A Small Slice of NYC
This afternoon was supposed to be 61, turned out to be 34 and snowy. That's New England weather for ya. That didn't deter from going to NYC to stroll, explore & warm up with some tea & pork belly ramen.
Arriving via Penn Station, unfortunately we had to walk through Times Square to get to our destination. I use the term "destination" loosely, though. We were basically roaming aimlessly, hoping to end up somewhere near Momofuku Noodle Bar in East Village. It was a day of walking, but I wouldn't do it any other way. It's the only way to truly experience the flavor and character of NYC. Something about those yellow taxis, the lights and people watching. It's definitely a feeling. Times Square was under a lot of construction, so it was more, um... I'm not sure the right word. It's a must see if you've never been, but definitely not a destination.
Upon wandering, we stumbled across the small belgian cart Wafels and Dinges. It's my lucky day - I knew I had to try it. The menu was a little confusing (to me at least) but basically how it works is you get a waffle plus a topping of choice. Additional toppings are $1, but they have a bunch of pre-created options (such as s'mores and turtle!) I went with the plain, topped with Nutella and banana. The experience begins with the mix placed on the waffle iron, which was more dough-like as opposed to a batter. It gave the waffle a great texture. They sliced a banana to order before drizzling Nutella to give an even, light coating. Right off the iron, freshly topped and placed over a light dusting of powdered sugar. Voilà. It was crunchy and fluffy all at the same time and oh, so good.
After my sweet tooth was satisfied, we ended up spending a little time shopping before stumbling into Eataly. If you don't know what it is, in short, it's an incredible, overpriced Italian market/eatery. Honestly, the selection was overwhelming. 50,000 square feet of meat, cheese, pasta, seafood, wine, beer, fruit, olive oil, coffee... it was extensive. And awesome. There is a restaurant for each area of the market, a wine bar, pizzeria, deli... they have maps for the market, if that's an indication.
Although we didn't eat at any of the restaurants, I was dying to try the prime rib sandwich from a small sandwich bar called Rosticceria. It consisted of prime rib, slabs of salt, and a crunchy olive oil drizzled bread made in house. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things, although I suppose what appears to be a simple 3 ingredient sandwich is a tiny bit more complex. It relies strictly on the quality of ingredients and the porcini-rub. You can watch each eatery through glass as they bake fresh breads, hand roll pastas, toss pizzas etc. That reminds me, I wish I got myself some of that handmade spring pea ravioli...
The experience here at Eataly was great but - the prices. The produce and market goods were very expensive. I am almost always willing to pay extra for quality or local ingredients, but I could never get myself to pay $80+ for balsamic or $7 for a tiny box of pasta, that's not even the handmade stuff. On the other hand, most of the restaurant prices seemed somewhat reasonable. The prime rib sandwich I mentioned was $14.80. Don't get me wrong, it's still pricey but it could easily be split between two - it's a pound of prime rib on a foot long crusty roll.
Our stomachs were growling after strolling around Eataly, so we wandered the streets to Momofuku Noodle Bar. There was a line, but we got in relatively quickly with two, about 10 minutes. It is communal style seating, so don't expect any intimacy here. Not like you really would at a noodle bar but, just sayin'. It's a fun, relaxed vibe. Small menu with some signature items, typed on a slip of white paper. No frills. We ordered the broccoli to start, which was definitely interesting. It was tossed in a vinagrette that had a tiny kick to it (ssäm sauce.) It was topped with crispy kale and dried pork. The dried pork had a texture I've never quite experienced before, it almost dissolved. Gave the small side a nice twist.
Onto the noodles - we both ordered the Momofuku Ramen (pork belly, pork shoulder, scallion, poached egg.) The verdict? It's a definite go. The broth was smoky with just the right amount of salt. The pork belly melted in your mouth, while the pork shoulder was pulled and tender. The poached egg was the absolute perfect addition. Scallions and seaweed complete the bowl. The portion size was okay, it was definitely enough to fill us up. We were both satisfied after, but I wanted more pork belly since it only came with one small piece. It seems like $16 ramen bowls are normal in NYC, so I guess I'm lucky to have a wonderful ramen joint close to me in Boston for $7.95, with comparable quality and more pork for your buck. Although a delicious meal, it seems a bit pricey for regular frequent visits.
After a good day in the city, the following morning it was time to return and head back home to Boston. Before our 5 hour trek, we wanted to grab a quick, cheap bite that was somewhat healthy. A UK based chain called Wasabi was on our way in Times Square. It's their first US location and hopefully not the last. The atmosphere here is clean, bright and inviting. The concept was a bit off-putting, not going to lie - it is a fast-food sushi chain. The thought of raw fish sitting out wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but you can watch the chefs freshly prepare and package the pieces. There is a wall of cases which were lined with all the different kinds of sushi, bento boxes, snacks, juices and hot meals. The sushi is individually packaged and relatively cheap - you grab a paper tray right when you walk in and create your own meal. I ended up with a large container of edamame, avocado hosomaki and salmon tempura maki. The mix and match options were endless. They offer free pre-packaged soy sauce, ginger and wasabi as well as all the utensils at the counter. I opted for some ginger - its my favorite. In total, I paid $5. Was it the best sushi I've ever had? No. But it did taste pretty good. Some pieces were a bit smaller in size, such as my avocado hosomaki, but it came with two pieces per package. For the price and versatility of the meal, you can't beat it. It was an inexpensive, quick bite with plenty of options. I really liked it here, the concept of a mix and match sushi bar was super fun, but I might just use caution when you order.
We made our way to Port Authority to catch the bus to Boston - which is definitely the cheapest way to travel. That being said, I would highly recommend Amtrak or Acela if coming and going from NYC, if your budget allows. Port Authority is not a good time by any means. Just throwing this out there - if you don't know where you are going, you will most likely get lost. We had a wonderful trip in NYC despite the semi-cold weather. Ramen was a great way to warm us up at the end of our day trip and I will be forever dreaming of the beyond fabulou$ meat, cheese and seafood selection at Eataly.
Prime rib, see you next visit...
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
200 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
$-$$$ (under 10-50)