New York Series: Favourite Eats
Shouldn't come to you as a surprise that I'm making this list. After eating my way through New York, I've narrowed down my favourite eats starting with my top choices.
Get comfortable, it's going to be a long one.
This was one of the first restaurants I hit up when I landed in NYC and I've been back a total of three times since. It is by far the best Korean BBQ restaurant I've tried. If you don't believe me, ask Reddit, it's up there. Located on the second floor in the heart of K-Town (32nd and broadway), this place is usually packed (expectedly). We normally get the group beef platter which includes Prime ribeye, Kalbi, Thin skirt and Marinated beef. This place is great in the sense that you have the waiters cooking, cutting and serving the food for you. Their spicy ground soybean sauce, salt and sesame oil paired perfectly with the meat. My friend was particularly fond of their macaroni side dish, we must have asked for at least 5 trays of it at one point. Their other dishes were great, but I would say stick to the meats because that's where the money's at. Their spicy pork dish was also very memorable, but other dishes like their Jap Chae (it was really peppery) and spicy rice cakes were quite average. This place isn't cheap so you can expect to fork over a decent amount just to be kind-of full. The last time we were here, we spent around $65 a person after tips. So come loaded!
This is hands down, the best Italian food I've ever had - in my life. When we took our first bite, we just looked at each other wide-eyed and mutually agreed with our mouths full that this place was something else. Cucina Piccola has a few locations in NY and we've visited two, both being extremely busy and borderline claustrophobic (but it's worth it trust me). The last time we went, we sat in a seat that had no exit because all the tables were joint to one another to optimize dining space. To leave, the host had to pull out our table so we could squeeze our way out - it was great though. The music was lively and it felt like we were transported to another city. The first time I was here, I ordered their lasagna, and the second time I ordered their lobster pasta (keep in mind different location have different availability). I have to note that the pasta is one of the freshest pasta I've ever had. Their portions were massive, but you could easily devour it because it's incredibly delicious. Is it too dramatic to say it was nearly life changing? Because it really was. Now this wasn't exactly cheap either, you can expect to pay about $25-35 before tax per plate here, but if you had only one day to spend in New York, this is the place you go okay?
Pure Thai Cookhouse
For those that know me, they know that my love for Pad Thai is next to none. There's this Thai restaurant in Toronto that I visit nearly every week for their Pad Thai. I knew when I came to New York, I had to find a place that would make me feel the same way. I did get the Pad Thai here, and while it was good, it was nothing spectacular. What really blew my mind was their Pad See Ew. It's amazing - so much so that I've walked to this restaurant alone when I crave it. This may or may not have happened on 4 separate occasions. Side note, their dry noodles featured in the photo was also bomb, I would recommend it too. The restaurant actually felt really authentic. They had a lot of retro posters and Thai music that really tied in with their whole theme. Note that this restaurant is always incredibly busy, and for good reason. I believe it's nearly a five star restaurant based on 2000 reviews on yelp. Be careful if you've been out all day and you're just looking to cool off - this place won't do that for you. There's no AC and the food is just gonna make it all the hotter. But that's kind of the part of the experience right?
Before I found Red Poke, I went to a much further poke place call Poke Town. It's good too but it was my first experience with poke and I thought everything literally tasted amazing. But then i found Red Poke and I was just moved by it. I went here for lunch and dinner once...and then woke up the next day and had it for lunch and dinner again. I almost filled up my stamp card in literally two days...there was no stopping me. This is a Korean inspired Poke place, which was really interesting because if you know me, my love for Korean food, much like Thai food, knows no bounds. They had interesting toppings like Kimchi, spicy pork and beef bulgogi. I usually throw every topping available and it just looks and taste amazing. It's extremely filling and I always kind of hate myself after, but not enough to stop. My favourite sauce is the Red Poke sauce - I mean you can't go wrong with picking the sauce the restaurant is named after. This will definitely be one of those places I'll be thinking about when I'm back home in Toronto.
This place was not only aesthetically pleasing, but the food was on point too. They have a really interesting concept that's a mixture of your traditional bento box + KBBQ. I ordered the Harami bento box which came with what you'd normally expect - rice, crispy tofu, beef stew, pickled vegetables, salad and the raw meat that you are expected to cook on the grill provided. It also comes with unlimited miso soup I believe. There's the option to add other side meats for extra $$. It was a great portion that won't have you imploding and regretting your eating choices. Not the cheapest place, but definitely something you would have to try at least once in my opinion. Also note: the bento box option is only available for lunch!
