Tucked away anonymously in the streets of Flatiron is a blank door and walking along 18th street, you wouldn’t notice anything special among the stores and office blocks. Unless of course you are the London Fox, who’s sense of smell is so sharp that he picked up the scent of a delicious resto about 10 blocks away.
I’ve been to ABC Kitchen for brunch a couple of times before and the only thing that stood out for me were 1) the amazing decor and 2) the quite delicious juices. The food was nothing to write home about.
I had a friend in town (AGAIN!) and decided to take them here for lunch. On a weekday afternoon, ABC is filled with yummy mamas and suits. It is surprisingly full for a lunch spot (although I am told tables are hard to get hold of here generally).
There is a very extensive menu on offer, and a three course prix fixe option is also available. The food here is slightly leant towards Italian with splashes of typical New York offerings of burger and kale.
I opted for the three course menu (rude not to) and picked the beetroot with yoghurt to start, ricotta raviolo in pork stew and grape tart. My companion had the veal meatball pasta. Everything was delicious.
Three course delight
Veal and pasta
Seriously good. The beetroot was mixed with a balsamic glaze over Greek yoghurt and topped with fennel. An odd but winning combination. The pasta on both mains was perfectly cooked, something that I have found American-Italians seem to get right all the time (I have been to Italy a lot, and believe me, Italian food in New York is way better). My pork ragu was out of this world. Oh, and the grape tart was a perfect thing to share at the end of a satisfying lunch. My only complaint was that the veal meatballs were a bit over seasoned.
If you’re ever in the area and see a gray, run down door with no sign, head inside and get some lunch!
Some of you may know that the Fox has been away for a tour of the US in the past few weeks. He ventured the swampy, ‘gator trodden lands of New Orleans then whisked away to Wyoming where he camped for three days and stayed away from bears. From there he went to California and whetted his lips in the salty ocean
I’m certainly not going to bore you with my travel tales but I will document some of the culinary highlights and activities in the course of the best week or so.
Here are some cheeky paintings I managed to get done out there.
“You’re coming to brunch, right?” She asked.
The London Fox looked up and thought for a moment. He does have a busy weekend and needs to study.
“Because if not, we can no longer be friends. Brunch is the most important meal of the week.”
He pictured the scene: a group of thirty-something ladies occupy a circular table, consoling each other, as if trying to defuse the ticking timebomb that is their youth; a crowd of fratboys and their drapy girlfriends sit around the table in the centre, still profusely downing drinks as though the night before never ended; the couple sat in silence, enjoying the eggs and bacon that they so easily could have made at home but didn’t because they can’t fucking cook.
“Yeah, go on then.”
I guess it’s becoming like this in London now too, but the brunch scene really has been institutionalised here in New York. Everywhere serves the same range of eggs, granola and pancakes. And everywhere has that decrepit, dark interior that is so popular these days. Nonetheless, it’s a good way to see the friends you’ve just seen and talk about the events that occurred a couple of hours ago.
Freemans is one such place located at the end of an alleyway in Nolita (doesn’t get cooler than that) serving a pretty commendable brunch menu. There were a big group of us, so we managed to wangle the private room which was very beautiful.
I had the granola and yoghurt as I already ate a big breakfast and washed it down with a Bloody Mary (not too salty, which I find the Marys here to be usually). They also serve this great artichoke pâté with the table bread.
The granola was great, but my issue is that it seems to taste the same everywhere. I suppose brunch is one of those things that is very samey. fond memories of Nopa in London pop to mind though, which offers something different for brunch dwellers. Nonetheless, Freemans is worth a look, if you’re into the brunch thing.
Chrystie & Houston
It was a gorgeous evening here in Manhattan so I did what all professional, twenty-something New Yorkers do: go for a jog in Central Park. It was either that or go spinning.
Sweaty, tired and hungry, I began searching for my evening graze. After my cheeky snack at Bi’ang, I couldn’t seem to get that succulent, spicy taste out of my head, so headed there.
45th & 6th
On the way back to the den one day, I stumbled upon a small Chinese snack store called Biang!. Feeling rather peckish from the day’s activities, I thought I’d go and grab a quick snack to satisfy the hungerbeast.
Biang! is the second venture of some college graduate who made it big into the New York food scene by opening a Western Chinese restaurant in Flushing called Xi’an Famous Foods. After making some headlines, Biang! was created, offering similar servings to the tourists, financiers and media moguls of Midtown West (there are other locations in Chinatown, East Village and Brooklyn too). I’ve always been a big fan of the cumin-riddled, meaty, steamy, noodle-filled dishes from that region of China. The menu is cheap and simple. Anything from lamb buns to offal noodles are on offer here. There’s just something so comforting about it all.
I went for a modest serving of one lamb bun and jasmine iced tea. Did the trick marvellously…
45th & 6th
The London Fox wakes from his hibernation. The winter in New York was cold, harsh and long. A chink of light teases his eyelids open making him yawn. The murmur of traffic outside his New York apartment starts to clarify into a familiar street symphony. The regular march of car engines and the short hiss of the local bus starting and stopping play the percussion line. The harsh ambulance siren, so much louder than the London melody…crescendo then diminuendo. Against it, the brass band of car horns play purposefully out of rhythm to the time signature of the rest of the traffic.
The London Fox smiles. How he has missed the New York tune.
I’ve been busy exploring, tasting, hosting, capturing and hosting some more lately and have had little time to document all these experiences. It seems that when you move to New York you become some kind of hotel and tour guide to everyone you know. Well, that’s fine because it gives me an excuse to try new things.
