Degustation (New York - East Village)

239 E 5th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 979-1012

Hidden on 5th Street, it's pretty easy to miss Degustation if you just stroll along the main streets of East Village. The entrance to the restaurant is low-key, with its name modestly placed on the door. Degustation has a 16-seat bar seating where patrons can witness the chefs prepare and cook the Frenco-Spanish style tapas right in front of them. Ambiance was intimate and comfortable. The waitress was well-versed in the menu, giving us a breakdown of our dishes each time she served us our plates. After we finished each of our dishes, we were given a new set of utensils. I think we went through 7 rounds of utensils... (Apologies for the picture quality. Lighting was a bit dim).
slowly poached egg with jamon serrano and chorizo "broth"
pan roasted squab breast, ginger-beet puree, pickled white asparagus and chervil
wagyu beef flank, tempura of white maitake mushrooms, pea shoots, and red onion marmalade (that is white foam on the left).
suckling pig, tomatillo, velvet pioppini mushrooms, scallions and cilantro
grilled octopus, potato, caramelized bulb onions and celery salad with a piquillo pepper emulsion
seared foie gras, sherry and date consomme with watermelon radish
Tasting these wonderful tapas was a delectable affair - each dish delivering a different experience.

Il Laboratorio del Gelato (New York - Lower East Side)

95 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002
212 343 9922

Il laboratorio del gelato is dedicated to producing the very finest ice cream and sorbet. There are no seats inside and people are lined up at the ordering window, which opens to the kitchen where you can witness the chefs creating handmade frozen dessert with local and organic ingredients. The name Il Laboratorio suggests a "custom lab" where chefs are dressed in white lab coats to develop the unique flavors. The menu is extensive, ranging from the usual strawberry, chocolate, mocha, to very interesting ones such as olive oil, sambuca, and thai chili chocolate. But only a handful of flavors are featured on its rotating daily menu. You also won't know the flavors until you get to the window so be ready to decide quickly.

We got three flavors: Dark chocolate, Pear and Black Sesame. Definitely worthwhile. Every spoonful of the gelato was smooth and creamy, my tastebuds wanting more.
You will probably find a line here and no place to sit. We just sat on some steps of someone's home. But it's a great way to enjoy the gelato and take in the chic NYC neighborhood scene. The place is between Broome St and Delancey St, next to the NY Tenement Museum (watch out for the tours that might invade the lines at Il Laboratorio). And remember, it closes at 6pm!

Jean Georges (New York-Upper West Side)

1 Central Park West
This restaurant is located in the Trump International Hotel & Tower, right across the street from Central Park. We dined during lunch which offers 2 entrees/appetizers for $28.
For the amuse bouche, we had shrimp ball, mango with black olives, and a shot of edamame drink.

goat cheese gnocchi, caramelized baby artichokes, lemon and olive oil

sea scallops, caramalized cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsionskate w/ chateau chalon sauce
gently smoked squab
For dessert, all patrons received this exquisitely presented trays of different chocolates, homemade marshmallows, and mini macarons.

This place is a must-visit!! $28 a person for all this exquisite food... it's definitely worthwhile!

Russ & Daughters (New York - Lower East Side)

179 E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10002
(212) 475-4880
(800) RUSS-229

We found a walking food excursion tour on Chowhound to try NYC's quintessential deli experiences. First on the list was Katz's. Second was Russ & Daughters which is a few doors down from Katz's. This deli specializes in smoked fish, cream cheese, and bagels. They also have pastries, chocolates, and many other appetizer goodies. The deli has no inside seating, but there are two benches in the front to enjoy their food.
I ordered the Scandinavian Grav Lox with Dill on an everything bagel with double-whipped cream cheese, red onions and tomatoes. Grav Lox is not smoked, but cured and coated in a delicate brine of salt, sugar and dill. The bagels are hand-rolled and boiled before baking in an old-fashioned revolving oven. Biting into this scrumptious bagel sandwich was amazing with all the right flavors infused together. The only setback for me was that the server had spread on two thick layers of cream cheese. Enough with the calories, but who's counting right...

Katz's Delicatessen (New York - Lower East Side)

205 E. Houston St, New York

Katz's is known for serving the best pastrami sandwich in the East Coast, so we had to visit! It's also famous for being the site of Meg Ryan's famous "I'll have what she's having" fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.
So this is the process everyone goes through...Get your ticket upon entering, line up at the counter to an available meat cutter, try a juice slice that he gives you to sample, order a pastrami sandwich on rye, give the meat cutter your ticket so he can mark it off, tip your meat cutter, then choose your seat. Pay by credit card near the salamis or cash by the door. (Our meat cutter graciously offered to take a picture of us...All the memorabilia and picture frames in the background are of celebs, politicians, past prez who came to dine here)

Our succulent pastrami sandwich on sliced rye bread with 2 kinds of pickles..The sliced pickle was quite milder than the other, but a nice refreshing touch. I like the classic salty pickle.The pastrami slices were thick, smoky, and so tender. We ordered one sandwich and split it...It was quite filling and delicious! (Cost: $18 for sandwich and Katz's lemonade).


