When the Grand Hyatt New York Throws a Party … (aka the ‘So, So Suite’ Post)

Champagne and canapés, you say, and a tour des suites atop le Grand Hyatt New York? This is what Thursday evenings in New York City were made for. 

The view looking south on Lexington Avenue from the Presidential Suite (where the walk-in closet of the master bedroom was big enough to double as coat check and sounds from a baby grand piano filled the air): 

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My favorite bites of the night: These filet mignon toasts with a touch of horseradish creme:

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Unexpected photography (and additional artwork, not pictured) — but this was my favorite art engagement moment of the night. This floor-to-ceiling canvas is striking, with the juxtaposition between the horse and the white space. The “George Wong Suite” was styled by said architect. I like his style. Side note: I could totally watch the [Super Bowl, Academy Awards, Westminster Dog Show, fill in the blank] from here.

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Best in Show goes to this stunning bathroom design. From this view, which is the point of view of the bed, there’s a deep soak bathtub; followed by a massive rain shower (glass enclosed, access from both sides); that continues on through to a vanity area and sinks beyond. Mind. Blown. 

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Not pictured: a cozy, lounging/living room area and massive dining room feature.

Alright, alright, alright. Fine. We can move in tomorrow. 😉

 

Impromptu Sushi Dinner on the UWS (aka the “This is Never a Bad View” Post)

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: It’s really hard to find quality, affordable sushi in New York City. Spoiled from living in Los Angeles? Sure. The fish markets of Tokyo are that much closer. In New York, you can find the most impeccable sushi — at an equally impeccable price. You can also find the “meh”/get the job done pre-made sushi in various refrigerated cases at markets everywhere. Compared to its bookends, the middling ground is seriously underrepresented.

So, after attempting to go to a certain pickle-centric restaurant on the Upper West Side and failing yet again (they have this policy of no reservations for parties under 6 — wait time of an hour for seating for 2 — it’s ridiculous) we looked across the way and felt the pull of a certain welcoming red awning: Kitaro Sushi. Busy enough but not packed; we have a movie to catch in 50 minutes; let’s give it a shot!

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This is never a bad view.

[Aside: There is so much about this particular story that reminds me of why I love New York City. Unexpected, impromptu, serendipitous, happenstance … simply, perfect for the moment.]

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Pictured: fuko make roll & sake (salmon) hand rolls

The spouse and I sat at the sushi bar and ordered at will: gyoza; ohitashi (delicious spinach!); baby yellowtail; yellowtail / jalapeño / ponzu; fuko maki roll (crab stick, avocado, delicious pickled vegetables); 2 sake (salmon) hand rolls. And it rocked — in that way that sushi of this class should: Chefs hands flying deftly; order after order delivered with impeccable timing; hot sake and cold beer; graciousness all around. (I so wish I took a photo of Kitaro Sushi’s menu. “Special Rolls” circa 2011.)

The point being: Kitaro Sushi is a true local, neighborhood gem. And a New York City sushi gem at that. Wishing the Kitaro Sushi family/team many years of prosperity and keep on keeping on. You are doing so much that is right. Thank you!

Rediscovering Chinatown’s Mulberry Street (aka the “One Block, Two Hours, So Many Treasures” post)

Having time to kill is a privilege rarely afforded residents of a city as perpetually in motion as New York, so when the opportunity presents itself — you go for it.

Which is how I found myself wandering into virtually every shop on the block of Mulberry Street between Canal and Bayard streets recently. I  love all of New York’s Chinatown(s), but Manhattan’s Chinatown holds a special place in my heart. I lived on the periphery of Chinatown when I first moved to NYC almost a decade ago and spent many an evening or weekend afternoon getting delightfully lost in its many lanes and alleys, being transported by the sights, the sounds, the smells, returning home with a few favorite or curious new food stuffs to try — tea, noodles, prepared foods, brightly packaged snacks in unusual flavors.

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The view from Table no. 15 at Thanh Hoai 1 on Mulberry Street.

Mulberry Street, it turns out, boasts an incredible amount of diversity in just one block: Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, as well as a vegan Chinese restaurant; a couple of Asian grocers, including a Japanese market; a handful of shops including a jewel box of a store filled with goods from Nepal. I had no idea such a place existed in our fine city. It’s a real treasure.

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Speaking of treasure, I came home with quite the bounty. Here, my spoils from the day, from left to right: Premium Jasmine Green Tea ($3.50 for 100 ct. tea bags!) Prince of Peace brand; elephant incense holder from Nepal ($5) and decorative bells made out of Nepalese paper ($2); jar of Sambal Oelek ($2.59), the popular chili paste from Huy Fong Foods out of Irwindale, CA; Gia Vi Pho Hoa ($2.39), “Vietnamese special spice for pho” made by Throng Food Intl. in Santa Ana, CA; packet of Yeo’s Malaysian curry powder ($1.59) imported from Singapore; Mishima’s Nori Komi Furikake ($3.95), a roasted sesame and seaweed all-purpose seasoning, imported from Japan; and lastly, Morinaga‘s milk caramel candy ($1.95), imported from Japan in a box that states “Since 1913.”

Mulberry Street just landed a sweet spot on my list of favorite food blocks in NYC. I’ll be back soon, I promise. Xx

Meet Pichet Ong’s Impossible to Pronounce Cocktail, the Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit

The Krungthep

Yes, this cocktail is for real, and it’s a delicious (and cheap!) one at that.

The Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit — known as the “Krungthep” for short — could even be considered the house cocktail at Qi, Pinchet Ong’s pristine new temple to Bangkok-style Thai, as that string of indecipherable words is a name for Old Bangkok, more than one server confirmed.

While sheer audacity of the name is what caught my attention — (“Really, five lines for the name of a cocktail in a bar menu? Is this some sort of gimmick?”) — in actuality, the Krungthep is a lovely cocktail composed of gin, vodka, star anise, ginger, yuzu, lime, Thai iced tea and guava juice. It’s fruit-forward without being too sweet, complex without being pretentious. When the heat of the spicy beef mango salad flared up, a sip of the Krungthep would set things right. Likewise, this cocktail has the backbone to withstand any heat it may receive for its name. (e.g. “Couldn’t it just be called “The Krungthep” from the start?“)

Qi Bangkok Eatery, 675 Eighth Ave., btwn 42nd and 43rd sts., 212-247-8991.

Chinese and Japanese, Together Under One Roof? (aka the “No, Not Fusion… Something Else” Post)

“Hunan Delight Matsuya
Chinese & Japanese Cuisine”

One phone number, one address. And then there’s the matter of the handwritten sign that reads “FREE WINE” in the window.

What. I’ve been perplexed by this locals Upper East Side restaurant since I moved into the area.

The take-away menus make certain that it’s two restaurants — Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsua Japanese cuisine — in one space. How can two such disparate cuisines — different ingredients, techniques, cultural histories — cohabit? How can this possibly work?

Well, except, it does. The food’s actually really good.

We came for the free wine, the Chinese food (after I found out Hunan Delight gets rave reviews online, to my surprise) and maybe a California roll. (It’s hard to mess up a roll made of crab stick, avocado and cucumber.)

What we discovered:

— Free wine offer is truly free: one glass of cheap, but crisp and very drinkable white wine, per person at dinner

— One of my new favorite Chinese dishes, called Green Jade Chicken ($11.95). Plump white meat pieces woked over high heat in “chef’s spicy sauce” (not really that spicy) along with matchstick-sized pieces of fresh ginger and string beans.

In the heat, the sauce caramelizes into a crisp, light glaze on the beans and chicken; the fresh ginger adds a welcome kick. This dish is the exact antithesis to the soggy, fatty, greasy Chinese food of styrofoam yore. It’s just lovely.

— And the sushi? You can find far worse sushi in supermarkets everywhere. Entranced by the platter of Dragon Rolls the sushi chef was putting up on the counter (see below) … so we ordered one.

It turned out to be a cooked roll (I still haven’t tried the raw sushi here) — shrimp tempura and cucumber on the inside, wrapped in eel and avocado on the outside.

— Doting, attentive service, of the sort you only get at a restaurant where the proprietors are that hands on, that involved, with everything.

There was a certain activity in the restaurant the night we were there, tables being reconfigured, the sushi chef turning out dragon rolls like nobody’s business, a party of young twenty-somethings turns up with a bottle of Johnny Walker.

Turns out, on this particular night the restaurant was hosting a friends and family Chinese New Year feast of epic proportions after the restaurant closed (11p). Being the last guests in the restaurant, and obviously geeking out about the Chinese New Year food, they kindly invited us to join … we didn’t, and in hindsight, wish we did. The food looked A-mazing and it was of epic proportions.

Still, this sit-down dinner for two totaled just $42.30 … also known in New York City as cheap.

Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsuya Sushi, Japanese cuisine, share 1467 York Avenue, at 78th Street, 212-628-8161

It’s 10 P.M. — Do You Know Where Your $1 Blue Point Oysters Are? (aka the “City Crab Weekend Happy Hour Win” Post)

Half-priced appetizers, $1 Blue Point oysters, $3 beers.

If a better Friday or Saturday night deal exists in downtown Manhattan, bring it. For now, City Crab‘s late-night happy hour, which is available at the stately restaurant bar between 10p and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, is the golden ticket. (City Crab also runs its happy hour from 4p-7p daily.)

When four of us stopped in on a recent Friday night, we started with a round of Coronas and a dozen Blue Points. Squeeze, sauce, slurp, repeat — these oysters, meaty and lightly briny, are some of the best specimens I’ve had yet, although it should be noted that oysters are still new to me.

(After many years of “trying” oysters — e.g. swallowing the slippery thing as fast as possible and hoping I wouldn’t feel it too much or taste too much — lately, I’m slurping them down with the best. This epic night of all-you-can-eat oysters at Bondi Road in LES was the turning point.)

Onto the hot foods — and mas cerveza s’il vous plait.

First impression: These portions are not for the faint of appetite. The crab, spinach and artichoke dip ($6.50/hh) comes out bubbling in a metal cauldron, a basket of thick pita chips ($6.50/hh); both the dip, and the basket of Southern fried popcorn shrimp ($6/hh), went on and on — even among four of us. The lightest option, a pound of steamed PEI mussels ($6/hh), comes in a beautiful tomato broth laced with garlic and fresh herbs.

For next time, I have my eye on the lobster mac n’ cheese and crab cake bites and … of course, more oysters. (The chef at the raw bar said he shucks 1,000+ oysters a night!)

City Crab, 235 Park Ave. S., near 19th Street, 212-529-3800.