BCD tofu house
okay wait hear me out first. I know this place is always packed, and in a way it makes sense that this is on my list, but here's a disclaimer stating that it's really nothing special and it just features a lot of the typical staple Korean food you would expect at a place like this. BUT with that being said, this place makes the BEST Jap Chae I've ever had in my life. I know apparently there's a lot of life changing food in NYC from this list I've compiled, but this was definitely a dish that made me come by time and time again to get the exact same thing. With that being said, I know absolutely nothing about any other dish since I've never given anything else a chance, so I'll literally be talking exclusively about their Jap Chae LOL. The portion is surprisingly large. When I first ordered this, I had a friend mention "Whoa, are you going to finish all that?" To which I replied "No way, It's too much". But then I had my first bite and my diet went downhill from there and I devoured it before anyone else finished their meal. That's how great it was. Need i say more.
Angkor Cambodian Bistro
I discovered this restaurant late in the game and I wish I had the chance to visit it more than twice before I had to leave for Toronto. Being Cambodian myself, I actually never tried Cambodian food from a restaurant before - all I know is my mom's cooking. The food here was really reminiscent of home and I can honestly say it tasted pretty authentic. If you never had Cambodian food, and you want to experience something more traditional, I would recommend the Banh Chao (as seen in the photo). This is like a crepe style cuisine that encloses ground shrimp, chicken, onions, bean sprouts and peanuts. Normally you can eat this by either pouring or dipping it in fish sauce with lettuce wrap being optional. I also really enjoyed the Spicy Siem Reap Noodles - which is just as good if you are feeling less adventurous.
Okay so this may be surprising since 90% of my list is comprised of killer fatty foods. But no joke, this is a serious contender. This salad bar speaks for itself, with the lunch rush usually causing this place to form a line that literally circles the inside of the restaurant (and sometimes outside it). My favourite was their Salami + Spicy Pickled Vegetable plate - It's pretty expensive for a salad (~$15) but the portion was actually large enough for me to eat half for lunch while having the second half for dinner- which is quite amazing because it was like 395 calories for the entire bowl. More recently they discontinued my favourite option, but you can always customize it to your liking. For me, I try to build something similar (arugula, spicy broccoli, breadcrumbs, roasted peppers, red onions, salami, feta and my dressing of choice: Spicy cashew. Oh man it's both creamy and spicy, bless). This is one of those places that I'll be thinking about when I'm back home, I can't tell you how many times I walked half an hour alone just to get this salad and eat it walking back LOL. With that being said, this photo I provided is exactly that - a quick snap of my salad as I was literally making my way back from their Broadway location near K-Town.
This place was really expensive for their serving size. I got their shareable kimchi fried rice with steak which was about $26. The portion was really more of a single though. It was incredibly delicious and I'll admit, I ordered this twice on the same night (both for myself LOL). The steak was crispy and salted on the outside, but incredibly tender on the inside. Their kimchi fried rice was very flavourful, something I often find many restaurant fall flat on. I also got their Yuzu cosmopolitan, which to be honest, was not too impressive so I'd say stick to the food. One thing I found interesting though, was that they also offered to customize your drink based on what you like - personally I didn't try this, but it seems like a cool option to have. Some hit or misses here which is why it's not higher on my list, but if I had to solely base my thoughts off the Kimchi Fried Rice alone, it would be a top contender.
I have to start off by saying despite being an "Izakaya", the dishes were anything but tiny, in fact I'd say they were rather large. For its size, and being in New York and all, I'd say it was surprisingly cheap (ranging from $10-$12 for the dishes we ordered). I ordered the Kimchi Cream Udon which was exactly as it sounds - absolutely fucking amazing (but low key also makes you feel a little shitty about yourself afterwards). My friends got the Yaki Udon and the Omu soba which was filled with yakisoba noodles. They were equally as good and just as flavourful. Their takoyaki was also something that stood out in my mind. I highly recommend for semi cheap comfort food. Oh but don't get the cheesy fries, it came out really basic.
Minca Ramen I've tried ramen in New York and I've tried ramen in Toronto. And I'm not saying I simply tried ramen, I'm saying I tried ramen. Like I use to hit up every possible ramen restaurant that opened up in Toronto because I had this insatiable ramen phase a few years back. With that being said, hands down, ramen in Toronto is leagues better. A lot of people suggest trying Ichiran or Ippudo for bomb ass ramen but honestly they're very comparable to regular ramen joints in Toronto. And the regular ramen places here are comparable to bad ramen places back home in my opinion LOL no hate though. It was just really disappointing. There was one ramen joint that stood out among the rest here in NYC. This place was like a tiny little shack, not the best looking or most spacious restaurant, but nothing that bothered me. We came here randomly one night after my class at around 9:30PM. Now I can't say exactly for the other ramen options on their menu, but I went with their 'dipping style' ramen, which I've never heard of before. This. Was. So.Freakin.Good. I got the Spicy miso dipping ramen - and the way you eat it is that you would take the ramen and dip it into the broth because the broth was too flavourful to eat it as is. I can't explain how interesting it was, it's just something you got to try on your own, and for around only $13, I really recommend it.
