Category Archives: Classic NYC Eats

ABC Cocina

ABC Cocina is Jean-Georges’s Ibero-American take on its famous sister restaurant, ABC Kitchen. It is an airy, hip, and modern place located in the Flatiron District that manages to marvelously mix the city with nature.

The restaurant has a very cozy feel to it, filled with a very young and refreshing crowd of urbanites. Dimly lit by an abundance of widespread lights throughout the restaurant, it has a very natural look. I was glad to notice the silence that permeated the place: not due to a lack of customers but because of spacing arrangements to give customers a very individual experience.

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The menu has abundant influences from the Spanish and the Mexican kitchens. There are plenty of tapas options, reminiscent of a Madrid restaurant, from jamón ibérico to octopus. There are also many tacos and corn-heavy plates that show its Mexican influence. All of these plates feature a noticeable twist from the norm with their farm-to-table attributes and healthy ingredients. Fruits, plants, and spices are highlighted throughout the menu as the centerpiece of the site.

I chose to have a more Latin American experience by ordering guacamoleempanadas, and finally flan. They were all wonderfully splendid. The guacamole came with tortillas, a red, mildly spicy sauce, and nutty seeds in it that gave it a fresh taste. The empanadas were absolutely amazing. They were filled with moist mushrooms and accompanied by a green chili sauce. Lastly, the milky flan was incredibly soft; it dissolved in my mouth.

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This place is a must!

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Broadway Joe’s Pizza-Van Cortlandt Park/242nd Street

A$AP Rocky once said “Anything is better than that 1 train.” While we have all chanted this after the conductor announced the “train will be held momentarily” for the fourth time in ten minutes, we can all agree it holds a special place in the hearts of all Columbia students. After all, it grants us access to the world outside of the MoHi bubble. Commuting can be rough, especially when the train is not coming for 12 minutes, skipping the stop you need and the closest subway stop is a fifteen minute walk in -32° weather or a heat wave. In times like these (and quite honestly, anytime), there is nothing more convenient and comforting than a quick, cheap slice of pizza to sustain you. My mission for this semester is to explore the world along the 1 train through eating one of the foods that defines New York. The rules are simple: Take the 1 train, curse price hikes, get off, and look up the closest pizza joint. I am a firm believer that even bad pizza is good pizza, and the local joints that sustain New Yorkers throughout the city deserve recognition. This is an ode to the shops that are overlooked treasures as well as to those who may be mediocre but serve an essential role to the community of commuters.

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My quest begins at the first stop on the 1 train- Van Cortlandt Park/242nd street. The trip was faster than I anticipated and in less than 30 minutes, I was breathing in the fresh air courtesy of Van Cortlandt Park’s 1146 acres. After walking thirty nine feet from the subway station, I arrived at Broadway Joe’s Pizza. At around 4:30pm, Broadway Joe’s had the universal afternoon pizza joint patrons of rowdy high school and middle school students. The design was straightforward, no frills. Close your eyes and imagine any pizza place anywhere in America, and that is Broadway Joe’s.

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A plain slice cost the standard $2.50 and it was worth every cent. I ordered the second to last slice of plain pizza behind the display case. The pizza looked promising- the image does not do justice how much larger the slice was compared to the plate. The cheese glistened under the perfect amount of grease. I folded my slice and took my first bite. Not sure if this was beginner’s luck, but I hope every random, local pizza shop is as great as this one. The crust somehow had the perfect combination of crisp and chewiness. To confirm my observations from the initial taste, I took another bite and tested how far the cheese extended- perfectly elastic and bouncy. Lastly, the tomato sauce, while not a major player, passed the test of not being too sugary (a pitfall of many $1 pizza places) and if anything, approached the tangier side of the spectrum.

This will not be the last time I come here. The combination of Broadway Joe’s and the beauty of Van Cortlandt Park created a very convincing reason to ride the 1 train to the first stop to have a New York autumn picnic.

 

Slurping in Midtown

If you know me, you probably know that I’m a bit of a momofuku noodle bar aficionado. Sometimes, though, a friend isn’t willing to make the trek to the Lower East Side (and wait an hour+), or I’m in midtown and need to eat dinner, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is definitely a close second.

