USA Day 2: New York

Clinton Street Baking Company

4 Clinton Street (bw East Houston & Stanton)
New York, NY, 10002

Given it was our first full day in New York, I was determined to find a good breakfast. Earlier research had led me to put the Clinton Street Baking Company on the itinerary. New York Magazine recently voted their pancakes as New York’s best (although this was back in 2008) . In the interest of research, I felt that I had to check them out.  So, we trekked down to the Lower East Side to do just that!

After providing our names at the door, we stood out on the pavement for about 15 minutes before getting a table. This is to be expected at the “hottest breakfast place in New York” – according to another Aussie couple we met there.

Pancakes with warm maple butter, served with Maine blueberries.

The pancakes were quite fluffy, and beautifully offset by the blueberry compote and warm maple butter.  It was a very generous serve, which I couldn’t finish. Although, I concede that I did make a serious dent in the 3 large pancakes that were served.

However, compared to my benchmark pancakes in Melbourne, I’m afraid they really didn’t come up to scratch. Especially compared to Ferguson Street Provisions in Williamstown, or Dimitri’s Feast in Richmond.  They were probably a little dry and crumbly – not too much, but enough. Nonetheless, they were pleasant enough and hit the spot before our first big day in the Big Apple!

Clinton St. Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Helicopter Tour & Walk around the Financial District

Next, we took our first wild taxi ride downtown to the 6th Pier Heliport – for our helicopter ride around New York.

 One World Trade Centre (1WTC), which was formerly known as Freedom Tower.

Yankee Stadium

The Empire State Building

The famous lady herself – The Statue of Liberty

The helicopter flight was amazing, although we couldn’t get as close as we would have liked to (there was a light aircraft in our flight path).  It was a great “touristy” start to our holiday and a great way to get an overview of Manhattan island.

After the helicopter we walked around to Battery Park and then into the Financial District to check it out.

Me posing in front of the “Charging Bull” on Wall Street.   This 3,200-kilogram bronze sculpture by Arturo Di Modica is said to be a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.

Trinity Church Cemetery (Wall Street & Broadway)

We also visited Trinity Church – this is a pic of the cemetery that lies next to it.  It’s incredibly fascinating, as many of the headstones are so old, you can’t see the writing on them anymore. For the film buffs, Trinity Church is in the last scenes of National Treasure with Nicolas Cage.

9/11 Sycamore Tree

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, falling wreckage from the collapsing tower knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel (which is part of Trinity Church’s parish and is located several blocks north of Trinity Church). Sculptor Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for a bronze sculpture that stands next to the church today. The sculpture represents unity and connectedness – really lovely.

New York Stock Exchange

A pretty strong police presence in Wall Street, which might be due to….

The Occupy Wall Street Camp – just down the road at Zuccotti Park!

After we had cruised around the Financial District for a while, we decided to check out a local bike store and found Gotham City Cycles on West Broadway in Tribeca. They didn’t have enough for us – so we trekked up to the Upper West Side to their larger store and bought some stuff there.

On the way home, we shared a really cheap hot dog ($1.25 – how do they make any money?), before getting back to the hotel and running out again for dinner…

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY, 10003
Open for lunch everyday 11:30am – 3:30pm
Open for dinner Sun-Thu 5pm – Midnight; Fri-Sat 5pm – 1am

I was in New York – so I had to dine at least once at a David Chang restaurant.  After, researching the Momofuku website, I settled on Ssäm Bar because the menu looked great.  Being a “must do” for New York – so I thought it would be a good idea to get to it as quickly as possible.  Being one of those places with a “no bookings” policy – I hustled Andrew down there to line up at 5:00pm – well – we had to get to Broadway for a show at 7:30pm anyway – so it just made sense.

Fortunately for us, the place was empty and there was only one other group of people before us – so we got in and took a seat at the bar. First things first…

A cocktail – la floridita – white rum, lime, maraschino

The open kitchen, where all the magic happens.

The famous Momofuku steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions

Oh. My. Goodness.  These were amazing. Completely melt in the mouth – slow roasted pork belly, surrounded by sweet, lightly steamed bun, beautifully complemented by the hoisin and cucumbers.  They are a revelation.  Why is nobody doing these in Melbourne!!

Roasted lamb loin & belly – bulgur, chestnut, egg yolk

This dish was also amazing.  There were two types of pork – at the top of the plate you can see the lamb loin served in rare, pink slices. Then you have the meltingly tender lamb belly which had been slow roasted. The lamb was well complemented by the bulgur, which had been fried so that it was crunchy and slightly chewy. And then you have the beautiful, unctuous egg yolk which had been cooked to the point where it was a soft gel consistency.  Amazing.

Spicy pork sausage & rice cakes – chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

The second main course we’d ordered was presented in a more rustic and traditional manner. The pork sausage was really a spicy mince, and the rice cakes were small and chewy, about the same size as gnocchi – but very different in texture.  It was quite firey – no doubt, thanks to the sichuan peppercorn. It was really good – but I did prefer the lamb dish.

We had time for dessert – although I have a confession to make.  Before we ordered our “official” dessert from the dessert menu – we ordered another serve of the steamed buns.  So good.

Regardless of our interim steamed buns – I ordered something from the dessert menu. All in the interest of good food research. We still had plenty of time – so what the heck!

Chocolate Parfait – matcha, plum, dulce de leche

The parfait came in the form of a lovely chocolate mousse with a layer of caramel between the mousse and the base.  The plum component was a smear of plum paste on top, which was then sprinkled with some chocolate biscuit crumbs.  A base layer of green tea cream and a smattering of small green tea gels (matcha) completed the dish.  It was beautiful – and a gorgeous example of a dish where the sum of the parts exceeded the individual components.  Fantastic.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

It was time to go, so we yielded our spots to a couple of eager customers who had just come in and we started our walk up to Broadway.

We had tickets to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”!!! It was an amazing and highly entertaining show. Daniel Radcliffe was fantastic, as was John Laroquette. And now… for a controversial statement – we both felt that it was way better than Wicked. If you can possibly see it – go, go, just go!  A great production. I hope it comes to Melbourne.

A brilliant first day – 16km of walking, great food and fantastic entertainment.