Artichoke (New York - East Village)

328 E 14th St
New York, NY, 10003
(212) 228-2004

This joint is known to have undisplayed odd hours with lines out the door all the time. There are no tables or chairs, so patrons either have to eat while standing outside or quickly find a spot to chow down the fresh pizza. Pizza eaten later is not the same! After 30 minutes of waiting, we finally got our pizzas. Since it was also raining, we had to find some kind of nearby shelter to eat our pizzas. There was a nice spot under a fire escape but that had been taken by other Artichoke patrons. We had to find cover and found a bus stop across the street. That didn't last long since buses were coming and we felt weird. So we went to a McDonald's instead and ordered a refreshing Coke and happily ate our Artichoke pizzas.
The bottom slice pictured below is the Artichoke and Spinach slice, which was creamy with large pieces of spinach and mozzarella cheese.

The slice to the right is the classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, basil and olive oil.

The square slice with the teeth marks (I was too eager to eat before thinking about taking pictures) is the Sicilian slice, which had a thicker and crispier crust than the Margherita.
These delicious slices were very crispy on the outside, yet its interior was chewy. The wait here is definitely worth it. Prices are reasonable for this kind of quality pizza ($2.50-3.00).

Rice to Riches (Nolita, New York)

37 Spring St. (between Mott St & Mulberry St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-0008

With all this craze about rice pudding for dessert, I had to stop by Rice to Riches to see what the hype was about. This clean and futuristic-looking dessert shop in Nolita features rice pudding in custom-made plastic containers with matching spoons. (These containers aren't very Earth friendly so take it home and reuse them). The small size can be filled with two flavors, while the large container is ideal for taking it home. Rice to Riches was also featured in Hitch where Eva Mendez confesses her affection for Will Smith to her best friend over a bowl of rice pudding.
The place is really sleek and clean, but prepare to stand as there is only a small booth area and few counters to stand around.
This is the "Raspberry Statement"...Not a very appealing look, but somewhat tasteful. I'm not a rice pudding kind of person so I could be biased. The first few bites were okay, but after awhile, it got too rich and heavy and I could not finish the bowl.
A cute sign in their bathroom....
If you like rice pudding and adventurous in discovering different flavors, you should check it out. We met a couple from Connecticut who always come here when they visit Manhattan. But I probably couldn't come back here. The dessert was much too heavy for me...Good to share with someone though.


Momofuku Ssam Bar (New York - East Village)

207 2nd Ave.
NYC, 10003
(corner of 2nd and 13th)
Chef: David Chang & Joaquin Baca

Momofuku was our first meal upon arriving in New York. We walked in around 10:00 PM and it was still packed. Luckily, seats at the bar opened up shortly. The restaurant exuded a very simple and minimal look, bringing focus to the food itself. "Momofuku" means "lucky peach" and "ssam" alludes to anything that is encircled or wrapped. As a "meathead," David Chang experiments his menu with offal and pork. (To learn more, read "you know when you're a meathead when...")

We started out with a few of the beau soleil oysters from Canada with a kimchi consommé. Unfortunately, I think we were starved at this moment and forgot to take a picture of it. The oysters itself were very fresh and the kimchi consommé had a very subtle but present kimchi taste to it.

Steam buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumber, scallions - One of Momofuku's signature dishes is the steam buns with pork belly. We had to order this dish to see what the hype was all about. The pork belly was tender, succulent, and fatty. Other than the high quality of the pork belly, this dish was fairly standard. The both of us enjoyed this dish but neither of us were wowed by it.

Crispy pig's head torchon with sucrine and spicy mustard - When I first saw this item on the menu the first thing that popped into my head was pig's head? I was thinking about how this dish would be plated. As a pigs head on a dish? I asked the waitress about the dish and she assured me it wasn't a pig's head on a dish. This was my favorite dish that we ordered that night. The torchon had a nice crunchy coating on the outside and on the inside a tender meaty mixture. The torchon was served with spicy mustard and plums that complemented the torchon very nicely.

Spicy pork sausage & rice cakes with Chinese broccoli and crispy shallots - This dish was textural heaven. The shallots had a crunchiness to it, the rice cakes had a crispy outside and the glutinous inside, and the Chinese broccoli still had a nice firmness to it. The dish was indeed spicy but not overwhelmingly spicy. Brooklyn Pennant Ale - Since we just arrived in New York that night, we had to make ourselves feel like New Yorkers by ordering a Brooklyn Pennant Ale. I have no idea whether or not New Yorkers drink this stuff, but I found it to be very good.
Our one regret while dining at Momofuku Ssam Bar was that we couldn't order more items from the menu. We arrived there fairly late and it was just the two of us and only so much our bellies could fit in. The atmosphere at Ssam Bar is very laid back with no pretentiousness present. We would definitely like to try David Chang's other restaurants next time we visit.