Ivan Orkin is unusual—a New Yorker who, thanks to a degree in Japanese language, opened a ramen shop in Tokyo. I met and was able to speak the chef recently; he was like any guy you might run into on the streets of New York – plus a deep knowledge of Japanese food, language, and culture.

I haven’t been to Orkin’s first restaurant in New York, Ivan Ramen, but I have been to the slurp shop, in the Gotham West Market, a number of times. Orkin’s ramen is unusual in that he uses a chicken based broth (as opposed to a pork one), and rye noodles. In general, I’ve found the flavors to be excellent but the soup to be a bit cold. You want ramen to be burn-your-mouth hot; this is not.

The slurp shop has changed their menu recently, and done away with rice bowls. Instead of automatically getting an egg on top of a bowl of ramen, you have a choice of one extra topping . These include: soft egg, toasted garlic bomb, enoki mushrooms, young bok choy, roasted tomato, pork belly, chicken, bamboo shoots, seaweed salad, shiso onions, field greens, bean sprouts, shaved cabbage, gluten free tofu noodle, and toasted nori; these are also available as extra toppings. “Mega meat” (either chicken or pork) is available as well. They’ve also added several buns.

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I had the pork belly buns ($9), with spicy teriyaki glaze and miso cabbage. Also available are veggie burger buns, shrimp buns, and pastrami buns (paying homage to Orkin’s heritage). These were excellent, though they could have used a pickle to cut the fat. Unfortunately, momofuku’s famous pork buns still beat all.

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I chose the Tokyo Shio Ramen ($13), whose broth is chicken and salt (as opposed to the Shoyu ramen, which has soy sauce added as well), topped with pork belly, bamboo shoots, and scallion. The flavor of the broth is perfect; chicken-y and salty, not too fatty. It was excellent; hotter than usual—the absence of an egg was not missed.

The drinks, as well, are not to be missed. Yuzu lemonade is unique and delicious; very tart and not too sweet.

The Clinton St. Ivan Ramen features a larger menu, as well as breakfast—so sometime when I’m craving momofuku soon, maybe I’ll try out Orkin’s first NYC location instead.

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop,

600 11th Ave(212) 582-7942

Atmosphere: Casual, upbeat.

Noise Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: Shio ramen, yuzu lemonade

Price range: $$

Hours: 11am–11pm, Sun-Thurs; 11am–12am, Fri-Sat

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Soup Dumplings Part 2: Shanghai Cafe Deluxe

 

Shanghai Cafe Deluxe sits tucked in between several other eateries—as most restaurants in Chinatown do—with an unassuming neon sign. The restaurant is lit in tacky neon pink, and a rather unfriendly waitress led myself and my friend to a table in the corner, throwing down menus on a table.

To start off—because I have a weakness for scallion pancakes—do not order them at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe. They’re under-seasoned, not super crispy, and just unsatisfying. Do order pea tendrils sautéed in garlic, though, as an accompaniment to the little sacks of piping hot crab and pork broth that are Shanghai Cafe’s magical soup dumplings.

My friend and I got one order of pork soup dumplings, and one of pork and crab.

In comparison to Joe’s Shanghai, the Shanghai Cafe Deluxe dumplings are much sturdier. Even after having sat for a while, they tend not to rip as easily, and it’s possible to peel them apart from each other without ripping multiple dumplings. They’re slightly less fatty, as well, but seasoned perfectly—leaving the diner feeling slightly less regretful after consuming far too many. The dumplings are served with two sauces—the classic vinegar-ginger, and a spicy sauce.

At this restaurant, the dumplings are made to order. The skin is chewy—which I like; they’re not as good when they break so easily—and the broth is porky, but not overpowering. The filling is perfect.

The crab dumplings are especially good. The fatty pork marries with the ocean taste of the crab, held together by a slight hint of curry and the ever-umami pork broth. The taste was unique, but more interesting than  the pork. I would definitely recommend these—though the pork is classic.