I can't lie, I started watching Fresh off the Boat after coming to this place for the first time ( I actually really love the show, it's hilarious, would also recommend - you get a laugh out of asian culture LOL ). Eddie Huang actually runs the restaurant. This was a taiwanese joint that really only had two rice bowl option. I always get the Manager's Meal ($13.50) which consists of pork belly, minced pork stew, fried chicken, with house relish served over rice. It's incredibly homey and one of the best comfort foods I've had in NYC so far. If you're feeling a drink, you have to try their AiYu Jelly Lemonade, the jelly totally makes the drink. Now, this place is quite small and it could get pretty packed depending on when you're planning to go.
Now this isn't actually a restaurant, it's kind of a cake/cookie dessert joint. I'm not a big fan of sweets (like cake or desserts in general), but I am a big fan of cookies. I love cookies. Especially oatmeal raisin cookies. I actually go across the street to my local grocery store to buy boxes of their oat meal cookie and eat them all in one sitting (don't judge??). So when I came across this place I saw that they had the chunkiest oatmeal raisin cookie and I just had to try it. I was pleasantly surprise to find that despite sitting out on the display, it was very warm and semi soft when it was handed over to me. Since I've first discovered it last week, I've bought about 4 of these delicious babies. They aren't incredibly cheap, but man is it worth it. Just to note, the day before I flew back to Toronto, I remember texting Vanessa about how I crave these but was too tired to walk to K-Town (25 min walk) to grab some and it was getting late. As a parting gift her boyfriend came home that day after work and grabbed me two. Honestly I was so touched. Food (clearly) moves me LOL.
I am a lover of dumplings, so you could even say I'm a little biased here. Mimi Cheng's sells pretty expensive dumplings if I do say so myself, but they're also a little untraditional in both it's composition and shape (they're cute little triangles). You can get them either steamed or fried (I'm all about that pan fried dumpling). I always get the reinvented classic, which is made up of pork, bok choy, cabbage, scallion and ginger. It's about $9.95 for 6 dumplings or $11.95 for 8. Now there are a lot of dumpling places that have comparable dumplings for way cheaper but i'm also considering the interior aesthetic of the place (i mean if you don't mind jank places green bo deluxe has been another of my favourite for dumplings though the skin is pretty thick, Vanessa's dumplings for super cheap dumplings, and if you're down to go all the way to flushing for the best dumplings, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao all the way ). This place also offers other 'modern' twists of traditional asian cuisine but everything else kind of fell short in my opinion. Their Taiwanese street cart greens could be easily made at home, and their spicy tan tan noodles were a little mushy and bland. Get their dumplings, and try their secret soy sauce if you're looking for bougie dumplings.
I've only had this once, and when I did i got their bento option and split the other Taco with my friend. This was an interesting one since it combined Japanese and Mexican cuisine into one. Located in the food court of Chelsea market, it's definitely one of the more memorable food joints in there (although Very Fresh Noodles is one of the most popular joints in there - I'm personally not a fan of Sichuan style dishes, but if you are, definitely check it out). I got their pulled pork Japanese curry taco - and yes it tasted just as amazing as it sounds. Although I should note that there's actually another popular Taco place in Chelsea market that I've heard great things about but I personally didn't get the chance to try. So here's your taco recommendation if you can't get the taco you originally want. Ayy.
Food Gallery 32
This isn't so much a restaurant as it is a massive Korean food court. I love Korean food, I don't even know how to explain how much I love Korean food - all you need to know is that it was a dream come true to be surrounded by Korean fast food LOL. I came here during my first week in NY and I went back the following few days. My personal favourite was Gochujang - they served a variety of spicy rice cakes and kimbab. I personally love their skewered rice cakes because it's perfectly crispy and they top it with sesame seed. You could also get their regular spicy rice cakes and add ramen noodles for a hearty meal.
I mean I know this doesn't belong here. BUT Vivi's has saved my ass so many times when I'm simply too lazy to get actual food because it's so conveniently near where I live. So hear me out. If you're into boba, that's great, I personally don't know anything about it so I won't be recommending the bubble tea, but the Vivi at the midtown location has riceballs on their menu. Their onigris are made fresh to order and is surprisingly a really decent size for only $3.5. It comes in a few flavour including vegetable, eel and my favourite, shrimp tempura. Usually they also have avocado, eggs, and seaweed salad in there, accompanied with spicy mayo to dip. One of the most convenient eats in New York in my opinion. They are great to go food that is easy on the wallet.
Let me know what are your favourite eats in NYC and what I should check out the next time I come back. I personally ate like a beast in those three and a half months I was in New York and I have no regrets. I actually gained 9 pounds during my stay there and I'm slowly losing the weight now that I'm back in Toronto. The way I see it, eat now while in NY and worry later right?