Spring has almost ended here in NYC, and the Summer promises to be hot and humid and full of pleasurable offerings. Speaking of which, I wanted to write about one particularly great restaurant of which I have become somewhat of a regular patron.
Catch sits on top of a makeup store in the middle of the Meatpacking district (a glossy, pretentious spot where models and bankers frequent). A part of the EM Group empire, who is responsible for most of New York’s hotspots, Catch is predominantly a seafood restaurant with a random top floor bar.
The great thing about Catch is how cool it is. Not too try-hard, with just the right amount of bare-walled New Yorkness. And oh, the food is delectable. One side of the menu offers sharers, while the other serves larger portions of fish. The cuisine is mainly Japanese sushi/robata with a few curve balls kicked in like fish tacos and lobster. The closest thing we have in London is probably Roka (which I love).
I’ve been to fancier places, I’ve been to cooler places with better food. However, if I were to take a group of people out here in the City for a nice dinner, Catch is the first place that comes to mind.
W13th & 9th
“So you like burgers, huh?” She asked, raising her right eyebrow and pouting her glossy bouche.
The Fox nods, enthusiastically.
“Well then there’s only one place to go to in New York.” She states with goddess-like authority.
Gazing at the Fox with those fuck-me eyes that effortlessly pull him by the lapels, she lures him in and utters two words. “Shake Shack.”
I wrote about Five Guys not too long ago which is a New York burger staple. Rather luckily, I live right next door to one of these joints. However, I wasn’t greatly impressed by these guys so am still on the hunt for an impressive burger in the Big Apple.
And boy did I find some. Having not had a burger in a month, I decided to binge out this week.
The Shake Shack Attack
First up was the much coveted Shake Shack. If you ask anyone about burgers here in NYC, they will almost certainly direct you here. There a few of them dotted around, but I headed to the original in the park near Madison Ave. Queues extended pretty far for these babies. I went for the single Shack burger, fries and an ice tea (keep the the calorie count somewhat low). The burger was not really what I had expected. Thin patty-ed, small and densely packed. It was, however, delightful. Not too heavy, and in combination with the crinkly fries, made a perfect Saturday lunch.
Dirty Burger Joint Found in Posh Hotel
A most bizarre thing occurs in the Parker Meridian in midtown, Manhattan. When you enter, you will see a perpetual queue inside the concierge. No, it’s not the hotel lounge or the posh hotel restaurant. It is in fact a line for Burger Joint, a purposefully rustic burger joint.
Expect to wait a long time to be seated here during eating hours. The burger was of a thicker variety, more packed out than the Shack burger but somehow less satisfying. Fries very standard. Nothing to write home about.
Sliders at the Boom Boom Room
A rather in promptu experience. Most bars here serve food, and it is not uncommon to see lone rangers grabbing a beer and a bite at most nice bars. The Boom Boom Bar at the top of the Standard hotel in the Meatpacking district deserves its own post. This shimmering room resembles a treasure cave filled with gold.
The sliders here are sublime. Tender, melting meat with a subtle smoky scent. You get two of these in one serving but you are left wanting more.
The London Fox Goes to White Castle
Amid the sleepy roads of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at around 4am, the Fox spots a gleaming standalone white building. White Castle. He had to go.
10 sliders, 2 fries and a pack of chicken hoops. $10. What a bargain. However, this was a vastly disappointing experience. The burgers were a sloppy mess, packed with a thin slither of vomit-like spam meat. If there was anything else in there, it was overpowered by the flavour of diarrhoea. And the chicken hoops; why? Why are they hoop shaped? Onion rings are so because an onion cuts into rings. Chicken made into hoops serve no incremental benefit. Oh, and they also tasted like shit. The fries aren’t even worth mentioning. Thanks for the terrible recommendation, Harold and Kumar.
23rd & Madison
57th & 6th
Boom Boom Room
(Top of the Standard Hotel)
13th & Washington
The London Fox swoops down the grimy steps at the 47-50th street subway. In this underground city, he feels at home when presented with the familiar sights of tracks, signs and stairs and the smell of soggy concrete. But somehow, he is lost. With no colour coded lines to rely on, he looks at the subway map, and tries to figure out how on Earth he is to reach his destination.
This was my first experience in the New York subway. It was as confusing as hell at first, but became very intuitive and simple once I worked out how it works. I was on my way to Brooklyn, where in my first week in New York, I managed to secure a place at the much hyped Dinner Bell supper club. I’m told that New York is full of these clubs, whereby someone hosts a dinner for an array of random, paying guests.
Julia, our chef, is an artist-come-untrained-chef. The Dinner Bell began as a hobby of cooking which turned into an experiment with friends and has now become a hugely popular and oversubscribed affair among the New York foodie scene.
And there is much grounding for the hype. The food was exquisite. Intense flavours, paired with some well thought out wines. I particularly enjoyed the dessert of Panettone Bread Pudding, and I’m not even into sweets. Of course, the main of Braised Beef Brisket, perfectly balanced with a pickled red cabbage was also a favourite.
The thing that struck me most about the Dinner Bell, though, was the freshness of the experience. Surrounded by a fashion PR and several social network extraordinaires, whilst sat around a stranger’s dining table, you wouldn’t be mocked for thinking his was a bizzare experience for me. However, with some dutch courage (helped by the wine pairings) and everyone’s love of food, I ended up meeting some truly great people.
The Dinner Bell
Brooklyn, New York