Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Empire State of Hunger

It's been many years since I moved back from New York but I find myself often longing for the city's culinary pleasures. All that food longing gives me more incentive to go visit often. One of the things I miss the most about New York is its Korean Town (or K-Town). The Korean food in SF proper is pretty dismal. Plus, I love the late hours, the drinks, the private karaoke rooms K-Town offers. But most of all, I love Korean fried chicken.
Mad for Chicken is my go-to spot. It's upstairs and one could easily walk by without notice. The inside is done like a trendy Manhattan lounge. A long bar serving soju drinks help pass the time while one waits for their table.
Our beautiful yogurt soju by the pitcher
The famed fried chicken wings. We went for half spicy and half garlic soy but couldn't really tell the difference. The whole plate was spicy, but damn good and crispy.
Another food that does not have good representation in SF is ramen. Any visit to New York requires that we go to the Holy Temple of Ramen - Ippudo.
The pork buns were savory and buttery soft.
The famous "Modern" ramen. Tonkotsu broth with bits of blackened sesame oil. Perfect noodles, rich broth, and lovely cooked egg. The chasu is nice too. This is the bowl I always get.
My cousin got the wonton ramen with chicken broth which looked nice too but much lighter fare.
I don't know the West Coast does not have snappy casing hot dogs. But I haven't found any. Yes, it's nice that we have grass fed beef dogs, but for me, the beauty of a dog is in the snap. Gray's Papaya still has it. Two dogs and a papaya drink for a bit of pocket change. Nothing is more satisfying.
So so far we talked about all my tried and true favourites. I also try to explore new restaurants when I'm in New York. For the last year, the big buzz in food circles has been Marea. We were lucky enough to get a Sat night prime time reservation and I was super excited to experience the sensation myself. Everyone from Bourdain to Keller to Chowhounders have lauded praise on Marea and in particular on its octopus and bone marrow fusilli. That was the entree I had my sights set on. (Apologies in advance for some fuzziness in some of the pictures).
Salmon crudo amuse bouche
PIEDINI pressed pork trotters, scungilli, potato puree, salsa verde
ZUPPA spring garlic and potato leek soup, charred razor clams, ramps
FERRATINI manila clams, calamari, hot chilies
TORTELLI lobster ravioli, bagna cauda, trout roe
AGNOLOTTI veal ravioli, sweetbreads, funghi
FUSILLI red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
So after months of reading about the fusilli I finally had it in front of me. First bite - wow, that's very strong saucing. Second bite - this is really too much of everything flavour-wise. Third bite - I can't eat any more of this. I had my dining companions taste my dish. Without prompting, they all thought the same. No one liked it. The dish tasted like Bobby Flay cooked it during a severe head cold - meaning the flavours were so bold, so intense, so rich (and not in good ways), the dish was sickening for anyone who can actually taste food. Boy, how's that for the biggest food let-down of the year? Everyone else's entrees were pretty good. But for $28 a plate of pasta, I can think of many other dishes on Manhattan island I'd rather spend those dollars on.
In New York, sometimes the old school is the best. Give me another Gray's Papaya please!

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