight of the meal - pickled fish with vermicelli, tofu and cabbage.  My mother had requested less spice, so to counter that I plucked out and ate a few of the pickled chili peppers in the broth.  Heh heh.  Need to get my spice fix!
These were two of the appetizers, a smoky sweet duck and a cold chicken dish, commonly known as "saliva chicken" (I am fairly certain it is called thus because it's so tasty and mouth-numbingly pleasingly spicy - and not because any saliva, human or chicken, is actually involved).

In addition to Chinese food, I did manage to go into the city, though not as often as I thought.  On one particularly packed day, I went to a fancy lunch at Union Square Cafe, followed by drinks with some old college friends at the Belfry, followed by dinner at Gotham Bar and Grill.  It was a decadent and great day for catching up.
I was particularly excited to check out the new space of the Union Square Cafe, after an extensive and lengthy renovation.
 However, they didn't bother to fix the neon lighting of their sign.  I guess it adds to the character?
The interior was beautiful - full of dazzling, soaring windows that bequeathed a panoramic view of the New York City street scene. I love (love) those windows!
 Our meal started with delicious bread and butter (served with a flourish of sea salt) and olives.
 We shared a cauliflower appetizer to start, covered in a creamy truffle sauce.  The menu description was way more fancy and complex, but I cannot remember it now!
 We ordered the rainbow trout and a squid spaghetti with calamari.  Both were very fresh and tasty.
 We also got a side of honeyed carrots with tumeric - delicious.
My favorite, though, might have been the goat cheese cheesecake dessert, paired with a rich muscat sorbet.  The top had some crackling crunchy bits which was reminiscent of creme brulee, but more subtle.  I loved the slightly tangy taste of the goat cheese.  The mouth feel of the creamy cake with the juicy bits of fresh grape and the crackly sugar topping and the smooth cold sorbet was fantastic.  Yes, I loved this dessert.
Overall, I would say this is a great restaurant for a fancy meal or a splurge dinner.  The space is bright with many layers/levels and subsequently, many inviting nooks and crannies.  I love their seasonally appropriate fresh decor (this time it was pine branches, pomegranates, white orchids, squash, etc.) and especially their artwork.
This is a picture of the Belfry, a charming and very brightly lit bar/trivia pub on 14th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues.
 This is right around the corner from where I used to live when I was a junior associate, and coming back to this corner of the East Village never fails to bring me back to those early, heady but also painful days of being a young law school graduate navigating her way through a huge corporate institution and a fun and vibrant city.  The magic (and the drudgery, I guess) of New York City, for me, is encapsulated in these streets.  I came here to see some old college friends ( it's hard to believe I have known these people now for nearly 15 years) and catch up.  Everyone looks the same to me though I am sure we have aged (and surely matured)!  As time marches steadily on, I find myself more and more appreciative of those who knew me in my youth.  Surely this is a blessing of old friends in old age - someone who knows you from "before" or "way back when".  It's probably the closest we come to time travel.

Following that, I went to the Gotham Bar and Grill for dinner with another friend.  The space looks as classic (and remains as unchanged) as ever, though they had added some beautiful seasonal decorations appropriate for the frigid holiday season.  (Have I mentioned yet how cold I was on this trip?  Everyone kept saying the weather wasn't even that bad, and all I could think was that I might want to live in a warm climate forever).

I didn't take any pictures during my meal, deciding to enjoy it and focus on the company and conversation instead, but the food was very good - impeccably prepared, with fantastic flavor.  I thoroughly enjoyed my escarole salad (which sounded very plain and simple but had such clean and crisp flavors), the miso cod (which was prepared in an Asian style with bok choy and mushrooms and the fish was flaky and tender) and the steak (which was the highlight of the meal - so good, so flavorful, with a wonderful accompanying sauce and not at all tough even when we requested it medium instead of medium rare).  We also, despite my groaning stomach's protests, enjoyed a chocolate peanut crunch vanilla ice cream sundae for dessert.

Union Square Cafe
101 E. 19th St.
New York, NY 10003
+1 212 243 4020

Gotham Bar and Grill
12 E. 12th St.
New York, NY 10003
+1 212 620 4020

No comments:

Post a Comment