Irish Independent, August 4th, 2012
For many Irish visitors, a trip to New York City means the indulgent pleasures of vistas from the Rockefeller Center, cocktails at the Fitzpatrick, and a Macy’s 10%-off card. However, after living in Manhattan last summer, my associations with the city had become somewhat more fine-tuned. My sojourn had taught me the survival skills of speed-dating, how to negotiate the city’s hoards of pug-walkers and crucially, how to stand territorial guard over a hailed taxi-cab. But be it on course to lazy brunches, celeb-spotting in Jay-Z’s Spotted Pig, or late night deli-runs, ultimately my Manhattan tale was one of Food & The City. One year later, I’m returning for NYC Restaurant Week, for another bite of the city’s favourite food-fest.
On a sweltering Manhattan evening, I check into Hell’s Kitchen’s latest hotspot, the Yotel, just as the neighbourhood is doused with a cooling cloudburst. Following an airport style self-service check-in (which features a actual luggage storage robot named, the Yobot), I’m whisked twenty-seven floors high to my pod-like cabin. The futuristic all-white space, with curve-lined bed, mirrors and ‘tech-wall’ entertainment centre, creates the virtual reality of a pop-up Macbook: this really is the literal take on the staying in big Apple.
After cocktails on the Yotel’s panoramic terrace bar (no NYC sun-downers are complete without a skyline), our appetite is suitably whetted for our first food fix. Over three-hundred Manhattan restaurants participate in Restaurant Week, which offers budget-savvy foodies a three-course prix-fixe lunch or dinner for €23/€30. First on our hit-list is Gordon Ramsay’s Maze at The London, on West 54th. Following in the footsteps of the 2012 Olympics, William and Kate mania, and One Direction, The London taps into the current zeitgeist of America’s fascination with all things Brit. Its grandiose lobby, (think bowler hatted porters sporting a trendy Paul Smith pomp) sets the tone for a classy, dimly hued dining room. It’s Chelsea SW3, just a subway ride from Chelsea, NYC.
The menu is rather more risqué. My Spanish mackerel with eggplant and a zingy miso glaze is followed by Amish chicken breast and fried yukka and the most meticulously architected fruit plate to ever pass my lips. The real treat however, is bagging a backstage bye to the true nerve centre: the Maze kitchen. Inside the military hub, a Gordon Ramsay protegé, announces a series of ca marches to his eager team of line cooks: “two branzino, one risotto, one chicken!”. Yes chef!
Our next-day culinary stop takes us to the East Village and one of Manhattan’s current ”it” spots: DBGB’s by Michelin chef, Daniel Boulud. Inside the wonderfully bustling brasserie, my waiter tips me off to the chop-chop salad (greens, watermelon and a creamy sesame-ginger dressing) before I loosen my belt for The Piggie: a juicy beef burger topped with barbecued pulled pork, mustard slaw and fries. It’s a case of first degree carbicide, and I’m guilty as charged.
New York dining, however, is all about venturing off the path, and the set menus. Risotteria on Bleecker Street, with its leg of lamb and gorgonzola paninis, remains my own favourite oasis of gluten-free gluttony, while Slice on Hudson is the perfect pizzeria to scope out West Village streetlife.
When it comes to dining memories, NYC always delivers. It’s why I keep coming back for seconds.
Staying there: The Hotel Yotel will excite tech-lovers more than the iPhone 5 and costs from €79pps (yotel.com)
NYC Restaurant Week runs until August 10th. For more information, visit nycgo.com