The key with this restaurant is to get there  early and eat fast. We arrived at about 6:20, and snagged one of the last two person tables—within minutes of our arrival, the restaurant was full and there was a line. Even if you don’t get there early enough to avoid the line, however, stay. It’s worth it. And if you’re venturing out on your own to find a different soup dumpling place, beware: xiao long bao are a Shanghai specialty, and while they might be on the menu at Sichuan or Hunan or Beijing-style restaurants, they’re probably not going to be very good.

 

Joe’s Shanghai

100 Mott St, (212) 966-3988

Atmosphere: Casual.

Credit Card: no.

Noise Level: moderate.

Recommended Dishes: crab soup dumplings, pork soup dumplings, sautéed pea tendrils.

Hours: 11:30am–10pm, Sun–Thurs; 11:30am–11pm, Fri-Sat.

Soup Dumplings Part 1: Joe’s Shanghai

There are few things I love more than spontaneously going on adventures in the city—reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to decide at 7 pm on a Tuesday that I want to go to Central Park, or a museum, or in this case, down to Chinatown for xiaolong bao, or soup dumplings.

I was late to soup dumplings. Friends have been raving about them for years, but I rarely go out for Chinese food, so I only had them for the first time about a year ago. Pork and garlic, broth and dough—there are few combinations that are such excellent complements.

There is, as well, a certain magic to the art of eating the dumplings; a technique, definitely, to biting in the right place, managing to get the Chinkiang vinegar into the broth, to slurping the broth without spilling—all while keeping one’s mouth from being severely burned (if they’re good, they’ll be scaldingly hot). For a more scientific breakdown of technique, as well as a list of best soup dumplings in the city, please refer to J. Kenji López-Alt.

The first of two soup dumpling posts is about Joe’s Shanghai; specifically, the location in Chinatown. It’s my roommate’s go-to soup dumpling place, and I spontaneously tagged along

Scallion pancakes and soup dumplings—you know, I’m all for fine dining, but sometimes there’s really nothing better than some salt, pork, and starch, especially on a cold December night after wandering up and down Fifth Ave for hours (my roommate’s friend was visiting).

Upon entering Joe’s Shanghai, you will most likely be sent back out into the cold—there are a bunch of people already in line. But once in a while, when your group has an uncommon number—three, perhaps—you’ll get seated at a shared table and within about five seconds, there are a multitude of menus and both tea and water in front of you.

Get a couple of orders of the soup dumplings. Don’t expect particularly kind waiters, but do expect piping hot food that arrives quickly. Eat the dumplings fast, though—otherwise they’ll stick to the steamer and you won’t be able to use your new xiaolongbao-eating techniques.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the soup dumpling adventures, where I’ll compare Joe’s to a rival…

Can anyone resist these?
Can anyone resist these?

Joe’s Shanghai

9 Pell St, (212) 233-8888

Atmosphere: Casual.

Credit Card: no.

Noise Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: soup dumplings, scallion pancakes.

Hours: 11am–11pm, 7 days a week.

Donut Miss Out On These Doughnuts

Despite hailing from the hometown of Dunkin’ Donuts, I have never really been a fan of the pastry—or fried dough in general. Why have a pastry fried in oil when you could have one laminated with butter?

But while wandering around Chelsea one evening with a friend, I happened to notice a sign advertising yuzu doughnuts. Yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus that tastes something like a cross between a lemon and an orange, is one of my favorite fruits, and I’m a sucker for anything yuzu-flavored.

It turns out that Doughnut Plant is very well known. It was around 9 pm, and the place was packed. The walls are lined with plush, cloth versions of the store’s classic doughnuts—they’re cute. I kind of wanted to take one home. Unfortunately, they’re not for sale.

The yuzu doughnut was part of a limited-edition Japanese menu, which also included matcha, shiso, and red bean. The general menu includes yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts, and filled doughnuts, which are self-described as follows:

Yeast doughnuts: Light, airy, fluffy yeast-raised doughnuts, with a slight chew.

Cake doughnuts: Leavened with baking powder, our cake doughnuts have a texture somewhere near the intersection of a classic birthday cake and a buttery pound cake.

Filled doughnuts: Filled with our house made jams, creams and custards.

