For my final day in the glorious city of New York, I planned to have a wonderfully relaxing day filled with slow wandering, a spot of shopping, and some healthy munching, before meeting Michael for snazzy drinks at The Peninsula rooftop bar, Salon de Ning, and dinner at my all-time favourite NYC restaurant (although Sushi Nakazawa did give it a run for its money!), Buddakan. But things never go to plan, do they?
It all started well, with me picking up a delicious smoothie from Juice Generation (which I’d already given the seal of approval earlier in the week), and finding a bench to perch on in Bryant Park, which just so happens to be my favourite park in NYC.
Although it’s much smaller than Central Park, more akin to a big patch of grass than an actual park, I find something about the space very endearing.
It could be the promenade filled with yummy cafes, which allow you to dine al fresco and watch people play in the sunshine.
Or that there is a piano just hanging around (like in St Pancras station, but outside) for those who feel like stretching their talented fingers and bringing music to everyone’s ears. Although, unlike the one that we have in London, the one in Bryant Park is set up with chairs for the ‘audience’ to be able to sit down and fully enjoy the show. Particularly heartwarming on the day that I visited was a brave little girl who had volunteered herself to sing the classic tune from Annie, “the sun’ll come ouuuut, tomorrrowwww” (i.e. my childhood), alongside a complete stranger playing the piano; a few notes might have been a tad off-key but, hey, good for her for having the balls to do that – I certainly didn’t at her age. Beyonce better watch out.
Perhaps my favourite feature of Bryant Park, though, is the tree-lined pathways that allow dancing slivers of light to pass between their leaves, providing a natural disco ball effect.
It’s just so green, and the impressive height of the trees makes it feel so open.
Just check out that uniform leaning bend!
And then everything went to pot, as I had completely lost track of time star-gazing in the park, leaving myself minimal time to get the essentials done, i.e. SHOP. I raced (no joke) around like a lunatic on a mission, managing to tick off most of the places on my list, which resulted in me arriving to The Peninsula very sweaty, very late, to a very irate Michael (oops).
Oh well, there’s nothing a good view and a cold drink can’t fix!
Having now ticked off a few rooftop bars in NYC, I have to say that Le Bain and Salon de Ning are my firm favourites. Le Bain is super fun, whilst The Peninsula is just pure suave.
It’s also the perfect location for watching the sunset spill through New York’s grid system, and light up every individual street.
With hungry tummies, we jumped in a cab to Buddakan.
Which happens to be directly opposite Google.
Buddakan is a lot like Yauatcha and Hakkasan in terms of its dark, club-like setting. It’s a huge restaurant with some spaces laid out differently, which I think gives it a lot of character. For the first time, I sat in the ‘centre’ of the restaurant, which is an absolutely epic dining room with a long central table and intimate booths around the edges.
Elaborate chandeliers line the ceiling.
We had an incredible table, with a view of the whole room and beautiful staircase. The spooky, wax-dripping candle centrepiece matched the setting perfectly.
We also had a lovely waitress, who recommended an extremely delicious bottle of French Burgundy, ‘Bourgogne, Michel Sarrazin, 2013’ ($51.00) to enjoy with our meal.
But the food was definitely the star of the show. I don’t even know how to describe how damn good some of the dishes were; the absolute best of their kind that I have ever tasted.
We broke the fast with tuna tartare spring rolls ($16.00) and King crab & lobster siu mai ($17.00).
The spring rolls were unlike any I’ve had before, mostly due to their being packed full of high-quality, delicious raw tuna. Trust me, it worked. Well.
The siu mai were just as incredible. Succulent shellfish surrounded by a wall of soft dough. The red pepper & yuzu sauce also complimented the dumplings very nicely.
As if things could get any better, the hoisin glazed pork belly with spicy shallots, cabbage and steamed buns ($17.00) arrived. No words could do this dish justice. The meat was so unbelievably tender, without being fatty, and was bursting with yummy hoisin flavour. The texture of the buns was just right, and even better than those that I had at Flesh & Buns (which really should make the best seeing as they’ve dedicated half their name to them) and M Raw. The slaw added a bit of crunch, altogether combining to make the perfect envelope of food.
