NYC food crawl
I finally made my first overseas trip to North America since the pandemic and though it was a quick one, I’m happy I got to try a few new places in New York worth writing home about.
My favorite on this trip was a pizzeria called Marta at 29th St. between Madison and Park. When I asked what kind of pizza they serve here, our server replied, “Roman pizza.” I had to pause for a second because, to be honest, I have no memory of good pizza in Rome. Naples, yes; Rome, no. I remember being directed to Forno at Campo di Fiori (where Giordano Bruno’s statue is) in Rome and having what seemed like a simple flat bread with a bit of cheese called pizza bianca. While it was easy to appreciate the fresh-out-of-the-forno rectangular single slices of pizza, I also remember thinking, “This is not pizza.”
But Marta changed that impression. Their Roman pizza is gooooood! We ordered the stracciatella pizza, which is similar to a margherita except that instead of mozzarella, they put stracciatella cheese, which they make in house. This is a soft, white, cheese made with cream and curd, using a technique that involves stretching and shredding and at Marta, it is oh-so-creamy and divine!
Other pizzas available are the classic margherita; the butcher, which has soppressata, guanciale, pork sausage and mozzarella; the amatriciana, which has tomato, guanciale, chili and pecorino; the funghi, which has hen of the woods mushrooms, mozzarella, fontina, red onion and thyme; and another classic, the marinara, which uses tomato, garlic, basil, oregano and olive oil.
If you love the stracciatella, you will also love their appetizer of stracciatella crostino, which uses the same cheese but this time, the cheese just atop the bread is topped with wood-roasted strawberries. Again, divine!
The restaurant also offers salads. The classic Caesar salad is given a fashionable New York twist as cabbage is sliced and served in the style of a sleek bowl, with the other ingredients just placed on top of this. They also have various mains: chicken, pork, steak. But come here for the pizza.
This place was created by Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack, and located in the Redbury Hotel. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with a high ceiling and two levels, with the two black-painted giant ovens just at the far edge where the open kitchen is. This was my favorite restaurant on this trip.
For dinner, we tried Gemma, the Italian restaurant of the Bowery Hotel. This offers a rustic ambiance and classic Italian cuisine. It also has a wood-fired oven so you can also enjoy pizza. The pasta is also excellent; as is the burger. The maitre d’ is a Filipino so that’s bonus point for me!
For an Asian meal with a very New York feel, a good one is Wild Ink at Hudson Yards. This restaurant is in the mall but at a level that gives a great view of the Vessel, the elaborate, honeycomb-like copper structure that is the past five years’ Instagram staple for every tourist in New York. You can enjoy this view while getting your fill of the restaurant’s exceptional and unique dumplings, such as their crispy mapo dumpling or the prawn and bacon siu mai (bacon?! Yes!), among others. The nigiri comes in a set and is oh-so-fresh. And yes, they have o-toro. The other side of the restaurant is a bar so you can also enjoy these Asian treats with draught beer.
For dessert, my New Yorker friends, the Balbarins, introduced me to Chikalicious at 10th St. between 1st and 2nd Ave. This is a tiny boutique dessert shop with a bar setup where you can watch the pastry chefs making the desserts. The pastry chef, Chika, is Japanese. She has a tasting menu where you choose one main and the other two items are then thrown in by the chef. As she is Japanese, you can expect that her style is elegant albeit in a casual setting. She is very good at balancing the yin and yang of flavors. For instance, her panna cotta comes with a pomegranate sorbet and the vanilla honey parfait comes with a cilantro syrup. It’s exquisite!
Another great place for dessert, this time American-style, is Milk Bar (Broadway between 29th and 28th). This is a child of the Momofuku Group and its most famous item, the cereal milk soft serve, did not disappoint. For drinks, The Elgin at 48th between 5th and 6th Ave. has an excellent whiskey selection. It offers a relaxed, quiet vibe where you can talk to friends. If you want more upbeat drinks venue, Oscar Wilde has a beautiful Victorian-style setting and a lot of character, even if they play 80s and 90s pop and R&B. They also have Guinness on tap.
If you are in NYC on a Saturday, there is a weekend market that stretches down 6th Ave. with street food from different countries. Then in Times Square, there is a fabulous fried chicken shop called Jollibee. The lines are usually long but it’s always worth it anywhere in the world. Just this August 2022, Jollibee was named the “Best Fried Chicken Chain” by Eater.com. Their Chickenjoy brings joy indeed! Don’t miss it! I was taken around and treated by Pinoy friends old and new: a Maranao princess, a Cebuana beauty queen, a Waray goddess, a diplomat from General Santos and a restaurateur from Queens, and I just want to say thank you! I would love to go back and explore and eat some more. One can never really get enough of New York!
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