Thursday, May 21, 2009

More great food (food)

Had lunch at Eleven Madison Park last week and it was fantastic, as expected. They do a 2 course prix fixe (app, entree) for $28 during lunch and the most impressive dish for me was the suckling pig. Everyone does suckling pig and pork belly nowadays, but this dish was just a great example of a chef who knows what he's doing. At too many places, they just give you some variation of pork belly, and the fattiness is usually all the flavor anyone gets. But here, you get a piece of extremely flavorful and tender pork loin, a square of confit, as well as a piece of pork belly. There is real pork flavor to every bite, and it's not just eating a mass of fat. I also had the 11 course gourmand tasting menu for dinner here a couple months back, and it was the best meal I had in about a year and a half. I didn't blog about that meal but I hope to go back and try it again and I promise to write about it then. Eleven Madison Park is right now on the top of my list for top end places to bring someone to impress. I, along with many foodie forum people, am still astonished that it doesn't even have one Michelin star.

Also fantastic was the ramen lunch special at Tsushima in midtown. This probably is the best ramen I've had in NYC. The noodles are thin but springy, unlike the thin and limp ones at Ippudo. The pork has the best meat to fat ratio I've seen from any of the ramen places, and they even toss in a whole scallop in the bowl (no shell). It is a shio ramen, so the best comparison is with Setagaya and not with Ippudo. Again, Ippudo does have an amazing porky broth, but like I wrote in the above paragraph, anybody can get flavor out of pork fat. The broth at Tsushima was better than at Setagaya in my opinion. It wasn't salty at all, and there was just enough of the hint of the scallop that I think it was simmered in the broth (I wish it came out more clearly though). The best part is the price. For the $13.50 set, I had the bowl of ramen and a side bowl of rice topped with ikura (salmon roe). And not just a tiny spoonful, there was a good amount of it. From what I've read online, they used to only make like 30 portions of this ramen and would sell out quickly. Nowadays I think they make more. The ramen lunch special is only available on Wednesdays, but they have very good lunch deals throughout the week, and their normal bento-like lunch special also caught my eye. One maki, one appetizer, one entree, and one dish of tempura with rice and salad for $16.

When the weather gets warm, street fairs are very common in NYC. Usually held almost every weekend, they close down about 10 blocks on one avenue (locations change) and many stalls are set up with different ethnic foods, fair foods, and even crappy game stalls with crappy stuffed animal prizes. Last weekend, I went to the ninth avenue international food festival, which is essentially a big street fair out in the Hell's Kitchen area. This one is better than most normal street fairs because there are more restaurants on ninth avenue that operate food stalls to give you a sample of their food.

Among the usual suspects in terms of food cultures were the italians (italian sausage, zeppoles), the fried foods (fried oreos, they even had a stall that did a bloomin' onion, and of course, the worst food in the world, funnel cake), the latin americans (colombian steak, tacos, tamales), the west indians (oxtail, goat curry), the indians, the thai (satay, pad thai), and desserts (pies, italian ices). In terms of stalls that I patronized as well as stalls that wouldn't necessarily be at all street fairs, there was cajun (from the Delta Grill, crawfish boil, etouffee, jambalaya), fried seafood (whole fried soft shell crabs, terrific fried scallops), fresh seafood (raw bar, I couldn't get myself to eat more than one oyster from a guy shucking in the street on a hot day), and pulled pork sandwiches (whole roast pig out in the open, run by a bar).

There were also some interesting non-food items there. There was a stall for the "super sham-wow" which is essentially a larger piece of sham-wow. I gotta say, that thing looks more and more impressive. For $20 you get essentially 6 times the amount of shamwow goodness of the TV ad. There are usually people selling sheet sets. Best deal I saw was $20 for 1000 count king size, which will easily run $120 at Macy's. Then there was the guy who was selling containers of spices. I don't care if you're the greatest, most diverse chef in the world, I'm willing to bet that you don't have that container on the right in your spice rack/cupboard.

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