Foodie in Miami Visits NYC

So, as mentioned in my previous post, the anniversary of our first date was February 7th.

When Zeke proposed to me on Christmas Day in 2003, he invited me to New York on this date to go pick out the diamond for my engagement ring. The weather was freezing and I remember walking home from the Rainbow Room in bitter cold (like 20 degrees) with no cabs in sight. My old Air Florida pea coat didn’t cut it in New York City and I was not a happy camper.

We kept returning on that date, but after one memorable visit where we had to clomp through the snow to get breakfast, got stuck in our hotel for days and our flight cancelled due to a blizzard, I told him that, as romantic as it was, we didn’t really have to go in February.

But this year, unbeknownst to me, Zeke booked a trip to New York in February. Again. I read an article in the New York Times about how unpredictable the weather can be in February and the weekend before we left it was a mere 6 degrees! But we lucked out and the weather was fine. It was also Fashion Week in New York and, more importantly New York Restaurant Week. It’s like Miami Spice, but instead of trying to get diners to eat out in the sweltering summer in Miami, its fickle February in New York.

Our first stop, after deplaning, was Grand Central Station to have lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. It was my Dad’s favorite restaurant in New York and is now a must-stop on every visit there. We often stop there first, as we did this time. We ordered a dozen of his and hers oysters. I always mark down the oysters we like for the next trip, but then invariably forget the list so this time we just asked our server to give us what was best.

I’ll get you a nice selection.

said our server.

We also ordered a cooked Oyster Special, which was good. We toasted to being back in New York with a glass of wine and beer and then it was time to check into our hotel.

Grand Central Oyster Bar Recommended Dishes: Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter, A Platter of Raw Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, Oyster Pan Roast Stew

Dinner that night was at Vestry in Soho. Many years ago, we had one of the best dinners of my life for my birthday at a restaurant called Juni, so Zeke tracked down the chef. His name is Shaun Hergatt and he’s now at Vestry which is why we went there. It’s attached to a hotel and has a very cool, young vibe with high ceilings, lots of plants and fur-covered chairs.

It won Wine Spectator of the Year Award for 2022, but all the wine was tres expensive (like more than $100 a bottle) so I opted for The Vestry, a gin drink that was very refreshing. Zeke got a Japanese beer. While the restaurant touts itself as a seafood restaurant, it had a definite Asian vibe, with sushi as well as caviar options; we were here for New York Restaurant Week, so we ordered from that menu.

Zeke ordered all the recommendations from our helpful server, while I ordered other options, as I like to sample both, but I was having buyers remorse.

So you’re telling me, everything he ordered was a Home Run and what I ordered isn’t as good?

I asked the waiter.

“Pretty much, yes,” he said.

The Celeriac Soup Zeke ordered was presented before him with a Honeycrisp Apple and Black Truffle Panna Cotta quenelle in the soup bowl. The soup was poured by our server; it was garnished with a celery leaf and Parmesan tuille.

The ceremonial pouring of the Celeriac Soup!

The Celeriac Soup at Vestry was the best soup I’ve ever eaten. It was smooth, rich and luscious, with the apple and truffle panna cotta lending a contrast in flavor and texture, along with the crunch of the baked Parmesan tuille. I got a Hamachi appetizer, which was fresh, light and flavorful. It was good, but it was no Celeriac Soup.

One thing this chef does beautifully, besides deliver delicious food, is presentation. He is known for his “painterly” presentations, which is what I remembered from Juni. My main course was Organic Chicken, which came as two bald pieces of chicken breast and one roulade of chicken thigh meat in a brown sauce. It was good, but the best part was the flattened out chicken skin, which was crisp and lovely and shattered in the mouth.

The chicken was good, but that little skin thingy- I could’ve eaten ten of them.

I said to the waiter.

“You’re funny,” he answered.

I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was dead serious. Zeke got the Sea Bass with Spaghetti Squash and potatoes for his entree which he enjoyed. It was a large portion but his Cheesecake for dessert took the cake!

It came out on a light blue, ceramic plate, looking like a piece of Swiss Cheese, with a little grated apple mouse with hazelnut ears, lurking nearby. So adorable he almost didn’t want to eat it, but it was smooth, creamy and without a crust, unlike any cheesecake I’ve ever had. I got the chocolate dessert- a Guanaja Chocolate dessert, served in a martini glass and topped with gold flake. Again, very good but no Vestry cheesecake.

So when I go out to eat, I do so in the unlikely hope I can be wowed and shown something new. It’s the same reason I read books, attend plays, go to art galleries. It doesn’t happen often, especially at my age, but I have to say Vestry wowed me. I would definitely come back, but probably for New York Restaurant Week, because it is quite pricey.

Vestry Recommended Dishes: Celeriac Soup, Chicken Skin, Cheesecake

The next morning we had tickets to see The View. Long story short, didn’t happen. I went to drown my sorrows in Chinatown at the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in New York. I can’t say Zeke went to drown his sorrows because he didn’t even want to go to The View. We had seen a long line of people out the door the last time we visited Chinatown, which is why we wanted to try Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Chinatown’s first Dim Sum restaurant.

