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Sunday, 10 July 2011

An unexpected Friday in New York - June 2011

One of the joys of my job is the opportunity for international travel. We've got offices and clients around the world and I adore the fact I occasionally get to visit them. The most recent trip saw me taking in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York in the space of a slightly crazy, badly planned but necessary week. Now obviously I'm there to work (especially if my boss is reading this) but man has to eat too right?

Checking with Twitter (@richmajor if you don't follow) I was delighted to receive the following advice personally from Gael Greene, a legendary food critic who spent 40 years as the chief critic of New York Magazine as well as being the inventor of the word 'foodie'. 

@richmajor Coppelia on w14 went again lasngt. GRt food,mod prices.cian ABCKitchen E18, Ciano 45 e 22, not new but good Mesa Grill 5&15th
Jun 11, 2:15 PM via web

So not just one, but four places to think about. In deference to someone of Gael's stature, I had to make sure I hit at least one of them up in the time I was there. 

Coppelia was a shoe-in, a casual Cuban diner on W14th St between my office and my first meeting - done. Sliding into the bar late lunch and hungry, the menu makes me glad I'd skipped breakfast. Cheap, clean and friendly, Coppelia isn't a 'date night' joint, unless your date is a 220 lb homesick Cuban wrestler. Freshly pressed, and welcome in the heat, juices aside, this is hearty rather than healthy fare. I grabbed a rich ox-tail empanada and a bowl of the Mac n' Chicharron. Thick yellow cheese, the right salty side of the American Kraft dream, would have broken French hearts. The thick cubes of crispy pork belly lurking like cholesterol depth charges in the glorious gloop nearly did for mine. Topped with chicharron, a Latino style of pork scratchings, it was exactly the punchy start to my trip I wanted. Welcome to New York!

Friday night saw us hitting up a quiet and smart wood panelled speakeasy above a Japanese BBQ restaurant on Stuyvesant Street, the snaking crowds of local cool kids queuing for our booth telling me that we'd got something right. Like PDT round the corner, it's old enough to be listed in the guides and is known by a wide crowd, something normally guaranteed to drop it several notches on the cool list, it's let off for an excellent selection of interesting, well made and above all strong cocktails.

After a few cocktails, we headed further into the East Village for sustenance and we couldn't have done better than to hit Caracas on E7th for arepas, the bastard child of the kebab and the Cornish pastie. An unlevened corn flour patty is fried rather than baked is split open and stacked with a variety of salty, spicy, chin-dripping Venezuelan heart stoppers. I've never regretted a meal of slow cooked meat, and wasn't about to start doing so when ploughing through a corn clamshell of shredded beef, black bean and plantain. Lip tingling sauces and a sides menu that consists of 'fried', perfect post pub pick me up.

A number more drinks and we end up in Momofoko Ssam Bar on 2nd for artisan ales. The vibe here is relaxed, with some waiting for a table in the canteen style restaurant next door, others happy to prop up the counter and throw down a pork bun or three with their drinks. And you can't go to Ssam without getting a pork bun. It's the toy in your happy meal or the flake in your 99. Soft steamed buns with a perfectly cooked stick of melt in your mouth pork belly, spring onion and hoisin dressing. The place has been going since 2006 and there can't be many New York foodies who haven't spent some amount of time in there. It's possible to eat a few plates (as we did) and leave on a $20, or you can go for the blow out and spend over $100 on their luscious sounding tasting menu.

View New York eating and drinking in a larger map
Caracas Arepa Bar on UrbanspoonMomofuku Ssäm Bar on UrbanspoonCoppelia on Urbanspoon

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