My friend and I both went for yeast doughnuts—I with yuzu, and her with Valrhona chocolate:

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Yuzu doughnut
Valrhona chocolate doughnut
Valrhona chocolate

Both were delicious. The yuzu one was unbelievable; somehow, the flavor of yuzu permeated every bite, both in the glaze and in the dough. I couldn’t imagine getting a filled version of either—they were super rich even though they were “light and airy.”

We also splurged on Valrhona hot chocolate. Even richer than the doughnuts, it was topped with a homemade marshmallow. It was real hot chocolate, clearly, made by melting chocolate with milk—not the powdery stuff that masquerades as “hot cocoa” far too often.

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Trying not to spill…

Go to this place, even if you don’t really like doughnuts. They have tons of flavors, in many iterations, and everyone is bound to find something they like. They have several locations all over the city, and sell their doughnuts at many retail locations—you’re probably closer than you think.

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Doughnut Plant

220 W 23rd St, 212) 505-3700

Atmosphere: Upbeat, friendly. Staff are very helpful.

Credit Card: yes.

Bathroom: yes.

Noise Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: yuzu doughnut, hot chocolate.

Hours: 7am–10pm, Sun-Wed; 7am-12am, Thurs-Sat.

 

A Sampling of Smorgasburg

 

A disclaimer: I didn’t actually have the ramen burger. I know, it’s a travesty—who treks out to Williamsburg from Morningside Heights (taking the dreaded L train; I don’t think it’s that bad…) only to not try the food that Smorgasburg’s most famous for?

Well, I guess it’s a reason to return!

I think Smorgasburg is quite genius, actually. Plunked on the western edge of Williamsburg, it (the original site; there are several others now) rewards Manhattan-ites who are willing to get to Brooklyn with a vast number of options of extremely filling foods and incredible views of Manhattan. Much of the food is more than just the latest, trendiest, foodie-est thing to eat.

This is the way I suggest doing it:

  1. Bring cash. That’s all the vendors take, and you don’t want to have to wait in the line once you get there.
  2. When you arrive, walk around and look at every vendor. You don’t want, upon spending all your money and stuffing yourself, to realize that someone sells your favorite food on the other side of the space.
  3. Bring friends to split. Too many things to try to eat all of everything.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve had fried calamari. These were excellent. The spicy tomato mayo (just behind the squid in the cone) was a nice touch—I might try to make that sometime soon.

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This corn is grilled, and then rubbed with butter and sprinkled with cheese. I’ve had corn like this before, but I’ll never say no to this combination. It’s completely delicious.

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This was the highlight of the bunch. Duck confit with cabbage on a brioche roll from Duck Season. You really can’t go wrong with duck confit and brioche. We actually wanted to get two sliders, but they were out—the cook generously offered to cut this in half for us. Even half of this sandwich was enough—I’m not sure I could have eaten the entire thing.

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A friend recommended this nutella ice cream sandwich from Good Batch—it did not disappoint. Though again, the serving was essentially too large to finish.

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My friend wanted to get something sweet, but these caught her eye instead: beer-battered cheese curds. I thought it sounded disgusting, and even once we got them I wasn’t so into it. Then I dipped one in spicy aioli and bit into it; my doubts melted away in a haze of melted cheese and umami (that’d be the fermentation of the beer). I’m actually still craving these.

All in all: Smorgasburg is totally worth it. I’ll definitely be going back when it opens again in the spring.

Bun Breakdown – Momofuku

Whenever a friend comes to New York from out of town, I reliably bring them to Momofuku Noodle Bar. I’ve been a number of times now, and since I’ve tried almost all of their buns—save the chicken meatball one—I thought I’d write a breakdown of each.

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The Pork Bun: (Be warned: This bun is not on the menu. They make tons of them every day, but you’ve got to know to order them. ) The pork bun is probably the most famous bun that momofuku makes. Two slices of pork belly, hoisin sauce, scallions, and lightly pickled cucumbers. It’s a perfect combination. The sweetness of the hoisin sauce melds with the fatty pork; the fat is then cut by the scallions and cucumbers.