Luckily, there wasn’t a line out the door, but it is a small, rather cramped place. Let’s just say you make friends with your neighbors and see what they’re ordering as you eat there. I “Yelped” the popular dishes here and we ordered a variety of dim sum.

The OG Egg Rolls were unlike anything else I’d ever seen- huge, with a puffy, crunchy shell encasing vegetables within. On it’s own, they didn’t have much flavor, so I added sweet and sour and hot sauce to it. The Rice Roll with Spare Ribs was interesting, but the spare ribs were a little fatty and boney for my taste. More successful was the House Special Roast Pork Bun– steamed white dough, fluffy and filled with sweet roast pork. Very good, but I always wish there was more pork in the pork buns! My favorite dim sum was the steamed Shrimp and Chive Dumplings, which came out green in color. Delicate dumpling skin, savory interior. Delicious!

We both got beer, but the teas they offered varied from Jasmine and Chrysanthemum to Earl Grey. If I’d known I would’ve ordered dessert, which they are known for, particularly their Almond Cookies and steamed Lotus and Red Bean Buns. Also the table next to me ordered a soup that looked intriguing. Next time!

Nom Wah Tea Parlor Recommended Dishes: Steamed Roast Pork Bun, Steamed Shrimp and Chive Dumplings, Almond Cookies

That night we had the play Funny Girl with Lea Michele (of Glee fame) so we ate in Times Square at an Indian Restaurant Zeke had found which offered New York Restaurant Week named Saar. I was totally stumped as to what to order for dinner (and still a little depressed about missing The View) so I asked the waiter what to get. I always ask the servers what they recommend at restaurants, even if I’ve already made up my mind. Because sometimes I change it.

I got the Beetroot Cutlets for my appetizer, which came with a Tamarind Aioli. I believe it was fried but it was delicious! Zeke got Prawn Balchao, a spicy shrimp appetizer that was very good, in a nice glaze. For my entree I got Pistachio Chicken, that came with a green cilantro sauce, with a little kick. Zeke got the Rogan Josh, tender lamb in a spicy red sauce. The entrees came with rice and we ordered a Chili Naan as well.

Zeke overdid the spicy dishes so luckily got Rice Pudding for dessert to cool it down. I got Ras Malai, a dessert with softened cheese with thickened milk. Kind of strange and not my favorite, but I did like Saar. Our waiter was very friendly and they offer 3-course dinners for $45, so you don’t have to wait for New York Restaurant Week.

Saar Recommended Dishes: Beetroot Cutlet, Prawn Balchao, Pistachio Chicken

Lunch the next day was at Le Rivage, before we went to see A Beautiful Noise, which was a play about Neil Diamond. I’m always looking for good restaurants in Times Square, which is known for its Broadway Plays but not so much its restaurants. I was happy to find Le Rivage, which is a charming, cozy French bistro with excellent service and delicious food.

While they did offer a New York Restaurant Week menu, the every day Prix Fix Lunch Special offered more variety, for just a couple dollars more, so that is what we got. We ordered a bottle of wine and I got the Baked Seafood Crepe, which was amazing! A fluffy, light crepe, stuffed with scallops, shrimps and mushrooms and blanketed in a velvety sauce- I loved it! Zeke got Escargot, which came in the traditional manner, with butter and garlic, perfect for dipping the slices of French baguette in.

My entree was the Truite Almondine, which was a large and delicious portion with toasted almonds in a lemon butter sauce and a side of Haricots Verts. Zeke enjoyed his Boeuf Bourguignon, a perfect lunch for a chilly day and it reminded us of our trip to Paris. Dessert for me was the Tart du jour- an Apricot Tart served with whipped cream. Zeke got our favorite dessert, Creme Brulee. Of course I had to try a bite, but I was worried about staying awake for the play after all that food and wine!

I will definitely keep Le Rivage in mind next time we have a play date in New York. The waiter also highly recommended their Roast Duck, which they are known for.

Le Rivage Recommended Dishes: Baked Seafood Crepe, Truite Almondine

I really enjoyed A Beautiful Noise and we stopped into Junior’s after the play to pick up one of their famous cheesecakes for a friend. What I wasn’t excited about was our dinner reservation. It was for a one Michelin star Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. I was tired of Ubers and rushing and fancy meals, so we ended up eating Italian at a restaurant near our hotel called Serafina. More relaxed and enjoyable.

We split an order of meatballs and I got Truffle Ravioli, which was rich and delicious but I couldn’t finish. Zeke got Lasagna and we went back to our hotel, happy and full. Now that Global Warming seems to have taken effect, perhaps New York in February isn’t so bad! And there’s always New York Restaurant Week to tempt me to return. We already have our list of things to do in New York for next year.

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.

Dorothy Parker

Up Next: Cheap Buys at the Grocery Store and Oscars Week!

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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