New York (part three)
So we’re on the final few days in New York and the fun bits are yet to come.
First we had lunch at place called Chipotle, a Mexican fast food restaurant like no Aussies have ever seen before. I have been in search of a few ideas for a lunch concept and the idea I had in mind was some where business people can come in, spend 10 minutes max in the restaurant and leave with a fresh product that will satisfy a large cross section of people, from the health conscious eater to the indulgent eater. Chipotle was excellent. We arrived just before the lunch rush. As you enter, there seemed to be an expectation that people who go into this restaurant knew exactly what to do and it was obvious we didn’t. We lined up and as we got closer to the counter, the menus we had been staring at still made little sense to us so as we have done before, we followed what the people before us did.
What we ended up with was a huge burrito! We figured out that you order a burrito and just keep moving up the line with each server adding an ingredient in it, kind of like Subway. We liked the sound of all the ingredients so we just kept adding things into it. What surprised me was, how the fricken burrito could fit all the filling in, I mean it must have been a super stretchy burrito because as we ate into it, the burrito was perfectly formed around this bulging filling made of freshly cooked rice, beans, salsa, chicken, avocado. It was super fresh and tasted really good. I was surprised at the quality, probably because in my mind, I always think that nothing good could come out of a fast food franchise but here I was being proven wrong. We sat there for about 20 minutes and noticed that the place was full and the line up was almost to the door but surprisingly, it moved quickly. The patrons seemed like they were seasoned patrons, they knew exactly what they wanted, ordered, moved along, payed and with in ten minutes, they were out. I also noticed a little window on the side saying “Phone Pick Ups”. Yep, you can phone in your order from the office, come in and pick it up and your off, back to the office within five minutes lunch in hand. Now, I seriously know that if I lived here, it would be so hard to diet with so much temptation around the place and all of it so convenient.
After that, we walked to MoMA. The Museum of Modern Arts is located on 11WEST 53RD ST. MoMA was a great experience. I loved the Louvre in Paris when I went there and I expected the same experience from MoMA. I really enjoy art and culture, I think it enriches the soul because in my mind it tells us so much about humanity and reminds us that we’re human, intelligent; that’s my opinion any ways!
Plenty to see and experience in this huge building. The building is made with minimalistic approach with straight lines of metal, wood and glass, beautiful building. The exhibits range from the photographic exhibits from Cindy Sherman to the famous painters of Matisse, Picasso and Monet’s Water Lilies. You will need three or four hours to visit all the exhibits here, depending on how much time you really want to study the work. Some are really interesting and with any thing, you’ll find some that are a miss with your tastes and move along quite quickly. I loved Monet’s panels of Water Lilies. I loved the story behind the paintings, the history and just sitting there in silence staring at these huge panels of art, it was really kind of peaceful.
From here we went to The Late Show with David Letterman. Located in the famous Ed Sullivan theatre on West 53rd and Broadway (near Time Square); my excitement started to mount as we got closer. For as long as remember being a chef, I have always watched The Late Show with David Letterman. In Australia, the show is aired late at night, usually when I get home from a shift in the restaurant, so around 1130 at night. I got so hooked on the show, I started taping it at one stage so it was one of those dreams that was about to come to reality. I wondered what it would be like to sit in the audience and watch celebrities in the flesh, see David Letterman in the flesh and to see the set with CBS Orchestra. Some people think it’s lame but hey!!
Outside the Ed Sullivan Theater
Unfortunately the show wasn’t that interesting. No celebrities on that night, typical! Instead they had the ex president of the Maldives. The topic of conversation was interesting but I was more in the mood for some one like Drew Barrymore in the infamous episode when she lifted her shirt up at Letterman, NBA players, famous bands playing at the end etc, but we got a pretty lame show. I mean, it was still special to be part of the audience and super cool to see David Letterman and Paul Schaffer but the contents of the show wasn’t what I expected. Not to worry, I still love the show and probably always will until I actually leave the cooking industry!
During this time, we also walked around Time Square during the day, which was rather different, seemed lack lustre in the day light and whilst on West 54th, we also stood outside the famous club, Club 54 which no longer trades as a night club but still has the sign out the front of the building, very cool to see in person!
The famous Club 54
From The Late Show, we hoofed it to Madison Square Gardens (via Macy’s for my friends benefit)
As we arrived (with hoards of people around the stadium, arriving at the same time)I swear, I almost had a tear in my eye! I was so excited it is almost hard to describe just how excited I was. You have got to understand that basketball is in the Leslie blood. I love the game, my dad played and coached and I practically grew up in basketball stadiums. I watched as many NBA games as I could growing up and straight after watching the game, I would practice the moves I saw on TV. I grew up watching Larry Bird and Magic Johnson early on and then my idol, Michael Jordan along with Shawn Kemp, Clyde “the Glide” Drexler, Carl Malone and pretty much all the players that made up the first Dream Team. To be at the hallowed grounds where I watched these masters of the game play from years ago on TV and from so many miles away; well I can tell you the feeling was overwhelming.