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The Brisket Bun: This is the most beautiful bun, albeit a strange combination. (They have since changed the set to horseradish, pickled red onion, and cucumber , actually, but I haven’t had that.) The mayonnaise served with this bun went with the meat, but the shredded lettuce? A little lame, in my opinion. The brisket itself, though, was brilliant.

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The Shiitake Bun: This comes with the same set as the pork bun, and I wouldn’t have ordered it, except that a chef recommended it and my mom (who I was with at the time) prefers vegetables to meat. Interestingly, I found the lack of fat in the mushrooms preferable with the hoisin to the fatty pork belly.

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The Shrimp Bun: Oh, man. This one is a winner. Served with spicy mayo, pickled red onion, and iceberg lettuce, the bun contains crushed shrimp shaped into a patty and fried on a flat-top until crispy.

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The Fried Egg Bun: Finally, this one was a special in September. Pork loin, fried egg, bacon, chives, and hollandaise. The bun was delicious, but more impressive was the method for keeping an entire fried egg that size: the eggs are slow-poached in the shell beforehand, so they don’t spread out like a raw egg when they’re cracked onto a hot surface.

 

Which bun is your favorite?

 

The Bourdain Diaries: Barney and Greengrass

As restaurant week ended so did my desire to continue to spend ridiculous amounts of money on ridiculously good food. What I truly appreciate about Bourdain is his diversity in tastes, and ability to truly recognize good food, not just appearances of it in the form of fancy restaurants.

According to him, one of his all time favorite restaurants in the city is a Jewish Deli that’s been in the Upper West side since 1908; Barney and Greengrass. So being that restaurant week took a toll on my wallet, I decided to head here for a good old-fashioned New York breakfast.

As I sat in the small run down diner, I was starting to think that I had misread Bourdain’s recommendation, thinking, “surely this can’t be it”, but as soon as the food came out, all doubts of mine vanished.

I ordered a cup of coffee, which never ended or grew cold as the sassy Jewish waiter filled it every chance he could get. For my meal, I decided to go with the Lox (salty) and onion scrambled eggs. Despite the waiter trying to dissuade me saying that it was really salty, and the Nemours notes on the menu noting that it was really salty I still ordered it, excited to challenge my cholesterol levels.

The eggs came with an everything bagel and a slab of cream cheese, literally embodying everything old-school New York in a single meal.

The eggs themselves were in fact really salty, but insanely good. The chunks of Lox were big enough to make a small plate of eggs very substantial. The salt from the Lox was truly emphasized with the eggs because they were so startlingly plain compared to the cured goodness that was the Lox. Likewise, the onions were cooked well done, and mixed in the eggs to calm down the salt, while not diluting the flavor.

The eggs were even better when paired with the everything bagel, as the bagel itself was salty, oniony, and calm with the assistance of the cream cheese.

Although your breath won’t like this particular meal, it was a perfect start to my morning. Barney and Greegrass again assured me that good food can truly be found almost anywhere in New York.

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The New French: Lafayette

Mesdames et Messieurs, the reviews are in: Lafayette you are juste magnifique!

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 If there’s one culinary bite of wisdom I’ve managed to chew off over my relatively short life it’s one thing: Taste is place. What first drew me to food was travel, that is to say when I experienced that one dish could so deliciously convey a history, a people, and capture the spice of most importantly, a culture. Food is no other than the expression of a land and of a certain terroir. When we savour a slice of Camembert, we’re tasting the beauty of the pastureland, plains and rolling hills that the creamy cows of the île de France and shores of Normandy are grazing on. In a glass of a really good Burgundy pinot noir, it’s the Jurassic period limestone soil and thousand year old vines unique to one of the world’s most geographically distinct regions that our palettes are really sipping on. And the best authentic French food, is of course going to taste the best in none other than the land of France. So what’s the point of trying to find “authentic” french restaurants in another country? Isn’t it all going to be a sort of sad copy, a nostalgic crusade for all deprived francophones, in search of their own culinary golden age? Well this week, Noho’s infamous Lafayette showed two staunchy traditionalists the beauty of culinary translation and of the American-French restaurant variation.There’s no going back to France, but there is a way to appreciate the value of cultural interpretation, and what American chefs might add to the interpretation of French flavors. This week we’re here to celebrate one of our new favorite culinary breeds: le nouveau style, “American-French.”Cher Lafayette, you are a beautiful hybrid.