I could have eaten just this dish for dinner and been a very, very happy girl.
OK, so at this point I’m sure you think that I’m going over the top – how could everything possibly have been the best of the best? But seriously, so far, I’m not (I promise some criticisms are coming soon).
The chili rock shrimp ($17.00) and tea smoked spare ribs ($18.00) were just RIDICULOUS.
The tea smoked spare ribs were BONELESS. Yep, you heard. As in, just incredibly sticky, succulent sticks of perfectly hoisin marinated pork, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds for a little crunch. Just the best. Even better than Roka’s and Eight over Eight’s. Incomparable to anything. Ever.
The chili rock shrimp with toasted ginger met the standards that we had come to expect, and was everything that you could want for it to be. The shrimp hot & juicy, the batter crisp & light, and the sauce moreish, with just the right kick of spice. Far superior to those that we had had at Traif the night before, just as good as Roka’s, and on par with Sushi Samba’s (which I have previously declared to serve the best around).
And just as I was about to crown Buddakan the best restaurant in the world, things took a turn for the worse. The lobster egg rolls ($15.00) sounded good on paper, hell, they even looked good on the plate (i.e. big) but, ultimately, they were just very thick, deep-fried rolls stuffed with cabbage, and no other discernible ingredient, and certainly not lobster! They were a serious fail, which our waitress kindly removed from the bill for us, agreeing that the dish needed a little more TLC.
We had a little break before our ‘main courses’ arrived. (Yes, I am aware that we ate for 20 people.)
^ ‘Scuse the red wine teeth.
Of course, as soon as I saw glazed Alaskan black cod ($31.00) on the menu, I had to order it. But I should perhaps have paid more attention to the fish’s accompaniments, as it was not my usual beloved miso sauce but, rather, black bean relish with chili eggplant. It was by no means bad, it just wasn’t as I had expected, or hoped, as the piece of cod itself was quite delicate in flavouring, and I don’t like black bean sauce.
The Peking duck fried rice ($16.00) was perfectly nice. The rice was the right level of greasy, and packed full of soft-crunchy pieces of egg, mushroom and scallion for texture, but it was lacking in duck, which was the main reason that we had ordered it, and was a little dry for my personal taste.
I do like to insist on some vegetables when we go out for dinner (much to Michael’s dismay) and, on our server’s recommendation, we opted for the cauliflower stir-fry with chili-garlic sauce, pork and mint ($11.00), a dish that we would never have chosen, and will never choose again. There was nothing ‘bad’ about it, but it was nothing at all exciting either.
Finally, dessert. My favourite part of the meal. Michael went for the ‘crying chocolate’ ($11.00), which consisted of malted chocolate ganache, milk caramel and Vietnamese coffee ice-cream. I can vouch for this being a winning dessert, as I’ve myself had it twice before. The ganache is super chocolate-y, thick, smooth & creamy, and particularly delicious combined with the milk caramel crunchy ‘crumbs’. The coffee ice-cream cuts through the richness of the other elements, overall producing a very well executed dessert.
I decided to stray from my usual chocolate ways and go for the almond bread pudding ($11.00), mostly because I fancied something spongy and sickly-sweet, versus rich. The large slice of delicately nutty cake, doused in butterscotch sauce with a side of whiskey ice-cream, did just the trick!
It’s fair to say that we rolled out of Buddakan and straight into bed, since I had a 4am wake-up call to get me to the airport on time.
Despite the few mediocre dishes that we had at Buddakan that evening, it is still without a doubt in my Top 10 Restaurants. The service, ambience, (vast majority of the) food and value for money, is second to none. The bill (without service) came to $231.00, which equates to £150.00, or £172.50 with 15% service, which, when considering the ‘starters’ that we had were some of the best plates of food that I have ever put in my mouth, ever, and the quantity of food that we ordered, I think is an absolute bargain! I will certainly be going back as soon as I next possibly can, and I really recommend that you do too.
I had such a fun 6 days in New York and really, really didn’t want to leave. To be perfectly honest, I’d love to live there for a short while. I think a year or two would be ideal. Oh, to dream…