Madison Square Gardens is located just up the road really from the Ed Sullivan Theatre on 7th Ave and West 32nd St. We had seats way up in the nose bleed section but the view was still awesome. I must say that the tickets were rather steep, I paid $145AUS for one ticket but hey, I would have paid more just to get in and see a game and experience a childhood dream come true. It wasn’t my team playing (that would be Chicago Bulls) but Knicks at home against Magic was good enough. First we had a beer at the top of the stadium looking at the rafters where the some of the greats of the game have hung their numbers in retirement like the great Patrick Ewing. Then armed with a few beers and a couple of hotdogs, we watched the Knicks steam roll the Magic, just like they were putting on great show especially for us. Upon leaving, I just wanted to shout out with joy. I couldn’t believe we just saw the Knicks at the Garden!!
Retired Knicks numbers
View from our seats
The next day was kind of a catch up day. I was in search of pair of Jordan 5’s so we searched pretty well all of Manhattan for them but with no luck. We went back down town into SOHO and went for a bit of shopping excursion. Nothing much to report here from a blokes point of view except, if you want the coolest clothes, shoes and anything fashion related really, come to New York with an empty suitcase, because shopping is at its best and bloody cheap. Sneakers at almost half the price, shirts at a quarter of the price compared to Australia and that’s just the start. I left Australia with my suitcase weighing in at 9kg, when I got back from America it weighed just under 22kg. Shop till you drop because it is a shopping Mecca.
That night we went to Nobu. I started cooking over 15 years ago and there is no other chef who has inspired me more than chef Nobu Matsuhisa. I love his story, his food and I like how humble he is. His flavours, I think are unique and his presentation always inspires me, simplicity with elegance. He gets the best out of ingredients with out loosing freshness or integrity of the produce. In the world we live in where conventional cooking is no longer recognisable, Nobu’s food, in my humble opinion, is still the best.
Located at 105 Hudson St, Tribeca, this Nobu restaurant is the original restaurant opened with Rodert DeNero in 1994. The restaurant looked so unique. As we walked in we were greeted by the host and we were taken past rows of what looked like leave less trees growing in the restaurant. This building was once an old bank and we were sat right next to the vault which was converted into a bar. The restaurant was dimly lit but you can tell the walls were painted in earthy colours, which makes you feel like you’re in country side in autumn along with the trees scattered about.
We ordered a few dishes from the menu which was undoubtedly Japanese with Nobu’s modern flare. We had a tasting menu, ordering down the menu with a selection of dishes which included some of Nobu’s signature dishes like the Monkfish Pate with Caviar, a delicate pate with exquisite flavours, sweetness, smooth texture and the sauce was something I have never tasted before. I’ve read about this dish in his cook book but never imagine it would taste like this, in one word – divine! Tiradito Nobu Style, Eggplant with Miso and Beef Toban Yaki to name some of the other dishes we were treated with. The bill, which I thought would break the bank simply because the food was excellent, was actually reasonable. What we paid for that night for three people with tip, you would easily pay for one person in Australia in a high end fine diner and I can tell you what I would rather any time!
Nobu lived up to my expectations. It was another realisation that I had just experienced another dream come true. I read about this restaurant and this great chef, I walked away totally satisfied and absolutely happy with experiencing Nobu!
On our last day, we went to Harlem to experience “soul food”. The best soul food was said to be Sylvia’s Soul Food. Located at 328 Lenox Ave, which is a block or two away from the 125th St subway station.
The restaurant is nothing fancy, nothing compared to where we were dining the night before but we weren’t here for the décor, we were here for soul food. We don’t get a lot of this type of food in Australia but I can tell you that if we did have a restaurant like this, it would be jammed packed. Why? Because who doesn’t like pork ribs done in so many flavours like tender beef ribs done in a rich sauce, Southern fried chicken and the dish I really wanted to try, chicken and waffles; sounds wiered but looked so bloody good.
Sylvia’s Soul Food
Like every thing we have eaten so far, again I have to say just how huge the servings were, like it’s super sized if you were to compare with Australian serves and again bloody cheap. We ordered ribs! My friend ordered pork and I ordered beef ribs both with a rich, sweet, spicy sticky sauce. Also, both had sides that you ordered with it, huge servings of mac and cheese, gumbo, mashed potato and collard greens, which I could have eaten until the cows came home. Again, it was another reminder of how fat I would be if I lived in New York because there is always cheap but excellent food like Sylvias Soul Food. Aussies, if you’re in New York and want good tucker, go here mate, you will leave feeling like kings who have just devoured a feast!
Beef Ribs, Sylvia style
On our last night, we went to Brooklyn for our last meal in New York. I never realised how many great little eateries there are in Brooklyn I learnt way too late that the different ethnicities here meant that there were a plethora of choice in food and style of food. If I ever come back here, I will definitely spend more time of Manhattan to experience the ethnic foods available. Instead, we chose a funky place called Submarine 21. Looked new. It looked like an old pub painted all black with booths and bench seatings which were closer to a very small service kitchen. This place only served subs from veggo’s, chicken and chorizo sausage subs. Served with waffle cut fries, they were really tasty. Unlike the subs you get at Subway, these subs came in a freshly baked sub with freshly prepared ingredient’s. Again, simplicity at it’s best!
So that’s New York in eight days! Eight days is not enough. There were still so many things I wanted to see but ran out of time to and my preconceived ideas of New York were some what a little skewed.
In a nut shell, New York is safe, clean, cheap, fun, with so many great restaurants and with so much shopping. There were other restaurants I wanted to go to but I am sure this will not be the last time I will be going to NYC, no way in hell!!