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                                  Lafayette

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Noho

So here’s the deal, Lafayette reigns currently as one of NYC’s top French restaurants and we’re stamping it with our wholehearted francophone seal of approval. And not because you’ll find the most authentic French food there, but rather because it offers innovative, delicious spins on traditional regional french classic dishes. Now we’ll be honest, we’re not on the “Boulud” bandwagon these days. Instead we’re joining “team Lafayette” for their ability to produce delicious, creative spins on the best of French cuisine. It’s that creamy quail egg on their “New Orleans” tabasco aioli beef tartare that really revamps original flavors and makes the classics, well, fun again! The quail egg is not a culinary face lift, but rather an inspired addition. Just like that refreshing layer of sweet sauternes gelée on good ole chicken liver paté done right on a light brioche was then “razzle dazzled” into the modern age with balsamic dressed frisée.  And the best New York-Franco translation of the night that we’re recommending: Duck au Poivre, a riff on French steak au poivre (filet mignon cooked with peppercorns) but reinvented with a meaty, double stuffed Muscovy duck breast and topped with vibrant bursts of orange candied kumquat, radishes, and smoked bacon. No disrespect to Duck à l’Orange, but Lafayette’s unique kumquat announces a new burst of tart citrus flavor with an added raw crunch to pair perfectly with your duck cooked to a perfect pink. It was one subtle ingredient that didn’t renovate one of my favorite dishes, but rather re-translated a transition.

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So why are we sending you on a date with duck at Lafayette next weekend? Quality, delicious dishes that fit a creative American-Franco fused menu. La service? Superbe. Lafayette’s waiters are well tasted and eager to talk you through their Holy Bible of a wine list. L’Atmosphere? It’s no comfy cave bistrot, but their art deco inspired interior and suspender strap wearin’ waiters will whisk you and your palette back to a time when dining was truly a celebration, an elegant affair, and a moment to shine your shoes for. A time when waiters still serve a “lady” first and will even delicately crack open your warm soufflé to pour in just the perfect amount of crème anglaise. Lafayette preserves the grace, tradition, and dedication to the craft of preparing and serving food in a way that embodies the very génie of the French Haute Cuisine. So come for cultural culinary innovation, but let yourself be transported back in time to a restaurant that preserves the very essence of Julia Child’s legacy.

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Menu Must Haves:

Winter Paté, foie gras, red cabbage, apple cider

Escarole Salad, pomegranate, hazelnut, parmesan, truffle vinaigrette

Prime Beef Tartare “New Orleans,” tabasco aioli, quail egg

Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano

Duck au Poivre, organic grains, radish, smoked bacon

Petite Orange Soufflé with earl grey crème anglaise, mandarin salad

*And supposively we hear the pommes frites sont divine!

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 French Check-In: An Afterthought from a Parisian Palette

What was your favorite Lafayette spin?

The French restaurant in NYC? Lafayette, definitely. And maybe because it’s not exactly a French restaurant serving very “typical” dishes that we don’t even really eat back at home.

The restaurant in NYC? Well, that’s a really tricky question obviously, but Lafayette could be in the top five, and considering that there are 16,251 restaurants in NYC (yes actual number), that’s something.

Seriously, this place is everything you can look for when it comes to food: simplicity and quality. I had the Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano (by the way, cheapest dish on the menu, 22 dollars, does it get better than that… ?). It’s a dish I regularly have, from time to time, at home or out. It basically contains pasta and rabbit, that’s it. But this version of it was the real thing because the pasta was perfectly cooked, the rabbit was tender and flavorful. Simple comme bonjour.

PS: Oh, and don’t even get me started on the bread.

-Jeanne Bernard

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 PARIS SUGGESTIONS: WHERE TO FIND JULIA CHILD OLD SCHOOL ROMANCE THESE DAYS:

Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)